26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr Speaker, as the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory is in hospital, on his behalf I present a Petition from certain citizens of the Australian Capital Territory showing that there is a crisis in education in Australia; that a transformation of the classroom situation is necessary, where children will have reasonable freedom to develop as selfreliant, independent individuals and where they can learn to function as members of a democratic community; that proper preparation for school and thorough guidance there, by qualified teachers, are crucial to a proper education for Australia’s children; that the present rate of teacher training is far below the requirement determined by the Martin Report which shows that 75% additional teachers in government schools alone will be required by 1975 compared with those in service in 1963; that to obtain maximum benefit from the education system, preschool facilities should be available to all children; that insufficient State or Federal assistance has been made available to meet these requirements; that adequate finance to meet these requirements can only be provided by the Commonwealth Government; and that there is an urgent need for a national inquiry into all aspects of Australian education. The petitioners pray that the Senate and House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration, during Human Rights Year, to this most vital matter.
– As vandalism is costing the Postmaster-General’s Department the huge sum of $1.5m a year, will the PostmasterGeneral introduce a system of patrol cars manned by officers of his Department vested with the authority to arrest and prosecute people committing this offence? Is it not logical to assume that action of this kind would be less costly to the Department and the nation than the present vandalism?
Will the Postmaster-General give urgent consideration to my proposal and thus relieve many people of the inconvenience and anxiety caused by vandalism, particularly when urgent medical attention is needed?
– The Post Office would be prepared to consider any suggestion designed to help to overcome the problem of vandalism in relation to public telephones. I am sure that the honourable member will appreciate, nevertheless, that it may not be easy to provide suitable manpower for the type of operation which he has suggested. I will look into the suggestion and will pass it on to the Department. After it has been examined I will let the honourable member have a fuller reply.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport been informed that this month, after offloading war supplies at Haiphong another Polish vessel called at Australian ports to pick up cargo, presumably at the previous cut rates? Is the Minister aware that the Australian agents for the Polish lines justify their anti-Australian action by saying that they are acting in accordance with Government policy? How does the Government justify any difference between stopping Australian merchants from trading with Haiphong because we are at war with an identifiable enemy - I quote the Deputy Prime Minister in this definition - and allowing an Australian firm to make profits by acting as agents for ships which provide the enemy with the sinews of war? Are not both categories of merchants assisting the enemy to cause casualties to Australian troops whom the Government has ordered to the front in the interests of the security of Australia and the security of our allies?
– I think every Australian is concerned to see that within the Australian community every effort is made to ensure that Australians who are fighting in South Vietnam receive the maximum assistance from those of us hack here in Australia. At the same time, having looked at the question of voyages to Australia by ships from eastern European and other countries which have called at Haiphong or other ports in North Vietnam, I believe it is true to say that at this stage there is no regular pattern of triangular trade with ports in Australia.
It is also true that because of our international commitments we would find it extremely difficult were we to place an arbitrary ban on any vessel of any country calling at Australia, other than warships and fishing vessels which are expressly excluded from the treaty to which we are a party. However, I believe that it is necessary for those who operate vessels to recognise that there is very sincere concern in Australia to ensure that all Australians participate to an equal extent in- supporting those Australians who are very nobly fighting in South Vietnam for a cause which we completely support. Consequently, there is a measure of real concern in the Australian community at visits by ships of any nation to Australian ports subsequent to their trading to ports in North Vietnam.
– 1 wish to ask a question of the Minister for National Development. Do the decisions of the River Murray Commission on Chowilla and Dartmouth require ratification by this Parliament and the parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia? Will those decisions involve the repeal or amendment of the Chowilla agreements of October 1963, which were unanimously and enthusiastically ratified by the eight Houses of the four parliaments to which I have referred, or will the 1963 legislation be merely ignored, as the .1949 legislation concerning the Adelaide-Port Pirie railway line has been ignored? When will the Minister introduce the enabling and/or repeal Bill or Bills so that honourable members can speak and vote on the matter?
– In view of the unanimous agreement of the four States concerned that the most suitable site for a clam is at Dartmouth, it will be necessary for legislation amending the River Murray Waters Act to be introduced in this Parliament and in each of the other three parliaments. Each government has agreed to introduce such legislation. 1 am afraid that at present 1 am unable to inform the Leader of the Opposition when this will be done but it will bc at the earliest possible moment. Of course, all members of this House will then have an opportunity to speak on the legislation.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service. ls it a fact that a national serviceman who serves his 2-year period and then volunteers to serve a further period with the Army waives his right to vocational training? Is it a fact that the Department of Labour and National Service has set up a committee to look into this matter? Can the Minister advise the House how long it will take his Department to make this most important and complicated decision?
– As I said in reply to a recent question on this subject by the honourable member for Maribyrnong, there is special machinery in the Government for examining these questions. This matter is now under urgent examination. Some of the requests which have been made are a bit wider than just vocational training. They concern the preservation of rights of employment for a period. As the House is aware, this has been extended by legislation to 2 years and 3 months. The question of rehabilitation in original employment is rather different. A number of other factors are involved. I will consult with my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, who has the primary responsibility in this sphere, to ascertain the position and will advise the honourable member accordingly.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Minister seen reports that Ansett Transport Industries Ltd has announced a profit increase of nearly 18% for the half year ended December 1968 and that this increase in profit was after a very substantial increase in provisions for taxation and depreciation? As the airline section of this company receives very favourable treatment from this Government, is it not therefore desirable that the profits from airline operations should be made public? Will the Minister undertake to obtain from Ansett Transport Industries Ltd a financial statement of its airline operations?
– I did see a report in the Press recently indicating a reasonable profit earned for the half year by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd which on a net basis will, 1 understand, allow it to pay its normal 10% as a dividend for the year. The position in relation to the accounts and records is that at the end of each financial year the company publishes a statement which consolidates all its accounts and provides publicly a certain amount of information in relation to the airline operations. In relation to the latter part of the question the position is that the Government has full and complete access to all the financial records of the airline operations of the Ansett Transport Industries group. The authority for this, of course, is vested in the Government under the Act whereby a guarantee, when taken up by the ATI group, makes it obligatory on it to reveal the full details of its financial records concerning the individual operations associated with airline activities. This information is available to the Govenment. It was available, in fact, on a voluntary basis prior to the company taking up the guarantee last year. The information is now fully available to the Government For inspection at any time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that of the proposed allocation for 1969-74 under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement to the State of New South Wales an amount of $63.87m is to be allotted for class i and class 2 roads classified as country trunk roads, and $109. 82m for class 3, class 4 and class 5 roads classified as other country roads, amounting in all to $1 73.6m? Is it also true that under the old formula for distribution in New South Wales the sum allotted for these roads in 1964-69 was $1 88.4m or (14.8m more than is henceforth to be provided? In these circumstances can the Minister say how the urgent needs of country road development can be met, particularly in the light of the increase in the New South Wales overall allocation of 81.9%?
– I did not quite pick up the exact figures to which the honourable gentleman referred, but it is true that the allocation for other rural roads within the proposed Commonwealth aids roads allocations for 1969-74 will be increased in total for New South Wales from $83.627m to $ 1 09.82m. lt is also true that for the other 60% that was previously unallocated within the Commonwealth aid roads grants for 1964-69, there was an allocation made by the New South Wales Government to country roads and to city roads. This, of course, was outside the control of the Commonwealth Government and the specific proportions were those that were determined entirely by that State Government. In the future it will be necessary, no doubt, in some States for there to be from within their own resources some reallocation of funds from the previous pattern of expenditure. In the past State governments have provided, and in the future no doubt will continue to provide, approximately two-thirds of the total sum of money provided for road construction, reconstruction and maintenance. Of the money that the Commonwealth has provided, there is henceforth to be, for this other one-third contribution, a specific allocation in the three designated areas. I understand that in New South Wales in the past a greater percentage of Commonwealth money has been spent on country roads and virtually no State moneys have been so spent, so it is necessary, perhaps, for there to be a redistribution and reallocation by the State Government to ensure that each sector of the community continues to receive an equitable distribution of the total sum of money spent on road construction, reconstruction and maintenance. By the total sum of money T refer not merely to the Commonwealth aid roads grant, but also to the other two-thirds that is provided from local government and State government resources.
– ls the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that on week days there are approximately six to eight commercial flights a day out of the Williamtown Airport which serves the city of Newcastle and its environs? Is he aware that no public telephones are available at Williamtown Airport for the travelling public? ls he also aware that 1 consulted his departmental officers some 2 or 3 months ago, that they assured me that telephones would ba installed at Williamtown Airport for the travelling public by mid-February last, but that they are not yet installed? Can tha Minister do anything about it?
– I have no knowledge of the matter that has been raised in relation to public telephones at Williamtown Airport, but I will certainly make some inquiries. This matter would concern my colleague the Postmaster-General and his Department, to some extent, if applications have been put through. But I will make inquiries through my own Department to see what has taken place in relation to the undertaking that was given.
I might mention that I have had correspondence already from the honourable member for Newcastle in relation to the services at Williamtown Airport. Certain other aspects of the airport and terminal facilities are being investigated at the present time. I will arrange for the investigation of the matters raised by the honourable member for Hunter to be carried out at the same time.
– I refer the Minister for Civil Aviation to today’s Press announcement that the New South Wales Government plans to develop the northern side of Botany Bay as a major second port for the Sydney area, and to the reported statement by the New South Wales Minister for Local Government that the cost to the New South Wales Government for this development would be lessened by the Commonwealth Government’s having agreed to take 3J million cubic yards of sand from an area it had previously dredged and 6i million cubic yards from the mouth of Botany Bay for extensions to the runways at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. I ask the Minister what extra costs will be involved for the Commonwealth Government in providing a channel 70 feet deep for the deep sea port, and whether this co-operative act by the Commonwealth Government either will cause the costs of the airport runways to rise or, more importantly, will cause a change in the anticipated date for completing the runway extensions?
– A couple of months ago my colleague the Minister for Works and I had a conference with the New South Wales Minister for Local Government and quite a number of representatives of the departments concerned in the New South Wales State Government. The question of the area to be dredged was discussed at great length. It certainly was agreed that the Commonwealth would take sand from the areas which were designated by the State and by the port authority. We are very satisfied with this agreement. I can assure the honourable member that we have received the utmost co-operation from the State in this matter. It is important to the State and important to us that problems in relation to foreshore erosion are very carefully considered. By agreeing with the State Government to take a large proproportion of filling closer to the entrance of the bay we were able to fit in with the State Government’s recently announced plans for port development on the northern part of the bay. We have allocated $23m to extend the runway up to 13,000 feet. The Department of Works will be calling tenders in about a fortnight’s time for the dredging operations. Tenders will close some weeks after that date. At the moment we cannot indicate what the actual cost will be. This will not be known until the tenders are eventually studied and the contracts let. My understanding, after discussions with the State people and with our own departments - the Department of Works and the Department of Civil Aviation - is that there will be no additional cost in this operation as a result of having to take the sand from this area. We are also assured by the Department of Works that there should not be any additional time taken, because this will be related to the number of dredges that will be operating in the locality and the different types of dredges which will be necessary to take the filling from the exposed area close to the entrance of the bay. We have had these assurances in regard to cost and time, but we will not know what the position will be until the contracts are actually let. However, there should not be any increase in our estimated cost or any additional time taken because of the change of locality.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. I refer him to the two problems of the storage of excess wheat in the southern States and the shortage of grain stock feed in the drought stricken areas of Queensland. Will the Minister confer with the Australian Wheat Board with a view to having grain released on reasonable terms to primary producers co-operatives and agencies so that the year of plenty in the south may soften the lean year in the north?
– As far as I am aware the Australian Wheat Board does not have authority to sell wheat on terms on the domestic market. When there have been drought conditions existing in the various States money has been made available through the State agricultural banks for the purchase of feed wheat or other grains on credit terms. The State banks have actually provided credit to enable farmers to purchase wheat from the Australian Wheat Board or from other grain boards. If there is a shortage of feed wheat in Queensland I would be happy to suggest to the Australian Wheat Board that it might have a look at ways and means of getting feed wheat to Queensland and making it available to farmers there.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: When will the promised devaluation compensation payments be made to the dairying companies? Is there any reason why the Commonwealth Equalisation Committee should not make an advance payment so that farmers may receive this long awaited supplement to their present low returns?
– The Government’s policy is that when an industry submits a claim for demonstrable losses due to devaluation, compensation is paid to the organisation which is handling the marketing of that commodity. Products of the dairying industry are handled by the Australian Dairy Produce Board. I believe that this organisation has submitted a claim. I also believe that payments have been made to the Australian Dairy Produce Board. The Board pools this money with its total collections and makes payments to the industry as funds are available.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air. Has the order for Macchi aircraft been cut back and, if so, can the Minister indicate the reason for this decision? Further, can the Minister say what impact this decision will have on the Australian aircraft industry?
– This matter is under consideration at the moment. We did place a firm order for 75 Macchi aircraft and of those aircraft 36 have been supplied. The area under consideration at present is in respect of the additional 33 aircraft previously announced.
– Can the Minister for the Army advise on latest developments regarding the proposed establishment of a marine base for the Army in Queensland?
– I know that the honourable gentleman has taken a particular interest in the establishment, by the Army, of a small craft base on the Queensland coast. This is a project which the Army has had under examination for some time. Early last year an Army reconnaissance team surveyed a number of likely sites. However there are a number of complex issues involved in any relocation from the present base at Woolwich and not all of these issues have been resolved at this particular time. I am hopeful that there will be further progress at a reasonably early date, but some aspects of this matter are beyond Army control. I will, however, undertake to keep the honourable gentleman progressively informed of developments.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport indicate an approximate date for the completion of the standard gauge railway from Sydney to Perth?
– As the honourable gentleman will be aware, a fortnight ago the first passenger-freight train on the new standard gauge line that connects Port Pirie to Kewdale went into service. The line between Cockburn and Port Pirie has been completed substantially. Quite a deal of preliminary work is now progressing satisfactorily on the link between Cockburn and Broken Hill. At this stage I am still hopeful that the line will be completed and the through route from Sydney to Perth in service by the end of this year. There are reasonable prospects that this date may be advanced subject to normal operational requirements and some technical difficulties of getting the actual physical work done by the time that has been set down in tha prescribed schedule.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs read an article by a senior research officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation advocating the establishment of a world food corporation to work in close collaboration with existing international organisations whose efforts, he claims, need to be intensified if world food production is to catch up and keep up with population growth? Has the Australian Government indicated its willingness to support greater efforts towards meeting this urgent world problem?
– I have seen the article to which the honourable gentleman refers. It raises a number of very complex problems. The Australian Government, as the House will know, makes a considerable contribution to the needs of underdeveloped countries by way of food aid and other normal aid programmes. It also makes gifts of food in situations of sudden emergency. But the suggestion mentioned by the honourable member contemplates something wider and of more general application. It has been under consideration, but it must take its place amongst other priorities. For example, a commonly held view is that the world’s food problem can probably be best solved by making contributions to the development of food production in those countries that continually suffer deficiencies. This is one of the reasons why our aid to such countries takes the form of meeting requests for the development of their own resources. The other side of the problem, of course, is: Who will pay for the purchase of food from countries with food surpluses? There is no general agreement internationally on this question. Some of the countries which would be expected to contribute in the form of cash rather than food hold the view that the countries with food surpluses would be using this method as a means of disposing of their surpluses rather than as a means of aiding the countries with deficiencies. As the honourable member can see, though we do have the matter under consideration, it must take its place amongst other priorities and its does present a number of problems.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Has his attention been drawn to a statement by Mr Askin, the Liberal Premier of New South Wales, on his return from the meeting of the Australian Loan Council, in which he praised the Prime Minister but said the Treasurer was so interested in statistics and balancing the Budget that he had forgotten about the people, who wanted schools, hospitals, houses and health services? If so, is it a fact that the Treasurer is responsible for the failure of the Government to provide adequate funds for social services, education, housing, hospitals and national development? Is it also a fact that the statement by the Premier of New South Wales is another reason why the Leader of the Australian Country Party torpedoed the attempts of the Treasurer to become Prime Minister?
– As to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, Mr Askin had every reason to be enthusiastic about the way he had been treated by the Prime Minister and by the Government as a whole.
– And by you.
– The Prime Minister has added ‘And by you,’ because each of the recommendations was made by me. I repeat that Mr Askin was magnificently treated. He received an increase of 82% in his grants for roads from the Commonwealth, and this must have exceeded his wildest expectations. Not only did he get this increase, but the Commonwealth also agreed, in order to help the States with their potential Budget deficits, to make available something of the order of $12m. Of that amount Mr Askin received $3.990m. I have no doubt at all that he did not expect to receive that amount when he arrived here. I think New South Wales was very well treated. As to some other statements made by Mr Askin, I have already made it plain that they were incorrect and his statement about the possibility of this matter being decided outside the Cabinet is also incorrect. I regard the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question as insulting and have no intention of answering it.
– My question also is addressed to the Treasurer. In the statement by the Minister for Shipping and Transport on 13 th March concerning the Commonwealth aid roads programme in South Australia, the supplementary grants were listed as $9m for South Australia, $40. 8m for Western Australia and S2.25m for Tasmania. Arc these amounts being made available to ensure equity between these three States because the application of the new formula produces these deficiences? Does this mean that Western Australia was seriously disadvantaged and that South Australia and Tasmania were disadvantaged to a lesser extent under the old agreement? In view of the Commonwealth’s responsibility to ensure that each State Government is placed in a position where it is able to provide services to its citizens of a standard comparable with those in other States, will the Government give consideration to some further appropriation of funds to these three States equivalent to the amount by which they were disadvantaged under the old agreement.
– As I said a few moments ago in answer to a question from a member of the Opposition, I believe that, under the Commonwealth aid roads grants, the States are being magnificently treated in this quinquennium as compared with the last 5 years. I should explain that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads first of alt analysed this problem on behalf of the Government and carried out what is called a needs survey. What it did then was to find out what the total needs for high class roads in Australia were and to decide to which State the needs appropriations should bc made. But it went a stage further and had a look at what could in fact be achieved with the available resources of manpower and materials and with the benefits of technological progress. It then submitted to the Government a scheduling programme which was closely associated with reality. The next step was for the Government to consider it. We decided that our approach should be on the basis of a principal grant and then a supplementary grant. The principal grant was $l,200m. I do not think that the Premier of South Australia made any objection at all to the amount he received from the principal grant. When the supplementary grant was looked at, the decision of the Government was that we should ensure that each State would receive at least 50% more than the amount it received under the preceding 5-year grant. The amounts made available under the supplementary grant were, I think, those just mentioned by the honourable member. It was here that the Premier of South Australia took exception. While I believe that he put a very forceful and strong case for his own State, there is room for argument whether what he proposed or some other method might have been more appropriate.
Might I point out that the Government, particularly the Prime Minister and myself, has been particularly concerned with the difficult budget position of South Australia which resulted mainly from the difficulties created for it by the preceding Labor regime, which raided the trust funds and left the coffers bare. It did in fact create an extraordinarily serious problem for the Premier, Mr Steele Hall. This is one matter that has given us a great deal of concern, and it is one to which the Prime Minister and I have been giving a great deal of attention in recent weeks. Might I also say to the honourable member that we have tried to help South Australia in other ways. For example, the Government found the residue of the money - I cannot remember the exact amount at the moment, but it was of the order of $25m - required to enable South Australia to complete the natural gas pipeline from Gidgealpa to Adelaide. We have, therefore, shown that we are always willing to look at the problems of South Australia, particularly under existing circumstances. If we feel that that State needs special assistance that is extraordinary and beyond its finance competence, a sympathetic audience can be expected from the Government, particularly from the Prime Minister. The only other comment I will make about South Australia is that in the last few years it has had a number of financial and economic difficulties. I am glad to be able to say that, on the latest reports, its position is improving, and I hope that under a sensible, sane government like the Steele Hall Government it will do even better in the days to come.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the three bank robberies which took place in Sydney last Friday, the first at 10-45 a.m. in Alexandria, the second at 11.15 a.m. in West Ryde and the third at 4.45 p.m. in Hurlstone Park? Is he aware that senior bank officers and parents of junior tellers are reluctant to allow juniors to work in the position of teller when the security of all banks is so easily broken and the lives of bank officers are placed in grave danger? Is it correct to say that the outlay of a very small amount in proportion to bank holdings, namely approximately lc per dollar, would enable all banks to employ a full time security service to protect the lives of bank officers and bank funds? Will the Treasurer call an immediate conference of all banks to discuss and implement the best security methods possible and thus save a lot of lives as well as the money that may be stolen?
– It is a long time since I have been to southern Ireland. Therefore I did not understand the first part of the honourable member’s question. As to the second part of the question, I was not aware of the increase in danger to bank officers and bank funds to which the honourable member referred. I am not deeply concerned about the funds; the banks can look after those themselves. So far as the personnel are concerned, I will take up the matter with the Reserve Bank, and if necessary with the banks themselves, to ensure that adequate security precautions are taken.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Treasurer, by saying that in his Budget speech the right honourable gentleman referred to a scheme to issue drought bonds to enable people, mainly in arid areas, to set aside funds as a provision against drought, fire or flood by investing in these bonds. The urgency of this need has been accentuated by the fact that because of drought many graziers, particularly in Queensland, have had to sell stock which they would not have otherwise sold. Can the Treasurer inform me when legislation to give effect to this scheme will be introduced? Will the scheme be operating in this current financial year and so enable the present hard pressed sufferers from drought who have been compelled to sell stock to benefit from it?
– The first draft of the Cabinet submission relating to the drought bond legislation was placed on my table within the last 2 hours. It is the hope of the Treasury that I will be able to submit this to the Cabinet soon - certainly within the course of the next few weeks. I am informed that because of the wish that this legislation should be brought down and passed during this current session the Treasury has taken the opportunity of thoroughly briefing the Crown law officers and the Parliamentary Draftsman in order to have the legislation in outline form so that when Cabinet approval is given, whether with or without changes, the Bill may be completed quickly. I would like to add that this has been a most complicated and completely novel measure - one which demanded a new type of bond and a new type of administration. The Taxation Branch, the Treasury, and my colleagues in the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Trade and Industry have all been working strenuously to ensure that the legislation is put on the statute book as soon as possible. I very much hope that it will be introduced and passed during this session.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honourable gentleman will remember that last July he announced that the Attorney-General was examining all courses open to the Commonwealth to impose severe penalties on persons convicted of mob lawlessness, violence and destruction and was consulting with the States and that when this had been done he himself would announce the results to the Australian people. While I myself would have thought that State statutes were quite adequate, I ask the Prime Minister whether the AttorneyGeneral has completed his examination of the Commonwealth aspects and his consultations with the States? When will the right honourable gentleman announce the results to the Parliament and the people?
– The Leader of the Opposition is referring to the question of penalties adequate to the offences being able to be imposed on people convicted of riot. That I am sure is what he has in mind. The Attorney-General has been discussing this matter with the Attorneys-General of the various States, which has necessarily taken considerable time as discussions with six Attorneys-General always do. He has also, in the course of seeking to get some uniformity into this whole affair, closely examined and - I am not sure but I believe - has outlined the principles of a Bill which one would hope could be uniform but which if it were not uniform could be applicable to Australian territories. Just what stage this has reached I am not at the moment sure of but the Attorney-General is still handling the matter.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Social Services, 1 refer to the pensioner medical service and the present custom of issuing only one medical entitlement card in the case of joint pensioners, such as husband and wife. As this practice is causing difficulty when the individual partners wish to take independent action, will the Minister arrange for the issue of separate cards as a general practice rather than by special application, as presently applies?
– It is usual to issue a joint card. The practice is that on application a separate card is available. It is thought that in most cases the joint card is of greater convenience but in any case where separate cards are desired the instruction is that they be issued without delay. I will see that this instruction is adhered to.
– by leave - In the course of recent consideration of the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act relating to ownership and control of television stations, a shortcoming in the provisions of section 92b - the provision that defines what is meant by control of a company for the purposes of this part of the Act - has come to notice.
Section 92b (1) (a), in dealing with control of television stations through voting rights, treats a person who is in a position to exercise control of more than 15% of the maximum number of votes that could be cast on a poll at, or arising out of, a general meeting of the company holding the licence, as being in a position to exercise control of that company. The limitation of this provision to the company holding the licence means that control based purely on more than 15% of voting rights cannot be traced through a series of companies. This limitation is unintentional. In most cases the defect would not matter in practice as other provisions of section 92b would operate to enable control to be traced through shareholding interests, irrespective of voting power. However, the Commonwealth’s legal advisers have advised that it may be possible to avoid these other provisions by the interposition of companies that do not have a share capital but are limited by guarantee.
The Government has decided that these loopholes should be closed and appropriate amendments will be brought down in the course of the current session of Parliament to give effect to this decision. The legislation will be given retrospective operation to the date of this announcement so that any arrangements made after the announcement that seek to take advantage of the loopholes will be caught.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) proposing that a matter of definite public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to undertake a survey into the extent, distribution, causes and effects of poverty in Australia, to marshal adequate administrative and financial resources for a campaign to eliminate poverty and to encourage participation in that campaign among all sections of the community.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– It is now 3 years since Melbourne University’s Institute of Applied
Economic Research, to which I shall refer as the Institute, began to count and classify the poor in Australia. It is now 4 years since the Department of Social Services last surveyed a significant cross-section of social service beneficiaries, but only 4 weeks since the results of that survey were made available for the first time to members of the Parliament. It is now clear that at least 1 million Australians are victims of poverty or marginal poverty. It is now clear that the Government has inhibited independent research into poverty and withheld information on the condition of the poor.
On 25th January the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) addressed the Australian Institute of Political Science summer school on social services and poverty. He could not find time in his speech for the problems of Australians who have large families. He was therefore unable to point out that, according to a survey of living conditions in Melbourne which was conducted by the Institute, 22% of these families are living in poverty or marginal poverty. He had no opportunity to acknowledge that parenthood in the eyes of a Libera] government merits no financial recognition. The maternity allowance has remained unaltered for 25 years although costs associated with a confinement have increased five-fold over that period. Endowment of first children has not been increased for 18 years, of second children for 20 years and of third children for 4 yeaTs. In 1949, families with three children received in child endowment 11.5% of the average man’s weekly income. They now receive 5%. In 1948, the minimum wage was $11.60 and a family with three children received in child endowment $4. In order to preserve this ratio, such a family would now need to receive $12 but in fact receives $6.75. Child endowment represented 1.28% of Australia’s gross national product in 1950-51. In 1968-69 it will represent 0.74%.
The Minister, however, conceded that civilian widow pensioners with more than one child are likely to be impoverished, with this qualification:
Although there are undoubtedly bad individual cases, the overall position may not be as bad as would prima facie appear. Some de jure widows receive provision from their husband’s estate or insurance or by way of compensation for his death; many divorcees and separated wives receive some alimony or maintenance; where the marriage has been in existence some time there is likely to be home ownership or a substantial equity in a home.
In fact, 76% of all class A widows have incomes of not more than $52 a year, 81% have property valued at not more than $400 and only 35% own or are acquiring a home. Similarly, 72% of class B widows have incomes of not more than $52, 73% have not more than $400 in property and only 42% have a home of their own. Despite the Minister’s apologia, 22,000 civilian widow pensioners and 60,000 children who are dependent upon them receive, as an act of government policy, incomes below the poverty line.
Finally, the Minister proclaimed:
Measured in terms of today’s prices … the age pension for those who are single and pay rent and have nothing else to live on has gone up from $9.58 in December 1949 to $18 today - an increase of 88% in 19 years. This is a signal advance in the real value of the pension, considered as a weapon against poverty.
The Minister understandably did not point out that age pensions in 1948-49 equalled 24% of average weekly earnings and in 1967-68 20%. He did not mention that age pensioners even as recently as 1954 were allowed to earn additional income equal to 100% of the pension, but by 1968 could earn in the case of single pensioners 71% and of married couples 68%. He did not mention that every dollar earned over and above this amount reduced the pension by a dollar, thus in effect attracting marginal taxation at the rate of 100%. In a time of general prosperity, age pensioners find that the gap between their standard of living and standards enjoyed by the remainder of the community is greater than ever before. Moreover, the Melbourne survey revealed that 21% of all pensioners are victims of poverty, while a further 17% are living in marginal poverty.
The inadequacies of the Government’s social services programmes are matched by the inadequacy of its social service statistics. In place of comprehensive poverty statistics we have the results of a survey of living standards in a single city, still after 3 years incompletely analysed. Figures so far released by the Institute suggest that at least one Australian in every sixteen is a victim of primary poverty, or deprivation arising from a simple lack of means. They tell us nothing about the incidence of secondary poverty, which arises as an economic consequence of alcoholism, acute marital discord and other symptoms of social or economic maladjustment.
The Interregional Expert Meeting on Social Welfare Organisation and Administration held in Geneva in 1967 observed that ‘there is an explicit responsibility for government to ensure that all possible research resources should be made available as a reliable guide for the development of social welfare policies and programmes’. Research into the extent of poverty in Australia and the adequacy of Australian social services is rendered unnecessarily laborious, time-consuming and ineffectual by the Government’s failure to accept such responsibility. Authorities responsible for providing various services should be obliged to document their activities with proper statistical data, collected and published in an agreed standard form. Many relevant statistics are not now collected. Many are collected but not published. Many are published in a form which renders them useless for comparative and evaluative purposes.
The Minister and the Prime Minister have repeatedly pleaded in answer to my questions on social services and social welfare that no information is available on such questions as the incomes of persons of pensionable age, the number of such persons in mental hospitals and the number of social workers to be trained. Moreover, gross inadequacies in the statistics of social security are magnified by ministerial proclivity for suppressing and distorting available information. In February 1965 the Department of Social Services conducted a Statistical Survey of the Characteristics of Age, Invalid and Widow Pensioners in New South Wales. The results of this 4- year-old survey were made available to honourable members only 4 weeks ago. They were tabled surreptitiously in the library after attention had been focussed on the reticence of the Minister and the Department by speakers at the summer school on poverty.
It is interesting to compare the full results of the survey with snippets included in the twenty-fourth report of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services. Information on widow pensioners set out in that report is in all cases but one dissected among widows, deserted wives and other categories of pensioner. Information on home ownership is a significant exception. Had the DirectorGeneral made this dissection, he would have been obliged to reveal that the proportion of home ownership among deserted wives was 11%, as opposed to 50% among de jure widows and 35% among civilian widows as a whole. Had this sad and politically inconvenient item of information been made available, the Government might long since have been compelled to improve the lot of these, the most unlucky of all Australians. It is deplorable that the Department cannot in these matters be as frank and self-critical as the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. This department constantly surveys and assesses the adequacy and relevance of its activities. It publishes comprehensive survey results in a monthly ‘Social Security Bulletin’. It encourages general participation in programme evaluation and improvement.
The extent and character of poverty in Australia will not be properly established, nor will public concern be adequately engaged and mobilised, without a national inquiry leading to a comprehensive and objective report. The Minister appears to concur with his predecessor in the view that poverty is a matter best left to ‘academic institutions which can investigate the matter free from political pressure’, and he has been similarly ineffectual in persuading his colleague, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), to provide the funds which such a project would require.
Professor Ronald Henderson of the Institute told the summer school that it would cost $250,000 merely to repeat in other parts of Australia the inquiries into living standards which the Institute had already conducted in Melbourne. It is not possible to take seriously a Government which asserts that poverty is a matter for academics to investigate but denies academics the funds to investigate it.
The Government in fact ignores and handicaps Australians who are well qualified by training and experience to provide advice on poverty. It ignores and belittles the example of industrial nations with which in other matters we compare ourselves. Britain, New Zeal’and, Canada, Ireland and Sweden are but five of the nations which now provide income-related, meanstestfree retirement benefits through public pension plans. Citizens of these nations are not faced upon retirement with a traumatic reduction in their living standards. Far from ensuring through national superannuation that all Australians enjoy dignity and comfort in retirement, the Liberal Party now disowns even its promise to abolish the means test, proclaiming that it would cost $340m. lt would not be ruinous, however, to take deliberate steps to abolish the means test. It would cost $65m to pay a full pension to ali persons of 75 years of age and over irrespective of their income, and another $12m to pay it to all persons of 74 years of age. These are practical! steps which a Commonwealth government could take to bring Australia progressively into line with other comparable developed countries. They are steps which the present Minister - in view of all his past postures, speeches and statements - should regard himself as bound to take. They are steps which a Labour government would in fact take.
Poverty is a moral question. It is an economic question. In Canada, for instance, it has been pointed out by the Government’s Committee of Economic Advisors that poverty is costly not only to the poor individual but to the community. The Committee pointed out that in the United States one poor man can cost the public purse as much as $140,000 between the ages of 17 and 57. Under the Canadian Assistance Plan the resources of the Federal Government are combined with those of the provincial governments, local government and voluntary agencies to combat poverty. The plan authorises provision of such necessities as food, shelter, clothing, transport, health care and tools of trade. It finances welfare services to reintegrate the poor with the communities from which they have been outcast. It is, in short, a nation’s charter for the overthrow of poverty.
The Labor Party does not regard poverty as a matter of merely academic concern. Labor senators have given notice of motion for a select committee of the Senate to inquire into and report upon the incidence, distribution, causes and effects of poverty in Australia. Professor Henderson and his team would assist the committee and be assisted by it.
Upon assuming office Labor will adopt as a matter of urgency legislation based upon the Canadian assistance plan. It will regard such legislation as a framework within which the welfare services of the Commonwealth, State governments, local government and voluntary agencies can be deployed against poverty most economically and with the greatest effect.
We will establish a joint statutory committee of the Parliament to make a constant review of the relevance and adequacy of social services. It will be enjoined to encourage general participation in the task of ensuring that for every dollar spent on social services the community makes maximum progress towards the reduction and ultimate elimination of poverty.
Realising that appropriate measures for income maintenance must play a vital part in the overthrow of poverty, Labor will investigate and introduce within its first 3 years a comprehensive national superannuation plan. We will expand the concept of child endowment to provide selective support for Australians with larger families and smaller incomes. We take the initiative in announcing such positive and realistic policies. They are not overnight decisions. They have been published in our platform for years past. They are relevant and practical steps which must be taken if Australia is to become a nation free of poverty. They are steps which must be taken if the children of today’s poor are not to become the poor of tomorrow, and if ordinary Australians on retirement are not to be faced with a great, harmful reduction in their living standards. They are steps which can be taken only under a Labor government.
– As I was listening to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) giving what I suppose he intends as a pre-election speech, I could not help but be reminded of some of the policy speeches of his late lamented leaders over the last 20 years while Labor has been out of office. These speeches contained many things which were excellent and many things which were most attractive. The only thing is that while you could have done any one of them, the total load on the economy, if you had put them all together, would have been utterly outrageous.
The Leader of the Opposition brings forward a proposal now and hopes that it will be seen in isolation from the other proposals that he will bring forward concerning the necessities for development, the necessities for defence and all this other material which is absolutely essential to the survival of the Australian nation. When the whole packet is put together it will be found, as has been found with previous Labor speeches over the last 20 years, to be impractical and visionary, because it is fantastic to think that all these things can be done.
The Leader of the Opposition has spoken of poverty. What do we mean by poverty? He has not really troubled to define it. 1 myself believe that there will always be comparative poverty in every country. 1 say this in this sense, and in this sense only; comparative poverty exists largely because the standard of living of the whole country should be consistently rising and what would have been comparative poverty in past years is seen as much more rigorous in our time because the standard has risen. Our standards are rising. What we would consider as poverty today - and rightly so - would have been considered almost affluence 20 or 30 years ago. These standards are rising.
– What rot.
– The honourable member said: ‘What rot.’ The position is this: Twenty years ago the standard rate of pension for those people at the bottom of the scale was $4.25 per week. Even if we make allowance for the change in the cost of living and the price levels, even if we disregard such things as the supplementary allowance, the provision of medical services and things of this character - even if we disregard these very relevant things - in terms of real purchasing power the basic pension has risen by over 50%. This is something of which we should be glad. We are proud of it because in point of fact what we are doing is raising the standard of living of the whole community. As this is done, obviously the real standard of living of the pensioners rises. What would be considered poverty today, in terms of real purchasing power, would have been regarded as almost affluence in those dead days of 20 years ago.
This is something of which we should be proud and glad. In this sense - and in this sense only - comparative poverty is always with us because the standards of living of the community are rising all the time. Much depends always on where we draw the line at which we consider poverty to commence. Suppose we adopt the line that Professor Henderson adopted a couple of years ago. He took the case of a man and a wife on the basic wage with endowment for two children and added arbitrary loading of 80c a week. This gave a total1 of $33. If we take into account the changes in price levels since that time the present day figure would be about $34.50. This is the line that we have to regard as the poverty line according to the criterion adopted by Professor Henderson.
If we take Professor Henderson’s figures and adopt the kind of calculation which he adopted we find that the single male pensioner is about 15c ahead of the poverty line, the single female pensioner is ahead by rather more than that and the married couple is ahead by about $6. These ai people who draw nothing else but the pension. 1 am not saying that the Government is satisfied with this. Of course it is not. 1 am saying that this is the best that has ever been done in Australia and that there will be better to come, lt is not entirely irrelevant to say that Australia spends less on smallpox treatment than India does. We do not have the same problems here or the same kinds of endemic needs. Again, I quote from the paper presented by Professor Henderson dealing with his Melbourne survey on poverty. On page 4 of this paper, Professor Henderson said:
This is a low figure in comparison wilh the United States or Britain.
Indeed, he could have said: ‘In comparison with practically every country in the world’. We in Australia need not be complacent or self-satisfied, but at least we can say that we are doing better than practically anyone else in this regard. We do not have the pockets of poverty that exist in such large measure in practically every other country. We have not eliminated poverty and we know there are still cases to be met, but progressively we are meeting these cases in a more satisfactory manner.
We can say that we are doing better than practically any other country in this regard. I have quoted what Professor Henderson had to say in relation to this. Of course there are some pockets of poverty left. This is particularly evident in the field of accommodation and housing. Looking back over the last 15 or 20 years it is obvious that the Government has really tackled this problem, first with its aged persons homes scheme, which is proceeding today at an accelerated pace. It has tackled it with subventions to the State housing commissions which make provision for the housing of the aged, with the introduction of the hostel concept into aged persons’ homes and with the addition of nursing homes to aged persons’ homes. With the proposal at present before the House, to help the Stales to provide extra beds in their nursing homes, we are making a real impact upon this most important of all aspects of the problem. Again we are following the line suggested by Professor Henderson in his paper in thinking in terms of specific measures to meet the specific needs of those who are still below the poverty line.
Once the accommodation problem is solved and the housing plan is fully under way - it is moving now faster than it has ever moved, although perhaps it is not moving fast enough - we will have taken away a great deal of the problem. In the last few years we have made tremendous advances. In the last Budget we lifted the burden from the chronically sick with our reforms for nursing homes and nursing home subsidies. Does the Opposition deny that these are advances?
– It denies that they are tremendous.
– There will be people in the honourable member’s electorate - or in the new electorate to which he will be driven - who still will think these advances are tremendous. They will not be too happy with the way in which he is writing them down.
Mr SPEAKER -Order!The honourable member will cease interjecting.
– I have not started yet.
-Order! I warn the honourable member that if he starts again I will deal with him.
– Several matters were raised by the Leader of the Opposition in bringing this forward as a matter of public importance. One of the matters was in regard to surveys. It is true that the survey which was carried out in Melbourne was largely financed by the Government. Honourable members will find that this is acknowledged on the first page of the printed brochure. The Victorian Council of Social Services newsletter carried a report of an address Professor Henderson gave to the quarterly meeting of the Council. Professor Henderson said:
There were some comments from the audience that the Government should undertake a Commonwealth wide survey but the interviewers associated with the Melbourne survey had all been firmly convinced that they would not have obtained such ready co-operation from the subjects of the survey, if the information were for government use.
It is unfortunately true that it is better to work through an institution such as the University of Melbourne because more accurate results can be obtained. One does not find such a distortion of the basic information when working through such an institution. This is acknowledged in the survey and I am afraid it is true.
It has been said that we have done nothing about the means test. Do honourable members opposite forget that when Labor was in power ownership of property meant virtual disqualification from eligibility for a pension. It was not until this Government brought in the merged means test that the person who had saved a little and had a little property received any justice in regard to pension entitlement. This has been one of the great achievements of this Government. Finally - and I see my time is running out - we are urged to have a commission to encourage participation among all sections of the community. This is exactly what the Government has encouraged. We are trying, and we shall continue to try, to involve voluntary and other organisations in our plans for the relief of those who are afflicted with poverty. It is better this way. It is better that we should try to do this than to put everything into departmental hands. We have encouraged participation. Whenever we have done so we have found ourselves criticised by the Socialists, centralists and totalitarians from the other side of the House who say: ‘All you are doing is avoiding government responsibility’. This is not so; not for one moment. We know very well that it is better for these fringe things to be applied through voluntary and charitable organisations which are better at doing it than is the best of departments. We differ from the Australian Labor Party in that we encourage participation from all sections of the community in our campaign against poverty, and we gratefully acknowledge their help.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 am completely unmoved by the ravings and rantings of the frustrated rebel who now occupies the position of Minister for Social Services. I remind him that he has evidently forgotten that in 1949 he, with every other member of the Government that was elected then, was elected on a policy which proposed to present to this Parliament in 1952 a complete plan for the elimination of the means test. That policy has gone completely by the board. I agree that whilst pensions may have increased in actual money terms, their purchasing power has never been less. I think that I should try to define poverty for the benefit of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). Many efforts have been made to define poverty. It appears that Professor Appleyard’s definition is reasonably appropriate, in view of the Minister’s statement concerning how our economy has improved. Professor Appleyard states:
A person is poverty-stricken when his income, even if adequate for survival, faits markedly behind that of the community.
This is precisely what has happened today. Those on the poverty level are markedly behind. How can poverty be described? The Minister might well take note of the following extract from that splendid publication The Hidden People’ by John Stubbs, in which poverty is described as follows:
Poverty can be seen in an expression. There ls a haunting face that echoes the great depression that can still be seen in the shanties and slums of Australia today. It is a mother’s face, careworn, prematurely aged and lined, with a brave but slightly baffled look. Poverty can be seen in the stooped shoulders of a middle-aged labourer, in the thin legs of a poorly nourished schoolboy. Poverty can be a smell - of clothing that is washed without hot water or soap; of food where there is no refrigerator; in the dingy house of an old or sick person who receives inadequate care; in the rooms of a family which has no access to an outside area so that nappies and other washing must be hung in already crowded rooms.
The same author, in a chapter entitled The Culture of Poverty’, tragically but truly describes the scene. He writes:
A man on crutches queueing among dozens of other unemployed men for a bowl of soup at the Matthew Talbot Hostel for Homeless and Destitute Men in Woolloomooloo.
A lonely widowed mother sitting in the dark so that her three children, who with her share one bed in a rented room in a Bondi Junction terrace, can go to sleep.
An arthritic old age pensioner carrying a bucket of water up two flights of unlit dank stairs to her tiny room in a Redfern tenement, hoping it will meet her needs for two days, so that she does not have to make the cruel struggle again.
How many people, I ask the House, come within these tragic categories in Australia today? The Government certainly does not know how accurately, because it has never bothered to conduct a national survey. The Minister himself is evidently vague and uninformed on the subject because in a speech to the Summer School on Poverty in Australia, held in Canberra on 25th January 1969, he said: but in Australia today absolute poverty in the strict sense is a very rare exception.
Of course, the Government always has grades now. In respect of poverty, poverty is absolute, comparative and personal. If a person is aged, he is aged or frail aged. If he is sick, he is sick or very sick. If he is poor, he is poor or very poor. The Government always has categories. Later, the Minister said:
This reveals strikingly that the Minister has no great knowledge of the position. However, he was right on the beam when he said to the conference:
The rate of unemployment benefit is insufficient to maintain a man and his family above the poverty line. This state of affairs is only tolerable if unemployment is short term.
This could apply also to sickness. The unemployment and sickness benefit for a man, wife and two children today is $17.25, against a total wage of $37.90 and average earnings of $70.80. The average number of beneficiaries for unemployment benefits in 1967-68 was just over 31,000 weekly.
The benefits have remained unchanged for 7 years. Does the Minister deny that the recipients of these benefits live in poverty in Australia? I emphasise that there are more than 31,000 of them every day of the week. The Minister says that provided a long period is not involved it does not matter whether the recipients starve. Is it any wonder that in an article in the December issue of the ‘Economic Record’ Professor Downing said:
The rates of benefit paid currently to the unemployed and the sick are a national disgrace.
I have quoted that extract for the Minister’s benefit because the Government, to its eternal discredit, has never made a survey of the extent and causes of poverty throughout Australia. We are dependent on surveys made by individuals or organisations and, until such time as the Government conducts a survey and ceases to provide second-hand information on the actual position, the findings of those who have done this research must be accepted. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) referred to a study carried out by Professor Henderson of the Institute of Applied Economic Research of the Melbourne University. This study was made in 1966 and it indicates strikingly what should be done. The study showed that one person in every sixteen in Melbourne and the metropolitan area was living below the poverty line. There were nearly 134,000 people, or 5i% of the population, and 42,000 children in that category. The poverty line was described as an income of $33 a week for a family unit of a man, wife and two children. This survey and other independent exhaustive research by other organisations indicated that at least 700,000 Australians are living in poverty - about 140,000 of them in Sydney and, as I have said, in Melbourne one in sixteen of the population. The number could be even higher but until the Government takes a census or conducts an inquiry as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, we will not know.
At present there are 689,000 age pensioners and 115,000 invalid pensioners in Australia - a total of 804,000. Invalid pensioners are people who are at least 85% incapacitated. They need accommodation and medical attention and no-one can deny that thousands of them are living below the poverty line. Possibly the best way to prove this is to examine the number of pensioners who are eligible to receive supplementary assistance in addition to the basic pension. On 30th June 1968, 92,407 age pensioners arid 38,735 invalid pensioners - a total of 131,142 - were entirely dependent on the pension and supplementary assistance of $2 a week. This means that they are living on $16 a week as compared with the total wage of $37.90 a week and the Australian average earnings of $70.80 a week. Will the Minister say that they are not below the poverty line, and does this not completely destroy his argument that only 20,000 are living below it today?
At present 18,818 wives of pensioners and 13,956 dependent children are endeavouring to exist on the benefits that are applied to them. These figures indicate that there is a great need for the inquiry we are seeking. We should look into the situation at the national level, not only to discover the areas of poverty but to determine how best to remedy the position. Such inquiries have been made in England, the United States of America and in other countries. If we examine the figures relating to widows and others we will find that there are thousands existing below the poverty level because of this Government’s policy of not facing its responsibilities. The Government has an obligation to face this problem. The Minister himself admitted this when he said at the Summer School on Poverty:
The Government has an unequivocal responsibility to eliminate absolute poverty.
On 21st February 1969 the Treasurer (Mr M c M ahon) said, as he has said dozens of times: ‘We have never had it better. The economy can afford anything. The horizons are unlimited.’ The Government’s policy, the Minister’s obligations and the Treasurer’s confidence in our economy show that it is possible to meet our obligations to those in need.
We want a national inquiry into and a survey of poverty. We want adequate financial provision for the States and others, and we want to ensure the maintenance of the purchasing power of social service benefits. Until this Government faces its responsibility to the poor, especially those below the poverty line, does what a national government should do and takes this matter out of the party political arena and gives to all the social justice to which they are entitled, it deserves to be condemned for its failure to solve the greatest human problem of our time and that is the prevention of poverty and the aiding of those who live in poverty in a country that is looked upon as one of the most wealthy, most affluent and most prosperous in the world today.
– Basically the Opposition is asking us to look at three matters. The first is what it says is the Government’s failure to undertake a survey into the extent, distribution, causes and effects of poverty in Australia. The second is the marshalling of adequate administrative and financial resources for a campaign to eliminate poverty. The third is to encourage participation by the community in that campaign. Before I look at these three matters, I think it is worth mentioning that the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science on poverty held in Canberra, which has been rightly mentioned very fully by Opposition members, was attended by one honourable member on the Opposition side for the last session only and he read a paper that he did not write. Three honourable members on the Government side attended the whole of the time and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) was there for most of the time. The conference was also attended by a large number of people involved in government services in this field, including the heads of departments. This shows that the Opposition is more interested in the political side of this matter than in finding out how to cure poverty and what is happening to those who suffer from poverty in Australia.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) misquoted the Minister for Social Services on two occasions. He claimed that the Minister had said there was scarcely any absolute poverty in Australia today. That is true. But the honourable member did not give the Minister’s definition of absolute poverty, which was that absolute poverty connotes the absence of the food, clothing and shelter necessary to maintain life. The Minister spoke more fully about comparative poverty, which he admitted did exist. Similarly, the honourable member mentioned the figure of 70,000 people, but he did not say that this was mentioned in the context of housing. In his speech at the Summer School, the Minister mentioned the people on the threshhold of poverty. He used the figures that resulted from the survey conducted by Professor Henderson of the University of Melbourne. Today the figure is $35.46 a week for a family and this has been related to the various levels and groups within the community. As the Minister said, widows with more than three or four children are the class that suffers most from poverty. This is not to say that poverty is not found in any other class.
I think we should examine the terms of the subject that has been raised by the Opposition today and see what has happened. Have we failed to make a survey? As the Minister said, the Melbourne survey was largely financed by the Government. If honourable members opposite had been at the Summer School they would have heard the Minister say that if further surveys are warranted the Government will either sponsor them or assist them financially. Similarly, the Government itself conducts surveys into subjects on which it needs information, not only through the Department of Social Services but ako through the Department of Labour and National Service. Many other bodies also conduct surveys. But one feature of the Summer School was the almost unanimous view that it was better for surveys to be conducted by bodies such as universities and not by the Government.
Have we not marshalled adequate administrative and financial resources in the community for a campaign against poverty? Little mention is made of the fact that since the Second World War we have had full employment. This is the major reason why Australia has less poverty than any other country in the Western world has. One out of very two houses in Australia today has been built in the time that this Government has been in office. As the Minister admitted, there are areas where further assistance is needed, and he forecast that it would be given. Let us look at the aged persons homes scheme. Under this scheme, 30,000 units have been built for elderly people. In the last 6 months 90% of the people entering these homes have been pensioners and 78% of all the units are occupied by pensioners. This is a scheme of great importance. In addition, assistance is given to the States for housing. Another area in which poverty could occur in the future is’ education. The improvement in the Australian education system in the last few years has been quite remarkable, and on previous occasions I have given the figures. Similarly, substantial1 changes have been made in the assistance given to people who suffer from illness or have been injured in accidents. The pensioner medical service has been improved and additional assistance has been given to hospitals.
Have we ignored the existence of poverty in the community? Little mention has been made of the borne care programme. Here is a new structure that brings together the Commonwealth, the States and the local government authorities. This programme has a feature that was regarded at the Summer School as essential and that is the employment of welfare officers not only to assist but also to obtain the details of individual problems. By and large, poverty in Australia is the problem of individuals. So it can be said that a great deal has already been done and that much more will be done.
I would like to read a paragraph from an article written by Arthur Seldon of England, who is a noted economist and journalist in this field of welfare. The article was published in the English ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 12th December 1968 and it contains the following paragraph:
Australia has instictivley sensed, more than other Western countries and certainly more than Britain -
Honourable gentlemen opposite get their ideas from Britain - the inevitability of the urge to individuality in an opulent society, lt is not difficult to eliminate poverty by trampling on personal and family aspiration, initiative, accumulation. The art of politicians in a free society is to help individuals out of avoidable poverty without destroying their urge to help themselves.
I submit that, on the two points I have mentioned already, the Government’s record is good and that it is improving, especially since the establishment of the Welfare Committee of Cabinet.
Finally, we are asked to ensure that all sections of the community participate in the campaign to eliminate poverty. Does the Opposition ignore the tremendous work of the churches in this field, of organisations that have worked closely with the Government to build homes for aged people, of organisations that have built sheltered workshops and are manning and running them, of organisations such as the Smith Family that are working to help individuals in need, of organisations that have grown up in recent years, such as the meals on wheels service, and of service clubs? All of these organisations are helping to combat a problem that is not caused purely by government or can be cured purely by government. I submit that Australia has a better record in this field than any other Western country has.
– The uncharacteristic observation of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr BridgesMaxwell) about my paper delivered at the Australian Institute of Political Science Summer School1 on Poverty is an implicit compliment, and I thank him for it, because the preparation of that paper represented a great deal of hard work on my part. Obviously, he thinks it is of an exceptionally high standard. However, commencing with an error, he continued with errors. Perhaps he might care to sit down and reflect on his lack of knowledge of this field of poverty. Poverty does exist in our prosperous but privileged community. Even the current Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has conceded this publicly. The question is: Just what is the extent of this poverty, its causes and manifestations; just how serious is it as a social ill, and what are the practical and effective policies to combat this malady? it seems true that the degree of relative poverty is lower in the Australian population than is the case for the United States of America or for Great Britain, but it is still a significant proportion of the Australian population that lives in this blighted area.
An estimated 7% of the Australian population lives in this area of social and economic depression; or should the figure be 10%? We do not really know, because surveys on poverty in the community have been conducted by private organisations and. with the notable exception of the Melbourne one conducted by the Institute of Applied Economics, have been small and selective out of necessity imposed by financial considerations. The Melbourne survey certainly gives a penetrating appreciation of the problem of poverty in that metropolis, but these findings cannot be held as relevant to the problem of rural poverty. Nor is there any justification for believing that the findings of the Melbourne survey would be typical for other capitals and large cities. Indeed, my impression is that poverty could be worse in Queensland than in Victoria. For instance, the .1965 survey on weekly earnings conducted by the Bureau of Census and Statistics revealed that for Victoria 6.5% of adult males earned less than $40 per week. For Queensland the figure was 13.2%.
There is a greater proportion of the population in Queensland on age and invalid pensions than is the case for Victoria and, of those pensioners, those receiving supplementary allowance represent a greater proportion of the Queensland population than is the case in Victoria. A similar situation exists in relation to unemployment and sickness benefits recipients. Queensland has a greater proportion of these beneficiaries than has Victoria. But an impression could be wrong and the only way we can discover the extent and nature of poverty in the community is through a series of properly constructed sample surveys in selected areas throughout the Commonwealth. Sample structure and area selection could be based on an analysis and interpretation of available data held by private and government social welfare agencies as well as by academic institutions. Reliable and comprehensive information cannot be made available if the present spasmodic, unrelated, isolated and selective system of surveys, on private initiatives, continue. Without reliable and comprehensive information areas of need cannot be established; they cannot be listed according to a scale of priorities for need-meeting action and they cannot be related to a balanced programme aimed at eliminating poverty. Indeed, faced with a lack of this type of information no meaningful anti-poverty campaign can be undertaken.
As there are no great problems which would prevent the creation of or grind down the development of such a survey, one is forced to speculate on the dilatoriness of the Government towards this pressing, national responsibility and the result of the speculation is not flattering to the Government, lt is a national responsibility, first, because the Federal Government is best able to command and put into action the resources needed to undertake such a survey, second, because regional areas of poverty will spill over State boundaries in some cases and, thirdly, because constitutional provisions do not prevent Federal involvement in the gathering of this information; indeed, the Department of Social* Services and Department of Health have made some small, selective, preliminary surveys in this area, but the results are generally highly confidential and any staff member wishing to disclose details of the findings is subject to severe punitive action under the Crimes Act. As the information concerned does not affect the security and defence of the Commonwealth one must presume the reason for this extreme secretiveness stems from a wish to (a) avoid political embarrassment for the Government, and (b) avoid embarking on a national anti-poverty campaign.
Perhaps the matter of personal political philosophy also restrains Government inclination in this are of a social need. In 1963 then Prime Minister Menzies said at a public meeting, in reply to a query as to how he would exist on the current social services pension payment:
Never having had any money that I didn’t work for, or earn, I wouldn’t know.
With illuminating frankness the then Prime Minister outlined his true scale of values on the subject of social welfare. More recently, the last Minister for Social Services said in this Parliament in response to a query about the sacrifices imposed on family groups eking out a subsistence in poverty:
I think it is because of this sacrifice that the children grow up to be true and decent Australian citizens. 1 think that the making of sacrifices by parents is probably one of the most noble things in Australian family life.
This almost incredible aberration into 18th century thinking is significant for its instruction into the sort of values which gear Government responses to areas of social need in the community. The current Minister for Social Services has built his reputation in social services by publicly espousing a one plank reform solely - elimination of the means test within 3 years. But surely he must appreciate that under the present system of social services, if he increases the number of persons who can receive full age pension by eliminating the means test then he reduces the amount of money which is available to help those pensioners in greatest need because the allocations to his department each year are not illimitable and compete against strong competition from big vote pulling sectors such as defence, public works and so on. What the Minister must face is the blunt fact that tinkering with the present rigid structure of social services at best provides only moderate palliatives to the problem we are concerned about - poverty. Such tinkering can even miss helping areas of greatest need altogether; for example, eliminating the means test brings no benefit to pensioners in greatest need but makes a a contribution to people who, generally speaking, will have enjoyed good incomes during their working life and whose thrift had been rewarded through that working life by generous income tax deductions.
– Is the honourable member disagreeing with his leader?
– Not at all, as the honourable member will see in a minute. Let us not forget that a married couple totally excluded from the age pension by the means test must have an income component of $45 a week; that is, an income considerably greater than many young people have available on which to raise families, pay rent, buy furniture and so on. But the means test does, as my leader pointed out, have its inequities and it is apparent that a sizeable body of the public wishes to have it eliminated. A scheme of national superannuation as recommended by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in this House today in this debate is the answer here. But, I repeat, it is grossly self-deceptive of the Minister for Social Services to speak, as he did at the recent AIPS Summer School on Poverty, of our existing system of social welfare being capable of providing the remedies necessary to overcome poverty.
The services have become too much dependent on private charitable initiatives and physical support, with the result that services are unevenly distributed and are not always directed into areas of greatest need as a first priority. The system is too rigid to allow the flexible adaptation necessary to provide such remedies. The concepts behind the system have become ossified, with the result that a new set of social inventions is needed to combat the problem which concerns us - poverty and want in a society symbolised by luxury and waste. What is needed is a new department staffed by social work administrators, social work case-workers, economists skilled in social welfare econimics, to evaluate survey information and to develop recommendations on need-meeting processes for Cabinet. The fight against poverty will necessarily include cash assistance to those living below a declared poverty income level; for example the assistance of a negative tax. But it must be a much broader and deeper campaign than can be , given by cash benefits. It is the quality ‘of life we are talking about if we are really serious about an anti-poverty campaign. We must improve the environment of people, so that they are happer and are stimulated by their surroundings. This involves housing and urban planning.
We must develop a more appropriate educational system where ability is fostered instead of being held back by cultural deprivation at home. This requires a flexible, adventurous educational system which is able to experiment. Provision of health services must be according to need and not rationed according to income, as at present There are many other fields of public administration which will be involved in an anti-poverty campaign and all of the fields involved will have to be co-ordinated if the campaign is to be successful. But, importantly, policies must’ be made to fit the needs of people and the involvement of these people must be a determining factor in policy making and implementation. The higher standard of living which must be provided must be measured by more than mere material things such as income levels; it must also include measurement of the provision and use of facilities such as well-stocked suburban libraries and art galleries, and, for example, in lower socio-economic areas, an improved entry rate at tertiary establishments of children from these groups. If nothing has been done so far to institute a definable, comprehensive national anti-poverty campaign it is not because nothing can be done for that is demonstrably untrue. If nothing has been done it is because the Government has so far been successful in avoiding its responsibilities to the community.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Successively over the years the Opposition has seen fit to draw up this emotive word ‘poverty’. Normally the Opposition very lamentably presents a case to try to identify one section of the community to which for various reasons this Government, through its social welfare policies, has been giving inadequate consideration. As my colleague the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) explained to the House today, there has been progressively . over the years a remarkable improvement in the conditions and circumstances of all sections of the Australian community, lt is true that in some areas of the community a great deal more still needs to bc done. But when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) puts before the House, as he did today, a highly charged idea which is orientated not to the realistic economic circumstances of Australia today but rather to what he thinks might be the political scenes at the election that will take place within the next 12 months, he does not think in terms of what needs to be achieved but rather of the dreamlike world which he thinks he personally and those who support him might be able to accomplish.
Let us look at the proposal before the House. First there is reference to undertaking a survey. The problem with any survey is to determine, firstly, the nature and extent of the field which you wish to research. Secondly, you must ensure that the people whom you intend to approach will provide for you the very best and the maximum co-operation possible. As to the admirable survey that has been conducted by Professor Ronald Henderson and his fellows of the Institute of Applied Economic Research at the University of Melbourne, there is no doubt that these gentlemen have been able to make quite a notable contribution to understanding one particular area, that is, basic poverty in the Melbourne community. But there are so many other factors that must be taken into account. There is not only the whole problem of secondary poverty including the fields of alcoholism and the field of induced poverty through the fault of either the individual or those in his family; there are also the whole social environment in which a person lives, the changing economic circumstances which surround each one of us and the employment circumstances which involve not just a particular section of the community which at this stage is in receipt of social services but also the whole economic climate of the community that surrounds that section.
Because of this it has been felt over the years - 1 believe quite justifiably - that if there is to be a survey into the areas where additional social service and national welfare benefits should be provided, it should be conducted either through the agencies of government, as is being cone, or, again as is being done, through agencies of universities in the mode adopted by Professor Henderson. As to the agencies of government, since the Cabinet Welfare Committee was set up by the Prime Minister there has been an extensive review not just of social services but of the whole field of national welfare. This is part and parcel of the continuing scrutiny that has been given to welfare in all sections of the Australian community. To my mind the very positive results that have come out of this Committee have already indicated that this is one way in which the less fortunate members of the Australian community can positively be assisted.
At the present time we have before this Parliament a home care programme for the aged which I think provides a very real contribution to one of the areas of relatively greater need. In this field the Government has consistently provided basic additions each year in social welfare legislation. We should have a look at what the Government has done in the years it has been in office. I was very pleased to see my colleague the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) produce a booklet called Facts and Figures’, which was issued in September last year. In this booklet the Minister has very effectively set down the increments, the range and nature of increments over the years, and the sectors to whom additional social welfare and social security benefits have been provided. There is no denying the magnificent record that has been set up.
At the same time it is acknowledged by the Government that there is still a great deal more to be done in the housing field and in the field of the elderly and those who are invalids. It is for this reason that the home care programme has been brought forward. This programme is specifically orientated to cope with added benefits that can be given to this determined area of need. But it is not just being done in an isolated fashion; it is being done so that we can assure maximum co-ordination with State welfare agencies with sections of the community, both charitable and religious, which have done a magnificent job in this field in the past. The whole ambit of our welfare policy, contrary to the precept that the Leader of the Opposition put forward in the third part of his proposal, is to maintain and extend the contribution by the community to social welfare.
It is essential that we recognise that legislation such as the Aged Persons Homes Act, legislation for the rehabilitation of the disabled and for the assistance of sheltered workshops are contributions by the Commonwealth in providing a share in the joint enterprise. Joint enterprise enables the disabled to make a better contribution to society and also enables the very magnificent work that is being done by private individuals in their own domestic lives to continue.
Having been associated for some years in the portfolio of Social Services with those who conduct sheltered workshops, who look after disabled children, who look after our elderly citizens, including those who live in normal residential accommodation and those who live in hostels and in nursing homes, I would like to pay such persons a tremendous compliment for the work they are doing. I know they appreciate that the Government has in many instances enabled them to do their job simply by subsidising their homes and their efforts. That has been the traditional approach of this Government. In this home care programme the Government is again extending a little further in the same direction. We are specifically providing for those people, both charitable and religious, who are working in the field of social welfare and those who work in the State sphere so that the whole community effort will be towards the relief of the areas of particular need which all of us on this side of the House have for so long recognised.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Government had failed to marshal adequate administrative arid financial resources for a campaign to eliminate poverty. Again he used this emotive word poverty’. What this Government has done, and is seeking to do, is to maintain a comprehensive economic policy. We are endeavouring to ensure that the community, through the earnings of those in the productive sector, has the capacity to support those in the non-productive sector. It is for this reason that we launched into the field of private superannuation. Through our taxation incentives we have provided for individuals who are themselves working to provide an adequate retirement income so that in due course there will not be too great a drain on the Commonwealth exchequer. Each year there has been a contribution in total money for those receiving aged pensions, invalid pensions and all the other ranges of pension entitlement that have been constituted by this Government. It means that this Government is realistically utilising all the economic resources of the nation to ensure the best return for all sections of the community.
– Government supporters have attempted to answer the charges made by speakers from this side of the House who have supported the endeavours of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to have something done about the poverty that exists in Australia. Two Ministers and one back bench supporter from the Government side have taken part in the debate and not one of them has denied the existence of poverty in this country. If we have poverty in Australia something should be done to eradicate it as soon as possible. Other honourable members have referred to surveys conducted into poverty in Australia. Those surveys have proved conclusively that poverty exists. It is the responsibility of the Government to eradicate it.
The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) now carries the banner for social services. When he was seated on the back benches he had a lot to say about this subject. He was a tiger then, but he has become a mouse since his elevation to the Ministry. Today he gave us an outline of what the Government has done over a period of years. I do not think the Government has done enough. Surveys show that between 6% and 7% of the population is living in a .state of poverty. Ours is supposed to be an affluent society. Great mineral wealth has been discovered in this country, but those of our people who are in dire straits have not benefited from those discoveries. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has often referred to the buoyant state of the economy, but this does not help the people who are living in poverty.
The underprivileged sections of the community should be given greater assistance by the Government. The unions are constantly striving before the arbitration tribunals to win. an adequate wage for the workers. In giving his decision in the total wage case Mr Conciliation Commissioner Winter said that the concept of the minimum wage was one which will enable a worker and his family to live in conformity with the reasonable needs of this civilised community. He was in effect saying that the workers should be given a decent wage - one that would enable them to live at the standard required today.
There is no doubt that in some quarters the standard of living is high but equally there is no doubt that many sections of the community are not enjoying the affluence of other sections. It is these less fortunate people with whom we are concerned. Many Government supporters represent areas that do not contain pockets of poverty. They do not how the other half lives. They do not know the circumstances of those living in poverty. Not many government supporters have participated in this debate because they are not interested in the welfare of the unfortunate members of our community. The Government has a responsibility to tackle poverty. Research carried out by Professor Henderson shows conclusively that poverty exists in this country. The Government is aware of its existence. It has sponsored various organi sations to conduct surveys. The Government is prepared to pay for those surveys and it should act on the reports that ultimately flow from the surveys. The surveys show that women and children and particularly pensioners are living in poverty.
Professor Henderson has stated that a husband and wife with three children need at least §4.40 per head per week for food alone. Take the case of a man with a wife and three children who has an income of $40.50 a week plus child endowment of $4.50 a week. His food bill will amount to $24 a week. He will pay $10 a week in rent or payments on his house. He will be left with $11 a week for all his other commitments, including clothing, fares and household items needed to keep up with the Joneses. The children in such a family would undoubtedly suffer. Would they have adequate clothing to wear to school? Would their parents be able to buy all the school books that they need? Education in Australia is supposed to be free, but it is not. Parents are called upon to buy books for their children to study. Can a family such as that which I have referred to afford these things? Of course not. So the children are affected. They cannot get a decent education because their parents cannot afford it. The country gets no benefit from a child that is not properly educated.
Every speaker at the summer school in January agreed that there is poverty in Australia. Those people included Professor Henderson, R. C. Brown, Janet Patterson of the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Professor David Donniston of the London School of Economics. Nobody has denied the existence of poverty in Australia. In her book on widows in Australia, Jean AitkinSwan points to the plight of these unfortunate people. The conference on living standards in Australia, held in 1966, confirmed that people are living in poverty. Articles in the ‘Australian Journal of Social Workers’ substantiate the claim that many sections of the community are living in poverty. In opening the summer school the Minister for Social Services defined comparative poverty as a standard of living below that which is generally considered satisfactory in the modern age. He has made a similar statement in the Parliament. He has admitted that the unemployment and sickness benefit is totally inadequate to sustain a married couple. But what is he doing about it? Nothing. All he is doing is talking.
At the summer school he did not refer to Aboriginals once. Yet he is supposed to be the great defender of Aboriginals. If Aboriginals have red dust on their bodies they will not be able to collect the unemployment benefit. We have a Department of Social Services. It is simply a cash register from which benefits are paid as approved by the Government. The Department does not conduct surveys. It is used solely to pay out money. Surveys must be done by somebody else.
America has done something about poverty. The war on poverty was started by the late President Kennedy and was continued by President Johnson. The war will continue to be waged in America. As a result of the war on poverty the standard of living in America has been improved. The attack was launched at the federal level. This is what we need. The Federal Government must put up the money. As part of the campaign against poverty in America the people were educated. As a result of their educational standard being improved they were able to pass the tests for induction into the army and many of them now lie dead on the battlefields of Vietnam.
The parents of today have to be concerned with what they have to pay out of their income. They have to decide whether the food bil] should be paid first or the rent, doctors’ fees or hire purchase commitments. Sometimes these payments have to be forgone so that the parents can purchase much needed drugs that they cannot get free under our health scheme. It is the parents who suffer a great deal today as a result of not receiving an adequate income for their work.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Having listened a little sadly to the debate on what is alleged to be a matter of public importance, I feel somewhat like a teacher frustrated by a backward child who seems to try hard but always tries at the wrong thing. Only yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) devastated a tedious humbug on the Hoffmann affair and advised the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that if he must hold up the’ business of the House with an urgency debate he should do so on an issue of great national importance. Today the Leader of the Opposition is back and his theme is poverty in Australia. That sounds serious. It sounds like the type of subject that the Prime Minister had in mind. One might have supposed that coming from the Opposition in an election year we would have heard some concrete, down to earth proposals and realistic suggestions that would be of some use. But what we have heard today has been nothing more than a barren and generalised piece of political abuse with one suggestion from the Leader of the Opposition which, in a devastating way, indicates that he has not the slightest idea of the subject on which he speaks.
The only concrete proposal that the Leader of the Opposition brought forward was that there should be a progressive alleviation of the means test. If any thought were directed to this suggestion one would see that the alleviation of the means test can do nothing- absolutely nothing - to help anyone in the bracket which is referred to as the area of poverty. It will not affect a single person in receipt of a pension unless that person is getting more than $1,248 a year - the base rate of the pension, which is $728 a year, plus the $520 which is allowed under the present means test formula. I hardly think that even the Leader of the Opposition would say that a single person who is getting $24 a week at present comes within the bracket to which he seeks to refer. With a married couple the base rate is $650 a year, and such a couple may have an income of $2,340 a year under the present provisions of the means test, without suffering any diminution of their income. It is only after they begin to earn more than $2,340 a year, which is $45 a week, that a married couple are affected by the means test. So, it is just arrant nonsense to suggest that this area of poverty will be affected in anything but an adverse way by the plans which have been put forward so confidently, so electionwardlooking, by the Leader of the Opposition.
The subject the House is debating is poverty in Australia. The Government does not deny that there is poverty in Australia.
Indeed, when the Prime Minister came into office and made his first great public speech in Sydney he said:
He outlined for all Australians to hear a programme which not only looked to defence and national development but also to the care of the sector to which today’s debate is allegedly directed. The record which has been chalked up by the Government in the year that Mr Gorton has been Prime Minister is something which people should sit up and take notice of. I am sure that they will do so when it comes to election time. As I have said, there is poverty in Australia; but how much is there? Let us .examine this in perspective. Professor Henderson has been referred to. After reviewing poverty in Australia he said: ‘This is a low figure compared with the United Kingdom or the United States of America’. But how much poverty is there, where is it and why does it exist? We must all admit that there are reasons why there will always be some poverty in any country! These are related to the human frailty and human folly that we see day by day. Of course, a government must do its best to alleviate poverty. The Leader of the Opposition said that other countries were doing more than we are to fight poverty. I have in front of me a White Paper from the United Kingdom Government dated January 1969 in which this whole question is reviewed in the context of the Socialist schemes operating in the United Kingdom. Let me quote some conclusions. It states that the present scheme is static and that the existing structures of both benefits and contributions have failed in their purpose.
When looking at the schemes in other countries which are being adduced as more desirable than our own, we should examine what is actually taking place in Australia. What has happened in the 12 months Mr John Gorton has been in charge of the direction of the Government’s affairs? There have been a whole series of developments which have put new heart and new life into the Department of Social Services and into those who are caring for the aged, the sick and the frail. Cabinet appointed a standing committee on the subject early in 1968. Since then a number of positive programmes have emerged. The Government has placed the objective of helping the aged, the sick and the needy in the forefront of its domestic programme. The welfare achievements of the Government have already resulted in increased benefits to over a million residents in Australia. In his Budget speech last year the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) spoke of increased social services expenditure of $85m. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has pointed out that the increase, which is a rise of 8% - and this gives the lie to some of the figures that have been quoted - exceeds the average rate of growth of our gross national product over the last 5 years. This indicates that the Government is maintaining its policy of devoting a fair share of pur increased productivity to welfare services.
Ten minutes is a hopelessly short time to outline in detail the things that have happened. I refer to such things as the straight out increase in government pensions. In addition, there have been contributions to many other sectors of the community which are clearly indicated as requiring specific attention. The National Health Act, which became effective on 1st January of this year, is another major social service reform relating to long term hospital patients, nursing home benefits and care for handicapped children. At this very time the House is debating provisions for domiciliary care for the aged, frail and needy. There is not one place in this country where there has not been great stirring at the possibility of the introduction of the provisions to which the Prime Minister has been directing the attention of the Cabinet Social Welfare Committee. The Government is not waiting for some great electoral show later on; it is doing things now. The new measures are not a stunt designed to attract votes, as is so apparent from the words used by honourable members opposite today. When it is seen by the Cabinet, as a result of its own Committee’s investigations, that there are needs in the community, right there and then - without even waiting for Budget time - new and very comprehensive measures are brought in front of the House. These measures have brought new heart and, indeed, new hope to a large number of needy people.
The home care for the aged programme goes right into the circumstance of those people who need the help in the greatest measure. The Government is assisting in the provision of housekeeper and home help services, in the developing and maintaining of senior citizen centres, with paramedical services, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and chiropody services and with associated social services. These are concrete provisions initiated by the Government. I have never beard such proposals from the Opposition. What will be the result of this debate? What one thing can the Press hold out to the nation to look to as a result of the Opposition’s move? What proposals can the nation look to as improving the lot of the poverty stricken in this country? We have heard nothing except political abuse, humbug and a barren argument of generality.
-The discussion is now concluded.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. 1 misrepresented two honourable members opposite and I would like to correct the misrepresentation. During my speech I indicated that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) had read a speech he had not written. He has indicated to me that he did write it. I would like to set the record straight and apologise to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Oxley for saying what I said. I was wrongly advised at the time.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to make a small machinery amendment to the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act 1966- 1968. The Act provides for the Commonwealth to make payments to the States of recurrent grants in respect of universities based on contributions paid by the State in each calendar year. Because of the difficulty of ensuring that all payments in respect of a year are in fact made within that calendar year, the Act also provides for the Minister to exercise his discretion in the event of a State payment in respect of a year not being made until after the expiration of that year. However, in the case of recurrent grants payable by the Commonwealth to the States in respect of teaching hospitals associated with universities, the Act does not at present make provision for an exercise of discretion in respect of late payments and this has led to some difficulties in practice. This Bill provides for the inclusion in the Act of a suitable power of discretion for the Minister. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1963-1968 so as to extend the payment of a Commonwealth bounty on raw cotton production in Australia for a further 3-year period commencing with the 1969 cotton crop. The bounty is to be phased out during this period with annual financial ceilings of $4m for the 1969 crop, $3m in 1970 and $2m in 1971. The bounty will then cease. The present bounty scheme which operated from 1 964 to 1968 inclusive was amended in 1968 to change the basis of eligibility for bounty from a point of sale to one of production. This was done because in 1968 local cotton production for the first time exceeded spinners’ requirements in the short and medium stapled cottons. As a result an equitable distribution of bounty payments based on sales was no longer feasible. The proportions exported and sold domestically differ from area to area. The present Bill proposes to continue the payment of bounty on the basis of production. It also maintains the requirement that cotton must be above a certain specified minimum standard and continues the system of premiums and discounts for differing cotton grades to encourage the production of quality cotton.
As a basis for considering the future of assistance to the cotton industry, the Government commissioned the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to conduct an economic survey of the industry. This surveycovered the years 1964-65 to 1966-67. It can be seen from the survey that the objectives of Government policy on cotton have been substantially achieved. An industry capable of meeting most of Australia’s requirements of raw cotton has been established. Over 5 years, annual production has risen from only 1.2,000 bales in 1964 to 150,000 bales achieved in 1968.
Although the 1968 production exceeded for the first time local spinners’ requirements of approximately 1 1 5,000 bales, there is still a need to import the long stapled combing cottons which have not yet been grown in any quantity in Australia. The imports represent about 15% of spinners’ needs. Experiments are continuing, however, towards the development of production of these longer stapled cottons in Australia. The growing industry has undergone some dramatic changes in the last 5 years. From being essentially a rain grown crop in Queensland, cotton growing has become a highly mechanised industry, predominantly in concentrated areas under irrigation in 3 States. The objective of the Government in what could be described as the first phase of new bounty arrangements was to encourage the development of a self contained and economic industry by providing assistance at such levels and for such time as it considered necessary to induce the high level of capital investment required in farms, specialised machinery and ginneries. The second phase of assistance covering the period 1969-71 is designed to consolidate the development that has been achieved. A very high level of capital investment continues to be required for the establishment of new ginneries and, with increasing production, the provision of more adequate storage facilities.
The results of the economic survey conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics show that bounty receipts are still an important part of cotton farmers’ net incomes although the incidence of the bounty varies as between particular areas notably, for example, the Namoi and the Ord River. A cessation of bounty at this stage could seriously inhibit the full development of the industry and impair the position of newer growers who are at an intermediate stage of their production potential.
With the additional assistance to be provided, the industry will be in a more favourable position than ever to achieve its goal of becoming an economically viable industry able to produce Australia’s spinning cotton needs without Government assistance. Production in 1969, harvesting of which will commence in Queensland in late March and early April in New South Wales, is expected to be between 160,000 and 170,000 bales. Had the bounty remained on the basis of domestic sale this quantity would have brought about intense competition for the local market.It is inevitable that a cotton industry geared to meet local spinners’ requirements will produce certain grades and staples that are not readily absorbable on the local market and therefore must be exported. In an effort to ensure that no particular region is disadvantaged by having to sell a disproportionate amount on export markets the industry is currently endeavouring to reach agreement on an orderly marketing plan acceptable to both growers and local spinners The high degree of co-operation that has marked relations between growers and spinners over the previous 5 years of bounty arrangements should ensure the establishment of a successful marketing pattern in the near future. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to amend section 98 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide that there may be seven instead of six judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, in addition to the Chief Judge. There are at present five judges of the Court, in addition to the Chief Judge. The Government takes the view that the appointment of another two judges is desirable, in the interests of strengthening the Commonwealth Industrial Court itself and assisting with the work of the Territory Supreme Courts, which draw increasingly heavily on the pool of judges provided by the Commonwealth industrial Court. This move is also intended to be in anticipation of the establishment Of the Commonwealth Superior Court, which will require a larger number of Commonwealth judges than hold appointments at present. The amendment to be effected by the Bill will enable the additional appointments to be made, and I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5 March (vide page 41. 1 .), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bil) be now read a second :ime
– There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The main purpose of the Bills that have been mentioned by the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) is to augment the Public Service Arbitration Tribunal by the appointment of deputy arbitrators so that it can cope more effectively with the growing volume and variety of work coming before it. The Public Service Arbitrator has jurisdiction over more than 250,000 employees, which is over 6% of the total workforce. There has been a tremendous growth of Commonwealth employment in the various departments, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) mentioned in his second reading speech, and also in instrumentalities. These include the Department of Works, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Supply, the Post Office and the Commonwealth Railways. The Post Office alone has more than 100,000 employees.
It has been obvious for some time that due to the number and variety of occupations one arbitrator could not possibly deal adequately and justly with the volume of business which comes within his jurisdicttion. There has been tremendous and growing discontent in most sections of the Public Service. I draw attention to an article in today’s ‘Australian’ which reads:
A lunch-time meeting of Commonwealth public servants in Melbourne yesterday recommended a work-to-regulations campaign in support of wage claims. Members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers’ Association employed in the Taxation -Department said the campaign should extend through the entire Commonwealth Public Service unless the claims were met promptly.
The meeting also called on the Federal Government to inquire into the operations of the Commonwealth Public Service Board for its repeated failure to carry out its main function of fixing salaries. The meeting was part of a concerted drive by the association in support of salary increases for 2nd and 3rd division officers. The claims were lodged with the Public Service Board more than 6 months ago.
In recent weeks protest meetings have been held in Victoria, NSW and the ACT. The ACT branch secretary of the association, Mr N. H. Butter, said last night: ‘This action is unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth Public Service and is indicative of the general unrest caused by the dilatory tactics of the board’.
That is not the only section of the Public Service which is concerned about delays in the hearing of claims. The employees of the Post Office have been concerned about delays in the hearing of claims. White collar workers generally, apart from those employed in the Public Service, are becoming more militant in these matters, as we saw only recently when bank officers held stopwork meetings because of industrial discontent. But, dealing with this Bill, it is clear that delay has pyramided on top of delay in dealing with the claims of wage and salary earners in the Commonwealth Public Service. This was realised by the Minister for Labour and National Service who last September announced that two members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission would be appointed to assist the Public Service Arbitrator. It is clear that the two deputies whom he proposes to appoint when this legislation is passed will not be sufficient to handle these matters.
The Bill provides for the appointment of deputy arbitrators. There is no limit to the number to be appointed, but the Minister said that two will be appointed upon the passage of the legislation. Let us hope that the time will not be long delayed when others will be appointed to pick up the backlog in hearing Public Service claims. The deputy arbitrators will be appointed for a term not exceeding 7 years. That is similar to the term of the Public Service Arbitrator. The Bill provides, as the Minister told us, for determinations made by the deputy arbitrators to be with the concurrence of the Arbitrator. I refer to subsection (3.) of proposed new section 12a, which reads:
Before determining a claim, application or matter referred to him under this section, a Deputy Arbitrator shall consult with the Arbitrator as to the determination that he proposes to make and, if the Arbitrator does not concur with the proposed determination, the Arbitrator shall withdraw the reference and shall, after such further hearing (if any) as he thinks necessary, himself determine the claim, application or matter.
We disagree with this provision. At the Committee stage we propose to move an appropriate amendment to overcome our objection. If the Bill is allowed to pass, as the Minister proposes, the very objective which he is seeking will be lost. The deputy arbitrator will have to consult the Arbitrator as to the determination he proposes to make, and if the Arbitrator does not concur with the proposed determination, the Arbitrator shall withdraw the reference and shall, after such further hearing, if any, as he thinks necessary, himself determine the claim, application or matter. In our view this is an unwarranted exercise which can lead only to procrastination and delay in the settlement of claims before the Public Service Arbitrator and his deputies.
As the Minister is aware, there is a fairly rigid policy of the Public Service Board to refuse to make a determination retrospective. Of course, any delay, such as a rehearing, means that workers possibly are being deprived of some increase to which they are justly entitled. The date of operation of a determination has customarily been the date upon which the Arbitrator makes the determination provided, of course, that it has not been disapproved by Parliament. The determination has to lie on the table of both Houses of the Parliament for a period of 30 days. It amounts to this: If an arbitrator has the power to withdraw a reference and compel a further hearing it means a delay in handing down a decision and 1 say that justice delayed is justice denied, lt is in the public interest for industrial disputes to be settled promptly. Already there. is provision for an appeal if the Public Service Board does not like the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator. Section 15 c (2.) of the Act provides for this. I will not read the whole section. However, it says:
An appeal lies to the Commission against a determination made by the Arbitrator.
The Commission referred to is, of course, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. lt should not be taken that we agree with appeals. We consider that when a Conciliation Commissioner or the Public Service Arbitrator, or his deputies have made a decision, that should be it. We believe that there should be more conciliation. The President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission referred to the value of conciliation in his 1966 report. He said:
The three Conciliators are dealing with an increasing number of matters reflecting the continued value of conciliation in the working of the Act.
He went, on to refer to the value of conciliation. The word ‘Conciliation’, I should emphasise, comes first in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is placed before the word ‘Arbitration’ in order of importance in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. But not enough emphasis is placed on this word. People have become used to talking about the arbitration system. There is a tendency to forget that the Act is titled the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The fact that the word ‘conciliation’ is placed before arbitration’ is clearly significant.
Section 15 c(2.) of the Public Service Arbitration Act states:
An appeal lies to the Commission against a decision made by the arbitrator.
This is followed by section 15c (3.) which, states:
An appeal does not lie under the last preceding sub-section unless, in the opinion of the Commission, the determination deals with a matter of such importance that, in the public interest, au appeal should lie.
There is a similar section in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, section 31 (3.), which states that the Commission may refuse to certify an agreement or memorandum if it is not in the public interest that the agreement should be certified’. These are, in my view, shocking sections which can assist in prolonging a dispute rather than bringing about a settlement.
When an agreement has been reached no obstacles should be placed in the way of its being certified. Who is to define public interest’? What is meant by ‘public interest’? One would think that the prompt settlement of the dispute would be in the public interest’. Once a dispute occurs every effort should be made to bring the parties into harmony and when agreement is arrived at such settlement should be accepted and certified. It is important to note too, that where the Public Service Arbitrator - and I am now referring to the amendment I have foreshadowed - is absent from duty or suspended from office or where there is a vacancy in the office of the arbitrator, the appointment of the person to fill the position of Public Service Arbitrator is made by the Government through the Governor-General. This new appointee would have power overriding that of a deputy arbitrator. This person who may be appointed as a public service arbitrator may have had little, if any, experience in this specialised Public Service field. He certainly would not have had as much experience as the deputies unless he happened to be one of the deputies themselves.
Let me say. after having made these criticisms, that it is pleasing to note that the Government is not going on with its original intention to introduce amendments to provide for penal provisions in the Public Service Act, as apply in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Minister ought to go further and repeal the penal provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He has taken heed of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the High Council of Public Service Unions, and the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations, and left the penal provisions out of this Bill. He should now take heed of the ACTU and the Australian Labor Party and repeal the penal provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The offending sections, which will not now be repeated in the Public Service Arbitration Act, are sections 1 09 and 1 1 1 which are commonly known throughout the trade union movement as the pains and penalties provisions. The repeal of these provisions would not mean that no other avenue would be open to the Commission to penalise those who do not comply with its decisions. Section 119 is one of the avenues. It provides for enforcement of orders and awards. Also it provides for maximum penalties to be imposed by magistrates in local courts. The maximum penalty is $200. This is the section under which action is taken against employers. Unions are dealt with under the much more vicious provisions of sections 109 and 111.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh recently asked on how many occasions had orders been granted under section 109 (a) in respect of offences which could have been dealt with under section 119. The answer he received was that 643 unions were penalised that could have been dealt with under section 119 under which the maximum penalty, as 1 have already said, is $200. Some of the unions, on the other hand, under the penal provisions had been penalised to the extent of $1,000 or $2,000. The answer to the honourable member’s question showed that about 90 employer organisations were found guilty under section 1 1 9. Some were not penalised but the majority received penalties of fines ranging from $4 to SIO. Some were fined $20. The biggest fine was S680 for 67 breaches of the award. I mention this merely to emphasise that we are pleased to see that these penal provisions will not be included in the Act.
The conciliation and arbitration system would be strengthened if the Government would accept the reality of a situation that there are issues and conflicts so acute that no tribunal can hope to impose an acceptable solution. The tribunals are not likely to make decisions which involve too great a departure from existing conditions. Their aim is to stabilise, not to disturb. This point was made by Mr Justice Higgins when he said:
The Act requires me to prevent as well as settle industrial disputes, and 1 have to see to it that 1 do not create other disputes in settling this - that 1 do not loosen a dozen nails by driving in one.
That is why the public interest provision was placed in these Acts. Under that provision the Commission may refuse to certify a memorandum if it is not in the public interest that the memorandum be certified. Since the main objective of the legislation is peace and stability, the tribunals are not free to go seeking solutions that are absolutely just. The court tries to find solutions that will work, which parties are willing to accept and which will keep the wheels of industry turning. It is not a system that can wholly replace industrial action. This is clearly shown by the increase in industrial unrest at present. Today’s ‘Australian’ newspaper, under the headline of ‘1968 May Be Record Year for Strikes’, states:
Industrial disputes in Australia during the first three-quarters of 1968 resulted in a record estimated loss of wages totalling $9. 4m.
I do not propose to read the article but it gives some indication of the unrest that exists in the community at present. It also indicates that our conciliation and arbitration system has not been able to remove this unrest. No responsible unionist - and I think the Minister will agree with me - would support an unauthorised stoppage. The ACTU condemns unions that stop work without going through the correct channels. Sectional stoppages have also been condemned. Some take place without authority and the responsible bodies take all action available to them to get their members back to work. In such circumstances unions and officials should not be held responsible.
The trade union movement believes in the right to strike and it points to the fact that strikes are not illegal in either Great Britain or the United States of America. Awards here lay down the minimum that an employer must pay. The same applies in the United States and Great Britain where minimum standards are laid down. In the United States the Fair Labour Standards Act lays down the minimum remuneration which employers must legally pay, but it is common for employers and employees to bargain collectively for higher amounts than the minimum. Strike action is often resorted to in order to make the employer pay more. It is part and parcel of the bargaining process and is not illegal. Collective bargaining, of course, is now being resorted to here, and has been resorted to for some time, once an award has been made. In many cases both sides accept the decision of the court as being a minimum payment and proceed to bargain for the payment of some amount over and above what the award provides. The President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has referred to this as the collective bargaining area.
A big section of the trade union movement believes that arbitration should be jettisoned and collective bargaining resorted to. The Commission’s influence, in my view and in the view of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has been weakened by the imposition of heavy penalties under the offending sections that 1 referred to, sections 109 and 111. It is extremely doubtful whether the workers have made greater gains by means of arbitration than they coul’d have made by collective, bargaining. Benjamin H. Higgins, who wrote ‘Wage Fixing by Compulsory Arbitration’, questions whether the system of arbitration in Australia has been responsible for getting the workers any benefits that, they could not have got by their own strength and by collective bargaining. He says: .
There is no evidence that the arbitration system has raised labour’s share of the national income over the last 20 years or that it has succeeded in obtaining for Australian labour a higher share of the national income than is earned by workers in other countries with a similar degree of economic development.
Many Australian economists and legal scholars feel that the system now operates more to the favour of employers than of employees. Awards of the court tend to lag behind increases in the demand for labour or in the bargaining power of trade unions.
That is true. More than anything else, the suspension of the quarterly cost of living adjustments by the Commission in 1953 has helped to create doubt in the workers’ faith in arbitration. Recent decisions have confirmed that doubt. There is a certain amount of one-sidedness in our method of controlling wages. The Government believes that the price of labour should be controlled, and all the force of our legal machinery is used to prevent the workers from putting their own price on their labour. The unions have to go to arbitration tribunals to argue their cases. They have to support their argument by evidence. The employers present their case in opposition to any increase. The workers have to abide by the decision. But what happens then? The employers increase their prices to coyer the increased cost of wages? They can do this at their own whim. Decisions are arrived at in private without evidence and without a case in opposition being heard. Firms often combine with other firms which are selling a similar product and collectively they fix the price of similar articles.
The Arbitration Commission in its 1964 basic wage decision emphasised’ that there is no control over incomes other than wages and no overall authoritative control of prices. So we find that increases gained by the workers to offset, already increased costs can bc immediately : swallowed up by the employers increasing prices. This Government, which is so insistent on the workers selling their labour at a controlled price, should give serious consideration to following the lead of the British Government which is now insisting on prices being increased only after such increases have been proved to be justified. There is a lot in what Higgins said when he claimed that the system operates more to the favour of the employers. The employers were once hostile to arbitration but now they support it wholeheartedly. No wonder, when they can immediately recoup themselves by increasing prices at their own whim, and when they know that the awards of the court tend to lag behind increases in demand for labour or the bargaining power of the trade unions.
Colossal profits continue to be made. These profits all come from the same source, namely, national income. The difference is that wage and salary earners have to prove their claims before the Arbitration Commission, while those who take huge sums by way of profits and interest payments from the national income take such payments without having to justify their actions to anyone. No charge is ever made that these companies arc taking too much from the national income and thereby endangering the economy and causing production and living costs to rise. Is it any wonder that the workers become dissatisfied and disgruntled and threaten strike in order to get their wrongs righted? Workers have a right to complain about the time lag that takes place in having their grievances heard and remedied. At times employers deliberately lodge appeals against decisions of commissioners in order to delay paying increased salaries or giving improved conditions granted by commissioners. We have a glaring example currently in the equal pay case which is being deliberately delayed by reference to the High Court. The employers know that each day’s delay means a saving of millions of dollars in the long run if the equal pay decision is favourable to the workers. I repeat that in Great Britain and in the United States, while minimum standards are set down, collective bargaining is accepted as the means by which higher standards are established, and the strike weapon is accepted as part and parcel of the bargaining process. The strike weapon is not illegal in those countries, nor is it illegal here. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act does not prohibit strikes. It did so up until 1930 when the prohibition was removed. True, the Commission has power to include in its awards a ban on strikes, but the actual strike itself is not illegal. We cannot expect a system of industrial arbitration to eliminate strikes and other forms of direct action entirely. If anyone believes that, he is attributing to arbitration a function it cannot possibly fulfil.
The law of the land is much more easily applied by the State to individuals for the settlement of disputes between them than it is to exercise compulsion over powerful organisations such as trade unions. The State is then dealing with a powerful section of the community. A huge majority of people accept the fact that the common and criminal law courts are enforcing laws with which they themselves agree. But in the field of industrial conflict it is different. There is no set principle of what is fair, reasonable or just. The arbitration system is dealing with a question on which the community as a whole is divided into two camps. Workers and employers have their own views on what is reasonable or just. There is no doubt about the value and importance of our conciliation and arbitration system, but it is ridiculous to think that it could usher in a reign of peace in industrial relations. No-one would deny the value and importance of international law, but conflicts arise between States which are so severe that all observance of the law is swept away. There are hundreds of issues that arise which are settled successfully by our arbitration courts, but they cannot settle all of them. The system would be strengthened if this Government would accept the reality of the situation. There are issues and conflicts so acute that no court could hope to impose an acceptable solution. It is not a system which can wholly replace resort to direct action or political struggle. After all, most of the big steps forward in industrial gain by the workers have not been through the arbitration tribunals but through governments which have been sympathetic to their reasonable and just claims. The unions have often had to use the legislature as an alternative to arbitration. The reduction of working hours from 48 to 40 was only partly due to arbitration. Long service leave was first introduced by Labor governments. Equal pay was introduced by the New South Wales Government. It has not yet been adopted by our arbitration tribunals nor by this Government in respect of its employees.
In his eighth annual report, the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission drew attention to the jurisdictional difficulties. At page 7 he said:
These stoppages or threatened stoppages are generally of the sudden ‘flare-up’ variety where the community and the employers and unions immediately involved need the urgent provision of intermediary action in order to get a speedy resumption of work or to prevent a threatened stoppage taking place. In other words in the main this type of dispute is of the ‘real’ rather than the ‘paper’ variety and is perhaps the more important because of this. Nevertheless the Commission may not have jurisdiction under the Constitution and the legislation to deal with it because of its confinement within one State or indeed one undertaking.
If the Government was as concerned as it says it is to prevent stoppages of work, one would have thought that action would have been taken to remove the constitutional shackles that bind the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
Section 51 (35) of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act provides that, before action can be taken under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, an industrial dispute must exist. If it does not exist it must be created. Furthermore, it must be an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State.. The trade union movement has persistently agitated for the removal of the constitutional1 fetters that trammel the Act, but the Government has turned a blind eye to this provision. The Joint Committee on Constitutional Review supported the trade union movement and recommended that section 51 (35) be repealed and a new section be inserted in the Constitution to get rid of these constitutional shackles. The report of the Constitutional Review Committee was tabled in this Parliament in J 959, but still no action has been taken by the Government. If the Commission had the power to act quickly, many of the stoppages that take place could be prevented, lt would enable action to be taken even if a stoppage was isolated to a single undertaking, without the dispute having to extend beyond the borders of any one State.
I wanted to make those comments because I think they are very important. I hope that note is taken of them and my suggestion will be adopted when the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is next being amended. As the Minister pointed out. the other provisions of the Bill are essentially of a machinery character and flow from the appointment of Deputy Arbitrators. Provision is made for the preservation of the rights of officers appointed as Arbitrator or Deputy Arbitrator. The other provisions are of a similar nature. Amendments are also made to the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act, the Superannuation Act and the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. All these amendments relate to the appointment of Deputy Arbitrators. As I. said, we propose to move an amendment in the Committee stage and we hope that the Minister will1 accept it.
– The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) speaks as if this Government is not concerned with what happens to people who work for an employer. I assure him that these days at any rate we on this side of the House are very concerned to ensure that all Australians enjoy good conditions. 1 for one would not support a government that did not pursue this objective. I am a firm believer in good industrial relations and in getting employers and employees very close together. Every day of the week we see that the linns where the employer-employee relations are good are the firms where management and staff are very close together. This applies also to the Public Service. The aim of the legislation is to provide more opportunities for close discussions between the Public Service Board, the Minister and the people employed by the Government.
I would like to refer briefly to the days long ago when a royal commission reported adversely on the conditions in the Postmaster-General’s Department in 1910.’ It was not until 1920 that the Arbitration (Public Service) Act was passed. Prior to this many protests came from the public and the unions. The public servant was pushed into the background because more urgent questions had to be dealt with. Substantial delays occurred in the handling of claims made by Public Service unions. The honourable member for Stirling said that a recent case has been delayed for some months, but I . point out that at the time I have mentioned the delays extended over some years. We have made much progress in the intervening period. As I said, it was not until 1920 that the Arbitration (Public Service) Act was passed. It provided for the appointment of an Arbitrator purely to handle matters within the Public Service and it came into force in 1921. The Public Service Arbitrator was given power to determine wages and conditions of employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. Any organisation that was registered was able to submit claims to the Public Service Arbitrator on behalf of ils members who were employees working within the Public Service. On the one hand we had the employer, the Commonwealth Public Service Board; on the other hand we had the employee, who was there to do his job. In the middle we had the Arbitrator, who was called upon when necessary to settle differences between the employer and the employee.
I will not go into the machinery for handling claims. Over the years claims have become more and more numerous and awards have become more and more complex with the introduction of penalty rates, new classes of employees, specialist classi fications, sophisticated machinery and so on. Disputes can often be settled by agreement between the parties or in conference with the Arbitrator. During the last few moments I have been looking at the report of the Public Service Board for 1967-68. It contains diagrams showing that the Arbitrator’s determinations are in the minority by far and that consent determinations are in the majority. It is quite clear that the unions are in close consultation wilh the Board and that many differences are settled before they go to arbitration. This is very encouraging. So disputes can often be settled by agreement or in conference with the Arbitrator. When this happens, the Arbitra-. tor may be called upon merely to make a determination and to seal an agreement that has already been made, ff agreement is not reached, the next step is for the Arbitrator to hear evidence from the employer and the “employees.
In the early days it was decided that it would be preferable not to have legal representation. This worked quite well for a number of years. I think it was in 1955 that it was discovered that one of the organisations representing public servants had on its staff a barrister who was presenting the case for the organisation. This caused some difficulties, because it was against the law for a barrister to appear before the Arbitrator. An amendment to the Act followed and the result is that legal people may now under certain conditions present the case of the union or the case of the Public Service Board and the Minister. The Arbitrator sometimes becomes involved in situations in which there is conflict between the unions and staff associations regarding interpretations of awards. So I say that the work has become more and more complicated and voluminous. In 1952 the Government examined both Public Service and industrial arbitration problems and provided certain rights of appeal for the decisions of the Arbitrator. This in turn created more work for the Arbitrator and more delays, but it was necessary to get some consistency of action between the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commissioner and the Public Service Arbitrator.
I would like to refer to the number of determinations issued by the Public Service Arbitrator of which the Public Service Board was the recipient between 1961 and 1968. In 1960- 61 there were 23 determinations; in 1961- 62, 35 determinations; in 1962-63, 21 determinations: in 1963-64, 54 determinations: in 1964-65, 110 determinations, an increase of 100%; in 1965-66, 141 determinations; in 1966-67, 134 determinations, and in 1967-68, 141 determinations. So it has become quite clear that the Arbitrator needs further assistance. Even in 1920 there were much the same problems as there are today. There were delays in handling claims and there were increasing costs of living. I think that most honourable members will agree that the cost of living has a good deal to do with the claims that are brought forward today.
There was certainly a good deal of controversy in these early days about whether the Public Service should have a special arbitrator. There was a good deal of argument, which is recorded in Hansard, in 1920 when Mr Hughes was Prime Minister, about whether there should be a special arbitrator for the Public Service or whether these matters should be dealt with by the Arbitration Court. But the Government of the day decided that it was necessary in order to speed up these activities to have a special arbitrator to deal only with claims brought forward by Public Service unions.
I welcome this Bill. As honourable members know, the assistant to the Arbitrator retired last year. There was a great accumulation of work last year, and this was an appropriate time to look at the work load. The honourable member for Stirling has spoken of the backlog of claims, but I would like to point out that some considerable progress has been made since a couple of conciliation commissioners were seconded to assist the Arbitrator last year. I would like to point out that at the end of September last year there were 133 claims awaiting attention whereas at the end of February this year there were only 82 claims awaiting attention. At the end of September four cases were being heard by the Arbitrator, and at the end of February this year 53 cases were being heard. So a good deal of progress has been made already in catching up with the backlog of work. I imagine that the two conciliation commissioners who are now being used will be appointed to these jobs as Deputy Arbitrators. If this is so, they will make an impact on the work which lies ahead.
I understand that the Opposition is to bring forward an amendment. It would be most unwise to give these Deputy Arbitrators absolute control in the decisions that they make. It is a very wise move to require that their work be channelled through the Arbitrator himself so that he can keep in touch with what is going on. We can imagine what would happen if the Arbitrator and the two Deputy Arbitrators were moving along paths of their own without any consultation. This would be most unwise. There is no doubt that there could be great variations between the decisions of one arbitrator and the decisions of another, particularly if somebody who did not get on with the Arbitrator himself was appointed. This, of course, could happen. It is most essential that the Arbitrator should have a look at the decisions which are made by his deputies and put his stamp of approval on the decisions which are pushed through. I support the Bill as it now stands.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– [ wish to move five amendments. They concern clauses 8, 10, 12 and 13 which read in part:
After section 12 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “12a. - (j.) The Arbitrator may refer to a Deputy Arbitrator a claim, application or matter submitted to the Arbitrator under the last preceding section. “ (2.) Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, a Deputy Arbitrator to whom a claim, application or matter has been so referred shall hear and determine that claim, application or matter in the manner provided by this Act for the hearing and determination of claims, applications or matters by the Arbitrator. “ (3.) Before determining a claim, application or matter referred to him under this section, a Deputy Arbitrator shall consult with the Arbitrator as to the determination that he proposes to make and, if the Arbitrator does not concur with the proposed determination, the Arbitrator shall withdraw the reference and shall, after such further hearing (if any) as he thinks necessary, himself determine the claim, application or matter.”.
Section 14 of the Principal Act is amended -
After section 15 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 15aa.- (1.) o ooo “ (4.) Sub-section (3.) of section twelve a of this Act applies in relation to the determination under this section by a Deputy Arbitrator of a matter or part of a matter to which section twelve of this Act applies as if the matter or part of a matter had been referred to that Deputy Arbitrator under sub-section (1.) of section twelve a of this Act. o o oo
Section 15a of the Principal Act is amended - (a) by omitting sub-section (7.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - o o oo “ (8.) In relation to the determination under the last preceding sub-section of a claim, application or matter to which section twelve of this Act applies -
I seek leave to move five amendments together.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) mentioned that consultation would have to take place. I suggest to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) that this consultation would surely take place beforehand and that certain standards would be set down as a result, as happens with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commissions. The members meet in session and certain standards are discussed. I am not saying that I agree with that procedure, but that is done, and no doubt it would be done by the Arbitrator and his deputies. I have already pointed out that the right of appeal to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is contained in the Act. The important thing about it is that arbitration needs to be speedy and simple and any shackle that causes delay in finalising a dispute should not be tolerated. I have emphasised already that employers sometimes deliberately lodge an appeal in order to cause a delay and to avoid paying salary increases immediately. The main amendment seeks the omission of sub-section (3.) of proposed section 12a. The other amendments are consequential to that.
– As the honourable member . for Stirling (Mr Webb) pointed out, the whole object of this Bill is to expedite the arbitration procedures attached to the administration of Public Service employment conditions. The reason for the insertion of the provision that the Public Service Arbitrator must concur in the determinations made by the Deputy Arbitrator is to ensure that there shall be a consistent approach. The differences between Public Service employment and that of ordinary industry vary in many respects. In the case of the Public Service one employer operates right across the held. So that justice may be evenly distributed and consistent it is desirable that the decisions which flow from this tribunal should be consistent. In private industry there is, of course, a variety of employment and multitude of employers and this is particularly registered in the way the assignment commissioner is done.
It is contemplated that the Public Service Arbitrator will not assign his deputies as commissioners are but he will refer matters to them in varying fields according to the flow of business and the pressure which develops in one sector or another from time to time. In the work of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, normally a commissioner handles an industry or a series of industries, but the decisions which concern those industries come from the same man. So there is an inbuilt consistency about the procedure. But in relation to the Public Service the assignment is quite different. It should be assumed that the Arbitrator and his two deputies - there will be two deputies immediately appointed but, the Bill places no limitation on the number who may be appointed - will behave like sensible men and will consult each other and keep in close touch. This is to be expected.
Under this Bill the responsibility and prestige of the Deputy Arbitrators is very different from and much greater than that which formerly pertained to the assistant to the Arbitrator. There is a requirement that in a final determination the Arbitrator himself should concur. However, the status of the deputies has now been raised far above that of the former office of assistant for they will make the final determinations. It is not to be expected that in coming to a decision as to concurrence the Arbitrator himself will go into all the minute details. The deputies will be the ones who will hear the case; they will hear the details and all the arguments which flow one way or another. But it is important for a broad compatibility of approach and conclusions to be secured across the whole spectrum of Commonwealth employment. Thus the requirement that the Arbitrator himself should concur is important. It is not likely that the Arbitrator will overrule his deputies who have heard the arguments and the evidence in detail, but on the other hand it would be unfortunate if two deputies operating in different fields at the same time were to adopt an inconsistent approach. Therefore the function of the Arbitrator will be to co-ordinate, particularly if the deputies are dealing with the same principles in the two cases.
This provision for ensuring consistency of approach is not novel. In conciliation and arbitration legislation generally there is provision for appeals and references where a single arbitrator is dealing with matters which spill over from a particular industry which he is handling into other spheres. In matters of general interest as distinct from those touching a particular industry it is important to keep the principles reasonably consistent. For instance, under section 45 (b) of the Victorian Labour and Industry Act the Minister for Labour and Industry may, if he thinks it necessary in the public interest, to make matters out of the hands of Wages Boards and place them before the Industrial Appeals Court. This occurs particularly when individual claims involve things such as a flow on from a national wage case. What the future may bring no one can say until we see the new system effectively in operation. But the purpose of the new system is consistency, and it would be most unfortunate from the point of view of both the Commonwealth and public servants generally if a consistency of approach were lost to the system. That is why the Government opposes the amendments.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
That the amendments (Mr Webb’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Bury) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Orders of the Day Nos 4,5, 6 and 7 for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Bill 1969, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1969, the Officers’ Rights Declaration Bill 1969 and the Superannuation Bill 1969 being read together and a motion being moved that the Bills be now passed.
Consideration resumed from 5 March (vide pages 411 and 412), on motions by Mr Bury:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Bills (on motion by Mr Bury) passed.
– by leave - It is with sincere regret that I report to the House that a Royal Australian Air Force Mirage fighter aircraft of No. 75 Squadron has been reported missing after a training exercise in the Singapore area last night. The Mirage was piloted by Wing Commander E. J. Myers, the Commanding Officer of No. 75 Squadron, who has been posted missing. Aircraft and Services vessels have been sent to the area and are engaged in an intensive search. The officer commanding the RAAF base at Butterworth has convened a court of inquiry into the circumstances.
Debate resumed from 18 March (vide page 616). on motion by Dr Forbes:
That the House take note of the following paper:
Home Care Programme for the AgedMinisterial Statement, 26 February 1969.
– The matter before the House is the home care programme for the aged. The scheme outlined by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) provides for the expenditure by the Commonwealth of $ 1.25m a year on a $1 for $1 matching basis with the State and local government authorities. To assist the development of housekeeper and home help services the Commonwealth is offering $500,000 on a $1 for $1 basis with State expenditure, with the total sum to be allocated between the States broadly in proportion of their populations. The existing Commonwealth payments to the States for housekeeper services will be absorbed in the proposed new grant. According to that formula, New South Wales, which has 37.7% of the population of Australia, will receive $188,000; Victoria, which has 28.2%, will receive $140,000; Queensland, which has 14.5%, will receive $72,000; South Australia, which has 9.6%, will receive $48,000; Western Australia, which has 7.3%, will receive $36,000 and Tasmania, which has 3.2%, will receive $16,000. An amount of $23,000 was allocated to the States for housekeeper services in the 1968. Budget. So, the grant of $500,000 is in fact reduced to $477,000.
The Opposition welcomes any measures which will alleviate the distress and hardship suffered by underprivileged pensioners. However, the amount allocated by the Commonwealth is a niggardly sum and will only scratch the surface of this urgent need. I submit that that is illustrated by the amounts which I have just quoted for housekeeper and home care services. Although it is not specifically mentioned in the Minister’s statement, I assume that the allocation to senior citizen centres and paramedical services of $500,000 and $250,000 respectively will be meted out to the States on a population basis. The success of this scheme is to a large extent dependent on the ability of the States to match the grants. It is well known that the
State governments are finding it most difficult to carry out their present functions with the inadequate finance at their disposal. As a consequence, the States will be placed in the position of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
I should like to pay tribute to the Brown Sisters and the Sydney District Nursing Association for the magnificent work they have done and are doing in the Sydney area caring for the sick and needy aged and invalid pensioners, some of whom are permanently bedridden and others suffering from chronic ailments. A nurse’s duties include bathing a patient, giving injections and changing dressings. I believe that there are no words of gratitude which can adequately express the thanks we all owe these nurses. The service rendered stems from the fact that hospitals will not accept pensioner patients who are permanently bedridden or suffering from long-standing chronic ailments.
It is interesting to note that in his statement the Minister for Health quoted the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) as saying:
No nation can be great unless it seeks not only materially to progress but also to take care of the weaker within it, the aged within it, and the ill within it.
The scheme put forward by the Minister for Health does not achieve that purpose to any noticeable extent. Conversely, the Commonwealth Government will be obliged to grant several times the sum of money allocated in matching grants to do justice to the underprivileged pensioners in this particular category. The Commonwealth’s grant of $ 1.25m for the six States is parsimonious almost to the extent of being ludicrous. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has consistently stated that we are one of the most prosperous countries in the world and that we live in an affluent society. I do not know how anyone can subscribe to those descriptions when there are so many pensioners living in dire circumstances and needing constant care.
I turnto that section of the Minister’s statement which refers to the matching grant of $500,000 for approved capital expenditure on senior citizen centres. The Minister said that the apportionment of the cost is to be on the basis of one-third Commonwealth, one-third State and one-third local authority. He went on to say that for approved centres assistance will be available to meet one-half of the salary of the welfare officer possessing the necessary qualifications. As I mentioned previously, the State Governments will find it most difficult to match the Commonwealth grant. We now find that the Liberal-Country Party Coalition Government expects local government authorities to meet a matching grant, despite the fact that numerous councils and shires are almost bankrupt and rates are at an all-time high.
It is interesting to note the history of senior citizen centres. The initial step in this field was taken by the Labor controlled Sydney City Council under the guidance of Mr Harry Jensen, who was the Lord Mayor but is now the New South Wales State member for Wyong. Since the first centre was opened in Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, in 1958, an additional fifteen centres have been opened, making a total of sixteen in all. Each centre is under the management of a trained salaried welfare officer. Each centre provides a threecourse meal daily for 20c as well as chiropody and laundry services. I can vividly recall that before the establishment of these centres the life of a pensioner was fraught with frustration and loneliness. Pensioners used to wander the streets and sit in the parks because they had no social activities. Now, thanks to the former New South Wales Labor Government, all that has been changed and there is ample opportunity to make life worthwhile.
The Labor controlled Botany Municipal Council followed the lead of the Sydney City Council and established centres at Mascot and Botany. In all there are six centres in the Watson electorate. On numerous occasions I have visited these centres and have always found the members to be happy and contented. The four City Council centres in my electorate are managed by trained welfare salaried officers. These women do a magnificent job. It is a job which requires a great deal of patience, tolerance and understanding. One of the City Council centres, the Reg Cope Centre in Pitt Street, Redfern, named after my deceased brother who was an alderman until the time of his death, has inadequate premises to meet its needs due to an expanding number of members. When the Sydney City Council was Labour controlled sufficient finance had been set aside to make alterations to cope with the needs of this centre. But when the Askin Government in New South Wales took a backward step and contracted the boundaries of the City of Sydney, dismissed the democratically elected council and replaced it by appointing three Liberal commissioners, one of the commissioners’ first acts was to pigeonhole the plans for the remodelling of the Reg Cope Centre. In addition the Labor council provided the pensioners with Christmas relief amounting to $12 each. This was known as ‘Pudding Week’ because the council provided a plum pudding for the pensioners’ Christmas table.
Now we find that the Commissioners have abolished this humane gesture, a despicable, callous action which clearly shows the Liberals running true to form. The Labor controlled Sydney City Council also initiated the Meals on Wheels scheme. lt provided all the necessary equipment and the helpers, most of whom are volunteer workers. It is noticeable in the Minister’s statement that no Commonwealth financial assistance is to be given in this field. One would think that at least the Commonwealth would assist in the purchasing of equipment. I am sure that if this was done the service would expand rapidly. As it is, to put it bluntly the majority of local government authorities simply cannot afford the cost. Some honourable members on the other side of the House have complained that supporters of the Opposition have offered only destructive criticisim and nothing constructive. This is actually a fallacious argument because honourable members would know that it is the duty of an Opposition to point out discrepancies in proposed Government legislation.
If we were permitted to offer constructive suggestions we would do so by moving amendments when the relevant Bill is introduced in the House. However, as supporters of the Government know, or should know, no amendments can be moved to a money Bill. In dealing broadly with the Minister’s statement, I assume that the Government in bringing down a recommendation involving Commonwealth money would have undertaken a thorough research to ascertain the approximate number of pensioners who will benefit from these proposals. This would exclude the senior citizen centres which, of course, will cater for all pensioners. The Opposition certainly would appreciate the answers to the following questions: What is the approximate number of pensioners who will receive care in their homes, or, if necessary, in nursing homes? What is the approximate number who will receive housekeeping and home help services? What is the approximate number who will receive paramedical services? With this information the Parliament would be in a much better position to debate the merits or demerits of the scheme when the legislation is brought down.
In concluding my remarks I should like to point out that Australia owes a great debt of gratitude to the age and invalid pensioners of today. These people can be classified as the pioneers of the progress which has taken place over the last two decades. The majority of them have experienced hard times, particularly during the great depression of .the 1930s when many parents raised families on the dole, when they did not have sufficient food or clothing for their children and when they were evicted on to the streets with their few worldly goods by repacious landlords because they had no money to pay rent. At that time if the breadwinner had a job and became ill or temporarily unemployed he received no unemployment or sickness benefit. If he was injured going to work or while at work he .received no workers compensation, and except in New South Wales the parents received no child endowment to assist in rearing . a family. These are the points which should never be forgotten when dealing with the welfare of the pensioners. Finally, Jet me put this to you, Mr Speaker. If this is the prosperous country that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) makes it out to be then the pioneers who built that prosperity are justly entitled to a bigger share of the loaf than the Few crumbs in the Minister’s proposals.
– Every honourable member must welcome the Minister’s statement on the home care programme for the aged with the exception of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) who, for his own electoral reasons, has seen fit to ridicule it. He set the stage for other Opposition knockers. It is wrong to say, as did the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), that it is only in an election year that the Government shows interest in the aged, the sick and the needy. The Governor-General, in his Address at the opening of the Parliament on 12th March 1968 said:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the objective of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has followed this with similar statements on numerous occasions since that time. In Sydney at the beginning of last year he said that the country should care for the aged, the weak and the sick. That was last year. His statement expressed exactly what is meant by these proposals. Last year when introducing the Budget the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said that the Government had placed the objective of helping the aged, the sick and the needy in the forefront of its domestic programmes. That was last year. But this year is election year, not last year, and that is why Opposition speakers have been trying so hard to make political capital by rubbishing the Government’s previously stated plans to assist the aged, the sick and the poor! But I see the proposals as a genuine effort to help those members of the community who most need help.
These proposals relate to a Commonwealth offer to the States, but I seek the assurance of the Minister that the Northern Territory will not be forgotten in them. The Territory is a hard country. The elderly and the aged of today have often lived under hard and exacting conditions. These pioneers battled in very rough physical conditions - miners on rocky hills and dry gullies and Afghans with camel teams travelling to and from Oodnadatta and such places. There is an appeal for a memorial to these hardy pioneers being launched in Alice Springs at this moment by the manager of the Australian Inland Mission Old Timers Home, and rightly so, because they did a magnificent job. They were stockmen and station workers in distant cattle camps and settlements with no social contacts as we know them today. Over the years these people have lived in and developed the Northern Territory. These battlers in the outback have done a great service for Australia. Now we are assisting them to enjoy their later years.
The development of senior citizen centres is to be commended. As 1 mentioned previously, there is such a centre in
Alice Springs. It is the Australian Inland Mission Old Timers Home just south of Alice Springs where there is separate accommodation for single men and for married couples. There is a community centre for the very frail, the sick and the very aged and there is a well equipped hospital looked after by the AIM Sisters. This lovely place is surrounded by gardens, orange groves and lucerne and vegetable patches. The produce is sold to offset the expenses of running the home, and the inmates benefit from it. There is nothing comparable in Darwin, Katherine or Tennant Creek, and I urge the Government to study this AIM home in Alice Springs, with its very well managed approach to this situation, as a pattern for other centres in the Northern Territory and in other places in Australia.
I hope to see under this scheme similar places in other northern areas. Because this is a proposal made by the Commonwealth to the States 1 am going to be very brief. I know well that the Northern Territory comes under the Commonwealth in regards to health and such matters, but there is one point I must make. Owing to the high cost involved in building and living in the Northern Territory - I have said this previously, and I still say it - when money is allocated for projects of this kind I implore the Government to consider a suitable allocation for the northern areas. Surely it must be realised that it costs more to live in the places I have mentioned - Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Yirrkala and Alice Springs - than it does to live in the south. So I again urge that set incomes, allocations and pensions be loaded so that people who live in the north, who have pioneered the north and who have done a tremendous job for our country will lose nothing by living in the north.
– The White Paper on home care for the aged, which was presented by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), is in my view the most important social welfare subject that has come before the House in a long time. Its importance lies in the fact that it proposes something positive for the welfare and care of infirm and aged people who, having been born in the first half of the twentieth century, played a magnificent part in the development of their country, although its economy had to endure two World Wars and long periods of depression. In those years most families suffered great poverty and hardship and were rarely able to provide assets and homes of their own. They are the people who need the assistance which is provided for in this statement. During the years to which I have referred these people have seen the most marvellous period of scientific, industrial and agricultural development take place that the world has ever known, but rarely, if ever, have any of them been able to enjoy very much of the real wealth and prosperity that now flows Iron those 60 years of time. However, there appears to be every prospect that the people born in the second half of the century will enjoy not only longer life but much greater security as a whole. This is- already to be seen in their interest in superannuation and similar schemes.
That all tends to emphasise the importance of the present proposals. I only hope that the Government does not necessarily delay the introduction of the legislation for very long because the measure is urgently needed by patients in institutions and by sick people elsewhere. Why the Government has brought down the proposals to the Parliament in the form of a White Paper is not very hard to guess. It being an election year there will be two debates on it and, of course, that provides the Government with much-needed propaganda at a time when costs and prices of commodities are soaring higher and higher and money values are decreasing. I very much doubt whether many honourable members opposite have any real concern for the actual welfare of the sick aged, the frail aged and, more particularly, the senile among us, whose growing old is far more tragic than death itself. But, of course, I suppose that legislation of the type which will follow this debate will at least give some hope to those people now clinging to life in all sorts of places of abode. Many of them have only $12.50 a week with which to meet their needs. I only hope that State governments do not dilly dally for too long before accepting the Commonwealth’s proposals in this instance.
The Minister has indicated that the States and the Commonwealth have come to an agreement in principle on the form that these proposals wilt take and the finance which each will contribute to carry them out. But, of course, I wager that the Government did not discuss the proposals with local government authorities which are asked to join with State governments in the financing of the scheme. The Minister also intimated that the Commonwealth Government recognises the respective constitutional responsibilities of the various States and the Commonwealth and that it has not allowed any differences that do exist to inhibit the development of a mutually agreed programme. Neither it should. 1 am wondering what is behind this apology by the Government. So far as I am concerned, the Commonwealth possesses all the legal authority it needs to be able to give the proposals the fullest protection of whatever legislation it decides to bring down. The Government’s approach to the problems of home care for the aged is, I think, all wrong, because if it is fair dinkum it should be using the constitutional authority which it was given in 1946 by the people of Australia at a referendum on health and social welfare to remove the anomalies which a duplicated system of welfare nurtures. I suggest that by taking over full responsibility for aged care the Government would be economically rewarded in the long run.
Last year the Government should also have used the same powers when it legislated to provide financial assistance grants to certain types of women who were not then covered by any other Commonwealth legislation. At the present time there are more anomalies in the nation’s health and welfare services than at any other time. To all intents and purposes it appears to many people that the Australian population is being segregated into privileged and underprivileged classes, because although every one of us at some time or another has been and still is a taxpayer and is in fact contributing to the Commonwealth’s finance rather heavily, both in direct and indirect taxation, there are literally thousands and thousands of sick aged, unemployed and impoverished persons who have never at any time been able to overcome adversity or receive the help which in my view, they were and still are entitled to receive. The figures of the Commonwealth Statistician show this to be true.
While I most certainly congratulate the Minister on the proposals that are contained in the statement now before the House, in my opinion they do not go nearly far enough, and I hope that an incoming Labor government will undertake to review all the shortcomings of whatever legislation will result from this debate and, further to that, I hope that a Labor government will eventually take over responsibility for all our health and welfare services and place them on a balanced and just footing. The statement before us appears to contain five important facets, each of which, I submit, are grossly underfinanced.
One other aspect of ill-health about which nothing has ever been done by this Government and about which nothing is proposed in this paper is mental senility. Senility often becomes pronounced in people after they have suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. Al the onset of the disease the patient is hospitalised. Then when the brain damage has become stabilised and the patient’s condition improves, hospital authorities decide, in their wisdom, that as the patient no longer needs medical treatment and care - even though he or she may have suffered loss of speech or become paralysed in the limbs or affected in some other way, such as loss of control of urine or bowel movement - the patient should be discharged either to his or her home or to some other institution. At that point hundreds of sick people find themselves admitted to mental institutions, although they are not mental, and when so admitted this Government takes away their entitlement to age, invalid or widows’ pension. At the same time the State governments impose on the patient their own charges of hospitalisation.
It is true that if an inmate has no assets the States get nothing, but should a patient have assets of any kind, the Master in Lunacy grabs the lot under the guise of watching the patient’s interests, under State legislation. In my opinion, the lunacy legislation is, in many ways, the harshest and most cruel piece of legislation that anyone could find. I remind honourable members that under the Chifley Government, although patients in mental hospitals were the responsibility of State governments, their assets were sacrosanct. It is true that inmates of mental hospitals did not receive a pension, but it is also true that their estates were not used to meet their hospital expenses because the hospital was subsidised by the Commonwealth Government for that purpose. It is indeed illuminating to learn that as regards the present proposals the Minister specifically states that the Prime Minister’s offer to the States is based on proposals, which include the essential ingredients for a comprehensive and effective programme for the care of the aged, including the sick aged in their homes or, where necessary, in nursing homes.
I ask the Minister: Can the word ‘comprehensive’ in this context be interpreted to mean that, whenever a chronically ill person who is unable to attend to his or her own personal requirements and some person is prepared to accept responsibility for the care and welfare of that person in his own home, either finance, paid nursing aids, housekeeping or home help and paramedical services will be available to them from time to time? If that is. the position I am sure the stigma associated with mental home confinement for many people will disappear. That is how it should be because as I see it there will be a lot of people removing their beloved relatives from mental institutions to the care of their own homes. I sincerely hope that the Government is sincere in its desire to help the aged sick wherever possible because at the moment the scales are heavily weighed against some of them. I personally can point to scores of cases where people are constantly waiting in attendance on old folk and are undermining - and have undermined - their own health in doing so. In addition to the help that they are giving the same people are paying out of their own pockets for nursing and paramedical services. In my view that is also wrong.
Again 1 mention the fact that inmates of mental institutions are denied pension benefits of any kind, although inmates of many other institutions such as the Newington home for women, Callan Park for men, Allandale and numerous other such places are al! allowed to receive pensions. I ask: Why? Some chronically ill patients fortunate enough to be inmates of convalescent, benevolent or nursing homes, including intensive aid patients, are now having spent on them upwards of $51 a week. This is made up of S 14 pension, $2 rent allowance, S 14 ordinary hospital allowance and . $21 intensive care allowance. The Minister’s statement of 7th February confirms the payment of the last two amounts. A report of that statement read:
The Minister for Health. Dr A. J. Forbes, said today that between January 1 and January Si supplementary benefit of $3 a day had been granted to 8,342 patients in nursing homes throughout Australia, who required and were receiving intensive nursing home care. The new benefit was introduced on January 1.
It is additional to the $2 a day ordinary benefit paid by the Commonwealth to some 34,000 patients in nursing homes.
From what the Minister has said it must be evident that the Government is intent on allowing a continuation of the pensioner nursing home racket. Yet, at the very same time there are thousands of other people in equally as bad a state of health as those covered by the scheme, who are receiving nothing beyond their basic pension, not even assistance through the nursing or housekeeping service that the Government claims it has been subsidising.
Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to tell the House the amount the Government is already providing for housekeeping and nursing services in the various States, seeing that so many people know nothing of the existence of those services and in view of the fact that the amounts now being subscribed are to be absorbed into the new scheme. Will the Minister also tell us what is to be the Government’s future contribution to both the home nursing service and the housekeeper service in view of the fact that this year’s contribution is said to be about $885,000 for the home nursing services alone? I believe it is of the utmost importance that the House should know much more than it has been told about the proposed new services in the Minister’s statement. This being an election year, I have a hunch that there could be an immense amount of political background to the statement. I hope I am wrong in this, but it would be equally wrong to find out after the election that many of the old folk had been hoaxed about the Government’s aged home care proposals.
At present there are literally thousands of people paying out of their basic pensions for housekeeper and nursing services. In addition, scores of them are required to pay rates and other taxes which are continually rising. Obviously, members of families are assisting with this in many cases, but when a comparison is made between the pensioner in the nursing home and the pensioner in his own home it must be said that the one in the nursing home is in the more favourable position by far. I suggest that the Government should have some inquiries made as to what is the general practice regarding the disbursement of the pensioners’ pensions in some private nursing homes. I have repeatedly had complaints from relatives of inmates to the effect that the homes take the whole of the pensions from the inmates, leaving them without a cent to call their own.
Perhaps prior to the granting of the $2 a day benefit by the Government to nursing homes the pensions grab may have been excusable. But such grabbing of pensions is no longer excusable now that such institutions are receiving upwards of $2,652 a year for some patients and $1,560 for other patients, and with no bad debts to worry about. I remind the Minister that pensioners confined to benevolent institutions under the control of State governments receive something like S8 or $9 a fortnight pocket money out of their pensions. The remainder is used for accommodation charges. Yet, as I have said, some private nursing homes take all of an inmate’s pension. I think that the Government should have a hard look at this situation. So far as I am concerned, the practice that I have referred to is not nearly good enough. I urge the Minister to see that in future all pensioners in institutions are allowed to retain something of their pension as pocket money.
The proposition referred to by the Minister for the establishment of more State nursing homes is to be applauded, as is the proposal to assist in the financing of senior citizens’ centres. In regard to these proposals, 1 urge the Government to use some of the funds now standing to the credit of the National Welfare Fund, and which are earning only 1% as treasury bills, for these propositions. As the Government will soon learn, a total of $3m a year to be spent by all authorities on nursing homes and pensioners’ centres will not go very far. However, I am sure the proposals will be acceptable at least until something better is offered. Throughout Australia there are numerous voluntary church and welfare bodies which conduct homes for the aged and for others who are not so old. These organisations have their own nursing services. Now, because of soaring costs, many of them are finding it difficult to pay their way. At present I have, and I believe that my colleagues the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) also may have, correspondence before the Minister for Health in respect of problems that are confronting the administrators of the Newcastle and District Methodist Home Nursing Service. I had proposed to read extracts from a letter in this regard but the Minister has this in his possession so it will not be necessary to do so. The letter sets out the difficulties which beset these homes and it could well be placed on the record. I urge the Minister to give this his every attention. He should give the type of organisation to which I referred all the financial assistance he is capable of giving because, as I have said, it is a non-profit making body performing a wonderful voluntary community service.
Finally, I reiterate what I said earlier, that I hope the Government is sincere in the task it is embarking upon and that the Minister was genuinely expressing the Government’s view when, in presenting this ministerial statement, he said:
In bringing such a welfare programme into effect we have been seeking to identify those who are most in need so that we can provide them with the extra help they may require whether by way of direct financial assistance or by way of services.
Mr IRWIN (Mitchell) [8.481-1 congratulate the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and the Government on presenting to the House this very worth-while paper. Honourable members of the Opposition do not oppose the proposals. They dare not oppose them because they know that they have been and will be received with acclaim throughout Australia. Of course, in the field of social welfare we are never able to go quite as far as we would like to go. It is a new concept in Australia when the Parliament goes into the field of care for the aged. One would think that the Opposition, in debating such a statement by the Minister, would give the Government some encouragement and congratulations and would point out spheres where an improvement could be made to the scheme. But all we had was a certain amount of buffoonery, sarcasm and gibes about it being election year discounting, of course, that when John Gorton became Prime Minister in one of his initial statements he referred to his desire to effect improvements in the field of welfare and to make provision for the less privileged. When he was preparing the speech with which the Governor-General opened this Parliament, he would not have had an election in mind. His first entry into politics was actuated by a desire to assist the less privileged of our community. Despite the sarcasm, criticism and lack’ of constructive suggestions, the Prime Minister and the welfare committee of Cabinet are to be congratulated on bringing this scheme forward.
– I cannot hear you too well.
– Then put on your hearing aid. The Prime Minister said initially that no nation can be great unless it seeks not only materially to progress but also to take care of the weak within it, the aged within it and the ill within it. In the Liberal Party wc have a philosophy that we do not mind to what heights a man, by his own endeavours, shall succeed. At the same time we believe, and we put into practice a very wonderful precept: That as a base we will nol allow any individual of this nation to fall, despite the fact that his circumstances may have been brought about by his own foolishness and way of living. We have created that base and it supplies the necessities of life. It may be frugal, but it does supply the wherewithal to keep body and soul together.
– Only just, but we are progressing, and we have done very much more than the Opposition did when it was in power to alleviate distress in all fields of social welfare. We are proud of our efforts and we will continue to do this. It is a progressive exercise that we are developing. It takes time to work out the various activities and the places where assistance should be given. The Government’s welfare programme was referred to in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech last year. He referred to the fact that the Government is prepared to go beyond established fields. That is what we are doing. Prior to the Second World War if we gave a handout to the aged there was not very much more that was supplied to the indigent people.
We are progressively assisting all types of people and we are endeavouring to bring about a state where the aged and their relatives will make some effort to retain the dignity of life. We will assist them to be worthwhile citizens right up to the very end of time. Once we take dignity from any of our individuals we take one of the greatest components of our whole being. Dignity is a wonderful thing and if we can assist these aged people to retain that dignity we are doing a wonderful thing. Regarding the home care proposal, if the aged have a home and nearby relatives it is preferable that those aged people should be attended to and assisted in the environment of surroundings and friends where they have lived for so long. Under this proposal the Government will subsidise the States to enable the lives of these people to be made much happier. I have been associated with age pensioners associations for some 25 or 26 years and I have been in close contact with those who have lost their partners. This is where the sadness comes about and where care for the aged is one of the greatest things one individual can do for another.
– How do you know?
– Because I have been a social worker for years, helping these people when their partners have passed on. My wife and I have visited hundreds of them. We found that while they would provide and cook a meal for two, there was always a tendency when one partner passed on just to have tea and bread and butter and not to go to the trouble of preparing a meal. Honourable members know that when their wives are away and they are on their own that is about the extent of what they do. We had a wonderful doctor in our district who fell into disrepute according to the Department of Health. He went to Edinburgh at the age of 59 to study nutrition and malnutrition. He went to Benger’s food laboratories to study this subject and when he came back he put his ideas into operation. When he saw a single pensioner living alone on tea and biscuits, or cake, or tea and bread and butter he immediately put into effect what he had learned at the Edinburgh University and Benger’s food laboratories about malnutrition in the aged. Because of this, and because of his attendance on these people, he was struck off the register of the Department of Health. He was putting into operation ideas of which the Australian medical profession had little knowledge. 1 would say that at that time very few medical officers understood the nutrition and malnutrition of the aged.
This medico suffered because of the attention he gave to pensioners and he finished up owing the Commonwealth Government some $1,900. To his everlasting credit he has continued to serve the aged people in his locality without receiving one penny from the pensioners or from this Government. But he suffered because of the prejudice within the medical’ profession and a belief that he attended the pensioners too frequently. His mannerisms may make him a difficult man in some ways, but no-one will ever convince me that he did not act with all propriety and according to the ethical standards that he accepted when he became a medical officer. But for the services of this man, the age pensioners in the Riverstone area of New South Wales would not have been abl’e to get medical treatment at al). In some ways we are progressing medically and scientifically to a better understanding of what is required in caring for the aged.
I think the appointment of a welfare officer or social worker at senior citizen centres will cause trouble. The senior citizens in my district are quite able to look after themselves and they will not want any welfare officer telling them what to do. As time goes on the ability of senior citizens to care for themselves will improve progressively. People who retire at 65 years of age in full possession of their mental capacity and health will join the senior citizen clubs and will take office. Taking into account workers compensation, holiday pay, sick pay and similar benefits, I should imagine the lowest cost of a welfare officer would be $5,000 a year. I suggest to the Minister for Health that it would be far better to use the $5,000 to provide amenities, improve the buildings and extend the meals on wheels service instead of appointing a welfare officer to the centres. Amongst the senior citizens are people who have occupied executive positions and who are quite able to control their own affairs.
The Minister seems to be demanding that welfare officers be appointed to senior citizen centres, but I think that in many instances, though perhaps not in all, the $5,000 could be better used in other ways.
I agree with the statement of the Minister that the senior citizen centres axe central points in the community. Recently 1 had the great pleasure of attending the opening of one such centre in Blacktown. It cost $30,000. I was originally responsible for bringing the senior citizens together. The Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association is doing quite a good job, but several people who had occupied reasonably good positions and in some instances executive positions felt that they would like to have a rendezvous. Over the years we collected $5,000 or $6,000 for a club and Blacktown Municipal Council provided the remainder of the cost. I make a plea to the Minister that, where the building has been recently constructed, the one-third of the cost that will be provided by the Commonwealth apply to buildings that were being constructed at the time the announcement was made. I think that would be only fair. 1 want to have senior citizens’ halls established in Riverstone, Richmond and other parts of my electorate.
We are to congratulate the Government on the foresight and the originality of some of the proposals made by the Minister for Health. 1 trust that Opposition members in the future will get away from the thinking of 50 or 60 years ago. This is a modern age and it is about time they moved away from the rigid class distinctions that 1 heard mentioned by some of them tonight. We are above that in Australia. We regard each other as Australians. We have no snobbery, and we all know what we think of those who try to parade themselves intellectually, socially or economically as better than others. We do not have any time at all for such people. The days of snobbery and class distinction have gone. Why the Australian Labor Party still adheres to this backward type of thinking is beyond my comprehension.
This is a very good scheme. Of course, it does not cover all the facets of the care of the aged that we would like it to cover. We are well supplied in the area that I represent with the wonderful Church of England homes, with the Nuffield buildings and the Mowll buildings. At Penrith we have the wonderful Governor Phillip hospital, which is one of the finest geriatric hospitals in Australia. The care and attention given to patients there revives them. Many people over 80 years of age have been brought back to such health and strength that they have been able to resume normal activities for the rest of their lives. This is a wonderful organisation.
Order! The honourable member’s, time has expired.
– There is a large and growing area of responsibility in this community towards the aged. This is a responsibility that must be borne by the community. The reason for this is that in this century there has been a profound change in the age distribution structure within our society. People today are living longer; the life expectancy rate has in-‘ creased. This is an indication not that people now live into much greater ages, but rather that more people are living into old age. The reason for this, quite simply, is. that more infants, are surviving infancy. I am sure that a host of reasons readily present themselves to members for this trend. But this has been a profund change which has taken place in this century and, accordingly, there ought to be profund responses from the responsible decision makers in our community. It. is not a change which has suddenly appeared within our society. It is a change which has been developing gradually but significantly during the course of this century, which is nearly threequarters completed.
One finds oneself a little perplexed that only at this late stage we have this proposal introduced into the House. It is important to remember that it is only a proposal. It is not legislation; it is not a Bill for an Act. lt does not provide for the allocation of finance for a purpose. There is only a general proposal in the mind of the Government - and it is subject to negotiation with the States - to provide a programme of home care for the aged. It is altogether too extravagant and too self-congratulatory on the part of the Government to claim, as the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) claimed, that this is a comprehensive programme for the care of the aged. ‘Comprehensive’ con veys many meanings, not the least important of which is that the full requirements of aged people are to be met by this programme. As I propose to put forward a little later, this programme being considered by the Federal Government and recommended to the State Governments is far from comprehensive. In fact, it is very narrow and shallow in the amount of coverage which it is to give as a care programme for aged people.
What I am most concerned about, however, is the secrecy which seems to surround the presentation of much of the detail associated with this proposed programme. It is a most unusual procedure that is being adopted by the Minister for Health. He is to have two bites at the cherry. He has introduced into the House a proposition for a programme for the care of the aged people. A little later he will introduce a Bill. We hope it will be only a little later, but goodness knows. If the restrictive trade practices legislation is any criterion of Commonwealth-State negotiations, it may be a great deal later. But let us say that a little later we will have a Bill for an Act which will allow the enactment of the programme. Then 1 hope we will have much more and more precise detail on just what is involved in this programme and how it is to be applied throughout the Commonwealth. But at this stage all we have before us is a very brief statement, not without some confusion in it.
Frankly, it is grossly unfair for the Minister for Health to present this rather vague statement to the members of this Parliament and to ask them to consider and to give decided observations on this outline of recommendations in the course of this debate. For instance, we have no knowledge of what the submissions of the State Governments were to the Federal Government. Surely this is important if we are to consider this proposed programme. How do we know what the needs are of the various States and the people in the States? I repeat that it seems to me - I will indicate why a little later - that what is to be provided by the Government is altogether too little for the very important area of need among aged people for home care. We do not know the details of this programme, and it is quite unfair for the Government to expect us to make considered comments on it. Again, it seems to me that the programme has been drawn out of the hat, that it is another conjuring trick by the Government. After all, this is an election year, a good year for this sort of thing. The stampede for votes is on. This is a year when the Government conjures something out of the top hat, and so it brings forward this issue.
Why could we not have had some more precise information? Why was there not a proper survey? There may have been - I do not know. If so I do not know what was involved in the survey, but I rather suspect that there was some sort of discussion between the States and the Federal Government and some sort of questionnaire arrangement, perhaps through a committee of interested parties. But this is scarcely the way to develop this sort of information, because largely the information to be extracted by this procedure will rely on impressions. Even coming from carefully disciplined and carefully trained minds, impressions can be quite misleading at times. So really we do not know whether we have this accurate information which is necessary if we are to have a considered and detailed discussion on this proposition.
Why can we not have, as is the practice in Great Britain, White Papers presented by the Department of Social Services or by the Department of Health on these important aspects of social welfare programmes not only for our benefit but for the benefit of the State governments and local authorities, which are becoming increasingly involved in this field of social welfare, and for the benefit of private agencies, which have contributed so grandly in this field of social welfare, and for the benefit of the general public. There are no problems in Great Britain in the preparation, publication and distribution to the public of reports on very important fields of social welfare responsibility, but everything that is done in this country seems to be done with a shroud of secrecy. Members of Parliament are kept in ignorance, and yet they are expected to apply themselves intelligently and in an informed way to crucial issues. Perhaps we can make an argument for secrecy in regard to defence and security, but, for goodness sake, why should the Crimes Act, for instance, be a potential threat to any public servant who wished to discuss with members of Parliament some non-security issue such as the findings of the survey which I hope was carried out by the Government and upon which recommendations for the home care programme have been based? It all seems quite odd and it all seems quite unnecessary. Frankly, it is an insult to this Parliament.
What is virtually taking place is another example of government by the elite, that is the elite of an autocratic Cabinet, which puts forward a proposal and receives the endorsement of the backbenchers of its own party and says: ‘We have the numbers. We will push the legislation through.’ This is scarcely the way in which to develop the best sort of legislation. A far better way is to encourage members of the House to engage in informed debate based on substantially reliably collated information. That is the first objection I. want to express. Frankly, it is one of the most important objections which we can make. If we believe in the value of democracy, there has to be some democratic participation in the course of the issues we debate in this House and under no circumstances can the complete secrecy which the Minister for Health and the Cabinet are applying in this case be justified.
Having said that, I now want to say that it is an important field of social welfare responsibility into which the Government has moved. The move is belated, but better late than never. There is clear evidence that there is a marked relationship between chronic illness and age. In the United States of America a number of surveys have been carried our, andthey have established this fact. Probably one of the more impressive and more recent ones was the United States National Health Survey carried out by Confrey and Goldstein in1960, which showed that there is a marked relationship between chronic illness and age. In fact, the propositions that have been put forward by the Government are propositions which are needed in the Australian community. Dr Ford published an article in the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ in September last year. At that time he was a rehabilitation consultant at the Canberra Community Hospital and a research scholar in sociology at the local university. His article was entitled ‘Why Are the Aged a Problem in Modern Society?’,It is quite an informative article on the sorts of things that are concerning us in the course of this debate. In his conclusions he says:
Morbidity statistics demonstrate that the aged are a group who manifest a high degree of dependency, because of the frequency of illness and the incidence of chronic disease, limiting independence and mobility.
Sociological studies demonstrate the dependency of the aged as a social group, who are (a) more likely to be unable to find a significant and meaningful function and role in modern society; (b) more likely to suffer economic _ and social indigence; (c) more dependent on the ‘institutionalised services of modern organised societies than other mature age groups. lt is an established fact that we have this growing group of aged people within our community. Perhaps I should point out that in the 1890s a person had a 45% chance of reaching 65 years of age. Today he has a 72% chance. A woman 60 years of age today has a life expectancy of 18* years in retirement. A man 65 years of age has an expectancy of 12£ years of retirement. So there is a fairly substantial period of life expectancy for old people. There is a growing number of old people. It is clearly established that these people have a relationship with chronic illness; therefore this proposal by the Government is badly needed. But it is being proposed on far too tight a scale.
Let us have a look at some of these propositions which have been put. Over 5 years an amount of $5m is to be provided for the capital cost of providing State nursing homes on a Si for $1 basis for the care of the frail aged with little means. This is not a generous contribution. I very much doubt whether it will come anywhere near meeting the needs of the people who will be qualified to go into these homes. My reliable information is that there are about 4,000 people in Victoria alone who are waiting to enter this type of State home. A quick estimate indicates that about §40 per head per year would be available for those 4,000 people. In fact the number of people in Victoria and the other States who will want to enter these homes will be much greater than is indicated by the waiting list. Quite obviously the frustration of going on a waiting list which is slowly, if ever, reduced - in this case it will probably expand - keeps many people from nominating for what they regard to be the pursuit of a hopeless goal. This contribution is not generous and it will not be sufficient. Actually we are debating this particular point in the dark. What is the aim of the Government? Just how many people will the Government be providing for? What quality of accommodation will be provided? A host of questions pose themselves to one’s mind, yet there is no evidence upon which one can base one’s decisions on those questions.
I think that a definition of ‘frail aged’ would have been appropriate. We have already had a definition problem in relation to intensive care nursing, and nursing homes have run into a problem here and they have raised complaints as a consequence. We ought to have a clear definition of ‘frail aged’. These were the Minister’s words: For the care of the frail aged with little means’. When we are allocating public money in the field of social welfare there should be a means test to ensure that we provide the money in the areas of greatest need. This is highly essential. But at the same time I do not bel’ieve in fairly strict parsimonious levels being struck for these means tests. I feel that it is necessary to have a reasonably liberal level related to living standards generally in the community. What will be the means test? Again we do not know. We have no information on this. This is a deplorable way in which to run the affairs of this country and to ask this Parliament to deliberate on national responsibilities. The Government intends to provide $ 1.25m on a Si for $1 basis with the States for home care. Home care for whom? Will1 it just be for the aged? What about the invalids? Surely they need this sort of treatment. I am sure that there are widows in this category who would justify this sort of home care. Again there is a grave deficiency in the sort of information which is put before this House. We are being seriously asked to discuss this important proposition, lt is quite unfair, unrealistic and, frankly, the sort of practice which undermines the strength of the democratic structure of our society.
The senior citizen centres will receive $500,000 per year on the basis of one-third of the funds coming from each of the Commonwealth, the States and the local authorities. This is not a great amount. Obviously a problem will arise in relation to local authorities. Some of the local authorities in my State have been reticent about supporting and in some cases have refused to support housing programmes for Aboriginals simply because they do not have enough finance to look after their essential administrative responsibilities, and they are being forced more and more into public loan debt 10 meet their commitments. Their commitments are exceeding their capacity to pay, with the result that potholes are growing at a faster rate than they are able to cope with them. Potholes are a symptom of the breakdown of local authority administration. lt could easily be that many local authorities will not be able to support this programme. Those local authorities who will be able 10 support it will not necessarily be in areas of greatest need. They might be in middle income group areas or in areas slightly below that standard, but generally speaking the greater proportion of this sort of assistance or the best equipped centres will not come from the lower socioeconomic groupings.
The Government referred to assistance by way of meeting half the salary of welfare officers. I seriously hope that the Government will demand that qualified people fill these positions and not some well meaning but determined matrons who may have worked very hard in the local organisations. lt is essential that we have welfare officers who are skilled social workers and who can make a contribution in this field. If the experience in Queensland is any guide we will run into trouble. Indeed 1 understand it is a general problem. There are not sufficient social workers in the Australian community. It is little wonder when one considers the way in which we socially undervalue these important people by paying them such miserable wages. The University of Queensland has applied quotas for social worker students in their second year of study on the basis that outside the University there are insufficient agencies with qualified people who can give the practical training necessary to train the students There are insufficient people outside because the universities are unable to train enough of these people. So we get into one of these circular arguments. It is ridiculous. The University lifted by 100% its contribution for social work research this year to the miserable figure of $2,000. This is the priority listing that we give to this important field of social endeavour.
I want to raise another query in relation to the appointment of these welfare officers. I wonder whether the Government has in mind the sort of duties these people will carry out. I can well conceive that in many cases - very many indeed - the skilled social worker will not have sufficient work to keep himself or herself fully occupied day in and day out each week, but it seems to me that a very strong argument could be advanced to support the suggestion that it might be more appropriate and beneficial to the community if these social workers were appointed by local authorities or municipalities. I earnestly ask the Government to give consideration to this suggestion and to discuss the matter with the States. There is no doubt that more than one social worker will be needed in each area. The services of these people are badly needed throughout the community. These skilled people could concentrate on this sort of work but in their spare time - they must have some - they would be able to devote themselves to often important community activity. There is a gross dearth of this sort of skill available for community work. Finally, an amount of $250,000 is to be provided for paramedical services on a $1 for $1 basis. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) pointed out how small the contribution is to the States. For instance, $10,000 would be provided for Tasmania. That is about 25c per pensioner in that State. At page 524 of Hansard he sets out how low this figure is for each of the States. Finally the grant basis should be $2 from the Commonwealth for each $1 from the States instead of the proposed $1 for $1.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened with interest to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). The Labor Party always complains bitterly if statements are made by Ministers outside the Parliament. I have heard these complaints on many occasions since I entered the Parliament and I am sure that other honourable members have heard them. Honourable members opposite object to any statement of government policy being made outside the Parliament. Tonight we are debating a statement that was made in the Parliament but the honourable member for Oxley has attempted to shoot the statement full of holes. We are not debating a Bill. The Government’s proposals have not been finalised. There is little encouragement to Ministers to make statements within the Parliament if those statements are to receive unqualified criticism of the kind levelled by the honourable member for Oxley.
Dealing with the subject of qualified social workers the honourable member deplored the use of well-meaning matrons. Perhaps such people would be no better than graduate social workers. Anybody who has had any experience of social work would deplore the honourable member’s statement about matrons. It is not so much academic qualifications that make a good social worker as experience and humanity. Frequently well-meaning matrons are ideal types to do social work of this kind. The honourable gentleman was bitter. He used extravagant language. He said that the statement was narrow in its coverage as a programme of care for the aged. He did not mention that it is also original and forward looking. He said that secrecy surrounded the introduction of the statement, that it is brief, that it is grossly unfair and rather vague. He deplored the fact that we are asked to consider it in these circumstances. He did not say that the statement acknowledges submissions .made by State governments. He said that the statement did not contain enough information for honourable members to reach a conclusion. He alleged that the statement amounted to a trick on the part of the Government. He suspected that there had been some discussions between the States and the Commonwealth and he wanted to know what they were.
It is obvious that each State will make separate submissions to the Commonwealth. In one State we may find considerable activity in an organisation such as the meals on wheels service whereas in another State such a service may be in its infancy. I think that the important thing about this matter is that all of the plans that have been advanced are in fact State proposals. In his statement the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) said:
The Commonwealth Government has now endorsed a programme submitted jointly by the States and the Prime Minister has made a formal offer of financial assistance . . .
He said further:
The Prime Minister’s offer is based on proposals put forward by the States themselves . . .
So the States can have no argument about this. They have put forward the proposals, at the suggestion of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth is now putting forward its financial proposals for the States to accept. It seems to me that there is a very good opportunity here and that the States will accept.
This is a very sensitive area of Commonwealth and State relations. It is something of an achievement - in fact, a breakthrough - for the Commonwealth to be prepared to make finance available to the States in this field of semi-hospitalisation. It is clearly set out in the statement that the money provided under this scheme towards the capital cost of nursing homes will be in the form of a matching grant. Surely this is a breakthrough. In the case of senior citizen clubs the grant will be available for approved capital expenditure on such centres. The Minister stated:
Secondly, for approved centres, -assistance will be available to meet half the salary of ‘ the welfare officer …
That is a definite breakthrough in a sensitive area of Commonwealth and State relations. As Federal members we should be doing all we can to see that the proposal becomes law: This is the first time there has been a partnership of Commonwealth, State and local government. This point is made by the Minister, who said: ‘
I would like to think that honourable members on both sides of the House join in pointing out to the States that in this instance the States will receive direct grants. These will not be loans. The money is to come from Commonwealth taxation revenue - a subject of constant criticism on the part of the States. The Commonwealth is able to make this money and other grants available to the States without reducing what is now a record defence budget.
I would like to place on record in Hansard some figures showing the relationship of Commonwealth grants to the States and State expenditures. This is a subject with which we are constantly bombarded, particularly in South Australia. In 1960 the Commonwealth made available to the States, by way of direct grants, $662m, which represented 33.5% of State expenditure. Last year Commonwealth grants had increased to the sum of SI, 337m, which represented 34.2% of State expenditure. This increase came at a time when the Commonwealth was involved in massive expenditure on defence, social services and other things - all coming from revenue. In the period to which I have referred the annual increment of the gross national product increased from 4.8% to 5.5%. lt is important to ask what is the Commonwealth’s responsibility as the Commonwealth now sees it. We believe that we must maintain an equitable distribution of funds amongst the States so that each State is able to provide to its citizens services of a standard comparable with those provided in other States. That is what will happen when this proposal becomes law. I heard only part of the speech of the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope). He said that many councils are almost bankrupt. He referred to the Sydney City Council, which he said was the first council to set up a senior citizens’ club. He found it necessary to inject into the debate a political flavour. He said that thanks to Labor controlled councils, all of this is now worth while. Let me read an extract from the report submitted by an officer who investigated these clubs in New South Wales, ft reads:
This was 5 years ago. The report continues:
The facilities available to members are open from 8.30 a.m. to 1.0.00 p.m. according to specific requirements of the locality. A small kitchen is available for use at any time and is generally used in the preparation of breakfast, teas and evening meals. The main kitchen is used to provide a three-course midday meal, and in some cases meats-on-wheels are al-o provided from this kitchen. The charge for this meal at these centres is 2s. 6d. and is limited to pensioners only.
I notice that the honourable member for Watson is now occupying the Chair. All the clubs mentioned by the honourable member in his speech tonight are available to pen sioners only. I think this is far too restrictive. Surely those people who almost qualify for a pension and are perhaps living in what one might describe as genteel poverty are entitled to the use of the facilities of senior citizen clubs. I deplore the attitude of the Sydney City Council in restricting the use of these facilities to pensioners only. These other people have paid their rates for many years and some are, in fact, the pioneers of the city of Sydney. Surely they are entitled to use these facilities.
I take this opportunity to place on record the activities of one such club in the City of Unley, which, fortunately, is within the electorate of Boothby.
– It had a pretty good mayor at one stage.
– Yes, it was well represented in the mayoral chair and is superbly represented in the Federal Parliament. The report I quoted from a moment ago was prepared by one of the officers of the Unley City Council. Five years ago there was no senior citizen club in the City of Unley.
– I can understand that.
– So can I. There was a different attitude towards elderly people 5 years ago. For the benefit of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin), who just interjected, 1 shall read the report of a committee, of which 1 had the privilege to be a member, which was set up by the Unley City Council, on this subject. Its report was the turning point in thinking on local government in South Australia. What the committee reported is true today and will be true ad infinitum. The report stated:
The committee believes that a local government authority should recognise its responsibilities to the aged and respect them in the same important way as it treats the construction of roads and footpaths.
I think it is an excellent move to involve local government in this type of activity. The City of Unley is the first city in South Australia to be involved in this way.
The reason I took part in this debate was to have recorded in Hansard the fact that the City of Unley has the be.st and most up-to-date senior citizen club in the Commonwealth of Australia, if not the world. This club was formally opened only last week by the Mayor of the City, who has done a great deal towards the establishment of the club. I urge any honourable member or any other person reading this debate who is thinking of setting up a senior citizens club either to go to Unley and see it or make inquiries from the Town Clerk. If they do so they will be able to save themselves a great deal of effort. This is the type of senior citizen club upon which others should be modelled. As I said earlier, the club is in the electorate of Boothby. It accommodates 300 people daily. For those who are interested, and I am sure that honourable members opposite are interested, its total cost was $88,000, including the land. The club is staffed 5 days a week by a community welfare officer. I am pleased to note that in future her salary will be subsidised by the Commonwealth on a 50/50 basis. The members of the club play bowls and cards. They have their own library. Chiropody services are also available. Recently, a glaucoma survey of members of the club was conducted. Members now produce items of handicraft, which are donated to the club. The club will sell these items to obtain revenue. Two-course hot meals are available daily for a very small charge. As I. said earlier, my original intention in taking part in the debate was to place on record the fact that such a club exists and is worth looking at.
– Where is Unley?
– It is in South Australia, which is the leading State in the Commonwealth. None of these clubs can really get off the ground without the help of community organisations, such as the Lions and Rotary clubs. It is a constant pleasure to me to go to this club and hear people say that life is worth living now that they have a place to go to. I am not romancing. This happens every time I go there. I hope that, when I go to the senior citizen club of which the honourable member for KingsfordSmith will become a member when he retires soon, he will say the same thing to me. I hope that he will become a member of its committee and take an active part in its affairs upon his retirement.
In conclusion, I commend the Minister for Health for the work he has put into this programme and the Government for accepting it. I hope that in the near future, perhaps next week, the Minister will accompany me on a visit to the senior citizen club at Unley. I have pleasure in supporting the Minister’s statement.
– Honourable members opposite seem to be uphill at this moment in their attempts to square off for the Government’s parsimony in providing finance for a home care programme for the aged.
– That was a big word that the honourable member used.
– It was, but it was a most appropriate word. I listened intently to what honourable members had to say in this debate. I am amazed at what is said at times. I was particularly amazed by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin). He was so entranced with the Statement of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) that he did not know whether the Minister was a doctor of medicine, a doctor of divinity or a doctor of economics. After examining the terms of the statement he discovered that the Minister must be a doctor of economics because of his pinchpenny proposals.
The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) emphasised that the Minister was only making a statement. He tried to convey the impression that something further would be said on the subject at a later stage. The honourable member is so ashamed of the Minister’s plan that he points out that it is only a statement and that there will be something further later on. No doubt the honourable member was prompted by the Minister to say these things after the Minister had heard honourable members on this side of the House pointing out the weaknesses in the proposals. I shall have more to say on that later, but I will deal now with what the Minister had to say in his statement.
Early in this session the Minister for Health announced details of the Commonwealth’s offer to the State governments in regard to what he was pleased to call a comprehensive programme for the care of the aged, particularly the frail aged, in their own homes. He said:
This home care programme will comprise the most important part of the comprehensive health and social welfare scheme that this Government is developing to assist the needy in our community.
At this stage I would like to point out to honourable members that the Government’s welfare programme was referred to by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) when he introduced the Budget last year. As time marches on we find now that further mention is made of the ‘scheme’ as the Treasurer called it, in which the Government is prepared to go beyond established fields of welfare assistance to assist where facilities are not at present available or arc inadequate. The Minister for Health also mentioned the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in regard to the scheme when he said:
No nation can be great unless it seeks not only materially lo progress but also to take cure of the. weaker within it, the aged within it and the ill within it.
Can 1 suggest that these are no more than windy platitudes which our Prime Minister is so fond of using from time to time. While the Labor Party supports and welcomes any measure that will bring assistance to the aged and infirm, particularly in their own homes, I think that this so-called scheme has been badly handled when we consider the time which it has taken the Government to implement it, bearing in mind that the Government has been in power for the last 20 years. This half baked programme has been put forward at the moment by the Government for election purposes only - we know that this is election year - and the timing by the Government is for the purpose of achieving electoral support. The Minister for Health says that the CommonwealthState discussions towards achieving a grant for home care have been successful and that general agreement has been reached on the desirable components of a home care programme. This is all very well, but when one examines the details of this scheme one finds that the general approach by the Commonwealth envisages Commonwealth expenditure of a miserable $ 1.25m yearly on a matching $1 for $1 basis for home care programmes. But it must be matched. What will happen if it is not matched by the States and the local government authorities?
Tn addition to the assistance that it is offering towards the home care programme the Commonwealth is prepared to make $5m available over the next 5 years, again on a matching basis, towards the capital cost of providing State nursing homes for the care of the frail aged with little means. What a paltry amount is Sim per year on a matching basis, when we see that it must be spread over six States. To assist the development of housekeeper and home help services the Commonwealth is offering S500,000 a year on a St for St matching basis with Slate expenditure. The exiting Commonwealth payments to the States for housekeeper services will be absorbed in this proposed new grant. That, of course, will take the edge off this particular grant. The Minister alio said that the next component of the programme, and one which the Government views as very important, is the development of senior citizen centres. Let us see what the Minister proposes to do in this regard. He is most careful to mention, despite the fact that he considers it essential that welfare officers bc employed at senior citizen centres, that the centres will not provide all services to our senior citizens, but they may be provided - with the emphasis on ‘may be’ - by a variety of local charity organisations, the stimulation and co-ordination of which will be a major part of the welfare officer’s activities.
Frankly, this means that voluntary organisations throughout the States will be called upon, as ever, to supply most of the senior citizen needs. The Minister is careful to say - most careful, this economist - that the Commonwealth views the Meals on Wheels service as most important in the home care programme although it is not offering a separate subsidy for this service. But the centres will be expected to aid the Meals on Wheels service. Again the Minister proposes, in his own words: ‘To lean heavily on the voluntary organisations throughout the districts concerned’. I would like to tell him of the latest development in New South Wales brought about by the direction of wowser Chief Secretary Willis in the wowser Askin State Government. In banning housie housie the Chief Secretary of this wowser State said that he had banned charities from conducting housie games in licensed clubs because of protests from other charities. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr S. Einfeld, who was once a member of this House, said in the Legislative Assembly that the ban was a serious blow to some charities and asked Mr Willis to re-examine his decision.
Mr Willis said that about 15 charities arranged during the past year to hold housie games in clubs. After a lot of publicity recently for a housie game in a large club other charities protested that it was unfair competition - unfair competition for charity. According to the Chief Secretary, the basis of the protest was that the proceeds of housie games in clubs provided carpeted floors, liquor and other amenities. Carpeted floors are most important. Perhaps the Chief Secretary thought that the average club member should not have a carpet on the floor. The charities which protested included the New South Wales Ambulance Transport Board, the Air Force Association and Roman Catholic Church charities. The Government decided to stop the practice before it caused what the Minister called ‘strife’ between the charities and became a much greater problem. The secretary of the Randwick ‘Meals on Wheels’ organisation, Mrs Dorothy Hugh - I must pay her a very high compliment because she is a tireless worker for the old folk in the Randwick district - said:
The decision of the Chief Secretary to ban housie housie on licensed premises will also put the Randwick ‘meals on wheels’ organisation in the Kingsford-Smith electorate in a desperate financial position. The licences are to expire as from the end of the current permits. Before the ban ‘meals on wheels’ were netting approximately S120 a week from three licensed clubs in the eastern suburbs, the Randwick Labor Club, the Randwick Golf Club and the Kensington War Memorial Club.
The Randwick Labor Club is a most important club in my electorate. Mrs Hugh went on to say:
We provide meals 5 days per week to people in the eastern suburbs who are too old or too ill to prepare a meal for themselves. Currently 220 people are being served a three course meal daily. The Randwick Council originally made available $6,000 to establish kitchen facilities and provide a car and a driver 2 days per week. A driver for a car was also provided by Stack and Co. 1 day per week. The Waverley and Botany Councils subsidise the service by 10c per meal. We pay a cook and an assistant their wages, and for light, gas and phone we rely on donations. The only monthly donors at present apart from the profit from housie are: Waverley Bondi Junction RSL Club, S16; Kensington Bowling Club, $10; Randwick Labor Club, $20; and some personal donations. With the cessation of housie games in registered clubs meals on wheels will not be able to continue the service.
What a miserable Government.
– It is not this Government.
– It is a Liberal-Country Party Government, which is the same type of government as we have in the Commonwealth. It is miserable in the extreme. That goes for all Liberal-Country Party governments. One thing of which the Minister for Health can be sure is that I will certainly require the figures which should be made available to me as regards the number of people in Kingsford-Smith who would require the essential medical and hospital care. I have the greatest admiration for the people who provide meals on wheels for the sick and the infirm in my electorate, and I am sure that the Minister must admit that they render a valuable service to the bed-ridden.
The Minister lays great emphasis on the $1 for $1 subsidy basis of grant by the Commonwealth to the States, but the Government is now bringing local government into a fresh field and is giving no consideration whatever to the low financial straits of all States of Australia. Askin has cried his eyes out for more money for New South Wales. He has whinged from day to day about the paucity of the Commonwealth’s payments to the State and to local government as well. Then, of course, the Minister mentioned the fact that all social bodies and church organisations will assist the scheme. This almost brings the terrific strain on those good people to breaking point. This is a positive instance of the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Government cleverly unloads its responsibilities onto the ordinary man in the street, including the pensioners, some - of whom may have struggled over a period of 50 years to pay off their own homes. We find that the Government wants to sneak around the back door to impose further taxation on those self same pensioners, through the local government authority. Putting the matter in true perspective, further heavy taxation will have to be imposed by local authorities. Where are we going?
Further, 1 should like to point out the discrepancies which often occur in the field of social services and health. On the one hand the age pensioner gets paid through the Department of Social Services and is provided with medical care and hospitalisation through the same Department. Now we find - and I think that the Minister should listen to this - that some type of assistance for further medical care and nursing assistance in homes in which the pensioners reside is switched to the Department of Health. I believe that this assistance should be carried on by the Department of Social Services under the administration of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). It seems that the expense could be met through social service allocation only. Is it any wonder that the honourable member for Mackellar welcomes this legislation and has spoken at length in this debate in that regard? He went to great lengths to extol I the virtues of Labor members who spoke in support of this measure, simply because it takes the load off his Department. If the boot were on the other foot this home care for the aged scheme would properly become the responsibility of the Department of Social Services. I should like to hear the views of the honourable member for Mackellar on that point.
We have heard honourable members opposite speak about the constitutional position of the Commonwealth and the States. They have gone to great lengths to point out that the Constitution provides that the care and health of our aged people reside in the State and Commonwealth concurrently, and that the Government wants to deal with the home care programme for the aged in a decentralised way. What boloney. Let me divert the attention of the House to the speech of the very pompous honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) who referred to the so-called wonderful work being done in his electorate as a result of the implementation of a programme known as the retirement village development scheme. He pointed out. that if the community were of any size people simply had to build a social centre at which they could meet. He said also that he spoke with knowledge of one centre which had to ask the old folk in his electorate to contribute 25c a fortnight out of their already miserable pension to pay the salary of a qualified nursing sister who visits them in their units and flats. I do not think that the honourable member for Swan should be proud of imposing further penalties on agc pensioners, thus reducing the paltry pittance called a pension still further. Shame on the honourable member for Swan for allowing such a penalty to be imposed.
I think that the care and attention which is necessary for the well being of these old people in or out of their homes should be the responsibility of the Department of Social Services. We should cut out the overlapping which is a constant source of friction and get on with the job of paying all the care possible to our aged and infirm. I support the principle of the scheme but I am opposed to the back door tactics adopted by the Government, through the Minister, in the financing of the scheme. Indirectly it throws an unjust penalty on the lower paid worker who is always called upon to carry these burdens.
Let us consider the taxation concessions granted to big businesses which are operating throughout the country today. The huge profits which they are making is shown by the construction of huge blocks of buildings of 30 to 40 storeys before dividends are available to shareholders. Could I suggest that the Si for $1 subsidy in this measure, as suggested by the Minister, should be cancelled and the necessary taxation for the working of this scheme be imposed on people and companies in the higher income bracket?
– -Like all honourable members on this side of the House, I have been appalled at the vicious personal attack that has been made on the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver). We will see in the next election whether the people of Swan share the viewpoint of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin). I should like to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith regarding the abolition of housie games in New South Wales. Heaven help us if in New South Wales our social services, such as meals on wheels, have :o depend on housie games to succeed. I think that the honourable member for KingsfordSmith may well be surprised to learn that the meals on wheels service in Randwick carries on by means of generous donations from the community in the area.
– The Liberal Parly stopped housie games.
– The Liberal Party won the elections in that State. I think that is the point. We are tonight talking about home care for the aged. My hope would be that the statement would have been a better thing if the title could have been: A home care programme for all the chronically ill and the disabled in the community. I sincerely hope that the excellent start that has been made in this regard will be expanded soon so that all the frail and not only the frail aged will be included within the scope of future legislation concerning the subject we are discussing. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) presaged such a move in his last Budget Speech, and I can only hope that Commonwealth-State discussions are not going to be protracted so that we shall have the matter brought forward again in future budgets. If discussions to date with the States do not include an expansion of the scheme into wider fields so that all the frail who need home care and related services may be included, then I would suggest that we may not be following the initiative set by the Federal Treasurer last year when he said:
We have invited the States to discuss this matter- and more importantly, he went on to say: with the aim of working out a comprehensive and co-ordinated programme of home care.
There was no mention then of limiting it to the aged only. I do not wish to take this present statement out of context. After an initial stutter or two, in my own State of New South Wales, the intensive nursing care legislation has gone a long way to alleviating one of the more serious financial burdens (hat families have had to bear concerning the proper care of those aged folk who are near and dear to them. Despite the report of unscrupulousness of certain private hospitals which have absorbed the $3 daily allowance into their fees, and which must be soundly criticised for this, many private nursing homes have not increased their fees in this manner. I know that many of my constituents have been very grateful for this intensive nursing care and financial assistance which they are now receiving. I think the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), who is sitting at the table, will be aware of this situation in my electorate. [t is in this context that the present statement should be considered. It should also be considered in the context of a fresh awakening by the Gorton Government to have a qualitative as well as a quantitative approach to solving the problems of the less fortunate in the community. I am sorry to see that the Minister in making this statement to the House has had the fine, and if I may say so, noble views of his speech at Castle Hill in Sydney last year modified. I can only hope that before the agreement on this subject is finalised he will go back to his initial proposition that home care for the aged can be only regarded and assessed in terms of a comprehensive total care, not only of the aged but of all who are chronically ill and disabled in the community.
Of course, in this field there is the problem of constitutional confusion as to where specific responsibilities should lie. The Minister has been wise to point out these problems. I can only hope that we are not turning our backs on the proposal made by the Minister in Sydney last year that ‘the regional public hospital could be the core for the whole web of services’, lt not only could but should be the core of our qualitative approach to social welfare problems. After all, the dilemma that faces the frail aged covered by this limited statement, and all disabled, is due in large part to the lack of paramedical and medical services in the public hospital system as it now exists. 1 hope that in future planning we will realise that we cannot ignore the vital role that public hospitals, particularly those with rehabilitation departments, will have to play. I believe that we will have to use the facilities of regional hospitals and consideration will have to be given to developing, in conjunction with the States, the capacity of those inadequate regional hospitals from which paramedical and medical services, which we declare should be provided in this home care scheme, can operate efficiently, effectively and without waste of these very scarce skills. I have said in this Housie before, and I repeat it now, that the role of the Government in the field of rehabilitation must become supportive. We, the Commonwealth Government, can never take over the financial and administrative responsibilities of all rehabilitation schemes if we are to develop rehabilitation services in the community at the rate at which they must be developed.
The statement we are discussing has clearly shown that home care for the aged must be seen as part of a total rehabilitation programme for the whole community of the chronically ill and the disabled throughout Australia. To see it as less is to tackle the problem ineffectively in the long run. The Minister for Health is to be very highly commended for his move in the right direction. But if, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has been quoted as saying, the agreement with the States is not yet finalised, we must take note of the need at the moment to develop a community-wide rehabilitation scheme based on regional public hospitals, particularly teaching hospitals, so that the needs of the chronically ill and disabled in the community will not be measured by age alone.
We must see that any agreement with the States on this subject of rehabilitation will make some general statements and guidelines as to what role the Commonwealth, State and local governments will or can be expected to play in the future because the future demands full cooperation between all three levels of government. Again, may I say that the Minister is to be highly congratulated for having introduced a proposal that has brought Australia a long way. I pray that he will continue along these lines to achieve a total and comprehensive scheme for not only home care but also for the rehabilitation of all disabled people in our community. This is a large task but it is one we will have to tackle in the coming months, not years. If we are to succeed this will be one of the most memorable achievements of the Gorton Government.
– Perhaps in closing the debate I could take up the question that was raised by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) and by other honourable members about the precise point that has been reached. I think I made it clear in my original statement, and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) announced this in his Budget speech, that the Government had decided after an examination of the total field of welfare that not enough was being done in Australia, and in the States of Australia, in the field that is the subject of this statement. I said that we proposed to explore with the States the possibilities that existed for the Commonwealth to stimulate activity in this field. Therefore at the time of the Budget this was an aspiration. The next move was an intensive round of discussions between Commonwealth officers of the Department of Social Services and my own Department and their counterparts in the States and the experts in this field. They were able to agree on the constituent elements of a proper nome care programme and my officers agreed that this was appropriate.
When we reached this stage it was possible for the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to make a formal offer to the States in which the Commonwealth Government agreed to provide financial support in the terms that I indicated in my statement for certain constituent elements in the total programme. I would like to make it clear to the honourable member for Hughes that it was never suggested that the particular elements in that programme for which the Commonwealth Government decided to make an offer of financial support represented the total programme. These were the elements for which the Commonwealth felt it was appropriate to provide finance. But the Commonwealth will, of course, be looking at the programmes put up by the States which include other elements as well, particularly the one of rehabilitation mentioned by the honourable member, which the Commonwealth has felt it to be more appropriate for the States to handle on their own, as indeed they are doing at present. Although we hope that the proposals will be comprehensive, it does not necessarily mean that we regard the elements for which we have made an offer of financial support as indicated in Litis statement as being the only elements in the programme. The next move, of course, is up to the States.
I think one of the things to come out of this debate is that honourable members on both sides of the House believe that the home care programme, in the present form which we are offering to help the States develop, is worthy of support. There has been no real dispute with the principles of what the Commonwealth is proposing, in fact, it is fair to say that the attitude of the majority of members has been: ‘All right, the programme sounds good, but there should be more of it.’ 1 have just made the point that provided the States accept their responsibilities in this matter and go along with the concept of a comprehensive programme as proposed by their own officers there will be more of it than has been described in this particular offer. Indeed, I would say to the honourable member for Hughes that in no way does it exclude the hospital based scheme of which I spoke at Castle Hill. This, as I see it, is one of the desirable things in the Commonwealth’s offer. It is almost infinitely flexible in this respect. But the point I am making is that with this sort of attitude by members on both sides of the House there has been no real quarrel with the principles of the programme.
As has been observed before about Government expenditure, nobody is in favour of expenditure in general but everybody wants more spending on particular projects. It would, of course, have been satisfying if we had been able to offer more from the start of the programme, but I think it is important that we get our perspectives right not only in the sense in which I have already spoken, but in relation to this programme of home care for the elderly, the frail or the handicapped which is to be developed as an exercise in joint responsibility between the Commonwealth Government, the Stale governments, local authorities and voluntary community agencies. There have to be agreed principles on both the components of the programme and the financing of it. We have agreed, as I said, with the State governments’ proposals as to the services which should be sponsored as first priorities and we have made :in offer of monetary assistance based on the realities of constitutional responsibilities ;ind Commonwealth-State financial relationships.
Of course, there have been criticisms of matching grants, but the principle of matching grants is a well established one within our federal system. In this case it is certainly the appropriate means of financial assistance, since the State governments and local authorities already operate most of the services with which we are concerned, lt is not as if we are starting this de novo. H is not as if nobody had heard of meals on wheels or that no meals on wheels services were operating in Australia. It Ls nor as if there were no such things ns senior citizen centres. Indeed, one of the curious contradictions that f noticed in the speech of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) was that on the one hand he said that this should be solely a Commonwealth Government responsibility and on the other hand he went on to praise the previous Labor administration of New South Wales for developing these things in the States, clearly implying that even the Labor Government of New South Wales had accepted, as innovator of these things so he said, that this was a State responsibility. It seems to me to be absolutely absurd to suggest that in these sorts of circumstances this is not a State responsibility and that if it is a State responsibility there is something wrong in the matching principle.
I hope that in relation to these matters, which are clearly principally State responsibilities, we will always maintain the matching principle because from my experience the only way to get shared responsibility - to get responsibility properly taken - is for the partners in it to have at least some financial responsibility. If anybody wants a practical example of the validity of that particular principle they want to look at a case which is under the administration of my Department and which was introduced by a Labor government. Honouring the commitment which we inherited in those days this Government has continued ever since, under the tuberclosis agreement, to pick up all the tab for tuberculosis in Australia. The difficulties which have been associated at various times in various States in getting the States, because the Commonwealth is picking up the whole of the tab, to exercise even a modicum of ordinary financial prudence in the use of money which they themselves do not have to raise, would demonstrate to anybody who has had the practical administration of this that the matching principle is a desirable one.
– We have found that out on the Public Accounts Committee.
– Yes, the Public Accounts Committee has had trouble with estimating in respect of the tuberculosis arrangement. I should like to make brief mention, because it has been brought up in the course of the debate by many honourable members, of the question of constitutional responsibility in relation to this matter. The power of the Commonwealth to make laws is limited, lt is limited to matters specified in the Constitution. The health matters specified are quarantine and the amendment in 1946 mentioned by honourable members opposite - the provision of sickness and hospital benefits and medical and dental services but not so as to authorise any form of civil conscription. Section 51 clearly defines and clearly limits the Commonwealth’s powers in the health field. The residual powers to legislate on health matters belong solely to States except insofar as Commonwealth territories are concerned. The proper Commonwealth role in the provision of home care services, therefore, is the provision, under section 96 of the Constitution, of financial grants.
In debating the question of the adequacy of the Commonwealth offer some honourable members may have overlooked the fact that the home care programme as envisaged is only a part of our whole pattern of health and welfare services. We are, in our current offer to the States, proposing to assist them to provide more nursing home beds for the frail aged of limited means. We are offering to subsidise housekeeping services, the establishment of senior citizen centres and the provision of certain paramedical1 services. We are already subsidising home nursing. We are already providing social service benefits of all kinds and special assistance for aged persons housing schemes. In health services it should not be overlooked that many of our elderly citizens and other persons in receipt of social1 services pensions qualify for the benefits of the pensioner medical service. In the last financial year some 1,115,000 pensioners and their dependants received free medical services, free hospital treatment and free pharmaceutical benefits. They were eligible for such additional benefits as hearing aids at nominal costs. This is known to honourable members. 1 have mentioned only some of the items. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the services and benefits that are available to our elderly people. I mention them only to make the point that the home care programme we are proposing is not expected to stand on its own. It is quite simply an addition to the range of services already in existence. In monetary terms it will not in its initial stages cost the Commonwealth a very large amount. But of course it is not axiomatic that simple expenditure of government dollars results in the best health and welfare services. What is more import ant than the mere arithmetical measure of the money spent is how, when and where it is used and the result achieved by the expenditure.
I would deny absolutely that governments can discharge their obligations to the elderly, frail and handicapped citizens simply by handing out large amounts of money. What is all important is that the aid that is given is transmitted in such a way through such agencies and such people that the elderly can be encouraged and supported in independence and self-sufficiency rather than patronised and that they can be helped to meet their problems within the community rather than be treated as a problem group and perhaps isolated as such within the community. I thank honourable members for their contributions to this debate. I assure them that all the suggestions they have made will be very carefully noted and taken into account in any subsequent discussions we may have with the States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed.
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to say a few words tonight about the Australian Country Party and some of the remarkable men it has sent to this Parliament. Over the years the Australian Country Party has given to the Parliament a number of outstanding men. The most prominent at present is the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr McEwen) who is well known to Liberal members. Of course, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) is not unknown in this Parliament. He in his way has made his contribution. But I wonder whether the members of the Australian Country Party realise that they have in their midst a most remarkable man, a human dynamo, a real slumbering volcano. I refer to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who, I understand from a newspaper article I have here, is not known for nothing as the ‘Cool Cat from Kennedy*.
I am prompted to raise this matter by a remarkable article that appeared in a journal called the ‘North-West Star’ on 8th January 1969. I understand the journal circulates in the electorate of Kennedy and I .suppose it is printed in Cloncurry. The leading article is headed ‘Boosting the West’.” ft states:
A sincere politician must genuinely like all people, whatever their class or colour . . . there must be no barriers.’
If you like people it bounces back . . . they like you.’
My experience has been quite the opposite, but I suppose the honourable member for Kennedy has had a different experience. The article goes on to say:
But von have to have strength and qualities of leadership.’
Of course, this is all about Mr Bob Katter, the political candidate for Kennedy. It goes on:
And where there is a conflict of interests between Iiic people-
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! Is the honourable member quoting from the newspaper report?
– Yes, I am quoting from an article. 1 am reading it.
-The person referred to in the newspaper report is the honourable member for Kennedy.
– I refer to the honourable member. The report goes on to say:
And where there is a conflict of interests between the people you represent and the party you belong to, the interests of the people must come first. I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to put the people first if the party’s political whip was cracked.’
The honourable member should have a chat to the former member, Mr Russell, who thought in the same way as he does and subsequently found that democracy was not there. The article continues:
That is the formula for political success expounded by the Country Party member for Kennedy, Mr Bob Katter, tipped by political writers as the next Queensland back-bencher in line for a portfolio in the Federal Cabinet.
I compliment the honourable member. He is not even going into the Ministry first; he is going straight into the Cabinet. The article goes on:
As more than one MP has commented, ‘They don’t call him the Cool Cat from Kennedy for nothing’.
Bob Katter swept to victory in the former Labor stronghold of Kennedy . . .
His majority was 1,025 and the total votes cast was 35,000. That is not exactly a sweeping victory. I would say it was a rather fortunate victory. Of course, the Liberal Party will be interested in the Country Party’s attitude. The article states:
Bob Katter laughs off any suggestion that the Liberals will one day win enough seats in their own right to form a Government without the Country Party.
Apparently he has the same opinion of some Liberal members as Opposition members have. The article then states:
The rugged, determined Bob Katter-
-Order! I have already said how the honourable member for Kennedy should be identified.
– I am quoting from the article, Mr Speaker, lt states:
I have made some calculations on those figures and the results are amazing. The honourable member works for 24 hours a day. This means that he never sleeps. He either suffers from insomnia or is never on the ground long enough to sleep. But even the Lord rested on the seventh day. He is said to travel 240,000 miles a year. On every day of the year he travels 660 miles. The Parliament sits for about 80 days. Allowing for travelling time, that means the honourable member, to reach the total that the article gives, would have to travel 1,120 miles on every day that the Parliament is not sitting. He has 5,000 flying hours. If the figures are correct, he would have to be a flying vo yo to meet the standard set for him by the article. It is remarkable that the Press can reveal these details about such an active, dynamic member without analysing them and relating them to the time available.
The article then gives some details of the honourable member’s career. This is, of course, quite complimentary to him. I wish that I had in ray electorate someone who could write about me in these terms. The article states that the honourable member was a foundation member of the Cloncurry Merry Muster Committee. I do not know what that organisation is, but if the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation hears about it there could well be an investigation into it. It is certainly a mysterious name. As Mrs Hoffmann is apparently looking for work, I remind the honourable member that Cloncurry may receive a visit at some future time.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I suggest that the honourable member for Grayndler have a ‘flyathon’ instead of a ‘walkathon’.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I was interested in the organisation I have mentioned, because it must have some great standing in the community. The honourable member was a foundation member. I do not know whether it has any connection with the BIG organisation. I would think not, if the honourable member’s leader is involved in it. 1 mention it tonight so that honourable members will know what this newspaper has had to say about it. It seems to me to be a mysterious organisation. I wonder what would be said if a member of the Australian Labor Party was a member of a mysterious organisation with a name such as that. The article states that the honourable member for Kennedy is interested in such sports as rodeos, clay pigeon shooting - 1 suppose that would make him a bird lover - and football and he is a former athletic record holder.
The point I make is that this article is a remarkable write-up. To my way of thinking, it is somewhat exaggerated, but it does reveal to the Country Party members who are looking to the Ministry that they may find that the honourable member for Kennedy has hopped over them. The views of the Country Party about the Liberal Party are clearly given in this article. However, if the Liberal members put up with it, no harm is done. The Parliament should be interested in the views that the coalition members hold about each other. I raise the matter tonight because of my concern for the health and welfare of the honourable member for Kennedy. I feel that he should stay on the ground more than he does, if he is travelling 240,000 miles a year. I would not like him to overdo it. I would not like to see him meet with an accident and go into orbit, because that would be a matter of concern to Kennedy, to the Country Party and to the Parliament.
– The subject on which I wish to speak is one of critical importance to the people in my electorate. I refer to the present drought position in Queensland. Last week I travelled some of that 240,000 miles mentioned by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), through the electorate of Kennedy, and the trip took me into some of the areas which are indescribably stricken with drought. We have read in the Press that there is a severe drought in Queensland and we have heard of the difficulties associated with this drought, but .1 felt that if I were to come here and convince first of all the Government and then all the members of this House that a disastrous situation exists in the State of Queensland I would have to come to close grips with that situation.
I went to areas such as Longreach, Yaraka, Jundah, Stonehenge, Blackall and Barcaldine in a light aircraft. 1 found that there were graziers in these areas who had completely exhausted their financial resources during the previous drought and who have reached the stage now where they either have to receive assistance most urgently or they are finished completely as part of a great national industry. What was probably even more worrying was the situation within these towns themselves. I found that station workers, shearers and truck owner-drivers, who over a period of years have paid for their trucks and have their families settled in these western towns, were pretty well faced with ruin because work is just not offering in these areas.
I am in the process of preparing a full report on this matter, which 1 propose to send to my own Leader and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). It will contain the salient and realistic facts of this situation. The point I want to make is that, despite anything that has been reported in the Press about drought-breaking rains, there are literally thousands of sheep which will most certainly dic unless fodder is made available to them, and made available urgently. If there had been a flood or an earthquake or something like this, I am sure that there would have been some way for us to bring food supplies for the dying stock in this area. It was put to me time and again while I was on this trip over the last couple of weeks that the solution is to do what was done on the south coast of New South Wales and in Victoria, that is, to bring in literally whole convoys of semitrailers stocked high with fodder. This was done clown here when fodder was taken to the Bega area, and I can assure honourable members that there could nol have been anything there as critical as the situation that exists in my part of the world.
In addition, J received only today a letter from the Golden Mile orchard, which is probably the largest orchard in the southern hemisphere and probably one of the largest in the world, t. am informed that the owner of this property has paid many thousands of dollars purely to try to get enough water to keep his orchard going. The whole of the town of Mundubbera just about revolves on the continuance of these orchards, and there again a most critical situation exists. I am not exaggerating the position. I have spoken on drought before when the position was bad, but an extremely critical condition does exist at the moment, and I am hoping that both sides of the House will support me. 1 am sure that we will hear something from the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) over the next week or so, and there are many other people who have a very keen and intimate knowledge of these matters who will bring home these facts in their stark reality. The choice is clear. Either there has to be some decisive action - and it has to be commenced almost immediately - or a great segment of the wool industry will die in Queensland. I know that this may sound an exaggeration, but it is not at all. I would most earnestly appeal to this Parliament to support me in this matter, and I know that consideration Wl’ be given by the Government when it is able to understand the vicious, stark realities of the most critical drought in Queensland’s history.
Mr JAMES (Hunter) [J 0.451 - I think that the whole of the House is in sympathy with the drought-stricken farmers in the electorate of Kennedy, and I know that the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), who has been referred to as ‘the cool cat from Kennedy’ has a good case on behalf of his constituents. The matter I want to refer to is a matter which has caused me some concern in the last few days, having read in the library an article that some people might interpret as an article of blackmail against the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). While I believe that since the Prime Minister has been appointed to his high office he has been a man of some dignity, what 1 am concerned about is that on 6th December last Mr Frank Browne’s magazine ‘Things I Hear’, series 1079, published an article which stated that the United Kingdom magazine Private Eye’ had intended running an article which would have had mighty wide political repercussions in Australia and most unfortunate ones for the Australian Government.
The article is an article purported to have been written by Liza Minelli who had visited Australia and who is the daughter of a world renowned singer in the person of Judy Garland. She was to recount in the article what she claims were her experiences with the leading Australian political figure. On 13th December last in series 1080 of Browne’s circular ‘Things I Hear’ on page 2 under the heading ‘Publication Certain’ an article stated that strenuous efforts were being made to prevent publication by a United Kingdom magazine previously referred to. and called ‘Private Eye’, and only a large sum of money for world rights would prevent the article being published. The article stated that lbc same material could be re-written and offered abroad and would be readily published in the United States by certain magazines which resented Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war.
But Browne’s publication ‘Things I Hear in series 1084 of 31 st January 1969 spoke more strongly on this subject to which reference had been made in publications 1079 and 1080. It stated that the magazine Private Eye, the English one referred to, had sold the world rights of the intended publication to the American Central Intelligence Agency for £stg6,500 in cash and that £stg6,220 10s 3d had been paid to the credit of ‘Private Eye’ in Barclay’s Bankin the United Kingdom in notes on 23rd December 1968. The CIA then, according to the article, sold the rights to publish th: information to a number of African publications, including the Rhodesian ‘Farmer’ for £stg100, another Rhodesian magazine called ‘Africa Calls’ for £stg50, and the Kenya ‘Weekly News’ for £stg25. Apparently the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), who is trying to interject, is not interested in hearing something about the alleged blackmail of the Australian Prime Minister, but the rest of the House apparently is interested. The Uganda ‘Argus’ purchased the article for £stg50, and the Zanzibar ‘Voice’ purchased it for £stgl15 10s. There were other sales to European and United States journals. The article is alleged to deal with incidents at a Sydney night club, in Bali during the Prime Minister’s visit to Indonesia, and in Canberra at Christmastime last. Certain influences of the Liberal Party are said to be very disturbed about the Prime Minister and the article and have asked Mr Fairhall to change his mind about standing for the Prime Ministership. A copy of the document was apparently given by the United States Embassy to a wealthy businessman in the real estate field in Sydney who is opposed to Prime Minister Gorton holding his respected high office, and the businessman claimed that the document is a highly damaging document. I have a photostat copy of the document here. It disturbs me somewhat to think that such things could be written about a person who holds the highest position in this nation. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister could clear the air in regard to this shadow that has been cast on his integrity by this magazine. I have no doubt that the matter will soon be clarified to the satisfaction of all members of the House and those who had the unpleasant experience of reading this damaging article against our Prime Minister.
– It is interesting to try to guess at the purpose of the exercise of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). The honourable member finished his speech by confessing to us, with a splendid touch of hesitancy, that in the last day or so he has had a traumatic experience. He said that it was painful to him to read what he started off by referring to as alleged blackmail. Despite the imperfections of the honourable member’s performance I think that the House has listened tonight to an attempt at the gentle art of smearing. What the honourable member for Hunter failed to do was to make it clear to the House where his true sentiments really lay in this matter. He started off by saying: ‘This is alleged blackmail. This is Frank Browne in “ Things I Hear “, which is well known to most people as “ Things J Smear “. The honourable member for Hunter said: I want to know about this alleged blackmail.’ He finished up by saying: ‘This has been painful to me. I would like to know what the truth is. The Prime Minister should come in and clear away ‘this shadow hanging over his integrity’.
What is the nature of the man the honourable member has invoked tonight. He is a former detective sergeant of the New South Wales Police Force. It is no wonder that there is a relatively high rate of unsolved crime in New South Wales. Here tonight the honourable member has put forward as his chief witness the darling of the Crown case, Frank Browne. He is the darling. Honourable members should listen to a correct reference of Frank Browne which comes not from me who may be accused of having partisan views, but from the honourable member’s former Leader, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). It is a superb collocation of words rivalling Shakespeare at his best in King Lear. The right honourable member for Melbourne said:
The second man -
That is Browne - for a long period, has been maligning members of this Parliament in the most scurrilous fashionaccusing them even of lecherous conduct, and making the foulest charges against them, stirring up the very cesspools of his disordered imagination in order to depict members of this House and other persons in this community, all good Australians, as completely unworthy persons.
This is the darling of the case presented by the honourable member for Hunter. This is the darling of the Crown case. This is his witness, Mr Frank Browne. This is the character evidence given by the right honourable member for Melbourne who, no matter what political differences we may have and hold one to the other, at least has no capacity to indulge in this facinorous nonsense. The right honourable member, speaking of Mr Browne, continued:
But he did not even apologise. He merely read us a lecture on liberty. 1 like to hear lessons and lectures on liberty, but 1 like them to fall from the mouths of people who believe in liberty. I do not believe in tolerating observations from people who believe only in licence. He wants a licence to continue to malign this Parliament and its members.
Does the honourable member for Hunter feel any creeping sense of shame after having invoked Mr Frank Browne as his authority for alleged blackmail? The right honourable member for Melbourne continued:
In the case of Browne, I saw an arrogant rat
That is a fine authority to invoke to charge the political head of this country. The right honourable member continued: . . just a character assassin, and I have no better description to apply to him than that of my colleague, the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Ward), who protested against the Australian Broadcasting Commission employing him to write scripts. He wrote a script about the late Captain Albert Jacka, V.C., concerning which the former honourable member for Corangamite, the late Mr McDonald, made a deserved and spirited protest.
Then my right honourable friend from Melbourne cited what was said on this matter, and continued:
Those arc the characters who have set out to bring the Parliament into contempt.
This is the authority which my friend, the honourable member for Hunter, invoked this evening. If the honourable member is not prepared to bow before the character assessment made by (he right honourable member for Melbourne on 10th June 1955, if. he rejects that authority, possibly he will pay some heed to the views given by his present leader, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam). In the same debate, he said of Browne, this precious authority:
It is to be deplored that the man Browne did not express some contrition for the admissions that he made before the committee. He did not refer in his speech here to his admission that he had made statements in this obscure suburban paper without any foundation. Though he said in that paper that he would come to Canberra armed with proof, he did not come to Canberra armed wilh proof. Although he said to the committee -
That is, the Committee of Privileges - that he had, by a piece of sloppy writing, incorrectly implied that there was still improper conduct on the part of the honourable member for Reid, he still offers no explanation for it.
Among honourable members who sat in this House was the former honourable member for Reid, the late Mr Morgan, and no matter what people may have thought about his political views he was incapable of offering a cruel gesture to anybody or of doing a cruel deed. This is the gentleman, Mr Frank Browne, that the honourable member for Hunter tonight invites the National Parliament to accept as the authority for going out and finding whether the alleged blackmail that has disturbed the honourable member should be inquired into or not. It will be a sorry day for the Parliament of Australia and it will be . a pathetic day for the people of Australia if on no more reliable authority than that of Frank Browne, whose pen will go to the highest bidder, this Parliament is to be asked to say: ‘Well, we are prepared to inqiure into the nature of this alleged blackmail.’ This has been a very sad episode in the life of this Parliament. It has been a sad episode in the political life of this country. I am sorry that the member for Hunter has raised this matter because he has brought no credit to himself and no credit to his Party by doing it. I hope only that at the first opportunity his Leader will promptly disown everything that the honourable member has said.
– The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has sufficiently dealt with Frank Browne. I would like to examine some of the other implications of the speech made tonight by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). It was made in tones dripping with hypocrisy. It was made under the pretentious guise of expressing concern that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should be subjected to blackmail. In reality the honourable member was really giving wider publicity to the scurrilous emanations of this libeller Browne than they had otherwise obtained.
What are the implications of this? It should not be forgotten by the House that the honourable member for Hunter holds office in the Parliamentary Labor Party. He is Assistant Opposition Whip. Unless some Opposition member occupying the front bench of the Opposition rises to disown emphatically the disgraceful speech made by the honourable member for Hunter tonight the entire Opposition will stand convicted in the eyes of this House and, perhaps more importantly for it, in the eyes of the country, as people who are prepared to peddle for base political purposes foul libels and unsubstantiated rumours.
– Be your age.
– 1 am prepared to go on without paying any regard to the senile utterances of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– Order! I ask-
– I do not want the mug to withdraw.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Parkes to withdraw his unparliamentary remarks about the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– I withdraw the remark and suggest that his utterances would be better not made.
-Order! The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith will withdraw his remark about the honourable member for Parkes.
– What, that he was a mug?
– The honourable member will withdraw the remark. He wells knows what he said.
– I withdraw the remark.
– What will happen? That is what I ask the House and particularly the Opposition. If there is anybody in the Opposition with a residual sense of responsibility he will rise and disown the hypocritical and utterly unworthy speech made by the honourable member for Hunter.
-Order! 1 remind the honourable member that all personal reflections on any member are out of order. I suggest that he watch his verbiage and I ask him to withdraw the word ‘hypocrite’.
– I withdraw the word hypocrite’ and content myself with saying that the honourable member for Hunter said things which the House may judge could have been said for an ulterior motive.
– No wonder the gaol in my electorate is full.
– I will continue without making any reflection on the honourable member in that respect. Having regard to the Labor Party’s drubbing in recent weeks it is about time somebody on the front bench of the Opposition called the tune on the other side of the House and stated without equivocation that the front bench disowned this scurrilous rubbish. If the Opposition remains silent one can deduce only that those who sit on the front bench of the Opposition support what the honourable member for Hunter has said. The honourable member has merely repeated, without any substantiation, idle and scurrilous gossip. It stands as idle and scurrilous gossip because not one fact has been adverted to in the honourable member’s speech except a reading from the article concerned. One knows that what was read from the article is a tissue of lies.
The accuracy of this man Browne may best be judged from another passage in his libel sheet of 31st January 1969 where, referring to a book written and recently published by Mr Alan Reid, he states that a good deal of what was in the book about the Prime Minister was excised on legal advice. I want to tell the House - I hope that it will give me credit for being reasonably honest - that I read the book in its original typescript form. I have read the book in its printed form and I say without equivocation that in its original form it contained not one sentence and not one syllable which reflected in any way upon the Prime Minister. We all know that in its now printed form it contains not one sentence and not one syllable that reflects personally upon the Prime Minister.
So that statement by Browne is a lie which 1 have the pleasure and the privilege of nailing to the mast. I know that it is a lie because I read the typescript of Alan Reid’s book before it ever went out of his hands. I was the first person to read it after it had been typed. This circumstance is a guide to the honesty or complete lack of honesty of the pedlar of these scurrilous libels. It is an indication of what a broken reed the honourable member for Hunter is relying upon when he seeks to use this filthy sheet as a means of attacking the Prime Minister.
I conclude on this note: Let somebody on the other side rise to disown the honourable member for Hunter. If nobody does so we all will know that the Labor Party in its present state of desperation is muck raking in the bottom of the political bucket in the knowledge that it cannot do any better. If it cannot do any better what worse could it do than the honourable member for Hunter has done tonight? The privilege of a member of Parliament to speak without any liability for legal consequences in respect of what he says in the House is a very sacred and ancient privilege. It is a privilege which should be wisely and sensibly used. I suggest to the House that it has been used neither wisely nor sensibly by the honourable member for Hunter tonight. It has been used by him for no purpose other than the most ulterior and, I suggest, the most base.
– The honourable member has asked for someone on the Opposition side to speak. I ask for leave to make a speech in reply to the honourable member.
– The honourable member does not need leave.
– I have already spoken.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker.
– I call the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell).
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Grayndler making a second speech on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . Nil
– 1 have been disgusted by what 1 have heard here tonight and I would like to return the House to a cleaner if perhaps a less exciting atmosphere. Recently the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) announced that the Commonwealth had been studying the possibility of releasing for public recreation purposes some of the land now occupied by the Departments of the Army and the Navy at South Head in Sydney Harbour. The Minister expressed the view that the Royal Australian Navy could be located within a more compact area than it at present occupies, and that the Army’s Eastern Command Personnel Depot could be moved to a new location. The Minister stated that the Commonwealth over a period would be releasing about 33 acres and that in due course the public would have access to South Head except when certain naval exercises were in progress. I commend the Minister for his realistic approach in this matter. We have tended over the years to become so accustomed to the ever growing expansion of bureaucratic control that is is refreshing to find the Minister taking a realistic and rational approach to the question of the amount of land which the Defence Services actually require so close to Sydney.
The Sydney Heads are such a beautiful and picturesque part of the New South Wales coastline that it. is good to know that in the future the people of Sydney and the many tourists who flock to this lovely city each year will be able to use, for recreational purposes, these 33 acres at South Head. Of course, as a New South Welshman the Minister would be well aware of the beauty and grandeur of Sydney Heads. Perhaps he may not be quite so familiar with the scenic beauty of Point Nepean which forms one side of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay in Victoria. This is the narrow neck of land whose name was flashed around the world when our late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, disappeared into the surf at Cheviot Beach on 17th December 1967, some 14 months ago. This area, covering some 1,300 acres, is occupied by the Army as the Portsea Officer Training School and also houses a building which is used as a quarantine station if and when the occasion arises. The quarantine station occupies 181 acres.
A high barbed wire fence, rather reminiscent of a concentration camp, and Keep Out’ notices, give warning to holiday makers and tourists that access to the last 4 or 5 miles of this picturesque peninsula of Point Nepean is forbidden to them. After many years of owning a holiday home in this area I was first admitted through the gates of the Officer Training School when I assisted in the search for the late Prime Minister on that fateful afternoon on which he disappeared.
Since that time, by establishing that I am a member of this Parliament, 1 have had the opportunity on a number of occasions of examining the area more closely. Members of this House who attended the dedication of the underwater plaque in memory of Harold Holt last December would have seen some of the rugged beauty of this area, but because of the solemnity of the occasion and the fact that Cheviot is situated only about half way between the gates and the Point, they would not have seen its full loveliness.
Right at the Point is the old historic fort built during the Russian scare in the 1890s to protect Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay from a threatened invasion. Behind the fence and beyond the Officer Training School the road leading to the old headland fort has now gone. To reach the fort it is now necessary to leave one’s car just past Cheviot and proceed almost a mile on foot. About half a mile from the heads the sea has torn away a 60-year-old retaining wall which I am told has not been repaired since 1959. The neck of land is only approximately 150 feet wide at this point. Local fishermen to whom I have spoken fear that the tides and currents will gouge a channel through this 150-foot wide neck of land and that the tip of Point Nepean, which includes the fort, will become an island in the near future. The high seas of Bass Strait would then roll unchecked into Port Phillip Bay, with possible devastating effects on the beaches in the bay. The narrowness of Port Phillip Heads in relation to the size of the inlet causes tidal current to flow through it, I am told, at speeds up to 8 knots, and the speed at which this tide and current move freshly eroded sand is alarming. Within 10 years this historic fort could be just an eroded sand covered ruin, on a newly formed island. lt is obvious that the Army, which uses only a small part of this fenced off area, cannot be concerned with the prevention of the destruction of the Point. After all, the fort is no longer of any military significance and it is not the job of the Army to retain and repair that which is only of historic interest. As the area is Commonwealth property there is little the State Government can do. It is essential that some protective work be undertaken immediately. I believe that the realistic approach which the Minister for Defence has taken on the land at South Head in Sydney should be repeated at Point Nepean. I find it hard to believe that it is necessary for the Army’s Officer Training School with only 196 personnel to retain such a vast area of the State’s most scenic country.
I would like to see, as is being done with the Navy at Sydney’s South Head, the size of the land at present reserved for the Officer Training School reduced so that the people could have access to this beautiful area or as an alternative that, as with the Army installation at South Head, the Officer Training School be moved to another site. Already in my own electorate of Deakin, the Army is closing down the Army School of Health at Healesville to move it to a new medical complex at Holsworthy. The Army School of Health at Healesville would make an ideal officer training school and the area at present denied to the people at Point Nepean could then be released. I know that the people of Healesville would welcome the continued use by the Army of its site in that area. Likewise. I believe, the quarantine station does not need anything like the area it occupies on the peninsular.
The peninsula’s 300-odd square miles of fine beaches and lovely rolling hills is Victoria’s main playground and recreation centre for hundreds of thousands of Victorians and interstate visitors, not only in the summer months but throughout the year. The peninsula plays a vital role as Victoria’s principal tourist attraction, but if the historic Point Nepean is allowed to continue to be eroded by the waves and weather there will be little left of the Point by the time the Army does decide to hand it back to the people. There was some talk when Harold Holt died to the effect that this Army area should be handed over to the Victorian Government by the Commonwealth as a memorial national park to the late Prime Minister, but nothing came of this suggestion and the Government, in its wisdom, decided on a memorial fountain in Canberra. 1 believe the setting aside of a large area of land on the tip of historic Point Nepean and the setting up of a national park sanctuary for the use of the people is essential for the peninsula, and for tourism in Victoria. It would not only create a safe preserve for native flora and fauna but would also be a tourist attraction of unequalled value in the oldest part of the State where the history of Victoria had its foundation. The Minister has shown an enlightened approach to the rationalisation of the Army’s needs at South Head. 1 know all Victorians would be grateful for a similar decision in regard to Point Nepean.
– Tonight we have witnessed a scurrilous attack. I believe that this Parliament is the most sacred institution of the nation and those of us who have been given the privilege of representing people in this place should treat it with the utmost respect. I am very sorry that I have been a witness to tonight’s performance by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). However, tonight I wish to speak on the Daphne Mayo affair - something which happened in my electorate in Brisbane. I might say as an aside that it is a pity that certain members of the Senate who have spoken on this matter and have described Miss Mayo as an elderly lady did not go to visit her, because if they had done so they would have found that she is not an elderly lady. But that is their mistake.
I, like every person, other than those who were present on the occasion of the raid, can form only my opinion as to what happened. Miss Mayo claims that the words Open the door or I will smash it in’ were used. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), following advice from his departmental advisers, claims that those words were not used. If we recall the fabled story of the hungry wolf who was anxious to gain entry we will remember that the words which the wolf used were: Til huff and I’ll puff and 1’H blow your door in’. It is very easy to imagine a number of Customs men, believing they are well and truly on the scent of something big, being prepared to huff and puff and blow a door in, following the refusal by Miss Mayo to grant them entry. But it is a case of Miss Mayo’s word against the word of the men involved in the raid. I do not gel carried away with those people who warrant a listing in ‘Who’s Who in Australia’ but I refer to page 604 of the 1968 edition, which states:
MAYO, Lillian Daphne, M.B.E., Sculptor, Bris., former Trustee Qld. Art Gallery . . .
Then it refers to her family and education and lists a whole host of other matters. It is obvious that this woman was not awarded an M.B.E. for nothing. I believe that the people who constitute our Public Service have a great responsibility to those people who pay their wages. When I came into this Parliament 1 was, if anything, slightly anti-Public Service, but through dealings in my present capacity I have come to believe that the Commonwealth Public Service almost to a man is made up of dedicated and hard working men. In recent months I have had two bitter experiences which have acted in such a way as to harden me and temper me in my assessment of top men.
One experience followed my denouncing, in this chamber in September last year, a certain youth club in Brisbane. The immediate reaction of the chief of the Criminal Investigation Branch in Brisbane was to deny everything that I had said without even waiting for 12 hours to pass for me to return to Brisbane from Canberra so that he could interview me and thus gain the advantage of the knowledge which 1 had before he came to his conclusion. That experience shook my faith. Ten days ago I received a telephone call from a constituent who complained that her husband had been transferred from the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital to the Rosemount Repatriation Hospital in Brisbane without her being advised. I visited her on the Monday morning, obtained the facts and rang the Repatriation Department that morning. I was rung back that afternoon and told by a senior officer that the mistake was regretted. He assured me that a letter of apology would be sent. Last Sunday - 6 days later - an article appeared in the Brisbane Sunday Mail’ reporting this matter and the lady’s words, which were:
I am now waiting for an apology from tha hospital or Repatriation Department.
I rang her in Brisbane this morning - 10 days later - but in spite of her warning she still had not received a letter of apology. Can I be blamed for having genuine doubts as to the claims of a number of men who, possibly through no fault of their own, were involved in a most unfortunate goose chase in Brisbane? As I suggested in the question I asked in the House yesterday, to invade a man’s castle is the extreme limit. Permission to permit such entry should be vested in the hands of only the very top men. I am told that Fourth Division preventive officers have the right to grant such entry. It is not just a right to make the occasional most necessary raid. It is a blanket order issued every 6 months with nothing specific in mind. If this is so, I have no alternative other than to demand in the interests of each and every one of my 103,000 constituents and each and every one of the 12 million persons who live in this country, that the right to invade a man’s home should be placed in the hands of only the senior man or his representative.
– I rise to resume that part of the debate that was introduced by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). I do so with a great degree of regret because I am one of those people who believe in the decency, high sense of responsibility and respect in which the national Parliament is held by the people of the country. Consequently I deplore the slanderous attack upon the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), in the guise of reading a statement, by a gentleman with the reputation of the honourable member for Hunter. I believe that the reputation of the Prime Minister, both as a leader and as a man, in the opinion of the people, particularly the voters, could not be higher. In corroboration of what I say I refer to the latest Gallup Poll, which indicates the very high opinion that the voting public has of him and to the way in which I am sure that opinion would be reflected if a vote were taken shortly. But that is hardly the point that I want to make. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) challenged a leading member of the Opposition - not a garrulous man who would be willing to take any kind of opportunity to be critical of his companions or who would be derisory of anyone who came to mind, but a man of reputation and standing - to contradict or to disown what had been said by the honourable member for Hunter.
– I raise a point of order. The Treasurer has challenged members of the Opposition. We accepted the challenge. I accepted it myself. I ask him to withdraw that allegation.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The honourable member had spoken previously, but he had the opportunity, if he had wanted, to say something in favour of the Prime Minister and against the honourable member for Hunter. Since then other senior representatives of the Opposition have not contradicted what was said by the honourable member for Hunter.
Mi Daly - I raise a further point of order. The Treasurer said that I had a chance to say something about the Prime Minister. I spoke before the honourable member for Hunter; so I had no chance.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I remind the honourable member for Grayndler that the continual abuse of the forms of the House by raising points of order will not be tolerated.
– The challenge was made by the honourable member for Parkes, who asked a senior member of the Opposition to disown the statements that were made by the honourable member for Hunter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) came into the House while I was sitting here. He has had the opportunity to dissociate the Opposition from the statements made, but he has not done so. Therefore he has been prepared to sit silent in his seat, knowing of the abuse uttered by the honourable member for Hunter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has not been prepared to state where he stood or to speak officially on behalf of the Opposition. I wanted to stress the lack of courage, the lack of decency and lack of responsibility of the Opposition in not disowning a man who, I repeat - I feel very deeply about this - in the guise of reading a document has attempted to smirch the character of a man whose reputation in the Australian community could not be higher than it is today and which I believe will as the days go by go even higher than it is at the moment.
– I think the record ought to be put straight. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has made certain accusations involving myself and other members on this side of- the House. The Treasurer knows very well that I was not in the House when the debate took place. I know very little of the circumstances of the debate. I want to come to that in a moment. But I have heard sufficient from the Treasurer tonight to convince me that what the Leader of the Country Party had to say about him some time ago is quite true. If these are the kind of tactics that the Treasurer adopts in this House and outside the House it clearly indicates what the Leader of the Country Party had to say about him about 12 months ago would not only be substantiated by all members of the Australian Country Party but by honourable members on this side of the House as well. It was a despicable attitude for the Treasurer to adopt. He knows that I was not in the House tonight and did not hear the debate. The Treasurer who is trying to interject has had his say and he made a pretty poor fist of it.
Let me turn to the matter under discussion. I know nothing about the circumstances. I make no accusation against the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and I certainly do not want to enter into a debate about the merits of the Prime Minister at this stage or otherwise. The Treasurer has made some comments on these matters. The Opposition will take every opportunity it can during this sessional period, in the winter recess and in the next sessional period to state our point of view and what our attitude is to be towards matters in which the Prime Minister is involved. In regard to the matter under dispute, I want to say that while I know nothing about the background I certainly am not prepared to accept an article or a point of view that was expressed by someone writing in an article. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) issued a challenge to honourable member on this side of the House and particularly to members on the front bench. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) was the only member on the front bench present at that time and be accepted the challenge. He wanted to speak on behalf of the Opposition. But when the honourable member for Grayndler rose to speak he was gagged. Although the honourable member for Parkes challenged honourable members on this side of the House to speak, when he had the opportunity to let the honourable member for Grayndler speak, he voted against his being allowed to do so.
-Order! I would suggest thai the House recognise that this is a debate and it should be conducted in the correct and proper manner and the dignity of the House should be preserved. Interjections from both sides of the House are far too frequent.
– Could anyone in the House tonight imagine a more despicable attitude than that demonstrated by the honourable member on the Government side of the House who issued a challenge to an honourable member to speak and then, having had his say, voted against the honourable member speaking?
I leave honourable members on the other side of the House to judge the honourable member for Parkes. It can be said in favour of a great number of honourable members on that side of the House that they supported the contention of the honourable member for Grayndler. Honourable members on the other side of the House voted with us and the numbers were even. Let me come back to the other matter. Certain accusations have been made against the Prime Minister. Personally, I am not prepared to support them. Honourable members, speaking under privilege in this House, want to attack the man who has made the accusation. Probably they are entitled to do this. But I suggest that as honourable members on this side of the House regard this as a very serious accusation against the Prime Minister - and I would not disagree with this contention - we ought to take the opportunity to have this matter fully investigated. Accordingly, I move:
That the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
-Order! The motion cannot be accepted by the Chair on the adjournment debate. The honourable member has moved that this matter be referred to the Privileges Committee, but that motion can be accepted only if, in the opinion of the Chair, a prima facie case has been made out by the honourable member to show that it should be so referred. I consider that the motion should be more specific.
– I move:
That the ruling be dissented from.
– Will the honourable member submit his motion in writing?
– Yes, I now do so.
-Order! I suggest to the Treasurer and to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that when the Chair calls for order their conversation across the table should cease.
That the ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (11.55] - I rise to privilege. Allegations based upon a newspaper, or some news sheet, and which grossly reflect upon the character of the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Gorton) have been made this evening. I disagree with all of them. But the matter cannot be left where it is. If the Prime Minister of Australia is to continue in his office, he must be protected against these aspersions, or at least they should be examined. If what has been said is true, then the present occupant of the Prime Ministership is not fit to occupy this position. Therefore, on the question of privilege, under standing orders 95 and 96, 1 move:
That the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
-Order! As I see the position, it is now a matter for the decision of the Chair as to whether a prima facie case of privilege has been made out. I listened very intently to the remarks of the honourable member for Hunter and the remarks of other honourable members and I should like time to consider whether there is a prima facie case. At this stage, in my view, a prima facie case has not been made out. Therefore I should like time to consider the matter.
– The Opposition will accept the proposition that you put forward, Mr Speaker. We think it is a reasonable one. Both the right honourable member for Melbourne and I are firmly convinced that this matter should go to the Committee of Privileges. We believe that in view of what has been said by the Treasurer and by other honourable members, including the honourable member for Hughes-
-Order! The honourable member has already spoken in this debate. Is he rising to order?
– I am indicating that we are prepared to accept your proposition.
– Then the honourable member will have to seek leave if he wants to continue.
– ment. -I ask leave to make a state-
– What the honourable member is actually doing at this stage is canvassing the opinion of the Chair.
– I do not intend to do so. I ask leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– An attack has been made upon the Prime Minister. It was an extremely serious one. As the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) has said, this matter should be fully investigated. If it is your considered opinion that you should have time to consider the matter, the Opposition would be happy to agree to your proposition.
– Mr Speaker, no prima facie case of any kind has been made in this particular debate.
– Order! The honourable member is now canvassing the ruling of the Chair.
– MayI ask leave to speak to this matter?
– Then I ask leave to speak.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted, butI would warn the Minister for Education and Science that if he continues in the same vein to canvass the ruling of the Chair he will be out of order.
-i wish to speak to the question of your asking time to make a judgment in relation to this particular matter on the basis of a speech made originally by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) without any evidence of any kind on the basis of charges written by somebody of no reputation, as was quite clearly shown by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I believe it would be quite unforgivable, and quite unprecedented in the history of this Parliament, and possibly the history of any parliamentary democracy, to have a matter such as this standing over on the basis of the kind of evidence that the honourable member for Hunter mentioned. Both the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) in their remarks repudiated what had been said by the honourable member for Hunter. Though they did that in clear terms, both still sought to have this matter referred to the Privileges Committee. When they do this on the basis of something that they had repudiated, it certainly causes one to question whether they and the Australian Labor Party in fact stand behind the kind of tactics that the honourable member for Hunter used in this chamber on this occasion. 1 believe that there is only one decision that this House could and should make and that is a firm decision to dismiss the false and scurrilous accusations made by the honourable member for Hunter on the basis of information from a person whose reputation could not be lower in the view of anyone in this Parliament. I suggest that this matter should be dismissed, that it should not be allowed to hang over and that the air should be cleared in relation to it.
– I regard the remarks of the Minister for Education and Science as offensive and insulting.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker-
– The honourable member cannot debate the question. What is the point of order?
– The statements I quoted in the Parliament came from the magazine-
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I have made my position quite clear.
– Stick to the Standing Orders.
– I do not want the advice of the honourable member for Evans. If he keeps interrupting,I will deal with him. I have said that in my view no prima facie case has been made at this stage, but I would like time to consider the implications in this matter.
I now put the question, ‘that the House do now adjourn’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.3 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Telephone Services (Question No. 1082)
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Bills of Exchange - A committee was appointed by the Commonwealth Government on 13th April 1962 under the chairmanship of the Honourable Mr Justice Manning of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
Bankruptcy - A committee was appointed on 23rd February 1956 by the then AttorneyGeneral, Senator the Honourable J. A. Spicer, Q.C., under the chairmanship of the late Sir Thomas Clyne, the then Federal Judge in Bankruptcy.
Copyrights- A committee was appointed on 15th September 1958 by the then AttorneyGeneral, Senator the Honourable Neil O’Sullivan, under the chairmanship of the Honourable Mr Justice Spicer, Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
Patents - (i) A committee was appointed on 10th October 1950 by the then AttorneyGeneral, Senator the Honourable J. A. Spicer, Q.C., under the chairmanship of the Honourable Mr Justice Dean of the Supreme Court of Victoria. (ii) The abovementioned Committee was reconvened on 21st January 1957 by the then AttorneyGeneral, Senator the Honourable Neil O’Sullivan. (iii) On 23rd July 1965 the then Attorney-General, the Honourable B. M. Snedden, Q.C., invited a committee, under my chairmanship, to assemble as an informal group to advise him informally upon proposals for modifying the patent system.
Designs - No committee has been appointed within the last 20 years to advise on legislation with respect to designs.
Trade Marks - A committee was appointed on 10th October 1950 by the then AttorneyGeneral Senator the Honourable J. A. Spicer. Q.C., under the chairmanship of the Honourable Mr Justice Dean of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Bills of Exchange - The Committee reported on 1st May 1964.
Bankruptcy - The Committee reported on 14th December 1962.
Copyrights- The Committee reported on 22nd December 1959.
Patents - The first committee reported on 17th April 1952. The second committee reported in April 1959. The third committee reported in May 1966.
Trade Marks - The Committee reported on 21st October 1954.
Bills of Exchange - The report was presented to Parliament on 12th October 1965.
Bankruptcy - The report was presented to Parliament on 12th October 1965.
Copyrights- The report was presented to Parliament on 12th October 1965.
Patents - The reports were not presented to Parliament. The report of the Dean Committee dated 17th April 1952 together with a copy of a report by a pre-war committee on patents and a copy of the Patents Bill 1952 were incorporated in a booklet, copies of which were made available to members of Parliament before the second reading of the Patents Bill1952 on 3rd June 1952. I have been unable to find out with certainty whether or cot copies of the report produced in April 1959 were circulated to members. The report produced in May 1966 was not circulated to members.
Trade Marks- The report was presented to Parliament on 4th November 1954.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
As MacRobertson Miller Airlines in Western Australia is moving towards total dependence on Ansett Transport Industries Ltd will he reconsider Trans-Australia Airlines application for the right to operate on the Perth-Darwin route?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The interna] change within Ansett Transport Industries Ltd referred to in the question has not, of itself, created a basis to review airline operations over the Perth-Darwin route. Furthermore the agreement by MacRobertson Miller Airlines with the Commonwealth to operate services in Western Australia and between Western Australia and the Northern Territory does not expire until September 1971. However, TAA has renewed interest in operating over the route and the matter is currently receiving consideration.
Postal Services (Question No. 1136)
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice:
Will he institute an immediate inquiry into the effect which the reduction in postal deliveries has had on business in provincial centres?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The general standard of mail circulation under the once daily delivery arrangements is to provide next day delivery for letters posted by the appropriate . closing time, in and between the capital cities and the larger centres of population, including provincial centres. The principles now applying to the delivery of mail take into account the need for business and commercial organisations to receive their mail as early as possible and main business areas are given priority in delivery over residential areas. The private box facility is available for those who wish to obtain their mail earlier, as private box mail is normally available at approximately 9 o’clock each morning and again in the early afternoon on week days.
For example, mail included in the 5 a.m. dispatch from Melbourne is delivered by postmen to the main business area in Geelong between 9 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. the same day, while sorting to private boxes is generally completed by 9 a.m. Only a negligible amount of mail is received in the afternoon and private box sorting is normally completed by 2.45 p.m. Similar arrangements obtain at other large provincial centres.
In view of these circumstances, the standard of mail service under the new arrangements, it is expected, will meet the needs of business establishments in provincial centres.
Civil Aviation (Question No. 1147)
asked the Minister for Civil
Aviation, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1, 2 and 3. The Department of Civil Aviation is at present investigating the facilities which will be required for aircrew training on the Boeing 747 aircraft and the possible location or locations where the operations could be carried out. In this regardI will shortly be submitting proposals to the Government for consideration and decision. The answers to your questions 2 and 3 will depend on the decision of the Government.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has recently submitted to me a report on the matter of the extension of television services to a number of remotely situated areas including the towns of Norseman and Esperance. This report is at present lender consideration but I am not in a position, at this stage, to indicate the outcome of such consideration. The time-table for any further extensions of the service which may be approved » dependent upon the number and location of the areas involved throughout the Commonwealth and cannot be determined until decisions are made on this aspect.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1, 2 and 3. The report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the matter of the extension of television services to a number of remotely situated areas contains estimates of the costs involved. In the case of Norseman and Esperance, the capita] cost is of the order of $260,000. The reasonableness’ of the costs, as referred to by the honourable member, and all other relevant factors, are now under consideration, not only in relation to Norseman and Esperance, but in respect of all the centres concerned.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 March 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690319_reps_26_hor62/>.