27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr WENTWORTH presented from certain residents of the State of New South Wales a petition showing that the red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for commercial purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy; none of the Australian States have sufficient wardens to detect and apprehend people breaking the laws in existence in each State, and in such a vast country only uniform laws and a complete cessation of commercialisation can ensure the survival of our national emblem; it is an indisputable fact that no natural resources can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
-Order! There should be no comment in relation to petitions.
Petition received and read.
Mr JACOBI 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 KEVIN CAIRNS presented from certain electors of the Commonwealth a petition showing that it is the cherished right and heritage of the Australian people to live as free men and women, to enjoy full liberty of speech, of assembly, of choice, of worship or of belief, and to continue in their tradition of true parliamentary democracy in the face of innumerable acts of aggression, subversion, riots and revolutions bringing menace ever closer to these shores, such freedoms cannot be preserved without adequate means to defend them; and Australia today is gravely deficient in its defence resources, thus inviting attack in the near future on the one hand, and undermining confidence amongst her real allies and friendly neighbours on the other hand.
The petitioners pray that the House will take all urgent measures for greatly increased defence, with absolute priority to the following: (a) An unparalleled opportunity exists for the acquisition, preferably by outright purchase, of the British Far Eastern Carrier Fleet, or the bulk of it, which, destined otherwise to be scrapped in probably less than 2 years, would be available at only a fraction of the cost normally payable. At least two of the aircraft carriers have been just recently completely modernised and refitted, new and up-to-date Phantom airplanes delivered to them, and full crews and complements properly trained and operational and already resident in the South-East Asian area, together with their families, so that Australia cannot afford to neglect such a remarkable and economical opportunity, (b) With the arrival shortly of the undoubtedly magnificent Fill airplanes, it is vital for Australia to establish quickly her own large-scale aircraft manufacturing industry, so that essential support is given to the abovereferredto carrier fleet, in conjunction with further naval and air bases. Australia thus becomes far more self -sufficient for all defence requirements, and largely circumvents the serious dangers of urgent supplies from, say, America or Britain, being interrupted, delayed or blockaded at a critical moment. At the same time a ready market would be open to Australia for the supply and servicing of surplus aircraft and other equipment to her friends and allies in South-East Asia and elsewhere.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. The honourable gentleman will remember the following passage in the Governor-General’s Speech:
Pressures on costs and prices, though strong and persistent and requiring close attention, have for the most part been kept reasonably under control.
Indeed, a week ago at question time, after prompting by the Prime Minister, the honourable gentleman said that the Government was giving close attention and would continue to give close attention to pressures on costs and prices. I therefore ask him: What attention did the Government give to the recent increase by Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. of 3.7% in steel prices after the company had revealed a net profit of $49im, an increase of 11.3% over the previous year’s profit? What attention is it now giving to the requests by oil companies for an increase of 2c a gallon for petrol, which will entail an additional S40m in costs for petrol consumers in the year?
– What the Leader of the Opposition has just said really illustrates the pressure which is now upon a great number of prices. If for no other reason, this pressure will increase because of the simply enormous increases which have occurred in wages and salaries. I noticed in the last report of the Bank of New South Wales and the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures combination on their normal inquiry, which the Leader of the Oppo sition will know about, that about a third of the manufacturers concerned - who had faced considerable increase in prices and costs in recent months - were obliged, as a result of the pressure, to increase the prices at which they sold their products. I would expect this pressure to continue. This is not to say that it is out of hand. But as salaries and wages, apart from other things, rise so fast and so continuously they will exercise an upward pressure on prices. I am not aware of this application to increase petrol prices that was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. Such applications do not come to me. I did notice that the South Australian Prices Commissioner referred to this matter in a statement a few days ago. This statement did not indicate that he was looking very favourably upon an immediate increase in oil prices.
– I desire to ask the Minister for National Development a question concerning public relations in his Department. The Minister will be aware that there is sometimes insufficient knowledge, both in Australia and overseas, of the achievements in national development in Australia. Can the Minister take steps to see that every effort is made to make the public aware of the great development that has been and is taking place in Australia? Will he see, in particular, that the quarterly magazine ‘National Development’ is given as wide a distribution as possible, particularly overseas?
- Mr Speaker, as you are aware the honourable member was my predecessor as Minister for National Development, and I would like to pay a tribute to him for his administration of the Department, which administration included laying the foundations for a public relations system. As the honourable member has said, an enormous expansion is taking place in the development of our natural resources today. As far as my Department is concerned, the quarterly magazine ‘National Development’ which has been published for some years now will have an extended circulation because it is a very substantial means of getting the message through both here and overseas. But in addition, recognising the need for an expansion of the public relations system, we have now arranged, with the complete co-operation of the Prime Minister and the assistance of the Chairman and members of the Public Service Board, for a very substantial expansion in the public relations service within the Department. Some additional journalists and a photographer will be provided, and very shortly I hope to commence publication of a national development monthly newsletter which will contain a substantial amount of information for circulation through all public relations media both here and overseas.In addition to this, with the expanded system we will have the opportunity of keeping our public relations more up to date and operating on an increasing scale, and I am sure that this will meet the full requirements as proposed by the honourable member.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for National Development. Has he admitted to the honourable member for Bradfield or admitted otherwise that the Commonwealth did not undertake a cost benefit analysis of the Kolan-Burnett-Isis scheme, but that last year’s Commonwealth aid to that scheme in the Capricornia and Wide Bay electorates was necessary to assist his Party in the State and Commonwealth elections? Secondly, does he concede that such cost benefit analysis should not be left to the States, and that if the Snowy scheme had been extended to embrace a national water development programme the complete scheme should have had priority over the Ord and Nogoa schemes? Finally, in view of the landslide to Labor last year in those established and proven areas which are periodically devastated by drought will he again consider upgrading and extending the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and its work to establish priorities and a master plan to save the country from preventable losses and hardship due to drought?
– I was very pleased to be able to announce, with the approval of the
Prime Minister, some time ago the agreement of the Commonwealth for the first large-scale water project under the new programme. The honourable member, as a Queenslander, should be happy that the first major project under the new programme as announced is being allocated to Queensland. Certainly the Premier of Queensland and the Queensland Government are happy because they have given this particular work their first priority. The honourable member referred to a cost benefit analysis or feasibility studies which had been undertaken by the State in the past. Under the previous water resources development programme the Queensland Government had submitted a proposal for a scheme in the Bundaberg region as top priority. We have to depend upon the States to give us their priorities. We accepted that submission and it was being examined when the last election took place.
It is interesting to note that the decision in relation to this was not made until after the election. This corrects the impression which might have been conveyed by the honourable member that the decision was made to gain some political advantage. The matter was not finanlised until after the election. The decision was made about a month ago, but full information and full details were submitted by Queensland in relation to the overall proposal. The results of the Queensland studies were submitted to my Department and went through the normal process of a complete investigation by officers of my Department We had the whole of the basic information about the Kolan project and if the honourable member has not already received a copy of the memorandum which I circulated to honourable members when I made my second reading speech on the legislation, I can certainly supply him with a copy. It contains all the information that he requires.In this case the first priority was given to this scheme by the Queensland Government and it was accepted as such by the Commonwealth.
On the question of the Burdekin proposal, I understand that the Queensland Government is undertaking a complete study of that project which has taken various forms in the past. The Queensland Government has engaged the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Authority as consultants to assist in this particular work and no doubt at a later stage it will be submitting some proposals for consideration by the Commonwealth. This may, of course, be in the long term and I do not know at this stage whether or not it is a proposal to which the Queensland Government will give high priority. However the investigation is a matter for the Queensland Government.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Last Tuesday evening during the AddressinReply debate I suggested that those ruthless characters who illegally peddle drugs should receive a minimum sentence of 10 years without the option of a fine and with no parole period. Firstly, is the Minister satisfied with the penalties administered by the courts at present and, secondly, will he give consideration to my suggestion?
– I heard the honourable gentleman’s excellent speech the other night. I listened with great interest and believe that he made a formidable contribution to the solution of this national problem by saying what he did in the national Parliament. Generally speaking, this Government, and, I believe, most if not all State governments, would not be inclined to the view of imposing minimum penalties without the option of parole. The honourable member asks me whether as Minister for Customs and Excise I am satisfied with the penalties generally imposed by the courts. We are generally satisfied, although I am bound to say that there are certain decisions of the courts, particularly as far as drug pushers are concerned, which fill me and my Department with concern.
The honourable member asks whether there should be any changes in the scale of penalties. In Australia at the present time, for charges on indictment the penalty is 10 years imprisonment or a fine of $4,000 while, with charges on summary jurisdiction, the penalty is a fine of $1,000 or 2 years gaol or both. There is no prescribed differentiation in the penalties between users and the pushers. The view is put that there should be. However, the courts to this point seem to be making their own judgment as to distinguishing and differentiating between the user and the pusher. This general question of penalties will be discussed by the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence which will be meeting in the next week or two and, indeed, by a meeting of Ministers, State and Federal, later in April.
There is one novel suggestion which I put forward concerning penalties for drug users particularly for younger people who are imbibing what are commonly called ‘soft drugs’. I am rather attracted to the idea that some magistrates sometimes impose as a penalty in courts for young people convicted of committing traffic offences involving dangerous driving and the like. The magistrates force these young people to attend the casualty wards of hospitals from time to time. I am rather attracted to the idea that magistrates might give thought, as a punishment if honourable members like, to sending the young drug offenders, particularly those who are smoking marihuana or hashish, to assist in drug rehabilitation clinics for a period such as a series of weekends. I am sure that seeing these things there would have a summary effect on them.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: Is it correct, as reported in yesterday’s edition of the Sydney ‘Sun’, that immigration officers in London are telling plumbers that they will live a life of luxury if they migrate to Australia where all plumbers drive big American cars? Having in mind that a plumber’s average wage in Sydney is §73.74 per week, some S7 per week less than the version by the Commonwealth Statistician of the average Australian wage, I ask: Does the Minister consider this a luxury wage and one that could run and maintain a big American car? Finally I ask the Minister: If he is not in a position to answer my question now, will he initiate an immediate investigation into the allegations made in the newspaper article, and, at the same time, make available to all immigration officers, regardless of where they aTe stationed, up to date copies of the major Australian industrial awards in order that intending migrants can be advised correctly as to the Australian wages and working conditions applicable to their particular trade or calling?
– J noticed in the Sydney Press yesterday the article referred to by the honourable gentleman. On seeing the article, I immediately sought a report from my Department. This report is still in the process of preparation, but I expect to have the complete details available to me within the next 24 hours. Naturally, I will liaise with the honourable gentleman to keep him informed of the progress which these investigations reveal.
However, 1 would say to the honourable gentleman that, naturally, in a migrant intake of approximately 180,000 this year, from time to time circumstances will arise where allegations are made concerning misinterpretation in information given to prospective migrants. I wish to say to the honourable genleman by way of observation that in all of these cases investigations are carried out immediately because my Department is at all times concerned that it should reflect to prospective migrants to Australia a very accurate picture of circumstances here whether by way of social or industrial conditions and awards relative to wages.
I understand that on this subject a two page leaflet is available to British migrants who claim plumbing qualifications. This leaflet sets out the overseas training and the trade certificates which are recognised in Australia as well as the licensing and registration requirements in each State. All 1 can say to the honourable gentleman is that, 1 have seen the article; it is under investigation: and the facts will be checked.
– In view of the completion of the East-West standard gauge railway, will the Minister for Shipping and Transport consider further extensions of standard railway construction in other States? In particular, I would ask whether, because there is only a single track on the Sydney-Brisbane line via the Tablelands through Muswellbrook north, serious congestion with consequential delays in traffic movement has occurred. Will the Minister approach the New South Wales Government to formulate a proposal for the dupli cation of the standard gauge line initially to Werris Creek and subsequently through to Brisbane?
– I know of the honourable member’s interest in the movement of goods, particularly from his own area, north and south along the line to which he refers. As he will realise, the basic responsibility for railways administration lies not with the Commonwealth but with the respective State railway systems. The standard gauge railway construction was undertaken in consultation and in conjunction with State railway systems. In the New South Wales sector, the upgrading of the line between Parkes and Broken Hill came about as a result of negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government, the work being undertaken by the New South Wales Government Railways or by contractors on its behalf.
I do believe that there are areas in Australia where the railway system could be upgraded and modernised and. one would hope, be made more efficient, so that perhaps the cost of freight could then be related more to the cost of moving goods than one suspects might presently be the case at times. But nonetheless, in terms of responsibility for any new programme, the initiative must lie, of course, with those who have the responsibility. In the case of the duplication of the line to which the honourable member referred, this must remain, and is entirely within, the responsibility of the New South Wales Government.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. He will remember his statement on 25th September last year when he said that his Government would introduce, at the earliest practicable date, legislation to provide for the portability of superannuation rights. I ask: When is this legislation to be introduced?
- Mr Speaker, I am informed that the Actuary is working out the basis needed to be worked out before the legislation can be brought down in this House and that there is - I will not say a difficulty - considerable time required for such action. I had a report on the matter from the Treasurer the other day. That work is proceeding but I could not, at this stage, give a definite indication to the honourable member as to when the legislation will in fact be brought down. The honourable member will recall that I have already informed the House and the country that it will be retrospective to 1st January this year when it is brought down. We will seek to bring it down as quickly as we can but it is an extremely complicated piece of legislation.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that the Australian Broadcasting Commission television station Channel 2 proposes to repeat the showing of the controversial nlm ‘Son of Man’ on 9th April. As this distorted film is so offensive to tens of thousands of people in this country, will he suggest to the Australian Broadcasting Comtrol Board that the repeat showing should not be proceeded with?
– I have indicated previously in the House that the question of programming by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is determined by the Commission itself. There is no interference from me or from members of the Government. As to repeat performances of programmes, I have indicated to the House also that there is a difficulty facing television stations in obtaining sufficient good programmes in order to avoid repetition of some of them. Indeed, it is known that about one-third of the viewing public sees a presentation on the first occasion and that there are many other people in the community who would like a second opportunity. I have only to refer to the repeat of a series of films such as the ‘Forsyte Saga’ which, I am sure, was seen as an opportunity by very many people to see it when it was shown the second time. In relation to the film ‘Son of Man’, I have had a number of letters sent to me and I have been in discussion with the ABC because of the answers which the Chairman has made available to me, representing the point of view of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This is an interpretation by a modern playwright of an historical event and I think very few people would reject the right of a playwright to place his own interpretation upon it.
The ABC was particularly careful in relation to the presentation of this film. Before the film was presented publicly it called together a number of ministers of religion in the Sydney area to give them a preview to find the reaction of these gentlemen to this film. There were some who did not appreciate it, some who disliked it and some who liked it. None of them, I am informed, suggested that this film should not be shown. Having been shown to the public, it has caused a good deal of discussion. It has been a provocative film and I believe that it is one of the requirements of television that this type of film should be shown to the Australian public. The letters that 1 have received and which have been received by the ABC have represented, I think, every religious point of view in the Australian community and I think it would be impossible to find any section which as a whole has raised an objection to this film. People comment one way or the other, and from my own knowledge from letters I have received I know that people of many religions have requested a repeat of this film for the purpose not only of seeing it a second time but also of giving to those who have not seen it previously the opportunity to do so.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and is supplementary to the one asked by the Leader of the Opposition. In view of the Treasurer’s statement that the economy has become overheated, what action does the Prime Minister propose to take in regard to the suggested increase in the price of petrol? Does he agree that such an increase would reflect itself in other sectors of the economy and result in further overheating of the economy? Will he agree to an independent commission to inquire into the price of petrol and indeed into the price of steel as proposed by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and supported by the President of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria in reference to the question of petrol?
– In reply to the first part of the question I would remind the honourable member that the Treasurer indicated not that the economy was overheated but was showing signs of moving in that direction and therefore the attention that was required and the action that was taken was an action that needed to be taken. On the question of petrol as such. 1 am a little surprised that the honourable member who, clearly along with all his Party, wishes to have price controls on everything, should be worried on this case since an application is made to the South Australian Price Controller in this field. This being so - this being the normal practice and this being an application to a man set up by that Government for that purpose - then I see no reason for any action to be taken on behalf of this Government and I am surprised that the honourable member should feel that that was necessary since what he seeks to set up is in fact being followed in this case.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the recent 24-hour stoppage by the Builders Labourers Union and the reported threatened strike for 1st April if negotiations with employers are unsuccessful. I ask the Minister whether there are any moves to settle this dispute through arbitration. I also ask whether there is any provision for the leaders of the union to test the feeling of the 40,000 members by secret ballot. Is it possible for such a damaging nation wide strike, affecting all sections of the community - not just the families directly involved - to be called without reference to the men themselves?
– There was a stoppage and there is the prospect of another one. The issue is not a clear one of merely pursuing a wages claim. Broader issues are involved in this stoppage. The union involved has been concerned in recent times with the drift in its membership to other unions in the building industry and there is little doubt that at present the leadership of the union is trying to be seen to be very militant - trying to increase wages by militancy in order to arrest the movement of its members to other unions. For this reason the stoppage cannot be seen as a simple clear issue of a wages claim. The union has not pursued its claim through negotiation with the employers or through arbitration. For this it has been criticised by the commissioner who deals with this industry, Commissioner Watson. 1 am bound to say that in my judgment the employers should have notified the dispute to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission tinder section 28 of the Act, when they became aware that there would be a stoppage. I should like the matter to be resolved by negotiation between the union and the employers or, if necessary, by arbitration. No secret ballot was held before the strike was called. 1 think it unlikely that a secret ballot will be held before any follow up stoppage. Under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act there is provision for secret ballots to be taken before a strike is held. This provision is very rarely used and it has not been used on this occasion.
– I ask the Treasurer a question supplementary to that asked by the Leader of the Opposition, ls it not a fact that increased prices are the real cause of the overheated economy, leading to inflationary trends and resulting in the inevitable reduction of the purchasing power of wages and salaries? In these circumstances is it not understandable that the Australian Council of Trade Unions is under pressure to support strike action as a means of preventing unwarranted and arbitrary increases in prices? How does the Treasurer justify the Commonwealth’s action of telling the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to control the price of labour while the Government takes no action to prevent the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the oil companies, the motor car industry and similar monopolies from arbitrarily increasing the prices of their products at a time when they are already making enormous profits? Is it not a fact that increases in wages and salaries invariably follow rather than precede increases in prices? Tn view of the Government’s failure to take action to control prices will the Treasurer say what alternative is open to the trade union movement other than to resort to strike action as a means of preventing unjustified price increases from further eroding living standards and thus exacerbating the already justifiable cause of industrial discontent?
– Quite clearly a major factor in price increases is increased costs, which in recent months have come mainly from increased wages and higher salaries.
– What about other factors - subsidies, profits and interest?
– I was not aware that the honourable member for Oxley had asked the question. He may like to ask a supplementary question. A very big reason for price increases is the fact that wages and salaries have been rising at least twice as fast as, if not faster than, conceivable increases in productivity. In these circumstances there is great pressure on prices. This pressure is supplemented by many other forces. Of course, once prices increase more pressure is exerted for still higher wages. This again causes prices to rise even further. It is a continuous and growing pressure. But over the whole course of this year it looks as if we will get a rise in wages and salaries of something around or perhaps greater than 8%. If we take the difference - the rise in the level between the December quarter of 1968 and that of 1969 - the increase is very marked indeed. In face of these increased costs no firm could not avoid raising its prices when having these large salary increases without becoming insolvent.
This is particularly so of public authorities. In many cases there is no chance for public authorities - railways, transport services - to increase their productivity except by a very small amount. When they incur these big wage increases they are obliged to put up fares and in other words make up for their increased costs due to this process. While this pushing up of costs goes on, further increases in prices sooner or later become inevitable.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. Would the honourable gentleman indicate when the 14 television stations approved for the electorate of Kennedy are likely to be in operation? In view of the fact the decision to instal these stations was made many years after this amenity had been enjoyed by the more favoured city and coastal areas, will he now give the House an assurance that they will be constructed and commissioned with all urgency? Will he further assure the House that there will be no possibility of the introduction of colour television until such time as these remote areas receive at this late date this modest form of television?
– I remind honourable members that some 12 months ago - at any rate during last year - I indicated that there would be an additional 38 television stations in the country areas of Australia. Twentythree of these would be in the State of Queensland and a number of them would be in the electorate of the honourable member who has asked this question. He will appreciate that we are constructing at the present time from Townsville to Mount Isa a microwave link and 5 of the stations that have been mentioned will be associated with this link. These stations will cover places such as Hughenden, Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mary Kathleen and one other. I expect that they will be in operation towards the end of 1971.
As to the remainder, there is a good deal of technical work to be done because I indicated at the time I made the statement that this service would be implemented by the use of what we term a thin line. This is a smaller cable than a coaxial cable; it might be a mini-microwave rather than the normal microwave system. Of course, some of the areas in which these stations will be installed are very sparsely populated and the engineering effort for the protection and the assurance that these stations will be able to operate continuously will require a good deal of research and care in the installation. I believe that the remainder will be installed continuously between 1972 and 1974.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry: What has happened to the Tariff Board report on farm machinery? The right honourable gentleman will remember that he referred this matter to the Board in October 1967 and that the Board concluded its hearings in November 1968. I am sure he knows that in the meantime, throughout the countryside there has been increasing concern at the prices charged and the practices followed by those who make and sell farm machinery.
– The Leader of the Opposition has really answered his own question. The matter is with the Tariff Board. The public hearings are, I understand, concluded. I have no knowledge as to when the Tariff Board will furnish its recommendations to the Government, but I will see whether inquiries can be made and if I can ascertain a likely date of presentation to the Government I will inform the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has his attention been drawn to a statement made by the honourable member for Chifley about the Richmond air base and a survey that he said was made by the Department of Civil Aviation of an area between Richmond and Penrith for the purpose of establishing a commercial aerodrome? Will the Minister say whether there is any substance in the statement?
– The honourable member for Chifley raised this, matter during the adjournment debate last night. I contacted my colleague in another place to obtain up to date information. The position is that some time ago, as has been mentioned in this House, an inter-departmental committee was set up to investigate the development of airport facilities for Sydney after the present facilities at Mascot reach saturation, which will be some time in the 1980s. The committee has been looking at a number of sites, but it is expected that a considerable time will elapse before its report is submitted. In the meantime other investigations related to general aviation have been carried out. It was announced last year that 6 additional sites, either satellites or main general aviation aerodromes, would be developed around the Sydney area and some investigations have been carried out on a number of sites for general aviation purposes - that is, for light aircraft.
No ground surveys for an additional major commercial airport in the Richmond area have been carried out by the Department of Civil Aviation, although in the first quarter of last year the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise flew over that region and examined the noise levels there. In addition some senior officers from the Department of Civil Aviation, in a general examination of the whole of the Sydney area, viewed the area from the air, but this was not a survey of any type and a ground survey was not undertaken at the time. If any survey was undertaken, it could possibly have been done by the Department of Air, as Richmond is an air base and is still controlled by the Royal Australian Air Force.
– The Minister for Social Services will recall that, when pensions were last increased at Budget time last year, the average Australian weekly earnings were $71.40. Has his attention been brought to recent figures issued by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician which show that average weekly earnings in Victoria and New South Wales have now topped $80? In view of these rises in earnings and in view of the continuing increases in the cost of living, will the Minister consider suggesting to Cabinet that a supplementary Budget be brought down in this session so that all social service pensions can keep up with rising costs and so that a fair share of the nation’s wealth can be given to all who depend on these pensions?
– My attention has, of course, been drawn to these figures. I would not anticipate taking any action along the lines suggested by the honourable member, but, of course, these are policy matters. May I remind him, however, of the facts. Wages and salaries are moving ahead very much faster than prices and this is the reason for what is called the overheating of the economy. The facts to which the honourable member draws attention are very relevant in this context, because they show that the proportion of the national income that is going to wage and salary earners is constantly increasing. This may be good, but at all events it is a point that honourable members on both sides of the House should continue to keep in. their minds.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service indicate the current state of the Waterside Workers Federation proposal for a waterfront strike next weekend? Is he aware that the Tasmanian fruit export season is getting into full stride and that any such action is a direct and irresponsible blow at the economy of the island State? Is he aware of any action by the Australian Labor Party to influence the cancellation of the strike?
– There are two meetings proceeding today. One is a meeting of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Disputes Committee and the other is a meeting of the employers of waterside labour. They are discussing the matter separately this morning. This afternoon there will be a meeting of the National Conference when the parties will be together. I will not say anything more at this point of time.
– I present for the information of honourable members the first, third and fourth interim reports of the Company Law Advisory Committee. I should mention that the second interim report of the Committee was presented by my predecessor in May 1969. I seek leave to make a short statement concerning the reports.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Company Law Advisory Committee, more usually referred to as the Eggleston Committee, was appointed by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General in August 1967 ‘to inquire into and report on the extent of the protection afforded to the investing public by the existing provisions of the uniform Companies Acts and to recommend what additional provisions, if any, are reasonably necessary to increase that protection”. The Committee consists of Mr Justice Eggleston as Chairman, Mr J. M. Rodd, a Melbourne solicitor, and Mr P. C. E. Cox, a Sydney accountant.
J should perhaps briefly recount for the benefit of honourable members ihat the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General initiated, in the early 1960s, the project of bringing the Companies Acts and Ordinances of the States and Territories of Australia into substantial uniformity. The project was. a successful one, and the resulting legislation has been commonly referred to as the uniform Companies Acts. The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General has since kept under review the need for amendment of the uniform legislation. The position at the time of the appointment of the Eggleston Committee was that certain amendments had been made and a number of others were under consideration. Preliminary work had been done on the amendments that were under consideration and this work was reflected in a draft General Revision Bill to which reference is made in the Eggleston Committee’s interim reports. That was a Bill which had been drafted by the Committee itself.
In paragraphs 54 and 55 and Appendix B of the first interim report the Committee outlined the topics that it considered were covered by its terms of reference. Its 4 interim reports cover a substantial proportion of those topics. The first interim report on the accounts and audit provisions of the uniform Companies Acts was made in October 1968. The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General decided not to release that report for the time being. This decision was influenced by the consideration that there was an extensive inter-relation between the text of the report and the draft of the suggested General Revision Bill to which I have referred. Because of its character as a preliminary draft, the General Revision Bill was not thought to be a document fit for general publication. In view, therefore, of the fact that the Committee’s first interim report could not be followed without reference to the draft General Revision Bill, the view was taken that no useful purpose could be served by publishing that report until the time was ripe to publish the relevant provisions of the General Revision Bill. In the meantime, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General published a summary of the recommendations made in the Committee’s first interim report.
Legislation to implement to a substantial degree the recommendations contained in the first, second and third interim reports of the Eggleston Committee was yesterday introduced in the Victorian Parliament. It is therefore appropriate that I should now table for the information of honourable members the first and third interim reports. I also table the fourth interim report, which relates to share and option dealings by directors and officers of companies.
– (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - I seek leave to make a short statement on the same subject.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) for tabling the first of the Eggleston reports following my question to him a fortnight ago. I take this opportunity to make some general observations on company laws in this country. Attempts have now been made for over 10 years to secure uniform companies legislation. I think it can be said that Sir Garfield Barwick, when Attorney-General, set out to achieve uniformity in 3 particular fields. One was matrimonial causes, where the Commonwealth had total power. There was no question about the width of its power under the Constitution. A Bill was promptly introduced and it has been accepted as widely as any legislation on such a social matter can be.
The second field was in respect of trade practices. Sir Garfield Barwick attempted to secure complementary Commonwealth legislation on interstate trade and State legislation for intrastate trade. There is virtually no State legislation in this field. Tasmania has adopted the Commonwealth Act, but the Commonwealth Act, when it came in, was a very truncated version of the Barwick proposals. The third piece of legislation dealt with companies. Sir Garfield Barwick aimed at securing legislation by the States and, in only a very peripheral manner, ordinances by the 2 mainland Territories. I have expressed the view before - I see nothing to change it - that Sir Garfield Barwick’s motives with respect to trade practices and companies were largely to take the pressure out of the claims for reform on a wide range of matters raised by the Constitutional Review Committee in 1958 and again in 1959. There was no question at all but that any legislation dealing with trade practices and companies should be uniform throughout Australia. Sir Garfield was not sympathetic to the other suggestions in the Committee’s report, but he was to these two.
We have taken a long time to get uniform companies legislation and we are taking a long time to get modern companies legislation. I welcome the tabling of this report because at least members of Parliament now know the views of an expert committee that was under the chairmanship of one of the ornaments of the Australian law and judiciary. There is an increasing difficulty in members of Parliament being able to debate matters of law reform or technical matters in general. They are taken to be matters which should be discussed between Ministers and kept confidential to those Ministers. When the parliaments get the result of their deliberations they are in the form of an agreement, a convention or uniform legislation. If any parliament amends the legislation then there is no uniformity. Uniformity can only be achieved at the pace of the most backward of the States. None of the mainland States has a fairly and equitably representative parliament and none of the States which has an upper House has democracy either. It is very difficult to get modernity and uniformity. At least here we now have the opportunity to know what the experts say.
This must be one of the clearest cases where there should be a standing committee of the Parliament. The committees of both Houses and the joint committees have, in fact, achieved a remarkable degree of unanimity. There are some aspects of law reform where political or idealogical considerations enter. In respect of social matters, such as matrimonial causes, they clearly enter although not, I believe, on party lines. There are also some matters in company laws where, I suppose, ideology enters, but nevertheless there is a vast field of technical matters where we would benefit from having a standing committee of this House or a joint standing committee of the Parliament.
I would imagine that there is very little State rights sentiment in Australia in regard to companies legislation. There may be vestiges of this in other forms of law reform, such as that affecting coastal waters. It is enough for me to say that I applaud the belated but nevertheless admirable determination of the Government, not least I should think because of the attitude which I attribute to the Attorney-General, that the Commonwealth’s powers over coastal waters should be asserted. The Commonwealth itself, under the Constitution, can make laws in respect of ‘foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth’. We have been mesmerised by an archaic and restrictive decision from passing laws under this power. 1 doubt whether today the High Court would give so limited an interpretation. I would hope that the present Attorney-General might contrive a test of the Commonwealth’s corporation power as has recently come about in respect of external affairs, posts and telegraphs and fisheries powers.
There can surely be no justification for a State rights attitude on companies laws. In the United States of America, a much older federation than ours and a federation where the States have greater financial powers or resources than the States have in this country, there is no question as regards securities and exchange matters, for instance. There has been no question since the early 1930s that this is a federal power. This is a matter which is of great public concern now, not only for Australian investors but also for Australia’s standing in the world. What has gone on in Australian stock exchanges in recent months has, let us face it, brought discredit on Australia. It has jeopardised the development of Australian resources by investors locally or overseas. This is one of the matters which was discussed in the first report of the Eggleston Committee, presented in 1968, which we have waited until this week to receive.
I do not know what the attitude of the Attorney-General is on a Commonwealth securities and exchange commission or, in fact. State securities and exchange commissions. His predecessor, outside the House trenchantly condemned the idea. The Treasurer in those days, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr .McMahon), was strongly of the opinion that there ought to be State securities and exchange commissions. I would hope that as a result of action in another place there may at least be debate among Federal parliamentarians as to the possibility of getting such a committee going on a national basis. I believe that the Commonwealth’s corporation power should bc assumed to justify the establishment of such a body. I rather believe that the High Court might now be inclined to give to this power some of the generous interpretation that it has given to the arbitration power or to section 92 of the Constitution. When Australia gets a national securities and exchange commission or a companies commission, whatever one calls it, then we will, in fact, be in a much better position as a nation to know what our capital resources are and to see that they are properly used.
The history, as we are going at the moment, is not encouraging. The original uniform Companies Bill was agreed to in principle in November 1961. In fact it was over a year before the States had enacted it and it was not until lune 1963 that the Territories had enacted it. Subsequent amendments have taken a similar length of time. There have been cases, as answers that the Minister’s predecessors have given me disclose, in which it often has taken 3 years to secure legislation in all the States and Territories on matters upon which all the Attorneys-General, State and Commonwealth, have -agreed. There can be really no excuse in our nation now for taking 3 years to enact legislation on which all the responsible Ministers have agreed. This is not a question of draftsmanship because the legislation had been in draft. The model code has been adopted by the Ministries concerned, yet it has taken 3 years to introduce the legislation. The Territories are easily catered for by Commonwealth ordinances, but it is not just the Territories which have been behind. They have never led, they have very often been in the rear, but it is the States which have taken 3 years or more to enact uniform companies laws on which all Australian law officers have agreed.
I welcome today the fact that the members of this Parliament will now know what was recommended by the Eggleston Committee in 1968. I would hope that steps would be taken - we certainly would support them from this side of the House - to have standing committees to deal with such technical matters. We would hope that the new Attorney-General would take a contemporary and comprehensive view of the Commonwealth’s corporation power. Australia - all of us as individuals and as a nation - would benefit from the clear, honest and modern deployment of our capital resources which can be done only if Australia has some of the modern machinery that the United States of America has had since the early 1930s and which every comparable country, which trades or invests as much proportionately as we do. already has.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, I think that the statement today by the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) is an example of the inevitability of gradualness. This Parliament must give a lead to Australia. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said, there is no doubt whatever that the limits of the Commonwealth’s corporation power must be tested. This Government has to its eternal discredit in the delay which has occurred in giving a lead both in its own right and to the constituent States of Australia such episodes as the H. G. Palmer fiasco, the Reid Murray scandal and all the rest of the earlier financial ramps which have been perpetrated.
It is notable that the timing of this statement today coincides with the introduction by our Party leader in another place, Senator Murphy, of a discussion of this matter. It is equally notable that the matter is being raised at a time when even the most lethargic and backward student of financial affairs can see, in Australia, the ramps being perpetrated in the stock exchanges, the rigging of the stock markets, the forward selling, the short selling and every device that human financial perverted ingenuity can devise being used to the limit to fleece the unwary and the greedy. It has been said correctly by a cynical German philosopher that the calculation of profita bility was the invention of the devil to bewitch and to bemuse mankind.
Unless and until we catch up - and we are the most laggard and most backward of all the so-called advanced nations in the world in our concepts of corporate responsibility - these things will continue. If we look at the whole question of finance and of commerce, we can rank the invention of money, the invention of bills of exchange and the concept of the corporation as being the three major progressive steps that have been made. As the classical maxim runs: A company has neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned. It has perpetual succession and a common seal’. It has not, with the backwardness of our law, any responsibility, in decency and commercial probity, as the company laws of this Commonwealth stand at the present time.
– Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) addressed to me a question about the salary paid to the female member of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, and asked me why she does not receive equal remuneration for her work of equal value to that of the male reporters. I undertook to examine the position. I am now able to inform the Leader of the Opposition that the Public Service Arbitrator’s Determination No. 42 of 1968, as varied, provides for the grant of equal pay to female Parliamentary Reporters under the phasing-in formula laid down by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the Equal Pay Case. Under this phasing-in formula this reporter is paid at least 90% of the male rate now. She will receive the appropriate annual increment next October, and from 1st January 1971 will receive at least 95% of the male rate. From 1st January 1972 she will be paid the full male rate. This provision was inserted in the Determination with the agreement of all the parties to it.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, honourable members will recall that on 26th September last year the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), in reply to a question, stated that the Commonwealth had decided to extend to pensioners the same kind of travel concessions on the Commonwealth Railways as are extended to pensioners resident within a State by State railway systems. On 1st January of this year the Government introduced this concession for pensioners travelling on Commonwealth Railways within their State of residence. This concession amounted to a 50% reduction of the ‘local* fare and is generally in line with concessions granted by State railways. Honourable members will be aware that the State railways do not grant concessions for interstate travel. However, in view of the predominantly interstate nature of the Commonwealth Railways’ system the existing Commonwealth benefit is of limited value to pensioners and the Government has been investigating the possibility of affording relief for those pensioners travelling interstate over the TransAustralian and Central Australian railways.
The Government has now decided that its fare concession should be extended to provide a 50% reduction in the Commonwealth Railways portion of the intersystem fare for interstate travel. This concession and the previously introduced intrastate concession will be available, regardless of their State of residence, to all aged, invalid, widowed and service pensioners who hold a pensioner’s medical service entitlement card. Discussions have been initiated with the State governments to determine final details for the application of the concession, including the possible exclusion from the concession of travel at times when accommodation on the trains is at a premium. In particular, it is expected that this will exclude travel which commences during public and school holidays and associated weekends. Ancillary charges for sleepers, seat reservations and meals will not qualify for a concession.
The new concession will come into operation on 1st April 1970, but will not be available for pensioners commencing travel over the Anzac Day weekend. Thereafter, it is also expected that the period of school holidays in May will be excluded. As the necessary administrative arrangements cannot be completed with all booking offices by 1st April the concession will be provided initially on a refund basis by application by the pensioner ticket holder to the Commissioner for Commonwealth Railways. When administrative arrangements are finalised 1 shall make a statement on the periods of exclusion - I refer there to the periods of school holidays and public holidays - and the date from which tickets at the concession rate will be directly available from the many booking offices throughout Australia. The new concessions will result in a substantial fare reduction for pensioners making interstate rail journeys including travel over the Port Pirie/ Kalgoorlie and Port Pirie/ Alice Springs railway lines. I am certain that members of this House will welcome this further extension of benefits to Australia’s pensioners.
– by leave - The Opposition welcomes this late decision by the Federal Government on behalf of the Commonwealth Railways. Obviously, it is a concession which has been granted grudgingly. It is obvious also that the Government is trying to save as much as it can or, in other words, to give the least possible amount of concession that it can to the pensioners in the community. For example, I refer to the decision to extend the concession from the State in which a pensioner resides. All that that decision really means is that a pensioner now can travel from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie and also to Alice Springs on the Commonwealth Railways. The concession applies to every pensioner in the Commonwealth.
It is time that .the Commonwealth accepted its complete and absolute responsibility for pensioners in the community. We have the power under the Constitution to do this. We should be subsidising pensioner travel on all railways whether they be State owned railways or Commonwealth owned railways. Let us look at the pension today and the pension in the past expressed as a percentage of average earnings. Statements have been made continually by successive Ministers for Social Services about the magnificent job they have done for the pensioners. Pensions were increased as from October of last year. This increase was announced in the Budget presented in August last year. At that time, average weekly earnings stood at $71.40. Today, when average earnings are $80 a week, as announced a couple of weeks ago, we hear nothing from the Government about introducing a supplementary increase in pensions, so long overdue at this time, to cover increases- in prices in recent months. We know prices have increased because there has been an increase in average earnings.
The Government always goes to great pains to compare events of today with those of 20 years ago. Let us consider the case 20 years ago. In 1949 the single rate pension was 24% of average earnings. Today, working on the figures for December 1969, it represents 19.4% of average earnings. So there has been a decline of 4.6% in the single rate when we compare it with average earnings. There is an even worse situation revealed when we look at the married rate. In 1949 the married rate pension was 24% of average earnings; in December 1969 it was 17%. One can see that the married rate has suffered an even greater decline than the single rate when we compare the figures with average earnings.
The Government can say that the matter of concessional fares for pensioners travelling on State railways is a State responsibility. But let us examine the indebtedness of the States in comparison with that of the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth, in the period since 1949, has reduced its total per capita indebtedness by 34% to an average of $299.47 per head of population. But the States have increased their indebtedness by 167% to a total of $729.31 per head of population. The Commonwealth should assist State railway authorities by saying that the pensioners are its responsibility. The Commonwealth should say: “We would like you to grant concessional fares on your transport system, your railways or whatever other systems you operate, and we are prepared to reimburse you for the concession you extend’. This would overcome the ludicrous situation which exists today. Let us take, for example, the case of a pensioner living at Queanbeyan who wishes to travel to Melbourne. He gets a concession rate from Queanbeyan to Albury but then has to pay the full fare from Albury to Melbourne. Another ludicrous situation is that a pensioner wishing to go to Brisbane, can get the concessional rate to Kyogle but then has to pay the full fare for the remainder of his trip to Brisbane. These are some of the anomalies that exist today.
The same thing can be said about concessions to pensioners in the field of local government rating. In my own city, Newcastle, the rate concession for pensioners costs the Newcastle City Council in the vicinity of $120,000 a year. In the Lake Macquarie Shire, which includes the Federal electorates of Hunter, Shortland and Robertson, the rating concession costs the local council even more. This Government has nothing to be proud of so far as concessions to pensioners are concerned. They cost the Government the absolute minimum that it can get away with.
The Opposition welcomes the statement made this morning by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) but we think the Government should enter into negotiations with the State governments in order to extend this service beyond State boundaries, even if it has to subsidise it in the manner I have suggested. It is the Commonwealth’s responsibility to care for pensioners and to help them in every possible way. As I said in my opening remarks, the Government is grudgingly granting this concession and granting only the absolute minimum. In his statement the Minister said:
Discussions have been initiated with the State governments to determine final details for the application of the concession, including the possible exclusion-
I emphasise the words ‘possible exclusion’ - from concession of travel at times when accommodation on the trains is at a premium and in particular during public and school holidays. Ancillary charges for sleepers, seat reservations and meals will not qualify for a concession.
I will deal firstly with the first part of that extract from the Minister’s speech. When, mainly, do aged people travel? I take my mind back to when I was a young fellow and I was travelling with my parents. The party usually comprised my parents, my brother and me, and our grandparents. My grandparents travelled with us at that time for one simple and obvious reason - they needed the assistance of my parents to help them get about. Obviously, aged people travel when their children are on holidays. The entire family goes away together. But this Government says that the grandparents, the pensioner members of the family, have to take off early. The aged people have to go unaccompanied to the holiday resort, or their particular destination, and the rest of the family has to tag along later.
By adopting this attitude I think the Government is destroying its objective of helping aged people to at least have a holiday, to travel, to be able to visit their families. The time to travel and to see their families is, in the main, when the entire family can travel together, such as at holiday weekends or during school holidays. In the main that is when people want to travel and that is why there is so much congestion on the railways. T do think the Government should take away this facility. From what I understand, there is no restriction imposed by the New South Wales Government Railways on the concession fares it grants to pensioners.
– Neither is there on the extension of the concession announced by the Prime Minister last year. We provide the same concession free of periods of exclusion on travel.
– But in this case you are going to provide-
– Possible exclusion.
– If no decision has yet been made in this respect 1 appeal to the Government not to impose a restriction on travel by these people. Allow them to travel on public holidays or during school holidays with their children. Let them travel as a family unit. Do not force them to travel as individuals. If they have to travel as individuals many of them will not be able to do so. As I was saying, the New South Wales Government Railways Commissioners do not impose this restriction on the concessional fares they grant.
The second point I want to make about the extract I read from the Minister’s speech relates to the ancillary charges for sleepers, seat reservations and meals. According to the Minister these will not qualify for a concession. Let us consider what happens in the case of the IndianPacific Railway, for example. The fare is an overall one. The passenger does not pay so much for his seat, so much for his bed and so much for his meals. Now, so far as pensioners are concerned, there will have to be a new charge for them. But can a pensioner wishing to travel on the IndianPacific Railway say: ‘I do not want a sleeper because I cannot afford it. I will sit up all night, for 3 nights, while travelling from Sydney to Perth’. At present, only from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie is a pensioner entitled to the concession. He cannot say that he will sit up all night because there is no provision for this in the fares. The fare is an inclusive charge. I have found that buying meals on trains is an expensive way of living. The overall charge for meals on trains probably is the highest one could find. Therefore, in effect, the Government is saying to pensioners that in places where they have to pay the highest price for a meal, they have to meet the full cost.
I do not think the Government should deal with these trivial matters in this way. It should either give the concession and do so gladly or not muck about and give nothing at all. In the case of the Port PirieKalgoorlie section of the Indian-Pacific line, the Government should say to the pensioner: ‘The single fare is $43.35 and you can have it for half price’. Or it should say to him: ‘You will pay so much for your ticket, so much for the seat reservation ami so much for the meals but you will be paying full price for your meals, seat reservation and sleeping berth.’ I ask the Minister to give this matter serious consideration and to review the Government’s decision. Grant the concession gladly, not grudgingly as the Government is doing at the present rime. The other matter that I wish to deal with is contained in the third paragraph on the second page of the Minister’s statement:
The new concession will come into operation on 1st April 1970 but will not be available for pensioners commencing travel over the Anzac Day weeknend
Will this apply to ex-servicemen, for example?
– Certain concessions have been given to ex-servicemen.
– Which will be retained?
– All concessions that have already been given will be retained. There is free travel provided for a number of selected representatives of ex-servicemen each year for travel over the Anzac Day week-end. It is not even a concession; it is completely free.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance that that will not be interfered with in any way. 1 hope that my references earlier to public holidays will also be dealt with. My criticism of the withholding of the concession on public holidays applies also to the Anzac Day week-end. It should be treated as is any other public holiday. I hope that the Government will take heed of some of the things which we have said on this matter. I think they are worthy of consideration. The Government should give concessions gladly and not grudgingly. It should stop playing around with this and saying: ‘Pay for your meals and pay for your bed at full fare but you can travel at half price.’ Let the people travel when they want to travel. If the Government persists with this idea of excluding them on school holidays and public holidays it will break up families and where pensioners would normally be able to go for a. holiday with their families, because of the increased cost they may have to have second thoughts on the matter. We hope that these things will be taken into consideration when we get a further statement from the Minister.
– by leave - I agree with the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) that the concession is welcome although it is very qualified and places pensioners again in a very special category. Like other honourable members I have had protests about the restrictions that were placed on pensioner travel and I am pleased to see what has been done. But at the same time I regret that the Government, having done what it has done in regard to pensioners, could not have made this not exactly a perfect scheme but a very fair one and not again categorised them specially as it has under these concessions. On page 2 of his statement the Minister said:
This concession and the previously introduced intrastate concessions will be available, regardless of their state of residence, to all aged, invalid, widowed and service pensioners who hold a pensioner’s medical service entitlement card.
In other words, there will be at least 150,000 pensioners who came within the scope of the pension scheme after the tapered means test proposals were introduced recently who will not qualify. That is the very minimum number I can think of at this time. So straight off a medical entitlement card is an essential and there will be many, many pensioners who will be disappointed today - some of them receiving a substantial amount of pension - because they will not come within ‘the scope of this concession at all. Not only is that approach to this problem regrettable; it is also indefensible. A pensioner should be given the right to travel and should be entitled to the benefits that are available because if we assess the position as it is those receiving pensions are the most deserving section of society and cannot afford to be excluded from the fringe benefits that are so necessary to allow them to enjoy their lives. The honourable member for Newcastle dealt with the second paragraph on page 2 of the statement concerning the time at which they can travel. I agree with him that people in receipt of pensions do not want to be told just when they can travel and when they cannot. Under this proposal, I suppose, the pensioners will be expected to travel at a time when nobody else wants to travel. That probably means that they will have to go to the west in the middle of winter.
– The trains are booked out about 3 months in advance at the moment.
– That is correct, but it will not always be the case.
– Put more trains on, that is the solution.
– It is quite unreasonable for pensioners to be told when they can travel and that only then will they be given the concessions. Certainly the trains are booked out but the honourable member for Newcastle has provided an answer that a Labor Government would give. We would put on enough trains so there would not be a waiting list. There is another factor. These days pensioners do not spend all of their time doing nothing. Unfortunately, some do because of disabilities but many like to travel to bowling carnivals and sporting events, depending on their age and their capacity to participate. Let us take a bowling carnival in which numerous pensioners might want to participate. If it is held during a special period they will have to scratch or pay the full fare. So not only does it affect them for holiday purposes but also it restricts the activities which help to. keep them looking young and contented in their old age. A good salesman generally wants to satisfy the customer but the Government, having made a good approach to this, might well have gone to the limit because - let us face the facts of life - if we can spend $20,000 a year to spout water in Lake Burley Griffin we can spend $20,000 to give this concession to pensioners. It may not cost much more than that. Consequently, I suggest that the Minister might review this. When he was Minister for Social Services he showed a progressive approach to the problems of the aged and sick and I am sorry that he has gone back into his shell since he drifted over to transport. I think he might well have shown the fresh approach he endeavoured to show in social services. If he had carried that approach to this portfolio on the question of pensioners it would have been most commendable.
DrJ.F. Cairns - He has become containerised.
– As the honourable member for Lalor says, the Minister has become containerised. It is regrettable that State boundaries stop us from giving justice to pensioners. The Commonwealth should not only undertake immediately to see that all pensioners can travel throughout the Commonwealth but also honour its responsibility under the Constitution and make the money available to those States which will not or cannot pay the money necessary to provide this concession. I agree with the honourable member for Newcastle that it is a good scheme spoilt by the restrictive processes within it. A means test is imposed. There is a certain time to travel. It almost gets down at some stage to their being ticket of leave men. They almost have to report when they are going and when they want to come back and be not free as are other citizens.
I object completely to the principle contained in all the social service legislation of this Government. Unfortunately the Minister is now applying it to the transport regu lations in that pensioners are categorised - the sick, the failing, the aged and the frail - and now we have come to those who can travel and those who cannot. As the honourable member for Newcastle said, they will have to put up with the full cost of meals on trains which, I suppose, are the most costly not only in this country but in all countries, or else they will have to take a cut lunch on the Indian Pacific to last 3 days. This is not the way to approach it. Let us make it a good scheme. I hope the Minister will review what has been put forward to him in a constructive way from this side of the Parliament and abolish the means test associated with this and make it a concession that applies throughout the year and let pensioners make their own judgments as to when they will go and take their chances on bookings and reservations.
– They cannot take a cut lunch because the fare is inclusive of all meals and if they do not eat those it is too bad - they have to pay for them.
– That is true. To make it a complete scheme let it apply across all State boundaries. I make those suggestions to the Minister. I again express my pleasure that the letters I have received in protest have been partially answered by the concession that has been given but express again my regret that a scheme that has a good foundation, a good basis and a good objective fails because of the restrictions placed upon it. For the sake of a few dollars out of a huge Budget we could well afford to give a full concession and in that way make everybody happy. Arising out of this we will probably get more complaints than we got before it came in because there will be so many people who cannot travel or cannot qualify or something to that effect. Having said so much, I ask the Minister to take into consideration and give effect to what we have suggested from this side of the Parliament which at least would give the Government a better record in social services in the transport division than it has in other spheres.
– I have received a letter from the honour able member for Reid (Mr Uren) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The uncontrolled spiralling price of urban land particularly in all Australian capital and provincial cities.
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).
– Never before in our history have the people of Australia, particularly the young, been exploited by the usurers as they are today. Twenty-five and fifty years ago the only people who so lacked morality as to exploit to this degree were those in shabby and dusty shops with 3 balls over the door. Now they are the greatest financial corporations in Australia backed by the great free enterprise banks, all of whose directors and managers appear prominently in ‘Who’s Who’ and the New Year honours list. These exploiters and usurers are a major factor in spiralling land costs in Australia’s urban areas. Concern over land costs has been expressed in many quarters. Headlines in last Sunday’s Sun-Herald’ read: ‘Government Moves for Cheaper Land. Plan to Beat Rising Costs of Home Sites.’ An examination of the article discloses that the New South Wales Government has no real solution to the problem. The Housing Industry Association has recently published a report entitled Finance for Housing in Australia’. I want to deal with certain aspects of that report, particularly chapter 4 which deals with land costs and housing finance. The report cites the Institute of Real Estate of New South Wales, which has stated:
The high interest paid on land development funds is stressed as another cost factor and the provision of loans at bank interest is advocated by the Institute. 1 think that is an understatement. During the last weekend I tried to put myself in the position of a young person seeking to purchase a block of land in the Sydney metropolitan area. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a document prepared by the Par liamentary Library Legislative Research Service showing the price of land in Sydney suburbs.
I contacted an estate agent about land at Engadine. The prices quoted ranged from $5,700 a block to $6,250 a block. It is interesting to note that an auction of Crown land held last Saturday at Engadine, which is in the electorate of my friend the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), a home site brought $7,300. The sites sold at the auction realised an average of $1,476 above the reserve price. I asked the estate agent how much it would cost in weekly payments if I paid a deposit of $600 on a block of land advertised at $5,700. I was informed that I would have to repay $20.70 a week for 7 years. The interest rate was 12% reducible. I inquired whether I could obtain better terms and was told by the agent that most land transactions were financed by one of three major corporations. The first is the Australian Guarantee Corporation Ltd in which the Bank of New South Wales held 42.93% of shares as at September 1969. The second finance organisation was Australian Securities Limited, the major shareholders in which were the. Royal Bank of Scotland and the British Wagon Company, which held 30% of shares, and the South Pacific Insurance Co., which is in the WR Carpenter group, which held 7.9% of shares. The third organisation is the Finance Corporation of Australia which since 30th June 1969 has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bank of Adelaide Ltd. It deals solely in finance for housing and land purchase.
The estate agent was quite frank. He said that people have become educated to paying 12% interest on money borrowed for the purchase of land. In repayment of a loan of $5,100 a young person would have to pay $1,076.40 a year for 7 years. This is a total of $7,534.80. In addition his local government and water and sewerage rates over a 7 year period would amount to about $700. We must not forget that he has already paid $600 in deposit and will be required to meet legal costs and land title transfer fees. Before he considers building a home on the block of land that he has acquired at Engadine a young person will have paid out $9,000. Prices of land at Engadine are well below the average prices advertised in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. I think I have understated the problem confronting our young people. In none of my inquiries was I offered finance at less than 12% reducible. I fully anticipate that as a result of the recent increase of 0.5% in the Reserve Bank interest rate the cost of land will continue to spiral.
The annual report of the War Service Homes Division gives details of the cost of land in New South Wales on which the Division constructs homes. The average cost in 1949-50 was $234. This rose to $2,487 a block in 1968-69 - an increase during the period of 962%. However, an examination of advertisements for land in Sydney newspapers and the special articles written in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald of 5th to 7th November 1969 by Mr Joe Glascott reveal that the average cost of land in Sydney is more than2½ times higher than the price stated by the War Service Homes Division. Mr Glascott’s article states:
At $6,800 the average price of a home site in the Sydney metropolitan area . . . Melbourne $4,520; Brisbane $3,800; Adelaide $2,670; and Hobart $2,500. Only Perth, bursting with a population explosing resulting from the West’s mineral boom, approaches the Sydney figure with an average price of $6,000.
Mr Glascott’s articles also included prices of land in Sydney suburbs showing how land prices have soared during the last 10 years. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a document prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Legislative Research Service showing the increase in the price of land for home sites in suburbs of Sydney bet ween 1959 and 1969.
An important aspect is disclosed in the recent report of the Housing Industry Association, headed ‘Finance for Housing in Australia’. Chapter 4 deals with land costs. A similar pattern of cost as that revealed by Mr Glasscott’s ‘Sydney Morning
Herald’ article for all major capital cities is revealed but the Housing Industry report states:
By contrast a home buyer may obtain a 99 year lease on an allotment in new suburbs of Canberra for as little as $900.
It could be argued that the report states that the cost is as little as $900 per block whereas the article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ refers to average prices. An examination of prices realised at recent auctions in Canberra discloses that the average price paid is less than $2,000 a block, compared with the average price of $6,000 paid for Crown land auctioned at Engadine last Saturday. Engadine is an area that votes Labor. It is in the electorate of Hughes. Advertisements in Sydney newspapers show that Crown land to be auctioned in a few weeks time at Belrose carries reserve prices of $8,000 to $8,800. This land will bring more than $2,000 in excess of the reserve. I could refer to the prices being obtained for Crown land at St Ives - they are 50% higher than those I have already given for Belrose.
We on this side deplore the auction system. It is the law of the jungle where the speculator thrives. We might ask why the conditions which prevail in Canberra do not prevail in the other capitals. We might ask why the Commonwealth does not involve itself in the cost of land in our major cities. Why does the Commonwealth not co-operate with State and local government authorities to defeat the land speculators and usurers who are exploiting young people seeking homes in which to raise families?
The Leader of the Opposition, during t he 1969 election campaign, said in his policy speech:
Land prices are artificially high in Australia because we are one of the few urban countries in which public participation in land development is almost unknown.
A Labor Government will make grants to the States to acquire substantial areas of residential land on just terms and to subdivide, service and sell it at cost.
He also said:
Labour would subsidise to reduce by 2% the interest paid on loans on land and dwellings.
These are some of the proposals by which Labor would assist young people to acquire a home site and dwelling. The Labor Party is aware that this crisis, this chaos, this law of the jungle, this exploitation of the many by the few can and must be solved by planning. It can be solved as a part of urban development. It will be necessary to replan the inner suburbs of our capital cities in regard to semi and high density housing to ease the burden of the outer suburban sprawl. The great city authorities and semi-government authorities will need Commonwealth participation. In the outer suburban areas land is available - in some cases large tracts of land are held by speculators - and the Commonwealth’s financial resources should be utilised.
The Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States and local government authorities, should retain or acquire land. We should co-operate with the States and local authorities to provide all services, including transport services, on the principle that land for homes .would be made available on a 99-year lease basis. Why is it that in Canberra, which is the fastest developing city in Australia a person can acquire a home site for $900? Why should a person have to pay 6 or 7 times that price in Sydney and Perth? The priority should be a person’s requirements and not his bank balance. The Commonwealth Government should involve itself in all our cities. It should, involve itself not only in Canberra but in all of our urban living areas. In another 30 years Sydney will have a population of 5 million, It is only with the co-operation of governments at all levels that the chaos of city land problems, such as in Sydney and Melbourne, can be solved. The Commonwealth should and must play its part.
– I think that the approach of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), and the approach of his party to this problem, is well exemplified by the use of his expression, which formed the key to his tirade, when he talked about exploiters and usurers. Exploiters and usurers is the reason for the situation which he alleges to exist. This is a highly emotional Socialist approach, an over simplified approach, to the reasons for the existing situation, and still more it is a highly emotional Socialist approach to the way the particular problems should be tackled.
I question the validity of the case put up by the honourable gentleman. I question it in relation to the evidence which he was able to produce to prove his point about rises in land values. The honourable member asked that some documents be incorporated in Hansard. I have been given a copy of these documents and in my usual co-operative way I, and the members of my party, agreed that they be incorporated in Hansard. The honourable gentleman explained that they were a list of prices paid for land for home sites in the suburbs of Sydney in March 1970. Really, these documents were almost the sole basis for everything he had to say and for all the allegations he made in his speech today, to support this matter of public importance. What the honourable gentleman did not tell us was how a table was compiled.
I see at the bottom of one document - and honourable gentlemen will be able to read it in Hansard - that it is compiled by the Legislative Research Service from the classified advertisement column ‘Houses, Home Sites for Sale’ which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald’ of Saturday, 14th March 1970. In absence of information to the contrary I assume that all that has happened is that this service has gone down through the classified advertisement COlums, found a suburb and picked out a price. The honourable member mentioned one suburb. Engadine. However, he did not tell us of some of the other suburbs listed in the document which are produced in evidence to demonstrate that there is a real problem. Just let me read some of the suburbs that are in the list.
I do not come from Sydney but I was brought up there as a boy and I have been back since and I do know something about the character of some of the suburbs, if not all of them. Just let me read out some of the suburbs which the honourable member produced in evidence by listing the prices found in the classified advertisement columns of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on one day, on which he forms the basis of his case. As I said, the honourable member mentioned Engadine; but that is the only one he mentioned. Also listed were the suburbs of Castlecrag, Chatswood, Collaroy, Cronulla, Dee Why West, Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Killara, Lindfield, Mona Vale, Mosman - Mosman - Newport, Pymble, Turramurra North and Wahroonga. I just picked those examples from the suburbs I happen to know. 1 am quite sure that there will be others in the same category. But what the honourable member is saying is that because it was found in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 14th March that someone was advertising some land for sale in Mosman at $28,000, that proves his point. Mosman is one of the oldest developed areas and pick suburbs of Sydney. There is no indication of any particular circumstances that might have surrounded that price being put on land in Mosman or anywhere else. There is no indication as to how much land was involved or anything else. Yet the honourable gentleman expects the House to take seriously the argument he has put forward, which is based almost entirely on this sort of information.
This is a serious problem. I believe that if this Parliament is to face this problem and is to discuss it rationally it should do so in an objective and factual way and not in the sort of way indicated by the honourable gentleman who talked about exploiters and usurers and produced as the basis of his argument information - such as the documents he has incorporated in Hansard - which would not stand up for 5 minutes anywhere. 1 would like to take a few minutes to try to deal with the subject objectively and reasonably rather than in the emotional tones preferred by the honourable gentleman and his Party. Although we have no accurate measure of the rises that have taken place in the past 2 or 3 years in the price of residential land in metropolitan areas in Australia, there is no doubt - and I am not denying this and the Government does not deny it - that some rises have occurred and that these rises may have been faster in Sydney and in Perth. To that extent I agree with what the honourable gentleman has to say. However, he did not say - this did not suit his argument - that there are some signs of a flattening out.
This is now quite obvious in Perth. Action being taken by the New South Wales Government to permit large areas in the green belt around Sydney to be used for residential purposes and to release more Crown land for home building is likely to ease the upward movement of land prices in the Sydney area.
The facts of life are that, as more and more families wish to live in our capital cities and close to places of employment land prices must rise. There is a given amount of land within, say, 10 miles o( the centre of a capital city. It is reasonable for me to ask just what Labor would do about the inevitable economic effects of this desire of people. They want to live in suburbs where most of the land is already occupied. To implement the proposal contained in the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), which was referred to by the honourable member for Reid, will Labor compulsorily acquire building sites so that it can farm them out to people who seek them? This is not made clear. But it is clear that, unless Labor’s policy is translated into action by compulsory acquisition, it will cost sonicbody, probably the taxpayers, an enormous amount of money. Around the fringes of the capital cities land prices have not risen very much. The honourable gentleman did not produce any evidence on this aspect. I do not call examples of sales advertised in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald* evidence. The spectacular rises in land prices have occurred largely in the inner areas and in a few preferred suburbs, such as the ones that I have mentioned. More people wish to live in these areas where the supply of land is fixed. If they have the finance io pay higher prices, prices will rise. This is simply a matter of supply and demand.
One of the main reasons for the increased costs of newly developed residential land is the increasing requirement of local government and public utility authorities that the developer must meet a large part or all the cost of providing high quality roads, kerbing, guttering, footpaths, water, sewerage and drainage. In addition land developers in our cities are now required to donate 5% or 10% of the land to the local authority for parks and other recreational facilities. Is the honourable gentleman against that? Naturally these costs ire passed on by the developer. This is largely the reason for the rise in the price of newly developed residential land on the outskirts of the cities.
The rising cost of residential land is, of course, causing a good deal of concern to all authorities responsible for the provision of housing for the lower and moderate income groups in the community. I emphasise that this is primarily, if not wholly, a responsibility of State governments, but Labor does not mention that aspect. In the past year or two some State governments have been providing additional finance for the development of residential land in addition to permitting more land to be developed for home building. A notable example of this has been the success achieved by the Western Australian Government in bringing about a flattening out and an occasional reduction of land prices in Perth. Both the Housing Commission there and the Rural and Industries Bank recently undertook large land development projects to the north and south of the city. This land has recently been released, with a marked effect on prices. This is an example of a State authority recognising and accepting its responsibility and doing something about it.
Because accurate information as to recent average increases in land prices is not available, it is very easy as the honourable gentleman did, to exaggerate the extent of the rise in land prices, although this certainly poses a very real problem to home seekers. The evidence available is that applicants for homes savings grants - this is a pretty good group to take, because it excludes luxury sales and many of the sales at the lower end of the scale - were on average paying nearly $2,500 for a block of land in 1966-67 and $2,710 in 1968-69. This is a rise of 8.5%. Let me draw the attention of the House to the fact that the matter of public importance raised by the Opposition is the uncontrolled spiralling price of urban land. Over a 2-year period the average price of a block of land rose by 8.5% in our fast developing, highly employed economy. I am not saying that the experience of these applicants was necessarily typical of that of all land seekers, but it does give some indication of the position. It gives a much better indication than does the sort of nonsense that the honourable member for Reid asked us to accept, and that is advertisements appearing in the classified section of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on one Saturday. As I have already said, this is a matter for action by the States. They are well aware of the problem and most of them are taking some action to ameliorate the effects of rising land prices. Some of them have been very successful.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority .. .. 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Hughes) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 7th April, at 2.30 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr McEwen, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill proposes several amendments to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-1966. The first of these - and one which was announced in October last year - will give to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation an important broadening of its authority by enabling it to offer payments insurance on, and guarantees relating to, exports from Australia to the external Territories of the Commonwealth. The other amendment of major substance will authorise an increase of$1 00m in the maximum contingent liability which EPIC may accept under contracts of payments insurance and under guarantees; and also an increase of $60m in the maximum con tingent liability which EPIC may accept under contracts of insurance on Australian investments abroad.
The first of the amendments relates to the extension of EPIC’s facilities to Australian exports to the external Territories. In actual fact, such an extension of EPIC facilities would have no practical significance for exports to Australian Territories other than Papua and New Guinea. The customs tariff applicable to imports into Papua and New Guinea accords no preference to Australian products. In the competitive sense, therefore, exporting to Papua and New Guinea is no different to Australian exporters to selling to a foreign country. They face the full force of international competition, as to both price and credit terms, and what is more, they have to compete with overseas suppliers who enjoy all the facilities and backing of credit insurance organisations in their own countries.
Hitherto, this disability has not had serious practical effects on our exports to Papua and New Guinea because these have comprised mainly products sold for cash or on very short term credit. Recent important developments in Papua and New Guinea, however, have opened up very substantial export opportunities with characteristics new to Australian trade with the Territory. These opportunities largely revolve around the huge $300m copper mining project on Bougainville. Developers of large projects like this do not normally obtain their requirements of infrastructure development, housing and heavy capital equipment on a cash basis or on short term credit. The payment period for these bigvalue items normally extends for periods in excess of five years and, in the case of Bougainville, the credit term for much of the purchases will be considerably more than 5 years.
Last year Australian industry put it to the Government that, over a large area of Bougainville requirements, they felt themselves well able to meet international competition in respect of price, quality and performance. However, they pointed out that without the availability of long term finance they would be at an extreme disadvantage in bidding for Bougainville business, because they would be unable to match their overseas competitor’s offers of credit. Moreover, they demonstrated that, unless the credit standing of companies seeking Bougainville contracts were strengthened in some way, they would either not secure the finance they needed or, if they did obtain it and successfully tendered for a Bougainville contract, they would find their fund-raising capacity for future business, at home or abroad, seriously inhibited for a long period. That was the position of industry.
The banking system moved as far as possible within its capacity to help meet the problem. They agreed, in principle, to make the finance available and the Australian Banks’ Export Re-Finance Corporation acted with remarkable speed to amend its charter to enable it to refinance loans on exports to the external Territories. However, the banks, too, had noted the problems which companies faced in raising sufficient security for loans. Their position was that, in very many cases, only EPIC payments insurance, and guarantees, would provide companies with the necessary security for the long term financial accommodation they would need to be able to tender for Bougainville contracts on competitive terms. In other words the banks regarded EPIC cover as a fundamental pre-requisite before they would provide the credit needed by Australian exporters. 1 mentioned earlier that the facilities of EPIC have no present significance for Australian trade with the other external Territories - Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos Island. However, should major economic developments occur in these Territories, Australian exporters would face competition equal to that now experienced in Papua and New Guinea, lt is for this reason that the Bill proposes that all the external Territories be included within the scope of the proposals.
The next amendment included in the Bill, apart from a minor drafting change, is an administrative one. At present the Corporation must obtain the specific authority of the Minister for Trade and Industry to determine staff salaries at a level exceeding $7,000 per annum. This figure was set in 1964 and is now out of line with current levels. The Bill would insert into the Act a more realistic figure and would provide that future adjustments be made by way of regulation.
I turn now to the remaining amendment to the EPIC Act proposed in the Bill. This relates to the maximum contingent liability which the Corporation may accept under both export payments insurance and guarantee and the overseas investment insurance facility. EPIC’s contingent liability on export payments insurance, and. under guarantee, is a direct reflection of the amount of business it writes. As the aggregate face value of its policies of insurance and its guarantees increases so does the contingent liability. Consequently, adjustment of the maximum liability is necessary, from time to time, to allow the Corporation to meet the increasing demand .of exporters for EPIC facilities and so to. facilitate further expansion of Australian trade.
The contingent liability under current contracts totals $192m. The contingent liability ceiling under the payments insurance and guarantee facilities was last set at $200m in 1965. With continuing growth in business and the consequent increase in liability this ceiling will be reached within a very short time. The Bill therefore provides for an increase in the statutory maximum from $200m to $300m.
The Government proposes, also, to increase the maximum contingent liability which EPIC may accept under policies of overseas investment insurance. This facility was introduced in 1965 to. provide insurance cover for direct Australian investments overseas in desirable types of ventures, particularly those of a joint venture nature in the developing countries. The facility offers protection . against the expropriation of the investment, inability to transfer money to Australia, and damage or destruction by a warlike operation. The actual contingent liability under the scheme currently stands at S17m. Should contracts be taken out in respect of recent approvals this figure will increase to over $29m.
Taking into account applications currently under examination and new applications expected to flow from the increasing awareness of the benefits to be derived from overseas investment, it is expected that the contingent liability, will, during this year, reach $40m which is the present maximum allowable under the Act. It is therefore proposed to raise the maximum contingent liability for insurance on Australian investments abroad to $100m.
It would be appropriate, at this stage, to tell honourable members a little of the experience and operations of EPIC in order to provide a background to consideration of the Bill. The birth of EPIC was delayed many years - at least 4 - by the barrage of criticism and opposition raised against it from inside and outside government. Interests representing private institutions such as banks, insurance companies, associations, and elements even within the governmental structure, attacked, criticised and blocked the provision of this new facility by a government corporation for at least 4 years. As a result Australian exporters were denied the EPIC facility long after other countries, with whose exports we have to compete, had developed their own similar institutions.
I was told with monotonous regularity and with singular unanimity by the opponents of the facility that there was no need for it - worthwhile and soundly based Australian exports should need no assistance of the type other countries had; it would merely provide at government expense a hidden subsidy to prop up ‘lame duck’ export ventures; it could not possibly work - the premiums would be too high, the losses too great, and exporters would prefer to take their own risk; it was a duplication of existing banking and insurance facilities which were willing and able to afford all the assistance needed; such a corporation was a Socialist conception and an unwarranted intrusion by government into private business; such a corporation would provide unfair competition to private enterprise institutions, and so on.
But look at the experience of EPIC: How successful it has been. What do the critics now think of it? These amendments stem directly from the success, growth and widespread acceptability of the Corporation. The impressive record of achievement since EPIC commenced business in 1957 speaks for itself. In the. first year EPIC insured $22m worth of exports. Five years later it insured nearly $90m.
Last year, 1968-69 - 11 or 12 years from its inception - the corporation insured exports to the value of some $300m. Overall, since its inception EPIC has provided insurance cover for exports amounting to $ 1,064m,
In the 10 years to December 1969 the number of policies in force with EPIC has grown from 91, with a face value of S42m, to 780, with a face value of some $330m. The number of countries to which EPICinsured exports have gone has grown, in the same period, to over 150. Over the period it has steadily enlarged the range of risks which it is prepared to insure, lt now offers comprehensive cover, acceptable to banks as collateral, for a wide range of risks starting from the time of the exporters’ or manufacturers’ acquiring raw material in connection with the contract for export to risks arising from failure of a buyer to accept goods, risks arising from warehousing overseas, from investing overseas, from commercial default after delivery, from exchange blockages caused by foreign government action, from war risks - cargo in the ships locked in the Suez Canal was, to an important extent, insured with EPIC and the owners have not lost on it - and a number of others. During its operation, the Corporation has substantially reduced its average premium rates, especially on short-term credit transactions which constitute a large part of its business.
This record of achievement underlines the important role EPIC is playing in promoting the policy objectives of export expansion and diversification. This role has been accepted by all sectors of private industry and commerce as a useful, indeed essential, complement to existing private institutions such as the banks and the finance houses. EPIC has become an indispensable element in the growth of our export trade. Exporters frequently have been able to export only because there is this facility. Banks frequently have been able to extend finance to exporters only against the collateral which an EPIC insurance cover provides. The banks regard EPIC cover as an essential prerequisite to them providing finance for many export transactions.
The facility of EPIC is accepted by all business as an absolutely essential facility. It is now accepted and now understood that EPIC was designed to do - and has done - what no other institutions, in fact, are designed to do. It provides a facility which fills an important gap in Australia. No longer are critics claiming that other existing institutions are being duplicated, and are facing unfair competition, at the hand of a government corporation. No longer is it being said that EPIC is a refuge for ‘no-hope’ exporters; a supporter of lame ducks. It has paid its way and is competitive with similar institutions in other countries. No longer do critics talk of socialisation or of the Corporation being a threat to private enterprise.
Guided by an advisory council of 10 members. 8 of whom are experienced businessmen drawn from a cross-section of banking, industry and commerce, EPIC has established itself as a highly efficient and well run Corporation. Since its inception EPIC’s premium income and earnings from capita] have not only enabled it to meet all operating costs and all claims made upon it but also have permitted a build-up of reserves of almost $2m. All this proves that the judgment of the critics has been wrong. The banks, the insurance interests, some associations, the financial pundits misunderstood and wrong-guessed and, as a result, denied Australia the services of a new proven institution for years. And I am now reminded that the Government has announced another new facility - another corporation - to complement the existing facilities and institutions we have to encourage industrial development, exports and Australian ownership.
Like the Export Corporation, the new Industry Development Corporation is designed not to compete with existing institutions but to fill a gap - to do something for Australia which no other institution is charged to do. That is, to have as its prime purpose making it possible for large Australian industry ventures able to make a major contribution to exports and development to remain to a greater extent in Australian ownership. No other institution, government or private, exists for this prime purpose or is capable within itself of doing what it will be proposed the Industry Development Corporation should do. All other financial institutions exist around the issue of profit making, either for themselves or for those to whom they lend, and mostly this is done irrespective of where the ownership of the enterprise lies or the particular contribution it will make to industry development, ownership, or exports.
The new Industry Development Corporation is being born in- the same atmosphere of criticism and spurious doubt and detraction. This new Corporation recently outlined by the Prime Minister, although it has very different objectives and will serve very different needs, is already facing very similar criticisms. Word for word the criticisms of the newly proposed Corporation echo the criticisms of EPIC when EPIC was first proposed. Criticisms which delayed EPIC for 4 years- 1and’ have delayed the new Corporation already for 4 years. There is nothing new or original in what the critics are now saying. 1 am told now with monotonous regularity and with singular unanimity by the opponents of the facility that there is no need for it (worthwhile and soundly based Industrial ventures should need no assistance of the type proposed); it would merely provide at Government ‘ expense a hidden subsidy to prop up ‘lamb duck’ industrial ventures; the language is identical; it could not possibly work (money could not be borrowed overseas for ‘ ‘the purpose, the losses would be too great, and industrialists would prefer to make their own financial arrangements). 1 arn told that it is a duplication of existing banking and facilities which were willing and able to afford all the assistance needed; these words are identical with those used by those who tried to block EPIC. Such a corporation I am told is a Socialist’ conception as was said of EPIC and an unwarranted intrusion by Government into private business and such a corporation would provide unfair competition to private enterprise institutions and so on, and so on. It is as if the record, after 4 years, had been dropped back on the turntable and the same words played. Having drawn the attention of the House to the coincidence of this experience of opposition to two great Government proposals designed to facilitate the .development and growth of Australia and designed in the case of the Industry Development Corporation to facilitate a greater measure of Australian ownership, I say that I am as supremely confident of the IDC as I was on the creation of EPIC that it will be accepted that the new Corporation will be just as successful and fill what will be an even more important role than EPIC. Its critics will be shown to have been just as wide of the mark and just as wrongly based as were the same critics of EPIC. Having said this, I commend the Bill to honourable members.
– Mr Speaker, I feel that I should almost ask that both debates be now adjourned but instead I will move the formal motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is the purpose of this Bill to obtain the approval of Parliament to an increase in Australia’s quota with the International Monerary Fund and to seek authority to make the necessary payments out of consolidated revenue. The proposed increase in Australia’s quota is part of a general review of fund quotas which was undertaken last year by the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund. The recommendations of the Board in this matter are contained in a report entitled ‘Increases in Quotas of Members - Fifth General Review’ and copies of the report have been circulated for the information of honourable members. The main proposal in the report is that Fund members should be enabled to increase their quotas from an amount of about $US21, 300m to approximately$US28,900m. That represents roughly a 36% increase in the quotas of Fund members.
Under the articles of agreement of the Fund, any proposal to adjust members’ quotas requires the approval of Governors representing at least 85% of the total voting power of member countries. As Australian Governor in the Fund, I recorded Australia’s votes in favour of the resolution proposing the increase in Fund quotas mentioned above. This resolution, which has now been accepted by the required majority, is also reproduced in the paper circulated to honourable members.
By way of background, I would remind the House that the international monetary system has been operating under conditions of strain in recent times. There have been crises of confidence in particular currencies and three major currencies, the pound sterling, the French franc, and the German mark, as well as a number of minor currencies, have been the subject of exchange rate adjustments over the course of the past 2½ years. There have been sharp changes in the volume and direction of short-term capital flows. This has put pressure on the reserves of individual countries and has contributed, to some degree, to the rising level of interest rates on short-term money in America, Europe and Japan. A large number of countries found themselves in balance of payments difficulties during the period in question, and, in 1968, there were record drawings on the International Monetary Fund. During 1969, there was not only evidence of a loss of confidence in particular currencies, but there were also signs of a more general loss of confidence in the international monetary system itself. This made itself apparent most clearly in a move out of currencies into gold and in speculation on a rise in the price of gold.
Towards the end of 1969, the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund met in Washington and it was the general consensus among Governors then that one of the factors leading to pressures on the balance of payments of member countries and to losses of confidence in particular currencies, was a growing lack of international liquidity among member countries as a whole. There was statistical evidence of this in the decline in the relationship between world reserves and world trade. In 1952, gold and foreign exchange had been equivalent to some 77% of world imports. By 1968, this proportion had fallen to 33% .
It was against this background that Governors gave general support last October to two approaches to the international liquidity problem. The first approach was through an increase in ‘unconditional’ reserve assets by activating the proposal for special drawing rights.
The special drawing rights scheme came into operation on 1st January 1970. Under this scheme, a total amount of$US9.5 billion in special drawing rights will be allocated to member countries of the Fund over the next 3 years and will constitute an addition to the first-line reserves of those countries.
A Bill was put before the House on this subject in December 1968 and parliamentary approval was obtained then to Australian participation in the scheme. Australia has since received a first allocation of $A75m for the calender year . 1970 and should receive additional allocations of about $A60m in each of the succeeding years, 1971 and 1972.
The second approach to the problem of increasing international liquidity has been that of increasing the ‘conditional’ reserve assets of members countries in the Fund by increasing their quotas - or ordinary drawing rights - with the Fund.
The fifth general review of quotas has resulted in a proposal for an increase of SUS7.6 billion in total quotas of Fund members. Tn normal circumstances, this general level of quotas will not be reviewed for another 5 years. Meanwhile, Fund members, to the extent that they take up the offer, will have their second-line reserves strengthened by up to SUS7.6 billion.
What, Sir, are the implications of the quota increase proposals for Australia? In the first place, it has been the consistent policy of Australia to support the activities of the International Monetary Fund. This has been basically because we agreed with the objectives of the Fund which included promoting exchange rate stability, eliminating restrictions on current transfers, and generally promoting international monetary co-operation.
It has suited Australia’s interests to have a strong international financial institution, such as the Fund, to ensure that the more powerful industrial countries of the world observe certain basic rules of behaviour in their trading and financial relations with others. It is compatible with these interests that we should support a proposal for an increase in Fund quotas which aims at maintaining the international monetary system in effective working order and which underpins the role of the Fund in that system. And indeed, the first signs are that the action taken by the International Monetary Fund has had just that kind of effect. There has been some progress towards a better state of equilibrium in the world balance of payments situation. The United Kingdom and
France have moved out of deficit and Germany has experienced some loss of reserves.
A number of factors have contributed to this improved situation including realignment of exchange rates and adjustments of internal policies by the countries concerned. But the Fund decisions on special drawing rights and the quota review have done much to restore confidence in currencies and to provide a favourable climate for the readjustment process. n particular, the move out of currencies into- gold has been checked and perhaps reversed. On the whole, we are beginning the 1970s in a much more favourable position so far as the international monetary system is concerned than seemed likely in the last years of the 1960s. In the second place, however, Australia has a more direct interests in the quota review. We have always been subject to fairly substantial fluctuations in our own balance of payments position, ft is of special value to us, therefore, (hat the Fund should stand ready to provide us with additional amounts of temporary finance in time of need.
Australia’s quota with the Fund is al present $US500m or $A446m. The Bill before the House provides for this quota to be increased to $US665m or $A594m. We would be required to make a gold subscription of $US41m in order to qualify for this $US165m increase in our quota. This gold subscription would be met’ out of our own gold holdings or through the purchase of gold with foreign exchange. There would be a fall in our gold and/or foreign exchange holdings but there would be an equivalent increase in our ‘gold tranche’ position with the Fund. This gold tranche can be drawn upon by Australia at any time so the transaction would, in balance of payments terms, amount to no more than a transfer from one kind of reserve asset to another. There would be a charge on the Budget of around SA37m to meet this gold subscription and this would need to be provided in the financial year 1970-71. The rest of the increase in the Australian quota of 3US165m would be subscribed in the form of a non-negotiable note denominated in Australian currency and lodged to the credit of the Fund at the Reserve Bank. This would involve no charge on the Budget.
In brief, for a subscription of $US41m or$A37m, returnable in the event of the winding up of the Fund, we would obtain an increase in our fund drawing rights of $US41m, available automatically, and of $US165m, available in case of balance of payments need. Our present reserve position is a strong one. We have first-line reserves consisting of gold, foreign exchange, ‘gold tranche’ position with the Fund and special drawing rights of around $ A 1,400m. Our second-line reserves consisting of our four credit tranches with the Fund amount to $A446m. The increase in our quota with the Fund, though it cannot become effective before 30th October 1970, would have the effect of raising this to $A594m making a total first and secondline reserves position of near enough to $A2,000m. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
The object of this Bill is to bring about progressively the use of the metric system of measurement in Australia as the sole system of measurement of physical quantities, and to this end to establish a Metric Conversion Board which will be responsible for facilitating and planning the conversion from the Imperial system of measurement to the metric system of measurement. A public announcement of the Government’s intention that Australian would convert to the metric system of measurement as soon as possible was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on 19th January 1970. The Government’s decision was taken having regard to extensive enquiries throughout the community made by the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures and on the advice of Commonwealth departments.
Honourable members will recall that the Senate Select Committee was appointed in April 1967, under the chairmanship of the late Senator K. A. Laught, to inquire into and determine the practicability of the early adoption by Australia of the metric system of weights and measures. The Senate Select Committee made extensive inquiries and took evidence very widely. It held meetings in all capital cities, evidence was heard from 141 witnesses, and in addition written submissions were received from 54 persons and organisations.
The Report of the Senate Select Committee was presented in the Senate in May 1968. Its contents were debated and the Report noted by the Senate on 27th August 1 968. The Committee reported:
Following a full inquiry and a thorough examination of the evidence and other matter placed before it the Committee is of the unanimous opinion that it is practicable and desirable for Australia to adopt the metric system of weights and measures at an early date and recommends accordingly, and:
Submissions to the Committee from individual citizens, Commonwealth Ministers and Departments, State Governments and Departments, Commonwealth and State instrumentalities, and organisations, overwhelmingly supported an early change to the sole use of the metric system and clearly indicated that there would be no insuperable difficulties in effecting such a change.
The Government believes that the whole community will, in the long run, benefit from conversion. It should enhance our ability to export; increase efficiency in operations involving weighing and measuring; simplify and unify the teaching of mathematics and science; and provide an opportunity to rationalise and modernise industrial practices and reduce diversification in manufactured products.
Conversion will, of course, have its problems, some of which may be considerable, but these should relate solely to the period of transition and should disappear once conversion has been completed. There will be a need in the course of conversion for training in and familiarisation with the metric system. In-service training arrangements will be required in industry, for school teachers, and in many other areas, and there will have to be programmes for education of the public. Some wastage, inefficiency, double stocking of goods and accelerated obsolescence of equipment will inevitably occur during conversion, but these transitional problems can be greatly reduced by careful planning.
In some sectors it will be necessary to permit the use of non-metric units for an extended period, perhaps even indefinitely.
Such might be the case where international standards apply, as for example, in civil aviation. No meaningful estimates have been made of the costs and benefits which will result from the adoption of the metric system, but the Government is in no doubt that the ultimate benefits will greatly exceed the costs of conversion which in many cases also can be considerably reduced by forethought and careful planning. The adoption of an overall conversion period of about 10 years will allow advantage to be taken in many sectors of natural obsolescence and depreciation. In the light of these considerations it is intended that, in general, the costs of conversion should, as for instance in the United Kingdom, lie where they fall. There may be special circumstances in which some compensation might be paid, and the Government will be prepared to consider these on the recommendation of the Metric Conversion Board.
The Government’s decision to convert to the metric system has been taken against the background of a world-wide movement towards the use of that system. Over 90% of the world’s population lives in countries using the metric system, and countries which in recent times have either launched conversion programmes or announced their intention to convert to its use. include the United Kingdom, South Africa, Pakistan, Eire, New Zealand and Canada. The only major country which has not declared itself on this issue is the United States of America, and there an official study regarding increased metric utilisation is in fact in progress. The system to which the countries mentioned are converting is that known as the International System of Units - ‘S.I.’ as it is commonly known - which is denned and controlled by international agreement already accepted in Australia. It will be S.I. units, at least predominantly, to which Australia will change. The metric system of measurement, of course, is not new to Australia. The Weights and Measures (National Standards) Regulations 1961 made metric units legal in addition to the customary units based on the foot, the pound and the gallon, and metric units are already in wide use in Australia in, for instance, pharmacy, electronics, the chemical and photographic industries, national mapping and, of course, in education.
Unlike decimal currency conversion, metric conversion will extend over a number of years with no single ‘M’ day. For the different sectors of industry, of commerce and of education it will actively commence at different times and proceed at different rates. This will necessitate the adoption of an overall programme and the co-ordination of the programmes for the individual sectors. The Bill provides for a Metric Conversion Board which will be required, inter alia, to advise regarding the conversion programmes and generally to plan, guide and facilitate their implementation. It is intended that this should be on the basis of full and detailed discussion with interested parties in the various sectors. The aim will be to effect conversion as a whole to the best advantage of the community, and it is expected the Board will make extensive use of advisory committees, each concerned with conversion in a particular sector of the community. As already indicated, the Board will be required to investigate and report to the Minister on any special circumstances in which the payment of compensation may be appropriate, although as I indicated the general rule will be that no compensation will be payable. It will also be required to advise on the need for legislation to give effect lo conversion, to report attempts to take unfair advantage of the public in the course of conversion, and to perform various other functions appropriate to conversion, lt is not, in general, the Government’s intention to tie the composition of the Board to representation of specific interests - for it would be impossible to represent on one Board all the major interests concerned with metric conversion - but it will be the ann or the Government to appoint to the Board those it considers best able, by virtue of experience and ability, to contribute to its work and to assist in the activities of its committees. I would stress that the keynote of the Board’s activities will be full and detailed consultation with interests in each sector prior to and throughout conversion.
This Bill is the first of a number of legislative and administrative steps which will be needed to facilitate and encourage orderly and efficient conversion to the metric system. I would stress, however, that conversion cannot be implemented by such actions, for this must be effected in the main by detailed planning and action at all the levels and in all the places where changes will need to be made, and this means throughout the whole community. The Government is convinced that conversion is not only in the best interests of the community but that there is overwhelming support for the change. Many organisations, establishments and individuals have indicated their keenness to get on with conversion in relation to their own activities as speedily as possible. The Government will do all in its power to help and guide them in doing this and looks forward with confidence to co-operation in all sectors and at all levels of the community in bringing the change about wilh the minimum of difficulty and inconvenience.
I would hope that all those concerned with the change will start thinking soon, if they are not already doing so, about how they will implement it, but will not, I hope, act so precipitately as to compromise the actions of others. State Governments will, of course, be involved in conversion in many and various ways and a meeting with representative Ministers to discuss the bases for mutual co-operation in this matter will be convened shortly. I believe the decision to convert to the metric system of measurement constitutes an important step forward in Australia’s development. It has been taken in the firm belief that the long-term benefits that will accrue to the nation will greatly outweigh any disadvantages that may be suffered during the period of transition. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to put into effect the Government’s promise to extend the present programme of assistance to teachers’ colleges with a further $30m in the form of unmatched grants to the Stales. The Bill provides for expenditure of up to $30m spread over the 3 financial years starting 1st July 1970 under the same arrangements as are provided under the existing legislation. The wording of the Bill is, accordingly, substantially the same as the wording of the Act for the current period. Payments will be made to the States in respect of college projects which are selected by the States, to be erected on sites selected by the States, and in accordance with plans and standards drawn up by the States and approved by the Minister. A schedule showing projects proposed by the States is attached to the copy of this second reading speech which is circulated to honourable members. All of the money is going to State Education Department colleges but at least 10% of the places attributable to the expenditure of these grants will be made available to students not bonded to State Education Departments. Winners of Commonwealth advanced education scholarships and university scholarships may apply their scholarships to courses at these colleges. These arrangements provide reasonable opportunities for those students who wish to move directly from college to teach in non-government schools provided, of course, that they meet the other normal entrance requirements.
I draw the attention of the House to provisions of the Bill which show changes from the existing legislation. Firstly, the total amount available for the triennium has been raised from $24m to (30m. This increase is designed to assist the States with their teacher education programmes at a realistic and reasonable level and was determined in the light of current experience and knowledge of building costs. Secondly, the preliminary distribution of the $30m among the States has been determined as set out in the Schedule to the Bill. While the Bill makes provision for this distribution to be varied, I am pleased to say that the tentative programmes have already been developed to the stage where significant variations are unlikely. The amounts set out in the Schedule to the Bill were determined after due consideration of the many important factors involved. These factors include the population of each State and the amount available to each State in the current triennium. Another major factor is the amount of matched assistance that New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania are receiving for teacher education in Colleges of Advanced Education. The overriding considerations however have been the needs of the States and the expected effectiveness of the grants in meeting those needs. Thirdly, the amount available in each of the first 2 years has been set at Slim. This is calculated to enable the State programmes to proceed without undue financial delays and at the same time to avoid excessive fluctuations in both Commonwealth expenditure and State building activities. The expected rate of progress in the first year of the next triennium will be greater than in the current triennium because the States have planned ahead and will be able to use the grants as soon as they become available.
The need to improve the quality of the teaching force is central to the task of improving the quality of education generally and these grants will enable the States to provide new and replacement teacher education facilities at a better standard and a good deal earlier than they could hope to do from their own resources. This, of course, is not the only Commonwealth assistance in this field of education. Over 40% of government teacher trainees are in universities and the Commonwealth shares fully in the cost, both capital and recurrent, of their education. Furthermore, the Commonwealth is now supporting teacher education in Colleges of Advanced Education - for this triennium, in New South Wales, Queensland, arid Tasmania. There can be no doubt of the pressing need to increase substantially the number of places available to educate teachers for both government and independent schools. Rising enrolments, increasing retention rates at the secondary level, a progressive change from 2 to 3 year courses for primary teachers and a steady reduction in the pupil-teacher ratios all add to this need. The grants proposed in this Bill will make a significant contribution towards meeting it. I: commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beazley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is designed to give . effect to another of the promises made last October in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. Honourable members will recall that he then said:
We shall give capital assistance on a 2 for 1 basis to approved institutions which give training for the various kinds of handicapped children - the blind, the deaf, the- spastic, the crippled and the mentally retarded.
I did not hear one criticism of this proposal in the whole of the election campaign. I would take it that it has the support of the whale House.
Under present arrangements child welfare,, broadly speaking, is a function pf the States rather than of the Commonwealth. There, are exceptions to this, of course - for example the $1.50 per day payment which the Commonwealth makes in respect of the accommodation away from home of certain handicapped children. But, taking it by and large, it is true to say that in this area the States bear the major share of the responsibility and have enlisted the aid of various voluntary bodies to help them discharge it. The Commonwealth, however, bears a large share of the responsibility for looking after handicapped people later in life. This is done through its invalid pensions, through its own rehabilitation service, through its subsidy to sheltered workshops and in other ways. I would not like the House to think that even in this sphere the Commonwealth bore the sole responsibility but it does bear a major part and gratefully acknowledges the part played both by the States and by voluntary organisations.
It is vital that help be given to these handicapped people early in life, because a child - even an infant - is easier to train than an adult. Earlier this week, I was present at a spastic centre and I saw the devoted care which was being given with the objective of giving these people some degree of manual dexterity. The experts told me: ‘If only we could have started to train them in childhood how much more we could have done, and how much easier it would have been’. Spastics, dyslectics autistics, the profoundly deaf, the blind, the mentally retarded - with all these and other groups the essential thing is to start remedial action while they are still young. To delay treatment has the triple effect of leaving them helpless for longer, of consuming greater resources in their rehabilitation and of militating against the effectiveness of the cure.
As 1 have said, both the States and voluntary bodies have been making valiant efforts in this field of assistance to handicapped children. This measure is designed to augment these efforts without interference in the proper fields of their administration. The Bill provides for a $2 Federal subsidy for every $1 subscribed from private or local government, funds for capital expenditure upon training institutions for handicapped children. I would like to make the following points: 1. Eligible organisations are non-profit bodies defined in virtually the same way as eligible organisations under the aged persons homes legislation. 2. Expenditure which can be subsidised includes land, training centres, building additions and alterations, specialised equipment and fixtures, and residential accommodation.
– Will that subsidy be applicable to children who have a hearing disability
– If the institution is working for them, the answer is yes.
– Good, thank you.
– The other points I want to make are: 3. ‘Children’ include both handicapped children under 21 years of age and those who, although over 21 years of age, have had continuous acceptance in the institution since childhood. 4. Disabilities accepted include both psysical and mental disabilities. 5. Subsidy is payable in respect of buildings, etc., completed after 27th October 1969 - it may also, under certain circumstances, apply to land purchased before that date.
I can assure honourable members that, in the administration of the Act, my Department will employ the greatest flexibility, with the aim of getting out effective help as soon as possible, while seeing that our resources are genuinely directed to the real needs of these children, lt is clear enough that there is still much to be done. There are, we estimate, some 50,000 handicapped children under 16 years of age in Australia, including both those who have some physical handicap and those who are mentally retarded. Probably Under half of these are adequately catered for by special facilities.
This Bill will help the States, because it will free them from the need to provide capital subventions to voluntary bodies, or at least will greatly reduce the need for them to do so. Insofar as this occurs, it will allow them to devote greater funds towards assisting handicapped children in other ways. It will, of course, still be possible for a qualified body which receives a capital or maintenance subsidy from the State, to receive the Commonwealth subsidy in addition.
There are few people who feel no compassion for the handicapped child - for the child who, because of severe physical disability or mental retardation, may be denied the joys of childhood, the .adventures of adolescence and the experience of taking his place in the society of his , fellow men. This measure is designed to help these children - but not these children only. Those honourable members who have had any contact with parents of handicapped children, and I am sure there are few who have not, will know something of the burden they bear - willingly - but nevertheless a burden that can change the whole pattern of their lives. Social activities, holidays and often employment, as well as ordinary domestic living,, frequently have to be adjusted to meet the needs of the son or daughter who cannot become part of the normal family group.
Nor does the problem end there, for ;t is on these parents that much of the responsibility rests to establish many . of the special schools, training centres and hostels which will enable their children to’ live as norma! a life as possible. They are, of course, assisted by many good people who see this work as the most deserving charity to which they can apply their talents, and my admiration for those who voluntarily donate their time and energy to these causes is unlimited. No government could hope to duplicate the type of service that is provided by parents and those who dedicate themselves to supplying the needs of these children. A government service could not supply the love and sympathy and understanding that is no less necessary than the classrooms, the play areas and the special equipment.
The Bill before the House will materially help some handicapped children to engage fully in the life of the community; others will be prepared for sheltered employment or at least achieve a greater measure of personal independence than would otherwise have been possible. The types of organisations that are eligible for assistance are as I have said, broadly the same religious, charitable and local government groups that are now eligible under the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act. Many of the organisations that have already received assistance as sheltered workshops can be expected to claim assistance under the new legislation for the benefit of the younger people for whom they care, including the provision of residential accommodation.
Mr Deputy Speaker, this Bill is a practical measure. It takes the Commonwealth into a new area of welfare work but its purpose is to enable churches and voluntary organisations to improve and expand a service which they have been providing for many years. It is an area where assistance in one form or another is already being provided by State governments. The Bill will reduce the burden of the State governments as regards capital expenditure and will thus enable them, as I have said, to apply their resources more effectively towards other work in this area. Churches and voluntary organisations want to provide a better service for handicapped children and the Commonwealth wants to help them achieve that worthy objective. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hayden) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Social Services Bill 1970.
Repatriation Bill 1970.
– As it is now past the time provided for
Grievance debate, Order of the Day No. 1 will be not called on. The Clerk will call on the next order of the day.
Consideration of Senate’s amendment.
Senate’s amendment -
After proposed section 329k add the following new section: “ ‘329l. This part shall cease to have effect on the eighteenth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and seventy, and shall be deemed to have been repealed on that day.’.”.
– I move:
As the Opposition yesterday sought, and I gave, an undertaking that an opportunity would be provided to consider further the implications of the Navigation Bill that I had introduced at that time, it is not the Government’s intention to oppose the amendment that has been forwarded from the other place. At the same time 1 must say that I am disappointed that, in an area such as this where obviously there will be a continuing need for action to be taken to ensure that, as far as the Constitution of Australia will allow, the Commonwealth should exercise authority, the amendment should mention the repeal of the legislation. It would seem to me that, if the other place had felt it necessary to consider this measure further, the far better way would have been to have adopted other wording.
However, in view of the wording of the amendment, it will be my intention to bring into the Parliament within the time prescribed this Bill, with or without amendments, or another Bill to ensure that to the maximum extent possible the powers already in the hands of the States will be extended by the powers that can be attributed to the Commonwealth.
It is unfortunate that it has not been possible to extend the ambit of the legislation as far as the Brussels Convention on Marine Pollution last year would have permitted. It would have been my hope that this international convention, which will place greater obligations on the owners and operators of tankers in international waters, could have reached the point of ratification and we could have taken the additional protection that the international convention will provide. It will therefore be my hope that if, between now and the date specified in the amendment, we can move further than we have been able to move so far. the Bill when returned to this place will encompass provisions to that effect. I would, of course, expect that my earlier undertaking to the Opposition would be replaced by this action, insofar as the substance of it is the same.
Whilst I recognise that the objective of the other place was to ensure that an adequate opportunity would be given to discuss and consider the measure, it seems to me a little unfortunate that the date chosen is in the middle of the Budget debate. I imagine that it would be extremely difficult in terms of time for those of us who are involved and for the Parliamentary Draftsman to provide whatever other amendment or amendments might be necessary before the deadline of 18th September. However, as I have explained, the Government does not propose to oppose the amendment. I am therefore prepared to accede to the request of the Senate in this instance.
– Yesterday the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), as he has already stated, gave me an assurance that the Opposition would be afforded an opportunity to bring in a private member’s Bill, if it deemed that action necessary, and that there would bc a vote on such a Bill. I understand that both Government and Opposition senators supported the amendment in the debate last night. It was considered to be the most practical way under the Standing Orders of the Senate to ensure that there would be a debate on this subject. I think I made it clear yesterday that we agreed that there was an urgent need for this legislation and that we were willing at this point to trust the Government on what it had brought down.
Obviously, the Bill was hurriedly prepared. As I said yesterday, I received the last amendment to it at about 3.30 in the afternoon. It was then conveyed to me by a member of the staff of the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). I handed him my makeshift copy of the Bill and asked him to write in the amendment. The whole affair was obviously hurried. As I said, I thought the Government was to be condemned for its failure to investigate these aspects and to introduce much sooner than yesterday legislation to clothe itself with the necessary powers. We accepted that this was a matter of urgency and that it was better late than never. At the same time we did not believe that we should be committed for all time to a Bill that we were permitting to pass through the House much more quickly than it would pass through if the normal procedure were followed.
The normal procedure in this place is for a Bill to be presented, for the first and second readings to be moved and for the debate to be adjourned for about 7 days so that the Opposition can look at the measure, take it to a Party meeting and come up with some decision.s on it. We could not do that yesterday. Therefore we asked to be allowed, to bring in a private member’s Bill. As 1-see. it. there is nothing wrong with the amendment. It does not prevent the Minister today, tomorrow, next Tuesday or whenever the Parliament sits again in this session from bringing in a Bill identical with the one that he presented to the Parliament yesterday. Honourable members can then ‘have a look at it, go through the usual procedure and the new Bill could operate from the date of expiry of this Bill. If the Government is satisfied that this Bill does everything that it wants, it can introduce another Bill in similar terms on the next occasion we meet, which is 7th April. This would solve the Minister’s problem. 1 agree with him that the undertaking he gave yesterday is now replaced by this. I see no difficulty with the amendment. The Opposition supports it. As I said yesterday, we do not oppose the measure.
Mr SINCLAIR (New England- Minister for Shipping and Transport) [3.3 1. 1 - I should have made one other comment when I spoke before. The concluding words of the amendment are:
– All I can say is that we will deal with these positions when they arise. We cannot commit ourselves to something of which we are not yet aware. I come back to the same point. There is nothing to prevent the Government from bringing down new legislation to provide that this Bill will be retrospective to the date of operation of this Bill. If such new legislation is passed, it then becomes the law. It would provide the powers that the Minister seeks.I do not want to be misunderstood. The Opposition believes that in principle the Minister should have these powers and he should have asked for them long ago rather than hurriedly yesterday. We do not object to the basic principle but we want sufficient time to study the legislation aswe do normally when other legislation is introduced. We permitted this Bill to go through yesterday. We co-operated and probably passed the Bill more quickly than any Bill has ever been passed by the Parliament. The Opposition supports the legislation in principle. It is up to the Minister to comply with the decision of the Senate. At the same time, if he wants to proceed with the legislation and to bring in the necessary amendment - he can do that in a fortnight or 3 weeks time if he wants to - we will look at it in the usual manner.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 4 March (vide page 70), on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I have great pleasure in speaking on this matter. Firstly I should like to congratulate and to state my admiration for the great number of people who have devoted so much time to this noble cause, the Meals on Wheels service. It provides a wonderful opportunity to assist those who, due to age and other disabilities, cannot help themselves. The admiration of all should go to those people who so willingly and unreservedly give of their time and their motor vehicles to take meals to the people I have mentioned. The service has grown considerably throughout Australia but there are still many areas in which it does not operate. I think the Government should be complimented for entering this field. Not very long ago such a suggestion would have confounded most people, but we are becoming more conscious of the need to render assistance to those who are most in need.
The subsidy for which the Bill provides is$1 for every 10 meals provided. The Bill is novel in that it can be extended to include other Meals on Wheels organisations. If one Meals on Wheels organisation is prosperous, the subsidy to which it is entitled can be given to another organisation close by where the scheme is not in operation. This is a wonderful gesture of goodwill on the part of the Government. I understand that the scheme was initiated in the United Kingdom and in Australia was first introduced in South Australia. The scheme has been operating in Sydney for many years. I am surprised at the distances people travel from the fringe areas to deliver meals in the inner areas of Sydney such as Newtown and Redfern. I have many friends who regularly go to Sydney to participate in this wonderful work. The scheme assists not only the aged but also the invalid. It is a wonderful thing that people have so much compassion for those who are less fortunate.
When one spouse passes on there is a tendency for the remaining one to neglect himself or herself. I have found that, rather than go to the trouble of cooking a meal of vegetables and meat which is so desirable and so necessary to maintain stamina and strength, the tendency is to exist on cake and tea. Malnutrition sets in and it is difficult to restore the persons concerned to the state of health that we would like them to enjoy. The exercise that we are carrying out is very worthwhile, and the further we can extend it the more we are going to help humanity.
Another feature of the Bill is the local autonomy that is provided for and the full control that is given to the people working the Meals on Wheels service. The Government interferes very little in the matter. It encourages people who have spare time on their hands to go along and join this great volunteer force that is doing so much for these needy people. The meals are prepared by many methods. In my area the local hospital, the Blacktown District Hospital, supplies the meals, which are then taken to the senior citizens hall. We have a very fine hall in Blacktown and 1 am proud to have been associated with it from its inception. We started out with a voluntary effort to collect money to build the hall for the senior citizens. At that time the purpose was for it to serve as a place where people with a lot of spare time on their hands could come along and enjoy one another’s company. After we had collected some thousands of dollars by voluntary effort from balls and other functions, we gladly handed the money over to the Blacktown Municipal Council. Now we have a very fine hall with a kitchen, facilities for dancing and concerts and a retiring room. The ball is fully occupied almost 7 days a week.
The food comes from the hospital and is taken to the Senior Citizens Centre where it is distributed to those people who enjoy it so much. It is remarkable that the cost is only 25c a meal. The hospital which has been erected within the last 3 years has some wonderful equipment. For the minimal charge of 25c we can take to these people a very good, nutritious meal which provides all that is necessary to keep body and soul together.
People in my electorate are doing a tremendous job. The members of our Lions Club undertake a regular job on roster, lt takes a great deal of organisation to be able to fit this activity into one’s everyday life. To these people who deliver the meals we must give a great deal of credit. Not only is the delivery of the meal so valuable, but the people delivering the meals, especially to those living on their own, may observe some slight indisposition of the person to which the meal is being delivered, lt may be necessary for them to advise that person’s relatives or get a doctor in. So over and above, the delivery of the meal, this daily contact with the people is of great value and must make their lives very much better and. brighter. Loneliness is the biggest handicap for the aged. I know that many of the people, who deliver the meals, apart from providing that regular service, arrange to take these elderly people to their own homes, out on excursions and to church on Sunday.
The subsidy that will be granted by this Bill will have a snowballing effect. The supply of meals is increasing from day to day, and I should imagine that after these separate branches receive the subsidy they will be in a much better position to offer better facilities and to organise services in other smaller districts that do not have the amenities of meals on wheels, lt will create further interest and a desire for people to take part in this wonderful work that we are doing. The subsidy for each 10 meals, as I have stated previously, is $1 and is payable on the number of meals served during the year ended 30th June 1969. Immediately the machinery is put into operation these organisations that have delivered the meals will receive the amount they are entitled to from the Government. But we must not become obsessed with the idea that this scheme is only for the aged. It is for the invalid people and for sick people under certain circumstances. As promised in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), this scheme will -be extended to the home care programme to which the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) referred in his second reading speech. He said:
The introduction of this ‘ measure will mark an important expansion of the Government’s home care programme, which is designed to provide housekeeping, home nursing and other services to the aged with a view to maintaining them in their own homes, if they so desire, as long as possible. It will also provide another opportunity for the participation of voluntary organisations and other bodies in the programme of caring for people in need of community support. Community response to the home care programme has so far been encouraging In spite of some delays in the completion of arrangements by State governments; however, there ls ample scope for the development still further of the type of service which community effort can best provide.
When the scheme is expanded, as was stated by the Minister for Social Services, it will afford relief to hospitals and nursing homes. If we can keep people contented and happy in their own environment we are doing a worthwhile job. I congratulate the Minister on the extension of this scheme and 1 look forward to the Bill that will provide a subsidy for senior citizen centres. I think that will be introduced in a short time. This movement will be given a -great fillip when other people not engaged in this wonderful service see what can be done to assist those people who are dependent upon it. Of course it is necessary - and it is important to state this - for the usual safeguards to be complied with, although it is very heartening to know that the Minister has stated that there will be no Government interference at all. The Government wants the local organisations to have the responsibility for using the subsidy. This is a wonderful thing because in most cases where an organisation attracts a government subsidy there are generally so many rules to be obeyed that it makes it very difficult for the organisation to carry on. So I am very pleased that there is to be no interference. Provided that the organisation is properly controlled and gives good service and good food it will be left to its own resources to do so.
According to the Minister’s second reading speech, 2 million meals were served last year, and on an annual basis the proposed subsidy will cost the Government $200,000, which of course is not a very great sum of money. But this is a new concept and I think that that amount will possibly treble within 2 years. 1 hope so, because the more we expend in this regard the more we save in other ways such as hospital and medical expenses, lt is a wonderful idea. 1 congratulate the Minister on the Bill that is before the Parliament, and I hope that the Bill extending the’ subsidy to aged persons homes and senior citizen centres will be placed before Parliament within a reasonably short space of time.
– I join with the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) in paying tribute to all those organisations who serve meals on wheels throughout the Commonwealth. I speak also on behalf of the organisations in the Kogarah, Hurstville and Rockdale municipalities which carry out such a magnificent service in their local community. The Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill has 3 import ant features. The first is its purpose. As stated in the Bill, its purpose is to assist in the establishment, expansion, improvement and maintenance of delivered meal services. Its purpose might be paraphrased by saying that its aim is to keep aged and invalid people in their own homes rather than in institutions. The Bill has no means test attached to it and will have wider application for that reason.
After looking at the purpose of the Bill, let us turn to .what it provides. It provides a Commonwealth subsidy of 10c per meal provided by an approved organisation in the preceding year. In other words it relates back to what meals were provided in the year before. On that basis . a subsidy of . 1 0c a meal is paid to the . organisation. The approved or eligible organisations include non-profit religious organisations, charitable or benevolent organisations, organisations of former members of the Defence Forces and local government bodies. The honourable member . for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has already indicated that the Opposition supports the Bill, but just as he did, so do 1 indicate, my support with distinct reservations. Those reservations, of course, do not in any way reflect upon the good people, organisations, individuals and councils which have already provided this humane service to many of our aged and invalid people.
My first observation . on the Bill is that its immediate purpose, is to give most help to organisations .that are already in existence. This is its purpose. One would have imagined that such a. Bill might have sought out places and locations where service was not being provided. But this Bill helps those who are already helping themselves. That is fair enough, as I will indicate in broader terms, but it gives little or no help to those areas where no help is available. The second question I asked myself in these observations was: What is -the basis of this Bill? One might have come, to expect from this Government by now that when it brings down social welfare legislation of this kind it would present to the Parliament some kind of social survey of the community indicating the basis - of need, where it is located and what kind of methods are going to be used to meet the need. No such social survey is presented to the Parliament. The most flimsy piece, ot material in terms of the States which provide Meals on Wheels is all that I can see in the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). How different is this approach from that which obtained in Great Britain where in the late 1950s they carried out a substantial survey to which I will make later reference.
In his speech the Minister said that about 2 million meals were supplied last year. On his calculations - and I do not know what evidence there is for these or on what basis they were made - his advisers estimate that the requirement will be something of the order of 5 million meals a year. In the few statistics that he provided he does indicate how uneven is the present distribution in terms of States. Of course, we have nothing like a breakup of States to indicate what meal distribution occurs within the States. His figures show that in South Australia, for instance, 322 meals per 1,000 of population are provided. On the other hand Queensland provides only 111 meals per 1,000 of population each year. One would have imagined that in a piece of welfare legislation of this kind we would have been setting out in some way to remedy the deficiencies, or the most obvious deficiencies, that exist. There ought to have been some effort to remedy the position in Queensland where the service is by no means as advanced as it is in South Australia.
We have no indication in the Ministers speech of how the measures that are proposed are going to remedy the observable deficiencies in the various States. What the Bill seems to do is to endorse the action of those States and localities that are already making provision for Meals on Wheels in their particular communities. One could ask on what basis - certainly none is advanced by the Minister - was it decided to provide a 10c subsidy per meal. Why 10c? Why not 20c or 30c? On what basis was this subsidy calculated? The only intimation that one can get is that it represents roughly one-third of the usual charge made to the elderly or invalid person for the meal provided. No indication is given that capital costs are in any way taken into account - the cost of setting up a kitchen and the provision of all the utensils involved. The 10c per meal subsidy seems so arbitrary. This seems to be so commonplace with Government provisions. There does not seem to be any basis of survey of needs and of the estimated measures that will be required to meet those needs. So we get this ad hoc decision of the Government to provide about $200,000 to be spread over the whole continent of Australia. This subsidy in some sort of way is to help build up the deficiency which even the Minister indicates is of the order of 3 million meals a year.
This compels me to say. that the provision is inequitable and inefficient. It is inequitable in much the same way as are so many other subsidy schemes provided by the Government. One needs only to cast one’s mind back to such things as municipal rate concessions for pensioners. If the local government body is prepared to provide relief from rates for pensioners governments will supply a subsidy to the body concerned. If the council or shire does not provide any relief to the pensioner, neither do governments. This is a most inequitable system. I am very conscious, even in my own locality, that some councils are far more generous than are other councils regarding the pensioners to whom;, they allow relief. The same thing goes on in respect of school libraries and school assembly halls. Those communities that are able to help themselves receive aid from the Government. The same is true of dairy subsidies. Most of the dairy subsidies, as I understand them, do not go to the farmers, most needing help - the marginal farmers- but to the wealthy farmers along the Murray Valley. The same deficiency exists in respect of taxation. Those people who can spend a lot on the education of their children or on the health of their children are the ones who attract government subsidies.
We say that this is an inequitable system and, what is more, an inefficient system in helping those people who are most in need of help. It is obvious, that in this system the poor can easily miss out. It is our strong suspicion that many of those people who most need assistance will not get it under this Bill unless, of course, local councils can be induced to come,into the field and to provide assistance. This again limits the effectiveness of the provision. If we have to rely on local councils we will get some councils which are prepared to accept the responsibility and others which say that they are so sorely pressed in meeting community needs that they are in no position to provide the assistance that will attract the Government subsidy.
Earlier I referred to research that had been done in England. I was referring to the Meals on Wheels for Old People’ research study that was carried out in England, Scotland and Wales by the Government Social Survey on behalf of the National Corporation for the Care of Old People. Some of the observations in the report are worth noting. In the foreword to the research report the following appears:
The value of any service of this kind is that it should be available to all who need it and the Governors sincerely hope that it will eventually be possible for a truly comprehensive meals service to be provided for old people. As this report makes clear, many different voluntary committees have shown the way, but probably they themselves would be among the first to say that there is still not enough done. The scale on which this service should be provided to meet all needs is beyond the scope of voluntary finances and their resources of manpower: And it is clear that the time has come when local authorities, in spite of the ever increasing demands on them, should become responsible for this important service.
This was an acknowledgement in England about 12 years ago that voluntary organisations could not and should not be expected to provide the service for all the people who needed it.
The recommendation in that report is that local government bodies in England should come to the rescue in this matter. We are all aware of the fact that local government bodies in England have much more authority and much greater responsibilities than do local government authorities in Australia. In England, local government bodies have far greater access to financial resources in order to carry out the . tasks entrusted to them. Already, local government bodies in Australia are. overloaded wilh social responsibilities offloaded on to them because of lack of responsibility on the part of our Federal Government.
This survey went on to look at the age composition of those areas that were served by Meals on Wheels as against other areas not served by Meals on Wheels. The report came up with the same kind of conclusion that the Minister for Social Services himself reached. That is that there were no distinct differences in the age composition of the two areas. The areas that were not receiving a Meals on Wheels service had just as many old people living in them as did the areas that were receiving a Meals on Wheels service. My . suspicion is that this would truly be found .to be the situation in Australia also.
The survey considered also the proportion of persons suffering immobility, particularly in the ability to go to shops, collect their own food and be able to come home and cook it. The survey reached much the same kind of conclusion as it reached on age composition in that there were no fewer people who were immobile in the areas that were not being served by Meals on Wheels than there were in areas being served by Meals on Wheels.
So the survey came to the third and what turned out to be the critical criterion in this whole business. -That was the socioeconomic status of the area and how it seemed to affect the provision of Meals on Wheels. Referring to research in the metropolitan boroughs of London, the report records the conclusion op page 63 that:
It will be seen that apart from the very poorest boroughs the number of recipients per 1,000 population rises as the economic status of the borough rises.
In other words, the more, well off socioeconomically an area was, the more likely that area was to have a Meals on Wheels service, the one exception being the poorest boroughs. The report went on:
This same pattern emerges, .when the whole of the London area is examined, which accounts for just over 21% of all recipients, and although it is not so clear cut for other regions, there is a general tendency for this to hold good for all standard regions of England and Wales.
I think that one’s own casual observations in this country would tend to support the same kind of conclusion. Typical middle class areas - and I suppose that my own electorate can be so categorised - tend to take up this responsibility or to bear this responsibility more so than do poorer areas. One other important conclusion of this study was that a much higher proportion of single older people in the lowest income groups are not getting this Meals on Wheels service. This could well be the case in the poorer areas of Sydney, Melbourne and other capital cities.- It is single people living by themselves who seem to have less access to Meals on Wheels services than do other people.
I summarise my comments at -this stage by saying - and I think that this is the view of the Australian Labor Party - that the whole provision endorses Our suspicion and belief that the subsidy principle is inadequate, inequitable and inefficient in dealing with all those needing help. Something more than this must be done. Secondly, we must decry the absence of any systematic survey of the whole community to determine the nature and extent of the needs of the aged and the infirm. This kind of ad hoc decision - not doing it by any kind of systematic survey - is just not good enough. I will refer later to how some of the legislation introduced last year by the Government in relation to aged people falls down because not enough homework was done on the matter. The third comment that I make by way of summary is that the programme is piecemeal and fragmentary. I will elaborate on that later.
Before 1 leave this British survey, I shall refer to one other question that was raised. Many old and infirm people were asked what their attitude was to the provision of cheaper meals such as were being provided to some people in their homes. They were asked what they thought of the provision of these cheaper meals at what they called community centres but what we often call, I think, senior citizens centres. The British survey found that 95% of old people - these people were defined in the research in much the same way as we define them; that is, as being men over 65 years of age and women over 60 years of age - thought that it was a good idea; 65% said that they personally would gladly use such a service.
Honourable members would have noticed that there is some difference in the figures. Whilst 95% thought that it was a good idea, only 65% said that they personally would be prepared to use it. The ones who were not prepared to use it - and the number of men and women was equally divided approximately between the two sexes - gave reasons of independence, pride, shyness or, in some cases, physical disabilities. These were the reasons why they were unable to visit such organisations.
At this stage, I pose this question to the Minister for Social Services: Does this Bill provide a subsidy for meals served in senior citizens centres or community centres? I am glad to see the Minister answer affirmatively to my question by nodding his head. The Bill refers to the delivery of meals at the homes of specific persons or at other places at which it is convenient for those persons to consume them. 1 am glad to have the Minister’s confirmation that this does in fact mean that if people like to stop for such meals in senior citizens centres or other such places these meals will attract the subsidy. This is a good thing. Welfare workers attached to Meals on Wheels services in my own area have indicated to me that they would be strongly in support of the provision of meals at such centres. They believe that the provision of such meals at such centres would in fact cut down on the demand for meals being provided in the homes of these people. So they too will be delighted, I am sure, to know that this will be possible.
Let me mention one other thing while I am talking about what local people say about this scheme. People who are involved in this business of providing Meals on Wheels, particularly welfare officers who are employed by such services, feel that a lot more should be done to advertise the existence of Meals on Wheels services, not only to attract good civic minded people to come and help in the provision of such meals but also to bring this service to the notice of a great many more people. At the present moment the services of which I am aware are provided solely, I believe, on the recommendation of a doctor. The doctor recommends that certain people should be supplied with a Meals on Wheels service. If these people did not need to meet this requirement, and the meals were served in some sort of central community centre, perhaps more of these people might benefit by this service.
The point was made to me also by these liaison officers and welfare officers that provision ought to be made for a good deal more communication and discussion between welfare officers and the like from different areas. Admittedly, a central body exists in New South Wales. It was called the Old Peoples Welfare Council. I think that it has a new name now. The welfare officers do not feel that this is sufficient. As the extent of this service apparently will build up, they believe that there ought to be more opportunity for discussion and liaison between welfare officers so that they might get ideas about how each of them runs his or her service, how the services are financed and how volunteers are attracted to carry out the work.
One other piece of advice which they have given and which I hand on, Mr Deputy Speaker, through you to the Minister is that a need exists for a lot more integration of and co-ordination between these various domiciliary services. The complaint is made that the Meals on Wheels services operate almost without any contact wilh, for example, the home nursing service. One officer comes in then goes out and another comes in. The two services never get much opportunity of getting together and discussing the cases they are serving.
When speaking about this business of coordination and integration I certainly recommend to the House the remarkable service provided by the Royal Newcastle Hospital. Just recently the honourable members for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) and myself, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party’s welfare committee, went to Newcastle to have a look at the scheme operating there. It is a marvelous example of an integrated coordinated service to tend the people, lt has the same objective announced by the Minister for Social Services when introducing this Bill; that is, to help old and infirm people to remain in their own community amongst their own people. But the service at Newcastle is a vastly extended one in comparison with anything that the Government has contemplated to this time. It runs to the provision of district nurses wilh cars at their disposal, social workers, - a full time physician specialising in disorders ‘ of the aged - a geriatrician, in other words - 1.0 housekeepers to go into the homes and to help these people requiring that sort of assistance and an ambulance and voluntary transport of day patients to take them to the excellent William Lyne unit at the Royal Newcastle Hospital if this is desired. If people are so disabled that they are not able to look after themselves they can be brought into either the general hospital or this special unit where there is available all these special services, operating not in isolation but in joint consultation, and in consultation with the relatives of the aged or infirm person.
This is a full blooded scheme, a coordinated scheme, providing a battery of expert help with the objective of helping the aged or infirm persons to get back to a position of self reliance- so that they can get out of bed, cook for themselves, wash themselves and go through the whole gamut of responsibilities likely to be imposed on aged persons. It provides speech therapists for people who, for instance, suffer a stroke, lt provides an occupational therapist to give help aimed at restoring people to the position where they are able to earn their own living, if that is the objective.
These manifold specialist services are integrated and work together to help the aged or infirm persons regain the position of self reliance to which I referred. According to the report from this unit they find that this expert service costs a fraction of what it costs to maintain these people in institutional hospitals where, they are kept without any very . decided objective of restoring them to- a position of independence. AH honourable members know how hard it is to get old people into a general hospital. They are just not’ acceptable. We cannot blame the hospitals because beds are scarce and care costs a lot. Therefore general hospitals are not able to maintain these people. They certainly cannot be accommodated for any length of time in nursing homes without a good deal of private subsidy. Single aged and infirm people who rely on a pension and the $2 a day subsidy attract a total of 329. Even if they get the rent allowance to bring them up to $31, I ask any honourable member whether he can find in his area a nursing home providing this kind of service for $31 a week. In my area the commonplace fee is $40 and upwards. This means that private sources have to find a subsidy to maintain these people in such places. 1 hope that the Government will get around to a much fuller programme than this piecemeal fragmentary one. It is better than nothing and the Opposition accepts it. We applaud what has been done. However we would rather see a much more systematic approach adopted, not a fragmentary one such as we have. We would like a much more comprehensive service to be provided for these, people
I indicated before that the Government had gone off half-cocked on many of these welfare schemes. Last year it brought in and had enacted the States Grants (Home Care) Act of 1969 by which it provided home care services. The Commonwealth offered a 50% subsidy for services that cared for people in their own homes, a subsidy towards the building and extension of senior citizens centres, provision of welfare officers to be employed at such centres, the provision of para-medical services for old people, such as chiropody services, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy. All these things sounded so good, I suppose, when they were introduced but to my knowledge - and I speak subject to correction - most of these services have not come into existence for the simple reason that State government bodies have been unable or unwilling to participate with the Commonwealth in providing them. A battery of these services were provided for in Bills last year but I understand that most of them are not operative because insufficient States are participating.
All these things do not help the aged people in the more fundamental ways, such as pension rates. They still have to get by on inadequate pensions at a time when prices and costs are going up. In many cases they are left in a rather desperate position. I hope that the Government will face up to this problem in a much more fundamental way than it has done in the past. I hope that this Bill represents the last of these fragmentary approaches and that there will be a much more comprehensive service. I hope the Government recognises that subsidisation is not an efficient or equitable way of meeting the problem. Finally I hope that the Government will come down with a programme which will help people to live in their homes. This includes the provision of a much more generous pension than they now attract.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, it has been rather amusing to listen to the wiles of the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) in referring, during this discussion on the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill, to the present pension rates. Every honourable member realises that pension rates have - nothing to do with the topic under discus sion. But it is even more amusing, or perhaps sad for the pensioners, when we recollect that the Australian Labor Party, the Party to which the honourable member belongs, is the only Party in the history of this nation to reduce age pensions. The title of this Bill is the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and it has been introduced to assist organisations more commonly known as Meals on Wheels. I notice that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is present and I would like to say to him, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I cannot understand why we could not have called this Bill the ‘Meals on Wheels Bill’.
I refer to the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) who said that no nation can be great unless it seeks not only materially to progress but also to take care of the weaker within it, the aged within it and the ill within it. We must look back over what has happened in the last 20 years. I stipulate that period because this Government has been in power now for more than 20 years. One realises that assistance to the aged and the needy has been left very much in the hands of the LiberalCountry Party coalition. The election held at the latter part of last year marked the ninth successive loss by the Australian Labor Party - as was pointed out last night - in its bid or endeavour to become the government of this nation. The Australian people have been fortunate because of those losses in that we have, without doubt, a more developed social services system than we would have had had the Labor Party ever come to power in that period.
The Minister for Social Services and his two predecessors have been praised by members from both sides of the House for their individual and sincere approach to social services. The Prime Minister, when he first came to power, enunciated to the nation that he was interested in helping the needy. His actions in the last 2 years, and those of his Cabinet and Ministers, indicate that he has his heart well and truly in the right place. This Bill we are discussing is tangible evidence of the work that has been done.
I refer to one or two of the other Bills introduced by this Government to assist aged people. I refer to 1951 when the pensioner medical services were introduced and 1954 when the Aged Persons Homes Act was introduced and all the other Bills including the home care programme. The personal care subsidy was introduced in 1969. Many other measures were introduced by this Government in the past few years to help aged people. The object of this Bill is to assist those organisations which are trying to help people who are either invalids or aged to remain in their homes. I do not believe any one of us would cherish any other material object more than our own home. Whether we own it or not, we can shut the door and call it home. To be placed in hospitals or aged persons homes is just not the same thing. I remember that 2 or 3 years ago when a new freeway was going through my electorate in Brisbane many very elderly people said with great sincerity: ‘I would rather die here in my own home than be shifted’. These people really felt for their homes and this Bill will assist to keep elderly people in their own homes. .
The subsidy for Meals on Wheels will make a significant contribution to assisting the organisations which are backing a scheme which is now nation-wide. The scheme has a close personal association. Relations of mine, including my late mother, and even my secretary today, have at some time participated in the delivering of these meals. I have been aware of the existence of this organisation in Brisbane for approximately 10 years. But just over a year ago - in fact a year and one day ago - when the Minister was present in the House and we were discussing the home care programme for the aged I pointed out to the Parliament that at the time the measures which the Government was introducing to assist the Meals on Wheels service were of little benefit to Queensland. Honourable members will recall that at that time the first step in assisting this scheme was to help finance, on a $1 for $1 basis through the senior citizen centres, the purchase of utensils and requirements for the preparation of meals. But unfortunately at that time there was a provision that the meals had to be prepared in a senior citizen centre and in Queensland this was not the case. Most of them were prepared outside senior citizen centres and this assistance was not worth lc. However, at 12.23 a.m. on 29th May I again raised this matter and at the conclusion of the sitting that night the Minister said to me: ‘We will try to do something about this’ and. something has been done.
Things such as the Bill .that we have before us give me faith, in the present Government because . the Liberal-Country Party Government over the years has shown, that it does not just talk about what it will do and it does not speak wildly. When one is in Opposition one can throw all the promises in the world around, but what the Government says it will. do it does. Even though it has taken a year and a day since I originally raised this matter, at least it is being done. I can understand honourable members on the opposite side of the House reacting because it is so long since the Labor Party experienced what it is like to be in office. I recall that it is not in office in any State and does, not have to be responsible to the people, just to those it thinks it might appeal to with some of its promises. I feel it important that the Parliament be advised of exactly what is done throughout Australia by the Meals on Wheels organisations in their current operations.
I turn now to New South Wales where approximately 100 organisations provide some 800,000 meals a year. There is no overt State assistance but almost two-thirds of the meals are prepared in hospital kitchens at a cost to the organisations of 25c a meal. Recipients of meals are charged from 20c to 40c a meal. .Meals are provided primarily to aged people on the recommendation of a medical practitioner. Some assistance is provided by local governing authorities - for example, 2 councils pay taxi fares for the delivery pf meals - and by service clubs. At least 13 organisations use paid employees but profit and loss details are not known.
When we turn to the southern State, Victoria, we see that meals are delivered by 80 senior citizen clubs which come under the aegis of local governing bodies. Approximately 480,000 meals are delivered annually. In the main the service is available to aged people on the recommendation of a doctor, but where possible the people are encouraged to go to a senior.citizen club for meals rather than to remain at home for a delivered meal. The State provides capital assistance of $2 for Si up to S10.000 to councils for the establishment of senior citizen clubs. Maintenance assistance of four-fifths of the net cost to the councils of operating clubs is provided up to a maximum of $2,000. The net cost is made up of gross cost less subscriptions, donations, charges, etc. The above clubs may or may not provide meals on wheels. There is no assistance to other services providing delivered meals. The usual minimum charge for a meal is 20c. Those who can afford to must pay the full cost, the average charge being of the order of 40c for meals costing some 50c to 55c. In this case once again details of profits and losses are not known.
In my home State of Queensland - the sunshine State - 20 organisations, conducted by mainly local - committees or church bodies, provide almost 200,000 meals a year. There is no State assistance, although the State would provide capital assistance in order to attract a Commonwealth grant under the State Grants (Home Care) Act, for example, assistance towards the capital cost of kitchens at senior citizen centres. The recipients of meals are charged approximately 30c to 35c a meal. Honourable members will recall that I pointed out a moment ago that in my home State there has been no provision in the senior citizen centres to enable these organisations to prepare meals. In South Australia 2 organisations provide delivered meals. One provided only 600 meals last year. That is not a great number but still it is something and a contribution. Meals on Wheels Incorporated provides over 367,000 meals a year. These meals are provided mainly to aged people recommended by their medical practitioners. The State has provided capital assistance to Meals on Wheels Incorporated averaging $17,000 a year. Maintenance assistance is provided for loss on operations. This amounted to $23,000 in 1968 and $5,000 in 1969, but the basis for assessing the amount is not clear. Meals on Wheels is a multi-functional organisation. Income and expenditure on meals is not shown separately, but in 1968-69 the organisation’s financial statement showed almost $6,000 net income over expenditure. In the same period fund raising equalled almost $13,000 and the maintenance grant from the State, according to the statement, was $18,000. Pensioners pay 30c a meal.
In Western Australia some 20 organisations provide approximately 150,000 meals a year at a cost of approximately 35c a meal. The State provides a subsidy to cover loss of operations up to $1,500 a year to senior citizen centres. These centres provide other services in addition to delivered meals. The League of Home Health provided over 38,000 meals in 1969. This organisation’s income and expenditure on its meal service showed a profit of almost $12,000 for the year ended 31st March 1969. In the same period donations and receipts from street appeals raised more than $13,000. Without this income there would have been a loss of almost $1,100 on the meals service. Turning to the apple isle - Tasmania - we find that 1 1 organisations provided almost 75,000 meals last year. All meals were prepared in State kitchens at a cost to the organisations of 25c a meal. Recipients of meals were charged 30c a meal. The State provides a subsidy of 10c a meal to Hobart Meals on Wheels Incorporated. This amounted to $2,200 in 1969-70.
In my electorate of Griffith, which is made up of some 25 suburbs on the southern side of the Brisbane River, we also have an effective and helpful Meals on Wheels service. As I have already said, in Queensland about 10 years ago the Reverend Young of the St Andrews Presbyterian Church originated Meals on Wheels. The organisation now has cooks and staff in a kitchen of a church hostel at New Farm. They are paid workers, all other workers being voluntary. Each day they deliver between 115 and 120 meals for a charge of about 40c. Each 3 course meal costs 70c to prepare. Meals are delivered throughout Brisbane from this central point. Each year about 26,000 meals are delivered. Deliveries extend not only throughout my electorate but into other electorates. Towards the end of 1968 the Stone’s Corner Rotary Club backed the basic organisation to take Meals on Wheels into Bulimba, Norman Park, Cannon Hill, Morningside and Hawthorne. This service was originated by members from the Stone’s Corner Rotary Club but work has now been taken up by others. The scheme is now conducted by representatives from all churches in the areas. Members of the group pay 10c a year to join and 50c towards the cost of insuring helpers. I hope that other organisations which participate in this service adequately insure their workers. This is the least that can be done for these people who render such magnificent service. Last year in the area a total of more than 6,000 meals were served over a 5-day week at a cost of 35c to each person. In January this year 562 meals were served and 645 in February. In another part of my electorate the St Andrews Church of England, South Brisbane, has delivered 24 meals a day in the West End and Highgate Hill are at a charge of 30c per person. The church has built its own kitchen in the church hall. The service was commenced in 1968. Parishioners and local firms help to subsidise the service by providing money and food. Only a cook is paid. The cost df preparing the meals is about 60c each. The service extends also to the Dutton Park area.
I do not say that all in the garden is rosy. I commend the Government for its endeavour to assist but one is shocked to see that in Queensland only 111 meals per year per 1,000 persons are served compared with 188 meals a year per 1,000 persons in Tasmania. I do not know whether the fault lies with the Queensland Government or whether, because many people in Queensland live in a tropical area, it is not as easy to organise the system in the northern State. I would venture to say that meals on wheels is suffering from the affluence of our society. A system such as this depends on voluntary assistance. In the past a great deal of the assistance has come from women whose families are grown or nearly grown and for one reason or another they feel they have a little time to spare. In this position they turn their hands to something useful in society. But today with so many wives working we find this source of assistance upon which we relied so heavily in the past depleted. I hope that the Minister for Social Services will heed my remarks and consult the organisations to ascertain their problems. I know that every organisation conducted in Brisbane is thrilled by the assistance to be given under this Bill, but I was told that their greatest difficulty is in finding people to deliver meals. I hope that the Minister will direct his attention to this problem. No doubt as our society continues along the path of affluence this problem will be accentuated.
I note that the basis of assistance is $1 for every 10 meals served, without any strings attached. I should like the Minister at some appropriate stage to say whether the money paid to these organisations may be used to consolidate the organisations and to enable them to expand. I give the instance of the organisation in Bulimba using a Commonwealth hostel for the preparation of meals. If this organisation is able to accumulate some funds would it be able to use those funds for the purchase of a kitchen in some area?
– I thank the Minister. It is very reassuring that the money can be used in the manner desired by the particular organisations. I also ask the Minister whether a particular church in part of my electorate - perhaps the Anglican Church or the Presbyterian Church - could acquire a grant and use it in another part of my electorate or in another electorate to provide a meals on wheels service.
– The answer to that question is also yes.
– I am sure that the Minister’s assurance will ease the minds of some people associated with this scheme. Finally I would like to refer to some of the benefits, including the advantage of contact with other people, which these organisations provide. I venture to suggest that some members of this place may, when they are elderly and alone, look forward to the daily visit of a voluntary helper who arrives with a smile and a decent meal. The service may provide only one meal a day but I know that the meals delivered in my area are very substantial and if necessary the elderly people to whom they are delivered could with supplementing get by on one meal a day. The meal’s are sufficient to enable portions to be put aside for a later stage. The service merits the backing of every member of Parliament. I am sure that the community at large will support the service. I trust that when people get to know what is required they will come forward to fill the vacuum that has been created by the women who formerly helped with the service but who are now earning an income. We have heard members of the Opposition on this matter. The Labor Party spokesman, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), propounded the other day a course of Socialism so that we can take meals into every home. But I remind members of the Opposition that not everything can revolve around a Socialist system. Some things have to depend very much on the will and the good spirit of the community. Their suggestions that the Meals on Wheels does not go into the areas where they are most needed I would challenge, because in my area, where a number of elderly people live, there is a good service.
I conclude my remarks by saying, Mr Deputy Speaker and Mr Minister, that 1 hope everything is done to encourage the expansion of this most worthwhile organisation. 1 hope that this subsidy amount of 10c in time will grow to 20c so that we can relieve these organisations of the financial burden they presently carry.
– If we have compassion for the aged person and the invalid; if we indeed believe that in the aged state there are problems that they may neglect themselves as far as nutrition is concerned or that appropriate meals may not be available to them; if we believe that the desirable place for them to spend as much of their later years as possible is to be in their home, then of course we cannot oppose this legislation, lt is indeed some sort of step to meeting these problems. However, I believe that my colleague, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds), have shown quite clearly that this is rather a patchy approach to those problems of the aged. If Meals on Wheels and other such organisations are to be effective we need to have an assessment of the total problem of aged people. We have to try to assess how far the basic services of Meals on Wheels, pensions, housing, health and welfare services are specifically designed and effectively directed towards meeting the needs of old people. We have to find out how far any special services such as Meals on Wheels, within the structure, meet those needs and how many others are needed generally or separately. Along with this consideration, we have to look at the general attitudes to the situations and problems of the aged in a modern society.
What concern is shown nationally and locally about the conditions in which elderly people are living, particularly the very old, the infirm and the isolated? What is known about this situation in general and individual terms? What attempt is being made to identify where the need is most urgent and the most effective way of giving help to these people in the community? What is the priority of these welfare steps? Is Meals on Wheels a top priority? Where is it relative to the needs of our aged people in the community? How many of our welfare services are adequate and, indeed, how many are grossly inadequate? Sir, the Meals on Wheels scheme provides an excellent service in many areas but, as has been pointed out, there are large areas which receive no such service at all.
The honourable member for Barton, in quoting the British report, pointed out that areas of most need may be those not receiving the service. I suggest to honourable members that there has been no overall look at this problem in Australia, in any of the States, to effectively find out where Meals on Wheels is most needed and how this service can be best organised. Other countries have tackled this problem much earlier than we have. We have heard about the British report. In France there was the La Rocque Committee in 1962. As early as 1957, Norway instituted an institute of geriatric research to cover these broad problems and to look into what is needed. Canada had a Senate select committee looking into the problems of welfare services for the aged. I suggest that more of this is needed.
There is too much reliance on charitable organisations in setting up such services. These are well intentioned and hard working individuals with true compassion for their other members in the community, but they are being used as an excuse in the community through its Government to dodge responsibility. This means in fact that many individuals in the community do not receive the benefit of these organisations. The subsidy system in itself is inequitable. It is inequitable because the costs in varying areas are different; there are varying demands in varying population groups; there is a varying effectiveness in reaching the people. One would consider that probably in a closely-settled suburban area there would be a better prospect of providing this service cheaply and more effectively than in some of the far flung areas.
Mention was made by the previous speaker of the use of this money for consolidation of this service. It is my belief that this subsidy will act mainly to assist the existing organisations to keep going. There is a lack of regionalisation of services in this that wilt not allow economy of the facilities for the production and delivery of meals. I think we cannot afford to overlook the role of local government in this sphere. So many of the Meals on Wheels services are based on organisations set tip by local government. Indeed, if we look at the suggestions of many of these overseas groups it is this sort of localisation through using existing bodies to supervise the scheme that is recommended. They recommend that there should be a look at how we can develop it throughout areas. It is also recommended that if this scheme is to develop properly the problems of the aged cannot be looked at just as meals on wheels but indeed there is a very urgent requirement for social workers out in the field on a face to face basis looking at the needs of these people so that they can be properly organised.
The over 65 age group in the community at the moment represents 8i% of our population. So there are considerably more who require this type of service when one considers invalids and the group of women who would be included in this between the age of 60 and 65. It is no use looking at just these spots of care. These people need an attitude of total care and attention to their problems. Meals on Wheels is simply a section of domiciliary care.
Mention was made of a comprehensive service from the Royal Newcastle Hospital. This is one service that has been going on for many years, while other hospitals throughout the Commonwealth are just groping to provide this sort of service. Some tocal government bodies are groping to give the same sort of service. But we have Meals on Wheels dependent on some sort of charitable or religious organisation. We have home nursing dependent on the
Royal Melbourne District Nursing Society in Melbourne or its equivalent body elsewhere. For home help we have the local municipality organising the service. If physical alterations to the home are needed so that the person will1 be able to live in it, some voluntary charitable or service organisation will probably be required to do the job. Therapists may be obtained from the local hospital. What chance is there of any total or comprehensive care in this situation?
The problem can be met in many ways. One of the most interesting concepts is the Danish concept. The Danes take as the basis good hospital wards and they are supported by numerous flats and hostels, with an interchange between the flats and hostels and the hospital wards as is required. The meals are prepared in a central kitchen and distributed to a person either at home or in hospital. By having this grading of care, the problems of the aged are dealt with totally. This is very much in line with the British experience of a regional organisation giving overall care to the aged. The emphasis must be on finding an area of workable size, and a population of workable size to give effective care, with Meals on Wheels and all the other associated matters that go with it. A subsidy per meal will not achieve this type of total care, lt only touches on the problem.
If we examine how a Meals on Wheels organisation is set up, we can see the problem and the patchwork that goes into the organisation. Let us take the City of Preston, which comprises the principal part of my electorate. The local council, with an enlightened outlook on social welfare, was already providing home help services and many other welfare services. Several years ago it decided that Meals on Wheels should be provided for our elderly citizens. However the finance for welfare services was already overstrained and the council had to look for a local charitable organisation to raise the money that was needed to meet the capital cost of the scheme. It so happened that one of the service organisations with which I was associated raised the money and the Meals on Wheels scheme was started. But there was no effective Government assistance in setting up the scheme.
The Meals on Wheels service here requires a central kitchen with facilities for the preparation of the meal, an adjoining dining room for service of the meals and facilities for delivery in two different categories. They are delivery to outlying elderly citizens clubs, which according to the Minister will be covered by the Bill, and delivery to homes. But what of the dining room next to the central kitchen? Are we to assume that this is part of the delivery meals service? Will those meals be subsidised? I think it would be ridiculous if they were not, because it is desirable to have this organisation in a local area. In his second reading speech the Minister mentioned the beneficial effect to elderly or invalid people when the meal is delivered to the home. They have personal contact with whoever is delivering the meal. But more is needed than that. If these meals can be provided at centres where the aged and invalid gather to have them, there is as much value in the companionship that is obtained there as in the meal itself. That is why 1 believe we should ensure that we do not restrict this subsidy to home deliveries or the occasional outlying area. The companionship that comes with the meal needs to be promoted.
Another matter that concerns me is the general principle that seems to arise with much of this type of legislation. Perhaps this aspect may be more appropriate for the Committee stage, but I think I could mention it now in passing. Clause 9 gives power to the Director-General to pay moneys upon such terms and conditions, including conditions as to the conduct by the organisation of approved meal services, the use of those moneys and the keeping of accounts by the organisation, as he considers conducive to the purpose of the Act. I believe that Parliament is the body that should spell out the conditions under which this is done. We have the responsibility to say what should be done. In handing over such powers to individuals outside the Parliament, we are making a grave mistake. Far too much of this is going on. not only at the Federal level but also at the State level. We are a regulation ridden community. The Parliament is responsible for the legislation and is responsible to see that individuals get a go in the community, but governments have handed over too many powers to people outside the Parliament and outside the Government.
In general, many people in the community will welcome the assistance that they will receive from this subsidy for Meals on Wheels. I know that many people in my electorate alone appreciate this type of service. Probably many of them have had their lives lengthened by the service. But I take no satisfaction from the fact that, while so many in my area are privileged, many, people in other areas receive no such service. Unless we are prepared to take a good, solid look at the total problems of the aged, the total care and the total services that are needed, many people will be doomed to a most unsatisfactory existence in their closing years.
– In supporting the legislation that is now before the House, 1 would like to congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for introducing another social welfare measure. The Minister has emphasised that social welfare is not merely the handing of services to people. It is also- a matter of providing them with every possible assistance. That is why I disagree completely with the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), who said that we rely too much on charity. If I misunderstood him, 1 apologise to him. The more we use those people who are prepared to give their services to the community, the better everything will be for all concerned. I do not mean that we should try to. get something on the cheap. I believe that a community service gives far better value. As. I say, 1 congratulate the Minister for introducing this legislation and for showing that the Government intends to continue improving services in this field.
I should like to read some comments made by the Minister in his second reading speech. He said:
This Bill now before the House will carry the Prime Minister’s proposal into effect The Meals on Wheels organisations throughout Australia are generally bodies enjoying a fair degree of local autonomy, but acting within a common framework and sharing a common objective. They deliver meals to the aged, the sick and the . lonely who live in their own homes and have the need of care and contact with outside life.
One very important factor of the scheme is that it is bringing those people into contact with people outside. There is nothing worse than the loneliness of an aged person who is in a house on his own and does not receive very many visitors. I know that many of the people who receive the service of Meals on Wheels look forward not only to the meal being brought but also to contact with somebody with whom they can have an association.
As in the case with the assistance given in aged persons homes this scheme is further evidence that the Government views the situation in the broader, wider and deeper sense of social service and not merely in the sense of financial assistance.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr E. N. Drury)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I desire to support the Bill, but with some considerable reservations. Before I go on to deal with particular aspects of the Bill I want to say that this is the second time the Government has seen fit to gag the debate on this Bill. The Meals on Wheels service in South Australia was commenced by Miss Doris Taylor, who was previoulsy mentioned by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and who herself was confined to a wheel chair. The original finance for the organisation came from the trade union movement in South Australia, and the donations for the cannisters and equipment that were necessary for the provision of the meals in those early stages also came from that source.
I regard the Bill as totally inadequate. A previous speaker put his finger on the crux of the matter when he said that the Government ought to be providing more resources for these dedicated people in the community and ought to be accepting more responsibility by providing funds so that proper research can be carried out into the needs of the community. As I understand it, it was not so long ago that the Minister for Social Services - [ would pray that he would correct me if I am wrong - endeavoured to prevail upon Cabinet and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to increase social welfare benefits. But he did not succeed. If the Minister recognises the needs of the community, for which his Department is responsible - and he honestly does recognise them - and if he puts them before his Cabinet and his colleagues knock him back and his Prime Minister will not accept his proposals, he ought to resign, and thus show his sincerity, as a protest at the manner in which the needs of the Department which he is in charge of have been rejected. That would be the correct procedure. If I were in his position I do not think I would have lo resign. I do not think 1 would have colleagues so unthinkable and unbending as those in .the Cabinet.
I now come to the Bill. A subsidy ought to be provided to Meals on Wheals organisations for adequate buildings and adequate kitchen staff, but the subsidy ought to be more than that proposed in the Bill. Not long before Miss Taylor died she made plans not only to increase the Meals on Wheels services but also to set up a similar type of organisation to cater for many of the needs for which aged people in the community encounter in their day to day life. She had in mind a laundry service which was to be centrally placed in an area where there was and still is a great need for such a service. She told me on one occasion that one of her helpers in delivering the meals was unable to get into a room in which an old lady was bedridden because when she had closed the door something had happened to the lock. Situations such as this still occur. They had great difficulty in getting into that room. Miss Taylor would have dearly loved to have set up some sort of framework for an organisation to attend to these very necessary but very small things that crop up from time to time in a household.
But the Government that sits in this place, and which is supposed to look after the aged and the welfare of the community, had to wait almost 20 years before it recognised that these organisations were doing a very good job. But more serious than that is the fact that it took the Government almost 20 years to recognise the needs of the community in this regard. After 20 years and after the death of the person who had set up the Meals on Wheels organisation in South Australia the Government has jumped on the bandwaggon and submitted this Bill to the House, thinking that it is doing everything that ought to be done in the interests of the people in this category. This shows the complete lack of initiative on the part of the honourable members opposite. It shows that they do not move amongst the community that they profess to represent.
I mentioned this last night, but in case the message did not get through I repeat that honourable members opposite do not move around their electorates. 1 see a minister of religion laughing. So help me God! He is a person who professes to be a minister of religion and he ought to know the needs of the more unfortunate people in the community, but the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) can only sit in his place and laugh as though it is a great, joke. Tt might be to him, but it is not to members on this side of the chamber.
– He might be laughing at you-
– Attorneys-General will come last on my list.
– Order! the honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat. I would suggest that the Committee come to order. The honourable member for Sturt will direct his remarks to the Bill before the Committee. .
– I am directing my remarks with some difficulty1 because of the behaviour of people who have been in this chamber for many years and who should be better versed in its ways than I am. While I may blunder in my ignorance or innocence, they should not. When we have such an indication as we have witnessed in the last few days, it is obvious that the pensioners have little hope of getting an increase in their pensions within the next few months. They will have to wait until the Budget session! I. hope that honourable members opposite, in the short time available to them during the next few weeks, will travel their electorates and make sure they have a good look around and not walk around with their eyes closed. Let them have a good look at the people who are suffering because of this Government’s so-called ‘tapered means test’. It is a disgrace.
The Government could not have come down to a lesser figure unless one went back to the old depression days when people entering a church dropped a silver coin when entering. It is a disgrace. I do not know what procedures are open to honourable members on the Government side at this late hour seeing that we will be rising tonight for almost a fortnight. I do not know what measures are open to them but there must be some. Honourable members can sit in this chamber listening to all the debate that has been going on on this Bill and find that a person who has not been in the chamber for almost 6 hours can walk in and with a back of an axe attitude chop the debate completely off. Surely there must be some procedures open to honourable members of the Opposition.
– Order! The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat. I suggest to the honourable member for Sturt that as we are in the Committee stage he should discuss the clauses of this Bill. Because the Committee is discussing this Bill as a whole it does not mean that the honourable member can go outside the Bill and refer to other matters that have no relationship to it.
– I will do that in the short space of time available. I reiterate that the subsidy provided by the Bill is a lousy, paltry 10c. More should have been provided. The Government should have recognised the needs of the Meals on Wheels alone. Let the organisations have their petrol for the same price as the Commonwealth gets its petrol. What is wrong with that suggestion? There is nothing wrong with it. Why not provide them with proper buildings and proper maintenance through the Department of Works or any appropriate State department? In addition, some of the people who work for branches of these organisations in the suburbs are not necessarily people qualified to look after book entries. The Bill imposes a burden in this regard and the Government should look at that aspect. Whilst doing so it might again notice that very small amount of 10c. I want to end on the note that surely there is some way open to the Government, at this late hour, to increase the amount that is provided for in the Bill. The Government should stir itself while the Parliament is adjourned and have a good look at the conditions of some of the people whom it seeks to assist in this Bill.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This chamber is, in some ways, a disillusioning place. Most honourable members commenced their speeches on this Bill by praising it. 1 thought: Well, here is something on which even the ranks of Tuscany can scarce forbear to cheer’, but very soon they were turning into Bronx cheers. That is an effective way of trying to kill a measure - praise it to start with and then say it is ill-considered and that nobody has thought about the details. Honourable members opposite have said that we should co-ordinate some things and that perhaps something better could be done. They do not dare to oppose the measure; what they do is try to diminish it. What the Opposition has been bringing forward in this regard is not altogether well conceived. Honourable members opposite have said: We want to get this Bill through quickly so that it can be operative immeditately.’ This was their first comment. The Government wants to get it into operation quickly too, but since the money to be allocated by the Bill relates to what was done in 1969 there is no loss of money by a delay of a few weeks or a few days.
In looking for the criteria for giving subsidies for this first year the Government will be taking any reasonable evidence from the organisations concerning the meals that they delivered last year. Honourable members opposite criticised the amount of $1 for every 10 meals and asked how that figure had been arrived at. It represents a little more than one-third of the cost of materials in a meal. Since it is a principle of the organisation to charge for the meals - that
Wheels organisation - this allows the organisation to carry ob. The amount of one-third, or thereabouts, has not been taken at random. We did not want to pay something which is so much as to take away all the volunteer effort. We did not want to breach the fundamental principle of the organisation that it should make a reasonable charge for meals. This, I think, is the proper kind of compromise.
Honourable members opposite, when they talk about the way in which this was not regionally applied, have forgotten that one of the fundamental principles of the Bill is that the organisation shall be able to donate its money to another organisation to be formed or operating in an area of greater need. We did not want to override the voluntary bodies. We did not want to get rid of all the elements of local involvement and of personal charity. This is the fundamental difference between the approach of this Government and what 1 believe is the Socialist approach of honourable members opposite, because honourable members opposite do not want the charitable body - the voluntary body - to be concerned. What they want to do is to bring everything into one great State-organised scheme. This can be seen from what has been said in the debate. That is the real gravamen of the-
– My wife works for Meals on Wheels.
– That is fine and I give every credit to the individual who so works but I say that there is a Socialist approach by honourable members opposite to this matter. Their demand is that nothing should be done which does not spread under some Socialist system.
– Rubbish! Why don’t you grow up?
– Honourable members can read their own speeches, if they feel so inclined. They will see that their speeches tend in this direction. If ] am wrong let them get up and say so. I would be glad to hear of this because it would be evidence of repentance - evidence that they are coming around to the Government’s idea that the voluntary body with participation by the individual citizen is good and that there is a place for these voluntary bodies outside the area of State administration or government administration. That is our belief on this side: We want to co-operate with voluntary bodies, we do not want to annihilate them or override them.
– The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) mentioned that he saw a former minister of religion laughing when this important measure was before the House. You, too, Mr Chairman, as a former minister of religion did not think your remarks were worth listening to so you voted to gag yourself. It looks to me as though it has been a bad day for ministers. 1 want to pay my tribute and commendation to those who conduct the Meals on Wheels services throughout Australia. I do not underestimate the effect that this Bill will have on that great section of voluntary workers. It does seem though, as honourable members from this side have pointed out, that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), with all his great talk about social justice and what he would do for the people of Australia, has proved that he is a bits and pieces and patch up man in respect of social welfare. lt amazes me to think that under this Bill, to which the Government is attributing a form of greatness, a subsidy of St for every 10 meals is proposed. Why does the Government not refer to 10c. a. meal? Because that sounds as lousy as it is. The actual fact of the matter is that the Government is proposing a subsidy of 10c a meal. Consider what other, expenditure the Government has proposed under the Budget - $7m for one part pf. the wool industry, $27m for another section of the wool industry, $30m for teacher training, SI 2m for an irrigation scheme, $4m for tuberculosis control in cattle herds - and $200,000 for this most deserving section of the community. The Minister is very critical of members of the Opposition when we talk of social welfare. He said that we want to make Australia a real Socialist state and that we want to bring the subject matter under discussion within the scope of Socialist legislation. I remind him that the pioneers of this scheme were the Labor controlled councils of Sydney. This real social welfare scheme was pioneered by people from this side of the Parliament.
The fact of the matter is, as the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) said, that this Government has never made a survey of what is required in the field of social welfare in respect of Meals on Wheels.
In his second reading speech the Minister equated the number of meals served with the population. He did this because the Government has made no assessment of just who really wants Meals on Wheels. He has assessed that 2 million meals are delivered in a year. This means that 2 meals a year is all that the Government is prepared to provide to assist a deserving section of the community in Australia. Even now the Government proposes to subsidise this scheme to the extent of onethird only when it says that at least 5 million meals are required. The fact of the matter is that the Minister will not admit that, instead of accepting his responsibility under the Constitution for the welfare of the aged, he is passing the buck onto voluntary institutions from one end of this country to the other.
Legislation that the Minister has introduced in respect of the States helping in such schemes is dependent upon the Commonwealth giving the States money. The Minister knows that a number of the measures that he has introduced are not working in the States in respect of aged people because the States have not the money, the Minister will not see that it is provided, the schemes are bogged down, and the measures are just so much paper legislation, nothing more or less. The Government believes that people who are in need are not its responsibility. That is why we on this side of the Committee, whilst we accept these measures, are criticising the Minister for not providing adequately for them.
I listened today when the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) was speaking. He is always boasting about what has been done by this Government in the field of social welfare. He said that if we survived on this side of the Committee he hoped that we would watch the Government do better. I say to the honourable member for Griffith that if he does not do any better than he did the last time, he will have a full time job on the Meals on Wheels campaign - and plenty of time to do it. I am always tired of hearing members of the Government saying what they are doing and what they are not doing in this important sphere. Do honourable members realise that, in 1949 - 21 years ago - this Government promised to abolish the means test? We are still waiting for that to happen. The means test is still imposed. Do honourable members realise also that the Government had a dismal record in this field when it was defeated in 1939? After years of government, honourable members opposite now introduce this scheme. Meals on Wheels is something that they did not start during the earlier years when they were in office. Now, the Government brings down a patchwork scheme which only touches the surface and does not give real effect to what is proposed.
I do not wish to speak much further on this matter as an important function will be taking place soon and also as other members on this side of the Committee desire to participate in the debate. What I say is that this scheme is good as far as it goes. It is inadequate. The very minimum is 10c. The $200,000 which is needed for a full year’s operation is nothing at all for this Government when compared with its income and expenditure. If the Government has available millions of dollars for a wealth of other things, I see no reason why this deserving section of the community should not get its share. I ask also why the Government does not conduct a survey of the people who really need a Meals on Wheels service. A survey was taken in Melbourne some time ago by a private organisation. To the eternal discredit of this Government, it has never conducted officially a survey on poverty in Australia. So, it does not know accurately those who need a Meals on Wheels service in their homes.
Another factor which should be considered in relation to this Bill is this: Why does not the Government subsidise meals which are served in the welfare centres conducted by various councils throughout the Commonwealth? When all is said and done, these meals are being served to the aged in welfare centres. This is done by the Sydney City Council and various other metropolitan councils in New South Wales and probably in other States. Old people go to these places to obtain their meals cheaply. I think that they should be included in the scope of this legislation. Commendable as it is to subsidise even in the minimum way that the Government has done in respect of those people who will be served meals in their own homes, these organisations that conduct these services to which people come, such as welfare centres, also should be entitled to the benefits of the legislation. I see that the Minister wishes me to finish, so I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour. If he does not wish me to resume my speech later, I conclude by approving of the Bill but not by commending the Minister on his generosity, because it is unknown. He is hardly a diplomat. We can judge that by the speech he made a few moments ago. If this is the best contribution that the present Minister for Social Services can make to the welfare of aged people it is a long, long way to that haven of security that they have all longed for. I hope that members on the Government side will be as extravagant with money for social welfare purposes as they are in other fields. I cannot help but repeat it with sorrow and sadness that the Minister is a long way from being that great old fiery rebel who, in days gone by, was going to reform our social services structure.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to the Governor-General
-I suspend the sitting till 8 o’clock tonight in order that I may present the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House. I should be glad if the mover and the seconder, together with other honourable members, would accompany me.
Sitting suspended from 5.40 to 8 p.m.
-I desire to inform the House that, accompanied by honourable members, I waited today upon His Excellency the Governor-General ‘at Government House, and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the opening of the second session of the Twenty-seventh Parliament, agreed to by the House on 18th March 1970.
His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply which you have just presented to me.
It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen at once the Message of Loyalty from the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, in this, my first speech to Parliament as Minister for External Affairs, I will not attempt a detailed round-up of world events. Instead I will try to describe some of the important movements in world affairs which an Australian Government must take into account in developing its foreign policy. Profound changes are taking place in the Asian and Pacific region - it is here we live and where we can make our greatest contribution. The effects of these changes cannot all be predicted with certainty. Consequently, we must remain sensitively aware of their effects and always ready to make adjustments where necessary.
It is also the beginning of a new decade and a suitable time for us to take stock of what has been happening in the last few years of the 1960s and to assess it against the background of the broad objectives of Australian foreign policy. It cannot be repeated too often that the supreme objective of our foreign policy is to protect and enhance our security and other vital interests - political, economic and social. We must do this with the knowledge that our own welfare and security are inextricably bound up with the welfare and security of others. We must know precisely what the circumstances are, what dangers they present and what opportunities they offer, and in the context of such knowledge decide what we must do to solve our problems.
In describing the major trends I believe it is the responsibility of an Australian Foreign Minister to present them objectively and candidly to Parliament. I also believe that the people of Australia must be taken fully into the Government’s confidence about the problems which it faces in our international relations. I do not think these problems can be dealt with successfully unless the Australian people understand them and support the solutions which we propose. In foreign affairs candour is not always easy. Official confidences have to be respected and the feelings of our friends and allies have to be considered. The effect of our words on the public opinion of other countries also has to be weighed. Notwithstanding these limitations it is possible for the Government - indeed it is its duty - to speak frankly and to expose its policies to the fullest public debate.
In the years following the Second World War practically all of our neighbours have ceased to be dependencies and have attained full sovereignty as independent nations. Throughout these 25 years each of them has struggled to establish stable and efficient administration, to maintain order and harmony within its territories and to raise the living standard of its peoples. By their own efforts and with economic and other help from friendly nations all of them have made significant progress. They have laid a solid basis on which, given favourable circumstances and the continuing co-operation of their economically more favoured friends, they might reasonably expect to make even more significant progress in the coming decade.
As we enter the 1970s, however, we see a number of major trends which introduce important new factors which bear on future developments and which in some cases carry new strains and new problems for the region. The major trends in world affairs with which I propose to deal are: Communist policies; the reduction of British influence east of Suez and in particular the withdrawal of British forces from Malaysia and Singapore; the dramatic growth of Japan with the promise this has for greatly increased influence in the world at large and in our own region in particular, and the comprehensive doctrine enunciated by President Nixon concerning the world role of the United States.
A factor of critical importance for the security and progress in the region is the continuing pressure on it from the Com munist powers. It is therefore appropriate that I should commence with a brief review of overall developments in such policies and in the relations between the Communist powers and the free world, particularly the United States.
The Search for a Detente
Preliminary discussions are now taking place between the major Western countries and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China - so far with very little effect. We must watch these trends and ask ourselves how real they are and whether or not they are likely to have a significant effect in the Asian and Pacific region.
Some progress in regard to partial disarmament measures has been made as a result of co-operation between the United States and the Soviet Union. This has made possible the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the banning of the use of outer space for nuclear war, and the Treaty for the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. There is prospect of further progress in regard to the demilitarisation of the seabed, and the control of chemical and bacteriological warfare. There are talks going on between the American and Soviet Governments for a limitation of the development of strategic nuclear weapons.
It cannot be said that these partial measures have yet solved the central problems of world security. Nor can one be certain that it is the intention of the Communist powers to come genuinely to grips with these problems. Whatever the Russian motives, Australia can only welcome the steps that are being taken, small though they may be, towards the effective control of nuclear armaments.
Outside of disarmament there are few real signs of detente between the major powers. The suppression of reforms in Czechoslovakia, the continued unwillingness to co-operate in finding a just solution to the Middle East problem, and the refusal to assist in bringing about genuine negotiations in Paris for a peace settlement in Vietnam or play an effective role as co-chairman of the Geneva Conference on the neutrality of Laos, all suggest that the Russians have not yet reached the stage at which they are prepared to co-operate with the West in an effective effort to ensure world peace.
Russian Influence in Asia
Closer to home another change of concern to us is the evidence of increased efforts by the Soviet Union to extend its activity in our own part of the world. No doubt this activity in part flows from the conflict with China. It is also part of the Soviet Union’s overall desire to extend its influence as a world power.
We need have no illusions that the policies and actions of the Soviet Government are motivated by anything other than the interests of the USSR and of that part of the Communist network which it still effectively controls. While on some subjects there may be scope for mutually advantageous dealings with the Soviet Union it goes without saying that many of its policies and actions are likely to be in conflict with Australia’s interests and those of our allies. But the fact that the Soviet Union is also in conflict with Communist China is one factor which we should not overlook. It is a Soviet objective to try to contain the expansion of Chinese power in Asia. Although it is attempting to intrude its power into the South East Asian region in order to assert its own national influence, it is conceivable that this SinoRussian rivalry may make it possible for the free countries, if they act purposefully in consultation, to minimise the adverse influence of both Communist power,
Other countries beside Australia are concerned to ensure that these new Soviet activities are not detrimental to their own security, nor to their political and commercial interests. However, though this new situation may present new opportunities for the exercise of diplomatic skills, what is also necessary in the region is some form of countervailing power to underpin and complement free world diplomatic policies.
We have long recognised that the mainland of China, with more than 700 million people, cannot remain forever on the periphery of the international community. We would therefore welcome evidence that the Communist Chinese are prepared to comply with the broad rules of international behaviour and forego their largely self-inflicted isolation. Regrettably there are few genuine signs of this and consequently we still regard
Communist China and other Communist regimes as a central obstacle to peace, stability and ordered progress throughout Asia. A satisfactory relationship cannot be established between Communist China and its neighbours unless Peking is willing to make some change in its attitudes such as an abandonment of its policy of promoting and assisting ‘revolutionary warfare’ in the territory of its neighbours.
The second major development to which I want to refer, Mr Speaker, is the present British policy of withdrawing its military power from the regions East of Suez. Let me speak candidly. It will be a major misfortune if, at a time when the region is faced with such new and complex problems, British influence is progressively diminished and finally completely withdrawn. We have all too much to lose for that. The British have had an enormous and benign influence in Malaysia and Singapore and, both directly and indirectly, elsewhere throughout the region. The principles of good government based on democracy and justice which they everywhere sought to establish in the territories formerly under their rule are an invaluable heritage of the people of today. And they handed over their power in circumstances which retained the respect and friendship of both the people and their leaders. Their advice and support - and their material help - would be invaluable in the doubtful times that lie ahead.
The withdrawal of their permanent military establishment from South East Asia, which has already commenced, will remove an important factor for stability and will throw an added strain on the remaining countries which are co-operating for the security of the region. We therefore strongly hope that such withdrawal may be delayed and will not mean the disappearance of Britain’s active interest and influence in the region.
One of the most remarkable developments in the region has been the economic growth of Japan. Its gross national product now ranks third after the United States and the Soviet Union; its rate of growth is still the highest in the world. Although the standards of living of the Japanese people are not yet as high as in the economically advanced Western countries they are rising rapidly, and it will not be many years before they reach the highest world standard. The energies of the Japanese people have so far been concentrated upon rebuilding their economy after the war and in building up the great industrial and commercial complex which is now producing such remarkable results. They have also since the end of the war followed a cautious and unassertive policy in their dealings with their neighhours. They have, by deliberate choice, not sought a leading role on the world scene. But the present decade will undoubtedly see Japan taking a wider and more active role overseas.
How will this affect Australia? We are already benefiting from Japan’s economic growth. She is now our best customer and our exports to Japan have- been of great benefit in diversifying our economy and in developing our resources. Japan’s commercial expansion has also played an important part in the economic growth of the region. Much of the development in Korea, Taiwan and countries of South East Asia is due to Japanese capital and technology. Japan’s economic aid also has been increasingly important. These developments have been of benefit to Australia, because of the increase in our own trade which has resulted from this expansion, and because of the indispensable role that economic growth has to play in strengthening the ability of the countries in the region to maintain their independence and promote further development. In time Japan’s influence must inevitably extend beyond the commercial and economic sphere.
The Australian Government has in recent years developed increasingly close contacts with Japan in the political field. Regular consultations have been held at the ministerial and official level between the Japanese Foreign Ministry and my Department. These have covered such matter of mutual concern as disarmament, United Nations problems, China and regional affairs. These discussions have been valuable in promoting understanding between our two governments and it is my intention that they should be maintained and developed. Japan returns to the world arena with a government and people devoted to peace. No one can doubt the horror of war that is felt by the present generation of the Japanese people. They are wholeheartedly behind the renunciation of war enshrined in their constitution and they are determined that the affairs of their nation should never again fall into the hands of a military class. Although they have accepted that armed services should be established for the defence of the country the are reluctant to assume any military role beyond this. Australia understands this attitude and indeed respects it.
Japan can make a decisive contribution to the security of the area by promoting industrial and commercial growth. On the basis of the economic strength thus developed the countries of the region will themselves be more able to provide for their own defence. She can also play an important role in the political co-operation in the region. As a country of global stature her advice and counsel will be increasingly weighty in regional affairs. For Australia’s part we welcome and will do our best to encourage her participation in the consultations that are becoming increasingly important in the political life of the region. Although Japan’s own military role will be concerned with the defence of her own territory this does not of course mean that it will be a negligible one. Her armed forces at present number 260,000 personnel and the military, naval and air elements are highly trained and well-equipped. Her responsibilities moreover will increase with the reversion to Japan in 1972 of sovereignty over Okinawa.
The new Director-General of the Japanese Defence Agency, Mr Nakasone, has outlined plans for an increase in defence spending for the period of the next 4-year defence plan - 1972-76 - which would be about 3 times that of the previous 4-year plan. In Australian currency this would be a total of up to $A1 6,000m for the period 1972-76. In describing Japanese defence policies in a speech in Tokyo on 8th March 1970, Mr Nakasone has said that his Government would continue to cooperate with the United States in defence, and that it did not intend to acquire nuclear weapons.
A further factor with major implications for the region is the Nixon Doctrine, first announced by the President on his visit to Guam in July 1969. It is important because our alliance with the United States of America must continue to be one of the central aspects of our international relations. Before discussing the implications of this doctrine I want to acknowledge the enormous debt owed to the United States for the massive help given since the end of the Pacific War - help which was given when the free countries were weak and defenceless. At great cost to itself - not only in material wealth but also in the lives of its young men - it has checked the spread of Communist aggression and given time to each country to develop its own economic strength and defence capability.
The basic elements in the Nixon Doctrine are very much in line with our own thinking. As stated by Mr Nixon in his Report to Congress on 18th February 1970, they are:
the United States will keep all its treaty commitments; and that, of course, includes ANZUS;
it will provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with the United States, or of a nation whose survival was considered vital to the United States’ security and to the security of the region as a whole;
in cases involving other types of aggression the United States will furnish military and economic assistance when requested and as appropriate. But the United States will look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defence.
Of course we welcome President Nixon’s re-affirmation of the American Government’s determination to fulfil its treaty commitments. We have no doubt that if this country’s vital national interests were endangered by aggression we would have the certain support of the United States. Moreover the assurance of United States protection against nuclear aggression is itself of immense value in deterring any threat of such aggression.
The third point of the Nixon Doctrine emphasises the idea that subversion and armed infiltration can ultimately -only be defeated by the forces and people of the country under attack. They can be helped to do the job, but ultimate success must depend on their own efforts.
This is a view shared by the Australian Government. I know that the governments of the countries involved are determined to build up their own capacity to do so. If they are to have any real prospect of succeeding in this primary and inescapable role, I believe that their capability and strength must be developed not only by their own efforts but also with the assistance of their friends.
There has in fact been a good deal of quiet progress in the area over the past few years, including real progress in economic and social as well as in political terms. These are some examples of progress: (i) The success of the present Indonesian Government since 1965 in restoring political and administrative stability and in arresting and reversing inflation and the fall in economic growth; (ii) the sustained economic growth in Singapore, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan; and the continued prosperity of Malaysia despite its internal communal stresses; and (iii) the growing impact of the ‘green revolution1 on the production of food, notably in India and Pakistan.
But effective resistance to subversion and insurgency on a region-wide basis calls for not only individual efforts by the countries concerned but also meaningful cooperation between them in the economic, social and security fields. Australia has for long stressed the need for such co-operation. We have been and will continue to be active in supporting regional associations which help to stimulate and promote mutual help and co-operation. The basic objective is to build up in the region a climate of co-operation and mutual help which can be maintained notwithstanding the inevitable differences that exist between individual countries.
The individual countries of the area have shown that they themselves appreciate the need for, and the value of, such cooperation. In addition to developing the habit of co-operation through meeting together in established forums such as ECAFE and the Colombo Plan, they have taken their own initiatives in establishing group organisations such as ASPAC and ASEAN. Australia is a full member of ASPAC. We are not a member of ASEAN, which is entirely Asian in origin and membership. While we have expressed sympathy and support for its purpose, the members of ASEAN may well prefer, at least for the time being, to retain its purely Asian character. Further welcome examples of such co-operation are the joint measures taken by Malaysia and Indonesia, and by Malaysia and Thailand, to suppress Communist terrorism on the Sarawak and Malaysian-Thai borders. From what I have said it will be seen that the essential elements of the Nixon Doctrine are fully consistent with the policy the Australian Government has been pursuing for a long while - that of encouraging a responsible effort by the countries of the region of Asia and the Pacific for their own defence, and regional co-operation for collective security. We think this policy will strengthen the case of the countries concerned if they are compelled to look for assistance against aggression which is beyond their capacity to handle unaided.
At this stage I want to refer to Vietnam, not only because it is a matter of major concern to the Government and people of Australia but also because it provides a topical illustration of several of the trends and factors which I have discussed and of the readiness of countries of the region to bear, within their capacities, the burden of their own defence. Vietnam is in a special category. In Vietnam we are dealing not with potential insurgency but with actual and continuing North Vietnamese aggression. The Hanoi Government and their Communist friends in other countries are constantly seeking, by a relentless propaganda campaign, to distort the situation in Vietnam. Even their military operations sometimes aim to impress international opinion rather than to achieve a military objective. We must not, however, allow the complexity of the Vietnam situation to obscure two central facts. Firstly, our basic aim has been and is to help the South Vietnamese people to defend themselves against external aggression and to determine their own future in their own way. Secondly, South Vietnam’s efforts, with the help of Australia and the other allies, have successfully prevented a Communist take over and have enabled a significant improvement in South Vietnam’s capacity to defend itself.
Compared with 2 years ago the military situation has greatly improved. The Communists have suffered large losses which they have been unable completely to replace by local recruitment or from the North Vietnamese Army. Their main force units now operate mainly in the frontier areas where they can take refuge and refit in sanctuaries across the borders. They are still capable of mounting further attacks and still have a widespread capacity for local acts of terrorism. But the South Vietnamese Government now provides a high degree of security and basic services to more than 90% of the population. On the economic front, with the return of refugees to their villages and the planting of improved strains of rice, South Vietnam is almost self-sufficient in food again. This is a great achievement. The democratic institutions established under the 1967 constitution are functioning regularly. The Vietnamese armed forces have been expanded and re-equipped and are being continuously retrained.
As a result of all these developments the United States has been able to reduce its forces in South Vietnam by 65,000 and this figure will have risen to 115,000 by mid April. As the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) announced on 16th December 1969 some Australian units will1 be included in the next substantial withdrawal. The Australian Government will be consulting in detail with the South Vietnamese and our other allies on the details of the eventual Australian reduction. It is not to be expected that these policies will1 result in a total and formal peace, at least in the near future. Peace in any real sense depends on the enemy, not on us. At the negotiations in Paris the Communists still continue to refuse even to discuss the proposals put forward by our side for mutual verified withdrawal of all foreign troops and a free election under international supervision in which the National Liberation Front could participate. President Nixon has explicitly stated that the allies are willing to discuss the proposals that have been put forward by the other side and that, in fact, anything is negotiable except the right of the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future. Until we can persuade the Communists to negotiate seriously we must continue to help the people of South Vietnam to develop their capacity to defend themselves and fo improve their economic and social conditions.
While there is no room for complacency I have no doubt that our common objectives in Vietnam are capable of being achieved. Their attainment must, however, depend on sustained efforts by both South Vietnam and its friends. The programme has already produced results. With allied assistance South Vietnam has already gone a great deal of the way towards its objective. It has demonstrated that, provided allied assistance is maintained in key areas, South Vietnam is ready, and indeed anxious, to assume an increasing proportion of the war burden, thus enabling the allies to reduce their military support. The need will continue for concerted allied efforts, perhaps even on an increased scale, in training and economic assistance. There is every reason to believe that the United States and the other allies will continue to give the necessary support. Australia will play its part in those efforts in the hope that the co-operation in arms can be converted as soon as possible into the more directly productive field of co-operation for reconstruction and development.
I propose also to make a relatively brief reference to the situation in Laos, both because of its intimate interconnection with the problem of Vietnam and also because of the significant developments which have occurred there in the last few weeks. As the House will be aware, North Vietnamese aggression has again brought Laos into the forefront of the world’s newspapers. Although the current dry season offensive by Communist forces has not been confined to central Laos, most attention has been devoted to the Communists’ recapture of the Plain of Jars and to the threat that this has enabled them to pose to Government positions further west and south, including the Mekong Valley. We cannot precisely assess the Communists’ objective in the present offensive. Their minimum aim, already largely achieved, is clearly to restore the position as it existed before
General Vang Pao’s successful counteroffensive late last year, during which, for the first time since 1964, the Communists were cleared from the Plain of Jars. They may seek to continue their advance to include in addition all those areas which were under neutralist control at the time of the 1962 settlement. Their objective in so doing would be to support a claim that the dissident neutralists allied to them, rather than the neutralist Prime Minister, Prince Souvanna Phouma, are the rightful heirs to the 1962 neutralist position. We cannot be sure that their aims are not wider and deeper than either of these.
Despite an apparent renewal of Communist military activity, the political elements of the situation have had greater prominence in recent weeks. On 6th March, the political wing of the Pathet Lao, the Neo Lao Hak Xat, announced in Hanoi a set of proposals for a peaceful settlement and subsequently that an envoy would be sent to Vientiane with a message for the Prime Minister. While noting the fact that the Communists are at last showing any interest in a political course, we must regret that they have not taken up the Laotian Prime Minister’s own very reasonable proposals, which first involved neutralisation of the Plain of Jars, and, since its capture, the launching of consultations amongst the signatories of the 1962 Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos. More seriously still, the Communist proposals are one-sided, ignoring the root cause of the break-down of the 1962 settlement, the presence of North Vietnamese troops in Laos. So far, however, we do not have enough information on which to judge the precise intentions and purposes of these proposals.
The Australian Government is not a party to the 1962 Declaration. It has, however, been our consistent hope that all the aspects of that settlement might be brought genuinely into force. Through our aid programme and in other diplomatic ways open to us. we have sought to show our sympathy for the Laotian Government and people in the virtually continuous warfare that North Vietnam’s utterly cynical disregard of the 1962 settlement has inflicted on them. We hope that the contacts now beginning amongst the Laotian parties about means of finding a peaceful way out of the present crisis, will finally produce the framework in which the Laotian people can develop their own way of life in peace and freedom.
1 had not intended to refer tonight to Cambodia, which does not fit readily into the themes I have developed in my statement. In view of the events in Phnom Penh yesterday, I think the House will want me to say something about the new situation that has arisen. As honourable members will be aware, the Cambodian National Assembly and Council of the Kingdom voted in joint session on 18th March to depose the Head of State, Prince Norodom Sihanouk. The President of the National Assembly, Mr Cheng Heng, was named as his interim successor pending new elections for the position. The House will also know that this action follows a week of serious demonstrations in a number of provinces as well as in the capital, against the presence of Vietnamese Communist forces on Cambodian territory. In the course of these demonstrations, the Embassies of North Vietnam and the so-called Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam were sacked.
This evening I received a formal note from the Cambodian Ambassador which is in terms very similar to a note from the Cambodian Foreign Ministry delivered this morning to the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh. I believe that the House will wish to know the way in which the Cambodian Government itself describes the background to yesterday’s events. The note speaks of - and I quote from our translation: ‘a grave political crisis in recent days putting in danger the Khmer nation, a crisis provoked by the occupation of Khmer territory by Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces and by the attitude of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in opposition to the will of the Khmer people expressed by popular demonstrations in the capital and in the provinces’. The note also assures the Aus* tralian Government that ‘there will be no change in the constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia nor in the policy of independence, sovereignty, peace, strict neutrality and territorial integrity’. This ends the translation of the note.
The fundamental causes of the present situation lie with the Vietnamese Communists, who for some time have been violating Cambodia’s territory and have been using areas in the east of the country to support their military operations in South Vietnam. This activity has created complex diplomatic, military and economic problems for the Cambodian Government. The Australian Government continues to have the utmost sympathy with Cambodia’s difficulties in contending with the problems that geography and the cynicism of the Vietnamese Communists have created for it. For me to comment any further on the situation would merely complicate the difficult tasks that confront the Government and people and that they alone can resolve. I am glad to be able to tell the House that direct communication was restored early this afternoon with the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh, which has reported that all members of the staff and their families are safe and well, and that conditions in the city are quiet.
Against this background, let me state the broad principles by which our policy will be guided in our efforts to contribute constructively to the progress and security of the region.
I repeat, it is axiomatic that the supreme objective of our foreign policy is the protection and promotion of our security and our other vital interests. In particular our policies are based on the following criteria: (a) they are designed and developed in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations; (b) we are concerned with the general well-being of individual Asian countries and peoples - their stability and their capacity for balanced economic and social development as self-reliant and peaceful neighbour states with a firm basis of support from their people; and (c) we are concerned with their security - their capacity to safeguard their independence against external pressures in all its forms, ranging from subversion to open aggression or the threat of it.
Ever since 1950 when Australia took an initiative in promoting the Colombo Plan we have consistently recognised that in the long run security in the region must be firmly grounded on the inherent strength and stability of the countries themselves, which in turn depend upon adequate and effective economic growth. For this reason Australia’s economic aid to the region has been steadily increased. During the past 5 years our overall aid programme has nearly doubled. Leaving aside New Guinea, over 90% of our bilateral aid, which was increased by 9% in the 1969-70 budget estimates, goes to the countries in Asia. The amount of aid for our closest neighbour - Indonesia - has expanded considerably, and will continue to do so under plans which the Government has under consideration.
At the same time we recognise that it will be difficult if not impossible for the countries of the region to attain and maintain this solid standard of strength and stability if their territorial integrity is constantly threatened by hostile forces and if their every effort to develop internal harmony, prosperity and administrative efficiency is frustrated by subversion and insurgency inspired and directed from outside their borders. For this reason the Government, in addition to its sustained programme of economic aid and cooperation, has been ready to play a part, commensurate with its resources and the many demands upon them, in co-operative security arrangements in the area.
On 10th March my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) presented to Parliament a new and comprehensive programme designed to enable our defence forces to be deployed for their role in regional security as well as to meet any possible threats to Australian territory.
We have been an active member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation since its foundation and have played a significant part in helping to bring an end to the Communist terrorist emergency in Malaya - as it then was - and more recently in helping Malaysia to withstand the pressures of Sukarnoist confrontation. Most recently, since the British decision to withdraw thenforces from Malaysia and Singapore, we have co-operated in the Five Power context to assist those two countries in their efforts to develop their own defence capability and in indicating circumstances in which our own forces might be expected to assist them in withstanding pressuresbeyond their own capacity. In accordance with these understandings, both Malaysia and Singapore are making substantial efforts, to develop and train their own forces and steady progress is being made in developing, the details of co-operative arrangements, within the Five Power context; the workingout of these arrangements presents novel, and complex problems for all of the members and it is not to be expected that all of the details could be settled overnight;, much has already been achieved, however,, and steady progress is being made towardsmutually satisfactory agreements on theremaining questions.
At the same time both Malaysia and Singapore have shown a lively awarenessthat security is not based solely or even primarily on military defence; that it must, be solidly grounded on broad national progress and well-being and on efficient, administration. Despite the special problems of plural societies, the Governments of” both countries have given full attention tothese needs and, with assistance from Australia and other friends, have maintained high standards of administration and. economic progress.
In the pursuit of the policies which I have described we have a sound foundation on which to operate. In the years since the Second World War we haveenormously strengthened our economy. We have created a respected position in the United Nations; and in particular at the last session of the General Assembly we won the sympathy and support of the great majority of the members for our policy of advancing the Territory of Papua and New Guinea towards independence.
We have preserved our connections with the Commonwealth, particularly the United. Kingdom. We have established close and fruitful links with the United States and have begun to attract increasing interest from Europe. We have worked constantly and with a good deal of success tostrengthen our relations with our Asian neighbours. And we have established, webelieve, a reputation for sincerity and goodwill, supported by our economic and. military air programmes.
It has not been possible in this speech to cover the whole range of our foreign relations. I have not, for example, touched upon the Middle East; the problems of southern Africa; the South Pacific; or such developments in disarmaments as the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the proposal for a European security treaty and the proposals for better control of chemical and bacteriological warfare. I hope, Mr Speaker, that there will be opportunities for me to deal with such subjects at a later stage in this Parliament. Before concluding, I want to summarise our objectives and policies.
We must recognise first that Australia’s future is inescapably bound up with the future of the Asian and Pacific region and that it is this region and the Middle East in which crises affecting the peace and stability of the whole world are most likely to arise. We must therefore work in all ways open to us to reinforce those factors making for stability, and give all possible support towards co-operation and mutual help in the region. We must recognise the critical importance of adequate living standards to the independence and progress of the countries in the region, and must continue to give aid within the limits of our capacity towards the economic and social developments of these countries.
We recognise that the region cannot hope to overcome its problems in the coming decade without outside support. This does not mean that we can be expected to take over the past responsibilities of the United States and Britain. Clearly, we have not the capacity and resources to do so. The Nixon Doctrine, which I have already discussed, reaffirms that the United States will honour its treaty commitments and will provide a shield against nuclear threat; in cases involving other types of aggression the United States will furnish military and economic assistance when requested and as appropriate. With these assurances and the mutual safeguards written into the ANZUS Treaty for the signatory countries, -we can think in terms of greater responsibilities and wider interests not only in Asia hut elsewhere in the world.
I repeat that we have already decided to maintain forces in Malaysia and Singapore after 1971. We want to continue to provide military equipment and training and to play our part in the development of the Five Power regional defence machinery that is now coming into being. I have already spoken at length about South Vietnam. Obviously military assistance is not sufficient in itself. We want an economically and socially healthy world, where change takes place peacefully and where every person can look forward to living in peace and with decent standards of living. The prime purpose of military efforts should be to safeguard the right and opportunity of achieving these ideals.
Australia has within its capacity played a notable part in economic and technical assistance. The chairman of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Mr Edwin Martin, has highly praised it. But as more sophisticated aid techniques are adopted, we will wish and I am sure feel it our duty as a prosperous country to increase our effort. I am sure our economic aid to Asian countries will continue to grow.
The Government is also active in many other fields of international co-operation, such as outer space, health and humanitarian efforts. The Australian speech in the general debate of the United Nations General Assembly last year gave a great deal of attention to man’s environment, and the Government will continue to take a most positive and active part in international efforts and discussion to limit pollution and conserve resources.
As Australian Minister for External Affairs my objectives will therefore be: (i) To maintain and foster our alliance with the United States of America; (ii) to work closely with Britain and New Zealand; (iii) to develop and deepen our relationship with the countries of the Asian and Pacific region; (iv) to strengthen our co-operation with these countries through such organisations as ECAFE, the regional bodies of the United Nations specialised agencies, the Asian Development Bank and the Asian and Pacific Council; (v) to ensure that Australia’s views are clearly heard on all occasions of importance to the welfare of the region and to this end to seek to maintain the Australian diplomatic representation at an effective level both in the region and in the major capitals of the world; (vi) finally, to ensure that the Australian people are fully informed of international events of direct concern to them so that they may understand, and I hope support, the policies pursued by the Government.
I lay on the table the following paper:
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 19 March 1970- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Consideration resumed (vide page 675).
– I want to participate in this debate in order to elicit from the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) an interpretation of clause 4 of the Bill. Some of the points I want to make about the clause I would have preferred to have made during the second reading debate, but unfortunately that was gagged. I hope I will not be transgressing against the Standing Orders by raising the points now. Clause 4 reads:
The purpose of this Act is to assist in the establishment, expansion, improvement and maintenance of delivered meal services.
As the Minister pointed out, South Australia has a very well developed organisation called Meals on Wheels Incorporated, which provided no fewer than 376,131 meals in the 1968-69 financial year.
The first point to be made is that hardly do we need to establish a Meals on Wheels organisation in South Australia. I am informed further that there is very little room for expansion in South Australia. This is due to the wonderful work of Miss Doris Taylor, to whom the Minister paid tribute in his second reading speech and whom I would like to mention at a little greater length now. Due to her work and to the wonderful work of many hundreds of voluntary workers, we now have an organisation with at least 17 kitchens in the
City of Adelaide and its environs and we have organisations in many country districts. I am informed that only 5 or6 country towns in South Australia at the moment could take further services. However, because of the policy of the South Australian Government, it has become increasingly difficult for the Meals on Wheels organisation to move to those centres. As the Minister will know, the State Government still has to provide a subsidy to Meals on Wheels Incorporated, although that subsidy has been reduced from about $18,000 in 1967-68 to about $5,000 in 1968-69. We must anticipate that the $37,000 that the Commonwealth Government would supply to the Meals on Wheels organisation under this Act would remove the State Government from the field of subsidising the organisation. Perhaps the restraint put on the Meals on Wheels organisation to prevent it from expanding in 1 or 2 of these other areas would be removed. This wonderful organisation can do very little to expand in my own State. The third purpose, which is improvement of the scheme, is outlined in clause 4 of the Bill. The Minister has shown how very little room for improvement there is. He said I think, that the sort of meal that is being provided by these good ladies is such that it is almost 2 meals.
We are left with the question of maintenance. Although it may seem extraordinary to the Minister - and indeed I am uncertain of the answer to this question - there are people in the organisation who are worried that they cannot fulfil all these purposes, firstly, of establishing an organisation, secondly of expanding it, and thirdly of improving it. Perhaps the only one that they can fulfil is that of maintaining it. They are worried that the Bill will not be applicable to them. I hope that that is a valid point and something that the Minister will answer.
Before resuming my seat I would like to point out that the organisation is so well established now that it will be able to do a lot more. Perhaps it will not be able to do more in the delivered meals area. It is existing very well on the revenue from badge day collections, economy shops, waste paper collection and sales and the small subsidy from the South Australian Government. I would like to have an assurance from the Minister that the other services which such an organisation gives in the way of chiropody and library services will be taken into consideration. One can think of many other ways of helping elderly people who badly require help. I want to support what my colleagues, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) and the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds), have said in relation to the second reading speech. Without a comprehensive survey of the social welfare needs of our nation we do not know, to the extent that we should know, just what other services such an organisation should be giving to the elderly people of our nation. I do hope that there will not be any restrictions on this organisation which is so well established in Australia. In my own State there should not be any restriction on Meals on Wheels Incorporated receiving the full amount to which it is entitled under the Bill even though it might not be able to apply that amount in other areas.
I would like to mention Miss Doris Taylor and the way in which she established this organisation. Perhaps I will be allowed to do so under this clause and stay within the Standing Orders. It was my privilege to meet Miss Taylor when we were both appointed as the first members of the Social Welfare Advisory Council in South Australia which was set up under the Labor Government’s new Social Welfare Act in 1965. As I think the Minister knows, she was a person who was crippled all her life. She was in a wheel chair. By the time I knew her she was an elderly person. I pay tribute to her indomitable courage and to her great achievements. There is no better achievement than the organisation which she has built up and which, as the Minister has pointed out, provides 322 meal’s per 1.000 of the South Australian population. This is more than double the number of meals provided by all the other States except New South Wales and Tasmania. Those States provide just over half the number of meals per 1,000 provided in South Australia.
Because of the spirit that has been displayed and because of the organisation that has been built up in South Australia it is my earnest hope that in my State we will be able to move on and achieve more in this way. I wish that we knew more about the needs of the people in this, area and I wish that we had a social services department which could carry out, in conjunction with the Bureau of Censusand Statistics, the necessary surveys of our elderly community to find out what their needs are. It is interesting to note that it was with Miss Doris Taylor on the Social Welfare Advisory Council in South Australia that I first came across the great need for a social welfare survey. At the time we were studying the public relief payments in that State. We came up against the fact that the necessary statistics were not available. I hope that the Commonwealth Department of Social’ Services will provide those statistics and I hope that such an organisation as Meals on Wheels Incorporated will be able to cater for the needs shown in the survey.
– I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to correct something that I said this afternoon when speaking of this Bill. At that time I referred to the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and compared Queensland’s deliveries of 111 meals per 1,000 of the population with the total in Tasmania where they had 188. Unfortunately 1 omitted to use the comparison of South Australia where the rate of deliveries per 1,000 of the population was 322. This comparison would have underlined more forcibly the fact that my State of Queensland lags a long way behind the other States.
It has been interesting to listen to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) speaking tonight. I suggest, with respect to him, that the ingredient which he left out of the meal that he served to the Parliament tonight was initiative. Initiative has been provided in South Australia and I believe that that State has a goal which all other States should be seeking. I fail to see any reason to condemn and to blame his State government when it has such a perfect record. I trust that the comparison I have made will be noted, because it places my State in an even worse position. I hope the Minister will look into this with a view to working with the Queensland Government to correct this very poor record.
– First of all let me say that I welcome the legislation. I am speaking now in the late stages of the Committee consideration of the Bill. I was unable to make any comment at the second stage. Even though $200,000 is only a small amount, in my mind a very important principle is involved. Although the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is a radical of the right, and proud of it, in his own way he is trying to do some good for the needy people of the community. The precedent that he set, which we on this side of the House applaud above everything else, is that by means of this legislation the Commonwealth Government and the Department of Social Services pay money direct to local government authorities. Under this precedent Commonwealth revenue will be paid directly to local government authorities which provide Meals on Wheels services. I have 4 municipal councils in my electorate- the Parramatta City Council, the Bankstown City Council, the Auburn City Council and the Holroyd City Council. All these councils provide a Meals on Wheels service and will therefore, under this legislation, receive finance directly from the Commonwealth. Local authorities are close to the people and are in need of finance more than any other government authorities in Australia. The Minister in his own way has tried to break through barriers of the establishment in this field. One has to understand the history in regard to care for the aged or home care programmes.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Oxley might extend some courtesy to the honourable member for Reid. He is carrying on a conversation close to the microphone over which the honourable member for Reid is speaking.
– Last year the Treasurer (Mr Bury), who was then the Minister for Labour and National Service, introduced into this Parliament a Bill authorising the expenditure of $25m over 5 years. A small portion of that amount was to be made available on a $1 for $1 basis to State governments for allocation to local government authorities which had Meals on Wheels organisations. The only trouble is that that legislation has come unstuck. Most of the State governments have not ratified that legislation. The Minister, by wisdom or cunning has found a way around that difficulty and we find that under the legislation before us $1 for each 10 meals delivered is to be set aside to purchase equipment or to assist nearby kindred organisations to start up their own operations.
The Minister is having problems. We find, if I might use the term, the Gorton problem that whenever some welfare programme is brought forward it comes unstuck because the States will not ratify the legislation because they do not acquire the finance to do so. The local government authorities do not have sufficient money either to participate in the programme. The Minister has found that money has to be made directly available to the local government authorities so that they can get under way, and that is what he has done in this legislation. I am on his side in this issue. J want to break through these barriers and give assistance to the needy. I want to take the Minister to task because he said, first of all, that Opposition members are opposed to this proposition because we are Socialists. May I remind the Minister that it was Socialist Harry Jensen on the Sydney City Council who introduced Meals on Wheels in New South Wales. It was Socialist Don Dunstan who got it under way in South Australia.
– It was not.
– I am talking about giving the moral impetus to get it under way. I might say that I am a very proud Socialist. As a proud Socialist, I am indeed proud of those people, both women and men, who have given their services in a co-operative and collective spirit in assisting aged and invalid persons with Meals on Wheels. The wonderful thing about this Meals on Wheels organisation is that they bring light into the lives of aged and infirm people in their daily contact with them. Those who have wives or mothers in this organisation know the great joy that the Meals on Wheels organisations bring to the people they communicate with.
We are not trying to make this a political issue. We accept these mere crumbs that fall from the Government’s table. The Government is to provide $200,000 a year for the care of people when it can spend $ 1,200m on defence. I know that the Minister himself is in a dilemma. He has always been fearfj1 of the mystic hordes which are supposed to be a threat to this country. I know his dilemma is that the defence budget has eaten the guts - pardon the expression but that is the truth - right out of the Australian economy. When the Minister became Minister for Social Services he had to fight with his conscience on whether or not he could bring forward an economic policy which would alleviate the suffering of the aged and other unfortunate people. Even though he is a mixed up character, I rather like the side of him that struggles for social justice and does not look under his bed every night for pink elephants. I applaud him for his progressive thoughts even though they are those of the radical right and even though I am of the left. I will join with him in progressive thought and I will agitate with him to get more money out of the Treasury to assist the people of this country who are in need of care.
– I was very pleased to listen to what the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) said just now. I remember when he first came into this Parliament, and other members do also. Has he not mellowed since he first came in? I submit that some of the new members, after they have been here a while, will mellow too. I appreciate this Bill so much that I want to be associated with it very briefly. I want to point out - and it is on record - what the Prime Minister said in his policy speech. He said:
In the next Budget we will make available to each separate organisation in the Meals on Wheels organisation a $1 subsidy for every 10 meals served in the past year.
This was to be introduced in the next Budget, but it has now been brought forward some months. The subsidy will be paid on the number of meals delivered last year. This is a retrospective payment. This is one of the best Bills on such a subject that I have seen. It might not be a gigantic Bill, and it does not refer to any of the things mentioned by the honourable member for Reid, but I believe it will1 have the support of the whole Committee. That being so, why should we hold up the business of the Parliament?
– I rise only to pay tribute to the memory of Miss Doris Taylor. I knew Miss Taylor for more than 20 years. She was a magnificent woman. She was injured in am accident whilst playing as a young girl of 7 years of age. She became completely paralysed and thereafter was not able to walk, play or move at all. She had the disadvantage of knowing what it was like tobe able to play, run and frolic. She knew the disabilities associated with losing that: capacity. She was a highly intelligent and well educated woman. One might say that to some extent she was self taught becauseshe was a well read woman. She was active in the Australian Labor Party, but I shall not enlarge upon that tonight because this, is not an occasion on which to make political capital out of a matter like this. She severed her active association with the Labor Party when she came to the conclusion, as she reported in one of her reports, that this sort of work was something that was above party politics and that to try to drag politics into this kind of work could do nothing other than to damage the objective. So she severed her connections with the Labor Party. I hope that I am not stating something that is untrue, but I think that in the end she relinquished her membership of the Labor Party. However I am not sure of this. She did not do this because she disbelieved in the Labor Party but because she came to the conclusion that Meals on Wheels was not a political matter but a humanitarian one.
In a report she relates how she read about Meals on Wheels schemes in England and how she set about organising such a scheme in South Australia. She communicated with prominent people, clergymen, women police, doctors and social workers. I was sitting alongside her bed when she actually made her first telephone call to the Chief of Staff of the Adelaide ‘News’ and asked him whether he would assist by way of publicity and special articles. This the ‘News’ did. One has to pay a tribute to the work not only of the ‘News’ but also of the work that Mr MacFarlane of the Advertiser’ did in promoting and publicising the work of this infant organisation. In her report she said:
The ‘News’ had sent out a feature writer, Mr Cyril Burley, to see what it was all about - and so it was launched at a cost of 15s out of my own pocket for the hall and the support of the Social Committees of the Pensioners’ League. These old people out of their own funds paid the initial expenses involved in letting the scheme be known and inviting the support and cooperation of individuals and organisations. The amount was a little less than £5 but to them goes the credit of helping first from the little that they had.
And that is true. The people who got this scheme floated were poor people who needed help themselves and who could ill afford the few shillings that they put towards it. It was a scheme that seemed impossible of fruition when she first launced it, but through her indomitable courage - and the words I am using I think I have borrowed from a previous speaker - her determination to succeed and her boundless energy this magnificent scheme reached the position where today it is a household word not only in South Australia, from which it originated in Australia, but possibly in every State.
Doris Taylor would not want me to sit down without paying a tribute to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). She is not with us any more but if she could have seen this Bill and heard the Minister talk about her, and have seen the quite remarkable work that the Minister has done in the field of social services, she would not want me to resume my seat without paying a tribute to him. This I do because I believe it personally to be a tribute that is merited and I do it because I know that she would want me to do it if she were here with us now.
The Minister is an odd mixture, as my dear friend the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) said-. He has an odd side to him which I will not remark upon tonight. But he has an admirable side to his character. One of the admirable things about him is his great energy and the indomitable courage with which he is prepared to push the things rn which he believes. I instance the rights of Aboriginals. On more than one occasion we have seen examples of him pushing his views on social service matters. He probably needs greater courage than Doris Taylor needed on the occasion when she launched her scheme because whilst it was launched in perhaps a neutral atmosphere in which people were not opposed to it but were indifferent, although some were in favour, the Minister launches his schemes in a Cabinet of people who see no great merit in helping the under dog. The fact that he has succeeded in the face of this opposition is all the more to his credit.
I hope the day will come when the memory of Miss Doris Taylor is commemorated. She was honoured with an M.B.E. by the South Australian Government for the work that she did. I hope that the Commonwealth Government, since what she did is so vital to Commonwealth activities in the social services field, will see fit to commemorate her memory in some way, perhaps by naming a building after her or establishing a scholarship by which her name can be forever remembered by those who come after us. If ever a person merited the perpetuation of her memory for something she had done against great odds, that person is Doris Taylor.
– I will not delay the Committee for long. I apologise for the fact that latterly this seems to have become a South Australian debate, but it is an important topic and I must speak because of the references to Miss Doris Taylor, M.B.E. I will also try to be as nonpolitical as the chameleon from Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), the reformed character the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) or, indeed, the blockbuster from Sturt (Mr Foster) because it is important that I should endorse the remarks made sincerely by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I thought it was a good thing that he spoke as he did because earlier in the debate, except for what the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) had said, the opportunity was missed to pay tribute to Miss Doris Taylor.
Mr Chairman, I am addressing my remarks to clause 4, as a general provision, and perhaps the Committee will forgive me if I mention that South Australia has had an inspiring record in relation to Meals on Wheels through the activities of this one woman. South Australia has a far better record indeed than any other State. I will not repeat this again, but 322 meals per 1,000 of population are provided and this is, as somebody else said - I think it is my friend from Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) who sits beside me - nearly double the number of meals served in any other State.
There must be, I imagine, a reason for this. One reason that has been put forward is that we had an inspiring woman who dedicated her life to doing this sort of thing.
But there are dedicated people elsewhere. I think that it is no chance that these figures do come from South Australia. I suggest to the Committee that Miss Doris Taylor was working on fairly fertile ground. I will not develop the political history of South Australia or the consequences of 25 years of Liberal rule as against Labor rule. I take my point from the honourable member for Hindmarsh who tried very hard to be nonpolitical at this time.
The fact is that this is not an isolated case. I instance the work of the former member for Sturt, Mr Ian Wilson, and the work of his father, Sir Keith Wilson, a member for Sturt in years gone by. We find that in South Australia 9.4% of the population is claiming approximately 30% of the total Commonwealth subsidies for homes for the aged. So, I think that a reason must exist for this state of affairs. I suggest seriously to the Committee that what is needed is a combination of people who want to help in an area with the catalyst a person of determination and dedication to work on this fertile ground. Indeed, there is no corollary in South Australia as regards the need for these services, because I do not believe, frankly, that there is the need there that there is in one or two other sections of the Commonwealth.
I thank you, Mr Chairman, for allowing me to make those brief and general remarks in Committee. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services also and I hope that he continues his enlightened, dedicated work, small in total cash volume but large in spirit and in heart. If we stop to think - some honourable members opposite have not stopped to think tonight - of the overall budget of $ 1,450m for social services, we should not confuse this with the smaller amount available for this specific purpose under consideration. I make that minor correction, I hope with respect, to one or two honourable members who rather created the opposite impression during the course of this Committee debate.
– Mr Chairman, I will not delay the Committee very long. I wish to make reference to a few points. I was completely surprised and disgusted by the eulogistic remarks made by my colleague, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), about the Minister for Social Services. We on this side of the Committee know the tantrums that the Minister indulges in here from time to time, particularly about this time of the month. You know what I mean, Mr Chairman.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member that this has nothing to do with the Bill.
– We have had an occasion already where the Minister cannot even keep politics out of this measure. He was critical of Socialists. Might I reply on one point to the Minister in that regard? I draw attention to a few socialist industries which the Parliament is responsible for maintaining and developing. I mention Qantas Airways Ltd, TransAustralia Airlines, the Australian National Shipping Line, the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Commonwealth Railways, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in the fields of radio and television, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, the Commonwealth Acoustics Laboratory and the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. I could go on for 5 minutes outlining all these bodies. Not to be forgotten - last but not least - is the Socialist Gorton Government’s latest brainchild, the Australian Industrial Development Corporation. We wish the Government luck with its proposal. We hope that it will be able to implement this proposal at an early stage. I can assure the Committee that the next Australian Labor Party Government, in 2 years time, will use this Corporation most effectively to assist in the development of industry in this country. We thank the Socialists on the Government side for providing a means whereby we will be able to implement our policies on socialism.
I wish to make reference to a few points concerning the Bill. I refer first to clause 3 which is ‘Interpretation”. I direct attention to the interpretation of ‘an aged person’, which reads: aged person’ means a man who has attained the age of 65 years or a woman who has attained the age of 60 years.
We have talked around the question of pensions. Everyone, I believe, is under the impression that this Bill has been introduced predominantly to assist age, invalid and widow pensioners. They receive a mention later in the Bill. No consideration has been given to the service pensioner, who, as honourable members are aware, is entitled to a service pension at 60 years of age.
I am certain that this is an oversight under ‘Interpretation’. A serviceman with overseas service is entitled to apply for a service pension when he turns 60 years of age, whereas one who has not had overseas service has to wait until he is 65 years of age before he may apply for a pension. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to reviewing this interpretation before the Bill is passed by another place and include in it service pensioners, that is, those men who are entitled to the age pension when they turn 60 years of age. The Minister knows what I am talking about, as do other honourable members.
Also in clause 3 is a sub-paragraph dealing with delivered meal services. This states: delivered meal service’ means a service for the provision, wholly or mainly for aged persons or invalid persons or both, of meals that are delivered from the place at which they are prepared to the homes of the persons for whom they are intended or to other places at which it is convenient for those persons to consume them.
The Minister is doing a job in this case to provide some assistance to those people who are so keenly interested in Meals on Wheels services. My remarks now are in relation to aged and invalid people who are unable to leave their homes and who will be provided with at least one meal a day.
In common with so many other honourable members, I have been interested in this project for many years, from the days when I was in local government. I know just what is involved. It is essential1 to give these people the benefit of a provision which will ensure that they have at least one decent meal a day. For many years, people in this category died of malnutrition because they were unable to get up, do their own cooking and provide their own meals. The objective of the Bill is to ensure for this class one decent meal a day, I know. What I would like the Minister to do is to give consideration to centres catering for pensioners or aged persons at which meals are provided also.
I had the opportunity many years ago of making available one of these aged people’s centres through the Newcastle City Council. The members of the Labor Party Women’s Committee there set up everything. They determined what was to be supplied, established the standards of the meals, and went round to various organisations in Newcastle for the requirements. I give them credit for their work. I pay tribute to the manufacturers of Peter’s ice cream, the fruit and vegetable markets and the butchers who provided the commodities for the meals, such as ice cream, vegetables and meat at reasonable prices. For instance, Peters helped by providing one free ice cream for every icecream that was purchased. Money had to be provided for the furnishing that was needed. I know that money can be used for this purpose under this legislation - or I hope it can be.
I ask the Minister to extend the provisions of this Bill to that extent, having in mind the fact that this scheme will cost only a little over $200,00 a year. My friend and colleague, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), drew attention to the fact that some $ 1,200m will be spent this year on defence. This scheme will cost about $220,000 per annum. According to the figures given in the Minister’s second reading speech, based on the number of meals which were supplied last year, this service in its first year will cost $207,500. So, it would not be a terribly expensive experiment to extend the subsidy which will be paid beyond Meals on Wheels services so as to include those organisations which today man these centres and assist in providing meals for these pensioner centres. The centre in Newcastle which commenced in a new building there some years ago is an excellent one. The facilities are there. I hope it is not proposed that the meals have to be prepared somewhere else. They have their own kitchen and dining rooms and the meals can be prepared on the premises. I think this is a case which the Government can assist by way of subsidy so that this scheme can be extended further afield.
We have to realise that it is essential to encourage aged people to go out as much as they can. When they go out to these centres not only do they get morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea; they have the opportunity to get together. They have their own forms of entertainment. They play cards and draughts. Entertainers visit the centres in the afternoons. In this way people are encouraged to get out of their homes. This is most important particularly for people getting on in years. They should be encouraged to go somewhere every Tuesday or Thursday - some day each week. Most of them like to go along to a centre to have a meal, to meet their old friends, to be entertained and at least to get out of the home. It is just as important to look after these people by encouraging them to go out as it is to provide meals for them under the Meals on Wheels scheme. I hope the Minister for Social Services will look into this matter. It is worthy of support and of development in the same way that the Government is assisting the Meals on Wheels organisations. It would not cost a great deal of money.
- Mr Chairman, I do not propose to speak at great length. Like other honourable members in the House the Opposition is very pleased that the barrier at last has been broken down and that some assistance is to be given to one of the most worthy organisations in Australia - the Meals on Wheels organisation. I cannot help but refer to the point made earlier this afternoon by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). He pointed out that this organisation has been promoted for many years mainly by Labor groups - by Labor controlled municipal councils, for example. As a matter of fact, at Blacktown in my electorate there is a very flourishing hard working organisation whose secretary is the wife of a prominent member of the Australian Labor Party.
Of course, for some time the Government has received requests for assistance for organisations of this type. I am very pleased, like every honourable member, that at last some recognition is being given to the work done by them. However I do think that we should not get over-enthusiastic about this legislation. As was mentioned earlier in this debate, the fact is that the assistance represents only 10c a meal and not, as it appeared from publicity given to this proposal, $1 a meal. The assistance represents 10c a meal for 10 meals, making a total of $1. The total allocation involves a sum of $200,000 and, as the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said a short time ago, it is part of a total allocation of SI, 450m for social services. The Government proposes, therefore, to provide another $200,000 for the purposes of this Bill out of a total allocation of SI, 450m for social services. As I said, these are the figures of the honourable member for Angas who sits on the Government side of the chamber. When one looks at the matter in this context, $200,000 for this purpose does not really represent a huge amount to assist aged and invalid people.
I think we should look at this aspect a little more closely, because many Bills being brought forward by the Government deal with proposals made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in his policy speech for the recent election and upon examination are seen to be only window dressing. For example, legislation is proposed in connection with credit unions and the use of their funds for housing loans. The Government says that home seekers now can use credit union funds in connection with the homes savings grants legislation. But the Government has forgotten, of course, that under the New South Wales credit union legislation, the maximum loan for housing purposes is $4,000 where as under the Government’s proposed legislation the minimum loan is to be $7,000. So, to all intents and purposes, the legislation is window dressing and nothing else.
Let us consider further this present Bill relating to Meals on Wheels. The proposal outlined in the policy speech of the Prime Minister sounded beautiful. He referred to a special allocation for Meals on Wheels. One would have thought that the Government intended to give every pensioner an extra $1 or $2 a week. But when we get down to it there is to be a total allocation of $200,000 out of a total commitment for social services, according to the figures of the honourable member for Angas, of $ 1,450m. This really confuses people and one cannot blame them for being confused. There was the case of the homes savings grants legislation. It was said that every couple who saved a few quid would be eligible for a grant. We find now that all the technicalities in the world exist as to why they cannot receive a grant rather than why they can get it. The same thing applies to the proposed credit union legislation. In the legislation under discussion, we find there is to be an allocation of $200,000 out of a total social service bill of $ 1,450m.
Nevertheless, Mr Chairman, it is good to see at last some recognition being given to these organisations. I hope that the Minister for Social Services will put before Cabinet during the coming Budget debates - I was nearly going to say disputes-
– Those take place in the Liberal Party room.
– Yes, I agree with the honourable member for Sydney. I hope that the Minister, during debates in the Cabinet room about the next Budget, will give senous consideration to increasing appreciably the amount allocated in this Bill. It is for a very worthy purpose. It will help the dedicated people “who work for these organisations in assisting people who really need help. These workers act in accordance with the highest principles of humanitarian values.
– Mr Chairman, firstly may I set at rest the mind of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) on 2 points that he raised. If he looks at the definition of ‘delivered meal service’ it says: a service for the provision, wholly or mainly for aged persons or invalid pensioners or both, . . .
This of course allows the kind of latitude for which he was hoping. The honourable member, and other honourable members, 1 think, raised the question of meals at senior citizens centres. I agree that it may well be that at times men and women may prefer to meet at such centres rather than have the meals delivered to their homes. That also comes within the purview of this Bill. The definition leaves this point flexible. I assure the honourable member for Newcastle that it will be interpreted by the Government in the most liberal fashion. We want to see that people get the benefit not only of meals in their own homes but also of gathering together, perhaps every Tuesday or Thursday, having a bit of a party and enjoying themselves. This also is within the sights of the Government in bringing this measure forward.
In regard to what the honourable members for Reid (Mr Uren) and Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said, may I reciprocate and say from this side of the House that I do not think any of us regard either of them as wholly bad. I would like to return the mixed compliment which they were both good enough to pay to me. Perhaps they paid me, in one respect, too large a compliment. Perhaps they tended to overrate the part that I personally played in implementing what is Government policy and something which must be regarded as being done by the Government. While it is almost impossible for me to say anything about the deliberations which preceded in Cabinet the adoption of this proposal, I would say that honourable members perhaps gave too little credit to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and other members of the Government in what they have said. I cannot go beyond that without breaching Cabinet secrecy. Let me come to what the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said. I find myself very largely in agreement with what he was putting forward. It is true - and I said so at the start - that this system of meals on wheels has been more highly developed in South Australia than in any other State, much more highly developed, and this is due, as he and other honourable members have said, very largely to the initiative and drive shown by the late Miss Doris Taylor and the way in which she mobilised forces existing in South Australia.
Now, as a New South Welshman I would not like to say it, but it may be that the citizens of South Australia have a higher degree of public spirit than the citizens of other States. I will not go as far as to say that, but I wil’l say that in one or two fields of social endeavour they have put the rest of Australia rather to shame. We have spoken of one lady but in other places there have been other people who have played the same kind of role. What is the phrase - and some there be that have no memorial? In this suburb or that town, in this State or in that State, the organisation of a charitable venture such as meals on wheels should be associated with the drive and initiative of one person. This is what we look for and in the smaller local scene it may be that the individual drive is what the progress of the country depends on.
I give the honourable member the assurance that the money available will be available still in South Australia. It is not, perhaps, even in South Australia meeting all the needs of all the people but I think he is right in saying that it is meeting most of the needs of most of the people in this sphere. I myself have seen something of what was done in Adelaide. I recollect very vividly seeing an organisation at Port Pirie and finding out that in one or two other towns the development was not quite as good, but I hope that it will be improved.
The Bill allows an organisation to devote its resources outside its own area to another organisation not necessarily in the same State. It may be that the people of an organisation in South Australia will! find it in their hearts to help somebody in Queensland or Victoria. This is entirely up to them. There is a great deal of flexibility in this. I thank the Committee for the way in which - taking it all in all - this Bill has been received and I commend it to the Committee as I commended it to the House.
Bill agreed to.
Bill1 reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) - by leave - read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to establish the new code of workers’ compensation for Commonwealth employees announced by my predecessor in a statement to the House on 6th June 1968. The Bill and the 4 subsidiary Bills that I will introduce later are the culmination of an exhaustive study by a committee of Ministers and some years of work both by my own and by the Attorney-General’s Department. The Minis ters’ review was without doubt the most comprehensive and wide ranging in the history of the present Act since its introduction in 1930. It encompassed not only the principles underlying other legislation in this sphere and the practices of the respective administering authorities but also the comments of the courts and the proposals and representations received from many quarters - from unions and other employee organisations, from members of the Government parties and from members of the Opposition. Members of the ministerial committee themselves were not without experience in this field and their own contributions to the innovations in this Bill were considerable. The result is a Bill that represents a substantial advance in workers’ compensation for Commonwealth employees.
The Bill provides for many important changes in the scheme of compensation and the circumstances in which there is liability for compensation. It codifies and states in very much more detail than the existing Act the law concerning the employee’s right to compensation. One fundamental change is that the Bill draws for the first time a clear distinction between the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation and the Commonwealth and, in essence, the future role of the Commissioner, who will be appointed by the Governor-General, will be that of arbitrator between the employee and the Commonwealth as the employer. Another is that the Commissioner will no longer have any non-appealable powers when determining liability. That is to say, all determinations regarding liability made under the new legislation will be subject to review or appeal.
The arrangements for review of or appeal against determinations of the Commissioner have been substantially changed. Review tribunals are to be established as an alternative to the existing right of appeal to the county court. Each review tribunal will be constituted by a person appointed by the Governor-General. Provision has been made for the constitution of review tribunals by persons residing outside Australia to deal with requests for review by officers stationed overseas or locally engaged overseas staff. At present an appeal may be made from a decision of a county court to the High Court and ultimately to the Privy Council. Under the Bill an appeal from a decision of either a review tribunal or a county court can be on a question of law only and will be made to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. There will be a further and final appeal to the High Court but only by the special leave of that court.
The new legislation is to apply or to be applied by regulations to additional classes of persons, not necessarily employees in the normal sense of that word, to whom the existing Act does not apply. These persons include holders of statutory offices, members of Commonwealth authorities, members of committees appointed by the Government and certain classes of volunteers. Examples of these volunteers are members of the Air Training Corps, the Australian Cadet Corps, the Naval Reserve Cadets and the Australian Sea Cadet Corps, volunteer bushfire fighters in the Australian Capital Territory, volunteers attached to units of the civil defence organisation in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, members df the repatriation volunteer workers groups serving in “repatriation institutions, and persons who, under the control or direction of an officer of the Commonwealth, voluntarily take part in air or sea search and rescue operations conducted by the Department of Civil Aviation or the Department of Shipping and Transport. Provision has been made for determining a rate of pay for a voluntary worker who, when injured, was not in receipt of earnings from other employment.
The Bill provides for new levels of monetary benefits. The weekly rate of compensation for an employee is being increased from §28.15 to $31.80 and will be supplemented by an additional $7.70 for a dependent wife or husband and $2.80 for each child. The basic lump sum death benefit, to which other lump sum benefits are related, is being increased from $10,000 to $12,000 and the minimum payment for a dependent child increased from $200 to $280. The test of dependency is to be dependent for support in contrast to dependent on the earnings of the employee as provided in the present Act. For dependants’ allowances to be payable it will no longer be necessary for the marriage to have occurred before the employee was injured. The supplementary allowance of $7.70 will be payable for the dependent hus- band of a working wife. Allowances will now be paid for student children under the age of 21 years.
Payment of child’s allowance will also be made for a dependent child who is the issue of a marriage contracted or an ex-nuptial relationship formed after the date of injury to the employee. Weekly payments will now continue should a person receiving compensation leave Australia. There will no longer be a maximum amount payable by way of medical expenses and the existing restriction on payment of travelling expenses to obtain treatment is not being re-enacted. Medical treatment will in future include treatment and maintenance at a rehabilitation centre operated by the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service. Provision has also been made for meeting the cost of repair or replacement of artificial members and aids damaged or destroyed in an accident at work or during travel to or from work even though the employee himself is not injured.
The Bill makes a number of improvements in relation to specified injuries. The schedule of injuries has been modified to eliminate the existing distinction between left and right upper limbs. Provision is also made for lump sum compensation for the loss of power of speech, for severe and permanent facial disfigurement and for the permanent loss of capacity to engage in sexual intercourse, the disability about which the former honourable member for West Sydney, Mr Minogue, campaigned so strongly over the years.
The Bill provides for several improvements in the method of assessing compensation for specified losses. For example, it will no longer be necessary, as the existing Act requires, for compensation paid for impairment of sight from one injury to be taken into account in calculating the compensation payable for further impairment of sight as a result of a later compensatable injury. There is also provision for an alternative basis of assessment when an injury results in the permanent but partial loss of efficient use of a faculty or a part of the body. The present Act requires an assessment of the partial loss of the efficient use of a part of the body or of a faculty other than sight to be related to the employment at the date of injury. Under the Bill assessments in such cases will be based on the degree of diminution of use of the affected part or faculty except when an assessment on the basis of loss of efficient use in relation to the employment at the date of injury will1 provide a greater benefit for the employee. Under the present Act payment of a lump sum for a specified loss or in redemption of weekly payments terminates for all time the liability of the Commonwealth to pay weekly incapacity payments. This Bill makes provision for weekly payments to be resumed where, after a lump sum has been paid, an employee’s condition unexpectedly deteriorates so that he again becomes totally incapacitated and is likely to remain so indefinitely.
The scope of the provisions covering injury while travelling to or from employment has been greatly extended. For employees generally the interpretation of a journey to or from employment has been extended to include one that would have been completed not more than one hour before commencing work or one commenced not more than one hour after ceasing work. Provision is made for extending this hour of grace in certain circumstances. Cover is also provided for any journey to or from the place of employment during a break in employment of not more than one hour - for example, a lunch hour - as if the journey were one to or from the employment. Also included are new provisions to cover the special situation of servicemen, employees living in temporary camps provided by their employer and a person travelling to or from a pick-up centre when the Commonwealth was his last employer. The Commissioner will no longer have a nonappealable power in relation to a travel case involving a substantial interruption or deviation during a journey to or from the employment.
The disease provisions have been liberalised so as to allow prescription of diseases of an occupational nature in accordance with International Labour Organisation conventions. These diseases will be automatically accepted as due to the nature of the employment. From the view point of employees a significant advance is that an employee will no longer be in danger of being disqualified from lodging a claim for compensation if he is not able to give notice of his injury or disease before he leaves Commonwealth employment. Should he wish to seek damages he will now have 3 years instead of 12 months in which to institute proceedings.
These are just some of the changes and improvements in the existing scheme of compensation that are being made by this Bill. The contents of the Bill and the relationship between it and the four additional Bills that I will shortly introduce are explained in more detail in the explanatory memorandum that I have arranged to have distributed to honourable members. This Bill, which is to come into operation from a date to be proclaimed after regulations, appointments and appropriate administrative arrangements have been made, will have prospective operation only. That is to say, it will apply only to injuries by accident occurring after the date on which the BDI comes into operation and to cases of death or incapacity occurring on or after that date as a result of a disease or aggravation of a disease, whether the contraction or aggravation of the disease occurred before or after that date. As a corollary of this, the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill, the second Bill that I will introduce, will provide for the existing Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, suitably amended, to be limited in its operation to existing cases, that is, to those where the injury, or in the case of a disease, a death, loss or incapacity resulting from disease, takes place before the commencement of this Bill. However the improvements in monetary benefits will also be included in that Bill and will apply from the date of Royal Assent to that Bill. From what I have said it will be apparent to honourable members just how wide-ranging the Government’s review of the existing Commonwealth compensation legislation has been. The Bill does not adopt all the proposals and suggestions that have been made over the years but includes a great many of them. In the view of the Government it will, when it comes into operation, provide a generous and modern scheme of workers’ compensation for Commonwealth Employees; one that will remedy many defects of the present legislation and clearly define and protect the rights of employees. But the Government’s mind is not closed so far as the Bill is concerned. It is a complex Bill of singular importance to employees and we expect honourable members, employees and employee organisations will study it closely.
We think it a very good Bill and a major advance but we stand prepared to consider on their merits suggestions for amendment during its passage. I commend the Bill to the House.
– May 1 ask the Minister when the debate on this Bill will be resumed? Can he indicate at this stage what progress, if any, has been reached in the preparation and drafting of the regulations?
– I cannot give the honourable member a precise date. After today’s sitting the Parliament will be in recess for 2 weeks. Thereafter the programme, I understand, is not definite and I will have to refer the matter later to the Leader of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– -I move:
The purpose of this Bill is, firstly, to increase the rates of the monetary benefits provided under the existing Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I have already indicated the extent of these increases in the course of my second reading speech on the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1970. The increased benefits are to be payable on and from the date on which this Bill receives the Royal Assent.
Secondly, the Bill amends the existing Act and limits its operation to existing cases and any arising before the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1970 comes into operation. It incorporates in the existing Act the generality of improvements provided for in the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill. These amendments will have effect from the date on which that Bill comes into operation.
The Bill provides for the repeal of a number of the provisions of the existing Act. Some, such as sections 12 and 15 and the Third Schedule, are being replaced by new provisions comparable with provisions incorporated in the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill. Others, such as sections 5 and 21, will become redundant when the new code comes into operation, while section 14 is already redundant. Yet others, such as section 8 and paragraph 12 of the First Schedule are being repealed because the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill does not contain equivalent provisions.
Provision is made for the new Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation to deal with matters arising in connection with determinations made by the present Commissioner. Any determinations made after this Bill comes into operation will be subject to the review and appeal provisions of the new Act. If a determination is made under the existing Act before that time but appeal proceedings have not been instituted before the new review and appeal provisions come into operation, then they will apply to the determination.
The contents of the Bill are explained in greater detail in the explanatory memorandum that has been distributed to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Again, 1 ask a question before moving that the debate be adjourned. In asking the question I do not commit my Party to the view that this is what we would want or will eventually ask for because one has to examine the full consequences of these complicated Bills before one can do that. Will the Treasurer give some thought to bringing on the second Bill first so that it could be perhaps passed and brought into law and the principal Bill could be dealt with at greater leisure?
– I realise that the honourable member is speaking without commitment and in the same spirit I will consider the matter.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is twofold. Firstly, it makes amendments to the United States Naval Communication Station (Civilian Employees) Act 1968 consequent upon the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill and the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill. Secondly, it provides for amendments to the principal Act, effective as from the date of commencement of that Act, to enable the principal Act to be applied to civilian employees - within the restricted meaning that that term has in this context - who are employed, either within or outside the territorial limits of Australia, by the Government of the United States of America in connection with the station.
When this legislation was being prepared it was not clear whether any civilian employees of the Government of the United States would be employed outside the territorial limits of Australia and the application of the Act was limited accordingly.
It has since transpired that some civilian employees proceed outside the territorial limits of Australia on work associated with the operation of the station and this practice is likely to continue. The Bill provides for the application of the Act to be extended accordingly.I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make minor amendments to the Air Accidents (Com monwealth Liability) Act consequent upon the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Bill and the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill. The amendments provide for reference to both compensation Acts and make the necessary adjustments to sections 10 and 15 of the Act following the repeal of section 17a and the insertion of new sections 17b to 17d by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill and the provisions of clauses 98 to 100 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr . Bury, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make minor amendments to the proposed AngloAustralian Telescope Agreement Act 1970, consequent upon the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1970. The Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Bill was introduced into the House on 4th March 1970. Section 16 of the proposed Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Act 1970 extends the application of the existing compensation legislation, the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930- 1969, to Australian members of the proposed Anglo-Australian Telescope Board and to employees of the Board.
The amendments to section 16 of the Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Act 1970 being made by this Bill will enable the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1970 and the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1970 to apply to those persons. By clause 2 of the Bill the amendments will be effective from the day on which the compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1970 comes into operation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
That (a) on every occasion when the committee reports to the Minister on any matter pursuant to his request the committee shall inform the Parliament of the fact that it has so reported, otherwise the proceedings of the committee shall not be reported to either House;
I want first of all to give an historical background of this Committee, a Committee which has worked well and which has brought many members of the Parliament into detailed contact with a multitude of foreign policy issues of concern to Australia. The establishment of a Foreign Affairs Committee was first proposed in 1949. After the return to office of a new Government, the Governor-General’s Speech of February 1950 announced the intention to form a standing committee on foreign affairs - I quote from that statement - ‘to give opportunities for full study and to serve as a source of information to Parliament’. The Joint Foreign Affairs Committee was subsequently established in October 1951, but for reasons which I shall not traverse here the Opposition did not appoint members to the Committee. Since it could not in practice be a joint committee at that time, the vacancies were filled by appointing additional members from the Government side of Parliament.
This situation continued in successive parliaments until the expiration of the Twenty-fifth Parliament . in 1966, after which it was possible for the parties to agree on arrangements which would bring into being a joint committee, which the Government had always wanted. At that time early in 1967, following discussions between the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the then Minister for External Affairs, certain changes were proposed to the text of the resolution under which the Committe had functioned in the Twenty-fifth Parliament. These proved acceptable to both sides of this House and the Parliament passed a resolution in May 1967 establishing a joint committee on the agreed basis. This committee functioned throughout the last Parliament, as had been originally intended, with representation from both sides of the Parliament. The Government now proposes a continuation of these arrangements with some modifications of the committee’s membership.
The terms of the resolution now before the House are the same as in the motion agreed to in 1967, with one small change: After consultation between the Leader of the Opposition and myself and subsequent consultations within the parties, the representation of the Opposition members of the House has been increased from 5 to 6. Thus a minor alteration has been made to paragraph (2) of .the resolution. I hope that the House will adopt this resolution and allow the Committee to continue the valuable work which it had undertaken in 1967. The Government believes that the Joint Committee functioned well and successfully during the last Parliament. Its members had and took the opportunity to become more fully and deeply aware of matters of foreign policy of concern to this country. I have every hope that the Committee of this Parliament will carry forward the constructive, thoughtful work that was done in the previous Parliament and will contribute to a clear and considered view of international matters facing Australia in the years ahead.
On 12th March the Leader of the Opposition proposed to me that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs consider any matters that might be put by either House of the Parliament and that the Committee should as a general rule conduct its proceedings in public. The Government understands and has some sympathy with the objectives of the Opposition’s proposal, lt does this insofar as those objectives are more fully and deeply to inform the Parliament and the Australian public on matters of foreign policy. Matters of foreign policy will often be vital to our national security. It is important therefore that the Parliament and the public should be as well informed as possible. That has indeed been the Government’s purpose over the years in establishing and supporting the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. The only question is: What are the procedures which will most effectively inform members of the Parliament on foreign policy issues and allow them to give consideration to these issues in depth?
We must remember that the conduct of foreign policy is essentially a function of the Executive. It is the Government which must be responsible for formulating policy and for carrying it through on a day to day basis. This is a responsibility which the Executive cannot and should not abdicate. To have an erosion of the Executive’s responsibility for foreign policy would be to abandon an approach which has been accepted in the past by governments of all parties and which is a tried and tested part of our constitutional practice. There is. I might add, a great difference between on the one hand the responsibility which rests on the Parliament in the matter of public finance and which underlines the operation of the Public Accounts Committee and, on the other, the responsibility which rests on the Parliament in the matter of foreign policy. An informed Parliament in matters of foreign policy is, in the Government’s view, not only desirable but essential. A Parliament which can and is determined to debate in an informed way matters of foreign policy is again, the Government would say, not only desirable but essential. However, it would be quite inappropriate for the Parliament to go beyond its legislative function and beyond the bounds of informed public debate into the field of execution of our foreign policy. There would be other difficulties in agreeing to the Opposition’s recommendation.
In the past, the proceedings of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs have been in camera. If they were now to be in public the whole character of the Committee would be changed. The freedom which the Minister for External Affairs has had in placing information before the Committee would be greatly reduced. The freedom of witnesses appearing before the Committee would be greatly circumscribed. Australian officials could not serve the Committee with the frankness they do now if proceedings were, as a general rule, to be in public. Other people who appear before the Committee might naturally and properly show a much greater reserve in talking to the Committee than they do now. But even more than this, I think that members on both sides of the House are human enough for their behaviour in the Committee to be affected if the proceedings were held in public. If that were the case I think that members of the Committee might from time to time be inclined to take stands which might be publicly expected of them.
One of the great strengths of the Committee in the past has been the manner in which members of the Committee have approached the issues before it. Generally the Committee is not divided along party lines and members have been concerned with national interest rather than party benefit. The Committee’s report on the Middle East, which was tabled in the House last May illustrated the way in which Committee members were able to work together on a matter of serious international concern and to produce a balanced, impartial report. This is something which we want to see continue.
The Government is therefore unable to accept the request made by the Leader of the Opposition. That would change the fundamental character of the Committee. But I would like to emphasise again the Government’s long standing and determined policy to keep the Parliament informed on foreign policy issues. The Government’s rejection of the Opposition’s request does not derive from any intention to depart from that policy. On the contrary, the Government believes that it can best carry out its policy of continuing the arrangements for the Committee which have worked so well in the past.
– I wish to move an amendment to the first paragraph of the Minister’s resolution. I move:
That the following words be added at the end of paragraph (I): ‘and to report to the Parliament on such matters as are referred to it by either House of the Parliament.’
The first paragraph would then read:
That a Joint Committee be appointed to consider foreign affairs generally and to report to the Minister for External Affairs upon such matters as are referred to it by the Minister and to report to the Parliament on such matters as are referred to it by either House of the Parliament.
I do not think one can say that the adoption of this amendment would mean that the Committee would take over the control of foreign policy. It would mean that apart from the things which interest the Minister and which are referred to the Committee, there might be things that interest either House of Parliament to be referred to it. This is a Joint Parliamentary Committee. It is not just a ministerial serving committee. It is supposed to serve the Parliament. There may be matters which interest the Parliament. If I look back over 70 years of Federation I can see that in all issues where Australia has gone to war it would be true to say that the Parliament was ill informed at the time. I would also say that Vietnam is no exception to this. There we have seen the value of a parliamentary committee in the United States of America going back over some of the statements that were accepted as true, such as the story of the supposed attack on United States destroyers in Vietnamese waters. The testimony before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee is that such a thing never took place.
The former Prime Minister, with complete sincerity, made a statement about the matter in the House, but his sources of information were not correct. The Opposition believes that this should be a parliamentary committee. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) is going to move an amendment concerning secrecy so I shall not discuss that point except to say that we are not proposing that every session of the Committee be in public but that provision should be made for public sessions unless there is a reason for going into secrecy. The right of the Parliament to be interested in foreign affairs and not merely in the subjects which the Minister refers to it seems to me to be a very important safeguard in an increasingly complicated world. There may be things which people in the Parliament feel are possibly dangerously developing situations, where that may not be the Minister’s view and he may be wanting to refer something else to them.
We believe that if this is a Joint Parliamentary Committee it should have some responsibility to Parliament as well as to the Minister and therefore be directed by Parliament to investigate certain aspects of external affairs and to report to Parliament. This does not conflict with any obligation it may have towards the Minister. It would give a genuineness to its name - the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs - so that either House could refer to it some subject matter of external affairs in which it is interested.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) extended the courtesy of letting me know the 2 amendments that he or one of his representatives intended to move when the motion was brought before the House. When thinking of the way in which this should be handled I decided that I would give the reasons why, after consultation with my colleagues, the first recommendation of the Opposition should not be accepted. There is nothing I can add to what I said in the speech that I just made. Regrettably the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), who spoke on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, did not deal with the fundamental problem which is that the carriage of foreign policy is an executive and not a parliamentary responsibility. For that and for other reasons that are set out in the paper we feel that the amendment would introduce a dangerous element into the conduct of externa] affairs and consequently we are not prepared to accept the amendment.
– I wish to speak on the question that has been raised by my colleague, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), and the point raised again by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon). I would like to assert again that the Opposition believes first of all that this is a parliamentary committee. It is appointed by the Parliament and is answerable to the Parliament. It claims all the power and authority that flows from such a committee. It has no other charter because its members are members of this Parliament. Therefore it is a creature of the Parliament. It ought to be answerable both directly and absolutely to the Parliament itself. The resolution we are putting forward does not in any way reduce the competence of the Minister to control those functions which he considers to be his - not that I agree with his interpretation of where Parliament and the Executive stand in this matter. It means that if there is an issue in which this Parliament is concerned, for example if there is some item about the Middle East with which the Parliament itself is concerned, it ought to be able, as a sovereign body in its own right, to refer it to the Committee and receive a report on it. In what way does this interfere with the functions of the Minister? 1 do not see that it has any interfering qualities that would affect the Minister’s functions. He has his particular functions. He is administering a department of State on behalf of this Parliament. That is why he is a Minister, not for any other reason. He is administering a department of State because he has been appointed to the position of a Minister of State by this Parliament. That is how he holds his authority. But we are not proposing to interfere in any way with his rights to ask the Committee to act on his behalf and report to him privately and confidentially.
I do not know that I agree with that procedure, but I do not see any point in interfering with it as long as the Parliament itself also has this authority. I believe that that would be an important function. For instance, let us take our relations with the islands in the western Pacific - the British Solomons, Fiji and so on. This is a matter in which we can all be concerned and which by no stretch of the imagination at this moment could be considered as a matter of great secrecy or even security. It is a matter upon which all of us in this House ought to be informed. Why should we not refer it to the Committee and have the Committee report back directly to us?
I think that would be a substantial reason why we ought to support the amendment.
The other point that the Minister raised was that the conduct of foreign policy is the function of the Executive. What exactly does he mean by the ‘Executive’? The Executive is no different from the body of the Parliament itself. Each Minister and the Ministry collectively have some particular functions, but foreign policy is the property of the whole nation. It is tremendously important that the nation be involved in it; that it must not be a hit and miss business such has occurred in the last few years. Our entry into the Vietnam conflict is one example of this. Therefore it is important that we all become involved in foreign affairs.
The Minister mentioned the conduct of the Department. I suppose he meant the administration of the day to day affairs of the Department. That is one thing, but the actual flow of ideas and attitudes in the community is the responsibility of the Parliament, which is acting on behalf of the people of Australia. I believe it is no more the proprietary right of the Ministry than it is of the Parliament. I believe that it is terribly important that we ensure there is a flow of ideas, attitudes and values in foreign affairs which will finally be expressed in the actions that the Minister takes on our behalf in directing his Department. Therefore I can think of no valid reason whatsoever why any member of this Parliament, with any confidence in its competence, its value or its sovereignty ought not vote for this amendment.
– Perhaps I might very briefly disagree with the amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), who was my colleague on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the last Parliament and who indeed was my colleague on the subcommittee that produced the report on the Middle East situation. I think it is as well for the House to remember that it took many years for the Australian Labor Party to agree to join this Committee, and the debate over that period of time hinged around what material should be confidential and how it would be treated if it were given to the Committee. If my memory serves me rightly, the attitude of caucus at that time was that one could read a lot of information given to this Committee in the Press and that, if it were given on a confidential basis to the Committee why was there a degree of secrecy about it at all?
It was only in the last Parliament, I am sure to the great gratification of many people both inside and outside this House, that the Opposition joined the Foreign Affairs Committee and for the first time we did not have what was fairly generally termed the first 1 1 and the second 1 1 from this side of the House. What a sterile situation this was when the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs became the first 1 1 and the second 1 1 from one side of the House only. Last year, under the chairmanship of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, that Committee got away in its infancy to a very great start. Not the only reason for this was the fact that the members of that Committee were under no pressure from outside sources. We met and swapped views. We were not subjected to someone looking over our shoulder and saying: ‘I would not like him to know I was agreeing with the Labor Party on this’, or vice versa.
– This clause has nothing to do with secrecy.
– I am still on the historical lead-up. I apologise to the honourable member for Fremantle. I am leading up to the point that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle is aimed at adding to paragraph (1) the following words: and to report to the Parliament on such matters as are referred to it by either House of the Parliament.
The Foreign Affairs Committee is in an early stage, and at this point of time there are several new members on the Committee. There is some consistency in the membership, but it is not very great on our side. A sure way to finish or at least to damage this Committee is to allow it to be made a political tool in any shape or form. I suppose that various honourable members opposite will be thinking that there must be a resolution by one House or the other before a matter can be referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee which would then, according to the terms of the amendment, report back to the Parliament. I do not think that is the complete answer. I will not always perhaps be on this side of the House, and I would not like to be on the other side of the House and have the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), with the weight of numbers behind him, for instance stating that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs should look at some matter that was highly charged politically. If one wanted to finish this Committee that is the way to do it.
I acknowledge the breadth and perhaps the future value in years to come of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle. Nevertheless 1 do not regard it as an amendment that this House should take seriously at this point of time. It is a very new Committee in many ways. It is a Committee that to my mind has very great value, and I would not like to see it put to pressures that were unnecessary.
– The amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) seeks to add the following words to paragraph (1): and lo report to the Parliament on such matters as arc referred to it by either House of the Parliament.
It is perfectly clear that we are placing on record that we want more open thought, more discussion, more freedoms and a more independent expression of attitude by this Parliament on foreign affairs. In moving this amendment, we are aware of the historical consequences. When we are the Government we will have to live up to this commitment.
– You would change it immediately.
– The Minister for External Affairs has interjected and said that we would change it immediately. We have given deep thought to this subject, and we feel that we want more freedoms and more open discussion in the Australian community, because we believe that the Australian community should be better informed on foreign affairs than it is at present. My colleague the honourable member for Fremantle mentioned the hysteria about an alleged attack on United States destroyers and the fact that the President was given power to move unlimited numbers of troops into Vietnam. United States expenditure on the war in Vietnam rose to S30,000m per year.
When General Westmoreland requested another 206,000 troops it was found that this would increase expenditure on the war by from $12,000m to $14,000m. They found that it was an impossibility to go any further. Later in Senate investigation committee hearings it was disclosed that it was not an attack on United States destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. An error was made in radar detection.
The Minister’s statement this evening was a resume of what has been appearing in the Press. Did the Minister, in his first statement on foreign affairs to this House, present any fresh information about developments in the world? Did he indicate what line Australia should follow in world affairs? The question of Cambodia arose this evening, but did the Minister give us the real facts? What has occurred in Cambodia? What led to the overthrow of Prince Sihanouk?
– Sihanouk. The sophisticated Minister is worrying about the pronunciation of the name of an Asian leader. We want to know the facts. What is happening in that country? The amendment moved on behalf of the Labor Party in relation to this joint parliamentary committee suggests that through its operations we want an informed Parliament. The Minister said that the Executive has control of foreign affairs. We are not trying to lake that power from the Executive. In 1968 I was in a parliamentary delegation that went overseas to examine the European Economic Community. The Leader of the delegation was the former Minister for External Affairs, Mr Freeth. When we were in The Netherlands we found that the Parliament of The Netherlands had passed a motion condemning the attitude of The Netherlands Government in supporting the American stand on Vietnam. This did not alter the views of The Netherlands Executive or of its Minister for External Affairs, Mr Luns. He could take into consideration the Parliament’s view but still carry out his Government’s policy. If we are to have an enlightened Parliament and a more enlightened Australia on foreign affairs we must broaden the scope of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It must be given power to investigate and to inquire into various aspects of foreign affairs. The amendment can only strengthen both Houses of this Parliament. It can give more freedom and dignity to both chambers. It will bring a more informed attitude to Parliament. Members of the Committee will investigate matters and report back to the Parliament, instead of the Parliament having to wait for a resume of local Press articles from the Minister for External Affairs.
I ask the Minister not to hold firm to his dogmatic decision to reject the amendment. He should accept the amendment because its acceptance will be in the interests of both Houses of Parliament. We are not trying to take away any Executive power. What we are trying to do is to enable the Foreign Affairs Committee to delve into the facts. We do not want the Government’s jingoistic attitude on foreign affairs to continue. We want an informed Parliament and an informed Australia. We want an informed attitude in the community on foreign affairs. We want to lift out of foreign affairs the fear and hysteria that seems to prevail on the Government side.
– 1 found it most interesting to listen to the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). 1 feel that the Parliament has moved along. In the last Parliament the honourable member was seated in the third row back; he is now on the front bench. He was regarded by some as a slightly radical member on the back bench, not necessarily propounding 100% Labor policy and having a number of his confreres disagreeing strongly with him. He is now propounding from the front bench. This may be considered progress by some, but not necessarily by me. I was interested to listen to him because, with calm modulation, he put the view that this should be an informed Parliament. He said that people have the right to know everything about what happens in relation to Our foreign affairs. He chided the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) for not having given the full story in respect of Cambodia. When he asked what was the reason for the present position in Cambodia 1 interjected and said that there were too many Communists there. I think that it was considerate of the Minister for External Affairs not to have upset the honourable member for Reid by saying that there had been an overthrow of the Communist supporters in Cambodia. We try to live at peace with the gentleman. 1 was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee when the Labor Party refused to join it. At that time the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) was Leader of the Opposition. He seemingly felt that the Foreign Affairs Committee would not do what he thought it should do. I think it would have done what he wanted it to do had he been Leader of the Government. But there is a great difference in our attitudes. However, the change came in the last Parliament and the Foreign Affairs Committee had on it various distinguished members of the Labor Party.
– After you changed its nature.
– Yes, to a degree. We had on the Foreign Affairs Committee the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), who was, indeed, its Vice-Chairman. He behaved immaculately, as did the other representatives from the Labor Party. But I must say - and I do not say it as a criticism - that at that stage the Labor Party’s members were rather distinctly of the right wing. As a matter of fact they were some of the nicest chaps a person could ever mix with. With the exception of the honourable member for Fremantle they never seemed to know much about foreign affairs, but it was a friendly group and we could discuss all aspects of foreign affairs. We kept no secrets from each other and. indeed, they had the right to go back to their Party meetings and advise their colleagues on foreign affairs without necessarily saying where they got their information. They were given confidential information. They were able to get up in the House, advised equally as well as members from this side, and discuss foreign affairs. But we have a different situation now and I do not support this amendment, nor will I support the one that I expect to be moved later. 1 know, and it has been made fairly obvious in the newspapers, that there has been a division on the other side - there has been a small contretemps. There are those who say: ‘No. not so-and-so likely’ and those who say: ‘Let us be reasonable and intelligent about it’. Well, in the first instance, those who said: “Not so-and-so likely’, won and the whole thing was delayed. Then came a different tack in the caucus. The result was that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) won the day on that occasion and it was agreed that the Labor Party should join the Foreign Affairs Committee.
When I look at those who have been nominated as members of the Committee - and I say this with the greatest affection - I believe that there are some proposed now whom I would not trust with the most confidential information as to where I bought a postage stamp. I invite honourable members to look at their associations. They sign all the moratoriums. I was browsing through the Communist newspaper, the Tribune*. Whom did I see sitting there with his legs crossed elegantly and supporting the moratorium - the Communists were in attendance - but the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren).
Quite frankly, I think that the whole tenor of the Foreign Affairs Committee will be very different in the future. The former Minister for External Affairs and the Government rightly agreed to and made certain amendments, as the honourable member for Fremantle said, which have made the Foreign Affairs Committee workable. These amendments have made it a good committee - up to this stage. The Opposition members of the Committee were allowed to learn facts and to return to their Party room and to the House to’ debate foreign affairs on information which formerly they were not able to get.
I return to the division in the Labor caucus. I refer to the left wing of the Labor Party. Honourable members who belong to the left wing pf the Labor Party used to be furtive about it but they are not any longer now that they have the numbers. I know now that the left wing has said that it will really roll the Leader of the Opposition. When its members attend the meetings of the Committee, what they are going to do is bring about such conditions in the Committee that the Labor members will walk out of the Committee. This action will not be to embarrass us. It will not be to learn anything about Cambodia. Indeed, it will be to embarrass the Leader of the Opposition. If honourable members opposite think that I am making this up, I can assure them-
– Did you join the Liberal Party as a party?
– I have been waiting for my distinguished friend from the waterfront for the last 3 weeks. 1 can hardly restrain myself. When I heard him talk yesterday,
I could see all the signs: ‘All out’, ‘Sit down’, ‘Strike’s on’, ‘Scabs’ and so on. I would suggest to him, as my distinguished friend, the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) said: ‘Engage your mind before you put your mouth into gear’.
It was a member of the Australian Labor Party who told me of this little ploy that will be undertaken by the left wing of that Party. I welcomed as a member of the Government-
– Who told you?
– If I were to tell the honourable member, the person concerned would be expelled within 20 seconds, if he did not have his throat cut. I can only say that I welcomed the Labor Party to the Foreign Affairs Committee. It was a good Foreign Affairs Committee. I give my distinguished but seedy friend from Fremantle respect for the job that he did. I would like to see him making the same fight now as he once professed to make in the past. I only hope that he has not lost his gumption, has not given up his outlook and is not prepared to go along with the left wing and the movements which it is undertaking now. That may be painful-
– Grow up, for heaven’s’ sake.
– Well, perhaps I may take time to grow up. I have not had the time in silence that the honourable member has had to think about it. The honourable member certainly has had a job to do with the Labor Party for a long time. It does appear to me at this time that the honourable member is neglecting it slightly.
Let us remember also that the reports which have been drawn up by the Foreign Affairs Committee and its sub-committees have been tabled in the Parliament for the benefit of the Parliament. There have been quite a considerable number of them. I think that the Foreign Affairs Committee works; that it has been a good committee; and that those who were members of it previously from the Labor Party added to it. I hope that it will work as well in the future as it did in the past, but I doubt it very much indeed when I hear the honourable member for Reid and possibly the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and some others whose outlooks on foreign affairs 1 do not necessarily think are for the benefit of the Australian people.
Motion (by Mr McMahon) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be added (Mr Beazley’s amendment) be so added.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . .. 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:
That paragraph (8) be omitted with a view to inserting the following paragraph in place thereof:
Three years ago, Mr Deputy Speaker, as a result of changes made in the structure of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs at that time, the Australian Labor Party, the alternative government, decided for the first time to take part in its deliberations. I was one of those people - as, indeed, were most honourable members of the Labor Opposition - who welcomed the opportunity to turn that Committee into a more important Committee of this Parliament than it had been previously. When the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs was first established in the early days of the Menzies Government it was the private bailiwick of the Government. I know that part of the reason for this was a decision of the Parliamentary Labor Party at that point but happily this position no longer continues and the amendment which I have moved, together with the amendment which has already been disposed of tonight, furthers the purpose of the Australian Labor Party to turn the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs into a more effective instrument of this Parliament.
We have a number of joint parliamentary committees. The Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee function to subject the decisions made by the Executive, the Cabinet and the Government to proper scrutiny. Every man in this Parliament recognises that the party or coalition of parties which has the majority has, subject to the approval of this Parliament, the right and the opportunity to determine the policies of the Commonwealth of Australia. The purpose of the parliamentary Labor Party is to ensure that these decisions are subject to proper scrutiny by the Parliament.
It has been said by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) and by others that this Committee is a study group. I do not think that there is anything to be ashamed of in that. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) who spoke on the previous amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) was kind enough to pay tribute to members of the Opposition and in particular the honourable member for Fremantle for the constructive role played in the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee in the previous Parliament. I think that honourable members from this side of the House would also agree that the Foreign Affairs Committee in the previous Parliament looked honestly at the subjects which were referred to it fairly and well. I do not think honourable members on either side of the Committee sacrificed any of their political beliefs. The Committee functioned in the belief that the interests of the nation and the proper scrutiny of matters associated with external affairs were a responsibility of the Committee as a parliamentary committee.
The Labor Party proposes this amendment, which will give to the Committee itself the discretion as to when it may meet in camera and when it may hold public meetings as distinct from the present situation where this is a matter for decision by the Minister, because the Labor Party wishes to upgrade the standing of the Foreign Affairs Committee as a committee of this Parliament and we of the Parliamentary Labor Party who expect to be in government after the next election-
– You have been saying that for years.
– My colleague and friend the Attorney-General says that we have been saying that for years, but I put it to him in all fairness that we are saying it with a lot more justification than we may have had on previous occasions. We are conscious of the fact that we are setting up an instrument of the Parliament, so we are quite sincere in this. If there is something to lose in this we potentially have more to lose than the Government has, because we believe in the upgrading of this Committee as an instrument of the Parliament and that is the purpose of our amendment. I would like to deal with some of the general questions about the previous Committee, the only one on which I have had the honour to serve. But I would like to reject the suggestions implicit in the statement made by the honourable member for La Trobe that he was a little concerned because in the last Parliament the representation of the Labor Opposition was a little different from its representation in this Parliament. I am very happy with the changes that have taken place in the representation from this side of the Parliament. I believe that if this Committee is to function as an instrument of the Parliament the views expressed from either side should be represented across the spectrum of the views of the members on both sides. 1 do not know of any man in this Parliament who served on the previous Committee or who potentially could serve on this one whom ] would not regard as a person well capable of receiving any information that might be put before the Committee and of using his discretion as to how and where that information might be used. T do not agree with many of the opinions expressed by Government supporters - I believe that would be pretty obvious - but I would not think any were potentially traitors to the Commonwealth of Australia. I resent the implication and the suggestions that are made from the other side of the Parliament from time to time that there are members on this side who could not be entrusted with any information that was put before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in the last Parliament or which could be put before the Committee in this Parliament. Surely this is our purpose. We have at the moment a Government which has been in office for over 20 years.
– We think it is too long.
– I support my colleague the honourable member for Grayndler. We think it is far too long. But in these circumstances where we have a Government well entrenched, which is not bringing forward new ideas in any of these fields, surely it is important for the Parliament to play a constructive role; and this is bur purpose. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle which has already been disposed of and, unhappily, rejected, had as its purpose the idea that matters could be referred to this Committee by the Parliament. The amendment which I have moved gives the Committee discretion, and not the Minister, as to when it should meet in secret and when it should have public hearings. In other words, what we are saying to members of this Parliament is that this is a Committee which has been proved to be a worthwhile instrument of the Parliament. It is a Committee which we can improve. We want to see it given greater power, greater discretion and greater responsibility. We want to see it become a more effective instrument whereby the Parliament may subject to scrutiny decisions made by the Government and the Executive, whatever government may be in office. So we are proposing to give the Committee the discretion that at present is vested in the Minister. We believe that members on both sides of the House are capable of making a decision as to when the Committee should meet in public and when it should meet in secret.
It has been said that there are many occasions when we have people giving evidence before the Committee when the Committee should meet in secret, and we all agree with that. No person on this side of the Parliament - no person who has served on the Committee - would disagree with (his because we all recognise that it is true. On the other hand, if we are going to turn this Committee into an effective instrument of the Parliament we should give it an opportunity to hold public sessions and inquire into matters across the board that are important to the Parliament and to the future of the people of Australia. So I appeal to members on the other side of the Parliament to cast away their prejudices on this matter because the Labor Party as the next Government of this country is, in this amendment, putting forward a proposition whereby it affirms its faith in the integrity of members on both sides of the Parliament. Accordingly, 1 commend this amendment to honourable members.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. The question that we place before the House is whether we have enough faith in the 14 or 15 members of this Committee to allow them to make a decision at to whether the evidence that they take shall be heard in camera or not. All we are asking the Parliament to do is to have the same faith in the membership of this Committee as it has in those who accidentally become Ministers in any government from time to time, lt is one of the facts of life of this Parliament and this institution that any member at some time or other can hold the highest office in the land. A number of honourable members opposite have in recent times held ministerial office and have retired from, been retired from or been removed from that office but apparently when they were Ministers they had all the capacity to hold the highest office and have the greatest trust reposed in them. For instance, the probable Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbain), was for a long time a member of Cabinet. Now he is not to be entrusted with the simple task of deciding whether the evidence to be placed before the Committee shall be heard in camera.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) will not trust the honourable member for Farrer to make that kind of decision. The honourable member and his colleagues on the other side will vote to retain that situation, unless they have changed their views, attitudes and prejudices since the last vote was taken. All we are asking honourable members opposite to do is to have at least a little faith in the membership of the Committee, whatever it may be from time to time. Little regard as I have for the political policies of those who sit opposite, there can be no reason for lack of faith in their confidence or integrity, because this is the way committees operate. Every committee of the Parliament has imposed upon it the duty of being secret and confidential at certain times. Standing order 340 states:
The evidence taken by any select committee of the House and documents presented to and proceedings and reports of such committee, which have not been reported to the House, shall not, unless authorised by the House, be disclosed or published by any Member of such committee, or by any other person.
Many committees are operating now. There is the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House and there are a number of Senate select committees. Does anybody recall any of those committees breaching the spirit of the standing order which I have just referred to? I cannot think of any such incident. So if we can have faith in a Minister of the kind we had in the honourable member for Farrer when he was a Minister, I see no reason why we cannot have the same faith in this Committee and its membership.
Similarly, I cannot see any merit in the argument advanced by the Minister for External Affairs that if the Committee’s meetings are open witnesses will be inhibited from speaking their mind. Is there any evidence of this from other committees of inquiry? A parliamentary committee has all the authority of any other committee of inquiry. In some ways it is more authoritative and can be more dictatorial in its powers than a royal commission. Is there any evidence that these committees do not extract from witnesses all the evidence that they are able to lay before them? Is there any evidence that inquiries conducted in the United States do not do this or that witnesses are inhibited by the fact that they may be heard in public? Is there any evidence that committees are incapable of making a decision that certain evidence shall’ be heard in camera? Certainly there is not. I believe that open inquiry is one of the fundamental requirements in the search for truth and in democratic behaviour. This Parliament should set that kind of standard in its own deliberations - in its own committee work. I see no sound reason why honourable members opposite should vote against this amendment unless it be that they are completely inhibited not by the demands of committee work but by the discipline of their Party and their failure to assert their rights in it.
Any honourable member who votes against the amendment is casting a vote of no confidence in himself. Why should honourable members not members of the Committee be precluded from attending the Committee’s hearings, even if we exclude the public? The Standing Orders make some provision for this but again where matters are secret those honourable members not members of the Committee have to leave. I do not believe we should discriminate against the membership of this Parliament. We cannot say that some members are faithful and true and others are not to be trusted. We should depart from that principle. Very few parliaments of the world operate in the kind of parliamentary system in which we would like to think ours operates. Very few of the 60 or 70 parliaments associated with the InterParliamentary Union are democratic, open, deliberative and consultative assemblies in the way they should be. There are many deficiencies in our own procedures but at least most of us are prepared to stand up and be counted in public no matter on which side of the Parliament we sit. Honourable members are a long way from being democratic in their operations. They must place this kind of faith in themselves or parliamentary democracy cannot work. 1 am particularly interested in a vote on occasions such as this, of some honourable members opposite who have achieved public fame and rapport because of their stand on these great issues. My colleague from Bradfield (Mr Turner), for instance, has often been noted and quoted as having a very high regard for parliamentary democracy, for the rights of private members and for the necessity for us to remove from the Executive some of its transcendental authority. I do not notice the honourable member for Farrar tonight. If he is absent 1 apologise for raising his name when he is not about. He was a great freedom fighter not so long ago. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) is a man of redoubtable capacity and courage. He was going to tackle the great authority of the Liberal Party not so long ago. When is he going to come and vote for us? The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), I think it is, is a freedom fighter from way back too. He is tackling the whole system of bugging by microphones and so oh. When is he going to take up this challenge? Alas, unless he has changed his views from a few moments ago, never. One of the tragic elements of this Parliament and the way it is operated is the tight control which honourable members have over each other in these matters.
Has this matter been discussed in the Party room so that honourable members opposite have been able to make a deliberate contribution to the Party discussions? I doubt it. Each one of them has become just a symbol of Australian parliamentary party discipline making very little personal contributions in any way. Tonight we have offered honourable members opposite two opportunities. They have discarded one. We offer them another now. If they vote against this resolution I believe it is a vote of no confidence in themselves.
– I can but repeat what I said earlier and that is that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) had been courteous enough to let me know of both amendments which were to be proposed on behalf of the Opposition. Already one has been dealt with but the two happen to be interlocking and 1 will therefore of necessity have to deal with both of the resolutions in what I intend to say now. First of all, might I mention that there is nothing new in these debates because those honourable members who have a good memory or who have cared to look up the reports in Hansard will see that exactly the same problems arose in 1951 and exactly the same questions and answers were given then as are being presented to the House tonight. So there is no novelty at all in what the Opposition is putting to us. There is no novelty whatsoever in the arguments which it puts and which have previously been rejected.
The second point I want to make is one which ought to be made again and again in this House. It is a constitutional problem which at least one member of the Opposition recognised, that is the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). But the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) who put the second proposal obviously do not understand it. Under the constitutional system as we understand it there is a division of function between the legislature, the Executive and the judiciary.
– Where is that written into the Constitution, Bill?
-Order! The honourable member is out of order on two counts. First of all, he shall not interject and, secondly, honourable members shall not be referred to by their christian names.
– May I be forgiven on this occasion for replying to my christian name? I do not mind the honourable gentleman using that. If the honourable member had looked at any of the authorities on constitutional law he would have seen that the judiciary has an especially established position under the Australian Constitution.
If honourable members opposite had even a basic knowledge of constitutional law they would know that the High Court has said that implicit in the Australian Constitution is the separation of the executive and the legislative functions of government. There can be no doubt whatsoever that these functions are distinguishable. Therefore, what has been forgotten by 2 of the Opposition members who have spoken, and not recognised by the honourable member for Reid astonishingly enough, is this separation of functions and the way in which the functions have to be exercised.
I would now like to discuss a matter which was raised by the honourable member for Wills, that is, the question of discrimination. Already wide discriminations exist. A national Cabinet exists. That Cabinet is separate from the Party itself. This distinction in the various functions of government exists in other ways. Consequently, this part of the argument advanced by the honourable member for Wills - I would not like to call it nonsense - is not exact or not correct.
Let me come to the real problem that is faced here. I have been the Minister for External Affairs for 5 months. If I have learnt one lesson since I have been the Minister it is the absolute necessity of ensuring that overseas countries trust us and that when they give us information they can be certain of the fact that it will not be divulged, that there will not be one glimmer of evidence given as to who the informant is or what the source of the information might be.
There is not an honourable member on the opposite benches, with the exception of the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), who has any glimmer of what it means to be in government. I am sure that the right honourable member for Melbourne would say that one of the elements of successful and sound government is that you must be trusted and therefore you must be in a position where confidential or secret information can be given to you and the giver can be absolutely certain that that information will not be divulged. The honourable member for Wills said that other countries - he singled out the United States of America for special mention - do not leak particular information. Obviously the honourable member has not read the newspapers during the last few days. If he had read, he would have seen that information that was given in relation to Laos and Cambodia by the United States Secretary of State was leaked and that the following morning the Secretary of State had to go on television in open session and tell the nation that the information that was leaked was incorrect. A study of the transcript not only supports but effectively confirms everything that the Secretary of State said. We do not want to get ourselves into such a position.
If we look at a lot of the evidence that has been given about Vietnam we will see that a man who previously was the greatest hawk in the Democratic Government of the United States is now not only the greatest dove but is speaking in a way that is completely contrary to the attitude that he had taken in the previous government. Let us analyse this problem a little further. Do honourable members opposite think for one moment that I, or for that matter my officials, would come before a committee when it was known not only that the meeting, was to be public but also that any amount of the information could be freely given, and given by members of the Opposition for political purposes? I believe that if this were done the capacity of the committee to examine satisfactorily the evidence that could be given to it - evidence that was confidential and secret - could no longer continue and as a result the efficiency of the committee would suffer. Do honourable gentlemen opposite believe for one moment that members of overseas delegations who were posted here to represent their countries would go before a committee in open hearing?
– Of course not.
– The honourable member would know it better than anyone else in this House if he were prepared to tell the truth. Have we ever known an occasion when members of the Opposition do not play politics when they get the opportunity to do so? I have watched the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) humbug this House over and over again. I have watched him parade as a patriot and then, when the opportunity arises for the fangs to come out they appear immediately and clearly, and with blood dripping from them at the moment he has finished his speech.
We are human beings. We understand it and we say nothing very much about it. But can you tell me, Mr Speaker, that in open committees you would be likely to find honourable members from the Opposition side who would not play politics? Frankly, if they did not do so they would never again get pre-selection for any seat, no matter what it might be.
– It would not be a committee at all on that basis.
– Of course it would not be a committee. You are giving the answer to the question I am posing to the House.
– Why do you not elimin- ate-
– Orderl The honourable member for Fremantle will cease interjecting.
– All this shows is how easily the fangs can be drawn and how quickly the blood will start to drip. I said in the body of. the statement that I made to the House that we will not accept the amendment. I now confirm that and, having confirmed it, I move:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority …… . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the paragraph proposed to be omitted (Mr Cross’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority ……. . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Drought Relief- Site for AirportTelephone Services
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I call the honourable member for Darling, and I remind all honourable members that this is his maiden speech.
- Mr Speaker, I am very disappointed that I was not given the opportunity to speak during the Address-in-Reply debate and that I am now allowed only 10 minutes instead of 25 minutes. But I am pleased that some progress has been made on my attempt to obtain concession fares for pensioners travelling on the Indian-Pacific railway service.I am very grateful to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) for standing down so that I can put forward urgent problems of the citizens of my electorate.
At the present time 15,500,000 acres of the Darling electorate have been declared a drought area. The area covers the whole of the Milparinka pastures protection district, one-third of the Broken Hill pastures protection district and one-half of the Wilcannia pastures protection district. No doubt many honourable members read in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ this morning a letter written by a grazier in the Milparinka area which tells of the plight of the kangaroos and emus and which comments on the petitions put before this Parliament urging that efforts be made to save the kangaroos. This grazier suggested that if the Parliament wants to save the kangaroos we should send truckloads of fodder into the drought areas and take the kangaroos back in the same trucks. However I draw this Government’s attention to the fact that once an area has been declared a drought area rail concessions apply in New South Wales for the carrying of stock and fodder. However there is no railway in the far north west corner. During the 1966 drought the Federal Government made finance available to the States so that a road freight subsidy could be paid on the transport of fodder and stock.
This present drought struck very suddenly, due largely to a very severe dust storm on New Year’s Day. Drift sand built up to within 2 feet of the top of the 6 feet high dog-proof fence. In other places it was almost possible to drive a 4-wheel drive vehicle under the fence. Years of good work by the rangers on this fence was undone in 1 day. Many watering places were covered by drift sand. This required a lot of bulldozing and repair work. These people urgently require Government assistance, but unfortunately no-one knows what the Government intends to do. One grazier has told me that he could wait no longer. He transported some of his stock to Peterborough in South Australia. This cost him SI. 20 per head, and after the sale of the stock he had to write out a cheque for $500 to make up the cost.
We believe that once an area has been declared a drought area the Government subsidy should be granted automatically. These graziers should know what to expect so they can plan. The Government has no right to play a waiting game and hope the drought will break, while stock is dying and good Australian graziers are facing ruin. It must also be remembered that during the last drought the Government subsidy was paid only to the New South Wales border. This was very unjust because far out places have a common bond with other States, and it is often necessary to travel through other States to reach markets or agistment areas. I will give an example. The north eastern portion of the Western Division has a common bond with Queensland, and the south western division has a common bond with Victoria. Stock from south west Queensland has to travel through New South Wales - through the Bourke area - to reach markets or agistment areas. I remind honourable members that these places are in Australia and that during good years the people there have paid millions of dollars into the revenue of both State and Commonwealth governments. Today one cannot find out whether the State or the Federal government is holding up payment of a subsidy. Surely each Government has an obligation to make a complete statement on such a tragic problem.
I move away now from the drought problem to deal with other difficulties in rural industry in remote areas. There the cost price squeeze is much more severe. We have already heard in this Parliament how bad the situation is in top grade rural areas, but in addition to normal expenses facing members of rural industry in remote areas, extra expenses must be met. I refer to the expenses incurred in educating children who must be sent to boarding schools. Extra travelling expenses and living away from home costs are also involved. The present allowable tax deduction of $300 for education expenses for each child is inadequate. Travelling to consult doctors and specialists is also expensive. Many people in remote areas travel each year 500 or 600 miles and receive no taxation allowance for the added expense. In many areas telephone charges are too high. It is well known that a housewife living in a remote area is much more contented if she can ring up her mother once or twice a week. Such comforts are getting out of reach of most people in country areas.
I have had many complaints from farmers about trunk line charges. During the summer months these people suffer the discomfort of excessive heat. If government supporters were sincere about decentralisation they would urge the Federal Government to make a special grant so that schools in hot outback areas could be supplied with air conditioning or some other form of cooling. The sales tax payable on air conditioning units should be lifted on those sold to people living in such areas. I refer especially to pensioners.
I am not blaming the Government for all the problems of rural industry. However, I do say to Government supporters who keep harping about all the things the Government is doing for rural industry that something should be done for the people in my electorate. They are the people who are most in need of assistance. Much has been said by the Federal and State governments about air pollution. Yet it appears to me that in many cases the governments are the chief offenders. I have often seen government buses blowing out great clouds of smoke. I have been told by mechanics that most of the smoke could be eliminated if the buses were taken out of service long enough for them to be properly maintained. But of course, it is more important to the governments to keep them running. Air pollution seems to be only a secondary consideration.
This fact was brought home to the people of Broken Hill recently in no uncertain manner. I would like to tell honourable members how the people of Broken Hill overcame their air pollution problem and how, through lack of consideration by State and Federal governments, many years of good work have been undone in a few months. Sections of Broken Hill are now the worst polluted areas in Australia. For many years of Broken Hill’s early existence it suffered from a very severe form of air pollution. This was due partly to overstocking on the common and the fact that right on the edge of town was another menace in the form of skimp dumps, the residue of the mill treatment plants on the mine. An attack was made on this problem. A green belt was made right around the town and fenced to keep out stock. The dumps were effectively sealed. Broken Hill became one of the most dust-free cities in Australia, but of course this was changed by the State and Federal governments.
When the Indian-Pacific railway service went through Broken Hill, the governments moved in the biggest assortment of earth moving equipment that any country town or city has ever seen. Big skimp dumps containing millions of tons of skimp were pushed all over the place. By doing the job this way probably millions of dollars were saved on the cost of the project, but what happened to the people? The people living in this area had their floor coverings and furniture ruined. Business people lost dollars in stock and business. A report in the ‘Barrier Miner’ gives some idea of how severe is this problem. Approaches have been made to both the State and Commonwealth Governments for some form of compensation for these people. But what do we find? The old shunting game! The Commonwealth authorities say that they know the situation is bad but that it is a State responsibility, and the State has probably worked out its way of dodging responsibility. I believe in progress, but why should the people who can least afford it have to pay the price? In my opinion this Government saved millions of dollars by using this method. [Extension of time granted] Therefore the Government is under some obligation to see that these people receive compensation for the damage done to their property, even if it gives them nothing for their personal suffering.
– I want to refer to a statement made last night by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who said that the next airport for Sydney would be somewhere in the Londonderry area. He said that a survey had been made. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) representing the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) gave a categorical denial this morning to that statement. I tell the honourable member for Chifley that his first efforts in detective work as a Sherlock Holmes have been quite negligible. A survey was made last year. I was brought into it because many of the property owners involved got in touch with me and wanted to know what was going on. It was simply a survey by the Department of Air in relation to the identification of blocks of land that the air base at Richmond had controlled for many years. There is nothing in the suggestion about the establishment of an aerodrome in the area. Many locations are under consideration at present but I say without fear of contradiction that there has never been a survey of this area for that purpose.
I deprecate the idea of introducing class distinctions, but the honourable member for Chifley referred to the workers who live at Mount Druitt and said that an airport would be established at Londonderry because they did not matter. This sort of tripe belongs to the long distant past. We do not want these sort of accusations in this House. We are all Australians and we are all workers when it comes to the point To introduce this sort of division is sickly and it belongs to the era of the Independent Workers of the World - an era which has long since passed, thank goodness. There was reference by the honourable member for Chifley to aircraft noise over Mount Druitt and other places. One of the best authorities in this House, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), has said that aircraft over Mount Druitt would be at least 3 or 4 miles from Londonderry. The honourable member has told me that a jet aircraft at a distance of 3 miles has a sweet soothing sound which lulls one off in the same way that a lullaby would. So 1 think the honourable member for Chifley should get his facts straight before bringing matters before the House.
The honourable member then said some unpleasant things about the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) in regard to telephones, but again he had his figures mixed up. In 1964 the number of applications for a telephone service which were deferred was 29,471, but because the present PostmasterGeneral has applied to New South Wales 43% of the Post Office allocation for telephone services the number of deferrals has been progressively reduced. In 1965 there were 21,102 deferrals; in 1966 there were 13,061; in 1967 there were 8,396; in 1968 there were 5,703; and at 30th June last year there were 3,505. It can be seen that there has been a great improvement. The honourable member for Chifley cited figures to show the number of deferrals at 31st January, but there is always an increase in the number in January because of the Christmas holidays. In that month the number of deferrals increased to 5,000, but by 30th June the number will have been reduced.
The Postmaster-General, the linemen and all the technicians have done a tremendous job in reducing the number of deferrals to 3,505. If the situation continues to improve the number should be about 1,500 by 30th June. This is a tremendous effort for which we should show our appreciation to the engineers, technicians and others. I know that people have been inconvenienced by not being able to have a telephone service connected, but many factors must be borne in mind. In about 1967 there was a delay of almost 1 year in bringing from overseas equipment which could not be obtained in Australia. But problems of this kind have been overcome. In my opinion the PostmasterGeneral should be congratulated.
I should point out also that the allocation to the Post Office in 1963-64 was $137m and that in 1969 it was$362m, an increase of 264%. Although the percentage allocated to New South Wales has fallen slightly, that State, which is the premier State, has had a great number of telephones installed and has received very great consideration. To use the honourable member’s words and to state that the PostmasterGeneral has used his influence to see that the people in Queensland who require telephones receive priority over people in other States is to make a statement which is so petty that it is not worthy of a reply.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker, on two counts. Firstly, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) has said in respect of the figures I quoted last night on telephone services in New South Wales that I had my figures mixed up. I would be happy to show the honourable member the letter from the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to whichI referred to last night, the figures from which appear in Hansard. As this letter was received within the last 3 weeks, I sincerely hope that it is not suggested by the honourable member that the PostmasterGeneral gave me false information. The second point is that it has been stated by both the honourable member for Mitchell tonight and this morning and by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) this morning that I said that the Department of Civil Aviation had carried out a survey in the Londonderry area. Mr Speaker, I said - and this can be checked in Hansard - that the Department of the Interior carried out a survey. I sought information as to the purpose of that survey. I am advised, as late as today, that the Department of the Interior has admitted that such a survey was carried out.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.17 a.m. (Friday) until Tuesday, 7 April, at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What has been the outcome of the approaches to the States on the Human Rights Conventions described in his answer of 29 May 1969 (Hansard, page 2556) to my question of 20 November 1968.
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The legislation of two of the States (Victoria and Western Australia) and of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the Northern Territory now satisfies the requirements of the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. We have been informed that it is intended that the necessary amendments of the Queensland legislation will be made during the present session of the Queensland Parliament. The remaining States have indicated that they will amend their legislation. So far as the Convention on the Political Rights of Women is concerned, the position remains as set out in the Prime Minister’s reply of 29 May 1969. Further discussions took place this month with the States on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination at the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Officers on Aboriginal Affairs. In respect of the International Covenants on Human Rights, further discussions with the States have been held over pending the completion of consultations with the relevant Commonwealth authorities.
Servicemen Killed in Vietnam - Estate Duty (Question No. 60)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The limtied exemption is available where service was rendered on or after 31 July 1962 in South Vietnam, or on or after 1 March 1967 in the offshore waters of Vietnam, and applies to the estates of servicemen who die, as a result of injuries received or disease contracted during that service, either whilst on that service or within three years of the termination thereof.
The exemption is in the form of a special deduction equal to so much of the estate, up to (10,000, as passes to the widow, children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces of the deceased serviceman.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
What was the enrolment in each Division at the House of Representatives election on 25th October 19697
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many more persons have (a) applied and (b) been approved for entry from Rhodesia as (i) visitors and (ii) residents since his predecessor’s answer to me on 13th August 1969 (Hansard, page 244).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The figures previously provided covered the situation up to the end of May 1969. Between 1st June 1969 and 28th February 1970:
Papuaand New Guinea residents: Naturalisation as Australians (Question No.191)
asked the Minister for
Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Will he take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that ships of trade respect marker buoys set by fishermen in coastal waters in order to prevent further loss of valuable equipment.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no legislative or other means available which would enable the Commonwealth to force masters of ships to avoid areas in which fishermen have set marker buoys. In any case, for naviga tional reasons, it would not be practical for ships to avoid such areas in many cases. There are, however, steps which can and have been taken which should help to minimise losses.
On the one hand notices to mariners have been issued bringing the need for navigational care in the various fishing areas to the general notice of ships’ masters. This has been done by the issue of notices to shipowners, agents and masters by my Department and the issue of RAN Notices to Mariners, and by the incorporation of a notice in the ‘Australian Pilot’ issued by the Royal Navy.
On the other hand, fishermen have a responsibility to make their own fixed gear markers clearly visible, and this has been brought to their attention. At least part of the problem is that markers - particularly unobtrusive ones - are very difficult to see by a lookout on a large ship and, unless lighted, are unlikely to be seen at night. Further, departmental investigations have shown that float markers are often submerged when currents are running strongly. Markers that are more easily seen, with a quick-flashing light at night, would improve the situation considerably.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Does he agree with the view expressed by his predecessor on 16 October 1966 (Hansard, page 1996). that it is high time that the various State governments considered the desirability of establishing a securities and exchange commission in each State.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
This is the same question as was put to me by the Leader of the Opposition at question time on 4 March 1970 (Hansard, page 25) andI have nothing further to add to the answerI gave to him at that time.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister £ot Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
During the period 1st January 1949 to 31st December 1969 the total number of persons whose applications for naturalisation were deferred or rejected on all grounds was 20,797. During the same period 542 applications were deferred or rejected as Communists or extremists of the Right. Of these 129 were subsequently approved leaving a nett figure of 413.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
What would have been the result of each of the past five elections for the Home of Representatives if the system of first-past-the-post voting had applied.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed that it is not possible to predict the result of past elections under a system of first-past-the-post voting. Any such predictions would be purely hypothetical as there is no way of knowing how electors would vole under a different system.
Immigration (Question No. 374) “ Mr Scholes asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A recent review of the service required and provided in Geelong indicated that current arrangements are adequate for the amount of immigration business in the area.
Since 1964 Geelong has been serviced by an information office located in the city and staffed on Thursday of each week by an Immigration officer from Melbourne, lt is proposed to continue this service until it is shown to be inadequate.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
Which towns in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are not yet included in any local government council area.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Towns in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea not yet included in any local government council area are -
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is set out in the following tables:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 March 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700319_reps_27_hor66/>.