27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr KEITH JOHNSON presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that (a) the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; (b) a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; (c) more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; (d) Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children; (e) only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inequalities; (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvements come from the national Government.
The petitioners pray that the House make legal provision for a joint CommonwealthState inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provision of preschool opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Petition received and read.
Mr GARRICK presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that (a) the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; (b) a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; (c) more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; (d) Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children; (e) only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inequalities; (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvements come from the national Government.
The petitioners pray that the House make legal provision for a joint CommonwealthState inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provisions of preschool opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the Robe River project which has been described as the biggest mineral contract ever signed anywhere in the world. The right honourable gentleman will remember that a month ago the Western Australian Minister for Industrial Development, Mr Court, announced that the project could no longer wait for Australian interests to take up 50% of the shares, and he will have noticed that Australian participation is now to be only 40% . I ask htm: Has his Government taken any steps in the month since Mr Court’s announcement to secure 50% Australian participation? Also, will the Industry Development Corporation be authorised to make up 50% Australian participation in such projects?
– We have not taken any governmental action to ensure that the investment in the Robe River project should be 50% Australian investment. We have been satisfied - and this is what we have asked for - that a 50% interest was offered to Australian shareholders. It is then up to to them to make up their minds on their business judgment whether they believe they should make this investment or whether they should invest their money in some other sphere. Unlike the Opposition, it is not our intention to interfere with individuals or with insurance companies and direct them as to the companies in which they should invest their funds. The opportunity having been offered, the judgment having been made, the requirements of the Government have, in this instance, been met.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral’s attention been drawn to a reported statement of the Leader of the Opposition that whilst in New Guinea he was followed by Security agents and had reason to believe that his telephone was tapped? Will the Minister inform the House whether there is any basis for this allegation? Is it a fact that the Leader of the Opposition is an avid reader of James Bond?
– My attention has been directed to statements attributed to my honourable and learned friend. I cannot vouch for the fact that he did make them but the reports indicate that he stated that when in New Guinea he was under surveillance by Security. This allegation would be more serious than it is if the honourable and learned gentleman of late had not been playing rather fast and loose with the truth in relation to certain matters connected with his trip to New Guinea, but coming from the Leader of the Opposition the allegation is nevertheless serious and I propose to deal with it even though it involves breaking a rule which should only be broken in particular circumstances, namely, that I as the Minister responsible for the Security Service should not in general either confirm or deny allegations made concerning that service. However, as the Leader of the Opposition is said to have made these allegations I say here and now that I have made inquiries as to the matters alleged or said to have been alleged, and they are quite unfounded and quite untrue.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a statement made by the honourable member for Boothby on an Australian Broadcasting Commission television programme on 16th March, namely:
The way sub-editors carve around reports is almost criminal.
Does the Prime Minister agree with this statement? If so, will he give consideration to establishing a statutory Australian Press Council as requested over many years by the Australian Journalists Association? If he does not agree with the honourable member’s remarks, will he dissociate himself and his Government from them and urge the honourable member to curb his immature impetuosity?
– I think that in the months ahead the House will be the best judge as to whether the honourable member for Boothby or the honourable member for Hawker is the most impetuous or most immature. I have no doubt whatever as to what the judgment of the House on that matter will be. In reply to the question asked, my attention has not been drawn to the specific quotation made but I would imagine there would be few people in this House who from time to time would not have believed that sub-editors had altered the tone of their remarks or the content of their remarks in a way to misrepresent what was being said.
Opposition Members - Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear a number of ‘Hear, hears’ from the Opposition. I believe it to be true and I believe most honourable members would say so. This may be a matter of opinion. That being true, I would answer the rest of the question in this way. We would not wish to set up any body to interfere with the capacity of a sub-editor, acting according to what he thought was right, to present matters in the way he thought he should present them. Equally we would not wish to interfere with any individual who sought to complain about that I would support the right of the honourable member for Boothby to complain and I believe most honourable members in this House would do the same.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is there any intention of imposing a tax on liquefied petroleum gas used in automobile engines?
– My understanding is that currently there is neither an excise nor a customs duty on liquefied petroleum gas. The honourable member will appreciate that it is a very long standing custom in this House that announcements of changes in taxation in any form are brought down without notice and no intention is expressed beforehand.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General, lt refers to the television station being placed on Bellenden Ker. What is the present position? Is construction proceeding according to plan? What is the estimated time of completion? Were tenders for the cableway within the estimated cost? Has the Postmaster-General any other information to give about the construction of this project?
– The honourable member will know that I keep in close touch with this operation, because over the years there has been some delay in relation to it. Nevertheless, the delay to some extent was overcome by temporary installations for use by commercial and national stations at. Cairns. I understand that the roadway to the base of the cableway at Bellenden Ker has been completed, that the clearing of the cableway area has been done, that within the next few weeks a contract for the cableway and associated buildings will be let, that during this year tenders will be called for the antenna and the necessary equipment and that the station should be in operation by the end of next year. When I say that, the honourable member, knowing the weather conditions in north Queensland from time to time, will understand that there could be problems over which there could be no control.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has he seen reports of a plan to destroy surplus wheat in Canada? Are these reports true? If they are, is his Department looking at the Canadian proposal?
– There is no truth in the statement that wheat is to be destroyed in Canada and thus my officers will not be looking at such a proposal. I think it is unfortunate that publicity was given to this suggestion and I have had various newspapers correct it. What was announced was that the Canadian Government would try to reduce the very heavy stockpiles in that country. In fact the extent of the problem of the wheat industry in Canada almost dwarfs the very serious problem in Australia. The latest estimate for July of this year puts Canada’s stock holdings at about 950 million bushels, which is an all time record and about 150 million bushels more than that held by even the United States of America. The Canadian Government proposes to offer an inducement to farmers to leave their wheat land fallow by paying them $6 an acre for land that is not used. In addition anybody who diversifies and uses his wheat land as permanent pasture for grazing purposes will receive SIO an acre.
When one considers these new measures against what was operating in Canada to try to curb production one realises that it is a very serious step that has been taken. In Canada they have a system whereby every grain grower is given a permit book which entitles him to a basic quota of 100 units, the equivalent of 400 bushels of wheat or a corresponding amount of barley, oats and rye. But on top of that the permit also enables every wheat grower to deliver so many bushels per acre. For the year 1968-69 the figure was 6 bushels per acre. I believe it is to be reduced in 1969-70 to 4 bushels per acre. That does not mean that that will be the actual area of wheat grown, but it is certainly the number of crop acres that applies to a farm.
– I ask the Prime Minister: When he told the Leader of the Opposition a few minutes ago that his Government, unlike the Opposition, would leave it to individual Australians to decide the extent of Australian participation in company projects, and when he added that unlike the Opposition his Government would not interfere with insurance companies, did he particularly have in mind MLC Ltd or is the House to take it that he is recanting and repents this decision in respect of that company?
– I think the honourable member for Eden-Monaro displays very considerable lack of knowedge of what he is talking about. In the case of the MLC, to which he referred. the question of Australian investment did not arise; the question that arose was whether we would permit overseas investment to take over one of the great insurance companies in Australia. This has nothing whatever to do with the matter of Australian investment.
Opposition members - Oh!
– lt has nothing whatever to do with the matter of Australian investment in the way in which the honourable member was speaking. What I meant when I said this, Mr Speaker, what I had in mind, was something that perhaps the honourable member had not heard stated before in this House; that was an indication previously by the Leader of the Opposition that he believed that insurance companies should be encouraged by the Government, should be told by the Government where they should invest their funds. They should have some guarantees given by the Government and should have a direction given where they must invest.
– As you do for Government bonds.
– The Leader of the Opposition supports my argument by saying this is what we do for Government bonds. Surely there is an immense difference between a suggestion that a government should move in and tell an insurance company in Australia where it must invest its funds, which we would not do, and a government acting to prevent an Australian insurance company being taken over by overseas interests. If the honourable member cannot see the difference between those two propositions, I cannot help him but the differences are clearly there.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. As Great Britain has suffered one of its worst influenza epidemics of modern times, I ask the Minister whether the health authorities and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are prepared for the same sort of epidemic in Australia. Have companies and commercial houses been advised to initiate and maintain influenza immunisation programmes during the forthcoming months?
– The epindemology committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, which advises the Government and the public on these matters, will go no further in relation to forecasting what might happen than to say that the possibility of an influenza epidemic in Australia this winter cannot be excluded. So I am afraid that that is all that I can tell him about the likely severity of it. In relation to the other part of his question, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories has advised me that there are adequate supplies of vaccine available for those who require them. It is, of course, as the honourable gentleman will know, a pensioner pharmaceutical benefit. The only other piece of information that I can give him is that those people who had the two injections last year will require only one injection to confer immunity this year.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. Is there a chair of gerontology in any Australian university or is there any effective organisation for the overall study of the problem of the aged? Has he or his Department given any consideration to this matter? Has he consulted with his colleagues, the Minister for Health and the Minister for Education and Science, with regard to it so that this 8% or more of the population may receive social services based on an informed approach to their needs?
– While 1 do not think that there is a chair exclusively directed to gerontology, this is a matter which is under study at numerous places in Australian universities. I have, of course, consulted with my two colleagues. I direct the honourable member’s attention to the existence of the Council for the Aging which this Government supports very considerably financially, as he will see if he looks in the Budget papers, and which does devote its time to the study of these matters. 1 do agree with the honourable member that studies on the highest level are necessary and I remind him that my Department is currently carrying them out.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which concerns the Vietnam moratorium and demonstrations proposed throughout the country for early May. Could the Prime Minister indicate what effects these demonstrations will have on the morale of Australian troops serving overseas and does he intend to allow Australian foreign and defence policy to succumb to such pressures? Is he also aware that many of the most prominent members of the Australian Communist Party and most members of the Opposition support the moratorium, its activities and aims?
– I think the answer to the first question asked of me would be this: The effect it would have, if any, would depend upon the support given to it by Australian people and by those who support it, such as he has described, who are members of the Communist Party, members of Communist Party fronts and a number of members of the Opposition. But even with such leadership as that, I would not believe that there would be great support for such an effort in this country. I can assure the honourable member that the Government, in its approach to these problems, would not have its policy influenced by these kind of demonstrations whipped up by the kinds of leaders to whom he has referred.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. The Minister will be aware that Tasmania is the only State where no firm decision has yet been made about the provision of a container port. I ask the Minister: Has his attention been drawn to the consequent disadvantages experienced by Tasmania, especially in relation to freight rates? Has the Minister considered the advantages of an early decision in this matter and if so when will he be in a position to inform the House of the results of his Department’s investigations?
– The Premier of Tasmania and members of the Government of Tasmania have been in touch with me and other members of the Australian Government on this question. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will recognise, negotiations are substantially commercial negotiations between the shipper bodies and the members of the conference. At the same time, we are concerned in the Commonwealth that there should be an early settlement of the freight rates to be charged by the container consortia for services not only to Tasmania but to all outports. It is our belief that this should be settled as soon as possible. Obviously, to the extent to which there is an acceleration of the movement of cargoes by containers and to the extent to which more and more goods are now being moved by that form of shipping, the available residual tonnage is being decreased. Consequently there must be concern as to the extent to which the same frequency for the movement of cargoes by residual tonnage can be maintained. The Australia-London Tonnage Committee is due to come to Australia late in April. It is my understanding that the consortia are hoping that negotiations will be sufficiently well advanced regarding the Tasmania problems with containers for them to be resolved then.
At that stage, if there is a suitable opportunity for me to make a statement to the House, 1 will do so. I would repeat that it is predominantly a matter for commercial negotiation and that I and the members of the Commonwealth Government believe that it is necessary to settle the Tasmania situation as early as possible and also the problem of Albany, Portland and other outports so that all the ports of Australia can be covered in the arrangements with the consortia.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. I refer to the quest by the New South Wales Government for financial assistance from the Commonwealth towards the cost of flood mitigation works on the coastal rivers. The cost is estimated to be in the vicinity of $20.5m during the period 1969- 1975. I ask: Has the State sought an amount of about $8.5m over a period of 6 years to enable projects previously commenced on a similar basis of Commonwealth financial participation to be completed, together with new and additional works? Was it indicated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech at the opening of this session of Parliament that Rood mitigation works would be included in the Government’s $100m water resources programme? Can the Minister inform the House as to the progress being made in negotiations between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government in this important matter?
– The honourable member did contact me before the end of last year regarding this matter and we have had several discussions since that time. The position at the present is that under the new National Water Resources. Development Programme that was announced by the Prime Minister last October flood mitigation is now included. There was a grant made to the State of New South Wales to assist in the previous programme for flood mitigation principally in the northern rivers area. I understand that practically all the works there have been completed up to the present time. The New South Wales Government resubmitted a further programme for consideration during last year. As flood mitigation now comes under the new proposal by the Prime Minister, this was incorporated in it. As some additional information under the scheme is required, the Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of New South Wales a couple of months ago indicating that this matter would be considered under the new scheme and later requesting the additional information required.
That information has been partly provided. I understand that in the very near future we shall have all the details that we require. In the meantime some discussions have been taking place between the officers of my Department and of the two departments concerned in New South Wales. In fact it was only today that I had some discussions with the State Minister for Works in New South Wales on the subject and we are arranging for the final discussions to take place in the near future. It is hoped that it will not be too long now before we are able to have the matter finalised to the degree where we can bring a proposal before the Government for consideration. If the Commonwealth agrees the scheme will be financed, as was the previous scheme, partly by the Commonwealth, partly by the State concerned and partly by local government authorities. The present proposal involves a little more than the $20m previously mentioned. The new figure recently submitted is a little more than $22m. If the Commonwealth agrees in the scheme, its share will amount to about $8.9m.
– I direct to the Minister for Trade and Industry a question about a series of articles published in the Financial Review’ above the name of ‘A Modest Member of Parliament’. Has the Minister noticed that the author of the article is opposed to tariffs and to primary industries? Has he noticed also that the articles are in effect a direct attack on the policies of the Australian Country Party and the fundamental policies of the Labor Party? As my investigations have shown that this modest member of Parliament is not a member of the Labor Party and as I assume he is not a member of the Country Party, does the Minister know his identity?
-Order! I do not think this question comes within the Minister’s responsibility. Unless the honourable member can relate the question to the Minister’s portfolio it will be out of order.
– This modest member of Parliament is attacking tariffs and primary industries. Does the Minister know his identity?
-Order! The question is outside the Minister’s ministerial responsibility, although he may care to answer it.
– He does. Will the Minister take steps to help me to identify this person?
– I cannot say that 1 am a fan of the author of these articles, but I have read them occasionally. Since the author has identified himself as a member of Parliament and since he writes generally about things that are the concern of the Commonwealth Parliament, I presume that he is a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. The only name that runs through the articles is the name ‘Eccles’. The only recollection I have of Eccles is as a mythical character in the ‘Goon Show’, which used to amuse me very much. The economic theories of the modest member of Parliament are identical with those of Adam Smith, who operated in the 18th century - not even the 19th. Winston Churchill, speaking of a person who described himself as modest, said: ‘Of course, why shouldn’t he call himself modest? He has so much to be modest about*.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Did the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia advise him when the bank rate was to be increased by i% to 8i% before he made the announcement recently? In view of the fact that the Treasurer is empowered under the Commonwealth Bank Act to approve or not approve any alteration to interest rates, why was the bank rate increase made public by the Governor of the Reserve Bank and not by the Treasurer himself? Was this procedure adopted in order to throw the responsibility for such an unpopular decision on the bank rather than have the Treasurer accept the responsibility and the public odium attached to it by making the announcement himself?
– The Banking Act confers upon the Reserve Bank power to make regulations, with the approval of the Treasurer, governing interest rates in the trading banking system. This move is normally recommended by the Board of the Reserve Bank and announced by the Governor. If the honourable member cares to consult precedents over many years he will see that this has long been the position.
– Does the Minister for Education and Science agree that the standards in many areas of the State education systems are well below the desirable standards? Accepting that it is necessary to have the facts before taking action, can the Minister say when the co-ordinated inquiry into educational needs being conducted by the States will be completed?
– In education we work towards goals which we think are good and as we get towards reaching them we move the goals further forward. All experience in education in countries which are moving and are not static shows this, so that at any given point of time it is always possible to say that in particular areas of education in the community the standards are not as high as would be desired. I think this is the position in some areas in Australia. However I do not think we should forget the speed of progress over the last 10 years or less. Just to take one instance, in New South Wales, in 1960 there were 166 State high schools. This was the achievement after 100 years. There are now 278, or 112 more in the short period since 1960. This picture is repeated in Victoria and in other parts of Australia and should not be forgotten.
Both the Commonwealth and State governments are conscious of the need to determine and identify areas where improvement is required and it is to this end that the survey to which the honourable member referred has been conducted. This survey, conducted by the States, is to determine the needs for the next 5 years in primary and secondard education and in teacher training.
– What about pre-school?
– Not in pre-school. This was not part of the terms of reference. The Australian Education Council met on 23rd and 24th February in Perth. I was invited to attend the meeting for part of the time. A progress report was then presented about the needs for the next 5 years. What was done was that a working party, which now includes my officers as well as State officers, was appointed to go further into this matter, particularly with reference to uniformity of interpretation in applying the terms of reference to the needs of the various States and questions of priority, and to report again to the Ministers, including myself, towards the end of May. At that time it ought to be possible to say more on the results of the survey.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport will recall his visit to King Island and discussions and investigations since then, paid for by the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State Government on the selection of the site for a new port for King Island at either Currie or Grassy. In view of the importance of this matter in providing for a possible shipping link from Stanley through King Island to Melbourne, can the Minister advise the House of the progress made to date and can he say when we may expect a decision on the approved site?
– As the honourable member will recall, at the time of the appointment of the consultants to look into the siting of a port on King Island there were obvious difficulties that the people of King Island were experiencing in obtaining vessels of a sufficiently large size to move the produce of the Island: As a result, some years ago, in order to contain the costs of the movement of freight the Commonwealth Government introduced a subsidy to offset freight costs. It was because of the continual incidence of the subsidy that the Commonwealth involved itself with the Tasmanian Government in an effort to see whether a long term solution to the problem could be determined by the construction of a port. The objective was to overcome being involved in a subsidy on freight in the future. The consultants, in fact, reported to the two Governments and as a result of that report favour appeared to be given to some modifications of the existing main port on the Island. But this report of course did not cake into account the very substantial increase in the minerals that are being extracted on the other side of King Island. As a result of that increase, the mining company involved also bad an investigation made of an alternative site for the port, and discussions on that further report by the consultants were then carried on with the Governments and the consultants employed by the two Governments to determine a probable site and the extent to which such a site would provide a reliable and adequate service for the people of King Island. These discussions have not yet been finalised, but the two Governments have been in constant contact with each other and with the company concerned to determine whether a satisfactory port can be built on a site adjacent to the mine on the island. There are difficulties because of the swell of the sea and other difficulties that would seem to prevent the operation of the port at that site throughout the whole course of the year, yet obviously the company will have very real disabilities if it does not have adequate opportunity not only to move out the minerals extracted from the mine but also to move into the site the very large capital items that are necessary for mining on the Island. I hope that this problem will be resolved before long, but the main concern of the Commonwealth and the State has been to ensure that there will be an adequate service available to the residents of King Island and that if possible the Commonwealth subsidy on freight can be eliminated.
– The Prime Minister will remember that both the honourable member for Angas and I made representations to him in February on behalf of the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, who asked if one of Captain Cook’s cannon could be sent to Adelaide for exhibition in April. Can he tell me whether this request will be acceded to?
– Mr Speaker, this matter has been eagerly supported by the honourable member and by other honourable members from South Australia. 1 am happy to tell the House that arrangements will be made for the Cook cannon which has been retained by the Commonwealth to be made available for exhibition in Adelaide at the time required by the honourable member.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question supplementary to that asked him by the honourable member for Deakin. Does the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation operate in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Is he the Minister responsible for the operations of the other security organisations in the Territory?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question is that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation does have a lawful function to perform in the Territory, as one would expect, because it is within its charter. As to the second part of the question, if the honourable gentleman is referring, as I take it he is, to the fact that I gave an unqualified denial to the allegations attributed to him, let me assure the House that before I gave that denial to statements which I notice that the honourable gentleman has not denied making I consulted with my colleague, the Minister for External Territories. The honourable gentlemen on the front bench of the Opposition, who are interjecting, seem to be very toey this afternoon. 1 can understand that they have good reason for being toey, because the Leader of the Opposition has chosen not to deny making allegations which I have no hesitation in characterising as utterly untruthful. The Leader of the Opposition should know that the answer I gave to the question earlier this afternoon had the unqualified support and corroboration of my colleague, the Minister for External Territories.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House whether there is any truth in the statement made in the London Press that the British Government is planning to use paris of Arnhem Land as a training base for its land forces following their withdrawal from bases in Singapore and Malaysia?
– As 1 understand it, reports did appear in the London Press and reappeared in the ‘Northern Territory News’ that the British Government was exhibiting an interest in obtaining parts of Arnhem Land for establishing a base. Now, I wish to point out to the House that, whilst the Australian Government has a very keen interest in facilitating the British staying east of Suez, immense difficulties would arise with such a proposition. In fact no proposals have been put to me as Minister for the Interior or, as T understand it, to the Minister for Defence or to the Department of Defence on such a proposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. I refer to the fountains being set up in Lake Burley Griffin.
– lt is one fountain.
– I see. What ls the cost of same? What is the cost of operating the fountain? Is this cost comparable with that of other fountains operating overseas? Was an alternative pumping system with considerably reduced operating costs suggested?
– The proposal is not for memorial fountains, I might point out to the honourable member, Mr Speaker. The proposal is for a memorial jet. It is patterned on the jet that many honourable members more fortunate than I have seen at Geneva. The cost of the operation of the jet depends on the number of hours it is functioning, but the cost per hour, when using full power, is approximately $15. The honourable member will be interested to know that the Government did consider many propositions when deciding what form the Captain Cook memorial in Canberra ought to take.
Associated with the jet, we have a hemisphere built out of brass in a style that conveys the journey which Cook took from England to Australia. There is no point in just simply looking at the jet and saying that this is the totality of the Commonwealth’s performance. I know that this has been described as the greatest bidet in the world, but the fact is that an association exists between Cook and water. AH I can say is that it will add some grace and beauty lo the city of Canberra and will delight tourists for many years to come.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation because I have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I was misrepresented in an allegation by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) and in responses by the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). What I have said on this matter and what I have been reported as saying is: ‘Pressmen accompanying me discovered and confronted two over-zealous security men at a Wewak motel where I was staying. There was discussion on whether we should be followed but I believe that at the highest- level this was countermanded’. Sir, I might add Chat the Pressmen who discovered and confronted these overzealous men are available and I will be happy to put them in touch with the Attorney-General.
-Order! There is far too much conversation in the chamber. I wish to remind honourable members that last week and again today I have had to remind the House of this fact. I would ask the House for its co-operation in relation to it. It is very difficult-
– It is subsidy corner.
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney will keep quiet.
– But it is subsidy corner, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable member for Sydney will hold his tongue. It is very difficult for both the Minister and other honourable members who are interested to hear over this continual babble and I would suggest that all members in due deference to their colleagues would keep their level of conversation as. low as possible.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Administration Office Blocks 6, 7 and 8 and an Information and Display Building, Darwin, Northern Territory;
Additional Storehouse Building at Stores Depot, Tottenham, Victoria.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The handling of entry permits for Indian members of the staff of the University of Papua and New Guinea.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The Opposition is mystified at the events surrounding the renewal of the appointment of Mr Idris as a member of the staff of the University of Papua and New Guinea and the appointment of Dr I. H, Khan as a new member of the staff of the University of Papua and New Guinea. We do not know whether the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) in the explanations he has offered has been correctly reported, but if he has been he has deepened the mystery as far as the Opposition is concerned. Mr Mahommed Idris has been on the staff of the University of Papua and New Guinea for 3 years and apparently he wished to leave the Territory on, leave. He could not get clear whether he would have a permit to re-enter the country. He waited for 7 weeks for the permit, which I imagine upset his personal affairs very considerably, and ultimately the permit came. However, the Minister is reported to have made a statement in relation to these 2 appointments, or rather in relation to the permit for Mr Idris and Dr Khan to enter the Territory, in these terms:
The immigration policy for Papua and New Guinea was a long standing one based on the need to avoid the sort of problem which has arisen in other developing countries over the admission of alien racial groups. Australia as a trustee has a special obligation to ensure that an independent Papua and New Guinea was not saddled with a problem of Australia’s making.
That statement is a completely unexceptionable one. I do not think that Australia has the right to flood Papua and New Guinea with alien racial groups, but it is astonishing when it is applied to the appointment of two lecturers, or rather to the renewal of the appointment of one lecturer and the appointment of another.
I have never known of any racial problem anywhere on the face of the earth that was caused by appointments to universities. There are a number of racial problems in emerging countries around the world. For instance, planters for their convenience brought Indian workers into Fiji and Indians now outnumber Fijians. Planters for their convenience brought 46,000 Kanakas into Queensland. Planters for their convenience brought some millions of negroes into the United States of America and into Latin America and for their convenience brought many thousands into the West Indies, so that in consequence the original Indian population has completely disappeared. Then we have the example of the Tamils in Ceylon and the Indians in Natal and up the east coast of Africa.
The only force bringing in people on this scale has always been the force of planters. If we look at the movement of population within Papua and New Guinea, such as the movement of the Sepiks to Gazelle, which has caused some resentment, we see that the movement has always been for the convenience of the planters. If the Minister has some reference to history which shows that complications can be created for a country by migration problems, we would agree with him. What baffles us is his application of this idea to the appointment of two lecturers. Surely it is not seriously thought that the University of Papua and New Guinea proposes to bring in thousands of Indian lecturers. Two men are involved and we cannot see the application of an immigration policy to their appointment.
The second explanation that the Minister has given since Mr Idris has had his permit to reside in Papua and New Guinea extended for 1 year and since Dr Khan has been admitted is that this is normal procedure. If this is the normal procedure of the Department of External Territories, the normal procedure of the Department of External Territories seems to me to need speeding up. It is distressing that a man, who is already resident in New Guinea and who is, from al] our information, a highly respected resident of New Guinea, should have to wait for 7 weeks to know whether he can come back into the Territory if he leaves. Dr Khan applied on 17th December and apparently was given his permit on 16th March - give a day one way or the other. This is a period of 4 months. A delay of this nature can be extremely damaging to a man. I do not know what effect it had on Dr Khan’s salary, since he could not be regarded as a member of the Staff of the University of Papua and New Guinea if he had no permit to enter the Territory and since he had resigned from his post in India. But this seems an extremely insensitive way to deal with the matter. Then to issue a statement that a immigration policy applied to the man. as if he were a menace who would swamp the country by his own presence, seems a rather tactless handling of the whole situation by the Government.
These appointments are made on the recommendation of an academic board within the University - that is, the Council of the University. The Commonwealth Government and the Administration of Papua and New Guinea have been at some pains to make the Council of the University both thoroughly representative and thoroughly responsible, lt has made appointments after examining applications that it has received from all round the world. But the aspect of this matter that may be personally damaging to a man is that previous instances of refusals of permits to enter the Territory, such as in the cases of Gluckman and Worsley, have been stared straight out to be security questions. So there is now an implication that any man who is refused permission to enter has some grave security objection against him.
This would be quite unintelligible in the case of Mr Idris. He had already been in the Territory for 3 years. If there had been any security objection to him, presumably his entry permit would not have been renewed at all. But it has been renewed for 1 year, and this leaves his career and the University, which has reappointed him for 3 years, in a state of some confusion. There cannot be any security objection to the man for him to be reappointed. No satisfactory explanation is given for his having been reappointed for only 1 year, except presumably that he would swamp the Territory if he were there for 3 years though he would not do so if he were there for 1 year.
The other case of Dr Khan has never been satisfactorily explained. He waited 4 months for approval to enter the Territory.
I do not know whether it takes all that long to check up on a man. The United States of America had no objection to him. He was in the United States over a period of time in connection with peace corps work. There is no explanation as to why, in view of the positions he had held in the United States, such a long time was taken in checking up on him - if it was a security check that was being taken. No explanation has ever been offered.
As for the two explanations offered by the Minister, the one relating to procedure is inexplicable because the procedures were so slow. It took 7 weeks in the case of Mr Idris and 16 weeks in the case of Dr Khan. The other explanation related to immigration. The Opposition believes that the University of Papua and New Guinea, the Administration and the Australian public are owed a better explanation than the one that has been offered. According to the Press, the Administration in Papua and New Guinea had no objection to either of the men, since they had the qualifications sought by the University, and that the Administrator supported the applications. I do not know whether this is true but if it is true it seems quite extraordinary that the Administrator is not permitted to make a decision on so small a matter and that it should have to be referred to Canberra. If the Administrator could not give permission for the University to renew one appointment and to make another then the level of governmental power which he exercises must be very low indeed.
We of the Opposition are disturbed at the attitude that appears to have been shown in this matter; we are disturbed at the damage that has taken place to the reputations of these two men; we are disturbed at the unintelligibility of renewing Mr Idris’s permit for 1 year only when the University has reappointed him for 3 years; and we are disturbed about the use of expressions such as ‘immigration policy’ and ‘it is an obligation on Australia, as the trustee, not to saddle Papua and New Guinea with problems of Australia’s making’. Surely the cases of Dr Khan and Mr Idris cannot be regarded as saddling the Territory with problems of Australia’s making. Perhaps the Minister has been unjustly dealt with in Press comments and perhaps those were not his explanations at all but we of the
Opposition believe that Papua and New Guinea, the University of Papua and New Guinea, this House and Australia are owed better explanations.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I agree with the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) that no-one likes to see delays perpetrated on distinguished academics, as in this case, but after all there were unfortunate circumstances associated with these delays. I point but that Mr Idris was at liberty to go on leave immediately he made application to return but he chose to wait until he received his permit for a further 12 months extension. I can assure the House that when it was brought to my notice that he was waiting in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea before taking his leave, I gave the permit within a couple of days. I learnt of this on, I think, 5th January and I gave permission on 8th January. Those are the circumstances in the case of Mr Idris.
Referring now to the case of Dr Khan, this was a new application to enter the Territory. We have obligations to ensure that in relation to these appointments we do not, as a government, appoint somebody who promotes views and attitudes antagonistic to the people of Papua and New Guinea.
– Which people?
– The people of Papua and New Guinea. Obviously the honourable member for Barton is not concerned about these sort of checks. In a debate in this Parliament last April, reported at page 1496 of Hansard, I pointed out what was necessary to obtain a permit to enter the Territory. These are some of the requirements: The applicant must not be adversely regarded from a security point of view; he must be of good character; he must have ample funds for his stay in the Territory and for his return or onward journey. These sort of things apply to anybody. Are we to make exceptions for academics? I cannot accept the viewpoint that we should make such exceptions for academics.
It is not easy to obtain all this information within a few days. In the case of Dr Khan, he did not apply for a visa when he made application to enter the Territory and inquiries by the Department of External Territories do not commence until an application for a visa has been made. NonEuropeans are permitted to enter the Territory for 2 years, as are Europeans. In the case of non-Europeans the person concerned has to obtain an annual extension. This is our policy and it is a policy endorsed after consultation with the Administrator’s Executive Council. That Council agrees with this situation. I see no reason to change this policy because after all we have an obligation and we cannot make special exceptions for academics.
– Cannot the Administration take any responsibility?
– But this is Government responsibility. Australia is trustee for Papua and New Guinea, as the honourable member for Fremantle well knows. We make these decisions and they are quite delicate decisions. We have made these decisions and we propose to maintain them. I think they are quite reasonable. It was unfortunate in the case of Mr Idris. He was at liberty to go on leave but he chose to wait until he received his permit to again enter the Territory. As I pointed out, I made the permit available as soon as possible. In the case of Dr Khan, I was informed that he had not made application for a visa. I think the honourable member for Fremantle said there was a 7-week delay in the case of Mr Idris, yet according to my calculation it was 5 weeks - but that is neither here nor there. These cases are unfortunate and we will see whether we can tighten up the procedures to try to avoid these sort of misunderstandings.
– There were two rather embarrassing - I might say alarming - statements made by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) during the few minutes for which he spoke. The first statement was to the effect that the Government did not want to appoint somebody who promotes views antagonistic to the people of Papua and New Guinea. What exactly does he mean by that?
Motion (by Mr Wenrworth) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4 March (vide page 71), on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Repatriation Bill as they arc associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. Mr Deputy Speaker, I suggest that you permit the subject matters of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Does that entitle anyone to speak to that motion?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)There is no motion before the Chair. It is merely a suggestion made by the Minister to the House.
– The Minister who gagged the debate earlier is now asking the House for leave to do something else. I will concur on this occasion but I hope it is in the record to show what has happened.
– There being no objection, I will al’low the course suggested by the Minister to be followed.
– The two Bills under consideration’ propose amendments to the Social Services Act and the Repatriation Act in two essential respects. In the first instance they propose amendments to cover the case of a married couple who, because of illness, infirmity or some similar reason, find themselves forced to part and unable to live in the matrimonial home and the separation is likely to be indefinite. The amendment proposes that in such circumstances the couple who previously obtained the married rate of pension will be entitled to a rate of pension, at the standard rate - that is the single rate. The married rate, of course, for each partner is $13.25 per week and the standard rate is $15 per week.
The second aspect covered by the amendments to these Acts is where one of the matrimonial partners dies after the separation. In this instance the surviving partner will be entitled to payment at the married rate, for 12 weekly payments or 6 consecutive fortnightly payments. I ought to mention at this stage that all that this Act proposes to do in the case of the former standard rate of pension where people are separated because of ill health is to formalise a practice which has been upheld for some time by the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department. In regard to the latter proposal, the amendment rectifies what has been a rather grave injustice for many years. Many honourable members have had brought to their notice a case where a separation has occurred and a spouse has been committed to a nursing home for care and attention which obviously would be of a permanent nature and, shortly after admission to such an institution, has died. The surviving spouse, being for a very short period on a single rate of pension, has been expected to meet all the costs which arise as a result of the death of the partner. These costs can be quite enormous. This was clearly inequitable for a party in this situation because, as in the outstanding example of a separation of only a few weeks - and this has happened on many occasions - the economic situation of the surviving partner who had had the benefit of a single rate of pension for a very short period alone is hardly improved. I repeat that in respect of this latter proposal the amendment rectifies what has been a grave injustice for many people.
Before I pass on to a discussion about the anomalies and the deficiencies of the major proposal, I think it appropriate to mention to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) that this could have been an occasion on which we could have amended the Social Services Act so as to provide a greater funeral benefit. The present rate for such a social service pensioner recipient is $40. This is scarcely enough to meet the costs of an average sort of funeral. Funeral costs can be a crushing burden for people in the lower income groups, such as recipients of social service pensions or repatriation pensions.
The next point that I want to make before dealing at some length with the proposal is that while we on the Opposition side of the House do not oppose the amendments, this should in no way be interpreted as an indication that we wholeheartedly endorse what has been proposed. The improvement involved in the amendments is only minuscule in comparison with the needs for major overhaul in social service and social welfare provisions in the community. This is especially so if the structure of the social welfare programme is to penetrate into the heart of what is called the poverty environment and overcome want and deficiency, and to help people to lift themselves up and participate at a level in the economy which will give them self respect and adequacy.
The rigidity of the present system of social services and the discontinuities in the various forms of social welfare facilities available only consolidate people in the area of poverty and in the marginal area near that threshold. The Opposition would have welcomed the opportunity to move a meaningful amendment to the Social Services Bill, but the Government has very cleverly drawn the Bill in such a way that no meaningful amendment can be moved. So we find ourselves not only restricted in that respect but also restricted in the area in which we can debate the proposals before the House. The major proposition, which is to provide a standard rate of pension for married couples separated because of illness or infirmity where the separation is likely to be of a permanent nature and takes one partner away from the matrimonial home, merely formalises an established practice. It is hard to understand why the Minister was seemingly so excited about the proposal When he delivered his second reading speech. It was novel only in that the Minister was proposing to enact what was a long standing practice on the part of the Department of Social Services.
I feel that I ought to commend whoever was responsible - I expect it was the Minister - for the flexibility that was displayed in this instance, of allowing the provision of the standard rate of pension for people separated in the circumstances mentioned when apparently legislative action in the past was not available to legalise this procedure. I want to make it quite clear that we on this side of the House do not believe that this proposal will provide an adequacy, or even a sufficiency at a minimal standard, for the people who will benefit from the provisions of the standard rate in the circumstances of separation through ill health and so on. The case where one spouse goes into a nursing home is clearly what is envisaged by the Minister, because he quoted the Prime Minister’s policy speech at the last election in which the Prime Minister specifically mentioned the case of a spouse committed to a nursing home. Clearly, in the case where a spouse is committed to a nursing home and the other one finds himself or herself in receipt of the standard rate of pension, that person in receipt of the standard rate of pension who is outside the nursing home is not in a happy position and is far from being provided with a sufficency of funds through social service payments to allow him to maintain what we would regard as a minimal or respectable standard of living.
In 1949 the standard rate pension, or the rate paid to single pensioners, stood at 24% of average earnings. The Government always cites average earnings as a marker to show how prosperity is moving in the community and allegedly, how well off wage earners are in the Australian econonmy. It is fair enough to point out that in 1949 the single rate of pension was 24% of average earnings. In the December quarter of 1969 the standard rate had deteriorated to 19.4% of average earnings, the average earnings then being $77.50 a week. For anyone with a sense of moral commitment for the welfare of one’s fellow beings in the community who are in an area of want, we have what should be an intolerable situation. The Government is indifferent about this development where the standard rate pension is 19.4% of average weekly earnings, the lowest proportionate relationship to average weekly earnings in any year since 1949.
When the Minister brought the Bill into the House one of the areas which he should first have explored was how to provide adequate income for the person on the standard rate of pension. In fact that would have been insufficient. We are involved with more than the case of a person on the standard rate pension; we are involved with all people on pensions generally. The situation goes beyond this when we discuss the problems of people in poverty. It goes to the low income earner with a large family; it goes into certain migrant groups and reaches into homes where the head of the family is a female on low income. All these things should be looked at. It is quite inadequate for the Minister and the Government to expect when they propose a restricted measure such as this - restricted in its benefits - that the public should accept it as some sort of major reform and some sort of major overhaul in the provision of social services in the community. In a community with rising affluence and rising expectations where, most people enjoy the benefits of the rising affluence and therefore satisfy their rising expectations, it is intolerable that a substantial group of people are not enjoying these improving benefits.
A Melbourne survey indicated that 7% of the population is in poverty. The level at which that survey was drawn was a rather austere one. What honourable members, used to the standard of living that they enjoy, would regard as poverty would be much higher than the level at which the survey was drawn.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I would point out to the honourable member for Oxley that he himself has commented on the restrictive circumstances of the Bill before the House and I suggest that he also debate along those lines.
– If I may continue I shall indicate that what I have said dovetails very neatly with the Melbourne poverty survey, and I shall relate it to the case of the age pensioners. The survey showed that a little over 21% of aged people were poor. That means that every fifth person in retirement in Melbourne was poor, and the pattern in other cities is as bad. In some cities it probably is worse. On the figures that I have been able to extract for Queensland the situation there is probably considerably worse than it is in Victoria. The survey showed that nearly half of the people who live in the poverty group and more than half of the people who live in the marginal poverty group were aged people.
The poverty level was struck at about 40% of what was regarded as a reasonable standard of income. On the basis that I have indicated, that the largest proportion of people in the poverty area are aged and most of them are pensioners, it is quite inappropriate for the Minister to come into this House and ignore the needs of these people for the provision of a decent standard of living which will allow them self respect in their retirement. The 1966 standard rate age pension was 21.1% of average earnings at the time of that poverty survey. In 1969 it had fallen to 20.3% of average earnings. In a so-cal’led magnificent gesture of generosity the Government, in the last Budget, proposed an increase in the standard rate of age pension.
-Order! I have already pointed out to the honourable member that this Bill does not permit a general debate upon social service benefits. The honourable member has been in this House long enough to know the lines along which he should direct his remarks towards the Bill. If he persists in extending his remarks into the wider sphere of social services I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall have to ask you for guidance, and I ask this quite genuinely. The amendments proposed by the Bill relate to standard rates of pension. If you look at the Minister’s speech you will find, with respect, that he includes a table and discusses at some length the relative relationship between standard rates of pension and rates for married couples, and compares these with the overall situation. At another stage in his speech the Minister was allowed to include this point, which is germane to my argument:
One of the Government’s social service aims has been to seek out areas of special need and to bring to this House measures to meet those needs.
I find that proposal provocative because I disagree with it completely, but does it not give me the opportunity to debate the correctness of the Minister’s assertion that the proposed amendment will improve the lot of these people? Am I allowed to debate this highly relevant point?
-The Bill is to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1969 in relation to. certain married persons suffering illness .or infirmity. The honourable member, has referred to the standard rate of pension and its relationship to a certain percentage. I have allowed the honourable member to use this argument as an illustration but I have said that I will not allow the debate to develop into a general debate about social services. The Bill is related to a special need. Whether the honourable member or the Opposition agrees with that special need is another matter.
– I submit that the Bill relates to certain married persons suffering illness or infirmity. The Chair allowed the Minister to say that the Bill related only to persons suffering illness or infirmity and proposed improvements for those people in areas of special need. My case is that there is no improvement for these people. They still have a serious problem.
– That is valid.
– Yes. I suggest with respect - I seek your guidance - that my argument is germane to the pattern of the debate set by the Minister in his second reading speech.
-I point out once again that the Bill does not open the way to a general debate on social service benefits. The honourable member was developing a wider argument than that allowed by the Bill. I have pointed out that he is not to engage in a general debate on social service benefits.
– Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker. I will omit certain notes which, had I been allowed to use them, would have been devastating. It is just as well for the physical and mental welfare of the Minister that I proceed beyond these notes. I move on to discuss the income level proposed for a person committed to a nursing home. The Minister dealt specifically with this point. He said that such a person would be entitled to the standard rate of pension of $15 a week, plus supplementary assistance of $2 a week, making a total of $17 a week. To this we should add $2 a day Commonwealth subsidy. This makes a total of $31 a week. The Minister might like to argue that this person would get $5 a day subsidy if receiving intensive care. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) has told us that only one-third of people committed to nursing homes will obtain this benefit; two-thirds will be in receipt of the subsidy of S2 a day. 1 ask the Minister to see whether something can be done to improve the lot of people in these circumstances.
A person committed to a nursing home and in receipt of the standard rate of pension will get $31 a week or $4.40 a day. This is totally inadequate for his needs. I know of no nursing home - there may be some but they would be relatively few - which will provide treatment and accommodation for $4.40 a day. To support my claim I refer the House to statements made by Mrs Murray Coleman, Director of the Victorian Council of Social Services in an address on 21st October 1969 to the Geriatric Conference at Mount Royal Special Hospital for the Aged. She established in her paper that the daily cost of the Mount Alexander Home for the Aged was $6.48; at Greenvale Village it was $9.86. These figures are more than twice the daily allowance paid to a standard rate pensioner admitted to a nursing home - the person to whom, according to the Minister, so much benefit would be directed.
– If you have been to Mount Alexander you will know that almost all cases there are intensive.
– All right, we will omit Mount Alexander. Cheltenham Home and Hospital charges $5.13 a day, which is still substantially more than the allowance. Mount Royal charges $6.44 a day. The Minister might be interested in a statement made on 17th May last year by the Victorian Minister for Health, who said:
Nearly 18% of patients in nursing home units in all special hospitals for the aged do not receive a supplementary nursing home benefit.
They are in fact receiving $2 a day, not the intensive rate of $5 a day. I stress again that the allowance proposed by this Bill will be $4.40 a day or $31 a week, made up of $15 a week standard rate pension, $2 a week supplementary assistance and Commonwealth subsidy of $14 a week. Clearly the Government is jettisoning some of its responsibilities in the field of social services and asking the States, which already face grave problems in trying to provide funds to meet their responsibilities, to bear a greater burden. What makes it all the more reprehensible is the fact that the Commonwealth is jettisoning a clear responsibility under placitum 51(xxiiiA) of the Constitution, which clearly commits the Commonwealth to providing social services for the Australian community. Admittedly the Constitution does not say that the benefits must be at an adequate standard to guarantee a reasonable living to those receiving them, but surely this is a moral obligation which no government should seek to avoid.
Clearly many people are not able to afford nursing home care. The lowest figure I have for a nursing home is $5.13 a day, which is 73c a day or $5.11 a week more than the total Commonwealth remuneration for a person admitted to a nursing home. Obviously these people are in dire straits. Where patients are admitted to a State nursing home the Commonwealth is evading its responsibilities and casting them on to the States. But the situation is not as simple as that; it is somewhat more critical because almost 50% of nursing home beds in Victoria are privately conducted. In New South Wales about two-thirds of nursing home beds are conducted privately for profit. The people providing those beds will seek a greater return than will be sought by the annexes of public hospitals provided for nursing the aged. Clearly it is irresponsible of the Government to shelve its responsibilities in this manner. The Government should accept the provision of nursing home care as a public responsibility, not something to be operated for profit. When one sees nursing home organisations listed on the stock exchange one experiences a sense of alarm at the way in which public money is being allocated for this purpose, particularly when the waiting time for admission into some nursing homes is anything from 9 months to indefinite.
I turn now to the situation of the other party in the matrimonial home - the one not admitted to the nursing home. He or she will receive $15 a week plus $2 a week supplementary assistance. I point out to honourable members and to those who may be listening to the debate that the $2 a week supplementary assistance is payable to persons in very straitened circumstances. To receive this one must have means assessed of less than $52 a year, and this is an extremely low level. Keeping in mind the findings of the Marrickville survey of a few years ago that people on a standard rate pension without a home of their own and depending on the supplementary assistance of $2 a week which was then worth more than it is today are in the direst position of all people in the property group, I ask the Minister how a person totally dependent on $15 a week plus the $2 a week supplementary assistance, can gain any real relief from these measures. How does the Minister expect any real relief to be provided by these measures?
Quite clearly we needed a more comprehensive, more imaginative, and indeed more adventurous, approach to the needs of people who are dependent on social service payments for their sustenance. Let us take the case of a person who is paying rent and who is not committed to a home - the spouse who is outside the home. That person is paying $8.80 a week rent, which seems to be the average rental for a Housing Commission tenant in Victoria. This leaves only $8.20 a week, but out of this we must extract $5.11. a week which covers the nursing cost mentioned earlier. This leaves only $3.09 a week for food, clothing and travel, including travel to the nursing home, because obviously one spouse, who is not committed to an institution, will want to visit his or her mate to see how that mate is proceeding and how that mate’s welfare stands. Imagine, S3 .09 a week. This is all we leave these people for the extras in life, including food, which apparently must be a luxury for such a miserable standard to be struck. I ask the Minister: Is this the true measure of the generosity of our society as reflected by his Government? All that is happening here is that a very slight modification of a grave problem of poverty is being proposed when something much better than this should have been achieved.
We are living cheek by jowl with poverty in this affluent society, whether this is in large aggregates such as in the slums, or small pockets such as the deserted wives, or the standard rate pensioner in the situation we are now discussing who is living down the street. This makes it all the more difficult to understand how the Minister can seriously state in his second reading speech - and 1 have quoted this before, but it bears quoting again:
One of the Government’s social services aims has been to seek out areas of special need and to bring to this House measures to meet those needs.
What sort of measure is this that provides S3. 09 a week for a spouse who is trying to retain his own health and not be committed to a nursing home? Again, there is the case of a husband who is hospitalised and whose wife is under 60 years of age and is supporting young children. For the purposes of this example we assume that she has two young children. I suppose she can go out to work, but this is not always as simple as it is sometimes claimed. She may have nowhere to leave her children. Only 1 child in 13 in Australia is able to attend a child welfare centre which is up to government standards. According to a recent report from the Department of Labour and National Service there are only two child minding centres in Australia operated by employers, and they are in Melbourne. So unless this woman has relatives or friends she will not be able to farm her children out during the day in working hours. Even if she can, this will represent further expense on a slender budget. She has no entitlement to a wife’s allowance because this is not provided for all the wives of age pensioners. In the example I am giving I am speaking of a woman who is considerably younger than her husband. There are many such cases. She would not have an entitlement to the wife’s allowance once her husband was committed to the nursing home. All she would have would be child endowment of $6.50 a week plus a pension allowance for her children making a total of about $7.50 a week. This is a gravely deficient standard of income for this woman.
Frankly, I do not know how people exist in this situation, yet somehow they do and I daresay that this is a testimonial to the endurance and perseverance of people who are in this plight. But we should not impose this sort of grossly unfair endurance and perserverance - this sort of self denial and, indeed, discrimination - upon people in this area. Assume that she has to pay rent of $12 a week and $17 a week for food for herself and her children. This is an extremely austere budget for food and makes no allowance for little extras such as coffee and milk. I am basing this calculation on a New South Wales Health Department estimate. Assume also that she has to pay the extra nursing home cost of $5.11 a week for her husband, and I am basing that cost on the cheapest figures available. It will be seen that she has a total debt per week of S34.ll. This is considerably higher than her income of S7.50. This does not allow for hire purchase, clothing or travel, and already her weekly deficit is about $26 or $27. Can the Minister genuinely claim that the Government seeks out areas of special need and responds according to the need?
On the sort of evidence that I am putting before the House the Government has failed dismally, yet it had a golden opportunity to grapple with this problem in this specific area and to act. It would not have taken a great deal of imagination. Indeed, the Opposition would have given wholehearted support to the Government if it had broadened out the debate by proposing to restructure completely the pattern of social welfare provided under the Social Services Act. A restructuring is gravely needed. I would stress at this stage that everything I have said about social services applies to the case of a Service pensioner. The same means test and the same rate of pension apply. When I speak about the poverty of the wife under 60 years of age of an age pensioner the same applies in the case of a Service pensioner’s wife.
Let us move on to the case of invalid pensioners because these, too, are covered by these proposals. Let us consider invalid pensioners where both spouses are in receipt of the pension. The wives of just over 17% of married male invalid pensioners in New South Wales and Victoria also are in receipt of the invalid pension. As two-thirds of the pensioners in Australia live in those two States it is fair to assume that this would be the general pattern for the rest of Australia. According to statistics, 38.6% of married male invalid pensioners in New South Wales and Victoria do not have homes of their own. So here we are dealing with a specific area of grave need which is covered by the amendments which are before the House - or should be covered, I ought to add, because it is abundantly obvious that what the Minister has proposed is not going to respond to a critical area of need. Let us take the case of a wife who is on an invalid pension and whose husband, also on an invalid pension, is committed to a nursing home. She will have a total income of $24.50 a week. This is made up of the standard rate pension, supplementary assistance, child endowment and pension allowances. I am assuming that she has 2 children. This, of course, is a moderate assumption because the tendency is - and 1 am basing this on my own subjective impressions from dealing with these people - for people in this group to have large families. One probably would find in most cases that families are far larger than 2 and, accordingly, the problem of need is much graver.
She has a total income of $24.50 a week. If we allow $12 for rent, $17 for food and the extra nursing cost of $5.11, her total costs are $34.11 a week. This exceeds her income by about $10 a week. The anomaly of this is that she is in exactly the same position as a widow or deserted wife, that is in terms of need as recognised by the Government for social service purposes. She is not in the same position in terms of personal loss through either of those 2 causes. She is in the situation where she is not only devoid of financial support from her husband but is having to contribute financially to his welfare. She has at least as much need as an A class widow, but her environmental situation physically and financially is such that her total income is $24.50 a week. If she were in receipt of the A class widow’s pension she would receive an extra $10 a week because of the guardian’s allowance.
Will the Minister be kind enough to explain why this anomaly arises and why he thinks that the wife of an invalid pensioner, herself in receipt of the invalid pension, with young children, should be receiving an income $10 a week less than that provided as an A class widow’s pension? It seems difficult to justify this. I cannot justify it myself, but perhaps the Government can. But it does indicate to me the anomalous arrangement and total rigidity of the social service structure. We ought to throw the whole lot out the window because of these anomalies, this rigidity and the gaps in the provision which it offers the community.
We ought to identify the minimum living standard for adults, either married or single, with dependants and make the necessary adjustments for the difference between costs of living in different areas. For instance, it is dearer to live in Victoria than it is to live in Queensland. Accordingly, we should establish this threshold wherever it exists and provide for a minimum living standard which we, as a civilised community in this affluent and prosperous age, are prepared to tolerate. We will not have anyone, adult or child, being forced to live on less than the minimum. Accordingly, this Bill before us never should have come here. The approach of the Minister to the needs of the community should have been as I mentioned.
I would like to hearken back to the case of the poor pensioner whose wife is under 60 years of age and ineligible for an age pension. Because of this, when her husband, an age pensioner, is comitted to a nursing home and is therefore receiving a little over $7 a week income from the Department of Social Services, in literal fact she would be better off if she were driven mad because of her condition and committed to a mental institution. I feel no pleasure or satisfaction in saying this, but I am quoting a literal case. She would be financially better off, because in all likelihood under the amendments to the Social Services Act last year or the year before she would have a good chance of becoming entitled to an invalid pension at the standard rate of $15 a week and having her children committed to State care and looked after at the expense of the State. This is a terrible contrast and to me seems to be another anomaly.
I come back to the matter of supplementary assistance that I discussed earlier. The level of $2 was struck in 1958. As at the 1961 census the average weekly private dwelling tenancy rate in Australia was $7.87, so the supplementary assistance rate was roughly one-quarter of the going rate for housing rent at that juncture, which was altogether too inadequate for the needs of the people. Today, if one is lucky, one pays an average rental of $12 a week, which is one-sixth of the supplementary assistance. Again, here is a case in need of overhaul. I have mentioned the deficiency in the funeral allowance, the gross inadequancies and anomalies in pension rates and. lastly, the failure of the supplementary assistance to help low income pensioners to pay their rent. Let me repeat once again, because it deserves stressing, that not every pensioner is entitled to this $2 a week supplementary assistance. It is only for those pensioners whose total needs as assessed do not exceed $52 a year. By anyone’s measurement, given the low rate of pension, that is not a prosperous standard in this modern age.
I conclude on one point. I have already mentioned the need for a new approach to social services. I have a feeling that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, might not allow me to develop that argument, although I feel that there is a need for more discussion on this approach. The other point that I want to mention is germaine to the proposition we have before us. The Minister specifically dealt with nursing home services in his second reading speech. I suggest to him that this too would have been an appropriate occasion to have developed some discussion on domiciliary services, because if we can develop these things we can help in a large measure to keep people out of these nursing homes as we can help to keep them out of hospital - not that we begrudge them the opportunity of going into hospital. If people need to go into hospital they ought to be admitted, lt is pretty grim really that it is so difficult for people to get public ward treatment in Australia, but this is another topic for debate. But in any event many people would “do better at home and would prefer to be at home, but because of problems at home they have to go to hospital. The expansion of domiciliary services would greatly help to overcome this problem.
I am aware that we have domiciliary services available, but they are developed on a spasmodic, ad hoc basis. They are largely dependent on the initiative of local charitable bodies, whether they are churches or benevolent organisations. So their pattern of development is patchy. It is more likely that they are not developing in the areas of greatest need because these are the areas in which there are the biggest concentrations of low income earners and the greatest collection of people, not only pensioners but also low income earners, in need. There are all sorts of social and cultural problems which prevent these people from developing the sort of initiative necessary to establish these services. My final point on these matters which I have mentioned is that the approach of the Government is too narrowly conceived compared to the needs of the people in the community. We agree that it is an improvement on the situation which existed before. When I say ‘before’ I mean before the Government commenced the practice of providing the standard rate of pension for married couples separated because of ill health or some other form of infirmity. In fact, all the proposal does is to formalise a fairly long-established practice.
– I propose to confine my remarks to the actual Bill. I marvelled at the leniency which you, Mr Deputy Speaker, extended to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). He wandered all over the place and talked about everything else but the Bill. He tried to turn a debate on a very simple Bill into an attack on the Government and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). Let me read what the Bill says, lt is a Bill to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1969 in relation to certain married persons suffering illness or infirmity. This is a very simple Bill to amend the Social Services Act in compliance with a promise made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The Prime Minister said:
We shall pay pensions at standard rates instead of at married rates to aged couples who lose the economies of living together by reason of failing health, for example, if one or both of them enter a nursing home.
This Bill simply amends the legislation so that this can be done.. It is in pursuance of the Government’s policy and the Minister’s policy to seek out areas of special need and to amend legislation in the interests of those who most urgently need assistance. I commend the Minister for this thoughtful amendment to the Act. There is nothing very difficult about the Bill. We know that there are many areas of need in the matter of social services. We know that a great many of these needs have already been provided for, but there will always be areas of need. The scriptures stated that the poor will always be with us. This is true. There will always be areas which it is almost impossible to legislate for. I deprecate an attack on the Minister and an attack on the Government in a very wide sense in regard to social services when the Minister is trying to amend and improve the Act.
I suggest that 95% of the speech of the honourable member for Oxley had nothing whatever to do with the Bill. It is as simple as this: The Bill provides assistance for married couples who are not able to enjoy the benefits and savings, if they are insured, of living together because one partner goes into hospital. Throughout the world the principle has been adopted that a married couple can live more reasonably than a single pensioner. All the Bill has done is to provide that these people who are living alone because one partner is in hospital shall get the same benefits as single pensioners. It is as simple and as straight forward as that. It is quite a change from the pattern in Australia and overseas.
I commend the work that has been done in the nursing homes, and I commend the Minister for the assistance he has given to these people so that they will have a better opportunity. Of course, the Bill will raise the property limit and affect the supplementary assistance eligibility of a married pensioner who is separated from a spouse for health reasons. He or she will be treated as a single pensioner. Without going into any great detail, I give my wholehearted support to the Bill. I Commend the Minister for his diligence’ and sincerity in his difficult office as Minister for Social Services. I deprecate petty attacks on him in a debate on a straightforward Bill. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have no desire to delay the passage of these Bills but having been a medical practitioner and parliamentarian for some years I feel that there are certain matters which require comment and which probably apply to both of these Bills. In themselves, they do appear to correct an anomaly which concerns many honourable members. However, unlike the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) I despair at the discretion which exists in this proposition that the single pension will be paid to each partner where they are unable to live together through illness or infirmity and so lose the economics of that state and where the inability is likely to continue indefinitely, and I despair too at the very narrowness of the subject matter.
One would think that the pension is a generous allowance rather than for many a bare survival allowance below the poverty line. For many couples, a short stay in hospital for one of them can upset the financial balance. I realise that in any public hospital pensioners are treated free. However one partner in that hospital increases expenses. The small amenities that a hos pital patient needs, the extra cost of fares for hospital visits, the added costs of food, particularly if it is the male partner left at home to fend for himself, upset the economic balance. I believe that with this term ^definitely’ we are making it too much for the couple to bear. I believe that this extra allowance should be paid for all but the briefest stay in hospital, if it is to have any meaningful use for the pensioner couple.
I come now to an intermediate group of people who may be’ affected by this term indefinitely’. There are a large number of conditions, some degenerative in their nature such as coronary occlusions, cerebrp vascular accident, trauma resulting in fractured limbs, head injuries or surgical conditions, where one can be. pretty sure that the patient will require 3 months or 4 months hospitalisation. Or, there may be complications following on surgical procedures or medical conditions which may lead to a hospital stay of this length. This certainly does not fulfil the requirements of indefinitely’, yet it completely shatters the finely balanced economics of the pensioner couple. Is this amendment to the Act so generous when we consider these circumstances?
The statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in his policy speech prior to the last election, as adverted to by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) was:
We shall pay pensions at standard rates or at married rates to aged couples who lose the economics of living together by reason of failing health - for example, if one or both of them is in a nursing home.
In other words, it should apply to loss of the economics of living together. This may occur and does occur at an earlier stage than what I would feel the plain and ordinary meaning of the word ‘indefinitely’ conveys. Is the Government merely correcting an anomaly as to matter of degree and leaving a large part of the problem still festering? Surely once the requirement of loss of economics of living together is satisfied, any discretion should only be exercised as to the time such method of payment continues, if and when the loss of economics of living together no longer applies. Surely this would allow this underprivileged group in our community some sort of help.
Then, there is the final group which is covered by both criteria. I refer to the loss of economics of living together and such loss being likely to continue indefinitely. Is this situation going to be so clear cut? One can consider analogies in other fields which raise one’s doubts as to whether this is so. One of these analogies in the past has been in the field of hospital benefits. Many elderly people unable to retain a bed in an acute or public hospital must be accommodated in an approved nursing home and many, for this reason, have held hospital insurance. The benefits here were paid only in special cases where the treatment provided was equivalent to hospital treatment. Now, the discretion here as to whether the service was equivalent to hospital treatment was at the discretion of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, just as the interpretation of the word ‘indefinitely’ will be at the discretion of the Commonwealth Director-General of Social Services and, in the same way, there is little hope of reversal or appeal.
One elderly couple, who are constituents of mine, will give rise to a claim under this legislation, although they will still be embarrassed by nursing home charges. A geriatrician of Greenvale Village, where the wife was an inpatient, stated that she was suffering from a severe left, hemiplegia and was in need of further treatment. But because of a severe bed shortage this woman was discharged to a private hospital where equivalent hospital treatment could be given. However, despite this statement of a highly qualified specialist geriatrician, the private hospital was considered an approved nursing home and .referral of the claim by the hospital benefits association to the Commonwealth Director of Health led to the determination that she was not entitled to receive the benefit. So, here we have a conflict of opinion between a competent geriatrician and an officer of the Commonwealth Department of Health. May we not get the same situation with this social services legislation as far as the word ‘indefinitely’ is concerned? It seems to me that the situation could arise where a patient’s medical adviser may believe that the aged person should be retained in hospital indefinitely while, in the view of the Department, the aged person is fit to live with his or her partner in the matrimonial home.
The case that I have cited has meant depletion of the savings of the couple concerned in meeting heavy hospital fees far in excess of S60 per week. The payment of the single rate of pension will not make much difference to their case although I am happy to say, as mentioned by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), that the Department of Social Services is considering exercising its discretion in this case with regard to the rate of pension even before this legislation is passed. The honourable member for Oxley pointed out the amount which such an aged couple would receive under the circumstances and how it would not cover such hospital, expenses. He quoted the figures from Mrs Coleman for the Alexander Hospital. I think that the Minister was mistaken here. Mrs Coleman would be referring to Alexander Hospital at Castlemaine where the patients certainly in the majority are not intensive care patients but where the grading ranges from ambulatory patients up to intensive care patients throughout that institution. So, I think a valid point exists in the claim by the honourable member for Oxley that the amount is $9 per day, if I am correct in my assumption on the institution.
I am concerned at the narrow field to which this legislation has been restricted. I believe that it touches one end of the problem only. It raises many doubts in my mind as to its efficacy. It shows a glimmer of knowledge of the problems that face pensioner couples. It serves to highlight other problems that exist. Only when we relate such social services to the real needs of individuals in terms of the dignity, self respect and values that they deserve in their lives can we be satisfied.
Earlier, I asked a question with regard to the establishment of a chair of gerontology in Australia. I believe that the work that would be carried out in this sort of area might well have given much more informed opinion of the circumstances that surround this amendment to our social services legislation.
While the Minister claims that this is a further step in the Government’s concerted, programme of assisting those with special needs, I see it as no more than lip service to such a problem, serving only as an escape for the Government to reassure those of its supporters who are clear headed enough to see this as an anomaly and, in fact, letting the Government get away with as little as the traffic can bear.
– We have heard two harangues in regard to this legislation which is quite simple and was introduced as a result of a promise made in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) before the last election when he said:
We shall pay pensions at standard rates instead of married rates to aged couples who lose the economies of living together by reason of failing health - for example, if one or both of them is in a nursing home.
The honourable member for Scullin (Dr jenkins) got mixed up entirely. He spoke of people being in hospital for 3 or 4 weeks, or even months, and of course he has overlooked the point that these people are being hospitalised free of charge and at the same time are receiving their pensions. If after an accident or after having a coronary occlusion they are sent to a nursing home it is most probable that the word ‘indefinitely’ would apply, and the responsible authority for repatriation and social service matters would agree that they are indefinitely unable to continue in the matrimonial home. But I must congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your tolerance and your charity in regard to this matter and I would like you to extend some to myself because I want to mention someone who has been actively associated with social services and fought hard for the introduction of legislation like this when there was no differentiation between single and married pensioners.
I have seen’ the single pensioner living much more frugally than the married pensioner couple. The former member for Mitchell. Mr R. C. Wheeler, and 1 brought this fact very prominently before the Government of the day and said that single people, especially those without a home who were paying rent for their rooms, deserved the consideration of the Government. We were responsible in some way for bringing about the extra pension for single persons. I take pride in this and I am proud now that the Government has decided to honour the Prime Minister’s promise that we would do this. This Bill is so simple. The other areas spoken about by honourable members opposite will be taken care of in due time.
The policy of this Government is that those in greatest need will receive our greatest consideration and attention, and we will proceed progressively along mis line. But the Opposition has strung out this debate and meandered around the whole field of social services when all we want to do is to enable the Government to honour its promise to pay these people their extra pensions, to get the Royal Assent and let the people concerned with this legislation get on with the job. I commend the Government for bringing this legislation forward and I trust that in future where time is the essence of the contract we will not have such delaying tactics by the Opposition.
– I would like to add just a few words to this debate, though I am doing it under difficult circumstances with a dose of the flu. Unlike the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) I do not feel that we need to apologise for taking the opportunity to air our views on this legislation. It is to amend the Social Services Act in relation to certain married persons suffering illness or infirmity and it provides for the payment of pensions at standard rates or single rates instead of married rates to aged couples who lose the economies of living together by reason of failing health. I suppose some of us married men could not concede that we enjoy the economies of living together, but nevertheless there is a fair case to be made out along the lines that when an aged couple separate for reasons of sickness there is likely to be an additional financial burden. As a result of these considerations the pension increase is to amount to $1.75 a week. I agree with the honourable member for Mitchell if he is implying that the amount of money involved does not justify too much speech making in this Parliament. When all is said and done it works out to 25c a day, so it Ls little enough for this under-privileged section of the community; and they are under-privileged. After all, we are told that 3 out of 4 have no income, that half of them do not own their own homes and that 1 in 5 - or roughly 28% - live in poverty.
I think it is a fair case that the Opposition has made out on this legislation in view of the circumstances which I have just referred to and which other speakers have outlined. We say that the Government is niggardly and that the legislation is petty even though we concede that it has some value. I presume that this legislation will benefit couples whose separation by way of admission to a hospital or nursing home is of a permanent and long term nature, which is likely to be the general circumstance of the couples concerned. There has been no prediction as to the number of people who may benefit, but 1 think it is fairly safe to say that the vast predominance of pensioners are not likely to benefit from these provisions for reasons which I hope to be able to outline. In other words, this is not major legislation at all. But it could be the most significant legislation under the social welfare heading which the Parliament is to deal with in 1970. If that is the case - and 1 think it is - it is very difficult to see the intent of the Government in restricting the scope of this debate.
I have taken the opportunity. Mr Deputy “Speaker, as no doubt you have yourself, to look over the Governor-General’s Speech, which outlined the legislative intentions of the Government for the current year and I detected that nothing of a substantial nature in regard to social services was indicated in that Speech at all. The Speech was silent on very important matters affecting the welfare of aged people in our community and, indeed, invalids as well. There was no mention of any government plan to alleviate the means test.
– Order! 1 would suggest that the honourable member for Hughes has had enough experience in this Parliament, to know that he is getting a little wide of the Bill. The honourable member mentions certain things that are not dealt with in the Bill, but he cannot make a’ speech on those. I would suggest that he take note of the provisions of the Bill.
– This is a Bill to amend the Social Services Act in relation to certain married pensioners suffering illness or infirmity. Now, I do not want to develop any matters at all in connection with the means test, though I think it is fair to contend that if the means test had been alleviated it would have had an important and relevant bearing on the title of this Bill, lt is enough in the way of a generality to say that there are many matters excluded and the foremost among them is the means test. Other things, of course, would include automatic pension increases and the need for an all round pension increase. One would have thought that in the early stages of this Parliament we may have had, instead of this restricted style of legislation, something in the nature of a blueprint to take Australia’s welfare programme into the 1970s. After all, for 60 long years our basic approach to social services has remained unchanged and we have walked the treadmill of the status quo. It seems that we will go on doing so, except for some very petty and fairy ineffective amendments.
Retirement in Australia is still synonymous with charity and often with poverty. This Bill will not do much to alleviate the poverty that afflicts people who are suffering from illness and infirmity. Here in this legislation is the time honoured connotation of the dollar complex and the inevitable and mercenary relationship of social welfare legislation to a forthcoming election. I predict that we will have some other legislation between now and the Senate election and that it will not be of a serious nature. M we look at the history of social service legislation we see usually that some benefit is given not in the period following an election but in the period preceding an election. Usually nothing substantial is done in the 2 years immediately following an election. Apparently just enough will be done this year to prepare for the forthcoming Senate election. It is pretty unhappy for pensioners to recognise that they must wait until 1972 before something further will be done.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! 1 pointed out to the honourable member for Hughes only a few moments ago that this Bill does not give rise to a general debate on social service matters.
– When we take into account that this legislation deals with 705,000 age pensioners and another 121,000 invalid pensioners, or a total of 627,000 pensioners and 20,000 dependents, it is important to speculate as to the number who may be affected by the precise provisions of it. It has been pointed out by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) that the principal purpose of the Bill is to assist those people who are going into nursing homes. 1 should have thought that it would have been a bona fide action for an honourable member to look at the cost of nursing homes and so gauge the extent to which this legislation will meet the requirements for which it is intended. If the Minister does not agree with that point of view, I would regard the proceedings today as a farce. This would prevent any reasonable opportunity to talk sensibly about anything relating to the Bill. In my view the principle of Commonwealth support should now be extended to the provision of public nursing home services and especially to hospitalisation. The Bill provides an extra $1.75 a week to married pensioners who separate through the need to enter nursing and rest homes. Through its continued indifference, the Government has allowed these services to fall outside its control. They have come to be regarded as the responsibility of private rather than public enterprise. This industry is so lucrative that in New South Wales alone the number of nursing homes increased by 1,700 in 1966 and 1,100 in 1967.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! As I have already pointed out to the honourable member for Hughes, this legislation does not allow a general debate on social services nor does it provide for a debate especially oh nursing homes. I will read the title of the Bill to the honourable member. It is:
To amend the Social Services Act 1947-1969 in relation to certain Married Persons suffering Illness or Infirmity.
I suggest to the honourable member for Hughes that he relate his remarks to the title of the Bill and the subject matter before the chair.
– There is no doubt that the potential beneficiaries would be interested in ascertaining the extent to which the provisions of the Bill will meet their requirements. One would have thought that the Minister would have set out to show that an income of $15 a week, together with the additional fringe benefits provided in this legislation, the intensive care provisions and the supplementary pension in aggregate would have provided sufficient income to enable a pensioner to go into a nursing home. The only way this can be shown is to ascertain the cost of a nursing home. Surely the Parliament is entitled to know the extent to which the legislation meets its intended purpose. If it is not entitled to know that, all I can say is that I have never before seen such an incredibly narrow restriction placed on the debate of a Bill. 1 do not know why the Minister would seek this protection, if he has in fact sought it. If he has not sought it and does not require it, if he believes that a case can be made out to show that the Government is providing adequately to meet the needs of pensioners who go into nursing homes, we should be allowed to debate these matters in a more effective way. However, I can see, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you are not inclined to exercise much tolerance in that direction.
Order! This is not a matter of tolerance from the Chair. It is a matter of the subject that is before the House. The honourable member for Hughes should remind himself of that, also.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. In my analysis of nursing home care, I intend to show that the provisions of the Bill are hopelessly inadequate and that pensioners who go into nursing homes and lose the economies of living together are being given an infinitesimal and inadequate amount of assistance. But I am unable to continue with that line. Heaven knows when anyone would be able to engage in such a debate. However, I will proceed now to another point.
The effect of the means test on the proposals contained in the Bill have not been admitted by the Government or the Minister during this debate. When some single or married pensioners leave their homes to take accommodation in a nursing or rest home, they may not get any pension at all. That will be the result of the application of the provisions of the Social Services Act. Some may well get a reduction of their pension; some may lose their entitlement even to a part pension; they may lose the fringe benefits, including the pensioner medical service. The reason for this is that, as soon as the pensioner’s home is vacated, its value is taken into account in assessing the rate of pension payable. In other words, the value of the home would be regarded in precisely the same way as if it were money in the bank. It seems to be implied in what the Minister has said and in the general theme of this debate that, because couples are required to separate through illness and therefore lose the economies of living together, they will be emancipated and assisted by this legislation. However, the fact is that in many instances when a pensioner couple leave their borne because of sickness their pension will be substantially cut or eliminated altogether. They will lose every consolation and comfort to which they may have been entitled for many years. 1 think this is a pertinent matter to raise when debating this legislation. As I understand it, if a couple with an income from superannuation of $20 a week had to leave a modest house valued at about $27,000, they would lose all their pension entitlement. Similarly a widowed pensioner with no income - I do not mean a lady who is receiving a widow’s pension but a widowed age or invalid pensioner - would lose all pension entitlement if forced to vacate a home valued at about $25,000. These are not exceptional circumstances. Lots of people are in that situation. Together with other honourable members I have encountered that kind of case on many occasions. I believe that in cases like this, where the home is abandoned because of medical reasons or through the inability of a pensioner to care for himself or herself, the value of the vacated property should be disregarded altogether. But under the provisions of the Social Services Act there will be no amelioration at ali of the plight of the pensioners. In fact the likelihood is that their plight will be aggravated.
I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth): Has he ever thought of the great benefit that would accrue to Australian pensioners who are separated because of sickness and who lose the economies of living together, if the Department of Social Services did not, as at present, take the value of their home into account so that it adversely affects their pension? Has this been considered in a compassionate and enlightened way so as to give these people exemption from these inhuman and stringent measures which, from my experience, cause difficulty, hardship and tremendous anxiety to large numbers of pensioners?
The Government consistently has declined to eliminate the means test and that is one of the reasons why this problem emerges. If the means test had been eliminated, as proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) during the last election campaign, the matter to which I have just referred would not be a problem today for aged people. The iniquitous means test currently is excluding 500,000 people of pensionable age from the pensions scheme. It has an effect on people who leave their homes because of sickness.
This Bill will not bring any substantial alleviation to the problems of age married pensioners who are separated because of illness and inability to care for themselves. They may get an extra $1.75 a week through the provisions of this Bill but this will not enable them to meet the rising costs of nursing home care. In my view the Minister and the Government should look again at this matter. More importantly, the Government should recast Australia’s social welfare provisions to lay a basis for the remaining years of the 20th century. Its aim should be that all our citizens may enjoy the security and peace of life that stems from the knowledge that in every eventuality the rights, well being and dignity of the frail, the sick and the aged will be upheld and properly safeguarded.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I was rather amazed to hear, firstly, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and then the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) take the line that they took this afternoon in attempting to debate the broad issues of social services. Both honourable members have had ample experience in this House to know that there are plenty of opportunities for them to raise questions of a general nature relating to social services. They can do so in the Address-in-Reply debate. They can do so during the debate on the Estimates. In fact there are all sorts of opportunities - even when i:L..:>ns the motion for the adjournment of the House - for them to do so. I am amazed that they should have taken that line this afternoon.
In brief, the two Bills we are discussing are aimed at amending the Social Services Act and the Repatriation Act. It is intended to increase the married rate pension to that of a single rate in cases where married couples are separated and do not have the financial advantage of living together, or, in the words of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten), to provide ‘increased pensions for married means test pensioners who lose the economies of living together because of failing health’.
The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) referred to people being hospitalised. I think the honourable member should have another look at the Social Services Bill because clause 3 (c) refers to:
I believe that the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) answered this doubt in the mind of the honourable member for Scullin and did so quite satisfactorily. After all, as the honourable member for Mitchell said, when a person is in a home the situation is different from that which exists when a person is in a hospital.
These Bills are very limited in scope. I do not intend to traverse all angles of social service or repatriation problems. I want to raise the question of chronic cases. I believe such cases are covered by the preamble to the Bill because it uses the words ‘illness’ and ‘infirmity’. Under the repatriation provisions, all pensioners receiving pensions of 100% or above are entitled to free medical treatment but this does not necessarily apply so far as a chronic case is concerned. The only time that a chronic case can receive free medical treatment, following upon declaration that the case is chronic, is when the person concerned can qualify under the means test for ordinary social service assistance. In other words, to cut this down to brief terms, one can say that the phrase a person with means’ really means that one must first spend one’s own money before becoming entitled to assistance.
I think most people would agree that the people in real need are those with the worst types of illness - in other words the chronic cases. These patients should receive more consideration than persons with temporary illnesses. If a person stubs his toe and loses a day’s work it is not a terrible tragedy. It is the people who are bedridden or hospitalised because of chronic illness that we should look at very closely. I know that the new Minister for Repatriation is very sympathetic to this class of people and I know he is looking closely into their circumstances. I am sure the Government also agrees that we must endeavour to do something along these lines to help those people because they are the people in most need. It does not matter whether this aid takes the form of hospital and benefit fund assistance or whether it is dealt with in our social service legislation or by some other means; we have to do something about these people.
These Bills will increase the rate payable to eligible married couples from $26.50 to $30 per week. The increase relates to those married couples who virtually are living apart and thus come within its scope. We must not overlook the fact that such people are also entitled to a supplementary allowance of $2 each, making a total of $4 a week, if they have income of not more than $3 a week each, or $6 for the married couple. I have noted that under the means test being implemented this would be the highest rate of earning that one could have and become a pensioner. Under the ordinary means test a married couple may earn $70 a week whereas it is proposed to increase that sum to $77. This is very important. If one looks at the means test relating to property the figure is being increased to $40,840. This is a very substantial increase and, of course, will help a lot of people in this category.
I do not wish to speak at any length this afternoon because these Bills are self explanatory. I do not think there is any need to go into details. I commend the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the Minister for Repatriation for bringing forward legislation to deal with a situation which most people regarded in the past as anomalous. I hope the Bills will have speedy passage through this House and that they will be implemented in a very short period of time.
– I wish to say only a few words on this Bill this afternoon and with my knowledge of the standing orders of the Parliament you may be assured, Mr Deputy Speaker, that as usual I will stay within the scope of the Bill. I support the Bill because one has to be grateful for the morsels that fall from the rich man’s table, and that applies particularly to social services where the Government in bits and pieces, by a method of stop and go and by a patching up system occasionally gives some benefit to this most deserving section of the community.
The legislation under discussion today gives benefits to a very deserving section of people who are suffering in poverty in many cases because of their low incomes and the high cost of living. But it is significant that only the very minimum is given to the most deserving, as exemplified in this Bill. Why, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) did not even tell us in his second reading speech how many persons were involved in a given year - how many would be covered by the legislation. Generally the first thing he says when he introduces legislation in the Parliament is: This will cover 10,000 or 20,000 families or something like that. The Minister well knows that, deserving as the legislation is, it covers only a tiny number of that deserving section of pensioners in the community. Why did he not tell us the cost involved in this measure? lt must be very small or the Minister would have skited about it.
The fact: of the matter is that so small is this benefit to this deserving section that the Minister will not tell us how many are involved; he will not tell us the cost involved in a full year. Therefore, I would like to hear the Minister express his views on this point because it is terribly important to all concerned. The Government always talks big and acts small. I make passing reference to the fact that the Government introduced a measure for a subsidy on meals, lt said that it would give $1 for every 10 meals. That sounded a lot better than 10c a meal. In other words, the Government misleads, misconstrues and at the same time gives the impression that it is doing a major task but is doing practically nothing at all.
When legislation was introduced for a married and single rate pension I moved an amendment on behalf of the Opposition that said it was discrimination of the worst type and that there should have been a base rate for all pensioners with people most deserving receiving special assistance. Because of the discrimination between married and single pensioners that this Bill deals with today, the anomaly the Government is trying to remove is one of the many that exist in the legislation. Discrimination of the worst kind, anomalies by the thousand and injustices that are multiplied many times have come from this change in making married and single rates. All rates should have been increased to a substantial base amount and benefits then given to the most needy and not in this piecemeal way. 1 wonder whether the Minister realises that people living in sin today would be better off than if they were to go through the sacrament of marriage. In other words, it has become a penalty to be a decent citizen if one is a married pensioner and carries out one’s matrimonial obligations. The Government has now found that this discrimination occasionally has to be relieved. ( had a case covered by this legislation some years ago where a married couple were in a home and their pensions were accordingly reduced because of that. The Bill before the House will overcome this situation; but the anomalous situation arises out of the Government’s own legislation. Therefore we find today that the Government has had to introduce an amendment. Is it not amazing that even in the second reading speech the Minister told us that the legislation is to seek out areas of special need and to bring to this House measures to meet those needs’. Why does the Government categorise these poor people?
We have the aged and the frail aged: the ill and the very ill; the care and the intensive care. We have standard rate and married rate and I suppose there are the sick, the dead, the weakening and the nearly dead. The Government is categorising a section of society instead of having a wide and extensive scheme to cover all aged and sick people, to give them all benefits, whatever category it might say they are in. But in the most mean and contemptible way the Government has put them into sections and categorised them simply because of their disabilities, their want and their need. Yet we are now living in the 1970s and men have landed on the moon. The Minister boasted what he would do for people who wanted social services. He was going to abolish the means test and give to the needy and others all those benefits so necessary. He now brings down legislation in a boastful way but gives no costs, no facts and no numbers of those involved. This piecemeal legislation gives the very minimum to a very deserving section. The Minister, in his second reading speech, gives the record of the Government. He points out:
The House may be interested in comparative figures showing the Australian position in this regard as compared with the position in certain other countries.
He referred to pensions -
This can be measured by expressing the single pension as a percentage of the pensions received by a married couple. This is set out in the following table . .’ .
The Minister said that Australia’s single rate as a percentage of the married couple rate is 56.6%. or 64.2% if you like to take in the supplementary assistance. The figure for France is 66.6%. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that France would head us off in the field of social1 services. Italy is 90.9%. This is a country that was crushed in a great world conflict and which has arisen from the ashes, as it were. Italy now leads us by roughly 30% in the field of social welfare. We find that the figure for the Netherlands is 70.3%. which is well above the maximum the Government allows of 64.2% in Australia. New Zeal’and is the only country that has dropped behind us and it has a good excuse - it has a Liberal government, so we cannot expect much to happen there. The figures show that New Zealand is going backwards just as we are going backwards. In Sweden, where the people have had a Labour government for many years, they have a figure of 63% which is above the base amount here without the supplementary assistance. The United Kingdom figure of 58.8% is still above the Australian level. The United States, with due respect to it, was one of the few countries, until the Kennedys came to light which never thought much of social welfare, heads Australia by 12% at 66.6%. That is a damning indictment of the Government’s policy - the slip in social welfare in this country after 20 years of administration by it is shown by the fact that we have dropped behind countries that never thought of having a social welfare scheme in days gone by. That is why today I condemn to some extent the Minister for his failure to see that we lead other countries, as we did when Labor was in office, in the field of social welfare and that the needy and the deserving get the assistance to which they are entitled. That is why I would like to see the Minister explain why these piecemeal bits of legislation have been introduced and no effective and extensive scheme has been introduced.
We took a backward step for years when we discriminated between pensioners. That is why today 1 add my voice of protest, though not so much about what is in the Bill because we should be grateful for what we get from this Government be it great or small, because we will never get anything great in this human field. At the same time I think we have an obligation to pensioners from one end of this country to the other to get up and condemn the Government that spends unlimited funds on everything one can think of except social welfare. Why, if the Government spent in this field alone a fraction of what it has spent on the great plane that will not fly it would be looked upon as the greatest government of our time.
Today I heard in this Parliament that we are to spend $20,000 a year to spout some water into Canberra’s lake to celebrate the discovery of this country some 200 years ago. I bet this Bill does not cover a fraction of the $20,000 that the Government is to spend on a jet or water spout to celebrate Captain Cook’s arrival. These things cry to high heaven for some people to wake the Government up about them. Tonight I place on record my condemnation of a government that spends money on all kinds of things but the very minimum on those that really need it. I hope the Minister will have a revival of that rebellious spirit he displayed when he was fighting his way to the front line where he sits today. I would like to see him dc for the people under his control what he promised to do if and when he was in government. But I look somewhat sadly at him. I think the old rebel has died, you know. He is a very tame member today. Consequently those great ideals he expressed have now passed into oblivion. He just goes along the track hoping that a little morsel here and there will please these people and at the same time honour the Government’s minimum obligations to the aged and invalid pensioners in this country. 1 know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you realise that not once have I digressed and made remarks outside the scope of this legislation. 1 thank you. Mr Deputy Speaker, for the understanding way in which you have interpreted the Standing Orders. Having said so much, let me again express my support for the measure so far as it goes, although I condemn it for the limits placed upon it.I express the hope that if the Government can find $20,000 a year to spout water into the air to honour Captain Cook it will put some money into pensions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Wentworth) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-I would like to ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) a question in relation to the amending Bill. Clause 3 (c) refers to a couple who are forced to part and who are unable to live together in a matrimonial home. It has been suggested to me, although I have no personal experience of a constituent in such circumstances, that there have been cases where both partners to the marriage have been forced out of the matrimonial home and have gone into nursing homes. In some cases they have been in the same nursing home but in separate wards. I have been asked to inquire from the Minister whether in this situation they would both be entitled to the standard rate of pension.
– in reply - I am grateful for the question from the honourable member for Oxley (Mr
Hayden). I am happy to give him the assurance that under this Bill the standard rate of pension will be paid even though both partners to the marriage are in the same nursing home, and if otherwise entitled they will both have the rights to supplementary assistance. I think there has been a certain amount of misunderstanding in this regard. Under the present practices of the Department of Social Services, which have been in vogue for a couple of years, we had created the fiction of considering a couple as not being married. This Bill will make it unnecessary to continue that fiction.
-It will make them respectable.
– Not only that; it will also have some good side effects for them. If they are considered to be unmarried they lose the benefit of the halving provisions of the Act and this in its turn may also affect their rights to supplementary assistance. The Bill will restore that. The Bill is not negligible. The honourable member is perfectly right that under that existing practice as it stands at the moment married rates of pension are paid only to a married couple living under separate circumstances in the same nursing home. The Bill will correct that situation. Therefore it is not a negligible Bill.
As I said in my second reading speech some married couples will receive as much as $7.50 extra a week because of this Bill. 1 wonder whether the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) would allow me to correct a misapprehension which is in his mind. He referred to a table in my second reading speech. Unfortunately he misread the table and drew exactly the wrong conclusion from it. Those countries which have the higher proportions have the greater differentiations between married and single rates. If the policy of the Opposition were brought into operation Australia would then be on 50%, and that would be very bad by his own reckoning. I am afraid that the honourable member for Grayndler misunderstood the table and got it upside down.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4 March (vide page 88), on motion by Mr Holten:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
I would like to comment briefly on two matters. I can assure honourable members that the word ‘indefinitely’ in the context mentioned in my second reading speech will be interpreted in the most flexible and generous way possible. I think the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) raised this matter during his speech. There is no precise definition of the word indefinitely’, but it indicates illness or infirmity on which no definite duration can be placed. As I have said, the word will be interpreted in the most flexible and generous way possible. In regard to the matter raised by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) he can rest assured that cases of chronic illness will receive careful consideration by the Repatriation Department in the future. I should mention that the Department does accept responsibility for chronic disabilities where those disabilities have been accepted as being due to war service or caused by war service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs - Minister
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is concerned with the first grant to be made under the new national water resources development programme which has already been announced. The Government has agreed to a request from the State of Queensland for a grant under the programme of up to $ 12.8m for specified works in the Bundaberg region.
The new national water resources development programme was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in October 1969. Under the programme, the Commonwealth proposes to make available to the States$1 00m over 5 years for rural water conservation and supply works, flood mitigation and water measurement, over and above the States’ own programmes for these purposes. This new programme follows the original national water programme which provided over $50m in grants to the States.
Under the division of constitutional responsibilities the assessment, development and control of water resources in the States is primarily a matter for the State governments and the programmes of water conservation being undertaken by the States bear ample testimony to their recognition of the need to develop and make available as much water as possible for use in rural areas as well as in towns and cities. However, following on the successful CommonwealthState co-operation in the accelerated programmes of water resources measurement, to which the Commonwealth is making a significant financial contribution, the Commonwealth Government decided that an acceleration of the national effort in water conservation works was called for. The Government therefore established the first programme which is resulting in a substantial increase in capital expenditure on rural water development works. The demand for assistance with these works indicated the need for an extension and accordingy the new programme was commenced.
In 1967 the Queensland Government submitted to the Commonwealth for consideration under the original programme a proposal for an irrigation scheme to serve the Kolan-Burnett area on the north side of the Burnett River. At the same time, a further submission dealing with the BurnettIsis area to the south of the Burnett River was foreshadowed. The Kolan-Burnett proposal was examined by the Commonwealth but was not included in the short list of projects for detailed examination in the programme. In March 1969 the State submitted a new proposal embracing in the one project most of the Bundaberg cane growing region and superseding the earlier proposals, but at that stage the final allocations in the national water programme were being determined. In September 1969 the Queensland Government announced the allocation of$8.3m for works which were considered particularly urgent in view of the increasing seriousness of the position with regard to underground supplies in the coastal area.
Following the announcement by the Prime Minister in October 1969 that the national water programme would be extended by the provision of $100m over the next 5 years for water resources development in the States, the Queensland Premier submitted a request for $12.8m, being the estimated cost of the Monduran Dam and pumping station and inter-river connecting channel. Because the project had been under study for some time and the need for remedial measures was apparent the Queensland request received early consideration. Details of the scheme are contained in the explanatory memorandum distributed with the Bill.
I turn now to the Bill itself, which generally follows the pattern of measures granting financial assistance to the State and Acts previously passed by the Parliament for particular projects assisted under the first programme. The works themselves, in respect of which a Commonwealth grant is payable, are described in the Schedule to the Bill, and provision is made in clause 5 for the Schedule to be varied if this appears desirable in terms of the objectives of the legislation. Provisions for nonrepayable grants is made in clause 4 of the Bill. Clauses 6 and 7 set out requirements in connection with the implementation of the project and cover the provision of information requested by the Minister, ministerial approval of the works, action by the State to provide the other works which make up the total project, and approval by the Minister of contracts in excess of $500,000. Requirements for information in respect of expenditure are set out in clause 8, and the usual provision for the Treasurer to make advance payments and for repayment of over-payments are made in clauses 9 and 10.
The national water resources development programme represents a very important move towards closer collaboration between the State and Commonwealth governments in the development of Australia’s water resources. The present legislation will give effect to the first decision of the Government in connection with the extension of this important programme and will provide support for a project of national significance. The Bundaberg region is at present suffering from two severe disabilities. The dry farmed canelands are subject to wide fluctuation in yield and under present marketing conditions farmers cannot compensate for poor years with production much above peaks in good years. The resultant inefficiency, added to the widely fluctuating income, when set against continually rising costs is producing serious economic problems in the district. On the other hand the bulk of the irrigation is dependent on supplies which are likely to fail if withdrawals continue at the present rate. In spite of recent rains underground water levels in the vicinity of Bundaberg are the lowest ever recorded. On both counts therefore remedial measures aimed at providing an assured water supply are urgently required in order to maintain the stability and prosperity of the region. I have much pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to ratify the sixth further amending agreement to the River Murray Waters Agreement. The principal purpose of the amending agreement is to provide for the construction of a major storage near Dartmouth on the
Mitta Mitta River, a tributary of the Murray upstream of Hume Reservoir, as the next major development of the River Murray system. At the same time a number of amendments have been made in relation to the functions and operations of the River Murray Commission and some minor amendments have been incorporated to delete obsolete provisions in the principal Agreement and to effect a few other minor amendments of a textual nature. The background to this development, involving suspension of work on the Chowilla storage and its replacement by the Dartmouth storage as the next major development, has been given in a number of documents published by the River Murray Commission and in statements made to this House by the previous President of the River Murray Commission, my predecessor as the Minister for National Development. I do not therefore propose to go into this whole matter in detail once again but would be happy to answer any questions that may arise in the discussion of this measure. lt will’ suffice at this stage to say that at the time of its authorisation by the four contracting governments, the Chowilla storage was estimated to cost $28m. In March 1966 as a result of more detailed design studies prior to the calling of tenders the estimated cost was revised to $43 m. When tenders were considered in April 1967 the most favourable tender received resulted in a further upward revision of the cost to $68m. Obviously, an increase of about 250% in the estimated cost over a period of 4 years raised doubts as to whether the early basis for selection of Chowilla as the most favourable development for the next stage was still valid. Accordingly it was agreed that work on the Chowilla storage should be suspended to enable a new comparison to be made between it and other possible developments in the upper Murray catchment, which had been considered in the earlier studies. These investigations, taking into consideration also the changing operational requirements along the river to control salinity, showed that for a similar capital expenditure the Dartmouth storage can be expected to provide over 1 million acre feet per annum of additional water in the River Murray system compared with an increase of between about 190,000 and 380,000 feet per annum in the case of Chowilla, depending upon operating criteria. Furthermore, the studies showed that with Dartmouth storage South Australia’s increased entitlement will be provided with even less restriction than would have applied to the smaller entitlement with the Chowilla storage. Over the period since 1906 on which the studies were based there would have been only a very minor restriction in 1 year.
The recent studies involved a substantial revision of the early assessment of the benefits that can be- expected from Chowilla. This revision was related not only to changing operational requirements on the river but also to revised assessments of other factors such as evaporation losses from the Chowilla storage which, in the light of more recent data, were substantially increased. In addition, in the recent study the whole operational programme was simulated on an electronic computer by means of which it was possible to examine alternative proposals in much greater detail than hitherto. At the same time, consultants appointed by the River Murray Commission to advise on all aspects of salinity advised that the Dartmouth storage would have verv little affect on salinity in the lower river, and that although Chowilla would reduce the short term peaks in salinity which occur from time to time in most seasons, and would affect a small reduction in the average salinity, it would also significantly increase the salinity during severe droughts when conditions are generally at their worst. Accordingly, it was considered that the effects of these 2 storages on salinity were not sufficiently different to be an important factor in the selection of the next major development.
Against the above background the 4 contracting governments have agreed to proceed with the Dartmouth storage, subject to a number of important conditions. The first of these is that taking into consideration the additional quantity of water provided by the Dartmouth storage, compared with the Chowilla storage, South Australia’s entitlement to water should be increased from 1,254,000 acre feet of water per annum to 1,500.000 acre feet. I would stress here that the figure of 1,254,000 acre feet was to have applied after the completion of Chowilla and this remained unchanged from when the Agreement was first signed in 1915. The significance of this increase of nearly 250,000 acre feet in the South Australian entitlement is, however, greater than the figures would suggest. The total entitlement includes an allowance at present assessed at 564,000 acre feet per annum, for losses such as seepage and evaporation. Hence the net divertible component of the entitlement is only 690,000 acre feet. Another important condition of the States’ acceptance of the Dartmouth storage was that the Commonwealth should provide some financial assistance. I am pleased to say that agreement was also reached on this point and in conjunction with this Bill, my colleague the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) will be introducing a Bill dealing with financial agreements with the States on this matter.
It was also agreed that in order to ensure the availability of adequate supplies of water in the lower river, the Menindee Lakes Storage Agreement which had been regarded as a temporary measure pending completion of Chowilla, should be continued indefinitely. There were some other conditions associated with Dartmouth including an adjustment in the sharing of water between New South Wales and Victoria whereby Victoria cedes to New South Wales the right to use certain quantities of inflow to the Murray from Victorian tributaries below Albury. Also certain procedures were laid down for regulation of the river with a view to controlling salinity in the lower reaches. Earlier studies had led to the belief that following the construction of Chowilla the 2 upstream States would each receive substantial additional supplies after providing that South Australia would receive its entitlement of 1,254,000 acre feet per annum without restriction in all but a very few years of severe drought. The upstream States entered into commitments for the use of water from the Murray system in anticipation of the availability of additional supplies. Severe curtailment of deliveries in the 2 upstream States can be” expected in the event of the recurrence of some of the earlier severe droughts, until the Dartmouth storage comes into operation. It is therefore a matter of considerable urgency that the additional storage be provided in order to avoid the widespread disruption that would occur In the whole of the Murray Valley in the event of a severe drought. Detailed economic studies of the benefits from this storage would be a very difficult and complex exercise, but I would point out that the capital cost of the storage per acre foot of additional water supplied per annum, which is only slightly over $50 per acre foot is exceptionally low by present day Australian standards and indicates the economic justification for the proposal.
Turning now to the Dartmouth Reservoir itself, the dam will consist of a central earth core flanked on either side by material increasing in coarseness with an outer shell of quarried rock. The embankment will be approximately 590 feet high above foundation, the crest length 2,300 feet, and the volume of fill about 20 million cubic yards. A spillway with fixed crest 300 feet long is proposed on the left bank of the dam site, discharging through a short length of concrete lined chute into the rock quarry, where the energy of the water will be dissipated over a series of cascades. Final investigations and designs may lead to some modification of the general arrangement at present proposed. Investigations are proceeding to determine whether power generation facilities should be included with the dam, but any such works would be financed by the Electricity Commission of Victoria and would not affect the functioning of the storage for water supply purposes. It is proposed that the constructing authority, the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria, will retain the Snowy Mountains Authority as consultants to carry out the detailed design and preparation of contract documents for the project.
I should perhaps say a word or two about the operation of the storage, since it has from time to time been questioned whether it is possible for it to provide an additional supply of over 1 million acre feet per annum in the system, when the mean annual discharge at the dam site is only about 700,000 acre feet per annum. At present, water is released from Hume storage only when inflows downstream are insufficient to meet requirements along the river. Bv an extension of this same principle, water would be released from Dartmouth storage when the Hume storage, which is further downstream, has been emptied, or when it is apparent that the storage will fail unless unexpected inflows occur. Thus the 3 million acre feet storage in Dartmouth will be available for release during periods in which shortages would otherwise occur, and the net result of this is that the inflow to the system, including inflow from tributaries below Hume, can be used more efficiently. 1 will now refer to the main provisions of the Agreement. The construction of Dartmouth Reservoir is provided for in clause 10(b) which inserts a new paragraph in clause 20 of the principal Agreement. In view of. the size and cost of this work it has been considered desirable to include in its description the estimated cost, in preference to the earlier procedure of amending clause 32 of the principal Agreement which previously gave the sum of the total costs of the completed works, and the estimated cost of the proposed new work. As a result of the inclusion of the Dartwouth Reservoir in the Agreement a number of consequential changes have been made to other clauses, many of which are of a purely routine nature and will not be mentioned further. Since the Agreement did not allocate responsibility for construction of works on tributaries above Hume Reservoir, this has now been added in terms of clause 1 1 .
Clause 13 provides for the deferment of construction of the Chowilla Reservoir as agreed by the four governments. The Lake Victoria storage is of great importance to South Australia as a source of water close at hand, particularly for the purposes of salinity control. Its effectiveness is determined partly by the size of the inlet and outlet works, and studies in this connection are at present in progress. For this reason, clause 10 (a) provides for an amendment to the description of the Lake Victoria works which will permit additional work to proceed on the basis of agreement by the 4 governments.
The other major change resulting from the Dartmouth project is the agreement to continue the Menindee Lakes Storage Agreement indefinitely. As 1 have mentioned, this Agreement was earlier visualised as a temporary measure pending the completion of the Chowilla project, but in terms of clause 29, the Menindee Lakes Storage Agreement is incorporated into the River Murray Waters Agreement. This includes a small adjustment in the New South Wales entitlement to water from the Menindee Lakes storage, as agreed between representatives of the 4 governments. Clauses 22 and 26(h) give details of an adjustment in allocation of tributary inflow in Victoria whereby the right to . use a small quantity of this flow is ceded to New South Wales, as also agreed between representatives of the governments. At that time it was also agreed to adopt an operational procedure for salinity control in the river which has been found effective in recent years, and this is dealt with in clause 22. I might mention that while this clause refers only to control of salinity upstream of South Australia, this is on the basis of control below that point being handled by releases from Lake Victoria, and if necessary from the Menindee Lakes storages.
I refer now to matters more of a machinery nature. Clauses 12, 13 and 16 provide for the contracting governments to be kept in closer touch with the main steps in implementing major works, and this seems desirable when we are dealing with projects of the magnitude of the Dartmouth Reservoir. Clause 9 gives the Commission the power of delegation which is usual for bodies of this type, but which had not previously been provided for. Clause 5 makes provision for indemnity for the officers and servants of the Commission in respect of any claims against them arising out of the bona fide execution of their duties. This indemnity has hitherto been available only for the commissioners and it was considered desirable to take advantage of this opportunity to provide similar protection for the officers and servants of the Commission. I do not believe the other matters are worthy of special mention and ( will not take further time to deal with them now. in summary, this Bill provides the machinery for implementing a major project which is of the utmost importance to the whole of the Murray Valley development. For South Australia, its importance extends far beyond the Murray Valley in the provision of pumped water supplies to Adelaide, to other industrial areas, and to very large areas of wheat and sheep country. Completion of the project will greatly increase the water supply available to the 3 States which are signatory to the Agreement, and I feel that the Commonwealth can be proud of the part it has played in bringing this project to the point where, after ratification of the Agreement by the 4 parliaments, work can be put in hand immediately.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia for provision of Commonwealth financial assistance to the States in respect of their shares of the cost of construction of the Dartmouth reservoir in Victoria. This Bill follows another measure recently introduced into this House to approve amendments to the River Murray Waters Agreement for the principal purpose of providing for construction of the Dartmouth Reservoir as a work under that agreement, the cost of the project to -be shared equally among the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. When introducing that measure, the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) explained the important purposes the Dartmouth Reservoir will serve, and I shall not go over that ground again here.
During the inter-government discussions that led to the decision for construction of the reservoir as a work under the River Murray Waters Agreement, the governments of the three States concerned all indicated that they fully agreed with the desirability of going ahead with the project as quickly as possible, but each of those governments stated that it was not in a position to pro vide its one-quarter share of the cost in full, because of other commitments. In view of the great national importance of the project and its special value to the State of South Australia, the Commonwealth offered to provide assistance by way of loan to each of the three States to enable them to complete the financing of their shares of the cost. The three States accepted the Commonwealth’s offer, and the agreement now before the House incorporates the arrangements that have been agreed between the governments for the provision of financial assistance. Under the Agreement the Commonwealth will provide assistance in amounts equal to one-half of each amount a State is required to pay from time to time to the River Murray Commission in respect of its share of the cost of construction of the project.
The present estimated cost of the project is $57m. If the estimated cost of the work rises, the Commonwealth will continue to provide financial assistance towards the States’ shares of a cost up to $62.7m, that is, 10% above the present estimate. Under clause 4 of the Agreement a maximum amount of assistance of $7,837,500 is provided to each State to meet its share of a maximum cost of $62. 7m. However, it has been agreed that the arrangements for financing the cost of the project above $62.7m will be reviewed if the estimated cost rises beyond that figure. Under the arrangements as described the Commonwealth will be contributing its own onequarter share of the cost of the project and will be assisting the States by making available a further three-eighths of the cost. The three States will repay each Commonwealth payment in thirty equal half-yearly instalments commencing 10 years from the date each advance was received from the Commonwealth. Interest will be paid by each State on the outstanding balance of each Commonwealth payment calculated at half-yearly intervals from the time each commonwealth payment is made. Interest will be payable at a rate equal to the yield to maturity on the long-term Commonwealth securities that were last issued in Australia for public subscription before each advance is received from the Commonwealth. The agreement also contains a number of machinery provisions of a kind similar to those embodied in recent CommonwealthState agreements for the grant of special Commonwealth financial assistance for major developmental projects in the States. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.S8 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 12 March (vide page 436) on motion by Mr Brown:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it please Your Excellency
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
- Mr Speaker, the recent elections produced a situation in which we heard about this brilliant new party, the alternative government for Australia. Some of us were curious to know about the defence policy of this brilliant new party. Those who ignore the lessons of history become its victims. One remembers that during the 1939-1945 War the Labor Party opposed the defence of Australia-
– Oh, that is all hooey.
– What rubbish!
– Thank you, young man. One remembers the Labor Party opposing the defence of Australia until the Germans suddenly attacked Russia. Immediately, Labor came in hot foot to the last man and to the last shilling. [Quorum formed.]
– Mr Speaker, the Opposition did not like my reference to the fact that the Labor Party was opposed to our defence effort in 1939-1945 until Hitler attacked Russia on 22nd June 1941. Honourable members opposite who are seeking to interject would not remember what happened. But the Hansards of that time-
-Order! There are far too many interjections. I suggest to honourable members that they restrain themselves. 1 remind all honourable members on both sides of the House that interjections are out of order and they will be dealt with accordingly.
– I hope to be allowed to say a few words in reply to the interjections from the Labor Party. What happened in the 1939-1945 War? The pride of the Labor Party in prosecuting that war did not develop until after Hitler attacked Russia on 22nd June 1941. We were in Cyprus and we were in trouble until Hitler diverted his attention from the Middle East and sent his troops into Russia. Immediately, the Labor Party became enthusiastic against Hitler. This was because its friends, supporters or organisers in the Communist Party, ordered it to go in and to try to hold out against the threat posed to Russia.
I wish to read a comment on what happened. The Australian Labor Party sold out at the convention held in Canberra in 1963. I think that it was over the North West Cape Naval Communication Station. What did happen there? The students of politics reported that:
A remarkably high proportion of the Conference delegates consisted of ALP members who believe, possibly mistakenly but nevertheless unquestioningly, that they owe their positions in the industrial movement to Communist support, and that they must never do anything to estrange this support. Whether this belief is justified does not matter. The important thing is that these delegates hold it. Because they hold it the less dangerous element will not do anything to bring on their heads Communist disapproval while the more dangerous element - the ‘activists’ - always make clear by their attitude within Labor’s policy making bodies that they can ‘see the viewpoint’ of the Communist Party which is the patron for their jobs in the trade union movement.
If honourable members wish to be given any proof of this, I ask them to look at the analysis by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who, earlier this evening, called for a quorum by drawing the attention of Mr Speaker to the state of the House. The honourable member made an analysis of a Labor Party conference in Victoria and practically everybody there was from a trade union and only a few were from Australian Labor Party branches because that conference was boycotted by ALP branches. The trade union movement has its fantastically clever organiser - the Communist Party, which organises the jobs, runs the unity tickets-
– Why is the honourable member talking about Communists all the time and linking them with-
– You keep quiet. You are attacking your own union, anyway, all the time.
– The honourable member is always asking how the Communists
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh is out of his seat and will cease interjecting.
– This is typical of what happens in the trade unions. The decent part of the ALP is called red baiters or Mccarthyites, and that name-calling stops it. This kind of approach is the one that scares off the decent bloke in the once great Australian Labor Party. I am glad that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is here listening to this. Let me refer to the great sell out in 1963 over the North West Cape Naval Communication Station. The voting at the meeting of the Federal Executive was 18 all. I think Duggan ratted and it was 19 to 17. This was after 3 days fighting. Some photographs were taken in the shrubbery.
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh will cease interjecting. I have already warned him that he is out of his place. I suggest that if the honourable member wishes to take part in the debate he should sit on the Opposition front bench.
– Some photographs were taken in the shrubbery. The then Leader of the Labor Party, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) and the then Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), were waiting out in the shrubbery for their orders from the 36 men inside. Let me quote what Mr Clyde Holding had to say about this in a letter to Mr Hartley dated 3rd March 1969. He said:
The proposal gives the State Executive through Its Executive Officers day to day direction of the Parliamentary Party.
That is what Holding said. He continued:
No Parliamentary Party under a constitutional form of government could accept such direction. Indeed, it is a contempt of Parliamentary Government because it embodies the concept that members of Parliament agree, individually or collectively to direction from day to day by an outside body.
This is the leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party in Victoria making his protest to Mr Hartley, State secretary of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria. He continues:
In Government, a Labor Premier and his Cabinet would be subject to direction from the State Executive Officers. A Government that was bound to act in accordance with the directions of an outside body would not be a Government at all. Indeed, the Premier and his Ministers would be false to their oath of office, with no real power to act or make decisions of their own.
Let us hear what this great victorious crowd on the other side of the House say about this. Honourable members have heard what Mr Holding said. He stated that such a government would not be a government at all. I refer now to what the present Leader of the Opposition said,, some time in February 1969:
Many members of the Party and its affiliated unions have been angered at the public attack I made on some decisions and members of the Federal Executive. I have already given an unreserved apology in writing to the Executive for the personal reference I made. I am glad a Special Federal Conference has been called. I now undertake to work within the framework of the party and to accept the decisions of its properly constituted authorities.
– He called them the 12 witless men.
– He did that, but this is the difference between the approach of Mr Clyde Holding to the Victorian Executive and the approach of the Leader of those victorious chaps on the other side of the House who had this wonderful win. Let us read again what their Leader has promised so we will be absolutely clear. He said:
I now undertake to work within the framework of the Party and to accept the decisions of its properly constituted authorities.
According to the Leader of the Labor Party in Victoria, that would mean no government at all. It would mean accepting day to day direction from the group outside Parliament. And who are the group outside Parliament?
– I rise to order. Is it in order for the honourable and moustachioed and side levered gentleman to refer to another member of Parliament?
– There is no substance in the point of order and in future the honourable member for Hindmarsh will refer to an honourable member only by his correct title.
– I do not blame the honourable member for getting upset because it is a pretty awful position to be in to be told that the elected members accept day to day direction from the faceless men outside. Well, there is something worse than this. The Leader of the Opposition said: . . one of our males, Mr Martin Nicholls, who has been in the. House of Representatives for 2 years - 1 am certain nobody outside his own Slate has heard of him . . .
Do you realise 4 of these people live on the Labor movement, batten on the Labor movement, as paid Stale Secretaries. Two of them. Mr. Chamberlain and Mr Hartley, of whom you would never have beard, produce many more resolutions every Conference and Executive meeting than they ever do members at elections. Four others are members of unions, not of Trades and Labour Councils of the ACTU but of individual unions and 4 are members of Parliament, and only 1 of them. Harry Webb, has ever made the grade or ever will make the grade in the Federal Parliament, the only one who’d ever be a Minister. I think the Chamberlains will be superannuated and others will be retired before their time from the Federal Executive.
These were excepts from the transcript of the ‘Seven Days’ programme on ATN7 on 15th February 1966 as presented to a special conference of the Labor Party. The Leader of the Opposition also said:
I can only say we’ve just got rid of the 36 faceless men stigma to be faced with the 12 witless men.
– Who said that?
– The Leader of the Opposition said:
The only people who are out of line are the Federal Executive who are incompetent and irresponsible.
– What Party was that?
– The Federal Executive of the Labor Party. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Executive members were incompetent and irresponsible. He continued:
Have you ever heard of the members of- the Federal Parliament who are on the Federal Executive?
He carried on about Webb. Then he said:
This extremist group (Federal Executive) breaches the party’s policy, it humiliates the party’s parliamentarians . . .
And they are humiliated. We have seen this happen during the past 3 weeks. They came in marching along with flags flying and bayonets flashing in the sun, and today we had only 52. They have gone home, fed up with it. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say:
The public will never support the attitude of any faction in the Labor Party and the Federal Executive is a faction.
Let us go back to what he said in the letter after he was brought into line.
– 1 rise to order. Mr Speaker, can you advise me whether the honourable member is in order, because I do not recollect any of the material which he has discussed-
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat. When an honourable member rises to order he should state his point of order and not ask questions of the Chair.
– Very well. My point of order is that the material being dealt with by the honourable member is not related in any way to the Governor-General’s Speech.
– There is no substance in the point of order. It has been the custom and the practice of this House for many years now - the honourable member well knows, as he has been here previously when an Address-in-Reply debate was in progress - that the scope of this debate is almost unlimited.
– I can well understand the honourable member’s anxiety because this situation between the federal Labor parliamentarians and their Executive strikes at Australia’s security because the Executive will not do anything about Australia’s security or about defending Australia. In fact, the Executive and some members of the Labor Party would give comfort to the enemies of Australia while at the same time these enemies are engaged in killing Australian troops. This is the substance of what I am saying. If anybody gives comfort to the enemy he is doing more damage to Australia than is the enemy himself. This was stated by the Minister for Information in Great Britain in 1940. He said that anybody who helped the enemy by his expressions was a greater danger than the enemy. In this case Hanoi is fighting for the minds of the American people and Burchett helped Hanoi. Burchett did more damage to Australian troops - the people who are fighting for the security of Australia and South Vietnam - in a day than a division of North Vietnamese troops could do in a month.
– Who helped Burchett?
– Who helped Burchett here? This is the important part of what 1 am saying. No country can protect itself if it is white-anted and its resolution to defend itself is broken down. This is why the Labor Party lost the election. Some Opposition members are agreeing with me. 1 can tell by the expressions on their faces. Let us take the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and the statement he made in his pamphlet., which 1 suppose some honourable members have read. He stated that the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam could bc more disastrous than what is going on now. That is right, because South Korea, Taiwan and South Vietnam would be put to the knife immediately their defences were withdrawn. The Leader of the Opposition talked about, sending civil aid teams over there - mainly doctors and engineers. What a great time they would have when the ALP withdrew the troops. Honourable members should look at what the Vietcong were like 2 years ago. They are not the same today because 90% of them are gone. The war has been brought to a state where the Vietcong have lost their sting. They have gone down and they cannot get recruits and so on. But when that statement was made the civil aid team would have been butchered. Therefore that was an irresponsible statement.
Labor’s defence policy is amateurish. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) wrote something which I tried to read. 1 must say that it was like an essay by a high school student because it had no bearing at all on the normal problems of defence. I must say that it was well written. The words were good. . But the defence policy of the ALP does not exist.
Another candidate for the electorate of Lowe. Major Peter Young, has just written a very nice article which was published in Nation’. He talks professionally about the war in Vietnam because he has been there. He has no illusions about what would happen if we withdrew the troops. But the Labor Party would be bound by the Federal Executive, just as it was in 1953 and at every other Conference. Do honourable members opposite remember the red Hobart conference? The honourable member sitting over there on the front bench will. 1 think 17 walked out. lt was about the withdrawal of troops from Malaya in 1955.
– What about in 1941 when the-
– When the Federal Executive deals with you, you will know, lt will make you withdraw the troops from Asia anil break our treaties with America. The Federal platform of the Australian Labor Party a few years ago, when it was a good Labor Party, said: ‘We will uphold our treaties with our allies. We will keep our promises and our treaties.’ But this Executive removed that clause. We all remember what Sam Benson said about this. I think he left the Labor Party over it. He has had a place of great honour here because of his courage and because of the way he dealt with Labor when’ it showed its lack of awareness of the need to provide security for Australia. The magnificent organisers in the Communist Party have captured the trade union leadership. We have to pay a tribute to them at least for the way they have done that. But now Labor must dance to the tune of the heads of the unions and the Executive. The Leader of the Opposition must say to these people: ‘I will carry out your instructions.’ Clyde Holding says: ‘We could not submit to the day to day direction of parliamentary members and of a parliamentary government. lt would bc no government at all.’
– Tell us about the Friesian calf.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh was mixed up with something in Mount Isa and it was a bit tough for him. That chap Mackie, I think it was, used strong armed stuff up there and the Australian Workers Union was chased out of the place. Labor’s Foreign
Affairs Committee says: ‘An Australian Labor Government will direct the Army to bring home without delay the conscripted men who are already there, acting with full regard to the safety of the Australian Forces’. It will bring home the conscripted men, but it does not worry about our flank being exposed to the Vietcong. That is an amateurish approach. Members of the Parliament are said by the Press to be cowardly. It was not cowardly to introduce conscription in Australia. Our action was supported by the people and after conscription was brought in we had the biggest majority here that we have ever had. Introducing conscription for overseas service was not a cowardly action. It was a courageous action. It built up our forces. Most of the men who go overseas say: ‘If the Government, with the information it has, says that I should go, I will go and do my 2 years.’ They come back with immense experience and with a knowledge of what it is like to serve Australia.
The members of this Opposition Party, we are told by their friends in the Press gallery, are brilliant. But look at these brainy chaps. We understand now that the Leader of the Opposition, who resigned and was re-elected by 38 votes to 34, heads an executive that is controlled by the left wing. The Federal Executive made sure that left wingers were elected to the executive of the Parliamentary Labor Party and they now have control. So this alternative government of Australia would betray Australia, would betray the treaties with America, would pull out Australian troops and would damage Australia.
– I rise to a point of order. I take exception to the words ‘betray Australia’ and ask for their withdrawal.
– Order! I think the honourable member said: ‘This alternative government’. If there is no alternative government, there can be no substance in the point of order.
– He was referring to the Australian Labor Party.
-These words are offensive to honourable members on this side of the House. The honourable member for Macarthur pointed to honourable members on this side of the House. I am not prepared to accept that he was referring to an alternative government. He was referring to honourable members on this side of the House. These words are offensive to all honourable members on this side of the House and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– I will not ask the honourable member to withdraw the remark. I believe the words were used in the context of parliamentary language, however undesirable they may be. I believe he used the phrase ‘this alternative government’. As there is no alternative government, I cannot rule that the honourable member is out of order and I cannot agree that the honourable member was therefore referring directly to Opposition members. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says, words of this nature are undesirable, but at this stage I cannot rule that they are unparliamentary.
Speaker, with deference to your ruling, honourable members on this side of the House cannot accept a statement made by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) with the malicious intent to damage the reputation of honourable members on this side of the House and I regret that, in view of your ruling, I will have to move dissent from it. I move:
That the ruling be dissented from.
– I second the motion. (Mr Barnard having submitted his objection in writing.)
- Mr Speaker, I regret that I have to move dissent from your ruling but I do so to support the contention of honourable members on this side of the House that a malicious statement has been made by the honourable member for Macarthur for the purpose of creating an atmosphere which would, in the words of the honourable member for Macarthur, destroy the reputation of honourable members on this side of the House. Of course, the honourable member for Macarthur is noted for the sort of statement he makes and for the accusations he levels at Opposition members under the privilege he enjoys in the House. He would not be prepared to make the same statement outside the House. If the honourable member for
Macarthur thinks that this charge can be made against Opposition members, why does he not have the courage to name them? I do not think that many honourable members in this House would be prepared to support the honourable member for Macarthur inside the House or outside when he makes accusations of this kind against honourable members on this side of the House.
Mr Speaker, this is a very serious charge. I do not want to repeat it. You are well aware of what the honourable member has said. You have ruled against us. In fact the honourable member for Macarthur has said that honourable members on this side of the House are traitors to this country. Surely no responsible person in this Parliament is prepared to support the honourable member for Macarthur in this kind of accusation. He knows that it is not true. If he is man enough he will stand up in this House and withdraw the remark. I, like many other honourable members, am prepared at all times to give and to take in debate. I do not mind the references to myself that the honourable member for Macarthur made tonight. I accept them, when they refer to what 1 have said previously in a debate, as part of the debate. But when the honourable member lays a charge against honourable members on this side of the House without being man enough to stand up and name those honourable members who he believes are traitors to this country and who would betray this country, then J think the Parliament has the right to demand that the honourable member be man enough to stand up and make his charges against those who he believes are in this position.
Sir, I. believe the honourable member for Macarthur wanted to create the impression that all honourable members on this side of the House are in the category I have described. It was the kind of attack for which the honourable member for Macarthur and some honourable members who sit with him on that side of the House are notorious, under the privilege of Parliament.
– Yes, I think ‘coward’ would describe the honourable member for Macarthur. I challenge him to make the statement outside the House.
– 1 raise a point of order. As one who has not been in this House very long I believe that under the Standing Orders tedious repetition is out of order. I strongly suggest that tedious repetition is the order of the night and that the business of this House is being completely-
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will resume his seat.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I heard someone say that the honourable member for Macarthur was a coward. Is that in order?
-Order! lt is not in order. If the honourable member for Hindmarsh is attributing that word to the honourable member for Macarthur he will withdraw it.
– No. I heard somebody else say it, over on that side.
– Mr Speaker, the word coward was used by way of interjection. I merely said that that word probably would fit the honourable member for Macarthur. I think it would be a reasonable description.
-Order! J ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the statement that the honourable member for Macarthur is a coward.
– in deference to your ruling, Mr Speaker, I withdraw the statement that the honourable member for Macarthur is a coward. Having said that I want to say that I resent the imputation that the honourable member for Macarthur has made against honourable members on this side of the House. I can only repeat that it is a malicious statement meant to damage all members of the Opposition. In my opinion it is an unparliamentary statement made under the privilege of this House. As I said when I moved the motion of dissent from your ruling, I think the honourable member for Macarthur ought to be made to withdraw his charge and the statement.
- Mr Speaker, it never ceases to amaze me how a Speaker of your wisdom and experience can give such remarkable decisions as that given a few minutes ago.
– I remind the honourable member for Grayndler that he may not pass any reflection on the Chair. If he does so, I will deal with him.
– Sir, not for a minute would I reflect on you personally. I want to say that you have ruled, in effect, that the statement of the honourable member for Macarthur that the alternative government were a lot of Communists, is not offensive to honourable members on this side of the Parliament. I pose the question: If the alternative government is not the Australian Labor Party, to whom was the honourable member for Macarthur referring? In effect, Mr Speaker, your ruling means that 1 cannot say, for instance, that the Treasurer is an embezzler but I can say that all those on the Government side are - every one of them - and be completely within the Standing Orders. Mr Speaker, it gives me no pleasure to say, or to have to say, that all members of the Australian Country Party are hillbillies when I know that only a couple of them are. I just point out, Mr Speaker, the sorrow that rulings like this give me. It does not help me at all, either, when I see a cowardly attack made by the honourable member for Macarthur and in order to get redress from this side of the Parliament-
– Order! The honourable member for Grayndler will withdraw that remark.
– Very well, I withdraw it but I say that all honourable members opposite make cowardly attacks on honourable members on this side of the Parliament and we have no redress.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have been referred to directly as one of those sitting over here on the Government side and therefore I maintain the remark refers to me personally. I take offence at the remark.
Question (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority .. .. 8
– Order! The House will come to order. I have ruled from time to time on this matter as the honourable member for Grayndler iswell aware. I have suggested that many remarks made in this House, such as that just made by the honourable member for Grayndler, are extremely undesirable. Under the rules and the Standing Orders they are not unparliamentary but I think that all honourable members should use some discretion - and I say this to honourable members on both sides of the House - in relation to the terms they use and to which offence can be taken. As I have ruled from time to time, it is a question of honourable members themselves being identifiable. This is the question at issue. Therefore 1 suggest that statements similar to those made tonight by honourable members on both sides of the House are undesirable in a chamber such as this.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Thai the ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . .8
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! Before I call the honourable member for Bowman I would remind all honourable members that this is a maiden speech and I ask the House to extend the usual courtesies.
– This is the first occasion on whichI have had the privilege to speak in this place on behalf of my people, some 100,000 Australians in the State of Queensland,the electors of Bowman and their families. The Federal electorate of Bowman, 332 square miles in area, is based mainly on the capital city of Brisbane, taking in residential’ suburbs on the shores of Moreton Bay and to the south east of the city. In addition it encompasses the islands of the Bay and the lush farmlands, some of which are now developing in the new role of residential areas, in an area well known as the Redlands and often suitably called the salad bowl of Brisbane.
It is surely permissible for me to take a few moments of honourable members’ time to mention that it is significant in this 27th Federal Parliament that the electors of Bowman have once again chosen to be represented by the Australian Labor Party. The electorate has been named after David Bowman, one time leader of the Labor Opposition in the Queensland Parliament. David Bowman entered Parliament in 1899, the year the Parliament of the colony of Queensland debated the Federation Enabling Bill. He remained in the Parliament to become a Cabinet Minister in the Government of T. J. Ryan, and on his death in 1916 there was universal1 lament that, after a long period of doubtful health, his passing had left a blank in the first strong Labor Government which Queensland had produced.
It is also significant that I mention that this year we celebrate the bi-centenary of the 1770 visit of Captain James Cook who explored and charted our east coast. A few moments ago I referred to my electorate encompassing the islands of Moreton Bay. The largest, both on a geographical and a population basis, is North Stradbroke Island. The history books record that on 17th May 1770 the ‘Endeavour’ was 5 miles out to sea from the point of land which Cook named Point Lookout. It is recorded that he climbed to the masthead where he could make out the sweep of the land which seemed to form a wide open bay. He believed Point Lookout to be on the mainland. It was his first land sighting after leaving Point Danger. Today Point Lookout is perhaps one of the less known resorts, but surely the equal in many ways of the better known island tourist resorts off the Queensland coast.
My electorate of Bowman is inseparably linked with the history of our nation. Significant again is the fact that a large part of the electorate takes in the area originally known as the Moreton Bay Settlement. Cleveland, a beautiful town in a semi-residential rural setting on the shores of the Bay and the recognised capital of the Redlands area, at one time strongly rivalled Brisbane as the choice for the colony’s port. But Cleveland, despite its many advantages for development both as a port and as a city, was fated not to be the chief town. Perhaps the decision may have been somewhat influenced by the misfortune of Governor Gipps who in 1842 is reported to have fallen in the mud at low tide as he disembarked at Cleveland to carry out an inspection prior to a decision being made on the siting of the port.
May 1 suggest in passing that in this historic year the Federal Government should take the lead in financially sponsoring the more detailed historic recording of life and events in the days of the early suburban development of our cities and towns. The major events of history are certainly recorded, but at this local level very little is recorded. Much can never be done in this regard. That which can, should be carried out while those who have played a part in that history are still living. But so much for history. Almost three-quarters of a century has passed since the debate, to which I have referred, on the adoption of the Constitution and the resulting federation of the 6 independent colonies. More than a century and a half has passed since the early settlement of Queensland, and we have now reached the third century since the discovery and possession of our east coast took place. In this place, while it may be interesting to hear of and reflect on the past, save from ensuring that it is recorded in the annals of our development we can do nothing to alter its facts and accomplishments. Our role is for the present and for the future.
Today in accepting that role I ask honourable members to reflect for a few moments on the years since David Bowman, his colleagues in the Queensland Parliament and their counterparts in the parliaments of the other colonies debated the proposed federation. I ask honourable members to reflect and consider whether that transformation of the colonies, that marriage of the States, has been the complete success for which our founding fathers hoped. It is undeniable that we have seen developed a young, virile and wealthy nation, but have we really developed a national spirit, a national outlook and a national pride? Too often people regard themselves as Victorians or Queenslanders. Often their interests and utterances and those of their State governments clearly indicate that federation is still a partially unacceptable concept. Surely it is high time that the marriage was consummated.
This tired, complacent coalition which cannot handle the current national problems except by attempting to adapt Labor policy to its own systems will certainly not face the problems of the future. Under this
Government centralism has become a fearful word. The Labor Party - united, alert, vigorous and active, poised to become the next Government of our nation under the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam) as our next Prime Minister - will show how efficiently and effectively that central government can work with, work for and work through out State governments. Labour will give the sincere, dedicated, enlightened leadership so urgently needed to face and solve our current and future national problems. One of the most important problems of the future is in regard to the Constitution under which we live. This Constitution which suited the federation of 6 independent colonies 70 years ago, which suited the growth and development of those colonies into States of the Commonwealth, no longer adequately suits the new visions and new concepts which we must adopt to permit our nation to face the next century, to provide for our future generations and for the role we must fill in this south east Asian section of our globe.
With due respect to you personally, Mr Speaker, may 1 make brief reference to something which perhaps typifies the lack of initiative on the part of our present decaying Government. To some degree before coming to this House, and to a much greater degree since coming here, two matters have amazed me. Firstly, the procedures of the House do not operate under standing orders which in my opinion are anywhere near suitable for the conducting of the business of government in our nation as we enter the third quarter of the 20th century. Secondly, in this so-called enlightened age you, Mr Speaker, and the Clerks at the table are bewigged. Surely this is an antiquated tradition of bygone years. As officers of the Parliament performing a particular function the Clerks may be excused for wearing gowns, which are in fact a type of uniform, but I cannot accept that wigs are necessary. Surely it cannot be argued that a wig on one’s head adds anything to the dignity or decorum of this House.
I wish now to mention several matters which I believe are of major concern to the people of my electorate and upon which I am sure they would like me to comment on this occasion. Time will not permit more than a passing reference to these matters today - a brief outline of them. However, they are problems of real concern and I serve notice that I will speak again in more detail of them and work untiringly to achieve their solution. Many thousands of my constituents who live on the bayside area stretching from the Brisbane River south to the Logan River live outside the area conveniently serviced by Brisbane public hospitals. In time of family crisis, faced with the worry of sudden illness or injury, they face the added burden of knowing that they must encounter a long trip to a city hospital. For some years as each State election came along the Queensland Government - a government of the same political persuasion as this Government - has blatantly resurrected the possibility of a hospital construction programme in the Wynnum area. At the last election in 1969. knowing that the Wynnum State electorate was continuing to vote solidly Labor, Mount Gravattt suddenly became the suggested site for a hospital. The election successfully over, the Mount Gravatt hospital faded to a feasibility study. I say here and and now that the Queensland Government does not intend and probably cannot finance in the near future the building of any periphery hospital in the Brisbane metropolitan area.
Let me remind honourable members opposite of the cruel, contemptible propaganda which this Government waged during the last election campaign against Labor’s free health scheme. The false assertion that Labor would destroy Queensland’s free hospital system was cruel and contemptible because it drove fear into the minds of many aged and infirm electors in Queensland. The Queensland free hospital system, proudly introduced by Labor, has been slowly strangled by the present State Government and is under threat of complete destruction by this Commonwealth Government. Even as late as the recent statement to the House by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) there was no mention of the Government’s intention to comply with the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee was denying Queensland hospitals many and Medical Costs, which had drawn attention to the fact that the Commonwealth millions of dollars. In Queensland a large or the Senate Select Committee on Health percentage of people choose not to pay into a hospital benefit insurance fund. As a result when they are in hospital the hospital is not eligible for the full Commonwealth benefit of §2 a day but instead receives only 80c a day in respect of such patients. This piracy of Queensland’s rightful revenue, amounting to more than $14m since 1952, is accepted meekly by the present State Government. Faced with such shoestring Federal aid, Queensland’s free hospitals cannot expand and must continue to slip towards complete destruction.
Labor’s plan to provide a scheme whereby medical and hospital services would be financed by a levy of H% on taxable incomes would protect Queensland’s free hospitals. It would permit them to develop their present inadequate service and equipment. Finally it would provide the finance so vitally necessary for the construction of periphery hospitals on the outskirts of Brisbane at such places as Wynnum and Mount Gravatt. I challenge the Prime Minister, if he has one atom of sincerity or one degree of concern for the problems 1 have dealt with, to incorporate in the legislation soon to come before this House provision for the full Commonwealth subsidy of $2 per head to be paid to all Queensland public hospitals irrespective of whether the patient is insured.
Honourable members will recall that 1966 was an election year. In Queensland both State and Federal elections were held that year. It is perhaps coincidental that in 1 965 the establishment of a second Brisbane university at Mount Gravatt was mooted. It was to be known as the Griffith University. One might expect that such an essential project would at least be at the bricks and mortar stage after 4 years, but no. After some road and fence building activity before the 1966 elections, when a large sign was erected announcing that the great project was in progress, work has ceased, the sign has become weather beaten and the roadworks have deteriorated through lack of maintenance. Last year this Government announced that the minimal amount of $250,000 had been allocated to the Griffith University during the next 2 years. This sum is earmarked for development work, so no building work is yet envisaged. Such treatment is not good enough when the original intention was that students would be enrolled from this year.
In his 1969 Budget speech the State Treasurer announced: ‘Queensland might have difficulty meeting tertiary education needs in the 1970-72 triennium’. This disclosure, followed closely by the announcement that the Federal Government had money available for Griffith University but was not prepared to use it because the State Government could not match it on a $1 for $1 basis, highlights this Government’s disinterest and neglect of the problems associated with Queensland’s development. It now appears that at least 6 years must pass before Griffith University can commence to relieve the already strained facilities at St Lucia. In the meantime high school enrolments in the areas from which Griffith would draw the bulk of its students already exceed 50% of the Brisbane total. When areas such as the Gold Coast are added it is obvious that the university must be commenced now, if for no other reason than the inconvenience and financial burden to families and students facing long hours of travel to study at St Lucia. Students and staff members must support this demand that the Government review the programme of the Universities Commission on which the decision to go slow on the Griffith project is based. The present student to staff ratio at St Lucia is the worst in Australia, yet the former Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Teakle, stated in his 1969 report that the ratio would rise during this triennium. While there is no open admission that a quota system exists it is generally accepted that certain faculties have unofficially adopted a selective admission policy. Over the next few years a severe quota system will develop and unless the Griffith building programme is put into operation immediately many young Queenslanders who matriculate will be denied the benefits of a university education. In his report Professor Teakle said that the university must stimulate community awareness of the need for further university expansion. He said also:
Although smaller sites than St Lucia cope with enrolments of 10,000 to 20,000 students, it is short sighted to ignore the imminent justification for a second university in Brisbane or the fact that serious overcrowding at St Lucia will occur unless Mount Gravatt is operating before 1973. The dilemma is that until the campus approaches saturation, the same amount of money will be more productively spent at ‘St Lucia where basic services are already available than at Mount Gravatt. In the initial years the returns on investment at Mount Gravatt in terms of student capacity will be low; but it is imperative that a start be made at least in the 1973-75 triennium on a building programme, the recruitment of staff and the provision of library services.
There is no doubt in my mind that the present university situation in Brisbane demands an immediate special nonmatching grant from this Government to enable the Griffith building programme to commence without delay.
Another area of education which continues to receive the blind eye treatment from this Government is the State primary system. I do admit that limited assistance has been granted by the Government to the private primary system and the secondary systems in Queensland. We in the Labor Party must, however, continue to stress that much of the aid given has been mishandled because it has neglected to apply the fundamental principle of first determining the needs of the whole of our education system and applying (he finance in a strict order of priorities on a wellknown overall plan of requirements. The State primary system in Queensland has been totally neglected by this Government. 1 mention briefly 2 particular areas of need in State primary schools - libraries and science centres. These are now an essential part of the primary school, but generally Queensland schools have either non-existent or ill-equipped facilities. Surely if the need of these 2 vitally essential subjects required Federal financial assistance for their provision in our secondary schools, the complete Pack of satisfactory facilities in our primary schools should demand immediate Federal assistance for their addition to or inclusion in our schools.
In the limited time at my disposal in this debate I have not been able to cover some of the more complex problems of the Bowman electorate, such as the changes taking place on the islands and in the Redlands where the farmer is losing, and in some cases has already lost, his battle for economic survival; the need of more finance for local authorities to cope with supplying the services and facilities needed as the suburban areas expand; the problem facing areas where the likelihood of the establishment of the proposed international jet terminal will affect peoples livelihoods; the outstanding advantages of Wellington Point for the future establishment of a deep water port for southern Queensland; the struggle of the Moreton Bay fishermen to earn a living while handicapped by the lack of government interest in the problems of financing their businesses or providing adequate mooring facilities; and the ruination of the near river bayside beaches by pollution and mud from years of government carelessness. These are all matters which are nevertheless important but must await another occasion.
As time is running out on me today, may I remind the Government that time is also running out on it. While not completely victorious at the last election, we of Labor have shown the electors that we alone of the recognised political parties in Australia have the credibility and capacity to govern alone. A Labor government has been temporarily denied them, but we have firmly set our feet on the pathway to government and, as a united Party enjoying the majority support of Australian electors, nothing can possibly halt the realisation of the new visions and new ideals they share with Labor when next they, the electors, have their day of decision.
– I congratulate the new member, the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), on his speech. I should have liked him to have gone a little further on the question of federation and the Constitution. I thought he started off very well.
– Why did you not give him an extension of time?
– That would have been a good idea. Of course, we give certain liberties to new members and, in the circumstances, he was not so bad. The only mistake that he made was to say that the people have been denied temporarily a Labor government. I would remind him that the people have been denied a Labor government for over 20 years, and that is not very temporary. However, I congratulate the honourable member and the other new members of this House for the contributions that they have made. Obviously there is some very good ability in this new Parliament and this is all to the good because if ever the occasion existed when we needed some good ability in the national Parliament it is now. Tonight I propose to discuss only one subject.
– Real estate?
– No, the question of federation which the honourable member for Bowman mentioned. It is an undeniable fact that the most important matter which is concerning all thinking Australians today is federation and the relationship between the Commonwealth Government and the States. Many people think of federation as one thing and the governments of the Commonwealth and the States as another thing. They seem to forget, of course, that federation is a union of the States. Very few people, including politicians and leaders of governments, have given much thought to the establishment and growth of federation, where it has led us and what should be done about it in the future. Altogether too many people have arbitrary and fixed ideas on this subject. The present position is undeniably chaotic throughout Australia. The whole nation is being divided and confused by the propaganda of the States and the charges of centralism against the Federal Government. I believe that the people throughout Australia are sick to death of the wrangle that takes place, in this chamber no doubt, year after year over money - merely over money. I believe, too, that the people are looking to leadership on this subject emanating both from the Federal sphere and from the State sphere. Therefore, I propose to say a few words on this subject.
Let us in retrospect go back over our history briefly and look at what we have done and plan a federal system that leads us to our destiny as a nation. We are celebrating, as was said by the last speaker, our bi-centenary. It is 200 years since Captain Cook placed the Union Jack upon our soil and we became a penal colony of Great Britain. The position remained this way for many years under the administrative control of a governor directed from the Home Office in Britain. The colony was called New South Wales on 26th January 1788. I would remind the House that the colony of New South Wales - and people do not think of this - covered the whole of the east coast of Australia, Tasmania and
New Zealand. Of course, it was only sparsely populated at that time. It was not until 1823 that advisory councils to the governor were established - not elected, but appointed. Then in 1842 partly elected legislative councils were set up with limited power. It was not until 1856 that New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania had responsible government. Queensland was granted responsible government in 1859 and Western Australia in 1890, of course with certain limitations of power. So for a period of less than 45 years the States were on their own without a Commonwealth. People do not think of this. In the 112 years from the foundation of New South Wales, as 1 have described it, to the establishment of the Commonwealth, the population rose from a mere 859 to 3,765,339. In the next 70 years it rose within our Commonwealth to just under 13 million people at the present time.
– Is this your maiden speech?
– Yes. The honourable member should keep quiet and listen to it. It must be remembered that because of the great distances and lack of transportation and communication it suited the purpose of Great Britain to give separate identity to the States, all of which operated as colonies largely under the direction of the mother country. Of course, the fact that we are a continent made a great difference in this determination.
– What class are you in at school?
– The honourable member should act his age. It is of interest to note that the settlements of Tasmania and Western Australia were set up because of the fear at that time that France may attempt to take possession of these areas. I think that a little thought on the development of federation is appropriate at this time. One of the enduring advantages of the way in which the States were established - and this is of tremendous importance in the scheme of things - is the fact that the people are basically the same kind of people, speak the same language and have adopted the same British way of life. This could well have been different, but this is one of the great advantages of the way in which the States were set up. But as I have said, it suited Great Britain to keep the States separately controlled because this was the era of colonialism - a word which has developed into a dirty word.
There is a great fundamental difference between the establishment of Australia in this way and the establishment of Canada, one of our sister dominions. There the French had already established settlements and the fear always existed that Canada would be absorbed into the United States of America, so a federal body was set up with legislative control over the Provinces, which is entirely different to the setup in Australia. This is because Canada is not a continent whereas Australia is. By the very nature of the separate and individual powers given to the States in Australia it was inevitable that jealousies would arise and that conflict in ideas of development would occur. Some were free traders, other protectionists, and so on, and enmity grew to an alarming degree, particularly between New South Wales and Victoria, the 2 fast developing States. Some of this enmity persists to this day. We hope it is not very much, but this competition does continue to exist between States.
It was in this atmosphere that the great leaders of political thought realised that we must create a federation of States if we were ever to reach our destiny as a great nation. Otherwise our future would have been one of 6 independent countries torn asunder by jealousies and economic instability. We all know of the turmoil and the difficulties experienced in bringing about federation, and it is interesting for everybody to read of those difficulties. We remember Sir Henry Parkes, known as the Father of Federation, who tried desperately to establish what he at that time called a federal council’ to deal with matters of common concern to all the colonies. He never achieved this objective, but finally a compromise was arrived at, resulting in the Commonwealth Constitution Act being passed. Can anyone imagine what the position would be in this country today without federation? It would be appalling to think what might happen with 6 independent countries as was referred to by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) a day or 2 ago. It was inevitable that we had to have a federation; otherwise it would have been impossible for this country to carry on in the way that it has.
Indeed, it is possible to conceive that we could have had civil war in Australia as happened in America. This would have been quite possible.
As we all know, the Constitution was approved by Her Majesty the Queen on 9th July 1900 and was limited to certain powers, which have been added to in several ways since then. But by far the greatest change has taken place because of the financial agreement in 1942 whereby the Commonwealth was created the sole taxing authority in the income tax field and the States were given money on an agreed formula. Let me make it perfectly clear, particularly to the Opposition, that I am not a centralist. The honourable member for Bowman, who spoke last, acknowledged that he was a centralist and that he stood with a party who were centralists. I believe in the freedom of the individual and tho preservation of his sacred right to liberty and justice. I believe, too, in the partnership of the States and the Commonwealth in a democratic federation with a common objective of maintaining and developing the Australian nation.
I was very glad indeed - because I believe what I have just said - when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) gave an emphatic no to a request by the States at their recent conference to levy income tax for their own purposes. I know that there are people who disagree with this. I know that there are people who believe that the authority which spends the money should have the onus of collecting the tax. I know there are people who believe that, but in my opinion it would have been a retrograde step to give this power to the States and would have been inimical to the best interests of federation. I believe it would have been resented by the taxpayers of every State tn Australia. The people realise, even if the State governments do not, that our progress and development, our standards of living and our prosperity depend on the stability of our economy. You cannot have that stability if individual States have the right to run off on their own tangent of financial irresponsibility. I am not charging the States with being irresponsible. Do not misunderstand me. But they are not responsible for economic stability and seem oblivious to what it means on many occasions. This is the Federal Government’s responsibility, and of course it is not a popular function. This is a very vital factor in our setup at the present time.
It would appear to me from recent State government propaganda that their idea of being federalists means that each State should exercise its sovereignty in an absolute fashion and do as it likes within its own State boundaries, uninhibited by the effect of these actions. This attitude in my opinion is State centralism in the extreme and will, if allowed to continue, destroy any possibility of an effective federal system. It certainly destroys the federal concept of ‘one people, one nation’. This is the most dangerous and damaging political and economic movement being fostered in Australia today. It has already inflicted great damage and will undoubtedly bring about a political situation which will inevitably end in the destruction of a free enterprise democracy and impose on the people of Australia a Socialist economy with rabid centralism. In other words, it is political suicide to go on in the way that we were going. This is exactly what the Opposition would want because the Australian Labor Party stands for rabid centralism in the full sense of the term.
I am not defending the Commonwealth Government in its treatment of the States. Perhaps it has not made sufficient money available for their essential needs. I hope that this will be rectified. But, on . the broader issues, I feel that the time has come for a closer partnership, association and appreciation of the respective roles of the Commonwealth and the States to create and to maintain one nation. It almost seems to me that the old fight of the 1890s is on again with the States taking the role of the anti-federalists. If we must go back, let us adopt now Sir Henry Parkes’s suggestion and set up ‘a federal council to deal with matters of common concern to all the colonies’, meaning, of course, the ‘States’ instead of the ‘colonies’. That was the original concept of federation.
It is becoming increasingly clear as we develop into nationhood that the bonds of partnership between the States and Federal Government must be strengthened and the spirit of national identity encouraged to look beyond State boundaries. To bring this about in the field of development, the resources of the nation must be applied with priority to the national good, and what is best for the nation as a whole. The States themselves must be parties to these determinations. It is very difficult to get the States even to consider this aspect. But it is of vital importance. Priorities must apply without being hidebound to the State affected. The functions of the States are all important for the effective and efficient carrying into effect of our national growth and they must be given ample funds within our capacity to do this, not essentially only on a State basis but on a national basis.
However, a great need exists for an overall examination of, firstly, all things that should be left exclusively to the States, secondly, those things that must of necessity be left exclusively to the Commonwealth - anyone could determine them easily - and, thirdly, those matters which, though to be administered by either the States or the Commonwealth, have a national implication. This is a wide field. It is in this last field of policy and activity that the bonds of true federation must be exerted in the national interest. I know that there are people who will charge me with being a centralist for saying this, but it is my firm .opinion that this is the only basis upon, which federalism can be achieved and the resources. of the nation properly and efficiently applied for the benefit of the people as a whole. 1 venture to suggest some of the matters - highly controversial, I know - that have national implications and about many of which there is at present costly duplication. This is by no means a complete list, but just a few of the most important. I mention first of all education. The facilities and opportunity for education in all aspects should be available on a basis of equality for all children and adults too in all parts of Australia irrespective of State boundaries. I am not saying that the States should relinquish education, but a need exists for that close collaboration to bring about the desired result throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
I turn to health and hospitalisation. The same basis should apply here also. Why should there be any difference in the facilities available, whether a person lives in Timbuctoo, Longreach or Melbourne? The need arises for close collaboration also in the field of transport This needs rationalising in the national interest. But in all its aspects it has a tremendous bearing on the orderly growth of the nation. I am not referring to local transport and the type of thing that we hear a lot about, but the wider aspects of national transport which are of tremendous importance to the growth of the nation.
I turn now to urban development. Whilst the States look upon this as being their exclusive responsibility, it cannot be divorced from our planned national growth. It includes such things as local government, roads, power, water and sewerage, housing, availability of land, pollution, decentralisation, valuation and rating principles, and a host of other matters. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important functions of the States which must have close collaboration with the Commonwealth so that progress is on a national basis and money made available on an equitable basis of need irrespective of State boundaries. The need of local government in particular is at present out of hand. Local government bodies are instruments of the State but, in my opinion, have a right to Federal recognition if they are to serve their purpose.
Standardisation of building regulations, trade practices, manufacturing processes, electricity and power distribution all are matters in need of State and Federal close consideration and collaboration. It is essential to the States themselves that agricultural production and distribution are organised on a national basis, otherwise chaos will result with great national losses, including duplication and retardation of orderly development. It is no answer to say that the States can deal with all these matters if given sufficient money. This only perpetuates the division of the States from the nation and creates jealousies and political manipulation. We need a united Australia not a series of competing States.
My appeal is to the Prime Minister of Australia and to the Premiers of the States throughout the whole of the federation. Let us drop all the parochialism of State boundaries and charges and counter charges and proceed to build one nation destined to be one of the great nations on earth. This is true federation, not the type with which we are dealing now. This is all in our hands now. All we require is leadership not only in the Federal sphere but also from the Premiers of the States and our State elected representatives to get together on a true basis of federation. The time is opportune, I believe at the present time, to call together something that I mentioned in this House before: This is a great national convention of the Commonwealth and all the States to work out all the details of one common objective - one people, one nation. [Quorum formed.]
– I should like to point out that the honourable member for Macarthur left the House during the calling of the quorum.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Dobie)Before calling the honourable member for Adelaide I would remind the House that this is his maiden speech and I would ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesy.
– One honourable member did not need reminding that this was his maiden speech in this Parliament. Nevertheless, I am grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for having drawn this to the attention of the other honourable members. These traditions of Parliament are usually found to have a purpose. Another of the traditions which I am pleased to observe now is to congratulate Mr Speaker on his election to his high office. I would be grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you would pass that message on to him. May the deliberations of this House be such as to deserve the increasing respect of the Australian people we represent. However, I must say that exhibitions such as the one we had earlier tonight which wasted 25 minutes of the time of this House and which was promoted by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) will not do this and I believe that it behoves all of us to see that these sorts of thing? do not continue. I say this as an introduction to giving notice that I intend to number myself among those who believe that it is time that we have a hard look or perhaps an examination in depth of our parliamentary system, our forms and procedures. Some reforms are, in my view, required. Particularly must we look at the role of the back bencher to make sure that that role is more meaningful. More help is required with the research work each of us should be doing and this is no reflection on what is being offered in the parliamentary Library. Individual assistance is required in this sphere. 1 hope I. can speak for the diligent city member already when I submit that he certainly needs social work assistance with the thousands of individual problems which are brought to his attention if he is to look after this function properly. If he did this then indeed the rest of his work would suffer. I cannot speak for the country member in this sphere. In addition to this, we must not continue to bring this Parliament into disrepute by fixing our own salaries. We must take the necessary steps to gear our remuneration to a level in the Commonwealth Public Service. I do not intend to pursue this matter further in detail now. I hope to have the opportunity to do so on future occasions. I merely give notice that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) on my side of the House and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) on the other side of the House, and others, have in me an ally in this matter of parliamentary reform.
I am proud to be the honourable member for Adelaide here in this place. I am extremely grateful to hundreds who have given me great help and encouragement, and indeed thousands who have given me wonderful support in getting here. I do not intend to waste this help and support by dissipating my time on meaningless activity, and I say this as someone who has been given a special privilege by being elected immediately on reaching this Parliament as Vice-Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts. I take this opportunity of expressing by gratitude to my colleagues for this. However, the privilege does not deter me from striving for the Parliament to undertake more of this type of activity.
Parliamentary reform rates so high in my priorities not because it is an end in itself but because it is a means to an end. 1 deplore the fact that when my own political party, the Australian Labor Party, is kept out of power for so long by a government coalition of so-called Liberal Party, Australian Country Party aud Australian Democratic Labor Party interests using, let us admit it, so often fear and smear tactics, imputing a lack of patriotism and engaging, as we saw tonight, in other untruthful methods to gain their ends, the needs of the people suffer so. In the Australian Labor Party we have our own inbuilt mechanism to prevent this from happening. Not only is there our tradition of a stronger caucus system with leadership involving the ordinary member far more than with our opponents in the process of decision making, but also ours is a mass party which is built on democratic principles. When policy items find their way from the rank and file in unions and sub-branches through our State conventions and Federal Conferences into the platforms of our Party, woe betide those of us who are the elected representatives in this Parliament if we ignore those policy items. And this is the way it ought to be. This is participatory democracy at work. There are too many in our community who have been hoodwinked by the emotionalism of such false phrases as ‘faceless men* and do not understand the great value of this structure. Certainly at times it is difficult to administer but I, for one, am not going to ignore one of the main causes of student unrest, a feeling of removal from decision making. Although there will always be room for improvement, and although we shall ever strive for this improvement, I believe that in my political party we do make an honest attempt to involve the ordinary citizen in the decision making processes. This is democracy at work, and I am proud of it.
I emphasise the need to improve the processes of our democratic system because I recognise the present dangerous gulf between a relatively small and unrepresentative Cabinet which wields almost total power and the rest of the Parliament - and indeed the people. The great needs of the people which are either not touched or hardly touched at all in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech at the opening of this session of Parliament are, in my view, a testimony to this. The first great need is some evidence of planning for steady economic growth. Instead we find the same old formula of an ad hoc and usually inefficient approach to these important matters. Our great primary industries are suffering badly from inflation and, in some cases, from inefficient subsidies. The workers in the secondary and tertiary spheres of our economy are not enjoying the increases in their standard of living which they deserve.
Wages are not only lagging behind rises in prices in money terms but also - and this is more important - even after judgments of the Commonwealth Industrial and Conciliation Commission, they are lagging in real terms. Early in May it will be 5 years since the Vernon Committee reported and in 4 days’ time it will be 4i years since that report was presented to this Parliament - the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry. On 26th November last, the day after our rather farcical 1-day mini session, the tenth anniversary of the presentation by command to this Parliament of the report from the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was celebrated. Both of these reports should have been of great economic value to our nation. They hold Ihe key to our economic planning for orderly growth. They have been almost totally ignored. The Vernon Committee report outlined the sort of decisions which must be made for a proper allocation of our economic resources. The report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review told us what powers are required to make these proper allocations - for instance, control over fringe banking activity and over capital issues.
I say with all the conviction I can command that it is totally absurd to live in the sort of situation that we do now where this democracy has not got control over the economic side of its life. We suffer from a distorted and inefficient use of our resources. We find all the investment capital we want for, say, hire purchase companies whilst our investments in real development projects such as water conservation and education are starved of funds. We find instead that we are living under a government which is attempting to control our economy by such means as the ineffectual use of interest rates. My concern at this impost is shown by the fact that I got the call from Mr Speaker for the fifth question of this Parliament, the third from the Opposition side after my Leader and his Deputy had taken their turns, and the first of a new member of this Parliament, and I used the occasion to draw attention to this burden of high interest rates. Let me repeat the question I put on that occasion. I asked:
Has ihe Government any plans at all to alleviate the burden of high interest rates on the community? I noted none in the Governor-General’s Speech, ls the Treasurer aware that the crushing burden rests most cruelly on the middle and lower income groups of our country, adding to the cost of housing, local government rates and so on? Is he aware that some local government authorities are paying interest of up to 8% and more for their money, this rate deterring them from carrying out urgent community development projects? If the Government is bereft of plans in this area of great need will the Treasurer please tell the House why the Australian Labor Party solution outlined before the last federal election cannot be adopted in this sphere as it has been in so many others?
My question, although I say so myself, Mr Speaker, was intuitive. Only 3 days later the overdraft rate, which governs other interest rates in our economy, went up still further.
Before turning to the Treasurer’s answer and discussing his contribution to the debate on the matter of public importance raised by my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), last Thursday, let me look at the needs. Incidentally, I was due to participate in the debate on the matter of public importance last Thursday but I was gagged. It must be a rare distinction to be gagged when attempting to make one’s maiden speech. Let me say quite categorically that if I did not know the needs of the people in this sphere before entering this House 4i months ago, I certainly know them now. I have been appalled at the hardships that have come to my notice in the sphere of housing, as in so many other spheres. Deserving citizens by their scores cannot afford the repayments on credit foncier loans.
If they already own their homes and are making instalment repayments weekly, monthly or quarterly, the increased interest rates add to their burdens and are responsible for their cutting their standards of living. If they do not already own their home, the day of their doing so is postponed still further. One of the first criteria examined by the lending institutions is the income of the family. This is done to ensure that the family can afford the instalment repayments. When interest rates rise, so do the demands of the lending institutions in the matter of the income requirements. I know, because 1 sat on the board of one of the largest lending institutions in South Australia, as a trustee of the Savings Bank of South Australia. I was a State Government nominee to that position. So more and more of our fellow Australians must turn to inadequate rental accommodation and must take their places on the long waiting lists of the housing trusts and housing commissions of our States. There arc 60,000 in our community who are inadequately housed. This is shown by the recent survey of the Housing Industries Association.
But it is not only the roof over the head that suffers under a policy of exorbitant interest rates. The other requirements of the home, such as a sealed road outside it, kerbing and water tables, a footpath and other responsibilities of local government, which were mentioned by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) a little earlier, also suffer badly and depress the standard of living of those whom we represent. T make no apology for the fact that on the opening day of the session I asked a question which was prompted by representations made to me by local government authorities in my electorate of Adelaide. The aldermen and councillors in my district are gravely concerned at the needs of their people - my people - not being met.
The average rate of interest being paid by local government authorities was 6.6% before the latest increase. I shall be very surprised if the rise in the overdraft rate does not affect this within a matter of days, if it has not already done so. ‘Private affluence side by side with public poverty’ was J. K. Galbraith’s well known phrase. We certainly see a living example of it when considering these urgent needs of citizens. Of course, the councils are reluctant to borrow at these rates of interest. The ratepayers in this inflationary society in which we live cannot afford increased council rates to add to their other worries. And so the needs of urban and provincial citizens are postponed, to say nothing of the adverse effects of higher interest rates on those who live in the country areas, too.
What is all this in aid of? Why does the Government burden our people like this? lt is hard to ascertain from the Treasurer’s answer to my question and from subsequent statements by him. First of all he fobs off these hardships by saying that we are not really badly off because interest rates are high elsewhere in the world. He then creates a red herring by implying that it would be the policy of the Australian Labor Party to regulate interest rates by flooding the economy with money. 1 repudiate this suggestion. I have not heard this policy advocated in Labor circles anywhere in recent years when our resources have been more or less fully employed. It is unworthy of the Treasurer to suggest, without any foundation, that we would institute these policies which would, of course, compound the existence of inflationary situations. It is no good his answering me by saying: ‘Well, this was the policy immediately after the war.” Of course it was, here and in the United Kingdom, and it would have been his policy, too, when resources were under-employed.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the only credible excuse used by the Treasurer for higher interest rates is the dampening down of what he calls the ‘overheated economy’. Let me repeat quite clearly that this is no substitute for proper monetary and fiscal measures to regulate our economy. Higher interest rates as a means of dampening the economy must be based on the proposition that the more expensive money becomes the more demand from borrowers will diminish. But borrowers who live in a fully employed economy, where the demand for what they produce will not diminish despite higher interest charges, do not behave in this way. In a fully employed economy interest charges are treated as costs and are passed on. There is little or no dampening down of demand.
My submission and that of my colleagues on this side of the House is that the hardships are being caused by this Government in vain. What we want is a government which believes in a proper rationing of available funds st reasonable rates of interest, a government which will see that those funds are devoted to the needs of people in housing rather than in more wasteful investments as at present, and a government which will, as I suggested earlier, act on the report of the 1959 Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, a report which, incidentally, was brought out by members from both sides of the Parliament and which recommends ways of giving the necessary powers for the necessary economic planning.
With this economic mismanagement already referred to, we suffer a complete breakdown of Commonwealth-State relations, not only financial relations but also the allocation of responsibilities between governments. I do not want to repeat the arguments already covered by my colleagues, the new members for Perth (Mr Berinson) and Scullin (Dr Jenkins), in excellent maiden speeches in this Parliament last week. I merely emphasise that in this last third of the 20th century, with our greater knowledge of the policies required to maintain a high level of economic activity, it is essential that economic powers rest in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. At the same time it is vital that the administration of the policies determined in this Parliament should, to the greatest extent possible, be the responsibility of State, regional or local government authorities. With greater emphasis on regional and local responsibilities, we shall1 be making giant strides towards the goal of decentralisation. I consider that this is the answer to the arguments put forward by the honourable member for Bennelong tonight.
Lest it be thought that a transfer of some policy making from the States will weaken the position of the smaller States such as my own, South Australia, may 1 say quite bluntly that my State could not have fared any worse than it has in recent years under the present system? We have our own particular difficulties. We do not have the rich natural resources of some other States. We lack water. A great number of our secondary and tertiary industries are bound up in the manufacture of consumer durables, such as motor cars and washing machines, the markets for which are the first to be hit in the slightest slump. Such a slump has overtaken us in recent years, due to the decline in the demand for our goods resulting from droughts in the eastern States and in my own State and to other causes such as the transfer of resources to defence spending overseas. We are only now slowly recovering from this situation with a return of the demand for our products.
Here was a situation which cried out loudly for sophisticated economic policy and for a stimulus to a State economy which only the Commonwealth Government could give. Instead of special treatment we received nothing but rebuffs. I raise the subject on behalf of my State to record my resentment at the special help not being given. 1 am angry at this Government for this treatment, and so are the citizens I represent. I am angry that the agreement to build the Chowilla Dam, so vital to our State’s water resources, is being repudiated. I shall have an opportunity to say more about this in a later debate. I am angry that still no funds have been allocated to commence work in linking Adelaide with Port Pirie on the standard gauge railway network. My colleagues, the honourable members for Grey (Mr Wallace) and Hawker (Mr Jacobi), will, 1 know, be saying more about that. I am angry that just when we needed more funds the South Australian share of the Commonwealth public works programme and of defence spending was declining. 1 am pledged to do my best to see that this sort of idiotic treatment of my State is not repeated in future. 1 give notice also that I shall be seeking such decisions as the allocation of international airport status to Adelaide, not for selfish State reasons but because the build-up of national and international tourism in South Australia is in the interests of all Australians.
My allotted time is drawing to a close. If in discussing the needs of Australians in this first year of the 1970s I have emphasised to this point economic subjects, this is not so much because this is the area of my particular training but mainly because I consider that maximum growth through sensible economic planning is the key to achieving that other worth while objective of those of us who believe in democratic socialism. I refer to fairer shares of the growing economy and the ever increasing gross national product. In this context I look forward to promoting a national superannuation scheme as an important step in the fight against the poverty which is in our midst and which is so clearly a result of our existing inadequate social service provisions. We have seen a little today of the patching of existing provisions.
I look forward to comparing my Party’s equitable health proposals with the hotchpotch being served up by the present Government in its attempts to patch its existing inequitable health scheme. I look forward to advocating more Commonwealth involvement in all forms of education and in assisting local government bodies to provide their vital services to satisfy the great and numerous needs of our cities. I look forward to advocating leadership on the part of the Government in the important matter of price restraint. I know that price control without the rationing which necessarily goes with it in wartime, but which would not and could not be tolerated in peacetime, is no panacea in the fight against inflation. But I also know that prices branches can play worthwhile roles in drawing attention to exorbitant prices, and thus exorbitant profits, stimulating greater efficiency and, increased productivity - in other words, in promoting that restraint which has been so sadly lacking in our country in recent years due to the total lack of Government leadership in this sphere.
So far, Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 have not mentioned other particular interests such as a need for an involvement in Asia and the Pacific without the dangers of a military presence - in other words, let me say quite clearly that I stand firmly behind our policy of a military withdrawal from Vietnam. Other interests include a need for the greater education of our people concerning the lack of substance in the domino theory as it applies to the old French Indo-China; a need for a thorough overhaul of our tax system and the possibility of continuing research outside the Taxation Branch in a Canadian type tax foundation; a need to stimulate efficiency and productivity among smaller businessmen by the formation of a United States type small business administration department of the Commonwealth Government; and a need to co-ordinate the economic policy of our Commonwealth in one department rather than suffer the present confusions of this policy being determined on an ad hoc basis in many different departments. I thank the House for its courtesy. I look forward to applying myself to all these subjects and more now that I am privileged to serve as the representative of the electorate of Adelaide in this national Parliament.
– Firstly I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) on his speech. I do not agree with a lot the the things he said but I go along with his congratulations to Mr Speaker on his re-election to office. I would like to go further and extend my congratulations to Mr Speaker also for the high honour conferred upon him by Her Majesty the Queen. I also would like to congratulate the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees on his re-election. Both Mr Speaker and the Chairman of Committees gave great service to the previous Parliament and 1 am sure they will serve this Parliament with the same distinction.
I want to make a point or two about the speech just delivered by the honourable member for Adelaide. He complained about the treatment given to South Australia. That State is quite well treated when one considers figures 1 have relating to the various States which show that per head of population per year Victoria received $103, New South Wales $104, Queensland $129 and South Australia $159. Overall South Australia has fared fairly well from the Commonwealth Government. The other point I want to make tonight concerns an observation I heard from a gentleman for whose opinion I have the very highest regard. The observation was that there was no alternative government. I believe that remark to be true. I believe that the Australian people, for the last 20 years, have thought that there really was no alternative government. That is one thing that I think is worth noting and I think it is a pity that that is the case. The fact is that there is no alternative government which would satisfy the great majority of Australians.
The Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General emphasised in no uncertain fashion the fast rate of development in Australia. It is now one of the most envied nations in the world. Despite the criticisms that we hear about the Government, Australia has made, and is con- tint,ing to make, great national progress. The Government too often is denied its fair share of credit for this progress and development. If this were not taking place the Government would be criticised. Those people who now criticise the Government are not prepared to give it the credit it deserves for the progress being made. Its policies have created a climate for investment, particularly the investment of risk capital which is unavailable in quantity in Australia, and this has resulted in unparalled progress over the past 20 years, particularly in more recent years.
But this progress has not come about without some problems also developing. One of the most important problems confronting the Government at the present time is the difficulty faced by many of our primary industries due to low world prices and constantly rising costs - costs which arc increasing and which affect us more than they otherwise would because of the very high level of national prosperity. A larger share of this prosperity is being sought constantly by almost all sections of the community and they are receiving it. In most cases, of course, costs are being passed on. But exporters, particularly exporters of primary produce, have no way of passing on rising costs. This has been said many times but 1 think it is worth repeating because it is something which should affect the policy of the Government and its policy towards exporters and primary producers in particular.
Let us consider the wool industry. The position has been reached where, in my opinion, some assistance must be made available to ena’ble wool growers to carry on for the time being until the introduction of measures to reduce costs and improve marketing to the extent necessary to enable them to operate with at least some degree of profit. I commend the wool industry and its leaders for the responsible attitude taken towards subsidy to the industry in that there has been a reluctance to ask for assistance by way of direct price support. I am firmly of the opinion, however - and at least some leaders of the wool industry agree - that with a price now well under 40c per lb wool growers no longer can carry the increasing costs without assistance in some form. To reduce this assistance to a minimum or from what it would have to be under present conditions I submit that charges levied by Government departments should be substantially reduced. In my own State of Queensland rent is one of those charges to which I refer. Land rent is much too high in relation to the prosperity or lack of prosperity of the wool industry at this time. I think the capacity of any property to produce should be one of the major factors taken into account in arriving at the rental charged. I believe urgent consideration should be given to this matter. 1 know that the Queensland Government is considering it at the present time.
Kail freights are another serious cost burden. In this case again there is every justification for worthwhile reductions. For a long time in Queensland rail freights from country areas were used to subsidise cheaper rail fares in the metropolitan area of Brisbane. Those freight rates could be carried when wool was bringing high prices but I believe the time has come when freight charges in our rural areas should be substantially reduced because of the present difficult conditions in primary industry. I realise that State governments would have some difficulty in finding the finance for these benefits. It naturally follows then that the Federal Government should enter the field and accept a reasonable share of the cost of compensating State governments for a fair share r>f revenue lost.
Shire rates are another burden - an ever increasing burden - on primary producers. It falls too heavily on rural landholders. Local authorities are being asked to carry ever increasing responsibilities. They have to provide the amenities necessary to keep people in country areas. Aid from the Commonwealth, through the States, to local authorities to enable them to reduce rates in those areas where the burden is becoming too heavy, is long overdue. Because local authorities are closest to the people I contend that they can spend more effectively, in the interests of the community, the money made available than either State or Federal governments. The State and Federal governments will get very good value from any money that is made available to local authorities. I believe that too many politicians, even those who were previously associated with local government, are apt to forget the needs of local government when they are elected to Parliament. I hope that the attitude will be taken that local government is now in a position where it needs much more assistance from the Federal Government and if that money is channelled to them through the States I would be quite happy to see the distribution made in that way. But whatever happens, I believe that local government will have to get further assistance.
I have been presenting a case for assistance to the wool industry in most of the matters I have mentioned, although some of them had a wider application than that. But in presenting that case I would agree that the community should not be asked to support an industry if it is not in the best interest of the community that such an industry should be supported. I put it to the House, however, that there is a clear case that the wool industry deserves the support of the community and it deserves it not only in its own right but in the national interest. Wool still provides some 25% of Australia’s export income. I ask: Without this what would be the state of our economy? Our economic stability certainly would not be maintained. Another point I want to make is that much of Australia is well suited to wool production and much of the land that is used for wool production is not suited for other forms of production. This is an added reason why every effort should be made to keep our wool industry reasonably profitable.
In the course of an excellent maiden speech the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) said this is the only country that has a continent to itself. That is true, and since it has a continent to itself the people who live in this country have a moral responsibility to utilise every portion of that continent that can be utilised. It is a matter of considerable interest to wool growers that the opinion has been clearly expressed by people coming back from overseas that wool users would be prepared to pay more for wool if they could be sure that their competitors could not get it for less. If this is so - and I believe that it is so - it must follow that our marketing techniques should be such as would enable this to be done.
I submit if all measures available to assist the wool industry are taken, even if there is some assistance required, it is quite possible that the cost to the Government to keep the industry operating profitably would be much less than is often suggested and the provision of that amount of money would be fully justified. I repeat that every section of the community, except the primary producers - most sections of primary producers at any rate - are enjoying a reasonable to a very high degree of prosperity and are still clamouring for, and getting, a gradually increasing share of our nation’s prosperity. Why should the primary producer, who cannot pass on his costs, be denied a share of it?
I want to make some comments in regard to an organisation which is in my State of Queensland and which indeed is Australia wide. I refer to the Queensland Countrywomen’s Association. When attending n summer school at Dalby in my electorate quite recently, I heard about a proposed trainee teacher hostel which the Queensland Countrywomen’s Association intends to build in Brisbane. This hostel is to cost over $500,000. This is a tremendous effort by an organisation of womenfolk. The effort is a voluntary one. It is true that the State Government is prepared to subsidise the building of this hostel up to, I understand, some $200,000. This still leaves an enormous amount for an organisation such as the one I have mentioned to raise. This organisation is still required to raise some $300,000. The organisation will be faced with an annual cost of some $34,000 against interest and redemption. I believe, because this is such a worthwhile project, because it is essential in the interests of our trainee teachers, that the Commonwealth Government should give assistance to it. The Commonwealth Government does provide S for $ subsidy for donations to many institutions. I would like to see the trainee teachers’ hostel proposed by the Queensland Countrywomen’s Association brought into that category. The organisation has already received almost $56,000 in donations and if the Commonwealth Government were to give $ for $ the Queensland Countrywomen’s Association would still be providing a very valuable contribution to education in the State at a very low cost to the community. So 1 commend this proposal to the Minister and the Government for their very earnest consideration.
Before I leave this point I want to say that the Association will provide not only the buildings and the finance but also a protection for those young teachers coming into the metropolitan area - a protection that will enable many of their parents to have peace of mind which would not be available to them perhaps in other circumstances. I commend this project very strongly to the Commonwealth Government for some assistance.
I would now like to turn to the wheat industry. Wheat grown in my electorate of Maranoa, because of its prime, hard quality with high protein content is still saleable and some orders for this type of wheat could not be filled this year, A lot has been said recently in this House about the wheat industry and a lot has been prompted, not by a desire to help the industry but in order to try to gain some political advantage from the difficulties wheat farmers are now facing. Never in the history of the wheat growing industry has there been so little justification for criticism put up by the Opposition to the Government on this issue. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has been condemned on a number of occasions for not giving sufficient warning of the position that was arising. I would like to quote from a speech made by the Minister to the Victorian Farmers Union on 20th March 1968 - that is some 2 years ago - and it was not long before in 1965- 1966 that the end of season stocks were some 24 million bushels. In 1966-67 this had fallen to 16.5 million bushels. But on 20th March 1968 the Minister said:
There surely are few growers who would not agree that the Wheat Board has done a magnificent job for them in finding markets for the bigger and bigger crops that have been produced. That does not mean there is any ground for complacency. World markets are neither unlimited in capacity nor unreservedly remunerative. In the last 8 or 9 months prices have weakened to an extent that surely must bring back to earth those who have held the view that there is a ready market for all we can produce.
Later on 19th September 1968 the Minister said:
We have enormous problems this year in disposing of a record crop that will be coming forward.
So the contention that there was no warning given by the Minister is not correct. He gave repeated warning. He had talks with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation with that end in view. But it must be obvious that one cannot handle this job overnight without creating a great deal of hardship for people who are perhaps just going into the industry or have involved themselves in debt as a result of what they felt was a brighter future for the industry than it really had. This is a matter that growers’ own representatives, through the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, took up. It is also to be remembered that this had to be a joint Commonwealth-State scheme and the State Governments had to implement the quota system in their individual States.
The plan to cope with the situation was put to the Minister by the growers themselves through their own organisation - the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. It was that line of action that apparently the Opposition did not seem to like. If this could have been done more quickly I believe that it would have been done; but every effort was made by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation to get a plan to this Government to restrict production as soon as they could when it became evident to them that there would be a need for reduction. Before this was evident any reduction would certainly not have been accepted by the Australian wheat growers or by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. The people on the other side of the House who gazed into the crystal ball did not know anything about the position at that time any more than anyone else did. The fact is that they are only being wise after the event. It is very easy for them to say now what should have been done.
Let me quote what the shadow Minister for Trade on the other side of the House, the honourable member for Lalor, had to say on 25th October 1967. He said: ‘Wheat is the business of the Country Party’. This is a good admission. It Ls an honest admission from the other side of the House. He ako said: 1 have no objection, not one scrap of objection, to the way the Australian Country Party has handled Australia’s wheat in recent years through its Minister for Trade and Industry find his assistant. 1 have not one word of objection to offer about it.
That was said by the shadow Minister for Trade and Industry on 25th October 1967. So he knew nothing about it. He was honest in his approach and I congratulate him on his honesty on that occasion.
But the Opposition, now wise after the event as it is so easy to be, is criticising the Government because it wants to gain political capital out of the situation. If honourable members opposite know anything about the wheat industry they will know that the problems of the industry were caused by an over supply on the world’s markets. No-one was able to predict this with any degree of accuracy far enough ahead to be able to take remedial action. That is the problem. The governments of every major wheat exporting country with a substantial, trade in wheat were in as much difficulty as, or more difficulty than, the Australian Government has been. Does the Opposition say that there is no government of any wheat exporting country that knows how to run its business?
I would like to point out, too, that the major factor which contributed to Australia’s wheat production on the home front was the falling price of wool. Does the Opposition suggest that it was the fault of the Government that world wool prices were falling to practically their lowest level on record? Despite what has been said about this, I suggest that, provided there was any degree of profitability in wheat growing there would have been a very large expansion in wheat production. It is problematical as to whether the expansion would not have been just as great provided there was some profitability in wheat growing, because there was very little in wool production and a quick return could be obtained from the wheat industry. Are members of the Opposition going to say that it would have been their policy to reduce the price of wheat below a reasonable margin of profit for the wheat producers? Is this what the people who say they represent, or want to represent, the primary producers, including the wheat growers, of this country would do if they took office? Would they reduce the price of wheat until there was no profit in wheal growing at all? This is the suggestion that I take out of some of their criticism.
I noted with Interest during the election campaign that all the leading exponents of Labor’s rural policy had different policies. I am inclined to think that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), as shadow Minister for Primary Industry, must have been relieved to some extent that Labor did not win the election, as he would have had to try to implement the opposing policies enunciated by them. It is all very well for an honourable member with ranbow-hued clothes to talk about a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If he ever gets into the position of having some authority the primary producers of this country will realise that there is no gold at the end of the rainbow that he represents.
There is no doubt in my mind that Australian agriculture will surive. It will survive by virtue of sound limitation of production in particular fields. It will survive provided it has sympathetic government administration, which it is getting. But I believe that it will have the greatest difficulty in recovering if, in addition to these others problems, it has to suffer the blight of a Socialist government, the majority of whose members would have no interest in or sympathy for the primary producers of Australia. [Quorum formed.]
– Before calling the honourable member for Blaxland 1 would remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– As this is my first speech in the House of Representatives and the beginning of my first term in this place I desire sincerely to thank the 55,000 electors of the Blaxland electorate in New South Wales for the honour of allowing me to represent them here. I wish also to thank the members of the Australian Labor Party in the Blaxland electorate for the assistance and unselfish help that they gave me throughout the course of the election campaign.
I feel duty bound to pay tribute to my predecessor, the first Federal member for Blaxland, Mr Eli James Harrison who, as honourable members would know, represented the Blaxland electorate from its creation in 1949 and who prior to this was a member of the New South Wales Legislative
Council for 7 years. He has given a lifetime of service to the Australian Labor movement, in particular to his own union, the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen of which he was general president, and to the Australian Labor Party. In his 27 years of elective office he has dedicated himself to the betterment of the people of this country. I know that my colleagues in the Labor Party share this view.
For those who are not familiar with the geographical position of the Blaxland electorate I would mention that it is situated in the western suburbs of Sydney and its business and community centre is Bankstown. The electorate is comprised basically of the homes of working families and covers an area of approximately 20 square miles. Like one or two honourable members who made their maiden speeches in this House last week, I would like to be able to describe my electorate as a scenic district, as something of beauty, but unfortunately I cannot. The suburbs within the Blaxland electorate would serve as some of the best examples of chaotic development that can be seen. Unsealed roads, gutterless streets, filthy sewers and lack of adequate sanitation are reminders of the shortcomings of government generally in this country. The bulk of Australia’s population, as honourable members would know, is concentrated in the capital cities and regional towns, yet there is less attention paid to the problems of these areas than there is to rural areas. The finance burden on local government bodies has become so intolerable that it is impossible for these bodies to overcome it without Commonwealth assistance. The Bankstown Municipal Council, whose area is wholly within the Blaxland electorate, currently has a loan debt of $5,610,000 which is growing continually. Payments to State authorities sap a high proportion of income from the Council, leaving the barest amount for necessary works.
The standard of living that people enjoy varies in accordance with what government services are available to them. Quality roads, recreational facilities, public transport and sewerage are things that become a luxury in areas of the expanding urban sprawl of the capital cities. My electorate is no exception.
This Government knows that State governments cannot possibly cope with the problems of expanding areas without financial assistance, yet it refuses to recognise the magnitude of the problem. Local government is unable to raise adequate revenue with which to finance its obligations. It is treated in the same offhanded manner by the States as the States complain they are treated by the Commonwealth. The Labor Party takes the view that local government should be recognised as an equal partner in the structure of Australian government. The Leader of the Australian Labor Party has often been criticised for sounding like a municipal mayor or shire president, but he believes that Australians cannot enjoy a high standard of living while they have to live in a substandard environment. Only a change of attitude at State and Federal levels of government can remedy the present situation.
The Commonwealth has a monopoly over direct taxation and many forms of indirect taxation. Through the Australian Loan Council the Commonwealth furnishes the States with funds to meet their obligations. Through the Loan Council the Commonwealth has a final say in deciding what amounts can be allocated for local government and what funds can be raised by local government and semi-government authorities on the loan market. For the most part, in order to raise revenue local government relies on rating, which is the most inequitable form of taxation. 1 say that rating is inequitable because it does not take into account a person’s capacity to pay. Take the case of two families living side by side, each paying $100 a year in rates. One family might have an income of $15,000 a year while the other has an income of only $3,000 a year. Clearly this form of taxation is not discriminatory. It does not assess the capacity of each family to pay. At the last elections the people of Australia were awakened to the fact that they should and could expect a higher living standard. The Labor Party is the only party that has concerned itself with our environment and the manner in which we live. Australians should demand that governments pay more attention to their surroundings and ensure that urban areas become better and more satisfying places in which to live.
The next topic which I propose to discuss is one which I feel poses a real problem for this country. I refer to the problem of prices and wages or, to put it more simply, inflation. We commonly hear the old explanations that are trotted out to explain inflation. The spiralling cost of living is one. The dog chasing its tail is another. The real explanation for the problem of inflation is that prices have outdistanced wages. It is a well known fact that a high proportion of Australian families live at or below the bread line. It is true that we are experiencing full employment but this does not mean that our families are enjoying -a standard of living which the wealth of this country should allow. The real challenge which the Government must face is how to control inflation. There is only one effective answer - control over prices and services. Like other honourable members I am aware that there are constitutional impediments in relation to the control of prices, services and wages but surely if this Parliament is to have the power it should have to guide the destiny of this country it must have separate power over wages and separate power over prices and services. This is the only way to have a regulated economy.
The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) referred to the report of the Constitutional Review Committee tabled in 1959 when the Menzies Government was in power. That report was promptly forgotten by the Government The document contained various proposals for constitutional change and it dealt with the two that I have mentioned. I believe that the Commonwealth can control prices by setting up a statutory prices authority to fix prices for all goods and services used by Australian people. The authority could include representatives of producers and consumers and would be responsible to Parliament. The authority should determine the requirements of an average family. It should inquire into an average family’s needs in respect of clothing, food, recreation, entertainment, housing and health. From all this information it should recommend a wage adequate to provide a standard of living determined by the authority. This wage would be set by an Act of Parliament and varied from time to time. If this were done we would really have a true minimum living wage.
One of our problems is that the basic wage or total wage is a joke. The whole country realises this. If we were to set a wage adequate to provide a proper standard of living we could then set pensions and other forms of remuneration as a stated proportion of that minimum living wage. Honourable members might remember that at the last general election the Labor Party advocated that we should set pensions as a high percentage of average weekly earnings. I suggest that we set them as a proportion of the minimum living wage. This would give pensioners a chance to cope with general price increases. When the decision was given in the metal trades case in 1967 wages were increased by $5.40 a week and later by a further $2. This was virtually a national wage increase. It flowed through every award in the country, including clerical awards, but what did the poor old pensioner get out of all this? Nothing. He had to wait until the 1969 elections for a handout of $1 from the Government. What can you buy these days with $1?
I know that to members of the Liberal Party prices control is sacrilegious, but in their view it is not sacrilegious to control wages. The only commodity in Australia today which is under universal prices control is labour. Even with increases in wages workers suffer by inflation. By leaving the income tax schedules unchanged for 14 years this Government has inflated the lower and middle incomes and has put workers in these categories into higher tax brackets. This is another by-product of inflation. If we cannot keep wages at reasonable levels and yet maintain adequate purchasing power we will be priced out of every secondary export market in the world. Our national prosperity depends on our taking stock of this situation now.
The other basic social ill facing Australia - it is a by-product of the situation to which I have been referring - is the problem of workers having two jobs. How many men are working at two jobs? I am not sure whether such statistics are available. How many men are working 60 hours a week? Would we not all agree that the 40 hour week is a joke? The 35 hour week is an even bigger joke. It is bad enough for the working man to be dragged away from his home at night when he should be with his wife and family but it is even worse when he has to send his wife out to work in order to make ends meet. The honourable member for Adelaide referred to the exorbitant cost of housing and to the restrictions placed on young married couples seeking to buy a home. Husbands have been forced to send their wives to work in order to provide the necessaries of life. Young mothers have been forced out of their homes by economic pressure. We must not forget that this Government has been in office for 20 years. It has had the duty and the opportunity to rectify the present situation. Family life is the very basis of our nationhood. In the last couple of years the Government has boasted about the increasing number of women in the work force. Rather than something to be proud of I feel that this is something of which we should be ashamed. The shortsightedness of the Government’s policy was borne out by the headlines in this morning’s newspapers. The number of unfilled jobs has increased by 6% while the unemployment figure has fallen by 10%. How can we have national growth without people? How can we survive without a population? Is this Government doing anything about child endowment? Is it doing anything to put the working wife back in her home? It is not. It engages in a lot of claptrap. It denigrates the Labor Party for its constructive proposals.
The Government hopes to be able to offset the present population situation by immigration. It is time we considered the enormous cost of bringing migrants to this country. We must bear in mind this cost when we consider the cost of subsidising Australian families. We could have a system of subsidies paid to families on a sliding scale according to the number of childdren they have. For example, on the birth of a fourth child $1,000 might be deducted from the mortgage on a home; $1,500 on the birth of a fifth child. These figures may sound high but they are not when we compare them with the cost of bringing migrants to this country. After all, the best migrant is the infant Australian.
I feel obliged to comment on another topic. I have aimed to keep my topics separate so that honourable members may follow my arguments. I refer to the farcical situation that has developed around our electoral processes. At the general election in October of last year the people of this country wanted to change the government, but the system would not allow them to do so. Labor was defeated at the elections simply because of the positions its candidates held on the ballot papers. It is common knowledge that the Liberal-Country Party Government holds office by default because positions on the ballot paper are determined by the system of alphabetical order. The Democratic Labor Party, which has become the second string of the Liberal Party, manipulates this flaw in the electoral system of choosing for marginal seats candidates whose names begin with A or B, thus ensuring that those candidates are first on the ballot paper. The DLP has used this situation to its advantage and to the advantage of the present Government by giving the Government preferential support.
To illustrate my point I provide the House with certain details. In the 1969 elections 108 seats were contested by DLP candidates, 50 of whom were first on the ballot paper. That is, 46.3% of its candidates were at the top of the ballot paper. Let us go back through past elections. In 1966 the percentage was 41%, in 1963 it was 46%; and in 1961 it was 47%. It is not a new innovation; it has been doing this for quite a time. To further prove that the Government is party to this exercise there are other statistics to verify what I have said. In 1969 there were 40 seats where some or all preferences were distributed. After DLP preferences were distributed the Government won 28 seats and the Labor Party 3. It is even more interesting to refer to seats where first preference leads were reversed by the distribution of preferences. This is where the Labor Party had a first preference lead. Twelve seats were won by the Government after it had reversed our lead with DLP preferences. That situation obtained not only in 1969.
I am quite certain that many Australians are concerned about this travesty of electoral justice. After all, the rightful election of a government is the most important single step in maintaining a democratic society. I am very disappointed that there were no references in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to this question. But let us not lay all of the blame solely at the door of the DLP. The other party to excel in the field of electoral manipulation is the Australian Country Party. It has a proud history in this field. It has been doing this since 1921. Just to let the whole country know that the Country Party members are dyed in the wool manipulators, they even write it into their national policy under the heading ‘Electoral’. I quote it:
The maintenance of not less than 20% tolerance in assessing electoral quotas to enable the equating of the value of the vote between densely populated electorates and those affected by sparseness of population, area and disabilities of transport and communication.
What, in fact, this means is that in the Country Party’s view country people should have a greater say in the government of this country than city people. Because of that Party’s analysis of what the electoral system should be, a vote from a person in the country is worth 1£ times the vote of a person in the city. So far as the Country Party is concerned the concept of 1 vote I value is strictly for the birds. It does not worry about that at all. Of course,I need not inform the House what Party holds the portfolio of Minister for the Interior. The Department of the Interior administers the Electoral Act and arranges redistributions. Naturally the Country Party holds the portfolio and woe betide any Liberal who tries to lake it. Many years ago the Country Party came to the political arena as a young party determined to stand alone, paving its own way and carving its own destiny. But the lure of office was too strong. It could not contain itself. It was not happy to stay on the cross benches where it could be truly effective and where it could genuinely represent country interests, lt gave up this position to become a political reactionary Siamese twin of the Liberal Party. Because of this it has lost its fervour and is now content to plod along with the Liberals.
Last week the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) referred to the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) as ‘Subsidy Jack’. Nothing could be more fitting. The Leader of the Country Party and his followers have extorted concessions from governments over the last 20 years to keep themselves in power. The lifting of the merino ram embargo is a classic example of this. Fortunately rural dwellers are starting to realise now that they have been taken - that they have been sold a pup. Small wheat growers throughout Australia are now on half incomes. How would members of the Country Party in this Parliament like to have their incomes cut in half? This is what has happened to the small wheat growers whose quotas have been cut in half. The Country Party has let the small grower get into this situation. It has never said: ‘You cannot move from one commodity into wheat:’ The Country Party did not discourage them. The coalition continued to grant taxation concessions for depreciation of wheat growing capital equipment. Yet the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has the audacity to get up and say: ‘We warned them.’ For 5 years the Country Party knew this position was developing, yet it failed to take any positive steps to save the small wheat grower. The chickens are now coming home to roost and I hope they come home quickly. 1 turn now to the matter of defence, a subject that the Government virtually sidestepped in His Excellency’s Speech by saying, inter alia:
A comprehensive statement of . Australia’s defence policy will be made to the Parliament in the early days of the session by the Minister for Defence.
The House knows the content of that document. It is just a play on words re-espousing the much over-worked Liberal Party shibboleths on defence plus an inadequate procurement list. This Government has an appalling defence record. It has failed to defend Australia after holding office for 20 years, yet it has the audacity to charge the Labor Party with irresponsible defence policies. The Labor Party’s defence record is solid gold. It has guided this country through 2 world wars. Honourable members might do well to remember that in the Second World War it was the Labor Party that dragged the Liberal Party out of the excesses in which it was indulging then. At that stage it was all Britain and all the Empire. To the Liberal Party it was a terrible thing when John Curtin, Australia’s Labor Prime Minister, turned to the Americans to help us get out of the predicament we were in in South East Asia. Now the same Liberal Party has switched to the Americans and is indulging in
American excesses,’ and we cannot get it off that. Members opposite positively will not be and think Australian.
Let us have a look at the Liberal Party’s defence record, and we might start by looking at 1963. During the 1963 election, which was the election after the 1961 election when the Government had a majority of 1, the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, raced in on the contract for the TFX bomber, which is now called the FI 1 1 - and people are familiar with the Fill. We had a subsequent election in 1966, but no Fill aircraft had been delivered. We still had no FI 1 1 aircraft at the time of the 1969 election. In 1970 we still have no FI 1 1 aircraft. Yet in 1963 and 1964 we had a situation in Indonesia which could have threatened the security of Australia. Had that confrontation extended to Papua and New Guinea it is doubtful whether the Americans would have come to our assistance, yet Australia was left undefended by the Liberal Party - by this Government. Let me read an excerpt from the ‘Age’ of 7th March 1970. The ‘Age’ is an objective newspaper. The article stated:
The original decision to buy the swing-wing bomber was made by Sir Robert Menzies on the eve of the 1963 elections, lt was a cynical votecatching strategy which paid little heed to Australia’s long-term defence needs or to costs. The question is now whether the S207m already paid out by the Australian Government is transferable to another aircraft. Statements in the past by US defence chiefs suggested .this was not the case, and that Australia would have to pay a sizeable penalty if it was to get off the contractual hook. One of Mr Fraser’s chief tasks will be to determine to what extent this is still the official attitude.
Australia must never again get itself into the position where it contracts to buy a fearfully expensive war plane, sight unseen, very largely on the claims of its manufacturers; that is all too clear now. Future defence contracts must also specify that where goods are not delivered within a reasonable period of time, or where they fail to meet specified conditions of airworthiness and reliability, the contract is null and void. Such contracts must also offer protection to the buyer against the ever-spiralling costs over which he has no control. The final lesson is that a decision to buy several squadrons of highly expensive planes is not one to be taken lightly or on the eve of an election … Sir Robert bought in haste; Australia is now left to repent at leisure.
Let us have a look at the cost of the FI 1 1. The money already spent totals $207m. This is money that we have paid on the contract. At Amberley air base the cost of capital works totals $9. 1m and ground support equipment $1 9.32m. The cost of training air crew and ground staff is estimated at $3m. So the total cost to date is approximately $240m. If we pull out completely from the Fill contracts we will be up for approximately $50m. If we can change across and accept the Phantom aircraft, which for years the Liberals have been saying is obsolete and which now should be completely obsolete in their view, then we have lost that money.
I should like to make a comparison between Australia and Sweden in this regard. I quote from the publication ‘Armed Forces Management’ of February 1967 in which an article states:
A cornerstone of the Swedish defence posture is the Swedish Air Force, currently equipped with large numbers of SAAB Draken supersonic fighters. Even before the first production Draken was delivered to the Air Force in the late 1950s, however, work was well under way to determine the next phase in the country’s air defence.
Let us dwell on that point. This was happening in 1950. Sweden was looking 10 years ahead, but this Government decided on a plane in 3 months. This gives an idea of this Government’s stupidity. The article continued:
During this period, all conceivable variations of possible aircraft were studied, including the possibilities of buying aircraft from abroad or manufacturing them under licence in Sweden.
Aircraft that were looked at closely, either in the hardware form or, where this was not available, in the design study phases, included Britain’s now-cancelled TSR2, and the US McDonnel Phantom II and General Dynamics Grumman FI IIA. Eventually, however, it was decided that the best solution would be to design and build at home wherever possible, adopting the simplest design commensurate with the type of high-speed performance required. This resulted in the early 1960s in the specification of what has become known as ‘System 37’, the name given to a complete weapons system, of which the Mach 2.5 single-seat multi-purpose Viggen aircraft … is the heart
That is a 1,750 miles an hour supersonic attack bomber being built in Sweden, which has a population of only 8 million people. It makes the Government look pretty silly. The article continues:
Furthermore, the design calls not only for a high weapons load, mainly missiles, and a high performance in range and speed, but also lower landing speeds than normally is the case with such aircraft, to enable it to use the dispersed highway bases when necessary, while good accessability for maintenance and rapid checking of functional parts is also being built in.
Time does not allow me to elaborate on this, but at another time I would like to take up this point of comparing Sweden with Australia in the manufacture of defence equipment and the encouragement of an aircraft industry.
– J would like to congratulate the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) on his speech, although I myself certainly cannot agree with a lot of the things he said. It is obvious that he has done his homework and that his materia] was well thought out. I wish him well through some of the stormy passages, especially in the realm of defence, that I can see him encountering later. I also wish to commend the Government on the manner in which it is implementing legislation to fulfil election promises and other matters referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s address. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) may call it a flurry of legislation if he wishes, but I feel he would have some real cause for complaint if the Government had been lax in presenting this legislation. As it is, in the way I see it, the Government is proving to the people in the shortest time possible that it is a responsible government which will honour its election promises.
Tonight there are 2 matters I wish to speak about which I feel are of vital importance to the people of Australia and which, in my opinion, should receive high priority attention. I direct my remarks to all members of the House, and in particular to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) and the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). The first matter is the possibility of an increase in drug abuse and the illegal traffic of drugs throughout our country. Within recent months I doubt whether there would be many people who have not read or beard that the use of illegal drugs has reached epidemic proportions in the United States of America and Great Britain and many other countries of the world. I feel that it would be extremely foolish of us if we failed to realise that Australia too could become equally susceptible. Even though we may enjoy the distinct advantage of geographical isolation in this matter, it is because of this and because of the diligence of our health authorities that we do not experience the problems of smallpox, yellow fever and such diseases. Yet the illegal entry of drugs into our country is another problem altogether and one which could be effected quite simply by callous, brutal and determined men. I do not think I need enlarge on the fact that our tremendous length of coastline could assist this operation. I know that our health authorities and our customs authorities have already launched a nationwide campaign against drug abuse, but I am firmly of the opinion that, with our scattered population, it is physically impossible for our Federal authorities and our State Health and Police Departments to cover every avenue which this illegal traffic may flow through.
The answer to this is not a simple one, but I feel there is’ an answer which will mean a lot of patience, hard work and the co-operation of parents, teachers, our own youth and in fact all those people and organisations who have regular and close contact with our young people. The answer can’ be summed up in one word and that is ‘education’. In this regard, we must be prepared to learn from the mistakes that have been made overseas. Let us face it. Many mistakes have been made, and possibly one of the greatest has been a failure to recognise that no single class of people is immune to this new menace. I call it a new menace’ even though the taking of drugs in some form or another has persisted throughout the ages. I cannot recall throughout my readings of history any era where the misuse of drugs reached such proportions as it has at the present time.
While we may consider that ihe illegal use of drugs is not a major concern in Australia at the moment, nobody has convinced me that it could not become so in the future, and I am sure that everyone will agree that this must be prevented, no matter how much effort is involved. From all the accounts I have studied over the last 7 months, it is the youth of the nation who are most susceptible to this detrimental influence. It undermines their moral fortitude and destroys them mentally and physically. I feel that we must remember it is the youth of today who will be the leaders of this great country of ours tomorrow. I say that there is not one of us who would not like to see our Australian youth mature into healthy, vigorous, clearthinking adults. In my opinion, no efforts should be spared to protect them from this shocking menace.
There are many reasons why our young people become involved in the misuse of drugs. It could be because of an unhappy home environment, the pressure of intense study, the urge to try something different, or it could be as a reaction against authority, just to name a few reasons. As I mentioned previously, no single class is immune. Probably one of the greatest contributing factors is ready access to the illegal drug market, and this is the point of my discussion which really disturbs me. Drug abuse follows no fixed pattern. I fully realise that this makes detection and prevention extremely difficult but there must be an answer. While I know that our narcotics investigators, both State and Federal, are constantly on the alert to combat this menace, I am convinced that a great responsibility falls on the parents and teachers to assist in this matter. Unfortunately, there are a great number of parents who will not be convinced that their children could become involved in this unhealthy business but, whether the children become innocent victims or not, unfortunately it ls only grim experience that makes such parents realise that they had the wrong outlook.
Unfortunately, again there are so many people who could supply information regarding this illegal traffic but who, for some reason or other, refuse to do so. There are parents who think that their children would receive some notorious publicity which would be detrimental to their future, others who think they may become involved and, worst of all, the parent who thinks that if the knowledge that his son or daughter had used the drug marihuana leaked out it would adversely affect him socially and in business. These people must be made to realise that the knowledge they may possess would assist all the youth in the community and that there is no personal publicity given to individual cases unless they wish it to be so.
Speaking of people withholding knowledge of this evil business, I was amazed to read quite recently that Dr Wainer of Melbourne had claimed he had proof that the drug cannabis was being grown by some Italian cane farmers in the Ingham district of north Queensland and that these same farmers were being stood over by members of some organisation and were being forced to grow this rubbish, which was eventually distributed on southern illegal drug markets. He stated that these were not just wild claims but that he could prove them. Surely the right and proper thing to do would have been to inform the authorities immediately this information became available if the doctor believed it to be fact.
I fail to understand why Dr Wainer made his claims through the Press instead of first approaching the authorities, unless of course he desired the publicity that it got. The Ingham district is part of my electorate. I have known quite a number of Italian farmers for many years, and I can assure the doctor that in my book they are responsible citizens who are greatly respected throughout the district. This statement that he made has upset them considerably, and they would desire nothing better than to have his claims investigated and cleared up completely. I would say to the doctor that the right and proper thing to do, after making such a statement, would be to inform the authorities immediately. If he does not wish to become involved with the authorities, he can give me the information and I will guarantee to act upon it quickly and without any mucking about. I am perfectly willing to make a special trip to Melbourne to gain this information in order to clear this matter up, if Dr Wainer desires.
If only people could see the actual result of a fine young person who has become an addict of drugs after graduating from the so-called soft drugs to the bard drug:, I am sure that they would think twice abou, withholding even the slightest piece of information which may assist the authorities to destroy this evil. It has been claimed in some quarters that the so-called soft drugs such as marihuana and pep pills are not harmful or habit forming. I have no medical knowledge to support me when I speak of this matter, but I do know after reading articles over the past 7 months that over 90% of our young people who are addicted now to the hard drugs such as heroin, opium or morphine say that they started on soft drugs. There are some people, including men with medical knowledge, who state that marihuana should be legalised. Even some of our own countrymen, including two of our senators, believe that it would not be harmful to legalise this drug. What amazed me last week was that the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) gave this a passing glance during his maiden speech and said that marihuana should be legalised. This amazes me.
I would say that, before they really go off half cocked on this matter, they should be reminded that there is no known authority which can state with any certainty that this drug has no bad after effects, even though medical authorities in a number of countries have been studying this question for years. I have here a publication from the University College in London which states:
Subjects with chronic cannabis psychosis continued to have vertigo and disturbance of balance as well as auditory hallucinations for some weeks after the initial hallucinations had disappeared.
Finally, these findings are given in London:
So, let us hear no more nonsense about legalising this rubbish, for goodness sake.
Previously, I spoke about the ready access to illegal drugs. With regard to this, the people who have become addicted, whether it is by their own choice or not, have my sympathy. It is a frightful experience to see them withdrawing from a bout of drug taking. I have not seen really hard cases. But what I have seen is enough for me. The people - or, should I say, monsters - who supply the drugs in the first place will never get a pat on the back from me. On the contrary, I sincerely believe that they should be punished as harshly as possible. I say that these ruthless, callous and - I call them - vile individuals who deal in human misery are the ones whom I would seek to destroy. The original sources of supply down to the lowest, meanest pedlar represent a channel of complete and utter human misery. The people who control and distribute this misery deserve the harshest penalties of the law.
Let us have a look at how harsh the laws are that can deal with these characters. We read where a person was found with marihuana in his possession and, according to the evidence, was prepared to peddle this rubbish. He was fined $250. He probably paid the fine out of his fob pocket, having no need to touch his wallet to pay such a miserable fine for such a grave offence. The week before last, we read of a drug pedlar, 19 years of age, who appealed against the severity of a 4 year gaol sentence for peddling marihuana, dexamphetamine, morphine and methadome Fortunately, he lost the appeal. God knows how many people this character had helped along the road to despair, misery and degradation, and the law can stop his activities for 4 years only.
Imposing fines on these people for conducting their harmful practices is ‘somethingnothing’. They can afford to pay and to laugh while they are paying, knowing full well that they can leave the court and continue their deadly business to regain the loss of money paid in fines. People thieve because they are in need or are too lazy to work and want to make a quick dollar. Most murders are committed in moments of extreme emotion or sheer callousness. But the animals, who unfortunately have the right to be called human brings and who supply and peddie drugs to anyone and everyone they can, can be classed as executioners who condemn hundreds of normal healthy young people to a painful, miserable and lonely death which may take years to eventuate. Taking money from them in fines does not stop this traffic one little bit. So 1 suggest that we take their freedom and their rights as citizens. I suggest that we keep them apart from the society that they seek to destroy for the sake of money and an easy life. To add to my suggestion, 1 would request that this Government, in conjunction with State governments, considers making the minimum sentence 10 years without the option of a fine and with no parole period for such offences.
It is my firm belief that only this type of punishment will serve as a deterrent to those criminals who would endeavour to make a lucrative business by dealing in human misery. Thinking along the lines that prevention is better than cure. I suggest that this Government again in co-operation with the State authorities expands the present drug education scheme in order that all parents, teachers, our Australian youth - in fact everybody - are familiar with the problems of the misuse of drugs and the shocking results that this habit can produce. Finally, I would appeal to all those people throughout the Commonwealth who think that they may have some information to offer which would assist the authorities to prevent this menace from spreading throughout our communities to please pass on their information. There is no need for them to become involved. Any information, no matter how small, may be the means to keep this dirty business away from Australia. [Quorum formed.]
Debate (on motion by Dr Gun) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Havethe opinions of constitutional lawyers been obtained on the question of constitutional difficulties which might invalidate legislation to permit the electors of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory to elect two members each to the Senate; if so, will he table them in the House.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed by the Attorney-General that, so far as his Department is aware, no opinions of constitutional lawyers have been obtained on the matter referred to.
Governments in Exile (Question No. 28)
asked the Minister for
External Affairs, upon notice:
Further to your predecessor’s answer to my question No. 1817 (Hansard, 9th September 1969, page 1019) what are the names of the Heads of State and the places of government of the Governments of Estonia,. Latvia, and Lithuania, which went into exile following the U.S.S.R.’s invasion of those States in 1940.
– the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The legal position is that Australia has never withdrawn recognition from the Governments of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania which were forced into exile by the U.S.S.R.’s invasion and occupation of those States in 1940. Australia has not explicitly extended recognition to any particular Government which may regard itself as a successor to one of those Governments which Australia recognised in 1940.
asked the Minister for Ex ternal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The following answer to the honourable member’s question has been provided by the Public Service Board:
(a) In the Commonwealth Service the basic entitlement is 3 weeks. Seven day shift workers receive four weeks and other officers and employees in special situations (e.g. those stationed in remote localities) also receive leave in excess of 3 weeks.
(a) Three weeks’ annual leave for permanent officers in the Commonwealth Service has been the basic entitlement since the first Public Service Act, 1902, and for temporary employees since 1920. Four weeks’ annual leave for 7 day shift workers was granted in 1964.
The Commonwealth Public Service Board made inquiries of the N.S.W. Public Service Board in 1966 and again in 1970 on the effect of the introduction of 4 weeks’ annual leave on the number of public servants in New South Wales.
The N.S.W. Board advised on each occasion that the increased leave was one factor in the representations it has received for increased staff. However, it did not have precise figures to accurately determine the effect of the increase in leave since administrative requirements and staffing conditions vary between departments.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
In what way and lo what extent will the retirement benefits of members of the Defence Forces be affected by the proposals to preserve superannuation rights which he presented to the House on 25th September 1969.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The proposals for preservation of superannuation rights as announced on 25th September 1969 will be implemented for members of the Defence Forces by amendment of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1969 to be introduced in this session , of Parliament. These arrangements will apply after the passage of the legislation on and from 1st January 1970.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The above reductions followed salary increases to Commonwealth employees and was in line with the principle that a Commonwealth employee, whether a Public Servant or a Serviceman, should receive a total sum, made up of salary and allowances, sufficient to maintain himself at an Oversells post.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Under the Poor Persons Legal Assistance Ordinance 1935, any person committed for trial for an indictable offence against the laws of the Territory may apply to the Judge for legal aid. If the Judge is of the opinion that the applicant is without adequate means to provide for his own defence, he is to certify to that effect to the Administrator, who may, if he thinks fit, make arrangements for the defence of the accused person by counsel or solicitor, and for the payment of the expenses of all material witnesses.
Under the Rules of the Supreme Court, Order 19, any person may be admitted to sue or defend as a poor person and have counsel or solicitor, or both, assigned to him by the Court on proof that he is not worth One hundred and fifty dollars, his wearing apparel and the subject-matter of the cause or matter only excepted.
Under the Social Welfare Ordinance 1964- 1969, section 10, the Director of Social Welfare may provide to persons who in his opinion are socially or economically in need of assistance such legal assistance as in the Director’s opinion may be necessary or appropriate.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the group pay system for sailors, some categories are related to the award wage . payable to comparable civilian employment governed by a Federal or State award. More generally, as announced by the Minister for Defence recently, the new machinery established in the Department of Defence to deal with pay and conditions of service for the armed forces will ensure that movements which occur anywhere in ‘ the civilian area of employment will be considered for their relevance in the Service situation. There has been a progressive extension of relating rates of pay for those in the Services to the rates of those in the community at large engaged in comparable activity.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Resolution B called for strict observance of the principles and objectives of the Geneva Protocol; invited all slates that had not yet done so to become parties to the Protocol; and asked the Geneva Disarmament Committee to give urgent consideration to reaching agreement on the prohibition of chemical and biological warfare. Voting on this resolution was 120 countries (including Australia) in favour, none against, with one abstention. Australia co-sponsored this resolution.
The Australian Government strongly supports efforts to negotiate, with a minimum of delay, such further effective methods of international control over chemical and biological warfare as may be necessary to ensure its prohibition. Australia is a party to the Geneva Protocol. Resolution 2603a, however, raised serious problems both from a legal point of view and from the point of view of substance. The Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations explained these difficulties in detail in a statement in the General Assembly on 9th December 1969.
There was no consensus at the Genera] Assembly in favour of the proposition of law asserted in resolution 2603a, and the Assembly itself has no power to make international law by resolution. - The measure of disagreement in this case indicates that Australia’s misgivings were widely shared.
Further informed and serious consideration of the problem of prohibiting chemical and biological warfare will be necessary in the Geneva Disarmament Committee before an acceptable and effective solution can be devised. The Government hopes that the Committee will give this matter the highest possible priority.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Has he received any request from the South Australian Government for financial assistance in providing a water pipeline to Kimba on Eyre Peninsula.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. The project will receive consideration under the Commonwealth’s $100 million National Water Resources Development Programme along with other projects submitted by the Premier and by other Premiers.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
What initiatives is Australia’s delegation considering or supporting for the United Nations Charter review this year, in particular with regard to: (a) a broader United Nations membership embracing rival de facto regimes without prejudice to their respective territorial claims, (b) voting power of each delegation being assessed in some relationship to the size of the population controlled by the regime appointing the delegation and without vetoes, (c) strengthening of United Nations arbitration, conciliation and peacekeeping machinery, involving sacrifice of some aspects of national sovereignty to supranational authorities in grave international disputes, (d) peaceful uses of the sea bed, (e) extension of the Antarctic nuclear-free zone and its proclamation as a war-free zone under United Nations jurisdiction and sovereignty and (f) ecology and the development decade.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (a), (b) and (c) Australia is not at present considering initiatives or proposals under these headings. The General Assembly of the United Nations will consider at its 25 th session this year an item which was deferred from its 24th session entitled ‘Need to consider suggestions regarding the review of the Charter of the United Nations’. In the brief discussion of the subject at the 24th session of the General Assembly, opinion was divided on whether there was a need for revision of the Charter. The representative of Colombia who introduced the item noted that many present members of the United Nations had not been present at the drafting of the Charter. He considered that an opportunity should now be given them for making known their views on it. Some other delegations took the view that the Charter in its present form offered possibilities that had not all been used, and that revision might not add to its effectiveness. (d), (e) and (f) The relationship to revision of the Charter of these items is not apparent. With regard to (d) there is a Committee to Study the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-bed and the Ocean Floor of which Australia is currently a member. Australian delegations to sessions of this Committee receive instructions in accordance with Government policy relating to the questions which are under consideration. Similar considerations apply to (f). Australia is represented by an observer delegation at a meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the United ‘ Nations Conference on the Human Environment which is meeting in New York from 10th to 20th March, 1970. Australia is also currently a member of the United Nations Preparatory Committee for the Second Development Decade. Both these Committees report through the Economic and Social Council to the United Nations General Assembly.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition written submissions are received from various pensioner organisations, and indeed from a great variety of organisations, about their needs and wants. These have been and will continue to be given the utmost consideration by the Government in preparing the Budget each year.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Under the concessional deduction provisions of the income tax law, deductions for education expenses, including the cost of necessary books and fees, are allowable to a tax payer where the expenses are necessarily incurred by him for or in connection with the fulltime education of a person who is less than 21 years of age and is a child of the taxpayer or is a person for whom the taxpayer is entitled to a dependant’s deduction. The deduction under these provisions is subject to an upper limit of three hundred dollars for any one student and is not available where the expenses are incurred in respect of a part-time student.
Where, on the other hand, a taxpayer incurs expenditure on a course of study undertaken for the purpose of maintaining the knowledge or skills required in following his profession or employment, the expenditure would generally qualify for deduction on the ground that it is incurred in connection with the production of his assessable income.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What did he mean when, following 1967 Metal Trades Case, he said that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission had sidestepped its responsibilities and that its decision to grant the union’s claim in that case could be a calamitous conclusion with lasting consequences for the economy.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The full text of the statement referred to makes my meaning plain.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700317_reps_27_hor66/>.