26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Yesterday he objected to statements that his Government was unwilling to take any initiative to bring peace to Vietnam. Will he agree that there may be two ways in which peace can be established in Vietnam, the first being to maintain or to escalate the attack so that the Vietnamese who are being attacked may be forced to negotiate, and the second being to de-escalate the attack and offer some inducement to the Vietnamese so that they may agree to negotiate? Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister’s Government supports only the first method - that of maintaining or escalating the war? If this is not so, can the right honourable gentleman tell the House of even one occasion on which his Government has suggested, supported or taken any action to de-escalate the war or to offer some inducement to the Vietnamese?
– The honourable member has asked a lengthy question. 1 should think that what he has said could more properly have been put to the House by the honourable member in the form of a speech in a debate in which we could all engage. It is hardly appropriate to attempt to deal with an involved matter of this sort by way of a brief reply to a question. The honourable member says there are two ways in which one can promote peace. I think there are more than two ways, but I do not at the moment propose to go into the details of them for the reason that I have given. However, I say this again quite emphatically to the honourable member for Yarra, to all honourable members opposite, and to any of those people who regard this as a war-minded government: We want peace as earnestly and as sincerely as any man on the Opposition side of the House or, indeed, as any man or woman in this country who speaks about the need for peace. Australia bas a vested interest in peace, and with the peaceful development of our own resources and the growth of trade which we can ourselves promote and benefit by-
– What about answering the question?
– I am trying to answer the question. The honourable member asked a long and very involved question and I pointed out that it was not one that could be adequately dealt with at question time. The honourable member asks what we have done. We have engaged in the most lengthy and frequent negotiations and discussions with those with whom we are allied. I have had talks with people like Harold Wilson and Lester Pearson and with other heads of government with whom I have come in contact and who are not directly involved. Through our diplomatic sources we have sought to promote negotiations which would lead, if accepted by Hanoi, to a solution. I made the point yesterday that we are not a major power. What reason would we have to think that Australia would have a bigger voice with Hanoi than has been used in any of the other forty-four approaches that have already been made to and spurned by Hanoi? However, to the extent that our goodwill or our efforts can contribute to a possible negotiation and an honourable, just and enduring peace, we will give every support to any arrangements along these lines.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to the question I asked on Tuesday and a question asked previously by the honourable member for Wimmera regarding Commonwealth aid for drought relief. The Prime Minister indicated the Commonwealth’s realisation of the problems facing Victoria and South Australia and the Commonwealth’s willingness to help, if the damage caused by the drought were beyond the financial resources of the States concerned. I now ask the Prime Minister whether any further developments of which he can inform the House have taken place.
– I said at the time that the Commonwealth Government approached this matter on a basis of urgency. I am glad to be able to inform the honourable member and others who I know are very much interested in this matter that officials of the Commonwealth Government and of the Governments of Victoria and South Australia will be meeting on Monday. I indicate now that the Commonwealth Government will be willing to make a financial advance. The extent of that advance can be more fittingly determined when these talks have occurred and we have a picture of the degree of immediate financial need. I thought 1 had made it clear when I spoke earlier that we were willing to help and that we were willing to do so on a basis of urgency. I am sorry that apparently in some Press reports this has not been clearly brought forth. I thought our general attitude had been made abundantly clear.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question relating to the current American protectionist drive. It is reported that formal protests have been received in the United States of America from countries of the European Common Market, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. Would the Minister care to elaborate on this report?
– It is true that there is a resurgence of protectionism in the United States at present. Bills have been brought before Congress by senators and members proposing that in certain circumstances quotas should be imposed upon a whole variety of items of trade in which Australia is tremendously interested. I am glad to say that a more stringent quota cannot be imposed on our butter because we are down to 9 tons a year. The proposal is that quotas should be imposed in certain circumstances on meat, which rs a vital item of trade to us, on sugar, which is a vital item of trade to us, and on a number of other items such as metals, lead and zinc. Over the years visiting Prime Ministers, visiting ministers, ambassadors, our trade counsellor in Washington and myself speaking with people right through from President Kennedy to all who may be regarded as my opposite number or who have otherwise been in contact with me during international conferences and visits to Washington, have continuously made it very clear that this country, which protects its own industries by a tariff system and does not invoke quota systems, exchange control or any other non- tariff measure at all, finds this an adequate system of protection and we expect our trading partners, who talk so much of free world trade, to rely on tariffs alone - and reasonable tariffs. This view will constantly be put by us. Very shortly there will be an important meeting of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We are at the moment considering, whether in the light of this resurgence of protectionism in the United States the meeting ought not to be lifted from the contemplated level of a meeting of senior officials to a meeting of Ministers. If this occurs I would myself attend in that venue where the Americans are so forthcoming in their own views about freeing world trade in order to give a new emphasis to the points that I have been making to the House.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the existence of an organisation in Sydney called the ‘October Mobilisation Committee’? Is he aware that this organisation has a protest march organised for next Sunday in that city? Further, is he aware that this organisation uses the same mail address and postal address and box number as the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament? Does the right honourable gentleman attach any significance to the name of this organisation and its association with AICD and the fact that this month is the fiftieth anniversary of the Russian October revolution? Finally, I ask: Can the Australian people be excused if they consider the October Mobilisation Committee to be another phoney Communist front attempting to delude good and well meaning Australians?
– I do know something about the AICD. I think my colleague the Leader of the House in his capacity as Attorney-General gave to the House on an earlier occasion a detailed statement about the background of AICD as well as the aims and general aura surrounding this organisation. The honourable gentleman does not say what it is that this organisation is going to protest about. I have a suspicion that it would not be a protest designed to support the Government which I have the honour to lead. However, I thank the honourable member for bringing its existence to my notice.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement made by Sir William Hudson, the former distinguished Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Authority, that Australia would have no right to the ownership of this country unless an early effort were made to develop its resources? In the light of that statement, I ask the Prime Minister what progress has been made in implementing the Government’s promise made at the last election to provide $50m over 5 years for water conservation throughout Australia. When does he expect to be able to announce the details of the proposed programme of works and will he tell the House the reasons for the delay in commencing urgent projects? Is this due to the inadequacy of funds or the fact that suitable and acceptable projects cannot be found?
– I am sure that everyone in this House has a very high regard and respect for Sir William Hudson. Of course, he has every entitlement in his private capacity to express the views which he holds in relation to Australian development. For our part, we readily recognise the importance of developing the resources of this country. I am glad to say that around Australia at this point of time development is occurring at a pace and on a scale unprecedented in our history. The particular scheme which the honourable gentleman mentions was indicated as part of our programme in the life of this Parliament and beyond. It was part of the general policy statement which was made at the last election. I have no doubt that there has been correspondence with State Governments on this matter. I feel that tn order that the honourable gentleman may obtain the details which he seeks, either his question should be directed to the Minister for National Development when he is in the chamber or I shall treat his question as being on notice and supply him with a supplementary answer.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. The right honourable gentleman may recall that on 29th June last he stated that negotiations were still proceeding with the Japanese authorities with a view to arranging for Australian fresh fruit to be marketed in Japan. Has any progress been made in this matter? What is the prospect of marketing citrus fruits in Japan?
– Vigorous negotiations have been proceeding with the Japanese authorities with a view to opening up new opportunities for the export of fresh fruit to Japan. The obstacle which we have not yet surmounted is quarantine. The presence in Australia of Mediterranean fruit fly, Queensland fruit fly and codlin moth has led the Japanese to maintain a quarantine embargo on the importation into Japan of fruits attacked by these pests. Negotiations have been proceeding with a view to finding a solution to the problem. At our suggestion and on the decision of their own Government two Japanese quarantine officials visited Australia. Negotiations at the quarantine level are proceeding. We would never expect any country to accept the introduction of a pest any more than we would be prepared to accept the introduction of a pest, but in certain circumstances, perhaps by treatment or selection of particular seasonal periods, some quarantine problems can be overcome. I believe that if we can overcome this problem there will be a prospect of opening up an attractive market in Japan for our fresh fruit.
– I, too, ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Is it correct, as has been reported, that America is not participating in the international trade fair which opens officially in Sydney today? If so, why has America blacklisted this important world trade fair?
– I speak from memory at the moment rather than with authority. My recollection is that the international trade fair in Sydney, which is one of a succession of trade fairs there, is not an official organisation. As I recall fairs held in earlier years, this is a private organisation. So the Commonwealth Government does not participate in it and some overseas governments do not necessarily recognise it.
– Will the Minister for the Navy inform the House whether employees at Williamstown Naval Dockyard are refusing to do normal work in normal time? Are these practices holding up urgent naval construction?
– I regret that the answer to both questions is Yes. There are employees at Williamstown Naval Dockyard who have refused to do normal work in normal hours. This refusal is holding up construction of the new type 12 escort destroyer HMAS Swan’. The honourable gentleman will know the background, as will the House, of the difficulties that have existed in respect of naval dockyards for some time. Early this year an arrangement was made by the Navy with the. Australian Council of Trade Unions and the unions concerned to look at the matter with a view to increasing productivity, reducing the problems and removing the restrictive practices that operate. Not the least important purpose of this exercise was to put more pay into the pay packets of the workers at the dockyards.
The Navy adopted the arrangement in good faith and granted an interim allowance of $1.50. It did this on the understanding that the unions would combine with the Navy on a negotiating committee to work out a solution to the problems. I pay a tribute to the negotiating committee, the union representatives and others on the committee. It was making splendid if slow progress. However, this progress has now been thwarted by the work of a few unionists at Williamstown dockyard who have instructed their men to give a point blank refusal to do normal work in normal hours on HMAS ‘Swan’ which is due to be launched within the next month or so. This clearly is an attempt to take out of the Navy’s hands its own administration. I am sure that the House would agree that the Navy cannot and will not tolerate this kind of conduct. I hope that reason will prevail in the minds of the unionists and that they will return to work and to the conference table.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Macquarie. On 28th August last year the Prime Minister announced that he would be writing to the State Premiers concerning the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. On Tuesday of this week he answered a question which I had put on the notice paper 6 weeks ago in which I had asked when he wrote to the Premiers concerning the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority and what were the dates and nature of their replies. He said that he stood by his customary practice not to make public the details of correspondence which passes between State Premiers and him without the consent of the Premiers concerned. Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to answers which the Premier of Queensland gave in the State Hansard last November in which he said that the Prime Minister’s proposal, pursuant to his Press statement of 28th August last year, was received by him only on 9th November and that he had submitted the Queensland case to the Prime Minister on 22nd November? Why is it that he is not prepared to be so informative in answers to written questions on this matter as is the Premier of Queensland? When does he expect that he or the Minister for National Development will be able to make a statement concerning the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority since the last statement made on the subject was - I quote from his answer to me on Tuesday - a Press statement by his colleague on 1st June, which was 41 months ago?
– The Leader of the Opposition speaks of my customary practice. So far as I am aware it has been the customary practice of all Prime Ministers to follow this rule which I indicated to him by way of written reply. There is a very sound basis for that: If we are to communicate freely with each other, and the federation will work more effectively if this is done, the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the States should be able to feel that what they have put to each other is preserved as a matter of confidence unless there is agreement between the Prime Minister and a Premier that some release can be made of the contents of correspondence between them. This does not inhibit a Premier or prohibit him from stating the general view of his own government, any more than it inhibits us in stating our general view on the matter in question.
I am not familiar with the circumstances in which the Premier of Queensland made this information known, but there have been occasions when, a State Premier having released the contents or the substance of a communication to me, we have felt free to make known the substance of our communication to him. I shall look into this aspect. As to the statements by the Government on this matter, the honourable member has referred to what my colleague said. I recall having said something on this myself when I opened the power project recently in the Snowy area. I shall refresh my memory on that. I shall also bring to the attention of my colleague the Minister for National Development the terms of the query by the Leader of the Opposition and see whether we can supply him with more information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is it a fact that cheese production this year is projected at about 80,000 tons, which is a rise of 14,000 tons? What are the latest developments in the butter and cheese market overseas, particularly in Europe and Asia? If the outlook is uncertain should the dairy industry further increase its interest in baby beef raising?
– T am not sure of the expected production this year but the elementary facts in respect of the dairy products of butter and cheese are these: In recent times we have had no trouble selling all our cheese. I am glad to say that in the course of diversifying our markets, Japan has become the biggest buyer of Australian cheese and we can expect this market to continue and to grow. This is a very satisfactory outcome. The problem dairy product is butter. There is really only one big butter importing country which is the United Kingdom. If anything should befall our opportunity to sell butter duty-free and in unlimited quantity in the United Kingdom this would be quite serious for the dairy industry, lt is not feasible for dairy farmers or dairy factories to switch away from butter because very great, opportunities exist for the production and sale of dried milk powder from which the butter oil has been removed and manufactured into butter That is the only major use for the oD. I think that it would be wise for the dairy industry, when planning against possible eventualities, to examine whatever alternatives there may be to the production of butter. I see very good opportunities for cheese and processed milk, dried milk and sweetened condensed milk. I do believe that there is an opportunity for some dairy farmers to switch to the production of vealers and baby beef as an alternative to dairying.
– My question without notice is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer the right honourable gentleman to an article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of Wednesday 18th October, which claims that members of Australia’s surgical teams in Vietnam are bitter and dissatisfied about their treatment. The article says that some team members claim that they had been misled about salaries and allowances and that they were neglected by the Australian Embassy in Saigon, lt claims further that the medical teams had to rely excessively on the Americans for drugs, equipment and amenities. Have these claims been brought to the attention of the right honourable gentleman or the Minister for External Affairs? Is the right honourable gentleman completely satisfied that surgical teams, which are performing great humanitarian service in South Vietnam, have been given complete co-operation by his Government? Will he investigate claims of neglect and inefficiency made by members of the surgical teams? Will be take steps to ensure that Australian surgical teams are not dependent on the Americans for facilities and equipment?
– There can be no question about the value of the work being performed by the surgical teams. No complaint of the kind that the honourable gentleman mentions has come under my notice. When I visited Vietnam I had an opportunity to see the surgical teams in operation and the manner in which they were conducting the hospitals in their care. I met and talked with these people. I heard no complaint of any kind along the lines that the honourable gentleman has now indicated. We would certainly not wish to feel that there was any basis for dissatisfaction of a kind that was curable by this Government. Now that he has raised the matter I shall pursue some inquiries and see whether I can give him a more detailed answer.
– My question is addressed, as a matter of urgency, to the Prime Minister in the absence of the Min.is:er for National Development. It relates to the tabling in this House of certain papers. I refer to the off-shore exploration leases and production licences for oil and gas which have been issued or are in course of issue either by the Commonwealth or a State and which it is proposed to recognise under the legislation now before the House. T ask the Prime Minister whether he will cause to be laid on the table of the House copies of all such leases and licences together with the text of any understandings or commitments in connection with them which it is proposed to recognise under the new legislation. Could this material be made available for the information of honourable members before the commencement of the debate upon the Minister’s second reading speech on the Bill?
– The Attorney-General is better informed on this matter than I am and will answer the question.
– It is true that the legislation before the House contains transitional provisions that will pick up certain earlier arrangements, some proceeding to the stage of production licenses, when the legislation comes into operation. The difficulty in complying with the request of the honourable member is that these arrangements have been agreed to by the States. It will be necessary to make inquiries from the States concerned to determine whether the documents to which the honourable member refers can be made available to this House, and within the time that will be required.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Has the Minister seen statements alleging that the Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is about to authorise the dumping of certain war relics, such as diaries, at the end of this month? Will the Minister have a look at these statements and ascertain whether they are true? If there are any relics of value will he take up the matter with the appropriate Minister to ensure that they are preserved?
– 1 have seen reports on the matter raised by the honourable member, but no direct representations have been made to me about it. I shall take up the honourable member’s suggestion and make inquiries to learn what is happening.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. He will recall that I have continually advocated that the Commonwealth Government should give a clear lead to the States by reducing the burden of estate duty, especially on those engaged in primary production. Has the right honourable gentleman given further consideration to this proposition and, if so, can he supply any information on it?
– At different times the Government has looked at this matter. When I was Treasurer I did so, and I have no doubt that my colleague who now holds the portfolio has had this matter called to his attention at one time or another. It is not the practice at question time to £:ve answers on policy, and therefore I regret that I am unable to give the honourable member a definitive reply.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Mackellar. Will the Attorney-General ask the States for the documents specified by the honourable member?
– Yes. Though it may not be done through my Department, I had accepted it as an obligation, on behalf of the Government. Because this House will be considering the adoption of these arrangements by the transitional provisions, it will be desirable for honourable members to have an opportunity of seeing the conditions to which the House will be giving force by the legislation before it. The practical difficulty is that the documents are in the possession of the States, whereas the Bill is to come before this House shortly. However, a request for the documents will be made.
– Can the Minister for Works indicate to what extent his Department uses the services of private architects?
– It is the general practice of the Department to employ consultants from the private sector in respect of any excess work design load involving architecture and engineering. Indeed, during the last financial year the Department spent $2.6m in employing consultants. This was double the expenditure of 2 years ago. It works out that about 20% of our engineering and architectural design work is done by private consultants.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. In view of the urgent demand for home building blocks by young married couples in the electorate of Kingsford-Smith, and bearing in mind the chronic shortage of land to satisfy this demand, does the Minister not believe it is time, realising that we are now living in the atomic age, that he directed the Department of the Army to vacate the Long Bay Rifle Range and hand this magnificent area of building land over to the State authorities to sub-divide into building blocks for ballot among young couples who are most anxious to build their homes close to their place of employment in nearby industrial areas?
– As I think I have mentioned to the honourable member on more than one occasion, the Army has a requirement at the Long Bay Rifle Range, especially since increased training requirements at Holsworthy are involving the closure of the Anzac Rifle Range there. Large numbers of Citizen Military Force members, as well as members of rifle clubs, cadets and Regular Army personnel use the Long Bay Rifle Range on frequent occasions. In the past, land surplus to requirements has been made available - and this might have been a fair while ageto the local council. At the moment there is a proposal that some land in this area which is not used for the Rifle Range should be utilised for Service houses. Because of the expansion of the Army there is still a grave shortage of houses for Army personnel. I would hope that if in the very distant future the Long Bay Rifle Range were ever surplus to Army and Commonwealth needs it would be made into a public park and not broken up for housing blocks.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that recently two honourable members have been attacked by marauding magpies in the vicinity of Parliament House? As back bench members of the Parliament are not afforded the protection of Commonwealth cars, will he issue safety helmets to those members who require them?
– As a supporter of the Richmond Football Club, which won this year’s Melbourne premiership, I have frequently been attacked by a certain Magpie supporter who sits in a corner of this chamber. However, in view of the request, I will confer with the Minister for Works to see whether his Department can design some suitable form of protection for honourable members from this pest.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of a statement made yesterday by the Premier of Victoria that any attempt by New South Wales to obtain supplies of gas from Bass Strait at prices less than those at which it will be made available to Victorian authorities would be unconstitutional? Is he also adhering to the declaration of his intentions in the letters of intent exchanged between himself and Sir Henry Bolte and tabled in this House, or will he act as a big Australian?
– I will try te act as a big Australian though physically T was not so endowed. I have no knowledge of any action by the Victorian Government which would run counter to the spirit of the exchange of correspondence between the Victorian Premier and myself. I have not seen the statement to which the honourable gentleman has referred but I shall confer with the Attorney-General or the Minister for National Development, whoever may be the more appropriate Minister in relation to this matter, and see how well based the Press report is.
-I direct my question without notice to the Minister for the Interior and in so doing refer to the plea I made during the adjournment debate on 5th October for a revision of polling hours for Federal elections. Is the Minister aware that State and local elections in Queensland are carried out satisfactorily between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m? Although I recognise that a price cannot be placed upon democracy, will the Minister investigate for the House the national cost of keeping polling booths open between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m? Will the Minister set up the necessary machinery at the forthcoming Senate election to ascertain the number of people in each electorate who vote after 6 p.m., thus enabling a comparison to be made with the voting habits of the selfdisciplined people of Queensland? Finally, will the Minister give serious consideration to at least a trial of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. voting on polling day in 1969?
– This matter has been looked at by successive Ministers over a long period of time. As I understand it, a heavy proportion of polling takes place between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. in all the other States, irrespective of the habits of the people of Queensland. In point of fact some shift workers and some people in rural areas find it more convenient to vote during these hours. I should therefore be keen not to reduce a service to the Australian people by an arbitrary action, and unless the honourable member can produce real evidence to justify his suggestions I am afraid I shall have to say No.
– Will the Acting Treasurer say why the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales has not issued the same instructions to the Australian Hotels Association as he issued compelling registered clubs in that State to deduct income tax from payments to artists performing in clubs? Will he inform the House of the reason for this discrimination?
– In the first place, I will ascertain whether, in fact, there is any discrimination and, following that, I will look into the explanation and let the honourable member know about it.
– I seek the assistance of the Prime Minister concerning a matter relating to the new Commonwealth Office for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the confusion which has arisen over the use of the words ‘Aborigines’ and ‘Aboriginal’ and the recent action by Hansard to standardise by the use of ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Aboriginals’. Because attention has been drawn to the fact that this latest usage departs from dictionary guidance and world-wide practice and I find that there is no uniformity between the Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the Department of Territories and the official publications of this House, I ask whether the right honourable gentleman will have inquiries made to see whether the Hansard decision should be sustained, recognising that his announcement will correctly represent an authoritative lead by the Parliament which may affect the Style Manual and influence uniformity in general.
– The honourable member raises a problem of semantics which I would not attempt to resolve in a reply to a question. I think it is worthy of study. He has pointed to the fact that these different forms of usage can be confusing but I think that in the final analysis he would agree with me that what the Aboriginals or the Aborigines will be primarily concerned with will be the action we take in the future to promote their welfare.
Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins- Prime
Minister) -by leave- From 1st January 1968 the two positions of National Librarian and Parliamentary Librarian, which to date have been vested in the one office, will be separated in recognition of the development of the two libraries and the completion of the new National Library building next year. Mr H. L. White, C.B.E., who has performed the dual functions since 1947, will occupy the newly created statutory office of National Librarian and, by virtue of this appointment, will vacate the office of Parliamentary Librarian. On the recommendation of the presiding officers of the Parliament, Mr A. P. Fleming, O.B.E., Special Commercial Adviser, Department of Trade and Industry, who is at present stationed in London, will be promoted as Parliamentary Librarian with the particular responsibility of developing the recently established legislative research service for the Parliament.
The appointment of Mr White and the promotion of Mr Fleming follow an amendment to the National Library Act earlier this year. This will assist the separation of the functions of the two Libaries. While it may be overstating it to say that this separation is something of a milestone in parliamentary and national history, it is, at any rate for members of this Parliament, and, I believe, for the community at large, a matter of noteworthy significance because it marks a point in our development where we have found two separate institutions to be necessary.
Perhaps the House will allow me to mention briefly that Mr White, who will assume the post of National Librarian, has since 1947 held with distinction both that post and the post of Parliamentary Librarian. He has actually been in the service of the Parliament for 45 years - a longer period, I understand, than anyone else. We wish him success in his new and important office.
– by leave - On behalf of my Party I would like to acknowledge the long and distinguished service given to the Parliament by Mr White, who is not only a great librarian but also a person who has contributed to a great number of intellectual and cultural and community activities, as indeed have the members of his family. I should also like to wish Mr Fleming well in his appointment as Parliamentary Librarian, particularly as he will be responsible for the development of the legislative research service which, having in mind the experience of the United States Congress, can be extraordinarily effectual in enabling members of Parliament to discharge their duties and to keep pace with the mounting activities and initiative of the Executive. This legislative research undertaking can in fact do more in these directions than any other scheme that we have proposed for such a purpose.
– I move-
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should appoint a committee to inquire into and report upon all aspects of primary, secondary and technical education in Government and nonGovernment schools, and that it should adopt all the recommendations by the Martin Committee on teacher training.
This is not a new subject for the Opposition to raise in the Parliament. We have consistently moved that the Government act in this way. We believe that the Government should appoint a committee of inquiry to examine education at the primary, secondary and technical levels. Not only has the Opposition concerned itself with this subject, but the matter has also been brought to the attention of the Government by interested organisations, including the Teachers Federation, parents and friends associations, educationists and many others who believe that a crisis now exists in the Australian educational system at these levels. Believing that a crisis does exist, the Australian Labor Party took the opportunity to express its point of view in its policy speeches in 1966, 1963, 1961 and 1958. In addition, the Opposition has taken every opportunity in the Parliament, particularly during the debate on the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, to bring this matter to the attention of the Government. We believe that until the Government appoints a competent committee of inquiry similar to the Murray Committee, it will not be possible to assess the needs of education at the primary, secondary and technical levels to which I have referred.
The Opposition has been spurred to these measures by accumulating evidence of the steady erosion of Australia’s educational standards at the basic levels. We are alarmed alsoby the mass exodus of Australian teachers to other countries, particularly to Canada. It is a tragedy for Australia that teachers with very high qualifications and at a senior level in their careers can be induced to migrate even though they are often in their forties and have to uproot their families and transplant them to an unfamiliar environment. These are aspects of contemporary Australian education that are causing extreme alarm to the Opposition. Australia’s expenditure on education today is lagging sadly. We are falling behind not only the advanced countries but also many advancing countries and even underdeveloped countries. In the past 10 years, some thirteen inquiries have been held into education in Australia. These range from the report of the Murray Committee on
Australian universities, which appeared in 1957, through reports of the Australian Universities Commission, the Wyndham report on secondary education in New South Wales, the reports of the Martin Committee on tertiary education, the report of the Wark Committee on colleges of advanced education to various other reports into aspects of Australian education. Nowhere have the bases of our education system been analysed and assessed at the levels of primary, secondary and technical education. The Government has consistently ignored these levels of education. We have listened to honourable members on the Government side when this matter has been before the Parliament argue consistently that education at these levels is constitutionally the responsibility of the States. 1 believe this argument was dismissed by a former Prime Minister, now Sir Robert Menzies, back in 1945 when he pointed out to this Parliament in a well-informed address that constitutional difficulties should not prevent the Commonwealth from accepting a responsibility at the primary, secondary and technical levels of education. I believe this reflects the indirect and almost accidental entry of the HoltMcEwen Government into the field of education, lt has arrived at some sort of national responsibility for education by an extremely circuitous route. As I have already pointed out, for many years this Government has disclaimed all responsibility for education. However the fact is that it was lured into the education field by electoral expediency. Sir Robert Menzies designed the science laboratory legislation as an electoral inducement in 1963. Previously the Government had made inadequate ventures into tertiary education, mainly in the form of Commonwealth scholarships. Again, the present Government was not responsible for this form of assistance at the tertiary level. This was a responsibility accepted by the Chifley Government in the immediate post-war years. The Chifley Government was responsible for the establishment of the Commonwealth Office of Education and from the relevant legislation flowed the responsibility for Commonwealth scholarships.
The present Government completely ignored the precedent which had been established by the Chifley Labor Govern ment. This was the first indication to the Australian people that education was something beyond the constitutional authority of the States. The Curtin Government and subsequently the Chifley Government conceived the vision of Commonwealth financial assistance to students. The Australian Universities Commission was established by the Curtin Government. The Curtin and Chifley Labor Governments laid the framework for massive Commonwealth assistance for education although Labor did not survive long enough to realise its aspirations. In subsequent years, the present Government has failed to capitalise on the openings given to it by the Curtin and Chifley Governments. In the 1950s we repeatedly urged the Government to expand the Commonwealth Office of Education and use it for the vast Commonwealth contribution to education which the Labor Party deemed essential to the growth of Australia. The Government completely abandoned its responsibility in these areas. The result, of course, has been a steady deterioration in our national standards.
Only after the last general election did the Government reluctantly establish a federal ministry of education. This has made little impact on the years of neglect of education at the federal level. Again, the Government has accepted a proposition that had been incorporated in the Labour Party policy for a number of years. I think as far back as the 1958 general election the policy of our party suggested that there should be established a Commonwealth ministry of education and science. However, the Government did not accept this proposition until after the 1966 election. The Government has always maintained that its only interest in education is in the university field. It has insisted that primary, secondary and technical education remain the responsibility of the States. Of course, the Opposition has been just as consistent over the years in pointing out to the Government that not only has it a responsibility at the tertiary level but it must accept greater responsibility at the primary, secondary and technical levels. One of the questions the Opposition has put to the Government whenever education comes under discussion in the Parliament is why the Government is prepared to accept a measure of responsibility at the tertiary level but disclaims responsibility for the primary, secondary and technical levels. This has not prevented the Government from straying into the area of secondary education for electoral gain. It is approaching the crisis in Australian education inversely. It has worked down from the tertiary level to the secondary level, where for electoral gain it has given assistance in the building of science blocks. It has yet to arrive at the primary and technical levels. This is an incredible approach to education. It is founded on cynical opportunism and political improvisation. We insist that the time has arrived for massive Federal intervention in education at all levels - primary, secondary, technical and tertiary.
We exclude tertiary education from this debate because we believe that there is already an immense volume of evidence pointing to the shortcomings and the future needs in this area. We acknowledge, of course, that in the main the Government has accepted the recommendations of the very effective Murray Committee. Great work flowed from the report of that Committee. Having regard to the improvements effected at the tertiary level following the recommendations of the Murray Committee, we believe that a committee of inquiry appointed to examine primary, secondary and technical levels of education in Australia would almost certainly report to the Government on the inadequacies at those levels. One reason why the Government has consistently opposed any move to establish a committee of inquiry of this kind is that almost certainly the committee would report on the inadequacies that exist at these levels of education. Such a report would almost certainly involve the Government in additional expenditure at these levels.
There is no shortage of evidence or information to guide the Government in formulating policies to assist in the field of tertiary education. The evidence accumulated in the Martin Committee’s report is an admirable example of this, notwithstanding that the Government has failed to implement most of the Committee’s recommendations. We say that the Government must now approach education in Australia in a logical and coherent manner. The gathering crisis in education can be stopped only by concentrated action at the Federal level. Instead of working backwards from the universities the Government must work forwards from the primary through to the secondary, technical and tertiary levels. Today we have a wealth of information about education at university and advanced college levels but our knowledge of education at the rudimentary primary secondary and technical levels is meagre. This is in a period when school accommodation at the primary level has reached saturation point. A survey by the Victorian Teachers’ Union early this year disclosed saturation point classroom crowding at all levels of education in Victoria. The survey disclosed that overcrowding was worst in the primary schools and that the situation was critical in 16 towns and suburbs.
One of the basic documents for some years past in education has been the regularly revised publication of the Australian Educational Council - ‘Statement of Some Needs of Australian Education’. The publication is compiled by the State Ministers for Education, the Directors of Education in each State and, now, the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science. According to the Council certain standards are essential if we are to have a sound basic education for every child in the Commonwealth. The Council insists that education systems must provide sufficient school accommodation, well-designed and wellbuilt, for the rapidly increasing child population, ft specifies that sufficient teachers should be provided to ensure a maximum of 40 pupils in primary classes, 35 in lower secondary classes and 30 hi upper secondary classes. There should also be sufficient teachers to provide related services, such as educational and vocational guidance, research, remedial teaching and advisory services. There must also be sufficient teaching staff to allow for effective school management. Other standards advocated by the Council include provision of adequate staff for clerical and other non-teaching duties so that professional teaching staff may be deployed with maximum effect. Teachers should be adequately trained and classes should be properly furnished and equipped.
Clearly, contemporary standards in education in Australia fall drastically short of these standards. Even the basic requirements are not being met in a disjointed and incoherent education system which has changed little since Federation. Australia can no longer afford the luxury of six different systems of education and six different sets of standards. Education at the primary, secondary and technical levels is shackled in a constitutional straitjacket by the Federal Government’s lack of imagination and initiative. Overcrowded classrooms, an appallingly low teacher-pupil ratio, lack of qualified teachers and associated personnel, and the failure to provide ancillary facilities such as libraries and gymnasiums are depressing features at the basic levels of education in all States. These charges are not made solely by the Opposition or by the very efficient committee appointed by this Government some years ago; these basic requirements have been pointed to by teachers’ federations and educationists in every State.
Clearly the States, with their present constraints on the raising of revenue, cannot curb the steady erosion of basic education in this country. In every State education would incur the highest expenditure. The Federal Government has shown either a complete lack of awareness of the gathering crisis or a depressing timidity in the face of one of the greatest challenges ever te confront this nation. Only massive intervention at the Federal level can stave off the imminent breakdown of education in this country. Australia’s annual expenditure on education lags far behind levels in comparable countries.
– Will the honourable member justify that claim?
– Let me give the figures. I appreciate that the honourable gentleman needs some education in this matter. Let me compare expenditure on education in Australia with expenditure on education in other countries. Our total expenditure on education represents barely 3% of our gross national product. This compares with an expenditure of 4.3% in the United States, 4.2% in the Netherlands, 4.1% in Sweden and 3.7% in Canada, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and Norway. Projections disclose that by 1970 the United States will have increased its expenditure to 5.3% of its gross national product and the Soviet Union to 6%. Unless Australia increases the percentage of its gross national product devoted to education, by 1970 we will be spending only one half of the proportion of the gross national product spent on education in the United States. This is the sort of spurt forward in educational spending that Australia should be striving to achieve. There is not the slightest hint that the Australian Government is even remotely aware of the urgent need to channel vastly increased funds into education.
The Labor Party is not alone in urging an inquiry into education at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Such an inquiry has been recommended, as I have already pointed out to the House, in recent years by every educational authority and every competent and respected education body in Australia. It is absurd that lengthy and extensive inquiries should be conducted into aspects of tertiary education at the Federal level while the foundation of all education is neglected. The time has passed when the Government can disclaim responsibility for these sectors of education or when constitutionally they can be regarded by the Government as functions of the States. Only an immense injection of Federal money can give basic education in Australia the impetus it needs. Only a full scale inquiry into all aspects of primary, secondary and technical education can determine priorities for the expenditure of Commonwealth money. Future planning in education is dependent on the determination of educational priorities, and these priorities can only be assessed by a comprehensive inquiry. The Labor Party does not specify any particular form for such an inquiry.
As my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has pointed out in an admirable lecture on education in the 1970’s, this inquiry could be in the form of a royal commission, a specialised committee along the lines of the Robins Committee in the United Kingdom, an all party committee of the Commonwealth Parliament or a Commonwealth and States body specially appointed for the purpose. But what is imperative is that some such inquiry be instituted urgently to determine national priorities in the crucial educational decade which lies ahead. If this is not done we will perpetuate the present appalling situation where Australia spends annually less on education than it spends on the economic frill of advertising. It is appalling when one considers that in Australia 25% more is spent on advertising each year than is spent on education. If priorities are not determined we will perpetuate the appalling situation in which education has a much lower priority than advertising.
I would not like to predict how such an inquiry would determine national needs. I suggest that one way would be for the Commonwealth to assume responsibility for technical education which is in a sorry plight at the moment. This would enable the States to divert resources to urgent improvements in primary and secondary education. Technical and technological education in Australia in the past 20 years has been plagued by a constant shortage of funds. This is an area where the Commonwealth could be active in making grants available to the States to finance radical improvements in the provision of facilities for technical education. It would also be possible for the Commonwealth to grant taxation concessions to industrial organisations for assistance to technical and technological training. Again, this would be dependent on the careful scrutiny of the general function of the technical colleges in Australia and this could only be done by a general inquiry as advocated by the Labor Party.
I turn now to consider briefly the Government’s refusal to implement the recommendations of the Martin Committee on Teacher Training. Briefly, the Committee recommended that the Commonwealth and the States divert additional resources to the urgent task of increasing the supply of teachers in Australia. It recommended that all trainee teachers should be matriculated and that teachers in all types of schools be professionally trained. It sought the extension of the minimum course of training for teachers from 2 years to 3 years and urged that teachers’ colleges be made autonomous. It recommended that there be established in each State a board of teacher education as a statutory body responsible for the supervision of standards of teacher preparation, the granting of certificates and professional degrees, and the distribution of such funds as may be available for the more effective preparation of teachers. The Labor Party believes that these were eminently sound and practicable recommendations. Despite the fact that the
Federal Government is responsible for the education and training in the Australian Capital Territory and other Commonwealth territories of more students than come within the responsibility of the Government of Tasmania in that State, the Federal Government does not train one teacher. It has consistently refused to accept the recommendations of the Martin Committee, and has done nothing to implement them, apart from a token financial gesture towards individual teachers’ colleges.
The adoption of the Martin Committee’s recommendations would have led ultimately to a considerable upgrading of teachers. Indeed, it would have meant that teachers would have been elevated to professional degree standard. It would have eliminated the situation which exists at the moment where a majority of teachers are inadequately educated. Adoption of the recommendations would mean that eventually all schools in Australia, both Government and non-Government, would be staffed with professionally trained teachers. The recommendations were supported by every educationist and every educational body in Australia. The Government has irresponsibly neglected the recommendations and ultimately this must act to the detriment of education in this country.
It will be the policy of a Labor Government to implement these recommendations so that an adequate supply of professionally trained teachers can be assured to all schools in Australia. This is extremely important at a time when there is mounting frustration and dissatisfaction among Australian teachers. Hundreds of Australian teachers have voted with their feet and quit the Australian educational system for more lucrative professional fields overseas. In the past 2 years Canada has skimmed considerable cream off the Australian education service. It has been claimed that on one boat alone 200 teachers left Australia for Canada. There has been a massive exodus of teachers from Australia and this irreplacable drain on our educational system can be expected to intensify. It is estimated that salaries in Canada range from $1,500 to $3,000 over comparable salaries in Australia and the professional status of teachers is considerably higher. In these circumstances it is understandable that teachers with many years training and experience are fleeing the deteriorating Australian educational system for better conditions overseas. This is the major reason why adoption of the Martin Committee’s recommendations is so urgent.
The teaching crisis is inextricably linked with the steady deterioration of standards in our educational systems at the vital primary, secondary and technical levels. Only a sustained and concentrated effort by the Federal Government in co-operation with the States can save the entire Australian educational structure from inevitable disaster. This morning I have once again submitted to the Government what the Opposition believes is a sensible proposition, that is, the establishment of a competent committee of inquiry. I have suggested how the committee of inquiry may be constituted, but this is a matter for the Government to determine. What is needed is a competent committee of inquiry which can examine education at the levels to which I have referred - the primary, secondary and technical levels. The Government has accepted some responsibility for education at the tertiary level. Unless we are prepared to recognise the importance of the primary, secondary and technical levels then we can never be successful at the tertiary level. Sufficient statistics are available in this country to show that an increased number of students are attending secondary school courses and that by 1970 a large percentage of those students at the secondary school level will have matriculated.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak’.
– After I had spoken in a debate some time ago on much the same subject several newspapers took me to task because I had the temerity to suggest that when assessing the education position in Australia it was relevant to take into account the enormous advances that had been made in comparatively recent years. To these newspapers the mere statement of that situation represented complacency, a lack of understanding, a failure to realise there was a crisis, or something of that sort. I was also taken to task because I had the temerity to question the motives of some of the people who, in putting forward their claims for an inquiry into primary and secondary education and insisting that there was a crisis for which a crash programme was necessary, quite deliberately distorted the facts and, indeed, apparently deliberately, forgot to mention the tremendous advance in education and the priorities given to education in Australia in recent years.
Why should a person of goodwill whose only objective is to achieve the best possible education at all levels for Australian children deliberately - or it seems deliberately-^ fail to bring forward the advances that have been made and deliberately mis-state the position? I must take a case in point on this. I do not want to go too far in impugning the motives of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) but he does fit into this pattern in one or two of the things that he said. For example, let me take his statement of the proportion of the gross national product that is spent on education in Australia. I have here figures which were prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician and they show in a preliminary estimate for 1965-66 that we spent 4.01% of our gross national product on education. This compares with a figure of 3.58% in 1961-62. At the moment I do not have figures going back further than that but I remember well that in 1958 when Professor Karmel’s famous lecture was being quoted generally, expenditure was between 2% and 3%.
At least the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has not done what so many people who are allegedly genuinely interested in establishing the best type of education in Australia do when allegedly putting forward claims, and that is to rest an argument on the figures produced by Professor Karmel in 1958. He has at least advanced the figure a little bit to something over 3%. Nevertheless, he completely misstates the position because on the basis of this figure of 3% he adversely compares Australia with different countries overseas which by his own statement spend a proportion of the gross national product that is considerably less than the 4.01% that we spend. I mention that as an example of the point that I am trying to make. It does seem reasonable to me in the circumstances to ask: What are the motives of people who purport to be genuinely interested in producing the most desirable educational system for our children when they make that sort of distortion of the facts and ignore the tremendous amount that has been achieved and is being achieved?
The newspapers that took me to task obviously did not read my speech. I might say that very few newspapers ever do. Because I drew attention to the tremendous improvement in the educational situation in Australia in recent years and because I said that there was no reason why the advancement should not continue at least at the same rate, these newspapers assumed that I was complacent, that 1 was suggesting that everything in the garden was perfectly satisfactory and that the Government believed that there were no difficulties at all in the educational field in Australia. They ignored the fact that I specifically mentioned in my speech that that was not so, that the Government did not believe anything of that sort and that the only reason this was mentioned was because the Government took pride in the tremendous advances that had been made and looked forward to further improvement at least at the same rate. 1 think 1 should illustrate the advances that have been made. 1 have mentioned the increase from 3.58% in 1961-62 to 4.01% in 1965-66, in the proportion of our gross national product spent on education. By any standard this puts Australia among the more advanced countries of the world in this respect. I point out that the Commonwealth’s spending on education has risen from S54m in 1961-62 to $l94m in 1967-68. But that, of course, is not the be all and end all of it in Australia. Most of the funds spent on primary and secondary education to Which the honourable gentleman is referring in particular are spent by the States. Albeit a large part of the money comes from the general revenue grants and loan allocations from this Government. The figures 1 have before me disclose that in 1959-60 the States spent $326m on education and in 1965-66, the last year for which full final figures are available, $585m. All I do is bring forward those figures to demonstrate the tremendous rate of advance, the tremendous upgrading of the priority that has been given to education in Australia. Whatever one may think about the things that have not been achieved and the state that has been reached, this cannot and should not be taken away from us, and it should not be suggested that it is irrelevant in any consideration as to what’ we should do in the future in regard to education in Australia.
If I could turn for a moment to the specific terms of the motion I should like to mention that it is not a new development to advocate an inquiry. In the past the Government has rejected the request, and it does so again for the same reasons that it has always advanced. The first reason is that these fields of education are primarily matters for the States, and the Government sincerely hopes that this position will continue. Today the honourable gentleman made it quite clear - and the Opposition has done so in the past - that his party does not see it that way. The second of the reasons is that the Government believes that each State has the duty, the right and the ability to examine continuously all aspects of education within its borders, or to examine particular needs. Four States are currently conducting inquiries. In Queensland a committee is considering teacher training; in Tasmania a committee is examining the place of the school in modern society; in Western Australia a committee is examining and will report upon secondary education; and in New South Wales an inquiry is being made into the need for an education commission.
So inquiries are continually being conducted within the ambit of State control and responsibility for education. They are directed at those things that the responsible authority, the State Government, believes most need inquiring into. The third reason is that the State Education Departments do this sort of thing as a matter of course. They should be well aware of the situation at any time. They should know what is being done and what is needed. There are regular meetings of State education Ministers and, as a result of such meetings, combined reports are published. The honourable member for Bass mentioned the ‘Statement of Some Needs of Australian Education’, which was first produced, I think, in 1961 and has been upgraded on a number of occasions since then. I make the point in passing that the Commonwealth has already acceded to the suggested needs projected in the statement for the 4 years from 1964-65 to 1967-68. But surely the point is that it is the States and not the Commonwealth which are best placed to assess the needs in these areas; and they do so. In a sense the honourable member admitted as much in his speech today. He was more frank than people usually are when he said: ‘We want an inquiry because in our opinion that is the only way to get the money’. He did not say that the inquiry is necessary because education needs inquiring into.
I assume he was not suggesting that the States are not competent to determine what they need. He sees this as a lever to obtain the money. He sees an inquiry such as this as a means to take from the Government the normal responsibility for establishing priorities in relation to expenditure.
Although I have not much time left, I feel I must say something about the second barrel of this motion, which refers to the alleged failure of the Government to adopt the recommendations contained in the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia to the Australian Universities Commission, which is commonly known as the Martin Committee. I fail to understand this part of the motion. Honourable gentlemen opposite must work on the assumption that if they keep saying often enough something which I believe to be manifestly untrue, people will agree with them. I say that within the province of its responsibilities the Commonwealth Government has adopted the recommendations of the Martin Committee and in some instances it has done better. I remind the House that the implementation of some of the Committee’s recommendations was clearly within the province of the body that has the responsibility for setting up and laying down the policy for teachers colleges. One of the recommendations by the Committee was that Australia needs more and better qualified teachers. Everybody would agree with that.
The whole object of the Martin Committee was to make recommendations with the ultimate object of improving the situation. Another recommendation was that entrance to colleges should be at matriculation level and teacher training courses should be for 3 years. Surely the honourable member is not suggesting that it is within the province of the Commonwealth Government to lay down that sort of thing. Does that therefore constitute rejection of a recommendation of the Martin Committee? Does it constitute a rejection of a recommendation of the Committee that this Government has not implemented the recommendation that each State should have its board of teacher education? Is the honourable gentleman suggesting that the Commonwealth should have gone to the States and said: ‘You will establish a board of teacher education’? ls this what the honourable member is talking about when he refers to rejection of the recommendation of the Martin Committee? Does it constitute a rejection that each college should eventually be autonomous? Should we have laid down that they should be autonomous? Is this a matter appropriately within the control of the Commonwealth? It might be seen in that way by the honourable gentleman, but it certainly is not so seen by the Government that I have the honour to represent.
Let me turn to the Committee’s financial recommendations. They were that teachers colleges should receive matching grants of $1 for $1 for capital works and $1 for $1.85 for running expenses. Had this recommendation been accepted precisely in that form it would have required a total outlay in 1965-66 of $5m of which the Commonwealth Government’s contribution would have been $2. 5m. In fact what did we do? We said to the States: ‘We will give you over a 3-year period $24m unmatched for capital purposes for building teacher colleges’. In other words, rather than accepting a recommendation of the Martin Committee, which would have involved matching grants and which would have had the effect of the Commonwealth providing $2.5m a year in total for teacher colleges, we have now come forward with an offer which involves us in providing $8m a year for teacher colleges. I suppose it is suggested that we rejected that recommendation of the Martin Committee because we did not accept the exact recommendation. Honourable members opposite speak of our rejection of the Martin Committee report yet in relation to teacher colleges we are providing more money than that Committee recommended we should provide. The Government cannot accept the proposition that it has not, both in spirit and in the letter in relation to these things which are properly the responsibility of the Commonwealth, accepted the recommendations of the Martin Committee report.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I am sure I am not interested in the adjectives which the Press will apply to the speech of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). From 1949 to 1963 we sat and listened to Sir Robert Menzies saying, day in and day out in this Parliament, that primary and secondary education were no concern of the Commonwealth, and from behind the then Prime Minister came the chorused ‘hear, hears’ of the Government members. There are not enough members sitting behind the Minister to give him a chorus of ‘hear, hears’ today, and I do not . blame them if this is the thinking of the Government. The Minister had a great deal to say about motives. I will attribute no motives to the former Prime Minister, but it was in the middle of an election campaign when in 1963 the Commonwealth accidentally made a haphazard intervention into the field of secondary education. It was not planned. Nobody asked whether science aid was the most important sphere for the Commonwealth’s first intervention in education. It was not. It was the chosen sphere for a historical accident. It was the chosen sphere because it was the sphere in which a New South Wales Labor Minister for Education had suggested an intervention in private education - a suggestion that was vetoed by the Labor Party. That science aid proposal was picked up by the Prime Minister - I will not say for electoral purposes, but during an election campaign.
Similarly the Commonwealth scholarship system was devised. The Commonwealth has no responsibility for primary and secondary education. With that I agree, but the statement is not worth a tuppenny dump. Honourable members can read speeches in this Parliament suggesting that the Commonwealth was not responsible for unemployment. Neither it was, and before the war it refused to collect any Commonwealth unemployment statistics. It only had unemployed trade unionists reporting to it, but it accidently got complete statistics in the census of 1933 and in the national register of 1939. Now we take these constitutional statistics as a matter of course, but I do not know of any change that has taken place in the Commonwealth Constitution. What Commonwealth constitutional responsibility did the founding fathers write into the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth to grant or withhold television licences? None at all, because they had never heard of television. This responsibility has been based on far fetched interpretations of the High Court.
The truth is that the Commonwealth can make those interventions which it thinks it should make in fields of State responsibility. A national inquiry into education has been asked for by every State Premier; so the kind of bland statement that this would be a violent, unwanted and uninvited incursion by the Commonwealth into the field of the States is simply not true. The proposal for a national inquiry has been aired before, and no doubt it will be aired again. Of course, if the Commonwealth does not want to do anything about the question, then do not have an inquiry, because if there is an inquiry the Commonwealth will be morally involved.
The Commonwealth has no responsibility, as far as I know, for maintaining State universities. It got itself into that field through the operations of the Murray Committee and because it was urgently necessary. The Commonwealth now has to interest itself in these fields because it insists on maintaining uniform taxation. I know there is a complete disagreement between the States as to whether uniform taxation should be abandoned, but uniform taxation is certainly no part of this federal theory that everybody keeps to his own field. What is paramount is the need of the Australian people. No matter what the Constitution says - I am not seeking unnecessary fights with the States - what the State and Commonwealth governments ought to be primarily concerned about is meeting the needs of the Australian people in the best possible way. If this can be done through the States, let it be done through the States; if it can be done through the Commonwealth, let it be done through the Commonwealth.
The structure of education in Australia is haphazard. Why is it, for instance, that Western Australia devotes 10.7% of its educational expenditure to technical education while Tasmania devotes 4.9%, Queensland 5.3%, South Australia 8.5% and Victoria 8.1%? 1 do not know about the end product of technical education in Australia but I do know that American businessmen - experts in their field - at business seminars have, said that there is simply not the skilled work in Australia to justify certain forms of investment here. They say that there are no skilled people trained here. I do not believe that the haphazard science aid intervention by the Commonwealth was the most scientific Commonwealth intervention - if members will forgive that pun. 1 am not going to engage in an argument about how one can compare the gross national product in different countries, because in respect of some countries one must be suspicious of the statistics. I cannot make these international comparisons, but I do think that we should inquire what proportion of Australia’s resources should be allocated to education. Have we ever made such an inquiry, or does it just happen that we get a bit of expenditure here and a bit of expenditure there? ls this meeting the needs of Australian youth? Are we losing the skills of the academically and technically talented?
A study of the situation has been made by the UNESCO Institute for Education. A Press report of this study states:
Australian mathematics students are among the best in the world at 13 but slip back to near the bottom of the list by the time they leave school.
This was shown today in a report, International Study of Achievements in Mathematics, to be published in full on March 31 by the Unesco Institute for Education.
It found, among other things, that boys do better than girls and that homework improves mathematical ability.
Of the twelve nations studied in the 5-year survey, Australia ranked fourth in the 13-year-oid group, but tumbled to eleventh in the final-year group . . .
The report also showed Australia lags far behind the US and well behind Japan in the number of students who complete their secondary schooling.
Although 70% of the school leaving age group were still at school in the US and 56% in Japan, only 22% of Australians were still enrolled full time.
Australia fell marginally behind S’weden, with 23%. 1 do not know whether this matters or not. 1 could not prove that it does; but it does appear to me to matter that whereas 13-year Australian mathematics students stand high in a world survey of advanced countries, by the time they reach the school leaving level they have taken a very bad tumble because, whatever we may think, mathematics is a vitally important subject and if we are going to have a skilled population - speaking as one who was never good at mathematics - it appears that we must have a mathematically skilled corps d’ elite in the community.
We know that Australia as a small nation ranks high in tennis because we have a vast number of people playing it and from it we mobilise at every level our most skilled players until finally we get the Davis Cup winners. 1 suspect that all human achievement is much the same. We need a massively educated population. Out of this will come a certain number of people with the level of achievement of genius. Much of what they discover and think may help in the advance of the country. The Minister’s statement on teachers was incredibly complacent. Certainly 1 congratulate the Government on spending $8m on teacher training, but as the Minister was so specific as to imply that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that some of the Martin committee’s recommendations which obviously apply specifically to the States should be carried through by the Commonwealth, let me say that a board of teacher education is not so clearly not a Commonwealth responsibility as he would like to indicate. That part of the Martin report says:
There should be established in each State a Board of Teacher Education as a statutory body responsible for the supervision of standards of teacher preparation, the granting of certificates and professional degrees and the distribution of such funds as may be made available for the more effective preparation of teachers.
In matters of certificates and professional degrees, as the Martin Committee envisaged, clearly there must be interstate standards. It is not a question of what a State may choose to do in its own sweet way. Some States have had a 6 months training course while at the same time, others have had a two-year course.
– Some of them still have emergency training schemes.
– Yes. The Minister is attempting to avoid responsibility on the constitutional ground that education is purely a State matter. This theory includes university education, in which the Commonwealth is heavily involved. The Minister was entirely unconvincing in contending that there should not be an inquiry. There is a need to study education methods. Education is a national interest, not merely a State interest. It is beyond party politics. Tasmania, governed by Labor, spends only 4.8% of its vote on technical education, Western Australia spends 10.7% and South Australia 8.5%. Are we to be complacent, saying that the Government of Tasmania has made a false judgment and there is no need for an inquiry by trained educationalists who will take into account the needs of the nation? If the Minister wants to impute motives I shall say there is constant harping to the effect that the Commonwealth does not want to intervene as the only motive preventing it from putting its weight behind us in our attempts to set up a nation-wide inquiry. For all 1 know, everything in the garden may be lovely and an inquiry may justify not the Minister’s complacency - I do not think that is the correct word - but his attitude, though on the other hand it may not. We must not lose sight of the fact that the State Premiers have sought this inquiry.
As a former vice-president of a teachers’ union 1 say that education standards must be imported from outside one’s own State. Nobody wanted to live within the framework of the Western Australian Education Department’s values. When I was a teacher that department knew how many lines of the ‘Ancient Mariner’ could be written on one blackboard with one piece of chalk. That sort of mentality was predominant in the Department. We all know the saying that distant fields are always greener. If the State Premiers have sought this inquiry, why does the Government not agree to the setting up of a national committee and get the best minds throughout Australia to make the inquiry? Certainly the Government of Western Australia has not at its disposal the best minds in Australia. So far as I can see, the Commonwealth has always succeeded in getting the best minds in Australia into the Australian Universities Commission and other investigations at the national level. That body has imposed its standards, too. The University of Western Australia was free. The Commonwealth Government, never liking that situation, brought pressure to bear to end it.
The virtuous attitude of non-intervention trotted out by the Minister this morning has not impressed me at all. He failed to establish a case against an inquiry. He accused the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of seeking an inquiry in an attempt to get the Commonwealth to accept more financial responsibility for education. 1 suppose that is true. When the Commonwealth refused to inquire into the number of unemployed it made no difference to the unemployment allowance, but was it wise in not making investigations? Members on the Government side know that virtually all State Government decisions on matters involving major expenditure are largely dependent on Commonwealth consent. I should be surprised if they did not know that after having been for years in this Parliament. We speak of Commonwealth responsibilities in this matter only because the Commonwealth has the power of the purse. In fact, it has always had that power. The original framers of the Constitution, whatever else they intended to do, did not give the States much basis for survival. They put all expenditure departments in the hands of the States and all revenue departments in the hands of the Commonwealth. The uniform tax decision has made this worse. The figures given by the Minister show clearly that all the States rely on the Commonwealth for advancement in the educational field. The Minister rightly claimed credit for this. I commend him for doing so. He said that flowing from the Commonwealth’s decisions on reimbursements, the States have increased education expenditure from $320m to $580m.
– The Government can claim only part of the credit.
– Where would Western Australia be without Commonwealth assistance?
– There have been many advances in the States without the help of the Commonwealth.
– Any advance in the States depends directly and indirectly on Commonwealth policy. Economically, this is the Government that makes decisions affecting the entire Australian economy. That is unavoidable. We must be realistic. I want this Government to set up an inquiry to see whether a need exists. The Minister has made an ad hoc decision that everything is advancing well. On the other hand the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made an ad hoc decision that things are not advancing so well, but at least he has the humility to suggest that an expert inquiry be set up to look at the situation. The Minister’s attitude is that the Commonwealth does not want to be involved in an inquiry. The inquiry might establish that there is no need, but on the contrary it might establish that there is an urgent need. If an inquiry revealed that we must build up our education system in the interests of national efficiency, any Commonwealth Government worth its salt would move to meet the need. I do not want to make partisan statements. The Commonwealth has moved to meet many needs, sometimes with celerity. Sir Robert Menzies was a reactionary in State and Federal financial relations. He stood on the Government side for fourteen years between 1949 and 1963, saying that the Commonwealth had no responsibility in education matters, but he then tumbled in to provide aid for school science laboratories. That was an utterly reactionary attitude to the Constitution. However, plenty of his thinking was not reactionary. Certainly he was not a reactionary in the field of university education, which he personally enjoyed and appreciated.
The advance or non-advance of many segments of community activity depended upon the personal taste of Sir Robert Menzies. If he had had the same passionate interest in secondary and primary education as he exhibited in university education
– Order! As it is now 2 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the
House, the debate on the motion is interrupted.
Motion (by Dr Forbes) agreed to:
That the time for discussion of notices be extended until 12.45 p.m.
– All I say is that if the personal tastes of Sir Robert Menzies had given him as passionate an interest in primary and secondary education as he had in university education, advances would have taken place at those two levels of education as immense as the advances which have taken place at the university level. But what was proved about university education is equally true of primary and secondary education. There will be no vast or significant advance in them until there is an active and direct Commonwealth interest in them. This has already been proved by the granting of Commonwealth aid for science laboratories and by the Commonwealth scholarship system. The Commonwealth took the initiative in bringing about these developments. Nothing of a new or dynamic nature will emerge in primary and secondary education until the Commonwealth intervenes. The inquiry we suggest would show whether such intervention is necessary. The Minister may be right in suggesting that it is not, but I believe that such an inquiry would be of immense value to Australian education.
– The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) spent most of his 20 minutes in telling us why he believes Commonwealth-State financial relationships should be varied. What we are debating is whether or not there should be an inquiry into and a report upon all aspects of primary, secondary and technical education. If, as the honourable member believes, there is some discrepancy in the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States, it will be interesting to see how his leader emerges from a conference that I understand he intends to conduct with some of his colleagues in the States. When the question of educational responsibility has been referred to the States, on every occasion the States have asserted their desire to retain their sovereignty. I personally think it is right that they should.
Not only do I think the States should retain their sovereignty; I also am not convinced that the differences that exist from State to State are necessarily bad for the educational standards of the community. This, of course, is at the crux of the question whether an inquiry should be instituted by the Commonwealth. If there is an inquiry, without doubt pressure will be brought to bear, either directly or indirectly, upon the Commonwealth to take over the responsibilities of the States in respect of primary, secondary and technical education. The question then arises: To what extent is it desired by the community, by the State governments, or indeed by the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament, that the responsibilities in this field, which over the years have been adequately and effectively fulfilled by the State governments, should now be taken over by the Commonwealth?
Having listened to the honourable member for Fremantle I wonder to just what extent and in just what respect he believes there is a requirement for an examination of the needs of education. He said something of the advantages that have accrued from Commonwealth supplementary assistance for science laboratories and technical facilities, but in addition he referred to the considerable increases in expenditure by the State governments themselves in the provision of technical facilities. The Commonwealth, of course, can claim only part of the credit for the improvement in this field. Principally and predominantly the credit must go to the individual State governments. If, as the honourable member has said, there is a difference between the proportionate amounts spent on technical education in Western Australia and in Tasmania, surely this is a matter for decision by the respective State governments. It should remain a matter for decision by the governments which spend the money. I see no validity in the argument of honourable members opposite that because there are differences in expenditure by different States this Government should take over the responsibility. I can see some validity, perhaps, in a gradual increase over the whole of Australia in the allocation of funds for education, but in terms of differences between the expenditure in different States I see no reason why this
Commonwealth Government should require a re-allocation of expenditure.
There is without a doubt, within the community, an increasing awareness, which has been built up over the years, of the need for more adequate and effective education. It is not so many years since the number of children who left school at the end of their primary education was substantial. Today increasing numbers are leaving school not just after the initial stage of their secondary education but after completing the full period of secondary education. In addition, of course, increasing numbers are attending the universities, lt was in recognition of the considerable population increase as well as the changing pattern of education requirements that the Commonwealth decided that the part of the educational responsibilities of the States concerned purely with tertiary education should be increasingly supported by the Commonwealth. In recognition of this it established the Murray Committee. That Committee examined the pattern of tertiary education and as a result we now have the Australian Universities Commission which in successive years has been recommending increased allocations of funds to supplement the amounts allocated by the States, and to ensure the adequate availability of tertiary education facilities. But simply because the Commonwealth has entered this field and has arranged for an inquiry into tertiary education I see no reason why it should then follow through with an inquiry into the other phases of education - primary, secondary and technical - which the Opposition has suggested should he responsibly considered and studied by this Commonwealth Parliament.
I think the pattern of education in Australia should still retain some kind of individuality. Indeed I believe that within the individual State systems there is much to be said for the preservation of the two different streams of education. I can see no reason at all for an arbitrary direction, by either a State government or this Federal Government, as to the types of curricula that should be laid down. I can see every reason for individual responsibility within the schools and within the States and within the two patterns of education within the
States. I think this provides a better opportunity for children to get the type and range of education they desire.
One of the main faults I find with so many of the philosophical attitudes of members of the Opposition is that they constantly try to draw together all reins of individuality within the concept of totality control. To my mind this is more regrettable than any other aspect of the outlook of members of the Opposition. The idea that the Commonwealth should look into and then arbitrarily take over responsibility for education is simply part and parcel of the socialistic approach of the Opposition to so many things. To my mind individuality in education is more to be commended than regretted.
It is true that there has been a substantial increase in the funds allocated to education not only by the State governments but also by the Commonwealth Government. This is in recognition not only of population increases but also of differential needs for education provisions. Because af this the Commonwealth has not been backward in supplementing its assistance, both at the tertiary level and more recently at the secondary level, for the provision of those facilities which will provide broader opportunities for individual students. To my mind it will continue to be essential in the future for the Commonwealth to assist only and not to take over the initiative which individual States have exercised in the field of education.
The other part of the submission that we are considering this morning relates to the implementation of the Martin Committee’s recommendations on teacher training. As all honourable members are aware and as my colleague, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) has already explained, in the last policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) an undertaking was given to supplement by the construction and equipping of new teacher training colleges throughout Australia the funds that are presently provided by State governments for teacher training. This is a notable extension into the field of teacher training, but once again I think personally some aspects of teacher training deserve to be maintained within the individual responsibility and the requirements of each State.
It is suggested by the Opposition, if not this morning then certainly on other occasions, that there would be merit in setting up individually constituted inter-educational teacher training institutions. One of the problems with teacher training is that, while we have a State controlled education system, teachers predominantly must be trained to fit into that system. The purpose of teacher training institutions is to teach prospective teachers how to teach their students within the State education system. In terms of the education they need, I would like to see more and more teachers given the opportunity to go to the universities for a tertiary education outside their education system. Within the pattern that now exists and the pattern I completely support, there is this opportunity of individual suitability and adaptability to the needs of the State system. In some States a better opportunity is given for tertiary education than in others. I can see considerable advantage in this system which allows the training of teachers to suit the needs of the State.
The Commonwealth having looked at and examined the report of the Martin Committee has itself provided a considerable financial addition to the funds and range of facilities that are available. But this offer does not mean that in the future there will not continue to be quite a substantial role for the States themselves. Within the adoption of the report of the Murray Committee there are many aspects that must continue to remain not the responsibility of the Commonwealth but certainly the responsibility of the States. Teacher training is one such aspect.
A point made by the honourable member for Fremantle related to the requests that he suggested have been made by State Premiers for inquiries into education. The conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Canberra in July 1964 certainly examined the needs of the States for education. This topic, of course, was not considered in isolation. It was considered in the context of continuing demands by the States for additional money to pursue their necessary sovereign responsibilities. When the requests for additional finance were made, it is interesting to note that each of the State Premiers asserted his desire to retain individual State sovereignty in the exercise of the educational responsibility. Sir Henry Bolte said: 1 have always believed that education is the prerogative of the States.
Mr Brand said:
Western Australia supports the case put forward. However, I line myself up with Mr Bolte in saying that education must be made a State responsibility.
Mr Reece said:
Generally, the problem is as it has been stated by the representatives of the other States, and the case already presented has the enthusiastic support of the Tasmanian Government
– But they all asked for a committee of inquiry.
– Having asked for a committee of inquiry, they were replied to by Senator Gorton. Mr Hills from New South Wales immediately retorted:
Is the Commonwealth going to accept the assessment by each Slate of its needs?
In other words, while the States at this conference said they would like additional financial support, the strength of their case was that they wanted their own right, responsibility and privilege to exercise their continuing sovereignty in the provision of education of all types. Certainly the requests were made, but the requests were made with the substantial qualification that they did not wish to give to the Commonwealth the responsibility or the prerogative to provide not only the funds hut also the type of education that the Commonwealth required. To my mind, this is the answer to the submission.
-Order! The time allowed for precedence to general business has expired.
Motion (by Mr Barnard) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the discussion of Notice No. 1 being extended until 2.30 p.m.
– As I was saying, while it is true that at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers a request was made by the States for some additional finance for education, the whole tenor of their remarks showed their anxiety to maintain their sovereignty in the exercise of their responsibility for education. Any acceptance of the motion moved by the
Opposition negates the very case that the State Premiers put on the day that the request for additional finance was considered. Certainly there will in the future be a need for an expanding provision for education. No-one on the Government side denies that. The Government recognises not only with population increases but also with population changes that there is a gradually increasing need in the number of facilities provided and in the nature of the facilities. In the future there will accordingly be increasing amounts allocated to education. But the proposition of the Opposition suggests not just that increased funds should be provided but that the Commonwealth should hold an inquiry and then, without doubt, that the Commonwealth should take the responsibility. To my mind this would not fit into the pattern of education that the people want.
The Minister for Health replied to some of the points raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). He referred to the substantial expenditure on education by the States and by the Commonwealth. In 1967-68 the Commonwealth provided $194m - the largest amount of money, that it has ever provided for education. Certainly it provided this in a field that has been supplemental not just to what is provided by the States but to what is provided by individuals within the Australian community. The States over a period of 10 years have almost doubled the amount of money that they have spent. This is in addition to the amount that is being spent by churches and by private individuals. All this amounts to a recognition by the Commonwealth Government of the needs of education in the community. It reveals a responsible recognition not only of population increase but of the changing nature of education requirements.
I contend that, in this context, the proposition put by the Opposition has no validity. An inquiry cannot be set up unless it is established that some aspect needs to be investigated. Frankly, I cannot quite see what the Opposition wants to have investigated. It has suggested, in a comparison with overseas countries, that we are not meeting their standards. The figures presented by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have already been shown not to be accurate. In fact, his figures show that we are well up with our fellows in Western countries in the proportion of gross national product that we spend on education. Of course, there is the fact that in relation to our own education pattern we are gradually providing more facilities at different levels. This means that people who today go to school have a greater opportunity for a more advanced education than they ever have had before. The number of children who leave school at a lower age is gradually decreasing and people are staying at school longer. More children are going to technical colleges and to universities. All of this amounts to the fact that more educational opportunities are being provided in Australia. If they are being provided and if the proportion of our gross national product being allocated to education is continuing to increase, then surely the need of the community is being realistically met.
In these circumstances, I would suggest that the proposition put forward for an inquiry at this stage is something which should, if it is to be instituted, remain with the sovereign States of the Commonwealth who have the responsibility in those fields where the Commonwealth today is not providing education. In regard to teacher training, I believe that the Commonwealth in providing $8m a year is playing a part that is very much in line with the suggestion made by the Martin Committee. However, the Commonwealth is not taking over the exercise of sovereign responsibility which I would suggest still remains and must remain with the individual State governments. Accordingly, I would suggest that no case has been put forward today that deserves the support of this House.
– The speech made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) was completely irrelevant to the subject before the House. The tragedy that Australian education faces is that as far as the Commonwealth is concerned we are in the hands of the Philistines. The Government has no sense of values or no sense of what is necessary for the needs of Australian children and their schools. Most Government supporters are products of those schools which are not the public responsibility. The Minister for Social Service spent 20 minutes defending an abstraction called ‘State sovereignty’. He used this quaint term which I thought was an exemplification of the authoritarian spirit. He said that teachers should be trained to fit the system. He said that interference with the sovereign rights of the States which are moulding teachers into a system, would be an interference with some fundamental Australian right. Members of the Opposition say that States have no rights but they have duties. We say that governments have no rights but that they have duties. However, we say that Australians have rights and it is our duty to see that those rights are observed. The Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) who preceded him both ignored two important factors.
Firstly, they ignored the international practice as far as even Federal governments are concerned. One has only to look at the record to see the position in the United States of America which has a Federal system equivalent to our own. There, it is being accepted at the national level that there is a national responsibility for education. I also believe that the Minister and many of his colleagues ignored the necessity to develop a national sentiment and attitude in relation to education. They ignore what might be called the ‘national spirit’. How can a Minister of the Crown stand up in this House and say that all things are for the best in the education world? Is not the Minister aware of the inequalities that exist in Australia inside the education system? Is not he aware of the great inequalities that are created both by geography and by the pattern of educational development in each State? Is not the Minister aware, for instance, that in New South Wales a larger proportion of students get into universities than in any other State? In some States students are relatively deprived. Is not it a national responsibility to see that some equality flows throughout the nation? Is not the Minister aware of the inequalities as regards the opportunities related to sex in education - not sex education, but the education of the sexes? Figures are available in this regard and later on I will give them. Is not the Minister aware that great inequalities exist even in regard to race? Great deprivations exist among Aboriginal people and among people of non-Australian ethnic origin in my own electorate where the great flow of migrants from Italy has created tremendous problems which are beyond the capacity of the State Government to solve. Is not this a national responsibility? How can all these questions be avoided by a Parliament such as this? We have heard so often about the national duties of Australians in Vietnam and elsewhere. We know that the Government has conscripted people to carry out what they consider to be their duty. However, have we not some duty to Australians before they become 20 years of age as they have to us when they attain the age of 20? i The same questions apply to social and economic status. There is tons of evidence available about this. I represent an industrial area in Melbourne in which there is no comparison between the number of young people who go to university and the number who go to university from the more richly endowed areas of Melbourne. If there is nothing else but a demand for a national attitude and a sense of equality of opportunity and equality of expenditure of public effort throughout Australia, there would be a need for this Commonnwealth to take action and set up an inquiry to find out what these fields of action are. The challenge of this debate today is a challenge to the Liberal Party and its materialistic concept of everything. They trot out figures but they have no concern for people. They have no comparisons which are relevant. What is relevant in the comparison that A or B spends more or less? What we have to do is to establish a new principle in education that the person is important.
The Minister for Social Services talked glibly about the authoritarian socialist system. This sort of talk is rubbish. The socialist system is based upon the idea that man is a social animal, that his individuality is important and that he should not be patterned to fit into some system. It is also based upon the belief that people are the greatest asset of a country. I want to turn my attention to the individuality of people. But I remind the House that somehow the great international debate about education and its values seems to have passed over the Liberal Party completely. Honourable members should read the celebrated lecture by
I believe the intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups. When I say the intellectual life, I mean to include also a large part of our practical life. . . .
Honourable members should read for themselves the thesis that C. P. Snow promulgated to get some idea of the necessity to obtain some kind of philosophical basis to their thinking about education. That is what we are attempting to do today. We are not only attempting to stir a system of values into governments of Australia so that our schools will not be a disgrace to an affluent society as many of them are. We want to bring some values into the education system that are appropriate to a modern Australian society. The first point I want to make is that Australia has no educational philosophy. It has only a system of habits. As the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) said, things just happen and do not seem to flow from any particular planning. [ am fortified in this belief by a paper written by Mr A. Barcan who is a lecturer in history and education at Newcastle Teachers’ College. In this paper, written for ‘Education for Australians’, published recently, he said:
Australia’s major contribution to education has been to provide an example of education in a new’, pioneering, community. Australia has also demonstrated the impact on education of an egalitarian democracy and the growth of a centralised, state-controlled system.
This is the centralised state-controlled system which is so dear to the heart of the Minister for Social Services who, having had his say, is now going to leave the House unless his courtesy overtakes him. The paper continued:
These practical contributions, however, have been obscured by another characteristic, the neglect of theory and the absence of prominent educational theorists.
It is to this area of Australian education to which I wish to turn the attention of the House. I believe that there is a serious contradiction between the Australian society and the way it is developing its general philosophy in regard to Australian schools. What is the Australian society like? What do we like to think of Australia as being?
We like to think of this country as being a free society - a country in which freedom of the individual is expressed both in law, in habit and tradition. We like to think that this is a country of great equality and a country in which, generally speaking, Jack is as good as his master. We like to think that social classes are largely non-existent. However, there are other areas of inequality that one has to examine. It is considered that this is the country of opportunity in which everyone has an equal go. It is a country in which, no matter where a person starts, he can end up somewhere along the line with a result equal to his ability. We like to think that this is a self-reliant community and one in which people can do things for themselves and stand on their own feet. I think it is fair to say that the nation generally speaking, despite the fact that it seems to have been conducted by reactionaries for most of its history, is a co-operative society. There are large areas of social co-operation in Australia from the surf life saving clubs to the bush fire brigades. This even includes the general traditional system by which we have conducted our armies and so on in wars.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– At the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the general position of education in Australia. The Labor Party asserts that in many respects the education system in Australia is inadequate; that large areas of education need to be examined. Over the last 17 years, and particularly in the last 10 years since education has been a matter of public debate, the Government has consistently ignored the needs of the nation and the duties of this Parliament as a national body. Many of the statements made by honourable members opposite have been irrelevant to the subject under discussion. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) paid no consideration to the needs of our schools. They are more concerned with the sovereignty of the States. Their attitude towards education ignores the people to whom we should be extending consideration. We also ignore some of the facts of international life. Although there are other federal systems there is none that so com pletely ignores the need for a national attitude and planning in education. The Government ignores the inequalities in education that have spread throughout the country due to geography, sex ratio, ethnical reasons and social and economic status. Any Australian Parliament conscious of our traditions should be attempting to produce a nation in which there is equality of opportunity and equality of public resources spent in the field of education.
Generally speaking the Australian nation pays regard to what you might call its Ethos or national spirit. We believe in freedom and equality of opportunity. I believe this is a nation of self-reliant people. Ours is a co-operative and affluent society - one of the richest in the world. We believe that an education system should be attempting to hand on the values which society holds for itself through the schools and in the way teachers teach their subjects and the way schools are built, but it is my belief that there is a contradiction between what we do in our national spirit and the kind of things taught in the Australian education system and the way the system is conducted. On the whole our education system is centralised and highly restricted. Innovation is particularly difficult throughout the system. The Wyndham Committee in New South Wales has had great trouble getting its reforms accepted not only throughout society but at the parliamentary and political level.
The Australian education system has allowed itself to become restricted in a way in which the community itself is restricted. Whereas generally speaking we believe in equality, within the education system there is an area of infinite subordination from the Director-General down to the most lowly teacher. Inside the school room it is not so much a matter of cooperative undertaking between teachers and pupils as direction from the top. While this is a logical development over a century in an education system in a pioneering community, it is time we turned our minds to the general needs in a material sense of schools and to the philosophy behind it all. Although we are a country that believes in equality of opportunity it is nonsense to say that there is equality of opportunity in Australian education. Take for instance the differences between the sexes. This is partly a school problem and partly a problem of political and general attitudes inside the education system. Last year there were some 60,000 young men at our universities and only 20,000 young women. Despite the fact that the other 40,000 young women matched the young men in intellectual capacity, social background and aptitude, they did not have equality of access with the men to higher education. This is a most tragic educational wastage.
We are a self-reliant community but the general education system is teacher directed. A good deal of this stems from the architecture of schools. Visit any school and you will find that it is designed as schools have been designed for centuries. No consideration is given to the architecture of schools. I do not know whether anything different is being done in the new schools being built in Victoria. The school room is inhibiting in its size and equipment. There is little chance of developing a cooperative exercise between teacher and pupil and between pupil and pupil.
Ours is a co-operative society. The general community operates in a large area of voluntary and co-operative work, but the education system is highly competitive. It is perhaps more competitive in Victoria than in some other States. It is certainly more competitive in Victoria than it is in New South Wales. This is as a result of different attitudes by persistent conservative governments in Victoria and consistent Labor governments in New South Wales. Take the matter of the matriculation examination, which will be occupying the attention of so many students in the next few weeks. At the beginning of the year it is anticipated that about 30% of the students will fail to matriculate; that only about 66% will pass in any subject Suppose there are 3,000 students embarking on physics or French for the matriculation examination. We can say before they enter the class room at the beginning of the year that 1,000 will be scrubbed. This is arbitrary and capricious and has no relation to the general education effort. Of course this is a highly competitive system. You must get into the top two-thirds of students or you do not matriculate.
We must examine the whole structure from this point of view. We on this side of the House examine the education system closely. I have noted with some gratification that in the last 2 or 3 years a Government members’ education committee has been established. The whole community must examine education. This Parliament should set the lead in this regard. We can do this by passing the motion before the House. It is presumptuous to say that there is no need for the kind of inquiry that we advocate. Our proposal covers the whole area of education. The basic philosophy upon which we work must be examined. This is not so much a political question, although in some areas I would arrive at a conclusion different to that arrived at by some of my more restrictive Liberal friends opposite. I think most of us will agree that the Australian education system needs a complete overhaul.
Let me refer to a couple of things in particular. Take the teaching of languages in Australian schools. Australia’s closest foreign country is Indonesia. I do not know of Indonesian being taught in any of our secondary schools. Perhaps it is taught in one or two of them. We are still teaching French because our ancestry is based on an island only 20 miles from France. I represent an area in which there are thousands of Italians. It would be more appropriate if we were teaching Italian in our schools rather than French. How many of our children are learning Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Hindustani or Vietnamese?
The attitudes of the past flow through so many areas. Woodwork is the consistent theme in the manual arts classes. Our children live in a technological, electronic and mechanical society. The Australian Capital Territory presents a wonderful opportunity to the Government to adopt an adventurous attitude in education. Here is an opportunity for the Government to establish what would be called overseas a local education authority. I would like to see a much more possessive attitude to these of our problems on the part of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth administers the Australian Capital Territory, but it simply hands the general administration of education to the State education system of New South Wales which, on the whole, in these matters does a good job. But it seems to me that here is an area where we can be experimental. I should like to conclude with one statement. One of the serious areas of deficiency, apart from the wastage of talent such as that of women, is what might be called the under-achievement and the lack of challenge of Australian education as far as the children are concerned. This I culled from an education journal:
The inspector thought it would be a good idea to wander into the schoolyard at recess time to talk to some of the young scholars. He stood by one small boy who was 6 or 7 years old and while chatting a plane went overhead. Glancing up the inspector said, ‘One of the new jets’. ‘Yes’, said the boy, ‘a Boeing727, three jets, 600 mile per hour’, etc. You know the kind of information some boys acquire. Just then the bell rang and the boy turned to him and said, ‘Well, back to threading beads’.
It is an exemplary parable. There is a large area of under-achievement in Australian education, as indeed there is in this Parliament. In order to give the Parliament an opportunity to express an opinion on this subject, I move:
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the negative.
– One wonders how important the Opposition regards this motion which was moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). Honourable members opposite have just recorded the lowest vote that has been recorded on their behalf this session. At the end of his remarks the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) was talking of the student failure rate. I suggest that no honourable member could speak with greater authority on student failure rates. If the honourable gentleman as a teacher displayed the same logic as he showed this afternoon he must have had a fantastic failure rate among his pupils.
This motion raises quite a number of serious questions. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, this matter first came to light a number of years ago asking for a committee of inquiry, but the first time that it really hit the light of day was in 1964 at the Premiers Conference when Mr P. D. Hills, the then Deputy Premier of New South Wales, brought the matter up. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) dealt with this conference at the end of his speech. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition justified his case with phrases such as ‘a crisis in education’. He said that as a country we were falling behind less developed countries, that there was a backward movement in relation to staff and student ratios, that we have a brain drain of teachers from Australia. He then compared the percentage of gross national product spent on education by Australia with that spent by other countries. This was the only statement that he was prepared to try to justify by statistics, and when he did so it was shown to be totally inaccurate. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) questioned his motive for using these figures. It is not as if the correct figures - the later figures - had not been used in this House previously. Two or three weeks ago the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) referred to the percentage of the gross national product that is spent on education and I referred to that matter as well when I followed him. Yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition used figures based on the position that existed some 7 or 8 years ago. Why did he do that? He knows what the present figures are.
The claim that Australia is falling behind other countries in the percentage of its gross national product spent on education has been shown to be false. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said that the staff-student ratio was getting worse. That, too, is completely false. I have the figures for schools in New South Wales. In 1961 there were 26.44 pupils per teacher and in 1966 there were 23.66 pupils per teacher; yet the number of pupils increased in that period from 601,127 to 672,508. So although there was more than a 10% increase in the number of pupils, there was a reduction of more than 10% in the pupils to teacher ratio. The honourable member referred to a brain drain because 100 or 200 teachers had gone to Canada. Again I cite the figures for New South Wales. In 1961 there were 22,739 teachers and in 1966 there were 28,418 - an increase of more than 20%. So again a claim upon which the honourable member based his case for a committee of inquiry is shown to be false. The honourable gentleman is becoming as devious as his leader - his leader is as devious as a dolphin and will be known as the ‘Flipper’ of Australian politics. ls there a crisis in our schools? Let us look at this aspect. Has there been any closing down of schools? There has been no closing down of private schools and there has been no closing down of State schools. As I have shown in New South Wales, which is the largest State, there has been not only a vast increase in the numbers of students but also a very important improvement in the teacher to student ratio. There has not been a teaching crisis. Nor has there been a serious brain drain of teachers from this country, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition claimed. In fact the position is improving each year.
The honourable member said that the Commonwealth should step in and take over from the States, and used as an example the Murray Committee and the Martin Committee. Before these Committees were set up the Commonwealth had made a decision to give assistance and the States had accepted this proposal in principle. When the Murray Committee’s report was tabled there were discussions on how and when the assistance should be given. As the Minister for Social Services stated, if there is to be an acceptance of Commonwealth assistance, then the Commonwealth will want to have some responsibility to ensure that the money is expended effectively and properly and the States will have to be willing to give away some of their rights and responsibilities. I refer once again to what Sir Henry Bolte said when this matter came before the Premiers’ Conference in 1964. He said: 1 have always believed that education is the prerogative of the States. I will never agree to having the Commonwealth take over education . . .
Sir Henry Bolte was supported by the Premier of Western Australia, Mr Brand, the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Reece, and other Premiers. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition became Prime Minister and on his first day of office introduced legislation to take over education from the States, he would beat by 10 days Frank Forde’s record short term as Prime Minister. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Commonwealth should ensure that the States set up boards of teacher education. I am sorry that he is not in the chamber now because he was the one who wanted the time for this debate extended. I wanted to ask him whether he has stood up in his own State of Tasmania and asked the State Labor Government to set up a board of teacher education. No such body has been set up there. Has the Labor Premier of South Australia, who has had this recommendation before him, set up a board of teacher education? He has not. This shows how false is the argument that was put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition this morning. These governments have not acted. Nor has a Labor Party Opposition in any State moved a resolution asking a government to do this. If such a resolution had been moved I am sure that the honourable gentleman would have referred to it this morning.
The States have power to carry out an assessment of education needs. In fact, in 1963 the Australian Education Council prepared an assessment of the needs of primary, secondary and technical education and put it to a Premiers’ Conference. If, as was suggested by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) there is a need for a more philosophical examination of education needs at these lower levels, that is within the power of the States. As has been pointed out, at present four States are carrying out inquiries into questions of education. For instance, in Tasmania, there is a public committee of inquiry in progress on the role of schools in society. New South Wales is looking into the question of an education commission. In Queensland and Western Australia also I think commissions or committees are inquiring into education. This is within the power of the States. If they want the assistance of experts from other parts of Australia, these will be available to them, as has been the case in many other fields.
The States themselves are expending far greater amounts on education and the Commonwealth has been giving increased grants to the States. In 1959-1960 the total of financial assistance grants to all States was $489m. That amount has been increased to approximately $900m this year. Similarly, the amounts being spent by the States are increasing. The crisis in education referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition patently does not exist. I wonder why he uses these emotional terms? I wonder why he used inaccurate figures when he compared the proportion of our gross national product that is spent in education with the corresponding expenditure by other countries? He used a figure of something like 3% when in fact it is over 4%. In any case what is the value of these comparisons? I have referred to this matter in the House on a number of occasions. I need only remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that his colleague, the honourable member for Fremantle, said that these sorts of comparisons are ridiculous. As I have pointed out, the States have within their power the ability to examine these matters. It is also within their power to bring them to the attention of the Commonwealth at Premiers’ Conferences, lt can be shown that the needs of Australian education are being met by the amounts of money that are being advanced and also that a continuous improvement in standards is taking place. This is made clear by the figures that I quoted for New South Wales for the last 5 or 6 years.
– Order! The time allowed for the consideration of the notice has expired. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next sitting.
– I move:
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 21 (1967), which I have just tabled, relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966- 1967. The amendments, the first stage of which will come into operation on 1st January 1968, give effect to the tariff changes agreed to by Australia as a result of the Kennedy Round of negotiations on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. As is known, these negotiations resulted from a great new initiative by the late President Kennedy for freer world trade and were launched in GATT by meetings of Ministers in 1963 and 1964. The Kennedy Round stood out from all previous negotiations. Not only was a 50% reduction in tariffs across the board sought, but it was agreed also that agriculture should be an integral part of the negotiations. This meant tackling tariffs and also quotas, domestic support measures, subsidies and all the other non-tariff measures inhibiting trade in agricultural products.
The Kennedy Round approach meant that the industrial countries took as their target on industrial tariffs a sweeping cut of 50% across the board. However, at Geneva in 1963 I obtained recognition that Australia could not be expected to cut tariffs across the board like the fully industrialised countries. At the same time, I made it clear that Australia would make adequate payment for benefits received from other countries. International negotiations are frequently difficult and complicated, and the Kennedy Round was no exception. Negotiations were formally launched in 1964, but the outcome was still in doubt in May 1967, only one month before the negotiating mandate of the United States President ran out.
In the event, the Kennedy Round achieved overall a considerable advance, particularly in the tariff field. Concessions involving an average reduction in tariffs of around 30% were negotiated on trade valued at over $A36,00Om. This represents about 20% of all international trade. In addition, agreement was reached on the basic elements to be included in a new international grains arrangement. From Australia’s point of view the most important achievement was the agreement reached on the basis for a new international grains arrangement. This general policy agreement reached at Geneva was translated into a formal international agreement as a result of negotiations held in Rome in July and August of this year. I shall not again deal with this matter on which detailed information was given to honourable members in my speech on the International Grains Arrangement on 17th October. On that occasion I pointed out the benefits for Australia in the agreement. In addition to wheat, other important Australian products will benefit from the results of the Kennedy Round.
Japan has given undertakings covering Australian trade valued at more than $A350m a year. These include a guarantee by Japan not to impose duties on a number of our important products, including wool, hides and skins, coking coal, iron ore and various other ores and concentrates. Japan has also undertaken to improve access for meat and other commodities. Duties will be reduced on a number of products including mutton and lamb, beef tallow, unwrought copper and zinc, pearls and certain precious and semiprecious stones.
The European Economic Community will reduce import duties on raisins and sultanas, certain dried tree fruits, honey, offals, tallow, coal and other products. Products which will benefit from concessions negotiated with the Scandinavians will include apples, pears, honey and some canned fruit. Australian exporters will benefit also from tariff reductions in the United States, and a number of other countries, including a 50% cut in the United States duty on lamb. In all, undertakings by other countries will affect Australian exports to the order of SA400m per annum. This, of course, is in addition to wheat; and sugar remains to be negotiated in another forum.
Negotiations with the EEC aimed at opening up better trading opportunities for frozen beef and veal in that important market were not concluded by 30th June. In accordance with GATT’s normal practice, most negotiations have been with the EEC’s largest supplier, Argentina. However, as Australia has a major interest in selling more beef in this market we associated ourselves very actively with the negotiations. We are determined to do everything practicable to obtain a satisfactory outcome to these meat negotiations, but it may be some time before they are completed.
One of the biggest disappointments of the Kennedy Round was the failure of the United States to reduce the duty on wool. Although the United States buys only some 5% of our total wool exports, she is the only big buyer still charging a significant duty on wool. Even before the Kennedy Round began we had been given to understand, at a very high level, that the United States was prepared to negotiate a substantial cut in this duty. However, the negotiations demonstrated clearly that it was not prepared to cut its wool tariff.
On what was published about the negotiations with the United States, it was made to appear that this was the result of our unwillingness to make a concession on tobacco. In fact, any detached observer would conclude that this was far from being the position. We had made an offer which I believe met all the real substance of the American request on tobacco and we indicated our preparedness to make concessions on other items. It was made plain to us that, even if there were a settlement on tobacco, there would be further unspecified demands made upon us in addition to the offers we had already made. There is no escape from the conclusion that American domestic considerations were such that a reduction in the wool duty could not be obtained on any realistic terms.
There was some unavoidable loss of preferences in both Britain and Canada. Britain and Canada attached such importance to the success of the Kennedy Round, that they both approached these negotiations on the basis that the scope for negotiations with third countries should not be restricted by their obligations under their bilateral trade agreements with Australia or other preferential trade partners. Consequently, it was inevitable that in the course of the Kennedy Round some of the concessions negotiated by Britain and Canada should involve departures from our preferential agreements. Products affected be reduced preferences in the United Kingdom include raisins, sultanas, canned peaches, beef offals, leather and milled rice, while the main cuts in preferences in Canada will be on raisins, currants, wool tops, canned pineapple and brandy. There were also some minor losses of preferences in New Zealand.
Undertakings given by Australia for reducing tariffs - either by reducing the general rate of duty or by eliminating primage - cover imports worth $A137m in 1965-66. Undertakings guaranteeing duty free admission cover another $A4m of imports. In addition to this, another $A45m of imports were given a new position of advantage by applying the general rate of duty to imports of the products from all sources. This therefore represents tariff undertakings given by Australia totalling $A186m.
It was agreed at Geneva at the end of the negotiations that countries which had participated would introduce the agreed changes in their tariffs in stages spread over the next 4 years. The changes in the Australian tariff will be made in five equal steps commencing on 1st January 1968. The last stage will be implemented on 1st January 1972. To simplify this process in cases where primage is being reduced, the primage duties are being removed on 1st January next and replaced by an equivalent increase in the customs tariff. The aggregated duty is then being reduced in five equal steps.
The spreading of the tariff changes over 4 years should assist producers and traders affected to make the necessary adjustments, for example, where tariff preferences are to be reduced. As far as protection for Australian industry is concerned, great care has been taken in any case to avoid impairing its effectiveness. The tariff changes which Australia finally agreed to, and which are incorporated in the proposals, represent only a part of the concessions which Australia would have been prepared to make if other countries had been willing to grant Australia concessions which would have made this worth while. In an effort to induce the major industrial countries to offer meaningful concessions on items of interest to Australia, we tabled in Geneva an indicative offer list. This list contained over 3,000 items on which we informed our trading partners we were prepared to negotiate in exchange for worth while concessions from them. In the end result, the overall benefits of the Kennedy Round negotiations were very unevenly spread. Efforts to reduce trade barriers were very much more successful for manufacturers than for primary products.
The concessions negotiated by the half a dozen major industrial countries amply illustrates the point. These countries between them accounted for around 80% of all the concessions negotiated in the Kennedy Round. Nearly four-fifths of the trade which will benefit from improved access to these key markets will be trade in industrial goods worth $US20,000m out of total trade affected of some $US25,000m. This despite the fact that well over half of the total imports of these countries are primary products.
Let me put it another way. If we look at the areas of trade where these countries improved access to their markets, we find that four-fifths of their imports of manufactured goods were affected but only one-third of their imports of primary products. In other words, only $1 of trade in every $5 missed out in the case of manufacturers, but S2 in every $3 missed out in the case of primary products. For countries like Australia and New Zealand, which depend on primary products to supply about 85% of their exports, this cannot be regarded as a satisfactory result.
I say this even though Australia obtained quite significant gains from the negotiations. Much the same is true of the developing countries. They too will benefit significantly, but the overall results fall short of their expectations. In their case, of course, in accordance with the arrangements agreed in 1963, they were not required to offer full reciprocity for the concessions received. Moreover, some of the major industrialised countries, like Britain, may apply tariff changes on products of interest to the developing countries in full during 1968.
In brief, the Kennedy Round negotiations, despite the most strenuous efforts, failed to liberalise world trade in some key areas, including some of great importance to Australia. Acceptable conditions of access which were to have been negotiated for agricultural products were not achieved. This matter cannot be allowed to rest there just because the Kennedy Round is finished. The battle for better markets for agricultural commodities must be continued without respite. There is wide and growing support for this view. Mr Roth, President Johnson’s Special Representative for Trade Negotiations, speaking earlier this month about the outcome of the Kennedy Round in the agricultural sector, observed that the major trading nations have barely come to grips with this problem. Mr Wyndham White - Director-General of GATT - in a speech in West Germany just last month, asserted that ‘a case clearly exists for a more ambitious and imaginative approach to international negotiations on trade in agricultural products’.
Mr Wyndham White has recently taken the initiative in suggesting the urgent need for a meeting of Trade Ministers of GATT countries during the 24th Session of the GATT which is to take place in November this year. The principal purpose of this meeting, in reviewing 20 years of GATT activity, will be to identify the main problems still outstanding, such as obstacles to trade in agricultural products like meat, dairy products, cereals and fruit, and to lay down guidelines for a programme of work leading to practical and negotiable solutions.
Because of the tremendous stake that Australia has in international trade, and particularly in trade in agricultural products, I, on behalf of the Australian
Government, have strongly supported Mr Wyndham White’s initiative. We are determined to do everything possible to ensure that the conclusion of the Kennedy Round does not mark the end of efforts to improve conditions of trade for our important export products. In our view, the impetus that was gained during the Kennedy Round must be maintained. Although the Kennedy Round itself has amply demonstrated how difficult it is to break down the high wall of protection which has been built around agriculture in so many major industrial countries, practical solutions must be found. Notwithstanding the disappointing result of the Kennedy Round for primary producing countries, the GATT provides perhaps our best prospect of finding some of these solutions. We must give our full support to these efforts.
Britain’s decision earlier this year to make another bid to join the Common Market gives added importance to efforts to find international solutions to the problems of world trade in agricultural products. I have consistently stressed, both here and abroad, the possible consequences of British entry without adequate safeguards for vulnerable Australian exports, including meat, sugar, dairy products, cereals, fresh, canned and dried fruits.
The stated policy of the British Government has been and still is that it was only prepared to enter the European Economic Community on terms which protected the essential interests of Britain itself and of the Commonwealth. However, it has become clear that the British Government, in its anxiety to ease the way for its entry to the EEC, intends to interpret essential Commonwealth interests very narrowly indeed.
Both the British Foreign Secretary, Mr George Brown, and the Commonwealth Secretary, Mr George Thomson, have made it clear in recent statements that Commonwealth interests, from Britain’s point of view, mean no more than recognising commitments under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement until 1974, and acknowledging New Zealand’s special problems in respect of butter. Forms of association with the enlarged EEC would be sought for developing Commonwealth countries of Africa and the Caribbean. Little else appears to be envisaged for other Commonwealth exports, beyong the phasing in of Community levies and tariffs over a transitional period. The British Labor Party gave general endorsement to this apparent attitude at the Party conference on 2nd October.
The Commission of the EEC in its official report early this month to the Council of Ministers on Britain’s application made three important comments on the subject of Commonwealth trade. Firstly, the Commission said:
The British Government has not indicated the necessity for special solutions for the developed countries of the Commonwealth, with the exception of New Zealand’s dairy products.
Secondly, it claimed:
The disappearance of the imperial preferences should not present insuperable difficulties if it is effected progressively in the course of a transition period.
Thirdly, it claimed:
The long-term solution to the problems which arise in connection with the important agricultural products is to be found only in a world context.
The Commission went on to suggest renewed efforts to negotiate world agreements on key agricultural products. But we have just come from a conference of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade where we failed to get world agreements on dairy products or meat, and so far we have failed to get one on sugar. All this can only add greatly to the importance, from Australia’s point of view, of the work which GATT should undertake over the next few years concerning international trade in agricultural products.
There is yet another important reason why a meeting of Trade Ministers is essential at the present time. In the United States, unfortunately, there has been a resurgence of restrictive sentiment even before agreements reached in the Kennedy Round have been ratified by the United States Congress. In Congress, numerous bills have been introduced by many senators and congressmen which would restrict imports of a whole host of products, including meat, dairy products, lead and zinc, wool textiles, wool tops and steel. The products mentioned are all of important export interest to Australia. Taken together, almost 60% of Australia’s exports to the United States could be affected by these measures. There is also a move, backed by several United States senators and congressmen, to introduce an omnibus measure that, in given circumstances for any product, would im pose import quotas on that product based on criteria highly unfavourable to imports.
The Australian Government has strongly registered its concern with the United States Administration. Most of Australia’s export industries affected by these developments have arranged to put their views before a United States Senate committee which began hearings yesterday. In fairness to the United States Administration I should stress that it, too, is very worried indeed by this upsurge of protectionism. No less than five members of the President’s Cabinet are appearing before the Senate committee to argue strongly the case for liberal trade policies. But in Australia we have to recognise that we can never sit back and assume that our overseas markets are safe. The battle to hold and develop those markets can never slacken.
Other important problems for GATT to tackle at the projected ministerial discussions will include the massive job of raising the living standards of the less developed countries. This will be the first meeting of Trade Ministers in GATT since the meetings of 1963 and 1964 which inaugurated the Kennedy Round. The issues discussed will will be of vital importance to Australia. The future welfare of some of our most important export industries could depend heavily on the result of the programme of work which Ministers are expected to lay down. Having regard to the importance of this meeting to Australia, the Prime Minister agrees that I, as the responsible Minister, should attend to ensure that proper weight is given to Australian interests and Australian views. I thought it proper to take this opportunity while presenting these Tariff Proposals to the House, to draw the attention of honourable members to these important developments. It remains for me only to commend the Tariff Proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
– by leave - There have at times been complaints about the visa formalities required of people wishing to visit Australia. Some of the complaints have been exaggerations. However, there is a basic need to ensure that in times of increasing travel the path of intending visitors to Australia is made as smooth as possible for the development of trade, industries and tourism and, not least, for reasons of common courtesy and international understanding. The monetary gain to Australia from the growing inflow of visitors from abroad is important enough. Since 1961 the numbers arriving annually have almost doubled. In 1970 it is expected that 320,000 visitors will come here and our resultant foreign exchange earnings will be SI 20m. But still more important, of course, are the interchange of ideas and the greater knowledge, understanding and goodwill which flow from facilitation of movement between countries.
A thorough review of the visa formalities has been in progress and I inform the House that in Jone last I directed that changes in procedures be made to enable visas to be issued on the day of application as a general rule. These changes were introduced in July at Australian visa issuing offices in Europe, the Middle East and the United States, and have proved successful. I have left it until now to make this statement so that I would have the opportunity to see how the changes worked out. As I have said, they have proved successful. Elsewhere some administrative arrangements have still to be completed but my intention is to extend the new ‘immediate issue* procedures to all non-Communist countries as soon as possible. Visitors from the Communist countries will also receive their visas as quickly as possible, but special considerations apply to them. The new procedures enable intending visitors to get their visas without having to call personally at our offices if they do not wish to do so. Our visa application forms are also being redesigned for greater simplicity.
A good many countries allow people to enter as visitors without visas at all. Australia, however, has a special need to maintain the basic visa requirement, as a country distant from the areas from which most visitors come. The issue of a visa before the long journey practically eliminates the possibility of entry being refused on arrival; and clearance at our ports and airports is quicker than would be possible otherwise. For both the businessman and the tourist with limited time to spend in Australia, it would be frustrating in the extreme to experience delays at point of entry to Australia; and we have to prepare for the arrival in 1970 of aircraft carrying three times as many passengers as the largest passenger aircraft of today.
Visa officers overseas are in the best position to stop the bogus visitor who is really trying to settle in Australia without passing normal immigration requirements. This in turn avoids numerous deportation proceedings against such people after entry and saves the airlines and shipping companies the considerable expense of taking the people away again. My objective, in short, is to ensure that truly essential administrative requirements are met with the very least inconvenience to the traveller. Good progress in this has already been made, and more can be expected.
In these matters I shall be gladly cooperating with my colleague, the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities (Mr Chipp), the Australian Tourist Commission, carrier companies and all others interested. Mutual understanding by each of the parties of the essential objectives of the others will obviously help co-operation, to the great benefit of the traveller.
I present the following paper:
Visa requirements for visitors to AustraliaMinisterial Statement, 19 October 1967 - and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to set up a special statutory Tribunal to deal with industrial disputes involving pilots, navigators and flight engineers in the airlines industry. I emphasise two features of what I have just said. The Bill sets up a special Tribunal and that special Tribunal is a statutory Tribunal.
We are providing that industrial disputes affecting flight crew - I use that phrase to comprehend the three classes of flight crew - be handled by a special Tribunal, because experience has shown that industrial problems concerning flight crew are unique. And we are providing for a statutory Tribunal with ancillary provisions, because all the effort put into establishing lasting and effective non-statutory machinery to govern the industrial relationships of pilots has proved unavailing.
I must spend a few words to explain this last point. Originally the pilots had an association registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. When the then pilotsassociation found the Arbitration Court, as it then was, and later the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, were unprepared to award what they sought, the association was replaced by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, a body outside the arbitration system. For years, relationships between the pilots’ association and later the Federation and the airlines were in a pretty constant state of ferment. While many factors contributed to this unfortunate situation, one of them was the disposition of the pilots’ body to exploit to the full their unique bargaining position, irrespective of the consequences for the industry and the public. The years between 1956 and 1964 were littered with industrial skirmishings, disputes and arguments, strikes and regulation strikes, and proceedings in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Commonwealth Industrial Court, and the High Court. The pilots’ bodies steadfastly refused to submit their claims to arbitration; they relied on their bargaining strength and exercised it to the full.
By 1964 the situation had become chaotic and the future of the industry was in jeopardy. There simply had to be some orderly arrangements for dealing with disputes between the airlines and their pilots. It was urged on the Government that it should bring down legislation to deal with airlines-pilots relations. The Government, however, took the view that an effort should be made to get a voluntary agreement between the airline operators and the pilots’ Federation which would set down agreed means of settling industrial problems. The Department of Labour and National Service was instructed to explore the possibility of achieving this. To our great satisfaction, and to the pleasure of the parties, an agreement was ultimately hammered out. The
Agreement on Industrial Relationships Procedures was signed by Qantas Airways Ltd, Trans Australia Airlines, Ansett-ANA, MacRobertson-Miller Airlines and EastWest Airlines and the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, and it was to operate for 3 years from September 1965.
The procedures called for direct negotiation between the parties and if these negotiations were unsuccessful, mediation by an independent mediator. If mediation should be unsuccessful various possibilities were open - further mediation, an inquiry into the matters in dispute by an independent person appointed for the purpose, or a conference of the parties to be convened by the Secretary to the Department. It was agreed that the parties would not have recourse to action outside the Agreement until the procedures provided by it had been exhausted. The Federation undertook to suspend the right to strike or to impose any other limitation upon work while a matter was under negotiation or enquiry in accordance with the procedures, and until the expiry of a period of 7 days after conclusion of the conference action to which I have referred.
I emphasise that this Agreement was voluntarily entered into and, indeed, reflected in its essentials the previously expressed wishes of the Federation. In these circumstances it was not unreasonable to assume that there would be no further trouble of any consequence between the pilots’ Federation and the airlines. These hopes were short-lived. In mid-1966 when the procedures were employed in the negotiation of a new contract between the pilots’ Federation and the domestic airline operators, agreement was reached - under, I add, threat of immediate strike action - which gave substantial salary increases and improved conditions for domestic pilots. Then the Federation became involved in a dispute with Qantas. Within a short span of time - in breach of the procedures Agreement - the Qantas pilots went on strike. In short, the Federation repudiated, in a little more than a year, the Agreement they had negotiated and signed.
I have no need to go into the details of the Qantas strike. It was a sorry affair. I do, however, wish to remind honourable members of one of the terms of settlement. I refer to the term which provided that four listed matters and negotiations for a new contract between Qantas and the Federation were to be handled by a committee consisting of equal numbers of representatives of Qantas and the Federation with an independent neutral chairman to be appointed by agreement of the parties, and failing that by me. It was also provided that on any matter before the committee with equal numbers present from both sides, the majority decision was to prevail, but otherwise the decision of the chairman was to prevail: in other words, he would arbitrate. I am glad to say that, under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Melville, agreement was recently reached between Qantas and the Federation, but not without threats by the latter’s representatives of direct action and of walk out from the conferences when matters were raised of which those representatives disapproved.
Now, of course, it is gratifying that an agreement has been come to. I am not interested here in its terms. All 1 hope is that the agreement is honoured. I have to put it that way because, despite the agreement reached last July between the domestic airlines and the pilots’ Federation, which gave considerable increases in salaries to the pilots and gave them the North American type agreement they wanted, at this very moment, both TAA and Ansett-ANA are once more being confronted by the Federation. To try to get its way, the Federation is prepared to disrupt operations by restricting the hours the pilots will fly. It is of no consequence to the Federation that, once again, the public would be the sufferer.
So now 1 am presenting this legislation. We hoped in 1965, when the voluntary procedures Agreement was signed, that the need for special legislation had passed. We hoped that, with the new contract to operate from last July between the domestic operators and the Federation, there would be peace in the domestic airlines. Whether it will, remains to be seen. We hope that the Qantas agreement will be honoured. We could approach this legislation as providing an insurance policy for the future. But it is rather more than this. The fact of the matter is that currently there is no machinery for handling the industrial relationships of the pilots and the airlines.
Before I go on to explain the Bill,. I want to point out that under the 1965 procedures Agreement, to which the Federation was a party, the steps were negotiation, mediation, inquiry and conference. In the case of the terms of settlement of the Qantas strike, to which the Federation was also party, the steps were negotiation, mediation and arbitration, i.e., essentially the same as the normal processes under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I make these points because they bear very directly on the provisions of this Bill. Put another way, the Bill is framed to provide for these very processes of conciliation, mediation and arbitration to which the Federation earlier agreed.
The Bill before us provides for a new Part 111a within the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1966 which will provide orderly means for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes involving pilots, navigators, and flight engineers. I mentioned navigators and flight engineers. We all know that pilots, navigators and flight engineers necessarily represent a close working group on the flight deck of an aircraft. They are members of a team. They share a number of common conditions of employment. They are subject to the provisions of the Air Navigation Act and the regulations and orders made under that Act. In this situation one cannot conceive that one set of arrangements for dealing with industrial issues should apply to pilots and another or others to their colleague:.
But there is another cogent reason. As I have already indicated, the pilots’ Federation by its own decision placed itself outside the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Australasian Airline Navigators’ Association likewise is not, and never has been, registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - in its case, because it has insufficient members to qualify for registration. Its members are employed with Qantas. Until recently, there have been no formal arrangements for dealing with the industrial relationships between Qantas and the navigators. However, quite recently, with the aid of my Department, the parties entered into an agreement covering procedures for the handling of their relationships - procedures which, unlike those provided by the 1965 pilots’ procedures Agreement, allow for arbitration where the processes of negotiation and conciliation are successful.
I understand that these procedures have not yet been availed of. It was, however, accepted by both parties that in the event of legislaion to provide the means for dealing with matters in dispute between them, the procedures would lapse, except that insofar as there were matters in process at the time legislation was passed, the parties could agree to carry on in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement. On the other hand, flight engineers belong to the Australasian Airline Flight Engineers’ Association, which is registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The attitude of this Association is quite clear. Its attitude is that flight engineers’ conditions should be related to those of pilots. For the reasons I have mentioned, it is obvious that each of these three classes of flight crew should be covered by the same machinery; otherwise inconsistencies of treatment could develop which, in themselves, would provide grounds for further unrest.
Now it has for years been the consistent policy of governments of the Commonwealth, of our persuasion or of the Opposition’s, to set their face against constituting special tribunals in the industrial field. Since the war there has been only one exception - the Coal Industry Tribunal. There was very special justification for the then Labor Government making an exception in that case. And we believe there is very special justification for our making an exception in this case.
Many of the problems associated with the employment of pilots, navigators and flight engineers are inextricably interrelated, complex and unique. The rapid growth of the industry and the important part it now plays in our national life are to a very large extent post-war phenomena. As everyone knows, operating aircraft is a highly technical business and characterised by rapid technological change. The introduction of a new aircraft type can have a profound effect on airline operations and on the previously existing conditions of employment. Flight crew officers are trained in highly specialised skills peculiar to the industry with virtually no counterpart in other industries.
In a nutshell, 1 do not think anyone would dispute that flight crews and their conditions of employment differ appreciably from just about all, if not all, other classes of employees ordinarily dealt with by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In passing, one of the reasons advanced by the pilots for removing themselves from the Commission, and refusing to return to it, is that they believed that the processes of the Commission and its personnel were not well suited to deal with pilot and airline problems.
So the Bill provides for the setting up of a special Tribunal - the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal. The Tribunal will consist of a person appointed by the GovernorGeneral for a term not exceeding 5 years. The appointee will be eligible for reappointment. This is not a novel provision. Appointment to the Coal Industry Tribunal and the office of Public Service Arbitrator are for a fixed limited term - in both cases not exceeding 7 years. The appointee will not be required to act full-time but only from time to time as occasion arises. In the performance of his duties and functions he will have the same protection and immunity as a judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
The proposed new office will be a most Important one. Whoever is appointed must become really knowledgeable in the industry’s background, its technology and operational problems. These problems involve many disciplines. The right man may be found in industry, commerce, the professions or the academic field. He need not necessarily be a lawyer.
There is provision for the Minister to appoint a person to act as the Tribunal when the person constituting the Tribunal is not available, or there is a vacancy in the office, or an appointment is requested by the Tribunal in the interests of expedition. If circumstances make it desirable, either the permanent or temporary appointee may be a member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Everyone interested in the exercise of the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers will find in this Bill the powers and functions it confers on the Tribunal and the ancillary provisions. The Bill relies on what I might call the Commonwealth’s ‘proprietary power’ - it owns to all intents and purposes TAA and Qantas. The Bill also relies on the conciliation and arbitration head of power and the overseas and interstate trade and commerce heads of power. I shall not go into these fascinating problems. Conceivably in some cases the powers and functions of the Tribunal and the ancillary provisions will have limits on their perimeters, for example where only the conciliation and arbitration head of power can be relied on.
The Tribunal is authorised to act of its own motion, on the application of a party to, or a party interested in, the matter or dispute, or the Minister. If, therefore, the Tribunal considers it desirable to do so, it will be able to take hold of a matter at any time and before the parties may have adopted inflexible attitudes and negotiations have become emotionally charged. Of course, this is a power to be exercised with discretion. Generally the parties should be left to deal with their own problems in their own way - to the extent that this is consistent with the maintenance of industrial peace. One virtue in including these provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is that it facilitates the conferring on the Tribunal of those powers and functions exercisable by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that are relevant to his task. No provision is made for an appeal from a decision of the Tribunal or for references of questions to the Commission from the Tribunal. This flows from what I have said already about the specialised character of the man who is the Tribunal.
Now I turn to some special provisions - provisions required in this particular case. Some of them spring from the fact that there is no registered organisation, no body corporate, representing the pilots and the navigators. They also have the quality of insurance against the pilots resorting to the tactics they employed in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 1961, when they took the line that, having no registered organisation, each pilot had to be dealt with individually. By so doing, they virtually frustrated the efforts of the Commission to deal with a Qantas dispute. As well, there are some provisions in keeping with the conciliation process that we would like to be given a high place by the Tribunal as he functions in future. Under the first bead, there are provisions enabling the Tribunal to make representative orders. Adequate provision is included to protect the position of any flight crew member who can establish a separate interest. Next, there is power to declare a body. This is a second insurance provision. Just as the representative order provisions are designed to cope with the tactics I mentioned a moment ago, so the provisions about declared bodies take account of the fact that neither the pilots nor the navigators’ associations are registered organisations, and could be replaced by other unincorporated bodies in an effort to escape responsibilities under the new system. In quite different vein are the provisions set out in the proposed new section 88ZA.
I place great store on the airlines and the flight crew trying to work out together their industrial relationships. If ever there were a case for those concerned getting together to discuss and negotiate their differences, this is it. That is why we strove so hard to get a voluntary agreement for the conduct of pilots’ and navigators’ affairs. But when I speak of discussions and negotiations I mean just that - sophisticated and sensible negotiations’, not stand and deliver attitudes. It would be a sorry day if the airlines or flight crew saw this new legislation as a justification for desisting from the process of discussion and negotiation which the Government has been trying to encourage. The provision we are making has much in common with the procedures set out in the abortive voluntary procedures agreement relating to the pilots, in the terms of settlement of the Qantas dispute and in the recent procedures agreement negotiated between Qantas and the navigators.
Under the proposed section 88?.a the Tribunal will be able to appoint a conciliation committee upon request by an organisation or persons directly concerned if it considers that the appointment of a committee is reasonably likely to lead to a settlement of the industrial question. A committee will consist of the Tribunal as chairman, and an equal number of representatives from both sides. Its function will be to endeavour, by discussion and negotiation, to formulate terms for the settlement of the industrial question. If the representative members agree unanimously on the terms of settlement, the Chairman may certify the agreement. It will then be deemed to be an award of the Tribunal. If the Chairman is satisfied that further proceedings of the committee are not likely to produce an agreement, he may terminate the proceedings and, as the Tribunal, determine the matter in dispute.
One is familiar with the argument that so long as provision exists for arbitration, no real effort will be made to negotiate. I disagree with this. In areas of industry to which our arbitration system applies, it is no uncommon thing to find agreements arrived at in processes of discussion and negotiation. Indeed, agreement was reached in the recent pilots-Qantas discussions under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Melville, despite the fact that the parties knew very well that he had the power to arbitrate. Everything, of course, depends on the genuineness of the will to agree, to find compromises if need be, to respect the attitude of the other side, to behave in a sophisticated and intelligent fashion. I shall hope to see these provisions for conciliation committees much availed of in future, with arbitration seen as the course of last resort - for resort only when there are genuinely held irreconcilable differences. For such situations, there must be arbitration; that is the method for ultimate resolving of industrial disputes that the Australian public believe in, and to which all political parties are committed.
The only other provision dealing with flight crew about which I need to comment is that in the proposed section 88ZC. There is nothing unusual about this provision in principle - I mention it only to underline that the Tribunal will not be able to make an award that cuts across the Air Navigation Act or regulations or the powers of the Director-General of Civil Aviation thereunder.
Two matters are dealt with in the Bill which are not directed to airlines-flight crew relationships. One provision substitutes, for the specific statement of the salaries of lay - not presidential - commissioners and conciliators under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, what might be described as the standard provision found in many of our statutes for determining the salaries of statutory office holders. No alteration is proposed in the salary provisions respecting presidential members of the Commission who are treated in the same way as judges and whose salaries should very properly be specified in legislation.
The other provision alters the long title of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. With the introduction of Divisions 2 to 5 in Part III of the Act, the present long title ceased to be aptly descriptive. The new Part IIIa, for which this Bill provides, makes the need for change even more necessary. But this Bill is basically concerned with airlines/flight crew industrial problems. We have tried in this Bill to make a constructive approach to the solution of these. For the future, there will be effective machinery for producing sensible solutions, where now, at least as to pilots and navigators, there is none. In the Qantas strike last year the public call was for arbitration: No machinery for arbitration was available. For the future there will be. I believe the Australian public has the conviction that co-operation and discussion should be the keynotes of the relationships between the airlines and their flight crew. I should trust that this conviction will not, in future, come under strain. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to confer bank status on the Australian Resources Development Bank Ltd. The Bank has now been incorporated in Victoria by the eight major trading banks, with the aim of providing finance to Australian enterprises engaged in large scale developments of Australia’s natural resources.
On occasion in the past it has proved difficult for Australian enterprises to mobilise capital from Australian sources on the scale needed to bring to fruition very large projects. This is not to say that existing institutions haw been inactive in this field. We look to them to continue to expand their role in providing and arranging finance for new enterprises, and for the expansion of existing enterprises. But with the new discoveries, particularly mineral discoveries, that require huge sums for their development, it has seemed to the Government timely to see established a new institution, designed to supplement the Australian facilities currently available for this purpose, and capable of mobilising sums that otherwise might require negotiations with a considerable number of lenders. Capital from abroad has contributed, and we hope will continue to contribute, much to the development of Australia. The Government welcomes its productive investment in this country. We are, however, concerned to ensure that Australian ownership of natural resources is not prejudiced by any shortcomings in our financial structure making it difficult to obtain capital in large amounts.
Studies by the Australian trading banks of possible forms of a new institution of this kind were commenced in mid-1965. After discussion with the Reserve Bank, an outline of a proposal was conveyed to the then Treasurer towards the end of the year. In the light of his comments, there was further examination of the nature of the problems involved and of various possible approaches to these problems. Officers of the Reserve Bank and the Treasury worked closely with the trading banks. By mid- 1966 the Treasurer was able to inform his colleagues that a scheme had been formulated, having the aim of marshalling finance, both local and overseas, for the development of Australian natural resources on terms that would promote greater Australian participation in large-scale projects.
In subsequent months the scheme was elaborated and in March of this year the Treasurer announced that, subject to detailed scrutiny of fully-developed proposals, the Government would meet the banks’ request to legislate to give the new institution the status of a bank. This the trading banks regarded as vital in order to confer on the institution the financial standing and national identity they judged it to require to succeed in raising adequate amounts of money. The Treasurer welcomed the proposals as another important new development in the evolution of the Australian banking system. With the financial strength and integrity of the Australian banking system supporting it, the institution will be able to attract funds from the Australian public and short and medium term funds from some overseas investors, particularly banks and other lenders abroad with established relations with the Australian banks. The new institution will be prepared to refinance developmental loans made by trading banks, singly or in consortia, and to provide finance direct to developmental projects.
Where the Bank re-finances trading bank loans, customers will negotiate with their own banks direct. In turn, the Resources Bank will lend to the trading banks concerned, which will continue to carry whatever risks may be involved. It is envisaged that direct investment by the Bank may take the form of subscription to fixed interest loans, an equity holding or a combination of the two. The Bank may also assist in underwriting equity or loan issues.
The Bank may engage in financing operations in association with other lenders, particularly those financial institutions which undertake long term lending, or assist in organising lending consortia. Usually the Bank’s financial assistance will be available only for new projects or expansion of existing ones; consolidation of existing debts is not envisaged.
To give recognition to its full range of activities, it was decided by the banks that the name first suggested for the new institution - The Australian Bankers’ Development Refinance Corporation - should be altered. As it was to be accorded the status of a bank, it was considered that the name of the institution should include the word bank. The trading banks therefore settled on the name Australian Resources Development Bank Limited. The structure of the new Bank, and the respective contributions of the trading banks and the Reserve Bank, have already been made public in statements by the trading banks and the Reserve Bank. The Resources Bank has now been incorporated and recruitment of a small but highly skilled staff is proceeding.
The trading banks will provide equity capital of $3m and the Reserve Bank an initial loan subscription of S2m. They will also provide further loan funds, subordinate to other borrowings by the Bank. To give the Resources Bank greater flexibility in the management of its funds and in its capacity to lend, there is provision for the trading banks and the Reserve Bank to make available to it temporary bridging’ finance. As the Bank becomes firmly established, the direct support of the Reserve Bank, essential during the formative stages, will be progressively withdrawn. Borrowings from Australian investors are envisaged by way of transferable deposit certificates with maturities of 3 to 10 years, and by acceptance of deposits generally for 3 to 5 years. Interest rates offered will be those appropriate in prevailing market conditions to the borrowing status of an Australian bank and will, of course, be determined in consultation with the Reserve Bank.
As to borrowing overseas, it is envisaged that the links provided by its banking connections should give the new institution access to some overseas fund unlikely to be attracted to Commonwealth loans. As opportunity offers, it may also prove practicable to place blocks of marketable deposit notes through merchant and investment banks overseas. These would normally be for shorter periods than are offered by the Commonwealth in its regular overseas bond issues. The Bank would, of course, be borrowing as a private institution, most probably by way of private placement of its securities.
I turn now to the specific provisions of the Bill. Honourable members will note that the Bill deals with the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank as well as with the Australian Resources Development Bank. The Papua and New Guinea Development Bank was established by Territory ordinance in 1965. To enable it to commence business, the Treasurer issued an exemption under section 11 of the Banking Act, but it was always envisaged that at the first convenient opportunity this Parliament should confer the authority to conduct banking business. Clause 4 of the Bill therefore authorises both banks to carry on banking business. I should explain that this will not result in either bank having to maintain statutory reserve deposits with the Reserve Bank. Clause 5 requires the Resources Bank to supply particulars of any alteration to its memorandum or articles of association. Clause 6 of the Bill is necessary to ensure that trading bank obligations to the Resources Bank, in the form of loans for the purposes of refinancing developmental loans by them, are not regarded as deposit liabilities in calculating the statutory reserve deposits maintained by the trading banks with the Reserve Bank.
Clause 7 of the Bill brings the Papua and New Guinea Bank and the Resources Bank within the power conferred on the Reserve Bank to determine the advance policy to be followed by trading and savings banks. With respect to the Papua and New Guinea Bank, the clause simply replaces one of the conditions of the section 11 exemption granted by the Treasurer. I should add that, in its consultations with both the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank and the trading banks on the policies followed in making advances in the Territory, the Reserve Bank has regard to conditions there, rather than to conditions in the Australian economy generally. Clause 8 of the Bill relates to the collection and publication of appropriate statistical information for both banks. Clause 9 requires the Resources Bank to secure the consent of the Treasurer to any changes in its structure or ownership. Clause 10 extends to the Resources Bank the unclaimed moneys provision of the Banking Act and clause 1 1 provides for modification for the Papua and New Guinea Bank of the standard statistical forms. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
– by leave - Under the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Act 1964, the Commonwealth is currently making a financial contribution to the New South Wales Government to help meet the cost of flood mitigation works on certain coastal rivers in that State. The assistance is in respect of the Macleay, Clarence, Richmond, Tweed, Shoalhaven and Hunter Rivers, and is provided on the basis of matching $1 for $1 the State Government’s contribution to the relevant local authorities for the works being undertaken. The Commonwealth assistance is being provided in recognition of the national importance of flood mitigation on these particular rivers. The Act provides for Commonwealth non-repayable grants of up to $5.5m in respect of expenditure during the 6-year period ending June 1969.
Recent advice from the State Government indicated that the flood mitigation programme on the six rivers during the 6- year period would cost substantially more than had been originally estimated when the scheme commenced in 1963. Because of this the Commonwealth Government, following discussions with the State Government, has agreed to increase the maximum Commonwealth contribution to these works by $2. 5m, that is, from $5.5m to $8m. The results of the current flood mitigation programme will be of general interest to Commonwealth authorities concerned with the overall development of Australia’s water resources and for that reason those authorities will have an opportunity to examine the results achieved by the programme. It is expected that legislation seeking Parliament’s approval to the increase in the maximum amount of Commonwealth assistance will be introduced during the current session of Parliament. I present the following paper:
Flood Mitigation Works on New South Wales Coastal Rivers - Ministerial Statement, 19 October 1967- and move:
That the statement be noted.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to increase the pensions payable under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act for the children of deceased Australian mariners, in line with the similar increases made in the recent Repatriation Bill and as announced in the Budget Speech. Clause 5 of the Bill therefore provides that in respect of children whose father, having been an Australian mariner coming under the Act, is dead, the fortnightly pension will rise by $1 to $8.80 for the first child and by $1 to $6.50 for each other child. Where the mother of the child or children is dead also, the fortnightly pension will rise by $2 to $16.30 for each child. Sub-clause (2.) ensures that these increases will take effect at the same time as the corresponding increases under the repatriation legislation.
Clause 4 of the Bill remakes section 17, primarily for the purpose of providing for payment of pensions in respect of children of Australian mariners covered by the Act born after the death of the mariner. A similar provision is already in the repatriation legislation. In order to include such children it has been necessary to revise the wording of the section to make it correspond substantially to sub-sections (1.) and (3.) of section 45 of the Repatriation Act. Clause 4 also inserts a new section 17a to entitle a dependant of a totally and permanently incapacitated or double amputee pensioner who dies from causes other than his war injury to receive the higher special rate pension that would have been payable to that dependant if the pensioner’s death had resulted from the war injury. The new section is on the same lines as section 46 of the Repatriation Act.
In order to remove two anomalies the regulation-making powers in section 59 are being extended by clause 6 in two respects. The first is to enable the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Regulations to provide for payment of travelling expenses, together with attendant’s expenses, in respect of widows and children of deceased Australian mariner pensioners where it is necessary for such persons to travel to receive medical treatment being provided under those Regulations. Similar payments are already provided for in the repatriation legislation.
The other extension is the insertion of power for the Regulations to provide for medical benefits for widowed step-mothers of Australian mariners who have died as a result of war injuries, in the same way as is already provided for in the repatriation legislation. The Bill therefore confers an extension of the pensions and allowances payable under the Act in several respects and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Forbes, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill before the House has two main purposes. The first of these is to enable the Commonwealth Government to match privately raised subscriptions which are to be applied to the provision of residential accommodation at colleges of advanced education.
Honourable members will recall that when the Government stated its general policy about colleges of advanced education it announced it was prepared to provide finance for residential accommodation at the colleges in a similar way to that in which it finances such accommodation at universities which, subject to certain conditions, permits the Commonwealth to match funds from sources other than the States on a $1 for $1 basis. No machinery was written into the principal Act to make this form of assistance possible for colleges because at the time we had received no proposals for this triennium involving the employment of privately raised subscriptions for residential accommodation. Now the State of Queensland has put forward two such proposals, for the new colleges at Rockhampton and Toowoomba.
The Government believes that it is important to encourage local initiative in support of colleges, particularly new regional colleges such as these. Therefore wc have decided to provide for this triennium machinery which would enable the Commonwealth Government to match on a $1 for SI basis funds raised privately for residential accommodation at colleges of advanced education. The present proposal docs not increase the amount of money which the Commonwealth has undertaken to make available during this triennium, but I should mention that gifts of $2 and upwards for this purpose would, subject to the certifications required by the Income Tax Assessment Act, qualify for deductions for income tax purposes.
The Bill obliges the State to match the privately raised funds. This means that for every $1 raised privately the State contributes $1 and the Commonwealth $2. However it is not intended that Commonwealth matching of privately raised funds should enable a State to reduce that con tribution to a college which it has already agreed to make. Therefore the State must agree to apply money it has saved under this new arrangement as an unmatched grant to another project at the same college agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the State.
The second purpose of the Bill is to make adjustments in the building programmes at The School of Mines and Industries, Ballarat, Bendigo Institute of Technology and the Queensland Institute of Technology, Brisbane, at the request of the States concerned. These adjustments are a necessary revision of the programme to meet new circumstances. For Ballarat the acquisition of a new site has brought with it the need for an entirely different development programme. At Bendigo, too, a new site is being developed and the proposed amendment reflects a change in the order of priorities occasioned by this development. The revised programme at Brisbane is to provide for the completion of two buildings started under the interim grant arrangements and takes into account revised priorities. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Forbes, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The Universities (Financial Assistance) Act 1963-66 which appropriated Commonwealth grants to the States in connection with universities during the 1964-66 triennium contained provision for building programmes at universities, including student residences. A condition of the payment of these grants in respect of student residences was the Comonwealth’s matching of expenditure during the triennium, that is up to 31st December 1966. In the case of a number of building projects for student residences, the necessary planning or arrangement of private finance was unexpectedly protracted and it was not possible to commence building until very late in the triennium or early in the current triennium. For example, although in May 1966 Ormond
College at the University of Melbourne was able to proceed with working drawings for a new residential block, the plans had to be re-examined by the architects because of higher costs. The contract for the building was signed in December but little expenditure had occurred by 31st December 1966. For Hytton Hall, at the University of Tasmania, funds became available as a result of changes in other parts of the programme. However, this was at a late stage in the triennium and as a result only a small proportion of the total grant had been expended at 31st December 1966. Thus, in these cases, and in the case of the other student residences listed in the Schedule, it was not possible for the bodies concerned to expend sufficient before the end of the triennium - 31st December 1966 - to attract the full Commonwealth grant. Difficulty was also encountered in the commencement of a major university building at the University of Queensland - the Great Hall - and the conditions to attract the Commonwealth’s grant appropriated for the triennium had not been fulfilled by 31st December 1966.
The Government has therefore decided to seek in this Bill authority for the payment of these amounts that formed part of the grants for the 1964-66 triennium but cannot be paid after 3.1st December 1966 under the provisions of the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act 1963-66. The specific amounts for the residential colleges and halls of residence are listed in the Schedule to the Bill, together with amounts for International House at the University of Melbourne and the Great Hall at the University of Queensland, f commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4 October (vide page 1685), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the BUI be now read a second lime.
Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1967 and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances (Increases) Bill 1967 to be debated coincident ally with the second reading of the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill 1967. At the conclusion of the debate separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills. I suggest, Mr Speaker, that you permit this to be done.
– Is it the wish of the House to debate the subject matter of the three Bills together, as suggested by the Minister? There being no objection, I will allow this course to be followed.
– Now that it has been decided to debate these three measures together, the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances (Increases) Bill, one has an opportunity to range over these subjects, each of which has a bearing on the other. During the Budget debate when speaking of the pension increases to be covered by these three Bills I referred to the adjustments in this way:
Whilst those more recently retired have had the benefit of progressive salary rises and the ability to increase the number of units, the earlier retirees have had to accept a much lesser amount for equivalent rank or category.
I went on to say that the Government is aware of this position and it adjusted these original pensions on two earlier occasions. In 1961 pensions were adjusted to the 1954 salary level and in 1963 pensions were adjusted to the 1959 salary level. I then went on to say that these adjustments are now based on a formula that has the effect of increasing the Consolidated Revenue portion of the pension, representing five-sevenths of the whole, to an amount equivalent to that being paid to those of similar rank or category number who retired on and after the selected date, which in this instance was 30th June 1967.
During the Budget debate I made the point also that although the pensions were thought to be adequate at the time these people took out their units, they have been subject to the same economic changes that have affected social service pensioners. Whereas these superannuitants have had only two increases in the more recent past, social service pensioners have had more regular and numerous increases. I went on to emphasise the percentage increase in the two categories - 85.7% for the age social service pensioners compared with 20.8% for these superannuitants. From 1954 to 1966 there were eight increases in the age pension rate as against two in the superannuation pension rate, the last one having effect from December 1959.
I have before me tables issued by the Treasury that set out examples of the changes that will occur as a result of the three pension increase Bills before us. It is simple to calculate the increases that are to be made by the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances (Increases) Bill, but the calculation is much more difficult and complex in relation to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (Pension Increases) BilL With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the following tables:
I shall now give some examples of the increases that are to be made to pensioners under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. A captain in the Navy, a colonel in the Army or a group-captain in the Air Force who retired on a full pension at age fifty-five on or before 31st December 1959 received a pension of $2,870 per annum. In 1963 he received an increase of $162, and by this legislation be will receive an increase of $971, bringing him to a new total of $4,003 per annum. Some people in this category, like many others, could reject their additional entitlements as they were promoted and additional units became available for them to take. They could reject those additional units or could commute part of their pension. Where the pension has been commuted or additional units rejected, there is to be an increase for the various ranks I have mentioned, of $741 per annum, bringing the new total to $3,055.
Coming down the scale to a lieutenantcommander, a major or a squadron-leader who retired at age forty-seven on or before 31st December 1959, a pension of $1,806 was payable, which was increased by $83 in 1963. These retired officers will receive by this legislation an additional $749, bring ing them to a total of $2,638 per annum. If an officer in this category had been on a part pension of $1,340 per annum, he will receive an increase of $556 and will now receive $1,958. A petty officer in the Navy, a sergeant in the Army Group 5 or a sergeant in the Air Force Group 5 who served for 35 years and retired at age fifty-five on or before 31st December 1959, was granted a full pension of $1,280 per annum, which was increased in 1963 by $111. Retired servicemen in this group will by this legislation receive an increase of $270, making the new total pension for them $1,661.
Some of the increases for the invalidity Class A pensions are also quite generous. A captain in the Navy, a colonel in the Army and a group-captain in the Air Force who retired on Class A invalidity pensions of $3,458 per annum, and received an increase of $195 in 1963 will now receive a total of $4,823 because by this legislation they will receive an increase of $1,170 per annum. A lieutenant-commander, a major and a squadron-leader, who left the Service prior to 31st December 1959 and are in the same retirement category, received $2,821 a year, which was increased by $130 in 1963, will now receive an increase of $1,170, bringing the total to $4,121 per annum.
A petty officer in the Navy, a sergeant in the Army Group 5 or a sergeant in the Air Force, Group 5, on Class A invalidity pensions on or before 31st December 1959 would have received $1,547 per annum. This amount was increased by $130 in 1963, but after the latest increase of $325, it will rise to $2,002 per annum. Some servicemen elect to limit superannuation contributions on a change in retirement age; this particularly refers to officers and other ranks who have a change in category. The table includes references to these men in the classifications of rank I have mentioned. Of necessity their pensions are correspondingly less, because they receive only the Government component.
The increases that are being made under this legislation are welcomed and have been worth waiting for. These superannuated people who made contributions to the fund during their period of service, have been struggling along for quite some time. The Government is to be commended on making the adjustments based on the date 30th June this year. They will certainly assist not only those people who retired prior to December 1959 but also the widows and orphans of such members. They will particularly benefit the widows and orphans of deceased ex-servicemen.
Much has been said, and unsaid, about parliamentary retirement allowances. I should like to point out a few facts concerning the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act. It provides for contributions by members and for the investment of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund, which comprises members’ contributions, repayments by members on their re-election to this place, payments by the Commonwealth and interest on investments. The amount of investment is quite large and there is a large sum in the Retirement Allowances Fund. This Act, as a superannuation scheme, demands contributions from members of this chamber and senators. I say ‘demands’ because it is a compulsory scheme and every senator and every member must allow deductions to be made from his salary. The amount deducted is of the monthly amount of the parliamentary allowance. This results in a contribution of $805 per annum.
What of the benefits? Until a member has served in three parliaments or for not less than 8 years, whichever first occurs, he cannot qualify. In other words, after that time he obtains an eligibility. But he does not receive a pension until certain things occur. He must be defeated at election, he must lose the endorsement of his party to stand, or he must retire on account of ill health. The fact that he has qualified after 8 years service or three parliaments does not mean that he will get a pension as a lot of people have falsely represented. At what age can he draw a pension? I remind honourable members that we have a lot of young members in this chamber. At age 40, if a member has been defeated and has become eligible, he gets 60% of the full pension. At age 41, if he is qualified, he receives 68%; at age 42, 76%; at age 43, 84%; at age 44, 92%; and at age 45 years or older he receives the full pension. In addition if he is over 65 years of agc the superannuation scheme provides him with an additional $6 a week. This is part of the superannuation scheme; I want to make that very clear.
In the case of a member who retires voluntarily - that is, he is not defeated at an election - he is not eligible to receive a retiring allowance unless he has served in the Parliament and contributed to the scheme for a minimum of 12 years, and he must be over the age of 45 to obtain the full pension.
– What would he get at age 39?
– He would get a refund of his contributions. I am referring specifically to pensions at present. A person entitled to a pension who becomes the holder of an office under, or is employed by, the Commonwealth or a State, or an authority of the Commonwealth or of a State, has his pension reduced, because of his remuneration in that office, to a rate not less than 50% of the pension otherwise payable. In other words, if he accepts an office in the Commonwealth or a State service or in a government instrumentality, he loses half his pension. This used to be the situation under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, but fortunately that provision has been amended, and it should be amended in the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act. We all know of members who, after leaving the Parliament, have accepted positions as chairmen of directors of Commonwealth statutory authorities. They lose half the pensions to which they have contributed for many years.
Difficulties are associated with members who have served in State Parliaments. If a member serves in a State Parliament for 12 or IS years before he comes here and he serves here for a further 8 years, or three Parliaments, and becomes entitled to a pension, he loses the benefit of his contributions to the State parliamentary scheme. The same thing applies in reverse if a member from this House, having gained eligibility for a pension, leaves and obtains a seat in a State House. If he qualifies for the State parliamentary pension he loses his contributions to the Commonwealth fund. This is the wonderful fund that people regard as a pension scheme and which the Press delights in telling the public is a pension scheme.
Under the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund a member who has joined after December 1959 contributes only 5% of his salary towards his pension. A member of Parliament pays 11J% of his salary and he must pay that percentage for a minimum of 12 years and be over 45 years of age before he can retire on a full pension. A major pays 5% of his salary and can retire at age 47 after 20 years of service.
– What would the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) get if he retired after 12 years?
– He cannot qualify for a pension until he is over 40 years of age, and at age 40 he gets 60% of the full pension. He could be a member for 18 years and still not get the pension. It is interesting to refer to the rates of pay of persons contributing to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. A colonel in the Army has a base rate of pay of $7,629. He contributes 5% of his salary to the fund - not 5% on his rate as a full colonel, because he has contributed 5% of his pay as a lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant-colonel and colonel - and on retiring at age 55 he receives $4,456 a year, which is more than half his base rate of pay. A major has a base salary, on appointment of $5,508. After 6 years as a major his salary is $6,442, which is only about $500 less than a member of Parliament receives. Incidentally, after 4 years a full colonel receives $8,004 a year, which is about $1,000 more than a member of Parliament receives. A major would retire at age 47 after 20 years of service on a pension of $2,970. A member of Parliament retires with a pension of $3,500, after contributing for at least 12 years, only if be is over 45 years of age. A member can continue contributing to the scheme and not retire until he is 65 years of age or even 70.
– And then he dies.
– Yes, and his wife, who would be elderly, would not have much of a life expectancy. Let us examine this scheme as it affects our younger members who come here in their late 20s or early 30s. They have found that they can go to a life assurance society and get a far better annuity scheme with greater benefits than they can get from our retiring benefits scheme. In fact, one member applied to get out of the scheme. People try to opt out, but it is compulsory. This is how good the scheme is. Members must stay in it. It is not a pension scheme. We all know it is a superannuation scheme for which members contribute and, as I have shown, contribute quite heavily. The public have an entirely wrong impression of the scheme. It is a superannuation scheme and it is not a good one, though the Press, radio and television give the impression that it is a non-contributory pension scheme. We in this country have a free Press. It is part of our democratic heritage that we accept factual reporting, though it may be critical. However, the Press and other news media have overstepped the mark in this matter. Year after year, they have shown a blatant disregard for the truth. Time and time again, the Press has given the impression that ours is a pension scheme that is not subject to the means test. The newspapers have accused members of Parliament of providing for themselves a pension scheme that is not subject to any means test - in effect a social services pension for which we do not contribute. Everybody knows that noone can get in this country a social services pension without being subjected to a means test. The position is different in the United Kingdom where people contribute for a social services pension. I think the Prime
Minister of England, having retired on his parliamentary superannuation, could in addition draw his social services pension as a contributor.
I do not know whether there is any misconception because of this about the position in Australia, but the fact is that the newspapers do not tell the truth. One political correspondent whose name I shall not mention has waged a constant campaign against members of Parliament for many years. He has an absolute phobia; he has nothing in his mind but determination to denigrate members of Parliament. He criticises parliamentary salaries and pensions, and the use of cars by parliamentarians. He is always writing front-page material unjustly criticising members of Parliament. This is not right. Then we get what I call completely unethical editing. A misguided and illinformed correspondent who wrote to the Melbourne ‘Sun’ asserting that members of Parliament got their pensions without any means test was supported by an equally ill-informed gentleman on 29th September, but to make matters worse the editor put in bold headlines at the top of the letter, No means test for members of Parliament’. Why do these people not tell the truth? If any Press reporter here has the intestinal fortitude to publish the truth of the matter as set out in my remarks, and headlines it as prominently as the misguided or dishonest editor headlined the letter to which I have referred, I should like to see it. I should be satisfied to get prominent truthful headlines in only the Melbourne ‘Sun* - forgetting the others - emphasising that these criticisms are false.
Newspapers which for years have misled the public about the so-called glittering benefits of the parliamentary superannuation scheme should publish the truth and expose the fallacy. It puts a stigma on members of Parliament to suggest that they get a pension without being subject to a means test. It is high time that the false impression of a non-contributory scheme was erased from the minds of the public. This sort of stigma has repercussions, not only on members of Parliament in their electorates, but also on the dignity of this Parliament and every person in it. I feel that a com- mittee should be set up, or something else done, to see that these wrong impressions are corrected. We are proud of having a free Press that is not subject to censorship, but it is time something was done to put a stop to the telling and re-telling, publishing and republishing of a blatant lie, together with fallacious headlines. I challenge the Press of this country to tell the truth as effectively as it has told these lies for years. I hope something will be done about it.
– I apologise to the House for having been outside the chamber for about 5 minutes - about the only time I have been absent from the sitting all day. I shall not explain the reasons. They are beside the point. I agree with the sentiments of the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) on the three Bills before the House. They deal, not with present contributors, but with past contributors who are now in receipt of pensions from three funds - the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Fund, and to a smaller degree the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. I suppose that in one sense the House is contemplating what might be called ‘inflation adjustments’. These adjustments are being made by the Commonwealth Government - not by the funds - so that retired members of the Commonwealth Public Service, the defence forces, and this Parliament and their wives and dependants, or widows, will be able to maintain themselves in 1967 at the standard that they expected when contributing for the pension. This raises immediately the vexed problems that arise in any community when inflation brings doubts of expectancies in the future. I describe these amendments basically as inflation adjustments. Of course, there is a sense of resentment among sections of the community that cannot make similar adjustments for themselves. They are resentful of people who they think are in the fortunate position of being able to make adjustments.
To put the matter in its proper perspective, let me refer the House to a very factual table of figures in the latest issue of ‘Trend’, an interesting journal published quarterly by the Rural Bank of New South Wales. The centre page of this publication gives a summing up of superannuation and pension schemes in Australia at the end of 1965, when Australia had a total work force of 4,700,000. Most of that number were employed, but it includes self-employed persons. There were 575,000 contributors to what are termed public superannuation and pension funds, and 635,000 to private funds. The aggregate 1,210,000 represents approximately one in four of Australia’s work force. This means that for every person who is satisfied by the adjustments that are made, there are three people who feel they are excluded and are paying for the benefits which others, in their view, are wrongly receiving.
– The whole work force would not be subscribing to superannuation funds.
– Well, the self-employed, of course, are provided for in the taxation system. If you like to reduce the number by some half a million it still is more or less broadly true that not much more than one in four, or slightly less than one in four-
– Do you include provident funds?
– These are people who are included in superannuation and provident funds - public as well as private funds. I suggest that some of the people who are most critical about the public funds are themselves participants in private funds.
– As are the gentlemen of the Press.
– If some of those would divulge what their entitlements are we might have some comparison, and we might find out how scrupulous or otherwise the arguments are. But at least we have in Australia today, as I tried to describe last night when discussing income tax, a system that has grown up rather haphazardly, and I hope to show in a few moments the kind of mixture that has emerged and some of the peculiar circumstances we are getting ourselves into. I direct the attention of the House to a rather interesting document that was prepared by Dr Gerald Caiden, B.Sc (Econ), Ph.D. This was compiled in London in July 1966. I understand that he is now at the Australian National University, but in any case he prepared this report on the Superannuation Act 1922-65. It is now the Superannuation Act 1922-67. He was asked to do this, presumably, by the Administrative and Clerical Officers’ Association of the Commonwealth Public Service. In paragraph 25 of the report he said:
It is clear that there is no national pensions policy, that the present arrangements are the result of accident rather than design, that no one has given much attention to the relationship between occupational schemes- that is, schemes that derive from the pursuit of certain kinds of employment - on the one hand, and social services, social objectives, taxation and inflation on the other. The task is not being performed by any Commonwealth department and basic data is scattered in Treasury, Labour and National Service, Attorney-General’s and Prime Minister’s at the Commonwealth level, and in Labour Departments at the State level.
He went on to add:
Australia needs a Beveridge or a Titmuss to sort out the mess.
As everybody knows, the late Lord Beveridge was, and now Professor Titmus is, an authority on social welfare in the United Kingdom. What the writer was hinting at is that we have reached a point in Australia where to some extent the community as a whole is urging the recognition of a changing situation. This arises from the fact that in these days if one reaches the age of 60 or 65 he or she has an expectation of life df some 13 to 20 years. When a person starts working - and with more people taking advantage of higher education it is likely that most will not ‘begin to work until they are 20 - he has an expectation of survival after retirement of something like half his working life. One cannot be satisfied any more with the sort of pittance that was provided on retirement when social service schemes were first introduced. So we have this agitation - and I think it is a justifiable agitation - for a radical change in our social service arrangements.
When people retire at 65 - and the tendency is increasing to retire even at 60 - with a life expectancy of up to 20 years or more, they feel they should not suddenly have the rug pulled from under them, as it were. When they have been earning a reasonable income, whether in wages or salary or by following a profession or running a farm or a shop or by some other means, they feel they should be able to live in the years of retirement at something like the standard they felt they were entitled to enjoy in the closing years of their working lives. That is why such schemes as are in existence, whether they are called superannuation schemes or pension schemes, tend to relate the amount that is granted on retirement in some way to the income that was being enjoyed just prior to retirement.
We are told from time to time about the prospects for society of advances in technology, science and so on. We are told that at some time in the future onefifth of the population - some estimate a proportion as low as one-tenth - will be able to provide all the goods and services that are required by the whole of the community. The question then arises: What will we do about the remaining four-fifths or nine-tenths of the community? Inevitably as we raise our educational standards we will have an increasing proportion of the total population who will not be in the work force at all. We must also inevitably look forward to a shortening of people’s working lives. People will be retiring at earlier ages. 1 am one who has never regarded it as a great thing for people to want to continue in certain types of activity to the age of 75 or 80 years. Sometimes I think it would be a good thing if many of us vacated our positions sooner rather than later. But in any case we face the probability of having an increasing number of people completely outside the work force and also a shorter span of working years for those who are in it.
It is estimated that in Australia today between 10% and 11% of the population are in the age group which qualifies for the age pension, 60 years for women and 65 for men. Then at the other end of the scale, because of what has been called the ‘younging’ of our population - the increase in the number of children relative to the total population - probably more than 20% of the population are under 20 years of age. When we combine these two sections we find a minimum of 30%, with the proportion rising towards 40%, of the people outside the work force. Of course this is apart altogether from the married women in the community who are in another category entirely. So the proportion of the population who support the rest is declining all the time. Again it is a good thing for us to apply science and technology to release as many people as possible from the work force and to employ horsepower rather than manpower in the production of goods and services.
If that is the social picture, it is time we faced up to the realities of the problem of making adequate provision for retirement. The figures I have already cited show that at the moment only one-quarter of the working people in the Australian community belong to a superannuation scheme. The figure may be a little more or a little less depending on whether the self employed as well as the employed are included. However roughly one person belongs to a superannuation or pension scheme for every three people who do not. Naturally enough, those who are not in the schemes tend to feel resentment about those who are. On the other hand those who are contributing to the schemes feel that if they contribute $1 in 1965 they should get the equivalent purchasing power when they draw a pension in, say 1985 or even 2005.
Of course, that is pretty difficult to arrange when our economy is subject to inflation. Very few communities in the world have an average rate of inflation of less than 2% to 2i% per annum. Anybody who knows much about mathematics knows that if the 2% to 2i% is compounded the value of money halves in less than 40 years. So if a contributor joins a scheme at 25 years of age and expects to get a certain yield in dollars when he reaches 65 years, he will find that when he reaches that age the purchasing power of the dollars returned to him will be only about half the purchasing power of the dollars he contributed initially. That is why it is necessary to have what I call inflation adjustments made in the various funds. This again seems to be forgotten when people talk about these funds. It applies not only to the Superannuation Fund but also to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund, the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund and with equal force to life assurance policies. It is a mathematical compilation and not an economic one. Irrespective of whether the dollar is paid this year, next year or over the term of the transaction, it is the accumulation of the dollars that the fund looks after. That is why many funds have tried to add various kinds of safeguards.
I invite the attention of the House to a publication that I think most of us receive, lt is the quarterly review of superannuation in Australia and the document is known as ‘Superfunds’. The latest issue, that for September 1967, contains at page 34 an article by Mr Geoffrey N. Calvert of New York. It is called The North American Pensions Letter*. Mr Calvert writes:
With the gradual lengthening of life, and the trend towards earlier retirement in America, and hence the increasing number of years of life in retirement, more and more attention is being paid to the effects of inflation as this affects elderly persons living on fixed incomes, such as pensions.
I would suggest it applies also to elderly people living on incomes other than pensions, including their own savings, and of course it applies to the 600,000 or so who are dependent upon social service benefits. He continues:
Various attempts have been made to keep the initial monthly pension at the time of retirement in line with living costs and wage levels, but the present swing in emphasis is towards the search for means to preserve the purchasing power of the pension in the years after it has been entered upon.
Then he goes on to list a number of devices that have been adopted by certain funds to achieve this. He mentions the equity unit or variable annuity pension, in which the current value of the unit is varied each month, each quarter or each year according to a cost of living index. He also mentions what he calls a cost of living pension plan. He states:
The cost-of-living pension plan, properly designed and funded, and equipped with safety features to make it acceptable from the viewpoint of the employer as well as the employee, has now become a respected vehicle for providing pensions having a constant or almost constant purchasing power.
He mentions that this system is now used by the United States Government for some 2,600,000 employees, which is about twenty times the number of employees who are at present covered by the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund in Australia. It has also been adopted in Canada as part of its nation-wide social security plan. He then lists two other schemes that he calls staircase pensions and wage index pensions.
All I suggest is that this shows that there is a realisation everywhere that there is some obligation to preserve the real purchasing power of the savings of the people. If this is true for the quarter of the community who are included in schemes, it raises some implications for the other three out of four who are not covered. In
Australia we have had for the last 50 years a system of social services that we call age and invalid pensions. A payment is made by the community. At the moment it is subject to a means test, and I do not want this afternoon to deal in great depth with the means test. Nevertheless there is considerable agitation, and in my view justified agitation, by the recipients of the age pension who believe that the basic amount of pension they receive should have some real relationship to the cost of living at the time the pension is drawn.
In some respects the adjustments in some of the funds are affluence adjustments m well as inflation adjustments. They take into account - especially is this so with the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund - adjustments that have been made recently in the wage structure. They relate to what is called the margin in the wage structure rather than merely to the cost of living. So, as well as allowing for adjustments in the cost of living, they are allowing also for improvements in wage standards. Surely a communiy should not deny adjustments to those who have retired and who have in the past participated in the economic development of the nation. We would not have reached our present standards if those who are now in the years of their decline had not wrought in the years of their strength to achieve them. That section of the community should not be denied the fruits of any improvements in productivity or increased affluence or other advantages that flow to the community as a whole. Again I suggest, as I tried to suggest yesterday or the day before on this question of taxation, that these are not easy adjustments to make. However, I suggest that these are the kinds of problems that occasionally we should stop to recognise. On the other hand, what is the position at the moment so far as those who do contribute to funds of one kind or another are concerned? Dr Caiden suggested in the quotation I have referred to that it is a question not only of the pattern of social services at the time of retirement but it is also of taxation. Of course, at the moment, every contribution made to these funds is the subject of certain taxation reliefs. On the other hand there is this real problem of inflation as it affects benefits which are ultimately paid.
A day or so ago I pointed out that for the year ended 30th June 1965, the latest year for which statistics were available, about $420m had been paid in aggregate in life assurance contributions. This had been the subject of concessional deductions in the hands of some 4 million taxpayers. This had had the effect of reducing the amount of tax that would have been collected by between Si 05m and Si 25m. In addition, there are the contributions which are made by employers who are companies on behalf of their employees. Again, as the statistics of the Taxation Commissioner show, the aggregate of deductions allowed by the Commissioner of Taxation to companies - private and public - in the year ended 30th June 1965 was about $85m. Again, that would have meant a reduction of about $3 5m in the amount that could have been collected if these deductions had not been allowed. This means that all those who subscribe to life assurance and to superannuation cost the rest of the community about $160m. The amount could have been a bit more or a bit less according to the gradations of income. On the other hand, we have a majority of funds striving to get the best possible return they can for the funds which are invested.
I think that this is one of the matters which is quite relevant to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. I want to highlight in a moment the kind of absurd situation that we get which makes rather more absurd the sort of comparisons which people outside want to make between one fund and another. The twenty-first annual report of the Insurance Commissioner for the year ended 31st December 1966 was tabled yesterday in the House. On page 9 of this document is listed the average interest rates earned on investments as far as certain policies issued by insurance companies were concerned. These rates are for 1965. The relevant rates for 1966 are not yet available. The document indicates that the net earning rate for what is called ‘ordinary business* was 5.67%. It also indicates that the net return for what was called ‘superannuation business’ was 6.11%; the net industrial rate was 5.61%; and the net average rate of all classes was 5.76%. I stress- the rate of return as far as superannuation investment in private funds was concerned.
I would like to contrast that rate with the rate which was earned by the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. I think that this is relevant to the argument. I will point out one of the difficulties here in a moment. I would not like to see the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund have to do what some other funds are required to do in order to yield this rate of interest rather than another. The rate of interest earned upon the assets of the parliamentary fund for the year ended 30th June 1966 was 5.11%. This is 1% less in respect of a total investment of about $1,400,000. Members can calculate for themselves what the difference in the yield of the fund would have been if the fund had been earning the same rate of return as was earned by private superannuation funds.
– If we take the 1965 picture the gap is even wider.
– For some odd reason the rate in 1965 was 5.69%. However, I think there were certain changes which caused this. The year before it was 4.64% and in 1963 it was 4.57%. I want to point out for the information of the House why the rate has risen. I happen to be a trustee of our fund. Why has the average return risen from 4.5% in 1963 to 5.11% in 1966 which is a difference of about i%? The reason is that the trustees found that it was a better proposition for a fund that is contributed to by members of the Commonwealth Parliament to invest in local or semi-governmental securities than in Commonwealth bonds. The reason, as everyone knows, is that the return on the former is about i% more. This is because certain tax concessions are available to outside investors on Commonwealth bonds but are not available to the Commonwealth itself.
It seems to me to be a rather absurd proposition to argue that one fund is viable as against another. To insurance companies, because of taxation obligations, the investment in Commonwealth bonds which returns not much more than 5% is as good as a non-governmental investment with a return of over 7%. In the eyes of some critics in the Press gallery, because the parliamentary fund which has a total asset constituency at the moment of $1,400,000, has what the Commonwealth Actuary called a ‘small deficiency of $43,000’, it can be written up big in headlines that the fund is in the red. 1 suggest that those who report for the newspapers - I always hold the view that they are supposed to be newspapers and not views papers - are supposed to reflect the whole truth and nothing but the truth. However, at times they seem to give just enough of the truth to distort the whole picture. I think the whole of the paragraph on this subject by the Actuary is worthy of quotation. I suggest that the people who found that the fund was deficient to the extent of $43,897 could have found this information only in the document itself and should have reported the paragraph in full. The report stated:
The Actuary found that there was a small deficiency of $43,897 in the Fund.
He also found that the present distribution of investments does not satisfactorily meet the long term requirements of the Fund in view of the limitation to two classes only - Commonwealth Government securities and loans to semi-government bodies - and the concentration within a relatively short maturity period. He made the following recommendations:
I point out that in most other schemes which have been mentioned the average contribution is about 5% of salary -
One of the suggestions which the Actuary contemplated and which has yet to be considered by the Trust was that the Commonwealth’s own fund should be allowed to invest in equities which would yield a higher rate of return. What an absurd situation you get when it is cheaper for private funds to invest in Government securities and better for a government fund to go into private securities. Using criteria such as that how can you judge whether a fund is viable or non-viable? We did, of course, have the example of the New South Wales superannuation fund fighting to go into equities and. getting its fingers burned in the H. G. Palmer organisation. I hope the day will never come when the Commonwealth Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund has to seek investments in such equities as H. G. Palmer or debentures in this or that just to satisfy somebody who wants to sneer and claim that someone has an advantage over someone else. If we are to argue in this way at least let us argue in the open. When criticism is made publicly let it be informed and not illinformed.
I would like to refer to some of the difficulties that confront people who are contributing for small pensions under the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme. Many honouorable members have had cases submitted to them. The employee groups in the Public Service would like to see the Commonwealth’s proportion of the superannuation unit increased. Those who do not participate in these funds are envious because in most funds, public or private, the employee’s contribution is the lesser part of the total contribution. The statistics issued from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician - the latest, being a survey of selected private pension funds for 1965-66, were released on 10th August 1967 - show that of every $3 contributed to these funds, $2 comes from the employer and $1 from the employee. In the case of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund the proportion is about 70% from the employer - the Commonwealth Government - and 30% from the employee. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ has been a critic of this scheme. Apparently the ‘Herald’ does not think that those who buy the newspaper pay for the contribution which the ‘Herald’ makes to its fund, but it does believe that the taxpayers pay for what you and I get. What is the difference? Again I suggest there should be a bit more scrutiny and common sense. If two-thirds in the case of private funds and 70% in the case of the government fund is contributed by the employer, we might some day sensibly get around to the proposition that the total should be contributed by the employer and nothing by the employee. I will not go further into the intricacies of that suggestion at this stage, bearing in mind the mess we got into with refunds of contributions about 12 months ago and the fact that it took months to work out the details.
There is surely something in my suggestion when you realise that the 30% in the case of the Commonwealth’s fund and the onethird in the case of the private funds contributed by the employees is an allowable deduction for income tax purposes and that probably the Government pays close to 50% of that amount also. So in the final analysis you are quibbling about perhaps 10% or 15% of the total contribution.
Under the parliamentary scheme the contribution is a flat rate for all contributors irrespective of age. As members we all get the same salary. We make the same contribution, whether we join the fund at 22 years of age or at 60 years of age. I am not sure that in the long run this would not be the most satisfactory system for any superannuation scheme - to relate the contribution directly to salary and to relate the benefit to the average salary earned in the last 3 years.
– Irrespective of age upon retirement?
– I do not want to be pinned down to details but I suggest it is time we re-examined some of the assumptions. In the Public Service where periodic adjustments of salary are made there should be a recognition that two kinds of people are involved - those who might be called manipulative or temporary employees and those who might be called skilled clerical employees. The skilled clerical employee generally has a better gradation of salary whereas many other people stay on a fairly broad level of salary throughout their working life - a level not much above the basic wage plus a modest margin for skill adjusted for the cost of living. But if they get adjustments in their salary they are supposed to take up new units and the older they are the more expensive the units become. I have information of cases given to me by the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross). The first case concerns a female officer, aged 58 years, who contributes $10,05 per fortnight for ten units of pension worth $17.50 a week. Her gross salary is $2,227 a year or $85.38 per fortnight. The unit cost is now $1.86 per fortnight, which is a fairly substantial proportion of her salary for a single unit. She has rejected seven units to which she might have been entitled. The claim of her association is that if she had contributed to those units the Government in real terms would pay fivesevenths of the final value of the pension anyway. Why should she not be allowed notionally to claim the units without making the contribution called upon? Officer B, who is aged 51, pays $2.32 per fortnight for seven units of pension worth $12.25 per week, which is certainly less than the age pension for a married person. His gross salary is $3,244 per annum, which is $124.37 per fortnight. The unit cost is now 80c per fortnight for each additional unit. He has rejected seventeen units to which he otherwise might have been entitled.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) before him have said a great deal to place this matter of the pension increases in better perspective for the Parliament and for the people of Australia. I should like to speak with reference to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances (Increases) Bill taken in the context of the three Bills which are being considered together.. The Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill in particular has been seriously, and I suppose quite predictably, misrepresented by some organs of the Press. I should like to refer particularly during the course of my speech to misrepresentation by the Sydney ‘Sun’, which is of a gross nature. In saying that I do not wish to make a personal attack upon the writer of the dispatch from Canberra. Whether it is his fault or the fault of some editor or sub-editor, this is not the time or the place to inquire, but what is certain is that this legislation has been grossly misunderstood, to take a kind view, or to take an unkind view, grossly misrepresented by the Sydney ‘Sun’. I should like to make some remarks to place the matter in better perspective.
The Bill relating to parliamentary pensions is identical in principle with the Bills dealing with defence forces retirement benefits and benefits for Commonwealth public servants, yet the latter have not come under attack from the Press. The whole of the attack has been centred on the legislation dealing with parliamentary pensions and, as honourable members may imagine, for a very good reason. It has become the fashion in this democracy to denigrate the Parliament and members of Parliament at every conceivable opportunity and, of course, the best opportunity of all is when there is any talk of an increase in the salary or the pensions of members of Parliament. This is so even in this case where it is a matter of doing elementary justice not to the existing members of Parliament but to men who left Parliament years ago and their dependants. It is legislation designed simply to ensure that they shall enjoy the same benefits as members of Parliament retiring as at this time, and their dependants. Their services were surely no less deserving than the services which are rendered and will be rendered by members of the Parliament at the present time. Surely they are entitled to the same scale of pension benefits.
What is lost sight of is, as the honourable member for Maribyrnong has pointed out, that this is a contributory scheme. It is not a hand-out. It is a scheme to which members of Parliament have contributed to a very substantial degree. To the extent that the Commonwealth contributes to this pension it is doing something exactly similar to what a private employer does. It is making a return for services rendered. I say unequivocally that the return for services rendered by members of this Parliament, both in the way of salary and in the way of pension, is grossly inadequate and disproportionate to the nature of the services rendered by those members. I propose to say more of that in due course.
These Bills are concerned to do justice to previous members and their dependants simply by increasing the Commonwealth contribution to the level that now prevails for present members. The principle is identical for each of the three Bills. It is a principle which has been long accepted and which has been given effect to over and over again. By now it should be fully understood by every reporter and every editor or sub-editor who takes the trouble to understand the basis on which it proceeds. Yet we have this kind of unprincipled attack which deliberately misrepresents one Bill only of the three, which all proceed on the same identical principle. In the case of members of Parliament, it affects only those who retired before 1964, and in the case of pensions payable to those who retired from the defence forces and the Commonwealth Public Service it affects only those who retired prior to 1959.
The amount involved in the case of the parliamentary pensions is comparatively small- for the current year $60,000 and for the following year $80,000. Nonetheless, small as the amount may be by comparison with the amounts involved in the other Bills, it would be completely indefensible unless it were right in principle. I believe that it is entirely right in principle. It is a principle upon which this kind of legislation has proceeded for years.
Let me say that 1 share fully the disappointment which has been widely expressed by honourable members on both sides of the House and in the Press that the Budget did not provide an increase in the social service pensions. I shall not debate whether it would have been possible or practicable to do so. The amount involved in social service pensions now is vast and it rose this year by $40m to a total of $l,071m. We shall hope that it will be found practicable, perhaps before the next Budget Speech, to make some increase in those social service pensions. But that is an entirety separate issue from that which we are now considering in the course of dealing with these Bills.
The justice of these Bills is apparent; the injustice of not passing them would, I submit, be equally so. I dare say there would be many who, whilst accepting the justice of these Bills and whilst not criticising them, would criticise their timing and would say that there should be no adjustment to the pensions of retired officers of the Public Service or defence forces or members of Parliament without a corresponding adjustment in social service pensions. This argument is much less cogent than might at first appear. The scale of pensions payable to retired members of the forces and the Public Service is directly related to the morale and recruitment of existing and incoming members of the forces and the Public Service. Unless proper steps are taken to ensure that these pensions are kept in line with what is being enjoyed by present members and their dependants, there will undoubtedly be serious effects on the morale and recruitment of those forces and the Public Service. There has in fact been a much more frequent adjustment in the scale of social service pensions having regard to increases in the cost of living than in the case of pensions payable to members of the defence forces and the public service.
Ideally, I suppose, in this area of creeping inflation, which seems to have some advantages but some disadvantages, if it were practicable we should like to see a periodic, comprehensive, simultaneous and automatic adjustment of all wages and salaries, pensions and allowances, provisions of the tax laws and so on involving reference to specific amounts. Whether that would ever be practicable in a world in which we have to budget for things year by year I am not in the position to say. But until someone can demonstrate the practicability of some such scheme as that, adjustments in social service pensions and in pensions enjoyed by members of the forces, the Public Service and so on will to some extent be sporadic and disproportionate. I suppose that if in the Budjets in the next few years there are increased social service pensions because of further creeping inflation, but no increases for retired officers of the services, it will be their turn to complain, with some justice, that they have been left out of the increases which are necessitated by the change in the cost of living. So, viewed in this kind of perspective, one can see that the complaint of timing really lacks justification. We must surely consider this matter as a separate issue and one which must take its turn with the social service adjustments which have occurred much more frequently in the past than have adjustments of superannuation.
– We would be dishonest if we did not do it.
– The honourable member for Mitchell says that we would be dishonest if we did not do it. If we take our minds off parliamentary pensions for the moment and look at the position of members of the Defence Forces and Commonwealth Public Servants, he is perfectly right; it would be dishonest if we did not do it. If it would be dishonest not do it in the case of these officers, then it would be equally dishonest on the part of the Aus tralian people and the Australian Press if they did not accept the necessity for adjustment of parliamentary pensions also. But a double standard seems to apply and a special criteria are erected for parliamentarians. They are held up to contempt and denigration in the Press day by day. A great disservice to democracy is being done by the Press in maintaining this kind of attitude towards members of Parliament. The Budget speech delivered on 15th August 1967 - a date which I recall rather distinctly because it happened to be my birthday - created not a ripple, yet the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) announced in that speech that this adjustment would be made. First he detailed the adjustment which would be made in relation to members of the defence forces. He said:
The Government has decided that the Consolidated Revenue proportion of existing pensions should be brought up to the amount that would have been payable if the retirement had taken place on 30 June 1967.
And then he said:
A comparable adjustment will also be made in existing pensions under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act, at an estimated cost of $85,000 in a full year and $60,000 in 1967-68.
To any who had the eyes to read and the wit to go back to similar legislation enacted in previous years, what was proposed was quite apparent. Yet nothing transpired in the Press until a much later date. The second reading speeches on the pensions legislation were made on 4th October and once again the intention was made clear. No great elaboration was necessary because the basis upon which these three bills were proceeding was perfectly clear from what had happened in previous years. Then on 10th October the Sydney ‘Sun’ made a great discovery and gained terrific mileage out of it. It is no exaggeration to say that miles and miles of newsprint was used to circulate this distortion and misrepresentation far and wide to the people of Sydney and of New South Wales generally. I will give a few specimens of the distortions that were placed before the public. In an article on 10th October the Sydney ‘Sun’ informed us that the pensions of former members of Parliament were to be increased by $21 a week. It stated:
Fifteen former Federal Ministers - several of them wealthy men - will get pension rises of up to $21.79 a week.
Surely the fact that many are wealthy men is a complete red herring. This was not a handout. This was a pension for which they had contributed and to which the Commonwealth contributed in part as a return for distinguished services rendered. Nonetheless the point is made that some of the ex-members are wealthy men. I do not doubt that some of the directors and executive officers of the company which owns the Sydney ‘Sun’ are wealthy men; certainly we can be quite sure that their emoluments and their pensions are vastly in excess of any that are enjoyed or will ever be enjoyed by members of this Parliament. The article continued :
The Government has made no attempt to justify the pension increases. . . .
May I point out once again that no mention was made of the other superannuation Bills. In fact no mention was made of those Bills at any time in these news releases. They dealt with an entirely comparable subject matter in an entirely comparable way. But it is said that the Government has made no attempt to justify the pension increases. No justification was necessary; the principle of this type of legislation was well known and had been accepted over a long period of years. The article continued:
Most of the beneficiaries - including a number of ex-backbenchers- have been out of Parliament for 10 years.
May I say: ‘So what?’ Do they deserve any less of their country because they have been out of Parliament for 10 years? No. But apparently this is expected of a member of Parliament. He has rendered service to his country at great personal sacrifice - and financial sacrifice in many cases - yet is apparently expected to take refuge in his den, wherever it may be, and to continue to live on a pension which, owing to increases in the cost of living, may be worth only a fraction of what it was worth at the time he left the Parliament. Why should he not receive exactly the same pension as a member who leaves today? This is the beneficent principle, the just principle upon which the whole of this legislation has proceeded in relation to members of Parliament, retired officers and men of the defence forces, and retired public servants.
On page 2 of the Sydney ‘Sun’ on that same day was another tremendous heading:
Former MPs’ pension bonanza - $85,000 a year extra cost’.
The article begins:
Sir Percy Spender, former president of the International Court of Justice, who retired last February on a $11,285 United Nations pension, is entitled lo the $21.79 a week pension rise.
Once again 1 say: ‘So what?’, lt is a pension to which he has contributed. The Commonwealth’s contribution was a return for distinguished services rendered. Not everyone is as wealthy or as fortunate as Sir Percy Spender. No mention or very little mention is made of any others except those who may be thought to have a vast amount of money at their disposal. The article stated:
The new increase brings these former members very close to what serving members will receive on retirement.
That, indeed, is the whole well justified object of the legislation. As I say, no challenge is made except in relation to members of Parliament. Is $70 a week a princely pension for people, many of them of great distinction, who have given their unstinting service to the public year in, year out, at great personal cost and sacrifice? I ask: Do they deserve anything less than $70 a week? The article continued:
Other former Ministers from the Menzies’ era who will receive the pension increase of $21.79 for a weekly total of $63.79 are:
And they are listed: Sir Arthur Fadden, Sir Philip McBride, Sir Charles Davidson, Sir Neil O’sullivan, Sir Eric Harrison, Mr F. Osborne and Dr D. Cameron. 1 say in all seriousness that the Australian people are lucky to have had the services of mcn like this and to be able to pension them off at $63.79 a week.
Then the Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ look up the cry. In some respects I give that newspaper its duc. There was nothing comparable to what had appeared in the ‘Sun’, but once again we had the photographs of four people appearing - Sir Eric Harrison, Alderman Armstrong, Lord Casey and Sir Arthur Fadden. These men were singled out. The fact that there may be some recipients who have very little, if anything, other than their pension is conveniently forgotten. All emphasis is placed upon men who appear to be wealthy men. But even in their cases the criticism is unjustified; it is quite as unjustified as it would be if it were applied to a retired public servant or a retired military officer who happened to find some suitable employment outside or who happened to have some inherited wealth.
The next morning this matter was taken up by the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and 1 am glad to say that we had a completely factual report. But what a curious anomaly it is that the same company which produces the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and the ‘Sun’ can produce in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ a sober, factual report whereas in the Sydney Sun’ there is a complete distortion of the picture. In one paragraph of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ we find this statement:
But the Commonwealth actuary, Mr S. W. Caffin, reported that a better earnings rate, which lie believed could be achieved, would enable this deficiency to be recovered within a reasonable period.
That is quite a significant statement and one which should not have been forgotten by the Editor of the ‘Sun’ or whoever was responsible for the article in the ‘Sun’ which appeared on the following day. As I say, he extracted a fair deal of satisfactory mileage out of it, and the public would be well pleased with his account of what was happening in the Federal Parliament, about this conspiracy of Government and Opposition to rob the till, as it were. The next day the ‘Sun’ carried it on again under the heading in large type ‘Fund in the Red’:
The Parliamentary Retiring Pensions Fund is $43,897 in ‘the red’.
This means that the Government, which guarantees the fund, will have to make up the deficiency using taxpayers’ money.
That is a deliberate distortion of the facts. On the previous day the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, printed by the same company, gave a refutation of that, some of which 1 have read, from Mr Caffin, the Commonwealth Actuary. But no, the ‘Sun’ must present the story in a manner that will feed the popular prejudice against this Parliament and the members of it. Under the subheading ‘Details’ this comment appears:
The fund will take a further hammering after the Senate elections this year, when there will be more retirements and defeats.
Then comes a really choice morsel:
The attractive retiring pension is an inducement to M.P’s to quit politics after qualifying, particularly if they are in their mid-40s.
Any comment on that would be superfluous. The article continues:
Interest in the Bill now before the House . . . centres on whether the Government will decide to justify the new rates.
I cannot repeat too often for the benefit of people who are listening to me - 1 am not quite sure what publicity, if any, 1 will get in the Press, but at least some of the people of Australia will hear what I am saying over the radio - that this legislation is exactly similar in principle to that which is fully accepted as just and right in relation to retired officers of the defence forces and retired public servants. Also, it is exactly similar in principle to legislation that has been passed in almost the same form in previous years. Yet, according to this dispatch from Canberra, interest centres on whether the Government will decide to justify the new rates. I should like anyone to justify a refusal to implement this legislation. The Press report contained this statement:
Minister for Air, Mr Howson, did nol reveal the pension increases when he introduced the bill into Parliament last Wednesday.
I wonder whether the man who wrote this dispatch can read. He had only to turn a page of the Bill, which is quite short, to find the exact amount specified.
– He did not want to be confused with the facts.
-That is so. He included in bis report this statement: lt remains to be seen whether the .Labour Opposition will demand the details from tha Government.
He was referring to details that are set out in the Bill and were readily available to him. Then he wrote:
These details became public knowledge yesterday when published in the ‘Sun’.
Was that not a signal contribution to the sum of public knowledge? This information had been known since the Budget Speech. lt had been embodied in the Bill on 4th October, bill. 6 days later it was revealed in the ‘Sun’ ! Then comes a real sting in the tail:
Motives behind the legislation are the subject of speculation. If the Government’s intention was to look after former colleagues it has certainly succeeded.
But the purpose may go deeper.
The precedent is being established for members retiring in future years justifiably to expect to obtain progressive increases in the pension on which they quit Parliament- irrespective of the time factor.
Perhaps I need say no more about this deliberate distortion and misrepresentation of the effect of this legislation. I hope the Australian people will realise that these Bills are designed to do simple justice to retired officers and men of the defence forces, retired public servants and, incidentally, last but I hope by no means least, the members of this Parliament. There is much more I should like to say, but I must keep my eye on the clock. Yesterday we had a very brief address from Lord Stow Hill, one of the visiting United Kingdom parliamentarians, in which he referred to the sacred duty of parliamentarians to govern their fellow men. It is not perhaps the phrase that we would choose in this Parliament, but since he used it, I shall accept it. I believe that most members of this Parliament, whether or not they would use that phrase, accept the duty as such. Yet every endeavour is made to make parliamentary service appear mean and contemptible. So we are caught in a vicious circle. The present parliamentarians are no better than Australia deserves, because I believe that Australia deserves nothing but the best, but they are certainly better than the Australian public and the Press have the right to expect having regard to the deliberate distortion, misrepresentation, denigration and contempt that are poured upon them day by day.
I have not been a member of this House for very long, but I have been here certainly long enough to know that I am proud to call most of my fellow members friend, if they will acknowledge me as such. Every party and every member of this House, and indeed of the other place, has a vital role to play in the working of Australian democracy. Recently when the Hon. H. F. Opperman left this House he made a speech that was thought to be very funny by some portions of the Press. Part of what he said was quoted in the supposedly funny sayings of the week. Among other things he said:
Irrespective of what is written about the Australian politician, irrespective of what is said about him and irrespective of his party or policy, he is in the toughest and most exacting occupation in Australia. For the number of hours he works and travels, for the responsibility he carries, for the persistency of calls upon him at all times, and for the overheads be faces each month, he is underpaid.
Let me give a few examples of the extent to which he is indeed underpaid. Recently I picked up an advertisement for a veterinary pathologist to proceed to New Guinea on a salary of $7,900 to $8,402. When the Qantas pilots settled their strike recently I read in the newspapers that some of them will be able to earn up to $20,000 per annum, which is about three times the salary of a member of this Parliament. TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-ANA have settled their strike with their senior flight engineers, who also will receive more than members of Parliament. Their rate of pay is $7,322 per annum. Some Second Division public servants receive $9,657. I noticed recently in the ‘Australian’ that the managing director of a mining company can earn between $15,000 and $20,000 a year. The principal of the Canberra College of Advanced Education receives $11,805 per annum. A Navy captain or an Army colonel earns more and receives a bigger pension than a member of this Parliament.
The recent salary increases of university staff present one of the best examples of all. In the course of approving legislation for grants to universities we in this Parliament approved higher salaries for professors of $12,000 a year, for associate professors or readers, $9,900 a year, for senior lecturers a maximum of $8,750 and so on. Yet members of this Parliament are expected to be well content with $7,000 a year.
– Did the honourable member obtain the salary of the editor of the Sun’?
– It would be most interesting to learn the salary and pensions of editors and executives of the companies that own the newspapers which are so free with their criticism of members of Parliament. I believe that parliamentary representation should be a full time job, even though it is not for me, and that we should pay a sufficient salary to attract men of high qualifications to become members on a fulltime basis. Obviously the salary and pensions payable to members of Parliament are completely disproportionate and inadequate for the purpose. I suggest that we give serious consideration to adopting something like the Tasmanian system under which a tribunal consisting of a judge, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, and, I think, in the present instance, a professor of political science, fix the salaries and allowances of members. The practice now followed places us in a most invidious situation in deciding our own salaries. We are accused of a conspiracy, as it were, between Government and Opposition and of robbing the till.
Let some impartial people decide what our salaries and pensions should be. Let them decide this matter on the basis of what is the proper remuneration for what I believe is the most important job in this community, one which we should all be delighted to tackle on a full-time basis if it were possible for us to do so. It is not easy for people who have enjoyed sometimes two or three times as much as the parliamentary salary to adjust themselves to an entirely new way of life. This is the difficult process in which many of us have been engaged. If it could be regarded as a full-time job and be paid as such, and the salary and allowances could be determined by an impartial tribunal, I am sure there is nothing that members of Parliament would like better. It would open up a new era in the relationship between members of Parliament, the Press and the public of this country. I would ask that something along these lines be considered.
I would say to the Press and to the public of Australia that the time has come when they should grow up and take a mature attitude towards their members of Parliament and treat them with a little respect and consideration - not too much, because it might go to our heads, but just a little - and give some recognition to the kind of sacrifices that are made by members of Parliament when they come into this place to do their job. I ask them to recognise that members must be separated from their families and that there must be a complete disorientation of their social, professional, sporting and recreational life. A dedication and sense of vocation is necessary before anyone will be so utterly foolish as to come into this Parliament and give his service to the people of Australia. I have the utmost respect and admiration for members. I hope that the Press will treat the Parliament with a little more respect and consideration in the future. In so doing the Press would be performing a real service for democracy.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4 October October (vide page 1685), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4 October (vide page 1686), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 October (vide page 1875), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Is it the wish of the House to debate the subject matter of the Bills as suggested? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The Bills before the House have a great deal of detail and a great deal of substance and I am afraid that what I have to say will be rather tedious, but nevertheless it has to be said. Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) provides changes in tariffs for eleven important commodities; Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4) proposes a number of administrative changes which do not involve changes in any duties; and Customs Tariff Bill (No. 5) provides tariffs for three very important sectors of industry. The Opposition does not oppose any of the provisions except one, and that one we oppose very strongly. This is the provision of a separate value duty for imported soda ash. The provision is contained in Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3). We propose to vote against the Fifth Schedule which will give effect to this duty if carried.
I would like to take a number of these items individually. The first is the provision of increased duties for air-cooled engines. In his second reading speech the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) said:
In view of the divergent views and majority and minority recommendations by, the Board contained in this report the Government made its own assessment of the level of protection which should be accorded to this industry.
The Tariff Board has made a fairly substantial report on this subject. There were four members on the Board. Two of them held one view and the other two another view. The view, which is called the majority view, resulted from the Chairman’s casting vote. Two members thought that a duty of 75% should be imposed on these engines and the other two thought the duty should be 55%. The Government said: ‘We are not going to take either of those two figures; we will choose one in the middle and will make the duty 65%’. I think it would be quite open to argue that a 55%, 65% or 75% duty would be equally valid for the industry in the state that it is in. I have much doubt about what should be done in this case. We shall not oppose what the Government is doing, but a great deal of doubt is involved and there is room for argument. One has only to refer cursorily to the report of the Board to realise this. In its report the Board said:
The evidence does not support ACMA’s contention that prices of imported engines have been reduced recently - at least as far as export prices of overseas manufacturers are concerned. But it appears that Australian equipment manufacturers are now obtaining many of their imported engines directly from the overseas manufacturer, at a lower cost into store than if bought from the Australian distributor of the engines. This factor has been taken into account in arriving at the recommendations made later in this report.
The industry has not, however, yet achieved a position in which it can operate satisfactorily under the level of protection recommended in those reports. Now, at its third approach to the Board in recent years, the industry is requesting the imposition of substantially increased duties for a period to give it a further opportunity to achieve reasonable stability and profitability.
Indeed the evidence submitted at this inquiry has left the Board with serious doubts about the long-term prospects of the industry.
For these and other reasons, the Board is very disturbed by the present unsatisfactory position, and the uncertain prospects, of the local industry and its apparent need for a very high order of protection again imports. It has considered very carefully whether it should conclude that the industry is uneconomic and consequently not worthy of protection.
The Board has, however, decided that to reach such a conclusion at this point of time might not be completely fair to the local industry.
The gist of it is that the Board has serious doubts about the future prospects of the industry. The dissenting opinion regards the position as even worse. There are three main producers: Villiers and Kirby are among them, and one is specifically concerned in the production of lawnmowers. The dissenting report says:
The position of Kirby is far less satisfactory and much of the evidence and of the discussion of the industry’s problems in the majority report has particular relevance to this company.
What emerges here is that much of the problem seems to lie with this particular firm. The report continues:
Kirby invested in new plant and equipment and expanded its capacity and range of production while protected by substantive duties at the existing level and without any indication by the Board that a higher level of assistance would be likely to be accorded to it. The evidence indicates that it overestimated the market available to it and underestimated the severity of likely price competition from the United States of America. Furthermore, it apparently did not anticipate the marked swing in consumer preference for lawnmowers from 4 cycle to 2 cycle models.
Whether these matters be regarded as errors of judgment or as commercial risks undertaken, we do not regard it as the function of the tariff to ins,,se Kirby against their consequences.
But, of course, Kirby is being insured against their consequences by the action of the Government. This industry does not emerge very well even from the report of the majority of the Board, which was more favourable to it than the minority. It reported:
The Board is very disturbed about the present unsatisfactory position and uncertain prospects.
The Opposition will not oppose the Government’s proposal but it is fairly certain that unless something is done to adjust the economics of the industry, particularly by this one firm that is being well treated by the Government, if not by the Board, it cannot expect more protection in future. This is the third time it has been assisted in recent years. I do not think this House could afford to accept the position again in the way that we propose to accept it this time.
The second matter under debate in the Bill is the provision of some tariff protection for augers and bits. The Minister told the House that in this case no change was proposed in the present protective levels of duties, but as recommended by the Board, they would apply to all products of the type made locally or which are competitive with Australian products. He said that duties on boring or drilling bits of the machine tool type are increased from 7i% ad valorem, general, and free, preferential, to 35% ad valorem, general, and 27i% ad valorem, preferential. According to the Board’s report, this industry is efficient and has made good progress. The Opposition does not oppose extension of the tariff to the types of augers and bits involved.
The next item is the provision of tariffs for cycle saddles. Here the Board has found that since 1963, when the matter was last investigated, the local manufacturer of cycle saddles has expanded production. This has resulted in reduced costs, stable prices, and increased sales together with reasonable profits. The Board considered that the company had achieved relative stability and was worthy of continued assistance so long as it could operate within the existing level of continued protection. Accordingly, the Board recommended no change in duties on saddles for motor cycles and adults’ bicycles which are the main lines of production. However, the Board recommended an extension of assistance to cover the local manufacturer’s entire range of production of cycle saddles. Here again the Opposition finds no fault in general with this extension of tariff and will not oppose it.
The next item covered by the Bill is drums, on which the Board last reported in 1963. It appears there has been satisfactory progress in recent years both in the industry and in the demand for its products. Perhaps the demand is surprisingly high, being 7,000 in 1965-66. The Board reported:
Taking all factors into account, the Board considers that the local industry should be given the opportunity to operate with a moderate increase in duly. This would strengthen the local manufacturers’ competitive position and should enable the firms to secure a reasonable share of the market for the better quality drums and operate on a profitable basis. Accordingly, the Board proposes to recommend that the present duties be increased to 40 per cent General and 30 per cent Preferential.
That is an increase of 10% on the former level. Again, the Opposition finds no fault with this provision and will not oppose it.
I now turn to electrical capacitors. As not many people would know what an electrical capacitor is I think it is advisable to make some reference to the Board’s report to elucidate this. The report stales:
Capacitors, also known as condensers, are devices designed to store electricity. They are commonly used in a variety of electrical apparatus, including radio, television, telephone and telegraph equipment, gramophones, tape recorders, computers, fluorescent lighting, car generators, industrial equipment and in the transmission of electrical power.
Without capacitors, which affect so many things that are vital nowadays, life would come to a stop. The report continues:
Capacitors are generally classified as either fixed capacitors or variable capacitors.
I sometimes feel when I am at the Kurrajong Hotel early in the morning that I would be very pleased if some of the capacitors operating in transistors there were variable. The report goes on:
The latter are used mostly in conjunction with larger capacitors-
So apparently we do not find the variable ones in the small instruments. The report says further:
They are also classified according to their dielectric.
I am glad the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is not here when I am using a word like that. Continuing the report:
The principal types used in radio and related applications are electrolytic, paper, plastic film, mica, ceramic, air and glass capacitors, with the last two being chiefly of the variable type.
All this indicates that the problem is not an easy one to solve. This is a complicated product of a complicated industry. Certain changes are proposed. The Minister for Air said in his second reading speech:
The duties on power factor correction capacitors at the time of the Board’s inquiry were 50% ad valorem (general) and 221% ad valorem (prefential). Other capacitors covered by the report were dutiable at ad valorem rates of 100% (general) and 90% (preferential). . . .
With power factor correction capacitors, the Board found that electricity supply authorities have been changing from the large size capacitors made locally to imported banks of small units. This has been made possible by technological advances. The local industry’s price disability is now high, but the Board considered that if production were geared to the new type unit the disability would be reduced.
Capacitors are an important cost element for electricity supply authorities. The Tariff Board considered that there was no justification for recommending duties of the order requested. . . .
The Board concluded that duties of 45% ad valorem (general) and 27i% ad valorem (preferential) should provide a reasonable level of assistance to efficient local manufacture of the new type capacitor and recommended these rates for power factor correction capacitors generally. These duties are in line with the tariff treatment accorded similar electrical equipment.
In 1962 a high level of protection was accorded other capacitors in order to give the industry an opportunity to reorganise production and reduce costs. In its latest report -
That is this report upon which the present changes are based - the Board pointed out there was still scope for cost economies. However, in the Board’s opinion the local industry has been given ample opportunity to rationalise and consolidate its position behind a high level of protection. The Board considered local manufacturers should be now given an opportunity to demonstrate whether they are economically viable under a reasonable level of assistance. It recommended that the duties of 100% (general) and 90% (preferential) be reduced to the rates recommended for power factor correction capacitors.
Those are the rates to which I have just referred. So the pressure, as it were, is likely to be applied to the industry or sections of it as a result of these changes which are consistent with the Board’s belief that there has been an opportunity to rationalise and consolidate and to find new economies. This is a complex and difficult kind of problem in which there is room for differences of opinion. The Opposition does not oppose what the Board has recommended and what the Government proposes to do.
The next item is glass fibre yarns and fabrics, which are products of a very difficult and complicated industry. As the Minister said, the Board considered after its inquiry that the industry was worthy of continued assistance. To quote the Minister’s second reading speech:
It recommended that the duties on glass fibre cords, cordage and braids be increased by 10% to 40% ad valorem (general) and 30% (preferential). The same level of assistance was recommended by the Board for certain glass fibre fabrics which at the time were subject to temporary duties. This represented a reduction of 5% in the combined level of the existing normal and temporary duties.
Other products are involved in this decision on glass fibre. The Minister said:
On glass fibre rovings, chopped strand and chopped strand mat, the Board recommended a specific minimum rate of 12c per lb as an alternative to the existing ad valorem rates of 30% (general) and 20% (preferential). These rates were also recommended for sliver. The Board suggested that the duties on rovings, chopped strand, chopped strand mat and sliver should be reviewed after 3 years.
The Board considered that there should be no change in the existing level of protection on other goods covered by the report. . . .
These products, of course, are of increasing importance, and I will not weary the House by quoting from the Board’s report as to precisely what they are. The report has been made available to honourable members and this information can be readily obtained from it. In this case, although the problem is a difficult one to solve, the Opposition is accepting what the Board has recommended and what has been carried into effect by the Government’s decision.
The next item dealt with in this Bill is plastic corrugated plates, sheets and strip. In this case the Minister told us:
The Tariff Board found that the only local firm operated efficiently and had the capacity to meet local demand with material of good quality. Further, it was considered an important outlet for local polyvinyl chloride resin producers. However, similar imported products are considerably cheaper than the local product. . . .
The Board concluded that the industry was worthy of assistance provided it could achieve capacity or near capacity production and recommended that the duty rates for corrugated polyvinyl chloride sheets be 14c per lb (general) and 14c per lb less 15% ad valorem (preferential). The ad valorem equivalents of the general rate are in the vicinity of 70% to 80% on the cheapest imported sheets but considerably less on the better quality grades which are more comparable to the local product.
So far as I can see, the report does not tell us what the duty was previously, but apparently it was 40% and 25%, and what is proposed represents quite a considerable increase. One of the problems here is the high cost of the imported raw materials which themselves - in the case of PVC resin - are subject to a pretty high level of protection. The Board’s report says:
Vinlon is the sole Australian producer of corrugated PVC sheet. The company has been in production for only 2 years, . . .
The size of the disability experienced by Vinlon led the Board to have doubts on the economics of the industry.
One cannot read the report without sharing these doubts about the economics of the industry. Some of the problem is certainly caused by the high cost of the raw material. The Board states in its report:
However, when account is taken of the high level of protection on locally produced PVS resin and the size of Vinlon’s raw material disability and the importance of corrugated PVC sheet production as a market for locally produced PVC resin, the Board believes the industry can be regarded as worthy of assistance provided it can achieve capacity or near capacity production under the level of duties the Board will recommend.
This is an instance where the protection of raw materials is passed through the system of production, making protection necessary at higher levels. It is a cost increasing process which in this instance must be looked at very critically. I think the proposal here is a very doubtful one. However, the Opposition does not propose to act against it. We will accept it in these circumstances, but I would think that the action cannot be taken with very much confidence.
The next proposal relates to synthetic resin monofilaments for brushware. The Minister gave an adequate statement of the finding of the Special Advisory Authority and of this proposal. But I find that the report of the Authority is a very unsatisfactory report. It is hardly worth the paper on which it is written. It has very little information in it and, if the Authority had no more information available than he has given us in the report, I do not think he had a satisfactory basis for any proposal for action. To me it is a very unconvincing and unsatisfactory report.
The next item is man-made fibres, tow, yarn, tyre and tyre cord fabrics. In this item there is disagreement in the Board about what should be done. It is quite a substantial, informative and complicated report which does leave room for doubt and perhaps serious doubt about what should be done. The report tells us that the section of the textile industry that is covered by the inquiry comprises the extruding, throwing, top making and spinning industry. It employs about 5,000 people, many of them in decentralised areas. The funds employed are about $64m. Much of the funds comes from overseas. After its examination, the Board remains in disagreement as to what should be done. The Government has followed the majority recommendation. The industry is undoubtedly in difficulties and one view is that more should be done for it. As with the industrial chemicals and synthetic resins, the minority view is that of Mr Rattigan, who puts the dissenting viewpoint. The report states:
Mr Rattigan recommends that the Government establish some reasonably fast moving machinery for the application of support values in future cases where it can be established that normal protection is being rendered ineffective and the local industry is suffering detriment from disruptive low pricing. 1 should think that the Government will be watching the position fairly carefully and that, if Mr Rattigan’s expectation is realised, appropriate fast moving machinery will be put into operation. This is an important industry, not only because of its product but because it is decentralised. It may be in difficulties in the future. Having in mind that the Government will be alive to this situation, the proposals that are being given effect to in the Bill can be accepted.
The next item, which is tableware, is a very doubtful proposition. I was inclined to recommend that the Opposition oppose this proposal. However, I think the benefit of the doubt can be given. It is nonetheless a very unsatisfactory situation. To begin with, the proposal to increase duties on tableware will cost a considerable amount to the user of tableware. It is apparently based on the belief that there is a significant increase in imports. When one refers to the table provided by the Special Advisory Authority at page 3 of the report, one is left in considerable doubt as to whether this is so. The figures show that imports from the United Kingdom have not increased. The figures for the 5 months ended November 1966 do not show a proportionate increase. This is also the position with Japan. The report states: lt should be noted that not only do these figures include some goods not covered by the reference but they also include many imports of domestic tableware which for various reasons, including price and quality, would not be competitive with the tableware produced by Johnson Brothers . . . The table shows clearly, however, the increasing imports that are being made from Mainland China.
On the face of it, this does not seem to be important. Imports from Mainland China amounted to $221,000 for the 5 months o November 1966 out of a total of $3m. The report says further:
Having regard to prices quoted to me during the inquiry I believe that most of the imports being made from that country are at very low prices. If the official statistics had been recorded on a quantity basis rather than a value basis 1 believe that the proportion of imports being obtained from Mainland China would be much higher than as shown in the above table.
Perhaps a significant quantity is concealed in the figure giving the value. I think the Special Advisory Authority is himself in some doubt about this. He does not give an ad valorem equivalent for the duty he proposes. I think that this is remiss and should not happen. He also states:
In these sets the cups and saucers are by far the most important parts of the set. On the other hand, a duty of 15c per lb less 100% of the f.o.b. value would be adequate on flat plates . . . and deep plates . . . and on dinner sets and utility sets. In the case of these latter sets the effect of the value and weight of the cups and saucers is to some extent offset by the effect of the value and weight of the other components.
At the present time all the domestic tableware produced by Johnson Brothers is of earthenware, while a very large part of the imports in the same price field is of porcelain. In my opinion most of these imports are being made because of price rather than because of a preference for porcelain over earthenware.
I would like to compare that statement with a statement on page 1 of the report of the Special Advisory Authority on domestic tableware. This report states:
This leaves us in some difficulty to know what the amount of increase that has been proposed is. The report leaves me in some doubt as to whether or not this is a correct decision to make.
I next want to discuss an item about which I have no doubt at all. I refer to the provision of a support value duty on soda ash. I think this is totally unjustified and the Opposition is completely opposed to what the Government proposes to do. We will therefore vote against the Fifth Schedule which puts this into operation. There is one producer of soda ash in Australia - Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited. In the last 10 years this firm has produced at various times either 100% of Australian consumption - I think this happened in 5 of these years - or over 90% of Australian consumption. This firm was given an increase in tariff in 1966 at which time it said that it would not increase prices. However, prices were increased from about $61 in 1964 to about $67 in 1966. I point out that $2 of that increase was imposed after the tariff increase that was granted in 1966. Now a support value duty has been granted of 90% of the amount that the landed price is in excess of $60. This is said to be because of increased imports in bulk from the United States which would result in lower prices, so it is said and increased imports in bulk to Australia. This is despite the fact that the sole importer in Australia has said that there has been no increase in price for 10 years and no increase in imports from the United States of America.
– This is the sole importer?
– Yes. This importer says that they will cut their own throat if they increase imports or reduce their price.
– Did ICI import?
– ICI has imported from its own parent company overseas. However the importer I am talking about is a Sydney firm. It has been the main importer in recent years. It has told the Special Advisory Authority that there will be no increase in imports and no reduction in price. Indeed, they say that they would be compelled to increase their price, not reduce it. They pointed out that if they either increased the amount of soda ash they import or reduced the price, there would be an immediate special authority action and that their imports would be cut off. This has been done not because these things have happened but because of some kind of expectation that someone has that this is going to happen. We find in the report of the Special Advisory Authority on page 3 it is stated:
The bulk shipment of soda ash which was imported in January 1967 is being sold at prices below those of the local manufacturer.
That may be so but it is not being sold at lower prices than those at which this commodity has been imported before. The statement continues:
There was no evidence that this shipment had been obtained at specially low overseas prices or that the freight and other costs charged on the goods were unusually low. However, I believe that unless some support value is determined for bulk shipments of soda ash, supplies could be obtained in the near future at prices and at freight rates which would be disruptive to the Australian industry.
This is not good enough. The importer has submitted evidence that this will not happen. The logic of the matter would be that if he did allow that to happen then action would be taken to cut his import activity. Such action has been taken now and will give a complete monopoly to ICI in this country. Yet, I am assured that ICI is working at full capacity production at the moment. In the period previous to the emergency hearing, as I mentioned, they imported 3.500 tons to meet some shortages on the local market and during the 18 months prior to December 1966 they exported 2,560 tons to New Zealand at $31 a ton which is less than half the price the local manufacturers are paying. In addition to that, Id’s local price is double the world price. Not only has there been no suggestion of dumping or price cutting by overseas suppliers in this country but assurances have been given that there will be no such action at all. Therefore, in these circumstances the Opposition is not willing to see a support value tariff introduced that will give a complete monopoly to the producer in Australia. We think it is desirable that the kind of agreement that ICI was prepared to accept in 1966 under which they would have about 93% or 94% of the Australian market, allowing for about 6% or 7% to come in as imports to provide some competition in this field, is a desirable result. Therefore, we oppose very strongly this provision and will take it to a vote when we are dealing with the Fifth Schedule.
The last item of detail in the third Bill before the House is the provision of an increased tariff for hog skin which is being imported to Australia in competition with sheep skin leather which is used for lining boots and shoes. The Minister tells us, having regard to the average price of leather coming within this price area, the 6c per square foot rate ad valorem duty is 50% which represents an increase, I think, of 10% or 15%. This is yet another proposal which the Opposition will not oppose.
The remaining provisions of the Bill can be dealt with fairly quickly. They include matters arising out of the Government’s decision to extend the scope of Australia’s system of tariff preferences for selected products of less developed countries. With this the Opposition completely agrees. Secondly, it provides for the completion of international negotiations that will enable certain fertilisers to be admitted duty free in accordance with the recommendations of the Board. The Opposition agrees with this.
Finally, there are administrative changes concerning containers which were normally imported without duty. Now they have to be re-exported or duty paid. The Bill as a whole, I believe, could be discussed in far greater detail than I have had time in which to discuss it. However, in substance, the Opposition opposes the one provision only -that relating to soda ash. We will oppose it by voting on the Fifth Schedule.
The fourth Bill before the House is an administrative matter in which no changes of the level of duty are made. It produces the interesting and beneficial fact that as a result of it there will be 500 fewer tariff classifications to be used by importers. When classifications can be simplified like this it indicates how complicated they had become. This development is a very desirable one. The last Bill before the chamber deals with a number of matters that I would like to refer to but I suggest that this is a convenient time to suspend the sitting.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had discussed in some detail Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) and Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4). I still had to deal with Customs Tariff Bill (No. 5). This deals with a very important subject - the changes in Tariff Proposals following upon the report of the Tariff Board on alumina, unwrought aluminium, aluminium products and aluminium powders, flakes and pastes. The Bill sets the pattern of protection for the future for the aluminium industry in Australia. [Extension of time granted] The industry is a new one. lt is founded on very substantial deposits in Australia of bauxite. The Tariff Board has examined the industrial structure completely and has submitted a report dated 10th March 1967. It is on this report that the Tariff Proposals that appear in this Bill are based. The Tariff Board has reached conclusions favourable to the industry. The Board anticipates that the industry has the resources and is capable of a substantial degree of efficiency and economic development.
The report is a substantial document, lt divides the industry into sections and examines the industry from the bauxite upwards. Dealing with bauxite the Board points out that at present two companies are mining bauxite in Australia. They are soon to be joined by a third. Dealing with the production of alumina, here again we have two local producers and a third expected to be soon in operation at Gladstone in Queensland. The Tariff Board has examined the production of unwrought aluminium and aluminium alloys. Again the striking feature of this section of the industry is that there are only two producers. The Board sums up the industry in these words:
The two groups engaged in the mining ot bauxite and the production of alumina and unwrought’ aluminium at the time of the public inquiry had funds exceeding $100 million and employed approximately 1,400 persons. Developments currently under way or planned over the next five years will increase investment in the industry to over $400 million and employment to about 2,J00 persons.
The industry has an impressive record of growth in recent years. It is already making a useful contribution to the national income and to export earnings. This contribution may be expected to increase substantially. . . .
The next level of the industry examined by the Board is that dealing with aluminium and aluminium alloy semi-fabrications and wire. Here again there are only a few producers - six in all. In its report the Board examines products of or containing aluminium and aluminium alloy and so completes its review of the industry from the bauxite to the final most refined production of aluminium.
The industry has been subject to both tariff protection and import restrictions in the past. The Government has decided to continue this type of protection. With respect to unwrought aluminium and aluminium alloys, the Board found that the continuation of import restrictions was the only means whereby effective protection could be given to the local industry. Turning to other aluminium products covered by the reports, the Board found that the local industry producing aluminium wire and aluminium semi-fabrications, such as bars, rods and tubes, is in a reasonable position and does not have a high price disadvantage when compared with imports. Ad valorem duties of 30% general and 20% preferential were recommended by the Board. These are approximately equal to the existing rates. In respect of aluminium products the local industry constitutes an important outlet for locally produced aluminium. The industry has, in general, been operating profitably and warrants continued protection. This is the Board’s finding and the Government has accepted it. The Board recommended ad valorem duties of 35% general and 25% preferential for products other than diecastings. The duty rates on most aluminium diecastings are generally as high or higher than this level. This sector of the local industry is significant in terms of production, employment and funds employed and the Board concluded that the present level of duties should be maintained to protect the local industry.
In the case of aluminium powders, flakes and pastes the Board has considered that the industry warrants protection and has indicated that ad valorem duties of 30% general and 20% preferential would be adequate. The Opposition is satisfied with this nature and level of protection for the aluminium industry at its various levels. It is clear that the industry will undergo changes in the future and at certain levels the number of firms engaged in or likely to enter the industry is certain to vary. The industry has by no means yet assumed its final structure. There will be changes but the Opposition feels that the Government’s decision to adopt the levels of protection and import control indicated at this stage is justified.
The Bill deals also with polyester raw yarns. Here the Special Advisory Authority found that urgent action was necessary to protect the Australian industry against low priced imports. A temporary duty of 15c per lb was recommended in addition to the existing duties of I2i% ad valorem general and free preferential. This is not a considerable increase and does not involve a significant increase in costs for the users. I understand that submissions have been made on behalf of the fishing industry that this is imposing an unreasonable cost upon them, but I believe that when all factors are taken into account 6% is reasonable in the circumstances and that increases of this sort should be accepted.
The Bill deals finally with sodium dichromate and chromic acid. In this case there is a report of the Special Advisory Authority recommending temporary duties of $35 per ton on sodium dichromate and $80 per ton on chromic acid. These duties are in addition to the normal ad valorem duties of 25% general and 15% preferential. We have the useful information here that based on the current price of goods from Germany and Japan the temporary duties represent an ad valorem equivalent of approximately 20% for both products. This, again, is acceptable to the Opposition. To sum up this very large number and wide range of tariff proposals that the Government has submitted in these three Bills, the Opposition does not oppose any, except the one on soda ash. We propose to oppose that by voting against schedule 5 at the Committee stage.
– in reply - I rise in order to close the debate. As the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) has suggested that the Opposition intends to oppose only the proposal relating to soda ash, perhaps that could be dealt with at the Committee stage. I suggest that we move on to the Committee stage now and deal with that subject in Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-1 refer to the Fifth Schedule which reads:
This has the effect of eliminating from the Bill the proposals which the Government is making .to apply a support value duty to the importation into this country of soda ash. The proposed duty is upon a price of $60. The Opposition is not prepared to accept this for the reasons that i gave in the course of my second reading speech. Merely to summarise them at this stage, they are that the production of soda ash in Australia is by one company, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd, which in most years recently has been able to supply 100% of Australia’s consumption and no less than about 93% or 94%, a small marginal amount being imported into Australia by one company. lt was submitted to the Special Advisory Authority that the price at which this soda ash was likely to be imported into Australia was likely to be reduced considerably and the quantity of imports increased. The importer said that this would not happen and that there was no possibility whatever of it happening. The importer said that instead of a reduction in price there was likely to be some increase, but that there will not be any increase in quantity beyond the amounts which have been imported in the past. The importer knows that if either of these courses were adopted immediate action would be taken. He knows -that if these courses were adopted the action which has now been taken by the Special Advisory Authority would follow and that the contemplated condition on which the whole matter is based is a fiction and will not happen.
Therefore we conclude that this support value duty is not justified, lt would give to the producer in Australia, this large monopolistic organisation, who has had advantages from both ends as a producer and as an importer and exporter, a complete monopoly of Australian production. We believe that except in very rare cases - perhaps one could be that which we have just dealt with in Customs Tariff Bill (No. 5) dealing with import restrictions in respect of the aluminium industry - it is quite wrong to exclude from Australia completely a product of this kind. We believe that if a small quantity can be imported at a price which is reasonably related to the Australian price - in this case it is a small quantity of 6% or 7% - the imported quantity and the price provides a control factor so that the Australian price cannot get’ too far out of line. It is far enough out of line as it is and it is very likely that it will become further out of line as a result of this complete monopoly that ICI will have if this legislation becomes law. The price at’ the moment is said to be double the world price.
We believe that there is ample protection for the production in Australia of soda ash with the law as it exists. We find no justification whatever for this proposal. We await the Minister’s explanation to see whether he can add anything to what has been said in the report by the Special Advisory Authority or what was said in his own second reading speech. In particular I want to know whether it is not a fact that the importers have given assurance that there will be no price reduction and no increase in quantity above the 6% or 7% which in 1966 both the Australian producer and importer agreed would be the amount to be imported. If the importers took a course of action contrary to that, is it not a fact that this would completely cut their own throat; and would they not know that if they took this course of action their imports would immediately be cut? I would be pleased to hear what the Minister has to say in respect of this before we finally decide our own course.
– The Government does not accept the amendment moved by the Opposition. Dealing with just a few facts in the soda ash industry, the normal duties recommended by the Tariff Board in its general report on the chemical industry were for a tariff of 25% general and 15% preferential. At that stage the company asked for the imposition of a temporary duty based on the support value of $72 per ton. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) has seen that report. Subsequently imports were offered to local users at $60 per ton which, as the Opposition will realise, is considerably below the former price of imports. At this stage the matter was referred to the Special Advisory Authority to see whether urgent action was necessary. The Authority found that the imports could be obtained at even lower prices than this due to a changeover that had taken place after the report by the Tariff Board and due also to bulk shipment and bulk handling. Consequently, because of the changes that had taken place in the industry since the Tariff Board report, the Authority recommended that urgent action by means of additional duties on imports landed at below $60 per ton should be imposed. It was aimed merely to safeguard the situation against a possible further fall in the prices of imports.
As I understand the position at the moment, the price of soda ash is in the neighbourhood of $60 a ton. What in fact has occurred is that there has been a new factor emerging in this industry and therefore the facts upon which the Tariff Board made its original recommendations have now been changed. The matter therefore has been referred back to the Tariff Board to see whether, in the light of the new situation, the Board will still come up with its former recommendations or whether it will feel that the situation should be altered. All that the Government has done is to ask the Special Advisory Authority to advise it whether holding action is necessary until such time as the Tariff Board is able to review the present situation.
The matter is now with the Tariff Board and full consideration is being given to all the new factors that have emerged. We expect that the Board will submit its report by April 1968 at the latest; we hope to receive it a good deal earlier than that. I know that the Board is working very rapidly on this inquiry. We feel, therefore, that it is quite right and reasonable to hold the situation while the new facts are being considered by the Board that has been set up for this purpose. I think the Government has a very strong case for holding the present situation. Within a very short time we will have a new Tariff Board report on which more permanent action can be taken. For these reasons, the Government does not accept the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– I submit that the explanation the Minister has given is no more satisfactory than the report of the Special Advisory Authority or what has been said before. Certainly a new factor emerged after the report in 1966. In January 1967 a bulk shipment of soda ash was imported into Australia. In regard to that shipment, the Special Advisory Authority said at page 3 of his report:
There was no evidence that this shipment had been obtained at specially low overseas prices or that the freight and other costs charged on the goods were unusually low.
Certainly there was a change because instead of the soda ash being packed in bags as previously, it came in bulk form. But this did not mean a lower price as a result of the lower cost of supply or the lower cost of freight. The importers have given assurances that there will be no lower price; in fact there will be an increase.
– Was that in the report?
– No, there is no mention of this in the report.
– Did they make that evidence available to the Special Advisory Authority?
– Yes, I understand this evidence was made available.
– I cannot find any reference to it.
– I understand is was made available in evidence. At any rate, I understand that since then the Government has been given these assurances. I have received a letter from the importer to this effect.
– I have not received the information that the honourable member has mentioned. I accept what he has said, but I think I should say that this information has not been made available to me.
– It also stands to reason, Mr Chairman, that this company knows that if it imports at a lower price its imports will be stopped. It knows that this cannot be done, even if it were possible to do so. I think it would be possible to import at a lower price. rh Minister has assured us that the matter is in the hands of the Tariff Board but he does not expect a report before April 1968.
– I did not say that. I said the latest date was April 1968.
– The Tariff Board will be doing more than looking at the question of soda ash. If it looked only at soda ash it would not take more than a few days to assess the situation.
– I said that I hoped for a report earlier than April. That is the latest date given to the Tariff Board for report.
– I suppose that nothing more can be gained by debating these points at this stage, Mr Chairman, but the Opposition is not satisfied with the position. We do not think that it is necessary that this action should be taken. We are satisfied that there is no threat of lower priced imports. All we can do at the moment is vote against the Schedule, as I have indicated.
That the amendment (DrJ. F. Cairns’) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17 October (vide page 1 875), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17 October (vide page 1877), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 August (vide page 341), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill was fully debated in the pre-winter session of the Parliament and sent to the Senate, which refused to accept it in the form in which it was received. The Bill was amended in another place and, returned to the House of Representatives, where the amendment was rejected by the Government. The Government refused to agree to the Senate’s insistence upon the amendment that trade unions should be specifically mentioned in the list of organisations entitled to be brought within the scope of the legislation. The Bill is now brought before Parliament again in its original form and the Opposition is now willing to permit it to go through, though still protesting about its shortcomings. We offer the same kind of criticism as we levelled at the Bill previously.
It is not my purpose to take up much of the time of the House in recapitulating arguments that we advanced against this measure earlier this year, except to emphasise one or two of the more salient points. In 1961 the Labor Party told the people of Australia it believed that the amount of subsidy offered to organisations that came within the scope of the Aged Persons Homes Act ought to be increased from £2 for every £1 to £3 for every £1. At the same time we told the electorate that we believed that municipal councils should be brought within the scope of the Act. The Government took no notice of either proposal and, as happens so often, 5 years later almost grudgingly, certainly reluctantly, it has agreed to the second proposal, that municipal councils should be covered by this legislation.
We are pleased to see that this part of our 1961 policy has been adopted by the Government, but we express our regret that the Government has seen fit to circumvent the real purpose of the legislation, namely, the making of more homes available to aged people. For the life of us we cannot see why the Government continues to limit the operations of this legislation to the field mentioned in the Bill and in the Act. Indeed, the Government has made it clear that local governing bodies which are using Commonwealth or State government funds will not be entitled to call upon the Commonwealth for the subsidy. It seems that even the new group that is eligible to be included will not be entitled to the subsidy unless they use money raised from outside of Commonwealth or State Government finance.
We believe that not only should these restrictions be lifted from municipalities to enable the municipalities to provide homes for the aged irrespective of whether the money comes from State or Commonwealth Government sources but that the various State housing instrumentalities ought to be eligible for the subsidy for providing homes for the aged. I cannot see why the South Australian Housing Trust and the Housing Commissions in the other States ought not be eligible for the subsidy. What does it matter if these instrumentalities are drawing upon Commonwealth funds? If the real intention of the legislation is to provide homes for the aged why quibble about technicalities and say: ‘Our sympathy for the aged ends as soon as we can see some technical excuse for not giving money to the instrumentalities that can do more than any other organisation in the community to build homes for the aged’? While various other organisations mentioned in the Bill are able to build one home the Housing Commissions can build 20, 30, or 40 homes, because they have the facilities to do it.
– They also have the power to resume land.
– Yes, and they have the means by which they can collect weekly instalments. What is more important they could, if they were in a position to do so, extend their activities in this field to enable those people who have not the money to meet the deposit requirements for aged homes to obtain homes. The trouble with the present proposal is that only those people with some money are eligible to occupy homes for the aged. An aged person needs to have an amount ranging from $1,800 to $2,800 to be able to get a home. What control does the Commonwealth Government exercise over those organisations which qualify for the Commonwealth subsidy? It seems to me entirely wrong that once the first occupant of the home has paid one-third of the cost of that home, and the Commonwealth Government has paid the other two-thirds, the organisation running the home is able, on the death of the original occupant to re-let the home to some other person and call upon him also to pay one-third of the cost.
– Do not they use some of this money to build other homes for people who do not have the necessary capital?
– We do not know that.
– I think they do.
– We do not know that. Irrespective of whether the honourable member thinks or knows that they do, the Commonwealth has no power to enforce any conditions covering this situation. The organisations decide what they will do out of the goodness or greatness of their hearts. The Government boasts that it has no control because it has said that this legislation offers subsidies towards the establishment and extension of accommodation for the aged while avoiding any suggestion of government controlled institutions. It is a great pity that there is not some Government control over the organisations which call upon the Government, and thus upon the taxpayers, to meet the cost of the subsidy. When the Government pays taxpayers’ money into an organisation the Government ought not to wipe its hands of any responsibility as to how that money is spent. The Government has a moral obligation to the taxpayers whose money it is spending to see that the money is spent in a manner that would be approved by the taxpayers. The taxpayers are not approving the present system whereby millions of dollars have been and are being paid to various institutions and the Government is wiping its hands of any further responsibility. This is not the way the system should operate. The Government should say: ‘We will give you a subsidy provided you comply with certain conditions’. One of those conditions should be compliance with a requirement that the organisation should not be allowed to capitalise upon the original tenant’s contribution. Once a home has been paid for by the Commonwealth and by the original occupant then the organisation ought not be in a position to force somebody else also to pay for it.
At present those persons most in need of aged homes are not being helped. I refer, of course, to those people who have no money at ali. The South Australian Housing Trust - and I am sure the Housing Commissions in the other States do likewise - makes cottages available to pensioners without requiring a cent as key money. The pensioners walk straight into a home without making any initial payment. I am not satisfied, nor is the public, with the slipshod way this Government is using money to subsidise homes for the aged. I believe not only that the Government should extend the subsidy payments to Housing Commissions and Housing Trusts, and not only should it remove the limitation now placed on municipalities so that they are not allowed to request a subsidy on money raised from State or Commonwealth Government sources, but that the amount of the subsidy ought to be increased from $2 to $3 for every $1 that is raised.
The Government boasts that it has found accommodation for 26,000 people. This is just a drop in the ocean. Well over 200,000 people want homes today.
– Nearly 300,000.
– 1 think the honourable member is right, but a strong case is made stronger by underestimating, and 1 am underestimating the true position. More than 200,000 people are in dire need of homes, and these are the people we should be helping. How long will it take for this Government to meet the need when after all these years it has provided homes for only 26,000 people when more than 200,000 people are awaiting homes and that number is increasing at a greater rate annually than the Government is supplying additional homes?
The whole thing is bad. I shall discuss one or two other aspects before concluding. This Government must not lose sight of the fact that invalid pensioners are not eligible for these homes, though some of them are in just as bad circumstances as age pensioners. It is laid down specifically that only age pensioners qualify for this accommodation. It does not matter how bad are the circumstances of an invalid pensioner; he is ineligible for a home of this sort. The honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) said by way of interjection when the Bill was last before the House that invalid pensioners are included in its provisions. They are not, but they ought to be. His interjection showed that he thought they should be included. They should be. The Commonwealth takes the view, however, that it is better to cater only for old people about 70 years of age with a life expectancy of another 6 or 9 years, according to sex. It is not interested in providing accommodation for an invalid pensioner, perhaps only 30 years old, with a life expectancy of 40 more years. The Government wants a quick turnover. The more quickly people die, the more quickly it will solve the problem of housing. This callous, cruel and inhuman attitude to people is typical of the Government’s approach to the problems of underprivileged sections of the community.
– You know that is not true.
-Order! The honourable member for Barton will cease interjecting.
– The honourable member knows it is true. I now turn to the question of direct financial aid to State governments to provide accommodation for bedridden people. Homes for the aged are satisfactory so long as aged persons occupying them are mobile and can look after themselves. But there comes a time in all our lives - and this includes all members here - when we shall be bedridden and someone will have to look after us. Some members might think that they will never be in this plight, but they will not be able to avoid it. This is a critical period in the life of the ordinary pensioner, who has more difficulties than a person who has been a member of Parliament. There is a great need for more homes like the marvellous Queen Elizabeth Homes in Ballarat which were financed by private enterprise and individuals with some support from the State Government. Wonderful homes and hospitals of this sort ought to be studded throughout the Commonwealth; they ought to be in every State. The Commonwealth Government should make allocations to the States for the building of homes similar to the Queen Elizabeth Homes in every provincial city, every capital city, and every suburb of every capital city throughout the entire Commonwealth so that relatives of old people may visit them without travelling long distances. Accommodation for aged persons on such a large scale can be provided only by the States, but they are powerless unless the Commonwealth faces its responsibilities.
I conclude by saying that though we approve of the Bill, we are bitterly disappointed that it is so limited. The Opposition would like the subsidy to be increased from $2 to $3 for every $1 invested. We would like municipalities to be able to enter the scheme with the aid of Commonwealth and State Government grants. We should like trade unions to be specifically mentioned in the measure so that they may participate as a right and not be at the mercy of some unsympathetic Minister. We should like State housing instrumentalities to be able to co-operate freely in the scheme so that people without the deposit needed under the present scheme - and there are about 200,000 of them - may enjoy its benefits. People in poor circumstances should be catered for under this legislation. Finally, instead of continuing a miserable effort that has provided accommodation for only 26,000 people over 10 years, the Government ought to introduce immediately, while these people are still alive, a crash programme to provide homes for the 200,000 people who are still waiting in vain for them.
– We have just heard from the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) a repetition of a speech that he delivered in the debate when this Bill was previously before the House. He has not brought his speech up to date. He said in his closing remarks on this occasion that the Government, under the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act, had made no grants for persons except those who are ambulatory or mobile. In fact, in August last year the administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act was changed to enable benefit organisations which received subsidies under the Act to receive them for the building of nursing home accommodation in the ratio of one nursing home bed to two beds provided for ambulatory people. I shall have something further to say on this matter a little later.
This piece of legislation is aimed at overcoming the social ill of accommodation insecurity, an illness that is especially serious when it affects old people who are less able to work themselves into a position of accommodation security. In the long term, prevention is better than cure. This Government has introduced measures to prevent the incidence of accommodation insecurity among old people. The Government has encouraged home ownership so that a higher proportion of people reaching the retiring age will have security of accommodation in spite of reduced income owing to their withdrawal from the work force. The Government has adopted many means of giving this encouragement. I shall mention but a few: The Commonwealth Housing Agreement, homes provided under the War Service Homes scheme, insurance of loans by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, and the home savings grant scheme. Not less significant is the fact that the home owned and lived in by a person of pensionable age is an exempt asset for the purposes ot the means test. This policy which is aimed at improving the ratio of home ownership will reduce the incidence of accommodation insecurity among persons of pensionable age and to help to prevent it. But the Government has not been content with these preventive measures. It has also done much to relieve and, where possible, to cure this ill that afflicts people of pensionable age. Through the social services pensions scheme, it has made available supplementary assistance to people complying with a means test who do not own their own homes and are single pensioners or widow pensioners solely dependent on the pension. They become eligible for this supplementary assistance or partial assistance if they have assets of a value not exceeding $1,960 or an income less than $3 a week. At 30th June 1967, 94,310 people were receiving this benefit. This represents 14% of all age pensioners and 8% of the estimated 1,200,000 persons of pensionable age.
The second method by which the Government has tried to relieve and cure the ill of accommodation insecurity has been the provision of assistance under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The purpose of this Act has been to give encouragement towards the provision of homes for persons of pensionable age so that they may live in conditions as close as possible to those of normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, in conditions which show a proper regard to the companionship existing between husband and wife. The encouragement is in the form of a subsidy of S2 for $1 to charitable and benevolent organisations, religious organisations, organisations of members of the defence forces and other organisations approved by the GovernorGeneral. The development and encouragement of the partnership between the Government and these organisations has made a real contribution towards increasing the stock of suitable accommodation available at reasonable cost for persons of pensionable age. The Government has introduced this scheme in the belief that it will give to Australian people of pensionable age the best type of accommodation that can be provided, in the best circumstances in which it can be provided.
The Government is opposed to the kind of approach that the honourable member for Hindmarsh and his colleagues would apparently adopt. They would provide this accommodation through the State housing authorities. One can see, reading between the lines of the speech of the honourable member for Hindmarsh, that he would prefer .to establish a large nationalised monopoly for the provision of housing for people of pensionable age. By approaching this problem through Government partnership with charitable, religious and other organisations approved under the scheme, the dangers of promoting institutional living have been avoided, and the people involved have been provided with accommodation resembling as closely as possible that in which they have dwelt during their working lives.
The purpose of this Bill is to put into effect an undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his policy speech on 8th November 1966, when he said:
We will widen the scope of assistance by including local governing bodies in the organisations eligible under the Act and accepting contributions by them towards the aged persons homes as qualifying for Commonwealth matching subsidy. By amending the Aged Persons Homes Act in this way there should follow a rise in the rate of increase of the stock of this type of accommodation.
On 2nd March this year the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) made a statement in which he said:
Within the next few weeks the Government intends, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s policy speech, to include contributions from local government organisations for subsidy purposes under the Aged Persons Homes Act. It is hoped that as a result there will be a greater awareness of the opportunities for the provision of aged persons’ accommodation within local government areas.
Following up the intention expressed in this statement the Minister introduced a Bill on 5th April 1967 in a form similar to that now before the House. This Bill was passed in this House. It was amended by the Senate. The amendment was not accepted by this House and so the Bill eventually failed to pass. The Senate and honourable members opposite in this House suggested that trade unions should be specifically listed in the Act amongst the eligible organisations set out there. It seems that the Opposition is now prepared to recognise the fact that trade unions may be approved under section 5 (1.) (a) (iv) and may receive subsidy under the Act. The Minister has given an assurance that any project submitted by a trade union will be examined sympathetically by the Department of Social Services, and the trade union can then seek acceptance of itself or for an organisation established by it as an approved organisation under the Act.
While the Act that is now in force provides that the Governor-General may approve an organisation which is not specifically made eligible under the Act itself for a grant, it does, however, expressly exclude local governing bodies from eligibility. Until this amending legislation is pased local governing bodies cannot be assisted in the fulfilment of their desire to provide accommodation for the aged. Although local governing bodies will, when this legislation is passed, be eligible to be subsidised for costs incurred since 28th November 1966 in the provision of these homes, few if any of them would have proceeded with any such projects in view of uncertainty as to the date upon which the subsidy would become available. This uncertainty was brought about by the actions of honourable members opposite and their colleagues in another place. The Opposition’s political manoeuvrings to make trade unions specifically eligible for grants under the Act resulted in this situation of uncertainty. Notwithstanding the fact that those unions whose proposals come within the spirit of the Act will, under existing legislation, receive subsidies towards the cost of building homes for the aged, the Opposition has held to ransom many persons of pensionable age who would by now have been suitably housed had the legislation been passed in April. People who are obliged to wait for this kind of accommodation to become available should remember that part of the delay is due to the actions of the Australian Labor Party.
During 1966-67 grants numbering 158 in ail and to the value of more than Slim were made throughout Australia. I am pleased to note that 32.5% of the total amount granted went to eligible organisations in South Australia. The grants made last year covered the provision of 3,227 beds. The honourable member for Hindmarsh suggested that not much accommodation was being made available under the Act. He spoke as if the provision of accommodation for 26,000 people was insignificant. I think it appropriate to analyse the position, especially in respect of the amount of accommodation that has already been provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act. If, as I believe to be the case, there are approximately 1,200,000 people of pensionable age, the provision of accommodation for 26,444 people in homes constructed with the aid of subsidies under this Act means that for every 100 people of pensionable age accommodation has been provided for 2.2 people. Studying the figures State by State one finds that for every 100 persons of pensionable age in New South Wales 1.5 beds have been provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act. In Victoria the figure is 2.2, in Queensland, 1.8, in South Australia, 4.7, in Western Australia 2.9, in Tasmania 2.5, in the Northern Territory 3.9 and in the Australian Capital Territory 3.4.
At the rate at which building is proceeding under the Act, one can look forward to improvements in these figures. In the first quarter of the current financial year, the number of beds approved is 688 and of these 253 are in South Australia. If this ratio is continued, organisations in South Australia will provide one bed for every 100 persons of pensionable age each year. So real progress is being made in that State. South Australia has shown what can be done. It has been the pace setter and it is to be hoped that in other States, because of the nature of local government and the responsibilities that it has taken over the years, there will be an improvement in the rate of building of accommodation under the Aged Persons Homes Act. People who now have accommodation insecurity and who are living in accommodation that is expensive in relation to their income, can look forward to the day when accommodation in flats built under the Act may be available to them.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh spoke of contributions that are made by people who apply for admission to these homes. Sir, these homes, once built, will over the years ahead provide accommodation for many aged persons. The fact that contributions sometimes appear to be made twice in respect of the one flat simply means that the organisations can proceed and build further accommodation for other aged persons. The honourable member for Hindmarsh spoke as though no person was allotted a flat provided under the Act unless he was able to make a contribution to the organisation. This is not so. I know of organisations that have made available rental accommodation to significant numbers of persons who have had no means other than the base rate pension and the supplementary assistance. This measure, in providing accommodation for people of pensionable age, is for those people curing the ill of accommodation insecurity that they suffer at present. But it is also providing a stock of suitable accommodation that will be available for persons who cannot afford to assist in the establishment of these homes by capital contributions. In fact, many people are only too happy to make these contributions to provide themselves with secure and suitable accommodation and to have the knowledge that their contribution to the organisation that is giving them accommodation will provide some other needy person with accommodation at some time in the future.
So much progress is being made under the Aged Persons Homes Act that it is now time to look at the provision of nursing home accommodation. The Government has already done this by allowing organisations approved under the Act to receive grants for the provision of nursing homes. The Director-General of Social Services in his report for this year said:
A significant feature in the administration of die Act during the year was the Government’s decision to give greater encouragement to the inclusion of nursing accommodation in homes for the aged. Hitherto policy restricted subsidised nursing accommodation to defined sick bays used only for the treatment of temporary illness of residents. From 17 August 1966 capital subsidy became available for nursing beds not exceeding half of the total number of residential beds provided by an organisation in any city or town.
This is a significant feature of the policy decision:
In addition, nursing beds may now be occupied permanently by chronically ill or infirm residents who were previously required to be transferred from subsidised homes.
Already 400 beds have been made available as a result of this change in the administration of the Act.
Mr Acting Speaker, it is to be hoped that as time proceeds many of the organisations that have now provided accommodation security to more than 27,000 persons of pensionable age will take the opportunity to build nursing home accommodation and to give to those people the feeling of security that they need so that, if they become ill or infirm, they can move to one of these nursing homes. Already there is a potential of some 8,000 beds available in these homes, if the organisations choose to avail themselves of the opportunity to receive a subsidy under the Act.
Sir, I am very pleased to support the Bill now before the House. My real regret is that the passage of the Bill has been delayed - delayed by honourable gentlemen opposite and their colleagues in the Senate - so that numbers of aged persons now and in the future will not have accommodation suitable for their retiring years in the surroundings that are best suited to them as early as they should have.
– After listening to my colleague, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is from South Australia, and the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), w.io is also from South Australia, I am at a loss to know how pensioners are classified in South Australia. Both honourable members spoke about the amount of money that aged people contribute when they are admitted to these homes. I can assure the House that the homes in which I have been interested in Sydney for the past 25 years do not take people who can contribute large sums of money. The people who are admitted to these homes do not have money and they are not asked for money. The Government is not so benevolent as to give them a pension that will enable them to save any money that they could contribute when they were admitted to homes. I am here appearing for people who have no money and cannot give any money to others. My colleague from South Australia gave me the impression that everyone has to contribute money to these homes in South Australia. This is not the situation with the homes of which I have knowledge in Sydney.
I worked very hard for an association some 20 years ago. When it was in the city of Sydney it catered for forty or fifty people. It has now been transferred to Rooty Hill where it has a hospital that will accommodate more than 400 patients. We have more pensioners in the city of Sydney than any other city in Australia. What is happening in parts of the city is that demolishers, builders and big businessmen are coming in every day and buying up sites in order to build blocks of flats. I know of nine pensioners who lived in a terrace in Glebe. They were told by the developers that they had a month to get out. They told the developers that they could not get out in a month. The pensioners were told that if they did not get out in a month a bulldozer would be put through the place.
I am pleased to have an opportunity to talk on this Bill. I am also pleased to see that common sense has prevailed insofar as this Bill has been introduced. I think it is one of the greatest things that Australia has ever seen. At least councils in the country and many other places that have land which is going begging can assist aged people because of the provisions of this Bill. People who have lived in such areas all their lives will be accommodated whether they have the money to pay for a home or not. I am pleased about this, but in some ways the Liberal Government has not treated me too well. While the Government has been preparing this Bill I have been trying for almost 12 months to obtain a site in Glebe, Sydney, for the construction of an aged persons’ home. I have been negotiating with the Sydney City Council on this matter. While this Bill has been delayed the Liberal State Government has sacked the
Lord Mayor together with the aldermen on the City Council. I do not know who is to blame for the delay in the Bill. However, while the Liberals have been a bit my way in the Federal Parliament they have been just the opposite in Sydney. I had a man from a government department find out how much the land at Glebe was worth. He was a valuer by the name of Mr Gunther. Everything has been ready for the last 6 months to proceed with plans for the building of this home. Now we find that the New South Wales Government has sacked the Lord Mayor of Sydney. The Government is possibly entitled to do this if they wish. Nevertheless, where is this home now going to be? We have engaged an architect and have run several functions to raise money. We have already raised about $2,000 and we want to go on with this project.
I appeal to this Government to consider this matter. Possibly some time after the Bill goes through it will come to the party, and see that we get this land. We have endeavoured to secure a site at Leichhardt but we were unable to obtain the necessary finance. There is a rule in the Sydney City Council that if land is sold in the Council area the money received from the sale goes back into housing to provide homes for the aged or for other people in need of accommodation. This has been carried out in Paddington and homes have also been built in Glebe and Camperdown. I understand that land has been sold in Martin Place, Sydney, by the City Council for over $1,500,000. However, although the Council can supply us with the money to build this home if assisted by the Commonwealth grant, we will have to wait to see who will eventually come onto the Sydney City Council after the two or three men who have been put in control of the Council finish their term in 9 months time. At the moment we will have to trust these men.
– They will be Liberals.
– They will be Liberals, all right. Who else would come in and kick out the Council which has done a great job? I was an alderman on the Sydney City Council. I guarantee that my friend across the chamber, the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) will get up shortly to criticise the Sydney City Council.
Having been an alderman of the City Council for 11 years, I say that no blame can be attached to the Lord Mayor or the aldermen of the City Council today for how the boundaries stand. When I was an alderman of the Council we drew up plans that would take in Woollahra, Randwick, Waverley, Botany, and back around to the town hall at Sydney. We were to have a road around the coast along which a person would be able to drive from the airport into the city of Sydney. The people who stopped this measure at the time were Liberals from the New South Wales Legislative Council.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member keep to the subject matter.
– I am coming back to what I want to tell the House. In Glebe, representatives of the Church of England came to me and said that they wanted to build a home for aged people. They wanted to build a home in which a couple could live for $2.90 a week. They built 120 homes in one block.
– Private companies build all the homes in South Australia.
– I am talking about Sydney and about people who are going hungry on their pensions. They have nothing to give anyone. I congratulate the Minister sitting at the table who has brought this measure forward. I do this because 1 think he has done a very good job in the time that he has been Minister for Social Services. If Mr Roberton who has gone to Ireland were still Minister for Social Services, there would be no assistance for homes for the aged. Now that this Bill has been introduced we will have to try to make our claim in respect of the home at Glebe. We were ready to build this home 6 or 8 months ago and this could have been achieved if it had not been for the delay of this Bill. If there is anything that can be done to assist us it would be appreciated. We are told in the papers that everything is not right in the town hail at Sydney. We have a committee which includes the Reverend W. J. MacLeod, who is a minister of the Presbyterian Church at Glebe. It included Alderman Des Booler who unfortunately died suddenly, and who was doing a great job. We also had the
Lord Mayor of Sydney as patron of the committee and many other people who are prepared to work. However, I do not know where we will finish. Perhaps this Government could take the matter up with the State Government. There is plenty of evidence that finance is available for this project. The Reverend MacLeod, the committee, and I have been down to the town hall two or three times and we have put our case to the Lord Mayor. However, the Lord Mayor and his aldermen have always said that they will not consider this finally until this Bill has been passed. That is why we have not got the land. It was promised to us but the Lord Mayor said that he could not act on our word alone, although he did not doubt our good faith in the matter. He said that the Bill must become law before the City Council could dispose of its land for this purpose. I hope that this matter will not be handled as it was in South Australia. I know that the father of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) was very interested in the building of homes for the aged. Evidently progress is being made in this regard in South Australia. But Sydney is a big city. Thousands of pensioners in Sydney cannot find a home. If they are required to pay even $1 to get into one of these homes they will not be able to afford it.
I appeal to the Government to do something for the people whom I represent. I hope and pray that the Government will do all in its power to relieve the plight of these people. If the Government acts here it will set an example for the rest of the community. The home which I am interested to see built in Sydney is badly needed. It is a great pity that this Bill was not passed 6 months ago. However, there is no reason to despair. I hope that whoever takes over at the Sydney Town Hall will give credit to the work that has already been done by the New South Wales Government in connection with this block of land on which we hope to build. I hope that anybody with the ability to help us will do so.
– For once in his life my old friend, the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue) has not been provocative or personal. This is a good thing. It is scandalous that tonight we should be obliged to debate this Bill.
– The honourable member does not have to.
– Matters have been raised by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) which make it necessary to debate the Bill and to explain something about it. It is scandalous that we should have to debate a Bill in identical terms to one passed by this House more than 6 months ago. This is something for which the Opposition must bear full responsibility. On that occasion the Opposition sought to include trade unions in the list of qualified organisations referred to in the Bill. This move was rejected by the House. The legislation then went to the Senate where an identical amendment was moved and passed. The Opposition is responsible for preventing thousands of old people in this country from having homes, yet the honourable member for Hindmarsh has, with tongue in cheek and adopting a sympathetic manner, told us what Labor would do for the old people. For 6 months the Labor Party has deprived thousands of people of a home, lt has done this without an atom of principle in its objection to the Bill. The Bill now before us is identical with the Bill which this House passed 6 months ago on 5th April. This situation is nothing short of a scandal.
Why did the Labor Party delay the legislation for 6 months? It did so in order to include trade unions as authorised organisations under the Bill. Why trade unions? Since the inception of this Act in 1954 trade unions have been able to obtain approval to provide homes for old people if they so wished, but they have done nothing in the matter. Yet the Labor Party would dare to hold up this legislation and prevent it from being put into effect. This is a scandal for which the Labor Party must take full responsibility. This is heartless and cruel. The Labor Party cannot with tongue in cheek and in sympathetic manner say what it would do to help old people when it is guilty of exercising this kind of petty political power. In the other place where this power was used to destroy this wonderful legislation the Labor Party claimed that it acted in the interests of the old people. The people of Australia should know, particularly at this time, what the Labor Party in the Senate has done. Power should not be used in this way. The will of the majority’ of the people of this democratic country should not be abused in this way. I believe that the people will take note of this misuse of power for petty political motives.
The Aged Persons Homes Act is a great piece of legislation. In typically honest fashion - one would not expect any less from him - the honourable member for Hindmarsh suggested that the Government should provide all of the money for homes for the aged through the housing commissions and local government and other instrumentalities. This would be all right in a Socialist society. If we were a completely Socialist society this would be the way to handle the matter, but we do not live in a Socialist society. Thank God we have a little individualism left in this country. This Bill is an encouragement to self-help. It brings to the assistance of the old people the sympathy, help and selflessness of other people in the community. The Opposition’s approach would introduce the cold hand of Socialism. Where would be the humanity in that? Where is the humanity in a Socialist state? But this is what the honourable member for Hindmarsh advocated. It is not what the people want. It is not even what the old people want. Thousands of old people in Australia have their own homes. Thousands more are able to obtain accommodation in homes provided under this legislation. In one particular district of my own electorate there are a number of old people. I pay a compliment to the Jewish people in Australia who at least look after their old people. Homes have been erected in Hunters Hill for elderly people who are grateful for the money provided by the Government for this purpose. But many old people have no money and have to rely on benefactors. Homes are provided for these people by benefactors and their contributions are subsidised in the cause of humanity by this Government which acts in the way that it should act. It is by this means that homes are provided for elderly people - not in the way suggested by the honourable member for Hindmarsh who does not know what he is talking about.
This is really wonderful legislation which was initiated by this Government in 1954. lt was never thought of by Labor in all its history. The purpose of the legislation has been stated. It is a very noble purpose.
It is to assist in the provision of suitable homes for aged persons and, in particular, homes in which aged persons may reside under conditions approaching as nearly as possible domestic life, in the case of married people with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife. This is important. Originally, the subsidy was £1 for £1, but it has now been increased to S2 for $1. As honourable members all know the Bill originally provided for four different types of organisations, namely, religious organisations, charitable or benevolent organisations, ex-service organisations and then other organisations which were approved by the Governor-General for the purposes of the Act. Into the last category would come trade unions if they wished to seek approval. It is a field in which they can still operate. The Act has been most successful.
When one looks at the annual report for 1966-67 of the Director General of Social Services one finds that the religious bodies lead the field in providing homes for the aged, having provided 56.9% of the total amount contributed. That shows that the religious bodies are doing the things that we would expect them to do and are having regard to humanities in dealing with human beings. The charitable and benevolent organisations come next with the amount that they have contributed. However, I feel that the ex-servicemen’s organisations could do more than they have done so far. They have provided only 1.8% of the funds for this purpose since the Act has been in force. Surely they are able to do more. The other organisations approved by the Governor-General have contributed 2.8% of the total. Among these organisations are the trade unions which I hope will spring off their tails and do more. It is interesting to see that of the States South Australia leads handsomely in the amount of grants made for homes for aged persons, Victoria has made a substantial contribution and New South Wales has done fairly well, but I suggest that New South Wales could do more. In the last three years South Australia has led the field and last year at least one-third of both the number of grants and the subsidies approved were for organisations in South Australia.
Since the Act was introduced and until 30th June this year 1,488 grants have been approved and accommodation has been provided for 26,444 aged persons at a cost of $69.5m. These figures are not insignificant. As was pointed out by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) this new provision relating to nursing accommodation will provide wonderful assistance for those who benefit under the Act. For this arrangement a great deal of credit must go to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) who is now at the table. He is doing a splendid job. More than 400 beds were provided last year in accommodation of this type. This represents a wonderful move forward. Old people need help. They need the security of a home which they can call their own, in which they can live as proper human beings with all the love and affection that goes with living in a home of their own. They need to feel secure and to know that they cannot be thrown out. One of the problems of old age is loneliness. As the honourable member for Hindmarsh said, we all have to face old age. Both he and I look as if we are approaching old age pretty quickly, it is a problem to cure loneliness in old people. There is no doubt that the provision of homes under this Act has provided a great cure. They know that they have living close by other old people with whom they can fraternise and make friends. They are able to bring their friends to their homes. This is of great importance.
Another important factor which was much needed was nursing care in time of illness. This problem has now been overcome. I believe that nursing care could be provided by other organisations also. A new feature in this legislation about which I wish to say a few words is the endeavour to bring local government into the scheme. This also is of tremendous importance. This represents a major step forward in the provision of homes for old people. There is no need to include trade unions specifically in the legislation. It would be foolish to do so. If we were to do that we would need to specify in the Bill employers’ organisations, service clubs, Rotary, Lions, Apex, and in addition we would have to mention sporting bodies. AH would need to be named in the Act. There is no prohibition on any of those organisations; they may seek to become approved organisations. We must remember that in the provisions of the Act there must be no thought of personal gain or profit. Tha purpose of the legislation must be to enable aged persons to occupy homes. Certainly there must be no thought of political profit at the expense of old people.
I suggest that probably local government is the ideal vehicle for dealing with homes for the aged. For this purpose the Bill seeks to amend the Act to include local government. That is the government which is nearer to the people than any other government, State or Federal. It has a personal domestic interest in every citizen, an interest which neither a State nor a Federal Government can provide. With its knowledge of and close association in the domestic affairs of the people it can stimulate and organise self-help, which is one of the greatest things in a community. Self-help creates good citizenship and we will not have a great nation unless we have good citizens. This kind of help carried out by local government is the best possible means of creating good citizenship. That is one of the basic good features of legislation of this kind. 1 believe organisations should not rush in too quickly to take advantage of the provisions of this Bill. I know that many schemes are being prepared at the present time to provide housing. Within my own electorate the Lane Cove Council, which is very progressive, has a big scheme just waiting to be put into operation. The Council has been asking me every month for the past’ 6 months when this Bill will become law. It has been waiting for it. The citizens of Lane Cove blame the Labour Party for holding up this legislation. Lane Cove takes a tremendous interest in the treatment of its citizens. Alderman Gladys Leech has resided in Lane Cove for some years and she was the person who originated this wonderful movement of community aid which is now spreading throughout the whole of Australia and, indeed, to New Zealand and other countries. Through organisations of this kind local government can get close to the people and assist them. Then there are senior citizen organisations which encourage people to get together to overcome their loneliness.
I shall not take up any more time. Altogether the aged persons homes scheme is a wonderful thought by the Government. The amending Bill should never have been opposed by the Labour Party and it is to its eternal discredit that it has kept the new proposals swinging for six months. To the Senate I say that this is not the kind of cause to which its powers should be directed. I sincerely hope there will be no further nonsense in matters that are so vital to the people.
– Once again I find myself following two former Sydney County Council aldermen, the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue) and the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). Both have come to this chamber with a wide knowledge of local government and I am pleased to know that they share high hopes for what local government can do in the field of this legislation. This Bill is to amend the Aged Persons Homes Act 1954-1957 to include local government authorities in the list of organisations eligible for the Commonwealth subsidy. It embraces donations of money or property by local government authorities and also trusts and corporalions established by local government authorities.
I challenge the pious humbug of the honourable member for Bennelong when he says that the Labour Party is responsible for delaying this legislation for 6 months. The. only reason the Bill was not passed 6 months ago is that the Government refused to specify the eligibility of trade unions for subsidy. The Government argued that the existing provisions already covered trade unions and that they should not be specifically mentioned. What is the reason for that? The real reason for the Government’s opposition was not disclosed in this chamber. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) for his attitude. The justification for the Labour Party’s fears was revealed in the Senate where Ministers made it quite clear that certain unions would be excluded. They made it quite clear that organisations with political affiliations would be excluded. This was the incentive to members of the Labour Party to insist on their amendment. If the Labour Party is at all blameworthy for the delay in passing this legislation then the Government should share the blame equally because it has failed to recognise the trade union movement.
The Labor Party recognises the rights of local government authorities and it moved earlier amendments to include those authorities in this Act. Now they are being included and the Opposition will not insist that trade unions be specified. However, we are prepared to see that this matter is tested. Great tributes have been paid to local government authorities and great expectations are voiced about the part that these authorities will play in the provision of homes for aged persons. But I would like to point out the difficulties facing these authorities in raising finance. I repeat the words of Councillor Behan, the President of the Queensland Local Government Association, when speaking in Bundaberg on 27th September. He said that the report of a royal commission in New South Wales had confirmed what his Association had claimed all along, namely that local government was the poor relation of the Commonwealth and the States. He said - and 1 think that this is something honourable members should consider - that local government is being fed a far from nutritious diet by its wealthier relations, the States and the Commonwealth, and could only hope that starvation does not set in before it is too late.
There is a vast difference between trade unions and service organisations such as the Country Women’s Association, Lions, Apex and others that have been mentioned. I do not detract in any way from the work that is done by these organisations but I point out that trade unions from their early days have been benevolent societies in some respects. This is particularly true of the craft unions. They have made provision for the payment of funeral benefits to members and wives of members. This is being continued by most of them today. They also made provision, in the times when we did not have the sickness benefit, for sick pay and accident benefit. They have taken great interest in their members. I admit, however, that inflated hospital charges and rising wages have put these benefits well out of proportion to what they were when they were originally provided.
As the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) pointed out, the Aged Persons Homes Act makes provision only for the aged. There are instances where invalid pensioners are equally deserving of a home in which they will be able to get about and look after themselves to a certain extent. I know of an age pensioner whose wife had died and who had to look after a mentally retarded son. His eyesight was failing and he had to sell his home because he could not look after it. He then lived with other members of his family for a while but he could see that his son, who was in his twenties at that stage, was becoming a problem to his brothers and sisters who had young families coming along. He wanted to move into a home but he was not prepared to put his son into a mental institution. The boy was not violent and the father wanted to care for him as best he could. But he could not get into a home with the boy. 1 tried a number of homes to see whether I could get him in but on every occasion the reply was that the home was for aged persons and that the boy could not be admitted. I think that this is the kind of case that the honourable member for Hindmarsh had in mind.
The honourable member for Bennelong spoke of the desire to keep family units together. Here was a father who was prepared to do his best for his son and did not want him to go into a mental institution. He wanted to stay with the boy and help him. But because homes provided under this scheme are only for the aged he was unable to find accommodation. I think the honourable member for Hindmarsh also pointed out that the Commonwealth absolved itself of any responsibility for how the money is spent. I believe that the subsidy is paid for only certain parts of the building. The Minister might tell me whether I am correct in this belief.
– Some parts of buildings are excluded, for example, chapels and shops.
– I call the Minister’s attention to the wide variation in the cost of providing aged persons’ units. I am basing these figures on the Director-General’s report for the current year, which sets out the number of persons accommodated and the amounts granted to each of the States. The report shows that building costs vary from State to State. It is worth recalling that the Government takes an interest in the amounts spent by schools out of science grants in the construction of science laboratories. The Government keeps a record of costs, and has now certain recognised limits for different types of laboratories. I stand to be corrected, but the figures I have taken out show that in Victoria it costs $2,759 to accommodate each person in an aged persons unit. In New South Wales, however, the figure is $2,579. The reason for the variation might be that carpet is laid on the floor in one instead of linoleum as in another, or that a bathroom to meet an individual’s requirements has been provided. However, I want to know why this variation . exists. In Queensland the cost per unit is $2,374 and in South Australia $2,731. The report shows that nearly one-third of all grant subsidies approved went to organisations in South Australia. In other words more accommodation for aged persons was provided in that State in the period covered by the report. The cost of constructing each unit in Western Australia was $2,589, whereas in Tasmania it was $2,299, compared with $2,120 in the Northern Territory. Perhaps they do not want superior accommodation up there. However, the cost in the Australian Capital Territory was $3,055.
I wonder whether cognisance is taken of the standard of accommodation that is provided. Is a superior building erected when aged persons make a deposit before admission to an aged persons home? I know that in Queensland some of the better quality homes are administered by the State health authorities. There is the excellent ‘Wahroonga’ home at Maryborough. The standard of this home leaves little to be desired. The units there are of simple construction. I would not say that the furnishings are expensive or extravagant, but the units fill their purpose quite adequately.
It is good to establish these homes in areas where the people who are accommodated in them have resided for most of their lives. In old age people like to live in proximity to those whom they have known for a long time. This is particularly noticeable in country areas. A bush man, a railway worker who has camped out for most of his life and lived in isolation, prefers when eventually he moves into town to live in a quiet place where he can meet many of his old cronies or people who have encountered experiences similar to his.
This is a most desirable measure and we on this side support it. 1 should like to clear up one point in particular. The Labor Party is not entirely to blame for the delay that has occurred. If any excuses should be offered, they should include the grounds I have mentioned previously, that some of the expressions of opinion of Government senators quickly put Labor senators and other members in another place offside. I think other honourable members have mentioned that a deposit is sometimes required of aged persons before they are admitted to homes. It might bc desirable that persons should pay a certain amount of money into a home to ensure eligibility for the social service pension. If they did not use up some of their money in this way, they might not be eligible for the pension. Only people who are reasonably well off would be affected in this way. When they sell the family home they often find it is better to invest most of the proceeds in an aged persons unit. Both parties to the contract, the authority running the aged persons organisation and the aged investors, take a gamble. One gambles that he will live long enough to work off his investment against the rent that he would have to pay and the other party, the home authority, gambles that the old person will not live long enough to work off all the investment. I feel that the system suits both parties.
A circular letter has been distributed to honourable members by a Mrs Dougan of the Housing Activities Club, Pensioners Section, in which she has named certain organisations. I hope her allegations have been investigated, and I should be pleased to hear from the Minister on this point. She refers to an aged couple who made a payment on a unit and, when one of them died, the other, the widow or widower, was moved into a smaller unit. According to this letter the aged couple do not retain any equity in the unit into which they move. This allegation requires investigation. I suppose the home authority feels that it has entered into a contract to provide accommodation, and it does not matter where the accommodation is provided.
Most old people are independent. Indeed, many of them are so independent in their old age that even though it is in their best interests to do so, they have strong feelings about leaving the family home and moving into an aged persons unit or an institution for the aged. Gradually this feeling among older people is broken down by pointing out to them that it is better for them to live in a place specially designed for their convenience, with toilets and showers at ground floor level in proximity to their living quarters. In a place like this they do not have to walk long distances, and it is possible to keep a close watch on their health. Also it is easier to provide them with regular, decent meals, which is one of the big advantages of a home for the aged. I should like to hear the Minister’s comments on the letter from Mrs Dougan. I join my colleagues in voicing support for this measure. I repeat that if any blame is to be attached to the Labor Party for delaying this legislation, the Government should share the guilt for insisting that trade unions are covered by this legislation and refusing to include them specifically in it.
– I support the Bill and am glad that wiser counsels have prevailed in the Opposition and that it will not proceed with the amendment that has delayed the passing of this legislation for nigh on 6 months. As the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) said in his second reading speech:
Any project submitted by a trade union would be examined sympathetically by the Department of Social Services in the same way as proposals from religious or charitable bodies and subject only to meeting the other requirements of the Act the organisation would be submitted to the Governor-General for approval.
This was the intention when the earlier legislation was submitted to the House, so there was no good reason why the legislation should have been delayed for so long. It is pleasing to note and it is wise that the Bill should be extended to cover municipalities and shires. This is desirable because it retains a local content and disposition. It is good that people should remain in an area where they are known and where their friends reside. Many councils, especially those of a developing nature, will find it difficult to engage in building homes for the aged because the money they have will be required for providing services in the community. I trust that older established municipalities and shires may be induced to become interested in these projects because today one of our greatest needs is in caring for the aged. Those people who live and work in rapidly developing municipalities and districts know that there are problems associated with providing young married people with homes.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) spoke about the absence of Government control over the spending of the subsidy. His claim was not correct, of course. A subsidy is paid only after certain conditions have been complied with by the organisation involved. I issue a warning to well intentioned people and organisations to think wisely, organise correctly and make sure that their foundations are based on solid facts before establishing these homes, because there are many pitfalls. I recommend any worthy organisation, which is thinking of engaging in this sort of project, to seek advice from those organisations that have had experience over the 13 years since the Government introduced this wonderful scheme. I suppose my locality would be the best served of all localities in New South Wales, but even with all its hospitals and homes the demand cannot be met. The institutions in my locality are of a very high standard. The Governor Phillip Hospital at Penrith principally attends to and gives succour to geriatrics and does a tremendous job. I would be pleased if honourable members visited that organisation to see what can be done in restoring many of these people to normal life. Many of these patients come in as terminal cases and the matron and medical superintendent have had great pleasure in aiding the rehabilitation of these people and seeing them return to their homes able, in some instances, to undertake light duties. The Governor Phillip Hospital is a wonderful home and well worth a visit by anybody interested in this great humane work.
Also in my district are the Roman Catholic homes at Rooty Hill which accommodate about 400 patients. These homes have been built in the main under this scheme and the Catholic sisters there are doing a tremendous job. We also have the Hungarian Elizabeth Homes at Blacktown situated on about 5 acres. They contain only a small population at present, but the Hungarian community, by self-help and by the aid of the subsidy, is looking after those people who came from Hungary and who in their old age need care. Of course, the Mowll Village, established by the Church of England and named after the late Archbishop of Sydney, is unique in its conception and what it does.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh, when similar legislation was before the House previously, referred to donors. Because of his statements I have taken particular interest to find out the actual position. The directors of the Mowll Village are men of position and great reputation. They assure me that they do not accept just any donation. If a person seeks a home within the Mowll Village, as distinct from Nuffield Village, not only does a director or the secretary make sure that the person understands the situtation and is desirous of making a donation to be entitled to a home, but if he has relatives or children the applicant is requested to bring them along so that there is no misunderstanding regarding the donor’s position.
Having spoken to some of these donors, I know they are happy. They know full well what they are doing. Some of them told me that they had large homes but when their children married and dispersed it became too hard to maintain them and they were not economical. From a custodial point of view it was not desirable for them to retain those dwellings. After selling, they made a donation to the village from the proceeds of sale. The size of the donation is a matter for the individual. These people will remain at Mowll Village or Nuffield Village for the remainder of their lives. These villages are almost unique. I understand there is only one other comparable with them in the world - in California.
Once people become residents in the homes it is the intention and policy of the directors to meet their every need until they pass on. At certain periods of the year hospital accommodation at the homes may be overtaxed and the directors may have to transfer patients for surgical attention to one of the local hospitals. Immediately they become convalescent they are returned to the home. It is the policy of the directors where possible to have all residents hospitalised within the confines of Mowll and Nuffield Villages, which are a wonderful concept of the Church of England in my area. Members may be aware that work is nearing completion on the Woodbury Village in the Municipality of Blacktown and that these homes will be opened before long. I am pleased that the Government conceived this idea back in 1954. Since then I understand that accommodation has been provided under this scheme for about 25,000 people. The Government is to be congratulated on extending the provisions of the Bill to include local government authorities and the Opposition is to be thanked for not continuing with the amendment that delayed the Bill for 6 months.
– I understand that 1 am the last speaker on this Bill and it is not my intention to repeat any of the points that have been made earlier in the debate. There are five homes for aged persons in my electorate and I had the privilege of opening one of them. I give full credit to all the people who administer these institutions. I can say with a great deal of earnestness that probably the salient fact emerging from this debate is that we in Australia have a real problem in housing our aged citizens. It has been made clear that we on this side of the House do not oppose the Bill, but woe betide us if we did not avail ourselves of the opportunity to point out some inadequacies in the care of old people in Australia. I know from my own experience how difficult this problem is. Reference has been made to nursing sections in homes for aged persons. I know how difficult it is to obtain accommodation for elderly people in either public or private institutions. No government can relax, content in the knowledge that the needs of our elderly citizens have been adequately met.
An even more difficult and acute problem develops when elderly people need medical attention. As recently as last Sunday I was confronted with the plight of a lady who was confined in a hospital for aged persons. The expense of keeping her in the institution is becoming so great that her relatives are now trying to have her transferred to a public institution. Not having much success, they approached me. My investigations revealed that there is a long waiting list for this type of person in public institutions, and in all probability nothing could be done for her under 2 years. I explained that the lady was bedridden and in need of medical attention at all times, but the officials at the institution, though sympathising with the lady, could not promise any help. Indeed, the authorities to whom I addressed myself explained that if the lady were not in need of medical attention there would be little hope of her being admitted at all. The stark fact is that death is the arbiter in determining vacancies and admissions to these places. There is no getting away from this fact. I have referred to this lady’s case to emphasise inadequacies in the care of aged persons in this affluent country of ours. I could mention a number of other cases that are currently under my notice. I am afraid I can do little for these people, though I shall keep on trying to help in the hope that something will turn up in future and they may be accommodated in one of these homes.
Much has been said in the past about birth control and a lot is being said about it at present. I have no doubt that a lot more will be said about it in the future. However, a problem confronting this country is death control. This has arisen with the increased life expectancy of men and women, which was referred to by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). No-one will quarrel with increased longevity. A long life is something that we all hope to enjoy. I hope to enjoy it as much as anybody else. However, increased life expectancy must be a factor, in fact the dominating factor, in any plans we make for the welfare of our aged citizens. It is not uncommon these days to see active men forced to retire at the age of 65, still able to do a good day’s work and resenting the fact that they have become more or less loose links in the community chain. They become victims of their own confinement in their own homes. Gradually in these circumstances their health deteriorates. Therefore when we turn our attention to homes for the aged we must also give some consideration to providing interests for elderly people. We must try to make them feel that they are still useful members of the community.
Surveys have revealed that about 50% of aged people or pensioners live in their own homes; about 20% live in rooms and the remainder live in all sorts of rented abodes, some of which could only be described as hovels. It has been estimated that in our society about 10% of the population are 65 years of age and over, and that in 10 years time this proportion will have risen to about 12%. I remind the House also that life expectancy now is about 72 years for males and 74 years for females. I make these points to indicate the future trends that we must keep in mind in making provisions for aid for the elderly.
We should remind ourselves from time to time of how little has been done and how much there is to do, not only now but also in the future. Housing, of course, is the most pressing need, and at present housing provisions are lagging far behind requirements. The Victorian Housing Commission has about 4,500 applicants on the waiting list for single and double units for elderly people. To house those on the waiting list would cost about $25m. The waiting period for a single unit is about 6 years and for a double unit about 2 years. Requests for single units outnumber those for double units by 9 to 1. In the face of present demands the Victorian Housing Commission has no hope of solving the problem.
Charitable organisations, churches and municipal councils which build homes for the aged can obtain the $2 for $1 subsidy from the Commonwealth Government; not so the Housing Commission. State housing authorities may build flats with loans received under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, repayable over a long term and with an interest rate about 1% below the bond rate, which would probably give a rate of about 4i% at the present time. The rent for the units provided for elderly people is subsidised from the General Revenue account. No subsidy is available from this Government. Thus every tenant in a Housing Commission home in Victoria is contributing from his income to provide housing for the elderly citizens of that State. It should be remembered that the tenants who make these contributions through the rents they pay are mainly in the low income groups.
This source in finance for units for the aged is fast becoming exhausted. The increasing cost of building is making more and more demands on State housing authorities and reducing accordingly their programmes for homes for the aged. I support the contention of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) that the $2 for Si grant should be made available to State housing authorities, and that these authorities should also receive a subsidy to meet the difference between the economic rent for these units for the aged and the actual rent that is charged by the housing authorities. A gesture of this kind by the Government would he a great help in solving the problem of housing our aged people.
As I said before, we on this side of the House support this Bill. We support it for the benefits that it will confer on many of our aged citizens. But it is an indisputable fact that nothing can be done to stop people from getting older. This is simply a stark fact of life. However, much can be done to make the prospect of growing older more bearable for the thousands who are approaching old age - and let those who have not yet arrived at that stage remember that, barring accidents, their day must come too. We have all seen newspaper articles such as the one I have before me now, which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 31st August 1965. It was headed:
Racketeers Run Some Old Peoples’ Homes’. Health men ask for an inquiry.
Many privately-conducted old peoples’ homes are ‘gloomy, dismal holes conducted by racketeers profiting from the misfortunes of others,’ the Victorian Health Inspectors’ Association annual conference was told today.
They were disgraces to the community. . . .
Some old people in places I know have not seen a baked potato for years - they are fed on any old thing.’
The association decided to ask for a full inquiry into the homes.
The inspector making this report said, according to the newspaper, that he had no criticism of institutions conducted by charitable, religious or semi-government bodies. He went on to describe the kinds of people who go into these tragic homes. He said the most tragic cases were of parents shunted out to be left and forgotten. He offered commendation of some of the homes but he went on to say, according to the newspaper article:
The Hospitals and Charities Commission employed a staff of only three to police the Private Hospitals Regulations throughout the State.
If the inmates are found to be able to move about, no matter how feeble or senile they are, the establishment is classed as a boarding house,’ he said.
They (the regulations) do not say that anyone has to be in the house with them at night. I know a place where the proprietor sleeps in another house down the street How many of these feeble and old people would get out unaided if there was a fire?’
That article appeared in August 1965, and as recently as the last 2 weeks cases similar to this were raised in the State Parliament of Victoria. We have evidently not progressed a great deal even since 1965. These cases serve only to illustrate how little has been done and how much there is to do. The pity of it is that these problems have been with us for many years. The unpardonable sin is in having done nothing during those years to solve the problem adequately. Demands have been made for a national survey on poverty but this Government is reluctant to conduct such a survey which would, of course, make plain the fallacy of the affluent society.
The Australian Labour Party is not critical of this measure, but it is an undeniable fact that the people who will be fortunate enough - and I repeat ‘fortunate enough’ - to be housed in the units built under the $2 for $1 subsidy will not be the poverty stricken. Discrimination must necessarily occur - to him that hath shall be given.
I have before me an article which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 26th September 1967. It said:
The problems of urban development in the world’s great centres of population were described by the late President Kennedy as a challenge second only to the search for world peace.
Here in Melbourne, unless changes now on the way are carried through with conviction and imagination, much of the inner city may scarcely be fit for human habitation within a few decades.
INSIGHT has been looking at the problem of urban renewal in inner Melbourne and the future, at our present snail’s pace development, is far from bright. . . .
Slums: A 50- Year Headache.
If no house in Melbourne deteriorated any further it would take the Victorian Housing Commission 50 years to clear the inner metropolitan area of sub-standard housing.
And if the other houses which will be declared standard in the coming decade are included, then the job will take at least 150 years.
So much for what we have done. There is much more in this article but I shall not detain the House by reading all of it. Summing up the situation, I contend there is a need for a national inquiry into all matters relating to housing. The most pressing need is housing for the aged. There is a need for more co-operation at all levels. There is a need to ensure that the greatest help is given to those in the greatest need. There is a requirement for a nation-wide effort to do much more for those who cannot do much for themselves. The care of our elderly citizens is not a responsibility that the charitable institutions, the councils and the States - and the low-wage earners - should be made to bear. It is a national responsibility and if accepted as such by the Government I am sure the support and help, financial and otherwise, that the Government would receive from such a venture would eliminate the alarming features that are becoming more apparent every day. Action of this kind would bring us pride and remove the shame that we must bear when we know that so little has been done and so much needs to be done.
I will deal with the needs of these people. It is estimated that about 300,000 pensioners are living with relatives or paying rent. This was mentioned by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. One can say, taking into consideration the number of elderly people who have benefited from this scheme - this is roughly 25,000 - that the position of some 275,000 people still must be examined to determine what their requirements are. Many of these people could not participate in this scheme, simply because they do not have the means to pay the required deposit or, in other words, to meet the financial demands for housing of the type that is offered by these homes. These people are in the class that I say is discriminated against. It must be made plain that in most instances a unit of this kind, as other honourable members have said, costs $2,000, $4,000 or even $6,000, depending, of course, on the type of unit. This sort of finance puts the unit beyond the reach of most pensioners. Health is another hazard. A person must be reasonably active, able to clean the unit, to cook and to do other jobs required about the flat.
I do not want to give the impression that I condemn these homes, nor do I say that they are not all they should be. The units are in the main very good. The inmates are supervised and their health safeguarded. Indeed, the standard of accommodation is generally on a par with the standard to which they have been accustomed throughout their lives. But as I said before, the people that these institutions like to house are those who are mentally and physically healthy. The housing needed by people who are infirm and who require care and attention is quite different. This aspect of the problem of the aged is one of the more human and frustrating sides of the story. Many of these people do not have families or they have families who do not care. They have no money to get the attention they need. They were referred to by John Stubbs in his book ‘Poverty in Australia’ as the hidden people. If I had the time, it would be interesting to read what Stubbs said on this subject. However, I do not intend to do that now.
As I have said previously, the waiting time for admission to homes for the aged is up to 2 years. This is the situation in Victoria at Mount Royal and Cheltenham. It is almost impossible for a person to get into the homes, which give medical attention, under about 2 years. We do not condemn nor do we condone the many anomalies that exist in arrangements for the care of aged persons. Many organisations are doing a job for which they deserve the highest credit that can be bestowed upon them, but in discussing matters such as this, let us not forget the destitute, the sick and the feeble. Let us embrace all these aged people in a scheme that will give to all, irrespective of their stations, the decencies of life that they are justly entitled to receive - the rights that, by their service to the nation, they have earned. Most of them have earned the right the hard way, by the sweat of their brow.
We do not oppose the Bill, but wa remind the Government of the many other aspects that present themselves in a discussion on homes for the aged and particularly the care of the aged. We hope that the suggestions that have been made about the actions of the Australian Labor Party will be refuted. Statements that were made in another place on the earlier occasion created the suspicion that, if the trade unions did apply for the grant, their applications would not be treated on their merits, that they would be considered more on the political plane than on their merits. I hope that the Bill will now pass through this House and will soon become operative. I, like other honourable members, hope to see one or two more of these institutions built in my electorate in the very near future.
– 1 will not detain the House for long. Honourable members on both sides agree that this Act has been a thoroughly good Act. It is one of the Acts of which the Government can be really and permanently proud. Anything that we do now is done to make a good Act better. Anything I say is said in that vein. I realise that the Government must be praised for the concept behind this legislation and for the way it has been worked out. We would all like to have more done under the Act, but the House should remember the figures that have been quoted on other occasions and in this debate showing that South Australia has availed itself more of the benefits of this legislation than have other States. Per head of population, it has done nearly three times as much as New South Wales has. It is not the fault of the Government that New South Wales has not done more. To my certain knowledge no worthwhile application under this Act from any State has ever been refused. So the deficiencies in New South Wales must be attributed to the people of New South Wales and not to this Government. The people of New South Wales have had exactly the same opportunity as the people of South Australia have had, but they have not availed themselves of it to the same extent.
If I may, I would venture a thought on this point. I believe that the position in South Australia owes a good deal to the work of one man and that is Sir Keith Wilson, whom we knew in this House as K, C. Wilson for so long. I believe that the excellent position in which South Australia finds itself is due very largely to his personal efforts. But if the other States were to do as well as South Australia has done, the urgent problem of accommodation for elderly people, though not being entirely overcome, would be substantially overcome throughout the whole of Australia. The Government in this legislation is providing the opportunity for that to be done.
It is not true, of course, that only the people who can pay large sums of money benefit from this Act. There are organisations that have accommodation available under the Act without payment. As they accumulate funds, as will happen when the existing occupants who have paid for part of their accommodation die, more and more it will be possible to expand the operations of the Act and make more and more accommodation available without payment. However, there is one small matter that I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair). I remind him of a letter that he wrote to me on this subject last week. I refer to the position of people who have paid for their homes in these institutions or organisations but have no legal title to them. In a letter to me dated 16th October the Minister set out the situation. Since it is the official Government view, may I read it into Hansard? The Minister said:
In order to attract subsidy under this Act an organisation’s funds must be its absolute property and be held unconditionally. Borrowed moneys or moneys received from a governmental source may be used to help meet the capita] cost of a project, but are ineligible for subsidy.
The Aged Persons Homes Act is not a cooperative housing arrangement and there is no requirement by the Commonwealth that prospective residents shall make a donation in order to secure accommodation. However, it is known that a number of organisations receive donations from persons seeking accommodation and that such moneys, together with the Commonwealth grant, are used to meet the whole or part of the cost of constructing or running the home. There is no objection to this, provided acceptance of the donation does not confer on the donor legal rights to occupancy with a corresponding obligation on the part of the organisation to provide the donor with accommodation. This is to ensure that organisations which receive Commonwealth assistance retain complete control at all times over the allocation and management of accommodation in their homes.
If a donation was made subject to full or partial repayment under certain circumstances it would be akin to borrowed money and, as such, could not attract subsidy under the Act.
This is set out by the Minister. It is Government policy. He then went on to say very fairly that if a home or organisation does want to make an ex gratia payment it may do so and the Government will not penalise it for doing so in proper circumstances. I think this is good. However, I believe there are some unsatisfactory overtones to the Government’s present policy. Surely it would be better if under proper conditions and subject to proper safeguards it were possible for people making a donation to pay for their own accommodation during their lifetime. This would be accommodation which would belong to the home after their death and be available for allocation to other people without charge. I believe it would be a good thing if they could have some way of securing for themselves some rights in the accommodation for which they have paid. I know that this has to be hedged around with safeguards. Is it too much to hope that the ingenuity of the Minister and his department will be able to find some way of incorporating successful safeguards and yet allow this very desirable right to title to be given? I know the Minister cannot be given a blank cheque. I realise this. However, surely this right to title can be given in certain cases subject to appropriate restrictions.
The second matter I want to bring to the attention of the House concerns the right of organisations to make an ex gratia refund in special circumstances where an occupant for personal reasons or other reasons outside his own control is forced to quit the unit for which he has paid. The Minister has assured me in his letter that these organisations can do this without incurring the strictures of the Department. This is Government policy. However, to my knowledge this aspect of Government policy is not always well known by the organisations themselves. I know of at least one case in which an organisation desired to make an ex gratia payment to someone who, because of personal circumstances, was able to occupy a room, for which that person had paid a large sum of money, for only a few months. Although the organisation wanted to make this refund it was reluctant to do so because it felt that by so doing it would incur the strictures of the Government and the Department. I am glad to say that this letter from the Minister clears up that suggestion. However, I do feel that the Government policy in regard to ex gratia payments is a proper one. It would be a good thing if the Government policy, as I say, were more widely known throughout the organisations that run these homes.
I am not going to detain the House. 1 have tried to bring forward a small point. Even though this is a suggestion it does not detract from the observations that I made. This is a thoroughly good scheme and is one of which the country has generally approved. This is rightly so. I believe, looking back over the 13 years this scheme has been in operation, that the Government can congratulate itself on what has been achieved.
– It is not often that a Minister has three occasions on which to rise with the right of reply to try finally to get a Bill through the House which was the result of a presentation of the Government policy speech. This is, in fact, what I am doing tonight. On 5th April the Government endeavoured to have passed through this House a proposal which was the announced policy of the Government when it was elected with a substantial majority at the end of November 1966. Accordingly I am hopeful in this instance that perhaps we may finally be able to put into full force the Government’s announced policy. The Government having been elected on that policy and, having endeavoured to present that policy to the Parliament, was, in fact frustrated, as was so eloquently expressed by my colleague, the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), by the members of the Opposition and in particular by their colleagues in another place. I trust that in the forthcoming elections the people of this country will be aware that one of the reasons that this particular facet of the Government’s policy was not introduced and was not passed earlier was the frustration by the members of the other place.
Quite a number of matters have been raised and I do not want to deal with them all in detail. However, I think that I should specifically mention some of them. I think one of the things raised by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) - I must apologise to him for not being in the House when he made this point - was that in his opinion the Government should provide totality of accommodation for elderly people in the community. Of course, members on this side of the House feel that the value of this Act has been the opportunity it has given to many worthwhile organisations and individuals to continue to do an outstanding job in the community and for us to assist them and, in doing so, to retain the opportunity for individual self-help which has, 1 believe, been preserved in the application of this Act. To my mind, any Government takeover of the provision of accommodation for elderly people, would in fact negate this self-help aspect which I think is highly desirable for elderly people.
One other matter which the honourable member referred to was the suggested accommodation for invalid pensioners. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) also referred to this aspect and suggested that the Aged Persons Homes Act might well be extended so that it should apply not only to persons who are in receipt of an age pension but also to persons who are in receipt of an invalid pension. As honourable members of this House are aware, there was a Disabled Persons Accommodation Act which earlier this year was replaced by the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act. Both of these Acts were designed to provide a similar capital subsidy to be made available for the erection of hostel accommodation in association with sheltered workshops. Invalid pensions are normally payable to persons who can obtain some type of employment in sheltered workshops. I am hopeful that more organisations in the community might take advantage of the subsidy that is available through this Act. Hence, accommodation might be made available in these hostels for invalid pensioners and others who can then obtain not only the financial assistance from the Commonwealth through the provisions of the Social Services Act, but they may be able to get a sheltered employment allowance which enables a considerable increase in their permissible earnings whilst still retaining some entitlement to pension. They may thereby get additional earning capacity and might also benefit from the subsidy and hostel accommodation that results.
A number of other members in this debate have also referred to specific issues. The honourable members for Sturt (Mr Wilson), Bennelong and Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) have each specifically referred to the division in funds between the respective States. Each of them has referred to the remarkable extent to which the State of South Australia has taken advantage of the subsidy available under this Act. The honourable members have referred to the fact that other States have not utilised the subsidy available to the extent that one might expect. One hopes that as a result of the observations of these honourable gentlemen perhaps in all those States where there has not been the same measure of utilisation of the subsidy there will now be an awareness that the subsidy is available and that accommodation can be provided in this way. The honourable member for Hindmarsh suggested that persons in homes for the aged must, if they are to get accommodation, make a substantial capital contribution, and having done so in many instances they were not in an indigent state. At this stage throughout Australia 79% of persons in aged persons’ homes are in receipt of pensions. Beyond this a considerable percentage of available beds in these homes is made available for persons who have made no capital contribution. I do not think it would be wise for the Government to interfere in the day-to-day administration of the homes, nor do I. think it would be advisable for the Government to require organisations either to accept or not to accept a capital contribution from intending residents. I think the value of this Act and the provision of independence within the oganisations administering the homes is that a personal relationship is engendered which a government takeover would deny.
There has been some reference to the relative costs of homes in various States. There has now been set up through the Department of Social Services a considerable degree of technical capacity to advise interested organisations and individuals of the types and range of costs of varying measures of accommodation for elderly people. The advantage of this is that an organisation anywhere in Australia is able to obtain from the Department some guidance in the type of accommodation that has been found most suitable for elderly people. The organisation can obtain technical advice on the cost of building in various materials and of the best type of accommodation to build. So in any instance if an organisation has doubts as to the type of community project most suited to its needs, the facilities of the Department are available.
One other matter was referred to by the honourable member for Wide Bay and the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), namely the matter of equity in accommodation. One of the problems in providing for greater equity than has already been provided is that if a capital subsidy is to be provided, even though a person makes a capital contribution, if that person is given a right or title to that property it is only a part of the contribution or a part of of the total cost of the unit which represents his contribution. Because of the very nature of the subsidy provided the cost of the unit represents a $2 for $1 contribution by the Commonwealth and one of the objectives of any scheme of this nature must be to avoid any personal gain to anyone in the community as a result of the provision of subsidies of this kind. Accordingly I feel that the proposition advanced by the honourable member for Mackellar would not permit of the provision of subsidy accommodation without giving to that individual who is to be given the right to the property something of a personal benefit. For this reason I cannot at this stage see any chance of accepting the proposal put forward. 1 think it is far better that each individual organisation be given the right to make an ex gratia payment if it so desires. By doing this they are able to refund those funds which they think they can refund, but for us arbitrarily to say that a title can be given would create more ills than it would resolve.
A number of other matters have been raised. I refer to the speech of the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue). I know that he and the honourable member for Bennelong have had some interest in trying to get specific projects launched as a result of the extension to local government bodies of the benefits of subsidy within the Act. I know that they will be aware of the fact that under clause 7 of the Bill moneys received by eligible organisations from a local government body before 28th November 1966 are tq be eligible. Accordingly any proposition which may have been launched since that date is eligible for consideration under the terms of this Bill.
In finally recommending support for this measure might 1 again say that I regret that is so long after its initial introduction that we finally appear able to offer to the people of Australia that measure which we proposed for them in the policy speech first put forward in November 1966.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I rise because 1 omitted to make one or two very strong points during the second reading debate. I hasten to make them now. Many people on both sides of the Parliament have, with justification, paid tribute to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair). I join them. The Minister is one of the few Ministers having the distinction of being able to say that he has been congratulated or commended by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I do it quite willingly. Of course, I contrast the Minister with his predecessor; this puts the Minister in a much brighter light than would otherwise be the case. The Minister will listen to contributions made in a debate, although I do not suggest that he has listened with sympathy to my contribution tonight. If a contribution appears to him to be worth while, my experience has been that he will examine it. With due respect to his very good advisers, he is not always prepared to accept willy-nilly the advice of his officers. In other words, he has opinions of his own.
I want the Minister not to be dogmatic about exercising some control over the way in which money is spent not by church organisations but by corporate bodies such as the Elderly Citizens Homes Incorporated. These are not church organisations or purely charitable organisations. They are run by a body of businessmen who get together and say: ‘If we can get 100 people to put in $2,600 each, and then get 200 times that amount from the Commonwealth by way of subsidy, we will be able to build 100 homes which will be the property of the corporate body. It is true that we cannot sell it or carve up the corporation and share the proceeds among ourselves.’ Yet I am not so sure that this cannot be done and 1 believe also that the Government is not quite clear on bow it would deal with one of these bodies if it should go into dissolution or wind itself up. I have heard it said that a body such as that would have to sell its assets to a similar body or the proceeds must go back to the Commonwealth. I see that the Minister is nodding as I say that. Perhaps he might care to say more about it.
But what I am concerned with is that this corporation would then let the contract to one of its friends and sometimes to close relatives of one of the directors of the corporate body. I have been informed on very good authority that the contract price agreed to by the directors of the corporate body and the building contractor, who is very often a close relative or a close friend of somebody on the board, is often a figure that is ever so much higher than the amount that the contractor could get from anybody else. If the board is dealing with other people’s money it is easy for it to pay fancy prices to sub-contractors because it is merely handing out the tenant’s money plus the subsidy from the Commonwealth. All sorts of things could happen. The directors could carve up the proceeds and no-one would know what they were doing. I am not suggesting that this is happening; all I am saying to the Minister is that his Department is handling public funds and he should examine the tenders which are being accepted and see what class of building is being built for the price which is paid.
– We do all this before we pay the subsidy.
– I know, but how thoroughly are the tenders compared?
– We examine them very closely. Before application for subsidy is made the supervision of the organisation is minimal, but up to the point of payment of the subsidy we examine everything with a fine-tooth comb.
– I am glad of that. I accept the Minister’s assurance. It is reassuring to me if this is true, but I do not know whether the Minister is pulling my leg as he started to laugh. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has mentioned a proposition which I believe has a great deal of merit. I do not believe it can be said that it is not possible to be implemented because some part of the deed would represent a government contribution. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to evolve some title, for example an encumbered title, indicating that only a certain portion belongs to the person holding the title. I cannot believe that it is not possible to work out some way to meet the situation mentioned by the honourable member for Mackellar.
I should like to make only one other point. One of the great problems with old people often comes from the family home. Large families need a large home. Sometimes they have 2 bedrooms, sometimes 3 and sometimes even 4. The children marry and there is no real problem while the husband a<?d wife are both alive, but when one dies and only the husband or the wife is left the home is far too big.
Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he has made the point that he intended to make on the third reading and is now developing the debate beyond the normal scope of a third reading.
– 1 have almost finished and the Minister is listening to this point. In the case to which I have referred where the bouse is too big the surviving partner may let part of the premises but in so doing may lose the pension altogether. Could this provision be relaxed in some way? I realise that this is probably the subject for another Bill.
– A person is allowed a deduction of $2,000 if he makes a contribution to an aged persons homes organisation, which to some extent reduces the capital which is taken into account in the assessment of his means.
– But what happens if he sells the house for $10,000 or $20,000.
– He has $3,000 and if he has no other means-
-Order! I suggest that perhaps the Minister and the honourable member for Hindmarsh may care to discuss this later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 September (vide page 1133), on motion by Mr Adermann: that the Bill be now read a second time.
– The basic purpose of the Bill as indicated by the former Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), is to obtain the approval of Parliament to a supplemental agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments to amend the Sugar Agreement 1962 which regulates the production and marketing of Australian sugar. The supplemental agreement provides for an increase in the domestic price of sugar applying from 19th June 1967 by arrangement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. The agreement also makes provision for an extension of the 1962 agreement for another year to 3 1st August 1968. The supplemental agreement provides also for variations in arrangements made with respect to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee and the Export Sugar Committee which administer rebates with regard to the price of sugar contained in certain fruit products manufactured in Australia and in fruit products which are exported.
Let me say at the outset that the Australian Labor Party fully supports the principle underlying the domestic price of sugar and, in this case, the increase in the domestic price of sugar. It believes that this increase can be justified. As I have said, it supports the principle of the increase, provided that it can be justified and also provided that any increase in price would not lead to a corresponding reduction in demand for sugar through the sales of artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes. In other words, the Opposition supports in principle the increase in the price of sugar on the domestic market, provided that the increase can be economically justified. The best criteria are increased costs of production. We must remember that there has been no increase since 1962 - a period of 5 years. It is important that any increase should not in fact cause a worsening of the economic condition of the industry simply by the reaction of elasticities which would mean a lower consumption per head and which could possibly mean a lower gross or net income for the industry because of the increased demand for artificial sweeteners. However, in this case, although it is reasonable to expect an increase in the demand for artificial sweeteners, there are nevertheless strong arguments for supporting this price increase.
Although the Government consistently refuses to make data available on production costs of raw sugar, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd definitely refuses to make any data available publicly on refining costs, it has been possible for the Opposition to check the justification of the price increases from an analysis of farm costs and mill costs. Several samples of farm and mill production costs have been obtained over a number of years from various farmers and various mills in various areas. There is little doubt in my mind that the price increase is fully justified in view of increased farm costs and mill costs, in fact, one only has to carry out a superficial study of price relatives as applied to a sugar cost structure over the last 5 years to see that production costs in the sugar industry have increased substantially. Certainly there are difficulties in measuring average yields in sugar. This is vital to any economic analysis of costs of production. Perhaps the best example of the effect of yield of cost of production is shown in the formulae under the wheat stabilisation scheme for obtaining the average cost of production of wheat. But this is another story as regards wheat. Some rather peculiar and remarkable methods are used by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in determining average yield, which, for obvious reasons, is usually the last variable found. But this is another story that 1 may tell at some other time. All I am attempting to show now is that yield is very important when determining cost of production, particularly in areas that are susceptible to drought.
The point I am making is that all things considered regarding costs and improved technology in terms of increased sugar per acre, there is every justification for the price rise that was announced by the Government on 19th June last. I say that looking at the sugar industry not in isolation but from the point of view of its place in the economy and its place in comparison to other primary industries. I am not arguing the propriety of increasing the domestic price of sugar when the import parity price of sugar is today only, say, £Stg20 a ton. As far as I am concerned that is an irrelevant consideration. The argument before the House is simply whether an increase is or is not justified in the price of the 650,000 tons of sugar on the domestic market. As far as the Opposition is concerned, looking at the domestic price in isolation from the export price - under the Agreement that is what we must do - there is every justification for an increase in the domestic price when one considers the sugar industry in the context of the overall economy and its relationship to and comparison with other primary industries.
The Labor Party believes in the orderly marketing of all primary products. This is fundamental to its policies underlying a fair return to primary producers. For this reason, and because we are satisfied that the price rise is justified, we support it. I might say, however, that an increase in the wholesale price, which this is, is an average increase which is applied equally amongst all sectors of the sugar industry - millers and cane farmers. This in itself is a deficiency which is common to most primary industries in that there are sections of the industry which are high cost. In the far north of Queensland the sugar industry is a high cost industry. From an analysis of farm costs there it would seem that there is every justification for an increase of 2c per lb rather than 1 ic per lb. This is around the price which cane farmers in this area have been demanding for some time, simply because their costs are higher than they are in the southern parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales. But under the Constitution there cannot be differential prices for industry, and therefore one has to strike a happy medium. I assume that the Government arrived at this increase after taking into account the possible effects of artificial sweeteners.
Although the Opposition supports the price increase, L must say that we offer some criticism of the way the Government has handled this Bill. I intend to ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), who is at the table, some questions in this regard. I must say that 1 would have thought the new Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) would be here. After all, this is the most imortant industry in Queensland. No doubt he has an important prior engagement. Nevertheless, I would like to ask some questions about the handling of this Bill. Clause 2 (1.) of the Sugar Agreement 1962 states:
This Agreement shall have no force or effect unless and until it is approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Clause 6 states that the State of Queensland shall during the agreed period make sugar and other sugar products available in certain areas at prices not exceeding the prices specified in this clause in respect of each grade of sugar and each sugar product. In other words, the Agreement is quite clear that from 1st September 1962 to 3 1st August 1967 the price of sugar was fixed. If clause 2 means anything the Government has broken that Agreement by altering the price of sugar on 19th June 1967. The Government is now asking Parliament to approve an action which is contrary to the intention of the 1962 Agreement. That Agreement, which was approved by Parliament, fixed the price of sugar until 31st August 1967. The Government has now broken this Agreement and it is asking the Parliament to condone its action.
I ask the Minister: Why was this course of action taken? Why did the Government not wait until the Agreement terminated on 31st August 1967 and then increase the price of sugar if it wanted to, providing this was ratified by Parliament? What happens if this Parliament refuses to ratify the action of the Government in breaking an agreement which itself was agreed to by Parliament? What happens if this Parliament does not pass this Bill? Will this mean that the Agreement is not ratified? This is a complex situation and I suggest that perhaps it involves legal questions. Certainly the clauses in the 1962 Agreement are clear. The price of sugar was fixed during a certain period and it should not have been altered without the sanction of this Parliament or until the Agreement terminated. I also suspect that the Commonwealth has no legal right to enter into an agreement to fix the price of sugar in a State. I asked the Minister for Primary Industry a question on notice on this aspect and his reply was that this was asking for a legal opinion. I am told on the best authority which I can secure that the Commonwealth has no constitutional right to enter into an agreement with a State for that State to fix the price of sugar in another State. Frankly I am not concerned with whether the Bill or the Agreement is constitutionally sound. I am concerned about the welfare of the farmer and I am keeping a watchful eye also on the welfare of the consumer, the person who has to pay the domestic price for sugar.
I shall deal now with a problem in relation to which I shall move an amendment consisting of three paragraphs. It concerns the discrimination against central and northern Queensland due to the geographical location of Brisbane. In accordance with the capital cities base price system the wholesale price of sugar is fixed at the capital cities except in one State, Tasmania. A precedent has been established at Launceston, where a two-base price system applies. The result of this system is that some of the dearest sugar in Australia is found in north Queensland sugar towns. A person who lives at Cairns pays approximately 16% more for sugar than a person who lives in Perth. I can show that people who live at Mount Isa could buy their sugar more cheaply from Darwin, which obtains its sugar supplies from Perth, Bundaberg, Brisbane or other capitals. In other words, there is an absurd discrimination against the people of central and northern Queensland caused by the geographical position of Brisbane.
There is little wrong with the concept of the base price system, if one wants to argue in these terms, but why should the people of Bundaberg, where there is a refinery, have to pay more for their sugar than people who live in Brisbane, Darwin or Perth? Even the housewife who lives across the road from the Bundaberg refinery has to pay more for her sugar than a housewife in those two cities. This anomaly may be ascribed to the base price system and the location of Brisbane in relation to the rest of Queensland. If Brisbane were situated where Rockhampton is, we should not have as much discrimination against the people of central and northern Queensland. The Brisbane refinery can supply sugar to northern New South Wales and the refinery at Sydney can supply it in northern New South Wales until a mid-point is reached in terms of freight rates. Melbourne supplies sugar to most of the people in Victoria who live in reasonable proximity to Melbourne. Much the same applies in regard to Adelaide and Perth. The basic argument that I have used about Queensland applies also in Western Australia, but speaking in terms of consumer price, luckily most of the people of that State live in reasonable proximity to Perth. The discrimination applies not only to housewives but also to manufacturers, including those engaged in the soft drink industry, the breweries, and others using large quantities of sugar. For the reasons I have given I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House is of opinion that the Supplemental Sugar Agreement 1967 should be amended to provide that -
in order to end the discrimination against consumers located in central and north Queensland because of the geographical location of Brisbane in the extreme south east corner of the State, the seaboard towns of Rockhampton and Townsville be included in the base price system applying to Australian capital cities as well as Launceston;
the costs of any additional freights associated with the inclusion of Rockhampton and Townsville in the base price system bc borne by the Queensland Government from the substantial profits made annually by the State on the central and north Queensland Railway Divisions, so that these costs are not in any way made a charge against the sugar industry which is already being charged excessive freight rates in central and north Queensland; and
clause 10 of the principal agreement be deleted as it is meaningless unless specifically defined, particularly as substantial losses are being currently incurred by sections of the sugar industry due to the low price on the world free market.’
The most important point is that if a base price system were extended to Rockhampton and Townsville - let us remember that a precedent exists at Launceston - consumers on north, central and western Queensland at places such as Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Windorah and Quilpie would buy sugar at a much fairer price than at present. Manufacturers’ associations have pointed out, as I and others have done before, that at places like Mount Isa and Cloncurry it would at present be cheaper to buy sugar from Darwin by backloading road transport. But how absurd it would be to do this. An extended base price scheme would at least give the people in central and north Queensland fairer prices. At present, they are heavily discriminated against simply because Brisbane happens to be located in the south-eastern corner of the State, almost on the New South Wales border. Freight rates are of paramount importance, as has been fully shown by the report of the Loder Committee of investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia. The Queensland Government, with the full support of the Federal Government, is blatantly exploiting the people of central and north Queensland by its policy of charging excessively high freight rates in order to meet the losses on railway services in Brisbane. Primary producers are among those who are hardest hit by excessively high freights, and it it almost unbelieveable, therefore, that the State Country Party Government adopts this policy.
– 1 do not think that the honourable member understands railway freight rates.
– The honourable member, of course, would.
– The honourable member for Dawson certainly does not understand-
– Order! The honourable member for Lilley will cease interjecting.
– Irrefutable facts establish that the north has been milked of its resources for the benefit of the capital cities in the south. If one looks at the annual reports and various other reports presented by the Commissioner for Railways in Queensland, one finds that in the last 10 years the net profits of the Central and Northern Divisions of the Queensland Government Railways have totalled $54m. lt is significant that in the same period the Southern Division, in which the metropolitan railways are situated, has amassed losses of $70m. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), of course, likes to see primary producers and all other citizens of central and north Queensland subsidising cheap freight rates in Brisbane. Why should the farmers and others in central and north Queensland year after year be saddled with excessively high freight charges in order to make up the huge deficits incurred in the Brisbane metropolitan railway system? The current policy of refusing to reduce freights on sugar carried by rail services that are making substantial profits and at the same time denying to primary producers and sugar millers the right to use alternative road services at lower charges smacks of dictatorial arrogance. In fact, in the Cattle Creek mill area the Queensland Government has refused to let the sugar mill carry its sugar by road transport. It says: You must carry it by rail transport at these freight rates’. This is costing the Cattle Creek mill and the producers of that area about $60,000 extra.
The Commonwealth Government, through its action in charging sales tax on freight costs incurred in the purchasing of such commodities as spare parts and tractors, is also guilty of unjustifiable profiteering. This simply means that the further a person is away from the capital city the more he has to pay in freight rates and sales tax, because sales tax is levied on the base price plus freight.
– At the point of sale.
– If a person who lives in Mackay buys a tractor in Brisbane, where most are bought, be has to pay sales tax on the tractor plus the freight and sales tax on spare parts plus the freight. The Minister representing the Treasurer said that it is too difficult to separate freight costs from the initial cost of a commodity. This is nonsense. The Government’s practice of using Brisbane as the base price for sugar and making consumers throughout the State pay freight on all sugar from Brisbane is another example of discrimination. As I have pointed out, the only fair solution is to have an extension of the base price system. If it were extended in terms of distance to towns like Rockhampton and Townsville and around to Perth, practically 90% of the population of Australia would pay a fair price for sugar in terms of relatively. We would not agree to an extension of the capital city base price system to Rockhampton and Townsville if central and northern Queensland farmers are to be hit with additional freight rates.
In Queensland the Commonwealth Government is on trial in respect of the sugar industry which is facing one of the worst crises in its history. The Government’s policy, as outlined by the former Minister for Primary Industry in his second reading speech, of interest bearing loans and continuous hoping with respect to the international sugar agreement is draining the economic life blood out of the industry at an accelerating rate. Shocking economic conditions exist on the farms and in the towns and the period which will follow this crushing has all the earmarks of an economic tragedy for the sugar towns. Unemployment benefits to cane farmers this season and next season will certainly increase. The next 6 months are vital to the sugar industry. If negotiations for an international sugar agreement fail and if we cannot get a better price from the Japanese Government, either through a bilateral or multilateral system, then frankly I can see no other alternative than a price stabilisation scheme guaranteeing an export price. This action will have to be taken even if it does not meet the wishes of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd.
Many sectors of the sugar industry are in serious financial difficulty and farmers in increasing numbers, are being denied credit by the banks. The industry is seething with unrest and discontent. 1 will illustrate this in a moment or two. Farmers are suffering personal hardships through no fault of their own. If the Government does not hurry and wake up to this fact it is in for a shock in the future. There is a limit even to what farmers will bear when poverty strikes; when the banks stop their credit; when their fertiliser bills cannot be paid and are not paid; and when they do not have sufficient income even to feed their children. I will read a letter I received yesterday from one farmer. I will not mention his name but if the Minister wishes I will give him the letter. The writer stated:
I myself am forced to sell my assignment and so far my best offer is $20 an acre. I have heard that they have changed hands as low as $16 an acre-
The proper price should be around $700 an acre, in terms of the assigned cane. The letter continued:
If I can’t receive $80 an acre for my assignment I shall have to accept whatever I can get or struggle on in abject poverty.
This letter was from a cane farmer. The writer also stated:
It is a black future for my 7 children whom 1 had hoped to fully educate.
On my returns I cannot afford fertilising and it is only a matter of time before my cane will be worthless and my farm valuation reduced to rock bottom.
As I said before there is plenty of discontent in the north. One only has to read the northern newspapers in the last few weeks to realise this. Here is one headline which states: ‘Canefarmers in Revolt - Breakaway’. This is the position in the sugar industry today. A north Queensland section of producers has accused the Chairman of the Queensland Cane Growers Council of felling fairy tales. This happened at a meeting of farmers in the Mourilyan mill area a few weeks ago. This is the sort of unrest already evident in the north. It is unrest generated by worry and poverty. Although they have assets, there is not enough net cash income for many farmers to live on and we are going to have trouble. We have witnessed what were almost standover tactics adopted by millers in some areas. Reports suggest that the Hambledon mill, owned by the CSR company, is one outstanding example. Because the mill suppliers took the company to court in an effort to get a better deal, the company reduced the initial payment from 90% to 80%. One of the northern newspapers, commenting on this, said:
The circular sent out last week to all Hambledon growers by C.S.R. mill manager J. Smith is not by any means the most obnoxious to have come from that company, but it is certainly the most alarming.
– Can the honourable member find a bright paragraph? Surely it is not all black?
– Is the honourable member for Lalor awake or asleep?
– The honourable member for Lalor is all at sea.
– 1 know. There are two major aspects of this Bill. Firstly, so far as the domestic price is concerned, the Labor Party has made it quite clear that it supports in principle the increases or variations in domestic price based on orderly marketing of sugar. Secondly, we must try to alleviate this discrimination against people living in central and northern Queensland. Those are the main arguments I advance. I do not intend to deal any further with the economic crisis facing the industry.
The Opposition accepts the provisions in relation to fruit in the southern States and the setting up of the fund. This is an admirable concept. After all, the canners and fruit growers are in principle entitled to be able to buy their sugar at the best price. Import parity price is today the best price. That price today is £19 or £20 sterling a ton, as compared with three or four times that price on the domestic market or under the Commonwealth sugar agreement or the United States Act.
I urge the Government to look closely at the economics of the sugar industry which is in a serious financial condition. Interest bearing loans are not the answer because of the poor overall price at present received by some sections of the industry, particularly the producer with the small peak, the new producer in the industry, and the producer who has been seriously hit by the drought. These producers are in serious trouble. If the Minister or the Government wants any evidence, I can give plenty of actual cases and I have no doubt that the leaders of the industry in Brisbane can do likewise. Major trouble will develop within the sugar industry if something is not done very soon to prevent it. The industry is seething with discontent because through no fault of its own, it expanded. Today 70% of total sugar exports or over 50% of total production must be sold on the residual free market. It is not economic for growers to sell 70% of exports or 50% of production at prices varying in the past 12 months between £12 sterling and a little over £20 sterling a ton when the cost of production is probably about $80 to $100 per ton. Both the industry and the Minister know it cannot be done. Something must crack in the end. Therefore it is essential that something be done to assist the industry. If the international sugar agreement fails so that stocks cannot be controlled and we cannot get an increase in the price of sugar from the Japanese Government, obviously the sugar industry has only one course left - to get a guaranteed price for the exportable surplus.
-Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes. I second the amendment.
Debate (on motion by Mr Robinson) adjourned.
Marketing of Primary Products - Use of Centurion Tanks in Vietnam - Political Parries - Business of the House
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight I wish to speak about the need for an organised marketing system for primary industry. My particular interest relates to onions and potatoes, which are grown in my electorate in the Lockyer, Fassifern and Brisbane valleys. I undestand that the Australian Primary Producers Union has before the Government certain recommendations for a stabilised marketing plan for the potato industry. If my information is correct - I have no reason to doubt it because the source is reliable - the plan has been with the Government for some time. There seems to be undue delay in arriving at a decision.
I am raising this subject tonight firstly in the hope that we can spur the Government into action or into making a rapid decision. Secondly, 1 rise to discuss the subject. I remind honourable members that we are in the year 1967. The Government has had plenty of opportunity to act. Expert opinion has been put before it and recommendations have been made to establish stabilised marketing systems for the organised distribution of primary production. In 1959 the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review reported to the Parliament. It recommended that a new section should be written into the Constitution to provide as follows:
As the Committee saw the issue, a change was required through a referendum. In our experience referendums do not always have happy results, but I am certain that such a referendum would have enjoyed widespread support through the rural community of Australia. That would be especially true today, because many problems are confronting primary producers. Only a few minutes ago the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) outlined some of the problems. He has proposed a plan which would give great stability to the sugar industry if adopted at this time. The sugar industry has a very critical problem on its hands. Of course the Government is not acting. The Government is most reluctant to act in this field of organised marketing of primary produce.
One finds this hard to rationalise. Why does the Government take this attitude when there is such a substantial body of official country representation in the ranks of Government supporters? I refer, of course, to the members of the Australian Country Party. One would have expected them to have been among the first to speak on this subject. One would have expected them to have spoken frequently and loudly and to have complained bitterly on behalf of rural interests. One would have expected them to insist on some action being taken in this field. A body as reputable and well established as the Australian Primary Producers Union has supported and endorsed the need for an organised marketing plan for the potato industry - and now I am joining the onion industry with the potato industry. We have not heard, to my knowledge, one word of endorsement from the Country Party benches of suggestions for an organised marketing plan for this industry. I sincerely trust that this deficiency will be rectified tonight and that we will hear one of the more vocal and capable members of the Country Party vigorously endorsing everything that I have said.
I am reminded that it was during the Dawson by-election campaign that the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) launched one of his many attacks on the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and said that the sort of marketing system that we stand for is Socialist planning and that the primary producers should beware of this. The following night the honourable member for Dawson advised the Deputy Prime Minister that he was in the sugar area and that the sugar industry had an organised system of production with which the producers were very happy. Not satisfied with that blunder, the then Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) went into the area and again attacked the honourable member for Dawson, and he was also reminded that the wheat industry had a stabilisation system built into it and that this sort of stabilisation was so helpful to the industry that if any government tried to take it away it would be looking for serious trouble.
Why can we not extend these organised systems to other fields? Violent fluctuations in primary industries, with over-supply followed by a slump followed by under-supply, do not help the economy, and they certainly do not help the Australian economy. We always have problems in our economy of using our productive resources to maximum capacity. Our productive resources are small enough for the jobs we have ahead of us, and amongst these inadequate resources we must count our small population. We must use with maximum efficiency every productive factor available. It is ridiculous, when we are going into a boom period, to have this heavy investment in equipment, fertiliser and manpower and so on, and then see our over-production being wasted, with a slump to follow. What is needed is some sort of rationalisation.
One of the first things to be looked at, as a progressive move, is the registration of all potato and onion farmers. I am talking only about this section of primary industry because this is what concerns me primarily at the moment, but the same argument can be applied to other areas of primary production. Surely not even the Country Party would object to the registration of the producers in this field. It is one of the planks of the platform of the Australian Primary Producers Union. We need organised marketing to protect the primary producer from marketing fluctuations which occur and which he suspects - and with good reason - all too often occur because of the manipulation of the markets, especially by southern agents who, through some happy knack, manage to arrange imports of onions from New Zealand at appropriate times so as to bring down the price and place the producer in a vulnerable position in which he will get a lower return than he would be justifiably entitled to had the market not been interfered with.
One of the things that these primary producers, in common with so many other primary producers, find hard to understand is why the price to the consumer is so high when the price the producer receives is so low. I have attended several meetings that they have arranged lately to discuss this subject. They allege very strongly to me that the agents are establishing price cartels and eliminating competition. Perhaps this is a subject that the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) could look at in connection with his new restrictive trade practices legislation. Another thing which the Government could look at now as a first step towards according some sort of assistance to these primary producers is the establishment of an Australia-wide information service which would publish monthly figures relating to plantings and harvestings, together with projections as to marketing, weather conditions the possibility of obtaining export markets and so on. This type of information provided on a national scale each month with up to date figures would be of tremendous help.
But the ultimate objective that we ought to seek to achieve as quickly as possible is the establishment of a system of stabilised marketing to give these people some security, some guarantee that their labours are not going to be wasted, some assurance that they are not going to experience in 3 years out of every 6 or 7 years periods of over-production, low prices and slumps suspected to be due to manipulation, as they do in the Lockyer Valley which is an extremely rich area. I am informed by the primary producers that the Fassifern, Lockyer and Brisbane Valley areas turn out products conservatively valued at about $1 6m a year. This area is too valuable to be allowed to be wasted in the way in which I have described.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to ask the House: Who was responsible for the incredible decision to commit the Australian Centurion tank force to Vietnam. Everybody in this House and in the country knows the Labor Party’s attitude to the general participation of the troops in Vietnam. But I want to set aside that general question for the moment and consider this particular one. I want to place clearly before the House what the implications of this decision which I have already described as incredible. I believe that as a result of cynical abstraction from the war, the authorities who run this Government have arrived at a decision to carry out some kind of operation which has no strategic or tactical relevance whatsoever to the operations in Vietnam. The country and the armed forces are being used in a disgraceful exercise in this instance.
What is a Centurion tank? 1 presume that honourable members opposite who are so full of freedom fighting in other people’s causes with other people’s bodies know something about this, but I think we should place the facts on record. The Centurion tank weighs 50 tons. It is an almost impossible transport feat to shift it around Australia, which has a fairly sophisticated transport system. It took weeks to get these tanks into action for exercising at Tin Can Bay some 3 years ago.
– There are still buffalo wallows there.
– The honourable member for Wide Bay tells me that what might be termed buffalo wallows, where these tanks were dug out of their incarceration in the mud some 3 years ago are still to be seen there.
It will be an almost impossible task to shift these tanks in the kind of country in which they are going to operate. Of course, they were purchased, I suppose, at a time when, if Australia were going to participate in a war, it would be a war something like the ones in which we had traditionally fought in Europe. Centurion tanks served very emphatically for the Israelis against the Arabs. But what is their relevance to this operation in Vietnam? As I have said, the Centurion tank weighs 50 tons. The Australian model carries a 20 lb gun. It is a first class gun which has a point blank range of, I think, about 1,000 yards.
But what will be its value in this operation? Here we are talking about an area which is pretty close country. I do not suppose it can be classed as rain forest in the strict sense, but the country is covered with rubber plantations and rice paddies and is heavily timbered in many areas. It was the experience of those who fought in armour in Africa in the last war that when they were transferred to Europe and started to bowl along the leafy lanes there with the- hatches up and the drivers with their heads up looking through the open hatches, they were immediately sniped at with the result that drivers and commanders were killed by shots through the head.
If these tanks are to be operated in close country they will have to be closed down. The Centurion has a cupola at the top. The commander will be in that closed cupola looking through slits 3 or 4 inches wide. The driver will be sitting in a somewhat similar position looking through slits perhaps 2 or 3 inches wide. They will have no effective visibility whatsoever in this type of operation. Therefore, I say that the sending of these tanks to Vietnam is an act of irrelevance. Let me describe the country. This is an extract from an article in the Age’ of 17th August. It said:
Nui Dat in the Phuoc Tuy Province is about SO miles wide by about 30 miles long.
That is the general area. The article continued: _ There are hills and mountains, rubber plantations no longer under cultivation, rice paddies and to the south mangrove swamps and useless marsh country.
How can tanks be used in that sort of country? A Centurion tank on the move growls away like a bulldozer working in the mountains. Half a dozen of them make a phenomena] noise. They will be heard coming. How will they track down guerilla fighters in this country? What military operation of that nature has been successful?
When have guerilla forces been defeated by the use of such heavy armour? There is no instance of such a successful operation at all.
I believe that this is a military decision equivalent to the decisions of Haig in the First World War. He kept cavalry standing behind the front line for years waiting for the break through, but when it came he could not use the cavalry anyhow because of the mud, wire and other obstructions. It is like the Germans throwing their troops into Russia in their summer outfits, they were unprepared for the Russian winter. It is like the ‘Repulse* and the ‘Prince of Wales’ in 1942 sailing up the coast of Malaya without air cover. This is a disgraceful decision. I can see no relevance in it at all. It is an exercise in wastefulness. It is an exercise in political strategy and has nothing to do with military strategy, unless the tanks are to be used somewhere away from the major Australian forces. Some honourable members may have been to the Phuoc Tuy Province. Those who have will know that there are marshes 15 or 20 miles to the south, a large river to the north and the east and the general country is of the type that I described previously.
I believe that this operation results from the fact that the people who make the decisions on behalf of Australia have no practical experience of active service. This is no reflection on them in any way whatever. Where a person served in the last war was not his own affair. In the main, where a person serves in any war is obviously not his own affair. People are called up and serve where they are sent. They may serve for years and not go further than Melbourne. But war is a pure abstraction to the four people who make the major military strategic decisions for Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and the Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser) can only make such decisions as an abstraction. Somewhere along the line they have been talked into making a military decision. Is it the result of infra-service pressure? Is it that some services want to get their forces away? Is this the sort of action that they should take anyway? Of course it is not. The Australian Army should never be used as a political instrument. It has a proud tradition. The Australian Army, our force on the ground, has established a first class record in Vietnam. Our soldiers are recognised as experts in this type of warfare. I have no doubt that the people in the armoured branch are of the same calibre. But we intend to send them there because we are going all the way with LBJ or doing something of the sort.
This is a demonstration of the complete futility of Australia’s participation in this war. I hope that all honourable members and the whole of the Australian community will challenge this decision. It is fortunate, of course, that the enemy will not have much with which to combat the armour. The enemy does not have any armour and as far as I know does not have any antitank guns or aircraft. But the enemy will be darned hard to find. I will be very surprised if the Government can find a sound basis for its decision to send tanks in pursuit of guerilla fighters - the Vietcong, the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese - who have established a first class reputation in the jungle for being able to conceal themselves even from our very skilful soldiers on foot. This is a cynical abstract act by the Government as a public relations exercise to show that we are dinkum and perhaps to give some people experience overseas. That is not the way to conduct wars. That is not the way to handle the Australian services.
I was surprised to the point of shock to read about this decision. As I said, it is a decision that ranks with the Charge of the Light Brigade and the decisions of Haig in the First World War, unless, of course, the tanks are being taken there to carry around in safety and security behind armour young Liberal members of this Parliament who do not have the courage to go themselves to wars to which they send other young Australians.
Before I deal with the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), let me say that if the Centurion tanks are going to Vietnam surely they are going following a decision by the military experts. Does the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) set himself up as superior to men who have made a lifetime study of military matters? I do not think he does. It is not surprising that he objects to sending tanks to Vietnam because he objects to sending anyone to Vietnam. There is nothing novel in his present attitude.
Now I shall deal wilh the honourable member for Oxley. He is becoming rather tiresome. Some months ago and then a fortnight ago, I think it was, he raised matters relating to primary production and telephonic communications, and he appealed to the Country Party to help him. On two previous occasions I have offered to help him. On the last occasion on which he raised this matter I again offered to travel his electorate with him, meet the people who are having trouble with their telephones and give him the advice that he said the Country Party should be able to give. I did suggest that it would be more convenient if a Queensland member travelled with him - I mentioned the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) - but if that were not suitable to him I would be happy to assist. 1 said that I would even prepare for him the representations that he would make to the appropriate Minister. Although he has made those appeals to the Country Party and, on two occasions, to me specifically, he has gone cold on the idea when I have offered to accept his invitation. I have heard nothing more about h. No wonder we get tired of him.
He attacked the Country Party and asked what the Country Party was doing about orderly marketing. It would be very difficult for anyone in this House or anywhere else to point to any significant rural achievement without associating with it the Country Party organisation and its parliamentary representatives. In fact, it just could not be done. What is the Country Party’s policy on orderly marketing? If any industry wants orderly marketing or stabilisation it submits a case to the Government, the Government looks at the case and, if possible, grants an orderly marketing or stabilisation scheme. But the approach must come from the people engaged in the industry. The Government has said that it will not implement any orderly marketing or stabilisation scheme unless the proposal has been approved by a poll of growers. So what is the use of the honourable member for Oxley talking for quite a while and saying nothing about what is happening?
The Labor Opposition is always saying that the wheat stabilisation scheme and the dried fruits stabilisation scheme are examples of Socialism. We hear that all the time. I remind the Opposition that a stabilisation scheme is granted only after the proposal has been approved by a poll of growers. If the Labor Party wants Socialism in this country - it raises the issue only after elections; it is very silent about Socialism when an election is coming up - I suggest that it ask for a referendum of the people to see whether they want Australia to be a Socialist state.
I repeat that the policy of the Country Party in relation to stabilisation schemes is that if any industry wants a stabilisation scheme there must first be a poll of growers. I have already said that this coalition Government has asked industries which want a stabilisation scheme to present their case to it. I have personal knowledge of this. I represent 78% of the dried fruit growers in Australia. Of course, the dried fruit industry realised some time ago that if it did not have stabilisation it would be out of focus with reality. In order to obtain stabilisation the growers approached their local member who -then put the proposition to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister then went to the districts of Sunraysia, Robinvale, Swan Hill,’ Nyah, Boundary Bend and Tresco and met and talked to the people there. The dried fruits industry now has a stabilisation scheme. lt has always had orderly marketing but now it has stabilisation. So, when a member is really genuine about these things something can be done. We cannot say whether the industries that have been spoken about by the honourable member for Oxley are appropriate for stabilisation at this stage. But this matter could be resolved if he organised the growers and got them to put their case to the Government. This is the whole story as far as stabilisation of industries is concerned.
I have always been a great advocate of stabilisation for the simple reason that if prices rise in Australia, secondary industry just changes the price tag. However, primary industry can do this only if it is stabilised. No government will stabilise an industry to the full extent of its production because if it did it would bring so many people into the industry that it would defeat the plan completely. When an industry gets over the limit of stabilisation, of course, the price falls. Consequently, industries that are stabilised can take advantage of the Australian standard of living, values or prices, only for the amount in respect of which they are subsidised. This is not like secondary industry. Yet, it is so much more important that primary industry should be stabilised than secondary industry because secondary industry could not continue to operate without primary industry. Therefore, when the Country Party fights to support primary industry it takes a national role. Secondary industry in Australia has priced itself out of world markets and cannot compete. Secondary industry has only 20% of Australia’s exports while primary industry has 80% and is building up our overseas balances all the time.
Primary industry is building up money oversesas all the time so that raw materials not procurable in Australia, but which are so necessary for secondary industry, may be purchased and used in this country. So, whatever way we look at this, primary industry is of paramount importance in Australia. It is only while this Government realises that that Australia will be able to maintain its standard of living.
Every day we hear the members of the Opposition say what a wonderful position Australia is in and how wealthy it is and that we should be able to build houses and do all sorts of things. However, when it suits them they say that the Government has done nothing in the last 17 or 18 years. They then point to the great progress and affluence of the community and the money that everyone has. Members of the Opposition have documents from the Commonwealth Statistician to support this. The honourable member for Oxley has said before that if we had a free trade agreement with New Zealand we would not be in a very good position. The figures for 1966-67 show that we exported goods to New Zealand to the value of $A177m and we imported from it goods to the value of $A47m. The honourable member for Oxley has said that if this agreement were implemented New Zealand would send a great flood of goods into this country and would put many primary producers out of business. Figures do not support this view. Figures show that he was wrong on that occasion and I am sure that he is wrong again.
– Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), as I think he might have done once or twice before, has demonstrated the error of getting up and speaking about a matter without knowing the basic facts. No problem exists in getting the Centurion tanks to Vietnam. The plans have been made already for getting these tanks to Vietnam. The honourable member for Wills is trying to interject. He has made his speech. Why does he not listen to me for a moment and learn just what the position is? The tanks will be moved to Vietnam in either LSMs or Jeparit’, both of which are capable of taking them. Far from being able to move over a small area of the Phuoc Tuy province only, as the honourable member for Wills implied, the tanks will be able to manoeuvre over 90% of the province for the greater part of the year. That is the advice of people in the Australian Army who know the conditions that are necessary for the operation of Centurion tanks and people who have had experience in commanding the squadron in Australia.
The honourable member £or Wills implied that the decision to send the squadron to Vietnam was a political decision. It is a decision based on a well prepared case that was put to Army headquarters and through Army headquarters to the Department of Defence and the Government. A request was made for a Centurion squadron to provide additional support for infantry in the Phuoc Tuy province. The decision was made on purely military grounds to provide additional support for the infantry. I will demonstrate the manner in which this squadron will be used. In Vietnam, our battalions can move very quickly to any particular area. But once they are placed on the ground on which the Vietcong have been active - this is generally away from the main areas of population - ‘basically they are no faster than the Vietcong. Very often they are slower than the Vietcong.
The reason for this is simple. They move into an area which is a Vietcong area and which is probably mined and set with boobytraps. Infantry without the support of armour has to move slowly in these circumstances, otherwise casualties would be unnecessarily heavy. If the Vietcong do not want to fight they can move out of range of our infantry without a great deal of trouble. Tanks will be able to move forward much more quickly than the infantry and will be able to move around behind the Vietcong. Quite apart from this, during the wet season the tanks can bc stationed at strategic places around the Task Force base to supply valuable additional protection to the Task Force area itself and the camp generally.
The honourable member for Wills implied that the people who made this decision had no experience of active service. The people who gave the advice upon which this decision was made included General Vincent and Lieutenant-General Daly, the Chief of the General Staff. They have certainly had a great deal of active service. Their advice is good. I respect it. It has been accepted. The condition of the tanks is good. They have been continually re-built in Australia and the ones th;i! will be sent to Vietnam will be in virtually new condition. In addition, quite substantial logistic elements will be sent to Vietnam to support the tanks. The honourable member for Wills does no service to himself or to his Party by making the kind of claims that he did. He does a great disservice to the Australian Army, which has the highest standards of professional efficiency in matters of this kind.
– Yesterday in the House, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), who is the Leader of the House, made a rather impassioned plea to the Opposition to co-operate with the Government in securing a steady or smooth passage of legislation through the Parliament. He set out the reasons why this Parliament must sit late at night. I have always tried to co-operate with the Government in the passage of legislation even if this means sitting late at night or until the early hours of the morning. It take.”1 a lot to stir me, but this afternoon I was stirred.
– You don’t say.-
– One thing is certain: The honourable member for Mallee does not stir me. On the blue sheet for the day’s business the Sugar Agreement Bill is listed No. 8 and the Aged Persons Homes Bill No. 7. The Labor Party Whip told me that the Sugar Agreement Bill would be debated at about 10 p.m. This was the understanding of all honourable members interested in that debate. We would have been ready at that time. At 4.30 this afternoon I received an urgent call from the Whip advising me that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) was tied up at a Cabinet meeting and requesting my agreement to advancing the time for the debate on the Sugar Agreement Bill to S.45 p.m. This caused considerable inconvenience to me. I had to stop the work I was doing. I had to cancel personal arrangements involving my wife and family. I had arranged to visit the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation late this afternoon. I cancelled that arrangement.
– Does the honourable member think he is the only one who has to change his arrangements?
– Will you shut up?
– I withdraw that remark. I accepted the statement that the Minister, in his first week as a member of the Cabinet, was tied up with a Cabinet meeting. One should extend courtesy in these circumstances, and I was prepared to do so. I cancelled my arrangements and so did other Opposition members who proposed to speak in the debate. At S.15 p.m. the Whip rang me and said that the original arrangement stood.
This is sheer arrogance. I make it clear that I am not blaming the Minister for what happened. I do not know who gave the instructions to the Opposition Whip. He tried to adhere to the altered arrangement, but his request was refused. I rang the Government Whip, who in courteous terms said that he could do nothing in the matter; the arrangement had been made by other people and the original arrangement would stand. In other words, it does not matter what arrangements ordinary private members may make. The Government Whip said that he would raise the matter with the Minister for Social Services and again contact me. He contacted me and said that the original arrangement was to stand. In other words, I and my colleagues on this side could go and jump in the lake; the Minister had now finished his business in Cabinet and would adhere to the original arrangement, notwithstanding the appeal of the Leader of the House for co-operation. We on this side have done all in our power to co-operate. Somebody has been guilty of arrogance. I do not know who it is, but I could narrow it down to two or three people. 1 do not often complain about procedures in this House. This is the first occasion on which I have done so. I had reason to complain last year, but I did not. On that occasion I treated the matter with some amusement. I refer to an incident which involved your predecessor, Sir, the Clerk and the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). I had spent most of the day at the table handling on behalf of the Opposition the Dairying Industry Bill. The Government was anxious to resume the debate on the Australian Tourist Commission Bill, but it had one problem - ‘the 11 o’clock rule. However, we were finishing the debate on the Dairying Industry Bill on time when at 10.SS p.m. the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) rose to speak. The Leader of the House almost had a fit. He raced around trying to get the honourable member for Mackellar to sit down. I knew what was happening. At 10.59 p.m. your predecessor, Mr Speaker, had to go through the motions of putting questions, but no-one could understand what he was talking about. The Clerk also went through the motions of doing what he was required to do.
I could have prevented the Australian Tourist Commission Bill being called on simply by taking a point of order and saying that I could not understand anything that anyone was talking about. Right on 11 p.m. the debate was called on and that was the end of that. I did not complain. I then spoke from 11 p.m. until about 11.45 p.m., when the adjournment motion was moved. The point is that I had plenty of reason to complain at that time, but I did not complain. I just sat back and watched the circus that was going on in this chamber. But tonight I do complain about the arrogance of somebody in this chamber who was able to put the Opposition to this trouble. It was trouble. Many of us had to cancel arrangements in order to fit in with the Minister for Social Services.
I was quite happy to do that. But then we were told in a very curt way: ‘We are sorry, but there is nothing you can do’. I believe that this is quite wrong. It is quite contrary to what the Leader of the House yesterday appealed to us to do, namely, to co-operate more fully. How can anyone co-operate with a Government that does that sort of thing?
– I rise to point out that the order of business as listed on the blue sheet is not inflexible. From time to time variations are made in it. In fact, that has happened on many occasions. I merely point that out. The second point thatI make is that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) desired to attend to the needs of honourable members by being present when the Aged Persons Homes Bill was being debated in this chamber this evening. It was because he desired to be present then that after a quarter of an hour he asked for an alteration of arrangements.
I saw the Opposition Whip (Mr Duthie) at 4.30. I am not as precise as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is in jotting down the times involved. Apparently the Opposition Whip was told by the honourable member for Dawson that he would be willing to lead for the Opposition in the debate on the Sugar Agreement Bill at about 5.45. Within 15 or 20 minutes of that arrangement being made, the Opposition Whip was told that the original arrangement would stand. So for 15 or 20 minutes the honourable member for Dawson was upset in his arrangements for the evening. I do not know whether there was some tardiness on the part of the Opposition Whip in communicating again with the honourable member for Dawson. But I suggest that he should direct his protest elsewhere; that it should not be directed at us. For 15 or 20 minutes he was upset in his arrangements.
What amazes me is that this festering sore grew in his little heart for 6 hours.
Other honourable members are upset in their arrangements for many hours, but they work in with their colleagues and, without undue concern and certainly without whingeing, try to see that the business of the House proceeds. It is incredible that the honourable member for Dawson should allow an upset for such a short time to concern him from 4.55 on one afternoon until 12.30 the following morning. He must have one of the most sensitive hearts and one of the most sensitive souls of any honourable member.
-I want to supplement the remarks that have been made by saying only that 1 did ask, through the Government Whip, whether it would be possible for some variation to be made in the agenda for this afternoon. I did this, as the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has just explained, so that I could be in the House during the debate on the Aged Persons Homes Bill. I might add that I am rather amazed that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), knowing full well that he was to lead in the debate for the Opposition, should have made such extensive arrangements to beaway from the House on the day of the debate. The arrangements which were upset must have been of a duration beginning late this afternoon. It was very late in the afternoon when I made my request. I feel that the hours mentioned by the honourable member for Lilley fit in very much with the request that I made. If the honourable member for Dawson has been upset in his arrangements, I accept full responsibility for this and I apologise. Nevertheless I feel it is rather strange that in a programme which involves so much of the day his arrangements should have been upset to such an extent by a modification which, as I understand it, took no more than a quarter of an hour or half an hour to readjust.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.41 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
The tender schedule stated that tenderers intending to export any rifles to approved countries would require the written authority of the Comptroller-General of Customs and must comply with any conditions prescribed by the ComptrollerGeneral. Sporting Arms Limited was permitted to export all rifles purchased by it, subject to the company’s complying with the following conditions:
The rifles were shipped by Sporting Arms Limited to the United Kingdom in three consignments and Landing Certificates have been furnished in respect of two consignments. The purchaser awaits receipt of the third certificate.
Geelong Rifle Range (Question No.566)
asked the Minister for the
Army, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has supplied the following information:
Cattle Tick Eradication (Question No. 596)
asked the Minister for
Primary Industry, upon notice:
Will the Government consider undertaking, in co-operation with the States, a 10 year tick eradication programme with the object of trying to make Australia tick free by the end of that period?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The responsibility for tick control and eradication is primarily one for State Governments and the New South Wales and Queensland Governments have both been particularly active in undertaking control and eradication measures.
The Commonwealth is well aware of the magnitude of the problem and, over a long period has contributed generously to assist the States in this work. Since 1957-58 the Commonwealth has contributed in excess of $6m for tick control, quarantine and research in New South Wales alone. The agreement whereby the Commonwealth contributes half the estimated cost of interstate quarantine and research in New South Wales has recently been extended.
Since 1962, the Commonwealth has supported research into tick and tick fever on a$1 for $1 basis with industry, through the Meat Research Trust Account. Funds are made available to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Queensland De partment of Primary Industries and the University of Queensland. Research allocations from this source between 1962-63 and the current fiscal year have totaled $1,589,157;
The emergence of ticks resistant to acaricidcs has presented new problems. As a consequence, a Committee on Cattle Tick Resistance to Acaricides comprising Commonwealth and State experts has been set up by the Australian Agricultural Council. This Committee has considered the question of eradicating the tick from northern areas of Australia but agreed that, as long as there was a lack of adequate fencing facilities on the more extensively managed properties inthese areas coupled with feralanimal populations, and reliance had to be placed mainly upon chemical means of control, a programme to achieve eradication would not be effective. Despite repeated attempts since 1932 in New South Wales, programmes aimed at eradication have not succeeded.
It would appear that if a means of eradicating the cattle tick is to be found, it will most probably arise as a result of comprehensive and sustained research. Such research activities will continue to receive support.
Handbook of Australian Fishes (Question No. 634)
asked the Minister for
Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. Yes, publication of the ‘Handbook of Australian Fishes’ in Fisheries Newsletter in serial form, which began in July 1956 was, as I advised the Leader of the Opposition, suspended temporarily in January 1959 because of the inability of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Fisheries and Oceanography to furnish the necessary material concurrently with other work being undertaken by that Division. Publication was resumed in March 1960 but had to be suspended again in December 1961 when the CSIRO Division of Fisheries and Oceanography was unable to provide the material, because of other higher priority commitments.
It is hoped to complete the work, but, at present, I am unable to give any definite date as to when it will be resumed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Has any communication passed between the Commonwealth and any State Government, since his answer to me on 22nd September 1966 (Hansard, page 1248), concerning the ratification of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 107 cited as the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention 1957?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Since my answer to the honourable member’s question on 22nd September 1966, there has been continuing consideration of the relevant law and practice affecting the question of ratification of this Convention. Further progress has been made and South Australia has now passed the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act.
As I have previously assured the honourable gentleman, the Convention is being kept under examination by the Commonwealth and the States with a view to the implementation of its provisions where possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19671019_reps_26_hor57/>.