26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) took the chair at 10-30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. By way of preface I would like to compliment him on the sturdy Australian way in which he declared in a recent television interview that he and his Government would not be blackmailed by the DLP or the National Civic Council in the matter of Australia’s defence or foreign policies.
– My question, Sir, is: Will the Prime Minister invite the distinguished Soviet diplomat who recently addressed the Woden Branch of the Liberal Party to address a joint meeting of Government supporters in order to dispel doubts which certain honourable members sitting on the Government benches have regarding the propriety of a Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean and the need also for Australia, Russia and other Pacific countries to promote the cause of peaceful co-existence and goodwill so that all the nations of the Pacific area at the least will be able to live in peace and comfort?
– 1 would like to preface my answer by thanking the right honourable member for Melbourne for the compliments and kind words with which he prefaced his question. I do not know that he precisely stated what I said on TV but the implications were clearly the same, the implications being that no great party can tailor its foreign policies or any other policies to lit in with the requirements of any other party. Since the right honourable gentleman has raised this matter I might point out to him that 1 went on to state that a party of this kind - of the kind of the Democratic Labor Party - was, in my view, a party of principle and would find it, 1 should have thought, difficult to support a defence policy of the Opposition which is so much less strong than the defence policy of this Government and which would seek to withdraw all troops from our north, whereas we would keep a presence there; which would quibble about the arrangements necessarily to be made with the United States in my view for the full carrying out of the spirit of the ANZUS treaty; and in many other ways departs so much from what we consider to be a proper defence policy. So I thank the right honourable member for bis endorsement, I take it, of all these remarks. In regard to the second part of the right honourable member’s question, I am afraid I cannot agree with his suggestion but I think could leave the Soviet emissary to whom the right honourable member referred to move in his more traditional milieu where I am sure he would feel much further at home, and that is amongst the members of the Opposition.
– The Minister for the Army will recall my considerable interest in the establishment of an Army small ships base in north Queensland and my previous questions regarding the site to be chosen for the base. Can he give me any information about the present situation?
– As J told the House earlier this year, Woolwich is presently used as a base for Army water craft. In January 1968 an Army working party surveyed a number of possible alternative sites on the Queensland coast for this base, but subsequently several complex issues arose which to this point have precluded a firm decision being made on the precise location. All I can say is that the Government’s decision on the future location of the base will be determined in consultation with a number of government departments which are involved. Although progress is being made, it is likely that a firm decision will not be made in the short term. However, I can assure the honourable gentleman that 1 will certainly give consideration to excluding at this stage some of the sites which have been under investigation. I appreciate the honourable gentleman’s sustained personal interest in this matter, and I undertake to keep him well informed.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Did the Australian Council for the Arts earlier this year recommend to the Government that a fund of $lm be set aside for the establishment of a film industry in Australia? Did a Senate select committee known as the Vincent Committee make a similar recommendation as far back as 1964? Is the Prime Minister aware that Canada launched a film development corporation with a fund of $10m? Finally, in view of the wide dissatisfaction of cultural organisations with the niggardly sum of $300,000 provided in the Budget for special projects does the Government intend to act on the recommendation of the Australian Council for the Arts and to make $lm available prior to the forthcoming Federal election?
– I think it is quite an astonishing question for the honourable member to ask. The Australian Council for the Arts has had its vote lifted from $1.6m last year to $2.8m this year - a very great increase indeed in the money made available - and to the best of my knowledge is thoroughly satisfied with what it has received and is on public record as having been satisfied with what it has received. The recommendations made to us by the Australian Council for the Arts to which the honourable member refers had in them suggestions for the allocation of $300,000 for the establishment of a film school and for other matters connected with the film industry, and all that was asked for in that direction from the submission of the Australian Council for the Arts was granted in full. There was a different submission altogether from a sub-committee dealing with the establishment of a film industry and the possible ways by which that might be done. But as far as the Australian Council for the Arts requests are concerned in the submissions put to me they, I think, have been met in a way which meets entirely with the Council’s satisfaction and which can only be regarded as a great advance on behalf of the Government in supporting cultural activities of all kinds.
– I refer to earlier statements by the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning the establishment of a national productivity council. Can the Minister indicate to the House what steps have been taken to estab lish a productivity council on a national basis? Is he in a position to advise the
House of any progress that has been made in this regard?
– I am happy to tell the honourable member that since I last answered a question in the House on this subject there has been very remarkable progress. A large powerful group of industrial, business and commercial interests, together with other parties, has brought together throughout the country key individuals and firms to set up a national productivity promotion council with the aim of bringing the importance of productivity to the attention of the whole community, particularly to those engaged in industry. The chairman of the provisional group council is Dr Dunshea, the Chairman of Dunlop Rubber Aust. Ltd. He has the assistance of Sir Archibald Glenn and a number of other prominent industrialists. A conference to launch this project will take place in Canberra on 22nd and 23rd September. The firms concerned have contributed an amount which I now think is in the vicinity of $50,000. This is to start it off. The conference will receive the assistance of my Department for necessary secretarial functions. A Press statement was issued some little time ago by Mr Dunshea. I am sure that the honourable member understands that this is a vital issue because we have been in a position of virtually full employment for so long that the only way to raise the national income further is by increases in productivity and this has. therefore, become Australia’s most important economic issue.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Why do his Department’s estimates for this year make no provision for victims of the Nigerian civil war in contrast to last year’s modest enough provision of $67,000 to the International Red Cross campaign on their behalf? Even if there are now difficulties in the operations of the Red Cross in Nigeria why is it not possible to give assistance to other organisations aiding these victims, whose situation is still as desperate as it was a year ago?
– From memory, I think the difficulty arose from uncertainties regarding the Red Cross operations, but I will make some further inquiries to see whether there are other possibilities of giving assistance.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Industry explain the position concerning the reported request of Australian shipper interests to him to require the shipping companies to disclose information of their costs and profits?
– I think I should go back a little to put the present position into perspective. Until 1956 the negotiation of freight rates in the Australia/ Europe trade was a catch as catch can business in which the Government was regularly invited to help, and did so with considerable success. In 1956 the exporter interests of Australia decided themselves to negotiate a regular basis for determining freight rates. This was done in 1956 without consultation with the Government. They were perfectly entitled to do this. They then agreed to what is, in effect, a cost-plus formula for determining freights, and that has operated since then almost until the present time. The advent of the Trade Practices Act introduced a new element into the negotiations and the position now is that all of the shipping companies in this trade have signed an undertaking to rae consistent with the requirements of the Trade Practices Act to disclose to the shipper interests all information that is reasonably relevant of their own operations, to enable a negotiation to be concluded on the basis of facts.
Recently the shipping companies in the preliminary stages of negotiation with the shipper interests offered a stand still of freights for this year. For a period the shipper interests declined to accept this and were in the early stages of a negotiation when they turned around and accepted the stand still offer. So at the present time the freight for the coming year has been agreed upon between the parties. The shipper interests have now written to me asking me to require the shipping companies to disclose information about their shipping operations of a year ago. This request puts me not in the position of being a beneficent helper but in the ultimate recourse in a legal situation in relation to the Trade Practices Act because of my position as Minister for Trade and Industry. The provisions of the Act are such that if it becomes necessary for the purpose of conducting a negotiation I can enforce the shipping companies to reveal information reasonably necessary for that negotiation. My legal advisers inform me that as no negotiation is proceeding at the present time, I hold no right to require this disclosure of information at this time. 1 have to accept the opinion of my legal advisers that that is the position. 1 am sorry that this has become a matter of public controversy in the newspapers. There has been a disclosure of correspondence but certainly not by me. I think my history shows that I have always been on the side of trying to get the most advantageous freight for the Australian export industries, lt would be a lot better if shipper interests were to seek to have a conversation with me rather than to conduct what looks very much like a very old fashioned sort of pressure campaign through disclosure of correspondence, with journalists putting a wrong construction on the matter. I shall write to the shippers’ official representatives and invite them to come and talk the matter out with me.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether he has received the feasibility report concerning the possible new port on King Island. If so, when can we expect a ministerial statement on the report? When can the report be made available to honourable members? Can the Minister advise us which site is favoured as the location of the new port?
– It is true that I have received a report from the consultants who were commissioned to conduct an inquiry into a possible new port facility for King Island. This report is currently being examined interdepartmentally within the Commonwealth sphere. It is also being examined by the Tasmanian Government. When those examinations are complete, no doubt there will be further discussion between the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments. I shall make an announcement when I am in a position to do so.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the abusive, intemperate remarks about the Australian Medical Association made last week by the Leader of the Opposition? Is not this a curious way in which to treat a profession whose cooperation is essential to the successful implementation of any health scheme? Does he believe that the statement by the AMA justified such a violent reaction?
– I did read the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition. Personally I have found by experience that if you are depending upon the co-operation of a body of people the worst way of achieving that co-operation is to abuse them and to impugn their motives. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition does not believe that in order to implement his particular health scheme proposals it is necessary to get the co-operation of the medical profession. If so, he should say so. The last part of the honourable gentleman’s question was whether I felt that what the AMA had to say justified this sort of violent reaction. I do not believe that it justified this reaction. But I believe that it is understandable because in essence what the AMA did was to expose the basic fallacy, indeed even the confidence trick, in respect of the way in which the honourable gentleman is handling this matter. On the one hand, as the AMA pointed out, he is sheltering behind the fact that his health scheme or the Labor Party’s health scheme has been responsibly costed by independent economists. On the other hand, whenever anyone makes a criticism, as the Prime Minister did in the House very effectively a few weeks ago, the Leader of the Opposition turns round and abandons an essential element in the Deeble and Scotton scheme. In other words he is attempting to have it both ways.
What the AMA did in this case was to point out that in certain circumstances under the Deeble and Scotton proposals in relation to some of the more common medical services, the patients - the contributors - would have to pay more than they do under the present scheme. The AMA was perfectly right in pointing out that in those circumstances under the Deeble and Scotton scheme this would have been so. The Leader of the Opposition came back and said: ‘They are quite wrong. They have misrepresented my scheme. We have abandoned those particular aspects of the Deeble and Scotton proposals’. He is perfectly entitled to do this. But the point is that these deterrent charges on the more common services - that is in GP consultations, surgery consultations and visits and unreferred specialist consultations - are an integral part of the Deeble and Scotton scheme and if they are abandoned, as the Labor Party has abandoned them, the Leader of the Opposition cannot shelter behind the fact that his scheme has been responsibly costed by independent economists. What in fact he has done by abandoning this is throw the whole question of costs into the melting pot. I do not know of one country in the world, in which there does not exist a deterrent charge for these more common services under a fee for service system, where costs have not got completely out of hand. What is the Leader of the Opposition going to do about it? He should tell us. Is he going to abandon deterrent charges? He says he is. Let us make it clear. Is it the Deeble and Scotton scheme?
– I rise on a point of order. What has Labor policy to do with the honourable member’s Department?
-It has been the practice of the House that Ministers may answer questions in their own way.
– I only say that the Leader of the Opposition should tell us what the Labor Party scheme is and what it will cost and not shelter behind the costs in relation to a completely different scheme. He should also tell us how he is going to contain costs in relation to the known fact around the world that one cannot do so for the more common services without any deterrent charge whatsoever. Perhaps he will tell the medical profession that he is going to abandon the fee for service scheme and as in Britain introduce a capitation scheme. I do not know whether he is. But he should tell us what the position is.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Is he aware of the continuing increases in the cost of living at all levels? If so, would the honourable gentleman give close consideration to this fact and grant appropriate increases in the allowable deductions for dependants of the longsuffering taxpayers? This would give some relief from the heavy burden under which the average taxpayer is now staggering.
– In the Budget I did refer to the fact that the consumer price index had increased by 2.9% over the last Budget year. 1 also drew attention to the way in which the non-food sector had increased. In the 1967-68 Budget, in order to give some assistance to the groups that the honourable member has mentioned, deductions were allowed in the case of dependent wives and children. If the honourable member will look closely at this year’s Budget he will see that considerable increases have been given, principally to widows and other pensioners. Assistance has been given by way of the tapered means test and the shading in of the income tax provisions. If he looks at it he will find that it is one of the most generous Budgets ever introduced in this Parliament.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. I preface the question by saying that in the Budget papers there is an item called ‘Devaluation Compensation’ which will cost the Australian taxpayer $29m or over $500,000 a week. Do we have to pay this compensation for all time, simply because Britain devalued her currency in 1967? What would happen to this line in the Budget if Japan devalued her currency? Would the Australian taxpayer again have to compensate for this devaluation?
– In answer to the last part of the honourable member’s question, I have not heard it proposed that the Japanese would devalue. Consequently the question is a hypothetical one and I hope the honourable member will understand why I do not intend to proceed with any further examination of that question. As to the first part of the question the policy established by the Government is that if devaluation loss is to be paid it must be demonstrable and unavoidable, and those principles have been religiously followed by the Government in determining whether or not compensation should be paid. Each industry is looked at independently and if it is found that the loss is both unavoidable and demonstrable then compensation is paid. But the honourable member must know that market forces are now taking over and it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish the effects of market forces from those of devaluation. I can assure the honourable member that each industry is looked at and that Cabinet comes to an individual decision in each case.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Opposition. I wish to ask him . whether, as has been demanded by the Minister for Health, he will inform the House whether any sections of Labor’s health proposals have been abandoned and whether such new sections as have been inserted have been costed.
– In answer to the honourable member for Corio 1 must say that the proposals that I have made publicly and at meetings of Australian Medical Association members, and in articles in the AMA journal, state quite clearly what aspects of the Deeble and Scotton proposals I have adopted. I have stated at these meetings of members of the AMA - the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, the Royal Melbourne Hospital-
– I rise to order. Is this question out of order?
-The Leader of the Opposition is not responsible to the House for presenting the policy of the Labor Party. The Minister for Health in reply to a question, commented on a statement that had been made by the Leader of the Opposition. In this circumstance, when the Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition should comment and say what was the particular position, and having regard then to the question asked by the honourable member for Corio, I felt that the Leader of the Opposition should be given this opportunity, without elaborating upon the point - and I would remind the Leader of the Opposition of that - to clarify the point that was raised. That was the reason I called the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr Acting Speaker, before you gave your commendable and very just ruling, I had said -
– Mr Acting Speaker, I draw your attention to standing order 143.
-The standing order to which the Leader of the House refers covers the point that he has raised on the point of order. In the strict sense - and I made this remark in my reply to the first point of order - the Leader of the Opposition is not responsible to the House for the matter of policy, and, in the strict sense in relation to the point of order, the question asked is not related to a matter for which the Leader of the Opposition is responsible. In the circumstances I have called the Leader of the Opposition. If the House disagrees with that, there is one action which the House can take. I felt that in these circumstances - and I emphasise the point - the Leader of the Opposition should be given the opportunity to comment on the point made by the Minister for Health.
- Mr Acting Speaker, the proposals which I have made on behalf of my Party, based overwhelmingly on the proposals put forward by Deeble and Scotton and costed in each instance by them, have been published in the Australian Medical Association’s gazette and they have been twice before meetings of AMA members - at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The meetings were attended by 400 or 500 doctors in each case. I have not attacked the AMA. I am satisfied that the AMA would as willingly co-operate with the Commonwealth Department of Health under a Labor government as it has under the present Government. Furthermore, I am satisfied that members of the AMA would collaborate in this matter as they have done in the pensioner medical service and with the Repatriation Department. I have not taken the AMA to task. The AMA’s Federal Council and its State councils have not passed-
-Order! I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that my comment was that the point made by the Minister for Health was in relation to what had been and what had not been in the policy. It was not in relation to the difference of opinion between the Leader of the Opposition and the AMA.
– What I did last week was to criticise and correct statements made on behalf of the AMA in its gazette. For the second time these statements were false. After the first statement last February in the gazette, I received an apology from the Association. I would expect one on this occasion because the Association was basing its comments on a document in which I had made it quite clear where suggestions by Deeble and Scotton had been discarded. The AMA knows this. It knows it through its own journal. The authors of this particular diatribe last week were a discredit to their profession, and I believe that a great number of doctors share that view.
-Order! I remind the Leader of the Opposition that he is now enlarging on the point raised in the question.
– All I would say is that the views, expressed in publications of the Australian Medical Association without authorisation and without facts, have been rejected, amongst others, by the half dozen members of the Association who will be standing for my Party at next month’s election and also apparently by a majority of the people who took part in the latest gallup poll.
– I would like to ask the Minister for Education and Science a question. Has he seen a report that the headmasters of Australian independent schools at the conclusion of their recent conference are said to have pointed to the fact that Australia spends less proportionately on education than other comparable countries do? Can the Minister advise the House whether there is any substance to either the report or the statement of fact which these headmasters are alleged to have made?
– A few months ago my Department, after a very great deal of work, published a document called ‘Education and Gross National Product’ because it had become a habit amongst a number of people to criticise Australia for allegedly spending a smaller proportion of its gross national product on education than some overseas countries do. The report, which was quite exhaustive, showed that this was an entirely false basis of comparison between countries and indicated that a number of things that are not included in educational expenditure in Australia, for example, are included in other countries. Copies of that report, of course, are still freely available.
The group of headmasters of independent schools which met in Canberra recently certainly did not make any statement of the kind mentioned by the honourable member. The version nearest to their statement is the one that was given by the Leader of the Opposition in a debate yesterday when be said, referring to this meeting:
It is enough to recall that at the end of last month, at the conclusion of their conference, the headmasters of independent schools pointed once again to the fact that we spend less proportionately on education than comparable countries do.
I would like to quote the only part of a communique and statement of resolutions from the headmasters of independent schools that could by any stretch of . the. imagination be said to have some bearing on the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. The headmasters, amongst other things, said:
The provision of assistance to independent schools does not relieve governments or the community in general of the responsibility for making greater efforts to improve provision within government maintained education even if a greater part of the gross national income has to be devoted to education.
That is a statement with which we all would agree, but I think at the same time we all would agree that it bears no relationship to the statement attributed to the headmasters by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. I am quite certain that the headmasters of independent schools would recognise that governments, both State and Federal, are making much greater efforts in this area. This is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the activities of the Commonwealth. If the whole statement of the headmasters is read, it will be seen that they recognise that the estimates for my Department have been increased by 38% for this year and that the States themselves are spending much larger sums on education and schools than they did a few years ago.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. In view of the serious criticisms by the Nimmo Committee of the inherent deficiencies in the present voluntary health insurance system, will he follow the recent precedent set by the Minister for Trade and Industry, and also set in constitutional referenda, and circularise the 75% of eligible Australians who have chosen to enter such funds and who receive a paltry reimbursement of 63% of the medical account, giving them the salient points of the Committee’s report for their guidance in the forthcoming election?
– I am always astonished that the Opposition should assume that the fact that the Government sets up an independent committee to stand back, hear evidence, take a good look at where we have’ reached in this scheme, review arrangements which in many ways were unique when they were introduced in our health scheme in Australia after 15 years or 16 years of operation and, from an independent point of view, make recommendations as to the best method by which we can take the next step and make improvements to the scheme should be construed in some way as a sign of weakness.
I believe that it is to the credit of the Government that, with an evident desire to improve the scheme after it has become well established following 15 years of operation, we should say to an independent committee ‘Now, you have a look at it and tell us the best way in which we an improve it for the benefit of Australians’. This is what we have done. The committee has made its recommendations. They are complex. They affect the interests of a lot of people who are essential in making a health scheme work. A lot of consultation with these people is needed. The recommendations are being considered with the utmost urgency by the Government. When we have made our decisions in relation to the recommendations of the committee, we will announce them. I am quite sure that the Australian people will be very satisfied with the result, lt will not be necessary to send them any letters.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that an allegation was made recently that this year’s Budget did not contain one single development proposal? Is it not a fact that in a number of fields, particularly in the field of water conservation, this Budget does make provision for a number of new development projects?
– When I heard the allegation that was referred to by the honourable member I was amazed because, of course, it is completely untrue. However, when I discovered that it was the Leader of the Opposition who made this allegation I was not quite so amazed. The facts are perfectly clear. This Budget, for the first time, makes provision for payments to or for the States for four major water conservation projects. These are the Copeton Dam, the Dartmouth Dam, the King River Dam and the Tailem Bend project. In addition, we have since announced further assistance for the Cressy-Longford scheme. All told, these projects commit for the first time the Commonwealth Government to an expenditure of $66m. If we include the State expenditure on these projects as well as the Commonwealth expenditure on them, the total commitment is about $117m. So, I think that it is perfectly obvious that the allegation is quite incorrect.
I might say that a further allegation was made. This was that we are winding down the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Again, I point out that this year we see a commitment for a greater expenditure by way of payment to contractors in the Snowy than there was last year. In addition, the Authority will be doing increased work for outside organisations. It will be doing greater work than it did last year. I think I can say to the House that these allegations are completely untrue and completely unfounded.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Education and Science. He will remember telling me on the day we first sat this year that the Australian Universities Commission was then considering a proposal by the University College of Townsville to establish a research institute of marine science during the next triennium and that the Commission would make recommendations in due course. He will have noted that in the report of the Commission which he received 3 months later, and tabled 3 months after that, the Commission stated that it made no recommendations on the proposal as it was aware that the Government had taken the first steps towards considering whether such an institute was desirable. I ask the honourable gentleman: When did the Government take these first steps which made the Universities Commission change its mind about making recommendations? What steps has the Government so far taken?
-The Chairman of the Australian Universities Commission, together with three or four other people with a knowledge in this field, including the Chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, were asked to prepare a report on this proposal. I will ascertain the present position and see what information might be given to the honourable member.
– Does the Prime Minister see any connection between the criticism levelled by the community at the Labor Party’s compulsory health scheme - or the change daily plan - on the one hand, and the refusal on the other hand of the Queensland Labor Party to renominate the current chairman of Labor’s health committee, Senator Dittmer, bearing in mind the peculiar position of Queensland in relation to free hospitalisation in terms of Labor’s proposals?
– I think all would agree that at this stage it is extremely difficult -
– 1 rise to order. The question asked by the honourable member for Angus relates to a matter not within the competence of the Minister to whom it was directed as the Chair so rightly pointed out with regard to an earlier question. The question relates to the policy of the Labor Party.
-I think I should point out that many questions asked of late have not complied strictly with the Standing Orders. I suggest that the effectiveness of question time and the scope covered by answers to questions lie in the hands of honourable members.
– I speak to the point of order. The question related to a Labor Party selection of candidates for the Parliament and therefore is completely out of order. If 1 were to ask the Prime Minister a question about Liberal Party selections in Warringah, Lalor or Bendigo the question would be out of order. It might at least be said that the Prime Minister belonged to the same organisation which had altered, transferred or rescinded selections in those electorates. 1 have no doubt that you or Mr Speaker himself would rule out of order any question from this side of the House to the Prime Minister about Liberal Party selections in Lalor, Bendigo or Warringah because the Prime Minister would not be responsible to the House for those matters. The same ruling must apply if the right honourable gentleman is asked a question, even by one of his supporters, about a Labor Party selection. The question concerned a Labor Party selection in another place. Surely you must be consistent in this matter. Are party leaders to be asked questions about the selection of candidates in their parties?
– Speaking to the point of order, I would submit to you, Mr Acting Speaker, that the question which was asked was based on the position held as chairman of a health committee by a particular individual. The matter of health schemes is clearly one of policy and one of importance and presumably the individual concerned, as chairman of a health committee, must have had significant relationships with whatever it is that may eventually turn out to be a health scheme put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, and discussion of that kind of health scheme - of somebody with that kind of responsibility - should not be ruled out of order when a question is asked in that way.
– Dealing with the submissions of the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, I would say that part of the question asked by the honourable member for Angas was irrelevant. It was irrelevant in the sense that, like many of the questions that have been asked by honourable members, it contained a suggestion which had no relationship to the general question being asked. I suggest, as I did earlier, that in the future all honourable members give some consideration to the value of question time to them in affording them an opportunity to refer matters to the Ministers who have control over various government departments. Insofar as the question asked by the honourable member for Angas relates to the responsibility of the Prime Minister in regard to health matters, the Prime Minister is entitled to answer it.
– I raise a point of order. Does your ruling, Mr Acting Speaker, mean that at question time we could discuss the attitude of the Liberal Party to the selection of a candidate for the division of Bendigo? Does it mean that we can dig up the machinations of the honourable member for Warringah?
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I have given a ruling on this matter. I have said that questions referring to personalities are irrelevant. The point made by the honourable member for Angas in this respect was irrelevant, but I have said that it is within the province of the Prime Minister to answer that part of the question which dealt with health.
– Mr Acting Speaker, may I suggest to you that the question is completely out of order on other grounds. The question asked by the honourable member for Angas is completely out of order because it asks the Prime Minister for an expression of opinion, which is forbidden under the Standing Orders.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– It is strange that there should be such objection on the part of the Opposition to discuss what appears to be an embryonic health scheme that nobody yet understands or has had explained to them. Id relation to one part of the question that was asked, I clearly could noi give a “precise answer or answer at all because this is, as was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, a matter of internal policy.
– 1 raise a. point of order. Mr Acting Speaker, I ask that you rule on the point of order raised by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory.
-Order! I have said that there was no substance in that point of order.
– 1 think it is of interest, having listened to the apologia which the Leader of the Opposition was allowed to make in this House a little earlier, to refer to the general question of the so called health scheme. I would remind you, Mr Acting Speaker, that no longer ago than 26th August in this House the Leader of the Opposition stated unequivocally and without any reservations that he and his Party had adopted the Scotton-Deeble scheme. This was clearly a mis-statement at the time or they have changed the scheme since, because apparently they have not adopted the Scotton-Deeble scheme but only some parts of that scheme. The precise parts which have been adopted and the precise parts which have been thrown away have not been explained either to the House or to the country. But one thing would be perfectly clear- that it is most misleading to say that a scheme has been carefully costed when that is not the scheme apparently being adopted by the Leader of the Opposition. All I think I could say in regard to the rest is that clearly there would be a reluctance on the part of the Opposition to make it clear to Queenslanders who are now getting public ward coverage for nothing that in the future they would have to pay up to $100 in order to get what they are now getting free. It may be that, Dr Dittmer being a Queenslander, this contretemps which they face may have had something to do with what they have done.
– Order! I would remind the Prime Minister that the reference to a senator by name was completely out of order.
– Mr Acting Speaker, 1 bow completely to your ruling. 1 withdraw altogether the reference to a senator by name, but everybody here knows whom we mean and whom we are talking about.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented during question time by three Ministers. Firstly, 1 was misrepresented by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). What I said yesterday was based on an article in the Melbourne ‘Age* of 30th August by Michael Richardson from Canberra. He said this:
The newly elected chairman of the headmasters’ conference of the Independent Schools of Australia (Mr P. M. Thwaites), said: ‘I think we ail agree that Australia is not spending enough on education’.
Mr Thwaites, principal of Geelong College, said the proportion of the gross national product devoted to education in Australia was not as high as in comparable countries.
The article went on to describe the conference resolution which Mr Thwaites released. It was Mr Thwaites’s reported statements upon which I based my comments yesterday.
Secondly, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) misrepresented me. I stated during my speech on the Budget that there was no provision in the Budget for any new development projects. The projects which he cited are either like the Copeton Dam, ones which were all the subject of legislation earlier this year in the autumn period, or like the Dartmouth Dam, ones which apparently are not even to come in during this Budget session. Chowilla Dam is what the law prescribes; Dartmouth Dam is not. Then I quoted the precise proposals for the Whyalla railway, the central Queensland power house, the Burdekin Dam and New South Wales flood mitigation, all of which were omitted from the Budget.
In conclusion: The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) mentioned my having discarded Deeble and Scotton’s costing. I did not. The Deeble and Scotton costing has been given in sworn evidence to the Senate committee which is investigating health costs and it has been verified before that committee by senior research officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in what he has just said and I claim it on the grounds that the Leader of the Opposition said that I said that he had discarded the Deeble-Scotton costing for the scheme. I did not. I said that he had discarded the Deeble and Scotton scheme and that, I take it, he admits. Indeed, he has admitted that he has not adopted the Deeble and Scotton scheme. I therefore said, since he had not adopted a scheme which had been costed, it was misleading to contend that the costing of that scheme would be the same as the costing of a different scheme which he had not yet explained to us.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) implied that I had wrongly quoted him in answer to a question this morning. So that the House may understand, the position quite clearly, I quote him again. He said:
It is enough to recall that at the end of last month, at the conclusion of their conference, the headmasters of independent schools pointed once again to the fact that we spend less proportionately on education than comparable countries do.
I have here the official communique of the headmasters’ conference - the only official communique that they issued. This is not a newspaper report; it is a communique of the headmasters’ conference and there is not a sentence in it which bears any resemblance to the alleged statement given by the Leader of the Opposition. In other words, Mr Acting Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has done ‘what this House has become accustomed to-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The House will come to order. Conduct of affairs of the House is not being assisted by comments from either side. If honourable members do not realise that this is the Parliament of the Commonwealth of
Australia then the Chair will take steps to make sure that they do understand. Conduct during question time this morning has been stretched beyond the strict bounds of the Standing Orders. This has been happening at question time during the last 2 or 3 weeks of the session. Perhaps there are particular reasons for this. However, I hope that during the remainder of this session honourable members will not stretch the interpretation of the Standing Orders to the extent that the Chair will have to take action against them. I remind all honourable members that the behaviour of this House is in the hands of each of them. I expect them to realise this. Remarks made by honourable members on both sides of the House this morning have not been in keeping with the dignity of the Commonwealth Parliament. When one is acting in the Chair while Mr Speaker is absent overseas one does not desire to take action against honourable members: I hope honourable members realise that the task of the Acting Speaker is a little more difficult than that of Mr Speaker. If honourable members do not obey the Standing Orders I shall take action to see that this House functions in accordance with the standard set by the Standing Orders.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I ask you to require the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to withdraw his statement which reflected on my veracity. In my personal explanation [ quoted a newspaper report of a statement by the new chairman of the independent schools conference. The Minister has not refuted the quotation upon which I based my remarks. . The honourable gentleman would not refute this in a letter to the newspaper; but in the Parliament, where he has a majority backing, he reflects on my accuracy and my veracity because I rely on a statement which he has not refuted since it was reported on 30th August. I have given my source and what I have said ought to be accepted.
-I think the Minister for Education and Science made an explanation as to how he had been misrepresented. I suggest that he was in order up to the point where he was about to conclude. I think it might be wise for him to withdraw his closing remarks and to have them excluded from Hansard.
– Mr Acting Speaker, in deference to your ruling I certainly withdraw the last few words of my remarks. May I say with regard to yesterday’s statement of the Leader of the Opposition that he gave the headmasters conference as the source of his information. This morning he gave as his source a report of’ the Melbourne ‘Age’.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the National Radiation Advisory Council on biological aspects of fall-out in Australia from French nuclear weapons explosions in the Pacific from July to September 1968. Honourable members will observe that the National Radiation Advisory Committee, after considering the data on radiation doses for the whole body and to the thyroid, concludes that fall-out over Australia from the 1968 series of French nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific is of no significance as a hazard to the health of the Australian population.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill authorises the Commonwealth grants for assistance to universities in the triennium 1970-72 which I outlined on 21st August 1969 when I presented to the House the fourth report of the Australian Universities Commission. As honourable members will by now have had an opportunity of studying the details contained in the Commission’s report and in my statement of 21st August, I propose to confine my second reading speech to an outline of the provisions of the Bill.
As I forecast in my earlier statement, the Bill sets out the maximum contributions the Commonwealth will make to both the capital and recurrent programmes at the various State universities, but the initiative rests with the States themselves to determine the actual levels of expenditure at each university. Where capital grants are provided for affiliated residential colleges, matching contributions must be found by the colleges themselves, though it is customary in most States for the State government to provide portion of the matching contribution. For the most part the Bill follows the pattern of the legislation which provides the grants for the triennium 1967-69.
The first two clauses of the Bill are formal. Clause 3 provides for grants payable to the States in connection with the general recurrent expenditure of their universities during the triennium 1970-72. The conditions on which the grants will be paid are unchanged from those applicable in the triennium 1967-69 and the full particulars of the grants are shown in the First Schedule to the Bill. Clause 4 repeats the present specification of the salary levels which will be supported by the Commonwealth for the more senior academic posts. The programmes of the universities for capital expenditure on buildings, site works, site acquisition, computing equipment and future planning, which the Commonwealth has approved, will be financed in accordance with the provisions of clause 5. Details of the Commonwealth contributions to these programmes appear in the Second Schedule to the Bill. This clause and Schedule follow closely the lines of the legislation for the triennium 1967-69.
There is no parallel in the legislation for the triennium 1967-69 to clause 6 of the Bill. The clause has been inserted to enable universities to obtain items of capital equipment, which in the terms of the legislation are single items costing more than $40,000 each, a matter on which I spoke in my statement to the House on 21st August. The Third Schedule to the Bill sets out the Commonwealth provision for each university on the basis of a $1. for $1 matching by the States.
Clause 7 of the Bill makes provision for the special grants for research and research training which appear in the Fourth Schedule to the Bill. The Commonwealth contribution represents half the cost of the total programme in addition to which the Commonwealth will bear in full the cost of the Australian Research Grants Committee’s programme for which provision is included in the annual appropriation bills. Provision for capital and recurrent grants to affiliated residential colleges and halls of residence is made in clauses 8 and 9 and in the Fifth Schedule to the Bill. Clauses 10, 11 and 12 provide for capital and recurrent grants to teaching hospitals associated with university medical schools. Details of the grants are shown in the Sixth and Seventh Schedules to the Bill.
The Bill authorises a Commonwealth contribution of approximately $227m in the 1970-72 triennium towards a total programme for the State universities of $5 86m. The latter figure represents an advance of about $119m over the programme for the triennium 1967-69. Of the total Commonwealth contribution, $61. 6m is provided for capital expenditure and $165. lm for recurrent expenditure. These figures do not include Commonwealth grants for the Australian National University; as in the past, provision for the Australian National University is included in the annual appropriation Bills. I commend the Bill to the House and assure honourable members that its adoption will permit the sound development of the Australian university system in the forthcoming triennium.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions ot the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, the following proposed works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: construction of high schools - Casuarina (Darwin) and Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
The proposal involves the construction of two high schools comprising classrooms, assembly areas, craft blocks, etc. Each school will provide teaching facilities for 1,100 pupils. The estimated cost of each school is $2,400,000. I table plans of the proposed works.
– I do not speak against this motion; in fact I speak very much in favour of it. The work which is to be referred to the Public Works Committee is part of a most essential programme to keep up with the expansion of population in the Northern Territory. The proposed two schools will be a great thing for Darwin and Alice Springs. The reason 1 am on my feet is to point out that, as Parliament will sit for only another 2 weeks and because the election is so close, I doubt whether the Public Works Committee can physically get to Alice Springs and Darwin to investigate the proposals. Because of the urgency of the work I ask the Government to look at the possibility of it going ahead without reference to the Public Works Committee in this case, lt would appear to me that in the circumstances the Committee will not be able to get to the Territory in time for anything to be done before the closing of this Parliament.
– The Opposition supports the motion proposed by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) to refer certain works to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report. I suggest it is high time that the Government was aware of the educational deficiencies in Darwin and Alice Springs. These high schools are urgently needed and there are provisions within the Public Works Committee Act to allow the Government to bypass, in matters of urgency as this one is, investigations by the Committee. The Minister knows full well that this has been done in the past. Such action was taken in the Northern Territory with respect to certain beef roads. Surely the provision of urgently needed schoolrooms in rapidly developing areas has greater priority in terms of social welfare than longer term beef roads. I ask the Minister to consider the proposition that because of the urgent need to construct the schools he should make a decision to bypass the Public Works Committee. I for one have always defended the right of the Parliament to analyse and the Public Works Committee to investigate specific proposals with respect to the spending of public funds. I do not know what the views of the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), are on this subject. I do not know whether he believes this proposal should be investigated or not in view of the urgency. But in Darwin and Alice Springs education has an urgent priority. The overcrowding of classrooms is such that this work should be allowed to proceed with the utmost despatch. It is within the province of this Parliament to bypass the Public Works Committee and to allow this work to proceed immediately.
– I share the concern shown by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). It is true that we have to look at the physical possibilities in this matter. It is also true that once this House is dissolved the Public Works Committee will not function again until a new Parliament is sworn in, whenever that may be. But it is usual that when the Minister refers a matter to the Public Works Committee all of the documentation in relation to it has been completed. I would not give a definite yes or no on this. It may be possible for the Committee to have a look at. the proposal. Normally, if it were something that did not arouse a great deal of public interest we could conduct our investigations in Canberra, but we have found that when we look at schools in the Northern Territory bodies such as parents and citizens organisations are very keen to give evidence and many other local people want to appear before the Committee to express their views on what should happen. So, we have to look at that aspect.
As far as the Public Works Committee is concerned, we will, of course, immediately look at this matter to see what can be done. I would join with others in saying that we have no desire to hold up this work. But it should be realised that the estimated cost of each project, I believe, is in the region of $2.4m, which is a fanamount of money to be expended, and it is the sort of expenditure that should come under the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. All I can say is that we will do our utmost to see what can be done. But I certainly could not give a guarantee at this stage of the life of this Parliament that all the mechanics in relation to the investigation of and reporting upon this proposal can be carried out because it needs a full inquiry, a report to this Parliament by the Committee and then a motion submitted by the appropriate Minister, after our report has been looked at, to authorise the conduct of the work if the report recommends it.
– The Opposition supports the idea which has been expressed by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) that in this case the work should be authorised forthwith and should not have to await the report of the Public Works Committee. If the honourable member chooses to move in that direction we will vote for his motion. If, as I anticipate, he will require the leave of the House to speak a second time to the proposition, we will not refuse to grant him leave. Accordingly, we invite the honourable member for the Northern Territory to seek leave to speak again to this motion and then to move, as the Public Works Committee Act provides, for the Parliament to approve the project forthwith.
– You could leave this till next Tuesday. We will have a look at this at our meeting tomorrow. I go along with what the honourable gentleman has had to say. Leave it till we have a look at it.
– In answer to the honourable member for Perth, who is the Chairman of the Committee, I say that the House can debate this matter only on this motion. If, for instance, the honourable member can assure us that next Tuesday or next Wednesday the House will be able to debate this matter again then I shall agree to the proposition. If, however, there is no such undertaking the only opportunity the House will have to debate this matter before it is dissolved at the end of the month will have gone.
– Let me move the adjournment of the debate.
– How much debate do you want on the matter?
– Will you bring it on in a week’s time?
– It will depend on the time. I will just do my best.
– We need to have an undertaking.
– How long do you want?
– I do not know what the Committee’s report will be. These things never take more than half an hour, in my recollection. I will certainly move the adjournment of this debate so that we can get on with other matters forthwith if the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) assures me that in a week’s time or some time next week this matter will be listed again on the blue programme.
– For half an hour only.
– il do not regard that as satisfactory. I do not recollect cases where there has been a debate of longer than half an hour on proposals to refer matters to the Public Works Committee, or on the acceptance of a report of the Public Works Committee. It is always open to the Minister - and I regret to say that he frequently exercises the right - to move that the debate be cut off. If he assures me that this matter will be listed next week on the blue programme, as it has been this week, then I will move that the debate be adjourned.
– Fair enough. It will be early next week or the week after. It may be the week after. Will that suit you?
– You want a guarantee that it will go on?
– Fair enough.
– Then I am quite happy to move that the debate be adjourned.
-I think the Leader of the Opposition will have to ask leave to continue his remarks. The second thing that crossed my mind is that if the motion of the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) is not agreed to the House will not have agreed that the matter be referred to the Committee. If we do not pass that motion the Committee cannot have a look at the matter.
– I can conclude my remarks very briefly. If I may say so, the point that you have made, Mr Acting Speaker, is completely valid because the motion has to be passed in order that the
Committee can consider the matter. 1 accept the assurance of the Leader of the House that the matter - either the report or the matter to be the subject of the report - will be listed on the blue programme for one of the two remaining weeks of the session.
– That is these two high schools?
– Yes, that is that the matter of these two high schools will be listed on the programme one way or another before the House is dissolved. All I do then is encourage the Public Works Committee to consider this matter, and it should remember the history of the Darwin High School. The original proposal for airconditioning was rejected on the grounds of economy. It was later found that this was a false economy, for the pupils and staff would have been able to do their jobs very much better if air-conditioning had been included from the outset in this basic public work in Darwin. We wish the Public Works Committee a speedy and proper consideration of these worthy objectives.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That Government business shall take precedence over general business tomorrow.
Debate resumed from 27 August (vide page 730), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a miserable Bill, miserable in its motives and miserable in its scope. I was in the Northern Territory again last week. There can be no question
– When was your last visit?
– The previous visit was last May, the one before that last November, and the one before that was May last year. Does the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) want me to go back further over my constant visits to the Northern Territory?
Mx Nixon - Inconstant.
– My regular and frequent visits to the Northern Territory. The Minister who interjects should realise from the questions to him that I put on the notice paper that my interest in the Northern Territory is consistent and persistent.
– And insincere.
– 1 did not hear that.
– I just added another adjective which describes the interest of the Leader of the Opposition in the Northern Territory.
– 1 was staggered that the honourable member actually interjected on matters concerning his own bailiwick. The Minister in fact would help us if he would more promptly answer some of my questions. I noted during the debate on the previous matter that there are two questions on the subject of education for which I have been awaiting a reply from the Minister for the last 4 weeks. One is:
Why is the percentage of children receiving preschool education in the Northern Territory so much lower than in the Australian Capital Territory?
Another concerns a matter which I have raised during every Budget session for at least the last 6 years, that is the number of Aboriginal and other Australian children of school age living in the Northern Territory and the facilities available for them at each level and in each type of education in the Territory and outside it.
Now let me return to the Bill. In the Northern Territory the Bill has been described as being designed to save Sam. If this Bill is passed by both the Federal Houses I do not think it will save Sam. I do not believe that any candidate of the Country Party or the Liberal Party has a chance of being elected again to represent the Northern Territory in our time. I am told that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is listed to speak on the Bill. This is a refreshing change too. He is, I regret to say, referred to as ‘silent Sam’, not only among the members of this House but also in the Territory itself. If the honourable member for the Northern Territory votes for this Bill- and we will give him the opportunity to vote against it - then he will be shown to be conniving at it. The sole purpose of this Bill is to prevent any member of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory standing for the House of Representatives-
– It does not prevent anyone from standing at all. You are misrepresenting the case.
– I had not even finished the sentence.
– Let the Leader of the Opposition misrepresent it. He usually does. We heard an example this morning.
– And one of the Ministers colleagues had to withdraw, with ill grace.
-I point out to the House that interjections are out of order and that the Leader of the Opposition should be allowed to make his speech without interjections.
– Hitherto, any member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council has been free to stand for the House of Representatives, either for the seat of the Northern Territory or for any other seat in. this House or in the Senate, and some have exercised their right to do so. This Bill will provide that members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council cannot stand for either House of this Parliament unless they resign from the Legislative Council 14 days before the nominations close for either House of this Parliament. The justification for this is said to be that this has always been the position as regards members of State parliaments, lt is true enough that members of State parliaments have, ever since 1902. had to resign from those State parliaments before they could nominate for either House of this Parliament. This provision was put in the original Electoral Act by a Parliament which was very largely recruited from the State parliaments. In fact nearly half the members of the first Commonwealth Parliament had come directly from State legislatures; 18 from New South Wales, 12 from Victoria, 9 from South Australia, 10 from Queensland and one from Western Australia. Thirty-two of them entered this chamber and eighteen went to another place. Some of the most eminent members of that first Parliament had, of course, been distinguished members of the State parliaments. Nobody in the succeeding 67 years has ever suggested that this provision should be extended to other elected persons.
A Labor government established the Legislative Council in the Northern Territory over 20 years ago. It has never been suggested that members of the Council should have to resign before they nominate for this Parliament. The previous member for the Northern Territory, the one who represented it from 1949 onwards, Mr Jock Nelson, a valued colleague of mine, was a member of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory when he nominated for this place. The Minister for the Interior has reminded me of the fact, in answer to a question I asked him when he introduced this Bill on 27th August, that an election for the new Legislative Council took place on the same day as the election for this House, and Mr Nelson’s term as a legislative councillor expired the day before he was elected to this place the very next day. At that time there was no requirement, as this Bill makes, that he should resign from the Legislative Council before nominating for this Parliament. In fact, the situation continued where people were able to continue as members of the Legislative Council and nominate for this Parliament.
In 1961 Mr Harold Brennan M.L.C., known as ‘Tiger’ Brennan, nominated for this place as the representative of the Northern Territory. He opposed a Labor member, Mr Jock Nelson M.H.R. No objection was taken to his opposing a Labor member. The Labor Party thought it perfectly legitimate that one of its members should be opposed. At that stage, apparently the members of the Liberal and Country Parties took no umbrage at the fact that a Northern Territory M.L.C. was aspiring to be an M.H.R. No objection was taken and no action was taken. In 1963 no Northern Territory M.L.C. stood for the House of Representatives. In 1 966, again Mr Brennan M.L.C. stood for the House of Representatives. On this occasion he stood against the then Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) whose portfolio at that time covered the Northern Territory. Mr Brennan stood against a Country Party Minister in his seat of Mcpherson. Objection was certainly taken at that time. Members of the Country Party did not mind a Northern Territory M.L.C. standing against a Labor member, but they certainly objected to him standing against a Country Party member. However, they did not take any action because it was too late.
On this occasion it was announced on 20th August last that the elections for the House of Representatives were to take place on 25th October. Mr Brennan M.L.C. announced that he would stand for the House of Representatives for the Northern Territory seat. Within a week - on 27lh August - this Bill was brought in by the Country Party Minister for the Interior, whose portfolio now covers the Northern Territory. So we have this very clear situation. Mr Brennan, as those who know him would not be surprised to learn, has been very quick to take advantage of this situation. J can assure the House that all M.L.C.s, including official ones as well as party ones, have supported his attitude.
– You are wrong.
– Perhaps the honourable member for the Northern Territory can say which Northern Territory M.L.C.s support this Bill. Of course, those who are on the Commonwealth payroll as members of the Commonwealth Public Service or of the Northern Territory Administration, cannot stand for this place because of the constitutional provision concerning such persons standing. That is, Commonwealth employees, civil and now military, holding offices of profit under the Crown must resign those positions before they can stand for this Parliament.
– Why not the same provision for members of the Legislative Council?
– The honourable gentleman has been in this place long enough to know that members of Parliament do not hold an office of profit under the Crown. They represent the people. They do not represent the executive. They do not represent the Crown.
– Members have to resign from State Parliaments.
– That, however, is not because of any constitutional provision. It is because of a statutory provision. Many members of State Parliament contested the elections for the first Commonwealth
Parliament. The Commonwealth Electoral Act, however, was introduced the next year, provided that members of State Parliaments had to resign if they were to nominate for or be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Is this true?
– Yes, it is true. Apparently the honourable gentleman was not here when I commenced by remarks. It is true that now, after 67 years-
– You have it mixed up.
– He has it mixed up. He is rarely so mixed up so early. This is, after all, only just after noon. After midnight I would make allowance for the honourable member.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw that remark. It is a reflection on the honourable member.
– If the honourable member would like me to withdraw it, I will do so immediately.
– It makes no difference to me.
– Of course it is true that there has been a statutory provision that members of State Parliament have to resign before they can nominate for or be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament. There never has been - there can, of course, at any time be - a statutory provision saying that members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory have to resign before they stand for the Commonwealth Parliament. This Bill is making that provision.
The amendment has never been suggested in the 22 years that there has been a Northern Territory Legislative Council, and I was examining the motives and the scope of this Bill. Why do we have it now? When Mr Brennan M.L.C. in 1961 stood for the Northern Territory seat in this place, no-one objected. He was opposing a Labor man. When, in 1966, he contested the seat of Mcpherson against the then Country Party Minister for Territories, there was objection, but action was not taken quickly enough. Now, when Mr Brennan announces that he will stand for the House of Representatives, again for the Northern Territory against a Country Party member for the Northern Territory, there are renewed objections and there is prompt action. A week after the election date is announced the rules are changed.
– This is sheer misrepresentation and it is dishonest. I will prove it when I answer you.
– From anybody else I would object to the word ‘dishonest’. The honourable gentleman is rattled. I have given the chronology and I have referred to the statutes and the Constitution. Everything 1 have said is factual. If the Minister can explain away this extraordinarily belated and partisan piece of legislation, then he has his task ahead of him. The rules are to be changed for the first time in the history of the Northern Territory Legislative Council. One might as well say-
– This is making progress.
– This course has never been suggested before in the Parliament. There have been many amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and this has never been suggested. The provision concerning State Parliaments has been there ever since 1902. Why is it that nobody woke up to this in the 1940s, the 1950s and hitherto in the 1960s, to extend the provision to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory? Where are we going to draw the line? Are we going to say that lord mayors of the State capitals cannot stand for this Parliament unless they resign their positions? Are we going to say that paid aldermen or councillors, shire presidents and mayors cannot stand for this Parliament unless they resign their positions? There are many paid, full-time elected positions in this country which are of as great moment as the position of legislative councillor for the Northern Territory. Why are we not consistent? There may well be some principle that a man should not hold two elected positions that should be full time jobs. There may well be a proper principle that a man should not at the one time be an MLA or MLC and an MHR or senator. But this Bill provides that an MLC for the Northern Territory must resign before he can even nominate for this Parliament. Why do we not say this about lord mayors, shire presidents, mayors, county presidents or borough presidents? The Labor Party’s objection is to making a man resign before he can nominate for this Parliament. The Labor Party does not oppose the principle that if a man is elected to this Parliament he should then resign from the other full time elected job he had.
It is certainly suspicious that this Bill has been brought in so suddenly and so belatedly. If ail the other factors had not been sufficient, this would destroy the present member for the Northern Territory. It is up to him to vote against this Bill, because it is stated throughout his electorate that the Bill has been brought in to save him. But nothing will save him. The Labor candidate, Mr Robertson, will be the next MHR for the Northern Territory.
The Minister actually referred to the fact that the Commonwealth Electoral Act should be amended in other ways. He said:
As some honourable members will be aware, a review has been in progress for some time of the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act und regulations. Although some progress has been made it has not been possible to reach the point where amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act affecting the provisions throughout Australia can be presented to the Parliament for consideration before the forthcoming general elections for the House of Representatives.
Matters relating to the Commonwealth Electoral Act are on the notice paper of this Parliament. I have a Bill seeking to provide votes for all citizens at 18 years of age. The resumption of debate on this Bill has been listed on the notice paper since 21st November of last year. Again since 7th November of last year I have had on the notice paper the Territory Senators Bill. These Bills were debated on the dates I have given. The debates were not concluded; no vote was taken. The Minister for the Interior has the conduct of the Territory Senators Bill. It would have been very easy, as this Bill provides, to have two senators elected at this year’s House of Representatives election, for both the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Only in that way, incidentally, would it be possible to have a member of the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party elected to this Parliament from either of those Territories. The other senator, of course, would be certain to be a Labor one in each instance. My memory is that the honourable member for the Northern Territory did not even speak on this Bill which sought to give representation in the other place to his Territory. It has been on the notice paper unconcluded–
– If the Leader of the Opposition had read Hansard, he would have seen my remarks about his insincere and shallow approach to the whole situation.
– My Party favoured representation in the Senate for both Territories and voting rights in this place for representatives of both Territories before the honourable gentleman’s Party ever suggested them. He owes his vote in this place, which we will require him to exercise on this occasion, to the Labor Party’s initiative. It will be remembered that in opening this Parliament the Governor-General announced an amendment to the Northern Territory Representation Act to give the member for the Northern Territory a vote after the following House of Representatives election - that is the election that is to take place this year. I gave notice of a Bill to give the member for the Northern Territory a vote forthwith.
– What date was that?
– Thereupon the Bill was amended, and the honourable member for the Northern Territory exercises a vote in this place because of a Bill of which I had given notice at the outset of this Parliament.
– What is the date of it?
– It was the first week that the honourable member was here.
– After my maiden speech?
– No, it was not.
- Mr Acting Speaker, the honourable gentleman makes few enough speeches and he asks few enough questions. He asks fewer questions about the Northern Territory than I do. It is a new thing for him to interject and I have given him this latitude because I welcome his Indian summer. I welcome his final flutter.
-Order! I suggest that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition are getting a little wide of the purpose of the Bill before the House.
– I had referred to the Minister’s statement that some progress was being made in amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The Government has for the last 10 months and more been too busy to discuss votes at 18 years of age, too busy to discuss representation in the Senate for the people of the Territories, too busy to discuss balloting for positions on the House of Representatives ballot paper, too busy to discuss proposals that Party designations should be put against the names of candidates on the ballot paper if they wished, too busy to provide for the official, the honest, manning of polling booths in the Northern Territory and in outback electorates which are coveted by the Country Party, where the manning of polling booths on so many stations is a disgrace to Australian democracy, and too busy to provide secret ballots and mobile voting facilities for sick, housebound or hospitalised voters. All these matters must wait. A proposal that has never been suggested by any member of either House of the Parliament is launched 7 days after the election date is announced. The scope of this Bill is miserable and the motives are miserable. We will vote against the Bill.
– I gather from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that the opposition to the Bill is not entirely to the principle behind the Bill but rather to its timing. I come to the timing, because in this place no time is the correct time for anything we want to do. If we want to raise parliamentary salaries, somebody says: ‘This is not the right time.’ If we want to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act, somebody says: This is not the right time.’ I have never been able to find anyone who can tell me when is the right time. I do not want to speak on the timing at all, because obviously it can always be said that a Bill such as this was introduced at the wrong time.
The Leader of the Opposition said that it is being widely stated around the Northern Territory that the Bill was introduced in the interests of the sitting member. I would have been surprised if this were not being said by his opponent, the endorsed candidate for the Australian Labor Party. As a matter of fact he would not be worth his salt as a candidate if he was not trying to think of something that would damage the chances of the sitting member. Over the last 3 years I have had a good deal of experience in the Northern Territory. I have spent a good deal of time there engaged on work for the Public Works Committee. I know that the Leader of the Opposition dubbed the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) Silent Sam’. I am one of those who believe that silence is golden, even in this august place, and if more people were silent instead of speaking we would have a much better Parliament.
– Why don’t you sit down, then?
– That is very good advice. Whatever the Leader of the Opposition may say about the honourable member for the Northern Territory in this chamber, when we move around the Territory we get a slightly different impression of what he has done in the time that he has represented that part of Australia. The honourable member for the Northern Territory has spent all his energies in moving about and listening to what the people of the Northern Territory have to say. If honourable members study in Hansard what he has said they will see that everything that he has done has been directed towards the betterment of the people. So, it does not concern me greatly that somebody is going around and saying that this Bill is designed to protect the member for the Northern Territory. I believe that the judgment on the present member for the Northern Territory will be made not on this piece of legislation, which is a slight amendment to the Electoral Act, but on what he has done over the 3 years he has been a member of this Parliament. He is probably in a better position to be judged in that way than most honourable members who represent ordinary constituencies in this Parliament.
As I said, the Leader of the Opposition appears to be opposing this Bill on timing rather than on principle. One must look at the position in the Northern Territory. I have found that, as I have moved around up there and have spoken not only to Commonwealth public servants but also to people who are in private industry, I have heard amongst them the murmurings of a desire for a greater control of their own affairs. These people look at Canberra as a place many miles away which controls their destinies. They look forward to the day when there will be a greater degree of self government in the Northern Territory and a greater capacity for the people to elect members to make decisions that are binding and have a great effect on their own lives.
The Minister for the Interior pointed out in his second reading speech that this amendment has to be looked at in the light of everything else that has been done under his administration of this portfolio. This is well set out in the second reading speech by the Minister in Hansard. To my mind, two main things come to light. These are that the amendment proposed is consistent with the provisions of the other Bills which have been brought down giving the elected member for the Northern Territory full voting rights in this Parliament and that the amendment provides for the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory to have an elected majority. I take these two points.
The position today is totally different from the situation that existed when Mr Jock Nelson represented the constituency in this Parliament. He did not have voting rights here. He came to Canberra as a sort of semi member. Once the member for the Northern Territory was given full voting rights and the same responsibilities of other members of this House, obviously the Government had to look at the situation of that elected member in a slightly different way. This was the reason why action was taken to bring the situation into line with what happens in each Australian State.
How can any sitting member of a State legislature - and in this context I include the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory - select the better of two worlds? Why should he be allowed to select the better of two worlds? From my understanding of it, the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory sits during almost the same periods as this Parliament sits. Let us assume that a member of the Legislative
Council in the Northern Territory was elected also as a member of this House. How could that person say: ‘Well, this week I am a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory but next week I will be a member of the Federal Parliament. I wear two hats and I have two voices’? This cannot happen to anybody else in Australia whether that person be a member of a legislative assembly or a legislative council. The member for the Northern Territory now has full voting rights in this- House. The Leader of the Opposition wants the Northern Territory to move towards representation in the Senate. If this is to happen, the position of members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory must be in line with the position of any sitting member of any State legislature. For the life of me, I cannot see why any great exception can be taken as a matter of principle in any way to what is proposed by this Bill to amend the Electoral Act.
When I first put my name down to speak on this Bill, I did not intend to mention this matter. I was very keen, as I was to discuss the provisions of the Electoral Act, to devote my time to a proposal that I want to put before the House to bring the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives into line. I realise, Mr Acting Speaker, that I will be ruled out of order if I attempt to develop that theme. I will be seeking an opportunity, using other forms of the House - perhaps the adjournment debate - to put forward these proposals that I wish to make. 1 conclude on that note. I understand from the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition that he was more concerned with the timing of the introduction of this Bill rather than with the principle of the whole matter. As I said earlier, I have never found the right time to do anything in this place. I believe that this Bill seeks to bring the position of a sitting member of this Parliament who has full representational rights into line with what would be his position if he were a member of either a lower or upper house in Victoria or Western Australia. That member would be expected to make a decision as to which hat he wanted to wear before he nominated in an attempt to become a member of the Federal Parliament. Therefore, I support the Bill.
– Mr Acting Speaker, 1 wish to reply to the honourable member for Perth.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa - Leader of the Opposition) - Yes. I have been misrepresented - not seriously - but I think it might help the debate if I were to correct the misrepresentation at this stage. I certainly did not oppose the principle that a man should not hold two full time elected jobs. But I did object on principle to the proposition that a man has to resign his elected job before he can ever contest a position for a second elected job. If the Bill said that on election the new member had to resign from the other legislature before he could sit in this Parliament, we would support it.
– This is what happens in the States.
– Yes. That is all I wish to say.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I notice that members of the Opposition are not anxious to take part in this debate. Indeed, this is a tactical approach to this subject in order to see the member for the Northern Territory over the barrel, as we might say. In speaking to this Bill, I emphasise the fact that this Bill does not prevent any Northern Territory councillor from standing for election to this House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has endeavoured to cloud the issue with an emotional approach. He is trying to emphasise to the people of the Northern Territory that the Government is endeavouring to prevent a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council from standing for the Federal seat. The Leader of the Opposition was wrong in what he said about what a councillor did in 1961 in order to stand against the sitting member for a northern electorate. On that occasion, the councillor did resign.
This Bill, as has been stated, does bring the Northern Territory Legislative Council into line with the practices followed respecting the State legislatures. I can assure the
Leader of the Opposition that I do not need this Bill to assist me to hold the seat of the Northern Territory.
– What did the honourable member bring it in for?
– I did not bring the Bill in. The Leader of the Opposition in his arguments said that the position of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory is like that of a city council. I have been struggling to get more rights for the Northern Territory Legislative Council ever since I have been a member of this House. The Leader of the Opposition, in his shallow insincere way, has likened the Council to a city council. Apparently he wishes it to remain at this level. We are trying to get more authority for the Legislative Council. So, the Leader of the Opposition is quite wrong in what he is saying. He even put in a plug, naturally enough, for his Party’s candidate in the forthcoming election. I suppose we would expect that. In his speech, he included a jibe about ‘Silent Sam’. I did not notice the Leader of the Opposition talking down at the wharves in Darwin. He probably organised the bomb scare there himself. But I spoke to the wharfies there in no uncertain terms. I could not be accused of being ‘Silent Sam’ in that or in any other respect.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned Senate representation for the Northern Territory. I refer him to my remarks as reported in Hansard on this subject. Also, I made representations to obtain the right for the member for the Northern Territory to vote in this place. This was part of my platform and it was included in my maiden speech. The Leader of the Opposition followed this by introducing a Bill into this House seeking full voting rights for the member for the Northern Territory. When full voting rights were granted to the member for the Northern Territory the Leader of the Opposition introduced another Bill providing that the Northern Territory should have Senate representation. It was only when he did not back a winner that he tried to have a bet each way. In the campaign publicity pamphlet which I distributed for the 1966 elections I stated that I was in favour of Senate representation. I still stand for Senate representation for the Northern Territory. The
Leader of the Opposition is an expert on the principle of one vote one value. If we were to have two senators representing the Northern Territory and an increase of 3,000 or 4,000 voters in the Northern Territory this year there would be one representative for each 6,000 or 7,000 voters. The greater the representation the better in my view, but the honourable gentleman does not subscribe to that view.
Northern Territory newspaper reports about the Labor Party’s Federal Conference in Melbourne late in July disclosed that the honourable member was the only one who held out against the move to change Labor’s policy of abolition of the Senate. He was the one man who went against his legal colleagues in the. Labor Party and said: ‘I still stand for the principle that the Labor Party should have in its platform the abolition of the Senate’.
In my campaign in 1966 one of my policies read: ‘Substantial changes in political structure and full voting rights for the member for the Territory’. This has been achieved. I know that other people worked on this, but I did a lot more than most people and my effort was direct. Another of my policies read: ‘Greater autonomy for the Legislative Council and replacement of nominated by elected members’. In time this change has been brought about in the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. This is the Council which the Leader of the Opposition would reduce to the level of an ordinary city or town council. I have made strong representation with a view to increasing the importance of the Legislative Council. I have urged that it be more representative. I have advocated greater autonomy for the Council. In 1966 I advocated the establishment in the Territory of tertiary education centres. This is what the member for the Northern Territory has been doing. He has been representing people; he has been making representations for all these things. We now have a proposal to establish a tertiary education centre in the Northern Territory - something which I advocated 3 years ago. I have been working consistently all round the Territory. I do not flit into the Territory like a bird, speak to a half empty hall and then come to this place and make song and dance about what 1 have done. I do my work in the electorate.
To answer those people who say that I have done nothing and am doing nothing I point out that in 1966 I advocated in my campaign pamphlet: ‘A positive and practical programme for pastoral development and drought relief. What, do we have? We have the drought bonds scheme, the superphosphate concession and the easing of estate duty as it applies to primary producers - all introduced in the Budget. In 1966 I advocated top priority for beef roads. The beef roads programme is continuing. All in all, I think I have done a good and sincere job for the Northern Territory. Even the growers of Townsville lucerne on the Daly River wilt agree with me because of the success of our efforts last year to get under way a lucerne seed co-operative. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and others sit back and say: Silent Sam has done nothing’, but these are some of the things that have been achieved. Let me get back to the Bill. It does not prevent any member of the Legislative Council from standing for election to this Parliament. It is not aimed at any one man and is not designed to defend me.
-! believe it would have been better if the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) had not spoken on this Bill because when the people of the Territory read his speech in Hansard I am sure that it will do him a lot of damage. This Bill is a classic example of political foolishness by not only the honourable member but the Government in general. The honourable member has claimed that he had nothing to do with the Bill. He has implied that he in no way requested its introduction and that he has no interest in it. I will not say this is not true but it is contrary to what I have heard in the last week or so whilst in the Northern Territory.
– Where were you?
– On the Barkly Tableland. The test will be the way in which the honourable member votes on this Bill, because he cannot have it both ways. If he does not want the Bill the decent thing to do, if he is firm in his conviction, is to oppose the Bill or to ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) to withdraw it until after the elections. The Minister, who is seeking to interject, knows that I am right. He knows that the people of the Northern Territory are talking in this way. The honourable member for the Northern Territory also knows how they are talking.
– How do you know? You have not been near the place for months.
– I was there last week. The people of the Territory blame the honourable member for the Northern Territory for this Bill.
– You have been there trying to stir them.
– I am trying to help the honourable member. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot imply to the people of the Northern Territory that he does not want the Bill or that he is opposed to it unless he does something to show his sincerity. The one thing that will demonstrate his sincerity in his vote on the Bill. How he votes will be watched closely by the people of the Territory.
As I said earlier, the honourable member should not have spoken in this debate. The Bill is a classic example of the Government’s political foolishness. If the Govern ment had given notice that this Bill would be introduced after the elections the Labor Party would not have objected now. The Minister knows that this BUI is aimed specifically at Mr Tiger Brennan. We know this, and everybody in the Northern Territory knows it. If this Bill goes through and the honourable member for the Northern Territory votes with the Government he will be sounding his own political death knell. There is no question about that. If there is one thing that the electors of Australia want it is fair play. If a person wants to retain his seat he should retain it on his own merits. It was good enough for a member of the Legislative Council to oppose a Minister of the Crown, the present Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes). Nothing was said then. It was good enough for a member of the Legislative Council to oppose a Labor member, the former member for the Northern Territory. Nothing was said then. But as soon as it became clear in the Northern Territory that Mr Tiger Brennan intended to stand as an independent candidate the wheels came into motion to stop him.
– It does not stop him.
– As I said before, if he did not have to resign it would be a different matter altogether. It has become obvious to all what the Government is trying to do. The honourable member for the Northern Territory is in serious trouble because, rightly or wrongly, he is the one getting the blame for it. He accused the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) of insincerity, but the test of his sincerity is whether or not he supports this Bill. If he supports this Bill he immediately declares his hand as being one who does not want fair play with respect to the nomination of Mr Tiger Brennan for the seat of the Northern Territory. That is the only way in which the people of the Northern Territory will judge the honourable member for the Northern Territory. It does not matter what the Minister says, what the Government says or what the honourable member for the Northern Territory says. The people want one thing - fair play. If it was good enough for this to happen before, it is good enough for it to happen again.
The decent thing to do would be one of two things - to withdraw this Bill temporarily until after the next election or to withdraw it completely and redraft it to make it possible for a member of the Legislative Council in the Northern Territory to have exactly the same rights as a member of a State Parliament when standing for election to the Federal Parliament except with respect to resignation. It is becoming quite obvious to all of us that the Government is in serious trouble even in the Northern Territory. Otherwise why would it want to introduce a Bill which is nothing more than a subterfuge? The honourable member for the Northern Territory has been in this Parliament for nearly 3 years and during that time he has not mentioned this matter before. Neither has it been mentioned by the present Minister for the Interior, previous Ministers for the Interior or the Minister for External Territories. But- suddenly out of blue comes this decision. It is a subterfuge aimed at protecting the honourable member for the Northern Territory because the Government knows full well that Mr Tiger Brennan will get a large number of votes. There is no doubt about that. The Government knows full well that because of the way it is acting the preferences will possibly go to the Labor candidate at the forthcoming election. That is all the Government is concerned about.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory said that he had nothing to do with this Bill, which by implication means that he in no way suggested to the Minister for the Interior that this Bill should be introduced. He implied that in no way had he discussed with members of the Ministry the fact that this Bill might be advantageous to him. The sincerity of the honourable member for the Northern Territory will be tested when the vote is taken. If the honourable member for the Northern Territory knows on what side his political bread is buttered he will vote against this Bill, because every person in the Northern Territory will judge him by his vote.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.
– I will be brief, but I think it is important that there be placed on record again just exactly what the Country Party is up to in this legislation. It is part of what one might call the continuing electoral gerrymander by which the
Country Party tries to ensure its place in this Parliament. Over recent years we have had changes made to the Commonwealth Electoral Act so that it is weighted in favour of country areas. We have had redistributions which have given unfair weighting to country areas, and now when the boundaries of the Northern Territory cannot be altered we are asked to change the Act so that a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council who wishes to stand for this Parliament must resign his position. It is not a question of one man, one job or anything of that sort. It has to do with the ease with which an Australian citizen may stand as a candidate for this Parliament. There is no question of an analogy with State parliaments. While 1 agree with the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) that it is time that the Northern Territory legislature did have some of the autonomy and power of a State parliament, there has been no attempt during this Parliament to give it anything of that status. It is not correct to refer to the Legislative Council as a State parliament in any sense of the term. Its members do not get paid anywhere near as much as do State members. They do not have resources at their disposal. They are not given travelling rights and other rights that many State members have and therefore, of course, a member of the legislature in the Northern Territory is not analogous to a member of a State parliament. Of course, the Opposition believes that State members ought not to have to resign from their parliamentary positions to contest seats in this Parliament.
The unethical nature of this Bill is that it has been brought in during the last few weeks of the Parliament when, in fact, a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council has stated that he will be a candidate for the Northern Territory seat. This seat is, I suppose, what might be termed a swinging seat. It has been won on small margins over a number of years. This Bill is a completely unethical parliamentary approach and I am fortified in that conviction by the way in which we are handling the legislation. There are centuries of parliamentary development and evolution surrounding the way in which legislation is brought before the Parliament. It is introduced into the House, it lies on the table, there is plenty of time for continual discussion of it and people know all about it; yet this Bill is being rushed through in this manner, completely unethically. My friend from the Northern Territory - and nobody doubts his sincerity, it is just that he is nearly always wrong - said that to make the Northern Territory analogous to a municipality is to degrade the Northern Territory, which is about 500,000 square miles in area and has about 40,000 inhabitants. I was interested in his comment that if the Northern Territory had a couple of senators it would give the Territory three members, one for each 6,000 people. Does this mean that he does not count the Aboriginals? The facts are, of course, that many municipalities have much larger populations - indeed, most have. I represent two municipalities - Brunswick and Coburg - both with populations of between 60,000 and 70,000. Many municipalities would have more revenue than the Northern Territory and their mayors would be paid greater allowances than are members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council. Even a shire president on the outskirts of Melbourne gets a larger allowance than the average member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council.
The House ought to reject the Bill. It ought to deny the Government the right to gerrymander the Commonwealth Electoral Act at this stage to protect a member’s seat or even look as though it is protecting a seat. This is unethical conduct both in a parliamentary sense and in a political sense. T hope that the House will reject the Bill.
– 1 rise to join my colleagues in opposing this Bill. We are upset to think that it is designed quite obviously to prevent a very notable character in the Northern Territory from running for the House of Representatives. We think that it is a shabby sort of thing for the Government to do. The Government’s motives were summed up very well in an article by that well known and now almost famous journalist, Maxwell Newton, in the magazine ‘Incentive’ which he publishes. I ask the concurrence of honourable members to incorporate the article in Hansard because that will save time.
– I think you will have to read it out.
– Very well. The article reads:
If Mr Gorton seems to be taking the October election for granted by being indifferent to and contemptuous of the DLP, Mr McEwen, as Leader of the Country Party, is using every-
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Hindmarsh that this has no relevance to the legislation before the House.
-It has relevance, with great respect, Mr Acting Speaker, as you will see. The very next sentence deals directly with this matter. It states:
Last week a little noticed Bill was surreptitiously introduced into the House of Representatives amending the Electoral Act to make it obligatory for members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council to resign before contesting a Federal election.
I had to go ahead of myself in order to justify quoting this article by showing that it was directly related to the Bill. 1 did not complete the previous quotation which read:
The article continued:
This principle already applies to members of Stale parliaments, and, on the surface, would seem reasonable enough.
What makes the measure suspect is the haste with which it has been introduced; the Minister’s own admission that other measures of electoral reform cannot be dealt with before the election; the fact that the Country Party narrowly holds the Northern Territory; and that the aggressive and highly popular Tiger’ Brennan has declared his intention of running on October 25.
Now comes some further evidence of the motives. The article states:
Mr Brennan is the Legislative Council’s only full-time politician and is the Territory’s most outspoken critic of the Canberra administration and the Country Party, in particular. As an indication of his disgust with the Country Party, he nominated against the then responsible Minister. Mr Barnes, in the latter’s home electorate of McPherson, Queensland, in 1966.
In 1961, Mr Brennan came within a mere 201 votes of defeating the then Labor member for the Northern Territory, Mr Nelson. The Country Party took the electorate from the ALP in 1966 when Mr Sam Calder slipped in by only 487 votes. Several Territorians have already announced their intention of running in the October election but Mr Brennan poses the most serious threat to the Country Party.
If I may interpolate, I can add that this is no doubt due to the fact that Mr Brennan, out of his absolute ire in having this thing foisted upon him - deliberately, as it would appear, aimed at him - has decided that he is going to advocate that his second preferences go to the Labor Party which, it will be appreciated, is natural enough in the circumstances. So it is felt certain by the sitting member that with the second preferences from Mr Brennan all going to Labor’s candidate, that very fine Territorian Mr Ted Robertson, the Labor candidate will be elected and the Parliament will be all the richer for the event. I continue this excellent article. The great Maxwell Newton continues:
Undoubtedly, the amended legislation is aimed specifically at Mr Brennan.
This fortifies the point I just made.
If it was not then it could have been introduced at any time within the past 3 years or at the time the Northern Territory member’ was afforded full voting rights in the Parliament.
This is an excellent point. If it was not aimed at Mr Brennan it could have been and should have been attended to a couple of years ago. However, this was not done. The article continues:
Since last May, the Council has been awaiting a reply from the Minister on its resolutions seeking electoral reforms. They remain unanswered and inevitably the Canberra-initiated amendment has aroused a furore in the Territory.
Mr McEwen could easily have overreached himself. His panic could be Mr Brennan’s panacea.
Sir, you will see why I think one has to take more than usual notice of that very excellent and logical article by Mr Maxwell Newton, that eminent journalist who is particularly well informed on happenings inside the Country Party and particularly well informed on the motives that actuate the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen). I have read the article in full so that it may be placed on record for the Territorians to read and so they may realise why the Government has been terrorised into the action that it has now taken. The Labor Party has always believed that there is nothing wrong with a State parliamentarian having the right to nominate for the national Parliament so long as he resigns - as he ought to - immediately upon election to the national Parliament. I can easily think of men in my own State Parliament who would at least measure up to the standard of the Federal Liberal members from that State. It might be a good thing for Australia if the people I am thinking of were allowed to contest the pre-selections and try their luck. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) is a case in point.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Hindmarsh that a particular instance of State representation is not relevant to the legislation before the House at the moment.
– Very well, Sir. The matter I would like to refer to now was raised by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). On his own admission the honourable member has been struggling to get the Northern Territory more rights. They are not my words; they are his. With whom has he been struggling? He has not been struggling with the Labor Party. There is no need for him to struggle with the Labor Party because the Labor Party has been fighting for more rights for the Northern Territory for as long as I have been a member of this Parliament.
– The Country Party platform mentions nothing about representation for the Northern Territory in either Parliament.
– I am obliged to the Leader of the Opposition for that information. As the Leader of the Opposition correctly pointed out, there is absolutely nothing in the Country Party’s policy to support the claim by the honourable member for the Northern Territory that he has been struggling. With whom has he been struggling? He has been struggling with the Country Party and with the Liberal Party, of course, to try to achieve this objective. Is it not about time that the electors of the Northern Territory handed the job over to somebody who will not have to struggle with his own party to get rights and justice for the Territory?
I have a great personal regard for the sitting member for the Northern Territory. He is a nice chap. He is pleasant enough. But that is about where his qualifications begin and end. He is a nice chap to talk to but there are thousands of nice chaps to talk to outside this Parliament who would not make very good members of Parliament. Unfortunately the honourable member fits into that category. He said that he has been struggling to get justice for the Territory but for the 3 years that he has been struggling, he has failed dismally. It is about time the people of the Territory changed their representative and elected somebody who will’ get better results from their struggles than have been achieved so far. The honourable member has not been noted for making very many speeches in the Parliament. For this reason, no doubt, he has been dubbed by some of his Liberal Party colleagues ‘Silent Sam’. He has maintained quite friendly relations with other honourable members but has been dismally unsuccessful in putting the case for the people of the Northern Territory.
Sir, the Territorians are still’ waiting for full voting rights. They do not have them. They are still waiting for a senator to represent them. The Leader of the Opposition, no less, has a motion on the notice paper seeking such representation. But has the honourable member for the Northern Territory ever stood in this place and indicated-
-Order! I again suggest to the honourable member for Hindmarsh that he take note of what is in the Bill at present before the House.
- Sir, I will do that. I will have to mention it because the honourable member for the Northern Territory-
-Order! The honourable member has already been advised to remain within the scope of the matters dealt with in the Bill.
- Sir, earlier this morning you indicated that you were not going to stand for nonsense, so I suppose I had better not take any further liberties with you.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh might find out just what action I can take.
– Because of the look on your face. Mr Acting Speaker, I think I had better sit down while the going is good.
Mr CHANEY (Perth)- Mr Acting Speaker, 1 wish to make a personal explanation. I was misrepresented by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). He said that the Liberal Party colleagues of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) had dubbed him ‘Silent Sam’. The person who used that phrase was the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The Labor Party opponent who will face the honourable member for the Northern Territory al the next election will find when he tries to catch up with him that he might well be called ‘Slippery Sam’.
– in reply - We have become very accustomed to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) making purely political speeches. He certainly does his best. However, I suggest that he should get his facts right. He led off by saying that the people of the Northern Territory are still waiting for full voting rights in this place for the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder).
– No. I was referring to the Legislative Council.
– What does that mean?
– It is not a fully elected body.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh should be more careful in his choice of language. I will explain to him what has happened in regard to the Legislative Council since the honourable member for the Northern Territory has been in this place. This ought to be well known, at least by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. The Legislative Council consisted of a balance of three nominated members and a minority of elected members when the present member for the Northern Territory became a member of this House. Over the years that the Commonwealth Government has had control of the Northern Territory, there have been Labor Party governments - we have to go back a long way, I must admit, to the time when the last one was in office - but no move was made by them to provide an elected majority for the Legislative Council. No move was made at the time Labor was in office to give the honourable member for the Northern Territory full voting rights. The Labor Party has nothing to be proud of about its so-called progressive attempts to legislate for the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory was the most retarded part of Australia when Labor was responsible for its administration.
I think the honourable member for the Northern Territory can justly claim to have done a good job in this place. The honourable member for Hindmarsh went to a great deal of trouble to try to point out that nothing had happened during the time that the present honourable member for the Northern Territory has been in this place. I have already mentioned that the honourable member for the Northern Territory obtained full voting rights for his electorate. He obtained an elected majority for the Legislative Council since he has been here. Iti this year there has been a 14% increase in the Budget for the Northern Territory. The honourable member obtained $9m for a new dam in the Territory only a few months ago; he got $4.7 for a sewerage scheme at Darwin only a few months ago; and he obtained $4. 3m for electric power for Darwin a few months ago.
– What have you done for the Northern Territory?
– One must confess that, whatever else might be said about the honourable member for the Northern Territory, his representations in this place have been powerful and successful. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) interjected a while ago. It is evident that he does not even understand the Bill because during the course of his speech he made the great statement that he believed the Bill ought to make sure that members of the Legislative Council were elected on the same basis as State members of Parliament. This, of course, is what the Bill provides and what the whole structure of the Bill is about. This is how much the honourable member for Dawson knows about this matter. I am quite . surprised that the honourable member has not done his homework somewhat better than that because no member of a State parliament can be a member of the House of Representatives unless he resigns 14 days prior to nomination day. Of course, this is exactly what we want to do with respect to members of the Legislative Council. It ought to be exactly what Tiger Brennan wants done.
I said earlier that the Leader of the Opposition had misrepresented the 1961 position and had been dishonest because in that year Tiger Brennan, who seemed to be the core of the Leader of the Opposition’s worry, sought the advice of a man who is now the Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick, and also sought the advice of the electoral office and promptly resigned because he was in doubt about his legal position if he were to contest the election and become the member of the House of Representatives for the Northern Territory. This is what this Bill is all about.
All this Bill does is to regularise what Tiger Brennan had to do himself because of legal doubts in 1961. The Leader of the Opposition delivers a great hypocritical statement and tries to make something political out of the proposal.
– I take a point of order. The Minister for the Interior has made a most unparliamentary remark in referring to an honourable member of this Parliament as hypocritical.
– He did not object himself.
– He did not hear it.
– If the honourable member for Hindmarsh thinks it is unfair of me to say that his leader is hypocritical, I will withdraw that remark. He also says it is untrue. Well’, I think I will let the record stand in respect of that. All the Bill does is to regularise and legalise the doubts that were in Tiger Brennan’s mind in 1961 when he made a decision to resign in order to become a candidate. I put it to the Parliament: Is it right, is it fair, is it proper that a member of the public should be in doubt about his position when he nominates for this Parliament? Of course it is not right; of course it is not proper. Therefore, we are regularising a situation that must have created some embarrassment for Tiger Brennan in 1961.
Neither the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Dawson, the honourable member for Hindmarsh nor anyone else from the Opposition who has spoken has mentioned the resignation of Tiger Brennan in 1961. Oh no. They said that when Tiger Brennan stood against the Australian Labor Party in 1.961, no mention was made of this because he took the action himself. At least the honourable member for the Northern Territory and members on this side of the House are prepared to stop causing the same embarrassment for Tiger Brennan on this occasion. We are putting him in the same position as all members of State parliaments. There will be no legal doubt about the right of Tiger Brennan to stand as a candidate when this Bill is passed.
– Did he resign in 1966?
– He did not resign in 1966, simply because, as a matter of sheer irresponsibility, he stood against the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) knowing full well that he would lose his deposit, as he did. So, he did not bother to resign. But in 1961, when he thought he had a chance of winning, he resigned. That is the simple explanation of the introduction of this Bill. To say that the Government has introduced this Bill in order to keep Tiger out of the field is quite ridiculous. I, for one, would welcome Tiger as a candidate.I say, let him stand. Let the votes go up on the board and let us see where the honourable member for the Northern Territory finishes in the race.I have no doubt in my mind about what the people of the Northern Territory think of the honourable member for the Northern Territory. The Leader of the Opposition says he is a constant visitor to the Territory. I am able to say also that I have been a constant visitor. The Leader of the Opposition says: ‘I was up there in May.’ But T. have been up there at least once a month since I have been the Minister in charge of the Territory. I do not get up and say that I was there in May or last November.
– I can say that I was there last week.
– So was I. I followed the Leader of the Opposition into the Northern Territory last week. What did he talk about at his Press conference when he was there? He talked about his discredited health scheme - discredited by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in this House day after day. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned only about three matters that affect the Northern Territory. That is all that was reported in the paper. The honourable gentleman made great claims. He said that he inspired the Bill that gave the honourable member for the Northern Territory full voting rights. The Leader of the Opposition is a man for all seasons. He says: ‘If it is wet I will give you a raincoat: if it is dry I will give you a pair of swimming togs.’ The Leader of the Opposition has a policy for every change the wind makes.
I suggest to the House that this Bill is completely proper and that the honourable member for the Northern Territory, whose sincerity has been doubted, can do no more than vote for this Bill because the lack of it caused Tiger Brennan to resign in 1961. Far from lacking in sincerity the honourable member for the Northern Territory, Sam Calder, would be failing in his duty as a member of this House if he did not support a Bill that cleared up the legal rights of a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory who wished to stand for the House of Representatives seat for the Northern Territory.
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
The House divided: (Mr Acting Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Ayes . . . . . . 64
Noes . . . . 31
Majority . . . . 33
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, before proceeding further may I say that it is my great pleasure to address you as Sir William Haworth, and may I say that whatever our politics we regret that there are so few occasions left on which we can so address you in this place.
Clause 2 of this Bill reads:
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. 1 move:
That all words after ‘the’ first occurring be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof ‘first day of January One thousand nine hundred and seventy’.
The consequence of the amendment would be that the Bill would come into effect after the elections which have already been announced. Principally for the edification of the Minister, who seems to have forgotten what he was told when representation for the Territory was last brought up for debate by me in November last year, I shall state my Party’s policy on electoral matters covered by this Bill. Firstly, we believe that members of State parliaments should not be disqualified as Federal parliamentary candidates while holding such membership. We advocate full voting rights for the representative of the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives and full voting rights for representatives of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory in the Senate.I note that in the national policy of the Minister’s Party there is no reference to such matters. It is not obligatory for a member of the Country Party in this Parliament to support representation for either Territory in the Senate. Accordingly, the amendment which I have moved is completely in accordance, not simply with any personal views which I may hold on any subject as the Minister insinuates, but with the policy of my Party declared and reiterated on many occasions.
My Party takes the attitude that a member of any State parliament should be able to nominate for either House of this Parliament. If such a member of a State parliament is elected to either House of this Parliament then quite clearly my Party would regard it as proper that he should resign from the State parliament. We do not believe that members of State parliaments should be precluded from using the rights that all persons have other than those under the disqualifications listed in section 44 of the Constitution, nor should they be in any way penalised as candidates just because they are members of State parliaments. The Constitional disqualifications under section 44 are quite adequate to protect the integrity of candidates. Therefore, we have objected to the extension, to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, as this Bill provides, of the ban on State members of Parliament being candidates in a House of Representatives election. Furthermore, there is nothing inconsistent in my, or any of my colleagues’, advocating representation in the Senate for citizens resident in the Territory. So long as there is a Senate we believe that every Australian resident should have a vote ina Senate election.
The House has passed the second reading of this Bill. Accordingly, I moved this amendment at the Committee stage to provide that the Bill will come into force after instead of before the forthcoming House of Representatives election. This would ensure that whatever a Northern Territory M.L.C. !s legal rights may be, he can stand at the forthcoming House of Representatives election. The Minister for the Interior has assured me - and 1 accept his assurance - that Mr Brennan M.L.C. resigned in order to contest the Northern Territory seat in the House of Representatives election in 1961. He has confirmed my statement that Mr Brennan did not resign from the Legislative Council when he contested the House of Representatives election for the seal of Mcpherson in 1966. Accordingly, the position would appear to be at least doubtful. Mr Brennan has acted on two points of view. My own point of view would have been that under the Constitution there was nothing to prevent a Northern Territory M.L.C., unless he were an employee of the Commonwealth or of the Northern Territory Administration or otherwise disqualified under section 44 of the Constitution, from standing for this Parliament. So far as I know, Mr Brennan does not hold any position on the public payroll, other than as a member of the Legislative Council. Accordingly, our contention is not only that he is eligible to stand for this Parliament, as the law and the Constitution obtain at the moment, but that this is in accordance with the proper principle. If Mr Brennan were to be elected a member of the House of Representatives - and here, at least, the Minister and I both agree that we do not think it is likely - then again we would certainly agree that he should not continue as a member of the Legislative Council before taking his seat in this House.
The date of the forthcoming House of Representatives election was announced on the 20th of last month and this Bill was introduced on the 27th of last month. Between those two dates Mr Brennan M.L.C. announced that for the third time he would stand for the House of Representatives. For the first time the suggestion arose that the law should be altered in the interests of consistency. Sure, it might be said that a Northern Territory M.L.C. should be in no better position than a member of State parliament, so far as being a candidate in a House of Representatives election is concerned. We do not agree with the principle, but at least it might be said to be consistent with the statutory position which has obtained regarding State members of Parliament since 1902. Whatever the views of honourable members or of Mr Brennan may be about the legal position, the existing rules are to be changed by this Bill. After the date of the House of Representatives elections has been announced and after Mr Brennan announced that he will do what he has done on two previous occasions, the Government decides that the law will be changed. 1 do not think that this is proper or fair.
The House has declared its attitude that a Northern Territory M.L.C. should be in the same position as State members of parliament, if they are to be candidates forHouse of Representatives elections. The House has declared that, and we have to accept the situation. At least let us see that this provision becomes law after the forthcoming election. Let Mr Brennan run all the risk there is of his breaking the law. Let us not wantonly put the community to the expense of a by-election for his reelection or for the election of his successor. Let us leave the law as it was when the date of the election was announced and when this M.L.C. announced for the third time that he would be a candidate for this House.
– The amendment is not acceptable to the Government, and it is not acceptable for the reason which I explained in my second reading speech. The law around Australia is simply that members of State parliaments must resign their seats if they want to contest House of Representatives elections. Since I have been the Minister in charge of the Northern Territory my whole purpose and aim has been to uplift the status of legislative councillors, unlike the Leader of the Opposition (Mr’ Whitlam) who in his speech during the’ second reading debate likened legislative councillors to shire councillors and mayors and said that we will be seeking an amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act to provide that mayors have to resign before they can contest House of Representatives elections. I think that the legislative councillors for the Northern Territory will be somewhat upset when they read that in the Darwin ‘News’, because I think - I am sure - that legislative councillors are more like State members of parliament. With great respect, they have wider ranging responsibilities and they deal with ordinances relating to the Northern Territory on a much wider scale than do members of local government bodies. I do not think that local government would challenge that statement. ButI think that legislative councillors would challenge the insinuation or innuendo that they ought to be placed in the same position as mayors and shire presidents. What we are trying to do is to uplift the status of legislative councillors. We have done this over a period. This Bill is simply to validate an action which a legislative councillor had to take himself in 1961. I do not challenge the legal skill of the Leader of the Opposition, butI do say that he is matching himself against Sir Garfield Barwick, who is now Chief Justice of Australia, who advised ‘Tiger Brennan in 1961 that he ought to resign from the Legislative Council.
We are under criticism because we have introduced the Bill at this time. Certainly. That is right. But it never came to my mind that any member of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory would either wish or try to unseat such a good member as we have in the present member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). To put the question beyond doubt, the Bill certainly does not detract from any legislative councillor the right to stand for the House of Representatives. Let Mr Brennan stand - let them all stand, so far as I am concerned. They have the same right to stand as every other citizen in Australia has. All this Bill does is to validate an action in which the poor man had to make a judgment himself in 1961. It is not fair, right or proper that the judgment should be left to the individual. The law ought to be explicit. The Bill makes it explicit. It puts legislative councillors in the same position as members of State parliaments who have to resign their seats before they stand in House of Representatives elections. The Government opposes the amendment.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Whitlam’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Hon. Sir William Haworth)
Majority . . . . 34
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Leave is not granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Nixon) put:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority .. ..35
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Nixon) put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 35
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 9 September (vide page 902).
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure, $39,839,000.
– In the debate on the estimates of the Department of National Development I wish to refer to several matters. Of course, in 15 minutes it is impossible to cover the very wide field of problems associated with national development. I refer at the outset to what I have described as discrimination against Queensland. When one travels through Queensland it is apparent that the Commonwealth Government’s continued discrimination against that State in the matter of water conservation and power particularly has become so blatant that a wave of resentment is sweeping through the State. Adding fuel to the fire in Queensland is the Government’s failure during its 20 years in office to implement positive and constructive schemes that would at least minimise recurring losses through drought, which are causing tremendous economic damage to the State,
During its term of office this Government has broken many promises to do something about decentralisation. The Parliament is still awaiting a report on this subject promised by the Prime Minister. We still have no positive and constructive policy on decentralisation. The Government, which is dominated, of course, by Ministers from southern States, has shown repeatedly, by its failure to provide Queensland with finance to carry out urgent water conservation projects, that it regards Queensland as some type of hillbilly State. To judge by its pantomime efforts at present regarding water conservation, this is the Cabinet’s attitude towards Queensland. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) must be aware of the devastation and misery in areas of Queensland where large scale and even small scale water conservation projects are practical possibilities. The argument consistently advanced by the Government in defence of its negative and defeatist policy on water conservation in Queensland is that further expansion of agriculture may not be wise because of difficulty in marketing some primary products. But the important thing is not the expansion of primary production; the important thing is to safeguard and maintain the present level of production.
We must maintain stability in these areas. In areas such as the Burnett basin, the Fitzroy basin and the Burdekin basin the cumulative losses direct and indirect far exceed the capital cost of water storage and reticulation. It is all very well to say that with respect to new projects, such as those on the Ord or the Nogoa project, there is an element of doubt about future markets, but we are dealing now with a matter of great urgency. These are areas suffering great losses through drought. They are areas where water conservation is a practical and economic proposition. Only last week we were treated to a farce in the Government’s handling of the BurnettKolan scheme in Queensland. We were told by the newspapers that the Cabinet had shelved the project. Next day in headlines the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) stated that the project has not been shelved. What it has to do with him I do not know. The man who should have made the statement is the Minister for National Development. He should tell the people of Bundaberg the truth about this matter. 1 ask the Minister for goodness sake to tell the people of Bundaberg, who are suffering untold misery, whether they have any chance of getting this project. That is the fair thing to do.
So many half-baked rumours are circulating in the north that it is high time the Government at least came out in the open and said whether it will finance the BurnettKolan scheme. All the people of Bundaberg, Childers and the northern Burnett area seek is a positive answer. Too often in the past we have had the carrot dangled before the electors. The Government waits until election time and then announces a project. Announcements were made about the Ord project, about beef roads and about the Nogoa project on the eve of the last Senate elections. You cannot develop a country if you do not have a national plan of development We must discontinue the present ad hoc approach to development when the economic future of so many people is at stake. What is needed is a positive statement of fact telling the people who are suffering in the area whether they will get Commonwealth assistance.
The same comments apply to areas further north which are being devastated by drought. Almost irreparable damage is being done to perennial pastures in the great Burdekin Valley through lack of water. I admit that large scale water conservation projects are not practical in most of Queensland, but I am talking about projects that could be undertaken in coastal Queensland, where the cumulative effect of losses due to drought is enormous. This claim cannot be refuted. The cumulative losses through drought, which occurs in almost 1 year in 3, amount to an enormous sum. It has been estimated by the best authority that in the Bundaberg area alone direct and indirect losses in the last 3 years have amounted to over $30m. This is the sort of problem that has to be faced.
This morning there was some discussion about the statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that the Budget provides no money for national development. I have stated that the Budget has not announced any further development projects with respect to water conservation. I and most other people in Queensland thought that the Government would at least have announced some positive water conservation project in the coastal areas of Queensland that are consistently devastated by drought and where water is the key to solving the problem. We are not talking about expanded agricultural production or new areas; we are talking about proven established areas and areas where there are relatively large amounts of settlement. I refer to the Burnett, the Burdekin, the Fitzroy and the Pioneer areas. These are the areas that are highly susceptible to drought and need help, lt is of no use for the Minister for National Development or the Government to say this is the responsibility of the State Government. The Government of Queensland does not have the necessary resources or the finance. When one thinks of the amount of national income that is being lost year after year because of the lack of imagination of this Government with respect to water conservation, is it any wonder that the people in these areas are becoming heartily fed up with the antics of this Government?
Last week the Minister for National Development made a statement to the Parliament about the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. The deliberate, premeditated disintegration of this Federal construction authority is one of the greatest national scandals ever, and Australians will hold their heads in shame for a very long time because of what the Government has done. The Minister has been left holding the baby and has the job of trying to explain to this Parliament why the Government has taken this negative approach with respect to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. The Government has refused to let this great national construction authority, this world famous authority, to construct even in Australia. It may construct overseas but not in Australia. This is incredible. It is incredible to think that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority has been reduced to a bureaucratic arm of the Government, to being an advisory body. If the State governments want it to do some work the Authority will go cap in hand and so some work for them. It will also do work for private consultants, but the right of the Authority to construct in Australia on its own initiative or at the initiative of the Federal Government of the day has been denied to it.
It is of no use for the Government, the Minister for National Development or even the honourable member for Eden- Monaro (Mr Munro) to try to tell this Parliament or the people of Australia that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority is just as effective now as it was before. Who will take any notice of such statements? No less a person than Sir William Hudson, who knows more about the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority than any other person in the world, has had plenty to say about the Government’s disintegration of this world famous authority. He has not pulled any punches.
– He is gelling too old now.
– If that is the sort of respect the honourable member has for the former Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, all I can say is that he ought to grow up. People in Australia respect this man for what he has done, and the honourable member shows what sort of person he must be when he makes the remark that Sir William Hudson is too old. The honourable member should make sure that he is not too old when election time comes. The Budget certainly provides money for the work presently being undertaken by the Authority, but what is to be the future of this organisation? It has been said that because the Authority has no budget of its own and has no construction powers it is toothless and clawless. The Government seems to be mesmerised by and obsessed with the potential for mineral development in Australia to the degree that it is blatantly neglecting the rural areas of Australia. The reason for this is that the Government, knows full well that a greater proportion of export income is being earned by minerals. The Government is now less dependent on the rural areas than it was before, and this means that it can make more liberal judgments with respect to rural areas, whereas before it had to help them because it desperately needed the export income from rural exports.
Today the rural areas and the primary producers are being penalised. We can see this. One only has to go to the drought stricken areas of Queensland to see what this Government is doing. It is refusing point blank to help the people and it is arguing the point by saying that such assistance is the responsibility of the State government. The Minister for National Development talks about nuclear power stations. We want nuclear power stations, but surely the responsibility of this Government is to help the people in the rural areas, who have been the foundation of the economy of this country for many years. People are involved here, and the Minister knows full well that in the areas which are being devastated by drought in Queensland, particularly the coastal areas that I am talking about all the time, something has to be done.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Sir William Haworth) - The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I draw the attention of honourable members to the need for much greater emphasis on the development of private enterprise forestry than has been the practice in the past. 1 refer mainly to co-ordination between the States and private enterprise on softwood plantings so as to get the maximum utilisation of the wood through its varying uses, which must be taken full advantage of if we are to build up tree crops to a level that will cover our requirements in the years ahead. I know that the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) and his Department have given a lot of attention to this subject. The rapid development of the pulp and paper industry and the establishment of plywood and particle board factories have an important function in the building and furnishing industries. I point out also that the ever growing demand for logs for sawmilling has shown that our natural forests are totally inadequate to supply our requirements. Imports arc heavy and they will continue to grow unless we can organise suitable land for tree farming on a properly integrated commercial basis.
Under the Softwoods Forestry Agreements Act 1967 the Commonwealth is providing loan assistance to State governments over a 5-year period for the expansion of their annual softwood plantings, which covered about 29,000 acres in 1966. It is expected that the acreage will grow to 59,000 acres by 1971. By that time the Act will need reviewing, but I have no doubt that we will go ahead and extend the assistance for a further period of 5 years. The Commonwealth itself in that time will be planting some 2,000 acres a year, although I do not see that there is a great deal of merit in this. The Commonwealth has no particular outlet for the wood it grows.
It is expected that private enterprise will plant about 10,000 acres a year, which is the present figure. This is what has been done for some years now, and I am hopeful that it will be possible to improve on this figure very considerably with assistance by way of loan money to private enterprise on similar terms to the advances that are being made in the States. This would be in conformity with the practice in major forestry conscious countries such as New Zealand and England where it is acknowledged that there are sound reasons for a private enterprise approach rather than Socialist State management. State forests tend to be remote from the point of usage and although saw mills may be readily established in forest areas economic factors must be considered. In tree harvesting maximum use must be made of thinnings and wood must be produced in quantity and of the quality required for particular purposes. It is not always possible to adapt the planting programmes to these requirements. I have already referred to the newer industries associated with the production of pulp and paper, plywoods and particle board. State forest plantings have not always been located in areas best suited to the mills or factories which do the processing, but private enterprise forests must be suitably located. This is why more money should be made available to private industry for this purpose.
Transport costs are a vital factor in an economic operation. Road transport costs in Victoria, for example, work out at about 5c per ton mile and every additional 10 miles travelled can add an extra $1.50 per cunit, which is 100 cubic feet of wood, and this can mean an extra $75 an acre of plantation. This is a big deterrent to the investment of capital in this industry. One of the essentials of good husbandry is the adequate utilisation of the whole of the crop and only private enterprise can do this effectively by growing suitable species in the quantities that forward planning indicates will be required. State forest plantings on the other hand are more likely to follow a pattern of planting just to fill in a programme of so many acres a year and in the easiest places rather than the most suitable locations. The actual cost of establishing a plantation is comparatively low. The major costs are incurred in transporting and harvesting. Annual planting and maintenance costs are probably similar in State plantings and private plantations, but private enterprise is under a decided disadvantage because of the large capital outlay necessary to purchase land and the cost of interest over the whole period of rotation which, at the very minimum, is 20 years. In addition to this there are shire rates and various taxes, especially land tax.
It is sometimes possible for private enterprise to lease Crown lands where they are available in suitable locations although in the Gippsland operations of Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd there are 144,000 acres of freehold plantings as compared with only 26,000 acres of leased land. But even on leased land the cost of shire rates and land tax is heavy over that growing period and must also be paid on land that is set aside and reserved for the rotation of future plantings. The cost of fire insurance and fire prevention is a greater burden on private enterprise than on State forests.
Under the Softwood Forestry Agreements Act of 1967 the Commonwealth offers very generous financial assistance to the State governments for increased softwood plantings. Under section 96 of that Act loans amounting to about $20m will be advanced during the 5 years of the Agreement. The period of loan is for 35 years and the loan is free of interest and repayment of capital for the first 10 years. After that, repayments are payable in fifty equal half-yearly payments at the low interest rate of Commonwealth long term loans. This, I repeat, is a generous provision. But the only Government incentive to private enterprise to carry out industrial forestry is by way of tax concessions. A concession is given to persons by allowing as a deduction from income one-third of calls paid on shares in afforestation companies. The companies themselves have concessions which amount only to the full deduction in the year of expenditure of the costs of establishment and maintenance. This provision is similar to provisions relating to other forms of farming. There is, of course, an investment allowance of 20% in the year of acquisition of plant plus the writing off of plant and buildings over 5 years. There is also the rather dubious benefit of carrying forward losses. To get any real benefit from tax concessions there must be some income from which to make deductions. But even these tax concessions and other forms of benefit cancel themselves out because eventually the profits from sales become taxable in full. In the meantime there may have been some savings in interest on moneys expended, but that is all it amounts to in the long run.
The Victorian Government does make some gesture to encourage farmers to plant softwoods on their properties. This can be of benefit in some instances. Tn fact, in the Gippsland area, which is being devoted widely to the planting of softwoods, there are some excellent stands of pinewoods that have been planted on farms under this scheme. But the farms must be within reasonable transport distance of a mill to make such plantings a payable proposition. The farms certainly must be no more than 35 to 40 miles distant because beyond that distance transport costs become prohibitive. The State loan is up to $50 an acre with a minimum of $150 and a maximum of $5j000 and the period of the loan is for 25 years, it being interest free for the first 12 years with interest payable at 5% thereafter. I believe that New South Wales has a similar scheme, although I am not aware of the details.
The purpose of Commonwealth assistance to the States for forestry work is to make Australia independent of imports and selfreliant. We have some well established companies engaged in industries that require wood as raw material. Of the present established softwood plantings in Australia 74% have been planted by government services. This is a good and effective service that the governments have done in respect of reafforestation. However, some of this planting has been done not so much with the interests of reafforestation at heart and of making wood available as for purposes of water conservation and for rejuvenation of forest lands after fires. The remaining 26% has been planted by private enterprise as an industrial activity. The principal bodies that have done this are Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd, Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd and the Australian Softwood Corporation Pty Ltd. Of course, there are several smaller areas that are held by afforestation investment companies which are in a somewhat different category. There is no reason why we should not build up a scale of operations thai would give a worthwhile export trade in pulp. 1 have devoted some time to examining pulp mills, particularly the new mill that has been established at Maryvale, which is in the electorate of McMillan, lt has two paper machines in operation now. The pulp operations are quite capable of supplying a third paper machine which I hope will be forthcoming soon. In addition it would take very little capita) to expand the pulp operations to the stage where a considerable contribution could be made to export earnings. In this field Australian Paper Manufacturers in particular has done a terrific job of research and is able to produce pulp at a price that would be acceptable in many countries. In addition to the pulp side of the industry we are developing a chip industry in Australia. At the moment it is mainly in Tasmania but I have great hopes that we will establish chip export industries. Chip is in great demand, particularly in Japan which has a very large paper industry and which provides a very good outlet for this product. There is also some chip going into New South Wales. The particle board industry is showing very vigorous growth but, of course, is really dependent upon the thinings. You cannot supply this particular industry from the normal State forests.
I submit for consideration by the Government the great desirability of extending the same sort of assistance to private enterprise for tree farming purposes as is now given to State governments in the constant expectation that the net return to Australia, in added value, will be very much greater if private enterprise has a hand in forestry.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That further consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Department of National Development be postponed.
Proposed expenditure, $306,855,000.
Department of Social Services
Proposed expenditure, $32,685,000.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $27,825,000.
Department of Housing
Proposed expenditure, $5,746,000.
– The estimates for the Department of Health include a provision for tuberculosis. This year the provision has been reduced compared with that of last year. In view of this it seems to me highly desirable that the Commonwealth should have another look at the question of taking under its wing total responsibility for Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy. This is a disease which is closely related to tuberculosis. There is cross immunity between the two diseases. The germs are closely related. The diseases are closely related in their courses, in their manner of spread, and in the kinds of conditions which predispose a person to contract the diseases. The methods of treatment are closely related. Unfortunately in the northern part of Western Australia there are deficiencies in the method of handling these diseases. The authorities and doctors in the areas concerned have requested specific improvements; they have requested that the health services be brought in line with those in the Northern Territory. It is logical and sensible that this be done for the very same reason that the Northern Territory was originally created - because sparsely settled and distant areas cannot be adequately administered by people in a capital city a thousand or more miles away. The pool for these diseases lies along the border between the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The only successful way to handle an epidemic or endemic disease of this nature is a total overall plan such as has been adopted by the World Health Organisation in other countries where malaria spreads across state borders. Therefore I appeal again to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) to divert some of the savings that have resulted from the near conquest of tuberculosis to the elimination of leprosy or Hansen’s disease.
We have heard a lot of accusations and recriminations, particularly from the Government, the Australian Medical Association and Mr Turner of the office of Health Care Finance, about the health proposals of the Australian Labor Party. For the most part these criticisms have been based on inadequate knowledge of the scheme. Some of the strongest assertions are quite unjustified. For instance, it has been said that the scheme involves compulsion.
Nobody has bothered to say in what way this compulsion will arise. It has been said that it will force upon doctors a fee fixing and price fixing scheme. Nobody has said how this will be done. It has been said that it will deprive people of the choice of a doctor and will deprive doctors of the choice of patients. Nobody had said how this will happen, nor how it has been specified in the Opposition’s scheme.
It has long been the policy of the Australian Labor Party to extend benefits, not to restrict them; to extend choices, not to restrict them; and to remove the restrictive effects of existing policy and existing legislation. One of the most severe restrictions occurs in Queensland where hospitals receive only about two-fifths of the bed subsidy that other States receive. This is because of the Government’s policy not to extend the full subsidy to a State which has free public hospital beds without application of a means test. This is contrary to the policy of the Labor Party and is a regressive policy compared with one which the Labor Party adopted in Queensland when it was in office in Queensland. If this restriction is removed there will be an immediate improvement in the scandalous situation in Queensland which is receiving headlines in the Press. The newspapers are showing pictures of patients being placed on cots and stretchers in halls and gangways because of overcrowding. The existing scheme has been criticised by the newly elected physician in the Queensland Government. There have been calls for public inquiries and a royal commission. Under the Country-Liberal Party policy to squeeze out public care in Queensland, the hospital scheme has been allowed to run down. When the present Queensland Government came to office there was an immediate halt to the building programme for certain kinds of hospitals. Shortly afterwards there was a 10% cut in the State budget for public hospital beds. Therefore this situation is not entirely a Commonwealth responsibility. Nevertheless it is consistent with the policies of the parties in power in both the Queensland and Federal parliaments. The remedy is to remove from office those parties which have this policy of squeezing out the public sector of health care.
Another accusation brought against the Labor Party proposals on health is that they will force a fee schedule on doctors. Not only is this contrary to any Federal Government’s power under the Constitution, which has been tested in the High Court; it is contrary to the policy recently reaffirmed at the Federal Conference of the Labor Party that patients should receive the full amount of Commonwealth benefit whether or not they are insured with registered hospital benefit or medical benefit insurance organisations. Patients will be entitled to this full refund whether or not the doctor sticks to a schedule of fees. In other words, this schedule is not in any sense a fee fixing schedule and constitutionally it could not be. So I must nail this fallacy about this point.
The Minister for Health, who rather loosely on occasions has made false allegations against our policy, has been at some pains to discredit the figures and methods used by Messrs Scotton and Deeble who have costed certain proposals which the Labor Party has slightly modified and again referred to economists for costing. Nevertheless, the same Minister for Health has quoted in an address to medical men the same Mr Scotton, who, in conjunction with Dr A. D. Grounds, published in the Medical Journal of Australia’ on 18th January this year certain findings in regard to pensioner consultations. On this occasion, Mr Scotton’s findings were in accordance with what the Minister wanted to hear and he quoted them as a reliable authority. This is in contrast to the way in which the Minister has quoted Mr Scotton’s findings when they confirm the Labor Party’s policies.
On that occasion the Minister for Health referred to the point that Scotton and Grounds made that it is reasonable to expect that, as pensioners have an average of eight consultations a year compared with an average of three consultations a year for private patients, a doctor most likely would not have to spend as much time on the average pensioner consultations and therefore should be satisfied with a somewhat lower rate of return for services to pensioners.
In the short time left to me, I want to object to a further discreditable practice by the Minister for Health and other Ministers of accusing the Labor Party of not having a firmly detailed and worked out policy - of not being able to state such things as whether there would be a per capita scheme and various other details that we are supposed to have cut and dryed before we are the government.
– It is not discreditable - it is the truth.
– It is discreditable in this respect: The Minister for Health has on notice from me and others several questions relating to such details which are as yet not answered. I could quote from the notice paper if anyone is interested. I do not want to take up the time of the House in reading things that honourable members could perfectly well read for themselves. In particular 1 have asked for estimates of expenditure under various schemes. I have asked for the distribution of the hospital funds finances in reserves and administration. Also, I have asked for the estimates that have been made in the Department with regard to the Nimmo Committee proposals, the Scotton and Deeble proposals, the Labor Party proposals and the Australian Medical Association proposals. 1 ask the Minister now: What estimates has he about any proposals? What is the position in regard to the Nimmo Committee proposals? Is the Minister going to tell us now which of them are in the Government’s policy? Is he going to tell us, for example, whether there will be an office or a commission of health care finance? Can he tell us whether doctors will be compelled to tell their patients in advance whether their fees will exceed a fixed or an agreed schedule of common fees? Is he going to adopt this as policy? This should not take months to decide. There are many other features of the Nimmo proposals on which the Government is strangely silent.
I ask the Minister: What response has he made to the national dental health scheme proposals put forward by the Australian Dental Association? The Minister is ready to criticise the Australian Labor Party for not having made a statement on this. The only statement that he has made is to us is to say ‘we have not one’. I can tell him here and now that it is highly unlikely that we will be making such a statement before he does.
I have been over the territory of social services many times. Because there has been very little change in principle in the Government’s policies, I must stand by my earlier allegations and criticisms, namely, that most of the increases to the vast bulk of pensioners will barely meet the deceased value of that money by the time the next Budget comes around. The important feature of our social services policy is that the Government insists on comparing it with the purchasing power when a Labor government was in office but refuses to compare it with the relative prosperity of people’s earnings in this day and age. What should be done is to compare the percentage which pensions bear to the average earnings today with the proportion at the time the Labor Government was in power.
– It has been fascinating to listen to the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) with regard to his anxiety to know the Government’s proposals without in any way revealing the full magnitude or otherwise of the Opposition’s proposals for a health scheme. Never have I heard such an interesting statement as his comment that it would be highly unlikely that the Labor Party would be making a statement on its health proposals before the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) made a statement.
– I rise to order. I did not say that.
– We will be looking forward to 1st October and subsequent days to see when such a statement appears. But let me deal with more important matters.
We have before us a number of different provisions, some of which have made Australian history and are transforming the whole welfare field within Australia. Recently a commentator made a statement about members of Parliament being rubber stamps. Never has such a statement been less appropriate than in regard to the welfare provisions that are now coming into effect in this House. If ever a whole party, both at the ministerial and private member level, has worked to bring into effect far reaching and indeed revolutionary proposals for the welfare of the community it is this Party, and such action has taken place during the last 12 months. The Cabinet has had a welfare committee working under the
Minister for Health. Also, the social services committee and the health committee of the Government have been tremendously active. To give one illustration as to why private members do not feel they are rubber stamps and that indeed they have a tremendous opportunity of influencing Government decisions, may I say that the tapered means test itself was largely born through and engendered by the activities of the social services committee. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was invited to lunch with the committee some 9 months ago. Some of us, with the use of graphs and other charts, demonstrated to the group the basic idea of the tapered means test. From that time, through the interest of the welfare committee of Cabinet, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and others who have espoused these ideas for years, we now have this tremendous advance which is represented not only by the tapered means test but also by the addition to it of the provisions for income tax relief within the aged bracket and the income bracket which have changed altogether three things which caused many of us concern with regard to what I once called the mad, mad arithmetic of the means test. There were several problems in the old situation. Among them was the one I have mentioned, the disincentive to save, the penalty on thrift, the 100% taxation that the means test represented. There was also, of course, at the same time the imposition on the less privileged sections of the community and the awareness that all the time as we went ahead applying the means test we were bringing more and more people into such a condition that they had to dispose of their assets and gravitate towards the lower income brackets of the community. These things, happily, are now ended or are ending.
The other great problem which obviously confronts the community is that of the effects of inflation on the superannuitants dollar. We in Australia have built into our economic system, as have most countries in the western world, the post-Keynesian attitude of growth factors, and we have accepted the inevitability of a built-in inflationary element which we try to keep within measured and manageable bounds. We take into account the fact that as years go by the dollar must lose its purchasing power, so it is the persons who, during their working lives, are able to save and scrape and bring together a nest egg against their retirement are faced with the unhappy fact that as the years of their retirement go by less and less will be available for them. The things that they once did they can do no longer. The enjoyments of their expanding leisure time as experienced through grandchildren, the gifts they would like to give, the holidays they would like to have, perhaps even the kind of entertaining that they did and the foods that they once enjoyed, become less possible because of the growth of inflation.
At one level this problem has been tackled because savings now are more significant because of the tapered means test. How significant I think very few persons in Australia yet realise, and only during the next few months will it become evident to those who have their pay packets greatly increased that there is indeed a revolution taking place. A single person, for instance, with means as assessed of $1,248 who at present receives no pension will, in the undoubted event of this proposal becoming law, receive a pension of $416, a rise of $8 a week in his own spending money. A married couple of pensionable age with means of $2,184 at the moment - the husband and wife together may be earning this amount annually - get no pension at all but when this Bill becomes law they will have an additional or a net disposable income after tax of $728. This pattern extends through the whole community, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) so clearly pointed out in his second reading speech to the House yesterday.
But I do not want to dwell on the advantages that have accrued from this so much as to point to the future and the things that still need to be done. I have talked about inflation and its effect on the retirement dollar and this is something to which I am certain the Government parties as a whole are directing their thinking. Various kinds of schemes are under scrutiny. There is, of course, the obvious answer of a national superannuation plan. Each person will be expected to save a minimum amount which will enable him to take advantage of the new provisions of the tapered means test, and this wilt encourage his saving - his frugality, if you tike. But as yet this superannuation scheme is not in operation. And even though there is the possibility, in fact the certainty, that the retirement dollar resulting from saving, compulsory or otherwise, will be less and less valuable over the years, so the possibility is before us of introducing a scheme with units rather than dollars which would be adjusted from time to time to obviate the effects of the growth factors built into the economy.
If we are building Australia on a basis of rapid growth - and we are growing at a rale second only to that of Japan in terms of national economic development - then I believe we should take into account the fact that we are asking our citizens to work throughout their lives and save and be good citizens and then to retire on what at the moment must be a diminishing income. Some kind of formula must be devised whereby they can look with equanimity into the future for no matter how long they may survive and know beyond doubt that they will have the full benefits of the retirement provisions that they have made.
There are still major problems outside the area of this new social services legislation. One of these is what I would call the area of absolute poverty. Poverty is caused by many things. There are those who are simply prodigal with their resources, who are careless of the need to provide for the future and who spend unwisely when they have any resources. These persons will always be with us and they, and their children particularly, must be cared for. The children must be enabled to grow up with some kind of dignity and opportunity of bettering themselves in the future.
It has been pointed out quite rightly by various surveys that one of the areas of greatest need is that in which there are large families, and I trust that we will see this Government turning its attention in the immediate future to the various possibilities that He before us of making provision for the needs of large families, and particularly of the children. Not always is it wise to place cold cash in the hands of the parents of some of these larger families but rather, perhaps, to make special provisions for services for the children. Then too there are other areas such as that of national health. We are. aware that, in New South Wales anyway, and I am sure throughout Australia at present, there are large funds which have been operating, at first with tremendous success but more recently with perhaps unnecessary growth in administrative costs. The great funds such as those in New South Wales now return too little of the money that persons have to spend on medical attention. This is not so with regard to hospital charges, and it is possible for persons to make completely adequate provision against the day of hospitalisation. But with medical charges all too small a percentage at the moment is returned to the contributor through this method of insurance against such costs.
But we on this side of. the House know that there are active, aggressive plans in hand to change this whole outlook, that in the immediate future measures will be brought in which will reduce to a minimum the disincentive, if I may use that word, to join these funds. People may then look forward to a vastly increased percentage of benefit through returns from the various funds and because of Commonwealth provisions. These are just some of the things that enable me to speak today with considerable pride of the achievements of the Gorton Government. At various times throughout the country groups of people have hurled at the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) all kinds of criticism - that he spoke in a facile way, or in an easy or ready way in generalities without getting down to the particular. There were those who tried to jostle and hurry him into decisions after he assumed office and made his inaugural speeches such as the one that I attended in the Sydney Town Hall a year or so ago when he outlined his objectives concerning poverty, need and old age. These things were obviously matters near to his heart and he was determined to do something about them. As the months went by criticism mounted that action was not immediately forthcoming. I believe that what has happened in this last Budget which has been the ‘king hit’, if you like, has been the crowning achievement of this year’s activity in social services by the Government. Other matters were achieved during the months that preceded the presentation of this Budget. Other achievements include the pensioner medical service; the home care programme which has been instrumental in bringing a new possibility of comfort and security to old persons still remaining in their homes; the nursing home benefits which have been increased during the year, not having been delayed while waiting for election time to come near but having been introduced as soon as the Government was sure that they fitted into the scheme; the plan to eradicate tuberculosis; the provision of free milk for school children; the home nursing subsidy scheme; and the payment of benefits to children in handicapped persons homes, and so on. All of these various provisions have been implemented by the Government in a lead up to the magnificent advances which have been made in this Budget. It means that the people of Australia can look to this Government for further significant, basic and fundamental changes in the social welfare climate which will enable them to contemplate the future with greater security and greater enthusiasm, and to look to retirement with dignity, knowing that they will receive the benefits which they are justly entitled to expect.
– We are dealing with the estimates of the Repatriation Department, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and the Department of Housing. I am amazed that 1 am placed in the position of following a colleague in this debate. I would have thought that if the members of the Australian Labor Party were as dedicated and filled with the reforming zeal as they hold themselves out to be, they would have been presenting alternate viewpoints in this debate. As it is. 1 can see only three members of the Opposition in the chamber at the present time. So much for the interest they are taking in the matters which the Government is putting forward.
There are broadly two matters on which I wish to speak this afternoon. But first I should like to commend the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the members of the Welfare Committee of Cabinet who were able to ensure that the undertakings given by the Prime Minister very shortly after his election to the leadership of the Liberal Party have been implemented in such a short period of time. Rarely has a Prime Minister been able to witness the implementation of his most basic undertakings within a period of approximately 1 3 months from the time that he took office. This is a great credit to him. Commendations should also go to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and to the other Ministers who participated in the Welfare Committee. I should also like to congratulate the Minister for Social Services who is a great humanitarian and who has been able to bring about the changes set out in the Budget, which are now projected in the estimates of his Department. Unquestionably the Minister has alleviated the plight of many people in the community. The tapered means test and the associated amendments to the income tax age allowance will be of great benefit to many of my constituents.
If I may, I should point out one area to which I hope the Minister might direct his attention. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) has given a great deal of time and research to this matter, and I am grateful for his advice. I know that in his electorate he has been made aware of the same sort of problems that many widows in my electorate are facing. He has found, as he has said in the Parliament previously, and I have found, as I have said publicly in my electorate, that one of the largest items of expenditure with which widows are faced is the cost of accommodation. This cost is just as significant for a widow with dependent children as it is for any other family. Of course, accommodation costs are a burden on any family, but they are acutely so for widows. In raising this matter I know I am foreshadowing some of the comments which the honourable member for Sturt will make, as he has made previously, and I should like to join with him in the viewpoint that I understand he will express in requesting the Minister to give consideration to the implementation of a widows’ homes Bill to allow widows to borrow money at low rates of interest and over long terms to replace expensive money previously borrowed on their homes. Together with the honourable member for Sturt, I believe that these families should be able also to make original borrowings to purchase homes on long term repayments with low rates of interest. Such a proposal should include also a relief scheme, empowering the Minister to reduce the instalments payable and to authorise the payment of costs of repairs, rates, taxes and other outgoings. As I say, this is a matter to which the honourable member for Sturt has directed his attention in the past. I shall be grateful if he elaborates further on this question, as time is running out and I wish to move on to another matter.
The matter I wish to raise is mentioned in the report of the Director-General of Health which was tabled through the Minister in the Parliament yesterday. At page 97, alongside the marginal note Legislation on abortion’, the report states:
As a number of State Parliaments have recently been considering amending legislation on abortion, the Council has recommended that:
Medical practitioners, in consultation, should alone have the responsibility for the decision of terminating pregnancy.
The procedure should be performed in an approved hospital.
No grounds for legal action should exist against a medical practitioner for refusal to perform an abortion.
So far as I am aware, I was the only member to notice this item in the report, and I think that the only newspaper which commented on the item this morning was the Melbourne ‘Age’, which featured it on its front page in an article by Michael Richardson. This would be a radical change in the law, to say the least. I have endeavoured to obtain further information as to the reasoning of the National Health and Medical Research Council in putting this viewpoint forward, but I understand - and the officers of the Department of Health have been most understanding and considerate and have co-operated with me in this matter - that the reasoning behind these recommendations is not made public. I would hope that at some stage the reasoning could be made public, because if honourable members read what is put forward on page 97 of the report of the Director-General of Health they will see that a great deal is left unsaid that should in fact be included in any recommendations in this area of reform.
One matter, for example, is that there is no mention of the consent of the woman involved, and this to me is probably one of the most basic factors in the consideration of an amendment to the law of abortion, lt could well be that the Council has assumed that doctors would have the consent of the woman before these three matters arise and are brought into discussion. But we could well understand that a woman in the midst of a pregnancy could be brought before a doctor while she was unconscious as a result of a motor car accident. The doctor of his own decision and volition could terminate the pregnancy. What about the deeply held view, particularly by Roman Catholics, of the inviolability of the foetus? There is no mention of this in the report. This is a most radical change which is set out in the report. I should like further reasoning put forward by the Council, if that is possible.
I offer no criticism of the members of the Council. The Director-General of Health is himself a man whom 1 regard as, if not the ablest public servant, certainly one of the most able public servants or men whom I have ever known. I am sure that there are very good grounds why the Council1 reached this decision, but I would like to know what they are because, as 1 have said, it is a radical change. It is a welcome move that the Council has in fact directed its attention to this area of reform. The criticism that I put forward previously is criticism only of the extent to which the Council has elaborated on its reform, although I feel I would join issue on grounds 1 and 3 in certain fields, but that is not to be discussed today. I am pleased that the Council, which is composed of such highly qualified men, has directed its attention to this area of reform.
The present state of the law on abortion in Australia remains in great doubt, notwithstanding the recent decision in the case of the R. v Davidson. It is unreported and one has great difficulty in obtaining the text of the judgment, which was delivered by Mr Justice Menhennitt in the Supreme Court of Victoria on 22nd May 1969. Though to a certain extent this judgment clarified the common law so far as it affects Victoria, gaps are still left in the law throughout Australia and there is uncertainty. His Honor decided that abortion is lawful if the accused honestly believes on reasonable grounds that the termination of pregnancy, firstly, is necessary to preserve the woman from serious danger to life or physical or mental health, apart from the normal risks of pregnancy and childbirth, and secondly is not disproportionately dangerous compared with the danger the abortion was planned to avert. Therefore, to prove abortion unlawful - I agree with Michael Richardson’s summary of this on the first page of the ‘Age* today - the Crown must establish that the accused did not honestly believe on reasonable grounds that he was meeting these two conditions. This has greatly extended the protection available to a doctor and for that reason alone is commendable. It has relevance, therefore, to what is mentioned in the report.
I would hope that the Council’s recommendation would not be automatically accepted. It should be borne in mind that the Council’s recommendation has gone to the Ministers for Health and the Departments of Health in the States, to the Federal Minister for Health and, I presume, as a matter of law it has possibly gone to the Attorneys. I would like to see the matter thoroughly examined by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. I have previously asked in this Parliament - I think on 4th April 1968 - that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) ensure that this matter be discussed by alt the Attorneys in Australia. The Attorney-General, being the thoughtful man that he is, gave the reasoned answer that he felt at that stage in April last year it was perhaps too soon to do so. I would submit that, as a result of Mr Justice Menhennitt’s decision, as a result of the views expressed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, as a result of the consideration given to the matter over the past 18 months by various parliaments, now is the time for the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to examine the need for reform of the law on abortion. It is undesirable to have the position in this Territory and in the various States so different that the Territory might become a place of resort for people who wish to procure an abortion. I believe, therefore, that this is another area of law in which there should be some uniformity.
In any consideration that the Attorneys would give to the viewpoint of the National Health and Medical Research Council and to the law relating to abortion, they would need to give weight to the viewpoint expressed particularly by the Catholic Church, which I mentioned earlier, of the general inviolability of the foetus, but at the same time I would hope they would evoke a sincere concern to assist a mother faced with a conflicting situation between her absolute right to live as a person and the potential personhood of the foetus. These two approaches need not and indeed should not be mutually exclusive. But they are regrettably regarded as such by some persons in the community. Any concept of abortion on demand should, I submit, be rejected.
I rose to speak on this subject because of the surprising conclusions in the report of the Director-General of Health. I seek clarification of the law throughout Australia, but I am cpposed to legislation akin to the permissive law enacted in Britain. Frankly, more research should be undertaken to determine the reason for the increasing rate of abortions. As implied earlier, I want to see the mental pressure lifted from the woman concerned. She is faced with the conflict that I mentioned before. I fear that a sizeable proportion of abortions today are carried out for socio-economic reasons. If this is true, it is the conditions which create this attitude that should be attacked. But only a thorough review will tell us whether this assumption of mine is correct. I would hope, therefore, that some body, especially the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral - if not the Standing Committee then some other body - would conduct a review of this matter which has been brought to the notice of the Parliament by the report of the Director-General. We in this Parliament are responsible for the law as it applies in the Territories. It is not enough to say that the States must solve the problem. We should have uniformity in this area. Outside the Territories, the various State governments have responsibility, and I would urge the AttorneyGeneral to examine the report of the Director-General to the Minister for Health and to take the action I have recommended.
– 1 desire to address a few remarks to the Committee on the estimates for the Department of Social Services. Despite all that has been said by the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) and other honourable members opposite about the Government’s great social welfare principles, if I were a pensioner and a Liberal government were in office I would pray for a double dissolution every year. Only in that way would the stimulus be given to that government to do something for pensioners and those dependent on social services. This Government does not help all of them; it helps just enough in the section it thinks may have a huge voting capacity.
The honourable member for Evans and other honourable members have said that the forthcoming election has nothing to do with the improvement in social services. But it seems to me that if it does not have much to do with these improvements at least the prospect of an election does jog the Government along. Last year pensions were increased because, as everbody knows, the Gorton Government could not make up its mind whether to have a general election. This year, fortunately for those who are dependent on pensions, an election is due and consequently for the second year in succession pensions have been increased. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has said that this is unprecedented. I say that pensions would not have been increased at all in these two years had it not been that this Government was preparing for an election. The great welfare state that we are told the Gorton Government is seeking to introduce and its sympathy for those persons who are dependent on social services would fade in a moment if an election was not pending this year and if one had not been expected last year. That is the truth. Some social service benefits should be improved, but they have not been changed for years. One example is the wife’s allowance. A miserly $7 a week is payable. The last occasion on which the rate was increased was 1968. Before that, it had not been changed since 1963. Before the wife of a pensioner can get this $7 a week, the pensioner must be totally incapacitated. In other words, the people most in need and most deserving of help from this Government receive a miserable $7 a week and the rate has not been increased in this great age of expansion and development. Only recently the Minister told us that all the social service benefits can be paid without great cost, but the poor wife who is totally dependent on an invalid husband gets nothing at all. Those in receipt of the allowance had to wait until an election was being considered in 1968 before it was increased from a miserly $6 a week. I am interested to know who is doing the research into social welfare for the Government. We are told that these new changes are the result of a stimulus given by the election of a new Prime Minister. We were told that the Prime Minister immediately set up a Government Parties welfare committee. That committee sat and deliberated on this matter. It conferred with a Cabinet sub-committee and went into all the ramifications of need in the community. It thought out ways and means whereby benefits might bc given to the needy. This committee, we were told, went into every aspect. Now the Government is announcing in this debate and in conjunction wilh the presentation of other measures the great reforms that it is bringing about.
What results have come from this great research? There is an increase of 75c per week for married pensioners. It must have taken a lot of research to work that out because this has been the maximum as long as I can remember. What did the Government bring foward for single pensioners? It has announced an increase of $1 per week. If research was carried out into this pension, why was it not increased by $2, $5, $10, $50 or even $60. What is the increase related to? Was any research carried out into the needs of the people by these committees? Of course it was not. The Government guessed this amount in an election year and let it go at that. Then, we have the greatest achievement that the Government can produce - the one about which all of its members have boasted. This is the tapered means test, which is an act of plunder, having been stolen from the 1966 policy of the Australian Labor Party. In other words, the Government, despite all its research, has not had one new thought. If Labor had not written that provision into its policy on that occasion, the Government’s policy now would have been as devoid of it as fishes are of feathers.
Let me summarise what has happened. This policy comes from a research committee of the Government and the Cabinet. The Minister for Social Services, who is sitting at the table and who believed in the abolition of the means test, now proposes a tapered means test. He has compromised his ethics on this particular matter. The Minister tells us that the research of months, the labour and (he effort of the Cabinet committee and the Government committee, have resulted in a proposal to increase the married pensioners’ rate by 75c per week and the single pensioners’ rate by $1 per week and to provide a tapered means test which has been plundered and stolen from the policy of the Australian Labor Party. This is the new, enlightened age.
But I do not know whether the Cabinet did think of this tapered means test or decided to introduce it. The honourable member for Evans spoke a few moments ago. Evidently there are people on the Government side of the Committee now who are claiming exclusively for themselves the credit for plundering Labor Party policy. I have here an article that appeared in a newspaper called the ‘Aeroplane Press’, which is circulated in the electorate of the honourable member for Evans. 1 quote from the issue of 27th August 1969 which is headed: ‘Vital Changes to Means Test’ and continues: ‘Dramatic Pension Increase’. The article reads:
The decision by the Government to introduce the tapered Means Test has been easily the most important political victory I have yet achieved’, said Dr Malcolm Mackay, Federal Member for Evans, who was speaking to a campaign committee meeting at his home at Haberfield.
Alone I did it’, he said. The article continues:
I had got to the position where I was prepared to have a showdown with the Government it something real had not been done about the Means Test in this Budget’-
Thus spoke the courageous member for Evans, the man who stood on the bridge alone and who claims responsibility for the introduction of this measure. These were not his own thoughts. Certainly he has had a look at Labor policy. He is a student. He knew that it was good. He has taken the credit for it. The article continues:
Dr Mackay said that 6 weeks before the Budget, he had gone to Canberra and had more than an hour with Mr Gorton, who had asked him to go over the details of the scheme once again.
He had done this with the help of a graph.
Arising out of this we learn that the Minister for Social Services is not responsible for these changes, the Cabinet subcommittee is not responsible, the research group that makes up the Liberal Party policy is not responsible and the Liberal Party social services committee is not responsible for it. T alone did it’, says the honourable member for Evans. What is more, I congratulate him. He is more discerning than those intelligent or so-called intelligent members of these committees. He saw Labor policy. He knew that it was meant for people throughout the community who needed some assistance in respect of thrift and matters of that nature. So, he plundered that policy. What is more, he is game enough to take credit for the act. I thought today that I would disillusion the Minister or members who may think that they had something to do with this matter.
The honourable member for Evans also spoke on the great advances that have been made in respect of home nursing subsidies. He spoke of free milk. I think that Jack Lang introduced free milk long ago when a number of honourable members opposite were not born and before the present Government came to office. Yet. this is one of the achievements of this space age, this jet age, when man has set foot on the moon. The Government boasts about introducing the free milk scheme which was introduced in New South Wales 20 or 30 years ago. Then the honourable member spoke of the home nursing subsidy and the pensioner medical service. Of course, he did not say that the Australian Labor Party sought to introduce the pensioner medical service but was not allowed to do so. The doctors who said that they would not accept the terms did so as soon as the Liberal Government was elected.
The honourable member went on to deal with certain other aspects of the legislation in regard to home care. These aspects, as the Minister knows, are dependent on the co-operation of the States. In this Parliament recently, I instanced the fact that in some cases not one State Government was co-operating. All we have on the books is legislation: nothing effective is being done. Why, that great supporter of the Liberal Party in the Victorian Parliament, Sir Henry Bolte, said: ‘You can go and jump in the lake’, and refused to do anything for the deserted wives in relation to the legislation that the Minister introduced. In other words, the Government of the day knows that a lot of the things included in legislation are window dressing. The fact of the matter is that if an election was not held now and again or if the Australian Labor Party did not print some documents the Government would not get a bright idea about anything, let alone social services.
In respect of the legislation that has been introduced, the Government has said that it is giving pensions and social welfare benefits on the basis of need. What about the position of the man who is on Si 5 per week. The maximum that he can get is Si 7 per week. He has not another penny. He may have fought in two world wars and lived through an economic depression. He may be a man who has never drunk or smoked in his life. Yet, at this stage, the Government will give him a miserable income of $17 per week, under its scheme of looking after the needy first. In other words, he can walk out of a job today at which he earns $40 per week and find that the most he can get under the Government’s enlightened legislation is $17 per week. There are thousands of people in this category, living not below the breadline but right underground as far as poverty is concerned.
I would like the Minister to explain how he justifies this kind of legislation and at the same time boasts about looking after the needy in the community. What has he done in respect of B class widows? They too are in a very bad category. They arc people who deserve the assistance and sympathy of governments and of the people. They, like the pensioner I mentioned a moment ago, are in the very basement of need. Yet they are getting the very least under this legislation. I understand, speaking from memory, that roughly 300,000 or 400.000 people would come within the categories that I have mentioned at this stage. This is the new and enlightened approach by the Government to social welfare. The fact of the matter is that the Government of the day has no new ideas. It has not changed the system that was instituted years ago. Whilst the Government criticises the policy of the Labor Party in days gone by, the truth of the matter is that we were improving continually the scope and the basis of our social welfare benefits.
In Canada, New Zealand and various European countries a new approach is being adopted to social welfare. This does not take the form of an increase of $1 per week or 50c per week in a pension rate. Those countries are coming forward with broad national schemes which will give effect to policies that will not allow people to fall below a minimum payment which is required to enable them to live in comfort and security. In this country today the Government has no new ideas whatever, as I showed earlier. We see the old basis the old routine and the old system. The Government does what it can to keep payments to the very minimum. It gives little. It gets as many votes as possible at election time and then, after being returned to office, forgets about the needy for the next 3 years or even for 6 years if it can. Everybody knows that it took years to get a pensioner medical service and that under this Government’s previous proposals people would not co-operate or pay. Now, under this legislation, thousands will be denied fringe benefits which the Minister admits are the only way in which the standard of living of these people has been raised to a level commensurate with increases in costs.
I mentioned these matters in order that the enlightened honourable member for Evans will not be carried away with his boyish enthusiasm and feel that the world is a lovely place. I heard him make a speech in this Parliament on the poverty that existed in his electorate. I hope that he will read that speech again and realise that the very people about whom he spoke today will not get one ounce of benefit from this Budget or the Prime Minister’s proposals to help them to meet their living costs except a miserable 75c per week or $1 per week. I remind the honourable member again that the introduction of many of the benefits, like home nursing and a few others of which he spoke, is dependent on the States for their operation and that the very Government that depends on the co-operation of the States refuses them the money they need to pay for essential services, let alone further impositions regarding which the Commonwealth shirks its responsibilities and expects the States to pay for.
Let me finish on this note: Whatever may be said by this Government in regard to social welfare I say that it picks the eyes out of what it thinks is the biggest voting section no matter what the need is at election time and gives to that voting section what it thinks will satisfy them, even tem porarily. This is exemplified by the fact that 67% or slightly more than 2 million of the people who receive social service benefits will get no benefit whatever from the legislation recently introduced into this Parliament. In other words, almost seven out of every ten persons receiving social services, from the dependent wife to the child in respect of whom endowment is paid, will get nothing from this Government which boasts of its social welfare programme. I do not blame the Department for what the Government is doing. The officers of the Department have the almost impossible task of implementing legislation which is not effective for the general community.
I wish to express my personal thanks to officers of the Department for the thousands of cases which they have handled on my behalf. I am sorry to have had to burden them so. It will be a different story in a couple of months time. Then there will be a new government here and we will see that people are cared for. We will not discriminate against the frail and the frail aged, the sick and the near sick, the dead and the near dead. We will cover all people who are in need of social services. By so. doing we will lighten their labours, make them happier and give them a real social services programme.
Dr MACKAY (Evans)- I wish to make a personal explanation. I was misrepresented by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) who deliberately falsified a newspaper report by inserting such words as ‘Alone I did it’ and ‘ “I did it alone” said the honourable member for. Evans’. Those words used by the honourable member did not appear in the newspaper article, but the following did: T did not dream the plan accepted would be virtually the exact proposals that my colleagues and I on the Social Services Committee had put to the Prime Minister’. The tenor of the article has been completely misrepresented by the honourable member.
Mr DALY (Grayndler) - I, too, claim to have been misrepresented. I read from a newspaper article which I am prepared to table for the benefit of the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay), lt is true that the honourable member did not say: ‘I did it alone’. I said that they were my words - that the honourable member did it alone. For the benefit of the House and to prove how far off the track is the honourable member, who did it alone. I am prepared to table the article and to give a photostat copy to every member of the Liberal Party and every Minister in the Cabinet.
– The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) can give somebody two copies; I do not want one. For the first time in my life 1 have seen Father Christmas without a beard, and he concluded his speech by saying: Listen all my friends and workers: In two months time everything will be different. Everything you want you will get.’ That is the Santa Claus approach which I am certain the general run of Australians will not accept. 1 want to comment, not as a vote catching exercise of which the honourable member for Grayndler was guilty, on certain aspects of the estimates now before the Committee. 1 refer particularly to disabled people in the community. To set the mind of the honourable member at rest 1 point out that ‘Rehabilitation in Australia’, which is a magazine published by the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled, discloses that a survey conducted in New South Wales revealed that 23% of the civilian population of the State suffered from one or more chronic illnesses, injuries or impairments. The figures showed that 22% of the male population - 474,600 persons - and 24% of the female population were affected. In the agc group up to 4 years of age 7% suffered from a chronic condition. In the age group 45 to 54 years the proportion had increased to 32%. At the age of 75 years or older more than 60% suffered from at least one chronic illness. I pay a tribute to the Department, and particularly to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for the way he has tackled this problem since being appointed to the Ministry. Although the figure of 23% is pretty high, it is still not high enough to excite the interest of everybody in the community. True, the Commonwealth Government has set about doing something of a practical nature. One thing it has done has been to appoint Mr Joe Griffiths, until recently Administrator of the Royal Perth Hospital, to look into the treatment of the disabled and the handicapped, concentrating on such things as greater co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth where there is an overlap of functions and where more could be done in co-operative effort to give greater benefits to more people. 1 notice that each year, no matter what the topic, but particularly in relation to social services, the honourable member lor Grayndler makes his fiery speeches in which he claims that everybody is neglected and that nobody is getting anything. Our proceedings today are not being broadcast but when they are it is said that some 10,000 people listen to Parliament. Those 10,000 people are said to represent a fair crosssection of the population. 1 am sure they sit by their radios, wondering whom the honourable member is talking about. They will say: ‘It is not I’. But who is it? lt is difficult to ascertain whom the honourable member is talking about. He talks as though all the people of Australia are at home beating their heads against the wall and saying: ‘This wicked Government is not doing anything for anybody’. I know that the average voter says this is not so. At the polls the people say: ‘Somebody must vote as the honourable member for Grayndler says they will, but it is not I.’ The sooner the honourable member realises this the sooner he will learn a lesson that may be to his political advantage. Under the legislation recently introduced a person with assets, other than a home, of less than $37,200 if married or $21,200 if single and in receipt of an income of less than $70 a week if married or $40 a week if single may be eligible for a pension payment. I get back to the honourable member for Grayndler: Everybody in this chamber is earning not less than $70 or $40 a week, so the honourable member cannot be talking to us. He should direct his views to those people to whom his arguments apply, but he will find that he is talking to a very small section of the community.
People to whom insufficient attention is paid are the physically handicapped. Their numbers in this country will increase. Many beds in hospitals scattered throughout Australia are occupied by accident victims. Due to the advent of the motor car and the availability of wheels to everybody our hospitals are now devoting a tremendous part of their bed capacity to the treatment of victims of motor accidents. Many of these people later become a liability on the community because of their disabling injuries. In recent years the Commonwealth has entered into the field of rehabilitation of the handicapped. We have achieved great things for these people. The average handicapped person who is eligible for social services would much prefer to be a useful member of society earning his living alongside people without physical disabilities than at home collecting his pension every fortnight and contributing nothing to the nation’s development. Through the efforts of the people who staff the Commonwealth’s rehabilitation service many handicapped people have been restored as useful members of society. I congratulate the Minister and the Department on the work they are doing. Little is known about it, as it is done very quietly in centres throughout the country. Only recently a project to enlarge the Glen Waverley rehabilitation centre in Victoria was referred to the Public Works Committee. Work on the project will commence soon. A project in Western Australia also has been examined.
When all possible steps have been taken to help these people to be absorbed into the economic stream and into the work force, the employers have a responsibility to see where they can be fitted into the various systems and occupations. The lead in this direction is given by the Commonwealth Government itself. Over the period from 1964 to 1969 5,700 rehabilitated persons were accepted for permanent employment with the Commonwealth Public Service under provident account conditions. Prior to the introduction of the Government’s present policy these people would have been rejected for employment within the Commonwealth Public Service. This policy dates back to 16th May 1962. This is just one instance of a new idea that has been brought forward by this Government which was accused by the honourable member for Grayndler of having been completely bereft of ideas in the field of social services since its election to the Treasury bench.
As a matter of fact, we have only to look at Division 500 in the estimates for the Department of Social Services to see the ideas that have been developed and which have become a positive part of daily life. For instance, $llm is to be set aside for homes for the aged. That is an idea that sprang from the Department of Social Services and from this Government. Another example is the sheltered employment assistance. Here we have entered a brand new field. Since 1948 some 23,000 people have been placed in ordinary employment and some 47,000 have been placed in sheltered workshops. The grants being made by the Commonwealth to eligible organisations in the various States have enabled the development of more sheltered workshops and the employment of more handicapped people who have innate disabilities or who may be accident victims. More of these people have been rehabilitated.
Furthermore, it is hoped that following 2i years of subsidisation, to the extent of some $3im, for sheltered workshops charitable organisations will move into another field. I know it is the wish of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) that they move into the field of sheltered farms where people with disabilities may develop in an open air environment the talents they have to produce such things as fruit, flowers and vegetables or to indulge in poultry farming. Assistance will be given by the Commonwealth Government to any organisation that is prepared to sponsor schemes like this. At the present time in New South Wales, which is probably the pilot State in this sort of thing, the Salvation Army has a place at Wyong where twenty-four men are working in a sheltered farm environment. This is to be developed further. Things like that do not normally receive any publicity.
It is normal in social service debates in this House to have the spectacle of honourable members rising and saying that not enough is being provided for the pensioner or for something else. They have little regard for what is being done in the area where assistance is most necessary and most appreciated. If by its efforts in this field the Department of Social Services can rehabilitate one person into a useful life as an ordinary citizen, whatever expenditure is voted by us in this House will be well worth while. I commend the Department of Social Services and the Minister for their efforts to attack this very old problem of the physically handicapped person which is increasing day by day. Although only 22% of the population is in receipt of unemployment and sickness benefits, the tuberculosis allowance or other social service benefits, those persons are still a very important section of the community. I hope that in future Budgets we will see a great increase in the allocation for the Department of Social Services, not just for the sake of increasing it but because we have found organisations that are ready to take up the challenge to play their part in the rehabilitation of disabled people and which should be given Commonwealth assistance.
– Few patients could pay doctors’ and hospital bills without Commonwealth assistance. Few doctors and hospitals can make ends meet without Commonwealth assistance. Yet last March the committee of inquiry which the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) appointed under Mr Justice Nimmo reported:
These are fundamental shortcomings which the Opposition has now been raising in questions and in debate for nearly 10 years. They are fundamental shortcomings of which successive Ministers for Health and in particular the present Minister for Health must have been aware when they repeatedly asserted that Australia’s health scheme was the best in the world. The inertia of successive Ministers for Health and the doctrinaire devotion of the Government to voluntary health insurance has cost Australians over the past 8 years $33m in excess operating expenditure, $100m in health insurance contributions diverted through the reserves of voluntary funds into almost every form of investment except health, and incalculable sums in avoidable anxiety, suffering and death.
Ordinary Australians are amazed and appalled by the Government’s persistent attempts to shore up with lean-tos and letouts a system which is now so utterly discredited. They are amazed and appalled by the abandon with which the Government continues to pour public funds down the rat holes of the great open health funds. They are amazed and appalled by I he effrontery with which it repeatedly produces new gimmicks to distract attention from the system’s fundamental bankruptcy and repeatedly finds itself obliged to admit that these gimmicks are costly fiascos.
Under the Australian Labor Parly’s alternative national health programme, pensioners would be entitled to the same comprehensive health cover as other members of the community. Pensioners, like other contributors, would be entitled to choose where and from whom to receive both general practitioner and specialist attention, to be accommodated in single bed or multi-bed hospital wards on the basis of their medical needs and not their financial capacity and to receive a pro rata contribution towards the cost of private hospital accommodation. Doctors would receive the same fee for pensioner patients as for other patients and hospital’s would be paid in full for their accommodation instead of being obliged to provide it at cut rates.
Compare and contrast these equitable and practical arrangements with the present ineffectual, uneconomic pensioner medical service. The pensioner medical service entitles its beneficiaries to free general practitioner consultations but not to specialist consultations. It entitles them to free public ward accommodation in public hospitals but makes no contribution whatsoever when they are obliged to accept accommodation in private hospitals. It makes no contribution to the cost of medical services performed in private hospitals. These parsimonious limitations are a source of confusion and financial hardship to the pensioner, of frustration and financial loss for the doctor and of sharp practice on the part of the insurance industry. Consider the 89 year old pensioner with a broken hip who was refused admission to Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital and finally in desperation accepted a bed in the St Francis Cabrini Private Hospital. Fees incurred by this unfortunate old lady amounted to $160 for the hospital, $195 for the surgeon, $35 for the anaesthetist and $20 for the use of a resuscitation room, for all of which the pensioner medical service contributed nothing. Consider the retired Presbyterian minister from West Croydon, South Australia, who entered a private hospital for urgent surgical treatment because he was unable to find, a bed in a public hospital. The hospital bill alone in this instance was $217 for a 17-day stay, and again the pensioner medical service contributed nothing. Consider Mr W. T. McCarthy of Richmond, Victoria, who kept up his membership of the Hospital Benefits Association even after he became eligible for the pensioner medical service, since the Association assured him, as it assures all its members that:
HBA Fund Benefit is payable for whatever schedule you join even if the patient is not charged by the hospital
Hospital fees incurred by Mr McCarthy in the course of his terminal illness were in fact paid by the pensioner medical service, but his family has suffered repeated rebuffs in their attempts to recover the insurance entitlement. These cases are representative of hundreds drawn to my attention in letters which I receive from every corner of Australia and in many scores which have been passed on to me by Mr Frank Chamberlain. Observe in each case how anxiety and expense accrue to the pensioner or his family. Observe the unwillingness of hardpressed public hospitals to provide accommodation on which they must incur a financial loss. Observe how the voluntary insurance industry as is its habit picks up a dollar here and a dollar there at the contributor’s expense. Nor does the burden of the pensioner medical service fall only upon those who are directly involved. The community as a whole suffers from the antipathy which doctors now feel towards governments as a result of their experience with the pensioner medical service and in particular with its administration under the present Minister for Health. It suffers because the Federal Secretariat of the Australian Medical Association now exploits real grievances when inciting opposition among doctors not only to Labor’s alternative national health programme but to the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee, which the Minister appointed.
The seriousness with which the Government is taking the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee is apparent from the number of those recommendations it has put into effect or proposes to put into effect. Although the Government has had the Nimmo report before it for more than 5 months, we are still unaware of its attitude towards forty-one of the forty-two recommendations set out in the report. In the forty-second instance, the Government’s proposals for free health insurance for lowincome families are so narrowly based as to make their connection with the original Nimmo recommendation purely nominal. Under the original Nimmo recommendation, families with three children and incomes not exceeding $42.80 a week were to receive their health insurance free, those with incomes from $42.80 to $44.80 were to have it subsidised by two-thirds and those from $44.80 to $46.80 by one-third. Larger families were to have their allowable income increased for each additional child by $4. It was clearly implicit in this recommendation that any family with an income below the poverty line established by Melbourne University’s Institute of Applied Economic Research should receive its health insurance free. The Government proposes instead to provide free health insurance for couples with no children who have incomes up to $9 above the poverty line, while denying it to larger families whose incomes are $3 below that line.
A Labor government will provide free health insurance for all families with incomes below the poverty line. It will do so by exempting from contributions married couples or persons claiming at least one dependant if their taxable incomes do not exceed $1,600 or their actual incomes $2,000. The effect of these exemptions will be to provide the benefit for families with 1 child and up to $40 a week, 2 children and up to $42.50 a week, 4 children and up to $47.50 a week or 5 children and up to S50 a week.
– Are these official figures?
– Yes, checked with Messrs Deeble and Scotton in the last week. Between 250,000 and 300,000 families will receive cover at an annual cost of not more than $3.5m, payable as a subsidy from the Department of Social Services to the Commonwealth Health Insurance Commission.
Compare and contrast Labors proposal with the Liberals’ crippled and costly caricature of the Nimmo Committee’s recommendation. The Liberals propose to cover 100,000 families at an annual cost of $8. 1m, Labor 300,000 families for S3. 5m. The Liberal scheme will involve paying about $70 each year for each family to voluntary insurance funds, which squander or retain $1 in every $4 they receive, whereas Labor will merely forgo an insurance contribution of about $20 from each family. The Liberal scheme will involve contributions to the funds on behalf not only of poor families but of social service beneficiaries and newly arrived migrants, all of whom are automatically participants in Labor’s universal health care scheme and are automatically relieved of contributions if their earned incomes fall below the minimum taxable level. The Liberal scheme requires costly and cumbersome means testing on a massive scale, whereas Labor’s scheme will require simply entries on taxation forms similar to those made by age allowance claimants. The Liberal scheme obliges lowincome families who miss out narrowly on free insurance to pay net annual contributions of about $60 while families with incomes three times higher pay only $40. That is the effect of income tax deductions. Under Labor’s scheme, contributions are proportionate to income and contributors who are separated by a narrow margin from the contribution exemption will pay proportionately less than contributors who are more affluent. The equity, the economy and the efficiency with which Labor’s alternative national health programme allows the Nimmo Committee’s recommendations to be put into effect is a further index of its superiority to the inflexible and ineffectual Liberal insurance system.
Australians should disregard the attempts which are now being made to spread confusion about Labor’s alternative national health programme, and which will be made with increasing frequency, ferocity and fiction in the weeks ahead. They should recognise that opponents of the programme are now attempting to spread confusion because they have failed to detect any weakness whatsoever upon which objective criticism can be based. The simple fact is that without exception Australians will be better off under the alternative health programme than under the existing voluntary health insurance system, or under the reformed voluntary insurance system devised by the Nimmo Committee within its restricted terms of reference or under the emasculated version of the Nimmo system with which the Liberals hope to hoodwink voters at the coming elections. Independent and impartial economists working in Melbourne University’s institute of Applied Economic Research have established that at least four out of every five contributors will pay less for health insurance under Labor’s system than they pay at the present under the Liberals to the voluntary funds. They have established that Labor’s proposals will cost the Australian Government no more than it was spending even prior to the introduction of extended special account provisions, insurance payments on behalf of low-income families and the additional Commonwealth benefit envisaged by the Nimmo Committee, and now up to $20m less. They have established that the comprehensive health cover offered by Labor’s proposals is superior to the benefits offered by any other scheme. Nor should there be any doubt about the acceptability of Labor’s proposals among the medical profession, despite the sound and fury generated by three elderly medical bureaucrats and a public relations officer in the Federal Secretariat of the AMA.
Doctors in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan who initially offered bitter opposition to proposals similar in most respects to those put forward by the Labor Parly now signify their wholehearted acceptance of those proposals by rendering fewer than 5% of their accounts directly to patients. I know of no reason why arrangements which have proved wholly acceptable to Canadian doctors should not be equally acceptable to doctors in this country. The immediate past President of the Canadian Hospital Association, Mr Alan Hay, told this year’s Congress of the Australian Hospital Association in Melbourne 2 weeks ago that Canadian hospitals had been transformed by the introduction of universal insurance a decade ago. He said:
The modern saga of Canada’s hospitals really dates from 1959. I cannot believe that even the most wild-eyed reactionary between Newfoundland and the Yukon would want to turn back the clock. Indeed it’s impossible to imagine what state our hospitals would be in today if the government had not stepped in 10 years ago.
Mr Hay can observe in any Australian public hospital the conditions which arise where universal hospital insurance is not in force. He can establish by visiting the Federal Secretariat of the Australian Medical Association, the Federal Secretariat of the Liberal Party or the offices of the directors of any of the great open health funds that Australia has reactionaries more wild-eyed by far than any between Newfoundland and the Yukon. He can establish that as far as Australia’s health services are concerned the clock has not yet moved forward, and that the vested interests of the health industry and the government are determined to hold it back. My own conviction, however, is that reaction shall not prevail.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have been listening with great interest to the debate this afternoon. It is rather significant to me that we have heard no concrete proposals at all from the Australian Labor Party as to what its health scheme will be. I listened firstly to the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), who is a medical practitioner. I have good reason to believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) carries the Labor Party’s scheme in his head. I thought he might enlighten us on some of the crucial points which have every honourable member on this side of the chamber completely baffled. Of course, we are listening in vain to hear from Labor’s shadow Minister for Health. He is not listed to speak. This seems surprisingly significant especially in view of the fact that the chairman of the Labor Party’s health committee, a senator in another place, failed to gain endorsement for a further term of office in this Parliament. So it seems to me that there is something rather strange going on in relation to the
Labor Party’s health proposals. Members of the Labor Party have been most reticent and coy about the scheme. Perhaps a little later on I shall be able to throw a little light on some of the problems that they have been very reluctant to discuss.
Firstly I want to refute an unworthy remark made by the honourable member for Capricornia. I would have expected better of him. He criticised Queensland’s free hospital scheme. Everyone knows that the scheme is highly regarded by Queenslanders and that it will go by the board should the Labor Party’s scheme be implemented. He implied strongly - in fact I think he did state this - that because of Queensland’s free hospital scheme the provision of hospital beds in that State was being interfered with, the result being that there was gross overcrowding in the hospitals. I want to refute this suggestion quickly. I have some figures relating to the number of hospital beds in Australia. These are the number of approved hospital beds per thousand people in Australia according to States: In New South Wales there are 6.2 beds; in Victoria there are 5; in South Australia, 5.7; in Western Australia, 7.1; and in Tasmania, 6.8. The Australian average is 6.2. Yet in Queensland, this much maligned State, the number is 7.9 beds per thousand people, which is higher than in any other State in the Commonwealth and far above the Australian average. So much for these unworthy innuendoes by the honourable member for Capricornia. Far from having its bed construction rate interfered with, Queensland leads the field by a long margin when we consider the number of approved hospital beds available to the people.
– You must be very proud of your State.
– Yes I am. I think Queensland is doing quite well. I shall now refer to the highly emotionally charged words of the Leader of the Opposition. He went on in an emotive vein. When a man of his intelligence has to resort to emotive terms and avoid a rational approach, there must be some great weakness in his argument. I may be able to point out one or two of these weaknesses in his argument. As usual there was a crop of inaccuracies or misrepresentations in his speech. He spoke about the fundamental bankruptcy of the present health scheme. This is not true. The present scheme is not bankrupt in any way - far from it. He spoke about the fundamental shortcomings of the present scheme. There are some shortcomings in the present scheme but they are not fundamental. The point is that this Government is actively correcting those shortcomings. if one reads the report of Messrs Scotton and Deeble to see what the shortcomings are. in their terms, we find that many of them already have been corrected. Adequate provision for chronic ill health, lack of which was criticised in Scotton’s original paper, already has been taken care of by the Government. The problem of insurance for the low income groups is about to be taken care of by the Government; legislation has been foreshadowed to deal with it. In .criticising this aspect the Leader of the Opposition is coming a bad second. He did not dream this up until the matter was actually well under way as a result of the work of this Government. Consequently all his vapourings in this regard will not be misleading to the public. The simple fact of the matter is that this new legislation from the Government will take care of a very important sector where hardship is being felt at the present time.
There is one other matter about which the Leader of the Opposition made a very serious charge. He said that some people were suffering unduly and that some were even dying because of the inadequacies of the present health scheme: I completely refute this statement. I think it is wicked and misleading. For some considerable time I worked under Britain’s national health scheme. Because the scheme was overloaded by the Socialist approach and because of the lack of funds, again due to the Socialist approach - I will clarify these points later on - I saw people die because they were neglected. They were people who had become lost in the bookwork. They had early conditions which probably would have led to cancer and they were lost sight of. When they were found again, in the mass and maze of Socialist red tape and paperwork, they had already contracted the cancer. By that time the pre-cancerous condition had become inoperable. Quite a number of cases which I personally experienced spring to mind. If I experienced quite a number of these cases then surely the overall experience must have been enormously greater.
– What was the situation before the national scheme was implemented?
– The honourable member for Hunter asks me about the situation before the scheme in Britain was implemented. I had the privilege of a very long talk with Sir George Godber, chief medical officer for the national health scheme and a very fine man who has done a marvellous job. He said to me: ‘I could not say that the health of the people of Britain has improved since the implementation of this national health scheme. I would say that it would be about the same’. That was his impression. Practically no new hospitals, if any, have been constructed in Britain for over 40 years. One sees an enormous list of people waiting to get into the hospitals there. Even though there have been these enormous technological breakthroughs in medical science, despite the improvements in nutrition as a result of improved affluence - though with a Socialist government in Britain that affluence has just about gone by the board - according to the opinion of the man who would know best, an impartial and dedicated man, the health of the people of Britain has not improved as a result of the national health scheme.
We also heard some rather pathetic remarks by the Leader of the Opposition about the present pensioner health scheme. He said that pensioners at present were not entitled to be treated free of charge in private hospitals but he did not say that the Labor Party would provide free treatment in private hospitals for pensioners. Of course the Labor Party would not do this. It is dedicated to the elimination of private hospitals. The Labor Party would not treat pensioners in private hospitals free of charge because it could not afford to do so. lt is simply not an economic idea. I have been to many countries and have studied just about every health scheme in the world. Our pensioner health scheme - I do not care who hears this - is absolutely the finest in the world. It enables a person to be treated with complete dignity, to go to the doctor of his choice and to consult a private doctor in his surgery. Then, if he must go to hospital it will be a public hospital, but the standard of treatment in our public hospitals is extremely high. No-one could take exception to this treatment which is very fine and quite adequate. Indeed, the treatment is better than that given in some private hospitals and certainly better than that in other parts of the world. 1 do not have a great deal of time left to cover the whole wide field of health but I would like to point out a few of the shortcomings of the Leader of the Opposition’s scheme. He has been very reticent about his scheme and in fact we heard the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) say that the Labor Party was not going to be stampeded into giving the public an indication of what this scheme really was. 1 can readily understand this because so many bugs are appearing in this scheme already that obviously the Labor Party is not game to give it to us in detail.
Let me summarise the scheme very briefly, lt is obviously based on Messrs Scotton and Deeble’s proposals. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the names of Scotton and Deeble this afternoon. The scheme roughly provides for a l-J% levy on incomes. From this, the whole scheme is supposed to be financed. The scheme, of course, is in two parts - a hospitals scheme and a medical services scheme. Originally, the hospital part of the business comprehended a grant of $7 a day to all approved public hospitals. I understand this amount has escalated to a little over $8 per day.
The scheme was first thought of and worked out on 1966 statistics. In that time the cost of hospital accommodation - and 1 will give the average for Australia because I do not have time to give figures for the individual States - has gone up from $17.30 per day to $20.73 per day. Taking the 1964 figure as 100, the index in 1966 was 113.7. However, in 1968 the index was 136.3. In other words, since 1966 when Scotton and Deeble formulated their proposal there has been a 20% increase in hospital costs. There will be an increase in the actual amount paid into the scheme by the taxpayer as incomes increase, but incomes are not increasing at that colossal rate. In other words, and this is generally accepted, the cost of hospital services for various reasons all over the world is increasing more rapidly than incomes. Therefore, already Scotton and
Deeble’s proposal has fallen to the ground before we look any further into their hospital scheme. This scheme simply cannot be financed on H% of taxable income. It cannot be done. The amount of H% might be a nice round figure but it is not realistic.
When we come to medical services we find that Scotton and Deeble based their figures on the assumption that there would be a whole series of disincentives. First of all, provision is made for a 15% discount upon the fee if a doctor bills the Government direct. They say that the doctors’ expenses of collecting fees owed and from bad debts would amount to 15%. No-one accepts this. It is probably more like 8%. I know that a doctor would not be mad enough to bill the Government direct. This is apart from a natural reluctance to do so. Therefore, we have another 15% added to the cost of what will be paid by the patient. On top of this there is a deterrent of 80c, which is an extra amount to be paid by the patient so that there will be fewer consultations. On top of this there is another deterrent charge of $1 for fees of a small amount submitted by the patient to the Government for payment.
When the Leader of the Opposition was confronted with this, he immediately repudiated such statements and said: ‘No, we are not going to have any deterrents at all*. In my view, the scheme now proposed by the Leader of the Opposition will immediately mean an increase of at least 25% in the number of consultations with a corresponding escalation of costs. It is utterly impossible to finance this scheme on a figure of 1±%. So, the Opposition displays a completely unrealistic point of view in regard to the medical services and hospital services. To sum up briefly, to look at the nationalised health schemes of other countries, we find that the Canadian scheme, which members of the Opposition talk about, will be wiped out The Federal Government of that country can no longer support the scheme and it has said so. The British scheme is hopeless. No socialised scheme can ever work. When a scheme such as this is introduced it is not static for all time - it changes. If such a scheme were introduced, we would have the costs incorporated in general revenue. As in Britain, we would have the loss of a health ministry. The administration would become part of an overall social welfare department and then moneys would be diverted into more spectacular and vote winning activities. This would inevitably result in the starvation of health services and the terrible conditions that are experienced in Britain.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Dr EVERINGHAM (Capricornia)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented on two counts by the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs). Firstly, he said that he thought I stated that because of Queensland’s system of free hospital beds the provision of hospital beds has been interfered with. What I did say was, because Liberal-Country Party policies refusing to Queensland the same subsidy for its free scheme as that given to the other States, the provision of hospital beds had been interfered with.
– That is not even true.
– The honourable member should ask his colleague in the State House who has been criticising this scheme-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - The honourable member cannot debate this matter.
– The other point on which I have been misrepresented was that the honourable member said that I claimed details of the Opposition’s medical policy would not be disclosed. What I did say was that we did not propose to disclose details of a dental scheme before the Government had mentioned one. Those were the words I used. I drew attention to this fact when a previous speaker referred to the same point in this debate.
– by leave - Honourable members are no doubt aware that amongst the several arrangements that the Government has implemented for the benefit of Australian primary industries is a stabilisation scheme for the dried vine fruit industry covering the three varieties; currants, sultanas, and raisins. This scheme was brought into operation for the 1964 season and the four following seasons by the Dried Vine Fruit Stabilisation Act of that year and ancillary legislation, after it had received overwhelming support at a poll of growers conducted by the Commonwealth.
The scheme had a limited period of operation, closing with the 1968 season. It had always been understood, however, that its extension for a further period, either in the same form or amended as circumstances might make necessary would be a matter for negotiation with industry leaders at the end of the period. Consequently I have been engaged for several months now in a series of negotiations with officials of the Australian Dried Fruits Association to discover whether a basis exists, satisfactory to the industry and Government alike, for the extension of these stabilisation arrangements that could be put once again for the consideration of growers at a poll. I am pleased to be able to report that such a basis has been arrived at.
By way of preliminary to setting out that basis, I should like to say a little about the essential elements of the scheme that has applied over the seasons 1964 to 1968. It will then be clearer to honourable members in what way the new basis follows, and in what way it departs from, the previous plan.
The previous plan centered around the following basic elements: (1) A guarantee lo the industry that should the industry average return per ton for a variety fall below a guaranteed price for that variety in any season a bounty per ton from varietal stabilisation funds established for the scheme would be paid to growers on fruit of that variety received for packing. (2) The level of guaranteed price in any season was cost of production less $10 a ton. (3) Cost of production of the first year of the Scheme (1964) was assessed after Bureau of Agricultural Economics survey. For each subsequent year this first year cost of production was adjusted to take account of changes in costs as estimated by the cost index method. (4) Average return for a variety was assessed by aggregating seasonal realisations in respect of the bulk of the fruit and dividing this by the tonnage involved. (5) The rate of bounty if payable in any season was the deficit between the guaranteed price and the average return (subject to the application to the tonnage limitation dealt with below). (6) When average return for a variety exceeded cost of production plus $10 a ton, the excess was levied on growers as a charge (up to a maximum of $20 a ton) and paid into the appropriate varietal fund. (7) Neither charge nor bounty applied where average return fell within the range cost of production plus $10 and cost of production minus $10. (8) The guaranteed price applied only up to certain tonnages. These were: currants 13,500 tons, sultanas 75.000 tons and raisins 11,000 tons. If production in a season exceeded these tonnages the bounty rate if payable was reduced proportionately. (9) On the other hand a season’s production had to reach certain minimum tonnages before a charge could apply. These tonnages were: currants 8,000 tons, sultanas 50,000 tons and raisins 6,000 tons. (10) If the stabilisation funds were exhausted or insufficiently in credit to pay a bounty when payable in a season, the Government undertook to provide the necessary moneys. (I I) The stabilisation funds had ceilings of: sultanas $4m, currants and raisins $lm each. Excess above these ceilings could be returned to contributing growers subject to first call by the Government to recoup any payments made made by it into the relevant Fund up to that point of the plan period.
The basis of the proposed plan for seasons 1969 to 1973 introduces some important modifications into the foregoing, although the basic framework will remain unchanged. The essential guarantee remains unchanged, that is, should average return fall below guaranteed price in a season a bounty will be paid at a rate which would normally be the difference between these figures. However there will now be an important limitation on the Commonwealth undertaking to contribute to the funds it they are exhausted or insufficiently in credit to pay the bounty in any season. That limitation is that if a Commonwealth contribution is required the rate of bounty is limited to a maximum of $20 a ton, subject to the application of the maximum tonnage limitation. The maximum limit on the bounty does not apply if a fund’s moneys can, unsupplemented by Government contribution, pay a bounty rate greater than $20 a ton. In such a case, the bounty rate would be the full determined rate, or as much of that rate as would exhaust the fund moneys.
Second, the concept of cost of production on which the guaranteed price Ls based is replaced by the concept of a base price. This base price is derived directly from the results of the economic survey of the industry recently carried out by the Bureau Of Agricultural Economics. Base prices for each variety for the first year (1969) of the proposed new scheme would be: currants $304 a ton, sultanas $264 a ton, raisins $234 a ton. These base prices would be adjusted annually in accordance with indexed movements in cash costs, interest paid and the cost of family labour.
The maximum and minimum tonnage arrangements under the previous scheme would be continued. The only variation is that the minimum tonnage for sultanas before a charge can apply is raised to 60,000 tons. The ceiling arrangements on the funds would also be continued, but the ceilings on the currant and raisin funds would be lowered to $750,000 each. In other respects, the basis of the new scheme is unchanged from the 1964-68 scheme.
There are certain other matters connected with the stabilisation plan with which I would now like to deal. First, accounting in respect of the 1964-68 scheme is not yet concluded, but all the evidence is that there will be substantial moneys left in the present currant fund, and possibly small amounts in the other two funds. The Government has decided to return these credits to the industry unless, in respect of the sultana and raisin fund, they are so small as to make distribution impracticable. I should, however, emphasise that this is not to be considered a binding precedent on the Government to treat in a similar way fund credits, if any, at the end of future plan periods should a renewal be under consideration.
Finally, a commitment was given by the Government when the previous plan was introduced in respect of its right of recoupment if it had made a contribution to the funds during the plan period. It undertook not to recoup in a new plan period any residue of moneys it had contributed during the previous plan period and which had not been repaid. ‘I can repeat that undertaking on behalf of the Government in respect of any plan implemented for 1969-73 and any plan that may follow that period.
Before concluding I should like to pay a suitable tribute to the Australian Dried Fruits Association officials who have been engaged in the negotiations. They showed themselves to be capable and vigorous negotiators with the interests of their industry very much at heart and I think that the proposals I have outlined above represent a most satisfactory balance between Government and industry viewpoints. I present the following paper:
Dried Vine Fruit Stabilisation Scheme - Ministerial Statement, 10 September 1969 - and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that, in accordance with the provisions of the Meat Industry Act and following consultations with the Australian Meat Board Selection Committee, I have appointed Colonel M. H. McArthur, O.B.E., to succeed Mr J. L. Shute, O.B.E., as Chairman of the Australian Meat Board following the conclusion, on 30th lune 1970, of Mr Shute’s current term of appointment.
Colonel McArthur, who is a cattle and sheep breeder, and a Victorian company director, has been the Chairman of the Australian Egg Board for the past two and a half years and President of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia since its constitution in 1962. Colonel McArthur’s unparalleled contribution to the Australian egg industry is recognised by the whole of the industry and by the Federal and State Governments. It was largely through his personal drive that the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities plan was drawn up, a plan which, supported by Federal and State legislation, has drawn together the State Egg Marketing Boards into a unified marketing organisation and has given the Australian egg industry an opportunity for a stability which previously had proved impossible.
I am confident that Colonel McArthur’s experience in successfully reorganising the export operations of the Australian Egg Board will enable him to bring to the meat industry a great deal of valuable knowledge at a time when the industry is entering, and indeed is already going through, a period in which overseas marketing is not without difficulty.
Colonel McArthur will follow a man who has served the Australian meat industry with distinction. Mr Shute has given outstanding leadership to the industry over a period of tremendous expansion, and a period which has been marked by some problems. 1 believe it is beyond question that his ability and his dedication to the interests of the meat industry have enabled it to come through this period in a way that reflects great credit on all concerned, but particularly on the leaders of the industry.
The export diversification scheme devised by the Board under Mr Shute’s leadership is one of the most forward-looking steps taken by the industry. This scheme, and other activities by the Board, have placed the meat industry in a position from which it can confidently approach the future.
I am making this early announcement of Colonel McArthur’s appointment to enable members of State Egg Marketing Boards who comprise CEMA to give consideration to the election of a new president, and to prevent unnecessary speculation in the meat industry regarding the likely successor to Mr Shute. Colonel McArthur’s appointment as Chairman of the Australian Egg Board expires in February 1970, and an announcement as to his successor will be made in due course. Between the end of that term of office and his taking up the position as
Chairman of the Meat Board, Colonel McArthur will have the opportunity to familiarise himself with the operations of the Board.
– by leaveOn behalf of the Opposition I should like to endorse the sentiments expressed by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) concerning the retirement of Mr Shute from the chairmanship of the Australian Meat Board. What the Minister has said concerning Mr Shute and the part he played in steering the export meat industry from its situation in the early post-war years to its present position is indeed true. I personally have known Mr Jack Shute for over 20 years, and I know of no man concerned with the export meat industry who has played such a prominent part in solving the various problems which have confronted the industry, particularly the export beef industry, from time to time. Just after the last world war when meat, particularly beef, was in short supply and there was rationing in the United Kingdom, Mr Shute was one of the people who was instrumental in organising the 15-year meat agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom. He received some opposition to this proposal from various parts of Australia. But his views were proved to be sound, because after derationing in 1954, when the Australian cattle industry started a movement of decline, reaching almost a crisis in the export beef industry in .1958, Mr Shute’s foresight regarding the 15-year agreement resulted in deficit payments being made which enabled the cattle industry to receive higher prices.
Then in 1958 Mr Shute played a leading part in negotiating a United States market for Australian beef. Since that time Mr Shute has been a continual fighter for the export side of the cattle and sheep industries. He has tried to keep the level of freights down. On many occasions he has had to leave the Meat Board to get the best possible deal1 concerning the level of freight rates payable on the export of our meat. I think that he has been, very largely, successful in his deliberations. As the Minister pointed out, Mr Shute played a major part in the diversification scheme, which is an excellent scheme. It means that, so to speak, our eggs are not all in the one basket so far as meat is concerned. I should also like to point out that in addition to being Chairman of the Meat Board Mr Shute has been, and 1 think still is, Chairman of the Australian Meat Research Committee. He was the original Chairman of the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee, which changed its name to the Australian Meat Research Committee. He has shown a tremendous interest in research as well as in the policy side of the export of meat.
Mr Shute was one of the people who, in the early 1950s, backed the proposition for the construction of a railway line across the Barkly Tableland to link the Northern Territory with the railway line in Queensland. He was one of the men who backed the proposition to transport cattle by road. He was instrumental in introducing early road train trials between Anthony’s Lagoon and Alice Springs. He showed to Australia that this method was an efficient means of moving cattle, despite the fact that there was some bruising of the cattle. From that time Mr Shute has shown tremendous interest in beef roads and other developmental projects. The Meat Board itself is vitally interested in research being carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and by State departments. On behalf of the Opposition T should like to express some sadness at the fact that Mr Shute is leaving the meat industry, because when a man builds up a tremendous amount of experience it is extremely difficult to replace him.
I do not personally know Colonel McArthur, but on behalf of the Opposition I wish him every success in the chairmanship of this most important Board. He will have very high standards to live up to in the post which has been vacated by Mr Shute and which he will now fill.
– by leave- 1, too, would like to pay my compliments to and express my appreciation of the great work that Mr John Shute has done for the nation and for the meat industry. In every way he has been an administrator. He has been an excellent leader of the meat industry and of the Australian Meat Board. One could always have confidence in him because one knew that not only would he do his best, but he would do it with ability.
His judgment was always sound. I regret that he has reached the time in life when fie seeks to retire. As a former Minister for Primary Industry who has worked with Mr Shute I certainly would like to express my appreciation of his work and have it recorded.
Regarding the appointment of Colonel McArthur, I think that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the other people concerned have made an excellent choice. Colonel McArthur is an outstanding man of great ability and wisdom. I am sure that although we have regrets at the retirement of Mr Shute, we can be consoled by the fact that we have an excellent replacement in Colonel McArthur. Having regard to all the difficulties that Colonel McArthur has faced in the egg industry - all the problems concerning export marketing, all the legislative problems in getting the legislation on to the statute book and all the negotiations which were necessary to get all the States and the egg boards of the Commonwealth in agreement - he has done such an outstanding job that I must compliment the Minister on the appointment he has made as a replacement for Mr Shute. We have some consolation in the fact that Mr Shine’s replacement is a man who has done such an excellent job for the egg industry.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the agreed minute of discussions on the agreement relating to the Nauru Island phosphate industry 1967. Copies of the agreement are available to honourable members in the Parliamentary Library.
Mr BARNES (Mcpherson- Minister for
External Territories) - by leave - There have been reports during the past week of a substantial police build-up at Rabaul in New Guinea. This action has been taken to meet a threat to law and order of which the immediate cause has been at attempt to close down the existing Gazelle Peninsula Local Government Council, a council duly constituted and operating according to law.
Until last June the Gazelle Peninsula Local Government Council was restricted to Tolai and other native people living in the area. This Council had in the past made a number of requests for extension of its jurisdiction to cover areas belonging to the Tolai people outside the town of Rabaul and for inclusion of plantation and business leases. In February 1969 the Administrator’s Executive Council agreed to these requests. This meant that non-natives would be liable to pay council tax and would be able to stand for election. The election for the new Council was held in May and June but before this an association named the Mataungan Association was formed and advised its supporters to boycott the election. Elections were, however, held and resulted in a Council consisting of thirtyfour native members, three Europeans and one Chinese.
Despite this preponderance of native membership the Mataungan Association continued to oppose the Council and instigated a campaign against the payment of Council! taxes. Last month the Council offices were entered and the keys stolen. It was then said that the offices would remain closed until the Council had been reconstructed in accordance with the demands’ of the Mataungan Association. At the same time some Administration survey pegs were removed. There was no violence but there was much truculent talk. It was at this stage that police reinforcements were sent. In response to a motion of the House of Assembly calling on the Administration to take all necessary steps to ensure that the law was upheld, further police went to Rabaul.
There are a number of causes of unrest in the Gazelle Peninsula. Some of these are rooted in the long and complicated history of the area. There are deep seated problems of land and economic development in the face of a rapid increase in the number of the Tolai people. These are problems arising from a challenge by certain younger men to the traditional Tolai leaders and from the need to find non-violent means
Action has already been taken which will help Tolais in need of land. Over 10,000 acres of land in the Gazelle Peninsula are being made available for settlement by Tolais. This includes 1,700 acres becoming available through the purchase of two plantations. These purchase and settlement arrangements will be made by the Administration or the Development Bank on a commercial basis. In addition an Administration Bill is now before the House of Assembly. It will make it possible to acquire alienated land which is inadequately developed - on payment of proper compensation.
On 5th September the House of Assembly passed a resolution requesting the Administration to establish a Commission of Inquiry. Yesterday the Administrator informed the Speaker of that House that such a Commission would be established. This Commission will in the main be directed to the present Local Government Council dispute and towards similar problems which may arise in connection with the establishment of local government in the urban areas of Rabaul. Its composition and terms of reference will be announced, later.
The measures already taken should reduce tensions in the Gazelle Peninsula. The special problems of the area and of the Tolai people will be kept under review. Law and order must however be maintained if progress is to be made. The Government has a duty to safeguard the lives and property of both native people and Australians in the area.
– by leaveThe Gazelle Peninsula trouble is symptomatic perhaps of both the maturity of the people in the area and of the fact that one can over-presume on the speed with which they accept change. The people of the Gazelle Peninsula have had local government for a longer period of time than anybody else in Papua and New Guinea. The Tolai people have been immensely successful in conducting co-operatives and plantations. They are amongst the most dynamic peoples in Papua and New Guinea.
What is being done in setting up the Commission of Inquiry is a very wise step indeed. The proposal for a referendum, which I now understand is being advanced by Mr Oscar Tammur. the member of the House of Assembly for the area, if it can be conducted with absolutely no pressures on the people in the area so that they are left to decide whether they want to retain the old form of Council or the new, is very sound. It should eliminate any violence and Should allow the authorities to find out what the people of the area really want.
This former German colony, of course, has a history and the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) is trying to deal with some of the legacies of that history. I remember once seeing the records of a certain council area dating back to Imperial German days. There was stated in German:
There was resistance to the payment of the poll tax in this area. His Majesty’s cruiser Nuremberg’ threw a number of shells into the village.
I forget how many there were. The report continued:
There is now no resistance to the payment of the poll tax in the area.
Gazelle Peninsula Local [REPRESENTATIVES]
The land that was taken for German plantations, with considerably less sensitivity than was a feature of the administration of Australia, was alienated from these people. They are a people with a lot of historic memories.
I am interested to see that plantation land is becoming available. It is being purchased by the Administration with the idea that this land will become available to the Tolai people. I would guess that this is some former German plantation land which has gone through a series of owners and is coming back to the Tolai people. It is very easy to misunderstand this situation from here. I think that the statement by the Minister has shown that there is a sensitivity on this question on the part of both the Administration and the Minister himself here in Canberra. It looks to me as if this commission to hear whatever are the grievances of the area and this proposal about land are both features of policy which the House should welcome.
- Mr Acting Speaker. I ask for leave to make a statement.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is leave granted?
– How long will the honourable member be?
– Four minutes.
– Very well.
– Leave is granted.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I think the Opposition appreciates that the Government and Australia must safeguard the lives and property of both native people and Australians in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. But 1 am one of those who believe that this Government does not appreciate the urgency of the problem that confronts us in the Territory which is under our control. What we have done on this occasion looks to me to be too little too late. The same remark, may be applied to the situation at Bougainville. The indigenous people of Papua and New Guinea had to take action before the Government got off its tail to do something about Bougainville. The same situation applies on the Gazelle
Peninsula. This problem has been developing over a period of months. It is not until such time as the natives show some strength and some determination that we really sit down and decide that we will do something to find out what their real difficulties are.
As I see the situation in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, we will have many more incidents similar to the one under discussion. Are we to act in the same way when these incidents arise as we did at Bougainville and as we have done regarding the Gazelle Peninsula? Why, as soon as some demonstration is organised by people in the Territory, we send in more troops than have been used in any demonstration in Australia over the past few years. Many of the demonstrations in Australia over the past few years have been much more violent and perhaps more dangerous in appearance than either the demonstration at Bougainville or the demonstration on the Gazelle Peninsula appeared to be.
– ls the honourable member not confusing police with troops?
– 1 am sorry. I used the word “troops’. 1 meant ‘police’. We call so many police in. We do not use that many police in Australia. We send the police in large numbers into these areas in Papua and New Guinea. If my memory serves me correctly, we sent in approximately 850 police. The number was certainly over 600. In they go to frighten the people. Those people are at a developing stage. They now are beginning to understand some of their rights and also are developing some of their own ideas. The attitude of this Government seems to be to send in police to frighten the people as soon as trouble appears on the horizon. After giving them an initial fright, the Government sits down and decides it will have a commission of inquiry into the problem. Surely these things could have been announced before rather than after the incident.
In the history of Australia, tear gas has never been used on any demonstrators. In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, we have used it. We have sent in more police to cover a demonstration in the Territory than we have ever used in relation to any demonstration in Australia. I appreciate that the Government and the Minister have an enormous number of problems in front of them in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I forecast that whatever we do in the Territory will not be sufficient. We will lose some of our reputation. Perhaps we will be accused of many things. Accordingly, I feel that it is necessary for us to be ahead of the demands of the people of the Territory all the time. We need patience and virtue rather than force.
I hope that the two incidents over the past few weeks on Bougainville Island and the Gazelle Peninsula have taught not only the Administration in the Territory but also the Government and the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) a lesson. Speed is now of the essence of the contract. The people of the Territory will be pressing harder and harder for self government and independence. If we continue to use force every time they disagree with decisions made by the Administration, even after self government and independence are granted Australia will be required to send perhaps garrison troops there to protect the Government of the Territory.
We have set the example. We need to show the people that force is not necessary in order to win a point of view. We should remember that, through their history, the people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea have relied a great deal on violence. Their system is that of the pay back. As soon as something happens to one tribe that tribe does something to the tribe that caused the first thing to happen. This feeling of pay back has not been lost, in my belief, in some of the people who have demonstrated on Bougainville Island and the Gazelle Peninsula. If we start the violence first, Australia may live to regret that action.
– by leave- What I wish to say is contained literally in two paragraphs. The first thing is that I commend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) for his comments. I returned only last week from the Mount Hagen Show where I had the opportunity of talking to six members of the legislature of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I mention that two of them were indigenous members and four were not. In relation to the problem at the Gazelle Peninsula, I again come down completely on the side of the honourable member for Fremantle. I think that the move by the House of Assembly of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea requesting that the Administration establish a commission of inquiry is excellent. I think that this will help the situation.
The real reason why I am on my feet is to be found in the comments by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart). I felt that his comments were derogatory of the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), who is at the table, and indeed of the Government. In relation to the matter of Bougainville, all six members of the House of Assembly to whom I spoke - I repeat that two of them were indigenes and four were not - were uniform in their views in one way. I saw them separately, but each said words to this effect: Any move to stop the development of the proper resources of this incipient nation must be relegated to the national interest of Papua and New Guinea. These measures to tap sources of raw material must go ahead in the interests of the nation as a whole.
– I did not say that they should not.
– The honourable member was rather derogatory of the point of view of the Government, saying that it was slowly catching up, if it did, in relation to these matters. I point out that the statement of the honourable member for Lang is a direct contradiction of the views of six members of the House of Assembly of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea all of whom separately told me quite plainly and quite impartially that any tapping of the raw materials, such as those under consideration, in the interests of this incipient nation must go ahead. I hope that I have not been offensive in any shape or form. I rose purely to point out that I regard as political and practical reality in the development of this nation a matter that affects both our side of the Parliament and the honourable member’s side to a very real extent.
– by leave - Further to my statement of 21st August 1969 regarding land requirements for the Bougainville copper project, I now advise the House that negotiations between the Papua and
New Guinea Administration. Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd and the Rorovana people of Bougainville have reached an advanced stage including agreement by the people to the use of the land concerned. The main terms of the proposed agreement are as follows:
The area of Rorovana land required is now established by survey to be approximately 140 acres. This represents nearly 10% of the total Rorovana land and includes some of their best agricultural land. The Administration has reviewed the land requirements for the copper project and other possible Administration needs and has agreed not to acquire any further Rorovana land without the consent of the owners. Negotiations will be undertaken in due course with the Arawa people of Bougainville to buy land next to Arawa plantation which, as I have already told the House, has been bought by the Administration. This land is required for the site of the coastal town associated with the mining project.
– by leaveThis shift in policy brings me to a point that I want to make. 1 have far more confidence in the heart of the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) and in his policy when he is led by his heart than 1 have in some of the brilliant economic schemes of some of his advisers. 1 think the vast improvement in the policy in relation to Bougainville is a tribute to the statesmanship which emerged when the Minister himself met Mr Paul Lapun here in Canberra. I have always believed that leaders of the people of Papua and New Guinea should come here and meet Ministers. Over a number of years I have tried to assist this to happen. A vastly different situation began to emerge over the Bougainville affair when the leaders of the people of the area had direct access to the Minister and there was not the pile of wonderful economic explanations of everything that we so often act on in this Parliament. lt is obvious that very great concessions have been made to the people in Rorovana village No. 1. 1 believe that in the course of time the other villages will come in behind this kind of agreement. I hope there will also be patience in the whole situation and no violence on the part of the people or the Administration. The other thing we must appreciate is that another factor has influenced the thinking of some people in some of the villages in this area. A few minutes ago the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) told us that members of the Parliament of Papua and New Guinea had told him up in the highlands that development must go ahead.
– They were not from the highlands.
– I thought you said you met them at Mount Hagen.
– At Port Moresby.
– I am sorry. They said that development must go ahead. This is bringing problems. Many people of Bougainville do not want the Parliament at Port Moresby to speak for them. They are in fact believers in secession. They believe that if they allow the Parliament in Port Moresby to make these decisions they are prejudicing their future claim to independence. This is a factor in this situation which we have to recognise. I recognise that it presents a difficulty, but it is a genuine sentiment. It is not mere obstinacy or mere cussedness. I think that the two men who came to Canberra with full status as spokesmen for their people with the Minister have made concessions to one another which have led to a vastly improved price in the agreement announced by the Minister. In fact, you could say that the compensation being paid for the land is comparable with the compensation that was paid to Mr McKillop and there is not the feeling, at least on the part of those who agreed to this - I believe the agreement will spread - that they are being treated in some way as inferior to Europeans, which was their feeling earlier.
We should recognise, however, that a price has been paid for the narrow economists having had their way earlier. The violence that occurred has produced distrust. Some of this distrust has spread, I think, over to the Gazelle Peninsula. At least, letters I have received from natives of that area seem to express the fear that their land will be taken. I can assume only that this is their interpretation of the situation in Bougainville. A price has been paid in the distrust that has arisen, but I believe that this distrust can be allayed if the kind of human approach that has now come into the negotiations is continued. I personally feel that an apology is owed to the people of Bougainville by the Administration for the way this matter was handled earlier, but I commend what the Minister has done when he himself has become fully engaged in the situation. I applaud the vast improvement which has resulted.
– by leave- I support the remarks of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). Immediately communication was established at the highest level the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) responded. I remind the House, particularly those members who were critical of my role in this affair, of my remarks in July when I returned from a visit to the general south west Pacific area. I said that there would be violence unless there was a change of attitude towards the handling of the situation. A week or so later I went and saw the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) personally and tried to explain this to him and suggested that he ought to intervene at that point to prevent it from developing to this stage. If at some stage there had been much closer co-operation between the responsible part of this Parliament and the people on the spot this need never have occurred. I prophesied what would happen. It did happen. Three or 4 weeks later we have now arrived at the proper conclusion. Proper negotiations have taken place. I am not certain whether the people have received the best possible deal.
In the earlier statement made by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) there are hints of what might be called future discord. He said:
On 5th September the House of Assembly passed a resolution requesting the Administration to establish a Commission of Inquiry. Yesterday the Administrator informed the Speaker of that House that such a Commission would be established.
The point I would like to make about that statement is that it shows the House of Assembly in a position subordinate to the Administration. The House of Assembly has to establish its own autonomy in these matters. It should have had the complete authority and the right to establish its own Commission and should have had the funds and resources available to do it. Until we get round to the point where the people can negotiate directly with this Government and consider their own problems for themselves we will have this continuing trouble. This has been the history of European societies for the past 1,000 years, and it has been the history of all the developing countries in recent times. I hope that the lesson that is being demonstrated in Bougainville and the Gazelle Peninsula in the last few weeks has been well learned by honourable members on the other side of the House.
– by leave- I would like to reply in two or three sentences to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who at this stage seeks to adopt a lilywhite attitude as though what he did was only helpful and constructive. I personally fail to see what is helpful or constructive about going to the Rorovana people, taking with him a crew to do a tape recording which he was prepared to broadcast in Australia.
– That is not true.
– Is that untrue?
– Of course it is untrue.
– I will take some steps to prove that what you said was right. You yourself said in this House that you had done this.
– I said that I went there on my own and other people went with me. If you want to distort the truth, do so.
– Did you take people with a tape recorder and make a tape recording with your own introduction?
– 1 want to put His Reverence on the right track.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Evans make his short statement and that we should not be treated to a discussion between the honourable member for Evans and the honourable member for Wills.
– I will make a statement to the House that I will stand by. The honourable member for Wills went to the area with persons with a tape recorder. He gave the introduction to the tape recording and then engaged in a conversation with members of the Rorovana people. He asked them questions such as this: ‘Were provisions for hospitals, schools and roads such as this ever contemplated by the Administration before the mining came here? Were you people not given some sort of consideration prior to the white man coming with the mining operations?’ He then went on to suggest to them that they should not agree to this land being taken over for mining purposes but that the whole business should be postponed until they themselves had trained scientists, geologists and engineers who could assess the situation and who could develop it in their own interests. This was the kind of advice that he gave to the people. I do not believe that this advice was in the best interests of the situation, and together with the other remarks he made I believe that the total episode was a stirring operation.
Mr BRYANT (Wills) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) has stated that I went up to the Rorovana people and took with me a team of people and a tape recorder. Of course, that would be desirable if f bad those resources, but I have not. it happened that at the time I was visiting the Rorovana area a member of the staff of the University of Papua and New Guinea was down there on a historical mission for the university in the course of his ordinary duties. So we went out together. We took the tape recorder with us, because I believe that this incident was a part of history. I do not have the tape myself. I understand that it is in the hands of people of high estate and high honour such as the honourable member for Evans and the local Administration official. That is their affair. It is true that I would have brought the tape recording back and used it to tell the people what 1 thought it would do if I could. I do not have it. I did nothing of which I am ashamed. In fact, I am quite pleased with my effort. If I have roused some stroke, of conscience in the heart of the honourable member for Evans it has been a great and significant political achievement.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1.969-70 In Committee
Consideration resumed (vide page 1085).
Proposed expenditure. $27,825,000.
Proposed expenditure, $5,746,000.
Proposed expenditure, $306,855,000.
Proposed expenditure, $32,685,000.
– The Committee has resumed consideration of the estimates for the Departments of Health, Housing, Repatriation and Social Services. It is my intention in the short time available to me to make some references to something that is causing great concern to a substantial portion of the electorate of Hunter and which is affecting the health of many of the inhabitants. I wish to refer to the coal dumps, sometimes known as chitter dumps, that are burning in the Cessnock and Neath regions. These dumps are known as the Neath dump, the Bellbird dump and the Elrington dump.
It is commonly accepted there that the chest complaints of the mine workers and retired mine workers are being considerably aggravated by the polluted air that is issuing from these coal dumps. Anyone who knows anything about coal mining areas should know that this problem is somewhat typical of coal mining areas throughout the world, and in the western world in particular.” Tt occurs in the great minings areas of the United States in West Virginia and Pittsburgh and in Wales in the mother country. I think that should bring to the minds of most honourable members on both sides of the Parliament the great tragedy that occurred at Aberfan in Wales, the birthplace of my grandfather, some years ago. Because of the negligence of the coal mining companies, a pile of mining waste slid down over a school in the small township and caused a great number of deaths, to the embarrassment of the National Coal Board in Britain. The mines had been operated under the private enterprise system for many years prior to nationalisation.
The failure by coal mining companies to minimise or to eradicate pollution of the air from the spontaneous combustion of inferior coal dumps is something that the present Government should do something about either by using its good offices to persuade the coal mining companies to remove the menace of air pollution, particularly on the northern coalfields, or by using its good offices to persuade the Government of New South Wales to legislate to compel the coal mining companies to remove the menace. The Government should make a grant to the Cessnock Council to enable it to remove this menace and improve the health of the people who are so badly affected. A week or so ago the local television station gave considerable publicity to the air pollution menace from these coal dumps. In the main the local newspapers have supported the people in appealing to have the menace removed. An article in the Cessnock ‘Eagle’ of Friday, 15th August, stated:
The dumps will never conform to any ‘pure air’ standards. They are nothing short of one of the worst examples of irresponsible air pollution this State has to offer.
I believe that the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution, which was recently investigating air pollution throughout Australia, could well have visited Cessnock and examined these coal mining dumps to find out on the spot the degree of air pollution issuing from them. I appeal to the Minister and to the Government to urge that Committee to visit Cessnock if it is not too late to see the vastness of this menace which is affecting the health of local people, particularly elderly people and retired coal miners.
– Who are the Australian Labor Party representatives on that Committee?
– I cannot say at the moment.
– Well, you should know.
– I appreciate the comment of the honourable member for Angas. I intend to pursue this matter further. The deep concern of the people has only recently been brought to my notice. I did not realise how resentful, and rightly so, the people are of this menace. As I said earlier, unfortunately it seems to be traditional with coal mining areas throughout the world. As the Minister for Social Services well knows, miners are forced to retire at 60 years of age. They do not receive age pension benefits because of the 65 year age limit for men. They have to pay extensive medical costs and, generally, they have to insure themselves with private medical schemes. Because of the arduous nature of coal mining I believe that the Minister for Social Services might consider extending medical benefits to retired coal miners.
This evening when I was in the Parliamentary Library I read in an American magazine that of the 40 major industrial occupations in the United States coal mining is regarded as the most dangerous. Because of that factor alone, the Government should consider extending to retired miners at 60 years of age the same medical benefits as it does to pensioners. It would not cost a great deal because the number of men engaged in the coal mining industry today is about one-third of the number it was 10 or 12 years ago. This is because of the introduction of modern coal mining machinery. If coal mining is regarded as the most dangerous of the major industrial occupations in the United States it should be so regarded here, lt is interesting to learn that the American privately owned coal mining companies, which are operated similarly to the companies in Australia, have to pay 40c on every ton of coal mined to a welfare scheme to look after the health of retired mine workers as well as those still engaged in the industry. The Government should induce Australian coal mining companies to follow a similar practice.
The United States Senate recently passed legislation stiffening the safety rules in mines. The rules it introduced were even tougher than those that were advocated by the United Mine Workers Union of America which has over 110,000 members. The United States House of Representatives is now considering similar legislative action. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) has just informed me that the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution has brought down its report.
– Did you give evidence to that Committee?
– No, I did not. Mr Wilson- Why not?
– The honourable member is trying to embarrass me.
– A lot of members did give evidence. Why did you not give evidence?
– Because I was of the opinion that this matter was outside the scope of that Committee’s investigations. It was investigating air pollution from industry, not from chitter dumps. I understand that a member of that Committee said that if a written request was made for the Committee to investigate the air pollution arising from chitter dumps the Committee probably could not go to the area because this was not within the scope of its investi gations. I think that the Government should request the Chairman of the Joint Coal Board, Mr Hartnell, to submit a report to the Commonwealth Government on the extent of air pollution in the northern coal fields. The position will get a lot worse before it will get any better. The Government could increase its grant to the Joint Coal Board for the purpose of reducing or eradicating this serious menace.
I want now to make some reference to the alarming increase in coal mining accidents. These accidents are causing great concern to all those engaged in the industry. The Government rightly spends considerable sums on rehabilitation centres to retrain person injured in accidents or persons mentally retarded but it does not show the same degree of concern for persons engaged in coal mining. I have numerous Press cuttings indicating the increasing number of accidents in mines occurring mainly from the use of machinery. In the old pick and shovel days miners working underground could hear the roof working or moving, as it is called, and it was a warning to them to get out of the area, but with modern coal mining machinery it is impossible, due to noise, to get the same warning. At one time the pit pony would warn miners of imminent danger. They had a type of sixth sense. When the pit pony showed signs of alarm it was time for the mine workers to move out of the area because danger was looming from the roof.
I can see that my allotted time is almost up but I want to make some reference to the extent of abortion in Australia. Parliamentarians seem to be coming out of their burrows to face up to this great and grievous social problem. I commend the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) for being courageous enough this afternoon to tackle this problem. Most politicians will not tackle it. They wait until they are forced into doing something about it because of public opinion.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Sir William Haworth)- Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– I am pleased to see that the latest Budget proposals give more consideration to our social welfare and that some of the deficiencies in the system are being dealt with. Tonight I would like to ‘mention two or three points that rather worry me a little and which I hope will be considered when finance is being allocated. There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the existing benefits are being increased considerably. Even so 1 agree with the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who said that although much has been done in this field so much more remains to be done. Having listened to the Minister and other Ministers who have spoken in this debate, and after studying the Budget proposals, I sincerely hope that the days when age, invalid and widow pensioners were given what amounted to handouts from Budget to Budget are gone forever. Every country has its social problems, as we know, but I think that in our case the solution to all our problems in this field requires a complete review and a complete replanning of the whole system. This could not only take cars of the needs for today but could still deal adequately with requirements in 15 or 20 years time. I believe that this could be done.
To carry out this replanning of the system we should make more use of the people who have knowledge and understanding of the social problems that exist in Australia. We do have people with this knowledge and understanding. I would like to see more use made of them to assist us in arriving at a basic solution to meet present day requirements for periodical reviews and to keep the system up to date. I believe that we are game enough and big enough to replan the system to achieve what a social welfare system should be - one which is humane and just. If we can do this then the days when political parties used the aged, the invalid and the needy as political footballs, just for political expediency, would be finished forever. That is what I would like to see.
The encouragement that has been given in this Budget to thrift and self help is admirable and I hope it will be extended in the future. However, I still think that somehow, somewhere along the line, we have missed a couple of vital points. In order to explain this a little further I will refer to the situation of the age pensioner. I have spoken about such people before, and I suppose I will continue to speak on this subject until somebody can explain these these things to me. The aged people of today reared families during a world-wide depression. I hope we will never see such a depression again. They worked nothing less than 48 hours a week, or when and where and how they could, to keep their families equipped with the barest necessities. Many of us remember those days, when the advantage of attaining an education higher than at the state school level had to be sacrificed to obtain any possible employment to supplement the family finances.
Right on the heels of that depression came World War II and the demand for more manpower, restrictions and shortages. That is the atmosphere in which the present age, invalid and widow pensioners were rearing their families. What I am trying to emphasise, Mr Chairman, is that the majority of the working population of those days, especially people with large families, never had much of a show. They did not have much of a chance to enjoy what we younger people enjoy today. In most instances in those days parents could not afford the luxury of an insurance policy to assist them in their old age. Nor were there many opportunities for them to join in superannuation schemes, because very few were then operating. Those people are today relying completely on their pensions in order to live. We know, of course, that not all age pensioners are in this situation and that lots of them arc managing quite comfortably. However, the people I am talking about went through those times and today are old and are depending solely on their pension. I think that special considerations should be applied to this field.
I do not know whether many honourable members have had the opportunity, as I have, to see the conditions in which some of these aged people live. I think I heard the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) mention this one night. I suggest to honourable members that if they are interested they should take a tour for an hour or so with representatives of the Meals on Wheels organisation. I am positive that such a tour would emphasise the point that I am trying to make much better than a million words could. I hope that these organisations will receive special consideration at some stage. After all the people to whom I have referred went through the phase I have mentioned and they could be responsible for the life that we lead and enjoy today.
Talking of the Meals on Wheels organisation leads me to another matter which 1 think could be reviewed. This organisation performs a community service which does not get the recognition it rightly deserves. I have heard the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) praise it, but still it does not get the recognition it deserves. There are many aged people completely unable to fend for themselves who probably owe their continued existence to this organisation, in some instances the visit of representatives of Meals on Wheels is the only bright spot in their lives. It makes them feel that somebody cares whether they eat or whether they have company. For the life of me I fail to see why such a splendid organisation does not get the financial assistance from the Commonwealth that it deserves. Even a small subsidy would enable it to do much more of this humane work.
There is another issue which disturbs me a little. 1 refer to the case of a man who marries a woman some 6 to 10 years or more younger than himself. Take the case of a wife who is 8 years younger than her husband. When he reaches the retiring age of 65 years and is eligible for the age pension she is only 57. She is not entitled to an age pension. She gets a little something but she is not entitled to that pension until she reaches the age of 60. Therefore, we see a married couple attempting to live on the husband’s age pension. When I broached this subject to some people they said: ‘Why does she not get an invalid pension?’ But she may not enter that category because she is 57 years of age. They say: ‘Why cannot she work?’ But who would employ a woman of 57 years of age in these days? Therefore, we have the spectacle of people living under these conditions. It disturbs me to think that a married couple should be penalised in this way because the wife is so much younger than her husband.
These are not isolated cases; I have quite a few in my area and no doubt some other honourable members have cases in their electorates. But I believe that the points I have raised should be given serious consideration when the allocation of finance is made. I also request that my recommendation for a complete reform of our social service problems be given consideration. I know that the Minister for Social Services has this in mind and that the Prime Minister is very keen on this. But it will take time. But I do not want to see this problem tackled in a piecemeal fashion. I hope that when such a consideration takes place the whole system will be looked at so that it can be replanned
I believe that the Government is moving along the right track in attempting to meet the deficiencies that we know about and that are now being overcome. I hope that the next two or three Budgets move along this track to overcome the problems. I would like to see this reform tackled on a large scale so that all aspects of the social service system can be organised and adjusted at the same time. I was very happy at the provision made in the Budget for aged people over 80 who are at last receiving assistance. This is a tremendous move in the right direction. I can quote only my own area in regard to the assistance given to aged persons. After a survey was made over the rest of the Commonwealth, it was found that Townsville was the worst off as far as accommodation for aged people was concerned. This is a matter that has been worrying me, as honourable members who have heard me speaking on this over the last 21 years know. I am pleased to see that at last we have this for people over 80 years of age.
– We will fix that.
– I am attempting to do so, my honourable friend, by taking the initiative and attempting to build an aged people’s nursing home which, 1 do not think, many honourable members have tried to do before. But with the Government subsidy of $2 for $1 my job will be a lot easier. As a matter of fact, I tell my honourable friend from Grayndler, this project is under way. I am very proud of this. If the assistance given by the Government means that more nursing homes will be built then I believe this also would receive the commendation of the people.
In the last couple of minutes before my time is up I would like to hop on my hobby horse and speak about the Repatriation Department and the fact that we do not have a repatriation officer in north Queensland. This problem has been tackled for a long time by ex-servicemen’s organisations and RSL clubs. However, we always receive the same answer that such a proposition is not practical. Again, I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) to give this proposition a go when a review is made. The Department of Housing has given the proposition of putting an officer into northern Queensland a go. Also, the Department of Immigration has given it a go. Every other department except the Department of Repatriation is now decentralised and is in north Queensland. The Minister for Repatriation informs me that this is not practical. This may be so. But I would still like it to be proved that it is not practical because the amount of money that is wasted each week and each month to send people to Brisbane from the north to undergo medical1 examinations in regard to repatriation would more than make up for the cost of stationing a man permanently in the north. Once again I ask that when repatriation finances are allocated the provision be made for the stationing of an officer in the north. I believe that this should be done even if such an officer is sent to north Queensland for a period of only 6 months so that the Department can give such an arrangement a trial. There are fellows up there who need repatriation services just as there are in the larger cities down south.
– I rise to speak on the estimates for the Repatriation Department, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and the Department of Housing. I suppose that at the present time the Government has been taking a great deal more interest in social welfare in this country than it has in the previous period in which it has governed this country. I think that the Budget introduced into the Parliament has shown that at last the Government is concerned about certain sections of the community. Of course, it has taken a long time for the message to get through to the responsible Ministers because members of the Opposition have been speaking for many years on the plight of these unfortunate people. It has been said that what we have said has fallen on deaf ears of the Ministers and that now an election will be held in the near future the Government has to make the present Budget an election Budget. We can see that some provisions have been introduced or will be introduced into Parliament from which many of the underprivileged sections of the community will benefit.
I would like to speak briefly tonight on some of the subjects before the Committee. Firstly, I must speak on the health appropriation for the simple reason that I know that the Government is greatly concerned at. present about the statements that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in reference to the Labor Party’s health plan. I think that each and every one of us who sits in the Parliament is fully aware that the Government is at last concerned - greatly concerned, 1 might say - as evidenced by the Government’s use of the forms of the House to try to repudiate and castigate the Leader of the Opposition for some of the statements that he has been making around the country. There is no doubt that these statements are receiving favourable consideration by the vast majority of the Australian people because they have now woken up to the fact that they are not getting a fair go under the health fund schemes that exist in this country. They know that the Labor Party is always concerned with the welfare of the people. They know that the Labor Party intends to introduce a comprehensive scheme in which all sections of the community will benefit. This scheme will not give handouts to just a few. Of course the Government is greatly concerned at present because of the response that we are receiving from sections of the community.
I want to speak on a health matter that I believe is important and consider ought to be brought to the notice of the Minister. I believe that some action ought to be taken on the matter. I refer to the intensive care payment given by the Commonwealth Government. Many honourable members are aware that this is paid to those patients who are in private hospitals and who are receiving what is regarded as intensive care. The Commonwealth Government is paying $5 a day so that these people can get decent forms of treatment. I do not think there is anyone in the Parliament who could not honestly say that he does not agree that this extra money should be paid to the patients so that they get some intensive care in their last days on this earth. What I do want to talk about is whether these people are getting intensive care treatment of the type that is recognised by the medical profession.
I would like to outline broadly the situation that applies in private convalescent hospitals in New South Wales. We know that these hospitals are licensed under State legislation and that they must comply with certain provisions before they can obtain registration. Many people are forced to place their parents who are aged into these homes so that they can receive some type of treatment. They take this action because it is impossible for a family to look after these people in their own homes. What I am concerned about is that under the regulations that exist at present all that is required is that these intensive care patients should receive approximately only 16 hours a week of intensive care so that they can qualify the provision. We should realise that an intensive care patient virtually has to be fed, washed and dressed, and all this personal care must be given, or should be given, by trained people. To limit this care to 16 hours a week is, in my opinion, not good enough. Having in mind that it is Commonwealth money that is involved, I believe the Government should do more policing of these convalescent homes to make sure that adequate staff are available and that the patients receive the proper treatment. In some of the areas in the eastern suburbs of Sydney - and I know from talking to other members that this applies in their constituencies too - there is a great shortage of staff in these convalescent homes, especially at week ends when penalty rates have to be paid, and also during the late evening. In fact, this shortage of staff applies generally.
Most of these convalescent homes are not owned by doctors. The vast majority of them are run by persons who are not professionally trained, and as long as there is a registered or trained nurse working at the hospital the institution can operate. I know that many people running these convalescent homes are receiving a vast amount of money from the Government although their patients are not receiving proper treatment. These people are getting rich at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. I know of some convalescent homes in which the unfortunate patients receive their evening meals before 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and because they need intensive care and have to be fed, they are not given any supper. As a consequence they go right through until 7 or 8 o’clock the following morning without any food or drink, and their health deteriorates accordingly.
My honest opinion is that the Government ought to be policing many of these convalescent hospitals to make sure that adequate staff are available and that the unfortunate patients in them are receiving intensive care treatment. As we all know, elderly people do not want big meals; they want only medium sized portions but they want them more regularly than they are getting them at the present time. If we fail to police these institutions to make sure that the inmates are getting proper treatment and intensive care, then the people running them will simply get richer and richer at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. I think the Minister, who is in the chamber at the present time, should at least instruct his officers to see that these convalescent homes which are increasing in number are at least providing intensive care treatment for the unfortunate people who are inmates of them. In many of these institutions the patients themselves are called upon to assist other patients, to feed them and assist them in other ways, despite the fact that the the Government is paying for these people to receive intensive care.
Many members of Parliament and other people in the community maintain that because the Government is making available this extra money the patients should have their bills reduced. I know of cases in which hospitals were receiving intensive care payments from the Government but when asked by the inmates or their next of kin whether they were receiving this money they said that they were not receiving it. I have made representations to the Department in these cases and on a couple of occasions have found that the hospital in question was receiving the money for periods of up to 3 months but failed to give this information to the next of kin of their patients. It costs a great deal of money to keep these people in the hospitals at the present time because even the intensive care payment added to the pension does not reach the total amount required. The hospitals always seem to want their extra pound of flesh. They are all the time trying to get more money out of the next of kin of the patient. In some of these places even ordinary treatment now costs about $70 a week. I say again that the Minister and the Department should police these institutions a great deal more thoroughly. ] would also like to mention the matter of specialist treatment for pensioners and deserted wives. I know that under the present arrangement many pensioners who require specialised treatment unfortunately cannot get it by going to a specialist privately. They have to go to a hospital and put their names on the waiting list. Some wait 6 or 7 weeks before they can see a specialist. T have in mind the case of a deserted wife who had a little boy with a bad ear. She was told by the doctor to see a specialist. She went to one of the large children’s hospitals in Sydney and was told she would have to wait 7 weeks before the child could see a specialist. As many of us know, if a child with a bad ear complaint has to wait so long before getting treatment his health could be permanently endangered.
I do not blame the hospitals for this. Probably this is the result of too many demands on the doctors. Many of these doctors give their time voluntarily and freely to the hospitals. But the unfortunate result is that children have to suffer. In our affluent society with the amount of money that the Government has available I believe that some consideration should be given to this problem, and perhaps some negotiations could be conducted with the Australian Medical Association to set some special rates for pensioners or deserted wives and their children so that they could then see specialists in their chambers rather than wait 6 or 7 weeks at the hospitals. I know the facts of this case, which occurred only recently. I know the person concerned. If it had not been for the fact that one of this woman’s relatives came to her aid the child would not have received the treatment for at least 6 weeks. Fortunately he has now bad the treatment and has responded to it.
I mention these matters to the Minister because they are matters that must be considered in the near future. We must have regard to the welfare of these unfortunate persons who receive only the basic pension and who are dependent on a handout from the Government in an election year. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), spoke about the meals on wheels scheme. The area 1 represent has, I suppose, the greatest meals on wheels service in the whole of New South Wales. There are many people who would not get a decent meal if it were not for the work of the people who serve meals on wheels, and their health would greatly deteriorate. I would just like to remind the honourable member that New South Wales is governed by a Liberal Government. One of the big licensed clubs in Sydney was running a housie night every week from which it was getting about $200 for the meals on wheels service in the eastern suburbs. This was paying for taxis and cars to take the meals around to the pensioners’ homes. The Government of New South Wales stopped this club from holding these functions and as a result the meals on wheels service in the eastern suburbs has suffered. I just mention this to show the honourable member how the State Liberal Government treats the meals on wheels service.
There are many other matters I could speak of but time will not permit me to do so, the Government having introduced the guillotine procedure because it is in such a great hurry to get the elections over. If it were not for this we would probably talk for a couple of days on social welfare. Many of us are aware of the great needs of the unfortunate people who receive social service benefits. One of those areas of need, to which the Government has at last woken up, is that of housing for aged persons. In the inner city areas of Sydney it is virtually impossible to obtain land for building aged persons’ homes because of the high cost of that land. People in these areas are not going to benefit from the legislation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Sir William Haworth) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This evening we are debating the estimates for four of the departments which are generally described as the welfare departments. The honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) said that the Budget proposals demonstrated the Government’s great interest in the field of social welfare. I recall that in the debate on the Budget last year I drew the attention of the House to the fact that the proposals contained in that Budget were trend setting proposals. Honourable members opposite refused to recognise that this was the case and they denied the statement that I had made. But I think that the legislation that has been announced in this year’s Budget demonstrates that the trend which was set in last year’s Budget has been carried through, and carried through remarkably well, into this year’s Budget. In a debate on departments such as those we are considering, there are many topics to which one would like to refer, but in the time available it is possible to direct the attention of the Committee to particular aspects only if one is to deal properly with the topics to which one wishes to refer.
In the Estimates debate in 1967 I expressed concern for widows and their dependent children. Earlier today in this debate the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) drew attention to the work of the social services rehabilitation services and to the fact that their work was needed because of the increasing road toll. But one aspect of the road toll is the loss to a mother and children of the husband and father of those children and in many cases the principal breadwinner of the family. In 1967 J drew attention to four aspects of concern for widows and their families. I urged that attention should be directed to the needs of children who have suffered the tragedy of the untimely death of their father. I drew attention to the fact that there was a need for an allowance to be made to a widow who, because of the age of her children or the size of her family, is prevented from joining the work force and consequently from supplementing the family income. I urged that we should make every effort to ensure that widows with dependent children receive an adequate income so that they can bring up their families at an acceptable and proper stan dard of living. I urged that measures be introduced to ensure that adequate employment opportunities were available for widows. Many of these things have now been done, and the Government is to be congratulated for announcing the progressive steps to further these objectives in this Budget.
I turn first to the field of employment opportunities for widows. In 1967 there were a number of deterrents to a widow with children seeking employment. One of those deterrents was the fact that the widow could feel that the skills which she might have acquired before marriage, while she was working, were no longer suited to the technological change that has taken place in working conditions, or she might not have had the opportunity to gain skills which would open up employment opportunities for her. In last year’s Budget the Government announced and brought in legislation to establish a training scheme for widowed pensioners. Already there have been 2,238 inquiries in respect of this scheme, and 1,230 applicants have been accepted for training, 983 are in training, 118 have completed their training and 86 have been placed in employment. The establishment of this widows training scheme was the first step. The second step in this area of need was announced by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) when he informed the House that it is his intention to take up discussions with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) with a view to ensuring that there are adequate job opportunities available to widowed pensioners.
I hope that in taking up these inquiries the investigations will be made more wide ranging than merely seeking job opportunities for widowed pensioners. I hope that efforts will be made to ensure that widows generally have an opportunity to supplement their family income. This involves not merely the training of the widow; it involves the investigation of the possibilities of employment opportunities. In this regard one might say that the investigation should look into the employment opportunities of women generally. How many of the employment opportunities that are available to women are based upon an hours of work system not suited to today’s requirements? Is it not possible that many jobs, if they were reprogrammed in terms of time commitment, could be so adjusted to enable mothers of young children to get their children off to school, go to their job and return home before the children returned from school? There are many areas of employment where, as a result of an examination of hours and rosters, I believe there could be opened up opportunities for part time employment for widows in particular, and for married women in general. I hope that the Minister, when he investigates this aspect of the welfare of mothers supporting young families, will make the investigation as wide as possible so that any young mother, be she a widow or not, will have an opportunity to seek employment, if this is her wish and if it is in the interests of herself and her family.
The other deterrent which stopped many widows seeking employment and supplementing their incomes was the operation of the means test. The means test imposed a limit upon the opportunities available to a woman to supplement her income. This evening I do not propose to deal at length with the tapered means test. I hope to take another opportunity to do so. But in this context I want to congratulate the Government for this progressive and forward step. Whereas in the past the means test operated to provide a ceiling limit upon the extent to which a widow could supplement her family’s income - it imposed a ceiling limit well below the average earnings of a male worker- the tapered means test now removes that limit. At every level of income earning of a widow, she is better off for her efforts than if she were not working. So whereas before, for earnings above the permissible limit, or the free areas as they are now described, a widow was penalised $1 for $1 for her earnings, now her pension will be reduced by 50c in the $1 instead of $1 for $1.
In addition to this the Government has announced that the free area available to a widow will be extended so that for each child she may earn $4 without affecting her pension entitlement instead of the previous $3. In this way, by training a widow, by seeking employment for her and by rewarding her for her efforts if she seeks to do better for her family by obtaining employment, the opportunities now available to a widow and her family are vastly improved. In addition to these opportunities, of course, the Government over the last few years has considerably increased the monetary benefits available to widows under the pensions scheme. In this Budget the allowances for second and subsequent children are to be increased by $1 for each child and the basic pension of the widow will itself be increased by $1.
I do, however, take up the point that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) raised earlier today. I believe that we must still look to one other area of special need that confronts the widow and her family. The cost of accommodation is by far the most significant cost that a widow must meet. Indeed, it is one of the most significant costs confronting any family. I urge the Government, when the opportunity arises, to examine the possibility of establishing a widows’ homes scheme. I repeat the request that I made on a previous occasion that the Government investigate the possibility of making loans available to widows either to replace expensive loans that may have been borrowed on the security of the home or as original loans so that the widow, while she has dependent children in her care and control, can be relieved of heavy expenditure for a home. This expenditure would not have been so heavy had her husband been alive and been supporting the family with the income he would have received from his efforts. I also urge the Government to examine the possibility of introducing legislation similar to the Aged Persons Homes Act so that grants may be made to organisations that provide accommodation for widows with dependent children.
– What about invalids?
– Yes, invalids represent an area that could equally be examined with the object of providing assistance for accommodation. The third proposal I would make in relation to accommodation for widows is that the Government investigate the possibility of using the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation so that it can offer an additional type of policy, a policy that would result in the outstanding moneys secured on a house being paid in full in the event of the death of the principal breadwinner. The Government of South Australia has such a scheme. Lending institutions may register under it. In return for a small premium collected with the payments of principal and interest due under the mortgage, the mortgage is kept insured and in the event of the death of the principal breadwinner the house becomes unencumbered of mortgages. I was surprised to discover that the Commonwealth Savings Bank is not a registered organisation under the South Australian legislation. Apparently the number of requests for this type of cover had not, in the view of the Bank, made it necessary for it to consider applying for registration. I believe that this is not a situation that warrants waiting for requests to build up. The facilities should be offered and young families should be encouraged to seek this sort of protection.
In concluding, I draw to the attention of the Committee the massive strides forward that have* been taken in providing security for widows and their families. Their incomes have been increased. The opportunities for them to supplement their pension incomes have been considerably improved so that widows and their families can raise themselves by their own efforts above the minimum level that previously provided a ceiling and gave to widows and their families a legacy of poverty. The legacy of poverty has now been removed and in the future, as a result of the measures to which I have referred, widows and their families will be able to seek that standard of living which they through their own efforts desire to achieve. Widows will be able to give to their children the opportunities that would not otherwise have been available to them.
– I wish to refer to the estimates for the Department of Social Services. I will refer first to the age pension. The paltry increase of $1 for a single pensioner and $1.50 for a married pensioner couple is totally inadequate to provide a reasonable standard of living for the 86% of pensioners whose sole income is the pension. With the prevailing prices of essential foodstuffs, such as groceries, bread, milk, meat, fruit and vegetables, and clothing, shoes, rentals, water rates and council rates, I cannot understand how the majority of pensioners exist. It has been said on numerous occasions that we are living in an affluent society. I for one do not subscribe to that point of view, when we have so many pensioners living in abject poverty. It must be emphasised that the pensioner does not receive any concession in the price of groceries, meat, vegetables, clothing, shoes and so on. He pays the same overthecounter price as any other member of the community pays. He pays the same amount of excise or sales tax on articles, where this is applicable, as does the wealthy citizen.
Recently the Commonwealth Statistician announced that the cost of living, as shown in the consumer price index, had increased by 3.75% over the past 12 months. This percentage is based not on the pension rate but on the cost of living in the community. It would be reasonable to relate the 3.75% to the basic wage of approximately $38 a week. The increase on this basis is $1.45. So it is obvious to everyone that the pension increase of $1 for a single pensioner and $1.50 for a married pensioner couple has not even kept pace with the increased cost of living over the past 12 months.
The Askin Liberal Government amended the Landlord and Tenant Act in New South Wales with the result that the landlord is not now compelled to provide alternative accommodation for tenants upon whom notice has been served to pay increased rentals or to vacate the premises. The position of pensioners so affected has considerably worsened. I cite one case in particular. Recently a married pensioner couple, fraught with worry and anxiety, came to see me. They asked whether I could assist them with their problem. They had been paying $1.50 for a rent controlled little dilapidated cottage in Redfern. They both agreed quite frankly that the $1.50 was a low rental. However, the owner of the property served notice that the rent would be increased to $12.50 a week. The old couple then took the matter to court and the rental was reduced to $10.25. As the pension is their sole income I put it to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who is here, that they are in an impossible position in trying to exist on the pension for a married couple after they have paid that rental. This situation applies throughout New South Wales to pensioners who are paying rentals because the State colleagues of the Liberal members here have amended the Landlord and Tenant Act without providing any protection for pensioners.
In addition, single pensioners who are receiving $14 plus the supplementary allowance of $2, making a total of $16, which will shortly be increased to $17, are paying up to $8 a week for rooms in lodging houses in my electorate. Surely no person claiming to have humanitarian principles could say the pension is adequate in these circumstances. It is well to remember that the pensioners of today are the pioneers who laid the foundation stone in the building of this nation. But what is their reward for it? In many cases, it is poverty with very little hope for the future.
Now 1 wish to refer to the allowance of $6 a week payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner or the wife of a pensioner but who is not of pensionable age. The amount is totally inadequate. Tn respect of an invalid pensioner who requires constant attention, and whose wife is unable to take employment as a consequence, the total pension rate for the husband and wife would be $20 per week, shortly to be increased to $21 per week and, if eligible, a $2 per week supplementary allowance would apply. This means in effect that the total pension including the supplementary allowance would be $23 per week; yet the combined married pension rate is $25 per week, a difference of $2 per week. I ask the Minister: Why is there this discrimination?
Now I refer to the pension for Class B widows. This rate will shortly be increased by 75c from $11.75 to $12.50 per week. This amount of pension exemplifies an attitude of Government inconsistency, as I shall prove without fear of contradiction. Several years ago, the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government discriminated against the married pensioner couple by reducing the basic rate of pension previously paid to all pensioners irrespective of marital status. The reason or excuse put forward by the Government was that two can live cheaper than one. Well, that theory as applied to the Class B widow is completely erroneous. For example, a Class B widow is a single pensioner. She pays the same rent. She pays the same for food. She pays the same for water, electricity, clothing, shoes, etc, as does the single pensioner. Yet, she will bc given only $12.50 per week. So, where does the theory that two can live cheaper than one come in if she is to receive $2.50 per week less than a single pensioner receives?
I wish to refer now to the unemployment and sickness benefit. After 8 long years, this benefit at last has been increased. What a magnificent increase it is after 8 long years of inflation and spiralling prices. For a single pensioner the present payment is $8.25 per week. Shortly the benefit will be increased to $10 per week, a rise of $1.75 per week. What a magnificent, humanitarian gesture it is on the part of the Government to increase this amount after 8 years by such a huge sum. I have people in my electorate, as I have explained previously to the Minister, who are almost permanently on the unemployment and sickness benefit because of their physical stature. For example the Department of Labour and National Service accepts that there are about 10,000 people at the present time who are almost permanently on the unemployment and sickness benefit. Because they do not qualify for an invalid pension - they are unskilled and in a poor state of health; many of them have chronic illnesses such as emphysema and asthma - these people are paid $8.25 per week, shortly to be increased to $10 per week. As I said earlier, these people pay rents of $6, $7 or $8 per week for dingy rooms. This is not an exaggeration; the Minister can conic into my electorate any time that he so desires to find out what rents these people are paying for rooms in lodging houses. The Government offers these people by way of unemployment and sickness benefit the magnificent sum of $10 per week. Shame on the Government. After 8 solid years, it is to increase this pension by $1.75 per week for a single pensioner.
I turn now to child endowment. The Minister has written articles in the Press on this subject. I support his contention that Australia must increase its population. He, like other responsible people in Australia, has been alarmed at the decreasing rate of natural increase over the past few years. What is the Government doing to try to remedy this position? lt is doing absolutely nothing. Endowment for the first child has not been increased since 1st July 1950. That is 19 years. It was 50c then and it is still 50c today. The payment in respect of the second child has not increased since 1948, a period of 21 years. Yet, this Government says that it wants the Australian birthrate to increase. It is doing absolutely nothing to assist in this regard. Many thousands of young families in Australia today would be eager to increase the size of their families but find it not economically possible to do so because, to put it in simple words, they just cannot afford to bring new babies into the world. Yet we find that this Government is doing nothing about the endowment payments in respect of the first and second children in particular.
Let us now look at the maternity allowance. This has not been increased for over 23 years despite the fact that hospital charges over that period have increased by over 600%. What has the Government done to encourage an increase in the birthrate by helping to defray the cost of bringing a new baby into the world? Again, it has done absolutely nothing. I notice that many Government members are smiling when I ask what are we doing to increase the population. I think that Hughie Leslie, a former member for Moore, could answer that question quite well if he were here. 1 wish now to quote from an article which appeared in a newspaper. All honourable members have been given copies of this story, which was written by a pensioner. I think that it is worth quoting some excerpts from it. The pensioner writes:
Pensioners might as well have a large ‘P’ engraved on their foreheads.
The Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, addressing a meeting of pensioners recently spoke most emphatically about our plight, adding that it was the responsibility of the Government to sec that the old and sick had enough to live on, at least in a simple, frugal way’.
The rise in the life pensions of Parliamentarians does not presume that they will have to live simply or frugally, and, in their case, there is no means test. lt all adds up. We pensioners are no longer part of the human race. We are the fringe dwellers, never quite making the grade, always on the outside looking in. never partaking of the bounty of an affluent society.
Given small benefits from time to time, but always reminded at the same time that we cannot expect too much as “the economy cannot stand the strain’.
I know that the Minister for Social Services has a soft spot in his heart somewhere. Admittedly, we might need to employ Perry Mason to find it. but I think that it is there just the same. I know that over the years, as a backbencher, he has spoken quite well on the rights of pensioners. Let us hope that, in the future, with the great influence that he has on the Cabinet at the present time he can persuade it to give pensioners a better deal than they are now receiving.
I for one do not believe in using the plight of pensioners as a political football. 1 believe that they should get their rights in conformity with the Australian standard of living. On every occasion J am given an opportunity in this House to make an appeal on behalf of those in receipt of social service benefits, particularly those receiving age, invalid and widows pensions, I shall take the opportunity of doing so.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, l am glad to hear the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) say that it is his hope that the plight of pensioners will not be used as a political football. 1 suggest that during most of his speech, probably inadvertently, he has clone precisely that. Nevertheless, many speakers from the Opposition have complimented the Government on this aspect of its estimates. I too would join with those from the Opposition and those from my own benches who have complimented the Government Parties welfare committee on the magnificent work that it has done in recent years in ironing out many of the anomalies that we know exist in some of the welfare payments. This will be an eternal problem. Despite the difficulties that do present themselves to this committee, I believe that tremendous progress has been made for which the people who will benefit from the provisions of this Budget will be grateful. I am sure that those of us who represent the Government are prepared to stand by the decisions that have been made. This is not to suggest in any way that perhaps some improvements cannot be made.
I would join with the honourable member for Watson in hoping that the plight of the pensioner is not constantly to be
May I make some suggestions to those Ministers responsible for the departments controlling welfare payments. People who attend departmental offices for the purpose of completing forms for pensions or other welfare payments are required to divulge the entire range of their personal business - their savings and many other matters of a personal nature - while standing beside several other people. This places them in an embarrassing situation. I suggest that departments which regularly handle interviews with the public might set up interview rooms where people could be seated not only in comfort but also in privacy and transact their business in a more befitting manner. I suggest also that many people who now leave government offices in a disgruntled frame of mind could be placated if a more senior officer were present at the public counter to advise junior officers. I believe that on many occasions people who attend the public office of a government department come away without having received the advice to which they are entitled. It is then that they approach a member of Parliament or some other member of the community seeking advice and assistance. The present situation could be improved by adoption of the suggestions I have made.
I now turn to a matter that has caused me some concern. I refer to what I believe to be a little better than a scurrilous document. Possibly it hardly deserves the time of any member of Parliament even to deign to criticise it. I refer to a book entitled ‘Be In It, Mate’ written by a person named John Whiting. He is a man not without ego, because on the first page of the book he says of himself that he is a doctor, tall, powerfully built and good looking. He then proceeds to launch a most scurrilous attack
In my opinion the book is an insult not only to those in receipt of pensions but also to those who are responsible for the various tribunals set up to determine the entitlement of returned soldiers. Perhaps there are cases where people are in receipt of pensions to which the author and other members of the public think they are not entitled. We know that on one occasion due to the efforts of the Government Members Ex-Servicemen’s Committee there was a major breakthrough in that the onus of proof was shifted from the shoulders of the ex-serviceman to the Department, which henceforth had to prove that the incapacity was not a direct result of war service. It is common knowledge that as a result of this change in the legislation a good many people who would otherwise not be covered have been brought within the ambit of repatriation. Many were genuine cases which had formerly been rejected. With the shifting of the onus of proof they were now accepted. Instead of being criticised by a person of this ilk the committee to which I have referred, which was responsible for recommending the amendment to the Government, should be complimented.
The author, having been trained at public expense and having worked for 3 years as a doctor, enumerates some cases in a book covering 112 pages. In a book of this length and after 3 years in the profession he can do no better than point to 12 cases in which he believes pensions were improperly granted for causes which did not arise, in his opinion, as a result of war service. He found only 12 cases. If the position is as he says, I would have expected him to find even more if he were employed in a repatriation hospital for the period he claims. But 12 cases do not justify his scurrilous statements. I have time to read only part of his allegations. Referring to a repatriation hospital he writes:
You know, this place is quite a haven for violent drunks, and even criminals. They’re all very brave when they’re beating up Mum, but when the police step in and arrest them they scream that (hey are Repatriation nerve cases, and mostly they find their way here by devious routes and escape punishment. As soon as they get in here the red carpet goes out; they’re treated like lords, waited on, and actually paid for being here. They stay here long enough to accumulate sufficient money in Sustenance, then go out, get drunk again on the proceeds, and the whole process starts all over again. Meanwhile the man’s wife and kids get repeatedly beaten ‘.ip by the Digger’ and live in perpetual terror.
I think it would be wrong if such a statement were to be allowed to pass without comment. The author states that every politician is afraid to attack, the institution; that every politician is afraid to criticise. He refers to indoctrinated bureaucrats, members of his profession, who act as general superintendents of repatriation hospitals. He refers to the people who work in the Repatriation Department throughout Australia. Generally speaking they are, in his view, to use a common Australian term, bludgers. He claims that most of them are in receipt of the 100% pension and have manoeuvred themselves into the present set up. He criticises the system of entitlement tribunals, claiming that it is most improper for people involved in the machinery of repatriation to sit in judgment on fellow ex-servicemen. But is it not true that under the jury system twelve good men and true sit in judgment upon their fellow countrymen and decide more important issues than are involved in repatriation matters? Is he not aware of the fact - surely he is - that a case before an entitlement tribunal is heard by the chairman of the tribunal, who is an impartial person and a lawyer, and by one person who is appointed by the servicemen’s organisation and by one person who is appointed by the Repatriation Department?
A book of this nature almost justifies an inquiry being made in South Australia to see whether it is easy to get benefits there for returned servicemen. I have found that it is more difficult in the State that I represent. It would appear to me to be unjust if it is so easy to be accepted ibr repatriation benefits and to receive almost a TPI pension to have a lump on the hand taken off when it just happens to arrive at some stage in the soldier’s career. This has not been my experience in other States. I would imagine that the author again breached ethics when he mentioned assessment tribunals, because he should know that there again an impartial chairman and two doctors are drawn from a competent panel in every city in which repatriation tribunals meet. Two of his own fellow doctors go to great pains to assess whether or not the disability from which a serviceman is suffering is adequately rewarded by the pension he receives. Responsible people are making the decisions in respect to ex-servicemen.
The book deserves further criticism because in the whole of its 122 pages ‘.he author mentions only two good people. Strangely enough, having found himself to be the first good one who has benefited by repatriation, he says that the next best one is his father. He had a wonderful service career. He did not even bother applying for a pension. He bore his war service gamely and bravely. The second one he found was a double amputee who was also blinded by an explosion. But many of us who know ex-servicemen know the burdens they carry and how many of them are suffering from these disabilities to which this man so scurrilously refers in this miserable document he has produced. As I have mentioned, no-one would deny that some of those in receipt of a pension are perhaps fortunate to be receiving it. Nevertheless it is true in law to say that it is better that three guilty people escape than that one innocent person be hanged. This is surely the case with repatriation.
I make a final appeal to the Minister. I have made the suggestion before and I make it again. One finds that the medical summaries presented to an advocate for a returned serviceman from the 1939-45 war are quite up to date compared with those relating to ex-servicemen from the 1914-18 war. Unless soldiers who returned from the 1914-18 war were suffering from a distinct sickness or injury about which they were questioned by a doctor they were not given a thorough medical examination to determine whether they might be suffering any disability as a result of their service. As the result their records are flimsy and do not contain the same details as do the records of men who served in the 1939-45 war. I suggest that consideration should be given to whether or not these ageing exservicemen should now be given greater consideration when disabilities are discovered in their health.
– I want to direct my remarks to the exorbitant price of building blocks, to the tremendous increase in interest rates and to the cost of building in Australia. In this country everybody prides himself on the fact that, one day he may own his own home, but we have reached the stage where to own a home ona has to be prepared to saddle oneself with a burden for 20 to 30 years, the best part of one’s life. Normal young married couples today who want to buy a home of their own, unless they are very wealthy, have to be prepared to suffer a debt around their necks for a period of from 25 to 35 years. In that time they will be paying in interest alone for an ordinary home, provided they can pay cash for the block of land, from $8,000 to $13,000, depending on the amount they borrow. I do not know whether it is generally realised that during the 20 years this Liberal Government has been in office the rate of interest on borrowings for housing has more than doubled, that the average price of building houses has increased from $2,856 to $9,373 and that the price of land has increased by as much as 1000%.
I want to talk about these three factors - land, building and interest - which make up the main burden on home buyers. As a result of the Government’s failure to accept any national responsibility for land development the average price of land in Sydney has risen to $7,000, in Perth to $6,300 and in the other capital cities to amounts ranging between those sums. In Adelaide it is possible to have to pay as much as $8,000 for an ordinary sized block of land in the suburbs of Underdale and Fulham in the area I represent in this Parliament. Yet the maximum loan that most people can now borrow from the ordinary savings bank institutions and from those bodies that spend Commonwealth-State housing loan funds is $8,000. Is it any wonder, therefore, that married couples on low and modest incomes are desperate? They are desperate. These are the young couples who want to have families and who want to build up this nation of ours. These are the people that this Government has completely neglected.
The Government could not care two hoots about the welfare of the young family man who is trying to become the owner of his own home. It is a disgrace. Liberals in Canberra wash their hands completely of the problem. They say that this is not a national question; that this is not a matter for the national Parliament to determine but is the concern of the States. Nothing could be further from the truth. But so long as we have a Government that is prepared to take this attitude the cost of building houses will continue to rise, interest rates will continue to rise, and the biggest robber of all, land prices, will continue to rise, as has been the case over the last 20 years. We of the Australian Labor Party take a completely different view of this matter. What we propose to do is this: We will make grants available to the States to enable them to acquire substantial areas of residential land on just terms, to subdivide and service the land and to sell it at cost thus eliminating completely the private land speculator who today is making a fortune at the expense of the home builder. This is what is done in practically every other modern country in the world, but it is not being done in this country because the lazy, power drunk Government that has been in office for 20 years represents only the very wealthy and privileged sections of the community.
I think I have lulled the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) to sleep with the thought of having to do anything for the ordinary low and middle income groups. This is something that has to be looked at. The Liberals do not have one good reason for not doing something; yet they do absolutely nothing at all about it. H a profit is to be gained by the appreciation of fringe land that benefit should accrue to the community through the Government. No private individual has any right to benefit as a consequence of community created land values to which he has personally contributed nothing or about which he has done nothing. It is quite wrong that private land developers should reap all the benefit of capita] appreciation derived from community expenditure, community effort and community investment. Public acquisition of substantial development land is needed not only to reduce land prices and provide competition for private developers but to ensure orderly and comprehensive development of large areas of land. For the Commonwealth to keep out of land development is as archaic and anarchic as it would be for the Commonwealth to get out of housing finance. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) made a sage comment on this matter when he was speaking in Melbourne on 3rd April 1967. He said:
If there is profit to be gained by appreciation of fringe land then the benefit should accrue to the community through the Government.
That was a remark of the future Prime Minister of this country - the man who will be Prime Minister in November of this year. Is it not a good thing that this sort of man is to take over the reins of government? ls it not good for the people who want to get homes built and who want to buy land that this sort of man has now appeared on the horizon to give to the people who wish to become home owners an opportunity of getting land at reasonable prices? This, indeed, has been the case in Canberra where appreciation of land values has been a major source of finance for the Commonwealth Government in its role as a regional development authority. What can be done in Canberra can be done in any other capital city. The profits of land development undertaken by the Government can, at a relatively early stage of a city’s development, begin to make large financial contributions to its support and to the cost of its future growth.
Mr Deputy Chairman (Mr Cope), you are a gentleman who has had a great deal of interest in home builders. For years you have stated their case eloquently, well, convincingly, consistently and with great clarity in this Parliament and you will agree with me when I say that the price of land reflects the economic health of the community only in the sense that a parasite in the lushness of its growth demonstrates the vitality of the tree that it is strangling. That is a very good quotation and aptly expresses the position as I see it.
In Western Australia they have a Liberal Premier named Sir David Brand. He established a commission on land taxation and land prices in that State known as the McCarrey Commission. That Commission recommended that the holding of vacant metropolitan land should be made unprofitable by the use of selective taxation measures. 1 could not agree more with the recommendations of that Commission that we should make the holding of vacant land unprofitable. There was a time when the Commonwealth had a tax on unimproved land values as part of the Commonwealth taxation structure. Speaking personally, I hope that the day will come when the Commonwealth will re-enter the field of taxation on unimproved land values of vacant blocks of land held by speculators for the purpose of gaining a rich reward skimmed off from those unfortunate people who have to go to them to get a place on which to ‘build their homes.
The amount of money that has been paid out in home building by the ordinary wage and salary earner in the main is nothing less than staggering. The cost of building a home itself is artificially high, one of the reasons being that the Liberals in Canberra have failed to do anything about establishing uniform building regulations and codes throughout Australia. This may seem to be a relatively small matter, but does this Parliament realise that it has been established beyond all doubt by the Commonwealth Department of Housing that the failure to provide a uniform system of regulations and building codes adds an additional $600 to the cost of a house. This is more than the amount of the home savings grant which is given to those people who can qualify. This is a disgrace.
– A scandal.
– I agree with the doctor from Capricornia that it is a scandal. The true increase in the cost of home building can be fully understood only when one multiplies the increase that has occurred in building costs - from $2,856 to an average of $9,373 - by the increase that has occurred in interest rates, namely, from 3J% 20 years ago to 5i% now to those who are lucky enough to be able to get the money they need for home building purposes from the lending authorities that will lend at 5i%. Savings bank loans are at 6i%, trading bank loans at 7i% and ordinary life assurance company loans for home building are at 81%. Imagine how much interest a person has to pay over a 35-year period on a loan of $8,000 at 8)%. Does any honourable member realise what this amounts to? It amounts to $17,095 in interest alone. This is the sort of thing that the Government is allowing to happen without making any attempt to prevent it. At this stage I want to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the value and number of new buildings completed in Australia from 1960-61 when the credit squeeze occurred up until the present time. I have sought the Minister’s permission to incorporate the table. It shows that taking an index of 100% as representing the 1960-61 period, costs have risen to 132% - an increase of 32% in house building costs - and house building and flat building costs combined show a total increase of 23%. While these building costs have been increasing the number of operatives employed in the industry since 1965 has decreased from 157,835 to 150,847. So we have fewer people working in the industry than we had 3 years ago. This is one of the reasons why costs have soared to the extent that they have. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate that table in Hansard.
A Labor Government will reverse this trend in increased land costs, increased building costs and increased interest rates. We have to do something about this. I should like now to incorporate in Hansard a set of figures showing that over the period of the last 1 2 months the Government has received back in repayments of principal and interest from war service loans and from the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement no less than $145,116,974. That money ought to be made available to people at rates of interest in keeping with Labor’s policy, namely, 3i% repayable over a reasonable period. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard that table.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has stated during this debate, as some of his colleagues have stated a number of times over many years, that a property owner should not obtain any reward from the fact that there have been urban developments and improvements in his area which have increased the value of his property. I always find, Mr Deputy Chairman, that when gentlemen of this ilk come to sell their own homes they do not take the price they originally paid for them. They always look for the profit that has come from improvements and development. I do not like hypocrites.
In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Health 1 want to draw attention to something in our programme of health care which I think escaped the eyes of the Nimmo Committee. I refer to postnatal care for babies kept in hospitals for long periods so that they may survive and to the high costs involved. The main reason for this post-natal care is usually weight deficiency, normally brought about by premature or multiple births. Of course there may be other reasons which require a child to be treated after the mother has been discharged from hospital. In recent years multiple births have become more common and the number of premature births has increased substantially. In Victoria I understand that on the average there are about 3,000 premature births a year. The average period of post-natal care is from 6 to 8 weeks. Generally this postnatal care is of a high standard and there is a high degree of success. The cost of hospital accommodation and nursing care has been known to range as high as $1,600, although the average would be about $600.
A doctor in my electorate wrote to me aboutone of his patients who had premature twins. They were retained in hospital for about 6 or 8 weeks until they had attained a weight of8½ lb. The children were well cared for and the mother now has the two children at home. After she left the hospital and paid the bill for her own care she received a further account for $680. The doctor said that this was a terrible burden for any married couple and asked whether the Commonwealth could provide any financial assistance.
It is, however, the problems arising from a number of factors which either exclude or substantially reduce the hospital fund benefit and result in huge financial burdens being imposed on the parents, particularly young parents, to which I want to draw attention. The general condition observed by the benefit organisations is the maternity qualifying period. This is 9or 10 months, depending upon the organisation. In cases of premature birth, where the medical officer certifies what the normal date of birth would have been and this falls within the qualifying period, the associations accept the certificate and the parents get the benefit. However a large percentage of babies today are conceived ex-nuptially. In Victoria alone
I understand that the figure is around 25%. Failure to satisfy the maternity qualifying period excludes the member from the hospital fund benefit. Medical benefits are paid providing the membership has been of 2 months duration.
– Don’t you ever think about anything else?
– I am talking about poor people who have great burdens; the people that the honourable member says we do not represent - the young married couples. Let us look at the results of this. The normal medical benefit for ante-natal care and a 9- day period covering confinement and part of the natal care averages $30. This sum includes the Commonwealth benefit of$1 5. A higher table provides a fund benefit of $22.50 plus the $15. The hospital benefits range from $9.20 a day to $17.60 a day including the Commonwealth benefit of $2. Public ward rates in public hospitals are $10 a day and the intermediate rate is $13.50.
In the case of a normal confinement the first or only child is considered as one with the mother but where there are two or more children the daily charge for the hospital care is raised against each of the additional children. I understand that in cases where a family contribution is paid most benefit funds would cover the parents for the additional children as additional patients. But in the case of an unmarried mother contributing only as a single person, so far as additional children are concerned or when the 9 months qualifying period is transgressed, no hospital fund benefit is payable by the association.
The Nimmo Committee referred to this matter and the question of unmarried mothers and prematurely born children. It stated in its report:
Some problems have arisen in regard to eligibility for benefits for confinements of unmarried mothers and for treatment of new-born children. Organisations’ practices vary in dealing with such cases. The normal practice is for an unmarried mother to be paid the benefits payable under the table for which she is insured, provided she has been insured at least for the ‘maternity’ qualifying period - 9 or 10 months membership. It is not necessary for an unmarried mother to enrol at the ‘married’ rate to be eligible for this benefit. This practice is considered to be reasonable . . .
Newly-born children requiring hospital or medical treatment are ordinarily regarded as covered by their parents’ membership and not excluded from benefits by ‘chronic’ or ‘pre-existing* rules.
That is what the Nimmo Committee said. It lost sight of the points I have just made. I understand that the Committee also referred to special medical conditions and spoke about exclusions from benefits payable by societies. Societies disallow payment of benefit for such cases as alcoholism, immoral conduct, drug addiction and self inflicted wounds. I understand that the Nimmo Committee recommended that these exclusions should be dropped and that most, if not all, associations intend to drop them.
I do not go along with exclusion from benefit on the ground of immoral conduct. Some people say that we should not subsidise sin. However I believe that it is a terrible thing that a young and innocent child should be denied full care in order to survive or that the unmarried mother should be burdened with a large debt that she has to work off in order to meet a hospital bill against which she could not insure. Again, many young couples are compelled to marry in haste. They have little or no means and have little time to save for the event. Every cent counts. They either cannot afford contributions to a benefit society or they do not think about it. If they do think about it they realise that they will not be able to qualify under the provisions relating to confinements. In any event they do not insure - that is the crux of the whole thing. If the chil’d needs post-natal care the parents are up for large debts. Sometimes they are dunned for it. The debt is there and they are worried about it. Their outlook becomes untenable and the marriage tends to break up. Hospitals are left with large debts outstanding, most of them irrecoverable. I am told that in Victoria alone charges for post-natal care transcend all other cases of bad debts. Queensland hospitals do not suffer from this disability because in that State all hospital care is free. At least it will be free until the Labor Party, if by any chance it gains office, introduces its proposed medical scheme. If that happens the people of Queensland will have to pay up to $100 a year to join in the scheme and the freedom they now enjoy will have gone.
There is no doubt at all that we welcome migrant children from overseas and we cheerfully underwrite the cost involved. I think that the cost of preserving lightweight babies should be a similar charge on the community. Speaking of migrant children, a special exemption is made by fund associations for women arriving in Australia in a pregnant condition. Providing these women join a benefit association within one month of arriving in Australia they become eligible for the benefits even if the baby is born the day after the first payment has been made. They are exempt from the provision requiring 9 or 10 months membership before payment for maternity cases. If such an exemption can be made in the case of migrant women then the funds should look into this question and see whether anything can be done to reduce the maternity qualifying period. I think that the present system appears to be too rigid and that mothers should not have to wait the full period of pregnancy when in good faith they have been married. A period of 6 months might be much better than the period of 9 or 10 months that is now imposed.
The case of the unmarried mother who only qualifies as a single contributor must also be examined when there is a multiple birth. Whether it is the responsiblity of. the fund or not is not the issue. The issue is that the present system is causing great distress in the community. Therefore I urge very definitely that the Commonwealth give consideration to underwriting the cost of hospitals for post natal care when babies are kept in a public hospital for a period up to the first 3 months of their lives. Here is an area of great need. We need the population; we need happy people. Unless something is done along these lines we could quite well lose both.
– Are you trying to be funny?
– I will give an illustration of what I have been talking about because some people may think this is funny. There is the case of a member of the regular forces who is away from home for quite long periods. His daughter, who is aged 16 and had started work unfortunately contracted a misalliance with a fellow who skipped off. In due time a child was born. The father found because the daughter had turned 16 and gone to work, she was no longer regarded by his hospital and medical benefits fund as a dependant. He could not claim for her. There was trouble in the confinement and there was post natal care. The father shouldered a debt of $1,200 on behalf of his daughter because he is legally responsible for her debts while she is still a minor. But add to that blow the fact that he was not allowed to claim $1 of the medical fees as a taxation deduction. So, there are these pockets or areas of need in the community. Unless we, as members of Parliament, look at this position and take what action we can to bring such matters before the Parliament and ask that something be done to rectify the situation we are failing in our duties.
When I put these matters before the Minister he wrote to me and said: 1 do not feel that there is any real problem regarding the payment of Commonwealth benefits in respect of premature births, whether they are single or multiple’. It is not so much the Commonwealth benefit I am talking about; I am referring to the hospital benefit associations and what should be done. Again T ask the Minister to discuss with his welfare committee and Cabinet the question of whether it is possible to underwrite the cost of post natal care for the first 3 months in the lives of babies who are kept in hospitals. I ask that this assistance be given automatically and that a person should not have to go through the procedure of filling out long forms and fixing up this, that and the other. I believe that the hospitals should automatically be able, on the certificate of a medical officer, to receive a grant for the costs outstanding. If this were done these costs would not be a burden to young people, as they are at present.
– The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes), in a moment of brilliant inspiration - his speech was significant for its singularity because of this - claimed that people in Queensland would be paying $100 a year for hospitalisation and medical coverage under the Labor Party’s proposal for a national health scheme. A little quick arithmetic indicates that anyone paying $100 a year would have a taxable income of $8,000 a year. I ask the honourable member to compare this with the cost of the maximum coverage provided by the
Medical Benefits Fund of $84 a year at the family rate - which is not a comprehensive cover. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) would have read with some interest this morning - and probably with some qualms - in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ a letter to the editor from a reader who pointed out the excessively heavy costs which he had to bear for medical treatment for a chronically ill child. So, we have the contrast. The Labor Party which for $100 payable by a high income earner, would give free hospitalisation and general practitioner service. Compare that service with the fairly narrow, selective coverage available for $84. I stress, .before I leave this point, that for the low income earner the costs would be considerably less under our health scheme than the present costs under the so-called voluntary health scheme. I repeat - and this bears repeating - that the present scheme is too narrow and too inadequate in respect of the sort of protection that it gives the subscriber.
I want to speak about the social welfare provisions of the Budget. I shall indicate just how deficient I believe them to be. Indeed, the proposals put forward in the Budget are nothing more than a reiteration of long standing concepts of the Government. They go back to the very early days of the Menzies Administration. There is nothing new. There have been no new frontiers blazed in the Government’s approach to social welfare. This is extremely surprising because there are grave areas of need in the Australian community.
Surely to goodness the findings of the Melbourne Institute of Economics released 3 years ago - not 3 months ago or 12 months ago but 3 years ago - convinced the Government, as they certainly have convinced Australians, that poverty does exist in the Australian community. We may derive some satisfaction from knowing that poverty in Australia is not as bad as it is in the United States of America or in the United Kingdom. Nonetheless it is bad. We live in this affluent, pace-setting community which is capable and indeed is providing great riches and satisfaction to many people, but a substantial slice of the community does not participate in this enjoyment and satisfaction.
The evidence of the Melbourne survey is that 7% of the Australian community is living in poverty - in primary poverty as distinct from secondary poverty. Primary poverty is caused by inadequate income. No matter how well the Government handles its Budget it cannot obtain what is regarded as the minimum reasonable living standard in the Australian community. The fact that it is related only to primary poverty indicates that poverty generally, taking in secondary poverty, affects a much larger proportion of the Australian population than the 7% which is indicated by this survey. The sort of information which I am able to obtain indicates that in my State of Queensland poverty is considerably higher than is indicated by the Melbourne survey. Queensland has a greater proportion of people on the minimum average weekly income than is the case in Victoria. Queensland has a greater proportion of people on the age pension in receipt of supplementary assistance. This sort of evidence indicates to me, and indeed it indicates to economists, social workers and people who are interested in social welfare problems that poverty in Queensland is much more serious than it is in the city of Melbourne. The claim by Government spokesmen - we have had this experience in the past - that Melbourne is not necessarily typical of Australia and that therefore no firm conclusions can be drawn from these figures is not convincing. In the first case Melbourne is not a typical of Australia. The finding in Melbourne indicates that poverty does exist in other sections of the Australian community. The evidence that we can gain from statistical bulletins indicates that poverty is probably worse in other areas of the Australian community. But there has been no comprehensive approach for an anti-poverty campaign in the Australian community.
The Melbourne survey identified poverty prone areas. These areas were 21% of all pensioners; 30% of females with dependent children; 9% of large families; 13% of people on social service benefits such as sickness, accident and unemployment for a period of greater than 8 weeks. These were clearly identified as poverty prone areas. I would have expected at the very least that even the narrowly conceived and grudgingly and inadequately granted cash payments provided under the present system of social services would have been substantially increased so as to reach into these areas and to try to help these people. But the evidence is clear that this has not occurred. In 1948-49 the age pension was more than 26% of average weekly earnings. Even with the recent increase in the age pension it is less than 20% of average weekly earnings. There has been no increase in child endowment, in the case of the first child for 18 years, in the case of the second child, for 20 years, and it has been static for the third child for the past 4 years.
As Professor Downing has pointed out, unemployment benefits in this country are a national scandal and the recent miniscule increases did nothing to cause one to change this assessment of this deplorable state of social welfare payments in the Australian community. Even accepting the restricted approach which the Government takes, clearly the evidence is that the Government has been completely inadequate in the provision of social welfare payments. But what is more alarming from the findings of the Melbourne survey is that one in fourteen children in the city of Melbourne is a poverty dweller. This is an extremely important finding of the survey. One in fourteen children in the city, of Melbourne, a metropolis as large as that, lives in poverty. I do not know what it is in other States. It may be worse, it may not be as bad, but it would not be very much different from the position in Melbourne. We ought to be grievously alarmed that there has been no positive plan outlined by the Government to combat the ill effects of poverty on young children.
One of the problems with poverty is that the older people will be the most difficult to remove from their environment. They become fairly fixed in’ their ways. The older they are the less likely they are to respond to new forms of training aimed at helping them escape from their povertystricken area. There is some hope that some achievement can be made in the case of middle-aged people. But it is not without its difficulties as President Kennedy found when he set up a special committee to inquire into poverty. There are tremendous difficulties in trying to retrain vocationally middle-aged people. But the young children are the most hopeful because these are the people who are responsive to new experiences, who are quick to learn and to adapt through these new experiences and develop into better citizens with aspirations for a better way of life. One of the grave deficiencies in the personality of people who live in the poverty area is this lack of aspiration, a lack of future orientation. They do not have any longterm objectives. They live from day to day. They are used to existing in the grinding, depressing environment of poverty and accepting the values which are passed on to them from their parents. Suffering the experiences of their environment they never develop a sense of future orientation or a sense of aspiration towards something better.
The benefits of this society do not belong to them. They belong to us. They belong to other people outside this environment. The way in which society is operated is a way which is alien to them. In their view it is not designed to benefit them, and perhaps the best way of putting this is in the terms of an American social worker who said that the difference between the middle class attitude on society and the poverty class attitude on society is best summed up in their attitudes towards the police. For the middle class the police are there to protect property. For the poverty class the police are there to arrest them, and this is the significant difference. They are alienated from our society, and if we are to make any progress we ought to do something about these young children because these are the people who otherwise will be victims of the generational cycle of poverty. They will accept the values and the experiences which have been part and parcel of their environment, which have been conditioned in their parents and in their parents’ parents. Unless we do something about it the children of today living in poverty will in turn breed more children in poverty.
This is a well established fact, and one of the most important areas in which we can operate is in the field of education. We need special curricula for the children who live in poverty areas. The tendency of the educational structure in our society is to have a middle class bias and this is quite alien to the people from this area about which 1 have been speaking. They have not been taught to conceptualise. They find it difficult to think in the abstract and to discuss abstract issues. Indeed, even their vocabulary is extremely limited, as is their experience of life. So we need a special form of education for these people who live in this area so that we can get to the children, develop their values and indicate to them that there is a better way of life and that it is worth developing a future orientation and a sense of aspiration. I have a booklet entitled ‘The Cost of Free Education’ by Judith O’Neill and Janet Paterson which I recommend to honourable members interested in this subject. It sums up pretty well the feelings of people who live in poverty and this need for a special form of education. They said:
The child of a low income family is born into a situation which is chronically disadvantaged economically, socially and intellectually, lt is important for outsiders to realise that such a family is usually acutely aware of its inferior position, and what is more, sensitive to the small likelihood of changing it. They are all to familiar with the pattern of limited education, unskilled employment, low wages, inadequate accommodation, and large numbers of children and debts. Paradoxically the low income family is confronted with hardships and problems of a kind that demand the very qualities they have not been endowed with. The typical housewife has neither been taught nor acquired by example skills in shopping cheaply, remaking clothes or even planning the budget. The typical husband is not a natural handyman just because he needs to be.
The significant thing about this is that the sort of educational programme these people need is not something extravagant and expensive but rather something that is fairly practical and down to earth which will equip them to handle better the daily challenges of living and which will assist them to combat more successfully the problems of handling their weekly budget. This is secondary poverty, the inability to handle the weekly budget, and it is extremely difficult for people on low incomes. As Professor Brown has pointed out, it is possible to get by on these low budgets which poverty dwellers have - this is the secondary poverty dweller above the primary level of poverty - but it takes a great deal more discipline than either he or most people in the Australian community far better off than the poverty dweller would be capable of applying. This, indeed, is true. We in the community need to combat poverty, and the Labor Party would undertake this in the development of regional social welfare departments operated in conjunction with the States, local authorities and private agencies and funded by the Federal Government with special grants under Section 96 of the Constitution. The Federal Government is best equipped to finance and to give the initial initiatives for such a programme.
We need to use private institutions such as the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics to gather the sort of data we require to establish what the pattern and distribution of poverty is in the Australian community. We need to develop some sort of central bureau which will analyse and assess the information coming in and then feed it out to the regional social welfare departments which would be allowed to apply fairly flexible policies suitable to the needs of the area, the time and the people they were serving. But most of all, we will have to involve the people whom we aim to serve, the poverty dwellers themselves, in the decision making and the administration of the regional social welfare departments which will be serving their area. The experience in the United States of America is quite clearly that if one does not do this, if one does not involve these people, one will not be successful. It is up to us to act. It is up to the Government to act. A failure any longer to act will clearly indicate the lack of a sense of moral responsibility to an important section of the Australian community.
– I found no disagreement really with the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) in his idealistic speech. I think this problem is one that all Governments ought to pay attention to because it is a problem that is age-old in every country of the world and one that we must not allow just to go by default. But I did not want to discuss that tonight. I really want to talk about the health programme for a short time, but before doing that I would just mention to this Houes one thing that was stated by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) in relation to housing. I do not propose to speak on housing tonight.
– We were hoping you would.
– No. The honourable member for Hindmarsh referred tonight - as I heard him refer when we were discussing a Bill recently - to the fact that the amount of interest which people pay during a lifetime on a house is so much. He mentioned $18,000, and he said that it was the cost or the price of the house. This is utter stupidity, because interest is not capital. Interest is a payment for occupation of a house. It is equivalent to the payment of rent. It is not the payment of capital. I will never know how the honourable member mixes up this matter.
Turning to the question of health, 1 am glad that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) is in the chamber, because the critics of the national health scheme have tried to create the impression that the scheme has been a failure. A great deal of publicity has been given to this matter and to the misconstruction which is placed on the report of the Nimmo Committee. It is claimed that the national health scheme established by this Government has been a failure. This is positively wrong. I have discussed this scheme with representatives from many countries, and the scheme is really the envy of most countries. In my opinion, it has been an outstanding success. One finds that the criticism generally is based on political motives. But it is an undeniable fact - and the Opposition must remember this - that until the Menzies Government came into power in 1949, practically nothing whatever was done to provide a health scheme in this country. I have looked up the figures, and in 1948-49, Labor’s last year of office, after which the Menzies Government came into office, an amount of $ 12.4m was spent on health services. Last year this Government spent $267,881,000 on the health scheme. This is a record which indicates that this Government has done a magnificent job regarding health.
When Labor was in office it tried to introduce a scheme, but it failed to get the co-operation of doctors and hospitals that was essential to the scheme. It was quite clear that Labor wanted to nationalise doctors and hospitals, and it still wants to do this. The whole basic purpose of the new scheme which is being proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is to nationalise the medical profession and to nationalise, or socialise if you like, hospitals. Many members in this House may not be aware of the fact - I do not know whether the Minister for Health is aware of it; he probably is - that in New South Wales in 1956, Mr Sheahan, who was the Labor Minister for Health in New South Wales at that time, set up a special committee of experts to investigate the benefits that could accrue from a scheme of compulsory insurance. This committee of experts investigated the question for a considerable length of time, and it returned a report that it was of no use whatever to introduce a compulsory scheme, which would not be beneficial to the people. Consequently, even a Labor government was forced into the position of rejecting a scheme of compulsory insurance. I think that the details of this investigation ought to be looked at by the Leader of the Opposition before he proposes a similar compulsory scheme.
The Nimmo report virtually deals with only two aspects of a health scheme - that of insurance for hospitalisation and insurance for medical benefits. But as well as these aspects in our health scheme we must remember all the benefits which accrue to the people of this country without insurance. I refer to nursing home benefits, assistance to handicapped children, the pensioner medical service which, I think, is the most magnificent scheme in the world, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, the tuberculosis benefits that are provided and the research that is carried out. All of these matters are quite apart from the aspects dealt with in the Nimmo report. It must be remembered that the present national health scheme has been operating, as the Minister for Health pointed out quite properly today in reply to a question, for a period of only 16 or 17 years. In that time, as I have said, remarkable progress has been made. The scheme has brought benefits to untold millions of people and it has made people throughout this country health conscious. It has also tremendously assisted hospitals. This assistance would never have been available had this scheme not been introduced by this Government.
Because the scheme is operated on a voluntary basis and is not administered as a government scheme it has brought into activity thousands of public spirited people who have given freely of their time. It has. created the opportunity for a great number of big organisations to establish their own private schemes for their employees, which they would not have done except for the operation of the present national health scheme. I am pleased to see that the Nimmo Committee report recommends that the establishment of private schemes by such organisations should be encouraged. The major funds have been well managed, and competition has been intense amongst them. I was one of those people who founded the Hospital Contribution Fund in New South Wales, which is the largest fund in Australia. I was on the Board of that Fund for many years, representing the Mater Misericordiae Hospital at North Sydney. At that time the Hospital Contribution Fund managed the medical scheme as well as the hospital scheme. At a later date the two schemes were separated and operated as individual schemes. .
The basis of most of the dissatisfaction which one hears about the present national health scheme is not because it is a scheme, but because it is insurance. The good risks in insurance pay for the bad. Some people get back less than they contribute, while others get back more than they contribute. This is the fundamental principle of insurance. But the inherent selfishness of people makes them forget their blessings and the benefits which are available to them. They do not look upon payments for insurance as being worthwhile payments. Although I disagree with some of the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee I think that the Committee has done a splendid job and that it should be congratulated. The whole subject of health insurance is extremely complex, as the Committee pointed out, and is very difficult for the average citizen fully to understand. But the Committee’s report puts its finger on a number of difficulties. It should be a great help, and indeed is a great help, to the Government in overcoming some of the difficulties.
I am glad that the Nimmo report recognised the voluntary nature of the present health scheme, and although some of the recommendations may be dangerous, the report did not go for complete government control and compulsory insurance. The Nimmo Committee would not have that on.
There are some very good points in the report, and I should like to mention some of which I approve. The first is recommendation No. 7, which states that the hospital insurance scheme should be rationalised and confined to three levels of hospital fees - standard, intermediate and private. This is good. I think that the recommendation that the Commonwealth should pay $2 a day to hospitals in respect of all public ward patients in Queensland is very good. T also agree that medical benefits tables in each State should be equal to the amount of the common fee less $1. This is a deterrent to stop people from going too frequently to doctors. It is a very good recommendation. The Government has already moved in relation to the recommendation which suggests that the Commonwealth should assist families in need to meet their insurance contributions. I do not know whether the Government has implemented the recommendation - perhaps the Minister for Health could tell me whether it has - that system of special accounts should be discontinued and that a subsidy should be paid to long term occupants of hospital beds. This is recommended and I think it is good. The Committee recommended that no organisation operating at present should be excluded. An excellent idea is to have special ancillary benefits in separate funds, but with the organisations having the right to create and handle the benefits.
I question some of the suggestions of the Committee. I especially question the suggestion to set up a national insurance commission. This is not the same as the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition. He wants to have compulsory insurance; the Nimmo Committee suggests a national insurance commission. Such a commission, however, would only add to the cost and would complicate administration. Another recommendation is that doctors be asked whether they intend to fit in with the scheme. I do not know the Minister’s views on this, but I do not think it is good. We should not do anything to interfere with the right of the patient to choose his own doctor, if he is insured. The suggestion is also made that a scale of charges be disclosed. This is a very simple matter. Most doctors would display a scale of charges in their consult ing rooms, and this is where it should end. They should not be obliged to say to a sick person: ‘It will cost you so much to see me. Will you go on?’ That would be foolish. Another recommendation that I do not like is that employers of seven or more persons should deduct contributions for the employees. This is a form of compulsory insurance. I think the employees should agree to be in such a scheme, if that is their wish, and should not be left to opt out in the way that is suggested.
– Do you not believe in compulsion?
– I do not believe in compulsion of that sort. I think the suggestion to have open funds for specified regions is very foolish. It is contrary to the spirit of competition, and this spirit has made the present scheme successful. Mention is made of reserves. The stronger the reserves the better, in my view, but I suggest that an association of all societies throughout Australia be formed so that the societies can contribute to a reserve that would enable them to assist each other if unforeseen demands were made. This is done by the building society movement and could also be done by the health benefit societies throughout Australia. Contributions could be made to a common fund and this would establish a reserve that could be used if needed.
The political implications are completely unfair. The people can be easily misled in.to believing that they will get something whereas, if a compulsory scheme is foisted on them, there is no doubt that they will fare much worse than they do now. Everyone wants something for nothing, but people must know that, if they have to pay something over and above the amount for which they are insured, it is for their own good. I am certain that it would be dangerous for this country if the people were to accept some other scheme without a very close analysis of the cost and without weighing the loss of their freedom to choose the medical and hospital care they want.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) seems to be worried about the possibility that he will have to contribute some part of the medical expenses of others. He does not realise that under Labor’s plan all the people will be covered irrespective of their ability to pay. The difference that is revealed between the Government parties and the Labor Party is the desire to solve the problems of pensioners. I realise that some benefits are given by this Budget, but the problems of pensioners are not merely matters of cash. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) summed up the thinking of his Party in his comment to the pensioners who greeted him on the steps of Parliament House. He said: ‘All you want is more money’.
– He said ‘dough’.
– 1 am sorry. To quote him correctly, he said: ‘All you want is more dough’. I thank the Minister for Health for his assistance. The Labor Party aims to improve the facilities and the methods by which people are assisted. As the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) said earlier today, it does not believe that people should be placed into grades, such as the ill, the walking ill, the sick, the dying, the nearly dead and the dead.
I wish to refer briefly to war service homes. I compliment the War Service Homes Division for presenting an interim report on the recent workings of the War Service Homes Act. The report of the Division can be compared with the report of the Department of Housing, which gives very revealing figures on the high cost of land in various areas. It shows quite clearly that the cheapest land acquired by persons wishing to build, on the average, was in the Australian Capital Territory where the land is held on perpetual lease. The dearest land was in New South Wales and it was closely followed by Western Australia. Reports in the last few days of sales of land to developers in Western Australia show that it will not be long before the price of land in Western Australia will be higher than it is even in Sydney.
Over a number of years the War Service Homes Division acquired estates which it has gradually developed. I will refer to one estate in Queensland, my home State. This is the Moorooka estate, which has an area of 59 acres. It was acquired in 1951 for $14,283. I do not know what the price of that land would be today. Development of the estate to provide 283 allotments was commenced in 1966 and the land became available for the erection of homes in 1967-68. The first individual home was completed in 1968. The Division also bought an area of land known as the Manly estate in 1964. It contains about 8 acres and is situated in the bayside suburb of Manly, 10 mites east of Brisbane. Land is being provided for the construction of war service homes. This is a very good and farsighted policy.
It is expected that in the current year the expenditure of the War Service Homes Division will increase by 1 5m to $5 5m. This is caused by the increase in the maximum loan from $7,000 to $8,000 and an expected rise in the number of applicants. It is interesting to note that in the same period receipts of interest and repayments will amount to $74. 5m. With other payments, such as back payments, the receipts of the Division will be $75,343,200. This should be compared with the expenditure of $55m. Clearly the War Service Homes Division, despite the low rate of interest and the favourable terms extended to borrowers, is receiving revenue far in excess of its expenditure. I think a lesson is to be found here for all of us as to what can be managed in the field of housing.
I turn now to the Department of Health. I refer particularly to a statement made by the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs). He took my colleague, the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), to task for his statement that the hospital system in Queensland was running down. He stated that this was not the fact. He quoted figures showing the percentage of people to the number of beds available. The honourable member must be at some difference with his State Liberal colleague, the member for Wavell, Dr Crawford, who in his maiden speech in the Queensland Legislative Assembly criticised and called for an inquiry into the whole Queensland hospital system. Dr Crawford said that hospital staffs were being overworked and that accommodation in a number of hospitals was overcrowded. He certainly did not agree with what the honourable member for Bowman would have us believe is the situation. But we must remember when we consider this matter of the hospital system in Queensland that a Country-Liberal Party Government has been in office in that State for over 10 years. Whilst it has given lip service to the conduct of the free hospital system there - this is as far as it goes - it would like to see this system broken down.
I refer briefly to another statement made by the honourable member for Bowman. He is a medical man. He has had some experience in this field. When he was the superintendent of the Bundaberg General Hospital he was held in very high regard by citizens there as a doctor. But, as a politician, the honourable member for Bowman has a gleam in his eye when any mention is made of public hospitals or a national hospital or health system. The honourable member stated that a new hospital had not been built in Great Britain for over 40 years. This seemed an incredible statement. With all due respect, 1 know that the British do not carry on with a lot of the ballyhoo as do people in the United States of America and even the Russians in some respects regarding what they have achieved. But the British have achieved much in the field of medicine. In many other respects they have made technological advances.
In view of the statement by the honourable member for Bowman, I took the trouble to check with my colleague from Capricornia. Studying a report by the Ministry for Health in Great Britain we found that in the first 18 months of the Wilson administration - I cannot answer for what happened under a Conservative government - hospitals costing £lm or even more were commenced. In fact, 35 new hospitals were started and completed within those first 18 months; a further 5 were replaced and an additional 36 development projects concerning existing hospitals were carried out. So, I think we can treat the other remarks by the honourable member for Bowman regarding hospital, medical and health schemes in other countries, and his comments on them, in the same way as we should regard his comments, in the light of what we found, about the British medical system.
In the annual report of the DirectorGeneral of the Department of Health - it is a very comprehensive one - we find a number of pages devoted to quarantine. But nowhere in these pages is reference made to the provision of incinerators at major ports. The provision of these incinerators was decided upon over 3 years ago by the Commonwealth. Despite a series of buck passing engagements between the Commonwealth and the States, particularly Queensland, it was decided that a number of major ports along the Australian coastline should have incinerators. The nonprovision of incinerators at Queensland ports has endangered the animal population of that State. This is particularly so in regard to cattle. Queensland depends so much on the prosperity of its primary industries.
Among the notifiable diseases listed in the report, those most prevalent were gonorrhoea and hepatitis. Whilst the number of reported cases of infective hepatitis has fallen the number of cases of gonorrhoea has not shown a similar fall. The report states that the prevalence of SO cases per 100.000 persons is not great; the ratio is higher in many other countries. I suggest that a campaign such as that carried out during World War II and the immediate post war years should be carried out to make people aware of the dangers of the disease. The number of cases reported last year was 8,841. That number is growing. I do not thing that gives us any cause to be complacent, even though, as is stated, the ration of 80 to 100,000 is not great.
The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) referred to the fact that under the health benefits scheme a child on turning 16 is no longer regarded as a dependant unless he or she is a scholar. The definition of a scholar is one who is engaged full time in education. Education does not necessitate full time attendance at a college. Apprenticeship courses and other instructional courses do not require full time attendance. Changes have taken place in the apprenticeship system. More prolonged attendance at technical colleges will be part of apprenticeship courses. Because an apprentice is paid a sum of money he is no longer considered to be a dependant. This does not apply only to apprentices. I know a solicitor whose son, 18 years of age and articled to him, is studying law.
The solicitor is not bound to pay his son anything, but under a scale laid down, he pays him some $16 a week. He is not able to claim for his son as a dependant. Those of us who have sons who are in their early teens and are apprenticed or otherwise learning the skills of an occupation - whether it be a white collar occupation or otherwise - will realise that the fact that he is receiving a few dollars a week does not mean he is no longer dependent upon his parents to provide many of the necessities of life.
I wish to deal briefly with repatriation and with the attitude of the Repatriation Department in not recognising optometrists. The medical health schemes also adopt this attitude. One or two exceptions, mainly those schemes operated by the friendly societies, do not adopt that attitude. But generally for these purposes optometrists are not recognised. Patients have to go to an ophthalmologist. They have to be referred to the ophthalmologist by a general practitioner. The Repatriation Department has refraction tests taken by ophthalmologists.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The report of the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry on Health Insurance - the Nimmo Committee - surely is evidence of the Commonwealth Government’s desire to review the whole field of social welfare and was the culmination of almost 12 months intensive research into the various aspects of health insurance. The terms of reference enabled the Committee to make some farreaching investigations designed to provide constructive suggestions to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) as to bow the existing health scheme could be improved. I believe that the Committee carried out its work well and that the Minister has been given many challenging ideas that should be implemented for the benefit of contributors throughout Australia. It is essential that the Commonwealth Government extend the benefits of the voluntary scheme and that the original partnership between the Commonwealth Government, the State governments, the medical profession and the insurance funds be reaffirmed to ensure that suitable measures can be adopted to carry out the ideas expressed in the report.
The Nimmo Committee has applauded the voluntary health scheme but has stated in its report that it is the failure of the parties to pursue a course of concerted action that has brought the scheme to its present state, which has given rise to some public discontent and criticism. The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that the health funds should be abolished and replaced by a national insurance plan would mean an inevitable increase in taxes. He has told us that nobody would pay more than li% of his taxable income as contributions to the health scheme, but we have heard other economists state that it could mean an increase in personal taxation of between 8% and 10%. Originally the Labor Party’s health scheme was based on the Scotton and Deeble plan. Under attack the Labor Party broke its scheme down so that it is a hotch potch Whitlam scheme which even the Leader of the Opposition does not appear fully to understand.
Labor’s plan differs from the Scotton and Deeble plan in four main ways. Firstly it was planned that there should be a deterrent against over-utilisation in order to keep costs within reasonable limits. The Leader of the Opposition has abandoned that idea. The original plan contained a deterrent against the making of small claims, but the Leader of the Opposition has now dropped this proposal. Tax rebates were suggested on preferred accommodation but Scotton and Deeble recommended against this. The Leader of the Opposition now says that he will allow these rebates. Will he? Married women will not pay the H% of taxable income. Scotton and Deeble say that they will. The Leader of the Opposition says that a married couple will not pay more than $100. All of these alterations will, of course, add immeasurably to the cost of the Scotton and Deeble plan, yet the Leader of the Opposition always cites the cost of the Scotton and Deeble plan when he states the cost of Labor’s plan. But he has altered his plan so much and added so many ad hoc items that the net cost will be many tens of millions of dollars more than the original Scotton and Deeble plan. Now that the public is more aware of the cost of Labor’s scheme I believe that it will not be happy to accept the suggestion that the scheme should be implemented. I believe that the public will favour the existing voluntary scheme which has operated successfully in Australia for so many years.
The report of the Nimmo Committee revealed also that many people in Australia do not have adequate health insurance. It recommended that the Commonwealth Government provide assistance to families in the low income group. This recommendation has been acted upon very quickly, as will be seen from the Budget provisions. Now a further 300,000 people will enjoy adequate health protection as a result of the measures taken by the Government. The Nimmo Committee also reported that the efficiency of health funds could be improved. No doubt this aspect of the report has been noted by the funds concerned and suitable remedial action probably will be taken. The Leader of the Opposition has placed great store on his claim that the voluntary health funds make available to patients $3 out of every $4 contributed, $1 being absorbed by reserves and operating expenses. I consider that this is a completely false claim because my information is that in the financial year 1967-68 the operating expenses of registered hospital benefits organisations represented 11% of contributions for the year. The last year for which complete figures are available is 1967-68. Operating expenses of registered medical benefit organisations represented 15.1% of the contribution income for that year. Neither 11% nor 15.1% represents $1 in $4 of the income of these organisations, as has been frequently asserted. In fact, it represents approximately $1 in every $8 of their income.
I turn to the relationship between doctors’ fees and medical fund reimbursements. The Nimmo Committee pointed- out quite accurately that a discrepancy exists between the fees charged by doctors for similar services. As we all know, the fees charged by doctors vary from State to State. For instance, they are much higher in New South Wales than in Victoria or South Australia. Doctors in South Australia recently increased fees to the level of those charged in Victoria. There is no doubt that within the States some doctors value their services more highly than others. While this situation persists the efficiency of the voluntary health insurance scheme must suffer. The
Government has shown concern at the fact that a situation exists whereby, according to clause 4.45 of the Committee’s report, there are many instances where contributors who were insured in the highest medical table received accounts for medical services running into several hundreds of dollars and whose benefit entitlements were as low as 25% of the doctors’ accounts. It is reassuring to note that the average size of the gap has been remarkably uniform during the history of the scheme. In the first year of the scheme 36.9% of the total cost of medical services had to be made up by contributors. The highest percentage in any year was 37.8% in the year ended June 1958 and the lowest percentage in any year was 30.4% in the year ended June 1966. In other years it has been somewhere between those two figures. In the year ended June 1968 it was 32.6%.
It is apparent that the members of the Austraiian Medical Association, through their executive, agree that some rationalisation of fee schedules should occur. I feel that the average general practitioner is appreciative of the Government’s efforts in inaugurating a voluntary health service that has proved beneficial to the majority of the Australians who have taken advantage of it. I applaud the recommendation that common fees be set throughout the States. This would be an intelligent attempt to minimise the difference between the fees charged and the fund benefits. I believe that the AMA is co-operating in this regard. I refer to an address given by the Minister for Health in Melbourne in August on the national health scheme and the report of the Nimmo Committee. He said:
We have already begun talks with the Australian Medical Association and I am very hopeful of a worth while outcome. There “are some difficulties for the medical profession in the common fee proposals suggested by the Nimmo Committee and the AMA has therefore made some proposals of its own. But the important thing is that there is basic agreement between the Government, the AMA and the health funds that the general concept of common fees can be made to work.
I was particularly interested in the comments of the Nimmo Committee concerning paramedical services. The report states that the submissions by paramedical bodies clearly indicate that something should be done about them if the community as a whole is to enjoy adequate financial protection against the cost of illness. However, it was subsequently pointed out that it would not be feasible to bring these services within the operation of the insurance scheme unless they were heavily subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. Finally, it is suggested that paramedical services should be dealt with by the Commonwealth and State governments, either jointly or severally, as matters of social service when and in what order of priority the governments think necessary and practicable. From the investigations carried out into the work performed by oral surgeons it is clear that their patients also should be given coverage by health insurance. I would like to refer specifically to the matter that was raised by the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) and to read the clauses of the Nimmo report relating to these particular items. Clause 15.4 reads:
The second item In relation to which health insurance coverage should be extended concerns consultations by ophthalmologists where the patients are referred by optometrists.
Clause 15.5 reads:
The fact that spectacle lenses are prescribed both by ophthalmologists and by optometrists gives rise to special problems under the scheme.
Clause 15.6 reads:
The Commonwealth has sought to remove discrimination by a provision in the National Health Act under which consultations with medical practitioners in consequence of which spectacle lenses are prescribed are not eligible for Commonwealth benefits. This provision penalises ophthalmologists’ patients and it is claimed that devices are employed to circumvent it. While it is an unsatisfactory provision, the Committee is unable to suggest any other means of achieving the results sought.
Clause 15.7 reads:
At present the ‘specialist rate’ medical benefit is payable in respect of the service of an ophthalmologist if a patient is referred to him by another medical practitioner and spectacle lenses are not prescribed. This specialist benefit is not paid if the patient is referred to him by an optometrist. This anomaly has given rise to the practice of optometrists referring patients to general practitioners who then refer them to ophthalmologists. This practice may give rise to unnecessary inconvenience and expense for those concerned.
The Committee’s recommendation was that the patient referred to an ophthalmologist by an optometrist qualified to practice under State laws be eligible for medical benefits at the specialist rate. Both these recommendations concerning oral surgeons and optometrists should be adopted by the Government as soon as possible as it is high time that recognition was given to other professions which are contributing in no small way to the health of the community.
Australians have enjoyed a good health service since 1953, but significant changes have occurred during the intervening years. For instance, we have stepped up our immigration programme until today we are receiving into this country over 175,000 people each year from the United Kingdom and other overseas countries, many of which have a complete health service where medical, dental, optometrical, physiotherapy and other paramedical services are embraced by the scheme. The intake of these migrants will be stepped up over the next few years until the annual figure will reach something like a quarter of a million. This is only one reason why there is a growing feeling among the general public and in this Parliament that our scheme should be streamlined and a serious attempt made to widen the service to embrace other professions working in fields adjacent to medicine. I think this could be commenced by extending the service to cover pensioners, for instance. About 98% of aged people need spectacles of some type or other. I feel that the Government should make some allowance to the private practitioner and to the optometrist for consultation and that where it involves the treatment of a pensioner a nominal amount should be paid for the supply of spectacles. Until now the optometrists have been giving this service virtually on an honorary basis. Examinations have been conducted free of charge and where necessary spectacles have been provided at bedrock levels.
Following the exposure of the housing racket earlier tonight by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) I would like to advise the Parliament of some details of the various lurks perpetrated by a body of so-called developers. The following details were supplied to me signed, sealed and delivered by a section of my sterling supporters in
Kingsford-Smith who reside in a building project called Strata Plan 3398. c/o Unit 3, ‘Shaftesbury’, Grace Campbell Crescent, Hillsdale, on 4th August 1969:
Thank you for your offer of help in our dispute with ‘Parkes Development’, 37 York Street, Sydney.
We enclose abbreviated, but nevertheless, pretty comprehensive details of our dispute. You will see that we have split it up into separate sections. (1) regarding the financial side and (2) the defects.
On the defect side some of these we have been trying to get ‘Parkes’ to rectify for 12 months without success. In a few isolated cases they have been to rectify a fault but have not done so satisfactorily.
The financial side is more complicated. We took over our own management and formed our own body corporate committee from ‘Parkes’ on the 10th April this year. The only records we were supplied with were a minute book and an interim statement. On going into this we found several matters which caused us concern and insisted that ‘Parkes’ supply us, as laid down in the strata plan laws, with a final statement and a complete set of records and accounts. After several weeks of wrangling we did obtain a final statement and a few photostat copies of various accounts which they had paid out of maintenance money paid to them. We found that we had been charged for several items which we should not have been, and on others, overcharged, despite months of wrangling over this, many phone calls, letters, visits to Parkes’ and also the employment of a solicitor to write to them on our behalf, we have got nowhere at all.
We have tried to obtain publicity through the medium of T.V. per the ABC ‘Four Corners’ programme, and ‘Newsbeat’ on Channel 10, also the ‘Sun’ newspaper. But apparently the laws of libel in Australia prevent them being able to help us even though we have complete proof of most of our complaints. We are told that the only way they can get help through publicity is if the matter has been through a law court or if it has been brought up by a member of parliament under privilege.
During recent weeks we have discovered further information which makes us suspect posible fraud in our accounts. That we were given false accounts by ‘Parkes’. This one item we have not yet broached to ‘Parkes’, for we want if possible to use this against them purely and solely to obtain complete satisfaction on all our other complaints.
Enclosed is information about all these aspects and we would greatly appreciate your help over this matter. Further to our conversation on Friday if you would be good enough to let us know just when you will bring this matter up, then we will contact the ‘Sun’ newspaper and astc them to help us by reporting what you say.
That letter was signed by the Chairman, the Treasurer and the Secretary of the Committee. The enclosures accompanying that letter read:
(Note) The swimming pool behind our block of units is owned one-third by us and two-thirds by the adjoining block of units ‘Clivedon’. All costs relating to the operating of this pool under Strata Plan Laws’ are divided two-thirds to ‘Clivedon’ and one-third to ourselves ‘Shaftsbury’.
On the statement given to us on 10th April we have been charged 58.42 dollars up to 9th April 1969. We asked for copies of these paid accounts and were given various photostat copies which equalled the above amount (even these were wrong as detailed elsewhere). The dates on these copies went back to last October-November of 1968 when the pool was not opened until December. Clivedon’ on their statement as at 30th January 1969, were charged 93.75 dollars. So jointly up until 9th April 1969, ‘Parkes’ had deducted from maintainance monies paid, a total of 152.17 dollars.
We have an account from the firm who maintained this pool dated July 1969 with all monthly accounts dated and separated as from the commencing date 5th December 1969 to 28th May 1969, when we dispensed with their services, for a total of 201.75 dollars less the only payment they had received from ‘Parkes’ on 4th April 1.969 for 33.67 dollars. Yet according to our statements and the photostat copies of accounts paid which show cheque numbers and signatures of ‘Parkes’ employees they had paid out the total of 152.17 dollars.
What a lurk. The document continues:
We have had to pay out $36 to have our own meter fixed on this. After studying electricity accounts for ourselves and for ‘Clivedon’ we arrived at an estimated figure of $15 which we have billed ‘Parkes’ for. It is up to them in turn to charge ‘Clivedon’ this amount if they wish to.
AMONG MANY GENERAL COMPLAINTS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING
Not being supplied with all common property keys.
Keys for one common property door supplied but no lock on door to use them in.
On the financial side of our complaints. The total disregard by ‘Parkes’ to our verbal conversations and letters, accounts etc.
Maintenance moneys due on two empty units, a total of $100 from ‘Parkes’ due to be paid on or before the 6th July 1969. Despite two accounts being sent in and one interview and two phone calls regarding this again completely ignored by Parkes’. We took a summons out which was served on 25th July and we received a cheque for the $100 on 29th July, this of course should have been paid into court and the $2.60 plaintiff charge Parkes’ have verbally refused to pay.
According to budget supplied by ‘Parkes’ and information given our insurance policy should have covered us for all carpets in common property but we have since discovered that they were not covered at all.
On the defect side after an inspection held by ‘Parkes’, ourselves, and CBM the builders of the property a complete refusal to rectify many of the defects pointed out and far from adequate satisfaction on the others.
LIST OF DEFECTS
Defects in our units are as follows. A number of these were found and reported to ‘Parkes’ developments as residents moved in almost a year ago.
Heavy penetration of rain into units 2, 3, 5, 13, 14, inspected by Mr Gero a representative of Parkes Developments, who stated verbally that it was probably due to broken or no flashings above windows. In the case of unit 5 he blamed a faulty roof. However this was subsequently proved not to be the case. The above trouble also applies to units IS, 10, and 7.
Unit 17. Plumbing leak in the roof of his garage.
Unit 7. Leak in toilet (frequent reminders to Parkes).
Unit 5. Cracked wall. Light and fan in laundry room on one switch.
Unit 14. Damaged kitchen cupboard door. (Reported moving in September 1968).
Unit. 1. Internal defects were remedied but the crack in the store room wall which is a continuation of wall crack from unit 8, was not attended to.
Unit 6. Light and fan in laundry room on one switch. Also, following repairs to blocked tap in laundry room, gaping holes left in wall.
Unit 13. Bad leak in laundry (looks as if cracked or faulty main down waste pipe) also crack in walls.
Unit 3. Bad penetration of rain via windows complete length of front of unit. Serious problem in bedrooms. First reported August 4th 196S.
The above list of defects was sent to Parkes Developments on 14th May 1969, however since then we have little or no satisfaction from regarding repairs.
That document was signed by the Chairman, the Treasurer and the Secretary. That information should cause much concern. I suggest that most people, and particularly young people, are persuaded by quick talking salesmen to buy home units and that they should make a thorough investigation and inspection of the units advertised in the daily Press before buying them.
Advertisements for home units appear particularly in the ‘Sun’ and the ‘Mirror’ where they are offered for sale on a deposit of $1,000, the remainder to be paid off as rent. The honourable member for Hindmarsh tonight quite properly attacked rackets in the housing industry. It seems from this document, which was signed, sealed and delivered, that Parkes Developments Pty Ltd is one of the main organisations engaged in this racket. I am pleased to be able to raise this matter, even at this late hour when, I suppose, most people who occupy those units are trying to get some sleep, despite the holes in the walls, the wind blowing through the cracks and so on. No doubt they are wondering about the welfare of their wives and children. The information that I have provided should be treated as a warning. The Government should do something for the housing industry by making available to the States plenty of money to enable them to build housing commission homes which, because they are constructed by the government and inspected by the government, we know will be built in a proper manner and will be fit and proper places in which to raise families. Homes should provide what every working man and woman is entitled to, comfort in married life and a comfortable dwelling in which to rear a family.
– I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to some points in the estimates for the Department of Health, particularly in relation to pharmaceutical benefits. I note that in the annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Health, which was circulated this week, the period chosen in table 34 relating to the total cost of prescriptions for pharmaceutical benefits is particularly applicable because in that time the cost increased from $59,284,000 to $120,764,000. This was a very large increase from which many people have deduced that chemists have been treated very favourably and that much money is being put their way by the very existence of a Government health scheme. I remind honourable members that chemists have co-operated very well in bringing this service to the public in a very easily managed form and have served the public exceptionally well. But since 1961 there has been no increase whatever in the dispensing fee accorded to chemists for providing the service required of them under the national health scheme. In other words, chemists are probably the only people in Australia today who are working at the same rate of pay for a service rendered that they received in 1961.
I believe that this is due to a rather distorted interpretation of the survey conducted in those years by an independent group to arrive at costs in the pharmaceutical industry. Costs incurred by chemists for dispensing are costs associated with having an establishment in which to dispense prescriptions and costs associated with the dispensery itself, such as keeping up stocks - and they now have to keep rather extensive stocks. The costing survey should have related to the actual dispensing work being performed by the chemists. What profit a chemist makes from activities in the front of this shop has nothing to do with the fact that he is a servant of the Government and is providing the public with a service which the Government desires. I believe I can safely say that all chemists in Australia today are angry and disappointed because they have been treated so badly despite the wholehearted co-operation they have given to the Government over these years.
There must be some ground for negotiation. There must be some way of coming to a compromise between the figure that the chemists have interpreted from the results of the survey and the figure put forward by the Government. I believe there is very good ground for the dispensing fee having been increased this year. The fact that chemists are getting more money today because of the great increase in turnover in pharmaceutical benefits does not alter the basic argument as to how much should be paid to them for providing the public with a service at the request of the Government. When the chemists first arrived at an agree ment with the Government over the provision of this service it was understood that their fees would be reviewed from time to time in the light of general costs. This certainly has not been done in the period from 1961-69. In that period fees for medical practitioners have been increased every 2 years. The percentage increase from 1st March 1961 to date is 54.54% for surgery visits and 65.33% for domiciliary visits. I think all honourable members recall the arguments last year when the medical profession saw fit to increase fees.’ The medical profession conducted a survey, the results of which were accepted by the Government although it was not an independent survey. On the basis of that survey, approval was given for an increase in fees. If we look at what the Government is prepared to pay to members of the medical profession under the National Health Act as medical fees for pensioner services, we find that from 1958 until 1962 the payment for a pensioner service was $1.10; in 1962 it went up to $1.20; in 1965 it went up to $1.60; and in May 1967 it went up to $1.70, where it remains today. So, there is a difference in the treatment given to these two professions, both of which are providing a service that is required by the Government.
Let me go back a little into the history of this matter. Prior to 1961 the fee paid to the chemists was ls 6d. At that time the pharmaceutical benefits that were on the so called free list were the life saving drugs. It was a relatively small list. It consisted mainly of ready prepared items, which still make up the bulk of prescriptions. Tn addition, the pensioner medical benefits of that time included some ready prepared items. On those the fee was double the other fee. Since then there has been a remarkable extension of the number of drugs on the list. 1 fully approve of this. It is a very generous expression of the Government’s desire to ensure that we are giving the people of Australia the best service that we can in our medical service, particularly in our pharmaceutical service.
The agreement that was made with the pharmaceutical industry provided for automatic annual adjustments. In 1961, when the Pharmacy Guild applied for an adjustment in accordance with that agreement, the figure was worked out; but the Government of the day would not accept the figure, which was arrived at as a result of the adjustments that had been made by wages boards, cost increases which were admitted and general increases of that time. The Government said that these increases produced a freakish result. As a gesture, it increased the fee at that time by 10 per cent. The increase should have been 20 per cent. So, even in 1961 the chemists started off with a handicap.
There were many discussions and conferences on both sides. Eventually it was the chemists themselves who asked for an independent survey. As I have said, their idea of an independent survey was a survey of what it costs to provide this dispensing. But the Government dragged the survey out for years and years. It should have taken only 6 months. The new fee should have come into operation on 1st January 1966. But the report did not reach the Government until March 1968 and it came to the notice of people who should have an opportunity to discuss the problem only in May this year. We come then to an interpretation of this survey. It provided a mass of figures. The chemists asked that their remuneration should be reasonable for the service they rendered and the hours that they worked. It was accepted by the survey that the average working week was 54 hours. The rate of payment was set at $2.70 an hour, which is surely not unreasonable for a professional man, for the first 40 hours a week and time and a half for all hours in excess of that. This represents a weekly salary of $168.55.
I have been told that this is a pretty generous figure and that the chemists were aiming too high, but only this week I was talking to one of my chemist friends in the La Trobe Valley. This man requires regular repatriation treatment for which he has to travel from the La Trobe Valley to Melbourne. He goes to Melbourne fairly regularly - he would make the trip say, once every 6 months. When he does so he has to pay someone $50 to come and stand in his dispensary because under the law he is not allowed to leave his dispensary unless he has a qualified dispenser there to see that everything is done properly. On this basis, surely the Government must be prepared to grant these people a reasonably high level of income. The survey found that the income of the proprietor in one group - we could take this as the middle group; there were three groups considered - was $S,464. This is very nice and quite a good income. But, we find that doctors, who are in the same sort of group, receive incomes of about $20,000. I cannot see why we should have this discrimination between two professional bodies.
I do not see why we should discriminate between men who devote a lot of their time to learning their profession and then the rest of their lives to serving the public. Do not forget that chemists very often have to deal with a doctor’s prescription that has been badly written or to prescribe something that has been written in error. The chemist has the responsibility for this. I believe that the amount they asked for of 70c per prescription instead of 30c was perhaps asking a little too much. But surely, they could have been given another 10c.
– I hope the House has taken note of the vigorous attack on the Government’s health scheme by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan). But, of course, the speech by the honourable member was pretty typical of the way in which honourable members opposite go about making an attack. The honourable member takes a small piece of policy and then he gives it a hammering. But when it comes to voting on the matter he has attacked he will sit as silent as the grave. Of course, we have now come to the triennial scare game - the 3-yearly elections are on. Honourable members opposite are searching for something to batter their heads against. At present it is the Labor Party’s health scheme which is being dragged out and kicked around with a great deal of inaccuracy and a great deal of terror, I should think, on behalf of honourable members opposite. The last thing they will allow themselves to do is to be inhibited by any consideration of facts whatsoever. The facts are, of course, that we live in a materialist society and the honourable members opposite are its most redoubtable products. If two motor cars crash into one another outside and burst into flames the first thing on the scene is the fire brigade to put out the fire that is burning property. The next thing will be the tow truck to take the wrecked car away. The next will be the police to see who has caused all the trouble. Then, later and perhaps if you are fortunate, you will get the doctor along to attend to the broken human beings, lt is our objective to change this state of affairs and to produce a society, a medical scheme and a medical system in which the patient - the human being - and his needs come first.
I might remark that this scheme is not the project of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). He is the spokesman for a major body of the Australian political scene - the Australian Labor Party. Our propositions have been worked out by way of a total democratic process. They are not foisted upon us by any authoritarian system such as happens to be the case with honourable members opposite who can wilt and wail as much as they like in this House but of course have no say in anything. Once the Cabinet has made a decision that is it.
We have reached the stage where the Russians are not under the bed any more. Something else has to be thought of and so it is the health scheme. Where is the money coming from? What money? Will the cost be any more than it is now? In fact the money will come from all the people - the total body of humanity in the country. It will come from us; there is only the question of its distribution. What extra money will be required, no matter what kind of scheme we have? Will there be more doctors? Will they be paid more? Will there be more nurses? Will they be paid more? Admittedly there will be improvements in the present scheme. There will be improvements in the system. There will be a lowering of the patient-doctor ratio I have no doubt. But in fact other services will not cost any more unless they are being underpaid for at the present time. If they continue to be paid for at the present rate then the total cost to the community, which has to foot the bill, will be the same.
The proposition of the Australian Labor Party is that the people in moment of need and in personal and domestic crises are the people who ought to be supported; that the burden ought to be transferred from those who are ill to those who are not ill; that those who have the greatest means should pay more than those who have the least means and the people who have the most responsibility should get the most support throughout the service. That is the logical and natural civilised way of looking at it. When we have looked at all this we will have one national health scheme instead of 115 individual funds. Figures have been quoted to show that at present $1 in every $4 goes towards the cost of administering the 115 hospital and medical benefit organisations. That is a tremendous administrative overhead. I think it would be to the advantage of honourable members if they were to look at the cost of administering the State education system in Australia. I have an idea that the current administrative cost of the Victorian system or the New South Wales system is only about 2% or 3% of the total cost. So how is it that we have allowed to develop a health scheme in which 25% of the cost is spent on administration? Obviously there could be a substantial saving amounting to many millions of dollars.
Honourable members opposite are kicking this around as vigorously as they can with a continuous disregard to the principles which ought to be applied to health services. What are the major criticisms that one can offer of the present system? First of all the present national health system does not provide a total coverage. Secondly, it is not universal; people have to opt to be in it and have to keep up their payments. Irrespective of their particular disadvantage in life they have to find the money at the times the payments are due. I suppose that this, according to honourable members on the Government side, is a very desirable social endeavour. People ought to be forced to look after themselves - not that honourable members opposite believe in compulsion except in sending young men to the war in Vietnam. But the fact is that many people in the community find payment at particular times difficult and there are groups of people who are unable to accept this kind of responsibility.
The Opposition stands for universality and the only way to achieve this is to have a total national system. This means that we approach the problem from the point of view of human needs. The Government puts doctrine before needs. I think it was the honourable member for Grey who spoke about over-utilisation of the health services. In other words, some person will go along to a doctor three times instead of twice because he feels ill or a doctor will visit a patient too often and so there will be some sort of rake off. I believe that while this sort of thing ought to be inhibited there ought to be no steps taken in a health service which would prohibit the attention of the medical man being applied to a patient. The important thing is that the patient has to be treated.
The continuing theme of honourable members opposite is to take the British system and then denigrate that in all sorts of ways. There are a large number of myths which have developed about it, and the honourable member for Bowman, who apparently worked in the service at some stage, is one of the most vigorous advocates of its denouncement, if that is the way one could term it. He said that it is inadequate. This is part of the mystique about it. He said it is expensive, that it is impersonal and that the doctors do not really care. That is a very fine way, of course, to treat that profession. He said it is professionally frustrated, and of course he had something to say about the way in which the hospital system was administered.
In the few minutes that are available in a debate such as this J. do not have time to discuss the whole principle of the matter, but we will just take one statement made by the honourable member for Bowman. It was brought forward here by my friend the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) tonight. I heard the honourable member for Bowman say something like: There has not been a new hospital built in England for 40 years.’ He may have said ‘in Britain*. He might also have said for many years’ but I think he said ‘40 years’. If this is an indication of his capacity to place truth on the record then I think it is a very serious matter that the House should be misled in this way by a man who has worked in the service and, generally speaking, whose professional integrity - no matter what his political abberations might be - is held in high regard. The 1968 annual report of the Department of Health and Social Security contains two tables on pages 192 and 193 showing schemes in progress at 30th September 1968. There were 117 at a value of from £Stg100,000, to £Stg250,000, 63 valued from £Stg250,000 to £Stg lm and 65 valued at over £Stg1m. There were 15 schemes valued at over £Stg1m completed in the year ended 30th September 1968. Some of these, of course, are the rehabilitation, one might say, of old buildings but some are brand new schemes. Some were of very great .magnitude indeed. For instance, the table on page 193 of the report states:
London - Charing Cross Hospital - new Hospital at Fulham- Phase 1- £Stg14.8m.
I know that honourable members opposite follow the lead of inaccuracies given by the honourable member for Bowman in this matter and speak about them throughout the nation in the cause of trying to retain their seats in this place. The honourable member for Bowman has deliberately misled the House. Of course, the facts are that the national health service of Great Britain was developed out of a very inadequate system that existed before 1944. I have a report here from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research which says that the national health service inherited many obsolete hospitals and institutions and that little new building was done during the first decade of the new service. It also states that the distribution of the service was uneven, that many of the buildings were outdated and unsuitable and that there were wide differences between current practices throughout the country. Of course, the national health service is a major development in one of the major nations of the world.
I think it is fair to say that the aims of the British national health service are probably applicable to this country in that they aim to ensure that everybody in the country, irrespective of means, age, sex or occupation, should have equal opportunity to benefit from the best and most up to date medical and allied services available. They also aim to divorce the cam of health from questions of personal means or other factors irrelevant to it, and so on. The logical objectives of the national health service of Britain should be the logical objectives of a national health service in Australia. This is Labor’s attitude. We were told that doctors were leaving Britain in droves. There is no statistical evidence of that. We were also told that the people do not like it and that it is a complete failure,I have here a document titled ‘A review of the Medical Services in Great Britain’. This review was launched in 1958 and the report was published in 1963. Itwas conducted under the auspices of organisations such as the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. In all, there were 8 or 9 such organisations. Amongst other things they had this to say:
The overwhelming weight of opinion showed that there was no wish to disturb the broad concept of a comprehensive National Health Service.
The report states in black and white:
We therefore had no difficulty in reaching the conclusion that basically the concept of a comprehensive national health service is sound.
I believe that the people of Australia will echo that opinion on 26th October. In the short time left to me in this omnibus section of the debate on the Estimates I wish to refer to the application of section 47 of the Repatriation Act and the obligation of the Repatriation Department to former members of the Services. I believe it is time that the Parliament took charge of the situation to ensure that the spirit of section 47 is applied; that is, to see that the onus of proof lies squarely at the door of the Repatriation Commission or Board or Appeal Tribunal. Section 47 should be applied as it was intended when the provision was introduced about 25 or 26 years ago. Each honourable member knows of innumerable cases of people whose physical disabilities can properly be attributed only to their war service. It is clear to members of Parliament, their families, and advocates of the Returned Services League, that their disabilities have been aggravated or caused by war service, but their applications are rejected.
Section 47 should be amended so that appeal tribunals must give reasons for their decisions. Probably this is the only satisfactory way to approach the problem.In the period of 14 years that I have been a member of this House, challenges have come from both sides to the application of section 47. lt may well be that there are other things we should do as a Parliament. We might broaden the application of medical services to former servicemen. It is my belief that there should be a more automatic acceptance as war caused of disabilities such as heart conditions, a general collapse of a person’s health in his fifties when logically he should have lived on in good health for many more years, and such illnesses as cancer.
I believe that anomalies exist in the repatriation legislation in respect of the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. However, I believe that the most urgent need for change is in the application of section 47 of the Act. The Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) is remiss in his duty in not seeing that it is applied in the correct spirit as well as the letter of the law.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
House adjourned at 12.19 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The table includes conferences which might broadly be described as ‘inter-governmental’ and non-governmental’ (i.e. sponsored by private organisations). The inter-governmental conferences, which for the purposes of this answer include conferences of an official nature such as those associated with United Nations bodies and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, are marked by an asterisk. Conferences and working groups relating to inter-Service co-operation- e.g. pursuant to the American, British, Canadian and Australian Annies Standardisation Agreement - have not been included. For these, the Departments concerned have continuing secretariats as pan of their normal functions.
The table includes the cost of support by the Commonwealth. With regard to non-governmental conferences, where support in addition to a financial contribution has’ been provided, the form of support is shown. With regard to intergovernmental conferences the host facilities appropriate to the conference have been provided. These facilities vary from conference to conference and may include such items as conference accommodation, departmental administrative services, including secretarial services, transport and entertainment.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
HaroldE.Holt Naval Communications Station: Claims by Sub-contractors (Question No. 1761)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What claims against United States authorities and contractors have hitherto been made by subcontractors at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station at North-West Cape and what is the (a) number and (b) amount of payments so far made under these claims.
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
The contractor for the major part of the station was the US/Australian Joint Venture of Hardeman-Monier-Hutcherson. Concrete Industries (Monier) Ltd later took over the interest of the other Australian firm, Hutcherson. Subsequently, the US firm of Paul Hardeman having withdrawn, Concrete Industries (Monier) Ltd continued the contract alone and completed the construction.
Two categories of sub-contractors have made claims, but, so far as is known, no claims have been made against United States authorities.
The US firm of Datronics Engineers Incorporated, was a sub-contractor to the Joint Venture for erection of the towers. I am informed that Datronics has made substantial claims on the Joint Venture through the courts and that the Joint Venture has lodged counter claims.
Approximately 120 Western Australian subcontractors to Datronics are reported to have claimed to be owed of the order of $120,000 by that firm.
Television (Question No. 1777)
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice:
On what date are the proposed television stations at (a) Geraldton and (b) Kalgoorlie expected to commence operations.
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
The national television stations to be established at Geraldton and Kalgoorlie are expected to be completed by the end of 1969.
Television (Question No. 1778)
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice:
Within what distances from the proposed television stations at (a) Geraldton and (b) Kalgoorlie does the Australian Broadcasting Control Board recommend the use of outside antennas.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Although some viewers in Geraldton and Kalgoorlie may get satisfactory television reception without the use of an outside antenna the Australian Broadcasting Control Board considers that in general outside antennas are desirable and could be found necessary even quite close to the stations to avoid ghosting of pictures or undesirable shielding effects if inside antennas are used.
Postal Department (Question No. 1779)
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice:
Is the post office at (a) Dampier, (b) Tom Price, (c) Goldsworthy and (d) Mount Newman air-conditioned.
If not, when will each be air-conditioned.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Telephone Services (Question No. 1843)
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Vietnam: Disabilities Incurred by Servicemen (Question No. 1672)
, asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
How many soldiers in Vietnam in each of the last 12 months incurred disabilities described in successive lines of the first column of the Fourth and Fifth Schedules of the Repatriation Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question, in respect of the 12 months up to 31 July 1969, is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Have there been any changes since his answer to me on 14 May 1968 (Hansard, page 1425) in the list of authorities classified as semi-government authorities for national accounts purposes.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Statistician has advised me that the following authorities have been added to the list of authorities classified as semi-government authorities for national accounts purposes since May 1968.
Lower Yarra Crossing Authority
Victoria Pipelines Commission
Central Western Regional Electricity Authority
Queensland State Government Insurance Office
Lotteries Commission of South Australia
Natural Gas Pipelines Authority
State Planning Authority
State Government Insurance Office
Devaluation of French Franc: Effect on Australian Economy (Question No. 1771)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Life Assurance: Overseas Investment (Question No. 1831)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Has he collated since his answer to me on 28 May 1969 (Hansard, page 2435) and can he now give figures of income and investments in Australia covering all predominantly overseascontrolled life insurance companies.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table shows income received in Australia in recent years by (a) all life offices and (b) predominantly overseas-controlled life offices. The figures, which have been derived from statutory returns made under the Life Insurance Act 1945-1965 by registered life insurance companies, relate to the amount of life insurance premiums and investment income, net of income tax, received on account of policies on Australian registers. They do not include transfers of moneys to Australian statutory life insurance funds, profits made on sale of assets and some small miscellaneous items. As the financial years of companies vary, each company’s financial year has been taken to the nearest comparable calendar year.
The next table shows the net increase in the Australian investments of statutory life insurance funds maintained by life insurance companies registered under the Life Insurance Act._
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice: ls it intended to debate the Commonwealth Superior Court Bill 1968 this session.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: lt is intended to debate the Commonwealth Superior Court Bill when the complementary Bills have been introduced. The number of these has not yet been finally determined, but on present indications some sixty-six Acts may need to be amended. It is now unlikely that this legislation can be introduced in the present session,
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690910_reps_26_hor65/>.