24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. NIXON 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.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. It refers to the disposal of surplus goods in north Queensland. Is he aware that there has been criticism of his department by some members of local authorities in north Queensland who claim that surplus goods disposed of are almost given away and that in many cases the goods - clothing has been specifically mentioned - are still quite serviceable? Would this statement be true in fact?
– The statement would not be true in fact. My department disposes only of goods which have been declared available for disposal by the service departments and other government departments. All sales are well advertised publicly and are by auction. The amounts realized, therefore, represent the true market values of the goods. If the honorable gentleman has a specific instance in mind, I would be glad to look at it for him.
– Yesterday the Treasurer informed the House that further consideration was to be given to the name of the new major unit of the Australian currency. Further consideration has now been given to this matter by the Government parties. Would he be prepared to inform the House of the result of that consideration?
– I am sure that the members of this House and indeed most people throughout the country will be interested to learn the outcome of the Government’s latest discussions of this matter. As I informed the House yesterday, the Government originally selected the name “royal” for the major unit of decimal currency. That name had a very mixed reception. Indeed, it could be fairly said, broadly, that there was an unfavorable reception of the name by the general public. We feel that we have allowed sufficient time since that decision was announced for other suggestions to come forward and to enable a thorough canvassing of that name and other possible names, by organizations and interested persons. As I said yesterday, some time ago we brought before the members of the Government parties the assessment we had made of the discussions of this matter and invited their comments.
Following that, we undertook to have a further Cabinet review. That Cabinet review has now been completed. This morning we made known to the Government parties our conclusion that undoubtedly the weight of Australian opinion favoured the well-known term “ dollar “ and a dollar system. The Government parties have supported the adoption of this name and this system. I do not propose to make a detailed announcement during question time, but a public statement is being prepared, and copies can be put in the hands of any honorable gentlemen who are interested. Now that this decision has been taken in accordance with what fair-minded people will regard as good democratic practice, I hope that we can get speedily on with the other tasks associated with the introduction of the new system.
– I should like to ask the Treasurer a question. Is it a fact that the Government, when deciding to name the basic unit of the new decimal currency the dollar, also decided to change the names of other coins in the new currency? If this is a fact, may I ask the Treasurer to congratulate the Prime Minister on his successful, if temporary, re-entry into the twentieth century. May I also ask him to congratulate the Prime Minister on his wisdom in taking over yet another idea from the Opposition. Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that the dollar will not be subjected to the same inflationary ravages as the Menzies £1, more particularly because by the time the new currency is introduced the right honorable gentleman, as a retired person, will be one of the fixed income earners most affected by inflation?
– The Leader of the Opposition became so excited with the inventiveness of his question that, half-way through, he changed the person to whom it was addressed. However, since he addressed it to me originally, and as it is on a matter on which I have just been speaking, perhaps I can take up the running. The first point raised by the honorable member requires clarification, and I have clarified it in my public statement. While it was felt that the names of intermediate coins formerly proposed - crown, florin, shilling and so forth - were appropriate to a system in which the name of the major unit was to be the royal, in a dollar-cent system there will be no need for such intermediate names. It is a much simpler system, in which only numbers of dollars and of cents are required to be stated. On the opposite side of the coin from that on which will appear the image of the monarch will be shown the number of cents representing the value of the coin. The honorable member made a flippant reference to the Prime Minister’s re-entry, as he put it, into the twentieth century. No one in this country has any doubt that the name of the Prime Minister will be remembered for very many centuries when the capers of the Leader of the Opposition have long since been forgotten. Once again the honorable gentleman, with his encyclopaedic approach to problems of government, says that we have taken another of his ideas. It is not unusual to find that developments in a particular country are claimed to have been brought about by people in other countries, so that those people may bask in some reflected glory. My recollection of the occasion of the earlier announcement is that one of the front bench supporters of the Leader of the Opposition expressed himself as being warmly in favour of the term “ royal “. Here again the Labour Party has been speaking with two voices.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. I refer to the recent decision of the Japanese Government to make available substantial quan tities of foreign exchange to meat importers to keep down food prices in Japan. I ask the Minister whether this decision will affect the sale of Australian meat to Japan.
– As I announced earlier, we were unsuccessful in securing a satisfactory annual quota for free importation of beef to Japan. The position is that there is no restriction on the importation of mutton into Japan. Last year Australia sold about £750,000 worth of mutton to Japan. We are ready to sell to Japan all the meat for which we can find buyers. However, there is restrictive licensing against beef, the policy of the Japanese Government being to protect its own beef industry by the restriction of imports. It was explained to me that the Japanese Government would relax its control of imports if internal prices became too high, in its judgment. In the last two or three months, the internal price of beef has increased by about one-third. The Japanese Government has announced that it will issue licences for the importation of 5,000 tons of beef. The Australian beef industry is being immediately advised. While licences are not issued exclusively in the interests of Australia, our experience has been that when Japan is importing beef, we have received from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent, of the business. I hope and expect that we will receive a similar share of orders for this importation of 5,000 tons.
– I direct my question to you, Sir. I refer to a report in yesterday’s Sydney “ Sun “ which states that members of this Parliament now get a three-course meal for 5s. and that a typical menu includes oysters as well as soup, entrees, grilled steak, ice cream and cheeses. Do members have to pay the charges set out in the official price list attached to the menus and do these charges provide for a charge of 8s. for a three-course meal? Is there a minimum charge of 14s. 6d. for a three-course meal consisting of an entree, a grilled steak and an ice cream sweet? Is the “ Sun “ report correct when it suggests that oysters are included as part of an ordinary meal and, if so, why does the official price list show that members should pay an extra 7s. 6d. for oysters alone? Do members of the press gallery enjoy the right to have meals in Parliament House at the same price as members? Tn view of the “ Sun “ report, will you, Sir, order an investigation to ascertain whether any members of Parliament or pressmen are being allowed to secure meals below the charges set out in the official price list and will you give a report of your investigation to the Parliament?
– I will have a look at the question raised by the honorable member. There is a fixed rate for meals and there is a declared price list. If what the honorable member has said in relation to the report is true, I can only say that the report is completely inaccurate and unfair to members of this House. The honorable member’s suggestion will be adopted. We will submit it to the Joint House Committee so that it will be considered. I will make a further report on the matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. I preface my question by saying that in a statement dated 9th September, 1963, the Minister for Trade said -
The Government bad decided to extend the Trainee Trade Commissioner Scheme and had begun advertising- for a second group . . . Trade Commissioners and Assistant Trade Commissioners were recruited from the ranks of successful business men as well as experienced Government officers.
I ask: Are appointments confined to persons from these sources, or are others with a wide knowledge of Australian primary industries who are well fitted to promote sales given an opportunity to fill some of these important posts?
– The Government’s policy has been to obtain recruits for the Trade Commissioner Service partly from within the Public Service, choosing from that service men who are experienced in administration and negotiations, to put it briefly, as well as in other matters. But our policy has been also to recruit in much greater numbers from outside the Public Service, in the field of business, men whose experience would be of a kind calculated to help a man to do the duties of a trade commissioner to the best advantage. Now, the proposal is that there shall be a trainee service as well. I assure the honorable member that in using in my statement the phrase “recruited from the ranks of successful business-men “ I was speaking on the broadest possible basis. The honorable member has inquired whether primary producers would not be recruited because they would be regarded as not being business-men. I can disillusion him about their not being business-men. I know from personal experience that they are and that many of them may well be competent to be recruited to this service.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. In view of the large and profitable revenues produced by the Postmaster-General’s Department, will the Minister make a goodwill Christmas gesture by allowing the public to exchange goodwill greetings by Christmas cards at a postage rate of 3d. a card?
– This is a proposal that in recent years has been made with some regularity about this time of the year. As I have explained previously, the position is that this kind of mail requires just as much handling as mail of any other kind. I do not see any particular reason why an exception should be made in this case in contradistinction to other kinds of correspondence.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Services. I ask whether the Department of Social Services has made a recent computation of the cost of abolishing the means test. If so, when was this computation made and what was the estimated cost?
– The cost of abolishing the means test is constantly being computed as the commitments of the Department of Social Services are extended from year to year. I am not able to say with any degree of accuracy what the most recent computation is, but I shall provide the honorable member as soon as possible with the information that he requires.
– Will the Minister let me have it, too?
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I ask: Has he received from the Tasmanian Government representations for the provision of a second passenger and vehicle ferry across Bass Strait and has he advised that Government that the proposition would be further considered if the Tasmanian authorities guaranteed a subsidy? Has the Minister now been advised by the Tasmanian Premier that a maximum subsidy of £40,000 a year will be contributed to meet any losses incurred in the joint operation of two ferries? If the Minister has been so advised, is he now in a position to say whether the proposition has been considered?
– The question of building a second ferry similar to the “ Princess of Tasmania “ has been raised on numerous occasions and has been examined by the Australian National Line. The project has to be considered very, very carefully, because it would be costly. The matter of the subsidy was raised and this is at present being considered at the Prime Minister and Premier level. In the meantime, the Australian National Line is examining the cost in order to determine what would be a reasonable sum to allow as a subsidy. It must be remembered that on all occasions it has been the Commonwealth which has provided the money and made available the ships necessary to operate the Tasmanian service. The Commonwealth is responsible for the very high standard of the service.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. It would appear that as a result of the signing of the new Japanese Trade Agreement some excellent gains may be made by Australia in the export of primary products. Can the Minister say in what respect our imports from Japan may be affected and what safeguards remain for secondary industry in Australia if Japanese imports tend to flood the local market?
– May I say at the outset that 1 propose to-morrow morning, if the House gives me leave, to make a state ment explaining the general implications of the new Japanese Trade Agreement. Answering the honorable gentleman’s question directly, I assure him that there is nothing in the treaty which in any sense inhibits the right of the Australian Government to give, within existing mechanisms, to Australian manufacturing industries or to any other industry complete protection against imports.
– I ask a question of the Acting Minister for External Affairs - I do not like to deal with a junior but I must on this occasion - about the team of experts appointed by the World Bank to make an economic survey in Papua and New Guinea. Can the Minister say whether the survey has been completed and when the Parliament may expect a report?
– Speaking on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, I may say that the members of the survey mission have spent a considerable amount of time in Papua and New Guinea. Only the other day I had the opportunity to have a long talk with them in Canberra. They are now on their way to Washington. They have accumulated a great mass of material. They estimate that it will require very close examination over a period of perhaps two or three months. When they have completed that examination they will return to the Territory to check up on some of their conclusions. After that has been done we may expect to have a report. This procedure may seem fairly dilatory but I assure the honorable member that my discussions with the members of the mission lead me to believe that their inquiries will be of enormous value to Australia as the administering authority and to the people of the Territory. Therefore I would not want to put any pressure on them to do a job otherwise than completely. That would seem at present to be the time-table. Of course, I speak subject to correction by my principal.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. I must preface my question by reminding the Minister that some years ago he accompanied me on an inspection of the western coastal plains of Western Australia, south of Dongarra and west of Moora, and that as a result of his encouragement and support an ex-service land settlement project was undertaken in the area. Further rapid development is taking place there. In view of the fact that barley production has proved most successful in this district, can the Minister give any information regarding the prospect of a substantial market for barley in China? I ask this question because if barley production is to be continued on a large scale, which is the economical way to grow barley, new markets will have to be found.
– I well remember the honorable member for Moore taking me on a visit to this prospectively rich area of his electorate. I remember forming the opinion, and expressing it where appropriate, that the area lent itself to settlement and development. There has since been considerable settlement and development in the area - a monument I think, to the honorable member for Moore. As to the extent to which barley is being exported, I can state to the House that 320,000 tons of Australian barley was exported to China in 1961. I understand that at present the representative of the Western Australian Barley Board who is stationed in Japan is in contact with Chinese authorities with a hope, and I believe a good prospect, of doing further business with China.
– I ask the Minister for Trade a question without notice. Is it a fact that during the last twelve months the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has exported substantial quantities of iron and steel products to mainland China? What is the estimated value of these exports? In view of the fact that vast quantities of Australian primary products have been exported to China will he use his influence with his colleagues to see that this hypocrisy of non-recognition is done away with and that mainland China is recognized officially?
– I think the honorable gentleman knows that it has never been my practice to reveal the business transactions of any individual or company, but I can and will procure for him whatever statistics are available on the exports of iron and steel from Australia to mainland China.
Of course, I think all honorable members know that, except in special categories, the iron and steel to which he has referred are not listed as strategic materials and that there is no prohibition on their export to mainland China by Australian commercial interests.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of a statement attributed to the Leader of the Opposition which was published yesterday alleging that, last February, 48,000 school leavers were seeking work and that in August the number was 23,000? If the Minister is aware of this statement will he tell me whether it is true? If it is not true, what are the facts?
– As the Leader of the Opposition and, I think, most honorable members well know, the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition is not true.
– It is true.
– Well, if you will wait a moment I shall give you all the facts. Some months ago the Leader of the Opposition made a statement to the effect that a certain number of school leavers was registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service. I went out of my way in a published statement to point out to him that he had confused school leavers with juniors. Juniors include all persons under the age of 21 years whether or not they have ever been in employment. In many cases they could be seasonal workers; they could be school leavers or other types of registrants. I have also pointed out in every monthly statement since then, to prevent the honorable gentleman making such incorrect statements, that school leavers were not to be confused with juniors. He made a second error in that the number of juniors registered is not 23,000 or 24,000 as he mentioned but about 19,450.
So far as school leavers are concerned - I hope the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members will recognize this figure - of the 80,000 who did register for employment we now have fewer than 1,100 male school leavers and fewer than 2,300 female school leavers registered with us. It is apparent that there has been a vast exaggeration by the Leader of the
Opposition. However, I shall write him a letter explaining clearly the distinction between juniors and school leavers and I shall inform him the exact number of school leavers registered so that if he cares to make a mistake in the future he alone will bear the responsibility for it and the people will know that he has made a mistake.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. When the Minister for Labour and National Service answered the honorable member for Bonython on 11th September, he gave the number of people whom he called juniors not as 19,000, but as 22,990. I have the written answer in my hand. So he himself is just 4,000 out.
– Is that school leavers?
– Let us take one thing at a time.
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order. Is this a personal explanation?
– Order! The honorable member for Mallee will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order.
– I did say that these 22,990, or near enough to 23,000, were school leavers. I believe that they nearly are school leavers. They are all under 21 years. What the Minister is trying to say is that school leavers are children who left school last year. These are children who left school within the last couple of years and have not yet obtained jobs.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that a new dance has been named after him? According to reports, the dance consists of one step forward and two steps backward and is danced to any slow dance tune. Are those reports correct? Did the Prime Minister accept the invitation to have the dance named after him because it accurately portrays his Government’s policy?
– The honorable member for Bowman seems much better informed on my terpsichorean activities than I am. I really do not know what he is talking about. I have not been asked to have a dance named after me. I can imagine why the honorable member is interested in this matter, because I have always thought that the famous dance called the rock and roll was named after the Labour Party.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Many forecasts are being made by a wide range of people, including the Leader of the Opposition, about the probable rise in registrations for employment by the end of January, 1964. Will the Minister say what is the official expectation and whether he thinks the forecast of 110,000 registrations made by the Leader of the Opposition is likely to prove even remotely correct?
– I will not make a specific forecast myself but I do think that the forecast that there will be 110,000 registrations by the end of January will be wrong. It is highly improbable that the figure will be nearly as great as that figure. I do not want to give precise figures, but for very many reasons we can expect a smaller number than we had this year and a much smaller number than we had the year before. I would like to give the House the reasons for that. First of all, as employment opportunities are continuing to open up, it is improbable that young people will register with the Commonwealth Employment Service in the same numbers as they did previously. The variety of choice is much greater. Secondly, the Department of Labour and National Service has increased its staff and is busily engaged in trying to find employment opportunities and in putting people into employment. Thirdly, we now find that, because of the increase in opportunities and the growth of the economy, employers are coming to the department and asking whether it can find young people to place in jobs this year. They are also asking about prospective employees for next year.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister, who may recall that, when opening the new manufacturing drug laboratory of Merck Sharp and Dohme (Australia) Proprietary Limited in the Parramatta district in October of last year, he said that that company could assist in the building of our exports by exporting its products overseas. Is the Prime Minister aware that all manufacturing drug companies in Australia, except Nicholas Proprietary Limited, operate under restrictive franchises and are permitted to export their goods to New Zealand only? Will he discuss with the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade the proposition that, if United States of America and United Kingdom drug companies do not assist in our export drive, they may lose their favorable tax concessions, which they receive under the double taxation agreements we have with those countries?
– This very important problem of restrictive franchises has already exercised the minds of my colleagues, the Minister for Trade and the Treasurer, very closely. I know that they have the matter under constant examination. I would not care, myself, to make an impromptu statement about it.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Yesterday the honorable member for Yarra asked the Prime Minister a question concerning a number of young men who, as he phrased it, travelled from Australia to Yugoslavia with the intention of carrying out assassinations and terrorist activities in that country. He asked whether there had been official investigation of this matter. The Prime Minister in his reply said that if the question were placed on the notice-paper he would secure information on the matter. Will the Prime Minister, at the same time, investigate the Minto school of communism in New South Wales, which is a permanent training school for sabotage and subversion within
Australia itself, as this concerns the Australian people much more closely than does the subject raised by the honorable member for Yarra?
– I most certainly will and, I hope, with great satisfaction.
– I would like to refer to the Minister for Primary Industry an answer given yesterday to a question asked in another place by Senator McClelland. The answer was to the effect that milk crystals were being imported into Australia from Canada. Will he say what necessity there is for these imports and what advantage, if any, they have been to the Australian dairy industry which I know he will agree has been consistently and terribly depressed as a result of this Government’s policies?
– If any industry has been assisted by this Government, it is the dairy industry. The honorable member goes about his electorate and about Queensland making mis-statements about these matters but, of course, he does not voice any protest against the action of the Labour Government in increasing the quota of margarine, although this had a most detrimental effect on the dairy industry. The honorable member knows that we have assisted the industry in every way. It is protected to such an extent that probably the only imports that might be considered detrimental to the sale of local products would be the supply of fancy cheeses that come into the country. When the industry measures up to its responsibilities and produces these cheeses, we can expect the Australian public to buy them. The Government has provided subsidies for butter, cheese and processed milk products. It has also made extra money available, such as the sum of £350,000 through the dairy extension grant, and also for research, on a £1 for £1 basis. Does the honorable member quarrel with all this? He should look at the record of his own party when it was in office.
– My question to the Minister for Primary Industry relates to the wheat stabilization plan. The recently announced renewal of the wheat stabilization scheme is of the utmost importance to the wheat industry, and the necessary legislation must be passed through this Parliament during the present session or at a very early date in order to allow the States to pass complementary legislation. Is the Minister in a position to say when the measure will be dealt with in this chamber?
– Doubtless the honorable member knows that it takes some time to have a decision implemented in legislative form. If the wheat stabilization legislation is ready when the Appropriation Bill has been disposed of, it will be brought before the House then.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It is supplementary to the question directed to the Minister by the honorable member for Oxley. Is it a fact that a Victorian company imported from Canada 240,000 lb. of milk crystals, worth £27,258, during the months of January, March and April, 1963? Is the Minister aware that this product is made in Australia in quantities sufficient to supply all Australia’s needs and provide a surplus for export? Will the Minister give an assurance that the importation of this product will cease?
– I have given an answer to a question on notice relating to this subject asked in another place. I cannot recall the facts, but I will accept the honorable member’s figures as correct. I would say this product has been imported because there is a need for it to be brought into Australia. We deal considerably with Canada and do not exclude imports of Canadian primary products, if such imports are not detrimental to our own industries. The honorable member might do what I suggested to the honorable member for Oxley. He could assist the dairy industry by getting the Labour Government of New South Wales to prevent the increased manufacture of margarine.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Minister for
External Affairs. Have the Australian representatives at the present session of the United Nations been instructed to bring before the General Assembly the determined and -declared intention of the rulers of Indonesia to nullify the clauses of the agreement on West Irian relating to the plebescite to be taken to ascertain the wishes of the indigenous people in or before 1969? If not, what action does Australia propose to take to convince the Papuans as a whole that we are prepared to stand up for their rights?
– I will be glad to find out what precise instructions have been given in this matter. I have not yet discussed this topic.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Has the Government considered the report of the Air Force mission headed by Air ViceMarshal Sir Valston Hancock on a replacement for the Canberra bomber? Has a decision been made? If so, what aircraft will be acquired and when? Or has a decision been deferred?
– I have nothing to add at the moment to the statement [ made recently. The honorable member knows that the report of the evaluation team has been received by the Government and is being considered. When a decision has been made, it will be announced.
– Will the Minister for Immigration advise the House of the form of co-operation that is being extended by the Apex movement in the current campaign to increase the number of applications for naturalization? Will this assistance be given in all States and are the methods being used quite acceptable to the department?
– The Government, and particularly my department, are and have been for a long time indebted to the Apex movement for what I can only describe as the patriotic co-operative role it has played in relation to our immigration programme. It has helped in innumerable ways. Its latest action in co-operating with us in the campaign which I launched a few weeks ago for more eligible migrants to become naturalized can only be applauded. I think the Apex movement is planning to extend its activities in many parts of Australia. The idea of the movement basically is to make contact with people in the various localities with which the movement is intimately connected and to persuade those who have been holding back for various reasons to come forward and accept Australian citizenship.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 17th September (vide page 1091).
.- I desire to direct my remarks to certain clauses of the legislation under discussion and particularly to the provision dealing with the date from which the increased social service payments are to commence. Clause 2 of the bill states -
Subject to the next succeeding sub-section this Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
During the debate the Opposition has stated that it believes that there is no reason why it should not be possible to pay the increased benefits from 1st July. If there is a good reason why that cannot be done - we have not heard one advanced yet - we say that the increased payments should be made as from the day following the introduction of the legislation into the Parliament. I thought that one of the reasons why this legislation was being rushed through, and the Labour Party almost bludgeoned into accepting it without proper discussion was that by doing otherwise we would be holding up payments to the beneficiaries. However, we find from the statement of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) yesterday that the payments will not commence until 14th November. This Government insists that the legislation shall be passed before it will commence to pay a miserable extra 10s. a week to the pensioners. The other benefits also are to be delayed because the Government says that the procedure involved in making the payments is complex.
In this day and age, automation has brought great benefits to banking and financial institutions. I see no reason why it should not be possible, with all the modern machinery available for this purpose, to make the. increased payments as from the date of the introduction of the legislation into this Parliament. As the Opposition said during the second-reading debate, it is significant that the superphosphate bounty, which will apply to the very wealthy interests in the community, will be paid retrospectively.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lucock).Order! I remind the honorable member for Grayndler that the superphosphate bounty has nothing to do with this bill.
– With due deference, Mr. Chairman, I was merely pointing out, by way of a passing reference, that that bounty became payable on and from the day on which the relevant legislation was introduced into this Parliament. That leads me to ask the question: Why not apply the same principle to this legislation? If it is possible to make some benefits available immediately on the introduction of the legislation, why discriminate against age and invalid pensioners? No satisfactory explanation has been given me in respect of this matter, and I ask why there is one law for people who could probably well afford to wait a little while for their benefits, and another law for these unfortunate pensioners. I believe that all increases of social services benefits should be back-dated to the day on which the legislation is introduced - and even that would be only a compromise, because in this instance we believe it should be possible to back-date them to 1st July.
I now wish to refer to clause 5 of the bill in which the Government discriminates between single and married pensioners. Government spokesmen have been at great pains to point out that they have received an odd letter or two from some insignificant pensions’ organization or other that supports the Government’s point of view. Let me tell the committee that every member on this side of the chamber has been inundated with protests, both from pensioners personally and from their organizations, concerning this legislation which discriminates against married people. The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), and others have quoted extracts from letters they have received. I have before me a letter from Alderman Herbert Greedy, president of the Marrickville Branch of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensions Association of New South Wales. In the course of this letter, written on behalf of that association, Mr. Greedy refers to clause 5 of the bill and says -
I would like to voice a protest on behalf of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners’ Association, Marrickville branch, on what we call the unfair Budget that has just been presented by the Treasurer, Mr. Holt, to the Federal House. We, the married pensioners of the Commonwealth, were looking forward to a little rise in the social service pensions, but to our amazement we find we are like the negroes of America, we got nothing, still we have to live, pay our rent, the same as a single pensioner.
The letter continues along those lines. Then I have a letter from another branch of this association. It is a letter that has been sent to very many members of this Parliament. It has already been referred to by the honorable member for Phillip. It shows that people are dissatisfied with this Government’s policy of discrimination. The letter reads -
On behalf of the members of . . . branch, we earnestly seek to draw your attention to the following submissions:
The above Association view with alarm the Federal Government legislation to differentiate between the single pensioners, and the aged and invalid pensioner, to the detriment of the married pensioner.
It goes on to express concern. My files abound with letters protesting against this discriminatory legislation - the worst of its kind that has ever been introduced in this country. The Minister may say that single pensioners have greater commitments than married pensioners. The Labour Party does not object to the increase given to single pensioners; what we say is that it should be extended to all pensioners. There should be a base rate, with additional payments by way of supplementary assistance in necessitous cases. Until this is provided, the Government cannot escape the charge that it is discriminating against people simply because they happen to be married. In the second-reading debate on this measure cases were cited showing how certain single pensioners would be better off than married pensioners.
I wish now to refer to a decision that was given in a New South Wales court the other day, and I would like the Minister to clear this up. Mr. Justice Selby gave a decision to the effect that two people who had been living in the one house for some years could get a divorce because they had been legally separated, according to the law of New South Wales. What is the position in respect of two married pensioners living in the one house? They may say quite rightly in some cases to the Department of Social Services, “Although we are living in the one house, we are separated “. Would they then be entitled to social service benefits as if they were two single individuals? The Minister will say that the act does not provide for them to be treated as single persons. The fact of the matter is, however, that Mr. Justice Selby has ruled that two people living in one house can be legally separated and can obtain a divorce, and if the Government does not pay them the increased benefits under this bill, then it is making a decision that must be set aside if challenged in law.
How will the Government police this provision? Are we going to send around snoopers, as the honorable member for Phillip suggested, to study the lives of pensioners? Is an inspector to go to a house to see how a couple live, to peer into their private lives? Is this the kind of treatment that pensioners will receive under this legislation? In view of the decision given recently in the New South Wales court, the Government will have to determine whether two people living in the one house may be treated as legally separated in certain circumstances. This matter cannot be glossed over idly. If the act provides that two pensioners living in the one house must always be regarded as legally married, then it is quite contrary to the law in New South Wales. Does this provision again pave the way for vile practices such as those associated with the vicious means tests imposed by tory governments of days gone by, or are these people to have their word accepted when they claim to be not living together?
However, other speakers will deal with this matter at greater length than I am able to in the brief time at my disposal. Again I say that we want these matters cleared up. The Government should not allow to pass unheeded the protests that have been made by people and organizations all over the country. The Government has shown clearly that it does not care for married people in any way. Let me make a passing reference to child endowment, Mr. Chairman, which has not been increased for more than a generation. Likewise, no increase has been made in the maternity allowance. Now we find that under this measure different pension rates are to apply to single and married pensioners. The charge cannot be refuted that this is a vicious attempt to split the pensioners’ organizations and to lessen their ability to fight effectively for better conditions for the people they represent. The Government wants to see single pensioners in their organizations opposed to married pensioners because one section gets an increase and the other does not. Nothing could be more contemptible than this attempt to split these organizations. We have already seen letters from certain single pensioners who are opposed to those who are married. This legislation denies to many pensioners the justice that they have a right to expect.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I take this opportunity of replying to the two questions posed by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in the committee stage of the debate on this important piece of legislation. I shall have other general remarks to make, but I shall address myself for the moment to the two points he raised. The first concerned the date of payment. For 55 years - ever since 1908 - every Opposition in this Parliament has put up the proposition that social service payments should be made retrospective, and for 55 years, every Minister for Social Services, regardless of his party affiliation, has had to make the same kind of explanation as I make now.
It is, rightly or wrongly, the traditional custom of every government, when it makes alterations to the Social Services Act, to have those alterations take effect as from the first pay-day after the bill receives the royal assent. There is a single exception to this. If for any physical reason payments cannot be made on the first pay-day after the legislation receives the Royal assent, then the Minister for Social Services at the time, regardless of his political affiliations, must announce that the payments will be made on the first pay-day after the bill has been proclaimed. These things have been done for the last 55 years, and they have been done for good and sufficient reasons. Estimates have to be made from time to time of what these variations, alterations and increases will cost the Australian taxpayers. Because of this, if for no other reason, the payments have to be confined within the limit of a financial year. It may be that, if an earlier payment were made, the variations, alterations and increases would be less than they are in deed and in fact. So there is nothing novel in this suggestion. The honorable member for Grayndler has put up this proposition having heard it from honorable members who are now on this side of the House when we were in opposition, conscious of the fact that it must be defeated, conscious of the fact that it is a specious argument on every occasion and that it must of necessity meet the same kind of fate.
Having said all that, let me say that the introduction of the new standard rate of pension involves the Department of Social Services staff in making a careful examination of over 800,000 files of pensioners of one kind or another in order to establish the eligibility of pensioners for the new standard rate. Quite obviously, anybody with any understanding of affairs of this kind knows that it was not even possible for the department to do any of the preliminary work before the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made the announcement of the introduction of the new standard rate in his Budget speech a few weeks ago. Because of that, we had to wait. As soon as the announcement was made, the staff of the department applied themselves to the gigantic task with the enthusiasm characteristic of every officer of the department. Yesterday I was in the proud position of having to inform the House that, whereas it had been felt that payments could not be made before 28th November, payments could now be made on the pay day preceding 28th November, which is 14th November.
This gives me the opportunity to say that, excluding the introduction of the new standard rate of pension for single persons other than widows, increased payments to age and invalid pensioners - that is with respect to wives and children - will be paid on 3rd October. That date is the first pay day after the date on which royal assent can be anticipated, which is 25th September. Increased payments to widows, including the new standard rate of pension, will be paid on 8th October. The explanation for that is, of course, that widows whase files are among the 800,000 that I have mentioned can be identified as single persons. They will be paid on the first pay day after the bill receives royal assent. The new standard rate of pension, as I intimated yesterday, will be paid to all other qualified persons on 14th November. That is the first date upon which it is physically possible to make these payments.
The honorable member for Grayndler also made mention of the problem he sees in the introduction of the new standard rate of pension with regard to the eligibility of people who may be divorced or who may be living in what is described as a de facto relationship. I will deal with that question now, Mr. Chairman, and get rid of it. There have been many uninformed and, sometimes, vicious references to the new standard rate of pension for single pensioners and the eligibility for payment of persons who are divorced or living in de facto relationships. The points purported to be made for political purposes in these ill-considered references have been repeated this afternoon by the ‘honorable member for Grayndler. It is said that unmarried persons living together on a de facto basis will be better off financially than legally married couples, as each will draw the new standard rate of £5 15s. a week, whereas a legally married couple will receive a combined pension of £10 10s. a week. The second point that was made - and repeated this afternoon by the honorable member for Grayndler - was that married couples will be better off financially if they divorce each other, since each could draw the new standard rate of £5 15s. a week instead of receiving a combined pension of £10 10s. a week. Of course, both these allegations can only be described as nonsense.
Let me deal first with de facto relationships. It gives me no pleasure at all to refer to them. For the purposes of age and invalid pensions, section 18 of the Social Services Act, which any honorable member may read, defines a dependent female as -
A woman who has lived with a man (in this Part referred to as her husband) as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis, although not legally married to him, for not less than three years. . . .
The operative three years are those immediately preceding the application of the relevant sections of the act, including an amendment to the act. “ Wife “ is defined as including a dependent female. Thus, any couple who had lived together in an irregular union for three years prior to the amending legislation would be treated, as required by the act, as husband and wife. Neither would be eligible for the increase of 10s. a week provided :n the amending bill for single pensioners. That ought to be clear to any intelligent person. Although the act does not make specific provision for irregular unions of less than three years’ duration, it is the policy of the department - I would like honorable members to note this - confirmed by LabourMinisters for Social Services when in office and continued by the present Government, not to place a man and woman living together in a de facto relationship in a better position than a legally married couple.
I turn my attention, now, to married couples who divorce each other or who are permanently separated. It is true that if a married couple divorced each other and separated, each would be entitled to the new standard rate of £5 15s. a week instead of a combined pension of £10 10s. a week. But to obtain a divorce a couple would either require grounds for divorce before separation or would have to establish such grounds after separation. It is a gratuitous insult to 250,000 married pensioners to suggest that any one of them would consider taking action of the kind in an attempt to qualify for the new standard rate of pension.
I hope that these explanations will be conclusive for honorable members who are really interested in this matter and for the general public. I know that it is beyond my power to convince the Opposition, but
I am glad to see the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) trying to subdue his turbulent men.
I take this opportunity, since I may not have another, to congratulate the honorable member for Grayndler on his elevation to the Opposition front bench. The honorable member, who led for the Opposition in the debate on this bill, has been variously described as the funny man of the Australian Labour Party and the man who sends Opposition members into paroxysms of mirth on every occasion when he addresses us in this place. I sit transfixed at seeing men like the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) writhing in mirth every time the honorable member for Grayndler speaks in this place. Personalty, Mr. Chairman, I find the honorable member much more acceptable than is that gloomy man, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who revels in distortions and who simulates righteous indignation when his distortions are exposed.
I shall try to deal gently with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in his absence. Let me say that some of the allegations made in criticism of this new proposal for the introduction of a standard-rate pension for single pensioners are typical of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Some of these allegations were mildly repeated by the honorable member for Grayndler. I have references in my notes to a number of these senseless allegations, but I shall have time to deal with only one or two of them. That will suffice, however, to demonstrate how fragmentary they are in substance.
Speaking in the Budget debate on 27th August last, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro suggested that a single pensioner receiving £5 Ss. a week may have other income of £3 10s. a week and still receive the proposed pension increase of 10s. a week, thus bringing his total income to £9 Ss. a week, whereas a married couple with no income other than the pension of £10 10s. a week - only £1 5s. a week more - are denied an increase in pension. What a shameful thing that is to perpetrate on the credulous and the uninformed! What a dishonest thing it seems to people who understand the elementary principles of the
Social Services Act as it has existed since it was first introduced!
Let me comment that this is a dishonest comparison, Mr. Chairman. Nobody knows this better than does the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. To compare a single pensioner who has income other than the pension with a married couple with no income other than the pension is to make a dishonest comparison. A proper comparisonwould be that between a single man with a pension of £5 15s. a week and a married couple with a pension of £10 10s. a week or between a single pensioner with a pension of £5 15s. a week and other income of £3 10s. a week, giving a total of £9 Ss. a week, and a married couple with total pension of £10 10s. a week and total permissible income of £7 a week, giving them in all £17 10s. a week. That would be an honest comparision based on comparable circumstances. That is the kind of comparison that one would expect a man of honour to make. But the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, to achieve his own personal purposes, compares the position of a single pensioner receiving the maximum permissible income with that of a married couple receiving no income other than the pension.
– Does the Minister deny that the other case could not exist? No, he does not.
– The honorable member for Bass is yapping as a Bassett bound sometimes does.
– Will the Minister answer the question?
– Any hypothetical case can exist if the circumstances are appropriate. I or any other honorable member on this side of the chamber would be just as dishonest as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has been if one of us were to compare the circumstances of a married couple in receipt of the full pension plus the maximum permissible income, giving a total of £17 10s. a week, with the circumstances of a lowly single pensioner receiving pension of £5 15s. a week and having no other income. We on this side of the chamber would not do that, because it would be dishonest. I certainly do not propose to make such a comparison now.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro went on to suggest that the single pensioner may in addition own his own home and receive the proposed pension increase of 10s. a week, whereas a married couple receiving a pension of £10 10s. a week may be required to pay rent of £2 a week, thus being left with only £8 10s. a week out of which to keep and clothe themselves. The honorable member said that this was less than the single pensioner would have and yet the married couple will be denied an increase in pension. That comparison is not only odious but also contemptuous. A comparison between a pensioner who has a home and one who has no home is always both odious and contemptuous. A comparison between a single pensioner and a married couple in entirely different circumstances is in my opinion dishonest and unpardonable. If a comparison has to be made, it can be made only between a single pensioner with a home and a married couple with a home, or between a single pensioner without a home and a married couple without a home. If the comparison made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro was logical, it would be just as logical to compare a pensioner living in a hut valued at £10 on the banks of the Mumimbidgee River or somewhere else and a pensioner living in a city suburb in a house valued by the Valuer-General at £10,000, £11,000, £12,000 or £15,000.
These things have nothing to do with the Department of Social Services and nothing to do with us as members of Parliament. If an act of Parliament permits a pensioner to own a house of any value without his pension being affected, that is the end of the matter - or it should be - until the act is amended to provide otherwise. But the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in his specious way, makes these comparisons between pensioners in the most lowly and humble circumstances and pensioners in the most favoured circumstances.
The honorable member made other allegations of the kind that I have just discussed, Mr. Chairman. Fortunately, if they were repeated at all by the honorable member for Grayndler, they were repeated mildly, and the honorable member for Grayndler can be forgiven for having repeated them, and I hope his leader will forgive him.
– The Minister is not helping me very much now.
– I shall help the honorable member in every way I can. This innovation, as it has been described generously by some members of the Opposition - this new standard-rate pension - is not new in other countries. Taking the new standard rate of £5 15s. a week as the base and equal to 100 we find that the rate for married couples in several countries can be expressed as follows: -
Those figures confirm what I said in my second-reading speech - that in every reputable country where the people apply themselves to a study of the true circumstances of the people, recognition is paid to the catastrophic circumstances that may befall a married couple if and when they are bereaved, and as I have said, it is unhappily the fate of every married couple that sooner or later one of them must be bereaved.
The adoption of the standard rate gives the Government a greater discretion over future distribution of increases in pension rates. That, of course, may be illustrated in a wide variety of ways. When the Australian Labour Party was in power and was increasing the general rate of pension by 6d. a week or ls. a week, as it did from time to time, it was sociologically of no value to halve the increase and give 3d. to the single pensioner and 3d. to the married pensioner. Nor was it sociologically possible, if and when the Labour Government had to reduce the rate of pension, as it did from time to time, by 6d. or ls. a week, or whatever the amount was, to halve the reduction in respect of the single pensioner. The Labour Government was confined to the general rate and any movement that had to be made in pensions had to be applied to the general rate. If the movement could not be made applicable to the general rate, no movement could be made at all. It is to overcome that difficulty, if for no other reason, that this innovation has been made in Australia’s pension structure so that although a government finds itself in no position to increase the general rate, it may conceivably be in a position to increase the new standard rate. If a government is not in a position to improve the circumstances of those who are tolerably well fixed under the general rate, it could conceivably be competent for the government to assist those in the most indigent circumstances.
As I have already said, the adoption of the standard rate gives the Government a greater discretion over future distribution of increases in pension rates. For example, if the standard rate were increased in future it would not follow that the married rate would have to be moved up by twice the amount of that increase. If the standard rate and the married rate were both to be increased, each could be increased by the same amount or by different amounts. This arrangement is an important consideration when having regard to the mounting total cost of pensions.
Because of all these considerations the Government decided that the resources available to it should be used to improve the circumstances of single pensioners. The Government takes the view - the considered view - that to increase the pension of single persons to the new standard rate will do most to provide comparable standards among the various classes of pensioners and to promote maximum social welfare.
I do not want to delay the committee unduly, but I would conclude these remarks, if I may, by referring again to the honorable member for Grayndler, who was singularly honoured by leading for the Opposition in the second-reading debate. I said that he has been described as the funny man of the Australian Labour Party. I said that he was able to reduce the Opposition to paroxysms of laughter whenever he rose to speak. He will have difficulty finding anything funny in the circumstances of 58,686 widows and their children. He will find nothing humorous in the plight of 607,119 age pensioners. He will find no cause for mirth in the circumstances of 104,373 invalid pensioners.
– They would be in misery listening to you.
– Perhaps so, but the honorable member for Phillip would find no cause for laughter in the circumstances of 26,136 wives and children of age and invalid pensioners. There is no cause for amusement at the circumstances of 100,602 people - single pensioners or married pensioners whose spouses do not receive pensions - who have to apply for the supplementary rent allowance. There is no cause for giggling at the maternity allowance paid to 235,655 Australian mothers. There is cause for satisfaction in the knowledge that for the first time in our history 3,464,307 children under the age of sixteen years are receiving endowment.
– And what a paltry amount they get
– Just listen to the little fellow! There is no cause for satisfaction in the fact that 40,852 pensioners are dependent on their heirs and successors for their burial and, because of that sad state of circumstances, they have to apply-
– Order! With all respect to the Minister I suggest that the two matters to which he has last referred are not relevant to the bill now before the committee. Accordingly the Minister is going outside the scope of the bill.
– I bow to your ruling, Sir, and I apologize if I have transgressed in any way. If I could I would withdraw what I have said if it has given you cause for anxiety.
In the course of the debate it was stated that this legislation will bring the total annual charge on the National Welfare Fund to £411,000,000. The honorable member for Grayndler will find little humour in the fact that this financial year the sum of £411.000,000 will have to be found by the taxpayers of Australia - by the working people of our country. If our work force numbers 5,000,000 people, the honorable member for Grayndler surely cannot find reason for mirth in the fact that those 5,000,000 people, who work in the fields and the factories, must pay their taxes before they receive one penny for themselves. For every £1 that they pay in taxation 14s. must go into the National
Welfare Fund. There is no cause for laughter in the fact that a worker on the basic wage who may have commitments to meet on his home and on his possessions, who may be struggling to raise his family, must have his income tax deducted from his wages before he himself receives them and that, for every £1 of tax that he pays, 14s. must go to provide the £411,000,000 expended on social services. These are the stern realities of the situation. Every Minister for Social Services and every government introducing a piece of legislation relating to social services must face up to these stern realities.
– The Minister’s speech contained one very significant point. First, I must thank him for the great length to which he went to explain the social services structure to us and to assure us that he was not, as we suspected, transfixed and unconscious in his chair. Our view of him is shared by the recipients of social service benefits. When listening to his carefully read speech one was reminded of those delightfully amusing stories of Louisa Alcott which are so completely divorced from reality that when one finishes reading the story and puts down the book one finds it hard to face the cold hard facts of life. Undoubtedly the quality of this legislation indicates the Minister’s paranoic nature.
When I was a young lad I remember going with my father to listen to one of those hot gospellers from another land who, during the course of his address, promised the congregation, in the strong, emotional tones that such people employ, that if they would trust in him he would give them the promised land of Heaven. One old chap with crutches was sitting in the front row. The hot gospeller said to him: “Come to me, brother. Throw away your crutches and come to me.” So the old fellow threw away his crutches and tried to walk to the preacher and fell down and broke his neck. That is the position in which social service recipients will find themselves if they take any notice of what the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has said. He certainly can throw a smokescreen around his case, but when you clear it away there is not too much solid structure left in his case.
I was interested in one specific section of his speech which related to de facto wives. He would know well a case which I referred to him recently concerning a women who had been living in premises occupied by a bachelor. She was a widow and was employed as a housekeeper. She occupied separate rooms, and did not receive any income for performing the housekeeping duties. She was satisfied, because of her age and physical condition, to perform household duties in return for the occupancy of these rooms. The Minister and his department have set themselves above the judicial system in this country. They stated that there was a de facto relationship between the man and the woman despite the fact that the persons concerned were prepared to deny this claim. They supplied me with a written statement which I forwarded to the Minister. Apparently he and his department consider themselves to be superior to the courts of this land which would require evidence to substantiate such an allegation before forming an opinion.
In the course of the speech which he has just made, and in the course of others that he has made in this House relating to social services, the Minister very carefully detoured around the many important anomalies which persist in the social service structure. He did not deal at any length with the plight of deserted wives, these unfortunate women with perhaps a number of children who, through no fault of their own but because of the lack of character of their husbands, have to live for six months without any assistance from the Department of Social Services. At best, these people can obtain only a few pounds a week from State relief agencies. The Minister did not deal with the plight of the wives of men sentenced to imprisonment. These unfortunate women are not entitled to any assistance from the Department of Social Services until their husbands have served six months of their prison terms. The Minister is completely devoid of emotion. He is completely devoid of sympathy for these poor unfortunate women and their children.
What does he expect them to do? Does he expect them to sell, stick by stick, the furniture that they have so slowly accumulated by means of the frugal domestic allowance that they receive? Does he expect them to sell their homes to cope with the rising cost of living? That is the very thing which many women do. Does he expect them to follow the advice that was given by an officer of the Department of Social Services to one woman who came to see me? She was told to put her kiddies in a home and get out and work for a living. That is a disgraceful attitude for any public servant to adopt. After listening to the smug way in which the Minister views the social services structure it is evident that this attitude starts at the top of the pyramid and permeates to the bottom. Fortunately only one or two departmental officers adopt this attitude. From my own experience, departmental officers generally have been most courteous, most co-operative and most helpful.
The Minister did not deal with the case of wives who themselves are not old enough to receive a pension but whose husbands receive the age pension. This is another social problem which presents itself. Little or no effort is made by the department to assist these women. Regardless of the fact that they may be in their late fifties and have spent, perhaps, thirty or forty years in the very important job of raising healthy young Australians for the benefit of our country, they are told to get out and work. Perhaps the Minister is not aware of these things. Perhaps the Minister has not associated himself with the grass roots problems which affect the mass of the people.
He has given little, if any, consideration to the plight of families of invalid pensioners. It is terrible for a man of, say, 30 years of age with a wife and four or five children to support to suddenly find that he is an invalid and unable to work. He may be deeply in debt and trying to pay off a home and to bay the furniture for it on hire purchase. He may be trying to pay off a refrigerator, a washing machine, a radiogram or a television set. Let us not hear the Minister deny every working man’s right to these few amenities - luxuries by the working man’s standards - because in this world of ever-changing values the working people are entitled to them. It is a tragedy of major significance for a man to be suddenly confronted with this problem.
What of the situation of people who suddenly are afflicted with mental illness and become inmates of mental institutions? Recently a friend of mine, a grand man, could not face up to the strain of life. He had a nervous breakdown and found himself in a mental institution lor a short time. He was told that while he was in the institution he was not entitled to receive any sickness benefit or other social service payment. This is amazing and incomprehensible. If a man is in a mental institution surely he is most in need of financial assistance. The refusal to pay the sickness benefit throws a severe strain on the domestic organization and a considerable amount of worry on the wife and family. This, in turn, affects the sick man because, in a case of mental illness the patient needs rest and freedom from worry. The department’s policies aggravate the situation and prolong the period of hospitalization.
It is obvious that no recipient of social service benefits can be said to be living on a reasonable standard in view of the present cost of living. Such people are entitled to more than they are receiving. You, Mr. Minister, and your department should give more sympathetic consideration to these people in an effort to help them to meet the pressures which confront them in their day to day life.
In the course of this debate the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) suggested the abolition of the means test within three years. This is very heartening. Long before I entered this place I recollect that the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, proposed that this be done to benefit the people who were dependent on social service benefits. He was ridiculed and lampooned from pillar to post by people such as the Minister for Social Services who would rather have their pockets zipped up than zipped down. It is quite obvious that the means test could be abolished, because that has been done in other countries.
It is also obvious that if people who receive social service benefits are to retain their standard of living - if it is ever raised to a reasonable level under this Government - the benefits must be tied to cost of living adjustments. After hearing the speech made by the Minister for Social Services this afternoon, which showed his smug complacency, I only wish that his salary was tied to the payments made to people who are dependent on social service benefits for their livelihood. If his salary adjustments were related to adjustments in social service payments, I am sure that he would soon realize the necessity for giving recipients of social service benefits a decent standard of living, and he would certainly ensure that those people received their increased benefits at a very early stage. He has no right to sit-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I rise gladly to support the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) who, in my opinion, has answered very effectively the points raised in the committee stage of the debate on this bill. I wish to support him on a couple of points that he mentioned, and then to refer to one or two other aspects. I suggest that members of the Opposition, in referring to the delay which must take place before these increased benefits can be paid, unfortunately have cast aspersions upon the ability of the excellent officers of the Department of Social Services.
– That is not true. That is just humbug, and you know it.
– That is not humbug at all. Hie honorable member for Bass cannot take it. I pay a tribute to those officers. I want to deal factually with this point, as the Minister has done already. Is it not true that there are many precedents for the delay to which honorable members opposite have referred? This will not be the first occasion on which weeks or months have elapsed before increased benefits could be paid. I suggest that members of the Opposition are using this as an unjust point of criticism. I had in mind that the number of sets of documents to be dealt with by the department would be in excess of 500,000; but this afternoon the Minister directed attention to the fact that no fewer than 800,000 sets of documents need to be checked in the interests of the people who are to benefit from these increases.
Let us recognize that the officers of the Department of Social Services have shown us positively on many occasions that, once the administrative work on these matters is completed, the cheques can be despatched to the recipients in a matter of days. That is where automation comes in. Everything cannot be done by automation to-day. We are grateful for the rapidity with which cheques can be prepared and documents can be put into the post. The time loss occurs because 800,000 sets of papers have to be inspected personally by officers of the department before the amounts can be calculated and the cheques can be drawn. We draw attention to that and say that people should be big enough to pay tribute to officers who do their work so thoughtfully in the interests of the under-privileged people who receive these benefits. We have to recognize that basically there is nothing wrong with this delay.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), speaking a short time ago in the committee stage, raised nothing new. He referred again to the points that he made in his second-reading speech. He indulged purely in repetition. I wish to goodness that he had come to this part of the debate with more points calling specifically for action by the Government; but I could not find any such point in his speech. He returned to the rather foolish suggestion that the Government is endeavouring to split the various pensioners’ organizations across the country. Let me answer that suggestion by pointing out that any government should be grateful for these groups of pensioners, who get together to talk over the things that are being done in their interests and to voice their opposition if they believe that something is inequitable or unfair. We support and praise these people for the voluntary effort that they make in their own interests. We would commend every such organization; but we are permitted to express our concern if outside people infiltrate these pensioner bodies, influence them adversely and raise criticism which is not justified.
When we refer to the National Pensioners Society of Australia, to which our friend, the honorable member for Grayndler, and some of his colleagues have referred in not the highest of terms, let us be fair and put that organization on the same basis as any other organization. Supporters of the Government should be allowed to quote correspondence from that organization, and we have done so gladly in this debate. Having quoted one letter from that organization last week, I am pleased to tell the committee that the secretary of the organization has written expressing its pleasure at what we did and pointing out that it adheres to its first letter. It is grateful for the things that have been said in the debate on this bill in the interests not only of that organization as a group of pensioners but of all the recipients of social service benefits.
– You realize that that organization has only 25 members, do you not?
– Honorable members opposite have used the argument about splitting pensioners’ organizations in trying to substantiate their opposition to the new basic rate for single pensioners. That necessitates my referring once more to the fact that the Australian public have been cognizant of the problems of single pensioners. A recent gallup poll indicated that 69 per cent, of people agree with what the Government has done on this occasion. Finally on this point let me say that many married pensioner couples throughout Australia have been big enough not only to express appreciation for what they have received but also to point out that their friends who are single pensioners have had a very difficult road to follow and that they support the special base pension which has now been fixed.
I think I should comment on the fact that no policemen or inspectors will need to be employed by the Department of Social Services to check on the marital status of people who are classified as single pensioners, because the payment of the benefit will be based on the records held by the department. All I need say in this connexion is that penalties will apply to false declarations about marital status in the same way as penalties apply to other statements that applicants for social service benefits make. I believe it is sufficient to make that point in regard to penalty in order to show that there is no justification at all for the statements that have been made by members of the Opposition on this matter.
Members of the Opposition have played quite a lot on the point of the quick payment of the superphosphate bounty compared with the delay in the payment of these social service benefits. As usual, members of the Opposition are mixing things that cannot be mixed. The superphosphate bounty is related to trading, whilst the social service benefits are Government payments which are subject to a means test. You simply cannot compare items such as these two, which are incomparable, and try to mix them together.
– Each item is of direct benefit to a certain section of a community.
– I suggest that the honorable member overlooks the fact that superphosphate is purchased on a seasonal basis-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Chairman. What has superphosphate to do with this bill? I think you ruled previously that the honorable member for Grayndler could not refer to the superphosphate bounty.
– Order! The honorable member for Watson is correct. On the other hand, as the honorable member for Grayndler mentioned the superphosphate bounty, I think that in fairness the honorable member for Swan should be permitted to reply to and comment on what the honorable member for Grayndler said in that respect. However, I point out that the superphosphate bounty has no relation to the bill before the committee.
– I appreciate the point, but I make the reference merely because a similar reference was allowed earlier in the debate. All I want to say on the point is that trading in superphosphate would come to an end until the new bounty was applicable, if payment were to be made from some future date. It is quite apparent that this is a trading operation which necessitated the quick application of the subsidy, and it has no direct relationship to the payment of social service benefits.
Finally, it is my pleasure to draw attention to the extension of the child allowances to student children up to the age of eighteen years. I commend this as an excellent aspect of the bill.
.- I agree with all that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has said in relation to the bill. I think it is regrettable that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) should say that all pensioners have an income of £17 a week. This is a disgrace to any government that pretends to be in sympathy with the needs of those who are unable to support themselves.
I visited half a dozen married couples last week. Some of them had homes and some of them did not have homes. One married couple informed me that six months ago they had been told that if they did not buy the house they would be put out, because the law now permitted pensioners to be put out of their homes. The only way the couple had of buying the home was to get their daughter, who had been working for ten or twelve years, to raise £200 on her superannuation and to use this as the deposit. These people then had to pay £3 10s. a week on the mortgage. Possibly they are lucky. I have met other people who do not have a home. Yet the Minister and the Government say that pensioners are well provided for, that a married couple receives £10 10s. a week as pension and can earn another £7 a week. But 65 per cent, of pensioners are not capable of earning anything. It is downright hypocrisy for the Government to imply that all pensioners receive £17 a week. The Government knows quite well that this is a damn lie. We could not say anything else about it.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member referred to something as a damn lie. Is that parliamentary?
– Order! I suggest the honorable member for West Sydney withdraw the remark.
– I will withdraw the remark. But if the proceedings to-day were being broadcast, pensioners would be listening to the hypocrisy of this Government when its supporters speak about pensioners being in receipt of £17 a week. They receive nothing of the kind. The Government has often boasted about the riches of the country and the way it has managed the economy, but the married pensioners are not given any increase at all.
Other social service benefits also remain at the same rate. The Government has done nothing at ali to increase the maternity allowance. It has decided to add 10,000 immigrants to the 125,000 that we are already bringing into the country. The Australian Labour Party agrees that immigrants should be brought here; but this Government will not build houses for immigrants or help them to get jobs. When the immigrants arrive here, they are housed in barracks at Maroubra and other places. When they get a job, they push pensioners out of their homes. Seven or eight immigrants band together and buy a home. The Government has been asked on several occasions to apply the subsidy of £2 for £1 to homes built for pensioners. It boasts that after eight or nine years it has spent about £18,000,000 on homes for the aged. But how far does £2,000,000 a year go in providing homes for these people?
The Government spends hours and hours working out the Budget. The only people who suffered as a result of the Budget were the married pensioners. It is a downwright disgrace that in a budget that disposes of £2,000,000,000, we have to take the last 5s. away from the married pensioners so that we can give 10s. to the single pensioners. This is dividing the benefits given to pensioners in the last days of their lives. If the Government found that it could not increase the amount paid to married pensioners, it should have left all the pensions at the same rate.
I know that the pensioners cannot understand the provision that has been made by the Government. They read in the newspapers that the pension has been increased by 10s. a week. We have to explain to them that, because they are married, they will not receive the extra 10s., and that this will be paid only to single pensioners. The married pensioners will have to wait for another twelve months until a Labour government takes office. Then we will give them the benefits that this Government has denied to them over the last few years. They will not receive any justice if they do not elect a Labour government to continue the policies that have been adopted by Labour governments all over the world. Labour helps those downtrodden people who have been trying to live on the few pounds a week that they earn when they are in employment. Although their wages are small, they are told that they should buy a house and put something away for their old age.
Now let us consider the pensioners’ funeral benefit. Of course, the Government says, “What do we care about them when they are dead? “ The Government is not concerned about the pensioners. The Government holds the view that some one has to bury them and the funeral benefit has remained at £10 since it was introduced.
– Order! I remind the honorable member for West Sydney that the bill does not refer to the funeral benefit and therefore is not a subject before the committee.
– It was freely discussed by the honorable member for Grayndler.
– I made a passing reference.
– I am making only a passing reference.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member for West Sydney continue to pass on without making any further reference.
– Would child endowment come under this bill?
– No reference is made in the bill to child endowment and therefore it cannot be discussed in the committee stage of the bill.
– Then I must confine myself to the distinction made by the Government between married and single pensioners. A single pensioner will receive an additional 10s. a week, but married pensioners irrespective of their circumstances, which cannot be very good if they are pensioners, will be deprived of this increase of 10s. I hope and trust that the day will come very soon when pensioners will receive justice. There is no justice to be got from the Menzies Government. The Minister told us that a pensioner married couple can receive £17 a week between them and that they are all right. He knows very well that there can be no income of £17 a week for 65 per cent, of these pensioners, yet he makes that statement over the air, and tells what I would call untruths.
.- I was surprised and appalled to hear the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) say that members of the Opposition had cast aspersions on officers of the Department of Social Services. Of course that is not true. If he thinks that any one on this side of the chamber should be castigated for casting aspersions of that kind, will he please name him7 My experience, and that of other honorable members on this side, to whom I have spoken about this subject, is that we receive every courtesy from those officers, who show the greatest expedition in dealing with the cases we bring before them. Instead of criticizing the officers of the department, we commend them for the splendid service which they give to members of the Parliament.
The honorable member for Swan also referred to a gallup poll taken with regard to social service benefits. Is our legislation to be framed according to the results of gallup polls taken from time to time? If a gallup poll was held in regard to legislation on restrictive trade practices, we might get an answer, but would we frame the legislation according to the opinion expressed in such a poll? Why did not this Government invite representatives of age and invalid pensioners’ organizations throughout Australia to give their views before introducing discrimination between single and married pensioners? If it is good enough to ask the chambers of manufactures for their opinion on proposed legislation dealing with restrictive trade practices, why should not the Government ask people representing pensioners’ organizations throughout Australia for their opinions on this matter?
Honorable members opposite have referred to a certain person in Sydney - the secretary of the National Pensioners
Society, to which I think only three or four people belong. This is a pro-Liberal organization. The Australian Labour Party recognizes only the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association in this matter and does not intend to recognize any other organization. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) read out letters which he said were from branches of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association, whose members have made up their minds about this matter and who believe there should be no discrimination between single and married pensioners.
Earlier in the debate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) described the honorable member for Grayndler as “ a funny man “. If the Minister were sitting on this side of the chamber, listening to himself for year after year, he would realize how funny he is. He nearly brought the house down with laughter one night when he attended a royal function in King’s Hall in his kilts. I do not think I have ever seen a funnier sight in my life. We all wondered whether he had hired the kilts or whether they belonged to him, because they did not fit him at all.
The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) referred particularly to class C widows - the wives of persons sent to gaol or deserted wives. They have to wait for six months before qualifying for the pension. I am dealing with two cases of wives whose husbands are serving gaol sentences at the present time. They have to wait for six months before they become entitled to pension. I have made representations on behalf of these wives to the Department of Social Services through the Minister. I feel that the wives should receive consideration because there are special circumstances in their cases. In one instance, the husband was sentenced to twelve months’ gaol. Although the wife has four children to support, she must wait for six months before receiving the pension. When she came to me all I could do was to send her to her State member so that she could get a few pounds to keep her going. The other case is that of a young lady with a child of two years of age. She is expecting another child in a few months and her husband has just been sentenced to eighteen months’ gaol. It was no fault of hers that her husband erred, but she has to wait for six months before she becomes entitled to any benefit. I have been forced to send her to her State member of Parliament to get a few pounds a week with which to buy food. She has no chance of paying her rent. That has to be owed, at the risk of her being evicted. These are the sort of things which have been overlooked by the Government. Provision for cases of this kind would not involve great cost, as there are probably not more than 800 or 900 class C widows at any given time.
The Minister said that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) was dishonest. Has any one ever heard any one more dishonest than the Minister himself when he talks about the benefits which a Labour government paid in 1949 and compares them with what this Government is paying to-day? I, for one, have never wished to draw a parallel between what a previous government paid and what is being paid now. I would ask what the economy could afford and would pay benefits accordingly. The Minister says that the Labour Government paid out only £80,000,000 in social service benefits in 1949, whilst the present Government is paying out over £400,000,000 to-day. Is that an honest statement of the position? We have a much larger population to-day than in 1949 and we have a budget of £2,280,700,000, as against a budget of £500,000,000 in 1949. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) so ably explained when giving figures relating to the number of age pensioners in 1949 and to-day, there is no honesty at all in comparing what a Labour government paid in 1949 and what this Government is paying to-day.
If we wanted to do so, we could go back to the days of the Lyons Government, or to the days of Edmond Barton, who paid out nothing at all in social services. Let us get down to concrete facts. Let us ask ourselves whether the economy of Australia is such that we can afford to pay more money to the pensioners. Let us ask whether we can afford to abolish discrimination against pensioner married couples. Last year the Government budgeted for a deficit of £118,000,000 and this year it is budgeting for a deficit of only £58,000,000. It will not pay more to these people although they deserve it. The Government could give the pensioners a lot more if it budgeted for a bigger deficit. Does any honorable member on the Government side of the chamber think that we will finish up with a £58,000,000 deficit at the end of the year? The Government will probably show a surplus this year, as it did last year, when it was £134,000,000 out in its reckoning.
– Order! The honorable member is a little bit out as far as the bill is concerned.
– I would like to come back on course by appealing to the Government, and particularly to the Minister, on behalf of the class C widows, especially those who are deserted or whose husbands have been sent to gaol. They are only a few in number, and it would not cost the Treasury very much to adopt my suggestion. I ask the Minister in all sincerity to reduce the time that these women have to wait from six months to one month. I really believe that the waiting time should be abolished altogether, but in any case the present waiting time of six months is far too long. These people should not have to wait for six months to get the payments to which they are entitled and which they need to obtain food for themselves and their children. I sincerely suggest that the Minister should look into this matter.
.- I have one or two points on which I wish to comment. As you have ruled, Mr. Chairman, that we cannot discuss the failure of the Government to provide relief for the mothers of Australia by way of child endowment, that we cannot discuss the inadequate funeral allowance for age pensioners and that we cannot discuss the fact that no increase has been provided in unemployment benefits, I suppose I shall have to confine my remarks to the increases in pensions.
Before I get to that matter I would like to protest against the statement made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) that honorable members on this side of the committee had made disparaging remarks about the efficiency of officers of the Public Service, particularly those in the Department of Social Services. I would like to say here and now that I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the officers of the Department of Social Services. They do a terrific job, and they are the soul of courtesy when members approach them with problems. But, courteous as they are, they find that the restrictions placed on the department by the policies of this Government allow them little opportunity to do what they would like to do for the recipients of social service benefits.
I would like to refer also to the statement made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) that the reason why these increased payments in age pensions will not be made until 14th November is that the Department of Social Services has the heavy task of processing the many applications that will be coming in. I think this is a deliberate attempt by the Minister to cloud the issue. The fact is that the time taken to process applications by individual pensioners is not affected at all by the amounts that have to be paid. I realize, of course, that it takes some time to carry out these tasks, but it is only commonsense that it would take no longer if the payments were made retrospective. It is complete bally-hoo for the Minister to state that one of the reasons - I must be fair and admit that the Minister said it was one of the reasons, although he gave the impression that it was the main reason - why the payments are not being made until 14th November is that it is physically impossible for the department to make them earlier. I for one do not believe this, and I do not think any member of this committee honestly believes that this is the case. If the Government is not prepared to make the payments retrospective, let the Minister be honest enough to come out and say that the Government is too miserable to pay the extra amount involved. He has not the courage to do this, so he puts a smokescreen around the subject.
The Minister had a few words to say about our leader in this debate, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). First, he congratulated him on his elevation to a position on the front bench of the Opposition. Then in the next breath he proceeded to ridicule the honorable member’s excellent contribution to this debate.
– The Minister was ineffective.
– He was completely ineffective. The fact is that the honorable member for Grayndler made a very serious contribution to the debate. The Minister told us how the honorable member amuses him. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) has replied to that remark quite adequately.
This matter of pension increases is one about which we of the Australian Labour Party have been very perturbed. It is all very well for the Minister and his supporters to tell us that they have the support of the great majority of pensioners throughout Australia, Probably the Minister spends very little time in his office as the representative of his constituency and therefore is not in a position to judge how the individual pensioners feel about the Government’s approach to this matter. The fact is that the Government’s proposals have had a most significant effect. Married couple pensioners have not received one penny increase under this legislation. I am prepared to admit that the legislation does provide some additional benefits to quite a number of the people who have to rely on social services for their existence, but for the past two years married pensioners have received no increases at all from this Government. Is it not reasonable to assume that the Government, when considering social service proposals at the time of the preparation of the Budget, looked at widows’ pensions, for instance, and decided to grant an increase because of higher living costs and various other developments over the last two years? Did it not consider these matters when reviewing the age pension for single persons? Did it not do likewise in connexion with the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen? Why, then, has it granted no increase to married pensioners?
I ask the Minister to explain this. The pensioners who do not receive any benefits under this legislation number about 260,000. I have not worked out the exact amount which the extra 10s. a week for these pensioners would have cost the Government. I do know, however, that there are many pensioners living together. I am not going to speak about de facto relationships. I do not believe there are many such relationships, and I think the cases referred to by the honorable member for Grayndler and others on this side of the committee have been cited merely as examples of what can happen and of the injustices that may follow this proposal. We all know of cases - I have had personal experience of many of them - in which pensioner sisters live together, or pensioner brothers live together. Often single pensioners will decide to rent a house between them. They do not live in a married state but as a family unit. Usually this is a wise move, because they can pool their resources and live a little better than they could if they lived separately as single persons. But then we have the anomaly of two sisters, or two brothers, or brother and sister, living together and receiving £11 10s. a week in total pension, while a married couple receives only £10 10s. a week. Why should there be any differentiation? This is an obvious anomaly, and it should have been foreseen by the Government when it was preparing the Budget.
The Minister referred, of course, to the great increase in expenditure, that this proposal will involve, but surely he does not believe for one minute thai this nation of ours, which honorable members opposite claim is enjoying a high level of prosperity, could not have afforded to extend this increase to married couple pensioners. I do not believe that there is any valid argument against the amendments proposed by the Opposition which can be put forward by the Minister or any member, on the Government side. The Australian Labour Party believes that there are many sections of the social service system of Australia which have been totally and entirely neglected by the present Government. Certainly we have seen some improvements over the past years. We believe that, if the Government is sincere in its announcements, and if the Minister is sincere in his poetic way of putting this bill before the committee, he should heed the amendment proposed by the Australian Labour Party. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grayndler.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want briefly to register my protest against several of the provisions in the social services legislation before us. I protest particularly against the three months delay in payment of the increases in age and invalid pensions and also against the failure of the Menzies Government again to recognize the needs of married pensioners. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has again left the chamber. No doubt, while in a very gloomy mood as usual, he has retired to pen yet another epistle for the magazine or newspaper to which he contributes.
– Order! There is nothing in the bill about a magazine or newspaper.
– The gloomy pronouncements of the Minister are reminiscent of the work of Peter Snodgrass - or perhaps it was Augustus Snodgrass - the Dickensian figure of long ago. Perhaps they could be likened more accurately to the statements of the tight-fisted character of Scrooge in “ A Christmas Carol “. Certainly the Minister’s pronouncements in this chamber create that impression. I was disappointed with his remarks in relation to what I term his misrepresentation of the speech of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). He completely misrepresented the tenor of the honorable member’s speech by continuously implying that the honorable member’s remarks were in humorous vein. I believe that the honorable member’s speech was well-considered, illustrated clearly the shortcomings of the present social service system and was ably delivered. I know that honorable members on this side of the committee agree.
I protest, primarily, at the three months delay from the announcement of the increase in pensions on 13th August until payment will be made on 14th November. I register my protest, not only on behalf of myself and Opposition members, but on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of pensioners in dire need who must wait to receive the increase. I wonder why this protest has never been satisfactorily answered. Why must pensioners wait three months for payment of the increase? The Minister’s argument, as far as I can see, is very loose and entirely without logic. He said that the Government had to make estimates of what the increase would cost. That is the only argument he advanced for the delay. I can understand that officers of his department, who very ably serve the
Commonwealth, have to examine over 800,000 files to determine the number of pensioners who will receive the increase. I understand also - in fact honorable members on this side insist on it - that adequate time to debate the matter in Parliament is necessary. But why cannot these increases be dated back to the time of the Budget, or even to 1st July? It cannot be argued that officers of the Department of Social Services would have more work laid upon their shoulders if the increase were made retrospective to 13th August or 1st July. It is already necessary for them to go through every file and it would not take much extra work to determine the cost of making the increase effective from 1st July. After all, if the Government considers that pensioners needed the increase on 13th August, obviously it should be paid from that date and not paid three months later. There was very little to commend the Minister’s argument about the need for estimates.
I wish to make passing reference to some statements made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech of 13th August. He said that the superphosphate bounty would become effective from the date of the Budget. That is the position in relation to the investment allowance on plant and equipment on which expenditure is incurred after 13th August. The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, said in relation to taxation measures -
The proposed amendments to the income tax law are to take effect from the commencement of the 1963/64 income year.
Was that not 1st July, last? Surely these are matters in respect of which the Government has to estimate the cost to be allowed for in its expenditure, just as is necessary in relation to expenditure on social services. Pensioners are in dire need of the increase. Why cannot payment of it be made retrospective? Why must we continue a practice that has been in operation, according to the Minister, for 55 years? Why cannot this hidebound practice of half a century ago be amended? Must we every year listen to the statement that it has been in operation for over half a century and is to continue for another half century? If pensioners are entitled to an increase from 1st July or 13th August, it should be paid to them from either of those dates and not paid three months later.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) misrepresented Opposition members by saying that we had attacked the staff of the Department of Social Services. I am sure I speak for other members of the Opposition when I say that this statement is entirely wrong. We have a great appreciation of the work done for pensioners by that staff and of the assistance that they give to all honorable members. I know that I can speak on behalf of the citizens of Bendigo in appreciation of the staff of the office there for their good services. Let us not continue a ridiculous method that has been used for over SO years. Let us do away with hide-bound ideas and adopt a new approach. The Minister has again misrepresented the Labour Party by saying that we are opposed to payment of the increase to single pensioners. A number of honorable members opposite have made that statement. I and members on this side deny it. We fully recognize the great need of single pensioners for an increase in their pensions. They need more than they are getting now. But we also recognize the fact that married pensioners have needs at this time. Indeed, early in 1961, the Labour Party advocated a special needs allowance, recognizing the fact that single pensioners and some married pensioner couples were desperately in need of increased pensions and allowances. We recommended an increase in the supplementary allowance from 10s. to 30s. and the widening of its application to cover a far greater variety of pensioners’ needs. We recognized years ago the special needs of single people and of some married people.
The Minister for Social Services glibly talks about pensioner married couples receiving a total income of £17 10s. a week. He knows full well that some 65 per cent, of married pensioners are unable to earn any income whatsoever. Therefore, about 65 per cent, of pensioner married couples are not in receipt of a total income of anything like £17 10s. a week. The Minister has completely misrepresented the position. He talked a good deal about dishonesty. I venture to say that his misrepresentation is dishonest. The Minister and the Department of Social Services know that about 65 per cent, of married pensioners cannot earn income.
Why does the Minister talk about married pensioners receiving a total income of £17 10s. a week when the major proportion of them live on a total income of £10 10s. a week? Out of this, many of them have to pay for rent and rates often amounting to a total of about £4 a week, and fuel. I was interviewed in my office recently by a pensioner who had to pay rent of £3 15s. a week. In winter time, fuel costs can be considerable, to say nothing of all the other needs of a married couple that have to be paid for. All these costs have to be met out of a total income that, in the majority of instances, is far less than £17 10s. a week. Yet the Minister talks as if most pensioner married couples have an income totalling £17 10s. a week. One of the great disappointments of the Budget of 1963 is the fact that there will be no addition to-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, we have been invited to consider the contrast between the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who has led for the Opposition in the debate on this bill. The Minister invited us to consider this contrast in a speech in which he directed attention to what he considered to be the funny aspects of the honorable member for Grayndler. I think it is desirable to point out that the main difference between these two gentlemen is that the Minister very often is funny when he does not intend to be and the honorable member for Grayndler is never funny unless he intends to be.
One of the occasions when the honorable member was not funny and when he certainly did not intend to be funny was the occasion when he discussed the amendments of the Social Services Act proposed by the Minister. The Minister was wrong when he suggested that the honorable member for Grayndler was being funny thoi. On the contrary, the honorable member was being very serious, particularly when he considered the position of age and invalid pensioners, widows, endowed children and all the other groups in the list that the Minister very ponderously waded through. The honorable member for Grayndler was very serious when he talked of the poor deal that the Minister was giving to each of those groups. I believe that the honorable member was not funny then. Nor did he ask us to be funny in discussing these matters. The Minister for Social Services, however, cannot avoid being funny in one sense. Once he gets to his feet he cannot avoid a good many honorable members laughing outright, not with him but at him.
– Order! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the bill.
– The Minister makes himself a figure of fun. I happen to be replying to remarks made on a matter that the Minister himself introduced, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Having done so, I shall move on to one or two other points.
Like the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton), 1 protest strongly against the delay of three months in the payment of the increased benefits that are proposed in this measure. I find that this is the longest delay in the payment of increased benefits resulting from a budget that has ever occurred in the history of this Parliament. I believe that the delay on this occasion is at least a month longer than has ever before occurred. So the Minister for Social Services has to his credit a very distinguished record: He has kept pensioners waiting for increased benefits longer than any other Minister has done!
The Minister has justified the delay by citing a precedent and by stating that these delays have occurred for so many years. Opposition members know that these delays will continue. This kind of action may have a precedent; it could have many precedents. I shall examine that aspect in a moment. But, even if there are precedents, they should be departed from if they are bad ones. Any precedent in this instance undoubtedly is bad. The delay occurs simply because of the departmental accounting methods adopted. Those methods could be altered. Let me say in passing, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that if it is possible to date from 1st July, or the date on which the Budget was presented, increases in the superphosphate bounty, depreciation allowances and tax conces sions, it is possible also to pay pensions increases from either of those dates. So there is a bad precedent from which we should depart.
What is the strength of the precedent mentioned by the Minister, who went back to the time of the Labour Government and told honorable members on this side of the chamber, “You have no right to complain, because Labour governments have done the same thing”? I shall demonstrate conclusively that that is not true. I have gone to the trouble of checking what Labour governments did before 1949. If honorable members like to turn to page 487 of the Commonwealth “Year-Book” for 1955, they will see that all the pensions increases during the term of office of the Labour Government, except three, were automatic increases resulting from increases in the cost of living. The pensioners did not have to wait any time to get those increases. As I have said, only three increases given by the Labour Government were not of that kind. One dated from 5th July, 1945, and one from 3rd July, 1947. Both these increases were given about five months earlier than the increases provided for in the Budget of this year will be given. The first of the two increases that I have mentioned was an increase of 5s. 6d. a week dating from 5th July, 1945. In that year, the Budget was presented on 11th September. By means of a special bill, the Labour Government provided for a pensions increase dating from 5th July, more than two months before the Budget of that year was presented. A similar thing happened in 1947. An increase of 5s. a week given in that year operated from 3rd July, and the Budget was presented on 19th September. I ask the Minister: Are those two precedents for the course that he chooses to take on this occasion?
Honorable members can see from what I have said that the Minister has available possibly only one precedent attributable to the Labour Government. That relates to a pensions increase of 5s. a week given in 1948. In that year, the Budget was presented by the Prime Minister and Treasurer on 8th September, and the pensions increase dated from 21st October. The Budget of that year was presented about a month later than this year’s Budget was presented, but the pensions increase was paid from a date three weeks earlier than the present
Government proposes this year. So where does the Minister stand when he makes his unctuous claim that there are precedents in the record of Labour governments for what he proposes to do this year?
I shall tell the committee where the only precedents are to be found. They are to be found in the history of the present Government’s term of office. In 1950, the Budget was presented in August and the pensions increase dated from 2nd November. In 1951, the Budget was presented in August and the pensions increase dated from 1st November. In 1952, the Budget was presented early in August and the pensions increase dated from 2nd October. The Budget of J 953 was presented in August and the pensions increases dated from 29th October. In succeeding years, budgets were presented in August and pensions increases dated respectively from 22nd October, 1955, 24th October, 1957, 8th October, 1959, and 6th October, 1 960. All the precedents for delay in the payment of pensions increases - except one, when the delay was very much shorter - have been established by the present Government, and the delay of three months this year is the longest in the history of Australia. So much for history!
– Labour did not increase pensions.
– The Labour Government did not increase pensions.
– The reason why Labour did not increase pensions as much as the present Government has done is that there was no inflation under Labour’s administration. There has been a close correlation - though J am not one who agrees with the significance read into it - between increases in pensions and rises in the cost of living. This has been the basis of the Minister’s claim for this Government’s success. During the greater part of Labour’s term of office there was an automatic connexion between pensions and the cost of living. Automatic increases in pensions were made. In the two years when this did not happen the increase was made retrospective, in one case for two months before the budget was brought down, and in the other case for three months before the budget was brought down. The reason why the increases were not greater when Labour was in office is that the pension rate was tied to the cost of living index and the cost of living increased by only a small percentage under Labour whereas it has increased at a fantastic rate during this Government’s term of office. For example, the cost of living increased by 25 per cent, in 1951, by 16 per cent, in 1952 and by 10 per cent, in the following year. Every pension increase by this Government has been given long after the cost of living has increased. The pensioners have had to pay the increased cost of living for twelve months before they have received an increase in their pensions. This is still the situation to-day.
I want to refer to one other matter before my time expires. The principle on which the increase proposed by this legislation is based is, according to the Government, the principle that it costs two people proportionately less to live than it costs one person to live. But the true basis upon which eligibility for the increase is determined will be whether a person is in fact unmarried. The increase will be granted to other people living together as a family unit, such as sisters, or brothers and sisters. So the principle upon which this increase is refused to married’ people is not applied in all cases. This is another example of unfair discrimination. Inevitably, once you take a parsimonious attitude and begin to farm out a few shillings here and a few shillings there you become involved in discrimination.
.- I feel compelled to reply to statements that have been made here this afternoon, on the one hand by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) and on the other hand by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). The honorable member for Swan made a remark - completely inaccurate and most unfair in my opinion - which has since been replied to by one or more honorable members on this side of the chamber but which I regard as of such importance as to warrant clarification for the sake of the record. All honorable members on this side of the chamber appreciate the good work that is being done by officers of the Department of Social Services. We appreciate their prompt attention to all the problems that are placed before them by members of Parliament, irrespective of the political party to which they belong. We know that many of those problems are human problems. My own experience has been that every case submitted to departmental officers has received sympathetic consideration. It is true that they cannot accede to every request that is made of them, but at least our requests are treated sympathetically. The honorable member for Swan does this Parliament a very great disservice when he suggests that honorable members on this side do not appreciate the work that is done by those who are responsible for the administration of the social services legislation.
The honorable member for Swan was guilty of inaccuracy in a reference to the superphosphate bounty. I know that I may refer to this matter only in passing, but the fact remains that the payment of the bounty will be made in retrospect to a particular section of the community. The bounty will bc a direct contribution to one particular section of the community. If one section of the community can receive payment of a benefit in retrospect, surely it is not too much to ask that a social services payment be made retrospective.
The honorable member for Swan implied that officers of the department would not be able to determine eligibility for the increase in time to allow payment to be made earlier than the date proposed by the Minister. We do not suggest that the department’s officers would be in a position to complete their investigations any quicker than they will, but that situation should not prevent the increase being paid retrospectively. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has shown that a previous administration paid increases in social service payments retrospectively. I am not impressed by the Minister’s statement that increases have never been paid retrospectively in the past. Many of my colleagues and I have had experience only of this Government’s attitude in these matters. The Government has never made any payments of this nature retrospectively. I am completely unimpressed by the Minister’s arguments. He has said nothing to convince members of the Opposition or the community in general that these increases cannot be paid retrospectively.
Let me refer now to one or two other matters dealt with by the Minister. He dealt with anomalies that had been referred to by honorable members from this side of the chamber. He made certain accusations against the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). Whichever way one. examines the social services legislation, particularly the bill now under discussion, one finds anomalies. Take the classic example which the Minister himself referred to this afternoon. The Minister said that it would be patently dishonest for the honorable member for Grayndler or the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to compare a single pensioner in receipt of supplementary income of £3 10s. a week, making his total income £9 5s. a week, with a married couple receiving pension alone of £10 lOs a week. The Minister adverted to the position of a married couple in receipt of the age pension plus an income of £7 a week from superannuation or some other source. That couple would have a total income of £17 10s. a week. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have never denied the generosity of the pension scheme in that respect but we have always maintained, as the Minister knows, that pensioners earning supplementary incomes are in the minority. This Parliament should concern itself with the amount that will be received by the great majority of pensioners.
To show how these examples may be extended, let me refer to the case that the Minister himself has discussed. I have pointed out that a married pensioner couple could have a total income of £17 10s. a week between them. But if the husband died the wife’s income would be reduced to £8 15s. a week. The fact that she received superannuation of £7 a week would reduce her pension to £1 15s. a week. She would receive £8 15s. a week instead of the £17 10s. that formerly came into the home when her husband was alive. The £8 15s. that she would receive is 10s. a week less than is received by the single pensioner who has a separate income of £3 10s. a week. Therefore, whichever way you view these cases, it can be shown conclusively that anomalies will arise.
While it may be fair for the Minister to take one aspect of this legislation to show that it will benefit some sections of pensioners, it is equally certain that other sections will not benefit. Last night I asked the Minister to advise of the position that would apply when one member of a pensioner couple was committed to an institution for the aged, that is, whether either one or both would receive the additional 10s. a week. He has not answered that question because he knows that they would not. This afternoon the honorable member for Grayndler asked the Minister whether, in the case of a man and a woman living in the one home but occupying separate rooms, they both would be entitled to the 10s. a week increase. The honorable member asked for a simple answer - yes or no. We still have not received it. I suggest that the Minister answer both questions that were put to him. I am particularly concerned about the people who will be separated as a consequence of sickness and age. Will they receive the additional 10s.? If they will not, one member of the family will be living in the home previously occupied by both and will be receiving no more than the base rate of pension of £5 5s. a week. These are the questions that exercise the minds of honorable members on this side of the chamber. We do not accept the Government’s suggestion that this legislation-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lucock).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to take this opportunity to reply to some not very veiled charges that were levelled against the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) by the
Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). He said that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was dishonest, was guilty of unpardonable conduct and had approached this subject in a specious manner prior to his departure from Australia. I think those statements are unparliamentary in the extreme and do little credit to the Minister. They are a gross reflection on my colleague, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. They might well be applied to the Minister in respect of his conduct of the debate on this bill.
– Mr. Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is it in order, in a debate on a motion for the third reading of a bill, for an honorable member to refer to matters that occurred in committee?
– The honorable member for Grayndler is in order.
– Unfortunately, I was denied the opportunity to reply on these matters in the committee stage It is with great reluctance that I take this opportunity to do so. I had no wish to do so. The Government desires to force this legislation through at all costs. It has gagged Opposition speakers and prevented them from discussing this bill and the matter to which I referred a few moments ago. I believe that the Minister should be asked to withdraw those statements in this Parliament, because they are a reflection on my colleague who is representing this country at the United Nations. I venture to suggest, Mr. Speaker, that if the honorable member for Eden-Monaro had been present the Minister would not have dared to utter them. In other words, he has attacked a man behind his back. In a cowardly way, he has attacked a man who is on the other side of the world representing this Parliament and his party with great distinction. I believe that the remarks of the Minister were unparliamentary in the extreme, unwarranted, and a reflection on the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I take the opportunity to participate in the debate on the motion for the third reading of this measure and to say, on behalf of the Opposition, that we are appalled at the statements made by the Minister in an endeavour to cover up bis own shortcomings in respect of this measure.
The Minister also reflected on what I would term my sense of humour. Nobody in this Parliament could say that the Minister was exactly a bundle of fun. In fact, I do not think I would be out of place in saying to the electors of this country, particularly the pensioners, that he would not be out of place in a chamber of horrors.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw it in deference to you.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw the remark unreservedly.
– I withdraw it unreservedly. I say quite sincerely to the pensioners of this country and other people who are interested in social service benefits that the Minister for Social Services would be looked upon as the gloomiest man in town. In this legislation he has denied to thousands of pensioners the benefit of an increase of 10s. a week because the Government believes in discrimination against married men and women. To-day, this Minister, who exemplifies despair and despondency, particularly to pensioners, has had the debate on this bill gagged because he does not want brought to the light of day matters that we know are important to the people.
The Minister talked about the expenditure of £411,000,000 on social services this year, as opposed to the expenditure of about £85,000,000 in 1949 under a Labour government. We have mentioned before that that is a very unfair comparison. In my second-reading speech, I pointed out certain anomalies in his comparison. There is not £411,000,000 worth of real value in social services to-day. Under this Government there is no real purchasing power in them. Their purchasing power has been taken away by the inflationary policies of this Government. The fact of the matter is (hat the present expenditure is being spread over more people and in that way real benefit is being denied to the great majority of people. The population of Australia has increased by approximately 3,000,000 since 1949. The total number of age and invalid pensioners is now 382,000 greater than in 1949. About 5,200 more people are receiving the allowances for wives and children. About 12,000 more people are receiving the funeral benefit than in 1949. The number of people receiving widows’ pensions has increased by about 13,000 in that time. About 62,000 more people are receiving maternity allowances. About 2,400,000 more people are receiving child endowment. In addition, 70,000 people are receiving the unemployment benefit. The point I am making is that the expenditure of £41 1 ,000,000 is being spread over more people; that the value of the benefits is much less; and that the benefits differ in many ways from those that were given by the Chifley Government in 1949.
I am sorry to have to say these things at this stage; but we were not given an opportunity to say them in committee. On behalf of the Opposition, I record our displeasure in relation to what is not done in this measure and with the action of the Minister for Social Services in attacking a man who is representing his country overseas, and then running away by having the debate gagged and refusing us an opportunity to give the people the real facts about this legislation. Whilst we do not object to the passage of this bill, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Opposition I put those comments on record.
– I want to protest against the treatment that the Opposition has received from the Government on this measure. As one who is vitally interested in social services, I-
– You did not show much interest. You have not been here.
– I was out of the chamber for only ten minutes during the whole afternoon; yet the honorable member for Fawkner has the audacity to say what he has just said to me. I say to him that before he became the Acting Government Whip in this House he was always con.scipuous for the little interest that he took in anything apart from the vested interests that he wanted to push.
We of the Opposition decided that we would not deal with this measure clause by clause in committee. We did not even call for a division on the motion for the second reading of the bill. We let that motion go through without a division. But we expected to be able to speak on the bill in committee. This afternoon, when we had only ten minutes each in which to speak, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) spoke for more than half an hour an everything under the sun, not just the provisions of the bill. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said, the Minister made attacks on the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) which should never have been made against an honorable member even in his presence. The Minister made an attack on the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in respect of something that the honorable member said in a debate on a bill a couple of weeks ago. The Minister had that advantage and did all that. I did not jump up each time another speaker finished, because I wanted to give honorable members who had not spoken in the secondreading debate an opportunity to speak for ten minutes in committee. I wanted lo reply to what the Minister said; but in connivance with the Government he had the Acting Government Whip apply the gag when I stood up to speak.
We are in agreement with all that has been done in this measure to make advances in. the field of social services. As I said in my speech in the debate on the motion for the second reading of this bill, I give credit to the Government for what it has done. But I wanted to be able to deal with the clauses in the bill which, in my opinion, do not meet the requirements. I wanted to direct special attention to some of the things that were missed. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that his desire was that we should help those people who most need help. He was very strong for that. But he did not do anything to help the dependant wife of an invalid pensioner. The wife of an age pensioner, who receives no benefit at all because she is under 60 years of age and cannot prove that her husband’ is totally incapacitated, is the worst off of all people. But the honorable member for Richmond did not say one word to help such people, who are at the bottom of the scale. I wanted to talk about these matters. I did not want to attack the Minister or any one else. I believe that we should be more concerned with the legislation before us and with our efforts to help those who need help than with attacks or abuse. I have no desire to attack or abuse any one. I plead with the Minister to consider the plight of very needy women. An Opposition member mentioned the wives of men who are in prison and those who have been deserted and must wait for six months before obtaining assistance. These people desperately need help. I appeal to the Government to give more consideration to dependent wives, whether they are the wives of invalid pensioners or of age pensioners. I mentioned this matter during the second-reading debate and I do not want to repeat what I said. The allowance for the wife of an invalid pensioner is £3 a week and I ask that she be given more assistance.
The Government should keep in mind that the people right at the bottom depend now on whatever assistance the State governments can give. Members of the State Parliament in South Australia have come to me and said: “ So-and-so was blinded whilst working at a mine. He is not entitled to compensation and he has a family to support. What help can he obtain? “ I have replied: “ I do not know that he would receive anything from the Commonwealth Government. All you can do is to get assistance from the State welfare section.” These people depend on the State for welfare. But they are the people who should be receiving help from the Commonwealth Government now. 1 do not want to delay the passage of the bill any further. I believe that the Government could have given us a little more consideration than it did, especially as we have tried to give the bill a quick passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Discharge of Motions
– I ask for leave to move a motion for the discharge of Orders of the Day Nos. 16, 17, 18, 19, 24 and 25 for the resumption of debates on motions to print various papers. I would explain, Mr. Speaker, that the need to discuss the various subject matters covered by these orders has now passed and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has intimated that the Opposition would have no objection to the discharge of the orders. In addition, their removal will reduce the number of Government business items and reduce printing costs.
– I move-
That the following Orders of the Day, Government Business, be discharged: -
No. 16 - Common Market Negotiations - Ministerial Statement - Motion for Printing Paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion. That the Paper be printed.
No. 17- Disarmament and Nuclear Tests- Ministerial Statement - Motion for Printing Paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the Paper be printed.
No. 18- ANZUS Council- Canberra MeetingCommunique - Motion for Printing Paper Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the Paper be printed.
No. 19 - West New Guinea - NetherlandsIndonesian Dispute - Ministerial Statement - Motion for Printing Paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion. That the Paper be printed.
No. 24 - Prime Ministers’ Conference, London, September, 1962, and The Common Market - Ministerial Statement - Motion for Printing Paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the Paper be printed.
No. 25 - Common Market - Britain’s Negotiations - Ministerial Statement, 6th December, 1962 - Motion for Printing Paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the Paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - On 18th October, 1961,I informed the House of the Government’s decision further to extend television services to rural areas of the Commonwealth by establishing national stations in an additional twenty country areas. At the same time I stated that applications would be invited for the grant of a licence for a commercial television station in each of these areas.
In a further statement made to the House on 4th October, 1962,I announced that the Government, following consideration of the recommendations made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, had authorized me to grant a licence for a commercial television station to each of the following companies in the five areas indicated: -
Upper Namoi area - Television New England Limited.
South Western Slopes and Eastern Riverina area - Riverina Television Limited.
Grafton-Kempsey area - Northern Rivers Television Limited.
Upper Murray area - Albury Upper Murray T.V. Limited.
Wide Bay area - Wide Bay Burnett Television Proprietary Limited.
The stations in these areas are now being established.
I received recently from the board its report and recommendations on the applications received for licences in additional areas. Following consideration of this report, the Government has accepted the recommendations of the board, and has authorized me to grant a licence for a commercial television station to each of the following companies in the ten areas indicated: -
Manning River area - East Coast Television Limited.
Central Western Slopes area - Country Television Services Limited.
Murrumbidgee Irrigation areas - Murrumbidgee Television Limited.
Broken Hill area - Broken Hill Television Limited.
Mildura area - Sunraysia Television Proprietary Limited.
Cairns area - Far Northern Television Proprietary Limited.
Mackay area - Mackay Television Development Proprietary Limited.
Southern Downs area - Darling Downs TV Limited.
South East (South Australia) area - South East Telecasters Limited.
Bunbury area - South Western Telecasters Proprietary Limited.
The constitution of these companies is set out in the board’s report which I will lay on the table of the House.
Altogether, commercial stations are now to be licensed in fifteen of the twenty areas to which I announced, on 18th October, 1961, television services were to be ex tended. The position with respect to the remaining five areas is as follows: -
Spencer Gulf North: At the time this area was dealt with, the only applicant was not prepared to proceed on the ground that it would be uneconomic to do so.
Bega-Cooma: The only applicant was not prepared to proceed and withdrew the application.
Murray Valley: The only applicant who proceeded was not prepared to accept a licence for this area unless also granted the licence for the Mildura area. As the licence for the latter area is to be granted to another company, no licence can be granted in respect of the Murray Valley area at this stage.
Southern Agricultural Area (Western Australia): No application was received for this area.
Central Agricultural Area (Western Australia): No application was received for this area.
The position of the five areas referred to will be kept under review with the object of re-inviting applications as soon as circumstances indicate that such a course is warranted. I would emphasize, however, that the establishment of national stations in these areas is not affected and they, together with stations in the other fifteen areas, will be provided with a national service as quickly as possible.
The licences will not be granted until I am satisfied as to the directors and shareholdings of the respective companies and as to their compliance with the provisions of the act. I shall also require that an assurance be given that no exclusive arrangement will be entered into with any metropolitan station for the provision of programmes or the sale of station time or advertising. This conforms with the conditions prescribed in respect of other country stations which have been licensed. Each company to which a licence is to be granted, with the exception of Country Television Services Limited and Darling Downs TV Limited, will be required to offer at least 50 per cent of its shares to the general public residing in the area to be served by the station, although it appears from the board’s report that each of the proposed licensees has already expressed this intention.
Country Television Services Limited and Darling Downs T.V. Limited are established companies, being the licensees of the commercial television stations operating in the central tablelands of New South Wales and the Darling Downs areas, respectively. I propose to take up with these companies the question of making shares available to residents of the central western slopes and southern downs areas.
I should say that rapid progress is now being made with the establishment of national stations in country areas. By the end of 1963, eleven such stations will be in operation, and during 1964 it is planned to bring an additional three stations into service. When the stations which have been authorized are completed, about 91 per cent of the population will have television services available to them. The question of the extension of the service to additional areas presents problems of some difficulty. The matter is, however, receiving continuing attention and the board will make a further report to me as soon as it is possible to reach some firm conclusions as to the best course to follow in the light of the experience with the stations now being brought into operation. I lay on the table the following papers: -
Extension of Television Services -
Australian Broadcasting Control Board - Report and Recommendations to the PostmasterGeneral on applications for licences for commercial television stations in Manning River, Central Western Slopes, Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Bega-Cooma, Broken Hill, Mildura, Murray Valley, Cairns, Mackay, Southern Downs, South East (South Australia) and Bunbury areas.
Ministerial Statement, 18th September, 1963 - and move -
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.51 to 8 p.m.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 12th September (vide page 977).
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £13,502,000.
Proposed vote, £3,181,000.
– When this debate began last week one or two members of the Opposition expressed criticism because the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) also holds the portfolio of Attorney-General. I think this criticism does a gross injustice to the person who holds the two portfolios. I believe that in fairness we should all admit that since the present Minister has taken over the two jobs he has shown extraordinary energy and vitality in carrying out both his tasks. I do not think any honorable member can point to a single thing in connexion with either portfolio that should have been done and has not been done. I am prepared to suggest that in many instances the Minister has done more in both his portfolios than he could normally be expected to have done.
I want to devote my remarks not to the Department of External Affairs but to the other department administered by the Minister, that of the Attorney-General. In particular I wish to speak about the proposals with regard to restrictive trade practices which have been spoken of during the last twelve months. I am of opinion that not enough people, apart from those closely associated with the preparation of these proposals, have made a sufficient study of the Australian proposals and compared them with the measures in operation in the United States of America or with the laws in existence in the United Kingdom. If business people had undertaken this study with a greater thoroughness, I believe two things would have become evident to them, and, in all justice, the business world would have had to make allowances for two things that have been quite evident in the proposals put forward. There has been a positive effort, first, to adapt what has been suggested to the Australian environment, to the needs of Australian businesses and to Australian trading conditions. The Attorney-General could not be and could never have been accused of lifting something out of the practices in the United Kingdom or the United States and saying, “ That will do us; we will have that in Australia “. He has made a positive effort to get something appropriate to our own conditions.
Secondly, he has made a realistic attempt to allay the fears of business without at the same time emasculating the scheme. He has avoided the harsh dragnet form of the United States laws, and if you compare what is proposed to be enacted in this Parliament with what has been in operation in the United Kingdom you find that we have many additional safeguards so that business need have no fear in carrying out its legitimate purposes in the future. Very briefly I would like to examine these additional safeguards that are present in the Australian proposals but are not present in the United Kingdom practice. First, the Attorney-General has made it quite clear that he would prefer the register to be not completely secret but at the same time not open to the general public.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Chairman. Is the honorable member in order in discussing legislation that has not come before this House?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– This comment, Mr. Chairman, is typical of the quality of the remarks that we are used to hearing from the honorable member for Scullin. I was saying that the AttorneyGeneral believes that the secrecy of the register will encourage businessmen voluntarily to put their practices and agreements on the register. He feels it will give them a security which they might not enjoy if the register were completely open to any member of the public to examine. This does, however, raise one or two difficulties as to who should see the register and as to the kind of justification that will have to be produced before permission can be obtained to examine it. Do you have to. show that you will be affected in your business trading in order to obtain permission, or can you show that some restrictive practice of one kind or another has affected you as a consumer? These are matters that will have to be strictly set out in the legislation.
Secondly, there is to be a commission, according to the present proposals, which will stand between the registrar and the tribunal. This clearly places a restriction on the powers of the registrar. Its purpose, I believe, is so that business in Australia need not fear that an over-enthusiastic and perhaps, in the view of business people, bureaucratic registrar would run wild. It may be that this commission will not be necessary in the final scheme, but, if it is, then business people should regard it as an additional safeguard provided for their benefit.
Thirdly, in the United Kingdom practice there is a presumption that anything that Ss registered is contrary to the public interest, and it is up to the business or firm concerned to justify the practice in terms of one of the several gateways. In Australia the registrar’s task will be made more difficult. First, he has to prove that the practice is contrary to the public interest and has resulted in a substantial reduction in competition, and only after the registrar has proved this is it then open to the businessman to try to justify the practice in accordance with the wider and more numerous gateways that have been suggested.
In addition to those three safeguards for business there are two others. It has been proposed that there will be lay members on the tribunal. This is an additional safeguard for business people, to give them confidence in the suggestions that have been put forward. Finally, there is the question of the power of the tribunal to award costs.
All these provisions have, I believe, been put into the Australian proposals to assist business people, so that they may have confidence in what has been put forward. Although the registrar and the tribunal will have a heavy task I suggest that one or two additional burdens be placed upon them. In the United States of America the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice both have the right and the power to advise businesses, firms and associations whether or not any proposed agreement or proposed association would be lawful or not, provided the full details of the proposal are put to the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice before it is actually brought into being. This is an assistance to business people, and it also saves people engaging later in litigation. It also obviates unnecessary action on the part of the Federal Trade Commission or the
Department of Justice. I believe our registrar or tribunal should be empowered to give the same kind of advice to businesses and associations in Australia that seek such advice in relation to a proposal which they intend to enter into, providing it is lawful.
In the initial statement it was suggested that the legislation, although it would be enacted all at once, would be phased in over a period. I think it is clear that this would have to be done. However, I certainly hope that all the law will be passed at the one time. If this is not done in Australia we will fall into the error that was made in the United Kingdom. Firms and associations in that country have tried to evade the provisions of the law by turning multilateral or collective associations into bilateral or unilateral agreements or restrictions, or they have tried to evade the provisions of the law by undertaking mergers. This would happen here if the whole law were not enacted at one time. Even then, it would not be necessary to proclaim all the law at once. Probably the first provisions that would be proclaimed would be those relating to the need to register collectives - and not even all collectives. Perhaps the collectives registered would be those relating to price fixing and, at a later stage, the collectives relating to market sharing.
I wish to devote some attention to an aspect which I do not believe has received sufficient attention. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say this afternoon, in answer to a question, that the aspect to which I shall refer had received and was receiving the attention of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). There are many agreements and arbitrary restrictions that affect Australianlocated firms and businesses and reduce their ability to export. The limitations placed on the right of Australian firms to export arise in two ways. They arise from conditions attached to patents or trade marks, or from straight-out directives from overseas firms to Australian firms. Three categories of firms are involved in this. First, the firm may be a branch of an overseas organization. In such a case, it is a part of the overseas firm. Secondly, it may be a subsidiary firm controlled from abroad. This is not unlike the first example. Thirdly, there could be an Australian firm leasing patent rights upon which are placed restrictions which say, in effect, “ You cannot export “.
In the United Kingdom law there are specific sections expecting such arrangements from the provisions of the law. In the proposed Australian legislation, as it now stands, there are specific provisions excepting such conditions, imposed by the lease or use of patent rights or trade marks in Australia. However, it is not clear whether a directive by an overseas firm to an Australian branch or subsidiary would be caught by the legislation as it has been put forward. If the law defined a subsidiary as a separate entity, such a practice might be caught as a collective involving restriction of outlets. If the Australian firm were defined by law as is the case in the United Kingdom legislation, as a part of one overseas firm or were in fact a part of one overseas firm, the arrangement would have to be caught by some prescribed unilateral practice. However, the list of unilateral practices so far published does not include one that would cover this situation.
Therefore I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that an addition should be made to the list of bilateral or unilateral practices to make it necessary to register conditions imposed on an Australian firm, or an Australian subsidiary or branch of an overseas firm, that result either in a reduction of exports or in circumstances that prevent that firm, subsidiary or branch from exporting. If the export ability of enterprises established in Australia is to be protected to the full, it will also be necessary to limit the exceptions to the general rules provided by patent rights and trade marks. In other words, it would become impermissible to lease a patent to an Australian firm or subsidiary on condition that the firm did not export.
These suggestions raise questions of policy which are important. The Government’s policy on these matters has so far been to use the power of persuasion. I regard the question of export franchises as more important than the question of Australian shareholding in overseas firms. These Australian subsidiary firms use up overseas funds in purchasing the raw materials and capital equipment they require, but they are prevented from making a contribution to our overseas funds. The
Government will have to decide - and this is a political decision - whether the risk that overseas firms would be discouraged from coming here would be worth running. I believe it might. On the other hand, it could be argued that the provisions I have suggested, coupled with the general provisions of the proposed legislation, could lead to greater investment in Australia. Instead of investing only capital sufficient to enable them to supply only the Australian market, overseas firms might decide to invest on a greater scale in order to supply a larger local and export market from Australia.
A policy consideration arises. Is this the appropriate place to make some of these modifications and amendments, especially to the patent laws and patent exceptions? It may be thought that these should be made in modifications or amendments to the patent law itself. If we look at the practice in the United States of America we will find that many of these things are already covered under that country’s laws. For these reasons I believe that the United States and its businessmen would understand this sort of action if we took it. However, there may be a middle course which we could follow if we felt that it was going to be too difficult to take the full path at once. It should be possible to make the additions and modifications to the proposed law that I have suggested and then proclaim the sections of the act that required these restrictions to be registered, and not to proclaim those sections that empowered the registrar to take these particular practices to the tribunal, but required him to report to the Parliament each year in relation to each of the practices. This would provide a sound knowledge as a basis for future action by this Parliament, either in the proclamation of sections of the law that would make it possible for the registrar to take these particular practices to the tribunal, or a different kind of action that might be found to be more appropriate as a result of the knowledge that the registrar’s annual reports to the Parliament would make available.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) took advantage of the opportunity to discuss the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department to pay a glowing tribute to the legislation which the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has suggested for the purpose of restricting unfair trade practices and curtailing exploitation by monopolies. Every honorable member knows that while the Attorney-General has for a long time been suggesting the introduction of such legislation, he has avoided and evaded its introduction. Every one here knows that not only the present Government during its term of office, but also the Menzies-Fadden Government before it, promised to the Australian people legislation to curtail the exploiting tendencies and opportunities of private enterprise. The Government has done nothing about it.
All Australians know that the Attorney- j General, after speaking about the proposed legislation, issued a statement setting out particular restrictive trade practices he i would see were eliminated from private j enterprise. Immediately an onslaught was j made upon him by big business and by the i newspaper representatives of big business ] in this country. We all know that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) went to Sydney and dissociated himself from the proposed legislation of the AttorneyGeneral. The Attorney-General is now in Malaya. He will come back to this country for a brief period before leading a parliamentary delegation to the United Nations. He will not bring into this Parliament legislation for the purpose of restricting opportunities for exploitation by the big business interests of which he and the other Government members are the puppets in the legislature. AH Australians also know that if the proposed legislation were to be introduced, it should be discussed then. It should not be discussed now, during a debate on the estimates.
The honorable member for Wannon made declarations that in reality were only pious asseverations that the Government would do what he knows it does not intend to do. He knows that there is disagreement in the Government’s ranks about this legislation. He knows, too, that if the proposed legislation were really to be introduced, it could have been introduced considerably earlier than this and that the opportunities that the Attorney-General will have for the introduction of the proposed measure between now and the rising of the Parliament at the end of this sessional period will be too short for adequate consideration of all-embracing legislation of the kind envisaged in this instance. Everybody knows that. Yet the honorable member for Wannon has tried to delude the people into believing that there will be a determined onslaught by this Government on big business and on those practices that are adverse to the interests of the vast mass of the people. Such legislation will not be introduced, of course.
Only the other day, the Prime Minister told a meeting in Sydney that the arguments advanced against the Attorney-General’s proposals by the manufacturing and business interests were sound and solidly based and that he, as the leader of the Government would pay them heed and give them careful attention. In reality, what were those arguments? They amounted to a repudiation of the proposed legislation by the big business interests of Australia. They having repudiated the proposals, the Prime Minister has repudiated his AttorneyGeneral. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) suggested that there was a rift in the lute, the Prime Minister endeavoured to pass the matter over. We on this side of the chamber know that this Government will make no definite attack on the practices of big business, whether that big business is controlled from abroad and restricts the opportunities to sell Australian goods on the markets of the world or whether it is Australian in origin and. by means of associations, trade understandings and cartels attempts to deny the people of this country the proper and adequate services that should be provided at reasonable prices by competitive private enterprise.
Only the other day, the press of Australia published the story of the way in which the quarrying interests had got together to ensure that when tenders are called by municipal and other public authorities for the supply of metal for the roads and footways of Australia, only one tender is offered or, if more than one is entered they all quote exactly the same price. That occurred not in the dim and distant past, but only a few days ago. Every municipality in Victoria is outraged by the way in which the quarrying interests are holding councils to ransom when tenders are called for the supply of materials needed for the construction of roads and footways. But no action will be taken by this Government to prevent this sort of thing.
As I have said, the honorable member for Wannon sought to delude the people of Australia into believing that the Government proposed to attack not only Australianowned big business but also that owned overseas, which, as I have mentioned, is curtailing opportunities for this country to export goods. The honorable member should know that not only now, yesterday, or a week ago, but down through the years the Australian Labour Party has told this Government how restrictive trade practices have been operating to the detriment of this country as an exporter. The Government not only has refused to act but also has ridiculed the evidence put before it by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), myself and others. We have pointed these things out, not once, but a dozen times.
So this Parliament has become, for the Government, not a place where deliberate and intelligent discussion of the country’s problems takes place and where different points of view are thrashed out in the interests of Australia’s development and the welfare of the people, but a place where puppets stand in their places and make statements that they know to be incorrect, in order to delude the people of Australia into believing that the community will get from this Government something that will justify the electors in keeping honorable members opposite on the treasury bench. Government supporters know that the hour is rapidly approaching when they shall have to face their masters, the electors, and that again they will face the electors without the Government having introduced legislation to curtail monopolies and to eliminate practices that in reality are only a cloak for common thievery. Government supporters realize that the people want action and so the Government pretends, when it is about to face its masters, that it will do something, although it knows that it has no intention of doing anything. I can almost -ee the honorable member for Wannon landing on a platform at Portland and I can imagine some one saying to him, “ Didn’t the Government that you support promise to deal with restrictive trade practices? “
– Why not attempt to make a contribution as good as that made by the honorable member for Wannon and say something worth while?
– I am saying something worth while. That is obvious. Otherwise, the honorable member would not become so annoyed. He, too, knows that the Attorney-General has had every possible opportunity to introduce in this Parliament legislation of the kind that the honorable member for Wannon commended. As the honorable member for Wannon knows, the Prime Minister has associated himself with those who have attacked the AttorneyGeneral’s proposals, as he revealed in an address to big business interests in Sydney the other day. The right honorable gentleman wants big business on his side. So he said, in effect: “ My Attorney-General was ill advised when he issued a pamphlet in which he announced that he would deal with you severely. In reality, all that a government like mine will do about big business is to pretend to deal with it. We shall make that pretence in order to delude the people.” The interests of this Government are so closely associated, financially as well as politically, with the big business of this country that nothing is done to curtail the depredations of big business on the mass of the people.
– What does the honorable member think of the Government’s proposals? He has two minutes left in which to tell us.
– We have dared the Government, not once but twenty times or more during the last ten years, to introduce legislation to put such proposals into effect.
– Does the honorable member support the proposals? Come on, Ananias! Tell us whether you support them.
– Let me prove the insincerity of the honorable member - this legal representative of big business, who, in the courts of this country-
– Call him to order.
– The honorable member for Scullin can give it, but he cannot take it.
– Order! The committee will come to order. Interjections will cease.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. The interjection was meant to be helpful and to enable the honorable member to reveal his attitude.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– Through you, Mr. Chairman, may I tell honorable members opposite that although I object to the methods they use and the things they do in governing this country, I have the greatest admiration for their loyalty to the people who put them where they are to-day. I have the greatest admiration for their loyalty to the interests that dictate their line of operations in the government of this country. I direct my remarks particularly to the members of the legal fraternity who treat this Parliament as a court in which they act as the briefed representatives of big business. My time has almost expired, but I think I have clearly shown that the Attorney-General dare not introduce the legislation dealing with restrictive trading practices, an outline of which he gave recently to the community, because the representatives of big business who sit beside him on the front bench and who sit behind him will not permit him to do so.
– Order! The honorable member’s ‘ time has expired.
.- I have many times spoken in this chamber with all the modest eloquence that I can command against the very things about which the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) has been ranting to-night. I have given example after example of the things about which the honorable member has complained. I have never had one word of support from the honorable member for
Scullin and little support from other honorable members opposite. I have laid it on the line about such things as ceramic tiles, paper and rubber belting. I would not like to go into all those matters again, although the temptation is strong. We all know that if imports can come into the country freely they will help to break down the very practices which the honorable member for Scullin and 1 find detestable. I look forward with interest to the next occasion when I cite one of these practices in this chamber.
– You have never had the support even of your own vote.
– As the honorable member knows, there has never been a vote on these matters.
I turn now to more homely examples. Let us leave tiles, paper and rubber belting and come to binder twine. I would like to tell honorable members of a practice or series of practices, which I think should be. recognized and dealt with at some future time. As honorable members may know, the Austraiian Rope, Cordage and Twine Association has a very effective control over its section of secondary industry. Recently a government tender was called for the supply of a certain quality of rope. Five tenders were received. All were for exactly the same sum and, what is more remarkable, each tender was for one-fifth of the quantity required. It is practices of this kind that we should tackle. But a tender of that nature affects only a government, and nobody has the sympathy for governments that he has for ordinary members of the community
I will give a more homespun example of such practices; it affects baling twine. Whenever I, as a member of Parliament but more usually as a member of a rural community, attend agricultural shows, Ministers or other dignitaries who open such functions with splendid eloquence invariably tell me that I must pay more attention to fodder conservation. They seem to tell me to do that more often and with more eloquence in the midst of a drought. They also tell me that I must cut my costs. I am an earnest listener to all this advice, and I generally go home and tell myself that I must follow the advice.
But then I come up against the situation that prevails with respect to baling twine. The cordage association has very strict control over the prices at which the goods manufactured by its members may be sold. The retail price of baling twine - not all honorable members opposite may know what baling twine is - is £8 15s. a bale. The association allows the re-seller to give discounts of 12 J per cent, plus an extra 2i per cent. - a total discount of 15 per cent. The wholesale price is a further 7i per cent. less. I have confirmed to-day that this arrangement is enforced by the cordage association.
How does the system work? In my district is a small merchant who has worked his way up - pulled himself up by his boot laces as it were - until he now has a firstclass business. He sells at least 50 tons of baling twine a year. In some years he may be able to sell 60 or 70 tons; but even in a dry year when not much hay is cut to bale he will sell 50 tons cf baling twine. That is considerably more than the average wholesaler in South Australia sells. That merchant has built his business by working hard and by selling things cheaply to his clients. He cuts prices - something for which I have a lot of sympathy. He wants to get on the wholesalers’ list. He has applied to the association to get on the wholesalers’ list, but his application has been refused. He has been told that the association has not yet met to consider his applications. He last wrote to the association a month ago, but it will not answer his letter except to say that it hopes to meet and deal with his application some time in the future - probably towards the end of the hay-making season.
If this merchant could get on the wholesalers’ list he would sell twine at £7 8s. a bale instead of £8 15s. He would cut prices. He has openly stated his intention. That is why he cannot obtain recognition as a wholesaler. He cannot get on the wholesalers’ list for reasons that the association makes quite clear, and because he does not have enough depot? in the country. But the association does not for one minute pretend that he does not sell enough twine. He is in a sufficiently big way to justify being regarded as a wholesaler but he cannot obtain recognition as a wholesaler, which means that he cannot do the things he wants to do. This is a pity, because he is a battler. It is also a pity because it would mean that we would pay £8 15s. a bale for twine instead of £7 8s. a bale. If he sells 60 tons of twine it will cost the farmers in my area an additional £3,200. This is the kind of thing that worries me. A drop of £1 in the price of a bale of twine makes a difference of 2s. 9d. on a ton of lucerne hay. The association’s action will add well over 3s. a ton to the baling costs of hay to the farmers in my community. Even the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer) will admit that this is a substantial amount. This is why I and many of my colleagues believe that this legislation should be introduced. 1 ask the honorable member for Scullin not to take great comfort from the belief that it will not come forward, because it will. Then he will feel the same kind of misery as he feels at the fall in the number of unemployed. He will be considerably discomfited. Every one is talking about the legislation.
My colleague sitting alongside of me would pay lip service to free enterprise. This is a free enterprise government. Free enterprise works in many ways. One way is to allow people like the merchant to whom I have referred the freedom to be enterprising, lt does not seem like free enterprise to me to stop this lad doing the job he wants to do and give us in his district the benefit of £3,200. We are told continually that we must be enterprising and produce for the export market; that we must be enterprising and cut costs; that we must be enterprising and conserve fodder and so on. I, and most of us, believe that this is what liberalism really means. It gives the ordinary man the opportunity to be free and enterprising.
Another aspect to which 1 should like to refer - I am sorry that the honorable member for Scullin is not in the chamber now-
– 1 shall tell him what you say.
– You should listen to this because I think you will find it instructive. THi= industry is protected by a most favoured nation duty of 50 per cent. You would think that with this kind of protective wall around it the industry would be prepared to play the game and that having received that kind of assistance it would recognize its duty to the community. This kind of problem can be tackled in three ways. If it can be proved that restrictive trade practices are in operation, one method that I would sometimes like to see used would be to lift a tariff to bring the industry into line.
At this stage let me pay tribute to the Department of Trade for the action that it took in the case of tyres. Tyres were referred to the Tariff Board. An examination was triggered off by the Department of Trade which knew that a price ring was operating. Honorable members will remember the squeal of rage that went up when the tyre manufacturers complained that they would all be ruined because of the threat by Japanese tyres. Very few Japanese tyres have been coming in and profits have remained comfortably high. So an examination by the Tariff Board is another way in which this problem could be tackled. But the most important way - the way most of us want to see adopted - is for this legislation that we have heard about and are anxiously awaiting to come before the House as soon as possible.
I should also like to pay a very sincere tribute to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) for the work that he has put into this problem and for his wisdom in letting the legislation simmer, so to speak, so that we can have the advice of industry groups. I hope, as most of us hope, that the legislation will come forward. When it does, I hope that the honorable member for Scullin will have the grace to apologize for his gloomy prognostications this evening.
– 1 have the privilege of contributing to the debate on the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department, and I should like to bring to the notice of honorable members and of the nation generally the inadequate provisions in these estimates for the community as a whole. In view of the progressive step which was taken by the New South Wales Labour Government some years ago in setting up a public defender’s office to assist those unfortunates, if they can be regarded as such, who infringe the criminal law, I regard the inadequacies in these estimates with some degree of disgust. The Attorney-General’s Department makes no provision for the poor in the States or in the Commonwealth’s territories to be defended adequately in the criminal courts should a serious crime be alleged. Once again I hear my old colleague, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) interjecting and saying that I am wrong.
– I did not say a word.
– Whether he made the interjection or not, the honorable member for Moreton, who is studying criminal law, would never like to see a Commonwealth public defender’s office set up because obviously it would take away from him his intended livelihood when he relinquishes his place in this Parliament after the next election. The honorable member always conies into the chamber when he knows that I am about to make a speech. It would bc safe to say that nine out of ten speeches that he made in the Parliament prior to the last election bitterly attacked the Communist Party. He was supported by the then honorable member for Phillip, Mr. Aston, the then honorable member for Lilley, Mr. Wight, and another gentleman from Queensland, who are no longer with us. Although the Australian people are not proCommunist they believe in fair play. The bitter anti-Commos on the other side of the chamber - with the exception of the honorable member for Moreton, who was returned to this House on the preference votes of the Communist Party candidate - all lost their scats. If you read the speeches that have been made by the honorable member since he crawled back into this Parliament after the last election you will notice that on only one occasion has he made any bitter attack on the Communist Party. Apparently he hopes to receive Communist Party preferences at the next election and to be returned again to give the Menzies Government a majority. So much for the honorable member for Moreton. If he interjects again I shall deal with him again.
The Commonwealth makes no provision for a public defender’s office to defend those unfortunates who arc entitled to a legal defence, just as are the rich, when charged with a criminal defence.
– They know that you are off the police force now.
– It is worth while repeating every statement to a person of your mentality so that it will get over to him. The Commonwealth should seriously consider setting up a public defender’s office so that the poor will have the same rights as the rich. In the countries in which communism has grown stronger and ultimately overthrown the government, this has happened because the poor have never been given the privileges that the rich have. That promotes the growth of an evil which many good Australians and members of this Parliament do not want to exist.
Another matter in respect of which I want to criticize the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) is that he and the Liberal-Country Party Government, of which he is a member, believe in capital punishment. The Labour Party believes that hanging should be abolished. Approximately eighteen months ago in Canberra an innocent, sleeping girl was murdered. I hope that I will not revive the grief of the parents of that girl, Beverley Keys. This Commonwealth Government shirked its responsibility by not carrying out the death penalty that the court imposed. The perpetrator of that crime has a criminal record extending over a period of 25 years. The last sentence that he served was one of seven years’ imprisonment for a crime of violence. He was released about three or four years prior to murdering that sleeping girl. From time to time we members of the Labour Party are attacked by the Liberals and tories over our policies. At least we know where we are going; but this gutless Government-
– This Government did not have the courage to carry out the death penalty in that case, so it should rally to our cause and abolish the death penalty from the statute-book. If ever there was a case-
– Do you agree with the Government’s action?
– Never mind about what 1 agree with. I ask you to measure 1 up to what I am saying and to tell me where you stand. That man, with a criminal record extending over a period of 25 years including a sentence of seven years imprisonment, committed a most callous and brutal murder of a sleeping girl. But this Government is not game to take the death penalty off the statute-book because its public popularity in certain sections might fall. If the Government could not measure up to what it claims to stand for and carry out the death penalty on the man Nicholls, who is now serving a life sentence, it cannot justify the hanging of any other person for any other crime. Therefore it should have the courage to take the death penalty off the statute-book.
– Do you think he was guilty?
– The jury found him guilty. I also want the Attorney-General’s Department to consider providing legal aid for the poor people who cannot afford to fight civil cases and for people who are prosecuted in the Commonwealth Territories or in the States for infringements of Commonwealth laws. I urge the Attorney-General to consider the introduction of a suitors’ fund similar to the one that exists in New South Wales. When a person with inadequate finance wins a case but a superior court reverses the judge’s decision because of some legalism, often the costs cannot be met. The person who instituted the legal proceedings is not in the race to get justice because he has not sufficient finance to employ a high-powered legal man to see his case right through to the end. It is true, as Clarence Darrow says in his book, “The Story of my Life”-
– Of your life?
– No. My life is clean. Yours is not. When Somerville Smith assailed us in his circular that was distributed in this Parliament, I had enough guts to offer to go on to the witness stand and be cross-examined on my character; but you Liberals did not. You would not take libel action against Somerville Smith. I was prepared to put my character on trial. My character is an open book. But you Liberals shirked your responsibility. I told the Commonwealth Crown law officers that I would testify for them whenever they wanted me to go to the court. So do not attack my character. I will keep it as it is. I will keep it as it was when I entered this Parliament. The former Government Whip was not prepared to go to the court and testify in the Somerville Smith case, despite the fact that Somerville Smith infringed every libel law in this Commonwealth. The former Government Whip, then the member for Capricornia, went like a rat up a log. He refused to give evidence because he knew the legal eagles could hit him with something, which would mean that in all probability his character would be besmirched in the newspapers and he would not win his scat again. But James from Hunter did not do that. I readily responded to the request from the Commonwealth Crown law officers. I was prepared to go to the court and testify in the interests of justice and fair play.
We are told a lot about restrictive trade practices. It is obvious to me and the majority of members of the Labour Party that any legislation that the AttorneyGeneral intends to bring down to control monopolies will not be successful. 1 do not believe that such legislation has been successful in the United States. In the world to-day, as I see it, there are two great powers - the power of people’s hearts and minds and the power of money. Whatever legislation the Attorney-General brings down, the power of money will prevail over the power of people’s hearts and minds. The world is undergoing sweeping changes. I certainly will not aid the power of wealth in my political career, irrespective of whether I remain in this Parliament or am outside it. I have seen the evils of the power of money. I sought to enter this Parliament in an endeavour to make a contribution to the elimination of the evils that the power of money creates in our capitalist society. I will pursue that aim. I urge the Attorney-General’s Department to consider the submissions I have made for the setting up of a public defender’s office so that the poor will have the same rights as the rich. Legal aid should be provided for them so that their freedom will be safeguarded. Such an office is provided for the poor by the New South Wales Government.
I also refer to the fact that, although the Commonwealth has three police forces - the Australian Capital Territory Police Force, the Commonwealth Police Force and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization - those forces have no fingerprint branch. They have to depend on the States for assistance. No fingerprint facilities are directly available to the three Commonwealth police forces. The Commonwealth has no modus operandi section. It has to depend on the States in that respect. 1 believe it is time the Government gave the police forces of the Commonwealth those facilities. In these rapidly changing times, the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Police Force to the people of the Commonwealth will increase, and it is only right that it should have modern facilities of the type I suggest. It is obvious that the Government does not intend to proceed with its capital punishment legislation, otherwise it would have set up a scaffold in Canberra.
– Would you work it?
– If you were on the scaffold I would consider that possibility, because I do not think you are here for the benefit of the people of Australia; I think you are here for your own personal benefit and in the interests of big business.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that I interjected during the course of his speech. I not only want to protest in my own cause but also to assure the honorable gentleman that I did not interject. As the committee well knows, I have learned my lesson. I wanted the honorable member to have that reassurance, and also to have from my own lips the fact that I would be most reluctant to be interrogated by him in any circumstances.
.- It has been a delightful quarter of an hour. Everybody regards Bert as a very fine fellow. In fact, they regard him as the most amusing member who has ever been in this Parliament. I am sure that when interjections are made during his speeches, they are made in good spirit because they make the party go, so to speak. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) dealt with a multitude of things, the major of which seemed to be capital punishment. I rather thought that he held views on capital punishment different from those of his party. I felt that he revealed this a little to-night when he spoke about a man who was convicted of murder recently in the Australian Capital Territory. I rather felt that he held the view that capital punishment should have been imposed in that case. Many honorable members on his side of the House who profess to follow the party line - a party line determined by people outside the Parliamentary Labour Party - do not actually share the view expressed in that party line, yet I venture to forecast that when a certain bill is being debated in this House next week we will have a charade of members of the Opposition party, one after the other, proclaiming their opposition to capital punishment. I was just about to pay a compliment to the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay) who, I thought, made the best interjection of the week, possibly of the year. However, I will not repeat it, because it was against us.
I do want to refer to the role that has been played by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), which has not been given great publicity. He came into the Parliament at a time when, in my belief, the Commonwealth was in need of great developmental legislation. Since he was elected to the Parliament five years ago, the record be has created has been quite remarkable. First we had before this Parliament a crimes bill. That measure was passed by the Parliament. It was a highly desirable measure designed to regularize certain matters, to create new offences and to give to the Australian public that protection which the Australian public and the Australian nation so desperately needed. The honorable gentleman followed that up with legislation on divorce. The preliminary - one might call it exploratory - work in connexion with that legislation was done by the then honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Joske, who, I think it is fair to say, was a very dear friend of all members on both sides of this House. He had the courage to introduce into this chamber as a private member’s bill a measure dealing with divorce. It was taken up by the AttorneyGeneral and, as I recall it, this House dealt with and passed that divorce legislation on a non-party basis. Every member in the House had the opportunity to express his views, to seek to amend, to seek to eliminate or to seek to add. That measure is now the official divorce legislation throughout the Commonwealth. It has proved to be a very admirable piece of social legislation bringing justice in social problems - and that is the important thing - where formerly justice tended to be capricious because of the varying laws of the different States.
Soon after that the Attorney-General introduced his legislation on marriage. I am not taking his bills in order; I am just mentioning them as they occur to me. That marriage legislation was a most important piece of legislation. It also brought social justice to Australia: For example, it dealt with those unfortunate people who are born out of wedlock.
– What does it cost in legal fees to get a divorce - something in the vicinity of £80?
– It depends on whether you are referring to costs before or after proceedings are instituted. The indications now are that more social justice is possible because of that legislation. Again, the honorable gentleman’s bills dealing with issues relating to lights between individuals - the patent law and the copyright law - were great pieces of legislation. Nor should we overlook the legislation which made it an offence to tap telephone conversations. Everybody will remember that at the time when that legislation was before us, it was attacked as an intrusion on the freedom of the individual. A wide range of epithets was used against it, but the real fact was that it was designed to protect the Australian nation and the Australian people.
I do not think I have exhausted the honorable gentleman’s record, because I have merely mentioned the measures that have occurred to me. With the great record he has established, the Attorney-General is now in the course of drafting a bill on restrictive trade practices and on the con*trol of mergers when mergers need controlling. I have spoken on these matters in this chamber in the past, and therefore I do not intend to speak on them to-night; but I take the opportunity to congratulate the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) who, I think, made a very fine speech on that subject to-night.
I come now to the other subject about which I wish to speak. It relates to areas of future Commonwealth legislation of a developmental pattern. The first is the desirability - in my view - of legislation under the Commonwealth’s insurance power to provide for compulsory comprehensive insurance on all motor vehicles on the road. I suggest this because I believe that the present compulsory third party insurance legislation of the States, with the exception of that of Queensland and New South Wales, does not go far enough. In the other States, the indemnity which has to be given by an insurance company in respect of a passenger ceases at £2,000 so that in those States a passenger, although he believes he is fully insured against third party risk, is in fact covered only to a limited degree. Another situation which occurs is that when a person buys a motor car on hire purchase, an insurance company is nominated and that person may pay an amount which leads him to believe that he does in fact have comprehensive insurance. However, if he reads the small print of the insurance policy, he sometimes will find that the risk for passengers is excluded.
These are two defects that would be cured in four of the States if the Commonwealth legislated to require the compulsory and comprehensive insurance of a motor vehicle before it could be licensed. But there is a more important reason for this legislation and it is this: Under the third party legislation in the States a person licenses his motor vehicle and then nominates a third party insurer. The third party insurer has no right to refuse to carry the insurance nor can any investigation be made as to the desirability of providing insurance to that person. The driver of a vehicle can have an accident every day of the week and every month of the year and still when he licences his vehicle he can nominate an insurance company as the third party insurer and the third party insurer is lumped with him.
I believe that this system contributes materially to danger on the roads. On the other hand, if a person could not license a vehicle until he produced a comprehensive insurance policy, we would have a situation in which a person would be forced to drive more carefully. If a person went to an insurance company and said, “ I wish to have a comprehensive policy “, the insurance company would be able to say to him, “ We refuse to give you a comprehensive policy because of your bad record as a driver and because of the number of people you have injured, maimed and perhaps killed.” That person then would not be able to license his vehicle. It is because of this that we would have greater safety on the roads.
When one is prepared to say what I have just said, one must be prepared to go a step further and say that the insurance companies ought not to be able to use capriciously their right to refuse insurance or to load the policy with a high premium. Therefore, I am prepared to go the next step and say that if we did this we ought to have an arbitrator. An arbitrator in insurance is not unknown. An arbitrator already exists in what are called industrial policies. This is in the legislation. It is not a big step to take. The arbitrator would be a person to whom an appeal could be made against a refusal to insure comprehensively or against an excessive loading. I think in this way there would be a very big contribution made to safety on the roads. I believe it is within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate, and I believe that, because it is within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate, we ought very seriously to consider doing so if it will have an impact upon the dreadful toll of the roads.
I said at the outset that I wanted to mention some matters of developmental legislation. I have little time, and therefore 1 will skip very quickly through the other three or four matters I had in mind. The next matter that comes to my mind is legislation for the photographic copying of records. At the present time, I am sure - indeed I know - that the Attorney-General has in his mind legislation on this subject. There are Commonwealth acts and State acts that require records to be kept. Some business houses, especially banks, literally have whole buildings devoted to the retention of records. By the use of photographic processes the body of records contained in an entire building could be reduced to the size of a filing cabinet.
The difficulty in doing so is that the records may be needed for evidence in courts and the question arises as to how it could be proved that the photographic record is in fact identical with the original record. There is no point in taking a copy of the record unless the record is literally destroyed. Once it is destroyed, it cannot be conjured up again. The photographic record, therefore, must be relied upon completely. I believe that this is needed by the private enterprise section of the community. I believe it is required by the governmental section of the community. If I need to appeal to Opposition members, I am quite sure it is needed by the unions for their records.
Another matter that requires legislation, in my view, is the limitation of actions. Depending on the department or the body, one must give notice of intention to sue within six months in some instances. In other instances, it is unnecessary to give such notice. I know that this matter is well in the mind of the Attorney-General. I welcome his interest and hope that it will not be long before the legislation comes forward.
The final matter I can deal with in the limited time available to me is the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I believe that this legislation needs a thorough overhaul. I believe that it is not proper that the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act should remain as it is and it is inappropriate to be the legislation to determine the compensation for servicemen. I see that the light is on, indicating that I have almost exhausted my time. To say anything more would go beyond the time remaining to me and I therefore leave it at that.
.- I wish to refer to that section of the estimates for the Department of External Affairs which deals with the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. The date 8th September marked the ninth anniversary of the signing of the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. I find that the Secretary-General of Seato received from our Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) a message of congratulation. This message from Australia affirmed that, whilst many changes have been witnessed in the last decade, the basic considerations which have brought about the establishment of Seato are no less valid to-day than they were nine years ago. The Minister for External Affairs said that Australia continues to believe that Seato has an essential role to play in maintaining freedom and stability in the area.
I wish in this short speech of mine to point out that Seato is the only collective security treaty in Asia. To me it appears that this country of ours has a key contribution to make to the organization. I believe that our Asian neighbours look to us because of our geographic proximity to them rather more than they look to most other partners in the treaty. I further believe that Australia is more than fulfilling its obligation to Seato to-day and that we need make no apology for the role that we have been endeavouring to play as a member of the treaty organization.
May I suggest that it should be noted and remembered particularly by our critics on the opposite side of the committee that Australia is the only country that has a special Seato aid programme. I believe that these things must be said because of the statements made at various times by Opposition members. For instance, it is only a matter of days since the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) in this debate on the estimates endeavoured to assert that Australia was thinking purely in terms of a military solution in South Viet Nam. From the way he spoke any one of us would have been entitled to believe that there was more than an inference in his words that we were doing nothing about economic and social aid under Seato. This, of course, as far as I can ascertain, is quite wrong. It is for this reason that to-night I take a few moments in this speech to deal with the aid that we have given under Seato.
Of course the Australian Labour Party does not support Seato. It has a strange changeable attitude to this all-important and only collective security treaty in the whole of Asia. I would like, if I may, to bring to the notice of honorable members the statements of some of Labour’s spokesmen, not only immediately, but back through the years. I start by pointing out that in March 1957 Dr. Evatt, then leader of the Australian Labour Party, said that Seato was not working for peace. He said it was spending too much energy in talking about war. I feel that tonight is an appropriate occasion for me, when I refer to this aid programme, to suggest that it is more than time that this outdated opposition to Seato by the Australian Labour Party in Her Majesty’s Opposition was shed.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) when speaking in the estimates debate last year, said that Seato’s effectiveness was fading; yet this year’s record alone shows that it is by no means fading. During that debate last year the honorable member for Reid mentioned his party’s federal conference objectives or principles. Dealing first of all with the announcement by his party in 1955 he told us that its 1957 conference had carried a resolution which, in part, stated -
This conference is of the opinion that Seato has failed to perform its basic functions, that it is fast becoming an instrument for bolstering reactionary regimes as in Thailand, and that the Liberal-Country Parly Coalition Government has contributed to Seato’s ineffectiveness.
Further, we are of the opinion that the bolstering of reactionary regimes in South-east Asia, such as that in Thailand, merely assists the Communists by giving them the opportunity to take over genuinely Democratic National movements.
He moved on to point out that the Australian Labour Party, at its federal conference in 1961, stated-
We declare that Seato must be re-planned on a cultural, educational, medical and technical assistance basis and not a military basis and should include all the peoples of South-East Asia.
These are some expressions of opinion by honorable members of the Opposition. I think it is refreshing, with those in mind, to remind the committee that only a few days ago Mr. Pote Sarasin, the SecretaryGeneral of Seato, said -
Seato is a stabilizing factor in the treaty area and in the world-wide political balance. The alliance affords the necessary security for peaceful economic development and political evolution.
Turning to the most recently issued report of Seato we find that the collective defence role of the treaty is very well summarized therein. It suggests that the Asian and non-Asian members of Seato have joined in a mutual pledge to act together in deterring Communist aggression, in countering subversion, in improving - and I emphasize this third point - the economic and social well-being of the people of the treaty area. I therefore feel that we are justified to-night in emphasizing that Seato is undoubtedly doing the task that it was created to do - deterring aggression. Whilst in recent years Communist powers have openly moved forces against other nations of the world, there has been no military incursion into the territory of any Seato member nation and that, I think, indicates the value of this treaty.
In view of the comments of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), I want to stress the economic aid that has been extended to Seato countries by Australia. Australia’s contribution to the Seato aid programme for the last financial year amounted to £1,248,000 and that was spent in the following manner: - In Viet Nam £669,000-odd was spent, mainly on the provision of equipment for the strategic hamlet programme and this is a very splendid contribution indeed. Thailand received some £277,000, whilst £89,000 was spent in the Philippines. Our contribution to Pakistan under the aid programme was £179,000 and the balance, £3 2,000-odd, went to miscellaneous countries. From the comments by the honorable member for Yarra I can only assume that he is not aware of the extent of this aid to which I have referred. His voice and those of other honorable members opposite have been heard to complain that the Opposition is not given information - that it is actually kept in the dark about Australia’s external affairs. I say to-night - and it is not the first time that this has been said in this chamber - that these are very strange statements and very strange complaints which arise from the very party which refused to serve on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs of this Parliament.
To support the expenditure which I have mentioned I feel that I should illustrate some of the practical assistance which has been so readily praised by the SecretaryGeneral of Seato and by the recipient countries. Turning to the last report- of Seato we find that Australia has been associated with technical training of personnel in some of these countries. The report pays a tribute to our assistance to South-East Asia and I find that under the programme for economic assistance for Seato defence we have been associated with technical training of personnel in Pakistan and Thailand. Technicians and equipment have been provided for the Seato development school in north-east Thailand and assistance has been given also to the Thai civil authorities, including the provincial police. There is an interesting reference to the radio network, which I estimate will be of outstanding value to north-eastern Thailand. A powerful medium wave radio network is being established in that area and I understand that a qualified radio programme officer is being made available from Australia for co-operation in connexion with it. A technical training school in Bangkok is another important recipient of aid and this aid is much appreciated. This technical training school is a true example of co-operation between the Thailanders and ourselves. I understand that it provides basic training for future technical supervisors, foremen, skilled workmen and instructors for the workshops and schools of the Royal Thai Army, Navy and Air Force. Australia’s contribution to this element of the project consists of the provision of considerable technical and training aids, in addition to the services of the allimportant instructors, who I am sure we have been glad to provide for this purpose.
Australia, together with the United Kingdom and the United States of America, has been participating with the Government of Pakistan in the skilled labour project in that country. Two training centres, each with an initial capacity of 450 students and twenty workshops have been set up in Karachi and Dakar. These centres offer an eighteen months’ course in fifteen basic skills in the machine tool, electrical and woodworking trades. Surely this is practical aid for which these countries will ever bc grateful! Finally, I think every honorable member in this chamber wall be interested to know that our aid to these countries has also gone in the direction of research into cholera. The Pakistan-Seato Cholera Research Laboratory is situated at Dakar in the delta area of the Ganges and Brahmaputra river system. Australia, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are collaborating in the support and operation of this laboratory, which it is expected will play a vital role in the prevention of the spread of cholera and, of course, its eventual elimination.
These are but some of the items that may be read about in this most interesting and challenging report of Seato. It is justifiable again to direct attention to the practical aspects of this aid for which the recipient countries have been so ready to express their appreciation. I believe I am justified in stressing the fact that last year financial aid to the extent of £1,248,000 was given, because the honorable member for Yarra has actually affirmed that we should be giving more aid of this character and I am sure that he has not read the report and taken cognizance of the value of at least the few items to which I have directed attention to-night. What I have referred to are all commendable projects which are now being carried on as a result of the Seato aid programme in which this country is so pleased to participate.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,385,000.
.- First, I think it is right that we should make reference in this debate to the total appropriation for the Parliament for this financial year, 1963-64. The first thing that has struck me is that the appropriation for this financial year is several thousand pounds less than the appropriation for 1962-63. Nobody can say, therefore, that the cost of the Parliament is increasing. Nor can anyone say, I believe, that its cost is out of proportion to its value to the nation. On the contrary, I am of the opinion, as I have said before in these debates, that the Parliament is worth its weight in gold to the nation. It is, of course, a mirror of the nation. All of us go through the process, first of all, of party pre-selection and then of election by secret ballot before we can be sworn in as members of the Parliament, and we sit here very conscious of the responsibilities that we have shouldered.
It may be of interest to those who are statistically minded if I point out that the approximate cost of the Parliament to the people is only about 2s. 6d. a head of total population. Taking only the taxpaying population into account, the cost works out at a little more than Ss. a head. It is still, I suggest, very cheap at the price. Those who sit here are not only conscious of their responsibilities*, they are also conscious of the fact that this Parliament of the nation - the Queen-in-Parliament, or her representative - is supreme. The Government should always be mindful of the fact that it is Her Majesty’s Government, just as the Opposition should always be mindful of the fact that it is Her Majesty’s Opposition.
I believe the Parliament should be constantly on its guard against any whittling away of its traditional rights and prerogatives. It should be constantly on guard against any subtle and sinister influences attempting to undermine it as an institution. With the ever-growing complexity of modern government it is inevitable, I think, that over the years more power has accrued to the executive arm of government. This, I think, is to be regretted from the point of view of Parliament as an institution, but it has to be accepted because, as I say, government to-day is so extremely complex and technical. It might be appropriate at this point to pay a tribute to the work of the officers of the Public Service who assist the executive in relation to the running of the parliament. During our debates we frequently see officers of various departments sitting in the chamber ready to assist and advise the appropriate Ministers on the various points that arise.
I would like to read a passage that appeared in a “ Current Affairs Bulletin “ published on 28th July, 1952, and which appealed to me. This bulletin is titled “Parliament To-day” and it was prepared by the Tutorial Classes Department of the University of Sydney. I think it sums up some of the finest aspects of the institution to which I have been referring -
To be sure of good government one needs so many things; good sense in the electors, human understanding and zest among the experts, a sense of responsibility combined with vigour in the political parties and in the ordinary Member of Parliament, a sense of responsibility in the press when it is reporting political events. These things lie outside the machinery of Government, though it may be true that one parliamentary system encourages them more than another.
I believe that the system of parliamentary democracy which we enjoy does encourage these things.
I would like to make a special reference to the work done by the parliamentary committees, not only the standing committees of the Parliament but also by the Government members’ committees and also the Opposition members’ committees, all of which do a tremendous job. I only wish we could convey to the people of Australia just how important a part of the machinery of Parliament these committees are. All members on both sides of the Parliament, 1 believe, appreciate the opportunity of serving on committees.
– I think the best one is the Public Accounts Committee.
– I pay a tribute to the Public Accounts Committee and to the Public Works Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, and to all the other committees, for the work they do. I am speaking in an entirely non-partison way. I join honorable members opposite, just as I join honorable members on this side, in these tributes. I believe the work done by committees is of inestimable value to Ministers and to leading members of the Opposition. J am sure that the leaders on both sides of the Parliament are conscious of the value of these committees and also of the increased value of contributions to debates resulting from the knowledge acquired by members serving on committees. It is a matter for regret that the work of the committees is somewhat hampered, first, by the time factor and, secondly, by the lack of accommodation. I would very much like to see more rooms available for committee meetings, and I hope the time is not too far distant when such rooms will be provided,
I have before me a document titled “ The Case for a Permanent Building”, a joint statement by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, together with a report by the Secretary of the Joint House Department. At page 14 appears a heading “ Conclusion “, and I shall read paragraph 40 because it crystallizes the main findings -
This Report deals exclusively with the accommodation of the building as originally provided and as it exists at the present time and of the difficulties under which the occupants are now working. It endeavours to establish that the accommodation and facilities are insufficient to meet their needs and maintain an efficient service in keeping with the high standard required of a National Parliament.
Those honorable members who have studied this document - and probably most honorable members have done so at some time - must have been impressed with the details set out in it and with the conclusions arrived at. We all hope that the time is not too far away when the Parliament will be housed in a permanent building suitable for its current needs and its needs for many decades to come.
It is always pleasing to see visitors come to the House. Every day when the Parliament is in session we see visitors in the Speaker’s gallery and in the upstairs galleries. We appreciate the presence of visitors because we feel that they are entitled to share with us pride and pleasure in the National Parliament, which belongs to the people of the nation. We are always particularly pleased to see young people here. From time to time we see numbers of school children coming here and filling the upstairs galleries. We are all glad to see them. Visits to the National Parliament should always be encouraged. Edmund Burke, the well-known statesman of years ago, said -
It is the high duty of every citizen to be informed about Parliament and its purpose and to be concerned with its operations.
None of us regards himself as being above criticism. We are all conscious of our faults and failings as individuals and as members of this Parliament. I think I can truly say that not only are we aware of our responsibilities, but we are also aware of our shortcomings. It is also true to say that honorable members, conscious of the trust and responsibility that has been placed in them by the electors, sincerely endeavour to carry out their duties with credit to themselves and to the nation. I believe that criticism should be welcomed by all of us, provided that it is informed, fair and constructive. Destructive criticism is valueless. Providing criticism meets the tests I have mentioned, it should be welcomed by all of us, even though it may sting a little for the time being.
I pay a very warm tribute to the officers of the Parliament, particularly to the Clerk and his assistant; to the attendants, who are always willing to help us; to members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff who have a constant and arduous task; and to the Library Committee and library staff, who have been busily engaged for some time in the difficult task of re-organizing the library for our advantage. I also pay a tribute to the Joint House Department. I have already mentioned the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), and the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis).
In relation to the two items mentioned on page 7 of the estimates, I am sure that all honorable members will agree how pleasant it is that we have strong official support for the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, to which this Parliament sends delegates from time to time, and for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference, to which representatives are also sent. I extend our thanks to those representatives from both sides of the House for the job they have done for Australia while overseas. I am sure that all honorable members are conscious of the importance of these conferences and the importance of Australia being properly, adequately and ably represented. I believe that has been the case in the past and I feel confident it will be so in the future.
.- It was refreshing to listen to the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) speaking in praise of the officers of the Parliament and all those associated with it. I join him in his commendation of the various officers. He spoke in a gentle and didactic way which every one appreciated. He spoke in a nonpartisan manner. I do not know that I can properly emulate him.
I wish to draw the attention of the committee to a couple of matters. Some weeks ago the precincts of Parliament House - King’s Hall, to be precise - were used by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) and bis department to put on a departmental exhibition. The dignity of the Parliament has been referred to to-night by the honorable member for Ryan. In my view, we detract from that dignity when King’s Hall and the precincts of this House are used as a vehicle for the dissemination of Government propaganda. That is all it was. I felt very keenly about this matter at the time of the display, but I could not speak about it because we were then debating the Budget. Honorable members will recall that a motion of want of confidence in the Government was moved and no other matters could be raised. I therefore was unable to raise the matter on the adjournment and, instead, I wrote to the Speaker. The Speaker’s reply was -
With regard to the exhibition in King’s Hall, approval was given by the President and myself to stage this following a request from the Minister for Supply and in doing so we have followed a practice extending over many years. The staging of these displays is arranged at the direct request of Ministers and we believe arises out of a desire of Members generally to be better informed on the various phases of the work of Commonwealth Departments. The King’s Hall has been used for this purpose because of the convenience it obviously affords those Senators and Members who wish to view the displays.
The remarks of the Speaker were directed towards the convenience and benefit of members. With due respect to the Speaker, a person whom I hold in the highest regard, I think he is a little away from the mark. In my view, such an exhibition is not for the benefit of members. It is nothing but a cheap political attraction to highlight what the Government is doing. This exhibition commenced on Tuesday, 27th August, when schoolchildren in droves were visiting Canberra and when the Parliament had just begun this sessional period. It lasted for ten days. In the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 24th August this appeared -
The biggest assembly of space vehicles, rockets, guided missiles and aircraft ever seen in Australia will be displayed inside and outside the Federal Parliament House for 10 days from next Tuesday.
I do not mind such displays being staged outside Parliament House, but as a democrat I object most strenuously to the precincts of this House being used as a vehicle for propaganda for this Government.
For ten days the House resembled a factory - “ Fairhalls Factory “, if you care to call it that. I venture to say that Government members have so little regard for the decencies of democracy that if they thought of it, they would put on a few dancing girls and call the show “ Fairhall’s Follies “.
May I read from the foreword to a booklet that is available to all visitors to this very honorable and, I hope, dignified institution. We of the Australian Labour Party would like to think that this is a dignified institution, but I doubt whether the Government cares to think of it in that way. The foreword to the booklet states -
Our Parliamentary or democratic form of government is a priceless heritage from the Mother of Parliaments, England. It is a form of government which cherishes the principles of liberty, freedom of speech, the rule of law and the rights of minorities. lt is just as well for the Government to realize that the Parliament is not the Government. The Parliament consists at present, on the one side of a coalition - just now, an unhappy one - of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party, and, on the other side, and most important, of Her Majesty’s Opposition, which is formed by the Australian Labour Party. Members of all three parties form the Parliament, and it is up to the people of Australia and the Government to take some notice of what we of the Australian Labour Party, as a constituent part of the Parliament, have to say about the abuses to which King’s Hall has been put by the Government in the short, time during which I have been a member of this place. I think that the purpose of displays of the kind that I have mentioned is obvious. I believe that these exhibitions have been staged for purely political purposes, perhaps to boost the ego of the Minister for Supply or that of officials of the Department of Supply. When Mr. Speaker writes to me and states that these things are done for the benefit of members of the Parliament, that seems to be stretching the truth a little too far.
– These things would not be done at Westminster.
– They certainly would not be done at Westminster, as the honorable member reminds me. I have attempted to find out whether these things are done at Westminster, and so far as I can ascertain, they are not. But they are done here. By all means let us have these exhibitions, but let us not have them in Parliament House. They could be staged at the Albert Hall or in some other place. They should not be staged in this building, which is meant for other purposes.
The holding of the recent space research exhibition meant that a number of people had to be paid overtime. We see nothing to quibble at in that. But we saw the spectacle, at the exhibition, of officials of the Department of Supply handing out literature. The green pamphlet that I have in my hand outlines the facilities and activities of the Department of Supply. The other pamphlet that I have, among other things, lists career opportunities in that department. This propaganda is not addressed to members of the Parliament, of course, but one does not need to indulge in too great flights of the imagination to realize that certain honorable members on the Government side of the chamber may be glad of career opportunities somewhere in the not too far distant future, when the nation next goes to the polls. But let nobody say that this Parliament ought to be used for propaganda purposes, as the Government so blatantly has attempted to use it in the time during which I have been a member of this place.
The honorable member for Ryan to-night spoke of the Parliament being the mirror of the nation. Let it be a mirror of the nation and not a mirror of propaganda for the Executive. Perhaps it would be as well, when I speak of the Executive, to consider the various executive officers who are in the precincts of this building. As I understand the purposes of Parliament House, it should not be used to accommodate the executive arm of government. But, no matter where we go within the precincts of this building we see executive officers, including members of Ministers’ press staffs, their private secretaries and other members of their staffs, all of whom crowd into rooms that should be occupied by honorable members and senators.
Unfortunately, honorable members have to contend with an appalling shortage of accommodation in this place. There is no privacy for the ordinary back-bencher. Private members have to put up with this as best they can. I have to share a room with three others. As a consequence, I cannot discuss over the telephone private matters with my constituents or with government departments. There just is no privacy. One does not like to tell his fellow members about the private affairs of his constituents. Members are bundled together in offices in this building almost like sheep in pens. I should like the Government to consider throwing out of this building members of the staffs of the executive arm of government, thereby making additional accommodation available to members of the Parliament, who at present have to contend with very poor accommodation standards.
Before I close, Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 should like to advert to one other matter. The other day, I addressed to the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) a question about the right of members of this place to be informed of the business before it. I believe that the right honorable gentleman did not pay proper attention to my question. He can find it at page 744 of “ Hansard “ of this chamber, dated 10th September. I shall not bother to read my question now. I just want to make clearly the point that honorable members should know what business is to come on. We should not have to look, as the Leader of the House suggested we should do, at the notices posted in the Whips’ rooms and in the party rooms. Honorable members should be notified by circular of the business that is to come on. The small amount of research that I have done in the matter has revealed to me that members of the Parliament at Westminster are advised of the business to come before that Parliament. I have with me volume 680, No. 145, of “ Hansard “ of the House of Commons, dated 11th July, 1963. At page 1419, under the heading, “Business of the House “, this appears -
Mr. H. Wilson: May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House for next week?
Mr. lain Macleod, the Leader of the House, replied -
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be W, follows: , . v
Then followed a statement of the business to be dealt with on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the following week. If that can be done in the United Kingdom Parliament, surely it can be done in this Parliament. I am aware that the Government has a reasonably well paid public servant looking after the disposition of Government business that is to come before this chamber. I do not think that we ask too much if we ask the Government to do as the Mother of Parliaments does and to let honorable members know a week in advance of the business that is to come before us.
May I conclude by issuing a warning to the Government not to transgress against the decencies of democracy by staging in this building such shameful exhibitions as we have seen in the twenty months or so during which I have been a member of this place.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I confess that I disagree completely with the remarks made by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Monaghan) about the space research display in King’s Hall. I may be naive, but when I saw the display I did not think of it as propaganda for the Department of Supply or for the Government. I thought: What a magnificent achievement by a country like Australia! With our small population, we have been able to make a pretty fair contribution in this scientific field. I was greatly interested to see the model of the project Mercury capsule used by the United States of America, which graphically illustrated advances in scientific developments. I regret that the honorable member for Evans has taken this opportunity, during the consideration of the estimates for the Parliament, to raise the matter in the terms in which he dealt with it. I believe that his thinking about propaganda on the part of the Government was completely wrong.
I think that at some time all honorable members have expressed concern about the manner in which details of the business to be dealt with are notified to honorable members and about the space occupied by the Executive in Parliament House. Unfortunately, in the circumstances that exist in Canberra, we are faced with the problem of pressure on the space available in this building. Not one of us is happy about the situation. I think we all believe that the sooner the new Parliament House is built the better it will be for everybody. I believe that a new building would be of economic and political value to all parties. If a new building were provided, the present building could be used for other purposes.
I rose mainly to comment on matters relating to the Parliament. I would like to support the remarks of my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury), particularly insofar as they related to the staff of the Parliament - the attendants, the Clerk and his assistants and the drivers who convey members from place to place. The high calibre of those who are employed in the service of the Parliament may be gauged from the fact that despite a close association between honorable members and the staff of the Parliament on many occasions, never to my knowledge has there been a leakage of anything that has been discussed between members in the presence of drivers of cars, or officers or attendants of the House. That indicates the high standard of character of those who serve in this place.
One matter that has caused me a degree of concern during the time I have been a member ot the Parliament has been what might almost be called the deterioration of thought and consideration for the Parliament. Members themselves may be expendable, but the institution is not. I do not for a moment suggest that members should be above criticism. Nobody would expect that; but any criticism that is levelled at us should be, as the honorable member for Ryan pointed out, informed and justifiable criticism. It should be criticism that will contribute to the improvement of the Parliament, These days we hear a lot about newly independent countries. We talk of them as being established in the democratic way of life. We have seen the experiment in India. Whatever one may think politically of Prime Minister Nehru,, he deserves our congratulations and all the assistance that we can give in the formation and development of democratic institutions in India. As I have said, although individual members may be expendable, the institution of Parliament is not. If by the attitude of people and groups outside and the attitude of honorable members in this
Parliament, we constantly undermine the institution, I believe we shall undermine the very foundations of our Commonwealth. Khrushchev once said that time is on the side of the Communists and that the democracies - the Western countries - will defeat themselves. If we do not sustain the institution of Parliament we will contribute to the downfall of the West.
In recent years trends dangerous to the institution of Parliament have developed. One such trend is the employment of pressure-group tactics. No honorable member would deny to the individual or to a group the right to put forward a case; but surely in the institution some things are more important than the interests of individuals or groups. One thing that falls into that category is the welfare of the whole of the Commonwealth. I fear that sometimes there is a tendency for individuals or groups to be given a priority higher than is given to the welfare of the Commonwealth. This condition will not be in the interests of our parliamentary institution. As I have said, nobody would deny to a person the right to state his case, but the use of pressure tactics is not in the best interests of the institution of Parliament.
Let me give an example of what I mean. Prior to the last State elections in New South Wales, Labour Party propaganda advocated that electors should vote for a Labour Party candidate because Labour was in government and therefore the electors could get something out of it.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Lalor says “ Hear, hear! “; but I have noticed that Labour Party members in the federal sphere did not employ the same argument. To do so would have meant advocating a vote for a Liberal Party or a Country Party candidate because those parties are in office in the federal sphere. I noticed that in their wisdom the New South Wales members of this Parliament did not use this argument at the last federal elections. But although the Labour Party in New South Wales employed that argument at the last State elections, I do not think any of its members in their wildest dreams .expected the electors. to pay regard to it. Nevertheless, the idea is dangerous because it almost expresses the view that you must elect a government member before you can expect to get anything done in your electorate. If this line of reasoning were followed to its logical conclusion it could mean the establishment of a oneparty system and ultimately, a dictatorship. The suggestion that I have referred to is dangerous, although it was possibly put forward only as propaganda without any real expectation that the electors would fall for it.
Regarding the matter raised by the honorable member for Evans, information relating to proposed business for the ensuing week is not generally supplied in the United Kingdom Parliament. It is obvious that if the information were supplied, as a matter of course no member of the United Kingdom Parliament would have found it necessary to seek the information. The honorable member for Evans cited something in support of his case which did not support it at all. As regards the business of our own Parliament, on many occasions the Government indicates a week in advance the nature of the business that the Parliament will be asked to deal with. The Government sometimes indicates two or three weeks in advance the business that will be placed before the Parliament. I think most honorable members are aware that difficulties sometimes arise concerning the drafting of legislation. Because of these things it is not always possible or practical to indicate a week in advance the business that will be placed before the Parliament. Although we may have some individual criticisms of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), relating to the procedures of the House, I think all honorable members will concede that in conducting the business of the Parliament he has, to the best of his ability and having regard to the limitations imposed by the difficulties that arise in Canberra, given due consideration to honorable members and endeavoured to let them know the nature of the business that will be coming before the Parliament. I would like to express my appreciation of the way the Treasurer handles the arrangement of business before the Parliament.
All of us in Australia must give consideration to our parliamentary institution; in to-day’s world it is vital that we sustain it. By so doing we will make a contribution over and above the material in helping in the establishment and development of newly independent countries. By sustaining our parliamentary institution, which has proved itself over succeeding generations, we will set an example to the newly developing nations and thus help them to make their contribution to the world of the future:
.- In speaking to the estimates for the Parliament I should like to support the objection raised by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Monaghan) at the use of King’s Hall for various displays. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) said that he disagreed with the honorable member for Evans because when he wandered around King’s Hall he felt great pride in the displays which depicted the wonderful progress that Australia is making. We all share that pride. We are all proud of the progress that we have made. But let me point out that the honorable member for Evans protested not about displays in themselves but about displays in King’s Hall, which is a part of this Parliament. Surely there must be in Canberra some building in which we can display the evidence of the progress that we have made and where various government departments and manufacturing organizations can show their goods. If the Albert Hall is not suitable for such displays, and if no other buildings are available, the fault must lie with this Government for not looking ahead and arranging for the construction of a suitable building in which to hold these exhibitions. The protest of the honorable member for Evans is that the dignity of the Parliament is gradually being whittled away. He believes that Parliament House is becoming a display house for Ministers. He pointed out rightly that most of the offices in Parliament House are occupied by Ministers and their staffs. A former Speaker, the late Archie Cameron, warned honorable members time and time again that their rights were being filched from them by Ministers. As the honorable member for Evans pointed out, four and sometimes more members are huddled together in one office. If a constituent comes to Canberra the only place in which you can meet him is King’s Hall. But what do we find there? Periodically Ministers, not satisfied with taking the office space generally to themselves, decide that they will take over King’s Hall. We have had trade exhibitions, Air Force exhibitions, Post Office exhibitions and the latest exhibition of space weapons, guided missiles, rifles and all those instruments of destruction of which the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) is so proud.
It is futile for any one to argue that these displays are put on for the benefit of honorable members. That is so much rubbish. One honorable member interjected during the speech of the honorable member for Evans and said that 23,000 people looked at the last exhibition. I suggest that those people came to Parliament House from the various States so that they could show it to their children, so that they could look around King’s Hall, so that they could go into the House of Representatives and into the Senate and so that they could see just how the Parliament in this National Capital operates. Instead, what did they find? They probably thought that they had arrived at a show.
– No dignity at all!
– There is no dignity in Parliament House. When I looked around King’s Hall I was reminded of a royal show in Adelaide where, huddled in a corner, was an exhibition by a private manufacturer. While the display was on in King’s Hall, I had a telephone call from an attendant informing me that one of my constituents was in King’s Hall waiting to see me. When I came into King’s Hall we played hide and seek amongst the people there, trying to find each other. I understand that during the same week a delegation from a new State movement arrived in Canberra but could not come into King’s Hall because it was occupied by this magnificent display by the Department of Supply.
Whether we like delegations coming to Canberra, whether they be from peace movements or from new State movements, they comprise people who are taxpayers. This is the place to which they should come if they have a grievance. They have the right to interview their representatives, and King’s Hall is the place where they should be able to do so. On the occasion to which I have referred the members of the delegation were unable to enter King’s Hall and meet their representatives there.
The honorable member for Lyne warned that we must sustain the institution of Parliament or it will wither away. We are not doing much to sustain the dignity of the Parliament when we allow King’s Hall to be used as it is being used. Why is it being used in this way? Why are these displays timed to coincide with great influxes of visitors to this National Capital? It is so that the visitors to Canberra can see them. I believe that the honorable member for Evans was right in his suggestion that these displays are used by the Government mainly as a medium of propaganda. The Government hopes to lead the people to believe that it is doing a great deal for Australia. If these displays in King’s Hall are allowed to continue, the more blatant will become the propaganda that the Government will disseminate through them.
There have been rumours lately of future developments. We know that Ministers more or less compete for the right to put on big shows in King’s Hall. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) found that he could not use King’s Hall because it was not big enough. He could not get the 48-ton Centurion tanks into King’s Hall so he decided to put on the recent fire-power display in the open. The next thing probably will be that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who we know was a great sportsman in the past and is still a great sportsman although perhaps he is not quite as active as he was, will decide to give an exhibition of roller racing in King’s Hall. That display would be worth watching and we would be pleased to see him in action because he is still energetic enough to go riding round Canberra on his Malvern Star.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) might decide to bring in Sharman’s boxing troupe and get back into form. In view of the way in which the dignity of this Parliament is being broken down, he might even issue a challenge to some of the members of the troupe. This is a very serious matter and I hope that the Government will give attention to it before there are any future displays in King’s Hall.
Canberra needs suitable premises in which these displays can be held. Canberra needs a convention centre. When the new Parliament House is built - I understand that the plans for the proposed Parliament House on Capital Hill had provision for a convention centre - I hope that it will have a great conference hall. Having regard to the present position in South-East Asia, this National Capital could become the centre for conferences of people from all SouthEast Asian countries. We should plan ahead. If the new Parliament House will not include within its area a large conference hall, an annexe in which displays of things of which the nation is proud should be built close by. But, for goodness sake, do not write down the Parliament by gradually making King’s Hall a show place. Although we cannot regard the Parliament as the holy place of this land, at least it has some dignity. Honorable members appreciate that. I do not share the opinion expressed in the letter from Mr. Speaker to the honorable member for Evans that most honorable members welcome such exhibitions. I believe that most honorable members are not happy about them. I hope that our objections will be regarded seriously and that something will be done about them.
I join in the praise given by previous speakers to the officers of the Parliament. The Clerk, his assistants and all associated with the Parliament have a job and a half to do, as you well know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in looking after members. The transport officer does a miraculous job. How he caters for the needs of honorable members I do not know.
– What salary does he receive?
– I should imagine that he could not be paid too much for the work that he has to carry out. We are fortunate in the staff that we have, from those on the highest level down to the cleaners who clean our offices. We can say with pride that we can leave our papers lying around our offices without any fear that somebody will come in and snoop and interfere with them. It says something for the administration of a building such as this, in which there are so many members of the Parliament, that the standard of the staff is so high.
The staff of the Parliamentary Library does a magnificent job. So does the staff of the Joint House Department. Indeed, one should be careful in mentioning any particular staff, because all of them go out of their way to give us the assistance that we need. What a job the car drivers have. When this Government docs not plan its business properly, we have to go home in the early hours of the morning. The car drivers have to sit outside until all hours of the morning because this Parliament cannot work out an orderly plan for the conduct of its business. Only last week an important bill on repatriation was before this chamber. The Parliament had been in recess for a week. When we came back we had to sit until the early hours of the morning in order to pass that bill. What wonderful planning!
I do not know how the honorable member for Evans expects the Government to plan its programmes. It ought to be able to do that, but it is such a stop-and-go Government that it does not know from day to day what it is going to do. First it is going to introduce a bill, and then it is not going to do so. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has proposed restrictive trade practices legislation, but the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has thrown it overboard. So we cannot expect much planning from members of the Government. However, whilst they may not be able to bring forward a decent plan to control restrictive trade practices, 1 hope that they will stop this practice of turning King’s Hall into an exhibition avenue. That matter needs attention. The Minister for the Interior could well look ahead and see what suitable alternative sites are available in Canberra - not Parliament House - to cater for exhibitions.
To-day a question was asked about an article that appeared in the Sydney “ Sun “ about meals provided in Parliament House. I think action should be taken if reporters make such claims, knowing them to be completely untrue and completely misleading. Members of Parliament and ‘ tha
Parliament itself give the reporters a lot. I am referring not to the “ Hansard “ reporters, but to the press reporters. Dining room facilities are made available to them. They well know the prices that are charged. Members of Parliament are not ashamed of the public knowing the cost of the meals. The Joint House Committee, as far as possible, keeps charges in the bar and corkage at the tables in the dining room on a par with the charges of the various public houses in Canberra, and members of the Parliament pay reasonable charges for meals. I hope that some attention will be given to these reporters who misrepresent so blatantly the position in Parliament House.
In conclusion, again I say let us preserve the dignity of the Parliament and do not let us turn King’s Hall into a sideshow alley.
.- I want to advert to the use of King’s Hall, too. Before I do that I take this opportunity to refer to the separation of the Parliamentary Library and the National Library of Australia. This has posed a problem for the staffs of the respective libraries. I wonder whether or not the staffs have had adequate facilities available to them in order to carry out their tremendously important job and to carry it out with expedition. In the annual report of the council of the National Library of Australia, which has just been released, this paragraph appears under the heading “ Separation of the Parliamentary and National Libraries “ -
It has been further advanced by the transfer during the year of the greater part of the staff and services of the National Library from the Parliament building, as reported later, and the consequent re-arrangement of collections to provide within Parliament House more material designed to serve the immediate needs of Members of Parliament.
This is a very real problem. The members of the staff of the Parliamentary Library are most co-operative. I find them most courteous and most helpful. They do everything possible to provide us with the information for which we ask. But, by and large, when a member of the Parliament asks for information he wants it immediately. This is part of the circus, as it were. We cannot escape from that very real circumstance of the Parliament. I hope the responsible people will inquire whether or not the members of ‘the staff of the Library are receiving what they need. The separation of the two libraries is a very big task. It imposes tremendous responsibilities. I hope this matter will be considered urgently and competently by the responsible people.
I come now to the use of King’s Hall. I say quite plainly that I agree completely with the principle propounded by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Monaghan). I disagree with the use of King’s Hall for some of the purposes for which it has been used. The honorable gentleman will not misunderstand me - nor will the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), who also spoke on this matter - when I say that I thought they drew upon rather extravagant language to describe the purposes to which King’s Hall is put. For example, the honorable member for Evans referred to the cheap political use of King’s Hall. I disagree with my friend on that count; but I agree- completely with him that King’s Hall should not be used for exhibitions such as those to which he referred. To me Parliament House is Parliament House, and it should not be used for displays by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. King’s Hall is the central lobby or central meeting-place in this building. It should not be used for showing rockets and what-have-you.
I sympathize with the Ministers responsible for these exhibitions. They want to show members of the Parliament what their departments are doing. Very rightly, they want to show members of the public who come to this building what their departments are doing. I appeal to Mr. Speaker and to the President of the Senate to ensure that King’s Hall is not put to what I would describe as rather shabby uses. This detracts considerably from the dignity of the Parliament and gives the impression that this is not Parliament House, but merely a showplace. That is simply not good enough.
That leads me to my next point which was mentioned by one honorable gentleman, namely the demonstrations that are held in King’s Hall. I do not know of one honorable member who would not be prepared at any time to meet a deputation from any organization, irrespective of what its point of view might be. However, I protest, and protest strenuously, against the pitiful sight of hundreds of people coming into King’s
Hall - whether they are members of a peace movement or, for that matter, of a new State movement - and some of them treating it as vandals would treat it. What person would tread cigarette butts onto the floor of his own home? Such conduct simply is not good enough. What member, recognizing the fact that he would be prepared to meet with deputations of people from various organizations, is prepared to put up with this sort of approach without complaint? Time and time again 1 have seen a member, when walking from this chamber across to the Library, accosted by some individual who asked him whether he was a member, and when he admitted he was a member the individual immediately tried to ram his particular point of view down the member’s throat.
That is the sort of thing that happened during the last peace demonstration. A large gentleman - 1 think that is a rather casual use of the term - grabbed me and said, “ Are you a member here? “ I confessed to him that that was the case. He said, “ I want to talk to you about peace “. 1 turned round, and there was my honorable friend, the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), protesting violently, surrounded by the most unpeaceful-looking people. He simply said to them, “ Look, I tell you frankly, chaps, I disagree with you “. I have seen my friend, the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes), almost physically assailed by some of these people. This is not good enough. I do not think that the Parliament as an institution should tolerate it. All of us are prepared to meet with deputations from various organizations, but when people come into Parliament House and accost members when they are going about their business, and, above all, when they treat Parliament House in this shabby way, I think it is about time the full sanction of this Parliament as an institution should be imposed upon them.
I now turn to something which is quite away from that, but which, nevertheless, touches the institution. I was astonished and disappointed to find that recently the South Australian branch of the Australian Labour Party passed a resolution that it would not endorse any person over the age of 70 years as a candidate for election to this Parliament. That is essentially the fact, as I understand it. I am also given to understand that the person responsible for sponsoring this move was the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). There are two people in this place who are vitally concerned about this. They are the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). We have now reached the stage where, so far as I know, this is the only Parliament in the whole of the Commonwealth of Nations where an age limit is laid down by any political party. I put it to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that agc is not merely the condition of one’s glands. It involves, also, attitude of mind. If you like, take the case of the late Albert Einstein. In 1953, at the age of 74, mark you, Einstein announced his unified field theory and his quantum theory. That is not bad, is it, for one in his dotage? Again, take the case of the Federal Chancellor of Germany. Konrad Adenauer, who is 87 years of age. Those who have had the opportunity to see Dr. Adenauer on television recently would hardly agree with the proposition that he was enfeebled. Take the case of Sir Winston Churchill, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the age of 77 years. Go to the other extreme, if you like - Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn, each of whom was composing under the age of twelve years.
The essential part of the thesis that I am putting to the committee, and, I hope, in turn, for its own self-respect, to the South Australian branch of the Australian Labour Party, is that age is utterly irrelevant when it comes to rendering service to the nation. I do not want to embarrass either of the gentlemen, but both the honorable member for Port Adelaide and the honorable member for Bonython are quite capable of putting their points of view to this House with the utmost of vigour. I am surprised and disappointed that the honorable member for Hindmarsh should be involved in this matter. It is completely unworthy of him; and I would hope there would be a move to rescind the decision that has been made.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is the relationship of the Executive to the Parliament. This was referred to by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Monaghan). I put it to him with the utmost goodwill that it simply is not good enough to say, “ Put the Executive out of the building “. Look at the practical problems that are involved. On the one hand there is the matter of answering the division bells. The Standing Orders lay down that requirement. Secondly, quorums are called. Again, with great respect, some of the quorums that are called in this chamber are called without any real purpose at all; and the quorum in this Parliament is ridiculously high. We have approximately the same quorum as the House of Commons, which has a membership of over 600. If the Executive is going to be put out of the parliamentary building then Parliament will have to agree to completely modifying its approach to divisions. In other words, Ministers must know well in advance when a division is going to be required. Secondly, quorums should not be called except for good purpose. They are the practical difficulties to which I refer, and if the honorable member for Evans or any other person can come up with a suggestion, I shall be delighted to consider it.
– He is confusing this Parliament with the American Parliament where the Executive is separate.
– That is true. I am thinking in terms of Ministers who have to go to their offices and go about their business throughout the day and, when the bells ring, have to come into this chamber. On some occasions they may be able to inquire whether the bells are ringing for a quorum; but in other parliaments around the world both Ministers and members know in advance when a division will be held. To pull a Minister away from his work, or to interrupt a Cabinet meeting, seems to me to be utterly unreal.
The last matter to which I wish to refer ls the tremendous strain placed on Ministers. I do not think the members of this Parliament, or the people outside it, realize the extent of that strain. This matter was referred to some time ago in the United Kingdom, by Viscount Tenby, who, as Mr. Lloyd George, had long experience of Parliament and ministerial office. He wrote an article which was published in the “ Sunday Times “ in England. He said -
As long ago as 1910, as my father pointed out in his war memoirs, “We were beset by an accumulation of grave issues, lt was becoming evident to discerning eyes that the party and Parliamentary system was unequal to coping wilh them. There was a jam at the Parliamentary dock gates and there was no prospect of the growing traffic being able to get through.”
Viscount Tenby went on to say -
I wonder what he would have thought of the position to-day.
That is a very real problem in this Parliament, whether it is applied to a Labour government or to the present Government. I have spoken to a leader in another place, not on my side of politics, who said to me without hesitation that the burden he felt when in office was enormous. The truth of the matter is that two Labour Prime Ministers have been literally killed through carrying the burden. I hope that at the appropriate time the Parliament will have an opportunity to see what means can be resorted to to relieve Ministers of this tremendous burden. A classic case in point would be the tremendous burden carried to-day by the Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). Frankly, I wonder how much longer that man can stand up to that burden and survive.
.- I did not intend to speak on this item, but I was provoked by the remarks of the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock). I know that the honorable member comes from the preaching profession, a very essential and useful profession; but to-night he developed what I thought was a teaching or preaching attitude towards the members of this Parliament. I refer in particular to his reference to pressure groups. He referred to the fact that a political party - and he had no hesitation in naming the Australian Labour Party - had circulated somewhere in Australia some type of literature to which he objected. The literature had said in effect, “ If you do not do this or that, it will be so much the worse for you “. My great complaint about public life in Australia is that there are not enough people interested in pressure groups and various organizations. These groups do not necessarily hold the same views as I do on a wide variety of subjects, but the sooner we have more so-called pressure groups, however much I may dislike their views, so much better it will be for the nation.
I have had pressure groups try their tactics on me. They have tried by exerting pressure to get me to follow some line with which I do not agree. I do not have any hesitation in telling them promptly that I do not agree with them and sometimes I tell them what to do in even stronger terms. What is wrong with their activities? After all, this is a method of provoking thought and it brings to those who make decisions affecting the nation a wide knowledge of various views.
The honorable member for Lyne, of course, had to name some one and he named the members of the Australian Labour Party as those who distributed some objectionable literature. It may interest you to know, Sir, that for 25 years I have filed the literature issued by most of the political parties in this country during a variety of campaigns. I do not think I am biased, but I think I can say that, for downright lying and misrepresentation, it would bc impossible to beat the political party to which the honorable member for Lyne belongs and the other party with which he associates. If any honorable gentleman would like to look at some of the literature issued, particularly during the campaigns relating to the dissolution of the Communist Party and the nationalization of banking, I would be glad to display it. Indeed, Sir, I could provide a pamphlet that was issued under your name, repeating what you said about me during the campaign. Of course, it was downright lies, but after all we have forums in which these allegations can be repudiated. The expression of individual views, however unpalatable to others, is the very essence of democracy. I would not like any one to take note of the lecture of the honorable member for Lyne on this subject.
Objection to the activities of pressure groups on one occasion showed itself in the report of a government department to the Minister responsible for its administration. The department in its report said, in effect, “ This commission takes exception to the activities of pressure groups which endeavour to make the commission t dp something that it should hot dd’ I “ took exception to this immediately. Apparently, some organization of returned soldiers, dissatisfied with home-building activities, had held meetings, had seen their members of Parliament and had protested against certain activities of the building authority - and rightly so. After all, if the assertions of the pressure group were wrong, the Minister responsible had only to stand on his two feet and repudiate them. I do not object to efforts being made to make people change their attitudes, and I do not accept the reproofs of the honorable member for Lyne.
I have been a member of this Parliament for a long time and I was a member of a State parliament before I came here. I have found that most of the trouble spots of the world are the spots where there has been a clamping down on pressure groups. Unfortunately - I need not particularize in speaking on these estimates - we have been allied with others in an attempt to clamp down on groups in other territories instead of minding our own business at home. I can deal with this on another occasion. We have not been successful, nor has the United States been successful in its efforts in this respect.
What I appreciate about this country is that members of its parliamentary institutions are invariably allowed fairly wide scope for discussion and can engage in disputation fairly freely. But there has been developing in this Parliament lately a tendency to clamp down on opportunities for discussion and debate. Within the last week or two we had the Repatriation Bill before us for discussion. I had a point that I wanted to raise when the clauses of the bill were being debated. However, after one Opposition member had spoken - after all, the Opposition is part of the Parliament - the gag was applied and the representatives of the people in this Parliament were denied the right to speak.
We had a similar situation this afternoon when the gag was applied while the Social Services Bill was being debated. There had been a fairly prolonged discussion on the general subject-matter, but even then every member of the Parliament who had wanted to speak had not had the opportunity to do so. I had intended to speak during the committee stage, but 10 and behold, the second-reading debate had no sooner been disposed of, and gagged at that, than the Minister in charge of the debate or the Whip moved the closure, or in other words gagged the debate in committee. There was no discussion in committee on this most important social services legislation.
Ministers are continually on their hind legs, parading around the country and bemoaning the frightful cost of social services, which provide some alleviation of the distress of those who need assistance. But when it suits them, they point out with pride that they are spending more money now than Labour was spending 25 years ago. However, they never say that the purchasing power of the benefits received by pensioners now is not one penny piece more than that of the benefits received by pensioners 25 years ago.
When we want to deal with a bill clause by clause and try to persuade the Government that something better ought to be done, democracy is damned in this Parliament and the closure is imposed so that members of the Parliament who have some responsibility to the electors cannot exercise their right to speak. If the Government wants to hasten the day when the Communist Party may gain strength in this country, it should go on repressing the rights of the representatives of the people to express their views. In the good old days under Mr. Chifley and Mr. Curtin-
– The gag was applied every night.
– I will gag you in a minute. Honorable members should look at the records of the days when Mr. Chifley and Mr. Curtin were leading the country. Despite the war-time stresses and the stresses of post-war reconstruction, when the responsibilities and burdens on Ministers and on members of the Parliament were much greater than they are now, the opportunities afforded for discussion were infinitely greater than they are to-day. I know of no occasion when discussions in committee were absolutely refused to members by the Labour Government.
– I do.
– You know everything. Discussion was always allowed, except probably in some extreme emergency.; The proof of this is that in those days, despite the pressure of other work, Parliament sat for more days each year than it has sat in any year since. In other words, Mr. Chifley’s philosophy prevailed. His philosophy was “ Let them talk. Let them blow off steam.” Whether it was adverse steam or favorable steam, the representatives of the people were allowed to speak. I defy honorable members opposite to say that this Government has sat, on average, for longer periods than did the Curtin and Chifley governments, under which the voices of the people’s representatives were given.
– I can show you in “ Hansard “ where the gag was used.
– I know the honorable member for Mallee is annoyed. He will look up “ Hansard “ as he so often does, and will produce records and so on, but nobody can deny that the sittings of the two Labour governments I have mentioned were longer than those of any government which has been in office since then.
I am very glad that at least one honorable member opposite has supported the protest, although perhaps mildly, against turning King’s Hall into a demonstration place for all sorts of industrial exhibitions. I am one of those who love inspecting industrial equipment. I am always intrigued by the inventive genius of my fellowAustralians, but after all, King’s Hall is not the place for industrial exhibitions. They should be held in some hall or factory or somewhere else convenient for the public. They should not be held in this building at all.
I turn now to facilities for Ministers. I think one of the most attractive features of the Australian parliamentary system is that, general speaking, Ministers have given and do give members of Parliament, while the Parliament is sitting, opportunities to interview them and place before them matters concerning individual electorates and electors. Perhaps ministers have been able to do that more frequently in Australia than have Ministers in more heavily populated countries. That system should be continued, but without a shadow of a doubt it necessitates Ministers having suitable accommodation for themselves and their executive officers in close proximity to the chambers of this Parliament. I am all for this and I hope that, whatever the design of the new Parliament House is, provision will be made for these facilities, because I believe that so long as members of the Parliament can keep close contact with ministers and with members of the public, so long will our democracy be a stronger democracy than it might otherwise be.
I have nothing more to say except that, together with other honorable members, I think our parliamentary system is a good one. I believe all members of the Parliament - not only members of the Opposition - must be vigilant and see that the representatives of the people are not robbed of their right to state a case in the Parliament whenever they like. We must resist any attempt to destroy the right of any group or individual to pressurize members of Parliament in a peaceful way. In the Australian Wool Board’s report to-night I read of Sir William Gunn and his henchmen going around the country trying to pressurize the woolgrowers into supporting an increased levy for wool promotion. That is a first class highlyorganized pressure group, but the honorable member for Lyne was not thinking of Sir William Gunn. He was thinking of pressure exerted by people who wanted him to do something in their interests in this Parliament. He did not like them and so he vented his spleen on them.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise this evening to enter a protest on behalf of many of my constituents against certain organizations in Australia which are masquerading as medical benefit funds. Honorable members will recollect that, when these organizations were formed, it was envisaged that a coverage of about 85 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the cost of medical expenses would be offered lo the people. To-day, after very steep rises in the contributions that have to be paid to these organizations, we find that the benefits payable by them in many cases have fallen below 60 per cent, or even less.
As a point of illustration, I have here a letter from one of my constituents who underwent a major operation on 13 th June, 1963. I will not read his letter, but will read out the cost charges involved in this man’s operation and the benefits that he received from the Manchester Unity Medical and Hospital Benefits Fund. He was in Dalkeith Hospital for six days under observation and was then in St. Martin’s Hospital in Brisbane for two weeks for the operation. The cost involved was £89 19s., for which he received £56 rebate from the organization. The specialist charged him £52 10s., for which he received £30 benefit. The specialist’s assistant charged £6 6s., for which he received £3 3s. benefit. The hospital theatre fee was £12 12s. and the benefit received £2 2s. Consultation with a specialist cost £3 3s. and the benefit received was £2 1 3s. X-ray charges were £6 6s. and the benefit received was £4. The anaesthetist’s fee was £10 10s. and the benefit received was £5. A blood test cost £8 8s. and the benefit received was £8 8s. Preparation for the operation cost 10s. and the benefit received was nil. The total outlay by this gentleman was £202 9s.. of which he received by way of return from the organization £115 17s. 6d. If we examine these figures closely we find that, on this man’s contribution of 9s. a week, he was actually paying for £2 a week insurance.
During the period when this Parliament was last in recess I had occasion to be admitted to a private hospital and to undergo an operation. I was laid up for three weeks. I received doctors’ bills and hospital bills for an amount of more than £200. When I submitted the accounts to the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited I was told that I came under the Commonwealth Government’s special account. I have been contributing 9s. a week for the past tcn years, and having paid more than £200 1 received .£76 in return. 1 say that the Mme has come when this Gove nmentshould appoint a special commitee to investigate the profits being made by these funds. There is no doubt that a racket is going on and that the paying public are being exploited. There is only one alternative to setting up the committee I have suggested; that is for the Government to establish a Commonwealth national insurance scheme under which all people would be insured and effectively covered.
Let me give some further examples of benefits received from these organizations. Here is an account from Dr. Marcus Faunce, one of the local doctors in Canberra, for £7 7s. This was submitted to the Medical Benefits Fund and the contributor received in return £2 8s. I have another account from a doctor in Sydney, Dr. Crowley, for £4 4s. I have a photostat copy of the cheque sent out by the Medical Benefits Fund, which was for 12s.
Again I appeal to this Government. It is time that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), despite the fact that no provision in respect of this matter was made in the Budget this year, set up an investigating committee to inquire into just what is being done by these organizations which are masquerading as charitable institutions and bleeding the public for contributions in return for benefits that they claim they will pay-
.- I would like to take four or five minutes of the time of the House to mention a matter that I spoke about a few weeks ago during a debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I refer to the question of financial assistance for the dried vine fruit growers in the Sunraysia district. Honorable members will recall that in company with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and a Victorian State member I visited the area and investigated the problems of the dried vine fruit growers there. I found, as had been previously claimed, that about 25 per cent, of the growers were in dire financial circumstances. Indeed, they had requested, through various channels, government assistance in solving their problems. Their financial difficulties arose from varying circumstances, and those difficulties are still in existence.
As I told the House when I mentioned the matter previously, these growers have a number of problems. There is a long-term problem which can be solved by some stabilization scheme, and I understand that this matter has been put to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and to the Government. But it is not this particular scheme that I want to speak of tonight. On the occasion when the discussion took place some five weeks ago the honorable member for Lalor and I mentioned the urgent need for financial assistance for this 25 or 30 per cent, of growers in the Sunraysia district. The growers had made representations to Mr. Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, and to Mr. Heffron, the Premier of New South Wales, and both those gentlemen had made urgent representations to the Commonwealth Government asking that financial assistance be given to these growers. On the occasion when the matter was mentioned in this House the Minister for Primary Industry discussed the problems of the industry, but carefully - and I repeat carefully - refrained from mentioning the major problem that we brought up, that of urgent financial assistance for the growers. As the Minister will recall, he went on to deal with the subject of tobacco and the problems of tobacco growers, and under very heavy fire from the honorable member for Lalor he retired behind a smokescreen. He conveniently forgot to mention the Government’s approach to this problem of the dried vine fruit growers.
I ask the Minister and the Government now: Is it their intention to take any action to relieve the situation in which these people find themselves? The Premier of Victoria said only a few days ago, as reported in the newspapers, that he could do nothing about the matter and that it was up to the Federal Government. There is also a mention of the matter in the thirty-ninth annual report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board. At page 8, it states -
For many growers, their present finances are such that without immediate assistance from the Federal or State Governments they will be unable to remain in the industry.
The situation when I was there four or five weeks ago was desperate for a number of the growers. They were living on hand-outs from the packing houses, receiving from them as little as £5 a week. They were in desperate financial circumstances, and they have asked this Government for help. I now ask the Minister what the Government is going to do about it. Are the Minister and the Government going to starve these people out of the industry? Is this their way of stabilizing the industry - ensuring that production will fall? When can we expect some action from the Federal Government? There are many families who were brought to this area as soldier settlers and settled there by the Commonwealth and the State Governments. We have a special responsibility to these men, and I ask the Minister to say something about what he and his Government will do to give them the financial assistance that they so desperately need at this time.
– All I want to say is that I have had no representations from the Premier of Victoria for financial help. Those representations have gone through the normal channels from Premier to Prime Minister. Of course, it is quite easy for Premiers to shelve their responsibilities by asking the Commonwealth for assistance. I put in days in that dried vine fruits area and I was not asked for any financial assistance in the terms suggested by the honorable member. I was asked for a stabilization scheme. We discussed many aspects of that matter. In accordance with the arrangements made, a survey is being carried out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I have been told that it should be completed by December, and then we will take it from there.
– They have asked for assistance.
– I know they have asked for it. I know the Premier of Victoria made a request to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), but that has gone through the normal channels. I have not had a request. The Prime Minister can speak for the Government, but I repeat that those growers did not ask me for financial assistance in that form when I visited the area. They did discuss many aspects of a stabilization scheme, which is now being fully considered according to the arrangements made. I hope that the survey will be completed within the expected time. I believe that it will be. Then we can discuss the scheme as it will apply to the next crop to be harvested. The industry has no problem with regard to sales. Subsequent to my visit to the area prices have risen. Indeed, the surplus of last year’s crop has sold quite readily after the conference arranged by the chairman of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board with representatives of the European countries. Actually, because of the smaller crop this year the price has risen so that it is considerably in excess of cost of production. So there is no problem on the marketing side.
– They do not have any money for next year’s crop.
– The honorable member knows that this marketing board, as is the case with other marketing boards, makes financial arrangements on the security of the crop. That is the arrangement that every marketing board makes. No grower in any stabilization scheme gets a full payment as an initial payment. He does get subsequent payments. Because crops are being sold so readily, the growers ought not to be so badly off as the honorable member stated. In fact, no growers have indicated to me that their position is as serious as that. With regard to my part of the programme for the dried fruits industry, I am carrying it out to the letter.
– I would not rise at this late hour unless it was to discuss something which I considered to be of great importance. I ask the Ministers who are present whether they can supply us with any further information about recent events in Djakarta. It is reported that the office of the British High Commissioner in Canberra has received the three following messages - 0725 G.M.T.: Further violent attacks on embassy now in progress. No preventive action by forces of law and order. Signed Gilchrist Ambassador. 0744 G.M.T.: Large numbers of rioters in building and burning it up. No action by police yet. Signed Gilchrist Ambassador. 0747 G.M.T.: Building on fire. Got to leave now. Goodbye. Signed Gilchrist Ambassador.
I would like to know whether a Minister can confirm those messages. As the mobs apparently are out of hand in Djakarta and as the Australian embassy staff will therefore be in danger, I ask whether the Government proposes to take any action to withdraw the families of our diplomatic representatives, if not our diplomatic representatives, from Djakarta until such time as the situation improves.
– Is this happening to-night?
– Yes. Furthermore, I do not think we should continue with Colombo Plan aid under these circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
International Treaties. (Question No. 90.)
m asked the Minister for
External Affairs, upon notice -
What treaties have been drafted or reviewed at conferences attended by Australian representatives or observers since his reply to me on 22nd August, 1962 (“Hansard”, page 650)?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
List A hereunder indicates the treaties which have been drafted, and List B those which have been reviewed, at conferences attended by Australian representatives or observers since August, 1962.
d asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Will he have a statement prepared showing the amount of present-day Australian coastal shipping as compared with the volume operating in 1954?
Internationa] Coffee Agreement (28th September, 1962).
Proces Verbal extending the operation of the Declaration of 18th November, 1960, relating to the Accession of Argentina to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (7th November, 1962).
Declaration on the Provisional Accession of the United Arab Republic to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (13th November, 1962) .
International Olive Oil Agreement (20th April, 1963) .
Vienna Convention on Consular Relations with Optional Protocols concerning Acquisitions of Nationality and Compulsory Settlement of Disputes (24th April, 1963).
Protocol for the Accession of Spain to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (30th April, 1963).
Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (19th May, 1963).
Convention concerning the Prohibition of the Sale, Hire and Use of Inadequately Guarded Machinery (25th June, 1963).
Convention on International Civil Aviation (7th December, 1944) - Protocol amending Article 48 (a) approved at Fourteenth Session of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization on 14th September, 1962.
Convention of the World Meteorological Organization (11th October, 1947 - Amendments approved at Fourth World Meteorological Congress in April, 1963).
International Sugar Agreement (1st December, 1958) - Protocol for the Prolongation of this Agreement adopted on 4th July, 1963, at United Nations Sugar Conference, 1963.
Shipping. (Question No. 132.)
– The following table shows the number and deadweight tonnage of Australian coastal trading vessels as at 1st August, 1954 and 1963 respectively: -
In addition, in 1954, eight Australian registered vessels of 39,399 tons deadweight operated mainly in overseas services although these vessels were licensed to engage in the coasting trade.
There are at present six such vessels, of 22,512 tons deadweight, operating mainly in overseas trades.
y asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The numbers registered for employment at the Newtown District Employment Office at the end of each of the last twelve months were -
These were persons who claimed when registering that they were not employed and who were recorded as unplaced at the reporting date. The figures include those who, since registering, may have obtained employment without notifying the Commonwealth Employment Service, and persons who had been referred to employers with a view to engagement but whose placement was not confirmed at the reporting date; they also include persons receiving unemployment benefit.
The area embraced by the boundaries of the District Employment Office at Newtown comprises part of the municipality of Marrickville, and that portion of the city of Sydney contained in the former municipalities of Newtown, Erskineville, Darlington and part of Redfern. Some persons not resident of these areas may be included in the statistics.
n asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19630918_reps_24_hor39/>.