25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Ron. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 3.10 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has his attention been drawn to “ Vote No “ propaganda issued in connection with the proposed reserve prices scheme for wool in which it is stated, “ Communists love the wool plan “, and, “ This scheme has the endorsement of the Communist Party.”? If so, is it correct to say that the Government has either plundered Communist Party policy or is in agreement with it? If these are facts, and in view of the Government’s television propaganda during the last Federal election campaign depicting members of the Labour Party-
– Order! The honorable member is making his question far too Jong.
– I ask the Minister: If so, in view of the propaganda of the Government at the last election depicting members of the Labour Party as Communist sympathisers
– Order! Will the honorable member please direct his question?
– I will direct the question. I ask the Minister: In view of the fact that the Labour Party has-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Honorable members opposite are particularly keen on smearing the Labour Party all the time. The honorable member for Grayndler was coming to the point of his question. As he was merely making preliminary observations leading to the point I ask you, Sir, on this occasion to show some tolerance to him.
– Order! I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the honorable member had three opportunities to ask his question and he did not avail himself of them. However, in view of the request that the Leader of the Opposition has made, and provided that the honorable member for Grayndler asks his question immediately, he may proceed.
– I ask the Minister: Would it be correct to say that members of the Government are now Communist sympathisers by guilt or by association?
– I know very little of the Communist viewpoint on wool. I think Communists are pretty woolly-minded at any time. The wool reserve prices plan is a proposal on whose merits or demerits the wool growers will be voting, and I think they will vote quite intelligently.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Has any recent consideration been given by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the introduction of a system whereby no direct charge is made for local calls, the charge being included in the rental? The Minister will probably be aware that this system operates successfully in New Zealand and Hong Kong and is claimed to be more economical and efficient.
– We have not given any recent consideration to this matter but it has been considered over a fairly long period. There are substantial geographic differences between Australia and countries such as New Zealand. While this system may be acceptable in other countries, the vast distances involved in Australia make it impossible. If we were to seek to implement this system in Australia, it would involve a tremendous outlay of money on trunk routes, and particularly on switching equipment, to enable a person on one exchange or in one city to contact a person on another exchange or in another city. We believe that the only system suitable to Australia, having regard to our general requirement for development, is the system at present in use.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Will he consider the need for providing some form of legal protection for tenants or lessees of the Commonwealth in Canberra who may themselves sustain injury or cause injury to a third person while engaged on mowing lawns on street verges or nature strips on Commonwealth property outside their home allotments? Will the Minister recognise that, on the one hand, the Commonwealth, or, on the other, the tenant or lessee, may become subject to claims for compensation for injury resulting from this civic activity undertaken as a means of street beautification? Will the Minister consider this matter in the context of Question No. 215 which was answered on 12th August 1964?
– I will consider the matter, although I think it is probably one calling more for consideration by the Minister for the Interior. The only comment I make at this stage is that I enjoy mowing the lawns at the weekend. It is relaxing.
– I refer the Prime Minister to three questions that were answered last week by Ministers. First, the Minister for External Affairs was asked a question about the recent protest rally in Sydney. He was asked whether the rally had any connections with a pro-Communist campaign. The Minister answered that it had. In the second case, the Postmaster-General was asked why the protest was given coverage on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s network but no coverage was given to the reply of the Minister for External Affairs. The third case relates to the Prime Minister’s remarks in answer to a question about the Returned Servicemen’s League and patriotism. While agreeing that the Australian people are always patriotic, is it not necessary to institute a plan to educate the Australian people-
– Order! The honorable member should direct his question.
– Is it not reasonable-
Mr. SPEAKER__ Order!
– I am asking my question. Is it not reasonable for the Government to undertake to educate the Australian people so that they may recognise that a propaganda campaign is being conducted in Australia as well as in Vietnam?
– I am bound to tell the honorable member that the Government frequently takes the opportunity of stating where it stands on these matters and where, I am sure, the honorable member stands on these matters. As to whether there should be some departure from the present methods used in this connection, I would want to think about that. I think there is very little doubt as to where the people of Australia stand in relation to Communism and its friends overseas.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Has any finality been reached in negotiations between the Australian Meat Board and overseas shipping lines regarding freight charges to North America? Has the Meat Board sought the support of the Commonwealth Government in its opposition to the increased charges? Has the Meat Board suggested the use of Australian National Line refrigerated vessels in order to break the monopoly of the overseas shipowners?
– I think this is a matter that comes more within the jurisdiction of the Department of Trade and Industry.
– Do not get foxy.
– I am not a bit foxy on this matter. I am not aware of any finality being reached in this vital matter of freight charges. I will see whether I can obtain some information for the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. I refer to the Minister’s Press release of 3rd August last dealing with the third meeting, at Bulolo, of the Australian Forestry Council. The report stated, in part, that the Council was particularly concerned with encouragement of forestry on private land and discussed various inducements which governments might use to achieve greater plantings on private land. Will the House be given any further details of the inducements discussed? How far has consideration of the Council’s recommendations proceeded?
– As the honorable member will realise, this is a question of policy. Discussions are being undertaken with my colleague the Treasurer and when any statement can be made it will be made.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the report of the Victorian Statute Law Revision Committee, which was tabled in the Victorian Parliament yesterday and which calls for the tightening of controls over, false and misleading advertising. The report outlines a number of practices that at present operate against the public interest. The Minister may recall that I have raised this matter with him before. I ask: Will he co-operate with the Victorian Government and other State Governments by using his powers over radio and television to end these practices which mislead the buying public?
– I have no desire to set myself up as a censor of any matters, including advertising and programmes on television or radio. However, I can assure the honorable member that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is charged with the responsibility of setting standards for both these matters, is constantly reviewing what is happening. I am sure that the Board, if it is approached by the Victorian Government, will give that Government any assistance it possibly can.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. As the Department of Labour and National Service conducted a survey of the manpower needs of the printing industry in March of this year, when does the Minister expect its report? Will the industry be given an opportunity to consider the report before it is finally circulated? Was the survey related to the apprenticeship needs of this and other industries?
– For about six months my Department has conducted a fairly wide survey of the technical developments taking place in the printing industry and has, naturally, had to consider the manpower demands, in terms of both technical manpower and unskilled manpower, that were made by the industry. What we have done is to look at recent technical developments and the changes that are forecast for the next few years. We have tried to find out what the shortage of manpower is in the industry and what the shortages may be in the years to come. The survey has been completed and we hope to be able to consolidate it and put it into a single report in the course of the next few weeks. As soon as that is done, we intend to make it available to the parties concerned - that is, the trade unions that have participated in the survey and the employers. We will make it available also to technical training schools and trade schools that look after the interests of apprentices. In the last part of his question, the honorable gentleman referred to apprentices. The report must naturally deal in great detail with the problems of technical training - the training in skill of apprentices and training in the technical trades. I am hopeful that as soon as this report is completed we will be able to make one more contribution to solving the problems of technical training in Australia.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Supply. Is it the intention of the Government to establish a missile maintenance centre at St. Mary’s, near Sydney, and has it entered into, or does it intend to enter into, an agreement with the General Dynamics Corporation of the United States of America to assist with this maintenance? If this is so, are we to understand that in the opinion of the Government no Australian firm and no section of the establishment at Woomera are capable of undertaking this work?
– There are some difficulties about establishing a centre of this kind and having it staffed by Australian industry. In the first place it has been necessary for my Department to enter into an agreement with General Dynamics about it. lt will be understood that as the missile that is to be the first subject of repair and maintenance at this centre is a proprietary item of General Dynamics a good deal of information is inherent in it which is protected by the company itself. General Dynamics would have considerable objection to this technical information being available to people who may at some time become its competitors in Australia or, perhaps by cross-licensing arrangements, in the United States. For all of these reasons it has been found necessary on this occasion to have the missile repair centre staffed by Department of Supply technicians. These people, of course, need access to the factory of
General Dynamics to gain prior experience. This is something that General Dynamics would not be expected to make available to its competitors in Australia. The question of whether or not the Australian electronics industry can be brought into this kind of activity has certainly been exercising my mind in a positive way.’ I should like to see Australian industry participate, but the kind of activities to which the electronics industry in Australia is looking at the moment are manufacturing interests rather than servicing interests. In the case in point there is no practicable alternative to what the Department has arranged.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. Was the recent visit of Mr. Vines to Australia on official business of the International Wool Secretariat or for progaganda purposes? Was this very highly paid executive engaged to promote the sale of wool products? By using him to create the impression that the textile industry overseas is in favour of the wool reserve prices plan is the Australian Wool Board-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. In using the phrase “ by using him to create the impression “ the honorable member is certainly indulging in propaganda and is making comment and is surely out of order.
– I think the point taken by the Leader of the Opposition has some merit. I suggest that the honorable member for McMillan direct his question and leave it at that.
– I ask the Minister: Is this a direct rebuff to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the responsible body in the “ Yes “ campaign, itself now hopelessly divided on the question?
– The International Wool Secretariat is a body comprising more than the Australian Wool Board. It is representative of three countries and Mr. Vines is the General Manager of the Secretariat. At a recent meeting in South Africa it was agreed that Mr. Vines could accept the invitation to come to Australia. As to the rest of the honorable member’s comments, there is so much confusion and attempted confusion in the whole issue that the merits and demerits of the reserve prices plan have been lost in that confusion. I hope the wool growers can see and properly gauge the merits and demerits.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware of a statement made in recent times by, from memory, Mr. Cabot Lodge of the United States of America that - and I quote from memory-
– Order! The honorable member may make reference to a statement but he may not quote from it, even from memory.
– A statement, attributed to Mr. Cabot Lodge, suggests that even if the South Vietnamese Government requested the withdrawal of United States troops from South Vietnam he would not agree. Can the Minister say what the Australian Government’s attitude would be if the South Vietnamese Government made a similar request to Australia?
– The present position of the Australian Government is that the Government of South Vietnam has requested the Australian Government to assist it in the defence of its country against Communism. We have responded to that request.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that in Australia there is a continuing shortage of efficient shearers, to the detriment of our chief industry? Does the Minister know that telecasts featuring expert shearers demonstrating the skill of sheep shearing could do much to overcome this problem? Will the Postmaster-General make investigations with a view to such features being included in at least rural television broadcasts?
– The honorable member will know that television in Australia is under the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and also commercial interests. I think that his request should go to the people who are in control of the television stations. I am quite happy to submit his suggestion to the A.B.C. But I will leave it to him to look after the other television stations.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has been correctly reported in a Queensland newspaper this week which stated that he has given the green light to redistribution proposals concerning the Australian electorate to be carried out and implemented before the next Federal election? If so, what is the reason for the change in policy since the right honorable gentleman last reported on this matter to the Parliament?
- Sir, I have the great good fortune not to have read this report in the Queensland Press. If 1 had read it, I would have been able to add it to a long list of misreports of what I have said. What I said on this matter I said in this Parliament. It stands.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. I preface my question by stating that some questions asked on the war in Vietnam can give information, and comfort, to the enemy.. Can you have the Standing Orders amended so that all questions regarding the war in Vietnam will be placed on -the notice paper?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is: “ No “.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which has relation, I think, to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Is the Prime Minister aware of the rising and very tragic number of road accidents in Australia? Will be discuss this matter with the C.S.l.R.O. to see whether some investigation of the power, speed and design of motor cars can be made so ‘that this Organisation can make some statement in relation to the standards of these things in respect of safety to influence both the production of motor cars . and the purchase of them by consumers?
– This is a novel proposal. The honorable member, therefore, will be quite willing to understand that it is something to which I would have to give a little thought in order to see what its implications might be. I know that the mechanical aspects of this matter are important. But the human aspects are even more important. I fear that we will have a very heavy road toll so long as so many people drive either recklessly, under the influence of drink, or with gross disregard for the rights of others on the road. We see examples of this every day. The honorable member’s suggestion is a novel thought and I will take it into account.
TRADE WITH COMMUNIST CHINA. Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES. - I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the fact that he, I and many others have a very high regard for the principles and precepts set by the Government at Westminster, and also in view of the fact that the British Prime Minister has stated recently that should Rhodesia declare unilateral independence any British firms trading with that country in those circumstances would >be guilty, of treason, how are we to define the attitude of British firms such as Imperial Chemical Industries, Australian firms and the Australian Wheat Board trading with Red China when the Australian Government has stated that we are technically at war with that country?
– My honorable friend will be the first to realise that this matter, however important, is one of policy, and that I would not want to deal with it at question time.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the need of most newly inde- pendent countries to industrialise in order to strengthen their economies, and in view also of the legislation that many of them have, enacted to attract industry to their shores, will the Minister consider taking steps to encourage Australian firms to establish branches or subsidiaries in those countries as a means of strengthening Australia’s, trade position?
– This is a question that has already engaged the attention of the Government and of the Department of Trade and Industry in particular. One of the continuing activities of our trade representatives overseas is that of directing attention to opportunities in this field so that Australian industrialists can take advantage of them.
Earlier in this sessional period the Parliament passed legislation which extended the system under which the export payments insurance scheme is operated to cover investment insurance, so that Australians investing overseas in enterprises of the kind mentioned by the honorable member may have the advantage of government supported insurance in the same way as government supported insurance is available in respect of export payments. I think the passage of that legislation will give a good deal of encouragement in itself. In any case the results of it will be watched closely to see whether any further step is needed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. In view of the accidental death of four colliery employees at Bulli colliery, within my constituency, will the Minister ensure that the Joint Coal Board assists in every possible way the New South Wales Government, the trade unions and other interested parties in investigating the reasons for the tragedy and in taking appropriate remedial action? Will he ensure that the Joint Coal Board is represented at any inquiry under the Coal Mines Regulation Act of New South Wales and at any coronial inquiry?
– I am sure that this most unfortunate and very serious accident is receiving very close attention both by the Joint Coal Board and by my colleague the Minister for Mines in New South Wales, Mr. Lewis, who flew to the scene immediately after the accident, or as soon as he was able to do so, in order to be present and have discussions at the scene. I have not yet been able to discuss the matter with him. I know also that the Chief Engineer has gone to the area and is making a report. I will look at that report very closely as soon as it is received.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. It concerns the Commonwealth Secretariat. Can the right honorable gentleman say how the Secretariat is being financed? Is the United Kingdom Government meeting the entire cost or is the cost being shared by all the Commonwealth countries? Further, can the Prime
Minister say whether the Secretariat is now functioning?
– Taking the second part of the question first, I inform the honorable member that the Secretariat is functioning. The Secretary-General, Mr. Arnold Smith, has been appointed. Two deputy secretaries in various divisions have been agreed upon, or agreement is on the point of being reached. I have seen the names of these gentlemen. The original examination of this proposal on the official level indicated an expected annual budget for the Secretariat, the amount of which was divided up among the various Commonwealth countries in certain proportions that were agreed upon. So the honorable member may take it that each Commonwealth country is making its own contribution to the cost of the Secretariat in a reasonable proportion.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. Is it the intention of the Department of the Interior to build a hostel at Kingsford, which is in the electorate of Kingsford-Smith? If so, why is it necessary to build this hostel, for what purpose is it being built, and has any consideration been given to its effects on the residents of the surrounding areas, particularly in respect of resulting devaluation of their properties? Finally, has the Randwick Municipal Council agreed to this proposal?
– This question would be better directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service since his Department administers Commonwealth hostels.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will he let the House know whether the all-in conference on the waterfront has yet met and, if so, with what result? Can he inform the House whether the conference will consider port mechanisation?
– The all-in conference that was recommended by the Australian Council of Trade Unions has in fact already met. I believe that goodwill was shown by all parties at the conference - the A.C.T.U., the Waterside Workers Federation, the employers and my own Department’s representatives. This goodwill has opened the way for improvement on the waterfront in respect of the terms and conditions of employment of the men and also better throughput and greater efficiency.
– And mechanisation?
– I shall come to that in a moment if the Leader of the Opposition will be patient. This goodwill, if it continues to be shown in the course of the discussions, opens the way in Australia for a vast improvement in throughput and in mechanisation. If the situation on the waterfront is improved by a reduction in stoppages and increased mechanisation we can be certain that the shipping companies themselves will wish to introduce on the Australian waterfront the most modern methods of shipping goods in containers - ship containerisation, as it is called - and the most modern methods of loading. I am hopeful that the goodwill recently shown represents the opening of a new epoch in industrial relations On the waterfront.
As to the last part of the question asked by the honorable member for Mitchell, the terms of reference already laid down for the all-in conference cover matters such as permanent employment, a superannuation fund and a mechanisation fund, but not the specific problem of mechanisation itself or the question of port modernisation. However, prior to the calling of the conference we had given Mr. Woodward authority to conduct an inquiry into port mechanisation. That inquiry will continue simultaneously with the all-in conference, and we hope to get from Mr. Woodward a report indicating what can be done to improve the Australian waterfront situation by means of both improvements in mechanisation and port improvement.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I ask: Has his attention been directed to the statement by his colleague, the Attorney-General for Victoria, that the Victorian Government was not prepared to introduce legislation complementary to the Commonwealth Trade Practices Bill? What is the Minister’s reaction to his colleague’s statement that the Commonwealth legislation would Create a shadowy bureaucracy costing thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money to operate? Will the Minister see whether the Federal Council of the Liberal Party, which is meeting in Canberra this week, can help to devise a united Liberal policy to deal with practices concerning which seven years ago the Constitutional Review Committee said that national action was required and his own predecessor said nearly six years ago that he hoped to secure complementary Commonwealth and State laws?
– I saw references in the Press this morning to the fact that yesterday a bill was introduced into the Legislative Council of Victoria in relation to collusive tendering and, as I understand it, collusive bidding. My colleague, the Attorney-General for Victoria, had, prior to yesterday, indicated to me that it was his intention to introduce such legislation and that when it was introduced he would send rae a copy of the bill and also a copy of whatever second reading speech was made. I have not yet received them. When I receive them I will, of course, read them and be in a position to evaluate the bill.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As it ls of great advantage to wheat growers in arranging for their financial commitments to know the found cost of production, which is the guaranteed price of wheat for the coming harvest, and also to know the amount of the first payment on wheat deliveries, I ask: Will the Minister endeavour to make these announcements before he leaves for New Zealand as the leader of a parliamentary delegation?
– I cannot as yet state the conclusions reached by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics findings on this matter. The procedure is that when the Bureau makes its assessments on the various cost items, the Director of the Bureau then meets the Cost Index Committee, which is representative of the growers, and the representative of the Australian Agricultural Council. I will be meeting the Director this afternoon and I may have some further information by then, but I do not think we will be determining the figure today.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General a question supplementary to that proffered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Has the Attorney-General heard on the radio - I would be out of order if I asked whether he had read it in the Press - that the Attorney-General for Victoria, speaking outside the House, said that the Victorian Government will not co-‘ operate with the Commonwealth Government by passing complementary legislation in order to make effective the restrictive trade practices legislation, which is before the House and which the Prime Minister said will be passed in this sessional period? Is it necessary for all State Governments to pass complementary legislation in order that the legislation which we have been so long awaiting in this Parliament can be made effective?
– I have not heard on the radio what the Attorney-General for Victoria has said, but if I may take the matter of substance raised by the Leader of the Opposition, his question, rephrased, is this: Is it necessary to have State legislation in order to make the Commonwealth legislation effective? The answer which I give is: “No, it is not necessary”. If honorable members look at clause 8 of the Bill they will see that it was drawn in such a way as to enable State legislation to be declared complementary legislation, so that if States so chose and if the legislation were complementary there could be a coverage over the entire range of trade and commerce of Australia. But if the States choose not to pass complementary legislation - that is a matter for them - that will not detract from the effectiveness of the Commonwealth legislation to the extent that the Commonwealth possesses legislative power to deal with matters of interstate trade.
– I address my question to the Acting Minister for Defence. I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a recent statement by the Premier of New South Wales, the honorable R. W. Askin, that he considers the possibility of inviting United States servicemen to spend their week’s service leave in New South Wales, especially enjoying the delights of Sydney, as an alternative to Hong Kong worth explor ing with the Federal Government? Can the Minister say whether any consideration has been given to this very worthwhile proposal and, if so, with what result? If not, could it be considered?
– I received a request in relation to this matter but I had to point out to the Premier of New South Wales that the transport operation that would be necessary to carry out the proposal was a very substantial one and possibly could not be undertaken. Nevertheless, I said that I was prepared to make the proposal known to the American forces so that they could consider whether leave might be taken iri New South Wales or anywhere else in Australia.
– Can the Treasurer say what progress has been made towards the long-promised disbursement of surplus moneys in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, as disclosed by the last quinquennial investigation? Is there any prospect that this benefit will be made available before Christmas, especially to the many retired public servants who have been anxiously awaiting the money? If the matter has not been finalised, could an instalment of the total amount be paid?
– I shall be tabling the report of the Commonwealth Superannuation Board at the conclusion of question time. That report contains some information which has relevance to this matter. The prospect of the passage of legislation in relation to the disbursement of surplus moneys is a good one. I indicated earlier that legislation would be introduced during this sessional period empowering things to be done with respect to these surplus moneys. The calculations which I have spoken of in the House before are being carried out. However, if the process seems likely to be prolonged and if an indefinite time is likely to elapse before payment can be made, then, without waiting to see the outcome of the other possibility, we shall proceed with inquiries into the possibility of making an interim payment I expect to be able to say a little more on this matter when I make my second reading speech on the legislation which possibly will be introduced later this week.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Currency Act 1963, I present the following papers -
Currency Act - Decimal Currency BoardSecond Annual Report for year 1964-63, together with the Treasurer’s Report on Part V of the Act;
Supplementary Report for period 1st July to 30th September 1965.
The report is tabled in its present form so as to be available for honorable members to read prior to the resumption of the debate on the Currency Bill 1965. The delay in presenting the report to the House has been occasioned by the necessity of preparing a supplementary report, which covers the activities of the Board during the period from 1st July to 30th September 1965. Honorable members will appreciate that the report is right up to date. The supplementary report is attached to the annual report now presented.
– by leave - The Commonwealth has adopted a new policy to assist independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory to finance the construction of primary and secondary school buildings and associated facilities. For the last ten years the Australian Government has been helping this construction in the Australian Capital Territory by paying a subsidy up to the long term bond rate towards meeting the interest charges incurred by independent schools when they borrowed money for construction. This assistance was first paid for construction of facilities in secondary schools and, more recently, has been paid for both primary and secondary schools.
In future the Government will continue to meet interest charges on approved borrowings of capital, but will also repay the amounts of capital borrowed for approved projects. Capital repayments will be made by equal annual instalments over a period of twenty years. The same assist ance will be extended to schools in the Northern Territory, with the exception of mission schools which have special characteristics and for which special Commonwealth assistance exists already. The Government believes that this arrangement will assist independent schools in the two Territories both by removing the necessity for such schools to repay capital themselves and by enabling them to borrow at reasonable rates of interest.
The increased assistance will apply both to approved projects constructed or begun over the next ten years and also to a group of projects now under construction or on the point of starting. For schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory the new form of assistance will replace, for the future, assistance now available to provide science teaching laboratories and equipment. In each case where assistance is given, the Australian Government will need to be satisfied that the proposed facilities are needed and will require that details such as the standards of construction, the area of land around the school and the borrowing arrangements be approved by it. The increased assistance will not apply to projects already built under the previous scheme.
I present the following paper -
Independent Schools in Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory - Government Assistance - Ministerial Statement, 10th November 1965, and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960,I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work -
Provision of buildings and services to terminal complex, control and equipment building, D.C.A. maintenance area, fire station, etc., at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport.
I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with the report
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The work in the reference on which the Public Works Committee is now reporting to Parliament is the last of the three major stages of the development of Tullamarine as the principal airport for Melbourne. The first stage, on which work has been in progress for some time, included the construction of the primary runway and taxiway pavements. The second stage, which involves aircraft ‘aprons, some additional taxiways, instrument landing systems and engineering services to the airport, was reported on by the Committee on 25th August last. The final stage, which the Committee recommends should be constructed as quickly as possible, includes the erection of the international and domestic passenger terminal and loading concourses, which have been described as the largest and most important terminal complex to be constructed in Australia and one of the largest single building projects ever undertaken by the Commonwealth Department of Works.
The passenger terminal will be a reinforced concrete building with a central international block flanked on either side by terminal facilities for the two domestic operators. The building will be constructed on three levels and will be over 1,000 feet long and have a total floor area of about 550,000 square feet. At the outset there will be apron parking positions for 32 aircraft at the one time. The total cost of the work referred to the Committee in the present reference is £9.35 million. In its report on the aircraft ‘aprons, supplementary taxiways and engineering services the Committee drew the attention of Parliament to the fact that although the runways at Tullamarine will be finished in 1967 the other facilities needed to enable the airport to be used for airline operations will not be completed until some time later. The Committee therefore recommended that steps be taken to hasten the completion of the terminal and other functional buildings and facilities. The Committee again emphasises the need for the early commencement of airline operations at Tullamarine in order that Melbourne can enjoy the full range of international airline services and so that relief can be gained from the other operational disadvantages of Essendon.
In assessing the requirements of passengers, airline operators and others who will use the terminal facilities at Tullamarine the Committee came to the same conclusions as it reached after its recent investigation of the international terminal facilities proposed for Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. The first of these was that it was appropriate to construct the terminal facilities to the scale proposed but it was noted that if the use of terminals could be spread more evenly, the time in the future when extensions would be required to meet traffic growth, could be deferred. The second point was that there is a need for an inquiry into the possibility of planning commercial airline operations in Australia to reduce peak loading of airport facilities to ensure a more economic utilisation of installations and staff. Mr. Speaker, I move -
That the report be printed.
– Are honorable members permitted to discuss this matter at the present time?
– Order! The only question before the Chair is that the report be printed.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker, on the question that the honorable member for McMillan has raised. Would it not be possible for the honorable member to initiate a. discussion on this matter if he were to move an appropriate amendment to the motion for the printing of the report, for instance, “ that all words after ‘ that ‘ be omitted and that in lieu thereof the following words be substituted, the report be printed after…….. ‘”?
The honorable member could provide the words to describe what he wishes to be done.
– Order! The honorable member would be out of order. The only motion before the Chair is that the report be printed. The forms of the House offer the honorable member an opportunity to move a motion at a future date and initiate a discussion along the lines suggested.
– That is all very well-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in complimenting Melbourne
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11.45 a.m. tomorrow.
– I move -
That, in accordance With the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - Provision of buildings and services for international terminal complex and associated aircraft pavements, north-west building area, Sydney -(Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
The proposal involves the provision at an estimated cost of £8.95 million of buildings, an elevated roadway, engineering services, roads, drainage, sewerage, water and electricity supply to develop the new international terminal complex together with associated aircraft pavements. In reporting favorably on the proposal, the Committee has made several recommendations. In recommendation No. 3, the Committee has recommended that electricity supply should be taken from the Sydney County Council unless the supply from the alternative source is equally economic and the safety of the operating staff by reasonable means can be assured. In its report on the operations and control tower building proposal at Sydney Airport, the Committee recommended that electricity supply should be taken from the St. George County Council, providing the cost to the Commonwealth was no greater than for supply from the alternative source. Supply from the Sydney County Council provides the most economic arrangement for the Commonwealth in each case and it is proposed to take supply from that source in both cases.
In recommendations Nos. 4 and 9, the Committee has recommended that the wheelchair lift in the loading concourse should be located near the loading position closest to the terminal building and that provision be made for hot meals and refreshment services for employees. These recommendations will be implemented during further development of the building design. With regard to recommendation No. 5, two traffic lanes will be constructed initially in each carriageway of the proposed northern access road but provision will be made to enable a third lane to be added in both directions when warranted by traffic growth.
Recommendations Nos. 6, 7 and 10 deal with road connection between O’Riordan Street and the northern access road, car parking and the planning of airline operations to reduce peak loading and to produce a more economic utilisation of installations and staff. These matters have been referred to my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), for further consideration by his Department of the Committee’s recommendation. Recommendation No. 6 will be the subject of discussion between the Department of Works, the Department of Civil Aviation and the appropriate State authorities. On the concurrence of the House in this resolution the work can proceed.
.- While I do not in any way offer any opposition to the motion, I take this opportunity to express my very great concern at the apparent absence of any sense of priority in the matter of airport construction in Australia. It is easy for honorable members to be susceptible to the passions of provincialism and to believe that our home cities or home towns are the pre-eminent places in Australia. But I have viewed with growing concern the disposition of Ministers who have been in charge of the building of airport terminals to believe that their home cities are indeed the central parts of Australia. By way of illustration, last week I was in Launceston. I hasten to add that I was there on legitimate parliamentary business, taking part in a debate on Vietnam at the invitation of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). I was interested - indeed, dismayed - to see the beginnings of a substantial air terminal at Launceston. While there may be some justification for a new airport terminal at Launceston, I submit with great respect that one cannot compare Launceston with Brisbane. Launceston would cater for less than 10 per cent, of the number of people who pass through Brisbane airport. In the past we have cracked, as it were, at the States, saying that in carrying out their works programmes they have not displayed much sense of national priorities. We have said that some State works did not warrant the priority accorded to them. In my opinion, construction of airport terminals in Australia is out of proportion. I believe that some Ministers have exposed themselves to a charge of ministerial vanity. It is high time the Government looked at the volume of traffic passing through airport terminals and built terminals having regard to volume of traffic and, of course, prestige considerations. To allow construction of airport terminals to proceed in the present higgledy-piggledy fashion, I think, does not reflect much credit on those responsible.
.- I feel compelled to follow the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who represents a Brisbane constituency. I am most disturbed at the reluctance of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) to declare some measure of priority for the construction of airport terminals. In my infrequent trips around Australia I have been horrified at the state of some airport terminals. I confess a sense of guilt in not visiting other States more frequently, but I tie myself to my electorate. This is why I cannot travel much. But I have been amazed to see the marvellous terminal buildings in Australian cities other than Sydney and Brisbane. Launceston, as my revered and holy friend, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), reminds me, is being taken care of, but nothing is being done about Brisbane. In due course Sydney’s requirements will be met. But I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, being fair minded, will permit me to observe that Brisbane has been completely abandoned. A few years ago the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) occasionally visited Queensland. He used to say that Queensland was where his Government obtained its majority. But nothing is being done to provide airport facilities of an international or even national standard at Brisbane. This is a shocking state of affairs.
– Order! I should point out to honorable members that the motion deals with buildings and services for ari international terminal complex and relates only to Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. A passing reference to other airports is not unreasonable, but if the honorable member intends to embark on a full scale debate about conditions at Launceston or Brisbane, or even in South Australia, which is somewhat neglected in this regard, I think he will be out of order.
– I was making only passing reference. I would not deny any city improved airport terminal facilities, but I feel that this matter has not been handled fairly. I have said it before and I say it again: Queensland has been neglected. I am sorry to have to say that. I hope that the matter will be remedied in the near future. I follow my political enemy - he who has now awakened from his slumber - on this important issue. Something should be done in this matter and done quickly. As far as Brisbane is concerned, if improved facilities are provided immediately they still will be long overdue.
.- I was interested in the observations of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I do not wish to digress onto a discussion about the relative merits of Brisbane and Launceston, but on the point to which the honorable member has referred I direct the attention of the House to a paragraph in the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation for 1960-61. This statement is relevant to the development of international airports and national capital airports. In the preamble to the report, at page 7, there is a reference to the acquisition of a large area of land at Tullamarine to meet the future airport needs of Melbourne. That was the sole reference in 1960. At page 54, under “Airport development” and dealing with Melbourne specifically, there was no reference whatever to the need for development at Melbourne. However, under the heading “Sydney”, the report stated -
The main development of the Sydney airport during the year was the modification of the international terminal building to provide increased accommodation for handling passengers, better restaurant facilities and a cocktail lounge. Here, as in Brisbane, a new terminal building is planned for construction and the modifications now made should handle the traffic until 1965.
As the honorable member for Moreton said, only an infinitesimal amount of work has been done at Brisbane. The tragedy of the situation at Mascot is that we have here an international airport almost completely devoid of the domestic facilities that should go with it. The domestic facilities that exist at present, according to the evidence given by the domestic airlines, will be outmoded by June 1966 and each company will be required to spend a further £500,000. 1 bow to the interjection by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) that more money will be spent on the T.A.A. terminal than will be spent on the AnsettA.N.A. terminal. The situation is that in 1960 no indication was given of the need for work at Melbourne but the need for development in Sydney was mentioned. In another two or three weeks, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) will introduce a report recommending that the work at Tullamarine proceed.
– He did that today.
– Today he moved that the report be printed. In a few weeks he will recommend that the work be proceeded with. In 1960-61, there was actually no need for further development at Melbourne because an international terminal had just been completed there.
– There is no need for it today.
– That is a fair comment. In 1960, an international terminal was constructed in Melbourne.
– Order! There seems to be a private argument going on around the honorable member. He will direct his remarks to the Chair.
– In 1959-60, despite the introduction of Boeing aircraft and despite the knowledge of configurations, the Department of Civil Aviation went ahead with the completion of an international terminal for Melbourne. This can hardly be used except by Electras and a few Comets. But the Department persisted and £500.000 was spent on Melbourne. By 1968, Melbourne will have had two international and two domestic terminals, but none will have been provided in Sydney, Brisbane or Adelaide.
For some reason, the airport that is fourth in terms of traffic - that is, Perth - is now the No. 1 jet airport in Australia. It arrived in 1962. These questions have not been answered in the House and I wonder whether the Minister, the Government or the Department can explain how the policy on civil aviation has become so confused in the short period of five years. We had the No. 4 airport with a No. 1 priority in 1962. We have the No. 2 airport with provision for jet aircraft by 1968 and the No. 3 airport - Brisbane - with nothing in view after 5 years, unless this is wrapped up in the £8 million that is mentioned in information that has been supplied recently. The No. 1 airport, which is before the House today, is receiving a low priority and at best will be No. 3.
– Order! I must again direct the honorable member’s attention to the subject matter before the Chair. He is now entering on a general debate related to priorities. The subject matter is buildings and services at Kingsford-Smith airport, but he has now departed from it.
– I am attempting to show the shortcomings of the recommendation before the House. It provides for an international terminal only; no provision is made for domestic terminals. This will cause inconvenience to most international and interstate passengers coming to this No. 1 city and the No. 1 jet airport. Passengers moving between the terminals will need to travel H miles around the perimeter of the airport. I believe that is a serious shortcoming and I ask the Minister and the Government to look at this, not in five years’ time but tomorrow. Even if it were considered tomorrow, the most we could expect is that the domestic section in Sydney would be developed in about 1972 or 1974. This is 15 years after the introduction of pure jet aircraft. What is the Department doing when it takes all this time to consider these matters? The Government’s own international airline, Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., ordered jets in 1956, took delivery in 1959 and now is so conversant with the use of these international aircraft that it is operating 22 front line aircraft. The variation in policy-
– Order! The honorable member is now speaking about aircraft used by Qantas. I ask him to relate his remarks to the matter before the Chair or resume his seat.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was merely trying to compare the policy pursued by the Department with the policy pursued by Qantas. I would now like to deal with the rejection of the request made by St. George County Council that it be allowed to supply electricity. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) made an inaudible interjection, but I tell him that the clear cut question is this-
– The honorable member for St. George may have agreed with the interjection.
– I can see by-
– If the interjection was inaudible, the honorable member would not know what it was.
– Order! Interjections are out of order. The honorable member has come back to the subject matter, so do not shift him away from it.
– The arrangement for the supply of electricity for this area quite clearly and definitely transgresses the franchise given to the St. George County Council. The statement made today by the Minister that it is more economical to take electricty from the Sydney County Council is not true in substance. The opportunity has not been given to the St. George County Council to submit a clear cut final quote on this proposition. Although I agree that the Sydney County Council legally can supply electricity across the franchise line, the point is that morally the Department and the Sydney County Council will be infiltrating into the St. George franchise area. The Sydney County Council will gain the maximum amount of value in the supply of electricity, but on the other hand the St. George County Council will be required to supply at a nominal rate the lighting for the access road to the western sector of the airport. No reference is made to this by the Department. It is making a completely stubborn and obstinate approach to the submissions of the St George County Council. I subn.it to the Minister that he should ask the Department at least to make a civil approach to the matter and have some appreciation of the contribution made by the St. George County Council and the St. George district generally to the development of Mascot over decades by the alienation of parklands and other reserves in the area. The least the Department could have done was give sympathetic consideration to the submissions of the Council. The main inference to be drawn from the proposal put forward today is that over a period of years the Department of Civil Aviation has vacillated and changed its policy, whereby Tullamarine has gained a clear cut advantage in relation to airport development in other States, particularly at Sydney and Brisbane.
.- I support the motion moved by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). I compliment the Public Works Committee on this report, and on the numerous reports it has submitted after much investigation and hard work during the last year or so. There has been no more difficult work for that Committee to investigate than that related to our airports. I have not the figures before me, but I have the impression that the Public Works Committee has sat on more days, for longer hours and in more places in the last year or so than in any earlier period. Furthermore, I think that the House is indebted to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) for the succinct and stimulating summaries he always gives of the Committee’s reports when he tables them.
The Committee does as good a job by this Parliament, and by the country, as its charter permits. We should never forget that the Public Works Committee is empowered to report only on projects that are referred to it. It is not possible for the Committee to report on public works, alternates to public works or supplements to public works which are not referred to it. I strongly agree with many of the remarks that have been made by honorable members on both sides of the House. The Committee is not able to deal with such matters until the Government amends the Act governing its activities. I believe an amendment is long overdue.
The report we are now considering deals with two features of the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome at Mascot. First it deals with the provision of buildings and services for the international terminal complex. Secondly it deals with associated aircraft pavements. We have to accept the fact that all significant commercial aircraft in Australia are imported; accordingly the demands that aircraft make on our pavements and our runways are not determined in Australia at all. They are determined by the capacity of aerodromes in New York, in particular, and, to a slightly lesser extent, in the capitals of Western Europe. If it is possible for the capitals on either side .of the North Atlantic to accommodate an aircraft there will be an overwhelming demand for some aerodromes in Australia, particularly in Sydney, Darwin and Perth, to accommodate the same aircraft. Australians will not be satisfied until they can travel in aircraft of the same capacity, with the same convenience and of the same speed as those which serve other countries. We know that it would be impossible for our own overseas operator, Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., to compete as successfully and as triumphantly as it does if it were not for the fact that it is able to operate from Australia aircraft which can compete with the aircraft which can land in the great centres of tourist or commercial attraction.
If it transpires, as it may soon do, that the aerodromes in New York and on either side of the North Atlantic are not able to accommodate aircraft that requires longer, stronger or wider runways than those that are there at the moment, then-
– Order! I suggest that the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at the moment have no relationship to the matter under consideration.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Runways are quite germane to this matter. There is a reference to runways in the report, so the honorable member is perfectly right in referring to them.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I limit my remarks to the pavements? The quality of the associated pavements depends on the characteristics of the aircraft using this airport. On this point I wish to conclude that if it transpires that aerodromes on either side of the North Atlantic are not able to accommodate aircraft that are faster, heavier or have more demanding characteristics than the present aircraft, then we can asusme that there will be a limit to the runways and the pavements that we require in our own international airports.
I come now to the other section of the Committee’s report, namely, that dealing with the terminal facilities. The demands on our terminal facilities depend not only on the characteristics of the aircraft that we have to import, but also on the timetables that are imposed on aircraft using our airports. One of the most valuable features of the report with which we are dealing at the moment is that it points out that there would be far less congestion in our airport terminal buildings if aircraft arrivals and departures were staggered instead of bunched. In other words, we would not need to spend as much money on domestic or, as in this case, international aircraft terminals if aircraft departed or arrived at a greater variety of hours than they do at present. The decision here is not made by the Public Works Committee. The Public Works Committee can merely report to the Parliament on the feasibility or necessity of having certain terminal buildings to cope with international and domestic services that are laid down by another department. When in this case the Committee presumed to report on this question there was an adverse reaction from the Department of Civil Aviation. The Department thought that the Committee was transgressing and going beyond its terms of reference.
I believe that the Parliament in general, and this House in particular - since it has the prime responsibility for financial matters in the Parliament - must take into account these ancillary questions involving the cost and nature of our public works. If I may draw a comparison, the public works that the. States carry out are vetted by the Australian Loan Council every year. The public works that the Commonwealth carries out are vetted by Commonwealth agencies, if they are vetted at all. With civil aviation public works, however, all that the Public Works Committee can deal with is the adequacy of the buildings and public works proposed by the Department. If the Department of Civil Aviation decides to make proposals in respect of very congested airports where facilities are shared by international companies - as at Tullamarine, Mascot, Darwin or Perth - or where domestic facilities are shared - as at Adelaide or Canberra - we all know that the requirements of the terminal buildings will be far less expensive, and the congestion much less, if aircraft departures and arrivals can be staggered. Apparently this is not a matter upon which the Public Works Committee can report. All it can say is: “ The Department of Civil Aviation has made and the Government has endorsed the proposal that by such and such a year there will be this number of passengers arriving at or departing from such and such a terminal. They will be arriving and departing within this limited time”. The Public Works Committee then has to say whether the work referred to it is adequate or superfluous for the purpose laid down for it. Quite clearly, the relevant factor is: Could we get just as good a service at less expense by altering some of the other decisions?
– Quite right.
– Except that people want to travel when they want to travel.
– In this matter, the public is not given a choice, as the honorable member from McMillan knows. A passenger travelling between any capital cities, State or Territorial, has a choice of services at any time when there are any services at all. But between those times, there is no opportunity to travel. I do not believe that the public would not prefer to have an hourly service between Sydney and Melbourne and Melbourne and Sydney rather than have a two hourly service between them. I do not believe the public would not prefer to have a service between Brisbane and Sydney every two or three hours.
– In other words, the honorable member does not believe the analyses of the airlines?
– The airlines have analysed this matter to see when they can fill their aircraft
– 1 believe just as many people would be using the airports if the timetables were altered.
– There is no difference between the peak periods when members of the public travel on the railways and the peak periods when people use aircraft. Congestion occurs at railway stations at peak periods. Buses, ferries and other means of transport have the same problem.
– As the Minister for Shipping and Transport knows I very strongly agree with this point. I believe that we ought to be able to rationalise all forms of transport. I say that we could dovetail and co-ordinate the transport services which operate in our harbours, along our coastlines, and from overseas. Airport, rail and road services and other means of transport could be included in this scheme. However, if I bring this matter up I shall be ruled out of order because it is not relevant to the matter now before the House. I am confining my remarks very carefully, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the subject of this motion. I am supporting the Minister’s motion. It deals with pavements at Mascot, which depend on the characteristics of aircraft. I am dealing with the terminals at Mascot and this arises from the timetables in operation.
The Public Works Committee ought to be not only prepared but also encouraged to deal with the whole of the cost and the quality of public works in the transport field for which the Commonwealth is responsible, for which the Commonwealth itself spends money or for which the Commonwealth makes grants to the States. This is clear because civil aviation is wholly within the Commonwealth field, and every penny that is spent on public works in regard to civil aviation in this country is spent by the Commonwealth. Accordingly, I believe that the Public Works Committee ought to be permitted and encouraged to look into all these features. All that is now done is for the Minister concerned to refer to the Committee adequate proposals for it to report upon. The reports of the Committee are then confined necessarily to the subject matter of the Government’s reference to it Accordingly, at this time, all I can do is support the Minister’s motion that the report be carried into effect. I would like to compliment the Public Works Committee on the assiduous and almost audacious way in which it has dealt with these matters. It has done as good, as full and as prompt a job as it was possible for it to do within the terms of the Act and the ministerial reference.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), in proposing this motion dealing with a number of very minor recommendations by the Public Works Committee in respect of the reference relating to Mascot aerodrome, graciously told the House that the Government was going to accept some of the recommendations and give effect to them. However, he completely ignored the major recommendation which the Committee made. His failure even to comment on the remarks of the Chairman of the Committee when the Chairman submitted this report for printing provides, I believe, concrete evidence of the Government’s refusal to proceed with the domestic terminals at Mascot airport concurrently with the work on the international building. I think every New South Welshman on both sides of the House should be up on his feet indicating to the Government his displeasure at what is occurring.
In presenting the report of the Committee, the Chairman - the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) - said -
The new international terminal building is the first stage of a plan to rebuild completely all passenger terminal facilities at Sydney airport in the north-west area. I would remind the House that the Committee, in a report tabled last month on the site preparation of the north-west building area, drew attention to the urgent need for a new international terminal and stressed the need to expedite the erection of the new domestic terminals as well. Both of the present domestic terminals meet current requirements but neither will be adequate in three or four years’ time unless costly and uneconomic expansion programmes are undertaken. The Committee recommends that the international terminal proposed in the present reference be erected as quickly as possible but it would again like to emphasise that the need has been demonstrated for the new domestic terminals to be erected simultaneously.
Of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the motion before the House seeks the approval of the Parliament for the construction of a new international terminal at Mascot at the northwest site at a cost of £8,950,000. This is the fifth and last reference of work required at Mascot to bring the airport up to the proper international standard. Previous references included the extension of the north-south runway, the construction of an operations building and control tower, an improved instrument landing system, and the site preparation for the international building. In all, the expenditure of approximately £20 million is involved. The Public Works Committee has given months of study and consideration to the proposals. It has recommended that they all be proceeded with. In the Committee hearings, I have continued to criticise the proposals because, in my view, the 1,420 acres of land available at Mascot inhibits the development necessary to bring the airport up to the standard required to cater for air transport needs over the next 50 or 100 years.
The fact that the Department of Civil Aviation has had to select the mosquito infested swamp area of Cook’s River for its international and domestic terminal development is proof of the limitation of the developmental areas at Mascot airport. The new terminal is to be served by road transport simply because it would not be a practical proposition to provide rail transport to the air terminal on the site which has been selected. It is feasible to say that, a short period of time after the terminal commences to operate, the road systems serving the airport will become totally inadequate, particularly because the Commonwealth Government refuses to assist the New South Wales Government with finance to enable it to construct bridges over Cook’s River in the new road system.
I think the Committee ventilated the fear I have expressed in paragraphs 98, 99 and 100 of its report, where it referred to the connecting roads to the west after the Kyeemagh-Arncliffe access has been completed and a spur road and bridge have been built to connect with General Holmes Drive and Princes Highway. Of course no one, Mr. Deputy Speaker, has yet said definitely when the roads and bridge will be completed. In my view these works could take years, because amounts of millions of pounds are involved and the State Government has not enough money to do the work. Numerous other works which have been given higher priority need to be carried out in various parts of the State, and the airport ancillary works will not be completed for a long time unless the Commonwealth
Government comes good and provides some of the money that will be needed.
A strange state of affairs is revealed when we study the two major airport developmental works to be undertaken, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney. The project in Melbourne is a completely new one, about which I shall say something more shortly. Yet the Commonwealth Government is prepared to share with the State authorities the cost of road diversion and redevelopment work in connection with this airport project. On the other hand, in the case of the Sydney project, in connection with which a costly bridge must be built and new roads developed, the Government and the Department of Civil Aviation refuse to play ball, simply passing the buck to the State Government by claiming that the responsibility for connecting roads is that of the State.
I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the situation is simply ludicrous, lt is well known that great jealousy exists in certain quarters as between Melbourne and Sydney, especially among the hierarchy of large business organisations. This has been made clear, in my view, from the controversy that has taken place in connection with the proposals to develop Mascot and Tullamarine airports. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), the Press, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), the members of the Public Works Committee and many others have all had something to say about this rivalry at some time or another. Both the Ministers I have referred to have denied, in this House and outside it, that anything more is being done for Tullamarine than is being done for Mascot, and time and again they have cited the relative costs of the two projects. However, many of us will take convincing that what the Ministers have said is true.
The Minister for Civil Aviation saw fit to issue a statement to the effect that much more was being spent at Mascot than at Tullamarine and that Mascot would remain Australia’s premier airport, but the Minister knows full well that the dice are loaded against Mascot airport. Already the cash has been made available to complete the whole of the Tullamarine project by late 1969. whereas at Mascot only the international terminal is expect to be finished by 1969. There is an old saying, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if you repeat a lie often enough someone is sure to believe it, and as I see it, this is what is happening in respect of the development of Mascot and Tullamarine.
One thing is certain, Mr. Deputy Speaker; Tullamarine, with its 5,300 acres of land, will have a completely new international and domestic air terminal, which will be laid out and developed to a beautiful design. When it is finished no other airport in the southern hemisphere will be able to match it, because expense is not being studied in connection with Tullamarine and the sky is the limit. Essendon airport is beautifully laid out also, despite the fact that millions of pounds have been spent over the past 10 years on its appointments-
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Shortland that the subject matter before the House is the provision of buildings and services for the international terminal complex and associated aircraft pavements, north-west building aTea, Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport. I can appreciate the honorable member’s wishing to cite, as an argument in favour of further improvements at Kingsford-Smith Airport, developments that have taken place at other airports. However, I do not want him to use too much of his speech in developing comparisons with other airports such as Tullamarine.
– I will try to keep to the subject you have referred to, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I point out that the Minister for Civil Aviation himself raised this issue in statements that he made. He referred to the money to be spent at both airports. I am simply trying to point out that in connection with the Melbourne project, which the Public Works Committee has been studying concurrently with its examination of the Mascot proposal, the Commonwealth Government has agreed that the domestic terminals should be proceeded with at Commonwealth expense. The Minister has stated on more than one occasion that the work at Mascot is similar to that at Tullamarine, but he conveniently forgets that Essendon Airport will more or less go into the discard after Tullamarine comes into operation, although many millions of pounds have been spent on that airport, which is the best in Australia today. However, I will continue along the lines you have suggested, as far as it is possible to do so.
Mascot was conceived in the bed of the mosquito infested Cook’s River and adjacent sandfly swamps. The land had to be reclaimed and the river diverted, with the result that Mascot, alleged to be Australia’s premier airport, has only 1,420 acres on which to develop. Every witness examined by the Public Works Committee acknowledged the limitations inhibiting proper development of Mascot as an international airport. In my opinion it will be physically impossible ever to develop Mascot, in the north-west area, to the same extent as Tullamarine will be developed, because there is not enough land on which to do so. I direct the attention of the House to what the Chairman of the Public Works Committee had to say about the Mascot site when he presented the report of the Committee on 21st October 1965. He said-
The area at the airport on which the terminals are to be built is not an ideal building site. Originally, Cook’s River flowed through this low lying area, but the river was diverted about 15 years ago when the present runway system was being developed. The site thus comprises large areas which have been reclaimed. This factor, combined with the existing sub-soil conditions, wilt mean that the foundations will be more costly than with similar buildings of this type.
The House will observe that the Committee is not very happy with the Mascot proposal, although it has recommended that the work be proceeded with. I have long expressed the view that in the absence of a completely new airport for Sydney redevelopment of the Mascot terminal should have been undertaken in the north-east corner of the airport, some distance behind the present terminal buildings. A study of the airport plan shows that this could be done by demolishing some airport buildings and, I think, without very much interference with existing services. I know that the Department of Civil Aviation scoffs at the idea, and in fact the experts have said that the cost would be millions of pounds greater than that of the present proposals. I do not accept the assessment of the experts because proof was not presented to the Committee in the form of itemised costs.
With the present proposals the cost of reclamation and pile driving for foundations will be enormous, and although evidence was given that piles would have to be driven if a terminal were built in the northeast area, I do not believe that it would be necessary to drive them to depths of up to 120 feet as is to be the case in the northwest area. A terminal built on the northeast site would also have the advantage of an existing area of hundreds of thousands of square yards of pavement, with effective drainage already provided. It would be able to have rail transport and a better road system. The trouble with the references with which the Public Works Committee has been dealing in relation to Mascot is that the work has been fed to the Committee only piece by piece whereas in my view each section should have been examined individually, with one report coming before the House for its approval or disapproval.
To illustrate the meagre information and the lack of detail that the Committee received in respect of Mascot I shall quote a few paragraphs of the evidence given to the Committee by the First Assistant Director-General (Architecture) of the Department of Works. He stated -
The project now referred to your Committee comprises the international terminal building with passenger loading concourse (or finger), the services building and the associated engineering services, roads and car parks. It also includes apron and taxiways to serve the new building area.
The design of these works, referred to in detail later in this evidence, is now being developed on the basis of briefing information provided to my Department by the Department of Civil Aviation. In the case of the terminal building and loading concourse, the accommodation requirements were shown on small scale (40’ 0” to 1”) functional layout plans, provided to us by Department of Civil Aviation over a period of several months.
In addition the functional layout plans showed a possible planning-
Only possible, mind you - of the two future domestic airline terminals, which will be added later,-
He did not say by whom and at whose cost - one on each side of the international component.
Later he said -
Using the earlier preliminary plans supplied by Department of Civil Aviation, my Department has carried out a great deal of developmental work in the solution of the design problems which are common to both the Sydney and Tullamarine terminals. The final functional layout plans for Sydney have only recently been completed by Department of Civil Aviation and we have not, therefore, been able to complete architectural sketch plans for this reference. We have accordingly reproduced the latest series of these plans provided to us by Department of Civil Aviation, to illustrate the planning of the building. These drawings have been supplemented by a number of perspective views, a block model of the terminal and loading concourse to a scale of sixteen feet to one inch and by larger scale sections through the building to explain the way the terminal functions.
He finally added -
However, sufficient work has been done to enable me to assure the Committee that the final result will produce a building possessing the qualities of massing, design and decor necessary for such an important public building.
It will be seen, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Committee was not given at that point the information and the material on which to work. On 1.8th October the Minister for Civil Aviation apparently was perturbed enough, following the controversy about Mascot and Tullamarine terminals, to issue a statement about the relative merits of both terminals. In that statement he set out to show that Mascot would have the largest terminal in Australia. Yet in the evidence the First Assistant Director-General (Architecture) of the Department of Works said of Tullamarine -
This will be the largest and most important airport terminal to be constructed in Australia and will be one of the largest single building projects to be undertaken by my Department.
I want to know whom we are to believe. In one inquiry we had Dr. Bradfield telling us that at Tullamarine there would be 488,000 square feet of enclosed space and 45,000 square feet of open observation deck. In the inquiry into the Mascot proposal he told us that at Mascot there would be approximately 300,000 square feet of enclosed areas and 33,000 square feet of open observation deck areas. Yet the Minister for Civil Aviation tells us that the area to be provided at Mascot will be bigger than the area to be provided at Tullamarine. I only wish I had time to develop further my argument about what is happening in respect of airport development at Mascot and Tullamarine, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that the House is being taken for a ride and that it should reject the motion.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I consider that the report of the Public Works Committee on buildings and services for the international terminal complex - at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport is thoroughly unsatisfactory. 1 say this not in criticism of the Committee, which, I believe, has done its best with the material put before it. My remarks are made in protest against the way in which the Committee has been treated. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), who is a member of the Committee, hit the nail on the head when he said that material had been fed to the Committee piecemeal. This is why the whole Mascot plan has been like a dog’s breakfast. The whole thing has been just a mess, with money wasted and spent to ill purpose. We are not getting value for our money there. I for one do not believe that this has happened entirely by chance. I believe that it is not entirely by chance that Tullamarine is now pulling ahead of Mascot. I consider that this has been engineered. I do not criticise the Public Works Committee for its report but I do criticise the way in which, as the honorable member for Shortland has just said, the material has been put piecemeal before the Committee.
At paragraph 53 the report of the Public Works Committee on site preparation for the north west building area at Mascot states -
Since 19SS much of the low lying north-west area at the airport has been reclaimed, at no cost to the Commonwealth, by filling with fly ash from the New South Wales electricity authority’s power houses. When this was arranged, it was known that some of the fly ash would need to be moved later, particularly in the areas which would be subject to heavy building or aircraft loads.
We are now told that immense expenditure will be needed to remove this fly ash. Why was not this foreseen? Why was there no plan? Why was the whole of the Mascot proposal like a dog’s breakfast throughout?
– Give us the reason.
– The reason is that there has been no plan. Nobody has looked at these works as a whole. We have to consider the Mascot position as it is at present emerging. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), after all, is a Henty, and nobody blames a Henty for being Melbourne minded. He says, perhaps with his tongue in his cheek, that the Sydney airport will always be the premier airport in Australia. If this is so, why is it not receiving No. 1 priority treatment? In the Public Works Committee’s latest report we are told that there will be an international terminal, but it will be divorced from the domestic terminal. As a result Mascot will not be an efficient airport. Let us contrast this with what is to happen at Tullamarine. There is already close to Tullamarine a perfectly good airport at Essendon. But this is to be deserted. It is to be scrapped just so that both the domestic and the international terminals can be brought together at Tullamarine, where millions of pounds are to be spent on a combined terminal. Why is not the same kind of thing being done at Mascot?
The Mascot international terminal has been one of the world’s disgraces. Considering the amount of traffic going through the Airport, this has for many years been the worst international terminal in the world. It has been located in makeshift buildings which are totally inadequate for their functions. I sympathise, of course, with my friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who is from Brisbane and who complains of the bad conditions at Eagle Farm Airport. But he was referring to Eagle Farm. I sympathise with him. When we build a magnificent terminal at Essendon, why do we find it necessary to abandon it? If the Department of Civil Aviation is short of money, should it not have maintained the magnificent domestic terminal at Essendon without building a new domestic terminal at Tullamarine? If it is good enough for Sydney to have the domestic and international terminals separate, it is good enough for Melbourne. Why could not the same treatment have been meted out, especially since Melbourne has, for a long time, had all the advantages of a magnificent terminal?
It seems to me that there has been very little priority in the Government’s programme in these matters. Sydney, the premier airport, has had a very rough trot. Perth, which had the good fortune to be represented by a Minister for Civil Aviation, has had, for some years now, a luxurious terminal - much better than any terminal in Sydney - yet Perth carries only, perhaps, one-tenth of the traffic that Sydney carries. At Launceston, which is represented by the new Minister for Civil Aviation, many millions of pounds are being spent on a terminal. Good luck to them. The terminal at Launceston will be much more commodious than the ones available in Sydney. This is altogether a wrong sense of priority. Let me come back to the report which is at present before us. The report envisages an international terminal separate from the domestic terminal.
– It does indeed.
– That is terrible.
– They are to be separated, in terms of roadway, by two or three miles. It will be necessary for a person to go right around the runway in order to get from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. This means that both terminals will be inefficient. Apparently no arrangements are being made to connect the new international terminal, which we are now considering and which will be in the north-west corner, either with the domestic terminal or with the main roads system of Sydney so that there will bc quick access to it. Furthermore, there is going to be delay. The Committee’s report envisages a delay of 18 months while the surcharge is going on. The area on which the new terminal is to be built is soft land. In order to consolidate that area, it will be necessary to build up a sand heap on it so that the weight of the sand will press down and consolidate that area. Later, at great expense, the sand will be removed.
– It will be used for another purpose.
– Yes, but apart from the delay of 18 months there will be the cost of bringing in the sand and removing it. The Committee’s report shows that the cost of surcharging and removing the surcharge sand will be £785,000. I suggest that we should be thinking in terms of starting the building now inst-ad of in 18 months’ time and that we might be thinking of putting the building - I refer not to the aprons but to the building itself - on piles which could be driven and which would not involve a great cost, but which might save the delay of 18 months. In this way we could start the Sydney international terminal straight away.
I would say that one of the artful ways in which the Department is delaying the start of the Sydney terminal is to require the surcharging, not for the aprons - I am not speaking of the aprons - but for the terminal building to be done so that the 18 months’ delay is interposed. This is unnecessary. We could start the building now if it were to be put on piles. This would provide great advantages. If the building were put on piles, it would be possible to have a car park underneath it. If the car park were underneath the building, cars would be at a position where it would be much easier for the passengers to use the terminal. Again I ask the Government whether there is sufficient provision for car parks. There may be sufficient provision for parking at the international terminal, but when the domestic terminal is moved will there be sufficient car parking provision for both? Is this another example of piecemeal thinking, the kind of thinking that the honorable member for Shortland has been talking about? Would it not be much more reasonable to think of putting the building on piles of some kind so that cars could be parked underneath the building? This is where a car park is needed. I suggest that if this were done it would not be necessary to wait for the 18 months’ surcharge.
The effect of the 18 months’ surcharging will be that Tullamarine will be finished ahead of Mascot. This is quite an important matter. I believe that the Committee has been led up the garden path because the full technical information has not Deen placed before it. I have not suggested that the surcharging would be unnecessary where the aircraft aprons are to be, but I do suggest that the building could be effectively put on piles and that there could be a car parking area beneath it. If this were done the construction could start straight away and we would probably save money as well as time. The Committee perhaps has not given sufficient attention to the time factor and perhaps it has not seen the possibility of saving both time and money and getting a more effective building.
Let us consider what is going to happen. Unless the domestic terminal is constructed at the same time as the international airport, Mascot will remain a second-Tate aerodrome. I believe that the Department, which refers to Mascot as the premier aerodrome in Australia, wants it to be second to Tullamarine. I believe that this is what the boys are really at behind the scenes. 1 suggest that we should be thinking of this in more constructive terms. We should be looking at the scheme as a whole and we should be studying the necessity to bring the domestic and international terminals together immediately. If there is to be any delay the two terminals should perhaps be connected with some kind of temporary cover under the runway. But whatever we do, we cannot leave the domestic and international terminals separated by a couple of miles of roadway year after year. Yet apparently this is the condition of affairs envisaged by the report.
– But the honorable member’s colleagues from Victoria disagree with him on this.
– I appreciate that point. I take it that my colleagues from Victoria do disagree with me in regard to this and I can understand why they disagree with me. No one would really criticise a member for following the interests of his own district. I would be the last person to do so. Although I may disagree with my colleagues from Victoria on this matter, I know very well what they are at. Further, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) will know very well, because he comes from Perth, a capital whose aerodrome has had most favoured nation treatment because a former Minister for Civil Aviation came from Perth.
– That is a pretty filthy assertion.
– You did very well, thank you, Mr. Minister.
– That is a pretty filthy assertion.
– I ask the Minister to rise above parochialism and to give a fair go to New South Wales. Finally, I refer to paragraphs 65 to 70 of the report. They deal with the source of the filling which is to be used. They mention the taking of filling from Botany Bay and possible erosion which could occur in Botany Bay as a result of taking out this filling. I agree with the contention which has been put forward that there is some danger of further erosion in Botany Bay if the filling is taken, from the point envisaged in these paragraphs of the report. Here again, I suggest that the Government is being very short sighted and that it should look at the matter in an overall fashion.
If the filling were taken from Botany Bay at a point where deep water is needed to construct a second port for Sydney, there would not be the same erosion problem. Taking the filling not from the southern but from the northern side of the projected runway, it would be possible to construct a deep water port at Botany Bay. Surely there is in the Government a capacity to get together with the new State Government - which, unlike the old Government of New South Wales, is a good progressive Governmentand to consider whether this filling might not well be taken from another place in such a way that deep water would be available where it is needed. Surely the two Governments could discuss taking out the filling in such a way as to be of some use and not cause embarrassment. This could be done. Apparently this Government has not thought about it. If the Government will look at Sir Allan Westerman’s report relating to the need for improved port facilities-
– Order! The honorable member is getting well away from the subject before the House.
– No, Sir, I am not. I am looking at paragraphs 65 to 70 of the report. If you will look at them-
– Order! I have already had a look at the paragraphs. I suggest that the honorable member is getting away from the subject matter before the House.
– Ali I am doing is discussing the paragraphs which relate to where the filling is to be taken from. Since these paragraphs discuss this matter, I think I am entitled to say that if the material were taken from another place it would be possible to take it out in a fashion which would give an added advantage. I submit that this is germane to the matter before the House. I am submitting that the Government might re-read Sir Allan Westerman’s report, see what is involved and consider whether it would be possible to take this filling out in a way which would be to the advantage of everybody concerned.
I am thoroughly dissatisfied with the present position. I believe there is some kind of underhand move against Mascot. I do not agree with the honorable member for Shortland when he says that the Mascot site is inherently unsuitable. I believe that Mascot is a very good site if it is properly treated. But I will agree with the honorable member for Shortland that the present piecemeal approach to this whole matter has resulted in the very unsatisfactory state of affairs which is envisaged in this report. I ask the Government to have another look at this matter, to try to see the thing as a whole and not to get involved in little piece by piece negotiations which lead you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to rule out of order from time to time matters which are really very relevant if they are properly understood.
– Order! I would point out to the honorable member that he was referring to the wrong report. The Chair was correct. The report to which the honorable member was referring is not before the House. I suggest that he consider these factors.
– By way of explanation, let me say that this was the report which was given to me by the officers of the House as the report which was being discussed.
.- I do not intend to delay the House for any great length of time. I support the recommendation of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) that we give approval for the proposed work at the Sydney airport to proceed. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am the member for Brisbane and, as a Queenslander, I am vitally concerned with the development of the airport at Eagle Farm: However, I think that any member or senator who fairly examines the report of the Department of Civil Aviation could not do anything else, unless he were motivated purely by parish pump considerations, than support the proposed expenditure of money on the development of the only truly international airport in Australia - that at Mascot. One of the things that disturb me is that it seems that every city and village in Australia wants to have an international air terminal.
– Even Brisbane.
– I shall deal with that interjection in a minute. I support, and I think all honorable members support, the expenditure of public money at Mascot in order to develop there an ‘airport complex which will cater adequately for all airline services, both international and domestic. I understand that although the proposal at this stage is to proceed only with the international terminal, that is part of a complex which will later include the domestic terminals.
– How much later?
– The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) is a member of the Public Works Committee. I support the view of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that these matters are referred piecemeal to the Committee and that the question of airport development is not referred to it as a whole.
Somewhere about September of 1963 a number of Queensland members and senators formed an all party deputation which waited on the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Paltridge, and took up with him the question of the development of the airport at Eagle Farm. At that point of time, we were told that the programme in Queensland - I shall not be long on this aspect of the subject - was, first, work at Mount Isa, and secondly, improved facilities at Townsville. We were told further that when the new five-year plan was brought down, Eagle Farm would be given top priority. The deputation was told, in effect: “We are very sorry. We realise that there is a need for work at Eagle Farm at this stage, but no further money is available. The Government is committed to a fiveyear plan, so Eagle Farm must wait until the next five-year plan, which will start in 1968”. We accepted this in good faith. We agreed that the facilities at Mount Isa were very inferior and needed improving. Any of us who have been to Townsville would support the representations made from time to time by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Harding) for an improvement of the facilities at the terminal there. Both those works have been undertaken. We were told that no further money was available for Eagle Farm, Tullamarine or anywhere else - that the Government was committed to its five-year plan. The honorable member for Griffiths (Mr. Coutts), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and other Queensland members, including the previous members for Bowman, Mr. Comber, for Petrie, Mr. O’Brien, and for Lilley, Mr. Don Cameron - the latter gentleman introduced the deputation - accepted that decision in good faith. Now we are confronted with the fact that since then large amounts of money - tens of millions of pounds - have been made available for expenditure on other airports.
I certainly do not begrudge any expenditure at all for the provision of adequate airport facilities at Mascot. I think that work ought to be proceeded with. I think Mascot is legitimately Australia’s only truly international terminal. If there are other international terminals, they are those at Perth and Darwin. This is not to say that I do not want to see adequate facilities at Melbourne and Brisbane. I recognise that at times, due to weather conditions and other considerations, international traffic has to be diverted to those airports, and therefore I would like to see adequate facilities there.
Now we are confronted with the situation that, because of political pressure in Victoria, the magnificent terminal at Essendon will eventually be abandoned or near abandoned and a new airport developed at Tullamarine. We recognise that, having already approved the construction of an airstrip at Tullamarine, a terminal must be provided. Let me summarise my attitude to this question. I do not begrudge the spending of money anywhere else, but I regret that when a deputation saw the then Minister for Civil Aviation it was given information which has proved to be wrong. We were told that there was no further finance available for work at other airports. I agree that we ought to provide at Mascot the best possible facilities because Mascot is in fact the only truly international terminal in Australia. I realise that we are now committed to go ahead with Tullamarine. This House having agreed to build the airstrips there we are bound to provide a terminal building. I am concerned, however, that when these buildings have been constructed Eagle Farm shall get to the top of the priority list in the next five year plan. I trust that the promises that were made to us by the previous Minister for Civil Aviation will be honoured by the present Minister for Civil Aviation and the Government, or by some other government, whether it be a government of the same political colour as this Government, or a Labour Government which could be in office by 1968.
I do not think anybody can say that I am adopting a parish pump attitude. I am supporting the proposal in relation to Mascot, but I object to the fact that other States - Victoria in particular - are able to put pressure on the Government and have finance poured into Tullamarine in order to construct a new terminal, when the present facilities available at Essendon are adequate. An explanation needs to be given. If the Department is to answer the criticism which has been made about piecemeal construction then it should say why the terminal at Essendon was ever constructed at all. On the evidence before us the construction of that terminal was a waste of money and-
– Order! I remind the honorable member that the remarks he is making are not relevant to the matter before the House.
– I thank you, Sir, for being very tolerant and having given me every opportunity to make the points I have made. Having said that I support the proposal at Mascot I close by expressing the hope that Eagle Farm will reach its original place on top of the priority list in the next five year plan.
.- First, I want to say emphatically that I support the motion before the House. I say that, because I think that the sooner the money is spent on the construction of the KingsfordSmith Airport the better. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). It is not often that I do so, but I agree with him in his complimentary remarks about the Public Works Committee. I think that as a national Parliament we should pay great respect to the recommendations made to us by this Committee.
We should consider a proposition like this from an Australian viewpoint because after all there should be a priority for the building of airports in Australia. With the rapid development of aircraft in recent years airports are needed in every capital city and therefore we must consider the needs of each city in some order of priority. There seems to be some oddity about the priority given to the Kingsford-Smith Airport. I say this, because in my opinion the Kingsford-Smith Airport has always been the number one airport of Australia and I emphatically believe that it should remain so. I do not say this because it is situated in New South Wales. I say it, first, because the airport is fog free in winter; secondly, it has far better weather equipment; thirdly, it has radar equipment and navigational aids. Then again from a population point of view Sydney is the obvious arrival place for people from overseas. It is in a more central position than other cities and gives greater opportunity for people to change to domestic airlines. People who want to go to Sydney do not want to have to go to Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth first then travel to Sydney by domestic airlines. From a geographical point of view Sydney is the ideal position for Australia’s number one airport. Apart from this, the passenger flow through the airport is far greater than that at any other Australian airport. The flow has been the greatest in the past and will continue to be in the future. These matters must weigh heavily when consideration is given to improving airports in Australia.
I do not want to be parochial about this matter. I say quite emphatically that the facts that could be placed before this House or before any committee show quite conclusively that Sydney should be Australia’s number one airport. Our international airline, Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., has its headquarters in Sydney and plans to erect additional buildings for servicing and maintaining foreign aircraft as well as the aircraft that it operates itself. Qantas services all overseas foreign aircraft that come to the Sydney airport. It has the facilities to do this. Why should Qantas have to move these facilities from Sydney when they are so ideally situated there? I know that it could be said that Qantas would not need to move them, but if some other airports were given priority over Kingsford-Smith this is something that might have to be done in the future for economic reasons.
I am very disappointed that there is not to be closer liaison between the domestic terminal and the international terminal at
Kingsford-Smith. I understand that the two terminals will be separated by three quarters of a mile around the perimeter of the airport. To me this seems completely ludicrous. I believe that for the efficient servicing of passengers who arrive in this country, when time is a factor on many occasions when connections have to be made, the closer the domestic terminal can be to the international terminal the better. As other speakers have said this afternoon, because of the increased popularity of aircraft travel in Australia the present domestic terminals will be completely inadequate within a short space of time. In view of the fact that in other places new domestic terminals are to be constructed close to international terminals it seems to me that Kingsford-Smith is to have rather a raw deal. I regret that in the work to be approved provision has not been made for the integration of the two terminals at Kingsford-Smith. Honorable members appreciate the work that is being done on the runways. We know that the further navigational aids and radar equipment to be installed are essential, but for the life of me I cannot see why, when we are going to spend millions of pounds on the extension of runways, when we are spending an enormous amount to dredge Botany Bay, we should not integrate the domestic and international airports at the same time. It is beyond my comprehension.
I have never been able to work out the system under which priorities have been allotted for the construction of airports in Australia. Surely if we have an airport that has given good service, that has all the facilities, ideal weather conditions, proximity to the city, and vast tourist attractions and an ideal geographical position, that should be the place to establish a first class international airport. It is all very well for people to say that Sydney will be a first class airport, but we find that on present plans it is to lag behind the construction of a first class airport in another State, which, of course, has great potentialities, great business interests and a large population. Because of useage and capacity, and the fact that international aircraft fly to and from that new airport, Sydney could tend to become neglected. People could become accustomed to regard Tullamarine as the number one international airport.
Along with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) I should like to see the work at the Kingsford-Smith airport commenced as quickly as possible. I support the motion but I deplore the fact that the domestic terminal will be established so far from the international terminal. Honorable members should consider what action can be taken to remedy this situation.
– I do not wish to take up much of the time of the House. It is remarkable that during the entire debate this afternoon, during which Government supporters and Opposition members have criticised all aspects of the proposal the subject of the motion, not one honorable member from Victoria has risen to defend the Government’s proposal. We have had interjections - quite out of order - from one Victorian member, but the Victorians have not said anything. No doubt they feel smug and complacent. They have the whole thing wrapped up. Nothing that we may say will make any difference to them. I hope that the Government takes note of what has been said this afternoon by honorable members not only from New South Wales but from other States.
I do not want to sound parochial. This is not a parochial matter but it is being made a parochial matter by the Government’s action and by the suspicion it arouses when it does things that excite the vigorous opposition that has been expressed this afternoon by honorable members from both sides of the House. It is outrageous planning that decrees that the domestic terminal will not be located alongside the international terminal. It has been said that the two terminals will be three-quarters of a mile apart. I think they will be further apart than that. Not only is the distance between the two terminals a problem but also, to get to the international terminal from the domestic terminal will involve a trip around the top end of the north-south runway, where aircraft are landing and departing. I think we will need a helicopter to get from the international terminal to the domestic terminal.
What we protest about is the fact that under this proposal Sydney will be even worse off than it is now. The international terminal is already separated from the domestic terminal but at present the two terminals are not as far apart as it is proposed to place them. The key to the Government’s attitude in this matter may be found in the claim by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) that the new provisions are designed for existing sub-sonic aircraft. This is the essence of the matter. This whole matter is tied up with the inadequacy of the runway extensions. The runway at Mascot is being extended to only 8,500 feet, but runways overseas on which international aircraft operate are of much greater length.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that he should make only passing reference to such matters as runways.
– I wish to refer to matters that are of relevance to the area which I represent. I understand that preparation for the site of this new international terminal complex will require at least 2,000,000 extra cubic yards of material dredged from Botany Bay for reclamation and surcharge operations. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) and the Minister for Civil Aviation are well aware of representations that I have made on behalf of Rockdale Municipal Council and other bodies who have an interest in Botany Bay. These bodies have pointed to the extensive damage that has been caused since dredging operations began in the Bay.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, could we have some relevance in the debate?
-Order! I remind the honorable member, as I reminded the honorable member for Mackellar earlier, that the matter of dredging and the site are the subject of another report which is not before the House.
– An international complex is to be built on the north-western corner of the airport. The site must be prepared. Is it not relevant to ask where the material for the site will come from and what the effect will be on the populace? These are urgent considerations for the residents of my electorate and adjoining electorates.
– I remind the honorable member that these matters are the subject of a separate report which has already been presented to the House. They are not covered by the report now under discussion.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that the Government will give more urgent consideration to this problem than it has up to date. If it does not it will ultimately be faced with claims for compensation. I restrict myself to referring to that part of the proposal that deals with the provision of power to the new international complex. Here I find myself wholeheartedly in support of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Bosman). The St. George County Council covers a much greater area than does the St. George electorate. The St. George County Council area embraces my electorate, the electorate of Banks and part or all of other electorates. The Government has recommended that all of the power for the new terminal be taken from Sydney County Council unless it can be shown that some of the power can be supplied by the St. George County Council at no extra cost and without any problems of danger to employees.
The Government does not say why it proposes to take all of the power needed for this terminal from Sydney County Council. Has it examined the recommendation and found that the St. George County Council cannot supply the power at the same price as power can be supplied by the Sydney County Council? This is an important matter. At times the Government pretends that it is interested in decentralisation. Here is an important county council that wants to increase its supply to industrial and commercial users in its area. It wants to attract more industry out of the centre of the city - out to the decentralised parts of the metropolitan area - but it is not receiving any help from the Government.
I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport, when replying, to give the Government’s answer to the submission of the St. George County Council that, not only can it supply power at the same price as the Sydney County Council, but at a saving to the Government of £160,000 by deleting the proposed 11KV ring feeder system which will be required around the airport perimeter if the whole of the power for the terminal complex is taken from the
Sydney County Council. This claim has been made by the St. George County Council over a period. I am not aware of any argument advanced here today or elsewhere by the Government that disputes the claim of the St. George County Council. Not only is this Council prepared to supply power at a cost equal to that of the Sydney County Council, but it has offered to save the Government a considerable amount of money. I am surprised that the Government has rejected the St. George County Council’s offer.
Naturally the St. George County Council is interested in building up its supply to commercial and industrial users. If it can do this it will be assisted in stretching its load. At present, only 25 per cent, of its load is taken up by industrial or commercial users. Here is an opportunity for the Government to give support to a decentralised electricity supply authority. Even if the Government accedes to the request of the St. George County Council, two-thirds of the supply to the new terminal complex still will come from the Sydney County Council. I ask the Government to look again at what I think is a reasonable request. This whole matter of terminals at Sydney airport has come to us in bits and pieces. It is difficult to advance a co-ordinated argument on all aspects of development of the international airport at Mascot. I hope that it is not yet too late for the Government to take a serious look at the earnest submissions that have been made here today, both by Government supporters and Opposition speakers.
– I will not detain the House for long, but I feel I should join with some other honorable members from Queensland in putting the point of view of the people of that State. I would first like to say that I completely support the recommendation. I believe that the work should proceed forthwith. During the course of the debate, there has been a very clear and unanimous expression of opinion from both sides of the House. The case has been very well put on a very firm basis and has been well documented. It is so strong that I believe it behoves the Government to have another look at this matter. Anyone looking at the pattern of development of air terminals, of which Kingsford-Smith is one, cannot fail to be struck by certain apparent inconsistencies. If one looks at this from the viewpoint of need, of air traffic, of future development and of the convenience of people who do not live near the international terminal but who must catch a domestic airline to another city, one cannot say that the development has been undertaken objectively. An assertion that it has would fly in the face of all the established facts.
No doubt many ingenious and convincing arguments have been put, but if we go back to fundamentals and view the matter objectively, it is clear that the greatest need and greatest urgency have not always been considered. For instance, the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Bosman) said that quite some time ago the Department conceded that there was an urgent need to provide better facilities at Sydney and Brisbane. Brisbane’s need is, of course, very acute. It stands out like a sore toe. Queensland has a valid claim in this matter because not infrequently both Kingsford-Smith and Melbourne airports have been fogbound and aircraft have been diverted to Brisbane, which then becomes the port of entry. Brisbane airport is in fact always the port of entry for aircraft from New Guinea and for many aircraft from New Zealand as well as other international aircraft. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said that Sydney international terminal is the worst in the world. He is wrong. Undoubtedly, Brisbane airport is the worst. This creates a very bad impression not only in the minds of interstate travellers and international travellers who have been diverted from one of the other airports or who have come to Brisbane as the first port of entry, but also in the minds of tourists. This whole matter is redolent of favouritism and is very difficult to understand.
I would like briefly to refer to some matters that were raised by the honorable member for Mackellar. One is the divorce of the international air terminal from the domestic air terminal. This is just plain bad design. It is not good enough and should not be accepted. It flies in the face of the requirements and convenience of passengers and of staff. Good design would readily meet the position. There is also the matter of unnecessarily expending an amount of money by laying sand on top of the earth. This is called surcharging and is meant to compact the earth. It is quite clear that piles will in fact support buildings far larger than any air terminal that will ever be required. I have no doubt that piles would be much more economical, considering all factors, much more expeditious and would provide greater convenience.
I ask the Government earnestly to reconsider the matter. Clearly, this matter has not been viewed with sufficient objectivity. I do not think the Government is to blame; it has matters of great moment to consider and its time is fully occupied. It can do no more than accept the submissions that are made to it, but I trust that it will give due weight to the debate this afternoon and reconsider the matter from the start so that it can be dealt with as it should be and as need, rather than some small parochial desire, dictates.
– in reply - The debate on this proposal from the Public Works Committee has ranged over a very wide field and I fear that many honorable members have allowed their loyalty to their home States and their electorates to distort their views on the overall aerodrome problem of Australia. I would like your indulgence, Sir, a little later to make a passing reference to the many remarks that have been made about various aerodromes.
The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Bosman) and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) raised a matter of direct relevance to the proposal before the Chair. The proposal is to take the whole of the electricity supply for the new building and the Kingsford-Smith Airport from the Sydney County Council. The honorable member for St. George said that the Depart- ment of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works had ignored the proposition that the St. George County Council was willing to supply electricity at the same price as it could be obtained from the Sydney County Council. I want to put the honorable member right on that point. On 6th August, after the first report from the Public Works Committee on this matter, the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works met Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Willis of the St. George County Council and had a discussion about the supply of power. I do not want to weary the House with the full details of the dis cussion. Arising out ot it, the St. George County Council proposed a tariff for electricity that was identical in all respects with that under which the Sydney County Council currently supplies electricity to the airport.
As a result of the proposal, the Departments did a study and worked out three schemes. Scheme A was the purchase of all electricity from the Sydney County Council. Scheme B was the purchase of electricity at the services building for the western side of the airport from the St. George County Council - that is, for both the terminal complex and the operations building and control tower - and for the balance of the airport purchase to be from the Sydney County Council. Scheme C was the purchase of electricity from St. George County Council at the services building for the terminal complex and at the operations building for the operations building and control tower - and for the balance of the airport purchase to be from the Sydney County Council. They analysed the capital costs, the annual charges and all the other problems associated with peak hour demand and so on. Their figures show that, conservatively, over a period of 20 years there will be a saving of at least £7,100 a year in the purchase of electricity if all electricity is purchased from the Sydney County Council. This arises partly from the capital cost and partly from the fact that peak hour demand varies at different parts of the airport and, arising out of the scheme under which the charge per kilowatt is based on a maximum demand, they can apportion their demand over the 24 hours in a better way than they could if they purchased electricity from the two authorities separately. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ a table showing the comparative costs of the three schemes.
Scheme A: Purchase of all electricity from Sydney County Council. 20,000 ft. of 11 kV underground ring main cable would need to be run as a peripheral feeder around the airport plus the installation of two (2) 11 kV oil circuit breakers.
Estimated cost .. £75,000
Scheme B: Purchase of electricity at the Services Building for the Western side of the airport from St. George County Council (i.e. for both the Terminal Complex and the Operations
Building-Control Tower), and for the balance of the airport purchase from Sydney Council. 14,000 ft. 1 1 kV underground cable to create a ring connecting Services Building with Operation Building plus two (2) 11 kV oil circuit breakers.
Estimated cost .. £53,000
Scheme C: Purchase of electricity from St. George County Council at the Services Building for the Terminal Complex and at the Operations Building for the Operations Building-Control Tower, and for the balance of the airports purchase from Sydney County Council. 8,000 ft.11 kV underground cable to create a ring within the Terminal Complex plus two (2) 11 kV oil circuit breakers at the Services Building and two (2) 11 kV oil circuit breakers at the Operations Building.
Estimated cost .. £33,000
I want to make a few remarks about the problem of airport development in Australia. It is all very well for honorable members who live in Sydney to insist that because Sydney is the No. 1 airport it should have top priority in any expenditure on airports. It is not much use having a No. 1 airport if we have no other domestic airports to which aircraft of the type for which the large airport is constructed can fly. I can recall a few years ago when Adelaide had a quite inadequate airfield at Parafield. It got a new aerodrome with new terminal buildings. It was at that time the most up to date and modern terminal in Australia.
– It is inadequate now.
– That is so. One of the hard facts of life is that growth in air transport and air passenger requirement in Australia has far outstripped the resources that the Commonwealth Government has been able to make available for total aerodrome development. We are still running behind requirements. Because of all the other demands on the Budget we are behind with the amount that can be devoted to airport development in any one year. We now have a situation where almost £9 million is to be spent on the KingsfordSmith airfield and £9½ million on Tullamarine and we have also to consider all the other airports throughout Australia.
I have never heard the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) show less regard for facts and more regard for fancy than he did today. He made all sorts of shabby and shameful assertions, which I reject completely out of hand, about underhand priorities being given. I particularly resent his suggestion that the Perth airport got some priority because the Minister for Civil Aviation at that time happened to be from Western Australia. As was explained to the House at’ the time, that proposal was approved by the whole Government, and the Government assumes responsibility for airport policy. The proposal was examined by the Public Works Committee which approved the priority. It is the prime responsibility of that Committee to see that funds are not wasted on unnecessary projects. It was not worthy of the honorable member to suggest that because the then Minister came from Western Australia, Perth was given a priority out of its need. That was not so and honorable members will recall that at the time the then Minister was able to justify the expenditure completely.
In the same way it was suggested today that there is something underhand about the priority being given to Launceston. When jet aircraft use the main aerodromes we have to enlarge subsidiary aerodromes to take Electras, Viscounts and the like. To suggest that because the present Minister comes from Tasmania Launceston is being favoured is a shabby and worthless accusation. By the same token, to say that this proposal for Kingsford-Smith has been served up to the Public Works Committee in a piecemeal fashion is not in accordance with fact. As I understand the position from its Chairman, the Committee had the master plan for Kingsford-Smith airport and it approved of the project being dealt with in this way.
This, of course, is not relevant to the direct matter before the House, but I could not let the charges made by the honorable member for Mackellar, which were completely without foundation, go unanswered.
He dealt with many other matters that were not relevant and that I believe were quite fanciful and not in accordance with fact. He disregarded entirely the fact that the terminal at Essendon, far from being completely adequate, is quite inadequate, and that is why the Public Works Committee has approved of the domestic service going to Tullamarine also. The honorable member for Mackellar is so one-eyed in this that he takes no notice of facts when making accusations. There was little else said of direct relevance to this report before the House, and I commend the proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1965-66. In Committee.
Consideration resumed from 9th November (vide page 2494).
Proposed expenditure, £9,935,000.
Proposed expenditure, £132,818,000.
– Mr. Chairman, I want to reply to a few of the matters that have been raised by honorable members during the course of the Committee debate on the estimates of the Department of Social Services. The matters that have been raised relate once again to the fact that, unfortunately, in the field of social services, it is extremely difficult for any government ever to do as much as it would like to do. While at Budget time there is a tremendous range of people who have various reasons for claiming an increase in the benefit they receive, it is possible for the government to provide only for those who, for various reasons, fall within the groups for which funds are available. For that reason, in any particular social service measure, there is always a field in which the Government would like to provide an additional benefit. I would like to include in that field some of the benefits which have been mentioned by honorable members during the course of this debate. One of the matters raised was the necessity and constant need for the Department of Social Services to look into the requirements of the community as a whole. Several members suggested that it was necessary for more research to be done in the field of social services and that, in fact, regular surveys should be conducted of various categories of persons to ascertain just where an area of need exists and whether an expansion of social service benefits should be made in the future. I would like to assure honorable members, Mr. Chairman, that this matter is kept under close examination by the Department at all times.
As honorable members will know, each year every person in receipt of a benefit is required to fill in a form stating his or her present position and present entitlement. Those persons who are entitled to benefits which are granted from week to week, such as the unemployment benefit, have to fill in forms at more frequent periods. Those who are in receipt of age pensions or other more permanent pensions have to advise the Department of their situation. Consequently, the Department does keep in touch with these people in this way. In addition, social workers, working through the Department, maintain constant contact with persons who for various reasons have an additional need. Furthermore, the Department of Social Services has a small research department which endeavours to investigate those areas where it is felt that additional assistance should be provided or from which representations are received for additional assistance. It is hoped that when automatic data processing equipment is installed in the Department, the Department will be able more readily to itemise sections within the community where the provision of additional benefits is desirable or where some other reason exists for concern to be expressed.
– When will the installation of that equipment be completed?
– I think the tenders for the installation of the first automatic data processing equipment were received by the Department last week. At this stage, consideration of the tenders has not been finalised. It is hoped that before long, at least in some of the capital cities, it will be possible to install automatic data processing equipment. Already the punch card system is operating. But there are difficulties involved in providing for honorable members, for instance, particulars of those persons in receipt of pensions within their own electorates. For that reason, it takes a great deal of time to take out the details from the equipment that we have at this stage. Consequently, the facilities for this work are not readily available. When the automatic data processing equipment is installed, it should be possible to extend the provision of these services both to honorable members and to other members of the community. It is hoped that this will be possible before too long.
I want to deal now with some of the specific matters raised by honorable members. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Bosman) mentioned a scheme for the redistribution of assets. He suggested the possibility that, prior to reaching pensionable age, a person might seek to make an early distribution of his assets so that he could divest himself of his assets prior to death and bring himself within the eligibility provisions of the social services legislation. Of course, the idea of the social services legislation has been to provide primarily for those persons who have a particular need as much assistance as it is possible for the Government to provide at a certain time. For this reason, I am most sympathetic to the honorable member’s proposal but I doubt whether at this point of time it would be possible to proceed with it.
The honorable member or Stirling (Mr. Webb) raised one matter to which I wish to refer. He spoke of pensioner home owners in class C hospitals. Class C hospitals, I understand, are a category of convalescent hospitals which offer non-surgical facilities to patients resident for an indefinite period and which are normally under the control of a matron. Hospitals in this category are referred to in Western Australia as Class C hospitals. As I recall it, the honorable member for Stirling was concerned that a person might well be penalised as far as his pension entitlement was concerned at the time he was admitted to this type of hospital. Consequent upon his admission to a class C hospital his pension would be affected because he owned a home which would be available presumably for letting purposes. However, I assure the honorable member that wherever these circumstances arise the Department looks at the situation with considerable sympathy. It is the policy of the Department to view the residence of the pensioner, who still has a permanent home, in a class C hospital as being of a temporary nature only. Consequently, he is not penalised in any way because he continues to own a home. If the honorable member for Stirling has a particular case which has come to his notice, I will be only too happy to examine it and see whether anything can be done in that instance.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) along with the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) raised the question of the extension of the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act. This matter was discussed also by other honorable members during the course of the debate. The honorable member for Swan suggested that the Act should be extended principally to those persons who are chronically ill - once again, within the field of those persons in class C hospitals to which the honorable member for Stirling referred. One of the difficulties in this field is that in the past the various State Governments have been responsible for the provision of hospital facilities. The relative figures relating to the cost of occupancy of a bed within a nursing home or a surgical hospital were provided to the Committee by the honorable member for Sturt, who went into this matter in some detail. He pointed out that, in fact, nursing home beds cost far less per person than surgical hospital beds. In the past, this has been a field towards which the Commonwealth has provided assistance by other means to the State Governments. The Commonwealth has provided direct assistance for the provision of health facilities. Consequently, health facilities have been taken to include the provision of not only surgical facilities but also beds for those persons who are chronically ill due to old age.
I realise that many of those who took advantage of the provisions of the Aged Persons’ Homes Act, when it was first introduced in 1954 or shortly afterwards, by going into homes provided under the Act are growing older and many of them are no longer able to look after themselves. However, in those States where adequate geriatric facilities have been provided in hospitals the position is not as acute as in other States. I understand that one State does provide a form of capital subsidy for the construction of homes for aged persons who are chronically ill, and it may be that direct assistance can be provided in this way. However, I can assure the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) that I will look into his proposal and give it sympathetic consideration.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) referred to the matter of payments to deserted wives. He pointed out that in the estimates before the Committee certain amounts are set aside for payments to deserted wives living in Victoria only. First I want to refer the honorable member to section 124 of the Social Services Act, which is the section relating to the granting of special benefits. It provides, amongst other things -
The Director-General may, in his discretion, grant a special benefit under this Division to a person -
who is not in receipt of a pension or allowance under Part 111. or IV. of this Act or a service pension under the Repatriation Act 1920-1954;
who is not qualified to receive an unem ployment benefit or a sickness benefit; and
with respect to whom the Director-General is satisfied that, by reason of age, physical or mental disability or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason, that person is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants.
In other words, the Commonwealth provides for those persons who would not otherwise be eligible for any benefit. It provides this benefit in Victoria principally because there is no other provision available in that State. The idea is that there should be no person in our society completely destitute. The Commonwealth provides this assistance to help persons who would not otherwise have anything to live on.
– What about the other States?
– The other State Governments provide certain assistance and persons receiving that State assistance are not in the same position as those in Victoria. The figures given by the honorable member for East Sydney were considerably distorted. I grant that he made his own deductions, but he did say that he would estimate that there were 2,000 deserted wives in Victoria who had been deserted for more than six months and that the annual cost for them was £468,000. The fact is that there are 370 beneficiaries covered by the estimates before the Committee and that the cost is about £80,000 per annum, which is nowhere near as high as was suggested by the honorable member.
Other honorable members spoke about various matters and I do not want to discuss all those matters in detail. However, there were one or two points raised to which I think I should refer. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cross) spoke of deserted wives who became reconciled with their husbands and later separated again. He expressed concern that they might, in effect, have to serve two waiting periods of six months each before becoming eligible for pensions as deserted wives. I can assure him that this is not so. The Department exercises a discretion in these circumstances. Where a couple have become reconciled and the family group has later separated, the wife then being categorised as a deserted wife, no penalty is imposed on her. She does not have to go through a second waiting period of six months. She is accepted as being eligible without having to wait for a second period of six months to expire.
It was also the honorable member for Brisbane who paid several compliments to the staff of the Department of Social Services. I can assure honorable members and the people of Australia that the Department is a service department. Its function is to provide services for many people within the Australian community who have particular needs. For this reason the officers of the Department are only too willing to assist any member of the community who finds himself in need at any time. Some suggestions were made by several honorable members that perhaps greater publicity should be given to the range of benefits available from the Department. Let me assure all members of the community that if at any time they feel they may be eligible for a benefit the easiest way to test their eligibility is to contact the nearest office of the Department. The officers will be only too prepared to assist in any way.
In this connection the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) suggested that it might be possible to establish offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service in several parts of the north-west of Western Australia, within his own electorate, where at present there are no such offices. I will refer this matter to my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who, of course, has the ministerial responsibility for the Commonwealth Employment Service. I can tell the honorable member, however, that the Department of Social Services does try to provide, as far as possible, a service for every member of the community. As the honorable member himself said, through the officers of the State Government in Western Australia a service is available to most members of the Western Australian community.
The field of social services has extended tremendously over the period in which the Government has been in office. The expenditure that the Committee is now discussing is for the purpose of facilitating the payment of benefits that are now available to members of the community. Although, as I have said, there will always be fields which the Government would like to be able to enter, the provision of social service benefits depends to a considerable extent on the availability of funds within the Commonwealth. I believe that at this time, as several honorable members have said during the debate, a tremendous amount is being achieved for the people and that the people are well serviced by the provisions of our social service legislation. I commend the estimates to the Committee.
.- I would like to comment on an observation made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) and to correct a misunderstanding. During my speech on the Bill my suggestion was that the Minister and the Government might consider the virtue of allowing a pensioner, qualified under the Social Services Act and receiving a pension to divest himself of a limited amount of assets to permit him to move from his present residence to a more economic and congenial atmosphere in an establishment provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, £4,884,000.
.- In many ways Australia’s health services are a shambles. Despite the fact that the pro fessional nurses, doctors and other people employed are of a very high calibre, the unfortunate fact is that our hospitals are ill equipped, badly distributed and in many cases poorly staffed. State Health Ministers are screaming about the shortage of doctors and dentists and the inadequacy of funds. Drug companies are holding the country to ransom and producing drugs of dubious quality. The citizenry are denied the basic protection of adequate health services such as are readily available in other countries. The cost of health services to individuals is often beyond their capacity to meet. In respect of all these matters this Government unfortunately demonstrates a great deal of indifference.
The cost of all health services in Australia is rising at the phenomenal rate of 8 per cent, per annum. Last financial year the total cost of all private and public health services was about £400 million. This figure includes the cost of hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits, the pensioner medical service, allowances paid to people with tuberculosis, repatriation medical treatment, miscellaneous Commonwealth expenditure and personal expenditure on medical, hospital, pharmaceutical and funeral services. The cost of all these services for each person in Australia is £36 a year. A careful examination of the statistics shows that health services in the United Kingdom cost not £36 per head per annum but only £24 Australian. Yet a far more comprehensive service is available to every citizen in the United Kingdom despite the lower expenditure per head. For example, optical and dental care, which has no place in the Australian health scheme, is an integral part of the British scheme. One could cite many other examples. Clearly Australia is not getting value for this expenditure.
The Government seems powerless to arrest the trend towards increases in costs. This month doctors’ fees will rise again throughout Australia. One wonders whether this is with the acquiescence of the Government. In 1955 the average doctor’s fee was 15s. In the intervening years the average fee has risen phenomenally. The Australian Medical Association has recommended that fees be increased for surgery consultations from 25s. to 28s., for home visits from 32s. 6d. to 38s. and for other services by 10 per cent. Various branches of the Association want to raise fees even higher. The South Sydney Branch of the Association wants the fee for surgery consultations to go as high as 30s. and for home visits to 40s. Several local associations of doctors in New South Wales recommended increases in fees ranging from 12 per cent, to 19 per cent. One association recommended an increase of 33i per cent, in the charge for a home visit. The Australian Medical Association has declined to make public the report of the survey of fees. It has also announced that it will not agree to a plan to stabilise fees in the future. The community and the Government, which foot the bill, have no say in how much doctors should be paid. Worse still the Government has appeared to abdicate its responsibility in this matter. It has no proposal to establish machinery for the determination of doctors’ fees.
Last year 10,000 doctors in private practice received £52.3 million under the national health scheme. In other words the scheme paid to each doctor in private practice an average of £5,230. Added to this is the income received by doctors for pensioner and repatriation patients. Even this does not represent the limit of the income of doctors. Twenty-five per cent, of patients are not insured for medical benefits. These represent another source of income to the medical profession. Clearly the Government is heavily involved in meeting the remuneration of doctors. It should ensure that members of the medical profession are properly remunerated but it should never allow the profession to stand over the community and dictate the price of its participation in the national health scheme. In the face of rising medical costs the Government has announced that Commonwealth and fund benefits will not be raised. So from now on the patient will have to carry an increasing proportion of the cost burden. Apart from doctors’ fees there is now the trend to increasing costs on the pharmaceutical side of the national health scheme. It is now inevitable that chemists’ dispensing fees will soon rise. Last year chemists received an average of £3,200 each under the scheme. This is paid on the basis of 3s. per prescription for ready prepared medicines and 5s. 6d. for extemporaneously prepared substances - those compounded from ingredients. This, of course, is additional to the usual mark-up on wholesale prices, which, I understand, is about 50 per cent, in many instances.
The Commonwealth Government “ Gazette “ of 7th October shows that the Commonwealth is paying half the cost of an independent survey of pharmacy costs, earnings and profits. The other half is to be paid by the Federated Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia, which represents pharmacists. Close to £19,000 is to be paid for this survey, which will be undertaken by Associated Industrial Consultants Ltd., an Australian subsidiary of a British firm. Yesterday I asked the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) whether he knew about the ramifications of this firm within the drug industry. To my surprise he intimated that he had no knowledge of them. It is a matter of concern that he has no knowledge of the affiliations of this firm. Among its large shareholders is Eric White Associates N.S.W. Pty. Ltd., which is the market research consultant to the Australian Association of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industry. This Association embraces all the manufacturers of drugs in Australia. Here is a tie-up that tends to impair the independence of the firm undertaking this survey. Eric White Associates also undertakes public relations work for several major Australian drug firms. Another shareholder in Associated Industrial Consultants is Development Finance Corporation Ltd., which holds shares in several large drug companies, including G.P. Pty. Ltd. This company was acquired in 1965 by Pfizer Pty. Ltd. which is a subsidiary of one of the biggest drug companies in the world and which is the principal manufacturer of many drugs provided under the national health scheme, including the tetracyclines, which represent one of the largest liabilities under the scheme.
Can this inquiry be really independent and impartial in these circumstances? Even if it is, can it in fact appear to be independent when the firm conducting if has such incredible ramifications within the drug industry? Will this firm examine the widespread practice of drug manufacturers and wholesalers who give discounts and rebates to pharmacists as an incentive to the purchase of their products? Some discounts are so extensive that chemists sometimes obtain as many as 20 items for the cost of 12.
Will the firm conducting the survey examine the problem that arises under the national health scheme because various commodities are known by their proprietary names rather than by the generic names of the substances concerned, there being a great disparity between the prices of the same substances under the two different names? Will the survey explain the differentiation between the prices of drugs supplied under the national health scheme on the one hand and the prices of drugs made available to hospitals on the other hand? All these are matters of tremendous concern because these practices inflate the prices of drugs under the health scheme and impose on the taxpayers an intolerable burden.
It is no wonder that the average cost of each prescription in Australia is now 18s. 7d., nearly twice as high as the average cost in the United Kingdom. The Australian cost has risen from 4s. 9d. in 1949 to a peak of 20s. Id. We start to look for the reasons why. I have already instanced some of the principal causes contributing to this situation. Of 114 major drug companies in Australia 66 are completely owned overseas and many are partially owned overseas. Their notorious exploitation of the national health scheme will have to be quickly terminated. At present the scheme is lavishly underwriting these overseas concerns, many of which are owned by parent companies in the United States of America that have been indicted under the Sherman anti-trust legislation for the manner in which they have failed to serve the best interests of the people of that country. Yet the Australian citizen is denied the protection that is afforded the people of the United States.
We speak of a very big industry when we speak of the drug industry. Last financial year the cost of drugs provided under the national health scheme was £45 million. On top of this was the hospital consumption of drugs which amounted to £15 million, so the total cost was £60 million. Another expensive feature of our health service in Australia is the voluntary health insurance scheme. We have 1 12 hospital benefit organisations and 81 medical benefit organisations, all competing for public patronage at great expense. This, to my way of thinking, is a luxury that Australia cannot afford. In 1963-64 contributors paid to these funds £5.2 million more than they received in benefits. In 10 years £50 million more has been collected than has been paid.
When we look at the operating expenses of these organisations we see that they run as high as 20 per cent. In total, for 1963-64, their operating expenses aggregated £6.8 million. This is equal to half the cost of collecting taxation in Australia. The Department of Social Services runs its affairs at a figure which is 1.59 per cent, of its total spending. The Taxation Branch runs itself on 1 per cent, of the amount collected, but the operating expenses of the benefit organisations are as high as 20 per cent. Their fluid reserves stand at £33.6 million. We are waiting for the epidemic which may never come. Then we realise that there are duplicated services all over the country with prestige buildings, great electronic calculating machines, typewriters, switchboard operators, managers and all kinds of things. If one deliberately set out to contrive the most bureaucratic arrangement to conduct and facilitate our national health scheme it would be impossible to contrive anything more monstrous than what we have in Australia at the present time. In 1953 the Government promised that voluntary insurance would cover 90 per cent, of the cost of health services, but what is the position more than 10 years later? At present the Commonwealth finds only 25.9 per cent, of the cost, the funds find 36.8 per cent., and the contributor who is paying to the limit as required by the Government still has to find 37.3 per cent. In other words, for every £100 expended, he or she, or the family man involved, has to find £37 from his or her own pocket. So there is a limit to the social security that prevails under this most cumbersome arrangement.
I have outlined just some of the features that contribute to the high cost of our health service. It is no wonder that the cost per head in Australia is £36 compared with only £24 per head in the United Kingdom. I believe that these are superficial things in which the Commonwealth is involved in connection with health. It is time to decongest the mental blockage which the Commonwealth has about State health services. It is time to embark on the preparation of a national blueprint for medical and hospital standards and patient care. The Constitution presents no insurmountable obstacle and it is unprincipled of the Commonwealth to invoke it as an alibi. The national government came to the rescue of the States in the United States of America by way of (he Hill Burton programme and something similar must be done here. The Hill Burton programme - I hope that the Minister has heard of it - is the means by which the national government of the United States projected itself into an involvement with health. We have great problems and a great dilemma in Australia at the present time and I believe that we need an indigenous counterpart of the Hill Burton programme in Australia. I hope that we will go on to encourage, in the not too far distant future, the States to co-operate with the Commonwealth so that standards will be established for the provision of regionalised hospitals with modern equipment for the provision of salaried inpatient and outpatient specialist staff to provide obstetrical, domiciliary services, geriatric services and dental, optometrical and rehabilitation services. These things are possible. The amount of money is being made available. It should be utilised in a more effective manner to obtain better results.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- May I first congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) on the way in which he is administering his own portfolio and to say that I believe that in the field of rehabilitation, as well as in other ways, his officers are doing a wonderful job. However, I should like to make just one quick suggestion in regard to rehabilitation. I notice that new moneys are being made available for the reconstruction of the rehabilitation centre in Brisbane. Unfortunately, I think, this money is being applied in an unfortunate way as it will not return full benefit for the outlay because of the terrain which the centre occupies. I am afraid that because of the extremely steep terrain the rehabilitees need the instincts of a Rocky Mountains’ goat if they are to be able to benefit from their treatment there. This matter was first mentioned to me by the erstwhile medical director of the centre and I agree with what he said.
May I suggest to the Minister that he make inquiries tor a more suitable property before spending more money on this centre.
Time is very brief and there is much that I should like to say in reply to the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). Instead of doing so, I should like to say that I support these estimates. I believe that the health system in Australia is working magnificently well. Some aspects of it could be improved. Certainly any system can be improved, and there are some ways in which this one can be improved. But tonight I shall give honorable members opposite a free plug because I intend to dissect their own scheme which recently, after much groaning, they brought to light. I propose to have a little look at it for as much time as I have available. I believe that what I am about to say is a very fair condensation of the scheme as outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to the Australian College of General Practitioners at its annual meeting in Melbourne not so very long ago. We realise that members of the Opposition are becoming rather desperate for votes, but we did not realise how desperate they were until we saw the Leader of the Opposition going to the medical profession and trying to win over mem* bers of the profession.
The scheme outlined by the Leader of the Opposition envisages a comprehensive government health service, and I quote from the Labour Party’s policy on this subject, which states -
A Labour government would promote tha establishment of a comprehensive public health service available to all who chose to use it and staffed by those who choose to serve in it.
Then under the heading “ Objective “ it states -
The establishment of a comprehensive health service providing both government and private services.
The honorable gentleman breathed some rather grandiose and nebulous aspirations. He stated that the standards should be as high as possible and that the service should be as efficient and as economical as possible. Of course, this expression means nothing. He added that the service should be free to those who choose to use it. He then said that the scheme should be truly national and that the Commonwealth should accept a far wider responsibility in the field of health. There are then stated some ways in which the States may be brought into line to accept these responsibilities - either by referendum or by using finanical levers which, of course, are very powerful forces. The Leader of the Opposition then said that the present hospital system is inefficient and too costly. He made only two criticisms and in no instance was there any proof of the two criticisms that he offered. The first criticism was that hospital staffs were too individualistic. This, of course, struck horror into my soul immediately. The honorable gentleman said that the medical profession has succeeded . in adopting and perpetuating an extremely individualistic approach. Apparently that is a bad thing.
His second criticism was that the most experienced specialists are not immediately available for emergency cases. Then he said that the services should be of as high a standard as possible, after which he reiterated that it was essential that they be provided as economically as possible. All of us in the medical profession know where the first economies would be effected and I hope at the end of my remarks to make some analysis of this. There has been a brief and misleading comparison with health costs in the United Kingdom. This comparison was made a short time ago by the honorable member for Hughes and it is obviously the line that the Opposition intends to take. But it is a completely meaningless comparison as I hope to show, if I have sufficient time.
– The racket of the doctors.
– I know that that is the attitude of honorable members opposite, but it is not their attitude when they are speaking to the doctors, as I shall mention later. Then he suggests that we have too many beds in our hospitals. He makes another meaningless comparison here because he confuses the overall hospital beds and acute beds. Then he recommends a means by which bed numbers can be reduced. This is charming in its simplicity. He says that what we should do is to admit fewer patients to hospitals and get them out more quickly. This would be a magnificent scheme which, if implemented, would be sure to work, but I could not vouch for the condition of the patients under these circumstances.
Then he recommends that the activities of the health services should be concentrated round the hospitals and that a salaried service should be introduced. As I mentioned before, he recommends using a financial lever to bring the States into line, and the holding of a referendum, if necessary, to give the Commonwealth powers in this regard. Then he wishes to allow general practitioners into public hospitals at their own will. I shall deal with that later. That is not entirely a bad thing. It has been tried in our own hospitals. Then he says that the salaried system is less expensive. This, of course, gives us the key to the situation.
Then the honorable gentleman proposes the introduction of medical audits. I shall refer to medical audits later. They represent a method of Gestapo control of medical staff if they are implemented in the way in which I think Labour intends to implement them. At the end of this manifesto, there is a proposal to operate on the medical benefits funds. The Labour Party proposes immediate action to set up a commission of inquiry or some other form of inquiry into medical benefits funds. It would immediately force the funds to make higher payments and also it would remove anomalies. This, of course, covers a multitude of sins. The Labour Party also says that it would make the medical benefits funds offer a wider field of benefits, including the cost of paramedical services. I think that is a fairly accurate summary. I do not think honorable members opposite would challenge it as a correct precis of what the honorable gentleman said.
If I might quickly mention the medical benefit funds, I would say that Labour’s proposition would force them out of existence. This was hinted at by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. Johnson). They would be forced out of business by being made to pay more benefits than are actuarily possible, and a form of national health insurance with its accompanying evils would be introduced. I hope to speak about these evils later. The honorable gentleman’s speech, with its touching solicitude for the doctors, with the suggestion that they will not have to look after their books and that all financial burdens will be removed from their shoulders, touched me to the core. It reminded me of a little poem by Lewis Carroll, which runs like this -
How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail
And pour the waters of the Nile on every golden scale;
How cheerfully he seems to grin, How neatly spreads his claws, And welcomes little fishes in With gently smiling jaws.
Honorable members opposite are interjecting. They do not want me to get my message across, but they will be disappointed because I will. Unfortunately for the Leader of the Opposition the little fishes in the Australian Medical Association have seen what happened to other medical associations when those gently smiling jaws snapped shut on them. They know what happened in Britain. Mr. Aneurin Bevan, with his gilded tongue, managed to confound the doctors into believing that he was considering their proposals, but finally the jaws snapped shut and the doctors found they were trapped. They have been very sorry ever since.
When we propose any marked change in a health scheme, we should first bring forward evidence as to why the change is necessary. I maintain that no-one has ever demonstrated that a change in our national health scheme is necessary. We have heard much talk about how costs are going up. A few meaningless figures have been thrown in here and there, but no-one has ever demonstrated the need for a change.
Let me point out that no national health scheme has ever been introduced into any country because of need. The German health scheme, the first in modern times, was introduced by a conservatively minded politician, Bismarck, entirely for his own political purposes, not to meet any need at all. Lloyd George went to Germany and saw the scheme in operation. I might add that none of this is contained in a very misleading but very plausible little book written by a gentleman named Moss Cass and entitled “ A National Health Scheme for Labour”. I emphasise that it is not called “ a national health scheme for the people,” but “a national health scheme for Labour.” Honorable members will notice the large red square on the cover of the book. While I am on the subject, I might say that the scheme proposed in this book has very many affinities with the Russian health scheme. As I was saying before hon orable members opposite started to jeer, Lloyd George brought the German scheme back to Britain for his own political purposes and it so deleteriously affected medical care in Britain that the position there has never been the same since. For his own political purposes he administered to the health of Britain a crippling blow from which it has never recovered.
The Russian scheme, which is the next one chronologically, was introduced purely as a matter of political dogma after the Russian revolution. Russian medicine suffered a crippling blow from which it has never recovered. Another example is to be found in Sweden. After the last war, the Socialists there dickered around for a long time, because they did not want to introduce a scheme. And no-one else wanted them to do so. Finally, on doctrinaire grounds they did introduce a scheme which has done nothing for Sweden except force up income tax and therefore perhaps increase the number of peptic ulcers suffered by the taxpayers. Britain introduced its new national health scheme after the war not because of any need amongst the people, because the only people who were feeling the pinch at all were those of the middle classes - and they could get their medical care free if they so desired. There was no widespread need.
Let me refer briefly to costs of illness on a broad comparative plane. There are no very recent figures, but those I am about to use are accurate enough. In the years from 1936 to 1956 there was an enormous rise in the cost of all commodities, but the cost of medical care showed no exceptional rise. During this time the costs of food, of personal care and of personal apparel rose to a considerably greater extent than did the cost of medical care. In the years between 1947 and 1960 the overall cost of hospital care rose to 222.3, taking the base level as 100, but the real cost dropped considerably because of improved techniques which got the people out of hospital much quicker. Because of this, the total overall cost was much less. In 1888 the average stay of a working man in hospital cost him 21 per cent, of his annual wage. Since that time, although the daily cost of hospital care has risen by 30 times, the cost is down to 7.2 per cent. This is due solely to the fact that the length of stay in hospital has dim- inished greatly. Another point is that many people would not have been able to go back to work in those days but now they can do so because their lives have been salvaged whereas previously they would not have been.
I do not doubt that there is some need here, but the way of remedying it is not to use a doctrinaire sort of sledge hammer and shatter the whole system. Health in this country is as good as that in any other country in the world. It is far better than in those countries which have national health schemes. I can certainly vouch for that. Figures and tables which I can present will amply demonstrate this. Health in those countries is not so good for the simple reason that the person who is working under a government cannot give the care and attention to his patients that a man who is able to work at his own will is able to give.
Order! the honorable member’s time has expired.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Bowman be granted an extension of time.
– Order! It is out of order to move an extension of time for an honorable member just after the first time he speaks in Committee.
.- I think that all honorable members would acknowledge the ability of the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) to speak with a certain amount of authority on matters that relate to health, but the honorable member has demonstrated very clearly that he is completely opposed to a national health scheme. He devoted most of his speech to discussing the national health scheme in Britain and made passing reference to the scheme in Sweden. The honorable member knows, as do all honorable members, that during the time since the national health scheme was introduced in Great Britain by a Labour Government a Conservative Government has been in power, although a Labour Government is now again in power. During the whole of the period in which the Conservative Government was in power it made no attempt to abolish the national health scheme. In fact, the Conservative Government improved the scheme.
I cannot speak with any great authority about the health scheme in Sweden or any other country - no doubt the honorable member for Bowman can - but the fact remains that no government in Great Britain would be prepared to abolish the present national health scheme that the British people enjoy. Obviously the honorable member is opposed to a national health scheme, but the Australian Labour Party believes that the best possible medical services should be available to everyone regardless of cost. If it is necessary to increase taxation to provide for an efficient health service that should be done.
I wish to refer to representations that have been made to the Government over a long period by the Australian Optometrical Association. Last night during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Social Services I told the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) that the Opposition would insist that the Minister for Health give some indication to the Parliament why the Government has consistently refused to reply to the representations that have been made by the Australian Optometrical Association in connection with the discrimination over a very long period against optometrists that the association alleges. The honorable member for Bowman congratulated the Minister for Social Services, who now sits at the table. In my opinion the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) should be occupying the place at the table now occupied by the Minister for Social Services. Surely when the estimates for the Department of Health are being discussed in this Parliament the Minister for Health should be present! I am prepared to concede that the Minister for Health is a very conscientious Minister. I suppose that would be acknowledged by all members on this side of the Committee, but at the same time it ought to be pointed out that the Minister for Health, who has been absent from this country for a considerable period, is now. when we are debating the estimates for his Department, in some other part of Australia. Honorable members on this side believe that the Minister for Health ought to be present while these estimates are debated.
I addressed a question to the Minister for Health last night. I pointed out that members on this side of the Committee have a reasonable right to expect a reply to the representations that have been made over a long period on behalf of the Australian Optometrical Association concerning the discrimination against members of that organisation. We all understand the situation that exists. The National Health Bill, which was introduced into the Parliament in 1953, provided that a medical benefit would not be paid to a patient who consulted an optometrist. Since that date members of the Australian Optometrical Association have continually sought to have that anomaly removed. The position is - it is understood by all honorable members on this side and should be understood by the Minister at the table - that there are three professional groups in this country dealing with eye troubles. First there are the general medical practitioners, secondly the optometrists and thirdly the ophthalmologists. The people in each group are highly trained. I understand that an optometrist is required to do a five year course at a university and that in New South Wales he is required to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree. Nevertheless he is discriminated against under the National Health Act.
The position is that if an optometrist refers a patient to an ophthalmologist no medical benefit is available to the patient. However, if an ophthalmologist ascertains that the patient belongs to a medical benefit fund he does, in fact, refer the patient back to a general practitioner who in turn refers the patient back to the ophthalmologist. The patient can then obtain a benefit. This is obviously quite illegal, but I believe that the Government is fully aware that the practice exists. I would not suggest that all ophthalmologists engage in this practice, but obviously a number do. In 1958 the Government decided that if a patient visited a general medical practitioner or an optometrist for the purpose of having spectacles prescribed no medical benefit would be paid. The Minister for Health pointed out in his reply to the Australian Optometrical Association that the doctor must clearly state whether a prescription for glasses had been issued. It is generally recognised in the profession that if this part of the questionnaire is unanswered the payment of a medical benefit is affected.
It has been pointed out to the Government by members of the Australian Optometrical
Association that to require optometrists to refer a patient to an ophthalmologist, who in turn refers the patient to a general medical practitioner, simply for the purpose of ensuring that a medical benefit will be paid, is an unnecessary waste of finance. Obviously the great majority of people in Australia who belong to a medical benefit fund would agree that the medical benefits scheme should apply also to optometrists. I have already pointed out that the general medical practitioner, the ophthalmologist and the optometrist all are responsible for refraction and the treatment of eye conditions. There is very little difference in the treatment given to patients, whether it be by a general medical practitioner, an ophthalmologist or an optometrist, but the Government discriminates against the optometrist. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are entitled to ask why this Government, which boasts about its national health scheme - the scheme which was referred to by the honorable member for Bowman - discriminates against a large section of the Australian community.
In 1953 the number of refractions made by optometrists in Australia was about 80 per cent, of all cases that attended a clinic for eye treatment. By 1963 the figure had dropped to 60 per cent. In the same period the number of optometrists in practice had risen by 2.2 per cent. During this time the population increased by more than 23 per cent. In the same period - from 1953 to 1963 - the number of ophthalmologists in practice increased by 42 per cent. It is obvious that the National Health Act discriminates against optometrists. No national health scheme can be successful unless it provides a health service which will cover all sections of the community and all of the physical disabilities with which the people are afflicted. The honorable member for Bowman, who is interjecting, may not agree with me on this point but honorable members on this side of the chamber are as one that people who suffer from an eye disability should be entitled to the same care and attention from the medical profession as is accorded to any citizen who suffers from some other serious illness. There is no difference between the two types of patients. Both require medical attention, but this Government discriminates against a large section of the community. I do not disagree with the contention that medical benefits should be paid, not only to people who receive treatment from optometrists, but also to people who receive treatment from dentists. The services of both professions should be included in the national health scheme. This Government has consistently refused to acknowledge the representations made by the Australian Optometrical Association.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- May I first refer to some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). He had his wires crossed a little. As far as eye disease or illness is concerned, there is no discrimination for the simple reason that eye disease is treated by an ophthalmologist - that is, by a doctor - and medical benefits accrue to people who receive treatment for eye disease. It is arguable, although this is not the place to argue it, whether the cost of having a person tested for glasses should be made the subject of medical benefit, but the fact remains that there is no discrimination because there is no payment in respect of an eye refraction made either by an optometrist or by an ophthalmologist. This is a misapprehension under which some honorable members are labouring.
If I may develop further the argument that I was advancing during my earlier remarks, I had said that I had no doubt that there were areas of need in the community, but nobody has yet satisfactorily demonstrated where they are. One point to consider and one which indicates that the need is less than it was years ago is that the disposable income of people in this country has increased. That is, the amount of money that people have left after paying for the necessaries of life has increased considerably. This means that, on average, they now have more money available with which to insure against illness.
I refer now to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He said that hospital staffs are becoming too individualistic. That statement shows that the scheme propounded by the Australian Labour Party, from the start, has an inherent serious weakness because the only way in which a doctor can perform his task to the best advantage is by being individualistic. This is the key to the whole matter and this is why, as I said earlier, the health of people in free enterprise countries is vastly, demonstrably and statistically better than the health of people in countries which have national health schemes. If a doctor is not free to express his individuality in his healing art, because that is what it still is - fortunately it is not yet a system of computers - it will suffer and the patient will suffer also. So a scheme such as that propounded by the Labour Party must be doomed from the start.
If members of the Opposition think that a national health scheme will improve the health of the people they are very wrong. When I was in Great Britain last year I looked very objectively at the British scheme. I know that one cannot, perhaps, be completely objective, whichever side of the Parliament he is on, but I tried to keep my mind as free from prejudice as I could. I asked the people running the show - the people involved in it and who might be expected to be biased in its favour - whether the health of the people had been improved. I do not propose to give names, but some very prominent people associated with the British health scheme said: “No, we do not think so. We feel that it is probably about the same.” If you granted those people any bias at all in favour of their system, the inference could readily be drawn - I do not draw it here - that the general efficacy of the scheme has diminished. Mind you, this is in a scheme which has already been seriously undermined by the national health insurance scheme introduced by Lloyd George in 191 1.
Another suggestion is that the most experienced specialist should be immediately available for emergency cases. This comes holus-bolus, as most of these suggestions do, from Mr. Moss Cass. There is no criticism in that, because he is in some measure an expert.
– He is a “Dr.” not a “ Mr.”. He is a member of your profession.
– He happens to be a surgeon. Anyway, I will ignore that comment. This person, though he obviously has the best will in the world, is a very biased man. His book is full of bias, but he is genuinely striving to produce a scheme. Unfortunately, he has not the practical experience to do so and many of his suggestions simply will not work. Let us consider (he case of a surgeon. The suggestion is that the senior surgeon of a hospital should be available, because the most experienced specialist is sought. If this suggestion were adopted, the senior surgeon of the hospital would be on duty all night because some accidents or emergency surgery cases could come in, and they will come into a large hospital. On the whole, this type of surgery is relatively simpler than much of the routine surgery that is arranged long before it is done. This routine surgery is generally complicated surgery. Of course, if any really complicated surgery has to be done in a hurry, the best specialist will be called anyway. But picture the specialist who has been up all night operating and the next day does his rounds trying to assess a patient and then puts in six or eight hours in an operating theatre doing the most exacting and complex work. I can assure the House that his work will suffer grievously. These people just cannot have their cake and eat it too.
In addition, there just are not enough specialists about nor will there ever be under these circumstances because, under a national health scheme, the best material diverts itself into other channels. The prospective specialists see the frustrations ahead if they undertake this work and they usually vote on the matter with their feet and leave, to our gain and Britain’s loss. I will say more about that later, if time permits. Here again a highly impractical scheme has been suggested. It is very good in theory and would be very nice if it would work, but there is no way in which it can be made to work.
The suggestion is made that we should get patients out of hospital more quickly. There are only two ways in which this can be done. A patient can be sent out of hospital before he is ready to leave or we can improve medical techniques and increase the speed at which healing will be effected. Improved techniques are developing progressively today and no amount of political activity can possibly affect this, except deleteriously. I am prepared to demonstrate that this is so if any honorable member opposite would like me to do so. I see that there are no takers. This is not a matter for political activity. This is a matter in which medical science itself will take over. There is scope for improvement in this field, but unfortunately I have not the time to deal with it. It is a rather interesting and fascinating study.
I will deal now with the question of allowing general practitioners into hospitals. This is rather interesting and I do not criticise the suggestion from the political point of view. It is impractical for many reasons, but I will mention only one. Fortunately, doctors have not yet been ground down in a Socialist machine; they are still individualists. They still retain the right to differ on methods of treatment of certain cases. Some people feel very strongly about this, and patients could be affected deleteriously if this suggestion were adopted. Let us imagine that a private doctor goes into the ward, sees his patient, and sees from the chart that the patient is receiving treatment X. He has always had a rooted objection to this treatment. Some doctors, unworthily, will then put on some sort of a show in the patient’s presence, perhaps unwittingly, but the patient inevitably will sense that the doctor does not agree with the treatment he is receiving. The patient would suffer through a loss of confidence. I have seen this happen and in this situation it would undoubtedly happen again.
This suggestion will not work for another practical reason. Private practitioners work very hard and they simply have not the time to go into the hospitals to see patients. The Ipswich hospital - I had the honour to be on its staff - introduced this system. It was thought to be practicable because the medical practitioners in Ipswich fortunately were a closely knit community. They saw each other’s point of view and we knew there would be no embarrassment of the type I have mentioned if the practitioners were allowed into the hospital. Although the practitioners could not prescribe any treatment for the patients, they were able to see the patients at any time and were able in general to carry out this suggestion. But only one doctor in the entire community ever availed himself of the privilege to any significant extent and even he did not get there very often because, as I say, the practitioners did not have the time. This suggestion sounds very well in theory, but it is of no practical use whatever and it could be harmful to a patient.
The idea seems to be to concentrate most of the medical activity, as is done in Russia, in the hospital system, with a small peripheral hospital, a larger hospital of intermediate size and then another large specialised hospital. This would be associated with a salaried system. Advocates of this idea think it would work very well. The doctors would not be worried about financial burdens or such matters, because the load is taken from their shoulders, or so the Socialists say. I have seen this system at work and I can say that the standard of medical attention will deteriorate. There will be less actual competition and there will be terrific nepotism. There will be an order of succession and those on the lower rungs of the ladder will vie with each other to ingratiate themselves with the senior man so that when the senior man goes a rung higher he will nominate the person of his choice. That person will often be the one who has ingratiated himself most. I have seen this happen time and time again. Nepotism will creep in.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the honorable gentleman is allowed to reflect on the medical profession.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– I am not reflecting on the medical profession. Though this could happen in the medical profession, I am sure it happens far more frequently in other walks of life. It could even occur in certain trade unions. I would not dare to say that it does happen but I suggest it could creep into trade unions and the Australian Labour Party.
I have very little time left, but I would like to direct attention to a little of the theory that the salaried system and the removal of the fee for service system would be of benefit to the community. The author of the book I have mentioned previously is so biased that he very often puts the wrong interpretation upon facts and statistics which he quotes. This applies to certain statistics he mentions which relate to America. There are Socialists in America. His deductions might attract the lay reader who is not being critical. He said inter alia that it was shown that amongst insured people the appendectomy rate was 11 per 1,000 but was only 5 per 1,000 amongst uninsured people. Anyone reading this might say: “ The nasty old money bags. As soon as he sees that he will get money for performing an appendectomy, he will do it, but the honest John on a flat rate, who receives the same amount no matter how much work he does, removes an appendix only when necessary.” I put it to honorable members that this suggestion could work the other way. We must get down to the fundamentals of human nature. The tired doctor, who receives the same amount of money no matter what he does, sees a patient with abdominal pain. He has been up all that night and all of the night before. He has a dreadful day ahead of him. If a patient comes in with a tummy ache and if there is nothing in it for the doctor, the doctor may say in these circumstances: “This may be something else. It may not be appendicitis. We will wait and see.” It could be that the patient would suffer. I suggest that this state of affairs could very easily arise. Such statistics can be very misleading and must not be allowed to sway the people. The Opposition has failed to demonstrate that there is a need for a cataclysmic change in our health scheme. The scheme we have here is the best in the world and I challenge Opposition members to prove in subsequent debate that there is a need for change.
.- I would not pretend to be an expert in the medical field, as the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) is. I should think that he is regarded as being quite eminent in his profession. However, he comes to grief when he gets tangled up with politics because he seems to have some obsession about Socialism, about any association with Communism or with Russia and the like. I put it that any form of health scheme at all, including the medical benefits scheme conducted by this Government, has some element of Socialism about it. It is a case where society feels that there is a need to assist people on lower incomes or people who through bad luck might suffer some misfortune or meet some accident. So a Socialist scheme has been introduced. The honorable member for Bowman produced a book by Dr. Moss Cass, an eminent surgeon in Melbourne. He took exception to the fact that the cover bears a red square. This, to him, was evidence that it was Socialist.
– Is it Socialist?
– It is Socialist, and 1 am not disputing that. I merely point out that the honorable member saw something sinister in the fact that the cover has a red square on it. He also quoted a piece of poetry which, if I recall, is from “ Alice in Wonderland “. I am not suggesting that this has anything to do with the other propositions that the honorable member put forward, but I do not think it is without some significance. He dealt also with the British health service. My friend, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), pointed out that the British health service, although established by a Labour government and accepted by succeeding Conservative governments, has over the years been administered by people who did not believe in it. If there was anything wrong with the British scheme, let us remember at least that it was administered by a government that did not believe basically in it. The greatest criticism the medical profession had of the scheme was that there had been no increase of any consequence in their fees and emoluments from the time Labour went out of office in 1951 until the recently elected Labour Government in Great Britain gave some form of salary justice to the medical profession there.
We are told that all of these health schemes have been introduced not to meet a need but for some political purpose. I ask this Government: Did it introduce its pensioner medical scheme, its pharmaceutical benefits scheme and its medical benefits scheme for political purposes or to meet a need? If we are going to ascribe base political motives to people like Bismarck and Liberals like Lloyd George it might just as readily be said that the same base political considerations motivated the present Government here.
I should like now to deal briefly with Labour’s propositions and to suggest to honorable members opposite that they acquire Labour’s policy and read it, because they have painted a picture of some monolithic scheme imprisoning both doctors and patients alike, overworking the medical profession and depriving the patient and doctor of freedom of choice. One characteristic of the scheme determined by the recent Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party is that it provides for an element of choice. For example the objectives include -
I emphasise the fact that mention is made of private services. The objectives continue -
If honorable members care to go through the scheme they will realise that this element of freedom of choice by the doctor and by the patient is one of its most notable features. I am sorry that the honorable member for Bowman did not get on to some of the questions he referred to and said he would deal with later. One was the question of a surgical audit. 1 well recall that in the Queensland State Parliament the late Dr. Noble, when he was in Opposition, advocated a surgical audit, but when he became the Minister in charge of the Department of Health and Home Affairs at no time did he take action to introduce a surgical audit. I would not be competent to say what the value of a surgical audit would be, but I should say it is significant that a doctor in Opposition thought it a god thing and when in Government felt he could not proceed with it.
There are many fields in which the Commonwealth Department of Health should interest itself at this time, and 1 should like to mention a few of them briefly. We realise that medicine is a field in which the Commonwealth shares certain constitutional powers with the States. So the Commonwealth ought to come to the party when there is any question involving the nation as a whole. This attitude was adopted by the Chifley Labour Government when the tuberculosis scheme was introduced. Figures indicate a great decrease in the incidence of tuberculosis as a result of this scheme. For instance the number of tuberculosis allowances current in 1952 was 6,127 throughout the Commonwealth whereas in 1964 it was 1,573. A Labour Government introduced the tuberculosis scheme and although there has been an increase in the incidence of the disease in New South Wales and in the Northern Territory in the year immediately past it is a fact that in
Australia we are steadily solving the tuberculosis problem.
The Commonwealth should be operating in other fields today. The medical side of motor accidents is a Commonwealth-wide problem that should be looked at. I should like to quote from a report of a paper given by Dr. Tonge, the Director of the State Microbiology and Pathology Laboratory in Queensland to the Royal Society of Queensland on Monday, 4th October last. The quotation reads -
Dr. J. I. Tonge . . . presented the facts concerning road accidents in Australia. In 1964 there were 2,600 deaths and 60,000 seriously injured. This death rate was three times that for all infectious “diseases put together. For youths and men under 30, accidents were the principal cause of death, the greatest number being aged 17 to 25. The extent of deaths and injuries meant that road accidents were a major health problem. Dr. Tonge described- the typical injuries sustained, usually to the chest and head, and often paraplegia which made the injured a liability to the State for life. There were many factors involved in accidents; alcohol, faulty roads and vehicles, and criminal irresponsibility.
The point I am trying to emphasise is contained here -
Dr. Tonge compared the emphasis given to air safety resulting from responsibility being vested in one departmental minister, with the 14 different bodies concerned with road transport where we had the second highest death rate in the world. The fact that New Zealand’s death rate was only half that of Australia’s was significantly related to the fact that in New Zealand the problem was organised under the Commissioner of Transport - a single authority. Despite the gravity of the problem only £12,000 was spent on accident research in Australia for 1961.
I am suggesting to the Minister that this is one field in which the Commonwealth Department of Health ought to concern itself seriously. Dr. Tonge was reported as saying -
Alcohol was especially important as shown by the fact that of 2,500 deaths studied here 41 per cent, had a blood alcohol level of 0.1 per cent, or more and 83 per cent, of drivers killed in single car accidents had this level in their blood.
I am suggesting that the Commonwealth could well look into the problem of alcoholism on a national basis. It is one of the greatest problems of our time, and it is one of the problems that is too big for the States to handle. It ought to be studied by the Commonwealth.
There are some aspects of the existing health services provided by the Department that I should like to deal with briefly.
One of these is the payment made under the medical benefits scheme for operations. The scale has been drawn up by the Government in consultation with the medical profession. As with the Department of Social Services - the estimates of which I spoke on last night - I feel that not enough flexibility applies. I had a case brought to my attention last week, and I have written to the Minister for Health about it. A girl had met with an accident and was treated by an orthopaedic surgeon for an orthoplasty. For this operation, a government benefit of £30 is payable. But the account that was sent to the father of the girl in question was for £157 10s. What this means is that the maximum amount payable in the way of Commonwealth benefit is £30. This payment does not take into account the great amount of aftercare in orthopaedic surgery and neuro surgery which are frequently involved in such cases. The point I am trying to make is that there is no flexibility in these matters. There ought to be some method of arbitration regarding operations in the orthopaedic and neuro surgery fields, by which account is taken of the great amount of aftercare required and where a special benefit can be paid for that aftercare. The aftercare should not be taken together with the cost of the operation in determining the Commonwealth benefit to be paid.
I mention the question of hearing aids that are produced by the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories. Some time ago, I asked a question of the Minister for Health relating to the cost of the Calaid hearing aid. At that time the Minister said that the model being produced then cost just over £7 10s. He said that a new model was to be produced which would cost just over £15. I put it to you, Mr. Chairman, that nowhere in Australia could you buy a hearing aid for £15. I think the Department of Health ought to interest itself in the cost of hearing aids supplied to the people of Australia. If the Calaid hearing aid can be produced for £15 and made available free to school children and to people who need hearing aids, because of their repatriation entitlements and the like, then it ought to be possible for private concerns to market such a hearing aid at that price or not much more. I recognise that private companies have to conduct their offices, interviewing rooms and the like. At the same time, -greatly inflated profits are being made by “private organisations marketing hearing aids in Australia. To quote an example, I mention that a friend of mine broke the little moulded part of the hearing aid that fits into the ear. When he went to the firm from which he bought the hearing aid he was told that it would cost £7 10s. to have the part replaced. Another friend of mine who is a dentist put some plaster of paris in the man’s ear and remoulded the part of the hearing aid concerned. My dentist friend estimated that the cost of producing this part was of the order of ls. 6d. This illustrates the sort of profits which are being made out of people’s misfortunes. In my view it is up to the Government to look at this question to determine whether people are being exploited and, if they are, to take some action either to make hearing aids from the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories more widely available - to go on the market if necessary - or in some other way to reduce the price of hearing aids to the community.
There are two other matters I would like to raise. The ‘ first relates to the salaries paid to Commonwealth medical officers. These are approximately £1,000 a year less than the salaries paid to State Government medical officers in Queensland. A great deal of dissatisfaction exists among the medical officers in the employment of the Commonwealth Government in Queensland. I realise that negotiations relating to this matter have been proceeding for a long time. I am rather surprised that they have not been determined to this date. I should think that if the Commonwealth wants to retain these hard working and capable officers it ought to give them salary justice. Certainly, this state of affairs is not in accordance with the laudatory statements made by the honorable member for Bowman who suggested that it was Socialist governments which grind members of the medical profession into the ground.
I have covered quite a number of fields. The last matter I would like to mention in brief is the delay in reimbursing convalescent homes and private, hospitals by way of Commonwealth subsidy. I realise that the Department of Health is converting to automatic data processing equipment and I hope that the introduction of this machinery will cut down the delays. The Department is fortunate indeed to have skilled and devoted staff throughout the Commonwealth. I feel that these people are capable of better things if they are given better support from the Department.
.- Mr. Chairman, I think that Government members are fortunate to have in a debate of this type someone of the quality of the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) to help them in specialist fields relating to medical health and services. In respect of the subject that the honorable member for Bowman has dealt with tonight, I have a great deal of sympathy. I do not feel that every member of the Committee will necessarily agree but I think that the important point that comes out of the remarks of the honorable member for Bowman tonight is this: When one has a scheme which is working well, when a nation has a fantastic health record in relation to that of the rest of the world and when a nation has a physical prowess which is undoubted, one hesitates to alter the whole scheme of medical procedure. This applies whether one is thinking of hospitalisation, the quality of doctors or of any dire change in health matters. I know very well that one of the great advantages of the present Opposition is that it likes to be a party of reform. One has seen the Opposition attempt reforms in many fields in the past. Sometimes the reforms have been worth while and thoughtful. Sometimes the reforms have been a little ahead of their time. I think I am being generous when I make that remark. In the State of South Australia at this moment - and I am thinking actively of this - the Labour Party seems to be a little out of touch with reality. But the Labour Party is being consistent in this matter of medical reform. It is looking for a new scheme. I think this is part and parcel of the way of life of the Labour Party. I see nothing wrong with this. I think that if the Labour Party carried on more in this way it would be all to the good of this Parliament. The scheme of medical health is a very serious matter indeed. Might I just point out again that, inexpert and inept though I might be in medical matters, I think the message is: When you have a good thing, stick to it. Do not try to change it too frequently. 1 do not intend to delve, as many honorable members have done tonight, into schemes to do with national health that might regulate medicine and hospitalisation. I think I have made the only point I wish to make in regard to this matter. I would take up the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who, by the way, made a very commendable and honest remark when he pointed out the pillar on which the honorable member for Bowman stands in regard to matters of this type. The honorable member for Bass then went on to qualify that remark slightly. I do not blame him for that. But I would take him up on one comment he made. That is that the best medical service should be available to everyone in the country. I accept this remark. This is quite so. The only point in argument is how we achieve this end. Honorable members on this side say that the result of the system of encouraging enterprise which we support is the achievement of a better quality of medical care, a better quality of surgical aptitude and a better quality of health services generally. I think this is the only point on which I differ from the honorable member for Bass. Personally, I accept the remark made by him. It is a matter of attitude, as to how one gets to the core of this problem.
I point out again, if I may do so, that 1 am very impressed by the fact that the honorable member for Bowman has great experience in this field. I am impressed also with his argument. I think the one point the honorable member made so well in regard to this field is the difficulty that is experienced in some other countries today in providing the right quality of practitioner needed in a certain field. If we tend to socialise or regulate this field or its administration in any way, I do not say we will necessarily get the wrong types or people without any brains - after all every generation that comes forward in Australia seems to be better educated than the one that preceded it - but the question is whether we will get people possessing the required dedication. Even if we do, will we get them in such numbers as we have got them in the past? This is very much at the core of the problem and I suggest that the guiding principle should be whether there is a need in this field. When I speak of a need, I speak in terms of whether the people of this country find themselves in such a position that they cannot cope with present conditions, cannot cope with hospitalisation. Are we becoming so inefficient that we cannot look after some form of medical insurance?
These are the questions that must be intrinsically involved in any suggestion of alteration of our national health scheme. From this point of view I think we come immediately to the question whether the medical service should be completely free or not. There will be differences of opinion in this Parliament on that question, but I suggest that any scheme that contains a contributive element, no matter how small, must be a more responsible scheme than a completely free one. Furthermore, it is my view that in this Parliament we have responsibilities and one of them in this context is to see that governmental funds are spent in the most productive and economical fashion for the good of the nation as a whole. I do not know whether I am being too cruel in this connection, but I am reminded of the experience of people who have lived in Queensland for many years under a political system that I regard as having been inept. Perhaps I am too used, being a South Australian, to living under a government which was in office for 20 years and which I regarded as a very efficient one. If one were to generalise on the difference between one method of budgeting and another, probably one would say that the main difference is that one method involves the investment of government funds in a productive fashion while the second does not. It is my belief that the increase in the economic capacity of South Australia over a period of 20 years was due entirely to the investment of government funds in a fashion which enabled production to increase. Between the two extremes, if one likes to look at them as extremes, we in this chamber owe some responsibility to the people, and I think the people are behind the present Government when it insists on some small contribution towards the cost of our national health scheme.
I was interested in the comments of, I think, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) about ophthalmologists and optometrists. I do not expect to find many people on my side in this argument, but I shall try to explain to the Committee my feeling on this matter. Roughly speaking, and as briefly as I can put it, it is this: The field of preventive medicine is obviously a field in which governmental activity can make a bigger inroad in terms of public health than in any other. To support this proposition we have only to look at governmental schemes that have almost wiped tuberculosis off the face of the earth. There are many instances of the effectiveness of this kind of preventive medicine.
As to the argument between ophthalmologists and optometrists, there is a case of a sort in favour of optometrists, but I am not in favour of any change in the present position because I believe that in the field of preventive medicine, and particularly in the case of diseases of the eye such as glaucoma, it is essential to make more and more sure as time goes on that the properly qualified man is given charge of the care of intricate parts of the human body. The more we go into the field of preventing blindness - as I think we will as time goes on - through inspections or refraction tests for glaucoma, the more I believe we must leave the various procedures under the control of fully trained medical men. By fully trained I mean people with a wide medical experience who are able to arrive at a fully informed judgment on a particular problem. It is very difficult for an optometrist to tell whether an eye condition is not due to pressure on the brain from some undiscovered source. It is this kind of example that makes me feel we would be detracting from the future interests of the people if we allowed any change in the present, procedure, which leaves ophthalmologists in full control of eye diseases.
I would like to refer briefly before I conclude to mental homes in South Australia. The present State Government finds itself- and I suppose similar situations exist in other States - in the position of not being able to commence the construction of two proposed mental homes until 1967. Looking at the legislation covering this matter I find that in 1955 an Act was passed under which an amount of £10 million was made available for the States for the construction of mental homes. It was provided on the basis of a contribution of £2 by the Commonwealth for every £1 by the States. I do not know the position, of the other States at the present time but I do know that South Australia has left in this pool only £176,000. Another piece of legislation was enacted in 1964 for the provision of Commonwealth financial assistance on the same basis for the construction of these homes, but I gather that this later Act remains in force only until June 1967.
The Committee can see the problem that I am putting. The second Act ceases to operate in 1967; the first Act continues to operate but South Australia has only £176,000 in the pool. I suggest that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who is now at the table, might look at the position. It seems that because of certain factors which perhaps we need not go into politically at this stage, two mental homes that were due to be commenced at an early date in South Australia will now not be commenced until 1967. I trust that proper Commonwealth subsidies will be available at that time in spite of the difficulties that appear to exist because of certain provisions of the current legislation.
Before I conclude I would like to touch, briefly on a topic that I mentioned at this time last year. I believe there is a suggestion of legislation being brought before this Parliament with a view to tightening up provisions designed to prevent the entry into this country of exotic diseases of animal origin. If this is correct I would like to congratulate the Minister. I am one who has been acquainted with the agriculture of many countries during the last 10 years and I believe that there would be dire results and possibly economic loss for this country if we did not make sure that these diseases could not be brought here. I am not thinking of foot and mouth disease only. That is the disease about which we hear most. I am thinking more about diseases such as blue tongue in sheep and many similar exotic diseases. Only the other day I came across the case of an Australian youth who had worked in a killing works in South Africa slaughtering cattle that had foot1 and mouth disease. Within 36 hours of leaving the works he was in Perth where, apparently, he had to try to persuade someone to inspect his shoes to ensure that they were nol’ carrying infection. I hope, that this sort of official reluctance has already been remedied.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I want first to direct the attention of the Minister for Health to the appalling hospital conditions that exist in some centres on the south coast of New South Wales. These unsatisfactory conditions are a matter of very real concern to this Parliament and the Government because these centres are the holiday playground of the people of the National Capital.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) from time to time holidays for a day or so at Tuross. Many senior civil servants have holiday homes in the glorious resort surroundings of Dalmeny. Between 30,000 and 35,000 holidaymakers each summer visit the district of Bateman’s Bay and an equal number visit the district of Narooma. The majority of these come from the Australian Capital Territory. One of the people about whom I am particularly concerned is the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), who lives in the area and whose wellbeing is a matter of the utmost concern to us all. Close to the area in which he lives there is no hospital and he has recently been an active worker for and a signatory to a petition seeking to obtain a hospital for Narooma. The Narooma district, as I have said, has about 30,000 or 35,000 holiday visitors every year. This town is the largest in the Eurobodalla Shire. Yet it has no hospital whatever. The nearest hospital to the north would be about 30 miles away at Moruya and the nearest to the south would be more than 50 miles away at Bega. Yet scores of thousands of residents of the National Capital spend their holiday leave and their holiday weekends on this part of the south coast.
A few years ago the Commonwealth Government, realising the need for the people of Canberra to have access to this magnificent holiday coast, made a special allocation of funds to the New South Wales Government on condition that the State Government built the road from Canberra to the coast to modern highway standard. That has been done. In addition, within the last few months the ferry at Nelligen has been taken out of service and a fine new bridge has been opened there. The people of Canberra are now pouring over this road to the coast every weekend, particularly at Christmas and the New Year and throughout the summer months. Therefore, I believe it is very important that the Commonwealth Government should now offer the New South Wales Government a similar special allocation of funds on condition that the State Government uses the money to establish proper hospitals at Narooma and Bateman’s Bay so that the population of Canberra, which so largely transfers itself to these areas in the holiday season, may have some assurance of obtaining medical attention and hospital treatment in time of need.
It may be thought that the financing of such hospitals is a task for the New South Wales Government. It is not solely a task for that Government because, as I have said, in the holiday seasons these areas are largely populated by the people of Canberra. But whether or not this is a task for the State Government, the fact is that that Government states quite plainly that it has absolutely no money available for this purpose. Mr. Jago, the New South Wales Minister for Health, speaking at Newcastle the other day, said that New South Wales is facing a crisis in its public hospitals. He said that his Department had only £6 million to spend on 260 hospitals. He added that the Department had already spent this sum and had dipped into next year’s Estimates to the tune of £li million.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that the building of hospitals is not a responsibility of the Commonwealth and therefore the subject matter that he is discussing concerning the building of hospitals is irrelevant to the consideration of the estimates now before the Committee.
– I point out, Sir, that the building of roads is not a direct responsibility of the Commonwealth but it can make grants to the States for the purpose and did in fact make a grant to the New South Wales Government for the construction of a road from Canberra to the coast. I suggest that the Commonwealth can similarly - this is a proper matter for consideration by this Parliament - make a grant to the State Government for the construction of hospitals in this area in which the Commonwealth has a particular interest.
– I still say to the honorable member that the building of hospitals is not a responsibility of the Commonwealth.
– I shall argue the matter from the standpoint that the States receive their money principally from the Commonwealth and I am pleading therefore for a much larger allocation of Federal funds to State Governments for hospital purposes.
– The matter of the building of hospitals is completely irrelevant and I rule that the honorable member may not mention it in this debate.
– I shall not mention the building of hospitals again. But I shall give to the Committee a description of the hospital at Bateman’s Bay to illustrate the woefully inadequate hospital facilities at present available in Australia and the need for the provision of additional funds for this purpose.
– I rule that the matter with which the honorable member is dealing is not relevant. He is out of order in mentioning the building of hospitals and the matter of finance provided by the Commonwealth to the States.
– I refer to the Commonwealth and State hospitals agreement
– I rise to order. The honorable member is canvassing your ruling, Sir. You have already ruled that he is out of order.
– The point of order is correctly raised by the Minister. I have ruled that the honorable member may not mention the building of hospitals or the conditions of hospitals. In his opening remarks on these estimates he spent a considerable time dealing with hospitals. I allowed him to illustrate a point that he was making and in doing so to mention an irrelevant matter concerning a grant made by the Commonwealth for a road for a particular purpose. I suggest that the honorable member has spent sufficient time illustrating his point and I rule that the matter is not relevant to the estimates for the Department of Health.
– I shall not attempt to evade your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I should like your guidance. I wish now to quote from a presidential minute of the President of the Eurobodalla Shire, which describes the extremely inferior conditions at the Bateman’s Bay Hospital. This is a matter relating to the health of the community. My reference will be brief and I hope you will allow me to make it. I propose then to turn to the subject of refractions.
– I rule that the quoting of the minute of the President of the Eurobodalla Shire by the honorable member would be further trespassing on the subject of the establishment and maintaining of hospitals, which is a State responsibility. Therefore, quoting from the minute would be contrary to the ruling that I have already given the honorable member on this matter.
– I understand you to rule that it is outside the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to build hospitals. I understand you to rule also that it is outside the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to make a grant for the building of hospitals as I am asking it to do.
– I have ruled that these matters are irrelevant to the consideration of the estimates now before the Committee.
– I turn to the subject of eyesight examinations. I was not able to follow the argument of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles), but it appeared to me that he was contending that the whole responsibility and care for the eyesight of the people should be left in the hands of ophthalmologists. This, of course, is a view which he is entitled to hold, although it is a very strange policy, but the fact is that optometrists are professional men who are fully trained in all matters relating to the examination of the eyes. It is also a fact that the majority of refractions throughout Australia are carried out by optometrists.
Patients of optometrists could enjoy . a national coverage in respect of rebates for eyesight examinations and professional fees paid for spectacle prescriptions if the Commonwealth Government would simply give its support to this quite practical proposition. The rebates would be introduced throughout Australia by lodges of the friendly societies throughout Australia.
The Friendly Societies’ Federal Council some years ago endorsed a proposed scale of fund benefits for eyesight examinations and recommended its adoption by all affiliated lodges when details were worked out. I trust, Mr. Chairman, that I am in order in making these remarks. The Australian Optometrical Association is now assembling the relevant statistical information. As I have said, although optometrists are not medical men, they are fully trained professional men and they do carry out by far the larger number of eyesight tests in Australia Yet optometrical patients are denied medical benefits rebates in most States because the Blue Cross Association rules exclude the services of optometrists. This quite apparent anomaly under the. National Health Act has continued ever since the Page voluntary scheme began to operate about 12 years ago.
If the Commonwealth Government, as it seems perfectly reasonable to expect, would give a matching benefit for such an optometrical service- - not necessarily now, but after the scheme has been developed by the friendly societies - history would repeat itself. It will be remembered that it was the friendly societies - not the Blue Cross Association or the Hospital Benefit Association of Victoria or any other similar medical fund - which convinced Sir Earle Page, who was the father of the scheme, that their system contained the basis of the present Australian version of the voluntary health scheme. The friendly societies’ scheme for fund benefits for eyesight examinations has taken some years to develop because of the autonomous right of every lodge throughout Australia to make its own decision. Unfortunately for the Australian people, most of whom consult an optometrist for vision checks, the Commonwealth Government has done nothing to help the friendly societies to lead the way again. I suggest to the Minister that here, surely, is at hand another step forward in the pitifully slow progress we are making towards a complete national health service in Australia. 1 express my regret that I have been prevented from carrying out the wishes of the people whom I represent and who have asked me to present to the Parliament the case for special Federal assistance to improve the health services on the south coast of New South Wales. I trust that in the minute remaining to me I am able to quote a sentence or two from councillor Douglas Thomson, former Liberal candidate for the seat of Eden-Monaro, who said after ari inspection of the hospital that he noticed -
Patients and staff alike, despite weather conditions, have to go out into the open to reach the toilets . . . there is no septic system at this hospital.
I bring these matters to the Minister’s attention because the people of Canberra make up the largest number of holiday makers at these centres in the summer months.
.- I want to refer to some statements made tonight by the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) who, in his second period of attack during this debate, smeared his own profession as I have not heard it smeared for a long time. For instance, he sneered at salaried doctors under a socialised system of medical practice. The honorable member has a pathological abhorrence of Governmentrun medical services. His sneering at salaried doctors was very strange when we consider that all repatriation doctors are salaried men. It also sounds strange when we think of the salaried doctors in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The honorable member for Bowman said that salaried doctors are likely to become sloppy because they are only on salaries. The honorable member said, and I quote his remarks: “There is nothing in this stomach pain test for me”. This was an indictment of his own profession and it was quite abhorrent to honorable members on this side of the chamber. We may criticise the medical profession, but when one of its members gets up in this place and speaks as he did tonight his conduct is to be condemned.
I want to speak principally on the subject of optometrist’s, this Government and the medical services of Australia. The Australian Medical Association, with the connivance of the Australian Government through the National Health Act, for the last 15 years has been discriminating against’ optometrists in Australia with a very effective economic stranglehold on these trained people. The economic stranglehold that has been applied to optometrists has been carried out by this combination of the National Health Act, the Commonwealth Government and the A.M.A. For several years these professional men of the Australian Optometrical Association - there are 800 of them in Australia - have found that the National Health Act to them has been a brick wall. Prior to 1951 when the National Health Bill was introduced by Sir Earle Page, doctors or optometrists could send their patients directly to specialists for the treatment of eye troubles, but. since the Act with this iniquitous section has been in force every optometrist’s patient who has suspected disease of the eye has had to go to a doctor who would then refer him to a specialist or an ophthalmologist. The patient pays the doctor in the first place and then pays the specialist, and the Commonwealth Government is involved in the double payment.
This section of the National Health Act, which was designed for the benefit of the people, is vicious, iniquitous, unjust and discriminatory. When a patient with eye trouble visits an optometrist and the optometrist considers that the eye may be diseased, he refers the patient to an ophthalmologist. If as a result of testing the ophthalmologist establishes that there is disease, the patient is treated by the eye specialist, but if he does not find that the eye is diseased he has the right to refer the patient back to the optometrist from whom he came. Under this vicious Act, he does not do that. He can and does send the patient to an organisation known as Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers Pty. Ltd. for his glasses; so the optometrist loses the patient who came to him in the first place. The ophthal mologist probably whispers into the ear of the patient: “ If you get your glasses made by this organisation you will get a refund from the medical benefits organisation, but if you go back to the optometrist you will get nothing at all. You do not get a rebate if you get your glasses made by an optometrist.” What a scandalous state of affairs in a country which has had a national health scheme for 15 years. This is what these professional men are fighting against; they are fighting for justice.
Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers Pty. Ltd. has been in existence for 30 years and its business has skyrocketed because ophthalmologists are referring their patients to it for their glasses instead of referring them back to the optometrist from whom they came in the first place. This organisation is spending thousands of pounds a year on television and newspaper advertising in a deliberate campaign to force people to see their doctors in order to have their eyes examined. In other words, indirectly the medical profession is using the television and newspaper media to channel the eye business into its hands and away from the optometrists. The advertisement one usually sees on television is: “ See your eye doctor regularly “. It will be noted that there is no mention of the optometrist. There is mention only of the eye doctor. Why does Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers Pty. Ltd. specify only the eye doctors if it is not because the doctors are referring patients to it? The reason why the propaganda is directed towards influencing people to see the eye doctors is as plain as a pikestaff. This company is getting a cut out of the business. Probably the doctors are getting a commission for referring patients to this organisation instead of the optometrists.
– Do the doctors advertise?
– They do not advertise directly; they do it indirectly through this organisation. It is a two way scheme - each helps the other. Let me illustrate how the arrangement works. Recently a friend of mine rang the local office of Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers Pty. Ltd. in Canberra to inquire about glasses. She was told to consult an eye specialist, not an optometrist, and was given the phone numbers and addresses of two doctors only in
Canberra. She then asked if Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers would test her eyes and, if necessary, prescribe glasses. She was told that this could not be done but that if she went to either of the doctors the company had named there would be a rebate of £2 on the spectacles and a substantial rebate from the medical benefits fund on the doctor’s charges. She was advised that it was a good proposition to go to one of these doctors.
There, in a nutshell, we have an example of what has been going on for 15 years and of what has been driving a wedge into the businesses of legitimate optometrists who have trained for five years to obtain university degrees entitling them to test eyes and prescribe glasses. This organisation is cutting right across the business of the optometrists by making glasses for patients referred to it by ophthalmologists.
There are now from 80 to 100 retail places in Australia where this mushroom growth organisation, Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers, is established and where, after obtaining prescriptions from doctors, members of the public can have their glasses made. I also understand that the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd., which is conducted by doctors and chemists, will pay for glasses only if they are prescribed by a medical practitioner or ophthalmologist. I must emphasise that, because this is another way of cutting down the business of the optometrists.
There is another danger in all this. It is that young men, seeing the optometrist being subjected to this iniquitous pressure and unfair competition in optometry, might avoid optometry as a career, whereas, without this interference, they might have wished to engage in optometry. I know one optometrist in Launceston who has two sons. He had hoped that both would follow him in his noble profession. Neither of them is entering that profession because of the erosion that is taking place in optometry as a result of this vicious practice which I have explained tonight. In the last few years, the number of optometrists has increased by only 2 per cent, whereas the number of ophthalmologists has increased by 40 per cent. There, in a nutshell, is what is happening. The provisions of the National Health Act encourage the ophthalmologists and discourage the optometrists. That is why we of the Labour Party are determined to continue fighting the Government until justice is done to the optometrists.
The optometrists are being economically strangled by four methods. The first is the practice which has grown up under the National Health Act of forcing the optometrist to refer eye cases to medical men instead of direct to specialists. The second is the refusal of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd. to pay for glasses unless they are prescribed by a medical practitioner or ophthalmologist. The third is the gradual threat of reduction in the number of university undergraduates taking the optometry course. The fourth is the establishment of Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers Pty. Ltd. which, through its television and newspaper advertising, is directing people to see doctors and not optometrists to have their eyes examined.
These optometrists are being by-passed through the working of this vicious provision in the National Health Act. The medical practitioners aTe engaging in direct competition with optometrists. A medical practitioner deals with eye diseases only as a sideline whereas the optometrist makes work connected with the eye his entire career. He« trains in matters connected with the eye for. five years at a university and sets up as a man qualified to care for the eye. And this man is being restricted in business by competition from medical men whose work in connection with eye examination represents but a very small percentage of their overall occupation. In our opinion, that is a scandalous state of affairs and we shall continue to do all we can to correct it. I think that this is a deliberate long term plan to restrict the optometrist in his life’s work and to channel eye work into the hands of doctors instead. Recently, the Australian Optometrical Association inaugurated a scheme of scholarships, which are available in all States. Optometry is a full time course at the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales. The scholarships were introduced to ensure the highest standard of optometrical students. Thus, optometry, which has always been held in high esteem in Australia, is giving practical recognition to the need for a fiveyear course. The Australian Optometrical Association provides four scholarships a year, which involve a payment of £1,250 annually, so that in five years the optometrists are paying over £6,000 out of their own pockets to carry out a scholarship scheme designed to encourage young men to engage in this profession, which is being strangled, as it were, by the discriminatory provisions in the National Health Act.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) waxed eloquent a little while ago about ophthalmologists and optometrists. He said that we should encourage people with eye diseases to go to ophthalmologists or eye doctors. That is just what the optometrists do. If an optometrist has the slightest suspicion that a person has an eye disease, he sends that person to the ophthalmologist. The optometrist deals with the physiological aspects of the eye and the ophthalmologist deals with the deeper inner troubles. But he loses that patient from that time on because he is not referred back. Even if the person is not suffering from an eye disease, he is not sent back to the optometrist by whom he was referred to the ophthalmologist; he is sent to Optical Prescription Spectacle Makers Pty. Ltd. for his glasses or, alternatively, gets them from the ophthalmologist himself.
In England, the ophthalmologists, optometrists and dispensers all work in harmony. Why cannot that be done here? Tonight we appeal to the Minister for. Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who is sitting at the table, to urge the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz), who should be here tonight, to do justice to the 800 professional men throughout Australia who are making it their life’s work to care for the eyes of our people.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I took the trouble to study, prior to these estimates for the Department of Health coming before us, the excellently produced annual report of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health. Notwithstanding all that has been said tonight one thing stands out quite clearly from this report. It is that one of the most important sections of national health has practically no mention whatever in the report simply because it is not included in the Government’s so-called national medical health scheme. I refer to dental treatment. I believe that Australians, are estimated, from figures available, to have the worst teeth in the world. The number of people in Australia requiring dental treatment, from children right up, is such that it would startle any person who understands the necessity for good teeth as the basis of good health. Criticism has been levelled at this scheme. It is not a good scheme if for no other reason than that dental health is completely neglected by it despite the tremendous expenditure on health, in a very wasteful way, by this Government in recent times.
Probably there has not been a more detailed and more devastating speech made in this Parliament against the national health scheme than that delivered by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) tonight, whose statements were supported by other speakers from this side of the chamber. I mention the speech of the honorable member for Hughes in particular because in the course of it he set out clearly the wastage, exploitation, profiteering and lack of service given to the people under the guise of a national health scheme. I would say that he and other speakers - but he in particular, because he led for the Opposition - tore the national health scheme of the Government to shreds. To date there has been no answer from the eminent surgeon from Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) to the matters that the honorable member for Hughes raised. One charge made by the honorable member for Hughes that must not pass unanswered by this Government relates to the investigation that is being made into charges for drugs. The honorable member for Hughes said that the investigation being made into pharmaceutical costs will be undertaken by representatives of drug houses which are making literally millions of pounds by exploiting the people in the supply of high priced drugs. I do not want to repeat the charges the honorable member for Hughes made because of the limited time at my disposal, but the Minister and the Government cannot escape the fact that tonight a responsible member of this Parliament has laid the charge that this is a rigged inquiry and, in effect, is being instituted and carried out by the very people who will benefit from the increase in prices that may take place.
– That is not true; it is not rigged.
– Well, the representatives of the people who are selling the goods are evidently going to be predominant in deciding what the prices of these drugs will be. Everybody in this Parliament knows that on several occasions when charges were made from this side of the Parliament the drug houses reduced the cost of certain items coming under the national health scheme. The reductions ran into many millions of pounds. If the matter had not been raised from this side of the Parliament some of these drug houses would be still exploiting the people through the prices charged for expensive drugs. Drugs were being supplied in Australia at higher prices than they were being supplied in countries such as Indonesia.
The honorable member for Hughes and other speakers also mentioned the percentage of the people covered by this scheme. They mentioned the rises in medical fees that are taking place. Sir Earle Page himself said on one occasion that unless doctors stabilised their fees for a given time the scheme must collapse because no government, no matter how good its intentions - and of course this Government’s intentions are doubtful - can legislate to maintain reasonable charges for consultations in surgeries and other places when the doctors constantly raise their fees. Why, no sooner had the Government increased the Commonwealth contributions last year by 33) per cent, than announcements were made that doctors were going to ask for an increase in their fees. Only the other day doctors’ fees went up, as the honorable member for Hughes explained in his speech. Fees will rise in New South Wales by from 3s. to 5s. for a surgery consultation and 3s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. for a home visit in normal hours. This means that every person going to a doctor will have to meet that increased cost for at least the next 12 months until this Government does something about the matter, if it will. In effect, it means that every wage earner, every sick person, every chronically ill person has less net income today if he calls in a doctor than he had previously.
The speeches made from the other side of the chamber tonight have shown up in stark reality the shortcomings of the Government’s scheme. After the devastating attack by the honorable member for Hughes we had a speech from the medical profession’s gift to democracy, the honorable member for Bowman - the Dr. Kildare or the Dr. Casey of the Liberal Party. The honorable member for Bowman came forward to give us the answer to the great problems of medicine. Like his counterparts on television, he gave a repeat performance. The Government evidently was short of performers to rebut the charges that were made. Like most repeat performances the honorable member’s was a very poor show indeed. Every time I listen to the honorable member for Bowman speak on medical matters I cannot help thinking that he adopts the attitude: “Never argue with a doctor; he has inside information “. I suppose his motto is: “ God heals but the doctor takes the fee “, as Benjamin Franklin once said. The approach of the honorable member for Bowman seems to be: Whatever you do, do not stop doctors making huge incomes from the sick, because they are the only people who can heal the sick. The honorable member may be a good surgeon, but he is not a very good performer in this theatre.
In reply to the speeches of the honorable member for Hughes and others the honorable member for Bowman said that there should be no supervision of the medical profession in connection with the provision of services to the sick. What a monstrous suggestion to make. This is the honorable member who wants the waterside workers and other trade unionists - every worker in the country - controlled night and day, yet he says that the medical profession should not be interfered with, although the report that I have here shows that some of them are prepared to exploit the public purse. He suggests that they should go unchallenged and unchecked. The next thing will be that he will want to abolish the right of the Government to prosecute certain people because, he says, they should go completely unfettered. The honorable member went on to say that the Labour Party’s policy was not capable of fulfilment and would not be acceptable to the doctors. That is debatable. We well remember that when the free medicine scheme of which the Government boasts was introduced by the Labour Government it was declared by the doctors to be Socialist policy. Immediately there was a change of government the doctors had a change of heart and did everything that they refused to do for the Labour Party.
The honorable member for Bowman criticised the great British scheme. He said that our use of the British scheme for purposes of comparison was meaningless. Why did not the Tory administration that was in office for years after the Labour Government went out abolish the British scheme if it was no good? The honorable member well knows that he went over to Britain and obtained great experience in that country at the expense of a scheme introduced by the British Labour Party. He knows that the Tories in Great Britain and New Zealand did not abolish the schemes in those two countries because they knew that the people would not tolerate their abolition. The honorable member quoted Dr. Moss Cass from Victoria who formulated a scheme for Labour. Trying to put fear into our hearts he said: “You know, this book has a big red label on it; it is very like a Russian scheme “. He insinuated that it was a Communist proposal. If he applies that reasoning let me tell him that the Communist Party is supporting the same policy on the wool prices referendum as the Government is, and therefore he himself must be designated a fellow traveller or a “ Com “ in this Parliament. Did anyone ever hear such stupid reasoning from a so-called eminent surgeon? If he applies that argument to Labour’s criticism of the so-called national health scheme we can dismiss his criticism for what it is- ill informed, biased and loaded in favour of the medical profession irrespective of the scheme’s effect on the community. If everything of a socialist nature connected with medicine is Communist, why does the honorable member agree to the sale of our wool to Red China and other Communist countries? This is sheer hypocrisy. The honorable member for Bowman is out of his depth on this issue. He says that he does not believe in Labour’s scheme or in compulsion. Does he realise that if you are not a member of a medical benefit fund you will not get back from the Commonwealth by way of benefit the money that you have paid in tax towards this benefit? The Government has put a gun in the ribs of the taxpayer and said: “ Unless you belong to a fund you will not be entitled to the Commonwealth benefit, although you have been taxed to pay for it.” This is the gentleman who does not believe in compulsion. The Government knows that only 75 per cent, of Australians are covered under the national health scheme. The other 25 per cent, who are not covered are paying taxes to help finance the scheme but they cannot participate in it.
I can understand the honorable member for Bowman not wanting to compare this Government’s scheme with the schemes that operate in Great Britain and other places. In Great Britain people are looked after from the cradle to the grave. The same situation existed in New Zealand under Labour. Nobody in Australia can claim that the British scheme, which the honorable member for Hughes told us costs £24 a head compared with £36 a head for the Australian scheme, is not as comprehensive as our scheme.
What is happening in Australia today? Even Granny Herald is moved to say something about the national health scheme. Today in Australia there are 112 hospital benefit funds and 81 medical benefit funds. Their operating costs absorb between 15 per cent, and 20 per cent, of their income. Why could not these organisations be amalgamated, by mutual arrangement if possible? Why can we not have a fund operated by the Government and to which people might subscribe? Earlier this year this matter was referred to by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in a leading article, which read -
Mr. Swartz has replied that management expense rates average 14.5 per cent, and that this is not an unduly high level. But, whatever the cause, there is clearly something radically wrong with a scheme which provides a far from adequate health insurance and, from April 1, will apparently offer even less for higher contributions.
Even old Granny Herald condemned the Government’s scheme. If proof were needed of the shortcomings of the scheme, Granny’s comment should be enough. The report presented earlier this year by the Director-General of Health illustrates what poor coverage the people are getting. Last year departmental expenditure on the National Welfare Fund amounted to £103,327,426. Only 77 per cent, of the population is covered by hospital benefit funds. The remaining 23 per cent, has no coverage. Only 75 per cent, of people are covered by medical benefit funds and 25 per cent, are not covered. Last year the pharmaceutical benefits scheme cost £43,667,761. Of that amount the taxpayer paid £8,420,667 by way of the 5s. prescription fee, which has been abolished in Britain because it was found there that it had no effect in reducing the number of prescriptions written. Of the amount paid by the Commonwealth to operate the pharmaceutical benefits scheme the chemists got £17,598,374, which means a high return to the drug houses behind the chemists. The average cost of prescriptions has increased from a little more than 4s. to 18s. 4d. In 1960 or 1961 the Government introduced a 5s, charge for prescriptions issued under the scheme in an effort to reduce the number of prescriptions written but last year 47,556,000 prescriptions were written.
The Government’s scheme is far from comprehensive. It is one of the worst health schemes in the world, if you can dignify it by the description of a health scheme It does not embrace dentists. Only 75 per cent, of the people are covered by it. The hospital and medical benefit funds are getting a huge rake-off. The major beneficiaries under the scheme are members of the medical profession, whose fees are guaranteed. Their charges are guaranteed at the expense of the Government. I do hot mind doctors getting a fair return, but every Labour man opposes exploitation of the sick. No-one should profit from the disabilities and illnesses of the community. Labour’s policy was clearly outlined by the honorable member for Brisbane. I defy any honorable member opposite to say that our scheme is not a comprehensive one and will not give full coverage to the people of this country. The Government’s scheme deserves to be condemned. It is wasteful and does not deserve to be called a health scheme. The Opposition is justified in criticising it.
.- The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) defied anybody to say that the scheme outlined by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cross) was not a magnificent one. I would not like much time to elapse before somebody rose to say what the honorable member for Grayndler said that nobody would say. I do not intend to be goading, but I remind the honorable member for Grayndler that a short time ago, after he said something, this chamber got into difficulties, because the honorable member is extravagant in his language. He was extravagant in his remarks about the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs). There is one difference between the honorable member for Bowman and the honorable member for Grayndler: The honorable member for Bowman knows what he is talking about, but the honorable member for Grayndler does not know what he is talking about.
Let us look at some of the things which the honorable member for Grayndler said tonight. He said that nobody could criticise the United Kingdom scheme. He said that it was a magnificent scheme and that the Australian Labour Party’s scheme was similar to the British scheme. There are many things wrong with the British scheme. For example, if you live in a certain area you have no choice of doctor. You are compelled to go to a particular doctor or you are put on the list of a particular doctor. It does not matter whether you like that doctor or whether he is a good doctor; you are stuck with him indefinitely. This is an arrangement which would not meet the wishes of the Australian people.
The honorable member for Grayndler applauded the scheme proposed by Dr. M. Cass. 1 know Dr. Cass well. He was my opponent in the last election. He put forward his medical scheme as the major plank in his campaign. As a matter of fact, it became very difficult to answer Dr. Cass’s arguments because he never seemed to speak on any subject except his medical scheme. This presented me with quite a problem. However, I think it is reasonable to claim - the figures bear me out - that the people rejected Dr. Cass’s scheme. The honorable member for Grayndler said that only 77 per cent, of the people in Australia had joined a hospital benefits fund. I think the hospital benefits scheme is a good one. I have not struck anybody who criticised the scheme, except a few who would not be satisfied if you gave them a golden egg every morning for breakfast. Of the 23 per cent, of people who are not covered by the hospital benefits scheme, some are covered by pensioner schemes. Others have independent means and are not interested in the scheme. We must realise also that each year more and more people join the scheme, realising that it is an effective scheme. The honorable member for Grayndler said that the cost of prescriptions written under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme has increased from about 4s. to 18s. 4d. each. This is quite reasonable. After all, all costs have risen. In addition the number of drugs coming within the scope of the scheme has increased. If the increase over the years in the cost of prescriptions has been from 4s. to only 18s. 4d. it is not a bad result.
Let us look at the position in the United States of America if a person is taken sick. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) unfortunately had a temporary illness when he was in Mexico recently with a delegation. He knows full well, as we all do, what happens in most countries when one is taken ill. We just cannot afford to go into hospital. All we can hope is that we will be put on an aeroplane and that we will last long enough to get home to Australia and be able to take advantage of the health scheme we have here. I speak very sincerely because a member of my family recently had an expensive operation performed in hospital. I was covered by the hospital and medical benefits scheme and I have nothing but gratitude for the scheme. After the bills were paid, a percentage was refunded by the Government and the fund for the hospital, the surgeon, the anaethesis and the other services. I received the refund within a period of days and I am most grateful. I had a similar experience when I was in the United Kingdom and I can assure honorable members that this did not happen under the United Kingdom scheme. I would not like to have the United Kingdom scheme introduced into Australia, and I am quite sure that most Australians would adopt this attitude.
I decided to speak tonight not merely to correct the mistakes that I considered had been made by the honorable member for Grayndler but mainly to suggest that honorable members opposite should exercise caution and realise what they are saying when, with the best intentions, I am sure, they speak about what they would do in relation to doctors and the companies that produce medicines on which sick people rely. As most honorable members know, I have suffered with one of these odd diseases since I was about 15 years of age and I would not like to see many of the suggestions of the honorable member for Grandler adopted. I would not like restrictions to be placed on research that is undertaken by companies. These companies have produced a medicine that allows me, and many other people, to live a normal life. If honorable members multiply my case by the hundreds of thousands of others that exist, they will realise how many people could be affected by their comments.
Opposition members speak about overseas companies that operate in Australia. I admit that 1 would like all these companies to be Australian. I would like all the scientist’s to be Australian and all the research to be done in Australia so that we would get all the kudos. But it is not possible for a country with a population of 11 million to undertake research on the magnitude that is necessary to achieve adequate results. Let me read a brief passage from the German booklet “ Hoechst News “. It is put out by a German pharmaceutical company. I cannot even pronounce its name. It says -
We need not deal with the reasons for this here. But it is certain that in the long run industry will be able to continue its pharmaceutical research only if its scientific discoveries are properly safeguarded. Otherwise, the pharmaceutical industry may be forced to leave fundamental research - its most important task - to the state Which is hardly likely to fill the gap.
We may argue about that. I do not know. Certainly, many efficient and outstanding scientists are employed by the State. But would the State be able to provide all the money, the labour and everything else that has been needed over the centuries to produce the drugs that have allowed so many people who would have been dead 30 or 40 years ago to continue to live? Would the State be able to reach the standard that was reached by private enterprise, by American companies, English companies and Swiss companies? Let me read from page 13 of the booklet. It says -
Only 35 years ago diabetes was an incurable disease. Sufferers could hope to survive only by the strictest adherence to a very limited diet. Even so, their expectation of life was small. It was not until the discovery of insulin that a decisive change was brought about. The expectation of a tenyearold diabetic was prolonged 20-fold, that of a 30- year-old six-fold and even that of a 50-year-old was nearly doubled.
I suggest that these matters should be considered from a point of view other than politics. I agree that in the overall medical scheme perhaps there is need for some investigation, but I appeal to honorable members not to continue withholding credit from the companies that are doing deep and wonderful research throughout the world. Do not stop these companies from coming to Australia. We must give them encouragement. The State and private enterprise on a reasonable basis together should engage in research. This research is saving lives and is keeping people alive. I know that this is the objective of both the Government and the Opposition and I suggest that many honorable members should give more thought to their remarks before making them in this chamber.
.- I gather from the remarks of the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) that he cannot make up his mind whether to support the national health scheme in this country or the national health scheme, in Great Britain. I was pleased to hear him say that there is a need for the Government to exercise some control over health matters. I think that the remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) made this obvious. He pointed out that the imposition of a 5s. charge for prescriptions that were written by doctors in this country did not necessarily mean that the number of prescriptions written in any one year would decrease. The annual report for 1964-65 of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health shows that, although a charge of 5s. is now made for prescriptions, the number of prescriptions per head of population is increasing each year. According to the report, the average number of prescriptions per head of population increased from 4 in 1963-64 to 4.3 in 1964-65. This supports the contention of the honorable members for Grayndler and La Trobe that the Government should exercise a measure of control over the national health scheme.
Our quarrel with the Government is that the national health scheme does not go far enough. It does not cover all the health services that are necessary in this country.
Earlier tonight the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cross) referred to the policy of the Australian Labour Party on health. Copies of our policy are available to anyone. They are certainly available to honorable members opposite. Our policy covers all health services. I referred earlier to two aspects of health - dental health and optical services. None of the honorable members on the Government side, with the exception of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles), has referred to these matters. I spoke at length and I was supported by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). We suggest that the Government should provide benefits for those who need optical services. I point out that the Government has consistently refused to accept any responsibility on this question. It has consistently refused to acknowledge representations made by the Australian Optometrical Association over a long period. The same position applies today as applied in 1953 when the original legislation was introduced into this Parliament and in which a clause was inserted that discriminated against optometrists.
I have already indicated how this legislation is being circumvented by those engaged in the profession. I know that the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) has denied the assertion that has been made by the Australian Optometrical Association that payments are being made illegally to patients who have been referred by an optometrist in the first instance to an ophthalmologist and from the ophthalmologist to a general practitioner and back again to the ophthalmologist. lt is obvious that if this situation is allowed to continue this will be tantamount to inviting some of those who belong to this profession to continue this practice, which results in the illegal payment of benefits under the national health scheme. No benefit is paid to a patient who is referred by an optometrist to an ophthalmologist, but if the ophthalmologist is satisfied that the patient belongs to a medical benefits fund he merely refers the patient to a general practitioner who, in turn, refers the patient back to the ophthalmologist and then the medical benefit is payable. It is obvious that this was not the intention of the Act. Indeed, the Minister has stated unequivocally in his replies to the Australian Optometrical Association that the purpose of the Act is to ensure that no benefit will be paid for a visit to a general medical practitioner in a case where a benefit would not be payable in respect of a visit to an optometrist. The fact remains that the Act is being circumvented and these benefits are being paid quite illegally. I have no doubt that the Minister has received information and substantiating evidence from the Association that what I have said in this respect is correct. We believe there is no reason why the Government should not include optometric and, for that matter, dental services in the national health scheme. No national health service can be described as a service that meets the needs of the whole community unless it covers all aspects of national health. The existing scheme does not provide for those who seek treatment from optometrists nor does it cover those who seek dental treatment.
The Minister for Health has received representations from the Australian Optometrical Association indicating that the additional cost to the scheme of providing for optometric services would be very small. Time does not permit me to deal with this matter fully, and with the concurrence of honorable members I incorporate the relevant document in “ Hansard “. It is -
Figures for the National Health Service in the United Kingdom indicate the demand for eye examination as 10.% of the population per annum.
This figure is probably higher than in Australia where optical benefits are not a feature of the National Health Service.
The cost to the Government of providing benefits for professional services rendered by optometrists and medical refractionists is on the basis that the First Schedule of the National Health Act is amended to include -
Against this must be offset a sum in respect of discriminatory payments that are made legally under the National Health Act in which Section 4(3) (b) which excludes from benefit only “ an attendance at which an examination of the patient’s eyes is made in consequence of which spectacle lenses are prescribed”. This is generally taken to exclude from benefit only the second of two or even three visits to an ophthalmologist.
Also must be offset a considerable sum which is paid to patients who wrongly claim to have been referred, or who wrongly claim and receive the benefit excluded by Section 4 (3) (b).
For the benefit of honorable members I should indicate that the estimated total additional cost of having optometric benefits included in the national health scheme is about £1.2 million a year. Earlier today the honorable member for Grayndler said that the total cost of the national health scheme is something more than £100 million annually and I believe that an additional expenditure of £1.2 million in an expenditure of that magnitude is very small.
The Minister should consider acceding to the request made by the Australian Optometrical Association. There seems to me to be no logical reason why the Government should refuse the request that has been made. The. Minister has said on other occasions that there are two reasons why the Government has not been prepared to grant the request. In the first instance the Minister referred to the additional cost to the national health scheme. I have already dealt with the cost aspect. The other reason advanced by the Minister was that in considering whether optometric benefits should be included in the national health scheme consideration would have to be given concurrently to the provision of other benefits including nursing, physiotherapy and dental benefits. The Opposition has conceded that the scheme should provide for dental benefits, but I cannot see any reason why the Government should group the optometrical profession with physiotherapy and nursing. There seems to be no relationship at all between these services. I think the Australian Optometrical Association is quite justified in adopting the attitude that this Government is discriminating against a profession that ought to be included in the national health scheme but which this Government has consistently refused to recognise.
I think that sufficient has been said during this debate by honorable members on this side to indicate that the Government ought to consider favorably the representations that have been made to it over a long period by the Australian Optometrical Association. The Government has not been able to convince the Association. I do not believe it has been able to convince honorable members on this side of the chamber that its request should not be acceded to. I have indicated already that the policy of the Labour Party provides for a complete coverage of dental health. It also provides for a complete coverage of optical services. If the Government expects honorable members on this side to accept a national health service as being one that is providing a measure of service to the Australian community, obviously it must move to provide for the kind of service which has been referred to in this debate tonight.
.- Mr. Chairman. I desire to direct a couple of questions to the Minister for Social Services very briefly. These questions arise out of the speech for the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess). The honorable member questioned my figures relating to the percentage of the population covered by hospital and medical benefits. I refer the Minister to table 2 on page 72 of the annual report of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health. Table 2 sets out the percentage of the population covered by hospital benefits - that is through registered organisations, - as being 77 per cent, in 1965. Table 3 on page 73 of the same report deals with the percentages for each State in relation to hospital benefits and arrives at the same figure of 77 per cent. I also refer the Minister to table 8 on page 74 of the report which deals with medical benefits. It shows that 75 per cent, of the population is covered by medical benefits. A similar table which deals with the State breakdown, table 9 on page 75 of the report, arrives at the figure of 75 per cent. also. The honorable member for La Trobe said that these percentages did not include pensioners and other people in that category. The honorable member said that this meant that the percentage so covered by these benefits was much higher. I would like the Minister to tell me whether these tables cover a percentage of the population or whether it is to be taken that they do not include members of pensioner organisations and others which, I notice, are shown as being 8.6 per cent, according to table 14 on page 76 of the report.
– It does not include them.
– That is the point I wish to clear up because the impression is given in the report that only 77 per cent, and 75 per cent, of the population are covered by hospital benefits and medical benefits respectively.
– Mr. Chairman, I want to deal with a few of the points raised during the course of this debate. In particular, I would like to compliment the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) for his very analytical examination of the proposals that have been put forward by Dr. Cass concerning a health scheme for Labour. One of the problems that I can see arising out of the introduction of such a scheme as that proposed by Dr. Cass is the restriction on the initiative of individuals and especially young medicos. The difficulty with salaried officers in this scheme as I understand it is that, although young graduates from universities would be enticed into the scheme, these young graduates would not have had the experience which is necessary to provide the service that the community needs and deserves. Although one honorable member - I think it was the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cross) - pointed out that an alternative service will be available, one of the difficulties in the alternative service is that if one service is available for nothing and the other service is available for a medical fee, honorable members can well appreciate how few people would be inclined to take the service involving the medical fee.
Consequently, a situation would develop in which fewer medicos or professional people would be able to earn sufficient income to justify the tremendous number of years of strenuous training necessary to ensure that a person had developed to the adequate level required in practice. One of the big factors that members of this committee might do well to bear in mind in considering matters of this sort is that many persons who graduate to the point of specialised practice in medicine not only undergo a six year university medical course but also after graduation undergo a course of six to eight years of post-graduate training before they receive any income for their training. Consequently, the problem of going out into practice as a specialist is that a specialist has a far less earning period to encompass something like the income he would have earned otherwise if he had not been studying. So, I thoroughly commend to members of the Australian public the analysis presented by the honorable member for Bowman to this presentation of the health scheme for Labour.
One of the other matters raised in this Committee tonight was criticism of an organisation called the Associated Industrial
Consultants (Australia) Pty. Ltd. The organisation has been selected to conduct a survey of pharmacy earnings. This body, as has been alleged by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), has as one of its shareholders another company called Eric White Associates Pty. Ltd. However, Mr. Chairman, from my investigations it appears that Eric White Associates Pty. Ltd. is in fact only a minority shareholder in this company and that its shareholding is purely in the nature of an investment. Eric White Associates Pty. Ltd. in no way has a voice in the management of the other company. Consequently, in spite of any associations that it might have with other bodies connected with the pharmaceutical industry, it is in no way in a position to determine the activities of Associated Industrial Consultants (Australia) Pty. Ltd. I can assure honorable members that the Government is satisfied that Associated Industrial Consultants (Australia) Pty. Ltd. is perfectly suited to making an impartial survey of pharmaceutical chemists’ dispensing costs and is able to provide an analysis of costs as a basis for any future decisions on the extension of pharmaceutical benefits. I refute any allegations made by members of the Opposition that this company is not a suitable one.
Quite a number of speakers tonight, including the honorable member for Bass (Mr, Barnard) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), have discussed the question of refraction and medical benefits. I will refer to the matters raised by them to the Minister for Health (Mr, Swartz). On his behalf, I offer his apologies for not being able to be present tonight. It is only because of an official duty related to his portfolio that he is not able to be present. I understand that he has discussed this question on previous occasions. The position, as I understand it, is that a benefit is payable by many of the associations as an ancillary benefit. In some associations, if a person goes to an optometrist instead of to an ophthalmologist a benefit is payable for the prescription of glasses.
– But no Commonwealth benefit is payable.
– No Commonwealth benefit is payable when glasses are prescribed either by an optometrist or by an ophthalmologist. At this stage a benefit is payable if a patient is referred by an optometrist to an ophthalmologist and a medical examination is made by the ophthalmologist. To that extent, the actual position conflicts with the opinion that was expressed tonight by the honorable member for Bass. However, the benefit is at a lesser rate than would be payable if the patient were referred by a medical practitioner. To that extent the honorable member for Bass was not quite right in saying that no Commonwealth benefit is payable. In respect of a reference of a patient by an optometrist to an ophthalmologist, if the latter prescribes glasses after his examination no benefit is payable; but if there is only a medical examination a partial benefit is payable. This question will be referred to my colleague, the Minister for Health. I have no doubt that if there are any further developments my colleague will advise the Parliament in due course.
I understand that the problem as far as optometrists’ examinations are concerned is that in many instances the symptoms that cause a patient to consult an optometrist may have their origin beyond the immediate part of the anatomy related to the eye and the optic nerve. Such cases require a far more extensive physical examination than can be made by an optometrist. For that reason it has been felt in the past that any examination should be made by a qualified medical practitioner. It is for this reason that in the past there has been a distinction between the nature of benefits available in respect of the two classes of practitioners.
Mr. Chairman, you permitted the honorable member for Eden-Monaro some latitude in his discussion of certain matters under examination by the Committee, and I ask your indulgence to make a passing reference to his comments. I wish to do so because you will recall that he mentioned briefly hospital conditions in southern New South Wales. To me there has been no more forceful indictment of the pitiful record of the Labour Government of New South Wales over the last 24 years and its failure to provide adequate hospital facilities for the people of New South Wales than the position that has been described to the House by the honorable member tonight. This is merely another instance of the sad failure of the New South Wales Labour Government while it was in office.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) spoke of Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers Pty. Ltd. and of references by certain organisations to that firm. As I have previously explained, there are many organisations, friendly societies in particular, which make benefits available from their own funds without any restrictions as to the categories of practitioners who provide the glasses. To that extent there are other facilities available within the community to the persons to whom the honorable member referred.
I commend these estimates to the Committee.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Sinclair) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Sinclair) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 2, Government Business, being called on.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 83), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt - That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not offer any objection to this Bill but it does offer objection to the form in which the Bill is drawn. When the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) introduced this Bill he said -
On the occasion of presenting the Supply Bill 1965-66 1 explained the changes being made in the form of the annual appropriation measures. I indicated that henceforth there will be a separate bill subject to amendment by the Senate, containing appropriations for expenditure-
The right honorable gentleman then listed the various headings. I take issue with the Treasurer on this matter. In my view the whole of the appropriation ought to be considered in one measure by the House of Representatives. I am one who stands strongly on the right of the House of Representatives, and only the House of Repre sentatives, to control the money measures of the Commonwealth.
This is a purely artificial distinction. That is borne out by the speech the Treasurer made when he introduced his Budget. The Treasurer looks at the economy in terms of the whole of the transactions of the Budget, not only those which might be said to be matters of an annual kind but also those of a capital kind. For the most part, those which are segregated in this Bill are matters of a capital kind. It may be an accounting device to suggest, if you are looking at a particular business, that capital items are separable from annual items; but in the terms of the economy as a whole, when you look at the items of annual expenditure on the Post Office, for example, these are recurring year after year and a decision is taken in terms of the whole of the commitments of the Government as to what the amount will be in a particular year. It is purely an artificial distinction to suggest that some amounts are of an annual kind rather than of a capital kind.
The Opposition registers its objection to this matter and to the fact that this Bill is technically one which the Senate may amend. I hope that some day the Standing Orders of this place will be so amended that they will provide on your certificate, Mr. Speaker, that a Bill is a money bill and that will be the end of it so far as the Senate is concerned. In my view the Senate should have no decision whatever on monetary measures except one of delay. The Bill before us relates to a sum of £238 million. That is roughly one-quarter of the amount the House has spent nearly four weeks considering in terms of the Estimates. Here, merely because it is severed by a technical device, after I sit down there will be virtually no debate in this House on an expenditure of £238 million.
I say on behalf of the Opposition that I hope the matter will be reconsidered as between what are technically called annual amounts and capital sums. A government is a continuing organism. It has to undertake capital works year by year, and to suggest that because they are capital sums rather than day to day items they are different) so far as appropriation is concerned, shows a misunderstanding of the whole process of modern government. I hope consideration will be given in the future to so defining any measure of this House that if it is said to be a money bill, that will be the end of it so far as the Senate is concerned and it will go to the Senate as a bill that the Senate may not amend. This Bill will go to the Senate as one the Senate can amend. It is time this House stood on its traditional rights and I hope they will be regarded ultimately as constitutional rights. We here are the custodians of the people’s right to supervision of the total expenditure in the community. The sort of device, that the Government is adopting now represents a retrograde step. I merely make that objection before we allow this Bill to pass, Mr. Speaker.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for the third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Sinclair) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Sinclair) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-Mr. Speaker, I shall be very brief. At 8 p.m. on 21st September of this year, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) tabled the famous report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, which is known shortly as the Vernon Committee. He forthwith spoke on the report, roundly condemned it and tore it to pieces. We on this side of the House do not expect to hear any more about the report from the Government. This report represents probably the biggest and bulkiest document ever presented in the Federal Parliament. Up to date, it has cost £149,228 to produce and the task took two years. We pay tribute to the men who spent so much time and who undertook so much research in order to present this weighty document to the Parliament. We regret very much the way in which the Government has treated the report with contempt such as the Prime Minister displayed the night he presented it and spoke on it. At the time I commented that the right honorable gentleman, after condemning the report, had buried it deep in the earth, playing the role of both grave digger and undertaker. Thinking along those lines, I produced a poem that I have titled “Epitaph to the Vernon Report”. I am not a Les Haylen nor a Jim Killen, but I thought this poem would express the feelings of honorable members on this side of the chamber at least. The Vernon report is personalised in these verses -
I wrote to Bob With love and kisses But all I got Were kicks and hisses! I slaved and worked For two years long To find a way To make us strong! And gave to Bob Before I died A plan to bless And wisely guide! Now here I lie Within the grave, Too young to die When born to save! Why should he give So much to me And then to kill My victory? There’s much to do To keep us sound And answers many That must be found! But can I hope To be dis-interred In the years ahead When Holt is heard? But better still To come to life When Labor reigns To end the strife? So death to me Is death to you If what I say You will not do!
Those are just a few thoughts on the poor old Vernon report which was buried on 21st September 1965 by grave digger, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies.
. -Mr. Speaker, a short time ago, the ballot papers for the wool reserve prices plan referendum and the pamphlets presenting the case for and the case against the scheme began to go out to wool growers. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) told the House at question time yesterday, the three wool broking firms of Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. Ltd., Winchcombe Carson Ltd. and Pitt Son and Badgery Ltd. were asked, in conjunction with certain grower organisations that opposed the referendum, to prepare the “ No “ case. The Minister made it clear that the three broking firms had refused to take part in the preparation of the “ No “ case, as he put it, “because they felt it would be much more preferable to leave that matter to the growers directly concerned”. There are only two possible inferences to be drawn from this refusal by the three broking firms to take, part in the preparation of the “No” case. The first is that at this late stage they have come to believe that people who are not wool growers should not try to influence the growers in this matter. If that is so, it makes a complete mockery of what those brokers have been doing for the past six months or more. But there is a second inference, that is, that they believe that their case will appear to growers to be more effective if the names of brokers do not actually appear upon it. If this second consideration is the reason for their action I believe that this is dealing with the matter in a way that is certainly not entirely straightforward.
Over the last several months there have been charge and countercharge about the attitude of the wool trade overseas to this particular problem. Some people have said that the trade wants a change to a reserve prices plan. Opponents of the scheme have said that the trade does not want a change. About six weeks ago I. wrote to several leading wool firms in the United Kingdom and the questions that I put to the firms were these: First, do you believe it is important that we should seek ways and means of reducing the fluctuations in the price of wool so that the risk to the consumer in buying a raw material can be reduced? Secondly, if you believe that a reduction in fluctuations would improve wool’s competitive position as compared to other fibres, have you any suggestions as to how this could be achieved? Thirdly, do you believe that a conservative reserve price scheme sensibly operated within the free auction system will make a worthwhile contribution towards reducing the fluctuations in raw wool prices?
I wrote to about 10 or 12 major firms in the United Kingdom, amongst whom were represented the largest top making firms in the wool industry. I have had answers from nine. They all said that price fluctuations were harming- the industry and that something should be done to try to overcome those fluctuations. In answer to the second question as to how this could be achieved five said that they believed a reserve price scheme was the way to do this, one said that there should be better promotion, two said that there should be a more even spread of types throughout the season, and one had no opinion. In answer to the third question, as to whether they believed that a reserve price scheme would in itself hold the answer to the problem, six were firmly in favour of the scheme and believed that it should certainly be introduced. There was one who was not for and who was not against. There was only one out of the nine who said: “No”. One referred to the International Wool Textile Organisation’s resolution which gave support to the scheme, if support in a qualified sense. Five of the nine - although I did not ask a question on this - said that there had already been a substantial transference from wool to synthetics because of the fluctuations, the very large fluctuations, in the price of wool over recent years.
In writing, I told these firms that their names would not be used, but one particular firm - -Woolcombers Ltd. - said that it represented the largest top making firm in the wool industry and that it believed that this matter was so important that its name should be used with the full authority of the firm’s position. Woolcombers Ltd. also gave me some additional material, including a letter which it happened to write in October to the President of the Graziers Association of New South Wales. The letter from the firm to me reads, in part -
We have been actively - and most necessarily - engaged in seeking to make known the reasons for the need to institute the proposed reserve price scheme and concerned that this scheme should be established in Australia and accepted by the wool growers as a scheme necessary to the wellbeing of the wool fibre.
We would stress that our opinion is not only that of Woolcombers Ltd. but also the opinion of similar industrial organisations both in the United Kingdom and on the Continent - and also in other wool textile centres - who have constantly suffered from the effects of violent price fluctuations and the dangerous uncertainty of wool values - in no matter what stage of processing.
The letter continues -
Woolcombers Ltd. and its subsidiary and associate companies is probably the largest wool top- making group in the wool textile industry and it is, as a consequence of knowledge of the effects of violent price fluctuations that we seek to make known our opinion. . . .
A little later the company writes -
The consequences of continuing and serious fluctuations in the price of wool are becoming apparent; the large industrial organisations with very great capita] investment in plant, machinery and properties, are no longer prepared unnecessarily to risk investment in a fibre with such price instability as is likely to negate, or to eliminate, any prospect of profit despite the capital and working finance involved. . . .
A little later it continues -
Industrial organisations are not prepared further to hazard shareholders’ investments and therefore seek to buy, process and sell fibres with greater price stability in order that a more organised and economically stable basis or process may be established.
The company referred me again to the International Wool Textile Organisation’s resolution which it notes was unanimously adopted in the National Committee of the I.W.T.O. As the House knows, this resolution in part reads, referring to the reserve price plan, that if it is administered -
. wisely and efficiently, this, together with similar systems in New Zealand and South Africa would reduce the magnitude of raw wool price fluctuations with consequent benefit to the world wool textile industry.
The letter emphasises the serious consequences of the fluctuations and it points out that large firms are no longer going to continue to put into the processing side of the industry the investment that is required unless some means can be found to reduce these fluctuations. The company reaffirms these views in annual reports to shareholders and it sent me also a copy of cables from the Woolcomber group, the United Kingdom Woolcombing Employers Federation and the British Wool Federation, all of which have a firm support for the scheme. The company then sent me a copy of a letter written to the President of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales. In this letter the company pointed out to the Graziers’ Association many of the things which I have just quoted from the letter which I have read in part to the House. In the letter the company stated -
We are concerned to observe your Associations’ continued opposition to the proposed reserve price scheme and wish to state that it is the firm and considered opinion of this organisation and also of the United Kingdom wool trade federations of which this organisation forms an important part that the establishment of a reserve price scheme is essential to the future well being of the raw material section of our industry.
As you may be aware Woolcombers Ltd. and its subsidiary and associate companies is probably the largest wool topmaking group in the wool textile industry and we seek to bring to the consideration of your Executive Committee the vital need to eliminate the destructive bases of excessive price variation which have occasioned such problems and brought such difficulties to the wool topmaking and woolcombing sections of the wool textile industry.
A little later the letter continues -
The exaggerated price risk at present applicable to the wool fibre is damaging to the employment and utilisation of wool in the highly competitive conditions of the wool textile industry.
Later it states -
In view of the present position of the raw material section ofthe industry and the uncertain future - as at present - of this section we merely wish again to bring to your notice, and we trust to the notice of your Executive, the seriously considered opinion of my Board that it is essential to the future of the industry that a reserve price scheme is established in Australia.
If the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales had wished the growers to know all the facts in relation to this matter it would have published this letter. I have been told that it has not been published to this point’ of time but was written to the Association by Woolcombers Ltd. on 8th October 1965. The answers to the letters that I wrote to the industry in the United Kingdom indicate an overwhelming body of opinion among wool textile users in support of this scheme and the Japanese have said that they have no objection to the introduction of the reserve price scheme.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-I am prompted to speak on the matter raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) because of the disharmony that it has caused in the ranks of the Government. I noticed in the “ Australian “ an article headed: “The Wool Scheme Wrangle. Tough tactics by the No men “. There is no doubt about there being a wrangle, if we listen to the various opinions expressed by members of the Government parties. The article stated -
Its arguments have been characterised by sensationalism, personal smears and innuendo, rather than by rational economic logic.
That was a reference to the opposition to the scheme. The article continued -
The chairman of the Wool Board, Sir William Gunn, has been described in a Sydney Daily Telegraph editorial as a “ carpet-bagger “, and by Mr. W. C. Wentworth, M.P., as a “ synthetic hayseed.”
I suppose that is a reasonable description of the future leader of the Australian Country Party by a loyal Liberal Party colleague. My concern in this matter arises from the fact that the Liberal Party is becoming involved with the Communist Party in Communist policy. Bearing in mind that members of the Liberal Party speak with fear and trepidation about what the .Communist Party will do to this country, it was dreadful to see the honorable member for Wannon rise in his place tonight and espouse the policy of the Communist Party. Let mc remind the House that during the last Federal election campaign the Liberal Party and the Country Party showed on the television screens of this country vile propaganda depicting Labour men walking down a street in a trade union rally with Communists and implying that, by association, those Labour men were affiliated with the Communists. Newspaper advertisements were of the same pattern. The honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) produced a phamplet in this chamber tonight. Because it had a red label and a Labour man’s name on the cover, he inferred that we on this side of the Parliament were all Communists.
I mention those things tonight to show that the Government has been hoist with its own petard. Today it is linked with the Communist Party in the campaign for the carrying of a referendum on the reserve price plan for wool - a plan which should have the support of everybody who believes in the stability of the wool industry. I have here a “ Vote No “ advertisement which appeared in the Sydney “ Sunday Telegraph “ of 7th November. It was issued by the Committee for the Retention and Improvement of the Free Wool Market, which operates from Room 108, Dalton House, 115 Pitt Street, Sydney, and the Chairman of which is Mr. R. W. MacArthur-Onslow. I do not recollect seeing his name on the books of any Labour League in this country. The advertisement states -
This scheme has the endorsement of the Communist Party. Although the Prime Minister of Australia has not given this scheme public, active support. and although it has been attacked by growers, brokers, merchants and spokesmen in the world wool trade, it has at least received “the endorsement of the Australian Communist Party. Think that over.
That advertisement appeared in the Prime Minister’s own special newspaper, the “ Sunday Telegraph “. Do not forget that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) knighted Sir Frank Packer, the owner of this newspaper. I notice that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) is smiling. He is against this proposal because he is anti-Communist. He evidently does not want to be seen supporting a Communist scheme, even though the Prime Minister and other supporters of the Government do so. An article in the “ Daily Telegraph “ of 29th October - I think it was one of the best published by that newspaper - stated -
Communists love the wool plan.
Woolgrowers who are still doubtful about the reserve price scheme for wool marketing may get considerable enlightenment from the proclaimed policy of the Australian Communist Party.
It was summarised very simply in a radio programme, Voice of the Country, paid for by the Australian Communist Party and broadcast over country stations by Mr. J. W. Bailes.
Here are some extracts from his talk: “Some of these big wool and pastoral companies have holdings of hundreds of thousands and some even exceed a million acres, with their shareholders and directors connected with Australian and overseas banks and large industrial enterprises including mills and shipping. “ It is no wonder therefore that their spokesmen are campaigning against the proposed wool reserve price scheme. “This time, however, they are going to be beaten. They must be beaten in order that this great Australian industry can move forward and play a part not just for a monopoly group but for the new, advancing Australia that has to be built . . . “ It is good to see that the progressive growers and their organisations have won the right for a ballot to determine support for or against a reserve price scheme …. “These and similar progressive points are Communist policy for the wool industry . . .
Honorable members opposite are guilty by association if we take the line against them that they took against the Labour Party. They are Communist sympathisers, sitting in this Parliament. That may sound silly, but it is no more silly than were their arguments against the Labour Party. It is as well that that be sheeted home. I shall read what this Communist writer said at the end, and let it be noted that the honorable member for Parkes is with the article all the way. He said -
Acquisition is merely another form of nationalisation and therefore right on top of the Communist programme for the “new, advancing Australia” which the Communist Party aims to “ build “.
Woolgrowers who have been in doubt about the implications of the reserve price scheme may not be so doubtful when they realise why the Communist Party is so eagerly supporting it.
It is suggested in this article that because Communist policy coincides with Liberal policy every member of the Liberal Party is a Communist sympathiser? I challenge any honorable member opposite to stand in his place tonight and deny that, if he will. If honorable members opposite will not say it, then I ask them not to level this guilt by association charge against reputable Labour men. The Government’s Dr. Kildare or Dr. Casey - the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) - produced a red covered book and said that the fellow who wrote it is a Communist. How silly can you get?
Let us have a look at the antiCommunists in the Government’s ranks. The honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) are opposed to the proposal. I suppose they oppose it because, among other reasons, the Communist Party supports it. And let us look at the Communist supporters on the Government side. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten), are all on the Communist Party line today. So is the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes). Honorable members will remember how he spoke about our being at war with Russia. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) would go to war personally against the Communists, but today he espouses the policy of Communism in the wool industry.
What a magnificent revelation this is. What about Uncle Charlie, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who has a nephew in the Labour Party? He is now supporting Communist policy himself. How are we to get him out of this trouble? That is the situation we find today because of this great tangle in the wool industry. I suggest that the arguments I am putting up should destroy for all time the insinuations, innuendoes and false propaganda about the Labour Party because, occasionally, as will be seen tonight, the Liberal Party’s policy coincides with the Communist Party’s policy, just as other policies do. What I would like to know is who thought of it first. Did the Communist Party think of it and the Liberals then plunder it? The Communists generally will plunder anybody’s policy. I wonder whether there were any discussions on this subject behind the scenes. I wonder whether the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) was consulted. I wonder whether any of those notable antiCommunist diehards who sit in the Country Party corner of the Parliament were consulted. I am shocked to think that people who have been stressing in this Parliament the dangers of Communism, would go right into the wool industry, onto the sheep’s back, as it were, in an effort to support the policy of Communism.
I think I have said enough tonight. Honorable members opposite are hoist with their own petards. They are guilty men, supporters of the Communist Party if we simply apply to them the same yardstick as they apply to the Labour Party. They can try to wriggle out of it, but that is where they stand tonight. From the Prime Minister right down, except for the few malcontents who are standing firm against the legislation members of the Government parties, by their attitude to this great issue in the wool industry, stand condemned tonight for all Australia to see as sympathisers and supporters of Communist policies. They cannot wriggle out of it without tendering an apology lo the Labour Party for the false and misleading propaganda they publish against it.
.- I think we can all be grateful tonight for being treated to another very fine effort from the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). In the brief period for which I have been a member of this Parliament, I have wished on many occasions that he would sit down, but tonight I was rather sorry to see him resume his seat. It is very nice to feel that we can have this light hearted contribution from the honorable member for Grayndler. It is easy to see that his main purpose is to entertain us, to be pleasant and not to make nasty insinuations. I was very glad to hear him even though he did wander a little.
I wish tonight merely to congratulate the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) for bringing before this House some new information regarding the wool floor price scheme which I think is of some importance to this chamber. His action in sending out letters to manufacturers on the other side of the world reflect his ability and foresight. I regret, as no doubt he does, that we did not have this information a little earlier in the day so that more use could have been made of it. Nevertheless, I congratulate him on it. I think the case he has put forward has rounded off in quite a good way the information that this House has possessed.
– What case?
– The case, of course, is undoubted and, I think, complete to this point of time. The answer to the honorable member for Parkes will be found in the ballot box. I voted the day before yesterday and I assure him that I voted in the right way too.
I understand the first question the honorable member for Wannon asked these firms was whether we should seek to reduce fluctuations in prices. He received the answer “ yes “ from all the nine firms he questioned. In addition, five of the nine said, without being solicited in any way, that fluctuations have caused a drift towards the increased use of synthetics. I think this is a pretty important point. I repeat that the five firms made that statement without being solicited in any way. Some of them are topmaking firms and other manufacture worsted goods. Looking back, it is not hard to pinpoint the time when the drift towards the increased use of synthetics commenced. Another point the honorable member made was that Woolcombers Ltd. wished its name to be used quite openly in this debate because it is in favour of the scheme. It did not want it to be withheld.
Looking at the core of the problem one must come to the inescapable conclusion that in the opinion of a wide range of experts in the fields of business, primary production and the manufacture of the raw material there is almost complete unanimity in any move that will tend to reduce fluctuations because, in the view of these people, this will benefit the whole scheme. Wool.combers Ltd. makes the point that it is an integral part of the wool industry as a whole. Farmers produce the wool, it is sold through different interests and it is manufactured by firms such as this. As I see it, they have a vested interest in stable wool prices and stable wool production. For this reason they are insistent that they should be allowed to come to the party.
The second question the honorable member for Wannon asked was whether fluctuations weaken the competitive position. He asked also whether these firms had any suggestions to advance. I gather that five said that a reserve price scheme was the correct way to tackle the problem, one suggested further promotion and two suggested a spread of wool types throughout the season. In other words, they suggested that there should not be the present bunching of types of wool at different times in the season. I believe that this is another attempt to be constructive and to act in an intelligent fashion on something that is well worth the attention of this House. The honorable member for Wannon asked the third question whether the firms believed that a conservative price scheme operating within the free auction system made a contribution towards reducing fluctuations in the price of raw wool. Six answered “ yes “, two held no opinion and one was against the proposal.
That pretty well completes the argument. It satisfies me, anyway. If we bear in mind the process which occurs when wool prices start to slip and one firm cannot afford to weaken its competitive position by buying wool at that time because of the fact that its competitor might buy later and get into a stronger position, I have no doubt that some scheme along the lines which have been suggested is the only way out of the trouble. From my own point of view I should like to make it quite clear that I support the present scheme in its entirety. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) mentioned at one stage when dealing with the statement of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), the term “ peasant farmer “. It drew my mind back to a statement in the Press quite recently that the success of the reserve price scheme is in the hands of the, small farmers. I do not think that this is so. 1 believe thai it is easy to over-generalise in this issue. To give one example of this sort of thing, I cite the stock owners of South Australia who at a big meeting with an open vote registered a nearly fifty-fifty vote. That to my mind represents the attitude of the bigger farmers in South Australia, with the Wheat and Wool Growers Association probably representing the smaller farmers. So it is by no means certain that it is the small farmers who will sway the position at all. I personally know of many whom I regard as big farmers who are supporting this scheme up to the hilt.
Finally, may I say that I believe that the days are gone when a surplus for home market requirements can be dumped onto the export market for disposal to those who wish to buy it. That type of market is finished whether in the secondary or primary fields of exports. Articles of primary and secondary production must be fashioned, manufactured or grown to satisfy the type of demand that exists on the export market. Sales of primary production are by no means unique in this regard. Perhaps in this field we have been a bit slower in catching up, but I believe that the more intelligent and probably better educated farmer of today appreciates that proper market studies must be made and proper promotion methods adopted in order to sell the commodity at its proper price. I have no doubt that this will be remembered when farmers go to vote on this matter in the next few weeks.
– I think that a few more remarks can be made on the subject of the wool reserve price scheme. Of course, if it could be guaranteed that the scheme will be run perfectly and that fluctuations -will be ironed out, that would be a good thing, but there is always a very grave risk that the price of ironing out the small fluctuations would be that every now and again - perhaps every nine or ten years - there would be a very big collapse of the market caused by the accumulation of a stockpile. This might be all right for certain of the big people who have other things upon which to rely, but it is not very funny for the small people who can be wiped out if this kind of thing occurs. I think, perhaps, that the advocates of the scheme have rather tended to overlook this very real possibility. In point of fact they are forgetting the small man who can be wiped out.
– All Socialist legislation forgets the small man.
– The honorable member for Mitchell may be right. Socialist legislation does tend to forget the small man but I am trying to point out-
– I rise to order. I should like, you, Sir, to stop the interjections that are being made by one honorable member opposite to his colleague in the Liberal Party. They make it difficult for us to hear the honorable member.
– Order! It would be a great help if everybody in the House thought along those lines.
– That is a very wise remark. I point out that although it may be very desirable to iron out these small fluctuations, the cost of doing so may be that every now and again there would be a big collapse in the market, caused by the existence of a very large stockpile. It would not be concealed from woolbuyers that this big stockpile was being accumulated. Do honorable members believe that these people go to sleep altogether? They will try to take advantage of the market.
What I would really like to remind honorable members of is the bad faith which has lain behind so much of this “ Yes * case. There has been a deliberate attempt to deceive the voters. I have in my hand a copy of the “Bombala Times” of 5th November which contains a paid advertisement advocating a “Yes” vote. I am not trying to blame this newspaper, because this is a paid advertisement. The advertisement says that the Federal Government is supporting a “ Yes “ vote. That is a lie. The advertisement is signed by a number of people who may not know what they are doing. Perhaps they are acting in good faith.
– Is it signed by indivdual woolgrowers?
– Yes. Unfortunately, this identical advertisement is appearing in a number of newspapers, above different signatures, all over the place. It is obviously part of a paid campaign. These people are signing their names to a lie, because they are saying that the Australian Government supports this scheme. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on two occasions has made it abundantly clear in this House that the Australian Government neither supports nor opposes this scheme. It is putting this scheme to the woolgrowers for their decision. What can we think of these people who are advocating a case and basing it upon a lie?
– This is not the Australian Wool Board is it?
– No. My friend, the honorable member for Wannon, says this is not being done by the Wool Board. If this were an individual advertisement of course I would agree with him. But this is a concerted campaign, organised by the Wool Board of course, because this advertisement is appearing in a number of newspapers. I am referring to one newspaper simply as an example. I think we cannot take seriously people who are using a lie in order to buttress their case. They may not entirely realise what they are doing, but surely when we find people endeavouring to extort a vote from the woolgrowers and using as a reason for so doing false statements - because this is a false statement - we have to have some kind of reservation about the rest of what they say. All I want to remind honorable members of, and perhaps people outside this House, is that in this referendum those who put forward such false statements obviously tarnish the rest of their case.
– I would not have taken part in this debate were it not for the fact that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) chose to stand up and pontificate on what is good and what is bad for the wool industry. Normally I take the view that a person who represents a city seat, as I do, and as the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) do, might very well direct their attention to matters upon which, perhaps, they have reasonably good knowledge. But we find that the honorable members who have had most to say about this proposal for a wool marketing scheme come from city seats of, in most cases, Sydney, and I think we have two from Queensland, the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen).
– Definitely not.
– I am pleased to hear the learned doctor dissociate himself from the “No” case. But the honorable member for Moreton is most certainly allied with the honorable members for Mackellar, Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) and Parkes.
– He comes from the Barcoo.
– I find the crocodile tears of the honorable member for Mackellar and the loud interjection by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) on behalf of the poor little wool grower rather amusing. These honorable gentlemen are not worried about the big wool grower. It is the poor little wool grower for whom they are concerned.
It seems that Sir Frank Packer, whose newspaper is doing so much to obtain a “ No “ vote, also is concerned primarily for the poor litlte wool grower. He is not interested in the big wool grower. He is not interested, of course, in people like himself who get quite a good income from dealing in wool futures. It is people like Sir Frank Packer and Mr. Geoffrey Ashton who are principally concerned with seeing that the reserve price plan is defeated. Mr. Geoffrey Ashton, it will be remembered, was the Liberal Party candidate for the electorate of Hume at the last election. He also, I am told, gets a considerable income from trafficking in wool futures - that is, when he is not playing polo.
I come now to another gentleman from Hume - the Country Party member who now represents the electorate. I have waited in vain to hear the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Pettitt) declare publicly some of the views that he has expressed privately. This would be a difficult thing to do, I know, because the views that he expresses privately, I am told on fairly good authority, differ according to the person to whom he is speaking. For example, if he is speaking to someone who is known to be a “ No “ supporter he points to the fact - quite correctly - that he is a member of the Graziers Association and by inference suggests that therefore, like the Association, he is opposed to the scheme. On the other hand, if he finds someone in his district who is in favour of the scheme - many people in the district are in favour of it, particularly the small wool growers who see the wisdom of it - he says: “ Of course, you know that I am a member of the Country Party and you know where Charlie Adermann stands on this issue. Just work it out from there.” Again the inference is that the honorable member favours the proposal. So he is both for and against the proposal.
I cannot recall any member of the Country Party publicly declaring himself unequivocally on this matter. I admire the stand taken by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), who is a pretty shrewd gentleman. He has been in the wool industry for a long time. No-one knows better than he what is. good for the wool industry. Whatever he does not know about other things, he does know something about the wool industry. I would venture to say that his opinion on the wool industry would be much better informed than that of the honorable member for Parkes, the honorable member for Mackellar or his interjecting friend the honorable member for Mitchell.
– The honorable member for Wannon is woolly on everything except wool.
– That is a fair observation. The honorable member for Mackellar set out to tell us why he is opposed to the scheme. All the time his interest centres on the poor little wool grower. He is not concerned with the wool broker who is trafficking in wool futures. He is not concerned with the wealthy, almost millionaire class grazier. One knows that what causes his heart to bleed for the little man is the fact that this scheme, if implemented, might create a huge surplus which, every 10 years, will burst into a glut which will cause terrible disaster to overtake the whole industry. This is the silliest argument I have heard in all my life. What is more likely to destroy the wool industry is a repetition of the 1951 boom in prices followed by the rapid and sharp fall a couple of years later. If ever again wool prices rise to £1 per lb. as they did in 1951, and then suddenly drop as they did following the 1951 boom, people who now use wool will have to stop using it. Wool will not be able to compete with manmade fibres and the users of wool will not be able to anticipate possible trends in wool prices. A similar scheme has operated in New Zealand for years with great success, and I understand that the same sort of scheme has operated in South Africa with great success. Why on earth should we believe and say that this scheme will not operate successfully in Australia? Surely to goodness we have the wit and the will to operate the scheme in the same way as it has been operated in other countries. If the industry is to survive, we must have some standardisation of prices. We must have a scheme that will ensure a reasonable return to the growers and give them some security against sudden drops in prices. At the same time, and equally importantly, the scheme must guarantee to the wool users fibre at prices that will be reasonable and that will not fluctuate violently from year to year as has been the case in the past.
As I said at the commencement of my speech, I am amazed at the double life that is being led by members of the Country Party. When I see the honorable member for Hume smilingly discuss the plan with those who support it and, equally affably, discuss it with those who are opposed to it, I am amazed. I often wish that I had bigger ears and could hear what was being said. It would be interesting to know whether his behaviour inside the Parliament is as inconsistent as it has been proved, and as we know it to be, outside the Parliament.
I was impressed, as I am sure was every other honorable member, by the magnificent case that was put forward by the honorable member for Grayndler when he likened the, members of the Liberal Party to members of the Communist Party because they supported the proposed plan. He very cleverly tore from the ‘ Daily Telegraph “ and those who support a “ No “ vote the veil of hypocrisy. As well as tearing away that veil of hypocrisy and showing up those people for what they are, he showed up the hypocrisy of other people who, for the moment, happen to be on the side of the Communists but who, when it suits them, never hesitate to brand Labour men as being Communists when the Communists and members of the Labour Parry happen to support the same thing. If we were to take this argument to its logical conclusion, everybody who supports free education could be branded as a Communist, because free education is one of the points of the Communist manifesto.
I conclude by saying that I sincerely hope that the wool growers will not be deceived by the crocodile tears of the city slickers from Mackellar, Mitchell, Parkes and Moreton, who stand in this place at the behest of the traffickers in wool futures and try to perpetuate the stupid, rotten and disastrous system that we have in Australia for the selling of wool.
– Order! Did the honorable member for Hindmarsh imply that the honorable member for Mitchell was a city slicker?
– Yes, and I meant to do so.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw it.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Two successive Labour speakers have misrepresented me. I shall not worry about the clowning of the honorable member for Grayndler. However, the honorable member for Hindmarsh made a quite substantial, though I believe unwitting, misrepresentation of my position. I made no public pronouncement on the wool floor price scheme. I was not happy about the form of the referendum Bill as originally proposed, but I was quitehappy with it as presented to the House. At all times I made it plain that I was not competent to make any decision as to whether the case for a “ Yes “ vote or the case for a “ No “ vote was or is the right one.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.10 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
rns asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The International Control Commission has issued eleven interim reports and three special reports. The special report of the I.C.C. dated 13th February 1965, lists at Appendix I quantities of arms and ammunition manufactured in Communist countries which had at that time been reported to the I.C.C. by the Government of the Republic, of Vietnam as having been captured in South Vietnam during the period from 2nd June 1962 to the end of December 1964. The quantities included 128 ‘ weapons and over 100,000 rounds of ammunition of Communist Chinese origin; 204 weapons and 14,000 rounds of ammunition of Czechoslovakian origin; 595 weapons and 160,000 rounds of ammunition of Soviet origin and 8 weapons of East German origin. Appendix II contains the following details of infiltration of men into South Vietnam which had at that time been reported to the I.C.C. by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam.
The special report of the I.C.C. published on 2nd June 1962 quoted the Legal Committee’s conclusions that there was evidence to show that armed and unarmed personnel, arms, munitions and other supplies had been sent from North Vietnam to South Vietnam, but the Special Report did not cite quantities. The 11 interim reports of the I.C.C. concerning its activities from 11th August 1954 to 31st January 1960 also do not quote relevant quantities of captured weapons or ammunition or numbers of infiltrated personnel. The 11 interim reports and the special reports of 2nd June 1962 and 13th February 1965 have been published in the following United Kingdom Command Papers available from the Parliamentary Library; Command Papers Cmd 9461 (May 1955); Cmd 9499 (June 1955); Cmd 9654 (December 1955); Cmd 9706 (March 1956); Cmnd 31 (January 1957); Cmnd 335 (December 1957); Cmnd 509 (August 1958); Cmnd 726 (May 1959); Cmnd 1040 (June 1960); Cmnd 1551 November 1961); Cmnd 1755 (June 1962); Cmnd 2609 (March 1965). In addition, a special report was issued on 28th February 1965 concerning the withdrawal of I.C.C. teams from North Vietnam at the request of the Hanoi authorities. This report, although public, has not been printed in the Command Paper series and also does not contain figures relevant to the question. A copy of the report has been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
son asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The conditions are as follows - (i) they take part as members of an all-German team, or (ii) they take part in their individual capacity, or (iii) it is clear that they do not intend to travel as a national team representing the so-called German Democratic Republic.
The Allied Travel Board also satisfies itself that the events would not be exploited by East German participants for political purposes; for example, that the East German national flag and emblem would not be shown, that the East German national anthem would not be played and that the title German Democratic Republic would not be used in official proceedings and publications connected with the event.
So far as is known, no applications have yet been made to the Allied Travel Board by or on behalf of competitors wishing to go to Australia for the 1966 Pentathlon Championships.
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
There are no records or information available to show that qualified infantry officers of the
Citizen Military Forces, resident in country areas in Victoria or in any other State, are being required to transfer to other corps, or, alternatively, are being transferred to the Reserve of Officers.
Normally an officer does not change his corps, but in the case of an infantry officer moving to another State, city or country area where there is no infantry unit to which he could be transferred, he would be given the opportunity to transfer to another corps or transfer to the Reserve of Officers, if there was no posting to which he could be allotted.
The raising of new Citizen Military Force infantry units in most of the States has caused a demand for qualified infantry officers, especially in country areas, and officers from the Command and Staff Training units and Reserve of Officers are being appointed to fill vacancies.
Drought Relief .
t.- On 29th October, the honorable, member for Hume (Mr. Pettitt) asked whether I would seek from the Reserve Bank an assurance that adequate funds would be available to primary producers facing stock losses as a result of the drought who may not be considered to be commercially acceptable. In my reply I said that I was sure, from the co-operative attitude of the trading banks in their discussions with the Reserve Bank and the amount of lending they are currently undertaking for drought purposes, that the class of cases to which the honorable member had referred would also be receiving sympathetic consideration, but that I would see whether some amplification could be made of my statement of 28th October.
It must be appreciated that the trading banks are commercial enterprises and that it is a matter for each bank to decide whether it willlend in a particular case. The decision as to what is a commercially acceptable proposition must therefore rest with the banks. The Reserve Bank has been assured, however, that the banks are treating with sympathetic consideration all applications from their primary producer customers who are in need of carry-on finance because of the drought. In practical terms this means that, in the case of loan applications by drought-affected primary producers, the banks are prepared to consider, within reasonable limits, how far they can relax their normal standards, particularly in regard to level of indebtedness and repayment arrangements. It is relevant, too, that the Reserve Bank has arranged with the trading banks that loans by them for drought pur- poses fall outside general limitations on new bank lending, so that the banks are not deterred by credit policy requirements from treating such proposals sympathetically.
In the event of a drought-affected farmer being unable to obtain finance from a trading bank for a purpose that falls within the scope of the Commonwealth Development Bank’s activities, he may be able to formulate a proposal for borrowing from the Development Bank. The Development Bank provides finance for developmental purposes (including the restocking of properties) in cases where, in its opinion, the provision of finance is desirable and finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. The Development Bank needs to be reasonably satisfied about an applicant’s ability to repay the loan, but I am assured that, like the trading banks, it is giving specially sympathetic consideration to requests for finance from drought-affected primary producers.
For producers who are unable to obtain finance from normal sources, the special drought measures which have been instituted by the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland include the provision of loans on concessional terms at low rates of interest for a number of specified purposes. In this connection attention is invited to the statements made in the House by the Prime Minister on 26th August and 12th October last, which dealt inter alia with the question of Commonwealth assistance to the States in respect of the cost to State budgets of these drought-relief loans and other State drought measures.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 November 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19651110_reps_25_hor48/>.