27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members or the House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the citizens of South Australia respectfully sheweth:
The red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for pet foods and other purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy.
It is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that the export of all kangaroo products, including pet foods and furs, be banned immediately.
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 Membersof the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lackof classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next5 years by the States for these needs
That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisionsof the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
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 78 per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to inform the House that the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony, left Australia this morning to visit New Zealand for the regular ministerial review of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Mr Anthony is expected to return to Australia on8th April. During his absence the Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Nixon, will act as Minister tor Trade and Industry.
– In directing my question to the Prime Minister I refer him to the comment of the Trade Practices Commissioner in his last annual report thatthere is more restraint placed on competition in Australia by restrictive agreements than in almost any other developed country that you care to think of.I ask: Are equally obnoxious restrictions imposed by current legislation on the prompt investigation of some 13,000 restrictive agreements on the secret registry? Have fewer than 60 of those agreements been disposed of in the last 5 years? Will the Government take action to ensure that the secret registry is subject to public scrutiny, and will it apply the principle of onus of proof to participating parties as prevails in comparable legislation overseas? Or does it intend to perpetuate the present haven of restrictive secrecy and procrastination?
– On at least 2 occasions I have informed the House that we intend to legislate, preferably during the current session of the Parliament, to control resale price maintenance. I have also pointed out to the House that we have referred to an interdepartmental committee the whole problem of restrictive trade practices. I point out to the honourable gentleman that unfortunately our powers seem to be limited for the moment, but we hope that as a result of the concrete pipes case now before the High Court of Australia the ambit of the Commonwealth’s power may be extended.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware of a public statement made in Perth yesterday by a visiting Japanese Government economic mission that future joint ventures between Australia and Japanese interests in Australia could be impeded unless our current migration policies insofar as they affect Japanese migrants, are altered? I ask the Minister: Is it not a fact that certain skilled Japanese workers may enter Australia under our immigration laws as they are applied at present, and that the real restrictions to which the Japanese dignitaries refer are industrial limitations imposed by certain sectors of the trade union movement?
Or FORBES - 1 have seen 2 reports of what is alleged to have been said by this Japanese survey mission. The first one. a Melbourne report, referred to the fact that the Japanese were concerned about our restrictive immigration policies affecting joint ventures. Another one, a Sydney report, suggested that the head or the deputy head of the mission had appealed to the trade unions to change their attitude to the entry of temporary workers, particularly Japanese technicians. Government policy does permit well-qualified Japanese who are capable of being integrated into our community and who have qualifications which are positively valuable to Australia to migrate to this country and settle here.
There is also a well denned Government policy in relation tO:the entry for temporary residence of workers who have specialist qualifications. It involves in every case consultation with the Department of Labour and National Service to determine whether workers with these qualifications are available in Australia, and I understand that in appropriate cases the Department of Labour and National Service consults with the trade unions. These rules are well known. They are laid down. They were handed to this Japanese economic mission and no questions were raised. I might say, too, because of the overtones of these articles, that these policies in relation to temporary residence apply equally to nonEuropeans and Europeans who wish to come to Australia to work on a temporary basis.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration another question on Australia’s restrictive immigration policy. It arises from information that his predecessor gave me through the former Prime Minister that the New Zealand Government in August 1969 and again in September 1970 had made representations to the Australian Government that all New Zealand citizens, including the tens of thousands of Asians and Polynesians, other than those of Maori stock, who are New Zealand citizens, should be given uniformity of treatment by the Australian Government if they wished to visit Australia or settle here. Has the Australian Government agreed to give uniformity of treatment to all New Zealand citizens coming to Australia to visit or to settle?
– This matter has been raised by the New Zealand Government and is currently under consideration by the Australian Government.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen Press reports concerning the likelihood of organised industrial trouble in the Australian vehicle manufacturing industry? Is Mr Laurie Carmichael, Assistant Federal Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, said to be the inspiration behind this movement which is organised on the basis of shop committees? Is strike action by the shop committees in conflict with the policy of the individual trade unions and the trade union movement within Australia? What action has the Australian Council of Trade Unions taken to curb this strike programme which could throw many thousands of men out of work?
– I have seen the Press reports to which the honourable gentleman refers. It is true that employers within the Australian vehicle manufacturing industry are concerned that officials of certain metal trades unions are organising a strike programme on the basis of shop committees in order to get behind claims for certain conditions within the industry. The background to this matter dates back to 1968. when there was established an interstate committee of vehicle industry shop stewards. Since that time that interstate committee has launched within the industry a needling campaign of strike action in support of its claims. As the honourable gentleman observes, it is alleged with good foundation that the spearhead of this movement is Mr Laurie Carmichael, the Assistant Federal Secretary of the Amalgamated
Engineering Union. Of course, his activities within the industrial movement in Australia will require no elaboration in this House. I might say that I understand that the movement by the shop stewards is contrary to the official policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It is to be hoped that the unions concerned and the ACTU will not allow their official policy to be abrogated by strike action of this type. This action is certainly to be regretted in what is one of Australia’s largest industries.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. In his answer to the honourable member for Cook he raised the matter of specialist qualifications as being a factor considered in the admission of migrants. I ask the Minister: Has his Department or specially appointed committees made any progress in the matter of the recognition of professional and trade qualifications held by migrants, which have previously not been recognised in Australia? If so, in what trades and professions have conclusions been reached? If not, when can we expect a decision to be made on this matter? To what extent has the question of reciprocity of recognition affected decisions?
– The committee to which the honourable gentleman refers, known as the Meyer Committee, has undertaken a great deal of work on this subject. This work has involved the director of the Committee and various members of it in visiting Europe, discussing the situation with governments and appropriate bodies in the countries concerned, obtaining information about the courses undertaken by immigrants with professional qualifications in the countries concerned, and then bringing that information back and making contact with the appropriate bodies in Australia. To list the particular trades and so on with which they have made progress and to outline the discussions that have taken place would involve an answer of such a length that it would probably be not acceptable to the House. I should be very glad to provide the honourable gentleman with detailed information. Insofar as the acceptance of the qualifications depends on registration under State law, the Commonwealth has no power except in its own
Territories. All we can do is to aci as a catalyst to provide the State registration bodies in these fields with the necessary information. Sometimes it is quite valuable even to tell them what is done in other States, let alone what is done in other countries. But I make the point thai the final decision rests with them and noi with the Commonwealth Government. I do recognise the importance of making all the progress we can in this field.
– The Minister for Education and Science will be aware oi the serious effect of foot-rot in sheep on tha wool industry, especially in the present period of economic difficulty for that industry. I ask: Can the Minister provide any information as to when the foot-rot vaccine developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is likely to be made available to the industry?
– I certainly agree with the honourable member that foot-rot is an extremely difficult and expensive disease in sheep. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has informed me that it believes that foot-rot is costing Australia about $16m annually and that it is virtually the last major contagious disease in sheep in Australia which could not be controlled by vaccine. I have always been extremely interested in the work being undertaken by the CSIRO in this field. Dr Beveridge, who was the first scientist in Australia to isolate the bacteria fusiform is nodosus which causes foot-rot, undertook this research work on my father’s farm at Woomargama. This research has revolutionised the treatment of foot-rot. but unfortunately, because of the great difficulty associated with labour costs and the fact that one contagious carrier could lead to a breakdown, it was not really successful in eliminating foot-rot.
Some 5 years ago the CSIRO set out to develop a vaccine. It has been extremely successful. The small field trials carried out have shown a virtual complete immunity for sheep that have been vaccinated twice. Unfortunately, the production of a commercial vaccine has been extremely difficult to achieve. Discussions have been held with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and drug businesses and laboratories in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Everything that can possibly be done is being done. Special funds have been made available by the CSIRO, but it says that it is extremely difficult to produce a vaccine and a number of strains of this particular organism will have to be incorporated in that vaccine. I can assure the honourable member that the CSIRO is doing everything that it possibly can. It regards this as a matter of urgency. I am not hopeful that we will have a quick break through. The last annual report of the CSIRO said that it would probably be some 18 months before this vaccine was available commercially.
– Has the Prime Minister received a request from the Tasmanian Premier for assistance to provide the Bell Bay rail link? Have feasibility studies on the project been completed? If so, did they confirm the viability of the rail link? Is the Prime Minister aware of the importance of providing this railway with the development of new wood chip industries in the north of Tasmania?
– The answer to each of the 3 questions is yes.
– Is the
Minister for Customs and Excise aware that the Queensland Government has recently introduced legislation dealing with narcotics and dangerous drugs, which is claimed to be complementary to Commonwealth legislation? ls the Minister aware that the Queensland legislation embodies the question of onus of proof? Do other States intend to follow suit, or is this type of legislation operative in some State or States already? Finally, will the Minister give the House an indication of the increase in narcotic trafficking in Australia over recent times.
– The answer to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question is that the Government is in no position to know of the increase in the incidence of drug taking in Australia. However, generally speaking, seizures of narcotics and dangerous drugs by the Department of Customs and Excise have increased twenty-fold in the last 2 years. One of the most worrying aspects is the increase in seizures of the very dangerous drugs such as heroin. The background to the answer to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question is that in 1969 the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence on which all States are represented looked at a decision made in 1968 by the House of Lords. The decision indicated that State police forces would have extreme difficulty in bringing for prosecution any person in their States who was found to have dangerous drugs in his possession under the definition of the meaning of the word ‘possession’. Legislation in all States was looked at. It was found that Victoria only had legislation which deemed that, if drugs were found on premises normally occupied by a person, that person could be charged. It was unanimously agreed at that time, on the recommendation of the then Federal Attorney-General, that all States should amend their Acts to bring them into conformity with the Victorian legislation. I might say that an amendment along identical lines was inserted into the Customs Act in 1910. Not being a legal man, I cannot comment .on whether this relates to onus of proof. It simply means that, if a quantity of drugs or poisons is found in a home or on premises normally occupied by a person, that is sufficient evidence to bring that person into court so as to give him an opportunity to testify and produce evidence as to whether he had good cause to be in possession of those drugs. That is the position as I understand it. I understand that all States are in the process of drafting similar legislation.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. So that he will understand my question, I will preface it with a reference to a Press release by the Minister for the Army on 18th March in which it was announced that the Australian Army is to begin phasing into its range of infantry weapons this year a new light machine gun. Is it intended to manufacture this weapon at the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, which has an enviable record in precision engineering and efficient weapons production? Because of the splendid production record of the
Lithgow factory and the importance of self-sufficiency in military supplies, I strongly urge the manufacture of the gun at the Commonwealth’s factory.
– I would find it necessary to obtain from the Minister for Supply the plans which he had in mind for the manufacture of the light machine gun to which the honourable member has referred. The honourable member will recall that on an occasion I accompanied him over the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. Indeed, I do not think that that factory has in any way suffered, but rather has improved since that time.
– Does the Treasurer know that interest rates overseas have fallen dramatically in recent months and that the prime rate today in America is 5i per cent? Is it not time that we had a good look at interest rates in Australia and made certain that we are not out of step with international economies? Are we tending to encourage some overseas capital only because our interest rates are too high?
– Interest rates have fallen in West Germany. It has been announced that the United Kingdom rate has just been reduced. Perhaps the biggest reduction has been in the United States of America. This reduction was the result of a specific policy pursued by the Government of that country. The reduction of interest rates in the United States had a very marked impact on the Euro-dollar market. However, interest rates vary in all countries because of different circumstances in each country. One of the infortunate things perhaps for some countries affected by the Euro-dollar is that their interest rates may have been changed as a direct consequence of the change in the United States rate without them really wanting this to happen.
There can be no doubt that so far as Australia is concerned we are not so affected by international interest rates as are some other countries. We may be thankful for that because the inflow of capital into Australia results largely from investment opportunities which this country can offer those people in other countries who have money to invest. We can be thankful for that aspect of our development. The interest rate in Australia is fixed according to the fundamental requirements of our domestic, economic and financial circumstances. At present the interest rate is at the level it is as a most important aspect of Government measures to resist the very great inflationary pressures that exist in Australia today. Honourable members on the other side of the House can take their choice between economic responsibility and chasing after short term political advantage. So far as we on this side of the House are concerned the long term future of Australia is far more important than short term advantage.
– I desire to direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that recent authoritative assessments have indicated that 100 million acres of pastoral and agricultural land in nearly every State of the Commonwealth and in the Northern Territory are now owned or controlled by overseas interests? If the Prime Minister is aware of this situation, is he concerned? If he is concerned, what measures has he in view to prevent this sell-out of Australia and our national heritage?
Mir McMAHON- It is obvious that the honourable gentleman did not listen to the question posed to me in somewhat similar terms at question time yesterday. So far as Commonwealth territories are concerned, I will refer the problem to my colleague the Minister for the Interior. So far as the States are concerned, their governments alone have the constitutional responsibility to control leasing or freeholding of any land in their States and the taking up of that land by overseas interests. If the honourable member and other honourable members on the other side of the House are genuinely interested in this problem they should approach the various State governments and suggest to them that they take the necessary action.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Minister, in conjunction with the
Minister for Trade and Industry, make investigations with a view to ascertaining whether the high Australian retail price of mutton and lamb can be justified when compared with the low prices being received by producers for mutton and lamb on the hoof?
– The honourable gentleman has referred to a matter which has been of great concern to me during the last few weeks. Indeed, in my own area I know of instances in which mutton has been purchased for 3c or 4c per lb on the hoof in saleyards and has been retailing for about 18c per lb in butchers shops and retail outlets. It seems to me that this highlights one of the areas in which producers are traditionally disadvantaged. It is true that throughout large parts of rural areas of Australia producers prefer to have the opportunity of either selling their stock by auction through saleyards or selling it on the hoof at a price per lb at abattoirs or slaughterhouses. This option is available to them. Nonetheless, regardless of which option they exercise there seems to be a very substantial margin of profit going to the entrepreneurs in the trade. I would be very happy to discuss this problem with my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry to see whether there is any way in which we can ensure that the producers are paid a price which is relative to the price which the consumer herself, the housewife, ultimately is required to pay.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Following on the conviction of Lieutenant Calley of the United States Army for war atrocities, will Australia take the initiative - possibly in the United Nations - to have an International Commission on War Crimes in Vietnam set up to investigate and publicly report on the extent to which the precedents set at the Nuremburg war crimes trials and the trial of General Yamashita have application in the Calley case, as well as to investigate the numerous and seemingly substantiable allegations of other war atrocities which have been committed in Vietnam by the various fighting forces engaged there? If the Government refuses this proposal, on what grounds will it be able to uphold the precedent set in the manner of the conviction, leading to the execution, of General Yamashita?
– I will be only too happy to have a look at the matter raised by the honourable member. I am pleased that he referred to the possibility of all forces involved in Vietnam coming under examination. However, I wonder how it would be possible to have war crimes trials associated with the atrocities committed by the North Vietnamese. I happened to be in Hue not so very long ago where I saw the graveyard of 6,000 civilians who had been ruthlessly murdered by the North Vietnamese for no cause whatsoever other than that these civilians would not willingly fall in with the North Vietnamese and assist them with the provision of food and fighting forces. Nonetheless, the honourable member’s question is worthy of consideration and I will give it the consideration it needs.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the New South Wales Labor Council endorsed a campaign to win a 35- hour working week for the power industry in 1971 by direct strike action? Will the Minister indicate the effect on the economy and on employment and conditions in other industries which are dependent on power?
– Did the honourable member say power or flour?
– The honourable member said power, which is a very critical industry throughout Australia, particularly in the State in which the honourable member is resident. As I understand the situation, the honourable member was correct in saying that last night the New South Wales Labor Council unanimously adopted a programme in support of a 35-hour working week in the power industry. This programme is to be launched on the basis of direct strikes, stoppages and limitations upon work. It would be no secret to this House that the Government remains strongly opposed to the introduction of a 35-hour working week because of the major effects it would have upon the economy, particularly the rural sector.
I want to make 2 simple observations. In the first place, it is to be deplored that the unions concerned have in this case decided to take direct strike action. If those unions believe that they have a case for a 35-hour working week which they can effectively sustain they should seek to sustain it before the appropriate tribunal within the ambit of the conciliation and arbitration system. The fact that they have not done so would seem to indicate that they have little confidence in the intrinsic merits of their own case. Secondly, because there are serious inflationary pressures within the Australian economy, this is not the time to be adding substantially to those pressures and to the annual wages bill.
I understand that if a 35-hour working week were to be introduced now it would lead to an increase in the annual wages bill of well in excess of 10 per cent. The dimension of that statistic will be clear to the House if it reflects on the fact that the increase in average earnings during the whole of last year was about 84- per cent. I believe that, as the honourable member implied in his question, the unions ought to appreciate that the annual increase in the capacity of the economy to support higher wages and better conditions is certainly not unlimited and that with a given rate of productivity growth any increase in leisure hours can be in fact attained only at the expense of an increase in real wages.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether it is correct that staff reductions have recently been ordered and carried out at the Commonwealth Health Laboratories? Is it correct that some remaining staff have suffered a reduction in salary as a result of their downgrading? Is it also correct that staff reductions at the Kalgoorlie Laboratory have made it necessary for blood samples to be sent to Perth for analysis? If so, could this cause serious delay in determining a complaint or disease? Is it correct that reductions in staff ordered at Darwin are having serious effects there? Finally, are the staff and salary reductions the result of the Government’s anti-inflation campaign and, if so, why has it been found necessary to interfere with and disrupt the smooth running of such important health centres?
– I am not personally aware of any of the reductions which the honourable member suggested have taken place but I will be glad to refer his question to my colleague in another place for a detailed reply.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, following the previous Government’s statement that child minding centres would be set up or encouraged he has received any requests from industries for assistance in establishing child minding centres in association with those industries. Is the Minister aware of a letter from the Dowd organisation at Healesville, which operates one of the largest industries in this most important area, offering to donate land for the purpose of erecting a child minding centre to be made available to all in the Healesville area? When is it expected that a decision will be given on this most important matter?
– I am certainly well aware of the particular interest which the honourable gentleman has taken in the scheme to which he has made reference. I well understand his concern for the Dowd industry group which, I might also observe, has a very important plant within the electorate of Flinders. The honourable gentleman refers to the Government’s indication that it will introduce a scheme to assist in the establishment and operation of child care centres of approved standard. This programme was mentioned by the Government in its policy speech and results from a recognition of the factors to which the honourable gentleman made reference, that is, the increase in the number of married women who have entered the work force.
Some 35 per cent of all married women were in the work force in 1970. This is growth which has occurred not as a direct consequence of Government policy but as a reflection of a universal trend in developed economies throughout the world. I want to observe very quickly that in the first place this programme was designed not to encourage women to enter the work force but to deal with an immediate problem which now exists and which, as I understand it, is of such dimensions that a quarter of a million children under 6 years of age have mothers who are currently in the work force. Secondly, the programme will take time to develop. In reply to the particular matters the honourable gentleman referred to, certainly I have received those representations. I will process them at the earliest opportunity and will look forward to a meaningful and productive discussion with the honourable gentleman about them.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it a fact that the former Prime Minister undertook in his 1969 election policy speech to establish a Bureau of Transport Economics and to take measures to reduce transport costs? Is it also a fact that the former Prime Minister later - about 2 months ago - required the new Bureau, as an anti-inflation measure, to recruit only half its authorised staff? If so, what savings will be achieved by this measure and how do they compare with transport cost reductions which the Government anticipated would follow from the activities of the Bureau? Also, will he countermand his predecessor’s instruction and allow the Bureau to acquire staff authorised by the Public Service Board as necessary for the effective conduct of its duties?
– The honourable gentleman must remember that this question has to be answered against the background that inflationary forces in this country are too strong, that we have very strong demand in the field of labour and overfull employment. Consequently we cannot isolate one particular area of the economy and ask that it be given a privileged position. The problem must be looked at as a whole. Consequently, we must look at employment in the Public Service just as much as we have to look at employment in civil sections of the economy. I am glad to say that pressures in the labour market are not increasing as rapidly as we anticipated last October that they would. So at the moment I cannot give the honourable gentleman any assurance at all about the staffing of the Bureau. Naturally we will keep this under the most careful consideration and when we feel that there can be relaxation of policy we will look at that policy as a whole and we will not isolate any particular areas of it. I mention to the honourable gentleman that if he had looked at the statistics he would have seen that the rate of growth in the Commonwealth Public Service has been much higher than the increase in the work force. Something had to be done. Effective action was taken and I do not want to reverse that action too quickly.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of repeated reports circulating in the Northern Territory that the Government economy cuts are having a serious effect on the health services in the Territory? Can the Minister give an assurance that such items as essential drugs, nurses’ accommodation, and medical and dental services to all centres and outposts are not jeopardised while economies may be effected in other directions?
– This matter was raised with me by the honourable gentleman while I was still Minister for Health. At that stage - ‘and I am sure that the position is still the same, although I shall relay his question to my colleague - the position was that a great deal of trouble had been taken by my Department to consider the cuts that had necessarily to be made in the Northern Territory activities of the Department of Health as elsewhere to ensure that these should have no effect on the standards of essential health and medical services in the Territory. I give the honourable gentleman an absolute assurance that that was so. Some question about drugs was raised as a result of his representations. The matter was investigated and the suggestion was found to have no basis in fact. Essential drugs were as readily available in the Northern Territory as they had always been.
– In view of the success achieved by hovercraft in the Army transport services of many countries, including Vietnam, will the Minister for the Army have investigated the possibility of suitable hovercraft for Army use being accepted by the Army transport service in Australia and being constructed at the Commonwealth Aircraft Factories which urgently require orders? I asked the same question 3 years ago of Sir Allen Fairhall when he was Minister for Defence.
– The Minister for Defence recently spoke of moves that are being made in regard to the Commonwealth Aircraft Factories. The Army is closely watching the evolution of hovercraft and I recall two occasions on which the Army has participated in its usage. The first occasion was at Shoalwater Bay in Queensland where combined exercises were held, and the second was at a, demonstration of a United Kingdom hovercraft on Lake Burley Griffin. On both occasions the use of these craft was studied carefully. A brief is being compiled, but I imagine that it will be some time before a decision is reached.
– I refer to the statement just made by the Minister for Labour and National Service with regard to child minding centres. I ask the Minister whether he will bear in mind the interests not only of industry but also of the children concerned. Has there been established an interdepartmental committee representing the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services and the Department of Education and Science which are all vitally concerned with this matter? Finally, can he conceive of any’ need that industry may have for the mother of a child under 3 years of age that would be greater than the need of the child for its mother?
– If I correctly recall the last part of the honourable member’s question, the answer is no. He has raised a, most pertinent point in relation to the programme, namely, the interests of the children concerned. The honourable member and the House can be well assured that the interests of the children certainly will be borne in mind.
– Who will decide what their interest is?
– I ask the honourable member to listen for a moment. As one of my colleagues has just said by way of interjection, the interests of the children are paramount. As I recall the background of the scheme - not that I was personally associated with it - it was in large measure because of the interests of the children in part that this scheme was introduced. Surveys indicated that there was a problem which required attention. A major dimension of that problem was concerned with the children whose mothers were already working. I emphasise, as I did earlier in answer to the honourable member for La Trobe, that the purpose of this scheme is not to encourage additional women into the work force but simply to have an impact on a problem which is before us, which is immediate and which requires attention. What the honourable member for Bradfield has said will be well borne in mind. I emphasise, lest there be any misapprehension, that the interests of the children will be paramount.
– Before I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper, I should like to give additional details relating to the question asked of me by the Leader of the Opposition. The assumption on which he based his question is false. Staffing of the Bureau of Transport Economics is not affected by the cuts but is now proceeding. I ask mat further questions be placed on the notice paper.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
Without amendmentDried Fruits Research Bill 1971. Without requests - Dried Fruits Levy Bill 1971.
– I move:
In moving this motion, I should like to explain briefly to the House the programme of sittings of the House for next week. Under normal sitting arrangements the House would resume next Monday. However, a Premiers Conference has been called for Monday and it is customary to make this chamber available for such conferences. I should also like to indicate to the House that it is not proposed to sit next Thursday 8th April. This decision has been taken to meet the convenience of honourable members who wish to be back in their electorates in time for the Easter recess.
May I remind the House that the sittings will resume after Easter on Tuesday, 20th April. Under normal arrangements Monday, 26th April, would be a sitting day. However, because this day is being observed in some States , as an Anzac Day holiday the House will not sit on that day, but will sit again on Tuesday, 27th April.
– Let me make my continuing formal acknowledgment of the fact that this Parliament is being used as an offshoot of Premiers, Dukes or anyone else who happens to turn up. After long discussions this Parliament decided that it would proceed upon certain arrangements for sittings. It sits Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Now the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) comes into the House and talks about normal sittings. We have been sitting for half a dozen weeks and there have been no normal sittings. There is nothing so normal’ about this place as its abnormality. The Senate has become the Parliament, the Press has become the Government and we have become a function of the Premiers of Australia who may as well not come here for all the good they will get out of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The unresolved issue of ministerial control of the armed forces.
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).
– It is distasteful to revert to events of recent weeks which in the minds of most participants would best be buried forever, but here are some unresolved issues in the recent cataclysm in the Government which warrant the attention of the House. These issues are to be found in statements made by the present Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton) and his predecessor, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), relating to ministerial control of the armed forces. These issues can be boiled down to 2 specific points. The first is the authority of the Government over the armed forces; the second is the morale and effectiveness of the armed forces in this context of ministerial control.
I do not want to traverse again the whole ground of the wide-ranging wrangle between the Minister for Defence and the honourable member for Wannon. Their arguments can best be summarised in the following way: In his memorable denunciation of his former Prime Minister on 9th March the honourable member for Wannon outlined his conception of the duty and responsibilities of the Minister for Defence. He said:
I assert that any Minister for Defence who seeks to do his duty will have to seek to move people from old views and from views that may not embrace the total defence concept.
He also made the point that loyalty to a service did not require the uncritical and universal support of its activities. The honourable member for Wannon said correctly that that would be a denial of parliamentary authority. From these statements it can be concluded that the honourable member for Wannon was making 2 broad allegations against his then Prime Minister. The first was that Mr Gorton was encumbered by old views and outmoded concepts, and that his viewpoint did not embrace a total defence concept but instead reflected biased attitudes towards individual services. The second allegation was that the former Prime Minister had given uncritical and universal support to one Service, in this case the Army. In simple terms he alleged the former Prime Minister had backed the generals against his overriding authority as Minister for Defence.
Before looking more closely at the confrontation between Mr Gorton, Mr Malcolm
Fraser and the generals, it is worthwhile to recall another incident which gave a dramatic illustration of how these two gentlemen conceived their roles in formulating and carrying out defence policy. This was the proposal to establish a joint cadet college for the three armed Services. A submission was presented by the honourable member for Wannon to Cabinet in October last )’ear putting the Defence Department’s case for joining the Army, Navy and Air Force officer cadet colleges in a single college. There is general consensus in the Press reports that this submission was pretty badly mauled by Mr Gorton. The reports agreed also on his lines of criticism: The submission had been badly costed; it did not justify the abolition of the present system of individual colleges; it did not explain why the Navy and the Air Force had dropped their former opposition to the tri-Service college. He implied that these departments had been leaned on by the Defence Department to accept the joint academy. Undoubtedly this was a throw-back to the former Prime Minister’s days as Minister for the Navy.
During question time on Tuesday this week the Minister for Defence confirmed his objections to Mr Malcolm Fraser’s submission when he said the Government had required more detailed information and a good deal more facts before it could agree to the proposal. He threw no light whatever on the future of a tri-Service academy at Duntroon. In this incident can be seen the seeds of the remarkable events which shook the Government and the whole defence structure earlier this month. We find Mr Malcolm Fraser putting forward a total defence concept with the full support of the three defence Ministers and the Service chiefs. On the other side of the table we have Mr Gorton reverting to the old single Service concepts and harking back to his balmy days as Minister for the Navy in a simpler and more innocent world.
In his speech of 9th March the honourable member for Wannon at considerable length delineated his conception of the chain of command linking down from the Defence Department through the Service departments to the Army, Navy and Air Force. This was based on a statement made by Sir Robert Menzies to the Parliament 13 years ago and a subsequent confidential directive on how the Department of Defence was to assure a clear and commanding authority over the three Service Departments and the Department of Supply, interpreting these statements by Sir Robert Menzies, the honourable member for Wannon stressed the co-ordination of policy and the chain of command down from himself through the structure. In his view Mr Gorton had breached this chain of command by allowing direct appeals from the individual Services to the Prime Minister, detouring around the Minister for Defence. In short he alleged that the Prime Minister had broken a chain of command, a chain of command handed down from the fountainhead of Sir Robert Menzies.
I suppose the honourable member for Wannon’s insistence on the divine right of the chain of command has its ironical side. There are many legendary stories indicating that the honourable gentleman as Minister for the Army had no compunction about making direct contact lower down the structure when it suited him. There is one hoary old story that circulates around the messes that he even rang a sergeant of the guard directly at one Army post to get information he wanted. This is the sort of approach described as a refreshing elimination of red tape when one does it as a junior Minister but as a breach in the principle of the chain of command when done to one by a superior. Time changes all perspectives. “It would be an impossible task to trace through the history of relations between the Department of Defence and the individual Services in the past few years.
Broadly I believe what has happened is that increasing civilian control has had to be imposed on reluctant Services. This has been accepted although not without some frictions by the Navy and the Air Force. However, it has produced extraordinary strains between the Army and the Department of Defence, strains which culminated in the upheavals of early March. A major contributory factor in this extraordinary catharsis was the role of the Army in Vietnam.
In the 1950s the Army bore the brunt of the rundown in defence spending which slumped from 5 per cent of the gross national product to around 2 per cent. Then in the 1960s the Army was again the victim of rapid rearming. With little time for thorough preparation the burden of a most demanding war was imposed upon it. At the same time it had to find the resources for a commitment to Malaysia-Singapore and continue its training and maintenance role in Australia. In the peak years it had to service Vietnam with 3 battalions a year out of a total of 9 battalions. Whatever one’s opinions of the commitments undertaken it must be said that the Army has responded magnificently to the demands imposed upon it. The point is that with existing resources it should not have been asked to expend itself in achieving the virtually impossible. At the same time as the Army was over-extended in this way it began to feel the full impact of a new defence structure and the demands of a new, thrusting and politically ambitious Minister for Defence. Throw in the increasing awareness on the part of the Army that it had been exploited most blatantly for narrow political ends and we can piece together some sort of explanation of the seemingly inexplicable events of recent weeks.
One example of the strains between the Government and the Army was indicated by the honourable member for Wannon - the location of major Army establishments. He referred to the setting up of a new task force base at Townsville against Army insistence on the need to concentrate and consolidate. Now the Government wants to set up another task force base in the west and the honourable member for Wannon implied that the Army was deliberately stalling in supplying the necessary data. Here there is a clear case of the Army wanting to reorganise on functional lines. The Minister for the Army has appointed the Hassett Committee to look at the present cumbersome administration on State boundaries and to recommend a more rational and economic organisation. Against this the Government seems determined to allocate task forces for political purposes on parochial lines opposed to the basic principles on which the Hassett Committee is working. Quite clearly the Army is on the right course in this issue.
Another example of the sort of relations existing between the former Minister and the Army was the squabble over the guard of honour in February. This would have been a trivial and even ludricous incident if it had not illustrated the very grave breakdown of relations between the then Minister for Defence and the Army. When it was revealed that $7,000 had been spent on providing a guard of honour the then Minister for Defence made a statement accusing the Army of stupidity and extravagance in the light of the current economic situation. It is common knowledge that his public attack on the Army was made without consultation with his colleague the Minister for the Army and or before any investigation of what had happened. In any case, the ultimate responsibility for ceremonial of this sort lies not with the Army but with the Department of the Prime Minister; it can hardly be described as an Army blunder’. If the Army is told to supply a guard of honour for such an occasion, presumably it does this in the most effective way it can.
So much for the chain of command. The third and most significant example of tensions between the former Minister for Defence and the Army came with the controversy over civil aid in. Vietnam. This in turn led to the sequence, of Press reports which produced the crisis in the Government. Two points can. be made about this whole episode. The first is that the honourable member for Wannon used a technique of background briefing individual journalists to propagate strong criticisms of the Army. This was made clear in the famous ‘Bulletin’ article of 6th March which was headed ‘The Australian Army’s “revolt” in Vietnam’. The article was unsigned, but it was made clear in a subsequent television programme by Mr David McNicoll of . the Consolidated Press group that the information contained in it had come from a background briefing by the honourable member for Wannon.
This article made the following claims: That the Task Force had. on a number of occasions gone its own way, that it had given rather misleading accounts of its activities on occasions, that it had failed to consult Ministers about major changes of policy, that it had tried to close down the civil aid programme in Vietnam as quickly as possible, and that it had operated out of its own assigned area in’ Vietnam without permission or consultation. In this and in similar briefings it seems that the honourable member for Wannon sought to convey the impression that the Army was trying to free itself from civilian control, that it was not responsive to Cabinet policies or Cabinet direction, and that it was not to be trusted. The upshot of this campaign, which was conducted by the technique of background briefing, was the violent reaction of General Daly and the recriminations against the honourable member for Wannon which he directed to the then Prime Minister who responded with what the honourable member for Wannon called an asurance of unequivocal and absolute support.
The second point to be made concerns the attitudes of the former Prime Minister to the Department of Defence and the individual Services. I will not refer to this cat and mouse political game carried on with the honourable member for Wannon. There are much more important issues involved. In his answer to the honourable member for Wannon on 9th March the former Prime Minister emphasised the reciprocal duty of governments to stop denigration or criticism of the Army without proper basis. In a clear reference to his widely published interview with General Daly he stressed the duty of the Government to protect the whole of the Army against undeserved criticism. There are 2 very important principles involved in this whole confrontation. The first is the absolute supremacy of civilian authority over the Army. Navy and Air Force without deliberate provocation of individual Services operating under extreme stresses in a misbegotten war. The honourable member for Wannon showed commendable drive and verve in carrying through the reorganisation of the Department of Defence. Unfortunately his qualities did not extend to the sort of tact and skills in human relations which could have consolidated major reforms without alienating the armed Services, and in particular the Army.
At the other pole is the argument stressed by the present Minister for Defence, and that is the need for Government loyalty to the Services and the assurance that they will not be embroiled in the manoeuvres of ambitious politicians. When moving a want of confidence motion in the Government on March 15th. the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said that the Army and the whole question of authority over the Army had been made a question of personal and partisan one-upmanship.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I must confess that when I read the terms of the matter proposed for discussion, ‘The unresolved issue of Ministerial control of the Armed Forces’, it was impossible for me to understand what it was that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) was going to talk about because there can be no question but that there is ministerial control of the armed forces. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made no attempt to suggest that that was not so. There can be no question about it. So the issue is not unresolved; it is resolved. There is ministerial control and governmental control of the armed forces. Consequently, the real purpose of the speech delivered was not to suggest that there was not ministerial control but 1 think to endeavour to deliver a speech which was prepared some time ago and which is now so far out of date that it has no relevant purpose.
There are a few points raised by the honourable member to which I should refer. In relation to the first of these I would reiterate that a Prime Minister, a Minister for Defence or a Minister for a Service is under an obligation to defend that Service against attacks which are not properly based and to deny allegations which are false. I believe that I should well reiterate that point. Any attempt to go beyond that - there seemed to be some attempt on the part of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - to say that that means unequivocal support for anything a Service does is clearly an improper extension of what is a proper approach. Of course, there is no requirement to defend a Service against a charge if that charge is properly based. There is no such requirement and indeed no-one has ever said there was. But what is more important. I think, is to examine the roles of the Minister for Defence, the Service Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff.
I have little quarrel with what was placed before this House by the former Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as to the role, in general, of the Minister for Defence. The Minister for Defence is the coordinating Minister, Not as a result of any law but as a result of an administrative arrangement order made by a Prime Minister, quite properly, he is the head of the Defence Services as a whole and is responsible for seeing that should this country need to be defended, plans have been made to cover various contingencies and that agreements have been made as to the kind of equipment the various Services would want. It is also true that there will need to be from time to time degrees of integration when that can be done with advantage to the Government and to the country - but not merely for integrations sake. That is the role of the Minister for Defence. But there are also quite significant roles for the Service Ministers. They are legally sworn in by the GovernorGeneral to be responsible to this House for the conduct of their Services. Indeed, I have not noticed any great desire on the part of past Ministers for Defence to jump to their feet, for example, when a charge is made that bad boots have been issued to the Army, that some water torture has been carried out by the Army, that there has been a collision in the Navy or that something is wrong in the Royal Australian Air Force. In that case the Ministers responsible would get up and quite properly account to the House for the running of their Services.
– If they are there long enough.
– That is the case whether they change or whether they do not. All things change. The one thing that does not change is that responsibility of the Service Ministers to the House on these matters. There is also a responsibility on the chief of staff to the Services. They are not at the head of their Services in order to be called in and told what they must do - told what sort of equipment they require - just given their orders and expected to accept them and go away. Their role is to provide military advice. They are the heads of their Services. They have been through the ranks and have arrived at a stage at which they are looked to for the military advice they can give. It is their duty to provide that military advice to their Ministers and to the Minister for Defence through the defence complex.
If a decision is taken finally after discussion which is not one which a chief of a particular Service would wish to be taken then he is bound loyally, completely and utterly to follow out that decision which has been made by the Government. But he would be failing in his duty if he did not in the course of discussions which led to the final formulation of a policy put forward properly his views of the military advice which he should give as it concerns his arm to the Government. That is the claim, as I see it. I believe that just as it is quite proper for a Service Minister not to have to ask the permission of the civilian head of his Department before he speaks to the head of the works division, just as it is not necessary for him to ask the permission of the Chief of the Naval Staff, for example, before he speaks to somebody in charge of construction, so it is not at all wrong or unnecessary for a Minister for Defence to speak to others down the line. These things make for smoother running, make for better running, and are not to be regarded as something other than that.
There can be no question about these things. Firstly, there is no question as to whether ministerial contra] of the armed forces exists. Secondly, there is no question but that the paramount control lies in the Minister for Defence. Thirdly, there can be no question but that the Service Ministers themselves are responsible for their Services to this Parliament and - this is an important point - have, and always have had since Sir Robert Menzies put forward his administrative order, the right to ‘ approach the Cabinet if some decision made by the Minister for Defence is ohe which a Service Minister believes should be discussed in the Cabinet because it is against his own views of what his Service should provide. This has always been the case, and it reemphasises the significance of a Service Minister.
I do not know of occasions, at any rate recently, when this has happened. But this merely shows that the process of discussion, the process of consultation, the processes that are going on, lead to a situation where a consensus of agreement is able to be reached. But it remains true that the Minister sworn in as the Minister responsible to this House can put his case to the Cabinet if there should be an area of disagreement. If this is so, and there is no question but that it is so, there can be no question - I come back to that again - but that full ministerial control of the armed forces is maintained. There has been no suggestion that civilian control has at any time been ignored by the chief of any Service.
There has never been advanced a suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that a Service should be supported whether it is right or whether it is wrong. The only argument advanced is that a Service should be defended if false charges are made publicly against it. I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would not deny that concept. I know that a Minister for Defence will require from time to time to move people from old views. I know that junior officers in a particular Service will from time to time require to use their comparative youth, their new arguments, to move people from old views. There are always requirements for change, but they do not emanate only from one source. I would say nothing more about what I think was an attempt by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to rehash arguments which have already taken place. But before I sit down, I say once more to this House that there can be no justification for the motion put before it. The ministerial control of the armed forces is assured, is resolved, and is working, and I believe it is working in a proper and effective way.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton) demonstrated adequately why he is no longer the Prime Minister and why he should not be the Minister for Defence. He should have told us in the 10 or IS minutes he had at his disposal exactly how the machinery works and why it is working effectively. He has not done so. The Opposition’s complaint is that there has been no evidence over the last 15 or 20 years that in any matter of vital interest this Parliament through its executive officers and its executive instruments - the Ministers - is effectively controlling and developing the total Service establishment. That is what is on challenge here this morning. It is not a political issue or anything of that kind. It is a vital and fundamental principle of a democratic society. Does the former Prime Minister expect us to swallow his statement that, because he stands here and says that there is effective control, there is in fact effective control?
I shall outline some of the evidence to show how over the last 15 years the armed Services have not been under control. Members of Parliament should remember that there is a long history of struggle to gain parliamentary control of armed
Services and other establishments. The Oxford History of England - one could almost say that this qualifies in some way the Minister’s speech - states that apparently Parliament had accepted literally Cromwell’s statement that the Army would disband immediately upon the order of the 2 Houses. Apparently the Minister for Defence this morning expects us to believe that by his simple assertion of the fact that parliamentary control is effectively exercised through the present Ministry we should believe this is so. I do not believe it is the case. The Minister spoke about a system which involves $ 1,200m a year and which intimately controls the lives of 130,000 Australian servicemen, mostly young men.
What we are concerned about is not whether control is a legal fact but whether control is being effectively exercised. We believe that the Ministry has continually abdicated its responsibilities in this matter. It is not a question of plain responsibility; it is a question of a fundamental social and community duty. The role of the Minister and the role of the Chief of the General Staff are perhaps not in dispute but the facts are that the Chief of the General Staff is another instrument of this Parliament. The armed Services, the judges, the courts and Departments of State are all established to carry out the will of this Parliament which expresses, as we hope it does, the will of the people of Australia. What does this matter amount to when one examines it at close order? The principle of parliamentary control is under constant dispute by people of high estate. Recently in South Australia the head of the police force denied that he should even accept the advice of the Premier and the Government in what was a fairly important matter but which I would regard as a fairly minor matter when it comes to the point at issue. This is one of the issues that faces Australian democracy. Australia is one of the few countries in which it can be said that Parliament, as the direct executive instrument of the people, can control the situation.
What have been some examples over the last 10 or 15 years? One example is the establishment in the Army of the pentropic division some 10 or 11 years ago. It is obvious that this was the brain child of the Chief of the General Staff at the time. Also, it is quite obvious that the Minister at the time, who is now the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), did not know what was going on and swallowed this recommendation. For 5 or 6 years the Army was strangled. For the last 10 or 11 years the Citizen Military Force has been practically destroyed partly because of these operations and partly because Ministers for the Army have accepted uncritically the word and the advice of the Chief of the General Staff. Of course, one of the fundamental factors in the Services is that anyone down the line cannot answer back the Chief of the General Staff. How does a brigadier answer back a major-general or a lieutenant-general? How does one set him on a new path? One cannot. This is why it. is so important that the Defence Ministers step into the arena and make themselves completely aware all the time and accept total responsibility.
I understand that reorganisation is being considered at the moment by the Hassett Committee. How are we to know that the managerial arrangements that will finally be arrived at will be satisfactory to the community? The armed services are not a life of their own; they are an extension of the community and they must not be separate from it. One of the factors in Australian Life which I think has made the armed services, particularly the Army, so closely related to community life is the fact that they have been part of society generally and have been accepted as such. Therefore my first point is the failure of Ministers to control reorganisation programmes. Evidence in Hansard shows that Ministers have not known what is going on. There is also the question of the procurement of materials from Australian manufacturing sources. Minister after Minister has said in this House that he wants to do something about this matter. One found that the one great wish of former Ministers for Defence when one talked with them in private was Australia could get on with the design and manufacture of its own military hardware. This has not happened. Why? What have the Services been doing to keep Ministers at bay all these years? Manufacturers have waited to lay their specifications on the table for such a long time that it has become too late for Australia to do anything about them.
The Malkara weapon was a case in point. In this instance I believe that the former chief defence scientists went off to private industry because the armed Services were able to fob off the Ministry. They have been able to fob off the Ministry because Ministers have failed to grasp the nettle and take control of the situation. The Australian Labor Party can ‘ guarantee to the Government that if it wants to involve this Parliament more closely in the control of the Services - parliamentary control through select committees, standing committees or anything else-it will get the absolute and unqualified support of ali honourable members in this House.
Examples of a lack of ministerial control in the Services are common knowledge. The Minister for Defence, who was formerly Prime Minister, said that the Opposition has not produced any evidence. One would think that, unless the Minister for Defence has been sleeping for the last 20 years, the evidence’ would flicker across his mind like a film. What about the situation at Duntroon? lt is only three or four miles away, but nobody knew what was going on. Ministers went out there and helped to bless the guidons, watched marching out parades and took the salute to the rolling of drums and the rattle of artillery, but they did not know what was happening around the place. It is fundamental to the very lifeblood of Australia’s armed Services that Duntroon goes forward with a proper attitude.
When we talk about political direction we mean all sorts of direction. We mean the very principles upon which it is based. Nothing shook the Australian community more than the Four Corners’ television programme in which four or five cadets from Duntroon were asked what they would do if they were told to fire on civilians. I think only one gave a direct negative to the question but the others. said they would probably carry out orders. We have the tragedy which is now being played out in the United States of America. What we mean by Parliamentary and civil control of the Services is a sense of direction in which every serviceman knows (hat if he does not carry out the general principles upon which society operates he will be in trouble indeed. I do not need to labour the Duntroon incident. I have only to refer to the points which were raised by the former Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) including the stationing of troops. Why has it taken the Army so long to give a cost analysis of expenditure which would be incurred in placing a base in Western Australia. Who is fooling whom? Who is holding what off? Who is making the decision or trying to hold it up?
What about the ‘Voyager’ inquiry? Why was the Naval Board ignorant of what was happening? Why were 2 inquiries necessary? The Naval Board is the instrument of the Minister for the Navy for the control of the Navy. Why was it ignorant? How did it keep him ignorant? Why did he allow it to happen? What about the Army water torture case? At the time the Minister said that there was not a scintilla of evidence that it had happened, but later in the House he said that why he had to say this when some information was in the hands of his advisers was a mystery to him. Then there was the Holsworthy case and the Gunner O’Neill incident. Why did the appropriate Ministers not hear about all these things happening? I do not believe that it is a case of the Ministers not caring. There has been a complete breakdown in what might be described as the morality of Australia’s armed Services, particularly the Army.
Why is it that the FI 1 1 aricraft purchase is being pursued so vigorously when obviously this aircraft is not the kind of apparatus we need. We are not going to bomb anybody any more, lt is unbelievable that Australia would undertake a bombing exercise in South East Asia. It would put us out of court immediately. The Ministry has allowed itself to be continually led by the nose by the armed Services. The same goes for the VIP aircraft incident. The same also goes for the collapse of Army morality in Vietnam at the moment. 1 have come under criticism from a senior Army officer in recent weeks. This is not the time to debate it. 1 will write to him when I have time to do so. The fact is that the Australian Army in particular has allowed its morality to collapse. There is plenty of evidence of this fact - violence, courts martial and murders. These are the direct responsibility of the civil arm and nobody can escape from this fact. When we hand over the young men of Australia we hand over our most precious trusteeship.
– The honourable member knows as well as I do that he cannot produce any evidence of this.
– Three young men have been charged with murder. This has never happened before.
– Worse has happened before.
– What would the Minister know about this? He does not care.
– I have gone into this matter in more detail than ever the honourable member has.
– The Minister can take his place in the debate and answer these questions if he wishes to do so. The fact is that we have handed to him the most precious trusteeship in our community - young Australian men - and if he is the responsible person he cannot lay the blame for their actions or what happens to them on the Chief of the General Staff.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It think it “is quite laughable that the Australian Labor Party should produce a motion of this nature and make allegations of the character which have been made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) as to the performance of men in the Australian armed forces, their responsibility to ministerial responsibility -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I did not say anything about the performances of our soldiers.’ I was talking about the performances of Ministers as Ministers.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The Opposition pursues policies at the electorate and in front of the people which more than any other single factor are destructive of the morale of the individuals in the armed forces. The honourable gentleman a moment ago rather lampooned the thought that a member of the Army should think it his responsibility to carry out orders. He suggested that orders were something that an individual in the Army, Navy or Air Force ought to interpret. What sort of an armed Service would we have if an individual in the Services could take unto himself the responsibility to decide whether or not he would accept his superior’s command. The idea that in those circumstances we would have anything of morale in the Services is quite laughable. It is quite laughable to suggest that we would have anything of an effective armed corps. It is quite laughable to suggest that we would have anything of a defence effort.
Of course, we know what lies behind the Opposition’s motion. It is not here to question policies that have been implemented by the Ministers concerned with defence and the armed Services. It is here intentionally, as it has been before the people, to try to destroy the stability of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Over the last 3 years it has moved into a position collectively, not necessarily individually, where it has tried to ensure that Australia’s capacity to maintain a reasonable defence effort is undermined by insidious propaganda, by destroying the morale of the individuals who are the fine upstanding sailors, soldiers and airmen. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) saw the tenets of a resolution, which 1 could not understand until he explained them to me, in the form of the unresolved issue of ministerial control of the armed forces as lying in 2 categories - the authority of the Government over the armed forces and the morale of the armed forces.
Let us look at these 2 tenets and see what sort of validity they have. First, the authority of the Government over the armed forces: There is no doubt from the speech of the present Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton) and the statements made in this House by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on his attitude when he was Minister for Defence, about the relationship between the Minister for Defence and individual Service Ministers. Those individual Service Ministers have direct contact with the Chiefs of Staff. That is the way in which the Government’s relationship to members of the armed forces has been constituted, certainly since the last world war. It is a relationship which ensures that in terms of the civilian command there is a responsi bility from each one of the Service Ministers to the Minister for Defence and collectively through each of them to Cabinet and to the Prime Minister. It is a proper pattern of ministerial relationship. It is a pattern of ministerial relationship that extends not just over the armed Services but throughout the length and breadth of every one of the ministerial departments. For example, there is a similar direct relationship in my former Department, the Department of Shipping and Transport. There is a responsibility from those within the Australian National Line to their seniors, the commissioners of the line, and through the commissioners to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and through the Minister to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. There is no distinction between the line of command in the civilian chain in the armed Services and that which exists in every other civilian department.
Similarly, if we look at the structure of the Service sector of the armed Services we see that there is a direct chain of command through various senior officers until we get to the Chief of Staff who has a dual responsibility. He is a member of the panel of Chiefs of Staff which meets for discussion on the attitudes and postures to be adopted collectively by the defence forces. In addition he has a responsibility to his own Minister and through his Minister there is a similar responsibility to the Minister for Defence. To suggest in any way that that chain of command has been breached or that there is anything demoralising or incorrect or bad for the nation in it is, of course, not true. It is a pattern of command that has existed since the days when Mr Dedman was Minister for Defence in the post-war Labor administration.
The point I wanted to make was really in relation to the second of the 2 points to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested the issue could be boiled down, that is, on the general question of the morale of the armed Services. Constantly in this House we are subjected to statements which, to my mind, demonstrate the real dilemma which the Opposition has in equating reality in foreign policy and reality in defence policy with the sort of support that many of them would like to give to those policies. 1 should like to quote from 2 statements, the first of which was made by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) on Australia’s involvement in South East Asia, given in Canberra in public debate on 15th September 1970. In the course of that statement he said:
Here today we have a typical example of the way in which the Opposition is endeavouring to generate hysteria on a fictitious issue, the substance of which I do not believe has been substantiated. The honourable member’s statement continued:
I believe that under present circumstances - and there are very few exceptions to this - there is no justification for Australia or any other country for military intervention in other countries. This doctrine we have here - that it is better to meet them there than here - we are not the only nation in the world that has so far lacked moral fibre as to put forward that as a national policy, and no nation is justified in doing this.
There we have the tenet of one who is a leading member of the Opposition, a leading member of the Australian Labor Party and a leading member of this Parliament. In the editorial in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of Saturday, 4th October 1969- before the honourable member’s statement, but still in fairly concise words - the dilemma of the Opposition in trying to reconcile the views of the honourable member for Lalor and all those who were in the extremes of the Party were brought out. Having set out the problems of the Labor Party through being in a quandary in its policy speech, the editorial goes on to state:
The single answer to these questions enshrines the electoral dilemma which confronts even the ablest Labor leader. He can pay lip service to the need for strong defence and foreign policies - he can believe in it himself-
This sometimes makes one wonder. The article continues: but he dare not spell them out, he cannot clothe them in reality, because on these subjects upon which ‘our future will rest’ there is no Labor consensus and hence no reality.
The gulf in thinking between Left and Right on how Australia’s security should be sought and how her relations with other countries - Russia, China, the United States - should be conducted has never been bridged and was not bridged at the last ALP conference, where ‘unity’ was the watchcry so loudly proclaimed. The only way the differences can be papered over at election time is by saying as little as possible, by omitting (as did Mr Whitlam) any mention of the ANZUS or SEATO treaty, by neglecting (as did Mr Whitlam) to express any opinion on such urgent controversies as the recognition of China or Russia’s proposed Asian collective security system. . . .
If one looks at successive Labor policy statements one can see that what the Labor Party is trying to do is directly opposed to the tenet of maintaining the morale of the Australian armed forces. It is utterly laughable to see the Party, which so frequently in public and in private puts forward this sort of tenet, coming into the House today and suggesting that the actions of this Government in trying to ensure that there is a realistic defence ‘effort and in trying to ensure that the security pf Australia and Australians is preserved is in any way being lessened by the actions of individual members of the Cabinet. I think we have been most fortunate in the calibre of the men we have bad to serve us as Ministers for Defence and as Ministers for the individual armed services. On my own behalf I should like to express my complete and utter confidence in the action that they have taken individually in their respective roles.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The real problem for the nation is the lack of a defence policy and this is highlighted by the fact that there is so much dissention within the Government ranks. This discussion of a matter of public importance is merely to indicate to the people that defence has been the party plaything of the present Government. When my colleagues spoke on this matter, they mentioned that there has been division in the Government. There is a multiplicity of Ministers and of ideas. There is no coordination. Has this not affected both authority and morale? When the former Minister for Defence made his resignation speech in this House he did not once mention the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) and yet the Minister for the Army was obviously the man whom Brigadier-General Daly had to defend. One would have thought that the former Minister for Defence could have said something about the matter at that time or indicated what was the trouble. Honourable members are left to read in the Bulletin’ or some newspaper rag what might have been the situation. Perhaps there was a clash of personalities; perhaps it was a question of a strong man against one a bit younger; or perhaps it was an ambitious man trying to defeat another. This is how the defence policy is run.
Do not tell us that the Australian Labor Party is not interested in the defence of the nation. The two world wars that we have undergone have virtually been managed by Labor, lt was the brilliance of Curtin that defended this country during the Second World War. The people were responsible for our success, not a Liberal-Country Party coalition. The Government must have the morale and strength of the nation behind it and it does not have them. When I hear the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) standing up and saying that Labor is not interested in defence 1 ask: ‘Has he been around lately?’ I was fortunate enough, with the good grace of the former Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), to go to Western Australia and view some of the naval manoeuvres. Have members of the Government ever spoken to the men on the ships to find out what they think of the defence policy of this Government? The men on the ships say that they are. going to leave the Navy because their, morale is so low. They say that their wages, are $54 a week and that they could get twice as much in the Merchant Navy. They complain about, their conditions of service. Their wives and families are moved all over the country and they are at sea more often than ever. No-one is considering them. All of my constituents whom 1 interviewed on a certain vessel are prepared to resign; yet the Minister talks about morale. There is no morale. The 6 per cent national wage increase has not been paid to them yet. The Government will be saturated: with their complaints because it has done nothing for them.
Has the Minister been down to what might be termed the ‘supply’ and looked at the problems there. What has the Government done from the point of view of defence? lt was not even interested in the Malkara missile because the Army said that it did not want it. The British wanted it, but somebody here - not at any intelligent level but at the level of a Service Chief - said that they did not want it. What is the position of our aircraft industry? We have none, lt is strongly hinted and obviously correct that the present top echelon in the Royal Australian Air Force do not think that we should have an aircraft industry That is their view and this comes into what is termed ‘defence’. We have no defence We allocate millions of dollars each year - one-seventh of the Budget goes to defence - yet morale in the Services has never been lower. Personnel are prepared to resign, so how can it be said that there is morale in the Defence services? It might be said that the Government has spent this money on equipment. The Fill aircraft is a great example. The sum of §23 lm has already been expended on what might virtually be termed a legal disaster, the contractual nature of which no self-respecting government would ever have entered into. Our own scientific people say that it was obvious that the Fill would never fly because of the tension on the steel. There is no steel in the world that can stand it. lt was D6-A6 steel strength, the only known strength. It was known throughout the world that the steel could not take the tension required. This Government has spent $23 lm trying to make out that it will. One day, steel will be found that will do the job, but it will not be until about 1975. The scientific people can tell us this.
Australia has no defence programme. What do experts in the aircraft industry say? They say: ‘We have to sack men. No orders have been given to us.’ Where is the policy of defence in this situation? What about the morale of those people who now say: ‘Look, we have 1,500 men employed and we may have to sack 1,000 because no more defence orders are being, received.’ This industry developed, without any feasibility survey, the Ikara missile, which is the most intelligent weapon we have from the point of view of Australia’s defence. Why is not more money given to the aircraft industry, from the point of view of an intelligent approach to defence? We say it is because the Government is so divided. There is a Minister for the Army, a Minister for the Navy and a Minister for Air as well as a Minister for Defence. Most of them want to be Prime Minister. If a man becomes Minister for Defence he perhaps has a chance of becoming Prime Minister. And if he becomes Prime Minister he has a good chance of becoming Minister for Defence when he is demoted. This is how the situation has developed. But what about the eccentricity of a man or the problems of one individual in society? It is well known in justice that it cannot be left to one judge to make a decision. There must be 5 or perhaps 7 judges on the High Court to obtain a decision. The matter cannot necessarily be left to a judge. A jury may be needed to evaluate and assess whether there is any peculiarity or propensity in an individual to promote himself.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended we were dealing with the matters raised by the Minister for Primary Industry. He submitted that there was authority for what are termed the new members of the Government dealing with defence, and the point 1 was trying to make was that I could not see how the Government could get any better authority now than it had before. The present Ministry clearly indicates that the same division exists as existed previously. It is a matter of comment, is it not, that the present Minister for the Army is on side at this stage with the establishment but the poor unfortunate former Minister for the Navy was removed, not because of any difficulties with the Navy but because of some difficulties, perhaps, as to his allegiance? This would apply also to the former Minister for Defence. He may never make it again, not on the basis of his administration but because of the internal struggle that is going on within the Liberal-Country Party coalition. It is the height of stupidity for the Minister for Primary Industry to suggest that because now they have this authority things will be better.
It is a matter of concern for the whole nation that this ever happened. It is possibly a matter of concern for the future, if the Minister for Defence is in the Cabinet and the others are in the Ministry, that whatever they may say, however valuable it may be, he can override them. This seems to be the position because the Minister’s famous statement on defence which, I might comment, was submitted to the Parliament on 10th March 1970, has never been debated. If defence is so important surely this great Government would have encouraged a debate on that statement. Over 12 months have elapsed and a statement of the Minister for Defence has never been debated. It can be seen in that statement what he was trying to achieve accord ing to his way of thinking. He talked about a joint staff committee and about intelligence at the joint level to assess matters related to defence. Possibly that is where the weakness lies. It was intelligence at his level which assessed that the Army apparently was wrong in Vietnam. He could be wrong, because there is no-one to assess that situation. It is worthy of comment, is it not, that the Army in its wisdom - we say correctly - wanted to get out of Vietnam but there were some hawkish elements which said for other reasons: ‘No, stay there’.
Now it comes down to the sheer politics of the situation. If the present Minister for Defence is defeated in a selection ballot, what about morale then? He is at present under attack in his own constituency. He is a defeated Prime Minister. What about the defence of this country? Will it march 33 strong in one direction and 33 strong in another direction? This is where morale is deficient. Talk to the backbone of the defence of this country, the men in the Services. Do they respect the Government? No. Do they have morale? They have lost it. Why? Because the Government has not given them leadership, it has not given them incentive and it has not given them their due for what they think they have contributed to this country. For those reasons it is ridiculous for the Minister for Primary Industry to adopt a cow bail attitude and say that there is -nothing wrong. There is a great deal wrong, as 1 have pointed out.
The Government’s real ‘ intelligence in the Department of Supply could do much for defence but if is discouraged. The Government cannot claim that it has a defence policy simply because it allocates one-seventh of the Budget to defence. What is done with the money? It would be more important to give it to the troops, much more important to build up their morale, very important to give it to the intelligence in the Department of Supply to design equipment such as the Ikara missile. That is what should be done. But what do we find? We put on a naval exercise in the west at the time of a Senate election. Let there be no pretence about this. The men concerned say they were there because of the Senate election. The Cockburn Sound base is more related to politics than it is to defence. These are the things to which the troops are wide awake. The Government will not have any real defence unless there is loyalty and team work among its own members. I do not think that can happen within the Government but it can happen within the Parliament. What the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) said was correct - there is no real ministerial control or authority. Perhaps it should be left to a joint parliamentary committee to assess the difficulties and perhaps to advise certain Ministers of the things we know about. The Government will fail unless it listens to what the men in the Services say. They have lost their morale. The Government has no authority nor is it entitled to expect it in the future.
– Members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate have strayed from the initial guidelines offered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) when he initiated the debate. The last 2 spokesmen from the Opposition spent much time attacking the morale of servicemen in our 3 Services, which is the easiest yet most vicious way of denigrating the armed Services. Without recourse to truth, statistics or evidence they have castigated servicemen under the guise of a resolution on ministerial responsibility. In particular the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in a speech which was notable for its confusion and imprecision talked about a so-called complete breakdown in the inner morality of the armed Services. I think that was the phrase he used - a complete breakdown in the inner morality of the armed Services.
Listening to his speech I thought it showed a complete breakdown of his inner thought processes. For example, he said there was a collapse of Army morality in Vietnam. After his speech he rose on a point of order and said he did not attack the Army but he was attacking only the Ministers. He simply cannot have it both ways. You cannot talk about a collapse of morality in the Army and then get up on a point of order of that nature. There has been no collapse in the morality of the Army or in its morale as such but I regret to say that there has been a collapse in the honourable member’s reputation, undeserved as it was, as an expert on defence matters. It has also been stated in this debate that the armed Services have an inability to move from traditional views. In fairness to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition he did not say this, but he did point out that the Army Review Committee, otherwise known as the Hassett Committee, emanated from within the Army and is likely to propose widespread changes in the organisation and structure of the Army itself. So much for lack of initiative in the Army.
I now come to the crux of the matter at present before the House, and that is that the basis of the present controversy stems from a misunderstanding of the fundamental role of government advisers. The Army, and indeed any other arm of the government, has a dual role. The first role is that of expert professional advisers on policy. The second is that of an executive - an implementer of policy - once decided by the proper governmental authority. It is imperative that both these roles are well understood. The Army would be failing in its first responsibility if it did not put forward its untrammelled professional view. On the other hand, the Government would equally be failing the country if it accepted this view without testing it against the many other aspects which must properly be taken into consideration in the decision making process. Inevitably there will, for example, be political, economic and sociological factors to be weighed against the basic professional military view. It follows therefore that advice is not necessarily accepted.
The distinction between advising and deciding is common to all enterprises, whether public or private. The Chief of the General Staff and members of the Military Board have lived the whole of their professional lives in this environment. It is not a new gimmick; it is part of democracy. The Army well understands, and has always accepted, the reality of Cabinet and ministerial responsibility, yet it has been suggested today that a prime cause of the alleged rift is the Army’s refusal to accept civilian control. Civilian control of the armed forces is a sine quo non in a democratic way of life. Surely, not even the Opposition would suggest this should be otherwise.
What has given rise to this debate is a complete misunderstanding of the Army’s role vis-a-vis that of the Government and. more directly, vis-a-vis that of any Minister for Defence. The Minister for Defence is primarily responsible to the government for Overall defence policy and the Army is an adviser. Naturally, if having weighed all the factors, the Minister and through him the government rejects this advice, the Army - having objectively given its view - may be disappointed, lt may well have pressed its view in the strongest and most determined manner; but disappointment is one thing, and understandable. Refusal to comply with a contrary decision is an entirely different matter and. if it occurred, would be indefensible and contrary to the whole concept of government.
This, of course brings us to the second role I mentioned earlier, namely that of implementation. The Army has no right to expect, nor does it expect, to have all its advice accepted. However, once the decision has been taken it is implemented with the same dedication as is applied to the implementation of any other decision. In fact, in my experience, the Army works even harder to make a success of a decision which, in a wider context, has been taken against its advice. To put the question in perspective, honourable members should appreciate that decisions requiring action contrary to that advised by the Army are rare. In fact 1 can recollect only very few instances where it has occurred. One which occurred before I took the Army portfolio - it has been commented upon in this House - is that of the location of the task force base at Townsville. In spite of the loction being different from that originally recommended by the Army, honourable members who have visited Townsville will know how effectively the Army has implemented the Government’s decision to locate the task force base in this area. It has been suggested that the Army paid little or no heed to directives, went its own wilful way, determining policy for itself with no cognisance of Government wishes. This is a complete fabrication. 1 have traversed briefly some of the current issues, but before concluding 1 want to make it absolutely clear that the Government has the utmost confidence in the loyalty and the devotion of the armed Services. At the levels of policy formulation which we have discussed here, able, experienced and dedicated men are involved who, whether they be military or civil, press their views with the utmost vigour without, however, affecting their mutual respect. It would be a sorry day if this were not so and if a Minister was surrounded by a clique of sycophantic yesmen. It is known by the overwhelming majority of those in this Parliament that this situation does not exist today.
May I in conclusion refer to one matter which was mentioned in passing by one of the speakers today and ‘which was commented upon in an earlier controversy, namely, the Army’s role iri civic action. Civic action was an Army initiative. With the increase in strength of our force in Vietnam and with a full time civil affairs unit, the scope of civic action has greatly increased during the time we have had a military commitment to Vietnam. Road construction, water supplies, market places, agricultural work, as well .as medical and educational activities have been undertaken. Housing and classroom construction has been significant. It must be remembered that this work is separate from and additional to the civil aid given under programmes controlled through the Department of Foreign Affairs.
At present there are major projects in hand and these will continue; yet accusations have been made that we are to reduce our civil aid in this current financial year. A start has yet to be made upon the building construction’ entailed in the jungle warfare training’ centre, although the planning for this is developing satisfactorily. Meanwhile the jungle warfare training centre is functioning very well in accommodation vacated by the 8th Battalion. Work has just begun on a new road linking Xuyen Moe with the village of Dat Do, which will then link Xuyen Moe with the province capital at Baria.
In the totality, therefore, these major projects and some 20 others of lesser significance indicate no reduction in the present civic action programme undertaken by the Army, which is fully aware of the importance of civic action and civic aid to the security and the economy of the province. Of course, in the future, with the reduction in our task force and increasing Vietnamisation, there will be a steady progression of handing over of programmes to the Vietnamese, but to suggest that the Army wishes to cut down what it originally inspired is nothing short of deceitful. Clearly, the initiative, as I said earlier, was the Army’s, with the full backing of the Department of Defence, of the Department of Foreign Affairs and, indeed, of the Government. I hope that what 1 have said on this subject will illustrate quite clearly to the House notwithstanding the earlier allegations, that the Army has encouraged rather than opposed civic action.
Mr BRYANT (Wills)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. During the course of the debate the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) gave the impression that we had raised the issue that the Army had defied ministerial authority and had failed to cany out orders. At no stage did anybody on this side of the House say that.
– Does the honourable member for Wills claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. This is a clear misrepresentation of the argument, which was that the Ministers in succession had each failed to carry out his duty as Minister and had abdicated his responsibilities. There was no charge made by the Opposition that the Army had defied ministerial authority. The subject of the debate was in relation to the failure of Ministers to exercise effective control.
-The discussion is now concluded.
Reference lo Public Works Committee
– I move:
The proposal involves pavement reconstruction, realignment and widening, together, with improvements to bridges and culverts and new constructions to increase usability of the roads during wet weather. Road pavements will be bitumen sealed. The estimated costs of the proposed works are as follows: Alice Springs to Erldunda, $3.4m; Timber Creek to Dingo Gap, $2m. I table plans of the proposed works.
– I would like to say briefly how pleased I am that this mailer has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The Alice Springs to Erldunda Road will cover approximately 120 miles. This work represents the beginning of the sealing of the Port Augusta to Alice Springs road and the beginning of a national highway which will run north and south across Australia. Some first class bridges have already been constructed across the Hugh, Palmer and Finke Rivers. This road will link those bridges and will be the basis of the formation of a very real link with the south.
The road from Timber Creek to Dingo Gap - known locally as the Golden Gate - will cross the mighty Victoria River and thi eastern and western sections of the Baines River, all of which have bridges constructed across them already. These 120 miles of road will link the sealed roads running between Katherine and Kununurra. It is hoped that this road will be built to a width of 22 feet because the roads on the Western Australian border in the vicinity of Dingo Gap or Golden Gate are 22 feet wide. The road will represent a first class link across the north, particularly when this Timber Creek to Dingo Gap road is sealed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 30 March (vide page 1 1 74). on motion by Mr Holten: Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
– May 1 have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure in relation to this legislation? Before the debate on the Bill is resumed, I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a cognate debate on this Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill, as they are associated, measures. Of course, questions may be put separately on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore that the subject matter of both Bills be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? There being no objection, 1 will allow that course to be followed.
Mr BARNARD (Bass) (2.35^-The Opposition naturally has no objection to both of these measures, the Repatriation Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill, being taken together. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill is closely related to the Repatriation Bill. In these circumstances both matters can quite properly be dealt with together. The first Repatriation legislation was introduced into this Parliament in 1917. Therefore it has been in existence for 54 years.
When the first Bill was framed it was dealt with on the basis that it should provide adequate compensation for those who were then serving this country overseas during the First World War. This principle was endorsed, and indeed improved upon, by subsequent governments during the Second World War. But if one takes into consideration the number of protests that have been made by the Returned Services League, which represents the great majority of ex-servicemen in this country, it cannot be denied that a great deal of dissatisfaction now exists with the compensation payments which are the responsibility of this Government and which are normally paid to those who suffer disabilities as a result of their service overseas in the interests of this country. Equally importantly, ex-service organisations, particularly the Returned Services League, have drawn attention to the fact that although repatriation legislation has now been in existence for 54 years, no attempt has been made by governments, except in 1943 during the period of the. last Labor Government, to institute the kind of inquiry that would bring the legislation up to date and remove some of the anomalies that are so apparent today. I know that it can be said that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) has authorised an interdepartmental inquiry into the repatriation legislation and other associated matters, but this does not mean a thing. It is certainly not acceptable to the RSL. It is not acceptable to honourable members on this side of the House. 1 have advocated consistently in this Parliament that a joint select committee of the Parliament should be set up to investigate the
Repatriation Act. At the same time the RSL has advocated that a completely independent, non-parliamentary committee should investigate the Repatriation Act to bring it up to date and to remove some of the anomalies.
Certainly in the time that is available to me today it would not be possible for me to deal with all of the anomalies that are contained in the Act. They are well known to those who represent ex-servicemen in this country. I suggest that they are certainly known to honourable members who sit on the opposite side of the House and who support the Government of this country. The anomalies are well known to honourable members on this side of the House. Indeed, one should point out that in this Parliament there exist not only a sub-committee of the Cabinet to. deal with matters affecting returned servicemen, their compensation and other related matters, but also the ex-servicemen’s committee of the back benchers on the Government side. There is also an ex-servicemen’s committee of members of this side of the House.
Each year not only has the Returned Services League been making to the Government submissions on these matters, but also i know that the Government has received submissions from its repatriation committee. What has happened in the intervening period? Despite the well prepared cases, submitted each year by the national executive of the RSL, requesting a number of improvements not only in relation to compensation but, equally important, as I have already pointed out, in relation to an inquiry that would have the opportunity to investigate the ramifications of the repatriation legislation, the Government has been equally consistent in rejecting the appeals made by the Returned Services League.
The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. We support it because it can bc said that some improvements will be effected to the compensation that is now being paid to those who are entitled to compensation as a result of the injuries they suffered as a result of their service in the interests of this country.’ So some improvements are to be made ‘ in a number of categories. The first improvement is an increase of $1 a week’ iri the amount of compensation paid to the special rate pensioner who is more commonly known as the ‘totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman*. There is an increase of 50c a week for war widows. There is an increase of 50c a week for those who are in receipt of the intermediate rate of pension. Those increases are very slight and certainly inadequate. I shall return to these rates at a later stage in my address.
There is an increase of 50c a week for those who are in receipt of a Service pension which, as honourable members know, is closely related to the invalid pension and the amounts received under the social services legislation. I make a comment which I believe is relevant to the whole situation today in relation to the payment of social services in this country. There has been a general tendency on the part of this Government to relate repatriation payments to what is being paid to those who receive social service payment. I challenge the Minister to look back over the records. He will find that each year the amount that is being paid to some categories of returned servicemen and servicewomen for their special compensation is closely related to the social service payments. There is very little improvement in many instances on the amount that is being paid under this legislation. This is one of the criticisms that I offer against the Government and against a government which in 1949 was so adamant about the need to increase the compensation rates being paid to exservicemen in this country. I make the point which has been substantiated by every document that has been provided to this Parliament and to the sub-committee of the Cabinet that deals with these matters on behalf of the Government: Each year a falling off in values of the payments being made to those who are entitled to compensation under the Repatriation Act has occurred. This is not merely my contention. It is not merely the contention of honourable members who sit on this side of the House. The authority I quote is that of the Returned Services League itself.
The Minister received only a few days ago the latest document presented to the Government sub-committee on repatriation matters. The document has since been made public by the RSL so one can deal with it in the Parliament today. The Minister knows the recommendations. He knows what is being sought by the Returned Services League. What is being sought does not vary from the plan that it submitted in 1970. Let me state for ‘ the benefit of the House what is intended in this respect. In 1970 and again in’ the latest document issued by the RSL it asked for certain improvements to be made to the Repatriation Act, particularly in relation to compensation payments. It is hardly necessary for me to spell them out to the Minister. But I believe they ought to be restated so that the people of this country are not left in any doubt about what has been asked for by the organisation which speaks with complete authority on behalf of those who have served this country in the First World War, the Second World War, in Korea and now in Vietnam.
The RSL has made 4 simple requests to the Government. It has requested, firstly, that the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen’s rate should not be less than the minimum wage paid to a worker of this country; secondly, that the 100 per cent general rate pension should not be less than 50 per cent of the minimum wage; thirdly, that the war widows’ rate should not be less than 50 per cent of the minimum wage; and fourthly - I have already referred to this point - that this Government should set up a completely independent committee to review the Repatriation Act and to look at these matters and to report back to the Government and the Parliament. I shall move an amendment to give effect to these proposals.
I have already indicated to the House that the special rate pension will be increased by $1 a week. The Minister has clearly indicated that a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman will receive an increase of $1 a week or $2 a fortnight and that the intermediate rate and the war widows’ pension will each be increased by 50c a week. To return to the special rate pension, the Minister knows, indeed it is well known to honourable members in this House and to those who represent the ex-servicemen of this country, that the $1 a week that the Minister talks about will not in fact be received. The plain fact is that on the statistics that are available to us at least one-third of the ex-servicemen in this country who are in receipt of a special rate pension have their pension supplemented by a part service pension because of their total incapacity. I have a question on the notice paper seeking information on this matter from the Minister for Repatriation. An answer has not been made available to me. Therefore I have selected the proportion of one-third which I think is a conservative one. The plain fact is that those who are in receipt of a service pension to supplement their special rate pension will not receive the increase of $1 a week. Whether they are in the married or the single category, the amount they will receive will be in part reduced by the service pension.
I would like to quote some figures to substantiate what 1 have said in this respect. Prior to the introduction of this legislation a single TPI ex-serviceman was in receipt of a $76 a fortnight war pension. He was able to supplement that war pension by receiving a service pension of $3 a fortnight, which gave him a total of $79 a fortnight. Under this legislation, which will give a S2 a fortnight increase, he will receive a war pension of $78 a fortnight. But he will receive only $2 a fortnight by way of service pension. Therefore he will receive only $80 as against his previous pension of $79.
The plain fact remains that the TPI exserviceman in this position will not receive a $2 a fortnight increase. The Minister may care to put it another way and say that the TPI rate will be increased by $2 a fortnight. But the total payment to the TPI ex-serviceman in this category will be reduced by SI a fortnight. Why does the Minister not explain these matters to the Parliament and to the people. The same thing happened in the 1970 Budget. I pointed out then that the total amount that the Minister said would be available to special rate pensioners would not be available to those pensioners whose incomes were supplemented by the service pension.
Let us consider how a married couple is affected as a result of the Government’s generosity in increasing the totally and permanently incapacitated rate of pension by $2 a fortnight. Until now a married pensioner has been receiving a war pension of $76 a fortnight. His wife’s allowance has been $8.10 a fortnight. A service pension of §18.48 a fortnight has been paid to the member and $14 a fortnight to his wife by way of age or service pension, making a total of $116.58. As a result of the implementation of this legislation he will receive a war pension of $78 a fortnight and his wife will receive an allowance of $8.10 a fortnight. Incidentally, the wife’s allowance has not been increased for 8 or 9 years. Despite the fact that the Government says that it believes in being magnanimous and generous to those who served the country in time of war, the wife’s allowance remains at $8.10 a fortnight. The service pension will remain under this legislation at $18.48 a fortnight. The age or service pension will be reduced to $13.50. These amounts total $118.08, which represents an increase of $1.50 a fortnight. So, a married couple will lose 50c a fortnight because the increase will not be $2 a fortnight but $1.50 a fortnight.
– It is still an increase.
– The Minister for Repatriation may be able to dispute these figures. I hope that he will have some explanation to offer to the Parliament. The Minister knows that if the Government wanted the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman to receive an increase of $2 a fortnight the ceiling limit would have to be raised. I come back to the point I made a few moments ago that the rates of ex-service pensions are tied to the social service provisions of this country and that while the social service provision remains the maximum a married couple can get, in addition to the income that they can earn to supplement their pension, service pensions, TPI pensions and intermediate rate pensions are tied to the same scale. The Minister knows that this is the position. I could go on and point out the anomalies contained in the repatriation legislation.
The Government has failed to honour the promise that it made in 1949 to the ex-servicemen of this country. In every class of compensation for which this Government is responsible the rates have been allowed to decline. According to the last report of the Repatriation Commission there were 23,135 special rate pensioners. These pensioners will receive an increase of $1 a week if they are single and their income is supplenmented by a service pension or. $1.50 a fortnight if they are married and their incomes are supplemented by their service pension. The intermediate rate was introduced by this Government a few years ago to provide an income for those who were able to work only intermittently as a result of war caused disabilities. A total of 1,307 ex-servicemen are now in receipt of the intermediate rate. There are more than 190,000 war pensioners in this country but only 1,307 have qualified for this rate. How much would it cost this Government if there were an increase of 50c a week for the intermediate rate pensioner? It would involve the Government in an additional expenditure of $653 a year. What a magnanimous gesture on the part of the Government.
I turn to the general rate pension, commonly known as the 100 per cent rate pension. There is no increase in this at all. Indeed, there has been no increase in the 100 per cent general rate pension since 1964, 7 years ago. I know the Minister will argue that the special compensation allowance was provided for those who were on the 100 per cent down to 75 per cent rate of pension. But again one ought to look at the figures to see how much logic the Government applies to the situation. I have just pointed out to the House that there are 195,399 general rate pensioners of whom 35,629 receive the 100 per cent rate down to 75 per cent. There is no increase for them under the terms of this legislation. But there are 159,770 pensioners below 75 per cent. The bulk of the war’ pensioners are in this category. Therefore, it is simple for the Government, in fact, very easy for the Government, in terms of cost to apply an increase to those who constitute the smallest category of repatriation pensioners. I do not want to deal with the situation at any great length. The Minister knows I have raised this matter in the Parliament before.
One has great difficulty in distinguishing the degree of disability, or the difference in the application of disability, between those who are on 75 per cent and those who are on 70 per cent pension. Where is the difference? How is it distinguished? The Minister knows that this compensation allowance was introduced for the sole purpose of providing a small increase for the smallest category of war pensioners. In every class of repatriation pensions there has been a decline in standards. This is not merely my own point of view. It has already been expressed in the 1971 war pension plan of the Returned Services League national executive. The League suggests that the Government, as I have already indicated, should at least provide a measure of generosity to those who have served, this country in time of war. Let me give the figures. According to the RSL submission, if the special rate of pension was equal to the minimum wage now applicable in this country it would be $46.40 a week. It Ls $39 a week or $7 a week less than the amount requested by the national executive of the RSL. In 1950, the year upon which the RSL based its plan, the special rate of pension was in excess of the minimum wage in this country. This category has been allowed to decline.
For the 100 per cent general rate, the national executive of the RSL is asking for 50 per cent of the minimum wage, which would be $23.20 a week. The 100 per cent general rate is now $.12 a week, SI 1.20 less than it should be. War widows receive $16 a week. This is the amount that this Government pays to a widow who lost her husband in the service of this country. It is $7.20 below the 50 per cent of the minimum wage sought by the national executive of the RSL. The Minister may argue that it, includes a domestic allowance of $8 a week, but we are concerned with the base rate for the war widow, which is $16 a week. No Minister who has any concern for those who have been placed in this category as a result of service to this country should allow them to receive an income which is less than 50 per cent of the minimum wage payable to workers in Australia.’
A further request made by the national executive of the Returned Services League - not a difficult, request to fulfil in view of the declining numbers involved - was that all returned servicemen from the First World War should be given free medical and hospital treatment. The Minister has the figures relating to this and knows that the cost has been worked out consistently to be slightly more than $lm a year. The number of ex-servicemen in this category is declining. What does the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) think about the request from the national executive of the RSL for free medical and hospital services for these men? The basis of an amendment moved on a number of occasions by honourable members on this side of the chamber has been that returned servicemen from the First World War and the Boer War should have free medical and hospital services. The Minister has the figures readily available and knows that very few people are involved. The request is that disabilities suffered by these men should be treated in all circumstances, whether they are war caused or not.
The final submission made by the subcommittee of the RSL was that the funeral allowance should be raised from S50 to $200. In 1970 the RSL asked that the funeral allowance be raised to SI 50. In view of the increased costs involved I think this is a legitimate request. For how long has a funeral allowance of S50 been paid by this Government? For 18 years this rate has continued: there has been no increase in the allowance. The Government does not recognise that there have been tremendous increases in costs. These are matters which the Minister should answer. I have dealt with most categories of pension. I conclude by pointing out that the Opposition welcomes-
-Order! The honourable members for Hawker and Mallee will cease their private conversation.
– I was merely saying-
-Order! The honourable member for Mallee will cease interjecting.
– We welcome the increases, small as they are, but I believe that the submission made by the RSL has been carefully considered. I believe that it has the support not only of honourable members on this side of the House but also the support of a great majority of the people of this country. The Minister has much to answer for. 1 make no accusations against him personally - he is just a part of the Ministry - but he should exercise some influence with the Government of this country. He is entitled to make his submissions to the Cabinet. But year after year Ministers for Repatriation have been completely ignored by the Cabinet, and because they have been ignored so also have the great majority of ex-servicemen been ignored. Therefore, to express the feelings of honourable members on this side of the House, I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. Just now you rightly called me to order. I want to explain what my interjection was. The honourable member who was speaking at the time, and other honourable members, are always referring to the member for Mallee.
– Order! There is no substance to the point raised by the honourable member. The Chair is not concerned with- the personal feelings of honourable members.
– I appreciate the sincerity of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in moving his amendment and speaking to this Bill today. I think that most honourable members, particularly those who have been here for some time, .fully appreciate his great interest in repatriation matters and I compliment him for his determination to improve the situation. I will deal with the amendment as I proceed. I compliment him upon much of what he said. J agree with a lot of his comments but, of course, there are certain points with which I do not agree.
The Bill is limited. It increases certain repatriation and war service pensions. This is being done under emergency conditions which have been brought about by a sudden increase in costs. That is the first point that I. wish to make. The second point is that the scope of the increases is limited. The Bill authorises an increase of $1 a week to those who are in receipt of a second schedule pension - that is, totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, the blinded, the tuberculosis patients, double, amputees and so forth - and SOc a week for the intermediate rate pensioners. The intermediate pension will now become $28.50 a week, the war widows’ pension $16 a week and the service pension $16 a week.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was critical because the war widows’ pension will be only $16 a week but I draw the attention of the House to the fact that many war widows are in receipt of a domestic allowance which increases their pension by a further $8 a week. However, the point that 1 should like to raise - and I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on this - is that there has been no increase in the general rate. The honourable member commenced his remarks by saying that there has been no increase in the 100 per cent general rate since 1964. While that statement contains a certain amount of truth it is not entirely true because while the actual base rate has not increased since 1964 - 1 regret this very much and I trust that the Government will look at it - there has been an increase for those who are on a 75 per cent and above pension through the introduction of what is called the special compensation rate. What this has meant virtually is that, since 1964, while the base rate has remained at $12 a week, with the increases to the special compensation rate the pension is now $18 a week, lt is not fair to say that there has been virtually no increase for the 100 per cent rate pensioner although the 100 per cent rate pension has not altered, if people can appreciate the point I am making. It is interesting to note that the pension paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen has increased from $30.50 in 1967 to $39 today and that the intermediate rate pension has increased from $21.25 to $29.
Dealing with those pensioners who are in receipt of a pension below the 75 per cent rate, I agree entirely with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that anyone receiving below that rate of pension certainly has not received an increase since 1964. It is time that something was done about it. I am sure that the Minister is sympathetic about this and is doing all that he possibly can to persuade the Government but, after all, he is only one member of the Ministry and naturally has to be guided by what the Ministry decides. To my mind, it is imperative that consideration foe given to the pensioners concerned. If a person was worthy to receive S8.40 in 1964- that amount was classified then as the 70 per cent rate pension- - then in present conditions he surely is entitled to some increase. It is up to the Government to decide what the increase should be. The pension is given to him for a disability that he suffers as a result of war service. If he was entitled to the pension in 1964 he is entitled to it today. 1 agree also with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in regard to the funeral grant. It has remained unaltered at $50 for many years. That amount could be doubled or trebled. Any increase would not make a great deal of difference to Treasury funds but it would be of great importance to the people concerned. Like other honourable members in this place, I am a member of an organisation known as Legacy and I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that the various clubs throughout this country certainly have great problems facing them because of the very small amount of money which is ‘made available by the Repatriation Department following the death of an ex-serviceman.
The other important point the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made related lo his request for a joint select committee to be appointed to inquire into and make recommendations on all aspects of the provisions and operations of ‘the Repatriation Act. I agree with him to a certain extent. I do not want to see a select committee set up but I agree with the principle behind his request. It is time that we had an inquiry into all aspects of repatriation because it is only natural that as time goes on a certain number of anomalies will creep into the legislation. I would like a committee to be set up specifically for the purpose of inquiring into all aspects of repatriation. The most important thing of all would be to keep party politics out of any recommendations that the committee might make. If a select committee were appointed it is obvious that a certain degree of party politics would influence it, and that would be wrong. As 1 have said, I support the principle of the establishment of a committee of inquiry but certainly not along the lines suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. One of the reasons why we should have an inquiry is to ensure that the submissions and evidence of those who wish to give evidence are made public, because I believe that there is far too much misunderstanding about repatriation matters. Too many people have the idea that just because a person is an ex-serviceman it is a matter of going along to the Repatriation Department and filling out forms, and if that person is prepared to wait, is prepared to lobby or is prepared to do a few other things he will succeed in his demands. I have great respect for the Repatriation Department. It is only natural that there may be isolated cases where some person is receiving too much or too little. But the all-important thing is we have to make sure that no-one is receiving too little.
I now want to refer to a publication by Dr John Whiting which no doubt some honourable members have read, because it has been widely circulated. I was privileged to look at it, and I have read it. 1 have read quite a few sections of it on more than one occasion. I am disgusted to think that a member of the medical profession who has had an association with repatriation should have made the suggestions contained in this book. I have no intention of quoting at great length but I want to draw the attention of the House to 2 parts of the book which refer to a former member of the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force. This servicewoman is referred to in the book as Cookie. One part of the book reads:
Cookie is now drawing 100 per cent pension, as well as being able to get treatment for practically anything free of charge. She can now have a new television set, a new refrigerator, and a new washing machine, without even worrying about trade-ins, every year of her life, or if she likes travelling, she can take a holiday round the world every three years if she wishes, at the taxpayers’ expense.
This is a shocking indictment. This article implies not only that Cookie receives a 100 per cent rate pension but also that she gets all these things as well. The true situation no doubt would be that if she were prepared to save all her pensions she would be able to buy these things.
Another part of the book refers to Cookie being married and her husband being in receipt of a 100 per cent rate pension. It reads:
In the meantime, Cookie’s husband, who originally met her when he was a bar steward in the Officers’ Mess, realises that he too can get in for his pickings. Within a further year, they are both on 100 per cent pensions. Between them now they can take their annual three weeks’ holiday by flying to the United States of America and back, at the taxpayers’ expense.
As I said, this is the type of thing which should be aired in places like this. The public should be made aware of the fact that these sorts of statements are misleading. There are numerous ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen who are receiving their full pension entitlement but who certainly are not abusing their rights as this man suggests.
I support the principle of this Bill because I believe that in the circumstances the Government had no alternative but to grant an increase in the general rate pension to social service pensioners and to certain Service pensioners who come under the control of the Repatriation Department. Although I appreciate and agree with many of the issues raised this afternoon by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I oppose the amendment. I support the Bill.
– I should like to deal with the second part of this cognate debate and to explain why the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act is related to while separate from the Repatriation Act. As the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) said in his second reading speech, it is the usual practice of the Government to keep the rate of pensions and allowances payable to seamen war pensioners in line with the rates payable to other war pensioners under the Repatriation Act. There were some 11,000 Australian merchant seamen engaged during the Second World War on the vital task of keeping our ships in operation. They faced the dangers of enemy operations at sea - submarines and mines - and many ships were sunk or damaged off the Australian coast.
These seamen were given special consideration, and as a result the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act was passed in 1940 to provide pensions and other benefits to these Australian seamen for death or incapacity due to war injury suffered as a result of enemy action or as prisoners of war. Because these seamen were paid at higher rates than the average members of the forces - they received their normal rates of pay plus a substantial war risk bonus - and because they were following their normal occupation, the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act is in fact closer to workers’ compensation legislation than it is to the Repatriation Act in the benefits it provides. The Act covers only injuries suffered as a direct result of enemy action, a much more restrictive definition, as honourable members will be aware, than that used for repatriation benefits. However the benefits granted under the Act are kept on a similar scale to the related benefits under the Repatriation Act.
The number of merchant seamen involved is not great. The present total number of ex-seamen pensioners, wives, widows and dependent children is only 243. The total cost of this increase in pensions will be only $462 up to 30th June this year or $1,700 in a full year. But small though these sums are in the vast total of Commonwealth expenditure they are important to the individuals concerned and are an appropriate recognition of the debt that our community owes to them for the risks they dared to take and the injuries they suffered on behalf of. all of us in time of war. If any honourable member doubts the extent of this sacrifice I suggest that he visit the Australian War Memorial and count in the special place there devoted to merchant seamen the names of those who made the supreme sacrifice.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) desires to explain a very detailed matter and requires most of the time left for this debate. I do not want to traverse the pensions and the increases that have been awarded because they have been dealt with by other speakers today. Of course these increases were not envisaged until we had a new Prime Minister, and I think it was a noble gesture that one of his first actions was to announce a proposal to increase social service and repatriation benefits. We know that these increases do not go as far as we would like. We would like them to be extended very much further. Be that as it may, and despite the knocking that the Repatriation Act gets from various people, be it known unto all men that it is the greatest Repatriation Act in the world. There is not another country which has anything approaching this Act. However we want benefits to be increased further.
As previous speakers, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), have stated, many anomalies are created by the Act and it is most desirable that we correct them in the light of the present economic position. I think that that will be done in the next Budget. Government supporters who serve on the Government Members Ex-servicemen’s Committee are prepared to meet representatives from the Returned Services League national executive. We would go into all aspects of the matter and put a very forthright case before the Cabinet.
I am very pleased - I hope you will bear with me, Mr Deputy - Speaker - that the Department of Health has made a pronouncement in regard to a wonderful drug called L-dopa. I have people in my electorate who would not have been able to work if this drug had not been available to them. They would have become invalid pensioners and dependent on Commonwealth funds. But because of’ this wonderful drug these people are able to work. Although the Government has not placed the drug on the free list I am pleased to say that its cost has been reduced considerably.
– I rise to . a point of order. Time is short. The debate is in relation to the Repatriation Bill. The honourable member for Mitchell, is dealing with aspects of health and not repatriation at all. I ask that his remarks be confined to the subject matter of the Bill.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)I ask the honourable member for Mitchell to keep within the terms of the Bill.
– Surely no man in this House who is aquainted with people who have Parkinson’s disease would prevent me from telling those people that this wonderful drug is available.
– I rise to a further point of order. We are dealing with the Repatriation Bill. The honourable member can raise this matter under other forms of the House if he so desires. I ask him to confine his-remarks to the Bill.
-I have already asked the honourable member to do so.
– On compassionate grounds, I would hardly have thought that anyone would prevent me from letting the people with Parkinson’s disease know about this wonderful drug.
– I rise to a point of order. The honourable member for Mitchell seems to be making personal reflections against me because I have tried to keep him within the terms of the Bill.
– No personal reflections have been cast. There is no substance in the point of order.
– I have got the message over. I commend the Minister on the Bill. 1 know that he is sympathetic towards returned servicemen and that he will do everything possible to increase their entitlements.
– The increased benefits provided for under the Repatriation Bill will be paid to 24,000 war pensioners,- 49,500 war widows and 43,000 service pensioners. Because these pensions are bracketed with social service pensions, 1 hope that we can regard this increase as an interim one, The remarks that I made during the debate on the Social Services Bill apply to the Repatriation Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill. During the debate on the Social Services Bill 1 was speaking about the many pensioners who reside in the north. I hope that the remarks I made concerning a differential for pensioners who live in the north will be taken into consideration in relation to this measure. The Repatriation Act, as it was when introduced originally, has not been reviewed for approximately 30 years. Therefore quite a lot of leeway has to be made up.
Although pensions have been increased over the last 4 years - I will not read out the figures in detail - I suggest that there should be an inquiry into this matter but I reject the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) that a select committee be appointed for that purpose. The appointment of a royal commission or a select committee automatically means that strong political influences are introduced. I consider that the Government should review these pensions. Nothing is too good for our returned servicemen or the widows of men who died fighting for their country. I recommend that an independent inquiry be held into this matter. There will be an inquiry into social services. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) stated that a fundamental review of pensions was in progress. I know that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) is sympathetic to the proposal, so the door is open for in independent inquiry and a review of the entire war pensions situation.
Mr HOLTEN (Indi- Minister for Repatriation) - (3.31) - in reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who was the only speaker for the Opposition in this debate made a speech which lasted for 30 minutes. It had several notable factors in it. The first outstanding point was that he continually quoted the Returned Services League and the national compensation plan that it has submitted to the Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition praised the RSL for its standing in the community, the soundness of its judgment and the wisdom of the proposals that it put forward in the compensation plan. If any members of the RSL happen to be listening to the debate or happen to read it in Hansard I caution them, before being carried away with the apparrent support for the thoughts and policies of the RSL, to remember some of the defence policies and foreign policies of the Australian Labor Party.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order.
– Oh, sit down.
– I rise to a point of order. Never mind about the Minister telling me to sit down. The Chair is in control of this House.
Order! I call the honourable member for Sturt on a point of order.
– My point of order is this, that the Minister is attempting in this debate to question the loyalties of members of this side of the House who have a right to belong to the RSL.
– I raise 2 points of order. One is that the Minister is referring to foreign policy and not to the Bill before the House-
-Order! The Chair is the judge of whether the Minister is within his rights in making these remarks. I rule that the Minister is in order, and I will not have his speech interrupted by frivolous points of order.
– I must rise to a further point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, is it right, in view of the ruling that you have just given, that when a member of the House rises on a point of order the Minister should tell him to sit down?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I ask the honourable member to restrain himself.
– I appreciate the points that members of the Opposition raise, but the fact is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition used the Returned Services League right through his speech, saying how wise the RSL was and how it stood for the ex-servicemen of Australia. I am merely using, to make a point, illustrations of other aspects of the thoughts of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that are not supported by the RSL. In making a big point of the RSL’s proposals the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, quite cleverly, did not commit himself or the Opposition to anything. He did not commit himself, as he has done in the past, to supporting the 1971 war compensation plan submitted by the RSL. I mention this point for the consideration of RSL members who might be listening to this debate or who might read the Hansard report or other reports of the debate. I caution RSL members that they should not be deluded by the apparent support of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and, through him, the Australian Labor Party, for the RSL’s proposals.
I repeat that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made no concrete proposal and gave no undertaking on behalf of the Opposition as to what it would do to increase the various rates of compensation payable if it were in power. He implied that if the Opposition became the government it would increase the total and permanent incapacity pension, the war widow’s pension, lie general rate pension and so on. This implication, in conjunction with earlier statements by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that Labor would support the compensation plan, cannot be viewed in isolation. The expenditure of extra money is involved. The RSL plan would cost SI 05m over and above the $330m-odd that the Repatriation Department will spend in the current financial year. A fair assessment of the proposals implied by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - he did not put any definite proposals - is that the taxpayers would have to find an extra $105m a year for repatriation purposes. Add this to the cost of all the promises made on behalf of the Opposition in the last 12 months by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the total additional expenditure is about $ 1,000m. Would the Australian public, particularly members of the Returned Services League, be justified in believing that the ALP, if it became the government, would meet the requests contained in the 1971 RSL war compensation plan? I do not believe they would be justified in believing that.
It is true that the ex-servicemen’s committee of Cabinet met the RSL national executive this week. The meeting lasted for 90 minutes or more. During that time we had a very useful exchange of thoughts. We received the RSL’s proposal, lt is similar to the 1970 plan. It lays strong emphasis on the desirability of an independent non-parliamentary inquiry into the overall repatriation system and also on the raising of the special rate or TPI payment to equal the minimum wage. The Returned Services League represents a vast group of ex-service personnel. It can rest assured that serious and deep consideration will be given to its proposals. This is not to say that the Government will adopt the proposals. They involve a large increase in expenditure over and above the $337m that will be expended. These matters will be considered at the appropriate time, when the next Budget is being framed.
Honourable members will know that a review of the repatriation system is being undertaken by the Repatriation Department. Admittedly there is criticism that because this inquiry is being undertaken by the department responsible for the administration of the Act, it will not be in sufficient depth. On this point 1 want to assure the people of Australia and this House that I have not interfered with theDepartment at all in this matter. The Department has complete freedom to investigate and in the thoughts it can put forward. 1 want to assure everyone that i have complete confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the Department and in the thoroughness with which the Department will carry out this review, lt could be put forward that the most satisfactory way of undertaking a review of the repatriation system may be by way of an independent inquiry which would investigate this matter in depth. A similar inquiry was undertaken in Canada about 4 or 5 years ago. I noticed that some members of the Canadian Parliament were in the House earlier today and it is quite a coincidence that I should make reference to Canada now. This inquiry took 2 years to complete and subsequently quite a lot of the recommendations were adopted.
The speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was almost a repeat performance of the speech he made on repatriation during the last Budget session and previous Budget sessions. However, if we look critically at his speeches we find that they are destructive rather than constructive, lt is very easy to be critical rather than to propose a reasoned and practical approach, particularly to a problem as complex as the repatriation system, lt is always easy for the Opposition to criticise the Government’s latest pension increases as not being enough. Of course, most people in Australia, including myself r.nd members of the Government, would like to see all of the clients of the Repatriation Department paid more. But the facts of life are that a balance has to be struck between the many competing demands on the Government. Irrespective of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, I am speaking in the House today not with a sense of shame but with some considerable pride about what the Government has done over its period of office. I do not, of course, claim the personal credit for this. It is a matter of what the Government has done. The record stands by itself and most people who are closely associated with repatriation know of these achievements.
I do not think it can be denied - and the honourable member for Mitchell (Mt Irwin) also made this point - that the system is basically a very generous one. The Australian repatriation system is recognised throughout the world as being one of the top systems in the world. No-one will deny that our generous system is administered in a generous way to ensure that the tulles! justice is done to everyone and to ensure that the rights of ex-servicemen are protected. If ex-servicemen have any grievance or dissatisfaction with decisions there are avenues for them to be heard and for their case to be tested to the fullest extent. For instance, there are a number of independent determining authorities. There are the repatriation boards, the independent entitlements appeal tribunals and the independent assessment appeal tribunals. II is worth reminding the House that each of these boards and tribunals has a representative of ex-service organisations on it to ensure that the practical and experienced point of view is expressed in the councils which consider claims and appeals. In addition, every member of every determining authority is a returned serviceman.
The medical system of the Repatriation Department, with its general and auxiliary hospitals, mental institutions, limb and appliance centres and outpatient clinics, forms one of the biggest if not the biggest medical chains in the whole of Australia. These facilities are regarded with a great deal of affection by the tens of thousands of patients who are treated each year. From year to year pensions go up and from year to year treatment becomes more extensive, complex, expensive and expert. The House will be interested to note that even though we have had, as have all countries, inflation over the years, in 1950- 51 the Government approved of the expenditure of $76m on repatriation whereas this year it will be spending just over $3 30m. Is it the act of a mean and parsimonious government to increase expenditure on repatriation from $76m in 1950-51 to over $330m this year?
I would like very briefly to remind the House of some of the other matters which the Government has achieved in the field of repatriation. I do not want to weary the House or to speak at length, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition went back to 1949 in his speech to the House and therefore 1 think it is appropriate that I should go back to 1949 to draw to the attention of the House some factors which I think are important. In 1949 the TPI pension was $10.60 a week; it is now $39 a week. Apart from that, more additional benefits are now available to the TPI pensioner than were available in 1949. A special compensation allowance of $6 a week has been introduced since 1949. I am sure that everyone would have great sympathy for the war widows. I certainly have. In 1949 war widows were receiving a pension of $6 a week. Most of the war widows - 47,000 out of 49,000 of them - are now receiving $24 a week, which represents an increase of 400 per cent. In view of the time factor 1 shall not give any more examples. I should point out, though, that it seems to be the fate of repatriation legislation to be always running against time in the closing hours of the sitting of the Parliament.
My final comment is that the Government can look at its overall performance in the field of repatriation with a certain amount of pride, but it must not be so unrealistic as to believe that it has by any means achieved perfection. For that reason, the Repatriation Commission is examining the repatriation system, lt is important that the Government and the taxpayers should continue to appreciate that the ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen who served the country so well in time of danger and threat to our existence are entitled to retain a special place in the community. 1 refer in particular to those people who have, been seriously disabled and handicapped by war service and to the war widows. Because of the 26-year period since the last major involvement of Australia in war - that is, in a numerical sense - and because of our relative security at the moment there- is a, perhaps understandable, tendency for people to attach less importance than they have previously to the debt we undoubtedly owe to the members of our fighting forces - men and women, past and present.
In conclusion. I assure honourable members that there is no air of complacency in the Department or any attitude of selfadmiration for the excellent performance of the Government and the Department over the years. We are continuing to look for ways and means of improving the situation. It must be conceded that this Bill with its increases in rates for the totally and permanently incapacitated, war widows and some other categories, is evidence that even between budgets we are looking to make changes for the betterment of the lot of ex-servicemen and women who have disabilities because they served their country in war.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. ‘
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Holten) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 30 March (vide page 1174). on motion by Mr Holten:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Holten) read a third time.
National Service Act - Arrangements for Australian Army Sergeant serving in Papua and New Guinea to visit sick brother in Western Australia
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Since November 1964, when the National Service Act was introduced, more than 43,000 young men . have failed to register and more than 23,000 explanations have been accepted. At present, more than 10,000 are under investigation. Although a large number of young men have failed to register only a small handful have been gaoled. The Government has prosecuted only a few. The Government has been particularly careful not to broaden the application of punitive action which would create dissension among a large section of people. Had the Government enforced the law by prosecuting more than 40,000 men there would have been a greater outcry. 1 wish to speak on behalf of one of the few men who have been prosecuted. His name is Geoff Mullins and he is at present in Berrima Gaol. I support this young man of great moral courage. The callousness of this Government disturbs me. Not one member of the Government or supporter of the Government in this House has shown any concern about the conscription of young men to the bottomless pit of
Vietnam. Not one of them has ever shown concern about our involvement in Vietnam - unlike the position in the United States of America, where both Democrats and Republicans are totally opposed to the war and where there is now a majority in the Senate opposed to America’s participation in this conflict. Thirty years ago 1, with other honourable members from both sides of the House, went to war to fight Fascism. Today, the majority in this House - the Government of the country - is supporting Fascist forces in Vietnam. This Government is supporting governments that are committing crimes equal to the crimes committed by the Nazis in the Second World War.
Is it any wonder that young people last Monday week in the Special Federal Court in Sydney showed contempt for that Court? They showed contempt because they were contemptuous of the Act that was being administered in the Court. They were showing contempt for the National Service Act and for Australia’s involvement in Vietnam. I attended the court and spoke to young Geoff Mullins before he went into court. 1 found him to be a young man of sound attitudes and firm convictions. He made his position clear; he is not a conscientious objector. He would fight to defend his country, but he said that he would not fight in Vietnam. One cannot help but admire the courage of this man in challenging the whole Establishment. Imagine this young man,- standing against the Establishment, against power and privilege in this country. As 1 told a Sydney university gathering last week, I have asked myself a thousand times: Uren, would you have had the courage, when you were the same age- as this young man, to stand up against the Establishment and say that you would not go. to such an immoral war as the war in Vietnam, which this Government is forcing . young men to do?’ When a young man of the calibre of Geoff Mullins has the courage to stand up against the Establishment, I stand in this Parliament and give him my complete moral, physical, financial and every other support.
Geoff Mullins has been gaoled for 2 years. This young man is a science graduate of the University of New. South Wales and must rot in a gaol for 2 years because of the stupidity and the callousness of the
Government. In court he was asked whether he wished to examine the young witness from the Department of Labour and National Service. He replied: ‘No, I am only sorry for him’. The second witness - a much older gentleman - was the informant on behalf of the Department, and once again Mullins was asked whether he wished to ask any questions of the witness. He shocked the court when he said: ‘What questions would you ask anyone in a Nazi court?’ These are challenging words, one might say, in this country, and the magistrate had them struck from the record. However, Mullins went further and said to the magistrate: ‘You know that this is a Fascist court’. An emotional woman at the back of the court called out: ‘Why do you not stop sending our boys to gaol?’ Magistrate Annabel said: ‘Lady, I have not sent anyone to gaol’. It appeared that the magistrate was embarrassed by the terms of the vicious Act that he had to administer.
Mr Mullins was taken from the court to Long Bay Gaol. He refused to obey instructions there and was kept in a cell with 3 criminals. There were no proper toilet facilities in the cell and he had to use a bucket when he wanted to urinate or pass excreta. In the 3 days to last Thursday when I spoke at the University of Sydney he had not showered or bathed. That is an indication of the way in which this young man was being treated. It is true that he has been disobedient but surely he should not be treated in that way. I have been informed now that he has been transferred to Berrima Gaol.
He said that he was not a conscientious objector but that he was opposed to the war in Vietnam. The Government knows the horrible record that both it and the United States have in Vietnam. They know that the war in Vietnam is crumbling beneath their feat. They know that public opinion in this country and in the United States is against involvement in the Vietnam war. The Australian Government knows that the United States will withdraw from Vietnam and that we have to get our men out. It is about time that this Government started to act sanely and to treat our young men with some civility and decency and not gaol them for 2 years, particularly when they are young men of the calibre of Mr Mullins. He will not try to get out of goal on medical grounds. He is there and he will follow a course of civil disobedience. I hope that the Government is proud that it is trying to crush this young man. Any honourable member on the Government side who met this young man would be impressed by his balance and soundness and would be proud that he is a fellow Australian who has the moral courage to stand up for his principles.
– I wish to raise a matter relating to the Army. Firstly, I should like to express thanks to members of the staff of the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) who have co-operated and have acted promptly and with compassion in this matter, no doubt at the direction of the Minister. This is even more marked in view of the fact that we did not become aware of the problem until after 11.15 p.m. last night. The problem concerns a Sergeant Smith who is stationed in Papua and New Guinea and whose brother is now dying in Royal Perth Hospital after being involved in a traffic accident on 18th March in which he and his wife were injured, his wife fatally, leaving 2 small children to be cared for by Sergeant Smith’s parents.
Sergeant Smith’s mother telephoned a representative of Western Command on an after hours number in an endeavour to have Sergeant Smith brought home to see his brother before his brother passed into a coma and was unable to recognise him. The request was made particularly in view of the fact that the brothers had not seen one another for 3 years. Sergeant Smith has had 9 year’s service in the Army. He volunteered for service in Vietnam where he won his sergeant’s stripes, and he has not had leave for 3 years. His father, an ex-serviceman, is deeply distressed by the terrible tragedy that has befallen the family. Sergeant Smith’s mother was told on the telephone by an Army spokesman that the circumstances did not warrant Sergeant Smith’s return home and that if the Army did this kind of thing all the time the country would be in a worse state than it is. Is there no compassion in Western Command when a distressed mother can be given such a callous, tactless reply? Is there such little regard for our volunteer servicemen who have proved their worth by serving their country? Is there so little regard for the son of an ex-serviceman who is following a family history of service to this country?
Sergeant Smith’s brother has sunk into a coma and the family waits for the final blow. They hope that he will rally for one last recognition of them, for his brother to see him before the final parting and for their one remaining son to be there to comfort them in their hour of grief. For those reasons I have again requested compassionate leave for Sergeant Smith. There may still be time for him to reach home, even after the unnecessary delay which has been the result of a callous lack of thought. We are not even sure whether Sergeant Smith has been fully informed of his brother’s condition because we have had to rely completely on Army signals to him and there has been a lack of confirmation by the family that the signals have been received. Sergeant Smith is due for leave in June when he planned to return to Western Australia as he is due for another posting. He planned to see his family then. To expect him to spend the return air fare which is in express of $500 could well preclude him from returning to see his parents with his wife and children in June. Surely there is some way by which he can be given full compassionate leave immediately. We should ensure that in the future distressed parents or relatives of servicemen in similar circumstances will not be treated with such a callous disregard for their feelings and the feelings of the servicemen concerned. I am sure that the Minister will ensure that the personnel dealing with these problems will exercise the same tact and compassion as his own staff who are a credit to him.
– I thank the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) for his reference to my staff. I will repeat to the House what 1 have already advised him. The honourable member was kind enough to indicate to me that he intended to raise this matter but it was not until approximately 11.15 p.m. last night that 1 was so advised. As a consequence a signal was sent to Port Moresby with a copy to Perth and to Vanimo. The signal was sent to Vanimo because that is where the soldier is stationed at the present time. For those who know New Guinea, it is almost the last outpost before the West Irian border and communication is therefore somewhat difficult. I expect to receive a full reply from New Guinea by approxi mately 5 o’clock this afternoon. It is true that in accordance with current provisions relating to the granting of emeregncy leave, this soldier has no entitlement to leave or to attendant free travel. Sergeant Smith is a married man and the question of compassion arises in regard to his next of kin. His immediate next of kin is his wife who is residing with him in New Guinea. However, one would be less than humane and less than human if one were not cognisant of the strains thai would be imposed on the family, in view of the circumstances put forward by the honourable member for Swan in regard to the other members of the family apart from the soldiers wife.
The signal was sent under my direction and it conveyed all the circumstances to the soldier wilh the request that any recreation leave or travel entitlement may perhaps be made available for his return to Australia. At this juncture I do not know whether the soldier himself wishes to return and it is of great import that this be established, lt can only be established if all the circumstances are forwarded to him. The signal did convey all the circumstances and I await the reply. The advice I have received from Perth is regrettably akin to that which has been enunciated by the honourable member for Swan. The advice is to the eflect that the doctor attending the soldier’s brother says that the patient .is heavily sedated and probably would not be able to recognise his brother, and furthermore the soldier’s presence would not materially assist the medical condition of the patient, according to the doctor. But at the same time, bearing in mind the matters proffered by the honourable member, I repeat that I directed a cable be sent to the soldier. I give to him the undertaking that if it is practicable to return him to Australia the earliest possible arrangements will be made. He will be aware that there are only 2 flights out of Vanimo, I think one on a Tuesday and the other is certainly on a Saturday, so there is still time to get him from Vanimo to Port Moresby tomorrow morning. I hope that other aspects of his journey can be expedited.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.14 p.m. until Tuesday, 6 April at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Pensions and Average Weekly Earnings (Question No. 2933) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What percentage of average male weekly earnings will the age pension for (a) a single person and (b) a married couple represent at the new rates announced by the Prime Minister on 15th March 1971.
What were the corresponding figures for a year earlier.
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Mow many homes savings grants were paid on houses where the finance for purchase was provided from State funds by each Slate Housing Authority during each of the years 1966 to 1970 and what was the amount of these grants in each of those years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I regret to have to inform the honourable member that the sources from which applicants for home savings grants obtain finance to purchase their homes have not been recorded in departmental statistics. As more than 150,000 individual applications were approved in the period 1966-70, I am sure he will appreciate that it would be a very time consuming task to re-examine all of these to extract the information he seeks and to tabulate it. For this reason I am sorry that I cannot provide the details.
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The object of the regional clinic is to provide a degree of decentralisation in order to improve services to eligible handicapped persons living in the region.
The Newcastle and Townsville clinics are regarded as in the nature of pilot projects. While there are no firm plans, at this stage, for the establishment of further clinic teams in other regional centres, we shall formulate future policy after considering the outcome of these pilot projects.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
How many persons in receipt of an age or invalid pension at (a) 30 June 1968, (b) 30 June 1969. (c) 30 June 1970, and (d) 15 March 1971 (i) were and (ii) were not entitled to benefits under the pensioner medical service.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
What attention has been given to the Tariff Board’s suggestion in its report on motor vehicles and concessional admission of components dated 24th September 1965 that in about 5 years time it should review the duties of motor vehicles and on all components for motor vehicles whether imported for original equipment.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Tariff Board’s suggestion for a review in about five years’ in its 1965 report related to all motor vehicles and components. Such a review would represent a major inquiry.
The Government has decided there will be a progressive review of the Tariff. The questions of when this review will start and the order in which industries will be referred to the Tariff Board in this review are matters which are shortly to be considered by the Cabinet.
One of the matters to be taken into account is the likely workload these review references will place on the Tariff Board in addition to normal references. The decision on the timing of a reference on motor vehicles and components will have to be taken in this context.
In relation to passenger vehicles I have asked my Department to consult with manufacturers, assemblers, importers, and component manufacturers, of passenger vehicles and to report to me on the position reached under the Government’s Motor Vehicle Plans and the implications for tariff rates for passenger vehicles. The consultations have commenced and will be comprehensive.
However, I would expect them to be completed by the middle of the year. After 1 have considered that report and discussed the matter with Cabinet, 1 will then announce the Government’s future intentions in this area.
In relation to commercial vehicles there will be a separate reference to the Tariff Board. For the reasons given earlierI cannot yet say when this will be sent, butI would not expect that a reference for the review of these tariffs would be delayed beyond 1971.
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commission further determined that during the election period in .1968, it would not allocate time on its stations to political parties. This determination was made in accordance with the provisions of Section 116 of the Broadcasting and Television Act. The Commission considered that, at that time, political- parties in Papua/New Guinea were in an early stage of development, and there was evidence to indicate that the majority of candidates did not belong to a party.
There were, moreover, too many candidates for each to be given time.
A similar view was taken by the Papua/New Guinea Administration in respect of its radio stations.
The Commission’s stations in Papua/New Guinea broadcast news about the 1968 elections on a factual and objective basis, and also presented programmes aimed at familiarising listeners wilh electoral and voting procedures.
The Commission will review this determination prior to the next elections in the light of developments in Papua/New Guinea since 1967.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The matters referred to in (1), (4), (5) and (6) fall within the authority of Ministerial office holders. The Administrator on the advice of the Assistant Ministerial Member for Local Government and the Assistant Ministerial Member for the Treasury, has provided the following information:
The Income Tax Ordinance provides that a taxpayer who has, during a year of income, paid personal tax for which he is personally liable to a Local Government Council is entitled to a rebate of the amount of that tax, up to a maximum of ten dollars, imposed in respect of any one financial year. No distinction is made between an individual and a company in the definition of taxpayer’.
Proclamations establishing Councils for the towns of Port Moresby, Lae and Madang were approved by the Administrator’s Executive Council on 21st January, 1971, and elections for these Councils are to take place on the 3rd April 1971. The establishment of a Council for the Rabaul township area was deferred by the Administrator’s Executive Council but it is intended to place a recommendation for the establishment of the Rabaul Town Council before the Administrator’s Executive Council seeking approval to proceed with its formation at an early date.
Samarai and Bereina have been included in the surrounding Council areas but’ proposals regarding the inclusion of the other minor towns mentioned have not yet been finalised.
No consideration has been given to any scheme which would attempt to distinguish or discriminate between expatriates and other town residents when applying the provisions of the Income Tax Ordinance which relate to deductions of up to $10 for personal tax paid to a Council. The Local Government Ordinance precludes the imposition by a Council of a personal tax based on income but provisions exist which will enable urban councils to levy rates on land calculated in relation to the unimproved value of the land.
As stated for the previous question, provision has been made for urban Councils to impose rates based on the unimproved value of the land.
The answer to points (2) and (3) of the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 April 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710402_reps_27_hor71/>.