27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully sheweth:
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that:
The export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make : serious appraisal of ils responsibility in the matter to ensure the survival of the kangaroo. And. your Petitioners, as m duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
To (he Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The bumble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children.
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 the undersigned citizens of the State of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that honourable members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will seek to ensure that Commonwealth legislation bearing on films, literature and radio and television programmes is so framed and so administered as to give the maximum freedom to adults to choose what they will watch, read and listen to, even in the face of pressure from those who seek to impose their ideas and morals on others who do not share them
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Did the Austraiian Broadcasting Commission’s correspondent in Saigon report late last week that all military civic action projects in Phuoc Tuy province were to be completed as soon as possible and all work in the fields of medicine, education and social services were to be stopped because the Vietnamese people are now capable of helping themselves; but that special large scale projects under the Australian Government’s direct programme of economic aid would not be affected? Did the Minister imply in a statement on Friday that this report was inaccurate when he said that such an instruction would be contrary to Government policy? Did he make a further statement last night which confirmed that such an instruction had been issued by the commander of the Australian Task Force in Vietnam? When the Minister said that the guidelines laid down by MajorGeneral Fraser had been in part misunderstood did he mean that they had been completely misunderstood by himself? What are these guidelines and how will they be applied?
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have a copy of the ABC’s report, as I have and I think his interpretation of it is reasonably correct. The report did suggest that all the health, education and welfare activities were to be phased out as soon as possible. It also implied that there was going to be an overall reduction in the civic action - civic affairs - of the Australian Army in Vietnam. On the point of my contradiction on Friday, I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will find if he checks what I said that I was referring to the totality of civic action work by the Australian Army; that I indicated that it was Government policy to maintain this at a high level and that we placed a high priority upon it. That remains the position.
In information which came into me over the weekend I was advised of 2 villages - Ap Soui Nghe and Hoa Longwhere the Vietnamese have said in effect that they are capable of providing, and have the facilities to provide, what we call the MEDCAP - medical civic action project - services which have been provided by the army. They have the capacity to do this and they are, I have been advised, doing it in these 2 areas. These are the only 2 instances to my knowledge of any reduction. I think it should be well understood - as I indicated in the statement 1 issued yesterday - that, as they have the capability to do so, the South Vietnamese would want to provide these social service type activities for their own people. This is only natural and proper. I then went on to say that the overall level of civic action activities remains high and will continue a a high level, although there might be some shift in emphasis, which I will come to in a moment.
No instruction of the type referred to by the ABC had in fact been issued because the document that was referred to me as the basis of the report was a planning guideline for 1971-72. It was very much at the planning guideline stage because there are regular meetings between the Ambassador and the Army to discuss these matters after there have been some preliminary discussions. This planning guideline was issued before the stage had been reached at which there were discussions about any possible change, if there was to be a change, with the Embassy in Saigon. So it was very much a planning guideline and not an instruction for action. I want to emphasise that point.
I would like to come down to the practical implication of what in fact has happened in relation to our civic action effort overall, while recognising that there are changes of emphasis and changes in the types of activity from time, to time. One new activity, for example, is the building of 500 houses for companies of the Regional Force and their dependants. This is a new activity which is being undertaken in this financial year with quite a substantial effort. Quite apart from the wages and salaries of servicemen, which are not computed, the direct costs of Army civic action in 1968-69 was $80,000; in 1969- 70, $167,000; and the cost for 1970-71 will be $181,000, plus about $500,000 for the Regional Force housing that is also being undertaken: So the honourable member will see that there has been a very substantive effort in terms of finance overall in recent years. In terms of manpower, in addition to the civil affairs unit, which is the unit specifically involved in this activity other Army units are involved from time to time, although not full time. In 1970 the civil affairs unit was increased in strength by 4 to 57. In February 1969, 100 people were involved in civic action activities. In February 1970 300 were involved and in January 1971 there were 430 members of the’ Australian forces engaged in this activity. Again, this indicates a very greatly increased personnel effort in this area.
Therefore the statement that I issued yesterday in which I said that Army civic action is being maintained at a high level was in a sense an extremely modest one. The number of personnel involved has been increased greatly over recent years, although in co-operation with the South Vietnamese authorities there will be shifts of emphasis and changes in the nature of the precise type of work and function which are being undertaken within the programme. These changes will occur in cooperation with, and in consultation with, the province authorities.
– My question is supplementary to the one which has just been answered. I would like the Minister for Defence to give the House a further assurance that it is not the intention, and it has not been the intention, of the Government to reduce the sum of $500,000 for the housing of members of the Regional Force, or to reduce the other sums that he has mentioned, because of the financial stringency or austerity programme upon which we are now engaged?
– I sought to make it plain - and I repeat this - that the financial stringency of the moment will certainly not be felt in any of our activities in Vietnam or in other areas of our overseas commitment - Singapore and Malaysia. I have said before that it would be wrong for our present financial stringencies to prejudice or have a material effect upon significant international policies of this kind. We are well capable of meeting the financial stringencies within Australia without touching events outside. I would also like to emphasise that it is the Government’s intention to maintain civic action activities. I made this point on Friday, I repeated it yesterday and I repeat it again today. It is the intention to keep this activity at a high level. I have demonstrated this afternoon, by facts, the build-up in this activity over the past two or three years. I would have thought that I had demonstrated this quite clearly.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In the light of the gratifying and intelligent response of 18, 19 and 20 year old men and women to the opportunity to exercise their right to vote - for the first time in Australia - in Saturday’s elections in Western Australia., can he say when the Government expects to make a decision on giving these people votes in Federal elections? In view of the fact that such age groups are those most affected not only by the Federal Government’s defence and foreign policies but also by such policies as recruitment for the Public Service and quotas and fees for higher education, will he give an assurance that such legislation is passed before the next elections for this House?
– I do not know on what basis the Leader of the Opposition claims, as he apparently does, that the voting of 18, 19 and 20 year olds in Western Australia are able to be at this stage dissected. But T can give him an undertaking that, when the Government decides to present to this House matters of policy concerning this matter, he will be informed, because he will be informed shortly before they are presented to the House.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether he has seen the reports of a symposium on conservation and mining held in Sydney during the weekend, and the desires of that symposium to see a land utilisation authority established on a national basis. I ask him further whether he saw the report of the Australian Mining Industry Council which wants a White Paper approach to the problems of land utilisation in respect of that industry. Has he ever contemplated calling together the relevant State Ministers with a view to hammering out some common approach to these national problems, or would he regard this as a blasphemy against the sacred cow of federalism and an unwarranted interference with the right divine of States to govern wrong?
– I am afraid that I have not yet seen the report to which the honourable member refers. However, I will arrange to get a copy of it and certainly will study the matters that have been raised. I would draw the attention of the House, however, to the fact that a number of coordinating bodies are operating already. These bodies co-ordinate representations of the Commonwealth and the State Governments in a number of fields. We have, for example, the Australian Minerals Council, the Australian Forestry Council, the Australian Water Resources Council and a number of other similar bodies. I am referring to bodies which specifically concern my Department. But. in other fields, we have bodies such as the Australian Agricultural Council, meetings of which are held regularly. Close association exists between the Commonwealth and States in so many different fields.
Very careful consideration, 1 am sure, is given to matters where there is a sharing of joint responsibility. I personally know from experience the consideration that is given in this field by the Commonwealth. However, I certainly will study the report and, if I consider that any further action should be taken to refer these matters to the bodies that are in existence already or that consideration should be given to the establishment of further bodies, discussions on this matter will be held with the Prime Minister.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Now that a decision has been taken that the International Grains Arrangement will not include a schedule of prices for the export of wheat, is there not a danger that this could lead to a significant decrease in world wheat prices if competition breaks out between the surplus producing countries of Canada, the United States of America and Australia? In this context, is it a fact that the United Arab Republic has refused to continue its contract with Australia to take relatively large quantities of wheat on the assumption that world wheat prices might fall?
– Answering first the last part of the question asked by the honourable member for Dawson which related to the second possible wheat sale to the United Arab Republic, the negotiations have broken down not because of any pricing difficulties, but because it appears that the United Arab Republic wants further time to think about them. Up to that stage only exploratory talks had taken place. We already have a contract with the U.A.R. this year for half a million tons, and I hope that these will be an annual commitment. I have already advised the House that I expect to receive further information about the new International Wheat Agreement, which was reached last Friday. The new agreement will contain both a wheat trade convention and a food aid convention. However, the wheat trade convention will not have the pricing commitments that were contained in the International Grains Arrangement which was signed in 1967. As honourable members will know the pricing provisions of the old International Grains Arrangement have not applied for 12 months or so, but we have been able to maintain stability of price even though there has been pressure for a downward trend in price due to the heavy stockpiles of wheat around the world. Under this new international wheat trade commitment a regular watch will be kept on market prices and market trends by means of the International Wheat Council, and every effort will be made to co-operate with and consult wheat exporting and importing countries. Furthermore, we believe that this new arrangement could possibly be even more effective than the old one because there is a likelihood that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other countries might become members of it. The food aid convention has been accepted under the old terms which were laid down, all donor countries having agreed to participate on the same terms under which they were previously committed.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question. Last Tuesday the Prime Minister announced a reduction of $7Sm in Commonwealth expenditure to combat inflation. It was also stated that foreign aid would be reduced by $3. 8m. Will the Minister inform the House which countries will be affected and what amounts are involved?
– The Minister for Defence has already mentioned the problems associated with military civic aid in South Vietnam. I will relate my answer only to civil aid which comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Consequently 1 will not deal with that part of the aid which comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for External Territories or the Treasurer. The amount of reduced expenditure as faT as my Department is concerned is between $2.7m and $2. 8m. That reduction will reduce the total commitments and expenditure of my Department to approximately $47m. We have not been able to work out precisely where the cuts will be made, but we are attempting to effect these reductions with sympathy and understanding. We have no wish whatsoever to interfere with those countries whose need is greatest. We will not only look at their problems with anxiety but also do our best to minimise the cuts in the aid given to them. Commitments to international agencies, including the South Pacific Commission, are not included in this figure of $47m. There will be no cuts in those areas.
– Are the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Australian Wheat Board awaiting a letter from the non-recognised representatives of the nonrecognised 700 million Chinese inquiring as to the possible purchase of wheat from Australia? Is the Minister concerned because the letter has failed to arrive? In view of the failure of the 56 wheat growing countries to reach agreement on prices for the next 3 years and the inroads into trade with China made by our great and powerful friends and allies such as Canada, Japan and Britain, will the Minister, in the interests of Australian trade and Aus tralian producers, consider opening a trade office or even a Wheat Board agency in Peking until the battle of conscience over China and party preferences has been resolved by himself and his colleagues?
– Somewhat facetious questions like this do not help the Australian Wheat Board in endeavouring to negotiate with mainland China for the sale of wheat. The Board only finds its task made much more difficult and is greatly embarrassed by people who make such public comment. For the past 3 or 4 months we have been waiting to hear from mainland China about a possible sale of wheat in the same way that we have been notified each year. Unfortunately this year no contract has been made yet, but I am still very hopeful and optimistic that we will hear from China before too long. We have an excellent record with China. She has been very satisfied with the type of wheat she has received and with the terms and conditions on which she has bought that wheat.
I believe that 2 factors have come into play which have allowed China to defer possible discussions about the purchase of wheat this year. The first is that she made a purchase from Canada at the time when the world price for wheat was relatively low. Immediately that purchase was achieved there was an upward movement in the price of wheat largely because of leaf blight in the American maize crop, and the price has gone up by £Stg2 or £Stg3 a ton. Secondly, there are indications that there has been a relatively good crop of grain in China this year. But I believe that because of the record we have and the satisfaction that China has derived from purchasing large quantities of wheat from Australia it is fairly conclusive that we will be seeing more of her in the future.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. In view of the delay in the construction of the Dartmouth Dam and the decision in the recent national wage case, is the Minister able to tell the House of the amount of escalation in the contract price? What obligation is there upon member governments to meet the increases when the South Australian Government does finally agree to ratify the agreement under which the dam is to be built?
– I have had a study made of this position over recent months and, whilst it is not possible to give with any precision an indication of the escalation involved, it is quite obvious that there will be some. A study has revealed that the cost of earth and rock fill dams has been relatively stable over a period of about 10 years, due principally to the improvement in the type of equipment and plant that have been used in this kind of operation. However there is no doubt that over the last 12 months there has been a certain escalation. There is, of course, no contract price at the moment. We have been working on estimates only up to the present time, and there has not yet been a revised estimate. However, there is one other very important factor associated with this which could cause further delay if South Australia does not ratify the agreement, before long, and that is the undertaking that the Commonwealth has given to the States under the River Murray Waters Agreement that it will lend the States half the total amount of their share of the cost of the Dartmouth Dam. There is a clause in that Agreement to the effect that if the cost escalation is above 10 per cent a full review of the costs involved must be undertaken. Some considerable time would be taken in making such a review. That is another reason why we ask the Government of South Australia to deal with this matter urgently and to ratify the Agreement as quickly as possible.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, arises from his statement last week that doctors’ incomes had risen by 20 per cent since the inception of the new health scheme. Firstly, in view of Press reports that doctors’ incomes in Western Australia have actually decreased over the relevant period, can the Minister clarify the position which is now applying in that State? Secondly, where the rises have occurred, can the Minister give some indication of why this position should have arisen, considering that the most common fee was intended to reflect the fees already being charged by the profession when the new scheme was implemented? Finally, in this context, can the Minister yet say whether the health scheme is operating within its budget and, if not, what the apparent variation is?
– In relation to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, in the estimates and calculations that were made of the extent of the increase in the aggregate of medical fees charged to insured patients, comparing the December quarter of 1970 with that of J 969, the figures for Western Australia were incomplete, and they are still incomplete because in that State it has been possible to survey all the funds. But I would expect that when the figures are available from all funds the pattern that applied in the other States will be shown to apply in Western Australia.
In answer to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question in which he asked, in effect, why this should have happened in view of the nature of the common fee system, let me say that I would have thought that it would have been perfectly obvious that the introduction of the common fee system - a system designed to achieve a much greater stability and uniformity of charging in the medical profession - would, in fact, in the first instance - that is, immediately after the scheme has been introduced - produce the results that it has produced, because for the first time we have over a range of nearly 2,000 medical services what might be described as an indicative fee. It is not unnatural that, in that situation and knowing that fee, doctors’ fees that were below that fee should in fact come up to that fee.
Now let me deal with the third part of the honourable gentleman’s question. My Department, in its estimates for the new scheme in relation to this financial year, assumed that this would happen, and the rate of estimation in this respect is right on line. In fact, the estimates made by my Department more or less correspond with the results that have been achieved so far, and we would expect that at the end of the financial year the cost would not be far off the estimate.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. In view of the discussions on foreign aid which take place in the community from time to time, will he give an outline of the volume of foreign aid to which Australia is committed at present?
– I have noticed statements in the Press by a number of people about the cuts in foreign aid, most of which are characterised by emotion rather than by any checking of the facts. This year after the cuts - which are very minor - have been imposed we expect to spend $187m in foreign aid. This represents approximately a 13 per cent increase over what we actually spent in the 1969-70 financial year when the figure was $165.7ra. Last year’s figure was in itself a 10.7 per cent increase on the figure applying the year before. According to the recent figures published by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is the main authority operating in this field, it appears that Australia was amongst the first 3 countries in terms of the percentage of GNP represented by development aid assistance supplied by governments to developing countries. Although those figures apply to 1969 I feel sure that in 1970-71 this post ion will be at least maintained. This reveals quite conclusively that Australia is amongst the largest givers of foreign aid in the world.
– Mr Speaker, I submit that the information given in this answer could be given more appropriately in a ministerial statement or paper.
– The question was asked. Some other questions this afternoon have been too long and involved and information could have been given in the manner suggested. The matter is in the hands of honourable members themselves. If they wish to ask long and involved questions the Minister must have an opportunity to answer them.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Will he make a comprehensive statement to the House for its information following his recent conference with various parties interested in a plan of salvage of the affairs of Mineral Securities Australia Ltd? Will he in particular inform the House of the respective roles and interests therein of the Australian Resources Development Bank, the Australian Industries Development Corporation, the Reserve Bank and certain life assurance companies? Will he allay public fears that the rescue plan evolved will result in a further diminution of Australian control of Australian mineral resources? Will he instruct the Insurance Commissioner to investigate and report upon the extent of any participation in the imbroglia by any life assurance companies?
– I do not think that this calls for a statement in the House because the matters raised by the honourable member can be quite shortly answered now. The Reserve Bank has not placed any money into the attempts to see that the shares in companies which Mineral Securities Australia Ltd held and had pledged as collateral are not subjected to being sold at below value on the stock exchange to the detriment of the small shareholders in those companies. Indeed, there is no public money involved in this arrangement unless the honourable member cares to take the view that the money of the Austraiian Industry Development Corporation is public money; which I do not..
The proposition that is put forward is, I think, well known, and that is that since Minsec did not of itself own assets - all those assets being pledged, the assets being shares in various other companies - it was therefore suggested that a consortium should advance a loan to the liquidator appointed to Minsec, the liquidator being able to use that loan to free Minsec’s assets which were held as security by other persons, the liquidator then being able to dispose of those shares in the interests of those for whom he was appointed as liquidator. At the end of that period of time, should this eventuate - and it is not yet sure it will - the liquidator would repay the consortium which had lent the money to the liquidator and the members of the consortium would therefore have no rights or titles to any of the shares in any of the companies which Minsec held. Consequently, there cannot be any diminution of Australian ownership of mineral resources held in the companies concerned unless, quite distinct from the arrangements of which we are talking, in normal general stock exchange trading some shares were bought, as they might well be, in the normal way by overseas buyers. But the actual arrangements of the people who are providing money for a consortium to lend money to the liquidator are that they are not to receive right or title to the shares which Minsec owns in other companies. I think that answers the honourable member’s question.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise -seen reports of recent public comment by the honourable member for Maribyrnong to the effect that marihuana is a pretty harmless drug and should therefore be legalised? Can he tell the House whether any significant medical or legal evidence exists to support the contention?
– Before the Minister answers that question I point out that the attitude of the honourable member for Maribyrnong, in the circumstances referred to by the honourable member for Denison, is not within his ministerial responsibility. If the Minister wishes to answer the other part of the question, he may do so.
– I am pleased to answer the question insofar as part of my ministerial responsibility is the prevention of entry into this country of narcotic drugs and drugs proscribed by the Single Convention of the United Nations, in which marihuana is named. I must say that to the statement reported in almost the same language in at least five of this morning’s newspapers and attributed to the honourable member for Maribyrnong my first reaction was sadness or sorrow, because I had felt that a gentleman who had won a seat in this House and has been renowned for some liberal thinking, a man for whom I have a personal affection, would not be capable of making such a silly and stupid statement.
-Order! Before the Minister began to answer the question I pointed out to him that he has no ministerial responsibility in relation to what the honourable member for Maribyrnong might say. I said that the Minister might answer the other portion of the question of the honourable member for Denison.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was about to lead on to where that state ment does impinge on my ministerial responsibility. My first reaction was sadness. My second reaction was dismay because there is no question that if the honourable gentleman did say what he is reported to have said hundreds of thousands of young Australian children will be influenced to the view that marihuana is harmless, because the honourable gentleman says so. But he went further and said that it should be legalised and should be consumed by school children because they would feel relaxed, happy, convivial, and that perhaps it would improve human relations. I can envisage that the statement by itself will incite young Australian children to have a go at marihuana at a time when the Government is spending $500,000 on a national education campaign to try to dissuade young children from taking marihuana.
I wonder what evidence or authority the honourable gentleman nas for his views, other than his own medical degree, that he should see fit to make this statement. As I understand the position, he said that he was speaking not only as a politician but also as a doctor. That in itself would lend greater credence to his statement about marihuana in the minds of the young, although we know virtually nothing about the drug. I am not prepared to bring party politics into this matter.
Opposition members - Obi
– If members of the Opposition want to do so, let me tell them that a great number of their colleagues have quietly confided to me that they violently disagree with the views expressed by the honourable member for Maribyrnong and the honourable member for Oxley. I believe that this is far too serious a national problem to be debased by the introduction of party politics. I do not know what the honourable member’s qualifications are. I conclude my answer by reading from a report made as late as 1969 by an expert committee of the World Health Organisation that was set up specifically to examine the question of marihuana. It said unequivocally and unanimously:
This Committee strongly reaffirms the opinions expressed in previous reports that cannabis is a drug of dependence, producing public health and social problems, and that its control must be continued.
If the honourable gentleman wants to advise young people to opt out of reality and choose the false and distorted hallucinogenic world, that is not the wish of the Government.
– I address a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Because of the differences in reporting in various newspapers throughout Australia I ask the Minister whether he used the phrase: ‘Britain’s security was no longer vital to Australia’ when he was speaking at the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon at the Wesley Church in Melbourne yesterday. If he did use the words quoted, what was meant by them?
– I did not use the words quoted. The difference in presentation by various newspapers can be explained in this way: First of all, I repeat that I did not use the phrase. Secondly, in the notes that were sent to the minister in charge of the Methodist mission in Melbourne the phrase was not included. Thirdly, in the copy of the document that was distributed to newspapers at the mission in Melbourne the phrase was not included but it is regrettable that in the first draft sent to me the phrase was included and was struck out by me. At the airport in Canberra on the way to Melbourne on Sunday I gave instructions that journalists in the Press gallery in Canberra were to be given a copy of the speech I intended to make. Regrettably the first copy was given to them and not the copy as finally edited and distributed by me.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that asked of him by the honourable member for Cunningham. Is it a fact that the right honourable gentleman called a meering a couple of weeks ago at Kirribilli House with representatives of some of the banking corporations, commercial organisations and broking houses to which Mineral Securities Australia Ltd had pledged assets and for which the consortium subsequently made arrangements? Was the Australian Industry Development Corporation represented at the meeting, and, if so, by whom? In any case, is he prepared to state who attended the meeting and whom they represented? Has he taken or sponsored any similar action to safeguard the interests of the many small investors who contributed $20m to the mutual funds which were administered by MINSEC and which have now suspended operations?
– Answering the questions not necessarily seriatim, yes, I gathered together a number of people concerned on stock exchanges, in the banks and amongst the financial and business world generally in this matter to express to them that the Government was concerned that a possible acceleration, a possible domino effect, should not be felt throughout Australian finances and on the stock exchanges, and that the overseas confidence in Australian investment should be as little as possible damaged. The Australian Industry Development Corporation was represented there, amongst a number of other significant companies, by Sir Alan Westerman. T think it is well known that the consortium concerned with this matter has already started discussions and it is led, as perhaps the honourable member may know, by Sir Robert Norman, the Governor of the Bank of New South Wales who has indeed made statements on this matter. May I conclude by saying this. Mr Speaker: One of the real objectives in this field was to see that, as far as possible, shares in companies which were pledged by Mineral Securities Australia Ltd as collateral for loans were not thrown on the market and sold at prices lower than would normally be the case. Surely this must be conceded to be an action to protect the small shareholders in those companies who otherwise might have seen a loss which, I believe, they will not now have to sustain.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to make immediate adjustment in social service benefits to restore at least the purchasing power lost since the Inst Budget and its failure to ensure that no benefits fall below the poverty line established by the. Melbourne University survey into .poverty.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The Liberal Government’s treatment of age, invalid and widow pensioners and those dependent on sickness and unemployment benefits is a national scandal. Inflation has eroded the purchasing power of all social service pensions by at least 3 per cent since the last Budget. The Treasury has indicated that the current inflationary movement has a price increase potential of between 6 per cent and 7 per cent; that is, the inflationary erosion of social service payments has been severe and will be much worse by the end of the year. Those totally, or largely, dependent on these benefits are being dragged down in a vortex of want and deprivation which is destructive to body, mind and soul. These people are being plunged into greater depths of poverty. This sapping of the purchasing power of social service benefits is well illustrated in a table which, with the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard.
Honourable members will note that in all the cases the increase in pension payments in the last Budget was less than was required to cover consumer price index movements for the preceding 12 months; with the exception of the married rate age and invalid pension and the widows Class B and C pensions. In those exceptional cases the increase lifted benefits fully lc a week ahead of the level to which they had to be increased to neatly cover the movement in the consumer price index. Of equal significance is that pension rates were around $2 per week lower, after the 1970 Budget adjustments, than they should have been if they had moved in line with average weekly earnings. Presumably the Government’s principle is that pensioners, the neglected class in Australian society, are unworthy of participating at a comparable rate of improvement with the rest of the country in the burgeoning wealth the nation is producing.
There has been a general deterioration in pension standards vis-a-vis the rest of the community in the postwar period. In the early postwar period the basic pension rate was 27 per cent of average weekly earnings. Today it is 19.5 per cent and en an estimated average weekly earning of $81 at the end of this financial year will be down to 19 per cent of average weekly earnings, the worst level ever in the postwar period.
Seemingly, the Government’s crude maxim is that those who cease to produce, either because of age, invalidity, widowhood, unemployment or sickness, forfeit their right to enjoy a reasonable measure of the bounty this nation produces. All rates of social service benefits would be now below the austere poverty line, updated, drawn by the Institute of Applied Social and Economic Research for the Melbourne poverty survey.
To be more explicit, using the latest average weekly earnings data, which is for the September quarter 1970, the standard rate of age and invalid pension is over $4 a week below the Melbourne poverty level; all Class A widows, women who are supporting youngsters, receive pension rates below this mark. Indeed, a widow supporting two children of between 6 years and 15 years receives nearly $4 a week below this level. A breadwinner supporting a wife and two children on unemployment or sickness benefit receives a payment which is more than $20 a week below the poverty line. In anticipation of the Minister seeking to escape behind a diversionary tactic by his alluding to long term sickness and unemployment benefit rates instituted in the last Budget, let me say bluntly and factually that this innovation has scarcely altered the deplorable and shabby treatment of these beneficiaries. A beneficiary in this category, unemployed for two months, I hat is, drawing on long term benefits- is on average a little over $23 a week below the poverty level for each week he is unemployed, if we include the first week of his unemployment for which he receives no allowance. For these unfortunate devils, life is a degrading experience. Their existence too frequently takes place in a situation of grinding poverty, and what is so alarming is the fact that innocent, unfortunate children must suffer. Not only must they suffer physical deprivation, but socially and culturally they are undernourished. The result is that their development, physically, mentally and socially, is often retarded. For most beneficiaries, unemployment and sickness payments are not a short term experience. At 30th June 1970 of those in receipt of unemployment benefits, 57 per cent had been dependent on these payments for more than one month.
Not only are sickness and unemployment benefits defective in terms of purchasing power but they enforce a degenerating cycle of social behaviour which is crippling to human resources. The loss of self-respect, the degrading environment in which too many of these beneficiaries find themselves unavoidably moving as a result of their circumstances, are counterproductive to their speedy return to health or to the workforce. If the Minister is in his usual predictable frame of mind he will discover some vulgar political plot in all I have said on this depressing subject. So, to save him the trouble of falsely fuming and fulminating as a diversionary tactic to avoid facing the real issue, namely, are social service beneficiaries entitled to expect a benefit rate which at least keeps them above the poverty line, let me quote an impeccable authority. A paper delivered at a seminar, The Cost of Sickness and Unemployment’, at the University of Sydney on 3 May, 1969, by John de Hogg, an economist, directed biting criticism at the way in which dole’ experiences sear, personalities, leaving men useless, shuffling hulks. It said:
The system of social services, welfare and law enforcement aggravate rather than alleviate the problem of chronic unemployment.
In the same paragraph this assertion is backed by the case history of far too many men. Tt says of a not untypical single man after a fortnight’s unemployment, that is, the first fourteen days he must weather without any social service assistance:
He is thus forced to use one of the night shelters run by one of the religious missions or to sleep out. The first use of such skid row facilities has two major implications -
There must be a compromise with self respect at begging for such a handout. As one man said, ‘It’s them places that draw a man down. You wait in the rain, maybe for hours, and you don’t know if you’re going to get a bed. After a while you don’t even care about nothing any more’.
Once such a compromise has occurred and has been rationalised there is less motivation to seek and remain in employment.
I refrain from further discussion of the unpardonable misuse and waste of human resources for which the Federal Government’s social service policies are responsible. The purpose of this debate is to drive home to the Government the urgent need to, at the very least, increase social service benefit rates so that purchasing power lost through inflation is restored and so that in no case will payments be below the poverty line set in the Melbourne survey. Frankly, we of the Opposition wish to give more generous social service payments than I am referring to. Indeed we want to go much further and introduce a new concept of social security payments and social welfare services. I refrain, only with the greatest effort, from discussing these matters today. Today we discuss only the urgent needs of pensioners and sickness and unemployment beneficiaries and seek their immediate relief from depressing need. There can be no denial of the needy condition of many of our people.
The 1966 Melbourne poverty survey found that every fourth aged person lived in poverty or marginal poverty. This poverty rate would be higher now after the rampant inflation set loose by the Government’s last Budget. The same survey found that 44 per cent of fatherless families were living in poverty or marginal poverty. These are largely the families of widows. As Mr Harper points out in chapter 6 of People in Poverty’, which was released recently, the most disturbing feature of these families is the numbers of innocent children affected by this deprivation. He estimated that there were nearly 12,000 such children in Melbourne. Multiply this for the whole of Australia by even a most conservative factor and the result is still disturbing. One wonders what wrongs innocent children possibly could have done to have society visit the harm of social, economic and cultural deprivation upon them through the instrument of its national Government.
In case the Minister is considering sliding out of this criticism by referring to the value of housing owned by some beneficiaries let me remind him that his own Department revealed in 1969 that one-third of age pensioners had no income other than the pension and of that number more than half did not own their own home. Further, the Department showed that over 58 per cent of those people had an assessed income of $3 per week or less. Additionally, the 1968-69 annual report of the Department disclosed that a survey in Victoria and New South Wales established that in 1969 nearly 84 per cent of class A widow pensioners had income assessed at less than $1 per week, and nearly 2 out of 3 neither owned nor had an interest in the home in which they lived.
Of those with homes, not only widow pensioners, but the aged and invalid too, there are many in sub-standard housing. Professor Henderson, in the work quoted, refers to ‘poor quality’ - those are his words - in many homes. For harrowing details of sub-standard housing one has only to refer to Professor Elaine Martin’s High Rents and Low Incomes’. Her findings, I regret to say, are as true today as when this work was written.
There is one further point 1 want to make before moving to another tack. In the past the Minister has sought a neat escape hatch by quibbling about some absurd technicalities concerning the distinction between ‘in need’ and ‘poverty’ - terms used in the Melbourne survey. Let me help him avoid confusing these terms - for his own benefit as much as anyone else’s. ‘Poverty’ covers the area of relative deprivation, an area in which neither he nor I would care to linger for a second. ‘In need’ refers to a very critical state of poverty - the base end of the area of deprivation and need. Before he sets off on obfuscation he should remember that the poverty defined and identified by the Melbourne survey relates only to primary poverty, that is poverty arising from inadequate income. Secondary poverty, arising from mismanagement of budgets, if added would represent a much larger proportion of the people we are concerned about today as being in the poverty environment.
In his long and erratic career as a back bencher the Minister’s special skill was to give impressions of an outraged and concerned observer of the plight of social service pensioners. Those many memorable soliloquies ringing across nearly 2 decades of his humble but never modest service in this Chamber were quickly dispatched to some unknown nether region on his assumption of Ministerial office. Not a murmer of protest, not a twitch of agitation came from him when the last Budget was unveiled to this House - a Budget which gave a miserable 50c a week to a pensioner on $15 a week, or if married, on $13.75 a week with an inferential homily on how the public purse was being strained with this gesture of ‘generosity’. Nor did he shy or object, after this gratuitous offensiveness, when the Budget then went on to provide a tax concession equivalent to an extra $3 a week cash to an income earner on about $77 a week and nearly $10 a week to a salary earner on $308 a week. His final act of gracelessness was to remain passively indifferent when indirect tax increases of $29m on goods were proposed - charges which bear, proportionately, most heavily on pensioners.
There are 4 months left in this financial year. On average, for every increase of 50c across the board for married and single rate pensions it would cost $2.2m a month. This covers age, invalid and widows A, B and C pensions. My calculations show that the standard rate of age and invalid pension and widows A pension can’ be lifted to the poverty level of about $20.50 per week for the rest of this year at a cost of $56m. This calculation is based on an updated poverty line related to an estimated Victorian average weekly earnings of $83 per week for 1970-71, the end of the financial year. There is no reason why these people should always be living behind the movement in the cost of living.
The married pension rate adjusted by an estimated cost increase of 6 per cent for the year, only a neat $1 a week to $14.75 a week, would cost no more than $6m for the rest of the year. These are the barest minimums. Again, the cost of increasing single and married rates of sickness and unemployment benefits is a bagatelle. By increasing the single pensioner rate to the poverty level for a single person, and by increasing the rate for a married pensioner couple to the poverty level for a couple the cost for the remainder of this year would not exceed $5m. Calculations have been based on an estimated Victorian average weekly earnings of $83 for 1970- 71. Unemployment and sickness benefit rates would become: Standard rate, $20.50 per week; married couple rate, $29.50. Compare the total cost of this proposal with the $228m cost of taxation concessions granted in the last Budget - concessions which proportionately most favoured the higher income groups.
The question for the Mouse to decide is whether the aged, invalids, widows, the unemployed and sick who are dependent on social service benefits, should have their fixed income eroded by inflation - whether large numbers of these people should live in poverty. The proposals before the House do not canvass any political partisanship. All that the Opposition is putting forward is a proposal to restore to social service benefits their lost purchasing power and, where appropriate, to lift those benefits to at least the poverty level. Dare this House - dare this conservative Government - do anything else? To test the feeling of the House and the sincerity of Government members I move:
– Discussion of this motion now supersedes discussion pf the matter of public importance. Therefore the question now is whether the Standing Orders should be suspended. That is my interpretation of the procedure. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
-Order! Does the honourable member for Oxley wish to speak to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders?
– I wish to speak very shortly to this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. The motion will give the House an opportunity democratically to establish whether in fact the improvements in social service benefits which are outlined generally in the motion should be effected by the Government. That is, the House has before it a motion which, if carried, will direct the Government to take action on behalf of all social service beneficiaries in the community. The ones 1 have outlined in my speech are the ones in the most urgent need. This motion is, in fact, a political death trap for many members on the Government side who are in marginal electorates. It is quite clear that the next election will be closely fought and it may well result in. the return of a Labor government. Those members on the Government side who vote against this motion will be ensuring the return of a Labor government. If they are not persuaded by the argument of social and economic justice to support pension increases as I have recommended, let them be persuaded into supporting this motion by a simple matter of political self-preservation.
-Order! The motion before the Chair is for the suspension of Standing Orders. This does not permit the honourable member to canvass the whole field of social services or hypothetical questions. The question is whether the House should agree or disagree to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– Then, in short, the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders seeks to allow this House to decide whether pensioners or people dependent upon social service benefits should have their purchasing power restored to the extent that it has been eroded by cost of living movements, and whether pensioners should have their benefits lifted at least to the poverty level. We can do nothing less than that. I suggest that the original motion before the House is an inconclusive proposition in that it expresses certain feelings, but no test is made of the true attitude of the House. If the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is carried, we can put the proposed motion to the House. That will allow the House to be tested and to indicate how it truly feels in relation to the situation of over I million social service beneficiaries in the community. Of course, we will take all votes to a division. As the names of all honourable members who vote in those divisions will be recorded according to the way in which they vote, there will be no opportunity in the future for honourable members on the Government side to sympathise with pensioners in their electorates and then come here and work and vote against them.
– That is very clever.
– Very clever indeed.
– I rise to support the motion put forward by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). I believe that every member of this House should be here today to support this motion which is designed basically to test the bona fides of the Government and to ascertain whether every member of the House is prepared to view seriously the responsibilities that he has to the people who depend upon benefits from the Government. The motion should not be defeated. It should be accepted and the Government should be compelled to take immediate action. What we are dealing with here is not an unimportant situation; it is a situation of increasing poverty which has been brought about by this Government. Irrespective of whether honourable members opposite belong to the Liberal Party or the Country Party-
– Order! As I pointed out to the honourable member for Oxley, the question before us relates to the suspension of Standing Orders. It is not a question of discussing individual members or their position inside or outside the Parliament. We are discussing reasons for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– The Standing Orders should be suspended because the motion before the House deals with a situation of prime importance to a very large section of people in Australia who are in need. It has been brought before the House out of sheer frustration at the Government’s refusal to accept its responsibilities to people who depend upon social service benefits. It has been brought forward because we want the Government to act. For that reason I second the motion.
– I have never heard an honourable member in this House destroy himself more effectively than did the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). A few moments ago he assured us that his motion had no political significance and then he took off the mask and talked about the political deathtrap and things of that character. This man is not an honest man.
– Order! 1 request the Minister to withdraw that remark.
– Certainly. I might have been deceived, Mr Speaker.
– I withdraw the remark.
– I want to say something-
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The Minister has withdrawn the remark.
– Mr Speaker, he has not withdrawn at all.
– He did withdraw it.
– I have indeed withdrawn the remark, Mr Speaker. I find it very difficult to reconcile what the honourable member said a few moments ago with what he said when speaking to the matter of urgency that he raised. He is, of course, an honourable man. The phrase is well known. However, I cannot find any way of-
– Order! As I said a moment ago we are not discussing points in favour of individual honourable members. We are discussing reasons for the adjournment of the discussion of a matter of public importance.
– I rise to a point of order. I want to be clear on the point we are discussing. Mr Speaker, I understood you to rule that the motion for the suspension of standing orders having been moved it superseded the matter of public importance.
– Let us assume for the moment that the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders were defeated. Would you then rule - if I may ask you for this hypothetical answer - that the discussion on the matter of public importance continue?
– Yes. Therefore any discussion now is limited to the reasons why the suspension of Standing -Orders, should or should not be agreed to. Immediately after that the matter of public importance comes back into the ring.
– I say that the honourable member for Oxley has brought forward no compelling reason to show why the Standing Orders should be suspended. In his speech he entirely destroyed his own credibility on the major issue.
– I support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. I do so for one reason. This House has extremely limited powers with relation to the decisions which most affect the nation. This is one way in which this House can express an opinion on a matter of supreme importance to a substantial section of the Australian community. I believe it is time this House took the opportunity to express its opinion on the failure of the Government to deal with the very pressing matter of social services. All honourable members who believe that social services should be increased in order to cope with the increasing cost of living should support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders so that an expression of opinion of this House can be obtained. If the motion is defeated it can only be taken that honourable members are not prepared to accept their responsibility as representatives in this Parliament.
– It is most unusual for an honourable member to introduce into this House a matter of public importance and then at the conclusion of his speech to move the suspension of Standing Orders in order to discuss the same matter but to bring the issue to a vote. This would completely interfere with and disturb the routine of the House. To me this is quite wrong. I am not going te discuss the merits or demerits of the subject matter. The Opposition, from the manner in which it has introduced the motion, apparently desires to take the business of government out of the hands of the Government. This is the idea. It is calculated to be a shrewd move to put certain honourable members on the spot, so to speak. This is what was expressed by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) when be proposed the motion. It is simply deplorable that this House should be used in this political fashion and that the business of the Government should be interferred with.
In fact, Sir, it reflects largely upon those who have introduced for discussion the matter of public importance. It would be quite wrong in principle for any supporter of the Government to vote for this motion. No matter what his feelings may be about the subject matter he could not vote for this proposition because it has been presented in such a surreptitious fashion.
– The reason for moving the motion for the suspension of standing orders is to enable a decision of the House to be made which will achieve an increase in social service benefits. This matter is so urgent, and quick action is so obviously needed, that it is completely appropriate to move for the suspension of standing orders to allow the House to make a decision on it. Everybody knows how the standard of living of age, invalid and widow pensioners and those on unemployment and sickness benefits has fallen. There are perhaps more than 1 million people in the community whose standard of living depends entirely on those benefits. Everybody knows that the basic assumption underlying this Government’s Budget is that there will be an increase of 6 or 7 per cent in the retail price index in the course of the next 12 months. Everybody knows that the standard of living of about I million people dependent on these social service benefits will continue to fall.
I submit that it is appropriate and necessary to treat this matter as urgent and to have a vote on the motion for the suspension of standing orders as moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). The House should make a decision now to stop this fall in the standard of living of about I million people who depend on social service benefits. That is the overwhelming and dominating reason why this is a matter of urgency, and why the standing orders should be suspended so that all honourable members can make a decision - which the Government would not ignore - whether social service benefits should be increased.
One has only to refer to the tables submitted by the honourable member for Oxley to realise how serious this situation is. If the pension for a single person were increased simply in accordance with the cost of living increase it would have had to be Si 5.95 last December. But of course it was only SI 5.50. 45c a week less than would have been necessary in December to keep up with the increased cost of living. If everything happens as the Government intends it to happen, that is to say, if the majority of honourable members in this House do not vote to suspend standing orders so that a decision can be made now - and 1 cannot understand why any honourable member on the Government side should refuse to vote in support of this motion - the result will be that the standard of those in receipt of social service benefits will decline by at least another 50c in the next 6 months. Therefore by June 1971 the standard will have fallen by another 50c. Some honourable members on the Government side will no doubt argue, as the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) argued, that it would be wrong to interfere with the procedures of this House. If we leave this matter until the next Budget is brought down, and in the meantime prices increase as the Government expects them to increase, the pension will be down by another 35c.
-Order! The motion now before the House is for the suspension of standing orders. The honourable member for Lalor is now actually debating the matter of public importance. 1 have not a copy of the present motion but I understand the motion is to suspend standing orders in order to do certain things.
– What I am submitting is that this is a matter of urgency. This is a matter that can be dealt with only by the suspension of standing orders so that something can be done to prevent this shocking and serious decline in the standards of living of those people who depend upon social service benefits. According to the honourable member for Bennelong we have to adhere to the procedures of the House. The honourable member for Bennelong, considers that that is much more important than to take steps to increase pensions. I know how correct his standards are. He wants to put the procedures of the House in advance of increasing the pension: it is much more important to adhere to the procedures of the House than it is to vote for the suspension of Standing Orders so that honourable mem bers can say ‘yes, every one of us wants to see an increase in pensions’. Everyone knows that if such a vote were carried, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) would have to move and the Government would have to provide additional finance to increase pensinos
The matter is a clear and simple one. If honourable members on the Government side vote against the motion, that will mean that they do not want to increase pensions now; they do not want to do anything to help get an increase in pensions now. They want the procedures of the House to prevail; they want the policy of the Government to prevail; they want time to pass until eventually - perhaps before the next election in about 18 months time - the Government decides to increase pensions. That is what honourable members opposite will be saying if they vote against a suspension of standing orders to allow the matter to be decided now. The honourable member for Oxley and every member of the Labor Party Opposition will not put the procedures of the House before an increase in pensions; we will not put 6, 9 or 18 months that the Government may take to decide upon an increase before an increase in pensions now. Our proposal is to suspend Standing Orders so that a decision can be made here and now in favour of an increase in pensions. I challenge any man on the Government side to vote against that motion.
-Order! The question is:
That so rauch of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Oxley moving, That this House is of opinion that the Government should make immediate adjustment in social service benefits to restore ut least the purchasing power lost since the last Budget and that immediate steps should be taken to ensure that no benefits fall below the poverty line established by the Melbourne survey into poverty.
That the motion be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Mr Speaker, it is quite clear that the Opposition is not raising this matter of public importance in sincerity and for the purpose which appears on the face of it. It is being raised, as honourable members opposite themselves have said, for a political purpose. They are out to make pensioners the normal political football which they have been trying to do for so long. The Opposition lives on misery, it hopes for misery, and it wants to make misery because it believes that it will ride to power on discontent.
This matter of public importance was raised purely and simply for a political purpose. It was brought on at short notice. It was introduced not honestly for the purpose which appears on the face of it. It was raised for a. political purpose.
– I rise to a point of order. Mr Speaker, has the Minister the right to challenge the honesty of honourable members on this side of the House when they are not to blame for the failure to make provision for an increase in pensions along the lines suggested?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– Let me look at the wording of the matter of public importance. It refers to:
The failure of the Government to make immediate adjustment in social service benefits to restore at least the purchasing power lost since the last Budget. . . .
The truth of the matter is that pensions are adjusted at Budget time, and at last Budget time they were adjusted in accordance with movements in the cost of living and in such a way as this Government has done for many years, that is, to make allowance for future movements in the cost of living. That is why the real value of the pension has been raised and the figures show it. There have been rises in the cost of living since. They have been a little faster than we would like and they have been a little faster than normally, but they have not been so fast that we should add to them by making further increases in Government expenditure.
Secondly, the matter of public importance refers to the poverty line established by the Melbourne University. The Melbourne University’s poverty line is not holy writ. I read with a great deal of interest, respect and attention what has been written on this question by the Melbourne University. But I point out to the House that the so-called up-dating of the poverty line is not a strictly logical exercise because the Melbourne University took a poverty line which had been determined in relation to need and up-dated it in relation to average earnings. This was not logical. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the way in which present pensions, in almost all cases, substantially exceed the up-dated poverty line as shown poverty line up-dated in accordance with by the Melbourne University and the the cost of living.
– Give us an example.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo has been interrupting the debate all the afternoon. I understand that he is on the list of speakers in this debate and, in all fairness, I suggest that he should restrain himself.
– I have pointed out that there are two ways to look at this matter: One can up-date the poverty line, which was determined originally on the basis of need, in accordance with the cost of living, or one can up-date it in accordance with average earnings. The first way seems to me to be the more logical although it was the second way which was chosen for the Melbourne survey. The table which I have presented shows that the pension is now above the poverty line by 34c for a single male age pensioner, by $1.54 for a single female age pensioner and by $4.72 for a married age pensioner couple. It is true that if one were to up-date the poverty line on earnings one would get a different kind of result. But the point is that average earnings have risen much faster than prices. This is something which we would not normally be worried or distressed about, but the increase in wages and earnings above productivity is really putting the squeeze on pensioners and placing them in a jam. Between the March quarter of 1968, which is when the Gorton Government came into office, and the September quarter of 1970 - the last available figure - the consumer price index rose by 8-1/ 3rd per cent but average earnings rose by more than 3 times that figure; in fact they rose by 28 per cent. This increase is really at the base of the present trouble because there has not been a corresponding increase in productivity.
One of the main problems of pensioners and the economy has been the undue pressure brought to bear upon resources by increases in average earnings. These increases have been far greater than increases in the minimum wage or award wages. The increases in average earnings, which have been brought about by this pressure, are squeezing the pensioners as well as other members of the community. If productivity is rising it is possible to permit- in fact, the Government will encourage - wages to rise. This can be done without increasing prices. But if wages rise without a corresponding increase in productivity there is a squeeze on the real resources. This is at present, as I have said, jamming the pensioners as well as everybody else in the community.
I do not think that it would be stretching the long bow to say that honourable members opposite, by their encouragement of certain intransigent and irresponsible elements in the trade union movement, have been contributing materially to this state of affairs. So when the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) speaks of pensions as a percentage of average earnings he would be quite right if he correlated average earnings with proper productivity. But he failed to correlate productivity with these really momentous increases in average earnings which have been at the base of the price rises. I suggest to the Opposition that it should try to put its own house in order in this respect instead of trying to make political capital out of the present position of pensioners and trying to-
– Is it the non-political way to give them nothing?
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will cease interjecting. If the honourable member interjects again I will deal with him.
– I realise the embarrassment of the honourable member for Oxley and I make some allowance for him. This Government has done more in the field of social services than any other Government. It has done things in regard to not only the pension rate but also the other services which are available to pensioners. I was pleased to hear the honourable member for Oxley advert to the question of accommodation for pensioners, which is one of the main features of the Government’s plan to improve their position.
– There is room for it; that is for sure.
– Yes, there is still room for improvement, but there is much less room now than there was because although the Government has not entirely eliminated the trouble by its measures it has very much reduced it and is still reducing it. Do honourable members opposite recall that $25m was given to the States for them to accommodate aged persons? Do they recall the accommodation which has been provided under the sheltered workshops programme and the aged persons homes scheme? Perhaps honourable members opposite have forgotten these things, but they are some of the things that the Government has done in its main drive to increase the standard of living of all pensioners. 1 have been looking at the figures which have been provided in detail by the Department of Social Services on this subject. It would appear mat at the present moment something like 1 pensioner in 16 is in need of better accommodation at a reasonable figure. This is still a significant percentage and we should not be satisfied with it. I am certainly not satisfied with it. But the Opposition should concede what has been done by this Government and its pedecessors over the last 20 years. When talking about the material standard of living of pensioners one should look at the value of their pension in terms of real purchasing power. Allowing for the fringe benefits, which at present average over $5 a week, the real value of the pension under this Liberal-Country Party Government is almost twice what it was when Labor was last in power. Do honourable members opposite remember what a Labor government did when it was last in power? Do they remember how . Mr Chifley, who was their leader then, in the face of very steeply rising prices refused in his last Budget to increase the pension? Very few honourable members opposite were here then, but some were and- they supported that Budget. Why was it all right then not to increase the pension rate when it is so bad now? Where is the change? Why these double standards? The Australian Labor Party is trying to make the payment of increased pensions a political issue and only a political issue. I know that there have been troubles about the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on this issue. These troubles are well known. 1 know that Honourable members opposite want to try to cover up for htm. Naturally every member of the Party is loyal to his leader and wants to cover up for his past mistakes and his past slips of expression; but honourable members opposite are doing this in a political way.
One of the troubles that have naturally arisen from the Government’s policy is this: For years now there have been continuous increases in the standard of living of pensioners and now that the increases have been stopped and the rate has been held at the top level people have been getting the idea that there has been a decrease, which is not correct. We have reached, as it were, a plateau in increasing the standard of living of pensioners but we have not yet reached the peak. I can assure honourable members - I know that this is the feeling of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) - that we are only on a plateau now and are gathering our forces for a new increase in the real standard of living of pensioners, i know that this is the position. We are on a plateau now because the economy is overstretched and the Government is trying to bring under control the forces of inflation which threaten pensioners as well as everybody else. But we will not bc content to remain on this plateau. It will not be long before the Government resumes its 20 years of continuous progress in increasing the standard of living of pensioners. This will not involve simply the question of raising pension rates, although I have no doubt that this will be partly involved. However, there are other things as well which are of even greater importance to pensioners. The Government has these things fully in its sights and is at present making the appropriate plans for their implementation.
– All I can say about the speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is that it was a disgraceful performance. Fancy him trying to pass the buck to the Australian Labor Party for the situation the pensioners are in at present. The Minister actually blamed the Australian Labor Party for the present inflationary situation because it has supported the unions in their demands for increased wages. The embarrassment of the Minister for Social Services is only too easily understood. After all, this is the man who is supposed to put the case of the pensioners, and of all the people who are in need in Australia, to the Government. Whether or not he has done it - whether he has tried or whether he has not tried - he has not succeeded. He stands here this afternoon as the representative of a government which has attracted the contempt of the Australian people because of its attitude towards pensioners and people in need. So we can understand why the Minister came into this House afternoon with tremendous embarrassment.
We can understand his unease earlier this afternoon when he successfully defeated an Opposition motion to make this a matter of the Parliament passing an opinion. The Minister did not want anyone among the backbenchers on his side to be put in the embarassing position of expressing his opinion of whether the Opposition motion should be supported. What he wants is a nice pleasant little urgency motion on which neither he nor any other person on his side will have to commit himself to supporting the feelings that we have expressed. This debute will go on and the Minister will retire into his little cubbyhole with his embarrassment hidden. He will want another 3 or 4 months and nothing will be done in the meantime. This will be the position although as usual, we have had pledges that we have now reached the plateau, that the Minister for Social Services is mustering his posse and all his horses and that he and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) are galloping off to the next 50c pension increase - depending of course on whether or not there will be an election this year.
I have never heard such a lot of humbug as came from the Minister for Social Services. He disputed the criteria on which the Melbourne University study of poverty was based. If the standard of poverty is not to be related to the average weekly earnings of the Australian people, what is it to be related to? The Minister says it is to be related to prices. He adds that his aim has been to bring pensions up in accordance with the cost of living today. This is sheer humbug. When the 50c increase was granted last year the Minister for Social Services gave pension increases to only a section of pensioners. Therefore this increase brought only a section of pensioners up to the cost of living adjustment level. For example, as the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) quite rightly pointed out that, with the exception of the married rate, age and invalid and widow class B and C pensions, the increased pensions granted did not keep up with the rising cost of living. The whole problem, of course, is that these increases were not adequate for the period which had just past; they are even more inadequate for the period with which we are now dealing.
The Minister for Social Services said some very peculiar things. The Minister has been in this place longer than I have. He has had many more years here than I have. It is about time that he got away from the archaic habit of harking back to what the situation was 20 or 30 years ago. By using such a comparison the Minister may or may not be able to expose something. I am not concerned about that. What I am concerned about is the position of pensioners right now. The Minister knows - or should know - only too well that this is an affluent country. We have tremendous wealth. Last year the Government increased inflation by handing over $200m in taxation reductions. These reductions went disproportionately to people whose need was the least. The honourable member for Hume, who is trying to interject was one of those honourable members who voted against the Opposition this afternoon. He was not prepared to come out in open debate and say whether or not he thought that the Government should act on this matter. He should go back and tell the people of his electorate how he voted today. If the Minister cares to refer to the good old days - or the bad old days, as the Government calls them - of the Chifley Government - and I do not want to spend very much time on this - we will see that in the last few years of the Chifley Government the base rate pension for single age and invalid pensioners was 24 per cent of average weekly earnings. This was the percentage for the years 1947-48 and 1948-49. That must be a measure of how well the pensioners of Australia had shared in the nation’s prosperity. Of course, since then we have had 20 years of conservatism. During this time the percentage has continued to decline through 22 per cent to 21 per cent and then down to 20 per cent. If we accept the assumption of the Treasury last year that wages will increase by 8 per cent between 1970 and 1971, pensions will be 19 per cent of average weekly earnings. Of course, the question in a nutshell is: How well are the pensioners of Australia today sharing in the nation’s wealth? Those who do not receive a proportionate share are in poverty or are in need.
The Minister drew a fine distinction between need and poverty. The point is that need is the ultimate end; it is the very desperate part of poverty. We have enough wealth in this nation to be able to deal with both poverty and need. Let us look at some of the people about whom we are talking, for example, aged people. The position of aged people is scandalous. The Melbourne University survey discovered that more than 15 per cent of the aged income units that were surveyed were below the poverty line of 15 per cent. Of course, we can look at that figure and say: Let us take into account the cost of housing’. If this is done we can drop the figure down to 9 per cent. That is what the survey did. But even that 9 per cent is based on the fact that people can pay economical rents for sub-standard accommodation which no civilised community should be prepared to endure. So we know the position of pensioners as assessed in 1966 and brought up to date in 1970. Of course, the position is far worse now.
The value of the pension has been eroded consistently. I do not know how some pensioners can live under this sort of system. For example, let us take the position of a single pensioner, who received a 50c increase in his pension and who is living in housing commission accommodation. Sir Henry Bolte, who is a good friend of the Minister for Social Services and of the Prime Minister, took away all of this increase in one fell swoop by raising rents for housing commission accommodation. The Melbourne ‘Age’ of 19th September 1970 stated:
Pensioners rebate rentals will be raised a maximum of 50c a week for single people and 70c a week for couples.
On top of that, since the Budget last year we have had a series of very sharp increases in municipal and water rates. I have had complaints from my pensioners about these increases. No doubt every honourable member on this side of the House knows about such increases. In many cases these rate increases have snaffled everything that the pension increase gave.
Finally I want to refer to the position of fatherless families because I am very concerned about this problem. This is a very small section of the community but one which has the greatest need of all in the community. For example, the survey found that 30 per cent of women bringing up children by themselves were found to be in poverty and another 14 per cent were only marginally above the poverty line. The report said that the existence of poverty in this group was higher than in any other group. I could cover a whole range of social service beneficiaries. However, as I have only 10 minutes in which to speak I do not have the time to do so. The point is that we have called for urgent action by the Government. The honourable member for Oxley has set out in detail what can be done. He has set the price; it is very cheap. If the Government is to pass itself off as a government that is responsible to the people of Australia it has no right to ignore this urgency motion because it really is an urgent matter. Thousands of people in Australia are living in poverty and their poverty is increasing weekly because of the policies of this Government.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is true to say that, in Australia today, the image of the politician or of the Parliament has declined to a very low level. I think that this is unfortunate for the institution of Parliament, because Parliament is an institution that makes laws in this country, creates the conditions in which people can benefit by their labours, and is an institution that is essential for the well being of ali of the people in this country. Yet, this institution has been used today, as it is very frequently used by the Opposition, for nothing other than political purposes.
It is regrettable that the unfortunate people in Australia who suffer need should be used as the vehicle for political propaganda and for bringing forward a discussion in the terms that we have had today only for the purpose of trying to gain a political advantage in the community. That is the only purpose of this discussion. I cannot understand why the great Australian Labor Party would condescend to do this type of thing instead of approaching this serious matter on another basis. However, we find that all over the country members of the Australian Labor Party use the unfortunate position of people to stir up class distinction and hatred throughout the community. This is what goes on. We find the Australian Labor Party forming committees to prepare petitions and all sorts of things. The Australian Labor Party is doing this only for the purpose of the political benefit that can accrue to it because it has brought forward these matters for discussion.
I put it to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who introduced this subject for debate today: Did he ever approach the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) with the figures he has quoted today and in the calm of this office discuss the pros and cons of the urgent need for some help to be given to some of the people in Australia at the present time? Did he ever do that? Did the Leader of the Opposition, in the quiet of the Prime Minister’s office, ever talk to him about a matter that he thought was of such great importance to the people of Australia? Some people are suffering. The Leader of the Opposition has a view on this position. But did the Leader of the Opposition ever calmly talk about this position to the Prime Minister? The answer is no. He has to raise it in this forum and make all sorts of statements and accusations in order to try to gain some political advantage. This I deplore because the subject matter is too important to these people for it to be spoken of in that way. But when this matter is brought to one’s notice, one must make remarks and pay attention to what has been done.
What is the record of the Australian Labor Party in the field of social services?
The record will show quite plainly that, when the Labor Party was in power, it did very little to advance social service benefits for the people in need in Australia. As the Minister for Social Services pointed out earlier - I do not wish to dwell upon this fact - in the last year in which the Labor Party held power in Australia, that is, in the days of the Chifley Government before the present Government took office, prices were rising tremendously. If we take 100 as the base figure representing prices, the index figure for prices rose from 38 in 1947 to 46.9 in 1949. That represents a pretty big increase. That was the position in 1949. Yet, Mr Chifley, the Labor Prime Minister of Australia refused to grant any increase in pension rates to Australians receiving social service benefits. Not only did he do that but also did he fail, as did the Australian Labor Party fail miserably, to settle the arguments with doctors in order to obtain any kind of medical service for the pensioners of Australia. He failed to do these things. Honourable members opposite cannot say that the Labor Party has a good record when attention is directed to what it did when it had the opportunity of helping the people who were in the unfortunate position of being pensioners. Yet, on the question of welfare state activities I believe that the record of this Government is the best in the history of Australia.
In the first Budget introduced by this Government when it came to power in 1950 the pension was raised by 75c. In addition to the fringe benefits offered, a continuous raising of the pension has taken place year by year throughout the Government’s whole term of office. The payment of pensions has reached a prodigious level. If honourable members bear in mind that out of a population of 12* million people Australia has 1,020,669 aged, invalid and widow pensioners, they will realise that this represents a fairly large percentage of the country’s population. The welfare state now costs this country $1,40Om dollars a year. Of course, this money has to be raised out of the pockets of the taxpayers of Australia. Mostly, the people on pensions are not unaware of this and are very grateful for what has been done. I know that some people suffer, but by and large this is not so. Let us not forget that this Government, which is elected by the people, is charged with the responsibility of maintaining real value in the economy. I believe that our present Prime Minister is a man who is dedicated to the welfare of the Australian people, perhaps more than any other Prime Minister Australia has had.
I want to cite briefly some figures to show honourable members what has been done since this Government assumed power. If we use 1949 as the base year, we find that the real value of the pension has risen from an index figure of 10.33 in J.949 to its present level of 15.50. This is a tremendous achievement. Not only have pensions been increased, but fringe benefits have helped pensioners more than anything else. People need the money, the food and so forth. These things are necessary. However, it is the fringe benefits that have helped them more than anything else, and this Government has been responsible for the introduction of a whole list of fringe benefits that were never thought of by previous governments.
Notwithstanding the criticism that has been directed at Australian doctors recently, I pay tribute to our doctors for the work that they have done under the pensioner medical service scheme which has brought benefit to the old people in Australia who are in receipt of social service payments. We must remember that, for a sum of approximately $2.35, a doctor will get in his car, drive a distance of, say, 5 miles to a pensioner’s home and give medical attention to that pensioner. Doctors carrying out these duties are not being paid the full cost that would be involved in providing such a service. They make their contribution to this scheme. This is a benefit that this Government has organised.
There is a whole list, but my time has just about expired. I wish I had time to give details of the homes for the aged service, and this sort of thing. It is these services that the people want. I know that a need exists for the situations of some people to be dealt with. I know that the Government is giving consideration to the requirements of such people because of the change in the economy. However, this Government is charged with the responsibility of preserving the stability of our economy. The people who are in receipt of pensions need never fear that they will get anything but a fair deal from this Government. It is only a matter of time, of calculating, and of finding the correct way to do it. When the Budget for 1971-72 is introduced, the matter will be fully dealt with and all considerations will be taken into account.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) accused the Opposition of using this topic of social services as a political football. I should like to remind him that every State branch of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners’ Association of Australia resolved unanimously that a supplementary budget should be introduced this session for the purpose of giving pensioners justice. I believe the Opposition would be failing in its duty if it did not put the case for the various branches of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners’ Association of Australia. We know full well that this body is non-political because its members usually come to Canberra on Budget day seeking to put their case to the Minister for Social Services, the Treasurer and others on the Government side and to members of the Opposition. I believe this non-political organisation should have a voice in this Parliament through the Labor Party, if no other party is willing to take up the cudgels on its behalf. lt is interesting to note that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has again adopted the old hackneyed argument of comparing the rate of pension paid by the Chifley Government more than 21 years ago with that paid today. Such a comparison is utterly absurd. The Budget brought down by Mr Chifley in 1949 provided for a total expenditure of a little in excess of SI, 000m. The Budget brought down by the Gorton Government last August provided for expenditure approaching $8,000m - nearly an eight-fold increase. I do not believe the average person, particularly the pensioner, is concerned one iota with the rate of pension paid by the Bruce-Page, the Scullin, the Lyons, the Menzies-Fadden, the Curtin or the Chifley governments. Such trite comparisons are used in an endeavour to divert attention from the Gorton Government’s miserly increase of 50c in the last Budget and its failure to introduce a supplementary budget this session in order to increase the pension and thus catch up with spiralling price rises which have occurred since October last year and provide for further rises which will occur before the next Budget is brought down in August of this year.
As a matter of interest, I shall cite the comments of two non-Labor Sydney newspapers on the 50c increase announced in the August 1970 Budget. The Sydney ‘Sun’ did not waste words with a lengthy comment. It simply said:
The Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ said: lt makes few richer and the pensioners poorer.
I now 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 Mr Harold Holt, the Prime Minister made a pre-selection speech. He 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, His Excellency the Governor-General delivered a speech in another place 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.
The Prime Minister has completely and miserably failed to bring to fruition his glittering, grandiose but pretentious thoughts. Let us now examine the value of the age and invalid pension in terms of purchasing power. The single pension rate is $15.50 and the married couple rate is $27.50. The point must be stressed that approximately 78 per cent of aged and invalid pensioners have no income other than the pension. It is true that a very minor portion of this 78 per cent receives a $2 supplementary allowance which is payable only to single pensioners or the pensioner whose wife receives only the wife’s allowance. This allowance is paid provided they are paying rent, board or lodging and is subject to a rigid means test.
But since the Askin-Cutler LiberalCountry Part)’ Government in New South Wales amended the Landlord and Tenant Act and made rent control almost ineffective, rentals have skyrocketed, much to the detriment of pensioners. For example, in the district of Redfern in which I live many pensioners are paying up to $10 a week for a room. I shall cite the case of a married pensioner 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 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 in the rental to $10.25 a week which, of course, wa« beyond their capacity to pay. Subsequently they were forced to move in with a married daughter and her family and reside in a home which had inadequate living space for them.
This is only one of many cases in which pensioners have approached me seeking accommodation. Unfortunately, all 1 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 approximately 5 years for these units, ind the outlook for these unfortunate and forgotten people is not very bright. There ;s no need for me to cite the exorbitant cost of meat, groceries, bread, butter, fruit and vegetables, footwear and clothing. Any honourable member’s wife can provide full information on these matters. But it is of the utmost importance to bear in mind at all times that pensioners pay the same prices over the counter for everyday essentials as does any other member of the community. Pensioners receive no price concessions. It has been said that we are living in an affluent society. 1 do not subscribe to that description when there are so many pensioners living in dire poverty.
I shall now refer to the pensioner wife’s allowance which is paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner or an age pensioner of 70 years or more. I shall illustrate the point clearly. A wife who is not of pensionable age receives an allowance of $7 a week. If the pensioner husband is paying rent and subject to the means test he would qualify for the S2 supplementary allowance. His pension would then be $17.50, and with his wife’s allowance of $7 the couple would receive a total of $24.50 a week. This is $3 less than the combined married pension rate of $27.50. Should the pensioner own his home the amount would be $5 less per week. This exemplifies an unjustifiable imbalance. It is weighted very heavily against the pensioner whose wife receives only the $7 allowance. I do not think any honourable member would object to this injustice being rectified, particularly in view of the fact that the cost would be microscopic. 1 summarise my remarks by emphasising that the Government stands condemned because it shows no stimulating approach to the plight of those in want and ignores completely the poverty level to which many thousands of pensioners have been subjected, due to the Government’s failure to stem spiralling inflation which has resulted in exorbitant prices being charged for vital necessities which are essential to sustain life. The Government must stand condemned also for its failure to introduce a supplementary budget to increase the pension to alleviate the hardship and distress being suffered by pensioners, the pioneers of this country.
– -Every decent Australian wants to see our elderly citizens and those who cannot look after themselves better provided for. I pay a tribute to the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) who 1 know has always taken a very great interest in pensioners. But there are some honourable members on the other side of the House who take every opportunity to use the case of the pensioners, the farmers or whoever is in distress as a vehicle for airing their politics and gaining political advantage. I refer particularly to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). When a party whose leader objects to the feather bedding of pensioners - there is no question that he made a statement to this effect - brings forward a matter of public importance such as this, we realise the hypocrisy of the whole proceedings. I am quite sure that he cares less for the pensioners than he does for even the people of Papua and New Guinea, and he cares little for them other than when he is using them as a vehicle for embarrassing this Government.
I think that we should stop and ask ourselves who are the greatest enemies of the pensioners at the present time. The Government is not satisfied with the position of pensioners. I know that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is not satisfied. Many of us on this side would like to see a great deal more done, but it is not of much use raising pensions when people are deliberately eroding the purchasing power of pensions. Those who suffer most from the erosion of purchasing power are the superannuitants, pensioners and people on small wages, particularly the family man. Who are the main cause of their purchasing power being eroded? It is the Leader of the Opposition and his managing director, Mr Hawke. They have deliberately set out to force up the cost of living and to make the lot of the pensioner worse than it ever was before. It is quite obvious, and always has been obvious, that the left wing Socialist lives on misery and want in the community, and if he can create this feeling and position of want it is all to” his advantage.
Pensions are not adequate, as I said before. I said this in my speech on the Budget also. The Minister himself said that he would like to see them raised considerably. In the last Budget they were raised by an amount commensurate with increases in cost of living, but there has been quite a definite erosion of their value since. But even though the problem at the moment is desperate and serious, this Government has not taken the first action that a Labor government would take, that is, to reduce pensions. That was the first thing that a previous Labor government did: but the last thing this Government will do will be to reduce pensions. It will not do as the Chifley Government did and take it from those who have the least.
I am not saying that Australian pensioners have all that they should have, but they are amongst the best supported pensioners in the world, because when determining the value of a pension we have to take into account not only the amount of the pension but also all the side benefits. A pensioner may own a house, a car and personal effects without limit. He may also have a considerable sum of money in the bank and earn up to $17 a week without his pension being affected. A married couple who are pensioners may earn up to $72 a week and own property up to a value of $42,000 before they lose their pension. I repeat that pensioners in Australia are better off than pensioners in most other places throughout the world. Again I say that this does not mean that we are satisfied.
In addition to their base pension pensioners also receive hospital and medical benefits that were introduced by this Government. This Government has introduced nursing home assistance, personal care assistance and supplementary rent assistance. It must be remembered that 70 per cent of age pensioners live in homes on which nothing is owing and have no rent to pay. They get. concessions on telegrams and radio and television charges besides taxation concessions. These are all the side benefits they receive from the Federal Government. In addition State Governments give benefits to pensioners in the fields of housing, dental and .optical treatment and reduced rates for electricity and gas. Pensioners also get travel allowances from both Federal and State governments, and they get legal aid. These are some of the things brought in by this Government, and they have all helped the position of the pensioner, but this is very largely forgotten.
Then we come to the benefits provided by local government authorities. In most areas pensioners get rate concessions from these authorities. They also have the benefit of meals on wheels and receive home care assistance. Voluntary organisations - I know they do this in my area and I am quite sure they do it in many other areas - provide benefits in kind. For example, in winter time they provide firewood for pensioners. They provide outings and entertainment also. So when we look at pensions as a means of support there are very many other things we have to take into account.
I am still not saying that pensions are adequate. This is what I want to stress. The Government realises this. But I want to stress very firmly that the erosion of purchasing power is by far the greatest enemy of the pensioner and the superannuitant, and- this has been promoted -and aggravated by too many members of the Opposition. This shows that they are not consistent and not genuine, although perhaps 1 should say that there are some genuine people on the other side.
The means test has been criticised very severely, particularly by Opposition members. But what is the effect of the means test? We heard the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) quote the number of pensions that are paid and the amount of money that is being spent. Because we have a means test we are able to distribute that money more effectively to those in greatest need. If we did not have a means test we would have to increase the staff of the Department of Social Services tremendously at very great cost. The money would be distributed widely - much would certainly be collected in tax again - but it would not go to the areas of greatest need, lt would put a terrific burden on the wage earner if we tried to provide pensions for all by abolishing the means test. The money would be spread more thinly.
Money payments bear little relationship to the standard of living in this country, and costs are much lower than they might appear to be. We have to take into consideration also that food values and the cost of many things are much lower in Australia than they are in other countries. Honourable members have quoted the salaries paid in other countries. I have here a list showing the number of minutes that an ordinary factory worker has to work to buy certain articles. In Melbourne, to buy 1 lb of bread, he works 4 minutes; in New York he works 7 minutes; and in Moscow, in a Socialist state, he works 13 minutes. For 1 lb of beef he works 21 minutes in Melbourne, 25 minutes in New York and 70 minutes in Moscow. For I lb of butter he works 18 minutes in Melbourne, 20 minutes in New York and 120 minutes in a Socialist state. To buy a suit a man has to work 33 hours in Melbourne, 13 hours in New York and 200 hours in Moscow. I could give, the comparison for a lot more items.
When we are considering the value of pensions we have to take into account the value of things that pensioners must have and what their money will purchase. We want lo see a better deal for pensioners, but we first want to see that exploiters of the purchasing power of pensions are curbed, because it is not of much use increasing pensions unless we can make the purchasing power of the pensioners, the superannuitant and the man on low wages more effective. We have to name and do something about those who are the greatest enemies of the pensioner. I have already named those who I think are the greatest offenders. Those on the other side and some of their supporters and those who direct them, I repeat, are the greatest cause of the erosion of pensions.
This Government is aware of the problems of pensioners and is determined to do something effective for them. I can assure the House that something will be done. I know that the Minister is an extremely sympathetic and keen man. I know that he has the great majority of the members on this side strongly supporting him. 1 believe that the matter of public importance brought forward today by the honourable member for Oxley was brought forward for the sole reason of trying to embarrass this Government and without caring a damn for the pensioners.
– I rise to support the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). All the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) did was to reiterate the terms of the speech delivered by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). For instance, he repeated the expression that left wing Socialists live on the misery that exists in the community. I honestly do not think that the honourable member for Hume really understands what a left wing Socialist is. I do not think he understands what a conservative Liberal is. I think he knows how to grow a bit of wheat and a bit of wool but that is where his political nous begins and ends.
I was amazed that the honourable member for Bennelong expressed regret at not having sufficient time to outline the increases in pensions and the many fringe benefits given by this Government. I took particular note of the time and I noted that he spent 8 minutes castigating the Opposition and accusing the Opposition of using people who are in an unfortunate position for political purposes and to stir up class distinction. He also asked this amazing question: ‘Why does not the Leader of the Opposition ever go in quietly and have a discussion with the Prime Minister on an important matter such as this?’ What tommyrot! What humbug! The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who goes into the room where all the Cabinet Ministers are meeting for the purpose of putting forward a case for increases to which the pensioners of this country are entitled, is not listened to. Yet we have to put up with these statements.
I have been in this Parliament since 1963. For about half of that time the present Minister for Social Services, who is now sitting at the table, was a backbencher. I can recall him sitting up the back and making many speeches. Most of them were speeches red-baiting the Opposition, but quite a number of them were speeches on behalf of the pensioners. He became known as the champion of the pensioners’ cause. But the fact is that this Government has got the pensioners into a worse mess than they have ever been in before in their lives. The position will continue that way because this Government is an ad hoc government. It waits until things occur, and then it starts to take the necessary action to overcome the problem, instead of doing some planning with the object of overcoming the problem.
I severely censure the Government for creating the present unsatisfactory position in the economy, for not keeping the Parliament informed of the trend of the situation and for not introducing a supplementary Budget to assist the needy, the sick and the aged. There is an urgent need for the immediate introduction of legislation to provide for increases in the rates of social service payments. It is the basic pension that is inadequate. We know that pensions were increased by 3 per cent during a period when there was a 5 per cent rate of inflation. We know that a high rate of inflation is continuing and that it has been produced in part by the action of the Government.
Last year’s Budget, with its increases in telephone, telegram, money order and other postal charges, has imposed an increasing burden on everyone in the community but particularly people on fixed incomes and those in receipt of social service benefits. The Government also increased the excise on a range of commodities. That inevitably affected the cost of goods and services throughout the community. In addition, by its direction to the
Reserve Bank of Australia, and. through it to other banks, the Government pushed up interest rates to a record high level and it has maintained them at that level. What could one have but inflation?
In this continuing spiral of prices, pensioners and other people on fixed incomes are compelled to bear the brunt, without any recognition by the Federal LiberalCountry Party Government. The 50c increase in pension rates last October was an insult to the less fortunate members of our society. It would not even buy a pound of butter. Surely pensioners are entitled to have at least some semblance of being able to exist in some sort of comfort in Australia today. But they are not able to do this. How can anyone live on the age pension today? The single rate is $15.50 a week and the married rate is $13.75 a week. That is their weekly income if they are unable to earn a little extra or have no other assets or income.
The question of the unemployment and sickness benefit also needs to be investigated thoroughly. In March 1962. the rate was $8.25 for a single person, and $14.25 for a married man, including a wife’s allowance of $6, and the permissible income was $4. Today the rate is $10, with a wife’s allowance of $7 and a permissible income of $6. That is not much of an increase considering the high cost of living in this country. Let me take this opportunity, while I am mentioning the unemployment and sickness benefit, to refer to the way in which the Government administers the Department of .Social Services and the inhuman way in which the Department is used against some people. It was because of this pittance that I recently approached the Department of Social Services on behalf of a constituent who, in filling in his form for unemployment benefit, made a false declaration concerning his wife’s earnings.
The person concerned is of Italian descent and has not worked for the past 2 years because of a physical injury to his arm. During this period he has tried unsuccessfully to obtain employment. Employers will not employ him because of his disability. In filling in the form he placed the word ‘yes’ on the form and then erased it and substituted the word ‘no’ in answer to a question as to whether his wife had earnings. Acting upon that - I am informed by the people concerned that the only reason why they acted was that they noticed the erasure on the form - the Department investigated the case and found that the wife had casual employment for which she received $33. In an interview with the Department, the person concerned claimed that the fact that it was Christmas, that he had no money and that the family was poverty stricken caused him to make this false declaration. The Department cancelled his social service benefit and referred his action to the Crown Prosecutor. 1 understand that action has been taken to prosecute him.
My representations to the Department were for a lenient view to be taken because of the extenuating circumstances involved in this case. I was informed by the Department that the person could plead his case in court and the magistrate would take extenuating circumstances into account. Surely the Department of Social Services, which has had the man’s history for the past 2 years, is in a better position to determine the reasons that forced him to commit this offence. This man and his family are decent citizens in the community. They had an unblemished record for many years prior to this offence. Because the Government keeps social service recipients at a starvation level, people are forced to commit unlawful acts. The real culprit in this case is the Government itself.
The unemployment benefit does not cover a working man’s bills for rent, electricity and travelling expenses in looking for a job, let alone for food. I can recall asking the present Treasurer (Mr Bury), when he held the portfolio of Labour and National Service, for consideration to be given to making travel vouchers available through the departmental officials to people who, by direction, are sent to obtain jobs. The answer I received was: Yes, we will make travel vouchers available, but the people concerned will have to reimburse the Government when they find work’. That is the way in which this Government takes a so-called humane look at the people about whom we are talking today.
There is no planning as to which way the economy will go. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has laid the blame ou the
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and its decision to increase the total wage by 6 per cent. But that increase was granted only to compensate workers for the already increased cost of living. Now workers are still trying to make up the leeway. In view of the announcement of increases or proposed increases in health fund contributions, hospital charges, doctors’ fees, motor car prices and State and Federal taxes, I ask the Government: Where are we heading? We are a fortunate country. We have the resources to look after our aged citizens, our sick, our handicapped and our less fortunate people as benefits a civilised society; but we are not doing it. There is abroad in the community a lack of confidence in this Government and a feeling that we are scraping along. The people themselves are no longer able to see ahead and to plan for their future security-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The urgency discussion initiated by the Opposition is a purely materialistic one because an additional SI or so is not the greatest need of our elderly citizen. Pensioners do not live by bread alone. They are human, and they need love and affection. I am sure that a visit from a relative, or better still from their own children, would mean far more to our elderly citizens than would an increase of $1 a week in their pension rates. I am sorry to say that I feel that our priorities are hopelessly out of focus today whilst our young people do not accept greater responsibility for their parents. Should they not also accept some of this increased burden? I quite agree that the lone pensioner paying rent is in need of additional assistance, but should not his or her children, relatives and friends also accept greater responsibility?
This reminds me of a story I must tell the House. A distinguished social worker from an Asian country visited this country last year. She was taken around to see all the wonderful sights of Melbourne and Sydney and she said: ‘My word, you have a great country here. You seem to have everything you need.’ But she ended up by saying: ‘I would not like to grow old here’, meaning that she would be put away in an old persons’ home or she would be left to her own resources. Of course, in the Asian countries the children accept responsibility for their parents. This, of course, is one of life’s lessons. We must accept a greater responsibility for our parents. For this reason, I do not like to see any government take over these responsibilities today from a lot of our young people. I feel that this is their responsibility. Their parents need their love and affection and they should be doing far more to help them. So the blame for this does not rest entirely with this Government or any other government. Although we use this general term pensioners’ I do not think all of them are in need of an increase in pension. The ones who are, as I mentioned, are the single persons living alone. They are the ones in need of greatest assistance.
I want to quote some figures 1 first quoted in a speech I made last year on people in need of assistance. When I took out the statistics on 30th June 1970 there were 237,519 married pensioners who owned or were buying their own homes. There were also 231,598 single pensioners who were buying their own homes. These are exceptionally high figures. Surely all these people were not in need of a pension. As I say, we use this generalisation of an increase in pensions but this increase should not include all those people. It should only, as far as I am concerned, take care of the single pensioner, the person who is paying high rents and other people who are invalids and are in need of assistance in other directions. I do not think the importance of fringe benefits is realised. The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) touched on this subject a little while ago. These fringe benefits are of great importance to the pensioner, particularly health benefits. The elderly citizen has reached that stage in life where he perhaps puts health before anything else and it means a great deal to him, particularly if he is in need, to be able to go along to the chemist’s shop and be provided with free pharmaceutical benefits. I feel that these fringe benefits provide for the pensioner who is in need and I do not think one can put a price on this for the pensioner who is desperately in need of this type of assistance.
I cannot understand the attitude of our young people - I must come back to this statement - who want to hand all these responsibilities over to the government. I do not know just why they do not want to accept greater responsibility themselves, but it is certainly one of life’s lessons. One of the reasons we live our lives on earth is to look after our parents and I feel that those people who have not had that experience are missing something very important in life. Pensioners who pay high rents are certainly, I feel, the ones who are in need of greater assistance and perhaps if the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders had been moved along those lines the Opposition may have received greater support from members on this side of the House. I just want to conclude by saying that the case put forward by the Opposition had rested far too much on the increased dollar. I am sure that our senior citizens are in need of a little more of something that no government can provide. They need love and affection and this can best be provided by their families and friends. For those reasons I most strongly oppose the materialistic approach on pensions taken by the Opposition.
– I realise that the time allowed for this debate will expire very shortly. I understand that there are only 2 or 3 minutes left butI want to take this opportunity to support what has been said by members of this side of the House, and in so doing-
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the business of the day be called on.
– What, has he gagged me?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1970. Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 1 to 5 (1971) formally place before Parliament the tariff changes made while the Parliament was in recess and published by Notice in Gazettes of 9th November and 20th November 1970, 22nd December and 30th December 1970 and 18 January 1971. The changes arise from the Government’s adoption of a Tariff Board report on agricultural and horticultural machinery and special advisory authority reports on certain industrial radiographic equipment and acetone derivatives. Other changes extend the list of commodities to which the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement applies.
Copies of Press statements by the Minister for Trade and Industry were sent to honourable members at the time the tariff changes were gazetted setting out the nature of the changes. There are also several tariff changes of a purely administrative nature. A detailed summary of the changes and rates of duty is now being distributed to honourable members. I commendthe Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hayden) adjourned.
– I move:
I table Customs Tariff Proposals No. 6 (1971) which operates from tomorrow. This proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1970 which are necessary to bring into effect the Government’s acceptance of a Tariff Board report on cherries. The Tariff Board recommended no change in duties for fresh cherries and removal of duties on drained, glace, crystallised and brined cherries. The Board concluded that production of drained, glace or crystallised cherries was not economic and that continued protection could not be justified. On cherries in brine, the Board considered that local fruit could be brined and sold at prices competitive with imports. Accordingly proposal No. 6 proposes the removal the present duties of 42½c per gallon General Tariff and 22½c per gallon Preferential Tariff on brined cherries and 47½ per cent General Tariff and 22½ per cent Preferential Tariff on drained cherries. It is also proposedto remove the present temporary duty on drained cherries.
The Government has accepted the Tariff Board’s report in the light of the Board’s view that there are alternative new markets for local brined cherries and that there seems to be a reasonable possibility that the brining of cherries in Australia can continueto be a successful operation. A close watch will be maintained on the marketing situation during 1971 and the question of the protection of the cherry industry would be reconsidered, as a matter of urgency, if alternative markets for brined cherries cannot be found. A detailed summary of the changes and rates of duty is now being distributed to honourable members. I commend the Proposals.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– May I speak to the adjournment motion?
– The call had to go to the Opposition. The Opposition has the initiative and has moved in the normal way that the debate be adjourned. When the debate is resumed you will have an opportunity to speak on the matter.
– May I not speak now?
– No. I am sorry, but the Standing Orders must be adhered to. The call went to the Opposition and the Opposition moved the adjournment of the debate. I will put the motion, because it is in accordance with the Standing Orders, and 1 will take no cognisance of anybody who rises to speak in between times. After the motion is put you may ask the House, if you wish, to make a statement or something of that nature. The matter will then rest with the Minister. The question is:
That this debate be now adjourned and the adjourned debate made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reports on Items
– Mr Speaker, I present the reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Agricultural, Horticultural, etc., Machinery. Cherries.
Pyjama Girdles and Girdling (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
Pursuant to statute I present also the following:
Special Advisory Authority reports on:
Industrial Radiographic Equipment.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Debate resumed from 1 1 June 1 970 (vide page 3382), on the following paper presented by Mr Chipp:
Censorship - Ministerial Statement, 11th June 1970- and on the motion by Mr Killen:
That the House take note of the paper.
– You would be out of order because the other matter has been dealt with. I hesitated, waiting for somebody lo rise on that side of the chamber. The Clerk has now called on other business.
– I will speak on the adjournment.
-I am sorry, but the motion was put and we have since dealt with another motion. The Clerk has called on Order of the Day No. 1. I hesitated before to give any honourable member an opportunity to rise and to ask for leave to make a statement. Nobody rose. The business has gone so far ahead now that it would be completely out of order for the honourable member now to speak on the Customs Tariff Proposals.
– I understand your ruling, Mr Speaker.
– Censorship is a subject of considerable social importance, so for the second time in 25 speeches I have made in this House I have written out what I want to say. I compliment the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) on his statement on censorship in June 1970. Although, like the Community Standards Organisation which has commented on it publicly, 1 join issue with the Minister on a few of his assessments, I rejoice at his constructive and analytical approach lo an age-old problem. A censor is one who exercises official or officious supervision over morals and conduct. Thus censorship connotes official supervision. More specifically, the Oxford dictionary sees it as the inspection of books and like material ‘to secure that they shall contain nothing immoral, heretical, or offensive to the government’. One must presume that the government is regarded in that definition as coincident with the community rather than a political philosophy.
The Minister began his statement by a reference to social change, although he did not choose to enlarge upon changes through time in what the public find acceptable on the one hand and offensive on the other hand. I think it is instructive and revealing to do so. While censorship is imposed by authority, bowdlerism is a voluntary act, and for that reason should be less emotionally provocative to the opponents of censorship in any form, and perhaps a better indicator of what the community thinks of itself. At the same time bowdlerism is described by Perrin as ‘just one more mode of editing, and to distinguish it from other modes is the hard thing.’
In the 1790s Sir Walter Scott sent some requested novels to a great-aunt. She soon returned them with the comment that it was ‘a very odd thing that I, an old woman of 80 and upwards, silling alone, feel myself ashamed to read a book which, 60 years ago, I have heard read aloud for the amusement of large circles, consisting of the best and most creditable circles in London.’ At the end of the nineteenth century even a poet as austere as Milton appeared in school texts with omissions designed to shield excitable teenagers from the knowledge that Satan committed incest, Eve had a good figure or that she and Adam did not in their garden years wear anything to bed.’
In the late eighteenth century a young buck kissed the hem of an old lady’s gown. Asked why, he said, ‘To honour old age’, whereupon the old lady rejoined, You might have kissed my backside then, for that is 40 years older.’ The point of the anecdote is the changing social acceptability of words and actions. In 1740 the old lady would not have said ‘backside’, but ‘arse’. In 1788, when she spoke, refinement was in progress. From the early nineteenth century to World War I she would have made no remark at all. In the 1920s and 1930s she would have said ‘behind’. In the unlikely event of having her gown kissed in the 1970s she would again say arse’, ‘bum’ or the slightly euphemistic American ‘ass’.
Reaction to words and deeds was probably never more arbitrary than with the new propriety of the eighteenth century. Delicate people could physically demonstrate their refinement by fainting, crying or blushing easily. When in the 1770s Lady Louisa Stuart read ‘Pamela’ she worried lest at the age of 14 years she ‘should not cry enough to gain the credit of proper sensibility.’ A magazine of 1793 satirised this cultivated delicacy with a mock advertisement: “Grown ladies and gentlemen taught sensibility on mathematical principles’. Unfortunately, bowdlerism and the new prudery were associated with, though not wholly dependent upon, the rise of evangelical religion in the 18th century. The 4 Bowdlers, John Wesley and many others expurgated literature in the cause of Christianity. Worse, some of their coreligionists developed double standards of morality whereby they freely denounced the standards of others while their own private conduct would not have borne examination. Hypocrisy is still with us and least suits those who pretend to be above it.
If there is to be censorship - I shall return to that question shortly - we must at least do our best to avoid double standards and inconsistent judgments. In his book Map of Love’ Keith Buchanan calls attention to the public display of suggestive girlie magazine covers in Australia while Wayland Young’s serious work ‘Eros Denied’ was at that time banned. His words are worth quoting. He said: . . Let us set against . . . these permitted images -
That is to say, the girlie magazines - the 2 illustrations Young chooses from Roman vases . . . ; these each show a couple in the intimacy of complete love making, tender, full of beauty and joy … A society which would exclude such images, yet can tolerate the brashness of the burlesque or the pin-up is assuredly a passing strange society, if not a sick society.
I am quite sure that the Minister is aware of this misplaced morality and that his judgments since taking office have been aimed at its removal.
Let me come now to the crux of the matter. Should there be censorship of literature and other art forms? If so, for whom, by whom and on what criteria? I disagree with the Minister, as does the Community Standards Organisation, when he argues that ‘the concept of censorship is abhorrent to all men and women who believe in the basic freedoms’. If the alter native to that is unfettered licence or unrestrained filth then I choose censorship. Of the 3 choices - total freedom, total restraint and assessed moderation - I find only the last realistic or attractive. Even J. S. Mill qualified his espousal of individual liberty by the recognition that in the exercise of freedom the individual must not be a nuisance to others.
My emphasis, then, is upon balance and moderation. The existence of sex and violence - the main objects of censorship - are hardly to be denied, but books or films consisting of unrelieved sex or unrelieved violence are likely to be unreal. Even the portrayal of a violent episode in human history or imagination is likely to benefit its consumers better by being read or seen in the context of normality. How do we recognise good without evil, or vice versa? Important though it is, sex shares the range of human actions and responses with other basic drives, such as love both sexual and platonic, fear and self preservation. There is, I believe, no compulsion or obligation to show the sordid in life ad nauseam. That is as unbalanced as the pretence that there is nothing sordid in the human condition or that if there is we should not know of it. Again there should be the concept of moderation. The purveyors of extremes may not hold the concept to be valid, but I am confident that many of them would regard a totality of Liberal governments in Australia as a surfeit of political ideology. Only by seeing some Labor governments in power could they properly judge such alternatives.
Let us bear this also in mind, that few of the unbending anti-censors are as exclusively devoted to artistic integrity as they would like us to believe. Since art forms are much involved in the field of censorship the question of artistic merit must frequently be resolved. That is as it should be. But let us remember that rarely is a pecuniary interest absent. Why then should the community, in whole or in part, be affronted by filth or licence for the financial gain of a few? Are they beyond the standards which prevent my drawing greater attention to my speeches in this place by the consistent use of lurid language whose main purpose is to shock and to draw attention rather than to present balanced substance? Why also should individuals be hurt when no social good is gained, merely because the great majority are uninvolved and those greedy for money feed their vicarious interests on the misfortunes of others? I call to mind the programme ‘Wanted’ on Channel 9 in Sydney which subjected the actions of Dr Gilbert Bogle and others to speculative interpretation which was as hurtful as it was unsubstantiated and socially unredeemng.
By the same token, neither is it incumbent upon a largely inarticulate or inert public to accept fringe behaviour in the guise of normality. Too often does a minority vested interest persuade a majority untrained in artistic or behavioural analysis that the majority’s failure to take part in the abnormal is .itself not normal. How then do we judge what is normal and acceptable, and what is extreme and censorable? I can conclude only that the committee system in one form or another is the answer. A kind of jury, albeit with better than average education, seems best fitted to make a continuing assessment of what is generally in the public interest. We already have that system. The exposure of its workings or findings to public interest is a healthy co-requisite of its existence. This brings us to the questions of community standards and censorship for whom? lt is proper, yet easy, to answer that the young must be protected. Certainly they should, and much more could be done to programme violent and erotic television material after 10 p.m. or thereabouts so that parents can feasibly keep their children away if they wish.
This material is much more obtrusive on television than in books covering similar fields. The real difficulty of decision comes in the adult range of interest, lt is clear that unanimity is impossible, but consensus is in the realm of the attainable. Last year I watched the Minister’s film cuts with interest and observed the variation of comment subsequently. I take but one example to illustrate the difficulties involved. Evan Williams in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 15th April 1970 wrote that he saw nothing in the whole show likely to deprave or corrupt a normal adult. In general I agreed, though taste is another matter. However, among the generally undisturbing film cuts Mr Williams found repugnant the love scene with 2 women from the film The Killing of Sister George’. I believed it to be the most tender and artistically moving excerpt of the evening. In my opinion its repugnance could not have stemmed from the observed action but from preconceived notions that homosexual behaviour is bound to be disgusting. I make my comment in the confidence of being an exponent neither of homosexuality nor of lesbianism.
Not the least of the problem of community standards derives »rom the fact that the community is far from homogeneous socially, intellectually or educationally. It is instructive to see set down in a work such as Richard Hoggart’s ‘The Uses of Literacy’ the width of the gap in verbal and social experience between the industrial and professional populations. Although the so-called working classes are used to rougher language than the better educated, censors will be almost certainly more permissive of the unusual by being better read than the average. In any case, better that the decisions be made by them than by individual politicians or, worse, by the faceless and even mindless promoters of sub-standard commercial garbage. Perhaps there is something to be said for the old practice of recognising differences in the community, although I understand the viewpoint of those who find offensive differential responses which involve social or economic division, lt was in fact common practice into the 20th century to produce large, cheap, incomplete editions for the many and small, expensive, complete ones for the few. Price differences could be of the order of $3 to S 17 for such differential productions.
What is it then that we should be debating? In his commentary on the Australian Broadcasting Commission on 20th April 1970 Dr Charlesworth of Melbourne drew a distinction between the social effects of censorship and the relationship between law and morality. He believed that the arguing is really about the latter - that is, the nature and function of the State - while the argument often concerns the social effects of censorship. 1 have little doubt that the Government has to be involved in the issue, although it is true that many who oppose censorship appear more concerned about Big Brother’s intervention than the social effects of censorship. However, once the Government is involved then its judgment clearly is on social grounds. I have a feeling that censorship will always be with us in some degree, if only as a reflection of the different backgrounds, training and attitudes in the community.
I reiterate my main arguments. I am for moderation; for judgment in context; for an attempted appreciation of real as distinct from false sensitivity; for social responsibility by exercising discrimination: for the instructive against the vicarious; in favour of the uplifting rather than the hurtful; and for restricting the portrayal of ultimate degrees of explicit experience in favour of some appeal to the imagination. Pursuit of these ends will, I believe, add to the quality of man in Australia. But remember, Mr Acting Speaker, that next time you write a letter to a newspaper you may be censored by an unknown subeditor.
– I agree with much of what the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) has said on this subject, although I am a bit wary about his views of free licence - we must beware of it - pornography and what it can do. In fact I am a bit troubled by the whole problem of defining pornography. I know that there are many definitions of it, but I should like to read one given by a gentleman named Vidal who states:
Pornography is usually defined as that which is calculated to arouse sexual excitement. Since what arouses X repels Y, no two people are apt to respond in quite the same way to the same stimulus. One man’s meat, as they say, is another man’s poison, a fact now recognised by the American judiciary, which must rule with wearisome frequency on obscenity. With unexpected good sense, a judge recently observed that since the books currently before him all involved ladies in black leather with whips, they could not be said to corrupt the generality, since a taste for being beaten is hardly common and those who are aroused by such fantasies are already ‘corrupted’ and therefore exempt from laws designed to protect the young and usual. By their nature, pornographies cannot be said to proselytise, since they are written for the already hooked. The worst that can be said of pornography is that it leads not to ‘antisocial’ sexual acts but to the reading of more pornography.
If we feel that pornography can corrupt, the question one must ask is what effect it has on the police, on censors and on the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp). I take it that the police, the censors and the Minister are not unusual chaps - they are rather like the rest of us - so if we accept the view that so-called licentious literature can corrupt, I take it that the police, the censors and the Minister are corrupted. If they are corrupted, why should we be guided by them? I do not believe, and surely honourable members would agree, that normal people in society ought to be guided in their taste by corrupted people. Of course that is all nonsense. The reality is that they are not corrupted. They might be disgusted or they might find that material not to their taste. Why not assume that the rest of the community, or a large proportion of it, will react in exactly the same way? In other words, this kind of material will do no harm anyway. As Vidal points out, in cases where this sort of literature appeals, those individuals are probably ‘corrupted’ already. I do not choose to see them that way, but they are already whatever it is that we are fearful of before they read the literature, not after. To revert for a moment to the film shows which the Minister so kindly arranged to be put on for us, they were essentially about sex and violence. The Minister said in his statement on censorship:
If an explicit love-making scene is left in a movie hundreds of letters are written by outraged parents to the Minister for Customs and Excise or to the Film Censorship Board. I do not quarrel wilh their right to do that but I ask, is it consistent to object obsessively to love-making scenes and yet allow evils such as hate, greed, . . .
He mentioned that these and other evils are accepted without protest. To a certain extent I agree with the sentiments expressed by the Minister. However, one is prompted to ask what is objected to by the people who write such highly emotional letters, usually objecting to explicit but gentle love scenes, displaying beauty, tenderness and consideration - all the qualities that surely we should value in society. One supposes that they are objecting to something within their own behaviour. Perhaps there is something sick in their own sex lives, their own attitude to life and normality. I am quite certain that this is the case because I think the general view of most of us watching these things was that these scenes were far from corrupting. So much for that. The film which stirred up a far more violent reaction, if I might put it that way, was one showing violent scenes. Incidentally, to clear up a possible slight misunderstanding, I include rape in violence. I do not see that as normal sex; it is another form of violence. The violent scenes in the film were individual, personal, horrible and utterly horrifying. They were hardly likely to persuade someone that it would be good fun to go out and try it on the next passerby. Instead the effect was sickening and paralysing. After seeing those scenes the last thing one wanted was to be confronted with activity of that kind.
What do we achieve when we censor violence? We remove those horrible scenes, but we do not remove the clear indication beforehand that violence is going to occur and we do not remove the clear implication afterwards that violence has occurred. Nor do we remove the implication that violence is beautiful, aseptic and impersonal - not too bad at all, actually. That is the problem. Because of censorship we render violence almost acceptable because we remove the repugnant aspect. We do not allow the children to see this part. The result is that we have the children seeing before and after and observing that, within the context of the film, somehow or other the violence has solved some problem. The child realises that the strong man on the side of the law and order has solved the problem by bashing somebody, but he has not seen violence or been subjected to the feeling of repugnance by witnessing the violence. He does not see the effect on the poor person who has been bashed.
– This is fictional violence.
– Whether it is fictional or not is irrelevant; it is still violence, and literature still attempts to portray real situations. If, as the honourable member for Denison said, it is an extravaganza of violence or an extravaganza of licentiousness, surely we al] will recognise it as unreal, in which case it would be laughed away or ignored. It is those things which look more real which can have more effect. In those situations, if we took out the hurtful things because we wanted to protect one another, it would be because we were worried about that level of violence. But when it comes to pushing a button to drop an atomic bomb and all the misery that went with it, it is hard for us to picture the misery that goes with that action because we are so far removed from it. That is the horrifying thing about so much of our behaviour. We have these hang-ups about individual violence and we recognise it for what it is - it is horrible - and yet we condone mass violence in the name of all sorts of things, such as rights of nations, and so on.
– Would you show scenes at Dachau and Buchenwald?
– 1 would, because those things happened. I would hope that my children would see them and be repulsed by them. I hope that they would recognise that those sorts of things should never happen again. Not to show those scenes would be to allow them to feel that perhaps something was achieved by getting rid of some people, no matter how it was done. They would not see the pain and misery suffered by the people who were clone away with, but perhaps they would see it as an attempt to solve a problem, and perhaps it might seem an acceptable way to solve a problem - unless they saw the pain and could picture themselves in that situation, at the receiving end. So my personal feeling is that censorship defeats itself when it is used in this fashion. If I may refer to Vidal again, he says that censorship is successful in a perverse fashion. He states:
The periods in history which are most admired by legal moralists tend lo be those vigorous warlike times when a nation is pursuing a successful and predatory course of military expansion, such as the adventures of the Spartans and Alexander, of Julias Caesar and Frederick of Prussia. Yet a reading of history ought to convince one that these militaristic societies were not only brutish and ‘immoral’ by any standard but also startlingly homosexual.
I revert to the whole problem of sexual censorship which I believe raises the question whether the would-be censors are really protecting people or whether they are in fact hiding truths from people or, more importantly, hiding truths from themselves. One wonders how much the people who protest, so the Minister says, about love scenes are trying to protect themselves from disabusing their own minds on misconceptions they have about sex, love and human relations. It would be interesting to interview them and find out how many of them are in fact evenly balanced and normal and have happy home lives. I would warrant a lot of them are far from it. One would wonder what menchildren think of them. I will bet they have more than their fair share of children in revolt against them and their values. I would like to quote an article written by David Martin” in a Melbourne newspaper. It states:
Black empress in vice den.’ ‘Woman with 1000 lovers.’ ‘Bishop and ex-showgirl.’ ‘Boys in bushes: spinster’s amazing sex life.’
Four headlines from one issue of a popular newspaper. I don’t object to them. Readers who need that kind of stuff are entitled to it.
What gets my goat is the hypocrisy of people who regularly enjoy smut and then rail at pornography in student journals with minute circulations.
To me that’s true obscenity.
Certain public - figures never cease abusing youngsters for their moral turpitude. If they are not completely dishonest they must be blind to what actually goes on in our society.
Legitimate’ pornography is a nourishing industry. One well-known Sydney publisher practically lives on it.
Imported comics systematically purvey what the advocates of student repression would brand as filth … but they never protest.
The honourable member for Denison made exactly the same observation about girlie magazines as against ‘Eros Denied’, a serious work on the question. The serious work was banned while the others flood the country. The article continues:
Call me a square, but I reckon some advertisements for brassieres and female undies are only thinly disguised erotica. I guess they’re as attractive to growing boys as to grown women.
No harm in that, perhaps. A cleft can be a lovesome thing, God wot.
The ballyhoo about our civilisation declining, like Rome’s, because of sexual excesses is sheer idiocy. It’s declining all right, but for very different reasons, about which the student press is trying to keep us uncomfortably informed.
Civilisations decompose not because of sex in student magazines but when people despair of their chance’s “ to contribute to the community’s good, or to draw spiritual sustenance from it.
So for truth’s sake, let’s stop kidding ourselves. Every time some hysterical MHR or a magistral TV worthy arches his eyebrows and gives tongue about pornography and drugs - let us ask him who he is thinking of.
There are nobler things than pictures of copulation, or the taking of LSD. These, however, are not the sickness but its symptoms. The virus does not originate in the minds of children. If anything, they are merely the victims.
The most pernicious drug is compulsive lying and cowardly evasion of the facts. This is what the prominent scandalmongers are guilty of.
I’ll leave you with this little thought: what is more proof of our depravity - a realistic photo of a nude, or one of a starving Asian baby?
And what is more. obscene - that illustration, or the reality it illustrates?
With those words I conclude by saying that in my view censorship defeats itself. It leads through ignorance to increasing depravity and does not in fact educate people to the realities of life. These are the real problems facing the modern community and we should be exposed, through good literature, to all these problems of human relationships - the good and the bad - because we have to be able to cope with the lot if we are to live a reasonably happy life.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
– The speech on censorship to which the House and the nation were treated earlier this afternoon by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) was a gospel of despair. Indeed, it was not dissimilar from the speech delivered on 11th June last year by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). Both these gentlemen contended substantially for . the view that there should be no censorship, at least for adult persons, of matters touching upon sex and literature referring to sexual matters. Indeed, there was some doubt during the speech by the honourable member for Oxley on that occasion whether that was precisely what he was saying, . but in response to a question posted in a gentlemanly fashion at the appropriate time by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), the honourable member for Oxley said:
Yes, indeed I am.
He meant that he was contending that there should be no censorship of books or films for adults. He went on to say:
I believe in this on sexual matters although I have some reservation about violence at this stage.
That was substantially the view contended for this afternoon by the honourable member for Maribyrnong. It is, as I said, a gospel of despair. It is a view, I venture to suggest, that the community as a whole simply would not accept - the community in Australia at this time or the community of any country at any time that I know of.
The basic proposition for which I wish to contend is that the obligations of a government in regard to censorship - the assessment of censorship - as outlined by the Minister for Customs and Excise in his statement was a very commendable one.
The attitude he expressed was an attitude that any responsible government should express in dealing with this very tenuous matter. The matters emphasised by the Minister were the essential elements of a censorship system that should be extracted, refined and emphasised, so that the community can well understand what a government’s duty is in this regard. The Minister emphasised that censorship itself as a concept was evil and, with respect to what my distinguished friend and colleague the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) said this afternoon, that is all that the Minister was saying - that as a notion, an unfortunate notion, the idea of censorship is something that would revolt many people as a concept.
Nevertheless, as the Minister went on to explain and to emphasise with some force and in some detail, communities as a whole demand some degree and some type of censorship. We are here with a mandate or a warrant or a fiat to do no more than to reflect in government action and in legislation what it is that the community as a whole at a particular time consider desirable or necessary for a government to do. Our warrant as our fiat is to do no more or less than that. So, as the Minister said and emphasised, there is a demand by the community for a degree and a type of censorship. 1 want to refer again to the honourable member for Maribyrnong who is now present in the chamber and the point he contended for this afternoon and that is that there should be no censorship. I venture to say that this is something that no community in Australia today or in any other country at any time would accept. I think that a responsible government and a responsible member of Parliament should have regard to this basic proposition when he considers his place In the Parliament or the Government’s place as a government: What is it that communities want when they send members to this Parliament? What is it that they want from a government when they elect it? As I said, what they want is no more and no less than an adequate and proper reflection in government action and in legislation of those community standards and attitudes that prevail at any given time. The community’s standards test was the roost prominent and most substantial aspect of censorship men tioned by the Minister in his very commendable statement; that is, the general attitude that a government has an obligation and should try to assess the community’s standards at a given time and adequately reflect them in the censorship law and in the manner in which censorship law is administered.
This matter is not confined to censorship. 1 suggest that it is a matter that goes beyond censorship but touches on the whole attitude of a government to all legislation and all government action. At the Commonwealth and Empire Law Conference in New Delhi in January this year the the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) made a very substantial speech on censorship. In that speech he made the very point that a community itself has the right, through its members of Parliament, to indicate to the government its attitudes and views and standards and that it has a reasonable expectation that those standards and attitudes will be recognised by the government and will be translated into legislation and government policy. I think the words used by the Attorney-General on that occasion bear remembering. He said: lt seems to me that a community organised on democratic lines is entitled to determine for itself, in accordance with its legislative processes, what values it regards as worthy of preservation. It is entitled, through its elected representatives, or through people answerable to those representatives, to define what is harmful to itself as a community. Given the availability of democratic processes, there is no need for an objective definition of what is harmful. The community is entitled to adopt a subjective approach to the problem. It is entitled to make that determination in accordance with criteria it selects for itself: and those criteria are not to be condemned out of hand just because they do not include a requirement that proof of positive harm must be supplied before a particular type of publication is proscribed.
As I said, those words are particularly appropriate not only to censorship and the attitude a government should take towards censorship but also the attitude that a government should take to all its legislation and all its policy. What a contrast there, is between this sort of attitude espoused by the Minister and the Attorney-General and what we have heard, with respect, from the honourable member from Maribyrnong today and the honourable member for Oxley on an earlier occasion who said that there should be no censorship for adult persons, at least in sexual matters. That, I say, is a warrant or a mandate for a completely unbridled publication of any matter no matter how degraded or obscene. As I said - this is the basic proposition that I think should be put forward in this debate - no community would accept such an abandoned proposition as that.
I want to commend the Minister for Customs and Excise before I go any further for the attitude that he has taken both in the administrative structure that he has had a part in assembling and in the enforcement of censorship since becoming Minister. The statement he made and the speeches and Press releases he has distributed since becoming Minister are a charter for liberalism in an area where liberalism should be given full flow. I say that that is so in the tests that have been applied, the machinery that has been established and the way in which the whole system has been administered. The Minister has relied on the community standards test which seems to me to be extremely appropriate and the fairest and most proper way of administering a censorship system. He has introduced and encouraged the States to introduce the R or X certificate to indicate those films which are not appropriate for children to see and he has introduced an appeals structure for the censorship of films which goes a long way towards achieving the ideal in film censorship. So I commend the Minister for this attitude. I think he has thrown a good deal of light on to the ancient mysteries and secret rites that used to apply in the past in censorship in this country.
I want to turn finally to a particularly important matter in the area of literary censorship because it seems to me that one of the most essential aspects of censorship in Australia is the need to attain and keep uniformity of literary censorship throughout the country. That uniformity was achieved to a large degree in 1967 with the written agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and all State governments in that year. The point I contend for here is that that uniformity now is under attack by the South Australian Government. If that Government continues on its present course there will be no hope of any ordered system of censorship in Australia.
Uniformity, of course, is not always desirable; often it is completely undesir able. There are many areas of government where diversity from one State to another should be encouraged, and there are some activities of government which a State government can perform more efficiently than a central government. But there is no doubt in my mind that there should be uniformity in matters that concern the national identity and matters that colour what the national identity is to be. One of those matters should be the raw material of the culture of the nation, and if there is to be censorship it seems to me that there is a strong case for uniformity throughout Australia.
Australians are travelling more and are moving more from State to State. What is more important is that Australians are starting to develop a sense of national identity. In that context it Ls absurd for a book to be banned in some States or in one State but to be freely available in other States. The agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in 1967 on the administration of laws relating to blasphemous, indecent and obscene literature was an attempt to achieve some degree of uniformity in literary censorship and until recently that had been substantially achieved. The Commonwealth and State governments said in plain terms in the agreement that their intention was to achieve uniformity. The agreement itself states: . . it is desirable that arrangements should be made between the Commonwealth and the States so that there will not be inconsistency in the administration of laws relating to blasphemous, indecent or obscene literature.
South Australia was a party to the agreement. The agreement is signed, in fact, by a certain Mr Dunstan who was then the Attorney-General of South Australia.
Under the terms of the agreement, when there is a book which prima facie has literary, artistic or scientific merit the book can be referred to the National Literature Board of Review for an opinion whether the book is or is not unsuitable for distribution in Australia. That is what happened with the well-known book ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’. The opinion of the Board was that the book was unsuitable for distribution in Australia. As a result ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’, in effect, was banned. What then were the obligations of the 7 governments which signed the agreement in 1967? Clause 18 of the agreement sets them out. That clause says 2 things, substantially. First, it states that whether a government accepts or adopts the opinion of the Board on a book is a matter within the competence of that government having regard to its own laws. Each government has its own laws and it is up to each government to decide whether they accept and adopt the Board’s report - depending on the provisions of its laws, not on any transient whim the government may have from time to time.
Clause 18 provides also that the relevant State Minister has final responsibility in the circumstances relating to each book. But, it goes on to say that subject to that responsibility: . . the governments declare their intention and expectation to be that . . . free importation into, and publication and distribution within, Australia will be accorded to a book unless in the opinion of the Board the book is unsuitable for distribution in Australia.
If those words are to mean anything at all they must mean that in a particular case where the opinion of the Board is that a book is unsuitable for distribution in Australia, the intention and expectation of the governments is that the book will not have free importation into Australia and will not have publication and distribution within Australia. There is one very good reason why the agreement does mean that; if it does not, the agreement is useless. It is of no use getting the opinion of the Board if it can be ignored by one government or another. That would simply allow the very inconsistency that all the governments solemnly undertook to avoid.
Portnoy’s Complaint’ was a particular case. I am not commenting one way or another about the book itself; indeed, I do not know what I would decide if I had to make the decision about that book. But the Board decided that it was unsuitable for distribution in Australia. In their agreement the governments have said that in such a case their intention and expectation was that free importation into Australia and publication and distribution in Australia would not be accorded to it. But the Government of South Australia has allowed it to be published and distributed in South Australia. The action of the South Australian Government is a breach of the spirit of the legislation, if not of the letter. The spirit of the agreement is clearly that if the National Literature
Board of Review forms the opinion that a book is unsuitable for distribution in Australia, a State government will not allow it to be published and distributed within that State. That was the opinion that the Board formed about ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’, but despite that the Government of South Australia has allowed the book to be published and distributed within South Australia. That is, as I have said, a breach of the spirit of the agreement and I would suggest, and indeed warn so far as I can, that if the South Australian Government continues in this attitude the whole system of uniform censorship, which was heralded when it was introduced, is in jeopardy.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) has censured the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) with quite predictable vigour, listing them as those with whom he is in some disagreement. The genena! consensus in an enlightened community and society today is that censorship is anathema to most people but for very different reasons. I support the general principle that it is anathema to most people. It is, in fairly simple terms, an intrusion into and upon the freedom of the individual. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has quite properly addressed himself to a very difficult, delicate and contentious issue. I think he has done so with profound good sense and I hope that this debate will contribute - I feel sure it will - some positive suggestions and observations in an atmosphere of candour and an absence of emotion. However, I am prepared to concede that this is an emotional issue with many people and they are perfectly entitled to feel emotional about it.
I think we should address ourselves to some of the key points of censorship. The first question we might ask is: Does censorship maintain or improve the morals of the community? This is very questionable. Censorship certainly might protect the community but I am extremely dubious whether it improves the moral standards of the community. The whole broad spectrum of censorship nowadays is extremely complex, particularly with the advent of the most powerful persuader - television. From the United States of America there has been conclusive evidence of the effects of excessive violence on television - the effect on the human personality and the development of that personality. I think this applies particularly to children. My own personal view is that we would be failing if we refused to accept this observation which has been carefully collated and assessed. In effect, the censor of television must be the parent who has a responsibility to assist in the moulding of character and attitudes. But is this the normal definition of censorship? I think it is generally accepted that the average person’s concept of a censor is of a rather ogre-like figure lurking behind some extraordinary office door who issues an edict that a person will walch this film or will not watch it, or that he will read that book or will not read that book.
Whilst we may have talked a lot about censorship in the past, many people in the community have refused to become involved with censorship in a meaningful discussion of its merits or otherwise. That the community is now accepting this challenge of provocative discussion and intelligent deliberation is, I think, a step in the right direction. I am somewhat concerned about the status and qualifications of the person who says to me: ‘You will not read this’ or ‘You will not see that’. It may well be that in his assessment part of a film might launch him into depravity but it does not necessarily follow that it will launch me into a similar state of excitement. It is in this area that I suggest the Minister might give serious thought to the appointment of those in this field who have suitable qualifications rather than those who adopt a policeman’s attitude. I make a plea in particular for the legitimate film festival of which I have had some experience in the past. It is very frustrating for a director of international reputation and standing to find, after having been invited to submit a film to this country, that X number of feet have been cut from the film by some very insensitive censor, thus totally mining what is in fact a genuine work of art. 1 have always been rather puzzled about how our censors decide what is and what is not a work of art. If one could readily decide that question in the commercial sense one would never have a failure at the box office. If we allow this kind of insensitivity to continue in regard to international film festivals we will become the laughing stock of such festivals and of distributors. I well remember a magnificent British film ‘Room at the Top’ which was cut and hacked in such a way by the censor that most delicate and sensitive scenes of great beauty and tenderness were completely destroyed, lt is this kind of heavy handed treatment by people who have no conception of the entire context of the finished product that does so much damage particularly in the field of film censorship. I turn now to literature. Many people to whom I have spoken are taken aback at the fact that a court of law is the final arbiter on literary censorship. To me, this is foisting on the courts an onerous burden with which they are not equipped to deal nor indeed, I suspect, are they very happy to accept.
In an all-embracing discussion of censorship there is a tendency to overlook what censorship means to different people. To many people censorship is an attack on obscenity. Then how do we define obscenity? I know many people who think that the Venus de Milo is obscene. There are many people who think that Shakespeare is obscene. There are certain passages in Hamlet’s scene with Ophelia which could be considered obscene by some people. The porter’s scene in Macbeth could be labelled ‘dirty and obscene’ by some people. If those passages are taken out of context there would be some valid reason for that assessment, but as an integral part of the poetry, as an essential element of the drama, they are necessary and in many instances poetic and beautiful. I have no regard and little sympathy for pornography and obscenity for their own sake. I would never advocate the distribution of filth for filth’s sake or obscenity for obscenity’s sake. The thought of people getting rich, as indeed they do, by the exploitation of dirt and filth is to me abhorred in the extreme.
Are our present methods, our techniques, our assessments and our approach to the whole field of censorship the right ones? I do not think they are. We have inherited a 19th century technique to deal with a 20th century problem of attitudes, environment and circumstances. That those attitudes are changing there can be no doubt. Public willingness to debate the question, as we are doing right now, and the media’s preoccupation with it are testimony to the mounting pressures of society to improve and streamline our approach to a very difficult and contentious contemporary issue. But the dangers of heavy handed censorship in the hands of the state are terrifying to contemplate. Nazi Germany ls the classic example, a story so well known that to repeat it would be tedious. The censorship imposed by the Soviet Union on the great novelists of the day is an historical fact of great sadness to all who are interested in the propagation of man’s artistic and creative ability and freedom. These are the forms of censorship which I find repugnant.
The creative spirit and genius of’ man cannot and should not be inhibited, restrained or controlled by a monolithic state big brother. I am unconvinced by those who advocate the complete abandonment of all the standards that have been set up and must afford some protection to certain areas of our community, particularly children. I say that I am as yet unconvinced but I can be convinced if the argument is logical, well presented and coherent. In my contribution to this debate I am advocating a departure from the Dickensian attitude which has prevailed in the matter of censorship, and the emergence of an attitude which can assist me and others to bring an enlightened and contemporary attitude to a very old and urgent problem.
– I commend the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) on the fact that the statement we are discussing has been approved generally. Of course there are some facets of it that all of us perhaps would like to discuss, re-evaluate or even disagree with, but in the evening newspapers today one could detect that the Minister has been credited with the quality of going so far and knowing when to stop. One could detect almost a tone of approval in the Press on his comment this morning on the statement by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) on drugs. In fact I have detected that tone of approval in regard to censorship generally, whether it be censorship of literature or of the extreme permissiveness in society. There is a new feeling that we have gone far enough. Of course, when I say ‘we have gone far enough’ I refer more precisely to the so-called Western enlightened democracies.
I am diametrically opposed to many new members on the other side of the House on the matter of censorship but I will concede that they most earnestly believe in what they put forward and do so in all sincerity. When the honourable member for Maribyrnong says that he wants the complete abandonment of all censorship, he declares clearly and openly where he stands. That gives the Austraiian people the opportunity to consider the standard of future political representation. We on this side of the House adopt the attitude that you regard these things with reason and that you have respect for the standards which have been recognised, not as being out-dated, as was stated a little while ago, but as standards of normal decent conduct.
To illustrate where I believe these standards have fallen let me cite a few examples of what I saw during my recent visit overseas. Berlin provides a classic example of a city divided into 2 parts, in this case West Berlin and East Berlin- and God forbid that we should ever see West Berlin denied the freedoms that the people of East Berlin enjoy. But let us look at those freedoms according to what we regard as moral standards. It has become a most unpopular practice these days to talk about morality. In doing so one immediately makes oneself a member of some sort of antiquated, archaic society. Honourable members should ask themselves: ‘If we are going to abandon completely our old moral standards what code do we live by?’ Do we abandon Christianity, for instance? What is our code? Let us make a declaration of this.
Keeping in mind the code to which we still apparently adhere I shall now. discuss the sort of thing which we saw in Berlin. In West Berlin, where apparently all forms of censorship have been dropped, one can see extreme sex films without any difficulty at all. One can go around the city of West Berlin and see all the permissiveness one would want to see - according to one’s own requirements, of ‘ course. The difference is noticed if when one drives through the gates in the wall and goes into East Berlin as we did the difference in standards is immediately obvious. We made inquiries as we moved around. We examined the various social attitudes. We found that what is permitted in West Berlin is not tolerated in East Berlin.
We will remember when Mr Khrushchev visited the United States. He went on the set of ‘Can Can*. Those girls in ‘Can Can’ would be considered completely overdressed these days. Mr Khrushchev commented: ‘Here is an example of decadent western society’. This comment made headlines around the world. He was appalled at this decadent western society. Let us be quite honest about this matter. The theorists and academics like to smother over the realities of life and ordinary human reactions by profound theorising. They do not get down to earth and say: Look, if you cut out censorship there would be a sudden upsurge of the extreme pornographic type of literature which we see in just about every western city of the world’. Pot instance, in Copenhagen the dealers in pornography are really desperate at the moment. I think that city had something like 73 porno shops and now the number is down to about 43. Competition is so keen that dealers are looking for something new. One shop has a beauty. It features animal-human relations, of which it has a window display. The authorities cannot say: ‘We can give this an R classification’, because a small child coming home from school can see it. Nobody is there to blindfold the child before he walks past the porno shop.
If these shops exist in Copenhagen, they exist in London, in Stockholm, in New York and almost any city in the United States of America. There is one difference. I speak now on a subject of which I do have some authority. Honourable members opposite are laughing; if they think I am going to admit that I am an authority on what I have been speaking about they can think again. But when it comes to motion pictures, they have been my game for about 12 years. I think I know something about them. It was unanimously decided by the Motion Picture Exhibitors Association in Queensland at its conference at Surfers Paradise last year that people were starting to protest against the standard of sex films which were being released in Australia - and believe me, morally these films are the very best of them.
All honourable members will remember when the Minister for Customs and Excise had a screening at the National Library of cuts from films. All of us went over there and saw them; none of us can deny this. 1 would say that the sum total of all those cuts would not be equal in sex content to any 5 minute reel or 5 minute screening of any of the films which are kept out of Australia. There is a difference in regard to this exhibition of films. There is a difference in the attitude of the general public in different countries. For instance in Denmark it is quite normal to go along and see one of these extreme sex or violence films. The ordinary, average member of the community goes along to these films as he would go along to a normal film. There is a difference in the United States. If one goes down 42nd Street in New York where, I am told, these films are exhibited one sees people going into the theatre almost in disguise because they are thoroughly ashamed of what they are going to see.
– That is because it is censored.
– It is not because it is censored at all, but because it is readily available. These people are going to see a film which obviously has a very extreme content of depravity. The Minister for Customs and Excise has .stated that the rate of change is stimulated by a variety of events and factors. He went on to say that censorship is set by community standards. I think the fact that the Minister has maintained the commonsense degree of censorship which he has maintained - and which is approved by the community - represents a tremendous tribute to Australia. 1 move around the country with a pretty lough crowd of people at times. One hears comments and gauges the general feeling of a mixed community when one deals with the mining community at Mount Isa and then the farming communIty in the lower parts of the Kennedy electorate. One obtains a cross-section of opinion. There is general approval of the policy of the present Minister for Customs and Excise. His policy of censorship is sane, moderate and acceptable. If this Government went to the people tomorrow on this one question of censorship they would indicate quite clearly where they stand in this matter.
We come back to this matter of censorship set by community standards. I think the Minister pays a tribute to the Australian community by the standard he has set. This Government has been in power for a long time and the reason is that the people have looked at the composition of this side of the House in an analytical manner. They have looked at the standards of the individuals who represent them. I am not reflecting one bit on the standards of the great majority of honourable members on the other side of the House. As I said a while ago, they are sincere in their views. They sincerely want to see censorship completely abolished from our code. If the Opposition came to power obviously the honourable member for Maribyrnong would stand by his principles. He would urge that young children and young people should have marihuana available to them. Would the people of Australia accept this proposition. He has stated his principles; all right, he is sincere about them.
I issue this note of warning: We should not go any further in this matter of censorship, certainly not lo the extent of pandering to the minority who demand a relaxation. Who are those who constitute this minority? I say the people who are fomenting this demand for the abolition of censorship are among those who want to make the millions of dollars which are being made in the United States. It was only recently that I read of the fabulous profits which are being made out of porno magazines. They are even more excessive than the profits from poker machines in New South Wales. I say to the Opposition: Stand by your guns. You believe that there should be no censorship. You believe that marihuana should be readily available to young people. Stick to your principles. But I say to honourable members on this side of the House: As long as we stick to our guns the people of Australia will decide that we must stand firm.
As I wandered around the United States I continually heard comments about Australia. I defy anyone - I do not care who he is or to what political party he belongs - to prove that what I am about to say is incorrect. Wherever I went as soon as I said I was an Australian the reply was: ‘That must be a great country. You have not slipped as we have. You have kept your standards.’ I imagine that among those standards they meant standards of decency. I do not care how much theorising goes on in this House about how people react to censorship. In the final analysis it is a matter of whether we have a standard of normal decency or whether we want to reduce this country to the level of the animals.
– The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) has attacked theorists such as myself without having heard me. 1 admit that under the pretence of representing us at the United Nations he certainly did the rounds of pornography all over the world and he is now I suppose what one could call a practising pornography watcher. However, I have not noticed any difference in his behaviour now from that before he left here. This is consistent with the result of studies of the effect of pornography in other countries. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown), being trained for the Ministry - I refer to the Gorton Ministry - gets all his information from Government handouts and he is therefore completely wrong when he says that no civilised country will accept the abolition of censorship. I suggest that he tell the people of Denmark that they are uncivilised.
The question of censorship is a difficult one for legislators. There is probably as much, if not more, hypocrisy in this House on this question than on any other that comes before us. I am here not referring specifically to those who have preceded me in this debate. Again and again we find the banners amongst those who apparently enjoy what I call lavatory humour and who have strange guilt feelings on the question of sex. There is no time to give the obvious explanation for this tonight. May I tackle the problem of censorship from 2 points of view. The first is the common proposition that censorship is to protect us from what would ‘deprave and corrupt’. The second is the question of community standards. Let me deal now with corruption and depravity. It is still confidently asserted in some quarters that exposure to erotica and pornography leads to sex crimes. But a study in the United States of 15,000 sex offenders found no evidence that pornography was a causal factor in the offences. Indeed its findings suggest that it may rather be inability to secure fantasyrelease of impulse by means of pornography which distinguishes sex offenders from other people. If prurients can find satisfaction by reading books or looking at pictures, it is difficult to conceive anything less harmful to society. It is those who cannot achieve satisfaction in this way who may constitute a danger to society.
In the December 1970 issue of ‘Psychology Today’ 2 researchers who were involved in studies for the United States Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography by the Legal and Behavioural Institute found that a sample of rapists had seen less pornography than a comparable group of normal adults. The situation for child molesters was similar. The rapists differed less from controls than the 2 pedophile groups - the child molesters; those who molest little girls and those who molest little boys - but even here there were significant differences. Rapists were significantly less likely than normals to have seen representations of fully nude women, of normal intercourse, of mouth genital contact or of sado-masochistic activity. The child molesters had seen less pornography of every kind than our normal group had. They say that the rapist, who found it very difficult to talk about sex, said that there was little nudity in their homes while they were growing up and that sex was never discussed. A small proportion of the rapists who had been caught reading pornography by their parents said that their parents had become angry and punished them. Rapists tended to oppose pre-marital sex and many of them relied on their wives for a great deal of their sex information.
Rapists told the researchers of extensive extra-marital intercourse and of a high frequency of sexual relations, but they also reported less enjoyment of sex than the controls. They reported more homosexual experience than controls. Child molesters who seek out boys found talking about sex more uncomfortable than any other group. There had been little tolerance of nudity in their childhood homes and no discussion of sex. Male friends were the main sources of their sex information. Most had never married and they were opposed to premarital sex. As the researchers had expected they were more tolerant of homosexuality than the controls were. Child molesters who chose little girls reported little discussion of sex in their childhood homes. Male friends gave them little of their sex information and they had learned significantly more about sex from clergymen than controls had. They, too, were uncomfortable in talking about sex and were the least permissive of all groups on pre-marital and extra-marital intercourse. Most had been married.
For the rapists, the data suggest very repressive family backgrounds regarding sexuality. The pattern of inhibition and punitiveness found in their families appears to be consistent with rapists’ reports of extensive heterosexual and homosexual activity with little enjoyment. They give fear of sex’ as the reason that pornography does not stimulate them to engage in or even to desire sexual activity. Rapists are less likely than normals to encounter sado-masochistic pornography, so the idea for the aggressive sexual act does not appear to derive from pornography. A high percentage of rapists report frequent homosexual activity, which suggests that the aggressive sex act can sometimes represent an attempt to cover homosexual tendencies. Molesters of girls appear to have developed highly restrictive attitudes that interfere with their ability to obtain or to enjoy mutual sexual relations. Given their restrictive and their intolerant attitudes toward pre-marital sex, it seems reasonable to suppose that they associate sex with sin and with dirtiness. Perhaps their choice of immature girls represents a search for sex partners who are innocent and free from the connotation of sin.
In summary it appears that all groups of sexual deviates, no matter what their ages, education or occupations, share one common charasteric: They had little exposure to erotica when they were adolescents. This suggests that a reasonable exposure to erotica, particularly during adolescence, reflects a high degree of sexual interest and curiosity that correlates with adult patterns of acceptable heterosexual interest and practice. Less than average adolescent exposure to pornography reflects either avoidance of heterosexual stimuli or development in a restrictive and punitive atmosphere. As the ‘London Times’ editorial of 27th October 1970 put it:
Anyone considering the law and practice wilh regard lo obscene publications, as the Church of
England Board for Social Responsibility has just done, must take account of the fact that a growing body of expert opinion is inclined to give pornography a clean bill of health. They find that its tendency to ‘deprave or corrupt’, made famous by successive formulations of English law, is not discoverable.
The Danes have acted on that conclusion by removing almost all restrictions on the production and sale of written and pictorial pornography. A working party reporting to the United Kingdom Arts Council last year made similar recommendations. A presidential commission in the United States recently concluded that there is ‘no evidence that exposure to or use of explicit sexual materials play a significant role in the causation of social or individual harms such as crime, delinquency, sexual or non-sexual deviancy or sever emotional disturbances’.
The ‘London Times’ editorial concluded with these words: . . Judges in charging juries in obscenity cases are always at pains to explain that they are not being asked whether the thing in front of them is shocking, disgusting … or offensive to decent feeling or anything like that, but strictly whether it has a tendency to deprave or corrupt - although it is significant that evidence of this process having actually occurred is never adduced.
This is, of course, the reason why the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) and others have changed their line to ‘community standards’. I agree that there are certain standards in the community regarding obscenity, blasphemy, personal attacks and so on. But at the same time I would argue that they differ from group to group and that the statement is true only if by ‘community’ we mean much smaller groups than the whole Australian community.
Obviously standards on some of these topics vary more between say Australian students or intellectuals and elderly Australian church groups than between corresponding groups in this country and overseas. But in any case I would hope that there is another community standard more widespread in this country and that is in regard to free speech and free access to information. I think that most people would accept the argument that in fact some significant social harm must be shown to be caused before free speech should be interfered with. This has not been done and I therefore feel that censorship is unnecessary. This is particularly so in cases of accepted literary merit. I find that many of our pro-censors really support the Soviet proposition on literature. We saw an obvious example from the honourable member for Kennedy who is terribly impressed by the Communist countries. He has previously praised the Chinese system of morality. Today he was all keen on the East German system. The chief critic and censor Zhdanov of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics once said:
Writers should not write about things as they are, but as they should be.
I put it to honourable members that this is not the sort of proposition that we ought to support in this House.
As I still have a little time remaining to me in this debate I would like to quote Mr A. A. Phillips who I understand is a former censor. Dealing with the question of censorship and speaking about censoring on the grounds of the use of so-called taboo words which would have to disappear, he said:
It may be argued that certain attitudes or excitations can be harmful in their effect; it surely cannot be argued that the use of one term rather than another for the same conception causes damage. Perhaps this verbal freedom is now an almost-won concession; but it is still a confused and insecure one. It is only a very few years since I pointed out in a report that the rapid change in taboo habits had brought us to the stage where the use of the word ‘fuck’ in print was still forbidden but ‘bugger’ could be used even in quite frivolous contexts. Could it be reasonably maintained that the delightful and necessary activity connoted by the first term was more reprehensible than that indicated by the second? If not, how could we justify so absurd a distinction and the kind of non-thinking which led to it?
Finally I quote what Mr Gregory Denning S.J., a senior lecturer in history at La Trobe University, Melbourne, said in his discussion on censorship. Dealing with literary censorship, he stated:
The group ‘protected’ by Australian censorship is ultimately a small, select adult group which by every social measure is mature and educated, the most capable of making proper social judgments about the morality of what they see and hear, and the least likely criminologically to indulge in anti-social behaviour. These are the likely readers and viewers of ‘Ulysses’, the audiences of ‘The Boys in the Band’. Their selection as the group most needing protection is an anomaly not easily explained, unless it is not they who need protection but something else. Perhaps they form the single most important threat to the absolutist, arithmetic, non-free morality, and it is the system and not the people which needs- protection.
The argument that censorship is for the preservation of social order is only valid if sexual morality is the key to social order. Order, like beauty, is in the .eye. -of. _the. beholder. .Some . months ago when an actor in Brisbane was charged with obscenity, there was no doubt where the priorities lay. Every newspaper in Australia referred lo the words ‘- boongs’ which he used. Not one referred to ‘– ‘; no policeman or magistrate was upset by the racial insult and no one, as they went through the shame of writing out the four-letter word or inviting the v/omen in the court to retire if they wished, seemed to have imagined that there was some horrendous reversal of priorities in what they were doing.
I put in to the House that if the argument that public censorship aims at the preservation of social order were valid, it is obvious that censorship would be far more widespread than it is. It would strike out at racialism and militarism and defend us against the glamour of violence and speed. That it does not do so is an indication either of its extraordinary narrowness of vision or of its belief that a rigidity of the sexual code is particularly apt for the amoral morality it proposes for this type of society.
– Following the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) tonight, I think 1 owe it to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) to correct the impression that the honourable member for Prospect may have tried to convey - that in other countries the honourable member for Kennedy runs about seeing all these shows for self satisfaction. It would be far better to have a well-informed member for Kennedy than to have an illinformed member for Prospect. I commend the honourable member for Kennedy for having taken the trouble to acquaint himself with certain aspects of censorship. The subject is so intangible that it is not funny. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has a- most important task in that he is presently taking this nation into areas where we have not trodden previously; he is opening the doors, so to speak. Knowing the Minister, I am quite sure that he does not look upon his responsibility as a light one. Although certain people advocate that censorship has no effect whatever on the minds of people, the matter is still very much an academic one and one for personal judgment.
Earlier tonight the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) spoke in the debate. Although most honourable members and perhaps the general public do not agree with the views that he propounded, I suggest that in this House he reflected the views of a great number of people in their early twenties and late teens. Too often older generations dismiss out of hand the views of the young. Too often the older generations say that the young are wrong. Too often the older generations expect the young to accept their decisions, lt is up to the older generations, to the Minister and to his Department to provide answers to the questions which loom so largely in the minds of the young. If one considers the speech of the honourable member for Maribyrnong and recalls his statement that censorship leads to increased depravity, one must concede that, with a little examination, the argument can be knocked over quite easily. If his argument were correct, Australia, entering the 1970s, should he a most depraved nation because over the last couple of hundred years a fairly strict policy of censorship has been followed. But 1 do not think it is.
I cannot speak about the position in the Scandinavian countries in relation to censorship. The honourable member for Kennedy has had the benefit of visiting the United States of America and the Scandinavian countries. If one visits the United States one sees an example of censorship in a very minor degree. Most things that can be placed in print, either in colour or in black and white, are easily available. I did not see there any. lessening of the demand for this type of literature. As 1 have said, the subject is an intangible one. Recently a copy of a certain magazine came into my possession. I shall read to the House an extract from its classified advertisements. It is all very well for honourable members opposite to refer to what happens in other countries where allegedly there is no form of censorship and say that those societies have not been harmed, but 1 will leave in the minds of honourable members these quotations and let them decide whether the freedom in the United States - and I believe that in certain States there is almost complete freedom - perhaps has not stopped the depravity of which the honourable member for Maribyrnong spoke. Advertisements in a weekly magazine called the ‘Berkely Barb’ cost 50c a line, if any honourable member opposite wishes to advertise in that magazine. The first advertisement reads:
I am Curious . . . (green)
Beautiful chick 26 with auburn hair and dark brown eyes who is gentle, sensitive, and artistically gifted would Eke to meet someone similar to show her the way.
A postal address given. The second advertisement reads:
Mechanical Sex Trip.
May we help in your search for the ultimate sex experience? We sell the Vibra-Sex
The advertisement continues in that vein.
– You are corrupting the Hansard writer.
– If the honourable member for Wills listens, he might learn something. There is another advertisement to which I wish to draw attention. It reads:
Want To Screw?
Join the thousands of ‘Eager Swingers’ looking for the action they desire. Join and you will receive a list of phone numbers of hundreds of gals and guys waiting for your call.
– I take a point of order, ls it necessary, even in a censorship debate, for an honourable member to look across the chamber and say: ‘Want to screw?’
Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I can assure the honourable member for Hindmarsh that 1 was not looking at him. But the point I am trying to make is that we have had a fairly serious debate this afternoon and tonight, and some honourable members have submitted that the waiving of censorship has the effect of barring pornography and that people lose interest in the subject of pornography. 1 submit that that has not been the case in America. It is interesting to note that honourable members opposite seldom refer to the position in the United States when they discuss this subject of censorship.
The question of censorship is a matter of opinion as to where one draws the line. At this stage 1 refer to the decision of the South Australian Premier to allow ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ to be printed and distributed in that State. But even he has been quick to say: ‘We do not want South Australia to become the State for dirty books. We are not going to print everything here.’ It is interesting to contrast this view with the view of some honourable members opposite who. enjoy being in. opposition because they do not have to shoulder responsibility. Perhaps this is an extravagance on their - part. Again I say that the question of censorship is one of personal opinion.
On a number of occasions the Minister has referred in public addresses to the subject of violence. In a speech to this House last June he said he is not too happy at the fact that every time a movie is shown in which sexual exploits occur he or his Department receives hundreds of letters from protesting parents, yet do not receive any letters at all about violence in movies. Being a member of this House and knowing many other members of this House I would say that if I were . to receive hundreds of letters on any subject, no matter whether 1 was a Minister or a backbencher, I would sit up and take notice.
– What about pensioners?
– The Minister certainly is taking a step forward and he is doing it seriously. But he moves in accordance with what he believes to be the public standards of the day; what the public is bound to accept. The honourable member for Sturt interjected and asked: What about pensioners?’ I would suggest, with great respect, that even though he may stand in this place at times and say: T have received hundreds of letters on this subject’, that is just for show, because any honourable member who receives hundreds of letters on any subject must be writing to himself; it just does not happen. 1 suggest that if the Minister is receiving hundreds of letters from people he should take note and consider the views of those people carefully.
I have referred to the subject of violence. It was interesting to read in an article in one of Brisbane’s newspapers at the weekend a report by the State Minister for Justice, Dr Delamothe. He said that the incidence of crime for each hundred thousand of population was decreasing; but he went on to say that a world wide pattern was that the number of crimes involving assault and violence was on the increase and happening here. Some of the movies that I have seen outside Australia are well and truly violent. The violent scenes which the censors have cut out of films sent to Australia are nothing in comparison with some o£_the violent acts which can be seen on the screen overseas. In Australia we have been protected from this in the past, yet the number of crimes involving violence is increasing. It is only in the last few years that the incidence of violence has been well and truly on the upturn, yet we have had television since the latter part of the 1950s. I wonder whether it is purely academic to associate so closely the question of violence with what people see on the screen. This was suggested by the Eisenhower Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence some years ago.
Unfortunately my time is running out, but I should like to throw in a few thoughts on the question of 18-year olds and granting the proposed R certificate for films. As honourable members know, it is proposed that over 18-year olds will be able to view films carrying an R certificate. I question seriously the ability or, more importantly, the will of State governments to police this aspect of the law. I come from a State where 21 years is the minimum age for people to drink in hotels, yet one can go into a hotel in Queensland on almost any day of the year and see 18-year old drinkers. Every now and again the police arrest a few in order to put on a display for the public, but the apparent policy is that so long as the people are not worrying they are left alone. As 18 years is the minimum age for people to drink in hotels in New South Wales and as 18-year olds are drinking in hotels in Queensland, although the law provides a minumum age of 21 years, I wonder how we will prevent youngsters from going to see movies carrying an R certificate.
I make the further point that we in Australia handle this age limit question with kid gloves. I recall being in the United States of America about a year ago. A fortnight after my 30th birthday I was in a hotel in the city of Chicago with a fellow Queenslander but the girl behind the bar would not serve us because she said: ‘You are not 21’. Honourable members may laugh, but a few days later I was told to leave a bar in Los Angeles because I was not 21. Admittedly at the time I had long hair and was not dressed in the refined manner in which some honourable members dress, but the point is that in America the law is policed. In Los Angeles the licensee of the hotel said to me: ‘Fellow, if I serve you I could lose my licence’. In
Australia we just do not care. I suggest to the Minister that in the United States many of these films which carry an R certificate are aimed at the above 21 years old age group. Anyone below the age of 21 years is not allowed into a theatre to see a film carrying an R certificate.
I hope that if the Minister believes in censorship he will work in the future to ensure that the States take this question of policing the laws seriously rather than allowing 14 or 15 year olds to see movies which are classified as being not suitable for them. If it is his opinion that an age limit should be imposed- whether it is 18 or 20 years - then he has an obligation to see that the law is policed strictly, because by imposing an age limit he is admitting there is a danger that something could happen to people under that age if they view a film which carries an R certificate.
In conclusion I should like to make a brief reference to my home State, Queensland, which in 1963 banned an edition of Playboy’. Now, nearly 10 years later, all editions of ‘Playboy’ are still banned.
– In Queensland.
– In Queensland. I suggest that perhaps we are going back to the mid-Victorian era when we allow a ban on one edition of a magazine to continue as a blanket ban for ever and ever. In the Commonwealth sphere only 2 editions of ‘Playboy’ have been banned from Australia since the beginning of 1969. Not one edition of ‘Playboy’ has been allowed into the State of Queensland since 1963. Surely it does not mean that every edition of ‘Playboy’ which has been published since the edition was banned in my home State in 1963 has depraved people, because I have heard many honourable members on this side and also on the other side of the House, who have had access to this magazine, make sensible contributions to debates in this chamber.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am glad that this debate has been arranged, because censorship is a matter to which we should give a lot of thought. I accept that, generally, speaking, those honourable members who have spoken in this debate have spoken with deep conviction and with deep sincerity. I respect people who sincerely believe that strict censorship is essential. I respect equally the views held by honourable members, such as the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon), who spoke in a vein which would suggest that they see little merit at all in censorship. I particularly congratulate the honourable member for Maribyrnong and the honourable member for Denison upon their speeches. I thought they gave fairly convincing contributions to the point of view they were putting forward.
At the same time, I think that it is very unfair for the Press or anybody else to attack the present Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) for his administration of censorship as though he is one who favours strict, rigid, unreasonable censorship. This is the way the Minister is pictured by the Press, yet T would say that in all of the time I have been in this Parliament I have never known a Minister to do as much to enlighten the general public on censorship and to introduce liberal thinking into censorship than the present Minister has done. In my opinion it is grossly unfair to depict him as someone who is narrow minded and is opposed to the liberty of the individual to read all kinds of literature. The present Minister is the first Minister in the 20 years or so that I have been in Parliament who has allowed members of Parliament - back benchers and leading members from both sides of the House - to see what is being done in the field of censorship. Every book that is censored is open to a member of Parliament to look at if he wants to. I do not think that a member has any right to pontificate on censorship, especially if he is opposed to the kind of censorship that is imposed, unless he has first of all looked at the book that he believes ought to be made available to the public. 1 think the Minister will agree with me when I say that I practice what I preach. I have read most of the books which have been the subject of censorship. The Minister shows them to me and I read them and then return them. I will say that I found Portnoy’s Complaint’ to be thoroughly disgusting. It is a filthy piece of literature - if
I can use the word ‘literature’ to describe it. It is not terribly bad except for perhaps one or two pages, but it was those one or two pages that turned what might have been an acceptable book into what it is, according to my standards, a thoroughly unacceptable one. I would not want anybody who I thought a lot of to read it. Whether it should be censored is, of course, another matter.
As the Minister has said on occasions when I have heard him speak about censorship, all of us impose censorship upon ourselves in our everyday speech. No woman on this earth has ever heard me use the 4-letter word in her presence. She may have overheard it because I often use it in the presence of men. I was once a shearer. I am not a narrow minded person and I am not a prude. I can tell and enjoy smutty yarns. But I have never told a smutty yarn in front of my children nor will I and they respect me for it. I am not so silly as to say that they do not tell them or they have never heard one. but they have never heard me tell one.
At the same time, I believe that there is a strong case for allowing those who want to see films containing sex scenes and those who want to see or read books of this nature to do so. It is much easier to police films than it is to lift the censorship on books. There is a simple way to police the censorship of films and that is to issue R certificates so that it becomes the bounden duty and responsibility of the exhibitor to ensure that nobody between the ages of 6 and 18 enters the picture theatre. It is his responsibility to do this in the same way as it is the responsibility of a publican to ensure that the laws relating to the drinking age limit are enforced. A child under 6 years of age would be unaffected by such a film. A mother might not be able to see a film if her 2-year old child could not sit on her lap and go to sleep while she was looking at it. That is the reason why the age limit has been set between 6 and 18 years.
I did not see the film ‘The Adventurers’ when it was being shown in Canberra, but my wife did. She is not a prude. At the same time, she is a person who does believe in some degree of refinement. It was not the film which disgusted my wife; indeed, she was not disgusted by it. What did disgust her and sicken her and a lady who went with her was the fact that school children sitting in front, behind and all round her - kiddies still going to primary school - represented the main part of the audience. I have been told by some people who have seen ‘The Adventurers’ that it U not the sort of film that ought to be banned from adult showing but it is not the sort of film that would do a lot of good, if any, to young children who are still going to school.
I believe that we ought to be adult about this matter. I repeat that I see nothing wrong with any of the cuts which have been made in films dealing with sex. By that I mean that in my opinion, providing only adults were going to see them, these scenes should have never been excised from the films. However, it has to be remembered that these cuts were made at a time when the proposition of having R certificates was just not acceptable or tenable to the States. I hope that when R certificates are introduced in the States the Minister will not allow, or will not be a party to, savage censorship of sex scenes from films. In talking about sex scenes I am not talking about perversion; I am talking about normal, natural sex scenes which, delicately performed - performed, if you like, almost in an exquisite and skilful way which would do credit to anybody who would like to engage in the sex act.
In case anybody thinks it is funny I would point out that all of us have at some time or other engaged in the sex act. It is nothing unnatural. It is not extraordinary. Our parents must have engaged in it. Therefore, it is so ridiculous and hypocritical for people to say that there is anything immoral, unnatural or obscene about the normal, natural sex act. I will admit that in some of the books which the Minister has shown to me the sex act is quite a ridiculous looking thing when photographed from certain angles. Thank goodness I have not had hidden cameras in my bedroom and thank goodness other honourable members have not because they would have seen the same thing as I saw in the books. But I do disagree with the Minister on this subject. I do not criticise him for the stand he has taken because, as I said earlier, he had done more to liberalise censorship than any Minister I can ever recall. I do not condemn him for his actions: I just do not agree with him. I hope that his success in liberalising censorship and in getting the public to take a more liberal and sensible view of censorship will soon produce a situation where he will feel free to release some of the books still on the banned list which are nothing more or less than sensible, well produced, unperverted manuals on sex.
One called ‘Love Positions’ is a book showing positions of making love where the actors are clothed in bikinis. There is no sign of any organ or of a position that would be different to the position that every person in this House has at some time taken up. In my view there is no justification for banning it. I saw one entitled ‘Sex Practices in Marriage’. There was nothing wrong with it. It was refined, delicately produced and did not show one single position which in my opinion would be objected to by any normal person. It would not hurt a young person of 16 or 17 years of age to see it either. I read volume I of that book. I have been advised that volume II is in a different category. Sexual Techniques’ by Mogens Toft is another example of the kind of thing that I see no reason for banning or censoring. Variations on a Sexual Theme’ carries a much worse title, or perhaps a more disappointing title for those who are looking for something extraordinary, out of the ordinary or of a perverted nature than it deserves to carry. But as far as I can recollect this is a perfectly proper book for married people to look at. “The Inheritors’ by Harold Robbins, the author of ‘The Adventurers’ is a book that I have read. I was bored and I might be candid enough to say that 1 was terribly disappointed with this book. I do not know why it was banned. I asked the Minister why it was banned and he said: ‘Well, I do not know. There is a reason somewhere; I have not read it myself yet.’ He searched for the reason until the phone rang and we did not get the reason. But there must be some reason. ‘The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart’ is not a terribly bright book. However, it is not one that ought to be banned. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) seems to have spent most of his time in Europe looking around for the addresses of pornographic shops and other places where one can get this sort of thing. The honourable member for
Griffiths (Mr Donald Cameron) congratulated the honourable member for spending all of his time overseas sniffing out dens of pornography and snooping around back alleys for blue pictures and other such material. The honourable member for Griffiths thought that the honourable member for Kennedy had done a great service for the Parliament by coming back and telling us what he had seen. It seems this is not a genuine criticism. I think that we have to say that there are some books that are not good for the people who read them. I have not read ‘Myra Breckenbridge’ but the description I have had of it is one that would lead me to believe that a person could become richer in intellect by reading many thousands of other types of books.
On the other hand I do not criticise the excision of violence. The violence that I saw in the pictures that were shown in extracts from the various cuts at the Library reflected the kind of censorship that 1 would have endorsed. They were disgusting, horrible and revolting. Those who believe in having no censorship at all say: ‘Well, let the person who wants to see them be his own censor. If he does not want to look at violent films let him stay at home.’ This is a pretty powerful argument; it is one that I find difficult to answer. I suppose providing that people receive a fair warning of the kind of picture they are to see it is up to them to decide whether they go or not. I think that is the sum total of the whole situation. In Sweden violence is the thing that is deleted. In America it is sex. In Sweden probably there is less sex than one would get in America.
– There are less sex crimes.
– Is that what it is? However, in Australia we tend to wipe out violence and sex. I think there is a lot in what the honourable member for Prospect says - that pictures of nudity provide an outlet for the person who is unmarried or has a sex problem. However, at the same time it is possible that such pictures may deprave a person. 1 did not agree with the comment of my friend the honourable member for Maribyrnong that the Minister must be depraved because he reads censored books. I do not think that this is a good argument.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I understand that this debate on censorship is the first that has taken place in this chamber for over 30 years and I commend the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) for the realistic approach which he has taken to this problem. I find myself in agreement with the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) in the remarks which he made concerning the minister and the way in which the Minister has tackled his portfolio. Before the present Minister took over his portfolio we were able to read in the Press of the banning of various publications. In the past, we, as members of Parliament had no way of knowing whether the banning of a certain book or the censoring of a certain film was justified. The present Minister, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh so rightly pointed out, has changed all of this. He has brought the whole question of censorship out into the light of day. He has taken the secrecy out of censorship. I think all honourable members would agree that although it may be considered necessary in wartime, political censorship or censorship of news is not desirable. This is not questioned. Censorship, however, which is exercised on a moral basis is a different matter.
I do not think many of us realised how bad or how degrading some printed matter or some films were until this was revealed to honourable members by the Minister. This he did by showing to a closed audience of members, Pressmen and the clergy, various cuts which had been made from imported films. He has also made available a number of banned books and publications for the perusal of members. The Minister has stated that fundamentally he believes that censorship is a bad thing but that he also believes that at this stage an overwhelming majority of Australians believe it is necessary. 1 have read some of the books that the Minister had in his office. Like the honourable member for Hindmarsh I find it difficult to know why some of these books were banned. I was not particularly impressed with ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’. I was not too sure whether it should be banned. I thought that one section of .//….. Breckenbridge’ was completely disgusting. Another book, ‘The Naked Lunch’ gave one the impression that it could have been written only by someone who was probably under the influence of drugs. It was quite disjointed, repulsive and ugly. Another book ‘My Secret Life’ was written back in the 1880s, or some such time, during the Victorian days. This books deals with the sex life of an anonymous gentleman - he did not put his name to the book - starting with his first sexual experience and ending up with his last. I do hot think anyone who has read such publications as “The Naked Lunch’ or ‘My Secret Life’ would seriously suggest that they should be openly on sale on the bookstalls for all and sundry, including children, to buy.
I do not believe that any thinking person who saw the cut excerpts of the Swedish film ‘Like Night and Day’ would want to see them screened for general exhibition. A case can no doubt be made for not banning a book or a film, if in fact it has considerably literary or artistic merit. It is to the Minister’s credit that the list of banned books has dropped from some 136 to about 80. But I do not believe that anyone can make a case for the admission of erotic coloured magazines, which are coming into this country by devious means, depicting the sex act, often in its most depraved forms, sometimes taking place between people of the opposite sex, sometimes between people of the same sex and sometimes of all of them together. These publications are sold simply to make profits for the publisher and to erotically arouse the reader. One can only guess the consequences for the reader and those with whom he comes in contact. I believe that most Australians would agree that a line must be drawn. The essential thing in dealing with censorship is to know where that line should be drawn.
Of course, it can be argued that if a member of the community objects to certain words, actions or sights then he can, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh has said, censor them himself by avoiding them. No-one is forced to see, hear or do anything he does not wish to do. But it is also true, as the Minister pointed out in his statement, that if a immunity believes that the circulation of certain material is objectionable to itself as a community, it has the right, through its democratically elected government to protect itself. In Victoria several of the actors in the stage production ‘Boys in the Band’ were fined because a certain 4-letter word was used. I attended the show with my wife and in the sense in which it was used I did not find the word personally offensive. But then, I suppose, like the honourable member for Hindmarsh who has been a shearer, I have been in the Army and I have heard it many times before. But others might have had a completely different reaction. I do not believe that the show would have suffered had that word been deleted or replaced by another word.
I know of some people who were given the record of ‘Hair’ as a present the Christmas before last. They liked the music which they played a number of times. However, they were quite surprised to hear their 8-year old daughter singing the words of a certain song called ‘Sodomy’. I suppose the little girl did not know what it meant so it did not matter very much. No doubt the parents could have been quite embarrassed if their daughter had sung the song in front of some dear old ladies. I suppose it could be argued that these words also appear in the dictionary or in medical journals and therefore they should be used quite freely.” I personally thought that the numbers from the show ‘Hair’ were quite good. I went to see the show in Sydney to see whether it was anything or everything that had been said about it. I was quite unmoved by the nude scene, which lasted for only a minute anyway. With the coloured lights flickering, I do’ not think anybody could have been depraved by it. But I did find particularly objectionable the movements of particular simulated acts of sex and sodomy. I do not think that it is necessary to portray this type of thing on the stage. I think it would be most embarrassing for a young chap perhaps taking his girl friend out for the first time to be faced with this sort of thing. I just do not think it is necessary.
I heard someone say recently that the quickest way to fill a theatre these days is for the actors and actresses to take off their clothes. That might well be so. We are told that these are the days of the permissive society. We are told that people should be free to do what they like, provided that they do not interfere with the rights of other individuals. But I do believe that there is a difference between freedom on the one hand and licence on the other hand. I believe we must always be watchful that the moral standards of the community are not whittled away little by little until we reach the stage which Sweden has reached today. I would not like to see Australia reach that stage. I spoke recently to a former Swedish Cabinet Minister who was visiting Australia. I was informed by him that, contrary to the propaganda put out from some sources in that country, rape and similar sexual offences are still as prevalent in that country as they ever were.
If honourable members look at today’s Melbourne ‘Herald’ they will find it pretty difficult to pick out an advertisement for a show that does not contain some reference to sex. I think that I counted about 12 shows out of 18 which were displayed in this way. Undoubtedly, these shows have been censored and any offensive parts cut out, but it must mean that there are some people today who do look for this sort of entertainment; otherwise, it would not be put on in the various theatres.
I believe that the Minister has tackled the problem of censorship in a realistic and competent manner. I am sure that the introduction in Australia of the R certificate for films is a sound one. As the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) said, difficulties will probably be experienced by the various State authorities in policing it. With members of the community holding such valid and diverse opinions it is obvious the Minister will never please everybody, and I suppose that is one of the things we must expect in a democracy. We as members of Parliament and I believe the community generally have a clearer understanding of what is involved in the problem of censorship since the Minister assumed this responsibility, and even since this debate started tonight. I think the ultimate responsibility in regard to censorship will fall back on us as ordinary members of the community and as parents.
– 1 certainly commend the speech of the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) andalso most of the other speeches that I have heard on this subject. This is a unique debate. It is the first time in 38 years that we have had a debate on censorship. I think this must have been the fault of governments in the past; they have not had the courage to bring forward a debate on this critical, difficult subject. We will never agree on censorship. There will always be those who want more of it, those who want less of it, and those who want none of it. So. it is of no use honourable members fooling themselves that we will ever obtain unanimity. That is what makes the task of the Minister, who is a member of a government that is prepared to tackle censorship, such a difficult and onerous one. He is barraged by those who want him to be stricter and by those who do not want any censorship. Those who have vested interests with which censorship might interfere are opposed to him too. He is running a very difficult course indeed. Though I disagree violently with the Minister in regard to political ideologies, I commend him most sincerely tonight for the way in which he has tried to tackle this very onerous job. Several other speakers also have done so.
I do not believe that because we differ with a man’s politics we should not congratulate him when he does something good or something that is to the benefit of the country. The Minister has done that. He has taken the stuffiness and the secrecy out of censorship, and has brought it out in to the light of day. The Press has given his actions a lot of publicity. Members of Parliament may read banned books. I myself have not bothered to do this. The Minister has given members of this Parliament the first glimpse they have ever had of sections cut from films. Last year during the spring session of Parliament, honourable members viewed for about an hour and a half at the National Library Theatre more than 20 excerpts from censored films. Those excerpts would not have been seen by the general public. The Minister is to be congratulated upon these moves. In his speech of 11th June 1970, which initiated this debate, the Minister outlined some of the steps that he has taken. There are about 8 or 9 steps, with which no one could disagree. The very fact that he has initiated these changes will make censorship less obnoxious to the general public.
What is the alternative to censorship in the form in which it is exercised in this country? The alternative is licence - unadulterated licence. I for one cannot possibly stand for that in any community. ‘Freedom’ is a limited term. We are limited in our freedom during every day of our lives. When driving our motor cars home from this building tonight we will immediately come under censorship - the laws of the road. We cannot possibly live in a community of complete licence. We must have some form of control. Of course, this means there must be standards. If we had no standards in our community perhaps the need for censorship would not exist. What would we have to censor? In our present community standards predetermine censorship; censorship presupposes the existence of standards. The community does have standards even though men may scoff at them, may try to deride them, and may try to reduce their importance. We still do not live in a completely atheistic community. Therefore in dealing with the whole range of our activities, we must have censorship of some form, for the very reasons which have been given tonight by my colleagues the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the honourable member for Deakin, without going any further than that.
Censorship does not have to be heavy handed in its application. I do not think that the intention of the present Minister is to make it heavy handed. About 10 years ago I obtained from the Parliamentary Library a list of banned books and I proceeded to read the titles of 10 of them before my time expired.
– Hansard was a best seller.
– Yes, it was a best seller. Many honourable members said it was a pity that my time had expired. I think I could have obtained an extension of time if I had sought. Over 226 banned books were on the list in the Library in those days. Today there are perhaps 50, which is approximately a quarter of that number. This proves that a more senisble attitude has been taken towards the censoring of books. But I believe we will always find a few books in the Library that will not be permitted in the public book stalls. Honourable members talk about perversion. The men who write the books to which my colleague the honourable member for Hindmarsh referred tonight are obviously perverts themselves. Why should their trash and filth be spread through the land? Why should they be permited to affect the minds of our people, particularly the young? For these reasons, some form of censorship has to be maintained.
– Christ was declared that way once.
– Yes, unacceptable. With all these films and books that we have been talking about, parents have never lived in a. more difficult age in trying to bring up a family because of all the temptations that are thrown at children when they leave school and often while they are at school. I do not know what people who talk about abolishing censorship are going to tell their children. It is hard enough to rear children today with the present form of censorship without having it removed altogether. People who have no children have no right to talk about this subject at all. What do they know if they have never had a child to rear? Some of these people are often the most vociferous in this field of human behaviour.
We have some responsibility to others in the community. One speaker in this debate made the statement that a particular book or a particular film would not affect him. That is a selfish attitude: 1 am all right Jack; never mind the other fellow. To me this is basic selfishness. We have a responsibility to the community; we have parental responsibility; we have educational responsibility. We do not live in isolation. What may not affect me could affect someone else, and that someone else could be a member of my family or a relative - someone very close. Therefore, what right have I to say: ‘Because it will not affect me everybody else can be brought face to face with the same film or the same book’?
The dignity of the human body is, I think, often overlooked. When the film magnate uncovers the female form in most cases he lowers the dignity of the human body. This is another angle on the presentation of nudity which is becoming so popular with producers of films. This trend has not hit television, as far as I can judge from the television programmes I watch, and I try to see as many as possible. But our films have definitely been inundated with scenes of nudity. There is a debasement of the human body because of the way in which it is treated by some of our money hungry film magnates. During the recent visit to Australia of the producer of the film ‘Love Story’ - a film without sex - I was pleased to hear that in America the swing is away from sex films. It will be interesting to see whether what he said is true or just a figment of his imagination. But we certainly hope it is true.
The editorial of the Singapore ‘Straits Times’ of 4th February 1971 read:
We have got to protect the community from the crank, the faddist, the bigot, the filth merchant, etc., as we have laws to restrain the thief, the murderer and the blackmailer. Where the censor cannot give ground is on those subjects that will either give rise to social dissension or promote cultural debasement. For him to achieve less would be for him to make a senseless sham of his role.
Of course, that refers to his role as a censor. In a gallup poll in December last year 1,800 Australians were asked whether censorship on books . and films should be increased. Mr Deputy Speaker, I try to listen to other speakers. I do not intend to go on if my colleagues try to talk me down.
– Oh, go on.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member for Wills will remain silent.
– I listened to the honourable member even though I did not agree with him. I expect him to listen to me.
-The honourable member is entitled to be heard in silence.
– The gallup poll showed that 55 per cent of Australians wanted censorship maintained at its present level; 37 per cent wanted less censorship; but hardly anybody said that he did not warn any censorship. So the reaction of the Australian public to the question of censorship 5s rather interesting. Violence and sex are the two main features that come under the notice of our censors, whether of books or of films. What I saw in the excerpts over at the National Library Theatre last year convinced me that scenes of violence have a more degenerating influence than scenes of sex. The violent scenes we saw were absolutely repulsive and horrifying. Children who viewed those scenes would have nightmares for weeks. They could also have a similar effect upon many adults. I for one am thankful that we have a Censorship Board to cut such scenes out of films which are to be shown to the general public. Many of the sex scenes were cut down but were not cut right out. As other speakers have suggested, those scenes may not have had as severe an impact as would the scenes of violence.
However, I believe that young people should be spared scenes of both sex and violence. They grow up to be adults fast enough. Scenes depicting violence carried out in a professional way would only help to turn many of them into children of violence. The Eisenhower Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence urged that television stations reduce the amount of violence portrayed in their programmes. It said also that parents should make every effort to supervise children’s television viewing and to assert basic responsibility for their moral development. This is very true. I think that the break-up of home life is one of the causes of delinquency, violence and children getting into trouble. Parents have not taken their full responsibility in this regard. It is their primary duty to help children to choose which books to read and which films to see.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has just given us a discourse on censorship. I find myself in agreement with many of the things that he stated. I agree that we cannot live in a society that has no control, and I believe that in the field of censorship some control must be exercised. He mentioned too that there has been some relaxation of censorship and he mentioned that the number of banned books now in the Library is only one quarter of what it used to be. I do not know that that is a great step in progress. It depends on the type of books lifted from the banned list. Whether there is any real advantage in the lifting of the ban on these books depends on the contribution that they make to the welfare and benefit of the community. 1 am one of those who may be a bit old fashioned, but I am inclined to think that the literature that is available to the community at large, is in ample .supply, and I doubt very rauch that many of those previously banned books have contributed very much to the uplifting of the standards of the community when the ban on them has been lifted.
This does not mean that I feel there should be too rigid a censorship. I believe there is a need for what has been called a reasonable approach to this subject. But in examining censorship I believe that we should consider what is in the best interests of the community. Of course, the question that then arises is this: Who should decide what is in the best interests of the community? Results of a gall up poll published in a Brisbane daily newspaper in December of last year showed that whilst there had been some reduction of the proportion of those in favour of present censorship laws there were still some 55 per cent of the people who said that there should be no lowering of the standards aplied to censorship. If 55 per cent of the people in a democracy ask for something or suggest that a certain method should be used, that request or suggestion should be observed by the Government, even though the proportion expressing that view is smaller than had previously applied.
In the statement that we are discussing the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) made something of that point. He said: ‘Censorship for whom and for what?’ He called for a balanced judgment to be made by the community in assessing what is and what is not offensive to it. I believe that this public opinion poll has given a reasonable answer and I believe that it is a reasonable reflection of the opinion of the people. So 1 say that it is wise that we treat the liberalisation of censorship with a good deal of caution. We should look at it also from the point of view of what is to be gained by it. I take the attitude that it is not so much a matter of what harm will be done to the community. I think we should look also at the other side and see what good is to be done to the community in altering the position we have taken up.
The Minister asked: Whilst people might object to love-making scenes, is it consistent that they should allow evil such as hate, greed, envy, calummy and violence to be depicted without raising any objection? 1 believe that whether or not there has been a public outcry against this matter, there is a responsibility on the representatives of the community to express their view about how we should approach the matter. From my point of view, I would hope that the Minister would proceed with due caution in his approach to this subject. He has received a lot of commendation for the liberalisation that he has introduced to censorship, and in some respects I believe he has approached it in a fair and reasonable way. But I hope that this commendation he has received from certain sections of the community will not contribute to his taking an attitude that will encourage him to go beyond what I believe is a reasonable approach to the matter. I notice that in his statement he asked a lot of questions. He asked:
Could we reasonably suggest thai those who have no interest in films at all - non-moviegoers - should have no say in the establishment of community standards on films making? These are questions which must be answered if the community standards test is to mean anything.
I should like to hear the views of honourable member even though I did not agree reaction to some of the approaches to this subject tonight is that they do not reflect the opinion - I am referring particularly to speeches that I have heard from the other side of this House - of the majority of the people, although they may reflect the opinion of the people those speakers represent; I would not know that.
– We have an overwhelming majority.
– The honourable member can have his say on this subject, but I do not want any assistance in expressing my opinion.
– Fifty-nine to 46 is not bad.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member will cease interjecting.
– I am not worrying about the interjections. They are of a standard one might expect to hear from honourable members opposite, and they do not do that side of the House any credit. I hope that Hansard takes them up so that the public can read what is being said by honourable members on the other side. I would be happy to get an expression of Australian opinion on the interjections that are taking place while I am making this speech. I believe that consideration should be given to bow censorship affects people generally and the attitude that people should take towards it. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster), who I notice is trying to interject, is the ever open mouthpiece of the new look Australian Labor Party. The fact that there may be some people or sections of the people who can see films or other material without it having an adverse effect on them does not mean that it is in the best interests of the community that the same films and materials should be made freely available. 1 am particularly concerned about what goes on film and what goes on television.
I have heard a good deal tonight about the responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of parents to try to guide their children. An undoubted responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the representatives in this Parliament to see that those parents are given reasonable assistance in what is undoubtedly a very difficult task in these days. They will not be helped by a greater liberalisation of censorship. I believe there is merit in an examination of our present censorship laws. I believe that the Minister is to be commended for making this statement. It is wise that this Parliament should be able to discuss it, and it is a good thing that people should be given an opportunity to hear the views expressed by their members of Parliament on this subject. As I said before, I would be quite happy to have an expression of opinion by the people on the debate that has taken place tonight, particularly the views expressed by members of the Government as against those expressed by members of the Opposition.
I want to know - and this is the main point of my speech - what is to be gained by a greater liberalisation of censorship than we have already had. I would like to have weighed against that what is to be lost by it. What are the detrimental factors attaching to a greater liberalisation of censorship? Surely this should be a factor concerning us all. Moderation in this subject, as in most other subjects, is the key to the attitude which we should take.
The Minister spoke about community standards and I believe we .should take notice of what he said. There is a responsibility upon this Parliament and the members who comprise it to help to establish community standards at as high a level as we can reasonably establish them, at the same time maintaining a reasonable freedom and giving some liberalisation. I am not objecting to liberalisation. In one of the daily newspapers in my State the following heading appears:
Our liberty depends upon the freedom of the Press and that cannot be limited without being lost.
That quotation comes from Jefferson. Giving a pretty broad expression of opinion, I believe there would be very few people who would feel that the Press should be given unlimited licence. There should be some restriction on the Press. There has to be a limitation on what can be printed and published in the best interests of the community without depriving people of the full facts on most of the major issues of the day. I do not want to see a limitation on the Press, but at the same time there has to be some limitation. There are laws of libel that prevent the newspapers going beyond what is reasonable in what they say about individuals. So, some boundary or some limitation has to be set somewhere. 1 hope that the discussion that has taken place tonight will lead not to a greater liberalisation of censorship but to an examination of the censorship standards that we have today with the object of maintaining them. I believe that we have gone far enough in the liberalisation of censorship and that there is nothing much to be gained by a further liberalisation at this stage. If any of those who had the opportunity to see the films and the censorship that was applied to them suggest that the scenes that were taken out would be of benefit to anybody in the community in any way, I am afraid, that I do not agree with them. 1 believe that in the standards of censorship that we have there is sufficient freedom to allow an expression of .opinion on practically all subjects. I believe that in maintaining the community standards that have been applied we in this Parliament should try to assist people in our community - particularly the parents and, perhaps to a -lesser extent, the- teachers of younger students - in their efforts to establish those standards which 1 could not understand anyone . in this Parliament not wanting to see maintained.
– That was an interesting “speech from the Messiah from Miles in which he set out to save us from ourselves. I think he completely missed the point of the debate. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and I would hold identical views on some of the issues about which he spoke tonight. 1 have travelled with him; I have talked with him; 1 have been overseas with him. Generally speaking, from his attitudes, the kind of conversations that we have and the kind of language that we use one would expect the personal moral attitudes that we express to be not greatly different.
I think he did the debate a little disservice by assuming that there is something wrong on the- part of people on this side of the House who have attitudes about the liberalisation of censorship with which he disagrees. Let me say this to honourable members opposite, some of whom have directed very unkind remarks to my friend from Maribyrnong (Dr Cass): ‘On all of these matters of morals, personal behaviour and what one should do and should not do, let him who is without sin cast the first stone’. The honourable member for Maranoa used phrases such as ‘the reasonable approach’, ‘the best interests’ and what is to be gained?’. Those are the age old arguments for restriction.
I do not know what is to be gained in a national community sense by any of these things. But I do know that down through history very little has been gained by allowing administrative authority to decide what people shall do and shall not do or what they shall read or shall not read in the course of their private affairs and for their own intellectual development. In my view, that is the very basis of the authoritarian society. Therefore, I join with honourable members on this side of the House in supporting what one might call a much more cautious approach not towards censorship but towards restriction.
The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has done the Parliament a service by raising this question for debate. It is 33 years since the last such debate. I believe that some of the issues raised by my friends opposite are quite irrelevant.
The Minister’s powers are very limited indeed. He has power only over those things that are brought into the country. He has power only as the customs officer of the country. He has no power to prevent any printery from printing anything it likes. As I understand the position, he has no power to prevent any film maker from making what he likes. He has no authority over the theatre and the things people do in it. So the effect of his view on censorship is minimal indeed. We have to decide in just what ways this situation ought to be developed.
I believe that it is part of the conceit of this generation, as indeed it probably was of every other generation, to say that there is more permissiveness and more depravity and that people are better and more delicately controlled morally than they used to be. Do not people read history books? Do not they flick back the pages and find what life was like 100, 200 or 1,000 years ago? Society’s values seem to me to go in waves. At present there is much more licence in the use of language than I would not use than there was 10, 15, 20 or 30 years ago. But then when I turn to books and find out what it was like 120 years ago or what it is like in some other community I find there is very little difference indeed. So we are not discussing a dramatic change in the social organisation of this community; we are discussing the way in which a certain area of authority vested in the Minister shall be administered.
The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) said that political issues ought not be censored - I doubt whether my friend the honourable member for Maranoa would agree with him completely - but the moral issues are a different matter. I am the kind of person who thinks that many political issues are moral issues. I believe that things such as race discrimination, apartheid and some of the propaganda of the Nazi Party are in fact moral issues but I would be the last one to suppress them. My friend the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) has some very odd political views. I regard the attitudes that he is adopting as highly immoral but the last thing I would do is suppress them. I will leave it to the people of the electorate of Boothby who will evenutally come to ground about it. So these, I think, are the issues.
I find that the greatest difficulty about censorship is this simple question of the problem of consistency. Where does one draw the line? Many honourable members have remarked on this. Just to test this little question I went into the Library a few moments ago while this debate was in progress and I said: T want something on torture and something on sex.’ So without any difficulty I obtained 2 books. The one on torture is not terribly definitive about forms of torture, although it does describe what happens when the water method and various beatings are used and when electricity is used as an encouragement to confession and so on. This is on the shelf; it is not banned. This is the sort of thing that people ought to read. After all, this is what the French Government was doing in Algeria and Indo-China to make sure that those countries stayed part of the French empire. But it describes violence in some of its worst forms. I have here an even more interesting tome titled ‘ABZ of Love’. I find it difficult to believe that some of the illustrations in this book are any worse - I suppose it is a value judgment in a way - than those in books which are banned. But it is sitting innocently on the shelves and, as far as I can tell, not banned.
So I ask: ‘Where does the consistency lie? Where do we draw the line? How can we decide?’ That, I believe, is the puzzle found by my friends the honourable member for Maribyrnong, the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and the rest of us. We perhaps differ slightly from my colleague the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) on this matter. I find it impossible to decide. From all those things I have read in the general issue of publications and all I have seen on film and so on I find it is almost impossible to draw the line in such a way that one is consistent. Therefore I believe that the argument is in favour of the surrendering of this system altogether. That brings me to the question of obscenity. As one of those people brought up in that kind of household where certain language was not allowed I rarely use the kind of language that some other people use. But I am prepared to admit that that is a purely personal view. My own attitude is that all those people who use what I regard as offensive language in the course of ordinary discussion have some kind of inferiority complex or some lack of knowledge or understanding of the English language, because many of the words used as adjectives and nouns do not actually fit into the context of the argument. With the broad spread of some 300,000 or 400,000 words in the English language that kind of language is quite unnecessary. I prefer that it be not used. 1 find it personally offensive when I am reading a reasonable piece of literature to discover that these, words have been included, I believe, unnecessarily. But I do see that this is probably a very personal view.
I therefore find it difficult on this question of obscenity to make the same sort of decision and I therefore again come to the conclusion - I presume I am holding probably the same moral values as the rest of the community - that liberalism or the surrender of control is more desirable than the accentuation of control. I suppose that it is not a question of obscenity but more a question of aesthetics. I understand that people have been fined for being nude on the stage. I can remember the present Treasurer (Mr Bury) in one of his earlier abberations - I think he was Minister for Housing and Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise - when asked a question about a book which I think was titled ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof saying that of course it had to be banned. He said that all the action took place in the bathroom or in the toilet. I said to myself: This is an odd attitude for the Minister for Housing to adopt. Is he planning to build houses without bathrooms and toilets?’ I think that illustrates the inconsistency and irrelevance of the whole system.
Nudity is a subject attracting some interest in life because 50 per cent of the world’s people are shaped like this, and 50 per cent are shaped like that. Never one group shall see the other nude except on odd occasions. I remind honourable members that one has to travel only to Arnhem Land, Papua and New Guinea and such places to find a completely uninhibited display of the human figure. Nobody has suggested that those people should be arrested. Such inconsistent standards are applied so that no longer can one believe that censorship has any relevance in modern society in the form in which it has developed.
J take strong exception to many things which are the epitome of violence and degradation but nothing whatsoever is done about them. ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and Portnoy’s Complaint’ have been banned at times. [ have not read either of those books but my friends have told me that some parts of them are very readable and other parts are quite offensive. The people in my electorate have to be protected from these things. Only a handful of them will ever read those books but they will see plenty of violence and hear much bad language and obscenity outside hotels which are so freely established in the community. The people who established those hotels receive great profits from them and many have received knighthoods from this Government.
We should ask ourselves a lot of questions about this subject. I refer particularly to my friends on the other side of the chamber, some ‘ of whom have chosen to cast a few aspersions on the attitudes of members of the Opposition. In talking about violence we should ask ourselves which is the paTty of violence and which is the party that supports the flogging and hanging which has taken place not so far from my own office, ls not the Liberal Party the party of war? My friend the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is very protective of the 21- year-olds. He says that they must not see violence and must be protected from it, but he is one who consistently votes to send our young men to the battlefields where the most extreme examples of violence can be seen.
My attitudes, I suppose, are not exactly puritan. I would prefer to say that I am influenced by aesthetic principles in my attitude to language, obscenity and so on. While I regret that it is so prevalent in the community I cannot find a consistent regime or ritual by which we could establish standards and systems that I could support. I believe that the Minister for Customs and Excise has done the country a service in tackling the whole system of censorship, lt is not a service that can be measured but it is a service of liberalisation and of opening up the matter for public debate. I am not an authority as to which literature is acceptable. At one stage The Catcher in the Rye’ was banned, but now it is on the list of books to be read by Melbourne matriculation students. It is a continuing system of changing standards. As I said earlier, I think it is just part of our general conceit. Human relationships change from time to time, as do our attitudes.
Nowadays there is much more open discussion on sex and relationships between males and females in the community than there was 20 years ago. I have noticed in our own family differences in attitudes between two of our sons, with an age difference of 4 or 5 years. My friends opposite are likely to talk about inhibiting this development of open discussion in some way. They refer to the permissive society, whatever that is. Again 1 say that it is part of our conceit. Is the violence today any worse than it was in the 1920s when special squads had to be placed in the streets of Melbourne to control the pushes? Is it any worse than it was 100 years ago? Have honourable members opposite read any Australian history? Have they read of what the slums of Britain were like 120 years ago, or even more recently? What are the slums like in some parts of the world now? I do not think this country is any more depraved than it used to be. In many respects it may well be a much better place.
On the question of what people shall see and what people shall not see, I have my own belief that things, such as posters, which impinge upon my visual environment and which are, in my view, obscene or offensive to me, to my family or to the public, ought not to be permitted. But that is a different question from censorship by our chief customs officer. I think that a different sort of attitude and standard ought to prevail on television and on motion pictures. At the motion pictures one deliberately buys a ticket and goes in. With television one is an involuntary watcher half the time. I would like to see the exhibitors of public posters accept the standards that I myself accept.
The debate this evening has been heartening. On the whole honourable members opposite, those of them who have disagreed strongly with us, have been reasonably charitable to us, though the honourable member for Maranoa was not quite so Christian and charitable to people holding opposing views as he ought to have been. I hope that the Minister will take the bit between his teeth - or whatever one does in this field - and forget that he is our chief censorship officer and develop his liberal ways even more liberally. One of the tragedies of the last 20 years has been that as soon as a Minister of this Government has become liberal minded, open hearted and showing commonsense he has usually been given the sack.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLeay) adjourned.
– 1 present the fifth report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
House adjourned at 10.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No member of any labor organisation may be fined, suspended, expelled or otherwise disciplined except for non-payment of dues by such organisation or by any officer thereof unless such a member has been (A) served with written specific charges; (B) given a reasonable time to prepare his defence; (C) afforded a full and fair hearing.’
This provision is in effect a legislative statement of the principles of natural justice, which the Commonwealth Industrial Court requires to be observed in disciplinary proceedings under the rules of organisations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The intended exclusion of these principles by any rule would be ground for an application under section 140 for a declaration that the rule contravenes that section as being oppressive, unreasonable or unjust and the consequence of such a declaration would be that the rule is void.
As to the second guarantee referred to by the honourable member, section 101 (a)(1) of the United States Act provides:
Every member of a labour organisation shall have equal rights and privileges within such organisation to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums of the labor organisation, to attend membership meetings and to participate in the deliberations and voting upon the business of such meetings, subject to reasonable rules and regulations in such organisation’s constitution and bylaws. Discriminatory treatment as between members of an organisation registered under the Commonwealth Act based on a rule of the organisation would also be a ground for an application under section 140. In addition, section 141 provides a means of redress for a member subjected to discriminatory treatment not authorised by an organisation’s rules.
The United States and Australia have adopted different methods in guaranteeing rights to members of labour organisations. Historically the United States has favoured conferring such rights in the form of a Bill of Rights. Australia has followed the British practice of not conferring rights in this form. However, the provisions of the Commonwealth Act which provide means for the invalidation of any rule of an organisation which is unreasonable, oppressive or unjust and for the performance or observance of any rule of such an organisation provide a more extensive protection of the rights of members than does the United States Act which guarantees only specified rights to members of labour organisations in that country.
National Service (Question No. 1912)
asked the Minister for
Labour and National Service, upon notice:
When he furnishes an answer to Question No. 1317 which 1 placed on the Notice Paper on 11th June, concerning his predecessor’s announcement on 10th August 1969, that 2,038 persons were under investigation for suspected breaches of the National Service Act, will he include corresponding information on his own announcement on 25th August, that 2,416 persons were under investigation for suspected breaches of the Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
An examination of the 2,416 cases recorded as being under investigation at 30th June 1970, which was conducted as at 12th October 1970, showed that, at that date, 315 had been finalised, 272 had been found not to be in breach of the Act and 43 had been prosecuted and convicted. These figures form part of the annual review of the current status of all persons who have registered for national service and I expect to make the next statement as at 30th June 1971.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the . honourable member’s question is as follows:
The conditions ofthe loan are as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In orderto be able to provide details of discussions at these meetings it would be necessary for me to obtain the concurrence ofthe Medical Boards concerned and this I would not propose to do. - , -, .
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The responsible Ministers have supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Ltd. Further, Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. Ltd proposed that the capital of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd be raised in order to expand that company’s facilities for the distribution of petroleum products. Legal advice was received to the effect that it was not within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to provide further funds for this purpose.
The objectives of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd as stated in the ‘Oil Agreement Act 1920’ were:
Price control on motor spirit, imposed by the Commonwealth Government in 1940 as a wartime measure, was maintained from 1945 to 1954 (at first by the Commonwealth and later by State Governments) with uniform prices and margins in all State capital cities.
In December 1954, price control on motor spirit was lifted in all States except South Australia and Queensland. after which time prices varied from Stale to State.
Variations in retail prices for -standard grade motor spirit are shown in the following table:
Uniformity of prices and margins in State capital cities was not maintained after price controls on motor spirit were lifted’ by most States in December 1954. Variations in retail prices for standard grade motor spirit sold in Sydney, for example, after price controls were lifted are shown in the table below:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
On what dates has he (a) received letters from the Premier of South Australia and (b) written letters to him about (i) the River Murray Waters Agreement, (ii) the Railways Standardization (South Australia) Agreement and (iii) the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 have received and sent letters to the Premier of South Australia on ‘ all these subjects, and on others, bin 1 regret that it is considered too much of an administrative burden to adopt the practice of supplying information which might bc sought on any matter which was the subject of correspondence with any Premiers.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice: (!) Does his Department give sole recognition to the Federal Council of Apiarists Associations, and its components, as spokesman for the Honey Industry.
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
School Enrolments (Question No. 2420)
asked the Minister for
Education and Science, upon notice:
How many pupils were enrolled in each State and Territory in 1970 in (a) government and (b) non-government (i) primary and (ii) secondary schools.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
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Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 February 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710222_reps_27_hor71/>.