24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BRYANT presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section 127 and the words discriminating against aborigines in section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
Petition received and read.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by referring to the speech made by the honorable member for Macarthur on Thursday night, which I think the Postmaster-General missed except for the last portion of it. Has the Postmaster-General since had an opportunity to read the part of the speech that he missed? Will he state whether he has renewed the licences of the television stations, Channel 7 and Channel 9, in Sydney?
– It is true, as stated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that I missed the initial stages of the remarks of the honorable member for Macarthur, which I think were made last Thursday night. However, I had previously had discussions with the honorable member for Macarthur, and I was fully aware of his viewpoint and of what he was about to say. So that the position in relation to the renewal of the licences of the television stations concerned will be properly understood, Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that there have been discussions for some considerable time between the various interested parties, mainly on the availability of programmes. I have had a number of conferences with all those concerned, but the matter has not yet quite been finally settled. It is proceeding along certain lines. During those discussions the existing licences of the television stations became due for renewal, and it was necessary to renew those licences to enable the stations to continue. If the stations had continued to transmit without an extension of their licences they would have been in breach of the Wireless Telegraphy Act. On the other hand, the act provided no justification for me to withhold the renewal of the licences. Therefore, the licences were renewed. But, Mr. Speaker, it was intimated to the licensees that the matter of programme availability would remain under review and that suitable action would be taken as soon as decisions were arrived at.
– In view of the growing road toll in Australia, can the Minister for Repatriation say what is his department’s attitude towards the provision of safety belts and automatic transmission in the gift cars which are provided for certain kinds of double amputees? In the event of an exserviceman’s death, does a gift car automatically become the property of his estate or is there a stipulation that the car must have been in his possession for a certain minimum period before it can become part of his estate upon his death?
– This is a matter which I have been considering only recently. It has been decided that from now on safety belts will be fitted to cars given by the Repatriation Department to certain kinds of double amputees. Also, in future, vehicles with automatic transmission will be provided when automatic transmission is considered desirable in view of the medical problem of the patient concerned. Finally, the ownership of a gift car is vested in the ex-serviceman who receives it. In the event of his death, the car would automatically become part of his estate.
– I wish to direct to the Prime Minister a question which relates to the standardization of the gauge of railways in South Australia, in particular the line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to convey to me any information about the latest progress that has been made in this very important matter?
– I was asked a question about this and other matters last week, and I intimated in reply that the Premier of
South Australia had told me that a parliamentary standing committee was conducting an investigation into some aspects of the railways problem. He undertook to let me have a copy of the report of the committee as soon as it was available, and I undertook to study it when I received it.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Interior. In view of increasing international tension, will the Minister tell the House whether he is satisfied with civil defence preparations throughout Australia, particularly in the main cities and high-density living areas? Further, have negotiations with the States, under which, I understand, the Commonwealth Government is to make available a supply of equipment in the current financial year, been brought to finality?
– I think it would be difficult for any one at any stage to be completely satisfied with either defence or civil defence preparations. But, to the extent that the Government’s proposals have been carried out, I am satisfied that we are doing the best we can with the existing resources and that the State governments have co-operated excellently with the Commonwealth in our proposals. Arrangements have been completed with all the State governments to take up the equipment which the Commonwealth has agreed to provide in this financial year, and I am hopeful that progressive improvement in the situation will result from this.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Can he say when construction of the airstrip at Lord Howe Island will be commenced? Is he aware that, over the last five years, this Government has spent £473,000 in financing the present set-up of the flying boat base situated at Rose Bay, Sydney? I am told that the cost of the new airstrip at Lord Howe Island will be approximately £450,000 - about the amount that has been spent over the past five years on facilities at Rose Bay for the present very unsatisfactory flying boat service to the island.
– I shall have the honorable member’s comments and queries conveyed to the Minister for Civil Aviation in another place and shall see whether an answer can be provided.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that an increase of lid. a bushel in the Australian homeconsumption price of wheat has been announced? If so, as approximately 30 2-lb. loaves of bread can be made from a bushel of wheat, I ask: Is there any possible justification for a rise in the price of bread as a result of the increase of Hd. a bushel in the price of wheat?
– A rise of lid. a bushel in the home-consumption price of wheat has been announced. I think that the honorable member’s mathematics are correct. An increase of lid. would represent about one-twentieth of a penny for a 2-lb. loaf, and that hardly justifies an increase in the price of bread.
– Will the Prime Minister give urgent and favorable consideration to a request for a supplementary housing allocation for the State of Queensland to alleviate the acute shortage of low interest housing funds and to assist in arresting the deterioration in employment in that State? If so, would such a loan be without prejudice to next year’s allocation under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement?
– The matter is clearly one of policy and I do not propose to try to deal with it out of hand or off-hand.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the fact that the October figures showed a large increase in the number of unemployed in Queensland and all indications point to a further increase for the month of November, can the Minister inform the House what steps he proposes to take to arrest the very serious unemployment position in Queensland? Does he believe that the objective in his oft-repeated statement that the Government is working towards the goal of full employment will ever be attained, particularly in Queensland where electors on 9th December last voted so decisively against the Government over the unemployment position?
– It is correct that due to seasonal factors, particularly the end of the meat and sugar seasons, it was expected that the number of registrants for employment in Queensland would increase in October and November. The numbers are roughly as we expected them to be and they are due wholly to seasonal causes. Over and over again, members of the Government, from the Prime Minister down, have stated what action the Government has taken to deal with the problem of employment. In particular, special action has been taken to ensure through the Australian Loan Council and Premiers Conferences, and by means of special assistance, that the Government of Queensland will be assisted to provide employment in that State. It would take a considerable time to go right through the various measures that have been taken by the Government, but I think the honorable gentleman himself, as a Queenslander, ought to know that the Government is giving whatever assistance it can to the Queensland Government to solve this problem of patchy employment due to retrenchments in the meat and sugar industries.
– -I address my question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that some time ago life assurance societies were directed to invest 30 per cent, of their (funds in Government securities, 20 per cent, in Commonwealth loans and 10 per cent, in semi-government loans, such as loans raised by water boards and local government undertakings? Do terminating and permanent building societies or Starr Bowkett societies come within the group of authorities to which assurance societies may lend the 10 per cent, of their funds? If not, as the Government is not prepared to increase its lending for housing purposes and as there is still an acute shortage of housing in most States, coupled with a surplus of building labour and materials, will the Treasurer consider allowing the assurance societies which desire to do so to invest the 10 per cent, of their funds with the societies I have referred to?
– The honorable gentleman does not have the facts quite right. The Government did not issue any directive to the life offices. It did pass legislation which provided a taxation incentive to those life offices which invested in the proportion of 20 per cent, in Commonwealth loans and 10 per cent, in semigovernment loans. It is true that housing societies were not included in the class of investment which would qualify for this incentive. The Government has more than once carefully considered this as a policy question, but, for reasons which seem to it to be compelling, has decided not to include housing societies. The honorable gentleman asks whether the Government will review its policy because he claims that there is a shortage of housing whereas labour and materials are available for housing purposes- By one means or another this Government has provided through its Budget this year more than £80,000,000 for various housing purposes. It has encouraged the banking system, particularly the savings banks, to lend for housing- As a result, during the quarter ended 30th September last, the number of housing units commenced represented a rate of 90,000 units a year - a figure surpassed only once previously in the history of this country. I know that in some States, far from labour for housing being available, labour for the building industry is in short supply. I assure the honorable gentleman that the Government is very conscious of the importance of housing in the economy and in our social system. The Government is constantly aware of the need to maintain a high level of housing construction in Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. In view of the Minister’s recent announcement that opportunities were to be given to Papuans to train for commissioned rank at, I think, Portsea, is the honorable gentleman able to inform the House whether applicants are to be drawn from the Pacific Islands Regiment or the Papua-New Guinea Volunteer
Rifles, or is it intended to make opportunities more widespread and to enable any young man in the Territory to apply?
– The Government has been investigating this matter for some time. It has had a team in New Guinea considering possible applicants. The important qualification of an applicant is that he have a certain standard of education. We have just made a preliminary acceptance of four candidates. I am not sure whether all four can be finally accepted for training, but they all certainly have the required educational standard.
– I direct to the Treasurer a question supplementary to the question asked of the Prime Minister by the honorable member for Petrie. Has the Treasurer received a request from the Queensland Premier for a special meeting of the Australian Loan Council to be held this month? Is it a fact that the Queensland Premier has been forced to take this course because of a shortage of housing finance in the State - a shortage that is aggravated by high interest rates being charged by hire-purchase operators? If the Treasurer has received a request, can he say whether he will agree to call a meeting of the Loan Council and, if so, when that meeting will be held?
– I am not aware of having received any request of the kind referred to by the honorable member, but I will make inquiries to see whether a request was received by the Treasury during the week-end. I will take steps also to ascertain the terms of the request. I remind the honorable member that some time ago a request from the Premier of Victoria for a Loan Council meeting was considered by the Government. The Premier was advised that the Government did not think it was desirable to call a meeting of the Loan Council until early in the New Year. Subject to the persuasive nature of the request by the Premier of Queensland, the Government still holds the view that it is not desirable to call a meeting until early in the New Year. I point out that special action was taken by the Government to ensure that Queensland’s financial position was strengthened so that it might cope with the level of unemployment being experienced in that State. I am not aware of any statements made on behalf of the Queensland Government suggesting that it was facing special difficulties in this regard. There has been a good response to State government and semi-governmental borrowings. I repeat that I would need to be convinced that special factors existed justifying our departure from a decision previously reached.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It refers to crayfishing in Western Australia, which is a very valuable dollar-earning industry. Is the Minister aware that very considerable alarm exists among the crayfishermen in Western Australia - the crayfishing season has just started - about reports of a collapse of prices in the United States of America? Can he inform the House whether there is any substance in those reports? Will he make inquiries with a view to allaying the fears of fishermen engaged in the industry that the industry may collapse?
– I shall certainly make inquiries and see what information I can get for the honorable member. My recollection is that whilst the prices for this product in America have receded somewhat they are still quite payable. More and more fishermen are engaging in this industry and it may be that they are producing beyond the demand. I may not be quite correct in that opinion, but I shall get the information for the honorable member.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Does he recollect telling me, in reply to a question, that the stamp issued in connexion with the recent British Empire and Commonwealth Games could not be printed in Australia because of the variety of colours involved? Is he aware that a printing authority in New South Wales has stated that such stamps could be printed in Australia? I believe that a stamp is to be issued next year to commemorate the foundation of Canberra. Will he have such stamps printed in Australia?
– My recollection of my reply to the question asked a little while ago by the honorable member for Scullin is not that I said the stamp could not be printed in Australia. My recollection may not be quite accurate. But I will tell the honorable member what the position is. Until quite recently it was not possible to have stamps incorporating various colours printed in Australia because the equipment in the note-printing branch of the Commonwealth Bank was not available.
– There are other printeries
– They did not have the equipment, either. I have several times pointed out that the photogravure equipment with which this printing can be done has been obtained by the Commonwealth Bank. Already we have had some stamps printed by that method, and it is our intention to continue to develop it for the production of coloured stamps.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. It is becoming increasingly the practice for government departments such as the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services to pay pensioners by cheque, and this is causing two forms of inconvenience to the recipients. One is the inconvenience of having to find somebody who will cash the cheques; and the second is that large numbers of stores are still charging a fee for cashing such cheques even though the Minister for Social Services has informed us that the banks will not make such a charge. As it is the logical thing for a person to cash a Commonwealth cheque with a Commonwealth authority, will the Minister have the Treasury regulations amended to enable persons to cash such cheques at the nearest Commonwealth instrumentality, which is usually a post office?
– I shall study the details of the honorable gentleman’s question and give him an answer as soon as I am able to do so.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Is it a fact that official estimates show that in 1971 the metropolitan area of Perth will hold more than 500,000 people? Is this estimate firmly based upon new industries which will commence activities? Will the Minister assure me that as the demands upon the Commonwealth Employment Service for labour increase additional field officers and other specialists will be appointed to handle the increased work load?
– I do not keep the statistics mentioned by the honorable gentleman in my head, but I do think that, as is usual when the honorable member quotes figures, he is accurate. As to the latter part of his question, we always look ahead and increase the staff of the Commonwealth Employment Service in anticipation of an increase in the demands on its service. I can give the honorable member an assurance that we will anticipate the demand for employment in Perth, and ensure that sufficient staff is available to cope with it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. Will the Minister inform the House of his and the Government’s reasons for accepting the advice of the select committee of the New Guinea Legislative Council recommending majority representation of elected members on the council, and the refusal of the Government to extend the same reform to the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory?
– Questions of policy are involved in both questions, but I think it will be obvious to the House and the honorable member that the situations in the two Territories are totally dissimilar.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Towards the latter part of last month certain visitors from Japan were engaged in trade discussions with officers of our own Department of Trade. Is the Minister able to inform the House whether those trade discussions have concluded or are still in progress? If they have concluded can the Minister say what were the results?
– As was publicly intimated, by agreement between the Australian Government and the Japanese Government, negotiations have been commenced and are still proceeding between officials of the two governments on the terms upon which the trade treaty between Australia and Japan shall be continued. These discussions are going along very amicably. I have nothing further than that to report.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the massive displacement of men in the coal-mining and waterfront industries - 14,000 in the past six years - due to mechanization, automation and the challenge of oil as fuel, and in view of the fact that these losses cannot be made good in these two industries but will increase still further, thus constituting a continuing grave economic imbalance, will the Minister set up a special section within his department to retrain, rehabilitate and re-employ these men whose way of life has been completely altered and whose chosen avenue of employment has been destroyed?
– The problem raised by the honorable gentleman is, as the House well knows, an important one. A committee has been established by the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government to watch the problem of those in the coal-mining industry who lose their jobs as a result of the closing down of mines. That committee meets frequently, and I can assure the honorable gentleman that over the years it has had considerable success in providing alternative means of employment for displaced miners, particularly in the Cessnock fields, where the great majority of those who have been displaced have been put in jobs at the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Newcastle and employed in public works. I think that the number registered in the Cessnock area is about 300, and will be increased when one of the mines closes down over the Christmas period. This problem does receive the most careful consideration of the State Government, the Commonwealth Government, the Joint Coal Board and the various officials of the two governments. I can say no more at the moment than that my colleague, the Minister for National Development, I myself, and the various State authorities are closely engaged in seeing what we can do to help with this problem.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact that a spate of drunkenness charges against Papuans has occurred recently - perhaps they had a party? Do the Territory authorities view this with concern, or do they take it to be a passing phase of fitting into the new legislation which extended drinking facilities to the indigenous population?
– I am not quite sure what constitutes a spate, but the fact of the matter is that at Port Moresby last Friday, which was pay-day, a single party of considerable dimensions was held. It was a very successful party, and a total of 62 people who attended it were arrested and locked up for their own protection. They took the occurrence quite happily, and 1 think the person who suffered most discomfort was the Assistant Commissioner of Police, who was kept awake all night by their singing. The next morning all except about thirteen, whose bail was estreated, appeared in court and were fined £2 each. It was generally felt, I think, that a good time was had by all. I wish to assure the honorable member, because I know of his continuing interest in this subject, that this single instance of merry-making, arising out of new-found liberty, certainly does not, in our view, warrant unusual concern; and we believe that as the people become accustomed to their new opportunities they will learn to restrain themselves and act with temperance. We feel that the number of parties that end in this way will be no greater than the number of parties that end in a similar way on the Australian mainland.
– Has the Prime Minister considered the valuable aid to country industry given by incentives announced by the Government of New South Wales, which Government, incidentally, has appointed a Minister for Decentralization? If not, will he do so? Because of the urgent need to provide employment opportunities in country districts, where chronic unemployment persists, will the Prime Minister take immediate action to provide grants for this purpose and to match the incentives offered by the Government of New South Wales for decentralization and development?
– I have not seen a report about the incentives referred to by the honorable member, but I will certainly have pleasure in sending for it and studying it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, As large areas of irrigated land in Victoria, previously highly productive, are becoming increasingly less productive owing to the high salt content of water used for irrigation, will the Minister ask the C.S.I.R.O. to conduct a special intensive investigation of recent scientific discoveries in the field of desalination of water with a view to using them to solve the problem I have mentioned?
– I know that the C.S.I.R.O. has been conducting investigations for many years into the problem of desalting salt water, but I would ask the honorable member to put his question on the notice-paper. I will then refer it to my colleague in the Senate.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question about the proposal to bring children from Japan. Did he receive a deputation from the AustralianAsian Association of Victoria which put to him the proposition that very few children now desire to come to Australia from Japan, or that very few of them would have their best interests served by coming here? Did he undertake to consider favorably the requests made by the deputation, and has he now rejected those requests, refusing permission for the children to come here? Is it a fact that very few of them now want to come to Australia, and has the Minister finally and irrevocably made up his mind on this question?
– On Saturday, on behalf of the Government, I issued a statement following Cabinet’s consideration of the subject to which the honorable member has referred. I set out the matters which had been decided by the Government, and if the honorable member is prepared to read my statement in full I shall be only too happy to see that he is provided with a copy of it.
I think there is perhaps some misunderstanding on the part of the people for whom the honorable gentleman speaks. It is true that when the Australian association interviewed me in Canberra on 15th November we had a general discussion about a number of these issues. This discussion was confidential and I issued no communique or press statement when it concluded. As the honorable gentleman has stated, the deputation, after hearing my own opinion, did say that it thought it undesirable, in the interests of these children, to bring them here. The deputation said also that there might be two, three or possibly four cases in which it would be in the child’s best interests to come to Australia. For my part, I said that if this could be established in some specific case I would consider it sympathetically, in spite of all the very great legal difficulties that are involved. I have nothing further to add.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by referring to the recent passing of forged £10 notes in Melbourne and Adelaide. I believe it was alleged that the passing of these forged notes was related to a similar occurrence a year or two ago. Will the Treasurer state what action is being taken to protect the Australian currency?
– I am not able to give that information off-hand, but I will see that it is made available to the honorable gentleman before the end of the week.
– Is the Treasurer aware that recently the British Government introduced a bill to provide increased pension benefits to retired civil servants and that this is the sixth such measure since the war? Is the Treasurer aware also that the New South Wales Government, with the full approval of the Liberal-Country Party Opposition, recently increased pension payments to its retired servants? Will the right honorable gentleman consider examining thoroughly the whole field of Commonwealth Public Service superannuation benefits in order to ensure that all former employees will catch up with the increased cost of living and share in our improved standard of living?
– The honorable gentleman has raised a matter of budgetary policy. From time to time the Commonwealth Government has reviewed the position of former public servants and has made some improvement in their circumstances. I cannot say off-hand whether our provision has been more generous than that of other governments but it has been endorsed by this Parliament and I should think that most honorable members would regard it as reasonable in the circumstances. However, I can assure the honorable gentleman that we shall continue our practice of examining this matter periodically.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he recollects that at the commencement of the Second Session of the Twentythird Parliament, on 8th March, 1960, the Governor-General’s Speech contained the following passage -
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.
Did the Attorney-General, on 4th April this year, advise the Parliament that he would make a statement setting out the Government’s proposals? As is not an uncommon practice with the Attorney-General, this undertaking-
– Order! The honorable member must not make any comment.
– This undertaking has not been honoured-
– Order! The honorable member will direct his question.
– I shall repeat the latter portion of it. Did the Attorney-General, on 4th April this year, advise the Parliament that he would make a statement setting out the Government’s proposals? Did the Attorney-General fail to honour this undertaking? Will the Prime Minister state now what stage has been reached after two years and nine months’ consideration of this problem by the Government?
– I am terribly sorry to disappoint the honorable member, but the Attorney-General has prepared an elaborate statement, with annexures, which has been considered by the Government. The statement will be read this week on behalf of the Attorney-General by the Minister for the Interior, who is the Acting AttorneyGeneral. I know that that will disappoint the honorable member for East Sydney,
DERBY JETTY AGREEMENT BILL 1962.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 2566), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this bill and at this stage of the sessional period there is no point in delaying it. Accordingly, I shall make only the following brief comments: As the measure is of assistance to the export trade in the north of Western Australia and is part of northern development, we welcome it. Recently, as a means of removing unemployment, the Commonwealth Government made grants to the States without requiring repayment and without charging interest. The House will recollect that we passed measures appropriating £12,500,000 for that purpose. We feel that it would have been a good thing for development in the north of Western Australia had the Derby jetty been constructed with a straight-out grant from the Commonwealth. However, there is no point in labouring that aspect. We are ratifying an agreement into which the State Government has entered. The State Government will pay interest on part of the grant and will be liable to repay part of the grant. The proposed developmental work is important and, as the agreement cannot be amended, there is no point, in attempting to delay the passage of the bill.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) that there is no point in delaying this measure as all honorable members undoubtedly will support it, but I think that some further comment on it is advisable. The bill provides for the Commonwealth to advance initially £800,000 towards the cost of building a jetty at Derby. One-half of this amount will be a grant to the State and the other one-half will be repayable by the State over fifteen years. I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) concerning the payment of £400,000 with interest at the ordinary bond rate which prevails as the advances are made. That amount, perhaps, could have come out of the coffers of the Commonwealth Treasury without the Commonwealth’s feeling it in any way. But we have to bear in mind that this is only one piece of assistance which the Commonwealth is making available to Western Australia for the development of the north of that State. Later on, we shall be discussing Commonwealth assistance in connexion with the beef roads which are being constructed there. This jetty at Derby can be considered as part and parcel of the overall scheme for the development of the export beef industry in the northern part of Australia.
What the Commonwealth has done for Western Australia might be called generous by comparison with what governments down the ages have done for Western Australia, and the northern part of that State in particular. Yet it is just a very small drop in a very big bucket which requires filling, and which can only be filled by generous Commonwealth aid, which I think can be called legitimate aid. The State Government is going ahead with development there, and has appointed an adviser. I am not sure whether he is called a counsellor or a commissioner or something else, but he has a very big responsibility in advising the State Government in connexion with developmental works. Despite the fact that the State has taken that action, I am still of the opinion that it is necessary for the Commonwealth and the State to act conjointly in appointing some kind of commission with power to undertake the development of the northwest of Western Australia. At the present time, we are going about the task in a piecemeal sort of way, instead of tackling it as a whole. Agricultural development is being looked at in connexion with the Ord River development scheme. The beef industry is being encouraged by the construction of beef roads and the construction of this very much needed jetty, and the Broome jetty, which is the main outlet for beef. Also, there is considerable interest in mineral development.
We need a little more than that if the necessary development is to take place in the north-west of Western Australia, which is a tremendously rich area, and which must be developed for the sake of our economy. There are various avenues for development which could considerable boost our export income. Instead of being tackled in a small way - and it is being tackled in only a small way for such a vast area with vast potential - it should be tackled on a big scale. A representative commission on which both the Commonwealth and the State are represented should be constantly on the job. Both governments should be determined not to be niggardly or cheeseparing in undertaking developmental work in that part of the country. It is getting to the stage where it is now a matter of urgency, for a number of reasons which I do not propose to pursue at this stage. I hope that the assistance which is being given by this Government for the development of that part of Australia is an indication of a general change of attitude, not just by the present Commonwealth Government, but by the Commonwealth as a whole. I hope that it indicates an increased recognition of the needs of Australia and the needs, in particular, of the Northern Territory. I welcome the bill, as do all members of the House, and I support it. I look forward to seeing the small measure of assistance provided in this bill multiply and increase.
.- The Australian Labour Party supports this bill which provides for financial assistance to be given to the State of Western Australia for the construction of a new jetty at Derby in that State in order to extend the facilities provided by the existing jetty. This is only a small matter in terms of money. It is a big matter in terms of the importance of this jetty to the north of Western Australia. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) state that an authority should be set up to determine these matters in Northern Australia because only two or three weeks ago the Opposition moved, by way of an amendment, that such an authority should be set up and the honorable member saw fit, on that occasion, to oppose our motion. It is very nice to see that he has changed his attitude and agrees with us that an authority should be set up for that purpose. The amount of assistance to be made available for the building of the jetty is £800,000. Of that amount, up to £300,000 is to be provided in the year 1962-63 and apparently it is expected that the work will be completed by the end of 1964.
Unfortunately, that is not the complete story because the bm also provides that not only will Western Australia have to repay half of the £800,000 to the Commonwealth but it will also have to pay interest on that sum of £400,000. So whilst the Opposition supports this bill as a measure of assistance, we also complain that, because the building of a jetty at Derby is essential for the development of northern Australia, the Commonwealth should have measured up to its full responsibility and provided the whole amount required. It should not have called on the State of Western Australia to make an equal amount available. We say that it is even worse to ask for interest to be paid on the £400,000 that has to be repaid to the Commonwealth Government. The State has to start repaying that amount by the end of 1964. It is all very well for the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to say in his second-reading speech that the bill meets the wishes of the Western Australian Government. It is very easy for him to say that these provisions are the result of an agreement but Western Australia is in a position similar to that of the man who goes to his banker for a loan. He finds that he has to agree to accept the amount that the man who holds the purse strings - in this case, the Federal Government - is prepared to offer. That is what has happened in this case. The State gratefully but regretfully. accepts ‘his assistance, because that is all it can get.
When one considers the Government’s attitude in regard to the financing of the Derby jetty, to cattle roads, to the Ord River scheme and to the standardization of railways in Western Australia, one is forced to think that the Government does not really believe that the State of Western Australia must progress and that if a proper developmental programme is carried out that State will bring to Australia a greatly increased export income which is necessary to the economy.
I think it is necessary to determine whether the new jetty is warranted or whether the existing jetty is sufficient. I can assure honorable members that the existing jetty is in a very sad state of repair. It is costing a terrific amount of money to maintain. Therefore, the new jetty is warranted.
I am becoming worried by the fact that whenever assistance is provided for necessary progress in Western Australia, the State Government has to provide an amount equal to or greater than that provided by the Commonwealth Government. Western Australia undertakes heavy financial commitments to meet the ordinary, continuing costs of government in a large State with a small total population and many sparsely settled areas. I wonder how long the State can continue to meet half the cost of projects which are necessary for development and whether it will be forced before long to let other necessary works elsewhere in the State go by the board.
I do not think that we need have any fear about the value of the proposed new jetty at Derby. There is no doubt that cattle numbers in the district will increase considerably and that many more cattle will be shipped through the port. There will also be a great increase in other cargo handled by the port. There is no doubt that exploration will result in much greater mineral production in the area, and a greater volume of minerals too, will be shipped through the port. Therefore, we can look to a considerable increase in the shipping handled by the port of Derby.
I do not want to whip a dead horse, Sir. As other speakers have said, this measure will be agreed to. However, I want to make it clear to all honorable members that the proposal for a new jetty at Derby has no relation to the proposal for a deep-water port on the north-western coast of Western Australia. A new deep-water port in the area will still be needed, and I sincerely hope that the development of such a port will not be delayed because this Government will not be prepared to make available to Western Australia sufficient funds for the project when the site is chosen. I believe that the Commonwealth Government, when it decided that Western Australia should meet half the cost of the new jetty at Derby, overlooked the fact that that State has to spend considerable sums on many other ports. On this point, I should like to quote from a report in the ‘* West Australian “ newspaper of 9th August last, which stated -
The new Derby jetty would fill one pressing need in the North, but W.A. was still faced with an overall problem of improving port facilities all round its long coastline. . . .
The Government was already committed to extensive port work at Esperance, Bunbury and Geraldton, and these three projects this year alone would take more than £1,000,000 of loan funds.
In addition, two other ports were in need of early attention. Improvements were necessary at Broome, where the existing jetty was outmoded and in bad repair, and Port Hedland harbour entrance would have to be deepened, which could stimulate the production of manganese and iron ores.
The report added -
From ks meagre loan funds, W.A. could not undertake big capital works on its own in the North without curtailing urgent projects in the south of the State.
I fear that unless the Commonwealth Government is prepared to accept its full responsibility for development work in northern Australia, urgent projects elsewhere in Western Australia will have to be curtailed. Ports, jetties, roads and similar works in the north-west of Western Australia represent developmental works, and this Government should measure up to its responsibility for providing financial assistance to enable such works to be undertaken.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I say that although we on this side of the chamber support this bill because it provides for financial assistance to Western Australia, we do not consider that that State should have to meet half the cost of the new Derby jetty. We do not agree with the limitations imposed on the State Government by that requirement.
.- Mr. Speaker, as a Western Australian, I am extremely gratified at what Western Australia is getting from the Commonwealth. As a representative of a State which has, perhaps, the best schools and the best roads in this country - schools and roads which have been financed, in the main, by funds provided by the taxpayers in other parts of Australia - I do not quibble at the amount of the grant to be made in this instance by the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) compared the situation of Western Australia in this instance with that of a man who goes to a bank seeking an advance. It is true that any one can go to a bank and obtain an advance on the security of an equity or something else which can be used as security for the advance.
– Western Australia is not getting much for what it has to offer.
– It is to get £5,000,000 for developmental projects in the northern part of the State. To some people, that may not seem much, but it is a great deal of money in my estimation. Much planning is needed before funds provided in this way for developmental works can be spent. [Quorum formed.] Under the terms of this bill, £800,000 is to be provided towards meeting the cost of the new jetty works at Derby, and £300,000 of this is to be provided in the current financial year. Western Australia is to repay to the Commonwealth only one-half of the total amount advanced. The most acceptable feature of this arrangement, I point out to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, is that repayments will not begin until December, 1964, and will be spread over fifteen years. I suggest that an arrangement of this kind bears no resemblance to the kind of arrangements made when an advance is provided by a bank.
As a representative of Western Australia, I look with a great deal of gratitude to this Government for what it is doing. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie said that the assistance being provided under the terms of this measure would do nothing to satisfy the need for a deep-water port in the north of Western Australia. I remind him that there are in hand plans for a deepwater port at Depuch Island, to cost £4,500,000, which will serve the iron ore traffic from Mount Goldsworthy and other traffic from elsewhere in the area. I want to take the minds of honorable members back to 1958, when it was decided to develop a harbour at Black Rocks, which, I think, is a little north of Derby. This proposal would have entailed the movement of the whole town to Black Rocks eventually. The State Government, when it reviewed the plan, obtained advice from experts in London who recommended that a new jetty be built beside the existing jetty at Derby, as is proposed under the terms of the agreement which is the schedule to this bill.
I repeat that I commend the Commonwealth Government on this measure. As a Western Australian, I suggest that the people of Western Australia generally appreciate what is being done by this Government for that State. We do not think that we have been badly treated in the disbursement of Commonwealth funds.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia with respect to jetty works at Derby.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8th November (vide page 2227), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports the bill. The purpose of the bill is to grant financial assistance to the Western Australian Government for the construction and improvement of beef roads in that State. Twelve months ago, the Parliament voted £500,000 for similar work in Western Australia. The Australian Meat Board stated at page 67 of its report of 30th June last -
In the financial year ending June, 1962, the Main Roads Department of Western Australia has allocated £1,330,000 for the improvement of Kimberley beef roads. The amount includes a special Commonwealth grant of £500,000 for the upgrading of beef roads, and it is considered that the total allocation for Kimberley beef roads in the financial year 1962-63 will again exceed £1,000,000.
The bill proposes to make £700,000 available for the financial year 1962-63 and £750,000 each year for the succeeding three financial years, provided that the Western Australian Government from its own resources matches the Commonwealth grant £l-for-£l. The liability of the Commonwealth under the bill is limited to a maximum of £3,450,000 for the five financial years, provided that the State Government also finds £3,450,000. However,, if the State contribution is less than £3,450,000, the Commonwealth contribution will be reduced to the lesser amount. There is no indication in the bill or in the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) of the material that will be used in the construction of the roads. The Treasurer did not say whether the roads will be sealed or unsealed or whether they will be gravel or earth-formed roads. He did not say how many miles of road would be constructed.
I have been informed that the Kimberley area alone covers 140,000 square miles and that wool produced in the area last year was valued at £1,750,000. There are 210,000 sheep in the area. This road construction, therefore, will assist not only beef production but also wool-growing in the area. In addition, there are 510,000 head of cattle, valued at £1,325,000. I have also been informed that the meat works at Broome handled about 8,000 head of cattle and that some of these cattle were hauled over 800 miles to Broome. Some of the roads over which the cattle are brought are so rough that pigs could hide in the corrugations. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the Western Australian Government has asked the Commonwealth for assistance so that it can start improving the roads. I understand that 20,000 head of cattle were carted by road to Broome and Derby.
The Australian Meat Board, in its report, also said -
Since 1950, there has been rapid growth in the use of road trains for the transport of beef cattle in the West Kimberley. The number transported by road to the ports of Derby and Broome has risen from 2,000 head in 1952 to 22,000 in 1960. In the East Kimberley, the adoption of road transport is now receiving impetus from the improved road system.
The Opposition supports the bill, just as it supported the 1961 bill, and I agree with the Treasurer that the construction of these roads will make the transport of cattle by beef roads an economic proposition.
Last year, two bills making grants for beef roads to Western Australia and to Queensland were discussed together in the Parliament. The Queensland bill of last year was to cover a period of five years, but the Western Australian bill was for a period of only one year. Now this year we have a bill that will cover the next four years, making in all a period of five years. The Opposition again points out that the development of the road system in northern Australia, including Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, should be co-ordinated by some special central authority. It should not be undertaken piecemeal. This bill, which, in effect, implements the balance of a five-year plan, shows the need for a central authority. If it was good enough for Queensland to be given financial assistance for five years, why was it not good enough for Western Australia to be given this assistance for five years at the same time? As the Opposition has advocated for a long time, there should be a north Australian commission or some similar authority, call it what you like. We have the National Capital Development Commission planning the development of the National Capital. It is even more necessary, with the vast area of north Australia, that some authority should be planning the expansion of all types of production there and the development of the north. It should also be planning water conservation projects, the development of ports, towns and communications generally, and the production of minerals.
It is true that the bill will put the beef cattle roads plan in Western Australia on a five-year basis to conform with the Queensland plan which was adopted last year. But why was the five-year plan for Western Australia delayed until now? This five-year plan for roads should be co-ordinated with an overall plan for the development of the whole of north Australia. The House has just approved of a bill for the construction of a new jetty at Derby. But this is piecemeal development when what is needed is an overall development plan undertaken by an organization like the Snowy Mountains Authority. We know that certain reports have been furnished to the Queensland Government on the position in that State and that federal Cabinet has received certain reports. But we have not seen them. The Division of Agricultural Economics three years ago furnished reports regarding part of north Australia. I understand that the Australian Meat Board has also supplied reports on the desirability of constructing beef cattle roads. I regret that there is no overall plan for the whole of the area of north Australia. Economically, climatically and geographically, the areas in the north of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are similar.
The Treasurer stated that the beef roads will be of value not only to cattle production but also to development generally. But why the delay? According to a statement published in the press a couple of weeks ago, this Government, after thirteen years, is advocating the development of northern Australia. Why the delay in appointing a commission, a central authority or a planning authority? What is necessary for Canberra is even more necessary for northern Australia. Neither the Queensland Government nor the Western Australian Government has the financial resources to develop its huge area. The Commonwealth controls the purse strings. The development of northern Australia should be a joint venture by the governments of the Commonwealth, Queensland and Western Australia.
This five-year plan for Queensland represents a step in the right direction and, small though it may be, it is at least a beginning. In the past, Queensland has been plagued with a policy of stop-and-go. Soon the House will discuss a bill to provide for the sealing of certain roads in Queensland. That is a matter that should have been dealt with twelve months ago when the Parliament was discussing Queensland beef roads. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has been able to attract very efficient contractors because of its ten-year plans. It has shown all governments what efficient, long-term planning can do to keep costs at a minimum. Let the development of northern Australia be guided by an authority similar to the Snowy Mountains Authority. One of the major hopes for development in northern Australia is development and expansion of the beef industry. But cattle production is not necessarily increased by the construction of roads, although that helps. The main advantages gained from transporting cattle by road are in marketing. In its report for 1962, the Australian Meat Board said -
Spectacular results have already been obtained from the policy of upgrading Kimberley beef roads. The main advantages to the cattle industry from adopting road transport for the marketing of cattle are briefly as follows: -
Cattle can be delivered speedily to meat works without the loss of weight which usually occurs during droving.
Younger fat cattle which could not endure a droving trip may be marketed, thus increasing the annual turn-off of beef cattle.
Store cattle which are too young for droving may be transported to fattening areas.
Losses from droving may be eliminated.
Prime cattle may be forwarded in smaller consignments, thus providing greater flexibility in marketing operations.
That view expressed by the Australian Meat Board is one reason why there should be continued development of beef roads, particularly in the northern part of Australia. We cannot just construct a road and then expect production to increase. Property and herd improvements are also necessary. Improved watering facilities in parts of the runs will make a valuable contribution towards increased production. All these aspects are matters for property owners, but the building of roads gives them some encouragement to incur additional capital expenditure. The Government can help landholders by providing financial assistance for the development of their properties, and thus increase the turn-off of cattle-.
Mr. Jack Kelly is well known in northern Australia. He was for many years a field officer for the Division of Agricultural Economics. He retired recently. Back in 19-60, he advocated that the roads from Fitzroy Crossing to Derby, from Nicholson to Wyndham and elsewhere in northern Queensland should be sealed or at least have a high-class gravel surface. In 1962, Mr. Kelly, in a statement published in “Muster”, stated that the Kimberleys had a potential turn-off of 120,000 head of cattle a year, and that the potential turn-off of the Northern Territory was 380,000 head of cattle a year. This part of Australia has the potential, and in developing beef roads the Government is taking a step in the right direction.
Production of cattle and other commodities in the Northern Territory could be further stimulated by the appointment of a co-ordinating authority. To a certain extent the Government has been forced to develop beef roads. The drover as we know him is to-day a member of a dying race. To-day the drover’s place is being taken by large motor transports. The development of the road train has enabled the cattle man to shift younger stock. Prior to the coming of the road train cattle had to be at least three years old and in good physical condition to withstand the rigours of a hard trip. In its report the Australian Meat Board gives some indication of the way in which cattle are being shifted by road trains to-day. The report reads -
During 1961-62, 2,104 trips moved 89,345 head of stock, including 26,277 fat cattle and 56,679 store cattle. This shows an increase over 1960-61, when 2,431 trips moved 95,567 head of stock, including 42,511 fat cattle and 48,057 store cattle.
Although perhaps not immediately apparent from these figures, road transport of stock is steadily increasing. The figures for 1961-62 would certainly have been higher but for adverse seasonal conditions that operated in many parts of the Territory, particularly in the Alice Springs Pastoral District, where the turnoff was approximately half that of the previous year.
Most of the cattle coming into Queensland to-day are being shifted by road trains, but the trouble with road trains is that they cost £2 a head per 100 miles. Some authorities have suggested that owing to reduced wear and tear on the vehicles and improved fuel consumption, if sealed roads were provided the cost of shifting cattle by road trains could be reduced to one-quarter of the present cost. Certainly the sealing of roads will involve a high initial capital expenditure, but a sealed road will withstand heavy traffic much better than an unsealed road. Sealed roads mean lower costs to operators and lower transport costs to producers. Hence there is a greater net return to the producer, a greater turn-off of cattle and a greater wealth of production for the community as a whole. The Opposition supports the bill.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would like to refer to several points that have been covered by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). In the first place, he seemed to be concerned that there had not been written into this bill details of the type of road to be constructed. I can assure him that there is no need to worry on that score because the roads already constructed in the north-west of Western Australia have been praised by all who have seen them or who have driven over them. There is also the fact that this grant by the Commonwealth is subject to the Commonwealth authorities being satisfied with the work that is done. I want to place on record the fact that this Government has used this money very wisely in the north. Later in my speech I will deal with the volume of money that has been spent there, but as far as I am aware there has never been any criticism that a poor quality road has been laid down in that area in recent years.
I want to tell the honorable member for Kennedy that I am a great advocate of the matching principle. As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) said a few moments ago, the Commonwealth Government has been very fair to the western State. There was a £5,000,000 grant to Western Australia a short time ago without any matching principle attached, but when you come to the beef roads of the northwest and assistance for the building of the new jetty at Derby, it is a reasonable proposition that the assistance granted by the Commonwealth be on a matching basis. If you analyse it and think it through, it is a pretty good indication that the other States should be dealt with on the same basis. I think the honorable member for Kennedy is beating the air, as so many of his colleagues are doing these days, in advocating a separate commission to deal with the north. I have tried to be a realist.
Let me be frank with the House: Five years ago I genuinely said “ Let the north be developed by an independent commission “, and I am on record in “ Hansard “ accordingly. But I have tried to grow up a little and recognize that the governments of Western Australia and Queensland have given a pretty clear indication that they do not want to give away any of their territory. They prefer to handle it themselves, providing the Commonwealth Government is coming to the party helpfully. The honorable member for Kennedy’s own State has had the benefit recently of Commonwealth assistance for roads in the north and assistance in the clearing of the brigalow area. If a matching principle applies, well and good, but I believe these States have given a pretty fair indication in the last three or four years that they prefer to go it alone, providing they have some financial encouragement from the Commonwealth; and I think that principle is pretty sound. We can leave it to the Government of Western Australia to further develop the northern area of that State because this Government has come along very helpfully indeed with the grant which we saw put through in recent legislation.
– It is only chicken feed in comparison with what is wanted.
– It will not be chicken feed when we come along with a successful report on the development of the Ord River scheme. After all, the £5,000,000 grant is for experimental purposes, for the first stage. I am sure the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will agree that the Government of Western Australia cannot expect another grant for, say, £20,000,000, until it can show positively that the developmental work at the Ord River is bringing results which justify the further expenditure. I am confident that in a few years time the Government of Western Australia will be able to say, “This is the result of the work already done at the Ord, and this justifies further Commonwealth assistance “. I, for one, when the evidence is available, will bc only too pleased to advocate that the Commonwealth come again with a greater grant; and then it will not be chicken feed. Let me make the point that reliable criticism of the earlier planning of north-west development has stressed that hit-and-miss methods have too often been apparent. I believe the planning in earlier years was a programme of bits and pieces, changed from year to year; and it does not impress any one at all. There was no sound overall scheme for economic development, such as I tried to touch on a moment ago.
Whilst some people are still not satisfied that a clear and comprehensive plan to ensure that developmental money is spent profitably is even now being followed, I firmly believe that the majority of people applaud this realistic approach to transport as the answer to the greatest problem of the north. The press in Western Australia recently ran an article stressing that transport is the north’s biggest problem. We recognize that fact in the legislation on which we are speaking to-day. I will take a minute to stress the need for a thorough analysis of the whole transport problem of that northern area. It has been suggested that, perhaps, an arterial sealed road running right through the north of Western Australia might be an even better investment than a subsidy to the State Shipping Service. My colleagues of the Government of Western Australia must bend themselves to that analysis, because they could go on from year to year subsidizing the State’s ships when, perhaps, a sealed arterial road would bring a better economic return.
– But your Government is all talk.
– This Government is not all talk. It is concerned about the provision of more and better roads for the purpose of aiding the movement of cattle and thereby helping to expand beef production and increase Australia’s export earnings.
In this legislation we find a commonsense plan reaching into the three years following this financial year. This is no idle scheme to provide £700,000 for roads this year and have no funds available for the next year. The bill makes provision for continuing Commonwealth assistance of £750,000 for beef roads in each of the three succeeding years, provided of course that the State does its part. Let us take note of the fact that new life and enthusiasm have come to the people in the north-west of Western Australia with the drive and leadership of the Liberal Government of Western Australia. I emphasize that that Liberal Government inspired this wide open vision of the north and demonstrated that action, and not just words, was required.
The Main Roads Department of Western Australia is spending one-quarter of its income at present in this part of the State, the residents of which account for less than 2 per cent, of the State’s population.
– What does one-quarter of that department’s income amount to?
– I will come to that in a moment. When this legislation is adopted the Commonwealth Government’s contribution to this one State over a fiveyear period will be £3,450,000, and because the State has undertaken to spend an equal amount the north-west is to reap the benefit of some £7,000,000 worth of modern roads during this relatively short period. Not every one has had the privilege of close contact with the cattle industry of the north. I wish all my colleagues had been to the north and had spent some time there. It has been my privilege to go there with several parliamentary delegations and on private tours, and I have seen something of the cattle in this area actually on the hoof.
Now, as the honorable member for Kennedy said during his speech, we are looking at the results of moving cattle by road, under modern road conditions, as against droving. The conditions in the north country render droving over long distances hazardous in the loss of cattle and, certainly, detrimental to their delivery in first-class condition. For these reasons the emphasis for years past has been on better roads. As the honorable member said, modern transportation has made possible cattle trains capable of lifting many head of cattle. But first of all you have to get the roads, and the quality of the road must be good or the cattle will still be damaged in transport. Reference has been made to the result of shipping cattle for export through the port of Derby. The legislation last before us dealt with this matter. There has been an increase in the number of cattle exported from Derby. In 1954, 4,272 cattle went out through that port, but by 1961 the figure had increased to 17,429. I want to put on record that it is the improvement of the roads behind Derby, enabling cattle to be transported quickly, rather than have them driven, that has largely brought about that increase.
If honorable members have had the opportunity to observe droving of cattle in the Halls Creek-Nicholson-Wyndham area, I am sure they will agree with me to-day when I say it is splendid to learn from the Treasurer’s speech on this bill of the improvement in roads in that area and the consequent substantial increase in the road movement of cattle. 1 hope that we have all taken note, too, from the same speech that there will be in the immediate future a new road from Derby through the King Leopold ranges to the northern part of the West Kimberleys.
I should like to place on record this aspect of the cost of road transport, as I indicated earlier I would, and here I think my assessment differs from that of the honorable member for Kennedy to some extent. I find that road transport costs the pastoralist about four times more per beast than droving does, but there are compensating advantages to which I had intended to refer in more detail. However, I find that the honorable member for Kennedy quoted from the last annual report of the Australian Meat Board and mentioned these compensating advantages. Therefore, I will not take the time of the House unnecessarily in going through the same points. Recently I was attracted to the work of Dr. Alex Kerr, an economist of the University of Western Australia, who has recently completed an invaluable reference book entitled “ North-Western Australia “. Because of what we are debating to-day I would strongly recommend a study of Dr. Kerr’s book to any one interested in the development of the north. Dr. Kerr speaks enthusiastically about the long-term potential of the empty north, as we have so often heard it referred to. He points out that it carries, at the moment, a population of less than 15,000 people, but it is already growing at a faster rate than the State of Western Australia, as a whole. The north’s population is increasing by about 3.5 per cent, a year. On the pastoral outlook he suggests that the beef cattle industry has reached a breakthrough point. Let us note what he says: By 1975, on his analysis, the Kimberley cattle turn-off should have increased to 50 per cent, above its present 65,000 head a year. This development, of course, is being spurred on by the new beef roads, by better pastures and stock, about which we have spoken before in this House with enthusiasm, by improved vermin control, and by the blossoming of the United States meat trade, which is ideally suited for the type of cattle produced in the Kimberleys.
But Dr. Kerr certainly brings a spotlight to bear at some length on the swing to road transport for cattle. The honorable member for Kennedy in dealing with the annual report of the Australian Meat Board brought out that spectacular results had already been obtained from the policy of up-grading Kimberley beef roads, and again I will not take the time of the House to deal with the quicker delivery and the fact that younger fat cattle can be handled by the road trains. I have already indicated that droving is hazardous because of the losses involved. The loss of cattle can be kept to a minimum if they can be picked up quickly in good condition and transported over reasonable roads.
Since 1950 there has been a rapid growth in the use of road trains to transport beef cattle in the West Kimberleys. The number transported by road to the ports of Derby and Broome rose from 2,000 in 1952 to 22,000 in 1960. In the East Kimberleys the adoption of road transport is now receiving impetus from this improved road system.
The report of the Australian Meat Board referred to the fact that the main proposals in the Kimberley beef road programme provided for construction improvements to the 260-mile Duncan Highway between the Nicholson cattle station, near the Northern Territory border, and Wyndham, and the up-grading of the 665-mile section of the Great Northern Highway between Broome and Wyndham. Another important beef road project being undertaken by the Main Roads Department of Western Australia is the construction of a new road between Derby and Mount House Station. [Quorum formed.] This will eventually provide access to some 5,000,000 acres of undeveloped country in the central and northern Kimberley regions. Because of the rugger terrain of the King Leopold ranges, major construction works are required on the 155-mile section of this road between Derby and Mount House. For example, at Inglis Gap, where the road crosses a saddle in the ranges, road construction workers are blasting and grading a 50’foot cutting and removing more than 17,000 cubic yards of rock in forming the road. If honorable members have never been in this area, let me assure them that it is not simple to construct roads of the quality we have been speaking of to-day.
These points are but an indication of the reported outstanding achievements of the Main Roads Department engineers. Up to two years ago, no cattle had been transported by road to the export port of Wyndham, and it is only a few years since I saw cattle being driven along a dusty track towards that port. The number now expected to be transported by road this season is 10,000 head. One station, which formerly undertook four weeks’ droving treks to Wyndham, recently delivered its cattle in twelve hours by road and had 96 per cent, of the cattle marked A grade because they had arrived in top condition. So I say that the upgrading of the Kimberley roads in this road system is an essential step in the overall plan for increasing productivity and providing, at the same time, closer settlement for this large region.
For these reasons, and bearing in mind the points I mentioned in reply to the honorable member for Kennedy, I commend this legislation. Like the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), I do not raise any complaints because this project is to be on the basis of a matching contribution by Western Australia. The Western Australian Government is grateful indeed for the realistic approach of the Commonwealth Government, and I place on record to-day our gratitude for that co-operation. I believe that in the next few years we shall have a roads system in the north which will certainly bring about a vast increase in the number of export cattle.
.- I rise to support this bill for the provision of a grant to Western Australia, on a fl-for-£l basis, for beef cattle roads north of the 20th parallel of south latitude. The bill provides for both road improvement and road construction in the north of the State. In 1961-62 an amount of £500,000 was pro vided, which was matched by the State. The grant this year will be £700,000, and further grants in each of the three succeeding years of £750,000 will bring the total amount provided by the Commonwealth to £3,450,000. This has to be matched by the State, so that the total amount available over a period of five years will be nearly £7,000,000.
The Main Roads Department in Western Australia is at present working on projects, costing £1,300,000 this year, for the upgrading of roads in the Kimberley area. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has pointed out that the bill provides for a reduction of the Commonwealth grant if the State does not match the full amount of the grant. There is no provision in the legislation, however, for an increase of the grant in a case in which the State is spending more than the amount of the ‘ Commonwealth grant. This is just what the Western Australian Government, through its Main Roads Department, intends to do. It plans to spend more than what is, in effect, its share of the cost of the project. As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) pointed out, the Main Roads Department spends a quarter of its income north of the 26th parallel. The population of that area represents less than 2 per cent, of the total population of the State. This gives honorable members some idea of the gigantic task that Western Australia faces in trying to provide roads throughout this immense area.
The object of the legislation is to provide road transport facilities from the beef cattle producing areas of the north to fattening grounds, to railheads and to ports. I direct attention to the fact that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) referred in his speech to railheads, although there are, of course, no railheads in the area in which this money will be spent, north of the 20th parallel. There is not one railway line in that area, although that is not to say that there should not be railway lines if a properly coordinated transport system was developed. The aim of the legislation is to increase our export earnings and to improve our balance of payments position. As other speakers have said, transport is most important if we are to develop and populate our northern areas. Next to water conservation, adequate transport is the most important requirement. It is, however, necessary to have a properly co-ordinated transport system. The upgrading of the northern section of the Great Northern Highway and the Duncan Highway between Hall’s Creek and Wyndham, which is the first project to be undertaken, will enable more cattle to be carried on these roads to the Wyndham meat works, but this does not mean that the works will be operating at full capacity. The honorable member for Swan mentioned’ that 10,000 head of cattle will be carried on these roads this year. This will bring the number of cattle handled at the meat works to about 40,000 or 45,000, but the meat works can handle more than 80,000 a year, so that the works will not be operating at full capacity even when these roads have been completed.
The highest estimate that I have seen of the number of cattle that will be carried on these roads is 20,000, and even this figure will not be reached until some years hence. Even then, however, the works will not be handling the number of cattle that could be handled at full capacity. In my view, and in the view of some others, the works will not be operating at full capacity until the Ord River scheme is completed. This Government is committed at the present time to assisting in the financing of the diversion dam on the Ord River, which will irrigate only about five farms. Finance is urgently required for the main part of the scheme. When the main Ord River dam is completed it will impound about six times as much water as is in Sydney Harbour.
The Kimberley research farm has shown that practically anything can be grown in the Kimberley area if sufficient water is available. There is a vast area of fertile black soil, and already rice, sugar, cotton, peanuts, linseed, maize and safflower, to mention a few of the tried crops, have been grown successfully. Reports have shown that cotton crops on the Ord River pilot farm have proved most successful. They have yielded about 2,000 lb. of cotton to the acre. Those who take an interest in these matters know that the by-products of the cotton crops can be used to top off cattle, so that a combination of cotton and cattle could well be the answer to the question of development of our north. I mentioned in a speech in this Parliament recently that in California 480,000 tons of cotton seed are treated each year, and that from the by products thousands of cattle are topped off. This, however, is only one aspect of the matter. Pasture lands are needed within reasonable distance of the meat works, so that a staging depot can be available for topping off cattle after they have travelled long distances. The proposed roads will help to get the cattle to the meat works. However, as has been admitted by the Premier of Western Australia, the provision of these roads will not enable the meat works to operate at full capacity. Some authorities believe that a staging depot should be provided within 40 or 50 miles of the works so that cattle can be topped off; and it has been suggested that a railway should be constructed from that depot to the meat works. Such a railway would, of course, help to increase the numbers of cattle brought to the works, and would enable the meat works to operate at closer to full capacity.
I believe that roads are essential, but I think that they will not meet the full requirements of the area. I believe a railway will be required in addition to roads. In my view, a railway would also be cheaper than a road, because the Western Australian Government Railways will have surplus rolling-stock available as a result of the standardization of the line from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana. In some parts of the north the cost of road building is very high, reaching as much as £40,000 a mile. This cost can represent a very great burden in the case of a road such as that which is being cut through the King Leopold Ranges and is 155 miles long. The Treasurer told us that these cattle roads were being provided to enable us to increase our exports of beef. I suggest that if we are to increase our beef exports we must have the Wyndham meat works operating at full capacity. The road from Glenroy to Derby, which has already been commenced, is a most important project. As honorable members know, particularly those who have visited the area, beef has to be flown from Glenroy, because there is no way of taking it out by road through the King Leopold Ranges. That is why the road that is being built through those ranges will be of such importance to the beef export industry. It is expected that it will be possible to transport beef by way of the new road at half the present cost of sending it by air.
The provision of adequate roads in Western Australia for the needs of that State is a formidable task, and for this reason the bill deserves commendation. Great difficulties are experienced because of the long distances that have to be covered and the diversity of soils and climatic conditions in various parts of the State. Western Australia has an area of 976,000 square miles, which is approximately one-third the area of the Commonwealth. The road system extends from Eucla, in the southeast, to Wyndham, 3,000 miles away in the far north. Western Australia is passing through a developmental phase and it is faced with the task of providing a road system to open up new areas. From 1952 to 1956, inclusive, 3,451,000 acres of new land were alienated. This area is approximately one-half the acreage of land alienated in Australia during that period. Between 1955 and 1958 about 9,500 miles of new road were opened to traffic.
In the northern region of the State, with which this measure is concerned, there are nearly 500,000 square miles without rail communication, so roads are of major importance to serve the scattered mining and pastoral settlements, but railways also are necessary where they can be suitably placed. I am not saying where they should be placed because that is a matter for specialists, but when you consider that railways are used extensively in the Northern Territory and in the north of Queensland, suitable points in the north of Western Australia should be decided upon to which railways could be built. In the coastal districts of this vast area orthodox road materials are scarce and in some places they are even non-existent. The Main Roads Department has had to devise new techniques of stabilizing the soil to make a road bed. This is one problem which confronts the State Government in the northern areas. There are approximately 3,000 miles of important secondary roads and a large mileage of minor roads of a developmental character in the northern region which lead to cattle and sheep stations and mining areas.
As has been mentioned by other honorable members who have participated in the debate, road trains are being used for cattle haulage in some of these areas. Improvement of existing roads and the building of new roads will enable more road trains to operate, but the capacity of a road train cannot be compared to the capacity of a train. You would need many road trains to carry the number of stock which could be carried by a train. For instance, a train 65 trucks in length can carry over 600 beasts, so you can imagine the number of road trains which will be required to carry the same number of beasts.
There are nearly 91,000 miles of roads in Western Australia of which 3,436 miles are gazetted main roads and 7,538 miles are important secondary roads, making a total of 10,974 miles of principal roads. The ratio of road mileage to each 100 square miles in Western Australia is nine miles which is lower than the ratio in any other State. Western Australia has eight persons per mile of roads which also is lower than the number of persons in any other State. The Treasurer stated that the building of these cattle roads will help also with the general development of the area. Anything which will help to open up the vast north-west is welcome. There are millions of acres of minerals awaiting prospecting. Resources are varied and considerable, and there is no comparable area in the world which contains so many untested mineral prospects. Apart from being termed beef roads the roads will help considerably in the handling of other projects, but encouragement in the form of incentives is needed if skilled prospectors and companies are to enter the area and work it.
I emphasize that the first essential for the development of the north is co-ordinated transport with railways and roads running to the ports and to the meat works. The second essential is water. Australia is the second largest area of arid land in the world and is the driest of all continents. Much of it is destined to remain empty because it is unable to sustain life from natural foliage. Fortunately, with the introduction of dieselpowered locomotives water is not necessary now for the successful functioning of railways, so railways could be used at suitable points in our north if this matter were considered carefully by a responsible authority.
We are faced with the task of populating the north of Australia. Compared with other countries it is a sparsely populated area. About 2,200,000 square miles of this continent, which is 74.7 per cent, of our total area, carries only 1.9 per cent, of the population. In other words about 98 per cent, of our population resides in onequarter of our total area. Again, 45 per cent, of the area of Australia carries onequarter per cent, of our population. South Australia has 1.1 per cent, of its population in 78.7 per cent, of its area whereas Western Australia has one person to each 26 square miles in 86.2 per cent, of its total area. In other words, 32,000 people live in an area of 841,000 square miles. That is why a measure such as the one now before us, along with other measures relating to projects such as the Ord River scheme which will help to populate our north, is worthy of support.
Our roads are important, our railways are important and our ports are important but they should be co-ordinated so that the best means of transport could be utilized to the full. The honorable member for Swan referred to a book by Dr. Kerr but he mentioned only one or two points of Dr. Kerr’s book and these were out of context. He did not mention what Dr. Kerr had to say about this very important matter. Dr. Kerr’s references to transport were reported in the “West Australian” of 15th November, 1962, in this way -
His concern about lack of overall planning is expressed most strongly on transport - the north’s biggest problem.
Certain surveys of individual transport industries have been undertaken - the State shipping report, for instance - but there is no evidence of a co-ordinated, overall approach to the transport problem.
Without a penetrating analysis of the whole system, financial priorities for development will be by rule of thumb - not on the basis of sound economic investment.
That is why I claim that it is very important to have a co-ordinating authority to ascertain the best means of transport in the area and to use those means of transport in a co-ordinated way. Dr. Kerr said further, according to the newspaper report -
The planning was too piecemeal, too much from year-to-year. There is still no clear, overall economic picture of how long-term development money should be spent most profitably.
That is what we on this side of the chamber have been claiming. The report continued -
A committee of citizens of the north also is needed to provide expert private opinion and to act as a unifying force - a united voice.
We agree with that. The honorable member for Swan seems to have had a change of heart. He does not believe now that a co-ordinating authority should be set up to develop the north. I am surprised to hear that because only a short time ago he adopted the Labour Party’s viewpoint on this matter, as he admitted, and advocated the setting up of a co-ordinating authority. Apparently there is some dissension in the Liberal Party in regard to this matter because the Minister for the North-West in the Western Australian Parliament - a Liberal Minister - advocates that such an authority should be set up. Only a few weeks ago he made a public statement in relation to it. Dr. Kerr also advocates a similar authority. When the honorable member for Swan quoted Dr. Kerr he did not quote a statement of his that was reported as follows: -
Nationally, he supports moves for an overall planning authority for all northern Australia.
As the honorable member for Swan mentioned, Dr. Kerr is one of our greatest authorities on the north of Australia. It is surprising that the honorable member has altered his viewpoint in regard to a coordinating authority at this late stage when authorities on this subject are coming out in support of it. Projects such as the new roads proposed and the Ord River diversion dam will all help the development of the north. Our job is to get people there.
I have said before in this chamber that it is important that tax concessions should be given urgent consideration by the Government. Recently, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether further consideration had been given to this matter. The proposal, of course, is that wage and salary earnings should be tax free in this area, that business earnings should be 60 per cent, tax free and that the balance should be tax free if it is reinvested in the north. The Prime Minister said that consideration was being given to the matter but that, due to the amount of money which the Commonwealth was spending in the north and the recent budget deficit of £118,000,000, the Government was not going to do anything about it at the present time. I hope that he will have second thoughts on that subject and give further consideration to it. The people of the north are entitled to special concessions. They are entitled to decent amenities. The people of the south get better schooling, better medical attention and better food, and can enjoy better climatic conditions than those of the north.
There is an urgent need for people in all walks of life to be attracted to the north of Australia. They will not go there unless there is some attraction when they can be better placed in the south of the continent. So I ask the Government to consider these very important points. Whilst the Opposition supports this measure, we complain about the smallness of the amount that is being provided. We also object to the provision that the Commonwealth’s contribution shall be reduced if the amount expended by the State does not correspond to the amount to be contributed by the Commonwealth, whereas the State is actually spending more than the matching grant of the Commonwealth but the Commonwealth does not propose to increase its contribution to match the State expenditure.
.- Because this bill is being supported by honorable members on both sides of the House it does not require to have very much said about it. In it, the Government is seeking the authority of the Parliament to make a grant to the State of Western Australia for the building of beef cattle roads in the north of that State. The bill provides for the granting of £700,000 in this financial year and of £750,000 in each of the next three years for the building of beef roads. These amounts represent an addition to the sum of £500,000 which was made available by the Commonwealth for this purpose last year. To summarize the position - the Commonwealth will be making grants to Western Australia totalling £3,450,000 for beef roads over the five-year period from 1961 to 1966. As the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and other honorable members have said, a condition of this grant is that the State must provide a matching amount for expenditure on road works.
There is much which can be said about the development of the north. However, we are on the subject of beef and beef cattle and I do not propose to go bulling in the course of the few remarks that I want to make. Before proceeding with my main remarks, I want to refer to what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) and the honorable member for
Stirling said about a proposed northern development commission or advisory authority or developmental authority, as the case may be. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggested that whilst I advocated the establishment of such an authority I had failed to support a motion for the establishment of a body of this kind that had been moved by the Opposition some time ago. I say, in reply, that if the Opposition were to submit a similar motion again I still would not support it because I believe that such a move must come from the State Government. It must take the initiative. My remarks in favour of the establishment of a co-ordinating and planning authority were intended more for the consumption of the State than of members of this chamber. I hope that we shall eventually get the State on side and that it will initiate a move for the establishment of such an authority.
– The State wants it.
– If the State wants it, let it say so, definitely and specifically. It is all very well to get up and beat a drum. Specific proposals are required. A discussion should take place between the Commonwealth and the State to decide what type of authority should be established and what its powers should be. The State, of course, will be careful to see that it loses none of its powers to such an authority. That is a limiting factor. I do not blame the State for that. But while that attitude remains - and wisely remains - we can only emphasize the need for consultation until wise counsels prevail.
I want to refer, also, to the remarks of the honorable member for Stirling about a tax concession for the people of the north. While that subject has nothing to do with this bill, we hope that the provision of better roads will encourage people to settle in this area. Sir, I do not think for a moment that tax concessions compensate for the absence of the amenities to which the honorable member for Stirling referred, such amenities as schools, hospitals, doctors and communications. Those are the things that are wanted. I had the privilege of touring through that country a little while ago. I discussed this very question of tax concessions with the womenfolk there. After all is said and done, if you cannot get the women to go into any part of this country you cannot get the men there. The women are most important in pioneering. When I discussed this subject with the women a lot of them said that tax concessions would not help them. They said that tax concessions would not bring them peace of mind. They said: “Tax concessions will not mean that my child, playing out there will, if injured, have the urgent medical attention that may be necessary to save its life. A tax concession will not help me when my child is away at school for seven, eight or nine months a year because there are no facilities here.”
I do not oppose tax concessions, but I say that they do not touch the most important aspects of development in the north. Steadily, amenities are being provided in the north. The expenditure of the present Western Australian Government on the north for the year 1961-62 was almost double the amount provided in previous years. This money comes from the State’s revenue, its loan funds and its road funds. For the last financial year the amount spent was over £7,000,000 compared to £3,900,000 spent in 1958-59. This expenditure is taking place in the north under the guidance of this Government which, I believe, knows that roads alone will not ensure development, but that something more must go with them. We have to encourage people to go to the north and we have to enable them to live there contentedly. That is the most important aspect of development of this country. I should not like to see women and children, or men for that matter, endure in these times some of the vicissitudes, difficulties and trials endured by our pioneers under the conditions under which they lived. We pay warm tribute to our pioneers for what they did, it is true, but there is no need for Australians to endure similar trials and difficulties in these modern days. I have no doubt that if we can provide proper amenities in northern Australia we shall get people to go there.
These roads for the transport of beef cattle, apart from their effect in increasing the production of cattle and promoting development in the north, will improve the quality of the beef available for export and also for consumption in Western Australia. Cattle will be trucked instead of being driven. As a result, they will arrive at the railhead or at abattoirs in far better con dition than they arrive after being driven. I am very glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his second-reading speech, mentioned that these roads will enable beef cattle to be turned off the producing areas at younger ages. This will assure us of beef of the best quality - baby beef, which is now so much in demand. So, as a result of the development of these roads for the transport of beef cattle, not only will the production of beef be increased, but also the beef produced will be of better quality.
I visited the north and saw what goes on at some of these cattle stations, and I should like to repeat now something that I said in the north: The landholders themselves, in many instances, ought to examine the way they run their properties. That is most important. At one place that I visited I said that animal husbandry involves not only riding about among one’s herds on horseback and moving them from place to place, but also a certain amount of farming which is required to produce food for the animals. One cannot get away from this. I suggest that, hitherto, handholders in many parts of northern Australia have been neglectful of the needs of the soil, with the result that production has not been as high as it could have been. Production will never be as great as it could be unless this oversight is remedied. The Western Australian Department of Agriculture now sends officers on to properties and advises and, in some instances, urges the landholders to put back into the soil some of the nutriment taken from it in the pasturing of their herds. This replenishment of the nutriment of the soil is vital for the future. We must look at the problem in these terms, Sir.
I am pleased at the prospect of more money being spent on development in northern Australia. As I said earlier, encouragement of development there is vital to Australia, for it will bring contentment and peace of mind to the people who already live there and it will encourage others to go there. We can paint a very glowing picture of almost any part of Western Australia, and particularly of the promise and potential of what is known as the Northwest. We can do much to encourage people to settle there. However, I hope that the Treasurer and the Commonwealth and State governments, in looking at those distant fields, will not be unmindful of the needs closer to home in what are known as the agricultural areas of Western Australia - the wheat and sheep districts. Already, in those districts, we have good roads. However, we have also a great problem that is not of such serious proportions in the north - lack of adequate water supplies. Our export earnings from already developed areas could be increased considerably if those areas had reticulated, guaranteed water supplies. We already have a comprehensive water supply scheme in Western Australia, but it needs to be extended. The expansion of that scheme, which is vital to us in that State, would provide water where it is needed and where it will do a tremendous amount of good by enabling us to increase our production of commodities from which we earn export income. This expansion would not cost so many millions of pounds. Furthermore, the provision of adequate water supplies would make life a little happier and a little more comfortable for people who at present live under difficult conditions. So I suggest that we must not lose sight of needs in already developed areas while we look at the glamorous picture of the northern areas which need development.
I hope that a proper order of priorities will be laid down. I know that it is not possible for the Commonwealth Government or the State Government to do immediately everything that is wanted. We have not the money or the resources to do everything at once. Every project must take its turn. The question is: How late is to be the turn of some of the projects that we who have experience and knowledge of already developed districts think ought to appear high on the list of priorities? I commend both the State Government and the Commonwealth Government for what they are doing to develop the north of Western Australia. I am particularly grateful to this Government. However, let us not lose sight of urgent needs in areas other than the north. Let us not overlook the needs of already developed districts while we turn to new fields. Districts that are already developed ought to receive a proper share of money and materials for the projects that such districts need.
I join with previous speakers in commending this Government on what it has done to assist the Western Australian Government to develop the north of the State.
Like the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), I do not mind the Commonwealth requiring that half the cost of works such as the roads provided for in this measure be borne by this State. I always believe that any grant made by the Commonwealth should have no conditions attached to it. Oliver Twist, for example, again and again asked for his porridge bowl to be refilled. I am a little like him. I am always asking for a little more. I am always hopeful that conditions will not be attached to Commonwealth grants and that the State that receives them will not be required to match them. Nevertheless, even when such conditions are attached to a Commonwealth grant, I accept the grant with gratitude. Although I shall always be critical of conditions attached to Commonwealth grants, I give due praise to this Government for its sympathetic understanding of the problems of Western Australia.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) criticized the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) for suggesting that tax concessions in northern Australia would benefit the people resident there. The honorable member for Moore said that residents of the north would not derive much benefit from tax concessions. He may be interested to know that the people of the north do not think as he does. The Northern Rehabilitation Committee wrote to the honorable member for Stirling to compliment him on a question that he asked in this House, requesting the Government to take action to give tax concessions to the people of the north. The committee, in its letter, stated -
My Committee members have asked me to write to you to express their appreciation of your efforts to reawaken Parliamentary interest in its tax incentive scheme, and their hopes that you will continue to try and interest the administrators of our country in what is in their opinion a most vital proposal.
The honorable member for Moore does not want such an incentive to be adopted. He is against such proposals all the time. We on this side of the House are battling to get something for the people in the north and honorable members on the other side are doing their best to knock us over.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– Order! If the honorable member claims to have been misrepresented, he will have to wait until the conclusion of the honorable member’s speech before he makes his explanation.
– There is one thing I must say. You did not have to stop the honorable member for Moore from wandering away from the bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I think he stuck very assiduously to the bill, which makes provision for beef roads; he was talking a lot of bull all the time.
The Australian Labour Party supports the bill because it does give some assistance - unfortunately not much - for the construction and upgrading of roads in the north of Western Australia. The provision of suitable and sufficient roads in the north, like all other northern development projects, is very important and should be pushed ahead with all possible speed and all possible finance. The passing of this bill will mean that a very limited amount of work will be carried out, when the amount of road work that will actually be done is measured against the amount that is required in the area.
There is no doubt that the amount made available in the bill is completely inadequate. It will not go very far towards providing a really worthwhile road system. A good road system is part of the development of the north, and we believe that the Government has adopted an unrealistic attitude generally towards the financing of projects for the development of the north. The Government has either a complete lack of knowledge or a complete lack of concern about these projects. If carried out correctly and quickly, the development of the north would mean much not only to Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory but to Australia as a whole. It would mean an early expansion of industry, an increase of productivity and an increase of population. We want this now, not in the dim future.
Water and transport are two of the most important requirements in the development of the north. The provision of one is not of much use without the provision of the other. The provision of good and sufficient roads in the north of Western Australia is necessary to help overcome a serious transport problem, and a much larger amount should have been made available by the Commonwealth.
The bill provides total assistance of £2,950,000 spread over four years at the rate of £700,000 for 1962-63 and £750,000 for each of the following three years. The provision of £700,000 for 1962-63 was mentioned in the Budget which was introduced in August. Therefore, the only additional amounts being granted are the amounts of £750,000 for each of the ensuing three years. However, the bill also contains a provision which is completely wrong and which places an unnecessary obstacle in the way of development. The State of Western Australia must spend on northern roads above the 20th parallel of latitude an amount equal to the total amount provided in the bill. This immediately delays the whole proposition. It means that development work in the north will be measured against the finances of the State instead of against the finances of the Commonwealth. It would not be difficult for the State to find work on which to spend the money and £750,000 a year will not make much impression on the rugged and tough areas where it will be used in the Kimberleys.
The upgrading of one road will cost £3,000,000 at the rate of £4,500 a mile, and the upgrading of another will cost £2,000,000 at the rate of £7,500 a mile. Then two bridges, each estimated to cost £500,000, will be needed. It can be seen that £750,000 will not go very far on work of this nature. I do not think that the £1 for £1 basis should be applied to a project that means so much to Australia. The Government has failed to accept its responsibility. It should have carried out a proper investigation of all the problems and the requirements of the northern development programme. Instead of this, it is adopting a hit-and-miss approach to the whole problem. The Government long ago should have placed itself in a position where it would know approximately how much money was required to bring the northern development programme to a successful conclusion. It should have found out how much work had to be done and what work should be carried out each year.
It should have found out how much finance y/as required each year and how much benefit would flow from the work that had to be done.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) should be able to give the Parliament a complete picture of what is to be done, how it will be done and what it will cost. He should also be able to say how much finance will be made available each year to meet the cost of the work, irrespective of whether the States can match the grants. Instead of a complete picture, we are given a few vague comments about where the roads will be and what areas they will service. If this Government honestly believes in the development of the north, it should make the finance available and not delay development if the Western Australian Government is unable to match the Commonwealth grant.
Development of the north is a national matter and should be handled on a national basis. The sooner roads are constructed in the north, the sooner Australia - not simply Western Australia but the whole of Australia - will benefit from the consequent increase in our export income. Surely no one would disagree with me when I say that we need to increase our export income. It seems to me that the Government has deliberately introduced the £1 for £1 basis simply to avoid making available the large sums of money that will be needed to provide sufficient roads in the north of Western Australia.
The Government is well aware of the effect of the £1 for £1 basis on Western Australia. It knows that this will immediately limit the amount of work that will be done. The amount of work done will depend upon the amount of money that the Western Australian Government can provide. The Treasurer claims that the amount provided in the bill is the amount proposed by Western Australia. If that is so, it means that the Liberal Government of Western Australia, knowing the very shaky position of this Government, either would not or was told not to ask for any greater sum or to put on any show that would embarrass this Government. If this is not so, then the 50-50 basis was thrown at the Western Australian Government immediately and the Western Australian Govern ment was not given any alternative but to accept it.
I believe the 50-50 basis was the deciding factor because, bad as the Liberal Government of Western Australia is, I do not think it would be behind the door in trying to get as much money as it could for work in the north of Western Australia. If the State representatives were told emphatically that the Commonwealth would only match whatever the State could raise, the State representatives would be immediately forced into the position of either accepting the proposal or not receiving any grant. Here we have a proposition for development of the north that is dependent on the financial position of a State. When this situation applies to a huge State like Western Australia, with its small population and heavy financial commitments due to its large area, development of the north must be seriously retarded. This is a completely wrong approach to the problem. Development of the north, because of its importance to the Commonwealth, should be limited only by the financial limitations of the Commonwealth.
The Opposition has previously commented on the Government’s failure to set up an authority to report on the development of the north. The construction and improvement of roads is a very important element in the development of the north. The Government long ago should have set up an authority to handle the development of the north as a complete programme. Northern development should not be handled in a slap-dash, stop-and-go or haphazard manner as it is being handled to-day. We on this side of the House are not alone in the opinions we hold. Several very important people in Australia support our view that an independent authority should be established to promote the development of the north. I propose to quote from the March, 1961, edition of the Commerce-Industrial and Mining Review under the heading, “North-West Development “. It states -
No North Australian development plan was realistic unless it took in the entire North, Commonwealth Banking Corporation chairman Warren D. McDonald told a Sydney Legacy luncheon on March 9.
The fact that the problems of implementing such a plan were not insoluble must be faced by the governments of Western Australia and Queensland and the Federal administration.
European countries were moulding together to solve some of their problems. Only a unified Northern Australia could hope to attain the highest possible degree of economic development.
If the development of Northern Australia was to progress quickly and satisfactorily, the two major needs were all-weather roads and the creation of an independent developmental authority. “The transport problems of the North are brought home,” Mr. McDonald said, “ when you realise that 80 per cent, of the 500,000 cattle in the Kimberleys are placed more than 100 miles from Broome, Wyndham and Derby, the only ports.”
It was not necessary for a vast network of roads to be built all at once, but main arterial roads had to be planned and built, unhindered by State boundaries, if the North was to flourish.
An independent developmental authority - unworried by legal, local government and municipal problems - should be set up to plan and carry out the development of North Australia.
It should be on the lines of the Snowy Mountains Authority with no other terms of reference than to develop North Australia - and develop it quickly. The Snowy Mountains Authority, led by Sir William Hudson, had done a magnificent job over a period of 11 years. “For the North,” Mr. McDonald said, “I say form a similar authority . . .”
The following report appeared in the “ West Australian “ of 18th September, 1962, under the heading, “ Commission to Develop North Urged”:-
The need to develop Australia’s North was a national responsibility of the highest priority, the Associated Chambers of Commerce said to-day.
The chambers urged the Commonwealth to establish a northern Australian commission in association with the Queensland and W.A. Governments to begin planning long-term development.
I now quote from an article which appeared in the “West Australian” on 15th November, 1962, under the heading “Transport is the North’s Biggest Problem “. This matter was referred to by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). The article reads -
Hit-or-miss methods have dominated the planning of North-West development in the past, according to W.A. University economist Dr. Alex Kerr.
The planning was too piecemeal, too much from year-to-year. There is still no clear, overall economic picture of how long-term development money should be spent most profitably.
He says the recent appointment of a NorthWest administrator is a step in the right direction - but much more remains to be done. For instance, he urges a research programme to show the relative benefits from investment in the North against investment in other regions.
A committee of citizens of the North also is needed, he says, to provide expert private opinion and to act as s unifying force - a united voice.
Nationally, he supports moves for an overall planning authority for all northern Australia.
His concern about lack of overall planning is expressed most strongly on transport - the North’s biggest problem . . . but there is no evidence of a co-ordinated, overall approach to the transport problem.
Without a penetrating analysis of the whole system, financial priorities for development will be by rule of thumb - not on the basis of sound economic investment.
It is clear that the Labour Party has ample support for its claim that an authority should be set up to deal with the problem of northern development. The Government’s attitude may perhaps best be gauged by studying the remarks of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate.). A report which appeared in the “ West Australian “, on 10th August, 1962, caused a good deal of concern to many people in Western Australia who were worried about the Government’s attitude towards financing development of the north. The report reads -
The first thing to do in a programme for the advancement of Northern Australia was to find people who wanted to go there, Mr. Bate (Lib., N.S.W.) told the House of Representatives today. “ What we want is not so much large sums of money but the human spirit that is willing to try,” he said. “ Morale is the important factor, not money,” Mr. Bate said.
At about that time the honorable member for Macarthur made a similar statement when he was in the north of Western Australia. He was there as chairman of the Government’s Food and Agriculture Committee, so I suppose it is competent for us to assume that what he was saying had the backing of the Government - in other words, that the Government does not think that the expenditure of large sums of money is required in the north. The honorable member’s statement is supported by the roads plan that we now have before us because the Government is not proposing to spend large amounts of money on this work. The Government should not be content to hand out £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 for this work. The Government should guarantee that considerable sums of money will be made available over a given period of time. The amount may be £40,000,000, £50,000,000 or £60,000,000, spread over ten, fifteen or twenty years. Nobody in this House knows just how much money is required, for the simple reason that we have not been told by the Government how much is required. We have not had a report from any investigating authority telling us how much is required successfully to develop the north.
Before deciding to spend money it is always wise to be sure that you will get a decent return from your investment. I do not think we need to worry about the return from investing in the north. I have travelled extensively through the north, and I am satisfied that we shall get a good return from it provided a developmental programme is carried out. First, more cattle will be bred and more will be sold. It is not necessary to state the advantages to people in the industry of good roads and transport. Anybody who knows anything about the north will know what good roads and transport will mean to people engaged in the cattle industry, notwithstanding the extra cost involved in transporting their cattle by road. That extra cost will be more than offset by the fact that the cattle will be transported without as much loss and damage as is the case now.
It has been estimated that the changes taking place in the Kimberleys will mean an increase in the turn-off of cattle from 62,000 in 1960-61 to 116,000 in 1970-71. It is estimated that by 1980-81 the total turn-off may be 150,000 head of cattle. Apart from this it is thought that the Ord River irrigation area should be capable of fattening 66,000 cattle annually when it is fully developed. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) said that it is expected that the road programme will lead to the utilization of an additional 5,000,000 acres of land in the north Kimberley area. So we will have an increase of 88,000 in the number of cattle in the area over that period, bringing the total to one and a half times the present number. There is no doubt that if more water is conserved in that part of the State - I refer particularly to the Margaret River, the Fitzroy River and the Ord River development - a terrific number of cattle will be able to be fattened in the area and that will build up the income from that source.
In the near future the cattle industry will run second as a producer of income in that area. There is no doubt in my mind that it will not be long before the minerals industry hits the front as a producer of in come. It may be of interest to honorable members to know that up to December, 1961, the value of mineral production in Western Australia totalled £557,500,000. Gold accounted for £457,000,000 and asbestos for £11,000,000. The asbestos industry at Wittenoom Gorge is situated about 170 miles from the port of Roebourne and is about 600 miles from the nearest bitumen on the road to Perth. Surely the roads in that area should be sealed. All the freights from the Wittenoom Gorge mines have to be carted to Roebourne over soil roads and the cost of transport, particularly in the wet months as at present, is considerably higher than it would be if the roads were sealed. That applies generally to the northwest of Western Australia. The honorable member for Swan told the House that the people of the north said these roads were good. I agree that they have served their purpose up to this stage, but until now they have not had to stand up to continual heavy traffic. When those roads carry that heavy traffic they will develop big bulldust holes in the dry weather or bog holes in the wet weather and the cost of maintenance will be considerably higher than one would expect. There is a good case for all those roads to be sealed as quickly as possible in order to avoid maintenance costs which will be a heavy burden on the State. The production of manganese in Western Australia has been worth £6,500,000 and the value of production of iron ore has reached £11,330,000. The areas where those minerals are produced are entitled to have good roads for the transport of that freight.
It is a great pity that when the last Labour Premier of Western Australia applied for permission to export iron ore this Government once more knocked him back. Had that permission been granted Western Australia would have been three years further ahead with the production of iron ore and mines still in the exploratory stage would have been in production. Tin to the value of £3,000,000 and silver to the value of £2,000,000 have also been produced in Western Australia. We have recently been told that known reserves of iron ore and mines still in the exporatory to 8,000,000,000 tons, which is sufficient to meet the world’s needs for twenty years and Australia’s requirements for 1,400 years at current rates of consumption. Those figures give some idea of the value of Western Australia’s minerals. There is no doubt that the Kimberleys, where the roads are to be built or upgraded, hold Western Australia’s greatest mineral wealth. That area will remain inaccessible unless roads are put in. Companies or people cannot be expected to go there unless there is provision for road transport. Roads are not the only requirement in the north. Water is still one of the big problems. In that part of the State both roads and water conservation must be provided. Until we get permanent water supplies and the water of the rivers is stored we will not derive the true value that can be got from the provision of roads in the north-west.
At present there is an abundance of labour available to carry out the necessary work in that area. I think that when the last census was taken 3,000 males were registered for work in Western Australia. That is only the number registered and if we take into consideration those not registered and youths leaving school I think there would be at least 4,000 males now available for work in Western Australia. A large percentage of them would be people suitable for work on roads or water development. In the course of his second-reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said -
As I mentioned in my Budget speech last August, the Government has in recent years agreed to assist State governments with a number of special developmental projects which are designed to increase export earnings -
That is right, and I think it is a very good point. He continued - and which will contribute to the development of outlying areas of the Commonwealth, with particular reference to the north and north-west of Australia. Roads to facilitate the transport of beef cattle in northern areas have a prominent place in these special assistance measures.
I underline the words, “ special assistance measures “. If the money which the Government is providing under this bill is the best it can do, it seems that the amount of money that will be made available to us to carry out the rest of the work which remains to be done in Western Australia will be pretty miserable. We support the bill, but we say that the money being made available under it is not sufficient and that such assistance should not be provided on the basis of the State having to provide a matching amount.
Whilst that principle prevails the development of Western Australia’s northern areas will be retarded because the work will be subject to the availability not of Commonwealth finance but State finance.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard). At the commencement of his speech he said that I either objected to tax concessions for the people of the north or failed to support them. What I did say - I want it to go on record - is that the tax concessions do not compensate people in the north for the absence of amenities such as educational and medical facilities and hospitalization; and that the women in the north, in particular, would far rather have those amenities than the tax concessions, because they want peace of mind. That is what I said. At no time did I say I would oppose or refuse to support tax concessions.
.- Although the debate has centred on the subject of northern development and the possibility of the establishment of a northern development commission or some such organization, the object of the bill is to provide £700,000 this financial year for the construction of beef roads in the north-west. Members on both sides of the House have expressed their support for the bill. Before dealing with the subject of beef roads I want to refer to the speech of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard). He made a number of critical comments about the contributions that this Government is making to the development of the States and those it has made in the past. First of all he referred to the fact of the States being put in the position of having to match £1 for £1 the contribution made by the Commonwealth Government. As he may not have seen it I refer him to a publication prepared by the Government of Western Australia entitled, “Break Through in the Kimberley”, which outlines some of these projects. The publication states -
The State Government has submitted to the Commonwealth a plan to build or up-grade 1,360 miles of Kimberley roads at a cost of £8,000,000. The plan envisages six major projects.
These six major projects are outlined and, for the information of the House and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie I point out that the cost of these projects is to be shared between the State and Commonwealth governments. So this in fact is a submission from the State Government.
Also we have noticed in this debate, and particularly from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, a criticism once again of too little too late. This criticism crops up time and time again. Some one else says that the development is too slow. I just make the point that the Labour Party has had its opportunities. Admittedly it has not been in office for a long time in this Parliament, but a party of a similar political colour in Western Australia has had opportunities to do something very real and practical in this field. I think we have sufficient basis for coming to some conclusions about what the Labour Party has done and it compares most unfavourably with the work of the Liberal-Country Party Commonwealth Government and also of the State Liberal Government in Western Australia.
The allocation for roads in the development of the north-west as a percentage of the total main roads fund under a Labour government in Western Australia was as little as 12 per cent, in 1957-58 and 12.4 per cent, in 1958-59. Since the Brand Government has been in office, this allocation has risen to 17.1 per cent, in 1959-60 and to 27.1 per cent, in 1961-62. The State Labour Government of that day had its opportunity to do something very real and practical, but obviously it did not do it. I refer also to expenditure from consolidated revenue on the north-western Kimberleys. This is expressed as a percentage of total expenditure. Under the Hawke Government, in 1957-58 it was 3.09 per cent.; during the period of the Brand Government it has risen from 3.55 per cent, in 1959-60 to 4.09 per cent, in 1962-63. Once again I think this gives the lie to the contentions of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. Similar figures may be cited in regard to loan expenditure in Western Australia for development of the north-western Kimberleys, and again this is expressed as a percentage of total expenditure. Under the Hawke Government it was 7.66 per cent, in 1957-58,’ and 4.67 per cent, in 1958-59; during the Brand Government’s period of office, the expenditure has been 5.25 per cent, in 1959-60, rising to 10.13 per cent, in 1961- 62, and it is estimated to be 9.17 per cent, in 1962-63. So I think that disposes fairly effectively of the line of argument adopted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
I recall that twelve or fifteen months ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in a television interview said, when this question of northern development was brought to his notice, that the Labour Party if returned to office would provide £60,000,000 for development of the north. When this matter was pursued and he was asked how he would spend it he said it would be spent in damming the rivers. Damming the rivers! I leave that to honorable members to ponder. No other party in Australia at this stage has suggested that the initial work for the development of the north should take the form of damming the rivers, but rather the construction of roads and, in particular, beef roads to provide an outlet for the produce of that country. However, the Leader of the Opposition indicated also that he was not prepared, and would not be prepared, to spend the £60,000,000 in the first year; he said a Labour government would start at a very much lower figure and gradually build up to £60,000,000. I direct the attention of the House to the fact that as was outlined by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in his statement of 27th September last, the comprehensive scheme for Commonwealth financial assistance will total £13,000,000 for beef roads in broad areas of northern Australia. This expenditure would, I think, represent a fairly large proportion of that which may have been envisaged by the Leader of the Opposition in his television interview twelve months ago.
The proposals in respect of beef roads are being supported on both sides of the House, and I shall deal with the project fairly briefly, but in so doing it is my intention to examine some of the important considerations which are involved in the proposed legislation. I say they are important because I believe that there are certain principles which could well provide a lesson for certain other parties interested in the provision of Commonwealth finances.
In the first place the Government has recognized the need for the establishment of these roads, adequate for heavy haulage under, in some instances, most difficult conditions, as a means of obtaining some very desirable objectives. Some of these conditions have already been mentioned - the flooding, the difficulties of obtaining materials, and the dust problem, which is a very real one. I digress at this point because reference has been made to the sealing of roads and we have been asked why the Government has not done something about this. I think this displays some slight ignorance of road construction. Surely there are members of this House who have had sufficient experience of local government to know that the up-grading of roads means improvement to the stage where they can be sealed. Obviously what is intended is that these roads will be consolidated sufficiently to allow sealing to take place.
The desirable objective is the opening up of a vast area of north-western Australia - an area which, I remind the House, includes a little more than half of Western Australia and extends over something like 500,000 square miles. Road development will enable the adoption of a much improved transport system and will allow access to an area north of the King Leopold ranges. I made mention of the fact that in the past two stations in this area, Mount House and Glenroy, have relied for the transport of their carcass meat on Air Beef. This, over the long term, has proved uneconomic. Now, road transport will be available to them when the roads are pushed through the King Leopold ranges. This involves development in its most original and basic form and might well rank in importance, in my view, with the advent of the aeroplane into these areas, with the pedal wireless and flying doctor service. Certainly the scope and magnitude of the work will give a far greater emphasis to expansionary moves in those areas than any one or ali of those earlier developments put together. Development in the town of Derby in recent years verifies this contention.
It is true that to Australia as a whole transport is fundamental, but whereas in the southern areas it is almost axiomatic that the provision of main roads is a paying proposition, in the north this has yet to be completely proved. But returns already flowing in from work already carried out north of the 26th parallel are promising. So it becomes all-important, particularly in Australia with the enormous and pressing demands being made for development all over the country, that great expenditures such as are envisaged in this plan of the Commonwealth and State governments combined, shall not be undertaken simply for the sake of having roads, nor to provide a sop to those who raise the popular cry, “ Develop the north “, yet know little of the problems that are involved.
The facilities to be provided will not only make possible expanded production and better production, they will also provide great encouragement for the expansion and improvement of production. In a recent survey and analysis, which has already been referred to by my colleague, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), Dr. Kerr directed particular attention to transport needs. He pointed out that these should be considered from the viewpoint of sound economic investment. We should, therefore, look at what has been achieved as a result of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State.
The Minister for National Development said in a statement made on 27th September this year, to which I have already referred, that the number of cattle transported to the Wyndham meat works increased from nil in 1960 to more than 11,000 in 1962, and it has been suggested by Dr. Kerr that by 1975 the Kimberley turn-off of cattle will have increased to about one and a half times the present annual level of 65,000 head. At the same time, there will be a very significant improvement in quality and a quicker turnover of stock. I suggest that whereas fiveyearold beasts are now being sold, in the future the cattle sold could be threeyearolds. It has also been estimated that the costs of road transport of cattle are about four times the costs of droving, but I believe that these extra costs will be more than offset by the gains resulting from a more economic return. I have given the
House some figures showing the amounts of money spent on the development of the northern part of Western Australia. These figures are fairly striking, but the value of the expenditure is clearly shown by the population growth in the area, which was referred to by the honorable member for Swan. The population is increasing by 3.5 per cent, annually, which is a greater increase than that for the other parts of the State.
There has been some mild criticism, possibly aroused by envy, both in this place and outside it, of the treatment that Western Australia is receiving by way of grants for development, it being suggested that Western Australia is being favoured at the expense of other States. Honorable members should know what the Western Australian Government itself has done and is doing in the matter of development. The State Government has produced sound arguments in its negotiations, and it has shown complete faith in the projects it has submitted by being prepared to match the grant of £500,000 given by the Commonwealth for beef roads last year, and also to match the Commonwealth’s contribution during the following four-year period, which will bring the total Commonwealth grant over five years to £3,450,000. The State has not sat idly by and cried to the Commonwealth for assistance. It has gone out and helped itself. It has initiated action. As has already been mentioned, it has appointed a full-time administrator for the north-west, with head-quarters in Derby in the west Kimberleys, to plan and co-ordinate efforts for development.
It should be appreciated also that the Main Roads Department in Western Australia is spending about a quarter of its income in the north, in an area in which the population represents only about 2 per cent, of the total population of the State. Obviously the Western Australian Government believes, as the Commonwealth believes, that there is great scope for the development of exports of meat and minerals, and perhaps eventually of tropical agricultural products. Undoubtedly the action taken by the Commonwealth Government in recent times to co-operate with the States in providing funds for beef roads, harbour works, irrigation projects and the development of the brigalow coun try represents the greatest contribution yet made by any Commonwealth government to northern Australian development. The Government deserves the greatest praise for its enterprise. At the same time, however, I must say that it would be very easy these days, when it has become fashionable to advocate northern development, to lose sight of the needs of other areas of the States or to give them too low a priority. I merely say at this stage that the north is not the only area in which funds are sorely needed for development. Nor is it the only area in which the expenditure of Government money could do a great deal to increase export opportunities. There may well come a time when we will need to remind ourselves of the need to consolidate what we already have, in areas in .which production, for various reasons, may be far more economic. This consideration, I have no doubt, will assume greater importance as overseas trading conditions become more competitive, as we may well expect them to do. However, no one can deny the necessity for the value of what is proposed in this bill to provide funds for Western Australian beef roads, and therefore, and particularly as a Western Australian country member, I am very pleased to give the measure my wholehearted support.
– The Opposition supports this bill. We are pleased to see that something has been done to give recognition to the great importance of the beef industry to Australia. There is no doubt that the beef industry is becoming increasingly important from the point of view of Australia’s export earnings, and unless we seize the opportunity to help the industry generally we may easily find yet another source of overseas income slipping away from us into the hands of some other country. If we are to succeed in maintaining and expanding our beef export trade, we must do more in the way of the provision of beef roads than we have been doing in the past. It is of no use to help just one State or two States, as the Government has evidently decided to do. It is of no use to decide to help Western Australia and Queensland with beef roads when it is known that the Northern Territory and South Australia also have a great need for the development of beef roads.
It is with a great deal of disappointment that, as a South Australian, I find that the Government has completely overlooked the two areas that I have mentioned. I suggest the Government should find time to study the annual report of the South Australian Department of Lands, which was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on 30th October. This report was referred to in an article in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ on 31st October, in these terms: -
The lack of any substantial progress during the year towards the development of the State’s strategic beef cattle roads is recorded “ with regret “ by the Pastoral Board in the annual report of the South Australian Department of Lands.
It was pointed out that South Australia would require only about £500,000 to give it a fairly good opportunity of dealing with problems of the development and improvement of beef cattle roads. The Adelaide “ Advertiser “, a journal not noted for advanced ideas, has made the very good point, which has often been made by the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford - and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) may have heard him make it on one or two occasions - that during four years in which the Commonwealth has approved £131,000,000 in special grants, South Australia’s share has been 1 per cent. What can one think of a government that treats a particular State in that fashion?
The honorable member for Canning (Mr. McNeill) spoke of some States crying about not getting assistance from the Commonwealth, and he said that if those States would show a little initiative they would get over their problems. He said that in Western Australia there is a government that shows initiative, and that it is for this reason that it has received this grant. Does he suggest that Sir Thomas Playford is lacking in initiative? If so, I would not altogether disagree with him.
– You and I are agreed on one thing - that Sir Thomas does not lack initiative.
– I have not agreed wilh that. I said that I am in some doubt whether South Australia’s treatment in the way of special grants has been due to Sir Thomas’s lack of initiative or to the failure of the Liberal Party members of this Parliament from South Australia to put the viewpoint of their State, as they are
F.10746/62.- R.- 11051
supposed to do when elected to the national Parliament. We find a somewhat interesting conflict of viewpoint here.
– I think you are digressing now.
– No, I am not.
– You are pretty wide of the bill.
– It has a lot to do with the bill because I am trying to explain-
– It is wide of the bill.
– The honorable member for Perth might have been Speaker of the House had it not been for the Government’s narrow majority. The present Speaker received a knighthood and the Speakership as well. Until the honorable member succeeds in his ambition to become Speaker of the House he must remain quiet and allow the Speaker to adjudicate on the question of whether I am wide of the bill. I submit that I am very much within the ambit of the bill.
The Adelaide “Advertiser” of 2nd November, 1962, reported Mr. R. J. McAuley, a member of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers executive committee in South Australia as having said -
An incredible indifference towards the future of South Australia’s beef industry appeared to have overtaken South Australia’s representatives in the Federal Parliament.
Mr. McAuley went on to say that a report had estimated that a mere £436,000 was needed to put 984 miles of South Australia’s four main beef cattle roads into usable condition. That seems to me to be a small amount of money for the Commonwealth to find to meet this crying need. Mr. McAuley’s statement was too much for the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), and on 3rd November, 1962, this representative of the Adelaide Club, who seems to be such an expert on all things rural, is reported in the “ Advertiser “ of that date in this way -
-C.L.) described Mr. McAuley’s allegation that South Australian members of Federal Parliament had not been as active in the matter as Queensland members as “foolish and made without knowledge of the facts”.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable gentleman has said, “ Hear, hear! “ but I have not finished quoting Mr. McAuley’s remarks. On 5th November, 1962, he returned to the attack and is reported in the “ Advertiser “ of that date in these terms -
South Australian Liberal members still appeared to be indifferent to the future of South Australia’s beef industry, Mr. McAuley said. He had noted that Dr. Forbes (L.C.L.) had described his remarks as “foolish and made without knowledge of the facts”. Mr. McAuley said that actually he was not blaming Dr. Forbes, nor has he sought his help. “ 1 had completely overlooked the fact that he is one of our federal parliamentary representatives”, Mr. McAuley said.
So does every one else overlook the fact because if one reads the speeches of the honorable member for Barker and tries to relate them to anything that is of any benefit to South Australia one can be pardoned for not knowing that the honorable member supposedly represents South Australia in this chamber. I cannot remember the honorable gentleman making a speech that was noteworthy and which had a predominantly South Australian flavour.
I shall conclude shortly, as I promised the Treasurer I would, but first let me read the report of another reference by Mr. McAuley to South Australia’s Liberal representatives. He is reported in the “ Advertiser “ of 5th November as follows: -
It was South Australia’s three Liberal senators to whom South Australia’s northern people looked and who, having been approached, promised to try to get the £500,000 that was being sought for beef roads in this State. “ We feel that they have not sufficiently emphasized South Australia’s claims “, he said. “ We protest that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics report is itself the foundation of our case for increased beef exports.”
Then he referred to a comment by Senator Nancy Buttfield, who also is an expert on all things of this nature. He added -
We have never sought sealed roads, only reasonably navigable dirt roads.
It would be unfortunate if the honorable senator thought that they required sealed roads because she is a rather erudite person.
There is South Australia’s case stated for the first time, to my knowledge, in this place. I am pleased that the Treasurer came into the chamber especially to hear it. I hope that, as a consequence of what I have said, he will study these reports and that the next time he is considering legislation to assist beef roads he will consider our case more favorably than he did on the last occasion. No doubt he could be pardoned for believing that there is not an urge for beef cattle roads in South Australia. He is entitled to assume that as South Australian Liberal members have never bothered to raise the matter no one else is worried about it. I have raised the matter now so there is no excuse for him to continue ignoring South Australia’s requirements.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) each speaking for a period not exceeding 45 minutes, on the motion to approve of the distribution of the State of New South Wales into electoral divisions.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 2727), on motion by Mr. Freeth-
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of New South Wales into Electoral Divisions as proposed by. Messrs. F. L. Ley, C. E. Elphinstone and R. F. Malton, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the House of Representatives on the 4th day of October, 1962, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ Cook “ be substituted for “ Stewart “ and the name “ Kurnell “ be substituted for “ Cronulla “.
– Mr. Speaker, I move -
That all words after “ Representatives “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ (1.) disapproves of the distribution of the State of New South Wales as proposed by the commissioners, and requests the Minister to return the same to the commission with a view to a fresh distribution being made of the State; “ (2) points out that the commissioners were not authorized by section nineteen of the Commonwealth Electoral Act to give consideration to possible movements in population; “ (3) is of opinion that the number of seats should not be reduced, and requests the Government to hold a referendum to amend the Constitution with respect to Commonwealth legislative machinery as recommended by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review; and “ (4) expresses the view that a fresh distribution should not be made until the Representation Act has been amended so as to restore at least the seat lost in each instance to the States of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia under the present distribution, and to provide an additional seat to the State of South Australia.”.
Sir, we invite the House to disapprove of the distribution of electoral boundaries in the State of New South Wales on the four counts which I have enumerated. In the first place we want a fresh distribution made of electoral boundaries in the State of New South Wales because, in some cases, under the present proposals, electorates will have only 34,000 or 35,000 electors, whilst others will have 80,000 electors. Obviously, the Parliament is not representative when some members are elected by too few electors and other members are elected by twice as many electors. It cannot be said that we are opposed to the principle of a fresh distribution. However, in our view, the electoral commissioners were in error in the proposed distribution that is before us. Section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act states -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
Community or diversity of interest.
Means of communication,
Existing boundaries of Divisions and Sub divisions,
State Electoral boundaries; and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
I emphasize the words - the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary . . .
In the proposed variation of New South Wales electoral boundaries, the commissioners have departed from the quota in the case of every one of the 45 electorates. If honorable members will look at the report of the commissioners they will find that in only four electorates of the 45 is the figure “48,000” stated beside the name of the electorate, and in only one case, the division of Banks, is the figure anywhere approximate to the quota. In this case of Banks the figure is 48,301 and the quota is 48,363. In every other case the figures vary from 41,000 in the case of the division of Darling to 52,945 in the case of the division of East Sydney. In the extrametropolitan seats the figure rises as high as 52,163 in the case of the division of Newcastle. But the position is even worse than is indicated by those figures.
As I have said, the figure for the division of East Sydney is 52,945, but in the case of the division of Reid it is 47,175. The figure for the division of Phillip is 52,961, and for the division of North Sydney it is 50,423. In some cases the figure is 11 per cent, or 10 per cent, above the quota and in some cases it is 5 per cent, below. In other cases, it is considerably below the quota. For the division of Darling the figure is about 17 per cent, or 18 per cent, below the quota as provided for in the Commonwealth Electoral Act as it exists at the present time. If I might digress, in the case of the bigger electorates, provision of this sort has been made. The six biggest electorates in Australia are Darling in New South Wales, Maranoa, Leichhardt and Kennedy in Queensland, Grey in South Australia and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. In all those cases, the allowance has been between 18 and 20 per cent. The area of those electorates ranges from 120,000 square miles to as much as 800,000 square miles; yet what has been done complies with the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
There is no provision in the Electoral Act, however, that the population of the electorate of East Sydney must be 1 1 per cent, higher than that of the electorate of Reid or of the electorate of Werriwa or of some other Sydney electorate. In my view, the metropolitan electorates of Sydney should have more or less the same number of electors. The Government has decided - and I think rightly so - because of the increase in population which is taking place, that a census shall be held every five years, not every ten years. That being so, any discrepancies that occur in five years can be looked after in the redistribution that follows the succeeding census. The present electoral commissioners were appointed when it was expected that the next census would take place ten years hence. I have a suspicion that they took no notice of the Government’s decision that the next census would take place in five years, and that they worked on the principle that it would take place ten years hence. Otherwise, I cannot explain the very marked discrepancies between divisions in the Sydney metropolitan area and those in certain country areas which are called extra-metropolitan seats.
I know it is argued that what is now proposed is in conformity with a practice that has gone on for years. So it is, but I am satisfied that it is not a very good practice, because no longer are the inner areas of the great metropolises of Australia being pulled down, resulting in people shifting out to other areas and great industrial empires being built up where homes used to exist. That movement is now being reversed and people are moving back to the inner city areas where some years ago factories arose. In these areas big blocks of flats are now being built. In Melbourne, 26-story blocks of flats are being built in certain areas. But no allowance has been made by the distribution commissioners for this sort of development in Sydney, in Melbourne, in Brisbane or in other places.
Due allowance has not been made for the fact that, under our immigration scheme, more and more people are coming into Australia and that there is, if I may use the term, a great reservoir of future citizens who are waiting to be naturalized and who will be naturalized in the next five years.
I am satisfied that a number of these inner areas that are expected to lose population in the next five years will not do so, but, at the end of that period, will have more people than they have now. I am satisfied, also, that the allowance made by the distribution commissioners in favour of some of the new outer metropolitan areas of our capital cities has been wrongly made. If all the factors are not to be considered, then none of the factors should be considered. But no factor ought to be considered unless an act of Parliament specifically states that it shall be considered.
I have just dealt with the second proposition which we state. The third proposition, Sir, is that the number of seats in the House of Representatives should not be reduced. We ask the Government to hold a referendum on a proposal that the Constitution be amended, so that the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives can be broken and so that whenever there are 80,000 people, anywhere in Australia or the equivalent of 46,000 electors, a seat shall be created and a new member elected to this House to represent them. I think that broadly is the principle that operates in the United Kingdom at present. In Australia, we have this provision that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as is practicable twice the number of members of the Senate. This is one of the legacies that we received from our founding fathers. I suppose that they thought that this was a proper provision to make. However, there is no provision in any State constitution that requires the number of members of the lower House to be tied to the size of the upper House. Queensland, fortunately, has no Legislative Council. I wish there was none in any State.
In this Parliament, we can increase the size of the House of Representatives only if we first increase the size of the Senate, and, for all practical purposes, we have to increase the size of the Senate by four senators for each State. We could not, for all practical purposes, increase its size by less. While the Senate is elected on the system of proportional representation, we must have five, or seven or nine senators retiring at each election. We must have odd numbers to be elected. So we must have ten, or fourteen or eighteen senators from each State. This means that if we were ia increase the size of the Senate in order to permit an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives, we would have to have 24 more senators in order to get 48 more members of the House of Representatives. I do not think that that is a practical proposition. I was responsible more than anybody else, I think, for the increase in the size of the Parliament in 1949. I was responsible more than anybody else for the adoption of the system of proportional representation for Senate elections. But I would not want to increase the size of the Senate any further. The joint committee which inquired into the Constitution unanimously recommended that the size of the Senate remain at 60 members and that the number of members in the House of Representatives be increased from time to time so that for every additional 46,000 electors throughout Australia there should be an additional member in this chamber.
We have at present 122 members in this House with full voting rights. Under the redistribution proposals - only that for New South Wales is now before us - we shall have in the Twenty-fifth Parliament only 120 members of this House with full voting rights. After the redistribution in 1948, when the population was 7,551,211, and the electors numbered 4,803,887, we had 121 members with full voting rights. In 1955, when the population had grown to 8,934,082 and the number of electors to 5,130,501, we had 122 members with full voting rights. The population had increased to 10,415,654 and the number of electors to 5,688,357 at 30th June, 1961, and we are now told that we shall have only 120 members with full voting rights. Between the redistribution of electoral boundaries in 1948 and the 1961 census, on which the present proposals are based, the population of the Commonwealth increased by 2,846,443; yet the House of Representatives is to have two members fewer. At 30th June last, the population was 10,705,121, already more than 200,000 greater than at the census taken on 30th June, 1961.
– The situation is plain stupid.
– The situation seems to be quite ridiculous and Gilbertian. The
Government is not blameworthy over this. The distribution commissioners are not blameworthy over it. We have a constitution which is very restrictive in its operations. As I said in Wagga Wagga the other evening, there are many people who think that the politicians of more than 60 years ago ought to be revered and that the politicians of to-day ought to be reviled. My regard for the Constitution stops far short of idolatry. I think it needs amendment - and drastic amendment. So I recommend to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that we amend it immediately.
Coming back to New South Wales, we find that this is the State that suffers worst under the present extraordinary situation. In 1948, New South Wales had a population of 3,149,806, of whom 1,916,746 were electors. It had 47 seats in this House and a quota of 40,016 electors for each seat. In 1955, the population had grown to 3,423,529 and the number of electors to 1,996,381, but, in the redistribution of electoral boundaries in that year, the number of New South Wales seats in this place was reduced to 46 and the electoral quota was increased to 43,482. In 1962, the population is about 500,000 greater, at 3,917,016, and the number of electors has increased to 2,176,320. But the number of seats is to be reduced again by one, to 45, and the electoral quota has been raised to 48,363. Over the period from 1948 to 1962, the population of New South Wales has increased by 767,210 and the number of electors by approximately 259,574; yet the State will have lost two seats in this House. This seems to us to highlight the absurdity of the whole situation.
We think that this Government should now seriously consider the report of the Constitutional Review Committee, a document which it has had in its hands since 1959. In 1951, the Government, of its own volition, promised to appoint a committee to review the Constitution. That was a long time ago. The committee was finally appointed in 1956, and it reported in 1959. The committee reported, among other things, that section 57 of the Constitution, which deals with disagreements between the House of Representatives and the Senate, is no longer appropriate to modern conditions, and it suggested that this provision be modified to make a distinction between money bills and other bills and to provide the Government with more than one possible means by which a deadlock between the two Houses might be resolved. The committee recommended that the Constitution should be altered so that a deadlock should be deemed to arise if the Senate had not passed a money bill from the House of Representatives within 30 days. The House need not pass the bill a second time for the deadlock to arise. It recommended that with bills other than money bills, a deadlock should be deemed to have arisen if the Senate had not passed within 30 days of its receipt a bill passed twice by the House of Representatives.
According to the committee’s proposals, when a deadlock arose, there could be a double dissolution. Alternatively, the Governor-General should be empowered to convene a joint sitting and the bill could be presented for royal assent if it were passed by an absolute majority of members of both Houses and at least half the total members of the two Houses chosen for a State in at least half of the States. As a second alternative, an approaching general election should be used as a stage in the settlement of a deadlock. If an election for the House of Representatives were to occur within twelve months of the deadlock first arising and the House after the election again passed the proposed law, a joint sitting should be convened. The bill would pass if agreed to by a majority of both Houses.
It may be argued that this is not relevant to the matter we are discussing, but it is relevant because the Senate asserts that it has equal powers with the House of Representatives in all matters. If we intend to amend the Constitution in respect of legislative and other powers, we ought to consider this matter, too.
I have mentioned the position of the nexus and the recommendation of the committee. Some years ago, I had a discussion with the late member for Cowper, the Right Honorable Sir Earle Page. His view was that the House of Representatives should consist of 250 members. This sounded to me like a revolutionary proposition, but his view was that ultimately the House would con sist of 250 members. I would not disagree with his idea that the House, charged with so many great responsibilities, must be increased so that it is truly representative of the whole of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Two world wars, the decisions of the High Court in regard to uniform taxation, two important alterations of the Constitution - one made by him in regard to the establishment of the Australian Loan Council and the ratification of the Financial Agreement, and the other made by the Chifley Government in regard to the extension of the welfare state and the payment of social services - all these things have changed the character of our federation. This Parliament is paramount and therefore it is to this Parliament that the people of Australia look for almost everything. It is absurd to ask the people of Australia to elect a member to represent 48,300 people here to-day. The number should be considerably less than that, and I hope the Government will give very serious consideration to finding ways and means by which it can be done. I know of no practical way other than altering the Constitution. The other way of increasing the size of the Senate first so that the House of Representatives can be increased afterwards, I dismiss as completely impractical.
There are other recommendations which I should like to mention. The members of the committee took into consideration the question of the 20 per cent, tolerance - if I may adopt a term used in engineeringabove or below the quota, but the committee did not favour a 20 per cent, variation. At page 46 in paragraph 316 of its report, the committee stated -
The Committee feels constrained to say, however, that the one-fifth margin on either side of the quota for a State which the Act allows may disturb quite seriously a principle which the Committee believes to be beyond question in the election of members of the national Parliament of a Federation, namely, that the votes of the electors should, as far as possible, be accorded equal value. The full application of the margin each way to two divisions in a State could result in the number of electors in one division totalling SO per cent, more than the number of electors in the other division. Such a possible disparity in the value of votes is inconsistent with the full realization of democracy.
In paragraph 300, clause 2, at page 44, the committee recommended - . . the number of electors in a division in a State should not exceed by more than one-tenth, or fall short of by more than one-tenth, a quota ascertained by dividing the total number of electors in the State by the number of members to be chosen in that State;
– Do you support that?
– Of course I support that, I signed it; so did the two representatives of the Australian Country Party, and so did the four members of the Liberal Party and the six members of the Australian Labour Party. That makes the recommendation unanimous. We also said -
We also said in paragraph 322 -
If the Constitution should be altered, as the Committee recommends, to provide that each division of a State should return one member of the House of Representatives and that the number of electors enrolled in each division in a State Should be nearly as practicable uniform, an important step will have been taken amounting in substance to a constitutional assurance or guarantee to each individual elector of a fair value for his Vote.
Further we said in paragraph 330 -
One form of gerrymandering is the creation of electoral divisions in which there are substantial disparities in the number of enrolled voters so Securing for a political party greater representation than it should have. In all its forms, the device is thoroughly subversive of the democratic process. In making possible minority governments, the majority can be deprived of the government of its choice and the way is opened for arbitrary action impairing the freedom of the individual even though that action stands condemned by the majority of people who comprise the electors of the Commonwealth.
I read that again to register my protest against what happens in the metropolitan areas, particularly in the capital cities, where some electors are put very low down and others very high up. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is very anxious to interrupt me. I have looked over his electorate. It covers only 1 8,000 square miles. But the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) represents twice as many square miles as do all five honorable members of the Australian Country Party from the whole of the State of Victoria. He has the allowance which the act gives him, but I hope the honorable member for Mallee will not say that he ought to have the 20 per cent. allowance, just as the honorable member for Maranoa has. We have never objected to what the honorable member for Maranoa has.
– But you must remember that I represent over one-fifth of Victoria.
– Order! The honorable member for Mallee may get an opportunity to speak later.
– I have said that the committee recommended a variation of 10 per cent., and that was a unanimous recommendation. Section 127 of the Constitution says -
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
We think that for two goods reasons the Government should alter the Constitution so that aboriginal natives shall be counted. We hold this view, first, because they are the old, old Australians and are entitled to be counted. Why that provision is in the Constitution, no one has ever been able to explain satisfactorily. They should be counted. It is important that there should be no discrimination in our Constitution against aborigines, in respect of counting them or in any other way, and the Constitutional Review Committee has recommended that that provision be taken out of the Constitution. If it were taken out of the Constitution, the States of Western Australia and Queensland would automatically each get back the member that they lost. Queensland would have eighteen members instead of seventeen and Western Australia would have nine members instead of eight. I ask the Prime Minister to give earnest consideration to that aspect. Had consideration been given to it before the redistribution, Western Australia and Queensland would not have lost the seats that they did Jose.
The last part of my amendment proposes that the Representation Act be altered. This is a very old act. It has not been amended since 1938. Section 10 reads -
For the purpose of determining the number of Members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, the following procedure shall be followed: -
The number of Members to be chosen in each State shall, subject to the Constitution, be determined by dividing the number of people of the State, as shown by the certificate (for the time being in force) of the Chief Electoral Officer, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more Member shall be chosen in the State.
We submit that the remainder governing whether one more member shall be chosen should be not 50 per cent, but 10 per cent. If that had been done after the last census New South Wales, which was .13 above the quota of 45 seats, would have had an extra seat. South Australia, which was .17 above the quota, would have had twelve seats instead of eleven. Western Australia, which was .47 above the quota, would have had nine seats instead of eight. Queensland, which was .44 above the quota, would have had eighteen seats instead of seventeen. Queensland was only .06 away from another seat, and Western Australia was only .03 away from another seat.
I have made my point about aborigines. I have tried to put the position as dispassionately as 1 could. We make no accusations about gerrymandering, but we are very concerned about some extraordinary happenings. I might well mention them now because not only are they unexplained; they are inexplicable. Take the position of the honorable member for Capricornia, who has a seat in the tropics - in the top half of Australia - where there are only 328,000 people of our blood. If you take the area between the mountain range and the seashore there are only about 40,000 people of our blood. The honorable member for Capricornia, who lives in Queensland where the quota is 48,000 electors, is told that he must represent 56,000 people. He represents more people than the honorable member for East Sydney represents or than I represent.
– That is outrageous.
– Outrageous is the term. I do not know how that happened. The honorable member for Darling Downs, whose electorate stretches down to the New South Wales border, represents 53,199 persons. The honorable member for Capricornia represents more electors than any metropolitan representative from Brisbane, and the honorable member for Darling Downs represents more electors than any member from the metropolitan area of Brisbane, except the honorable member for Brisbane, and he represents too many people. He represents 54,265 persons - 6,000 above the quota. I cannot understand how that has happened.
Take the case of the honorable member for Moore. His electorate has been altered and now extends to within 6 miles of Perth. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) went to a famous old school at Guildford. Guildford, Midland Junction and Bassendean are all now in the electorate of Moore. Those are big industrial areas and semi-metropolitan areas, but they are included in an electorate whose boundaries extend to within 150 miles of Geraldton. Nobody can say that that state of affairs complies with the intentions of the act, which refers to community of interest and communications.
I do not know how these proposals can be defended. If Western Australia and Queensland each were given an extra seat we might be able to iron out a few of the difficulties that confront us, but as things stand nobody can look upon the redistributions with very great satisfaction. There have been cases in the past where redistribution proposals have been referred back to the commissioners and have been altered. On one occasion the late Sir Earle Page moved to have redistribution proposals referred back to the commissioners. The former member for Fremantle, the late John Curtin, successfully referred a proposal back to the commissioners. On those occasions there was no reflection on the commissioners.
I suggest to the Prime Minister that in future the commissioners be told precisely what they should do. Somebody with some legal knowledge should be appointed to the commission. He could tell the commissioners what their powers were and what was expected of them, because in recent times the commissioners have been giving to the Parliament what they think is good for the Parliament. Everybody in the Parliament and everybody out of it, public servants in particular, should conform to the laws. In respect of divisions in New South
Wales and certain other divisions, in our opinion there has not been compliance with the law.
– I second the amendment and reserve my remarks.
– In due course I wish to refer to particular and peculiar aspects of the proposals before the House but first I wish to speak, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke, in fairly general terms to make clear the view of the Australian Country Party on this issue of redistribution and the composition of the Parliament. The Australian Country Party manifestly is concerned with the protection and betterment of rural society. The rural voice in the Parliament is only as strong as the numerical strength of its representation in the Parliament. When I speak of the rural voice I make clear that I am not referring only to the rural voice as expressed through the lips of an elected Country Party representative. I make clear that I am referring to the rural voice as expressed through the lips of whatever member representing whatever party the electors choose to send to the Parliament. Historically, rural electors have chosen to send to the Parliament representatives from all of the great parties.
When I speak of the necessity for the rural voice and the rural vote to be sufficiently heard and expressed in this Parliament I am not speaking only on behalf of farmers or only with farmers in mind. My thoughts embrace the well-being of all rural people - those on the land, those in the country towns and those employed in and around country industries. There is no record of any rural representative coming into this Parliament and confining himself to rural activities. If I may refer to myself, I came here as one of those whom I wish to see have an opportunity to carry the rural voice into the Parliament but I have been invited to assume the obligations of proposing policies in respect of manufacturing industries. So there is no thought that those who fight this fight to see that there is an adequate representation and voice for rural industries in this Parliament desire to work in the interests of the rural industries alone. I make it quite clear that my party - the Country Party - is the only political party which has been created exclusively for the purpose, primarily, of seeing that the interests of those in the outback - those engaged in the rural industries, those engaged in the great export industries - are sufficiently expressed in the Parliament. This is the background against which 1 wish to speak.
In speaking to the resolution that the proposal in respect of New South Wales be adopted I make it clear that I am not merely speaking because the electorate of Gwydir is proposed to be abolished under this proposal. It is in a much broader setting that I speak - how the whole Parliament should be composed, what should contribute to the shape of the Parliament and what should contribute to the opportunites of the people to send their representatives to this Parliament. Those are the very things which will shape the destiny of the Australian nation, and it is appropriate that there should be this kind of discussion and this kind of voice and view expressed and my party is concerned to see that there is a continuous consciousness not only of rural interests but also of the great circumstances and problems of the Australian nation to-day. I want it to be comprehended that in speaking in this way I display an awareness of historical factors in this regard. There are fewer people on the land these days than formerly. There are fewer people producing much more than ever was produced before and performing functions without which the economy of this country could not be healthy. But because of their efficiency and because fewer people are able to produce more, in terms of human political values their voice is diminishing and this is not good. I say it is not good, and the Parliament should direct its attention to the trends which have occurred and the needs which exist and the problems that arise for consideration.
Taking it in the broad this country of ours, Australia, is, in numerical terms, a small nation. We have some 10,500,000 people, but it is our fate to occupy one of the great land masses in the world, with responsibility for the continent and for the waters immediately around the continent. There must be, within the national Parliament, a consciousness of the totality of Australia and Australia’s responsibility - not a narrow consciousness of certain sectors of the population or merely of the cities. Of course, the economic conditions of the people are, in a democracy, determined by the political policies of that democracy. Australia is a democracy. There are reflected by the democracy, in its policies, certain things, but the predominant reflection is that of a people occupying a continent and having 55.6 per cent, of the population aggregated in the six capital cities. It does not just happen. It is a reflection of the policies of this country - of policies translated into administration and into legislation by the Parliament of this country. Does any Australian think that is healthy? Does any Australian think that it is good that nearly two-thirds of the Australian people live in the six cities? I do not think it is good and my party does not think it is good. We think there should be a sufficient voice in the Parliament to express itself in this regard.
I refer to a matter which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) mentioned - the far north. Here, in this country, a very substantial proportion of which is within the tropics there are, of a population barely exceeding 10,500,000 people, about onethirtieth in the whole of the tropical area. Is this not a reflection of the policies of the nation? Is it good? Should there not be a powerful voice in the Parliament which will arouse attention to this fact and propose policies which might constructively deal with it? Is it not realized that more than 80 per cent, of all the exports from Australia, the earnings from which are critical to the maintenance of the Australian factories and critical to the maintenance of employment in this country and without which there could not be a continuance of immigration, come from the rural areas and a large quantity and proportion from the outback areas? If it is necessary in the national interest that these industries be sustained, they will only be sustained in a political democracy so long as there is a voice to represent them and so long as there are numbers behind that voice. The trend in this direction depends upon the voice and the weight behind it in the Parliament.
The purpose for which I speak on this occasion is to focus attention on and emphasize the purpose of my party. The predominant purpose of my party is to preserve the rural voice and the opportunity for it in the Parliament so that there may be a balance in the Australian economy and in the Australian industrial field, so that there may be developed a greater spread of industrial activity, so that there may be a more effective occupation of the land mass of Australia and so that there may be equity of opportunity for reward between the various sectors of the Australian community. It is against those thoughts that I want to place the setting for my observations. It is against those thoughts - I think they are worth while whether others agree or not - that I ask the Parliament to consider this particular redistribution. It is not, as the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) said in introducing the legislation, a matter of Government policy. It is a redistribution which arises periodically as a routine matter. It is not decided on because the Government thinks it is a good idea to have a redistribution. It comes around like the sunrise. It is controlled, to a certain extent, by the Constitution; it is governed, to a certain extent, by the Representation Act; and it is governed, to a substantial extent, by the Commonwealth Electoral Act. And within these statutory limits, expressed in pretty broad and, I believe, inadequate terms, the redistribution commissioners, when appointed, operate.
That is how it has come about and these are the gentlemen who have the responsibility of making a recommendation to the Parliament. When it comes before us it certainly transpires to have some surprising effects. The House of Representatives, under the totality of the six State proposals, is to be smaller in numbers than it is at the present time. The House of Representatives is to be fewer in numbers, proportionate to the Senate, than it was at federation. Each of the two biggest States - the two States most in need of development, Queensland and Western Australia - is to have one federal member fewer than it has in this Parliament at the present time. The electorates which have the opportunity to send rural representatives to the Parliament are to be reduced in number. To illustrate this, in New South Wales at federation, there was a population of about 1,000,000. New South Wales at that time had fifteen rural constituencies, when there was a House of 75 and fifteen rural constituencies in a House of 75 is the equivalent of 25 rural constituencies in a House of 120, as we now have. At federation there was the equivalent of 25 rural constituencies, yet this proposal would provide thirteen rural constituencies. Is this good? This is a retrograde step and is one of the grounds of criticism of the proposal. The Country Party thinks this is a bad trend, and for this reason among others that I will enumerate, it could not support the proposal. We make the point that in our kind of country and in our kind of economy whatever is bad for the rural interests, whatever is bad for export industries, and whatever is bad for the growth of population in the outback is bad for the Australian nation. We feel that we are putting an argument that is in the interests of the whole Australian people, because the rural export industries cannot fail without dragging down the rest of the Australian economy with them. The whole concept of democracy, of course, is that all sectors of a community need a voice and a vote to protect their interests.
I turn to another aspect of this proposal -how the composition of the Parliament is determined. As the Leader of the Opposition said, the Constitution provides that the House shall have, as near as practicable, twice the number of the Senate. The Constitution also provides that to determine what shall be the quota for Australia you divide 120 - double the number of Senators - into the population of Australia. But the population of Australia, according to the Constitution, includes, and I do not challenge this, all aliens in the country whether adults or infants, and excludes all aborigines whether they have a vote or do not have a vote. On one occasion I described this as cockeyed. I do not mind repeating that to-day. It is cockeyed. But it is the constitutional law, and therefore something that the Parliament is powerless to alter. The Parliament can only give the people an opportunity to alter that provision of the Constitution. This is one of the great paradoxes of the situation.
Having ascertained the Australian quota in this manner, then the requirement is that that quota shall be divided into the population of each State to ascertain the number of members of the House of Representatives that each State is entitled to have. Again, for this purpose, aliens, infant and adult, are counted, and aborigines, voting or not, are excluded from the count. Although this is the law, I do not think that any Australians believe it is a proper and justifiable state of affairs. But this is the formula which operates to determine the composition of the Parliament, and it is under the operation of this formula that it transpires that the great State of Queensland, so much in need of development, is to have its representation in a House of 120 reduced from eighteen to seventeen, and the gigantic State of Western Australia, with near enough to 1,000,000 square miles, is to have its pitifully small representation of nine reduced to eight. This is not acceptable; it is not, I believe, something that we should all be indifferent about or permit to continue.
I have said that we cannot act in defiance of the Constitution. But the Parliament has power, so long as it does not defy the Constitution, to alter the Representation Act. It can alter that act in such manner as to offset the paradoxical situation in which, notwithstanding that the overall population has increased by about 2,000,000 since the last re-distribution of electoral boundaries, the proposed redistribution would give the House fewer members than it has at the present time and deprive New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia of one representative each. At the same time the proposal would, due not to an act of Parliament, but to the interpretation of the law or the exercise of their discretion within the law by the redistribution commissioners, operate in such manner as to diminish once again the number of constituencies capable of sending a representative to speak for rural interests into this Parliament. The Country Party does not think this is good, and it does not think this is necessary. It is possible within the law to offset the effect of not counting aborigines. This can be done by amending the Representation Act. If, for instance, the Representation Act were amended so that an additional member would be provided for a State if the division of the Australian quota into the State’s population gave a return of .4 instead of .5, that formula, which would be quite within our competence to apply, would have the effect of avoiding the loss of a member in Queensland and in Western Australia. That is what I mean by taking quite valid legislative action which would) offset this paradoxical situation in which our aborigines, who can now vote, cannot be counted for the purpose of fixing electoral boundaries. Alternatively, something could be done along the lines proposed in this Parliament about 29 years ago by a former leader of the Country Party, the late Sir Earle Page. Some may think that this is a new idea, but this is a Country Party idea that is nearly 30 years old. The proposal is to alter the Representation Act so that when the division takes place of the Australian quota into the population of a State, if there is any remainder at all, then that State shall be entitled to one more member. If that were done - and it is within our power to do it - we would avoid depriving New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia of a member, as they will be deprived under the present proposal, and in addition, for good measure, that formula would give South Australia another member. I am sure that would not do this country any harm. My party would certainly support that proposal.
I have pointed out in respect of New South Wales the extent to which there has been a progressive eroding of the opportunity for rural votes and voices to be sent to this Parliament, and I repeat that I am not harping on the Country Party; I am speaking of rural seats generally. If at federation the House had had 120 members, there would have been 25 rural constituencies in New South Wales. In fact, there were fifteen in a house of 75. The present Parliament has fourteen rural constituencies, so identified, described, and named by the redistribution commissioners. But the proposal would reduce that number to thirteen, although the population of New South Wales since federation has increased from 1,000,000 to 4,000,000. I think this is crazy, and my party quotes this as a reason why it is unprepared to support the proposal, believing that it is proper and within the competence of the Parliament to take appropriate steps.
There are some who may argue that although remedial action can be taken it would impinge upon some vital principle. Some may say that I am talking against the holy concept of one vote one value; but there never has been one vote one value in Australia. It was never intended that there should be. The law under which these very distributions are made provides that the distribution commissioners can depart from the quotas in a State by 20 per cent, upwards or downwards. This gives a spread of 40 per cent. That is a pretty big spread, but it is allowed under the law that has stood in this country for 60-odd years. That law obviously does not contemplate one vote one value. But, far from taking advantage of the maximum margin permitted by the law, which, as I say, allows a difference of 40 per cent, in maximum and minimum, the commissioners have submitted a proposal which, in New South Wales, allows for a departure from the mean, upwards and downwards, of 7i per cent. Obviously the commissioners stopped a long way short of the margin allowed them by the law. If such a provision is made in the law, surely it is contemplated that it shall be availed of. This is merely another instance of the progressive eroding of the opportunities for rural voices in this country.
Turning again to the position in New South Wales, we find that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), one of 46 members coming from that State, represents an area which covers more than 40 per cent, of the total area of the State.
– Half of it is sand.
– It Is an immensely wealthy electorate from the point of view of export income. The lead, zinc, silver, wheat and wool that come from the electorate of the honorable member for Darling make an immense contribution to the wealth of New South Wales. However, we find that in this great and old State, which sends 46 members to this Parliament, one man only has the duty of representing an area that constitutes more than 40 per cent, of the total area of the State. Now we have a new proposal, and, if it went through, the honorable member would have to represent an area constituting an even greater proportion of the total area of the State. I do not believe that any one in this Parliament would try to justify such a proposition.
Let me turn back to the Electoral Act itself. The position to-day, under the Constitution, is that there is, on the average, one senator from New South Wales to represent 391,000 people. By contrast, each senator from Tasmania represents 35,000 people. There is no one-vote-one-value in that situation, but to my knowledge not one voice has been raised during the 28 years or more that I have been in this Parliament in criticism of that situation. If we consider average quotas for electorates that send members to the House of Representatives, we find that the average for Australian mainland electorates is 47,839, whilst the average for Tasmania is 37,361, which is nearly 10,500 less. There is no onevoteonevalue in that situation, and, as I have said, Australia has never contemplated a one-vote-one-value system.
Let me turn to the situation in the various States. In Western Australia the State law says, in the most simple terms, that when defining the electorates two people in the metropolitan area shall be counted as one, whilst every person outside that area shall be counted as one. There is no onevoteonevalue in that proposition. Then the State law in Western Australia goes further and mentions three electorates in the far north-west for which there shall be three members, no matter what the number of electors is in each of those electorates. Incidentally, it turns out that those three electorates are represented by Labour members. There has been no proposal, however, to alter that situation, which does not exactly involve a one-vote-one-value proposition. That has been the law under Labour Governments of Western Australia and under non-Labour Governments.
In South Australia the State law provides the metropolitan area with thirteen members and the rest of the State with 26 members. This means that the metropolitan members have a quota of 22,300 each, whilst the other members have quotas of 6,657 each. There is certainly not one-vote-one-value in South Australia. In New South Wales, where a Labour government has been in office for so long, 48 members of the Legislative Assembly represent 58 per cent, of the population, resident in the Sydney area, whilst 46 members, almost the same number, represent 42 per cent, of the population living outside the Sydney area. In Queensland there are 28 seats in the metropolitan area and 50 seats outside it. There is nothing in the Australian scene, Commonwealth or State, in the House of Representatives or the Senate, in constitutional law, that has ever contemplated one-vote-one-value.
Let us go elsewhere. What is the situation in the United States of America? In the State of New York one senator represents 7,415,000 electors, whilst in the State of Nevada one senator represents 80,000 electors. Those senators have equal voices in the Senate of the United States of America. In Congress, the House of Representatives, in Washington, I have looked at the figures for only one State, and I know that other States could show wider differences. However, I find that in the State of Michigan there is a Congressman who represents 525,334 electors, whilst in the same State there is another Congressman representing 178,251 electors.
Nowhere in the English-speaking world is the policy of equal representation followed. In the United Kingdom the law explicitly provides that in urban areas three times as many electors shall be required to send one man to the House of Commons as in the remote areas of Scotland and the western isles. Wherever one turns in the English-speaking world one finds a recognition of the fact that the remote areas, the areas of sparse population, need not necessarily be made into electorates of gigantic size, or that there should be any equation of the number of electors as between the very large areas and the compact areas. The acceptance of this proposition in Australia is quite clear when one finds that the law provides a 40 per cent, tolerance in numbers of electors. The proposal now before us, of course, allows only a 71 per cent, tolerance, and would result in the disappearance of another country electorate, that of Gwydir. We think this is wrong, and we believe that the distribution commissioners have not given the consideration to this matter that they are required under the Electoral Act to give. We believe that they have not taken into account considerations of community or diversity of interest, of means of communication or of physical features, to the extent that they should be expected to do. I pass up considerations of State and Federal existing boundaries.
What we ask is that there shall be a recognition of the fact that there are different problems for small compact areas from those that face the vast remote areas. We say that the principal physical feature of
Australia is its gigantic size. The principal physical feature of the Kalgoorlie electorate is its gigantic size. When the matter of physical features is mentioned as being a consideration to take into account, we believe that greater weight should be attached to this feature of gigantic size. Distance and area are, indeed, the overriding considerations when means of communication are being taken into account. Do not think for a moment that when means of communication are mentioned as requiring consideration, what is meant is just the capacity of the member to communicate with his electors. The whole concept involves the ability of the electors to confer among themselves. The basis of democracy is not that a representative must be able to confer with those who have elected him, but that those who have to elect a representative should be able to confer among themselves. To-day we have an electorate of nearly 1,000,000 square miles, apparently on the silly theory that even though the electors do not get free air travel - this being the only means of travel throughout a great part of the area - they still have adequate means of conferring among themselves.
This theory is reflected through the whole structure of the present redistribution proposals, not merely those in relation to New South Wales. In the great State of Queensland the division of Wide Bay was to disappear but it has been restored, and the division of Capricornia, within the tropical north, is to have 8,196 electors above the State’s quota. How could one justify that? To avoid giving a smaller quota to the great area of Kennedy, which extends from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Northern Territory border, and which is mostly a pastoral and mining area, the sugar-growing area of Bowan is to be included. Does any one think that these proposals really reflect the intention of the Constitution?
In Western Australia the electorate of Moore, which is one of the great wheatgrowing electorates in that State and which is represented by my distinguished friend, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), is to cease being a wheat-growing area. It is to extend to within six miles of the Perth General Post Office. Representation in Western Australia will be reduced from nine to eight members. This is in a State in which, at a State election, the decision as to whether it returned a Labour government or a non-Labour government was balanced on a razor’s edge! The Senate vote in the last federal election also was balanced on a razor’s edge. The redistribution proposals, if accepted, would reduce the Opposition representation to one and would wipe out my party which has had representation in this State for 40 years. We will not vote for the proposal. According to the commissioners the electorate of Kalgoorlie which, so I am told, covers an area of 910,000 square miles, is not large enough. Under the redistribution proposals it will be increased in size. If this Parliament supports that increase it will be rendering lip service, not real service, to the programme of development of the north.
Turning to my own State of Victoria, the electorate of Indi, which I once represented when its boundaries were different from what they are now, touches the slopes of Kosciusko and extends 60 miles, I think, upstream to the source of the Murray River. It comes down the Sydney line by Wodonga, Wangaratta, Euroa and so on. This is the north-east of Victoria which is recognized as a province in its own right. An, area along the Sydney line is to be cut out and the electorate of Indi is to be strung down into the suburbs of Melbourne to near Lilydale and Warburton. It will extend, I think, to within 9 miles of the Gippsland line and then go south of the river Yarra. It will contain thousands more electors than the outer suburban electorates of Bruce, Deakin and the others. I do not think these proposals reflect a correct interpretation of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It is really incredible that a Victorian electorate is to be strung from the fringe of Mount Kosciusko to the suburbs of Melbourne and across the Yarra so that neighbouring suburban electorates may have thousands fewer electors than has the electorate of Indi.
I do not believe it is right that this should be done. I do not believe it is right that the commissioners should take into account an estimate of how population will move. The Commonwealth Electoral Act contains an explicit provision that if onequarter of the seats in a State grow so that their enrolment is 20 per cent, away from the quota there is an automatic redistribution. That provision has stood in the law. I think since federation, to take care of the movement of population. There is no direction in section 19 of the act that people may guess at how population will move, but the electoral commissioners for South Australia made the following statement in their report: -
Before commencing the redistribution your Commissioners informed themselves of possible future developments, both industrial and residential, that may take place within the next few years.
These “ guesstimates “ have produced some of the incongruities to which I have referred. For the reasons which I hope I have made clear the Country Party could not support these proposals. The Country Party has its own views. It certainly would like the Constitution to be amended to provide for Australian aborigines to be counted for the purpose of determining the composition of this Parliament, but I shall not deal now with the wider aspects of constitutional reform. The Country Party would like the Representation Act to be amended either in a way which would have the equivalent result to counting aborigines or, alternatively, to provide that if there be any remainder after the divisor has been applied to the population of a State there should be an additional member.
We believe that the 20 per cent, discretionary departure from the quota, which has existed for about 60 years, should be not only retained but also employed in a manner which will produce more healthy results for the Australian community. This provision could be used to give full weight to such considerations as means of communication. We believe also that for rural constituencies the departure from the quota should average not less than 10 per cent., and that in the gigantic electorates which have been identified - there are only half a dozen of them - the departure should be 20 per cent.
My party believes strongly that this is what the community feels. The countryman has not a view on everything, but when he has a view he holds it very strongly. I assure the House that the whole of the country community holds very strong views on this matter. The rural community has a concept of its equitable rights, if I may put it that way, in a political democracy and it has a consciousness of the history of the role of the rural industries as the providers of essential food and raw materials and of the export earnings of this country. But the men on the land are dispersed. Their individual view is clear, but it is a mere whisper against the roar of the cities. However, it is not a whisper for those of us who sit in this Parliament and it will not be permitted to pass unheard. If it is permitted to pass unheard we believe that those who are preoccupied with considerations of self-interest might easily, not culpably, develop a forgetfulness of the people and the industries of the outback. Country people should have a sufficiently loud voice in the government of this nation. When critical matters affecting the rural industries are at issue the country people will coalesce and will express themselves.
We do not want a parliament which is organized for country people; we do not want a parliament which is organized in such a way that the country people may be forgotten; we want a parliament which is so organized as to pay regard to all considerations that are critical for the wellbeing of this country. In other words, we want good government for all the people from a properly balanced parliament. That is why we would like to see the Representation Act amended and the Commonwealth Electoral Act amended to ensure a sufficient voice for the out-back, for the north and for the great export industries.
.- Mr. Speaker, the House to-night is discussing the very fabric of Australian democracy. Representative government rests on an efficient system of electing representatives. The present distribution does not assist that system. It does not carry it out. A distribution is overdue for two particular reasons. The first is that at the last general election for this House the party which sits in Opposition received 46.67 per cent, of the votes and the parties which sit in government received 41.01 per cent, of the votes - there was a distinct majority in favour of the party which sits in opposition - yet the Government parties were given, under the present distribution, two seats more than the Opposition. Clearly, such a system is not efficient, and a fresh distribution should be made on that score alone.
Secondly, Sir, at the time of the last election, the disproportion between electorates in New South Wales was already gross in the extreme. At the end of August last year the number of electors varied between the 73,841 enrolled in the division of Mitchell and the 37,857 enrolled in the division of West Sydney. If one takes into account population, not merely electors, then at the June census there were the extremes between the division of Mitchell, which had in it 156,732 persons, excluding full-blood aborigines as the Constitution requires, and the division of Wentworth, which had in it 62,859 persons. On that score again, it is clear that a distribution was necessary in New South Wales. One could give comparable figures to show that on that second score a distribution was required in every other State as well.
The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is the Leader of the Country Party and the Deputy Prime Minister, said with admirable force that it was absurd that, as a result of the proposed distribution, there should be fewer members in the House of Representatives after the next election than there are at the moment and, in particular, that there should be one less member from Queensland and one less from Western Australia than there are at the moment. Any distribution which produces that result at a time when the population has been growing quite rapidly from natural increase and from migration is clearly absurd, and may have applied to it the term “ cock-eyed “ and all the other adjectives which the Minister used. As in so many of these things, the Government would not be faced with any political embarrassment if it had moved in time. Four years ago, on 1st October, a joint committee of this Parliament, with an equal number of representatives from the Opposition and the Government parties in each chamber, recommended that alterations should be sought in the Constitution which would have obviated this absurd reduction in overall numbers - this absurd reduction in the number of members from States which stand most in need of development. Sir, the full reasons for those recommendations were given to the House on 25th November, 1959. The Government has had plenty of time - over four years - in which to ponder these matters.
Many of the Government’s political difficulties and Australia’s economic and development difficulties flow from the fact that the Government has so far failed to carry out the recommendations - in this case, the unanimous recommendations - of the Constitutional Review Committee. That committee was set up early in 1956 because of two events: The first was that the census figures of June, 1955, had revealed a disproportion in Australia’s population movement and development. The other event was the second horror Budget and the second credit squeeze of March, 1956, which revealed the inadequacy and the archaism of Australia’s Constitution in the economic field. The committee was set up to deal with those two matters - the census and the economic anomalies which had been revealed within the previous year. The committee dealt with them and it made recommendations upon them. The Government has had those recommendations for four years and it has had the detailed reasons for three years. If it had promptly carried them out, the third horror Budget and the third credit squeeze would not have been necessary.
– What has this to do with the question before the Chair? I thought that we were on the redistribution of electoral boundaries.
– Yes. I am not picking the eyes out of the report any more than you are going to pick the eyes out of the distribution commissioners’ proposals. We shall deal with a complete picture. This is the first sign of activity that I have seen from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on this score in four years.
– Order! I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the horror Budget has not a great deal to do with the subject before the Chair. I ask for his co-operation.
– I was pointing out, Sir, the two reasons why the committee to which I have referred was set up and the two matters upon which it made recommendations. The second one, which dealt with the legislative machinery of the Commonwealth would, if promptly carried out, have prevented all the heart-burning which is now flowing from the fact that Queensland and Western Australia will each lose a member of this Parliament unless there is a constitutional alteration; and that at a time when Australia’s population has been growing more rapidly than before, both absolutely and proportionately, the Parliament will have fewer members. One of the proposals was that aborigines should be counted in reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth or of a State. There is no question that the people would overwhelmingly have endorsed that proposal. Had it been put to the people, Queensland and Western Australia would not have been faced with a reduction in the number of their representatives. The Minister for Trade acknowledged that in the House tonight, and I believe that he acknowledged it for the first time within the last few weeks outside the House.
The other principal proposal on this subject was that the membership of this House should not be tied to the membership of the Senate - that we should not determine how many members there should be in the House of Representatives by dividing the overall population of Australia by twice the number of senators. The unanimous proposal was that some relation should be established with the population of the States themselves and that the quota should be not less than 80,000 persons in each electorate in each State. If that had been carried out, again there would have been no reduction in the number of members from any State or the number of members in this Parliament. The result would then have been as follows: In New South Wales, instead of there being 46 electorates, as at the moment, or 45, as proposed, there would have been 49. In Victoria, instead of there being 33, as at the moment, or 34 as proposed, there would have been 37. In Queensland, instead of there being eighteen, as at the moment, or seventeen, as proposed, there would have been nineteen. In South Australia, instead of there being eleven, there would have been twelve. In Western Australia there would still have been nine, and in Tasmania there would still have been five. So, Sir, if these proposals had been promptly put three or four years ago there would not have been the present dispute in this House between the Government parties nor the heart-burning outside that there now is.
The other proposal that has been mentioned is to alter the Representation Act. That act at present repeats, in section 10, the formula contained in section 24 of the Constitution, which provides that if, when the quota is divided into the population of a State, there is a remainder of more than one-half, that State shall have another member in the House of Representatives. IV has been suggested from time to time - I shall not essay an opinion on the legality of the proposition - that it would be possible to fix a remainder of less than .5 which would qualify a State for another member. This is not a new proposal. Sir Earle Page, the late right honorable member for Cowper, proposed this, as far as I can find out, on two occasions in this House. In 1932, on the second occasion, at a time when the number of members in this House was somewhere in the 70’s, not in the 120’s, he proposed the formula: In the case of a State having ten or more members, where there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen for the State; and, in the case of a State having fewer than ten members, where there is a remainder greater than .3 of the quota, one more member shall be chosen for the State. If that formula were now embodied in the Representation Act, Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales each would retain their present membership in this place and South Australia would have an additional member. I am told, Mr. Speaker, that you would not then be in the political jeopardy in which you now are. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade has proposed this formula. I believe that we on this side of the House would support the adoption of such a formula.
The right honorable gentleman said that he would support an amendment of the Constitution at least to enable aborigines to be counted in the population. This would restore the present number of seats in Queensland and Western Australia. He said, also, that he would support some amendment of the Representation Act which would permit the present number of seats to be retained in Queensland and Western Australia, and in New South Wales as well, and an additional member to be elected in South Australia. Up to that point, Sir, honorable members on this side of the chamber can fully support the Deputy Prime Minister, who is leader of the Australian Country Party, in the proposals which he has made. But thereafter we part company. The right honorable gentleman went on to suggest that in making a redistribution the commissioners whom the Parliament appoints should, if necessary, utilize the full 20 per cent, margin of allowance which has been permitted by the Commonwealth Electoral Act at least since 1918. That is not a proposal which would be supported on this side of the House, Sir. Nor, I believe, is it a proposal which would be supported by the Liberal Party of Australia. The Constitutional Review Committee, to which I have referred, was unanimously of the opinion that a 10 per cent, margin of allowance was adequate. That opinion was held not only by the former honorable member for Canning, but also by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who rose to that portfolio during the committee’s consideration of its recommendations, and by Mr. Justice Joske of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, who, at that time, was a member of this House. The proposal was supported, in addition, by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who was then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and by me. The proposal was supported, also, by four gentlemen in the Senate - two members of the Liberal Party and two members of the Australian Labour Party. Support for this proposal was expressed unanimously four years ago by the twelve men whom 1 have mentioned. They gave full reasons for their view three years ago.
If this is taken in the context of aborigines being counted in the population and an electorate being created for each additional 80,000 of the population, there is no question that the rural voice would have been adequately expressed in this place by the persons whom rural constituencies elect and there would be more country seats.
The gentlemen who sat on the Constitutional Review Committee gave their opinion that a 10 per cent, margin was adequate. In fact, the only difference of opinion between the members of the committee was that many of them thought that a margin of 5 per cent, would have been quite adequate. I was certainly among those who took that view. As the report of the distribution commissioners for New South Wales points out, there has never been anywhere near an average margin of allowance in New South Wales of 20 per cent., or indeed, of 10 per cent. In the current proposals, as now before us, the commissioners have allowed an average variation in respect of metropolitan divisions of 3.69 per cent, above the quota and in extrametropolitan divisions of 3.86 per cent, below it. Those variations are in fact greater than the commissioners found necessary to recommend in the redistributions of 1955, 1948 and 1922. The commissioners have on this occasion been more generous in respect of country electorates than on many earlier occasions. But the considered view of the gentlemen who were appointed to the Constitutional Review Committee to consider the matter is that 10 per cent, would have been enough and that the present 20 per cent, is unnecessary.
The plain fact is that the commissioners were not entitled to take into account the considerations of distance and area mentioned by the Deputy Prime Minister. The matters which they are entitled to consider, and which they are bound to consider, are -
Subject to those requirements, the commissioners can, where necessary, resort to the margin of 20 per cent., or one-fifth. They are not entitled to take into account the matters mentioned by the Deputy Prime Minister. They would not be carrying out their sworn obligation if they took such matters into account.
– Means of communication, surely, come under the heading of “ distance “.
– They are a feature of it, of course. So are the other matters. I know that the right honorable gentleman referred to the first three matters which I have recited. I certainly concede and assert that those three matters are related to distance and area, but the plain fact is that there are very many metropolitan and extra-metropolitan, substantially urban, electorates where the means of communication and the diversity of interest and so on are more difficult under the commissioners’ proposals than in the case of extrametropolitan, substantially rural, electorates to which the Deputy Prime Minister has referred.
I have not time to go into all such electorates. I believe that the distribution commissioners have, in fact, disobeyed their instructions concerning the first three matters, just as the right honorable gentleman says that they have disobeyed them. I, however, believe that they have disobeyed them for different reasons, which I am bound to put presently. It would be wrong for the commissioners to take into account area or distance, and it would probably be illegal for them to take into account those matters, even if there is no means by which a court can correct them. The Parliament has to approve or disapprove their recommendations. There may be other matters which the commissioners, in the opinion of many, should take into account, and for those who put a stress on human beings rather than areas or distance quite obviously these must be matters such as migrants and school children. In matters like this, there are very great differences between electorates in New South Wales. For instance, in my electorate, only 43 per cent, of the population is on the rolls. That is at one end of the scale. At the other end of the scale, the Division of Wentworth has 64 per cent, of the population on the rolls. I take my own area only because it is one with which I am bound to be familiar, but my comments apply also to all the outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne in particular. In my area, there are as many people under 24 years as over 24 years. In addition, 30 per cent, of the people were born overseas.
If the Deputy Prime Minister’s arguments are to be heeded, we could include migrants and school children, and I might agree that an amendment should be made to permit the commissioners to take into account all human beings. However, the act does not permit them to do so at the moment and the commissioners are bound to apply the law as they find it. It is for us to make the law; it is for them to apply it. They are precluded from taking into account area and distance as such, just as they are precluded from taking into account individuals who are not on the rolls - school children, migrants and, until recently when the Australian Labour Party secured an amendment of the law, aborigines.
– That is a false claim.
– As a matter of fact, the Minister for Territories who interjects voted against aborigines being given the vote for the last election, when we put up the proposal.
– That is a false statement.
– It is perfectly true. The honorable gentleman voted against the proposal in April last year. Gerrymandering, which is what the Deputy Prime Minister is advocating, has never stopped urbanization. The State in which there has been the greatest gerrymandering in Australia has been in South Australia, and in South Australia a greater proportion of the population lives in the capital than is the case in any other State. A gerrymander there has not prevented urbanization. It has not promoted the development and diversification of that State’s rural population and industries.
The right honorable gentleman apparently supported the gerrymander in Western Australia, in Queensland and in New South Wales. He did not quote the fact that in two States, Victoria and Tasmania, there is not a gerrymander whenever the Commonwealth acts promptly. It is true that there is a distorted population in many State electorates in Victoria and in some instances in Tasmania, but if the Commonwealth makes a prompt, fair and equal distribution of its divisions in Victoria and Tasmania, then automatically by the operation of the State laws there would be a fair, immediate and equal distribution for the lower Houses of those two Parliaments. There is a gerrymander for the upper House in each State, but in the case of the lower House in each of the States, the distribution depends on the distribution for the House of Representatives.
A clear case - we in the democratic Western world all suffer from it - is the gerrymandering of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress, to which the Deputy Prime Minister has referred. The principal reason why President
Kennedy has found it so difficult to get his legislation through Congress is that the House of Representatives is elected on a gerrymander in most States. The House of Representatives is not representative of the American people. The Senate is, because every senator is elected from a whole State. The presidency is, because the President also is elected by an electoral college which is elected over the whole State. But the House of Representatives is elected on a gerrymander, and it is in the House of Representatives where one finds the parochial and regional loyalties which so often prevented President Kennedy giving the leadership in the Western and the democratic world which he has wanted to give. He has been inhibited by a gerrymander. Fortunately, the Supreme Court is now acting to correct the position.
It may be that for reasons of distance it is difficult for some members in outstretched electorates to be contacted by their constituents or to contact their constituents. But the remedy for that is not to give them a weighted vote in the House of Representatives; the remedy is to give them greater aids for getting around their electorates. In fact, the House has already accepted that principle in respect of transport arrangements and electorate allowances, over the last eleven years. The House already recognizes this principle, that in the case of a dispersed electorate an additional electorate allowance and additional transport facilities are justified. Those proposals have been endorsed by the whole Parliament. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, in this Parliament Labour members represent the biggest electorates in Australia - Kalgoorlie, Grey, Darling, Kennedy and Leichhardt. I was interested to hear the Deputy Prime Minister urge that there should be a weighted vote in favour of larger electorates in this Parliament. How is it that he and his colleagues have voted so consistently against the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) being given a vote here? Why is it that they have, since 29th March last, prevented the private member’s bill which would give the honorable member for the Northern Territory a full vote, from coming to a vote here?
– And put Labour in power?
– I think the honorable member for Richmond has given the true reason, that it would put Labour in power. Of course, if the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) were given a full vote, Labour would be in power, just as it would if the honorable member for the Northern Territory were given a vote. If the principle is that a remote and dispersed electorate should have some favoritism, and if the principle is that full-blood aborigines should have a vote, clearly the honorable member for the Northern Territory should have a vote. But the honorable members who now belatedly advocate, and have conceded, a vote for aborigines, who now say belatedly that aborigines should be included in Commonwealth statistics and who say that a dispersed and remote electorate should be given some consideration, are just the honorable members who have impeded every move in this Parliament to give a vote to the most remote and dispersed electorate in the Commonwealth, the Northern Territory, which also has no State or local government of a representative character.
One of the pleas made by the Deputy Prime Minister was that there should be in this place a greater voice for northern development. It is the fact that members on this side of the House have constantly urged the need for northern development. There are two members of the Australian Country Party in this Parliament who have electorates wholly or partly in the tropics - the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), and I do not remember him speaking on this subject, although I am subject to correction on this, and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) who, I am certain, has never spoken on this subject. The fact that something is now being done about northern development is due to the changed representation from Liberal Party to Labour Party which has taken place in some crucial electorates in the north. The right honorable gentleman has never been in the forefront of pleas for northern development. I will agree completely with him that those people in Australia who are engaged in rural production are vital to our economy internally and externally. I certainly will not assert that people in the cities are more valuable to this country. I will not concede that people in the cities are less valuable. I am not going to assess the relative merits of Australians according to their occupations. The man who drives a tractor is clearly making a great contribution to this country’s development and export earnings. So, too, is the man who designs and makes the tractor. The man who herds the cattle and sheep or the man who sows the crops and fodder is making a great contribution to our economy and to our world position, but so also is the man who carries out the animal and plant research and makes the sera and fertilizers. The people who provide the means of transport to the areas of population in this country and to the ports of despatch for overseas are making a fundamental contribution. You cannot segregate Australian production into regional areas.
The increase in rural production in Australia has been astonishing. Australia yields to no country in the increased production it has obtained from animals and to very few parts of the world in the increased production it has obtained from crops and fodder. But in these things the increase has been due as much to the initiative and industry of people who live in what the commissioners call metropolitan electorates as to the initiative and industry of those who live in what the commissioners call extra metropolitan, substantially rural electorates. The whole of Australia stands together in these things. The example of South Australia - the worst case of gerrymandering in Australia - clearly shows that rural interests are not advanced by a gerrymander of this character.
I must come to some more general criticism of this distribution. I said that this distribution was not an efficient or fair one. My remarks will be confined to New South Wales since it is the motion for approving the distribution in that State that is before us. The plain fact is that in New South Wales at the last election the party which sits in opposition here was given, after preferences were distributed on the Senate pattern, 10 per cent, more formal votes than were the parties which sit in government. As a result of that 10 per cent, higher vote - 55 per cent, to 45 per cent, of the votes - the Australian Labour Party represents in the House of Representatives 27 New South Wales divisions and the Liberal and Country Parties represent 19 New South Wales divisions. That may seem to be a reasonable majority of seats in view of the very large majority of votes. In order, however, to gauge how just a distribution is one must ascertain whether, if one party were to receive a single vote more than its opponents, that party would receive a workable majority. We saw that in the House as a whole, although the Labour Party had a majority of 5i per cent, over the Government parties, it still had a minority of two in the divisions. If the Labour Party had received, say, 51 per cent, of the votes in New South Wales and the Liberal and Country Parties had received 49 per cent, of the votes, the Labour Party, on the present distribution, would have had a minority of the seats.
– This is theoretical.
– It is easily worked out statistically.
– Not where the Country Party is concerned.
– It needs assistance in these matters. Let honorable members opposite show where the position is other than I state it to be. On the proposed distribution for New South Wales, with a reduction in seats from 46 to 45, if everybody voted in the sub-divisions in which they are enrolled in the same way as they voted at the election last December, Labour would have 24 seats in New South Wales, compared with its present 27 seats, and the Liberal and Country Parties would have 21 seats, compared with their present nineteen seats. That is, the Labour Party’s percentage majority of seats would be smaller than its percentage majority of votes. But if the Labour Party received, on these proposed boundaries, only 51 per cent, of the votes and the Liberal and Country Parties 49 per cent., the Labour Party would have a still more distinct minority.
It is impossible to support the proposed distribution arithmetically. The fact that we have a good majority of seats in New South Wales with a 10 per cent, majority of votes does not conceal the fact that if we had a bare majority of one vote in the whole State we would have a substantial minority of seats in the House. I do not have to criticize the commissioners any further than this: Putting the best construction on their distribution, I think they have done their best to fortify the position of as many sitting members as they can, but the consequence of their action has been that in all those seats where the Labour Party came within an ace of beating the sitting Country Party or Liberal Party candidates at the general election last December, a further swing of 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, in favour of Labour would be required to defeat those members now. The fact is that some seats, which on the present boundaries would be easily won for Labour with a very small swing, would all require, on the proposed boundaries, a very substantial swing to Labour. Those seats are Bennelong, Lowe, Parramatta - which is to be called Cook - Paterson, Robertson, North Sydney, and Macarthur. Not only would Labour win fewer seats if this distribution were approved, but it would be very much more difficult for Labour to win any more seats.
The commissioners have obliged as many sitting members on both sides as they can, but in all innocence - I hope it was innocence - they have made it very difficult for Labour to win any more seats in New South Wales and they have made it very easy for Labour to lose some seats even if it maintains its present vote. This is not an efficient distribution. This is not a fair distribution. I do not have to say that the commissioners acted with impropriety or malice, but they were not as efficient, as fair or as competent as people holding their positions should be.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) spoke in the debate when the last distribution proposals were before the Parliament. His words on that occasion are still true. Now that he holds a more august position I hope that something will be done to see that the truth of his words is acknowledged. Speaking on 2nd June, 1955, the honorable member for Forrest, as he then was, said -
My proposal to the Minister is this: as the Chief Electoral Officer knows the position backwards, and is aware of all the problems that it presents, he should be an advisory officer … It would be desirable to call upon him to prepare a plan and present it to a commission of which he was not a member. The commission could then have a public hearing, and discussion of this plan. Every one would then be aware of the part that that officer had played in the redistribution. The commissioners would not be infected by the somewhat rigid attitude that all of us, being ordinary mortals, adopt in regard to our own ideas . . . We all dislike being told that we are wrong when we have fought deeply on something. If there is to be a sense of fairness - whether fairness has in fact been exercised or not - about the redistribution in the minds of the public a new procedure should be adopted and the act amended.
– That is not what the Minister said last Thursday.
– I do not dissent from most of what the honorable gentleman said last Thursday. In fact, I do not dissent from most of the points made to-night by the Deputy Prime Minister. I only dissent from the points to which he devoted most of his time.
Mr. Speaker, let me sum up the issues which I put to the House. If the Representation Act is amended to permit a remainder of less than one-half to entitle a State to an extra member - and specifically to give Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales the numbers that they would lose and incidentally to grant South Australia another member - the Labour Party would support that amendment. If, moreover, the Constitution is amended - if a referendum is sought to amend the Constitution - to allow aborigines to be counted in the statistics of the Commonwealth - not just “ the census “, but the statistics of the Commonwealth - and furthermore to free the numbers in this House from the numbers in the Senate and to permit this House to have more members as the population of the States increases, members on this side of the House will support the bill for the referendum and will support the referendum itself. And in those matters, as I comprehend it, we would on each occasion have the support of the Country Party. If, however, any amendments are sought to include area or distance specifically among the factors to which the commissioners must give consideration under section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, members on this side of the House will oppose such an amendment of the act. If the commissioners, in making a fresh distribution, depart any further from the margin of allowances which they have at present adopted, we will vote against such a distribution. If the commissioners still persist in an innocent distribution which takes no account of political reality and which, in fact, makes it more difficult for a party which receives a majority of votes to win a majority of divisions in any State, we will also vote against that distribution.
– Mr. Speaker, I propose to speak very briefly, for reasons which will shortly appear. We decided, as a Government, in the events that have happened since the census and under the Representation Act and the Electoral Act as they now stand and as they have stood for a long time, that we had a duty not only to receive the report of the commissioners, but also to present that report, with the customary motion, to this House; and that was done by my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth). We also decided, having discharged that function, that as there is no issue of government policy which arises in relation to the report of independent commissioners appointed under statute, we would not seek to impair the normal rights of any member, in such circumstances, to a free opinion and the free expression of that opinion in the normal way.
That is what we decided and, of course, every honorable member knows that that was the right thing to do. It would be quite farcical for any government, producing a recommendation made by independent commissioners under a statute which has stood for a long time, to say, “We stand or fall by this. This is our policy. This is our redistribution.” Of course it is not, and honorable members have been and are completely at liberty on the matter. Having said that, I want to say that two important, and, indeed, decisive speeches have been made to-night, one by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and one by the Leader of the Country Party (Mr. McEwen). The Leader of the Opposition established quite clearly, in what I thought was a very moderate, reasoned and constructive speech, that, so far as the Opposition was concerned, it was not prepared to support the proposals now before the House. The Leader of the Country Party found that his own party was unanimous on this matter and he was in the position, therefore, to say that the members of the Country Party, who are constituents of the Government and who in all normal matters are stout supporters of the Government, would not support this proposal. So far as I am concerned, because I am here in a dual capacity now, as Leader of the Government and as Leader of the Liberal Party, I just want to say that the Liberal Party itself is a party which embraces members from metropolitan seats, from urban seats and from rural seats - indeed, a great number of members from rural seats. I have not the faintest doubt that, if you took them one by one, you would find a great variety of opinion about this particular redistribution and the principles that ought to be applied to a redistribution, and I accept that.
But it is clear beyond all argument that this proposal is not going to receive the approval of the House. That is, I think, an exercise in reason which everybody would say was beyond argument. That is perfectly clear. Now, Sir, there is a second aspect of that matter.
If this proposal is rejected - if this proposal does not receive the approval of the House, as it obviously does not - then it is idle to think of submitting other proposals arising from similar circumstances, because the whole attack on this one has been based on matters of principle, some of them relating to the Constitution, some relating to the terms of the Electoral Act, some of them relating to the terms of the Representation Act and some of them, perhaps, to the interpretation which has been put on these various provisions by the commissioners themselves. Therefore it is quite clear to me - I now speak as head of the Government - that to pursue this matter would be simply a waste of time and that, in fact, this matter ought to be terminated by such appropriate machinery as presents itself, and that the other proposals in relation to the other States should themselves not be presented because they would fall by exactly the same area of argument and decision as we have seen accepted here to-night.
But that does not conclude the matter. I am very well aware of the arguments that have been put on this matter and some of them, at least, I think are very powerful and persuasive arguments. Some of them involve consideration of statutory change and some of them involve consideration of constitutional change, while some of them may depend upon administrative or machinery considerations. All I want to say is this: So far as we are concerned, we accept what is the palpable view of this Parliament. We propose to take the necessary steps to adjourn this consideration and when I say to “ adjourn “ it I do not hold out expectation that that means it is coming on again. This is one way of dealing with it. These will not come on again; but in the meantime, between now and when the House resumes after the recess, the Government itself - as a government, and this is not any longer a matter of particular party consideration - will give the closest consideration to the various points that have been raised. I do not want to refer to all of them. There is the question of the Representation Act - the fractions. I am completely conscious of the arguments of absurdity which arise when a State loses a seat because it has .47 and not .5 of a fraction. That is obviously a matter that must be looked at and, if possible, dealt with in a satisfactory way.
– Why don’t you and McEwen get together?
– Much to your dissatisfaction, he and I have been together for eighteen years, so there will be no novelty in getting together. There is argument about area, there is argument about the Representation Act and there is argument about a variety of other things that have been discussed here to-night. We propose, as a government, to direct our minds to these arguments, positively and constructively, with a view to submitting proposals to this Parliament, which is the proper place, shortly after the Parliament resumes. Pending that it would be just a waste of time to go on discussing a proposal which is so obviously dead. I am not in the mood to make an obituary speech about it, but the proposal is dead - “ Poor Jack is dead “, or whatever the song is.
– I am broad-minded; “ Poor Arthur is dead “, “ Poor Gough is dead “, but whatever it is these proposals are dead.
Mr. Speaker, I have been reminded that by the vagaries of the Standing Orders of this House I cannot simply move that the debate be adjourned; I must go through the form of asking for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour, adding for good measure that I have not the faintest intention of continuing them.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland with respect to the development of Brigalow lands in tha Fitzroy River Basin.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now r;ad a second time.
Mr. Speaker, I think it very appropriate in an atmosphere in which honorable gentlemen have been reminded of the importance of rural production and rural representation that I should bring forward two bills which give recognition by the Government to these.
This bill is presented in order to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland relating to the provision of financial assistance to the State for the development of an area of land of approximately 4,271,000 acres of the Fitzroy River basin in Queensland for the purpose of increasing the production of beef cattle and other primary products and the supply of beef for export.
In my Budget speech this year, in referring to the measures taken and proposed by the Government to assist a range of important developmental projects in the States, I indicated that an amount had been included in the Budget for the provision of financial assistance to Queensland in respect of the first stages of a scheme to open up and develop to full production a vast area of the rich brigalow lands in the Fitzroy basin of central Queensland. I indicated also that a detailed agreement with the State had yet to be worked out. Since then the two governments have conferred about the project, the outcome of the consultations being the agreement to which the approval of Parliament is now sought.
Investigation by the Division of Agricultural Economics has demonstrated that the brigalow lands of the Fitzroy basin offer very great potential for development, particularly for the production of beef cattle for export. Although these lands are immensely rich, they are at present in a relatively undeveloped state and for the most part are covered by dense brigalow and associated scrub.
After the State Government had outlined to us its proposals for development of the area over a period of five years, we decided that the provision of Commonwealth financial assistance for the implementation of those proposals would be fully warranted. The proposals envisage direct governmental expenditure of £7,250,000 over the five-year period, and it was evident that the State would not be able to go ahead with its plans unless Commonwealth financial assistance was provided. I should mention here that the estimate of £7,250,000 by no means represents the full cost of development of the area; it merely represents the governmental content of the programme. Expenditure by landholders in the stocking and full development of individual properties will involve an amount which, in the aggregate, will be well in excess of the governmental content of £7,250,000, while further substantial indirect expenditure by State authorities will no doubt be involved in respect of the provision of community services.
The proposals of the Queensland Government are outlined in the second schedule to the agreement. The area of land to be developed is at present divided into 115 holdings. The State proposes to resubdivide the area into a larger number of blocks of land - between 250 and 350 blocks - by terminating the existing tenancies and redesigning the area. The principle to which the State is working in the resubdivision is to ensure that each holding is capable of carrying a minimum of 800 head of cattle. It is at present estimated that there will be 278 resubdivided blocks, but that number will be subject to upwards or downwards adjustment as the detailed replanning work proceeds. The re-subdivided blocks will then be reallocated by the State. Some will be offered to the existing leaseholders, and not less than one-quarter of the remainder will be sold at auction, on a conditional purchase basis, for private development. The blocks then remaining will be allocated, on a conditional purchase basis, to applicants selected by the State, and the State will offer to develop the blocks on behalf of the successful applicants and at their expense to the extent of clearing and burning a proportion of the scrub on the blocks, sowing to pasture the cleared land and providing minimum fencing, cattle tick control facilities and water points. Blocks so sold and allotted will be subject to conditions requiring development to minimum standards laid down by the State. Adequate roads are to be provided in the area. As I have already indicated, the State proposes to carry out the whole programme of development over the period of five years ending 30th June, 1967.
The particular works in respect of which Commonwealth financial assistance is to be provided are listed in the third schedule to the agreement. These works constitute in effect the direct governmental content of the overall programme. There is provision in the agreement for variation of the detailed description of the works to the extent that the State may propose and the Commonwealth approves.
Commonwealth financial assistance is payable to the State, on a repayable interestbearing loan basis and subject to an overall limit of £7,250,000, in respect of expenditure by the State on the works during the period of five years ending 30th June, 1967. Of the amount of £7,250,000, not more than £1,650,000 is payable during the current financial year. Repayment by the State to the Commonwealth is to be made in equal half-yearly instalments over a’ period of twenty years commencing in 1968. No repayments by the State will thus be required until after completion of the project. Interest will be payable by the State on each Commonwealth payment at the long-term bond rate in force at the time each payment is made. Interest accruing hi respect of the period before 1968 will be capitalized; in effect, interest falling due during that period will be treated as though it were an additional advance by the Commonwealth to the State.
In accordance with the arrangements that apply in the case of the provision of Commonwealth financial assistance for beef cattle roads in Queensland and Western Australia, it is provided in the agreement and in the bill that expenditure by the State on roads in the brigalow area out of the finance provided by the Commonwealth will not be taken into account as expenditure by the State for the purpose of the matching provisions of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. The agreement also contains the usual provisions included in other comparable agreements relating to such matters as efficient execution of the works, the payment to the State of working advances, the supply of information by the State and the auditing of expenditure.
I would like to say, in conclusion, that both the Commonwealth and State Governments are completely satisfied that the project is one of great importance, not only for the opening up of a sparsely populated area of central Queensland, but also for the national benefits which will accrue from the project in terms of increased export earnings from beef. The programme has been devised by the State Government, and the implementation of it will be wholly in the hands of the State Government. While the Commonwealth’s participation is restricted to the provision of financial assistance in order to enable the State to carry out its programme, we are glad to be able to contribute in this way to the attainment of the valuable objectives I have mentioned. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Riordan) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland with respect to works in connexion with certain roads to be used for the transport of beef cattle.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to seek the approval of Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland relating to the construction of roads in that State to be used for the transport of beef cattle. Honorable members will recall that, as one of a number of measures the Government took last year in a drive to increase our export earnings, a bill was introduced and approved by Parliament, providing for a Commonwealth grant of £5,000,000 to the State of Queensland for the construction of beef cattle roads in that State. The grant applies to the fiveyear period commencing on 1st July, 1961, and is to be spent on roads selected by the State and approved by the Commonwealth Treasurer, which are, to quote the words used in the act, “ likely to result in a substantial increase in the production of beef”.
As provided for in the act, the Queensland Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act 1961, the State duly selected, and I approved on behalf of the Commonwealth, a list of roads on which the Commonwealth’s grant is to be spent. In all, nearly 1,000 miles of road are involved. At the time the State submitted its proposals, its plans over the period provided generally for the construction of roads with a good gravel surface, although it was intended to provide a bituminous surface on some road sections -for instance, where bad flooding was to be expected at certain times of the year. At this point I should make it clear that the selection of standards - which, of course, governs the length of road that can be built for a given expenditure - was left entirely to the State Government and its roads experts.
Earlier this year, however, the State Government informed the Commonwealth of its desire to provide a bituminous surface on all of the roads, partly to provide a better surface for the heavy vehicles that would be using the roads, and partly to avoid the heavy annual maintenance costs that the State would incur in maintaining gravel roads at a satisfactory standard. The additional cost involved was estimated at £3,300,000 and further financial assistance to this extent was sought from the Commonwealth.
Although high-standard gravel roads would, with adequate maintenance, go a long way towards improving transport facilities for beef cattle, a bitumen-surfaced road is undoubtedly the better proposition, both for road users and for the State Government, which would have to find the money for heavy annual maintenance of gravel roads. No doubt the State Government would have sealed the roads at some stage following completion of the construction work - that is, after 1966 - as money became available for this from normal sources, and as traffic on the roads increased. [Quorum formed.] However, the potential for increased beef production and turn-off from the areas in the State served by these roads, and the resultant potential increase in our export earnings, are so great that the Government considers the State’s proposal to seal the roads immediately a sound one, warranting increased Commonwealth assistance over the period to enable this to be done. The State has indicated that it would be able to find the necessary resources of man-power, materials, and equipment to get the additional work done by 1966 or 1967.
The Government has therefore entered into an agreement providing for additional financial assistance of up to £3,300,000 to enable the roads to be sealed. The State Government has agreed that this additional assistance should take the form of an interestbearing repayable loan, as economic studies made by the State have indicated that the sealing of the roads will be of considerable financial benefit to the State, in the way of savings in annual maintenance costs that would otherwise be incurred.
For administrative convenience the agreement, which comprises the schedule to this bill, has been drawn to include not only the road sealing loan of £3,300,000, but also the initial grant of £5,000,000 already authorized by the 1961 act. This avoids the many complications that could arise from having two Commonwealth acts covering assistance in respect of the same roads over the same period of time.
The agreement therefore provides for overall Commonwealth financial assistance to the State, for beef road works, of up to £8,300,000. Of this amount, the first £1,700,000 paid to the State is to be a straight-out grant, and all payments after that are to be on the basis of 50 per cent, grant, 50 per cent, interest-bearing repayable advances. This will preserve the intention that, of the overall assistance of £8,300,000, £5,000,000 will be a grant, as provided for in the Queensland Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act 1961. The interest rate applicable to the loan portion of the assistance will be the appropriate long-term Commonwealth bond rate. Repayment of the loan will not commence until 1967, when it is expected that the roads will be completed, and will be spread over a period of fifteen years from that date.
Other provisions in the agreement relate to such matters as the machinery by which the money will be paid to the State - namely, on a reimbursement-of-expenditure basis, although with provision also for working advances - the provision of information and estimates of cost concerning the work from time to time, the audit of accounts, and other provisions which are now more or less standard in agreements between the Commonwealth and the States covering various developmental projects. The roads to be constructed, and the standards of construction, are set out in schedules to the agreement. The agreement also includes “saving” provisions to embrace what has been done since 1st July, 1961, under the Queensland Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act 1961, and to repeat certain other provisions in that act, provision for the repeal of which is included in the present bill.
The Government considers that this measure represents a further step forward in its plans to increase our export earnings and, at the same time, to help with the development of our northern areas - plans in which the beef cattle industry, and the construction of good roads which will serve the industry, play a big part.
I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Riordan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 2810), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the bill be now read a second lime.
– In continuing the debate on this bill which seeks to amend the National Health Act I do not intend to follow the speeches which were made when the matter previously was under discussion. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) who led the debate for the Opposition upbraided the Government for not doing more to improve the act than the bill proposes. He went to great lengths to indicate what we of the Labour Party feel to be the inequities in the act and to highlight its many shortcomings. I look upon this bill as one which seeks principally to amend one section of the act and to make one or two other machinery amendments.
If we dissect this bill to learn what it purports to do we shall see that it covers really only three or four matters. One matter which I do not think is controversial relates to the 8s. a day which is paid by the Government for every person who is a patient in an approved hospital. Under the present practice the patient receives his account from which the hospital deducts 8s. for every day that he has been in the hospital. The patient then takes the account to an approved hospital fund, if he belongs to one, and receives the rebate to which he is entitled. According to the Minister, the hospitals do not receive the 8s. a day from the Government until the rebate has passed through the State Treasuries and certain other channels. Under the proposed alteration, instead of the hospital authorities deducting the 8s. a day from the patient’s account, the patient will pay the total account and when he takes the account to the approved society to which he belongs he will receive an additional rebate of £1 a day. The approved society will then receive that amount from the Government. If a person is cot a member of an approved society or is not an insured person, the hospital will make the deduction from the account and will receive that amount from the Government in the way which now operates. At least, I assume the present practice will continue.
The bill also provides for the act to be amended by substituting the Australian Medical Association for the British Medi cal Association wherever the latter is mentioned.
The third matter covered by the bill relates to the payment of fi a day to nursing homes and private hospitals which are not recognized at present as being entitled to ordinary hospital benefits. That amount will be deducted from the patient’s account.
The really big item is the proposal to alter the amount that is being paid on account of pensioners who hold a medical card. They will receive some benefit, but I am sorry that the Government has not gone a little further and included all pensioners in the proposal. In fact I have studied the bill and the act and can find no direct requirement that a pensioner must hold a medical entitlement card. The bill refers only to a pensioner who is entitled to hospital treatment in a public ward but it gives no further detail. I have endeavoured to learn from the bill how a hospital will determine whether a pensioner is entitled to the 36s. a day. If I had had time I would have approached the department and probably I would have been told that the matter is covered by that section of the act which relates to an agreement with a medical officer or perhaps with the British Medical Association, as it was. I will say for the benefit of the Minister for Repatriation and the officers concerned that any bill which is introduced into the Parliament should be in accordance with the speech that the Minister makes upon it. The Minister told us that the amount of £1 16s. a day would be paid only in respect of persons who had a pensioner medical service card. I think that that should be set out in the bill. If it is already in the bill, I have not been able to find it and I should be glad if the Minister would tell me where it is. Perhaps this position is tied up with power that is given to the Minister to make an agreement with the medical profession in connexion with the giving of treatment. I mentioned earlier that I think all pensioners should be covered by this provision.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro pointed out how little benefit this provision would be to pensioners in New South Wales. When the Minister was speaking about this situation he said that it had been accepted by government hospitals that pensioners in public wards should not have to pay. Again, he did not explain whether he was referring to pensioners with entitlement cards or to all pensioners. I do not know the position in New South Wales but it appears to me that in a number of States, if not in all the States, pensioners are treated without any charge.
As the subject of the payment of £1 16s. a day to hospitals in respect of persons with pensioner medical service cards is before the House I shall deal only with that matter. It is in South Australia that I have had my greatest acquaintance with the operation of public wards in hospitals. There, the hospitals are under State jurisdiction and are not connected with the Commonwealth except that the Commonwealth Govern.pays 12s. a day towards the upkeep of a pensioner in a hospital. Again, I do not know whether or not that payment is made only in respect of pensioners with pensioner medical service cards. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in a metropolitan area, has mostly public wards. Up to a couple of years ago, practically the whole of the Adelaide Hospital consisted of public wards. The pensioners who attended those hospitals were not charged at all until a couple of years ago, when the Government brought in legislation to provide that any persons in a public ward in South Australia were to be charged £3 a day for treatment, whether pensioners or not. If they could show the hospital that they were not in a position to pay £3 a day, then the hospital authorities had power to reduce the payment to not less than 10s. a day.
A couple of years ago, I took up with Hospital Department officials the practice that they were carrying out in this connexion. They said that they could reduce a pensioner’s liability to 10s. a day. I think that at that time the pension was £5 a week. I said to an official, “ If a pensioner pays the minimum amount of £3 10s. a week out of his pension of £5 a week, that leaves him with only £1 10s. a week. How can he keep his home going on that amount while he is in hospital? “ The official said, “ We are advising them to join a hospital benefits fund. If they join such a fund they will be entitled to receive £1 14s. or £1 16s. a day for hospital expenses. If they have no means apart from the pension we will accept the amount of £1 14s. or £1 16s. a day in lieu of £3 a day.”
One man who had a stroke was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he remained for about three months. He was then transferred to the Northfields wards, which are operated by the Government. That man received an account for £3 a day for the period of approximately three months in which he had been in hospital. His wife was an age pensioner and I think they had about £140 in the bank. That was all the money that they had apart from the pension. The man himself was unable to see anybody about this matter. When his son saw me I said, “ This is a State matter. Go to your State member and see what you can have done.” Ultimately, the hospital accepted a sum, I think, of £50 or £60. These people had been very worried about the matter. This is just one instance of such cases, which were continually brought to my notice.
When 1 discovered this position I addressed a number of pensioner association branches in my electorate and advised their members, for their own protection, to join a fund. At that time I think it cost them 6d. a week, in return for which they could receive approximately £1 16s. a day while in hospital. Then, provided that they did not have any money apart from their pensions, they would not have to pay any amount above £1 16s. a day to the hospital. If they did have any other money the hospital authorities would give consideration to whether the fee of £3 a day could be reduced. I think that the great majority of these pensioners decided to join a hospital fund and pay 6d. a week.
According to the Minister’s secondreading speech, the old-established custom of treating pensioners free in hospitals is gradually giving way to the practice of charging them. I know the position only in Adelaide, where that was being done. The Minister said that the Government desired to rectify that position. Two or three months ago, after the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) had consulted the Ministers for Health of the various States, he stated that the Government had decided to help those hospitals which were not charging any fee to pensioners by giving them an increased amount of financial assistance. I think that, not only in Adelaide but in all States, the Government paid 12a. in respect of pensioners in public wards who had a pensioner medical service card. In respect of pensioners without a medical card, I am not sure whether the Government paid 12s. or 8s. a day. However, I do not wish to pursue that matter now because the position will not be any different under this bill from what it is under the existing act in respect of persons who are not insured or who do not have an entitlement card.
The one feature of mis bill which is very pleasing to me follows on something which a Labour Government instituted. The late Mr. Chifley introduced a payment of 6s. a day for the hospital treatment of any patient In an approved hospital. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) recently dealt with this subject in a manner which was not altogether correct, but, generally speaking, he correctly outlined what had Been done. But other speakers have said (pat the payment of 6s. a day was intended to reimburse hospitals for expenditure on patients. That statement is entirely wrong. No hospital, even when the hospital funds first came into operation, was able to look after a patient for 6s. a day. Mr. Chifley (old the various hospitals that had public yards that the Commonwealth would pay them all 6s. a day for every bed occupied provided that no charge was made for any one in a public ward. I do not think that any one can challenge that statement.
Before that proposal came into effect, the Royal Adelaide Hospital charged 10s. a day. I am speaking now not only of pensioners, but of pensioners in particular. If you could show that you could not afford 10s. a day, the amount could be reduced and, in some instances, written off altogether. This is what has been done in Adelaide recently, also. The amount collected by the Royal Adelaide Hospital from all patients, both pensioners and others, was considerably less than 6s. a day for each bed occupied. Some people were not able to pay anything and others were able to pay 3s. or 4s. a day.
The honorable member for Moore mentioned rates that were paid in various States. We know that the rates were not all the same. The point that I want to make is that Mr. Chifley laid down that the Commonwealth would pay 6s. a day pro vided no charge was made for patients in public wards. That arrangement continued until the present Government altered it shortly after taking office in 1949 to permit hospitals to make charges. The Government is now saying: “ We will give you 12s. a day for the pensioner with a medical card. If you will treat him free, making no charge for anything, including the use of the theatre, we shall give you 36s. a day.” I have no doubt that the hospitals will accept that offer, Sir. I think that a hospital that makes no charge to the pensioner and accepts 12s. a day in full settlement will be glad to get 36s. a day instead of 12s. a day.
I am discussing this matter at length, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I know that there are many people listening to the broadcast of the proceedings and many of them are interested in the welfare of pensioners. I am trying to explain what I believe will be the position of pensioners. I think that the proposals now before us will be of immense benefit to pensioners in South Australia. The Minister for Repatriation stated that under the new arrangement pensioners will not have to join a hospital benefit fund, if they do not wish to do so, in order to obtain free treatment in a public ward. As I stated earlier, I previously advised a lot of people to join hospital benefit funds because they would be compelled to pay a minimum of 10s. a day if they had a pensioner medical card. However, I will now be able to tell them that, if they do not wish to continue to contribute to a hospital benefit fund, they may drop out and still obtain free treatment in public wards, provided South Australia enters into the agreement with the Commonwealth. The act does not state that every hospital shall accept this proposal. It states merely that where the hospital agrees not to make any charge to pensioners with medical cards, 36s. a bed a day will be paid in lieu of the 12s. being paid at present.
I should like to digress for a moment to mention something that the Minister for Repatriation did not explain in his secondreading speech. This bill will repeal the whole of Part V. of the principal act and replace it by a new Part V. The present Part V., which occupies fourteen pages of the act, relates to hospital benefits. However, the Minister did not tell us what effect this proposal would have. When the present Government made its original arrangements concerning hospital benefits, it agreed to pay, in addition to the 8s. a day paid in respect of everybody, whether insured or not, an additional 4s. a day in respect of patients insured with an approved hospital benefit society for a benefit of £2 2s. a week, that additional 4s. to be paid through the approved society. Later, the Government varied the arrangement and agreed to pay an extra 12s. a day instead of 4s. to a patient insured with a hospital benefit fund for 16s. a day, making a total Commonwealth payment of £1 a day.
Section 55 in Part V. of the principal act, which, as I have said, is to be repealed, provides that, if the benefit payable by the hospital benefit fund is not less than 6s. a day but is less than 16s. a day, additional Commonwealth benefit of 4s. a day shall be paid, and that, if the benefit payable by the fund is not less than 16s. a day, additional Commonwealth benefit of 12s. a day shall be paid. These Commonwealth benefits are in addition to the basic rate of 8s. a day. This means that, to qualify for additional Commonwealth benefits, one has at present to insure for £2 2s. a week, or 6s. a day, Under the terms of the bill now before us, that provision in the principal act is to be repealed, and one will now have to insure for a benefit of 16s. a day to be entitled to the additional Commonwealth benefit. In other words, to obtain the same Commonwealth benefits as before, a patient will have to be insured with a hospital benefit fund, not for 6s. a day but for 16s. a day. As I have said, I can find in the Minister’s second-reading speech no explanation of this alteration. I think that, in fairness to honorable members, he should have explained it.
Lots of people come to me and say: “ Do you think that I ought to join a hospital benefit fund? I have very little income, and every ls. counts.” I have been telling them that if they insure with a fund for a benefit of 6s. a day, they will be entitled not only to the basic Commonwealth benefit of 8s. a day but also to an additional 4s. a day, and that, if they insure for a fund benefit of 16s. a day they will get a total Commonwealth benefit of £1 a day. Had I not examined the bill and noted the repeal of section 55 of the principal act, I might still have been advising people that if they insured for a fund benefit of 6s. a day they would be entitled to the same Commonwealth benefit as before.
In fairness to the Department of Health, I must say that I have obtained figures for charges made by hospital benefit funds, and I find that the lowest contribution now is 9d. a week, for a fund benefit of 6s. a day. I do not know whether the benefit funds consider that the contributions should be increased. The point that I make is that we on this side of the House have always contended, and still contend, that every person in the community is equally entitled to Commonwealth hospital benefit, whether insured or not. In the past, we objected to persons having to contribute to a fund to obtain 6s. a day in addition to the usual 8s., and now we find they will have to insure to obtain 16s. a day instead of the 6s.
I think this point should have been made in the Minister’s second-reading speech. The Minister tried to make the purpose of the bill plain to us, but, as I said earlier, the Minister’s speech should be a real interpretation of the alterations that are made by the bill. He should have said that although previously a person could insure for 6s. a day, now it is necessary to insure for 16s. a day. It should not have been left to honorable members to discover this for themselves by a study of the bill.
I turn now to the payment of £1 a day for persons in rest homes. After reading the statement in the press made after the Minister had conferred with State health authorities, I told several people that all persons in rest homes would be entitled to have £1 a day taken off their accounts. I think that is almost what the Minister told us. I thought that all persons in rest homes recognized by the State authorities as bona fide rest homes - not any little old place that claimed it was a rest home but a rest home that was recognized by the authorities as such - would have £1 a day taken ofl their accounts. However, when I went through the bill I found that for a person to obtain the £1 a day, he would have to obtain a certificate from a doctor stating that he needed to be in the rest home. We were not told about this requirement. We understood that any person in a recognized rest home would have £1 a day taken off his account
I know of many persons in rest homes who are not receiving treatment from a doctor for any specific complaint. They have grown very old. They cannot enter an ordinary hospital because they do not need hospital treatment. They have no one to look after them. In consequence, they no into a rest home and pay approximately £15 a week. That is the charge in the general run of rest homes in my State. Up to the present, there has not been any provision that these people must have a doctor’s certificate before they enter a rest home, but under this bill they must obtain a certificate once a month.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The bill before the House is another milestone in the health and social service legislation of this Government. The Menzies Government was the first government to introduce a free pensioner medical service. The Menzies Government was the first government to Introduce free medicine for pensioners. Now this bill provides the means for free hospitalization of pensioners, provided the States agree to make no charge in public wards. This bill will, I believe, cure one of our greatest social problems by providing a means whereby the aged or chronically sick will be able to obtain treatment at nursing homes within their income.
Under this proposal, the aged or chronically sick who are patients in nursing homes will receive £7 a week as hospital benefits, or nursing home benefits, from the Commonwealth. They will also receive their pension of £5 5s. a week, making a total of £12 5s. a week. I believe that that amount is sufficient to enable a nursing home to provide adequate treatment and care for an aged or chronically sick person.
When the Menzies Government came into power, the plight of the aged or chronically sick was just too terrible to mention. These unfortunate people would not be accepted by a hospital. The answer given by the hospitals was: “ There is nothing we can do for you. Your illness is chronic. You are incurable and therefore there is po place for you in a public hospital.” The private hospitals, in most instances, would not take them because they had nothing but the pension. Similarly, what may be described as private nursing homes found they could not take these people because in most instances their total income was insufficient to pay the costs.
This situation was met to a certain degree by an amendment to the National Health Act made by the Menzies Government a few years ago. This amendment introduced the special fund. Because these people were aged or chronically sick, the health and hospital insurance societies would not insure them. Obviously they were not an insurable risk. They were people who needed full-time hospitalization and therefore the insurance companies were not prepared to insure them. The Government met this situation a few years ago by passing an amendment to the National Health Act which established the special fund. The Commonwealth guaranteed any losses of the societies arising from the operations of the fund. From that day onwards, the societies were prepared to insure the aged or chronically sick because the Commonwealth bore tha losses in the special fund.
However, there was still a weakness in that there was a two months waiting period after the date of insurance before the benefit would be paid. During this waiting period, the aged or chronically sick would incur such a load of debt that they could never possibly recover financially. Although the hospitals very wisely did what they could to meet the situation by insuring every patient who came into the hospital, if the patient was not already insured, and then transferring to the special fund, the problem of the two months waiting period was not solved.
The amendment now before the House opens a new era for the aged or chronically sick. No longer is there any waiting period. No longer is it necessary for these people to insure, although, of course, in many cases it will be wise for them to continue their insurance because of the additional benefits that they can get. When these aged or chronically sick persons are patients in nursing homes, they will, as I have said, receive the hospital benefit of £7 a week plus their age or invalid pension of £5 5s. a week, making a total of £12 5s., which I believe will be sufficient to keep them in comfort.
I hope that this amendment will be a challenge to the churches and to charitable organizations throughout Australia - organizations that in the past have been extremely worried by this problem of the aged and chronically sick. Formerly the only place for such people to go was a hospital. I say without fear of contradiction that a hospital is not a place for an incurable person. It is not a place for a person who is simply aged sick or chronically sick. In the last years of their lives, during their invalidity, these people should be in pleasant places where members of the staff are trained in human relations and in making the patients as happy and contented as is possible, having regard to the disabilities from which they suffer. When the bill becomes la v I hope that within a few years we will see the last of the so-called hospitals created from old residences in suburban areas. I believe that the churches and charitable organizations can now safely proceed with the erection of nursing homes which will be attractive places for the aged and sick - places where they will have a room something like a normal motel room; where perhaps they will have television or a wireless. Those places do not need trained staff. Of course, they must have a trained matron but the rest of the staff need not be trained nursing staff. The staff should be people who can make the aged sick and chronically sick as happy and contented as is possible during the last years of their lives. I would like to see nursing homes specially conducted for the purpose for which they are required - namely for nursing the aged sick and the chronically sick. They should be bright places - places where the staff have been trained perhaps in social work. They should be places where the staff knows how to make these poor unfortunate people as happy as is possible under the circumstances.
I congratulate the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) on introducing this most valuable reform, which not only will provide free treatment in public wards of public hospitals for all pensioners holding a medical entitlement card but also will provide a way to give free nursing services for people who are aged sick or chronically sick. I say that because from my lengthy experience in social services I am convinced that if these nursing homes are properly constructed and if they provide the nursing care that the aged sick and the chronically sick need, £12 5s. a week from each patient will be sufficient to enable them to carry on. It is not possible for a hospital to maintain a patient at that figure. Hospitals must employ trained staff. They must use expensive equipment. They must be prepared to handle all kinds of surgical and medical cases. But the aged sick or the chronically sick have already had their illnesses diagnosed. It is known that they cannot be cured but need nursing attention. Instead of putting these people into hospitals, as has been done in the past, let us see that proper nursing homes are constructed in which they may obtain the best nursing care rather than hospital care.
I congratulate the Minister for Health on the tremendous amount of thought that he has put into the bill. The Government also should be congratulated for enabling pensioners to receive free hospital attention in public wards and for enabling the aged sick and chronically sick to receive the best possible treatment in nursing homes in return for the payment of the pension plus their hospital benefit.
.- in reply - I should like to refer briefly to one or two matters that have been raised during the debate. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said that further information should have been provided in the second-reading speech. In a secondreading speech it is not possible to cover every point, and I said that other matters could be clarified in the committee stage. However, as these matters have been raised I took the trouble of circulating to the Whips copies of additional notes which I thought might be helpful to honorable members. Those notes explain the points that were raised by the honorable member for Port Adelaide. The matter raised by the honorable member concerning the eligibility of a person who contributes on the present basis of 6s. a day and the question of the 16s. a day referred to in the bill is explained fully in the notes.
– But they have to pay the 16s. now.
– They have to pay for the 16s. The people who are now contributing on the existing basis will remain on the same conditions as at present but new contributors will insure for a minimum fund benefit of 1 6s. a day. That means a contribution to an insurance fund of 9d. or ls. 6d. a week, depending whether contributors are single or married. This matter is dealt with fully in the notes.
– What is the position of a person with a medical card?
– This matter is explained fully in the notes which, referring to new section 54, read -
This section will authorize payment of Commonwealth benefit of 36s. a day to public hospitals which provide free treatment in public wards for pensioners who have pensioner medical service entitlement.
– That is not stated in the act.
– It is referred to in the bill but perhaps was not elaborated in the second-reading speech. This matter is clarified in the supplementary notes.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) raised some matters in opening the debate for the Opposition. Allowing for the usual approach to matters of this nature, which is understandable, the honorable member used some rather extravagant language. I was surprised when he referred to the provision of £3,200,000 as a fraud, and said that it was not additional money being provided. The £3,200,000 is completely additional Commonwealth expenditure per annum on hospital benefits over and above the £24,000,000 that has been provided in the Estimates.
– Do you not take into account what you are saving on the special account?
– No, in relation to the total Estimates, this £3,200,000 is completely new expenditure by the Commonwealth this year, allowing for all the considerations that have been mentioned before. The other point to which he referred related to the claim that the Commonwealth subsidy this year was only the equal of the subsidy based on the 1948 costs. I think this takes into account only the relationship so far as one aspect of the Commonwealth hospital benefit is concerned. Commonwealth hospital benefits in 1948 amounted to £6,000,000. In 1962-63 the figure will be £25,000,000 and in the fund benefit in addition to that there will be £15,000,000 in fund benefit as the result of the encouragement which will be given to people to insure in the hospital insurance schemes. The total benefit to be received this year is not £25,000,000 or £15,000,000 but £40,000,000. That is the figure which should be compared with the £6,000,000 that has been referred to. In addition to that, in the National Health Scheme this year the total expenditure by the Commonwealth will be in the vicinity of £93,000,000.
There were a number of other matters, one of which was raised by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), who asked whether clinics for use by local doctors could be accepted as hospitals under the act. Such clinics cannot be so accepted unless the patients are in-patients, that is, maintained in the hospitals overnight. The medical benefits system would in most cases cover the doctor’s fees. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) said that pensioners are not treated free at the Canberra Community Hospital. I have checked that matter and found that the statement is not correct. The Canberra Community Hospital does not charge for hospital treatment to pensioners in the pensioner medical service. That has applied right through and still applies. Finally, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) submitted two proposals for consideration by the Government. I have made a note of them and shall refer them to my colleague, the Minister for Health (Senator Wade).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the National Health Act 1953-1961.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
– The clause provides that the act will come into operation on the day upon which it receives the Royal Assent, with the exception of certain sections which will come into operation on 1st January, 1963. I think it is appropriate to point out to the committee, before it approves this clause, that no agreement has yet been reached between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments on the changes which this bill will bring about. Indeed, the State Ministers for Health and the governments of all States, with the possible exception of Queensland, are still protesting very strongly against the provisions of the bill and the way in which it has been introduced. There is a good deal of evidence that not nearly sufficient care has been taken in drafting the provisions of this legislation and that it might be advisable to defer the date upon which it comes into operation so as to enable further consideration to be given to it.
The facts that support this view and which I suggest the Government should examine are that when the Ministers for Health met in Canberra on 22nd October, 1962 they were not given the opportunity to discuss with the Commonwealth the machinery or the nature of the provisions to be introduced. Instead, they were presented with a roneoed set of proposals, covering one foolscap page and one paragraph and were presented with those proposals on what was undoubtedly a take-it-or-leave-it basis. So the proposals and the machinery which has been placed in this bill to carry them out have never been the subject of an independent examination by the State and Federal Ministers. Every State Minister for Health present, except one, raised strong objections to various aspects of the proposals. It should be borne in mind that no objections were stronger than those raised by the Liberal governments of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Unfortunately, according to what is said by the State Ministers concerned, not the least notice was taken by the Commonwealth of any of the objections raised.
Apart from stating that existing conditions would continue to apply until further legislation had been introduced and also that a special conference at officer level would be convened to clarify the issue the Commonwealth Minister for Health made no concessions to the State Ministers on that occasion. Up to that stage, therefore, there had been no agreement and no examination by the federal and State Ministers together of the machinery of these changes, and the changes in the machinery are very faxreaching indeed, as I shall show later in the committee.
But the Minister then promised that the existing legislation would be kept in force for a time until the objections had been examined. The only result of that was a quite peremptory refusal by the Minister to put into effect any of the proposals or objections raised by the State Ministers. The second offer made by the Commonwealth Minister was that a conference of Commonwealth and State officers would be convened at which all these objections raised by the States could be considered at the federal/State officer level. That conference did take place, but it also might just as well have not been held. From the reports on that conference that the officers of the State Departments of Health made to their respective Governments, the officers’ conference which was held at Brisbane on 8th November, 1962, was a pure formality. In other words, the officers were allowed to present their objections and their suggestions for improvement or alteration of this legislation, but with the most minor exceptions, not the slightest notice was taken of anything that they put forward.
It is interesting, however, to notice that although the Commonwealth Minister for Health presented the State Ministers with a document consisting of one page and one paragraph, representing, apparently, his opinion of what is due to State Ministers, at the officer level a document of nine pages was presented and several days, I think, were spent in allowing the State officers to put forward their views on it. But the results were just the same, as the sum total of the Queensland conference amounted to two polite letters of rejection of practically everything that was raised during the discussions that took place. In short, Mr. Chairman, the Commonwealth Government had made up its mind as to the changes that would be made, and all the experience and all the knowledge of the State Ministers and State health officers, who have been vitally concerned with hospital problems for very many years, were totally ignored. Both conferences could be described as being little more than plain window dressing.
Although it could not be expected that the Commonwealth Minister for Health would or could be acquainted with all the fine detail of hospital finance, which is an involved business and differs radically from one State to another, it could have been expected that he would pay some attention to the views presented by the State Ministers and would have given some consideration to their proposals for amendment, and the objections they raised to certain proposals. In fact, it has been pretty strongly suggested, and I think the bill bears some internal evidence to support this, that the senior officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health, who were advising the Minister on these problems, themselves lacked a detailed knowledge of hospital problems, hospital administration and hospital finance, which was necessary if they were to produce legislation which would work.
On the whole I believe, as I said before, that this legislation represents a pretty considerable piece of empire building on the part of the Commonwealth Department of Health and its senior officers. Considerable expansion of some sections of the Commonwealth Department of Health will be necessary to give effect to the new methods of payment of benefits and control of services, but this has been done without drawing any advantage at all from the whole years of experience and the combined knowledge of State Ministers and health department officers. For these reasons, Mr. Chairman, it appears to me that the Government might well consider deferring the date of operation of these proposed sections until it has given, as it certainly should give, proper consideration to the views of the States.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), speaking with great authority, referred to a number of conferences that he did not attend. I suggest that he is not as familiar with the temper of the conferences as he suggests.
– I have the official reports from the State officers who attended.
– I am suggesting that some of the information is not correct.
– That may be so.
– Secondly, the point is that no State agreement is legally necessary for the implementation of those provisions; it is merely a matter for Commonwealth decision. My reason for suggesting that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is not quite correct in his references to the reaction of the State Ministers and in his wish to defer the operation of the clause of this bill is that the State Minister for Health in New South Wales, Mr. Sheehan, made a public statement in which he strongly complained about the conditions of the bill not being ante-dated to August of this year. I suggest that the premise on which he based his argument in relation to the deferment of the implementation of the conditions is not correct.
– Mr. Chairman, I would simply point out that if the operation of the bill were deferred so that some of the contentions and views put forward by the State Ministers and health officers could be considered, this would in no way prevent the operation of those provisions being made retrospective to August, when they are finally agreed to. I do not think there is any failure on my part to understand the correct position. The State Ministers are anxious that this should not come into force until their views have been examined thoroughly and some effect has been given to them. When it does come into force it should be made retrospective to August.
– The views that have been expressed will be conveyed to my colleague. These objections refer to only certain sections of the bill. Certain of the arrangements have to be discussed with the hospitals and the insurance funds before they can be finalized, but they refer to only a section of the bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Section four of the Principal Act is amended - (a)……
– I move -
After paragraph (b) insert the following paragraph: - “ (ba) by omitting from the definition of pensioner ‘ in that sub-section all the words after the words and figures Tuberculosis Act 1948’ to the end of the definition.”
This amendment relates to section 4 of the principal act, which defines “ pensioner “ for the purposes of qualifying for the pensioner medical service. Section 4 lays down quite clearly that - pensioner ‘ means a person to whom, or in respect of whom, there is being paid -
Act 1948, . . .
However, section 4 excludes those pensioners who, being granted a pension after 31st October, 1955, would not have qualified for the full rate of pension if the legislation in force at 31st December, 1953, had not been amended. Therefore, the definition of pensioner in the act clearly means that if a pensioner had an income of more than £2 a week he would not be entitled to a medical entitlement card. The Opposition seeks to amend the definition in section 4. It does so because it believes that these pensioners should be entitled to a medical entitlement card and should be entitled to receive the additional 16s. a day that the Government proposes under the legislation we are now debating.
The Government said in 1955, when the amendment was originally introduced1 to refuse entitlement cards to pensioners with an income of more than £2 a week, that the British Medical Association, or the Australian Medical Association as it is now known, was responsible for the action that the Government was then taking. The Government placed the responsibility on the Australian Medical Association. But those who have studied this legislation and have listened to the speeches of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and others who spoke during the second-reading debate, will appreciate that this legislation perpetuates the definition of pensioner as contained in the act, and that patients who occupy beds in public hospitals and who are not pensioners under the terms of this legislation will not be entitled to the 36s. a day mentioned by the Minister in his second-reading speech. The Opposition believes that medical entitlement cards should be issued to all pensioners, irrespective of their income. We have never accepted the principle of the means test that has been applied by this Government. If the Australian Medical Association was responsible for its introduction in 1955, then all I can say is that this Government is guilty of perpetuating that means test in 1962. There is no reason why all pensioners who are admitted to a public hospital, or, indeed, to a private hospital, should not receive the full 36s. a day under the terms of this legislation. Any one who has studied the Social Services Act, or, indeed, the National Health Act, will appreciate the injustice of legistion which discriminates against a large section of pensioners in this country.
Recently the Minister for Social Services told me, in answer to a question that I placed on the notice-paper, that at 30th June, 1962, there were 710,163 persons receiving invalid, widows’ or service pensions or tuberculosis allowance, enrolled for the pensioner medical service. The Minister, in his ssecond-reading speech, gave a figure of 815,000. There is a big difference in the figures that have been supplied by the Minister for the Social Services on the one hand and by the Minister for Health on the other hand. I originally thought that the mistake was probably due to the fact that service pensioners had not been included in figure given by the Minister for Social Services, but I find that they have been included.
– Did not the Minister refer to pensioners and their dependants?
– The Minister said that 710,163 persons now have medical entitlement cards. It is true that there are some totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen in this country who have medical entitlement cards, if they had received them before the amendment was introduced by this Government in 1955, but they would not account for a difference of almost 100,000 between the two figures supplied by the two Ministers. However, we have accepted the figure of 815,000 given by the Minister for Health.
– That includes dependants.
– Let me deal with the information supplied to me by the Minister for Social Services. I shall now refer to the numbers of persons who have been refused medical entitlement cards. Enrolment in the pensioner medical service, of course, is voluntary, and on 30th June, 1955, there were 15,270 pensioners eligible to enroll who had not done so. We all know why this large number of pensioners bad not enrolled. They had not done so because they were not aware at that stage of the Government proposals. But between 1st November, 1955, and 30th June, 1962, 120,697 persons were granted age, invalid and widows’ pensions and were considered ineligible for enrolment in the pensioner medical service because of the means test that was applied in 1955.
The fact that there are 121,000 pensioners who will not be entitled to the additional 16s. a day proposed under this legislation is sufficient, in the opinion of the Opposition, to warrant the removal of the vicious means test that was applied by this Government in 1955. Any honorable member who has had the opportunity of considering cases in which applications have been made to the Department of Social Services for medical entitlement cards will appreciate how vicious this means test really is. If a pensioner has an income of £2 a week from superannuation or some other source, in addition to his maximum rate of pension, and also has as little as £12 in the bank, the Department of Social Services adds the interest from that amount on to his £2 a week income and refuses the pensioner a medical entitlement card. These conditions should not be tolerated, either by the Department of Social Services or by the Department of Health. We suggest that the Government should abolish this means test, which is debarring a large number of pensioners from enrolment in the pensioner medical scheme.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to give an explanation concerning certain figures given by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). He referred to the number of pensioners, as given by the Department of Social Services, as 710,000. That figure is correct. The figure I mentioned in my second-reading speech was 815,000, and this included pensioners and their dependants. That is the reason for the difference between the two figures.
At this stage I would like to raise a point of order. After careful study of this amendment, and after listening to the honorable member for Bass, I have come to the conclusion that the amendment, if accepted, would increase expenditure under the provisions proposed by this bill to be inserted in the principal act, and also under other provisions of the principal act. The direct effect of the amendment would be to increase the number of persons covered by the definition of pensioner. This would increase the number of persons in respect of whom Commonwealth hospital benefit is payable under proposed section 54. These increases in expenditure are not within the appropriation recommended to the House by the Governor-General and, in accordance with the practice of the House, the amendment, I consider, is therefore out of order. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to rule accordingly.
– It appears in the light of the statement by the Minister that, as the effect of the amendment would be to increase the appropriation, the amendment is out of order, and I rule accordingly.
.- I must accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I therefore feel obliged to move that clause 4 be postponed. I think this should be done as an instruction to the Government to give consideration to the points that I have raised in moving the amendment, in respect of the means test which now applies to applicants for issue of a medical entitlement card. I do not wish to recapitulate all the arguments I have advanced. The Opposition believes that the means test should not apply. For that purpose, I therefore move -
That the clause be postponed.
£11.52]. - I should like to support the proposal of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). I point out to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and to the committee that if the Government insists on limiting the pensioner medical entitlement to pensioners who have an additional income not exceeding £2 a week, then it will be depriving the State governments of the finance necessary to continue free hospitalization for all pensioners, such as applies now in public hospitals in at least five of the six States. The Commonwealth will now be introducing a new principle, whereby the finance that it will provide to enable free hospitalization of pensioners to be continued will be limited in future to those pensioners who have an additional income not exceeding £2 a week. In other words, the Commonwealth will not be providing the finance necessary to enable the State governments to continue free hospitalization of all pensioners. The necessary finance to maintain free hospitalization of pensioners willi not be provided, if the Government adheres to this position, in respect of all those pensioners whose additional income exceeds a miserly £2 a week.
I warn the committee that if it allows this to happen it will place State governments of all political complexions in a position where, deprived by this Government’s action of the finance necessary to maintain free treatment of pensioners in public wards, they may be compelled to introduce fees for pensioners in public hospitals. If this happens, it will be the direct result of the action being taken by this Government in this legislation, by limiting financial support to State governments to enable free hospitalization of pensioners whose additional income does not exceed £2 a week. I am asking whether the Government is doing this deliberately. Is it the attitude of the Government that pensioners who have an additional income of over £2 a week should from now on be deprived of free hospitalization? If that is not its attitude, how can it reconcile its claim that all pensioners should receive free hospitalization with its determination not to provide the financial assistance necessary to enable free hospitalization for pensioners who have additional incomes over £2 a week?
It does appear to me, and I think it will appear to the committee on reflection, that what the Government is trying to do is to force the State governments into the position that they will have to introduce fees for the hospitalization in public wards of pensioners who happen to have an additional income of over £2 a week. If that is the Government’s intention, it should come out and say so openly. If it believes that free hospitalization for pensioners should now be brought to an end, let it say so. If it does not believe that free hospitalization for pensioners should be brought to an end, then let it provide the finance necessary so that the State governments can continue free hospitalization for all pensioners, which at least five out of six States are now providing. I again emphasize to the committee that if the step proposed by the honorable member for Bass is not taken and if the Government, on review, does not see fit to extend the provisions of the pensioner medical entitlement scheme to include all pensioners, then this Government will bear the responsibility for bringing about in Australia a position whereby State governments, for sheer lack of finance withheld by the Commonwealth under this scheme, may be compelled to introduce payment by pensioners for their treatment in public wards of hospitals, and that, I think, will be a very shameful day indeed.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) is again on the wrong track. The design of this bill is to provide more finance to the States to assist in maintaining free hospitalization of pensioners.
– Some pensioners.
– The majority of pensioners. One of the objects of this is to ensure that conditionally upon 36s. a day being provided by the Commonwealth for people under the pensioner medical scheme, free hospitalization will be provided. The object is to continue and perpetuate the free hospital system and not, as the honorable member suggests, to restrain it.
The other point I should like to mention in relation to the motion that has been proposed by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and is now supported by the honorable member for EdenMonaro, is that this clause is vital to the bill. If the Opposition is going to vote against this clause or vote to delay it, it is going to vote either against the bill or to delay the bill. Honorable members opposite have to make up their minds whether they wish this bill, which is to provide £3,200,000 additional finance to assist free hospitalization for pensioners and other measures which are mentioned, to go through, or whether they wish to vote against it. The decision is up to them. If they delay or vote against the clause, which is vital to the bill, it will be taken as a vote against the bill.
– After listening to what the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) has said, far from being convinced that I am on the wrong track, 1 am now more than ever convinced that we are on the right track in this matter. The Minister said that the intention of the bill and the purpose of providing this money is to ensure the continuance of free treatment for pensioners in public hospitals. If that is the intention, it is clear that the Government is limiting it to only some pensioners and is deliberately excluding other pensioners from the proposal. So we can expect that the aim of the Government is to ensure the continuance of free treatment in hospitals for pensioners whose additional income does not exceed £2 a week. Therefore, it appears that by withholding such financial assistance in respect of the hospitalization of pensioners with an additional income of over £2 a week, the Government must be proposing to compel the State governments to levy charges in respect of those pensioners.
– That is quite incorrect, and you know it.
– I should not like the Minister to think that I am putting forward something that I know to be false. It appears to me to be elementary. The cynical laughter is now coming from men with cynical minds who would not be averse, perhaps, I imagine, to putting something forward that they know to be false, but that would be contrary to my whole political ethics.
I think that the proposition is true. If you claim that you are paying 36s. a day in respect of certain pensioners to ensure that they continue to receive free treatment in hospitals, then it must follow that by refusing to pay that amount in respect of other pensioners you are deliberately refusing to take the step which would allow their hospitalization to continue to be free. In other words, you are withholding from the States the finance necessary to ensure that the treatment of all pensioners in public wards of hospitals continues to be free. If that follows, then you are forcing the State governments into a position where, out of sheer lack of finance, they may be compelled to introduce a system of charges for pensioners in public wards of hospitals. I repeat: As all State governments until now, with the exception of the Government ^ of South Australia, have provided free treat- i ‘ ment for all pensioners, by this legislation you will take away from them the opportunity which-
– Then where are the States to get the money? You admit that 36s. a day Commonwealth subvention is necessary to maintain the system of free treatment for pensioners, but you will provide it only in respect of certain pensioners, so you will remove from the State governments, in respect of those pensioners with incomes over £2 a week, the financial support necessary to continue free hospitalization. If that is so, the Commonwealth Government and no one else will be responsible if it becomes necessary to introduce charges for pensioners in public wards, because the Commonwealth Government is saying that from now on Commonwealth financial assistance to enable free treatment of pensioners will be limited to those whose incomes do not exceed £2 a week.
Wednesday, 5 December 1962
.- I want to deal with this proposed amendment again because of what the Minister stated after I had concluded my previous remarks. As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has pointed out, the additional 16s. a day will be paid only to those pensioners in public hospitals, and I presume in any other hospitals, who have qualified for the medical entitlement card. ,
In his second-reading speech the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) stated -
What this proposed legislation will do will be to provide a special benefit of 36s. a day to public hospitals whose practice is to provide free treatment for pensioners and their dependants entitled to the pensioner medical service.
The Minister referred repeatedly in his second-reading speech to “ pensioners “ but we must keep in mind that the definition of “ pensioners “ is those pensioners who have qualified for a medical entitlement card. It is perfectly clear that only pensioners who are entitled to a medical entitlement card will receive the additional 16s a day under the terms of this legislation.
By way of interjection, one honorable member on the Government side stated that the Government is providing an additional £3,200,000 to the States to assist them with the financing of their hospitals. But if the Government accepted responsibility for the 100,000 pensioners who are not entitled to a medical card it would pay to the States 16s. a day every time one of those pensioners was admitted to a public hospital. Obviously if the Government accepted all pensioners under the terms of this legislation the extra amount which would be paid to the States would be greatly in excess of £3,200,000 a year. So the Minister’s argument falls to the ground.
The Government is discriminating against some pensioners who will be admitted to public hospitals. As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has pointed out, if the State governments in future receive 36s. a day only in respect of those patients who hold a pensioner’s medical entitlement card they may be obliged, because of the loss of revenue, to make a charge against pensioners who do not hold a medical entitlement card. Irrespective of the fact that it may delay the passage of this bill, I ask that the amendment, which proposes that clause 4 be postponed, be accepted.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said that the State governments at present are providing free hospitalization for all pensioners and that this bill will deprive the State governments of revenue to enable them to carry on this free hospitalization for all pensioners. The bill provides another £3,200,000. The honorable member does not make sense.
.I want to repeat the statement which I made during the second-reading debate on the bill. This is a most important provision. The definition of “ pensioner “ within the bill is of a rather limited nature in that it perpetuates the 1955 provision. Whether or not it will reduce the revenue available to the States, it is most inequitable in principle and will be even more so in its administration.
I mentioned to the House the other night - I repeat it now - the woeful inequity of the administration of this provision. It is possible for one pensioner couple to have a home of their own of any value, to have a car of any value and to have £9,000 in a bank or invested. If they are able to rearrange that bank amount or that investment so that it does not return income for four or five weeks, while their application for a pension is being dealt with, they can receive a pensioner medical service card and retain it for the rest of their lives, despite the fact that the £9,000 may afterwards be invested so as to return 10 per cent, or more - £900 or more annual income. This provision will not deprive certain people who receive infinitely more than £2. a week of the pensioner medical card. The lucky ones are able to gain something which those far less fortunate are unable to obtain. Pensioners with only £2 a week coming in from superannuation or from work that they have to do, cannot obtain the pensioner medical card.
The Minister was present in the chamber when I mentioned this matter the other night and I think he was pretty attentive to what I was submitting. I feel very strongly about this, especially in relation to some of the Commonwealth’s own exservants. Those who are able to receive their superannuation in a lump sum and can defer investing it until after they have made application for a pensioner medical card can qualify and receive the card, but those who are compelled to accept their superannuation in regular fortnightly instalments are deprived forever, or while this means test exists, of the card which entitles them to free medical attention, free pharmaceutical benefits and free public ward hospitalization. This is a most serious limitation. Not only is it wrong in principle but in its administration it causes grave dissatisfaction to many fair-minded people in the community.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 11 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
– I ask for your guidance, Mr. Chairman. As you know, clause 12 seeks to repeal a whole part of the principal act and provides for the insertion of a whole new part in its place. This new part consists of very large number of proposed new sections extending over a very large number of pages in the printed copy of the bill. In a number of these clauses there are points which I wish to raise with the Minister for consideration by the Government. Will I be limited to speaking only twice on these eight printed pages of sections which are covered by clause 12, or is it permissible for us to take the relevant new sections separately? I point out that they deal with a great variety of matters.
– We can deal with clause 12 by sections if the committee is agreeable to that.
– I ask the committee to agree to that, because a great variety of matters is covered in these eight pages, and I cannot possibly deal with all those matters in the time that would otherwise be available to me.
– Is it the wish of the committee to deal with clause 12 by sections? There being no dissentient voice, that procedure will be followed.
– I wish to refer to proposed new section 38 (1.), which deals with interpretation. The first thing that I want the Minister to consider and give me an answer on is the position of five hospitals in Sydney all of which are performing very valuable work, as will be known to many honorable members. I refer to the Lottie Stewart Hospital, the Home of Peace Hospital, Neringah Hospital, the Hospice for the Dying and the Royal Ryde Homes. Honorable members will know of the tremendous value of the work which is being done by these hospitals. I do not know how the interpretation in proposed new section 38 (1.) fits the position of these hospitals. I am informed that under the interpretation which has been put upon this measure by the officers of the New South Wales Department of Health there will be a loss of 8s. per day per patient in revenue to each of these five hospitals. The method by which this is assessed is as follows: The public ward rate in these hospitals is £2 4s. a day. This is made up, at present, of ordinary hospital benefit, 8s.; Commonwealth additional benefit, 12s. which is payable because all those in these hospitals are insured; a special account recoupment of 16s., as almost all patients in these hospitals are over 65 and are under special accounts. That makes a total of £1 16s. a day. The addition of a deduction from the pensions of pensioners in these hospitals of 8s. a day makes a total of £2 4s. Under the new proposal, the Commonwealth will grant £1 16s. a day for pensioners with entitlement cards, conditional upon no charge being levied on the pensioner. The view in New South Wales Government circles is that the hospital will now be precluded from charging the 8s. a day which it has been the practice to charge in the past; and these five hospitals which are very short of finance will therefore be placed in a parlous position. I should be very glad if the Minister could give an explanation and an assurance that these five hospitals which deal with the dying and people who are incapable of looking after themselves and the finances of which are in a very straitened position will not be at any disadvantage as a result of this legislation.
– I can give an assurance that they will not be at any disadvantage.
Clause to the end of proposed Division 1 agreed to.
– I want to deal with the position that nursing homes will be in as a result of the passage of this legislation. It appears to me, on the surface, that it will be possible for people with commercial interests and with the sole desire to make a profit to be able to obtain approval as nursing homes for old, ramshackle buildings which they can operate with skeleton staffs, provide a minimum of treatment for the old people in their care, and receive from the Commonwealth and from the pensioner a total of £12 5s. a week in respect of each inmate.
– They have to be registered by the States, have they not?
– Not in future.
– Could you not tell us about it after?
– This may not be very important to the honorable member. I know that he has a very keen sense of humour, but this is a matter of considerable importance to the aged people who will enter these nursing homes, to their relatives and to people who have some spark of consideration in them. It is important that appropriate precautions should be taken to ensure that these do not become places for the exploitation of the aged and for the making of considerable profit.
– I have more in my electorate than you have, and I do not know of any exploitation.
– If there is no exploitation in the honorable member’s electorate, that is a good thing. I am glad to hear of it. But there is considerable evidence of exploitation in some of these alleged nursing homes in many parts of the Commonwealth, and it does not appear to me that the provision in the bill is satisfactory. I should like the assurance of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) on it.
In the first place, the definition of a nursing home is given and it is the widest in the world. The bill provides that where the director-general is satisfied that premises are a nursing home - that means simply that they fulfil the very vague and wide definition - the director-general shall approve the premises. Apparently, he is given no discretion whatever. If the premises fulfil the definition of a nursing home which, as I have said, is in the widest and vaguest terms, it appears that the director-general will have to approve of them and has no discretion to do otherwise. I refer to proposed new section 40, sub-section (3.) which sets out that the director-general shall approve the premises-
– Perhaps I can short circuit “ the debate if the honorable member will allow me to interrupt him.
– I do not think you can, because I think this is a matter that requires examination. It is provided that the director-general may send one of his officers to inspect the premises. But there is no provision as to what this officer may do apart from inspecting the premises and submitting a report to the directorgeneral. A penalty is incurred by the proprietor only if he declines to permit an officer to inspect the premises. If he allows the officer to inspect them, he satisfies the provisions of proposed new section 40, sub-section (2.). The directorgeneral, as far as I can see, cannot revoke the original approval which he is compelled to give unless he is satisfied that the nature of an approved nursing home has changed since an approval was originally given. So, first of all, the definition is extremely vague and wide. Secondly, it is mandatory on the director-general to give approval provided the home comes within the definition. I cannot imagine any premises in Australia that would not. Thirdly, the premises can be inspected but the directorgeneral cannot revoke an approval unless a change in the nature of the nursing home has been made since the original approval was given.
What is even more dangerous is that there is to be an appeal from the directorgeneral to the Minister for Health. This is a matter of administration, surely, not of policy. If any one is competent to decide whether a nursing home is adequate for its purpose it should be the head of the department, the director-general, who has trained staff and expert knowledge at his command. But here, possibly because many of these places are conducted by medical men for profit as a sideline with the aid of registered nurses, a provision has been inserted that any proprietor of a nursing home who is dissatisfied with a decision of the director-general may appeal to the Minister and the Minister can completely override the director-general and order that approval be given to the premises. I would ask the Minister for Repatriation, if he can, to satisfy my mind on those points.
– The only point to which I think I should direct attention is that the criteria to be applied in classifying institutions as hospitals or nursing homes are the same as those which now apply in determining whether they are recognized or unrecognized. The system has been working satisfactorily up to date.
With the extension, as far as the Commonwealth is concerned, we have no worry at all that any exploitation will take place. Of course, this is done in conjunction with the State governments in the classifying of various hospitals and institutions.
– The State governments have no power in this matter. The power is vested solely in the director-general, subject to a review and final appeal to the Minister for Health. I have not been into any of these nursing homes but constant complaints are being made that premises of this kind are being run as commercial concerns, that the inmates are being very badly treated, and that the proprietors are making profits by exploiting them. The present position cannot be regarded as ideal.
– Are the inmates forced to stay in them? Do they not stay there voluntarily?
– Of course! That is an important point. A doctor owns a nursing home-
– Does he?
– Yes. Many doctors own nursing homes which they run as a sideline to their profession. Any one can be admitted to a nursing home provided that a doctor’s certificate is given. The Commonwealth is committed to pay £7 a week in respect of each inmate of the nursing home.
– An inmate does not have to get a doctor’s certificate to leave the place.
– That is a silly thing to say. They have nowhere else to go, very often. They are not capable of looking after themselves. In these circumstances the Commonwealth and the Parliament should have some regard for them. Very serious allegations have been made about the ways in which many of these places are conducted. I therefore raise the matter for the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz).
.I am appalled at the abysmal ignorance of some Government supporters about nursing homes. I have listened to interjections from honorable members opposite and it is obvious that they have not been inside a nursing home. Therefore, let me just clear this matter up. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) interjected and said that these nursing homes are registered by the State. There is no reference in this bill to such homes being registered by the State. They are approved entirely by the DirectorGeneral of the Commonwealth Department of Health.
– The bill refers to recognized and unrecognized hospitals.
– There is not enough protection given to patients or to this Government which is spending money on these patients, as the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has stressed. All the Director-General of Health may do is to authorize an officer to inspect these nursing homes. The proprietor or the proprietress may not let the inspector in. These homes are generally run by exmatrons of hospitals. There is provision for a fine of £20 for not letting the officer in, but there is nothing in this part of the bill to say that the officer has the power to close the home down if it is not being run satisfactorily. I think that that is a great weakness. He should have some executive power. All he is authorized to do is inspect the home. He can probably report to the director-general, under proposed sections 44(1.) and 44(2.) of Division 2. Under proposed section 44 (2.), if the directorgeneral considers that the nature of an approved hospital or of an approved nursing home has changed, he may do certain things. What does “ the nature of “ mean? Does it mean that the home may have been changed to some other institution? That is not the point we are raising at all. The point is whether he should close the home because it is not being run satisfactorily or that it is not accepting the people it should accept. He has no power to close it down for those reasons. He may close it only if the nature of the hospital has changed. I should like the Minister to explain what is meant by “ the nature of “.
I think it means that the hospital is being used for some other purpose. The Oppotion is very doubtful about the whole tenor of these proposed sections of clause 1 2. We are spending Commonwealth money in these places on a scale never heard of before and the Government should tighten the act up to see that there is no exploitation of these sick people. I have visited sick people in a large number of these nursing homes and there can be exploitation if the proprietress is so minded.
– Do you say there is exploitation?
– I have not seen it myself in the places where I have been. There are many others. I have seen only a few.
.I ask the Minister to explain to me who are the people in proposed section 42(1.) that the director-general may, by writing under his hand, authorize to inspect approved hospitals or approved nursing homes or any premises in respect of which an application for approval has been made. I can only speak for South Australia. The directorgeneral could get Dr. Lapedus from the Department of Health to make the inspection, and he could not get a better man to do the job. I am concerned only as to whether it is the intention of the Government to have a qualified person, such as the gentleman I mentioned, to make the inspection.
– Could it be a health inspector?
– I desire to know whether he is a qualified health inspector, a medical man like Dr. Lapedus, or a qualified nurse. Despite what the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) says, homes can be removed from the State register. Much concern has been felt in private hospitals about people associated with State departments coming in and inspecting medical records and demanding the right to go through various books. It is felt that in these cases it would be better for somebody who is associated with the Department of Health in an office capacity to give the instruction for somebody to have a look at a particular hospital. I should like the Minister to inform me whether it is intended that these inspections should be made by a qualified medical person or a health inspector.
– The Minister was good enough to indicate previously that the Government was not prepared to recognize clinics. I envisage a clinic as a place where people go to have a minor operation such as a tonsillectomy. Such a place is used by nearly every general practitioner in the locality. What we will do by not accepting and registering such places is to drive patients into general hospitals. I thought that was just exactly what we did not want to do. We do not want to use up expensive beds in our general hospitals, which are already overcrowded, for the accommodation of patients undergoing minor operations. I should think that to encourage the provision of this kind of clinic would give some kind of relief, and I am not just expressing my own lay opinion. That is the very strongly argued opinion of many doctors.
I do not think it is just a case of selfinterest. Possibly some of these clinics are owned by doctors themselves, but I do know that they provide a very valuable service in the community. They relieve the general hospitals of a number of commitments, yet they do not receive any consideration in respect of hospital benefits. The same sort of thing applies to new psychiatric centres that are being established in various cities. They provide an alternative to putting people into mental institutions for a long period. It is felt that it is better for persons with some kinds of psychiatric condition to stay in their own home background and visit these psychiatric centres on certain days each week. A hospital and accommodation charge is made for people in these clinics, yet they receive no reimbursement from either the Commonwealth or a fund organization.
I should now like to mention the case of a person who is in the special accounts category. She happens to be 65 years of age. She had to enter one of these clinics to have a mole removed from her face. The clinic of course, made a charge, but despite the fact that she has been a subscriber to a fund for 36 years, and that this was the first time she had made a claim, her application was rejected. The fund organization claims that the Commonwealth does not allow it to make a payment in respect of a special account contributor.
I think that the Government is making a serious mistake in not allowing fund benefits and Commonwealth benefits to be made available for people using clinics in which there is not provision for overnight hospitalization. The clinics serve an important purpose in the community because they relieve a fairly big demand on public wards in hospitals. If fund benefits are not to be provided you may well see the people demanding public ward accommodation in our general hospitals. That would be detrimental to our whole system.
– Mr. Chairman, I shall not detain the committee very long. I just seek from the Minister some clarification about whether establishments treating handicapped children will be covered by the provisions of this division of proposed new Part V. of the principal act. A short time ago, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and I had occasion to seek from the Minister for Health some clarification concerning an establishment at Leura which was being conducted by a Dr. Ladomery, We introduced a deputation to the Minister, but the results were most unsatisfactory. I believe that if a deputation interviewed the Minister concerning these proposed new provisions, a clear-cut statement of the position would be just a9 difficult to get.
In the case in question, mentally and physically handicapped children were accommodated in an establishment which was not approved by the State authorities, although it could have been. The only response that we could get from the Minister for Health was that those running the establishment should spend money on certain things and develop it. But neither the Minister nor any officer of the Department of Health was prepared to indicate precisely what was needed. The division now before us does not indicate what is needed either. Off the record, there was an intimation that the patients in the establishment concerned would be classed as patients for the purpose of benefit and that the establishment might have a chance of becoming an approved establishment if the patients were bedridden. As I am sure the honorable member for Macquarie will agree, the most desirable thing for these children is that they be, not bedridden, but exercised and encouraged to move about so that they may acquire the use of their limbs. I am sure that it is apparent to all honorable members that in many instances where handicapped children are involved, there is a desperate need for financial assistance. However, under the existing provisions of the act, financial assistance is not available, and I doubt very much whether assistance will be available under the terms of this division.
What I want to know, first, is whether the terms of this division will enable financial assistance to be provided for establishments catering for handicapped children, particularly those who are not permanently bedridden. Treatment as bed patients is not the kind of assistance that they need. Physiotherapists and the like visit the establishment now and the children are in the care of competent people. I should like a more detailed intimation than appears in the division of the kind of facilities needed to ensure approval under the terms of the act as it is to be amended. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) said, by way of interjection a short time ago, that all that is necessary is to get approval from the State authorities. That does not follow at all. There is a great need for the provision of detailed information in this division.
Division agreed to.
Division 3 agreed to.
– Mr. Chairman, I direct attention to proposed section 54 in this division. This section provides for the payment of 36s. a day in respect of each pensioner who qualifies - that is, each pensioner who possesses a medical entitlement card. I point out that the proposed payment of 36s. a day is far below the cost to any public hospital of treating a pensioner. In 1960-61 - and costs have undoubtedly risen since that time - the average bed cost in public hospitals ranged from £5 12s. 6d. a day in New South Wales to more than £7 a day in Western Australia. Therefore, I fail to understand how the Commonwealth Government can contend that a payment of 36s. a day is sufficient to enable a State government to maintain its treatment of a pensioner in a public ward. The proposed payment of 36s. a day is actually less than one-third of the cost of treating such patients, for whom the Com monwealth, at its own expense, on the other hand, provides full and free medical and pharmaceutical services. Why, then, should the hospital benefit be only 36s. a day?
The State Health Ministers have claimed - and rightly so - that the Commonwealth has a special responsibility in relation to this class of pensioner. However, the State Ministers offered to share this responsibility equally with the Commonwealth, and it was this offer which actuated their proposition, following the conference of Health Ministers in Adelaide last February, that the Commonwealth meet half the cost of treating pensioners who qualified under the pensioner medical service. On that basis, the Commonwealth benefit in respect of such pensioners should be increased to a minimum of 60s. a day, instead of 36s. a day. Even then, the State governments would be left with the acute problem of deciding how on earth they are to continue to finance the hospitalization of other pensioners in respect of whom even this 36s. a day will not be payable.
Division agreed to.
– Mr. Chairman, this division deals with patients in. approved nursing homes. Here, I wish to place several considerations before the Minister. The proposed benefit of 20s. a day will mean little, if any, financial gain to patients in these homes other than to relieve them of the necessity to insure, because, as insured patients, they are already attracting 20s. a day by way of the ordinary hospital benefit of 8s. a day and the additional benefit of 12s. a day. They are getting 20s. a day now.
– Only after two months.
– Most of them are in these nursing homes for years.
– There is a waiting period of two months.
– Yes, but patients are in these homes for very long periods.
– Does not this cover them without limitation of time?
– Yes, but the amount that they will save is simply the few pence a week that they now have to pay to insure themselves.
– But the insurance fund would not have covered them without limitation of time. It would have covered them for only about three months.
– No. The honorable member is quite wrong. The payment goes on indefinitely - I suppose because of the Commonwealth benefit. The Commonwealth payment is £1 a day. The funds are not put to expense in that matter.
These patients need not insure to attract benefit of 20s. a day when they are patients in a nursing home, but if they are transferred from the nursing home and enter a general hospital as uninsured patients, the payment by the Commonwealth is immediately reduced from 20s. a day to 8s. a day. A nursing home can give these patients only a very small measure of the care available in a public hospital. A person cannot anticipate whether, at some time in the future, he will be hospitalized in a general hospital or in a nursing home, and he therefore has little alternative but to continue his insurance, even though it is not necessary when he goes into a nursing home. He does not know whether, in his own interests, he will have to go into a general hospital at any time, and he will therefore have to continue his insurance for his own protection. Under the arrangement proposed, a patient will be paid a benefit of 20s. a day while in a nursing home, but only 8s. a day while in a public hospital, where the standard cost of his care will be very much higher.
– He will get 36s. a day while in a public hospital if he holds a pensioner medical service entitlement card.
– He will get it if he holds a card. But not every inmate of a nursing home holds a card. Quite a large number of inmates do not, and they are the people to whom I refer.
– They can still insure.
– They will not need to be insured to be in a nursing home in future. They will save a few pence a week in insurance.
– When they are transferred they can insure without waiting eight weeks to qualify.
– That is perfectly true.
– And they can receive their insurance benefit as well, then.
– That is true, but that does not invalidate the proposition that I am putting forward. The proposition is that the Government is prepared to pay 20s. a day to any one who can gain admission to a nursing home. Any one in this chamber can gain admission to a nursing home if he can get a doctor to sign a certificate. From then on the Commonwealth will pay 20s. a day towards his keep. If that person is transferred to a hospital - he is transferred only because his condition of health has become much more serious - from then on the Commonwealth will pay only 8s. a day.
– But he receives his insurance benefit.
– The honorable member who is interjecting could be admitted to a nursing home to-morrow, provided his doctor would give him the necessary certificate. From then on he would receive 20s. a day from the Commonwealth for the rest of his life. If he transferred to a hospital the day after tomorrow because his condition of health had deteriorated, he would not receive the 36s. a day if he were an uninsured patient transferred from a nursing home; he would receive only 8s. a day. I direct attention to that very curious anomaly.
A very serious position that arises - one which is wide open to abuse - relates to the admission of persons to nursing homes. As I have said, many of these homes are private nursing homes conducted for a profit. The motive of the person conducting the home is to make the maximum amount of money out of the inmates of that home. He may be kind. He may be decent. He may seek to make only a reasonable amount of profit, or he may seek to make the maximum amount of profit. The incentive is there for him to make as much profit as he possibly can.
Therefore, the person who most needs attention in a nursing home will not get into a nursing home conducted by a person who is out to conduct it as a business enterprise and to make the maximum profit, because the person who needs the most attention will cost the proprietor of the nursing home the most in nursing care. That is happening every day. People are urgently in need of admission to nursing homes, but they simply cannot get into them because the proprietors of the nursing homes will not take them. On the other hand, if the proprietor is a doctor, or if the proprietor has a friend who is a doctor, some one who needs very little care or no care at all will be admitted in preference to a person who actually needs care. The doctor needs only to write a medical certificate to get the person admitted.
From those points of view, the scheme that the Government is now putting forward will not confer upon those people who need them the benefits that it should confer. I believe that that is due to the lack of knowledge of the way in which these nursing homes are run, and the lack of thought about the precautions that ought to be taken to make sure that the Commonwealth benefit of 20s. a day is provided for the people who most need attention in a nursing home. r Division agreed to. : Division 6.
– I want to direct attention now to the really disastrous effects of the change in the method of paying benefits. The Minister has stated that the amalgamation of the two separate benefits into a single benefit of 20s. a day for insured patients to be paid through contribution funds, and the payment of the pensioner benefit of 36s. a day, the uninsured benefit of 8s. a day and the nursing home benefit of 20s. a day that in future will be paid direct to the hospitals by the Commonwealth, will be a considerable step forward in simplifying the scheme and will ensure the payment of benefits to hospitals with a minimum of delay. That is simply not so. It occurs to me that no one who had any knowledge of the problem could believe that that could be so.
Currently, the ordinary hospital benefits for all qualified patients are being paid by the Commonwealth to the State and reimbursed to hospitals through the statutory authority in each State. In New South Wales the payments approximate £2,400,000 per annum and are paid to hospitals as part of their regular maintenance subsidy cheque at the beginning of each month. That means that at the beginning of each month every hospital in New South Wales is paid in advance for that month an amount approximately equal to the Commonwealth benefits allowed to patients during that month.
Under the changed arrangements, hospitals will have to wait until well into the following month before they receive payment direct from the Commonwealth for the pensioner benefit, uninsured benefit and nursing home benefit, and1 until the patient’s account is actually paid before they receive the 20s. a day benefit for insured patients. That will have a very serious effect on the finances of hospitals in all States in the present financial year. Using the £2,400,000 payment currently being made to New South Wales as an example, I find that the lag created by the change in method will be equivalent to almost two months’ benefits, which means that approximately £400,000 less in cash will be received by hospitals this financial year than would have been received had the method of payment remained unchanged. That, however, deals only with the overall financial implications.
The statement that the change in method of payment will produce simplicity and a better public understanding is, in my opinion, grossly misleading for reasons that I will give. I ask the committee to consider the following points: The situation will be created in which all insured patients will be required to pay hospitals 8s. a day more than uninsured patients will be required to pay. For example, the intermediate ward rate in New South Wales is 68s. a day. So the uninsured patient, after being allowed the 8s. a day that the hospital will collect direct from the Commonwealth, would have to pay 60s a day in cash. In the case of the insured patient, the whole of the 68s. will have to be collected from the patient, or his contribution fund if he assigns his benefit to the hospital. The position of hospital secretaries will be most unenviable. The secretaries will have to try to explain to insured patients why they have to pay 8s. a day more than uninsured patients have to pay. To any one who is experienced in hospital administration-
– Who explains how they receive a bigger refund?
– I am sorry. I am doing my best to make it plain. Hospitals will have to determine whether or not a patient is insured, and if he is, whether or not he is eligible for benefits. Any one who is connected with hospital administration knows how difficult it is to find out from a patient, who says that he has left his book at home or is not sure of the date up to which his contributions have been paid, whether or not he is actually insured.
– They have that difficulty now.
– No. In future, until the hospitals are able to establish that, they will not know what to charge the patients. For example, the hospitals will not know whether to charge an intermediate patient 68s. a day or 60s. a day. Hospitals should not be required to prove fund membership of their patients. Many patients will not disclose the required facts to the hospital in any case. In fact, the only bodies that can really prove membership and eligibility for benefit are the contribution funds themselves.
The proposed amalgamated benefit of 20s. a day for insured patients does not apply to all insured patients. In certain circumstances the bill provides for only 8s. a day to be paid. That means that in future contribution funds will have to assess, in effect, eligibility for three separate benefits; namely the 20s. a day benefit, the 8s. a day benefit and the fund benefit itself. That will add extraordinarily to the administrative problems of the funds and create further delay in the settlement by them of claims. Delay by the funds is already the subject of great public discontent and criticism. This will add very considerably to that delay.
The proposed procedure will be more complicated and costly both to the hospitals and to the contribution funds, and will mean the setting up in the Commonwealth offices in each State of an additional section, or an extension of an existing
Commonwealth section, to do the work which currently is being handled in a very simple fashion by the statutory authority in each State which has had a long and detailed experience in handling it.
I understand that these and many other objections to the proposed change in the method of paying benefits were pointed out by the representatives of all the States at the conference held recently in Brisbane, and that the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Department of Health obdurately refused to take any notice of any of these objections. It was unanimously stated by all State representatives at that conference that the change in method of payment was unnecessary and would only make a complex system even more complex and make the general public even more confused, particularly the insured patient. I can see no reason why the method of paying benefits should be changed, and I venture to predict that the Commonwealth itself will within a few months be compelled to review and change the new methods now being introduced.
Looking over the proposals contained in this bill, I can only come to the conclusion that it would be a sheer impossibility to devise anything more complicated and administratively difficult than that which is at present being put forward. The bill will place heavy additional burdens on hospitals as a whole. It will in the larger hospitals necessitate additional staff being employed and will, as far as New South Wales is concerned, create a lag period in benefit payments which will have most serious consequences for hospital finances. In the meantime, hospitals will have to cope with the problems which this bill creates, and perhaps the best indication of the sheer lack of understanding shown by the Commonwealth in this matter is that it is proposed to make the act operative from 1st January next, which is now less than a month away. Even if the utmost expedition is used in preparing the new and necessary instructions, how the content of the instructions can be absorbed by all the hospitals concerned, when it is considered that the Christmas and New Year holidays will intervene, is beyond thecomprehension of many hospital administrators in New South Wales at least and, I should imagine, beyond the comprehension of very many people who are interested in hospital administration.
Division agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 27 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 28 (Payments to be made out of the National Welfare Fund.)
– I would like to have from the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) an explanation as to how the amount of £3,200,000, which he states is the estimated cost to the Commonwealth of the new proposals, is arrived at. The Minister informed me earlier in the night that the whole of the £3.200,000 is entirely new expenditure by the Commonwealth. I would like him to inform me how this amount is split up; how much of it represents the 36s. a day that will be paid to hospitals in respect of pensioners holding pensioner medical cards; how much of it is represented by the 20s. a day that will be paid to inmates of nursing homes; and how much it is estimated the Commonwealth will save in the payments already being made to insured patients in hospitals and in nursing homes out of the Commonwealth special fund. If the Minister could give me that information, I would be very grateful.
– Obviously, I have not those details available at the -moment. I can assure the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), as I did during the second-reading debate, that this £3,200,000 is additional to the estimates already passed for the Department of Health for this year and is over and above the £24,000,000 which is being provided for hospital benefits in the Estimates. If the honorable member wants details of the actual division of the expenditure, I can get them for him and let him have them by letter.
– I would be grateful if you did.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 29 agreed to
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 1.6 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The minimum typing speed for typists applying for Commonwealth Public Service typing posts is 40 words per minute in South Australia, Queensland, and Western Australia and 30 words per minute in the other States. The interstate differences which apply are merely a reflection of local conditions of supply and demand for a competitive appointment and as ‘the number applying for positions increases, the minimum requirement of 40 words per minute may be expected eventually hi all States. 3. No.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he consider arranging goodwill exchange missions of parliamentarians between Australia and nations of the Afro-Asian bloc?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Government has always sought, as a matter of broad policy, to encourage visits of parliamentarians to and from Asia and Africa. As examples six members of the Federal Parliament are attending the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Meeting at Lagos; two members of Parliament are usually included in the Australian delegation to the United Nations, New York, where they have opportunities to meet parliamentarians from Asia and Africa. Other members frequently spend some time in Asia whilst en route to and from Europe or America. Australia is also often the venue of international conferences which provide opportunities for parliamentarians from Asia and Africa to be in Australia. The fifteenth session of E.C.A.F.E., 1959, and the Colombo Plan, the International Labour Organization and the world power conferences of this year are instances of this. Finally the Government has received as guests many parliamentarians from other countries and these have included members from the Afro-Asian bloc.
m asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. (a) Twice, by two arbitration inspectors on 12th and 13th October, 1961, and for three hours on 11th May, 1962; (b) twice, by two inspectors on 25th and 26th October, 1961, and for about an hour on 25th May, 1962; (c) twice, by inspectors for about three hours on 26th October, 1961, and for about an hour on 25th May, 1962; (d) twice, by two inspectors on 20th to 25th October, 1961, and on 24th and 25th May, 1962. 3 and 4. No. Inspection practice does not normally provide for advance information of inspection visits.
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The strengths of the Indonesian full-time forces are approximately, Navy- 15,600; Army- 240,000; Air Force- 15,000 to 20,000. Strengths of part-time forces are not available.
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
Can he make a comparison of the strength of fighting aircraft held by the Royal Australian Air Force with those of the Indonesian Air Force?
– In answer to the honorable member’s question, the strength of the Indonesian Air Force fighting aircraft, according to various aircraft publications and similar sources, is as follows: -
Jet medium bomber. - Two squadrons of Badger (TU-16) aircraft.
Jet light bomber. - One squadron of Beagle (IL-28) aircraft.
Jet fighter. - One squadron of Fishbed (MiG- 21) aircraft, one squadron of Farmer (MiG-19) aircraft and at least one squadron of Fresco (MiG-17) aircraft.
Piston engine fighter. - One squadron of Mustang (F-51) aircraft.
Piston engine light bomber. - One squadron of Mitchel (B-25) aircraft.
The Indonesian Air Force is also reported to have surface-to-air missiles. The fighting aircraft strength of the R.A.A.F. is-
Jet light bomber. - Three squadrons of Canberra aircraft.
Jet fighter. - Five squadrons of Sabre aircraft. Piston engine (maritime reconnaissance). - two squadrons of Neptune aircraft.
The R.A.A.F. has one Bloodhound surface-to-air missile squadron.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: -
n asked the Minister for defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:-
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Has any land which belonged to the Army been released to the civil authorities since 1950? If so, what is the location of the land released?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Yes. Numerous parcels of Army-owned land have been released to the civil authorities throughout Australia since 1950 and the location of the land released where the area is of 10 acres or more, is as follows: -
Queensland.- Slacks Creek, 123 acres; Normanton, 1,128 acres; Granville, 331 acres; Golden Gate, 17 acres; Thursday Island, 25 acres; Bowen, 83 acres; Lytton, 31 acres; Redbank, 151 acres; Cairns, 50 acres; Warwick, 11 acres; Wacol, 69 acres; Mackay, 314 acres; Chermside, 178 acres; Clapham Junction, 15 acres; Enoggera, 10 acres; Webb Point, Friday Island, 40 acres; Pott Point, Friday Island, 40 acres; Hester Hill, Goode Island, 50 acres; Tucker Point, Goode Island, 35 acres; Heath Point, Prince of Wales Island, 70 acres.
New South Wales.- Baulkham Hills, 116 acres; Bulli, 21 acres; Casino, 39 acres; Chatswood, 92 acres; Cowra, 130 acres; Holsworthy, 157 acres; Kiama, 14 acres; Lismore, 78 acres; Long Bay, 56 acres; Moore Park, 14 acres; Rutherford, 117 acres; Singleton, 78 acres; Yass, 47 acres.
Victoria- Broadmeadows, 202 acres; Malmsbury, 30 acres; Seymour, 44 acres.
South Australia. - Glanville, 11 acres; Mount Gambier, 55 acres; Wingfield, 32 acres; Smithfield, 21 acres; Fort Largs, 33 acres.
Tasmania. - Penguin, 10 acres; Bellerive, 111 acres.
In addition to the above, the number of parcels of land under 10 acres, but excluding small areas released for road widening and easements, are as follows: -
Queensland- 20 parcels of land totalling 59 acres.
New South Wales - 19 parcels of land totalling 49 acres.
Victoria - 17 parcels of land totalling 13 acres. South Australia - 6 parcels of land totalling 16 acres.
Western Australia - 10 parcels of land totalling 14 acres.
Tasmania - 9 parcels of land totalling 18 acres.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s. - On 6th November, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) asked me a question about the dispute between representatives of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited.
The Commonwealth keeps a close watch over the operations of all registered organizations under the National Health Act, particularly in regard to contribution rates, the payment of benefits and the financial stability of the funds. This is done to ensure that contributors’ rights are safeguarded. It is also a Commonwealth requirement that the management expenses of organizations must not exceed certain levels.
The Hospitals Contribution Fund of NewSouth Wales has indicated its intention to terminate a joint management arrangement previously made with the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited. This situation is one for the organizations themselves to resolve. The management company is not itself eligible for registration as a registered medical and hospital benefits organization under the act, and claims on the Department of Health and payments made within the terms of the act have always been dealt with in the names of the registered organizations themselves.
The terms of the agreement between the two organizations and the management company provide for its termination one year after the receipt of written notice by one of the parties to the agreement.
Developments in the situation are being closely watched by the Commonwealth.
Restrictive Trade Practices.
s. - On 4th October, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) in a question without notice referred to statements in the annual report of the Tariff Board for 1961-62 about restrictive trade practices; he asked whether the Government had received complaints from local government councils about identical tenders being received for the supply of certain commodities. The honorable member also inquired about restrictive trade practices legislation.
I understand that the Attorney-General has had some cases of identical tendering to local government bodies brought to his notice. With regard to possible restrictive trade practices legislation, the AttorneyGeneral has indicated that a statement will be made on this subject before the House rises at the end of the present session.
s. - On 3rd October, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) I said that information was not then available to state the staff-student ratio at each university in 1961 (“Hansard”, page 1138). Information is still not available and I should like to explain why this is so.
In accordance with recommendations contained in the report of the technical working party initiated by the Australian Universities Vice-Chancellors’ Committee in 1960 to investigate university statistics, the collection of these statistics in respect of 1961 and subsequent years is on a basis somewhat different from that used in 1960 and earlier years. Uniform definitions and classifications have been adopted to provide, for the first time, for reporting on a consistent basis for all universities.
The method of recording part-time teaching was changed in 1961 to show the number of hours for which part-time teaching was provided in each academic year instead of, as formerly, the number of part-time staff engaged. Figures for full-time staff also are affected, since the definitions and classifications now on a uniform basis differ from those used in previous years by some universities. i
Because of the changes in treatment of part-time teaching staff, it is not practicable at present to state for any university a staffstudent ratio in 1961 which takes into account the teaching done by part-time teaching staff; and a ratio, which did not take their teaching into account would be misleading.
Consultation with the universities is continuing in order to see if it is possible to devise a satisfactory formula for expressing a staff-student ratio for 1961 and subsequent years. Clearly, however, because any such ratio will be based on statistics of a different character, it would not be comparable with the ratio given for any previous year. In this connexion, the Commonwealth Statistician has advised that he is at present exploring the practicability of compiling some broad totals for 161 for numbers of research and teaching staff in each university on the same basis as the statistics for 1960 and earlier years, so that some 1961 figures will be available on both the new and the old basis. i>
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the (a) total overseas public debt of Australia, (b) interest payable on overseas debts, (c) total amount of overseas investment, and (d) total amount of dividends payable overseas as at the 30th June in each of the years 1928, 1929, 1962? ‘ i
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19621204_reps_24_hor37/>.