25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister for the Army. As pay increases have been granted to male members of the Army and made retrospective to June 1964, when is it expected that action will be taken to adjust pay rates for female members, and, when such increases are granted will they also be made retrospective to June 1964? Secondly, has the Minister given consideration to improving the comparative rates paid to female members of the Army, which are, in some instances, as low as 52 per cent, of the male rate for exactly the same work?
– Order! The honorable member must not give information.
– I shall answer the last part of the honorable member’s question by reminding him that the relationship between male and female rates of pay today is considerably closer than that which existed when a Labour Government was in office. The answer to the other part of the honorable gentleman’s question is that new pay rates for the women’s service will be promulgated as soon as the regulations have been drafted, and they will be back-dated to operate from the same date as the increased male rates of pay.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. 1 ask: ls it a fact that Canadian producers of newsprint are to cut the Australian landed price of their product by a further £2 10s. a ton? If so, will the Minister consider imposing quantitative restrictions on newsprint imports in order to protect this industry - one of the few in Australia which produces at a world price without protection - and to assist our balance of payments?
– If it is a fact that the price of Canadian newsprint has been cut, or is to be cut, I am not yet aware of it. The position, briefly, is that if any quoted price, which is not the result of dumping, should prejudice the viability of the Australian newsprint manufacturing industry, then it would be competent for the industry to ask for a Tariff Board hearing with a view to applying higher protection or, if necessary, for a Special Advisory Authority hearing. In either case, if action were warranted I would refer the matter to the appropriate authority. It is not the practice of the Government to impose quantitative restrictions as a means of affording protection to an industry unless there are some quite special circumstances, such as there were in the case of the Tasmanian aluminium industry, or unless, in the judgment of the authorities, a customs duty would not afford protection. Only as a last resort would we turn to quantitative restrictions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. I ask: Was the Minister correctly reported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission as saying that the retiring age should be increased? If the report is correct, will the Minister, before making any such proposition to the Government, give consideration to modifying the social services means test to allow pensioner couples to earn up to the basic wage without reduction of pension? Will he also reduce the qualifying percentage of disability from 85 per cent, to 55 per cent, to enable sick and disabled people to receive an invalid pension much earlier, instead of dying as many of them do now, without ever having been able to receive a pension?
– Order! The honorable member must not make comment.
– Finally, will the Minister also suggest to his colleague, the Minister for Health, a return to the 1955 status quo in the matter of medical entitlement, thus placing all pensioners on the same medical service level?
– I am not too sure just where the question lay in the highly complex list of matters enumerated by the honorable member. As to the expression of opinion that there was room within the Australian economy for extension of the present retiring age beyond 65, I did say that I wondered whether, in a time of full employment, such action might not enable many persons who at the age of 65 had not reached the end of their productive capacity to remain in employment. The balance of the honorable member’s question relates to a matter that is considered from time to time by the Government. It will be considered again during the budgetary deliberations that will take place shortly.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question which is supplementary to one addressed to him last Thursday and which concerns the statement that drought conditions in Australia are normal. By way of explanation, I mention the fact that the present drought is all the more shattering because it came after a long period of wet seasons in the more lush parts of Australia. I ask the Minister whether the Commonwealth Government will study the question of making overall contributions to meet the cost of farm water supplies in all parts of Australia on the same principle that has been applied in the south west of Western Australia and in respect of flood mitigation in New South Wales.
– I should like to make it clear that last week I did not simply say that drought conditions were normal in Aus* tralia. What I said was that, in the Australian environment as we have experienced it, drought conditions are a recurring feature and that, because they may be anticipated, in my view it is not to be thought that we cannot make substantial preparations against them. The question that the honorable member has now asked is no doubt of high importance. However, it certainly concerns a policy matter and it would be beyond my province to attempt to answer such a question now. I am sure that if it is directed to the proper quarters it will be considered.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact, as has been reported, that the Minister stated in New Guinea at the weekend that he thought Australia could relax its immigration policy to allow Japanese technicians to work in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? If so, does this mean that the Minister and the Australian Country Party contemplate relaxation of our established immigration policy to allow the employment of Japanese tradesmen in large numbers in both Australia and the Territory?
– Of course, this question presents completely out of context something that I said in answer to a question that I was asked’ in New Guinea. I was asked whether we would permit Japanese to migrate to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I pointed out that we had a great responsibility for the development of the economy of the Territory. When I said that, I had in mind the vast timber resources of the Territory and the fishing potential in the neighbouring seas. It is difficult to envisage local development of these assets. There have been Press reports of negotiations between an Australian group and a Japanese industry in Tokyo. I know only what I have seen in the Press about this matter. Obviously, if we are to clear and develop the large tracts of jungle that in many instances produce only waste timber at present and convert those areas to agricultural production - I may say that this is advocated in the report recently made by the mission from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development - matters related to the availability of technicians and tradesmen must be considered.
It is obvious that we in Australia have not the capital to develop the Territory but, what is more important, we must find markets for timber and fish. I cannot contemplate large quantities of timber being brought to Australia, nor can I contemplate large quantities of fish being brought to Australia to compete with our own fishing industry. Are we to leave these assets virtually frozen? I believe that we must give consideration to matters of this sort. On the question of immigration, I said in my answer that in certain cases, probably, technicians could be admitted on a temporary basis, but with a covenant on companies that they would train Papuans to take over these positions eventually. The suggestion that I am contemplating wholesale immigration from overseas is completely untrue.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Since the almost total clearance of surplus grain stocks, coupled with the rising demand for slock feed due to the drought in the eastern States, has brought about a renewal of interest in farm storage of grain, will the Minister give consideration to finding ways in which the Government can assist farmers to construct and maintain grain storages by facilitating bank credit, by granting a taxation concession or by employing a combination of these elements?
– I should think that the honorable member is on the right track when he suggests that farm storage is a requirement and that the storage of grain is an essential proposition in overall storage schemes. Grain is one commodity that can be readily stored. His suggestion that credit is necessary is a factor that must necessarily be taken into consideration. I will certainly give full consideration to his suggestion. It is a matter of policy and one that must, of necessity, be determined by the Government.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman will probably recall that a week or more ago he told me that he had received that day the Vernon Committee’s report upon the economy of Australia. As that report includes a reference to the flow of capital into Australia from overseas, and as there is at present before the Parliament a report by the Treasurer on that matter, does the right honorable gentleman think it would be of great assistance in the discussion of that subject if the Vernon Committee’s report were made available to the Parliament - say, today?
– To use the orthodox phrase, I am in receipt of the report. The first volume is a slim volume containing between 400 and 500 foolscap pages. The second volume is approximately twice that size. I know that among the matters covered by the report is the one referred to by the honorable member, as he might well expect, because it was one of the terms of reference to the Committee announced in this House. This report is of such a kind that it will take a considerable time to read it and to endeavour to understand it.
– When is it thought that we will get a look at it?
– I do not know. Perhaps the honorable member will forgive me if I say that I think the Government ought to see it first.
– That is an old fashioned prejudice of mine. I believe that there is only one government at a time - I hope I am right on that point - and that my colleagues in the Government ought to have the opportunity of reading this report. I am not unaccustomed to reading documents. I have had a lifetime of experience of it, and I expect that it will be a week before I am satisfied that I understand everything that has been put to us. Therefore, with all due regrets, because I would love to oblige my friend from Scullin, I say that I cannot answer his question “ Yes “.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Immigration. I refer to the application for naturalisation - form N6 - which, although it has been commendably streamlined, omits to say where it should be sent. That omission is liable to cause difficulties among many migrants. Will the Minister arrange to have stickers giving this information placed on forms now in stock and, in future printings of the form, will he arrange to have this information incorporated in the form so that in each State there will be no doubt about where the form should be sent?
– It is, of course, a matter for regret that the honorable member’s constituents have become confused about what to do with this bit of paper. I certainly will have investigations made to see whether that has occurred generally. If migrants have become confused, we will endeavour to take remedial action.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories, who has been reported as having said that Australia’s immigration policy might be relaxed to allow Japanese technicians to work in New Guinea. Has that proposal been discussed with members of the Papua and New Guinea House of Assembly, and what is the Assembly’s attitude to it?
– The House of Assembly for Papua and New Guinea met yesterday to begin a new session. My statement on the World Bank report will introduce that report to the House of Assembly. Since the matter raised by the honorable member is a part of the report, I have no doubt that the debate on the report will provide an opportunity for members of the House of Assembly to give their views on the subject.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, in the light of his statement that the number of jobs vacant last month was the highest for a decade, it could be said that a shortage of labour exists, particularly in the field of skilled tradesmen. Is the incidence of employee shortage also applicable to the Public Service? If so, does this general shortage represent in these critical times an alarming situation which could affect Australia’s national development, and has the Government plans designed to improve the position?
– lt is correct to say that the number of job vacancies during the month of April was higher than that in any other month of April for a period of more than 10 years; but there was a reduction in the number of vacancies as compared with the preceding month, that is, the month of March. Another point of great interest is that there was an increase of 945 in the number of males registered for employment, a drop of about 445 in the number of females registered for employment and a drop of about 1,200 in the number of new registrations for employment. All of these factors have to be taken into account when considering the labour market. It is not a single market; it has to be divided into compartments.
Are we in a position of crisis? I cannot admit that we are. As the Minister for Immigration announced only the other day, we have increased the migrant intake to an estimated 142,000 for this year. About 50,000 of those migrants will be members of the work force; that is, they will be workers. That is one way in which the Government is attempting to find a supply of labour for the vacancies that exist. As to the second part of the question, relating to technical training and skilled men, of course the main difficulty resides in the electrical, metal and building trades. It would take a long time to explain what the Government has been doing. The honorable gentleman would know that the Government has done much to encourage apprenticeship, particularly in country areas, lt has done a great deal for secondary training and it is already working on the problem of trying to implement retraining schemes for adult workers. I think this briefly indicates the kind of activity the Government is undertaking. I cannot admit that there is a crisis. Much is being done by the Government to get the necessary work force with the necessary degree of skill.
– Now that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers have decided in principle to establish a Commonwealth Secretariat, can the Prime Minister say whether any consideration has been given by the same Prime Ministers to the establishment of a Commonwealth parliamentary assembly - whatever the title might be - on the lines of the European parliamentary assembly - whatever the proper term might be in that connection? I point out that this proposal was advocated recently by a member of the British Government and that, as a consequence, the matter may have been considered by the Australian Government.
– The discussions that have occurred so far in writing between the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth countries have been concerned with the report of the officials into the constitution of a Commonwealth Secretariat and various aspects of that matter, some of which are still under discussion and, I have no doubt, will be brought to finality at the June meeting. The expression about a Commonwealth Assembly - or whatever it might be called - is so far just an expression in those words on a piece of paper. I cannot elaborate it. I look forward to hearing in London what is involved in it because, as the honorable gentleman will understand, we do not want to complicate our existing structure. We have the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. What different functions an assembly might perform and how it might be constituted, I do not know, but I have indicated that I look forward to hearing about it in London.
– Will the Prime Minister let me know what happens?
– I ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Commonwealth Government engaged in any negotiations for the stabilisation of the barley growing industry? If so, do the negotiations apply to both malting and feed varieties, and what stage has been reached in any discussions which may have taken place?
– Actually, a submission was made to me as Chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council the day before the last meeting was held and obviously the Council did not consider the matter at such short notice. I have posted to each of the State Ministers concerned a copy of all submissions so really, in fact, it is only a very preliminary investigation at this stage.
– Is it true that the Prime Minister is having difficulty in getting a suitable taker from Great Britain for the position of Governor-General? Why must Australia be embarrassed by the hawking of this important position around London when there are many Australians, including the Prime Minister, suitable for the position?
– A man of the honorable gentleman’s wisdom and experience should have got past the stage of believing what he reads in some gossip column. If it is any weight off his mind I can tell him that nobody has been approached in relation to this post - literally nobody. I have not even thought of the honorable member. It is also another current fiction that I have some restrictive ideas in my mind. I do not have.
– What is the pay?
– The pay would be adequate for the honorable member. In fact, it would be handsome. I have no prejudices in this matter. I am a great believer in my own country and my own people. Honorable members need not worry about that. All that the Government and I want is to be able to nominate a person whom we regard as the most suitable for this post. I must say that the nonsense I read about the position being hawked around is most offensive. Nobody has been approached on this matter. This is a matter which, by some practice established over a long time, I discuss with Her Majesty the Queen before arriving at any conclusion. If I need to clear the minds of honorable members opposite once more, I say: Not for me.
– In his submissions for budgetary provisions, will the Minister for Social Services give special consideration to the grievous hardships faced by couples who are wholly dependent on the age pension in circumstances where the wife of a pensioner is too old to be expected to work and not old enough to claim a pension, such as in the case of a wife who is 58 years of age and her husband who is 68 years of age? In particular, will the Minister consider the possibility of applying a formula derived from the sum of the ages of the couple concerned as a means of preventing obvious possible abuses of a relaxation of the present provisions?
– The honorable member has raised this matter with me on a number of occasions. I assure him here in the House, as I have privately, that every consideration will be given during the budgetary deliberations to the submissions he has made.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Territories, who announced a few minutes ago plans for a fresh Japanese invasion of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Does the Minister recall that between 1941 and 1945 Australians spent grievously of their blood and treasure to turn the Japanese out of New Guinea? How will the people of New Guinea ever be able to attain full sovereignty over their affairs if the Minister, through his doctrine of private enterprise, alienates a large area of their Territory and economy to foreign interests?
– I rise to order. Is it in order for an honorable member to say, quite falsely in this case, that a Minister has announced the acceptance of plans for a Japanese invasion of Papua and New Guinea and, on the basis of that statement, to proceed to put a question? I would like to know whether that is in order, because if it is, everything is in order.
– Order! It is clear that if an honorable member makes a statement about which there is any doubt, he must be prepared to vouch for the accuracy of it. The honorable member must be able to vouch for the accuracy of any statement he makes.
– If I may have an opportunity to consider it in “ Hansard “ -
– Order! The honorable member must not argue with the Chair.
– I withdraw my remark. Will the Minister for Territories lay before the House the plans he has in mind for giving to the people of Papua and New Guinea as little consideration as his predecessor gave to the Aborigines of Yirrkala and Arnhem Land when negotiations took place with French aluminium interests? Will he lay before the House all plans he has for Japanese investment and migration to Papua and New Guinea and plans for development of the Territory involving overseas or foreign interests?
– I made it plain in my earlier answers that we were not contemplating migration of Japanese people to Australia but that we were considering ideas for the development of Papua and New Guinea as advocated by the World Bank survey. I resent the honorable member’s suggestion that we should continue the war of 1941-45. (Vide “ Personal Explanation “, page 1578.)
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service is further to a question asked of the Minister last week about the refusal of the Seamen’s Union to provide facilities for the United States warships visiting Melbourne for the Coral Sea Week celebrations. Is the President of the Melbourne Branch of the Seamen’s Union a member of the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour Party?
Further, has the Minister seen a report that the Waterside Workers Federation has unanimously decided to send a representative to North Vietnam to attend a conference called to discuss solidarity with the workers and people of South Vietnam? Does he consider that this is part of Labour’s plan to back our troops in every way possible, as was promised by the Leader of the Opposition? Is the Government concerned in this matter?
– As to the first question asked by the honorable gentleman, I inform him that Mr. Nolan is either the President or Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Seamen’s Union.
– He is the Secretary.
– Thank you. He is also a member of the Australian Labour Party. I should say immediately that I cannot ascertain the part played by Mr. Nolan in the actions of the Seamen’s Union in refusing to tug the “ Vancouver “ into Melbourne last week. I am not certain that he took an active part in it, although he was the person who made the statement that the warships would not be tugged in. As to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I advise him that I have read statements that one representative of the Waterside Workers Federation had been chosen to attend a meeting of the Communist dominated World Federation of Trade Unions in Hanoi. I had read the report, but I do not know yet whether it is accurate. I am trying to get additional information about it and as soon as I do I will inform the honorable gentleman and probably the House too.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Has the Minister read evidence which was given last week to the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament House in relation to the restrictive practices of members of trade price control rings when tendering to various departments, including his own? Will he in particular examine the evidence of Mr. McGill, who is the Chairman of the Commonwealth Contract Board in his department? Will he examine the allegations of the similarity of contract prices and, in certain cases, of the elimination of the calling of tenders? Will he discuss the matter with his colleague, the Attorney-General, with a view to expediting the introduction of restrictive trade practices legislation and so ending the need for this most reprehensible retaliatory proceeding of not calling for tenders?
– I am generally aware, of course, of the details of matters dealt with within my Department when restrictive trade practices come to light. I think the honorable gentleman will be more than satisfied when he sees the Government’s restrictive trade practices legislation. These practices will be brought under control. However, where there are restrictive trade practices today, my Department knows how to deal with them. If there is collusive tendering and similar prices are offered “by a number of traders, we have a habit of donating the contract to the last satisfactory tenderer. This produces a situation, of course, where one tenderer will continually receive Government business, always, of course, at the best price available. This tends to irritate the rest of the ring. The honorable member may rest assured that my Department is aware of its responsibility to see that Government supplies are bought in the best market and will not hesitate to discipline rings of this kind.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. The Minister will recall that about a fortnight ago in answer to a question in this House he said that everything possible would be done to secure refrigerated shipping space for 75,000 cases of oranges sold to France by Victorian citrus growers for export in the next few months. Can the Minister say what progress has been made in this regard?
– Since the honorable member first raised this matter and since it was also raised directly by the industry, the Department of Trade and Industry has been busy with the overseas shipping interests endeavouring to secure additional space for the shipment of citrus to the Mediterranean area. As a result of this intervention, the space has been increased from an original space for 20,000 cases to space now allotted for 40,000 cases. This is not sufficient to meet all the business for which orders were placed, but the Department is endeavouring to secure further additional space. Tha 40,000 cases I have mentioned will be shipped in seven vessels during June and July.
– Can the Minister for Territories confirm or deny reports of attempts by native people from West Irian to migrate to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? If the reports are true, what number of people are involved and what is the practice normally followed in such cases? Is there any evidence that migrants from West Irian returned to that country are being ill treated? To what extent has the Australian Administration sought the co-operation of the Administration of West Irian in solving the common problems of both Territories?
– Over a number of months there have been quite a few reports of people crossing the border from West Irian into New Guinea. I think I answered a question some time ago on this subject. I pointed out that some villages were actually on the border and that normally there is a lot of travelling of a local nature by people across the border. Apart from that, not very many people endeavour to cross from West Irian into New Guinea. Whenever this does occur these people are persuaded to return, because after all this is an international boundary and we have to recognise the covenants associated with such a border. As far as the suggestion that these people are being ill-treated is concerned, I say very definitely that there is no evidence of this whatsoever.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Immigration. As the “ Jack-in-the-Box “ form of concessional air travel appears to be becoming more popular, what steps does the Minister and his departmental officers intend to take to prevent the practice, which could involve serious health hazards or the introduction or transference of disease? Is it the intention of the Minister to institute proceedings against the offender in the recent case, or is the Government and the Department of Immigration more than satisfied with the removal of this apparently useless young man?
– The Government already had planned to offer the young man concerned repatriation to England, so his action was, in fact, quite unnecessary. Apparently the information from the Government arrived a little too late. To what extent the Department of Immigration can prod every item of freight leaving Australia on an aircraft I am not quite certain, but we will consider the matter and see what can be done. In this case it is not intended to take any further action against this young man. He has already travelled apparently very uncomfortably for part of the journey, and my information is that it is probable that the American authorities will see that he completes his journey, fairly smartly, back to England.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Is it true that the Administration of Papua and New Guinea has recently ruled that from now on Europeans will not be made available to help run the co-operatives in cases where they are already established? If this is so, I ask the Minister how he reconciles this ruling with the recommendation of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development that the co-operatives should be strengthened to permit the carrying out of a programme to expand both their number and their efficiency of operation? As the co-operatives offer at present the best way of providing for the participation of indigenous people in the growth of their economy, will the Minister ensure that co-operatives are given every encouragement, both in staff and finance, to expand their activities?
– From my information, there is no basis for the report that Europeans have been withdrawn from the administration of the co-operatives. I would agree with the honorable member that cooperatives are a most important operation in the Territory. I am making every effort to see that their operations are expanded because properly run co-operatives provide an elementary and local business operation that people can understand and by means of which they can prosper.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Did the Government announce some time ago that something in the form of a subdepartment within the Department of Trade and Industry would be set up to deal specifically with matters affecting secondary industry within Australia? Is the delay in implementing this proposal due to second thoughts indicating that the establishment of an entirely separate Ministry would be more effective?
– The honorable member is right. There was an announcement in a policy speech of a proposal that the name of the then Department of Trade should be altered to “ Department of Trade and Industry “ and that a senior and responsible officer would be appointed to take care of the duties associated with the expanded activities of the Department. The delay in bringing this about does not arise from any thought that it would be better to have another department. Indeed, over the period, thought has been given to this, and it has never been judged to be either the most practical or the most economical way of giving the wider service to secondary industry for which secondary industry has asked.
The Public Service Board was invited to strengthen the staff of the Department of Trade for the purpose of carrying out this policy. The Board did offer a few moderately senior additional staff members. It was the view of Cabinet that the Board should decide how best to provide the senior and responsible officer to manage the enlarged functions of the Department. The Public Service Board has decided - not lightly - that this should be done by partly detaching from his present activities one of the two Deputy Secretaries. The higher management of the Department of Trade and Industry is composed of the Secretary of the Department and two Deputy Secretaries. The proposal from the Chairman of the Public Service Board is that one of the two Deputy Secretaries should become the senior officer responsible for the extended activities.
The facts of the matter are that the functions of the Department of Trade and Industry involve the protection of Australian industry and all .that is involved b connection with employment in that sphere, all the commercial negotiating for our trade business overseas, and the promotion of the sale of our goods, as distinct from negotiation. The fact is that over the last three years, in carrying out those responsibilities, each of the three senior officers, the Secretary of the Department, and each of the two Deputy Secretaries, has been absent for practically three months in each year. During the last couple of weeks, the Secretary of the Department and one of the Deputy Secretaries ‘have been absent. At the end of this week, the Secretary of the Department will go overseas. A little later, one of the Deputy Secretaries will go overesas.
The Secretary of the Department has advised me - and I concur completely with his advice - that it would seriously weaken the capacity of the Department of Trade and Industry in performing the enormously responsible functions that it has now to perform if one of those three top officers were detached from those duties. Neither I nor the Secretary of the Department is willing to accept a suggestion that would weaken the operation of the great functions of negotiation, trade promotion and continued protection of Australian industry, and employment as would happen if the proposal of the Public Service Board were accepted. The position is at a stalemate at the present time.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Territories. Has the Minister seen a report recently in which he was said to be treating his responsibilities in Papua and New Guinea with contempt and in which he was criticised for lack of attention? If these reports are not true, will the Minister say exactly what happened on those occasions?
– Mr. Speaker, in answer to the honorable member, 1 can say only that reports of this kind are part of the way of life of a public person. One receives all sorts of criticism and hears all sorts of statements; but the main thing is the ultimate objective of the advancement of the particular areas for which 1 am responsible. I can assure the House that my efforts are directed in that way.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Coal Industry Bill 1965 Aliens Bill 1965.
-I have received a letter from the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The Government’s continuing failure to promote equality of payment, opportunity and training for women in accordance with its obligation under International Labour Organisation Conventions and Recommendations adopted in 1951, 1958 and 1962.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– Mr. Speaker, the letter that you have read out condemns the Government for its failure to honour its obligations under the 1951 International Labour Organisation Convention and Recommendations concerning equal remuneration for the sexes for work of equal value. It also condemns the Government for its failure to ratify Convention III and Recommendation No. Ill concerning discrimination between the sexes, and for its failure to implement the provisions of the vocational training recommendation of 1962 with respect to girls and women.
The Government has not ratified Convention No. 100 which provides for equal pay for men and women doing work of equal value. The Convention states -
Each member shall, by means appropriate to the methods in operation for determining rates of remuneration, promote and, in so far as is consistent with such methods, ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work ot equal value.
Neither has the Government seriously tried to implement Recommendation 90 which states -
Appropriate action should be taken, after consultation with the workers’ organisations concerned or. where such organisations do not exist, with the workers concerned -
to ensure the application of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value to all employees of central Government departments or agencies; and
to encourage the application of the principle to employees of State, provincial or local government departments or agencies, where these have jurisdiction over rates of remuneration.
When the Government is challenged over its attitude towards these International Labour Organisation decisions it makes the excuse that some of the State Governments will not agree to ratify Convention 100 or to implement Recommendation 90. I say emphatically that the Government is not seriously supporting these I.L.O. decisions and, in fact, is most anxious that Convention 100 should not be ratified. It is the responsibility of this Government to apply the principle of equal pay for work of equal value to its own employees, but it does not do so. In the Commonwealth Public Service men and women working alongside one another and doing the same work receive different rates of pay. When this is pointed out to the Government, it shelters behind the subterfuge that this matter is the responsibility of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Honorable members will recall that there was a debate last week on amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) at that time made quite a strong point about conciliation, but when he is asked to apply the principles of conciliation on the matter of equal pay he dodges the issue and says that this is a matter for arbitration. In fact he is dodging his obligations to the I.L.O.
Among the countries which have implemented Recommendation 90 are the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand. These countries have applied to civil servants the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. New Zealand introduced legislation to provide for this in 1960. The legislation was drafted to implement the principle over a period of three years. Incidentally, the legislation was introduced by a Labour Government but it was not opposed by the Nationalist Oppositionof the day.
The Minister told a deputation from the Australian Council of Trade Unions some little while ago that it would cost £200 million a year in added salaries to implement the I.L.O. decision. He has not said how he arrived at that figure. The senior economics lecturer of the University of Western Australia has estimated that the cost would be less than 3 per cent, of the wages bill. The Government is obliged to explain to this Parliament and to the people interested just how it arrives at this figure of £200 million as being the cost of implementing this I.L.O. decision. The principle of equal pay has been adopted already in New South Wales. This Government should now give the lead to other governments. If it applied the principle to its own employees the other State Governments would soon follow suit. If this Government were genuine about the question of equal pay for equal work it would consult with the governments of the States in an endeavour to reach an agreement and, following such agreement, a joint effort could be made to enact the necessary legislation in the respective State Parliaments. Uniform legislation is a common practice now. As a matter of fact, the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill which is now before the House is a case in point where similar legislation has to be enacted in the State Parliaments. It should not be difficult to implement uniform legislation. In four of the six States there are LiberalCountry Party Governments. The Labour Governments of South Australia and Tasmania would fall into line. But I would like to point out that there are in four States governments of the same political beliefs as the Commonwealth Government. The Liberal Party has a section in its platform dealing with the status of women and has approved and promised this very reform. The platform states as one of the Party’s objectives -
Acceptance of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value.
Now, is the Government two faced about this or can it be that the Country Party tail is wagging the Liberal Party dog because the Country Party may not want equal pay? This principle is in the platform of the Liberal Party but the Party does not do anything about implementing this reform despite the fact that it is an I.L.O. decision. I want to know why women workers should be treated as inferior to men? They pay the same for food, rent, fares, books, medical and dental treatment as do men but the
Government classifies them as second rate citizens and says, in effect, that they should receive a lower rate of pay for doing the same type of work. The Government has placed all sorts of obstacles in the way of granting equal pay but these obstacles could be overcome if it would take some initiative in the matter. The Government has a moral obligation to the I.L.O. to ratify Convention 100. Forty-six member states of the Organisation have already ratified this convention. Eighteen others have ratified Convention 111, which opposes discrimination against women in employment. So it can be said that 64 member states have accepted the principle of equal pay. The Australian Government, however, has not.
Australia has been a member of the Organisation since 1919. It is recognised that member states have a moral obligation to ratify the Organisation’s decisions. Mr. J. D. Kenny, who was the workers’ delegate to the I.L.O. Conference in 1964, speaking at the plenary session, said -
Equal Remuneration Convention 1951 (No. 100) received the full support of the Australian Trade Union Movement. However, representations made to the Australian National Government for ratification have been rejected. . . . One State only, my home State of New South Wales, has legislation for equal pay. . . . Trade Unions in Australia are discussing women at work and are supporting requests for the establishment of women’s bureaux.
A chart showing ratifications of I.L.O. conventions indicates the total number as 122. Of these, Australia has ratified only 26.
In some sections of the work force, equal pay for work of equal value applies. In New South Wales, equal pay is already provided for by the law and is gradually being implemented as unions establish that their female members are doing work equal in value to that done by male workers. In Victoria, some categories of female workers receive equal rates of pay, but many do not. Very few female employees in Queensland receive equal pay. The South Australian Labour Government is now considering the matter. As honorable members know, this is a new Government. It has not had time to do anything about the subject yet. The Government of Western Australia has not done anything about the matter, but equal pay provisions operate for quite a number of female workers such as journalists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, laboratory tech nicians, X-ray staffs, barmaids and policewomen. In other sections of industry, equal margins apply. In Western Australia, of course, the Australian Labour Party haslaid down in its platform that when it forms a government it will introduce this necessary reform. In Tasmania, the principle has already been adopted by the lower House. When legislation on the subject went before the conservative upper House, it was defeated. However, the Tasmanian Legislative Council later appointed a select committee to inquire into this very important matter and, despite the fact that that is a Tory House, the select committee recommended that equal pay apply to work of equal value.
In addition to the International Labour Organisation, other international bodies have made declarations about the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. For instance, article 427 of the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed in 1919, states -
The following seemed to the High Contracting Parties to be of special and urgent importance - that men and women should receive equal remuneration for work of equal value.
Article 55 of the United Nations Charter of 1945 states - the United Nations shall promote:
Article 23, paragraph 2, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was signed in 1948, states -
Everyone, without any discrimination, hasthe right to equal pay for equal work.
That means everyone except Australian women.
The present Government’s failure to do something about this important matter is to be regretted and has been criticised by the Press. The “ West Australian “ newspaper, has published an editorial on the subject under the headline, “ Canberra Should Support Equal-pay Claim “. Similar reports have appeared elsewhere in the Press. I say that the continuing failure to honour obligations to the International Labour Organisation in respect of equal pay, equal opportunity and training for women is a standing disgrace to this Government. The last I.L.O. resolution on this subject read as follows -
Considering that it is necessary to adapt attitudes and social legislation relating to the employment of women to new tendencies and to recognise the right to work for women and the value of their contribution to economic activity by encouraging all action aimed at eliminating any discrimination against them … the I.L.O. . . . urgently appeals to Member States to take all positive steps -
Equal Remuneration Convention 1951, and Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958: and
What does this Government intend to do about this latest resolution of the International Labour Organisation calling on all member governments to ratify and implement the decisions outlined in the resolutions and also embraced by the subject that I have proposed on behalf of the Opposition for discussion as a matter of urgency today?
In May 1964, I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service a question about the status of women in Australia. I asked whether he was prepared to establish in Australia a commission similar to that established in the United States of America - the President’s Commission on the Status of women. This Commission was established in 1961. In recognition of women’s basic rights and their civic and political accomplishments, President Kennedy issued United States Presidential Executive Order No. 10980, which established the Commission to review progress and recommend methods of overcoming the remaining discriminations against women in employment. When I asked the Minister whether he was prepared to do anything about establishing a similar organisation in Australia, his answer was a definite “ No “.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. McMAHON (Lowe- Minister for Labour and National Service and Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [3.32]. - Mr. Speaker, in the guise of discussing the general problem of the status of women in society, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), speaking on behalf of the Opposition, has again raised this contentious issue of equal pay or, as it is now euphemistically described, equal remuneration for work of equal value for women. We have had proposals on this subject before the House on several occasions. I cannot depart substantially from the statement that I made in this chamber when the matter was first raised after I became Minister for Labour and National Service. Philosophically speaking, Sir, you can take it that in my view - I believe that this goes for the Government as a whole, too - the standards of a civilisation can generally be judged by the manner in which women are treated and by their standards and status in the community. The higher those standards arc and the more generous is the treatment of women and the greater the dignity that they are accorded, the higher is the standard of civilisation. By those characteristics can civilisation be judged.
I make no secret of the fact that I believe that, whenever it is both practical and possible as well as in the interests of the community to reduce discrimination, we should reduce it. There are occasions when discrimination must be practised. There are occasions when there is discrimination in favour of women and other occasions when, despite this, there must be discrimination against them. I need mention only occasions when there is discrimination against women to illustrate the point that one cannot deal with this problem indiscriminately. Does the Australian Labour Party - the Opposition - want women to work underground at Mount Isa with members of the Council for Membership Control? Does it want them to go to Western Australia and work on the iron ore deposits in the north of that State under the conditions which exist there? I have only to mention the proposition on this basis to illustrate that we cannot have an indiscriminate application of a single principle. We believe in the principle, but not dogmatically enough to say that in all circumstances and under all conditions it must be applied.
I turn now to the substance of the proposal before the House. It deals with three different subjects: First, opportunities for employment; secondly, occupational training of women; and thirdly - which is of major importance - the problem of equal remuneration. As to occupation, that is, recruitment and promotion within the Public Service, there is no general rule that distinguishes male from female employees within the Commonwealth civil service. Recruitment and promotion are treated on their merits. On the subject of recruitment, if women have the same technical qualifications, they are eligible for appointment. If on their merits, they are justified in contesting a position against a male, and if in the wisdom of the Public Service Board it is considered the woman is equal to or better than a male, they have the right to promotion. It is true that there is a marriage bar which applies in the case of married women seeking permanent employment; it does not apply to temporary employment. I remind honorable members that the High Council of Public Service Organisations is of the opinion that the marriage bar should, for the time being at least, be retained. With respect to training, I know of no discrimination that is applied against women. On this point I refer to innovations made by the Commonwealth. In recent years we have introduced schemes to provide for adult training of women in universities, tertiary training outside universities and apprenticeship training. I know of no bar or restriction that is placed on the training of women, either in terms of attendance at universities, in scholarships or in any other way.
This brings me to the question of equal pay for work of equal value. Later I shall touch on the question of employment. The first point that I want to make about the International Labour Organisation’s recommendation and conviction is that the convention provides that the principle of equal pay - remember that it is a principle and not something that is to be applied dogmatically - is only applied according to the methods in force in the country concerned for adjustment of wages. In other words, it recognises that in some countries the methods of wage fixation are different from those in other countries. In Australia the conventional way - the traditional way and, if we like, the constitutional way - for the adjustment of wages is through the medium of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In 1949-50 the trade union movement applied to the Arbitration Court to have the principle of equal pay applied. On that occasion the Court rejected the application, for reasons which were well set out in the judgment of Mr. Justice Foster. I think the opinions expressed by him are of wide application and are based upon a principle that should be known to the House.
Mr. Justice Foster said that the male basic wage was a social wage for a man, his wife and family. In other words, it is not based upon a single unit, a single woman or a single man; it is a wage that is intended to apply to a man, his wife and to the family group. He said also that no claim was made for a unit wage upon which equality of wages could be based. If the trade union movement now wants to raise this problem of equal pay it can take lt to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission where the case can be argued in full; the unions must state the grounds on which they believe there should be equality of wages. These are only two of the seven reasons stated by Mr. Justice Foster when the Commission rejected the claim. I have said before, but I now want to emphasise it because it is a fact of life that has to be emphasised, that the proper medium for determining wages, whether they be rates for males or females, is the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That statement applies to wage rates in the Commonwealth sphere in the Public Service and applies also to private employment. We see no reason why we should discriminate against one in favour of the other, whether it be in the private or public sector. We have gone further and stated that if this matter is raised again before the Arbitration Commission we will not object to the principle of equal pay. Naturally, we will put arguments before the Commission objectively and dispassionately setting out the issues. We will not object to the claim or urge the Commission to determine whether or not equal pay should be granted.
I now point out one or two difficulties that would confront the Commission. The honorable member for Stirling seems :o labour under the belief that because a country has theoretically accepted the principle of equal pay it automatically introduces it with full force and effect. He mentioned the case of the United Kingdom and of the State of New South Wales. The simple truth is that in the United Kingdom private employment does not accept - or, to put it more accurately, does not apply - the principle of equal pay, and it does not do so because the trade union movement in the United Kingdom knows that if that principle were applied it would lead to such a change in the relationships between male and female employment and to such an increase in the female wage rates that the male wage earners would be severely prejudiced. It would mean that the person who has the main responsibility for the family could immediately find his job position weakened and his pay reduced. In New South Wales, to cite the second case mentioned by the honorable gentleman, the decision of the New South Wales Government does not apply the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. The decision applies that principle only to a small section of the New South Wales Public Service; less than 10 per cent, of the total Public Service is involved. Consequently, it cannot be said that there is a universal and unqualified application of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in New South Wales. So here we have an argument allegedly based on a so-called position of fact stated by the honorable gentleman, but it turns out to be wrong. In neither the United Kingdom nor in New South Wales does the principle in fact apply.
I want to raise one or two difficulties with the House as I believe that they deserve careful consideration. The first of them is the question of cost. The honorable gentleman quoted me as saying that the cost to the community would be of the order of £200 million per annum. I ask honorable members to consider what would be the effect of adding £200 million to the wage bill of the Commonwealth in one go and at this moment - when our export industries are in great trouble and when we arc having considerable difficulty in bringing inflation under control. It would do unmitigated harm to the export industries.
Secondly, in some industries there is discrimination - if I may use a word that has been bandied about fairly freely here today - in favour of women workers. For example, on the figures that have been given to mc, the textile industry employs about 115,000 women. What would happen to those women if it was decided that, instead of receiving 75 per cent, of the male basic wage, they should receive the full male basic wage? We are thinking about the realities of life rather than the idealistic state of perfection which sometimes the Labour Party seems, on odd occasions and where it suits their argument, to envisage. I venture to suggest that the practical result of such a decision would be that it could prejudice not only the employment of women in the textile industry but also the ability of that industry to survive against competition from imports.
Having stated the position in that way, Mr. Speaker, I think you and the House would have to agree that, whilst we believe in this principle and whilst we would like to see it evolve and be introduced step by step, at the moment it is not practical to introduce it. The proper forum in which to have this problem debated is not this Parliament, where political decisions are made, but the Conciliation and Arbitration Coramission, where all the facts can be argued, the women can put their point of view, the men can put theirs and a sensible and wise decision can be given.
I mention only one other point which is of great interest to me, namely the opinion that was expressed by the honorable member for Stirling that women are second class citizens. That was the phrase he used. I do not agree with it. As a person who has travelled widely, I say that in my opinion women are more respected in this country than in any other part of the world - and justifiably so.
The other point I want to make concerns the position of women in employment. I was glad to be able to announce in my April news release on the employment situation that the percentage of women in the work force is increasing continually. Last month the number of women registered for employment fell by more than 400. A point of vital importance is that in the last 12 months the number of female wage and salary earners increased by 6 per cent., whereas the number of male wage and salary earners increased by only 3.5 per cent. That shows that the community is reacting to the pleas of the Government - that wherever it is practicable to employ women they should be employed. There are many occupations where women could relieve men and make them available for other occupations. Women do a good job and they receive our highest praise.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is in charge of the department which should bring to the notice of everyone concerned information in relation to the need for this reform, which was put so capably by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). The Minister seems to think that this debate, which is occurring in Equal Pay Week, is not in the best interests of the women folk of Australia. He said that in his view there is no discrimination against women. He showed that in the Commonwealth Public Service, to which I will refer later, a girl may sit for the same type of examination and be appointed to the same type of position as a male, and, therefore, that there is no discrimination in those matters. But he did not finish the story. He did not refer to the disparity in pay envelopes. A male and a female may pass the same examinations and occupy positions for which the requirements are the same; but the female will receive only 75 per cent, of the male basic wage, plus the margin for her position.
– That is not the position in the Parliament.
– No, it is not, and I do not think it is the position in respect of our secretaries; but it is the position in other sections of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is of no use for the Minister to say that there is no discrimination, when clearly there is discrimination against women in the assessment of their value to the departments in which they are employed.
In my view the debate on this matter this year has a basis of urgency which calls for a new line of thinking by the Government. First of all, I challenge the Minister for Labour and National Service to introduce into this House the type of legislation that was introduced into the New South Wales Parliament on this question. This would put fairly and squarely on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbi tration Commission the onus of assessing properly the value of women working in industry, as it must now be assessed in New South Wales. He will accept that challenge right now if he believes in the things about which he spoke today.
– Does the honorable member mean the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission?
– Yes . I challenge the Minister to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in exactly the same way as the New South Wales legislation was amended to enable the Industrial Commission in that State to determine the position. On 15th March 1962, Senior Conciliation Commissioner Sheehy decided that there was no difference between the work of female checkers and assemblers and that of male checkers and assemblers employed in drug warehouses. He decided that in future the basic wage and the margin for those workers would be the same, whether they were male or female. That is the way it should be.
The Minister talks about putting £200 million into pay packets throughout Australia in one swoop. He knows that that statement is just stupid. The time has arrived when the assessment on this matter should be made at an industry level. Such an assessment will not be made unless the legislation covering the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is amended in the way that the New South Wales legislation has been amended, namely by fixing squarely on the Commission the responsibility for determining this question at the industry level. That is where it ought to be determined.
Let us look at the Commonwealth Public Service for a minute. The Public Service Board, in its report for the year 1963-64, dealt with this question under the heading “ Reviews of Classification Structures and Pay Levels “. The Board said that in the last three years a lot of work had been done in this field and then said -
This intensive activity in the fields of conciliation and arbitration has placed great strains on the Board’s resources and has required the recruitment and training of additional staff. This has been all the more necessary because of the Board’s belief that establishments, classification structures and organisations should be reviewed in the light of current and prospective working requirements concurrently with the examination of the claims for increased pay levels.
I invite members of the Government parties to read what the Board said in that section of its report. The advances in technology and automation, which are being made in the Public Service in particular, but which are also stretching across Australian industry in general, throw up a situation which can be met in only one of two ways. It can be met, first of all, by determining tha rate for every male or female worker when the classifications are being reviewed. The Board says it believes that such a review has to be made. Not at any level does the Board draw a comparison between male and female and say that a female should be paid a different rate from the male. Referring to classifications, the Board went on to say -
The Board has continued to review as necessary the classification structures and pay levels of particular categories of staff included in the Fourth Division.
The Board considers the matter only at the level of margins; but the real pay level is the total amount that is paid for the job. In respect of the Third Division the Board said -
In its consideration of the pay claims, the Board has made such reviews of the classification structures as were necessary. It has been guided by the view that in many parts of the Third Division of the Service, the classification structures had become undesirably complicated with too many classes based on fine distinctions and with overlapping salary ranges and that, in these circumstances, they no longer fully met the working needs of Departments.
The Board made those comments in relation to wage levels and wage structures in the Commonwealth Public Service which is under the control of this Government. It claimed that the whole of the classification structure should be examined with the object of reducing the number of classifications that need to be provided. In the whole framework automation is moving in. Of course there is need for reclassification. Of course there is need for reducing the number of divisions, as illustrated in the Public Service Board’s report. But with that goes the responsibility of equal pay.
The school teachers of New South Wales, and the school teachers employed in Canberra have equal pay. The women working alongside the men receive equal pay only because of the New South Wales legislation, not because of legislation passed by this Parliament. It is a standing disgrace to the national capital and this Parliament that in Canberra school teachers receive equal pay because of legislation enacted in a State jurisdiction. In the national capital we have the opportunity to set a standard. 1 go along with the Minister when he says we could not inflate our expenditure by £200 million in one sweep, but I do not go along with him when he says that this situation has been let drag on. He made his position quite clear. He still stands by what he said when he made his first statement as Minister for Labour and National Service on this matter. What a thing to say in this day of automation and in the light of this report of the Public Service Board.
If we go to the inquiry counter of the Repatriation Department or of the Department of Social Services we see men and women working side by side, but the women receive in their pay packets 70 per cent, of the male basic wage although they answer the same questions, do the same kind of work, pass the same examinations and measure up to the same requirements of the Department and of the Public Service Board. Does not the Minister realise that this is a field in which the Government should be moving now if it does not want finally to run into great difficulties?
The Minister was quite proud of the fact that more women than men found employment in industry last month. Does he not understand that this is the order of the day? Does he not understand that this is happening in New South Wales during a time of increased unemployment? Does he not understand that in a period of changing technology and with automation the tendency is for machines to be handled by women? Does he not understand - not thinking in the terms he used when he made his first speech at the ministerial level - that today change is necessary? Let him read the Public Service Board report.
I finish where I started. I challenge the Minister to introduce the same type of legislation as was introduced in New South Wales so that whenever an industry appears before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the Commission shall have the responsibility of looking at the question of equal pay for the work value in that industry. If the Minister wants the situation where an increased number of women gain employment every month by comparison with the number of men gaining employment he is entitled to that view, but it is a dangerous view.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Whenever a proposal for discussion of a matter of public importance is placed on the notice paper by the Opposition I always ask myself the reason behind it. One must concede that some of these proposals are motivated by sincerity, but I wonder whether that is the motivation behind this matter. I am reminded of three things: First, that this is the last week of the parliamentary session, and it is usual parliamentary tactics for any self respecting opposition to introduce delaying tactics at this state to embarrass a government. That is fair enough. Secondly, this subject is a hardy annual. Equal pay is something the Opposition brings up in this Parliament year after year after year. I believe it has been doing it, almost without interruption, for the 15 years it has been in opposition. Thirdly, I have in my hand a document, with a most attractive anonymous girl pictured on the front, which is headed “ Equal Pay “. Then it carries the rather quaint caption: “This girl can earn equal pay by law “. It goes on to state that we are now in “ equal pay week “, so no doubt the Opposition felt that this was an opportune time to trot out its hardy annual.
Why do I doubt the sincerity of honorable members opposite? The Australian Labour Party allegedly represents the trade union movement. If we believe it represents the trade union movement we would logically believe that it would be reflecting the view of the trade union movement and, therefore, that this proposition which it brings into the Parliament every year - that there ought to be equal remuneration for equal work of equal value - is the view of the trade union movement. Let us examine how consistent this attitude of the Australian Labour Party is with the attitude of the trade union movement it is alleged to represent. The trade union movement has not brought this question before the properly constituted authority, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, for 17 years. In 1949 was the first and only occasion when the Australian Council of Trade Unions asked the Commission to arbitrate on this matter.
In his speech the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) quoted part of a judgment of the late Mr. Justice Foster. No member of the Labour Party would pretend that Mr. Justice Foster was on our side of politics: In fact, I think all members of the Labour Party would be proud of the late Mr. Justice Foster’s shade of political opinion. One of the things he said was that equal pay based on the male basic wage would put intolerable strain on the economy. He said it was socially preferable to provide a higher wage for the male because of his social obligations to fiancee, wife and family. Finally, Mr. Justice Foster said this devastating thing about this concept we are discussing -
Lastly the redistribution of the wage fund so that young unmarried females would receive very substantially increased spending power would disturb the economy in a manner certainly to the disadvantage of the married basic wage worker and his wife and family and probably the whole community.
The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said - and presumably we are to be favoured with a speech by that other champion of female rates, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) - that we should equate the two wages; whereas the late Mr. Justice Foster said categorically that if this were done it would disadvantage the married basic wage worker. Is this the aim of the Opposition?
The honorable member for Stirling quarrelled with the figure of £200 million as the additional cost to the community - a figure given by the Minister. The honorable member asked where were the figures on which the estimate was based, and what was the authority. The authority, of course, is the Department of Labour and National Service and the estimate prepared by the experts in that Department. However, the honorable member for Stirling says: “Well, now, I know a professor in Western Australia “ - and he did not name him - “who said it would cost only 3 per cent, of the national wage and salary bill “.
– That is true.
– The honorable member claims it is true. I took the trouble of working it out. The national wage and salaries bill is £4,500 million, so 3 per cent, would represent £135 million as the additional cost to the community. What the honorable member for Stirling and his anonymous professor fail to appreciate is that it is oversimplifying the position to say merely “We will equate the female wage to the male wage “. They forget that the International Labour Organisation convention states that it must be equal remuneration for equal work of equal value. I ask the honorable member to address his mind to the textile industry. It is not inconceivable that in the textile industry, which has a long history, if the female rate were to be determined according to value it would be increased above the equivalent male rate. It is for this reason that the cost would be considerably higher than the honorable member has suggested.
In Australia we have a conciliation and arbitration system - a system which last week speaker after speaker opposite championed. They defended our wonderful system of conciliation and arbitration. I believe that mine was the only voice in the wilderness to cast any doubts on the efficiency of the system. But honorable members opposite were all for it. Now they suggest that the Government should legislate to force the hand of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The honorable member for Stirling amused me by saying that the Government hides behind the subterfuge of the Commission. Last week he championed the Commission. This week he refers to it as a subterfuge. The honorable member for Blaxland wants us to treat this matter of equal pay as one of urgency and to put the onus fairly on the Commission. If that does not mean that he wants the Government to put pressure on the Commission to bring about a certain verdict, I do not know what it means. In other words, he wishes the Parliament to take unto itself the power to determine certain wage conditions in the community. This is something which we know Socialists have been wanting for some time but I hope that as long as this Government stays in power we will never allow the Parliament to intrude into the wage fixing machinery of this country or into determining wages and conditions in any respect.
Why has the trade union movement not brought this matter before the Commission for 17 years? The International Labour Organisation Convention does not say in any way how equality should be established. It does not say, for example, that a country must bring the female rate up to the male rate. In this situation, if the Commission had some directive from a government to equate the two rates, it is not inconceivable that the Commission would lower the male rate down to the female rate or some way towards it. If this happened I am sure that any union leader would be extremely unpopular with his union members. I submit that in that simple statement you have the reason why no union leader has advocated, to my knowledge, before the industrial tribunals of this country, where it would really count, the proposition that there should be equal pay for work of equal value.
Think for a moment of the effect of equal pay on some of our industries. What would be its effect on the textile industry, which for many years has been notoriously over supplied with female labour? Equal pay would mean wholesale unemployment within the industry. What would be the effect of equal pay in the food processing industry, on the many females engaged as waitresses, and in the clerical industry? The Opposition raises this matter at this time, knowing it is acting mischievously and knowing that the Parliament has little or no power in the matter. The Opposition’s proposal represents merely a sop to one section of the trade union movement while denying the rights of another section.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is true that, at about this time each year, the Opposition brings this matter forward for debate in the House. We are still anxious that the Commonwealth Government should discharge the obligations which it undertook to international bodies in respect of the women of Australia. We do not think that the mere lapse of time means that the Commonwealth should be allowed to escape its obligations. The only novelty about these debates, I must confess, is the hardihood with which the Government each year finds some new reason for relieving women of the burden of equal pay - some new reason why Australia should not follow the increasing number of enlightened countries which apply it.
The Government, if one accepts the point of view of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), has never taken a very dogmatic attitude towards the subjects of equal pay, equal treatment and equal training for women. When the Equal Remuneration Convention No. 100 was before the International Labour Conference in 1951 the Government abstained from voting. When the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention No. Ill was before the Conference in 1958 the Government abstained from voting. The recommendations in each case were supported by the Government, as also was the vocational training recommendation passed by the Conference in 1962.
In other international bodies the Government has been no more dogmatic on the subject. In 1953 the subject of equal pay came before the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Commission on Human Rights. In 1955, 1957 and 1962 the subject came before the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. In each case Australia abstained from voting. In the Commission on the Status of Women, the Government has sometimes been dogmatic and on other occasions it has kept an open mind. In 1955 and 1957 the Australian delegates abstained from voting. In 1962 they voted against the proposition. In 1958, 1959 and 1960 the Government did not attend the Commission. In Australia the Government keeps an open mind on equal pay; it always defers the subject.
The honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) asserted that the Opposition wished to displace the processes of arbitration. He implied that we no longer were willing to pursue the applications which we used to make to the Arbitration Court, as it then was, in the days when Mr. Justice Foster gave the last decision on the matter in 1949. Of course we are not. This is now the subject of an international obligation. It is no longer a matter where the Commonwealth and the people of Australia have to seek Commonwealth awards pursuant to an application to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Commonwealth now has some obligations internationally, lt has had those obligations through the International Labour Organisation since 1951. It is therefore no longer necessary for associations of employees to go to the Arbitration Commission. The Government itself has obligations to legislate and contract and negotiate for equal pay. This is a matter upon which the trade unions are strongly of the opinion that the Government should act. So, too, is the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. So, too, is the High Council of Commonwealth Public Service Associations. All employees’ organisations in Australia are more united on this subject than on any other. They all say that the Government should carry out its obligations.
The Government is not unwilling to legislate on industrial matters where it thinks that course is proper or expedient. Every government in Australia has, within its powers, legislated on workers’ compensation and on long service leave. This Parliament - sometimes at the instigation of the present Government - has legislated on various matters which are appropriate to the Commonwealth, such as industrial matters in the Snowy Mountains area, Commonwealth projects in general, the maritime industry, the stevedoring industry and the Commonwealth Public Service. In regard to its own Public Service, the Commonwealth Parliament has legislated with respect to compensation, annual leave, margins and long service leave. As regards State public servants coming before the Arbitration and Conciliation Commission, two years ago the Commonwealth introduced a bill which would have given the State Governments the power to veto proceedings at any stage up to the delivery of judgment. In all these respects the Commonwealth thinks it appropriate to legislate on industrial matters. The only respect in which the Commonwealth does not think it appropriate to legislate on industrial matters is as regards international obligations, particularly those under the International Labour Organisation. This is particularly marked in the cass of the equal pay and subsequent conventions and recommendations.
The charter of the I.L.O., which has been part of the law of our land since 1947, has laid down that a Federal Government shall “arrange, subject to the concurrence of the State Governments concerned, for periodical consultations between the Federal and the State authorities with a view to promoting within the Federal state coordinated action to give effect to the provisions of such conventions and recommendations”. The Government has in fact not done this. On the first convention, the equal pay one of 1951, the Government corresponded with the States in 1952 and 1953, had discussions with them at the Premiers’ Conference in July 1954, corresponded with them again in 1955 and discussed the matter with them again in the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee in April 1960. Unless it was once again raised at the meeting of that Committee last month, this has, therefore, not been debated for over four years and one cannot say that two sets of letters, one Premiers’ Conference and one departmental conference amount to periodic consultation. On the next convention, the discrimination one, the Government corresponded in 1959 and again in 1962 and discussed the matter at the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee in April 1960 and in April of last year. Again, this is scarcely a periodic consultation. There has been a change of Government in South Australia in the last few weeks and the South Australian Government would now support the principle of equal pay. This means that New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia would all be in favour of it. Queensland and Tasmania have never answered the questions on it and Western Australia is against it. On the vocational training recommendation, South Australia is in favour of carrying out the national plan envisaged, New South Wales has not given an answer and the other four States are all against it. It is quite clear that there ought to be more periodic consultation to keep the States up to the mark.
Let us leave out of consideration for the moment the conventions and look at the equal pay recommendation which the Government supported and at the obligations which it accepted under it. The first is to ensure the application of the principle to all employees of central government departments or agencies. It has not done so. Britain, America, Canada and New Zealand, the other great English speaking countries, have all given equal pay to their public servants. Our Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said three years ago that it would cost f 2 million to give equal pay to women employees of the Commonwealth. When he was opposing an amendment which we moved to the Public Service Bill in December 1960, he said that this would create an anomaly between women public servants and other women employees. He added: “ 1 am jolly well not going to do it.” That was said by the Prime Minister. He does not change his mind often. Further, the Government has not carried out its obligations under the equal pay recommendation to encourage the application of the principle to State employees and to ensure its application as regards public industries and public contracts.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This afternoon, the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) analysed, I think, very effectively the reasons for the debate in this House this afternoon. One would imagine from the arguments presented by Opposition members that the debate relates not only to the payment of women but also to opportunities and training for women. The honorable member for Higinbotham pointed out very correctly that there are perhaps some political advantages in introducing a debate of this nature regularly and introducing it particularly at this stage of the session. In addition, he looked at the reasons for the introduction of this matter and he pointed out that in the Labour movement itself there seems to be some conflict between the craft unions and the white collar unions, between those unions that favour equal pay and equal opportunities and those unions working in fields where it is quite obvious that equal opportunities cannot exist. I think this probably points to one of the basic fallacies in the case that has been presented by the Opposition this afternoon, and that is that there is a division within the ranks of the unions between those that are prepared to support the principle of equal pay and those that are completely opposed to it.
This division is quite notable. It has been noted, for instance, in the application of the legislation that was introduced in 1958 in New South Wales. I refer to the New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Act. This amending Act, I might add, was introduced largely as a result of pressure from white collar unions. But it was not in accord with the provisions of the convention of the International Labour Organisation. A proviso to the appropriate section reads -
This section shall not apply to and in respect of those provisions of any awards and industrial agreements which are applicable to persons engaged in work essentially or usually performed by females but upon which male employees may also be employed.
In other words, the New South Wales Act provides an exception so that it is taken outside the provisions of the convention of the I.L.O. Much has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) this afternoon about all employee associations being united on this issue. I was rather surprised, if this were so, that he did not give an explanation of the split that has been so notably illustrated on numerous occasions in the Press between the craft unions and the white collar unions. I would be most interested to hear any other Opposition member explain just how the two categories of unions feel on the issue.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that the Australian Government has ignored its obligations under Convention No. 100 of the I.L.O. Let us look at the terms of this convention. It says -
Each member shall, by means appropriate to the methods in operation for determining rates of remuneration-
I would emphasise that qualification - promote and, in so far as it is consistent with such methods, ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value.
This convention recognises the difficulty that exists in countries such as Australia, where a Federal system exists and where, in addition, industrial conditions are prescribed by a court fixation procedure in each State and in the Commonwealth. There is a distinction between the systems in the Commonwealth and in each State, and the method of fixing remuneration is not laid down in the Parlia ment or by an act of Parliament but primarily by representation to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
On several occasions here this afternoon, it has been said that the last occasion on which a case for equal pay has been brought before the Commission was in 1949. Only this year, representations were made to the Commission to consider the level of the basic wage. If Opposition members are genuine in their belief that there should be equal pay and if the unions that support the Opposition are also genuine in their claim, why has this matter not been raised before the Commission since 1949? I would suggest that it has not been raised because Opposition members fear the reaction of members of the craft unions. They fear the effect upon male workers if the basic wage for female workers were raised to 100 per cent, of the male basic wage. I suggest that, if the Commission were to consider this matter, it would have to consider not only the actual wage rates of female workers but also the rates of male workers. As has been so effectively illustrated this afternoon by the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) this could well result, in fact, in a reduction in the basic wage for male workers. If this happened, quite obviously the members of the Opposition would be placed in a most invidious position. They would not be able to support such a reduction, so rather than raise this matter of equal pay before the Commission they raise it in this House, and think that by doing this they are able to skate from under without meeting the consequences of their submission. If the members of the Opposition are genuine in their claims and if they genuinely support tha idea of equal pay for equal work, they have adequate opportunity to have such a case presented before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
One of the interesting facets that has been mentioned is the considerable increase in female workers in the Australian work force. In a publication produced by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, titled “ Australia’s Population Structure and Growth “, there is a projection in relation to the increase in the female work force in the next 10 years. In this projection it is noted that over each four to five years there seems to be an increase of about 3 per cent. For the age group 35 to 39, in 1961 27 per cent, of the available females were engaged in the workforce. It is suggested that in 1966, 32 per cent, of available females will be engaged in the workforce; in 1971, 35 per cent, and in 1976, 36 per cent. That is allowing for an annual immigration of approximately 100,000 people. Naturally, I was interested to see the reason given for this predicted increase in the female workforce. I wondered whether this was in any way related to the fact that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has not considered whether the female worker should be paid a rate equal to the male worker’s rate. Not only has the Commission not considered this matter, it has not been requested to do so since 1949.
It is suggested in the analysis made in that publication that important causes determining the proportion of females in the workforce appeared to be not the rate of pay received but educational participation, pregnancy and cessation of child bearing - in other words, purely domestic matters related mainly to the female herself and the social conditions in which she finds herself, and in no way related to the economic conditions of her employment. So it would appear that the reason for a considerable increase in the number of women in the workforce in this country is not, as has been suggested this afternoon, because of the increase in automation and because employers in some dark scheme are seeking to introduce females instead of males to run the machines, but because of these other factors which are in no way related to wage rates.
Having considered these facets it appears to me that the only basis upon which we can determine the case of equal pay for the sexes is by a submission to the Commission. The position is the same now as it was in 1949 and before the Harvester judgment in 1907, namely that the basic wage is a social wage to maintain a man, his wife and family. Wage rates in Australia are related not only to the individual worker but also to the needs of his family. While this is so the male member of the workforce must be paid a wage commensurate with his heavier social responsibility. It is not that members on the Government side would not support a case for equal pay for women but that they believe that there must be a social wage for males.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I can assure the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) that there is no split in the trade union movement on the subject of equal pay for female workers performing the same work as men. The trade union movement in Australia is quite unanimous on this matter. I should like to bring to the notice of honorable members opposite, and particularly the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr, McMahon), an article that appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ last year on this matter which sums up very well the case put by the Opposition. The article makes pointed reference to some cases of discrimination. It is headed *’ Equal Pay for Women is Still a Long Way Off “, and goes on to say -
In its recent staff reclassification, the Commonwealth Department of Works acquired a new Assistant Director-General - the Assistant DirectorGeneral, Prestige and Special Section. If a man had filled this post, his salary would be £4,785. But the new Assistant Director-General is a woman, Miss Cynthia Teague. Her salary is £4,584.
That is £201 less than the male rate.
The issue in this House is not so much who is in favour or who is against, but simply who is desirous of giving justice to women. If women perform the same work as men they should receive the same remuneration. I should like to refer to a promise made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in 1949 in his policy speech on behalf of the then joint Opposition parties. He usually has some nice things to say at election time, butthe promises he makes then are easily broken afterwards. Referring to special problems of women he had this to say in his usual very nice way -
We have never accepted the view that men and women have an entirely distinct interest in politics, or that only some of its problems are proper for the consideration of women. The truth is that all the great questions of policy and administration affect men and women in equal degree. Indeed, we venture to say that though economics and public finance have been commonly regarded as the special preserve of men, the people here who have paid the greatest price for the false economic and financial doctrines and practices of the past few years have been our wives.
Continuing, he said -
As it was my privilege to say to you in the Policy Speech of 1946, the women of Australia have established an unanswerable claim to economic, legal, industrial and political equality.
If that means anything it means that the Prime Minister should be in favour of the arguments that have been put by the Opposition this afternoon. On the occasion to which I refer the Prime Minister continued -
I hope that the time will speedily come when we can say truthfully that there is no sex discrimination in public or private office, in political or industrial opportunity.
What did the Prime Minister mean by that speech he made 16 years ago? I believe that he meant the same as the Labour Party means today. He made that fervent promise. It’ he had made such a promise in the field of romance he could have found himself involved in a serious breach of promise action and might have had to pay heavy damages. I hope that women will remember these things and will impose on the Prime Minister the penalty that he deserves by voting against his party.
Wage justice is a matter of great public importance, and where the status and rights of women are involved it is all the more important. Women who receive less pay than men for doing the same work are suffering under a severe and grave injustice. Equal pay for equal work means that the rate of payment is based on the job and not on the sex of the worker. Throughout history women have received less pay than men simply because they were women. Nothing could be more unjust than that. In my opinion the position is completely unfair. Australian women are treated with less fairness in industrial and other matters than are women in many other countries which the Menzies Government believes to be backward countries.
Statistics show that of the 62 countries affiliated with the International Labour Organisation - and Australia is one of them - 46 have already implemented legislation giving effect to the payment of women at equal rates of pay for equal work performed. lt is well to remember, as has been pointed out here this afternoon, that of the 160,000 employees in the Commonwealth Public Service, 33,000, or 20 per cent., are women. I know that many of these are engaged on work traditionally performed by women, such as attending to telephones, typing, operating machines and so on, but I can cite some cases of discrimination against women who are doing the same work as men.
Recently, in the daily newspapers, there appeared an advertisement calling for applications for the position of librarian in the Commonwealth Public Service. The advertisement stated that if the successful applicant were a male he would receive £201 a year more than would be paid if the successful applicant were a woman, despite the fact that the applicants, whether male or female, were required to have the same standard of university education and to work exactly the same number of hours on exactly the same kind of work. The Menzies Government may consider this to be fair, but I believe it to be unfair and unjust.
I could mention many other instances of discrimination. For example, in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, women monitors working side by side with male monitors, under supervision, receive £201 a year less than the males. Again, women postal assistants working on post office counters, and women in the Sydney Mail Branch performing the same duties and having the same responsibilities as mcn, receive only 75 per cent, of the male rate. In the Repatriation Department, the same thing applies. I could go on citing many other examples in other industries.
I believe it is time the Menzies Government set an example. It has the power to do so by regulations. It does not require to go to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to do this. It can, by regulation, implement a policy of equal pay for equal work. If it did this, it would be only bringing itself into line with the principle agreed to by the International Labour Organisation Convention. As a member of the International Labour Organisation, the Menzies Government was a signatory to the declaration of no discrimination against women. It was also a signatory to he Universal Declaration of
Human Rights which declares that there should not be discrimination against women.
Trace this Government’s treatment of women how and where you like, and you will find that it has treated them with callous indifference. Perhaps it is because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is a bachelor. He seems dedicated in his opposition to women. This Government has been a signatory to declarations concerning the status of women, but these declarations are evidently considered by the Government as being so unimportant that they can be ignored.
I believe the principle of equal pay for equal work to be important for four different reasons. It is important to working women because equal pay for equal work is a principle based on simple justice. It simply involves giving to women the remuneration to which they are entitled for the work that they do. It is important to working men because the payment of equal pay for equal work would afford men greater wage and job security. It would discourage employers from hiring women for less money than would have to be paid to men, or from replacing them with women at lower rates of pay, as is sometimes done.
It is also important to industry because the payment of equal pay for equal work would protect fair employers from the unfair competition of those who attempt to use women employees for the purpose of undercutting the wages of men. Finally, it is important to housewives because equal pay for equal work would mean more economic security to them and their children in that it would protect the wages of the male heads of families. These are very important matters, and the Government should do something about them, especially at a time when the use of automation is increasing. We are approaching the push button era in industry, when women and men alike can do equal work and therefore, for the safety of the breadwinner, the pay should be made equal. Equal pay for equal work means that the wage is based on the job and not on the sex of the worker.
– Order! The discussion is now concluded.
– I move -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960 the following proposed works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and separate report on each work -
Provision of additional aprons, vehicular pavements, electricity, sewerage, water supply, roads and instrument landing system for Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport.
Provision of buildings and services to terminal complex, control and equipment building, Department of Civil Aviation maintenance area, fire station, &c, at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport.
The work included in paragraph (a) involves roads, electricity, sewerage and water supply to the new building areas, the provision of additional aprons and vehicular pavements and the proposed instrument landing system. The estimate, prepared late in 1964, for this work is £1.95 million. The work involved in paragraph (b) covers the provision of the buildings and elevated road, engineering services, car parks, street lighting and roads. The estimate, prepared late in 1964, for this work is £8.45 million. I table preliminary plans of the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport - Site Preparation for North-west Building Area; Provision of Buildings and Services for International Terminal Complex.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and separate report on each work -
Site preparation for north-west building area at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
Provision of buildings and services for international terminal complex and associated aircraft pavements, northwest building area, Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport.
The work proposed in paragraph (a) involves excavation, sand filling and surcharging of the area and the elimination of the western drainage pond. The estimate, prepared late in 1964, for this work is £2.35 million. The proposed work mentioned in paragraph (b) covers the provision of buildings and elevated roadway, engineering services, roads, drainage, sewerage, and water and electricity supply all to develop the new international terminal complex, together with associated aircraft pavements. The estimate, prepared late in 1964, for this work is £7.9 million. I table preliminary plans of the proposed works.
– The motion, of course, must be supported, but in referring these matters to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, there are some things which should be kept in mind. The first is that the filling to which the Minister has referred can most conveniently and most economically be done, I believe, in conjunction with the filling that is taking place in connection with the runway. As I understand the position - the Minister can correct me if I am wrong - the new international terminal which will be established will be separate and distinct from the local terminal for many years. This is in contrast to what has happened at Tullamarine in Melbourne. Honorable members will remember that a very elaborate local terminal was erected in Melbourne some few years ago in contrast to the rather second rate local terminals at Sydney. Of course, this makes the position in Sydney even worse. I mention Sydney because the motion relates to Sydney. The elaborate terminal at Essendon which must have cost a very large sum is, I understand, to be virtually abandoned and the local and international services are to be concentrated in one new air terminal at Tullamarine. This is in contrast to what is being done in Sydney. In Sydney, the proposal, as I understand it, is that for many years the local and the international services will have different terminals. I think you will appreciate, Sir, that this will give the Tullamarine airport a quite considerable edge over Mascot. Obviously there will be a preference on the part of passengers arriving from overseas to go to a terminal from which they can get a local service immediately, without transfer. There will be a preference on the part of local passengers proceeding overseas to go to the terminal where they can transfer to their international aircraft without the trouble of travelling some miles to an international airport. It is therefore very important-
– Order! I point out to the honorable member for Mackellar that the motion before the Chair is that this matter be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– Of course. 1 am suggesting that these are the things which the Public Works Committee should keep in mind. It is most important that in siting this terminal - which is the subject before us now - the Committee should remember the necessity for its proper connection with the local terminal at Mascot. This is a matter to which the Public Works Committee, to which we are referring this matter, should be directing special attention at this time. Otherwise the Mascot terminal, which we are now debating-
– Order! The House is not debating the terminal. It is debating whether this matter should be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– I am suggesting considerations which the Committee should keep in mind when we have referred the matter to it. I think this would be in order at the present moment.
– No. The honorable member is out of order.
– I beg your pardon?
– The honorable member is out of order in debating the subject matter. The question is the very limited one of whether or not the matter should be referred to the Committee.
– Yes Sir. 1 am giving reasons why it should be referred.
– Order! The honorable member is seeking to debate the subject matter. Therefore he places himself out of order.
– 1 am simply saying that these are matters which I hope the
Committee will consider. While it is investigating the construction of an international terminal-
– Order! The honorable member is now out of order. He will resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report -
Provision of operations and control tower building at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
The proposal involves the provision of a framed building faced wilh brick work and comprising a two storey operations section connected to a six storey control tower by an elevated link. The estimate for the work, prepared late in 1964, is £1 million. I table preliminary plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report -
Ground preparation for instrument landing system at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
The proposal involves a short deviation of Alexandra Canal and site filling work to provide a flat graded area of ground at the northern end of the north-south runway. The estimated cost is between £600,000 and £800,000. I table preliminary plans of the proposed work.
,- Mr. Speaker, I support the motion moved by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). The Australian Labour Party believes that it is proper that this project should be considered by the Public Works Committee. I feel, however, that I should noi let the occasion pass without com menting on the fact that the Minister for Civil Aviation had announced over the radio and in the Press that Cabinet had approved the project before Parliament had the opportunity to refer it to the Committee. As a matter of practice and as a matter of courtesy, the intention to refer such matters to the Committee, particularly when Parliament is sitting, should first ba announced in Parliament.
I heard the Government’s intention on this and the associated projects over the Australian Broadcasting Commission network on Sunday, 28th March. I must confess it is a matter of wonder to me, having foreknowledge of their timetables, that Ministers, particularly junior Ministers, have become so diligent over the weekend. Less sophisticated members of the public, 1 suppose, are impressed at the fact that Ministers find it possible to make statements on major public policy at the weekend when it is impossible to contact their departments or the Ministers themselves. Nevertheless, quite apart from the limelighting that may be associated with this, there is the very important consideration that if a project requires the approval of the Parliament or the report of a parliamentary committee, then the Parliament and the committee should be given the courtesy of being told in the first place. This is particularly so when Parliament is in session.
I regret having to make this comment on a subject concerning the present Minister for Civil Aviation with whom, I must confess, all honorable members find it very easy and pleasant to deal. I must say, howevery, that in this case he erred. I believe that I should draw the attention of the Parliament and of members of the Commitee to the cavalier treatment which he meted out to us in this respect.
– Mr. Speaker, before deciding whether or not I should vote on this motion I should like to have a little further information from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). It seems to me that the motion may be a little restrictive. Perhaps it would be better to have the reference to the Public Works Committee in somewhat wider terms. In order to canvass this point and to try to elucidate from the Minister reasons why we should vote for or against the motion he has put before us, or whether he would be willing to accept some amendment of it, it will be necessary to discuss something relating to these landing systems.
– Order! The honorable member will be out of order if he attempts to discuss the subject matter. The question is whether or not we refer this matter to the Committee.
– That is what I am trying to discuss.
– Order! I think that the honorable member is trying to get round the ruling of the Chair.
– Sir, I am endeavouring to discuss whether or not this motion should be amended and widened before the matter is referred to the Committee. This is a most proper thing to discuss. With all due respect, it seems to me that I am entirely in order in endeavouring to discuss it.
– Order! The honorable member is now questioning the decision of the Chair. The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Mr. Speaker, 1 want to reply very briefly to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I must say I am rather surprised that he should have raised the matter of the announcement that this work at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport was to be referred to the Public Works Committee. In the first place, I think the honorable member will be aware that I am acting in this House for the Minister for Works, who is in another place. In the second place, it is quite obvious that no discourtesy was intended to the Public Works Committee or to the Parliament. There is a statute which lays down the precise obligation to refer to Parliament, for the consideration of the Committee, works which are to cost more than a certain amount. There are exceptions set out in the statute, but none of these works come within those exceptions. So, whatever announcement may have been made by my colleague, the figures relating to the estimated cost of these projects would have made it obvious that they would be referred to the Parliament for reference to the Public Works Committee. 1 completely fail to see where any discourtesy has been done. If any has been done, it certainly was not intended.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 1538), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, at the very outset, I desire to mention the maiden speech made by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Armstrong) last Thursday evening. I thought that his speech was excellent, and I believe that that opinion is shared by all honorable members. The honorable member brings to this House a very great knowledge of our primary industries. Australia should be the richer for this, because, after all, our primary industries are, as has so often been pointed out, the foundation of our progress and stability. I want to discuss particularly one or two points that the honorable member made. I am pleased that he said this -
The main reason for the Riverina’s progress, however, is to be found in the industry and thrift of the individual who applies himself to production by the utilisation of the resources of the region.
In saying that, the honorable member was pointing out that, regardless of anything else that may have happened, the men who work the land in the Riverina are the main factor in the production and the great progress that have been achieved there. I believe that every member who represents a primary producing area can truthfully say that our production and progress depend on the men who work the land. I have been through the Riverina and I am happy to know that this fact is recognised by a man with the great knowledge of primary industry that the new member for the Riverina has.
The honorable member went on to say -
It is amazing to me that a professor of economics at a university should voice the opinion that irrigation is too costly.
Just before saying that, the honorable member had pointed out that Australia suffers from severe droughts and is the driest continent in the world. It is amazing that university professors consider that irrigation is too costly, but they do. The honorable member continued -
J mention this because there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that this opinion, which is supported by some other people of similar status in the academic world, has shaded, if not clouded, the thinking of some of our financial institutions.
On numerous occasions, we have known the thinking of financial institutions that should provide long term loans at low interest rates for primary producers to be clouded by opinions such as this one mentioned by the honorable member. Many people who, perhaps, are in high positions in this country, but have little knowledge of primary industry, from time to time offer opinions that are regarded as correct by people in high positions in important financial institutions, whereas those opinions are completely wrong and erroneous. Yet the consequence is that in many instances primary producers are deprived of finance at low interest rates although it is required by them for the benefit of Australia if we are to build up our primary production.
The honorable member for Riverina said many other things that were of great importance. One worthwhile observation that he made concerned the increase in the weight of fleece cut by our sheep flocks. Referring to a particular flock, he said -
Between 1890 and 1900 the return from this flock was improved from 6.4 lb. to 10.1 lb. in the weight of fleece.
That is a remarkable and wonderful increase. I think that, more than anything else, I appreciated the point that the honorable member made next, when he said -
These results were achieved by what I have called the instinctive genius of men who had the ability to pick a sire which could produce better than its own kind.
I know - and the honorable member went on to point out - that all the professors and statisticians and the like cannot pick a sire that will produce better than its own kind. He pointed out that the best sheep selected by the owner of the stud that he had just mentioned - I am relying on memory now and not quoting what the honorable member said - had cost 200 guineas, whereas one that had done no good at all had cost 1,500 guineas. These points are vital. We in this chamber appreciate the achievement of a new member who, in his maiden speech, can provide the House with the great amount of valuable information that was provided by the honorable member for Riverina. The country at large, too, appreciates the importance of these things. Perhaps one could count on fewer fingers than I have on my two hands the number of persons who have this instinctive knowledge of breeding requirements and conditions that enables them to increase the weight of wool grown by any particular flock of sheep. Men like this are a great asset to Australia. Therefore, I say unreservedly that the honorable member made an excellent speech.
The honorable member for Riverina was followed in the debate by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). After he had spoken for a while in the same strain in which he has spoken so often in this chamber, in a kindly fashion, by way of interjection, I suggested that he put on a new record. That did not seem to please him very well. He went on to make certain statements, one of which was in these terms -
If there has not been a reduction of £180 per head in the value of rural production in Australia since 1950 I challenge the honorable member for Mallee to tell me the exact position.
I heard the challenge and I take it up this afternoon. The hour was too late for me to speak on Thursday night, and I obtained the adjournment of the debate. Therefore, this is my first opportunity to take up the honorable member’s challenge. When he had spoken about the value of production, I asked, by way of interjection -
What about the bulk of goods; has that been reduced, too?
He went on to say that he had pointed out previously that there were fewer milking cows in Australia today than there were in 1950. Basically, what the honorable member was trying to tell the people of Australia was that our population has greatly increased and that our production is worth less than it was worth before.
The real point of the argument is that I had not interjected that production values had fallen. What I said was that the bulk of our output had increased. If the population increases, one does not feed the greater number of people on the change in the price of the products produced. One feeds them on the products themselves. I have been in places where, even though one had £100, one could not buy a coconut. It is the volume of production on which the population of this country will be fed, not on the prices that we can obtain for our produce. Indeed, in certain circumstances, if the general range of costs of both primary producers and consumers fell, Australia would be better able to sell overseas. We know that our secondary industry has priced itself out of the world’s markets and that every rise in the prices of the products of secondary industry makes it more difficult for our primary poducers to compete on the world’s markets, which are open markets, most of them in countries where the standard of living is lower than that enjoyed in Australia.
To show that what I have said is correct, I have obtained certain figures, which I wish to give to the House. Let us take wool. We recall that in the 1950-51 season the price of wool rose to £1 per lb. in various places, and even higher in some parts. It is very difficult to compare the price of wool in 1950-51 with the present price. I looked at the bulk of our output, because, after all, it is on this that we depend to clothe and feed our people. In 1950-51, we produced 1,117.5 million lb. of wool. In 1963-64 - the last full year for which I could obtain figures - we produced 1,784.3 million lb. - an increase of approximately 666 million lb. I next turned to wheat. The honorable member for Scullin said, of course, that wheat is the only product that I can mention. I shall deal with a lot more this afternoon. I found that in 1950-51 we produced 184.2 million bushels of wheat. In 1963-64, we produced 327.9 million bushels - an increase of approximately 143 million bushels.
Then I took out the figures for dairy products because the honorable member said that the number of cows had not increased to any extent. I found that the production of milk had increased from 1,197.8 million gallons in 1950-51 to 1,493.9 million gallons in 1963-64, an increase of 296 million gallons. So as to not weary the House with figures I quickly state that the production of butter increased by 44,000 tons in the same period, beef by 318,000 tons, eggs by 4 million dozen, oranges by 2,690,000 bushels, mutton by 200,000 tons, lamb by 109,000 tons, dried fruit by 47,000 tons and canned fruit by 104,000 tons. So although the honorable member for Scullin was right about the price - or probably was; I have not checked on that - the figures that I have cited show a magnificent increase in the bulk of production over these years that this Government has been in office. As the population increases we will probably have to increase primary production, but in this respect Australia is on fairly stable lines. I hope that the honorable member for Scullin will realise that by quoting only prices and not the bulk of production one does not get to the real seat of the trouble or the real seat of the advantage that we are gaining in Australia.
Following on from that, I wish to refer to one or two definite matters. We are now coming around to the Budget and I could refer to many aspects of repatriation benefits, but I have found since I have been in this House that if an honorable member refers to one thing that he wants and keeps on until he gets it he does not do too badly. In fact, he does rather well. So I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) when considering the Budget, to give special consideration to increasing the amount of the funeral benefit for exservicemen. The provision now states -
A grant not exceeding £25 may be paid towards the funeral expenses of certain classes of deceased ex-servicemen and eligible dependants.
If a man is in poor circumstances and he dies in the city, or perhaps in some country town, how can one arrange for his burial at a cost of £25. At the very least this grant should be doubled. I suggest that it should be trebled, but at the very least it should be doubled. I ask the Government to raise this limit of £25 substantially. These men have served Australia and if they have fallen on bad times surely they should be given a decent burial. How would anyone in this chamber like to go to a funeral director and ask him to conduct a burial for £25? It cannot be done. Therefore, it falls back onto old friends or, perhaps, relatives or ex-servicemen to pay the balance so that ex-servicemen can be given a decent burial. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation will look into this problem and that Cabinet will give favorable consideration to my request because the time has come when something should be done.
I should like to say one or two words about the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. I travelled yesterday from Albury in New South Wales to Canberra, and I travelled along the same road about three years ago.
I was amazed at the improvement. Every year the Federal Government is increasing the amount that is allocated to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. The allocation for the five years ended 30th June last was £250 million. For the five years beginning on 1st July last year the allocation is £375 million. This is a magnificent increase. The Commonwealth Aid Roads Act states that 40 per cent, of the money allocated to the States must be spent on rural roads. A main road is not a rural road. That provision relates to country roads which give the primary producers a chance to get their goods to the market or to the railhead. These roads have been neglected. They are used by school buses and other vehicles that are so necessary in promoting decentralisation. The provision states that 40 per cent, of the allocation must be spent on rural roads, and I know that out of these funds a certain amount must be spent by the States on main roads; but we must remember that when 40 per cent, of the allocation has been spent there is still 60 per cent, of it left. How is that 60 per cent, being spent? Is some of it being retained for freeways in cities? Probably some of it should be retained for that purpose. I should like from the States some detailed account of how the money is being spent. lt is still in the memory of people how in Western Australia the bridge over the Swan River at the Narrows was built with the additional amount of money allocated to Western Australia under the provisions of this very Act. Although 1 have not examined the figures, I would say that if 20 per cent., or perhaps 25 per cent., of the remaining 60 per cent, were made available for highways, there would still be a reasonable amount for the cities and a substantial amount additional to the 40 per cent, would be available for rural roads. Every man who lives in the country knows what things are like in certain parts of the Wimmera, the Mallee or up in the Riverina or elsewhere in the winter months when there are floods and a person cannot get through from his home, and he knows how this acts against decentralisation. I mentioned school buses, which are a vital aspect of decentralisation. Although honorable members opposite often speak on education, I have never heard them mention that a school bus should have a good road. The subject of school buses has not been mentioned because all their speeches are linked with universities and the metropolitan area. But it must be remembered that education is nation wide and that opportunity must be given to people who live throughout the nation.
Quite a few questions have been asked in this place recently about the drought. From the road along which T travelled yesterday I saw some of the effects of drought. Although the area between Canberra and Albury is dry, the effects of the drought are probably not as bad there as they are up north. I believe that the Government will give every assistance to the States to ameliorate the effects of the drought. I am all in favour of this assistance, but I believe that drought relief starts at home on the farm. All the fodder that I saw conserved as 1 came along the road yesterday - of course, I might have missed seeing much of it - would be consumed by about 3,000 or 4,000 sheep within a fortnight. I can understand why this should be so. We have had a period without drought. When a farmer conserves a certain amount of fodder and he finds that he does not want it this year, next year or the year after, I know from personal experience that he becomes careless about it and does not readily conserve the fodder that he may need. However, as has been pointed out at question time, this is a country where we have droughts now and again and the first thing that must be done to combat the situation is to conserve on the property a certain amount of fodder for the stock, a course which should be combined with better irrigation.
I wish to put in another plea, building on a speech that 1 made some time ago, for the pipelining of water to irrigated areas in dry country. We conserve a certain amount of water in our great reservoirs and dams, but we must make the best use of that water. Only by pipelining can we do so. As I said on an earlier occasion, it has been pointed out that in parts of the electorate that I represent in the Mallee, because of seepage 95 per cent, of the water is lost between the storage and where it is consumed either for stock purposes or on some irrigation project. I should like to compliment the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) who spoke recently about irrigation and how this has done so much to bring about an atmosphere of decentralisation among people in country towns who have been able to start, perhaps, bowling greens or to have a little bit of greenery about them. They have been able to have, perhaps, a few acres under irrigation which has enabled them to grow pasture, and perhaps to keep a cow or two; and this has made things more congenial for them. 1 now move on to a matter that has been worrying me somewhat lately. It was brought to a head today when I came to Parliament House and received a notice headed: “ A Call to Vigil in Public Witness before the Federal Houses of Parliament, Canberra, Thursday, 20th May, 1965”. The notice says, after some preliminary references -
Therefore, as Christian citizens, we invite men and women from every part of Australia who share our convictions to join with us in an act of silent witness before the Federal Houses of Parliament at Canberra on 20th May 1965 -
To call for a cease-fire in Vietnam.
Let them call for a ceasefire by the North Vietnamese, if they like. The President of the United States has said that he is prepared to go anywhere at any time for negotiations. The notice continues -
Neither this Government nor the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has ever said that we will not negotiate. The Government has said that there is no-one with whom to negotiate. The moment the President of the United States, and spokesmen for other countries that propose to assist the United States, spoke about negotiations, the North Vietnamese said: “ No negotiations “. So those two points can be wiped off immediately. The next point is -
By the way, has not that word “ escalation “ caught on? Because somebody used the word in a speech everybody is using it. The same applies to phrases such as “ winds of change “ and “ at this point of time “.
What do the people who publish this notice think Australia should do? Should we leave the United States by the wayside? Should we have no thought for the treaties, such as A.N.Z.U.S. and S.E.A.T.O., that we have with the United States? If we do not play our part under these treaties, how can we expect the great United States to come to our assistance at a later stage, if that is desired or required? These points are against the interests of the best things that we have in this country. Therefore, I am opposed to all of them except the last one, which reads -
When this conflict is over and peace reigns, when the marauding Communists cease to come down into South Vietnam, Australia will not be second to any other country in giving the assistance that is necessary for countries with a low standard of living, such as Vietnam. I am not saying for one moment that Australia can give the largest amount, but we can give the same amount as other countries give, relative to population. We have proved that time and again by the Colombo Plan, gifts to India and many other gifts which Australia has been pleased to make and which the countries that have received them have been pleased to accept.
In order to show that the attitude of the whole Christian world is not the same as that stated in the “Call to Vigil”, I will read a letter that came to me from the secretary of the Kerang Baptist Church in the Mallee electorate. The letter reads -
For your information I enclose a copy of a letter we have just written to the Prime Minister.
You had better know what your constituents are doing!
Yes, I had better know what they are doing. After reading the letter to the Prime Minister, I am pleased to know what they are doing. The letter to me continues -
Trust this finds you well.
Kind regards and personal good wishes.
Yours sincerely, Keith Freeman.
I have Mr. Freeman’s permission to read the copy of the letter that he sent to the Prime Minister. As a matter of courtesy, I asked the Prime Minister for his permission to read the letter and he gave me his permission. The letter reads -
Dear Sir Robert,
The above Church -
That is the Kerang Baptist Church - . . recently discussed the letter of the Victorian Council of Churches re the policy of your Government in the Vietnam War.
We unanimously agreed to dissociate ourselves from the Victorian Council of Churches in their support for the Anglican Bishops. We believe that the utterances of Church leaders on war and international affairs too often reveal the influence of Communist infiltration through movements like the World Council of Churches.
We thank God that we have a Prime Minister and Government who are not overawed by the disapproval of those who claim to represent the moral and spiritual leadership of our land.
We find ourselves very much in agreement with the letter which Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes recently wrote in the “ Age “ in reply to Dr. A. H. Wood.
We believe that you are giving a courageous and righteous lead in the Vietnam issue - that Australia must stand with America against the Communist Antichrist that threatens to plunge the world into the greatest moral and spiritual blackout in all history.
We assure you of our earnest prayers that God will be pleased to annoint you with all necessary wisdom, courage and determination in your position of great responsibility in this, Australia’s hour of danger and destiny. (Signed) K. FREEMAN.
Secretary, Kerang Baptist Church.
Do the people who are calling for this vigil realise for one moment the importance of what is said in that letter about the antiChrist and the Communists for whom they seem to be making a plea when they ask that the United States fight no longer?
What is the position in Asia? There was a cold war. The Communists were creeping across Asia, mile after mile. As I said in this House once before, everybody was apologising and no-one was doing anything. The Communists took that as a sign of weakness. I spent a long time in South East Asia - in Malaya in particular - and I know that the one thing that really impresses Asians such as the Vietnamese is a show of strength, and the one thing on which they will work is a sign of weakness. Someone has said - I have often said this myself - that we should say to the Communists: “ So far and no further “. That is exactly what has now been said by the United States. The American people have tried to stop the North Vietnamese coming down into South Vietnam. Aus tralia has supported the United States under the A.N.Z.U.S. and S.E.A.T.O. treaties. Surely we can find no fault with our supporting this great English speaking country. Some people have said that America is making too much of an impression on Australia. My answer to them has always been this: “ No matter what impression America makes on Australia, it will never be able to make the impression that the British people made on America”. The Americans are English speaking people. The people who were the founders of the American nation came from the United Kingdom. Therefore, the Americans are close to us. With whom will we associate in Asia if we do not associate with America.
Everyone who speaks on this subject knows that the President of the United States has said that he will go anywhere at any time to negotiate. The Labour Party says that we should negotiate; but what does it do? It does not do anything. When the negotiations were over in Korea it did not assist to recruit our quota of a United Nations force. The Americans have said that they will negotiate. Australia has linked itself with America in this struggle. When there is someone with whom to negotiate, Australia will be very pleased to join in negotiations. Surely no-one in this House wants war. Only a very few people in Australia want war. Australia is a great peace loving country; but we do not want peace at any price.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. During question time this afternoon, in answer to the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), I said -
I made it plain in my earlier answers that we were not contemplating migration of Japanese people to Australia . . .
That appears in the “ Hansard “ report of my answer, but I intended to say that we were not contemplating migration of Japanese people to Papua and New Guinea. That is obviously indicated by the rest of the answer.
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) apparently has a lot to learn about the distribution of the revenue which this Parliament votes for main roads. He complimented the New South Wales Department of Main Roads on the wonderful road from Albury to Canberra. Of course, the New South Wales Labour Government, which unfortunately has just been removed from office, was responsible for spending money so wisely in constructing this road. However, the honorable member gave the impression that there was not a fair distribution of the money as between metropolitan areas and the country. He suggested that most of it is spent in the metropolitan areas in constructing overhead expressways and so forth. He was completely wrong. If he examines the statistics available in this building he will discover that 80 per cent, of the Commonwealth grants to the States for roads is spent on country roads, and not only main roads but also secondary and other roads.
The people whom the honorable member should be congratulating are those in local government in Australia, because they are responsible for building and maintaining 75 per cent, of our roads. When he tries to compare the expenditure in the cities and the country he should remember that more than 50 per cent, of the motoring public resides in the metropolitan areas and that they provide more than 50 per cent, of the money collected in petrol tax. However, it is obviousthat the metropolitan areas receive only 20 per cent., as against 80 per cent, received by the country areas, of the Commonwealth grants for roads. I think it is necessary to get the record straight.
Each year a Budget is introduced which gives an account of estimated income and expenditure. However, because the estimates are not always accurate, usually at this time we have a second bite at the cherry, and we have before us a supplementary Appropriation Bill. With all the new electronic data computers and other modern machinery we should be approaching the time when one bite at the cherry should be sufficient. When the Treasurer (Mr.
Harold Holt) introduces his Budget in August the public, and I think some honorable members, are left with the impression that that is the end of it until the following August; but that is not the case. I have often wondered, too, why the Government does not make the financial year extend from 1st January to 31st December instead of commencing our financial period in the middle of the year and finishing it in the middle of the following year.
Frequently at about this time - when it suits the Government, and apparently it does not suit it at present - the Treasurer introduces a supplementary Budget. The public may be lucky that we are now considering an Appropriation Bill and not a supplementary Budget, because we can all remember an occasion when the former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, introduced in March of one year what eventually became known as the “ horror Budget “, which increased direct taxation and sales taxation. This Appropriation Bill could be the calm before the storm. The Government recently committed itself to heavy defence expenditure, primarily because of its decision to send our forces 7,000 miles away to Vietnam. I disagree with the honorable member for Mallee. I do not believe we should be sending troops there. I believe the Vietnamese situation should be settled by peaceful negotiation. He suggests that we should ask the North Vietnamese to stop firing, but I believe we should ask the South Vietnamese to stop also and that both sides should get together. Instead of the problem being fought out over trenches it should be fought out over a conference table.
When this Government came into office it came in with a strong policy for establishing economic stability. We know how far we are from that. I shall take the opportunity, while discussing the financial documents before us, to draw the Government’s attention to some urgent matters affecting the community - factors which are urgent enough to warrant a supplementary Budget, not for the purpose of imposing hardship by way of taxation but for relieving people who are suffering privation. I refer to those receiving social service benefits. In Australia we have about 700,000 age and invalid pensioners and about 45,000 widow pensioners. I have received a communication from the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation containing items of importance.
I believe this is one of the reasons we should have a supplementary Budget - to give pensioners some relief in their present economic conditions. The letter states -
I would like to draw your attention and your colleagues -
The letter was addressed to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Treasurer, so it concerns the whole Parliament - to the fact that the basic pension rate has fallen, with a loss of 3/ Id. for single pensioners, and 2/2d. for a married pensioner.
This was a weekly loss. The letter points out that in June 1964 a single pensioner received £5 15s. a week when the basic wage was £14 8s. a week. This represented 39.9 per cent, of the basic wage. As we know, there is a difference between the single person’s pension and that received by a married person. The married pensioner received £5 5s. a week or 36.4 per cent, of the basic wage. We all remember how the Government increased pensions by 5s. a week last year, but by October 1964 the basic wage had increased to £15 8s. and the pensioners suffered as a consequence. The single pension which was then £6 a week represented 38.9 per cent, of the basic wage - a decrease of I per cent. - and the married pension of £5 10s. represented 35.7 per cent, of the basic wage - a decrease of .7 per cent.
I remind honorable members that at present the unions have an application before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an increase of 12s. a week in the basic wage to meet increased costs of living. It can be seen by how much the purchasing power of pensions has been affected. The pensioners visited Canberra to make submissions to the Government and they said, in effect: “ We believe you should bring down a supplementary Budget “. Had they been bankers or representatives of the Chamber of Manufactures, the Chamber of Commerce or of big business the Government would have responded. But make no mistake, pensioners will be allowed to drift along. They may get an increase of a paltry 5s. a week, as they did last year, notwithstanding the fact that the basic wage may go up by a further 12s. a week, making it £1 12s. more than it was when pensions were last increased. The requests of the pensioners have been ignored by the Government. The pensioners ask that a supplementary budget be introduced to increase pensions by £1 a week. That is not an unreasonable request in view of the way living costs have increased and are still increasing. Pensioners ask for an easing of conditions governing the granting of medical entitlement cards to pensioners who are in receipt of small superannuation payments or who have savings. I will deal further with this matter later. The conditions governing the issue of medical entitlement cards are completely out of date. They were introduced in 1955. These conditions may have been justified in the view of the Government in 1955, but they are not justified today.
The honorable member for Mallee referred to the need to increase the pensioner funeral benefit. The benefit was introduced by a Labour Government in 1943. It has not been increased since that time and today it is totally out of date. The pensioners ask that the funeral benefit be increased from £10 to £60. Such an increase is amply justified by the cost of funerals. The cheapest funeral available is £65, yet the Government allows only £10 towards the cost of a pensioner’s funeral. The funeral benefit is quite out of date and the appeal of the pensioners in this connection is a reasonable one.
The pensioners ask that the allowance paid in respect of an invalid pensioner’s wife should be increased from the present rate of £3 a week to a rate equal to the invalid pension. This is a fair proposition. Take the case of a man who, toil worn as a result of his work, becomes an invalid. He receives a pension of £6 a week and an allowance for his wife of £3 a week. Surely no one will say that an income of £9 a week for a couple is adequate. This matter should receive further consideration. I think it is fair to ask the Government to pay an amount equal to the pension in respect of a pensioner’s wit
Now let me deal with the case of age pensioners. In many instances the husband is much older than his wife. When he reaches 65 years of age he goes on the pension but because his wife is not yet 60 years of age she cannot receive the pension. In those circumstances the couple receive only £6 a week, and that is not enough. The pensioners refer also to the heavy burden of telephone charges. They ask that the charges as they apply to pensioners be reviewed. Although there was some amelioration of the recent increases as they applied to pensioners, pensioners in the metropolitan areas who require a telephone must still pay £15 installation fee and more than £6 for the first six months rental - a total down payment of about £21. To sick pensioners a telephone is a necessity, but they cannot afford a down payment of £21.
The pensioners request the Government to give effect to the promise it made in 1949 to put value back into the £1 and to do something to control the cost of living, or to stabilise the economy so that the burden placed year by year on people on fixed incomes will not be so severe. Finally, the pensioners refer to the means test. I propose to direct attention to things this Government has said about social services. I must point out that the present Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) has not so far shown much generosity towards pensioners. In his policy speech in 1949 the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition, said -
Australia still needs a contributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment and old age. It is only under such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right, and so get completely rid of the means test.
– Who said that?
– The present Prime Minister said that very clearly in 1949. He continued -
During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem with a view to presenting to you at the election of 1952 a scheme for your approval. Meanwhile, existing rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
That is a laughable statement because I have just shown that the pension no longer has the purchasing power that it used to have and that it represents a lesser percentage of the basic wage than it used to represent. The policy speech continued -
We are deeply conscious of the frequently unjust operation of the means test, and of the penalty it imposes in many cases upon thrift. There are also grave anomalies associated wilh the position of persons who have contributed to their own superannuation benefits.
I have already pointed out that a person in receipt of superannuation is not entitled to a pensioner medical card.
It is high time the Government increased the amount that pensioners may earn or receive by way of superannuation without affecting their pensions. At present the permissible income in the case of a pensioner couple is £7 a week, bringing their total income to £18 10s. a week. These days, many employees receive superannuation upon retirement. Organisations such as the Commonwealth Public Service, the State public services, industrial concerns, retail houses like those of Myer Emporium Ltd. and David Jones Ltd. and even small industrial concerns operate superannuation schemes for their employees. There are also a great number of people who are not covered by superannuation schemes. When they retire they can earn only £3 10s. a week - £7 a week in the case of a married couple - without affecting their pensions. I think it is time the Government did something to honour the promises that it made 16 years ago. I do not think it would be difficult for all employers to operate schemes that would ensure their employees receiving upon retirement at least the permissible income as defined by the social services legislation. The Minister for Social Services has made many statements about abolishing the means test. He now has an opportunity to prove his sincerity. The promises made by the Prime Minister in 1949 are still not fulfilled.
I turn now to medical benefit funds. Recently I addressed a question on this matter to the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) who gave me a very unsatisfactory answer. I said -
I address a question to the Minister for Health. Is the rise in contributions for medical benefits organisations related to high overhead costs, brought about by the large number of organisations and societies administering the medical benefits scheme? Would it not be more economical and more beneficial to contributors to replace the 81 societies now administering the scheme by one national body, preferably a branch within the structure of the Commonwealth Department of Social Services? Will the Minister advise the House as to the likely effect that the proposed increase of 10s. in the fee for a doctor’s visit will have on contributors and the scheme? Will he also advise the House of any action that the Government intends to lake to prevent doctors from repeatedly increasing their fees arid thus upsetting the stability of the scheme?
We have had to increase the contribution rates. Why? Because doctors’ fees had not been stabilised. I said that the Minister’s reply to my question was unsatisfactory. He tried to make some political capital out of this matter. He said -
The proposal put forward by the honorable member obviously is one which accords with the policy of the Australian Labour Party - that is, socialisation of the scheme. Carried to its logical conclusion, that is exactly what the honorable member’s proposal would mean. It is true that there are 81 medical benefit organisations operating, but they are operating on a basis which is within the cost limits set down by the Act and overall costs are kept well within reasonable limits. This is, first of all, because of the efficiency of the larger funds, and secondly, because a considerable number of the smaller funds, including friendly societies, are operated by a proportion of voluntary labour. I can assure the honorable member that the operating costs, which I quoted in this House only recently, compare more than favourably with those of other insurance organisations in the community.
He said that 14 per cent, of the contributions are taken up in overhead costs. I say that that is unsatisfactory. The Minister referred to insurance. We went into this matter of premiums paid for compensation insurance a considerable time ago. I believe that these insurance premiums should be overhauled. We took the premiums over a five year period and found that premiums exceeding £100 million had been paid for compensation insurance but only £60 million had been paid as benefits to those who had suffered injury. Where does the £40 million go? It goes in overhead and profit. I believe that we should have a national scheme so that the people who need compensation will receive adequate benefits.
The Minister sneered at Labour’s policy of nationalisation. I. wish to direct his attention to some of the institutions at which he has sneered. The Commonwealth Bank group, which includes the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the Commonwealth Development Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Reserve Bank of Australia, is a nationalised institution. It has made hundreds of millions of pounds in profits for the people of Australia since it came into existence, and these profits go back to the people. As a matter of fact, half the profit made by the Commonwealth Bank goes towards paying off the national debt. The national debt would be much larger than it is if the profits of the Commonwealth Bank were not used to pay it off. We could not say that it would be wrong to nationalise the medical benefits scheme if it could be made to work as satisfactorily as the Commonwealth Bank does.
Then let us take the other institutions that have been nationalised or Australianised. Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. makes a big profit for the people of Australia. Last year, it made a profit of £1 million. Trans-Australia Airlines also makes a big profit for Australia. Last year it made a profit of £500,000. Is it wrong to nationalise institutions when they make profits such as this? Their profits go into revenue and help to pay pensions and other benefits for the people. When Labour was in office, we had other nationalised institutions. We had the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd. and the Bell Bay aluminium organisation. They were created by the Australian Labour Party. In their early days, they had to be nursed, but as soon as they started to make good profits for the people - profits that would go into Consolidated Revenue and be used to pay pensions and other benefits - this Government sold them to private enterprise. The Minister says that we should not nationalise, but he should look at what has been done by nationalised industries. If he realised how successful they had been, he would say: “If we are ever to make a success of the medical benefits scheme, we must nationalise it”.
– It is neither one thing nor the other now.
– That is right. The Minister also said that doctors’ fees will be increased. As a matter of fact, I understand that the Australian Medical Association is meeting to discuss this matter now. We will be lucky if doctors’ fees are increased by only 10s. The moment they are increased, the stability of medical benefits funds will be endangered and contribution rates will have to be increased. The contribution rates are already too high for the small people to meet.
– Does the A.M.A. go to arbitration?
– No. It is like the newspaper proprietors. The newspapers complain when members of Parliament have their salaries increased, but no complaint is made when the price of newspapers is increased by1d.
I wish to speak also about the means test that applies to medical benefits for pensioners. An income of £2 a week or more means that a pensioner is not entitled to pensioner medical benefits. If a single pensioner receives £6 a week and has a small payment from a superannuation fund of £2 a week, or a total income of £8 a week, he must pay into a medical benefit fund just as we do. He cannot afford to do so and I hope that the Government will abolish this means test. Married pensioners are affected in the same way. 1 think it is time that the benefits paid by medical benefit funds were reviewed. I cannot see why benefits could not be increased if the funds were properly managed and efficiently run. The range of benefits should also be increased. Dental services should be included in the benefits paid by funds. Optical services and hearing aids should also be included. Deafness in the main is a disease of the aged. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) would no doubt remind us that boilermakers also suffer from deafness. They are very expensive items to buy and benefits should be provided by the funds to cover the purchase of hearing aids, especially for the aged persons, such as pensioners, in our community. Physiotherapy should be included. The funds should also provide a home health service. We should have more nursing services paid for by the funds. As far as I am concerned, medical benefit funds merely put a limit on the expenses that I would have to meet if I became ill.
I will not have time to deal fully with the remaining matter I wished to mention. This is the quinquennial investigation of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. The fund has a surplus of £5,674,325. The Superannuation Board has recommended that this surplus be refunded to pensioners and contributors and has suggested conditions under which the refund should be made. The Board also said that the refund should be made as a matter of urgency. This report was brought down in this House last September. At the time I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) whether he intended to do anything about it. In a half-hearted way, he said that we might pass the necessary legislation before the end of this sessional period. Last week the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whit lam) asked the Treasurer whether anything would be done in this sessional period and the Treasurer said that we would not be able to deal with it. Many people in receipt of pensions from this fund would be given a nice lump sum in their old age if the refund were made. Many of these people are already preparing to do something with the money. But they will be disappointed because the Treasurer very plainly said that he will not have time to bring down the legislation. Why close the Parliament up? Why not keep it in session another week so that this Bill can be put through? I know that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) asked the Prime Minister a question about this and the Prime Minister very sneeringly rejected the suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Before the suspension of the sitting there is just one matter I should like to raise briefly. It is the need to make a decision to extend the runway at the Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport further into Botany Bay before the dredge that is now working in the Bay is taken away. While the sand dredge is there this work can be done cheaply and easily, but if the dredge is removed it will be necessary to spend anything up to half a million pounds to bring it back. We would thus waste a large amount of money.
The present runway of 8,000 ft., with a 500 ft. overrun is, I understand, inadequate for the new aircraft being introduced into Australia. I have a letter from an operating Boeing captain who is Chairman of the Operations Group of the Overseas Branch of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots N.S.W. Region. He is technically competent to give an opinion on this matter as he is one of the people operating aircraft out of Sydney. It is a long letter and I ask for leave to incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
– Is leave granted?
– We would like to know the nature of the document.
– It is a letter dealing with the inadequacy of the proposed runway at Mascot. It is written by an operating Boeing captain who is Chairman of the Operations Group, Overseas Branch of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots N.S.W. Region.
– The Opposition is prepared to give the honorable member leave to incorporate the letter.
– Leave is granted.
– I thank honorable members.
The letter is as follows -
AUSTRALIAN FEDERATION OF AIR PILOTS N.S.W. REGION.
1st Floor, 401 Pacific Highway, CROWS NEST. 25th September, 1964.
Mr. W. C. Wentworth, M.H.R. 1 Redman Road, DEE WHY.
Dear Mr. Wentworth,
Further to our telephone conversation last night when I mentioned I had heard the Minister for Civil Aviation reply to a question of yours regarding the inadequacies of Sydney airport, and state that the proposed new extensions of Sydney airport runway 16/34 to 8,000 ft. plus 500 ft. of stopway would enable Qantas with its Boeing 707-138B Aircraft to operate with a full load of passengers and cargo direct to such ports as Singapore, Manila etc., I would like to say that the Minister’s statement is not correct, and I show for your information minimum runway take off requirements AT PRESENT required by law for a Boeing 138B. You may perhaps be aware that the proposed runway extension is to be only 8000 ft. long, with 500 ft. of “ stopway “ onto which an aircraft may roll in an emergency without catastrophic damage. Qantas is much better placed to operate its small, lighter jets from this new runway than all other international Jet operators, who have larger, heavier equipment and thus require more runway for long hauls. BOAC and most aircraft en route to Europe must refuel at Darwin, whilst Pan America is prevented by runway limitations from operating direct to Honolulu. The Qantas advantage will change shortly with the introduction early next year of the new series of
Qantas jets- the 338C, which is much heavier than the present 138B, and requires far greater takeoff distances:
Runway of less than the figures quoted limit the operational ability of the aircraft. Take off on Boeing jets is permitted with one segment of brake anti skid inoperative, and this then requires an additional 1300 ft. of runway. Further, the Federal Aviation authority in the USA who are the arbiters of take off and landing distances for American aircraft, the DCA abide by their rulings, have stated that the take off and landing distances as presently determined result in the absolute minimum level of safety because they are based on certification trials on dry runways with new tyres and brakes. FAA are therefore negotiating with operators in the USA to increase take off distances by a further 800 ft. and landing runways lengths by 1,300 ft. to cover such variables as worn tyres and brakes, wet runways etc. This means that shortly the figures I have quoted above will have to be further increased to meet minimum levels of safety. Jet aircraft on wet runways encounter a condition known as “ Aquaplaning “ when the wheels do not turn but skid on a thin film of water with resultant brake ineffectiveness. Reverse thrust cannot be used fully in such conditions as the aircraft tends to slide off the runway. On such occasions at Sydney with a runway of 8,000 ft. plus 500 emergency stop, landings could be hazardous and even dangerous. There are many documented cases of large jets taking 10,000 ft. and more to stop in wet conditions. As a matter of interest, I show below runway lengths at some airports we use in Qantas operations:
Many operators are anxious to reduce their landing weather minima at airports to save costly diversions and many millions of pounds are being spent to develop automatic landing aids to enable landings to be made in nil visibility. Some of these devices are fitted to aircraft now, but Sydney with a main runway of 8,000 ft. will never qualify for lower landing minimas because of its inadequate length and undoubtedly international operators will prefer to use Melbourne’s new Tullamarine where longer runways and better facilities will permit lower weather landings, and a takeoff with a greater load will also be possible.
Noise from jet aircraft is a problem at Sydney where the only runway at present suitable for international jets which take off for overseas heavy with fuel- perhaps 100,000 lb. to 180,000 lb.- is aligned in one direction with Rockdale hospital and the densely populated Illawarra area, or the equally populous Randwick-Coogee region. The present East-West runway of 8,398 ft. is only marginally shorter than the new proposed NorthSouth of 8,000 ft. plus 500 ft. of stopway and in Northeast or West winds will still be the runway used in preference to the North-South. The proposed extension of the North-South runway to 8,000 ft. will be insufficient to enable the heavy jets to take off over Botany Bay and away from noise sensitive areas on all occasions, whilst a 10,000 ft. runway aligned over Botany Bay most certainly would, and in addition would almost completely eliminate the noise nuisance at Sydney. On safety grounds, there is no excuse for large jet aircraft, heavy with fuel, to take off directly over heavily populated areas as now. Seagull ingestion on take off or any emergency could mean catastrophic loss of life should one of the large jets crash into populous suburbs. A take off over the waters of Botany Bay would prevent such a catastrophe.
Seagulls are a hazard at Sydney airport, and there is no doubt a runway projecting into Botany would do much to alleviate the problem of bird strike during take off. As you know the seagulls during inclement weather come inshore to the swamp areas of the airport or the St. Peters tip for feeding and it has been suggested that aircraft taking off away from the swamp areas would be free of their attention. Runway repair and resurfacing is another cause for concern at Sydney. During the last heavy rain large holes appeared in the main runway and although damage was promptly repaired three overseas airliners were forced into expensive diversions to other airports. This poses a special problem for Qantas whose home maintenance base is at Sydney. If the main runway is closed for any length of time for repair or resurfacing, then the entire Qantas operation which is predicated on the serviceability of the one runway, could be in jeopardy.
The main reason advanced so far by the Department of Civil Aviation for not extending the North/South runway to 10,000 ft. immediately is lack of funds, although they do agree the runway must be lengthened to 10,000 ft. eventually. It has been suggested that the strip of landing which is being reclaimed from Botany Bay to a width of 1,235 ft. to contain a runway of ISO ft. wide plus a taxiway is unnecessarily wide by comparison with overseas airports of similar characteristics. For example at Hong
Kong the reclaimed strip of land to contain the runway is about 850 ft. wide and the runway is 200 ft. wide plus a taxiway, Tahiti has a runway of 150 ft. wide on a strip of reclaimed land 490 ft. wide, whilst Pago Pago has a runway of 150 ft. wide on a 500 ft. reclaimed strip. D.C.A. authorities say they are conforming with international recommendations on strip widths whilst conceding that the recommendation has been ignored by the U.S.A. at Pago Pago, England at Hong (Cong, and France at Tahiti. I have been in touch with l.C.A.O. on the matter also, and there is a probability that their recommendation on strip widths will be changed very shortly as a result of experience at the abovementioned airports. If shortage of money is the only reason for not extending the runway to the minimum required of 10,000 ft. then the strip width could well be reduced to say 1,000 ft. or less to contain the runway of 150 ft. without in any way affecting safety, and the money saved from the expensive fill operation could take the runway length to 10,000 ft.
This would at least give Sydney an opportunity of sharing in the rich rewards that will follow the introduction of the new series of big jets and later supersonics, for there can be no doubt Australia is most favorably placed to take advantage of supersonic aircraft schedules. These aircraft will require a runway of 10,500 ft. for take off with a full load - these are the makers figures on the “ Concorde “ - even though the Minister suggested he did not know what runway takeoff length the aircraft would require. Unless we do have a 10,000 ft. runway very shortly, there is no doubt many international operators will take their jets to Tullamarine, Melbourne, where longer runways and better facilities will enable a more economical operation. I should say too, that Melbourne already has one runway at Avalon, west of Melbourne of 10,000 ft. quite suitable for supersonic aircraft.
Sydney airport when the runways are wet or it is raining, is a pilot’s nightmare and from our point of view is completely inadequate for continued safe operation in all conditions. I most wholeheartedly agree with you that it would be tragic ff the dredge currently in use to provide the fill for the new runway extension to 8,000 ft. is returned to Holland before the runway is extended to the minimum required international length of 10,000 ft.
I am going to San Francisco for a few days and will be back in the middle of next week - if I can provide any further information for you please contact me at the address below:
Capl. P. J. R. Shields, 20 Perth Ave., East Lindfield. Tel. 461297.
Yours sincerely, P. J. R. SHIELDS, Chairman
Operations Group, Overseas Branch.
I will not go beyond reading two extracts from the letter. The writer, referring to an answer given by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), says -
He goes on to give a great deal of technical information which will now be available to honorable members as the document will be incorporated in “ Hansard “. I shall read one further sentence -
The proposed extension of the North/South runway to 8,000 feet will be insufficient to enable the heavy jets to take off over Botany Bay and away from noise sensitive areas on all occasions, whilst a 10,000 feet runway aligned over Botany Bay most certainly would, and in addition would almost completely eliminate the noise nuisance at Sydney. On safety grounds, there is no excuse for large jet aircraft, heavy with fuel, to take off directly over heavily populated areas as now.
Those are the opinions of a technical man. I am not prepared to canvass them; I simply say that they are worth considering. Because it is economic to extend the runway now before the dredge is taken away the decision should be taken by the Government now. I believe that the short runway over Botany Bay as proposed at Mascot, measuring 8,000 feet, with a 500 feet overrun, is inadequate. It is a wrong decision and should be changed in the interests, not merely of Sydney, but of aviation in Australia.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Sir Robert Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In October 1963, the Parliament passed an Act to provide finance for universities in the various States during the calendar years 1964, 1965 and 1966. In November 1964, the Parliament amended that Act to make some additional provision for higher academic salaries in State universities during 1964. The present Bill is for the purpose of amending the previous legislation in order to make more Commonwealth funds avail able in respect of the three years 1964, 1965 and 1966. More finance is necessary to increase the capital grants to universities folfollowing the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations in the Tertiary Education Committee report, and to provide for increases in recurrent costs resulting from acceptance of the increases in academic salaries which were recommended last year in the Eggleston report. Funds are also required to give effect to the Government’s decision to support an increase in fees paid to part-time academic staff, and to provide further amounts for research in State universities.
As recommended by the Tertiary Education Committee, the Commonwealth will meet half the cost of certain additional capital works to be undertaken during the next 18 months at the following universities - Macquarie, La Trobe, Bedford Park, Newcastle, Townsville University College - and for a start on a second university institution in the Brisbane area. The total value of these works is £2,450,000 of which the Commonwealth will pay £1,225,000. The Bill makes provision for the Commonwealth contribution. Honorable members will recall that in November 1964, following consideration by the Parliament of the Eggleston report, an amendment was made to the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act 1963 to permit payment of the estimated cost of increased academic salaries during 1964. We have since obtained from the Australian Universities Commission precise figures for each State university for each of the years 1964, 1965 and 1966, and the present Bill revises the interim grants for 1964 and increases the grants for 1965 and 1966.
The Government has now decided to support higher fees for part-time academic staff commencing from 1st July 1965. The Commonwealth is prepared to join with any State in providing funds to support a maximum fee of £6 per hour for part-time lecturers, together with appropriate rates for other part-time academic staff. Where a State decides on a lower fee, that will be the limit to our support. This decision is in accord with the advice of the Universities Commission and the revised First Schedule to the Act incorporates the higher rates for both full-time and part-time academic staff.
In October 1963, the Parliament also provided £500,000 as the Commonwealth’s half share of funds to be specially set aside for research in State universities. This money was used during 1964 for post-graduate research activities, which are closely bound up with post-graduate training. The Government is now proposing that a like amount be provided for the same purposes during each of the years 1965 and 1966. The total cost to the Commonwealth over the three years will be £1.5 million, and the distribution among the State universities will be as the Universities Commission has recommended.
The final provision in this Bill to which I wish to refer is the recognition of the University of Newcastle in its own right, lt will be remembered that in response to a request from the Government of New South Wales, the Government has agreed to recognise the independence of Newcastle from 1st January 1965. The Bill does this by making provision in the schedules for the University of Newcastle to the extent contemplated when that institution was part of the University of New South Wales, and the sums set aside for the University of New South Wales have been adjusted accordingly. The amendments now before the House require Commonwealth grants for State universities of £6,947,000 above those originally made for the years 1964, 1965 and 1966. The total Commonwealth contribution to State universities over those three years will now be about £64 million.
In conclusion 1 point out to the House that we are not proposing any funds in this Bill in support of teaching costs in medical hospitals. I shall explain why that is so. A report from the Universities Commission was presented to the Government a few days ago, but there has been no opportunity to take decisions and carry them forward into this Bill. Nevertheless, I assure the House that the Government will deal with this matter promptly, and I know that the House will agree that when we are ready to announce our decisions we should do so for the benefit of all concerned, without waiting for resumption of the Parliament. Honorable members will see what I mean by that. Normally, one would wait until the House was sitting, but as there will be an interval, the sooner these decisions are made known, the better. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Robert Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move - That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks authority for the Government to continue, during each of the next three financial years, grants to secondary schools for the construction and equipment of science laboratories. Such grants were first made in the present financial year by authority of the States Grants (Science Laboratories and Technical Training) Act 1964. Operations in this year have demonstrated the value of this form of aid and have resulted in assistance in varying amounts being given to an impressive number of secondary schools.
State Governments have been paid £3,618,900 for provision of laboratories in State schools and this grant, since it was made on condition that State Governments did not reduce their own contributions, has resulted in the States being able to undertones and equipment in 293 more secondary schools than would otherwise have been possible. New South Wales intends to provide facilities in 80 schools, Victoria in 167, Queensland in 11, South Australia in 18, Western Australia in 7 and Tasmania in 10. The States have not, for their own good internal reasons, been able to spend in this year, all the money made available to them. However, they have committed it and the assurance of a three year programme which the Bill will give, will enable them to plan for accelerated spending in the knowledge that they are assured of the necessary finance.
In the case of independent schools, £1,334,000 was provided this year for independent schools in the States and £47,000 for independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Of this total sum, £1,200,000 has already been paid to independent schools and by the end of June virtually all the funds provided will be in the hands of the schools and be represented by laboratories which have been finished, laboratories which are under construction, or by modern equipment. In all, 189 independent schools will have been assisted, 120 by way of grants for laboratories and equipment and the remainder by grants for equipment only. At present 708 independent schools are registered with the Department as being interested in receiving assistance.
Here again the provision of a three year programme will enable independent schools to plan their building programmes ahead in the knowledge of the amount of assistance they will receive and the year in which they will receive it. The scheme has been greatly assisted by the co-operation of State Governments most of which have, amongst other helpful actions, agreed to provide equipment to independent schools through the same channels as those through which they provide equipment to Government schools, thus ensuring equipment being purchased at the lowest possible cost.
The Government has been greatly helped, too, by the advisory committees in the States which have recommended priorities among the many independent schools which have sought assistance under the scheme. The Advisory Committee on Standards has made a most significant contribution to the success of the programme in independent schools. This Committee has developed a series of laboratory plans and its members, who all have much experience in science teaching, visit applicant schools and give advice on the most suitable laboratories to meet their individual needs. Broad proposals for the next three years have been submitted to the Commonwealth but have not yet been agreed in detail. The programme will provide £5 million for science laboratories and equipment over each of the next three financial years.
With the permission of the House I would like to have incorporated in “ Hansard “ a table showing the distribution of the proposed grants among government and independent schools for each of the next three financial years.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Robert Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move - That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill extends for the next three financial years the grants for State technical colleges and schools first given by authority of the States Grants (Science Laboratories and
Technical Training) Act 1964. As with the science grants £5 million will be provided each year and the distribution between States remains unchanged. These grants are given in an area where independent schools do not operate, and the grants are confined therefore to State institutions. They are intended to facilitate the training of young men and women in trades schools and technical colleges. Trades schools include schools of automotive engineering, printing schools, schools teaching carpentry and joinery and many other skills.
Experience of the first year of this programme has indicated that it fills a most important place in the Australian educational scene. For every scientist or technologist, many highly skilled technicians and tradesmen have to be trained. The equipment to train these people must be adequate in quantity and up to date in quality. It has become clear in the course of the first year’s administration of the scheme that equipment has been neither adequate nor up to date. The size of the Commonwealth grant in relation to past State allocations for technical training has been so generous that the States have found considerable difficulty in Stepping up their construction and equipment programmes within the first year of the scheme. But with the assurance of three more years of finance at this level, they will be able within that time to make a substantial impression on the needs for wellequipped training facilities.
Some examples of the States’ proposals for the new triennium will illustrate the nature of the programme which this Bill will facilitate. In New South Wales work will be undertaken at colleges in Cooma, Wauchope, Wollongong, Gunnedah, Newcastle, Cowra, Leeton and Blacktown, as well as in the metropolitan area, and much equipment will be installed. In Victoria, the State has made proposals for the grants to be spent in a number of technical schools and colleges on building and equipment to teach science, applied science, metallurgy, the engineering and motor trades, woodwork and plumbing. In Queensland, the proposals cover the Central Technical College and technical colleges at Bundaberg, Cairns, the Coorparoo School of Food, Eagle Farm, Ithaca, Kangaroo Point, Rockhampton, Yeronga and the Queensland Agricultural
College. Projects range from chemistry and electrical engineering to plumbing, sheetmetal and bricklaying, with animal science and dairy technology buildings at Gatton.
In South Australia grants already have been made in 1964-65 for Education Department establishments and at the South Australian Institute of Technology and Roseworthy Agricultural College, and the proposals for the triennium include substantial expenditure on an automotive trade school and further expenditure on engineering, food technology and at Roseworthy. Tn Western Australia, building already has taken place at five schools and the proposals for the triennium include a substantial equipment programme and a very large expenditure for the Fremantle Technical School. In Tasmania, the whole of the expenditure in the first two years of the triennium, amounting to over £334,000, will be spent on the new general block at the Hobart Technical College.
I commend the Bill, which will have such an important effect on the training of skilled personnel in our country, to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
On 25th March I informed the House that legislation would be introduced this session to provide a re-establishment charter for national servicemen. Honorable members will recall that I then described - though in brief terms - the nature of the provisions the Government had in mind. They were directed to three purposes - first, the protection of the interests of national servicemen in relation to their reinstatement in civil employment; secondly, the protection of national servicemen in relation to obligations they had entered into before becoming liable for national service; and thirdly, the facilitation of the reestablishment of national servicemen in civil life on completion of their period of continuous national service.
The programme I outlined - the charter as 1 have called it - received, I believe the commendation not only of this House but also of our community. It is now my pleasure to introduce a bill to give effect to this charter. I must, at the outset, remind honorable members that not every aspect of the charter, of the entitlements, to be enjoyed by national servicemen is covered by the present Bill. I have already explained in this House that national servicemen who serve in special areas will qualify, under the same conditions as those applying to regular soldiers, for repatriation and war service homes entitlement. They will, of course, receive the same rates of pay as regular soldiers. Provisions covering these matters are to be found in the repatriation, war service homes and defence legislation. .
In addition, a series of benefits will be provided administratively. In addition to any other Army leave due to them on discharge from their period of continuous service, national servicemen will be granted seven days’ termination leave or, at the discretion of the Army, pay in lieu. Next, national servicemen will be paid a gratuity of £40 on completing their two years’ service, with a minimum payment of £20 for those discharged, for example, for medical reasons, before two years. Thirdly, the Department of Labour and National Service will of course assist national servicemen with any problems arising in regard to their reinstatement rights and, in the case of those without jobs to which they can return, will assist them in securing suitable employment. We are also taking up with the relevant authorities, both Commonwealth and State, and with the national employer organisations, the importance of giving favorable consideration to the adjustment of age limits for appointment or advancement to positions where age limits exist. This also will assist the re-establishment of national servicemen.
Let me now come to the Bill before the House. These principles have guided us in considering the form and content of this legislation*.
We want to avoid as far as practicable, and certainly minimise, the possibility that those called upon to serve their country under the national service scheme will be disadvantaged by comparison with those not called up.
The character of this current national service scheme is different from that of its predecessor. A major difference is the length of the period a national serviceman will be away from his civilian employment. This cannot help but present for some young men problems of re-establishment. On the other hand the length and character of the service may open up new prospects and opportunities on return to civil life. Obviously many will benefit from this.
It seems prudent to draw heavily on the arrangements for protection of rights and re-establishment benefits that were so carefully worked out in respect of men called up during the last war. At the same time it is necessary to remember and take account of the distinctions between that situation and the situation that we confront under this national service scheme.
A further point of some importance is that decided changes have come over the habits, particularly the purchasing habits, of the community in the last 20 years. This has been strikingly evident in the case of young men of national service age. I have in mind here the vast growth in hire purchase transactions and the greatly expanded range of items to be so purchased. These changes in habits have had to be taken into account in framing the legislation now before the House. The matters with which the current Bill deals are protection in relation to civil employment, moratorium, vocational training, rehabilitation of disabled men, and re-establishment loans. I touched on all of these matters in my earlier statements to the House. I shall now deal with them more fully and in the order in which they are dealt with in the Bill.
I start therefore with Part II of the Bill, dealing with protection in relation to civil employment. The provisions under this heading are, apart from what might well be described as technical changes, basically the same as those that have been contained in Part XII of the Defence Act which are to be repealed under the Defence Bill which is now before the House. Part XII covered members of the Reserve forces and the citizen forces and was an adaptation of the provisions contained in the original National Service Act. The provisions before the House, therefore, have had detailed consideration by this House on other occasions; so they probably require little explanation. I point out that these provisions apply to national servicemen, members of the Reserve forces and members of the citizen forces. They apply to men called up for continuous full time service and going into annual camps. Men of these classes employed with an employer for 30 days or more before call-up for continuous service, or going into short term camps, will be entitled to reinstatement if they apply to be reinstated as soon as is reasonably practicable. To meet the case of the longer periods of continuous service application for reinstatement must be made within 30 days or such longer period as the Minister allows.
The Bill provides that reinstatement must be in the pre-service occupation under conditions no less favorable than would have applied if the man had not been absent on service, including any increase in pay he would have received if he had not been absent. On reinstatement continuity of employment will be deemed not to have been broken by the period of defence service. If the man stays in his reinstated employment for as long as he was away on service the period of his absence will count for long service leave, superannuation and pension purposes as though he had not been absent. The short term periods of defence service will count for purposes of determining annual and sick leave also. It is not necessary to provide that long term service shall be counted for these purposes because the Army will be looking after annual and sick leave during service. In the carefully denned circumstances described in clause 12, which are of long standing in legislation of this sort, employers will be excused from reinstating a national serviceman. It will not be a sufficient excuse that someone else has been employed to replace the person on defence service.
The provisions respecting moratorium for national servicemen are to be found in Part III of the Bill. These follow very closely the provisions in the Reestablishment and Employment Act. Only in two respects are there any departures from the earlier provisions that are worthy of note, and I will refer to these as I go along. I should explain here, Sir, that the whole idea behind providing for a moratorium in relation to transactions to which national servicemen are parties is to ensure that the interests of a national serviceman will not be prejudiced because of changes in the financial circumstances of men on commencing national service. There is no doubt that many men will be better off financially while on national service. There is equally no doubt that some men will be in business on their own account and have entered into business transactions of various types. Others, in the custom of today, may have involved themselves, quite legitimately, in commitments which they may find hard to keep up while on service. What we have set out to do is to strike a balance and to protect both parties to transactions affecting men who become national servicemen.
Put briefly, what the Bill does is to give protection to a national serviceman - that is to say, a national serviceman who has commenced actual service - and his female dependant in respect of mortgages, agreements, debts, contracts, hire purchase agreements, and so on, subject to two conditions - the transactions must have been entered into before what the Bill describes in clause 17 as “the moratorium date”; and the liability of the national serviceman under the transaction must continue to exist at the time of his commencing service. Clause 17 defines the moratorium date, which is normally the date upon which an age group is required to register under the National Service Act. If, however, a registrant is, pursuant to the National Service Act, deferred from call-up the moratorium date is the date upon which he receives his call-up notice under the National Service Act. This will be roughly a month before he commences service.
This is one of the departures from the wartime moratorium legislation and takes account of the differences between the circumstances of that time and now. Then, the moratorium applied to all transactions that had been entered into before a man was called into the Services. The reason for this was that call-up could take place at any time and with little notice. This will not be the case with national servicemen. They will know when they are called on to register that they are liable to be called up. Only a short time will elapse before a man knows whether he is deferred indefinitely or for a limited period or whether he will be called up. So he will know where he stands about new commitments. Commitments entered into before the moratorium date will be protected. Those after will not. Whilst the relevant date is different, the principle is the same as applied to the wartime legislation. If a man enters into obligations after he has become aware that he is to be called up he will do so with knowledge of his financial position while he is on service.
Putting it broadly, the protection the Bill gives will continue for 12 months after completion of national service, or, if the service is less than that, the period thereafter which is equal to that service. Moratorium provisions are necessarily complicated and these provisions are no exception. Honorable members will notice that Division 2 of Part III deals specifically with mortgages and agreements for the purchase of land. Then Division 3 dealing with the prohibition or suspension of proceedings has provisions which deal not only with mortgages and agreements for the purchase of land but also all other transactions including hire purchase agreements. Let me take the mortgages and sales of land first. The protection given to the national serviceman - to avoid repetition I do not repeat that female dependants as defined in the Bill are included - is that, subject to a number of qualifications, payment of principal and instalments is postponed until after the completion of the national service or the shorter period, mentioned already, where that service terminates in under twelve months. These postponement provisions are not of an absolute character; they are subject to a number of qualifications. Interest has, of course, to be paid meantime on the payments postponed. These provisions for the postponement of payment of principal and instalments will not apply if the appropriate court considers that the postponement is unnecessary having regard to the interests of the national serviceman, if the national serviceman has abandoned his land, or if the court considers that the postponement would cause hardship or loss to the mortgagee or vendor. Nor will the postponement apply where a mortgagee has entered into possession before the national serviceman commenced his national service, nor where a mortgagee or a vendor has been authorised by a court to exercise his remedies before then.
I now turn to the general provisions in Division 3. These, as I have already remarked, extend also to hire purchase agreements. These clauses, in short, provide that the leave of the appropriate court must be obtained before a judgment against a national serviceman can be enforced, or before any legal remedy in consequence of any default in payment of a debt or performance of an obligation by a national serviceman can be exercised. Again, I emphasise, these provisions apply only in relation to transactions entered into before the moratorium date. The protection given by this Division 3 extends for the period I have already mentioned relating to Division 2. The protection given under Division 3 is, as was the case with the wartime legislation, subject to qualifications. The appropriate court is required to take into account the interests of both parties on any application that is made to it. It will not be necessary to seek the court’s leave in the following types of cases - Where default is made in paying interest; where a mortgagee in possession of property other than of land is exercising a power of sale which arose before the date on which the national serviceman commenced service; and where the national serviceman has purported to sell or otherwise dispose of the goods covered by a contract or has parted with their possession. In addition - and here is the second departure from the wartime moratorium legislation to which I referred earlier - the provisions requiring the obtaining of the leave of a court do not apply in relation to a hire purchase agreement where the liability under the agreement is £40 or less unless the appropriate court on the application of a national serviceman is satisfied that he should have the protection given by the Act.
I should also point out that, as was the case with the wartime legislation, goods that are used by, or belong to, a national serviceman, except goods acquired under a hire purchase agreement made after the moratorium date, cannot be seized or taken possession of without the leave of the appropriate court. The same applies to writs of execution against land on which is erected & dwelling house owned by a national serviceman, and leave cannot be granted in this latter case if the national serviceman or his female dependant is occupying the dwelling house or is taking steps to obtain possession to occupy it. The appropriate courts, which are defined in detail in the Bill, are given extensive powers to deal equitably with applications made to them. They are required to have regard to the circumstances of each individual case, and naturally the particular circumstances of both parties.
I turn now to Part IV dealing with vocational training. We all know how successful the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme was. The scale of the scheme for which this Bill provides will necessarily be much smaller. But we do need a vocational training scheme of this sort if men are not to be at a disadvantage in their employment upon return to civil life. This is not the place to give an exhaustive list of the types of situations to be faced. There will be some who acquire skills while in the Army and we want to make provision to supplement these in appropriate cases by postdischarge training. There will be some who may need some form of refresher training to bring them up to date with developments that have occurred in their particular vocation. There will be those who, for various reasons, may not have reinstatement posts to go to. They will clearly be aided in their resettlement by an appropriate form of training. The vocational training arrangements will make all the difference to the effectiveness of the re-establishment of the national servicemen and indeed to their usefulness in the community.
Part IV is in very wide terms, and desirably so. It enables the Minister to make arrangements for the post discharge vocational training of national servicemen where lt is considered necessary or desirable for their effective resettlement. Training may be full time, part time or by correspondence. Part IV allows arrangements to be made with the States for the use of State services and facilities for vocational training. It permits the Minister to pay to trainees allowances and expenses and tuition and like fees. It also makes provision for text books, equipment, tools of trade, and so on. The development of the vocational training scheme which the Bill authorises will, of course, require the working out of many details and these are currently receiving active attention.
Related to the training that I have been discussing are the provisions contained in Part V dealing with the rehabilitation of disabled national servicemen. If there are such men with disabilities hindering their effective resettlement which could be overcome by treatment and training, and it would be the hope of all that there will be few, they will be provided for under Part V - provided, of course, that they are not eligible for similar benefits under the Repatriation Act.
Part VI deals with re-establishment loans. Under these provisions a national serviceman will be eligible for such a loan where this would be necessary to enable him to re-establish himself in a business, profession or occupation, including farming, in which he was engaged prior to call-up or which he was prevented from entering because of call-up. These provisions are also based on the Reestablishment and Employment Act. I am sure that they will be found most valuable for some at least of those who render national service.
Mr. Speaker, I have run through the provisions of this most important reestablishment charter for national servicemen. I have explained the principal features of the various parts of the Bill. I remind the House of my opening remarks that other benefits will be available to national servicemen by virtue of other legislation or administratively. When the whole of these arrangements are viewed together they will, I confidently believe, be seen to provide a comprehensive set of measures calculated to take care of the problems that will face national servicemen. There is nothing niggardly about this programme - and rightly so.
This national service scheme is a national obligation designed to put us in a position to fulfil our defence commitments. It is an essential part of our defence preparations and must pre-empt resources that all in our community would have hoped could be used for national development. As a consequence of the assessment of the risks we face, the duty of rendering national service falls on one section of our young manhood. It is both right and proper that arrangements of the kind contained in this Bill should be legislated for. This House and the people it represents would be failing in their duty if this legislation were not enacted. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Webb) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1586).
– In continuing my speech, I bring to the notice of the House a subject which 1 believe to be a non-party subject, namely the form of the projected referendum in regard to Aboriginal rights. This has to be a non-party subject, because unless the relevant measure receives support from both sides of the House I doubt very much whether it will obtain popular approval. But beyond this compulsion of finding some kind of composition, there is on both sides of the House a goodwill on this matter. I believe that, quite apart from any such compulsion, there might well be unanimity. I know that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has circulated some material with which I do not find myself in any substantial disagreement. I hope that what I say tonight will commend itself to him and to other members of the Opposition.
It is essential that in this referendum wc deal effectively with the position of our Aboriginal people - the original Australians. In the Constitution there are two matters that affect them. There is very little for me to say about the first. Section 327 of the Constitution is archaic and should be removed. It reads -
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
As I said, this is an archaic section and one which has no place in our Constitution. I am fairly certain that in this House there would be unanimity that it should go. I am also certain that when this matter is put to a referendum the people will approve the deletion of the section from our Constitution.
However, there is another part of the Constitution in respect of which the argument, although I think it should be just as plain, is perhaps not as simple. That is section 51 (xxvi.). I shall read to the House, first, the preamble to the section and, secondly, the sub-section. The preamble reads -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Then follow a number of powers, and subsection (xxvi.) reads -
The people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws:
The effect of that sub-section is that the Commonwealth has no real jurisdiction in Aboriginal matters, except insofar as they relate to its own Territories, including the Northern Territory. The House might well feel that this sub-section should go out of the Constitution entirely. We do not want any racial discrimination in Australia. We are, and I hope we shall remain, a homogeneous people. Perhaps it would be out of place to maintain in our Constitution the power to make laws on the basis of race, whether they be Federal or State laws.
But to take this sub-section out of section 51 - as I believe we should, and as I think the House would agree we should - would not be quite enough because, by so doing, since we have a Federal system, we would leave in the hands of the States the power to make laws on the basis of race. We do not want to have such a power in the hands either of the States or the Commonwealth. Therefore, the House might consider whether we should put another section into the Constitution. I do not suggest that another sub-section be inserted in section 51, where it would be subject to the limitations of the preamble that I read. Rather should we insert a separate section which would outlaw racial discrimination within this Commonwealth.
I have drafted a proposed new section. Its words are not necessarily the best words; they may be capable of improvement. I think the substance of the section should be something like this -
Neither the Commonwealth nor any State shall make or maintain any law which, by reason of racial origin, either
Denies Australian citizenship to any person born in Australia or (b) Denies or impairs the right of any Australian citizen to be enrolled for or to vote at any election for any Parliament or for any public body created under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or (c) Places any Australian citizen under any restraint or disability.
This would be a section of the Constitution which would be binding on both the States and the Commonwealth and would outlaw discrimination on the basis of race in Australia. As I have said, it may be possible to improve the drafting that I have suggested, but I hope that honorable members will agree with me that something of this substance should go into the Australian Constitution. It would be a good thing; it would be a positive thing. It would be a replacement for the obsolete sub-section (xxvi.) of section 51, which it is time we got rid of. If this is done we will have a Constitution which outlaws racial discrimination and disabilities forced on people because of race.
It does leave us with one problem. We have our Aboriginal race. We do not want to discriminate against these people, but we may need to give them special welfare. We may need to do special things for them still. As I have said to the House previously, although we may reproach ourselves with our failure over the last 175 years to deal more effectively with the Aboriginal problem and to raise and make these people full citizens, nevertheless we need not reproach ourselves overmuch, because the problem that we have failed to tackle has also beaten practically every other country that has had to deal with it. Aboriginal inhabitants, whether they be in white or coloured countries, have suffered and have been under grave disabilities. This applies to the Hottentots and to the Bushmen of Africa whose main troubles came not from the white man but from the Bantu. It would apply to the hill tribes of India, Ceylon and the Malayan peninsulua. The white man is not the only one who has failed, although it is true enough that he has failed. Nevertheless, we are here faced with a problem where we have to make a special effort to help our Aboriginal people. While we should outlaw racial discrimination in the Constitution it does not follow that we should not have some power to promote the welfare of these people who should be our special charge. I therefore think that we should do one of two things: Either we should place in the Constitution, perhaps in an appropriate position in section 51, a power to make laws for the welfare of the Aboriginal people of Australia or, alternatively, and perhaps this might be the more practical approach, we might ask the States to refer to us the power, as they can do under subsection (xxxvii.) of section 51, which provides that the Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to -
Matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law.
If we did this - if we took advantage of this section - it would be open to the States if they so desired to refer to the Commonwealth the power to make special laws for the welfare of the Aboriginal people. This would be a fair thing for the States, because the burden - and it would be a very considerable financial burden - of making adequate provision for the assistance of our Aboriginal people is one which should fall upon the Australian people as a whole and not inequitably on the States. As the House knows, Western Australia and Queensland among the States have great Aboriginal populations and responsibilities. There is a lesser number of Aborigines in South Australia, a negligible number in Victoria and New South Wales, and practically none at all in Tasmania. So it would be inequitable to expect the States which have the large Aboriginal populations to bear the cost of the welfare measures necessary to help these people. However, this could be left as a decision for the States concerned.
I have suggested that there are two ways of doing this: Either we amend the Constitution to put the welfare of the Aboriginal people of Australia into Commonwealth hands or we allow the States to operate under sub-section (xxxvii) of section 51. From the point of view of neatness and tidiness the former is the better solution. From the point of view of practicability, of making certain that this amendment gets the necessary support of the people to carry it through a referendum, perhaps the second is the better. I would have preferred the first alternative, but it might be that the second should be chosen because it might not arouse the same kind of difficulty at a referendum. Whatever happens, we must put our proposals in a form which both parties in this House support and in a form, therefore, which will command the full adherence of the Australian people and get the necessary affirmative vote at a referendum.
We need to have proposals which commend themselves not only to this House but also to the people of the various States who will express their views very largely in their own Parliaments. It is important that what is done should have general and, I would hope, unanimous support in the party sense and in the sense of the unanimous support of the Australian Parliaments. We are going into recess shortly. These matters will come before us when we reassemble. I ask the House to consider them. I ask that some consideration be given to the principles and substance of what 1 have tried to put forward tonight, and even though the drafting be changed at least let us be certain of doing these things: First, to remove section 127, about the counting of Aboriginals; secondly, to outlaw racial discrimination in Australia; thirdly, to make adequate provision for the welfare of our Aboriginal people until they are able to take their place not merely as full citizens in the technical term, which they should have as soon as possible, but also as full members of the Australian community in every way.
.- This is one of those rare occasions when many of us on this side find ourselves in warm agreement with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). As a matter of fact, tonight it has been a most generous occasion for me, because not only do I find myself in agreement on the mattter he has just referred to, namely the abolition of discrimination against Aborigines, but I also somewhat support the remarks he made before the suspension of the sitting regarding the extension of the runway at Mascot airport. I have had some misgivings about this, and a number of my colleagues and I earlier in the year went to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) to express our doubts about whether the construction would be adequate for the purposes. The Minister said that having regard to the technical advice available from all over the world concerning aircraft now in operation and aircraft foreseeable in the years ahead, the extension would be quite adequate. The Minister’s advice was that, rather than needing longer runways, it is likely that aircraft of the future will need even shorter runways than are needed now. This is the Minister’s opinion despite the fact that the loads carried by aircraft will become greater.
The Minister expressed the view that he would be failing in his public duty and in his duty to the Parliament if he recommended a heavy expenditure of money for this purpose. A considerable sum would be involved in an extension of the kind suggested by the honorable member. The Minister felt that it would not be right to incur this expenditure in the face of expert advice that it was not necessary. My only concern at the moment is that the extension will not be completed quickly enough. Many of my constituents in the Rockdale, Brighton-le-Sands and Ramsgate areas have been terrorised by the operations of large aircraft. Their television sets and radios have become almost worthless because of interruptions to reception by low flying aircraft approaching the airport. My greatest misgiving is that even with the extension of the runway out into Botany Bay, because of heavy congestion at this airport some aircraft will still approach and depart over the suburban areas I have mentioned and over other areas.
I cannot help but recall my thoughts when the projection out into Botany Bay was first mooted. At that time I recalled what is done in other countries. For instance, I know that London airport is situated at some distance from the city. Rome airport is 28 miles from the city and is connected to the city by a fast expressway on which there is no cross traffic. I cannot help thinking that such a provision would have been better for Sydney. It would have been better to have our international airport situated well away from the city. We could have provided for fast express traffic into the city. Perhaps, later, we could have used other kinds of aerial traffic to bring passengers from the airport to the city.
The House is discussing the subject matter of four Bills. Two of them deal with the financial year 1964-65 and comprise amendments to the budgetary provisions that were brought down in August last year. Naturally, no government can be expected to make precise and final estimates of its requirements 12 months ahead and therefore we must have some amendments and extra provisions. This has been done in two of the Bills. The other two Bills are designed to grant supply to the Government for the period between the beginning of July and about the end of November, before the Budget to be brought down in August has time to operate. The Opposition does not oppose the Bills. Looking at the Bills as a layman in economics - I make no great pretensions in that regard - it seems to me that the Government has seriously underestimated revenue and expenditure, particularly as regards the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This is the Fund that absorbs our taxes and which governs the prices that we pay for the use of Government instrumentalities, such as the national television service and telephones. I understand that it was estimated that there would be a surplus of £65.2 million in the Consolidated Revenue Fund, but now the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has told us that that figure could bc increased, if everything goes right, by £85 million. In other words, in the best circumstances possible between now and the end of June, which is not far off, we could have in the Consolidated Revenue Fund a surplus of £150.2 million. That amount represents a lot of extra taxes and levies taken from the public. The public has been socked heavily to make this very generous provision against the Government’s commitments.
Admittedly there is another side to the picture. Loan raisings have not been as good as was anticipated and there has been some increase in the amount of Government debt that has had to be redeemed during the year. The Treasurer does not give a final estimate, but it is my confident prediction that by the end of next month we will find that during the last 12 months we have been unnecessarily taxed and over-charged for things such as telephones. Honorable members will recall that not many months ago telephone charges were substantially increased. Apparently those increases were quite unnecessary. The increased revenue has given the Government opportunity, if it needed it, to embark on other commitments, such as defence commitments, which were not anticipated previously. Allowing for the fact that governments cannot be ex pected to estimate precisely what their commitments will be and what their revenue earnings will be, it is extraordinary how governments seem always to err on the side of being generous to themselves at the expense of the taxpaying public and the users of public facilities. The fact that the Government now has such a large surplus means that we were taxed unduly heavily during the year. I refer not only to direct taxes - remember that income tax was increased by 5 per cent, last year - but also to indirect taxes and service charges for public utilities.
That is one way of looking at the position: lt was not necessary to tax us so harshly. Another way of looking at the position is this: The Government could have carried out many more of the desirable public works projects that are needed in the community. Possibly, we could have been getting on with the Ord River scheme or doing something to improve the chaotic transport situation in our capital cities. We could have been doing a number of other things which the Government did not feel bold enough to do in terms of its expected revenue.
Another group of citizens, about whom I particularly want to speak tonight, could have said: “You told us last year that 5s. a week was the best you could give by way of increase in age, invalid and widows’ pensions. The figures show that you could have done a lot more for us. You could have been a lot more generous.” After all, the Government is forever reminding us that we are passing through a prosperous time and that Australia has the fourth highest living standard in the world. That is a very wide and expansive statement to make. It may be the situation generally speaking, but as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said recently - he was supported by Dr. R. T. Appleyard - there are in Australia, as has been recently discovered in the Central States of America, many people who are not enjoying a fair share of prosperity. In fact, many are living in dire poverty. So instead of waiting until the Budget comes along to chastise the Government for not having done some of the things that should be done, it may not be a bad idea to take a little time to remind the Government of some of the things that should be done and which I hope will engage the attention of the Treasurer and his advisers during the next few weeks.
I want to say a word or two on behalf of social services recipients. I want to do this before the Budget is brought down, not afterwards, as is normally the case. The kind of survey into poverty that the Leader of the Opposition has recommended would show two things broadly. First, it would show that many people in Australia were in dire need. Secondly, a survey of the whole structure of social services in this country would reveal gross and incomprehensible anomalies, injustices and inconsistencies. The pattern of our social service legislation, in my opinion, defies logic. Like many other honorable members, I do a fair amount of social service work in the community. I give advice to many people and I have become fairly familiar with the kind of poverty and the problems that exist today. Last year’s Budget granted an increase of 5s. a week in the age and invalid pension. The increase was to take effect from October of last year. But even before it was granted, price rises had anticipated the increase, just as price rises had anticipated wage increases granted by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The result was that many pensioners did not receive any benefit from the increase and others were worse off than they were before the increase was granted. Some pensioners had to meet the increased telephone rentals. Not all of them received a concession and those who did so only received it belatedly after a lot of pressure had been applied in this Parliament. But the increased telephone rentals ate up much of the increase of 5s. in pension rates.
It may be as well to remind ourselves that pensioners and people in similar positions constitute a pretty sizeable proportion of our Australian population. The Australian population is in fact “younging”, if I may use that term. The vast majority of our immigrants are in the young age groups and they in turn have children. So, Australia is not likely to have an ageing population for many years to come. Therefore, I think we can afford to be a little more beneficent than we have been to our retired kith and kin who must live on social services.
As at June 1964, in round figures, there were 615,000 age pensioners in Australia, 109,000 invalid pensioners and 62,000 widows. The total of these three groups is 787,035. In other words, more than three quarters of a million people are age pensioners, invalid pensioners or widows. In addition, 216,605 persons received sickness or unemployment benefits last year. Nearly another quarter of a million people at some time or other during the year had to apply for and received sickness or unemployment benefits. There were also 64,783 service pensioners. I should imagine that all honorable members are well aware that a service pensioner is simply a repatriation, age or invalid pensioner. Another 669,000 persons were receiving a war pension of one kind or another. War pensions are not subject to a means test. Although some of these pensions are admittedly small, many war pensioners would be fairly wealthy people and possibly would not be in very great need of a pension. However, a good many war pensioners are very needy people. Excluding war pensioners, there were in the other categories I have mentioned 1,068,423 persons in Australia in receipt of one form of pension or another. Roughly 10 per cent, of our Australian population is represented by recipients of these social service benefits.
In addition, we must not forget the people who are refused an invalid or widow’s pension because of the means test. A single person who is in receipt of £9 10s. a week or more from some other source, even from a superannuation fund, is not entitled to a pension. These people also are in need. I cannot imagine trying to live on £9 10s. a week, but there are many people in the community who are required to do so. As the Leader of the Opposition said, 150,000 families - I give the figure from memory - receive £17 10s. a week or less, and these families may include three or four children. They would not have a very high standard of living and they could hardly be expected to jump with jubilation when they hear Government supporters speak of our unbounded prosperity and tell us that we have the fourth highest standard of living in the world. I do not want to go through all the categories of pensioners, but I hope that somebody will bring my remarks to the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) and that he will then be aware of these categories of unfortunate pensioners.
Let me deal now with the class B civilian widow. The class B civilian widow is a widow between the ages of 50 and 60 years who has no dependant children. Quite a few women in the community are in this category. For some unknown reason, we ask a class B widow to live on 12s. 6d. a week less than we pay to an age pensioner. We ask her to live on 12s. 6d. a week less than she will receive when she reaches 60 years of age. Why? I cannot for the life of me understand why the living expenses of a woman between 50 and 60 years of age would be lower than her expenses when she reaches 60 years of age. I think it is more likely to be a little the other way, that her expenses will be less when she is 60 years of age. For one thing, she may not seek so much entertainment. But for some reason we ask a widow to live on £5 7s. 6d. a week. Can honorable members imagine the problem that would confront a widow who must pay £3 a week in rent and is left with £2 7s. 6d. on which to live, to clothe and to feed herself? I think this is quite cruel. 1 have seen widows who are struggling to live on this amount and I feel very much obliged to make their plight known to the Parliament.
Admittedly, these widows are allowed to earn £3 10s. a week, if they do not have assets worth more than £209, other than a home. But, of course, many women between 50 and 60 years have found difficulty, even in this age of labour shortage, in obtaining a job, especially a job that pays only £3 10s. a week. This is the limit of the means test, and it has remained at this figure for the past 10 years. The class C widow is in the same position. A class C widow is a woman under 50 years of age who has no dependant children. If in necessitous circumstances she is entitled to a pension for up to 26 weeks following widowhood. She also is expected to live on £5 7s. 6d. a week. Then we have the most unfortunate of all these women, the deserted wife who may be left with three or four children. Under Commonwealth law, she must be deserted for six months before we will give her a penny. Somebody has to look after her and she has to struggle through somehow or other for six months. Of course, she must fall back on the Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare in New South Wales. I suppose comparable State instrumentalities exist in other States. For the first fortnight, the deserted wife is given £2 10s. a week. From then on, she will .received £6 2s. 6d. from the State. But six months after she has been deserted, if she is prepared to wait for this period and to take court action against her deserting husband, she will be granted a Commonwealth widows pension. 1 do not know whether the Minister and the Government are aware of this, but in many instances the last thing in the world that a deserted wife wants to do is to try to get her husband back. He has put her in a state of poverty and she would never want to see him again. But we compel her to take court action to make her husband come back. Often he is only too willing to come back to the wife he deserted. He has been sitting at home while she has gone to work, and he is quite happy to come back. Her attitude is that she would not ask him to come back in any circumstances, that she does not want him back. Nevertheless we compel her to take court action to bring him back or seek maintenance from him.
These are some of the social problems that a survey would bring to light. These are problems that will never come to our attention while we sit in this place talking our heads off. These are the problems that we will understand with precision only by going out and examining them. Then we have the unfortunate plight of the invalid pensioner. The invalid pensioner receives £5 10s. a week for himself. In addition, if his wife is under 60 years of age and is not an invalid, he receives £3 a week for her. In other words, we expect them to live on £8 10s. a week. If they were age pensioners - if the man had turned 65 and the woman had turned 60 - they would be getting £11 a week between them, but for some unknowable reason - and I say unknowable reason because I could not know why - the Government expects them to live on £2 10s. a week less than they would get if they were age pensioners. I am referring to a couple one of whom is an invalid person who is likely to need a special diet and perhaps even special clothing.
Then there is the case of the married age pensioner, for instance a man who has married a woman some years younger than himself. He turns 65 years of age and gets the age pension, but his wife, not being 60, gets nothing. She probably would not be able to get a job either because she has to look after her husband.
– Probably she is not well enough to get one.
– That is so. Probably she is not well enough, and she may not be the 85 per cent, unwell that would entitle her to an invalid pension. So we have the position of a husband and wife being asked to live on one pension of £6 a week. That is the amount of the living allowance that members of Parliament get per day over and above their salaries, yet we ask two people to live on that sum for a whole week. I think that this ought to shock the conscience of people in the Parliament, and I hope that in the preparation of the Budget something will be done about the matters I have alluded to.
Then, of course, there are the people receiving unemployment benefit or sickness benefit. An adult man or woman gets £4 2s. 6d. a week and a couple gets £7 2s. 6d. and no provision of medical services. An age pensioner at least might qualify for the pensioner medical service, although there are more than 110,000 of them who do not get even that. I heard the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) this afternoon complaining - quite rightly in my opinion - that the funeral benefit for a war pensioner, as distinct from a service pensioner, is only £25. A sum of £25 to help bury a person. For a poor unfortunate age or invalid pensioner the benefit is not £25, but £10. Imagine what kind of a funeral could be had for £10 - drop them over the cliff or something like that. It could be a case of “ pick a box “ in the term used by a well known television personality.
I had a case only two years ago of a woman who had contributed to a funeral fund, as so many pensioners do. When her husband died she found that she had contributed enough to require that she pay only £1 10s. out of her own pocket towards the cost of the funeral. She had saved over a number of years to bury her husband properly. The Department of Social Services told her that as the funeral had cost her only £1 10s. out of her own pocket that was all the Department would give her. She did not get the £10 funeral benefit. I do not blame the Department; I blame the Government that maintains this shocking situation.
At least the Government is deserving of some credit for coming to the aid of the A class widows. Last year, or the year before, it extended the provision for such social service recipients. An A class widow is a woman under 50 years of age with children under 16 years of age going to school or perhaps with student children up to 18 years of age. The mother is given £6 a week and £2 mother’s allowance under the new provision introduced a year or two ago, and 15s. for each child, although this is dependent on a means test. Sometimes when I have been sitting in an aircraft I have thought of what would happen in my own home situation if something went wrong during the flight. At these times I have thought of other people too. A woman with four children who may be paying off a home gets £11 a week. That is a pretty harsh business, especially if the children happen to be 14 or 15 years of age and likely to eat just as much as their late father did. These are great difficulties. A government that is convinced that we live in a prosperous community ought to ask the people who enjoy this prosperity to share a bit of it with these deserving people.
One of the pressing problems among these deserving people, particularly among aged widowed women, is the difficulty of finding a place in which to live. We still get many inquiries from such people seeking accommodation. Sometimes they once owned a home and the rates got beyond them, and sometimes they have never owned a home and are trying to obtain a Housing Commission flat. In my State of New South Wales - and I suppose this happens in other States - such flats are hard to come by. I believe that the waiting period in New South Wales is about four or five years. This is a difficult problem and I ask the Government to take a couple of lines of action. It should earmark money through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for housing for aged persons, and it should have another look at the Aged Persons Homes Act. Under this Act the Commonwealth grants a subsidy of £2 for each £1 put up by a charitable organisation or religious body for the building of homes for the aged.
I should like the Government to have a good look at this matter. I am afraid that most of the people who are getting accommodation in homes built by charitable and religious bodies are those able to pay £1,000 or £500 themselves. They give it to the charitable organisation concerned which expects to obtain twice as much back in Government subsidy. Most of the people who benefit have sold their own homes and in many cases given some of their money away to their children. They then give £1,000 to an organisation and obtain accommodation in one of these homes. These are the people who are benefiting, not the poor destitute man or woman who has never had a home, and has not one now. The people who are benefiting are not those who have been unable to save money for a home.
The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) put a question on notice to the previous Minister for Social Services, last November. He asked -
The Minister’s answer was -
No details of this nature are available.
I think that ought to add point to the request I make tonight. There is a great need in this country for a survey of poverty. There are many people in dire necessity who are not recognised for social services purposes, and there are a large number of inconsistencies, injustices and illegalities within the social services structure we have built up bit by bit in this country.
.- The two Appropriation Bills and the two Supply Bills being debated make provision regarding the financial resources of the country and the continuation of supply for the Government until after the Budget is passed in the new financial year. The debute on these Bills is sufficiently wide to enable honorable members to discuss matters of general interest to their electorates and to the Commonwealth. Honorable members avail themselves of the opportunity during this debate to discuss matters which may be under consideration for the coming Budget. It is under that heading that I propose to address myself to these Bills tonight. I wish to speak about the Post Office. I shall refer in particular to the Telephone Branch and in detail to the country telephone subscribers living far out from the metropolitan areas who, as I speak now, at this time of night, have no telephone services because the non-official telephone exchanges closed down at 8 o’clock and will not re-open until probably 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning. There are a great number of those people. 1 have a vast number of them in my electorate. They are good, hard working, toiling Australians. They are the people who are providing the very basic things that we require for our export trade. They are the people who are supplying items for export which enable our secondary industries to purchase so many of the things that they require. I make a strong plea for them now, as I have done for a great number of years. Greater consideration should be given to these telephone subscribers and to people who have no telephones at all in these country areas.
I suggest that this is one of the great methods by which this Commonwealth Government could provide some incentive for decentralisation. It could provide an incentive for people to stay in the country areas by enabling them to enjoy there some of the amenities for which they so often leave the country and go to the cities. Even if it were not a question of doing what is the reasonable and fair thing by these people in the far country districts, we would still be doing something for all the people of Australia from a decentralisation point of view if, at least, we could provide these country people with a better telephone service.
The Postmaster-General’s Department makes statements from time to time. A very common one that I have come across in lots of replies that I have had to representations is that the Government takes the view that the Post Office should pay its way. The Post Office is referred to in the Budget Papers as a business undertaking of the Commonwealth. Sir, I put it to you that there are a considerable number of departments and a considerable number of activities of the Commonwealth Government that are never expected to pay their way. I have just mentioned one - decentralisation. Any governmental activity to bring about decentralisation is not necessarily expected to pay its way.
When we provide Federal aid road grants for the construction of better roads, and when we provide monies for the maintenance of roads, it is not expected that those roads should pay their way in hard cash; but they do pay their way indirectly by the benefits that they confer on the people of the Commonwealth. So I think that, at the very start, the Government might take a different view of this old adage that the Post Office should pay its way. I make an appeal tonight to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the members of the Cabinet who will be discussing our financial problems, to forget this business of expecting the Post Office to pay its way and to concentrate on seeing that the Post Office is provided with funds that will enable it to provide the service that is required - a service that will be of use to the people of Australia and which will encourage country people to stay on and produce more and more, as they have been doing in the past.
The Government has said that, as a business undertaking, the Post Office must apply charges in keeping with the cost of providing its services. This is probably only an enlargement of the first suggestion that it should pay its way. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that, in computing charges which are in keeping with the cost of providing services, the Department should very carefully examine its costs. It should very carefully examine the question of whether those costs are too great or whether they could be reduced by more efficient methods. I do not doubt that the Department is trying to do this all the time; but is its objective being achieved? I ask that because, unlike other businesses, if the costs increase, the Post Office is in a position simply to increase its charges, whereas the costs of an ordinary business must be regulated by the charges it is able to make, otherwise it would be out of business very soon.
At about this time last year I made a similar plea. I pleaded for a better deal for country telephone subscribers, and I referred, as I shall tonight, to a question I asked on 5th July 1950- shortly after this Government came to office. On that date, I made representations to the then Postmaster-General and mentioned some of the problems that I had seen because, after all, for a number of years, I lived in a country area where I was served only by a party telephone line the service on which was restricted to between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
– ‘Has not anything been done about it?
– Yes. I am pleased to say there has been progress. But in 1950 I asked that consideration be given to the establishment of automatic exchanges in rural areas. The reply I got was -
Unfortunately, that promise was marred somewhat by the consideration that -
Due to the world-wide demand for rural automatic exchanges, the rate at which such facilities can be obtained and installed throughout Australia is limited to some extent-
Then these words, which sound very familiar -
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 am sorry to say that the installations have not been provided in as many cases as I would wish.
So we travel on from 1950 to 1958, when a very concise statement was made by the then Postmaster-General with regard to the progress that was intended to be provided for. He said -
The long term objective here, as elsewhere-
By “ elsewhere “ he was referring to other parts of the world - will be the provision of a fully automatic staff so that subscribers may dial their own calls to any part of the Nation but with telephonists still available for special types of calls. The service of the future may be faster and cost less to provide, it must permit of automatic charging and accounting, and incorporate the features necessary to ensure that, ultimately, this country can become more closely integrated with the world telephone network.
We applauded the ambition that this country should develop a telephone network within which one could, by dialling, call subscribers anywhere in the nation and, possibly, overseas. There are two instances in which the Government of the time said it was proceeding with the installation of automatic telephones and rural automatic exchanges. It said, too, that the plan would be achieved in several stages. This particular statement appeals to me -
Our short term objectives in their relative order of priority are -
More automatic telephone facilities in country districts so that rural centres can be given the benefits of a 24-hour service and become more closely knit in the national network.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Department gave the provision of more automatic telephone facilities in country districts first priority in its short term objectives. That was in 1958, yet today, in 1965, we find that very few rural automatic telephones have been provided over past years. In a period of 15 years since I first made representations, I think only 16 rural automatic telephone exchanges have been provided in my electorate.
– The honorable member has done very well; he should come to my electorate.
– I am glad if I have. Unfortunately, I know that throughout the Commonwealth there have not been anything like a sufficient number of rural automatic telephone exchanges provided to service the people to whom I have referred. The second objective mentioned by the Minister in 1 958 was -
Development of the long distance telephone system in such a way will ensure that the full advantage of automatic working can be applied progressively and uniformly to local and trunk line calls.
I am pleased to say that the objective received very great consideration in spite of the fact that it had only second priority. We have today a duplication, triplication and quadruplication of trunk lines between our western towns and the metropolitan area. Trunk lines, not only the main lines but the smaller ones too, have been increased to give a better service between the various country towns. But still the man living right out in the country is lacking a rural automatic telephone, which is the only answer to some of the problems that beset him.
What are those problems? In the first place there is a great tendency in planning not to look far enough ahead so that when at some stage an unofficial post office keeper and unofficial telephone exchange operator decides not to continue in that job there may be 15, 20 or 30 subscribers who have no telephone exchange operator and so no telephone exchange. They are cut off from the rest of the telephone network until some provision is made for them. And what is done? Many times I have found that the Postmaster-General’s Department then transfers those subscribers to another telephone exchange, probably five or six miles away - a most costly business and a humbug. I say that because very often in the transfer people who have had exclusive services for years are reduced to party lines.
In one area of my electorate where a dam has been constructed - a dam which was foreseen for many years - there are now telephone exchanges within the catchment area which are going to be under water. I do not want to criticise the late State Government concerned beyond saying that the dam was started so many years ago that people had almost forgotten when construction began and when the project was likely to be finished. But it is finished and now, at the last minute, a re-arrangement of the telephone lines has to be faced. The only reasons I can find for that state of affairs are that this was not foreseen far enough ahead - surely that would not have been difficult - or, more probably, finance was not available to purchase rural automatic telephone exchange equipment to fill the need. I do not know whether the figures are correct, but 1 am told that a rural automatic telephone exchange to suit this particular area may have cost £15,000. But the cost of maintaining the two manually operated exchanges will run into something like £2,000 a year. So, in a very few years, the cost of a rural automatic exchange, which would provide a continuous service - and that is the point - would not have been very much greater. In fact, over a period of years it would not have been any more than the cost of maintaining manual exchanges.
I would like to read another passage from the same statement made in 1958 by the Postmaster-General. He said -
New works, both in metropolitan areas and country districts, are being directed towards the achievement of these objectives;
It was understood from that statement that there would be considerable improvement not only in country telephone services but in metropolitan services. But are the two properly in balance? Are the metropolitan services balanced with country services? What is the good of loading up the metropolitan areas with telephone connections if country people who deal with the metropolitan areas are unable to contact them? In that connection 1 would like to draw attention to a statement made on 12th May 1964 by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme). This statement was made only a few days after I spoke in this House of the great need to extend telephone services to the back country of the entire Commonwealth. The Minister said -
The largest collective installation of the new “ Crossbar “ automatic telephone exchange equipment ever undertaken in one area in Australia will be completed this week.
Eight “ Crossbar “ installations costing £2 million and catering for 12.000 telephone services have been installed in the Melbourne suburbs of Blackburn, Burwood, Clayton, Fawkner, Newport, Beaumaris, Sunshine and North Melbourne. 1 do not mind the people of those suburbs getting this new telephone service. Good luck to them. But this £2 million worth of the latest crossbar equipment was being installed on the basis that the new exchanges would supplement or replace existing exchanges in the eight areas and would soon become part of the Melbourne telephone network. Yet people in the country are told that they cannot be given an automatic telephone exchange if they already have a service. They are told that automatic exchanges can be provided only in areas where there is no telephone service. Therefore, most country people are very disappointed with this policy which is apparently being followed by the Department - the policy that nol until all people have a telephone service, if that time ever arrives, will the Department be able to go ahead and put automatic exchanges in for country people who already have a service.
I have so far mainly confined my remarks to the country areas. But I want to point out that there is also a problem in the larger country towns some of which have the very old magnetic type telephone. The subscriber winds the handle and no doubt often gets considerable satisfaction from working off steam while trying to raise the exchange. In some towns, this type has been replaced by the later central battery set. You lift the receiver and, theoretically, the switch girl answers. But if she is too busy - as she so often is in these country towns - you have to wait a long time before she does answer. Then, having got your connection you probably find that you have been given the wrong number and so you hang up and have to wait again before you can raise the telephonist and get the correct number. I am not blaming the telephonists. They do an excellent job. In many cases they are working with old equipment which ought to have been thrown out years ago. The telephonists are right on the ball but they lack the modern facilities that they should have and the country towns should have. I feel that this problem is one of great importance and should be dealt with as soon as possible by the Department. T want to refer to the Dubbo Post Office. Some years ago the residents of Dubbo asked that they be given an automatic exchange. For years the town had had an old battery type service. I remember the incident well because I was closely connected with it and made representations about the matter. I was told that Dubbo could immediately have a central battery type exchange but if the residents agreed to wait for about eight years they would probably get an automatic exchange. I put it to the Dubbo City Council and asked what it would prefer. The council’s reply was that it wanted the exchange improved straight away and would compromise with the central battery type. That exchange was installed on 4th August 1956 with an initial capacity of 2,200 listener’s lines and provision for further extension. Now the number of subscribers has reached 2,743. The exchange was designed for a maximum capacity of 3,000. In other words it is now within a couple of hundred of its maximum capacity. I remind the House that new subscribers are being added at the rate of about 200 a year. So in a very short time the maximum capacity of the exchange will be reached. What will happen then? At that stage, other equipment will have to be provided pending the installation of a permanent automatic exchange. I do not know what the other equipment will be and I do not know how the telephone service that will be called for in Dubbo can be provided in the interim period pending the installation of a permanent automatic exchange.
Again, I remind the House that the statement made by the Postmaster-General only last year intimated that the new exchanges would supplement or replace existing exchanges. Here is an existing exchange that has reached the limit of its capacity and should be replaced by an automatic exchange. But there seems to be no indication that this will be done. I am very disturbed about this and I should like to know why the exchange is not to be replaced by a permanent automatic one. I have in my files a record of a statement that, in the replacement of manual exchanges by automatic ones, preference is given to exchanges that are likely to have 1,500 subscribers by 1959. Here is an exchange with very nearly 3,000 subscribers already. Yet there seems little hope of the replacement of the old manual equipment, although the town concerned is one of the most important in the central west of New South Wales and has qualified 100 per cent, for a change to automatic working.
Telephone problems have given me great concern over the years, Sir. I receive many letters about them. I have here one written on behalf of a syndicate of 12 that has spent more than £4,000 in the last 10 years on a party line in the Narromine district that was established in 1905. This line is 60 miles long, 30 miles of this being necessary merely to connect the first party on the line with the government line, which extends only 7 miles south of Narromine. The writer of the letter asks what can be done to get a better telephone service. I understand, furthermore, that an exserviceman who has been living adjacent to the line has asked for connection to it, but his request has been refused on the ground that the addition of another subscriber to the present group of 12 would seriously overload the party line. I point out that 12 is double the number laid down by the Postmaster-General’s Department at present - an overloading of 100 per cent. Yet the Department refuses to allow an additional subscriber to join on the ground that, if he did, the line would be seriously overloaded. This sort of thing is happening all the time.
I receive letters from people who write expressing concern because they are now forced to go on to party lines shared by many other subscribers whereas, 40 years ago, they had their own exclusive services. Perhaps the keeper of the local telephone office has died or moved on and the office has gone out of use, forcing the local subscribers to join some other exchange. This sort of thing is a retrograde step indeed. People who have this experience write to tell me that they feel as if they are going back to the horse and buggy days, with respect to telephone services, because tor years they had had direct links with towns where they did their business. They are concerned because they now have to share party lines with four, five or more subscribers and because the telephone office closes at 7, 8 or 9 o’clock at night and from midday on Saturday until Monday morning. They are cut off from the town and their neighbours throughout the weekend. What does the Department do to alleviate the distress of such people? It states merely that its policy is to ensure that, where practicable, residents are never completely isolated in areas where restricted hours of telephone service apply, and that isolation is prevented by connecting a centrally situated telephone service to the trunk line at times when the local office is closed. Anybody living in the country knows what utter rubbish this is. I cite the case of a person living at the end of a line 60 miles long. Where is the central location on that line? Only one person can be connected to the trunk line. All the subscribers on such a line cannot be connected to it.
I again tonight make an earnest appeal for the improvement of telephone services in country areas. I hope that on this occasion it will fall on more fruitful soil than that on which it has fallen over the years. I trust that the Treasurer will look more kindly at the Postmaster-General’s Department, which has done a fine job in providing telephone services throughout Australia, but which, because of the restriction of finance, has not been able to provide the rural automatic telephone exchanges that are so badly needed in many parts of Australia. Some 1,400 have been provided in the last 14 years. It is absolutely ridiculous that this grand land, with all its promise for enterprise and progress in the future, is limited in this way by lack of finance. I believe that this lack is the principal cause of the present situation.
The other day, in a question to the Postmaster-General, I suggested that the earnings from a certain enterprise in which the Government proposed to engage be devoted to the provision of rural automatic telephone exchanges. The Minister replied that the real problem was not finance. 1 still do not know what the real problem is if it is not finance. I make (his appeal tonight in full recognition of the work that the Department has done, and especially of the work that the members of its staff in the district offices have done and are continuing to do. They are most co-operative in every application that we make to them. But they cannot achieve their objectives and bring to fruition their planning and their design efforts unless they are helped by those at the top. So it is to those at the very top of the tree that I appeal tonight for action to improve telephone services throughout the country areas of Australia so that they may be more in balance with the services in towns and cities. Surely country subscribers, too, are entitled to expect, by the mere lifting of the handpiece and the dialling of a number, to be able to speak to any other subscriber anywhere in this grand Commonwealth.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a few submissions to the Parliament in this debate on the Appropriation Bills and the Supply Bills that are before us. I want first to re-emphasise some of the remarks that have been directed at the Government by Opposition speakers. I have been urged particularly by many of my constituents on the northern coal fields of New South Wales to re-emphasise the urgent need for the Government sympathetically to consider removing the present grievous anomaly in the Social Services Act, which denies a pensioner medical service entitlement card to pensioners with an income, other than the pension, of £2 a week or more. You, Sir, with your learned knowledge, are doubtless aware that there are large numbers of retired mine workers in the Hunter electorate. These are mainly men who spent the greater part of their working lives in the bowels of the earth labouring in foul air and who, as a result, in many instances contracted chest complaints for which, after retiring at 60 on the miner’s pension, they have frequently to seek medical attention. But, because these unfortunate men have an income of a little more than £2 a week above the age pension, they are debarred from receiving a medical entitlement card.
Many of them tell me that they would be better off if they received the age pension instead of the miner’s pension, which is a little more than £2 over age entitlements, and had a medical card, because they have to meet heavy medical costs. This imposes a heavy burden on them, particularly in the winter months which, as we know, are now approaching. In these months, medical attention is needed more frequently by these unfortunate men. I reemphasise the need for the Government sympathetically to consider easing the means test so that such unfortunate people, who live not only in my electorate, but also in many other parts of Australia, may obtain medical entitlement cards, which they are denied by this anomaly in the Social Services Act, and be relieved of the heavy burden of the medical costs that they are called on to meet throughout the year, and especially in winter. 1 understand that only about 110,000 pensioners in Australia are deprived of a medical entitlement card because their income of £2 a week, or a little more above the pension, debars them. When one thinks of the cost of jet fighters and submarines and recalls that about £300 million is spent annually on weapons of war to kill people, it is surprising that we are not prepared to correct the anomalies and so give our aged people, some in the evening and twilight of their lives, comfort and security from fear of insolvency and indebtedness. It is my belief that these people have a great tradition in that they like to meet their own medical and other expenses. It causes them concern when they have to drift into debt with medical practitioners and others because they are unable to meet their accounts. This situation is brought about by the grievous anomaly which precludes them from obtaining a medical entitlement card.
Another serious anomaly already referred to tonight and about which I receive complaints from time to time in my electorate is the grievous one that debars an age pensioner from concessions in respect of television and radio licences. If a pensioner happens to have another member of the family - or any other person - living in the home and earning £8 10s. or more a week he is debarred from a concession fee for a television or radio licence. It is of no comfort to these people to know that they could send their daughter out to board or to live away from home and then become entitled’ to the concession. Most people of any decency are not prepared to do that. The type of person who resorts to this kind of device is certainly not a home loving type or the kind of citizen who has made this country as great as it is. Why should pensioners have to resort to these means to get a concession to which I believe they are justly entitled, in view of the heavy defence expenditure upon which the Government has embarked? Yet we find that the Government has no hesitation, when it cannot get troops for overseas service with the armed forces, about lifting the wages of a young soldier aged 16 or 17 years. It pays him an adult wage to induce him to join the Army and ultimately become gun fodder in Vietnam and in other parts of South East Asia, where this Government is prepared to send him at the request or behest of its powerful friend and ally, the United States of America, which, I regret to say, is from day to day falling into greater public unpopularity throughout the world.
There are several other matters that 1 want to bring to the notice of the House. There is one matter in particular that I raise at this time of the year when we know that the Government is moving to frame the Budget for 1965-66. I have repeatedly asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when preparing his Budgets in the last two or three years to give consideration to allowing a tax concession for the expense incurred in travelling to work. This is a fair and reasonable request. Some men have to travel long distances to work because of changed economic conditions. This situation exists particularly in my own electorate on the northern coal fields where, because of the closure of numerous coal mines, former employees of the mines are required to travel 60, 70 or 80 miles a day to some alternative place of employment. Former mine employees whose wives and children are domiciled in the coal mining areas of Cessnock, Paxton, Bellbird, Kurri Kurri, Western Abermain and Neath carry a very heavy burden in this respect. Apart from suffering a decline in their wages after leaving the coal mining industry to go to other employment, they find that they have to pay £2 or £3 a week to travel to work.
Members of the medical profession, academics and persons on very high incomes are able to write off a considerable sum each year for depreciation on the motor vehicles which they use in their business. Doctors can do this in respect of vehicles which they use to visit their patients in different parts of the area in which they practise. However, the unfortunate former coal miner who must use his vehicle to travel as far as 70 miles a day to a distant industry because of the coal mine closing down receives no tax concession or allowance on his vehicle. The submission that I now make to this National Parliament on behalf of these men is a reasonable, fair and just request and the Government should give serious consideration to it. The Treasurer has said on several occasions when I have raised the matter with him at question time, and he has also informed me in correspondence, that he would give serious consideration to this request; but apparently my submission has been scrapped when the Treasurer and his advisers have drafted the Budget. I hope that on this occasion sincere and sympathetic consideration will be given to my suggestion for a tax deduction of at least £50 a year for a person with an income of from £1,500 to £1,800 to enable him to recover part of the expense which he incurs in travelling to work. I know that I would be supported in this request by all honorable members on this side of the chamber, particularly my friend and colleague, the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin).
Another matter that I want to bring to the notice of the Parliament is the very worthy Association of Apex Clubs. These clubs are doing a magnificent job in Australia for unfortunates. It is a public spirited organisation. I received a letter from the
Apex Club of Cessnock only today requesting me to bring a matter to the notice of the Parliament, particularly to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) who has not been doing a bad job since he was appointed to his high post. I hope that the Minister will give sympathetic consideration to this request. The Cessnock district Apex clubs are joining with other Apex clubs throughout Australia in the realisation that there is a shortage at the moment of skilled and semi-skilled workers in Australia. Although that statement was made by the Apex club, I noticed in today’s Newcastle “ Morning Herald “ that Sir Ian McLennan, a very distinguished Australian and Managing Director of the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. steelworks, said in an address delivered in Newcastle within the last few days that there is no significant shortage of tradesmen and semi-skilled workers in Australia at the present time. I think that statement is worthy of more credence than a statement made in the Parliament by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) within the last week or so that there was a grievous shortage.
– He always says that.
– The Minister frequently says, as the honorable member for Kingsford Smith reminds me, that there is a shortage of skilled workers in Australia. But I come back now to the request made by the Apex Club of Cessnock in respect of a number of Commonwealth cottages at Cessnock. At the moment three or four of the cottages are lying vacant. The Department of the Interior has a policy under which the cottages are auctioned when they become vacant. But, because of the economic conditions in Cessnock, there are not many prospective buyers for the cottages.
As you probably know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Association of Apex Clubs is sponsoring a campaign known as “Operation Handclasp “. The operation is designed to bring skilled and semi-skilled Britons to Australia. I do not want to cast any aspersions on other migrants to Australia; but I believe that migrants from Great Britain, the country from which we derived our traditions, are very welcome here. They are as welcome here as is any migrant in any part of the world. However, the Association of Apex Clubs is not being encouraged by the Government’s policy in relation to these unoccupied cottages in Cessnock, which are owned and controlled by the Commonwealth per medium of the Department of the Interior. They are lying vacant when the Apex Club of Cessnock is asking that consideration be given to allowing Britons who are sponsored as migrants to occupy them. I believe that that request is very reasonable and fair. I also believe that when I approach the Minister for the Interior in connection with this matter he will readily agree to a slight alteration of the Government’s policy on the Commonwealth cottages in Cessnock, to enable them to be rented to British migrant families who come to Australia under “ Operation Handclasp “.
I hope that the matters that I have raised tonight will receive consideration. I promised the Government Whip that I would not take the full half an hour to which 1 am entitled in this debate. However, if honorable members opposite are going to interject, as they are doing now, I might easily take the attitude that I previously intended to adopt. If I speak for a little longer than I promised you I would speak, Mr. Government Whip, you can blame the ignorance and interjections of your colleagues.
– Order! The honorable member will address his remarks to the Chair.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker. 1 want to refer now to a very dangerous subject which most members of Parliament dodge; namely, State aid. I have been in the company of various members of Parliament on many occasions and whenever anyone happens to raise the question of State aid they say to him: “How is your mother getting on? “ They dodge this burning question. The bringing down of governments or the rise of governments is attributed by some people to the Government’s attitude to State aid.
Prior to the 1961 general election, when this so-called great Prime Minister of Australia, the right honorable Sir Robert Menzies, holder of the thistle, was sitting on a majority of one in this Parliament, was hungry for power and wanted to go out of politics as Sir Donald Bradman went out of cricket - that is, undefeated” - I asked him to indicate to the Parliament and the people of Australia his attitude and that of his Government to the granting of financial aid to private schools. We know that the right honorable gentleman is very astute at answering questions. He stood up and said words to this effect: “ The honorable member for Hunter well knows that this matter is outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government”. Yet only six months or thereabouts after that he had capitulated. In a policy speech to the nation he said that he would grant financial aid to private schools, for the first time in Federal parliamentary history, to enable them to build science laboratories.
It has been said that the Labour Party is not opposed to aid for private schools but is opposed to direct aid; that is, to aiding private schools to improve their buildings or to buy property. Of course, we know that the children of wealthy parents attend colleges such as the King’s School at Parramatta, Shore, the Sydney Grammar School, St. Joseph’s College and St. Ignatius’ College. The children of graziers, bankers and company directors attend those schools, which are receiving direct aid from the Commonwealth as a result of the Menzies Government’s policy.
Today I received a letter. I venture to say that copies of the letter have been sent to all honorable members. I am probably the one who is foolish enough or courageous enough to bring some of its contents before the National Parliament. I believe that it is the duty of members of the National Parliament to present in it the opinions expressed by respectable and influential people in the community. That is the principle that we all hold dear, namely democracy. In a democracy any section of the community can have its opinions presented in the Parliament. This letter comes from a Mrs. Joyce Duncan and a Mrs. D. M. Dresser, of 38a Fairfax Road, Bellevue Hill. It is dated 18th May 1965. It is too lengthy for me to cover fully. It says, inter alia -
We reiterate a recent warning given by Sir Marcus Oliphant, that unless we speedily produce all our own technologists and scientists, we run the risk of becoming the Spain of the southern hemisphere. We claim justification for complaint at the reintroduction of an outmoded policy that is more and more falling into disfavour with even authorities involved in a segregated education system. It is a policy particularly undesirable in a young democracy with an unrivalled potential to greatness.
The letter enclosed a document setting out local and world opinions on government aid to private schools. Under the heading “British Government New Deal in Education “. The document states -
The new Government policy included setting up an educational trust to advise on the best way of integrating private schools into the State system. It claimed an imperative need for a revolutionin the education system. There is now being considered proposals to limit all classes in schools to no more than 30 pupils.
The document also states -
Rev. Father J. Joyce, Editor of the “ Oklahoma Courier “, official newspaper of the R.C. diocese of Oklahoma City-Tulsa, in an article said: “ Catholic schools do not train men and women to be leaders in our society. I think John F. Kennedy would not have become President of the U.S.A. had he received his formal education in Catholic schools, precisely because Catholic schools are what they are. They tend to separate, to divorce men and women from our society. Education cannot be genuine, it seems to me, unless it is received in and by the community to which we belong. We cannot grow to maturity if we do not come to grips with the world in which we live. Only to the degree in which we are actually involved in the plurastic society that is 20th Century America can we possibly say that we are at grips with reality.
The document continues -
To prepare for a life that does not exist makes very little sense. Yet this is precisely what we try to do in our schools. I fail to see what we expect to accomplish by separating our children from the reality of the communities in which we live. I do not see how we can expect them to grow up into alert contributing Christians in a world from which we have divorced them. The facts are abundantly clear to me; they are not alert contributing Christians, and the ghetto seems to me to be the principal reason.
This statement was made by Reverend Father J. Joyce on the burning political question of State aid for private schools. The document continues -
Rev. Father J. P. Kelly, former Director of Education in the R.C. Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, in an article “ Why Catholic Schools? “ claims the church to be misguided in maintaining separatist education. He claims the existence of such schools perpetuates a mentality of spiritual selfishness. He said: “There can be little doubt that social conditions in Australia are just a little different from the context in which Catholic schools develop. Conditions having changed we might now be on the defensive against something that has ceased to exist. The State schools of today are not aggressively secular.” He said many non-Catholic teachers were employed in Catholic schools and that nuns go in to take the religion period. Nuns could do the same thing at a State school and save the parents of the children considerable expense.
I think this document is worth considering by honorable members from both sides of the Parliament. I think the writers, Mrs. Joyce Duncan and Mrs. Dorothea Dresser, will have some delight in knowing that democracy does exist and that an honorable member is prepared to stand in the National Parliament and advocate the cause they are pushing in the community and which they have asked be ventilated in Canberra. I hope that the matters I have raised will be considered by the Government when the Budget is drafted and the next shelling out of taxpayers’ money takes place. Tonight the Prime Minister introduced another Bill to continue aid to State schools.
– Is the honorable member going to vote against the Bill?
– I find it difficult to vote against my conscience, but the honorable member does not. The very profession that he follows indicates that he is a professional con man and a magsman.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark Mr. Speaker. I hope the Government will consider the statements I have made tonight.
.- Before speaking about the Bills before the House at the moment I want to say something about the legislative programme that has been presented. On a number of occasions we have seen similar events taking place whereby in almost the dying hours of a session legislation has been presented to be rushed through at a rapid pace. This is bad, first of all for democratic government itself and. secondly, because it is unfair to all honorable members. On this particular occasion we have seen the worst exhibition ever in the presentation of legislation. Last Thursday the Supply Bill was presented, the debate was adjourned to the next day of sitting, and then the Bill was brought back into the House and the main speaker for the Opposition was asked to make a leading speech on it on the very day it was presented. I think this is bad.
On many occasions reasons have been given for having legislation presented in this way, but I am afraid it is happening too frequently for there to be justifiable reasons for it. This parliamentary session commenced on the 16th March and it was a known factor that a Supply Bill would be presented this session. I cannot for one moment conceive that it would not have been possible to have introduced it a lot earlier than last Thursday. If members look at the notice paper they will see many bills which should be given far more consideration by Government members and by Opposition members than is possible in the time left in this particular session. To my mind no thought or consideration is given to country members. In the last few days we have been told that we will be sitting one day and then that we will be sitting on another day. Honorable members accept certain engagements in their electorates. I understand and realise - as I think every honorable member does - that we are elected primarily to attend this House, but we have obligations in our electorates too. 1 fully realise that when Parliament is not sitting honorable members are back in their electorates attending various functions and to their duties, but I feel that the arrangements about which we have been told literally in the last few hours should have revealed more thought for honorable members who believe that we still live in a democratic country.
As I said earlier, 1 am afraid that this sort of thing is happening too frequently to be accepted by honorable members if they believe they are here to represent an electorate and to consider legislation fully. I would remind the Executive that the very institution to which we have the honour to belong is one which has been established to give due and earnest consideration to the legislation it is asked to pass.
I want now to deal briefly with the document “ A Call to Vigil “. My colleague the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) earlier today brought into true perspective the thoughts that have been expressed in this call. I fully appreciate that people are entitled to their own thoughts and opinions and that all men must judge circumstances as their consciences guide them. All I would say about this matter is to remind those concerned that there were many people who called Winston Churchill a warmonger when he warned the British nation, the Commonwealth and the world of the dangers of Hitler. I would remind those who are connected with this “ Call to Vigil “ that many young men died because people would not listen to Winston Churchill and many young men died, perhaps needlessly, because certain action was not taken earlier. As my colleague said, we all would support the offer of immediate increased support in money, personnel and equipment for programmes of economic development and welfare in South East Asia. This policy has been supported by President Johnson and the American nation. But I would say that what is implied in some of these things, to my mind, shows no real thought. What is implied in these things is that because it has committed these men to serve in the Vietnamese theatre, the Government has no concern for the sacrifices that the men are being asked to make. This is a completely wrong and false idea. I am sure that no man On either side of this Parliament would willingly send men to war, but surely there are circumstances in which we much appreciate, in the reality of the international scene, that we must make sacrifices. These sacrifices are better made as far from our shores as is possible. 1 have been pleased lately to hear the pronouncements of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) regarding what is to happen in Papua and New Guinea. I am gratified to know that steps are being taken to establish a university in the Territory. My only regret is that these steps have been so long delayed. With the Indonesians in West Irian, as they call it, it is an important and urgent matter for us to assist in every way possible the people of Papua and New Guinea in gaining their independence.
I wish to refer briefly to matters concerning the Postmaster-General’s Department. My friend and colleague the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) covered this matter very well in the speech he made earlier today. I congratulate all those people in the Australian Broadcasting Commission who are concerned with the provision of broadcasting and television services. The job they are doing in broadcasting and television is deserving of congratulations. Their work covers many spheres and serves many tastes. They are making a contribution to the national life of this country. The commercial radio and television stations also, in their spheres, are contributing to the growth of this nation.
One particular matter I would like to bring to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) relates to country telephone services and has been raised on many occasions in the House by the hon- orable member for Lawson and other honorable members. Special consideration in connection with telephone facilities should be given to seaside resorts. At holiday times the populations of many seaside resorts are increased 300 per cent, or 400 per cent. I realise that there are difficulties and problems associated with extending telephone services in these areas but I think special consideration should be given to them so that at holiday times better telephone services are available. We should realise that when people on holiday gather there is a greater possibility of accident and therefore a greater need for telephone services.
I acknowledge the service that is being rendered to the community by postmasters and postmistresses in country areas. I know also the work that is being done by divisional engineers, telephone managers, postal managers and their staffs. We in the country areas see the work these people are doing and acknowledge it but I and my colleagues, including the honorable member for Lawson, would stress that there is a need for further finance to be made available to the Postmaster-General’s Department in order to provide a better service for country people, perhaps by the installation of more rural automatic exchanges. This calls for long term planning. One of the difficulties associated with the extension of services is not only lack of finance but lack of finance at a given time. It would be far better if we could in some way provide the Postmaster-General’s Department with funds for three, four or even five years ahead so that it could plan for that length of time. That is why, as the House may recall, some time ago I said that I thought it would be a good idea to separate the Postmaster-General’s Department from the Public Service Board. By doing this we could enable the Department to go into the field of loan raising for its own public works and business undertakings. I realise that there are difficulties and complications associated with that suggestion, but I think that if adopted it would be an advantage and would enable further long term planning on the part of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
The main matter I want to speak about this evening concerns the economy of our country and the position of the primary producer. Recently I read in a magazine dealing with the economy these words -
The international economic conjuncture is more worrying now than at any time since the end of the war.
I think the economics of nations are giving cause for concern. We in Australia live in a primary producing country. I have on other occasions said in this House that as a primary producing country we, along with other primary producing countries, must be given fuller and deeper consideration by the major manufacturing countries. Many countries face a balance of payments problem. This problem has been accentuated in recent years. We have the possibility of the European Common Market developing a stage further and the possibility that, later, the United Kingdom may enter. Other areas are getting together to establish trade agreements. We have had what has been called the Kennedy Round. Recently my leader, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), said -
At the present time, however, most of the trading countries of the world are engaged in the Kennedy Round of G.A.T.T. trade negotiations in Geneva. In these negotiations the G.A.T.T. Cereals Group has been entrusted with the task of drawing up new world-wide arrangements which would regulate international trade in all major cereals and which, it is expected, would make redundant an international wheat agreement of the present type.
We are witnessing a change in thoughts in this primary producing area and a change in thoughts in international trade agreements. I think we can say that no striking world figure has dominated the scene as did the late President Kennedy. One of the tragedies of his assassination has been the removing from the world trade scene of this dominant figure because there is no doubt that he came with a breath of fresh air into the international field. Of course, we have had the United Nations Economic Committee. All of these moves and conferences are stimulated with the idea of new trade agreements and arrangements between countries. Australia has a most important role to play as one of the major trading nations. We are with the newly developed and newly developing countries. We have a sympathy with them. We are respected and trusted by them. Because of this, the primary producer in Australia is a very important figure.
I must say that I am a little tired of hear ing so many people say constantly that primary producers are inefficient. To my mind, they do not have a full appreciation of the position. I suppose if we are honest we must admit that some primary producers are inefficient, but let us realise that basically the primary producer faces problems and difficulties that are not faced in other industries. Better living conditions are being provided for people engaged in secondary industries. We do not object to this. But I think the irony of it is that the provision of better living conditions for those engaged in secondary industries contributes to the rising costs of primary producers, who at this time are fighting to maintain overseas exports. Do not let us ever forget that the exports of the primary producers provide the economic stability of this country and sustain our secondary industries.
None of my colleagues objects to tariff protection. We realise that secondary industries, particularly in their initial development, need tariff protection against imports that may come from overseas. But I think we must be. very careful that we do not protect inefficient secondary industries. Let me remind honorable members, when they talk about inefficiency in primary industries, that not all secondary industries are efficient and there have been times when inefficiency in secondary industries has been subsidised by tariff protection. We are not against tariff protection, but those who criticise the subsidies that are given to primary producers should not forget that tariff protection is a form of subsidy to secondary industries.
I would like to read an editorial about the drought that appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. It mentions some of the difficulties that confront the man on the land. It says -
The mid-North Coast districts have been without appreciable rain for eight months, milk production has been drastically cut and herds of both dairy and beef cattle have been depleted. Thousands of sheep and cattle have been moved to agistment, but with the continued absence of rain throughout the State suitable agistment is becoming scarce.
To the city-dweller, enjoying cloudless summer days and constant running water, “ drought “ is a distant thing until he finds his milk supply failing, meat and vegetable prices soaring and those precious oversea balances which support the nation’s economy sagging. But to the “ wealthy grazier” and the small dairy farmer alike it is a grim, remorseless battle, day after day, week after week, to save what they can. Good husbandry and scientific methods help, but not infrequently the farmer survives the unequal drought challenger saddled with heavy debts. The Government helps with fodder loans and rail freight rebates to facilitate the cartage of fodder to drought areas and the shifting out of stock. It could well consider extending this concession by lifting the roadtax on trucks engaged in similar “ mercy “ missions.
This will probably be done now, with the change of Government in New South Wales. This editorial gives a picture of some of the problems and difficulties created by the drought. 1 visited an area in my electorate up in the Macleay not very long ago. In the middle of this drought, a freak storm hit the area. It had 5£ inches of rain, which washed away some of the paddocks and took away some of the feed. These are some of the problems that are faced by the men on the land. It has been my privilege to represent this north coast area in the electorate of Lyne for some 13 years. I am proud to represent the people in this electorate. I have seen them, as I have seen people in the electorates of my colleagues, making their contribution to the economic stability of this country. People speak about trade agreements and say that we should not sustain inefficient primary industries with subsidies and the man on the land should help himself. The man on the land realises this. He realises that he needs all the help that he can get from research, from new developments and from new means of increasing production to meet rising costs. But at the same time we must realise the problems and the difficulties that he faces. Some of these problems are being created for htm by groups outside country areas.
As I said, the primary producers do not object to improved living standards for any people or any group of people. They realise that a prosperous domestic community in secondary industry will purchase their products. As T say, there is an appreciation of the need for co-operation between secondary and primary, industries. However, I get a little tired sometimes of hearing the constant cry about the inefficiency of the man on the land. After all, in many instances he is trying to combat conditions over which he has no control. Primary producers make their contribution to our economic stability. Their products earn overseas funds, and let us remember that these overseas funds are dwindling. We could, of course, say a great deal about this. Let us also remember that wc are trying to increase the population of Australia. If we increase our population, we will need to increase the food production of this country to provide for our own domestic consumption. It will be a great tragedy if we ever have to import any large volume of food to meet the demands of our population.
We need the man on the land. We need the primary production of this country lo feed our population and to build up our overseas balances by exporting our products. I fully realise and appreciate the assistance that the Commonwealth Government has given. But let us never forget that this assistance is being returned to the Commonwealth in overseas earnings and in increased production within this country. Given encouragement, the people on the land, including the people in the electorate of Lyne that I have the privilege to represent, will continue to make their contribution to the development and progress of Australia. I hope that honorable members and people in metropolitan areas will never forget the contribution that is being made to the development and progress of this land. I do not decry the development and progress that is being made in other areas, but we should always remember the contribution to the development and progress of Australia that has been made by the man on the land.
.- I cannot let this opportunity pass without enjoying the rather novel delight of expressing almost complete agreement with the remarks passed earlier tonight by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mir. Wentworth). During the week I circulated to honorable members a statement of the need, as I see it, to amend section 51 (xxvi.) of the Commonwealth Constitution. I do not propose to make a lengthy speech about it. I am making a concession, which in a way I regret, to allow the business of the House to proceed. I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for-Lyne (Mr. Lucock) about the way the Parliament has been handled. I hope honorable members opposite, before they return from the recess which will be too long and which will start too early, will have considered the position of the Aboriginal people of Australia and will use all the pressure that they can on the Government, on Cabinet Ministers and particularly on the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to convince them that they should hold the referendum. I could make many comments about the position of the Aboriginal people. Anyone who looks at their plight will see the need for action.
The honorable member for Mackellar referred to the need to remove discrimination from any Act of the Australian Parliament and from any clause of the Constitution. He also referred to the need perhaps to bring down some special law to make acts of discrimination illegal. These are matters for us all to consider.
This evening I had proposed to speak on other matters, such as the alienation of Australia’s mineral resources. Unfortunately, this must wait until some later occasion. However, there are other matters of great concern. Matters of moment such as education, defence and development, are being rushed through the Parliament and the Parliament is being treated as a rubber stamp by the Executive and the Government. These matters are being handled in such a way that 1 believe the Parliament is being held in contempt and the vital needs of Australia are being disregarded. However, on this occasion I propose to close with these few remarks, although I wanted to use my full half hour. Agreements have been made to expedite the business of the Parliament and I am prepared to observe those agreements, but I should like to place on record that I asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson), now at the table, to have incorporated in “ Hansard “ the circular letter which I sent to honorable members. Although I am in a spirit of co-operation this night, as indeed any Socialist must always be, the Minister has rejected my approaches in that matter. I think it is time that honorable members opposite, whether they are Minister or not - and I speak particularly to the Ministry - should remember that they are here as members of this Parliament, that the only estate they hold is membership of this Parliament, that the time will come for most of us when we will be ex-members of the Parliament. Ex-members of the Ministry will return to the more lowly estate of backbenchers, members of the Opposition, or even to public life outside. They should remember that no matter how high their estate at the moment, how exalted they may be and what resources may be at their disposal, of a public and personal nature, they are still the creatures of this Parliament. Parliament proposes and Parliament may dispose.
I hope that I see on the other side signs of revolt which will at least change to some degree the attitude of the Cabinet to members of this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Howson) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Orders of the Day Nos. 2, 3 and 4 for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the Appropriation (Special Expenditure) Bill (No. 2) 1964-65, Supply Bill (No. 1) 1965-66 and the Supply Bill (No. 2) 1965-66 being read together and a motion being moved that the Bills be now passed.
Consideration resumed from 13th May (vide page 1484), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Consideration resumed from 13th May (vide page 1485), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Consideration resumed from 13th May (vide page 1485), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt.
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
Bills (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) passed.
– Is leave granted?
– If this is a motion for the suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule, the Opposition opposes it.
– Leave is not granted.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question -
The attached schedule shows the quantity and value of petroleum products imported into Australia from each country, during the last three financial years.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
I have seen the statement by Mr. Austen on the question of extended export credit. Export credits in excess of five years are available for exports of capital goods, in many of the developed countries with which we compete on export markets and, generally speaking, it is true that long term export credit is becoming an increasingly important factor in this type of trade, particularly with the developing countries.
The question of adequate finance for Australia’s export trade is under continuous review and, in recent years there have been important developments in our export credit facilities. I refer here to: - the special term lending arrangements established in 1962, to provide the major trading banks with special resources for the making of loans for fixed, longer-term periods, generally from three to eight years for a range of developmental purposes and for the financing of export of capital goods on extended terms; - the amendment of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act in 1964 to allow the Corporation to guarantee loans for certain types of export transactions and, - the establishment in 1964 of the Australian Banks Export Refinance Corporation, by the major trading banks, with the support of the Reserve Bank.
Because of the vital need to export the Government is keen to ensure that Australian exporters should not be prejudiced in attempting to match the terms offered by overseas competitors.
The Export Development Council, which has been particularly active in the export finance field has recently completed a study of the problems exporters face in the field of long term export credit and I will discuss its report with my colleague, the Treasurer. However, we must not overlook the fact that we are ourselves net importers of capital and that we do not have the physical capacity to match the scale of operations of major industrial nations in the long term export credit field.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
Universities: Income from Fees. (Question No. 884.)
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has furnished the following reply -
The defence of the Northern Territory in present strategic circumstances is provided by the forces stationed there, the maintenance of base facilities and the mobility of our forces which could be moved quickly to reinforce the area in the event of an emergency. Mobility exercises conducted by the Services from time to time both practise and demonstrate their capability for rapid reinforcement of the area.
The composition of the Forces stationed in the Northern Territory and their total strength fluctuates considerably from time to time with periodic deployment, mobility and other exercises. At present the total strength of the forces in the Territory is of the order of 1,500. It is not desirable to disclose the strengths of individual components.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
In what circumstances do Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. and its subsidiaries require (a) Aborigines, (b) Torres Strait Islanders, (c) other Australians, (d) New Guineans and (e) other persons to produce permits or other travel documents for flights (i) between States, (ii) within any State, (iii) between Territories, (iv) within any Territory and (v) between any State and Territory?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
The airlines themselves have no permit or travel document requirements according to a passenger’s ethnic grouping and the origin and destination of his air travel. As a matter of facilitation the airlines check that State and Territory requirements on these subjects, where applicable, have been complied with by intending passengers; for example, an Entry Permit to Papua-New Guinea.
m asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.How many Government senators and members have been chosen by him to serve in the Ministry since the election of the Government on 10th December 1949?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1.50 (including Dame Enid Lyons, who was Vice-President of the Executive Council from December 1949 until March 1951).
The Senate -
Sir Walter Cooper.
J. G. Gorton.
N. H. D. Henty.
Sir Neil O’Sullivan.
S. D. Paltridge.
Sir John Spicer.
Sir William Spooner.
H. W. Wade.
House of Representatives -
C. F. Adermann.
J. D. Anthony.
H. L. Anthony.
C. E. Barnes.
Sir Garfield Barwick.
Sir Howard Beale.
L. H. E. Bury.
D. A. Cameron.
F. C. Chaney.
Sir John Cramer.
Sir Charles Davidson.
A. R. Downer.
Sir Arthur Fadden.
D. E. Fairbairn.
A. J. Forbes.
Sir Josiah Francis.
Sir Eric Harrison.
P. M. C. Hasluck.
H. E. Holt.
Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes.
A. S. Hulme.
Dame Enid Lyons.
Sir Phillip McBride.
Sir Earle Page.
H. S. Roberton.
Sir Percy Spender.
R. W. C. Swartz.
A. G. Townley.
Sir Thomas White.
It is not possible to provide accurate information about the deaths of members subsequent to their retirement from Parliament.
Commonwealth Secondary Scholarships.
– On 18th March the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor), asked me a question without notice concerning the number of Commonwealth Secondary Scholarships awarded in Victoria. As promised, I have since obtained the information requested by the honorable member and this is set out below -
At the end of 1964, 5,726 offers of scholarships tenable at secondary schools during 1965 were made to students in Victoria.
Of these 2,947 were offered to students in government secondary schools, 20 were offered to students in government technical schools,and 2,759 were offered to students in non-government schools.
The number offered was greater than the number actually available, which is 5,598, in order to make allowance for students who do not wish to take up the scholarship or who are not promoted at the end of the school year.
There were 717 offers of scholarships tenable attechnical schools made to students in Victoria. All of these offers were made to students at government schools.
The Government does not propose to change the method of awarding scholarships to that used in Victoria for Stale Junior Scholarships.
t.- On 4th May 1965, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) asked in a question without notice about the availability of housing finance and the position in the building industry in Victoria.
The information available to me is that the amount of lending for housing purposes by banks and major lending institutions is being maintained at approximately the same levels as last year.
As for conditions in the home building industry in Victoria, the facts are that in 1964 there were 32,080 dwellings commenced in Victoria, an all-time record and 18 per cent, more than in the preceding year. In the recent March quarter there was a further advance over 1964 levels - 8,161 dwellings were commenced, an increase of 11 per cent, over the March quarter of 1964. It is true that in Victoria, as in Australia as a whole, flats are coming to comprise a higher proportion of the total, but that presumably is in accordance with the wishes and needs of the community. At the end of March, the Commonwealth Employment Service had on its books 781 unfilled vacancies for skilled building and construction workers in Victoria, and only 135 persons registered for employment in those trades.
t. - On 31st March, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) asked me in a question without notice to provide information on the role of commercial bills financing in the economy, presumably having in mind the arrangements announced on 21st January 1965.
An account of the examination which the Reserve Bank made into the best conditions for the development of a sound and effective commercial bill market, and of the arrangements which have now been brought into operation, was given in the statement which I issued at that time. I have made arrangements for a copy of the statement to be made available to the honorable member. The following paragraphs are, therefore, supplementary to that statement.
The drawing, accepting and discounting of bills of exchange are commercial practices of very long standing in many countries. Bills of exchange provide a means of financing the movement of goods and the borrowing and lending of money usually for relatively short periods up to about six months.
In Australia, although bills of exchange are in common use in the financing of international trade, little use has been made of them up to the present for local financing and there has been, until quite recently, no organised market in them. A few companies had been experimenting with the provision of credit through this means, although so far this has been only to a limited extent. Some of those involved in the development of this business held the view that commercial bills could be of assistance in meeting the credit needs of a section of the community.
Under the arrangements now introduced, the Australian trading banks, which have occasionally used this form of providing domestic finance, are undertaking additional activities in this field designed to test and explore the real demand for this form of financing. The banks act as acceptors of bills and also, in many instances, as discounters of them. In addition, short-term money market dealers who have last resort loan arrangements with the central bank, and who are within its sphere of influence, may now hold and trade in commercial bills, although only in instances where these have been accepted or endorsed by a trading bank. The amount of bills held by dealers is limited to a small percentage of their total assets.
I would emphasise that in deciding upon this course of action, the authorities had in mind that if the use of commercial bills were to extend as a technique of financing and if a market in the bills were to develop they should be on sound financing lines and should not detract from the Reserve Bank’s ability to influence the flow of credit in the best interests of the economy.
The honorable member also asked that 1 provide information relating to merchant banks. The terms merchant bank and merchant banking have no precise definitions. Even in London where there is a group of organisations that so describe themselves, there are wide differences between the activities performed by individual enterprises.
In recent years financial institutions have been established in Australia which have been spoken of as merchant banks. The functions performed by one or more of these companies include acting as an issuing house to share and debenture flotations, the financing of various kinds of industrial and commercial transactions, particularly capital investment and underwriting operations. Most, if not all, of these operations have been carried out in Australia for many years by various other enterprises.
Those enterprises which are of a corporate kind operate under State companies legislation. None is licensed as a bank under the Commonwealth’s Banking Act 1959, nor has approval been given under that Act to any such enterprise to use in relation to its business the word “ bank “, “ banker “ or “ banking “ or any word of a like import.
s asked the Attorney-General upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Naturalisations. (Question No. 1002.)
n asked the Acting Minister for
Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650518_reps_25_hor46/>.