23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I desire to inform the
House that the Right Honorable Peter Thorneycroft, M.P., Minister for Aviation in the Government of the United Kingdom, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honorable members, I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honorable Members. - Hear, heart (Mr. Thorneycroft thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.)
– I desire to inform the House that during the absence of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) at the session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) will act as Attorney-General and will also represent the Minister for National Development in this House.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the presence in Australia of a distinguished representative of the United Kingdom Government, will the Prime Minister say whether the negotiations that are taking place are likely to interfere in any way with the operations of the Weapons Research Establishment located at Salisbury in the electorate of Bonython?
– Quite clearly, as the honorable member will realize, I am not in a position to make a statement about these negotiations, but I think I can assure him that he need have no fear that they will cut across the normal operation of the Weapons Research Establishment. There is a great deal of work to be done there, and it will continue to be done.
– I preface a question to the
Postmaster-General by saying that I understand that tenders will be called shortly for the reprinting of the Melbourne telephone directory. Will the Minister give consideration to having included in the new directory a map showing the appropriate postal district numbers in order to assist post office users to carry out the instructions of his department to include postal districts in the address on mail matter? Will the Postmaster-General also give consideration to displaying prominently in every Victorian post office a large version of such a map? Finally, will the Minister give consideration to including postal district numbers in the body of the new directory, as is already being done in the London telephone directory?
– I remember that some considerable time ago, the honorable member for Henty and also other honorable members referred to the desirability of instituting a system such as the honorable member has now put before the House. I can inform him that the whole question of providing more information in the directories to enable telephone subscribers to be able to locate more rapidly and easily the call numbers they desire to be connected with has been given considerable attention over a period. Such matters as the provision of maps in not only metropolitan but also country directories have been considered and, in some cases, are being implemented. The question whether a comprehensive alphabetical list could be provided in certain areas is also being investigated. As a result of these moves, I think that we will be able to provide, not immediately but by way of steady improvement, directories giving fuller and more readily accessible information to subscribers. The particular suggestions made by the honorable member for Henty will be further considered, and I believe that the honorable member will find that better directories will be eventually provided.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a Sydney newspaper columnist was found guilty in the Paddington police court in Sydney on 13th September last of having assaulted a man who remarked on his personal likeness to the Prime Minister? If so, will the right honorable gentleman consider interceding on behalf of the convicted man on the ground that he was fully justified in the action he took?
– I did see such a report, but not by a columnist. I thought the item appeared in the police court news, which I always read very carefully in the Sydney press, hoping or expecting to see a reference to the honorable member for East Sydney. I believe there was an allegation concerning a resemblance, and all I can say is that I trust any such resemblance was purely superficial.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any information on the situation that has developed in the kingdom of Laos?
– The position is, as the honorable member knows, very confused. It is most difficult to find out from day to day exactly what the state of affairs may be. This being so, instead of giving a merely superficial view of the situation, I much prefer to prepare a paper on the subject and make it available.
– In the absence of the Minister for the Army my question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that there are remarkably and commendably few alcoholics in the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces, and having in mind that enlistment in both these bodies is now on an entirely voluntary basis, and under almost identical conditions, what reason remains for the discrimination practised against the C.M.F., which results in soldiers of that force, not yet qualified to enter the officers’ or sergeants’ messes, being denied the right, privilege or opportunity to build esprit de corps, in a spirit of good fellowship, in the same manner as the Australian Regular Army, with wet canteens under the constant supervision of highly qualified and experienced commanders?
– I will be pleased to convey the honorable member’s suggestion to my colleague, the Minister for the Army.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to the heavy losses that have resulted from the present drought in Queensland and northern New South Wales, and from drought conditions in other parts of Australia earlier in the year, and also to the absence of any co-ordinated governmental authority designed to prevent or diminish such losses in the future? Will the right honorable gentleman ask the Attorney-General, who is now in the United States of America, and who has immense knowledge of the constitutions of that country and of Australia, to examine the co-operative legal machinery built up during the last ten years through the united action of the Federal and State Governments and the river basin authorities in the United States which are handling similar problems in that country with increasing success, in order to ascertain whether such action may be effective in Australia?
– The right honorable gentleman will understand that I say nothing about the ultimate question of policy or responsibility in these matters, but I think his suggestion that the broad aspects of the matter should, if possible, be looked into by the Attorney-General while he is in the United States of America is a very good one. I will find out whether the Attorney-General can do so, consistently with his other duties.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, who is also Minister for External Affairs, a question without notice. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that Frederick H. Boland, Ireland’s ambassador to the United Nations, in all probability will to-morrow be elected President of the Fifteenth General Assembly of the United Nations? Does the right honorable gentleman intend to persist in following the same line of action as Lord Casey followed in depriving Australia of full and proper representation in Ireland, representation which both countries enjoyed under a Labour Government while Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister?
– As the honorable member no doubt will agree, the two questions are somewhat remote. I know that there is a strong movement to have Mr. Boland appointed President of the General Assembly. We are supporting that movement very strongly. I hope that the honorable member’s forecast is correct. Mr. Boland would make a most admirable president. As to the question of diplomatic representation, the honorable member perhaps knows that this is not quite as simple a matter as he makes it sound. There have been no fresh developments that I can report to the House.
– I address my question to the Minister for Air. Is it correct that the Chief of the Air Staff has reported in favour of the adoption of a particular aircraft as a replacement for the Sabres? If this is not correct, when does the Minister expect to receive a report from the Chief of the Air Staff?
– I have read some suggestions to the effect that the Chief of the Air Staff has reported already. This is incorrect. He and his committee brought back from abroad a considerable volume of technical detail about several aircraft which they inspected. They are still working on this information, and I do not expect their report for some time. When it is completed., it will be considered by the Air Board, after which I should be able to make a recommendation to the Government. The decision in this matter must be made by the Government, and any suggestion that a decision has already been made is incorrect.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker, as you are the custodian of the House. Will you use your good offices to ensure that the spirit of Australianism is maintained at official entertainments within the precincts of the House? I know that, as a South Australian, the maturity of your judgment can be matched only by the maturity of the Aus tralian products which I have in mind. In other words, Mr. Speaker, will you endeavour to have Australian wines and spirits served exclusively at all official entertainments in this House?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is correct that the new interim butter price which is payable to dairy farmers is 2d. a pound less than it was previously. If, so, why did the equalization committee come to this decision? Will the Minister comment on how the increased exfactory price authorized by the Commonwealth is affecting payments? Why has this not made a higher interim payment possible?
– It is not correct to say that the initial interim payment to dairy farmers is 2d. a pound less than it was previously. In fact, the price of 3s. 3½d. a pound for commercial butter as a first advance is the same as it was last year and, if my memory serves me correctly, the same as it was for the last two seasons. The equalization committee, as the season progresses, advances its payments or makes intermediate payments. Last season two further payments have brought the interim return to 44d., and a final payment has yet to be made.
With regard to the effect of the increased prices, I think that the reaction, from the public consumption point of view, is favorable. If the honorable member remembers, I did agree with the recommendation of the Australian Dairying Industry Council in relation to a cost increase of 14s. per cwt. wholesale. That, of course, has to be taken into consideration as does the weak London market at the present time. This has caused the equalization committee to act somewhat conservatively in regard to its initial payments, but the dairymen can be assured that a consequent realization will be paid out in full.
– I ask the Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer: When exemptions from registration under the Banking Act were granted to hire-purchase companies, did those companies agree to follow any policy determined by the Reserve Bank? Is it a fact that a large number of pastoral, hire-purchase, insurance and other financial companies are carrying on financial business either with or without these exemptions, but are not following policy determined by the Reserve Bank? Does the Government intend to take any action at all in this matter?
– This is an important matter and it will be desirable to get the precise facts, some of which are not within my direct knowledge. I will obtain all the details relevant and provide them.
– I ask the Minister for Trade the following question: - In view of the importation to Australia in July of £4,300,000 worth of steel, which indicates an annual loss to overseas balances of over £50,000,000, and in view of an almost similar loss through the importation of paper and paper pulp, will the right honorable gentleman use his efforts to stimulate expansion of both these industries, for which ample raw material exists in Australia?
– A vast expansion both of the steel industry and the paper industry is proceeding in Australia. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is engaged on a vast plan of expansion of production, expending, I think, about £30,000,000 a year in capital expenditure towards that end. It is a fact that importation of steel has been heavy recently. I think that that is explainable by the fact that the current level of demand for steel in Australia is about 20 per cent, higher than it was twelve months ago. This accounts for the figures which the honorable member cited. But the July figures cannot be multiplied by twelve and taken as the annual rate. My information is that in July there was a substantial importation of hot coil strip steel from Japan by John Lysaght (Australia) Proprietary Limited, an associate of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, because of a short-fall in production there and partly for the purpose of processing for re-export. So this would not result in a net loss of exchange. On the other hand, it is not economic to pro duce some steel products in Australia, and we normally import them. With regard to paper, it is not very long since the technique of producing paper from Australian hardwood was developed. There has been a constant progressive expansion of the Australian paper-making industry since then. I am glad to say that we import quite a deal of paper and pulp from New Zealand, a country which is a very good buyer of our goods. We are very glad to be the most important buyer of New Zealand’s paper products.
– Has the Minister for Territories received a request from a representative of creditors of V. and K. (N-T.) Limited and of Veshner and Keserue Proprietary Limited, contracting firms recently operating in the Northern Territory and now in liquidation, to refer the articles and operations of these two companies to the Attorney-General’s Department for investigation? If the Minister has received this request, will he take immediate steps to have the investigation made so as to protect workers, trades people and local contractors from exploitation either in the form of unpaid wages or unpaid accounts which run into many thousands of pounds? In this instance, because of the financial structure of the company, not one penny will be recovered by way of dividend.
– I have not personally received any representations such as those mentioned, but, as the honorable member will know, I have been absent from my Canberra office for a few days on official duties and have not had the time to scrutinize the whole of the mail on my desk. Subject to that, I say I have not received such a request.
– I address a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In view of the desperate drought conditions existing in Queensland, can the honorable gentleman arrange for C.S.I.R.O. rain-making experimental aircraft to be stationed in that State to await the formation of likely clouds? The
Minister well understands the very desperate conditions that exist in many parts of Queensland, and even though this may seem to be a rather extreme chance, I ask him whether he will take it.
– I shall consult with the executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on this matter. The honorable gentleman will understand, of course, that not even that organization can produce rain unless the right clouds are present and the required conditions for precipitation from those clouds exist.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is the Government gravely concerned at the exploitation of the Australian people by the combined oil companies, and is it having the trading practices of oil companies within Australia investigated? If it is, will such investigations be made in public? If investigations of this kind are not being made, will the Government initiate them and have them made in public?
– As this obviously relates to a matter of policy, I do not think it is appropriate for me to answer the question. But if the honorable member has any valuable information that he can provide in this field, I will, as always, be delighted to have it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is the Minister in a position to make a statement about the attitude of the Australian Council of Trade Unions towards political levies?
– Not yet; but 1 hope to be able within the next few days to make to the House a statement setting out the attitude of the Government - not of the Australian Council of Trade Unions - to compulsory political levies.
– I ask the Acting Attorney-General a question. In order to assist honorable members in their consideration of the Crimes Bill 1960, will he prepare and circulate references to and quotations from comparable British, American or Commonwealth legislation, if any. which makes it treachery to assist the enemies of a foreign country?
– I think the honorable gentleman must know that it is a little beyond my capacity at the moment tosupply the information for which he has asked - and for that matter, beyond the ability of any one else. It seems to me that his request for information goes a little too far. However, I shall have the problem investigated, and if I can accede to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, I shall be happy to do so.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Now that two of the leading organizations of wool-growers, namely, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, have agreed to request the Commonwealth Government to hold a full-scale inquiry into the marketing of wool, is the Minister in a position to say whether the Government has considered this request? If it has, when can the growers expect to know the Government’s decision as to whether an inquiry will be held?
– As the honorable member has stated, a joint deputation waited on me and requested that the Government arrange an independent inquiry into all aspects of the wool industry, particularly marketing. Since I met the deputation only on Thursday last, I have not had an opportunity to take this matter further. However, I will be discussing it with the Government and will let the honorable member know the result.
– I ask the Minister for Air: Will he ascertain whether some civilian employees at the Royal Australian Air Force station, Fairbairn, who are members of the Australian Workers Union, are, by the operation of an exemption clause in the Public Service Act, being deprived of sick and recreation leave rights to which other Commonwealth employees are entitled? If he finds that this is so, will he take whatever action is possible to remedy the position and place these men on the same basis as other Commonwealth employees in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I will be glad to look into this problem. I already have some information on the matter, which is a complicated one. Civilian employees at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Fairbairn are either permanent employees or temporary employees. In either case, they are employed on the same conditions as apply to civilian employment throughout the Public Service. As I said, I will look into the matter, and will give the honorable member such further information as becomes available.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. What stage has been reached by the Division of Agricultural Economics in the economic survey of the Australian sheep industry? Will this survey be more comprehensive than surveys undertaken in previous years? How many wool-producing areas will be covered and when can the final report be expected?
– Periodically, the Division of Agricultural Economics undertakes a survey of the sheep industry. Another survey commenced last month in Western Australia and will commence in the three eastern States this month. An investigation will be made of 650 sheep farms in all, and a survey will be made of production trends and overall costs. These will be compared with net costs after expenses have been taken into account. It is expected that the present survey will be completed by the end of December, and the result of the analysis of the data should be available next June.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs. Is Saudi Arabia a part of the free world?
– How would he know?
– As a matter of fact, that is right. This is one of those questions that would require a good deal of thought. I will give that thought to it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. I refer to the export week which will open in Western Australia on Wednesday, 28th September. Did proposals for these export weeks in the States originate at the National Export Convention, which was held in Canberra a few months ago? Will the Minister be attending the opening function in Perth? If not, has he arranged to be represented on this important occasion?
– The National Export Week in Perth is the outcome of a decision taken at the National Export Convention held in Canberra last May. This convention itself was the result of a suggestion made to the Government by the Export Development Council. I am glad to say that there was a ready reaction in every State by manufacturing and commercial interests, and a series of weeks has been arranged and1 will be held. I have been invited1 to go to Perth. However, it will not be possible for me to go, but I have the ready acquiescence of my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, the honorable member for Darling Downs, who will go there and represent me very well indeed, I am sure.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Is he aware that two Royal Australian Air Force Sabre jets collided in mid-air near Butterworth airfield, Malaya, on or about the 3rd of last month and were totally destroyed? If so, will the Minister disclose to the House the cost involved to the Australian taxpayer as the result of this alleged collision, and what was the cause of it?
– The fact that this regrettable collision occurred is, of course, well known. The Service has its settled and established methods of investigating accidents of this sort. The investigation is still proceeding and the formal reports on the accident have not yet reached me. I will be glad to furnish information and the cost of the aircraft to the honorable member. To my mind the significant fact of this accident is that both pilots, by using the safety ejection equipment as recently modified by experts of the Royal Australian Air Force, were successfully ejected from the aircraft and reached the ground unhurt.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the damage to the wool industry by the use of unscourable branding fluids, will he consider the preparation of legislation making it an offence to use any branding fluid which is not approved by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or to sell any unapproved branding fluid?
– I will give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion, but my first reaction is to say that although this matter is very important to the wool industry I think it is one that comes within the jurisdiction of the State Governments. However, I will examine the question.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Is he aware that some leading Australian wool men have returned to Australia after having made an investigation of the wool industry in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Did he read in their report that Australia had nothing to fear in respect of competition from the wool of that country? Do the Minister and his department share the optimism of those gentlemen?
– All I know of this matter is what I have read in the newspapers and what I have been told by one of the parties concerned, who said that an inquiry was to take place with, I understand, the acquiescence of the Russian authorities on wool-growing in that country. I do not know that my department has a view on this matter or that it is properly the concern of my department, but I have no fear that Australia’s wool industry will not be able to stand up to competition from the wool industry of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Our environment, the general conditions under which we produce wool, and the superb skill of Australian studmasters, combine to give us a natural advantage which has made us predominant in the wool world.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is he aware of the statement made by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Heffron, who said that unemployment was practically non-existent in that State? If he is aware of this, will he undertake to circularize the unions in New South Wales, and particularly those on the northern coal-fields, and acquaint them with this fact?
– I was not aware oi the statement made by the Premier of New South Wales, but on this occasion he ip right. In reply to the second part of th« honorable member’s question, I think it is well known in the trade union movement that it is well-nigh impossible to get labour at the present moment and I have every expectation that that state of affairs will continue for some time.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. Will he tell the House why the Government did not provide for sorely needed increases of Commonwealth superannuation pensions in the present Budget, especially when it is noted that there is an amount of £71,250,000 in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, and that last year’s receipts exceeded payments by nearly £8,500,000? As increases of superannuation benefits would not necessarily mean incurring increased Government expenditure, is there any hope of further consideration being given to this matter in the immediate future?
– Mr. Speaker, when the Budget is being prepared, many, many proposals are taken under consideration, and what the Government does is to select, within the broad limits of what it regards as its budgetary capacity, those items which it thinks the more pressing. That, Sir, was done in this Budget. The points raised by the honorable member - quite relevant points - will be taken into account, not for the purposes of this Budget, and not to alter it at this stage, but when the next Budget comes to be prepared.
– I ask the Minister for Trade: Has he yet received the report from the Tariff Board on its inquiry into the timber industry? If the report has been received, when will it be presented to the House? If it has not been received, has the Minister any idea when he will receive it from the Board?
– I have not received the report of the Tariff Board on the timber industry. I understand that the board concluded its public hearing on this item a couple of months ago, and I should expect that, in the normal processes, it would be some little time before the board would be in a position to tender its advice and report to the Government and the Parliament, through the Minister. I am quite sure that the Tariff Board apprehends the importance of the timber industry and has a proper understanding of its problems. I can assure the honorable member, the House and the industry that there will be no avoidable delay in the consideration of the report by the Department of Trade and, in due course, by the Government, once the report comes into my possession.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Is it a fact that, as from July of this year, 88 nations associated with the United Nations Organization have commenced a five-year campaign to increase world food production in an endeavour to end hunger among the two-thirds of the world’s population who are getting insufficient to eat? Did a United States representative visit Australia to seek our co-operation in this praiseworthy campaign? Is it a fact that, in Queensland each year, cane that is surplus to the needs of the sugar industry is destroyed with the approval of the State and Commonwealth Governments? If so, does the Prime Minister regard this practice as inconsistent with the campaign to increase food production, of which, I understand, he has expressed approval? Is this but another illustration of the utter failure of the capitalist system to meet the needs of humanity and of its inability to exist by the practice of Christian principles?
– I must say, with reference to the last part of the question, that I congratulate the member for East Sydney on having got around to Christian principles. This, indeed, is a tardy but welcome performance. As for ‘the rest of the question, Sir, the problems raised are much more complex than the question would make out. The whole problem of disposing of surpluses is a matter which has vexed the mind of my colleague, the Minister for Trade, in relation to the ordinary conduct of affairs internationally, and it does not lend itself to an easy or superficial reply.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by saying that, in view of the increased facilities available to country telephone subscribers under the new Elsa scheme, and the fact that subscribers are now using these cheaper facilities more frequently than in the past, delays on calls are becoming a problem in some areas. Will the Postmaster-General indicate what steps can be taken to overcome this difficulty, which has been brought about by the improved service?
– The delays on calls to which the honorable member refers are really an indication of the effectiveness of the improved service which we are now offering under the Elsa scheme. More and more people are taking advantage of the improved conditions under which they can make local telephone calls. It was realized, when this system was instituted, that this difficulty would arise. Consequently, the department made investigations, particularly in Australia but also from other similar instrumentalities throughout the world, as to just what could be expected to develop in this particular matter. As a result of these investigations, it was found that we could expect an increase of about 25 per cent, in the time taken for a call on each channel in areas which changed over from the trunk system to the local call system. That meant that if we were to cater for this increased traffic - and it would be idle to put in the system without catering for all its possibilities - we would be faced with the problem of increasing the channels available by about 25 per cent. We have set out to do that and are steadily doing it.
Of course, it is a big problem, and we are limited by the funds available and by the demands on those funds for other services. Still, we are increasing the number of channels available. Naturally, priority is being given to those areas which have been shown by experience to be most adversely affected. Many honorable members will realize that. I have myself forwarded to them letters indicating the extra channels that have been provided from point to point to improve the position, but as it is expected that it will be some little time before we can complete the whole matter, instructions have been given to telephone office keepers and to the girls responsible for the operation of the switchboards that in any case where an undue time is being taken by a call from point to point and there is a demand for an urgent call to use the channel, they may interrupt the call and say something to this effect: “Excuse me, I have an important call coming on. Do you mind letting me have the line? When the important call is finished and if you want to continue, I will put you through again.” On that basis, the whole thing is working out pretty well, 1 think.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that, over a considerable length of time, the Government has indicated its intention to introduce legislation to amend the Crimes Act and to control monopolies and other restrictive practices? Does the fact that we have had a bill to amend the Crimes Act introduced in this House indicate that the Government gives priority to legislation which might restrict the activities of trade unions rather than the activities of monopolies? Will the right honorable gentleman tell the House when we may expect legislation to control monopolies and restrictive practices?
– Mr. Speaker, the answer to the last part of the question is, of course, “ No “. It is a very sound prac tice when you are presenting business to the House to produce bills for consideration as and when they are ready. The Crimes Bill happens to be ready and it has been introduced. The other matter of legislation is a much more complex one and could not be produced-
– The honorable member for Yarra would not know anything about its complexities. He would not have a clue. He little knows the constitutional complexities involved in a problem of this kind; but the Attorney-General, I am happy to say, does know, and he has this matter well in hand.
– My question is directed to the Acting Treasurer. In view of the comment made by the chairman of the Reserve Bank Board in his annual report that the raising of funds outside the banking system has tended to limit the effectiveness of central bank action in managing our monetary affairs - a condition to which I directed attention in this House earlier this year - will the Acting Treasurer examine the consequence - to which 1 also directed attention - that the narrowing of the field of operation under the present system places an inordinately heavy burden on primary producers, who have little opportunity to obtain finance from sources outside the banks?
– I have read the report of the Governor of the Reserve Bank who is chairman of the board. The problem that he discussed, and that has been referred to by the honorable member, is an extremely important one and a very difficult one. It is under very close examination, and I shall be p.lad to add to our considerations the last point raised by the honorable member.
– by leave - I wish to make a statement to the House concerning the Indus Water* agreements. Two important international agreements providing for the settlement of a long-standing problem between India and Pakistan were signed in Karachi on 19th September. The agreements are the Indus
Waters Treaty and the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement. The Indus Waters Treaty, which provides for the division of the waters of the Indus Basin between India and Pakistan, was signed by the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Nehru, the President of Pakistan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, and the Vice-President of the International Bank, Mr. W. A. B. Iliff.
The Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement sets up a fund, under the International Bank, of more than £400,000,000 to finance irrigation and associated works in Pakistan resulting from the Treaty settlement. Contributions will be provided by friendly Governments comprising Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America over and above the amounts to be contributed by India and Pakistan and by the International Bank. Australia has pledged £6,965,000 in the form of grants of free foreign exchange. Legislation will be brought down in due course to appropriate the amount of the Australian contribution. The Development Fund Agreement was signed on behalf of Australia by the Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Mr. A. R. Cutler, V.C., and by representatives of the other contributing Governments and of the International Bank.
The Indus and its five main tributaries make up one of the great river systems of the world. Under this plan, the waters of the three eastern rivers - the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej - will be for India’s use, while Pakistan will have the waters of the three western rivers - the Indus itself and the Jhelum and Chenab. Both countries will benefit tremendously from the system of dams and canals which will provide for increased irrigation, flood protection and hydro-electric capacity.
I am most happy that Australia is associated with this scheme which will contribute so materially to the economic development and well-being of both Pakistan and India and, I hope, lead to closer political relations between these two countries. I should also like to pay tribute to the International Bank. The skilful diplomacy of its representatives helped greatly in concluding these agreements.
I have taken the occasion of the signature of these agreements to address messages to the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, and to President Ayub, of Pakistan, in the following terms: -
I send my congratulations to you on the achievement represented by the signing of the Indus Waters Treaty to-day. We in Australia are delighted at the success of the negotiations and welcome the prospect of future association in this great enterprise.
– by leave - The Opposition is pleased to be associated with the message of congratulation that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has sent to the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on the occasion of the signing of these agreements, which are of such importance in the life of both countries. The right honorable gentleman hopes for closer association between India and Pakistan in the future, and with that hope I would also associate the members of the Opposition. We are not unmindful of the fact that over the years, when India and Pakistan have faced the problem of Kashmir, which is unfortunately still unsolved, the good offices of various Australian citizens of great distinction have been sought so that they might give whatever help they could. We are all proud of the fact that the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Owen Dixon, gave of his great knowledge and skill in an effort to find a solution to this seemingly insoluble problem.
We are happy now to be able to congratulate both India and Pakistan on their having solved the problem of the use of the waters of the Indus and its five tributaries. The governments of these two sister dominions have decided to seek the aid of the International Bank, and that bank has provided them with accommodation to allow them to do work comparable to that which we are endeavouring to do with our own Snowy Mountains scheme. We will probably spend as much on the Snowy Mountains scheme, by the time it is completed, as India and Pakistan will spend on their Indus waters project. But however long the work on that project may take, and whatever may be the circumstances surrounding it, there is no doubt that the peoples of the two countries will benefit very greatly.
We are happy to be associated with the venture. I assure the House that the Opposition is very glad that Australia has made a grant to help the two countries, with whose future our own will be so closely interwoven. We hope that India and Pakistan and all their peoples will progress and prosper, and that the living standards of both countries will be considerably raised as a result of the signing of these two very important agreements.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 8th September (vide page 1047).
Proposed Vote, £2,346,000.
.- It has been interesting to note that throughout a large part of the time devoted to a discussion of the Estimates, and indeed throughout the whole period during which I have been in this Parliament, the security service has been under constant attack by certain members of the Opposition, particularly the honorable members for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who always seem to have the ear of people who have been in some trouble with the security service or who would seem at some stage to have been connected with the Communist Party. According to the honorable members I have mentioned, the word of such persons is always beyond question, and the security service is always untrustworthy.
The regularity of these attacks by a small section of the Opposition, comprising always the same members, is becoming quite pointed, and the disturbing thought is held by many people outside the Parliament, of all shades of political belief, that these honorable members are not really concerned about the alleged untrustworthiness of the security service, but are worried about those who are attacking them and who are at all times prepared to support the exCommunists, and have little thought for the the protection of the decent, ordinary Australians who would be left vulnerable if there were no security service.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) stated recently in this House that he did not distrust the security service when it was carrying out its proper function. The honorable member for Hindmarsh inter jected, saying “ I do “. The Leader of the Opposition turned to the honorable member for Hindmarsh and repeated his original statement, and, I thought, in very strong terms. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition and most of his supporters in this House, together with most other honorable members, realize that a security service is essential to the protection of the Commonwealth. I would like to quote a few remarks made by Mr. Hogan, a former Labour Premier of Victoria, who said: -
It is a bad mistake, indeed incredible folly, for any one who loves Australia and wants to protect her from all harm, to excuse, defend or protect Communists and assist them to wage their cold war and their go-slow against Australia.
I should like to give a brief history of the security service. The Commonwealth Investigation Service was formed in 1920 to overcome the serious difficulty in enforcing the laws of the Commonwealth caused by the fact that the police forces of the various States were subject to their own State legislation and were not responsible for enforcing Commonwealth laws. At the outbreak of war in 1939 special groups of State police were recruited for full-time duty in what was called Military and Police Intelligence, in association with the Commonwealth Investigation Service.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I take it that we are discussing the Estimates of the Attorney-General’s Department. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization is under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department, the estimates for which are not under discussion.
– I ask the honorable member for La Trobe to come back to the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department. In the course of the debate on these estimates, mention has been made of the security service, and therefore the honorable member has been in order in referring to that service in an introductory way when discussing the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department. He may not, however, spend his whole time on a discussion of the security service. I suggest it would be better for him to refer to it when we are debating the estimates dealing with miscellaneous services.
– No doubt I am at fault, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I considered that the security service was under the control of the Attorney-General’s Department. Could I speak on the subject of the amount being provided for expenditure by the security service?
– On the point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman,I direct your attention to the fact that at the time when he was interrupted the honorable member was referring to an organization which was established by the Commonwealth and has since become known as the Commonwealth Peace Officer Guard, and which is covered in the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department. I submit, therefore, that the honorable member was in order and that the point of order was not well taken by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser).
Order! The point of order which was raised by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory related to the fact that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or security service, is under the control of the Prime Minister. The honorable member for La Trobe may speak in passing about the security service, but he is not to devote the whole of his speech to that organization.
– I shall endeavour to refer to the security service in passing only, but I assure you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I shall be working under great difficulty as the majority of my speech relates to the Commonwealth Investigation Service which, I feel, bears a great similarity to the security service.
Order! The honorable member may deal with the Commonwealth Investigation Service because it comes under the administration of the Attorney-General’s Department. He may not refer in detail to the security service.
– Very well. I hope that you will correct me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, ifI offend again. As I was saying, the Commonwealth Investigation Service was formed in 1939. Its duty was, first, to prevent Nazi saboteurs from operating and to seek out for internment Nazi col laborators in Australian; and, secondly, to forestall : the early saboteur role of the local Communists who were anti-war until Russia’s involvement in June, 1941. The organization’s other duties covered narcotics, smuggling, counterfeiting, &c.
On the return of the A.I.F. from the Middle East the security service, as such, was inaugurated. Who has forgotten the wharf strikes and the difficulties of loading and unloading ships with essential war equipment? Who has forgotten the difficulties of 1940-41, when the troops returned from the Middle East and Communists in certain unions were acting in a manner which was hardly conducive to helping the war effort? In 1946, the then Labour Government extended the Commonwealth Investigation Service to incorporate the security service. In 1949, the Chifley Labour Government formed a new organization which was very similar-
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I think that the honorable member for La Trobe - I hope I am not being unfair to him - does not quite understand the difference between the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or security service. Not everyone understands it, and it is not surprising that a new member of this House finds difficulty in distinguishing one from the other. I think he is still talking about the security service.
– I think that the honorable member for La Trobe, in dealing with the security service which was established by the late Mr. Chifley, is again getting away from the proposed vote for the Attorney-General’s Department which is now before us.
– May I point out, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that what was formerly the Commonwealth Peace Officer Guard and the Commonwealth Investigation Service previously came under the administration of the Attorney-General? If honorable members are listening attentively to the speech, it will be evident that the honorable member for La Trobe is referring principally to the Commonwealth Investigation Service, and is making passing reference to the fact that the Commonwealth
Investigation Service was combined with the security service. I suggest that the committee is being too tough in the points of order that have been raised, possibly because Opposition members are rather embarrassed by the points that the honorable member for Latrobe is making.
Order! I inform the honorable member for Lilley that the point of order taken by the honorable member for Hindmarsh was correct. The honorable member for La Trobe referred to the initiation of the security service by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley. That was the only point of order which was taken, and the only point of order on which a ruling was given by the Chair. The honorable member for La Trobe was in order in referring to the Commonwealth Investigation Service.
– I thank the honorable member for Hindmarsh for his consideration. I assure him that I am in difficulty. As I was saying, it was clear that Russia was turning on her former allies, and that she had a dutiful fifth column in Australia. That fifth column was all the more menacing because, from the involvement of Russia in June, 1941, the Communists were converted overnight to the allied cause and acquired a grip of key unions-
– I again rise to order. The honorable member for La Trobe is discussing the security service. I submit that, according to your previous ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, the honorable member is out of order in doing so.
Order! There is no substance in the point of order which has been raised by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. At present, the honorable member for La Trobe is talking in generalities about the dangers which confronted Australia during the war. That is a matter which comes under the administration of the Attorney-General’s Department. The honorable member’s speech at present has no relation to the security service.
– The great difficulties and dangers which have confronted our country in the past and which, I think, confront us now are relevant to the Attorney-General’s powers and the proposed vote which we are now considering, There has never been more complete unanimity over these issues than was shown by the late Mr. Chifley and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The attacks which have been made on the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) during this debate, and indeed since I have been in this place, show an incredible state of affairs.
The situation in the world to-day, particularly in relation to Australia, is indicated by an article, written by Denis Warner, which appeared in the Melbourne “ Herald “ on Saturday, 10th September, under the heading, “ Reds Out to Drive U.S. from Pacific “. I have not sufficient time to read the complete article, although I have the paper here if any honorable member wishes to read it, but I should like to read the following paragraphs: -
The braggadocio of Communist China’s threat that it will drive the United States out of the west Pacific cannot be ignored any longer as an empty boast.
With the exception of Malaya, which is remote from the main concentrations of Communist Far Eastern strength, there is not a politically stable state in the ranks of all Western-allied, or protected, nations in the Far East.
It is, in short, determined to drive the Americans out of the west Pacific and to use all possible weapons, political, military, social and economic, to achieve its purpose.
In view of these statements and the knowledge of Australia’s isolation in the event of war, either hot or cold, would it not be a magnificent achievement for the Communists and their sympathizers in Australia if they could destroy the confidence of the people in the security service and in the various organizations which are set up for the security and protection of this country? Is it coincidence that this pressure comes to a head at a time when the British Government is having discussions with the Australian Government on the use of Woomera for space research, which is highly secret and of considerable defence interest, and when the Australian Government is negotiating with the United States Government on the mutual weapons development programme agreement?
Order! I think that the honorable member is dealing now with matters relating to the
Department of External Affairs, and is getting a little wide of the proposed vote for the Attorney-General’s Department.
– I apologize to the committee, and admit that I am confused. I think that the honorable member for East Sydney, who preceded me, devoted his speech to a theme similar to my own. I think that I should withdraw my speech. I shall not continue with it.
.- I hope that I do not get into the same hot water as did the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess). The only advantage that I feel I have on him is that my speech is not written and that I have to make it up as I go along. The views which the honorable member expressed are typical of those expressed by supporters of the Government in the smear campaigns that they engage in from time to time. They set themselves up as the great - and only- Communist haters in this country. But when we examine their record to see what they do to combat communism, we find that they do nothing but talk about it and use it, not only as a propaganda medium but also as a means of smearing, or attempting to smear, members of the Opposition. In recent weeks, a campaign has been conducted in this chamber against certain members of the Opposition.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in making these references to members?
– The honorable member for Newcastle was replying to remarks made by a previous speaker. Insofar as a courtesy is extended to a member in that regard, the honorable member for Newcastle was in order. However, I again remind him that we are discussing the proposed vote for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department
– Thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I thought that if the remarks made by the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) were relevant then my reply to them must also be relevant. A smear campaign has been conducted against the men who were referred to by the honorable member for La Trobe. I say that their record will stand up to examination any day of the week if any member of the
Government likes to examine it. The Opposition’s criticism of the security service is based wholly and solely on the fact that it is a political instrument.
Order! I remind the honorable member that I have already stated that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization is not covered by the proposed vote now before the committee.
– In that case, I shall try to confine my remarks to the Commonwealth Investigation Service. I would like to deal with some of the things that breed communism to which our good friends on the other side of the chamber are always referring. I want to deal with monopolistic growth in this country which the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) has power to restrain but does nothing about. I want again to refer to the tire monopoly, both in the new tire and the retreading business, which has crept into our economy over recent months. I believe that the AttorneyGeneral has the power to take action in this regard, otherwise he would not have replied as he did to a question that I placed on the notice-paper relevant to it. I hope that I am in order. Certain circulars have been distributed by the Motor Traders Association of New South Wales (Incorporated) dated 7th July, headed “Tyre Retreading Stabilization Plan “. The object of this plan-
– I rise to order. Under what division of the Estimates does this matter come? I can find nothing in the Estimates that refers to tire monopolies.
Restrictive trade practices legislation comes under the jurisdiction of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Insofar as that is so, the honorable member for Newcastle is in order. The matter under discussion - the proposed vote for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department - is of importance to this country. I ask the committee to maintain order during the debate on these estimates.
– -As I was pointing out before I was so rudely interrupted, the general object of the tire retreading stabilization plan is to take away competition. The system of competition is one which honorable members opposite allegedly support. The object of the retreading stabilization plan is to place the retreading business under monopoly control so that individuals will not be permitted to exercise their own ideas and to charge whatever prices they feel inclined to charge for the services they render. The agreement which has been arrived at by the tire manufacturers is designed to take that right away from individual retreaders and individual dealers in tires and tubes. The tire manufacturers have introduced a scheme whereby the rebates paid to the public, to members of various transport companies, and to others is slashed by more than one half as a result of this agreement. In order to illustrate the punitive action that is taken against people who disregard the directions of the tire companies, I shall quote a circular which has been distributed by the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Co. (Australia) Limited. It states -
To: ALL GOODYEAR DEALERS.
Atttached hereto is a copy of our Terms and Conditions of Trade relating to the purchase and resale of Goodyear Pneumatic Tyres and Tubes. These Terms and Conditions have recently been revised and your attention is specially drawn to. Clause 4 of Conditions of Trade relating to retreaded, recapped, reconditioned and secondhand tyres and advertising of tyres and tubes. These provisions are designed to assist in bringing to the retreading and repair section of the tyre industry the same stability as now exists in the purchase and resale of new tyres and tubes.
Signed: J. P. MILES,
The company enclosed a long list of conditions which it requires its dealers to observe. Clause 4, to which reference is made in the letter, reads as follows: -
Any person may be considered to have indirectly contravened the company’s conditions of trade if he-
Sells or supplies or offers to sell or supply recapped retreaded or reconditioned tyres at prices or upon terms either directly or indirectly different from those from time to time authorised by the Australian Retreaders’ Association, or
In association with the sale or supply of the goods purchases second-hand tyre casings at prices directly or indirectly in excess of the maximum prices from time to time authorized by the Australian Retreaders’ Association, or
Offers to sell or supply or suggests or infers by advertisement or otherwise that he will sell or supply the goods other than in accordance with the Company’s published price lists and Conditions of Trade.
Clause 5 provides -
Any breach of observance by a Trader of the Company’s Conditions and Terms of Trade will render the Trader ineligible for Volume Discount and supply will be made at Trade List Prices only.
I also have a copy of a letter under the letterhead of B. W. Loder & Company, Chartered Accountants, of 74 Pitt-street, Sydney, reading as follows: -
Tyre Manufacturers’ Terms and Conditions of Trade. I am instructed to inform you that as from 2nd September, 1960, the following are no longer eligible for volume discount: - Ace Tyre Service - 89/93 Lambton-road, Broadmeadow. Lascoe Auto Sales - 111 Cabramatta-road, Cabrarnatta. Spence’s Rubber Works - 151 Forestroad, Hurstville.
The last-named firm is in the constituency of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds). This letter was sent to that firm and the original will be produced if required. If the Attorney-General is sincere in his desire to curtail monopoly interests in this country he will take action in this matter. I believe that the Government has the power to curb monopoly interests in Australia. I have also a copy of another letter under the letterhead of B. W. Loder & Company addressed to the Manager, Ace Tyre Service, 89-93 Lambton-road, Broadmeadow, which reads as follows: -
The State Tyre Committee has instructed me to inform you that in view of the continuance of breaches of the Terms and Conditions of the Tyre Manufacturers’ Agreement, Ace Tyre Service is no longer eligible for Volume Discount.
No method has been established for obtaining in the committee a general discussion upon the administration of the expenditure sanctioned by the civil estimates; and debate must be kept to the specific object of the grant which is placed before the committee.
I submit that if the honorable member is to be permitted to debate tires, tubes and rubber he must indicate the specific item in the Estimates to which these matters relate.
Some five years ago, the Chairman of Committees of the time ruled that matters relating to the administration of the department the estimates of which were under consideration could be discussed by the committee. That ruling was agreed to by the committee of the whole House, and it has been adhered to by the committee in the various debates on the Estimates since that time.
– Thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. It is obvious that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) does not want to listen to what I have to say about the Government’s failure to curtail monopolies.
Ace Tyre Service, the organization with which I am dealing at the moment, is still disregarding the directions of the tire monopoly in Australia to-day - a monopoly formed by the Hardie, Dunlop, Goodyear and Olympic companies. Ace Tyre Service is disregarding the instructions of the monopoly and is still advertising that the general public may have tires retreaded at a discount of 25 per cent. The point is that despite this discount the firm’s business has not increased at all.
I have received a letter from Mr. Howarth, the manager of Ace Tyre Service. I have not sufficient time to give the committee the whole of its contents. Briefly, Mr. Howarth states that he approached one of the firm’s former clients and advised him that retreads were available at 30 per cent, less than the trade price. Mr. Howarth knew that this man was having his tires retreaded by a subsidiary of the four major tire companies. Mr. Howarth pointed out to him that Ace Tyre Service was still prepared to retread tires for him at the trade price less 30 per cent., although he could1 get a discount of only 17½ per cent, from the subsidiary of the tire companies under the agreement in operation. The former client rejected the firm’s offer.
Does not this clearly indicate that the tire manufacturers, which form a monopoly, are using this agreement to suppress the independent tire traders? In my district, there are only two of these independent traders. The tire manufacturers are doing everything in their power by enforcing these terms of trade to suppress the independent traders so that the manufacturers themselves will be able to enjoy a monopoly not only of the manufacture of tires and tubes but also of the distribution of these goods and of the retreading of tires - a monopoly which will be exercised through their subsidiary companies. They want to derive all the profits from the rubber industry.
On 16th September, the Sydney “Daily Telegraph “ reported a statement by Mr. L. V. Winslow, managing director of the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company (Australia) Limited in these terms -
Price-cutting could not affect the manufacturers - it only hurts other retailers.
Is it not so much humbug for the tire companies to suggest that there is competition - that there are in the rubber industry people other than the four major tire manufacturers and their subsidiaries? Is not this humbug pure and simple when they know as well as we do. that they have bought out more than 80 per cent, of the present retailers of both tires and tubes and also of the retreaders? The major companies have bought the other interests out and have fixed prices. They went even further.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I propose to discuss kidnapping with reference to the estimates of the Attorney-General’s Department, as relating to the Commonwealth Investigation Service, and I shall suggest that a new power be written into Commonwealth laws. In July, Australia was shocked by the first kidnapping in its history, when the Sydney boy, Graeme Thorne, was taken and later murdered. This act shocked the Australian people more than anything else had done for a very long time, and I am. of the opinion that crimes such as this should be dealt with at the Commonwealth level.
I consider that the States have powers inadequate to deal with offences such as kidnapping. This is established by the fact that New South Wales has had to strengthen its law since the Graeme Thorne tragedy and by the fact that South Australia is now introducing some sort of kidnapping law. I wonder where the other States stand. Has any of them a law with respect to kidnapping, or has the first kidnapping case in our history forced the legal advisers of the States to turn to the State statutes only to find that those statutes provide no power to deal with this terrible crime? And it is a terrible crime. It cannot be put on any other level.
So, we have, as it were, a patch-work quilt legal set-up in Australia that is hopelessly inadequate to deal with kidnapping. I urge the Government to give the matter more than a passing thought. In the United States of America, where unfortunately this kind of crime has often occurred, the laws treat it as a major crime, and it is dealt with exclusively by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Does the degree of tragedy in kidnapping vary from country to country? Of course, it does not. Kidnapping is as great a crime in one country as it is in another. If kidnapping is considered so great a crime in the United States that it is dealt with there by the famous Federal Bureau of Investigation, why should not Australia come into line and deal with this crime at the federal level? It can be dealt with effectively only at the federal level, Mr. Temporary Chairman. It is easy to see that under the differing laws in the various States, kidnappers who become murderers, as were those involved in the Graeme Thorne case, could escape the full consequences of the law under the present patch-work quilt set-up with respect to kidnapping laws.
This is the third time since the Thorne tragedy that I have raised the matter. Through the medium of its AttorneyGeneral, the Government always comes back with the answer that kidnapping is a State matter. That is the great let-out under the present legal set-up. I completely disagree with the suggestion that kidnapping is a State matter. So great is the tragedy involved that this crime should be dealt with at the Commonwealth level.
How could this be done? At the present time, there is no Commonwealth law that would enable a Commonwealth govern ment to deal with a kidnapping case. I think that there is only one way by which we can deal with the crime on a Commonwealth basis. The Commonwealth Government should invite the State governments, respectfully, at either the next regular Premiers’ Conference, or at one specially convened, to hand over to the Commonwealth powers exercised by the States under any laws that they have at present with respect to kidnapping - in other words, to hand over to the Commonwealth the power to deal with kidnapping which is now vested in the States. I believe that if the States agreed - I imagine that a majority would agree - the Commonwealth Government could place on the statute-book the first federal law with respect to kidnapping, and thereby overcome the problems of the limitations imposed by State boundaries. Geography would not be a limiting factor, as it is now. The whole of the Commonwealth would be subject to the one law, just as it is now subject to the one divorce law and will soon be subject to the one marriage law. Uniform law relating to kidnapping would bring this to the one level for the entire Commonwealth. A kidnapper caught in any part of the Commonwealth would be dealt with under a federal law.
– He would still be pursued by State police.
– The State police could act under the Commonwealth power. The Commonwealth could allocate to the State police power to help it in such a matter. At the moment, our hands are tied by this outdated Constitution. The longer I stay in this Parliament, the more I believe that the Australian Constitution is ridiculous in the light of modern events.
– This Government does not want to change the Constitution.
– I shall come to that, but I am glad that the honorable member for Batman has raised it. Why does not the Government wake up? Why does it not get away from its phobias? Why does it not realize that this modern world demands modern methods to deal with modern problems? Why does it pigeonhole the report of the Constitutional Review Committee, one of the finest reports ever to be brought down? It is a tragedy to know that a Commonwealth government in the middle of the twentieth century is satisfied with a constitution that has had only four amendments made to it in 60 years. The way we regard this matter makes us the laughingstock of the world. Here a terrible crime has been committed. It cannot be dealt with adequately on a State level because some of the States have not adequate laws to deal with it. In America, this crime is dealt with on the federal level by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But this Government says, “ Leave it to the States “! That is weak, childish and simple. It is cowardly.
The Government has not the courage to ask the States for the powers. Before in our history, the Commonwealth has asked the States, in conference, for a transfer of certain powers. In this instance, I believe that the States would be reasonable. This is the first time that the crime of kidnapping has been committed in Australia. This is not a common daily occurrence that we are considering; it is one of the most hideous crimes of all. Anything we did now would, of course, be closing the stable door after the horse had bolted as far as the Graeme Thorne case is concerned, but nonetheless it would be a warning to those who contemplated the commission of this crime. Surely the Government is inspired to do something. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in replying to a question I asked, said that he would talk to the States and find out what the Commonwealth could do in this matter of kidnapping.
– What would stop the States from legislating?
– Some of them are preparing amending legislation now, but that is not sufficient. If America considers that this crime is so bad that it must be dealt with on a Federal rather than a State level, why should it not be treated in the same way here? The crime is no different, whether it is committed in America or in Australia.
– The offenders have to cross a State border before it becomes a federal matter in America.
– That may be so. They can cross our boundaries too. But I believe that the Commonwealth is hedging all the time when it says, “ Leave it to the States “. This country has grown up in the past 60 years. Through the years, the Com monwealth has been shackled with leg irons, just as the convicts were 100 years ago. For example, the Commonwealth should have power to deal with prices, but it does not have this power. Yet this is a power that it needs to deal with inflation!
I respectfully raise this matter in considering these estimates, because I think that this is the best time to mention it. The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. McMahon) is at the table. I am glad that he is present during the debate on these estimates. I plead with him sincerely to look into this matter from a new angle and not be bound by tradition and phobias about State rights. Where did State rights get us in war-time? In such a crisis, we immediately introduced federal defence powers to give us power to govern the whole country, lock, stock and barrel. In peace-time, some of our problems are so great that they should be dealt with on a federal basis and not left to the States to deal with them parochially. It is time that we became nationally minded. I am not so stupid as to suggest that State governments should be abolished at this time; but neither am I so stupid as to say that the States can deal with great national problems. The approach of this Government would suggest that the States are right all the time and are able to deal with these problems just as they were able to deal with them 60 years ago.
The crime of kidnapping has occurred for the first time in Australia. The Commonwealth Government should consider it from the national viewpoint and introduce uniform legislation so that the same penalties will apply wherever the crime is committed. To say that it has happened once but will not happen again is like putting our heads in the sand. As a country, we have grown up. More and more people are coming here and in a few years we will have a population of 11,000,000. By the year 2000, our population will be 15,000,000 or 20,000,000. The danger of this crime occurring increases as our population grows, and we should at this time do something on the federal level before it occurs again. If kidnapping were made a federal crime, this would be a massive deterrent to anybody who was contemplating the commission of it. I say that proudly, because I believe that when a Commonwealth government has power to act, a potential law-breaker is prone to have another thought. If he knows that the States are all higgledy-piggledy, that some have no laws and others are just about to introduce them, he believes that he has found a loop-hole. We do not want any loop-holes with a crime such as this. We want every loop-hole closed, and the only way to do this is for the Commonwealth to have power to deal with this crime.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who has just resumed his seat, suggested that the Commonwealth should legislate to make kidnapping a federal crime. He said that this would close all the loop-holes. The honorable member obviously misunderstands the nature of this matter. The crime of kidnapping is a relatively new crime in the world, and especially in Australia. As the honorable member conceded, a recent case of kidnapping is the first known in Australia. I am sure that the honorable member does not mean to say to the committee that the law of New South Wales is ineffective to deal with perpetrators of the crime. That would be quite wrong. The law of New South Wales is quite adequate to deal with the crime, and if it occurred in Victoria or in any other of the States the law of those States would be adequate to deal with the position. I am sure the honorable member does not believe that if it was made a federal crime kidnapping would become less frequent or that a federal law enforcement agency would be more efficacious than a State law enforcement agency would be. To hold such a view is to completely misunderstand the problem.
– The federal agency in the United States of America is more efficacious.
– I shall deal with that. The Commonwealthhas limited powers of legislation, just as has the Congress of the United States. It is true that in the United States there is a federal law dealing with kidnapping. It is commonly known as the Lindberg law. It is equally true that the States of the United States have such laws, as, for example, the so-called little Lindberg law of California. What the honorable member misunderstands is that the United States has approximately the same area as Australia and it has 48 States-
– It has more than that.
– That is so, but I am dealing with the mainland United States and not with Alaska and Hawaii. The United States has a population which is rapidly approaching 200,000,000. Honorable members know the population of and the number of States in mainland Australia. The United States Government has dealt with the crime of kidnapping because in that country intercourse between the States is on an infinitely greater level than it is in Australia. The facility to cross State borders in the (United States is much greater than it is in this country, and the common change-over from one State to another in the course of a day’s activities or business or law-breaking is recognized in America. It was because of those circumstances that the United States Congress passed an act dealing with the crime of kidnapping. But those circumstances do not arise in Australia. In my view it is therefore unnecessary to pass a Commonwealth law in relation to kidnapping. I am perfectly certain that the State laws can deal adequately with this crime if it occurs.
The first thing in dealing with this crime is to detect the wrongdoer and, if that is done, the State laws are perfectly adequate to deal with him. In my opinion there is no case for federal legislation in this regard. Even if there were a case for federal legislation the next question to be asked is to what extent it could be effective. The answer is that that would depend entirely on proof of passage from one State to another. It is my opinion that, even if there was passage from one State to another, the State from which the child was taken and also the State into which it was taken have laws to deal adequately with the offence. There is therefore no case for a federal law. Even if there were, a federal law dealing with this offence could only be partially effective.
The honorable member for Wilmot suggested that the report of the Constitutional Review Committee has been pigeon-holed. He characterized the report as a very fine one and one of the best ever presented. I am not sure whether he was dealing with the Government’s attitude towards that report or its attitude towards the States generally, but he used the extraordinary expression that to leave the matter to the States is weak, childish and cowardly on the part of the Commonwealth Government. That is a most extraordinary statement and one completely out of consonance with the facts. The honorable member, if he looks at “ Hansard “ to-morrow, will find that those are the words he used. They were most improper words to use. Apparently the honorable member knows no political history. If he did he would know the history of constitutional change in Australia.
As I understand it, there have been only three occasions upon which the Constitution has been altered. The first was a most significant change; it altered the date of a senator taking his place in the Senate from the 1st January to the 1st July - a really shattering change! The next was the Financial Agreement. That was something which all political parties and all States supported and was obviously something which should be approved. The other change that I remember referred to social services. I have forgotten what the fourth one was. The honorable member who suggests there were four might help me out in this regard by interjection.
The situation is this; This is a Commonwealth built on a federal basis. I strongly support that federal basis. I hope that we never depart from it and that we never fall victims to the repeated propaganda of the Opposition that a unified system would be a more efficient system. I do not believe that for a moment. I believe the State governments are carrying out an efficient and worthwhile job and ought to be encouraged. For members of the Opposition to keep up this running criticism of the State governments is un-Australian. If the honorable member for Wilmot requires a development and heightening of the Australian national character I suggest to him that he should not hinder the process by constantly criticizing the State governments.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member did and if he reads “ Hansard “ he will find how mistaken he is. If he likes to apologize I will accept his apology now, but I have pointed out what he has been guilty of this afternoon. The matters raised by the honorable member for Wilmot, Mr. Chairman, disclose a complete lack of consideration of the effect he is seeking. I suggest that he would be better advised to consider the humanities of the crime of kidnapping rather than its legality when he does not understand the legal position.
.- I wish to say something further in respect of a matter I raised earlier in the debate on the proposed vote for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department and to which 1 believe the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is now overseas, has not satisfactorily replied. It refers to the dismissal of a man by the name of Staples from the Attorney-General’s Department as being a security risk. For the benefit of those who did not have the opportunity either to read them in “ Hansard “ or hear them previously 1 want to relate the circumstances associated with this most extraordinary happening in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
Staples, along with others, applied in response to a newspaper advertisement away back in March, 1960, for a position as a legal officer in the Attorney-General’s Department. He was not appointed until the 2nd June, so we can assume that from March till June the applications were receiving attention. According to what Mr. Staples tells me, he was interviewed on three different occasions and he answered all questions directed to him and answered them truthfully. It has not even been suggested that he attempted to mislead those who were interrogating him. As it was undoubtedly a security job upon which he was to be employed, we can assume that the security service took some part in the vetting of the applications and the screening of the men submitting themselves for appointment.
Mr. Staples is a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts of the Sydney University and a barrister of the New South Wales Supreme Court. He was a successful applicant and commenced his duties in this very important security post. He was there for ten weeks. At the end of that time he got a note, served on him by an office boy, stating that his services were no longer required. He naturally wanted to know the reason for his dismissal, as it was not that he was an inefficient officer, because in the ten weeks he served in this department he had actually been recommended for promotion. That recommendation was awaiting consideration at the time his services were dispensed with. So he sought an interview with the Attorney-General to find out what it was all about. The AttorneyGeneral refused to see him but, through his secretary, advised Staples that he should get in touch with the head of his section. That happened to be a Mr. Ewens, who was the acting secretary of the department.
When the Attorney-General was replying, with a spate of personal abuse, to the remarks that I had made in regard to this matter, he said that Mr. Ewens had denied what I had said regarding the interview that he had had with Mr. Staples, who obviously was the person who had informed me of what had transpired. But when 1 asked the Attorney-General to give Mr. Ewens’s version of what happened, he did not reply. He was completely silent on it. If what Mr. Staples said had transpired at that interview is not accurate, or is not in accordance with Mr. Ewens’s version, why could we not have what Mr. Ewens said about the interview?
I should imagine that if this man Staples had been guilty of any breach of trust during the ten weeks of his employment the Commonwealth would have instituted proceedings against him. But there is no suggestion of any breach of trust. For the sake of accuracy I shall quote the words used by the Attorney-General in regard to this matter. He said -
What would this country have said of me if I had left him to rifle the records of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department?
For ten weeks this man was handling confidential, secret and most secret files. There is no suggestion that these files were rifled, no suggestion of any breach of trust, because had there been any evidence of a breach of trust the Government obviously would have taken action. For ten weeks this man was wandering round in the department, if we take the Attorney’s-General’s story, and had an opportunity, while I handling these secret files, of rifling them, to use the Attorney-General’s own term, for the purpose of securing information of their contents. No doubt the suggestion is that the man wanted to use this because he was engaged in some subversive activity. The Attorney-General suggests that this gentleman was employed, and, indeed, had sought employment, in the Attorney-General’s Department, as part of a conspiracy of the Communist Party to secure important information, because the Attorney-General said -
I suppose those of us who are not too cynical would be quite prepared to think that it was not accidental that some one who had been a member of the Communist Party and who was said to have been recently expelled, should turn up in my department in a confidential position.
There is only one interpretation to be put on that statement. That is that the AttorneyGeneral believes that Staples was a Communist blind put in his office for the purpose of getting some confidential information. Let us examine this question in its proper logical sequence. In the first instance, if the security service, after having these applications available to it for ten weeks, was unable to discover a fact which was well known in the Attorney-General’s Department, and which newspapermen in this building were able to secure within 24 hours, since Staples was known in the Attorney-General’s Department to have been a Communist previously, there is something wrong.
Some of the men with whom Staples was working had been associated with him at the University of Sydney, where he was known to be engaged in Communist activities, and was known to be a member of the Communist Party. So, there was no secret in the department about his having been a Communist. But it took the security service - this organization which is supposed to be so efficient - about five months to discover this information. It is not suggested that Staples lied in relation to his application. The security service had approximately ten weeks while the applications were under consideration, and a further ten weeks while Staples was working in the department - a total of five months - to discover what any schoolboy who set out to get the information could have discovered in a very short time. In any event, Staples was employed. He was an efficient officer. He is an expelled member of a Communist Party, and the AttorneyGeneral, in an attempt to bolster up this case, seems to think that this also is part of the conspiracy. The AttorneyGeneral implies that Staples is still a member of the Communist Party, putting up a front of having been expelled in order to gain the opportunity to get himself into the Attorney-General’s Department to secure secret and confidential information. If that is the situation - if the Attorney-General really believes that to be the truth, which surely he does not - would the Government be satisfied with merely dispensing with Staples’s services when, according to the Attorney-General, Staples had been planted in the department in order to secure secret information?
This case shows how dangerous the security service has become in this country - how it is becoming a political police force, how it is endeavouring, with the assistance of the Government, to build up a structure of dictatorship in this country, a structure of tyranny - I think that anybody who cares to read the Attorney-General’s speech in reply to my statements must regard it as a completely unsatisfactory reply in the light of this most extraordinary situation. I can understand it from the Government’s point of view. The Government does not want too much discussion on this matter, because the security service has come under criticism in other directions in recent times. Obviously, the Government does not want further attention directed to two points. First, the inefficiency of the service, and secondly, the fact that it is acting in a way that no democratic government of this country ought to permit it to act.
I believe that the Government is wrong in refusing to give Staples the opportunity, which he wants, to find out what he is alleged to have done. Staples did not fail to reveal his past activities when questioned. He was known in the department. He attempted to see the Attorney-General to have this matter properly ventilated. I am of the opinion that from two angles this case ought to bring strong criticism on the head of the Government. It should be criticized, first, for inefficiency and, secondly, for treating the man unjustly without any evidence against him, merely because at one time he was a member of the Communist Party. Are such people to have a life sentence imposed on them? Are they never to be given the opportunity of saying that they were wrong in their views and have now adopted a different attitude? Are they not to be permitted to do that? Why, I have seen ex-Communists sent into South-East Asian countries as members of Government delegations because the Government has evidently been satisfied that they are no longer associated with the Communist Party! But here is a man who felt himself obliged to admit that he had been a member of the Communist Party, which he joined in 1947. He was the Communist candidate for the electorate of Lakemba in the New South Wales State election early in 1956. So he was not an undercover Communist. He was expelled from the Communist Party in November of the same year. So he was a well-known Communist. Surely if the security service took five months to ascertain something that was on record in many parts of the country, that shows how completely inefficient an organization it is.
Prior to this incident Staples was unknown to me. I had never met him. But I am satisfied, from the Attorney-General’s reply, that Staples has been unjustly treated. He was doing a job in which he was interested, and doing it efficiently. Even the head of his department admits that Staples was recommended for promotion. I should like to see this thing thoroughly sifted, because I think it is damning evidence against the Government as to the type of control and tyranny which it is permitting to raise its head in this country. Surely the Australian people are now becoming fully aware of the misuse of this security organization, of how it is being used to prevent people from getting promotion in the Public Service, and to prevent new Australians from obtaining certificates of naturalization or from bringing their relatives here from overseas. The future of all these people has been damned by secret reports of the security service without their being given an opportunity to know what they are charged with, or an opportunity to defend or clear themselves. I hope it will not be long before public demand in this country will force the Government to do something about thoroughly investigating this unsavoury situation which I believe exists at the present moment.
– I rise with only one purpose in mind and that is to see that the record is accurate. As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward1) well knows, the Attorney-General’s Department issued an advertisement for the employment of a person in a highly confidential position in the Attorney-General’s Department. When the gentleman to whom the honorable member for East Sydney has referred put in his application and was interviewed, he did not make it known that he had recently been a member of the Communist Party of Australia. He was appointed as a temporary officer but not to the vacancy in respect of which the advertisement was inserted.
Sir, it is clear in the record, and was stated by my colleague the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) that shortly before the time this person put in his application he had been a member of the Communist Party of Australia. Shortly before putting in his application he had been expelled by the Communist Party. When it became known to the Attorney-General’s Department that the gentleman concerned had recently been a member of the Communist Party, he had already been placed in a position of confidence. On learning of his past association with the Communist Party, my colleague, the Attorney-General and his department had no alternative but to take the action they took.
I want to state the facts - that is all. This man had been a member of the Communist Party until a short time before he applied for employment in the Attorney-General’s Department. It was not known at the time that he had been a Communist, and when this became known the Attorney-General took action. 1 commend to honorable members one part of the Attorney-General’s speech on this matter in which he referred to a wellknown technique of the Communist Party. As my colleague said1, the Communist Party will do its best to ensure that under-cover agents are employed in Commonwealth departments, and most people firmly believe that the Communist Party would not hesitate to further the purpose by the peremptory dismissal of a person from the party if they thought this would help them achieve its purposes.
The honorable member for East Sydney has stated his case before and has been perfectly answered by the Attorney-General. I believe the action taken by my colleague was correct. The Attorney-General stated the facts correctly and I believe that he acted in the best interest of Australia.
.- The explanation given by the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. McMahon) in reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has a number of glaring defects. First, the Minister stated that when Mr. Staples was interviewed, he made no mention of the fact that he had recently been a member of the Communist Party. Mr. Staples was being interviewed for what the Minister has described as a highly confidential position where the secrets of this country were kept.
– Some of them.
– Is it not astonishing that in such a case, those who interviewed Staples did not see fit or think it necessary to inquire whether he had any connexions with the Communist Party or whether there was anything in his past which would disqualify him from this highly confidential job?
– Where is the misrepresentation?
– I did not say there was any misrepresentation.
– You referred to lack of accuracy.
– I said that your statement had a number of points about it which seemed to be inconsistent. If this job to which Staples was appointed was so highly confidential, surely the people concerned in the interview would have asked questions relevant to it. Is this the way the Attorney-General’s Department does its job? When it is considering men for a highly confidential position, does it omit to question them on matters which might have something to do with their security qualifications for the job? The history of this case suggests to me that the position was not so highly confidential, and its importance has been boosted out of all proportion by the remarks of the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) and those who have been defending his decision. lt was only in the ordinary course of investigations, which no doubt took weeks to carry out, that officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department discovered that Staples had had some previous connexion with the Communist Party. Being faced with that situation, the department took action. Staples had not concealed the matter. He had not been questioned about it. lt seems that it was not considered relevant by those responsible for the interview. I think the case that has been raised by the honorable member for East Sydney indicates quite clearly the sort of disproportionate practice - the unreality - that exists in the situation. All sorts of injustices can be done to persons who are the victims of it.
I wish to direct attention to two matters which are quite relevant. First, it is time the Attorney-General’s Department considered the designing of a law which would prevent this sort of situation from developing. I think the public generally is becoming most concerned about the possibility of a disproportion developing in our attitude to security questions. It is becoming concerned also at the absence of any kind of appeal or consideration for those who may be adversely affected. I want to make clear to the committee the two points 1 am putting forward. I am not going to develop my theme at any length because it would probably be ruled irrelevant to the debate. I submit that there is developing in this country a disproportionate view of what is a security consideration. 1 submit that the Attorney-General’s Department should attempt to define a law to limit properly what is a security consideration. I think evidence is accumulating that security reports are considered in relation to a wide range of activities such as employment in government departments which have no relation to security in any reasonable sense or perhaps, in some cases, in no sense at all.
The case of Staples is an example of a man who was interviewed for a job, and it was not considered necessary or relevant to raise any questions of a security nature. It was probably a practice which has been used in quite a number of other cases. Then, when a report came in that the man was a security risk, action was taken against him when perhaps the job to which he was appointed was not considered one relevant to security at all. We know that these security considerations have been taken into account in cases of applications by immigrants for naturalization. My own view is that in the majority of cases, such things are not relevant to the naturalization of persons as Australian citizens. If people are permanent residents of Australia, the fact that they were associated with the Communist Party or with peace activities, marched on May Day, or were members of militant trade unions are not relevant to whether they should be granted naturalization or not. The majority of Australian people would agree with that view.
– The immigrants were screened before they came to Australia.
– Even in that sense, there should have been some adequate check upon them. Likewise, security considerations are now taken into account in the case of appointments to universities and to many private organizations. I think we require a law which would define the type of position or employment, the type of consideration and the type of case where security factors ought or ought not to be taken into account. At present there is no definition of these matters at all. It is well known that the Attorney-General has a legal formula in his mind for everything from the cradle to the grave. Surely we should get from him or his department some consideration of this important matter. We are entitled to such consideration. What is the attitude of the Attorney-General’s Department to this matter? It has not been stated.
– It is impossible to define.
– It is not. You could easily say that employment at the Woomera rocket range is a matter in which security considerations should be taken into account, but that such considerations should not apply to employment in the Department of Social Services at Newcastle, Geelong or Melbourne. It seems to me that unless you do this you justify the suspicion that exists. in the minds of many persons in the community that the members of the Government are giving disproportionate consideration to question of security.
Let me now pass to another aspect of this question. I believe that after a definition of a security consideration is framed, we then need legislation to provide that a person adversely affected by such a security consideration should be notified of the circumstances. If he has applied for naturalization, or if he has applied for a position, and he has not been granted what he has applied for, he should then be told the reason. Selections should not be made according to considerations that are kept completely secret. Provision should be made for the person concerned to be notified, and we should also provide, toy law, certain procedures of which that person may avail himself. There should be, first, provision for an inquiry in camera at which the accused person may present his case. He is, after all, an accused person, and he has had a penalty imposed upon him which may be just as severe as if he had been sentenced to imprisonment or subjected to a heavy fine. He may have been deprived of a promotion or an appointment, so that his whole future is seriously affected.
As I have said, an inquiry should be held in the first place in camera - I would not suggest it should be otherwise - so that the accused person can be represented and can question the information on which action has been taken against him. If he is not satisfied with the result of that inquiry in camera, he should then be given the right of appeal to a judge in a public court, where the matter can be thoroughly investigated. If these procedures are not provided, the liberty of the subject can be seriously endangered. It is a case at all times of balancing our security requirements against the very important necessity to preserve the liberty of the subject. Even the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said in this Parliament recently that some aspects of security are expendable - those were his words - in order to ensure that the liberty of the subject is not seriously interfered with.
These are the matters that I suggest the Attorney-General’s Department should con cern itself with. It should be concerned not only with dismissing men like Staples, but also with designing the kind of machinery that will ensure that justice and fair play will prevail in similar cases - and there are many such cases.
The Attorney-General’s Department has been extremely busy in the last few months providing us with various kinds of new laws. It has brought before us new laws on divorce and marriage and a new Crimes Bill, and there are some people who believe that the importance of these new laws has been exaggerated. There is, however, a great need for certain new laws, such as those which I have suggested during the last ten minutes which would ensure the safeguarding of individual liberty against security reports, with which the AttorneyGeneral’s Department and the Government have shown no concern whatever. There is an acute necessity for another kind of new law, with which the Government has likewise shown itself to be little concerned. At least it has been very tardy in devising such a law. I refer to the need for a law to deal with monopolies and restrictive trade practices.
The Government has said on various occasions during the last couple of years that it intends to introduce legislation to control monopolies and restrictive trade practices, and there are several comments I want to make in this connexion. First, we have been given the impression by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Attorney-General that this is a matter of great complexity, and that there are extraordinary constitutional problems to be dealt with and solved. It seems to me, however, that if a year, or perhaps two years, spent in consideration of this matter has produced nothing more than we have so far seen, then the level of the efficiency of the Attorney-General’s Department is not very high. I suppose the department and the Attorney-General himself have made some progress in this matter. If so, the AttorneyGeneral or the Prime Minister should be able to tell us the extent of that progress. But nothing has been said about it. The Parliament has been given no information whatever. I venture to suggest that the Parliament might be able to make some contribution towards the solution of the problem if it were given some information about it. We could be told, perhaps, what constitutional power the Government considers is lacking at present. But all we have been given so far is a statement that the problem is complex and that constitutional difficulties exist. We could be told, perhaps, what the Government seeks to achieve by any proposed legislation, and we might then be able to give some assistance.
In any case, I submit that unless consideration is given primarily to two aspects of the matter, any legislation that is brought down will not be worth the paper on which it is written. Taking them in order of importance, I shall deal first with the price policy of monopolies. Without going into the subject at any length, let me say that a most significant feature of the Australian economy to-day is that there are a few hundred industrial, commercial and financial organizations which, by following a policy of imposing charges that will maximize their profits, can extract from the community such an extraordinary proportion of the national income that capital appreciation and bonus share issues have never been at higher levels than they are to-day in Australia. This distorts the whole allocation of expenditure and resources in the Commonwealth, and there is no more fundamental economic problem. It cannot be solved or even moderated unless the matter of price fixation by monopolies is kept in the forefront of the minds of those who are attempting to frame the required legislation. But the Parliament has been told nothing of these things. It has been given no information as to what the Government is trying to achieve.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to intervene in this debate because I am rather appalled at the easy and careless approach adopted by members of the Opposition to the question of security. It appears to me that honorable members opposite are relying to a great extent on the natural abhorrence felt by Australians towards security, towards a secret service, or towards any kind of cloak and dagger enterprise. But the Opposition as well as the Government must have a sense of responsibility.
I sometimes wonder, as I sit here and listen to the constant attacks on the security service by Opposition members, whether those members realize that the Opposition is an integral part of the machinery of government, and that it should carry its share of responsibility.
These are not ordinary times. These are times in which a very serious cold war is being waged. If anybody can read the daily news and, after exercising a little imagination, still harp on the desirability of exposing security methods, then he is either a fool or a knave. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has suggested that the Government gives disproportionate consideration to security matters, and in this connexion he has referred to the employment of a public servant in a department handling highly secret information. The honorable member suggests that we should develop some kind of yardstick which will enable us to say, “ In such and such a department you may not employ a man who is a Communist or a militant trade unionist “. But in what Commonwealth department would it be safe to employ an enemy of this country, a Communist? We must remember that a Communist has to be defined as a person who owes his allegiance outside Australia. The honorable member referred, by way of example, to the Department of Social Services, and he asked what risk there would be in employing a Communist in that department. There is a grave risk in employing a suspected person in any Commonwealth department. If the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), for example, employed a suspected person, that person would have access to ministerial files. There is no department in which you could employ a Communist or an enemy of the State. You do not plant a spy for to-day; you plant him for five years, or for ten years. Does any one think that we do not plant people in the Communist Party to spy for us? It takes a “ plant “ years before he attains a position in which he has access to secrets. The Opposition relies on the natural abhorrence of people to actions of this kind in a period of cold war. No one likes them. I like my freedom, and so does every one else.
The Opposition has spoken about a court of appeal in camera. What appeal did
Isaksen and his two colleagues have when they were expelled from the Labour Party because of their association with Communists on unity tickets? Why should the Labour Party have the right to expel Communists from its organization and deny that right to the Government of the country? This Government has the right to keep its ranks clear of dangerous elements.
– Isaksen has a right of appeal.
– He has a right of appeal, but he was not expelled in camera. As I have said, he and two others were expelled because their names were linked with Communists on a unity ticket. The Opposition must be broadminded. It attacks the Government on these questions, not because it is afraid for the security of Australia, but purely to make political capital out of the situation. It operates on the natural abhorrence of the Australian people to anything that reeks of injustice. The Opposition has asked the Government why it does not come out in the open. The Government cannot come out in the open because these are not normal times.
The Government is accused frequently of smearing a man by calling him a Communist. There is no smear in that. I believe that every man has the right to hold his own political belief. If a man wants to be a Communist, he can be a Communist. But if he is a Communist and, as such, becomes an enemy of this country, I regard him as a menace. He may remain a Communist provided he does not act as a Communist to subvert this nation. Every nation has the right to keep traitors, whether they be in trade unions or in government departments, out of places where they can do the country any damage.
The Opposition talks about smears, but it should heed my warning that the word “ McCarthyism “ now can be used as a protection for the Communists. The moment a man accuses another of being a Communist, he is called “ McCarthy “. No one likes to be called by that name, and so the Communists receive a certain amount of immunity to exposure. That is a point which should be kept in mind.
We have heard the continual requests from the Opposition for more information about the operations of the security service.
The Opposition has claimed that the Government should come out in the open. That is the very process by which the security service will be destroyed. It would not be able to operate if its sources of information were known. After all, the Government has to counter a highly trained band of espionage experts, and we are entitled to some protection.
– I remind the honorable member that this matter was raised previously. It may not be discussed now during a debate on the proposed vote for the Attorney-General’s Department.
.- In spite of what the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has said about the security service, there is a growing concern among the people at the attitude of that organization. The Opposition has not commenced a heresy hunt, but in recent weeks we have mentioned in this place two instances in which the Government has failed to measure up to its responsibilities. The Government’s action, first, in relation to Professor Gluckman, and secondly, in relation to a former employee of the Attorney-General’s Department, calls for some explanation. This is not a question of the State being all-powerful; it is a question of the State’s action in relation to an individual celebrity. I remind the Government that democracy is not something that we merely talk about; it is definitely a way of life. Therefore, this Government which claims to be democratic has adopted completely undemocratic methods in its approach to the two cases which the Opposition has brought to its notice in recent weeks.
Let me contrast the Government’s approach to the two cases. In the case of Professor Gluckman, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - -
– I am merely making a passing reference, and I shall not be on it for very long.
Order! Professor Gluckman’s case is completely outside the functions of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. It concerns another department.
– In any case, I am merely making a passing reference to it and I do not propose to dwell on the point, except to say that the Prime Minister took considerable care not to say anything derogatory of Professor Gluckman. With regard to the person who was employed in the Attorney-General’s Department, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in his speech to the House, dropped all restraint and made a number of charges under cover of privilege against the man concerned. The Government cannot have it both ways. On the one hand, the Government claims that the security service is doing a job on its behalf, and on the other hand the Attorney-General comes into the House and adopts methods that are completely foreign to our way of life. Does the Government suggest that the way to fight communism is to adopt the methods that the Communists use? That is precisely what Government supporters are doing.
The honorable member for Hume tried to make a point of the fact that because the Australian Labour Party expelled a member on Friday night last, that, of necessity, had some relation to the matter which is now before the chair. Of course, there is absolutely no relation between them. All political parties in this country expel members from time to time. It is not something out of the ordinary. I remind the honorable member for Hume that I know that even the Australian Country Party has expelled members. As I have said, there is no relation between the two cases. For one thing, the livelihood of the man who was expelled from the Labour Party on Friday night last was not affected in any way. He will continue in his job. But the man who was dismissed from his position in the Attorney-General’s Department has been deprived of his livelihood.
When the matter was raised in the House the Attorney-General, in attempting to defend his action in dismissing this man, resorted to certain dubious methods. He smeared this man. That was uncalled for. The Attorney-General stated that he was not prepared to reveal the source of the information on which he based his action, and then he proceeded to smear the man whom he had dismissed. So that there can be no doubt about it, I shall read from the Attorney-General’s speech, which appears on page 1045 of “ Hansard “ in this way -
We discharged him, and we are not in the least ashamed of the fact that the Commonwealth did not allow a man who had long been a Communist, and who was said to have been thrown out, to continue with us. Being expelled is a fancy way that these gentlemen have of dissociating themselves, for the time being, from the party so that they may do more valuable work under cover. That is a known technique.
If that statement means anything, it means that the Attorney-General believes that Staples was not expelled from the Communist Party and, in fact, is still a member of it. As a consequence of what has been said about Mr. Staples submitting to an examination prior to joining the service and being dishonest or evading questions, I shall read a paragraph from a letter which Mr. Staples had published in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ of 14th September, in reply to the statement by the Attorney-General that he, Staples, had concealed his background from the department. Staples made this reply to that statement:
I was completely frank about what was relevant and material, and I answered every question honestly that was put to me.
If his background was not thoroughly investigated from the security point of view - Staples has said that he answered every question that was put to him - how can the Attorney-General - or any other member of the Parliament, for that matter - justify his dismissal for not having answered a question - a question that he was not asked.
There are certain matters which have arisen from the activities of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization in recent years that are concerning the minds of a lot of people. From reports I have received, I am concerned that the security service has interested itself in matters in which it was never intended it should interest itself. I submit that it has only done so with the approval of the Government.
The Government, in its approach to this security question, seems to be gripped by a form of hysteria which has made its mark in other countries, particularly the United States of America. As time went by, even the United States had to temper its approach to this matter. In that country now, inquiry boards meet iri camera. People accused of being Communists are given the right to state their case to these boards and are afforded an opportunity to prove their bona fides. But this Government is completely oblivious of what has gone on in other countries in regard to this particularly important question. It has ignored the experience of other countries which have been faced with this problem on a far greater scale than Australia. The Government continues to act in a way that is completely undemocratic and opposed to everything that democracy stands for.
As a result of the attitude of the Government to this question, I ask: What is the future of any man who has been a member of the Communist Party and who, as a result of a genuine revulsion, left the party and wishes to mend his ways and to find employment, particularly in a government agency, commensurate with his ability? The Government has drawn a rigid screen in front of such a man and has said to him, in effect, “ You have no future as far as this Government is concerned “. I submit that the point made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) in relation to the spread of security activities is valid. The Attorney-General says, in effect, “ This man has been dismissed. Henceforth, I wash my hands of all responsibility “. That is a completely inhuman approach to the question. I submit that if the Attorney-General had displayed a semblance of humanity in this Parliament, if he had been concerned with doing the right and proper thing, he would not merely have said, in effect, “ I have received a report from my departmental head and, in view of that report, I enforce his decision “.
The Attorney-General was equally responsible for putting the decision into effect. If a Minister of this or any government enforces a decision which has been made for him by a departmental head, he cannot escape responsibility by arguing that he merely put the decision into effect. If a Minister is prepared to allow his department to be run for him, that is his responsibility. In the final analysis, a departmental decision becomes a ministerial decision and the Minister has to bear responsibility for it. I submit that it was incumbent upon the Attorney-General, in the interests of humanity, to try to ascertain from this man whether his talents could be better and more gainfully employed in some other government department, instead of summarily dismissing him and then coming into this chamber and smearing him in the indefensible manner that he adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
– I establish my purity at the outset by stating that I am referring to Division No. 231 on page 35 of the Estimates. That deals with the administrative responsibilities of the Department of the Interior. One of the tasks of the department is the administration of the Australian Capital Territory. I suggest that those responsible for the administration of the department and of the Territory should turn their attention to devising means by which the people of the Australian Capital Territory may be given the right, or required to accept the duty, of governing themselves in their day-by-day affairs. As I have said a number of times in this place, it is a complete anomaly that the people of this city, which exists only for the purpose of government, in which the greater proportion of the population is employed in the service of government, and which has a population which, in the higher brackets, advises the Government on matters of policy and frames government policy, are denied a right which exists in every other part of this country. They are denied the right which is given to the people of Kookabookra or Mogg’s Swamp or Patchewollock or any other minor village or hamlet in Australia to govern themselves at the municipal or the shire level. Attention has been turned to this matter on a number of occasions. There has been quite a spate of reports on it. In 1949, a report was made by Mr. Cole, then Town Clerk of Hobart, who recommended a municipal form of government for the Australian Capital Territory.
– He has just retired, too.
– He was a man of experience, and furnished a most excellent report on conditions in this Territory. It was a most valuable report,but apparently it has been ignored. There is nothing in that to his discredit and I hope that he enjoys a happy retirement. More recently, a Senate select committee, under the chairmanship of Senator McCallum, conducted an inquiry into the administration and the development of the Australian Capital Territory, In 1955, the committee presented its report, which recommended a form of self-government for the Australian Capital Territory. The commitee recommended, first of all, a legislative assembly, that establishment to be followed by a municipal form of government. More recently still, the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council carried out an investigation, interrogated witnesses, and presented a report recommending a form of selfgovernment for the Australian Capital Territory.
Those three reports and other investigations could be of value, but they will be of value only if the recommendations are studied and, I suggest, implemented so that the people of this Territory will be, as I said earlier, granted the right to govern themselves or required to accept the duty of governing themselves. It is true that in the past there has been some reluctance on the part of the residents of the Territory to agree to a suggestion that they should accept the responsibility of governing themselves in their day-by-day affairs. I believe that that reluctance is diminishing and that in the present climate there will be a greater body of opinion ready to accept the responsibility and exercise the right which, as I have said, is given to every other citizen of the Commonwealth. If this is to be the National Capital of the Australian Commonwealth, it should not be an unAustralian town in that regard. You should not be breeding here a race of people who in the main will gravitate into the Public Service and who will be by the very nature of their existence here lacking in appreciation of the problems of people in smaller communities throughout the Commonwealth. That is another argument for the establishment of a form of self-government here.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, my suggestion has always been that the most appropriate form of local selfgovernment here would be at what may be described as the municipal or city level. I believe that that is where the lag exists and where the remedy should be adopted. Other opinion, of course, is that we should require self-government at what would be regarded as the State level. Here, as every one will understand, the National Parliament must stand to the Territory both as the National Parliament and in the stead of a State government as well as in the place of a city or municipal government, because here the Commonwealth has all power and no restriction on its ability.
From time to time, there has been expressed the opinion that no proposal for the granting of self-government to the Australian Capital Territory can be implemented because of the difficulty of dividing the responsibilities for financing the development and activities in the Territory. It is true that this is a planned city, and because of the nature of the plan and the way of development here many of the services and facilities provided are more extensive and much more costly than would be services in any other Australian community with a population of similar size. There I am comparing this city of a planned nature with a normal town or city which has grown outwards from the main street and is thus of compact lay-out.
So there is a very clear Commonwealth responsibility, not only in the planning of the lay-out of the city, but also in its development, and, because of its lay-out, in the administration and the provision of services within this city. But there must be a local complement. There must be a recognition of the home-town aspect. Put it that way if you will. To-day, there are some 54,000 residents in the Territory, and I believe that they should be given an opportunity to govern themselves. I suggest that, for the initial stage, this self-government should be at the municipal or city level.
It is true that all the residents here who occupy houses provided by the Government, or who have built their own houses on land which they lease from the Commonwealth because there is no private ownership of land within the city itself, are already paying rates. They pay rates for electricity supply, sewerage and water supply, and they pay general rates, as do the citizens of every other community, lt could be claimed that the rates charged here are not adequate to meet the costs that are involved. Indeed, it would be completely wrong to suggest that the people of this city should be required to pay rates at a level which would provide all the services needed for this planned centre. I have referred to the fact that because of the very design of the place all services are more costly. But the people here should be required, I suggest, to bear the same burden as is borne by other citizens of Australia in towns with populations of similar size.
This Government has paid lip service to the idea that there should be local selfgovernment in Canberra and has sponsored inquiries that have been held. Once you have a government which accepts the idea of local self-government, surely you can find the means of dividing responsibility into the national aspect and the local aspect. One easy way of making an initial assessment would be to take an average of the rates paid in, say, six of the largest provincial towns in Australia and to apply that average rating to Canberra, with the Commonwealth making up the excess expenditure needed to maintain the services here.
If the Government would accept the idea of local self-government in the Australian Capital Territory, and particularly in the city of Canberra, and if it would set itself to the task of determining what is the national responsibility in expenditure and what could properly be regarded as the local responsibility in expenditure, the means could be found and the people here could be given the right to elect their own representatives to a city, municipal, civic or Territory council - call it what you will - which could act as does any other comparable council and govern this city in its day-to-day affairs, having assigned to it all those matters that are normally dealt with by such a body. If, in the ultimate, you wished to impose above that a legislative council charged with the responsibility of administering at what could be regarded as the State level matters which normally are dealt with at the State level in any other part of Australia, that also could be provided.
So far, the present Commonwealth Government has shown no anxiety to pro vide self-government for the Territory, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The only form of local self-government, if you can call it that, is the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, which is, as its name suggests, purely an advisory body. It has eight elected members and four nominated members, and its only function is to tender advice to the Minister for the Interior. There is no responsibility on the Minister either to accept or reject the advice of that council. If we were sincere in a desire to provide local self-government, surely the first step would be to enlarge the responsibilities of the present Advisory Council, increase the number of elected representatives and provide it at least with a full-time secretary and with offices of its own.
– How many members has the council now?
– There are eight elected members and four members nominated by the Government who represent the departments responsible for administrative acts in the Territory. But the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council does not even have a full-time secretary. The officer of the Department of the Interior who is secretary of the council has many other duties to perform within the department. Furthermore, the council has no premises of its own. It meets in a conference room at the head-quarters of the Department of the Interior, and it has no office staff of its own. Perhaps the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who is now at the table, will be good enough to suggest to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), when next he is talking to him, that he consider enlarging the responsibilities of the present Advisory Council and provide it with offices and staff of its own. Thereby, you will be moving towards the establishment of fully responsible self-government in this Territory. Quite recently, the Government in its wisdom has decided that the Road Safety Council of the Australian Capital Territory ought to have a full-time secretary. I notice that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) is in the chamber. He will be aware that the Good Neighbour Council of the Australian Capital Territory has a full-time secretary who is fully paid. But the administrative body - or what could be the administrative body - in the Australian
Capital Territory has a part-time secretary. It has no offices of its own, no direct responsibility and no administrative power.
I think that the first step towards selfgovernment here should be a widening of the powers of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council and of its representation of the people, and a diminution of the official representation on the council, as well as the provision of staff for it. The Government should have a firm intention to proceed to delineate what is the national responsibility in expenditure and what is the local responsibility in expenditure, and it should apply to this Territory rating at an appropriate level, which could be, as I have suggested, the average of the rates paid by the citizens in, say, five, six or more of the larger provincial cities in Australia. I believe the people of Canberra should be required to accept the duty of governing themselves, and I feel sure that there would be no lack of people, adequately qualified, offering to serve in this way. I would be extraordinarily surprised if we could not find people competent to administer local self-government amongst the citizens of this city, the head-quarters of government departments of all kinds, where the policies of governments are made and where the whole of Commonwealth administration is centred or is to be centred. The Government might well consider acting on the suggestions I have made and the suggestions that have been made by those to whom I have referred and who have already reported to the Government on this subject.
– I want to refer again to the marked reluctance of the Government to do the fair thing by municipal councils in the payment of rates on government properties. This is not the first time that I have raised this matter, and I assure the committee that it will not be the last. I intend to raise it on every possible occasion, as long as I am here.
It can be accurately said that, under the Constitution, the Government is not compelled to pay rates on Commonwealth properties. However, it has gone part of the way and in certain instances makes ex gratia payments. These concessions are very valuable, in that they establish a principle, but they only touch the fringe of the problem. It is a problem, and I want to tell the committee what happens in the City of Melbourne. In the area under the jurisdiction of the City of Melbourne Corporation, there are more than 60 buildings owned by the Commonwealth. These buildings have a net annual value of £668,000. On this amount, the present rate of 2s. lid. in the £1 would yield £97,512 to the council, if rates were paid. This amount is lost to the council because of the Government’s policy. It is estimated that the reluctance of the Government to act fairly in the payment of rates is depriving local government authorities of £650,000 a year. That is a very large sum, and if any one branch of governmental services is working on very meagre rations, it is local government. Therefore, I ask the Government most sincerely to give serious consideration to this matter. The payment of rates on Commonwealth properties could be justified on the grounds of equity and justice.
A moment ago, I said that the Commonwealth makes ex gratia payments in relation to certain properties. Frankly, I cannot understand why these payments should be made on some properties and not on others. For instance, payment is made for services rendered by rating authorities, such as water, sewerage, electricity, sanitary and garbage services. That is all right as far as it goes. Rates are also paid on war service homes and on properties acquired by the Commonwealth where residential or business premises are erected on the land and the buildings are occupied by persons other than the Commonwealth. That is fair. In addition with leased Commonwealth property, if the lessee or tenant pays to the Commonwealth, either as a separate amount or within his rental, the equivalent of rates, the Commonwealth pays that amount to the rating authority as an ex gratia payment. Further, a Commonwealth instrumentality engaged in private enterprise in competition with private firms or organizations and which either owns property or leases property from the Commonwealth, pays an amount equivalent to the rates assessed on the property to the local governing body. An amount equivalent to the rates assessed on houses erected on Commonwealth property and used solely for domestic purposes, is paid to the local governing body by the Commonwealth. No payment is made when the residence forms part of a building used for official purposes - for example, a post office.
Despite the fact that, constitutionally, the Commonwealth is not required to pay anything to municipal authorities, it has recognized that, in the instances I have mentioned, valid reason exists for some payment to be made to the municipal authority for services that are rendered. However, I suggest that the Commonwealth should go further. This problem will become more pronounced as the Commonwealth acquires more properties. In Melbourne, during the regime of the Chifley Government, the Commonwealth acquired the area bounded by Latrobe, Lonsdale, Spring and Exhibition streets for the purpose of erecting Commonwealth buildings. At present, only a small portion of the area has been used for this purpose. Only one building has been erected, but I understand that another four buildings, covering half the block, are contemplated. Commercial enterprises occupy buildings in this area, and under the present system of ex gratia payments, the City of Melbourne receives payments in lieu of rates. However, as soon as Commonwealth buildings are erected, the City of Melbourne will lose payments which now amount to about £35,000. A similar position obtains in Sydney in relation to properties acquired by the Commonwealth in the vicinity of Phillip-street. We find that the policy of the Commonwealth is to build commodious premises for its departments in the various capital cities, and this is quite right.
– Except Adelaide.
– The honorable member for Bonython says that this does not apply to Adelaide. However, I am sure that the Commonwealth will include Adelaide, because the honorable member has been pressing for this for some time.
As the Commonwealth erects more and more buildings, the position will become worse. The Commonwealth should recognize the difficulty and treat the humble municipal councils fairly. There are very good reasons for it to do so. For instance, the range of local government services has widened considerably in recent years. I mention parking areas. The City of Melbourne is being urged by many people, including influential people, to acquire more property in the city and to convert it into parking areas. If this is done, Commonwealth employees occupying Commonwealth buildings will use these parking areas. In this way, an additional service will be given to the Commonwealth. Many instances can be given of municipal services provided for citizens being used by the Commonwealth. I do not know of any valid reason why the Commonwealth should not pay for these services just, as others pay for them. Why should the all-powerful Commonwealth Government say to councils, “ We will not give you anything but we insist upon receiving the services that are provided for ratepayers “? That is the position in a nutshell. The additional demands made on local government authorities have placed them in a grave financial position, and it ill becomes a wealthy body like the Commonwealth Government to shelter behind a provision in the Constitution and refuse to pay its fair share of the costs of municipal authorities. All Australian local government bodies have been forced to increase rates beyond the capacity of the ratepayer to pay. It is easy to say that local authorities must increase the rates, but they have now almost reached the danger point. As the Commonwealth acquires more private citizens’ property and erects government buildings on it, the responsibility for raising the necessary finance for local authorities will rest on few and fewer shoulders. To-day, local government is performing numerous public duties which are local in character but which are nevertheless the obligation of the whole community; and sooner or later there will have to be public recognition of the obligation on the community as a whole to pay for these services.
I suggest that the Commonwealth Government has an implied moral obligation - if not a legal one - to pay its share of the cost of these services. Local government authorities are asking, not that the Commonwealth Government pay more than its share, but that it pay its share, as the humblest citizen and even the old age pensioner who receives the munificent sum of £5 per week are expected to pay their share.
In support of the arguments I am putting, there is another question to which I submit the Government should give very serious consideration. I refer to the implementation of Federal Government policy making the financial burdens of councils much heavier.
No one will seriously suggest that the Commonwealth immigration policy has not given serious headaches to the controllers of local government. The immigration policy, as implemented, means the expenditure of more money on roads, health services and all the other services with which local government deals. But while the Commonwealth Government is taking the credit for the success of its immigration policy and is boasting that it is building up a great nation, it is disregarding the obligations that have been foisted on to local government by such policies.
In addition to that, under the Commonwealth Government’s credit policy, local government to-day - I can speak from experience gained from service on a council in Melbourne - is finding that municipal loans are extraordinarily hard to raise. It is easy for the Government or the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to say from time to time that the Australian Loan Council has declared that various local governments can raise sums of £80,000, £100,000 or £120,000. It is one thing to say that a council has power to raise money and another thing to find financial institutions which are willing to lend the money to the council concerned. The Government just says, “ You can raise so much “, and leaves it to the council to raise the money as best it can. I can assure honorable members that, as the result of the credit squeeze, it is hard for local governments to raise, in Melbourne to-day, the money which the Government says they may raise.
It will readily be seen that as the result of Commonwealth policy municipal councils are finding it extraordinarily hard to carry on their ordinary services. What of some of the buildings used by the Commonwealth for the public service and for which it pays practically nothing by way of rates? What of munitions factories, military camps, naval dockyards, migrant hostels, post offices and other government offices and buildings too numerous to mention? The Commonwealth is paying in respect of them for only a fraction of the services they receive. Payment is certainly made for garbage collection, but the buildings have the benefit of all the other services that local government is expected to finance. The Commonwealth Government pays nothing for them although it expects them to be provided1 by the municipal councils. From the point of view of equity and of moral decency I suggest there is an obligation on the Commonwealth Government to say, “ At long last we recognize that because of changes in the times, the added responsibility placed on local government and the extra services we are expecting as a result of the increased number of government buildings being erected all over Australia, we have an obligation to local government and are prepared to make ex gratia payments in lieu of rates “. This should be done on the same basis as in the six or seven special cases that I mentioned earlier in my speech. It would involve only £665,000, and what would that be in a Budget of £1,800,000,000 or £1,900,000,000 in order to give justice to a hard-working body of citizens who readily give their services free in the interests of the people and the community on the local government front? I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should do the right thing and at the earliest opportunity decide to pay this £665,000 and thereby meet its fair share of the financing of services for which it is at present very hard for local governing authorities to find the money. While the Commonwealth Government can shelter behind the provisions of the Constitution, the way out is to make this ex gratia payment. The Government should go the whole way and1 do the decent thing for the municipal authorities.
– It is not my intention to delay the committee unduly on these Estimates, but I wish to say a few words in respect of the Department of Works. I am concerned, as are many other people, at the added cost of work being carried out by the department, particularly on small projects, compared with the saving that could be made if the work were done by private enterprise. Many of these works could be done by private contractors. To give an example of what I am driving at, I mention that in one of the towns in my electorate, a certain gentleman recently received a communication from the department saying -
It is the Commonwealth’s intention to erect a new fence on this boundary consisting of split posts with four strands of galvanised wire (three plain and one barb). The estimated cost of this fence is £63. Please advise me if you are agreeable to the above proposals and if you would be prepared to contribute a half share of £31 10s. on completion of the fence.
Naturally, as there ware only two chains of fence to be put up, the gentleman concerned thought the cost was too high and told the department he would not consider the proposal. He immediately got to work and put up a better fence than that suggested by the department at a cost of £5 per chain. The cost to him for the two chains was £10 as against £15 15s., which was the cost to the department of erecting the fence. That is just one small project; I could enumerate many more to emphasize my point. I think that the Department of Works or the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) should have a look at some of these matters and see whether it is preferable, in such cases, to have the work done by people living in the area and at practically half the cost. I know that at times it is difficult to get local contractors for work of this sort.
I will quote another instance. The Department of Works had to re-lay some linoleum in a building. Instead of getting the Commonwealth officers on the spot to say, “ Ask the local people to put the linoleum in, submit the cost to us and we will pay it later on “, the department sent a couple of men 60 miles from Brisbane to do about one hour’s work. There is no doubt that the cost, particularly of these smaller jobs, is going up and up.
I have mentioned this matter because I think it should be ventilated. I believe that the Minister is aware of most of these things, and there may be an answer to the problem, but the example I have given in relation to fencing is an outstanding instance of where expenditure is going up and up, with no necessity for it. I have the evidence of that case in my hand and will give it to the Minister if it is required. I would like him to examine that matter particularly, look at some of the smaller jobs that are being carried out by the Department of Works, and ascertain what they are costing the Government and what could be saved by getting private enterprise to do the work.
.- I, too, address myself to the Estimates for the Department of Works. I note that the amount to be spent this year - £4,289,000 - is £207,031 more than was spent last year. Recently, when speaking in the Budget debate, I quoted a statement by the secretary of the Taxpayers Association who said, in commenting on the Budget, that it was a conglomeration of figures which would horrify a public auditor. I believe that that statement is true, because the expenditure for which the Government budgets has increased enormously over the past ten years. Irrespective of what department we consider, one cannot help but comment on the large amounts being spent by the Government on departmental administration.
I believe that Parliament should have before it a more detailed explanation of expenditure, instead of honorable members having only a maze of figures to deal with, such as we have here. For instance, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I think that the proposed expenditure of the Department of Works is much too high. Yet much work which could be done by the department itself goes to outside authorities. As I understand it, the Department of Works is vested with the responsibility of the Commonwealth works programme. The Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth), as ministerial head of the department, naturally has to accept parliamentary responsibility for the administration of the department. I believe that the department has administrative responsibility for the calling of tenders, and that the Contracts Board examines the tenders received and recommends to the Minister what tender should be accepted.
Some time ago, many rumours were circulating in Sydney that the tendering for the new Commonwealth offices in Sydney was crook. Not being familiar with tendering procedure I made some inquiries to obtain information about it. I placed on the noticepaper a series of questions relating to the Commonwealth offices contract, and the answers received from the Minister, coupled with a Sydney newspaper report of last Friday week, serve to confirm in my mind that there is something radically wrong with the method adopted in the calling of tenders for this job, as well as with the compiling of specifications, bills of quantities and so on. It appears to me that the Government could be in a spot of trouble over the letting of the contract to Clementson and Watts, the successful tenderers for this job. Perhaps the Minister will be able to explain to the satisfaction of honorable members certain features of the tender.
From my observation it would appear that the Government will be up for thousands of pounds in compensation one way or another before the work is completed. In view of the reports circulating, one thing is certain. That is that the completion of the new Commonwealth offices will possibly be nine months to twelve months later than has been provided for in the time schedule of the contract.
Until recently I have never had reason to doubt the methods used by the Department of Works in the letting of contracts. I had thought that, within reason and subject to guarantees, contracts were always let to the lowest tenderers, although I know that that practice is not strictly followed. However, having known a case where a tenderer submitted a price for extensions and renovations to the Newcastle West Post Office which had been, in the original quote, about £2,000 lower than the successful tenderer in a tender of £15,000. I was influenced to raise the matter to which I now refer. The departmental reply in that case was that the lowest tenderer had not the experience to carry out the work. That, of course, was all bunkum, because the contractor had built schools, flats, houses and other buildings, of a much greater value than the Post Office work.
While I am unaware what the final cost of the alterations to the Newcastle West Post Office was, I do know that it exceeded £23,000. I contend that if the Department of Works can lose more than £3,000, and perhaps up to £4.000. in a contract of £23,000, it is likely to lose much more on a £5.500,000 job as a result of shoddy methods in administration.
Newspaper reports which at any time imply that something is wrong with government undertakings are always disturbing. When headlines say, “ Firm defies Federal Government “, and “ Building steel held “, I think it is high time the Minister cleared the matter up. The report under those headlines states, in part -
A Sydney firm’s refusal to supply steel for the Federal Government’s huge £5i-million office block in Sydney has caused a fantastic situation . . .
A Commonwealth official said to-day it was the greatest “ mix-up “ and the “ most tangled skein “ he had experienced.
The firm withholding the steel is Arcos Industries Pty. Ltd. of Fairfield.
It won a £262,289 contract to supply structural steel for the £3-million first stage of the Commonwealth building nearly IS months ago.
On the strength of the contract, Arcos was able to buy about 1,000 tons of steel in very short supply from B.H.P. Pty. Ltd. . . . “ Arcos has got the Commonwealth right across a barrel “, a master builder said to-day.
When Arcos refused to deliver the steel last July, E. S. Clementson Pty. Ltd., of Sydney, and E. A. Watts Pty. Ltd., of Melbourne, who combined and won the £3 million contract, cancelled the contract with Arcos
They did this on the ground that Arcos was a sub-contractor to them, the main contractors.
But Arcos had refused to acknowledge the cancellation and it claims it still has the contract
The three-way dispute between the Commonwealth, Arcos and the main contractors has intrigued builders and steel merchants . . .
According to reputable sources, the Commonwealth claims that Arcos has breached its contract by not delivering the steel.
But these sources say Arcos could claim that the Commonwealth breached the contract by allowing the main contractors to cancel it.
That Sydney “ Sun “ report makes interesting reading, as the replies received by me from the Minister on this subject back in March or April last were anything but satisfactory. In fact, they show the need for a thorough inquiry into the whole matter of tendering. On reading the reply of 27th April I was amazed to learn that the tenders for the various ancillary services such as electric passenger lifts, refrigeration plant, electrical services, fire sprinklers, boiler plant and air-conditioning plant do not form part of the main building tender, but had actually been the subject of separate tenders. As I see it, there are several unsatisfactory features about the tender. Perhaps the Minister can explain them and say at what point the contractor for the main building work becomes responsible for the work as a whole.
Will the Minister also explain why he did not tell me in answer to my questions what firms had tendered for the supply of the fabricated steel, or the date on which tenders were called? I wonder whether the omission was an oversight or whether, in the light of the dislosures made in the Sydney “ Sun “, something shady was pulled by some one in the Department of Works in regard to the calling of tenders for the supply of steel.
Naturally, when work involving millions of pounds of public money is to be carried out, there must be careful planning. Every detail must be considered, and every assurance must be obtained from tenderers that their organizations are able to do the work within the schedules and the time set bv the authority for whom the work is being performed. I am wondering whether that was done in this case.
The Minister told me that it was expected that the whole work would be completed within the specified time of 104 weeks, and that in setting the time schedule his officers had consulted with leading outside authorities such as Messrs. Rider, Hunt and Partners, quantity surveyors, T. C. Whittle and Concrete Constructions Limited, to obtain their views on the time schedule. The amazing aspect of this procedure is that the Director of Works, in fixing the time schedules, had interviewed two contracting firms which were later to become tenderers for the main building work. Surely such a procedure must be highly unethical. I wonder whether it was followed in order to give an advantage in regard to tendering to the two firms whose opinions were sought. On the other hand, was the time schedule set, on the information obtained from Whittles and Concrete Constructions Limited, by some one knowing that the work could not be concluded within the specified time because the principal contractor could not possibly obtain the fabricated structural steel in time to allow the construction to continue as scheduled? I understand that applications were invited for the supply, fabrication and delivery of structural steel for the Commonwealth offices early in 1959, and that tenders actually closed on 26th May, 1959, which was more than eight months before the main tender closed. J also understand that Arcos was the successful tenderer with a price of £262,289. At the same time another firm, Sydney Steel, had submitted a tender price of £282,789 for the same work, or about £20,000 more than Arcos
According to my information, which has now been confirmed more or less in the Sydney “ Sun “, Arcos is unable to continue with the contract but refuses to give it up. If the information is true, I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that it is up to the Minister to clear up this scandal. The Minister must tell honorable members what :ill this is about. It is his duty to say how the contract was let, what the price was, .ntd what steps his department took to ensure that Arcos ‘ was capable of carrying out its contract. He should tell us why Arcos had to put up only a £500 bond in a £262,000 contract. He should say whether it is a fact that the firm has already received 1,000 tons of steel from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for the job, and whether it is true that the 1,000 tons of steel referred to cannot and will not be replaced by B.H.P.
The Minister must also explain to the Parliament to what extent the failure of Arcos to supply the steel will affect the scheduled time for the completion of the building contract by Clementson and Watt. I want to know also whether it is a fact that possibly Clementson and Watt will be able to sue the Commonwealth Government for compensation amounting to about £4,000 for every week they are over the scheduled finishing date through the Department of Works bungling the contract for the supply of steel. The Minister might also explain whether this contract is going to be another St. Mary’s ammunition factory fiasco. Will the building of the Commonwealth offices turn into a cost plus or a cost plus-fixed fee contract?
I ask the Minister: Is it true that new tenders for the supply, fabrication and delivery of steel for the Commonwealth building will have to be called? If so, is the Minister aware that Sydney Steel alone estimate that its price would be about £475,000, or about 80 per cent, increase on the original tender of Arcos, and approximately 70 per cent, higher than its own original tender? Will the Minister say whether it is true that the Department of Works has already invited fresh tenders for the supply, fabrication and delivery of steel as reported in the “ Sun “? Is it expected that the cost will be greatly increased due to the extreme shortage of steel caused, first, by an allocation of steel which had been forwarded to Arcos for the Commonwealth building; secondly, by the big demand on B.H.P. by Australian industry for many large orders for steel and, thirdly, by exports overseas? Does the Government intend to alter the time clause inserted in Clementson and Watt’s building contract since the Government has failed to have the structural steel delivered on the job at the delivery dates specified?
Mr. Temporary Chairman, I understand it has been a long-established practice that the selection and control of sub-contractors for major jobs are left to the building contractor. I believe that, in turn, the contractor submits the name of the successful tenderer for a sub-contract to the department for approval. Is it true that the Department of Works departed from that principle in this instance? Is it also a fact that, having done so and having been bitten in the process, it has now asked the building contractors, Clementson and Watt, to provide a suitable contractor for the supply of structural steel? In view of the facts that the contract cannot be completed as scheduled, first, has the Government taken any action, to extend the contract time for the completion of the main building contract? Secondly, has any compensation or financial arrangement been considered or arranged between the Government and the building contractors for the loss of time incurred by the failure of Arcos to deliver steel? Thirdly, has anything been done to ascertain who was responsible for the change in the departmental tender system which has possibly allowed a loophole in the contract documents whereby the Government will be required to face up to, first, an increase in the price of a new sub-contract; secondly, time cost in the building schedule, and thirdly, compensation to the main building contractor?
Does the Minister intend to take action to relieve the Government of the possibility of having to pay out compensation in this case, or does the Minister think the contractors are not awake to the possibilities that a claim for compensation would represent?
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 1020), on motion by Mr. Roberton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Speaker- [Quorum formed.]
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate an amount of £23,400,000 more in this financial year, for expenditure on social services, than was provided for this purpose in 1959-60. Expenditure under this legislation will increase from £233,600,000 last year to £257,000,000 this year. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said that this increase is accounted for by additional costs arising from the provisions of the bill itself, the costs incidental to the natural increase in population, and the effect of a full year’s payments of increases granted last year.
The Minister preens himself upon this performance. He thinks the Government has done a wonderful job for about 700,000 age, invalid and other pensioners throughout Australia. I invite honorable members to compare the Government’s actions in the field of social services with the distribution of bonus shares by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited on the basis of one bonus share for every two shares held, thus increasing share capital from £66,000,000 to £100,000,000. It should also be remembered that every £1 share in the Broken Hill company is worth about £3. This company can give these tremendous benefits to its shareholders, and nobody can interfere with it in any way. Yet the Government claims that it has done a marvellous job for the aged, the invalid, the sick and the mothers of Australian children by granting an extra £23,000,000 for some of them - not by any means all of them.
It has been customary on occasions such as this for the Opposition to move an amendment to the effect that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide rates of social service payments more adequate having regard to present living costs and representing a fair and reasonable share of the national income, such rates to take effect as from the first pension pay-day in July of the year in question. In the spirit of such an amendment. I wish to make certain criticisms of the Government for what it has done or, rather, has failed to do. We say that payments of the kind contemplated in the bill, which are of such small amounts for individual pensioners, should be made retrospective to 1st July of this year. We have always maintained that if public servants, members of Parliament and Ministers, and judges can have their salary increases made retrospective, there is no valid reason for not making increases granted to pensioners retrospective.
– Did Labour ever do it when it was in power?
– If we did not, is that a reason why this Government should not do it?
– It is hypocritical of you to suggest that it should be done.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service says it is hypocritical of me to suggest it should be done. We do not think it is hypocritical, because in our day pensioners were paid 37 per cent, of the basic wage. They are not being paid 37 per cent, of the basic wage to-day, and they need retrospective payments more than they ever did at any previous time in the 60 years since federation.
We say also that no provision has been made in this bill for an increase in the allowance for the wife of an invalid pensioner. When a man becomes eligible for the age pension, having passed the age of 65 years, even though he is obviously an invalid and cannot work the Government deliberately transfers him from the invalid pension list to the age pension list. In this way it does not have to pay the wife the allowance that would be payable if the man were receiving the invalid pension.
We contend that the Government stints the pensioner. We know, of course, that if an age pensioner between the ages of 65 and 70 years is 85 per cent, incapacitated, his wife can draw an allowance, but if he is not so incapacitated there is no provision for his wife. In many cases the wives are between 50 and 60 years of age and it is impossible for them to obtain work or to do anything other than look after their aged husbands. We say that the wife’s allowance should have been increased to a rate at least equal to that of a class B widow. But this Government will not listen to any representations along those lines.
No provision has been made for an increase in the child endowment. The Government has, in fact, allowed this social service benefit to become a dead letter. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when discussing child endowment some little time ago, said that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, by granting increases in the basic wage, was looking after the worker and his children, and that there was, therefore, no necessity to increase child endowment.
– Who said that?
– That was the Prime Minister of Australia, and he spoke, of course, for his Government, because when he speaks none of his Ministers dares gainsay him. None of them would utter one word in opposition to what he said. That statement of the Prime Minister shows that child endowment was introduced originally, not as a social service benefit, but as a means by which industry could avoid having to pay basic wage increases. Of course the provision of 5s. for the first child in 1949 was merely a political stunt. This is shown by the fact that the Government has not increased the payment for the first child at any time since the payment was instituted. The Labour Government increased the child endowment payments for the second and subsequent children in 1948, and no increase in those rates has been granted by the present Government during the last eleven years. As far as this Government is concerned, child endowment is no longer a social service benefit.
The Minister for Social Services, knowing the temper of the country on this question, did refer to it in the course of his secondreading speech. He said -
Nor is it possible to consider child endowment in isolation. If the proposals itemized in this bill are not to be abandoned altogether, an increase as 5s. a week in child endowment this year would increase the total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund by £74,000,000, and 10s. a week by £117,000,000 in this financial year. Sums of that magnitude are not to be contemplated without regard to the economic consequences, in terms of increased taxation, on the work force of our country.
So, because the Government says that the scheme is too costly and that money cannot be found to implement it, the mothers of Australia’s growing children are to be denied any form of justice. No action will be taken to increase the child endowment for any of the children of a family, not even for the third and subsequent children. This would not cost so very much. The Government is not concerned about child endowment now, but the Government was concerned about child endowment when it thought that it could win votes in 1949 with a promise to increase the allowance.
The Government claims that any increase in child endowment creates great perplexities. Of course it does! Every social benefit that has to be increased creates perplexities for governments. But if this Government were to devote its abilities and address its mind to the needs of those in the community whose wants are greatest, it would not introduce a bill of the kind which is now before us; it would introduce something that would be much more beneficial to the most deserving section of the community.
In his second-reading speech the Minister, in referring to maternity allowances, said -
Maternity allowances have remained unchanged for some years, but this Parliament knows that an additional £5 to some 231,000 expectant mothers would approach £1,160,000 in the present financial year. The inevitable question arises as to whether that sum of money, if it were available, might be spent to greater advantage in improving the maternity services of our country.
An amount less than £2,000,000! And the Government argues that it can find some better way of spending £2,000,000 than by increasing the maternity allowance!
It is true that the birth-rate has risen since the end of the war. It is true too - it cannot be denied - that the birth-rate has risen because of the policy of full employment which was inaugurated by the Chifley Government. If there were not full employment people would not be marrying as comparatively young as they do to-day, and the birth-rate would not be as high as it is. We are the last people in this Parliament to begrudge the expenditure of £14,000,000 a year on immigration, but if the Government continues to increase the amount spent on immigration it ought to continue to increase the amount spent on maternity allowances and everything else associated with the birth-rate, which affects not only the old Australians, but also the new Australians. On that score, too, the Government is to be condemned.
We say that the increase of 5s. a week in pensions is miserable, and will find no defenders in the Government ranks - 5s. a week; 9d. a day! What will 5s. a week buy these days? As I heard at a public meeting in Sydney last night in the electorate of Phillip, which we hope to win back at the next election, 5s. a week will not buy even one dozen eggs. Five shillings a week will buy very little food, but that is all that this Government can find for several hundreds of thousands of old age pensioners, a very large proportion of whom have nothing but their pensions on which to live. They have no property; they have no other income; they have no relatives to support them. They have only their pensions. But this Government, in effect, says: “We have treated them very handsomely. We have given them 5s. a week, and we can leave it to the newspapers to make appeals for blankets to keep the pensioners warm in the winter time, and to make appeals to give the pensioners presents at Christmas time “. And this is what is claimed to be a civilized and humane form of Government!
– What has the Labour Party ever done for the pensioners?
– The temporary member for Kalgoorlie has asked what the Labour Party has ever done for the pensioners. The Labour Party increased the old age pension to 37 per cent, of the basic wage. This Government relates the pension to the cost of living figures. We say that the pension should be related to the basic wage, because the Arbitration Commission over the years has granted prosperity increases. This Government believes that pensioners must never share in prosperity increases. The basic wage-earner can receive them but, because of this Government’s social services legislation, the man who has finished his working days is denied any share in the prosperity about which we hear so much to-day. Before I conclude my speech I hope to educate the honorable member for Kalgoorlie a little more.
– Nevertheless, I shall make the attempt. With an audacity worthy of a better cause, the Minister said in his second-reading speech that this Government had been responsible for more increases in social services benefits than has any other government in the history of federation.
– Quite right, too!
– It is quite wrong. The very fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service states that it is right makes it wrong. The Minister for Social Services said -
This Parliament knows that there is no known way to reconcile differences of opinion on the question of social services, but the historic fact remains that, during the last sixty years, great changes have been made and, if I may say so without undue pride, most of them have been made by the present Government.
For a farrago of nonsense I have never heard the equivalent of that. The statement is completely false in every detail, and the man to prove that it is false is the Minister for Social Services himself. He issued a booklet which tells the story of all these social service benefits. When dealing with the history of age and invalid pensions the Minister stated -
Commonwealth age pensions were introduced by the Deakin Government in 1909. The pension was then 10s. a week and permissible income was also 10s. a week.
That, and the child endowment benefit, were the only two pieces of social services legislation ever introduced by an antiLabour Government. The second, as I have proved, was not intended as a social service benefit. It was a method by which the employing classes of this country were able to avoid an increase of 6s. a week in the basic wage, which Chief Justice Beeby had told the Menzies Government he intended to award if it did not introduce a child endowment bill.
– Deakin initiated old age pensions to obtain our support.
– I am coming to that very point. For the benefit of those honorable members who know very little about the political history of this country. I should like to refer to page 11944 of “Hansard” of 3rd June, 1908, on which
Sir John Forrest ; I think he was then the honorable member for Swan - is reported in this way -
We all know that this bill has been hurried forward practically by the Labour Party. They have told the Government “ If you do not introduce it, out of office you must go “, and, in reply, the Government say, “ Do not shoot. Colonel, and we will come down “.
That was the Deakin Government. That is going a long way back in history, but we have in our records the original letter which was written by Alfred Deakin to Andrew Fisher undertaking to introduce an old age pensions bill if the Labour Party would put him into office. The Labour Party put the Deakin Government into office and the bill was passed but, if my memory serves me aright, it was not implemented. It was the Fisher Government that brought it into operation in 1910, and it was the Fisher Government that then introduced the invalid pensions bill of the same year. As I turn the pages of this document, which was circulated at considerable expense to the Commonwealth by the Minister for Social Services, I find that credit is given to a Labour government - rightly so - for the introduction of maternity bonuses. Later on, credit is given for all the beneficial legislation that has flowed from the amendment of the Constitution made in 1946 in spite of the unanimous opposition of the Australian Country Party, which recommended the electorate to vote against the three propositions that the Labour Party put forward - the proposition in respect of organized marketing, the proposition in respect of industrial power and the proposition in respect of social services. The Liberal Party said that it would not define an attitude to these propositions but would leave that to the individual. The statement of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that he favoured a social services referendum persuaded a number of Liberals to vote for that legislation.
– That was on health?
– No. I refer to the social services legislation of 1946, under which we pay all the health benefits, all the medical benefits, all the pharmaceutical benefits as well as benefits to students, and under which we are able to pay for many other things that we have not yet decided to introduce as social service benefits to the Australian community. I think that the cost of social services will be increased to about £327,000,000 in this financial year.
– The figure is £333,000,000.
– I was £6,000,000 out. It is true that this Government did pass into law certain schemes which we were trying to negotiate when we went out of office. The vacant laugh by a member of the Country Party signifies only the honorable member’s ignorance of the subject. What happened about 1947 and 1948 was that the British Medical Association was using every doctor’s surgery in Australia as a campaign head-quarters against the Labour Party. In the end, when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) became Minister for Health, the doctors agreed to the very scheme that they had rejected when Senator McKenna advanced it.
With respect to pharmaceutical benefits, every chemist who was ill disposed to the Labour Party dispensed poison - instead of beneficial medicaments - against the Labour Party. Yet, in the end, the chemists agreed to the proposition that we put forward. But now we find the chemists and the doctors supporting this Government. They know who their friends are and they are in revolt against the proposition that this Parliament approved last year. I refer to the tax of 5s. on every unfortunate sick person who needs to go to a chemist to have his medicine dispensed. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) talked about the aged persons homes scheme. The Government did not think that up itself.
– Next you will tell us that we did not produce the merged means test.
– You did not think that one up either. The Minister is not capable of thinking up anything, anyhow. The scheme for the merged means test was the creation of the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and of nobody else. He put it before a social services committee of our party and he will prove it. The committee asked the Minister to notify the secretary of his department to attend to give estimates of costs. The scheme was explained in full to the secretary. We wanted the scheme adopted. The secretary took it away to the Government and now the Government has adopted it. We do not mind that. We are very glad that the scheme has been introduced. But the man who was primarily responsible is one of the men in this Parliament who knows most about social services - the honorable member for Port Adelaide.
With respect to the homes proposal, it is true that some years ago the Government decided to finance the building of homes on a £1 for £1 basis. That is to say, the Government gives £1 if a denominational or secular body or a State authority produces another £1 for the building of homes for the aged. That was a good scheme. But it was the same principle that the Chifley Government put into effect with regard to immigrant children. We gave £1 for every £1 that a State gave. Then the denominational or secular body gave another £1. In the end, we were looking after some of the very old people and the immigrant children who were brought to this country.
The evidence that this scheme was not thought up by this Government is provided in the columns of the press. On 11th July, 1955 the Melbourne “ Age “ reported a scheme put forward by the Venerable Archdeacon Geoffrey Sambell, spiritual director of the Brotherhood of St. Laurence in Melbourne. He suggested two schemes, the alternative one being that the Government should grant a basic pension rate of about £4 with additional subsidies where necessary. On 15th May, 1958, the Melbourne “ Age “ reported editorially in favour of a scheme put forward by Professor R. I. Downing, of Melbourne, on much the same lines. It was these people outside the Parliament who put forward the proposal which this Government ultimately adopted. It is no use for the Government to claim credit for any original ideas at all.
– What about the rehabilitation scheme and the special allowance for rent?
– The special allowance for rent of 10s. a week was part of the Downing scheme and also part of the Sambell scheme to which I have referred.
The rehabilitation scheme was put into effect because it does not cost very much. It is like the medical benefits which the Government is giving the Boer War veterans. There are only 2,000 of them left, so they can go into repatriation hospitals. The Government thinks that it is conferring a very great benefit upon these unfortunate people by looking after them in that way. lt will not accept the Opposition’s proposal to treat the veterans of World War I. in the same way, but the time will come when the World War I. veterans will be similarly treated.
There are quite a lot of people around this country whose interests have been ignored by this Government. People living and working in the Northern Territory, in northern Queensland and in those areas of northern Australia are granted zone allowances for taxation purposes; public servants get as much as £3 to £5 a week additional payments to enable them to meet the increased cost of living in those areas. Yet this Government does nothing about the pensioners who live in those parts. It treats them as forgotten people entirely. It thinks it can forget them because they are in the most remote part of the Commonwealth. Many of them, for health purposes, because they cannot stand the rigours of the southern climate, prefer to live in the Northern Territory. The Government should do more for these people than it is doing. It should have another look at the National Welfare Fund, the purpose of which it perverted some years ago. The Labour Government established the fund by paying into it all the contributions from the social services tax and a portion of the payroll tax. This Government now pays into that fund only the amount of money that is disbursed from it annually. The Opposition says that that is wrong.
– What did Labour do with the money in the so-called fund?
– It was advanced to the Government on the credit of treasurybills.
– What did it represent?
– It was an asset in the hands of the Government. The present Government could still build up an asset to that extent. If the fund had been allowed to grow, it would be worth hundreds of millions of pounds more than it is worth to-day and the Government could be giving social service benefits to which we say the people are entitled as a matter of right. The Government has deliberately kept the National Welfare Fund low so that it can have the excuse that there is nothing in the fund with which to pay additional benefits without recourse to increased taxation. We say that that is all wrong.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has been interjecting quite a deal. On occasions, he makes very eloquent pleas for the primary producers of this country. He thinks that they are being badly treated - and so they are, by the Government that he supports!
– All he said was that the Labour Government’s tax was a per capita tax and that that Government taxed the labourer just as much as it taxed any one else.
– That is all nonsense. I am sorry, in one sense, that the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) is leaving the Parliament of the nation, but if he has not learned any more than is indicated by the latest exhibition of his ignorance, he will not be missed. What Labour did when it was in office in the war years was *o increase income tax to 18s. 6d. in the £1 on all incomes over £5,000 a year. We kept the sales tax low. We kept all forms of indirect taxes low, and we exempted from income tax the man on the basic wage with two children. But to-day, every man on the basic wage with two children pays very heavy taxes. Indirect taxation is also very high.
There are other people in the community besides- the primary producers who are suffering - the great body of people who are indigent because of age or sickness, and the mothers who are trying to raise their families and keep them healthy. How can mothers feed their children properly when the prices of important foods are so high? Last August, ten prime bullocks brought £1,025 at the cattle sales at Homebush in New South Wales - bullocks at about £102 a head, and in consequence of that price, rump steak at lis. per lb. The primary producer makes very little profit these days. The middleman gets the lot. Sheep are being sold at a return of 7d. or 9d. per lb. to the producer, and people in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane are paying 4s. per lb. for lamb. The pensioners have to pay that price the same as does every body else.
Under the administration of this Government, the conditions of wage and salary earners and all those in receipt of pensions are continually deteriorating. Under the administration of this Government, the position of the masses of the people is- growing worse. The hand-out of a mere 5s. a week to pensioners is an insult to them and to the community, if this country is even half as prosperous as Ministers would have us believe. It is prosperous enough for some people. The Chevron Hilton Hotel, in Sydney, was opened a few days ago. One can rent a flat there for £220 a week or £35 a night, and this Government will allow every penny of that as a deduction for income tax purposes. The great mass of the people of Australia will have to pay for the enjoyment of this expensive accommodation by wealthy people.
– One cannot get a booking, because the whole place is booked out by Labour members of Parliament.
– That statement is just as idiotic as has been any of the many idiotic statements that the honorable member has made in his long years of service here. The people who are booking out this hotel are the wealthy people who are able to claim their expenses there as deductions for income tax purposes and who out of what they make in that way help to finance the return of people like the honorable member to this Parliament to serve their interests.
We make a plea on behalf of the pensioners. We say that whatever is being provided in this bill is not enough. We say that more could be provided for the pensioners and we think that the Government should have another look at the allowances for dependants of age and invalid pensioners. It should have another look at the maternity allowance, and it should certainly have a look at the funeral benefit, which still stands at £10 - the level at which it stood when Labour was in office. The burden of providing for a decent burial is becoming increasingly great for old people, at any rate, if all that they can get from the Government is £10. Everybody likes to think that he will be buried decently. We think, also, that the Government should do something about child endowment.
We shall elaborate our plan in good time for the next federal election, and when we do we shall make the Government stand up to its performance. We shall ask the country to return us to form a government that will give justice to those who need it. By contrast, to-day we have a government that gives hand-outs to those who do not need them. It looks after the wealthy sections of the community and almost completely ignores the interests of the great masses of the people.
.- Mr. Speaker, the bill now before the House will implement the greatest and most liberal reform in social services which has taken place since the age pension was introduced in 1909. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) made a speech lasting 35 minutes, but dealt with this bm for no more than three minutes. For the most part, he discussed a whole mass of matters totally irrelevant to the bill. I would not answer any of his statements, since they were irrelevant, if it were not for the fact that several of them were completely inaccurate. The Leader of the Opposition said that the percentage of the basic wage represented by the pension had fallen. The fact is that the pension represented 36 per cent, of the basic wage in 1948 and that at the level provided for in this bill it will still represent 36 per cent, of the basic wage. Therefore, the statement that the percentage has fallen is completely inaccurate.
Another most amusing statement made by the honorable member was to the effect that the merged means test proposal was put to the Labour Government in 1948 by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson).
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member for Port Adelaide has said it publicly. 1 am not questioning whether it is a fact that he put that proposal to Mr. Chifley. All that I do is to ask: If the honorable member for Port Adelaide put that proposal to Mr. Chifley, why did not Labour do something about it when it was in office and had the power to act upon the proposal? 1 now propose to deal with the bill, lt has three main purposes. The first is to increase the base rate age pension to £5 a week. The second is to increase the pension payable to invalids and widows by 5s. a week. The third purpose is to introduce the most liberal amendment of the means test. As 1 said at the outset, Sir, this is the greatest reform since the age pension was introduced in 1909. Australia has helped to lead the world in this field and Was one of the first countries to introduce an age pension. The age pension was introduced by the Deakin Government in 1909, and was fixed at 10s. a week. It was based on need, which was measured by the means test. In the original act, there were two means tests - a means test on income and a means test on property. Since 1909. the base rate pension has been increased by various governments from 10s. a week to £5 a week, which is the amount proposed under the present legislation. Permissible income was fixed in the original legislation at 10s. a week. In other words, if a person’s income was more than 10s. a week, he did not receive the full pension of 10s. a week, as it was in those days. This figure has, over the years, been increased from 10s. to £3 10s. a week. The property bar - the amount of property that a person could possess and still be entitled to a part pension - has, over the years, been increased from £400 to £2,250 and the property exemption has been increased from £100 to £200.
I quote those figures not in any party manner. I quote them to show that successive governments over a period of years have not only increased the base rate pension but have also liberalized the means tests, both income and property. But the greatest liberalizations have occurred since the Menzies Government has been in power, and the greatest of all reforms is the reform that is to take place under the present legislation. At the present time, for a married person on superannuation or in receipt of wages, the combined income of the couple can be £17 a week - more than £3 a week in excess of the basic wage. A single person can receive in pension and other income £8 10s. a week. But where the hardship has existed over the past twenty years has been in the penalty imposed on thrift. The person who saved for his old age, the person who had a certain feeling of independence and wanted to provide for himself found, when he reached the retiring age, that his income from property was only a fraction of the pension. For instance, the maximum above which no pension was payable has been £2,250. That amount, invested at 5 per cent, or 6 per cent., has brought in between £100 and £120 a year. But the possession of that property has deprived that person of £4 15s. a week. Consequently, the harshness of the property means test has created the tendency for some thrifty people to dissipate their capital, by going on trips abroad or buying furniture or goods that often they did not need. They had either to spend their money or to resign themselves to living on an amount that provided only a bare existence. I do not think any one would say that a person could live to-day on £2 to £2 10s. a week, but that is all the income that was received by a person who had saved £2,250.
I mentioned earlier that successive governments, and this Government especially, had considerably raised the limit of property that a person could have without losing the pension. However, this harshness still existed in that the thrifty person, the person who had saved, was still penalized. The- legislation now before the House is designed to assist the person who has saved by putting him virtually in the same position as the person who has taken out superannuation or who has been able to work and acquire an income in that manner. Substantially, the legislation will enable a person who has saved and put his money in a bank, in bonds or in shares, to have the same income as a person who has purchased an annuity or has income from wages or salary. Substantially, a single person will be able to have an income of £8 10s. a week and a married couple £1.7 a week. The method of achieving this result is by what is known as the merged means test. No longer will there be a property means test and an income means test. There will be only one means test, and property will be deemed to have an income component.
To understand the method of working out this proposal, we must first understand the definitions. Property does not include the house in which the pensioner resides, his furniture, his motor car, if he has one, or insurance policies not exceeding a surrender value of £750. But property does include cash in hand, bonds, shares, a second house, if he has let a house in which he is not residing, and all things of that nature. Income includes wages and superannuation, but does not include income from property such as interest from bank deposits, dividends from shares or interest from bonds. I mention this, because some completely incorrect and rather unfortunate statements have appeared in certain of our newspapers. They show that many reporters do not understand the bill as it is now before the House. Therefore, we must remember that when we talk about property, we include certain things and exclude other things that I have mentioned, and when we talk about income, we exclude the income from property.
The pension is calculated by saying that the pension is £5 a week or £260 per annum; permissible income is £3 10s. a week or £182 per annum. If we add the £260 to the £182, we arrive at the figure of £442, which we call the formula figure. That is the amount that a pensioner can have in pension plus income or assumed income. The first £200 of property as defined is exempt. All property over that is deemed to have an income component of 10 per cent, of the excess. If we add that deemed income to other income such as superannuation or wages and deduct from the formula figure of £442, we arrive at the amount of pension to which a person becomes entitled. Generally speaking, it can be said that, provided a person invests his money at a rate of interest that he can to-day get quite easily - a fair rate of interest - he will have in income from that investment plus his full or part pension an amount sufficient to bring him up to £8 10s. a week. That is applicable in respect of a single person; £17 a week is applicable if he is married. Of course, if he invests his money at below the normal ruling rates of interest - as he can if he wishes - he may get a bit less, and if he invests at above the ruling rate he may get a little more than the £8 10s. a week. The amount is £17 a week in the case of a married couple.
The former ceiling of £2,250, beyond which no pension was payable in the case of a single man, and £4,500 in the case of a married couple are abolished under this amendment. No longer is there any ceiling in the act beyond which no pension is payable. A pension will only cease to be payable under the new act when, by the operation of the formula, no further pension becomes payable. For a person without other income such as superannuation or wages those figures are £4,620, for a single person, and £9,240 for a married couple. In other words, any one who has property to the value of £4,620 or less if single, or £9,240 if married, should make inquiries as to his eligibility for a pension if he is of pensionable age.
The great advantage of this scheme is that in future people will be encouraged to save. There will be an advantage in saving because people are enabled to retain their property and to receive, in addition to the pension, £3 10s. per week in income or assumed income from property. That is in addition to the base rate pension. I believe that the bill entirely removes the questionable features of the previous legislation. No longer will it be of any advantage to a person to use his money to buy an annuity or to go for a trip or to buy things he does not want in order to qualify for a pension. The thrifty person will now get the reward of his thrift. It has been estimated by the Minister that 100,000 people will gain increased pensions as the result of this legislation. Another group, which he has put at 20,000 people, who have been denied pensions in the past, will now receive a pension or a part pension. And so, Sir, I believe that this bill will remove the greatest source of criticism and will make our social services legislation the finest in the world. There will, of course, be room for amendments in subsequent years in relation to various aspects of the act, but I believe that this reform will remove the greatest criticism that has been levelled at the legislation.
The base pension is to be increased by 5s. per week for a single person, which means 10s. per week for a married couple. In addition to the pension a married couple are entitled to have their own home of any value, their own furniture of any value and insurance policies up to a surrender value of £1,500, together with other income or assumed income from property up to £7 a week, bringing their total income to £17 a week. I do not think any honorable member in this House would say that while the basic wage remained at its present figure of about £14 a week we would be justified in taxing people on the basic wage or near the basic wage to enable others to have pensions or part pensions to bring their total income up to a figure in excess of £17 a week for a married couple. I have always believed and have consistently advocated in this House that we should have a contributory pension free of means test. That, Sir, is an entirely different proposition and I say quite positively that, so long as we have a pension paid for out of general revenue, so long must we have some measure to limit the payment of that pension to those who are in need.
This legislation does justice to all sections of the community. It does justice to those who, unfortunately, have not been able to save at all. It does justice to those who have superannuation and to those who have saved and invested their money in banks, in bonds or in some other form of investment. I repeat that this legislation does justice to all sections of the community and, so long as it remains dependent upon general revenue for its finance, so long must the present conditions remain. If a government - and I hope the Government will do so at some future date - brings in a contributory scheme, then of course we can abolish the means test altogether, because the superannuation is paid on a contractual basis. Those concerned have contributed, and the question of ability or means is totally irrelevant. Therefore, it is important to us to distinguish between those who advocate abolition of the means test on a contributory basis - which is a perfectly sound and logical proposition - and those who advocate abolition of the means test on pensions financed out of general revenue. Those who advocate abolition of the means test on pensions paid out of general revenue are putting forward a proposition which is totally impracticable and totally impossible. Those who advocate the abolition of the means test, financed by a contribution, are, I believe, talking sound economics and putting forward a proposition that has been adopted in many countries and that one day, I believe, will be adopted in this country.
In conclusion I want to refer to the tremendous advantage that is also given, under this bill, to widows. At present the first £2,250 of property is totally exempt from the means test in relation to the widows pension, but any widow possessing more that £2,250 in property has been eliminated entirely from pension entitlement in the past. Now a widow who has saved more than £2,250 will receive a part pension calculated on a somewhat similar basis, but with a provision that the first £1,000 of property be exempt before the new formula begins to operate.
So in this legislation all the pensioners are to benefit by 5s. a week for single pensioners and 10s. a week for a married pensioner couple, while people who have saved will benefit by having the penalty on thrift removed. Widows are to benefit tremendously through a very great liberalization of the means test. Under complementary legislation service pensioners are also to benefit. So we find, in this year of office of the Menzies Government, further proof of the tremendous interest that the Government take’ .a social services. No government has done more to help the pensioners than this Government has done. Since it h» . been in power it has increased the age and invalid pension from £2 2s. 6d. a week to £5 a week. It has liberalized the means test by raising the permissible income limit from £1 10s. a week to £3 10s. a week, and the property limit from £750 to £2,250. So the Menzies Government can be justly proud of its achievement in the field of social services - and the greatest of all its reforms is the one now before the House.
– I am, very pleased to be able to speak on this bill. I do not intend to make attacks on the Government. What I want to do is to deal with what the bill proposes. 1 may say that from the very beginning of my membership of this Parliament one of the main things I have been concerned about is the equalization of the wealth of the community so that it will meet the needs of the whole of the community, instead of some people getting more than they need while others do not get enough to live on.
We have had a social services legislative programme, in what we might call the security state, for some time, and so I am compelled to go back a little in dealing with the subject. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was speaking about suggestions that were made to the then government in 1948, somebody from the other side asked, by interjection, “ Why didn’t the Labour Party do it?” The inference to be drawn from that interjection is that we cannot expect this Government to do something when the Labour Government, in its time, did not do it. 1 say to honorable members opposite that practically everything in social services, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, has either been brought in by Labour or has resulted from efforts made by the Labour Party but given effect to by anti-Labour governments.
What has brought me to my feet on this subject to-night is not what the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said but what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said in his Budget speech. He said -
Since it assumed office, the Government has done a great deal to extend the eligibility for pension benefits of various classes of people by its successive relaxations of the means test. A further important step is now proposed. A structural change will be made in the means test which will remove what has been widely regarded as an anomaly in the operation of the means test on property as compared with the means test on income.
Tt is the next passage in his speech to which I wish to direct particular attention. He went on to say -
This matter has had the attention of the Government over a considerable period and my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), has been most active in seeking a solution for a complex problem. 1 am happy to say that the Government has now been able to evolve a scheme whereby income and property may be merged for the purpose of assessing pension entitlement on a common basis.
I have in my hand a copy of a letter which I wrote to Mr. Chifley on 20th August, 1948. It reads -
These suggestions would mean the abolition of the property test as we have it at present, and after allowing for the first £100 to be exempt, £1 per annum for each complete £10 to be included in the calculation of income of the claimant or pensioner. This, I feel, would meet the strong objection that has been made for so long to the prohibition of persons with, formerly, over £400 property and, latterly, £750 property, receiving any pension whatsoever. I would ask that information be obtained from the Pensions Department to supply, if possible, the additional cost of such alteration.
I wrote that before the Budget came down in that year, and in our party meeting Mr. Chifley said at the time that it would cost £22,000,000 to do what I suggested. There were one or two other alterations I had also suggested. He said to me, “ We can’t see our way clear to do it “. However, the Chifley Government did raise the permissible property limit from £50 to £100 at that time.
I did not just leave the matter in the party room when Mr. Chifley told me that the Government could not accede to my suggestion. Speaking in the Budget debate on 22nd September, 1948 - two days short of twelve years ago - I said, as reported at page 734 of volume 198 of “ Hansard “-
Whilst T wholeheartedly support the budget proposals, I had hoped that the Government would be a little more generous than it has in relaxing the means test. Honorable members opposite may be surprised that a supporter of the Government should express that view in this chamber, but I do so because I desire to make a few suggestions about the means test, which, I hope, the Treasurer will carefully consider.
Further down the same page I am reported as saying -
I hope that before long the Government will make the property condition more liberal. Instead of the existing capital test, which provides that a person shall forgo from the pension £1 for every complete £10 over £100, the money should be regarded as income.
Honorable members opposite claim that they think up these improvements in social services. I do not mind their claiming that. I am very pleased with what the Government has decided to do about the property means test, because the action being taken fulfils the suggestions that I made twelve years ago, and which I continued to press. We on the Labour side have a committee, as honorable members opposite have, which examines social services legislation. Some years ago, when the Labour Party advocated abolition of the means test, honorable gentlemen opposite asked, “ How much is it going to cost? Where are you going to get the money? “ We have been going into this matter for the last twelve months. I put to that Labour Party committee proposals such as I had advanced before. When I set the proposals out in detail I was asked what implementation of them would cost. I said, “ I cannot tell you that because I do not know just what the position is.” It was rather interesting just now when the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) said that about 100,000 existing pensioners would benefit from these proposals and that there would be about 20,000 new pensioners. We tried to find out these figures from the Department of Social Services. The committee suggested that I write to Mr. Goodes, the head of the Department of Social Services. I will say that the department has been very helpful in telling me all the different cost figures, as I think it would be to every section of this Parliament. On 16th February last I wrote to Mr. Goodes as follows: -
A further meeting of the A.L.P. Committee on Social Services . . . was held in Melbourne at the end of the first week in February and consideration was given to the elimination of the property means test as now embodied in the Act, and to have pensions subject to income means test only.
I should like to refer honorable members to a book we have circulated in the past year.
– I spoke on these matters last year.
– The honorable member for Stirling has said that he spoke about this last year. I have been speaking about it for twelve years, and the honorable member did not supply the details that I shall give to-night. Two years ago the Joseph Fisher Lecture in Commerce was given in Adelaide by Professor R. I. Downing, whose subject was “ National Superannuation: Means Test or Contributions? “ Professor Downing said in the course of his lecture -
Certainly the means test could be improved. In particular the property test, which is grossly discriminatory against property should be abolished. Even with the liberalisation introduced in the last Budget, no pension is paid to an applicant with property, other than a house, in excess of £2,250. On this property, he might be receiving an income of £2 a week or less, according to how it was invested. Yet if he used his capital to buy an annuity of £4 10s. a week, he could in addition receive a pension of £3 7s. 6d. (the full rate of £4 7s. 6d. a week being reduced by the £1 a week excess of his annuity over the prescribed maximum of £3 10s. a week). So, if he chooses to remain a small property owner - supposed to be the ideal citizen of our liberal democracy - he may be condemned to an income of £2 a week or less. If he gives up his capital and becomes an annuitant, he can receive an income of £7 17s. 6d. a week.
I have been saying those very things and giving these figures for the past twelve years. I did not get any recognition from the press for what I did, but when a professor made similar statements they were published in a special booklet. I am not complaining. I am glad this has been done because it furthers something for which I have been fighting. Professor Downing supported what I have suggested: that the rate should be based on the value of an annuity; but if you tried to do that you would have all sorts of rates because every six months covered by the annuity makes a difference to what the contributor receives. I mention that because I stated in a letter to the department -
In Professor Downing’s Joseph Fisher Lecture, September 24th 1958, he sets out his views on the property means test which, he says, should be abolished (See page 17 of his lecture) and sets out a method of ascertaining what should be deemed income on account of the property. I think his proposition of this being done on the basis of the annuity that could be purchased by the capital value of the property would be too complicated to work satisfactorily, and our committee is desirous of ascertaining what the cost would be likely to be to abolish the property means test as now operating, and in lieu thereof, include as income £1 for each complete £10 over £200 property; the present £182 per annum income exemption to be continued.
Then I set out a table. It is rather remarkable that the table issued by the Minister for Social Services in explanation of this legislation which was sent to all honorable members is almost exactly the same as my table. I did not give the same number of items but I stated an amount that a man with no property or income would receive. He would get the full pension. A man who had £1,000 in property would lose £80 by the present deductions. I showed that under a different arrangement based on income only, a man with £1,000 in property would get the full pension instead of losing £80. I found that the Minister’s figures in the case I have quoted were the same. I showed that a man with £2,000 in property would lose £180. The Minister’s comparable figures were £2,200 and £182. Honorable members can compare the two tables and they will see that the position is as I have stated. I showed the result if money were invested at 5 per cent. A man with £4,490 in property would get no pension, but the return on his investment at 5 per cent, would be £224 5s. The Minister added another £130 because of the increase in the new scale, and stated that if a man invested £4,620 at 5 per cent, he would get nearly as much as the pension.
It was I who put this up to the Australian Labour Party committee on social services, and it was recommended as a part of Labour’s policy if we were returned at the general election. I put it forward on behalf of the committee so that we could say to the people, “ We have submitted this to the Department of Social Services and the department has stated it will cost so much “. That was what we were going to do.
– But you did not put it to the electors.
– I am putting it to the electors all the time, just as the supporters of the Australian Country Party are advocating a higher price for butter and subsidies for butter and eggs. Generally speaking, the people in my electorate are not the owners of poultry or cows. They are people who have worked with their hands on the wharfs and in the factories. They are now too old to work and have gone on the pension. Naturally I put this proposal to them. It annoys me when I am chided with submitting these things to the electors. Many electors are listening to this debate, and they will be pleased to know that we in the Labour Party suggested this last February. When the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) announced the proposal nobody was more pleased than I was. I was not jealous of the Government. I felt that something should be done.
The honorable member for Sturt said that for twenty years the people have been penalized. They have been penalized for more than 40 years. Now something is to be done for which I have fought right through the piece. Three or four years ago, before the honorable member for Stirling came here, an honorable member on the Government side spoke on this matter and I said to some of my colleagues, “ I am glad somebody on the other side is taking that up too “. I felt that if we had general support we would get something done, and I am pleased that something is to be done now.
The honorable member for Sturt made a grave mis-statement when he said that this is the finest social service legislation in the world. Let us examine this legislation. The Government proposes to increase the pension by 5s. a week. According to the honorable member for Sturt that will mean a pension equal to 36 per cent, of the basic wage, just as it was in 1948. If the pension is only 36 per cent, of the basic wage now, as it was in 1948, how can the Government boast that it has been generous? This Government is only doing what Labour did in 1948.
– The basic wage has gone up. :
– I am using your figures, 36 per cent, of the basic wage. 1 am not going to be led anywhere else. What does this bill do? It certainly makes the greatest provision we have known in connexion with the property means test. I agree on that point. But what else does it do? What provision is made for a couple such as some people I visited recently? They could not get the rent allowance of 10s. because both husband and wife were in the home and both were paying the same as anyone else. Because both of them were getting the pension, they could not get the extra 10s. The Government knows that that position is unchanged. How can the honorable member for Sturt say that this is the greatest social service legislation in the world? I refer again to the Joseph Fisher lecture given by Professor Downing. He said -
Pensioners who live alone and cannot share overhead expenses ot rent, heating and light are especially in need of extra income. Many overseas countries pay to single people 60 to 65 per cent, of the rate for married couples, rather than the 50 per cent, paid in Australia.
It is obvious that in this respect at least we have not the best social service legislation in the world.
Now let me turn to the case of the wives of invalid pensioners, who receive an allowance of 35s. a week. I say to honorable members opposite again that they are not doing a reasonable thing for such people. I said last year that I was amazed that nothing had been done to increase this allowance. I said that it was a callous government indeed that would say to an invalid pensioner whose wife had to stay home to look after him, “ We will give an allowance of 35s. a week in addition to your pension “. The Government has admittedly made provision for a supplementary rent allowance of 10s. which is paid in the case, for instance, of a mother living with a son or daughter to which is paid an amount for rent or lodging. But in the case of a wife who has to spend all her time looking after an invalid husband there has been no increase in the allowance of 35s. a week. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has suggested that these wives should be given an allowance at least equal to the pension paid to a class B widow, and in this connexion I have taken the trouble to look up last year’s figures to find out the number of persons affected. Later figures became available to-day, but I have not had an opportunity to go through them. In the year ended 30th June, 1959, there were 5,221 wives with a child and there were 7,248 wives without children.
– You mean widows?
– No, wives of invalid pensioners, not widows. When I say invalid pensioners I include the age pensioners between 65 and 70 years of age who are treated in the same way as invalid pensioners for the purpose of these benefits. Of course, if the man between 65 and 70 years of age is not 85 per cent, incapacitated his wife does i not get even the 35s a week. Yet the honorable member for Sturt says that we have the finest social service legislation in the world. I would agree that it is the finest social service legislation for persons with property. I do not know of any other legislation in the world which is of greater benefit to such persons, although I would remind the honorable member that there are some countries in which the means test has been completely abolished. But I say to the Minister and to the Government, and to every honorable member in this House, that while the allowance for the wife of an invalid pensioner remains at 35s. a week my voice will be raised against the Government. I say it is not generous, it is not fair and it is not even reasonable in its treatment of these people.
Let me remind the House of a case I mentioned in this chamber two or three years ago. I was approached at a pensioners’ meeting by a man with whom I had worked for years. He worked in the carrying industry. He said, “ Can you do something about my wife’s allowance? “ I said, “ What is the position? “ He said, “ I have had a heart attack “ - he was about 45 or 50 years of age - “ my wife cannot leave me because of my condition, and we get only 35s. a week for her “. This is one of the cases that we hear of in a country which has, according to the honorable member for Sturt, the best social service legislation in the world.
Let us consider the plight of a poor old couple that are struggling along, able to pay only a cheap rent. Such couples can be found in all our cities. The man and his wife are pensioners, and all their spare shillings have gone. What is the position if anything happens to one of them? The funeral benefit remains at £10. It has not been increased since it was originally introduced by the Labour government. In earlier years that £10 was of considerable value. I remember an occasion before I came to this Parliament fourteen years ago, when I was attending the funeral of one of the most notable men in our State, who had resided not far from the old folks’ home. I was talking to one of the leading men in the University of Adelaide. He looked up and saw the old folks’ home and said, “ Do you know that since the Government has provided a payment of £10 towards the funerals of these people we have a job to get sufficient bodies for our medical students?” That was because some of the undertakers would carry out a burial for £10. To-day old people live in fear because they know that if anything happens to them the £10 will not go far towards funeral expenses.
Let me give an instance of what the easing of the property means test has meant. A man came to me last week and said, “ Can you do anything to get me a little extra pension?” I mentioned this man’s case a few years ago when I was advocating the abolition of the property means test. The man was 70 years of age. He had been knocked down and had received about £1,200 compensation. He married a lady who was also up in years, both of them having lost their original partners. Each owned a house. They went to live in the husband’s house and the wife let hers to a niece. The departmental officers valued that second property at £1,800, and so both their pensions were drastically reduced. This man said to me, “ We have eaten up our money and are down to the last £100 “. I said, “ I can give you only this information: In March next when the act is proclaimed you will get a full pension.” They still had the house but they had only £100 in cash. He said, “We have kept that £100 as a stand-by to pay rates and taxes, but it will all be gone by March “. Honorable members can understand why I say I am glad that at least provision has been made for easing the property means test.
A lady saw me a little while ago. Some years previously her husband’s father died and left him £1,000. He was working at the time and he said, “ We will keep that £1,000 to help the children when they need it “. The husband has since died, and his widow now loses £80 a year of her pension.
Another person rang me about a fortnight ago and said: “ Can you do anything to help my mother? Father died about a month ago. Mother’s health has broken down and she has gone into hospital. This is costing £16 a week “. The mother got a pension and also the small minimum amount from the hospital fund. We all know how little this is for people over 65 years of age. This person said to me: “ We are about £5 a week short. Can I let the house? “ 1 said, “ No, do not do that, because if you do the pension will not be paid “. That house is worth about £2,000, and under the new provisions the woman concerned will be able to let the house and get a full pension. That is why I consider this provision to be of great value.
I say again that I am grateful for the information the Minister has given, but 1 suggest that it is rather difficult for the ordinary person to understand these provisions. For that reason I say to all honorable members, “Tell anybody who is interested that if a person who is otherwise eligible for a pension has no income other than property income, no annuity, superannuation, war pension or the like, then he can have property of a value of £2,020 and still receive a full pension, but that for every £10 by which the property exceeds £2,020 in value he will lose £1 a year of the pension “. Of course, if husband and wife are both otherwise eligible, then the joint property can be worth £4,040.
There is one aspect of this provision that may cause a little hardship. I refer to the effect on persons receiving war pensions. A war pension is counted as income, of course. A pension being received by a mother whose son was killed in the war is also counted as income, and if a person in that position has property he or she might be adversely affected because of receiving the war pension. I realize the difficulties that exist. I pointed out to the department that any person with an income of £182 a year would not benefit from the proposal. In reply to my representations the Minister wrote me on 2nd1 March, 1960, in these terms -
I think it desirable that replies to requests for such information on social services should come from me as ministerial head.
I do not object to that. The letter continues -
In this particular instance the estimate involves making hypotheses regarding the value of property owned by persons who are now excluded from the pension. The department has no data on this and is therefore unable to help the committee as any estimate would necessarily be based partly on assumptions.
So we could not get any information from the department. The Minister has said that the scheme will cost £4,200,000, and the honorable member for Sturt has stated that the Government’s proposals will benefit 100,000 existing pensioners and that there will be about 20,000 new pensioners. With all due respects to the Minister, I will be amazed if the scheme costs only £4,200,000. But I do not worry how much it costs. I believe that if it is just, right and proper to do a thing, we should ignore the cost, because the people who need assistance most should get it.
The honorable member has stated that a person can have a combined income and pension of £17 and, if a person has property, he can have an income of £20 or £30 a week. But I am concerned about the man at the bottom of the ladder. I ask honorable members not to haggle about this. When I advanced my proposal to Mr. Chifley he told me that it would cost £22,000,000 then. The cost to-day would be much in excess of that figure. If the Government can make these concessions now, it can make others too. Let us remember that taxation is the only means by which we can make an equitable distribution of the income of this country. If we want to make an equitable distribution of the income, do not let us haggle about a slight increase in taxation. We should be willing to pay it.
Before the Government introduces its next Budget it should consider doing something for the dependent wives of invalid and age pensioners.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- My good friend, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) is a member of the Opposition who invariably receives my respect. I give very close attention to his speeches in this chamber, but I make no apology for saying now, as I follow him in this debate, that his speech on this bill was disappointing because it was in the same strain as the speech of his leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
– You have never made anything but a disappointing speech.
– I do not mind in the least how much the Leader of the Opposition interjects because my story will ring true and we will find the answers to his interjections. The honorable member for Port Adelaide devoted the major portion of his speech to an attack upon my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). He endeavoured to belittle the emphasis that the honorable member for Sturt has laid repeatedly on the subject of social services. The honorable member for Port Adelaide gave every indication that he was beating the air and that, as the chairman of his party’s social services committee, he had made his run too late and had missed the boat. His speech was not very constructive.
I have mentioned his attitude to the honorable member for Sturt. He simply cannot take away any of the merit which attaches to the Government, to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), to the honorable member for Sturt and to many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber for the part that they have played in bringing about this legislation. [Quorum formed.] The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) apparently finds that my voice rings a little loudly in his ear. It is not the first time that he has called for a quorum while I have been making a speech, but I do not mind because this indicates that what I am saying has annoyed him in one way or another.
I was dealing with the contribution which has been made so consistently throughout bis career by my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Sturt. I remind the House that the honorable member has made constant contributions to debates on this subject and has made suggestions to various Ministers for Social Services. During his parliamentary career he has been persistent, constant and vigorous. He found that the people did not agree with the policy which he enunciated on this subject in other days, and so he was out of the Parliament for a period. But now he is well and truly one of the best and highest respected members from South Australia. We pay tribute to him to-night for the significant part that he has played in having this legislation introduced.
I return now to theMinister’s secondreading speech. In my opinion, he kept the best wine until last. For that reason, I want to follow his example and shall deal in the main with the generous liberalization of the means test which has been mentioned by previous speakers. For the benefit of the Minister, I want to say that I believe that his second-reading speech on this bill is the best that he has ever made in this chamber, and 1 trust that he so regards it himself. Its content was very good and its expression was very sound. I wish to refer to some of the changes which are apparent in the thinking and the planning of the Government and the Minister which are reflected in the Minister’s speech.
We congratulate the Government and the Minister on the Budget decisions which are made effective in this bill. I firmly believe that the general public takes appreciative cognizance of the fact that in 1949 the general rate of the age pension was £2 2s. 6d. a week, but now it is £5 a week. As the Minister rightly said, the Menzies Administration has maintained a constant, practical, vigorous and generous interest in the under-privileged section of the Australian community.
The annual report of the Department of Social Services was tabled in the chamber to-day. lt is such a commendable and interesting document that I hope that honorable members have found at least a few moments in a busy day to reflect on the noteworthy features which are set down as a preliminary Co the report. They are so good, so significant and link so directly with what I am trying to say that I wish to direct attention to some of them.. During the past twelve months social service pensions and benefits were extended to all aboriginal natives except those who are nomadic or primitive. Age pensions reached a record total of 538,000. This means that of every two persons who have reached pensionable age, one is now receiving the age pension. The number of endowed children has continued to grow. At the end of the year they totalled approximately 3,252,000, which represents almost one-third of the population.
The level of unemployment benefits fell throughout the year. In 1958-59, some £145,000 worth of benefits were granted. This year, the figure fell to about £108,000. The total amount so far approved by way of grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act has now reached the challenging and encouraging figure of £7,321,000. One State alone, Victoria, has benefited by receiving 37 per cent, of that amount for the construction of new and modern homes for aged persons. Because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his speech earlier to-night decried the advances of the Menzies Administration let me remind him that this small act, the Aged Persons Homes Act, stands to the credit of this administration. It is recognized across the nation as one of the finest pieces of legislation in the interests of aged citizens. The present expenditure of £7,000,000, I trust, will move upwards as the years pass by until there will come a day when those persons who need suitable accommodation in their old age will be readily provided for.
In the splendid report to which I have referred, I find a chart showing the number of age pensioners and the number of persons of pensionable age. It is important for us to remember that the proportion of age pensioners to persons of pensionable age has been rising year by year because of the liberalization of the means test. The situation has also been influenced by the increase in our population and has been helped by the generous attitude, for the past ten or eleven years, of the Menzies Administration as a result of which the proportion of pensioners to persons of pensionable age has exceeded 50 per cent. We should recognize that this is a notable result from the point of view of generosity.
Let us go back to the point which I think must be stressed in view of some of the critical comments of the honorable member for Port Adelaide. The pension, in this country, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is based upon need. Whilst we have no national contributory scheme, residents in this country have no contractual right to the pension. Let me analyse this situation because there is a palpable misunderstanding about entitlement to the pension. I happen to be one who believes firmly that a national contributory scheme must come to an enlightened Australia. The sooner it comes, from my point of view, the better. But while we still have no national contributory scheme let us have some clarity of thought on the subject of the base pension. Let us clear the air if we can. Let us recognize that the pension in this country is a supplement to help people in need. The need is established by the device of the means test. You must have a point of cutoff. You must have something to define the line of demarcation in order to indicate when the person is in need and when he is considered to have sufficient income somehow to get through.
The Minister for Social Services and my colleague the honorable member for Sturt have rightly defined the new merged means test as the most vital structural change in social services since the year 1908 when the payment of pensions was introduced by the Commonwealth. We should take a moment or two to remind those who are listening that savings should be encouraged. Thrift is a vital commodity in the life of a nation, particularly the life of a young and vigorous nation such as ours. Investment in superannuation funds, the purchase of an annuity, the sound investment of one’s savings in real estate or the banking of money to gain interest upon it are all actions of prudent people. Such forms of thrift should be praised when we have evidence of them. They should be encouraged in a practical way by the Government.
Under existing legislation and under the new legislation providing for the merged means test, permissible income of £3 10s. a week or £182 per annum is allowed over and above the full pension. This indicates, i submit, the hope of the Government that a pensionable person should have a weekly income of £8 .10s. - a permissible income of £3 10s. by prudent investment over and above the full pension of £5 a week - so that a married couple, in view of this permissible income approach, we would hope, would have an income of £17 per week.
The honorable member for Sturt in his very interesting speech which Opposition members found difficult to take because of its content and the point that it brought to the debate, stressed that we must get some definition quite clear, not only in our minds, but increasingly in the minds of the general public. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, battled manfully to simplify the figures and calculations of the merged means test. I praise him for that speech and say, too, that the statement which he issued on the subject of the merged means test is a most commendable document. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the definitions I want to mention. A lot of people misunderstand the term “ property “. To-night, I want to take a moment to say that property represents investment in savings and in kind apart from one’s own home, the contents of that home and, if the pensioner or applicant for a pension is fortunate enough to have it, a motor car. Any other assets fall into the category of “ property “ whether they be investment in real estate, bank balance, shares or other forms of investment. The exempt property, of course, has been £200 a person. Exempt property, under certain circumstances now rises to £2,020 but I shall deal with that aspect of the merged means test later so that no one mav be misled.
When we refer to “ income from property “ it is the income directly derived from the property that T have defined. That income, of course, is exempt and is not affected by any of the means test calculations. Additional income I have dealt with but I mention it again because I used the term “ permissible income “ before and here 1 am referring to it as “ additional income “. That is £3 10s. a week, or £182 per annum, which may arise from personal exertion, retirement allowance, superannuation, or an annuity. The Minister in his speech brought out strongly the intention of the Government to eradicate the anomaly which he contends and which we agree exists under the current legislation. How pleased I was to him him choose words of this kind -
For more than half a century successive governments have attempted to correct the faults in the property means test. From time to time the categories of property disregarded have been extended in a variety of ways, from time to time the initial exemption has been increased, and from time to time the limit of property beyond which no pension was payable has been pushed out to higher levels by deliberate attempts to correct these faults, or by progressive increases in the maximum general rate of pension. . . .
He went on to say -
This bill is designed, inter alia, to sweep away the traditional faults inseparable from the application of two means tests, frequently applied to the same people, for entirely conflicting purposes - the income means test to encourage people to engage their energies and employ their resources, and the property means test which, in its present form, can only serve to discourage saving and the acquisition and retention of property.
In other words, the Minister, although he may not always have thought this, has come to the point at which he says, with so many of us, “ I have to recognize that there has been a penalty on the people’s savings, that there has been a penalty on thrift and that the means test has operated as a discouragement to people who should prudently put their funds away as an investment for the later years of their lives “. That attitude, which is reflected in the Government’s decision and the Minister’s second-reading speech, has been influenced over the years by my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Sturt, and other honorable members on this side of the House. No doubt some helpful impact has been made by sincere Opposition members like the honorable member for Port Adelaide, who unfortunately this evening has had to cry over the fact that his own party was not quick enough to support him. I believe that the Minister has himself seen the light in this matter. It is good to hear him use words such as those which I have read from his speech.
At first sight, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the merged means test is complex. Even when one first reads this splendid paper, “ A New Means Test for Age, Invalid and Widows’ Pensions “, which has been issued by the Minister for Social Services, one wonders whether the whole thing is not a little difficult to follow. But thank goodness there is simplicity in it. I think we can deal with the matter to-night in very few words and follow the example of the Minister who, as I said, battled manfully to make a simple explanation in his secondreading speech. Once the principles of the merged means test are understood, the new device which is put forward is easy of application. I believe that every member of this House, as he confronts a person who has questions to ask about his entitlement to a pension, and every officer in the Department of Social Services who is called on to find the answers to the queries of inquirers, will soon appreciate, as I do, the simplicity of this new device.
The basic idea is the interchangeability Of property and income. There is an interchangeability ratio of ten for one - £10 of property for £1 per annum of income. I wonder why this ratio of ten for one was chosen. Where did this value ratio come from? The answer is simple. The annuity tables of the insurance companies provide it. A man of 65, on the average, can purchase an annuity of £1 per annum by the investment of £10 of his capital. So, from the annuity tables, there comes this interchangeability ratio, which introduces for the first time in this country a recognition of equality between investment in property and income from personal exertion or superannuation.
This ratio means that £1,820 of property equals the permissible income of £182 per annum. You see the ten-for-one ratio. The full pension will now be payable to a person who has up to £2,020 of property only, that being equal to the £1,820 property equivalent of the £182 permissible income plus exempt property of £200. This full pension payable to a person who has up to £2,020 of property, if property only is held, compares with the current application of the property means test, which reduces the pension when the value of property exceeds £200. Beyond the present ceiling in respect of property value, of £2,250, no pension at all is now payable. It is interesting to compare, as presented in the chart contained in the Minister’s statement, the pension which will be available to people under the merged means test proposal and that currently available. Under the merged means test proposal, the pension will disappear completely only when a property value of £4,620 is reached.
The experts advise that the merged means test scheme - this liberalization of the property means test - will benefit something like 120,000 of our senior citizens, although this is a figure that some speakers have questioned. The benefit will be received by these people in two distinct categories. I want to explain quickly that the first group to benefit will be all those who up to the present time have received only a part pension. Under the merged means test proposal, they will move up to a full pension. Many in this group will receive substantial increases. The second category embraces a group of people who up to now have not been eligible for any benefit at all, but who from now on will qualify for a part pension.
A formula figure is used in calculating the pension. That figure is £442 with respect to the base pension. The formula figure - that is the term that I like to use - of £442 represents the amalgamation of the full pension of £260 per annum, or the equivalent of £5 a week, and the permissible income figure of £182 per annum which I have mentioned. From this formula figure, that is the combination of the full pension and the permissible income, we deduct the total of what is known as the property component and any permissible income. The difference between those two figures represents the annual pension, which of course cannot exceed £260 - the maximum rate.
I have several simple illustrations which I have been pleased to convey to my constituents, and perhaps I may take up the rest of the time available to me by outlining them. They are based on simple questions which are typical of those that we are asked by people who seek advice as to whether or not they qualify for a pension. The first illustration is that of an applicant for a pension who is aged 66 and who has £3,000 invested and in his bank balanceand £1 a week income from an annuity. What pension is payable to him? Onetakes the property value of £3,000 and de- ducts the exemption of £200. The balance -£2,800 - is divided by ten, giving £280 - the property component. The annuity income of £1 a week, or £52 per annum, is added to this figure, making £332. This amount is deducted from the formula figure of £442, and this simple calculation indicates clearly that the person in question would be entitled to a pension of £110 per annum.
– As clear as mud!
– We shall make it a little more simple just for the benefit of my bright friend, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith. The next illustration relates to a spinster lady of 61 who receives £2 a week in superannuation and has £700 invested in bonds and £300 in the bank. What pension can she receive? We calculate the property component by adding the £700 invested and the £300 in the bank and deducting the £200 exemption, giving a result of £800. This is divided by ten, to give a property component of £80, to which is added £104 - the annual equivalent of the superannuation income of £2 a week - making a total of £184. This is then deducted from the formula figure of £442, giving a result of £258, which represents the annual pension. One can see from these illustrations, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the new device is simple of application when the principles are known and recognized.
I conclude my speech by saying that the generosity of this liberalization of the means test is clearly apparent when one turns to the chart at the end of the Minister’s statement. It indicates that people with between £200 and the present ceiling limit of £2,250 of property will receive substantial benefit. At present, a person with £700 of property receives a pension of £210 a year, and a person with property of £1,200 receives a pension of £160 a year, the pension declining further to £110 a year where the property held amounts to £1,700. Pensioners in these categories will receive the full pension of £260 per annum under the merged means test proposal. Previously no pension was payable to persons with £2,700 of property, but this generous Menzies Administration will now provide £192 per annum, or almost £4 a week.
The pension payable to a person with £3,200 of property will be £142, but it was nil before, and to a person with £3,700 it will be £92, but it was nil before. This is a supplement to savings which is fully justified.
This benefit given now by the enlightened government of the day, when added to the income that may be earned if savings are soundly and sensibly invested, will place the prudent person at least on equality with the person who receives the full pension. Do not let me be misunderstood; I have every respect for those who are dependent on the pension to-day because of unfortunate illness or because of their praiseworthy efforts to educate a large family. We wish perhaps that they could have a greater base pension. But do not let us forget that this Government has made possible greater benefits year by year until the base pension is now £5, and it is the same Government that has introduced the merged means test and has recognized thrift and savings by providing the generous pensions which I have illustrated.
.- Whilst I acknowledge that great benefit accrues to some sections of the community by the introduction of the merged means test, I am afraid that I must tarnish the record of the Menzies Government for socalled generosity. I shall refer to some provisions that have not been made for many thousands of people who are sorely in need of them. It is true that the property means test has been substantially eased, and this will benefit many people. Like my colleague, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), I am particularly glad that they will benefit. I am well aware that many people possess assets because they have stinted themselves over a lifetime. I am also aware that many people, in order to get a pension, until recently were dissipating their assets in a way that was not pleasing to them or of benefit to the nation. However, when the generosity of the Government is mentioned, I must remind honorable members opposite that, although the Government has eased the property means test, it has done nothing in this measure to increase the permissible income that pensioners may earn in addition to their pension. The amount of £3 10s. of income permitted for each person before the pension starts to be reduced has stood for some four or five years. So, the property means test has been eased at the expense of other social service benefits.
I have heard honorable members opposite, particularly in recent weeks, say that the Government has never been guilty of reducing pensions or other social service benefits. I say with cool deliberation that the Government has been guilty of cutting many social services. I refer, of course, not to the amount, which is incidental, but rather to the real value of social services. Who would say that child1 endowment of 10s.. granted in 1948, would buy as much to-d’ay as it did then? Yet, in terms of amount, the endowment is the same as it was in .1948. I suppose in real terms, in terms of purchasing power, it would be worth infinitely less now than in 1948. So, the Government is guilty, as many people have said, of cutting the value of child endowment. It introduced endowment of 5s. for the first child in 1950, but has done nothing about it since. Prices have more than doubled1 in the last ten years, but child endowment has not been increased.
Then, of course, sickness and unemployment benefits have remained at the same amount for a number of years. The maximum weekly amount available to an unfortunate family, with three, four or five children, stricken by the illness of the breadwinner, is £6 2s. 6d. Under this Government, sickness and unemployment benefits have remained at that amount for a number of years. Other honorable members have referred to the funeral benefit, which has stood at £10 since 1942. Then there is the maternity allowance, which has remained constant for a number of years. I mean, the amount has remained the same but the value has decreased.
The amount of £3 10s. that I have mentioned as the permissible income under what was called the income means test affects principally people who have no assets other than, perhaps, their home and a little money in the bank. They may have only £200 in the bank. Many pensioners to-day have not hundreds and indeed thousands of pounds that are permitted under the relaxed means test. I do not begrudge people the benefits that they may receive from this relaxation - I am very glad for them - but I point out that the only source of income for many people is the pension, with the allowable income from work, superannuation or war pension. Many people can supplement their pension only by income from casual work or superannuation benefits. Just as we previously discouraged a person from saving, we are not encouraging the people to whom I have referred by allowing them to earn a permissible income of only £3 10s. That amount is worth much less to-day than when this limit was first introduced, and in addition the costs incurred in earning that amount have increased. I refer to fares to and from work, and the like. This £3 10s. is really the gross amount that a pensioner is allowed to earn before his pension is reduced.
In a question I asked to-day, I mentioned the plight of Commonwealth superannuitants. Many of these people are not getting much more than £3 or £4, or perhaps £5, in superannuation. With a single man, that is just enough to reduce his pension. Yet the Superannuation Fund has a balance of over £71,250,000. The Commonwealth Government does nothing about that! These people have not benefited by the provisions of this bill. Even the 10 per cent., 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, war pension comes into calculation in evaluating income under the income means test. These people who supplement their pension by work, superannuation or war pension receive no relief; many people are affected in this way. In fact, their position has worsened because, through inflation, the value of money has declined.
Talk of the Government’s generosity and of the great prosperity in Australia to-day must sound rather odd to people receiving age, invalid, or widows’ pensions; they will receive the princely sum of 5s. a week. When making comparisons, I remind the House that the maximum pension to-day is only 34.5 per cent, of the average weekly earnings. In 1947 it was 34.4 per cent, and so, in fact, the value of the maximum amount of pension, as related to the average weekly earnings in the community, has gone up by only .1 per cent., despite the condition of prosperity to which the Government has referred.
While discussing the easing of the means test, I should mention that there are many people in the community who would have been pleased to see the Government remove one means test which it introduced. I refer to the means test applied to persons who wish to qualify for the pensioner medical service. That does not come under this bill, but it is a related matter.
Honorable members will recall that in October, 1955, this Government introduced a new means test. Previously, all pensioners, whether they received a full pension or only a part pension - as little as 5s. a week - were eligible for the pensioner medical service. Since 1955, however, any one who has received an income of £2 per week or more, whether from work, superannuation, war pension or the proceeds of investment, has not been able to receive the benefit of the pensioner medical service. I will leave it until the debate on the health legislation to talk about some of the farcical situations which have come about under that means test.
When speaking of the generosity of this Government I have in mind another case. I have had to deal with a number of them. Under a provision brought down by this Government, a pensioner on entering a mental institution is deprived of the pension. This means that he does not have available to him the amount of the pension which people who enter any other kind of hospital are allowed to retain. In those other hospitals approximately two-thirds of the pension is taken by the hospital authorities and one-third remains to the pensioner. But when a pensioner enters a mental hospital his claim to the pension is no longer recognized. That is bad enough for the pensioner, but there is another effect. State governments have to bear the whole cost of pensioner patients in their mental institutions. I know that the State governments have complained bitterly to the Commonwealth Government in this regard, but the Commonwealth claims that it has provided up to £10,000,000 per year towards the capital cost of mental hospitals. However, that is an insignificant sum when compared with the running costs of those institutions - the burden of having to maintain them.
The position is that many of the people who enter mental hospitals should not really be going to those institutions. The Directors-General of Health in the various
States report every year on the unfortunate fact that many elderly people, perhaps suffering senility in a mild form, have to enter these institutions because they cannot get into the general hospitals and cannot afford to enter private hospitals. The pensioner medical service does not apply to them it they go into private hospitals. Many ot these aged people are forced in this way to enter mental hospitals and, on doing so, lose their pensions.
Recently, I dealt with the case of an invalid pensioner, a woman with no other income or assets apart from her home. She has a brother who was also an invalid pensioner and who was put into a mental hospital. Being a humane woman she wants to bring her brother home whenever the institution lets her do so and he is permitted to go to her home each week-end. But because that man is not discharged from the hospital for 28 consecutive days or more no pension is paid to him. Yet for 52 week-ends, over the whole year, his invalid pensioner sister brings him home, looks after him and even buys clothing for him. She also pays his transport to and from the hospital. I do not know how she manages to meet the expense. I make a plea to the Minister for Social Services to see whether a proportion of the pension can be given to that man for the time he is in his sister’s home and not in the mental hospital. Evidently it is impossible. The rigidity of the system is such that that invalid pensioner woman has to bear the whole burden of what she is doing for her brother. I wonder how she does it. I make a plea to the Minister on behalf of these people - there is not such a great number of them - to allow them to retain their pensions or a proportion of their pensions so as to enable their relatives, who in many instances are not in very good circumstances, to take them some of the ordinary comforts of life which are not available to them in those institutions.
I wish now to refer to some of the perplexities which have arisen through the imposition of the means test and which still exist under this new provision. The first relates to the position of a pensioner owning his home and deciding to supplement his income by letting part of it. Under the present provision such a person is allowed to let one room to a person for his exclusive use; the joint use by landlord and tenant of the other rooms such as the kitchen and dining room and other facilities of the house is permitted. So long as only one room - presumably a bedroom - is let for exclusive use with joint use of the other facilities, the pension is not affected. But if the pensioner wants to subdivide the home and perhaps let two rooms with dining room and kitchen facilities, that part of the house which is let is taken into account under what was called the property means test. It is regarded as an asset and is subject to the new merged means test.
As one who has had a fair bit to do with this matter in the short time I have been in this House, I suggest to the Government that it should disregard altogether the income from that part of a house which a pensioner or a pensioner couple are pleased to let to other people. I see that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) is in the House. He was concerned with real estate and he made some comment here a short while ago about the amount of unused accommodation in the community. I suggest to the Government that if pensioners were permitted to let part of their homes without suffering a reduction of pension, much more accommodation would be available in this community than is available to-day. I believe there are many instances of just one pensioner occupying a big home that was formerly used to rear a family but which is now virtually unused. Some pensioners are now getting out of their houses owing to the grossly inflated rates, and so on, but many are not and are still saddled with that burden. They are not permitted, under the means test, to let part of their homes, other than one room for the exclusive use of the tenant with the joint use of the other facilities in the house; otherwise their pension eligibility is affected. The farcical nature of the position can readily be seen. I understand, according to officers of the Department of Social Services, that one can have in a home up to five tenants each with the exclusive use of one room and the joint use - that is, with the rest of the people in the house - of the other facilities. That strikes me as being an absolutely farcical position. I have even had a case of people who let some relatives have their garage to live in. Because the garage is not actually attached to the house, the value of the garage is taken into consideration as an asset, under the means test. Yet, as I have said, a home-owner could take in as many as five separate tenants, each having the use of one room, and joint use of the facilities of the house. Those are some of the things that ought to be examined.
While I am speaking on the subject of what are probably administrative regulations governing the means test I want to indicate that in my experience there are many people who are not aware of the various rights available to them under the social service provisions. There are pensioners who are not aware that they are allowed to rent part of their homes or take in boarders. Until recently there were many people who were not aware of the provision regarding annuities. There seems to be some sort of secrecy about these things. The department seems to have a complex about letting people know what they are entitled to do, and does not advertise the facts. However, 1 want to go on record as saying that I have very much appreciated, while I have been a member of this House, the generous treatment I have received from the department’s officers who are always most helpful. Anybody whom I have referred to the department has had the best treatment possible from the departmental officers within, of course, the limitations imposed by the act.
I make the proposition that I have made as a constructive proposition. I suggest that the Government allow all pensioners who are prepared to take people into their homes as tenants to do so without their pensions being affected. I think that this action would achieve a number of things. First, it would allow a pensioner to have more income without any great cost to the community; secondly, it would provide urgently needed accommodation in the community, especially for young people just getting married who may not be able right away to buy a new home or furniture, who would be able to live as tenants in pensioners’ homes for probably three or four years while they saved up for a home for themselves; thirdly, it would allow many lonely elderly people - often single people - to have the companionship and security of other people in their home.
I should like to direct the attention of the Government and the House to the fact that as we go on easing the means test, short of total abolition, the administration costs will increase. The number of people required to administer the means test will increase, and when we get to the point of almost total abolition there will be so many people eligible for a pension or a part-pension that additional staff will be necessary to send out questionnaires and keep the extra records. However, when we get to the point of total abolition, the administrative costs - though not, of course, the actual cost of pensions, which will go uri - will be reduced substantially. All that the department will require to know is that people have lived in the country for a certain length of time to give them eligibility for pensions and, in the case of an application by married people for pensions, that they are in fact married.
Like other speakers who have spoken tonight 1 should like to refer to the plight of the invalid pensioners. The allowance granted to the wife of an invalid pensioner is £1 15s. a week. That rate of allowance has been static for some years now. This means that an invalid pensioner and his wife are being asked to live on £6 15s. a week, unless the wife is able to go to work, or the couple have superannuation or something of the sort coming in. Here we are complaining bitterly about the inadequacy of £10 a week for an ordinary pensioner couple while expecting an invalid pensioner and his wife to live on £6 15s. a week. The fact that the husband is unable to work is acknowledged by the granting of the invalid pension. 1 join with other honorable members who have appealed to the Government in this matter. 1 believe invalid pensioners deserve what they get in New Zealand, where both the husband and the wife receive a full pension. If £10 a week is required for an age pensioner couple to live on, I cannot see why a couple one of whom is an invalid - possibly the other is also an invalid to some extent - should not get full pension.
I turn now to the case of the civilian widow, who is not to benefit as the result of this so-called generosity of the Menzies Government. The civilian widow’s pension itself is grossly inadequate. An A class widow - which means a widow with children under sixteen to look after - will get £5 5s. a week under this bill and will receive only 10s. a week extra for each child other than the first. That is to say, a widow with three children will get £5 5s. a week for herself, £1 for the two children other than the first, and 25s. a week child endowment. Such a woman, if she is unable to go to work and earn something, as she would be with three young children to look after, is asked to rear her children and keep herself respectable on £7 10s. a week.
– The State government supplements that.
– I think you are leaning too heavily on the State governments to supplement the pension, just as you are leaning too heavily on municipal councils to supplement the pension, in effect, by allowing rate rebates to pensioners. You are leaning too heavily on State governments to bear a burden which should be borne by the community as a whole from the revenue from income tax. I do not think that the State governments should be asked to cover the inadequacy of this socalled social services policy of the Menzies Government. Even if a widow earns the maximum amount she is allowed to earn without affecting her pension, she can earn only £5 a week extra to help her rear her three children. So, with child endowment, the maximum she can have is £12 10s. a week. That is gross income, taking no account of her fares to work, clothing, rent and so on.
That brings me now to the supplementary rent allowance. It is laudable for the Government to grant this allowance to those who now benefit from it, but there are many other people who should have such assistance and do not receive it. Above all, in that category is the pensioner who is paying off his or her home. Many people have been forced to take out mortgages on homes because they must either buy the homes they live in or get out. Many people have thus been forced to purchase their homes. They do not receive the supplementary allowance, although they are trying to wipe out the debt on the homes they have purchased. They have no resources, but because of the legislation’s provisions they are debarred from receiving a pension, since they are held to be property-owners.
Unemployment and sickness benefits should be of great concern to all sections of the community. A man and wife with three or four children can receive only a maximum of £6 2s. 6d. a week in benefit, and may have another £2 a week coming in. A sum of £8 2s. 6d. a week is therefore all that such a recipient of sickness benefit could have coming into the house. If he is sick for a considerable time, and happens to receive a lump sum in compensation from his employer or an insurance company, his pension or sickness benefit is reduced proportionately. I repeat to the Government the appeal that I made to the Minister, who promised to consider it, that where a man who has a family and has had a long period of sickness and is getting only £6 2s. 6d. a week into his home, subsequently and belatedly receives a lump sum in compensation or damages then, within reasonable limits, he should be able to receive that lump sum without prejudicing the sickness benefit. After all, at best, £6 2s. 6d. a week will allow a man to purchase only day to day necessities, and after a long period out of employment, he will need clothing and other things for his family which he could not buy with £6 2s. 6d. a week. It would not be an act of great generosity if these people were allowed to retain such lump sum payments made to them.
I would like to see entitlement for the age pension extended to persons who have been resident in Australia for ten years, not for twenty years as at present. After all, we are inducing many young persons to come to Australia. We are fortunate to obtain so many young people. The Government, with considerable humanity, is now allowing some elderly persons to join their family units, but they are not eligible for social service benefits of this kind. If we are prepared to accept the great benefits to be derived from immigrants of the younger generation, we should be a little generous in return to some of the parents of these people. I suggest that they should be allowed to draw the age pension after ten years’ residence.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Peters).
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Individually, a number of honorable mem bers have claimed the distinction of being the author of the merged means test. While one has to pay due regard to the fact that different people have ideas at different times, I have no doubt whatever in my own mind that the man responsible for the merged means test is the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). I can imagine that the Minister would put this question of the merged means test to Cabinet; and Cabinet, because it is a body of responsible and thoughtful men, would give the proposal careful and thoughtful consideration. I believe that Cabinet would take some time to consider a question such as this. I can imagine, too, that the Minister for Social Services would preserve silence all the time Cabinet was considering this question from when he submitted it because obviously he could not talk about it. Finally, I can imagine that Cabinet would accept the contentions put to it by the Minister. Now we have a very good scheme for a merged means test.
I have failed to find any record of any such proposition being put forward by the Opposition when it formed the Government. Therefore, I think we can say that there was never any such proposition previously submitted to this House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in discussing the question of the price of mutton, said, if I heard him correctly, that mutton would be sold by the farmers for from 7d. to 9d. per lb., and that it would be retailed in the shops for 4s. per lb. If the Leader of the Opposition looks at the prices of mutton and lamb to-day, I think he will find he has his sheep mixed. If mutton is as tough as the Leader of the Opposition, it would be sold for from 7d. to 9d. per lb. by the farmers. Lamb sold in the shops would possibly bring in the vicinity of 4s. per lb. - but not mutton! No mutton, especially mutton as tough as the Leader of the Opposition, would bring much more than 9d. per lb. in the shops. Certainly, it would not bring 4s. per lb.
The Opposition has made much of the subject of social service contributions. I shall quote from “ Hansard “, volume 184, at page 5304. The scale of contributions appears at page 5305. What was the scale of social service contributions at that time the very generous Opposition formed the
Government? We find that a single person who earned £105 a year paid only l.ld. in the £1 contribution. But a single person earning £200 year paid ls. 6d. in the £1. A single person in receipt of £20,000 a year paid ls. 6d. in the £1. How then are we to consider the great regard that the Government of that day, now the Opposition, had for the little man who was single? It took from him exactly the same amount as it took from the man on £20,000 a year?
I will not quote all the figures, but if we take a married man with two children receiving a wage of £300 a year he, too, paid the full rate of ls. 6d. in the £1. The fact is that Labour, despite all its claims and protestations, did not have very much regard in 1945 for the single man on £170 a year, or for the married man with two children on £300 a year.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said, “ If it is right and proper to do a thing, hang the cost “. His statement was based on false premises, because if you are going to hang the cost, then it might not be right and proper to do something. Let us take a hypothetical case. If it is right and proper to pay half the basic wage to a single pensioner, then hang the cost, according to the honorable member for Port Adelaide. But if it were right and proper to pay half the basic wage to a single pensioner, you would have to pay the difference between half the present basic wage of £13 16s. a week and £5 when the new £5 rate operates. Half of the basic wage to-day is £6 1 8s. So there would be nearly £2 difference between what will be paid from next October - £5 a week - and half the basic wage.
– I did not mention half the basic wage.
– I am taking the honorable member’s words a little bit further; if it were right and proper to do this, the Government would have to pay nearly £2 a week more to each pensioner. As it costs about £1,333,000 to pay increased pension of ls., the total extra cost would be close to £50,000,000. That would be the extra cost involved in paying pensions of half the basic wage. According to the honorable member for Port Adelaide, if it is right and proper to pay half the basic wage - and hang the cost - the extra cost would be close to £50,000,000 a year.
– 1 did not mention half the basic wage.
– If it is right and proper to pay the pension at half the basic wage, then it is right and proper that we should pay nearly £50,000,000 extra a year to age pensioners. But in addition we should have to pay comparable rates to other pensioners, and so the figures would continue to rise.
The honorable member says that he did not advocate that we should pay half the basic wage, but I will read him portion of a letter that I have received from the Maryborough, Queensland, Branch of the Australian Pensioners’ League, which does advocate the payment of half the basic wage, and which does claim that it is right and proper. The letter reads, in part: -
We, the members of the Maryborough Branch of the Australian Pensioners’ League request that you, our federal member, do ask during the debate on the Budget for an immediate increase of at least £1 in the base pension rate until such time as the Parliament gives as a right to all pensioners half the federal basic wage. We also ask that a commission of inquiry bc set up to inquire into the plight of pensioners in general, headed by Sir Frank Richardson.
I would like to make my position quite clear. I have quoted that letter to show that there are people who are asking for the payment of half the basic wage. It would be unrealistic of me, however, to advocate that pensioners should be paid half the basic wage to-day, because I believe we cannot afford it. On the other hand, we must be constantly on the watch to see that pensions are paid at rates within the limits of our financial means nationally.
A suggestion has been made that the pension rates applicable to-day cannot be compared, on a proportionate basis, with the rates that were in force years ago. First let us look at the correct figures. The average basic wage on 30th June, 1950, was £6 15s. a week for males, and on 30th June, 1960, it was £13 16s. This showed an increase of 104 per cent. The pension rate in 1950 was £2 10s. a week. When the new rate becomes applicable in October of 1960 it will be £5 a week. This shows an increase of exactly 100 per cent. But what honorable members opposite have forgotten to point out is that to-day the basic wage calculated by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission includes an additional element to the needs of a man, his wife and, say, two children. In computing the basic wage to-day the commission allows also for the added factor of prosperity. The rate fixed to-day is not fixed specifically on needs; it is based on needs plus prosperity, or, to put it in another way, on needs plus the ability of industry to pay, as assessed by the commission.
Let me also direct the attention of honorable members to the movements in the C series index. In 1939, or, to be more precise, during the three years ended in 1939, the C series index stood at a figure of 1,000. In 1960 it stands at 3,115. This is a little more than three times the 1939 figure. In 1939 the pension rate was £1, while in October, 1960, it will be £5. The pension rate has increased by five times since 1939, while the C series index has increased a shade over three times. This shows that the increase in pension rates has actually beaten the increase in the C series index.
We must not forget, also, the glorious record of the Labour Party in this field!
– Particularly in 1944!
– It actually reduced the pension rate at one stage, and in 1944 it even changed the basis of pension rates from the cost-of-living consideration.
Let us be realistic about pensions. As I have said, our nation can afford to pay only a certain amount. Whether for pensions, for defence or for any other purpose, this nation has only certain limited means. Admittedly our revenue is high but it is not unlimited. I see from a perusal of the Estimates that approximately £331,000,000 will be paid in the present financial year for social services. It must be conceded that this amount, which does not include repatriation payments, is by no means inconsiderable.
I now wish to refer to the provisions for the merged means test. Good as they are, I believe there are certain ways in which they could be improved. First, however, I must compliment the Government on introducing these provisions. They represent a very fine advance. They will certainly have the effect of encouraging people to save, and this is a very important national objective. The new provisions will help those people who have assets in the shape of, for instance, a house which does not command a high rent, or of bonds on which interest rates are not high. The provisions of the merged means test are very fair, and the Minister and his officers deserve the highest praise for recommending them to the Cabinet. Now, however, I wish to make some suggestions.
I suggest to the Minister that next year certain persons should receive a little more. Let me cite one example to illustrate my point. I know a case of an age pensioner and his wife, also an age pensioner, who live in a cottage which they were able to buy out of their savings over the years. They have no outside income and the man in question is unable to work because of advancing years. Under the new legislation the couple will receive £10 a week while they both live, but when one of them passes on the one remaining will have to live on £5 a week. The house must still be kept in reasonable shape. Rates will still have to be paid, as will insurance premiums. We all agree that it is desirable to encourage our citizens to own their homes, and I suggest that persons in these circumstances should receive special consideration. I direct the attention of honorable members to the procedure that applies in the United Kingdom, where I understand that a married pensioner is paid £1 a week more pension than his spouse. I know that there are arguments for and against the payment of different amounts of pension or the payment of the pension in different proportions, but I think the United Kingdom system is worthy of consideration. I also suggest that the allowance to the wives of invalid pensioners be increased, and here I agree with what has been said by several other honorable members. There is no doubt that it is difficult enough for the young wife of an invalid pensioner, who is unable to go out to work, although young, because she has to look after her invalid husband, to manage on the joint allowances, while for the people who are older but not old enough to qualify for the age pension, it is doubly difficult to manage.
Again, I would have liked to see higher rates provided for widows. Most of us have some knowledge of the hardships suffered by some widows and of the difficulty they have in managing on the present allowances. I suggest that special consideration be given to their cases.
Then there are the people who have been resident in this country for only a limited time. The general rule under the act is that a person must reside in this country for twenty years before qualifying for an age pension or for five years before qualifying for an invalid pension. I suggest to the Minister that the twenty-year residential qualification is too long.
– It applies only to people of alien birth now, not to people of British birth.
– I am referring to people of alien birth. Under our immigration policy, we encourage people of all ages to come to Australia because we believe it is the interests of good family life that the old as well as the young come to this country. If the older people are to be required to reside in the country for twenty years after migrating here from Italy, Holland or some other European country, before qualifying for the age pension, they will give serious consideration to that fact before deciding to leave their homelands. 1 suggest that the number who would qualify if the period were shortened would be so small as to have very little effect upon our scheme whereas the benefit to family life would be tremendous.
I suggest also that it would be of great help to many people if the funeral benefit were increased for there is no doubt that the present amount allowed is insufficient to pay for a decent burial. I know that it is reasonable to expect relatives to help with funeral expenses, but there are cases in which there are no relatives to help. It is for those cases that I make the plea and, in view of the fact that they would be few in number, I submit that the additional cost would be comparatively small in proportion to our national income.
In spite of the slight changes that I should like to see made, I submit that, generally speaking, it must be conceded that our social services scheme is the finest in the world. Certainly there are anomalies, and certainly it is possible to improve the scheme. That must be so. If it were not so, there would never be any amendments submitted to this Parliament. It is the obvious function of our Government to keep on improving the scheme as national finances and circumstances permit. I commend the Government for what it has done in the past and I trust that the suggestions which I and other honorable members have made will be considered in the future. Finally, I submit that the Opposition’s charge that this Government is not doing a fair thing is prompted purely by political considerations without regard for the nation’s purse, and without any sense of responsibility.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has referred this question to me as no committee of the kind referred to has been established. The reply is as follows: -
At the . direction of the Administrator, the Port Superintendent of the Northern Territory Administration made an investigation into various aspects of stevedoring at Darwin during the course of the last twelve months and, as a result, it is expected that recommendations will be made in the near future for changes in some pi ordures. Because the Port Superintendent’s report is purely a departmental one, it would not be appropriate to table it.
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice - .
Russian service by the Soviet authorities was discontinued as the result of an Anglo-Soviet cultural relations pact signed in London on the 1st December, 1959?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 to 3. I understand that Mr. Gunn said, In a statement on 23rd June, that the Australian Wool Bureau would make a survey on behalf of the International Wool Secretariat to discover the wool market potential of Asian countries, including Communist China. Efforts by the Wool Bureau to increase sales of wool to any destination are welcomed. There is not, nor has there ever been, any restriction on the sale of wool to Communist China.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What action have the Premiers taken on his proposals for uniform poisons legislation, as suggested by the National Health and Medical Research Council in May, 1959?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
In May, 1959, as the honorable member says, the National Health and Medical Research Council passed a resolution requesting that I write to State Premiers urging the adoption of uniform poisons legislation. In point of fact it was necessary to make proposals to only four of the States; Queensland had already adopted the uniform poisons schedules recommended and Victoria was preparing legislation for introduction into Parliament. My latest advice on the position in the other States is that in Tasmania the necessary legislation is being prepared; in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia the proposals are still being considered.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The position is the same as indicated in my reply to a similar question by the honorable member last year which appears in “Hansard” of 22nd and 23rd October, 1959, at page 2273.
s. - On 7th September, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) asked me, without notice -
What progress has he made in negotiations with the Prime Minister of New Zealand on the Tariff Board’s suggestion made in June last year that Australian shipyards should be enabled to build and repair New Zealand-based ships? I also ask him what progress has been made with the proposal that Australia and New Zealand should preserve the passenger service between the two countries by establishing a shipping line comparable to their jointly owned airline.
I now give the following information to the honorable member: -
The Tariff Board suggested in its report of 30th June, 1959, on the shipbuilding industry that on broad security and economic grounds there would be possibilities of inducing orders from New Zealand operators provided assistance was extended to enable them to purchase an Australian-built vessel at no greater cost than a vessel purchased from other sources. This suggestion was not adopted by the Government and an announcement to that effect was made by my colleague, Mr. Osborne, when tabling the board’s report on 25th November, 1959. In the circumstances no negotiations have been undertaken with the New Zealand Prime Minister. As far as the trans-Tasman shipping service is concerned, the New Zealand Prime Minister did raise with me earlier this year the matter of preserving a service between the two countries following the Union Steamship Company’s decision to discontinue the service with the “ Monowa “. Arrangements were made for the matter to be discussed in a more detailed way between Mr. Fox, New Zealand Minister for Marine, and my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr. Opperman. Mr. Opperman is now awaiting further information from Mr. Fox, when detailed consideration can be given to any New Zealand proposals.
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
on asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Ansett-A.N.A.- No. 1, 18th March, 1959; No. 2, 16th April, 1959; No. 3, 16th February, 1960.
T.A.A.- No. 1, 8th July, 1959; No. 2, 26th July, 1959; No. 3, 8th March, 1960.
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The Honorable Mr. Justice (now Sir Arthur) Dean, a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria (chairman).
Mr. J. Q. Ewens, C.B.E., Parliamentary Draftsman.
Mr. H. R. Wilmot, O.B.E., the then Commissioner of Patents.
Mr. L. B. Davies and Mr. R. K. White, each of whom is a patent attorney and a past president of the Institute of Patent Attorneys of Australia.
s asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Only one sale of . 303 rifles has been made to overseas purchasers during the past two years. This comprised 82,344 No. rifles sold to Brican Trading Company Limited, United Kingdom, for export to Canada.
Visit to Indonesia by Prime Minister.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
How many (a) Europeans and (b) natives have been found guilty of manslaughter in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea since the 1st January, 1958, and what was the penalty imposed in each case?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
What are the classifications under which natives in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are employed by the Administration, and what is the number employed in each classification?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Natives employed by the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are grouped in three classifications - (a) officers and employees of the Third Division of the Public Service; (b) officers and employees of the Auxiliary Division of the Public Service; and (c) Administration servants. There are seventeen natives employed in the Third Division, seven of whom occupy position of Assistant Medical Practitioner, and there are 372 in the Auxiliary Division, 141 in positions of Assistant (Teaching), 122 in positions of Assistant (Technical) and 109 in positions of Assistant (Clerical). There are 8,508 natives employed as Administration servants in career occupations, 1,004 as laboratory assistants and in similar capacities, 1,928 as trades assistants, 662 as typing and clerical assistants and 4,914 on tasks requiring semi-skilled labour. In addition there are approximately 6,000 natives employed by the Administration as day labour.
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
What were the expected difficulties to which he referred in a recent statement which he claims prevented the fulfilment of the plan commenced in 1936 to bring the whole of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea under control by 1959?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The difficulties referred to arose mainly as a result of the pace at which development of the Territory has been proceeding in recent years. In advanced areas progress has multiplied demands on the Administration staff; not only for rapidly increasing numbers but for skills in increasingly wide and complex fields. At the same time extension of full Administration control into new areas has been proceeding, but extension into each new area has been followed there almost at once by the beginnings of the whole complex of demands which it is necessary to meet to advance the people in all fields. In these circumstances the Administration has not been asked to sacrifice sound and prudent effort throughout the major part of the Territory for the sake of adhering to a plan made in days of fewer and less extensive requirements.
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. See answer to Question No. 35, on Notice Paper No. 11 (page 854 of “Hansard”, of 31st March, 1960). As the honorable member would be aware, the Government’s aim is to stop inflation, however it may be described.
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
In Reserve.- “ Sydney “, “Tobruk”, “Arunta”, “ Warramunga “, “ Quadrant “, “ Culgoa “, “Wagga”, “Sprightly”, “Castlemaine”, “Mildura”, “Kangaroo”, “Koala”, “Karangi”, “ Emu “, “ Kookaburra “, “ Bronzewing “, “ Air Chief”. And a number of other ships awaiting sale which have been declared for disposal as having no further war use.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600920_reps_23_hor28/>.