25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. COURTNAY presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government immediately grant a basic pension rate of £8 10s. per week, formulate a national housing plan for low rental homes for pensioners and provide all pensioners within the permissible income with the medical entitlement card.
Petition received and read.
– I ask a question of the Treasurer. I remind him that in October of 1962, in reply to a question by me, he intimated that the rates of compensation payable under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act would be reviewed. In view of the considerable passage of time since then and since the last review in 1959, the ample evidence of the inability of the recipients to exist on the weekly compensation payments and the obvious inadequacy of the fixed payments-
– Order! I direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he is now making comments. I ask honorable members to try to shorten their questions and thus comply with Standing Orders.
– I ask the Treasurer: When can Commonwealth employees expect better provision for their care and the care of their dependants when, as a result of accident during the performance of their duties, they surfer injury or loss of life?
– I shall make inquiries as to the present state of the review of this matter. It is one which would normally be considered by the Government in association with other elements of the Budget, but if I can give the honorable gentleman more precise details by way of reply I shall do so.
– My question to the Minister for Territories relates to the possibility of a further lease being granted in respect of the bauxite deposits at Gove. Will the Minister assure the House that any lease granted will provide for the control of the deposits to be retained in Australian hands? By “Australian hands” I do not mean dummies for overseas interests, or companies registered in Australia but owned overseas. May I ask also whether the Commonwealth has any power to impose conditions in any lease it may grant in this area?
– My colleague the Minister for National Development and I are negotiating with some companies for the development of the Gove bauxite deposits. The matters referred to by the honorable member are very much in the forefront of our minds but one factor to which attention must be given is the prospects that exist for the marketing of our alumina by companies that may engage in operations in this field. I assure the honorable member that the matters he raises are under consideration. I emphasize that one of the purposes of opening up these fields is to provide for development and settlement and job opportunities in a very remote part of Australia.
– Can the Minister for Territories say whether the Pechiney group has lost interest in erecting an alumina plant at Gove in the Northern Territory in favour of participating in the operation of a similar plant at Gladstone in Queensland? What action does the Minister intend to take about this breach of an undertaking given by the company in return for the granting of bauxite leases at Gove? When allotting additional bauxite leases will the Minister ensure that interested Australian companies are given preference along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Mackellar?
– The lease held by the Pechiney group does not expire until March of next year. No action can be taken until the lease has expired. I think I covered the latter part of the honorable member’s question in my answer to the honorable member for Mackellar.
– 1 address my question to the Treasurer. I understand that the honorable member for Reid did not have to pay income tax on the damages that he was awarded in his first libel suit. Now that it appears that this source of income is becoming regular, will the Treasurer say whether there is any hope that awards of damages to the honorable member in the future may be taxable?
– I am sure that the honorable member for Reid will continue to be dealt with in respect of his taxation affairs in accordance with the law prescribed by this Parliament. I will have a continuing interest in his welfare, because he will now cut up pretty well for probate. In saying that I have no wish to deprive the Parliament of his continuing service. He is of great value to the Government where he is.
– Will the Minister for the Navy confirm a report that when Australian naval vessels visit Hong Kong the naval authorities provide paint and equipment for young Chinese girls to paint the sides of the vessels? Is it a fact that those Chinese girls do not receive any cash payment but, instead, receive tips from the ships’ companies? Will the Minister take action to stop this anti-Australian cheap labour practice?
– My answer is, “No”. The honorable member has made representations about this matter. The position is that in Hong Kong there are many families whose standard of living would drop considerably if the girls did not do this work.
– Why do you not pay them?
– As I said, I do not intend to do what you have asked me to do. This all arose when these girls, who do this work in groups, sent a wreath to be placed on the naval memorial in Sydney in memory of the men who lost their lives in the “ Voyager “. The girls had seen many of those men in Hong Kong when the Australian Fleet was in those waters. Personally, 1 see nothing wrong in this practice.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the difficulties of shipping services to the north coast of Queensland and the representations made through me by the Mackay Harbour Board, I ask whether the Minister has been able to ascertain whether the Australian National Line has been able to provide a regular service to north Queensland ports, in particular to Mackay.
– The honorable member for Dawson has raised this problem with mc on several occasions. In the past I have been unable to give him any assurance about a regular shipping service to the port of Mackay. Because there were shipping services to other north Queensland ports which omitted Mackay and which were operated by vessels under charter to John Burke Limited, it was not profitable for the Australian National Line to put an E class vessel on the service to Mackay alone. However, with the calling in of the charter to John Burke Limited, it has been possible for the Australian National Line to arrange a new schedule which will be operated by two vessels - the “ Dalby *’ and the “ Boonaroo”. They will be run between Brisbane and north Queensland ports on a 42-day round voyage schedule. The “Boonaroo”, being the faster of the two vessels, will be able to call at the port of Mackay, and that port will have approximately a six-weekly service.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. Can any valid reason be given for the continued refusal of the Department of Immigration to give reasons when it does not grant permission for relatives of migrants residing here to enter Australia? Can consideration be given to a review of this most unsatisfactory practice, so that the suspicions and doubts that now exist may be avoided?
– I appreciate the point that the honorable member has raised. It has been considered from time to time. It concerns people; it is a human problem. If the reasons for refusals were given, from time to time extreme embarrassment would be caused to the relatives concerned. Much more embarrassment would be caused than is caused by refusing entry into Australia. We have our immigration system, and we have our medical and other standards which have to be met. We reserve the right to say, after due consideration, whether people can enter Australia. I assure the honorable member that the Department of Immigration gives very sympathetic consideration to these cases and derives no pleasure from the fact that it has to come to decisions not to allow people to enter. However, I assure him that at times the disadvantages that would result from giving the full reasons would outweigh those of not giving the full reasons. I also assure him that I do not intend to recommend that the present practice be changed.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. Australia’s team of Olympic sportsmen will require financial aid to enable them to compete in this year’s Olympic Games. In view of the Government’s previous generous assistance, has it yet decided whether it will again assist with a financial contribution? If it has, what is the amount of that contribution?
– The Government received a formal request for assistance in this direction and has considered that request. It may be recalled that on the occasion of the Rome Olympics, when total expenditure for the Australian delegation was of the order of £100,000, the Commonwealth Government made a contribution of £20,000, which was received with great appreciation. I understand that on this occasion the cost of the delegation will be of the order of £136,000. Taking this larger sum into account, as well as our very natural desire that Australia should be well represented at Tokyo, the Government has decided to make a grant of £30,000. I am sure all honorable members will commend that contribution and that it will express to those representing Australia our best wishes for their success and our confidence that at all times they will carry Australia’s banner with honour and distinction.
– Last year, before the honorable member for McPherson became the Minister for Territories, he was a member of a committee which examined the grievances of the people of Yirrkala in the Northern Territory. One of the committee’s recommendations was that a standing committee be appointed to keep the rights and conditions of these people under constant scrutiny. The honorable gentleman was a signatory to the report which contained that recommendation. I now ask the Minister: Does he propose to implement that recommendation? How far have negotiations proceeded with another company which desires to commence operations there? If he is not prepared to implement the recommendation to which he was a signatory, what is his reason?
– The occasion has not yet arisen to implement the recommendation because there has been no further development.
– What about the other company?
– Order! The honorable member has asked his question.
– The recommendations of the select committee will be considered when something eventuates to warrant that being done.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry perused an article appearing in the London “Economist” of 25th April, to the effect that a mechanical device has been invented in England capable of converting grass and other green fodder into milk more efficiently than the old familiar cow can do the job? Will mechanical cows be regarded now as being on all fours with the old familiar cows for the purpose of attracting the butter subsidy? Does the Minister propose to bolster up the inefficient, obsolescent and familiar old sacred cow by unfair discrimination in her favour? In short, does he regard the new mechanical cow as a fair cow or an unfair cow?
– I have seen the article to which the honorable member has referred. I do not know whether the economics of the proposition will work out satisfactorily. They may be to the detriment of the genuine cow. In any case, I do not know why the honorable member singled out the cow.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Navy. Do the naval authorities hold the view that naval visits to Asian ports are for the purpose, among other things, of boosting Australian prestige and of maintaining good relations with Asia? If these arc the objectives of such visits, will the Minister request the naval authorities to have another look at their policy and consider whether these objectives would not be better achieved by establishing regular employer-employee relationships, on the basis of regular payment, with civilian employees engaged in Asian ports?
– The answer to the honorable member’s first question is, “ Yes “. As to the second question, I do not think it is our responsibility to go to these countries and institute a system totally different from that followed by other countries whose ships visit those ports. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to express disagreement with that view. Let me tell the House that I have been in South-East Asia with members of the Opposition and I did not notice any of those gentlemen, after taking a ride in a rickshaw, offer the fellow pulling it rates of pay that would be applicable to members of trade unions in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Every one acknowledges the importance of the Ord River scheme in the north-west of Western Australia, but can the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth, if it gives aid for the Ord River scheme, will then refuse aid for the comprehensive water scheme extension, which is an urgent project in Western Australia?
– I fear that this question is extremely hypothetical, if I may say so, because the proposals made in relation to the Ord River have not yet been completely examined by the Commonwealth. In any examination of such matters we must, of course, take into account all competing claims for works of importance. This has been one of our problems for a long time. However, it so happens that to-day we are to have a conference with the Premier of Western Australia and the Premier of Queensland, and no doubt these aspects of the matter will emerge in the course of our talks.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Are the Commonwealth ammunition filling factories meeting our defence requirements? What proportion of the capacity of these factories is being used in the manufacture of ammunition and what proportion is unused? Will the Minister say what quantities of conventional ammunition are being imported into Australia? Finally, if ammunition is being imported is it because of lack of technical knowledge in Australia or shortage of government factory capacity? Or is it simply Government policy to import ammunition?
– The honorable member has posed a question in answering which one cannot win but I will bc glad to get him some precise information as to the proportion of filling factory capacity that is used. Quite clearly, if ammunition production capacity is provided for wartime needs, you would not expect it to be fully used in time of peace. As for the other matters, I will give the honorable member a written answer.
– I address a question lo the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Will the honorable gentleman consult with the Minister for Health in another place with a view to ensuring that existing rights of present members of friendly societies which conduct dispensaries are fully preserved?
– Certain aspects of this subject are under review at the present time and, indeed, some legislation is now before the House in connexion with this matter. However, I will take it up as requested with my colleague in another place.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his view has been sought on whether the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia should be asked to attend the Prime Ministers’ Conference in London in July. If it has been sought, what was his reply?
– There are communications which are, for obvious reasons, of a confidential kind, being exchanged between the Prime Minister of Great Britain and some other Prime Ministers, including one other that I know of and certainly including myself. As it happens, ] have only this morning been making some alterations to a draft 1 prepared last night of what I want to say to the United Kingdom Prime Minister. But this problem is of a kind that we must not inflame if we can avoid it and, therefore, 1 do not propose to make any statement about these views.
– By way of explanation of a question addressed to the PostmasterGeneral, let me say that 1 understand that under the Broadcasting and Television Act all transmitting stations are required to keep for a certain time a copy of all political content transmitted. 1 ask the honorable gentleman whether, where a private person believes his rights have been injured, the Minister can exercise any authority to require of the supposed offending party that he deliver up to the party concerned a copy of the material causing distress. Or must there be an action pending between the parties before such a copy can be made availablc?
– I would not bc certain of the answer but I shall make inquiries and inform the honorable member.
– I address a question to the Treasurer relating to Donald Campbell’s projected attempt on the world land speed record at Lake Eyre in the Bluebird. Is the Commonwealth Government assisting financially, or in any other material way, in this venture? If so, to what extent? Could not this effort by Donald Campbell be regarded as a valueless stunt? Further, should the Commonwealth Government be spending the taxpayers’ money on senseless efforts of this type?
– 1 shall obtain a detailed reply for the honorable member, but my recollection of the matter is that the Commonwealth Government did agree to assist by providing help from some sections of the armed services. Last year, for reasons which will be known to honorable members, the attempt had to be postponed and we gave consideration to whether, in the circumstances, we would be justified in continuing the same kind of help on this occasion. The Government took the view that there was some value, nationally, in the attempt being made in this particular part of Australia. The assistance provided is of a limited order, but the honorable gentleman is entitled to have the details if I can get them for him.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he agrees that it is reasonable for the public to expect that a federal member’s electoral office should bc continually staffed through the year during normal busiess hours. Docs the Minister agree that this confidential position calls for special qualifications and training so that the requirements of the public can be adequately met? If so, will the Minister investigate the possibility of organizing a small pool of qualified secretaries within his department who could be called upon to provide relief to members’ secretaries during annual leave or sickness, particularly in those cases where members have set up offices away from the normal Commonwealth Parliament Offices? Alternatively, could this relief be provided at departmental expense rather than, as at present, at the expense of members?
– When the Government decided some twenty years ago to make secretaries available to members of Parliament this service was provided on the condition that no overtime would be paid and that no allowance would be made for those occasions when secretaries went on holidays during the year. lt was expected that on such occasions the member concerned would come to some arrangement either to occupy the office himself or to pay for relief staff.
I do understand the difficulties which members have, particularly in country areas, in trying to arrange for relief staff. I know this is a matter that has worried members for many years. In fact, this problem was submitted to both the
Richardson committees, but each committee rejected the proposal. In view of the fact that we did accept many of the recommendations of those Richardson committees, I think we must accept their recommendations on this point also.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that an Australian champion brass band, namely, the Maryborough band from Queensland, will be leaving shortly to compete in a contest at Christchurch, New Zealand, and will be making a number of appearances in our sister dominion? Is he aware that the Queensland Government has already given a sizeable donation to the band? Will he consider assisting the band, which will be Australia’s sole representative for some time at an international brass band competition?
– I was not aware of this, but it does not sound to me like a venture on a national scale comparable with our representation at the Olympic Games. Therefore, the answer to the second part of the honorable member’s question must be, “ No “.
– I ask the
Minister for External Affairs a question concerning the new schedules of programmes broadcast as from last week from Radio Moscow. Is the Minister aware that the new schedules include broadcasts to Malaysia of one hour each day and include substantial increases in broadcasting time to Korea, Nepal and India? As mainland China had previously announced from Peking that she was going to increase broadcasts to these countries, does the Minister consider the new schedules of programmes from Radio Moscow to be a testimony of Russian awareness that Communist Chinese expansionism is the overriding threat to Asia to-day?
– I think it is generally realized throughout the world to-day that in the contest in southern Asia two of the principal contenders are the Soviet Union and mainland China. Undoubtedly, arising out of that contest and as a result of other causes of tension between them, those two countries have entered into a state of rivalry, one with the other. I am not personally familiar with the broadcasts to which the honorable member has referred.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport on behalf of my colleagues, the honorable members for Bass and Barton, and myself. Is the Minister prepared to accept as axiomatic that Tasmania should never be short of shipping space to service its mainland markets? If so, will he make sure that the Australian National Line is given authority and responsibility to provide the extra shipping required from time to time, particularly from northern Tasmania? In support of my request may I point out to the Minister-
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to go into a secondreading speech.
– I will put it this way-
– I hope you will put it in order. I ask the honorable member to shorten his question.
– Is the Minister aware that the mainland States have alternative means of transport by road and rail which Tasmania does not have, and that the timber pile-up in Launceston is as bad as ever and that the lack of shipping space threatens Tasmania’s valuable markets on the mainland?
– The honorable member has posed a very general question of policy. He asked whether the Government accepts as axiomatic that there must always be shipping services available to Tasmania. I point out that if there were full cargoes always available to ships there would be shipping services available. Part of the problem is that there are peak periods and off periods. The question of profitability and of obtaining full cargoes at all times with notice in advance is a very large problem in supplying shipping services to Tasmania. I think the honorable member will agree that the Australian National Line has filled gaps in an admirable way and is continuing to improve the service. However, it is not easily met by a broad statement such as that made by the honorable member, that there must always be ships available to pick up cargo. That is just not practical either on the mainland or in Tasmania.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether, in view of the grave shortage of superphosphate, particularly in the wheat-growing areas of New South Wales, he will consider recommending payment of a temporary subsidy on sulphur fertilizers such as gypsum to encourage the usage of alternative fertilizers where soil tests do not indicate a phosphorous deficiency. 1 point out that a change in fertilizer usage may increase the availability of superphosphate.
– I do nol think it is possible for me as a Minister to agree to payment of ,a subsidy on any product which is outside the policy determined by the Government. However, the honorable member should be pleased to know that it may be possible to arrange alternative supplies for his State to assist primary producers during this season. As I indicated yesterday, there is a surplus of phosphate rock in Australia and as the number of plants manufacturing superphosphate increases no problem of shortages should arise next year.
” EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA ».
– 1 preface my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by reminding the honorable gentleman that ] am still awaiting a reply to my representations in connexion with the proposed sailing schedule of “ Empress of Australia “ and, more particularly, the departmental decision not to provide for the embarkation of passengers at Launceston. I ask the Minister whether the matter has been further investigated and, if so, when an answer may be expected.
– The Australian National Line considered very carefully the problems arising out of the sailing schedule of “ Empress of Australia “ and decided that the proposed schedule should be given a trial. I am not sure whether the representations of the honorable member have been reconsidered, but so far as I know the original decision stands. 1 shall look into the matter and see that he gets an early reply.
– 1 ask the Minister for Repatriation: In view of the expansion in repatriation medical services to which the Minister has referred, will he advise whether his department has a training scheme for nurses which will assist in meeting the demand for nursing staff at repatriation hospitals?
– A training scheme for nurses was introduced some years ago at most of our repatriation general hospitals and has been highly successful. From memory, about 85 nurses have graduated as senior sisters, about 30 nurses have undertaken post-graduate scholarships and have qualified, and more than 180 nursing aides have been trained under the scheme. In addition, this year we are undertaking a further course in geriatric nursing training which is new to Australia. At the first course last year about nine nurses graduated. This very important training course will be a great adjunct to the nursing services. As the training scheme supplements normal recruiting we anticipate that we will be able to meet increasing requirements in future.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Has the Government taken a decision to offer Curtis Island, near Gladstone, to the Nauruan Islanders whose island home is threatened with the exhaustion of phosphate deposits? If habitation of Curtis Island by the Nauruans eventuates, what degree of autonomy will these people be given in respect of defence, customs and immigration policies? Have these people been offered Australian citizenship on a nondiscriminatory basis? If not, on what basis has the Curtis Island offer been made?
– The Nauruans have been offered settlement on Curtis Island. If the offer is accepted they will become Australian citizens. It is possible they will have some autonomy through local government, but I understood the suggestion of the honorable member to be that we should give them sovereignty. The suggestion is incorrect. They will become Australian citizens and subject to Australian laws.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Interior, is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Calare. Has the Minister taken into account, in answering the earlier question, the fact that, since the presentation of the Richardson report, annual leave for secretarial staff has been increased from two weeks to three weeks and possibly will not stop there? Does he agree that the present practice of members paying for relief staff while a secretary is on annual leave unduly adds to the already heavy demands made on members’ salaries?
– As I mentioned in my answer to the earlier question, this matter has been giving a number of members concern. The occasion for them to voice these grievances arises when some special committee is formed- to consider remuneration as a whole. I imagine that if such an occasion occurs again, that will be the time for honorable members to put their case.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Moore. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that his remarks at the opening of the Ord River diversion dam were taken to mean that the construction of the main dam must be pushed ahead with as much speed as possible? Does his answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Moore mean that there is now some doubt about whether the Commonwealth will provide any finance for the building of the main dam in the near future?
– I thought I had made it quite clear that an application for assistance had been received. Nobody can pretend that the application was granted before it was received. It has been received and it is now being studied. A very large sum has been asked for, and I prefer to engage in deliberations on the matter in the Cabinet room rather than to conduct a running argument in this House.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. Does he agree with Lord Casey - if Lord Casey has been reported correctly - that the survival of the Commonwealth of Nations depends entirely on the initiative of the United Kingdom? Alternatively, does he agree that the senior partners in the Commonwealth all bear a share of this responsibility?
– I saw what amounted to a one-paragraph report of what Lord Casey is supposed to have said. I really do not feel called on to comment on a speech the full terms of which I have not read and, therefore, have had no opportunity to consider.
– My question is directed to the Minister for foreign affairs.
-Order! The honorable member is out of order. It should not be necessary to remind him of the Minister’s correct title.
– I am sorry, Your Worship.
– I was not trying to be disrespectful to you, Sir.
– Order! The honorable member need not make a speech. If he asks his question and uses correct titles, he will get on a lot better.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that a protest was made recently by the Government of Yugoslavia through the Australian High Commissioner in London in connexion with the training in Australia of members of an organization known as the Ustashi movement for the purpose of invading their motherland? If such a protest has been made what action, if any, does the Minister intend to take?
– Mr. Speaker, in view of the way in which the honorable member addressed you, I do not know whether I should refer to him as counsel for the defendant. As he will realize, I have only recently taken up this portfolio. Since I have had the portfolio, nothing has come to my notice concerning such a protest. I do not know whether such a protest was made before I took over the portfolio, but I will make inquiries and let the honorable member have an answer.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Sixty-fifth Report - Treasury Minutes on the Fiftieth, Fifty-third, Sixtieth, Sixty-second and Sixty-third Reports together with summaries of those reports.
- Mr. Speaker, I ask for leave to make a short statement in connexion with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This Sixty-fifth Report sets out in comparative form the recommendations contained in the Fiftieth, Fiftythird, Sixtieth, Sixty-second and Sixty-third Reports of your committee, together with the Treasury minutes which it has received and considered. Members might have noted that, at times, there has been considerable delay in the submission of Treasury minutes indicating what action has been taken to implement your committee’s recommendations. These delays were recently discussed with Treasury representatives and, as a result, the Treasury has undertaken to supply your committee with a half-yearly report on outstanding Treasury minutes, indicating progress made by the departments in dealing with our comments. Where appropriate these halfyearly reports will be followed up with discussions between your committee and Treasury officers.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Bill presented by Sir Robert Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill will carry into effect a promise made by the Government that, if returned to power, it would provide annual amounts of £5,000,000 for the provision of science buildings and equipment in all secondary schools, government or independent, without discrimination, and similar amounts of £5,000,000 annually for State technical education. Both grants are to be made under the powers conferred by section 96 of the Constitution, and State governments have agreed to be the channel whereby amounts will be paid to independent schools.
In the case of the grant for the provision of science buildings and equipment in secondary schools, honorable members will recall that on 5th March last a statement was made by my colleague in the Senate and also read by me in this House giving details of the manner in which these grants were to be made, and it is therefore unnecessary to enlarge at length on the proposal. On that occasion, schools which were eligible for assistance, and which were seeking assistance, were invited to make application as soon as possible. Up to the closing date for applications to be considered for assistance in the year 1964-65, which was set as the 21st April, some 410 completed questionnaires had been received from independent schools, and a further 96 completed forms have since come in. So there has been a very wide response.
Since the original statement, the personnel and terms of reference of the committee set up to advise the Government on standards of science buildings and equipment for independent schools and on particular projects submitted by these schools have been announced and the committee has commenced operation. In the nature of the detailed examinations required for each project, it may take some little time before all grants for 1964-65 can be approved. Excellent co-operation has been received from the authorities responsible for independent schools, who are in process of setting up committees of advice in each State.
I think wc have seen enough already to indicate the substantial size of the programme in front of us, and the great need for improvement in the science facilities of many independent schools, which have been struggling along endeavouring to teach science, often under severe difficulties. The magnitude of the problem means, of course, that even with the substantial funds we have made available, many schools will have to wait some years for assistance. This may have some compensating advantages because many schools will require a good deal of time to plan in full detail the facilities best suited to their needs.
Honorable members will observe that in the First Schedule to the bill the amount appropriated for science laboratories and equipment is £4,952,900. The remaining sum required to bring the total to £5,000,000 is £47,100 and this is the share of schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, which will be separately appropriated in the forthcoming Budget.
It will be recalled that the method chosen to divide the money between government schools and non-government schools is first by obtaining from the Commonwealth Statistician the numbers of secondary school pupils enrolled in government schools and the numbers of secondary school pupils enrolled in non-government schools and dividing the total amount of £5,000,000 in proportion to those numbers throughout Australia, and, secondly, allotting the sum available for government schools to the various State Governments in proportion to the populations of the States as certified by the Statistician. On this occasion, the total sum available to non-government schools will also be divided in an identical fashion, although in future years it will prove desirable, from time to time, to adopt a more flexible division between non-government schools in the States, depending upon the urgency of the need as revealed by investigation of school applications.
Splitting the funds available on the formula I have given will yield the following results for 1964-65: -
Discussions with the States as to the avenues for expenditure of amounts available to them are still in process, but from the plans put forward so far, and from the amounts of money being made available by the Commonwealth in relation to amounts previously spent by the States. I believe that the new grants are going to have an immensely stimulating effect on the teaching of science in schools throughout the country. Emphasis on the significance of this is hardly necessary.
There are two ends to be served. The first is to raise the general level of education in a society which is becoming increasingly dependent upon the scientific use of resources. The second is the special education necessary for those young people who are to take up scientific or technological careers of all sorts, and who must come forward in increasing numbers, and must have an ever-deeper understanding of science both theoretical and applied.
The new grants will enable States, as we have already seen from preliminary plans, to undertake new and imaginative projects for raising the standards of the best students and preparing them for work at tertiary level; and this development will, I am sure, be paralleled in the private school systems. Coupled with the opportunities for the most talented young people to prolong their schooling through the new Commonwealth secondary scholarships, I believe that this plan opens a new era for the development of scientific education in this country, in an age when all advanced countries are putting great emphasis on the application of science to development and welfare.
Turning now to the grants for buildings and equipment for use in technical training, the split-up in the Second Schedule will indicate the entitlement for each State. We had hoped that before the introduction of this bill the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Martin would have reported, and that we would have been in a position to take into account those of its recommendations that may affect the area of technical and technological education. There is, however, no difficulty at all in 1964-65 in carrying out the intentions of the Government with respect to this grant, which will be spent for any purpose in the fields of the training of tradesmen, technicians and technologists agreed between the Commonwealth and each individual State.
There is no intention on the part of the Commonwealth to exercise a close supervision over the States either in the field of science buildings and equipment or in the field of technical education, provided that we are satisfied that in both cases expenditure by the Commonwealth is in addition to, and not in substitution for State expenditure; and the State Governments have readily agreed to this proviso. The method of procedure will be a simple one, involving agreement in general between Commonwealth and States as to the type of project upon which expenditure is to take place, notification by the States within that general agreement of the particular projects to be undertaken, and agreement by the Commonwealth.
Thereafter, construction can proceed at speed, without detailed supervision by the Commonwealth. Examples of the type of project which will be assisted are the very substantial expansion of the Hobart Technical College and the Central Technical College in Brisbane. A wide range of courses will benefit from this expenditure, which I might say will represent a very substantial increase indeed in the size of the technical education building programme in the various States; and the moneys available for producing skilled tradesmen, technicians and technologists will be greatly augmented.
New ground is being broken in both the scientific and technical fields, and it is invigorating to see the readiness with which all sections of the educational field have responded to the offers of assistance and the fresh thinking which has already been engendered. My hope and 1 am sure the hope of all honorable members is that Commonwealth moneys can with great benefit be used to stimulate activities which could not be afforded previously by either State or independent schools, and that teaching of science and training of skilled young men and women will be greatly improved.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work should be carried out without having been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: - Erection of a Light Transport Depot for the Department of Supply at Woolloomooloo, New South Wales.
The proposal involves the erection of a reinforced concrete ramp garage of ground floor, three upper floors and a roof deck at a total estimated cost of £306,000 to accommodate 330 Commonwealth vehicles. The site already owned by the Commonwealth is an island one bounded by McElhone, Brougham and Harnett streets and Cowper Wharf-road, in the suburb of Woolloomooloo, Sydney, New South Wales, covering an area of 2 roods, 23 perches. Provision of £245,000 was originally included in the current new works programme for this proposal and public tenders invited in accordance with normal procedures. The lowest tender would now necessitate reference of this proposed work to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. However, in view of the additional costs which would be incurred if there is a delay in the acceptance of the tender and the fact that the Department of Supply has vacated the original building, which has since been demolished, it is recommended that the proposal be carried out without reference to the committee.
This suggestion has been referred to the Public Works Committee, which took the view that since the original estimate was below £250,000 it was not necessary to refer the work to the committee. However, in view of some uncertainty it is preferred to have the matter placed beyond doubt by having the concurrence of the House in this motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 2) 1963-64. Second Reading.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 1623), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I take this opportunity to follow up a matter which I raised on Tuesday last at question time with the Treasurer (Mr. Holt). On that occasion I asked the right honorable gentleman why the Commonwealth Bank imposed restrictions on Australian citizens seeking housing loans whilst at the same time it made unlimited finance available to newly arrived migrants. The Treasurer indicated that he did not grasp what I was getting at. He thought I was referring to the Commonwealth Trading Bank. By interjection I said that I would raise the matter at my first opportunity and give him a chance to investigate it.
For some time past the Commonwealth Bank has been imposing what it terms an eligibility test before it grants housing loans. Let me say at the outset that I concede that the Commonwealth Bank has done great work over the years in providing funds for housing. It has played a magnificent part in housing, but I think it is now acting under direct instructions from the Government in adopting a restrictive policy in respect of loans granted to Australian citizens whilst at the same time making money available almost immediately to newcomers to this country. A migrant does not have to comply with the requirements with which an Australian citizen is obliged to comply. This is harsh treatment of the citizens of Australia. In imposing these restrictions, the bank is not carrying out its obligations under the Commonwealth Bank Act, which says -
It shall be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank, within the limits of its powers, to pursue a monetary and banking policy directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia.
I believe that the words “ people of Australia” mean the citizens of Australia.
Surely they do not mean only the people who are coming to our shores from overseas. The Government has a responsibility to set up a special fund to cater for newcomers to Australia. It should not get the Commonwealth Bank to ear-mark most of its funds for them. Some of the newcomers themselves suffer under this policy because if, when they arrive in Australia, they have not sufficient money to place a deposit on a home, after they have resided in Australia for a period, like everybody else, they have to fulfil the conditions that the bank lays down in order to obtain a loan.
One of the conditions is that an applicant for a loan must have had an average balance of £300 over the preceding twelve months. I believe that it is fair enough for the bank to say that an applicant for a housing loan ought to be a customer of the bank. There is nothing wrong with that. Most of the banks adopt that practice. Over the years the Commonwealth Bank has been the main supplier of money for housing. The Commonwealth Savings Bank is entitled to suggest to applicants for loans that they ought to have their accounts with it. But this demand that the applicant have an average balance of £300 over the twelve months preceding the application imposes a hardship and discriminates particularly against working-class people.
People on low wages are not able to save money. A couple may already have a small or modest home that they purchased when they were newly married. When their family grows up they need bigger accommodation, and if the husband improves his position of employment be desires to improve the family’s standard of living. The couple spend their income on improving the house in which they are living and on educating their children. They reach the stage where they want a housing loan. But they have not been able to have this average balance of £300 because they have been using their earnings to build up an asset in the home that they occupy and to educate their children. Because they have not had that average balance of £300 they are penalized. However, somebody in a wealthier class or in a more highly paid occupation can qualify easily. The money may even be lent to him by a wealthy father. He can comply wilh this requirement of the bank, whereas a person on a lower income is not able to comply with it.
I believe that the Government has requested the bank to impose these restrictions. Every day we hear of the great growth in home construction in Australia. I wonder whether these restrictions are not a kind of dampener. I wonder whether the Government, acting through the Commonwealth Bank, is not imposing a kind of credit restriction by reducing the number of eligible applicants to the bank for housing loans. As I said, the main condition that the bank lays down is that an applicant must have had an average balance of £300 over the preceding twelve months.
Several cases have been brought to my notice recently. When I have mentioned them, I think most honorable members will agree that this demand by the bank is unjust, that it discriminates against Australian citizens and that some alteration should be made. First, I cite the case of a couple who were both born in Australia and have been married for about fifteen years. About twelve years ago they purchased a home which suited their then requirements. Now their family has increased and they need a larger house. It is essential that they obtain larger accommodation for their family. While educating their children and improving the house in which they have been living, they have been unable to save enough money to maintain an average balance of £300, although they have always had a substantial balance. By “substantial” I mean about £200. That is a substantial amount for a working-class married couple to have in their bank account, if they have had to improve their home and educate their family. If they have managed to maintain an average balance of £200 over a long period, I believe that they should be regarded as valuable customers of the bank, because it will be in the next ten or twenty years that their financial position will improve. In the early years of married life it is pretty difficult for people to save money.
The couple to whom I am referring disposed of their home and planned to purchase a larger and more modern home. By selling their old home they are able to put down a deposit of about £2,000 on a new home, but the bank will refuse their application. Although they are able to put down a deposit of £2,000, they are not eligible because they have not had an average balance of £300 over the last twelve months. Yet a newcomer to Australia, who could not have had an average balance of £300 with the bank - unless he opened an account with the bank in the United Kingdom, for instance - can walk off a ship in Australia and walk into a branch of the bank with an estate agent, or whoever is handling the transaction for him, and almost unlimited money will be made available to him, although he cannot put down a deposit of £2,000. The bank requirements are not applied to migrants as severely as they are applied to Australian citizens.
I have no objection to migrants receiving loans. I believe that we should do something for them. We need a special fund for them. The Commonwealth Bank should not be required to impose these harsh restrictions. The couple to whom I have referred have been good customers of the bank over the years. But they are forced to go to another institution to obtain finance. They can walk around to a branch of one of the private trading banks, which will oblige them immediately. So, although they have been valuable customers of the Commonwealth Bank over the years they are lost to it because the private trading bank says - and I have no complaint about this - “ If we are prepared to advance you this money for your home, you ought to transfer your account to us “. Because of the policy of forcing the Commonwealth Bank to impose these restrictions, valuable customers are lost to it. The customers may not be valuable in terms of huge bank balances; but they are the little people of the community who have made this country great. They are the people who are suffering as a result of these restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth Bank. As I said earlier, Australian citizens are the people who are being discriminated against.
In another case that was brought to my notice, a prospective purchaser wanted finance. He was transferred interstate in his job. He sold his home in the State from which he was transferred. He too had been a customer of the Commonwealth Bank for a lengthy period but, like many others, he had not had an average balance of £300 for the previous twelve months. He had always been led to believe that because he had been a good customer the bank would look after him but, despite the fact that he had to sell his property in the State in which he formerly lived, as he had been transferred, he could not obtain a loan from the bank because he had not had the balance of £300 for the previous twelve months in the branch from which he wished to obtain the loan. Although he now has probably £3,000 from the sale of his property, which is more than ample to meet the deposit on the home, the bank would not lend the money to him. It must reserve the funds that it has for housing for migrants.
I know of another case of a young couple in a similar position. The branch manager of the bank regarded them as very valuable customers. They discussed with him the possibility of obtaining a loan. The manager said, “ 1 would like to help you. I think you are entitled to assistance because you have always done your business with us, but the plain facts are that under the present requirements it is most difficult to do anything for you. However, if you can bring us a decent account, a reasonable account - you must have some relative who would be willing to bank with us - I can pad your case a little and there is no doubt that we will be able to arrange something for you “. This young man and his wife immediately got busy. A relative arranged to deposit £500 in a Commonwealth Savings Bank account to try to justify the loan being granted. I believe that the bank manager acted in good faith when he said that the loan would be made available in those circumstances.
With the money that the young couple were able to raise from other quarters they then paid £1,200 for a block of land. The fact that they were able to pay for that block of land proves that they were thrifty people, people anxious to improve their standards. They then went back to the bank manager and said: “ We have a block of land now. Here is our plan for our home. Now, what about this loan? “ The bank manager said, “ This seems all right “ and he forwarded the application to the head office of the Commonwealth Bank. The young couple, whose name and address I shall not mention, received the following letter from the bank’s head office: -
We refer to your recent application for assistance to erect a dwelling at . . . Your request has received our very careful consideration but we regret the Bank is unable to assist you at the present lime.
This decision has been necessary as a result of the very heavy demand being placed on the Bank’s housing loan funds by customers who have carried high balances in their accounts over long periods. You will no doubt recall during our interview we expressed the possibility that you may not qualify for assistance under the Bank’s current eligibility standards and as a result we suggested that you endeavour to influence some business to the Bank. We acknowledge that you readily responded to the suggestion but it is unfortunate that our Adelaide office have ruled that al the present time the Bank’s duty is to customers who have had a good connexion with us in their own rights.
Any inconvenience which may have been caused is regretted.
There is a case in which, despite the encouragement given to the applicant to attract business to the bank - which he did and, on the suggestion of the branch manager it looked as though the loan would come good - the applicant was knocked back. I do not believe that the reason why the loan was refused was, as the bank stated -
I believe the loan was refused because the bank has been instructed by this Government to reserve its housing loans, as far as is practicable, for newcomers to this country. By doing this the Government is shelving its responsibilities. It is forcing the Commonwealth Bank to do these things.
I hope and trust that something will be done about this, because it is causing great concern among the Commonwealth Bank’s own branch managers. They are not happy about the position. It is fairly common knowledge that the bank’s own officers have requested the bank to cease its television and other advertising which states the funds that are available for home-building, because the branch managers have to refuse loans to good, solid Australian citizens, in most cases the little people in our community, the wage earners, the young people. The Commonwealth Bank is forcing them to transfer their small accounts to some private trading bank.
It is fair enough to ask: “ Why this discrimination? Is this in accord with the bank’s constitution? “ I do not think it is. I have said earlier that a special scheme should be implemented by which the Government would accept the responsibility for making special funds available to migrants for home-building. The Commonwealth Bank should not be forced to turn away customers of long standing because they do not fit in with the £300 requirement. The bank should state clearly its policy relating to other requirements, because it often happens that although an applicant may qualify under the £300 requirement the loan will be refused for other reasons. 1 have heard of cases in which the bank has said to applicants, “ You qualify under the £300 requirement, but your income is not sufficient to enable you to repay the monthly repayment which the bank expects”. I do not know how the bank works that out, because people who have been told this by the Commonwealth Bank have walked over the road to one of the private banks, have received a loan and are required to repay it over a shorter period than that required by the Commonwealth Bank. The private bank has readily advanced the funds although the monthly repayments required have been higher than those set down by the Commonwealth Bank.
There is something wrong somewhere. The Commonwealth Bank has a glorious record. I make it clear that I think the Commonwealth Bank has done a marvellous job over the years for this nation, particularly in the field of home building, but to-day, because this Government has failed to implement a scheme to assist migrants directly, the Commonwealth Bank has been forced to adopt a system which penalizes Australian citizens and favours newcomers to this country. In addition, the Commonwealth Bank is losing the custom of the little people who have built up a great trust in the bank. I ask the Treasurer to look into this matter and to consider establishing a special scheme for the migrants instead of forcing the Commonwealth Bank to act in the way that I have mentioned.
Some time ago I placed a question on the notice-paper asking why the Commonwealth Bank had been installing in its offices coin attachment public telephones which were obtained from a private company and not public telephones supplied by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I asked the Treasurer why these telephones, known as
Victa reds, were being installed in bank premises. I know that they are in operation in South Australia and I take it that they will be installed all over Australia. They cost approximately £50 each. Telephones of at least equal, if not higher, quality are obtainable without delay from the Postmaster-General’s Department at approximately one-quarter the cost of the Victa reds. It may be true to say that the Commonwealth Bank is not a Commonwealth department, but it is a Commonwealth instrumentality, and one would expect that if it needed to cater for its customers by installing coin attachment public telephones it would obtain them - they are available - from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I made inquiries and I found that telephones are available. They are better instruments than these Victa reds. Yet the Commonwealth Bank, and probably some Government deparmtents too, have installed the Victa reds. I have already shown how people wanting housing loans are being forced to transfer their little accounts over to the private trading banks, and perhaps this trend towards the installation of Victa red telephones is just another similar move designed to back up private enterprise. The attitude seems to be: Never mind the expense - as long as we can jack up private enterprise it does not matter if a Government department is hurt in the process.
Those are the two matters I wanted to raise. I have not been happy about rising in this Parliament and attacking what some people might say is the policy of the Commonwealth Bank. I say it is the policy of the Government. I believe the bank is acting under instructions from the Government. I hope this matter will be rectified. I pay a tribute to the bank for the work it has done over the years. I am not hitting at immigrants. I believe it is the responsibility of this Government to establish a special fund to cater for the housing of immigrants and I hope that, as a result of my directing attention to this matter to-day, action will be taken to end the discrimination against Australian citizens.
.- I rise to speak in this debate with the conviction that I have a responsibility, as a supporter of the Government, to point out that the
Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who presented the Supply Bills, should be complimented upon the situation in which we in Australia find ourselves to-day. These finance measures are introduced to the House at a time when a sound assessment can be made of the financial situation. We are coming towards the end of the financial year, and the Supply Bills, as I shall explain in a moment, are designed to make provision for the early months of the following financial year.
It is a significant fact that in Australia to-day our pattern of growth and development has become established and is capturing the imagination of more and more of the Australian populace. Growth and development have represented the objective of this Government over the years that it has been in office. It was the theme of the Government’s election platform not many months ago. Now we find that events in the last few months have fulfilled all the Government’s prophecies. So I pay my tribute to the Government and to the Treasurer and, with some optimism, express the hope that the people of Australia will continue to support this Government in its ambitious and yet practical and downtoearth programme. May I refer in passing to the information released in the last few days showing that the revenue for the current financial year will be higher than was expected. This again, I think, is a clear indication of growth and prosperity.
Later in my speech I want to refer to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which serves both Houses of the Parliament. This committee endeavours annually to perform a task in the field of estimating and budgeting by a sensible criticism of the departments which err either in overspending or under-spending. This, of course, is an essential and desirable work for the committee to undertake, and I am sure it has the approval of this House, and that the Parliament has appreciated the reports it has presented over the years. But I want to make the point that one would not be justified in criticising the Government if revenue received turned out to be greater than the amount budgeted for. Our quite apparent growth and progress is the underlying reason why actual revenue has vastly exceeded estimated revenue. This is a matter for gratification rather than dis approval and I believe there is no room for criticism of a government or a treasurer on this score.
After all, it is very difficult to be accurate and precise in estimating revenue when the population is increasing at a rapid rate and when the intake of immigrants at times vastly exceeds the number provided for in the programme because of conditions overseas which give us an advantage. I also point to the fact that seasonal conditions at times can be very favourable and can substantially affect Commonwealth revenues. For these reasons precision cannot always be expected in estimating revenue. The Treasurer in this respect is in a different position from the responsible officers of the Public Service who have to answer for the estimating in their various departments.
I want to say something about the immigration programme before I move on to my main theme. I believe that the vast majority of members on both sides of the House are completely dedicated to Aus.ralia’s immigration programme. This is not a matter for political battling because we agree that we need a substantial annual intake of newcomers - an intake as great as the economy will, from time to time, permit. The conditions to which I have already referred are exerting a most beneficial influence on the immigration programme. The target for the current year will, of course, be achieved and I believe there is every prospect that it will be vastly exceeded. This again is a sound reason for the Government and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) to be pleased indeed, and also for the community itself to be gratified.
This progress in the immigration field field brings, as the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) has said, responsibilities. It brings a responsibility to provide adequate housing. It brings a responsibility to see that, in normal community life, there is a sufficient flow of finance to make provision for all the needs of the increasing population. In this field I do not think the Government has any reason to express apologies, because the newcomers, with minor exceptions, are happy with the conditions they have found. They chose to come to Australia because of what Austraila could offer. They have settled and have overcome the initial difficulties which beset immigrants to any country, but which are less pronounced in Australia than in other countries. Having overcome those initial difficulties the newcomers, in my experience and, I am sure, in the experience of my colleagues in this House, have become satisfied that this is a magnificent country in which to take up residence and carve out a career. But I believe the Government must keep a constant eye on the free flow of finance from a variety of sources in order to ensure that the housing programme is sufficiently accelerated. In a question I asked yesterday I pointed out one of the difficulties confronting the building industry which was brought about by the fact that early in the financial year a flood of finance is available through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In the early months of the financial year, July and August, there is invariably an abundance of finance available for homebuilding. But in the last months of the financial year - and this reminds me of the difficulty of our system of government finance in other fields - there is very often a drying up of activity. Public works cannot always be put into effect in the last month of the financial year because the funds just are not available. I believe there is a possibility here for the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), and the Government, to release money to terminating building societies, and even to the various State Governments, on a quarterly basis, instead of it all being allocated in one aggregate amount. In this way the funds for housing loans would be spread more equitably over the whole of the year. I mention this in passing just as one facet of the responsibility of the Government to accelerate the building of homes and to meet the other requirements of our expanding population.
In this debate I propose, at rather short notice, to deal with something a little more technical. In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has indicated a change in the method of presenting estimates and appropriation and supply measures. This is a very interesting feature which should, if time permitted, be debated in a very thorough way because of the fundamentals that are involved. My interest in the change of format of the legislation is aroused because, again and again, the Treasurer referred in his secondreading speech to the reports and recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts. He referred in particular to the fifty-fourth report of that committee and its reference to both the format of the estimates and the expenditure for additions, new works and other services involving capital expenditures.
This brings me to what the supply bills are intended to do. I have learned with profit in the last two years to try and take out of the maze of the financial legislation of the Parliament the simple principles that are involved. The supply bills now before us make provision for the first five months of the financial year which is ahead of us. In effect, they represent the anticipated estimates of expenditure for the financial year, broken down to a proportion of fivetwelfths of the whole. The provision which we now make for this period will, of course, later be re-appropriated in the appropriation bills when the Estimates for the year 1964-65 are brought in.
Normally, there are two supply bills. The first is the measure appropriating funds for the normal services, and the second appropriates funds for works and services. It is on this point of the form of the estimates that the Public Accounts Committee has been seeking over the years to assist the Parliament. The committee is, of course, well within its charter in so doing. Indeed, that is really the principal purpose for which it is appointed. It has endeavoured to assist by seeking, in the interests of members of Parliament and of the public, a simpler and more economic form of presentation which will permit of a readier understanding of the maze of documents relating to this matter.
The Treasurer has indicated that the Government, after giving consideration to various recommendati. ns, has brought in very many changes in this connexion. In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer stated clearly that the first bill does not attract any authority to amend by the other House, whereas the second bill is still in the form in which it has been presented in the past, and can be amended by the Senate. I have not had the opportunity for the full research and presentation that I would like in speaking to this debate at this juncture, and I would hope that on some other occasion the importance of all this can be underlined in a debate for which we have been given some time to prepare. But I do say that the supply bill procedure now before us reflects on acceptance by the Government of two important points. Firstly, it indicates that the recommendation contained in the fifty-fourth report of the Public Accounts Committee with relation to expenditures for additions, new works and other services involving capital expenditures has been absorbed almost as submitted. Secondly, honorable members will find that the old provision for war and repatriation services which has appeared down through the years since World War I., has now disappeared, and well it might, because the passage of the years has made the inclusion of figures and information relating to the distribution of moneys under the heading quite out of date. The information formerly supplied under that heading will now be incorporated under the relevant departmental headings. I am sure that the members of both Houses of the Parliament will now find it easier to follow. This system will make for quicker reference and it is a much more accurate form of presentation of information.
The Treasurer paid a definite tribute to the work of the Public Accounts Committee, but, when referring to the implementation of the changes to which 1 have referred, he said -
The Public Accounts Committee refrained from making a positive recommendation, although the clear implication lo be drawn from its report is that there ought to be a change in the present practice, which is open to much misunderstanding and confusion.
Some might interpret that as a comment which could be questioned. I express the opinion that the right honorable gentleman might have indicated why the committee refrained from making a positive recommendation. This, of course, is very material to the interests of the other House and to the interests of members of this House, and 1 shall therefore endeavour to amplify that comment by pointing out that in paragraph 76 of its report the committee said -
The evidence obtained by Your Committee revealed that the question of the necessity for the separate bills is dependent upon the nature of the expenditures involved. Further, the definition of the particular items to be included in separate works and services appropriations and not in the main appropriations of expenditure “ for the ordinary annual services of the Government “, is a matter for the two Houses of the Parliament lo establish as the relevant sections of the Common wealth of Australia Constitution Act refer to proposed laws.
In other words, I want it to be clearly understood that the Public Accounts Committee, being a joint committee, took cognizance of the fact that the two Houses comprising the Parliament had certain rights and privileges, and it did not feel that it had the right to recommend broadly a move which might be interpreted by some people as an encroachment upon the rights and privileges of a particular House. It was for that reason that the committee refrained from making a specific recommendation after having analysed the evidence before it. It adopted this course because, as it said, this is a matter for the two Houses of the Parliament to establish. 1 think that I should point that out in order to prevent any misunderstanding of what the Treasurer said in his second-reading speech.
In its fifty-fourth report, the committee stated that evidence was called - and it was found to be extremely valuable - from a number of departments, which demonstrated the effect of expenditure for capital works being in the form of estimates which are current. After taking evidence from departments, the conclusion of the committee, which is stated at paragraph 37 of the report was -
The evidence obtained indicates that from the viewpoint of general governmental accounting and of convenience for Members and departments, the section dealing with “ Additions. New Works and Other Services Involving Capital Expenditure “ could be omitted.
It is on this recommendation that action is now being taken through the bills before the House. But it is because of the vital legal situation, the relationship to the Constitution Act and the long history from the first days of federation in 1901, that the committee sought evidence from the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth and from the Solicitor-General for the Commonwealth. It is at this point that members of the other House may find room to disagree with the action which is proposed.
Time does not permit me to analyse adequately what this report presents. However, it is rather significant, I suggest, lo note that at question 262 the SolicitorGeneral answered a member of the committee regarding the legal position and said -
It is a matter entirely for the Houses.
This. I suggest, is the basis of the conclusion in paragraph 76, which I quoted a few moments ago, in which the Public Accounts Committee reiterated that the legal position should be established by the Houses themselves. In alerting honorable members to this situation I feel that I can conclude by pointing out how delighted those members and senators who have served on the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts have been to be associated over the years with these all-important inquiries into the form of the Estimates. They have put forward recommendations which the Parliament has been gracious enough to accept and which now we see implemented as a result of the issue of a Treasury minute. I express gratitude that our work is now being put into effect.
I direct particular attention to the fact that what has been done in the Supply Bill is in the interests of members, lt is designed to obtain a simple presentation and a distinct economy in work so far as the Treasury is concerned. If there is involved a legal entitlement of one House or the other, I hope that that can be resolved. I express the personal hope that the form in which we now have the bills, which are designed to give efficiency, speed and satisfaction all round, will not be disturbed. It will be interesting to see what other comments honorable members and senators will have on this all-important measure.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) began his remarks by referring to the rosy economic position in Australia to-day. He expressed gratification that the income of the Commonwealth as registered by the Treasury has been unexpectedly high. I do not think any honorable member would like to detract from the general impression that Australia is once again on the road to healthy development. Nevertheless, that healthy development, unfortunately, is qualified in some important respects. I believe that all pensioners who have been listening to the honorable member would like to look forward now with optimism, as a result of his predictions of great receipts into the Treasury, to receiving a substantial increase in their pensions under the forthcoming Budget. Many other needy people in the community will also be looking for benefits as a result of the alleged high prosperity that we have in Australia to-day.
– And the married pensioners.
– The married pensioners, as the honorable member for Watson has said, will be particularly looking for an increase, because they have not had one for about three years. I darc say that all those pensioners who have been denied the pensioner medical service will also be hoping that, after waiting since 1955, they will enjoy some alleviation of the means test that has debarred them from the pensioner medical service. I have in mind particularly people who are in receipt of superannuation benefits. Likewise, people who are still desperately looking for homes are hoping for much more than they can expect actually to receive from the Homes Savings Grant Bill which has yet to be debated. For what it is worth, my cursory study of it shows that that measure will be a boon to the land developers and to people who have real estate to sell rather than be of any great benefit to the younger people whom we hoped it would benefit.
In my electorate, which covers a comparatively well-to-do middle-class area of Sydney, many people aTe still being evicted from their homes because they are not able to pay their way. Many others are paying eight or ten guineas a week rent for home units. Eight or ten guineas a week is a lot to come out of a worker’s income, and often it is not possible for him to meet that expense unless, as happens in most cases, his wife is also working. I hope that we have not become so obsessed about housing and the idea of everybody owning his own home that we forget that a sizeable number of people are not anxious to own their homes. For various reasons they may prefer to rent homes at reasonable rates. I think much more needs to be done about supplying homes for rental.
When we are talking about the great prosperity in the community we should remember that many people who own their homes will be hoping for some kind of relief from excessive rates charged by municipal and shire councils and water supply authorities. These charges are becoming an extremely heavy burden on many people, particularly in city and suburban areas. There are many challenges that face a community which prides itself on its prosperity. For example, there are areas of comparative depression. But in the broader sphere, whilst we may talk about quantitative prosperity, there are also certain qualitative aspects to be considered about our development and prosperity. I do not think anybody in this House would deny that something radically different needs to be done to urge people and industry to help decentralization in this great continent.
Our cities are becoming so overcrowded that the costs of maintaining or extending them will be an extreme drain on our prosperity. I have suggested before in this chamber that something needs to be done in this regard. It is not sufficient merely to provide good roads in country areas such as we discussed in a debate on recent legislation before the House. If we are to have genuine decentralization, what is most needed is some way of attracting secondary industry to rural areas. The Commonwealth Government is in a very strong position to give a lead in that respect. We have all seen how direct and indirect taxation concessions have been used to boost exports. We have seen how primary industries have received a very healthy fillip by way of tax concessions. What is wrong with using that sort of approach for the establishment of secondary industries in country areas? There is not one member in this House who has not heard as he has travelled about rural areas, complaints from people living in sizeable towns that these towns are losing much of their population because employment is not available. The taxation instrument seems to be a very useful one, but so far it has been relatively untried. I have reminded honorable members of how effective it has been in boosting exports and in promoting primary industry. I am also reminded of the effect that the taxation instrument has had in other countries. It was my pleasure for a little while last year to be in Israel. I saw what had been done in that country to bring industry to the virtually arid Negev desert country. The taxation instrument was one means used to induce people to set up industry in this unattractive area, where now very sizeable towns are growing up, simply because industry was given this kind of inducement.
I am also reminded when we talk about our prosperity of the problems involved in providing a skilled work force in the community. I know that at present attempts are being made to determine how we should tackle the urgent task of providing more skilled people for our ever-growing industrial strength. The relative dearth of trained people is in part a by-product of the economic policies of the Government in 1960-61. At that time almost everybody was able to predict that the economic measures of the Government would inevitably affect the intake of apprentices into the building industry and the motor industry and its ancillary industries. If I may use the expression, the pay-off is now with us and its impact will be felt in even more urgent ways in the next year or two. The building industry particularly is carrying the burden of the chronic shortage of trained craftsmen. Engineering in various spheres is bearing the same burden.
Apart from the Government’s economic measures during the time of the credit squeeze, we should remind ourselves that it is eight years since a national survey of our educational requirements in all forms was first suggested. The question was raised both in and out of Parliament by people who had very much in mind the requirements of technical training. Now we are running around in a somewhat excited fashion trying to bring in all sorts of hot-house schemes to fulfil our requirements for trained men. My view of the present proposal of six months full-time technical training and two years workshop experience is that it will not produce the kind of skilled work force, with the background necessary to go on beyond the ordinary tradesmen level, that we need. Much more fundamental training will be required if the men are to proceed to the level of tetchnicians and technologists. Educational authorities are very much seised of this problem. Immediate training for the entry of workers into industry is not sufficient. To realize their potential they must have behind them the fundamental training to equip them to increase their skills. The pressure-cooker course proposed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) will not produce this situation.
I listened this morning to a question concerning the Government’s grant for our Olympic Games contingent. 1 was pleased to hear - as we might rightfully expect - that the Government is to make a reasonably sizeable grant. However, I have a specific case that I want to bring before the House and I shall take this opportunity to do so. Representations were made to me by the St. George Rowing Canoe Club situated in the very sport-minded area in which I live. The club is affiliated with the Australian Canoe Federation and is fortunate in having four representatives in the Olympic Games events. Club members have told me that because of a change in the international rules, the canoes and kayaks which they possess are no longer suitable for entry in the Tokyo Olympic Games. Furthermore, canoes and kayaks of the designs stipulated by the international rules are not available in Australia and the club has been forced to order its craft from overseas. I understand that the source of supply is Denmark.
The Australian Government charges a fairly heavy rate of import duty on these craft. 1 have been asked - and I understand that other honorable members have been asked - to make representations to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) to waive the duty. 1 imagine that there is not a person in the country who would say that this is not a most deserving cause. We are all very loud in our praise of the great credit brought to Australia by our athletes, particularly those who compete in Olympic Games. I gladly made representations on the club’s behalf. I confess that I was extremely surprised - if that is a strong enough way to put it - when I received from the Minister a couple of days ago a reply which states in part -
I cannot grant the request. Briefly the reasons stem from the fact that it is long-established policy not to use the customs tariff as a vehicle to subsidize the importation of goods for religious organizations, universities, charitable or sporting bodies. As you know, the Government heavily subsidizes universities, but nevertheless they are required to pay duty on all importations where the incidence of the customs tariff so requires. There has been some suggestion that the customs by-law system might be utilized to provide concessional entry for the kayaks and canoes. While ] believe these goods are made in Australia, it is nevertheless a fact that the law does not permit me to use the by-law system even if the particular type of kayak or canoe was not made in Australia.
If Government supporters cannot use their ingenuity to devise ways and means of aiding this worthy cause they have a lot less ingenuity than I have suspected. I hope that reconsideration will be given urgently to this matter. I stress its urgency for obvious reasons. The Olympic Games are soon to commence and the men will need the craft in time to carry out training which is to start, I believe, in June or July. I hope that Government supporters will devise a method to help these people. It might be said, “ Why do they not make application for part of the grant mentioned here this morning? “ Members of the club have told me that the grant announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) this morning is made for travelling and maintenance expenses of members of the contingent whilst they are at the games. It is not made to help in any way to equip the competitors. That is the testimony made to me, at any rate.
Four sportsmen from one Sydney rowing club are to be saddled with a burden of about £700 for new craft to enter the games. The Minister has stated that he understands the craft are available in Australia. I have been told quite definitely that they are not and that they must be imported from Denmark. I believe that three craft are required; one four-man kayak, one two-man kayak and one single kayak. It is a most worthy cause and the issue involved is not petty. 1 am sure that we all believe that the international regard attained by our sportsmen and sportsmanship cannot always be attained through our best diplomatic endeavours. I hope that the Government will give urgent consideration to the matter.
Another matter to which I have often referred in this chamber is the shortage of telephones. The only ringing that a lot of people in Sydney can do to-day is to wring their hands in desperation and complete frustration because of their failure to obtain a telephone service. Outstanding applications range through a host of urgent situations. I have been approached by people who wish to establish new industries out of the heart of Sydney and in the outer areas of the city. They wish to get away from the centre of the city where there is chaotic traffic congestion and high rentals are charged. They are attempting to do what is considered to be the right thing by all other standards. They want to decentralize their activities into outer suburban areas or near country areas but are frustrated in their efforts because telephone services are not available to them within the next twelve months, in some cases.
My electorate is not really one of the outer areas of Sydney, but some of my constituents have been waiting since September, 1960, for telephone services and still have not obtained them. Many are business people who have acquired new residences and who need telephone services, perhaps so that they can deal with business inquiries after hours. Others of my constituents urgently need telephone services on health grounds. Every honorable member has constituents in need of telephone services for that reason, not only throughout the Sydney area, but all over Australia, although it seems to me that there is a very pronounced incidence in the Sydney metropolitan area of demands for telephones on health grounds.
The report of the Postmaster-General for the financial year 1962-63 indicated that something like 70,000 people were waiting for telephones. I can assure the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) that the number is now well over 70,000. Hosts of other people would apply for services if they thought they would be in the hunt and that their applications would succeed. Whenever a new programme of providing telephone facilities begins in any area, a host of new applications begins to flow in and new cable is loaded to capacity almost before it has been laid. I suggest that there is a potential waiting list that is at present unknown and completely untapped.
The Minister, in his answer to a question that I asked him recently, told me that 36 of the total of 93 telephone exchanges in the Sydney metropolitan area could not provide any additional telephone services, no matter how urgent the need for them. So, in more than one out of every three exchanges in the Sydney metropolitan area, no new numbers are available, no matter how urgent may be the need on health grounds, as certified by a doctor, and no matter how urgent may be the needs of industrial and commercial enterprises. Additional facilities will be provided shortly at some of the 36 Sydney exchanges that are already loaded to capacity, and others will wait well into next year before additional services are available. I wonder whether any one has ever worked out the cost to the community of a situation such as this and quite apart from the financial cost, the frustration to which our citizens are subjected. The officers at the local telephone exchanges, of course, are left to give excuses to people who want telephone services, and the local staff members feel very greatly the burden of this task.
A big new development is to be undertaken by the construction of commercial buildings above the railway tracks at Hurstville, a major suburban shopping centre close to my electorate. This project was mentioned yesterday by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Bosman). It will result in great demands for new telephone services, and these demands will have to be met out of a total of only 1,000 additional numbers. These will become available this month in the Hurstville district. 1 point out that already 448 deferred applications are waiting to be satisfied. So the new crossbar equipment that will be installed at the Hurstville exchange this month will not meet anything like the known requirements of business subscribers and would-be private subscribers who want telephone services for urgent medical or other reasons, quite apart from any future increase in the demand for services.
The Postmaster-General, in the answer that I mentioned earlier, told me that the Postmaster-General’s Department, like any other department, has available to it only the money that is provided by this Parliament. The many people who are waiting for the installation of telephones will be interested to know that in the financial year 1962-63 the department raised £21,170,000 more than the total of its ordinary commercial expenditure. What happened to that sum? Why was it not used to provide telephone services that are urgently needed, as I have pointed out? The simple fact is that, about four or five years ago, the Government adopted a new, businesslike approach to the department’s commercial accounting. As a result, the department has had to pay to the Treasury in interest the £21,170,000 in excess of commercial expenditure that it raised in 1962- 63. But the money spent by the department is not loan money in the ordinary sense. It is not money on which the Government has to pay interest. Most of the funds of the department come from tax revenue.
So the effect of the new commercial practices is that those people who use telephones and postal services pay higher charges than are necessary to cover installation and maintenance, because the department has to pay interest on money that it is allocated from funds contributed in taxation by all Australians. This arrangement seems to me to be farcical. It was adopted only by a narrow majority of three to two of the members of the committee that the Government appointed to inquire into the commercial accounts of the Post Office. I suggest that the PostmasterGeneral, if he finds himself inhibited by lack of funds, ought to say to the Cabinet, “ Have we to continue this farcical arrangement under which, in one year, under the heading of some phoney item, I have to pay to the Treasury in interest £21,170,000?” Imagine how many telephone services could be provided if that sum were available to the department!
Another matter that I want to discuss is the so-called international terminal at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport. This terminal is a thorough disgrace to Australia and to its largest and greatest city. I would describe the building as nothing better than a giant pre-fabricated hut. As I intimated earlier, for a short time last year 1 was overseas, and 1 had an opportunity to see some of the other international airports of the world. Any one who has seen international airports in other countries cannot help but heartily agree with the Lord Mayor of Sydney, who described the international terminal at Mascot as a disgrace to our community.
Without wishing to become involved in petty jealousies between Sydney, Melbourne and other State capital cities, I suggest that Sydney is the ideal place for an international airport. I do not mean that we should have only one international airport, but I suggest that our main one should be at Sydney. I take that view because, first, Sydney is the largest city in Australia. Secondly, Sydney and the nearby centres of Wollongong and Newcastle comprise one of the greatest industrial and commercial complexes of the world. The inadequate and paltry building in which the international terminal at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport is housed is a disgrace. The situation ought to arouse all of us and impel us to make strenuous efforts to get something better.
One who has seen the international terminals at places like Brussels and Amsterdam, to say nothing of London,
New York and Rome, is able to put in proper perspective the tawdry thing that we call an international terminal. By international standards, not only the building but also the amenities are extremely poor. The display of goods and souvenirs that may be purchased by international visitors is as nothing compared to displays of the kind that one sees in many international terminals overseas. The international terminal at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport is the first place of Australian contact for many overseas visitors to this country. I believe that in recent times we have done a great deal to encourage tourists to come here from overseas. Surely the first place of Australian contact for many of them should be a place that upholds the prestige of a great city and Australia generally as well as the kind of place that makes visitors feel welcome. The present international terminal is anything but such a place.
I strongly appeal to the Government to consider urgently the implementation of plans that I believe are at least being considered now for the modernization of the airport and the international terminal. Not only are the present facilities within the terminal building poor, but passengers moving to and from aircraft have no protection from the weather. Even at the terminal buildings of the local airlines at Essendon airport, at Melbourne, passengers have a certain measure of protection from the weather as they move to and from planes. Overseas, such protection is regarded as a fundamental requirement of service. But similar consideration is not extended to passengers at Sydney.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.1 5 p.m.
– I enter this debate because I am not entirely happy with the reply I received this morning to a question 1 asked in the House of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) in regard to our bauxite deposits, particularly those at Gove. It does seem to me that we should be taking precautions to make certain that at least the control of the Gove deposits remains in Australian hands.
Let me say something first about the general situation. Aluminium is made from alumina which in turn is made from bauxite. Bauxite is an ore which usually occurs on the surface of the earth. One ton of bauxite is reduced to half a ton of alumina and then this half a ton is reduced by electrical means to metal. About a quarter of a ton of metal is produced from half a ton of alumina. The figures, generally speaking, are of that order. The criteria for the value of a bauxite deposit depend partly on its situation, the ease with which it can be mined, transported and loaded and the port facilities; partly on the percentage of alumina in the ore; partly on the freedom from deleterious minerals, of which silica is, I believe, the worst; and partly on the relationship between monohydrate and trihydrate in the alumina.
In general, it may be said that the Australian resources of bauxite are the greatest in the world, having regard to the criteria I have mentioned. They are magnificent resources, virtually of unlimited extent, and they are well placed and near the seaboard. If they are not the greatest in the world, as I think indeed they are, they are certainly the greatest in any country that enjoys political stability. They are a great prize by any standard, and Australia can reckon herself particularly fortunate to have them. All these resources, except the field at Gove, which can be divided into several leases - I am referring to the main central lease at Gove - have been committed by leases, and indeed I would think it is true to say that, with the exception of the central lease at Gove, all the known major deposits of bauxite in the world have been committed.
The use of aluminium is growing, and it is growing fastest of all metals. The world situation, therefore, will be that there will be a continuous increase in the call for bauxite. As honorable members well know, the aluminium industry throughout the world is very highly integrated. It is said that in order to obtain a market a supplier must be in with some of the big aluminium interests. This may well be true. It may well be that there is a monopoly situation in the world where a market can be obtained easily only by those who are selling to one of the big interests. But this monopoly situation works both ways. In the situation of a growing demand for bauxite, Australia could occupy a monopoly position because of the excellence and the extent of its bauxite resources.
Do not let us go into these bargains thinking that all the bargaining strength is on one side. The bargaining strength in our hands is immense. But it seems to me that, in regard to our mineral resources, our responsible authorities have been inclined to behave like an old woman who has discovered a picture in the box-room in her house. It is an old picture that came down from her family and she thinks it is of not much value. A dealer looks at it, sees it as an old master, impresses her with his knowledge and buys it for the, to her, immense price of £10 or £20 and then sells it for £10,000 or £20,000. It seems to me that we in Australia have not realized the strength of our bargaining position. We have been inclined to give away our national resouces a little too cheaply. In this regard, I think it is essential that we keep in Australia :. measure of control over our natural resources so that we can get the greatest value for them for our Australian people.
The situation with bauxite is a little disquieting. Our biggest deposit is at Weipa. The Weipa leases, I understand, are owned by a consortium of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Limited and Kaiser Aluminium, a United States firm, each having 50 per cent. The overseas content in the ownership of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Limited is, I understand, about 85 per cent, so the effective Australian ownership of Weipa is now down to 7 per cent, or 8 per cent. I believe that the intention is to mine bauxite at Weipa and ship the unrefined bauxite to Gladstone, on the Queensland coast, where it will be reduced to alumina. I understand that Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Limited owns 8 per cent, of the Gladstone alumina works and the remaining 92 per cent, is held by an overseas consortium. Hence Australian participation in the Gladstone alumina plant is of the order of 1 per cent, or 2 per cent.
Then we come to the position where the metal is to be refined from the alumina. Ii this chain, the refining works are at Bell Bay, but, of course, they are only minor works and will clearly be incapable of handling anything like the output from the Gladstone plant. The Tasmanian Government owns about 17 per cent, or 18 per cent, of the Bell Bay plant and the remainder is owned by Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Limited. So in this case the Australian participation in the venture is something like 25 per cent. This is the story of this chain from the production of bauxite to alumina and then to metal.
There is another chain in Australia. Bauxite is mined not far from Perth in the Darling Ranges, reduced to alumina at Kwinana and sent around to Geelong for the production of the metal. Here 51 per cent, of the ownership, a controlling interest, is with an American firm, Aluminium Company of America, and the remainder is with a consortium which consists pricipally of North Broken Hill Limited, Broken Hill South Limited and Western Mining Corporation Limited. I am not certain how much of the capital of this last consortium is owned in Australia. Perhaps it would be difficult to ascertain that information accurately. A substantial amount - I am not certain how much - is owned overseas. But it is clear that in this chain the controlling interest - 51 per cent. - is held outright by an American organization. This does not seem to me to be good enough. It does seem to me that we should be looking for something better in regard to our mineral resources.
If I may digress for a moment, this situation does not apply only to alumina. It would seem that, as with bauxite, Australia now has the world’s greatest resources of iron ore, having regard to the nature of the ore and its accessibility to sea transport. The Western Australian discoveries appear to be almost without precedent. 1 am told that arrangements are being made whereby control of at least a major part of the Western Australian iron ore deposits will be in overseas hands. If that should occur I for one would regret it very much. I do not think the situation applies only to iron ore and bauxite. What is the position with regard to base metals such as copper, lead and zinc? Our greatest resources of copper appear to be at Mount Isa. The complex of base metals at Mount Isa is among the greatest in the world if it is not the greatest in the world. It is certainly a very great deposit by world standards. Here again the American Smelting Company controls 53 per cent., 1 think, of the operation. Some of the remaining shares would be owned overseas. Broken Hill itself is partly under the ownership of overseas capital.
With regard to two discoveries in recent times which are not yet of significance on the world scale but which may be of very great significance to Australia - I refer to oil and natural gas - it would appear that not enough control is being reserved for the Australian people. I do not think the Government can be blamed entirely for this.
– Why not?
– Because the control of mineral resources, except in the Territories - that is why 1 have singled out Gove - lies with the State Governments. However, I do not think governments can be blamed entirely. We should blame also Australian investors, who have not paid sufficient attention to the development of Australian markets. It is perhaps anomalous that Australians, who are regarded by world standards as heavy gamblers and who do in point of fact venture their money on chance quite a lot, have chosen to venture into such things as race-horses instead’ of in risk capital, where their money would be much better employed and might return at least as great a dividend to the individual and certainly a greater dividend to the national economy. It seems to me that this is risk capital. People who invest in mines must be prepared, like people who invest on a horse race, sometimes to lose. They should, of course, balance that possibility against the chance of winning heavily. It would seem to me to be not unreasonable to ask the Australian public to do a bigger proportion of its gambling in the form of investing in mining if it wants to gamble at all. Perhaps there is a good reason for people wanting to gamble. Perhaps they like that kind of thing. But if they want to gamble, here is an outlet which can be just as profitable to the individual as a horse race and a great deal more profitable to the national economy. I think the Australian public must blame itself quite a lot for the way in which the control of Australian mineral resources has got into foreign hands. Do not let us go around blaming other people. Let us blame ourselves a little in this regard.
– Order! The honorable member for Reid will have an opportunity to speak later.
– The Government has been in office for fourteen years.
-I assure the honorable member for Reid that I am not endeavouring to persuade him to invest his new-gotten gains in a gold-mine, but perhaps he would be better advised to do so than to put them on a horse.
I think the Australian banking system might do more to help with the development of our mineral resources. Here I refer particularly to the possible function of the Commonwealth Development Bank. Here surely is a field in which the Development Bank should be playing a major role. It should be helping Australian investors to provide the necessary risk capital. Because of its big resources and because it does not have to worry about losing a little now and then if it has the chance of occasionally winning a lot, the bank might be prepared to back a few of these mineral ventures. I certainly think that it should do so. We should be doing much more to keep the ownership of Australian mineral resources in Australian hands. Again I say that the present situation is not entirely the fault of the Federal Government. Nor is it entirely the fault of the State Governments. It is not entirely the fault of the banks or of the Australian people. Perhaps we all are a little to blame for the unhappy state of affairs that has emerged.
Let me come back to the situation at Gove, because it is a little different. Responsibility for what happens at Gove lies directly in the hands of the Federal Government. What I ask in regard to Gove is this: Whatever arrangement is made it should provide for the genuine retention of at least the controlling interest in the hands of Australians. The Government has the discretion in drawing up of terms of the lease to provide for that. There are many ways in which this could be done. I do not want to choose between the various ways which are available, but whichever means is adopted let us go for the end result that at least 51 per cent. of the
We have on our plate a prize which needs developing, which is worth hundreds of millions of pounds and for which companies will be competing. Naturally, every one of them will be saying to us, “You cannot get these resources developed unless you give them to us “. But let us remember the potential strength of our bargaining position. It is perfectly true that we need the help of people overseas to market our products. But it is also true that people overseas need to have our products to feed their factories. So the bargaining strength is not all on one side.
I believe that we can hope to lay down terms under which at least 51 per cent. of the control will be kept in Australian hands. This matter seems to me to present a challenge that the Government might well accept in world negotiations. I am sure that the Minister for Territories, when he goes into the negotiations, will be able to uphold Australia’s interests. As I said, in this case the mining is not under the control of the State Governments; it is under the control of the Federal Government. I hope that the national considerations to which I have endeavoured to direct attention will be given due weight when this matter comes up for determination.
We need not be too worried if there is a little delay. There is no urgency about this matter, because whatever is produced from Gove will be subtracted from what otherwise would be produced from Weipa. The resources at Weipa will be developed more fully if the resources at Gove are not developed in the interim. In my opinion, we need not be concerned with the question of competition because that is determined outside Australia. Although it is important to have competition, it is not within our province to determine that matter. Therefore, there is no great urgency in dealing with this problem.
It may be said that we want to get an industry going in the Gove area. There are two sides to that proposal. We hope that an industry will get going in that area; but are the people of the area entirely ready for it? I do not know. A select committee went to Yirrkala to investigate this question. lt may well be that by hastening a little slowly - I do not suggest that we should do nothing - we will best serve the interests of the people of that area. I do not want to trespass on that question. I do not want to suggest one view or the other. I merely say that this aspect might well receive consideration, particularly in the light of the report that was presented to this House by the select committee that was set up to look into it. 1 have not endeavoured to traverse that facet of the matter. Instead, I have concentrated on the economic aspects. It seems to me that we are in a position to insist on 51 per cent, of the control remaining genuinely in Australian hands.
.- We have just listened to the lone star ranger of the Liberal Party making one of his more enlightened speeches. When the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) chooses to speak what is in his mind as forcefully as he can, he is very interesting to listen to. The amazing thing is that time and time again he comes down on the side of the Labour Party. I do not know how he can remain with the group of members who sit around him. In his speech to-day he was miles ahead of his colleagues on the Government side of the chamber.
– He should be Prime Minister.
– I will not go that far. I congratulate him on his speech. I do not want to embarrass him. But let it be said that we are generous to our enemies when we hear contributions such as the one that wc have heard this afternoon.
We members of the Opposition have been pounding for many years the matter that was raised by the honorable member for Mackellar. My colleagues, including the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) and the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), have raised it constantly, but the Government has turned deaf ears to them. In fact, the kidnapping or capturing of Australia’s mineral resources by overseas interests has worsened during the years of the locust - the fourteen long, dreary years during which this Government has been in office. Now that one member of the Government parties is agreeing with us on this point, the Government may begin to see that there is some truth in our contention, after all. Honorable members do not have to believe the honorable member for Mackellar and they do not have to believe me, the honorable member for Reid, the honorable member for Scullin or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). They need only look at the statistics and facts that are set out in the documents of private enterprise to see that our contention is correct.
It is a tragedy that the speech made by the honorable member for Mackellar this afternoon will not be acted upon. In my opinion it will simply go down the drain, as it were; and I know that he feels the same way about it. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme), who is at the table, comes from Queensland, where so many of these valuable minerals lie buried; but he went on writing. I do not know whether he listened to the speech that was being made behind him. He should have listened to it. It is said in the history of the Liberal Party written since November, 1963, that he was responsible for the Government winning the last election. He is a pretty important member of the Ministry. 1 hope that the Leader of the Liberal Party, who is really the Liberal Party, listened over the amplifying system to the speech made by the honorable member for Mackellar.
– I hope he did not.
Mr. DUTHIE__ I hope he did. The honorable member for Mackellar will never bc a member of the Cabinet, but some of the things that he has said in this chamber deserve repeating and deserve to go down in history. I have heard him speak on many non-Communist subjects, and he has been brilliant. But the moment he gets on to Communist subjects, he goes berserk, We have in him a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde.
– The honorable member for Mackellar is-
– Order! I point out to the honorable member for Reid that he is sitting in front of the microphone that is being used by the honorable member for Wilmot. I ask him to comply with the Standing Orders and to pay respect to his colleague.
– I was only trying to help him.
Mr. SPEAKER__ Order!
– The honorable member for Mackellar is a Strange character. He went to Tasmania last week. He engaged in a door-knocking campaign around Launceston and lost votes for the Liberal Party. The Labour vote increased in the streets that he visited. The Labour vote in Tasmania increased by 6 per cent., although the party had been in office for 30 years and the honorable member for Mackellar went there to help his colleagues in the Liberal Party. He is a remarkable individual. When he speaks on a subject like this, after he has given it real thought and research, he is brilliant and his words are well worth consideration by the members of the Government who sit around him dumb and dead.
Let us consider one or two of the points that he raised. The mining of uranium, bauxite, copper and oil - in fact, the whole range of minerals produced in Australia - is controlled by overseas interests. We have almost sold out to them lock, stock and barrel. He referred to the Northern Territory being under the direct control - practically the absolute control - of this Government. That is true. Many of these minerals are found in that Territory. Why could not the Government set up a public corporation to work these mineral fields, as has been done in other parts of the world where the government is not as bitterly against government control as this government is?
– Other governments have faith in their people.
– Yes. There would be no difficulty in the Government setting up corporations, which would be controlled by this Parliament, to protect our resources of uranium, bauxite, copper and oil.
The honorable member mentioned the Commonwealth Development Bank. The establishment of this bank was a good thing but it is like trying to whip a dead horse into action to get anything from it. If ever I have been disappointed with a govern, ment instrumentality I have been disappointed with the Commonwealth Development Bank. This Government has put the bank in financial leg-irons. It is not allowed to operate freely in our economy. In fact, you will not get assistance from the bank unless your own private bank has refused to help you. That provision is written into the act.
– The bank of last resort!
– Yes, it is the bank of last resort. Therefore, it has not been constituted really to give the assistance that the honorable member for Mackellar suggested a few moment: ago that it does give. Once again congratulations to the honorable member for Mackellar for expressing in very succinct language the Labour Party’s policy on this most important matter of protecting our mineral resources.
We are selling our heritage. About eighteen months ago the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) made a historic nation shaking speech in Victoria on a subject which we have dealt with often in this House. He said that this Government is selling Australia farm by farm. He could have added “ mine by mine and mineral by mineral “. Is it not about time that the real government of this country - the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) - got down to some concrete thinking about this matter and stopped the rot before it is too late? I do not know how we shall regain control of these minerals. I do not think we shall. Een if a Labour government comes to office after the next election, which I believe is possible after the results we obtained in the recent Brisbane City Council and Tasmanian State elections-
– But we did well in the division of Wilmot.
– You did not. Labour won by nearly 5,000 votes. I was rudely interrupted then, Mr. Speaker, by a purely political interjection. In each of the Federal divisions of Wilmot, Braddon, Bass and Franklin we obtained four out of the seven
State seats. We may repeat that performance in Denison after preference distribution. 1 do not think the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) should mention the Tasmanian election now or at any other time. As I was saying, unless we do something immediately we shall find that no future government will be able to regain control of our minerals. They will have been lost forever to Australia through the actions of this Government. 1 should like to mention now the bills that are before us. We have two supply bills, which will provide for £420,000,000 to carry on the business of the country for the first five months of the financial year commencing on 1st July, 1964, and two appropriation bills which will appropriate £70,000,000. An important affirmation of principle is being established on this occasion in these measures, namely, that the financial initiative belongs peculiarly to the House of Representatives. This means that grass roots control of finance is exercised by the truly democratic people’s House. After all, as policy is implemented in the House of Representatives matters of finance should be implemented here also. The House of Representatives is the bloodvessel for policy.
In his speech when introducing these bills the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said that the Government would raise in revenue £40,000,000 more than was estimated. This heavy miscalculation in forecasting is a Harold Holt habit. For years he and his advisers have underestimated revenue. It is very convenient to do this, because when an election comes up, as elections do with monotonous regularity, the nation’s true revenue is known only to the Treasurer, and the Government makes use of this knowledge to make its election promises. The Opposition is thus placed in a very difficult position because it does not know the facts relating to the actual state of the nation’s finances.
Another interesting point is that Australia’s growth has been remarkable, in spite of the Liberal-Country Party governments that have been in office in recent years. Our remarkable growth is indicated by the fact that in 1950-51 total expenditure by the Menzies-Fadden Government, which came into office in 1949, was £921,000,000. For the year 1963-64 expenditure will be £2,191,000,000. This represents an increase in expenditure by more than 100 per cent, in thirteen years - a fantastic increase. This has been due not to any action by this Government but to the natural growth in this great continent of ours.
– And also to inflationary trends.
– And to the inflationary trends that have been evident. It is interesting to remind honorable members that in 1939-40 expenditure was of the order of £110,000,000. That is another indication of the growth that has taken place in Australia since the outbreak of the Second World War.
Once again I shall mention timber, and I shall continue to mention timber until the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) does something about the pile-up of timber on Tasmanian wharfs, particularly at Launceston. The Minister adopts a passive attitude towards shipping. He has only recently assumed his present portfolio so I shall give him a few months to settle down - but only a few months. He has held the portfolio now since last December, about five months. I have not criticized him, and I want to be fair to him because the portfolio is new to him but my patience, and the patience of the people of Tasmania, will begin to run out by the end of this month. It is necessary for the Minister to understand the problem of shipping timber from Tasmania if he is to help us, but I do not know whether he yet understands it. I suppose he thought I was precocious when I asked him this morning at question time whether Tasmania, having only one form of transport between the island and the mainland, would be guaranteed shipping space at all times. The Minister was rather horrified at the suggestion but it is not at all impractical. With a little thought and a little understanding of our situation shipping space could be guaranteed.
– And a little bit of luck.
– Yes, you need a little bit of luck to do any good with the Liberal Party. Potatoes and timber are the two products which cause »ur greatest shipping problems but in time of crisis we should get the ships to move them. The potatoes are moving pretty well now and 1 have no criticism to offer on that score, but timber is a different proposition, particularly at Launceston. The new vessel “Seaway Queen “ will be coming on the run about the end of this month but the position has been critical for the past three or four months. When thousands of super, feet of needed timber are lying on the wharfs in Launceston awaiting shipping, the position is critical. The consumers and merchants on the mainland are waiting for the timber so that they can use it in housing and other projects, lt must be kept moving because it loses value if it remains on a wharf for more than 24 hours.
The Government should knuckle down and tackle this problem of moving our timber. The building industry is now beginning to lift itself out of the doldrums into which the credit squeeze plunged it. It is imperative that we have adequate shipping accommodation made available to carry our Tasmanian timber to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Actually the position is not too bad with regard to Adelaide. We have the “ Tarinna “ handling the Adelaide trade very well. But the other two cities need our timber and they cannot afford to wait weeks for it. Building teams are lined up and must have timber. If they cannot get Tasmanian timber they have to go to a mainland merchant and accept inferior timber. This is bad for the houses that are being constructed, for the people building them and for the banks that lend the money so that they can be built. For these reasons I do not think I should be considered pre.sumptous for asking that we be guaranteed adequate shipping accommodation at all times.
The Australian National Line has done a magnificent job. I praised it from its beginning. It is one of the best creations we have seen during the term of office of this Government. The Government tried to sell our 43 Commonwealth owned ships about eight years ago but, because of opposition to the sale, and because buyers could not be found at the prices asked, the Government decided to form the Australian National Line. It has been a marvellous help to Tasmania and to Australia as a whole. I believe we should give it the authority to supply, and the responsibility of supplying, the ships needed to remove the cargoes that build up in Tasmania. The built-up cargo is sufficient to warrant the provision of one of the smaller ships. Wo would not ask for a 10,000-tonner to move 2,000 tons of cargo, but we think it is reasonable to ask for a 2,000-tonner to take 1,500 tons of cargo.
The Australian National Line was asked recently to supply ships to help us in the north. I raised the matter here in the House. The chairman of the Australian National Line told me that this could not be done, but the Premier of Tasmania, the Honorable Eric Reece, on behalf of the State Government, got in touch with the Australian National Line and two ships were procured from somewhere - the “Delungra” and the “ Dalby “. Unfortunately, however, neither of them came to Launceston and so they did nothing to solve the problem that has been intensifying in that port since Christmas.
The Australian National Line can find the ships. I know that it operates on the sea routes to make a profit. It made a profit of £1,800,000 last year, which should be good enough for anybody. Why can it not make a loss occasionally to help Tasmania out of its timber crisis? All I am asking is that, if necessary, the line accept a loss of a few thousand pounds over three or four months. This is asking for practically nothing at all from a line that is making a profit of £1,800,000 a year.
I only hope that it is not because of the Government’s direction that the line is not allowed to operate on non-paying routes from time to time. All ships sometimes have to accept a slight loss. They do not always have full and profitable cargoes. All I am asking is that, if necessary, a slight loss be accepted by the Australian National Line to help the timber men of my State to get their timber to the markets in Melbourne and Sydney where it is urgently needed.
I make no apology for raising this matter again. I would like the Minister to come down to Tasmania and look at the position himself. If I were the Minister for Shipping and Transport and a problem of this kind arose in Perth or anywhere else in Australia I would be on the spot within 24 hours. What is the Minister for? He cannot expect to sit here and try to find out all about a situation by sending a message and asking for a letter to be written to him. That is not the way to run things. Every Minister in the Cabinet should be on the spot where a crisis occurs. He should be there within 24 hours to analyse the position for himself. I am asking the Minister to come to Launceston and examine our timber problem. It has been growing more serious since Christmas, is still unsolved and does not look like being solved. If the Minister will look at the situation himself, he can come back here and tell us about it. Perhaps I will then understand him more clearly than I understood him this morning. Ministers should be mobile instruments of government. Mobility is necessary for them to do their job. The more mobile they are the better they will run their departments and the more remote will be the chance of their departments running them.
There is another matter I wanted to raise. It takes the form of an apology. The managing director of the Australian Newsprint Mills Limited in Boyer, Tasmania, Mr. R. W. Henry, obtained a copy of “ Hansard “ in which appeared a report of a speech I made on 19th September, 1963. In that speech I proposed the establishment of a Commonwealth national parks authority to foster the national parks system in Australia. This is about the only large country in the world without a national parks organization. We have State organizations, of course, and I suggested that they be co-ordinated into a federal organization. In the course of my speech I referred to private enterprise cutting into our precious parklands. I happened to mention the case of Hayman Island in Queensland, where the Ansett organization got hold of a big chunk of a lovely national park. It was all wrong, but the Parliament of Queensland eventually approved of it. In my speech I went on to say -
In Tasmania a private company operating the Boyer paper mills at New Norfolk, in my electorate, finally persuaded the State Government to let it have a vast area of timber in the Mount Field National Park area. This was opposed by the Scenic Preservation Board, which is the equivalent of the national park associations in other States, but its protest was over-ruled.
I said that the Parliament finally approved of this parkland going to the company for timber. I do not want to hurt any company unnecessarily. Far be it from me to hurt any individual or any company deliberately. I have been taken to task by the managing director of the organization for making that statement. This gentleman, Mr. R. W. Henry, has written me a very helpful letter, dated 27th April, 1964, in which he cited the relevant passages from my speech and then gave the history of the company’s acquisition of the Florentine Valley area in the southern part of my electorate, close to the Mount Field National Park area. Mr. Henry said -
We feel that the remarks are an unwarranted slight upon the operation of our Company, which incidentally is not a private company but which has more than four thousand shareholders.
As it is possible that the circumstances were not known to you, and therefore you may have spoken under some misunderstanding, we review the principal aspects hereunder. 1 was not in Tasmania in 1935 when the first legislation on this matter was enacted. This was the Florentine Valley Paper Industry Act 1935. Mr. Henry pointed out that grave errors had occurred in the Lands Department charts so that incorrect boundaries appeared which were the cause of a good deal of the trouble in 1949-50. The National Park and Florentine Valley Act was passed by the Upper House late in 1950.
It is a remarkable fact that all of us receive our own impressions of events, which impressions eventually become clear cut in our minds. We then accept these impressions as facts. Many of us make errors in this way and I have made an error in this instance. I have a distinct impression that the circumstances of this case were different from those outlined by Mr. Henry in his letter. I am sorry that I gave an impression in my speech that the company may have “ kidnapped “ this area from the national parks in Tasmania for paper pulp production. That did not happen.
– How did you get the impression?
– Through speaking to people who I thought knew more about the position than I did.
– They obviously did not know anything about it because they were wrong.
– I am trying to put the record straight for the benefit of the company concerned. The dispute about the boundary in 1949-50 was due to no fault of the company. In the opinion of the company’s officers the dispute originated from errors in charts of the Lands Department, and in a conflict between the definition of the boundary of the Mount Field National Park and the description of the boundaries of the concession land as contained in the Florentine Valley Paper Industry Act 1935. This matter was looked into closely by three successive standing committees in 1949 and 1950. The report of the third standing committee contains this statement -
The Committee is convinced that the adoption of the line AB in the Bill as the western boundary of the National Park would excise from the Park approximately 4,160 acres, but if this proposed new boundary line was altered to take in the foothills of Mount Field West at the 2,200 feet altitude, the area comprised in the transference to the company would be reduced by approximately 480 acres, that is, the adjustment of the boundary would involve approximately 3,680 acres.
That was the area of the land handed over to the company. I did not know about that point. I say that now in fairness to the company. The committee went on to say -
This is offset by the surrender by the company of approximately 3,750 acres to the National Park Board under the Third Schedule of the Bill.
I did not know that, and I do not think there are very many Tasmanians to-day who can remember it. The point I emphasize is that the company gave back to the National Park Board 3,750 acres after having secured 3,680 acres under the 1950 bill. Therefore, it more than repaid the board for what had been given to it.
Mr. Speaker, I point out that the bill went through both Houses of the Tasmanian Parliament by late 1950 and, as my time is running short, I should like briefly to emphasize that the company has definitely lived up to its obligation under that legislation. I am very proud of what this company has done in the way of reafforestation in the area through which it is cutting, for reafforestation is very important in these valleys in Tasmania. The company employs thousands of men in the Derwent valley and maintains an entire town, the town of Maydena, in the southern part of my electorate, lt has also done wonderful work in connexion wilh fire protection measures.
Modern forest fire fighting equipment is kept ready for use by trained fire gangs. Water storages and equipment depots are located in the forests. The company is in close collaboration with the Forestry Commission. In the spring and autumn months, company employees carry out systematic, controlled burning operations and strict control of employees and visitors is maintained during fire danger periods. Finally, the company has also assisted bush-walking groups, giving them permission to pas$ through its forest concessions so long as they obey all regulations.
In conclusion let me say that the company has not been guilty of either stealing or “ kidnapping “ any area of park land in Tasmania to the disadvantage of our parks system because it has returned to the system a little more than was given to it by legislation. I am sorry that I gave the opposite impression, but I do emphasize that 1 will continue to fight for the setting up of a Commonwealth parks association by this Government, to be administered by the Minister for the Interior and with which all State park authorities will be affiliated.
.- 1 propose during this debate to devote my time principally to a discussion of a department which has been referred to in times gone by - perhaps it is still referred to in this way - as the greatest commercial undertaking in the southern hemisphere. I refer to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The supply of communications in this rapidly developing country is a matter of great importance, and it is becoming of increasing importance as the tempo of our lives increases and as the pace of world affairs generally quickens. I believe that the department has kept pace with this great world movement in communications, that it has achieved wonderful things and has done a worthy job for Australia. But I do think there is perhaps some lack of balance, and I shall refer to that later. It is not my habit to refer to statistics, but there are ample statistics available on the shelves of the Parliamentary Library, all supplied by this department, which provide clear evidence of the great increase that has taken place in its work. I propose to quote only a few figures to illustrate my argument.
I remind the House that by the end of World War II. the Postal Department was in a bad state. It was suffering from acute shortages of man-power and materials, coupled with heavy demands for those things which the people had been denied for the period of the war, and I pay a tribute to the department for the way in which it has caught up with the lag. I emphasize, too, that whilst overtaking that lag, the department was beset by further additional heavy demands upon its capabilities, particularly demands for increased telephone facilities as well as improver’ methods of communication. Then, over the last few years, it has had added to its already heavy burden, responsibility for providing television services. It has achieved remarkable results in this field, too, and it has not finished with that service yet. I notice the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) sitting at the table. I think his department will probably make increasingly severe demands on the Postmaster-General’s Department as time goes on, but I feel sure that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will be able to meet them.
I propose to quote not a string of statistics but only a few of which I have made a note. In the last two days or so I have received information that new trunk lines will be provided in my electorate which will give that area eleven additional telephone channels. Concurrently the area will also receive the benefit of new trunk lines which will provide seventeen new telephone circuits. So, there are to be something like 28 new telephone channels and circuits in one small part of my electorate alone, and I think that what applies there will apply generally throughout the electorate.
As I was collating a few notes before coming into the chamber I happened to notice the telephone directory for the western district. This reminded me of the fact that in 1949, when I first went on to the platform to make a political speech with the object of representing the electorate of Lawson in this place, the telephone directory, if my memory serves me correctly, consisted of 131 pages, and at that time fairly large print was used. To-day, the telephone directory for the same area consists of 319 pages of very small print, not including the pink pages. This gives some indication of the great expansion that has taken place in the provision of telephone services in the western district in which the electorate of Lawson is situated. So I say that we can justly feel very proud indeed of the great progress that has been made by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
I do have some criticism to offer, and I offer it with great reservation, but offer it because I believe that we should always aim at doing better than we have done in the past. I believe that it is one of the functions of a member to speak in this House of the complaints made by his constituents. No matter how good the service from any department may be, it can always be improved. So at the very outset I want to say that one of the great problems that we have in the country is this problem of telephone communications.
Honorable members know that to-day we can dial direct from Canberra to Sydney or Melbourne. The normal trunk services between Canberra and our electorates and, generally, the trunk line services throughout the country are remarkably good. They are remarkably good because, as I just mentioned, among other things, additional telephone channels and circuits have frequently been made available. There have been duplications, triplications and quadruplications of trunk lines, and we have seen installed special types of circuits, such as the coaxial cable connecting Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, which provides for hundreds of additional circuits in addition to television circuits. All these things enable us to have very good communications. The expansion of the automatic working of telephones has also enabled us ‘.o increase our communications between centre and centre.
When I go back to my electorate and tell the people there about these improved telephone services I may say: “ We have a wonderful telephone service to-day. No longer does it take me cue, two or three hours to communicate from Canberra to the electorate by trunk line; no longer have I to wait half an hour to get through to my office in Sydney. can dial Sydney direct.” The reply that I could get is: “ That is all very well, but when I tried to ring you the other day I could not raise the local exchange. When I did finally get the local exchange it was lunch hour, between 1 and 2 o’clock, and it was technically closed. They wanted me to pay an opening fee of ls. 3d.” Another reply is: “ I wanted to ring some one at night and, because I am living in an area served only by a restricted local exchange, I found that I could not raise the exchange after 6 or 10 o’clock at night “ - as the case might be - “ It is all very well for you to have this excellent service and for you to come to your electorate and tell us that it will not be long before we can dial any subscriber in Australia through the medium of the automatic exchanges. We cannot ring the local town to order a bit of tucker or a machinery part.” That is one reason why I am speaking to-day on one of the great problems of people in the country. We still have a great number of non-official exchanges. I believe that that is their title. Those exchanges certainly provide a restricted service and, in many cases, are operated by individuals from private properties. There comes a time, as I have mentioned many times before in this chamber, when the people operating the exchanges grow old and took for a bit of freedom over the week-end. They feel that they would like to be free from the need to be in attendance at the telephone exchange and want to be rid of the responsibility. There may be 20 or 30, perhaps only ten or fifteen individuals with a telephone service connected to that exchange, but they are, after all, human beings. If the person in charge of the telephone exchange ceases to operate the exchange the people connected to the exchange immediately find themselves cut off from all communication with the parent exchange or with the town from which they obtain their supplies. This can be a very serious matter.
I believe I have referred previously in this chamber to an incident when a man was wandering about the country with a .303 rifle indulging in a certain amount of snap shooting. Naturally the women in that area were very concerned, particularly as at that time their telephone service was inoperative because the exchange to which they had previously been connected had ceased to operate. In that area only one subscriber was connected to the parent exchange. Another instance is that an interruption to the telephone service could happen at harvest time when a farmer is trying to get the crop off. If he breaks a part of his machinnery he is greatly inconvenienced if he has an unsatisfactory telephone service. Not for him the privilege of dialling direct to Sydney to order the part and to have it sent up by airmail that afternoon; for him, the great problem caused by his not being able to raise the local exchange and possibly having to drive into town in his truck, buy the part and drive home again. So I repeat that there does appear to be an imbalance between the great achievements we have made in one direction in the larger scheme and the lack of consideration for people living in the outback parts of Australia. Complaints have come not only from New South Wales; I know of complaints from Queensland and Western Australia. No doubt during this debate my colleagues will refer to them.
We should give more consideration to people who are putting up with a lot to-day, by living away from the fleshpots of civilization, by giving them one of the most valuable things that they can have - a decent telephone connexion. The complaint of lack of consideration is not anything new. If it were new I would refer to it in this House with great trepidation. It is a complaint that goes back a long time, lt goes back, so far as 1 am concerned, to twelve months before I even contemplated entering Parliament. At that time the local exchange in my area was to be closed down and some one said to me: “ Another chap is going to take it on. We will have to shift all the lines a couple of miles away and give him the service. He is prepared to take it on. What do you think about it?” I replied: “With all respect to the gentleman concerned, I will give him six months. If he is still operating the exchange after six months I will be very surprised. You would be wise to connect the wires with the parent exchange straight away, and not fool about with a non-official post office.” The department did not see it that way. It moved the office a couple of miles, at considerable expense, and within six months that exchange had closed down. Ultimately the service was connected with the parent exchange, as should have been done in the first place. That incident occurred in 1948. In April, 1950, I wrote to the then Postmaster-General in these terms: -
Several subscribers of small country exchanges have written complaining of disabilities which occur when the postmistress or master, as the case may be, of these small exchanges declines to carry on the job. 1 am writing you individually about these exchanges- 1 mentioned three of them, one of which was Grattai which, as honorable members will gather, is a country exchange with an aboriginal name -
. but a general policy matter appears to surround them all.
If and when the person in charge of country exchanges declines to carry on, and the increasing number of complaints 1 have received makes it appear that this is a growing tendency, the subscribers are faced with the alternative of losing their telephone or moving their lines to another locality where the exchange might be arranged. In the hitler case, if in a short time this person-
That is, the new person operating the exchange - declines to carry on, the same position arises again. in the individual letters above referred to specific suggestions have been made, but the purpose of this letter is to bring the matter before you in the hope that a permanent solution of the problem can be found, as the loss of a telephone to country people is without question a step which must be avoided at all cost.
That letter was written on 18th April, 1950, only a few months after I came into this House. The reply that I received was dated 5th July, 1950, and I think it applies equally to-day. It said -
The views expressed by you regarding the availability of telephone service in rural areas are appreciated, and I fully realize its importance. With the object of overcoming the disabilities inseparable from the present system of establishing and operating exchanges in rural areas, as well as to afford continuous telephone service, it is proposed to establish rural automatic exchanges in country districts to the utmost extent practicable. Due to the worldwide demand for rural automatic exchanges, the rate at which such facilities can be obtained and installed throughout Australia is limited to some extent, but you may be assured that the Department is pursuing the matter vigorously and installations will be provided in as many cases as possible.
I have indicated that since that time 1,460 - I think that was the number - rural exchanges have been installed throughout Australia. That reply from the then PostmasterGeneral is as true to-day as it was then. It is also as unsatisfactory now as it was then. At Grattai on 11th December, 1961, twenty telephone services were moved because of a decision to sell out by the owner of the property on which the exchange stood. The exchange had to go and twenty subscribers’ services were changed to party lines. An alternative suggestion was that they might pay an extra £10 a week, which was the amount requested by the new telephone office-keeper to carry on. The subscribers complained to me that it was the third alteration to their services in thirteen years, each time to their disadvantage. They also informed me that previously they had paid the cost of removal of a switchboard from its location a couple of miles away. They were told that if a further move became necessary they would be provided with an automatic exchange. But they still do not have an automatic exchange. They still have party lines which have replaced the individual services that they previously enjoyed for over 40 years.
Honorable members may say that I am referring to only one exchange and may ask why I should take up the time of the House to do so.
– I can tell you of some more.
– Yes. I suppose that every member of the Country Party and every member representing a rural electorate can tell me of more examples of this type of thing. If it were an isolated matter I would not make much reference to it. However, I have made a rough summary of the telephone exchanges in my electorate and it appears that there are twelve automatic exchanges now whereas there was only one when 1 entered this House fourteen years ago. Automatic exchanges have been installed at a rate slower than one a year. My electorate contains 28 continuous manual exchanges which operate all the time as they have not yet been replaced by automatic exchanges. There are also 84 exchanges which provide a service restricted to certain hours - perhaps 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., or 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for five days a week and a Saturday service until mid-day. On Sundays the exchanges are closed. Varying degrees of service are provided but of the 124 exchanges in my electorate, two-thirds of them provide restricted services. This is the situation in one of the greatest woolproducing areas in New South Wales.
An imbalance exists. I do not criticize the Postmaster-General’s Department because it has done some grand work in one direction. But something is out of balance in the provision of telephone services in country areas when compared with the services provided in the larger cities and towns. 1 am referring to differences which are not spectacular, but let me remind the House of a countryman’s saying, that the burr under the saddle cloth makes the horse buck. The pinpricks I have referred to irritate country people and make them complain. A feeling of country versus city is set up. Country people are conscious of these differences in treatment and we try to correct them.
What is the best method of attacking this problem? It may be said that the 84 exchanges giving restricted services in my electorate have only a few subscribers connected to them. That may be so and it may be that the 28 continuous manual exchanges provide services for a great number of people. I venture to say that there is only one way to tackle the problem and that is to provide sufficient rural automatic exchanges to replace the restricted services provided by the present non-official post offices. No doubt I will be told that it will cost a tremendous amount of money, but I suggest that the Australian Country Party members are prepared to vote the additional funds required to carry out this type of work. It is the only solution to the problem that is apparent to me. It is the solution we have been seeking for years and it is the one that eventually we must employ.
I wish to deal with one or two other matters in the restricted amount of time available. I ask why it is that the exchanges which have been built in country areas have not been fitted with automatic equipment. I refer first to Narromine where a new post office and telephone exchange were built in 1959. The post office staff was moved to the new building and since then we have been waiting for the telephone exchange to be moved from the old building into the new building. Perhaps I should say that we have been waiting for a new automatic telephone exchange to be provided. We have been unable to find out why that has not been done. Is it because the equipment is not available? Is it because the money is not available to purchase the equipment? Is it because orders have not been placed for the equipment? I have searched in vain for the reason.
I refer also to the Mudgee exchange which was built some years ago at the rear of the Mudgee post office. Last year as a result of persistent questioning 1 was told that it would be equipped as an automatic exchange early in the new year. Unfortunately I made it known that the automatic equipment would be available early in January. This was not a correct interpretation of “ early in the new year “. I have now been informed that it will be installed early in the new financial year. The Mudgee exchange is to become automatic in July. The workmen were there and everything seemed to be ready to go ahead with the installation of the automatic equipment. Was there a miscalculation? Was the equipment not ordered? Was there a delay in the supply of the equipment? These are the great problems that worry me and prompt me to ask questions in this chamber.
The Postmaster-General’s Department has done a tremendous job, but we feel there are many things which could have been better done. We look forward to great improvements. Is finance the problem of the Postal Department? Is the organization getting too big? Is a division necessary so that the technical side of its activities may be separated from the mail services? What are the answers to these problems with which we have struggled all these years? These are not political problems. Members of the Opposition must realize that the problems existed during their time in office. They are problems that must be tackled sooner or later. Perhaps the mail services should be divorced from the more technical activities of the Postal Department. Perhaps radio and television matters should be taken away and handled by a sub-department. Possibly maintenance could be handled by contractors as is done overseas. I believe that in Scotland the maintenance of the telegraph and telephone systems is performed by private contracting companies.
There are other matters that may bear examination. It may be that there are regulations which for years have acted like a burr under a saddle cloth of a horse. One regulation provides that a subscriber may not have a direct telephone connexion from any one property to more than one exchange. I have never heard of anything sillier. Even if there is an exchange near by on both sides of a property, the owner cannot have his telephone connected to more than one of those exchanges. There seems to be no reason for this regulation, which prevents many people from having their services connected to exchanges with which they wish to be linked. Another regulation provides that a telephone service must be connected to the nearest exchange. 1 have on my desk now a letter from a woman who suffered heavy loss in a bad fire that occurred on her property. The fire broke out at night and she was unable to telephone anybody because the nearest exchange, to which of necessity her telephone is connected, has only seven subscribers and provides a service only between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Her telephone, although it is less than 5 miles from a town of 12,000 people, may not be connected to the town exchange. Instead, she must be content with a restricted service provided by the nearest local exchange for its total of only seven subscribers. I cannot understand regulations such as these. I suggest that they ought to be brought up to date to meet the demands of modern means of communication. In some respects, we have met the demands of the times, but in other respects we have ignored them.
The requirement that, in the provision of services, priority be given to persons without existing services is sensible, but it operates very harshly against many people who for years and years have used private lines that they have constructed at their own expense. No doubt, some people in the electorate of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) have constructed hundreds of miles of line at their own expense. They receive no assistance at all to enable them to improve their services in conformity with modern specifications and standards. I hope that all these matters that I have mentioned will be earnestly considered and that the most modern communication system will be provided, particularly for people living in the outback parts of Australia. All Australians are entitled to a modern communication system.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a fellow representative of a large country electorate, I have listened with the keenest interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes). I am sure that all honorable members who represent country interests are grateful to him for his very clear and definite statement of the imbalance in telephone and postal services. As he has pointed out, magnificent services are provided in the large centres of population, and small, isolated rural centres are utterly neglected. I believe that the honorable member has performed a valuable service in devoting his time in this debate to the clear and reasoned statement that he has made and the illustrations that he has given, concerning the problems of the subscribers linked to the Grattai exchange. For fifteen years those people have unavailingly sought a rural automatic exchange. During that time, the telephone office keeper and the office itself have changed. After fifteen years of agitation, the service to the subscribers has been reduced from that provided by a manual exchange to one provided by three party lines, the only alternative being another heavy cash payment to swell the coffers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I believe that the honorable member for Lawson has performed a truly valuable service in the cause of better postal and telephone services in country districts by discussing the situation that he has outlined.
However, I am sure that the honorable member will not mind my reminding him that he and his colleagues in the Australian Country Party have power to rectify the imbalance between city and country services. This is a matter of policy on which depend the funds provided for the installation of an adequate number of rural automatic exchanges and telephone services generally in country districts. Until last December, we had had Country Party Ministers exclusively as PostmastersGeneral since this Government took office in December. 1949. The honorable member spoke of the burr under the saddlecloth that makes the horse buck. I only wish that this burr under the Country Party rump would make it buck against Ministers belonging to that party, who, as I have said, have had complete control of the department for fourteen years past.
The present situation is a very serious indictment of the Government for its neglect of country people in the provision of telephone services. The situation is an indictment also of every member of the Australian Country Party in this Parliament, because Ministers of that party have allowed the imbalance to continue throughout the years. Funds have been poured out on the provision of magnificent services in large centres of population and country districts have been financially starved with respect to the provision of telephone services. Now that we have a Liberal Minister as Postmaster-General, members of the Country Party will perhaps no longer be unwilling to take up the matter in the party room, if they cannot act in the Parliament itself. If they all combined on this issue, they could obtain the desired results and achieve something worth while for their electors, who are being so badly treated in this matter, as are people in all country electorates.
I notice that the honorable member for Lawson said - I believe that I noted his words corectly - that according to his recollection only about 1,400 rural automatic telephone exchanges have been provided in Australia during the period of more than fourteen years for which the present Government has been in office. That represents only about 100 a year. The Government’s record is very poor indeed, considering the situation of people in isolated areas who need telephone services at night and who are being driven away from those areas because they cannot put up with restricted services. This is one of the real causes of the continuing decline in the population of small country centres and isolated areas. The honorable member said also that only about twelve or fourteen rural automatic exchanges had been provided in his electorate during the whole of his period as a member of this Parliament. That represents fewer than one a year. The total of 1,400 for the whole of Australia is very inadequate, but, according to my calculations, on that basis, at least 40 - not fourteen - should have been provided in the Lawson electorate. The honorable member even if he cannot stir his colleagues into revolt and force the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) to correct the present imbalance, should no longer be content to put up with the particularly severe illtreatment that his electorate appears to be receiving.
If a telephone office keeper dies, retires on account of age or leaves the district and there is no one else available to take the position, the honorable member should not accept merely with a protest the fact that the subscribers will be deprived of service for months, as happened in the case that he has described this afternoon. He should insist on their right to quick restoration of the service. I believe that the honorable member should not be content merely to write letters and make polite representations to the Postmaster-General. When his people are in such a desperate plight, he should be prepared to break windows, kick down doors and indeed take every action that will force the Government to provide a service for them.
I rose this afternoon particularly to ask why the devil the people of Cooma and the Snowy Mountains areas should be prevented, as they are now being prevented, from obtaining clear reception of television programmes. Here again, everyone in the cities of Australia has access to this amenity. I know that the Government cannot overnight provide television services in every country area throughout the whole of Australia. I know that so far the Australian Broadcasting Commission has provided 33 stations, but I know also that the CoomaBega area will not have a national television service until 1966-67. As we all know, these dates are always likely to be put back and are very rarely put forward. The one commercial applicant for a licence for this area has withdrawn his application, because on assessing the prospects it did not appear to be possible to run a commercial station profitably in the area.
However, a television service and the clear reception of television programmes could be provided immediately for all the people in the Cooma and Snowy Mountains area without a penny of cost to the Government. All that is necessary is for the Government to give its permission for the establishment of translator stations linked with the existing commercial station in Canberra. Since the Government is not required to provide any equipment or money, one would think it would be quick to grant such permission and not to withhold it or delay granting it and so prevent these country people from enjoying television. Yet the Town Clerk of Cooma, writing to me on behalf of the council, has told me that the council has been informed that it may be at least twelve months before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will approve of the establishment of these translator stations.
The proposal for the translator stations follows the withdrawal from the field of the only company that had applied for a commercial television licence for the Cooma-Bega district. The Cooma Municipal Council and I have made persistent efforts to get some television service for the area. The council asked Canberra Television Limited, which operates CTC-7, Canberra, for its advice and assistance. The council investigated the proposition of the company and found that an off-air transmitting tower operating at 500 watts power could serve as a local television station relaying Canberra programmes, lt would provide excellent reception at Cooma, Adaminaby, Berridale, Nimmitabel and Bredbo, less excellent reception at Bombala and fair to good reception in the Bega district. Canberra Television Limited is prepared to establish such a station at its own expense. It has lodged an application with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and all it is waiting for now is the boards’ approval. As I say, the Government is not required to put up any money or to provide any labour or equipment.
The recent amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act make it possible now for television translator stations to be established, so that legal block no longer stands in the way. However, the council has been informed that it will take at least twelve months before an application for such a station can be approved by the board. Of course, it will take the company weeks or months to establish a translator station after approval has been given. In the meantime, for no reason that I can see or that the people in the district can see, they are to be deprived of adequate reception of television programmes. This does seem to me to be the very limit in bureaucratic delay and dalliance and shows the Government’s lack of concern for country people. I imagine that if the television sets of Government supporters in the cities broke down, they would rush to the telephone to have the television repair man attend to the set within the hour so that they could continue to watch the pro grammes. But they will allow the construction workers on the Snowy Mountains scheme, the people in Cooma and the people in all the surrounding villages and towns that I have named, to go without a television service quite unnecessarily, as far as I can see, for at least another twelve to eighteen months. I ask the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), who is now sitting at the table, to bring my remarks to the notice of the Postmaster-General so that some pressure can be brought to bear on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to get it to give the “Yes” which is all we need to allow the service to be provided for these people within a few weeks.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, you may have had the experience that I have had from time to time of writing to a Minister, seeking information, and getting back a completely evasive reply which is wrapped up in a large number of words but which does not and appears deliberately not to convey to you the information you have sought. This, of course, is by no means a general experience. I have written many letters to Ministers and have received from them, particularly from the Minister for Supply, prompt, courteous and exceedingly informative replies. This does not apply, as I think all my colleagues on both sides of the House will agree, to all Ministers. I propose at suitable opportunities to read to the House a number of replies that I have received recently to letters seeking information. This afternoon, because I want to deal with another subject, I will content myself with reading one reply. On 3rd February last, I wrote to the Minister for Health in the following terms: -
Dear Senator Wade,
I wonder if you could give me figures showing the cost of manufacturing hearing aids by the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories. I refer to such aids as are supplied to the Repatriation Department, and I would be particularly interested to have the figure for a standard aid and for a binaural aid.
One would think that this is not a difficult question. These hearing aids are supplied by the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories to the Repatriation Department. It should not be difficult to set out for me the cost, which must be known to the Department of Health. The department must know what it is paying for these aids. Having had no reply to my earlier letter,
I wrote the following letter on 19th
Dear Senator Wade,
I refer to my letter of February 3 asking if figures could be provided showing the cost of hearing aids (standard and binaural) manufactured by the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories as supplied to the Repatriation Department.
Is it yet possible to provide this information please?
On the very same day, the Minister for Health replied -
I regret my delay in answering your letter of the 3rd February, concerning the provision of hearing aids. However, I will endeavour to have this matter expedited and hope to have a reply to you shortly.
Honorable members will recall that I asked for the price. I sought this information because there is considerable suspicion that hearing aids sold by commercial firms are very much over-priced and I have heard that the very useful and effective aids supplied to the Repatriation Department cost only a fraction of the price of those that are sold by commercial firms. I asked to be supplied with the price; this is what I was told. On 2nd April, the Minister for Health wrote to me in these terms -
I refer again to your letters of the 3rd February, and 19th March, 1964, about the cost of hearing aids supplied by the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories to the Repatriation Department.
I thought I would now be told the price, but instead this is what I was told -
The hearing aid supplied to the Repatriation Department, known as the “ Calaid “, is designed and manufactured in Australia by commercial firms to the specifications of the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories. A nominal amount only is recovered from the Repatriation Department for each hearing aid suppled to cover the cost of parts and manufacture, and this does not include overhead costs. The Laboratories also recover from the Repatriation Department the costs of maintaining aids that are supplied to the Department.
So, after waiting from 3rd February until 2nd April I received a reply which completely evaded giving me the information that I had sought. I bring that letter also to the attention of the Minister and ask whether something can be done in the matter. I do not blame the Minister. It is not possible for him to make these inquiries and to write every letter himself; but some reminder should be given to the officials who prepare these letters that when a member of Parliament asks for informa tion which is reasonable, which is not difficult to obtain and which should be available within a week or two, he should get the information and get it promptly. A letter of that kind is an impertinence to every member of Parliament to whom it is sent. The man who wrote the letter must have known that he was deliberately evading the question. Why he wanted to do that I do not know, unless it was because he did not like to see publicly stated the comparison of real costs and prices charged for hearing aids supplied to unfortunate people in the community who suffer from deafness.
I want to refer now to what I thought was an amazing answer given by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) to a question asked in the House this morning. The Minister was asked whether it was the practice, when Australian warships visit Hong Kong, for Hong Kong women and girls to paint the sides of the vessels and to receive no payment whatever from the Australian Government, simply relying on gifts that may be given to them by the ships’ companies. I was amazed to hear the Minister say that that was the practice, that he saw nothing wrong with it, and that so far as he was concerned it would continue. In a further reply to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) who took up the matter raised originally by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), the Minister for the Navy said in effect that he could not see why we should alter the practice in a place like Hong Kong, where the people are in considerable want and are glad to do the work for some small tips or gifts. Surely this situation is a disgrace to the Australian Government and is out of keeping with our ideas of what is fair and just. Surely it is not in keeping with the standards of living that we have established in this country that because in Hong Kong people are desperately poor and ready to work for a miserable pittance - for gifts handed to them by the ships’ companies - we should take advantage of their wretched position and allow the situation to continue in which work is done for the Australian Government and is not paid for. I do not say that the work should be paid for at Australian trade union rates but at least it should be paid for at rates which are fair and applicable in the Hong Kong community.
– I imagine that the Australian Navy provides the paint. This is rather a pathetic situation.
– This is the practice with every navy.
– But why should it apply to our Navy? The Minister said, in effect, that because everybody else does it, why should Australia not do it. Is there no such thing as decency and justice? Have we no pride in our own country to see that it deals fairly with these people? Why do we allow them to work for nothing?
– Would not the crew of the ship normally do this work?
– I would not know, but, irrespective of who normally does the work, it is a disgrace to the Australian Government that is should take advantage of the shocking economic conditions that exist in Hong Kong and should allow people to do this work without paying them. That is what is happening. The Australian Government is taking advantage of the utter poverty of the people of Hong Kong. This matter should be investigated and even if Australia is the only country to rectify the situation, we should do so.
The final thought that it gives me is a reminder of how important the trade union movement is to ensure justice for workers anywhere and everywhere in the world. The people of Hong Kong have no such protection. This is why they are so grossly exploited. If an attempt at exploitation of this kind were made in Australia there would be an immediate remedy. The organized trade union movement would not allow such exploitation to continue. The laws that we have on our statute book and the courts that we have established would promply correct the situation. The man who had underpaid or who had refused pay for services rendered to him would be heavily penalized.
– To adopt your suggestion would mean that no work at all would be available for these people. The work would be done by the crews of the ships.
– My proposition is straightforward. If the honorable member for La Trobe does not agree with it, let him say so. If work is done for the Australian Government or if it is allowed to be done anywhere in the world, we should pay for it a fair and reasonable payment. The work should not be done on our warships by people who have to rely on tips in return for the services that they render. The larger point I make is that this is an example of what happens in the way of oppression of workers when they do not have satisfactory trade union organization and strength.
– The bill seeks an appropriation of funds to meet the requirements of the Government for the next five months. I propose to refer to various matters that are contained in the appropriations, but before doing so I want to say something about the activities of the Post Office, to which the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) referred. At the outset I make it clear that I cast no reflection on anybody connected with the Post Office. I am sure that the majority of people in the Post Office are dedicated to their jobs. In all the circumstances they do good work. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) paid the honorable member for Lawson a lefthanded compliment for raising this matter and bringing to the attention of the Parliament the anomalies and problems that exist so far as country telephone subscribers are concerned. Then the honorable member for Eden-Monaro castigated the honorable member for Lawson and said that he had done nothing in the matter over all the years during which the Postmaster-General was a member of the Country Party. But even when his party formed the government the honorable member for Eden-Monaro did not offer any alternative to the present system. No suggestion was ever forthcoming in those days as to how best to overcome the anomalies that exist. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro tried to gain a party political advantage by criticising Country Party Ministers. On other occasions I have suggested how some of the difficulties confronting the Post Office could be overcome but on no occasion have I received any support from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
Generally speaking, I support the remarks made by the honorable member for Lawson. All I want to say now is that the present problems will not be overcome until such time as the Postmaster-General’s Department is able to plan ahead in relation to the work that it is required to do. The department is anxious to do this. The people in the department are anxious to do it. I suggest that the Government should investigate the system that operates in Great Britain, where the Post Office has been divorced from the Treasury. To illustrate what I mean let me quote from a publication entitled “ Britain. An Official Handbook “. It states -
The Post Office Act, 1961, recognized the commercial character of the Post Office by separating its finances from the Exchequer and giving the Postmaster General sole responsibility for them. Post Office expenditure is generally subject neither to Parliamentary control by Estimate nor to Treasury control. Income is determined by tariffs which the Postmaster General fixes, subject only to negative resolution of Parliament. The Post Office makes its own investment plans. . . .
The publication also states -
All Post Office income is paid into, and all its outgoings are met from, a self-contained fund under the control of the Postmaster General.
That is the system in Great Britain. It has proved successful, as far as I can discover. I believe that it should be investigated by this Government or this Parliament. We should see whether that method would be an improvement on the one that we have now.
I repeat that the people who work in the Post Office, particularly those on the administrative side, are dedicated to their job. They are doing the best that they can do in the circumstances. But they cannot do any long-range planning. They have to work from year to year. This must be very frustrating for them when they are trying to provide services which they know are required, which they are willing and anxious to provide, and which will increase the revenue of the Post Office.
Another alternative has been put forward by my colleagues on this side of the House. If we cannot adopt the British system - that is, divorce the Post Office from the Treasury and let it run its own affairs in the same way as Trans-Australia Airlines, the Australian National Line, Qantas Empire Airways Limited and other instrumentalities run their own affairs - we should let the Post Office draw up a programme of five to ten years ahead, determine how much money is required to provide all the essential services and what extra staff will be required. and then go ahead and do the job. When I have mentioned this matter in the House, I have never heard the honorable member for Eden-Monaro criticize my proposals or support them. He will not put forward alternative proposals, but he criticizes my colleague, the honorable member for Lawson.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his second-reading speech on the Supply (Special Expenditure) Bill, said -
In my second-reading speech on the Supply Bill 1964-65, 1 outlined the reasons why it had been decided to include in that bill provision only for the ordinary annual services of the Government. The purpose of this bill is to provide an advance of £1,000,000 for the Treasurer to meet expenditure during the first five months of the financial year for other than the ordinary annual services of the Government. This would include expenditure for such purpose as a grant to a State for, say, flood relief . . .
I shall raise now a matter which is of vital importance at present and which should be covered by this bill. I refer to relief for the disaster areas which exist in Queensland at present. Stock-owners in central Queensland - mainly in the electorate of Dawson and in the electorate of Maranoa - face disaster. The problem is mainly lack of water for stock. There has been a depletion of underground water supplies to many properties over the last few years. We do not know why that has happened, but we are surmising that it is due to the diminution of underground water supplies by irrigation. At present thousands of head of stock in the area are being sacrificed by their owners, mainly because they have not sufficient water.
Some years ago the Commonwealth set up the Water Resources Council. It is working in conjunction with the States. It is making a survey of water potential and supply throughout the Commonwealth, Its charter does not say anything about underground water. That matter should be investigated in conjunction with investigations of surface water supplies. In certain areas, there has been a diminution of the supplies from some of our sub-artesian bores and wells. This matter is of vital importance to the economy and to the whole of Australia. It should be thoroughly investigated. I know that my colleague, the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Shaw), has been very worried about it. It has been brought i, the notice of the State authorities. There will probably be an approach to the Commonwealth Government for relief, on similar lines to flood relief, for people in these drought areas. I ask that this matter be given priority in the allocation of any surplus money that the Treasurer may have for these purposes. The need for drought relief exists mainly in central Queensland and extends into my electorate of Maranoa.
I wish to refer briefly to education. I recommend that the Australian Universities Commission investigate the remuneration that is paid to certain scientists, particularly in the agricultural field. I have mentioned this matter before. Every newspaper we read, every journal we pick up, every speaker at a science congress, refers to the necessity to train more research officers, particularly in the rural line. Every one realizes that the Australian economy is dependent on the rural industries, and that the majority of our export income comes from primary products, mainly wool. But there is a dearth of agricultural scientists to-day. They are the lowest paid scientists in Australia. We are crying out for them. The Australian economy is dependent on the extension officers and other people who can give advice. The primary producers are willing to accept advice. Yet agricultural scientists are leaving their occupations and going into other occupations because they are so poorly paid.
I have a little knowledge of this matter. I know of three or four agricultural scientists who have left their jobs in recent months. One is a doctor of science and the others are graduates. They have left their jobs in universities and the teaching profession and have taken up other professions because their remuneration was so miserable. We are trying to encourage young people to enter this profession. Something must be done about the position. The salaries paid to agricultural scientists, instead of being at the bottom of the list, should be at the top of the list. At present everybody is talking about these things, but nothing is being done about them. 1 urge the Government to consider this matter and to give some encouragement to people to enter agricultural science faculties, to continue their education and, when they have completed it, to remain in positions in which they will be of value to primary producers. This may not sound very important to the ordinary person. Agricultural science does not seem very important in the whole scientific field. But I repeat: Let us see whether we can interest more people in entering this profession. I intended to refer to two or three other matters, but I will not take up any more of the time of the House. I believe that I have made three vital points. I am content to leave it at that. I ask the Government to give very serious consideration to the matters that I have raised.
.- I had not proposed to address myself to supply during this debate, but to-day we had an assembly on the lawns outside Parliament House of well over 200 local apprentices who voiced their protest and concern at the Government’s proposal to introduce adult training. Without going into the merits and demerits of adult training, I speak as one who served an apprenticeship and who, because I occupied the position of national secretary of a craft union for 22 years, at least knows a little about the problems confronting apprentices. At the top level - the national level - I was interested in, and very closely concerned with, the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme which was introduced by a Labour government at the end of the Second World War, at the time of demobilization. We have been advised that that scheme is to be the pattern for the scheme which the Government now proposes to introduce to fill the demand which exists for skilled labour.
The proposal has been submitted to the Government by the employers. 1 am very suspicious when I find employers becoming really concerned about the way in which this country is being developed, because I believe employers look to their own profits, not to the benefits that may accrue to the nation. In any case, the Government has advanced proposals to fill the gap in the supply of skilled labour. That proposal is being supported very strongly by the employers and, at any rate to date, is being subjected to very severe criticism by the trade unions. The Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme was welcomed by the trade unions. It was administered in the main by the trade unions and was successful in achieving its objectives. But here we have a different proposition. The employers now are bewailing the fact that there is not a sufficient supply of skilled tradesmen labour to carry out the present programme of development. Who is to blame for this state of affairs? We have to-day in Canberra a big project which, on yesterday’s count, employs not fewer than 400 adult workmen, but only one apprentice. I could mention many other similar cases which would not be confined to Canberra. From my long experience of dealing with apprentices - I have been on apprenticeship boards and on boards which have compiled the syllabus for the technical training of apprentices - I have learned that the employers have simply not paid full regard to the training of the required skilled labour because in most cases they have found it inconvenient to pay such regard.
It is only two short years ago since about 20,000 young people, having left school, could not find employment. Many of them had been kept at school by their parents, at great sacrifice, for a couple of years longer than was legally necessary because they did not want to see these lads and lasses walking the streets looking for employment and getting into mischief because they were unemployed. Was any thought given at that time by the employers to the suggestion that if these young people were to remain in enforced idleness something should be done at least to give them a basic training in the trades? A certain basic training is common to all trades. The employers did not give a thought to this matter because they had all the young people that they felt they could comfortably employ. I can assure you - you can understand this from the statement I made a few moments ago about the big project in Canberra - that if the employers feel that it is unprofitable to employ apprentices they simply will not employ them.
For the past decade - I have had experience of this as a trade union officer - we have been able to import skilled labour without much difficulty. The recruiting officers employed by the Department of Immigration travelled Europe, where things then were not so good as they are to-day, and recruited skilled labour, very frequently by making false representations about conditions in Australia. I know this, because I travelled overseas and examined the matter for myself. For a time the employers’ requirements were fulfilled. At this point let me say that from my experience the imported skilled labour is by no means superior to, and most often is not up to the standard of, tradesmen who have been trained in Australia.
The employers had it the easy way. They were getting a regular supply of skilled labour from overseas. But the picture changed. With the advent of the European Common Market conditions improved in Europe to such an extent that there was no longer any economic pressure for skilled tradesmen to come to Australia. Furthermore, our efforts to steal tradesmen who have been trained overseas have been resisted by certain governments, particularly by the German Government. While the going was easy the employers neglected to do the things they should have done. Over the years we tried to impress on them that the answer to the shortage of skilled tradesmen lay not in immigration but in training our own lads in the manner that best befitted the situation in Australia.
Not all employers have been guilty of the neglect that I have mentioned, but most of them have. Now the prospects of obtaining skilled tradesmen from overseas are not so good as they were formerly whilst, because of our development, the demand for skilled tradesmen is greater than it was formerly. We must give this problem a good deal of thought.
I said that the Government’s proposal has been received in a very critical manner by the trade union movement. It is true that a top-level decision has yet to be made on it, but it is apparent that the fears which were so forcibly demonstrated to-day when the apprentices gathered on the lawns outside Parliament House do exist. The apprentices say, “ Why should we have to spend five or six years in being trained while others will be brought in and have to spend only six months in training? “ They also point to the fact that if the Government’s proposal that the scheme should follow the lines of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme is accepted, these other people will be placed in industry and subsidized by the Commonwealth Government to the extent of 40 per cent, of the adult wage. It may well be that this scheme will have to be accepted. That is a matter for careful analysis. But if the Government, in order to provide skilled labour for the employers, can subsidize apprentices to the extent of 40 per cent, of the adult wage, then it can also do other things. If an employer finds the burden of training apprentices too great and refuses to take apprentices, the Government could well consider subsidizing the employment of apprentices to be trained in the full and complete way in which they have formerly been trained.
There is something else that the Government could well do: I suggest that this Government has neglected to pay proper attention to the availability of training facilities for apprentices. The present training facilities are totally inadequate. One can go to technical education authorities, to employers’ organizations or to the craft trade unions, and quickly verify that our technical training facilities are far below what would be necessary to provide an adequate numerical strength of apprentices - if the employers were prepared to accept them.
There are other weaknesses in the technical training system. New techniques are introduced very rapidly these days. This is largely a result of the immigration programme. It is also largely due to the fact that when people overseas invest in industry in Australia they frequently bring in new techniques. However, the reasons do not matter; the fact remains that new techniques are being introduced very rapidly. We have found for a long time, when we have suggested that these new techniques be taught in technical schools, that frequently those suggestions encounter teacher resistance. The reason is, of course, that many of our technical school teachers have never learned the new techniques and do not understand them. They do not want them to be placed on the technical school syllabus because they could not teach those techniques. This is not to the discredit of the teachers. I believe that the Government should have kept a critical eye on the whole field of technical training and that there should have been refresher courses for such teachers. But even if those courses were available, the fact remains that our facilities are totally inadequate. In many schools the plant and equipment used to-day is the same as that which was used when I was an apprentice. The schools have patched up the equipment and kept it going because they have been financially starved.
The Government proposes that we should accept this adult training scheme, simply because the employers want it, but I can tell the House that there is deep concern in the ranks of the trade unions about this proposal. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) referred to matters concerning the Post Office and said that what was required was a long-range programme; in other words, a plan that would allow the postal authorities to know what would be required of them for a period of five or seven years ahead. I suggest that what industry needs to-day is a long-range programme, so that we would be able to assess - and it could be assessed fairly directly - our requirement of skilled labour in the future. We could then set to and ensure that our problems could be properly and thoroughly solved. We would not have the hit-or-miss process that we have had to follow so frequently in the past.
Let us consider the attitude of the tradesman. He says, “ Yes, to-day there is a shortage of skilled tradesmen in some fields, but I have a lively recollection that two years ago I was walking the street”. In the light of the Government’s record over the years he has no certainty that he will not be walking the streets in the future. I know that we are told to-day that everything is rosy and I sincerely hope it is but I remind the House that we were told two years ago that everything was rosy. The tradesmen, even admitting that there is a shortage of skilled workers to-day, remembers that he was walking the streets two years ago and subsisting on the paltry dole that the Government is prepared to pay.
There are many aspects of the present apprenticeship system that require attention. The system in operation to-day is the same as that which was in operation 30 or 40 years ago. There have been some slight alterations in conditions of employment but it is the same system. The practice of indenturing a lad to an individual employer is outmoded and was cast aside in the more enlightened countries many years ago. To-day we look forward to a system under which the lad will be apprenticed to an authority and not to an individual employer so that he- will not be always at the -mercy of every whim and caprice of the individual employer. Time does not permit me to tell the House of the way in which employers have abused the privilege of having apprentices bound to them. The apprentice should not be bound to the employer but to an authority set up by tile industry itself.
The Government put forward this proposal at the behest of the employers, who weep now because they cannot get sufficient skilled labour but who did not care twopence about the matter when they were able to import skilled tradesmen freely. If the Government expects to get any support from the trade union movement or the apprentices for this proposal it will have to take a close look at the whole system. Under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme we trained many thousands of people who turned out to be good tradesmen, and as was the case with that scheme the Commonwealth will have to ensure that a considerable part, if not a major part of the control of any new scheme that is introduced, is vested in the hands of the trade union movement. Otherwise we could not trust the Government and we could not trust the employer, having in mind the manner in which the apprentices have been treated in the past and the way in which employers have completely and utterly neglected their reponsibility to train apprentices. I know this because I have represented the apprentices on a number of authorities. For instance, 1 represented the trainees on the board that administered the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. I know, too, that never during the 22 years that I was appearing before arbitration courts, wages boards and other tribunals seeking ameliorations of conditions for apprentices did I fail to meet with complete and utter opposition from the employers. For instance, it is only because of strong opposition from the employers that the daylight training scheme for apprentices is not in full operation to-day. And I say that industry can afford daylight training for apprentices. If it cannot, then, just as the Government is proposing now to subsidize adult training to. the extent or 40 per cent, of the adult rate so could it do something to improve the lot or apprentices. 1 remind the House that apprenticed, plumbers, for instance, are required to provide their own tool kits, and these tool kits are not cheap. The employer does not provide the apprentice with a tool kit. Although what the apprentice receives today may appear to be a fairly large sum compared with the 10s. a week which J received when I started as an apprentice, it is only a miserable sum judged on presentday standards, and out of this paltry remuneration the apprentice craftsman is required to buy his own tools. I say that it is not beyond the capacity of industry to provide boys with a good tool kit. After all, if they are to do a good job they must have a good tool kit. Because these boys are inadequately paid, the tool kits which they buy are not always the best available. If we are to expect the apprentices to do good work we should encourage them ov giving them the best tools available. There are so many facets of this question that have to be considered that the Government must have another look at it.
Obviously there will have to be trade union representation on any authority thai is established to administer an adult training scheme. Of course, the employers will not object to this although time and time again when we have suggested that the workers should have some say in the control of the industry in which they earn their livelihood the Government has absolutely refused to agree to this. For instance, industry representation on the Australian Meat Board was omitted in legislation recently passed by the Parliament. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) need not look at me. I know he does not approve of the workers having a real say in the control of their industry. In relation to adult training, however the Government says, “Yes, we will give the trade unions a full say “. But I know the reason why the Government is agreeable on this occasion. It knows perfectly well that without the assistance and co-operation of the trade unions it has no hope of arranging for the training of adults in the skilled trades. When the devil is sick, the devil a saint would be!
Clearly some scheme of adult training is necessary, particularly in view of the fact that we are faced with an expansion of automation in the next decade. Automation has not been introduced to any great extent yet, and if the Government wishes us to help it overcome this problem of a shortage of skilled labour we are prepared to do so. But we are apprehensive of the impact of automation upon the livelihood of the workers during the next decade and wc should like to know what plans the Government has for meeting that problem. When we ask about that prospect, we are met with a stony silence. I know that an inquiry was held in New South Wales, but nobody is very satisfied with the results which flowed from it.
I can assure the Government that the apprentices in this city are up in arms about this proposal. They are most anxious about it, and I bring the matter forward in the hope that the Government will realize that after all the workers have some stake in industry and should be given full recognition when industry authorities are being established. Only when the Government can go to the trade union movement with clean hands will it get any help to solve the problems with which it is faced. At the present time the Government cannot do that because it is too busy inflicting penalties and other hardships upon the workers.
I assure honorable members on the Government side that if we were faced with a crisis in industry and the Government was able to go to the workers with clean hands it would get, for the sake of the industry’s welfare, a measure of co-operation that perhaps it did not expect. But I emphasize that it will get that co-operation only when it can go to the workers with clean hands - only when, for instance, it has rectified the scandalous workers’ compensation legislation. If it goes to the workers without clean hands it will get only a very critical response, and, without the co-operation of the workers, it cannot hope to proceed in the direction in which it now proposes to go.
.- It gives me very much pleasure to rise with clean hands after the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay) and to examine his arguments about the need for more trained workers in Australia. I have been most interested to hear his discussion of the possibilities of training workers, because I think every honorable member on this side, as well as every honorable member on the opposite side, appreciates the need for trained personnel in order to continue the development of Australia at the present rate. In fact, I think it was most appropriate that the honorable member for Darebin should have spoken on this issue this afternoon in view of the fact that only this morning the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced to this House that this Government would be providing a capital sum of f 5,000,000 for the construction of additional capital buildings for technical schools. Honorable members will recall that when introducing the legislation for that purpose, the right honorable gentleman made a statement which I think the honorable member for Darebin might well bear in mind this evening. That was that the Commonwealth grant was specifically to be in addition to and not in substitution for grants made by the State Governments.
I believe that in New South Wales trainees in teacher training colleges, for example, are severely prejudiced because of the rate of remuneration they are paid. There is no comparison between the amount they receive and the amount received by trainees at similar colleges in Victoria. I feel that the training of craftsmen, whether as apprentices or in any other capacity in industry, is a responsibility that should not be assumed by the Commonwealth Government alone; a greater degree of responsibility must be placed on the shoulders of the State governments. The honorable member for Darebin should consider the technical training facilities that are available in New South Wales. It is to be hoped that some of his colleagues in the New South Wales Labour Government have heard his speech this afternoon and will take his arguments very much to heart and be prepared to shoulder some responsibility for the statements he has made.
I might add, apropos of his remarks regarding the new scheme announced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), that the scheme to provide additional training facilities for adults is purely to make up the work force that is immediately needed to continue Australia’s development. Unfortunately, mainly because of the insufficient number of people who have been apprenticed over the last few years, there are not enough trained workmen to take up the jobs available; ‘in industry. The honorable member for Darebin has told us this afternoon that not enough apprentices have been trained. That is another way of saying that not enough trained personnel are available to continue Australia’s development. But the training of apprentices is a responsibility of State governments rather than of the Commonwealth. Education is primarily the responsibility of State governments.
I feel that it is essential to have a scheme, such as that proposed by the Minister for Labour and National Service, in order to provide trained personnel as soon as possible. One reason why there have been not enough apprentices in the past is that competitive jobs have been available at very attractive rates of pay. This has meant, naturally, that people have not been prepared to enter industry as apprentices to receive an inadequate salary when they could go into another job, which might well be a dead-end job, and receive an attractive rate of pay. I am aware that this situation exists not only in blue-collar jobs but also in white-collar jobs. It is not so many years ago that I was an articled clerk receiving 10s. a week. I have known of others who have been articled at rates lower than that. The question is whether a person is prepared to get the training to be able to go out as a fully qualified person, or whether he will go into a dead-end job to receive an attractive salary immediately.
There are other factors in this regard that I wish to mention this afternoon. One relates to the demands that have been made in this House, on a number of occasions since I have been a member, that the Commonwealth Government should assume a greater measure of responsibility for financing local government. I feel that it would be worthwhile to mention a proposal that the New South Wales Country Party has advanced to the New South Wales Labour Government. This proposal needs a great deal of consideration and would put the responsibility for local government back on the shoulders of the people who. I feel, should bear that responsibility. The proposal is that out of the £53.000.000 that the New South Wales Government has collected in land taxes in the last seven years, at least 50 per cent, should be returned to the local government bodies. This would be a very worth-while way for the Labour Government of New South Wales to show its sincerity and to show that it also is concerned about the financing of local government.
In the past, moneys collected from land tax have gone straight into general revenue.
Certainly grants have been made to local government bodies, but the adoption of a proposal such as that would enable the local government authorities to plan ahead. They would have a continuity of funds and would not be dependent on the beneficence of the Commonwealth Government to make grants such as that from the Commonwealth Aid Roads Fund.
One other aspect that has been dealt with in some detail this afternoon is the need of country people to have better telephone services. I should say at the outset that in my opinion Postmasters-General in the past, and the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme), have done an outstanding job. A publication brought out earlier this year by the “Daily Telegraph” titled, “Special Report on the Post Office - a Partner in Industry “, identifies some of the great achievements of the Postal Department. There is no doubt that in this advanced technological age our Australian Postal Department has contributed its fair share to advances in the postal and telephonic fields. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) mentioned some of the problems that beset honorable members representing country electorates. I know that other members are presented with problems about the supply of telephones in city as well as country electorates. One problem in supplying telephone services is whether or not sufficient finance is available for the development of all Postal Department facilities.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) made a worthwhile suggestion that the Postal Department’s revenues should be treated separately from the general exchequer accounts. He illustrated bis suggestion by pointing out that the British Post Office accounts were, in 1961-62, separated completely from the normal exchequer accounts. Since that date it has operated as an independent business enterprise. Whereas before that date all revenue from the British Post Office was paid into the exchequer and all money needed to meet Post Office requirements was paid out of the exchequer, it is now possible for the Post Office to budget its needs from year to year, knowing something of the income that it will receive. In addition, it has a determined amount which it can borrow from the exchequer from year to year in order to finance its future development. I feel that this would be a very laudable manner of approaching the operations of our Australian Post Office.
The Government might well consider a separation of the identity of the Australian Postal Department similar o the British Post Office. As an alternative it may be possible to draw up a five-year plan of projected development. In this five-year plan we might be able specifically to allocate, say, 10 per cent, of funds for the development of rural telephone services. This would be one way in which we could catch up with .the backlag in the supply of not only telephones but also of rural automatic exchanges.
The details of the backlag are quite alarming. In the electorate of New England, for example, at Moombi a telephone exchange with 74 subscribers is still operating on very restricted hours. That district is quite a large poultry-raising area. People in the area are frequently placed at a considerable disadvantage simply because of the lack of telephonic facilities at the weekend and after the closing hour at night. In other centres businessmen, including some who are in business in quite a substantial way, are placed in the position of not being able to contact either their stock and station agent or the properties of their sons at week-ends because the telephone services have closed. That prevents them from arranging the transport of stock for a Monday sale. This state of affairs has to be dealt with in some constructive way. By having a long-range budgetary plan, either on the basis of separating the Post Office accounts from the exchequer accounts, or as a five-year plan in which certain funds are allocated for the development of facilities in rural areas, the telephonic services in country areas could be improved considerably.
I wish to mention a number of other points. First, in the appropriation bill presented to us items involving considerable amounts are listed under “Incidental and other expenditure “. There is no doubt that the Postal Department conducts a very efficient industry and business, but government is also very complex and I suggest that as it is run at present it is very efficient, too. However, large sums of money in the accounts of many departments are marked simply as “Incidental and other expenditure”. The amounts involved are not hundreds of pounds but thousands of pounds. In the accounts of one defence department an item of £31,000 appears under that heading. It seems to me that it would be of advantage to members of this House as the representatives of the shareholders of this business if a more detailed description were furnished’.
The next point to which I wish to refer has been raised this afternoon by the honorable member for Maranoa; that is, the inadequate remuneration of agricultural scientists. Their earnings are not sufficiently attractive to induce students to become agricultural scientists. In my electorate the University of New England is at present considering the establishment of a faculty of veterinary science. A number of problems are involved. The first is the amount of capital required to establish the faculty. We are hopeful that the Australian Universities Commission may see fit to contribute towards its establishment. I understand that the cost of building a technical block such as that required for veterinary science studies is about £1 5,000 a square foot. When considered in relation to the funds available to a rural university this cost is astronomical. Once the faculty is established the problem arises of whether the graduates as veterinary scientists will earn sufficient income to make the profession attractive and maintain the intake of students.
One of the problems in country areas has been that a qualified veterinary surgeon who has completed one of the most difficult courses in an Australian university has not been able to achieve a financial return commensurate with his endeavours. He has been able to do so only by moving into the suburbs of the large cities and towns and establishing what is virtually a dog and cat practice. This state of affairs may have been brought about because of the reluctance of country people to pay sufficiently high fees for the services of a veterinary surgeon. However, within New South Wales at least, the responsibility may rest also with the Department of Agriculture and other State Government instrumentalities whose veterinary surgeon employees are not paid a sufficiently attractive salary to make the profession a worthwhile one for youngsters to follow.
Whilst I am hopeful that the Australian Universities Commission may provide sufficient funds for the University of New England to establish a faculty of veterinary science, I am also hopeful that it may be possible in the future for trained veterinary surgeons to achieve a fair income from country practices and that it will be unnecessary for them to practise as dog and cat veterinary surgeons in city areas.
– My purpose in rising for a few moments in this debate is to say one or two things about points raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) last evening. By confining myself to the honorable member’s remarks I do not wish to detract from the importance of the many things that have been said on both sides of the House in this debate. The honorable member in opening the debate for the Opposition made a number of points. The first was that the change in the Government’s prospects which is involved in this legislation indicates that Government supporters were deceitful at the time of the last general election in suggesting that precise estimates could be made, particularly of the cost of implementing the election promises of the Australian Labour Party and their impact on the economy.
The proposed changes in the amount to be expended on defence services and to be charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and the proposed payment from the Consolidated1 Revenue Fund to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, are in fact quite small accounting adjustments. They have no greater significance than that and I suggest that the honorable member has blown up their importance out of all proportion to the real position. It seems to me that in a Budget of £2,000,000,000 it is not surprising that these adjustments are necessary towards the end of the financial year, nor is it surprising that variations occur in relation to both receipts and expenditures. However, I believe that it should be borne in mind that in a Budget of this magnitude a variation on either side of even 1 per cent, represents a very large sum of money. So it is quite wrong to suggest that because there has been a change involving an amount which appears to be large, a major fault in estimating is revealed.
In the current financial year the Government has introduced a number of measures since the Budget was announced. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made no reference to them in his speech. For instance, following the Government’s election campaign undertaking child endowment has been increased. The Government has also made certain payments associated with the purchase of TFX strategic bombers. Because of changes of this type and variations which are inevitable, Commonwealth expenditures are now expected to be somewhat higher than was provided for in the Budget of last year. That is more or less inevitable in the nature of things.
On the other hand, the revenue side of the Budget will clearly reflect the success of Government policies in promoting the growth of economic activity. As a result of this success receipts should also be greater than was originally estimated. As to the probable increase in loan raisings, I never cease to wonder at the tendency of Opposition members to suggest that it represents a major defect on the part of the Government if there are variations in loan raisings. I wish to repeat what has been said many times from this side of the House. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made it quite clear in his Budget speech last year that the figure of £300,000,000 which was used as an estimate was regarded as a highly tentative figure. It is not an estimate in the same sense as an estimate of expenditures and of taxation collections. The amounts raised depend on the amounts which institutions and people, largely autonomously, decide to invest. The success achieved by the Government in its public loans in recent years reflects the high liquidity of the economy and also the confidence of the nation in this Government and in its policy to maintain a sound and stable economy. I suggest that if, by some unfortunate chance, the Australian Labour Party had taken office as a result of the last general election, our loan-raising prospects would not look nearly so good as they do now.
I pass now to another point made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
He suggested that the Labour Party’s election promises would have added no more than £100,000,000 a year to Commonwealth expenditure and that this was not a very large sum in the context of the rate of increase in Commonwealth expenditure in recent years. I make no comment about the estimate of £100,000,000. Let us assume that the Labour Party’s promises would have involved additional expenditure of only £100,000,000 a year.
– I said that they would involve expenditure only £100,000,000 a year greater than the additional expenditure involved in the promises made by the Government.
– Fair enough. Let us argue the matter on that basis. I believe to be entirely frivolous the suggestion that an additional £100,000,000 of expenditure would be comparatively insignificant. We now have a picture of the economy progressing rapidly and maintaining reasonable stability. Public authority expenditure, as we all know, has contributed in recent years to the upward movement in the economy after the slight recession of a few years ago. But the suggestion that £100,000,000 a year should be added to1 the current rate of government expenditure implies, in effect, that a still further stimulus is needed by the economy. When one looks at all the indicators - housing, industrial production and everything else - one sees as absolute nonsense the suggestion that a further stimulus of £100,000,000 a year in public spending is required at preesnt. I believe that an addition of this magnitude to government spendng at present would be highly dangerous to the stability of the economy as it stands.
The difference between the Government and the Australian Labour Party during the election campaign was that this was appreciated by the Government at the time and had a bearing on the manner in which the Government framed its own election promises. Adopting a responsible approach, the Government took this factor into account and confined its promises within the limits adopted. The Government fully accepted its responsibility to preserve stability and maintain activity in the economy as a whole. The suggestion by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that, with all the indicators as they are at present, we can just inject into the economy another £100,000,000 a year is, I believe, sheer irresponsibility.
– One hundred million pounds a year? The Minister would believe anything.
– I am doing the honorable member the courtesy of answering some of the points that he made.
– The Minister could have read what I said.
Dr. FORBES__ I heard the honorable member’s speech and I also read it very carefully. He criticized the Government on the ground that there was what he described as a lack of forward planning. He said that the kind of economic analysis undertaken in the United Kingdom, for instance, is needed in Australia so that proposals such as those made by the Australian Labour Party can he considered in their proper perspective. There is a lot of misunderstanding on this issue, and I think I should make it plain that forward assessments of public authority expenditure are being made, and are consistently being made, by this Government with the assistance of the States. As the honorable gentleman is no doubt aware, in a federal system, the Commonwealth Government cannot make these assessments on its own. They are useful, but they can only be tentative. They can be no more than a guide to what ought to be done. They cannot be precise. Planning, in the proper sense of the term, would be undertaken by any forward-looking government, and it is undertaken by this Government.
Many people - including, I suspect, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports - speak of planning as if it were some form of magic. I remember that two years ago he and many others were accustomed to speak of the planning adopted in France and Japan as being the sort of practice that we should adopt. He used to suggest that the kind of planning undertaken in those countries had been highly successful. But now one never hears anybody talking about the kind of planning that was undertaken in France, because it has been markedly unsuccessful in achieving the results that so many people expected of it. This is not the time at which to discuss planning in detail. All I want to say is that planning is regarded by many people in Australia as a sort of magic, but they rarely say plainly and precisely what they mean.
I want to deal with only one other point made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He expressed the view that the Government should allow the Parliament more time to consider in detail major financial measures such as supply bills and appropriation bills. He ought to remember that the bills that we are at present debating are largely machinery measures, even though they provide for the appropriation of large sums. They are machinery measures designed to enable the Government to complete its financial transactions for 1963-64 and to carry on until the appropriations for 1964-65 are approved after the next Budget has been debated. The important point is that the measures now being discussed do not pose important policy issues. Such issues are dealt with in the Budget. The policy issues in respect of the two appropriation bills were dealt with in the last Budget. The two supply bills foreshadow policy issues that will be dealt with in the next Budget, when, as is usual, the Parliament will be given ample time to consider all aspects of the Government’s financial policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr. Forbes) read a third time.
Motion (by Dr. Forbes)- by leave - agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Orders of the Day Nos. 3, 4 and 5 for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill and the Supply and Supply (Special Expenditure) Bills being read together and a motion being moved that the bills be now passed.
Consideration resumed from 5th May (vide pages 1509, 1511 and 1512), on motions by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Bills (on motion by Dr. Forbes) passed.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to make provision for the terms and conditions under which certain employees in the branches of the Royal Mint in Melbourne and Perth are to be offered an opportunity to transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service for duties in the new mint which is being established in Canberra. The mint will be a division of the Commonwealth Treasury.
Before I outline the details of these arrangements, I am sure that all honorable members will be pleased to learn that Her Majesty the Queen has graciously given her consent to the new mint being known as the Royal Australian Mint. There have, of course, been branches of the British Royal Mint in Australia for many years. The first was opened in Sydney in 1855. The name which is being given to the new mint in Canberra continues the close association which the monarchy has always had with coinage matters. It also emphasizes the fact that we are now, 63 years after federation, finally establishing the first mint to be administered by the Commonwealth Government.
The traditional association between coinage and the monarchy will also be preserved in our new decimal coins. They will continue to display the Queen’s effigy as their obverse or “ head “ design.
I have just said that, more than 60 years after federation, we are finally very close to setting up the first purely Australian mint. But that does not mean that the Government has suddenly made a policy decision to move into a new field or activity, spurred on by the imminent changeover to a decimal currency system in Australia. The framers of the Constitution clearly envisaged that the Commonwealth would eventually have its own mint. Section 51 (xii.) of the Constitution gives the Commonwealth powers over currency, coinage and legal tender, and there have been many moves over the past 50 or 60 years towards establishing a locally controlled Australian mint.
Up till 1909, all coins which were legal tender in the new Commonwealth were British coins. These were issued through the three branches of the London Mint which had been established in Sydney in 1855, in Melbourne in 1872 and in Perth in 1899. These three Royal Mint branches had been set up primarily to serve the interests of the gold-mining industry in what were then the three main gold-producing colonies. In addition to assaying and refining gold, the three branches minted gold sovereigns and half-sovereigns on behalf of the British Government. The Sydney branch was closed in 1926, but the branches in Melbourne and Perth are still functioning.
The first coins for use exclusively in Australia, and employing a distinctive Australian reverse or “ tail “ design, were not minted until the passage of the Australian Coinage Act 1909. However, until 1916 these coins were produced mainly in the London Mint and partly in the Calcutta Mint. After that the production of Australian silver coins was commenced in the Melbourne branch of the Royal Mint. Australian bronze coins were first minted locally in 1919 at the Sydney and Melbourne mint branches, and the Perth branch has been producing bronze coins since 1940. Since 1940, most of our silver coins have been minted in Melbourne and most of our bronze coins in Perth. In the early 1940’s and the early 1950’s. when these two mints were unable to keep up with public demand, large orders for Australian coins had to be placed with mints in London, India or the United States.
Since federation, moves have been made from time to time by various Commonwealth and State Governments to have the Commonwealth take sole responsibility for
Australian coinage requirements, as envisaged in the Constitution. As a result of one such move, a meeting of State Premiers in April, 1914 - 50 years ago last month - approved the “ taking over of the mint and of gold coinage by the Commonwealth “. In the event, it proved extremely difficult to reach an agreement on satisfactory terms and conditions for the change-over. The Acting Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers in June, 1916,’ confirming the Commonwealth Government’s desire to take over all mints in Australia immediately, but the proposal was eventually deferred until the end of World War I.
After that war, it became Commonwealth Government policy that there should be one mint only in Australia. It was in fact decided that a new mint would be one of the first buildings constructed at the new seat of government in Canberra. The decision to establish a mint in Canberra was re-affirmed by the then Commonwealth Prime Minister in June, 1928, in a letter to the Premier of Victoria, but no positive action was taken to plan for the new mint. This decision was again endorsed during World War II., when the Acting Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of Victoria in December, 1944.
So there is a long history behind our decision to go ahead with the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra. Preliminary investigations on the nature of the building, on the type of equipment which should be installed, and on an appropriate site in the national capital commenced more than ten years ago. More recently, a great deal of exploratory work was undertaken both in Australia and overseas by a planning group. After examining the results of these investigations, Cabinet gave its approval in April, 1962, to a construction time-table for the new mint which would permit it to produce an adequate number of our new decimal coins before the planned changeover to decimal currency in Australia in February, 1966.
Although the construction of a Commonwealth mint has been long delayed, at least it will be all the more efficient because of the introduction of modern equipment and techniques. Indeed I think we have been fortunate in our timing in that we are constructing our new mint following a period when minting techniques have undergone a radical transformation. I can say with confidence that no mint in the world employs equipment for any phase of its operations which will be more efficient than the equipment being installed in Canberra. This applies through the whole cycle from the melting, annealling and rolling of metals, to the cutting of coin blanks, and to the stamping of these blanks with the appropriate coin designs by means of precision-built dies. It ends with a process which I believe to ‘be unique in the world - the wrapping of coins in paper rolls for despatch from the mint to the banking system.
I may add that the establishment of an institution of this nature will provide new and interesting employment opportunities which have hitherto not been available in Canberra. These include positions requiring experience and qualifications in the heavy industrial field. There will be opportunities for the practical application of professional skills in metallurgy and other related sciences. Specialists will be required for coin and medal design, engraving, die making and many other minting operations of a similar nature. Minting techniques have certainly come a long way since the Lydians and Ionian Greeks produced the first coins about 3,000 years ago. They stamped a design on one side only of a lump of gold and silver alloy and they did it on an anvil!
An additional feature of the new mint will be the special facilities we are providing for members of the public. They will be able to view the complete operation from a specially constructed observation gallery. This will make the new mint a decided attraction to the large number of tourists who visit Canberra each year. Indeed, I hope we shall have on sale a range of the Commonwealth coins. This is a feature of a visit to the mint in Washington and offers a profitable side-line to Treasury transactions in the United States of America. I hope it will be a useful addition to our resources.
In case any honorable member still has the idea that a mint is a factory which is adorned by ugly smoke-stacks and which exudes noxious fumes, I invite honorable members to have a look for themselves at the new building, which is already taking its final shape. To all intents and purposes, it is no different in general design principles and appearance from any other large administrative building in Canberra. The administrative section of the building is already complete, and it will already be obvious that the process building will have nothing remotely resembling a smoke-stack. Special arrangements are being made to avoid any form of unpleasant fumes. Our task is being made easier in this regard by our already-announced decision not to establish a gold refinery in Canberra.
Work at the mint is progressing according to the time-table which we drew up two years ago. Only last week about one-third of the process building was handed over on schedule to receive the rolling mills, the high frequency electric furnaces and certain other heavy equipment. These items will be installed over the next few months in a programme designed to have all equipment installed and commissioned about the same time as the building itself is completed late this year. But it is one thing to build and equip a new mint; it is another matter entirely to find qualified and experienced staff to operate it. Under the existing arrangements, the buildings and equipment used by the Melbourne and Perth branches of the Royal Mint are owned by the Governments of Victoria and Western Australia respectively. The two State governments provide funds to run the two mint branches, including staff salaries and general operating expenses. The Commonwealth Government orders its coin requirements from the two mints as a purely commercial transaction. It purchases and provides the necessary metals, and pays for the work performed by the mints on a basis negotiated from time to time. The Commonwealth Government therefore exercises no control over the operations of the two mints, or over their arrangements for staff or equipment. Its only role has been similar to that of an ordinary commercial customer concerned with the quality, the quantity and the cost of the end product.
I have said that the employees of the Melbourne and Perth mints are paid out of funds provided by the two State governments concerned. However, they are, in effect, British civil servants whose conditions of employment, including superannuation, are based on the appropriate British acts and regulations. They look for their instructions and technical guidance to the Royal Mint authorities in London.
These arrangements have continued undisturbed for over 100 years, and the Commonwealth has no share in any of them. With the establishment of the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra, the Commonwealth has an urgent need for specialized minting staff. The obvious place to look for people with the necessary expertise is in the two existing mint branches. Coinage operations in Melbourne and Perth will eventually cease when the Royal Australian Mint gets into full production and breaks the back of the problem of replacing all existing coins by new decimal coins. It is therefore in the interests of both the Commonwealth Government and the Royal Mint authorities that the Commonwealth should offer employment opportunities in its new mint to all suitable Royal Mint employees.
The Commonwealth officially informed the British, Victorian and Western Australian Governments and the Royal Mint authorities in London, Melbourne and Perth last year of its intention to offer employment to suitable Royal Mint personnel. Negotiations then commenced to determine the precise terms and conditions under which selected Royal Mint employees might transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service. This has been a most complicated exercise. The main difficulty has been that the conditions of service and the superannuation arrangements for existing Royal Mint personnel are based on those ruling in the British Civil Service. These vary substantially from those applying in the Commonwealth Public Service. For example, the British Civil Service has a noncontributory superannuation scheme which incorporates a lump sum benefit on retirement, in addition to an annual pension, but there is no long service leave. The conditions for recreation leave and sick leave are also quite different from those applying within the Commonwealth Public Service.
There have, of course, been several precedents in the past for employees of other governments being transferred to the service of the Commonwealth. I mention, for example, the transfer of State taxation officers and employees of the Williamstown dockyard. The superannuation arrangements for these officers are covered by Parts VI. and VII. of the Superannuation Act 1922-1963. Then there were arrangements for the transfer of State statistical officers, which are set out in the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956. We have kept the principles established in those cases in mind in our negotiations for the transfer of the Royal Mint officers. The scheme which has been worked out now has the full acceptance of the British, Victorian and Western Australian Governments, the Royal Mint authorities and the Royal Mint staff associations.
In brief outline, the bill provides that Royal Mint employees who are offered and who accept transfer to the Royal Australian Mint will become Commonwealth public servants. They will receive the full benefits prescribed by the Public Service Act. Their salaries at the Royal Australian Mint will be no less than the salaries to which they are at present entitled in the Royal Mint branches. Their past service in the Royal Mint branches will count as Commonwealth service. Transferees will be given the benefit of this aggregate service in the calculation of their entitlement to benefits under the Public Service Act, such as long service leave and sick leave. They will be offered the choice of two alternative superannuation schemes. Either they will continue with a noncontributory superannuation scheme similar to that which they at present enjoy, or they will transfer to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. If they choose the latter course, they will be credited with a number of paid-up units calculated actuarially to be the equivalent of the benefits which have accrued to them so far under their existing superannuation scheme. They will in addition have the right to contribute to further units where appropriate, in accordance with the normal provisions of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act.
Part I. of the bill is mainly concerned with definitions. It ensures that the provisions of the bill will apply to Royal Mint personnel already loaned for service on the mint project in Canberra, as well as to personnel still employed at the two Royal Mint branches. Part II. of the bill establishes the conditions upon which Royal Mint employees may transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service, either by permanent appointment or by employment in a temporary capacity. This part is to be read in conjunction with the Public Service Act. It ensures that all transferees immediately become entitled to the normal benefits available under that act. Where appropriate, they can also bring with them any entitlements to recreation leave which have accrued to them under their existing arrangements. Special arrangements are made regarding sick leave.
The superannuation aspects are covered by Part III. of the bill. This provides that, if a transferee elects not to contribute to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund similar benefits to those to which he or his dependants would be entitled under the Royal Mint superannuation scheme. If, on the other hand, a transferee elects to contribute to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, he will be credited with a number of paid-up units equivalent to the benefits to which he is already entitled under the existing Royal Mint scheme. He will also be able to contribute for additional units where appropriate. When he or his dependants eventually become entitled to the benefits, the amounts covered by the paid-up units originally credited to the transferee will be met out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The balance - the amount attributable to any additional contributions made by the transferee to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund - will be shared in the usual way between Consolidated Revenue and the Superannuation Fund. This part of the bill is to be read in conjunction with the Commonwealth Superannuation Act.
In addition to the arrangements provided for in the new legislation, the Commonwealth is offering assistance to transferees in housing and in the movement of their families and personal effects to Canberra. It will in fact be helping them as far as possible to settle into the Canberra community with a minimum of personal hardship and family problems. Perhaps I should make it clear that the Commonwealth is not taking over the operations of either of the Royal Mint branches. It is merely making an offer of employment to selected Royal Mint personnel. Some Royal Mint employees have already been seconded to Canberra. Others will arrive progressively over the next six months. It seems likely that the total number transferring will be of the order of 65 - say, approximately 50 from Melbourne and 15 from Perth. Generally speaking, every employee at either mint branch who is qualified in the art of minting, who is of suitable age, and who can materially assist in the establishment of the new mint is being given an opportunity to transfer.
After these Royal Mint employees have transferred to Canberra, the Melbourne and Perth mints are going to find it increasingly difficult to maintain production at something approaching the current rate. The planned annual one-shift production rate at the Royal Australian Mint is 300,000,000 coins. There are 2,500,000,000 Australian coins still theoretically in circulation. It would take many years to replace them, even if only two-thirds of them, or thereabouts, actually required replacement. We will, therefore, negotiate with the State Governments and the Royal Mint authorities to maintain production at the Melbourne and Perth mints at the highest possible rate as long as this is an economic proposition.
While a large proportion of the skilled tradesmen required at the Royal Australian Mint will be coming from the Melbourne and Perth mints, the transferees will constitute only approximately one-third of the mint’s total staff. The other members of the staff, ranging from engineers and accountants to semi-skilled process workers and cafeteria assistants, will be mainly recruited from other Public Service departments and from Canberra’s own labour force.
The assistance we have been given by the Royal Mint authorities in London, Melbourne and Perth has been invaluable to us in helping to meet a very tight timetable. Three senior officers of the Melbourne branch of the Royal Mint have been working continuously with the mint planning group since 1962. It is difficult to see how we could have made such excellent progress without their assistance. Several oversea mints have already given us most generous assistance by permitting Royal Mint personnel who will be transferring to Canberra to familiarize themselves with new minting techniques. In this connexion, I am glad to pay special tribute to the United States Bureau of the Mint. The bureau provided us with the services of its Assistant Director in 1959 to report on a suitable lay-out for the new mint. It has also given valuable experience to future Royal Australian Mint staff, by agreeing to their spending several weeks at the Denver and Philadelphia mints. These officers have in addition spent extremely useful periods at the London mint. In its capacity as the “ head office “ of the two Australian branch mints, the London mint has kept officers stationed in Melbourne and Perth fully posted on developments overseas. It has generally provided them with all the guidance and assistance necessary to ensure that Australian coins have measured up to the high standards which have always been maintained in London.
The Royal Australian Mint should be producing new decimal coins by the end of 1964. However, it is not yet equipped to produce the necessary master coinage dies. These are the original dies used in the manufacture of the actual working dies which stamp the “ head “ and “ tail “ designs on to the coin blanks. The designs for the reverse, or “ tail “, side of the new decimal coins are being prepared in Australia and will feature a number of most attractive Australian motifs. The new designs are being translated into master coinage dies by the London mint authorities, working closely in conjunction with the Australian designer. The mint authorities have been most generous in providing the type of technical advice which the London mint is peculiarly qualified to give by virtue of its long experience over many hundreds of years. The Australian designers who worked with the Advisory Panel on Coin Design greatly benefited from this advice. The master dies for two of the new coins are sufficiently advanced for production to commence within the next two or three months at either the Melbourne or the Perth mints. I have received many requests to release details of the designs approved so far. I have decided instead to wait until details of the designs for all coins can be released as a “family”. This should be possible in a few months’ time.
As I have said, this bill will enable the Commonwealth to proceed immediately with firm arrangements for transferring skilled mint officers and craftsmen from the Melbourne and Perth mints to work in the new Royal Australian Mint. Highly specialized plant and equipment is already arriving at the new mint and requires the services of these people during the installation and testing period. It is, therefore, becoming a matter of considerable urgency that we should have the legislative power necessary to formalize the arrangements for their transfer.
I have great pleasure in commending the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Webb) adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, I present the report of the Public Works Committee relating to the following proposed work: -
Construction of a regional laboratory for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization at Shenton Park, Western Australia.
I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connexion with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The committee has inspected the present buildings and has found that they are overcrowded and that some research is being conducted in makeshift and primitive conditions. We found that there was an urgent need to provide a new building for the Western Australian regional laboratory of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The site will be eminently suitable for the purpose. We believe that adequate provision has been made for future development of the site. The estimated cost of the work, as recommended by the committee, is £537,000. This amount is larger than the estimated cost of the work as it was referred to the committee. The reason for this is that the committee recommends that air-conditioning of the whole of the building, at an estimated cost of £73,000, be undertaken. The committee realizes that the inter-departmental committee to establish policy on air-conditioning of Commonwealth buildings is still sitting, but we have taken into consideration also that provision has been made in this building for future air-conditioning. The committee considers that it would be more economic to air-condition the building while it is under construction. That recommendation is therefore made. We recommend also construction of the laboratory and associated buildings to the sizes and designs proposed.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Meat Industry Bill 1964.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Bill 1964.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1964.
Meat Export Charge Repeal Bill 1964.
Cattle Slaughter Levy Repeal Bill 1964.
Cattle and Beef Research Bill 1964.
Meat Agreement (Deficiency Payments) Bill 1964.
Meat Export (Additional Charge) Bill 1964.
Loan (Qantas Empire Airways Limited) Bill 1964.
Debate resumed from 5th May (vide page 1539), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Is it the wish of the House that the three bills be taken together?
– I am not very taken with the idea. Still, I think that leave should be granted.
– That procedure will be followed.
.- The measure before the House is a bill to amend the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act 1962-1963. The other measures to be considered in conjunction with it are the Dairy Produce Levy Bill and the Dairy Produce Research and Sales Promotion Bill. I do not think there is an intelligent member of the House who does not appreciate the great value of the dairy industry to the Australian people or, indeed, to people in other parts of the world. On an average, about two-thirds of the tonnage of butter produced annually in Australia is consumed here by 11,000,000 Australians
If you assume that the other third is consumed at the same rate by people elsewhere in the world it will be seen that we are providing butter and nourishment for roughly 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 people in countries less fortunate than Australia. The dairy industry has wide international implications.
The Labour Party has shown a kindly interest in the dairy farmer, not only when it formed the government but also since it has been in opposition. In my 27 years of parliamentary experience the Labour Party, whether in government or in opposition, has endeavoured by every means at its disposal to ensure that the dairy industry receives adequate remuneration for the service it renders to the nation and to people in other countries. I remind honorable members that prior to the outbreak of World War II the dairy industry, unfortunately, was the Cinderella of Australian primary industries. I do not think the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) would challenge that statement. But during the war the real value of the industry was realized. In the initial war years up to 1941, under the Menzies Government, some efforts were made to ameliorate the difficulties with which the industry was confronted. As time went by, opportunities were improved for persons engaged in dairying pursuits to earn more adequate incomes. With the coming of peace the Labour Government of the day was responsible for setting up, at the request of the industry, a committee of inquiry on which were represented dairy farmers, the Treasury, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Prices Commissioner. After a most exhaustive survey of costs of production throughout Australia, in which the various State Governments co-operated, a report was brought down. The committee reported that at that time - 1947 - the average cost of production of butter was about 2s.1½d. per lb., and it recommended that that sum be accepted as the base price of a guarantee plan. It is true that the Government did not accept the majority report of the committee.
– That is the situation, and for a very good reason. That was in line with Labour Party policy. The majority of the committee comprised four dairy farmer representatives. The minority comprised one representative from the Treasury, one from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and one representing the Prices Commissioner. The issue became a political one. The dairy farmers’ representatives had to show their organizations why they had made the generous recommendation of 2s. Hd. per lb. But the impartial and responsible people on the committee who did not have to report to any organization and who as government officials represented the people of the nation pointed out that that amount was excessive. They recommended a sum of 2s. per lb. and the government of the day accepted that recommendation. As a result, there was some very mild protest from the dairy industry but responsible leaders of the industry - I cite for the benefit of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) men like the late George Howie - said that the increase would continue an era of prosperity in the dairy industry. They accepted the 2s. as the base price on which was built a five years’ guarantee plan providing automatically for an adjustment of the price payable to the producer in accordance with any movement that may take place in costs in the preceding year.
– Which government was in power then?
– The Chifley Labour Government. Generally the industry accepted the situation. If the honorable member for Gippsland thinks he can make any political capital of the fact that the majority report was not accepted, let me tell him that under the five years’ guaranteed price the dairy farmers always received the price recommended by the joint dairying industry investigation committee as based on the costs furnished to the Division of Agricultural Economics. It is true that the guarantee was given with the full knowledge that at that time, despite criticism from colleagues of the Minister for Primary Industry we had very advantageous contracts with the United Kingdom Government at a specific price.
– You are provoking honorable members needlessly because the legislation dealt only with processed milk.
– Processed milk is part and parcel of the industry that produces butter. The incomes of many dairy farmers throughout Australia are dependent solely on the portion of their total milk output that goes to make butter and cheese and on the other portion which, as the honorable member for Gippsland is aware, goes to the manufacture of processed milk products. So, Sir, my approach to this bill is fairly relevant. It becomes doubly relevant when we consider that as a result of legislation brought down by the Minister in 1962, the milk processors are now brought into the ambit of a bounty payment, which first appears basically in the structure of Labour’s guaranteed price.
– We have improved on it
– That is a very good idea. The guaranteed price was continued until the United Kingdom contract fizzled out. The prices we obtained under the United Kingdom contract were so good that there was actually a surplus available after paying the guaranteed price. That surplus was set aside by the government of the day in a stabilization fund. That action was criticized but later under mis Government the fund proved valuable in increasing the price paid to the dairy farmers in Australia and a similar procedure was continued. However, with the loss of a guaranteed price and with a reduction in the price obtained in the United Kingdom and other overseas markets, the Government abandoned the costofproduction figure as the guaranteed figure and set up a new committee. That committee had the responsibility of making a recommendation to the Government after taking into consideration a wide variety of factors other than the actual ascertained cost of production. The result has been that, as the dairy farmers were hesitant to increase prices in Australia because they felt that to do so would lead to a reduction in the price obtained in London and elsewhere overseas, they have not been game to recommend a price that bore any substantial relation to the actual cost of production.
To-day the dairy farmer receives a price substantially less than the found cost of production. All the Government does is underwrite his price for his butter to 40d. per lb., which represents roughly two and a half gallons of milk under certain test conditions. The Government underwrites the dairy farmer’s price to 40d. when the actual found- cost of production to-day is about 53d. or 54d. per lb. So I advise the honorable member for Gippsland not to explore too deeply the value of the relevant guarantees given by various governments. I am fully conscious of the problems facing the Minister for Primary Industry in this difficult situation.
Let me come now to the processed milk trade. In about 1947 the butter and cheese industry was enjoying a guaranteed price based on the cost of production and every butter factory in Australia was a member of the organization which equalized and disbursed the returns from the overseas and local markets, but the milk processors of Australia remained outside of that equalization process. Overseas markets were good and they did not want their overseas and local prices equalized. They played the role of lone wolves and made no contribution towards equalization. They enjoyed the peaks of the market and were, in effect, a non-union outfit. Among those involved was Nestles, in particular. But in 1962, when the overseas markets were not so bright, Nestles and other firms wanted to come in and share in the bounty, which was equivalent to the bounty paid for a number of years to the people supplying milk for butter. I was in favour of their being brought into the scheme, but they should always be reminded of the rather mean part they played during the previous period. It is true that my attitude is conditioned by the fact that it is a good thing that they are in the scheme, and also the fact that a number of milk processing factories are now involved in the trade and it is desirable that they should benefit from the bounty.
In 1962 we had the situation that the Government, knowing the willingness of these people to come in and share the benefits of the government bounty, introduced legislation setting aside £350,000 for the milk processors of Australia. Following an amendment of the act last year to make the sum £400,000, the butter people have been receiving a bounty of about 8d. per lb. - which is really a consumer subsidy - and the people exporting processed milk products have been receiving a bounty of about 6d. per lb.
– This year they will get the full amount.
– Yes, out of the £500,000. This means that the processing factories will be able to pay to the people supplying milk for processing a price that has some reasonable relationship to the price paid for milk or butterfat that goes into the manufacture of butter. I think that is desirable, and I am glad to note that the whole industry is coming into this organization. It was no fault of the previous Administration that they were not brought in earlier. However, let me give some words of warning. I would say that in respect of some of these bounties we should always make sure that none of the proprietary milk processing organizations are able to manipulate their figures. It has been alleged - I do not think without some truth - that one very large proprietary firm, in the days when it was not concerned with the equalization scheme and did not share in the bounty, was in a position to sell its processed condensed milk at a low cost to a subsidiary company which was international in its ramifications. It thus evaded making a big profit out of its Australian activities, so avoiding the comparatively high taxation then ruling here. The subsidiary company, which was located in another country, was able to make a high profit from the sale of this Australian processed product and paid lower taxation because of the relatively low tax rate in that country. This is the sort of practice that the Minister’s competent departmental officers should keep a watch on.
– And with power to check books.
– Yes. That type of practice must be watched, particularly as there are now several proprietary companies with international connexions. I hope that within the ambit of the bill there is provision - if not, there should be - whereby if, after examination of books, it is discovered that a company is not entitled to draw the bounty, something can be done about it.
– That is right.
– The Minister says, “ That is right “; but how can he act?
– They will not get the bounty.
– I suggest that we discuss this position later.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended for dinner I had almost concluded my remarks on the first measure that we are considering - the Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill. I conclude by emphasizing that the Opposition approves the measure. We note that the operation of the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act over the past couple of years has achieved, at least to some extent, the desired result, in that the quantity of milk products exported has increased substantially. Of course, exports have been stimulated by the bounty and we believe that that trend should be encouraged. We hope that it will continue. Everybody knows that overseas markets for butter are not as buoyant as are overseas markets for processed milk. So, if we can increase sales of processed milk by paying a bounty, it is desirable that the bounty should be paid.
I note that the Minister for Primary Industry informed us that the value of the exports of the processed milk industry in 1962-63 was more than £8,250,000, which was £1,250,000 higher than the value of exports in 1961-62. That is very good work. I also note that, although the industry wanted the bounty continued for three years, the Government has approved a continuation for only twelve months. It might have been better to give the industry this assurance of stability for a longer period. However, the Government has made its decision and at this stage we do not intend to challenge that decision.
– That is the position now.
– We are now in the third year after the first bounty payment. We are now amending the act. In order to save making a further amendment next year, it might have been desirable to continue the bounty for a further three years.
The second measure under discussion is complementary to the first, to some extent. It is a bill for an act to amend the Dairy Produce Levy Act 1958 in order to rectify an anomaly which apparently has arisen in regard to the incidence of the levy imposed under that act. As far as I can see from the information that has been furnished to me, this anomaly is due, in large measure, to the application of science to the dairy industry. In the past the dairy products known as butteroil and ghee were made by processing butter; but now scientists have found that those products can be made directly from milk. The anomaly arose because the levy applied to butter but not to butteroil and ghee made directly from milk. I understand that this amendment removes that anomaly. Consequently, the Opposition supports the bill.
The third measure under consideration is a bill for an act to amend the Dairy Produce Research and Sales Promotion Act 1958- 1963. It is consequential upon the measures to which I have just referred. It is a machinery measure. It is essential to enable the satisfactory allocation of the proceeds of the levy which is imposed on the industry, in order to permit the industry to continue to indulge in substantial research work and to improve the economic efficiency of the industry generally. We support the measures.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23rd April (vide page 1452), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House is of the opinion that the bill fails to meet the urgent needs of the people of Australia as it does not provide for a full national health plan embracing adequate medical and hospital services available to all and, particularly, does not (a) extend medical services to all persons, (b) ensure free hospitalization in public wards, (c) abolish the Ss. prescription fee, and (d) end the exploitation of the Australian people by drug manufacturers “.
I move this amendment on behalf of the Opposition as an indication of our dissatisfaction, and that of the Australian people, with the failure of the national health scheme. In the committee stage, other amendments will be moved by the
Opposition in an endeavour to remove injustices from the National Health Act. We welcome any benefits that may be included in this bill. But at the same time we have grave doubts whether they will improve in any way the working of the scheme.
The annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Health for 1962-63 shows a total departmental expenditure on national health for that year of £96,194,653, excluding allowances paid to tuberculosis sufferers. It also shows that since 1952 a total of approximately £654,000,000 has been spent under the scheme. The net result of that expenditure is that we. have what experts have called the worst national health scheme in the world. After ten years of operation, the scheme not only has been costly and has failed to achieve its aims but also is in serious danger of collapsing.
Let us look objectively at the scheme. It is not voluntary; it is compulsory. If a person does not join a medical benefits fund he receives nothing. It is a hold-up job. The Government says, “ Join a fund and pay up; otherwise you will receive no benefit “. It is not a health scheme; it is a sickness scheme. It contains no provisions to encourage positive health measures. It is not an insurance scheme; it abrogates virtually every principle of insurance. It is not national, because it covers only about 72 per cent, of the population and leaves almost 3,000,000 people outside it. It is not a health coverage. It does not include dental or optical treatment or treatment of mental illness.
It appears to be hopelessly out of date, because it is based on the general practitioner at a time of rapid increase in the degree of specialization and of advances in medical technology. It mocks the so-called freedom of choice of doctors. Any pensioner or public-ward patient has no freedom of choice whatever. That applies to people in many country towns.
Despite the hopeful assurance of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) about stability in medical fees, there is not the slightest guarantee of such stability, which is the basis on which the scheme depends for success. For that reason, it has never covered 90 per cent, of medical fees, as was promised by Sir Earle Page when he intro duced the scheme. In fact, this year people will recover only an average of 63 per cent, of medical fees, or roughly 6s. out of every 10s. that they pay in medical fees. It is purely a financial scheme. Apparently it is concerned more with guaranteeing that doctors’ bills will be paid than with the patients who pay them. It fails lamentably to make any provision against the day of serious, protracted or catastrophic illness. It ignores virtually altogether the breakdown, the chronic illness and the incapacity.
Under the scheme, hospital and medical benefits funds, which number 188, have flourished. That has resulted in duplication, inefficiency, expensive administration and the building up of huge reserves from contributors’ funds. By a restricted formulary and a 5s. prescription charge, the scheme has destroyed the principle of providing free medicine to people, particularly to pensioners. It has given the drug manufacturers an open go to fleece and exploit the Australian people. It has destroyed free hospital treatment in public wards and, by reduced allocations of funds, has placed an intolerable burden on the States in hospital administration. In other words, it is not a national scheme at all, but an expensive experiment at the expense of the Australian taxpayer which has benefited the drug companies, the medical profession and the retailers of pharmaceutical benefits, but is of little or no benefit to the people who really matter - those who need medical attention.
The present bill, far from correcting the glaring injustices in the scheme, if anything aggravates them. It does nothing to stabilize doctors’ fees. In fact, the Minister admits that this cannot be done. It does nothing to ensure a full medical and hospital coverage for the people of this country. It still does not include optical, dental, medical and various other health benefits. And it will now severely restrict the activities of friendly societies throughout the length and breadth of this country.
I pause for a moment to look at the proposals in this legislation after that brief resume of what is not contained in the bill or in the scheme. The second-reading speech of the Minister stated that the bill will, first, provide for substantial increases in Commonwealth medical benefits to all contributors to registered medical benefit funds. He said that the bill provides also that arrangements for reducing or rebating the 5s. pharmaceutical fee are to be limited to persons who are already entitled to reduced charges or rebates. The bill includes several amendments of a machinery nature which are being made to improve the working of the scheme, and makes provision for hearing aids and polio vaccination to come within the confines of the National Health Act.
I want to deal first with the question of the increases that have been made in doctors’ charges in particular. This legislation proposes, so the Minister said, to increase Commonwealth benefits by up to 33i per cent., or in some cases by even more. The maximum Commonwealth fund benefit under these proposals will be increased from £22 10s. to £30. We are told that the fund benefits will give contributors a satisfactory return on the charges most commonly made by doctors for medical procedures. I repeat the term “ most commonly “. In all cases, the Minister stated, contributors would receive maximum, benefits of up to 90 per cent, of the doctor’s fee, if they were charged the most common fee for certain classes of treatment. In the case of confinement the fee will have to be £16 16s. or less for the patient to get the maximum benefit. If the doctor’s charge is higher, the percentage return to the contributor drops accordingly - to as low as 50 per cent, if the charge happens to be £30 for instance. According to the Minister, the most common fee throughout Australia for treatment of appendicitis, which is a reasonably common complaint, is £26 15s. Under the new proposals the total benefit to the patient will be £22 10s., or 85 per cent, of the most common fee. Note that term again, and the percentage. Even under the most common fee principle you cannot get the 90 per cent, promised by this Government when the scheme was originally introduced. As the charge gets higher the percentage of return to the contributor drops accordingly.
Again, the Minister stated that of one thousand separate medical procedures specified in the medical benefits schedule, contributors receiving Commonwealth and fund benefits will get a reasonable return on the fees most commonly charged by doctors. He does not say they will get 90 per cent. - because they cannot get that under any scheme that this Government has introduced. Without the stabilization of doctors’ fees, to which the Government will not agree, this scheme cannot function as it was originally intended, and the amounts paid in benefits will accordingly drop below what they should be.
The Minister stated that the common fees for surgery consultations varied from 20s. in South Australia to 25s. in New South Wales and Tasmania. Common fees - it is a good old term - for home visits vary from 27s. 6d. in South Australia to 32s. 6d. in New South Wales. So there can be no uniform benefit whatever under this scheme from one end of Australia to the other. The percentage return of these fees to the contributor will never reach 90 per cent., but will vary from a minimum of 72 per cent, to a maximum of 86 per cent, for surgery consultations. People seriously or chronically ill who must be visited at home by the doctor will be lucky to get 45 per cent, or 50 per cent, back. Under the Liberal Government’s policy, the sicker you get the less benefit you receive, because if you cannot go to a doctor’s surgery the benefit you receive drops from 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, to 45 or 50 per cent, under this national health scheme.
Unless a patient is charged £3 3s. when he consults a specialist he will not get the 90 per cent, return. The specialist charge for almost 50 per cent, of cases is £4 4s. which means that the benefit will drop to 69 per cent, in that case. The new Commonwealth benefit for consultation with a general practitioner will be 8s. as compared with the present benefit of 6s. The new total benefits for such consultations will now vary from 15s. 6d. in Victoria to 18s. in New South Wales. The point I make is that these patients cannot really benefit unless some effort is made to stabilize doctors’ fees.
Under the present proposals people pay up to 12s. in direct payments in social service tax and are then called upon to pay at least one-third of their medical fees. That is 6s. 8d. in the £1 or £33 6s. 8d. in £100 of medical fees, under a scheme which should cover every person because of the social service contributions that he pays. The late Sir Earle Page clearly conveyed the impression to the British Medical Association Conference in 1950, and to this Parliament when introducing the original legislation, that the scheme would cover about 90 per cent, of the patient’s costs. The Government cannot escape that fact, as it is in the records of this Parliament. The balance of 10 per cent, was supposed to be a deterrent to abuse of the scheme. The original intention of the legislation was for the fund to pay 45 per cent., the Commonwealth 45 per cent, and the patient 10 per cent, of fees. The scheme has never worked as it was intended. The position to-day is that the fund pays 37 per cent., the Commonwealth pays 27 per cent, and the poor old patient, sick as he is, pays 36 per cent, instead of 10 per cent.
In the first year of operation of this legislation members of funds received back only an average of 63 per cent of their medical expenses. This has varied now and again, and reached a maximum of 65 per cent, on one occasion, but it was back to 63 per cent, for the year 1962-63. In some cases, as honorable members know, many people would get back considerably less than that percentage.
The Minister stated that the problem which is causing the greatest concern is the margin between doctors’ charges for medical services and the benefits payable under the scheme. What a remarkable discovery after the scheme has been operating for ten years! As a matter of fact, the Minister is quite right for once, because that is the major problem. As the Minister has stated, it is true that the percentage of medical fees returned depends on two factors - the amount of the fee and the amount of the combined Commonwealth and fund benefit. The Minister went on to say -
The Government has not the power to fix doctors’ fees by compulsion, nor has it any intention of seeking that power.
The Government, in effect, compels you to join a medical benefits fund to get the Commonwealth benefit, but it avoids compulsion where somebody more powerful than the poor old wage plug or some organization as powerful as the Australian Medical Association is concerned. The Minister went on to say -
We believe in the people’s freedom of choice to select their own doctors and the doctors’ freedom to charge the fees that they consider appropriate for their patients.
What an amazing statement for the Minister to make! The Government will not endeavour to stabilize fees in order to make one of the most vital schemes of our time work.
– Would you fix them?
– I will tell you about that later on. You look as if you could absorb a little knowledge. The Minister continued -
On the other hand, it is absolutely essential to the financial soundness of a medical insurance scheme that a specific amount of benefit is predetermined for each particular service. A medical insurance scheme which paid by way of benefit a fixed proportion of variable fees could not survive financially without repeated increases in the rates of contributions from the members themselves or in the Government subsidy.
The statements of the Minister are certainly true - and contradictory - and show the major weakness in the present scheme. It is practically impossible for the Government to give what was originally planned - up to 90 per cent, of the fees charged by doctors - because of the very factors that the Minister mentioned himself. This was indicated in the speech of the late Sir Earle Page when he said that the doctors must face up to their responsibility on charges, otherwise the scheme would not work. That is precisely what they are not doing to-day. The Minister went on to say -
For this reason the Government will not and cannot give an undertaking that patients will invariably receive benefits equalling 90 per cent, or any other percentage of fees charged by every doctor.
So you put your money into the benefit societies and, as you would do when playing a one-armed bandit, you take what you get; it might be 70 per cent., it might be 45 per cent, but you will never get the jackpot even though you may get pretty close. The Minister continued -
It does not and cannot mean that 90 per cent of the doctor’s charge will be paid as benefits in every case.
He should have said “ in any case “ because that is the position with these proposals. Dealing specifically with the stabilization of doctors’ fees - I mention this quite often because every one, including even many medical practitioners, accepts that on this hinges the success of the scheme - the Minister went on to say -
The Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association has also kept the Minister for Health informed of the progress it has made in its discussions with the State branches regarding the stabilization of doctors’ fees. . . . The position in this regard is that the Australian Medical Association has no legal power to require its members to maintain any particular level of fees. However, the federal president of the association has advised the Minister that, after consultation with the association’s branches, stabilization of fees has virtually been implemented throughout Australia and that no recommendation-
That is very decent of them - to increase fees would be sponsored by the association as a result of increases in benefits under the National Health Act.
To say the least, that statement by the Minister is remarkable. The association will make no recommendation. As I shall show later, it has little control over its members, so it cannot give any guarantee that fees will not be increased. The Australan Medical Association must be the only association of its kind in this country that does not fix the fees of its members. For the services of practically every other organization a fixed fee is applied. The wages of workers are pegged. The basic wage stood still for years without quarterly adjustments, under direction by this Government. The salaries of public servants and other individuals are fixed. Charges applying to various services are fixed by associations but in the vital matter of health the Australian Medical Association and the Government have no power to protect the people. Did you ever hear of anything so monstrous or so silly in this day and age when people depend on medical attention more so than before.
Let me refer now to that portion of the speech in which the Minister said -
That statement affords no guarantee. By its own admission, the association has no legal power and very little control over its members, with the result that these increased benefits probably will be gobbled up in the immediate future by increases in doctors’ fees.
For the benefit of the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) who interjected earlier, I point out that of the 14,024 doctors in Australia only 11,434 or 80 per cent, are members of the Australian Medical Association. There are 2,590 doctors outside the association. The Minister has said that at this stage there is stabilization of a kind. The “Daily Telegraph “ of 26th July, 1963, under the heading “ Most Doctors Agree to Stabilize Fees carried the following statement: -
Doctors in seven metropolitan and in ten country district associations had agreed yesterday to stabilize their fees for two years from June 30th last.
The A.M. A. has 24 affiliated metropolitan and country associations in N.S.W. and the A.C.T.
Some branches added riders to their acceptance. The Western Medical Association accepted subject to all other charges, wages, &c., and cost of living remaining static.
The Minister for Health was reported in the Melbourne “Age” of 25th July, 1963, as follows: -
The Minister for Health said that the Federal Government wanted more concrete assurances of stability of doctors’ fees before considering increases in medical benefit payments.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and others in this place have spoken along those lines because they realize that the very success of this scheme will hinge ultimately upon the question of whether stability in fees exists.
The whole basis of the increases given and outlined in the Minister’s speech which average, according to him, 334 per cent, mean nothing in view of the Government’s failure to stabilize medical charges. To say that this cannot be done is begging the question. Without being unduly critical of the A.M.A. and the medical profession, I say that if it is good enough to peg the wages of workers and family men and women, it is good enough to insist that those wages shall provide adequate medical coverage in accordance with the act. Medical charges should not be subject to rises almost overnight which destroy any benefit that may be gained temporarily by legislation of the kind now before us.
The Minister based much of his speech on what he termed “ the charges most commonly made by doctors “. Any variation vitally affects the patient. It is impossible to check the thousands of separate medical procedures specified1 in this legislation. If you want to undergo one of the most frightening experiences of your lifetime, read what can happen to you in the schedules to the bill for which you will receive from this Government benefits ranging from £2 10s. to £30. It is impossible to check every benefit but it is safe to say that the vast majority of patients will be lucky to get 70 per cent, of their fee;, - £70 in £100- let alone 90 per cent. At the same time, they will have to pay social services tax and contribute to the benefit fund at the rate of 10s. or 12s. a week and still have to meet 30 per cent, of the medical fees. These factors point again to the need for fees to be stabilized in some way so that all may benefit from the Government’s proposal.
Charges for the services provided by doctors in the different States vary considerably. lt is interesting to note that while the Government has taken as a basis the most common charges, in some cases operations may cost double the amount that the Government has taken into consideration. I have in mind an appendectomy or a similar operation. Since the scheme’s inception the whole trouble has been the struggle between the Government, the doctors and the health insurance funds, with the public hoping for the best.
We may well ask how long can the scheme continue without stabilization and agreement on medical charges. Certainly the present set-up makes it impossible to get a complete insurance cover for any ailment or even for a confinement, a fractured skull or a broken leg. People generally do not fracture their skulls or break their legs by design. The Opposition’s view is that the success of this scheme depends upon patients having full coverage for medical expenses. Any scheme which places a further impost on the contributor simply because doctors increase their fees should not be tolerated.
We believe that a case can be made for arbitration on at least the common ailments associated with medicine. What would be wrong with an arbitration committee consisting of a judge, a member of the medical profession and a layman? The committee could decide the cost of operation or treatment to be paid for or at least those ailments that occur most frequently. Unless and until the Government stabilizes medical charges, people unfortunate enough to be seriously ill will get from their fund benefits which will become smaller as time goes on. The only beneficiaries will be members of the medical profession. In line with that the Government could well encourage, by subsidy and other means, the establishment of a salaried service so that all would benefit.
I understand that the Australian scheme is costing even more than the comprehensive nationalized scheme in Great Britain but is paying only about one-quarter of the benefits that are paid there. I mention that so that honorable members will know that changes are necessary in the field of medicine.
At this stage the Constitution appears to deprive any government of the right to introduce a socialized nationalized medical service. However, the trend overseas is towards some form of nationalized medical service. Great Britain, Denmark and Holland have a completely nationalized service while Australia and New Zealand have a partly nationalized service. Sweden, Norway, France and Germany have compulsory health insurance schemes. There are few developed countries in the world to-day in which the Government does not accept some responsibility for the cost of sickness. The Government must produce a better scheme than the one now in existence because migrants who come to Australia from countries such as Great Britain where there are comprehensive medical schemes naturally protest at their inability to obtain the same kind of service in Australia. That is why it is necessary for this Government to introduce a truly national scheme.
I have stated that ours is not a truly national scheme. It has failed in many respects. There are about 3,000,000 people outside the ambit of the scheme but no one seems to know who they are or to care about them. They may be chronically jil; they may be very poor; they may be migrants who cannot speak English; they may be people on very low wages. Nevertheless, nearly 3,000,000 people are not covered. The Government should implement a scheme which will give a complete coverage to the people of Australia.
I want to touch now on another fault in the present scheme. I could not pass from this subject without bringing to the attention of the Parliament the amendment to the National Health Act in 1955 by which pensioners were denied the right to free medical services if they were receiving in excess of £2 a week, in the case of single pensioners, and £4 a week in the case of married couples. Until that time pensioners were entitled to free medical services. However, as from 1st November, 1955, a means test was applied. To-day pensioners - aged, sick and infirm - who are urgently requiring medical attention are denied the benefit of free medical services. The permissible income has risen to £3 10s. a week, the cost of living has increased and the rate of pension has been substantially improved. Yet the Government refuses to provide free medical services for almost 1 00,000 people at a time in their lives when they most need medical attention. This Government stands condemned for its failure to include those 100,000 pensioners in the number who will receive the benefits provided for in this legislation. At the committee stage we shall move to have action taken in that regard. When we consider that the doctors received more than £4,500,000 in payments for medical services to pensioners for the year ended in June, 1963, the least that should be done is to extend the benefits to those pensioners.
This legislation severely restricts the activities of the friendly societies. The membership of the societies at the present time is estimated to be about 500,000, including dependants. The societies will not be able to rebate the 5s. charge for prescriptions, their membership will be pegged, and they will be prevented from advertising. In several ways there will be an interference with the activities of the friendly societies. The action of the Government in pegging their membership for benefits as at 24th April means that it is introducing to the friendly society section of the legislation all the worst features of the pensioner medical service that I mentioned a few moments ago. People who will have joined friendly societies after 24th April will not be entitled to certain benefits while those who joined before that date will be entitled to them. At the committee stage we will deal more fully with this section of the legislation.
We will move for the removal of the provision covering the 5s. prescription fee.
We believe that this provision is not preventing the issuing of prescriptions and the use of drugs and is an unnecessary impost on the taxpayer. The free medicine scheme, as it was originally called, was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government. The comments of the Minister for Repatriation make interesting reading when we consider what was done by the Chifley Government in introducing the original legislation. The Australian Labour Party has always been opposed to the imposition of the 5s. prescription fee. The proposed amendments to the act in regard to the friendly societies will introduce provisions to which the Labour Party is vigourously opposed. We can see no reason why the Government should have decided to take the action it proposes to take. As the Minister stated, the purpose of the 5s. prescription charge was to stop the public from ordering unnecessarily on free medical prescriptions and. to use the Minister’s own words, “to discourage the unnecessary use of benefits provided under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme “. This has worked in reverse, as I shall show. The number of benefit prescriptions issued in 1960-61 was 31,217,000. After the 5s. fee was imposed, the number rose to 42,192,000 in 1962-63, an increase of 10,975,000. The total cost of prescriptions has risen, too. Although the average cost of benefit prescriptions has remained more or less stable, the number of prescriptions written and the total cost is increasing ten times as fast as the population is increasing. The increase has occurred in spite of the fact that the Government said it introduced the charge to prevent prescribing on an unlimited scale.
The pharmaceutical benefits scheme is only a shadow of what the Chifley Government originally intended it to be. It does n”t cover a complete range of drugs. Many essential drugs are not included in the list. Almost 100,000 pensioners are denied the benefit of this scheme. To impose a 5s. prescription fee under the guise of providing free medicine is unjustified. The cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme has been signified by protests from the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and even the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). In ten years the cost has risen from £7,000,000 to £38,000,000, including benefits for pensioners. The cost of benefits to pensioners rose from£ 2,500,000 in 1958-59 to £9,900,000 in 1962-63. In the ten-year period ended in June, 1963, the average cost of prescriptions rose from 4s. 9d. to 19s. 4d. These costs have caused alarm from one end of the community to the other, particularly in government circles. The reason is that the commercial enterprises which supply the drugs put profits first and service next. The doctors are blamed by the chemists for over-prescribing and the Government is blamed because of its additions to the free list. Most of the blame for the cost for pharmaceutical benefits, however, lies with the drug companies. The 5s. fee has been ineffective in preventing an increase in the number of prescriptions or of the charges made. Honorable members on this side of the House, notably the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), have given facts and figures relating to the activities of the drug companies which have startled not only this House but the whole nation, and which have been responsible for great reductions in the price of many essential drugs.
Let me direct the attention of the House to the huge profits that are made by the drug companies and the reductions that have been made in the price of drugs since the matter was raised in the Parliament. The Kefauver Committee in the United States of America found that the drug industry’s gross margin on drug operations was no less than 67.9 per cent. The “ Financial Review “ recently indicated that the Eli Lilly organization made a profit of 66 per cent, on paid capital, the Essex Laboratories made 140 per cent., and the Boots Pure Drug Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited made 40 per cent. In 1962 Drug Houses of Australia Limited made a profit of £1,073,505 and in 1963 F. H. Faulding and Company Limited made a profit of £127,787. The Schering organization has shown a profit of 140 per cent., the Beecham organization a profit of 44 per cent. and the Cyanamid organization a profit of £A.9,500,000 for a quarter. Apparently when this matter was raised in the House the drug manufacturers received a great fright. The Minister for Health has announced that within the last few months reductions totalling £2,700,000 have been made in the price of drugs which for years have been supplied under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme at what has been described as a proper price. If an accurate assessment were made, it would be found that the Australian public had been overcharged between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 for drugs supplied under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The drug houses are supplying drugs to Indonesia at about half the cost at which they are being supplied in Australia. Moreover, they are prepared to supply drugs to hospitals and other users at only one-half or one-third of the price being charged under the national health scheme.
Let me indicate further just what is happening. In England a certain drug is being supplied at a cost of 26s. 2d. sterling but in this country the Government is being charged £2 13s. 9d. We find that the average cost of prescriptions in the United Kingdom is 10s. in Australian currency but that in Australia it is 19s. 4d. One drug is supplied at 8s. 2d. for 30 in the United Kingdom but at 18s. 6d. in Australia. Another costs 5s. 5d. for 25 in the United Kingdom but £11s. for 50 in Australia, and yet another costs 5s. 3d. in the United Kingdom and 14s. 7d. in Australia. A certain drug is supplied at 269s. for 100 capsules, the unofficial rebate being 67 per cent. Hospitals are being supplied with certain other drugs at a cost of £4 15s. while chemists under this scheme are being charged £40 or £50 for them.
It is evident that throughout the drug industry the scheme is being exploited in a way that undoubtedly calls for investigation by the Government. Other speakers will elaborate further on what is being done in the drug industry and how the people are being fleeced by the drug manufacturing companies. By the time this debate is finished the Opposition will have proved to the people that there is justification for the appointment immediately of a parliamentary select committee, or probably a royal commission, to inquire into the activities of drug manufacturers and the ramifications of the industry, and the exploitation of the Australian people under the national health scheme.
Now I come to the subject of hospital and medical benefits. At 30th June, 1963, there were 188 registered hospital and medical benefit organizations. The diversity of organizations increases operating expenses, which, in the period from 1953 to 1962, amounted to £29,000,000. The administrative costs of the Commonwealth Taxation Branch represent 1 per cent, of total tax collections. The operating costs of hospital and medical benefit organizations amount to 15 per cent, of contributions. In the year ended 30th June, 1962, these organizations had received £38,186,873 in contributions from their members, and in the same year the amount paid in benefits to members, excluding Commonwealth benefits, was £32,108,588. This left a surplus of contributions over benefits paid of more than £6,000,000.
In the period of nine years from 1953-54 to 1961-62 the difference between payments to and payments by hospital and medical benefit organizations, excluding Commonwealth benefits, was £44,459,155. There was a surplus of £19,655,696 in the case of hospital benefits and £24,803,459 in medical benefits. In the same period operating expenses totalled £29,106,484, and at 30th June, 1962, the reserve of these organizations stood at £25,122,895. This shows that the funds should be able to give increased benefits to the people.
There is indeed a need for a review of the functions of the organizations. Some of them at least should be amalgamated, and there should be some kind of government fund that people could join and from which they could be given reasonable benefits for their contributions. Such an instrumentality would not require huge reserves. If there were fewer organizations guaranteed by the Government there would be no need for excessive reserves.
The proportion of the population covered by hospital and medical organizations at 30th June, 1963, has been given in the annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Health. The proportion covered by hospital funds was 73 per cent., and by medical funds 71 per cent. This left about 3,000,000 people outside the funds. It should not be compulsory to join a fund in order to qualify for a benefit. The person with maximu minsurance and with a minor illness, should be able to get by, but the chronically ill person who is out of work and has no sick pay faces great hardship. In fact it is impossible under the scheme, with combined Commonwealth and fund benefit, to get anything like a complete coverage of medical expenses. There is much to be said for the proposition that many of these organizations have been established primarily to guarantee doctors’ bills rather than patients’ costs.
I have already mentioned that under this scheme, unless there is an increase in fund benefits, there can be no substantial benefit passed on to the member. This legislation simply reduces the value of the fund benefit by the amount of the increase granted by the Government. It is obvious from the Minister’s speech that there can be no increase in fund benefit unless contributors’ fees are raised. That is why we say that this scheme is failing. There is a need to review the activities of the funds and ensure that benefits are not given to the medical profession in preference to the contributors, as the Government intends should be done. At the same time, we suggest that there is an obligation on the Government to ensure that there is an increase in fund benefit to keep it in line with what has been given by the Government, and that the increased government grant will not mean a reduction of 331 per cent, in fund benefit.
The number of funds operating is a matter for debate. They all have more or less the same rules and regulations and give the same benefits. There is no competition. The whole structure needs a complete review. Something should be done regarding the activities of the funds to give greater benefits to the people. These organizations should give complete coverage for hospital and medical benefits. It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that this is done by stabilizing doctors’ fees. Without this the scheme must fail. The Commonwealth should establish a government medical and hospital fund. It should not be necessary for a person to join a fund in order to obtain Commonwealth benefit. It is for these reasons that we suggest that there is a need to review the activities of the funds, the commitments being met by them, their stability and their financial position generally, because there appears to be grave doubt that they can meet the increased commitments involved unless contributions are increased. In this respect we believe that the reserves are too great and we suggest that there must be something radically wrong with the financial structure of the funds if they cannot meet additional commitments without increasing their fees.
The subject of hospitalization will be dealt with by other speakers. We contend that free hospitalization should be restored. To this end additional payments should be made to the States. There should be a full and complete coverage so that people may have the benefits of hospitalization on the basis that was provided by the Chifley Government. The abolition of that free hospital treatment scheme is to the eternal discredit of this Government, and we on this side will move for its re-introduction in the committee stage of the bill, so that the people may have restored to them the great benefit of free hospitalization that has been taken away from them. The Labour Party believes that everybody in Australia, irrespective of age, means, sex or occupation, should have equal opportunity to take advantage of the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.
We record with regret that Australia still remains one of the few advanced countries without a comprehensive system of health and medical services. We believe in the establishment of a complete national health service to provide general practitioner, specialist, pharmaceutical, hospital, mental health, dental and optical services, hearing appliances, maternity services, convalescence, home help, research and administration. We do not seek to hinder medical practice nor to limit the choice of the doctor. We also believe that many of these reforms, such as free hospitalization and full medical coverage for all people, are possible of immediate fulfilment. We believe in the provision, by special grants, of a salaried medical service at public hospitals. We believe in the encouragement, with adequate subsidies, of group arrangements with general practitioners for medical services to groups, on either a salaried or per capita basis. At the same time, we will take appropriate action to pevent the exploitation of the people in the field of medicine and health.
To summarize the position, Labour believes that there should be, for all who want it, a comprehensive service covering every branch of medical and allied activity, from the care of minor ailments to major medicine and surgery, to include the treatment of mental as well as physical disorders, to provide specialist service, including treatment for teeth and eyes, and to cover the provision of all necessary drugs, medicines and appliances.
The policy of Labour is to divorce the care of health from the problem of personal means, to encourage a new attitude to health - the promotion of good health Father than just treatment of bad health. In other words, we want to create a new public responsibility and to make it somebody’s clear duty to see that all medical facilities are available to the people.
The amendment proposed represents a step towards the fullfilment of our ultimate objective, the replacement of this extravagant, wasteful and expensive scheme with a practical and complete national health programme, capable of meeting the requirements of all people in this young nation.
– I second the amendment.
.- I was interested in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) because I was wondering just what line he would follow on this occasion. I say “ on this occasion “ because his colleague, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who usually replies to a Minister who speaks on health matters, has attacked the Government very often along the very same lines as the honorable member for Grayndler has done. Irrespective of the merits of the national health scheme, we hear the same line of argument time after time. Once a year, and perhaps more often, wc are subjected by either the honorable member for EdenMonaro or the honorable member for Grayndler to a farrago of nonsense of this kind. We are told how pathetically poor is our national health scheme and what the Labour Party would do in this field if it were returned to power. This has been going on for ten years now and it is becoming a little wearisome.
The Opposition’s alternative to the scheme operating under the present National Health Act is a compulsory scheme - a scheme designed for the complete welfare state, as we gathered when the honorable member for Grayndler read out the Labour Party’s platform on national health. Labour’s scheme is based on the principle that every practitioner in the health service - I use the word “ practitioner “ in its widest sense; I do not refer to the medical practitioner only - should be a government servant. The Labour Party endeavoured to initiate such a scheme at the time the Chifley Government was in office, as the honorable member for Grayndler told us. But he did not tell us that the Labour Party was put out of office partly because of the proposals it made on that occasion. Undaunted by this rebuff, Labour has been trying to sell its proposals to the Australian taxpayers in every triennial period. It has put forward similar schemes on each occasion, but without success. I do not believe that I should take up very much of the time of the House by telling honorable members - we have heard it so often - about what the Labour Party proposes in order to bring about a compulsory health scheme and to nationalize the whole of the health services of Australia.
The main purpose of this bill is to ensure that members of medical benefit societies will receive an increase in the contributions from the Commonwealth towards payment for medical services, without any increase in the rates of their contribution to those societies. The Government is to be congratulated on facing up to the problem of bridging the gap between the present benefits and medical charges. This has been a tricky problem for the Minister. Unless doctors’ fees were stabilized, it would be impossible for a member of a society to get any lasting benefit from an increase in the Government’s contribution. It would be useless for the Government to increase its contribution if doctors were to increase their charges.
Before I pass on to the second purpose of the bill I should like to mention that the Menzies national health service - it was introduced in 1953 by Sir Earl Page, then Minister for Health in the Menzies Government - has been in operation now for more than ten years. It is gratifying to know that the present Minister realizes that no health service can be static or fixed, but must move in accordance with the changes that take place in medical science and must take into account the fact that costs increase from time to time. The Minister has shown his appreciation of this necessity by the amendments that this bill seeks to make to the National Health Act. However, I trust that the Minister will go further during the life of this Parliament and will overhaul other aspects of the legislation. I hope that he will pay due regard to the question whether all the ancillary services which have proved themselves over recent years to be valuable agents in a modern health service should be utilized and brought within the scope of our national health scheme. I am sure that many of them could be gradually included in the scheme without any appreciable increase in cost.
The contributory system of hospital and medical benefits which has been in operation in this country for ten years has become a vital link in our social security. The system emphasizes public service but, in the main, it utilizes private enterprise to give a health service to the people, many of whom are not equipped financially to provide adequately for themselves. Medical services as we know them in this country are based not on hospitals, as is the case in many other countries - the honorable member for Grayndler referred to them - but on the medical practitioners. The choice of a doctor lies not with the Government or with a hospital but with the patient himself. He is, of course, a member of a benefit society. In this country every member of such a society is entitled to personal treatment. This treatment is different from that which a person receives in a country where there is a compulsory system based on the hospitals. Private enterprise at its best is utilized under our national health scheme.
Because of this, it is most important that the standards of medical practice in Australia remain high. They are high and will continue to be so long as the private enterprise system continues. The private enterprise system offers a constant challenge to the practitioners to maintain their services at a high standard. Further, while the services are based on the practitioners, not on the hospitals, there is a continuing relationship between the doctor and the patient that is missing in countries where the socialization of medical services has occurred.
The medical benefit service came into operation for the first time in July, 1953, and during that year more than £1,400,000 was paid for 3,250,000 services. To-day, £11,500,000 is paid for approximately 23,500,000 services, and membership of registered benefit societies represents more than 71 per cent, of the population. The rest of the population is catered for by the pensioner medical service and the Repatriation Department. During the last tcn years, perhaps the greatest acquisition to our health scheme was the introduction of the special accounts provision which permitted members with pre-existing ailments and persons over the age of 65 years to receive the maximum benefits. To-day benefit societies accept these classes of persons in their stride, without imposing any embargo whatever. Both the hospital benefits scheme and the medical benefits scheme have made good progress in this country. Generally speaking, it is a great tribute to its founder, a former Minister for Health, the late Sir Earle Page and I, for one, would not like to see it changed. There are some anomalies in the present scheme but I believe that the principle of our national health service suits Australian conditions.
Having said that. I should like to refer briefly to the second part of this amending bill. The matter revolves around the imposition of the 5s. fee charged for prescription dispensing under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Honorable members will recall that this 5s. fee was introduced in 1960, as the honorable member for Grayndler has said, in order to provide some brake on the rate at which pharmaceutical prescriptions were being dispensed, because the cost of this section of the national health scheme was rapidly rising. The 5s. fee was intended to act as a deterrent, but no sooner had it been introduced in 1960 than certain institutions hit upon a scheme of circumventing the purpose of the law without actually contravening the letter of the law. In one State in particular the dispensing of prescriptions has increased considerably. The Director-General of Health gives some indication of this in his annual report for the year 1962-63. For instance, referring to the cost of the scheme, he said -
Expenditure by the Commonwealth on Pharmaceutical Benefits for the year increased by £3.265.196 over that for the year 1961-62 to a total of £38,455,079.
Later he said -
The average cost per prescription in 1962-63 was 19s. 4d. compared wilh 20s. Id. in 1961-62.
He then went on to say -
Expenditure for benefit prescriptions . . . increased by £2,048,146. The increase was due to a higher volume of prescriptions involving an additional amount of £3,758,316.
He further said -
The increased volume of prescriptions was due to a combination of the rise in population, more frequent prescribing and additions to the list of benefits.
– But that does not mean it was due to people getting cheap prescriptions.
– He did not say it was due to cheap prescriptions; he said it was due partly to more frequent prescribing.
– So what?
– If the honorable member will wait for a few minutes, I shall explain my point. I remind him that the Minister in his second-reading speech said -
The Government views the spread of the«e rebate arrangements with some concern. In its view the 5s. charge is a necessary and proper contribution which patients should make towards the cost of pharmaceutical benefits prescriptions. The charge is necessary in order to discourage the unnecessary use of benefits provided under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
– But that is only an assertion.
– That is the Minister’s statement. In any case, the Minister is in a position to get the relevant statistics from his own department and I would accept his point of view before I would accept that of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). The Minister went on to say that prescriptions were made available free of charge originally under the British national health service but later it was found necessary to impose a charge, and experience in Great Britain has shown that the fee has been a most effective deterrent to the unnecessary use of drugs. Our Government considers that the principle of the 5s. fee for dispensing prescriptions should not be broken down by an unrestricted spread of rebate arrangements.
I should like to remind the House of the point of difference between the Minister and myself in this matter. I believe that if the Minister were concerned at this breach of the spirit of the law he would have introduced legislation that required everybody, except those entitled to pensioner medical benefits, to pay the 5s. fee and would have made it operative immediately. Instead the legislation which he has brought down puts off the application of this deterrent for at least sixteen years, and possibly twenty years. Some people believe that it will be even longer. In these circumstances, I must confess that I am at a loss to understand the Minister’s action. In short, I do not think that this legislation will do what the Minister says it is intended to do, and I am quite sure that he will realize this before very long.
I do not propose to say any more about these proposed amendments to the National Health Act. I believe that the Minister for Health is conscious of the rapid changes that are taking place in the wide spectrum of medical health. Indeed, that he is conscious of this is indicated by the amendments which he has brought down with a view to closing the gap between medical bills and the contribution made by the Government. It is pleasing to see that he is endeavouring to amend the National Health Act to conform with present-day requirements. I am sure that he realizes the importance of keeping our health services abreast of the times, but I would be more satisfied if he would be prepared to have the whole of the national health scheme reviewed by some independent body, because I believe that although it has functioned so well for the last ten years, it still needs amendment in certain directions to bring it into conformity with present-day requirements. This could very well be done if the national health scheme were completely reviewed by some independent body.
– As stated by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), the bill has been introduced for two main purposes. One of those purposes is to increase the Government’s contribution to the cost of medical services, and the other is to prohibit friendly societies from granting to their future members benefits that their existing members already enjoy. I wish to direct my attention to the second purpose, and here I should like to recount briefly, if I may, the history of the negotiations between the friendly societies and the Government which led to the introduction of this bill.
I have heard it said by Government supporters that the friendly societies have indicated their agreement to the proposals that are contained in this measure for withholding from future members certain benefits now enjoyed by existing members. I can assure the House that this is not true. The position is that on 29th January of this year representatives of the friendly societies waited upon the Minister for Health and were informed by him that Cabinet had already decided that the friendly societies would no longer be permitted to rebate any portion of the 5s. prescription fee to members and their families, and that this would apply to existing members as well as to future members.
The deputation found itself in a most invidious position. Here was an ultimatum handed down to it by the Minister on behalf of the Cabinet stating that the members of its society would no longer enjoy the benefits that they had enjoyed ever since they had been members of it. In other words, a bill was to be introduced which would oblige the friendly societies to break their contractual agreements and arrangements with their members in respect to the supply of medicines cheaply. The deputation then asked that it be given the opportunity to confer on the matter. This it did. It discussed the Minister’s decision, and asked that it be allowed to meet the Minister again after lunch that day. When the deputation met him after lunch that day, the representatives of the friendly societies, endeavouring to salvage as much as they could from the wreck, asked the Minister whether he would be prepared to allow existing members to enjoy existing benefits. I emphasize “ existing benefits “, because I am going to enlarge on this point later and explain the significance of it. The representatives asked that the prohibition regarding rebates should apply only to new members. They also asked for the elimination of the existing restrictions on the non-approved dispensaries owned by friendly societies. As honorable members may know, some of the dispensaries owned by the friendly societies are fully approved and can supply all and sundry; others are permitted to supply only the members of their own friendly societies. The Minister finally agreed to the proposition that existing members be entitled to existing benefits. I want that to sink in.
Friendly society agreement to the measure was actually squeezed out of the friendly societies under duress - 1 say that advisedly - consisting of the threat to take away the rebate benefits from the hundreds of thousands of existing members. It is no good the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) shaking his head. As a member of the Cabinet, the Minister for Labour and National Service would know all about this matter, and probably knows a lot more than he is prepared to admit.
In South Australia alone - and I can speak for South Australia, because I am a member of a friendly society in South Australia as well as being the representative of the federal division of Hindmarsh there - there are 80,000 members of friendly societies; but, counting their dependants, the number of people involved would be something like 200,000. In South Australia there arc eighteen fully approved shops and nine non-approved shops. Under this bill it is true, the nine non-approved shops will receive full approval. I think it is most unfair that there is a State act which prevents the friendly societies in South Australia from increasing the number of approved shops that they are entitled to operate. In places such as Elizabeth, where there is a population now approaching 100,000 men women and children, Port Noarlunga and Christies Beach, and in the developing areas of Highbury, there is not one friendly society chemist’s shop. I know it is not the prerogative of this Government to alter this position, but it is most unfair to the friendly societies. There is not one friendly society chemist’s shop in those areas, because they are not permitted there under the State legislation.
For anyone to suggest that friendly society shops are getting some special concession over and above what is available to the guild chemists is ridiculous. Let me remind those who cast aspersions on the friendly societies that the friendly societies began supplying cheap medicine to the people of this country as far back as the year 1885. They have done a magnificent job for the people of Australia. The pity is that all of the people of Australia are not members of friendly societies. We know the problem that people who are not members of friendly societies have in meeting exorbitant charges for medicine. I can tell the House thai as a member of a friendly society in South Australia I am able to obtain medicine for one-third of the cost that is charged by guild chemists. There is a particular line of medicine which I have to take regularly, almost each week, which cost me about 37s. 6d. more than two years ago when I was not a member of a friendly society. To-day, 1 get that medicine from the friendly society chemist for 14s. ft is a saving, although I can afford to pay the ordinary retail charge; but imagine what it would mean to the ordinary working man, the poor devil who is on something like £16, £17 or £18 a week, and has four or five children, or even only one child. Imagine the tremendous difference there is for him between paying 14s. if he is a member of a friendly society and paying 37s. 6d. if he is not.
Let me .refer to the case of another man in South Australia, known to the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), who was required to pay a sum of no less than £3 every week for a prescription for his wife. His doctor in the end said, “Look, I cannot go on prescribing this medicine, although it is absolutely necessary, because 1 feel that you cannot afford it; but before I take the decision not to prescribe it and to experiment with something cheaper that may or may not have the desired effect, I suggest that you join a friendly society.” The man did so. Now, instead of paying £3 a week for the medicine which his wife must have in order to live, he pays only £1 a week - a saving to him of £2 a week, every week, because the friendly societies supply proprietary lines at one-third of the usual retail prices.
– This bill does not stop that.
– I know that this bill docs not stop that. I know what the bill does. This is the point I am making: The friendly societies actually give the benefits to which I have referred. Some people think that the only benefit the friendly societies give is that they reduce the 5s. pharmaceutical benefit charge to ls. The point I am going to make - and I thank the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) for his interjection - is that the friendly societies do not want the 5s. charge to continue. They never asked for it. They do not ask for it now. The Australian Labour Party does not ask for the 5s. charge to continue. We want it stopped at once. We think it ought to be stopped because it is an imposition upon the public. We think it is entirely wrong to expect guild chemists to act as tax collectors for the Government. That is what they are. Guild chemists to-day are acting as unpaid tax collectors for the Government to the tune of £8,000,000 a year.
– The chemists opposed the 5s. charge too.
– Yes, the chemists opposed the 5s. charge too. The friendly societies do not want the 5s. charge, but they are compelled to put up with it under the new proposal. Neither the friendly societies nor the guild chemists want the 5s. charge.
The guild chemists do not object to the friendly societies. The guild chemists do not say that the friendly societies’ shops should be closed down. What the guild chemists say is, “ Cut out the 5s. charge so that we will be on the- same level as the friendly societies’ shops.” That is a fair enough request. I agree with the guild chemists that the 5s. charge ought to be eliminated. It is an imposition upon a section of the community which can least afford to pay it. It is an imposition upon the poor; it is an imposition upon the sick; and it is an imposition upon the pensioners of this country. Let me remind the House that there are 100.000 pensioners in Australia to-day who are not entitled to a free medical card and so are not entitled to free medicine. They have to pay the 5s. charge just as other people do.
So, looking at the 5s. charge from any viewpoint you like, it is an imposition upon the poor, the sick and the pensioners to the tune of £8,000,000 a year by a government which every year ladles out enormous sums to the wealthy combines of this country by way of tax rebates, remissions and reductions. This Government grasps at this £8,000,000, which is a lousy amount measured against the amount of other money it has at its disposal, but which is tremendous measured against the incomes of those who have to pay that amount. While this Government is grasping at this £8,000,000 from the poor, the sick and the pensioners of this country, it is refusing to do anything at all about the Ligertwood report which deals with taxation offences and taxation evasion involving some £27,000,000 a year. The reason why the Government takes no action in that regard is simply because such action would hit its friends, who are the wealthy backers of the Liberal Party at election time. The reason why the Government is treating the guild chemists in the way it is treating them is that it knows it can lay down the law to the guild chemists. The Government fixes the prices that the guild chemists are to charge to the public. The guild chemists cannot fix their own charges. They are fixed arbitrarily by the Minister on behalf of the Government. What about the Government fixing arbitrarily the charges made by the wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers and importers of drugs? Talking about drugs, let me remind the House that the drug houses of Australia are no longer an Australian industry. Of the 114 manufacturers and importers of drugs in Australia, no less than 66 are owned or controlled by foreign companies.
I have mentioned that the Government agreed to extend this scheme so that the friendly societies would be permitted to give the existing benefits to their members, but the Government, by this bill, is repudiating that agreement. I hope that the measure will be amended later, because at the moment it states that friendly societies are permitted to extend the rebate of 5s. only to their members who are not more than sixteen years of age. Has the Government overlooked or is it deliberately repudiating the agreement? The fact is that the existing benefits of friendly societies extend to the provision of medicine to all children under seventeen and to children over seventeen if they are attending school, even to the university stage. One other benefit that now applies is that a number of friendly societies have the right to extend benefits to a widowed mother. That right has been excluded by this bill, either by omission or commission. I suggest that the Government should look at that provision also. The Government should honour its obligations and honour the firm undertakings given to the friendly societies. Let me remind the Government that when we talk about friendly societies we are talking about votes. If nothing else will move honorable members opposite, the thought of votes might.
If the Government cannot be moved by sheer ethical considerations, let it not forget that people who belong to friendly societies represent a substantial number of votes.
Before I pass from the benefits that accrue from belonging to friendly societies 1 should like to refer to an article which appeared in the “ Railways Union Gazette “ recently in Queensland. The article referred to a Queensland member of the Australian Railways Union who was in receipt of a wage of no more than £18 a week. He had four young kiddies to support. He was a member of a friendly society. He began keeping an account of the amount he would have paid for medicine in one year for himself, his wife and children and so calculated the amount that he saved by belonging to a friendly society. This article is available in th; “ Railways Union Gazette “ for anybody to see and the man’s name is given. He calculated that he saved £96 in one year by being a member of a friendly society. Yet this Government is doing everything it can now to dampen down the advance of friendly societies in Australia by saying that the benefit of 5s. that has been given in the past as a rebate must end. In this way the Government hopes that the number of new members joining friendly societies will be reduced.
I should like to refer to something concerning friendly societies which is not generally known. Guild chemists have come to me and told me that friendly societies pay no taxation and that in that way they have an advantage over guild chemists. For the sake of the record let mc say that friendly societies do pay taxation. They pay a flat rate of 6s. in the £1 on 10 per cent, of their total turnover. That figure represents a fair assessment of what would be the proper amount of taxation to be paid. Honorable members should remember also that these are voluntary organizations which arc non-profit making. The organizations are established for the sole purpose of enabling the people of this country - particularly the poor people - to have some opportunity of buying the medicine they need at a reasonable price. Last year in South Australia the turnover by friendly societies was about £750,000, and they had to pay 6s. in the £1 on 10 per cent, of that amount.
In 1954 the Spooner report, and again in 1961 the Ligertwood report, recommended that no taxation should be levied on the turnover of friendly societies, excepting that part of the turnover which represented income from Government prescriptions. This Government has not bothered” to implement that part of the Ligertwood report, nor has it bothered to implement the Spooner report which is now ten years old. The Government has done nothing, yet at the hustings it pretends to be on the side of the little man - the working man. In fact the Government has a heart only for one section of the community - the millionaires and the millionaire companies that exploit the country in every way they can.
The Government seeks to justify the 5s. prescription charge on the ground that it will act as a deterrent. I asked a question on this subject last week and was given an answer to-day. I asked the Minister to tell me the average number of prescriptions per year per head of population under the free medicine scheme and to tell me also the number of prescriptions per year per head issued to those persons who are members of a friendly society. If the number of prescriptions per head for friendly society members was greater than the average number of prescriptions per year per head for the whole of Australia, surely that would indicate in some form the extent to which the 5s. prescription fee acts as a deterrent compared with the charge of only ls. which is made by friendly societies.
The Minister replied that the average number of pharmaceutical prescriptions per head of population last year was 3.86. This figure includes, of course, pensioner benefits. The Minister added that the Government had no information at all as to how this average compared with the average number of prescriptions issued to friendly society members. The Government cannot say that there is no evidence at all that friendly society members are having more prescriptions per head per year than non-friendly society members are having. To say that would be mere guesswork, because the Minister admitted in his answer that the Government does not know. 1 assert that the Government does not know. But I know, and I can tell the House, that the friendly societies are in a position to show from their records that the number of prescriptions per member of a friendly society is only .07 - not even .1 - higher than the total Australian average. This completely disposes of the stupid proposition that this prescription fee is a deterrent.
I should like to say more on this argument about a deterrent. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), and other honorable members who have said that this provision is to be introduced to act as a deterrent, is that the medical profession of this country is dishonorable and thai the doctors are a bunch of crooks, or that at least some of them are. The suggestion is that something should be done to prevent doctors prescribing medicine to their patients wrongfully. To suggest that doctors are prescribing unnecessarily is an indictment of the medical profession and, if true, should be dealt with by a direct attack upon those who are guilty. However, if the suggestion is untrue, it is a gross insult and an injustice to an honorable and highly respected profession.
The honorable member for Isaacs elaborated on this point by quoting from the report of the Director-General of Health. He said that dispensing figures had increased considerably, but that did not prove anything. It did not prove that this was due to the fact that a few friendly societies were charging ls. instead of 5s. Let me remind the honorable member that the number of friendly society chemist shops in Australia is about 114 as against 4,000 guild chemist shops. Is the honorable member going to tell me seriously that 114 friendly society chemist shops are responsible for an overall picture in a field of more than 4,000? That suggestion is ridiculous. The honorable member did not say that directly but he implied it and tried to suggest that the Director-General had said so.
He went on to say that the DirectorGeneral’s report stated that the cost of prescriptions last year was f 3,900,000 more than in the previous year. But this has happened at a time when the 5s. prescription fee was operating, and that was supposed to be a great deterrent. By the honorable member’s own argument he has exploded the myth that this 5s. will act as a deterrent. The Director-General dees not ascribe to the friendly societies any blame at all for the increase in prescriptions or the increase in charges. In his statement the Minister made the bland assertion - unsupported by facts or figures to prove it - that in his opinion there was need for a 5s. charge to act as a deterrent. Simply to assert a thing without proof does not prove anything. I say that the Minister’s assertion has not proved anything.
The honorable member for Isaacs talked about the British scheme and said that under it the number of prescriptions had been reduced by the imposition of a charge of ls. for each prescription. There is a vast difference between a charge of ls. and a charge of 5s. The friendly societies are already making a charge of ls. It is true that under the British medical scheme the charge has now been increased to 2s., but when it was first imposed and was supposed to have had the effect which the honorable member for Isaacs mentioned, it was ls. per prescription, the same as the friendly societies are now charging in Australia. If a fee of ls. will act as a deterrent in Britain, as the honorable member for Isaacs pretends, what makes him think that it will not act as a deterrent here? The whole thing is ridiculous and should be laughed out of court. There is a vast difference between the British and Australian schemes, because in Britain one can get practically anything under the medical scheme - false teeth, eyelashes, wigs and glass eyes. It is an entirely different proposition. Ours is still a limited scheme. There are still many kinds of drugs that one cannot get under this scheme. Ours is by no means a scheme which provides medicine lo everybody for a fee of 5s. per prescription.
I have often been into a chemist’s shop - not only the friendly society’s shops but those of guild chemists as well - to have a prescription made up. The doctor may say “ I want you to take some multi B.40’s “. He may say that it is upsetting me to sec poor people being pushed around by the Liberals, and that I need some Sanatogen for my nerves. So I go to the chemist and ask him whether I can wait for the prescription to be made up. He says it will take about 25 minutes to prepare the prescription, so I say to him “ Give me the bottle of multi B’s and I will take out the pills and I will tear the label off the bottle of Sanatogen “, because that will take less than 25 minutes - and that is all they do. They let you think that somebody in a white coat has said “Abracadabra” and has done something to produce a bottle of Sanatogen or multi B tablets out of thin air. That is what they pretend to do. Much of the medicine prescribed to-day is of that kind and the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs), who is laughing, knows that what I say is perfectly true. Let me return to Drug Houses of Australia Limited, which is the holding company controlling wholesale drug companies in Australia. It controls the Felton Grimwade Dental Company Proprietary Limited, Felton, Grimwade and Duerdins Limited, A. M. Bickford and sons, Felton, Grimwade and Bickford. Taylors, Elliotts and Australian Drug Proprietary Limited and sixteen other subsidiary companies.
The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ was right on the ball to-day, 7th May, when it said there had been a substantial reduction in the cost of drugs. The article to which I refer states that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) had announced that earlier cuts had been made quite voluntarily by the wholesale drug firms. The Government did not go to the wholesale drug firms, as it goes to the guild chemists, and say “This is the charge we are going to pay “. The wholesale drug companies came to the Government and said “We have decided that we will fix our charges a little lower than they were previously”, and the Government said “ Thank you very much. It is very kind of you “. According to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ the earlier cuts in the price of drugs meant a saving of £418,000 a year on one line. This means that the drug manufacturers and wholesalers admit, out of their own mouths, that they have been overcharging the Australian public £418,000 a year. It is all right for you to laugh, Dr. Gibbs. You have not any shares in the drug houses, but I am surprised that a man of your outstanding capacity - I believe you are one of the best surgeons in Queensland to-day - should sit there shaking your head and pretending that the drug houses of Australia are not absolutely robbing the Australian people, because they are doing so.
According to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ the Minister said that the present reduction is the twelfth significant cut in drug prices which the Commonwealth has negotiated with drug manufacturers during this financial year. Just think of it - the twelfth cut in one year and a reduction in cost of £2,700,000 in one year alone. I do not want honorable members to forget that we are talking about a reduction in prices amounting to £2,700,000, voluntarily made by the drug manufacturers, because that is the amount which they previously took out of the pockets of the taxpayers - something which they had no legal, ethical or moral right to do. This is an indictment of the drug houses, and of the Government for doing absolutely nothing about the matter. The Government does not hesitate to tackle the guild chemists on the question of charges. It ought to extend the operations of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, a magnificent organization which is capable of manufacturing a lot of these drugs, because the drugs produced by this organization are of the finest and purest quality.’ Yet we have a report from overseas which states that the quality of drugs being brought into Australia from overseas sources is very poor. What the guild chemists want - I agree with them - is that all the drugs imported into or manufactured in Australia be subject to a test by the World Health Organization.
A set of standards to be applied to all drugs should be set by the World Health Organization. We believe in a completely free health scheme and if the Labour Party becomes the Government it will introduce a scheme of that kind. Had we won the last election there would now be a completely free medical scheme and no charge of 5s. per prescription. Had the Labour Party won the last election we would have eliminated completely the requirement that obliges a person to belong to a medical fund before receiving the benefits of the National Health Act. We believe, more and more, that all pensioners ought to get the benefit of medical cards in order to receive free attention. It is an absolute disgrace to thisGovernment that 100,000 poor old pensioners have been eliminated from those receiving free medicine under the scheme simply because they are in receipt of an income of more than £2 per week. What a shocking and miserable attitude to be adopted by a Government which is bulging with money and which can find millions of pounds for its wealthy friends like the Ansett interests. Honorable members opposite become excited and almost hysterical whenever I talk about Ansett. I often wonder how much Ansett has paid into their campaign funds at election time because, from the way they carry on, it seems they could not do without that help.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is with pleasure that I rise to support this bill. I support it because, inter alia, it helps to strengthen the free enterprise system in which I so strongly believe. Too many countries have in recent years attempted to nationalize their health services, to their detriment, either because they have mistakenly hoped to gain political capital or because socialization seemed to be the easiest approach to a solution of the many problems that are arising as a result of the increasing cost and complexity of both medical treatment and therapeutic drugs. 1 believe that no other country has achieved such a satisfactory and successful solution to this problem as has Australia. This solution, moreover, has been found within the framework of private medical practice - preserving for the people a free choice of doctors at a relatively ver’y low cost.
Australia, as a progressive and rapidly developing nation which is isolated in a potentially hostile environment, just cannot afford to have any phase of its activities numbed b’y the narcotic of socialism. We must resist all socialistic endeavours to enervate us, to de-personalize us and push us into a vast herd which, without any striving by its individual members, has its material wants spoon-fed to it. The socialist State doles out these material things in a second-class, inadequate and inefficient manner. The herd in return must surrender its individuality and many of its freedoms to a soulless bureaucracy. No living organism will do much without a stimulus, and this applies to human beings as much as - indeed I believe more than - other forms of life.
Mr. Speaker, in using a non medical example, I point out the almost invariable failure of socialist agrarian schemes. The successful farmer - and I think there is an analogy here with the successful medical practitioner - has a most exacting life and his incentives are to own and improve his own property and to acquire a sense of achievement. This, I believe, ranks as much with him as making money and, in fact, his return on capital is usually very low. Very few human beings indeed will give of their best for long and exacting hours for what is virtually an abstract idea. Numberless examples of socialist agrarian failures could be quoted, even from my home State of Queensland which only recently has been freed from the socialist yoke.
It might be said, Sir, that these arguments do not apply to the problems of community health, that in health matters one has a more immediate duty to one’s neighbour. This is only true as far as it goes. I believe that it is of tremendous importance to remember at the same time the duty we owe to ourselves. Thus, whilst I completely agree with a system of State welfare which is ever-ready to assist and, where necessary, take care of the individual, I believe that the individual owes it to himself to strive to help himself and to preserve as far as is possible his independence and freedom of spirit. If a man tries his hardest to preserve his independence and spirit, then win or lose he at least preserves his self-respect and his soul. I do not believe, therefore, in socialism.
J do not believe in State paternalism. I anathematize any vision, however improbable, of us Australians as a race of lapdogs. But, Sir, there are more immediately practical reasons for preserving the private medical practitioner, as a study of socialist medicine and its fruits will readily reveal. Perhaps these can best be seen by comparing our system with that of Britain, taking that country as an example of a socialized system. Under the British system, the general practitioner is paid a capitation fee; that is, for each patient registered on his books he is paid a fixed sum of money, whether he sees that patient 50 times a year or not at all. The patient pays nothing for consultation, and human nature being what it is, there is a tendency to consult a doctor for every little complaint, both real and imaginary. If the weather is inclement or if it is too much trouble to see the doctor at his surgery, then of course the doctor is called out.
The results are that the doctor tends to be so overworked that he cannot examine his patients. In practice, he does not examine his patients. He becomes resentful at times and tends to minimize the significance of patients’ symptoms. His examination couch has now become a repository, not for patients but for his unopened medical journals. The doctor in Britain has no access to such ancillary aids to diagnosis as X-rays or pathology tests. If these tests appear to be necessary, the patient is referred to a hospital in whose care the patient then remains until his problem has been diagnosed and treated.
– A patient cannot choose his doctor?
– Obviously not. The patient cannot choose anything. He takes his place in the machine. Under the British system, the doctor loses touch and his standards both of diagnosis and treatment sometimes fall to a desperately low level. The doctor is frustrated and unhappy and the patient receives no treatment. The cost to the Government - that is, to the taxpayers - is positively enormous and it could even be crippling to the country.
This is not all, Sir. Disciplinary committees from time to time have taken action against doctors as a result of frivolous or spiteful complaints by patients. This means that patient pressure upon doctor in Britain is very strong indeed and unduly influences them not only in prescribing but in writing certificates, either for sick leave or for one of the very many welfare handouts about which we have just heard from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron).
– If an operation is necessary, can a patient ask for his own doctor?
– If an operation is necessary, very often the patient has to wait for months and sometimes years. In my own experience in Britain I have seen patients with cancer lost in the general book-work and dragged out of the files only in time for the obituary notice.
– Why does not the tory Government abolish the system if it is so bad?
– It was introduced by a Labour government so efficiently that it is very difficult to unscramble. I believe that the system in Britain is soul-destroying both for doctor and patient and it is to the advantage of neither. I. strongly recommend the reading of a book - honorable members opposite could well read it - entitled “ Honour Thy Physician “. It deals with the British national health scheme and is very interesting and amusing. It may give honorable members opposite pause.
Some proof of the conditions of the British system is afforded by recent personal experience. I advertised my practice in a British journal not very long ago. The practice carried with it the possibility - but not by any means the certainty - of a hospital appointment. I was positively overwhelmed by applicants. I was stunned by the qualifications of some of the men who applied to purchase or lease my practice. They are at the top of their field, with enormous experience extending over years. They are very capable and proven men and I can point out here that this was in the relatively favorable field not of general practice but of surgery. In any case, we all know that a constant stream of medical practitioners is leaving Britain for other countries. A very large proportion, moreover, of the registrars in British hospitals are postgraduate students who have gone to Britain to study certain specialized branches of medicine. All these will return to their homelands when their studies are completed. But, without them, the British hospital system would collapse. That is not just a statement of my personal opinion. It is something that is generally agreed on by medical authorities in Britain.
My view - indeed, my diagnosis - is that the British socialized medical system is decidedly unhealthy. An unfortunate result of this system is that - with many noteworthy exceptions, of course - the quality of medical students is not now as high as it was in the days of private practice. We shall never meet with perfection on this earth, Sir. But I believe that the Australian system, in contrast to the British one. is eminently satisfactory. The Australian system is too well known to honorable members, particularly on this side of the House, for there to be any need for me to describe it in great detail. However, I must point out that it incorporates a public hospital system. In Queensland, this system is available without any charge to patients and without any means test being applied. In addition to this public hospital system, private practice makes available a comprehensive service to people who wish it and who are prepared to pay. These two kinds of service, combined, make available to the people a service that, 1 believe, is completely unsurpassed anywhere in the world. It is in striking contrast to the very dismal, but factual, picture that I have painted of a socialized medical system. The standard set by our general practitioners, is, I believe, second to none. This magnificent service is available to pensioners completely without cost.
– Did not a Labour government initiate that system in Queensland?
– Don’t you believe it!
– Of course it did.
– We are talking about the pensioner medical service. I shall deal with the other aspects in a few moments.
– The honorable member knows that a Labour government introduced the system in Queensland.
– The honorable member for Shortland sounds like the men in Moscow, who claim credit for every advance that has ever been made throughout the world. Medicines cost pensioners nothing, Sir. The pensioner section of the community can congratulate itself on having available a medical service that is completely firstclass as to both standard and convenience. There is no lining up in cold and draughty hospital corridors. Pensioners can go to the private medical practitioner of their choice and receive the benefit of a firstclass service without charge. This Government does not favour lap-dogs.
– Make up your mind.
– I have made up my mind very strongly in favour of our system. This Government does not believe in the idea of something for nothing, because it recognizes that something for nothing is an impossibility in this world. Consequently, those members of the community who are in a position to pay for their medical treatment are expected to do so. If they insure themselves with a medical benefit fund, the cost is small indeed.
The intention, in this bill, is to make the cost even smaller by reducing the more important gaps that have arisen between the charges made for services and the refunds received. For example, the charges made for some of the newer operations on the hip joint are necessarily high. The benefits paid by the Government in such cases amount to as much as £30. These benefits, when combined with the refunds made by the insurance organizations, represent a very substantial sum indeed and a considerable proportion of the charge usually made. Under our system, private specialists make available to their colleagues diagnostic facilities of a very high order. These services, too, attract very high Commonwealth benefits and substantial refunds from benefit organizations.
Medicine here is of the highest standard. lt is progressive and, even more important, it is unfettered. Students of the highest calibre are making the medical profession their life’s work. The picture here is one of satisfaction and fulfilment. The patient - that allimportant element in the system - receives the highest standard of treatment. The medical practitioner preserves his soul and is anxious to maintain and, if possible, improve his standards. Frequent week-end postgraduate courses designed to maintain and improve standards bear witness to this. I believe that we must be justly proud of a system that has borne such remarkable fruits.
I should like now to deal briefly with remarks made by certain honorable members opposite, Sir. I must confess that, on the whole, I was rather disappointed with the remarks made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– He was not very objective.
– No. He dwelt at length on the position of friendly societies. I could not agree more with what he said. I have a very high regard for friendly societies. Indeed, I come from a city that has a very active group of friendly societies, and I believe that they have done a magnificent job and will continue to do a magnificent job. But that has no bearing on the bill at present before us. The fact that a patient can obtain certain proprietary medicines at much cheaper rates from a friendly society than from a guild chemist has no relevance to this bill. I believe that the honorable member may have been attempting to mislead by mentioning these completely irrelevant matters. The oratorical plane on which he spoke, being high, was rather windy, Sir. These matters were completely irrelevant to the discussion.
The honorable member also mentioned the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I could not agree with him more on that matter also. The laboratories have done and are doing a magnificent job. Their products are of the highest standard. Indeed, their standards are completely impeccable. The laboratories have made an important contribution to medicine and medical treatment, but only on a limited scale. This country cannot afford a research organization sufficiently comprehensive to engage in research over the whole of the very broad field of therapeutics. Consequently, these advances have been made mainly in the field of immunological work. I completely agree that that work has been among the most outstanding in the world. The activities of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have been extended, encouraged and fostered by this Government.
I should now like to mention certain remarks that were made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
– He was political.
– Was he ever! He claimed that the Chifley Government really introduced our medical system. As I remarked previously, such claims sound like those of the men in Moscow, who claim credit for the invention of everything from the spinning jenny to the jet engine. We know very well that the honorable member’s claim is not correct, for we know that the present Government introduced this magnificent system, which is very different from the one envisaged by the Chifley Government. Moreover, the fact that this system has been successful does not imply in any way that the scheme envisaged by the Chifley Government would have been successful or would have produced results so felicitous as those produced by the present scheme.
One other point made by the honorable member for Grayndler was that the introduction of the 5s. surcharge on prescriptions immediately led to a vast increase in the prescribing of drugs, or that is what one might gather from what he said. Of course, he forgot the point that, coincidentally with the introduction of this 5s. surcharge, a complete list of hundreds and hundreds of drugs was introduced and these were not drugs previously available to the general public under the national health scheme. I believe - and it is undeniable - that this was the reason for the sudden increase in the number of prescriptions.
The honorable member for Grayndler also said that many essential drugs were not included in this scheme. To my knowledge, no essential drugs have been excluded. I know of certain proprietary and highly expensive drugs which have been favoured by certain colleagues in the medical profession, and although these drugs are very, very effective they are by no means essential. These drugs are not available now but I can assure the House that they are not completely essential and that this problem could easily be overcome by a slight alteration to the method of prescribing. There are no essential drugs which are not available to the public under the national health scheme.
– Why do doctors prescribe such drugs if they are not essential?
– They prescribe them because they know that they achieve results with them. I did not say that these drugs did not achieve results but I point out that the same results can be achieved by sticking to the pharmacopoeia available within the fabric of the national health scheme. An honorable member has mentioned Amesec and this drug was at the forefront of my mind when I was speaking because I assumed it was Amesec that honorable members opposite were speaking about. Amesec is a proprietary drug but it is by no means essential to prescribe Amesec for asthma. This trouble can be overcome in many ways by prescribing certain other anti-spasmodic drugs.
We come now to the good old Labour pap which we had dished out to us of blaming the nasty drug manufacturers and the vague, shadowy capitalistic figures which are lurking evilly in the background. I must say I was highly gratified to hear the name of Amesec come from the
Opposition side of the House. These people are probably actuated genuinely and believe what they are saying. But they are speaking from incomplete knowledge. These drug firms are ail carrying out very expensive research programmes which are highly hazardous from a financial point of view because they might pour many millions of pounds into one particular programme, have it almost come to fruition and then find that another drug house has developed some drug which is better. This is an element of private enterprise and I believe that in no other field does it come up to the test so magnificently as it does in drug manufacture.
I do not recall very many of these modern drugs being developed in socialist countries. All these drugs have been developed by private enterprise. These anti-biotics, these cortico-steroids and the diuretic drugs which have completely revolutionized treatment in many ways have all been the products of private enterprise. By their fruits ye shall know them. Private enterprise has brought forth these magnificent fruits. However, if one of these research programmes goes wrong, as it not infrequently does, the drug company finds itself faced with enormous losses.
To take a simple example which occurred years ago at the very beginning of this era of anti-biotics and chemo therapy, one drug house spent many years and many millions of pounds in the development of an immunological drug in an endeavour to combat infection. This was before the sulpha drugs or penicillin or any of these associated substances. At the very culmination of the company’s research programme it produced a substance and a couple of weeks later another drug firm produced the first sulphonamides. Thus, years and years of work and many millions of pounds went straight down the drain. But this research work was not in vain because this risk is an element of private enterprise. If a company has many millions of pounds tied up in capital it must insure itself. Consequently companies do have a margin of profit on their drugs but that is to protect themselves against such occurrences.
I would point out that such an eminent firm as Burroughs Wellcome and Company - a well known and honoured British firm - does not make its product available at a cut price. Yet it may surprise honorable members opposite to know that this firm is a completely non-profit-making organization and every last farthing is ploughed back into research.
I believe that we must retain a sense of perspective. We must look at the fruits of both systems. On one side we see a most depressing picture which, I believe, is not associated with progress, happiness or efficacy, either at the level of the doctor or at the level of the patient. That is the socialist system. On the other hand this system which has evolved in Australia - which is unique and, I believe, second to none - has produced medical services which cannot be bettered at any level in any part of the world.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) said I had claimed that the Chifley Labour Government had introduced the present national health scheme. I did not say that. We would not be responsible for such a scheme. What I said was that the Chifley Government had introduced the really free benefits scheme and that is a totally different matter. In no circumstances, would I tie the Australian Labour Party to this national health scheme.
.- The honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) - who, incidentally, I understand is a member of the medical profession - used up a lot of his time attacking what he was pleased to term “ the socialist health scheme”. What he actually did was to attack his colleagues in Great Britain where a scheme such as that operates and where some 98 per cent, of the medical profession have participated in the fund and some 97 per cent, of the people are members of it. The latest gallup poll also shows that some 70 per cent, of doctors in Britain would continue to support such a scheme. Also, it is rather significant that the tory Government has never made any effort to remove the scheme. All the honorable member for Bowman really did during most of the time he took up in this debate was to show that he is a traitor, not only to his own profession - the medical profession - but also to his own political party.
This bill proposes to make changes in the National Health Act. It is a vehicle for a proper national health scheme but it leaves quite a deal to be desired. I am sure every one would agree that the general health of the people of a nation is a matter of the utmost importance. I have no doubt that every honorable member in this House would wish to see Australia as a nation of people who are all in very good health. Only a mentally deranged person would derive any pleasure or satisfaction from witnessing the suffering of those who are really ill. But, like the honorable member for Bowman, the Government is completely devoid of ideas and cannot frame a decent scheme.
While the Government continues with the present legislation, we will never have a really satisfactory national health scheme. How can this scheme be described as a national scheme when 29 per cent, of the people do not derive any benefit at all from it? At the end of June last year, only 71 per cent, of the population participated in the medical scheme and only 73 per cent, in the hospital scheme. The remainder were denied benefits because they were not members of a registered medical or hospital fund. It is reasonable to assume that most of them were not members of a fund for the very simple but tragic reason that they could not afford to pay the contributions. Yet the people who are unable to help themselves are the people who should be provided for under a proper national health scheme. They are rejected from this Government’s scheme. If they become ill they cannot afford to seek medical attention. No honorable member on the Government side has given any valid reason why these people should not receive the Commonwealth benefit. Indeed, there is no reason why they should not be catered for in a way that will allow them tj receive proper and total medical and hospital attention whenever they require it. We can never have a healthy nation while 29 per cent, of the people are unable to procure health-giving treatment.
Hew can we describe this as a national health scheme when only some health requirements, and then only partial health requirements, are met? There is a good deal more to achieving a healthy nation than simply providing benefits for the treatment of some ailments. Dental care is a major factor in good health. It is common knowledge that tooth decay and other tooth or gum conditions can result in poor health and even in death. But this scheme does not provide any benefit for dental treatment. We have this ridiculous position. A person can be told by a doctor that the reason for his poor health is his bad teeth and that until he has his teeth removed or treated by a dentist his health will not improve. If he is a member of a registered fund, he is entitled to receive a benefit for his visit to the doctor to find out what is wrong with him, but he is not entitled to any benefit for the dental treatment that will cure his ill health. If he cannot afford the dental treatment, his ill health will continue. What a stupid arrangement it is when a patient receives benefit for finding out what is wrong with him but does not receive any benefit if he seeks treatment for his condition.
– Liberal policy!
– That is right. The National Health Act also discriminates against pensioners. A person who has become a pensioner since November, 1955, and whose income other than his pension is no more than £2 a week is entitled to partial hospital and medical treatment. If, however, his income is more than £2 a week, he must make arrangements to insure himself. Of course, it is pounds to peanuts that age and invalid pensioners will require extensive medical and hospital attention, but this Government’s legislation will deny to many of them the right to obtain the treatment they need.
A single pensioner, for instance, whose total income including his pension is £7 1 5s. a week can obtain a card which entitles him to certain medical and hospital attention. But his mate who may have a total income of £7 16s. a week or ls. more must insure himself against sickness. Of course, it is quite obvious that this insurance will cost more than ls. a week, the difference between the two incomes. There is certainly no justice in such a scheme as this and no honorable member opposite has given us any good reason why all pensioners should not receive all the medical and hospital treatment they need.
There can be only one real and satisfactory national health scheme and that is a scheme which gives a complete health service to all the people and which covers all the costs of the treatment of illness in all its forms. That is the sort of scheme that we support. We must have a health scheme that does not require a sick person to bear all the costs. We must have a scheme which will enable a sick person, irrespective of his financial position, to obtain the necessary hospital and medical attention without subsequently having to face the worry of paying doctors’ and hospital accounts. This Government’s scheme will never meet all the requirements. The proposal to increase the amount of medical benefits will not necessarily improve the position. Certainly the proposal eventually to reduce or rebate the 5s. pharmaceutical benefits fee will never be of any assistance in providing help for the people.
When the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) introduced the bill, he said - it provides for substantial increases in Commonwealth medical benefits to all contributors to registered medical benefits funds.
I agree that the amount of benefits will be increased substantially as a percentage of the present benefits. But I could never agree that this increase will provide any benefit, let alone a substantial benefit, to the contributors to registered medical benefits funds. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is most unlikely in the long run that the contributors will receive any benefit. It is more than likely that they will eventually lose, because, instead of receiving some further benefit, they are more likely to be called upon to make some further payment to the doctors or some further contribution to the medical or hospital funds.
When the scheme was introduced in 1953 it was quite obvious that, while the major part of the population would receive only a small benefit, a small part of the population would receive a major benefit. I have no hesitation in saying that the people in this section of the community which has benefited most from this legislation and which will continue to reap the most benefit are the members of the medical profession. In saying this, I do not for one moment suggest that they have used unfair or improper practices to obtain the benefit that they have. As a matter of fact, I have a very high regard for most of the doctors with whom I have had dealings, both for their ability and their honesty. But that does not alter my opinion that, in the general sense, they stand to benefit a great deal more than the general run of the people does.
Before the introduction of this scheme, doctors in many instances received payment for their services in small amounts spread over a long period or were obliged to take legal action to recover their fees or even did not bother to try to collect them. Since the introduction of the scheme they have been sure of receiving pretty quickly, without any trouble or worry, at least a large part of their charges. On the other hand, members of the general public must join a registered fund and are obliged to pay a fairly substantial contribution weekly, quarterly or yearly to insure themselves against the costs of illness and to receive a benefit that is only a portion of the amount charged by the doctor. Whenever they are sick, they will be obliged to pay at least one-third of the cost of treatment. I have referred to the general run of funds and not to contract funds such as those that operate in my home town.
The interests of the medical profession are well protected under this legislation. The ideas, suggestions and demands of doctors have been largely catered for. We are told on this occasion, for instance, that the Minister for Health had detailed discussions with the Australian Medical Association regarding what he has termed a number of anomalies in the medical benefits schedule. In other words, the A.M.A. felt that the amount of benefit was too small. We are also told that, as a result of the discussions, a wide measure of agreement was reached regarding the amendments required to the schedules of benefits.
We are not told just what is meant by this measure of agreement. Surely it is not suggested that the A.M.A. offered any resistance to an increase in the Commonwealth benefit, which would, in effect, either guarantee the payment of a larger proportion of the present charges, or allow it to increase its charges and still have the same proportion guaranteed. It is useless for us to wonder or to guess at the subjects which were at issue between the Minister and the A.M.A. There is one thing of which we can be completely certain, namely, that there has been no agreement with the A.M.A. or no assurance given by the A.M.A. to the effect that its members, as a result of the increased benefits, will not increase their charges. All that we are told by the Minister is that the principle of stabilizing doctors’ fees has been accepted. There is no assurance, or even suggestion, that the principle will be put into practice. In fact, the Minister also told us that the A.M.A. had no legal power to require its members to maintain any level of fees. It is prepared to go only so far as to say that the association itself would not sponsor any recommendation for increased fees which, of course, gives no security in relation to this particular scheme, and leaves us completely up in the air. The actual position is that the gate is wide open to the doctors as a body or as individuals, if they wish to do so, to increase their charges to any figure that they see fit.
History has proved over the years that increases in benefits are followed by increases in medical fees. If this happens again on this occasion, we shall find that fund contributors will still have to find approximately the same amount over and above the combined fund and Commonwealth benefits as they do at present or that, on the other hand, the funds will be obliged to provide some higher benefit and in the process will be obliged to increase contributions to the fund. Whatever way it goes, if there is an increase in medical fees the contributors certainly will have no chance of gaining this substantial benefit of which the Minister has spoken. The real beneficiaries will again bc the doctors. Contributors will benefit from this bill in relation to doctors’ fees only if doctors’ charges remain the same and fund contributions remain the same. If we do not get any assurance from the doctors that their charges will not increase, it is not possible for the funds to give an assurance that they will not have to increase their contributions.
The Minister told us that the problem which had caused the Government the most concern was the margin between doctors’ charges for medical services and the benefits payable under the scheme. All I can say in regard to that is that this bill will not do anything at all to correct that position because there can be no certainty that increased benefits alone will close the gap or even reduce it. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in the bill that will prevent the gap from becoming even wider. There can be no substantial denial that doctors generally have found this scheme very helpful. If we are to be burdened with a scheme such as this which gives only partial cover to portion of the community the doctors, because of the assistance and protection that they receive from the scheme, should be prepared to play a proper part to assist in its smooth running. This could be done if they would simply draw up a schedule of charges by which they were prepared to abide for some period of time. This is surely not too much to ask of the doctors in the circumstances. I feel sure that if the Government would make a move along that line the doctors would be prepared to reach some agreement, provided a reasonable proposition were put forward.
The Government, by its proposals in this bill and by the National Health Act as a whole, has, in effect, guaranteed to the doctors a certain amount of money for their services. If the doctors are not prepared to give a guarantee in relation to fees, it is up to this Government to step in and take whatever action is necessary to provide safeguards to protect the contributors and the taxpayers generally. Until this is done in one way or another, there can be no certainty of what good will result from increased benefits under the legislation.
To prove just how valuable this Government’s scheme is to the doctors, I wish to cite a few figures which are published in the annual reports of the Director-General of Health. During the year ended June, 1954, which was the first year of operation of the scheme, Commonwealth benefits amounting to just under £1,500,000 were paid to doctors for medical services to fund contributors and their dependants. The funds also paid out a similar amount, which made a total payment of about £2,900,000. The figures for the year ended June, 1963, however, show how the value of the scheme to doctors has increased. In that year total Commonwealth benefits paid to doctors amounted to just under £11,500,000.
Total payments, including fund payments, were approximately £28,300,000. The total cost of the services provided by doctors during 1962-63 was just over £43,000,000. So fund and Commonwealth benefits combined gave the doctors approximately 65 per cent, of what they actually charged. This, I suggest, is a pretty good start along the road to total payment. Surely it is something that we would not expect the doctors to throw away lightly. However, on the other hand, the figures show very clearly the inadequacy of the scheme in relation to fund contributors. Sir Earle Page, who was Minister for Health at the time, said when introducing the 1953 bill -
Universal experience shows that if the whole of the costs of medical services are paid without any direct personal contributions, abuses readily creep in.
He said that in order to lessen such abuses the system would provide that the total value of insurance benefit plus Commonwealth benefit would always be slightly less than the actual fee. He went on, at a later stage of his speech, to say that the scheme would also provide that medical benefit funds must at least match Commonwealth contributions and that, therefore, for a very modest contribution, the contributor - by which he meant the member of a registered fund - would receive substantial benefits which would cover the major portion of his medical expenses. It is obvious that a 10 per cent, margin was to be the objective of the scheme. Despite the assurances given by the Minister in 1953, we have never reached a stage at which one could honestly say that total benefits were only slightly less than the total fees. Total benefits have never reached anywhere near 9C per cent, of charges. They have always been much lower, and if the funds had set out only to match the Commonwealth benefit, of course, the position would have been much worse.
During the first year of operation, the scheme returned to insured members an average of 63.1 per cent, of their payments. In 1954-55 it paid 64.8 per cent, and in 1955-56, 65.6 per cent. Last year, according to the figures of the DirectorGeneral of Health, the Commonwealth paid only 26.6 per cent, and the funds paid 37.1 per cent., making a total of 63.7 per cent. The poor old contributor, who was to be called on to pay not more than 10 per cent, of the charges, actually paid 36.3 per cent. As this figure is only an average, it becomes clear that the contributor, whose financial position allows him to insure for benefits only on a lower table, has to pay much more than 36.3 per cent. - more likely 50 per cent, or 60 per cent. So we have the position that a contributor may pay about 12s. a week insurance - in 1953 the Minister said that was a very modest amount but in my opinion it is pretty solid - but he will still find that when he is sick he is obliged to pay about 37 per cent, of his medical costs. Although this bill will increase the amount of Commonwealth benefit quite considerably, the Government has failed to ensure that the sick people will gain the greatest good from the bill. Until such time as the Government ensures that doctors’ charges are stabilized the scheme cannot work as satisfactorily as it should. From the experience I have gained as a member of a fund I am sure that many doctors would welcome the opportunity to arrive at some agreement on this matter of fees.
I wish now’ to deal with the second major proposal in the bill whereby the Government intends gradually to do away with the permissible rebate on the 5s. charged for prescriptions issued under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The 5s. charge was instituted in March, 1960. Since then members of friendly societies or dispensing funds have been allowed, if the funds agreed, to receive a rebate on the 5s. charge because they were paying for the medicines obtained by regular payments into the society or fund. The Labour Party does not for a moment agree that there should be a 5s. charge for these prescriptions. I certainly cannot accept the reason given for the charge by the Minister. The Minister has told us that in the Government’s view the charge is a proper and necessary contribution which patients should make towards pharmaceutical prescriptions. The Government claims that the charge is necessary in order to discourage the unnecessary use of benefits provided under the scheme - in other words, to discourage unnecessary prescriptions. Who is to decide what is necessary and what is not necessary with regard to prescriptions? I would think it is the doctor. If this is so, should the doctor when prescribing for an illness first consider the cost of the medicine, or should his first consideration be his patient? If the doctor is asked to consider the cost of the medicines he prescribes is it right for the patient, who pays insurance against sickness costs and who also must pay the difference between the doctor’s fees and the combined fund and Commonwealth benefit, to be denied the right to have prescribed for him proper and adequate medicine to cure his illness? Surely, after paying his medical insurance and his share of taxes, he is entitled to have prescribed for him and to receive the best medicine, in sufficient quantity, to cure his unhealthy condition. Does any one suggest that a doctor who was worthy of the title would allow his judgment of what he considered best for the patient to be restricted simply because of this piece of legislation? That is too ridiculous to think of.
If it is not the doctor who brings about a reduction in the number of prescriptions, who is it? Is the person who is sick expected to stay away from his doctor? Does he reject some of the medicines that his doctor has prescribed, or does he ask his chemist to decide which ingredients in the prescription should be supplied and which should be omitted? The only real effect of this 5s. charge for prescriptions is to prevent some people or their dependents from obtaining medicines that are necessary to restore them to a state of good health. The people who will be affected most are once again those who, because of lack of money or continual sickness and subsequent expense, are unable to pay the 5s. pharmaceutical charge or any other charge for the medicine prescribed. By refusing to lift the charge the Government is not helping to reduce the incidence of ill health in the community.
Let us examine the Government’s reasons for objecting to the rebate of the 5s. charge. So far as hospital and medical benefits are concerned the Government has decreed that if a person is not prepared to insure himself against sickness costs by joining a registered fund he cannot obtain full Commonwealth benefits. But in the case of prescriptions for medicine the Government has adopted the opposite view. It says that a person cannot be relieved of the necessity to pay the 5s. pharmaceutical benefits charge despite the fact that he is prepared to insure himself against the possible cost of medicines. In Kalgoorlie, Boulder and most other mining towns in Western Australia dispensing funds have been operating for the last 60 years. The first fund was commenced in 1904. Almost every man in the mining industry is a member of a dispensing fund. Most honorable members will be aware that men who work underground, perhaps one mile below the surface, in hot and humid conditions, suffer considerably from chest and rheumatic complaints which necessitate their obtaining a good deal of medical and pharmaceutical attention. But as a result of this legislation men new to the industry and even men who move from one district to another will be denied the right to participate in those dispensing funds. They and their dependants will be obliged to pay the 5s. charge for medicines every time they need them.
This legislation is like a lot of other legislation introduced by this Government: it is discriminatory. The charge of 5s. should be abolished if the real purpose of the legislation is to provide Australia with a community of healthy people. All that this 5s. charge does is prevent many people, purely because nf financial difficulties, from procuring the medicines that they should have. If Government supporters are in favour of a worth-while health scheme - one which can really be described as a national health scheme and not a discriminatory one, such as this one is - the’y will support the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). If, on the other hand, they are not concerned about the health of pensioners and others in financial difficulties they will support the bill and throw out the amendment. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1691).
.- In this debate we are discussing the Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill and two related bills - the Dairy Produce Research and Sales Promotion Bill and the Dairy Produce Levy Bill. The Dairy Produce Levy Bill is being amended in order to provide for a levy on butter oil and ghee irrespective of the method of manufacture. The levy is a promotion and research levy. The promotion levy is one-eighth of Id. per lb. on commercial butter and one-sixteenth of Id. per lb. on cheese. That levy is estimated to raise £260,000 for the promotion of various dairy products. There is also a research charge of one-sixteenth of Id. per lb. on butter and one thirty-second of Id. per lb. on cheese, which will raise £130,000 for research. The amount raised for research will be matched by the Commonwealth £1 for £1.
This afternoon the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that the dairying industry was vital to the welfare of many Australians and to the nation as a whole. I assure the House that the industry is contributing to its own welfare by the research funds that it is putting into the hands of such organizations as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the various Departments of Agriculture. It is doing this, of course, to raise the efficiency, standard and productivity of dairy farms throughout the nation, and there has been a tremendous lift in the dairy industry. To-day it is one of the better technological industries in the nation. This is the sort of thing that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is doing for the dairy industry. It is studying all manner of diseases in dairy cattle, including infertility, which is a great worry in the dairy industry as it is in the beef cattle industry. The organization is studying the nutritional qualities of dairy pastures and conducting investigations to determine the most suitable pastures. Basic studies of fermentation processes and so on are being undertaken. All these things, combined with the work of State Departments of Agriculture, are doing much to lift the standards of dairying throughout the Commonwealth.
Of course, the honorable member for Lalor had to introduce a touch of politics in his speech. I was disappointed with him. He tried to suggest that this Government has not done as much for the dairy industry as did the last Labour Government. He referred to the fact that the Government has got away from the cost of production balance and the rise and fall in the amount of subsidy paid to the industry, and introduced a fixed subsidy. The Commonwealth did this on the recommendation of the industry itself, but the member for Lalor failed to mention that point. The industry itself recommended that the Government fix a subsidy at a set amount. No doubt, one of the basic causes for the industry wanting this was the fact that the Labour Government rejected a majority report of a committee set up by that Government to recommend a price to be paid for butter. The majority report of the committee recommended a price of 2s. lid., but the Labour Government of the day accepted 2s. That is one of the reasons why the industry lost faith in the Labour Government and in the rise and fall in the subsidy, and decided to request the present Government to pay a fixed subsidy.
The Labour Government was guilty on another charge in those days. It was receiving payments from the United Kingdom to encourage an increase of production, but it withheld over £3,000,000 of the dairy farmers’ money at that point of time.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that the House is considering the Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill. The scope of the measure is very restricted and butter does not come into it.
– I will come back to the bill, Sir. I thought I should rebut those few points that were raised by the honorable member for Lalor. I am disappointed that the Government has reduced the contingent liability from £500,000 to £400,000. At a time when we should be making it more attractive for processed milk factories to seek markets in Asia and other countries for their various products, it seems to me that the Government should have retained the bounty allocation of £500,000 as in 1962-63. In the secondreading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) we are told that in 1962-63 there was a diversion of nearly 1,800 tons of butterfat from the surplus butter market to processed milk products. Indeed, export income from processed milk products in that year amounted to £8,250,000. It seems to me remarkable that the Government should suddenly decide, at this point of time, to reduce the guarantee from £500.000 to £400.000 in view of the pressure of world production on our dairy industry.
In the last report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, the chairman, Mr. Roberts, at page 3, said -
Yow are probably aware of the world commercial surplus of butterfat which is being generated under national dairy policies and of the consequent increase in the volume of subsidized dairy produce entering into national trade. A direct result of this so far as the Board is concerned has been an increased emphasis on selling in an endeavour to retain existing markets for butter and cheese and to capture new outlets for butterfat. This has led the Board to take a direct interest in condensery products.
I am disappointed, consequently, that the Government has now decided to reduce the guarantee from £500,000 to £400,000. The amount used for the bounty last year was, I think, less than £400,000 - about £390,000. In other words the Government has left a margin of £10,000 for an increased endeavour by the industry to sell on the export market. I lodge my protest, at this point, on this action. This is only a contingent liability, and there is no necessity for the Government to have to meet the £500,000. The Government provided that amount in the previous year and is not encouraging the industry to continue its endeavour to sell processed milk produce on the export market. I shall watch with interest next year to see that there is no further reduction.
.- The basis on which we must set out to consider these bills relating to the dairy industry is that primary industries generally, and particularly the dairy industry, are in a deplorable condition. The state of prosperity of the dairy farmer to-day, particularly in Queensland, is probably at an all-time low. Numerous producers are leaving the industry. This has come about because the Government has not adopted a sufficiently serious and responsible approach to the need to help these people and support them in their efforts to make the dairy industry a worth-while and remunerative industry in which to engage.
We heard some criticism of the Government’s performance from the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon). I suggest that these pieces of legislation which the Government brings in are nothing short of stop-gap measures. They are temporary expedients and are a fair indication that the Government is not prepared to accept its responsibility to introduce long-term measures on behalf of representative sections of the community.
On this occasion, we are dealing with the processed milk production bounty. The Government has operated this legislation on a year-to-year basis. It is interesting to note that the Government has reduced the bounty for the next twelve months to £400,000. This is a peculiar approach to the problem. It. is an approach that is not restricted to the dairy industry. The Government feels it can buy freedom of conscience within the community and that if it makes a distribution of largesse to a section of the community it is completely absolved of any responsibility and any necessity fully to discharge the duties that have devolved upon it. The policy has been to pay out money to a section of an industry in order to keep it away from the Government and to stop that industry from criticizing it. That is all this legislation is designed to do. Let us put it bluntly; it is a form of bribery.
Let us face facts. The problem in the dairy industry is a problem that is fairly general in the community. It comes about because the Government is not prepared to take action to restrict the activities of those people who are prepared to exploit sections of the community. They exploit to a tremendous degree the primary producers. They charge high prices for their commodities, including barbed wire, milking machinery and equipment for the dairy shed. They impose exorbitant charges. When I was visiting a country area recently, a dairy farmer pointed out to me a very small nut which he had purchased for his milking machine plant. It cost him 18s. The material in the nut and the total workmanship in its manufacture would not have been worth more than a couple of shillings. This is only one illustration of a general activity that is occurring to-day. The dairy farmers are being exploited by people who join together in restrictive trade practices and cartels and charge high prices for the things necessary to enable primary producers to produce. At the same time, other groups of people are forming cartels and are paying low prices for the produce of the primary producer. All these activities are detrimental to the community. They certainly are not intended to benefit the producers or the consumers. They benefit an in-between section, and a minority of the people are deriving the majority of the advantage. The Government should make a much broader approach to the problems of the dairy industry.
I notice in one clause a reference to cheese. It is interesting to note that some of the problems which confront the cheese section of the dairy industry come about because this Government allows tremendously large quantities of cheese to be imported into Australia. In fact, in 1961-62 about £1,000,000 worth of cheese was imported. There are a number of cheese factories in the electorate of Oxley. When one goes around the electorate one notes that the difficulty which persistently confronts the cheese manufacturers is that they cannot get rid of their products while exotic brands are on the market. If the Government is sincere, this is one of the problems confronting the dairy industry which it could consider sympathetically.
It has been suggested to me very seriously - I believe there is a lot of merit in the suggestion - that Australian peanut producers, whose peanut oils go to the margarine manufacturers, probably are causing more dislocation of the dairy industry than any other factor. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who is at the table, might like to consider the effect of the production of peanut oil on the Australian dairy industry, and see whether anything can be done to ameliorate the present position.
This measure will give some benefit to the primary producers, but surely a broader approach to the problem should have been made by the Government. One thing the Government could do is to consider some of the overseas countries which our exports have not yet reached. If we could export dairy products to those countries there would be greater returns for the people engaged in the Australian dairy industry and a diversification of the sale of their products. This is important, because the low prices that have been received for butter on the export market and the high overall production of butter have reduced the return to the primary producers. The butter subsidy has had to be distributed on a far wider basis. The same amount of money has had to be spread over the much larger quantity of butter produced. One possible market to which I suggest the Government should look is mainland China. I remember that not so long ago one risked the severest censure if one suggested that we should trade with that country. But now there is much virtue in trade with mainland China, in the view of members of the Government parties, because if it were not for the fact that mainland China absorbs such tremendous quantities of Australian wheat and wool supporters of the Country Party would be in serious trouble.
I suggest very seriously that, when the Government brings a measure such as this before the House, the primary producers should not allow themselves to be deluded into believing that what is being proposed is other than a very minute contribution to the solution of a very serious problem. The Government will have to face up to this problem and do something positive if it wishes to extricate this section of industry from a serious predicament. I have spoken to quite a number of bank managers in the rural areas of the electorate of Oxley. 1 am rather disturbed to discover that, according to those bank managers, numerous dairy farmers are not earning the equivalent of the basic wage. That is a deplorable situation. It is disturbing to discover that dairy farmers are forced to have their wives and families working on their farms with them for seven days a week - not because they desire to do that, or because of any enjoyment or satisfaction that they derive from doing it, but because of the economic pressures that are exerted on them. 1 think it will be readily agreed by all honorable members that we cannot allow the Australian dairy industry to fold up, and we certainly cannot allow it to suffer a sudden and major collapse, because quite a number of prosperous country towns are almost wholly, if not wholly, dependent for their existence on the prosperity of the dairy industry. Whilst members of the Opposition are supporting this measure, they have serious reservations. In particular, they express very strong opposition to the manner in which the Government is treating the Australian dairy industry to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5th May (vide page 1539), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5th May (vide page 1538), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I take this opportunity to raise a query about promotion. This measure deals with the levy imposed on the dairy industry. A portion of the proceeds of the levy is devoted to research and a portion is devoted to promotion. Occasionally, I have time to look at television. I rarely see any advertisements authorized by the Australian Dairy Produce Board. What I do see - this puzzles me somewhat - is rather excellent television material promoting the sale of Western Star butter, which is produced in the admirable dairying country of the western district of Victoria. That advertising must be expensive. It has been proceeding for a long while. From what I hear from housewives, it has been effective in promoting the sale of Western Star butter.
The question that I pose to the Minister is whether that television promotion is being carried out on behalf of the dairy industry generally or is a promotion activity solely of the company that manufactures that butter. I cannot see what advantage would accrue to the industry from the Australian Dairy Produce Board using levy funds provided by the whole industry for the purpose of advertising the product of this factory, whether it is a proprietary factory or a cooperative factory. I am somewhat puzzled about the activities. I am wondering whether there was an arrangement by which the Dairy Produce Board would make funds available to the Western Star people so that they could indulge in this very extensive programme in the belief that the more Western Star butter that is sold on the local market, the bigger the hole that is made in the amount that has to be exported. It is rather puzzling to me, and I would like to know if there is any association between those advertising activities and the promotional funds.
– There is a promotion levy, and it is mentioned in the annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. I do not know the details of the matter to which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) refers, but the position is probably somewhat similar to that in Queensland where certain brands of butter are advertised and the Dairy Produce Board agrees that particular markets shall be supplied continually with the brands that they require. The report of the Dairy Produce Board shows that for the year 1962-63, £264,910 was spent on sales promotion. Included in that was an amount of £166,879 15s. 7d. for sustained advertising covering television, radio, press, national and general. It seems to me that that is included in what is approved by the Australian Dairy Produce Board.
– And paid for by the board to advertise a particular broad?
– It is allowed in certain instances where a buyer requires a particular brand that he knows and with which he is satisfied. I know that our own Kingaroy brand of butter goes up to north Queensland because the people insist upon getting that particular brand, and that is in accordance with the wishes of the Dairy Produce Board. To clarify the position, I will get the details for the honorable member.
– It is rather interesting. Dozens of other factories supply butter, but because there is an equalization of the sale of butter, there is no particular advantage given to any particular factory.
-That is so. I will get the particulars for the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That theHouse do now adjourn.
– I want to return to the charge that has been levelled against the Government by the “ Bulletin “ concerning special concessions to Ansett Transport Industries Limited. The Government cannot avoid facing up to this very serious charge, and nothing that the Minister docs, and none of the shouting or hysterical and excitable behaviour from the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) will intimidate me or stop me from raising this matter and bringing it to a conclusion one way or another. This is what the “ Bulletin “ said on 25th April. 1964-
Most outside observers are puzzled by the long continued immunity of Ansett Transport Industries from the payment of full standard rates of income tax. despite the charging of amounts of depreciation which appear to be very large.
ATI provided an aggregate of £124,843 for income tax in the five years 1959 to 1963 inclusive with aggregate stated net profits during the period of £4,610,502.
Rough calculations point to income tax of (the order of £2,972.000 if standard company rates had been charged on these earnings.
I demand that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) answer that charge in some way or other, or take action against the “ Bulletin “ to clear his name. If the article is not true, action should be taken against the “ Bulletin “ and punitive damages should be claimed. It is no good the Treasurer getting up in this House, as he did yesterday and bluffing his way out of it by inviting me to make charges outside Parliament and saying that if I do so he will issue a writ against me. / would remind the Treasurer that I am not the person responsible for this article. I do not know whether the article is true or not, but I am repeating it and demanding that you come out-
– You are just circulating it.
– I am reminding you that this article has been published in a very responsible journal - the “ Bulletin “ of Sydney. It contains a statement which you yourself described as a most serious statement. You said yesterday, referring to the Commissioner of Taxation -
By virtue of legislation passed by this Parliament, the commissioner is virtually in a position of independent status.
You then added, quite rightly -
It is a reflection not merely on the Government but also on the commissioner and his administration to publish information in the form adopted in this instance.
That was perfectly true. It is a serious matter, and having described it as a serious matter, you cannot now sit back and try and bluff your way out by asking me to repeat it outside Parliament. It has already been published outside Parliament.It has gone to every State of the Commonwealth. I say to the Treasurer: If it is not true, it is a most defamatory and libellous statement.If the Treasurer has any courage at all, he will go out and he will issue a writ against the “ Bulletin “, in the same way as did the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren). If it is not true. I hope that the Treasurer is successful in his action. If it is not true and he succeeds in proving that it is a defamatory and libellous statement, be will get nothing less than £90,000, judging by what the honorable member for Reid received, because this is the most damaging statement that I have ever seen levelled against any person.
The Treasurer tried to get out of it by saying that the statement was not sufficiently specific and that it referred to the Government. He said -
The “ Bulletin “ has referred to the Government. If any member of the Government is identified sufficiently for legal action to be taken, no doubt such action can be considered.
I inform the right honorable gentleman that he is the person who is identified by the article as the person responsible, for the clear reason that the Commissioner of Taxation is under his direct ministerial control. For the Treasurer to pretend that this is not a direct charge against him is just so much poppycock. Whom do you think it is referring to other than yourself? Of course it refers to you, and you know it. You know perfectly well that anything that refers to a direction being given to the Commissioner of Taxation is a direct indictment of yourself. If the Treasurer has any spunk in him at all he will take this matter immediately to his solicitors, issue a writ against the “ Bulletin “ and give the “ Bulletin “ an opportunity to prove that the statement is true and himself an opportunity to prove that it is not true. He cannot escape in any other way. His honour is at stake now as also is the honour of the Government. If the statement is not true, it is a highly defamatory and libellous statement.
It is no use the Minister getting up in this House and making out that it was I who made the statement. I did not and he knows I did not. I am merely repeating the statement that appeared in the “ Bulletin “, and has gone all over the Commonwealth. It is a most serious charge and I call upon the Treasurer to answer it. There is only one way in which he can answer if effectively and to the satisfaction of the people of Australia, and that is by taking the “ Bulletin “ to court and giving it an opportunity of proving whether the statement is true of false.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has just said to the House, in effect, “I am not the fellow who makes the mud, I am the fellow who throws it “. We in this place will not be very much impressed by a performance which will delude no one as to its motives. The honorable gentleman claims that he is trying to clear my honour, or something of that kind. I am quite prepared to rest my position in this Parliament on the respect which I believe has come my way from honorable members on both sides of the House in the long period that I have been here. I do not need to go to courts of law to establish either my inner respect or the respect of my colleagues in this place.
I told the honorable gentleman yesterday that only once in the long time that I have been in the Parliament have I resorted to a libel action. I did that, not to clear my own name but to put on the record for all time the false statements being made by the man who described himself at that time as the official spokesman for the Australian Labour Party in a general election campaign in Queensland. As the Labour spokesman he published in a printed article false allegations about my attitude as Minister for Labour and National Service. He claimed that I, as Minister for Labour and National Service, had said that I did not regard 5 per cent, of unemployment as serious, or words to that effect. The significance of it was that I, as the official spokesman for my party in that field, was alleged to have said something which, had it stood, could have been very damaging politically to my party. To set the record straight for my party I took action on that occasion. For the rest, Sir, in the course of any year one journal or another will defame members of this Parliament or of this Government. For my part, I am untroubled by such publication.
In this instance I was concerned to deal with an allegation made in this place by a member of this Parliament. The honorable gentleman can try to shelter, if he wishes, behind the “ Bulletin “. The fact of the matter is that he made himself the peddler of a most serious charge, a charge which would not have come from any member of his party who had served in a government or from any honorable member who knows the position of the Commissioner of Taxation and the relationship which exists between a government and the Commissioner of Taxation.
I do not intend to joust with the honorable gentleman on this matter. I feel that the rating to be put upon him was rightly assessed by his own colleagues in the vote which they registered for him in the early part of this week. For my part, I now put on the record, because I think that is important, the official statement which has come to me from the Commissioner of Taxation following what was said in the House by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The Commissioner’s minute, which is dated Wednesday, 6th May, and is headed “ Income Tax: Parliamentary Debate, Ansett Group of Companies “. is in these terms -
It has come to my notice that in the course of a debate on an urgency motion in the House of Representatives yesterday, Mr. Clyde Cameron, M.P., allegedthat the Ansett Group of Companies “ received preferential treatment in the field of taxation “. Reference was made by Mr. Cameron to an extract from an article which appeared in the “ Bulletin “ of 25lh April, 1964, reading - “It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Commissioner of Taxation is showing some consideration to Ansett under direction from the Federal Government.”
I have made enquiries of the Deputy Commissioners in Melbourne where the income tax returns of the Ansett Group of Companies are lodged and assessed, and I give you my firm assurance that the allegations made in the course of the parliamentary debale and in the quoted extract from the “ Bulletin “ are incorrect and completely without foundation.
Neither Mr. Cameron nor any other speaker specified the manner in which the alleged “ preferential treatment in the field of taxation” has been given. In the absence of any such specific allegation I simply say that, in every respect, the Ansett Group of Companies, in common with every other taxpayer, has, at all times, been treated for taxation purposes strictly in accordance with the terms of the income tax law as enacted by the Parliament.
It may, however, be of assistance to you if 1 mention that earlier parliamentary and press comments have, in effect, suggested that the Ansett Group has received concessional treatment in relation to depreciation allowances on aircraft and other plant and in relation to deductions for losses of previous years sustained by companies subsequently taken over by the Ansett Group.
The basis on which depreciation allowances are granted is specifically prescribed in the income tax law. The rate of depreciation allowable is fixed by the Commissioner of Taxation and is so fixed in accordance with the estimated effective life of a unit of plant assuming it is maintained in reasonable order and condition. This rate of depreciation applies universally to all relevant units of plant irrespective of their ownership. The current rate of depreciation of aircraft is 25 per cent. where prime cost method of depreciation is adopted and 37½ per cent. where the diminishing value is used. These rates are set out in the published schedule of Rates of Depreciation for Income Tax purposes.
The rate of 25 per cent. on aircraft was struck in the early 1920’s. The 50 per cent. increase in percentage rates where the diminishing method of depreciation is adopted was granted by Parliament’s amendment of the law in 1957. This increase applied to all classes of equipment and not only to aircraft.
The affairs of taxpayers arc. of course, confidential between them and the Commissioner of
Taxation. Nevertheless it is the case that the above rates of depreciation on aircraft are available to the Ansett Group of Companies just as they are to all other aircraft operators.
On the question of losses, newspaper reports have attributed the Ansett Group’s low provisions for current income tax in recent years to the taxation benefits derived by the Group from losses incurred prior to takeover by companies taken over by Ansett Transport Industries Limited. On occasions, Mr. Ansett has been reported to have made remarks to this effect.
Under the Income Tax law a company (whether or not it is a member of a group of companies) is entitled to deduct a loss incurred by that company from income derived by it in an income year not later than seven years after the year of income in which the loss was sustained. If the shares in a company that has incurred a loss are acquired by a public company the loss may be recouped for income tax purposes from subsequent income derived by the acquired company within the seven year period.
These provisions of the income tax law apply without discrimination to all companies.
Where an income tax deduction for losses of previous years is allowed to a public company, it is because the income tax law requires that such an allowance be made. No discretion rests in the Commissioner of Taxation or in any one else to deny a deduction in these circumstances.
I repeat what I said earlier. After a careful review of the affairs of the Ansett Group in the office of the Deputy Commissioners in Melbourne, I give my unqualified assurance that in every respect the Ansett Group has been assessed to tax and treated for all purposes of taxation strictly in accordance with the terms of the Income Tax law. The Group receives no preferential treatment of any kind.I need hardly add, of course, that the suggestion in the “ Bulletin “ that the Commissioner of Taxation may be showing some consideration to Ansett under direction from the Federal Government is completely false.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Naturalization. (Question No. 154.)
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honor able member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows: -
It is true that there was an initial increase in the number of “ no service “ complaints from public telephone users following the conversion of public telephone units to 6d. operation earlier this year. The increase is attributed to -
Broadcasting. (Question No. 253.)
n asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Social Services. (Question No. 134.)
s asked the Minister for
Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows: -
Parts 1, 2, 3, 8 and 13 of the question come within the province of my department and the position is as follows: -
It would depend on the amount ofthe increase in the superannuation pension in each case and the pensioner’s means as assessed prior to the increase. 2, 3 and 8. The information is not available.
The question of further liberalizations to the means test will be considered by the Government when social services are reviewed in connexion with the next Budget.
The remaining parts of the question do not come within the province of my department.
on asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
What amount of unemployment benefit was paid in the month of February in each of the years 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964 in the districts of Maitland, Cessnock, Taree, Kempsey, Grafton, Lismore and Murwillumbah?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No record is maintained of expenditure on unemployment benefit by districts and the information therefore is not available.
on asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
on asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The highest number of persons receiving unemployment benefit during the period was 62,429 in August, 1961. The lowest number was 20,856 in November, 1963.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The aswers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
on asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Child endowment at the rate of 15s. a week is payable in respect of all children, including children in the custody, care and control of civilian widows, who:-
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
What percentage of persons in receipt of age and invalid pensions has (a) no other income, (b) weekly income not exceeding £1 and (c) weekly income (i) in excess of £1 but not exceeding £2, (ii) in excess of £2 but not exceeding £3, (iii) in excess of £3 but not exceeding £3 10s. and (iv) in excess of £3 10s.?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Precise information on which to answer the question is not available. However, based on information obtained in one State some time ago and which now should be treated with caution, the following estimates are given: - (a) 68 per cent, have no income; (b) 10 per cent, have a weekly income not exceeding £1; and (c) (i) 8 per cent, have a weekly income in excess of £1 but not exceeding £2; (ii) and (iii) 9 per cent, have a weekly income exceeding £2 but not exceeding £3 10s.; and (iv) 5 per cent, have a weekly income exceeding £3 10s. The above estimates relate only to income as defined for pension purposes and thus do not’ take into account the various forms of income which are exempt under the means test. In considering the estimates regard should bc had to the fact that, in the case of married couples, the income of each party is deemed to bc half the combined income of both.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the reason for not granting “permanent “ status to car drivers employed by the Department of Supply in the various capital cities?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
An essential of effective management in an undertaking such as the Department of Supply is an authority to increase, diminish, transfer, promote or demote, or in any other reasonable way adjust the labour force to meet changing requirements. In the Department of Supply these needs are met by the employment of wages personnel under the provisions of the Supply and Development Act. Drivers and motor mechanics and other wages personnel, including many thousands of operatives in the various factories and establishments operating under the department, are employed under the act. There is no provision under the act for permanent appointment. Wages personnel under the Supply and Development Act enjoy similar long service leave, recreation leave, sick leave and emergency leave to permanent officers under the Public Service Act. After three years continuous and satisfactory service, if it can be certified that there are good expectations that he will be employed for another seven years, any wages employee is eligible to be admitted, upon application, as a contributor under the Superannuation Act. The foregoing provisions enable the Supply and Development Act employee to participate in important privileges attaching to permanent public servants without bringing him within the ambit of the Public Service Act. It should be added that many of those employed under the Supply and Development Act have had up to forty years service with the Department of Supply.
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) and (b)-
Treasury - One type E103 small scale computer on lease. The lease of a second type E103 small scale computer is being arranged.
Bureau of Census and Statistics - During 1963 the bureau ordered one large and five smalltomedium scale computers. “ Computer “ in this context has been taken to mean a stored programme automatic digital computer and excludes the plugged programme calculators which have been used by the bureau for the past six years. The large scale computer will be delivered towards the end of May, 1964. In preparation of this, the bureau has used since September, 1963, a small scale computer provided by the suppliers of the equipment ordered.
Reserve Bank - The Reserve Bank, having completed an investigation regarding the possible acquisition of a computer for its own use, has recently placed an order for computer equipment, which will be installed in the new head office building in Sydney. It is expected that delivery will be effected about the middle of 1965.
Treasury - 13 trained programmers; 10 pro- grammers-in-training.
Bureau of Census and Statistics - 40 trained programmers; 22 programmers-in-training.
Reserve Bank - Nil.
Treasury - 57 hours.
Bureau of Census and Statistics- 42 hours. Reserve Bank - Nil.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640507_reps_25_hor42/>.