25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. ACTING SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to inform the House that the Minister for Air, the Honorable Pe*r Howson, left Australia on Friday last on an overseas visit. While he is away, he will lead the delegation from this Parliament to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference to be held at Ottawa. At the conclusion of the conference, he will visit the United States of America and the United Kingdom to engage in discussions associated with his portfolio. He expects to return to Australia on 11th October. During Mr. Howson’s absence, the Minister for the Navy, Mr. Chaney, will act as Minister for Air and represent the Minister for Customs and Excise in this chamber.
– Honorable members will know that over the weekend the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) has been indisposed. I will take questions that normally would be addressed to the Prime Minister today. He has today made a statement which I am sure he would have made in the House had he not been indisposed. It is in reaction to an invitation by President Marcos, President of the Philippines, who has joined with the President of South Korea and the Prime Minister of Thailand in proposing that there should be a meeting of the heads of the Governments of those countries which are involved in protecting the freedom of South Vietnam. Those countries are the three I have named, plus South Vietnam. Australia, New Zealand and the United States. President Marcos has proposed that the heads of these countries should meet in Manila on 18th October to make in general terms, a review of the military situation in Vietnam but more broadly, and I think more importantly in his mind, to discuss what best might be done to further civil aid to South Vietnam, the programmes for reconstruction that are at present in train in South Vietnam largely on the initiative of the Government of that country, and presumably what steps other than military steps might be taken in an endeavour to secure the conclusion of the unhappy situation there.
I shall read the short statement issued by the Prime Minister today. He said -
The Australian Government warmly commends the proposal put forward by Preside”! of the Philippines, in consultation with the President of Korea and the Prime Minister ot Thailand it appreciates the offer by President Marcos to make arrangements for the conference to be held in the Philippines. Since this is a conference of the heads of Governments whose forces are joined in resisting Communist aggression in South Vietnam, there will naturally be an assessment of the military situation. But also the Australian Government sees the conference as one which will look towards the attainment of a just and enduring peace and towards the further development of programmes of civil aid and the economic reconstruction in South Vietnam and in the area generally which would buttress freedom and progress. With each of these aspects coming under discussion the Australian Government sees great merit and promise in the proposal. I will be attending the conference and I am looking forward to joining in consultation with the heads of allied governments.
– I point out to the Minister for Social Services that if an application for pension is approved the payment of the pension operates from the first pension day after the receipt of application. The honorable gentleman would be aware that in a majority of cases pensioners lose a portion of their money when they receive their first cheque, which includes back money. Will the Minister consider altering the procedure so that the pension will be applicable from the date of the receipt of the application? I might add that this would not involve much extra work because of automatic data processing now being used widely throughout his Department.
– The reason for the pension being dated from the first pension pay day following the receipt of the application is that under the present system of automated preparation of cheques for despatch and the general processing of payments at administrative level within the Department it has been found that having regular pay days serves to the advantage both of the Department and of the pension community. I shall look into the honorable member’s question, but I think that in terms of administrative efficiency it would be easier when the actual amount of a person’s entitlement has been determined that the amount should continue at that rate rather than have one rate payable for the first pay period and a varying rate payable subsequently. However, I shall look at the honorable member’s question to see whether it should be followed up in any way.
– I, too, ask a question of the Minister for Social Services. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to two articles which appeared in the Melbourne “ Herald “ on Thursday and Friday of last week concerning the means test? Is he aware that the articles stated that 560,000 people do not receive the age pension because they are barred by the means test, that another 90.000 receive only a partial pension because of the means test and that the only persons in Australia who receive an age pension free of the means test are retired Federal politicians? As the House will today debate the Social Services Bill will the Minister please give the true facts concerning this so called free of means test age pension for retired Federal politicians in order to correct the mistaken impression held by the journalist concerned and also to assure the hundreds of thousands of people who may have read these articles that retired members of the Parliament are subject to exactly the same means test as are all other people?
– I regret to advise the honorable member that he, like the rest of the members of this House, is not entitled to a means test free pension. The parliamentary retiring allowance is not under my personal jurisdiction, but as all members of this House are only too well aware a substantial amount is deducted from their monthly cheques as contributions to the superannuation scheme operated for retired parliamentarians. Honorable members also will be aware that a member who retires from this House under the age of 40 years is not entitled to any superannuation, that up to the age of 45 years a graduated amount is payable and that over the age of 65 years there is an added increment. In fact, the superannuation of Federal parliamentarians is related directly to the amount of their contribution. It is in no way related to the operations of the Department of Social
Services, and the same means test qualifications apply to parliamentarians as apply to every 0:her person in the community.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the poor performance of the economy last year when private investment grew at only half the rate that prevailed in the previous year, and in view of the fact that production and employment and unemployment indexes on a seasonably adjusted basis show an alarming stagnation in numerous fields and even a decline in others, will the Minister take urgent action by means of a supplementary budget to stimulate consumer demand so that production and private investment will pick up to at least somewhere near a healthy level? Or is it the Government’s intention to keep the lid down firmly on the private sector of our economy in order to meet a defence bill of which more than $200 million has to be paid overseas?
– This is a curious question based on a series of false hypotheses. On the labour market there are only a little more than 50,000 registered for employment, and the number is falling. The honorable member for Oxley might like it to fall further and more quickly; so might others. The fact is that the economy is basically in a very healthy state. In criticising the state of the economy the honorable member might, if he had chosen, have referred to the numbers of housing approvals, a subject in which he used to take a great interest. But I notice that even the Leader of the Opposition has not commented on this aspect of the economy. The economy is generally in a state of reasonable balance. The housing position will undoubtedly improve, and many authorities consider that we could, as the financial year wears on, experience a considerable uplift. Naturally the Government is watching the economy very closely. In conditions of balance such as exist at the moment every slight trend upwards or downwards must be looked at carefully to determine whether some kind of change of policy is called for. The process of assessing the economy is continuous, and should any action be required in either direction the Government will certainly consider it and probably take it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Territories been directed to the statement that the issue of mining licences in Papua and New Guinea reacts against the native Papuans and New Guineans?
– I have not heard of the statement referred to by the honorable member, although I understand that there was some mention of it in a broadcast today. I have no doubt that what the honorable member’s question refers to are the operations or prospective operations of Conzinc Rio Tinto on Bougainville Island. This has been a matter of controversy for some lime. I point out that if hopes are fulfilled these operations will becomea very important industry for Papua and New Guinea and could increase the export income of that Territory by 100 per cent. But very considerable prospecting must be done first, and before a company is prepared to spend money on prospecting it has to be sure of its title. Unfortunately some of the people on Bougainville Island feel that they should have title to the mineral rights of the area, and that thereby only about 300 or 400 people should benefit from the mining operations.
This, of course, involves a principle which is completely opposed to our ideas in Australia, where the title to mineral rights is held by the whole of the community. We believe that our policy is the right one for Papua and New Guinea if we are to develop the country as a whole. We have to realise that there are areas of the Territory which are particularly poor, such as the Western Districts and the Fly Delta and Sepik River areas. Undoubtedly these areas will ‘be developed in the future, but vast sums are required in the meantime to make New Guinea economically viable. I believe our policy is right. Also. I would point out that the people who have title to the land on which these mineral areas are located are being compensated for the loss of the use of land in the event of mining operations taking place. 1 believe this is a perfectly fair approach. It would be a tragedy for the Territory as a whole if this company were discouraged from investing millions of dollars which ultimately must be in the best interests of the Territory.
– My question is to the Postmaster-General. Following his splendid work in providing an automatic telephone exchange in Queanbeyan, will he ensure that particular regard is paid to widespread complaints from the whole of the Bega-Cooma area about reception from national television station ABSN Channel 8? Will he take into account that these complaints have come from every local government body in the area and that they are supported by reputable electrical retailers in every centre who state that the standard of reception established on the opening day of the service has never been maintained since? Will he take steps to ensure that the regional news and other regional services coming from this station continue to be provided from Canberra, with which this area has a natural sympathy, rather than from Wollongong? It has been threatened that the service will come from Wollongong in the future, but we want it to continue to come from Canberra. Finally will he ensure that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board gives the utmost consideration to an application from Channel 7 Canberra-Channel 10 Cooma for the provision of a translator to serve the Bombala area?
– I think the Australian Broadcasting Control Board can never be sure, when a translator is installed, that the reception will be 100 per cent. Tests are continually made in and around the area and if there are deficiencies action is taken by the Board to correct them, if it is at all possible. I will bring the honorable member’s question again under the notice of the Board. I know it has been working in this area and I will ask whether it can expedite its investigation and perhaps correct the problem which he suggests exists. As to the regional news coming from Canberra, I have not heard of the suggestion that it is to come from Wollongong. I will be pleased to have a look at this particular matter. In relation to the translator for the Bombala area, at this moment the Board in investigating so many areas in respect of translators that I cannot give any guarantee that there can be an early determination of this matter. Translators were first installed some 18 months ago, and since they have been found to be completely effective in most areas there has been a tremendous number of applications for them. The technical staff of the Board is not able to cover the ground to determine the suitability or otherwise of translators for all these areas, and the applications therefore must be considered on a priority basis.
– Will the Minister have a look at it?
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation had an opportunity, since his visit overseas, to assess the prospects of Australian airline operators obtaining suitable jet powered feeder aircraft to replace the DC3 and the F27 Friendship aircraft now operating on country routes? Is the F28 aircraft likely to be satisfactory for such use? Are there any other short take off and landing aircraft able to meet the passenger and freight needs of country areas, where runway facilities are limited and where the need for air transport is an economic reality?
– The F28 is to be a twin engined rear jet aircraft designed substantially to fulfil the role of the F27. Although it is too early to have full details of the operating requirements of the F28, we have been told that it will be able to use runways and normal navigational aids provided for the F27. But until the prototype is flying we will not be certain about these things. I will be able to give the House more information on this subject when the prototype is flying. At present no replacement is available in Europe, the United Kingdom, or in the United States of America for the DC3 aircraft on feeder services. While in the United Kingdom recently, I took the opportunity to direct attention to the need for such an aircraft. As the DC3 is being phased out of operations there has arisen an urgent need for a feeder aircraft of about the same capacity, able to operate under similar conditions - from airstrips with gravel or grass surfaces, and so on. let aircraft at present in use, even turbo prop aircraft such as the F27, will not meet all of these requirements. A number of types of aircraft with short take off and landing capabilities would be suitable for limited feeder services but they are too small to be considered as a direct replacement of the DC3. The industry in the
United Kingdom and Europe has indicated that it will be doing its best to meet this requirement.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Industry aware of a statement by the director of an Australian textile printing company alleging that design pirates in Hong Kong, Malaysia and New Zealand are depriving this country of important export markets by stealing his company’s original textile designs? Will the Minister ensure that the company and others similarly affected receive the maximum assistance from the Government in protecting their rights? Is the Minister aware also that Australian footwear designs are being pirated, particularly by Mainland China, and that footwear produced in Asia to such designs is imported into Australia in unfair competition with the product of the original designers? Finally, if an Australian company can produce evidence of such pirating, will the Minister authorise a complete ban on the imports of footwear concerned?
– Last week, 1 answered a question dealing with the textile aspects of the matter raised by the honorable member. 1 said then that the matter is under study both at the commercial level and the legal level. I said that all possible steps would be taken to strengthen the defence of the Australian producer against piracy of his designs and models. I made the point, and I think I should make it again, that if it were illegal to import an item the design for which had been obviously pirated from an Australian designer, we would not be able to apply the law in the country where the piracy had taken place. However, the person who should watch his interest is the Australian importer of the pirated item. I make this remark again as a warning to those who, in Australia, may be encouraging this very pernicious practice.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister a question. The Thai Government has reported that 3,000 Communist terrorists have infiltrated through from China into the northern Phu Pan mountain area and that 500 more are in the Malaysian border area. Can the Minister now inform the
House whether the Thai Government has asked the United States Government to give assistance in combating this infiltration?
– The information that has been supplied to me supports what the honorable member affirms in his question - that there has been an infiltration of terrorists supported from mainland China into Thailand, particularly into the Phu Pan mountain area. From the advice which has been given to me, 1 understand that about 3,000 is the number reported and a further 500 terrorists are at large in the area, or have assembled in the area, adjacent to the Malaysian border with Thailand. So far as I am informed it is a fact that in these circumstances the Thai Government has requested military aid from the United States to withstand this kind of aggressive infiltration.
– In answering a question asked by the honorable member for Ballaarat, I inadvertently made a wrong statement, which I wish to correct. I said 1 had certain information which confirmed what he had said. I concluded by saying that I understood the Government of Thailand had asked the United States for military assistance to deal with terrorists. I misread my notes. I should have said that my advice is that the Government of Thailand had not asked the United States for military assistance for this purpose. I regret the inadvertent error.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that the United States has been increasing pressure on the Government to send a third battalion to Vietnam but that the Government is deferring a decision because it considers it is entitled to more reciprocity at the trade level? Is it a fact that the Treasurer was instructed to put this view to the United States during his recent visit and that any announcement on the commitment of more troops has been delayed until the result of his efforts is known? Is it also a fact that the Government has actually entered into an arrangement to supply troops for trade, including conscripted national service trainees, but that the decision is to be withheld from the public until after the forthcoming Federal election?
– I must tell the honorable gentleman that he has not one fact in the whole cartload. The fact is that there has been no approach from the United States Government to Australia to increase its commitments in Vietnam.
– Of course there has.
– Of course the honorable gentleman knows vastly more than the people who are really at the centre of these affairs. However, I can repudiate the honorable gentleman’s suggestion and 1 dismiss with complete and utter contempt the statement that we should be asked to supply Australian servicemen in return for trade.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Defence. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in which he said that if Labour won the Federal election all Australian troops now serving in Vietnam would be withdrawn and that the Labour Party had laid down a timetable whereby all Australian troops fighting in Vietnam would be out of that country by June?
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Speaker. An honorable member is required, I believe, to verify any report upon which he bases a question. This report is inaccurate and it appeared, 1 believe, in only one newspaper. The honorable member is in no position to verify it, and I suggest you ask him to do so before allowing him to proceed.
– Order! It is impossible for the Chair to know whether statements appearing in newspapers are correct. The responsibility, therefore, is on the honorable member concerned. If an honorable member asks a question based on a newspaper report it has been the practice in the past to allow the question to be asked with the questioner accepting the responsibility for its content.
– It was also heard by thousands of people watching television.
– Mr. Acting Speaker–
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Mr. Acting Speaker, in view of the matter raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will you ask the honorable member for Phillip whether he can verify the statement?
– Order! I have already answered the point of order raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I raise a further point of order, Mr. Acting Speaker, in the light of the honorable member’s claim that this statement was made on television. The report to which he has referred purported to be a report of a telecast in Melbourne last weekend. It is most unlikely the honorable member would have seen it. It was shown in Sydney the previous week, and the telecast does not tally with the report which appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, the only daily newspaper, I believe, to report it.
– Order! As I have said, it is impossible for the Chair to say whether a statement or a newspaper report is correct. This is the responsibility of the person asking the question.
– Mr. Acting Speaker, will you apply the rule which has been applied by the Chair frequently that when an honorable member questions the accuracy of a report on which another honorable member is basing a question, the Chair asks the questioner to vouch for the accuracy of the report?
-Order! I have already explained the practice which has been adopted by the Chair in the past and will be adopted in the future, namely, that the responsibility for the content of a question lies with the questioner, lt is impossible for the Chair to know whether a report is correct. An honorable member states in his question that the report has’ appeared in some publication and it then becomes the responsibility of the questioner.
– He also referred to a telecast.
– My remarks apply to a newspaper report or a telecast, as the case may be.
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Speaker. May I suggest that it is quite unreasonable to interpret the Standing Orders of the House in such a way as to place the onus on an honorable member to verify a statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– Order! I have already given a ruling on the point of order. 1 call the honorable member for Phillip.
– To make the position quite clear I should like to ask the Minister for Defence whether his attention has been directed to a statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to the effect that if Labour won the forthcoming Federal election all Australian troops now serving in Vietnam would be withdrawn, and that the Labour Party had laid down a timetable by which all Australian troops fighting in Vietnam would be out of that country by June. In view of the national importance of this statement will the Minister inform the House of the Government’s view on this unrealistic policy which, if implemented, would negate our treaty and other obligations to our allies and to the Vietnamese people?
– I find myself in some difficulty in dealing with a question of this kind-
– The Minister usually does.
– Not for the reasons the honorable member thinks. I only want to pay due deference to the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he has been malevolently misreported on this matter. Therefore, I am unable to comment on whether, as has been reported in the newspaper, a timetable has been laid down, but if that is true it would indicate plainly that provisional on the people of this country electing a Labour Government on 26th November the new Government would find itself committed to some quite unpalatable decisions. The first would be to withdraw Australian troops, apparently without any prior consultation with our ally, the United States of America. Secondly, if this were done - and the honorable gentleman has only varied Labour’s policy, if the statement was correct-
– It was not correct. The report was incorrect.
– I accept that, but the honorable gentleman can hardly deny that quite a number of people on his side of the
House, up to and including the Leader of the Opposition, his leader pro tem, has said that Labour would .withdraw all Australian forces if it won the election.
– I was answering questions. That question was not asked.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to clarify the matter on which I wish to comment - that the Leader of the Opposition, his pro tem leader-
– There are other newspapers that correctly reported the telecasts - for instance, the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “.
– For the moment, I am not dealing with the subject of the telecast. J am concerned only with the stated policy of the Opposition that, if elected to govern in November, Labour would withdraw the Australian troops. I can only say that this would repudiate treaties honorably entered into with our allies, the United States-
– What treaties?
– The honorable member knows very well what treaties. Generally, it would leave our friends and neighbours in South East Asia completely on their ov/n to win a battle in which they have sought our support. Labour would certainly walk out on our allies. I remember that when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was in Vietnam quite recently he offered the opinion that the country could be militarily stabilised in the course of a couple of years and that we should be matching our military commitment with a civic affairs programme. Now the honorable gentleman appears to want to withdraw the military commitment. The fact is that the South Vietnamese, unable to deal with Communist infiltration and subversion, sought our help. What the Labour Party in this country says to the South Vietnamese and what it would say if it were elected to office is: “ Well, get on with the war and see if you can win. If you do, we will do some minor repairs “. As everybody in this House knows, over a long period now any civic aid that has gone to Vietnam has been deliberately destroyed by the Communists. I recall that when we put a whole dairy farm in Bien Cat the Communists destroyed the cattle and wrecked the dairy.
– That is false.
– The Americans bombed the dairy farm.
– Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will keep quiet.
– The Americans bombed the dairy farm.
– Order! I warn the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
– I am merely stating the facts.
– Order! I name the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) put -
That the honorable member for Eden-Monaro be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided.
(Mr. Acting Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to make a statement, because I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall). The honorable member for Phillip asked a question based on a newspaper report in the later edition of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of yesterday morning. It referred to a telecast in Melbourne the previous night. The same telecast had been shown in Sydney a week before. The newspaper report was inaccurate. At least one accurate report of the telecast did appear yesterday morning - in the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “. I have not checked other newspapers. The “ Courier-Mail “ correctly reported my answer to a question in these terms -
All Australian troops now serving in Vietnam would return home by June next year under present plans, the Deputy Opposition Leader (Mr. Whitlam) said last night. . . .
Mr. Whitlam who was speaking on a Melbourne television programme said the Government had laid down a time table by which all Australian troops righting in Vietnam would be out by June. “ They will start coming in March “, he said.
This was the answer to a question that I was asked on the programme. On Sunday night at home, about 9.30 o’clock, I received a telephone call from the Melbourne “ Sun “ to check the report and I corrected it. I do not think that the Melbourne “ Sun “ ran a report of the telecast. Reuters-Australian Associated Press also telephoned me to check the report, and I gave them the correct version. The “ Courier-Mail “ has the correct version. I did not express a view; I was not asked for my view on any proposals concerning the size, composition or duration of replacements according to what Government is elected on 26th November.
The Minister for Defence misrepresented me by quoting only half of the statements I have made on several occasions since my return from Vietnam concerning the degree of pacification or security in that country. I have said that, it seemed to me that within two years at the most, the principal areas of population and production would be substantially secure. I have expressly excluded the mountains and the jungles. I have also said that preparations for civilian aid - not just civic action as ancillary to military action, but preparations for civilian aid - surveys and recruiting should take place immediately. I have gone on to point out that the present Budget has reduced appropriations for international aid and relief, reduced S.E.A.T.O. assistance and cancelled all Vietnam refugee relief.
– Mr. Acting Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– I take a point or order, Mr. Acting Speaker, lt is normal practice in this House that when the Prime Minister or presumably his Deputy makes a statement at the beginning of question time, as a matter of courtesy to all honorable members question time is extended by the amount of time taken up in making the statement. Is it not bad enough for so many Ministers to be absent from this chamber? This deprives us of the opportunity to question them and now our opportunity to question those who are here is restricted.
– Order ! There is no substance in the point of order raised by the honorable member.
– by leave - I would like to inform the House of further developments in the investigation of last Thursday’s Viscount airliner crash at Winton, Queensland. An investigation team from the Department of Civil Aviation is on the site supported by technical and operational specialists from Ansett-A.N.A., the Air Pilots Federation of Australia and the airframe and engine manufacturers. A full technical investigation was begun at Winton in the early hours of Friday morning soon after the majority of the investigation team arrived at Winton by departmental aircraft from Melbourne.
The primary task, so far, has been the location and plotting of the wreckage which is scattered over an area of approximately H miles by half a mile. Several aircraft and a helicopter have been used to help pinpoint the location of all significant pieces of wreckage, much of which is in scrub country and which would otherwise be difficult to find by ground search. The investigators today expect to complete a detailed photographic and chart record of the wreckage distribution. Such a record is vital to the subsequent analysis of the sequence and type of failure.
A prelimiary examination has been made of the airframe and engine wreckage and, in particular, engine experts have examined the rear compressor bearings of the aircraft’s four engines. Honorable members will recall that an in-flight engine fire occurred in a Viscount airliner near Mangalore, Victoria, last August and was subsequently found to have been caused by the failure of a rear compressor bearing of the engine. This particular aspect is detailed in my annual report to Parliament which I tabled last week. Naturally this was one of the matters immediately examined by the investigation team at Winton and a preliminary inspection of the rear compressor bearings on all four engines indicated that there was no reason to believe that they had failed or had been the cause of a fire reported by the pilot during his emergency descent. A further on-site examination has supported this indication. However, immediately the onsite examinations are complete, the engines will be removed and taken to Melbourne for strip down and examination under laboratory conditions as part of the overall effort to try to establish the nature, the location and the cause of the in-flight fire reported by the aircraft’s captain.
Preliminary examination of the airframe components have been directed towards establishing the fire damage caused in the air, as distinct from that caused by fire on the ground after impact, to assist in pinpointing the primary source of the in-flight fire. When these and other on-site examinations are completed, the airframe components also will be lifted out for further detailed examination, possibly in Melbourne. Concurrently with this work, members of the investigation team have been obtaining evidence from all possible witnesses in the Winton area and back along the aircraft’s track. This work has extended as far back as Mount Isa where one of the Department’s senior inspectors of air safety has been obtaining evidence on ali the activities associated with the despatch of the flight. Post mortem examinations have also been carried out by the Queensland Government Pathologist and a lull report has been submitted to the investigation team.
The investigation team is confident that the aircraft’s flight data recorder is in the main section of the wreckage. This recorder records continuously, on a stainless steel tape, the aircraft’s air speed, altitude, heading, time and vertical acceleration, and naturally it could provide a good deal of Information important to the investigation. The recorder, of course, is not indestructible but it is designed to withstand very high temperatures and severe impact forces. lt will be located as quickly as possible but the investigators do not want to disturb the wreckage in a hasty search for the recorder as this could destroy a great deal of other evidence which could prove quite valuable to the investigation. The recorder, if in fact it is in this area, will not, in the meantime, deteriorate as it is covered by other wreckage.
While this investigation activity has been proceeding, my Director-General yesterday held a conference with the major airlines to discuss all the technical evidence so far available from the accident. This meeting was attended by the Department’s own technical specialists as well as the senior officers of both major airlines together with their technical officers. After a full and derailed examination of all the available evidence it was unanimously concluded that there was no justification, at this point, for suspecting the basic airworthiness of the Viscount airliner. In this context, I should perhaps point out that the Viscount has been operating in Australia for many years and in fact something like 450 Viscounts are operating with airlines throughout the world.
Honorable members will know that I went o Winton last Friday and, after conferring with the Department’s investigators in charge of the investigation, I announced that it was my intention that there should be a public inquiry into the accident as soon as the technical investigation was completed. Under the terms of the Air Navigation Regulations, I am authorised to consider this aspect after receiving the report of the technical investigation. However, in view of the seriousness of this tragic accident, I considered that I should announce, as quickly as possible, my intention to appoint a board of accident inquiry. My present thought is that this board should be headed by a judge with whatever specialist technical assistance is necessary.
Honorable members will know also that a second aircraft accident occurred at the weekend in which six people lost their lives. The aircraft involved was owned by an aerial survey company and was returning from a survey flight when it crashed about one mile short of the western end of the runway at Tennant Creek airport. My Department also has begun a full technical investigation of the circumstances involved in this crash and this technical investiga tion will follow basically the same pattern as that which I have just outlined in regard to the technical investigation into the Winton accident. The Regional Director of my Department in Adelaide proceeded immediately to Tennant Creek as my representative and on’ Saturday night I released J public statement in which I expressed sympathy to the relatives of those who lost their lives in this accident. The only comment I can make at this stage is that, so far, there is no immediately apparent cause of this accident.
– Mr. Acting Speaker, 1 wish to ask the Minister a question about the statement he has just made. Can I do this within the forms of the House or should I seek permission to make a statement?
– Order! The only thing that the honorable member can do is to ask, within the forms of the House, for leave to make a statement.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I refer to the unfortunate accident near Winton in Queensland. I am aware that the Viscount aircraft has been in world wide service for some years and that it has a good record, but I am also aware that, as the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Swartz) said in his statement, there was an accident - a forced landing - at Mangalore towards the end of last year arising from a rear compressor bearing causing an engine fire. I ask the Minister: Was any special provision made for inspection of the engines of other aircraft in service at that time as a result of that accident? If not, as it is better to be sure than sorry, is it proposed, although preliminary investigations indicate that this may not have been the cause of the accident at Winton, to authorise the examination of all rear compressor bearings in other Viscount aircraft in service?
– I do not want to delay the House, Mr. Acting Speaker-
-Order! We are getting a little away from the Standing Orders at the present stage. The Minister asked for leave to make a statement, and he made a statement. The honorable member for Bendigo asked for leave to make a statement, and he made a statement in the form of a question. At this stage I feel that perhaps it would be advisable to wait for further developments, although if the honorable member for Yarra wants to make a statement he can ask for leave to do so.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement in relation to the statement mads by the Minister. 1 wish to draw to his attention a couple of matters. It should be possible to facilitate this matter within the Standing Orders of the House. I will not occupy much time.
– lt rests with the Minister for Civil Aviation how far he wants this discussion to proceed, lt is up to the Minister whether leave be granted.
– My only concern is that it be a brief statement.
– It will be.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– There are two matters to which I draw the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Swartz). First, I understand that in respect of aircraft operations flight crews make certain reports about faults that are present in aircraft and that these reports are recorded in the official books or documents associated with the aircraft. I ask the Minister whether, in the case of the aircraft that crashed in Queensland, the books or documents to which I. refer have been impounded for inspection. If they have not been impounded, will that action be taken without delay? Secondly, in any subsequent inquiry, will consideration be given to calling as witnesses members of the crews of this type of aircraft who have from time to time made reports of certain defects in the aircraft?
– I think that before the Minister replies he will have to ask for leave to make a statement.
– I ask for leave to make a statement in reply to the two statements.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr. SWARTZ (Darling Downs- Minister for Civil Aviation). - In reply to the first statement that was made: After the accident at Mangalore action was taken to see whether more suitable bearings were available. As a result, heavier bearings are being fitted systematically to all Rolls Royce engines in Viscount aircraft in Australia. They are not all completely fitted yet, but this is being done as the aircraft come in for service. At the same lime it is laid down that there must be an inspection after every 35 hours flying time, in addition to all other inspections that are carried out, to ensure that the bearings are in order. In addition to this, some special fittings were attached to all aircraft with the old type of bearings. As the new bearings became available the fittings were removed and the new bearings installed. The work is being carried out as quickly as possible and I understand the majority of Viscount aircraft in Australia have been refitted In addition to the 35-hour inspection that is compulsory at the moment under the regulations, the airline operators are now undertaking an inspection either daily or after 15 hours flying. So there is a very careful check being made on these bearings, although as I said in my statement the evidence so far indicates that it was not a failure of this particular bearing that caused the trouble in the Winton accident.
I now refer to the second question which was asked. The decision as to the people who will be called to give evidence before the public investigation board will be a matter for the board itself. I have announced a public inquiry at this stage because this will allow arrangements for the constitution of the board to be made before the termination of the expert investigation. This will save time later when the expert investigation is completed. Any information, suggestions or proposals honorable members may have for consideration by the board will certainly be conveyed to it.
– What about books and documents?
– All available documents, records and flight data in relation to this aircraft are being carefully checked at the present time by experts from my Department and from Ansett-A.N.A.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, I present the report relating to the following proposed work -
Erection of Laboratory and Ancillary Buildings for Division of Chemical Engineering of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Clayton, Victoria. 1 ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The proposal is to rehouse the Division of Chemical Engineering which is at present working in unsatisfactory and badly overcrowded accommodation at Fishermen’s Bend, by establishing it alongside the Division of Chemical Physics °.nd adjacent to the Monash University on a site set aside for the development of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation research activities. Facilities to be provided include a main laboratory with an administrative wing, a light technical laboratory, a heavy technical laboratory, a process bay building, a workshop and stores building and a flammables store. The estimated cost is $1.4 million.
The broad aims of the research laboratories of the C.S.I.R.O. are to promote technical efficiency in established industries and stimulate the establishment of new industries; to encourage the use of Australian raw materials and seek substitutes for imported materials, and to find uses for by-products. In this respect the staff is making a valuable contribution under difficult circumstances.
Chemical engineers serve a wide range of industries varying in scale from bulk quantity manufacture of heavy chemicals, including such things as fertiliser, to producing only a few pounds per week of pharmaceuticals or other expensive fine chemicals. The location at Fishermen’s
Bend is unsatisfactory for research purposes due to air pollution and vibration from nearby industry. We found that the inadequacies of the existing facilities are inhibiting the Division’s research programme and preventing the appointment of additional staff. They prevent the integration of the ore dressing laboratory which is concerned with the concentration and treatment of mineral ores and is now obliged to carry out its work in the mining department of the University of Melbourne. The” Committee found that there is a pressing need to provide the new accommodation included in this proposal. The Committee recommends the construction of the works in this reference as soon as possible.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the Government’s Budget proposals in the repatriation field. As honorable members know, this year the Government has again provided for greatly enlarged expenditure in the defence area, and has had to meet other substantial commitments over the very wide range of Commonwealth activity. As well, the Government has again reviewed the scope of the repatriation system, and has been able to propose some valuable assistance for repatriation pensioners and their dependants, particularly for the most seriously disabled and needy pensioners.
The Bill provides for an amendment to’ the Second Schedule to the Repatriation Act to give effect to an increase of S2 per week in the special or total and permanent incapacity rate of pension which in future will be S30.50 per week. For married pensioners there are additional payments for wives and children. This rate is payable to those whose war-caused incapacity is such as to prevent them from earning more than a negligible percentage of a living wage, and to the war blinded. It is also payable to ex-servicemen who are temporarily totally incapacitated and to certain sufferers from tuberculosis.
In addition, following the increase in the T.P.I, pension, the additional amounts payable to certain amputees under the first six items of the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act are being increased by $2 a week to $18.50.
The intermediate rate war pension, which was introduced into the First Schedule to the Repatriation Act as a result of last year’s Budget and which is payable to those who, on account of war caused incapacity, are able to work only parttime or intermittently, will also be increased by $1 per week to $21.25.
The pension known as the class “ B “ rate for tuberculosis, which is paid under the Second Schedule of the Act to tuberculosis sufferers who are capable of only part-time or intermittent work, is also to be adjusted to provide an increase of $1 to $21.25 per week. Under the Schedule the rate is fixed by the Repatriation Commission.
Following the increases I have mentioned in the rates of pensions, there will be corresponding increases in the rates of medical sustenance. Sustenance payments are made to ex-servicemen at appropriate rates in respect of in-patient and outpatient treatment and during investigation of pensions claims.
The present Bill also provides for an amendment to the First Schedule to the Repatriation Act to give effect to an increase of Si per week in the rate of pension for a war widow, the new rate being $13 per week. War widows with children, or who qualify because of age or ill health also receive a domestic allowance of $7 per week. The great majority of war widows qualify for this benefit, and the widow in these circumstances will now receive for herself $20 per week.
There will also be some advances in the service pension area. As honorable members know, increases for “ member “ service pensioners parallel those for social service age or invalid pensioners. The first of these changes is that there will be an increase of $1 per week in the standard rate service pension payable to single ex-servicemen. This rate is also payable to the married service pensioner whose wife is receiving a wife’s service pension, and the maximum rate will now be $13. The maximum combined service pensions for husband and wife will now be $19 per week. In the case of a married service pensioner, whose wife is receiving a social service pension or tuberculosis allowance in her own right or is herself a member service pensioner, the combined increase in their means test pension will be $1.50 per week. This will give them a combined maximum means test pension of $23.50 per week. No amendment to the Repatriation Act is necessary to give effect to these increases as that Act applies the rates payable under the social services legislation.
A further change is the insertion in the Repatriation Act of a provision in line with the provision being made to ease the income means test for social service pensioners with children. This will provide that, when assessing the rate of service pension a member service pensioner is eligible to receive under the means test provisions, a deduction of $3 per week will be made from the income of the ex-serviceman in respect of each dependent child. This easing of the means test in relation to income will represent a substantial benefit to the family man who is either aged or seriously disabled, or both, and who still has the responsibility of providing for his dependent child or children.
An entirely new benefit which the Bill introduces for member service pensioners is the payment of up to 12 weeks arrears of service pension to a patient discharged after treatment in a mental hospital. Hitherto a member service pensioner, on admission to a mental hospital, has had his service pension continued but at a reduced rate known as the institutional rate. On discharge his service pension has been increased to its former rate, or such rate as was then applicable having regard to the means test provisions. For the future the service pensioner will receive on discharge a lump payment of the difference between his normal rate of service pension .md the institutional rate. This will apply in respect of periods of up to 12 weeks and, of course, his normal continuing rate of payment will be resumed.
A change is also to be made in the payment of decoration allowances to war pensioners of the 1939-45 war, and subsequent operations, who have received certain awards for gallantry during their service. Under the Repatriation Regulations the Commonwealth is required to pay these allowances on the same basis and scale as apply to members of the United Kingdom forces. Decoration allowances for which the Commonwealth is responsible will, in future, be payable at a uniform rate of $1 per week, in lieu of several lesser rates at present in force. For most, this will mean an increased rate of allowance; for a very small number, who at present receive slightly more than $1 per week, special provision will be made to ensure that existing payments continue. This proposal will be given effect by amendment to the Repatriation Regulations.
The opportunity is being taken in this Bill to make a necessary minor amendment to the Repatriation Act resulting from a beneficial appeal provision introduced in 1963. That provision was made by introducing a new section, the present section 64 (I a), into the Act. To ensure uniformity in operative dates of appeals decisions, references to the new section should have been made in section 78. This is being done in the present Bill. It is a technical drafting amendment as to which further information can be supplied if required at the Committee stage.
The Bill also contains a clause inserted following an amendment in another place, the effect of which is that medical, hospital and related treatment may be provided for ex-servicemen of the Boer War and the 1914-18 war for disabilities which are not war caused. In accordance with usual practice the Budget proposals which I have outlined will, where applicable, be extended to those eligible by amendment to the Native Members of the Forces (Torres Strait Islands) Benefits Regulations. The amendments will come into force from the date on which the Act receives the royal assent.
For the convenience of honorable members a table which summarises the repatriation Budget proposals has been prepared for those interested. This is attached to copies of this speech being circulated to honorable members. With the concurrence of honorable members I incorporate the table in “Hansard”.
Again this year, these repatriation Budget measures confer valuable benefits on repatriation pensioners and I commend the Bill to the House.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I move that the debate be adjourned, am I correct in assuming from the Minister’s speech that the Government proposes to accept the amendment made in the Senate relating to men who served in the Boer War and the 1914-18 war? The Minister said: “The Bill also contains a clause. . . .” Then he went on to say: “In accordance with the usual practice . . .” the amendments will come into force.
– That refers solely to the Budget proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 22nd September (vide page 1245).
Clause 1 (Short Title and Citation).
.- First, I would seek some guidance. The Department of Social Services has published in detailed form some matters relating to other social service practices. Under what clause would it be possible for me to discuss this matter in detail? The publication refers to all the provisions of the Social Services Act.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Falkinder). - I suggest to the honorable member for Grayndler that discussion arising from this document would be relevant to each appropriate clause as we deal with it during the Committee stage.
– Would it not tie possible for me to discuss the document under clause 1 since in a sense the document takes into account the Social Services Acts 1947-65, and those matters relate to each clause.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - It would be possible by leave of the Committee.
– Does the Minister agree with that proposal?
– What exactly does the honorable member for Grayndler want to do?
– I want to talk about that document.
– I will consent to that, but I do not think clause 1 is the appropriate place. I think it would be more appropriate if it were dealt with when we discuss the amendments. I am content that it be discussed under a bracketed clause. Does the honorable member want to make some general observations?
– I just want to refer, under clause 1, to these papers which have been presented and which deal with developments in social services since 1949 and up to 1966. As they contain relevant facts and figures on all aspects of social services they are valuable documents so far as they go. Considerable work and detail has gone into their preparation. I do not doubt that so far as they go they are very important to members of this Parliament. But it is wrong for the Minister and the Department io convey the impression that social services commenced only in 1949, and that is precisely what has happened in this document. In relation to age and invalid pensions, the figures in this document commence from 1950. I have made a study and ascertained that age pensions date back to 1910, which is” a fair way back from 1949. A study of them shows that the figures in the document deal only with the period that this Government has been in office. This may be commendable politics, but it is hardly right of the Minister or the Department to convey the impression - if this is what is intended - that only since .1949 has there been a government in office that took much interest in social services. Comments to that effect were made by honorable members opposite in the course of the second reading debate and they prompted me to have these matters discussed. Would it be correct that the Government desires to hide its rather shady record prior to 1949, because it is a fact that the Liberal-Country Party Governments had a very bad record in the field of social services prior to that time?
– I rise to a point of order. This speech definitely should have been made during the second reading stage. It has no place in the Committee stage.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- I think that the honorable member for Grayndler is speaking rather wide of the mark. I ask him to confine his remarks to the words of the first clause.
– The Minister agreed that I could discuss the document. AH I can do is make the. general observation that the document shows the movement in social service benefits from 1950. lt is a document produced for election purposes and hides completely from the public the fact that social services were in existence long before 1950. For example, why did the Department not show that between 1939 and 1949 social service payments increased under a Labour Government from £18 million a year to £100 million a year? Why did the Department not show that in 1939, after all but eight and one-half years of LiberalCountry Party Government, the only social service benefits payable were invalid and age pensions in the Commonwealth and, in some States, maternity allowances and child endowment? In its eight years of office from 1941 to 1949, Labour increased invalid and age pensions, relaxed the means test as it applied to allowances for wives and children, introduced widows’ pensions, increased maternity allowances and abolished the means test so far as maternity allowances were concerned, introduced child endowment and introduced the funeral benefit, unemployment and sickness benefits and the tuberculosis allowance, which has had such a beneficial effect on the community. In addition, Labour introduced pharmaceutical benefits, rental rebates under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, provisions for the rehabilitation of disabled persons and benefits for inmates of mental institutions. In the last year of Labour government these benefits cost more than £88 million. In fairness, the document that has been prepared, allegedly for the benefit of honorable members and the public generally, should show the full history of social services in this country. In 1949 the Labour Government had published a booklet on social services giving the full history of benefits. It is unfair to imply that some of the benefits now payable date only from 1949 when Labour went out of office.
Between 1901 and 1941, in which period Labour was in office for only eight and one-half years, only two social service benefits were introduced by Liberal-Country Party Governments. But in the next eight and one-half years, under Labour, pensions were increased by 100 per cent. In addition, the budget for social services increased from £18 million to £100 million. During this time, a war was being won. The nation was being organised for war. It was a time of great national crisis. I cannot let this opportunity pass without reminding the Committee that social service benefits were in existence long before this Government took office. Under Labour, payment of social service benefits increased substantially. No mention is made in this document of the fact that if the National Welfare Fund had been continued in the manner intended when it was set up by Labour, it would have led years ago to the elimination of the means test. But when this Government came to power it pegged the National Welfare Fund at a certain figure. Labour had been increasing the National Welfare Fund each year.
Let me remind honorable members of how Labour would have abolished the means test. In his second reading speech introducing the National Welfare Fund Bill on 1 1 th February 1943, Mr. Chifley said-
In the financial statement which I have just submitted to the House, I outlined the Government’s post-war aims in relation to the economic advancement and social security of this country. To secure these aims the Government is convinced that it is necessary to ensure minimum social standards throughout the community. It therefore proposes to introduce a comprehensive scheme of national welfare and to develop it progressively. The welfare scheme includes health, sickness, unemployment and other associated services. The parts of the scheme which it is proposed to introduce immediately are a new maternity benefit and the liberalisation of the present maternity allowance, and the provision of funeral benefits for old-age and invalid pensioners.
Investigations of unemployment and sickness benefit schemes are proceeding.- It is anticipated that the unemployment benefit scheme wm be brought down within six months, and that tha sickness benefit s.heme will be introduced three months later. The several health services will need much detailed preparation. It may bo impracticable to introduce a complete health service during the war.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! I think the honorable member is now going too far.
– 1 pass from that. I thank the Committee for its indulgence. I think it was necesary to point out that although this document is valuable and has great propaganda value for the Government, it is wrong for honorable members opposite to imply that nothing was done in the field of social services by any government prior to the present Government taking office. I have shown that the Liberal-Country Party Government and similar governments took 30 years- from 1910 to 1939- to increase the pension from 10s. to £1 a week, whereas Labour doubled the pension in the middle of a war and took only eight years to do it. In addition, Labour introduced other substantia] social service benefits. I think honorable members are entitled to know these things. I cannot transgress on your generosity, Mr. Deputy Chairman, by pointing to the terrific burden placed on pensioners by this Government and by reminding honorable members that it even followed them to the grave to recoup amounts paid to them. The Committee is entitled to know these things. I would be pleased if the Minister could arrange for his Department to produce a document giving the history of social services from 1910 to 1949 so that we may have, not an election picture, but a clear picture of what has happened in this country. Once again I thank you, Sir, for your generosity in allowing me to place these matters before the Committee. I wanted to disabuse the minds of those members of the public who might think that social services began only with the Liberal-Country Party Government. That is a long way from the truth and I think the Committee is entitled to know it.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has asked for the history of social services prior to 1949 to be published in pamphlet or booklet form. I remind the honorable member that this information already exists in the very valuable booklet published by the Department of Social Services. If the honorable member chose to study that booklet he would find that the age pension was introduced in 1909 by the Deakin Liberal Government. He would find that the Fisher Labour Government, which came to power in 1910, dealt with the matter of pensioners’ homes. He would find that the Hughes Labour Government also dealt with this matter in 1916. He would find that the Bruce-Page Liberal Government made a worthwhile increase in the pension. He would find that pensions were reduced by the Scullin Labour Government. He would find in this same booklet the alterations that were made by the Lyons Government. He would find that in 1940 the Menzies Government increased the rate of the age pension. This very valuable booklet gives the complete history of social services for which the honorable member has asked. If the honorable member cares to read the booklet he will learn the history of social services prior to 1949.
– I want only to supplement the reply given by the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson). The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has implied that, by making available information of some of the more recent developments in social services, the Government is claiming that there were no prior developments. As the honorable member for Sturt has explained, through a publication made available by the Department of Social Services, the history of the evolution of social services is freely available to honorable members and members of the public. In addition, a former officer of the Department last year published a book entitled “ Social Security in Australia “, which examines in considerable detail the evolution of social security policy even before the days of the Commonwealth Parliament. The information contained in the brochure “Developments in Social Services “ is in no way intended to imply that there were no developments prior to 1949. If the honorable member for Grayndler cares to examine any of the figures in the brochure he will see that the first figure at the beginning of each of the years relates only to the increases given at a particular date on a base figure, the base figure having originated, of course, in a period prior to 1949. However, as the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has remarked on this publication, I believe that it would be only fair for me to say to honorable members and to the Australian public what a wonderful record this Government has. This can be seen by examining developments since 1949. If for no other reason, it is worth while honorable members examining this booklet as it gives a remarkable history of the development of social services in that period.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
.- Clause 2 states -
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
That is known as the date of commencement. The Australian Labour Party looks on this clause as nothing more nor less than an injustice to those who are to receive the benefit. In addition, it is a very clever effort by the Government to curtail criticism of legislation of this kind. The clause means, in effect, that the longer we speak in this place the longer those who are to receive the meagre benefit will be denied what is their right. If we had a full and complete discussion on aspects of this legislation, as we should, we would enable the Government to say: “We would have given the increase earlier, but it has been delayed by the Labour Party debating it “. This action by the Government is not even sinister; it is just a brutal attempt to save a few pounds at the expense of the pensioner and to prevent criticism of the Government’s action. Again and again social service legislation has been brought down in the Parliament on this basis.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) is a convincing man in many respects on social services and a man of considerable knowledge in these matters, but rarely have we seen him to worse advantage than when he tried to explain why the Government would not backdate pension payments to 1st July. Rarely have I seen him more ill at ease. I was amazed when he said that this is what the Labour Party used to do. It always amazes me that anything that Government supporters can turn to their own advantage they adopt and call their own. I refer to such schemes as the pensioner medical service, the guardians’ allowance and the merged means test. However, when the Government does not want to pay out a few extra millions, which it may well have to take from wealthy supporters of the Government in taxation, it always says that this is what the Labour Party did. Today we were told of the Government’s great efforts in social services, but in all the great advances that have been made the Government has not been prepared to backdate the payment of pensions to 1st July, the first day of the financial year.
Let us consider this situation. The increase under this legislation will not be paid until such time as the measure has passed through the Parliament. That means that every pensioner in the community will lose. If the pensioner is a single man receiving the meagre $1 per week increase he will be robbed of $13. Because of the delay he will lose $13 in pension. The married pensioner will lose $9.75, simply because the Government through the Minister says that the payment cannot be backdated as it is not feasible to do that. The Minister said, among other things, that if it were backdated the cost involved might mean that the increase would not be as big as is now proposed. I do not subscribe to the view that any of this miserable amount should be taken away in this age of inflation. The increase should be backdated. I remind honorable members that on 13th October 1965 the Judges Remuneration Bill was introduced to the Parliament. By that legislation the Government increased salaries of judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, and the President and members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Some of those salaries were increased from £7,000 to £8,500 and others were increased from £8,000 to £9,500. The increase in that instance was about £30 or £60 per week and the new salaries took effect from 1st July 1965. Those salaries were backdated for the best part of three and a half months.
Surely to heaven the judges who received an increase of £30 per week could have received the increase from the date that the Bill was passed. If they could not afford to lose an increase of £30 per week and needed that amount in order to live, how does the Government justify taking 10s. per week from the pensioners for the same period? The back payment was not denied to judges. Although there was no difficulty in finding money back to 1st July for the judges, when some poor old widow or pensioner wants the increase backdated for a few months the Government says that it cannot afford it, that it has not got the money. Let us consider also the fertiliser bounty which is of such concern to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull).
– And to the Country Party in general.
– It is of particular concern to the Country Party, lt should not be forgotten that people who will receive the bounty may have good properties or bad properties, but still they will receive a bounty without any means test being applied. The Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill was introduced on 16th August and the bounty was paid from 17th August.
– It was retrospective. There was no doubt about the Government finding money for that. The Country Party Minister for Social Services says that that is justice and is of benefit to the country. Does he means to say that those in receipt of the bounty could not well have afforded to wait for the bounty as long as pensioners have to wait for their increase? I do not quibble at the payment of the bounty. Further, I believe that it should have been payable from the day the legislation was introduced. But why discriminate against pensioners? Why discriminate against those who are dependent on social services? Why are they different from the judges who have been given an increase of £30 per week or public servants who have recently had their increase backdated? How are they different from the recipients of the fertiliser bounty? These are matters which the Government should explain to the Committee.
In this day and age when, merely by pressing a button on a computer, we can calculate a year’s income and do the work of dozens of men, does the Minister seriously suggest that his Department, which has efficient machinery for the calculation of pension payments, could not backdate the payments? I believe that the reason for the refusal to do so is that it is a bit inconvenient to do so. The Government’s attitude is: What does it matter to the individual? The Government always pays the minimum in purchasing power to those in receipt of pensions. The Minister committed himself by saying that the Government would have given less if it had paid the increased pensions when pensioners were entitled to it. 1 do not think that that statement can be substantiated by any stretch of the imagination. If the Government sees fit to adopt proposals to benefit other sections of the community which are wealthy, powerful and influential, and which at the very worst are much better off than pensioners, I cannot see why it should not apply the same yardstick to those in receipt of pensions. I wonder whether Government supporters ever realise what the increase of 10s. per week means to a person who has an income of only £5, £6 or £7 per week and a bit of permissible income. It probably means that a person is able to have some commodity or :nui.t go without.
I well remember having on my staff several years ago a person who came from a very good family which was not short of the requirements of life. After working for me for a while this person said: “ I never dreamed what ls. per week increase in pension meant to people dependent on pensions; it means keeping body and soul together”. Although some people can afford money for poker machines or for the pleasures and joys of life, many people cannot afford these things. I would like the Minister to give a more satisfactory explanation to the Committee as to why the Government cannot pay the £6 10s. to which the pensioners are entitled for the six or eight weeks the Government keeps them waiting. The Opposition would move in Committee an amendment to backdate the increase to 1st July if it were not for the Standing Orders which provide that at the Committee stage we cannot do anything which will increase the expenditure under the legislation. The forms of the House are not readily understandable to people outside the Parliament. The only way we could ask at the Committee stage that this be backdated would be by moving that the clause be postponed. To the uninitiated that may mean that we do not want the increase to be paid. So we must satisfy ourselves with a verbal protest at the Committee stage. At the same time we make it known that we are opposed to the procedure adopted by the Government. We outline to the people that the only reason we are not moving at this stage that the increase be backdated to 1st July is that the forms of the House do not permit that in a way which would be readily understood by those in society who are dependent on the increase.
Having said so much, I believe that 1 have made our position clear. We believe that the increase should be backdated. A Labour government would backdate the increase. In addition, we condemn a government whose policy is to give to those who do not want it as soon as it is available or as soon as legislation is passed by Parliament, and to discriminate against the most worthy section of society. The Government which is so anxious to plunder Labour ideas might perhaps plunder this one. We will ungrudgingly give it any credit that may come to it because we do not believe in taking it out on the sick, the needy and the infirm simply for the sake of saving a few miserable millions of dollars out of a budget of $5,930 million.
.- I was very interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) who takes exception to clause 2 of the Bill which states -
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
It is rather strange to hear the honorable member complain about that, because a clause in those terms has been included in every Bill relating to social services in this regard which has been presented to the Parliament since I came here over 20 y/sars ago.
– Then why not change them?
– Honorable members who have come into the Parliament in more recent times may have new ideas such as that which has been mentioned by the honorable member for Griffith. I accept those ideas but I cannot very well accept the complaint made by the honorable member for Grayndler, because he was a member of the Parliament about two years before 1 came to this place. In those days, strange to say and perhaps not to the credit of the then Opposition, this same matter was raised because the Government of the day claimed that an increase in pensions could not be backdated to the day on which the Budget was introduced. This is only party politics.
– In those days the honorable member for Mallee claimed that increases should be back dated.
– Of course I did. This is only party politics. They have been played by all parties. Oppositions oppose. Although some people outside may be impressed, this Committee is not impressed by the honorable member for Grayndler saying now: “ This can be done, and any government which does not do it is disgraceful and should be condemned “. He did not go on to say: “ I therefore condemn the Chifley Labour Government and the Curtin Labour Government “. The claim which the honorable member for Grayndler now makes can be passed over as being more or less a display of trivial party politics. I do not say this has been practised only by the present Opposition. I know it has been practised by another Opposition since I have been here and, I would suggest, by whatever party has been in opposition since pensions first came into being, as was stated by the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson), in 1909. So we cannot take the honorable member for Grayndler very seriously although some people may applaud his remarks.
I take a little more seriously his remarks about judges because I think he is on the right track there. I do not think increases in salaries should be backdated. As he said, they can wait for the increases. I am in accord with him on that aspect but not with his reference, directed specially at me and the Country Party, to the bounty on nitrogenous fertilisers being paid at once. There are two or three reasons for this. One is that a bounty on these fertilisers is paid to foster and improve primary production.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. W. C. Haworth). - Order! I do not want the honorable member to develop that argu ment too far. We are discussing clause 2 of the Bill and 1 should like him to connect his remarks to it.
– I will certainly do that, lt is transparently clear that th? honorable member was on the wrong track because if, through this bounty - here is where 1 connect my remarks to the clause we are discussing - production is increased, the objective of the Bill and of the honorable member for Grayndler will be achieved. Production will be increased, the country will become richer and we will be able to pay higher pensions and provide increased social services. That is the answer to the honorable member for Grayndler. Labour members are so incensed about primary producers that they forget about the great primary industry to which the bounty applies. Perhaps it is interesting to listen to what the honorable member for Grayndler said but when one considers his remarks one finds they have no foundation, with the exception of the point to which I have referred relating to the backdating of increases in judges’ salaries and pensions. I should like the Government to investigate that aspect and, if possible, cease backdating such increases.
.- I want to refer to the backdating of pensions and to the discussion which ensued a short time ago between the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) in respect of the historical background of social services. The honorable member for Grayndler rightly directed attention to the great expansion in social services since 1939. That was the time when social services really gained impetus in an expansionary form. The period from 1912 to 1939 was a time of almost complete dormancy in the field of social services. It is regrettable-
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Chairman. The honorable member for Grayndler was given the right to speak along these lines when we were dealing with clause 1. Clause 2 provides -
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
That has nothing to do with the history of the Labour Party.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! I appreciate the point of order. I am listening closely to the honorable member for Adelaide and hoping that he will connect his remarks with the clause under discussion.
– I am coming to that. I ask to be allowed to make passing reference to this.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Very well, provided the reference is passing.
– It ill behoves the vocal honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) to try to suppress my historical references to such an important aspect as the development and expansion of social services. From 1939 until the Labour Government left office there was considerable expansion and, to the credit of the present Government, that expansion is continuing. However, I do not think the Government should take to itself all the credit for this expansion of social services. We are living in the age of welfare States and it ill behoves the Government to imply that this expansion has taken place only because it is in office.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! I think the honorable member-
– I arn coming to the point, Mr. Deputy Chairman.
– He has passed the point.
– Can you shut him up, Mr. Deputy Chairman?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order! 1 call the honorable member for Adelaide.
– I want to refer to the principle which has been adopted in respect of high-ranking public servants in Australia. The honorable member for Grayndler has rightly pointed out that judges of the High Court, who already receive considerably high salaries, invariably have their increases backdated. This practice applies not only to high public servants but also, on occasions, to public servants in the middle and lower ranges.
It is almost impossible to understand why people on the lowest rung of the economic ladder - the recipients of social service benefits - cannot have their increments backdated just as the Government does readily for those in the high salary ranges. We should contemplate what a day of joy it would be for pensioners in Australia if they received a cheque which included a retrospective pension increase. How many thousands of pensioners long for that little nest egg which would enable them to do some of the things they have dreamed of doing such as buying some of the necessaries of life that they need? Perhaps it would be furniture, additional blankets or something else to give them a little comfort that they would love to have but cannot have because of their meagre pension. If they received a cheque covering the backdating of their pension increase it would be one of the greatest and happiest days of their pensionable lives. The Government should have regard to the psychological impact of this upon pensioners. It has been said that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. We might not all agree with that oft repeated statement, but I think we can say that there are certainly two different interpretations of the law. We have an example of that in the fact that although the Government backdated for four months the salary increases for our High Court judges and conciliation commissioners, it refuses to backdate the miserable pension increases provided for in this Bill in an effort to appease the pensioners in election year. I submit that the criticisms I have offered of the Government are justified and that the Government stands condemned for not doing what the honorable member for Grayndler has pleaded with it to do.
.- It is interesting to ask ourselves why, in 1949, when an amendment was moved to make the payment of pension increases retrospective, the Chifley Government refused to make retrospective payment. It is also interesting to ask why the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who was supporting the Chifley Government, did not at that time put forward the views that he has put forward this afternoon. An examination of the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) makes quite clear the reasons why these increases cannot be backdated.
First of all, we are dealing with a huge amount of money. The Minister’s second reading speech points out that the cost of the increases in pensions provided for in this Bill amounts to $40 million in a full year and $29.6 million for the year 1966- 67. The reason why the cost is less than $40 million for this year is that the increase will be paid only as from some time in October. On the basis of the figures given in the Minister’s second reading speech, to accept the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Grayndler would cost SI 0.4 million.
As the amount to be paid out by way of social service benefits has already been determined in the Budget, the retrospective payment of the pension increases would obviously mean that the actual amount of the increases would be less than is provided for in the Bill. As I work it out, retrospective payment would mean a reduction of approximately 25 per cent, in the proposed increases. Does the honorable member for Grayndler suggest that instead of $1 a week the increase should be only 75c a week? If he does, then I think he should tell the Committee so.
Another point that needs consideration is the fact that 820,000 people are to benefit as a result of the amendment proposed in this Bill. Therefore, to date payment of the increases back to 30th .lune 1966 would need an examination of the pension position of 820,000 individual people. I imagine that some honorable members would say: ‘” We.’l that is an easy matter”. But it is not. For instance, unfortunately some of those 820,000 people have died between 30th June and the present time. Any backdating would mean an individual calculation based on an examination of the individual card of every recipient of social service benefits.
The reason why the Chifley Labour Government refused to accept an amendment proposed by the Liberal Party in 1949 to make payment of pension increases retrospective were the very ones I have just set out. First of all, retrospective payment could only be made at the cost of reducing the proposed increases or by finding revenue from some other source not provided for in the Budget. The second reason is that the administrative work involved when dealing with hundreds of thousands of people is a real problem. The administrative problems involved in backdating the pensions of judges and others mentioned by the honorable member for Grayndler are in no way comparable. In one case, only a handful of judges are involved while in the other case 820,000 people are affected. Therefore, much as all of us would like to see these pension increases made retrospective if that were practicable and if the money were available, the fact is that it would be impracticable. Further, it could not be done without altering the whole structure of the Budget because the Budget already sets out the amount to be made available for these proposed increases. At this stage, we cannot alter the Budget. Therefore I say, as has been suggested already, that the honorable member for Grayndler is simply playing politics. He refused to agree to retrospective payment of increases when his Party was in office, but he now asks this Government to agree to retrospective payment. This shows that he is one type of person when in opposition and an entirely different type of person when in government.
.- With respect, I do not remember hearing so much nonsense from the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) for a very long time. What we are really discussing here is the Government’s decision in its pre-Budget planning. It was then that the Government decided that for this financial year the pension increase, miserly as it is, would date from about the beginning of October. That is the decision that we are calling into question. It might not be possible, although, for the life of me, I cannot see why, at this stage to upset the fine calculations of the Budget makers and make payment of the proposed pension increases retrospective to the beginning of July.
I should imagine that before this year is out, whether it be this Government or a Labour government that is in office, there will be much greater change made in the Budget than is proposed by the honorable member for Grayndler. If we should need another $100 million for defence in order to send two, three, four or more battalions to fight somewhere overseas, does anyone doubt that we will raise that money? Does anyone think that we will not get it cut of the Budget; that we will not be able to make provision for it? This argument is all so much nonsense and poppycock.
The decision we are criticising is the one the Government made at the time when it could quite conveniently have provided for retrospective payment without in any way upsetting the Budget. It could have made that decision in March. It could have decided then that because it had not given the pensioners any increases for the last two years; because the cost of living had gone up by more than 5 per cent, in those two years, and because the cost of living was going up almost daily, it would give the pensioners some protection against this financial adversity. The Government could have said: “ We know the plight of the home owning pensioners who have to meet municipal rates and water board rates, for which they receive no concessions at all. We know how difficult it is for them to buy the everyday commodities necessary to live. Therefore, this year, we will make a break; we will make the pension increases date from 1st July, or, at the latest, from the date of the announcement in the Budget itself”. This is the sort of decision that could have been made.
The honorable member for Sturt may say that it is interesting to look back and see what the Chifley Government had to say when the then Liberal and Australian Country Party Opposition proposed an amendment in 1949. I suggest that it is very interesting also to see what arguments the Opposition of those days advanced in support of the proposition that pension payments be back dated. All that we are dealing with here, Mr. Deputy Chairman, is an increase that amounts to a little more than 14c, or about ls. 5d., a day for single pensioners. I think I recall saying at the second reading stage that this would provide the equivalent of one orange extra for breakfast, one for lunch and one for the evening meal. That just about represents the value of this increase to single pensioners. For married pensioners, the increase represents about 10.5c a day, or, in common parlance, about a bob a day in our former currency. And this is after waiting for two years. If it has taken two years to get to this point, who can guess how long it will be before pensioners receive another increase in pension, especially if the present Government continues in office? After all, there has been no increase in unemployment and sickness benefits for four years, and none is proposed in this Budget. We have to go right back to 1947 for the last increase in the rates of maternity allowance. How many years is it since the rates of child endowment were altered to any substantial degree?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! I suggest that the honorable member get back to the commencement clause, which is the one at present before the Committee.
Mr. REYNOLDS__ I want to make one other point, Mr. Deputy Chairman. It is about time this Parliament gave serious consideration, as distinct from the political claptrap that we see indulged in on these occasions, to making pensions automatically adjustable according to movements in some index such as a cost of living Index of some kind or the Consumer Price Index, or, better still, according to movements in average weekly adult wage rates. If this were done, pensions would, at least in part, be taken out of the realm of politics. They could be related to an index. Wage and salary earners are entitled to apply to the arbitration tribunals for alterations of wages and salaries in accordance with rises in the cost of living, in productivity or in some other kind of index. I suggest that it is about time this sort of treatment was extended to the people in our community, numbering more than one million, who today receive either social service or repatriation pensions. They should be protected in the same way by having the part of their income that is derived from pensions related to some kind of index. If this were done, we should not have to go through this sort of political discussion year after year.
The course that I have just proposed has been pressed hard by the pensioners’ organisations. They hate the business of having to send people here to cajole politicians in an attempt to get a few extra crumbs at the same time as they witness big firms making enormous annual profits. The honorable member for Sturt gave SIO million as the cost of back dating this pension increase to 1st July as proposed by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). That sum sounded terribly large. But let us match it against the total estimated Budget expenditure of S5.930 million. What is SIO million out of that?
– One firm makes a profit of about SIO million every year.
– I was just coming to that. If one wants to see how large are the profits made, one has only to look at companies such as the Broken Hill Pty. Co.
Ltd., Myer Emporium Ltd., General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. and Mount Isa Mines Ltd.
– And also Woolworths Ltd. and G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd.
– Yes. One could go on with the list. There is a string of them. This does not apply to all firms, but there are plenty of instances of individual companies earning in profit as much as the sum that appeared to cause so much alarm to the honorable member for Sturt when he thought of its being given to about 800,000 pensioners by the back dating of these pension increases. We have heard a lot of talk about the technical problems of going back over the business now and making fresh calculations for each pensioner affected. My first comment on this is that the decision to back date the pension increases should have been made when the Budget was being prepared. Even now, it would not be impossible to do what is required. The Public Accounts Committee is at present engaged on an inquiry into the ramifications of computerisation in the various Commonwealth departments. What might have been held to be infinitely difficult in 1949 would be ever so much easier, today when we have the aid of modern machinery that can make hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of calculations in a matter of minutes. The arguments that have been put in rejection of the Opposition’s proposal represent no excuses at all. I regard it as pathetic and lamentable that the Government considers that it is not able to back date these pension increases, meagre though they are, at least to the beginning of the current financial year.
– Mr. Deputy Chairman, I do not intend to reply in detail to what has been said during the consideration of this clause, but I believe that 1 should perhaps supplement the answers given by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) to the statements about the back dating of pension increases made by the Opposition members who have spoken. In fact, most of the answers were given in my speech in reply to the second reading debate. However, I believe that I should repeat that in respect of pensions there is no significance in the beginning of the financial year. In fact, the pension paid to each recipient dates from the day on which the pension is applied for. In each year, the entitlement of the beneficiary is re-assessed from that date. The pension year may be different from the calendar year for any pensioner. This means that where pensions are concerned there is no significance about 1st July, the beginning of the financial year. For this reason, there seems to be no particular merit in the Opposition’s suggestion that the increases should be dated back to 1st July. There is no particular reason why the increases should not be dated, as they always have been, from the first pay day after assent is given to the legislation authorising the increases. As has already been mentioned, in 1948, when the Labour Government was in office, Mr. Chifley, as Prime Minister, specifically mentioned the advisability of dating increases from the first pay day after assent had been given to the enabling legislation. The increases, in other words, are promulgated from the first pay day after the legislation becomes law.
Another point that I want to mention is the difference between the circumstances in this instance and the circumstances in which bounty is paid on products such as nitrogenous fertilisers. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) will be aware, if a bounty such as this were not dated from the day immediately after the announcement was made, there would be a notable lag in sale of the product. One would be foolish if he purchased fertiliser knowing that in one or two months a bounty was to become payable. In practical commercial terms, it would be quite ridiculous to introduce a bounty on any date other than the day immediately after the introduction of the bounty was announced. For these reasons, Mr. Deputy Chairman, I do not consider that the honorable member’s analogy is in any way valid. As the honorable member for Sturt said, if the pension increases were back dated to 1st July, there would be a substantial increase in the sum needed for social services. Consequently, the Government considered that it would be better to provide for the maximum possible increase for the maximum number of pensioners. This is the reason why the Bill has been put in the form in which it is before the Committee.
.- The Government, by forcing us to debate this measure as speedily as possible, is hoping to prevent criticism of itself and would charge the Opposition with holding up the passage of the Bill if we on this side caused delay by a lengthy debate. If we on this side wished, we could easily extend an effective debate on this measure into the middle of next week. If we were to apply ourselves to it as rigorously as that, wOuld not the Minister charge us with holding up the payment of these increases to pensioners? Does he not agree that a political lever is being used here and that there is more involved in this than just back dating of the increases? His explanation concerning my analogy with the bounty on nitrogenous fertilisers may seem all right to him. But it is terribly hard to explain to someone who is to get an increase of only 10s. a week, which is not to be back dated, why increases of, say, £30 a week for judges are back dated.
I want the Minister to explain how we can debate this measure and criticise it adequately without being charged with holding up payment of the pension increases to pensioners. The Opposition is faced with a two-edged sword, Sir. The Government’s argument about not being able to find the necessary money is not the real crux of the matter. The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) has raked an extra $252 million out of the air for defence and proposes to increase defence expenditure from the level of about $750 million at which it stood last financial year to $1,000 million this financial year. If the Government can find that kind of money without having made any prior provision for it, how can it explain to pensioners that it cannot, in a similar way, find the $10 million that would be needed to backdate the payment of the increase? 1 repeat that I am not satisfied that the Government cannot find this sum.
The Government always wants to refer to the conditions in 1949, a bygone age, and to claim that considerable progress has been made since then. But is it not strange that the Government cannot be progressive when it is asked to find a few dollars for pensioners? It simply says that it does not have the money to backdate the payment of increases for a few months. It also claims that backdating the increase would not benefit the pensioners, lt may be able to offer this explanation in the Parliament, but the explanation will not be accepted outside. I cannot for the life of me understand why the increases cannot be backdated, and I cannot get out of my mind that this is a clever way, not very well camouflaged, to prevent criticism.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Aliens).
.- The Opposition supports the amendment made by this clause. Aliens, or unnaturalised migrants, if I may use another term, will now be eligible, subject to residential qualifications, for certain social service benefits. The amendment remedies a few anomalies that still existed in this section of the legislation. We do not disagree with the Government’s action. I hope, now that unnaturalised migrants are eligible for practically all social service benefits, they will find this an inspiration to accept the responsibilities of citizenship. I do not criticise this move, which naturally falls into line with our approach to migration, but I sincerely hope that many thousands of migrants who have not sought to become naturalised citizens will take advantage of this additional concession granted by the Parliament in its efforts to make them welcome and help them become established in Australia. I agree with the proposal of the Government and I hope that it will encourage migrants to accept the responsibilities of citizenship. 1 trust that the pious hope I have expressed - undoubtedly, it is also the sentiment of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) and the Government - will be a further inducement to them to become naturalised.
.- I would like the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) to explain one aspect of this amendment. Some of the aliens would be under maintenance guarantees given by their sons and daughters who have come to Australia. I ask the Minister to say whether, when they become the recipients of social service benefits, any action will be taken in respect of the maintenance guarantees or whether these guarantees will debar them from social service benefits.
– The maintenance guarantee will apply only up to the point where the migrants become entitled as of law to a social service benefit. In other words, when, under the new legislation, they become entitled by residence to an age or invalid pension or to other benefits, the maintenance guarantee will not be enforced. The maintenance guarantee will be enforced only up to the point where they become entitled, as would any ordinary Australian citizen, to a social service benefit. The big difference with this amendment is that no longer will naturalisation be a prerequisite to entitlement as of right to age or invalid pensions. Of course, the residential qualification will still apply.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Rate of age or invalid pension).
.- This clause amends section 28 of the principal Act, which lays down the maximum rate of age and invalid pensions. The present weekly rate is S 1 1 a week for each of a married pensioner couple and $12 a week for a single pensioner or a married pensioner whose spouse is not in receipt of a pension. The proposal is to increase these rates to $11.75 and $13 respectively. This is a very miserly increase. No-one can say otherwise. It was granted only because of the impending election. If an election had not been taking place this year, there would not have been an increase at all or, if there had been, the increase would have been very much less than it is. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) said -
These measures represent an acceptance by the Government of the responsibility of the community to provide for its less fortunate members.
The Government may be proud of the action it is taking on behalf of the community, but I can assure the Minister that members of the community generally do not agree with him. They are disgusted with the miserly increase that has been provided.
As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said a few moments ago, our opportunity to criticise the Bill is restricted because the Government is not willing to backdate the increase. I agree with the honorable member for Grayndler that the Government is more concerned with preventing us from giving the Bill the thrash ing it deserves than with anything else. If we criticised it, as we would like to do, the Government would then spread the suggestion that we were trying to prevent the Bill from being passed and were thus denying the pensioners the small increases that they are to get. I have no doubt that the Government would willingly seize any excuse at all to delay the payment of the increases for a further fortnight.
The Government has again widened the difference between the rate for the single pensioner and the rate for the married couple pensioners. Married pensioners will receive $1.25 a week less than the single pensioner. That is not $1.25 between them, but $1.25 each. This means that a pensioner couple will receive a total of $23.50 a week while two single pensioners living together - perhaps sisters or brothers - will receive $26. This is a difference of $2.50. The gap is widened even further if the single pensioners are entitled to the full amount of the supplementary assistance of $2. The difference then could be as much as $6.50 a week, because the Government denies the supplementary assistance to married couples. The Minister, in defending the Government’s discrimination against married pensioners, said -
The Minister failed to explain how married couples were able to live more cheaply than two single pensioners living together. Certainly, I cannot see how the expenses of a married couple would be even $2.50, let alone $6.50, less than the expenses of two single pensioners. Certainly there may be a little saving in the combined cost of food, wood, water, electricity and so on. However, I hope the Minister will take the opportunity during this Committee stage to explain more fully how the married couple is able to live less expensively than two single pensioners living together.
I think the Minister spilled the beans when he said that single pensioners represent two-thirds of the whole pensioner community. No doubt the Government is working on the idea that, if it can capture 66f per cent, of the votes of pensioners, the other 33i per cent, can starve, jump in the creek or do what they like; the
Government is satisfied. Unfortunately for the Government, it has failed to appreciate the great loyalty that exists between the pensioners. It will find to its chagrin that the single pensioners are just as hostile towards the Government for this discrimination as the married pensioners are. This is shown, of course, by the decisions of several pensioner associations in relation to the forthcoming election. The increases proposed in this legislation are entirely inadequate to meet the ordinary needs of pensioners, particularly of those who are completely dependent on the pension. This might be the appropriate time to quote from a circular sent out by one of the leading pensioner societies. The circular is headed “ Government’s Bad Planning on Budget re Social Services “ and it states -
Does the Government think that a paltry increase of one dollar in the pension compares with the rising cost of living and its attendant hardships? Who, but the majority of pensioners, can realise the misery and sufferings endured through the muddled thinking of the Federal Government? Not all pensioners are on the same status, but for those existing on the pension alone, life has little meaning.
The circular concludes by stating -
It is evident in the recent Budget that the Federal Government no longer regards pensioners as human beings. One dollar increase per week is merely a handout for what they have lost through the high cost of living. We strongly protest against this Budget and are surprised at the luck of consideration shown toward the needy.
Surely these remarks should prove to the Government that not only married pensioners are critical of the discrimination shown in the amounts provided. These societies, if the Ministers figures are correct - and I have no doubt they are correct and that two-thirds of the pensioner community are single persons - would have a preponderance of single pensioner members.
Much has- been said about the percentage the pension represents of the basic wage. Much weight has been placed on whether it is the same percentage, or slightly higher or slightly lower than in earlier years. Irrespective of what percentage it represented in 1950, 1960 or at any time, the fact remains that the pension is insufficient. It is little consolation to a pensioner to tell him that he is receiving about the same percentage of the basic wage as pensioners received in 1950 or at some other time. No matter how figures are juggled, the pension at present is not sufficient to enable pensioners to live in the manner to which they are entitled. 1 do not think anyone would be silly enough, or courageous enough, to say that the pension paid in 1950, 1960, 1949 or at any time was sufficient. To argue that the pension represents the same percentage of the basic wage as it did earlier does not carry much weight. After all, in earlier years when the parents of some of us were receiving pensions there were no washing machines, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and other items that nowadays are regarded as normal possessions in our way of living. If the Government does not take these articles into consideration in determining the amount of pension then it is suggesting that pensioners are not entitled to the ordinary needs of today. It must be appreciated that these items are considered in determining the basic wage. Their prices are affected by basic wage increases, and pensioners are thus adversely affected as are many other people. Even if in some former time the percentage relationship to the basic wage was not the best, this Government has dodged its obligations by not adjusting pensions as frequently as it should have done to measure up to basic wage increases. As a result, pensioners have suffered a loss of money to which they were entitled.
What has to be determined is the real amount required to permit a pensioner with no other income to live in a proper and reasonable manner and to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. No-one, not even the Minister, can suggest that the present amount of pension, or the amount proposed in this legislation, is sufficient to enable that to happen.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- lt appears that there is little gratitude in the minds of members of the Australian Labour Party. Whatever amount of increase in pension is given it is always described by certain Labour Party members, who are looking purely for votes and not thinking very much about the pensioners themselves, as a miserable increase. The increase provided in this year’s Budget is equal to the highest increase in the history of Australian social services. Never at any time has there been an increase of more than 10s. or Si a week. In 1941 the Curtin Labour Government granted an increase of 2s. 6d. a week. In 1945 the Curtin Labour Government granted an increase of 5s. a week.
– What did the Liberal Government do in 1907?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honorable member for Scullin will have an opportunity to speak later.
– In 1947 the Chifley Labour Government granted an increase of 5s. a week. When this present Government gives a 10s. a week increase it is described as miserable, but when Labour is in power and gives only 2s. 6d. a week increase, in the eyes of Labour members that is magnificent. The actions of the Labour Party are so different when it is in office from its promises when it is in opposition that the general public treats it as a joke. The general public does not believe Labour in opposition, because it knows that Labour never carries out its promises when it is in government. As I said, the increase of $1 a week proposed this year is equal to the highest increase ever made. I think the pensioners would help themselves, and Labour members would help the pensioners more, if both showed a little gratitude to the Government for granting this increase and to the taxpayers who provide the money. Therefore I hope we will not hear any more of this political propaganda from Labour members talking about $1 being a miserable incerase.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) that whoever supports the proposed increases is not seeking votes; but surely the issue here is one of elementary justice. The Australian Labour Party feels that whether the pension represents a certain percentage of the basic wage at any particular point of time is irrevelant; all we suggest is that Government members should put themselves in the situation of a reasonably healthy person aged 65 years, if a male, or 60 years, if a female, with the prospect of another 20 years of life, and ask whether in terms of 1966 standards $13 a week is sufficient for a person on his own or, if a married couple, $23.50 is sufficient. They should remember that some people do not own their own houses. It is also easy sometimes to suggest that some people are not as badly off as others. This is quite true, but surely in discussing social services legislation in 1966, we should be looking at reality. Suddenly at 65 years of age a person who has been a breadwinner and receiving a wage that might have been the average wage that we so frequently hear about, in the region of $50 a week, to support himself and his wife, finds on ceasing work that unless he was employed by a firm that supported a superannuation scheme his weekly income is cut down to something like two-thirds of what he had previously been receiving, or even much less.
These are the considerations to which the Minister should be giving attention at the moment. He should also bear in mind that we are reaching a stage in the field of social services at which a good many things are crystallising at once. Perhaps within the next few years we will find that many more people will be made redundant by the normal processes of industry years before they reach what is now regarded as the retiring age, 65 years. Unless considerable adjustments are made to our attitude those people will find their incomes declining significantly five or ten years before they receive the pension. This is the situation in the United States of America at the present time, where there is talk of paying much larger sums than the pension we are contemplating to people very much younger than those who are now receiving pensions. It is being suggested that at all stages of a person’s life he should be guaranteed an income adequate to support himself and his family at the standards to which the community claims it adheres. It is true that at 65 years of age, and 60 in the case of a woman, people usually have no children on their hands, and perhaps the minimum amount required for a pensioner couple is less than the minimum required for a married couple supporting several children. I am npt debating that question, but what I am contesting is whether in 1966 an amount of $13 for a single person or $23.50 for a married couple is in any sense adequate.
The Government is suggesting that we are chasing votes on this issue and that the Government itself is not chasing votes. I contend that it is not treating the problem as a humane one as it should be doing. Will anybody, including the honorable member for Sturt, categorically state in this Parliament that he believes a person on retiring at the age of 65 should live at something like two-thirds of the standard that he enjoyed the day before? I doubt very much whether anyone will. The honorable member for Sturt may think that we should approach the problem much more slowly than we are doing. He may have a point there, but I think we have to move a lot faster, and I suggest that the existing pension, in terms of the things that we believe we are entitled to, is inadequate to maintain decently people who all their lives have been decent citizens.
Every one of us knows of people who have struggled on for years after reaching pensionable age, working rather than drawing the pension. I was rather interested in the figures given in the latest report which the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) has had published, showing the number of people in the community who do not apply for the pension when they become entitled to it, but who continue working for several years. Well, in a free community I suppose people are entitled to do so, but sometimes we should ask ourselves whether in this free community the decision to do so is really a free decision. Is it not a sort of economic conscription? Is it not the fact that people realise they cannot live on what they would get if they depended entirely on social services, and that therefore they continue working for several years longer?
I am not one who believes that the retiring age should be extended; if anything, 1 think it should be progressively reduced, so that people would be able to enjoy longer periods of creative leisure. People who retire before they reach the age of 65 and are in reasonable health can look forward to a further 20 years or more of life. Have we as a society established the social institutions necessary to enable people to adjust to this new kind of situation? Until we reach the stage at which we give people the benefits of earlier retirement, however, we should look at the realities of the existing situation. There are quite a number of avenues of employment in which retirement at 65 is mandatory, and unless people who retire at that age have some means of supplementing their pension income they certainly must face a sudden substantial drop in their standards of living. 1 doubt whether our society is so adjusted that we are as yet able to pay to people who have ceased working the same amounts of money that they got when they were working - disregarding entirely the fact that many people have inadequate wages all their lives. But we should not, through the medium of a social service system, by stealth as it were, make payable to people on retirement perhaps more than they received while they were working. Yet the means test can operate to bring about this result in the case of some sections of the community. Certain people can actually receive, after having ceased work, as much as, or more than, they did when they were working. But quite apart from the arguments that are carried on about the means test as it is applied today, there are quite a lot of people in the community who believe that neither a single pensioner nor a married couple pensioner can live satisfactorily on the basic pension. The reality is that there are still some half a million people in the community receiving the pension who have no other income, and in my view many hundreds of thousands of them live, and will live even at the projected increased pension level, in circumstances of intense economic discomfort and relative injustice, and nothing in the measure before the Committee grapples with this serious problem.
.- We are becoming a little wary of this self-adulation we hear from Government supporters about the wonderful record of the Government in the field of social service rates. They completely ignore the change in the real value of money. The value of 10s. today bears no resemblance to the value of 10s. in earlier days, and the boasts we have heard in this Parliament about 10s. being a record increase in pension rates ring hollow indeed, particularly to the many hundreds of thousands of recipients of social service payments throughout Australia. These pension rates have been condemned by large sections of the public. In fact I think 62 per cent, of people interviewed in a recent gallup poll said that the Government should give more to social service beneficiaries than it is giving.
As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said, we are looking for social justice for these people, not political propaganda. They are entitled to maintain the purchasing power of their pensions, and, after all, who is the best judge of whether they are retaining that purchasing power? I think we must accept the judgment of the pensioners themselves. We can accept the judgment of the Returned Services League which represents all the repatriation pensioners throughout Australia. What is the judgment of that organisation? And what is the judgment of the Commonwealth Pensioners Federation? That body condemned this social service provision as announced in the Budget. It publicly proclaimed that it would work for the defeat of this Government. The Returned Services League-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Mackinnon). - Order! I think the honorable member is anticipating a debate on a Bill before the House.
– I am dealing with the rates of pension because this is what the League was talking about. It said that thcvalue of repatriation pensions has been steadily eroded since 1950. What is the answer to that? What answer does the Government give the League? In fact, the League demanded a supplementary Budget to correct the anomalies.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order! I ask the honorable member not to anticipate the debate on another Bill.
– Very well; I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Chairman, and say that the existing rate is simply an appeasement in an election year. It has no relation to the purchasing power of pensions. After all, it is the purchasing power of the social service rates that is the vital concern of the pensioners. As I have told pensioner organisations, it would not matter if there were an increase of $10 a week in the pension if the cost of living and the cost of services rose correspondingly. That is what is happening and what has happened during the regime of this Government. The cost of living rises, as the pensioners claim, before they obtain their increase, so they are kept behind the line down through the years under the regime of this Government. It is no wonder that the pensioners announced that their prayer is: “ Give us this day our daily bread “. In a few words that represents the feeling of the pensioners towards the present Bill. The Government, by the continuation of a married rate as distinct from the single rate pension, has continued discrimination and has set up class distinction as between single pensioners and married pensioners. Undoubtedly this has created some feeling between those two sections.
It is Labour’s belief that the pension should have a uniform base rate and that any adjustments needed should be made through the supplementary assistance scheme. If the provisions were more elastic the Government could provide for variations according to the needs of the single pensioner as against the married pensioner. Circumstances differ in very many cases between those two groups and they should be taken into consideration in allotting supplementary assistance to balance up the needs of some single pensioners and some married pensioners against those of the general run of pensioners. This is the approach of the Labour Party to the social service needs of Australia. That is why we today strongly criticise the existing provisions, which this Government is prepared to maintain and perpetuate. The Government is not prepared to listen to the very sound suggestions made by speakers on this side of the House.
Another indication of what pensioners are thinking was the unprecedented number of petitions received in this Parliament following the delivery of the Budget. I think we had 63 petitions presented to the House in the first two weeks of the session following delivery of the Budget, and 62 of those petitions were in relation to increasing the existing social service provisions. We can gain the feeling of the pensioners from the number of petitions presented. From a gallup poll taken throughout Australia we know that the great majority of people believe that pensioners should receive more than they now receive. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports very wisely put it, it is the needs of the pensioners and all people living on the very low rungs of the ladder that really count. I believe that this is a development taking place in the field of social welfare not only in Australia but throughout the world. Unfortunately we lag tremendously in Australia because the Government consistently refuses to engage in any Australia wide research or survey into poverty. If the Government were to change its policy in this matter we could go along with the many other nations which today are considering this question of poverty as a very serious problem which must receive immediate attention.
I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), and the Government, will take some heed of the representations and opinions expressed by honorable members on the Opposition side. Those opinions are sound and they represent the needs of the pensioner class throughout Australia. As I said during the Budget debate, I would like to see the Government bring in the supplementary Budget which the pensioners of Australia are pleading for. Any political gain which the Government could get out of such action would not worry the Opposition. What we want to see is the purchasing power of the pension restored for the benefit of those people who have to follow the pensioner’s way of life in Australia.
.- I shall deal with statements made by the last couple of speakers on the Opposition side of the chamber suggesting that the Government side was concerned with self adulation in regard to pension payments while the Australian Labour Party was concerned with elementary justice and not with political propaganda. If any political party practises political propaganda in regard to pensions it is the Labour Party. The last speaker, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton), said that the Government forgot the value of money when referring to the number and amount of increases made in pension rates. If we relate the amount of pension today .to the basic wage then we are taking into account the value of money. If the Government pays to pensioners a higher percentage of the basic wage than did Labour - which the Government does; if the Government pays a greater percentage, according to the consumer price index than did Labour, and if the Government spends a greater percentage of the total
Budget on national welfare services than did Labour, then surely the Government is giving pensioners more in spending power. In addition, many more people receive a pension now than was the case under Labour because of the greatly relaxed means test which this Government extends to pensioners. The Government has made it much easier for people to qualify for a full pension. Labour, at the time it went out of office, disqualified people for the pension. If a pensioner couple had $3,000 worth of additional property they received no pension at all. Today that property limit is in excess of $10,000. The change in the value of money has not moved to the same extent as that figure has.
In addition, Labour speakers very conveniently forgot the extra benefits which this Government pays to many pensioners. They forget that this Government introduced a rent allowance, paid to certain single pensioners, which adds to the pension. They forget that this Government introduced the pensioner medical service which provides all pensioners, whether receiving a full or a part pension, with a completely free medical service, with a doctor of their own choice, and treatment in their own homes. Labour had no such scheme.. Labour forgets that this Government introduced the guardian’s allowance which provides additional money to certain pensioners. The Opposition has ignored the way in which the Government has eased the means test in regard to permissible earnings. It does not matter which way you look at it, the pensioners are getting a far better deal under the Liberal-Country Party Government than they ever did under Labour.
An honorable member opposite said that pensioners have condemned the Budget. With all due respect to pensioners, they are only human. I cannot remember any increase, whether made by Labour or Liberal Governments, that they did not condemn. Nothing is enough; it never will be. A pension equal to half the basic wage is sought. We already pay to single pensioners much more than half the basic wage. To many of them we pay considerably more. If honorable members opposite stopped to think about their claim that a pensioner couple should receive at least the basic wage they would realise that the adoption of such a policy would lose for them the support of many members of trade union.who are in receipt of only the basic wage. Admittedly there are not many people in receipt of only the basic wage. An honorable member opposite said that a man on the basic wage with two children pays §1.30 a week income tax yet we permit a pensioner couple to have a joint pension of $23.50 a week and to earn an additional $14 a week, making a total income of $37.50 a week, on which they pay no income tax. In addition, the pensioner couple get free medical services. Yet honorable members opposite suggest that the man on the basic wage who has children to feed, clothe and educate, should pay taxes virtually to make some contribution towards people who are better off than he. I do not know how many times I shall have to rise to defend the single rate pension. 1 have heard two or three honorable members opposite say that we are discriminating against married pensioners. If that claim does nol amount to twisting the facts I do not know what does. I think it was the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) who asked the Minister to show how the expenses of a married couple could be less than those of a single pensioner.
– I compared the position of a married couple with that of two single pensioners living together.
– We are not concerned with the position of two single pensioners living together. We are concerned with the case where two pensions are coming into the home and where one of the pensioners dies. It is bad enough to lose a partner late in life without asking the surviving partner to get by on half the amount that formerly came into the home. This is virtually what Labour is saying. Labour does not say how, when one pensioner dies, the rent is cut by half, how the cost of electricity is cut by half and how the cost of heating and maintenance is cut by half. We have said to the surviving partner that we will give him or her an extra amount to help meet expenses. Labour twists this and says that we are discriminating against married couples and are telling pensioners that they should not get married but should live together as single pensioners, because then they will get more from this Government. If that is not political propaganda then 1 have never heard anything that is.
– It is not even correct.
– It is not even correct. It is vicious propaganda to try to sell that idea to a pensioner couple when our sole purpose is to take some of the burden away from a surviving partner. We are aware of the great strain on the resources of the surviving partner, so we provide him or her with some assistance by paying a supplementary allowance. This is the reason behind the Government’s scheme of supplementary allowances, lt is distortion of the truth to try to present any different picture. If pensioners care to examine the pensions they are now getting compared with the basic wage, the consumer price index or the total budget of the Government, they will find that they are getting a far better deal under a Liberal-Country Party Government than Labour ever dreamed of giving them.
.- I am sick and tired of hearing everlasting comparisons between what Labour did or did not do 17 or 18 years ago and what this Government is doing now. All this is completely irrelevant and unrealistic. It is utter humbug. If this Government had not improved the whole field of social service benefits in the. last 1.7 years it would not deserve to be in office; nobody opposite would deserve to be in office.
What a lot of irrelevancies we talk in this debate. We can make comparisons ad infinitum and not solve anything. The value of money today bears no relation to its value in 1949. In 1949 pensioners could buy more with their pensions than they can today. That is an absolute fact. Talk about inflation. Inflation was nothing in 1949 compared with today.
– It was increasing by 10 per cent, a year.
– Nothing of the kind. In 1949 £1 was worth 12s. 6d. Today it it worth 5s. 6d. Let me show the effect of this differentiation between single and married pensioners. This provision was a vicious one. If it were right to introduce it two years ago, why was it not right to introduce it 10 or 1.2 years ago? Why do honorable members praise themselves for dividing pensioners in this way?
– Labour never thought of it.
– Of course not. lt is unjust to differentiate between pensioners. The Government has forced a lot of unmarried people to live together. It knows that. Let me refer to a notice of alteration of pension, dated 6th September 1966, from the Hobart office of the Department of Social Services. It relates to Reginald H. Hawkins and his wife Annie F. Hawkins. Until a month or two ago this married couple lived apart because the husband was in St. John’s Park Home in Hobart. They each received the single rate pension because they were regarded as not living together. Under this Government’s legislation, that was correct. But a very fine old people’s home has been established at New Norfolk in the Derwent Valley in my electorate. The home is called “ Corumbune “. It will take 22 or 23 old people.
– Built by courtesy of this Government’s Aged Persons Homes Act.
– This was not a new aged persons home, it was a building that was bought, ft is excellent legislation, and we supported it, did we not? Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins were brought together to reside in this newly established old people’s home. In other words, Mr. Hawkins came out of St. John’s Park Home and joined his wife in the new home, the president of which is Don Marriott, a member of the Tasmanian Upper House, who did yeoman service in establishing “ Corumbune “. The home will not be officially opened until 12th November, but old folk are already being received into it. But what did the Department of Social Services do in this case? Mr. Hawkins was in receipt of a pension of $24 a fortnight. That pension is now reduced to $22 a fortnight. His wife had been in receipt of $24 a fortnight. Her pension is now reduced to $22 a fortnight. In other words, the joint income of the two pensioners has been reduced by $4 a fortnight just because they happen to be married and because they happen to have come together, after six years of separation through illness and infirmity, in an old people’s home run by a local private organisation with some Commonwealth assistance. This is an illustration of the sort of unhappiness which will be brought into family life as a result of this vicious discrimination which is made between single and married pensioners. At the home to which I have referred pension ers pay SIO each per week, for which they are supplied with all their meals and accommodation. All their needs are met from that $10. it is a wonderful scheme.
– Is there any differential between the single and married rates at that home?
– The couple to whom I referred were classed as single people living apart, but now they have come together and have had their pension reduced because they now come under what is known as the married pensioners’ rate.
– Is there any difference between the charge made at the home for a single person and that made for a married person?
– No, the charge is $10 for each person, whether single or married. The home has not differentiated in that respect in the way that the Government has. I believe that the breaking up of pensions into different rates for single and married pensioners is not a good thing. It causes much heartburn and quite a lot of unhappiness. Of course, the Government’s aim may be to give greater happiness to single people than to married couples.
– Does the honorable member believe in cutting the pension rate in half when one member of the partnership dies?
– That would probably be quite logical, but not while they are still living. I thank the Committee for bearing with me for these few minutes.
.- In this approach of the Government I am reminded of the remarks by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) who said that the Government should look at the new version of the Lord’s Prayer. It does not now say “ Give us this day our daily bread “; the new version is, “ Give us today our bread for tomorrow “. Honorable members opposite should keep that in mind when providing for those who are dependent on social services. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) is one of those remarkable people in the Parliament who obviously believe that people can live on percentages. I wonder whether he has ever tried eating some percentages. Has he ever tried to buy a suit on percentages? Does he ever buy food with percentages? If the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) would stop laughing and joking we could get down to business. While referring to this percentage business, does the honorable member for Henty, who says that pensioners have never been better off and have never had it better, really believe what he says? I would like him to say that to the pensioners.
The honorable member lor Henty and other honorable members opposite are always telling people that the basic wage is so much but that nobody lives on the basic wage under the present Government. They say that people are better off than if they were receiving the basic wage, that they are living better. Yet the honorable member said that pensioners are living better because the basic wage comparison is better than it was 20 or 30 years ago. But what he should have used for his comparison, and this is the Government’s argument, is the average income for a male adult person which, according to the latest statistics, is $54.60 per week. The honorable member should compare the pension with that rate and use that as a basis. How does the honorable member for Henty believe a man feels today when he walks out of his job at a pensionable age and the next day drops in pay from $54.60 to $23.50 under this magnanimous Government? The person then receives 71 per cent, of the basic wage and only slightly more than 40 per cent, of what he was earning the day before. What kind of percentage would that get him in terms of food and other things?
– A lot more than in 1949.
– It does not, and this is a situation that honorable members opposite must face. The honorable member says we will keep him alive by giving him free medicine; when he drops in his tracks we will give him tree medicine. Is it any wonder that people are working for years past pensionable age? They will drop anyhow, cither on the job or on the pension, for the simple reason that they cannot keep body and soul together. But this miserable Government, supported by the honorable member for Henty and others, says it will keep pensioners at below the basic wage and. when they become sick, they can have some free medicine. But this does not apply- to all. The Government has restricted the formulary. Many pensioners still have to pay for some of the vital things that they need. I point out these things to the honorable member who wants to compare the pension with the base wage.
We have been told that the Government has a magnificent record in the field of social services. The honorable member compared today’s situation with conditions in the past. Let us consider the married and single rates of the past. In 1926 the pension under a Liberal Government was 20s. per week. When that Government went out of office in 1940 the rate was still 20s. per week. In other words, for 20 years the Government did not give a rap whether pensioners lived or died. By the differential rate which is being applied to pensioners today the Government is bringing in the worst form of discrimination against people and is getting back to the situation in the stupid story which a fellow told his girl years ago that two could live more cheaply than one when they were married. I wonder whether anybody believes that. Evidently the honorable member for Henty does not sincerely believe that.
If honorable members study the history of this Government from the time it brought in this discrimination they will see a sorry and damning record. I shall tell honorable members why this legislation was brought in. Its purpose was to divide the poor old pensioner organisations, to put the single against the married. It was not done from any sense of justice because the Government applied a means test which would have done credit to a Shylock. If the Government wanted to assist pensioners who were really up against it, why did it not introduce a supplementary form of assistance for every pensioner in necessitous circumstances instead of just for a single person? If that were done it would have been just. On what grounds does the Government reduce pensions, simply because people are enjoying the sanctity of marriage, to more than 25 per cent, below the basic wage? Why does it allow people to live in a house together and receive more than those who have gone through the form of marriage as decreed by law? Why does it try to force people to live in sin in order to get the miserable pittance that they now get? The truth of the matter is that the Government says they should live on their percentage. Honorable members opposite know as well as I do that that is a vicious and contemptible discrimination.
The honorable member for Henty is now ashamed of what he said a few moments ago. He has told the pensioners in the electorate of Henty that they have never had it better. I wonder how he will explain to them how he supports $250 million being taken out of the air for defence when he expects them to live on a pension which is not even brought up to the level of the basic wage. I hope, he goes round to the pensioner organisations and tells that good woman who wrote to him that she does not know what she is talking about when she says that pensioners today are not getting enough. 1 do not doubt that this is the honorable member’s opinion because I have before me the record of the Government of which he is so proud. In the course of his remarks the honorable member compared conditions today with those of the past. I thought his was a silly argument, so I shall answer it with a silly argument. It was a Liberal Government in 1932 which, despite the fact that there was a Budget surplus, reduced pensions from 17s. 6d. to 15s. per week. It penalised pensioners through its property provisions and provided that if a pensioner had any property when he died the Government took from his estate the money which it had paid him by way of pension. This is the sordid background of the Government. As a result of the property clause 12,000 persons surrendered their pension.
As was staled by Sir John Latham, who was Attorney-General at that time, another 13,000 persons who would have been eligible refrained from applying for a pension. The Liberal Government compelled relatives of pensioners to contribute to their support. The Liberal Deputy Leader at that time, Sir Eric Harrison, said that the pension was never intended to provide the aged with a comfortable living. That is the sort of background that the Government has. We all remember the former PostmasterGeneral saying in this place in 1962: “ If we had a surplus of £40 million, the last ones I would give it to would be those people dependent on pensions and social services.” The pension rate was not changed for 20 years. When Government supporters talk about pharmaceutical benefits, uberculosis allowances and things like that they should remember that they were introduced by a Labour Government between 1943 and 1949. When the present Government came into office in 1949 age and invalid pensions and maternity allowances were provided for on the statute books. By 1949 the Budget had increased from £18 million under a Liberal Government, which was defeated, to just on £100 million. That was at a time when money was money. The pension had been doubled; yet in 20 years the Liberal Government had done none of these things. Is it any wonder that the Government perpetuates in Australia today a form of discrimination which forces poor aged people to live on percentages? Honorable members opposite should compare the plight of pensioners with the wealth enjoyed by the General Motors company and others in the powerful and influential sections of our society.
– And the honorable member for Henty.
– And the honorable member for Henty and others. Yet honorable members opposite say that all is well in this nation. An apathetic Australian nation which is not living on the breadline might well be misinformed on this issue because many of its people are not doing too badly. However, when this was proposed by the former Minister for Social Services who is now Sir Hugh Roberton, our Ambassador in Dublin, he described it in this colourful language -
The introduction of this discrimination transforms the traditional pattern of pensions which has prevailed for 55 years and removes a serious flaw which has weakened the pension structure of our social welfare programme since its inception in 1908.
That was the colourful language which describes some of the most objectionable legislation ever introduced, legislation which does not give a just pension to all. Instead, it gives a sub-standard pension to a few. The point which the Government must decide is this: Is every pensioner entitled to the base rate standard pension? We say that he is. A national scheme should provide such additional assistance to necessitous cases as will give them what they need? To perpetuate this scheme which the honorable member for Henty praises deserves the condemnation of the people and I hope the electorate which he represents will mete out full retribution to him.
– I do not think there is any need to answer in detail the buffoonery of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I merely state that if one looks at the Government’s record over the last 17 years that it has been in office one will see a remarkable increase and improvement in the range and amount of pensions paid to persons of eligible age in our community. The honorable member for Grayndler made one statement which 1 must correct. He said that in Australia unmarried pensioners are in a better position than are married pensioners. That is not true. The differentiation between the standard rate and the married rate exists because it is felt that married persons share many of the normal domestic expenses. As the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) asked this afternoon, I ask: ls it reasonable to expect that a person of advancing years, having lost tragically hrs pension mate, should suddenly be told: “ Tomorrow you will receive only half your previous married rate pension “? It is not reasonable to expect that when one marriage partner dies the household expenses of the survivor will be halved overnight. It is in partial recognition of this that the Government has decided it is preferable to have two different rates, a standard rate and a married rate.
As to the comparison which has been made by the honorable member for Grayndler and others in the matter of quantum, be it the basic wage, average earnings, or the consumer price index, as 1 illustrated in my second reading speech, the Government has a very favorable record on any basis of comparison. The whole purpose of social service legislation is to provide as much as possible to those in need. Of course all of us would like to be able to provide more than we are providing, but within the budgetary context the Government consistently has adopted the policy of providing as much as it can having regard to all other budgetary commitments. It is for this reason that the increases apply from the date on which the Bill becomes law. We want to make as much as possible available to persons in the pensioner community. I commend this clause unamended to the Committee.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Compulation of income).
.- This clause seeks to increase from Si to S3 the amount a widow or other pensioner may earn in respect of each dependent child. The Government told us wilh great gusto that this represents an increase of about 200 per cent. This may appear to be a remarkable contribution towards the welfare of widows but, when one considers that it does not increase ‘ their pension unless they go out and earn something, one realises that it is not exactly a major contribution to their welfare. The Minister has stated that in a full year this will cost the Government only S.3 million and only $.22 million in this financial year. In addition, if my figures are correct - I believe they are because I have obtained them from the Department of Social Services - it is 14 years since this permissible income was altered, which hardly proves that the Government is acting speedily in this matter.
If the Government wanted to assist widows would it not have been logical to increase the pension very substantially? Only a small number of pensioners’ families and a few thousand children are affected. According to the Minister, only 1.700 families and 3,000 children are involved. The point is that this will not be an increase unless the widows go out to work. If they cannot go out to work this budget provision is practically useless.
– lt is also applicable to maintenance.
– That is correct, but would it not have been better or more just to have awarded a substantial increase in pension? The Government can camouflage the position but I think it is generally agreed that no section of recipients of social service benefits is worse off than are the widows, even taking into account the guardian’., allowance. They have responsibilities which, in many cases, do not apply to aged and invalid people - they have the responsibility of rearing a family. The fact that the Government in a generous election year gesture, as it were, allows them to increase the amount they can earn from $1 to $3 - provided, of course, they can work - does not in itself mean any major contribution to their welfare except, of course, if they are fortunate enough to be able to go to work. While the Opposition does not oppose the niggardly increase which is proposed, we place on record our belief that it is not as great a contribution to the welfare of widows as it might have been having regard to the fact that of a total expenditure of $30.28 million this year on social service benefits only $.22 million will go to this section of the community. This shows that the Government has awarded the absolute minimum to this deserving section of pensioners.
.- Once again the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is incorrect in his facts. This provision does not include only income from earnings, lt takes into account income from any source whatsoever. It means now that a widow with two children receiving, for example, superannuation is exempted from the operation of the means test to the extent of $7 a week for herself and $3 a week for each dependent child.
– To how many would that apply? About two.
– It applies to a large number.
– Widows on superannuation?
– Widows of civil servants and widows whose husbands were employed in private companies which have superannuation funds. It will also cover widows in receipt of annuities, for example, under the terms of the will of their late husbands. It is true that this reform will cost the Budget very little. That is its great merit. We are able to provide a tremendous benefit not only to widows but also to aged people and invalids with dependent children at very low cost to the taxpayer. A great many widows will be very happy to add to their income to enable them to provide higher education and additional benefits for their children.
Opportunities are available to widows to take employment of a kind which does not interfere with the rearing of their children. There are opportunities for them to do baby sitting and many other kinds of employment. In the past these widows have been restricted by the operation of the means test. Now the means test has been so liberalised in this respect that, being able to have an income of S7 for themselves and $3 for each dependent child, they will be able to earn or have an income from other sources of a substantial amount before their pension is affected. I believe this is one of the most valuable reforms introduced by the Government. It is valuable because it has achieved such a worthwhile result. It is valuable also because it can be done at so little cost to the community. Most widows and most aged people have pride and wish, through their own resources, to supplement their income. As a result of this substantial liberalisation of the means test, they will be able to do that and maintain a much higher standard of living than they could maintain before the passing of this amendment.
.- The honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) praises the Government for having increased the allowable earnings of widows in respect of their dependant children. 1 fail to see how the. Government can be proud of its decision when we realise that a widow with, say, two healthy children 16 years of age who would eat as much as an adult and who would cost as much to clothe as an adult person, can have an income or earnings amounting to $13 a week while a married pensioner couple may have an income or earnings of SI 4 a week. Surely there is no reason why the widow with the two children should not be able to have permissible income or earnings of an amount at least equal to that which a married pensioner couple may enjoy. I cannot see any reason why the Government can expect to receive any praise for this proposal.
I appreciate that an increase is being granted, and I expect that it will assist some widows, but surely the increase should be to an amount comparable with what a married pensioner couple may enjoy. I should like the Minister to explain why this is not done. Not only has the widow to feed and clothe these two children but also she has to meet the cost of their education. Therefore, she is in a much worse position than a married pensioner couple.
I have taken the case of the widow with two children because the Minister said in his second reading speech -
For example, a widow with two children will be able to earn S6 a week for her children as well as, subject to her property and income, S7 a week for herself. 1 hope the Minister will be able to explain why the increase in this instance cannot be at least such as would enable her to enjoy total income or earnings equal to what the married pensioner couple may enjoy.
.- There is one point which has been overlooked. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said that the increase in the permissible income or earnings of a class A widow - a widow with children - does not do much to assist her. The point which has been overlooked is that not only does this proposal permit the widow who goes to work to earn three times as much for each of her children as she could earn before, but it also brings into the pension scheme for the first time many widows who were previously excluded because their earnings exceeded SI a week for each child. These widows will now receive the pension plus the right to earn additional amounts for each child plus the fringe benefits that go with the pension. All these things ought to be taken into account.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Deputy Chairman, thanks to the leniency of the Chair we were discussing clauses 1 1 and 20 at the suspension of the sitting, though only the first of these clauses was actually before the Committee. Clause 1 1 relates only to the extension, on account of dependent children, of the permissible income allowed to age and invalid pensioners. Clause 20 relates to the same thing in respect of widow pensioners. I ask for your indulgence, Sir, so that I may relate my remarks also to the permissible earnings of widow pensioners. I wish to answer only one particular question that has been raised. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) suggested that pensions for civilian widows should be based on married rate pensions rather than standard rate pensions in view of the educational and other needs of the family of a widow. In my second reading speech, I detailed the benefits available to civilian widows. I believe that no section in the community is more deserving of assistance than they are. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have had a good deal to do with various organisations representing civilian widows, I know, and at the personal level honorable members have endeavoured to assist widows in every way possible.
During the last few years, the pension and the permissible earnings available to widows have been considerably increased. But there has always been the difficulty of determining whether the Government, through its social services system, can help widows best by extending permissible earnings or by increasing pensions. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has suggested that instead of increasing permissible earnings it might be preferable to raise the base rate of pension payable to widows. As honorable members will realise if they have looked at the figures that I gave in my second reading speech, the total of pension plus permissible income available to a widow with two children is something like $33 a week. This compares very favorably with the male basic wage of $32.80 a week. However, once again I would say that the Government does not regard this as being the end of the assistance that should be given to civilian widows or to age and invalid pensioners. We realise that such pensioners, particularly those with children, have special problems. Because of this recognition, additional assistance is provided by means of educational allowances and the like. 1 believe that at present the position of age, invalid and widow pensioners compares very favorably with that of other persons in receipt of social service benefits. We in this Government assure the Australian community that we shall continue to recognise the needs of both pensioners and their children. Accordingly, I recommend to the Committee that it pass both clause 11 and clause 20 without amendment.
.- Mr. Deputy Chairman, when the sitting was suspended we had just heard the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) wax eloquent about the extending of the permissible income of widows. He was pleased that they were to be allowed to earn more money. However, I believe that this represents a wrong approach to the problems of widows. As the Minister has just mentioned, the question is whether widows should be permitted to earn more or their pension should be increased. I say unhesitatingly that we should provide higher pensions, because a widow, having lost her husband, is the breadwinner of the family. She has dual responsibilities as both the breadwinner and the mother responsible for rearing and caring for the children. It is not a widow’s place to go out to earn money, lt is her place to remain in the home and provide the extra care that is needed when the children have lost their father. Therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that in view of the family responsibilities of widows the Government has a duty to provide them with higher incomes by raising pensions.
We frequently hear Government supporters in this place paint a picture of a widow with children and then bring forward hypothetical proposals and say that if she does this, that or something else she will have a very nice income. But these are only theoretical speculations that have no relation to the practical realities faced by the vast majority of widows who have responsibility for the care of the children in the home. I believe that the raising of the limit of permissible income will have no practical effect in producing more income in the home. The whole proposal remains largely theoretical, though it purports greatly to assist widows. The honorable member for Sturt said that the Government’s proposals in this respect are excellent because they will cost so little. This seems to me to be a contradiction in logic. If the cost will be so little, this means in effect that widows will get little in the result. This is the reality of the situation. Government supporters build up great enthusiasm based on theory rather than on practice.
I believe that we should take a sober look at the situation. Throughout the history of our social services, widows have been at the greatest disadvantage of all among those who receive social service benefits. Though the position of widows has been improved by measures adopted over the last few years, they are still not able to live free from the fear of want and safe in the knowledge that they can buy the necessaries of life and live the comfortable sort of life that we would wish them to live. So I say that this Government has a duty to do more than it has done for the widows of Australia. I am sure that, as the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has intimated, a Labour government would give much more thought to the needs of widows and would treat them much more liberally in discharging its social services responsibilities. I trust that the Government will take heed of the points that we on this side of the chamber have made, Mr. Deputy Chairman.
.- Mr. Deputy Chairman, I want to direct attention specifically to the computation of the income of age pensioners, with particular relation to an agreement between the Department of Social Services and the Mines Department in New South Wales concerning pensions paid to former mine workers. I have in my hand a cancellation notice addressed to a pensioner couple who, until quite recently, had been receiving the age pension supplemented by a mine worker’s pension, with account being taken of (he pensioner couple’s property. This old couple, both of whom are over 70 years of age, were fortunate enough to gain ad inheritance from an estate in America quite recently. On 20th September of this year, the Department of Social Services sent them this notice -
Increased means as assessed: Wife’s distribution from estate and your miner’s pension superannuation is to be increased.
The same notice was sent to the wife, except for the expression -
The husband’s miner’s superannuation is to be increased.
The Department took from the husband his pensioner medical entitlement card. A note at the bottom of the Department’s letter said -
Please hand or forward to this office as soon as possible your medical services entitlement card, together with this letter.
These words were crossed out on tha letter sent to the wife. The wife can retain her medical entitlement card, but the husband must return his. The position in which these people have been placed is intolerable. They have received an inheritance. I will advise them to buy a motor car, to turn in their old refrigerator or washing machine or whatever they may have, and to get the money down to an amount that will restore their entitlement to the full age pension which with the mine worker’s supplement increases the figure from £22 to £27 or $54. The inheritance that they could have saved will be spent and they will then become entitled again to the benefits that they have enjoyed since the mine worker was 65 years of age. It is intolerable that this can happen to people over 70 years of age at a time when they should not have worries but are entitled to as much comfort and pleasure as they can get.
The mine worker’s pension is considered to be part of the assessed means. Immediately these people become entitled to an age pension, $44 of the$54 is provided in the age pension, which the Commonwealth Government is obliged to pay anyway. This couple are receiving £3 10s. a fortnight as a silicosis pension and have saved £1,400 to £1,500 between them. The ordinary means test allows them to have £4.040. They would be entitled to about £4 10s. a week each in age pension, inclusive of other supplements and the silicosis pension. But they are denied this because of the agreement between the Department of Social Services and the Coal Mine Workers Superannuation Tribunal. Many people are suffering today because of this agreement. I ask the Minister to give early and serious consideration to the matter I raised in a questionI put to him a few weeks ago so that this matter can be straightened out. These people should not be worried further about the means test. Other pensioners can have an income of $14 a week and still be entitled to the full age pension. It is only after the separate income exceeds$14 that the age pension is reduced according to the assessed means.
– I will examine this for the honorable member.
.- I want to address myself to the sort of problem that the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) has mentioned, but I want to take it a bit further. I want to point to an anomaly. The Social Services Act permits a pensioner couple to have an income or an assumed income equal to the full amount of the pension plus the permissible income. In some instances, the pensioner couple or a single pensioner receive, in addition to a part pension, superannuation or some other income. Let us take the case of a couple who receive only 50 cents a fortnight each as a pension. Even with this pension of 50 cents they receive all the benefits of the pensioner medical service and concessions on television and radio licences, telephone rental and, from the State Government, on fares and gas accounts. I have known of instances where the superannuation has been increased by an amount that is sufficient only to eliminate the part pension. Without their financial position being improved at all. even by 1 cent - they merely receive an extra amount of superannuation instead of the part pension - their social service benefit is taken away. They do not have any extra money but, because they do not receive any pension, they lose the benefit of the medical pensioner service and the concessions.
I believe that this is an anomaly. The financial position of the pensioners has not been improved. I ask the Minister whether he will consider devising a scheme that will at least preserve the benefit of the pensioner medical service to a pensioner or pensioner couple who have previously had this benefit granted to them, so that it is not taken away from them unless their means are substantially improved.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 14 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.-I want to refer to clause 15, which amends section 48 of the Principal Act. This refers to the suspension of a pension during the time that a pensioner is a patient in a menial hospital. I referred to this matter during the second reading debate and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), in his reply, dealt with this in some detail. However. I am not completely satified with the explanation offered by the Minister on behalf of the Government. It is true that some improvement has been effected and that the financial position of pensioners on their discharge from a mental hospital will be improved as a result of this amendment.
The present position is that the pension is suspended when a pensioner is admitted to a mental hospital. When he is discharged from the mental hospital, arrears amounting to four weeks of pension are paid to him. Clause 15 will increase this to 12 weeks. This is an improvement. However, I have tried to learn from the Minister the reason for the period of twelve weeks. Why should this provision be applied at all? No one has been able to give me a valid reason for the cancellation of the pension of a patient admitted to a mental hospital. The Minister certainly did not do so in his second reading speech. He referred to a survey which apparently was conducted in every State and which showed that in New South Wales 77.1 per cent, of patients admitted to a mental institution spend less than 12 weeks in the institution. This may be a very accurate survey. So far so goad. In New South Wales, the State to which the Minister has referred, 77.1 per cent, of patients admitted i.o these hospitals will be compensated to the full extent of the pension which was suspended when they were admitted to that hospital. However, I am concerned about the 22.9 per cent, who will not be compensated in this way. The Minister gave no reason for ignoring 22.9 per cent, of the patients. What are the figures for the other States? We have been given figures only for New South Wales. I do not dispute the accuracy of the survey. No doubt it is accurate, and about 77 per cent, of the pensioner patients are discharged from hospital within 12 weeks of admission for mental treatment, but about 23 per cent, remain for longer than 12 weeks in mental institutions.
It is conceded that the financial position of some pensioners who are admitted to mental institutions and are discharged after 12 weeks, or within 12 weeks, of admission could be improved. This is acknowledged, because in addition to the wife’s pension which would continue, as well as allowances for children under 16 years of age, 12 weeks of arrears would be paid on the pensioner’s discharge. Furthermore, one can imagine that the wife’s pension would be paid on the basis of a widow’s pension while the pensioner was in hospital. However, there are other cases where this situation will not apply. I refer to the case of an age pensioner couple. The husband is admitted to a mental hospital and remains there for longer than 12 weeks. His pension payments are suspended and his wife receives the standard rate of pension, $12 a week. Obviously if a pensioner remains in a mental hospital for longer than 12 weeks he and his wife are financially disadvantaged. The Minister has not referred to the case of a pensioner who receives treatment for a period of six months or more. Surely the Minister would not suggest that in such a case the pensioner’s position would be financially improved. He would stand to lose as a result of that period of hospitalisation.
The Minister appreciates that today there are many mental hospitals providing treatment in conjunction with public hospitals. I cannot understand the logic of an argument that suggests that a patient who is admitted to a mental hospital, recognised as such by the Government, should have his pension suspended whereas the person admitted to a clinic attached to a public hospital should continue to receive the pension. At no time is it suspended. How does the Minister justify this type of anomaly. Two pensioners receiving the same kind of treatment are not treated the same by the Government. The one admitted to a mental hospital has his pension suspended while the one admitted to a clinic for the same kind of treatment continues to receive his pension. There is no justification for this type of discrimination and I am not satisfied that the Government has done all it should do by merely extending the period over which arrears will bc payable to a pensioner on his discharge from a mental hospital. This simply is not good enough.
The Opposition believes that if a person is admitted to a mental hospital his pension should not be suspended in any circumstances. The Minister knows that every State Minister for Health has requested the Government to consider this aspect. The State Ministers have asked that when a pensioner is admitted to a mental hospital the pension should continue just the same as it continues when an age pensioner is admitted to a public hospital. This matter ought to be considered further. We acknowledge that some improvement has been effected by the proposal now before us. The financial position of pensioners admitted to mental hospitals will certainly be improved on discharge in that now 12 weeks of arrears will be paid instead of 4 weeks of arrears, but the Opposition points out that there is no justification for perpetuating the type of anomaly to which 1 have referred. The fact that a survey shows that 77 per cent, of patients in one State who are admitted to mental hospitals are discharged within a period of 12 weeks does not justify the continuation of this anomaly. Unless the Minister can advance better reasons than he has done - and 1 have referred to the survey that he quoted and to his suggestion that difficulties can arise as a result of State legislation - the Opposition will continue to press for the removal of this serious anomaly in the Act.
.- While I believe the Government is to be commended for increasing from 4 weeks to J 2 weeks the pension arrears that a pensioner will receive on his discharge from a mental institution, I still regret that it has not taken appropriate action to remove completely the stigma associated with mental hospitalisation. We must realise today that people suffer from various types of illness. If the.y suffer from some physical disability they are treated in a public hospital. However, many people nowadays suffer from various types of breakdown. Many suffer from hardening of the arteries and similar disabilities. These unfortunate people have to go into mental institutions and nursing homes, not because they are mental but because of the confusion that comes upon them with age. The means of the person concerned and of his relatives determines the hospital or home in which the pensioner finishes up - whether it be a State mental hospital or a private nursing home. Quite a number of private nursing homes have sprung up in the various cities. If a pensioner and his relatives have the means - first, the pension, then the £1 a day subsidy paid to the homes, plus invariably another £2, £4 or £10 a week - this is where the pensioner can finish up. The Minister is well aware that hundreds of pensioners are in these private nursing homes for the aged, but there are many others whose families have not sufficient funds to pay for them in these nursing homes where they can be well taken care of - at least in some of them they are well cared for, although in others they are simply exploited. I remember a couple of years ago directing the attention of the State Department of Health to one of these places where people were being exploited. They were not being properly cared for or properly fed.
Let me tell the Committee something about an institution with which 1 am conversant. Persons admitted to Morisset Hospital are not entitled to receive their pensions. Therefore the provisions of this clause of the legislation will apply to them. They will get 12 weeks’ arrears of pension when they are discharged. But the inmates of a similar type of hospital, Allandale Hospital at Cessnock, receive their pensions all the time, whether they be invalid pensioners or age pensioners. What is the reason for the different treatment? I have discussed individual cases with the medical superintendent at Morisset and at times he has said to me: “ Why don’t you try to have this man transferred from Morisset to Allandale? “ In some cases this has been possible and practicable. But I would like to know why the person who was deprived of his pension in Morisset has been granted it as soon as he has been transferred to Allandale. The two hospitals are doing the same kind of work, lt comes under the classification of geriatric treatment.
Ladies are admitted to Stockton Hospital, which was known as Stockton Mental Hospital for years. I know of numerous cases in which hospital authorities have said to the relatives of a person in hospital: “ You must take your mother or your sister home because we cannot do any more for her. All she requires now is care and management. She is past the stage of treatment.” Because of family commitments people have had to allow their relatives to go to Stockton Mental Hospital. These ladies have entered the hospital, their pensions have been terminated, and after they have passed away their estates have been charged for the care and management given them in the hospital. This whole system is obviously wrong and I appeal to the Minister and the Government to do something positive about it.
Then there is the matter of the means test. A pensioner’s wife might be placed in one of these hospitals in which she would be entitled to her pension. I am not saying that part of the pension should not be taken by the authorities for her keep. I do not want to see a family make a profit because of the mother being committed to one of these institutions. But one of the anomalies of the situation is that such a person is then disregarded so far as the merged means test is concerned. The spouse who remains outside the hospital is then paid the pension at the rate applicable to a single person and his means as assessed are calculated as though he were a single person. Not only does the person entering the hospital lose the pension or part of it, but the couple suffers because the one who remains is classified as a single pensioner. In many cases they suffer heavily because the husband may be receiving some kind of superannuation payment.
These are the kinds of anomalies that are inherent in the existing situation, and something should be done to review the whole system. The Government should not continue on the aimless course it has been following for the last 12 years. While the Government is doing something of a concrete nature in increasing from four weeks to twelve the amount of pension payable to those leaving these institutions, it has really done nothing whatsoever about the principle behind the legislation. The Act itself is bad in principle, and if it were properly drafted the question whether the arrears of pensions to be paid should be for four or twelve weeks would not even require consideration.
.- I wish to address my remarks to clauses 25 and 27. First, no-one opposes the removal, provided for in this legislation, of the discrimination which has existed between Aboriginal natives of Australia and other Australians. However, it would be idle to suggest that the Aboriginal natives or anyone else will get much benefit from the legislation. Clause 25 refers to child endowment and it says -
Section 95 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (7.) the words “ but one or both of whose parents are aboriginal natives of Australia”.
The Government’s record in child endowment is indeed a very shabby one. In 1950 the endowment payment for the first child was 50c a week, and in 1964 it was still 50c. In 1941, 25 years ago, child endowment for the second child was 50c. and in the last 25 years it has increased to SI. In other words it has risen by 50c in 25 years, so that over the next century it will get up to a couple of dollars. So the Aborigines as well as the other Australians are not missing much in respect of those payments. There was an increase of 25c granted for the second child in 1945 and another increase of 25c in 1948. When we come to consider the third and subsequent children we find that the payment was 50c in 1941 and 75c in 1945. Then it was raised to $1 in 1948 and it has been at SI. 50 since 1964. So when one looks at child endowment payments one sees that the Aboriginal people are not missing much and that the Government is not bending over backwards to assist them.
When we consider maternity allowances we find that these have not been increased for 23 years, during which time the rates have remained as I shall now outline them. In the case of a family in which there are no other children under 16 years of age the allowance is $30. When there are one or two other children under 16 years of age the allowance is $32, and in cases where there are three or more children under 16 years of age the allowance becomes $35. The pre-natal portion of the allowance has remained at $20 since 1943. So it would be idle to suggest that there is much benefit for the Aborigines in these allowances, lt is amazing that the Government has not seen fit to increase benefits in this field for a generation when it is a matter of such vital importance to our population. I venture to suggest that if the Government granted increased child endowment and maternity allowances with only a fraction of what it spends to bring immigrants here the country as a whole would benefit greatly.
– And especially what it spends to bring immigrants who subsequently return to their homelands.
– Yes, particularly those that decide to go back home after being brought here. If the Government used a portion of what is spent on immigration for the purpose of increasing child endowment and maternity allowances it would be doing something particularly beneficial.
Then 1 come to the unemployment and sickness benefits, which are referred to in clause 27. Sickness benefit in lieu of unemployment benefit will now be paid to certain ex-servicemen immediately they cease to receive sustenance allowance. That is quite reasonable and we agree with” it, but I do not know that it will be of great benefit to them because the unemployment benefit has not been changed since 1962. On the present rates, a man with a wife and two children, with a permissible income of S4, can have a gross income if he is sick or unemployed of $22.75, or $10.5 less than the average basic wage. What has happened since 1962? Within the last couple of months the basic wage has gone up by $2 and certainly costs have risen even in recent months. These rates of benefit would have to be increased by at least a third to retain the same relativity with the basic wage as existed in 1962. 1 see that in the period from 1952 to 1957 no increase at all was made in the unemployment and sickness benefits. In 1961-62 an increase was granted. It was not a great amount, but the increase was given because, as honorable members know, the Government got a great shock at about that time. 1 wonder when the Government is going to consider paying adequate rates for unemployment, instead of merely paying the present unemployment benefit, when a person moves off sustenance. There is probably a good case to be made for a man not to lose any wages at all when he is sick. But under our strange system of social security, when a man is sick and naturally needs money most, he gets under this scheme $10 less than the basic wage. There is a lot to be said for at least making certain that his wages are within a reasonable distance of, or even equal to, his normal wage. Perhaps the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) would be good enough to tell us why the Government can find money for well nigh everything except providing an increase in these unemployment and sickness benefits. Let us assume there is not going to be great unemployment; I am sure that no-one knows when he will become ill or unable to follow his avocation. Does it mean that because people are unfortunate enough to become ill their income is to be pegged at the 1962 sickness benefit rate which, as honorable members know, would be roughly 33 J pet cent, below the actual cost of living at this time?
I do not know when the Government is going io give consideration to this aspect of social service legislation, but there is undoubtedly a strong case to be made out for a substantial increase in sickness and unemployment benefits at this stage. So I hope that those people who pass from the repatriation sustenance allowance into the sphere of unemployment or sickness benefit will not be losing substantially - though that might well be the case. Perhaps the Minister can tell us why the Government thinks that sickness and unemployment benefits should be pegged, why maternity allowances and child endowment should be pegged and, generally speaking, why the Government reviews only a section of these benefits each year and gives the minimum to the maximum number of people. Perhaps he can tell us why the Government does not generally review the whole situation, not in the light of a coming election but in the light of what is justice to those people. I bring those matters to the attention of the Minister. Whilst the amendments proposed in this Bill are desirable I do not see that they will be of great benefit to the recipients.
.- I want to address my remarks to clause 29, which repeals section 137a of the principal Act. This amendment, deleting a discrimination against the Aborigines, is welcomed by the Opposition. 1 well remember that several honorable members on this side of the chamber have drawn the attention of the Government to the discrimination on several occasions. 1 remember the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), myself, and others asking when something would be done. We are pleased that at long last the Government has decided to take some heed of what we have put to it. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) said in his second reading speech that in no sense was there anything discriminatory in the sections of the Social Services Act which are to be deleted by this amending Bill. He said -
While these are in no sense discriminatory in their application it is proposed to delete them to remove any doubt.
I suggest that section 137a is completely discriminatory because it says -
An aboriginal native of Australia who follows a mode of life that is in the opinion of the Director-General, nomadic or primitive is not entitled to a pension, allowance, endowment or benefit under this Act.
Surely that must discriminate against nomadic or primitive natives.
However, my main reason for speaking on this matter is to seek information from the Minister as to just how this amendment to the Act will apply. What will be the position under it? I refer first to the provision relating to funeral benefit. I take it that this amendment will mean that the Aborigines will be treated exactly the same as anyone else in relation to benefits throughout the Act. Whilst the nomadic and primitive type of Aborigines have tribal burials, there are other burials which will be conducted under the responsibility of the native welfare departments of the States. I am wondering whether under section 56 of the Act the cost borne by the native welfare department of any State will be reimbursed or whether that department will have to bear the full costs. That provision says, in part -
A payment under this Division shall be made to the person who is or was liable to pay the cost of the funeral. . . .
I ask the Minister to examine that angle.
I next want to deal with sickness and unemployment benefits. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) rightly pointed out, they have not been increased for a considerable time, and certinly not to the extent they should have been. I. would like to know whether an adult Aborigine with a wife, and, say, four Aboriginal children - which is not unusual - who is out of work can anticipate that the amount of unemployment benefit he receives will be something like $20.25. What would be the position of that Aboriginal if he did not receive that amount in his ordinary employment? I suggest that the Parliament should not say that if he has not been receiving that amount from his employer he should receive a less amount by way of unemployment benefit. I do not think we should agree that any amount which is less than the basic wage and some margin should be paid to an Aboriginal employed in any industry. I would like the Minister to tell us whether in such circumstances the Aborigines will be paid the full amount of unemployment and sickness benefits as set out in the schedule to the Act, or whether they will receive some lesser amount based on their normal wages.
The other point I want to make in regard to sickness and unemployment benefits relates to seasonal workers in the cattle industry or sheep industry. Many Aborigines are employed on a seasonal basis. What will be their position in regard to unemployment benefit? Will they be entitled to unemployment benefit if they are not able to obtain employment in the cattle or pastoral industry during that part of the season that they normally work? Also, what will be their position in relation to the sickness benefit if they become ill at some time when they are about to take employment, or during the time that some employment becomes available? I would like the Minister to give us some explanation of what the position would be.
That is all I wanted to say in relation to Aborigines. I want to get the matters cleared up if I can because I am quite certain that I will receive many queries on these points as there are about 8,000 Aborigines living in my electorate. I am sure that when this amendment is passed some of them will be coming to me for information. The Minister may not be able to give me an answer about these matters tonight, but I would appreciate it if he could let me have it in the near future.
.- There are just a few matters which I would like to raise at this time. First I refer to the general question of administrative procedures in the Department of Social Services in respect of a number of these social service items. I am sure that many honorable members have found, like myself, that what social service recipients are entitled to is not all laid down quite clearly either in the Social Services Act or in the booklet issued by the Department. A good deal of the treatment a pensioner will receive is determined by administrative interpretation and administrative action. I want to show how people in the community have no chance of knowing what their entitlements are. The Act is so complex and so many cases are altered by interpretation that it is almost impossible for a member of Parliament, let alone a social services recipient, to keep up with it. I have had people ask me whether they may let a room or a couple of rooms in their house. It is extraordinary that so many pensioners or potential pensioners are under the impression that the rent received from letting a room is part and parcel of the income component taken into consideration in applying the merged means test. It is very difficult to get across to these people that in the case of a pensioner letting a room or rooms it is the capital value of that part of the house being let that is taken into consideration, irrespective of the rental received. Pensioners have the greatest difficulty in accepting advice that it makes no difference whether they let the rooms for £21 or £5 per week. There is so much rigmarole attached to this legislation. As long as you let to separate tenants you can let one room exclusively and up to five separate rooms for joint use with the pensioner owner.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dmr)’). - Oder! To which clause is the honorable member now referring?
– I am speaking in relation to the various provisions-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - The Committee now has before it the remainder of the Bill - clauses 15 to 33. - I would like to know to which clause the honorable member is relating his remarks.
– I am dealing with those clauses which relate to computation of income. I am referring to those clauses which have regard to the means test. Clause 20 relates to computation of income. There are references in the clauses now before the Committee to conditions governing the granting of a widow’s pension. All this involves administration. What I wish to point out is that it is very difficult not only for pensioners, but even for members of Parliament to deal with these matters in the absence of written statements. We have been disconcerted on contacting the Department to find that the interpretation on a particular matter has changed. Take the position of a pensioner going abroad: Many pensioners would never know - they can never know because it is not written anywhere - that they may let their home and get S40 a week for it up to 12 months. This is an administrative procedure. There is nobody to tell a sick pensioner who has to enter a private hospital and pay $40 a week for his care there that he may for up to 12 months - the period is subject to review after 12 months - let his home for whatever rental he can obtain. This is a continuing difficulty. Some of us from time to time make our own Press releases to try to keep pensioners informed. A whole realm of social services laws is dependent on changing administrative decision and interpretation. Those pensioners who happen to know what is going on are infinitely better off than are those who are under a misunderstanding as to what they are entitled to do.
I should like to refer now to the permissible earnings of invalid pensioners. I raise the subject generally. It has been raised before. The income component of the merged means test as it affects age, invalid and widows’ pensions, has been unchanged. I raise the matter at this stage particularly as it affects people who work in sheltered workshops. Representations have been made to the Government and to a Government committee by the Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled or, if not directly by the Council, through the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association, asking that the Government increase the amount of permissible earnings of people employed in sheltered workshops. I see no reason why the means test generally, as applied to invalid pensions, should not be eased. I know that there have been some administrative changes regarding how much an invalid pensioner may earn and still be classified as an invalid. Broadly speaking, subject to the property component of the merged means test, an invalid pensioner, like an age pensioner or a class B widow, is still able to earn only $7 a week in income. Many people in sheltered workshops could earn more than $7 a week and still qualify medically as invalids. Special provision is made in sheltered workshops for this sort of thing.
– Order! Which clause is the honorable member dealing with now? I cannot find this subject dealt with in the clauses before the Committee.
– I had hoped that the latitude of the discussion would enable me to deal with the matter under a discussion of the means test.
– I have allowed the honorable member a lot of latitude. We are discussing clauses 15 to 33, in which 1 see no reference to sheltered workshops.
– It would appear that I will have to resume my seat. But first let me express my extreme regret that the Bill does nothing towards providing capital subsidies, easing the means test or contributing towards running costs of sheltered workshops.I will have to hope for another opportunity to raise a plea on behalf of sheltered workshops. I express my extreme regret that the Government has not made any provision along the lines requested by these worthy bodies.
.- Under clause 27 I rise to put to the Minister what may be a somewhat unusual case. I do not know whether the Minister is aware that in some States - certainly in Tasmania - provision is made to care for exservicemen who do not qualify for a war pension or a totally and permanently incapacitated pension, but who qualify for a social services pension. I refer in particular to Gellibrand House in Tasmania. Gellibrand House has operated since the First World War under a special charter. The home is doing a first class job but it is forced to take from exservice patients who are qualified social services pensioners almost all of their pension to pay for their upkeep, leaving the pensioners very little with which to buy extra necessities that they may need. I ask the Minister to look into this matter to see whether something can be done for these social service pensioners who are exservicemen and who find themselves in need when they are forced to enter homes of this kind.
– I would like to refer to a few of the matters raised by honorable members. As to the matter raised by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), I will look into it and see whether particular consideration can be given to those ex-servicemen who are recipients of social service pensions. I am aware that homes such as Gellibrand House are doing an excellent job for these people. I appreciate the honorable member’s concern for them.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to the implications of the extension from 4 to 12 weeks of the payment of pension after a person is discharged from a mental hospital. This applies not only to a person vho is in receipt of a pension but now has also been extended to cover sickness benefits. This means that there is now not only the pension payable, but if applicable under the means test and otherwise there can be a sickness benefit payable. The reason for the original suspension of the pension was that whereas persons who are admitted to a normal hospital have not a relationship with a State agency which involves the acquisition of their fiscal positions and their administration by a government officer, a person in a mental hospital has such a relationship. In fact, in most State mental hospitals there is an officer - be he the Master in Lunacy, the Registrar in Lunacy, or whatever name may be given to him by a State - who takes over the assets of the persons admitted to the mental hospitals. The result of this has been that traditionally the Commonwealth has felt that the idea of supporting mental hospitals might be very worth while, but that it should not be done through the social service legislation.
The Commonwealth has felt that if there is a case to support mental hospitals, it should be done either through the reimbursement agreement or in some other direct way. As the honorable member will be aware, there is the States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Act through which the Commonwealth makes funds available to State Governments specifically for capital provisions for mental institutions. The intention in extending the period in the legislation from 4 to 12 weeks is to cover as nearly as possible all persons who are voluntarily admitted to mental hospitals, plus a substantial percentage of the shorter term patients who are committed to the hospitals. The reason is that our social service legislation is not designed in any way to inhibit persons from entering mental hospitals.
With the general broadening of public appreciation of the nature of mental illness there is a realisation by the Commonwealth, as there is by State Governments, that it is necessary to give every encouragement to persons, be they pensioners or persons from any other section of the community, to be admitted into these hospitals for whatever period is necessary so that they can receive treatment. The idea of this extension is to give patients the advantage when they come out of hospital of getting the back pay of their pension. While the patients are is hospital the State Governments maintain the hospitals through their normal financial operations, and when the patient comes out the pension is available directly for the pensioner’s own welfare. On the other hand, if the pension were made available while the pensioner was in hospital a substantial percentage of it would presumably be acquired by the State Government. Certainly it would immediately be taken over by the Master in Lunacy and, presumably, the bigger proportion of it would be used then for the purposes of the State Government and not for the advantage of the individual pensioner. For this reason it is felt that the extension from 4 to 12 weeks will substantially assist the pensioner. This is the objective of the Commonwealth Government in this instance. Although some persons will not be covered, the 12 week period will cater for a substantial percentage. The 77.1 per cent, which I mentioned in my second reading speech was the percentage of patients committed to mental hospitals in New South Wales - not the voluntary patients. They form a substantially greater percentage. I believe that honorable members will agree that this does go a considerable way towards covering this field which previously, perhaps, was not adequately catered for.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) mentioned the distinction between mental hospitals and, 1 think he called them, convalescent and nursing homes for age pensioners; in other words, ordinary hospitals in which mental patients are sometimes treated. To a considerable extent the Commonwealth Government is dependent upon the classification of the hospital by the State Government in this respect. I have referred to the States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Act. It is through that Act that sums are provided for mental hospitals. Other hospitals are not specifically catered for by means of a direct capital grant; they are, on the other hand, catered for through the tax reimbursement grant. A percentage of the tax reimbursement grant is available for hospitals, along with education and all the normal financial obligations of a State Government. Consequently, the distinction between a person in a mental hospital and a person who is treated in other than a mental hospital is one which merely relates back to the definition by the State Government. This is something which is not specifically within the control of the Department of Social Services.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) mentioned a number of questions with respect to the elimination from the Social Services Act of all references to Aboriginal natives of Australia. With respect to funeral benefits he mentioned section 56 of the Act. The honorable member will recall that last year section 56 was replaced by section 83c which specifically states that funeral benefit will be available to a pensioner where he is responsible for the payment of the funeral expenses. As with all other sections of the Act, an Aboriginal native will be entitled, equally with any other resident of Australia, within the terms of the Act. The effect of eliminating the words “Aboriginal natives of Australia “ from the Act is that persons who are Aboriginal natives are entitled equally with everyone else. This means that within the interpretation of the Act, if they are responsible for the funeral expenses and they can be demonstrated to have been responsible, even though somebody else might have paid the actual funeral fee, they are entitled to the $40 funeral benefit in the same way as any other resident of Australia. An Aboriginal native is equally entitled within the interpretation of section 83c. I do not know whether this answers the doubts expressed by the honorable member. If it will make it clearer for him I will give him a written explanation which he can use within his electorate.
– I was referring to institutions or departments.
– If an institution or a State Department of Aboriginal Welfare pays the funeral expenses it would be necessary for the Aboriginal pensioner to show that he was in fact responsible for the funeral expenses. Unless he can show that he is responsible for the funeral expenses lie cannot receive the S40. If he is not responsible the $40 would not be payable to him. The other case mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie related to the unemployment benefit. To the best of my knowledge and understanding there is no specific provision in the Act which states that the unemployment benefit may be paid at a rate less than that specified in the Act.’ I say this subject to going through the Act in detail, but that is my recollection of the provisions. This means that there is no legislative enactment which provides that the unemployment benefit can be paid at a rate less than that set down in the Act.
I believe the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) went a little beyond the ambit of the section of the Act with which we are particularly concerned at this point of time in mentioning some persons who perhaps should be entitled to something in addition to the present invalid pension. The invalid pension and the degree of assistance given to persons who, while on that pension, are unable to work in part time employment are matters which are the constant concern of the Department. We have made a survey of the various sheltered workshops throughout Australia, but it is not easy to devise a way in which we can best help the wide range of persons in receipt of invalid pensions or sickness benefits who are working within sheltered workshops. However, I can assure honorable members that the matter is still subject to examination. In the meantime we hope we will be able to devise a continuing way of helping these people, as we have done in the past. Accordingly I commend the remainder of the Bill to the Committee.’
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Sinclair) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15th September (vide page 926), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
.- This Bill is complementary to the Repatriation Bill. The Opposition does not oppose this legislation but perhaps I should comment that the amendments to the Repatriation Bill which will be proposed by the Opposition will apply also to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill. Normally this Bill follows the Repatriation Bill. Honorable members on this side of the Parliament prefer that procedure because it gives us an opportunity to discuss the broader field of repatriation, but that is not possible in this instance. We appreciate the difficulties which face the Government on this issue. We hope that the Government will continue to be faced with the problem of overcoming a very worthwhile amendment to the Repatriation Bill which has been accepted in another place.
Most of the increased payments proposed in the Repatriation Bill which is shortly to be introduced into this House will apply to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill. In the first place, the special rate pension payable to an ex-mariner whose disability has been accepted as being due to war service will be increased by $4 a fortnight. This pension, of course, is paid for total and permanent incapacity. Secondly, the intermediate rate pension will be increased by $2 a fortnight. In addition, there will be an increase in the rate of pension payable to widows of deceased mariners whose death has been regarded as being due to war service. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill will also be amended to provide for medical treatment for student children up to the age of 21 years. This will bring the legislation into line with the provisions already contained in the Repatriation Act. Therefore, in view of the fact tha: the proposals outlined by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) already have been provided for in the Repatriation Bill and will be the subject of debate at a later stage, the Opposition does not oppose the legislation now before us.
I had hoped that provision would have been made for further amendment to this legislation. No doubt the Minister will recall that in the debate on this legislation last year I suggested that a worthwhile amendment would be to provide for a full right of appeal to ex-mariners who had applied to have a disability accepted as being due to war service but whose application subsequently had been refused by the Repatriation Department. I am sure honorable members are aware that the present procedure is for an ex-mariner fo apply through the Repatriation Department to have his disability accepted as being due to war service. If, after consideration by the Repatriation Board, the application is rejected, the ex-mariner then has a further right of appeal, not to the Repatriation Commission, not to an entitlement tribunal, but to the special committee set up under this legislation.
I pointed out to the Minister last year during the debate that it would be advisable to extend to ex-mariners the same right of appeal as exists under the Repatriation Act. 1 suggested that if an ex-mariner’s application was rejected by the Repatriation Board as not being due to war service he should then have the right of further appeal in turn to the Repatriation Commission and finally to an entitlement tribunal. On that occasion the Minister told me that the special committee had been set up to consider all the evidence presented to the Repatriation Board by the ex-mariner and to make a decision on appeal. The Minister will appreciate, as will all honorable members, that this does not provide to the exmariner the right to appear before a tribunal to state his case in person or to have an advocate appear for him. An ex-serviceman whose application has been dismissed in the first instance by the Repatriation Board and, secondly, by the Repatriation Commission, is then entitled to apply to an entitlement tribunal and to have an advocate before that body. However, this further right of appeal is denied to the ex-mariner. It is the opinion of honorable members on this side of the House that this further right of appeal should be extended to ex-mariners.
I have no doubt that their cases are fully considered by the appropriate committee established for this purpose under the terras of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act but it is wrong to deny to these men the further right of appeal. I merely make my suggestion at this stage. As I have said, I had hoped tha: the legislation, in addition to the proposed increases in rates, would have provided for this further right of appeal so I suggest to the Minister that this matter might be further considered by his Department. I am sure that if this matter is fully considered, as it ought to be, by the Minister for Shipping and Transport, he will agree that the same right of appeal to an entitlement tribunal as is enjoyed by ex-servicemen ought to be extended to ex-mariners. I hope that when this Act is to be further amended, the Minister who happens to be the responsible authority at the time will give consideration to this matter and to the abolition of the committee which now considers the claims of ex-mariners.
.- 1 do not rise to oppose the Bill; I rise to make a few observations and to request the Government to give further consideration to the principle of this legislation. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has asked that mariners be given the right of appeal to tribunals as is done under the Repatriation Act. But before that is done, I think we should extend the entitlement of mariners. Under the Act at present they are entitled to assistance only if they are suffering from or have suffered from gunshot wounds. I think it is reasonable to say that at the present time the Repatriation Department spends most of its money in paying pensions to ex-servicemen who were not wounded but who have suffered some disease or disability as a result of war service.
I do not think that the Minister for Shipping and Transport should be the Minister responsible for administering this legislation. In saying that, let me emphasise that I have nothing against the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). I make the suggestion because I think that this is a straight out repatriation matter. Responsibility for its administration has been wished on to successive Ministers for Shipping and Transport not only by this Government but also by the Labour Government during its eight years of office from 1941 to 1949. This is just something that has followed on year after year.
I remind honorable members that during the war, merchant seamen were in what was classed as a protected industry. They could not go anywhere else. They could not join the Navy, the Army or the Air Force. They were merchant seamen, and they went to war and suffered all the hazards and strains of war. Yet, at the present time they are entitled to compensation only if they were wounded. To me, that seems odd. I think that in fairness to all the people who served, everyone should be treated alike. Being an ex-mariner, I find myself placed in the position that, no matter what electorate people may live in, they come to see me on matters such as those about which I am speaking. They say: “ You understand the position. Will you take this up? “ But I cannot take up matters for them unless they are covered by law. These people are not covered by law. No matter who may be in government, unless provision is made in the Act, these people cannot receive any compensation. I hope that, as the years go by this matter will be reviewed, not by the Department of Shipping and. Transport but by the Repatriation Department because this is really a responsibility of that Department.
It seems most odd that, for instance, if a soldier is injured on a troop ship, perhaps while playing squash or quoits, he is entitled to compensation under the Repatriation Act, but the captain of the troop ship, the man who is in charge of the operation will receive nothing if he suffers from heart disease caused by the strain of war; he is not entitled to anything because he is not covered by the Repatriation Act.
Everyone who has served should be treated alike. Recently a gentleman who was second officer on the hospital ship “ Manunda “ came to see me. I think this is topical because at the present time there is being written in the Press a series of articles about the bombing of Darwin. This gentleman is suffering from a severe heart condition. The doctors say that in their opinion his heart condition was war caused. When soldiers, sailors and airmen apply to the Repatriation Department, they go along armed with letters from their doctors saying that in their opinion the applicant’s condition could have been war caused. This gentleman is in a similar position. I asked him about his experiences in Darwin and he told me that the “ Manunda “ had been very badly bombed. He said: “ During the bombing we lowered the boats and we spent the rest of the day frantically rowing all around Darwin Harbour picking up bodies, wounded people and so on “. During his general service after the bombing of Darwin, he suffered a lot of strain. Bui as he was not wounded he is not entitled to compensation.
I realise that the Minister is only one part of the Ministry; but I hops that the Government will look at the matter again and bring the ex-mariners, who are now covered by the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, within the scope of the Repatriation Act so that they will be treated equally with members of the forces.
Since I last spoke on this subject I have received a letter from another gentleman. It is dated 23rd September 1965. This man served in the last war. I told him to put his case before the Repatriation Department. This is what he says -
With reference to a letter of appointment for interview at the Repatriation Department with their Special Magistrate on Tuesday 21st September 1965, which I kept, and going through the general routine regarding the interview, 1 was then informed, as previously, that I still did not come within the meaning of the Repatriation Act as it did not embrace the merchant seamen for service during 1939-1945.
Further, I produced a copy of the Regulations under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act 1940-64 dated 1st July 1965, signed “Henry Abel Smith, Administrator “, of which certain amendments were made, and which t have in my possession, and am still informed, as on previous occasions, that as the Seamen’s Navigation Act still stands, nothing can be done for me as it is laid down that only if I were under shell fire, injured by same, or from splinters of same, that is the only category by which I can attain the necessary benefits.
The Magistrate explained the Repatriation Act to me fairly well, for my understanding, but maintains as the Seamen’s Navigation Act stands regarding shell fire, etc., 1 cannot claim any benefits whatsoever.
This is the gentleman about whom the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has spoken in this chamber. He has been seeking assistance for a long time. He suffers from a chronic chest condition. I think it will be readily understood that when people serve for some six years under blackout conditions on ships that are battened down, they are working under great strain and it is only natural that some of them will suffer. All I ask is that merchant seamen be given the same consideration as members of the forces. If that can be done I think this Parliament will have done its duty to the merchant seamen of Australia.
.- I support the case that has been presented by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson). I think I have spoken to the man to whom he referred in his closing comments and have thus learned something of the disadvantage at which he is placed under the legislation as it stands. In 1964, the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act was amended to include provision for medical, surgical and hospital benefits for an Australian mariner for the purpose of the treatment of a war injury. The Act defines a war injury as follows - “ war injury “ means a personal injury - (a) caused by -
The next subsection of the same section states where and in what circumstances an injury must have occurred for a seaman to be eligible for pension. The injury may have occurred on board ship or elsewhere. The man of whom I speak would seem to be entitled to and desirous of medical treatment, but, under the terms of this measure, he would be unable to get it as a benefit though he might require it urgently. There are any number of ways in which a man’s service, without his having been injured or wounded by enemy action, may have reduced him to a very low state of health. This is especially so with seamen who may be required to undergo many privations. They may be cast adrift in a small boat, wrecked or subjected to many other harsh experiences. Many of us recall that after the First World War, there was published a poem entitled “The Likes of They “, containing the following lines -
A man who has clung to a drifting oar,
And watched for a sail all day,
He won’t forget when there ain”t no war,
I shall not quote the concluding words, which are hardly parliamentary. The meaning was that a man who has clung to a drifting oar for a long time may be left in a state of ill health and perhaps now cannot get the repatriation benefits to which he appears to be entitled. 1 am not in close touch with these matters, because 1 have not read the principal Act carefully. However, it appeared to me that the honorable member for Batman put up a sound case. I have been in touch with a man who really suffered and who requires the benefits available under the Act now. Therefore, I thought it was my place to speak on this measure. I hope 1 am right in my interpretation of the Act, though it is possible that I am not. I am following the same line of argument that was taken by the honorable member for Batman. He has a wide experience of mariners and the things that concern them. Like everyone else in this House. I listen carefully when he speaks on subjects such as this. I trust that if what 1 have said about the Act is correct, the Government will consider earnestly the remarks made by the honorable member for Batman and what 1 have said in support of the case that he has presented.
– in reply - Mr. Acting Speaker, .1 thank the House for the relatively smooth passage that it has so far given to this Bill. 1 would like to reply very briefly to the two points that have been made concerning it. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said, that he believed that seamen should be entitled to the benefit of the same kind of chain of appeals as is available to exservicemen under the terms of the Repatriation Act. This proposition is a hardy annual. It is advanced time and time again. There is a simple explanation for the attitude that prevails. A seaman’s entitlement to a pension depends on a much narrower question of fact than does that of an ex-serviceman. A seaman must have a war injury that comes within the existing definition in the principal Act. A seaman’s war injury is much more easily ascertained than that of an ex-serviceman in many instances and the facts surrounding it relate to a much more limited field. So it has always been considered that it is not really necessary, in order to determine the genuineness of a claim by a seaman, to subject it to the same kind of chain of appeals as applies to a claim by an ex-serviceman which could arise many years after he had left the forces and which would not depend on so narrow a set of circumstances as is provided for in the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
This brings me to the second point, which was raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). They suggested that in any event a seaman should be entitled to repatriation benefits on basically the same grounds as those that apply to ex-servicemen. If this proposition were accepted, the scope of the entitlement of seamen would be widened considerably. I agree that the honorable member for Batman has always argued these matters with a strong strain of compassion and sympathy for seamen. But there has always been - and I imagine that there always will be - a very wide distinction drawn between members of the armed forces and persons who, though making in some way an essential contribution to the war effort, were still civilians. Merchant seamen did a magnificent job during the war. There is no question about that. But so did many others in numerous civilian occupations. Seamen had the advantage of serving under civilian conditions and they were protected by special industrial awards. They were not subject to the same kind of compulsions and deprivations that ordinary servicemen underwent. For this reason, the scope of the nation’s obligations to seamen, I believe, is generally acknowledged to be considerably less than that of its obligations to persons who were actually members of the armed forces. Consequently, the definition of “ war injury “ with respect to the entitlement of a seaman to pension is considerably narrower than is the case under the terms of the Repatriation Act. But I do not believe that it is so narrow as to exclude a person such as was mentioned by the honorable member for Mallee - a man who was left clinging to an oar when his ship was wrecked by enemy action. The definition of “ war injury “ is expressed in these terms - “ war injury “’ means a personal injury - (a) caused by -
If a seaman’s ship were sunk under him and he were left adrift and subsequently suffered ill effects from his experience, the chain of causation would be sufficiently well established, I think, to entitle him to some kind of compensation if he could link his disability with the doing of the particular act by the enemy. So I suggest that the plea by the honorable member for Mallee was probably a little wide of the mark, though I understand that he was actuated by sympathetic motives similar to those of the honorable member for Batman.
– The case that I mentioned was not a specific case.
– I understand that the honorable member was talking in generalities. I want to make it clear that the kind of general situation that he mentioned would be covered by the principal Act. This is no new situation. It has been argued time and time again in this chamber. I just want to place on record the Government’s thoughts on this matter and, indeed, the thinking of all governments since the original enactment of the principal Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 21st September (vide page 1155).
Department of Immigration.
Proposed expenditure, $43,606,000.
.- In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Immigration, I want to mention three specific matters. The first matter is, I believe, a lack of compassion on the part of the authorities in dealing with the cases of parents of migrants who come to Australia and later find themselves in financial difficulties. I will speak also about some aspects of restricted immigration and about the call up of aliens. lt is well known that a very large number of migrants have come to Australia. Most of them are of an age that enables them to be very active in productive work. They perform in Australia a very large part of the heavy unskilled and semi-skilled work from which the community has benefited during the period of migration. Naturally, when such migrants come to Australia, they are keen to bring their parents here, too. Many of the parents are not able to perform work of the kind that their children do and some of them cannot work at all. The Department of Immigration is very conservative and has a very narrow attitude to the parents of migrants. They must undergo a pretty rigorous medical examination. If they are permitted to come and if there is any possibility of their not being able to maintain themselves while in Australia, or sometimes even when that possibility is not evident, the children in Australia who nominated them are required to sign guarantees that they will be responsible forever more for the maintenance of their parents after arrival in this country. This is almost migration blackmail. When parents are overseas and their children are here, it is natural that the children will be most eager to get the parents here. The requirement that they sign a guarantee is not much better than blackmail. They sign, but when the parents get here it is very often found that at the ?ce of 45 and over they cannot set a job. Who at that age can find a job easily? Even in Australia with its present level of employment, it is not easy for a person of 45 years and over to get a job. Tt is difficult indeed, and it is particular^ difficult for people who have lived all their lives in a foreign country.
Sometimes when the parents arrive in Australia, they find that the financial position of their children has changed. When they were nominated and the guarantee was signed, the children may not have been married, may have married since and may be maintaining two, three, four or even five children. The guarantee may have been signed a year or two earlier so that the parents could come here, but since then a significant change may have occurred in the financial position of the children. But the Department of Immigration will require the guarantee to be honoured, lt is produced and, in the face of such a guarantee, it is extremely difficult for the parents to get any kind of social service benefit. Sometimes a special benefit is granted, but where there is a guarantee it is extremely difficult to obtain any social service benefit. I think there is a considerable lack of compassion here. What would it cost if every one of these cases was met as it should be met? I believe these people should be given some assistance. Any person who is a permanent resident of Australia and who intends to remain here permanently should be entitled to all the social services. But a migrant is not entitled to all the social services even if he is naturalised, although at naturalisation ceremonies he is said to be entitled to all the social services. He is not, and certainly a person who has migrated to Australia in the circumstances I have outlined is not entitled to social services.
There is another special cause of difficulty in addition to that I have just mentioned, and that is the position of migrants who have been the victims of accidents - road accidents or accidents at work, lt is difficult for an Australian who knows the social position and the legal position better than a migrant does to look after himself in circumstances such as this, but migrants are the victims of very special difficulties in these cases. I know of migrants who have been almost completely incapacitated for work but who are not eligible for social service benefits. They have sustained injuries in road accidents. They may have a common law claim, a claim under statute or a workers’ compensation claim. As we know, these cases often pile up for months and months, and sometimes for years. Sometimes two years elapse before any payment is made. If migrants in these circumstances have been paid social service benefits, they are frequently required to repay them when
Another subject I want to speak about for a few minutes is that of restricted migration. I think the migration of three classes of persons is unreasonably restricted. They are students in some instances, coloured persons in some instances and those against whom is held some political discrimination. These are three kinds of immigration in which today restrictions are often narrowly applied. The students I mean are not students at university level but students from areas around Australia, such as the Pacific Islands, New Guinea, Singapore and Indonesia - countries close to Australia with which we should be concerned to have the best possible relations. In some cases, young students want . to come to Australia at about intermediate certificate level or leaving certificate level, but their education is not strictly comparable with the equivalent standard in Australia. I have recently had three cases of students from Fiji who would have successfully completed their studies if they had been given the opportunity to come here and to have the advantage of a better leaving certificate course than they could obtain in Fiji. I think the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) is aware of one of these cases, because he, in fact, confirmed a decision of the Department that the student concerned should not be allowed to come to Australia.
– 1 was quite right, too.
– You can have your opinion, but, for a country as wealthy and as big as this, it is a miserable attitude for a Minister to take, when he denies, as he did in this instance, the opportunity for a student to come to Australia.
– On the background, it was rightly done
– What about other cases?
– Let us deal with them as they arise. You have here one human case, one person, and do not try to allow that case to disappear amongst the cases of millions. You are dealing with one girl, one person. But the Minister has given himself away. He has said that he made that decision not on the merits of the case of that girl, but because of some thoughts he had about the millions of others who might want to come here. That is the explanation for his decision. It was not a judgment of that one case; it is an instance of the flood gate mentality that apparently men such as the Minister still have.
– How would you stop the flood?
– I know the Minister says there are people in South East Asia who are dying to come to Australia. But only a few of them want to come here and they have some general link or some family association here. The millions of people in South East Asia are not dying to come to Australia. They want to live in their own countries. They are proud of their own countries, just as we are proud of ours. But the Minister refuses to give one girl permission to come to Australia, in the belief that if he allowed her to come here millions would want to come from Asia. This shows the shallowness of your reasoning.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Failes). - Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– Perhaps the Minister might be told to stop interjecting.
– Tt is all right, I have his goat.
– You have the goat. This is the first time I have seen one sitting on a chair.
– Is it? It is the first time I have seen one standing up and talking.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! Interjections will cease.
– Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The other matter I want to talk about relates to coloured persons. There are quite a number of cases that arise from time to time, particularly concerning persons from places like Ceylon, Egypt and Hong Kong who, without any shadow of doubt, could maintain a high standard of living and income in Australia, but who are refused permission to come to Australia. The only possible ground for the refusal is the colour of their skin. I think this has to come to an end in Australia. From time to time the Minister has said that his Government does not have a white Australia policy. I contradict that. His Government does have a white Australia policy. Any country is justified in maintaining an immigration policy which provides that unless migrants can be reasonably well assimilated into the country without endangering it or endangering the cause of immigration - as they might well do if not properly assimilated - such migrants shall not be admitted. Everyone would agree with that rule; but we go beyond that in Australia. We reject people who could be well assimilated in Australia and who would have a higher standard of living than the average person living in Australia. We reject them because of the colour of their skin. This is morally wrong and it is indefensible.
We reject persons also because of political discrimination. The most common cases concern persons from Greece. At the end of the last war there was a movement that had been fighting against the Nazi occupation of Greece. Its members continued to fight for a year or so afterwards against some of the ruling cliques forced upon them. People associated with this movement arc now refused permission to come to Australia. Not only are these people refused permission, but so are their sons and other relatives, obviously because oi: this association that now goes back over 20 years. This kind of discrimination is totally unjustified. The difficulty with this situation, as with colour discrimination, is that one cannot put his finger on it and really dis cover the reason for the rejection. Until about two years ago the Department was prepared to give information about the reasons for rejections, but now it acts like a clam. It will no longer give an explanation.
– It is because of the new Minister for Immigration.
– I think the Minister may well have had something to do with it. The next point I want to mention is the alien call up. The position now is that the Government says it is quite within the bounds of international law to call up migrants for compulsory national service. I have referred honorable gentlemen to statements made by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), and I want to know why this change of attitude has taken place. Was Sir Robert Menzies right when, on 11th November 1964, he said -
It is quite all right; we were at cross purposes here. The fact in relation to aliens is that we do not propose to apply to them, they still being aliens, any compulsory conscription except that they will register and, if called up, they will, on establishing that they are aliens and therefore owing no allegiance to this country, be indefinitely deferred. That is perhaps a long winded way of saying that they will not have this duty imposed on them while they are aliens. I think honorable members ought to think a little more carefully about this matter before they adhere to the principle that an alien in this country should be compelled into Army service.
That was the former Prime Minister speaking, and I think he had a great deal more respect for international law, and other kinds of law, than have many of his colleagues of that time. The Minister for Labour and National Service of that time, who is now the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), was quite clear about this, because on 17th November 1964 he said -
A distinction must be drawn between migrants and aliens. If migrants are British subjects or are naturalised the law applies to them in the same way as it does to a native born Australian. Under the rules of international law aliens are not and should not be liable to service in the armed forces of a country other than their own without the acquiescence of their own government.
He also said -
The principle of international law to which I have referred is accepted in the United Kingdom and also in the United States.
On 17th November 1964 the Minister for Labour and National Service, now the
Treasurer, believed it was contrary to international law to call up aliens, and he pointed out that in Britain and the United Stales of America this principle of international law is maintained. What has caused the change here since then? Where is the opinion, where is the evidence, which now allows the Government to say it is lawful - not contrary to international law - to call up aliens? We have been given no evidence. 1 have asked the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) at question time about the change, but he has merely said that he has had advice to this effect. From whom? Who has given this advice? What is the foundation for this unjust move by the Government? lt is unjust, because migrants have a right to decide whether they are going to become nationals of this country. They have a right to consider that question over a period o” time, and five years was specified as the period of time over which they could exercise this right. To take away this right from them is an immoral practice. I should think the evidence is that it is quite contrary to international law. I point out that both the former Prime Minister, and the present Treasurer, were quite clear that it was contrary to international law, and because of the spirit that prevailed in the comity of nations over this matter they were not against it; but they choose now to change their view. Why is this? What is the reason for it?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 think the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) has made out a case, and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) ought, in the interests of the community and of this Committee, try to explain, if it is possible, this remarkable change in attitude that has taken place since November 1964 when the former Prime Minister, an eminent lawyer, Sir Robert Menzies, as well as the present Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) said that as far as they could see it was contrary to international law to call up aliens for national service. We have seen a remarkable change in the Government’s attitude. We, and the people, are entitled to something better than the very weak explanations that we have received at question time from the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden).
Some of the decisions that the Minister for Immigration has made concerning personal applications to enter this country, especially in respect of Asian people, have damaged our image. I know this full well from personal experience on a visit to Asia last year. This matter was put to me forcefully, particularly in the Philippines, a country with which we are friendly and with which we wish to remain friendly. The Filipinos do not understand our attitude and are very angry about it. The individual decisions that the Minister makes tend only to anger them more. However, the immigration scheme itself has worked tremendously well in developing our country. Surely any nation’s most precious resource is people. The inflow of some two million or more people has given Australia an infusion of new blood, of new customs and of new ideas. We need these new citizens and it is incontestable that they have changed the face of the nation. Indeed, the immigration programme has been the greatest single factor in our growth and in our economic development.
The influence of these newcomers has spread over all sections of the community. Indeed, the newcomers have chanced the very life of all Australians and of our whole society. They have changed our eating habits, dress, sports and drinking. To walk into a delicatessen in any capital city and see the liverwurst, schnitzel and other foods brings to mind the tremendous change that has come over our habits and our society generally. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury), who is sitting at the table, is one of a number of Ministers who have helped our immigration programme. I pay a tribute to a former Minister for Immigration, the originator of the immigration scheme, the Honorable A. A. Calwell, the Leader of the Australian Labour Party and the Leader of the Opposition. He had the foresight, as did the Chifley Labour Government of the postwar era, to plan this immigration scheme. They recognised first of all the humanitarian need of so many people, so many refugees, from war-torn Europe, who needed a home, and they offered a home to them. Secondly, the Chifley Labour Government recognised our need as a country for people to develop our resources, to develop this continent. T have the feeling, and I guess others do, too, that had we had a Liberal-Country Party Government at that time our population would be under 10 million now.
Obviously Liberal and Country Party governments lack the necessary foresight and planning. They have shown themselves to be composed of people who merely follow along a path that has already been marked out. This lack of foresight and planning was quite evident when the Snowy Mountains scheme was introduced. Surely honorable members on the Government side will remember how the members of the Opposition at that time, being of the Liberal and Country Parties, boycotted the opening of the scheme because they were opposed to it. When we travel to Cooma and see the avenue of flags of 30-odd nations whose people have participated in the various Snowy Mountains projects ‘we realise how the two great creations of the Labour Government, the migration scheme and the Snowy Mountains scheme, have been complementary. Without the migration scheme the Snowy Mountains scheme could not have gone on. Without the people of other lands to participate in it the Snowy Mountains scheme could not have reached the last lap that it is on now, being due for completion in the next few years.
But for all the success of the migration scheme I have one great reservation about it and I feel one great disappointment. I am disappointed because the great mass of migrants have flocked to the capital cities. I think it is fair to give an estimate that some 90 per cent, of newcomers to Australia have gone to reside in the capital cities. In my view this is not good for our community and I believe that many of those migrants would, if they had been given a reasonable choice and not been forced to follow the path of economic necessity, have chosen to live in a rural area, a country town or a provincial city, rather than in a capital city. There has been no real effort to attract migrants to country centres, and this is the particular aspect of the immigration programme that I wanted to touch on this evening.
It may be said that the major proportion of Australian industry is in the capital cities and that because of employment opportunities in industry the migrants naturally flow to the capital cities. This is true to some extent, but the fact is that these days there are employment opportunities in many country towns and provincial cities and that there has been no real attempt by the Government to attract migrants to the country. 1 believe there should be a real effort made to attract them to the country where, I believe, they could be better assimilated. Instead of having massive migrant hostels in the suburbs of the capital cities, each of them housing perhaps 1,000 people, there should be spread amongst the provincial cities and country towns smaller migrant hostels housing perhaps 50 or at most 100 persons. In this way we would provide opportunities for assimilation of the migrants into country areas and rural districts. The migrants would have a better opportunity of settling into a happier life in the country areas.
I understand that the average hostel in the cities holds between 800 and 1,000 migrants. The conditions in those hostels are better than they were in past years, and this is only as it should be because the migration scheme has been in operation for about 20 years and it is time things were a lot better than they were formerly. They are still, f believe, not up to a satisfactory standard, especially when migrants in present day conditions have to live in hostels for long periods. The Minister may say that they are not supposed to live in migrant hostels for long periods, and in reply I would ask: “ Why do they stay there? “ Of course the essence of the problem is that many migrants with young families just cannot afford to pay board at the migrant hostels and save enough money to buy land and put a deposit on a home. This is why so many of them live in hostels for such long periods, not for just a few months until they find their feet and decide to get out, but for periods of a couple of years. The fact is that our Liberal-Country Party Government has failed them. The cost-price spiral has forced many of them out of the home market entirely. How can a young migrant pay board - and admittedly it is not a massive amount - for himself, his wife and family and save £2,000 for a block of land in an outer suburb and then find a deposit of more than £1,000 to put down on a home? We need a greater effort by this Government first of all to reduce the deposit gap, and secondly to control the price of land in our metropolitan areas.
This is most necessary because, quite frankly, we have reached a ridiculous situation when a total outlay of about $13,000 is necessary for a home and land. The price of land has increased to the stage at which the block of land costs one-third of the total outlay for house and land, lt costs half as much as the house itself. This is quite ridiculous and it is why so many migrants cannot settle happily in our country. 1 believe that as well as this control over land speculation - and no-one can convince me it does not take place - we ought to have a concerted effort to reduce interest rates to help migrants to save enough money to buy homes. I do not think we should be satisfied to have the great bulk of our future migrants follow their predecessors to the capital cities. What I am suggesting is that not all of these migrants will want to live in the major cities. I think that if they were given the opportunity many of them would prefer to live in provincial cities or country towns. Certainly many will want to live in cities but I am sure that some of them go to the cities out of sheer necessity when they really would like to live in rural areas. The Government ought to make an effort to ari mct these people to country towns, and I have no doubt that after 26th November a Labour government will do so. 1 am sure that this mass migration to the capital cities is not in the best interests of our nation or our community. 1 have spoken of this cramming into our sprawling cities on a number of occasions in this chamber. When we have migrants coming here who want to start a fresh life, then surely in the interests of balanced development of our country we should make an effort to get them to live, if they want to do so, in rural areas. No such effort is being made, and to me this represents the great disappointment of our immigration programme over the years. If we built hostels of limited size such as I have already suggested in country towns and provincial cities many of these people could be absorbed into the towns and surrounding districts Migrants ought to be asked before they leave their countries of origin, or perhaps on their way to Australia, whether th>‘y wish to live in a capital city or whether they have a preference for country life. 1 do not for a moment suggest that we should force people to go to the country. This would be silly. But if they show a preference for life in the country we should make an effort to help them to live there.
I feel quite strongly about the fact that no concerted effort has been made to do this over the years. There are opportunities for employment in some country areas. I know of one factory in my electorate which could at this moment employ 20 trained textile operatives. Why cannot the Department of Immigration do something about recruiting such people? We are told that it is difficult, that these people are required in Britain and various European countries. We know it is difficult, but if we could recruit them why can we not have hostels in the place that f speak of, the city of Bendigo, capable of holding 50 or 100 people. We could house 20 such operatives and their families in that hostel for a few months until we could build houses for them or they could save money to provide themselves with houses in the area. This is a matter that should be examined by the Minister, and I am certain it will be examined by a Labour government. There should be a greater effort to see that migrants are absorbed into our country communities. I feel sure that for many of them a much happier life would result.
.- -I want to reply to one or two things that have been said in this debate. First of all, most speakers eventually got back to the coming election. The speech of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) was no exception. Before I deal with that I will refer to the speech made by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). The honorable member for Yarra took great exception to the Government changing its mind regarding the call up of foreigners in Australia for national service. I interjected at the time and asked why some members of the Australian Labour Party were so much against their call up when they had previously advocated it in this House. The honorable member said in reply that two wrongs did not make a right, which is very true. But he demanded that the Government explain why it had changed its mind on this subject. He did not offer any explanation as to why the Labour Opposition had changed its position. Honorable members opposite were very loud in their protests about why Australian men should go overseas and fight for foreigners in Australia. That is what Labour members said.
– Who said that?
– It appears in “ Hansard “ and I can quote it to the honorable member for Wills. I now refer to what the honorable member for Bendigo said. He paid tribute to the first Minister for Immigration, the Honorable A. A. Calwell. Honorable members on this side of the House have paid tribute on many occasions to the honorable member for Melbourne for the work he did in establishing the immigration scheme. Government supporters are happy to congratulate him. But whilst paying tribute to the establishment of the scheme by the honorable member for Melbourne we pay tribute also to the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman), lt is doubtful whether any Minister for Immigration has had such success in this portfolio as has the honorable member for Corio, the present Minister. He has travelled all round the world and met people in Europe and Asia to try to encourage suitable migrants to come to Australia. On many occasions he has met the migrants on arrival and spoken with them. We know the Minister is a man of very kindly nature. We know also that he has made a great success of this portfolio. Tonight I personally pay great tribute to him because he has played his part magnificently in handling a very important portfolio.
On many occasions I have stressed the same case put forward tonight by the honorable member for Bendigo, who said he would like to see more migrants go to rural areas. On some occasions - not numerous - I have put questions to the Minister asking him whether everything possible has been done to attract migrants to our rural areas. The Minister has replied that the Department of Immigration does everything possible to encourage migrants to go to country districts, but as a rule the occupations that they follow and in which they are expert are not those in which they can find work in country areas. I have considered this matter myself and have found that most of our migrants, even if they formerly lived in country areas, came from countries where there were fairly big cities located nearby. They lived adjacent to big cities which they could visit at weekends. Migrants from Italy and other countries want to live near some big city, in a suburb or some place adjacent to a city.
This seems to be the answer to the question. I believe that our migrants get every opportunity to go to the country. But after all, what we really want in Australia - and this is what the honorable member for Bendigo did not stress in his speech tonight - is decentralisation of our secondary industries. 1 believe that if we had decentralisation the idea put forward by the honorable member for Bendigo in his speech tonight, of having hostels in places such as the electorate he represents, would be admirable. There could be hostels along the same lines in other electorates.
The honorable member for Bendigo also pointed out that we should have price control over land in Australia. Well, it is very difficult to have price control of land unless there is price control in general operation throughout the country. If there were price control only on land, perhaps the people that owned land would suffer in contrast to people in other walks of life. Therefore I cannot support this contention put forward by the honorable member that there should be price control over land alone. If there were price control generally, as the A.L.P. advocates, then we would have a Socialist state. That is the real aim of the Opposition. The honorable member for Bendigo also said that the Opposition would lower interest rates in order to help migrants build houses. We do not want lower interest rates just to help migrants build houses; we want houses for all Australians. That should be the great objective - to see all Australians housed, not just migrants.
After speaking about what the Leader of the Opposition had done for immigration the honorable member for Bendigo went on to say that the Labour Party established the Snowy Mountains scheme. There has been no argument about that. I do not want to dwell on this subject, but merely want to answer this point. I came into this House in 1946. It was some little time after that - and I will provide the relevant extract from “ Hansard “ for any honorable member who wishes to see it - that I had to ask the Labour Government whether it would get down to business and start the Snowy Mountains scheme. This appears in “ Hansard “. I had to stress the matter in this chamber. I am not suggesting for one moment that my request that the Labour Government should get on with the job caused any ripple in the sur.face at all; but I say that the Labour Party was so lax in moving that it was necessary for me, a new member, to draw attention to the fact in this chamber. The Honorable A. A. Calwell, a member of the Labour Government, started the migration scheme. Since then other Ministers have done sterling work in increasing the population of this country by immigration. The Snowy Mountains scheme is a bit different, because Labour only turned the first sod; but ever since then this Government, far from boycotting it, has spent millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money to bring the scheme to the present stage, a stage that does so much for Australia in pro.viding so much power and water for secondary and primary industry.
– I wonder whether the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) and his Government would consider expanding the immigration policy of Australia so that the same sort of arrangements extended to Europeans - I refer to assisted passages, bilateral arrangements and so on - are provided for nonEuropeans; Asians, for example? Would the Government consider establishing offices in various cities in Asian countries and perhaps develop an intake of non-Europeans numbering possibly several thousand a year? Of course the Minister would not do this. He has made this quite clear. In fact, when the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) was speaking on the subject, he made such rude, almost uncontrollable, interjections that it became obvious that when it comes to a discussion about admitting non-Europeans this man displays an hysteria. Perhaps this is a symptom of the general problem facing the Government - that it has an hysterical and general fear of the “ coloured horde “. It is apparent in the Government’s foreign policy that it has a fear that “ they “ are going to flood to Australia and take over the country. It is never made clear who “ they “ are or how “ they “ are going to get here - which is very convenient. We never hear who “ they “ are but it is a very convenient if unprincipled way of exploiting the emotions of the people in an hysterical manner. At this time, although the Minister makes it abundantly clear that he will not tolerate arrangements for migrants to come here from Asian countries, a sister Commonwealth country - Canada - is in the process of extending to cover non-Europeans arrangements which now exist for the benefit of Europeans. Canada is in the process of arranging with Japan to lift the yearly intake of Japanese from about 1,000 a year to several thousand a year. Canada will establish a migration office in Manila to encourage the migration of Filipinos. I was fortunate to be a member of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party that decided after debate that it would be completely consistent with the Party’s Federal policy for a Labour government to arrange bilateral agreements on immigration with non-European countries. I have checked this with the Federal Secretary of the Party and with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam).
I pass from that aspect to ask some questions. Have we in the past in this country had a white Australia policy? Do we still have it? I think there is plenty of evidence to show that the policy has existed and still exists. In 1959, which is not very long ago, Mr. Downer, who was Minister for Immigration, said -
To describe our immigration policy in such a sweeping generalisation as “White Australia” is misleading. It imparts an innuendo of racial superiorty which in truth is absent from our natural attitude to foreigners. Few people are less conscious of differences of race and colour than contemporary Australians.
What did that mean? It meant nothing because at that time Europeans were eligible for naturalisation after five years residence but non-Europeans could not become naturalised until they had been here for 15 years. Is this not evidence of discrimination? If it is, as it obviously is, on what is it based? What is the difference between these two groups? At this time, Canada was negotiating agreements with India, Pakistan and Ceylon and had quotas for non-white migration, as did the United States.
What of discrimination in more recent times? We had the case of a six years old Fijian girl deported from this country. Why was she deported? There are questions here to which we would like answers. Undoubtedly some of the people associated with this girl were not particularly desirable types, but was this the fault of the young girl? Would she have had a better future in Australia? I wish the Minister and his Department had answered some of these questions in their deliberations. What about the case of Mr. Locsin, the Filippino bank clerk?
– 1 answered that one.
– Yes, but what was the Minister’s answer? It was that Mr. Locsin was a bank clerk and we did not seek that category of worker. But I can bring to the Minister many clerks who have migrated to this country. They were bank clerks when they left their home country and they are bank clerks in Australia. The difference is that they are European. Mr. Locsin had quite impressive academic qualifications and practical experience.
We had the case of 28 Chinese deserters from ships. The only reason they were allowed to stay in this country was that they were an embarrassment to the Government. Their homeland was Communist China. The Government would have dearly loved to force them to return to their homeland. Political implications of doing so was the only thing that stopped the Government. The Government was caught up in its own hysterical and emotional anti-Communist policies and so was stuck with these people. These 28 Chinese deserters had no opportunity of having their wives and families join them until more recent times.
What of further evidence? Let us look at deportation orders for the calendar year 1965. In that year 562 Europeans were deported. Of that number 468 were seamen deserters. Another 77 were deported largely for criminal offences. Seven were deported under section 7 of the Migration Act, to which I will refer later. There were 57 non-Europeans deported. Of that number 36 were deserting seamen. One was charged with the rather heinous offence of for the purpose of entry attempting to evade an officer, whatever that means. The other 20 were deported under section 7. Section 7 states -
This seems to be clear evidence of a heavy form of discrimination. Of the 57 nonEuropeans deported in 1965, 20 had this discretionary power of the Minister applied against them, but this same power was applied to only seven out of 562 Europeans deported. These are things the Minister should explain. If there is a reasonable explanation, not based on discrimination, the Minister should give it to the Parliament and to the community but at present there is a nasty taste in the mouths of many people who see here a heavy degree of discrimination.
What of the present? After 17 years we have radical reform. At last, non-Europeans may expect to be naturalised after five years residence, the same as Europeans. I suppose it is always consol able to the problems of people such as the Croatians that there are no impediments against their entering the country and there appears to be no concern on the part of the Government that they are able to involve themselves in various forms of private military activity. So it seems that it is better to be a rabid nationalist from Croatia than to be a moderate coloured. It is better to be a right wing extremist from Yugoslavia or elsewhere than a libertarian from Spain or Portugal. We have had too many cases brought to our notice over the years where naturalisation of people from Spain or Portugal has been prevented on the basis of a security report. I would like to know more about the origin of these reports. Did they come from Spain or Portugal? Are these the bastions of the free world the Government is always proclaiming? This introduces an interesting side consideration. It is a pity the Government would not get as concerned about the lack of freedom in places like Spain and Portugal and the oppressive policies of places like Angola as it does about other areas of the world.
The position is that we do have bilateral agreements with non-Asian countries. We have agreements with Britain, Malta, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, Spain and Belgium. There is a general assisted passage arrangement with the United States, Eire, France, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries. What are our main problems in the way of bilateral arrangements wilh Asian countries? ls it a fear of coloureds flooding into the country? This is the fear the Minister was trying to exploit a few minutes ago. With a bilateral arrangement we would have regulated immigration. All the problems in the world in terms of coloured versus non-coloured people have arisen, not out of regulated migration policies, but out of unusual accidental developments of migration rather than regulation. Here I use the word “ accidental “ in a context related to logic. It would be through regulation that we would avoid this type of thing. Do we fear economic dislocation from bilateral arrangements with Asian countries? I cannot see evidence of this. With an expanding economy one of our problems has been attracting sufficient workers to this country.
Do we fear that bilateral arrangements with Asian countries will depress working conditions? What evidence is there of this in Australia or in Canada, which is stepping up arrangements with Asian countries? We underestimate the power of the unions, the Labour Party and public opinion if we believe this. We will not allow a flood of Asian or non-European migrants into this country for the reason that we do not allow a flood of European migrants into the country.
Another argument is that Asians will form ghettos. Surely this happens when we discriminate and do not allow integration in the community. It is said that Asians will create slums. Surely slums are a symptom of an overgrown and over-crowded city which is exceeding its most economic size. The remedy is an appropriate housing policy. Was not Rachmanism the practice of Europeans and not of non-Europeans in Great Britain? Another suggestion is that there would be a tendency towards vice. I think we do pretty well in this ourselves without having to import any advisers on this subject. If we take the history of vice in terms of things like opium, we do not stand in very good stead. We of the West blasted the daylights out of the Chinese to force them to continue using opium when they wanted to stop its introduction or continuing introduction in that country.
Another suggestion is that we would take wanted skills from the country from which the person came. Surely the bilateral arrangements with these countries would avoid this. It is suggested that there would be unfair competition for our skilled artisans. The Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry said -
There appears to be a strong case for helping to meet the increasing demand for skilled labour by increasing the proportion of skilled workers in the immigration programme.
Another argument is the biological inferiority of the coloured people, the nonEuropeans. To deny this view the United Nations has published findings on this point. There have been arguments relating to Notting Hill and Watts, but these arguments completely overlook the fact that migration in the United Kingdom at that time was due to peculiar and unusual circumstances. Not the least among the factors was the large number of males who arrived without their female compatriots, that there was a shortage of housing and a tendency to exploit these people, that they were pushed into depressed living conditions and that any competition which arrived was in a low economic strata in the community. But in actual fact, as Mr. Schaffer has pointed out in the “ World Review “ of March last year -
Caught between discrimination on the one hand and the Rachmanite landlords on the other, the coloured tenant had a bitter choice in which hig isolation and ignorance failed to assist him. Thus he tended to become the centre of sharply increased hostility.
Finally I should like to recommend on this point that we make a practical start by showing that we are not a country interested in racial discrimination by introducing laws which would make it an offence to practise any form of discrimination on the basis of someone’s skin colour. This would be of great virtue and benefit, not only for non-Europeans who have come to Australia but also for our own Aboriginal population who deserve as good an opportunity as anyone else in this community.
.- I should like to take this opportunity to reply to one or two of the contentions which have been put forward tonight. I think it is fair to say that we have been treated to an infinite variety of opinion. First we had the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) abusing the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) somewhat because he felt that employment opportunities did not exist in this country to a sufficient degree to warrant encouraging migrants to Australia. A little later we had the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) beseeching further increases to the migrant intake to enable him to have 20 additional technical men employed at his factory. Just a little later we had the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) propounding his ideas on a broad spectrum of opinion from different countries, including Asia. As I intend to show later, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) has a nodding agreement with me already. I intend to quote from his speech delivered at this time last year in order to state an alternative view to the contention put forward by the honorable member for Oxley.
As if that is not bad enough, I hope that I am not betraying any confidences when 1 say that I had the opportunity to have a very responsible man from the Opposition in my office in Adelaide some time ago. He made quite plain the fact, with which 1 agree, that our policy of migration is going along very well and that we do not wish to have any great upset to this policy. I shall not at this stage bring in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in Canberra about 12 months ago, but if my memory serves me right that speech again gave a slightly different view of the same policy. So I repeat that we have heard a great variety of opinions expressed tonight. Frankly, these have left me in some amazement as to what the Opposition does stand for in terms of immigration.
If 1 may briefly agree with one or two of the contentions, I would say that I agree with some of the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo who said that it is a pity that we have not been able to attract migrants directly to country areas through the establishment of hostels in these areas. On the other hand, as I have put forward on several occasions ideas for the establishment of hostels in the electorate of Angas and as I have been in correspondence with the Minister on this matter, I can understand his difficulties. If he allows hostels in the electorate of the honorable member for Bendigo, they would be wanted in the electorate of Oxley or in the electorate of Angas. There would probably be no limit to the capital investment involved in encouraging migrants to these areas. Furthermore, although I do not altogether agree with what I am about to say, there is the problem that one must face that employment opportunities in these areas are sometimes rather seasonal and are not of sufficiently long term to be able to give permanent employment. So we can understand the view of the Minister in that regard.
I was also interested to hear some views expressed tonight on the attitude of Asian countries to our immigration policy. To get this matter into perspective I believe it is as well to go through, chapter and verse, my idea of what applies in the thinking of many of these nations. Today very many nations are rapidly developing. Also many countries in South East Asia are emerging very slowly. If we tried to tap the overall opinion in those countries it would not be like conducting a gallup poll in Australia because in those places there is the problem of a lack of mass media and a lack of communications. Many people in those places cannot write and they cannot read. Consequently, they cannot understand the newspapers. When we see an opinion expressed by the population of such a country, very frequently it is purely the opinion of a leader, a governmental man of some kind or another. It could be an opinion expressed by a party leader, in which case it could be biased. He could have a self-interest in the attitude he takes. I believe that this has happened once or twice in the past in the Philippines. Although explanations which in my mind have been logical have been put forward to explain certain circumstances, these explanations have not been given in the country concerned. This applies in the case of the Philippines where an opinion stated has not always been on a subject which has been canvassed. When one goes to these countries one frequently finds that an explanation which is logical in essence has not sifted through to the majority of thinking people in those nations.
I should like to refer also to what I regard as almost my bible on this matter. I have in mind an excellent speech made last year by the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson). I do not intend to weary the Committee by going through the migration policy of our neighbours in South East Asia, but so long as we are accused as a party with having a wrong mental thought or a wrong degree of thinking in terms of quotas of Asian people or, as the honorable member for Yarra said, in terms of one instance where a girl was sent back to her country of origin, it would be as well if I were to run through some of the countries and refer to their attitude to migration. Last year the honorable member for Sturt dealt with country after country and put in perspective their migration policy. He pointed out that Malaya, for example, prohibits immigration altogether unless the intending migrant can contribute to the professions, commerce or industry, or provide specialised services which are not available locally in sufficient quantities.
The next country is Thailand which has an annual quota of 200 from any country. Last year, according to the figures 1 have, we admitted into Australia something in excess of 14,000 Italians and Greeks. The point about this is that we do not have to be on the defensive. Our immigration policy is geared to allow a great deal of elasticity as regards the people we attract to Australia. It is not necessary for me to go over the success of our policy chapter and verse. It is sufficient to point to many countries such as Thailand, to which I have referred, Burma, which discourages permanent residents from overseas, and Pakistan, which has a policy similar to that of India and bans all South Africans, allows Indians to remain for a short time and discourages white races from settling. It is just as well to take all these things into account and to put the picture in its right perspective.
I support our present attitude by reading an extract from the excellent speech made last year by the honorable member for Newcastle. He said -
Do honorable members want that sort of thing?
He was referring to the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia. He went on -
I do not. Here are other headings - “ Riot terror spreads in California.” “Supreme Court gives Negro voters a boost.” “ Negroes ready to hit back.”
There are many others. As the honorable member for Newcastle rightly pointed out, these are phrases we are not accustomed to reading in the Press of Australia.
If I may digress strictly within the bounds of racialism, I think it is most important that we should look at what I regard as the great popularity of our troops in Vietnam. They are popular with the Vietnamese people because, like most of us here, if they see a cheery look on a person’s face they like that person and could not care less about the colour of his skin. They like a person who has a cheery grin and they will rise to the occasion and pull his leg. A prime reason for this attitude is that in Australia we are not faced with the problem of racial discrimination. When the average Australian meets an Asian in the street or mixes with him at the university - these are the people Australians see most - both there and in our main streets - they get on very well together. It is most important that we should continue to follow the policy which has operated for many years now, a policy which I believe has the complete backing of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and of all honorable members on this side of the chamber.
I may be wrong, but after hearing the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Bendigo I was left with the idea that they disapproved in some way the Government’s proposal to call up aliens to serve in our armed forces. I do not know whether these two honorable members would like this view spread about their own electorates or around Australia, but let me make my view plain. I would not expect any defence force of this country to be staffed only with native born Australians. It is only right and proper that people who come to our country - we welcome them, naturally - should, in certain circumstances, and given certain exemptions, play their part fully and accept their responsibilities to this country. I should not think that the people of Australia would particularly like to hear the views put forward tonight by the two honorable members I have mentioned. If we need any proof of this let me repeat the remarks of Dr. Ritter, the German Ambassador to Australia. I have not had time to check them but I remember them fairly accurately. He took up the matter, no doubt first having taken it up with his Government, and backed the Australian Government.
I do not know the ethnic groups that are to be found in the electorates of other honorable members. I have a fairly good idea of those in my own electorate of Angas. As honorable members will appreciate, the Barossa Valley and the river areas contain many new Australians and many third and fourth generation Australians, particularly of German ethnic groups. I was very glad to see Dr. Ritter take a responsible stand on this question, particularly as it affected a people of his nationality coming into this country as migrants. 1 believe that in essence we must look at our immigration policy in terms of broad principles. Having done that, we must say that it has probably been the greatest migration policy that the world has witnessed in recent years. It is vital to Australia that that policy should continue to operate and that we should continue to bring in migrants who can quickly be assimilated into our way of life. If this occurs, we need have no fear about the future. I am quite certain that it is the policy of the Minister for Immigration and the Government that our present arrangements should continue.
.- I have listened with very great interest to this debate. This is a topic that should be approached from a national standpoint. Any member of this place who tries to extract an ideological advantage from a discussion on immigration, particularly in view of the situation in which Australia is placed today, is doing a disservice to himself, his constituents, his party and his nation. I can speak with more authority about the subject of immigration than can any other honorable member, because I represent a constituency which is the largest social laboratory in Australia. Within the boundaries of my electorate are approximately 30,000 migrants from the continent of Europe. We must add to that number our kith and kin who have come here as migrants from the United Kingdom. A few months ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), accompanied by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), honoured my constituency with a visit. I arranged for a civic reception and for the leaders of the migrant communities within the constituency to be in attendance. I was impressed by the affection, respect and esteem which the migrant community had for Arthur Calwell as the father of Australian migration. The best that can be said for the present Government is that when it assumed office it took over a package deal. The policy was settled, the machinery was in operation, and all the Government had to do was to keep that machinery running. That has been the situation to this day.
Migration is not new to Australia. About 120 years ago, when gold was discovered, Australia’s population was quadrupled in 15 years. We assimilated the people who came here. In any case, we all are sons of migrants; we are strangers in a strange land. After the fall of Singapore, Australia - not merely the Australian Labour Party - decided that we must answer to the world for filling this continent. We have continued to fill it and, please God, will still continue to do so. I do not want to hear any ideological quibbling about who should and who should not come here. I happen to know that people can come from the length and breadth of Europe and can be fully assimilated into our community. Those who have come here are trying their best to become good, decent, honest Australian citizens. In a few cases, they have their reservations. For example, there are such problems as naturalisation which have yet to be solved. The European content is very high in my constituency, and up to date only 6,500 migrants have sought naturalisation. They have their reasons, good, bad and indifferent. I shall come to those later. As the representative of the social and migrant laboratory of Australia, I do resent very strongly the inuendos against some of those who come from my constituency.
Let us take the contribution they have made to the steel industry and compare it with the contribution, such as it is, that the steel industry has made to them. There are 18,000 men employed by Australian Iron and Steel Pty. Ltd., a subsidiary of Broken Hill Co. Pty. Ltd., at Port Kembla. Of these, 4,000 are staff men and apprentices. The remaining 14,000 are general workmen and of that number 7,200 are migrants who come from the continent of Europe. That is the contribution they are making. In return they are getting a pretty raw deal in terms of wages, in terms of working conditions, in terms of housing and in terms of general amenities.
On many occasions in this chamber 1 have launched diatribes against the steel industry for what it has done tor the migrants, and above all for the bad image it is creating for Australia. 1 have received bitter complaints from the migrants, from the British migrants in particular, about the deliberate misrepresentation engaged in by way of advertising in the United Kingdom. They have been told they can come here as production operators and get £22 per week. They find that the term “production operator “ is just a euphemism for a general unskilled labourer. They are told there will be plenty of work for their wives; they come to a city in which there are between 5,600 and 6,000 women and girls unemployed. They are told there will be plenty of work for their adolescent children; and there is none. They are herded into hostels - I do not criticise the hostel managements because they are doing their best - which are nothing more than industrial annexes of the steel industry. People are being enticed here by the blandishments of this company and they are not given a fair go. They are told that houses are available; but they find that they have to wait for two or three years. There are nearly 3,000 applicants on the waiting list of the New South Wales Housing Commission at Wollongong. Because of the low remuneration they receive, it is impossible for them to get building loans from the orthodox lending agencies.
Let us take another angle: Australia is attempting to bring in the biggest percentage of migrants of any country in history. In fact we have done that but we have stretched our economy to the limit, and the burden falls most heavily upon the State Governments. To give some idea of the economic impact of our programme, I point out that it costs a total of $13,000 to accommodate a migrant family. This is made up of S8.000 for the house and land, $800 for the sewerage and water supply, SI, 400 for the electricity plant to generate the 7 kilowatts of power used in the average all electric home. S 1.200 for the children’s share of the school room, and $700 for the fractional use of hospital beds for the migrant and his family of wife and three children. When we add to all this the cost of transport, we arrive at a total of $13,000. In return for that, what have we? We have an adult labour unit in full production - to put it in sordid economic terms - capable of producing more than $3,000 worth of wealth annually for the Australian community. He is being paid less than $2,000, in the main, and the rest goes into the pockets of the company that is employing him. And this Government is tolerating that. So far as my district is concerned, migration is just a Tacket for the benefit of Australian Iron and Steel Pty. Ltd. and B.H.P.
We have three migrant hostels in Greater Wollongong. They have more than 2,900 people in them. They are nothing more than igloo huts that were condemned 20 years ago. This is the best that Australia can offer. I want to see people brought into Australia, but 1 want to see honesty of advertising. I do not want to see the sort of thing we are seeing today - exaggerated descriptions of conditions in Greater Wollongong. I have here an illustration from a booklet issued by the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. It shows a yachting scene on Lake Illawarra and a steel worker’s home worth about £8,000, or $16,000. It gives a description of all the things that he is supposed to be able to get. And he comes here to what? When he discovers that he is trapped in a local hostel, he comes to the local member and asks to be transferred. He knows that he can get a job for his wife in Sydney. Melbourne or Newcastle and he wants a transfer, but he is told that he cannot get it. He is trapped within the confines of that hostel and he is being exploited there, most unfairly and in a damnable fashion.
In Britain today we have a unique opportunity. Britain is going through an economic crisis. She can no longer adopt the posture of a great imperial power. Britain has shortened sail. She will still be a great power in tradition, in history and in culture. Nevertheless, in terms of world influence, her power will dwindle. By the same token, she will face exactly the same situation as she faced in war time, where she can feed no more than 18 million or 20 million of her people. With her entry into the
European Common Market or the threat of it, there is already a marked increase in applications by people who want to come to Australia. We need them here. We. need 20 million or 30 million of them to come here with the next generation, if we or the next government, or the government that succeeds it can plan the Australian economy to absorb them. For too long we have been pushing our foodstuffs half way round the world to our customers. Bring them here and let us feed them here, and let them bring whole blocks of industry with them. Let us bring whole cities and towns to this country. That is the story that 1 preach and that is the story that I believe in. I want to hear more of that, and not quibbling arguments about the colour and texture of the skin of the people we admit. We need our own kith and kin in this country and the quicker we get them here the better.
In conclusion, I want to deal with another facet of the immigration policy. The steel industry within my constituency attempted to turn the industrial clock back SO years or 80 years by deliberately attempting to destroy trade unionism within the ranks of its employees. We had to face a situation wherein there was a stoppage to force a company to agree to some form of unionisation. We had the situation that nearly 50 per cent, of the men were not in a trade union, and the company was not prepared to do what every other decent company in the district would do, that is, allow trade union organisers to make a proper approach to the men.
– ls that Australian Iron and Steel Ltd?
– Yes. Trade unionism is part of the Australian way of life and it is up to the Minister for Immigration and his authorities overseas to tell that to the migrants before they come here. They are good, decent, honest people. They need to have it explained to them. By having that done, they will be capable of being assimilated quicker into this community than they are at the present time. I will say this: Members of the migrant community have assimilated well. There have been great tolerance and great understanding, and a great link of affection has sprung up between the old Australians, as we term them, within my constituency and the migrants. We can see the migrants taking their part in sports and in general culture. We can see their children getting their share of success in the high schools, in the primary schools, and in the technical colleges. We can see them coming into business. We can see them becoming skilled tradesmen. We can see them becoming professional men. And that is good. They will be good, honest, decent, loyal Australian citizens. Let this Government play its part and make its contribution. Let it not bring them here to dump them into the lap of State governments, leaving to those governments the responsibility of financing the amenities which are needed for the welfare and development of the migrants.
.- 1 want to make two suggestions concerning applications for admission to Australia that are lodged by people in this country on behalf of nominees overseas. It is well known that the nominees have to meet two requirements of our immigration policy. They have to comply with our standards for both health and character. I believe that an intending migrant who fails to meet our medical requirements should, where it is obvious that medical treatment will remove the objection, be notified to this effect so that he may have an opportunity to have the necessary medical treatment. To my knowledge, no such notification is given at present.
I turn now to my second suggestion. In some instances, migrants fail to meet medical requirements and, as I have said, it is obvious that medical attention will enable them at a future time to meet the standards and be accepted. I believe that at the time of the original examination, the examining officer ought to proceed with inquiries as to character. If the nominee undergoes medical treatment and then submits himself for examination again, there will be a delay in the processing if inquiries about character were not made on the occasion of the first examination. I cannot see any reason why this should not be done.
I wish now to mention another matter. I believe that most people who have Australia’s immigration policy at heart would have been very distressed to read in Sydney
The alleged statement did not come from the Police Department. The Police Department does not subscribe to il. lt is quite inaccurate. There is no evidence to support any statement of this sort.
To my knowledge, the Sydney newspapers that published the report have never printed a retraction. In view of the fact that the original statements were damaging to Australia’s immigration policy and reflected unfairly on thousands of excellent citizens who have come here from overseas, I believe that the newspaper that published the original report ought either to disclose the source of its information or publish a retraction and apology.
I compliment the Minister and the Government on removing the nationality qualification for the age pension. I believe that this is another sign that this Government is prepared to place migrants on an equal footing with persons who are born in Australia. Finally, I pay a tribute to the Minister and his officers for the very humane way in which they administer our immigration policy and for their readiness at all times to co-operate with members of this Parliament.
.- Mr. Deputy Chairman, I would just like to clarify a few points concerning the question of multi-racial communities. I shall read the Australian Labour Party’s policy on this somewhat contentious subject to clarify the minds of persons who may have gained certain ideas or illusions from what some people have said both in this place and elsewhere about Labour’s policy. For the sake of the record, I shall read the Labour Party’s policy, which is contained in clause XVI of the Federal Platform of 1965 and which is in these terms; -
Convinced that increased population is vita] to the future development of Australia, the Austalian Labour Party will support and uphold a vigorous and expanding immigration programme administered with sympathy, understanding and tolerance.
Australia’s national and economic security.
The welfare and integration of all ils citizens.
The preservation of our democratic system and balanced development of our nation.
The avoidance of the difficult social and economic problems which may follow from an influx of peoples having different standards of living, traditions and cultures.
I particularly emphasise paragraph (d). That is the policy of the Australian Labour Party and it means what it says. I stand 100 per cent, behind, not only the portion of the policy I have read, but the whole policy of the Australian Labour Party. Nobody should get any idea that our policy is anything other than I have said.
A lot of people like to romance about immigration. They like to create the impression that they are broadminded and are prepared to accept coloured people in the community. I do not think there has been a more tolerant race in the world than the people of the United Kingdom. Yet a few years ago they had to take a stand and say: “ This far and no further “. When people in this Parliament give statements to the Press and make speeches to various organisations to the effect that they do not know of anybody from Asia wanting to come to Australia, that they have no evidence of thousands of people wanting to come here, they should examine the facts. I have information obtained from a United Kingdom official government publication. It clearly discloses that from the Caribbean, Asia, East and West Africa and the Mediterranean numbers of people have flowed into the United Kingdom. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ the following table which sets out those numbers.
The above table shows that from 1955 until June 1962, 472,400 migrants from the countries I have named entered the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom was forced to take a stand and say: “This has to stop “. Personal friends of mine who have returned from abroad have advised me that this is a major problem in the United Kingdom. As far as I am concerned, it will not become a major problem in Australia. We have been prepared to assist, and I hope we will continue to play our part in assisting the education of people from countries close to Australia. In that respect we have done a reasonable job. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “ the following summary of the number of non-European private students in Australia, issued by the Department of Immigration.
It often happens that after these students have been educated they do not want to return to their own countries to assist in their development. They want to stay here. I recently heard an address given by the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, Sir William Refshauge. Afterwards, in a general discussion, a doctor said that if all the non-European doctors were taken out of the hospitals in Manchester, they would almost have to close. Sir William referred to the world wide shortage of doctors and compared the numbers oi doctors in the United Kingdom, Australia, India and Pakistan. It was really frightening to hear of the great shortage of doctors in those countries. Yet the people who come to Australia to be educated want to leave their countries permanently and live in the more affluent society of Australia. They are not really concerned with the development of their own country, but with coming to Australia, the United Kingdom, America, Canada, or other countries. By all means let us educate these people and assist them in their development, but I do not believe that 1 can be shown one country in the world where a multi-racial community has been a success. In today’s edition of the “ Sydney Morning Herald” an article refers to Chinese suffering in Indonesia. It states -
There was no longer much pretence of weeding out Communists, or separating innocent from guilty. A yellow skin was a liability in a brownskinned land. . . .
Even in Indonesia, the Indonesians want to put the Chinese out - and I believe there are some 3 million of them. At present an election is being held in Fiji, I believe. The problem there is that the Fijians are being outvoted; there are more Indians than Fijians in the community. This creates a big problem and much dissatisfaction between these two peoples - the black and the brown. Even the coloured peoples cannot mix.
Reference has been made to a Mr. Locsin, a Filipino bank clerk who wanted to come to Australia. I have some reliable information here which, I think, would be available to honorable members generally if they did a little research. Let us look at the immigration policy of the Philippines and see where the Philippines stands on this question. The information I have, referring to permanent residence, says -
Regulations provide for a quota of 50 immigrants from any one country, but in practice quota systems are supplied only where reciprocity pertains. Initial requirements for immigrants acceptable under the quota system are that the migrant be in possession of P.5,000 capital or have pre-arranged employment. There is provision in the regulations for “ non-quota “ immigrants, which covers the admission of Americans and Spaniards, and the wives and children of Philippines who fall outside the quota.
It goes on to deal with discrimination and says -
Discrimination is practised against Chinese Japanese and Indians. Chinese and Indians are at present allowed entry only for “ meritorious “ reasons; that is if they are engaged in trade or business beneficial to the Philippines or if they have close relations who are legal residents. The entry of Japanese except for business purposes is totally excluded.
This is the country that is talking about taking us to the United Nations because we refused to allow Mr. Locsin to come into Australia. Where do we go on this subject? I stand 100 per cent, behind the refusal to allow Mr. Locsin to come into Australia. He may be a skilled person, but surely there is a need for skilled persons in the Philippines. Let him stay at home and help in the development of his own country. What is the real reason for his wanting to come to Australia? These are the questions that he must answer and that the Philippines must answer.
Reference is made to the question of racial discrimination. I believe that we should be prepared to go into these other countries and stand up and explain Australia’s attitude on this subject. We have no need to run away from it. If we examine the countries adjacent to Australia, we see that practically every one has its own form of racial discrimination and its own policies. We see that Chinese cannot go into this country, Malays cannot go into that country and Indians cannot go into another. The Indians and Pakistanis have a disagreement and cannot go from one country to the other. Pakistanis and Indians cannot go into Ceylon. Let us face the facts. What was the real trouble that led to Singapore being excluded from Malaysia? Was it not because Singapore, which is predominantly Chinese, objected to the Tunku insisting on the Chinese being regarded as second class citizens of Malaysia?
Wherever we look throughout the world, we see this problem of mixed races. The people who advocate a system of mixed races should stand up and say that they want to bring this problem to Australia. They want to be good fellows and say: “ Yes, we will allow one or two to come in “. But once we open the door and say we will allow one or two to come in for a special reason, how do we shut the door? That is, of course, if we can ever shut the door. Do we want to have the same problem that the United Kingdom has? I took the trouble to collect a number of Press statements, and believe me, Mr. Deputy Chairman, the accounts in these statements are really frightening. The headlines of the Press statements show really what is taking place in other countries. But a reverend gentleman like the Primate of Australia recently advocated that, if we really wanted to help the Asians, we should bring them into this country. Do these people really mean this? Are they sincere when they talk along these lines?
When I visited Papua and New Guinea recently I found that most of the business community is being taken over by the Chinese. How many indigenous members of the population of Papua and New
Guinea are running businesses there? From inquiries that were made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) and myself, we found that even the cooperatives were having trouble. Chinese merchants were undercutting the cooperatives in an endeavour to buy cocoa and coffee. Wherever there is this influx of people from other countries, the trend is for them to try to take over. It would do honorable members good to visit Papua and New Guinea and see the number of Chinese businessmen who are taking over in that Territory.
I bring these facts forward not because of any feeling of hate towards coloured people. I believe it is our responsibility to help them, but I also believe that we have to face the facts of life. People of different colours just do not mix. There is a problem between brown and black in Fiji and between Chinese and Malays in Malaysia. This problem exists throughout South East Asia. Recently the Vietnamese had reason to execute a number of Chinese businessmen because of their black marketing activities and cornering of goods. Naturally this provoked resentment in China.
Do honorable members want a similar situation in Australia, to that which exists in America today? One honorable member told me that on one occasion when he was visiting the United Nations he wanted to have a look through Harlem. Nobody would take him there. There is similar trouble with Puerto Ricans and only recently there was trouble because the negroes were trying to move into the Italian community. If honorable members want that type of system in Australia, let them stand up in their places and say so. I do not want it, and I will oppose it wherever and whenever I can.
The negroes did not ask to be taken to America. Europeans took them there. I believe that there are some 18 million negroes in America today. This is creating a great problem - one of the greatest problems that America has to face today, notwithstanding what is taking place in Vietnam. If honorable members want a similar situation in Australia, let them stand up and say that they want to start a multi racial community here. I say, in conclusion, that the Australian Labour Party’s policy does not envisage a multi racial community in Australia.
– When the estimates of the Department of Immigration are before the Committee it is customary for the Minister to review the year just ended and to acquaint Parliament of the details of the programme planned for the current financial year. I have quite an amount that could go on the register, but for the sake of the Committee at this hour of the night, I propose to deal only with the more valid questions that have come before us during this debate. 1 shall shorten a number of things that I intended to say in reply to matters which have been raised by honorable members who have spoken during this debate.
I express appreciation of the constructive suggestions that have been made and of the very great interest that honorable members have displayed in this tremendous question of immigration and its value to Australia. Those things that have been said constructively will be considered. Immigration problems are under constant examination. We have, for instance, the Government Members Immigration Committee, of which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) is the Chairman. We have the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Committee, of which the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) is the Chairman. We have also our Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. I think that the success of the migration programme is duc largely to the fact that recommendations made from so many areas of our community have been put into practice. We will continue to do that.
There have been some discordant notes this evening. I would have replied to the debate at greater length had it not been for the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) who expressed himself directly and who answered those members of the Opposition who were so ill advised as to comment as they did on an immigration policy which has met the satisfaction of Australians and which, at the same time, has been for the protection of Australia as a whole. 1 want to refer particularly to some of the statements of the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns).
Honorable members are well aware of his rather queer and odd ideas on subjects that come before the Parliament from time to time. This evening has been no exception. He referred to the narrow mindedness of the Department of Immigration. I feel that no one who has had any experience with the Department will agree with him. The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) claimed that the immigration programme established by the original founder of the project has been carried on. It that is so, and if the policy that it has been carried from was good, then it certainly cannot be tabbed as narrow minded. The honorable member for Yarra alluded to it as narrow minded because he selected one particular case that he brought up and which was rejected. With his dogmatic outlook and his petulant nature, which are evident in this Parliament on many occasions, because this case was rejected he classifies the Department as narrow minded. I know the particular case quite well. When he contacted me about it, because he happens to be the type of member that he is, I took particular note of it. Had it been possible to agree to the application - to allow this concession - I would have done so. However, two factors came into the consideration of this case. One was the background of the family. It was a pattern of deceit. Had we condoned deceit, and had we wished to involve Australia with this type of behaviour, this was our opportunity to do so. After I had gone carefully right through the case it was obvious that to agree to the application would not have been good for Australia. Contrary to what the honorable member for Yarra has said, namely, that it would have been for the good of that person to come to Australia, it would not have been for the good of Australia to have allowed that person to come here.
The Department is broad minded. The honorable member does not know of the cases that are determined on their merits but which are not made the subject of advertising by the Department. The Department’s activities are like an iceberg - there is far more underneath than can be seen on the surface. I think that every honorable member in. this chamber - and T can see any number of them - knows full well that the cases he has brought up for consideration by the Department have had fair, equitable and just treatment. In making decisions, we say, it is the future of Australia with which we are concerned in the ultimate. If Australia’s future can be served along with the future of the person concerned, that is all to the good, but if an application is considered to be not in Australia’s interests obviously the decision must go against the individual.
Another argument advanced by the honorable member for Yarra concerned the call-up of aliens for national service. I can recollect - and I know that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) will agree with me - that one of the proposals put forward by him at an Australian Citizenship Convention was that there should be a call-up of aliens. International law is difficult to clarify. We feel it comes down to considering equitably all people living in Australia. We believe they should all play their part in defending Australia. Every concession possible has been given to aliens. They can reside in Australia for two years before they are called up at the age of 21. They are naturalised after a period of three months in the Services if they so wish. If they desire to go back to their own countries to avoid call-up, they are free to do so. Recently I was in Western Australia where, as in other places, I move around among migrants. When I was at the Australian-Italian Club in that State, the only matter that was brought up in discussion with me was whether or not naturalisation could be obtained earlier than it is now. The question of whether or not aliens should be called up for national service was not raised. We have seen the reaction of the German community to our proposal. The Germans have said: “ This is a way of life. We know that our youths, if in our own country, would be called up. They can be called up here also.”
Another matter raised by the honorable member for Yarra was the refusal by my Department to allow some people to come to Australia because of something in their background. The question of the screening of migrants is a most important one. We give every consideration to people who apply to come to Australia. On the other hand, Australia must be protected from undesirable migrants. I do not see how asu honorable member could stand up in this chamber and complain about the screening of migrants when from time to time members of the general public ask about the efficiency of the screening of migrants. Screening is done well. It is done properly. It is carried out as completely as it is humanly possible to carry it out. I can assure honorable members that if any cases are brought up, as cases have been in the past, they will be reviewed and the decisions already taken will be revised if it is thought necessary to take this action.
The fantastically shallow and generalised speech delivered by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) will certainly go into the record as one that has made no contribution at all to the debate. It has been dealt with most adequately by the honorable member for Newcastle. I do not think it is necessary to ask whether the remarks of the honorable member for Oxley represent the policy of the Opposition. If they do, the honorable member will have to answer to a number of trade unions in Australia. Will the honorable member go round to the trade unions and put forward his suggestion about letting a few thousand extra migrants in? If we agree with his suggestion, the question then is; Of what nationality will the few thousand that we let in be? We have heard talk about offending other nations. Would we not be more offensive if we let in a few hundred from each nation, as we would have to do, or does the honorable member suggest that we should select people from certain specific nations from which we will obtain the few thousand extra migrants? The Government has enlarged the number of migrants who can come here from non-European countries. After residence of five years, nonEuropean migrants are allowed now to bring their relatives to Australia. Obviously, if we adopted the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Oxley and allowed a few thousand extra migrants into the country, the question of family reunions would arise and the number of people allowed in would be extended further.
Approximately 12,000 Asian students are studying in Australia. This is appreciated by Asian nations, because these students return to their homelands trained to participate in leadership and other facets of community life. Australia contributes in this regard by way of the Colombo Plan also.
Overall, there are probably 40,000 Asians in different categories in Australia today. Even if the admission of this number of people has not built up good will for Australia in Asian countries, I think it is far belter than the situation that would exist under the plan propounded by the honorable member for Oxley.
There are other matters that I wish to put on the record. Let me deal first with one mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) in his Budget speech. I wish to clarify the definition of the financial arrangements for European migrants who are outside the provisions of the assisted passage scheme. In Europe today there are significant numbers of workers who have left their homelands to take up employment in the Common Market countries. Many of these no doubt would welcome the opportunity to migrate to Australia with their families. For these expatriates, and for migrants from European countries not covered by other arrangements - the Scandinavian countries, Finland, Switzerland and France - we will offer passage assistance of up to $335 for adults and $360 for children under 19 years of age. Adult migrants will pay $25 each plus any travel cost above $360 for themselves and their children. This will be known as the special passage assistance programme and will bring to Australia many desirable people who otherwise would be unable io achieve their wish to settle here. The special passage assistance programme will include special categories of migrants previously eligible under the general assisted passage scheme but will not replace that scheme entirely. The general passage scheme provides for a government subsidy of $144 towards the fares of adults, and a pro rata contribution for children, and will continue to apply in a number of countries closer to Australia.
Some migrants and refugees brought to Australia by the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration must bridge the gap between the amount of Government assistance available and the actual fare by obtaining a loan from the I.C.E.M. Provision is made in this year’s Budget for an increase in Australia’s contribution towards the fares of these migrants and refugees, thus cutting down the amount of the loans they have to repay to the I.C.E.M. after arrival in Australia. A further new provision is a per capita grant of $90 to voluntary agencies who assist wives and children who are joining breadwinners in Australia and who are not eligible tor assisted passages.
Australia gains more than she loses from the wider dissemination throughout the world of technical skills and knowledge. We are receiving about 2,500 serious inquiries each year from professionally qualified people. Our officers overseas supply information about professional opportunities in Australia, they arrange contacts with professional organisations and employers and refer forma! applications to the Department of Labour and National Service in Australia.
Honorable members have referred to work and other attractions for migrants to go to the country. In brief, I must say that wages and conditions of employment are clearly stated in pamphlets that are given to the migrants. A leaflet on wages, prices and taxes is revised and reprinted four times each year. We have special films showing life in Australia in the country and in the towns, and as much as possible is done to show Australia and all its variety of climate and living conditions to intending migrants. This is done by films, pamphlets, booklets and information disseminated by our officers overseas. Those who are doing the interviewing at the various posts have inspected and studied Australia. They have done a particular course, have seen Australia themselves and have been brought up to date on conditions here. They are in a position to advise migrants. They have worked here before going overseas and they are quite conscious of their responsibility to people whom they advise and who are going to travel 10,000 miles or more to get here.
If I may say so in conclusion, those who have intruded a jarring note into this debate on the estimates of the Department of Immigration are the ones who did not participate in the most interesting debate we had earlier in the year when our immigration policy was outlined quite fully, and to which debate anyone who wished could have made a contribution. While we may disagree from time to time as to the details of our immigration scheme, it has been generally accepted by both sides of the House, and it is regrettable that a discordant note has been intruded with a suggestion for a deviation from policy which would not be acceptable to the Australian public.
My very helpful colleagues have been most constructive in their comments on the immigration programme. I will once again thank those who have contributed constructively and say again that notice will be taken of what they have suggested. To those who have intruded those other notes to which I have referred I say that no attention at all will be paid to them.
.- 1 did not intend to speak and I will not speak for very long. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) has put most of the points that I wanted to put, and I think the majority of honorable members are in accord with him at this time. It was most interesting and most disturbing, as the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) said, to listen to the honorable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). Although the honorable member for Newcastle repudiated the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Oxley, although the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) said that he did not want to be carried away by ideology and although the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) stated that what the honorable member for Oxley said was in complete contradiction of Labour Party policy, the honorable member for Oxley did say that he had been on the Labour Party committee that decided the policy that he propounded.
I would like some member of the Opposition to make it clear whether the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Oxley - namely that there should be reciprocal arrangements with all Asian countries and that there should be assisted passages for people from Asian countries - is or is not the policy of the Labour Party at this time. I know that the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), who is interjecting, left the chamber and drew the attention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to the statements being made by the honorable member for Oxley. I appreciate the sentiment that made him do that. However, I would like to know very clearly and plainly whether the honorable member for Oxley was speaking the truth when he said that he sat on the Labour Party committee that decided ‘he policy that he expounded. I conclude by congratulating the Minister on the way in which he summed up our party’s policy. I support him completely. I congratulate all the officers of his Department on the magnificent way in which our immigration policy is being carried out.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.39 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
b asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice - 1, Is it a fact that Australian shipping operators who are introducing or intending to introduce container freight facilities propose to provide for the handling of containers 16 ft. 8 ins. x 8 ft. x 8 ft., whereas the International Standards Organisation has set down specifications of 20 ft. x 8 ft. x 8 ft.?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. The position is that Australia was the first country in the world to adopt a standard for large freight containers, the size being 16 ft. 8 ins. in length, 8 ft. in width, 8 ft. 6 ins. in height. Subsequently the International Standards Organisation adopted a series of large freight containers having dimensions as follows: Width and height 8 ft., lengths 10, 20, 30 and 40 ft. The Standards Association of Australia is now giving consideration to the adoption of the International Standards Organisation standards as an alternative or an additional Australian standard.
The adoption or otherwise of international standards is a decision which must be left to the individual operators but on my understanding of the position, consideration will be given at the appropriate time by Australian operators to adapting their existing equipment to fit in with the International Standards and when new equipment is required, it will be designed with those standards in mind.
n asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows - 1 understand that the Chief Justices of a number of countries met in Geneva on 12th March 1966 and formed an autonomous body, called the World Association of Judges, as part of the World Peace Through Law organisation. The Association is an association of judges, not of Governments, and no invitation was received by the Commonwealth Government. The Chief Justice of the High Court received an invitation from the Director-General of the World Peace Through Law Center to attend the Conference, but he was unable to attend. So far as I am aware, no other Australian judge was invited to, or attended, the conference. I am informed that the objects of the Association are expressed to be to advance the rule of law in the world community and to bring to bear the prestige and capacity of judges throughout the world on problems of world peace. The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court was elected as Chairman of the organisation. A committee was formed, with four Vice-Chairmen, each of whom is Vice-Chairman for one of the following four regional groups: Europe (the Chief Justice of Norway), Africa (the Chief Justice of Nigeria), the Americas (the Chief Justice of Argentina), Asia-Australia (the Chief Justice of Japan). The Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago is Secretary and the Chief Justice of Switzerland is Treasurer. The Executive Director is an American stationed at the World Peace Through Law offices in Washington.
b asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Yes. 2 and 3. There would be an overall economic advantage only if the saving in costs resulting from ships turning round in Fremantle was greater than the extra cost of railing eastern States cargo to and from Fremantle. There is no evidence that this is so for the vast majority of cargoes at present moving.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The role of the C.M.F. is twofold-
Weapons Captured in Vietnam. (Question No. 2027.)
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
New Guinea Development: Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. (Question No. 2039.)
m asked the Minister repre senting the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Externa] Affairs has furnished the following reply -
New Guinea Shipping Subsidy:
Economic Survey Mission. (Question No. 2040.)
m asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice! -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) and (b), yes.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
What was the total sum expended by the
Department of Supply in (a) Queensland and (b) all States during each of the financial years 1964-65 and 1965-66?
– The Minister for Supply has supplied the following information -
Expenditures incurred by the Department of Supply in the financial years 1964-65 and 1965-66 relating to appropriations and trust fund were as follows -
The comparatively high expenditures in South Australia were due to the activities of the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury and Woomera. The principal offices of the Department are currently in Victoria and New South Wales and the main factories and laboratories are located in these States. For these reasons, the expenditures in Victoria and New South Wales were also comparatively high. However, caution should be exercised in drawing any conclusions from the above figures, as they merely reflect .payments made in each State and do not take into account the value of supplies produced in one State but purchased in another.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following information -
The amounts expended on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme in each financial year to 30th June 1966, dissected as between Consolidated Revenue Fund and Loan Fund, are -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660927_reps_25_hor53/>.