27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned residents of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
That Australia is a country ideally suited to widespread use of air transport.
That air travel is too expensive for the ordinary citizen to use with any frequency.
That a Mr Peter Wood of Sydney has proposed the introduction of cheap air travel through the use of an ‘Airbus’ transport system utilising proven functional aircraft.
That the most suitable aircraft for such an Airbus’ transport system is the DC3, which has been proven to be both safe and dependable.
Your petitioners therefore pray that the Government introduce cheap air travel by establishing a secondary airline using proven functional aircraft such as the DC3.
And your petitioners, therefore, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
The Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Western Australia respectfully showeth:
That the recent increase in the interest rate on Government Bonds has caused hardship to the thousands of home buyers throughout this state due to the subsequent increase in interest rates on mortgage contracts by home lending institutions.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration to this most vital matter and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
The Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Education Council report on the needs of the State Education Services, has established the most urgent need in education.
That these needs can be summarised as severe teacher shortage (especially in high schools), oversize classes, and lack of hygienic toilet, washroom and drinking facilities.
That the additional sum of $1,000 million dollars is required over the next five years by the States for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance, the State School System will disintegrate.
Your petitioners most humbly pray, that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, take immediate steps to ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their Public Education Services.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the residents of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully sheweth:
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 resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
We, your Petitioners, therefore humbly 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. And, your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of electors of Grayndler respectfully showeth:
That they are gravely concerned at what they consider to be the adverse effect on moral standards in the Australian community of the increasing portrayal and description of obscenity, sexual licence, promiscuity and violence in films, books, magazines, plays and, to a lesser extent, television and radio programmes;
That their concern arises partly from the fact that historians, such as J. D. Unwin and Arnold Toynbee, have shown that nearly all nations which have perished have done so because of internal moral decay; and partly because obscenity and indecency are contrary to the teachings of Christianity which is the acknowledged religion of more than 80 per cent of Australians, besides being part and parcel of the law of the land’ (Quick and Garran in ‘Commentaries on the Australian Constitution,’ page 951); and
That, in accordance with the findings of the Australian Gallup Poll, published in the Melbourne Herald on 14th November, 1969, the majority of Australian citizens want censorship either maintained or increased -
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Members of the House of Representatives will seek to ensure that Commonwealth legislation bearing on censorship of films, literature and radio and television programmes is so framed and so administered as to preserve sound moral standards, in the community.
And, your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the average cost of land in Canberra has been reduced by one third, that is, from$4,500 in 1962-63 to $3,000 in May 1970? Is this reduction due mainly to the planning of the National Capital Developmen Commission? Is he aware also that the average cost of land in Sydney is approximately $7,000 and that land prices during the same period that I have mentioned have risen by over 200 per cent in Sydney? Will the Prime Minister give consideration to the development of the 78 square miles of land in the Menai-Liverpool area - which was mentioned earlier this week by my colleague, the honourable member for Hughes - at present under the control of the Commonwealth, by an authority similar to the National Capital Development Commission so that land might be made available in Sydney at a price equal to that at which land is available in Canberra?
– I noticed that it was reported, 1 think by the NCDC, in a public statement that the cost of land in Canberra had fallen over the years and that indeed the cost of building in Canberra had risen very little in the period, which I believe is something standing greatly to the credit of this Government in the development of the Australian Capital Territory.
– Why bring politics into it?
-I believe politics come into it when something so much to the credit of the Government is attacked by members of the Opposition. Having said that, I think that what the honourable member is referring to - although I was not here when the question to which he referred was asked, but I think 1 heard it on the air - is an area of land which at the moment is occupied by the Holsworthy military camp. This area of land is retained by the Holsworthy military camp in connection with the defence of Australia and 1 understand it has been agreed with the State Government-
– I am sorry, but I understand there is an understanding with the State Government that the agreed area be retained for military purposes. It does not cover the whole area at present under Commonwealth control. The honourable member for Reid is shaking his head, but I do not believe he has any justification for doing so. I know he is shaking his head because 1 distinctly heard the rattle. This is an entirely different position from land which is under the control of the Commonwealth Government for development in the way in which Canberra was developed. If this land were not in the control of the Commonwealth Government for military purposes it would revert to the State Government; it would not remain in our control for us to be able to repeat in other parts of Australia the great success story that has been achieved in Canberra.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that on the ‘Guest of Honour’ session on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio on Sunday last a Professor Machlup of Princeton University stated that the Australian standard of living was being retarded because of our practice of protecting inefficient as well as efficient industries? Because it is important that so correct a view from such a respected source should be widely circulated, will the PostmasterGeneral arrange for the ABC to distribute one copy of his remarks to each member?
– I did not hear the statement made on ‘Guest of Honour’ on the ABC, I do not know therefore the contents other than what has been indicated by the honourable member. I will be pleased to obtain a copy of the script. If I think it should be distributed to honourable members [ will be delighted to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. In view of the reported postponement of the 5-power defence conference, when does the Minister expect to sign an agreement with the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore regularising the garrisoning of Australian forces in those countries?
– 1 am not aware that any arrangements or supposed meetings have been cancelled. The honourable member will know that the former British Government had one policy in relation to this area and the present British Government has another policy on maintaining forces of the 3 arms in the Singapore-Malaysia area. The United Kingdom Minister for Defence has very speedily visited all the countries concerned, indicating the new British Government’s views and seeking the views of Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The Governments have since been in close consultation and are now preparing for official discussions which it is hoped will take place later this year. I say ‘hoped’ because there is a good deal of work to do resulting from the change of attitude and policy between the 2 United Kingdom governments. Those discussions would, at a later point, lead to ministerial meetings finally to endorse arrangements that would be made. I might say, because the honourable member has shown an interest in this before, that so far as Butterworth is concerned there is complete agreement between the Malaysian Government and the Australian Government on the terms of occupation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is the Minister aware that recent newspaper reports allege that a substantial trade exists in illegal dealing in Australian birds and that the birds are subjected to cruelty? ls. there any truth in the allegations, and, if so, will the Minister inform the House of what action his Department has already taken or proposes to take to end this unpleasant, unnecessary, unwanted and undesirable trade?
– The honourable member for Henty continues his interest in the preservation of Australian wild life. Newspaper reports of the increase in the smuggling of birds both in and out of Australia are essentially true. My Department is becoming increasingly concerned with it. Indeed one can understand why this trade flourishes when one considers the prices that some Australian birds bring overseas, particularly in European countries. The bird of paradise, for example, on the black market in Europe brings, I understand, about $10,000 a pair and the green rosella about $1,500 a pair. We have evidence of cruelty to birds being shipped in great quantities under rather inhumane conditions. To try to combat this trade my Department has undertaken special courses in the Prevention and Detection Section, with lectures from experts, and is increasing the number ‘of people engaged in this activity. While such profits can be made in this area it is difficult to stop the trade. As our methods and efficiency improve in major ports and airports one disturbing feature is that the trade tends to move into the northern and isolated areas of Australia. But I can assure the honourable member that my Department is conscious of this trade and is doing its best to tackle it.
-] ask the Prime Minister a question. He will remember that a fortnight ago I asked him about 2 New Guinea matters, one concerning the indigenous hospital patient who 5 weeks earlier had been flown from Finschhafen to Lae to face an attempted murder charge but was then found to be the wrong man and the other concerning 4 expatriate sub-inspectors of police who 5 months before had been charged and suspended in connection with the assault on an indigenous prisoner near Rabaul but had later been reinstated. I now ask him again, as he suggested T should at the time, what amends have been made to the victims in these 2 incidents and what action has been taken against those responsible and alleged to have been responsible respectively?
– I believe the man concerned in the case of mistaken identity was a Mr Tabarang Marum. He is the aggrieved party about whom the Leader of the Opposition is asking me. Mr Tabarang Marum has said that he does not wish to take action against the police since he was well looked after by them and suffered no ill effects, but action against those responsible for the mistake will be considered following examination of the police report by the Administration. The 4 expatriate officers to whom the Leader of the Opposition referred in the second part of his question were charged and suspended in connection with an alleged assault on an indigenous prisoner. Three of the 4 officers were committed for trial in the Supreme Court by the East New Britain District Court and the District Court found that the other, the fourth officer, had no case to answer. One of the officers committed for trial at the Supreme Court was tried before Mr Justice Kelly but was acquitted, the judge saying that in view of the evidence given by Crown witnesses and the contradictions of evidence given by Crown witnesses, and in view of the medical evidence, he was not able to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused officer. As the evidence against the other 2 officers was the same as that which failed in the trial the charges against those officers were dropped. No disciplinary action has been taken against the 4 officers in view of their acquittal by the Supreme Court.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Industry say whether AustraliaUnited Kingdom-Europe north bound general cargo freight rates have been agreed upon? If so, what are the variations as against previous rates and have contracts been signed? Can the Minister also indicate the responsibility of shipowners in regard to the lifting of cargoes from Australian ports under such contracts?
– The existing contracts for general cargo with the AustraliatoEurope conference expire at the end of September. The situation at the moment is that the conference has sought a 10 per cent increase in freight on general cargo other than wool and fruit. The shipper body - the Australia to Europe Shippers’ Association - is meeting in Sydney today to consider the Conference’s claim. New contracts, when agreed upon, will operate as from I October, but that of course depends on the AESA decision today. I am not able at the moment to answer the latter part of the honourable member’s question.
– I address my question to the Attorney-General. In view of the Minister’s frankness as to why he has not prosecuted for breaches of the National Service Act, will he tell the House why neither he nor his predecessors have prosecuted members, possibly including himself, for the multitudinous and continuing breaches of that portion of the Commonwealth Electoral Act that prescribes $500 as the maximum amount that can be spent by candidates on election campaigns? ls this a case for the Minister to show his consistency with the law and order theme now being parrotted so hysterically by Liberals throughout Australia?
– This is a rather flippant question, if 1 may say so. Insofar as the honourable member accuses me of some alleged breach of the Commonwealth Electoral Act I plead not guilty. No case of an alleged breach has been brought to my notice. If it is I shall consider it.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I preface the question by saying that I have noticed recently that claims by unions on individual plants contain a demand for 4 weeks annual leave. Is it a fact that there is a pattern in the past that when a claim such as this is granted by an individual plant, it tends to be forced on other plants by strike action? So that the community may judge the value of 4 weeks annual leave can the Minister inform the House what would be the increased national wages bill which would be required to pay for demands of this kind?
– It is certainly true that a great number of demands that are being made on various plants throughout the
Commonwealth contain a demand for 4 weeks annual leave. It is equally true that history discloses that when there is a campaign of this kind, once a claim is granted in one area it is followed up in another area and usually the fact that it has been granted by one plant is the very vehicle which is the basis of the demand in other areas. I have been very concerned about the increase in the national wages bill which would result if these claims were granted and I have had in my mind over a period of time the figures as to the cost. In fact, I am able to tell the House that in costing the matter one has to take account of the way in which the production would be maintained at the same rate. Production can be maintained either by employees working more overtime or by new employees being employed. In a tight labour market it is not possible to employ entirely new labour for the purpose. Therefore a great deal of overtime would be worked. The solution probably would be a mixture of the two, but if production were maintained by employing new labour exclusively the cost would be $340m. This would mean an increase in unit cost of about 2.2 per cent. It follows therefore that prices would also be increased by at least 2.2 per cent. If production were maintained, on the other hand, entirely by the working of overtime it would be more expensive; the figure would be $5 10m, which would increase unit cost by about 3.3 per cent. This unit cost increase would increase prices.
– Are you opposed to it?
– I am asked by interjection whether 1 am opposed to it. 1 respond very quickly in this way: When there are advances in Australia the way in which the benefits can be received is either by increased pay or by better conditions, and it is a matter for the persons making the claim to decide whether they want increased wages or better conditions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. What operations have been conducted in recent months by the Canberra bomber squadron at Phan Ranh in Vietnam? What are the main targets bombed by the squadron and in what provinces are those targets? Has the squadron been used in bombing operations beyond the Cambodian border?
– I will see what information I can obtain for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I would only say in relation to the last part of the question that there are very firm directives for all Australian forces in Vietnam. If there had been any operations outside of South Vietnam they would have been contrary to the directives to the various force commanders. I have had no advice that anything of that nature might have happened. I merely mention the directive which restricts the forces to operations within South Vietnam. 1 will see what precise information I can get concerning the honourable member’s question.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Services and Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. I refer particularly to the National Sports Trust Fund for Aboriginals. The Minister will recall that in Townsville we have formed a sporting association for Aboriginals known as the All Blacks Welfare and Sporting Association. The formation of this association has been due mainly to the efforts of a Mr Norman Brown. Recently Mr Brown applied for financial assistance to enable teams of coloured children to participate in the coming Softball, vigoro and cricket competitions. Can the Minister advise me whether or not Mr Brown’s application has been successful?
– 1 am guided almost entirely in this matter by the recommendation of the Sports Foundation, which is an Aboriginal foundation on which Aboriginals make the recommendations as to where money should be spent to encourage sport. I . think honourable members would agree that Aboriginal sporting records are good and that one of the best ways to advance Aboriginals in the general estimation of Australians and to encourage them to be part of the normal Australian community is to have them engaging in sport in the same way as other Australians. It is for this reason that my office, with the concurrence, of course, of the Parliament by its vote, is directing moneys to this effect. I am glad to tell the honourable member that a recommendation was made to me for the allocation of $1,500, I think it was, for the purpose that he mentions, and that I immediately gave it approval when it came before me in the last couple of days. I know that the honourable member for Herbert is particularly interested in this venture, and I commend him for the interest that he has taken on behalf of the Aboriginal people in bis electorate.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether any constitutional or International Sugar Agreement barriers would be raised by the Commonwealth to the establishment in Tasmania of a sugar beet industry capable of eventually producing the State’s annual sugar requirements of 26,000 tons.
– Let me say here and now that there would be objections. I think I would be supported by all Queensland members of Parliament, particularly those representing sugar growing areas - areas whose incomes are dependent on the sugar industry. In fact, most of the development of northern Queensland depends on the sugar industry. About 50 per cent of the population north of the Tropic of Capricorn is dependent on the sugar industry. This issue was debated years ago and an agreement was reached between the Commonwealth and Queensland that responsibility for the production of sugar would lie with the Queensland Government. It was agreed that concessions would be granted to Australian manufacturers to enable them to obtain sugar at world prices for products manufactured for export and that there would be a sugar rebate for certain manufacturing industries producing for the domestic market. That agreement has enabled Australia to develop a very large sugar industry - one which is unequalled in the world. It is a highly efficient industry from the point of view of production of sugar per ton of cane as well as from the point of view of production per acre. The degree of mechanisation in the industry is the equal of that in any agricultural industry in the world.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Primary Industry by stating that I am concerned that as a result of insufficient growers of dried vine fruits voting at a poll to approve continuation of stabilisation of the Australian dried vine fruits industry, the industry has now ceased to have the protection it previously enjoyed. Will the Minister state the present position of the industry regarding stabilisation? Is he prepared again to meet representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Association for discussions with a view to arranging a further poll on the subject?
– There was a stabilisation scheme for the dried vine fruits industry. The scheme operated for 5 years. Negotiations to continue the scheme were held last year. The negotiations provided for what appeared to be an obvious Commonwealth subvention to enable the stabilisation scheme to operate for the next 5 years. There was a potential commitment of at least $6m bythe Commonwealth at present world prices and costs of production in Australia. A poll of growers was taken to see whether they wanted the scheme to continue. Unfortunately there was a lack of enthusiasm in soliciting support of the industry for the stabilisation scheme.
There were dissident elements who felt that the scheme was not satisfactory, that it did not go far enough and that there should be a completely different stabilisation scheme. The outcome was that the scheme was rejected, not because of a negative vote but because of apathy on the part of the dried fruit vine growers to have a poll of sufficient producers to give SO per cent support by the industry. There was a positive vote but it was by only a minority group of growers and as a result the proposal was rejected. There is now no stabilisation scheme for the dried vine fruits industry, which I feel does not have a very comfortable future in the absence of a stabilisation arrangement. With the pressures that are being put on the International Sultana Agreement and the arguments that are taking place between Greece and Turkey, the two major countries involved in it, the agreement is left somewhat in jeopardy. I hope that the Australian dried vine fruits industry will reconsider the situation. Certainly if the growers come to me and ask for another referendum I will put it to the Government for consideration. But I hope that the Australian dried vine fruits industry will not come forward with a whole lot of new and radical changes to the stabilisation scheme, hoping foran even bigger Commonwealth subvention for such a scheme, because the one that has already been offered to them is, I believe, reasonably generous.
– 1 have not in my head the actual wording of the condition of a patient in these circumstances, but it does involve the patient primarily being bedfast or dependent upon other people such as nurses for all of his needs. That is a general statement of the condition. The second part of the question asked by the honourable gentleman was: How is the decision made as to whether patients are classified as intensive care patients? The answer is that they are classified individually by medical officers of my Department. This does not mean that in the first instance every patient is seen by a Commonwealth medical officer. What happens is that a form is filled in by the matron of the nursing home and by the patient’s doctor, and the medical officer of my Department makes a judgment on the basis of what is contained in the form as to whether or not it is an intensive care case. If the medical officer is doubtful he obtains further information from the matron and talks to the patient’s doctor. If he is still doubtful he actually goes to the home and examines the patient’s record himself and observes the patient. In all cases the benefit of the doubt is given to the patient in granting the intensive care benefit.
In addition to this, medical officers from my Department visit most nursing homes at least twice a year and check the cases which have been granted intensive care benefit and the cases where the benefit has not been granted. I might add that this system has produced a situation where 42 per cent of the total number of patients in nursing homes in Australia are classified as intensive care cases. When the scheme was introduced I predicted that the number of nursing home cases which would be classified as intensive care cases would be about 40 per cent. It has proved to be somewhat more than that.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware of the details of a lease between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Mutual Provident Society for office space in Melbourne, presumably for the housing of ABC staff? On what date did the lease become effective? Why have the premises remained unoccupied for such a long period? Are the premises now occupied? Will the Minister inform the House of the total cost of the lease? Can he confirm the loss to the ABC to be over $100,000?
– 1 cannot out of my memory give any indication of costs associated with this particular lease. This was a lease undertaken with my approval and with Treasury approval in regard to premises in Melbourne, named I think, St James House. The lease was undertaken as from approximately April or May last, but as is frequently the situation in commercial buildings it was vacant space, not partitioned, and the partitioning was done at the request of the lessee by the landlord. This was the arrangement between the ABC and the lessor. Pending completion of these alterations it was impossible to occupy the premises. The ABC went into occupation, I think, during the first weekend of this month so there was a period between April or May and September when the premises were not occupied. I believe this to be a similar situation to that prevailing in commercial areas generally between a lessor and lessee of substantial areas.
– I ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs: Why has Australia withdrawn the full time ambassador who had been assigned to cover the Vietnam peace talks in Paris? Why was it decided to end this full time top level Australian representation in the very week when President Nixon restored, after a long interval, American representation to the highest level?
– The position in relation to this is one of pure administration. The officer concerned was acting as an observer at the talks and some time previously arrangements had been made for his reposting in the department to a position where his knowledge of the situation in Europe and other areas would be availed of. This arrangement had been made some time before. Australia has still an observer at the talks and that observer is, as is normal in cases like that, a senior officer from the Embassy in Paris. That is the situation at the present time.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, is asked against the background of an increasing inclination to blame society for individuals’ transgressions of its rules of operation, and of the Attorney-General’s expressed interest in the importance of those rules. Is there any means by which the honourable gentleman can stay ex cathedra announcements by supposedly learned and responsible members of the judiciary such as that reported recently in which culpability for a soldiers strangulation of a defenceless woman was laid partly at the door of the Army? Does the Attorney-General agree that the absurdity of this logic in relation to intelligent human beings will hold driving teachers responsible for the car accidents of their former pupils and schools will cease to teach arithmetic lest their pupils grow up with a sufficient appreciation of money to bring down budgets or to rob banks?
– I think the honourable member has made his point, and quite forcefully. The point is well made in the question. All I would say by way of reply is that I know of no way of muzzling judges, nor would I want to.
– Would the Prime Minister agree that it is desirable to again hold elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously? If so, and with a view to producing this result, would he consider holding a referendum in association with the forthcoming Senate elections to seek to change the term for senators from the present fixed 6-year term to a period equivalent to the term of 2 parliaments?
– From time to time the Government has considered possible ways of endeavouring to bring elections for the 2 Houses back into line. But all I think I can say here is that any action that could be taken along those lines would be a question of policy to be decided and therefore does not lend itself to an answer at question time.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Does he remember my asking him last session whether he knew that it was generally feared by country people that men, and even Ministers, who voluntarily drive around in black cars may be soft in the head? Is he aware that it is generally recognised by people who live in the Northern Territory where the temperature is so much hotter that if it happens there it removes all doubt?
– I remember the honourable member’s question and I am aware of bis great interest in this matter. I must make sure that the next time he visits the Northern Territory as the Chairman of the Public Works Committee we give him an old, battered Land Rover or something like that and not the comfortable black car in which be now travels. I must look at the records to see how long the honourable member enjoyed the privilege of driving around his electorate in a black car when he was a Minister.
– I sought to have a white car.
– The honourable member interjects to remind me, that he in fact sought to drive a white car when he was a Minister. I think that when he was driving around one day in a black car one of his constituents told him that people thought he was being a bit plush and that this did not suit his personality. So the honourable gentleman made representations to the Minister for Supply to obtain a white car. I can only repeat what I said before: The purchase of cars at any time by my Department is a matter of economics and what I keep in mind is simply to obtain the best deal I can get. On the occasion of the last purchase that is exactly the situation that obtained.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. Has he seen reports of a United States Presidential Commission under Mr Henry Cabot Lodge which advocates that for the United Nations 25th anniversary next month the United Nations peace keeping machinery be strengthened, that inefficient institutions be reformed, and that international law be strengthened particularly to deal with environmental change, drug abuse and hijacking? Will the Minister prepare a statement for this anniversary outlining Australia’s policy on strengthening the elective, legislative, judicial and executive functions of the United Nations to extend the rule of law and order internationally?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honourable member refers. I will see that a copy is produced and study it. I can assure him that the principles he has outlined in his question are those to which this Government subscribes. I will see what can be done about his suggestion.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence and I refer to the withdrawal of the 8th Battalion from Vietnam in the near future. Can the Minister tell the House whether the Government of South Vietnam has indicated what measures it intends to employ to ensure the continuance of security in the area that we are vacating?
– There has been close co-operation between the Australian forces and the Vietnam forces and also, of course, the United States forces in South Vietnam over these matters. The decisions that were announced by the Prime Minister, of course, have the full understanding of the Government of South Vietnam. One of the major matters which is being undertaken to assist the South Vietnamese in Phuoc Tuy Province is the establishment by the Australian Army of a number of mobile advisory training teams. I think there will be 15 of these teams located with the Regional Force and the
Popular Force companies in Phuoc Tuy Province to upgrade the quality of their performance. A number of these teams has already been established and I am advised that their assistance to the Regional Force and Popular Force companies has been notably successful.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. It is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Henty. The Minister in answering the question of the honourable member indicated that he was both aware and worried by the trade and smuggling in birds. As I understand that New Guinea and Papua do not come under the direct jurisdiction of his Department in the import and export of birds, I ask the Minister: Does he see this fact as a weak link in the desired and complete control of the trade in birds? Will he agree further that, if his Department were given this control, this extra feather might allow his Department to fly more effectively against this trade?
– 1 would agree essentially with the premise of the honourable gentleman’s question, but the matter he raises of the Department of Customs and Excise controlling the activities in and out of New Guinea is a question which, obviously, is not one for me to answer. I can assure him that, as far as the control of the export and import of birds is concerned in Aus* tralia, my Department is doing all that it can to increase its efficiency.
– For the information of honourable members I present an interim statement of the activities of the Australian Egg Board for the year ended 30th June 1970. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– For the information of honourable members, 1 present the Defence Report 1970.
– For the information of honourable members, I present Convention No. 47 concerning the 40 hour week adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 19th session on 4th June 1 935. Subject to approval by His Excellency the Governor-General, the instrument of ratification of this convention will be lodged with the Director-General, of the International Labour Office as soon as practicable.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949-1968 I present the twenty-second annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for the year ended 30th June 1970 together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s Report on these statements.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of Education and Science for the year ended December 1969.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Director-General of Health on the activities of the Commonwealth Department of Health for the year ended 30th June 1970.
– For the information of honourable members I present an interim statement on the operations of the home savings grant scheme for the year ended 30th June 1970. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– For the information of honourable members I present an interim statement on the operation of the States
Grants (Dwellings For Aged Pensioners) Act 1969. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– Pursuant to section 38 of the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967 I present the third annual report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board for the year ended 30th June 1970.
I ask leave to make a brief statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This is the third annual report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board. The Board is to be congratulated on the way it is carrying out the administration of this Act, the first legislation of its kind to be introduced into Australia. The Board has had the job of pioneering, and it has done it well. As the Board itself says in its report there still appears to be some public misunderstanding of how this grants scheme operates. Paragraphs 20 to 30 of this report contain a simply stated description of the basic facts and of the Board’s approach to its work. 1 commend this section to the attention of honourable members. The objective of the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act can be quite simply stated. It is to provide an incentive to Australian industrial companies to increase their expenditures on research and development activities. Accordingly, those companies which, under certain conditions, raise their research and development expenditures over the level of their expenditures in 1965-66 are eligible to receive a grant from the Board. The conditions I am referring to are those designed to give the Government, in as simple a way as possible, the assurance that the research is taking place in circumstances where it can generally be expected to be of a high standard.
This annual report covers the third year of operation of the Act. Sufficient experience has now been gained to enable the success of the Act in promoting its objective to be clearly seen. For the first time the Board has been able to provide a wide range of evidence illustrating the operation of the
Act. This shows that there has been a very significant growth in research and development expenditures in Australian industry since the Act came into operation in 1967 with the stated objective of encouraging such growth. The Board reports that 531 companies have received grants from the Board and that 222 of these companies did not have any research and development expenditures in 1965-66. Figures given by the Board in this report show that expenditures, of the kind eligible for grants, of all companies receiving grants was about $46m in 1968-69. This year, 1970-71, the Board states that total expenditures will have grown to approximately $60m. This represents a growth of over 30 per cent in the last 2 years.
Compared to 1965-66 there has been an increase of at least 615 in the numbers of professionally qualified persons employed full time on research and development by companies receiving grants. Similarly there has been a rise of at least 871 in the numbers of unqualified staff working in full time direct assistance to them. In both cases this represents an increase of about twothirds and the Board emphasises that the figures are incomplete and understate the actual increases which have occurred. I would particularly draw the attention of honourable members to appendix D of the report. This sets out a representative sample of new or improved products and processes arising out of the research and development activities of companies receiving grants. This appendix is illustrative of the kind of results being gained from the expenditures on grants. The sharp and general rise in industrial research and development expenditures has been reflected in the growth of grant payments. Last year, payments totalled $8.9m and brought the total grants paid since 1967 to $1.4.9m. Another S17m has been provided in this year’s Budget. Most of this sum will relate to research expenditures incurred in the first 3 grant years since, for the most part, grants are paid retrospectively. lt was in the light of forward estimates of the growth in company research expenditures that the Government recently decided to reduce the rate of general grant from 50 per cent to 35 per cent for expenditures incurred during 1970-71 in order to enable the growth in expenditure on grants to be kept within reasonable bounds. 1 believe Australian manufacturing and mining companies, both large and small, are to be congratulated on their response to the incentive provided by the Act. It should not be overlooked that to gain assistance from this Act a company must first spend its own money on increasing its research and development expenditures. I believe the material contained in this report confirms the Government’s belief in this Act. In brief, it shows that a good start has been made in raising the general level of industrial research and development expenditures in Australia to a level in keeping with the requirements of an industrial nation. The operation of the Act is now under review and industry can be assured that the Government’s intentions regarding the future will be announced well before the expiry of the present legislation in June 1972.
– by leave- The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) has just tabled the Third Annual Report of the Australian Industry Development and Research Grants Board and has congratulated the Board on its activities over the past 3 years. The Opposition also congratulates the Board on its activities over that period of time but it is far from satisfied with the approach that the Government takes to the matter of research and development in industry.
There are a number of improvements which can be made in this field and I think that the suggestion has been made by the Grants Board itself that some alterations need to be made to the present Act. But the Opposition feels that the Government is working an Act which was introduced without a prior survey of needs. It is not the approach that is required to research and development in Australia. In a speech to a symposium of the New South Wales Division of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science at the University of New South Wales in Sydney on 11th September 1969 the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), talking about the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act, said: . . there is no guarantee that even this sum will be spent for the benefit of Australian industry. Late last year I asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr McEwen, a series of questions aimed at determining how many Australian and foreign-owned firms had, in the 1960s, established, closed down or transferred overseas their research and development sections. I also asked how many of the companies being assisted under the Act were foreign-controlled. I was told that the information I sought was noi available, and that the degree of foreign shareholding was not a factor determining eligibility for support under the Act.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to say:
The Industrial Research and Development Grants Act has been aptly stigmatised by Professor J. A. Allen of the Department of Chemistry at Newcastle University as:
. an appropriate result of the interests of groups favouring a system of grants, the over-simplified decision-making approach that tends to substitute a three per cent of gross national product for a proper understanding of the processes by which technological changes are generated and absorbed into the economy and society, and the ‘growth mania’ that dominates so much economic thought today’. It is an Act introduced without a prior survey of need, and under which, in consequence, money is disbursed without a proper understanding of the problems that have to be overcome: for although we know that the level of industrial research and development in the private sector is low, we do not know why this is so, nor what the present pattern of activity is, nor which areas could benefit most quickly from financial support.
I do not think that the Government yet knows the answers to some of those questions that were posed by the Leader of the Opposition in September 1969. The Grants Board has been operating as efficiently as it possibly can and, I am told, has been making some common sense decisions under the provisions of the Act in order to grant money for research and development in industry. In his statement the Minister said:
It was in the light of forward estimates of the growth in company research expenditures that the Government recently decided to reduce the rate of general grant from SO per cent to 35 per cent for expenditures incurred during 1970-71 in order to enable the growth in expenditure on grants to be kept within reasonable bounds.
That is the first ministerial or Government statement that has been made on this matter. The announcement was made in the Commonwealth Gazette of 30th June 1970 but no official announcement has ever been made by the Government as to why the amount for general grant was reduced from SO per cent to 35 per cent until this statement that the Minister made today.
In the bulletin of the Australian Industries Development Association for September 1970 there is a critical article on the industrial research and development grants. One of the criticisms made is of this reduction of general grant from 50 per cent to 35 per cent. In this article the Director of the AIDA, talking about the reduction in the grant, says:
Industry is thus left to assume that the very success of the grants scheme has led to the grant funds being spread more thinly amongst the companies undertaking more research and development work, particularly smaller firms whose activities in this field do not bring them within the scope of the selective grants, covering eligible expenditure over $50,000.
If similar cuts are to be made in future, to bring total government expenditure on the grants within the bounds of a preconceived figure for a particular financial year comprises planning their research and development programmes may ‘ be left in the dark about what actually will be available. The whole scheme could lose much of its value as an incentive to substantially increase industrial research and development.
It is worth emphasising, for the guidance of the Government’s policy advisers, that knowledge of what the grant will be is highly important at the planning stage, and not simply when filling out the form.
In this respect it is pertinent to recall the words of the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr I. Sinclair, in his second reading speech on the Industrial Research and Development Grants Bill on 9th May 1967:
As the scheme aims to provide firms with an incentive to invest in additional research and development staff and facilities, the Government recognises the need for the incentive to have a reasonable and certain continuity.
If existing attitudes on the part of the Australian management to research and development are to be changed, the need is for an incentive which is widely and predictably available and which retains within individual companies the decisions on the research and development projects to be pursued. The general grant will fulfill this need.
Australian management may be excused if it has difficulty in reconciling the sudden decision to reduce the amount of the general grant with the clear intentions of the Government as expressed by Mr Sinclair in 1967.
I repeat that in the speech made by the Minister in introducing the Bill he talked about a reasonable and certain continuity and about an incentive which is widely and predictably available. To cut down the general grant from 50 per cent to 35 per cent without due notice to the companies which would perhaps at this stage be planning their research and development projects is wrong. Perhaps they have made their plans and then they are told that instead of being able to get 50 per cent up to an expenditure of $50,000 they can get only 35 per cent up to an expenditure of $50,000. Anybody who has been in industry would appreciate that planning is generally done ahead. If a decision such as this is taken after those plans have been made it could easily mean that the company, in allocating money for research and development on the understanding that 50 per cent of that allocation would be reimbursed by the Grants Board, could find that instead it can get only 35 per cent. The company may have overreached itself in its research and development programme. This could have disastrous results on the smaller firms in the research and development field.
This reduction does not apply to the big companies. They get the special selective grants once they spend over $50,000 on research and development. It is the firms which spend up to $50,000 which have been affected by this decision, not companies like the breweries or the motor car manufacturers which spend above the $50,000. lt is they who perhaps get a selective grant but the cove who is trying to make his business more efficient and trying to develop articles or goods that he can export or that can improve Australian life generally is the person who is likely to be hit by this decision. Certainly the amount has been increased this year to $17m, but that $17m, because of the reduction from 50 per cent to 35 per cent, will be spread over a far greater area. It could have been increased to $17m and left at 50 per cent because the Minister said that last year the payments totalled $8.9m and brought the total grants paid since 1967 to $ 14.9m. An article in the AIDA bulletin states that the grants made last year were more than the amounts spent. There was an estimate of $10.8m in the 1969-70 Budget and only $8.9m was actually paid out in grants during that year. This year the grant has been increased to $17m but there has been a reduction from 50 per cent to 35 per cent in the rate of the general grant.
Another item referred to in that AIDA bulletin dealt with inequities and anomalies in the Act. One of those inequities and anomalies in the Act is that money spent on part time research is taken into account in assessing the amount of expenditure in the base year but more than the expenditure in the base year has to be spent before a company is eligible for a grant. But when it comes to expenditure on research and development in the year of application the amount spent on part time research work is not allowable in calculations. So part time work is taken into account in assessing the base year but in the actual years of operation thereafter the salaries paid to those officers working part time in the field of research and development are not allowed to be charged against amounts spent on research and development by that company.
Another anomaly in the Act is the fact that the Act insists that professional supervision should be employed on a full time basis. There are some occasions - and I know of one in my own electorate - when it is not necessary to have a professional man engaged full time in doing the research that is necessary, but unless a company has a professional employed full time it is not entitled to claim a research and development grant because it has failed to employ a professional full time in the supervision of research and development. There are some instances where special skills acquired by training either in the company itself or outside are perhaps more essential than the supervision of a full time professional. This again hits at the small firms. The cove who is turning out a business with one or two employees is the administrator; he is the professional man; he is the labourer; he is doing all sorts of work in order to get his business off the ground. In addition, he is devoting some of his time to research and development in the field in which he is engaged, but unless he devotes all his time - he is the only professional man employed - to research and development then his salary cannot be considered when considering a grant under the Act.
– Do you describe that as an inequitable anomaly?
– Yes. Another feature of the Act that has been criticised is that the allowable expenditure on plant and equipment is only as high as the amount spent on salaries. In some cases it might be necessary to purchase costly plant and equipment in order to carry out research and development work but if the amount spent on plant and equipment is greater than the amount spent on salaries for research and development the company can claim only the same amount for plant and equipment as it claims for the amount spent on salaries. This amendment to the Act to allow for expenditure up to a set limit, perhaps, but more than the amount paid by way of salaries, should be allowed because it may be essential to buy plant and equipment in order to carry out research work.
Other items that are not allowed to be claimed in assessing the amount spent on research and development include the materials and overhead. In the chemical field the cost of materials for research would be excessive. A lot of it would be used and cast aside. That is not allowed for in assessing the amount spent on research and development. I have outlined some of the anomalies in the Act. They have been pointed out, not only by the Australian Industries Development Association but also by the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board in its 1968-69 annual report which states:
Nevertheless, as stated in its annual report for 1967-68, the Board feels that there are some provisions of the Act which could militate against the full attainment of its objective. Some of these provisions are producing what the Board feels to be unintentional inequity or difficulty in application. It would seem that some amendments to these provisions could be made without major alteration to the Act in its present form and, in the Board’s opinion, these would permit a more effective and more equitable distribution of available grant funds. The particular provisions to which the Board wishes to draw attention are set out hereunder.
The report refers to part time research and development efforts in a grant year; preferential treatment accorded to contract IR and D as against ‘In-Company’ IR and D; and about the adjustment of base year salary expenditure. They are the criticisms made by the Board itself. The GovernorGeneral promised on behalf of the Government on 3rd March 1967 that the Act would be reviewed. The Minister in tabling the third annual report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board said in his concluding paragraph:
The operation of the Act is now under review and industry can be assured that the Government’s intentions regarding the future will be announced well before the expiry of the present legislation in June 1972.
I would ask that while the Act is under review discussions be had with industry to make certain that the amendments to the Act will be in line with what is required by industry and will encourage greater research and development in industry. The Australian Labor Party is very much in favour of increased research and development in industry and as long as the money granted by the Commonwealth is being used properly there will be no criticisms from the Opposition.
The final point 1 make is that in Australia this year the Government has allocated SI 7m for research and development. In Canada the amount allocated for this year is SI 24m, so we still have a long way to go before we catch up with one of our sister nations of the Commonwealth. I suggest that the Government, when it reviews the operations of the Industrial Research and Developments Grants Act, should take steps to increase the amount available, to cut out the anomalies that have been mentioned by myself, by the Board and by the Australian Industries Development Association, and to make a thorough review of whether the research and development money is being used properly and is having the effect in research and development which all of us would like to see it have.
– by leaveI want to make the point that I have had a lot of consultations with the Department of Trade and Industry and a lot of correspondence with the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) in relation to this legislation. I believe that it is too rigid. When the matter is next reviewed I hope that steps will be taken to iron out the serious anomalies. 1 believe that we should not have to wait another 4 years before it is looked at. If there are serious anomalies, those anomalies should be ironed out. The most serious anomaly, in my view, is the refusal of the Government to make research and development grants to Australian industries which are producing a commodity for export and earning export income. Because they do not have a qualified research man at the head of their research department they are denied such grants.
I am sure the Minister for Trade and Industry would admit that in areas such as the sugar industry and the wheat industry a man who is brought up on instruments, who makes machinery, knows far more than a university graduate in engineering or science, so far as the actual carrying out of that work is concerned. This is an important point. There is a firm in my own electorate - Hodges Machinery Pty Ltd - which is a world-wide authority on the making of agricultural implements for the sugar cane industry. But because that firm does not have a top professional man directing research it is denied a research grant. Yet this firm is exporting machinery in competition with the world’s best manufacturers of that type of machinery. This point is accepted certainly by most people in the Department of Trade and Industry, and I hope that the Government also will accept that this is a serious anomaly. The other point is that when the Government is making its review, when it is drawing up legislation, I hope it will be not so rigid so that anomalies like this may be overcome immediately either by regulation or by an amendment introduced in the Parliament.
– Pursuant to sec tion 148 of the Social Services Act 1947-70, I present the 29th annual report of the Director-General of Social Services for the year ended 30th June 1970. I also table statements showing developments in social services between 1949 and 1970 and rates of benefit, together with a comparison of some of the rates in Australia with those prevalent in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. I will endeavour to have copies of these delivered to all honourable members before the weekend. Extra copies will be available from my office if they are required.
– I move:
The proposal involves construction of major works to cater for increased demand on the town water supply and includes bore pumping equipment, collection mains and balancing tank, delivery pumping station and power supply, a 7 million gallon reservoir and a 30-inch diameter trunk main. The estimated cost is $2.4m. In reporting favourably on the proposal the Committee concluded that the target date for completion of the trunk main should be advanced to September 1972. This will be done. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– The Opposition supports the principle behind this statement. In particular, it would like to support and applaud the recommendation of the Public Works Committee with respect to speeding up the target date of completion. There can be no doubt that this is a project which has been needed for a considerable time and one which is essential not only to provide an adequate supply of water to this town in the Northern Territory but also because of the expansion which will take place. The Opposition supports the motion.
– I speak in support of this motion and commend the Public Works Committee on the expedition with which it has put this scheme through. I am supported in my remarks by the local Australian Country Party members for Stuart and Alice Springs who, along with myself, have been pressing so hard for the augmentation of this water supply. I commend the Public Works Committee on its recommendation and the Government for accepting the recommendation that the target date for the completion of the 30-inch main be advanced to a date prior to the summer of 1972. Had the scheme proceeded on the original plan the town would have faced a severe shortage of water during that summer. By accepting the recommendation, the Government virtually has advanced the scheme 12 months. SoI commend it in this regard.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The proposal provides for the purchase, delivery and erection of 40 transportable houses and one classroom building. The houses will be erected on serviced blocks or land made available by local authority. The classroom will be provided as an addition to the existing school. The estimated cost is $775,000. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal and, upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– 1 want to express my pleasure at the further step which has been taken towards the upgrading of the airfield at Learmonth. 1 think I should draw the attention of the House to the fact that prior to the 1963 election we were told that this work was on the priority list and would be proceeded with. Yet it was not until June or July 1969 that any moves were made. Therefore it is good to know that the Government now intends to take these steps. I notice in the report that the classroom is to be a transportable structure and will be moved at the completion of the work. It seems to me that here was an opportunity for the Commonwealth Government to take positive steps to assist in the education of children in the north of Western Australia. The Government could very well have provided a permanent classroom. Certainly one will be required by the time the project is finished, which I understand will be about December 1972. Therefore I am very sorry that the Commonwealth Government has not taken this opportunity to provide a classroom on a permanent basis.
I note that the classroom is to be airconditioned, and I applaud the Public Works Committee for determining that this should be so. However, I draw attention to the fact that air-conditioning is not to be provided in the houses. The only provision will be for 9-feet ceilings with fans. The people who live in those areas know that climatic conditions are pretty hard and the men working on the airstrip will experience hard conditions during the day. If they are shift workers they are at least entitled to air conditioning in their homes. Not very long ago the former Postmaster-General told me that installation of air conditioning in post offices in the north was not practical and that instead fans should be installed. Now we see that the Department of Works has agreed that air conditioning is necessary in post offices in the north. I am pleased that this step has been taken. It is a great pity that air conditioning was not recommended for the houses built for the Learmonth project. Members of the American community at Learmouth enjoy air conditioning in their houses but members of the Australian community must be satisfied with fans. In my opinion this is not good enough. I appreciate that what is done for the American community is not the responsibility of this Government.
I note that the Western Australian Government is to provide 48 houses under an advance from the Commonwealth, which will be repayable. I would like to know whether rental is to be paid to the Western Australian Government while the houses are occupied by Air Force personnel. What interest will be charged on the money advanced for the erection of the houses and over what period of time will the loans be repaid? I note also that the average cost of the houses will be $18,750. I trust that the Government will note the cost of these houses with a view to increasing the cost limit which applies to the homes savings grant scheme. Many people in the north are prohibited from participating in the scheme because of the high cost of housing.
I applaud the decision to build the houses at Exmouth rather than at Learmonth. The Committee has acted wisely in reaching this decision. I again ask the Minister to consider making the classroom a permanent structure rather than a temporary one. I also urge the Government not to be hasty in deciding to remove the houses when the work is completed if they could be made available to the State, even if only for a limited time, so that it might provide housing for the work force that is building up in this area.
– I must reply to one point raised by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). He referred to the temporary nature of trie classroom. The Committee was informed that the requirement for a larger school would disappear when construction work was completed on the airfield. It would have been foolish to provide a permanent building when the requirement was for a temporary one. As the requirement was for a temporary building we recommended the construction of a temporary building. I repeat that our information was to the effect that there was no permanent requirement for a larger number of rooms in the school.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Chipp, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill now before the House amends the Excise Tariff Act in acordance with Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1 which I tabled on 18th August last. The changes, which operate from 19th August 1970, give effect to the Government’s Budget measures within the excise field. Increased excise duties are imposed on manufactured tobacco products and certain refined petroleum products and a duty is imposed for the first time on grape wine. Honourable members will recall that in tabling the Tariff Proposals I stated that the Government will grant an exemption from the wine excise to persons who produce wine for their own use in quantities not exceeding 400 gallons annually. This exemption will be granted through departmental bylaw procedures. Also included in the Bill is an amendment removing the excise duty that previously applied to spirits used to fortify wine. A summary of the changes is being circulated. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Chipp, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for increases in customs tariff rates and is complementary to the Excise Tariff Bill I have just introduced. The Bill is necessary to give effect to the Government’s Budget in relation to tobacco products, certain refined petroleum products and wine of fresh grapes. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 September (vide page 931), on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill proposes certain amendments in payments of some very limited social service benefits. I will say more about these things in a few minutes. Firstly I want to register a protest at the way in which the debating time allotted for this very important subject has been severely truncated. We will have about 4 hours of debate available for this Bill. Several members on each side of the House have indicated that they want to participate in the debate. The list of speakers is not a true indication of the extent of interest in this matter by honourable members because having been advised earlier that the debating time would be curtailed, many honourable members on our side withdrew their names from the speaking list. I see no justification for the Government’s curtailing of debate on this important subject. The Government’s action is unreasonable. More than 1 million people will be affected by the increases proposed under this legislation. By any reasonable social scale of human and social economic justice the increases proposed are totally inadequate for the needs of people in the community today.
I cannot understand the Government’s desire to rush this Bill through the House. In the past high priority in terms of the amount of time allotted for debate has always been conceded to the social services legislation. It is incomprehensible that the Government should want to truncate debate on this topic, except, of course, on purely political grounds with a desire to minimise criticism of the quite miserable increases which it has provided in a few restricted areas.
Having lodged that protest I now move on to the Bill. On behalf of the Opposition I move:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill this House is of opinion that-
the increases proposed are inadequate,
social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living,
steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty, and
a contributory national superannuation system should be established and the means test eliminated.’
This increase of 50c in age, invalid and widows pensions is grudging, ungracious and offensively inadequate. On the information supplied to this House by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) in his Budget Speech it is quite clear that the increases do not compare with the increases in cost movements which have occurred in the economy in the past 12 months. The Treasurer in his Budget Speech said:
The consumer price index rose at an accelerating rate throughout the year reaching an annual
Tate of growth above 5 per cent in the June quarter.
The increase of 50c in the standard rate of pension represents an increase of 3.3 per cent in that pension rate. It is quite apparent that the increase which the Government has offered - this totally inadequate 50c - falls far short of what should have been provided if the pension was to be maintained according to the movements in costs which have occurred in the economy during the past 12 months.
I want to refer to the spurious comparisons made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) by the attenuated use of an index stretching over nearly a quarter of a century. The Minister would well know, as would anyone else who has had even a fleeting association with economic statistics or indexes, that over such a length of time these comparisons are completely meaningless. They fail to include any allowances for increased productivity which has occurred in an economy. Over a period of a quarter of a century it is quite clear that, in an advanced economy such as Australia’s where there is a fairly high rate of investment for development, much of which goes into technology and education, productivity must increase at an accelerating rate and the amount of wealth available per bead of population in real terms over any lengthy period must increase appreciably. Accordingly, it is quite wrong to use an index, as the Minister has in this spurious manner, stretching over a quarter of a century without taking into consideration the rate of increase in per capita productivity that has occurred in that period.
In any event, I do not feel any obligation, commitment or embarrassment about what happened a quarter of a century ago. It is almost ancient history for me. It is certainly ancient history for the younger generation in Australia, most of whom would have no recollection at all of political representation or policies at that time. What does have meaning for me and what is purposeful for me as a commitment to society is what is being done today and what we ought to be doing. I heartily wish that the Minister for Social Services had contributed more of his time to this particular matter, because social welfare in this country is still blighted by concepts which were first conceived in the dying stages of the last century. They were fairly effective in the first quarter of this century but thereafter they commenced to decline in their relevance to the needs of this changing, evolving country of ours. It would have been more appropriate for him to have talked in terms of new concepts that he hoped to develop in the last third of the 20th century in preparation for the new social welfare programme which would be required to meet the needs of the people in the 21st century, which is a mere 30 years away, not long in the span of time.
I have referred to productivity. I draw the attention of honourable members to a question on notice which I asked in this House and which was replied to in the debate reports of 14th and 15th May 1969 by the Minister for Social Services. I have extracted information from a series of tables which are on record from a very authoritative source - the Minister for Social Services. On past practices and behaviour of Government members at election campaigns the Minister will be denied by any of them; he is as likely to deny himself by challenging information quoted by Opposition members enforcing Government deficiencies, even though that information comes from a Minister as a reply to a question in the House. Nonetheless, I quote from one of the tables. It comes from the Minister. According to the table, the value of the pension in 1949, related to per capita productivity rates adjusted for subsequent per capita productivity growth up to 1967 was $14.82 a week. In 1967, which is the latest figure the Minister could give me - I have since asked him to update this table - the pension rate was $13.64. This is in real purchasing terms. As a sacrifice by the economy related to the level of per capita productivity being achieved in 1949, 21 years ago, the contribution being made by the then Labor Government was more beneficial to pensioner recipients by more than $1 a week than is the case at the present time.
The Minister may well have a look at the question which he answered. I indicated before that it would not stop him denying the figures he has given. He is in the process of doing that. Let us consider other figures. Frankly, I have always abhorred the practice in social service debates of referring to a whole litany of indexes and statistics. It seems so boring, and even alienating to the listening audience. But in the table that the Minister has presented to the House and which has been incorporated in Hansard, running to about 20 pages, he clearly has provoked this sort of response, so I will spend a few minutes discussing some aspects of how he could have looked at the pension in real terms of contributing to the people’s welfare. Just after the war the basic pension rate was 27 per cent of average earnings. After all, is it not reasonable to relate the pension rate to the average level of prosperity in the community? By the early 1950s, under the conservative government we had in Canberra, the pension rate had fallen to 23.5 per cent. In the early 1960s it was down to 22.7 per cent, and now the married rate stands at 19.3 per cent of average weekly earnings. This is the record of erosion for which this Government has been responsible in its term of office. That is its great achievement of contraction, the politics of parsimony under its uninspired leadership. Even the Minister’s own table leaves one distraught at the way pensioners have been imposed upon, deceived, exploited and neglected in any sense relative to the booming wealth generated in this young country.
I refer to the table which the Minister has provided for the House and incorporated in Hansard in his second reading speech. In the 5-year period between the assumption of office by the Menzies Government and including 1953, the pension was eroded. From the SI 0.89 a week in real terms under Labor in 1949, it fell to SI 0.23 during the next 5 years. The table shows that over the 8-year period from 1961-68, inclusive, the married rate commenced at $13.03, fell to $12.53 in 1966, slightly lifted the next year, and slumped to $12.64 in January of 1968. In October 1968 it was increased to $13.15. That is an increase of only 12c over an 8-year period. Does the Minister seriously contend that this was a reasonable increase in the purchasing power and living standards provided for pensioners in Australia, taking into consideration the inflationary spirals which have gone mad under the Government’s inadequate and incompetent handling of the Australian economy?
In that period from 1961-68 the increase in the gross national product was 18 per cent. But the pensioners did not participate in this expansion of prosperity. The increase in the pension was only one per cent. The consumer price index for that period increased by 16 per cent. Is this the record that the Minister is so proud of? Having extracted these figures from the tables incorporated in the Minister’s speech on the Budget and having interpreted them, I can only assume that he could not have had sufficient time to study them properly and digest their implications before he introduced them into the House, lt is rather distressing to find that so often - almost exclusively, but not quite exclusively - when an increase is provided in the pension rate for social service beneficiaries it is associated with an impending election. In the last decade, of the seven changes in the pension rate, including the current one before the House, six have been associated with an election. There was one in 1968. The only one not associated with an election occurred because of the grave and undeniable erosion of purchasing power of pensions which had fallen to the lowest level for the decade up to that year. The Government had no choice in this. A deplorable level of pensions then existed and the Government had to provide this. It is about time we developed a system whereby pensions are established at a level which guarantees an acceptable living standard for the recipients and are adjusted on an annual basis according to movements in the cost of living. There can be no argument on technical grounds against this. I was recently in the United States of America where, I discovered, social security payments are now adjusted on that basis each year. If it can be done there it can be done here. Common human considerations demand that it should be done in this country. Labor has committed itself to do this.
In the decade 1958-59 to 1968-69- if I may continue giving further evidence to show the serious erosion of pensioners’ living standards from the statistics which the Minister has produced in this house - the gross national expenditure increased by 94.5 per cent and the married pension rate by 42.8 per cent. That is, the pension rate increased by less than the growth of spending in the community. So we find this widening gulf between the level of general prosperity in the community and the level of deprivation. It is literally a level of deprivation for so many social service beneficiaries, for which this Government is responsible by manipulating pensions at election time in an effort to bribe votes and then neglecting the welfare of beneficiaries at crucial moments subsequently. In his 1968 Budget Speech the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that pensions would be payable according to a philosophy which saw the Government allowing pensioners frugal independence*. So we can extract a little of the philosophy behind the provisions of pensions under social services by this Government. The ‘Concise Oxford Dictionary’ shows ‘frugal’ to mean ‘careful, sparing of, economical - especially as regards food - sparingly used or supplied, costing little’. The trouble is that the Government has been far too literal in applying the meaning of the Prime Minister’s philosophy in providing pensions.
The increase in Budget expenditure this year will be 11.2 per cent; the increase in social service expenditure will be only 5.8 per cent, a little less than half the rate of increase in overall expenditure in the Budget. Last year the social service expendi ture increased by 14.9 per cent. Quite clearly what is occurring is that social service beneficiaries are being asked to shoulder the burden of the economic restraints which the Government has introduced in the Budget and which it will compound with monetary policy during the course of the next 12 months. It is totally unfair to expect people who are in the area of greatest need in the community - the most vulnerable to movements in cost of living standards because of their low living standard incomes and the fact that these are rigidly set - to have cast upon their shoulders the responsibility of carrying a great deal of the Government’s policies of economic austerity. Again these people are also carrying a considerable proportion of the burden of the Government’s effort in Vietnam. I think it is remarkable, when young people are conscripted to go to a war and make the maximum sacrifice in some cases and a great sacrifice in all cases, ostensibly to protect our freedoms and way of life that companies such as Broken Hill Pty Company Limited and Mount Isa Mines Ltd, which are making booming profits this year, do not make sacrifices. Mount Isa Mines profit was $55m - it doubled its profit level - and BHP had a record profit level of $60m. These companies are not being asked to make sacrifices for the war in Vietnam, but the pensioners are. The pensioners are being asked to make sacrifices for the economic austerity programmes which are being discreetly applied in the economy at the present time and will continue to be applied. There is no moral justice in this sort of practice.
Let me deal with some of the subjects with which the Minister did not deal in the course of his speech. If we look at the host of data which he has supplied in that incorporated set of statistics we discover that although the pension increases of 50c referred to age, invalid and widows’ pensions, in fact he discusses only age and invalid pensions. He refers not at all to widows’ pensions. I will make up for this deficiency in a few minutes. He does not refer either to the wife’s allowance which was last set in 1968 at $7, or the dependent child’s allowance which was first set in 1968 and has not been adjusted since despite movements in the cost of living. I am quoting only selected items of social service benefits because there are so many which have not been touched at all. The maternity allowance was set in 1947 for the first child at $30. If it had been adjusted according to the cost of living movements since that time it would now stand at $85.98. For the second child it was set in 1947 at $32; it should be $91.70 now. For the third child it was set in 1947 at $35; it should be $100.32 at the present time, if it were adjusted according to movements in costs over that period. If the Minister introduces the use of these indices over a fairly long period of time he must expect that their use will be fully developed by others. But he should explain to us why these adjustments have not been made. There may be a reason why they have not been made.
I can put a case which I believe is convincing. Any money which becomes available for social welfare should be allocated to the area of greatest need and according to priorities. I do not believe that in the event of children being born into my family I should get the same amount of money by way of maternity allowance or even child endowment as the railway fettler who is on $40 a week or the factory worker who is probably on $50 or $60 a week. It is inequitable. Their need is greater than mine and social justice demands that greatest benefit from social welfare programmes must go to areas of greatest need as a priority. This calls for definition of philosophy and purpose but we have none of these under social service programmes in this country. All we have is a scratching about and a patching up of an old system of payments conceived, as I mentioned earlier, in the dying stages of the last century which is not adequate or relevant to the needs which are identifiable today. Child endowment payments have not been adjusted. In 1950 endowment was set at 50c a week for the first child; it should now be $1.13 if the Minister wants to apply the indices he produced in his second reading speech. In 1948 it was set at $1 a child; it should be $2.56 a child now. In 1964 it was set at $1.50 a child; it should be $1.84 a child now. Quite clearly, if the Minister believes the indices he presented in the House are of such monumental importance he should explain why - because of his failure to adjust these payment rates according to those indices - he is cheating a family of 3 of $2.50 a week in child endowment to which it would otherwise be entitled.
If the Minister were to stand and say he wanted to introduce a new system of child endowment payments based upon a conception of need which would substantially increase these payments and treat them as taxable income, I for one would be very happy to support him because this obviously would give greatest benefit from the scheme to those with the greatest need. But Government silence seems to indicate it is irresponsive to this approach. We do not know what the long term objectives are for social welfare services in the community. Each Budget time a little bit comes forward. If it is election time a little more than the normal amount will be produced. But there is always this tinkering with the system rather than the Government’s giving us a broad scope of its long range objectives. Consider the A class widows’ pensions which have been increased by 50c a week. Even on this basis according to my calculations, any A class widow with more than one child will be below the poverty “level. The 1966 Melbourne survey of poverty was based on an austere poverty level of $33 per week or 55.7 per cent of average weekly earnings. On this basis - I relate it as a percentage of average weekly earnings - the poverty level would be relatively, $39.70 a week now.
Let us look at what this means for a widow with 3 children who will be receiving $34 a week including supplementary allowance and child endowment. She will be $7.70 below the poverty level. We can assume that she would be paying at least $10 a week in rent - and she would be lucky to obtain accommodation at that rate - and that food for herself and her children would cost her at least $12.50 a week. This means that a family of 4 has only $11.50 a week or $2.80 each week to live on. This is not taking into calculation the cost of clothing, transport, kiddies school books and all the extra fees that are imposed upon children by our State school system which is allegedly a free school system but which has become intolerably expensive for too many people. This system is too expensive not only for people in the poverty area but also for people on middle incomes and even people’ on average weekly earnings who have large families and who are confronted by the cost of books, uniforms and fees for sport and for the various other services associated with the facilities that are offered at the schools the children attend.
In 1966-67 the Bureau of Census and Statistics conducted a survey into household demand for Australia. According to that survey it was established that the proportion of personal disposable income spent on rent or housing was about 17.1 per cent and that spent on food, drink and tobacco was about 29.8 per cent. Let us compare this situation with the plight of the widow. A widow in the case I quoted spends about 29.4 per cent of her income on rent. She spends about 36.7 per cent of her income on food alone. She is considerably above the level of sacrifice demanded of other people in the community just to maintain what to us would be a completely intolerable living standard. This is a national disgrace. How much longer will we tolerate a situation in which the female head of a family of children is treated in this way? Professor Henderson in 1966 said:
The widows and deserted wives with dependant children constitute the group of whom the largest proportion are in acute poverty. . . .
Professor Henderson said ‘acute poverty’. It is acute poverty and not the austere level of poverty which he mentioned at $33. lt is well below this. Therefore, the need of this area of society is acute - it is a very grave one indeed. Professor Henderson made these comments in 1966. Yet here we are in 1970 and the widows are as badly of today as they were then and as they were before that period.
It is incomprehensible to me that a modern society such as ours with so much abounding wealth in certain preferred areas should allow segments of the community to suffer in this way. The unconcern for their welfare which is consistently manifested in subsequent Budgets is an example of atrocious neglect of public responsibility. Compounding the Conservatives offensiveness is their condemning of so many young children to a life of social, economic and cultural deprivation. The result for these children is that they are in turn handicapped in their progress through life. They are handicapped socially, culturally and economically. Their parents cannot afford the sort of schooling that is necessary for them to break out of this area of want. They have to get out to work early to earn income so that they can somehow prop up the family’s standard of living because there may be other children in the home.
Economically they are held back because their limited education means limited skills, which in turn means limited value on the labour market. They are also held back socially and culturally because they have lived in this so-called sub-culture of poverty. They will never make a breakthrough, or will their children. This is the alarming feature of these unfortunate people who suffer deprivation in a very wealthy society such as Australia has. So some people in the Australian community can be very wealthy while others suffer a great deal and their want is great. They suffer a great deal unnecessarily. Frankly, I believe in a sharp adjustment of the tax rate so that there will be more effective and humane redistribution of wealth in the community to eliminate this sort of thing.
Again, there is no mention anywhere in the Minister’s second reading speech of any provision for rent allowance for social service beneficiaries and people in need. In 19S3 an amount of $2 was granted by way of supplementary assistance and this was supposed to assist social service beneficiaries to meet the cost of rent. The report of Professor Henderson on the poverty survey in Melbourne had this to say:
Those widows who have to pay rent and who have no income other than their pension art clearly the poorest group in our survey . . .
In 1968-69 53.8 per cent of class A widows were without a home and held assets of less than $156. These widows would clearly be paying rent and would be receiving supplementary assistance. One can clearly say that 53.8 per cent of class A widows are living in an area which has been identified as one of poverty, as one of acute need. This area demanded a high priority response from the Minister, who should have given more generous assistance to meet the cost of rents. This applies not only to class A widows; there are many other people in this category such as single age and invalid pensioners who pay rent, large families on low incomes, many migrant families and all of those groups identified by social workers in Australia concerned about the existence of poverty.
There is no proposal at all in the Bill before the House to provide some sort of assistance for these people. A rather questionable practice has been introduced by the Minister of indicating that the subsidised rental available for people who have Housing Commission homes was established under the 1950 Housing Agreement. It was not. This scheme was established under the 1945 Housing Agreement which was introduced by a Labor Government. The scheme was destroyed in 1954 by a fiat of the Menzies Government because it was opposed to subsidising people who had need and want. Also, 22.6 per cent of age pensioners and 51.3 per cent of invalid pensioners pay rent and their means are- less than Si 56. The statistics available in the last annual report of the Department of Social Services show the extent to which people are without a home and are paying rent.
I now refer to sickness and unemployment benefits. The Bill provides an extra $5.50 a week for an adult after 6 weeks illness. But the Government has failed to grapple with the really grave problem of short term illness- illness up to 6 weeks. Even after a period of 6 weeks the Government fails to provide a reasonable sort of standard for people who have need of these benefits. Let me illustrate: A man with a wife and 2 children will receive $24.50 including child endowment when he seeks sickness or unemployment benefits. This family is worse off in these circumstances than it would be if the wife was widowed. She would receive $4.50 a week more for her family than she would if the husband was alive and was collecting unemployment and sickness benefits. Even with the long term benefits the male head of a family with a wife and 2 children receives only $1 a week more than his wife would receive if she was widowed and was supporting the same number of children. This is crazy.
The whole approach to the social service field is riddled with these anomalies. There has never been any effort by the Government to try to eliminate them or to try to justify them. Supporters of the Government waffle along in their grand way, indifferent to the need and indifferent to the clamour of concern in the community. But poverty exists. On the basis of the Melbourne survey, which identified only primary poverty and neglected secondary poverty and established poverty levels at an austere level, poverty affects at least 5 per cent of the population. On my assessment I expect poverty in Australia to be established at somewhere near 10 per cent when a thorough estimate is made of its pattern, nature and extent in the community. There is an infinite variety of figures, analyses, surveys and findings to establish that the Australian system of social welfare is inferior to need and that it stands embarrassingly disadvantaged compared to other advanced economies. Where once we led in social welfare services we now rank somewhere between 15th and 20th on a scale of what has been provided by various other countries. According to the 1968 United Nations Year Book on National Accounts, Australia spent 10.4 per cent of its gross national product on the provision of health, education and welfare. This fares quite poorly beside West Germany which provided 21.3 per cent and the United Kingdom which provided 19.8 per cent of their gross national products.
Social welfare programmes in Australia proceed on a disjointed piecemeal basis. If areas of high priority need are ever adequately satisfied by these programmes, this end has been achieved by luck because there has never been any effort to identify priorities. Equally, the need is not achieved through some philosophic motive which gives a consistency of purpose and is guided by a sense of moral commitment and obligation to such programmes. Programmes are undertaken by Australia’s Conservative Government out of either sheer necessity because public opinion will brook no longer the indolence of the conservative national government towards clear human need or else they are presented for the brazenly cynical purpose of bribing votes - and this latter example is mostly the case.
Additionally, one can add fairly that any satisfaction of need provided by these programmes is inevitably short lived. I instance the disgraceful manner in which pensions are manipulated like prizes in a lucky dip near election periods and then allowed to erode under the sapping influence of spiralling inflation in the intervening years. It is crass political opportunism which motivates a government to manipulate social welfare programmes like a box of tricks for election audiences to ‘ooh’ and aah’ over and then, after the election is over, to tuck the box away with determination after carefully labelling it: ‘Not to be used until the next election’. The conservative government at Canberra is thoroughly discreditable, exploiting as it does in this manner of grand political opportunism the welfare needs of those in want. Because such people are largely dispersed and relatively unorganised, they lack the political leverage necessary to compel the conservatives to forgo these practices of -electoral expediency. Thus, millions of dollars, provided at public expense, go in the form of subsidies, bounties, grants and various forms of concession and protection to bolster the loyalty of Country Party stalwarts and Liberal Party backers, while the need-meeting programmes to combat the relative social and economic deprivation of human beings in our society are given only fickle interest
People have rights as well as does property and, in a just society, the dignity and self respect of human beings will be recognised as the mainspring for human activity and aspirations. In that society, machines will be created and operated to serve the needs of man. The tempo and direction of productivity and the distribution of wealth generated by that productivity will be geared according to the needs of man. This cannot be said to be the case now. The rights of property and the need for conformity in a property dominated society have been elevated above all else and assume qualities of sacredness which in many respects seem profane. .We are told by Christian teachings that mau was created in God’s image and per se should be accorded the deference and esteem of which I speak ahead of the inanimate creations of man. Yet, man is being shouldered aside constantly to make way for a machine dominated technology. The Aboriginal is pushed off his reserve land to become an exile from his tribal grounds. Thus, 2,500 square miles of Weipa land could bc expeditiously transmitted to Comalco without 1 second’s consideration being given to the person who counts most of all, the Aboriginal. This Aboriginal, dispossessed and deprived, finds the great virtues of the free enterprise society - greed and selfishness - oppressing him more and more and denying him fundamental rights, destroying his self respect and defiling his culture.
The slum dwellers in the major metropolises, contemptuously shouldered aside for progress in the form of a discordant black slash of asphalt freeway across the landscape, are not being treated like human beings. Re-settlement in gigantic blocks of impersonal depersonalising flats or by people being cast indiscriminately into some distant, sprawling, soulless and unattractive housing development only gives sharpness to the edge of my criticism that people are not accorded the rights and respect to which they should have an unalienable entitlement as human beings. A completely new approach must be adopted to the provision of social welfare services in Australia. The whole programme must be planned. There must be public discussion on the plan and public involvement in its operations. Goals must be defined and methods of evaluating the success of each stage of the plan and each sector within each stage too must be developed. It is paramount that the field services should not become part of a remote monolithic bureaucracy.
With these requirements in mind, the Australian Labor Party has pledged itself to undertake a wide ranging social welfare programme, not only aimed at rooting out poverty but also aimed at progressively removing the very real disadvantages of social discrimination and at establishing economic security for all in ill health, unemployment, invalidity, widowhood and age.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
-We believe that ail people have an inalienable right to a minimum standard of living which guarantees an adequate intake of food, provision of clothing and reasonable accommodation. But more than this we assert that positive steps must be undertaken to smother out the inherited disadvantages of social and cultural disadvantage. However it is nonsense to talk of providing equal opportunity through similar facilities for all, for example, in education. The socially and culturally deprived need unequal opportunity which discriminates in their favour. The present system of education exemplifies how they are gravely disadvantaged by a system which ostensibly is the same for all but which in fact is heavily weighted against them. The middle class orientation of our education system is so totally removed from the reality of the experiences of the culturally and socially deprived and so alien to their needs and understanding as to confirm their own poor estimations of themselves as failures when their efforts to cope with the system prove in vain. This single illustration exemplifies their special need in services.
Labor’s programme will have 2 main prongs. On the one hand Labor will set about establishing a meaningful system of social security. This will involve the concept of a guaranteed minimum income and contributory superannuation which will cover widowhood and dependants and which could be broadened later to include sickness and unemployment benefits and invalidity. The comprehensive social security approach will also include universal health insurance. On the other hand the development of community based field services operated by regional departments of social welfare will be fostered by direct special grants under section 96 of the Constitution to State governments, local authorities and voluntary agencies.
Let me develop some aspects of Labor’s social security goals. Establishing guaranteed income presents no insuperable barriers. The United States of America is currently proposing this for families as part of a family assistance plan. The level of guaranteed income will be struck after a careful analysis of family consumption patterns and need. A contributory national superannuation scheme will replace the present means tested system of pension. Through national superannuation human dignity and self-respect will be preserved in old age. Payments will be seen as a right, not as a charitable concession. National superannuation will not be means tested but will be an automatic right for all contributors on retirement. Contributions will bc geared to income, and benefits will be averaged on an updated scale according to one’s 10 best earning years. This is much the scheme in operation in Sweden. Professor Downing’s scheme seems to be the best proposal fo far put forward. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a short explanation of his proposals contained in the ‘Social
Services’, periodical, for January-February 1969 in an article entitled ‘National Superannuation’.
By R. I. Downing, Ritchie Professor of Research in Economics at the University of Melbourne.
It is kind of you to have invited me to talk to you about my proposals for a scheme of national superannuation, and particularly about its application to civilian widows. My proposals would involve a far-reaching revolution in the Australian approach to income-security. They would mean a fundamental revision of the philosophy underlying our government social services, and a big change in an important and financially powerful section of our economy - the insurance offices and private superannuation funds.
One does not expect this sort of proposal to be adopted overnight. It must first win the support of public opinion, of politicians and of administrators. The starting point is public opinion, which is why I value this opportunity to speak to such a widely representative audience.
What is wrong with the present system?
Let me begin by saying why I am unhappy about the present situation in Australia. I have become convinced that retired earners and their surviving dependants are in an unhappy situation, whether they are dependent on the government pension or on their own savings.
The pensioner is and has always been on a low income. In recent years - years of the greatest affluence in our history - his position has deteriorated relative to the rest of the community. Just after the war, the basic pension rate was at a peak 27 per cent of average earnings. By the early 1950s it was down to 23.5 per cent and then fell gradually to 22.7 per cent in the early sixties. The decline then accelerated, with the ratio falling to 21.2 per cent in the mid-1960s. Over the last four years, the basic pension rate has risen by an average of 3.7 per cent a year while average earnings have been rising by 6.1 per cent a year - or by 5.1 per cent after tax.
People who set out to provide a retirement income for themselves make considerable sacrifices to save out of their current incomes. By the time they reach retirement, however, their savings, as a result of the rapid rise in money incomes which has been going on over the last thirty years, are usually quite inadequate when judged by the standard of their pre-retirement earnings. Disappointed at the outcome of their savings efforts, they would like to supplement their retirement income by drawing the age pension but may be frustrated by the operation of the means test. In their eyes, the pension is reserved for the improvident and, to aggravate their bitterness, is regularly stepped up to prevent it being eroded by inflation.
I believe that both pensioners and private savers will continue to be in a vulnerable position so long as pensions continue to be paid, subject to a means test, out of a consolidated revenue which has to satisfy also competing demands for expenditure on defence, education, health and all other public services and works; and so long as money incomes go on rising by 5 or 6 per cent a year.
1 confine myself here to but a brief outline of my proposals.”
For married couples, the retirement benefit would be 100 per cent of updated past earnings, i.e. for those whose updated past earnings had been $42 a week or less, with a minimum benefit of $25 a week. The ratio would fall for past earnings in excess of $42 a week to reach 66) per cent at $90 a week.
For single earners, the ratio would be 72 per cent of past earnings up to $42 a week (minimum, $18), falling to 66i per cent at $90 a week.
Widows would receive 621 per cent of their deceased husband’s entitlements. Where the husband had died before retirement, his entitlement would be calculated as if his earnings and contributions had continued to age 65. Subject to comments below, children’s allowances might also be payable.
Benefits so determined at the time of retirement would be regularly updated after retirement in step with the index of average earnings.
Benefits would be reduced by one-half of any earnings continuing after age 65.
The benefits would be financed by contributions.
The Scheme could be extended to a complete social security scheme, covering not only retired earners and their survivors, but also invalids and the disabled, the unemployed and the sick, and those suffering loss of income through accidents; and also medical and hospital costs. I estimate that this complete coverage could be provided by maintaining present contributions for workers’ compensation, for accident policies and for health benefits and collecting in addition contributions totalling 8i per cent of employers’ payrolls subject to contributions, and an average of 4i per cent from earners, graduated so as to fall more lightly on low earnings.
Many people will object to the compulsory aspect of my proposals on the ground that it would introduce an unwarrantable interference with individual freedom and responsibility. People should be left to decide for themselves, they will argue, how much they are going to provide for their retirement do so only because they are comment the government pension.
A few people do save by their own free will decisions - especially those wilh higher incomes for whom savings involves least pain, and those who are building up businesses and professional practices which will yield them a capital asset on their retirement.
Many of those who make some provision for their retirement do so only because they are compelled, as a condition of their employment, to join private superannuation schemes. In a situation where only a small proportion of total jobs are covered by superannuation - and usually the salaried and better paid jobs - the fortunate people are those who are so compelled. But many of those in private superannuation schemes are faced with a cruel choice if they want to change their job before retirement Either they lose their accumulated rights, or they stay in a frustrating job because they can’t afford to lose their rights.
Even among those who do save towards their retirement, many don’t stait saving until they are well on in their working careers, leaving themselves not enough time to make adequate provision unless they can save at a very high rate.
And all private savers, whether investing directly or through insurance and superannuation funds, face the prospect of serious disappointment at the outcome of their savings efforts when assessed in terms of their earnings at the time of their retirement.
Most earners, however, neither rich nor provident enough to save on their own account, and not in jobs covered by compulsory private superannuation schemes, come to retirement with tittle or nothing but the pension. They may eke out that pension with some part-time earnings, or drawing on small assets, often acquired as lumpsum retirement allowances. Both sources of supplementation are likely to disappear just when an ageing pensioner is most in need.
For all these reasons, there is a large number of people either already retired and on inadequate incomes or anticipating that they will soon be in that position. The number is, I believe, large enough to justify compulsory membership of a scheme which will keep benefits rising in step with the general level of money incomes in the community as a whole.
However, compulsion can be made more acceptable by two provisions.
First, earners should be required to contribute in respect of up to only the first $90 a week of their earnings. Those who earn more than $90 a week can be left to make their own arrangements, possibly in collaboration with their employers, for appropriate retirement benefits in respect of their excess earnings.
Secondly, all earners at any level of weekly earnings should be free to make whatever supplementary provision they may choose, without suffering any reduction of their retirement entitlement under the national superannuation scheme.
The Distribution of Benefits and Costs
The benefits proposed under this scheme will help mainly those not now in superannuation schemes - and so primarily the lower and lowermiddle income groups. It will help also to protect those who do not save against the erosion of their savings by inflation; and it will help single retired people with low past earnings. It will enable all retired people to share in the community’s rising productivity.
The cost of these substantial benefits is of course correspondingly large. It will fall on the earners themselves who will derive the benefits - directly through their own contributions and, indirectly, as employers pass on their contributions in the form of higher prices and wages and salaries lower than they might otherwise have been.
In assessing this cost burden it should be remembered, however, that contributions are graduated, falling less heavily on those with lower earnings.
The net burden will be felt particularly by those in receipt of lower earnings, since most of those on higher earnings are already contributing - often at higher rates than those proposed here - to private superannuation schemes. It is, however, those on lower earnings who will be the main beneficiaries. In a scheme designed to benefit mainly a group comprising probably three-quarters of the earning population, it is impossible for the costs to be borne other than by that same group. Even though the cost is substantial, the benefits are great and will be greatly appreciated when they are received.
To moderate the impact of the cost burden, it would probably be desirable to introduce the contributions in a series of steps spread over 5 or 10 years so that the burden could be borne out of rising real incomes.
It should also be appreciated that the contributions are intended to be levied on actual earnings, with no allowances for dependants or other deductions. Payments of child endowment should be incorporated into the scheme as an offset to contributions. At the same time, rates of child endowment should be substantially increased. For the average family, there has been virtually no increase in these rates since 1951 when the first child in each family became eligible for endowment. Since 1951, prices have doubled and average earnings have trebled, establishing a strong case for an increase of all endowment rates. The increases that have been granted during this period have benefited mainly the relatively small number of larger families.0
It should also be noted that the costs of this scheme in Australia will be much less than the cost of similar schemes now operating in most Northern and Western European countries which have a substantially larger proportion of older people than we have.
Immediate Eligibility for Benefits
Since the benefits proposed are to be financed from current contributions, the benefits can be paid as contributions are received. Benefits should not be conditional on having paid contributions throughout a working career. It would be fair, however, during the transition period, to deduct from the benefits whatever retirement or survivors’ incomes are being already received by those eligible for benefit.
The administration of these transitional benefits would present difficulties, but none that could not be overcome. The alternative of waiting till some lime in the next century to get everyone on full benefit is repugnant to anyone concerned to secure an immediate better deal for retired earners and their survivors.
Anyone applying for the higher benefits proposed should be required to submit a statutory declaration as to their past earnings and their current assets and income, on the basis of which appropriate benefit rates could be determined.
People now at work and currently contributing to private superannuation schemes would switch to the national scheme in respect of the first $90 of their earnings, their accumulated rights being frozen for payment at retirement, as an offset against the benefits to which they would then be entitled.
Migrants should be admitted to full membership of the scheme, at least up to age 40 or 45 years.
Fringe benefits and social division
Anxiety has been expressed about the future of pensioners’ fringe benefits, such as the pensioner medical service and special children’s allowances, under these proposals. Provided that a satisfactory health benefits scheme, with universal coverage, and adequate rates of child endowment are available, preferably as part of the scheme as already suggested, there should be no remaining need for these pensioners’ fringe benefits. Their redundancy would yield a far happier situation than the present system which gives a minimum subsistence benefit to beneficiaries selected by a means test, and then further aggravates social division by giving them fringe benefits denied to others in not very dissimilar positions.
Of the 3.6 million children under 16 years endowed at June 1966, 2.5 million are in families of 3 or less, where the only improvement has been the increase from $1.00 to 81.50 a week for the 0.9 million third children. The 21,532 children in families of 9 or more have of course benefited more substantially from the increase of rates for larger families.
The Effect on Savings
The effect of these proposals on the flow of national savings, on which we depend for investment to sustain our rising population and to increase productivity, will be minimal. The great bulk of savings .comes from depreciation reserves, undistributed profits of companies and profits of unincorporated farm and business enterprises, all of which should be unaffected assuming that employers do pass on their contributions; from the contractural savers of home-purchasers, from governments’ current surpluses and from overseas borrowing; and from the retained investment income of insurance and superannuation funds. Of the 29.’3 per cent of gross national product devoted to capital formation in the period 1964-65 to 1966-67, only 1 per cent came from the excess of insurance and superannuation contributions over costs of administration and settlement of claims.
Not all of this 1 per cent will be lost to savings, since much of the insurance and superannuation business will continue undisturbed.
At worst, some small reduction in capital formation would not be an unreasonable price to pay for a much needed social reform. But any such loss could be avoided, if desired, by measures to encourage private saving or increase the government surplus.
The scheme proposed has several advantages in comparison with Australia’s existing provisions for retirement.
These proposals are neither new or revolutionary. Similar schemes are operating in most European countries. Australia, once in the vanguard of social progress, now lags far behind most of the advanced countries in its arrangements for income-maintenance, family care and health insurance. She is as rich, in terms of income per head, as the richest of these countries and much richer than most of them.
My proposals need refinement through extensive debate and investigation of administrative problems. But I cannot for the life of me see why Australia should not move gradually, along lines such as I have suggested, to a standard of cash benefits and social services at least as good as Is provided in the socially most advanced countries of the western world.
This Session was chaired by Professor R. N. Spann, Professor of Government, University of Sydney.
The great attraction of Downing’s scheme is that it can be in operation within a relatively short period. Again it is an adaptable scheme and allows for expansion to cover invalidity, sickness and unemployment benefits. This is an enlargement of its role which would be developed later. The fact that I have incorporated in Hansard Professor Downing’s statement does not indicate that the Labor Party is rigidly committed to every proposal that he puts forward. It is an expression of the direction in which we are aiming. The alternative to national superannuation is retention of the present system of age pension which, if it is to become means tested free without a national superannuation scheme to back it up, will become sticky at a relatively low level in spite of attendant, unavoidable substantial increases in income tax. In turn it will contribute little to the welfare of those with sufficient private means for retirement, but for those totally dependent on it it will represent tragic deprivation.
The second thrust of Labor’s comprehensive welfare programme will be to bring about, in Professor Donnison’s words: a more radical unification of the personal social services which will create teams responsible for the welfare of a neighbourhood, rather than for particular needs of types of clients within it - responsible too for representing people in that neighbourhood in their dealings with bureaucracy, and mobilising their will to act on their own behalf.
Accordingly we would set up regional social welfare offices supported by direct grants, as I mentioned earlier, from the Federal Government and in co-operation with the State governments, local authorities and voluntary agencies. Only in this way can meaningful field services be provided for people with need, more especially the multi-problem family. As the situation presently operates, multi-problem families create inefficient uses of the various social welfare agencies which operate separate from one another.
Again, through this sort of system we would be able to establish multi-service centres such as I have seen operating in
Chicago and which contribute tremendous advantage for people in deprived areas. Part of the backing up of our scheme will be Federal offices manned by high powered staff from several disciplines, and top administrators. Information fed into this centre from independent agencies and regional social welfare offices will be assessed and, from this, needs will be evaluated and appropriate responses for needs defined on a flexible basis. We will allow the final outline and application of such policies to be pretty much determined by the people in the field who are applying the policies.
Subsidised rental housing, planned urban renewal and outer suburb and new town development will be dovetailed. So too will special education programmes at all levels, including adult training and retraining for recreational benefit as well as for vocational advantage. Universal health insurance too is part of our programme. This of course all costs money, but not so much as to interfere with the performance of the economy. Contributory schemes will marginally at the worst interfere with the savings rate for investment. But this can be made up if desirable by offsetting policies. In any event the question is: What is economic growth for? Is it to serve some sort of magic index rates which give no indication of how the real wealth is distributed in the community, or is it to provide a more meaningful existence for human beings? The Labor Party has opted for the latter.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– 1 second the amendment and reserve my right to speak, and I hope I get an opportunity to speak.
– Both the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and I are graduates in economics, and I was rather surprised that an economics graduate should deliver a speech such as the one that we have just heard. I thought for a while in the middle of his speech that perhaps he had also studied mathematics, because he was giving us quite a lot of figures, but when I jotted them down and found that they did not add up I began to think that he had not studied mathematics very well either. I was under the impression that anyone who had studied economics would know of the Keynesian theory of economics, but from the speech that the honourable member for Oxley has just given it is apparent that be has not heard of it or, if he has, he has forgotten about it
The honourable member did his course by correspondence, 1 understand, while he was a member of this Parliament, and this is all to hrs credit. I congratulate him on it but I cannot help wondering whether that part of the course dealing with economic theory went astray in the mail. The honourable member for Oxley is an intelligent and hard working member of this Parliament, and I am inclined to believe that for the purpose of this debate he has just put the Keynesian theory to the back of bis mind. Perhaps I can refresh his memory. John Maynard Keynes, or Lord Keynes as he was later to become, was a brilliant lecturer in economics at Cambridge University who in 1936 published a book called The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’. Keynes maintained that the economic system has no automatic tendency to full employment and that unless certain controls are placed on the economy then the cycle of boom and depression with which we were all familiar in the pre-war days would continue. His theory was basically that in times of inflation interest rates should be increased and taxation should be increased, thus reducing spending in the private sector of the economy, and that Government spending likewise should be kept to an absolute minimum. This would have the effect of reducing demand te a position where it could be equated to the supply of labour and resources at that time.
In time of unemployment the exact reverse, of course, would apply. In a depression every encouragement is given to the private sector to expand. Money is made easier to borrow by reducing interest rates, taxation is reduced and Government expenditure on public works and social services is expanded to take up the slack of unemployment. This, of course, as honourable members should be aware, was the direct opposite to what governments had done previously. During the depression instead of expanding the economy governments had clamped down on government expenditure and this, of course, had only compounded the problem. Instead of arresting unemployment it had accelerated it. In 1940 Keynes joined the British Treasury and was responsible for the new concept of budgetary control which has been followed by governments ever since. It was adopted by the Chifley Government here in Australia and has been carried on by succeeding Liberal and Country Party governments. As a result of this policy, and I pay credit to the former Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, for its adoption, Australia has been freed from the cycle of boom and depression ever since.
It is not necessary for me to say here today that the economy of this country has been undergoing inflationary pressures. This is well known to all, and in line with the Keynesian theory it has been essential that the Government take steps to dampen down the economy. This was done by the recent increase in interest rates and by bringing down a deflationary budget, which is what this Budget is, and this would have been done, I submit, by any responsible government, be it Liberal or Labor. I listened to most of the speeches on the Budget made by members of the Opposition and I was appalled at the lack of conception which exists on that side of the House of what a balanced” economy really means. I am old enough to remember as a small boy in the 1930s queues of people lined up for a free handout of a loaf of bread and I never want to witness that again in Australia. The last depression was due mainly to bad financial policies by governments throughout the world. Of course, the Government would have liked to have given more to the pensioners this year than just 50c. Of course the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) would have wanted to do much more than that. There has never been, I would submit, a Minister with more understanding of the problems of pensioners than the present Minister, or one more desirous of assisting them and I am proud to be associated with him.
It amazes me how some people, including honourable members opposite, seem to think that governments can just pluck money out of the air. To put it in simple terms, what really happens is that governments collect money from the taxpayers and then redistributes that money between the varying needs of the nation. If one section gets more, another section must of necessity get less. If one section is to get more than previously then other sections can only get the same amount as previously by taking more from the taxpayers by way of increased taxation. But this Government, and also the Labor Party, went to the people at the last election with a policy of reducing income taxation on middle and lower income groups. Whichever Party had been elected at the last election, neither would have had a mandate to increase income taxation, and the only way any government could have increased the pensions in these circumstances would have been by cutting down on some other vital sector of the economy. I for one would, like the Minister, have preferred to have seen the pension increase much greater than it was. This could have been done if the Government had not honoured its promise to reduce income tax but the Government has honoured that promise, just as the Labor Party would have been forced to do had it won the last election. The increase in pensions would have been higher had we cut down on our expenditure on defence, on national development, on education, on overseas aid, on Aboriginals, on housing or on health. But the honourable member for Oxley has made no positive or practical proposals on what function of government should have been reduced to finance the higher pension which he advocates. Unlike the Opposition the Government has looked at the Budget as a whole concept.
It is rather interesting to turn back the pages of Hansard to the Budget debate of 1949-50 when the right honourable Mr J. B. Chifley was Prime Minister and Treasurer of this country. At that time when he brought in a budget which had not increased pensions in any way whatsoever - I can see that the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) well remembers this - he said: the Australian Labor Party, and particularly myself, would have liked to have seen several measures introduced in this country, including a scheme of national superannuation. 1 think that it will be possible in the days to come to give consideration to such a measure. I stress, however, that it could not be financed out of present taxes.
He went on to say:
The honourable member for Bourke
I believe in those days it was Mrs Blackburn - also referred to endowment of the first child. This would cost over £30,000,000 a year. Furthermore, the abolition of the means test would cost another £60,000,000 a year.
That was back in 1949. Mr Chifley went on: lt is of no use attempting to fool the people with promises. These things can be done only by the imposition of additional taxes. They are, therefore, linked with the matter of general finance.
I throw back at the Opposition and at the honourable member for Oxley those words of the last Labor Prime Minister, that they are, therefore linked with the matter of general finance’.
The whole proposition that the Labor Party is putting forward and the way they are trying to pull this Bill to pieces is without any comprehension of the effect their proposals would have on the whole of the general finance of the nation. First and foremost it was necessary for this Government to bring in a deflationary budget. Secondly, the Government needed to honour its promise to reduce income tax, and thirdly it also had to honour its pledge to reform the health scheme. It is because of the large allocation from the national welfare fund to health this financial year that more has not been available to keep up the pace of improvement in the pension rate which this Government has maintained since it came into office. Payments this year from our welfare fund will reach an all time high of $ 1,473m, which is an increase of $13.) m over last year or an increase of almost 10 per cent. This year our allocation of funds for age, invalid and widow pensions alone will exceed a total of $ 1,000m. This year the increase in pensions will mean that the pensioner will receive sufficient to maintain the real value of the pension but it will not continue the accelerated improvement which has been the policy of this Government since John Gorton became Prime Minister. It will, in other words, offset for the pensioner the effects of inflation and it is disappointing to all members on this side of the House that the Government has been unable to maintain the real progress which it has achieved in the last 2 Budgets.
The increase in the pension this year will mean that under the tapered means test a single pensioner can now earn $41 a week and a married pensioner couple can now earn $72 a week between them before the pension will cut out. And let no one forget that the tapered means test which was introduced in the Budget last year by the present Minister was possibly the greatest step forward for pensioners ever taken by any government in the history of this country. It is very interesting to read from the Budget Speech of Mr Chifley back in 1949. He said:
Under the present provisions relating to the payment of invalid and age pensions, a man and bis wife, who are both pensioners, may each receive an income and still retain their right to pensions. Including income from other sources, they may receive £7 5s. a week between them.
That is $14.50; remember that figure. He went on to say, and mark this:
Nobody can contend that that is not a comfortable amount for the sustenance of old people who are not compelled to go to work and who do not need the dissipations that youth sometimes indulge in to gain experience of life.
Those are words spoken by Ben Chifley in 1949. It is interesting to calculate from the cost of living index just what $14.50 in 1949 is equivalent to today, lt comes to about $35 a week. This was the ceiling Mr Chifley - the last Labor Prime Minister of this country - put on the amount that should be required for a pensioner couple to live in comfort. Under the present tapered means test a married couple today can have income and a full pension up to an amount of $44.50 per week and income and a part pension of up to $72 per week, Whereas Mr Chifley set the ceiling at $35 on today’s prices, under the present Government today a pensioner couple can have $72 a week, which is over twice what the former Labor Prime Minister said was sufficient for any couple to live on. Since the time of the Chifley Government many fringe benefits have been introduced. We as a Party when we came into office were not satisfied with the Chifley ceiling. We did not agree with it. We have doubled it and we are proud of the fact that we have done so. I do not know whether the Labor Party will disclaim what its former Prime Minister said but that certainly was not a ceiling that we as the Government were prepared to accept.
The real test in this pension rise is the real value of the pension. Figures can be twisted in many ways, as we heard from the speech of the honourable member for Oxley. The pension given by the last Labor Government was $4.25 per week which is worth $10.89 when adjusted to today’s values. When the Gorton Government came into office some 2i years ago the pension at the real value was $13.98. Today it is $15.50. The record of this Government in assistance to the pensioner is a good one. We would all like to have seen a continuation this year of the improvement of the real position of the pensioner, which is the avowed policy of this Government. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, people have become so accustomed to this Government’s policy of continuous improvement that any slackening in the rate of advance appears to be almost a regression. But the Minister has assured us that any slackening is only temporary and that as soon as it can do the Government will bring forward another instalment in its continuous plan of raising the standard of pensioners in real terms.
I am sure that Chifley, who believed in and implemented the Keynesian theory of a controlled economy, would have been dismayed and alarmed had he heard the speech of the honourable member for Oxley and his extraordinary statements today. I would like to quote the words of Chifley from Hansard of 22nd November 1950. explaining why. the Labor Government in 1949 did not increase pensions in the Budget that year. He said:
The Labor Party did not want to buy votes at the last general election by giving away a few favours on the eve of polling day. I have always endeavoured to preserve some semblance of political honesty and I did not want to make any promises to the electors which could not be fulfilled.
Mr Chifley went on to say:
I opposed the taking of any action by the Labor Government on the eve of a general election that might have gained a few extra votes for its candidates in return for favours granted.
I commend these words of Mr Chifley to the honourable member for Oxley.
The honourable member for Oxley has moved an amendment to this Bill. I am afraid that I cannot support this amendment. The amendment lumps together 4 different propositions. The first is that the increases proposed are inadequate. I do not believe that is so if we take into account the whole economy at the present time at the present inflationary level. I agree with the words of Mr Chifley that at the present time it is all that can be done. We are sorry that this is so but like Mr Chifley in 1949 the Government has found itself in a position on this one occasion when it cannot do as much for pensioners as it would like to do but it has - unlike the Chifley Government in 1949 - at least kept up the real standard of the pensioners by giving a 50c increase. The second part of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley states:
That is a very sweeping statement and is lumped together with other sections of the amendment. I do not think anyone in this House should be asked to support it. The third section of the amendment states:
I think that all governments - be they State Governments or the Federal Government - are taking steps to alleviate what pockets of poverty still remain and poverty is, of course, whether we like it or not, something that will always be with us. But we are certainly doing what we as a Federal Government can do to eliminate poverty. The final section of the amendment is:
I find myself in some sympathy with this section of the amendment. I do not think I have seen the table which has been incorporated in Hansard and presented by the honourable member for Oxley but I would imagine that it would be impossible in 1 year to carry out this fourth step. The cost would be prohibitive. Although I am in favour of the general principle of this proposal I do feel that I could not support the amendment as it is.
Whatever else Chifley was, he was a responsible Treasurer and he knew, as apparently the honourable member for Oxley does not know - or else will not admit - that in a time when demand is in excess of the supply capability irresponsible government financial policies can only increase the inflationary pressures. What would it profit a pensioner if he gained an extra 50c and then had this whittled away by inflationary pressures due to irresponsible government financial management? I will be very pleased to hear the contributions of those honourable members opposite who just laughed because so often they sit back and say ‘Yes, give more to this section and more to that section and more to another section’, but they never come up with a concrete proposal as to where the money is to come from. When they do that they will be entitled to laugh. The Government is charged with maintaining a sound economy. Irresponsible government financial policies - which I am sure would be the case if the Labor Party ever got into power - only lead down one road - the road to disaster and depression, ft is easy when one is in opposition to make promises but it is another thing for a government in power to fulfill them. A government in power must take a more responsible and realistic approach to the economy. Perhaps some day, if the Labor Party ever comes to power - and God help us if it does - the honourable member for Oxley may realise the truth of the words of the former Labor Prime Minister, Ben Chifley.
– The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) in quoting remarks made by Mr Chifley completely neglected to say that the last Budget brought down by Mr Chifley’s Government in 1949 provided for a total expenditure of about $ 1,000m. Any comparison with a Budget which provides for an expenditure of $8,000m - a sevenfold increase - is absolutely ridiculous. The population and the number of taxpayers also have doubled since those days, lt seems quite obvious that every honourable member who speaks on the Government side has been instructed by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) to refer to what Mr Chifley did in 1949 as a means of diverting attention from the real issue at stake today - the paltry increase of 50c for pensioners. Only about 6 members of the Opposition were here in the days of Mr Chifley. How ridiculous it is to compare what was done 20 years ago with what is being done today. I am not a bit concerned with what was paid to pensioners by the Bruce-Page Government, nor am I concerned with what was paid by the Scullin Government, the Lyons Government, the Curtin Government or the Chifley Government. Such comparisons are specious and do not assist in securing justice for the pensioners.
I am interested in obtaining answers to 2 questions: Firstly, is the pension sufficient for a person to live in dignity and in keeping wilh our standards of living? Secondly, can the economy afford a better pension? The answer to the first question is a definite no. I believe an overwhelming majority of the populace would agree with that. The answer to the second question is a definite yes. I do not believe in a policy of guns before butter. Let me cite the 2-word comment of the Sydney ‘Sun’ on the pension:
The Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ had this to say when referring to the Budget:
It makes few richer and the pensioners poorer.
These are not Labor journals; they are pro-Government journals. Now I turn to some of the statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), that self professed emancipist of the underprivileged section of the community. A few days prior to the ballot for the Liberal Party leadership following the tragic death of Harold Holt the Prime Minister said:
If I was able to frame the nation’s future policies, I would aim at a society which would remove burdens and fear from the shoulders of those in dire need.
Later, on 12th March 1968 the GovernorGeneral delivered a speech outlining Government policy. During that speech he stated:
My Government will review the field of social welfare, with the object of assisting those in dire need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self help and self reliance. To this end my Government will set up a standing Cabinet committee, including the Ministers for Health, Social Services, Repatriation and Housing, and that Committee will direct its attention to coordinating the approaches and proposals qf the various departments concerned with social welfare.
The Prime Minister has failed miserably in bringing to fruition his glittering, grandiose but pretentious thoughts. So far as the standing Cabinet committee is concerned, it simply has lain down on the job. I suggest that every Government supporter, including yourself, Mr Speaker, is embarrassed and ashamed because of the paltry increase of 50c a week granted under this legislation. If this is not true then T challenge any Government supporter to say that the 50c is adequate.
Let us contrast this Government’s inglorious neglect of the pensioners with Labor policy as enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) prior to the 1969 House of Representatives general election. This policy provides for the pension rate to be 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, which means in effect that the pension is automatically adjusted in the Budget brought down each year. While wage and salary earners have access to machinery to obtain wage justice, the pensioner is at the complete mercy of the Government in securing a just deal. This iniquitous method of fixing pensions should be scrapped and in its stead there should be substituted a system which conforms to Labor policy. It has been said over and over again that we are living in an affluent society. I for one do not subscribe to that description when approximately 80 per cent of age and invalid pensioners have no income exclusive of the pension. Naturally they are subjected to a much inferior standard of living compared with other sections of the community. These forgotten people are not part of the so-called affluent society. It is true that a very minor portion of this 80 per cent receives the supplementary allowance of $2 a week, but since the Ask in Liberal Government amended the Landlord and Tenant Act in New South Wales, making rent control ineffective, rentals have skyrocketed, much to the detriment of pensioners.
In the district of Redfern in which I live many pensioners are paying from $6 to $10 a week for a room. I cite the case of a married couple whose sole income is the pension. This couple approached me to inquire whether I could find them accommodation at a rental within their means. They had been living in a little dilapidated cottage at a low rental. The owner increased the rent to $12.50 a week. The matter was taken to court and the court ordered a reduction to $10.25, which of course was beyond their capacity to pay. Subsequently they were forced to move in with a married daughter with a family and reside in a home which had inadequate space for them. This is only one of many cases in which pensioners have approached me with rent problems. All that I can do is refer them to my State parliamentary colleagues so that the persons concerned may have their names listed for a pensioner housing unit. However, there is a minimum waiting period of 5 years for these units.
It is important when dealing with pensions to bear in mind at all times that pensioners pay the same price over the counter for meat, bread, milk, groceries, fruit, vegetables, clothing, shoes, etc., as does any other member of the community. They receive no price concessions. We must also remember that the pensioners of today were the pioneers of yesterday. They had to raise their families the hard way and they did this without grumbling so that their sons and daughters would not experience similar hardships.
I now refer to the pensioner wife’s allowance which is paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner, the wife of an age pensioner on reaching the age of 70, or the wife of a person in receipt of an age pension who is unable to work. The allowance is $7 a week. I think everyone will agree that that is totally inadequate. I shall illustrate the point clearly. The wife, not of pensionable age, of an invalid, incapacitated or age pensioner of 70 years or more qualifies for the allowance. If the husband is paying rent he will qualify for the supplementary allowance of $2 a week, making a total of $24.50 a week combined pension. Yet a married pensioner couple will receive $27.50 a week, or $3 a week more. Should the invalid pensioner own a home, it will be $5 a week more. This indeed exemplifies the imbalance. It is weighted very heavily against the pensioner whose wife receives only the allowance. This injustice should be rectified.
I turn now to the B class widows pension. Recipients of this pension total about 40,000. The rate will be $13.75 a week. In referring to this section of social services, I shall point to one of the Government’s many inconsistencies. Several years ago the age and invalid pension was fixed at a base rate. It applied to every pensioner, whether single or married. This system was abolished and the combined pension of a married couple was reduced. This step was taken on the basis that two can live more cheaply than one. That reasoning is completely shattered when account is taken of the fact that a widow on a B class pension, who naturally is a single pensioner, is obliged to meet the same living costs as a single age or invalid pensioner. Yet she will receive an amount equivalent to that paid to each of a pensioner couple or, to put it another way, $1.75 less than the pension for a single age or invalid pensioner. Put simply, it just does not make sense to argue that two can live cheaper than one.
Let me refer now to child endowment and the maternity allowance. For 20 years there has been no increase in the rate of endowment paid for the first child despite spiralling inflation in that time. It is interesting to note that before his elevation to the Ministry the Minister for Social Services expressed in this House and in newspaper articles alarm at the declining birth rate. Is it any wonder that the birth rate has been declining. The Government does little or nothing adequately to encourage families in the lower income bracket to bring children into the world. If economic circumstances were better, thousands of parents would be keen to increase the size of their families. I wonder whether the Minister is aware that it costs about $4 a week to provide the special foods and care recommended for babies by baby health centres. Yet this Government pays an insignificant 50c a week towards the cost of rearing the first child. As a child gets older the cost of keeping it increases, particularly the cost of clothing, footwear and education.
As for the maternity allowance, except for a minor adjustment in 1947 it has remained unaltered for 27 years, notwithstanding that pre-natal and hospital costs have increased 5-fold over the period. Surely irrefutable evidence such as this must convince the Government that the initial step in seeking to improve the birth rate is to increase child endowment and the maternity allowance. The great migration programme introduced by the Labor Government in the post-war years and administered by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) and carried on by successive Liberal-Country Party governments has been a remarkable success. However, we must be ever mindful of the fact that a baby born in Australia is just as important as a migrant brought here from overseas.
Let us examine the pensioner funeral benefit. This scheme was introduced in 1943 and provided for the payment of $20 towards the cost of a funeral of a pensioner. The amount has remained unaltered for 27 years except in the case of one of a married pensioner couple. In that case the surviving partner would receive a benefit of $40. That alteration in the benefit became operative only a few years ago. If the Minister would care to make inquiries he would find that $20 would meet only 50 per cent of the cost of a coffin. The cost of a funeral has increased more than 500 per cent since 1943 yet, except for the case of a married pensioner couple to which I have referred, the Government has done nothing to rectify the grave injustices that exist.
I have consistently protested in this . House about an anomaly in the administration of the Department of Social Services which often penalises pensioners financially. This anomaly arises out of the fact that successful applications for pension become operative from the first pension day after the receipt of the application. Let me illustrate how the anomaly operates. Social service pensions are paid fortnightly. For instance, next Thursday 24th September is pension day. If an application for a pension is received between now and 24th September the pension, if approved, will be payable from 24th September. But if the application is received on Friday 25th September the pension will not be payable until 8th October - almost a fortnight. Because of a delay of one day in lodging an application a single pensioner could be $31 out of pocket - 2 weeks pension - and a married pensioner couple $55 out of pocket. Such sums could be of great help to the majority of pensioners. I realise that in dealing with applications for pension a time limit has to be fixed but surely it could be fixed at each Thursday and not each second Thursday. With the availability of electronic data processing equipment in the Department, the change that I suggest would not present any major problems. The adoption of my proposal could mean that a single pensioner would be $15.50 better off and a pensioner couple $27.50 better off.
This legislation shows no stimulating approach to the plight of those in want and ignores completely the poverty level to which many thousands of Australians have been subjected due to the Government’s failure to stem spiralling inflation which has resulted in exorbitant prices being charged for vital necessities essential to sustain life. Where is the promised review so eloquently announced by the Prime
Minister? This Government’s policy is to give as little as possible and to defer as long as possible the granting of any worthwhile benefit to the vast majority of pensioners. Prior to the elections of 1969 the Prime Minister loudly praised in a television interview the tapered means test. In support of his argument he shrewdly selected the maximum permissible combined pension and income of S40 a week for a single person and $70 a week for a married couple. As a vote catcher his argument sounded very attractive. What he overlooked telling the viewing audience, whether inadvertently or by design, was the way in which the means test was applied. For example, a single person in receipt of income, such as superannuation, of $39 a week would qualify for a pension only if he had assets amounting to less than $419. He would then receive a pension of $1 a week. A married couple receiving a superannuation income of $69 a week would qualify for a pension of 50c each a week provided their combined assets did not exceed $839. How many single persons of pensionable age with an income of $39 a week would have assets of less than $419? How many married couples with an income of $69 a week would have assets of less than $839? I. venture to say that not 1,000 people in the whole of Australia would qualify for the permissible combined pension and income of $40 in the case of single persons and $70 in the case of married couples. How ridiculous to select one case that appears attractive and not to tell the people how the means test would be applied. Such action just prior to an election was misleading and taken with a view to winning votes.
I summarise my remarks by emphasising that the Government stands condemned for its callous disregard for the welfare of the pensioners and for its insulting and disgusting increase of 50c a week in pensions. It stands condemned for its failure to increase child endowment, for its failure to classify the class B widow in the same category as the single age or invalid pensioner, for its failure to increase the maternity allowance and for its failure to adjust pensioner funeral benefits. I am honoured to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden).
– I support the Bill, lt is designed to give effect to the proposals announced in the Budget The Bill will increase by 50c a week the base pension rate for married pensioners and widows and for single pensioners. Secondly, it provides for long term sickness benefits at an increased rate. The increases in the pension will restore to the pension the purchasing power it held prior to recent increases in the cost of living. I wish to pay a tribute to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for the tremendous job he has done in handling a very demanding portfolio. I pay a tribute to his dedication and sincerity and to the great humanity he has shown in the administration of a very difficult office. From my close association with him 1 know that there is so much more he would like to do in many areas of social services. I know that he has been somewhat disappointed because he has not been able to do more at this time. Personally, I believe that the basic pension should have been raised by at least $1. I strongly support the raising .of the amount of child endowment. Unfortunately, the Government is not able to do that at this time. I support the raising of child endowment firstly because it has not been raised for a long while and secondly because it would appear to be the one area foi which substantial help could be given to the man in the lower income group who has a large family. Taxation concessions mean very little to him. It seems to me that child endowment is a practical, worthwhile and effective way of doing something for him. I would like to draw the attention of the House to the inescapable fact that any increase in pensions and child endowment can give only temporary relief while there is a continual rise in the cost of living. The cost of living has been escalating almost every day. There is no doubt that the principal reason for the rising cost of living and the erosion of pensions and the general standard of living has been the holding of the community to ransom by left wing leaders, notably Mr Hawke. By means of continual industrial unrest they have eroded the purchasing power of the whole community. The President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) have combined, for political reasons, increasingly to disrupt industry and to hold the nation to ransom.
The increase in the basic pension rate has just about kept pace with the rise in the cost of living. The Government has indicated that it will do all in its power to increase that rate as soon as it possibly can. In the meantime many other benefits have been provided. The present basic pension is worth 50 per cent more in actual purchasing power than the Chifley pension in 1948. There are many fringe benefits available now for pensioners which did not exist at that time. Pensioners receive hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits and benefits in many other fields. Supplementary assistance of $2 a week is given to married couples who are paying rent. Concessions are granted in respect of radio and television licences, telephones and travel. The truth is that the pensioner is a very great deal better off than ever before. The present position is so much better than the position in Chifley’s time that it bears no comparison at all. This does not mean that the Government is satisfied, but there has been a progressive improvement. Certainly the pensioner is better off than ever before. The introduction of the tapered means test has been, of tremendous value to those who previously were worse off than the pensioner and who were just outside the pension range. This Bill will provide help for a large section of the community, perhaps not to the extent that we would like to help them but certainly it will improve their position very substantially. The introduction of the health legislation will also be of great benefit, particularly to this section of the community. Medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits are estimated to represent about $3.10 a week to the average pensioner.
The Bill before the House also makes it possible for a single pensioner to earn $41 a week before he becomes ineligible to receive a pension and will permit a married couple to earn $72 a week. That is quite a substantial amount of money when added to the pension. The Bill lifts the property qualification for a single pensioner to $21,750 and for a married couple to $38,240. That does not include a home or a car. We see a forward step in this field, too. We must realise that the State governments also provide assistance for pensioners. The New South Wales Government assists in providing spectacles, hear ing aids, surgical aids, transport to hospitals and necessary dental attention. This can be added to the benefits that pensioners receive.
The Bill provides for substantial sickness benefits and assistance. It provides a measure of assistance for invalid pensioners who are incapacitated by illness and it provides some assistance for their dependants as well. Invalid pensions are designed primarily to assist those with a long term, permanent incapacity. Sickness benefits are designed primarily to assist those who are temporarily unable to work or earn a living. The Bill will also help those who are not permanently incapacitated but who suffer a prolonged period of illness or incapacity. I should like the House to consider the tremendous benefits that are provided in this area, of prolonged illness where initially no provision was made. This assistance is now being provided. The Bill provides for an increase in the present rate of sickness benefit from $10 to $15.50 a week after a period of 6 weeks. That is a very substantial increase in the sickness benefit. Married minors and minors without parents will be treated as adults and will receive the full benefit of $15.50. For unmarried minors the rate, except for hospital treatment, will be a flat $10 a week. That is also quite a considerable rise. Further, an amount of $2 a week will be paid to people who are incapacitated and receive sickness benefits and who pay rent. This additional $2 a week will assist people who are temporarily incapacitated and unable to pay their rent and meet their general living expenses.
It is hoped and believed that the higher rate of sickness benefits will encourage people to rehabilitate themselves and return to income earning employment rather than to seek invalid pensions and remain on them perhaps for lengthy periods or even permanently, as often happens. This should be of special encouragement to younger people who are suffering from a physical handicap. It should encourage them to overcome that handicap and make an effort to rehabilitate themselves and return to the independent work force. This will be of great benefit not only to the nation but also to the individuals themselves. The Minister said that rehabilitation is one of the major objectives of the Government’s social services programme this year. Rehabilitation is the helping of those who can be assisted to become again independent members of society. I think it is tremendously important that we encourage people to rehabilitate themselves and become independent and regain their self respect in the community. Anybody who has had anything to do with elderly people knows just what it means for them to be helping themselves and helping others.
The Minister has given notice that he intends to implement the slogan that the 1970s will be the decade of rehabilitation. He has taken quite a few steps along the road and he looks forward to introducing an increasing number of measures along similar lines. Approximately 134,000 Australians receive invalid pensions. A great many of them could be helped back to a degree of independence and employment. The Government’s objective is to find all available ways and means of helping as many of these people as possible to enjoy a fuller and more satisfactory way of life. The increase in long term sickness benefits in particular will fulfil a long felt want. I support the Bill. In doing so I want to congratulate the Minister again on the excellent job he is doing under very difficult circumstances.
– lt is noticeable that the Government speakers so far have had to go back 23 years or so, to the 1940s, to find adequate comparisons to boost what they say they have done for the pensioners. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) produced a table which he claims is based on the cost of living index and shows that the real value of the pension has increased since 1947. So what? Maybe he is correct, but standards change over the years. What were once luxuries have now become necessities. For his comparison he goes back to the days of the washing board, the broom and the Coolgardie safe. These are the days of the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner and the refrigerator. They are now necessities; every family needs them, including the aged, the invalid and the widows. The Government claims that we live in an affluent society. There is grave doubt about that as far as some sections of the community are concerned, but if it is so, then every section of the community is entitled to enjoy that affluence. The Minister relies on an outdated method to assess the value of the pension - a method that was used to adjust the basic wage. It is not used now because the basic wage has gone out of existence, and a minimum wage has taken its place.
In this Budget the Government continues to adopt an attitude of callous disregard for the aged, invalid and the widows. Fifty cents a week increase is an insult. In other words, it is an increase of 3.1 per cent. This does not even keep pace with inflation. This is what the Treasurer (Mr Bury) said during the course of his Budget Speech:
Cost and price Increases gathered pace. Average weekly earnings rose by 8 per cent in 1969-70. The consumer price index rose at an accelerating rate throughout the year, reaching an annual rate of growth above 5 per cent in the June quarter.’
But he gives the pensioner a 3.1 per cent increase. This means that if things remained as they were the pension this financial year would buy a smaller quantity of goods than it did following the last Budget. But we know that things will not remain as they are. The pensioner, like other members of the community, will be faced with increased sales tax, increased telephone and postal charges and increased transport costs. Without doubt transport costs will rise as a result of this Budget. The increases provided for in this Budget will be swallowed up in increased prices before many weeks have passed. The usual pattern is for pensions to be increased every 2 years. Consequently, no sooner do they catch up with increased prices than the value of the pension commences to decline.
The monetary value of the increases granted to pensioners in this Budget has never been less, because the value of the dollar in terms of purchasing power has never been less. In terms of purchasing power a 50c increase in the pension last year or the year before would buy more goods than the 50c given in this Budget. Year by year inflation reduces the value of the dollar and consequently it reduces the amount of increase in the pension. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) rightly drew the attention of the Minister for Social Services to the fact that based on average weekly earnings of the March quarter 1969 and 1970 the pension had declined from 22.3 per cent of average weekly earnings to 21.7 per cent of average weekly earnings. That is understandable too, when the Treasurer states that the average weekly earnings rose by 8 per cent in 1969-70. The Government is always happy to quote the average weekly earnings to show how workers wages have advanced. If that is the case the same guideline can be used to measure the value of the pension. The members of the Government parties have already gone back to 1949. Let me mention something about 1949. In that year under a Labor Government the age pension was 26.9 per cent of average weekly earnings. That applied to both married and single pensioners. The single rate is now 21.7 per cent of average weekly earnings and the pension for each member of a married couple is 19.3 per cent, based on the March quarter for 1970.
There is no mention in the Budget of some progress being made towards the abolition of the means test which was so strongly advocated by the Minister for Social Services when he was a backbencher and from which he has now gone to cover. Before he became Minister for Social Services he took every opportunity in this place to advocate the abolition of the means test. I draw the attention of honourable members to his speech of 17th September 1963. On 20th August 1965. He said: ‘The means test is an extravagance which the Australian economy can no longer afford’. On 13th October 1965 he said: “The means test is an economic anachronism and is one of the things which is eroding the root of the Australian economy.’ The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has indicated his opposition to the abolition of the means test and the Minister for Social Services appears to have come into line. To quite a number of people it is humiliating to have to go before an officer of the Department of Social Services and submit themselves to all sorts of questions about their private affairs. It is assumed that the poor will try to cheat, and consequently they are subjected to all sorts of embarrassing questons. The abolition of the means test would remove this embarrassment and would relieve the Government of the tremendous cost of administering and conducting these investigations.
The age pension should not be considered as a handout. It is the right of those who have contributed throughout their working lives that they should receive something in return. The pension is no more a handout than the grant that may be given to the professor for scientific research; no more a handout than what the farmer receives as a subsidy for wheat production, or what a dairy farmer receives portion from the $26m subsidy, or what the cotton grower receives as part of the $4m cotton bounty. In view of his advocacy of this much needed reform one would have thought that some move in that direction would have been revealed, but that is not the case. In 1954 a single pensioner received a pension of $7 and the allowable income was $7. A married couple received a pension of $14 and the allowable income was $14. The pension is now $15.50 a week for a single pensioner and the allowable income is $10. So the value of the allowable income has dropped from 100 per cent in 1954 to 64.5 per cent now. The married couple pension is now $27.50 a week and allowable income $17 - a drop from 100 per cent to 61.8 per cent.
The Government made quite a song 5 years ago when it increased the amount of allowable income to $10 for a single pensioner and $17 for a married couple. It was the first increase in the allowable income since 1954 and in fact did not represent the same value as regards purchasing power as did the amount of the $7 allowable income in 1954.
Due to increased cost of living in the last 5 years the value of the allowable income has been further reduced. It is true, of course, that the Government introduced what was known as the tapered means test which has been praised so strongly by the other side during the course of this debate. This was adequately answered by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope). The tapered means test means that a pensioner earning over the allowable income can keep 50 per cent of what he earns until he reaches a given figure that has already been quoted in this House. In effect a 50c tax in every$1. Every recipient of social services has been short changed since this Government took office. Increases in social services benefits have not kept pace with price increases - benefits are always dragging behind costs.
As a result of inflation over the years, taxpayers have been passed into higher income tax groups and although they get less in real wages in their pay packets, the
Government takes more off them in taxation and gives them less in- return. For some years now the people have been the victims of a thimble and pea trick. They have been giving good money for bad. They have been contributing to the National Welfare Fund in the form of taxation and getting shrunken benefits in return. The value of $1 has shrunk to less than 40c as compared with 1949. The people are losing in two ways. The value of social service benefits has been clipped, just as though an extra tax had been imposed on the people, and the people have moved into higher income tax ranges without getting any more purchasing power in their pay packets. This Government stands condemned for its callous disregard of our aged and invalid people. One would almost think it was a crime to grow old. Instead of making their twilight years more pleasant, this Government is making them a misery.
It is to be regretted that the wife, who is under age 60, of an invalid pensioner or an age pensioner who is unemployable still has an allowance of only $7 a week. This means that a couple, unless the wife can find work, have to live on a miserable pittance of $22.50 a week. If she has an invalid husband she may not be able to work. Also it is difficult to get back into industry if she has been out of it, for instance, for any time. Labor’s policy provides for a wife in such circumstances to get the full pension. The discrimination between a single pensioner and married pensioners continues. The Government was responsible for reducing the value of the married couple’s pension as compared with the single pension. The ludicrous position arises that 2 sisters living together, or 2 brothers, or a brother and a sister, or indeed an unmarried couple are much better off financially than a married couple, as regards both pension and allowable income. They can get $3.50 more pension between them if they are not married and with the allowable income they can have $6.50 a week more between them.
The Government should restore the value of the pension paid to married couples and the allowable income, until such time as the means test is abolished, should be the same for a married pensioner couple as it is for 2 single pensioners living together. The Minister should bear in mind too that the cost of maintaining a home these days is often more expensive than paying rent. There is a strong case for supplementary assistance to married pensioner couples who own their own home. Single pensioners can get supplementary assistance up to $2 a week for rent subject to a means test. Something should be done for married couples who bear the cost of maintaining a home. This is about the first time the Minister for Social Services in introducing social service legislation has not used as an argument the amount as a percentage of gross national product that the Government is spending under the Social Service Act It is true that the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) spoke on this matter but I do not think he quoted figures which have been used before as a basis for comparison. In a previous debate the Minister for Social Services pointed out that the amount as a percentage of gross national product rose from $149m in 1948-49 to almost $793m in 1967-68 and to $85 1.3m in 1968-69. If we take the figures as a proportion of gross national product we find that the amount spent on social services in 1949 was 3.4 per cent; in 1967-68 it was 3.3 per cent; m 1968-69 it was 3.1 per cent; and in 1969-70 it was 3.2 per cent. For this year the estimate is that it will be 3.2 per cent of the gross national product. So this clearly indicates that the Government is paying out in social service benefits about the same percentage of gross national product as did the Chifley Government in 1949.
What has to be remembered is that in 1949 the population was 7.8 million people. It is now 12.5 million people or thereabouts. This means that the percentages in the age groups has been disturbed. According to a statement at page 55 of the 18tb report of the Director of Social Services 1968-69, in 1949 the number of age pensioners as a percentage of population was 4.06, but in June 1969 the number of age pensioners as a percentage of population was 5.75. This means that the amount spent on age pensions as a percentage of gross national product in 1969 as compared with 1949 was spent over 41.3 per cent more pensioners. In other words, where the Labor Government in 1949 was supporting 8 pensioners, this Government in 1969 was supporting 11. Of course, approximately the same proportion of the gross national product is being spent on social service benefits which shows, as 1 say, that this proportion is roughly the same.
The same argument applies to child endowment. Page 61 of the same report shows that in 1969 the number of endowed children was 1,050,357. The number in 1969 was 3,790,120. Therefore, the number has increased nearly 3i times. The amount, spent on child endowment increased from $57.4m in 1949 to $184m in 1969. More is being spent on child endowment but less is being received in purchasing power by the endowed children. On the Minister’s own figures in the additional information he supplied the consumer price index has jumped from 46.9 in 1949 to 108.7 in 1969. If the figures are analysed they show that this is an increase of 131.8 per cent. This is the difference between 1949 and 1969. If we look at the last column of the report we see that the average annual rate paid to endowed families has increased from $90,796 to $108,098, an increase of only 19.1 per cent. These figures have been checked by the statistical section of the Parliamentary Library. As the Minister made his comparisons with 1949, he can hardly object if we do the same. In 1949 a man with a wife and 2 children on the minimum wage paid $1.60 a year in income tax. A man with the same family on the minimum wage now pays $2.55 a week or $132.60 a year. He will pay $2.30 a week under the new scale, a saving of 25c a week which will be swallowed up by increased sales tax and other increased charges. But the important point is that he pays more income tax in a week than the 1949 family in similar circumstances paid in a year. The minimum wage, of course, now is around $42.60.
In 1949 child endowment paid to a family of 3 children represented an amount of 11.3 per cent of the average male earnings. A man, his wife and 3 children is close to the size of the average family. The family with 3 children now gets S3 child endowment. The average male earnings are now over $70 a week. Therefore, the child endowment represents less than 5 per cent of the average male earnings. A comparison with the minimum wage also shows how the value of child endowment has dropped over the years. In 1948 with a minimum wage of $11.60 a family of 5 children received $4 a week in child endowment. The same size family now gets $6.75 although the minimum wage now is $42.60. To retain the same relationship the child endowment should now be over $12 for a family of 5. The recent Budget was not a family budget. There was no increase in child endowment to make up for loss of purchasing power through inflation over the years.
If we look at other social service benefits we find that they also have shrunk in value. The value of the funeral benefit for pensioners has dropped considerably and should be increased considerably in order to put purchasing power back into that benefit. The funeral benefit was created in 1943 and it has remained unaltered for 24 years. The maternity allow.ance has been referred to and I will not go into that question at this point of time. However, from the inception of maternityallowances in 1912 until this Government came into office the allowance would always pay the expenses associated with the birth of a child. That is not so today. Consequently married couples are putting off having children. Both husband and wife have to go to work in most cases to get their home together before having children.
I do not want to take up any more time of the House. The Government has placed a restricted period of time on this debate. With this in view I, together with other speakers, undertook to discontinue my remarks after I had spoken for 20 minutes. Before concluding I want to say that I support the amendment that has been so ably moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) on the following grounds:
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) not only because I believe in the amendment fervently but because I happen to represent an electorate which has more people who are concerned with social welfare than any other electorate in Australia. Some honourable members may dispute that, but let me just quote a few figures. For honourable members who do not know where the electorate of Robertson is, I point out that the electorate is located between the 2 cities of Sydney and Newcastle. It is an area of great beauty. It is an area which many people select to live in retirement when they reach the age of retirement. The 1966 census figures reveal that the number of people over the age of 60 in the area of the electorate of Robertson totalled 23,000. That was out of a population of approximately 80,000. As a proportion of the voting population, that is over 40 per cent.
Since 1966, this figure has grown considerably. I think that it would be fair to say that the total number of persons over the age of 60 years in my electorate now would be approaching 30,000. Well over possibly half the voting population of the area of the central coast of New South Wales is in that age group. Honourable members looked surprised when I said that I represented more aged people than any other member in this House. I think that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentwortb), who is at the table, will probably agree that that statement is so with respect to my electorate.
– There is a number there, I know.
– Yes, quite a considerable number. When the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) took over the reins of leadership, he promised to abolish poverty. In 2 years, he has abolished poverty by increasing the base pension rate for single pensioners by $1.50 per week and for married pensioners by $1.25 per week. Some abolition! One wonders whether he considers himself to be Prime Minister of Australia or Prime Minister of India. At this rate of increase, it will be some 200 to 300 years before poverty is abolished.
I have heard a lot of talk from the other side of the House about the Chifley Labor Government and how the present Liberal Party-Country Party rule, which has continued for over 20 years, has improved upon what Labor did when it was in power. I agree with the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) when he says: T am not concerned with what Labor did’. 1 have looked at some figures. I am quite shocked. Where honourable members opposite obtained their figures, I do not know. I have here copies of 2 documents - the Minister has been supplied with them - which I will seek to have incorporated in Hansard. The first document shows the pension as a proportion of average weekly earnings. The other document sets out some figures illustrating the average increase of the pension with the increases that have been granted. The latter document is the one which I hold in my hand. Does the Minister have it?
– I have not seen it. I apologise to the honourable member; I have just found it. I have no objection to that document being incorporated in Hansard. I will be happy at a later stage for the second document mentioned to be incorporated also.
– With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard the document setting out the age and invalid pensions from 1949 to 1970 showing the percentage increase over the pension rate for the previous year.
To show how unprejudiced I am, 1 will quote not only the figures for the last years of the Chifley Labor Government but also the figures for the first few years of the Menzies Government. In 1945, the pension rate was, to use today’s currency, $2.70 per week. In 1946, an increase of 50c per week was granted. That represented an increase of 20.4 per cent. In 1948, a further increase of 50c was granted. This was an increase of 15.4 per cent. When Sir Robert Menzies - Mr Menzies as he then was - came into power, he increased the pension rate by 75c per week. In 1951, the pension was increased by $1 per week. In 1952, the increase was 75c. Increases ranging between 15 per cent and 20 per cent on the previous year’s pension were being granted. But, as time progressed, through the 1950s and the 1960s, we saw the rate of increase decline. It is difficult to calculate these figures because occasionally we miss a year because no increase was granted. We see that the rate gradually slides. Increases of the same size - 50c, 75c and $1 per week - were being granted but, as a proportional increase, these were considerably smaller than previous increases. In the 1960s, we see increases ranging from 6 per cent to 4.8 per cent and 6.4 per cent to 6 per cent. That is until this financial year when pension increases hit rock bottom. The increase this year is the lowest for 25 years. It is 3.8 per cent.
Of course, 50c was a considerable amount in 1946 and 1947 when the pension rate was $2.70 per week. The increase this year in comparison with the increase in the years I have mentioned is the equivalent of approximately 8c. How honourable members on the Government side would have screamed if they were here in opposition in 1945 or 1947 and the Prime Minister of the day, Mr Chifley, had announced that his government would grant pensioners an increase of 8c, or 9d, in the pension rate. There would have been riots and screams of laughter. But that is what the Government has given pensioners this year.
Never in history have we had a Budget that has enhanced the position of the privileged at the expense of the underprivileged as this Budget does. In the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), this is a classic high Tory Budget. The policy of the Labor Party is quite clear. It is to increase the pension to what it was under the Chifley Labor Government, that is, approximately 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard the second of the 2 documents to which I referred. It is a comparison of single age and invalid pension benefits to average weekly earnings in Australia for the period 1944-45 to 1970-71.
As honourable members will see, the table shows that in 1947-48, the pension rate as a proportion of average weekly earnings was 24 per cent. Unfortunately, the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library was not able to calculate the exact details of earlier years because of some statistical complications. But this proportion, taking into account the recent increase proposed in the Budget, has dropped to 19.1 per cent
I have tried to make head or tail of the cost of living index. I have spent quite some time studying it. It seems to me that it is no longer relevant and that the only real basis of comparison is average weekly earnings because the basis upon which the consumer price index is being restructured continually. I feel - and I think most honourable members honestly feel - that the only way to assess the value of the pension is as a proportion of average weekly earnings. Surely poverty is a relative thing - this has been said many times here - and the only way in which we can assess the position of pensioners is to compare it with the standard of living which is enjoyed by the community.
I for one, together with members on this side of the House - and I am sure this might be said of honourable members opposite - would like to see social services taken out of the realm of politics. It is morally wrong for a government each year to offer people bribes with their own money. I believe that it was in 1943 that the pension was geared to the consumer price index. It was adjusted quarterly. I think that that is the correct procedure to be followed with pension rates. But the consumer price index dropped. The Prime Minister of the day adjusted the pension downwards. There was a scream from the voter. I believe that the then Prime Minister made a mistake. I think that it was a mistake which all of us have lived to rue. The present Government has had 20 years in which to correct that mistake.
The pension rate should be geared to some price index and average weekly earnings. As I stated before, it should not be a question of a government being able to grant a pension increase because an election for the Senate or the House of Representatives is coming up. I for one would hate to see a Labor government using this power so cynically to buy votes. I believe that the Australian people and the pensioners of our country see through this practice so clearly. I doubt whether, once the pension was set at a reasonable rate, any harm would be caused to the Government of the day in any way. I believe that the Government that made such a move would be deserving of great credit.
I have listened to, and have studied the Hansard reports of, speeches by Government members. I wish to refer to the hypocritical statements that they make as to how they would like to have seen something more done for pensioners in the Budget. I have heard them, one after the other, say that the fact that pensions have not been increased is a terrible thing. Of course this is one for the benefit of the electorate so that members can go home and say: ‘Look, here is my speech.’ They will hand out a few copies and say: ‘I attacked the Budget. I did not take it lying down’. But when the time comes for a vote and the members are being counted we can be sure that none of those supporters of the pensioners will come over to this side of the House and vote with the Opposition.
– Labor would do the same.
– I did not know that the honourable member was awake. I have quoted just a few honourable members. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) made these remarks. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) said the same thing. The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) said that he was terribly disappointed with the Budget, but of course he will support it. The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) said:
I am sure there is widespread disappointment that it has not been possible to make a larger increase in pension rates. But the situation must be seen in perspective. Under Liberal governments the rate of pension increase over the years has been substantially higher than the rise in the cost of living. The trouble has been that the starting point in this process, namely the pension rate under the last unlamented Labor . government, was far too low. The real value of pensions has steadily improved under Liberal rule and will continue to do so as the economic situation permits.
Those are the crocodile tears that we heard from the honourable member for Isaacs, and one could go on. There is hardly one of them who has not criticised the Government on this issue. Continually quoting how things are better than they were under Labor I regard as a complete and deliberate falsity. When people make these statements in the House they should back them up.
Let me sum up. I promised the Whip that I would keep my speech inside the limit. I believe that both sides of this House ought to try to stop scoring political points on the question of social welfare. There is plenty of room in other areas to do so. I want to see political bribery and political gimmickry removed from the question of social services. We want to find out the causes of poverty. Firstly we should look at the situation in Canada and
Great Britain. I want to quote from “Britain 1970’, an official handbook that has been distributed to all members. It states that the Government of Great Britain is now granting supplementary benefits and the basis for these grants is need - nothing else but need. The handbook states:
Every person in Great Britain aged 16 or over who is not in full-time work, attending school or involved in a trade dispute and whose resources are insufficient to meet his requirements is entitled to a supplementary benefit . . .
The benefit is the amount by which a person’s requirements exceed his available resources, both being defined by rules laid down by the Act. The calculation of requirements is based on different amounts for single people and family groups (for blind people there are special higher amounts) with, in each case, an addition for rent. For the old and most other long-terra cases a special addition is made. Available resources include certain income and capital; the main national insurance and industrial injury benefits, family allowances and maintenance payments from a husband on the father of the claimant’s children are taken into account in full but some part of all other resources is disregarded.
Put simply, that means that a person’s pension or a person’s requirements are granted on the basis of need. 1 am always interviewing pensioners and people who are unable to cope financially in today’s society. All day I am interviewing people like this in an electorate such as mine and I find there are dozens of cases of people who just do not fit into the standard rules that are made. We have to create a situation in which a person can come to a social services officer and say: ‘I cannot manage.’ The officer can look at the case and examine it a thousand different ways and say: ‘You need another $3.50 or $5.70 to make up your requirements.’ Then we will have a Social Services Act and a social services set-up that is administered with some feeling and humanity. I will not quote individual cases but I am sure that the Minister knows how often this must happen. Let me quote again from ‘Health and Welfare in Canada 1969*. On 1st April Canada introduced the Canada Assistance Plan to replace the Unemployment Assistance Act 1956. This publication states:
It extends federal sharing to include the following costs, which were not shared under the Unemployment Assistance Act: The cost of assistance to needy mothers with dependent children, maintenance of children in the care of provincially approved child welfare agencies, health care services to needy persons, and the extension of welfare services to prevent or remove causes of dependency or to assist recipients in achieving self-support. Health care services may include medical, surgical, obstetrical, optical, dental, and nursing services, drugs, dressings, prosthetic appliances; and other items associated with the provision of such services. Welfare services may include rehabilitation services; casework; counselling and assessment services; adoption services and homemaker, day-care and similar services supplied to persons in need or to persons to whom the service is essential if they are to remain selfsupporting.
The only eligibility requirement specified in the Canada Assistance Plan is that of need, which is to be determined through an assessment of budgetary requirements as well as of income and resources. A Province must not require previous residence as a condition of eligibility for assistance or for continued assistance. Rates of assistance and eligibility requirements are set by the Province, that is, the equivalent of an Australian State. The Plan thus enables the Provinces to adjust their rates to local conditions and to take into account the needs of special groups.
I conclude by saying that I would like to see a different philosophical approach to the question of poverty;. I am sure that the Minister and those on the other side are aware of what creates poverty. People are not poor because they do not work hard. They are not poor because they have an occasional beer or bet on an occasional race. They are poor because they are products of an environment that they were born into. We are all products of that environment. Anyone who has done any sort of social research will be aware of the continuing process and the way people remain within the same economic grouping right throughout their life. If you are born as the son or daughter of a carpenter, a miner or a street cleaner, the chances are that you will in later life have an occupation like that. If you are born the son or daughter of a stock or sharebroker, a doctor, dentist or lawyer, the chances are you will remain in that stratum of life right throughout your whole career.
How much different is the atmosphere in the environment of the poor working class homes compared with that in the homes of the affluent and the middle and upper class sections of our community? I only have to take my own experience. I quote it often as an example. My father was a dentist; my mother was a school teacher. From the time I was born I was encouraged, urged and motivated to better myself. I was continually and constantly bombarded with educational books and toys and a hundred and one other things that enabled me to bumble through to where I am today. But this does not exist a great deal. The motivation and cooperation are lacking in a great number of working class families. This is not the fault of the child; it is not the fault of the parents. It is the fault of the life that creates this environment. Until we get to the root cause of it, until we eliminate a great deal of that in our society, we will continue to have this stratification right the way through. I hope that one day I will be in this House when we see the Government - and I will probably have to wait until this side of the House is the Government - approach the question of social services and of abolishing poverty in the way I have suggested.
– I would probably not have come into this debate had it not been for a very smart reply by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) to an interjection I made. He said in his speech that we must stop scoring political points on the subject of social services. I would say that we want to stop scoring political points off anything that is not legitimate. When he said that we on this side of the House would not cross the floor and vote on the other side I said that Labor would do the same thing. Everybody knows that this is right. In reply to that he said: T did not know the honourable member was awake.’ That is the remark that brought me to my feet because everybody knows that I have been in this place for 24i years and I have never been asleep in the chamber. I will not stand for any new member coming in here with his smark talk.
– What about when you were a new member?
– I was not asleep when I was a new member either so the honourable member should be careful about coming in here and trying to insinuate that I was asleep by saying that he did not know I was awake.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I cannot tell whether the honourable member is asleep or awake.
– Apparently the honourable member is the kind of man who never learns his lesson. He is trying to add to his offence now. The point I want to make is that if he wants to act in this way not only will he not get the appreciation of this side of the House but he will not get that of his own Party either because even they do not stoop to that sort of thing. It just seems a joke, but when this sort of thing appears in Hansard people reading it will say: ‘The honourable member for Mallee must spend a lot of his time sleeping.’ As for his second interjection that he does not know whether I am asleep or awake, I think his powers of comprehension are very poor indeed because I am awake to everything that is going on in this House and have been all the time I have been here, and I hope I will continue to be. I will not stand for a new member coming in here with his smart talk and trying-
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: Does an old member get special privileges over a new member?
– Order! There is no valid point of order.
– I will come now to the subject of social services.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: Is it in order for the honourable member for Mallee to make such a vicious and personal attack on a new member as he has done?
-Order! I think we all admit that the honourable member for Mallee is a benign gentleman. He may proceed.
– I want to say one or two things about social services although it was not my intention to speak today on social services. There has been a lot of talk by members of the Opposition about Government supporters comparing what happened in the days of Mr Chifley with what is happening now regarding social services. They say the comparison goes too far back. But do they not realise that when they compare what is happening, say, in this Budget with what happened 4, 5 or up to 20 Budgets back they are only comparing what the Government does now with the
Government’s own record? I would have hoped that the base pension rate would have been higher than it is.
– Then vole for the amendment.
– The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) says: ‘Then vote for the amendment’, but I have a wider conception of my representation of the Mallee electorate than that. I believe it is my duty to keep this Liberal-Country Party Government in office. I believe that is my duty on behalf of the people I represent and the people of the Commonwealth. As I pointed out in a speech - I had a table incorporated in Hansard - since Federation 70 years ago the Labor Party has been in office for a total of 16 years and 8 months. I conclude from that, therefore, that the people never did like the Socialists. Let rae say that the Government’s record is very good indeed. Honourable members opposite are comparing its record with what it did some years ago. There has been a 50c rise in pensions. I would have liked to have seen a rise of at least $1.50 but it is a rise of 50c. But there may come a time - I do not say it has come now so do not misunderstand me - when pensions will be built up to a certain amount and then there may not be any rise and the pension may still be good. This is possible and these things have to be looked at.
The honourable member for Robertson said that he would like to see the assessment of pension rates and the payment of them divorced absolutely from politics. This is the greatest rot, even from a new member, that 1 have ever heard in this House. After all, who would pay the pensions? Who would collect the money? Would not the political attitude of the Government in taxation and in collecting the money to pay the pensions have an effect on things? If it happened that the country was in a bad way financially and the determination of the pension rate was in no way connected with politics, could this not mean the bankruptcy of the nation? This is talking without thinking. After all, when a government is elected and the Cabinet looks at measures it has to take a lot of notice of what money is being collected and what money can be spent not only on pensions but on many different things.
Say that we take pensions out of the political sphere altogether. The whole country would get into a chaotic position and perhaps the pensioners would eventually end up in a worse position. They could end up in a better position but the whole of Australia would be in a much worse position than it would be if from year to year astute politicians in this House watched to see that as much as possible is paid in pensions to those people who deserve and require them. Every year I hear it said that the pensioners are the pioneers and that they brought up the people who are building this country today. I have the greatest respect for the pensioners but I say that like politicians (hey are a cross section of the community. We cannot put them on a pedestal. We do not put politicians on a pedestal, or at (east not many members of the public do, so let us hear no more about this. Some pensioners are people who were pioneers but whether they were pioneers or not we have to do the best we can for them because a nation is judged on how its less fortunate people are treated.
– It is a pity you cannot bleed for the pensioners as you do for the farmers.
– That again was the honourable member for Robertson. He cannot keep quiet. He will learn. I notice new members come in here and they do nothing but talk. But they mellow down and he will too. 1 will be the most pleased man in the place to see him mellow down, to talk in a common sense way and not put forward cases like the one he has put forward this afternoon. Let me finish on the matter that brought me to my feet - that is that the honourable member said he did not know I was awake and later said he cannot tell whether I am awake or asleep. T will repeat what I said before, that he will get no appreciation from honourable members on this side of the House with that sort of talk, nor will he get any from honourable members of his own party who know how many years I have been here and how I have acted in this Parliament. Nor will they appreciate the erroneous view that he hopes to spread about me personally.
– I am pleased to join in this debate, and unlike the dilemma in which the Government finds itself - that is that it is having difficulty finding sufficient speakers to keep this debate going - the Opposition’s problem is the very antithesis of the one to which I have referred. A large number of Opposition members are anxious to talk about this matter - not that the matter is profound in the precise terms of the legislation. When it is all said and done this Bill will increase age, invalid and widows’ pensions by 50c a week and will provide a longer term sickness benefit. I do not suppose people would ordinarily expect there to be much quibble about that kind of situation. What we are concerned about, of course, is the inadequacy of the amounts which will be paid under the provisions of this legislation,, and in addition those matters which are not referred to in any shape or form in either the Social Services Act or the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1970 which is now before the House.
In regard to the increase in age, invalid and widow pensions, which are the subject of this Bill, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has said that in real terms nothing has been added to the base rate and nothing has been lost. I suppose that is the best of the recommendations that we can get. It comes from the horse’s mouth, from the proposer of this legislation. I suppose that is a product of the fact that this year is not a general election year. The history of this Government is to provide relatively beneficial benefits in the period preceding general elections and only very small ones in the period in between. In my view what is lost is any respect that the community may have had for this Government’s regard for the underprivileged people in Australia. There are of course the lost opportunities, and we all might have been justified in wondering what was going to happen. We might have been justified in having great expectations about the new look Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) who waxed so eloquent about social service matters soon after he took office. What has happened to him and his commitments to the underprivileged people of this country and to the new deal for social service beneficiaries to which he referred from time to time after taking office? He told the pensioners at a meeting at Mornington on 14th October 1968 that he had abandoned the old philosophy that the
Government should only contribute by way of pensions and that relatives and others should make up the difference. He said:
I have abandoned it myself and have abandoned it on behalf of the Liberal Party.
In a letter to the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation in ‘ October 1968 he said:
Our objective is a social welfare structure which identifies the most needy in the community and ensures that those who have no other means are provided with enough to live on, in a modest self-respecting way, without requiring any other assistance outside the pension.
Yet 70 per cent of pensioners are said to have no other income and are required to live on the meagre and paltry amounts which are provided under this legislation.
The amount on which a single age or invalid pensioner is expected to live is $15 a week. The amount payable for each married pensioner is $13.75 per week. To my way of thinking this is just not good enough. What is worse still is the extensive poverty that prevails amongst the pensioner community throughout Australia. The survey into poverty conducted by the University of Melbourne, Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research had some startling revelations. That survey showed that 20 per cent of the pensioners live in poverty. That is to say, 1 aged person or aged married couple in every 5 in that city is impoverished. Of course, after extreme poverty there comes marginal poverty. It is very hard to measure this area of poverty - a condition which in my view affects tens of thousands of Australian pensioners today. The thrifty and self respecting pensioners can, with the present rate of pension, be improverished when a special expense arises or when some unforeseen commitment happens to come their way.
The Labor Party supports a system of additional allowances for special needs. Unfortunately the additional allowance scheme at the present time is limited to those pensioners who pay rent or board, who are dependent on the pension, and who live alone. But there are many extenuating circumstances which we ought to accommodate. In my own experience I have from time to time pensioners coming to me and talking about the difficulties which confront them, including an additional burden of $300, $400 or $500 for sewerage installation. They feel that some further assistance should be provided under this heading. After all, this type of installation becomes a matter of obligation when the main reticulation line Ls brought into a community. Others have made representations to me about the need for assistance to repair their homes. There is nothing unique about this. We have read in the Press in recent weeks of a scheme introduced by the United Kingdom Government under which not only pensioners but other citizens receive assistance to rejuvenate old homes. I believe this is the kind of aid which pensioners in this country should receive. There are other matters such as exceptional dietary circumstances when extra money is needed to meet a diet requirement, or surgical aids.
We have made special allowances for people who pay rent or board but we have not been prepared to extend this special assistance to those who have to pay off a home with all the attendant expenses, high interest repayments, local government rates, water rates and so on. When a married pensioner loses his or her partner and is left alone in a home the income is reduced to $15.50 per week and that pensioner alone then has to bear the burden of paying off the home as was previously done by the couple. We can readily see the need for special assistance. To me there seems to be a very serious lack of enterprise and imagination on the part of the Minister for Social Services and the Government that he represents. After all, man does not live by bread alone. This Government has for too long suffered from the dollar complex; now it has degenerated to the half-dollar complex outlook.
We should study the range of services and versatility that operates these things in countries such as the much denigrated United States of America, which can leave us for dead in the sensitivity which it shows in regard to these matters. The Canadian assistance plan was briefly referred to by some of my colleagues. Studies of the Scandinavian legislation would throw light on the kind of things which we desperately need in this country. We continue to wallow slavishly in the status quo which is the legacy of 60 years involve ment in Australian social services, i believe that now we have to plan new concepts as we head into the 1970s, as we go on to a new era of problems, and as we come to recognise that there is enlightenment and new attitudes to these matters.
There are many matters on which pensioners are dependent and which are the subject of divided responsibility. That is to say that they involve very often the services of the Commonwealth, State Services, local government welfare services, and those of private agencies. In 1947 we reached the constitutional dividing line - the parting of the waters - when we had a referendum to determine who would be responsible for certain aspects of social services. The result of that referendum is that the Commonwealth now provides cash benefits in general terms and the States are responsible for services. Nevertheless all kinds of ad hoc and unintegrated innovations have developed since that time. I believe that this is necessary because the States have the responsibility to provide the services and the Commonwealth has the cash or the capacity to get it and we should see a better integration and relationship developed between the Commonwealth and the States and indeed local government as well. The trend in comparable countries is to provide co-ordinated regional services. T have noticed that in New South Wales, for example. 24 regional offices of the Commonwealth Social Services Department are about to be established. But their functions are limited and they operate independently of State social welfare agencies and other groups. So a very unsatisfactory system is being perpetuated.
We of the Australian Labor Party stand for the Australian assistance plan which was ununciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) during the last general election campaign. Why has the Commonwealth Government failed to take the initiative lo provide an overall blueprint for a co-ordinated regional scheme, a scheme that would involve the resources of local government bodies, the States, the Commonwealth and the voluntary organisations? Administration of such a scheme would be assisted by the democratic participation of local regional advisory groups. Of course, these groups would comprise people wilh the appropriate expertise and representatives of the public and private services - the components of the co-ordinated services.
A properly co-ordinated regional system of social services would incorporate a community aid centre. This kind of centre would be in every region. It would be staffed by trained personnel who would counsel, advise and guide people with problems. I do not think anybody is better equipped than are members of this Parliament to know about the complexities of problems and the maze of social service entanglements with which people have to grapple when they encounter difficulties. Then, of course, there ought to be in the regional council of social service structure provision for a contingency welfare fund which would be operated on a regional basis. We cannot legislate for every conceivable human eventuality. Human compassion ought to rise to meet situations as they emerge and governments should be prepared to play their part. But compassion cannot be dispensed from the bureaucratic ivory towers of Canberra. All of us here stand for basic rights and we like to see basic rights written into legislation. We do not want to be in the hands of the bureaucratic, the off-the-cuff decision maker, any more than it is absolutely essential. But after basic rights and other things have been written into legislation, there is a need for government flexibility and versatility which will ensure that hardship and suffering is minimised.
With every regional council of social services, in which the organisations and the State and Commonwealth services are integrated, with the advisory or administrative group and the contingency welfare fund that could be invoked in times of emergency, there ought to be also a Commonwealth welfare services directory. It should in effect provide an indication of the potential. We should list in that directory all the services that we consider to be necessary and then ensure that they are provided in fact by operating services. We would be taking into account the need for psychiatric facilities, not only in relation to wards in hospitals where psychiatric cases could receive proper care, but also community day centres at which people could attend for discussion, for counselling and for matters of this kind. Proper provision for housekeeping emergency services should also be included in this directory. It should also include transport emergency services and, of course, it should involve the traditional organisations of which we are all aware - Meals on Wheels, domiciliary care, home visiting and things of this kind.
Our social services are highly centralised in Australia. They are organised with a problem rather than a client orientation. Modern welfare theory is based on the belief that problems do not come singly but in clusters. It is not good enough for us to have the capacity to deal with one aspect of a problem while the basic cause is ignored. We often find that in certain situations whole families can be affected. An alcoholic might desert his wife. The children could start wagging it from school and get into trouble with probation officers, education department people and the like and eventually become dropouts. Perhaps they would become involved with the police. So there is a chain of events which takes place. Often in such circumstances a family is visited by people from all kinds of agencies. Often we find that as many as a dozen agencies can give assistance. Yet the basic cause of the trouble has not received the attention that it deserves. So I put it to the Minister that on the basis of three very learned papers presented at the Australian Council of Social Services Conference in Canberra in May of this year, at which both the Minister and I were present, there seems to be very considerable scope for a thorough examination of this new theory about social welfare. On this basis we could operate not on a remote, centralised and sometimes bureaucratic basis but on a basis of getting down to utilising the resources of the community integrated into community needs. We could provide a place for the voluntary agencies and generally uplift the social service techniques of this country to those which are operating successfully in other parts of the world.
One of the matters discussed at the conference to which I have referred was the need for research into social services. It was contended by a number of eminent authorities that the Commonwealth could and should act as a clearing house for up to date scientifically based information. Professor R. Brown contended this at the
Australian Council of Social Services Conference held in Canberra. He said:
The most important single prerequisite is a centre in the National Government and to some extent in the State governments concerned with gathering, assimilating and preparing the information on which social policy decisions may be based.
He went on to say:
Government welfare committees should bc serviced by high grade units skilled in social analysis.
Yet, as I understand it, the Government at the present time is without the benefit of that kind of resource, that kind of expertise, which is required to engage in an analysis of social needs. How can we meet the social needs of a community unless our efforts are based on scientific evidence and the type of modern technology which is available through the product of universities and which indeed is in evidence in other parts of the world? Professor Brown also said:
At present so far as I can see the Commonwealth is pursuing no clearly understandable policy in disbursing money for social purposes to other levels of government and to non-government organisations.
He contended that we needed a government White Paper on development of local health and welfare services. In short, he is contending that what has been done in Canada under the Canadian Assistance Plan, what was done in legislative form in the United Kingdom as a result of the reports by Selbohm and Maud, should be done in Australia. When it is all said and done, this is a country which once showed initiative in leading the world in relation to social welfare. As has been said, perhaps at cliche level, we have slipped back to where we are one of the also-rans. I put it to the Government that instead of being obsessed by a 50c and $1 complex we ought to be having a look at these very basic and fundamental matters which involve the quality of social services.
I believe that until the Minister for Social Services, whoever occupies this very important position in our country, comes to recognise that neither the Commonwealth nor the State, nor the local government arm of government, can go it alone on any of these things we will not get anywhere; we will lumber and wallow along with the status quo of the old SOc outlook on social services. Instead of that we ought to recognise that it is only the Commonwealth that has the capacity to show initiative and to establish, by way of conferences with the other two arms of government, the means by which we could cooperate and work together. It is all very well for us in this place to have our attitudes about these matters but if you spend some days attending the conference of the Australian Council of Social Services you will be told privately by people qualified in a professional sense to deal with this matter that they criticise the Government and disparage the old fashioned system that operates. They will steadfastly contend that there should be a Minister for Social Services who has some comprehension of the new techniques that are operating so effeclively in other parts of Australia.
The complexities of government in Aus tralia and the fact that we are over-governed create a situation that results in a much more unhappy state of affairs in this country than exists in many other parts of the world. Has the Minister not yet come to believe the contentions that he must have heard so many times in the places where earnest volunteers apply themselves to these matters that an inter-relationship should be effected so thai in every region we have not an ad hoc or casually developing system of social services but a planned approach to the matter so that we can go arm in arm with a view to minimising the hardship and suffering that is so evident in many parts of Australia? I believe this is the kind of thing that should be the subject of a special examination. I think the Minister could well identify the areas of expertise which could advise him and which could provide this Parliament with a white paper for discussion. In the long run this might cause us to spend our debating time under the heading of social services on other than an increase in the pension of SOc or SI, depending on whether it is the first, second or third social services measure introduced after an election. These are the matters which condition our approach to social services. We should realise that man does not live by bread alone but needs many other services and the co-operation of all those people in the community and government instrumentalities, at both State and local government level, who are able to assist and co-operate.
– I support the remarks of other honourable members on this side of the House who have drawn attention to the inadequacies of the Budget and particularly the inadequate increases in social service benefits. In approaching social services the Government has been quiet ineffective. Our strongest condemnation is directed towards the Government’s attitude with regard to age pensions. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and other honourable members on the Government side have said that by granting a pittance of SOc a week to pensioners the Government has retained pensions at a high peak. In his second reading speech the Minister compared pension rates today with those that existed in 1947, 1948 and 1949 when Labor was last in office. It is strange for us suddenly to hear that Ben Chifley was, in the view of honourable members opposite, something of a Messiah. We have always looked upon Ben Chifley as a Messiah; now we are told by honourable members opposite that he was a good Treasurer. Of course he was. A former Liberal Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, considered that Ben Chiflley was the best Treasurer Australia ever had. It is a little hypocritical of honourable members opposite now to take this attitude because one cannot validly compare conditions in 1949 with conditions existing today. The situation between 1947 and 1949 was that Australia had just fought a war. It had moved from a war time economy to a peace time economy. It was still recovering from the economic effects of the war. To compare that period with the present time is hypocritical.
When comparing pensions we might also compare child endowment rates. In the campaign preceding the elections of 1949 the Liberal and Country Party promised, if elected, to grant child endowment in respect of the first child. But since 1949 we have not seen the rate of child endowment increase to any great extent. It has been increased marginally but the purchasing power of child endowment today cannot compare with its purchasing power in 1949. This factor has been overlooked in the Budget. But it is not the only matter to be overlooked. Since my election to this Parliament many pensioners have come to my office and my home with problems about many matters. I know that most honourable members have had the same experience. But since the Budget was brought down the number of people calling on me has increased. There is no doubt that the pension pittance handed out in the Budget and its callous attitude towards pensioners has aroused in them a feeling of disgust towards the Government.
One person who has been completely ignored is the age pensioner with a wife under 60 years of age. Under certain conditions, such as if she has a child in her care, she is entitled only to a wife’s allowance. In about 15 per cent of cases the wife is 5 or more years younger than her husband. Many of these women have raised a family and cared for a home for years. When they are 57 or 58 years of age and their husband reaches 65 years of age they find that they have to look for a job in order to augment their husband’s pension. The alternative is to try to live on the single pension. For its attitude towards these people the Government stands condemned. Compare the Government’s policy with the policy of the Labor Party as enunciated prior to the last elections by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who gave ari assurance that in such cases a pension would be paid to the wife irrespective of her age.
Honourable members raised many matters for consideration during the debate on the Budget but very few of those matters have been dealt with by the Government. The Government has done nothing towards solving the problem faced by pensioners in meeting maintenance costs on their homes. Land rates and home maintenance costs have increased alarmingly in recent years. The Government should do something to assist pensioners who paid for their homes during their working lives. With continuing changes in assessed value of properties, many of these people find themselves unable to pay local government- rates. Their plight seems to have been forgotten by the Government.
The plight of elderly migrants is another matter that has been overlooked by this Government. If these people have not been in Australia for 10 years they are not entitled to the age pension. In certain circumstances they are entitled to supplementary assistance but my experience indicates that their fortunes must be at bedrock level before they may receive assistance from the Government. Recently I had drawn to my attention the problem of a migrant of 65 years of age who was receiving nothing from the Government because his family was working. We even apply these restrictions to migrants from Commonwealth countries, such as Malta. This matter has been raised in the House on other occasions. Because we do not have reciprical arrangements with Malta, migrants from that country are not eligible for the age pension.
The Government should consider providing free optical and optometrical services for pensioners. I am aware that these services are applied in some States on a State basis. To make it more uniform it should be applied throughout the whole breadth of the country so that pensioners, irrespective of which State they live in, could avail themselves of this service. We know that most of the age pensioners have reached an age where, in all probability, glasses are a necessity. The institution of a scheme to assist them with optical and optometrical services would be of great assistance to them.
Let us look at the pension rate increase. It does not even cover the increases in the prices of basic commodities that have occurred since the last Budget. We can expect that the value of the pension increase will fall further before the pensioners can expect any further increase in the next Budget. Surely this nation, with its growing wealth, its increasing mineral exports and its expanding economy, could give a fairer go to our older citizens. Do we see these people as being the possible cause of the inflationary pressures because we have given them a little extra purchasing power? Does the extra money given to them increase that pressure? When we look at the increase that the age pensioners will receive, we do not find it being spent on luxury goods or on motor cars. Pensioners do not buy new refrigerators every year. We find that it is being spent on the necessities of life, such as food and clothing.
If we are attempting to solve our problem of inflation by using the pensioners as a means of doing so I am afraid that we are getting our priorities mixed up. Let us look at what the pensioner would possibly spend his SOc a week on. If he saved it up for about 10 weeks he could perhaps buy a pair of shoes. It might buy an extra dozen eggs a week. Certainly the pensioners are not going to spend the additional money on the goods which would put inflationary pressure on the economy. I hope that we will not use the pensioners as a partial means of trying to solve our inflationary problem.
– It was not my original intention to take part in this debate, but I have listened to a succession of Opposition speakers denigrating the Government and attacking the social services legislation and the Budget generally in what I consider to be an absolutely irresponsible way. I feel some compulsion to take part in the debate. My estimate of the cost of the proposals put forward by the procession of Opposition speakers is that if Labor’s proposals were adopted the present estimated cost of $ 1,000m in 1 year would rise to $2,500m in a year. The debate from the other side of the House has been a typical recital of Fabian socialism and totalitarianism.
– You called pensioners bums’ the other week in this chamber.
– The only person in this chamber who would fit that description is the honourable member who has just interjected. He continues to underline that in every debate. If we had a society run by people like the honourable member who interjects we would see a big brother society. Perhaps the honourable member might be big brother. We would have somebody watching over us from the cradle to the grave. Our whole life would be ordered. Let us not forget Labor’s policy of nationalisation and the abolition of upper Houses. We do not seem to hear too much about that these days. The abolition of State governors, the abolition of the Senate and policies of centralism are continually being brought forward by the Labor Party. As I say, the whole debate from the other side has been one of unreasonable and irresponsible attack upon the Budget. The attack has even been taken outside the Parliament into some of the unions and pressure groups. The attempt to take advantage of pensioners by misrepresenting the Government’s attitude is a typical example of political opportunism to gain votes. I would like the honourable member who is interjecting to speak a little louder when he makes a personal attack so that I can hear it.
– Order! I think it will be much better if the honourable member addresses the Chair and if there are fewer interjections.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. 1 have been endeavouring to address my remarks through you and will continue to do so. I was making the point that all of us, particularly those on this side, are anxious to improve social conditions in this country. I believe that the Government’s record confirms this. We all want better conditions for our people. The Labor Party, the unions, and those who shed crocodile tears cannot claim a monopoly of this concern. The Government’s record indicates our views and attitudes. From the beginning, back in 1905, pension rates were established on a basis of need and that is still the basis. In my view the Budget has been well presented and is a fair and balanced one. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has described it as a health Budget, with the emphasis on health. I am prepared to defend it and am pleased to have the opportunity to do so. 1 think it is relevant to the Bill to mention that personal taxation will be reduced when the necessary legislation is passed. The people who pay taxes are the ones who provide the pensions. The Government has been criticised for the introduction of indirect taxes. I think it is fair to say that none of those indirect taxes should materially affect the sort of person whom we are attempting to look after in this legislation. A couple of years ago in this House I made a speech on the subject of taxation. I would like to mention it again because it is entirely relevant. At that time I took the opportunity to compare taxation scales in Australia with those in the United States of America. In certain groups they were most unfavourable to Australia. In each case I prepared figures that applied to a taxpayer claiming deductions for a wife and 2 children at the maximum rate which, at that time, was $1,000. Such a taxpayer in the United States, on an income of $3,000 at that time - I stress that this was 2 years ago - paid no tax at all. The Australian taxpayer on an income of $3,000 - at that time there were over half a million in this country - paid at least $90. With the more likely deductions of $500 a year he paid approximately $140 in tax. If he worked overtime or applied himself to his business and increased his income to $4,000, with the same amount of deductions - that is, $1,000- he paid tax of at least $280. Most would be paying a great deal more than that. I sought to make the point that there was little incentive for an Australian taxpayer in that group to lift his income by a third when the result would be an increase in tax of 300 per cent.
I then went on to deal with other categories of tax in the higher groups. They are the ones that will be dealt with in this Budget. I pay a tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and his advisers who have been able to ease taxation in this particular area. I repeat that these are the people who are providing the money for our pensioners. I am glad the Minister for Social Services is at the table. I would like to draw his attention and the attention of the House to the consumer price index which rose by 3.7 per cent from June 1969 to June 1970. If we had applied that increase to the pension rate, in the case of a married person the rate would have been increased by 49c and in the case of a single person the rate would have been increased by 56c. I would also like to direct the Minister’s attention to the situation of the single person. Once again it is the single person who almost always is the worst hit. On this occasion we have not quite been able to establish the high rate that applied to the single pension 12 months ago. I hope the Government and the Minister will look at this and will keep a close watch on all these indices so that if there is any enlargement in the gap we can do something about it without having to wait another 12 months. 1 know this is the Minister’s attitude, because he answered a question on these lines last week. 1 would like to say something about fringe benefits. I have listened, as far as I could stand it. to the debate today, but with the exception of the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) no-one has mentioned fringe benefits. There certainly has not been any public record of the statement made by the Minister in his second reading speech dealing with this matter. It seems to me that it is totally unfair for sections of the public, pressure groups, the Opposition and everybody who wants to clout the Government, completely to overlook something which is of very great advantage to the pensioner group in our society. I am pleased to have the opportunity to say something about it because today we are on the air and whatever figures one is able to quote will go out uncensored and some people in the community will hear what the true position is. After this Bill is passed the person on the lowest pension rate will receive $15.50 per week.
– How would you like to try to live on that?
-I think that is a fairly irrelevant sort of interjection. I do not know that I have seen the honourable member trying to live on it either. We are not discussing what he or I could live on. We are discussing the number of people in the community who are in an underprivileged area and who perhaps could be described as living in pockets of poverty. I repeat that the pension is $15.50 per week. The supplementary pension is $2 and the value of the fringe benefits have been costed and appear in Hansard. Spread over 1 million pensioners they amount to $5 per pensioner per week. So the real value of the pension is $22.50 per week. No-one on this side says that that is the end of everything; we all look for improvements. These are indisputable facts and if the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) would only take the trouble to study the statements made by the Minister for Social Services he would find that they are true.
-I have been in this place for 21 years.
– It is a great shame that one could be in this place for 21 years and still not have the capacity to understand the legislation.
– I rise to order. I wonder whether it would be possible in view of the statement of the honourable member for honourable members on both sides of the House to say something about the hidden surpluses in the Budget?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– A couple of years ago in one of my early contributions to debates I drew attention to fringe benefits and said that if we extend the fringe benefits the opportunity will be lost to make direct increases in pension payments - perhapsI should have said ‘diminished’. The money would not be available; it would have been spent on fringe benefits. I understood at that time that it cost the Government $73m for every $1 increase in the pension. The more we increase the fringe benefits such as the one we were then discussing - the provision of hearing aids for pensioners - the less we are able to increase the pension directly. I sought to make the point that perhaps people in the community in this situation, the pensioners, would prefer not to have fringe benefits but increases in the pension. Since then I have conducted a survey and I know plenty of such surveys have been conducted by other authorities. I have had many discussions with pensioners, as I know all honourable members on both sides of the House have, and I am quite certain that 99 per cent, if not 100 per cent, of the pensioner community would prefer to retain all the fringe benefits even if it meant a more gradual increase in the direct pension. That is what is happening. Somewhere in the booklet which sets out the Labor Party’s platform and rules I am sure there is a reference to the average wage. There is the old Socialist theory of linking things to things and of spending a fixed percentage of the gross national product on, for example, defence, foreign aid and so on. There is in this booklet a statement that the Labor Party believes that the pension should be linked to the average wage.
– Whatis wrong with that?
-I will proceed to say what is wrong with it. On page 20 of the booklet setting out the Australian Labor Party’s platform this statement appears:
Social security payments will be tied to a pro portion of the average weekly earnings. . . . It does not say what the proportion shall be- so that persons receiving benefits will receive automatic increases. . . .
It goes on to deal with productivity and other terms which I do not think are understood on the other side of the House. I understand that in some debate or on some television programme the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) mentioned that this link should be 30 per cent of the average wage. If that is so 1 would like to explain to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), so that he will be better informed on the matter, that the average wage, according to the most recent reports, is approximately $63 per week after tax and 30 per cent of it is somewhere about $20. I take it that the ALP policy is that the pension at this moment should be about $20 per week. I would relate that to the figure I have just worked out which indicates that the real value of the present pension is $22.SO per week. So much for this business of linking things to the average wage. I would like to take that a step further and explain to the Opposition - I am not sure whether in the competition the honourable member for Grayndler or the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) is actually leading for Labor in relation to social services; i understand there is a great deal of ill-feeling between them - that this figure more properly should be related to the most common wage, not the average wage.
I think honourable members will find that the most common wage in this country is about $48 or $50 a week, lt is very difficult to work out the exact figure. Table No. 30 in the Year Book for 1967, which is fairly authoritative, shows that in the grade of actual income from $1,000 to $2,000 the number of taxpayers in 1967 was just under H million and that in the next group of $2,000 to $4,000 the number was just under 2i million. This means that out of a total work force of 5 million about 4 million people are earning between $1,000 and $4,000 and many of them must be earning somewhere about the most common wage.
– Do you mean the average wage?
– I would suggest to the honourable member that the wage most commonly received in this country is somewhere about $50 and not anywhere near the average wage. The point I seek to make is that pensions should be related perhaps to the most common wage. On that basis I submit to the House that the pension at the moment is roughly half the wage received most commonly in this country. I believe that the average wage is misleading because very few people receive a very high wage. If high wages are included in a calculation the average is lifted.
We on this side of the House have a concern for people who are on the most common wage and in this category I would include as an example migrant couples. One can imagine the situation of a migrant couple with 4 or 5 children. I would also include a working widow with dependent children, a working deserted wife with dependent children or a working widower with dependent children. There are thousands and perhaps a million of this class of person in this country. In my view this is the true area of underprivilege and poverty in which we should be working and on which I am aware the Minister is anxious to spend his efforts.
In the time left to me I would like, for the record, to hurry through some of the amounts that are involved in the fringe benefits. I would like to make the point that the actual pension rate has risen by 50 per cent since 1947, together with other fringe benefits which I will quickly enumerate. A supplementary assistance payment of $2 a week is made to single and married pensioners who receive the standard rate of pension, who pay rent and whose means are assessed at under $52. There are 150,000 in this category in Australia. A wife’s allowance of $7 a week is paid to a non-pensioner wife of an invalid pensioner. There are 23,000 in this category in Australia. A guardian’s allowance of $4 a week is paid to single and widowed pensioners with children under 16 years of age and there are 4,000 in this category in Australia. There is also an additional pension for children. In the last few years many improvements have been made for age and invalid pensioners which have not been mentioned by the Opposition and for which the Government should have been given credit. I refer to such benefits as the Meals on Wheels subsidy, home care, paramedical services, subsidies for dwellings for aged people and so on.
I think that we should at least be given fairly high marks for achieving significant break-throughs in the field of the pensioner medical service. I am quite sure that no pensioner would want to have this fringe benefit taken away. A pensioner receives free consultation from general practitioners both in his own home and in the doctors’ surgery. He also receives free specialist treatment as an outpatient at a public hospital. A pensioner with dependants has over 8 general practitioner consultations a year whereas the corresponding average for the non-pensioner insured person is less than 4. In relation to the health benefit, pensioners receive free treatment in public wards of public hospitals together with the ancillary medical services which go with such treatment. I am sure all honourable members have had experience of pensioners with serious protracted illnesses for whom the free pharmaceutical benefit is a tremendous boon. The list of drugs available under the national health service includes all drugs on the health benefits list plus some extra ones. The value per head of the medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits which I have referred to and which I have not seen mentioned in any newspaper report works out at $3.10 per pensioner.
With other benefits such as the nursing home benefits pensioners are entitled to $14 a week for light nursing and $35 a week for heavy nursing. Miscellaneous benefits of considerable value such as home nursing, the construction of nursing homes, and home care and paramedical service, the hearing aid service - as I mentioned a moment ago - and the Meals on Wheels subsidy are available. For personal care there is a payment of $5 a week for elderly people over 80. At the time this was introduced we were looking for the day when this age could perhaps be reduced to 75. There are almost a million elderly residents in non-profit hostel type accommodation. Concessions are provided for radio and television licences which have greatly reduced the rates for pensioners. The pensioners share in various housing benefits which were introduced by this Government such as the aged persons homes scheme, dwellings for aged persons and rental concessions for aged pensioners in units. Pensioners also receive, special fare concessions in all States. Admittedly these are State benefits but they do accrue to the same category of person. Pensioners receive alleviation of council and other rates in some States
The tax concession should not be overlooked. This also is of some benefit to non-pensioners. The average of all these benefits just mentioned works out at slightly less than $5 a week to which must be added the various concessions which were not costed by the Minister. Without anY doubt the fringe benefits are in excess of $5 a week. I repeat that we are by no means prepared to say that this is the end of the story. We are seeking improvements all the time. But in fairness to the Government and just for the sake of not trying to secure political points on some occasions let someone agree that the real value of the pension spread over the million pensioners in this country - a very high proportion of the total work force of 5 million - will be $22.50 which allows for the $5 value of the fringe benefits. That figure approximates half the wage most commonly received in Australia. I repeat that the pension is calculated on the basis of need. The Government is on record as being conscious of the needs of the pensioners in the community. Its supporters continue to push for improvements. I think the Minister would be the first to agree that he would like some let-up. At least let honourable members opposite give the Government the credit it deserves. I say to them: Just for once let us approach this in a non-political way and stop trying to make political gain out of this section of the community.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, having listened to the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) for the last half hour, one would believe that this Government has been the most generous government that we have seen for all time so far as this increase of pensions - a mere SOc per week - is concerned. From what I can see, he has adopted an approach which is similar to the extreme conservative approach and the reactionary approach that he has taken on the Rhodesian problem. He has spent most of the last half hour arguing that there should not be any further increase beyond this 50c per week for pensioners.
If the honourable member thinks that the general public agrees with him, I can say only that he is whistling in the dark. One of the best examples of this was given to me just a few minutes ago by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), when he walked into the House. He had received a phone call from a Mr Ron Hathaway, a representative of the Riverina Anglican Synod. Mr Hathaway had been listening to the debate and rang to say that the Synod had voted to tell the Parliament that it regarded the 50c increase as inadequate and called for an appropriate increase to keep pace at least with the cost of living. This is an example of action by the Riverina Anglican Synod. As I said, if the honourable member for Boothby believes in his conservative approach to this problem that his argument, which he has put forward during the last half hour, against any further increase in pensions has any public support he should reflect on what I have quoted as a result of a phone call from the Riverina and also he should get out amongst the public to see what the public reaction is. As I have said, the honourable member adopted an approach to this problem similar to the approach of extreme conservatism that he adopted in relation to the Rhodesian problem.
The honourable member for Boothby criticised at great length - I sat here staggered to hear this criticism - the fact that the Australian Labor Party is advocating that the pension rate should be tied to average weekly earnings and that a pensioner should have some base on which to say: ‘All right, if prices and earnings are to increase, I at least should get a proportion of that increase’. I did not think that that was a dramatic suggestion-
– It is reasonable.
– I agree; 1 think that it is a reasonable proposition - but not so the honourable member for Boothby. Honestly, I cannot work out what the basis of his criticism is. We have spoken of average weekly earnings. By the way, he spoke of some sort of - what was it? - a base wage-
– A most common wage.
– A most common wage, I am informed. This is a new one. We have not heard of it before. It would be very difficult to find and to assess such a common wage. The statistics presented by the honourable member’s government on average weekly earnings show that, during the last quarter, average weekly earnings were $81 per week. If we were to tie pensioners to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings, the pension rate currently would be $24.30 per week.
Let us consider average weekly earnings as a percentage of the pension. When Labor went out of office in 1949, the pension represented 21.9 per cent of average weekly earnings. Now, it is down to 19.1 per cent. That is the lowest percentage in the whole of the period since 1949. Surely that shows that there is some logic in the Opposition’s criticism of the paucity of the increase. Do not forget, this is in a period when we are advocating a further increase in pensions, when prices and wages are increasing at a very rapid rate, when the Government tells us day after day that there is an inflationary movement ahead and when the Treasurer (Mr Bury) speaks of an overheated economy. Apparently everyone is to be overheated except the pensioners. We of the Australian Labor Party make no excuse for supporting the proposal mentioned by the honourable member for Boothby that there should be a tie between the pension and the average weekly earnings.
– 30 per cent.
– I did not say 30 per cent. I said ‘if 30 per cent were accepted’. lt is common justice that there should be that tie. That is why speaker after speaker on the Opposition side has said that this is the time for a complete reassessment of the whole social services framework. I know that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is a kindly man and I am certain that he would have liked to come before the House with a higher increase than is proposed. I am certain also that within the Cabinet he would have objected to the fact that the Treasury, led by the Treasurer, made sure that the increase would not be any greater than it is.
The Opposition has proposed the following amendment:
Thai all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill this House is of opinion that -
the increases proposed are inadequate,
social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living,
steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty, and
a contributory national superannuation system should be established and the means test eliminated.
That is the proposition that we ask the House to support. Is there anyone here who, in real conscience, could argue against it?
One aspect with which I wish to deal specifically is the Government’s refusal to give any worthwhile assistance to the family within the framework of social services Child endowment is one of the best ways in which to assist the family because it is paid irrespective of the income earned by that family. Furthermore, it is not taxable. The information that I am about to cite was given to me by the Minister for Social Services in reply to a question. When child endowment was introduced in 1941 it was 50c for each child after the first child. In 1941 a man with a wife and 3 children received child endowment of $1 a week. That same couple with 3 children today would receive S3 a week. Tn 1941 the minimum wage - of course it was then known as the basic wage - was S8.60 a week. Today this Government has made sure there is no basic wage. It has eliminated it. The basic wage was one of the best protections that the average wage and salary earner had. 1 should correct that. It was eliminated by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, but the Government supported the elimination. In his answer to me the Minister pointed out that in June 1967 the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decided to eliminate the basic wage and margins from its awards and to introduce total wages as from July 1967. The Minister stated:
The current weekly rates of minimum wage prescribed in Commonwealth awards for capital cities are-
Then the answer went on to quote the figures. This answer was given last session. Broadly speaking, the average is about $42 per week. So that in 1941 the basic wage was $8.60 a week and in 1970 the minimum wage is approximately $42 a week. That means that there has been an increase of nearly $34 a week. It has increased by over 4 times. Yet child endowment has only increased from Si to $3. On the basis of no child endowment for the first child and child endowment for the second and third children, a person with 3 children should receive $4 a week today if (he rate had been kept up to a commensurate sum, plus further child endowment for the first child. This is indicative of how the family has been completely forgotten. The Government apparently thinks that child endowment and the family today are old hat, and yet the family is the very basis of our community and these are the people whom we should be looking after.
There should be an increase of at least $1 a week for the second and third children plus a further increase to take account of the first child if child endowment is to be commensurate to when it was first introduced in this Parliament in 1941. I therefore submit that this Government is not interested in promoting young Australian families and in removing the necessity for wives to go to work. In this new economy we live in, forced upon this country by this Government, to cam enough to live adequately there must be 2 incomes in the house. People say this is because of economic circumstances. It is because of the economic policy of this Government. It has consistently promoted the situation in which families have to have 2 wages or salaries.
Another matter I wish to deal with is the question of civilian widows. They are a very small section of our community and do not have a great deal of voting power. Accordingly, as tends to happen, unless people are in a strong pressure group they do not get justice. Civilian widows, particularly those with young children, are not part of a strong pressure group: they are a small minority, a small section of underprivileged people who do not have the voting power. Consequently they do not get the necessary justice. Nothing is worse than for a woman with a young family to be suddenly deprived of her husband, lt is a dreadful thing emotionally and economically. Her responsibilities are immediately doubled. She has to bring up the family, and she no longer has her partner to assist her.
Yet for some reason the Government has chosen to use 2 different values. I speak here as a relumed soldier. There are 2 different classes - the civilian widow who has lost her husband and the war widow who has lost her husband as a result of sickness or injury incurred during war service. I submit very sincerely to the Minister that these 2 classes should not exist. They are both basically the same. As a returned soldier with full cognisance of the position, 1 cannot see why a war widow with 3 children should receive $39.50 a week whilst a civilian widow with 3 children receives only $29 a week, and an extra $2 if 1 of the children is under the age of 6 years. In other words, a war widow receives $10.50 a week more than a civilian widow, unless the latter has a child under the age of 6 years, in which case the difference is $8.50. 1 submit that there is no moral or social basis for that difference. Both women have to look after their families. Both have lost their husbands, breadwinners or partners in helping them to bring up the children. So, the war widow and the civilian widow have common responsibilities. For that reason I believe that they should receive common pensions. I certainly do not believe that the pension should be reduced to the level of that of the civilian widow, because that is far too low. The war widow’s pension is far more adequate. The pension for civilian widows, and also that tor invalid pensioners, should be increased to the level of the pension for war widows. 1 must say that I am very pleased to hear the announcement about the widows rehabilitation scheme. This is a new proposal and a very human one. It will go a long way towards training women to return to work and to earn money to keep their families. But I make the point that this should not be necessary. If a woman desires to stay at home with her children and help to bring them up, she should be able to do so; she should not be forced to go to work because of the inadequacy of the pension. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see that something is being done which will be of great assistance to civilian widows.
I refer now to the question of deserted wives. I have mentioned it before in this House, but I do not think it hurts to keep on referring to it. I still cannot understand the logic, the common sense or the humanity of the requirement that a deserted wife must be deserted for 6 months before she can obtain a deserted wife’s pension or a widow’s pension, as it Ls commonly called. I know that most States now give some assistance in the form of State social welfare payments. But let us keep in mind that those States are simply taking over the responsibility of the Commonwealth which refuses to acknowledge its own responsibility. As I said, I feel that this is an inhuman approach. Once again there is enough complete degradation and despair for a woman when her husband does desert her without making it all the worse by saying that she cannot obtain a pension from the Commonwealth until she has been deserted for 6 months.
Then there is the other requirement, that she needs to have sued for maintenance from her husband. Even after a period of 6 months she must have sued for maintenance before she can obtain a pension. This can have only one effect. In many instances suing for maintenance in order to obtain a pension to live on can be the very action which destroys all future chances of reconciliation. On occasions the woman has said to me: ‘1 do not wish to sue for maintenance because if I do I can forget that he will ever come back to the home again.’ For this reason I ask the Minister please to examine these proposals carefully. The first point is that to obtain a pension a deserted wife has to wait for a period of 6 months; and the second is that to obtain a pension she must sue for maintenance from her husband. I ask him in the cause of humanity to look at these things because there are some very real human issues involved in these 2 requirements of the Commonwealth. I know that he will.
There is also, of course, the question of the elimination of the means test. This is mentioned in the amendment moved by the Opposition. We all know that there is a great deal of agitation for this and that it is, 1 think, agreed within the House that it is a very reasonable proposition. This is called for in the amendment which I read out to the House a little while ago. The Labor Party’s proposal is that a contributory superannuation system should be established and the means test eliminated. I believe that it is essential that a committee of inquiry should be set up as soon as possible to initiate these very essential and necessary inquiries to bring about this situation I stress one other thing. The elimination of the means test should not be used as an excuse to refuse to look after those underprivileged sections of our community who have not been able to look after themselves. I know it is always argued that it should not be forgotten that they could have saved money during their working lives. Some can and some cannot. It depends so often upon economic circumstances, upon the health of the individual and upon so many other factors, such as the marriage concerned, the money earned and the number of children they had to bring up. Many different issues are involved, and to try to lay down one standard for the whole community is utterly impossible, and immoral. I believe that this should never at any stage be used as an excuse to refuse or to forget to look after those sections of the community which have not been able, because of the various economic, social and family circumstances involved, to look after themselves.
Finally I once again emphasise that there is a need today for a complete reappraisal of the whole of our social services framework. 1. ask that the Parliament give immediate consideration to this reappraisal of the social services programme. Unless this is done and unless justice is given to all these segments of the community about which I have spoken today - those with families, the civilian widow who has so much to look after, the deserted wife, the invalid and age pensioner and these various other sections of our community who need assistance - this Parliament will stand damned. Unless something is done to give justice to these segments of our community this Parliament will stand damned as not having removed underprivilege, poverty and human degradation. It will stand damned because it has deliberately disadvantaged a large section of our community, forcing those people to continue to live in poverty and, in many instances, in despair.
– J thank honourable members opposite who have allowed me to speak before the suspension of the sitting this evening. I will keep my speech short. I want to make one or two comments on the Budget and the Bill before the House. J referred to pensions during my speech in the Budget debate, but I wish now to refer to one or two matters that honourable members opposite conveniently failed to mention. The first point is that we are a young nation and during this period of growth a great number of calls are made on our finances. I believe that every supporter of the Government would be satisfied if we were able to double expenditure on pensions, but the moment that that were done it would mean that money which would nor mally be allocated to education, national development and other requirements would not be available for those purposes. Pressure groups would form and the Opposition would scream about the money needed for education, national development and other fields.
The point is that it is all right for an Opposition Party to say what should be done, but it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that money is allocated in the correct order of priorities. It is interesting to note that since 1949, when this Government came to power-
– Does that include the Fill?
– The honourable member asks about the Fill. I am quite sure that if the Labor Party was in power it would be more than happy to scrap all expenditure in the field of defence. That has been so often implied in the speeches of honourable members opposite. I was saying that expenditure on social services and health benefits and associated matters in 1949 amounted to $161 m. Today that expenditure has grown to $l,472m. This in itself is a tremendous increase. We realise that money is also spent in the field of repatriation and that the total amount of expenditure in the category of welfare is in the vicinity of $l,800m. That is quite a percentage of a total Budget of approximately $7,500m.
Furthermore, the number of age and invalid pensioners in Australia has risen to 912,773. When their dependents and recipients of other forms of pensions are taken into calculation it is clear that they form quite a percentage of the nation’s population. In accordance with my undertaking I will mention briefly that I have been a little disappointed in the last couple of years that the Government has not been able to respond to the situation of widower fathers and deserted fathers on limited incomes supporting families. The Government has not yet found itself able to give them financial assistance. I have spoken on this matter on many occasions. I have been assisted by one or two people in Brisbane in this respect. It was a Liberal who was the first member to raise this matter in the national Parliament.
I know that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who recently visited Brisbane and spent some 3 hours just outside my electorate with a number of men who are in this category, is very sympathetic. 1 hope that he will not lessen his determination to see that justice is done in this area. in my first year in this Parliament in 1967 I commenced a crusade to increase the maternity allowance. I am now almost sick and tired of raising this matter. The raising of the maternity allowance would involve the allocation of only a very small amount of money. The present Government contribution for a single child is $30. If a person is unlucky enough or lucky enough to have twins the payment is only $40: it is not doubled, If a person has triplets the payment is not trebled. So it is best to have 1 child at a time. I note that the Minister is acknowledging my plea; I hope that his action will go further than a mere acknowledgement. in conclusion I want to refer to the Aged Persons Homes Act, which comes within the category of social services. I pay a tribute to the drive of the Blue Nursing Service. Its old headquarters is situated in my electorate in Brisbane. That Service recently acquired the Panorama Hotel, which is quite a large building in the Brisbane suburb of Hill End. This building was acquired with Government assistance under the Aged Persons Homes Act and it will in the very near future be opened by the Minister for Social Services. The building will be able to accommodate about 60 or 70 aged people. I pay great tribute to the Director, the Reverend Gloster Udy. This home will on completion be one of the nation’s most beautiful aged persons homes. It has been renamed Panorama Lodge’. The acquisition of this building should be an inspiration to charitable and church organisations to seize upon opportunities to acquire similar places. This building was bought with a Government subsidy of about two-thirds of the total cost. Some of the people who will live there will make a contribution to the purchase cost. I salute those responsible for their enterprise in this venture. In the last 16 years this Government has enabled and encouraged private organisations, including church organisations, to go out and with Government assistance enter upon similar ventures. I know that the Opposition believes that the Government should do this sort of thing on its own but this raises a difference in political philosophy - the difference between socialism and the promotion of free enterprise and initiative.
As 1 said earlier, this speech will be a short one so as to enable the honourable member for Kalgoorlie an opportunity to speak before the dinner break. I say again to the Minister that it is high time something was done for the deserted fathers and for married couples who have more than one child at a time.
– 1 am deeply indebted to the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) for giving me the opportunity to speak at this time. I was rather intrigued to hear from such an eligible young bachelor the concern which he expressed about child endowment and the maternity allowance. 1 wonder what part his speech played in this field. Despite the views expressed by members on this side of the House during the Budget debate, despite the criticisms levelled at the Government in relation to its attitude to social services, despite what has been reported in the Press, over the radio and over the television media, and despite the hostility expressed by the community in general the Government has remained unmoved, lt has refused to accept the opinion of the people and it has refused to alter its earlier decision in relation to social services. Now it has the impudence - it is impudence, arrogance - to ask this Parliament to support a proposition that is quite unacceptable to the vast majority of the people of Australia.
This Bill, which only proposes an increase of 50c in pensions and grants no increase to recipients of other items of social service, is an insult not only to the people who are directly concerned but also to the intelligence and sense of fair play of the people of Australia generally. Generally speaking, Australians are very proud of their senior citizens for their accomplishments, for the part that they have played over the years and for what they have done for Australia. Australians want their senior citizens treated with the respect and dignity which they rightfully deserve. They do not and will not accept the course which the Government has adopted, namely one of poverty and need. Generally the people are mindful of the doleful circumstances in which many other recipients of social service benefits are obliged to exist. They are mindful of the fact, for instance, that child endowment, maternity allowances, child allowances, wife’s allowances and certain other benefits are very important and necessary for the welfare and reasonable living standard of a large number of families.
Being aware of this and being sympathetic to the people in poor circumstances, I am not surprised that the Budget and, in turn, this Bill should have drawn such widespread hostility. After all, what has to bc looked at and determined is not what a pensioner may earn above his or her pension; it is not what assets he may hold and still receive the pension. Those are not or should not be the determining factors for the base rate. The important thing to decide is the amount that is necessary to permit a pensioner to live adequately and with dignity on the pension alone. That is the real requirement. Hundreds of pensioners have no income and no possibility of ever obtaining any; they have no assets either. In other words, hundreds of pensioners have nothing but their pension on which to live. They are the people for whom the base rate of pension should be determined.
Surely no responsible member of the Government and certainly no responsible member of the general community will suggest that the existing pension rates have been sufficient to meet pensioners’ needs in the past 12 months; nor will this year’s meagre increase, when added to the pension, be sufficient for the next 12 months. It must be quite obvious to everyone, including the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), that $15.50 a week for a single pensioner or $13.75 a week for each of a married couple is nowhere near sufficient to meet the normal needs of people who have nothing but the pension on which to rely. When introducing this Bill, the Minister admitted that there were pockets of poverty in Australia. We know that these pockets of poverty exist not only among the pensioner population but also among younger people, particularly those with large families who are trying to exist on small wages. Those people should have received consideration from the Government by way of increased child endowment and certain other allowances. We know also, of course, that the pensioners who have no income or assets are below the poverty line and have been for many years.
Despite this knowledge, the Government not only refuses to increase the pension to a liveable level but also it refuses to set up an inquiry into the poverty aspect so as to obtain a clear picture of where the poverty is and of what is required to alleviate it. The Government is legislating to increase sales tax, excise, postal charges and so on. This will cause, and indeed is already causing, a substantial increase in the cost of living which will aggravate the position still further and increase the areas of poverty. Despite that, the Government has refused to make any adjustment to social service items such as wife’s allowances, child allowances, child endowment and other benefits.
The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), who spoke a few moments ago, said that the receipients of social service benefits would not suffer from the effects of the increases in excise, sales tax and so on. His remarks made it quite clear that, as far as he is concerned, recipients of social services are not entitled to own motor cars, to smoke, to drink or to use cosmetics. As far as the honourable member is concerned, apparently they are not entitled to live. I hope this is not the attitude of the Government, although if one looks at this Bill one is inclined to think it may be.
Because of the Government’s refusal to grant any increases in those several other allowances, we have the situation that a married pensioner couple will receive a maximum of $27.50 a week but where only one member is a pensioner the couple will receive only $22.50. A pensioner couple will receive an increase of $1 a week between them but where only one member is a pensioner the couple will receive an increase of only 50c a week between them. Even where the latter couple have a child to keep the pension will still be only $25 a week, or $2.50 less than the amount received by other pensioner couples. Surely if the Government honestly believes that $27.50 is adequate for a pensioner couple it should be prepared to pay the same amount at least to a couple with a child and where only one is a pensioner. It may be argued that where only the husband is a pensioner the wife can go out to work. If this is the Government’s argument, it is pretty heartless, particularly in the case of a couple with a child, because surely in those circumstances the mother’s place is in the home. It is almost certain that the husband is either an invalid or unemployable, otherwise he would not be prepared to sit back and allow his family to suffer because of the meagre allowances that this Government provides under the Social Services Act.
The same situation applies to widows. The Government is prepared to make only the miserable increase of SOc in the pension of the widow and has refused to make any adjustment to the mother’s allowance and the child’s allowance. It is quite obvious that the increases in the cost of living which will flow from other legislation introduced by the Government to which 1 have referred will be such that the widow’s plight in the future will be much worse than it is at the moment. The Minister for Social Services in an unsuccessful attempt to take the heat off the Government and justify its action in regard to this Bill accused the Labor Party of failing to increase the pension way back in December 1949. The Minister claimed that between the last pension adjustment in October 1948 and December 1949 there had been an increase in the consumer price index from 43.4 to 46.9, an increase of 3.5. The Minister attempted to create the impression that his Government was completely dismayed and in fact horrified thai the Labor Party had granted no increases as a result of those circumstances some 20 years ago. But I point out that the Labor Party, unfortunately for Australia and also for the pensioners, of course, was defeated in December 1949 and the Government that took office was of the same political colour as the present Government. Yet despite what the Minister has told us. we find that it was not until November of nV following year, 1950, that the pension was increased. So while the Minister accuse* the Labor Party of failing to take any remedial action by December 1949. we find that his Government allowed the same situation to continue for a further 12 months.
But let us go further. From the chart which the Minister had incorporated in Hansard when he introduced this Bill we find that between July 1947 and October 1948, when a Labor government was in office, the consumer price index rose by 4.6 and Labor increased the pension by 5s a week. But between October 1948 and November 1950, at which time a Liberal government was in office, the consumer price index rose by 8.7 or nearly twice as much as between July 1947 and October 1948. However, the Liberal Government increased the pension by only 7s 6d a week. So does anyone suggest that the pensioners were any better off under a Liberal government than under a Labor government? Of course, it is quite obvious from what J have said that they were worse off. if that does not prove that the Minister was rather careless with its facts, let us pursue the matter a little further. Let us look at what happened between 1950 and 1951 under a Liberal government. The consumer price index rose by 13.1 but the pension was increased by only 10s. Under Labor’s formula of 1947-48 it would have increased by approximately 13s 9d or §1.39. In other words, the pensioners were 39c a week worse off under the Liberal Government than they would have been under a Labor government. So I suggest that perhaps the Minister would be wise to forget the records of those years. Of course, we should not also forget that over the 3 years between October 1961 and 1964 the married couple pensioners received no increase at all from this Government.
Perhaps I should point out again that between October 1964 and January 1968 the price index rose by 9.7, but married pensioners received an increase of only 75c a week, which is the same increase as they received from Labor back in 1947 when the price index increase was only 4.6. Actually, if the Government had granted the same increases which Labor granted back in 1947, the increase in pensions for married couples between October 1964 and January 1968 should have been exactly double what it was. If honourable members examine the present Government’s record they will find that it has adopted a plan whereby it increases pensions by an average of 50c a year. If it is an election year for the House of Representatives the Government hands out an increase of $1 a week. If it is an election year for the Senate the Government hands out an increase of 50c a week. If there is no election at all, the Government gives nothing to pensioners. That is the pattern that has been followed.
As a matter of fact, over the past 20 years pensions for widows have increased at a rate which is less than 50c per year. The fact is that in 1950 the pension was $5 a week for all age pensioners irrespective of whether they were single or married. We are now coming to the end of 1970, and after the addition of the 50c a week increase proposed in this Bill, a single pensioner will receive a maximum of $15.50 per week and a married pensioner couple will receive $13.75 each a week. Therefore, over the period of 20 years from 1950 to the end of 1970, during the whole of which time we have suffered a LiberalCountry Party Coalition Government, the average increase for single pensioners has been 524 c a week each year and the average for married couples has been 434c a week each year. Whenever honourable members from this side of the House criticise the Government for its miserly attitude to pensioners, we usually find that Government supporters try to avoid the issue by referring to how much a pensioner can have in assets or how much income a pensioner is allowed to earn before it affects the pension. As J said earlier, those are no reasons for depressing the base pension.
But speaking of permissible income and assets, we should always remember that it is now 21 years since the Government Parties promised to abolish the means test. They told the people at the 1949 general elections that they would put value back into the £1 and abolish the means test. They have done neither. As a matter of fact, it was not until 4 years after they were elected to office that they increased the permissible income from what it was under Labor, in 1949 a single pensioner could have an income of $3 a week without it affecting his pension, and it was not increased until October 1953 when it went to $4 a week, and today, almost 20 years later, it has reached only $10 a week. This is what this Government apparently sees as great progress. The fact is that this Government during its 21 years in office has increased the permissible income at the average rate of 35c a week a year. The Bill which we are presently debating provides no increase whatsoever in the permissible earnings.
When speaking to this subject during the introduction of the Bill, the Minister endeavoured to camouflage the situation by referring to the tapered means test. Of course, the tapered means test has done exactly nothing to assist the pensioner who has no assets and who is therefore obliged to rely on earnings to supplement his pension. It is rather interesting to compare the Minister’s attitude today with what it was in those days when he occupied a backbench. For instance, on 20th August 1964 he said:
Then on 13th October 1964 he said:
There are 2 reasons why the means test should be alleviated. The first is because it is inequitable and unfair and leads to bad social and psychological consequences … the means test . . . is an extravagance which the Australian economy can no longer afford. … In the first place, the means test prevents people who would like to work- perhaps part time- from working and using their capacity. . . . lt is surely idiotic to prevent people who want to work from working.
On 23rd September 1965 the Minister, who was still a backbencher, deplored the means test imposed on widows and said that it was of great detriment to her children as future Australians. Those were just a few of the times when the honourable gentleman expressed the view that pensioners should not have a means test imposed on earnings. When he became Minister for Social Services we quite naturally expected great things from htm. But we now find that he has either changed his ideas or found it easier or more appropriate to join the ranks of the insane and the idiotic.
As 1 pointed out earlier, if this Government remains in office, a pensioner can look to the future and know that in 3 years he will be able to earn an extra $1 a week.
In his second reading speech the Minister also referred to concessions granted to pensioners. He said that the Commonwealth Railways charges pensioners only half fare except at Christmas and Easter. That concession sounds good but it is not as good as the Minister would like people to believe. Having listened to the Minister one might come to the conclusion that pensioners pay only half as much as it costs other citizens to travel on the Commonwealth Railways, but this is not so. I wrote to the Secretary of the Commonwealth Railways to ascertain the true position. The ordinary single first class fare from Kalgoorlie to Sydney via Broken Hill is S72.20. The fare for a pensioner is not $36.10 as one would expect from the Minister’s remarks but $59.53. The ordinary fare first class return is $135 and the pensioner fare is $112.18. Economy class single ordinary fare is $54.90. The pensioner fare is not $27.45 as implied by the Minister but $46.43 - a saving of only $8.47. Ordinary fare economy class return is $103.60 and the pensioner fare is 5588.34.
Ordinary fare first class single Kalgoorlie to Melbourne is $62.40. The pensioner fare is $48.99. The return ordinary fare is $1 16.50 and the pensioner fare is $92.33. Economy class ordinary single fare is S43.45. The pensioner fare is $34.47, a difference of only $8.98. The return ordinary fare is $81.30. The pensioner enjoys the wonderful concession of paying $65.13. I suggest that those concessions are nowhere near half the ordinary rates. I do not know whether the Minister is aware of the true position with regard to rail fares, but if he is I suggest that he should have clarified his statement that pensioners paid only half fare. The concession of half fare does not take into account what are termed ancillary charges. As a result the pensioner pays in full for a sleeper and meals. So the benefits which the Minister would have us believe apply are not available. 1 wish to refer briefly to funeral benefits. Under this provision $40 or $20 is paid in respect of the burial costs of a pensioner, depending on whether the costs are met by another pensioner or someone who is not a pensioner. The benefit is very small compared with funeral costs today but this is not the aspect of the matter to which I refer. The legislation makes no provision for payment of a benefit in respect of the burial of a widow. This is something which should be rectified. The cost of a widow’s funeral may have to be borne by her son or daughter who may be in poor circumstances or even quite young. It may be that at his death the widow’s husband was an age pensioner. If his son or daughter had been responsible for his funeral costs he or she would have been entitled to claim $20 as a benefit. But if the pensioner’s wife dies some time later and is still eligible only for the widow’s pension and not the age pension, the same son or daughter, if responsible for the mother’s funeral, receives no benefit from the Department of Social Services. I trust that the Minister will look into this matter.
The actual amount of benefit should be at least $60 today, having regard to the change in the cost of living since the benefit was fixed at $20 when introduced in 1943. The rate has not been increased except for the case where another pensioner is responsible for the funeral. Even that rate should be at least $20 higher than it is. 1 support the amendment moved so ably by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). The Government stands condemned for its attitude towards social services and for the meagre increases it has granted to pensioners, lt stands condemned for having ignored completely other recipients of social service benefits.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - On 1 6th September 1969 1 made a statement in this House concerning the Government’s policy on overseas investment in Australia. In the course of that statement I said:
In the past the Government has acted to preserve Australian ownership and control of enterprises which for special reasons of national interest or importance could not be permitted to pass into foreign hands.
And I went on to say:
We reserve the right to do all in our power to prevent particular takeovers when, in the circumstances of the case, we would consider it to be bad in the national interest.
There has recently been a discovery of uranium deposits by a company called Queensland Mines Ltd, in the Northern Territory at Nabarlek. The estimates made by the Chairman of the Company are that the ore body is so large, and the grade of ore so rich that it would be possible to supply the free world’s requirements of uranium at a price considerably below that now ruling.
The Government does not know that this claim is accurate and it in no way vouches for its accuracy. But it has been made by Mr E. R. Hudson, the Managing Director of Queensland Mines Ltd. Should the claim be accurate then there could be a clear temptation to overseas interests to gain control of the Australian companies which at present own these assets. Queensland Mines Ltd is one company concerned and the other is Kathleen Investments (Australia) Ltd which owns 50 per cent of the shares in Queensland Mines. It is therefore dear that control of Kathleen Investments would in fact lead to control of Queensland Mines Ltd. It is a matter of record that in recent days there has been a heavy turnover in the shares of both companies, and although there is no indication that this heavy turnover is as a result of overseas buying, nevertheless the Government would not wish a situation to arise where it could be discovered that control of these companies had passed out of Australian hands. The deposits held by the companies were discovered by Australians, and exploration work was financed with Australian capital. The deposits can be exploited by Australian personnel using Australian technical knowledge and knowhow and can be sold on the world market by Australia.
The Government feels that if Australia is to reap the full benefit of these discoveries, full control of this development exploration should remain in the hands of Australian companies for the benefit of Australian shareholders and Australia generally. We have therefore decided that it would not be in the national interest for control of these uranium deposits to pass into other than Australian hands. We intend to guard against control of either of these companies being gained through purchases of shares by overseas investors. Both companies are incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory. We therefore intend to legislate in order:
This means that a total of 15 per cent of the issued share capital can be held abroad but that no one. holder can hold more than 5 per cent of the issued share capital in either company -
This action is not to be interpreted as anything other than an attempt to preserve in Australian hands and under Australian management assets which have been discovered by purely Australian endeavours and which may be of very significant benefit to Australia. It is an instance of the working out of that policy announced on 16 September last year, which I reiterated at the beginning of this statement.
– by leave- The Australian Labor Party applauds the statement which the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has just made, and supports the action which he forecasts. There are only 2 matters upon which I would like to comment. The first is the very proper recognition in the Prime Minister’s statement that the deposits can be exploited by Australian personnel using Australian technical knowledge and know-how, and can be sold on the world market by Australians. I will take the opportunity to quote what I said following the Prime Minister’s statement on overseas investment in Australia one year and one night ago. I said then:
It is not just a matter of the investment or the return in dollars and cents which Australian or overseas companies receive from such investments. There is the whole question of the use which is made of Australian resources and the opportunities which Australians have in their own country. Those opportunities are not just opportunities as directors and shareholders; they are also opportunities as scientists, managers and salesmen. Australians are entitled to participate in the whole range of activities which should be based on their very great national resources. We should specialise in those areas where we are strong.
Secondly, I would point out that the Government is able to act effectively and promptly in this case because the two companies concerned are incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory. Accordingly, it is possible for the Government to make an ordinance even if the Parliament is in recess. It is a happy circumstance that these two great mineral companies were incorporated in the same jurisdiction as the life assurance companies, whose takeover was feared a year ago. Accordingly, the national Government was able effectively and promptly to act to safeguard the natural and the financial resources of Australia. It is ironical that if these companies with great assets in Queensland had been incorporated in Queensland there would have been little chance indeed that such action would have been taken. I believe that no action has been taken in the last year in any of the States to safeguard in Australian hands the operations of insurance companies despite the fact that the financial stability of many of those insurance companies is open to the gravest question. lt is clear that we ought to work towards not just uniform company legislation but national legislation on corporations in Australia. This was recommended unanimously by the Constitutional Review Committee in 1958 and again in 1959. That Committee was composed of an equal number of members from each side of each of the Federal Houses. It was unanimous in recommending that the Constitution should be altered to have one company law for Australia. Australians are very greatly limited in safeguarding their resources - financial and natural resources - by the fact that we have to go through the cumbersome procedure of amending not only the ordinances of the 2 mainland Territories but also the Acts of the 6 Australian States. This is a cumbersome procedure indeed. We can only move at the pace of the most sluggish and the most conservative of the State Houses, which in most cases are not based on equal votes and in some cases not even on adult votes. It is fortunate that in this case these companies are incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory. I would hope that even under our present federal arrangements the States will be spurred to see that in respect of life) assurance companies and mineral companies they amend their Acts in line with the ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory, which have been able to be amended in very complicated matters but with complete effect and promptitude.
SOCIAL SERVICES BILL (No. 2) 1970 Second Reading
Debate resumed (vide page 1324).
– Social services extend far beyond the ambit of the Department of Social Services and intrude into the realms of taxation, health, education, housing and transport. So in dealing with social services one has to accept and present an expanded spectrum of the whole field. At the inception of the scheme of pensions for the aged and the infirm the concept was to give aid supplementary to that given by the families of aged people. There are still people within the community who view social services from this narrow and outmoded concept. The idea that there is an element of charity in receiving a pension has long been dispelled. When the Commonwealth was given power to enter the field of social services it will be remembered that there was a social service tax assessment implemented over and above the income tax. But later, because of constitutional reasons, this method was abandoned and the social service tax was included in the general tax assessment. It will be seen therefore that people now drawing pensions are simply getting their entitlements by way of an insurance that they paid for through taxation during their working life. Some people in the community still complain that the improvident are well cared for. I would remind such people that the improvident have, by way of excise duty, sales tax and income tax, contributed a fair share of the revenue of the Treasury.
However, be that as it may, the Government’s approach to this matter is that irrespective of how foolish or how improvident people are or whether their present position is the result of misfortune or due to any other reason, there is a base below which we will not allow any person in this community to live. At the same time there is no height to which we will prevent a person ascending provided he conforms to the laws of the land, acts honestly and pays his taxes. However, my aim and desire is to give the maximum benefit to all pensioners. I regret that age pensions were not increased by more than 50c. There was a move some few years ago to increase the pension in line with increases in consumer prices. Paradoxically, had that system been agreed to pensioners would have been some dollars a week worse off for quite a long period. That is not now the position and any increase in consumer prices will militate against the purchasing power of the pension paid. I trust that the Government will be vigilant in this matter and, if there is an upgrading of consumer prices, introduce a supplementary budget to meet the situation. With full employment and with inflation running at 3 per cent to 4 per cent a year our concern should now be for the low wage earner, especially the low wage earner with a family of 3 or 4 children. These families are importuned and handicapped to an extent not fully understood and appreciated by the community. It is therefore the Government’s responsibility to protect these people to the utmost. In the case of a married couple without children or with children able to look after themselves or with a relative nearby to assist the children and look after them on their return from school the wife can accept employment and thus supplement the family income, but the low wage earner with a wife and children is not in this position and thus is worse off than his neighbour whose wife has been able to supplement the family income.
I think that with co-ordination and organisation their position can be improved. Women are urgently needed in the work force. With this thought in mind I have written to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) about church halls that have been erected in the fast growing areas of the capital cities and the larger cities of Australia. My letter reads as follows:
It appears that church halls offer a good venue and opportunity of setting up pre-school kindergartens and/or minding centres for children. The churches have erected halls in the fast growing areas of the community where predominantly young married people reside. The halls are advantageously erected so that children could either be collected or left at the school by the parents before proceeding to places of employment.
In the congregations of most churches there will be ex-teachers, ex-nursing sisters and people qualified to care for, mind and look after the children. Industry is in urgent need of these young women in the work force. The extra earnings would assist the young marrieds to get over the difficult period of establishing themselves in their own homes. Further, it may be a source of revenue for the churches although the nonrating of places of worship may present some difficulty. Further, it would bring the young children into closer association with the church and should be beneficial to their character and physical development.
I know that this in the main comes within the confines of the States. . . .
I think where buildings have been erected at a substantial capital cost and are being used infrequently that such a scheme would aid these people and the community to a great extent. Managements of industries within my electorate have told me that during certain parts of the year, especially when holidays occur, there is a lot of absenteeism due to parents having to remain at home to look after their children. The children of the low wage earner should have the same opportunities as all others have and it should be the aim of the Government to give the parents the opportunity to bring up their children with dignity and honour. I think the scheme I have just outlined will do this. At the same time it will improve and add to the work force and thus increase the productivity of the various industries within the area. The position of industries within my area is now improving and there will be job vacancies in the factories now being erected. This means women will be able to be absorbed within the local work force without having to leave and travel long distances by train to gain employment as they had to do in the immediate past.
I have spoken to the Minister for Social Services about co-ordinating all the benefits that are now available through Commonwealth and State social service offices. I know it is a difficult and complex problem and that entitlements vary from State to State. However, if benefits can be coordinated many people in indigent and difficult circumstances will find that they are not availing themselves of many avenues of assistance that are open to them. I have been able to assist people in this respect. It would be to the advantage of people if they interviewed social service officers rather than listen to chatter and gossip. I invite any person so placed in my area to see my secretary who is well versed in these matters. I can assure them that if they are entitled to any services or allowances we will see that they get them.
I now want to pay a tribute to officers in the Commonwealth and State who administer social services, for their efficiency and courtesy. I know it is unwise to mention names but without detracting from any other officer I would like to pay a special tribute to Mr Willmott of the Department of Social Services in Sydney.
– I think I have heard you pass complimentary remarks in the past about this gentleman. I am disappointed that you called out ..—–, because you have referred to him on many occasions and spoken very highly of him. It little becomes the honourable member now to interject in that way. I said earlier that social services extended into many areas of government. 1 think a study in depth should be made of assistance to those most in need. It may be that the taxation deductions allowed for children could be dispensed with. After all, the net monetary gain for the low wage earner is not substantial. In its place a family allowance should be implemented. There is something worthwhile that the honourable member could have supported by interjection or applauded.
Over the 21 years that this Government has been in office many and varied extra allowances and fringe benefits have been granted to those in need. I again reiterate that many people are entitled to allowances, but have not made a claim or have missed out. 1 appeal to them to see social service officers or if they are in my area to see my secretary and we will be able to do something for them. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) when he was speaking tried to compare the relationship of the pension to the average weekly wage now with that in 1949. Comparisons are odious at all times but in this instance they are more odious than usual, lt is so stupid to draw comparisons. The honourable member drew a comparison between the average weekly , wage in 1949 and the average weekly wage now. But wages in 1949 were controlled. At that time there had been a great deal of unemployment. To endeavour to compare an average weekly wage at a time of full employment with a high wage ratio to the average wage that applied in 1949 is out of all realism and commonsense.
The honourable member for Chifley also spoke about civilian widows. So long as I am in this House a war widow will be treated with the greatest respect and consideration. Anybody who tries to take away her pension or tries to equalise the pension paid to a war widow with that paid to someone else is not doing the right thing. A war widow’s husband was killed in the service of his country. If a civilian widow’s husband is killed at work she received workers’ compensation. But the woman whose husband is killed at war does not get compensation and we make up to her by way of the pension we pay. If a civilian widow’s husband is killed in a motor car accident she is compensated by third party insurance. Let us balance these things out and put them in the right perspective, lt is a very peculiar state of affairs for anyone to state that a widow and a child of a man who loses his life in the service of his country are not entitled to what we are giving them. I have outlined how the civilian widow receives compensation if her husband is killed either in an accident at work or in a motor car accident. I believe the war widow is entitled to what she receives.
Does anyone in this House have the temerity to get up and say that, apart from the anomalies that occur, we have not done the right thing in regard to the means test? I would like to draw the attention of the House to the case of a married couple with an income of $72 per week. Let us be honest and sincere. A married couple with an income of $72 under the means test would attract a pension, although it may be meagre. With this in mind, surely we have gone a fair distance in the alleviation of the means test. Anomalies do exist. They require adjustment. They will be adjusted. But if the means test was abolished - and honourable members opposite during the debate have spoken about doing this - this would mean that we would deprive those who are in need of their just entitlements. As long as I have any influence in this House-
– Have you any influence, Les?
– I have much more than Luna Park, as some of his friends call the honourable member for Chifley. Others call him Bobo. I have much more influence in this House than he has. It is only right that the people should know some of the benefits which they are justly entitled to receive. I wish to quote some of the fringe benefits that are provided for in the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1970. For instance:
Certain classes of pensioners receive extra supplementary payments to meet special circumstances These include:
– To continue my quotation:
There are at present 23,000 wives’ allowances being paid. : md the estimated cost for 1970-71 is $8.2m.
The point thatI am making is that when a Labor government was in office it never gave people in this class anything at all. I say that to honourable members opposite who are interjecting. I return to my quotation. It continues:
These are the fringe benefits which we never hear the Opposition extol or acclaim. These benefits are of great importance to the persons concerned.
Another important factor in our social services legislation is the Pensioner Medical Service. Its benefits come under 3 headings. These are:
These benefits amount to quite an astronomical sum.
When the spokesman for Her Majesty’s Opposition rises and moves an amendment to a Bill such as this we see that the Opposition is living in a world of fantasy and imagination. It can offer anything. I want to impress this fact on the pensioners and others who are receiving social service benefits: Whatever this Government promises them, they will get. They always have this guarantee from this Government. What the Opposition offers is based on fantasy and imagination only. The Opposition offers advantages which would cost astronomical sums. It offers promises which it has no possible chance ever of being able to be carried out. I am always intrigued by the tactics adopted by the Opposition when a Bill of this type is before the Parliament. Its members are not game to rise and to oppose it. The opening words of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) intrigue me - and this type of wording always does. The amendment opens with the words:
Whilst not opposing the provisions of this Hill, this Mouse is of the opinion-
Opposition members have not the fortitude or the integrity to challenge the provisions of this Bill. They know that the Government is doing the best that it can in all the circumstances. As good as the provisions of this Bill are, most honourable members on this side of the House would like to see the Government do more for age pensioners and for those people who are in a position much worse than the situation of the majority of the people of Australia.
I wish to pay a tribute to the wonderful work force that we have in Australia. Our work force totals approximately 5 million people of whom 1 million are public servants. Australia has approximately 1 million age and invalid pensioners. We have between 80,000 and 90,000 mentally retared and physically disabled children. Mental hospitals cater for a large number of mentally deranged persons. A work force of 4 million - that is, in private industry - supplies most of the money to meet the needs of these people. We are proud of our social service activities. We are proud of our Minister for Social Services. Our pride will be even greater when, in the fullness of time, the Government will be able to fulfil the promise made by the Prime Minister to look after those most in need.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the address which he has just concluded, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) inferred that I had endeavoured to degrade the pension for war widows. That is not the case. 1 have here the Hansard typescript of my speech. The point that I made was that apparently there were 2 values. I instanced the case, for example, of the man who suffered a coronary occlusion-
– I take a point of order. The honourable member for Chifley is not allowed to make a speech in this regard.
– Sit down!
– Order! The point of order is specious. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– And I thought the honourable member for Mitchell was a democrat.
– Order! I think the business of the House would progress much more easily if honourable members ceased interjecting while the honourable member for Chifley is making his personal explanation. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– The House will proceed with its business more quickly if the rulings of the Chair are observed.
– Thank you again, Mr Deputy Speaker. I suggest that you keep an eye on the honourable member for Sydney particularly. The point I was making was that the case could arise where a woman lost her husband at an early age as the result of a coronary occlusion. I fail to see how 2 different values could be placed upon a bereavement. A civilian widow and a war widow have common responsibilities. To illustrate my point, I quote from the Hansard typescript of my speech made earlier today. I said in respect of civilian widows and war widows:
Both have lost their husbands, breadwinners or partners in helping them to bring up the children. So, the war widow and the civilian widow have common responsibilities. For that reason I believe that they should receive common pensions. I certainly do not believe that the pension should be reduced to the level of that of the civilian widow, because that is far too low.
I was not endeavouring to degrade the war widow pension; to the contrary, I was endeavouring to upgrade the pension of the civilian widow and I think that matter should be made clear in Hansard.
– One has to pay tribute to the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), for after all he was one of the few Government supporters prepared to defend the provisions of this Bill. I only hope that he will be as ready to go out into his electorate and speak to the various pensioner organisations and retired people on superannuation so eloquently in defence of the provisions of the Bill. The debate so far has been quite notable for the reluctance by most Government supporters to speak on the Bill. Nearly every Government speaker who spoke on this matter in the general Budget debate did so in rather ashamed tones and said that he felt the Government should have done more for the pensioners. Right throughout the Budget debate Government supporters said that the Government could have done more for the pensioners, but when it comes to a vote on this Bill they will vote for the Bill, and so for all its deficiencies.
I strongly support the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) on behalf of the Opposition, and at this late stage of the debate I would like to remind the
House of the terms of that amendment. The honourable member for Oxley moved:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill this House is of opinion that - “ (1) the increases proposed are inadequate,
social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living,
steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty and
a contributory national superannuation system should be established and the means test eliminated’.
This is saying no more than what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said on behalf of this Party during the Federal election campaign last October. The honourable member for Mitchell said something about the phrase ‘whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill’. It would be rather stupid on our part to deny pensioners the frugal benefits that even this Bill provides. Something is always better than nothing, I suppose. Why should pensioners not have been bitterly disappointed by this Bill and by the Budget proposals? First, out of a total record Budget expenditure of $7, 883m the best the Government says it can afford for pensioners is an increase of 50c a week, a fraction more than 7c a day. That is the reality of it - 7c a day. We are giving to the pensioners the price of one decent piece of fruit extra a day. We are paying, if you like, the price of one newspaper extra a day. That is the measure of our affluence.
We are doing this, I might remind the House, not only at a time when Government revenues are flourishing in the terms I have mentioned - expenditure is up and, correspondingly, receipts are up also - but also at a time when companies in this country are making unprecedented multimillion profits. We heard the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) make some reference earlier this evening to one such organisation. We are doing this to pensioners when wages and salaries are being increased almost across the board. We are giving this 50c a week subsidy to pensioners when at the same time we are paying out millions of dollars in subsidy to farmers in record amounts, and above all, we are doing this to pensioners when prices for a whole range of necessary items are increasing almost every week.
The House has already dealt with many of the inadequacies of the Bill, but let me refer to just a few instances to illustrate how wrong the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is when he claims that the paltry 50c increase has, quoting his own term, maintained the so-called peak position reached in regard to pensioners’ income. Take, for instance. A class widows. These are widows who are under 50 years of age and who have dependent children. A widow with one dependent child who may be 14, 15 or 16 years of age will receive a princely sum under this Bill of $22 a week for herself and her child. She will, it is true, get an extra $2 a week if she is paying rent or board. God help her, I say, if she is in that position. She will also get a small increment in child endowment of 50c a week, the same as it has been since the 1940s. She will receive $22 a week plus the 50c child endowment to maintain herself and her child unless of course she can go out to work, and even then her income will be limited.
Take the position of a widow who is unlucky enough to have been left with 4 dependent children. What she will get under this Bill is the princely sum of $32.50 a week. I wonder what man in this House would want to be maintaining himself and 4 children on $32.50 a week. Is this not what people refer to as downright poverty? Of all the A class widows to which 1 have referred 41.5 per cent are women with one child, 29.7 per cent of them have 2 children, 16 per cent have 3 children, 4 per cent have 4 children, and 5.1 per cent of widows have 5 or more children. I have often thought to myself - a pretty sober thought - what would happen in my household if, for instance, on some aeroplane trip home or going somewhere from this place the aircraft should crash and I amongst others should not live to see it through. I can think of a fair bit of struggling that would have to go on to maintain my 3 school age children at school. I can only think how much worse it would be for the widow of a tradesman or a person on a comparatively low income. What must their position be? I think it ought to stir us sometimes to recognise the plight of such people and make better provision for them.
I would suggest, if I may, just as a relatively isolated point in this context, that we ought to pay supplementary assistance, such as that paid in respect of rent, to A class widows who are paying off their homes. Many women can be widowed at the early age of 20, 30 or maybe 40 and left with children, but because they are not paying rent they do not qualify for the supplementary assistance. Some are in a much worse position than if they had been paying rent. They could be paying off a substantial debt on their homes. In my view they ought to qualify for the supplementary assistance also. As a matter of fact, if I had my way, all pensioners, including married pensioners paying rent, would qualify for the supplementary assistance, subject to the normal means test.
The Minister tries to persuade us that the position of pensioners has not been in any way prejudiced. It has not been improved, he admits, but it has not been prejudiced within the last 12 months or so simply because of this 50c grant. I want to remind the Minister that this Bill makes no provision for any increase in the allowance for the dependants of pensioners. There has been no increase in this allowance for 2 years. This Bill provides for no increase in the mother’s allowance that is paid to the mothers of dependent children. There is no provision for an increase in child endowment, asI have already mentioned, and what is more there is no provision for an increase in the permissible earnings of a widow or other pensioner who may qualify under the means test.
If there has not been any increase in those provisions it must mean, in the face of price inflation, that their position overall has deteriorated. Of course it has. It is no good the Minister trying to persuade us otherwise. If these ancillary benefits have not been increased, their real value in purchasing terms must have gone down because, as we all recognise, inflation has been running at the order of 5 per cent per annum in recent times and the chances are that it will get worse. I will make some mention of that in a moment also.
So what we have really announced in this Bill and in the Budget is that we are going to reduce the income of a million or more people in our community simply because we do not make provision for these other parts of their income situation.
But whilst that position is bad enough and whilst we can refer to what has happened in terms of inflation, the prospects for the future are not bright at all. The current high inflation will further erode even the increase that has been provided in this Bill. The Government guarantees immediate deterioriation of the new pension by its simultaneous increase in telephone rentals. I wonder whether the Minister recognises that something like 9½ weeks out of the total 52 weeks in a year of the pension increase will go in paying the new telephone rental increase, even allowing for the pensioner concession. The pensioner will be paying something of the order of $4.60 extra a year in increased telephone rentals, and what is more he or she will pay it 6 months in advance. So when the telephone bill with the new charges comes in October or November about 9 weeks in advance of the new pension increase will go on that 1 item alone, to say nothing of increased postal charges and increased sales tax on a whole range of items which pensioners buy, just as the rest of the community does.
There are increased petrol charges. Many pensioners still own their own cars and they will pay the increased price for petrol. If they do not pay it themselves they will pay it in increased transport charges or in other ways and of course it will be reflected in overall increases in the price of goods and services in the community. In addition to this there are the consequential increases imposed by other public and private authorities. Some of my colleagues have already referred to the way rents have risen. Many pensioners have lost the whole of their increase and even more than their increase already through increased rents. There are also municipal and water board rates. 1 wonder whether the Minister or any other member of the Government would prophesy that there will not be an increase in municipal or water board rates in the next 12 months. I think he would be a very courageous person if he did so, in view of the high interest rates that this Government is imposing on local government authorities in respect of money they borrow. There are the prices of goodsand services that are going up almost weekly. Pensioners will be confronted with these because unfortunately they affect basic commodities that every person in the community needs.
I have just a few more words to say on the matter of widows pensions and the means test. I have said before, and I feel it even more strongly now, that if we were not able to abolish the means test for everybody would it not be very proper to completely abolish the means test for widows? I do not suppose there is a member in this House who has not had the plaintive appeal from a widow with dependent children who is paying school fees, paying rent, paying for new uniforms and all the rest of it: Could 1 not earn just a bit more? What would happen to my pension if I earned just a bit more than the $12 or $13 a week I am allowed to earn?’ We always have to come back and say: ‘I am sorry, the best 1 can tell you is that under the tapered means test you will lose only 50c in every $1 you earn. Hitherto you lost $1 for every $1.’ 1 do not think this would cost much. 1 am sure it would be comparatively easy on the economy to do this. After all, the figures in the departmental report tell me that there are 44,000 A class widows in the community and I think the total of class A and class B widows is not more than 80,000-odd. Many of them would not have great resources. We are not going to give a means test free pension to a whole lot of affluent widows within the community; anything but.
While I am talking about (he means test, I hope that we can get over some of the arbitrary little regulations that affect the administration of it. 1 will quote only one or two as instances. I think most members are aware, but unfortunately not too many members of the public are, that a pensioner can rent 5 separate rooms of his or her home, and where the tenants share jointly in the other facilities - the kitchen, dining room, etc. - of the house there is no limitation on what can be charged to those persons by way of rental. Where there are 5 separate occupants each, we will suppose, occupying a separate bedroom and then having joint use of the other facilities of the house, there is no limit on what rental can be charged by the pensioner. But on the other hand if the pensioner rents 2 or more rooms to any I person or couple then that becomes an assessable item. Once that unit has 2 or more rooms it then becomes a flat or unit and therefore becomes assessable under the assets provision of the means test. This all seems so arbitrary and so artificial. The whole ramifications and provisions of the means test ought to be thoroughly overhauled. I thing this is long overdue. What we are doing all the time is just patching up here and there, and quite frankly there is much of the administration of the means test that is not written down. I could go on with other items - I will not because I do not have the time - such as regulations that are not available to the community at large and lots of people miss out even on the things that they would be entitled to receive.
– They even differ on interpretation.
– That is right. We get varying interpretations from different officers; that is how complicated it is. I can only think of the injustices that are done to people in innocence because of the multiplication not only of regulations but of interpretations of rules and regulations affecting the means test. There are other items in this Budget to which some of my colleagues have referred. One is the wife’s allowance. For instance, where a male has turned 65 years of age but bis wife has not yet turned 60 she can get a wife’s allowance of the princely sum of $7 a week, providing that her husband is an invalid. If he is 65 and has been compelled to retire from work and is not an invalid, which is more often the case, then the wife gets absolutely nothing. In other words, under this Bill we have 2 adult people living on $15.50 a week between them. Is it any wonder that people estimate the number of poverty stricken people in our community as running into something of the order of 1 million people. This is where one sees it. These are instances that one can find even among retired people. Even the $7 a week that brings the couple’s pension to $22.50 is little enough. In all reasonableness I think that when a man turns 65 then his wife ought automatically to get the full pension. They ought to get the married rate pension between them. Why go on with all this humbug and deny these people the full rate and make them live under these frugal conditions.
Then there is the B class widow, a widow who has turned 50 years of age with no dependent children. She is under 60 but over 50. Under this Bill she is entitled to a pension of $13.75. Goodness only knows why she should not get the same rate as an age or invalid pensioner - that is, $15.50. I would not know what makes us presume that such an adult woman with her commitments would be able to live on $1.75 a week less than her counterpart who happens to have an age or invalid pension. 1 think that the Minister must have been very disappointed in this Budget. I base this not only on what he has said in this House over the past years about pensions, endowment and the means test but also on what he is reported in a very reliable newspaper, the ‘Sunday Telegraph’, on 9th August - only a day or two before the Budget was presented - as saying. He is reported to have said that the Government should use taxation and endowment to correct the unfairness of the wages paid to the family man. The article continues:
Australia had for many years been paying insufficient attention to the needs of the family as opposed to the needs of the individual’, he said. An unduly high proportion from the wages fund is given to the individual without family responsibilities’, he said. ‘It is undesirable to ask employers to pay different wages, but in the Government’s taxation and endowment system, this could be taken into account.’
The Minister missed out on both counts in this Budget. No provision has been made for the family in the revision of the taxation scale. There has been the flat 10 per cent reduction in tax for salaries up to $10,000 but there is no increase in the allowance for families, and what is more, there has not been lc increase in child endowment.
– Repeat it for the Minister. He never heard it.
– He knows all about it. 1 know that he will wince when he reads it again. This subject of child endowment involves such a wearying and boring recital that I hardly dare bring it up again. Child endowment for the first child has not been changed since 1950. There has been no increase in endowment for the second child since 1948. Endowment for the third child was increased 6 years ago.
This Bill makes some provision - and to some extent I applaud this - for an increase in sickness benefits. Again the increase applies only when the person has been on sickness benefits for 6 weeks. During the first 6 weeks of sickness these people are expected to live on their accumulated resources. In many cases there are no resources on which <to live but only accumulated debts. If these people suffer a prolonged illness and are in a semi-invalid state for some period of time they may well need any accumulated resources which they may have, and this is what this provision envisages. After 6 weeks the allowance for an adult receiving sickness benefits will go up from $10 a week to $15.50 - the same as the invalid pension. I suppose some increase is better than none. I am prepared to say that this will be of some help but again, $15.50 is not very much for a working man to live on after having been sick for 6 weeks with the prospect of a considerable period of invalidity to follow. If he happens to be a married man his spouse will gain no increase. She remains on $7 a week. A married couple receives $22.50 a week to live on after the bread winner has been sick for 6 weeks. He will receive an extra $2.50 for the first child and for the second and other children he will receive only $3.50. 1 thought that we were on the verge of recognising 18 to 20-year-olds as being adults. As a matter of fact everybody is in the race to see who will bring in the first electoral provision recognising young people of 18 and older as adults. This Bill perpetuates the status of a minor as applying to 18 to 20-year-olds. Accordingly, for the first 6 weeks an 18 to 20-year-old will still get $6 a week sickness benefit. No wonder there is poverty in the community. Quite frankly I have never understood why a young lad or a young girl of 18 to 20 could be expected to eat less and to pay less than an adult of 21 years for all the commodities and services for which they have to pay. In my experience, having youngsters of this age in my family, they eat a lot more than I do and it costs a lot more to clothe them. Yet there is the assumption that they can, somehow or other, cope on $6 a week for the first 6 weeks they are on sickness benefits and thereafter a uniform $10 a week under the provisions of this Bill. 1 could not hazard a guess as to how a 16 or 17 year-old minor could live on $4.50 a week for 6 weeks.
Whilst there is some provision in this Bill for sickness benefits there is none for unemployment benefits. The unemployed adult will still receive $10 a week and bil wife will get an extra $7 a week. Here again the bread winner who has a spouse and is unemployed is expected to live on $17 a week. I wonder whether people really understand what this means to people who are committed to paying rent, paying off a house, paying land and water rates, and so on. I wonder if we really appreciate the dire situation which these people are in. I could go on but what is the use? The Government does not seem to take any notice. Year after year this unfortunate position remains unaltered. 1 would like to make a suggestion to the Minister which might ring a bell with him if he is prepared to listen. Mr Minister, may I engage your attention on this point?
– He is talking to someone else.
– Never mind. In the case of people who are 65 years of age I see no reason why, if they want to and are able to get employment, they should not be allowed to do so and have full protection in that if they become sick or unemployed temporarily they can go on to sickness or unemployment benefits, whichever is appropriate. At the moment a person over 65 cannot attract the unemployment benefit; he is compelled to go on to the age pension.
Last year a number of new Bills were introduced in a flurry in preparation for the last general elections. One was the States Grants (Home Care) Bill 1969. That Bill promised home care services for pensioners; capital subsidies for senior citizens centres; the provision of welfare officers in senior citizens centres; the provision of paramedical services by way of chiropody, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy and so on. What has happened to those promises? The report on social services shows that scarcely any money was spent on these items for the very simple reason that this Government failed to gain from the various States the co-operation which is required under the Act. The Government has, in so many other spheres, brought in its legislation and then said to the States: ‘There it is, now you come to the party as well’. This sort of thing is very good window dressing for election purposes but it does nothing for the unfortunate people whom it was meant to assist.
I conclude my remarks by saying that in my view the object of a pension or a retiring allowance ought to be to provide a genuine retiring allowance for people so that they do not have to be dependent on handouts from government departments, State instrumentalities or private organisations. I think it would greatly help the self-respect of every retired person if they were to have a genuine retiring allowance to cover all kinds of expenses which they could normally expect to face. At the moment local government bodies, along with others, have to subsidise the inadequate pension this Government provides. What the Labor Party suggests in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley, and what was suggested at the last general election, is that we should be getting on with the job of introducing a national superannuation scheme in this country. The 5 main principles enunciated by Professor Downing are good enough for my money. First of al), he suggested that such a scheme ought to be related to the person’s earning capacity during his working life and that when he retires the retirement allowance should not represent an abrupt downward change in his state of living. There should not be this anxiety about what will happen when these people go into retirement.
The second principle he suggested is that the retirement allowance should be regularly updated according to the cost of living and that when people retire they should not have to worry that their retirement allowance will be eaten away by price inflation. The allowance should be regularly adjusted, not just according to the political temperament of the government of the day. Thirdly, he suggested that contributions to such a national superannuation fund ought to be assessed according to a person’s earnings with the provision that people on very low incomes should have their contributions subsidised by the government. Fourthly, he suggested that this system could be commenced almost immediately with contributors paying for the current superannuees. Fifthly, he suggested that the system could be expanded to take account not only of retirement but also of temporary or permanent invalidity, widowhood or unemployment. It is a very sound scheme. I can only wonder why the Government does not have a look at it. It would be very sensible for this Parliament to set up a committee - an all-party committee, if you like - to look into all aspects of the establishment, as a matter of urgency, of a national superannuation scheme for the whole of Australia. It would enable people to retire in self respect and with the security of being protected during their retirement.
– Very briefly I want to bring to the notice of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) a matter which I think exemplifies the need to amend the Social Services Act in order to give justice to migrants and Australians generally. Last week in my electorate office I interviewed a migrant who was endeavouring to obtain an age or invalid pension or, as a last resort, a job. I asked him his age and he said through his interpreter that he was 105 years old. Although he did not look that age - quite frankly many of us do not - 1 questioned him further but he insisted that that was his correct age. He stated that he arrived in Australia about 6 years ago and has since been naturalised. Although he is over the age for an invalid pension and naturalised, he is ineligible because he has not resided in Australia for 10 years. Again he is ineligible for an invalid pension because his state of health is evidently much the same as when he arrived, and is not due to any particular reasons since that time. He has also registered for employment and is able and willing to work if suitable employment is available. But to date I understand the Department of Labour and National Service has been unable to place him satisfactorily. He has, however, been granted a special benefit of $10 a week.
At my suggestion he forwarded to me an application for a pension - age or invalid - and the date of his birth is shown as 29th May 1870 - 100 years and approximately 100 years and 4 months ago. I have since checked this age discrepancy with a relative, and he said that although he could not vouch for it the old gentleman may have panicked when making his application and put his age back a bit because he thought it might debar him from entry to Australia. In any case, the age shown on the pension form is taken from his passport. We now have the position where a migrant over 100 years of age is ineligible for an age pension and will have to live until he is at least 104 years to qualify. The invalid pension may be out of the question as his health is much the same as when he arrived, and he said that he was 94 years of age at that time. Furthermore, although he is able and willing to work, there is nothing available for him. At a time when we are clamouring for migrants it is hardly a good advertisement for the world to know that in Australia under a Liberal government, firstly, a person over 100 years of age cannot get an age pension, secondly, he is ineligible for an invalid pension and, thirdly, no suitable employment is available to him and his only means of sustenance is $10 a week. It is certainly no encouragement to look forward to a long life in the land of affluence and Liberal prosperity.
I bring this case to the Minister’s attention with a request that he take appropriate steps to provide a pension for this migrant. Furthermore, I believe the Minister should adopt the policy of the Labor Party and make welfare benefits available to all Australians and eliminate the system whereby a person more than a century old is ineligible for welfare benefits which, putting it mildly, hardly assists our drive for migrants. Finally, so far as the Department of Immigration is concerned, I believe that its officers should be congratulated if this migrant is the type of citizen selected - healthy, ageless and so confident that he will live long enough to share in the welfare state of liberalism.
– in reply - If the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) will let me have the name of the migrant concerned I will see what I can do for him.
– 1 will give the Minister the application.
– We have special provisions for those over 100 years of age. Very little time is available and I would like to have replied to some of the detailed matters raised in this debate. However, there are just two important matters which I think I should bring to the attention of the House. The first matter arises from the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who led for the Opposition. He suggested that the Opposition was supporting some kind of superannuation scheme on the Downing pattern, which he had incorporated in Hansard. I want to be fair. He said: ‘We might vary a little bit but this is our general pattern’.
I want the House to have a look at one detail of this scheme. It is contained in paragraph 3. Honourable members will find it in Hansard tomorrow. It says that onequarter of the cost of the scheme will be borne from contributions from current Consolidated Revenue equal to the current proportion of the total earnings now spent on age and widows pensions. This quarter of the cost referred to is something like $650m a year. So the scheme would cost $2, 600m a year. In addition, if honourable members will look at paragraph 4 of the Professor’s scheme, it will be seen that he wants to add a little over 40 per cent to this to cover invalidity and other health benefits. In that case the total cost of his scheme works out at something like $3, 700m, and that is a lot of money. I say this in order to point out to the House that honourable members may be inclined to indulge their fantasy a little and to ask for things which would involve taxation on a scale which even they so far have not perhaps contemplated.
The second thing I want to bring to the attention of the House, which is related to this matter, are the remarks of Mr Chifley in regard to standards. There has been a lot of talk in this House to the effect that the rates of pension do not allow for a decent standard of living and, in point of fact, an amendment has been moved along these lines. Let me remind the House of what Mr Chifley said about this. He made these remarks in his last Budget Speech on 4th October 1949. Honourable members should bear this in mind:
Under the present provisions relating to payment of invalid and age pensions, a man and his wife, who are both pensioners, may each receive an income and still retain their right to pensions. Including income from other sources, they may receive £7 5s a week between them.
That would be equivalent to about $35 a week by present standards. Mr Chifley continued his Budget Speech by referring to social standards. He said:
Nobody can contend that that is not a com fortable amount for the sustenance of old people who are not compelled to go to work and who do not need the dissipations that youth sometimes indulge in to gain experience of life.
This is the Chifley ceiling standard. The Government rejects it. I again return to Mr Chifley’s remarks. He said:
At the other end of the scale there are those who have nothing but their pension, and for them life must at times be hard.
So it was under the Labor Government. Mr Chifley continued:
Suggestions have been made from time to time that something should be done for them.
That is, the people at the bottom of the scale - 1 want her clearly to understand that whilst the Government is not unsympathetic towards her proposals it could not finance them by bank credit or out of thin air.
This is the very last Labor Treasurer and very last Labor Prime Minister saying that this was the ceiling - £7 5s a week - and nothing could be done for those people who were lower down the scale. We do not accept this kind of standard. We want something better. For us the ceiling is not £7 5s but $72 a week. These are the only points 1 want to put before the House, to remind honourable members of how much the standards of living throughout Australia have risen under this Government.
Thatthe words proposed to be omitted (Mr Hayden’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 5
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.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) read a third time.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1970-71 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 16 September (vide page 1240).
Proposed expenditure $81,276,600.
– In speaking to the estimates for the Department of External Affairs for the current financial year, I should like, firstly, to take the opportunity of offering my congratulations to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) and his departmental officers for the splendid work which they are doing on behalf of Australia. 1 include among the departmental officers the many people who serve Australia in overseas missions. Some of them serve in difficult places whilst others serve in dangerous places. I believe that this is a suitable time and occasion for me to pay my tribute to the many people who unobtrusively in many cases and efficiently in almost all cases further Australia’s interests in various parts of the world. There is no doubt that this country has been playing and is continuing to play an ever increasing role in the world scene. We should be very proud of the Department of External Affairs and its officers in Australia as well as the various people who serve in overseas missions. Some of them do so at a good deal of personal inconvenience, because they have to send their children to school in some other place.
I am very pleased indeed that in this current year an increased vote has been provided by the Government, particularly in relation to external aid. My main remarks will be related to this question of external aid. The Treasurer (Mr Bury), in making his Budget Speech for 1970-71 on 18th August said that the Government will provide approximately $200m this year for external aid. The basis on which financial assistance will be provided to Papua and New Guinea this year has been changed to accord with the recent arrangements to transfer greater responsibility and control over expenditures to elected Ministerial Members and the Administrator’s Executive Council in the Territory. The estimates envisage an additional $11. 2m for economic aid to Papua and New Guinea as well as increased aid to various other countries, including in particular Indonesia, South Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the islands in the South Pacific.
During the current session legislative authority will be sought for an Australian contribution to the value of $US10m over the next 3 years to the special funds of the Asian Development Bank. I feel that the people of Australia would be pleased and proud to know that this country again ranked among the first 3 donor countries in the world in 1969 in terms of the percentage of gross national product devoted to official development assistance to poorer countries. We class ourselves as a Christian country and a Christian democracy. I believe it is our bounden and moral duty to do what we can to help those less fortunate countries in the world, particularly those which are geographically near to us. In relation to South East Asia and the other countries in our region we are playing a helpful role and an ever increasing role and we are making even firmer the friendships that we have formed with those countries. Geography has placed us close to one another and for all time we will live in this region. I hope that we shall get closer and closer to one another and create deeper mutual respect and understanding as time goes by.
An interesting and valuable booklet called ‘Australia’s International Aid’ was put out by the Department of External Affairs in April this year. I will not take time to read passages from it, but anybody wishing to read a brief summary of the background to Australia’s international aid, the reasons therefor, the various projects in which Australia has been and is participating and the amounts being spent on the various Australian aid projects overseas, could not do better than to read this little booklet. It contains only about 23 pages and is very readable. 1 refer to it only in passing but I believe it is a most interesting and helpful book for anyone who wants to understand more of the background to and the reasons for Australia’s international aid.
In statement No. 8 attached to the Budget papers there is set out detailed information under the heading ‘External Aid’. Unfortunately time is not on my side and 1 cannot hope to cover very much of it. I draw the attention of honourable members who are interested to the details in that statement. The table falls into 3 sections. It lists various items of expenditure which can fairly readily bc identified as economic, or non-military, aid to developing countries. It shows the actual expenditure in 1968-69, the actual expenditure in 1969-70, the estimated expenditure for the current financial year, 1970-71, and the increase or decrease. 1 am happy to say - and those who have already studied this schedule, as I am sure many honourable members have, would have noticed with pleasure - that in most cases there are increases and in some cases there are substantial increases over the past financial year.
The 3 main headings are: Multilateral aid agreements, bilateral aid agreements and aid to Papua and New Guinea, which is a very special section. For those who may be listening and who may be interested to know something of the broad sweep of the details under those headings I will quickly run through a few of the headings under each section without going into the amounts, because time will not permit it. The multilateral aid agreements cover contributions to the International Development Association, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme, the South Pacific Commission, the Regional Projects for Economic Cooperation in Asia, and the International Red Cross. The total amount of multilateral aid provided in the Budget for the current financial year is $12,698,000, which is an increase over the present year of $2,218,000. That is a very substantial increase in relation to the multilateral aid agreement.
The bilateral aid includes the Colombo Plan. I would like, if time permits, to say something in more detail about the Colombo Plan. Also under the heading of bilateral aid is included special aid to South Vietnam, special aid to Cambodia, the Food Aid Convention under the International Grains Arrangement, the SEATO Aid Programme, the Indus Waters Scheme, the Foreign Exchange Operations Fund for Laos, the ASPAC Registry of Scientific and Technical Services, the ASPAC Food and Fertiliser Technology Centre, the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan, the Commonwealth Co-operation in Education Scheme, the South Pacific Aid Programme, the Australian International Awards Scheme, disaster relief contributions, Australian-Asian University Aid and Co-operation Scheme, emergency refugee relief for Nigeria, and practical training for Papuans and New Guineans. The total of bilateral aid under all those various items I have mentioned for the current year amounts to $45,198,000, which is an increase of $4,836,000 over the last financial year.
I think that most honourable members are fairly familiar with the situation ia
Papua and New Guinea. It is mentioned from time to time in the House. Broadly speaking, the aid to Papua and New Guinea covers grants to the Administration, grants for development, allowances under various headings and payments for particular budget equalisation purposes. 1 think that honourable members would be fairly familiar with these. It is interesting to note that for the current year .the total estimated expenditure under this heading is $126,100,000, an increase of $11,216,000 over the past financial year. The grand total under all of those 3 headings - multilateral aid, bilateral aid, and aid to Papua and New Guinea - is an estimated expenditure for the current financial year of $183,996,000. That is an increase of $18,270,000 over the past financial year, a remarkable increase. I feel it is something that we as a nation can be proud of. We can point with satisfaction to an increasing involvement and an increasing degree of practical aid under a multitude of headings in our region of the world and beyond.
Time is running out, and I turn now to the Colombo Plan. I would like to say something in particular about the Colombo Plan because this is by far Australia’s largest bilateral aid programme. As honourable members know it covers a wide range of activities including the training of overseas students and officials in many different subjects in educational institutions, government services and private industry in Australia as well as the assignment of Australian experts in various fields to work and teach in developing countries. It also embraces the provision of heavy machinery and equipment for large construction projects - for example, highways, bridges, dams and town water supplies - undertaken in collaboration with foreign governments. In addition it includes the installation of radio telecommunication systems, assistance in the rehabilitation of ‘telephone and railway networks and gifts of such diverse items as trucks, buses, landrovers, irrigation and farm equipment, dredges, pumps, railway wagons and sleepers, hospital and broadcasting equipment, wool, bakery equipment, and lathes and teaching aids for vocational training institutes. Various other commodities and manufactured goods have been given to developing countries under the Colombo Plan.
The total provision for the Colombo Plan in 1970-71 of $26,397,000 is 14.4 per cent greater than the actual expenditure under this head in the previous financial year. Again, I suggest, a most satisfactory increase. Australia has undertaken to provide $53,570,000 in bilateral aid to Indonesia over this and the next 2 financial years. J will not dilate on this because the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is to speak more particularly on the subject of Indonesia and aid to Indonesia. The total amount of aid to be provided to South Vietnam in 1970-71, excluding purely military aid, is $3,500,000 compared with the expenditure of just over $2m in the previous financial year. This will be spread over the votes for the Colombo Plan, the SEATO aid programme and the new item of special aid to South Vietnam. Under the heading of bilateral programmes there is provision for special aid to Cambodia and aid for road building projects in Thailand. All these are worthwhile contributions to those countries with which we wish to be friendly and live on closer terms in the years ahead. To me and I am sure to all honourable members irrespective of party it is a matter of great satisfaction to be able to look at a set of figures like this and a programme of international aid which we know is making a very real contribution to the progress, happiness and future of those countries which we wish well.
– The estimates before the Committee are those of the Department of External Affairs. It is of particular note that these are the first estimates for this Department that we have dealt with under the new administration. Sir Paul Hasluck, the former Minister for External Affairs, has now been elevated to Governor-General and Sir William Plimsol has been given the task of representing Australia at Washington. The former Treasurer, Mr William McMahon, is now the Minister for External Affairs and Sir Keith Waller is in charge of the Department. I want to examine briefly a couple of aspects where I think probably under the Waller influence - I emphasise the Waller influence on the Department of External Affairs rather than the McMahon influence - there could be a more rational approach to the matter of international relations. If one looks briefly at the
Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty it will be seen that for years the Department of External Affairs stalled on the signing of the Treaty. It could be that the Department of External Affairs wanted to sign the Treaty - I believe it did - but its spokesman was not forceful enough and there was great pressure from the Atomic Energy Commission for Australia not to sign the Treaty.
I have no doubt that those forces within the Cabinet that have the Sir Philip Baxter mentality applied pressure because of their fear that they might be sold down the drain by signing the Treaty and would not get the development that they wanted; that they would not be able to create first of all their own atomic weapon and later their own nuclear weapon. Although Australia was one of the last 2 countries to sign the Treaty, we did sign it and the new Minister for External Affairs proudly boasted that he did so as soon as he became Minister. I do not know whether it was the time limit that made him sign it so quickly but, be that as it may, the Government signed it. The other aspect on which there seems to be a more enlightened approach under the present administration is in relation to Cambodia. There certainly is a division in the Government’s ranks. The WallerMcMahon attitude is not to involve Australia too deeply in the Cambodian conflict, in particular by the supply of arms, but to try to restrict our involvement to economic aid. On the other hand I believe that the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Department of Defence, supported by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) and no doubt the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), have a different attitude because we know that the Prime Minister has not only a Baxter mentality but also the policeman-on-the-beat mentality when it comes to interfering in the internal affairs of Asian countries.
The last aspect on which I see a change of attitude and policy is in relation to Japan. Recently Ambassador Saito, as reported in the ‘Australian’ of 10th September 1970, said:
In Australia the general expectation is that Japan should play a military role as well as being an economic great power. Many believe that Japan will in any case become a military power.
It is reported in the ‘Australian’ of 12th September 1970 that when the Minister for External Affairs went to Japan recently, in commenting at a Tokyo Press conference on statements made in Tokyo that week, he said that he did not expect Japan to play a military role. I think he is probably the first senior member of an Australian government in the last decade to have made such a clear and positive statement in regard to the Australian attitude on Japanese rearmament. There is an attitude in certain quarters of the United States of America as well as Britain, Australia and other countries, that Japan should rearm to become the balance of power against the People’s Republic of China. This attitude runs right through the ranks of Government supporters in this Parliament. I praise the Minister for External Affairs for having said that but it is my view that irrespective of what he said, Japan has a very clear view at the present time - I hope it maintains this view - that it should not worry much about what Australia’s view is on whether it becomes a military power because Japan has recognised that the way to power, particularly in Asia, is not by using military power but by achieving economic power. I think that has been recognised by Japan.
I believe that Japan has been getting defence on the cheap. That country has been spending a very small proportion of its gross national product on defence. That is a major reason why she is such an important competitor economically in trade and commerce throughout the world. As one who has seen Japanese militarism at its worst I want to see a peaceful Japan maintained. Most Australians will encourage Japan to stay a peaceful country and to maintain its economic policy. We should compete with Japan in the economic field and not in the military field. In a short period of time Japan as a nation could create its own nuclear weapons. It could build inter-continental ballistic missiles. Japan has the technology to become one of the nuclear powers in a short period of time, and already we have too many fingers on the nuclear trigger.
No matter now rational this administration of the Department of External Affairs is it is still confronted with the obstacle of Vietnam. The Government is still faced with this quagmire which has created so much suffering and which has torn the United States apart. The United States, which is the most powerful nation in the world, is trying to bomb and destroy one of the smallest nations in the world. The United States thought that it could set out to defeat Vietnam and still build its ‘Great Society’. President Johnson, whose internal social policies were probably the most progressive since President Roosevelt, wanted to build a great society, to give Medicare to the aged and to effect many social reforms internally in the United States. But because of the economic drain of Vietnam on the United States he was destroyed. The United States reached the stage where it was spending $3 5, 000m a year. When the Westmoreland proposal was put forward for another 206,000 troops for victory in Vietnam the crash came because Wall Street recognised that this would cost another $ 12,000m a year. Inflationary trends were mounting and there was a run on gold. The United States could not meet its commitment of $35 to the ounce and the International Monetary Fund had to set 2 prices on gold. As a result Johnson soon afterwards promoted Westmoreland upstairs and decided that he would stop the bombing of North Vietnam and enter into negotiations with the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong. Of course, the United States argues that the real issue is that it wants peace now. The United States knew that it could not get a military victory and now it wants peace.
One really has to examine the United States attitude to see whether that country wants peace or whether it wants to stay in Vietnam. I would like to quote from an article written by a very eminent American, Mr Roger Hilsman, who was a former United States Secretary of State for the Far East in the John Kennedy Administration and who is now Professor of Government at the Columbia University. Mr Hilsman said:
President Nixon’s policy of Vietnamisation - gradual withdrawal of American troops, concurrent with an increase in the amount and quality of aid to South Vietnam - is based on his hope that Saigon will be able to continue the war completely alone; or at most with the aid of United States air and artillery forces.
The reduction in American casualties, it is believed, would not only mute the opposition at home, but make it possible to wage a ‘long-haul, low-cost’ war.
I believe that the real basis of United States policy is that there should be a low cost war, that it wants to step down its commitment. It can in fact keep 10 Vietnamese in the field for the cost of 1 United States soldier. I believe that the United States will wage a ‘long-haul’ and that it will maintain its air and artillery power. The United States has already dropped more bombs on Vietnam than the Allies dropped on Axis powers during the Second World War. I believe that the United States will continue this type of operation. This is why people all over Australia will be demonstrating tomorrow against the war in Vietnam. They will be calling for a cessation of the war in Vietnam and a withdrawal of all Australian and foreign forces from Vietnam to allow the Vietnamese people to settle their own affairs.
Criticisms of the moratorium have come from many people. Criticisms have come from both State and Federal sections of my own Party. Some doubts have been expressed about demonstrations in the streets of Australia. I make no secret of the fact that there are divisions of opinion on this side but it could be said that this is a healthy position. But I question again and again whether any honourable member on the Government side will express the slightest doubt or the slightest reservation about the stupidity of Australia’s involvement in the war in Vietnam. My answer to my critics within my own Party or outside my Party - and I direct this mainly at the Government ranks and to those people in the newspapers; - is that it is easy to contract out of a matter but it is much harder to stay in and call for restraint. My attitude is that we will call for restraint and that we will call for non-violent demonstrations. We are against violence in Vietnam and we are against violence in the streets by Australian citizens. We need a peaceful country and we want to bring peace to Vietnam. We do not want to bring demonstrations and violence into the streets. However, we call on all Australians to come out and express their indignation at one of the most barbaric actions ever carried out by a so-called civilisation - and I refer to the actions of (he United States. There is another side to the United States. The United States has 39 senators - that is, nearly 40 per cent of the United States
Senate - who want to end all military aid to South East Asia by 1971. But we have no honourable members on the Government side who have any doubts about our military involvement in Vietnam.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Just before I commence my remarks on the estimates for the Department of External Affairs I would like to mention that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), who has just resumed his seat and who spoke about the Moratorium, presented an attitude which called for people to go into the streets and demonstrate. Although the honourable member professes to be a peaceful citizen - and I am sure he is; he has seen enough war and hell to know that there is ho percentage in it at all - I believe that the Moratorium will incite people to take the law into their own hands. So I cannot go along with what the honourable member had to say. I note that the expenditure for the Department of External Affairs has increased from $74.6m to $81. 3m. This Government is showing a continued interest in the areas to our near north. Our contribution to the programme of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation has been increased by another $3m. The Colombo Plan, which is Australia’s bilateral aid programme, is to rise this year to $26.4m, which is an increase of 14.4 per cent. This involves the installation of many items. As the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) has enumerated them, I will not repeat them now. Many of these items which he mentioned have been supplied to Indonesia. All of them were to be used in the Malaysian, Singaporian and Indonesian areas.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) during the course of his speech on the estimates of the Department of External Affairs emphasised strongly his argument that this Government had shown little interest in Indonesia. Because of this, I wish to enlarge on some of the aid that Australia has supplied to that country. Before doing so, I must point out that all Australian aid is given in the form of nonrepayable grants. The Leader of the Opposition was scathing in his remarks about the efforts of the Australian Government. In relation to the debt of $2,000m inherited by the present Government of Indonesia from the Sukarno regime, Australia took part in the negotiations in which a better deal was sought for Indonesia. It was able to assist Indonesia in obtaining far more liberal terms of settlement regarding this debt. I point out those matters before I turn to the aid that Australia has supplied to Indonesia.
Last year, Australia provided Indonesia with $5m under the export bonus scheme which, under the new Indonesian exchange system, is referred to as the DK or Devisa Kredit. Since this scheme began operation in 1967-68, Australia has spent approximately $14m on DK aid. I would point out to the Leader of the Opposition that, under this aid, Australian goods being imported include copper tubing, milk powder, chemicals, engine spare parts, tin plate, lead and malt. The total DK aid to be provided for sale in Indonesia in 1970-71 is expected to be about $5m.
Let me continue to outline the involvement that Australia has in Indonesia. I remind the Commitee first that the Leader of the Opposition said that Australia’s involvement was at a minimum. Under the Food Aid Convention of the International Grains Agreement, flour to the value of $5m has been provided. We have sent also to Indonesia commodities which included rice valued at $800,000. Australia has assisted in economic development projects including $lm for the supply of railway steel, a telecommunications project in Djakarta valued at $7m and a modern radio telecommunications between Indonesia’s major airports - Djakarta, Medan, Palembang. Surabaja and Den Pasar - and also overseas to Australia and Singapore, valued at $3m. There is a proposal also for the provision of a water supply at Den Pasar on the island of Bali to cost $1.5m. At the end of 1972 the improvement and enlargement of the water supply system at Bogor will be completed at a cost of approximately $1.7m. So the list goes on.
I mention next the Tjilatjap port development. The Sukarno regime allowed this Indonesian port to run down very badly. The new Government of Indonesia applied to Australia to help it with the reestablishment of this port. A mission visited Tjilatiap during the first half of this year and is expected to report favourably on this project. Some firms in Western Australia probably will be interested in reconditioning this port. So, from these facts it can be seen that the Leader of the Opposition was completely wrong when he said that Australia was doing nothing for Indonesia.
Earlier this year, the Australian Government voted to provide, over 3 years, $53. 8m in bilateral aid. During my speech on the Budget, I spoke about this fact. Several honourable members opposite jeeringly said that Australia was doing nothing for Indonesia. Well, they were parroting the words of their Leader. No doubt, they were copying the words of the Leader of the Opposition’s speech writer. In addition to this material aid that I have outlined, earlier this year the Government sent an 8-man delegation to Indonesia to find out more about how we could assist that country and understand its present situation. Members of all political parties in this Committee were represented on that mission, so members of the Opposition know all about it. This delegation saw the heads of all Indonesian departments. The only head it did not interview was President Suharto, lt interviewed as many as 6 people a day including the secondincharge of the Indonesian armed services. It interviewed also the Indonesian Foreign Minister, the Indonesian Minister for Trade and the Governor of Djakarta as well as port officials, health directors, military governors and business men. So, I ask: Is this showing ‘little interest’ in Indonesia? At almost the same time as this delegation was in Indonesia, the Leader of the Opposition was whining in Kuala Lumpur that Australia should withdraw from the area. What shallow inconsistency!
– -Why shouldn’t he?
– He should have gone to Djakarta and said the same thing.
– What are you talking about, Sam.
– The honourable member should have been present earlier to hear my remarks. I agree that one of our major tasks is to live in harmony with and to assist with technical knowledge, both at a government and private level, our nearest neighbour, Indonesia. 1 know that the sort of thing that Indonesia needs is technical assistance. I know a firm which can supply engineering services to Indonesia. It is only too ready and willing to go there and to do so. Australia should be prepared to initiate joint ventures within the SingaporeMalaysia area, but specially with our nearest neighbour, Indonesia. Australia has reciprocal rights with Garuda - the Indonesian airline - to operate services twice a week between Djakarta and Sydney with occasional landings at Den Pasar. While I was in Indonesia, I urged the Indonesians to concentrate on air services to the east, that is, to West Irian and perhaps down to Darwin. I believe the thought is being given to reciprocal air rights in this direction. Indonesia, I am sure, would welcome our assistance in the development of West Irian. Australia should be prepared to enter joint ventures with Indonesia. One of the joint ventures that I would suggest would be airline operations east through Den Pasar to West Irian and possibly extending to Darwin. I believe that this would be a good form of joint venture in which we could support Indonesia.
Whilst the delegation to which I have referred was in Indonesia, we heard almost every day from Indonesia’s leaders warnings about the downward thrust of Communism.
– Oh, what rot!
– The Indonesians said this. They were telling us about it. We were not telling them. They asked us what we were going to do about it. This is the point I am making. Some Indonesians asked us whether we were prepared to wait until the downward thrust arrived here. This is what they were asking us. They feel very strongly about this matter. So, I ask: Why should not we feel strongly about it also?
While on this subject 1 ask why the Labor leader seeks to belittle our efforts to assist Indonesia. He referred to our military relations with Malaysia and Singapore. They are much appreciated too in those areas. He said that militarily we have ignored Indonesia. Do the Indonesians want military aid? They have 20 divisions mobilised of their own. They asked for the sort of aid they are receiving. Why is he trying to convince the Indonesians that we are not now interested in them? He is doing this because of his friends, the pro- Communist Sukarno regime, are now no longer in power. Australia is making every effort to assist the Suharto Government. Good relations are being built up which the Labor leader is obviously trying to wreck for his own political reasons. The Leader of the Opposition said that our foreign policy is in ruins. Under his leadership it would be a complete shambles. Malaysia and Singapore have our military presence as well as developmental assistance. These people expect Australia to be part of the area. They expect us to remain Australians but to co-operate with them in facing and solving their problems. This Government’s external affairs policy is aimed at doing just that, whereas Labor’s policy would leave them in the lurch, destroy our credibility in the MalaysianIndonesian archipelago and eventually lead to our own downfall.
– I would like to say a few things about the estimates for the Department of External Affairs mainly to draw attention to something that must have been disappointing to the rest of the world. I refer to what was called the decade of development. It was hoped that in the period from 1960 to 1970 the western world, or the more fortunate areas, would face up to the responsibilities of providing external aid and economic development assistance up to 1 per cent of their gross national product. If Australia’s external aid had reached that figure it would have meant that the assistance that Australia gives abroad would now be of the magnitude of $300m. This contrasts quite substantially with what has been achieved and also with what it is hoped to achieve in the coming year.
Just before Christmas a document known as the Pearson Report reached this country. The Pearson Report received its name from Mr Lester Pearson, a former Prime Minister of Canada, who was the Chairman of the committee that examined what might be achieved in the next 10 years if we cut our losses, as it were, in respect of what happened in the 1960s. Rather reluctantly t’.ie committee came to the conclusion that we could not start on the optimistic assumption of spending 1 per cent of gross national product on external aid. I think that figure was a percentage of gross national product at factor cost, which is a somewhat lesser figure than the 1 per cent of gross national product. The committee suggested that we should start off with a figure of about 0.7 per cent of the gross national product, which in Australia’s case would mean something like $230m to $240m.
As one other honourable member pointed out earlier this evening, the estimated expenditure on assistance to other parts of the world, including Papua and New Guinea, in this Budget is nowhere near that figure. The sums of money that are spent on defence, apparently without much question, are in considerable contrast. It seems that nations are reluctant to increase their economic aid abroad as against what they spend on defence. It seems to be generally acknowledged that the most significant problem that faces the world in the years ahead is to raise the living standards of more than half the world, excluding mainland China. Mainland China has about a quarter of the world’s population, but because of the folly of international arrangements it has been excluded from the considerations of United Nations organisations. Something like 1,000 million or more people, something like a third of the rest of the world’s population or fairly close to a half of it, still live in unsatisfactory conditions because of inadequate economic development. India alone has a population of about 500 million and Pakistan has a population of over 100 million, both at a per capita standard that is very low.
We must look at the levels at which aid is given and the mechanisms with which it is distributed. I think a lot of the Pearson Committee’s criticism was about the existing arrangements for the distribution of aid. Unfortunately even with the Colombo Plan, the United Nations, the Food and Agricultural Organisation and various other organisations it is still incredibly difficult to bring a real need that exists to the ken of some other country that may be able to do something about it. It is still unfortunately true that most of what any country does has to be done from its own resources. A country literally has to raise itself up by its own bootstraps. Nevertheless the assistance that can come from other counties, particularly capital assistance in the form of equipment and machinery, technical assistance and manpower is substantial and valuable provided we can create the necessary networks.
There Ls still always a reluctance on the part of those who need assistance to accept it if it is given in a form in which it appears to be charity. There are still some curious people who think that we can solve the problems of the farmers of Australia by giving away to people who have no incomes the wheat, wool and other commodities we cannot sell at home.
– Any of these products. We are not doing so Well with wool as we would like, either, probably because our would-be customers do not have enough money to pay prices which we think should be a little bit higher than they are at the moment. 1 was referring at least to wheat and surpluses of other foodstuffs. Butter is perhaps a better example. There is no easy road. If we have too much of some commodity that it does not necessarily follow that somebody else wants it. The solution is not so easy. Even with a commodity like wheat it is doubtful whether some of the other parts of the world if they had a choice of what they would eat would choose wheat rather than some other commodity. Nevertheless, in order to improve their overall standards some better system for the distribution of aid, technical assistance and so on is necessary. I think this is the sort of thing to which the Pearson Committee pointed. I asked the Minister for External Affairs who is away at the moment - we accept his absence in the circumstances - for a copy of the Pearson report and he gave rae 1 but I think he ought to have given a copy to every honourable member of this House. I would have liked to have seen an opportunity to debate some of the propositions that are contained in that volume. After all, Australia paid some money towards the preparation of that report but we do not seem to have had any very systematic examination of it in this country.
We always get bogged down, of course, in this argument that Australia does better than most countries when we take Papua and New Guinea into account. 1 am not suggesting that we ought not to take Papua and New Guinea into account, but I think sometimes we ought to take into account that a large part of the expenditure in Papua and New Guinea is simply to maintain the European portion of the population at the existing levels that they have come to accept. Whether this should be regarded as aid for the development of Papua and New Guinea is very doubtful. I would like to see those figures separated sometimes. The World Bank report on New Guinea a year or two ago at least indicated that in New Guinea there was a dual economy. I think we are also moving towards what sometimes happens in these primitive economies and that is what is called a treble economy. We get the basic subsistence area, the cash crop type of economy and then the expatriate economy. The expatriate economy is the one which often is the most significant, and if I can recall it from memory 1 think the New Guinea situation was that some people had a standard of living some 10 to 20 times higher than the rest. Of course the section that had the highest standards consists of the civil servants and the European section of the economy.
How much of what appears in our accounts as aid to Papua and New Guinea is really aid in the sense in which it is understood? We talk about 1 per cent of our gross national product going to these countries but this is, I would suggest, very dubious. We are inclined to be rather smug about this and to point to the fact that our percentage is higher than that of some other countries. That may be but our percentage is still nowhere near as high as it should be in the sense of the sort of obligations that we are supposed to accept under the decade of development thesis. It is now at a somewhat lower level on the Pearson assumption. I would hope that a lot more attention will be given to this sort of thing in the future than has been given in the past.
We debate at great length and in great detail the expenditure of more than $l,100m on defence, and I think as well as asking ourselves what we defend ourselves with we should also keep asking the question: ‘What do we have to defend ourselves against?’ The great unstabilising force in the world is still the disparity between the standards of the more fortunate parts of the world and the standards that are not enjoyed by something like one half of the world’s population. Surely this is what economic aid ought to be about and there should be just as much serious attention given to the mechanisms of aid as is given to what is called logistics and similar aspects of defence. I hope that in the future this Parliament will take a much more humanitarian attitude to these questions and perhaps make a much more systematic examination of these problems. I throw out for the consideration of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) that he should at least give to every member of this House a copy of the Pearson report. Even though it is nearly a year old now it is still of considerable -value and I hope that there will be some opportunity to examine in greater detail some of the recommendations that are contained in it.
– I am sure we all appreciate the thoughtful contribution that has been made to the debate by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). I will certainly examine the request he has made in relation to the Pearson report to see whether it can be made available to all honourable members. I can certainly advise him later regarding this. The position regarding aid is, of course, broadly as he stated it. I suppose there is no country that would be in a position to say that it felt it was providing enough from its own resources. But I think we must examine also the type of aid that is provided. Australian aid when it is provided, as has been stated tonight by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), is mostly in the form of a direct grant, or whatever form the aid takes it is not repayable. In many cases aid provided by other countries is on the basis of a repayable loan or aid provided in other forms which has to be met by some subsequent payment. In some cases part of the aid provided is in the form of a grant and part of it is repayable. But there is another point too which I think we must recognise and that is that when aid is provided it is the general rule that the type of aid required and the items concerned are at the request of the receiving country.
It may be that at certain times it is better to provide food as aid, as we have done in certain circumstances at the request of the country concerned. But the general policy is to try to provide something more in the long term that will help the ultimate development of the country concerned in the way of farm equipment, plant and a variety of other types of items that can be utilised to assist in its development. This is the type of aid which we feel does bring greater benefit in the end to the receiving country. But at the same time it is recognised that there are occasions when, in the short term, special aid has to be provided in the way of food or other materials of that nature when some natural disaster affects the country concerned. So I appreciate the comments of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in relation to this and I can assure him that the points that he has raised will certainly be taken into consideration.
As this debate is drawing to a close I want to refer to some of the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Early in the debate he alleged that there are self-contradictions and inconsistencies in Australia’s foreign policy, particularly in the case of our policy towards the Indo-China region, especially Cambodia and Vietnam. I agree with the view that obviously forms the basis of these charges, that the problems in both countries stem from the same fundamental cause, and that cause is the aggressive policies of North Vietnam and the refusal of that regime to settle by negotiation the conflicts it has itself created in South Vietnam and Cambodia. This fundamental fact is common to both situations but it has to be recognised that there are differences between the 2 situations which Australian policy must take into account. We must have regard to the particular circumstances, to the timing of developments and to the practical limits to our own political and military influence. We must also recognise that we have wider responsibilities and interests in the Asian region as a whole, but it has to be recognised that there are differences between the 2 situations which, of course, as I mentioned before, we must particularly take into account.
As a result there are, of course, differences between our policies towards Cambodia and Vietnam, but they are not self-contradictions and they are certainly not inconsistencies. They are differences that arise from the facts which must form the basis of policy. Let me mention some of these facts. South Vietnam sought our military assistance not in 1970 but in 1962, again in 1965 and subsequently when it alone was bearing the full brunt of North
Vietnamese aggression. Cambodia has not asked us for troops. It has made it clear that it does not want to join any military pact or alliance but wishes to pursue a policy of neutrality. That, of course, makes a difference as far as the 2 countries are concerned. The Djakarta Conference initiative, in which we have participated actively since its inception, and which is something new in the region, was designed to help to secure, by peaceful means the continued independence and neutrality of Cambodia. That loo has made a difference in the region. There is, regrettably, an overwhelming consistency in North Vietnam’s policies. It has sought, in open contravention of the Geneva Agreements, to take over South Vietnam by military means. Despite their participation in the Paris talks the leaders in Hanoi go on repeating publicly and openly their determination to go on fighting in the south until they achieve what they claim final victory. They are now also using military means in an effort to overthrow the established Government of Cambodia, largely because the Cambodian people decided not to tolerate any longer Hanoi’s abuse of their territory.
In relation to South Vietnam. Hanoi refused for years to enter into discussions. It has subsequently refused to participate in genuine negotiations even though the allied side has repeatedly stated that everything is negotiable except the fundamental right of the South Vietnamese people to determine their own future. The South Vietnamese Government has repeatedly offered to enter into direct negotiations with the National Liberation Front. It is the Front that has repeatedly refused to do so. Similarly, the Vietnamese Communists have refused to enter into direct negotiations with the Cambodian Government despite repeated offers to do so. There is, indeed, a great deal of consistency as far as the other side is concerned. But as far as Australia is concerned we shall go on responding to the facts. We shall continue in whatever ways are open to us and as are appropriate to support allied efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement in Vietnam. We shall continue to support the efforts of Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia, as representatives of the Djakarta Conference, to achieve a negotiated settlement in Cambodia.
In the continued absence of any sign of a reasonable response from Hanoi to these efforts we shall go on helping to develop South Vietnam’s capacity to defend itself, which has already progressed to the point of allowing the withdrawal of some of our forces which were stationed there. We shall also go on helping Cambodia, according to our means, lo defend itself against aggression. In the continuing absence of any response from Hanoi to the reasonable proposals of the Djakarta Conference there is no inconsistency in providing the Cambodian people, if necessary, with some arms as well as logistical equipment with which to defend themselves. Our responses to the situations in Cambodia and Vietnam are thus different because the situations, when looked at as a whole, are themselves quite different. At the same time, however, Australian policy will continue to be guided by one single consistent and overriding aim - to help the people of Vietnam and Cambodia, indeed of all the countries in the area, to maintain their fundamental right to determine their own future.
I wish now to refer to one or two comments which were made by other honourable members in this debate. I refer first of all to comments made by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Reid) who said that 10 per cent of official aid should be channelled through voluntary aid agencies and similar organisations. Whilst 1 appreciate very much the contribution that he made and the thoughtful way be dealt with this subject I would like to refer to the Government’s policy in relation to voluntary aid which policy was set out by the then Minister for External Affairs in the House on 14th March 1967. There have been no major changes in our attitude since then. In Australia the scale of voluntary aid is small compared with that of some other major donors, but even so its annual outflow is not insignificant and it amounted to $13.7m in the calendar year 1969. The Government recognises the part played by voluntary aid agencies and has adopted a policy of encouraging their efforts. We do not see voluntary aid as competitive but complementary to official aid.
There are distinctions between official and voluntary aid which limit governmental assistance to the activities of the voluntary agencies. Some of these involve, first of all, the question of accountability of public funds and, secondly, the differences of pro cedures, particularly the long-standing principles that governmental aid should be organised on a government-to-government basis and be in response to official requests. As I said earlier in response to points raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, voluntary agencies tend to disburse aid for projects decided by themselves or carrying a lower priority than others in the eyes of the Government of the recipient country. There is also the matter that relates to the size of aid projects and their nature, which in the case of voluntary agencies are sometimes small and of a welfare nature rather than a developmental nature. The Government’s role in the field of voluntary aid is illustrated by its grants to the Overseas Service Bureau which receives a contribution towards the cost of the Australian Volunteers Abroad scheme, and to the Australian Council for Overseas Aid which receives $16,000 each year towards administrative costs. This Council acts as the channel between the Government and the voluntary agencies.
The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) referred to an item in the estimates which suggested that the $500,000 special aid to South Vietnam does not meet the need in that country. The figure of $500,000 for special aid to South Vietnam, which is listed on page 56 of statement No. 8 attached to the Budget Speech, is in fact only one component of Australia’s aid commitment to that country for this financial year. In addition to the special aid, there is also the Colombo Plan economic and technical assistance, and SEATO economic aid. When we add the figures as they appear in the estimates before the House, they total $3.5m for this year. This figure, of course, is exclusive of the Australian military expenditure that is involved.
The honourable member for Wills (Mr bryant)raisedapointregardingthelaotlan refugees. He did this, of course, in a constructive sense. But I think I should point out to him that some provision is already made in the Estimates for supplies in the form of aid to meet some of the needs of Laotian refugess. In fact, if we look back on the previous year - 1969-70 - the items concerned consisted of agricultural hand tools which were valued at $13,800. This year $10,000 has been allocated at the request of the Laotian Government, and most of this amount will be set aside again for hand tools. Of course, this is in accordance with the policy of devoting aid, where possible, for developmental purposes. However, the point that the honourable member raised was in relation to ground sheets, mosquito nets and blankets. These have already been covered in an item in the estimates. The honourable member will find that an amount of $2,500 is set aside for the purpose of assisting refugees in this regard. This again bears out the policy to which I referred earlier, that this was a special request made for these items, whereas basically the items provided had been for developmental purposes. As was also referred to by the honourable member for Wills, these items were provided at the special request of the Government concerned.
I would also like to refer to the situation regarding aid of a general nature in the area concerned. The aid that has been provided over the years has been substantially a combination of military and civil aid. This, of course, has brought about the results which we can see quite conclusively in South Vietnam today. I have had the opportunity over recent months, as have honourable members opposite, to study a map showing the various hamlets that are under control in South Vietnam. The aid that is being provided of a civilian nature is not only supplementing the military aid but also supplementingthe civil aid from other countries. This has done a tremendous amount to assist the development of agricultural pursuits in these regions. I am sure that the additional aid that is being provided in the Budget on this occasion will assist substantially in this regard. I conclude by referring to what I believe has been a constructive debate. A variety of views has been expressed from both sides of the Committee. Some of them have been conflicting but, of course, that is the advantage of a debate of this type. I can assure honourable members that the points that have been raised on both sides of the chamber will be noted for future reference.
– In adding to the remarks of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), I think that the first thing we have to realise about the people of Laos is that when they make an application for something they will make it in very, very modest terms. I have found, and I believe my colleagues who travelled with me to Laos would agree, that the people of Laos do not expect much and therefore when they ask for things like blankets, mosquito nets and so on, they keep their application at the most muted level possible. I think the Minister mentioned a figure of $2,500 in relation to blankets, mosquito nets and so on. From what I know of the cost of items purchased through disposal stores throughout Australia I should think about $200,000 would supply enough blankets, mosquito nets and ground sheets to the refugees of Laos to solve a good many of their personal hardships.
There is one other point that I would like to make following on the remarks of my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). We have a sort of doctrine of selective indignation about the places for which we shed tears. That is, we do not worry much about what is happening in West Irian but we have a lot of tears to shed for Vietnam. We do not have much care for the people of Cambodia but there are other people for whom we have a great consideration. Our method of determining the amount of aid we give is what you might call ‘compassion by calculation’. For instance, the country with the least per capita income is Burma. In the last few years we have given that country about $8m worth of aid for its 27 million people, which means they have received something like 30c per head from Australia. The Indonesians are our closest neighbours, and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is terribly worried about them. The Indonesians receive 30c per head from Australia. The richest people in the area are those of Singapore, and they receive about $1 per head. The next richest people are the people of Malaysia, and they receive about $2 per head. What am I suggesting is that we apply both needs and comparison. I believe a closer examination is needed of what people really require to solve their problems in that part of the world.
Finally, I refer to the question raised by our colleague from the north who is so afraid of the Communist downward thrust. I would just like to place on record that it is all nonsense. I hope those people who are still listening to the debate at this hour of the night realise that the honourable member speaks for himself alone on this question. He would do very well in Thailand where the Communist suppression operation command has a magnificent managerial structure - something like 31,000 people involved to suppress 3,000 Communists.
– .Order The time allotted for the proposed expenditure has expired.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure $18,966,000.
– Estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department provide above all an objective index of Commonwealth concern with the control of crime. It is from these estimates and not from the rhetoric of the honourable members for Boothby (Mr McLeay), La Trobe (Mr Jess) and Evans (Dr Mackay), the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) himself that the sincerity of Liberal interest in matters of law and order must be judged. The sincerity of that interest should be readily apparent in appropriations for crime control such as those which now appear in the Budgets of every other federal system. It should be apparent in the appropriations to arrest the soaring incidence of crime in Australia and to improve the recruitment, remuneration and status of those to whom we entrust enforcement of our laws. If such appropriations are absent or deficient, we may fairly judge that Australian law enforcement services, like its schools, hospitals and urban environment, are a victim of the impasse in Commonwealth-State financial relations which Liberals have devised as a pretext for under-investment in every aspect of public activity. The proliferation of assault, rape and robbery is as much an aspect of the Liberal approach to government as the under-education of the young, the exploitation of the sick and the degradation of the old and the indigent.
The incidence of crime for every 100,000 of Australia’s population has increased since 1964 by 25 per cent. It has increased in the case of Victoria by 16.9 per cent, of New South Wales by 20.7 per cent, of
South Australia by 26.5 per cent, of Queensland by 34.8 per cent, of Western Australia by 53.4 per cent, of the Australian Capital Territory by 65.2 per cent, of Tasmania by 89 per cent and of the Northern Territory by 148.3 per cent, The Attorney-General might do worse than ask himself why, in one of the areas for which the Commonwealth has direct responsibility, the rate of increase exceeds the national average by nearly 3 times and in the other exceeds it by nearly 6 times. He might ask himself why residents of the Northern Territory who enjoy Commonwealth protection from crime were safer 5 years ago than the residents of any State except Tasmania and today are less safe than the residents of any State. Good reasons do indeed exist for concern over law and order, but they are not the reasons to which the AttorneyGeneral so frequently and fulsomely refers.
Global statistics alone do not bring home the magnitude of the problem. The incidence of serious assault has risen by 29 per cent, of rape by 39 per cent, and of robbery by 170 per cent. Residents of New South Wales and South Australia are now 3 times as likely to be robbed as they were 5 years ago while in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia the risk of robbery is now twice as great. The rate of increase in crimes involving violence to persons and property is consistently outstripping the increase in crime as a whole. Violent crimes are now being committed at a rate per 100,000 population of 14.05 in South Australia, 23.4 in Tasmania, 31.1 in New South Wales, 31.2 in Western Australia, 33.5 in Victoria and 116.4 in Queensland. In 1967-68 Australia had the dubious distinction of increasing its incidence of rape at a rate more rapid than that of the United States of America. The number of cases of rape appearing before courts in Queensland increased between 1957 and 1967 by 400 per cent. One in every 12 of that State’s death. These are not, of course, matters which cause the Attorney-General concern. The offences which most readily arouse his indignation are trespass, creating an obstruction and disturbing the peace.
– Do they not worry the Leader of the Opposition?
– Yes, but I try to keep some sense of proportion. Drastic increases in the incidence of crime are being matched by a drastic decline in our capacity for detection. We are identifying and apprehending fewer offendersthan ever before in our history. The ratio between crimes reported and crimes cleared up has fallen since 1964 in New South Wales from 75 per cent to 56 per cent, in Victoria from 42 per cent to 33 per cent, in South Australia from 46.3 per cent to 45.7 per cent and in Western Australia from 39.2 per cent to 35.2 per cent. It has improved only in Queensland - from 40.2 per cent to 41.9 per cent - and in Tasmania - from 38.4 per cent to 41.4 per cent. Criminals run a better than even chance of escaping detection in 5 States out of 6.
The response of the States has been predictable and, indeed, inevitably inadequate. In Queensland, where the ratio of crime to population increased by 34.8 per cent and the incidence of violent crime exceeds by far the national average, the ratio of police to population has actually been allowed to fall by 1 per cent. Increases in crime ratios and police ratios were in the case of Tasmania 89 per cent and 9 per cent, Western Australia 53.4 per cent and 6 per cent, New South Wales 20.7 per cent and 16 per cent and Victoria 16.9 per cent and 4 per cent. Only South Australia matched an increased crime ratio of 26.5 per cent with an increased police ratio of 27 per cent. Nor is the picture more reassuring if we focus on quality rather than quantity. Forty-five per cent of Queensland’s police, 16 per cent of the police in Tasmania and 15 per cent of those in South Australia have had no more than a primary school education. University degrees are held by only 2 per cent of the force in Tasmania, by 1 per cent in Queensland and by fewer than 1 per cent in South Australia. The minimum physical standard for entry to the police force in any State excludes a majority of the male population of that State but the
Minimumeducationstandardis1or2 years of secondary education.
Crime control is equated in the mind of the Attorney-General with club-wielding and head-breaking and in fact it is for these duties alone that Australian police forces are properly staffed and equipped. Incentives are clearly lacking for persons with tertiary qualifications to jointhe police or for members of the force to acquire such qualifications. The Senior Lecturer in Law at Sydney University, Dr Duncan Chappell, and the Senior Lecturer in Government at the University of Queensland, Mr Paul Wilson, have drawn attention to the fact that police receive basic salaries comparable with those paid to bus drivers but are denied in most cases the option of overtime. They have drawn attention to the high wastage rate of police forces arising from inadequate compensation for irregular hours and difficult or distasteful duties. The Secretary of the Police Association of New South Wales has pointed out that a young man of 19 who joins the force as a constable earning $3,027 per annum is likely to leave it 28 years later as a sergeant first class still earning only $4,777 per annum. Is it any wonder that the rate at which police are recruited and retained is so unsatisfactory? Is it any wonder that the level of qualifications within the police forces is so abysmally low?
It is humbug and hypocrisy for any Commonwealth government to preach law and order without at the same time enabling State governments to provide proper incentives and opportunities for those to whom enforcement of the law is entrusted. It is humbug to talk of deterring crime without making proper provision for its detection.
Up to date statistics for expenditure on law enforcement, as on so many other matters of crucial public concern, are unavailable but I have been able to ascertain that in the 5 years between 1957-58 and 1962-63 the States increased their per capita outlay for the administration of justice by 26 per cent, for police by 27 per cent and for penal establishments by 35 per cent. These are very substantial increases indeed, but they have clearly been inadequate. The cost of crime to the Australian community has been conservatively estimated at $350m per annum but we spend on crime control less than $100m per annum. The United Kingdom’s rate of increase in crime fell in 1966-67 to 0.6 per cent. The Home Secretary attributed this cut-back to 3 factors: More sophisticated equipment and techniques available to the police; larger police forces; and increasing co-operation between police and the public. It is not crime so much as the government’s unwillingness to allocate adequate resources for crime control which constitutes the problem of law and order.
The Government is unwilling to provide even proper statistical information on the incidence and control of crime. The late Mr Justice Barry pointed out that:
In this country there are no useful statistics relating to crime and juvenile delinquency compiled on a national basis. East State has criminal statistics of a sort, but no competent person would claim they are adequate. Further, the criminal statistics of any State are not capable of any but a crude and primitive (and often misleading) comparison with those of others.
Other competent authorities agree that statistics on Australian crime are the worst in the world. It is absurd for a Government to profess concern for law and order when it refuses to collect the statistical information required for effective law enforcement.
The Federal Government of West Germany plans to spend DM 100m on i 5-year crime prevention plan. The Government of the United States provides under Title 1 of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 grants for the development and implementation of new methods, techniques, equipment and facilities to improve law enforcement and reduce crime. It provides grants for recruiting and training staff for all phases of law enforcement. Grants are made ‘to encourage States and units of general local government to carry out programmes and projects to improve and strengthen law enforcement’. They are made on condition that the agencies concerned prepare and observe state-wide law enforcement plans.
It is not federalism but Liberal inertia which stands between Australia and an effective Commonwealth role in the maintenance of law and order. On 29th May 1969 the then Attorney-General, Mr Bowen, announced plans for a National Institute of Criminology, a Criminology Research Council and a Criminology Research Fund. A further statement on the matter was made by the present AttorneyGeneral on 27th May 1970. Eighteen months have elapsed since the initial announcement and we have had nothing but talk. Since the present Budget contains no appropriation for the project we must suppose that yet another 12 months will elapse and still there will be nothing but talk.
– Order! It being 11 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 26th August I shall report progress.
-It being 11 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 26th August, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require that the question be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the negative.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1970-71 In Committee
– Difficulties with one State account for some of the delay in the project to have criminology institute funds and research in Australia. That State is New South Wales where the Liberal Premier is conducting his own law and order campaign. This is Liberal urgency about law and order. Soaring crime rates are what it gets you. Liberal rhetoric on law and order emphasises demonstrations which have been less frequent and more peaceful this year than in any recent year. It glosses over crimes of violence which have never been more numerous. The Attorney-General is always solicitous for the interests of citizens whose passage along the pavement is impeded by demonstrators or into whose hands unwanted leaflets are thrust. He is less responsive by far to the victims and potential victims of assault, rape, robbery and other forms of criminal violence. A Labor Government would not be so artificial in its allocation of priorities. It would not degrade law and order by treating it as a gimmick. Labor believes that as a matter of urgency consultations must take place between the Commonwealth and the States on the establishment of appropriate, up to date national arrangements for the enforcement of law, the detection of crime and the apprehension and rehabilitation of offenders. It believes that satisfactory standards of law and order cannot bc attained unless and until there is a satisfactory divi sion and delineation of responsibilities at all levels of our tripartite system of government and until the Commonwealth, too, accepts its proper role.
Flood Control on Murray River - Law and Order - Road Accident
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight as I address the Parliament 1.25,000 acres of land in the Murray Valley are flooded, 38 properties have been under water and 9,000 acres of crop have and 3,000 acres of lucerne been damaged. Most of this damage is between the centres of Tocumwal and Deniliquin in the Riverina and it follows the flood which earlier inundated the city of Albury. Following the flooding I telegraphed the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) and asked him urgently to review the control of the river wilh a view to obviating further flooding. As the damage spread and more properties were under water I telegraphed the Minister again and asked for an aerial survey. Yesterday the Minister replied to me as President of the River Murray Commission. He said he had discussed my request with his fellow commissioners and they had considered it a State matter. He was referring to the aerial survey. In response to my appeal for better regulation of the river and releases from the Hume Dam the Minister claimed the reduction of the flood peak was brought about by the existence and operation of the dam.
The Minister assured me that the Commission would continue to control water releases to help mitigate flood problems. But I want to say directly to him tonight, Mr Speaker, that the general feeling in the areas concerned is that the damage was caused by the sudden release of a huge amount of water. This sudden release caused the river at Tocumwal to rise from a fairly low level to about 4 feet above flood level which was practically the same height as in 1956 when the area had the heaviest rains recorded in Australian history. Long time residents cannot recall a flood rising as fast as this. I have had letters from all over the area pointing out that an obvious danger existed before the flood of the weir spilling with a little more rain and some melting snow. Officers of the Snowy Mountains Authority in the catchment area had been checking on the snow drifts and were aware of the danger, yet the danger does not seem to have been needed in time by the Commission.
As a result of the flood the financial position of property holders has worsened quite seriously. This Riverina area produces crops such as wheat. Last year it produced about 12 bags of wheat to the acre and 18 bags of barley to the acre. The crops this year looked excellent and it was hoped, in the difficult rural situation that prevailed, that the growers would have some hope of overcoming some of their difficulties in this area at least. But in one case the entire 900 acres of crop on a property was under water and the flood is moving very slowly away from it. The balance of 1,000 acres, in this case of established pasture, lucerne and clover, is damaged. The fencing is damaged. Because of the size of the flood the costly levee banks built to contain any normal flood were washed over. One property which has been farmed by the family for more than a half century has never had, in that time, a more serious loss.
Some of the properties have been hard hit at a time when they were changing from sheep because of the artificial wool depression to cropping. Now they have additional difficulties because they have invested in land clearance and machinery. Sheep have had to be evacuated because of the flooding and they are now on expensive agistment. With regard to what went wrong with the flood mitigation policy, I have posed questions to the Minister for National Development on the notice paper. In view of the widespread disquiet in the Murray Valley I feel my questions demand an answer. But tonight I also ask the Minister, who I am glad to see in the chamber, whether he will raise with the appropriate organs of government the plight of the people who have suffered the worst flood they have known this century and who have in many cases been stricken with a new and additional financial hardship. I ask the Government tonight, and particularly the Minister, to act on 2 counts. Let us find out what went wrong, plan to prevent it happening again and let us extend a helping hand so urgently needed to those whose properties are still under water.
– I find I am dragged to my feet tonight by a rather inconsistent series of remarks by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). He has the unmitigated gall on the one hand with his mate, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), to preach to this country the necessity for breaking the law and in the same breath he rises in this House and goes over the increasing crime rates in this country for the last 4 to 5 years. I have never heard anything quite so inconsistent as this. It is really more than this nation should have to suffer.
– I rise to order.
-If the honourable member for Angas is canvassing a previous debate in this session he will be out of order. He may refer to it in passing but it cannot be the main theme of his speech.
– I accept your very sensible interpretation of the Standing Orders.
– I rise to order. The point of order which I was about to raise is that the honourable member for Angas stated that the Leader of the Opposition had preached breaking the law. At no stage do I know of any instance-
– There is no point of order.
– I will nevertheless oblige the honourable member and say that if the Leader of the Opposition has not preached breaking the law he certainly takes the opposite view when anyone from this side talks about the necessity for law and order. In the case of his colleague, the honourable member for Lalor, we know precisely what he thinks about it and it is available in black and white to the people of Australia generally. Frankly I do not see very much distinction between the Leader of the Opposition on the one hand and the person who very nearly was the Leader of the Opposition on the other. Let us look at what the honourable member for Lalor said. In an article in today’s edition of the Advertiser’, if anyone wants to read it, he said:
Democracy has been government through Parliament. That is the 17th and 18th century feature of democracy. 1 suppose the implication there is that it has no application in this age. I wonder why his colleagues worry about coming to Canberra or worry very seriously about representing the people. He continued:
Parliament is only one form or one way in which you can govern yourself. In order to govern yourselves you have to exercise power wherever power is, and Parliament is not the only place where there is power.
I presume he means the power of demonstration in the streets, in the gutters and anywhere else he feels he can grab power. This has been well established in debates in this House for some period of time. ‘ The honourable member also said:
We have won our democracy by breaking laws, by campaigning in the streets. We have won our democracy by cutting off the heads of kings.
I have no way of knowing whether he means his own leader in this context because I know of only one king who had his head cut off and it was not done along those lines or for this reason. How anybody can rant so utterly illogically in this House about increasing crime rates on the one hand and not stand for law and order on the other is quite beyond me. This would be the biggest scuttle I have seen in this House for some time. The Leader of the Opposition back-pedals and he scuttles. He then gels on to the matter of the South Australian Police Force.
– Order! I have already warned the honourable member for Angas that if he refers to a previous debate he willbe out of order.
– I trust I will not offend again. Remarks have been made from time to time about the South Australian Police Force. It should be quite obvious to anybody who has studied the matter that it is just about the best police force in the land. I am not concerned with how many members of the South Australian Police Force haveuniversitydegreesbutIamverycon- cerned at the tact that in South Australia the cadetship for the Police Force is for 3 solid years. This gives the best grounding of any police force I know of within Australia.
– They are all members of the Trades and Labour Council too.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide has an awful shock com ing to him because policemen talk to me quite consistently. I can assure the honourable member that he is deluding himself finely if be thinks the Police Force supports the South Australian Premier because very much the opposite would be the case, and well he knows it. The question as to whether there is an increase in robbery, rape or killing surely must have a direct connection with people like the honourable member for Lalor preaching to the people of this country a disrespect for the law. If that is not so I should like to hear my allegation answered properly. This is bad. If you preach breaking the law, what law do you think should not be broken? If your house is burgled tomorrow night is that a justifiable breaking of the law? It is not, and I trust that no-one in this place would say that it was. Where do you differentiate?
In the case of the Moratorium we have an even bigger about face, a shame on an opposition which regards itself as an alternative government. South Australia at least had the wisdom to say: ‘This is wrong. This Moratorium is getting into the wrong bands. The Labor Party in South Australia will not support it’. Queensland came to the party after a while and said: ‘We will not support it’. The Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales got around to it fast night. I do not know whether the Victorian Labor Party and the Federal Labor Party are the only parts of the Australian Party that still give it unqualified support, but I should like to know whether South Australian members like the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) and the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) have the wisdom to back their State branch which put them here. We all know where the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) him, nor about the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). Where does the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) stand on this issue? Does he obey his State dictates or does he sit back and say nothing with the rest of his colleagues and quietly breeze along hoping that he can get away with support of it on a Federal level? I should like the position to be clear.
These are some of the questions that we should like answered. It is only fair that the community in South Australia and in Queensland should know where their representatives stand on this matter. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who interjects, has picked up a second-hand badge. The last I heard was that he had been kicked out by the Victorian Moratorium Committee. I notice that his badge is not the same as the others. It is ostentatious like last year’s badge. I can only think that he has picked it up or it has been loaned to him by some kindly soul like the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), the only person who saw fit to support him a little while ago when he was in strife. I ask some members of the Labor Party opposite this question: ‘Where are your Moratorium badges? Some of you marched last year with a very self righteous attitude. Are you scuttling out, too?’
– The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has seen fit to raise a certain matter tonight. One might think that he has always been an orderly sort of bloke, but I can remember that during my Service career when he had some responsibility he was such a shocking person, even in those days as a member of the Services, that he tried to blow me off a place called Shaggy Ridge.
-Order! The honourable member will not cast a reflection on the conduct or motives of another honourable member.
– If it is taken in that way, I most certainly want to clear up the matter. No-one admires a man who lies when that same liar masks himself as a decent man and in a loud voice proclaims-
-Order! Is the honourable member referring to the honourable member for Angas?
– No. As I was saying, no-one admires a man who lies when he masks himself as a decent man and in a loud voice proclaims that he is honest and that all who oppose him are fools or charlatans. He is indeed a very poor citizen.
Now I want to go back a little further. During the last World War when this country was in some sort of a dire predicament and the Labor Party was on the
Government benches, thank goodness, some members of the South Australian Liberal Party went to country centres in South Australia with the clear intent of sabotaging war loan rallies. These people were taken to task by the newspapers -of the day and they hid, of course, behind the protection of the ‘Advertiser’. I would like to quote from an article written about the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’. Part of the article states:
The ‘Advertiser’ has a special fondness for Senator McLeay, noisy leader of the South Australians in what Sir Keith Murdoch himself has called the right wing of the U.A.P.
When the Senator, along with J. G. DuncanHughes, M.H.R.- brother of Sir Wither Duncan of the B.H.P. - was concerned in some sabotage on the third Commonwealth Liberty Loan in April 1943, the ‘Advertiser’ on their behalf did a very neat job of suppression and distortion.
The Senator and Mr Duncan-Hughes were asked to speak at a loan rally which followed their political meeting at Kapunda on the night of Tuesday, April 13th.
To report on this Kapunda meeting, the Advertiser’ sent a special staff man. His report in the ‘Advertiser* on the Wednesday morning, however, didn’t mention the loan rally. No mention of it appeared in the press at all until the Thursday, when a two-column story in the ‘News’ said: Strong protests have been made to the State War Loan Committee by the Mayor of Kapunda (Mr H. Rees) and Warrant Officer Frank Legg at the attitude of 3 U.A.P. Members of Parliament towards the third Liberty Loan at their Kapunda meeting.
It goes on to show how in fact during a time of war members of the Liberal Party, who in those days were in Opposition, saw fit to conduct themselves because of their petty Party politics. Yet honourable members on the other side of the House have the hide and the temerity to stand in this chamber and to make derisive comments about members of the Opposition, asking whether or not they are wearing Moratorium badges.
Let me say to the honourable member for Angas who has had 9 or 10 trips to Vietnam that if his Government remains in office he will be able to say in another 9 years that he has had 19 trips to Vietnam. Honourable members opposite stand in this chamber and talk about foreign aid and pots and pans on the one hand and bombs and rockets on the other. I do not think that this is much to their credit. Yes, people on this side of the House want the war in Vietnam to end. The people of Vietnam have demanded no more than the people of India demanded at the end of the Second World War. They are demanding no more than what the people of Burma were granted at the end of the Second World War. I happened to be in part of Indonesia before that war ended and I saw the bombed tanks which carried slogans for freedom. Why not? This was the entitlement of the Indonesians. If the French had not carried on as they did no-one would be involved in the situation in which we are embroiled today in Vietnam. It is not to Australia’s credit that we are in Vietnam in our present capacity. It is not to the credit of the honourable member for Angas for him to stand in this chamber and to deride people. He knows as well as anyone else that tonight he cast a slur on the South Australian police force when he said that it would not perhaps take any notice of the Government which has been elected to power by the majority of the people in that State. If that is not a suggestion that the police will order, aid and abet against law and order I would like someone to put an interpretation on what the honourable member had to say.
– Would you like North Vietnam to win?
– No-one suggests that North Vietnam should win. I am not talking about who will win. I am saying that hostilities should cease. I am saying that if we do not learn to live with the rest of the people in these countries we will die with the rest of the people in these countries. If the interjection of the person who sits in this chamber tonight proposing to be the pinnacle of law and order is meant to suggest that we as the Commonwealth ought to exist only on the basis that we should send troops into certain countries, perhaps the argument could be used to justify sending our troops into Italy where we might think there could be a Communist government. We could send them into the eastern bloc area. In fact, that is what honourable members are saying here tonight. We could even go as far as to say that we could send troops to Sweden to protect that country against Russia because it has a common border with that country. That is the suggestion that has been made in this chamber tonight. The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) is a person who has sought a lot of publicity in recent weeks over one of the greatest acts that this Commonwealth has seen. It was almost as bad as the Petrov affair for which the people of Australia are still paying. The Minister came out with a bat when perhaps all he had to do was talk to the people. I do not agree with what they did that afternoon. They interfered with his rights as a citizen by invading his home-
– Dr Cairns wants North Vietnam to win.
Mr SPEAKER -Order!The Attorney General will cease interjecting.
– I do not agree for ona moment with what those lads did that afternoon; but I think that in fact the Minister was in on the joke to some extent. The manner in which he has carried on in this chamber tonight indicates to me quite clearly what would be his attitude if there was any strife at any gathering, be it of farmers or any other people. That reminds me that a lot of publicity was given to 6 farmers in Adelaide. A young lad was standing there with a placard saying that in his opinion the country’s rural ills could be cured by the old order of supply and demand, and these 6 farmers came out of the march and trampled his placard to pieces and tore it up. That was shown on television. There was not a murmur about that. Not one word was said about that. I suppose that if somebody else had been involved something would have been said.
I am deeply disappointed in regard to the Moratorium to be held in Adelaide and other places. I was to address it tomorrow, along with a person who stood in this chamber and accepted his responsibilities as a citizen, a parliamentarian and an ambassador of this country. I refer, of course, to Sir Norman Makin. I would have been proud to address an organised, orderly law-abiding body of people with him. I certainly would not shirk my responsibility to do so.
Let me conclude on this note: I can recall that when I was in a military camp during the war we used to be given leave about once a month. But when the Government had some intension of banning the Communist Party, it threw the camps open for weeks on end until troops stoned the George Street offices and headquarters of the Communist Party on a Sunday night.
Then Bob Menzies brought in his Bill on the Monday or Tuesday. In reflecting on that, I realise that we were used. That is what could well happen in this country today.
I could say a great deal more about what Senator McLeay, along with his parliamentary colleagues of that day, indulged in and the criticism that was hurled at them at that time when this country was at war. People such as the honourable member for Angas do not like it- very much. It does not sound too good. It would not look too good in print either. Nevertheless it is true. Yet he. has the hide to stand here tonight and refer to people who are wearing Moratorium badges. Let me say this to him: Let him visit the homes of the kids who do not return from Vietnam.
– T go and visit them.
– You . have never visited some that I know of.
– Is it good? it is a tragedy in which we should never have become involved. No good will ever come from it. We will never get peace from it. If honourable members opposite think we will, they are living in an age and they belong to an age which is a long way off, although it is only 20 years ago. It annoys me to think that people in this chamber seem to consider that the policies of 1939, 1945 or 1949 are good enough to solve the problems of the world today. They seem to consider that the geographical and political differences of today can be met by the same methods as were tried in those years, and even on nuclear bombs-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 want to refer only very briefly to some points that were raised by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) on the subject of some flooding that occurred recently in the River Murray basin. He had been in touch with me regarding this matter on several occasions, as he indicated, and had sent a number of telegrams relating to the situation as it was at that time. I pointed out to him that broadly the matter to which he referred by telegram - that is, the conducting of an aerial survey of the flooding - was principally one that would come within the control of the State authorities, and I suggested that contact should be made with them. I do not know whether contact was made with them or whether a survey was carried out; but it was principally their responsibility.
The other point regarding the actual release of water from the Hume Weir was a point of contention at the time. This matter, of course, as the honourable member knows, is controlled by the officers of the River Murray Commission, who are very experienced in this field and who have the benefit of all the meteorological information that is available at the time. On this occasion, I had the Commission issue a statement because of the problem of flooding that had arisen. Some people thought that the releases of water from the dam bad made the situation worse. In fact, I think the point was clearly brought home that if the controlled releases had not. been made and it had been necessary some days later to release a far greater volume of water within one 24-hour period the flooding would have been a lot worse than it was.
It was impossible to forecast weeks ahead what the weather conditions would be in the catchment area of the Snowy. Everything possible is done to obtain the most up-to-date information and the releases are made when the dam is full in accordance with the information that is available. I can assure the honourable member that, on this occasion, every possible action was taken to ensure that the least possible damage was caused by the release of water, which of course added to the flooding in the region. The honourable member raised for consideration one or two other matters. I certainly will see that they are investigated. I will contact him later to see whether anything further can be done.
-! wish to answer, first of all, the remarks of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) who seems to be a sudden advocate of peace, good order, discipline and all the rest of it. Now, the honourable member for Angas is a very estimable man who would never break a law. But I understand that be owns a motor car that will do better than 100 miles an hour. There are not many laws in Australia which can stand that. During the course of his oration, the honourable member suggested also that the police in South Australia did not support the Labor Government. I have no doubt that the South Australian police will carry out their duties as police forces ought to. I hope that the honourable member is not trying to sow seeds of discord between the elected Government of South Australia and the police force of that State.
The general approach to the question of the Moratorium and all the things connected with it is associated more with attempting to sabotage the social unity of Australia for political reasons than with trying to answer the great social and political questions that have been raised. I bring to my aid a fairly respectable advocate on this question - the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 7th September, only a week or so ago. In an article about the position of the Moratorium, the Government committees and so on, the ‘Australian Financial Review’ had this to say:
With Australia’s second Moratorium only 6 days away, the Government committee to expose Communist influence in the Moratorium and to defend Australia’s Vietnam commitment is virtually defunct.
Of course the Government knows that it cannot defend Australia’s commitment to Vietnam. The article continued:
The Government itself appears much more interested in promoting the law and order issue than fighting the Moratorium campaign by justifying Australia’s commitment to Vietnam.
Further on, it states:
The Committee itself was quickly dubbed the CCC - Communist Can Committee.
The article continues:
He is a redoubtable freedom fighter as we all know: . . meanwhile, set about contacting all interested groups to raise funds. It was intended that apart from the pamphlet, to place advertisements in daily newspapers.
Initial support was promising with the Liberal Party machine at both the Federal and State level pledging all possible help including finance.
But somehow the Committee’s activities never got off the ground.
Promises of finance fell through . . .
These are the remarks of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ with reference to honourable members opposite and their Moratorium Campaign.
We are not ashamed to wear badges. We are not ashamed to say where we stand and to show people that, on this issue, we are prepared to display publicly our concern for world peace. The Moratorium is an important social and political event in Australian history. Whose streets are they? The streets of Australia belong to all of us. They are not just commercial arteries. Quite often, they are closed for commercial reasons. Quite often they are closed for social reasons. Do they belong to the farmers? Was there anybody on this side of the House who raised any protest at the idea of the farmers marching down the streets of Melbourne? Of course we did not. We approve and applaud that kind of political action, particularly when it is taken with some sort of response to the necessity for the community to carry on its daily work. Nobody objected to Bourke Street and other streets of Melbourne being blocked off. Do the streets of Melbourne belong to the returned soldiers only on Anzac Day? Of course they do not. Is morality simply the private property of something that has Government sponsorship? Of course it is not.
Do the streets of Melbourne, and I presume of other capital cities, belong only to the people of Irish ancestry? They can use them without let and hindrance on 17th March each year. Of course they do not belong only to them. The streets belong to all of us. It is claimed that we are trying to sponsor violence. What manner of men are they who speak in that way? Who are the men of violence in this Parliament? Which is the Party that uses violence as a political weapon? It is the Party that introduced national service. Is not that the epitome of violence, the supreme exercise of violence against an individual when he is dragged into the forces, or if he will not go, is dragged off into a prison cell? Is not that violence carried to its extreme? What about the penal clauses of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? What about capital punishment itself? The Liberal and Country Parties are the parties of violence in this country.
I wish to place before the House a very important matter that is presently occurring. It relates to events that have occurred in Melbourne over the last week, today and will occur tomorrow. I am afraid that the Government in Victoria has departed from the accepted principles of democratic action and has set out to create violence tomorrow. I believe that we will be able to lay a good deal of the blame at the feet of Victoria’s Premier. I wish to refer briefly to some events of last week. On Thursday or thereabouts of last week a number of students of La Trobe University marched. It is quite a small university as universities go, and well out of the town. The streets leading to it are mostly wide and not greatly populated. A number of students set out from the University to march down Waterdale Road in Heidelberg and to distribute leaflets. This they did. I know some of the students personally and well.
As they went they gathered children in the train of their procession and they gave out leaflets. As they were going quietly about this business, as 1 understand it, along a nature strip which is about 15 feet wide there, they were obstructing nobody, offending nobody and doing no harm. Police had gathered to supervise them. There always seem to be multitudes of police on these occasions. Suddenly a member of the constabulary issued the order ‘Get into them’, or words to that effect. The police hoed into the students with truncheons and chased them around the streets, down backyards and so on. This ought to be a matter of great public concern. ] believe that there ought to be a public Inquiry into the manner of this occurrence. That was not the end of it. I know the area fairly well and I know some of the people involved fairly well. Subsequently there was a very large meeting at La Trobe University. A great deal of concern was expressed by the student body and the academic staff. Yesterday another march was held. Evidence of events is reported in the Melbourne ‘Sun’, which states:
Students and police fought running battles with batons, fists and stones in a wild demonstration at West Heidelberg yesterday afternoon.
As reported in the ‘Sun’, the students had this to say:
It was shocking, just shocking’, the president of the La Trobe University Students’ Representative Council said. They were brutal and unprovoked assaults without reason. It had been agreed from the start that h would be peaceful. They just couldn’t leave us alone.’
I>r Everingham - Where were they coming from?
– They were coming from La Trobe University and going down Waterdale Road. If anybody who examines the area can see how students could obstruct traffic in that area I will bc interested to hear about it. The ‘Sun’ report goes on:
The officer-in-charge of police at the march, Inspector K. Platfuss, of Heidelberg, said last night marchers had caused the clash with police. They started to block the road and people leaving shops and factories were obstructed’, he said.
One has only to look at the geography of the area to see what nonsense that is. The report of the statements by Inspector Platfuss goes on:
But they needed what they got. They got some baton today and they’ll get a lot more in the future’.
As a. result of that some of my colleagues and I have sent telegrams to the Chief Commissioner, the Leader of the Opposition and Sir Arthur Rylah, hoping that they will intervene to try to prevent a disaster occurring in Melbourne tomorrow. This is not because the people associated with the Moratorium are wild and violent. They are not. The Moratorium that was held in Melbourne - and I take it that it was the same in the other capitals - was a credit to the whole community, to the police, and in a sense to the governments to whom the police forces are responsible. lt was a civilised social exercise of political rights and I believe it was a credit to the community. When that happens 1 believe that the community ought to give credit where it is due. In my time I have taken part in a number of these demonstrations. I represent an area in which is located Pentridge Gaol where John Zarb was incarcerated, Ryan was hanged and Tait was held under sentence of death. In the past we marched down the street by the thousands and we have had the total co-operation of the police. There has never been any trouble. Yet somehow just at this magic moment violence has occurred to people who are basically non-violent. What harm is it if people are handing out pamphlets in the streets? Our Premier in Victoria. Sir Henry Bolte - for what he was knighted, goodness knows - is reported as having stated:
If lbc Vietnam Moratorium marchers cause deliberate obsruction in the city tomorrow, police will break il up.
He is also reported to have stated:
The instructions to police were different to those given for the first Moratorium in May.
Is there nobody here who can exercise some influence upon that dreadful man? Is there somebody who can do something tomorrow morning and have him cancel the instructions and adopt the kind of principles that prevailed in this place when some unhappy people caused a great and difficult and, I believe, quite obnoxious obstruction here by chaining themselves to the railing in the gallery. These people were treated in an absolutely and remarkably civilised manner and I only wish that the procedure followed by Mr Speaker on that occasion could influence the people who run the police forces of Australia. The time has come for a national inquiry into the way the police should operate in their relationship with the citizenry. I believe this is very important. If the States will not take the initiative perhaps we here can take some sort of initiative in a bi-partisan way because it concerns us all.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is with regret that I raise a matter, but I feel it is a matter that should be raised in this Parliament because, although it relates to only one instance, it applies to the broader field of tourist bus traffic as a whole. The matter to which I wish to refer is a tragic accident on 13th August at 3.30 a.m. when a Cobb & Co. bus crashed off the road some 11 miles south of Bulahdelah killing the driver and 3 servicemen. I believe that another one of the servicemen in the bus passed away later on. So all told 5 men lost their lives in the accident.
I would like honourable members to gain some impression of the circumstances associated with this accident. The accident occurred on a wide open bend which it would have been possible for a vehicle to comfortably negotiate at 70 miles an hour. As I stated, it occurred at 3.30 a.m. at a time when the temperature was pretty low and when, I would say, all the men in the bus were asleep. From the information that I have - and I know that the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock), who is sitting at the table, has a report on the accident - it is obvious that everyone in the bus would have been asleep.
I have a few facts and figures which may be of interest to honourable members. After the bus left the road it travelled approximately 84 yards before it came to rest. For 61 yards of that distance it travelled on its side after rolling over. It passed over a tree stump some 3 feet in diameter and still travelled another 15 yards. This will give some indication of the circumstances associated with this accident. I have seen the bus and the whole of one side, where the men would have been sitting in their seats, has been ripped out.
It is with no sense of satisfaction that I raise this matter but in the hope that a similar accident will not occur. No-one takes any delight in raising such a matter in this place. I would like the Minister for the Army to advise honourable members, including myself, why that bus was transporting members of the forces - I believe both national servicemen and permanent servicemen were on the bus - at half-past three in the morning. In my humble opinion, that would be the worst possible time for anyone to travel. Human beings should be asleep in bed at that time. It is the natural time for a person to sleep. Yet the Army saw fit to transport young men at that time. I would like the Minister to deal with this aspect. I do not want to say any more about it because it was with a great deal of reluctance that I raised the matter.
I refer now to the manner in which these tourist buses operate on the roads and to the apparent lack of any control over the bus companies. The drivers seem to be a law unto themselves. They operate under all kinds of circumstances. I wish to bring to the attention of people who may be interested what happened to me. At approximately 1.30 a.m. on 1st August, as is my custom on regular occasions, I was travelling along another section of the road to whiCh 1 referred earlier I was accompanied by my wife. I moved out to overtake a Cobb and Co. bus. After I passed the bus I said to my wife: ‘Did you notice what speed I was doing?’ She said: T do not know what speed you were doing, but you were going pretty fast’. I said: ‘For your information, I was doing 78 miles per hour by the time I passed that bus’. These buses are supposed to travel at a maximum speed of SO miles an hour in a derestricted area. If the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt), who is trying to interject, wishes to say something he should say it instead of leaning back against his seat and cackling.
– I asked what you were doing driving at 78 miles an hour.
Mi CHARLES JONES - I pulled out to overtake this bus. I was in the middle of the road. He accelerated and went with me. By the time I passed him, I quite openly and frankly admit that I was travelling at 78 miles an hour. This bus had people in it. That is what I am concerned about. I am concerned about people. The honourable member may not be concerned about people but I am. Travelling on State highways one continually sees passenger buses travelling at speeds in excess of 60 miles an hour. There is no systematic checking of buses. Heavy transports carrying freight have to stop at check points periodically. Their log books are examined regularly. By having to call in at the various check points, someone has them under observation. These buses have no check points at which they have to stop. They are exempted from calling in at check points. The only time their log books are checked is when a police Officer stops them on the road to check their books.
I shall quote to you what a police officer said to me recently when 1 was making inquiries about the accident to which I have referred. What he said had nothing to do with that accident, but related to another accident which involved a Redline bus. The driver admitted that he had made a false entry in the log book. He stated that bis company had instructed him to make false entries in the log book. When the police made inquiries of the company concerned, it denied having issued such instructions. The New South Wales Police Department did not proceed further. Honourable members should bear in mind one fact: The driver admitted making the false entry in the book. The thing which concerns me is that the men driving these buses, in Accordance with the New South Wales Motor Traffic Act, are able to drive for 5 boors before they get a break of half an hour, then travel another 5 pours before they get another break of half m hour. After driving another 2 hours they have to stop. These are the circumstances under which the Department of the Army is permitting its servicemen to be carried at ungodly hours such as 3.30 a.m. Those are the points that I would like clarified. I believe it is time that the New South Wales Police Force and other police forces took action against the companies.
I refer to a statement released by Commonwealth and State Transport Ministers who attended a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council in Port Moresby on 10th July of this year. I have not the time to quote all of it, so 1 will just quote a couple of paragraphs. It states:
All Minis ten: agreed with the serious concern expressed about the road worthiness of tourist coaches in a paper presented to the meeting by. the New South Wales Minister. The item was raised following a number of serious accidents involving long distance tourist buses in which a number of people were killed and injured.
The ‘Canberra News’ of Friday, 3rd July, reporting on a fatality caused by a bus here in Canberra stated:
A Redline bus which hit and lulled an elderly Canberra man had defective brakes, Canberra Coroner’s Court was told today. Police said the bus was not capable of stopping within the limits laid down by the Australian Motor Vehicle Standards Committee.
These are the type of buses which the Department of the Army is permitting servicemen to be carried in at the time 1 referred to and which I consider to be most unsatisfactory. If these men are to be transported in buses they should at least be transported at a time when people can reasonably be expected to keep awake, and that is in daylight hours and not around midnight or in the early hours of the morning in circumstances which I consider are most unsatisfactory and conducive to accidents.
– I would imagine that a number of the points made in the latter part of the speech of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones)-
– Do not concern you.
Mir PEACOCK - That is right, thank you. Those points are not necessarily relevant to the matters he raised in the first part of his speech. I regret that I am unable to give him the precise details in regard to the specific matter that he referred to although I appreciate his advice to me approximately an hour ago that he intended to raise this matter on the adjournment tonight. We have, of course, spoken about it prior to tonight.
– A week ago.
– But the honourable member advised me an hour ago that he would raise it tonight. I took it from his speech that he shared with me, and I am sure other honourable members, regret and grief at the untimely deaths and the injuries of the soldiers who were involved in the accident. The sympathy of us all goes to their relatives. The Army has investigated the matter and J am advised that the report, with the conclusions drawn, will be forwarded to me tomorrow. I had indicated to the honourable member that I anticipated its receipt 2 days ago but regrettably that advice was incorrect, and I anticipate its receipt tomorrow. But as a consequence of that I am unable therefore to be specific about the details that he raised tonight.
But there are some general points that I think I should make in fairness to the Army. I am speaking generally, and they should be interpreted in that light. Firstly, I have to say that the movement of military personnel to and from Canungra by commercial bus has been in operation now for over 2 years and it has involved the carriage of more than 6,000 troops between Sydney and Canungra. The accident referred to by the honourable member was the first on that run although there has been, I understand, at least 1 other accident on a different run. The reason why the commercial bus mode of transport has been used is that, firstly, it provides a doortodoor service as well as some flexibility in timing departures which is not available with rail or civil aircraft. Secondly, the transit time is normally less than by rail, and thirdly the problems of trans-shipment at aircraft or rail terminals are avoided. I would make a small point that flows from that third point, and that is that soldiers would still have to use buses to and from such terminals. Fourthly,- the security of the personal arms - usually automatic weapons - of the soldiers on a commercial bus is usually better than that on other forms of transport. But these are general points and do not relate to the specific matter raised by the honourable member. I give him the undertaking that I will fully inform him of the results of the inquiry when I have received and considered them, or as soon as possible thereafter.
Finally, I would just. say that the availability of service aircraft for the administrative - that is non-operational - transport of troops is variable and depends on aircraft availability and higher priority tasks which would normally have an operational aspect.
The Army is of course quite happy to use Service aircraft, even when they become available at short notice. But it would obviously be imprudent to plan the use of such aircraft much in advance for administrative purposes, such as the regular carriage of troops to and from Canungra each week. I will conclude with those general points and again give the undertaking to advise the honourable member as soon as I possibly can.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 11.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What steps have been taken to obtain separate statistics for the pupil teacher ratio in (a) Catholic and (b) other non-government (i) primary and (ii) secondary schools. (Hansard 26th September 1969, page 2146 and 22nd April 1970, page 1510).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Acting Commonwealth Statistician has advised that he is working on the problem of developing annual statistics of teachers at the primary and secondary level of government and nongovernment schools in all States with separation into these levels being sought on a consistent basis throughout the different State systems. As an interim measure, pending the development of this series by the Commonwealth Statistician, my Department arranged to collect details of teachers at the primary and secondary level at nongovernment schools at August 1969 on a voluntary basis from schools seeking per-capita grants under the States Grants (Independent Schools) Act 1969.
This information has permitted the calculation of estimates of pupil-teacher ratios for 1969 separately for primary and secondary grades of Catholic and other non-government schools which are shown in the f ollowing table. In cases where both primary and secondary classes were taught by the same staff, teachers were classified to the level at which they spent the greater proportion of their teaching time. Special schools for physically or mentally handicapped children have been excluded.
Vietnam: Disabilities Incurred by Servicemen (Question No. 1411)
asked the Minister for
Army, upon notice:
How many soldiers in Vietnam have since March 1970 incurred disabilities described in successive lines of the first column of the Fourth and Fifth Schedules of the Repatriation Act (Hansard, 2 June 1970, page 2762).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aviation: Aircraft Noise
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Below what height does aircraft noise become a nuisance in respect of large jets such as the 707 and 727.
– -The Minister for C’v’’ Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable members question:
Because of the widely variable effects of noise propagation and the equally variable reaction of individual listeners to noise, it is not possible to state a definite height above which the noise from large jet aircraft ceases to be a nuisance to some degree or other. However, it can be said that the great majority of complaints are associated wilh take-offs and landings under conditions where the aircraft are less than 1500 feet above runway level.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Has the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee of his Department yet made any recommendations regarding the supply of free oxygen to age pensioners when required for medicinal purposes.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has recommended that oxygen be made available as a pharmaceutical benefit in certain cases on the authority of the Commonwealth Director of Health.
There are however difficulties in giving effect to the Committee’s recommendations. Special apparatus and appliances necessary in administering oxygen In patients cannot be provided under the existing provisions of the National Health Act and in addition there are particular problems duc to the weight and size of the containers which make distribution of oxygen through normal channels used to supply pharmaceutical benefits not practicable.
These problems are currently being examined by my Department.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
lt is understood that the honourable member requires total figures only. The number of permanent and long term arrivals for residence of one year or longer in Australia, between October 1945 and June 1970 was 3,385,676, of whom, it is estimated, some 2,696,000 were settlers (migrants).
It is also estimated that there are some 1.200,000 children born in Australia to one or both migrant parents.
asked the Minister for Immigra tion, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Council of Churches, Room 3, 3rd Floor, 511 Kent Street. SYDNEY. N.S.W. 2000
*West Sydney Methodist Mission, West-Side Centre, 393 Darling Street, BALMAIN. N.S.W. 2041
*Good Neighbour Council of New South Wales, Culwalla Chambers, 67 Castlereagh Street, SYDNEY. N.S.W. 2000
*The Wayside Chapel, Kings Cross, 29 Hugbes Street, POTTS POINT. N.S.W. 2011
Church of England Immigration Office, 511 Kent Street, SYDNEY. N.S.W. 2000
*Italian Committee of Assistance (CO.AS.IT), c/o Consulate General of Italy, 18a Pitt Street, SYDNEY. N.S.W. 2000
Australian-German Welfare Society, Dibelius-Haus, 34 Nithsdale Street, SYDNEY. N.S.W. 2000
*Australian Red Cross Society, 27 Jamison Street, SYDNEY. N.S.W. 2000
*European Australian Christian Fellowship, 133 Church Street, RICHMOND. Vic. 3121
Italian Assistance Association (Comitate Assistenza Italiani), 230 Faraday Street, CARLTON. Vic. 3053
Carlton & Fitzroy Methodist Mission, 180 Palmerston Street, CARLTON. Vic. 3053
*Cairnmillar Institute, 15 Cromwell Road, SOUTH YARRA, Vic. 3141
*All Nations Together Society, 18 Walker Street, DANDENONG. Vic. 3175
Australian-German Welfare Society, 2nd Floor, Flat 8, 242 Toorak Road, SOUTH YARRA. Vic. 3141
*Life Line Centre for Queensland, 53 Brookes Street, BOWEN HILLS. Qld. 4006
*Elizabeth Counselling Centre, Office 20, Sidney Chambers, Sidney Walk, Town Centre, ELIZABETH. S.A. 5112 Whyalla Counselling Centre, P.O. Box 14, WHYALLA NORRIE. S.A. 5608
*Good Neighbour Council of South Australia, Norwich Union House, 47 Waymouth Street, ADELAIDE. S.A. 5000
*Services to Youth Council (Inc.), 128 Glen Osmond Road, PARKSIDE. S.A. 5063
**Citizens Advice Bureau, 51 Grenfell Street, ADELAIDE. S.A. 5000 (2 part time)
*Church of England Immigration Office, 38a St George’s Terrace, PERTH. W.A. 6000
Churches of Christ in W.A., Inc., Christian Welfare Centre, 142-146 Beaufort Street, PERTH. W.A. 6000
Good Neighbour Council of W.A, 188 St George’s Terrace, PERTH. W.A. 6000
*Denotes social worker employed.
Of the amount provided. $200,000 relates to estimated expenditure under the Grant-in-Aid Scheme. As not all agencies approved to receive a grant have yet been able to engage a social worker, the amount expected to be paid this financial year to each agency cannot be precisely stated. Under the scheme, the amount which can be paid to an agency for the employment of a social worker is $7,000, which includes a component for ancillary costs related to the appointment. However, the amount actually paid to each agency varies according to the experience and thus the grading of the social worker employed. On past experience, it is expected that the average expenditure per agency during the current financial year will be slightly in excess of $6,000.
asked the Minister for Immi gration, upon notice:
How many migrants arrived from Great Britain and Northern Ireland in each year since the commencement of the migration scheme.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is understood that the question refers to assisted arrivals under the United Kingdom Assisted Passage Scheme.
The number of arrivals in each financial year since the commencement of the United Kingdom Scheme are set out below.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What is the weekly family contribution charged by the major registered medical benefits organisations in each State.
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
The weekly family contribution charged by the major registered medical benefits organisations in each State is:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700917_reps_27_hor69/>.