17th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I regret to announce to the Senate that ex-Senator Herbert James Mockford Payne died in Melbourne on the 26th February last. He was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly as the member for Burnie at the general elections in 1903, and held that seat till 1909, when he was elected as the member for Darwin, which -he represented till 1919, when he resigned. While a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly he was Chairman of Committees from 1909 till 1912. He was Treasurer, Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Railways from June, 1912, to April, 1914. He was also a member of the Public Accounts Committee from 1914 to 1919. Ex-Senator Payne was elected- to the Senate at the general elections in 1919, and again in 1925 and 1931. As a private senator he introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1924 in which provision was made for compulsory voting at Commonwealth elections. The bill subsequently became law in that year. In 1926-37 he was a member of the Select Committee on Commonwealth Electoral Law and Procedure. He was a Temporary Chairman of Committees from August, 1927, to July, 1933, and was a member of the Public Works Committee from July, 1926, to August, 1929. He represented Australia, as a delegate nominated by the British Parliamentary Group, at the 25th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held at Berlin in August, 1928. He retired from the Senate in June, 1938. I move -
That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of former Senator Herbert James Mockford Payne, a former senator for the State’ of Tasmania and Tasmanian State Minister, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
-7- On behalf of the Opposition I second the motion. Those of us who were associated in the Senate with ex -Sena tor Payne appreciated his loyalty and his high sense of public duty. He did valuable work in this Parliament for the State of Tasmania and for the Commonwealth generally. I join with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) in expressing deep sympathy with his widow and family in their bereavement.
Senator COOPER (Queensland).Members of the Australian Country party in the Senate support the motion. Ex-Senator Payne had a distinguished career in both the State and the Commonwealth political spheres. He was a successful business man, and had a fund of knowledge of commercial affairs which made him a valuable acquisition to the Senate during the discussion of tariff proposals and other important matters. Those of us who were closely associated with him in the Senate recall the keen interest he took in the game of bowls, and his readiness at all times to spend a pleasant hour with his colleagues on the parliamentary bowling greens. Men of his type are of great value to the Senate. To his widow and family we tender our deepest sympathy.
– I also desire to pay my tribute to the memory of the deceased gentleman. I had the privilege of serving with him both in the Tasmanian Parliament and in this Senate. He was a man of high ideals and one of the most industrious members of Parliament I have ever met. He was always willing to render any assistance he was able to give in removing injustices ot in support of what he regarded as a worthy cause. He will be much missed bv a large circle of friends.
– I had the pleasure of being a close friend of ex-Senator Payne. Those of -us who were his contemporaries in this chamber will recall the zeal with which he carried out his parliamentary duties. He was always in his place, and in the debates on taxation and tariff matters, as well as those on many other subjects affecting the welfare of the people of -the Commonwealth, he was an able debater and a most industrious senator. His widow and family have the great consolation of knowing that he served his country well. They are able to say, as I am sure the deceased senator himself must have said on his retirement after over 34 years of pubic service, “Something attempted, something done “. Although six years have elapsed since his retirement from the Senate he maintained a constant interest in the work of this chamber and in the senators with whom he was closely associated. He had a full and long life, but we none the less mourn the loss of such a useful citizen.
– As an old friend and colleague of the late ex-Senator Payne, I add my tribute to his memory. As my friendship with him extended over twelve years, I agree with Senator J. B. Hayes that there was never a more industrious member of this Parliament than was the deceased gentleman. I join with those who have spoken in extending sympathy to his widow and family.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
– As chairman, I present the third report of the Broadcasting Committee..
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Will the Minister consider the possibility of diverting an additional passenger plane to the north-west coast of Tasmania (Smithton or Wynyard) during the period the slapping service is not in operation?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer: -
The facilities available at Smithton and Wynyard are not sufficient to enable regular callsby the Douglas aeroplane whichhas been diverted to the Tasmanian service. However, arrangements have been made with Australian National Airways to provide additional services to these centres with the usual Stinson aircraft, if traffic justifies it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What amount willthe wool-growers of each State obtain of the £73,553,911 wool cheque received from the Government of Great Britain ?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer : -
The payments made to suppliers of wool during the 1942-43 season were as under: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice - 1.What action has the Government taken to provide increased supplies of fertilizers, particularly of superphosphates, to meet the requirements of primary producers in their desire to respond to the Government’s appeal for increased production?
– The question more closely concerns the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who has furnished the following answers : -
Debate resumed from the 25th Febru ary (vide page 627), on motion by Senator Fraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the Senate adjourned on Friday last I was speaking of the difficulty in placing tubercular patients in suitable employment after their health had improved sufficiently to enable them to leave a sanatorium. Obviously, a man who has spent a considerable period in a sanatorium is not fit to return to full-time work immediately; it is necessary that he obtain light employment until he can take his place as an ordinary worker in industry. This matter is dealt with in the report of the Social Security Committee, which had before it a report in connexion with the Papworth Settlement in Great Britain. Paragraph 108 of the committee’s report reads -
The Employment Committee of the Tuberculosis Council of Great Britain thoroughly investigated this field, and in an excellent report covering the whole field of rehabilitation of the tuberculous published in 1942, stressed the following points: -
Employment ofpatients in sanatoriums.
Use of training colonies where gardening, poultry farming and pig raising are taught.
Introduction of village settlements where certain industries are carried on and where the patient and his family can be cared for as a unit.
In that paragraph the committee was dealing with occupational therapy and the rehabilitation of persons affected with tuberculosis. The report continues -
It is claimed that at the Papworth Settlement in England no child born at the Settlement has contracted tuberculosis. The spread of infection has been prevented through the cave and attention given to the patients and through education.
At Papworth a considerable quantity and variety of manufactured goods are produced, and these are disposed of on the open market.
The patients commence to work for two hours a day and this is gradually increased to six hours per day. They are paid at the award rate according to the number of hours worked. The managers of the different departments are all ex-patients. The scheme is considered by medical authorities to be suitable for adoption in Australia.
I emphasize that these persons are allowed to manufacture goods which find a ready sale, and that while so engaged award rates, on an hourly basis, are paid to them. That has given them a new interest in life. They feel that they are still an important cog in the community and the general industrial economy of the country. Thus, they are given a sense of independence, and this promotes their recovery. The second feature of that scheme is that it has shown that sufferers from tuberculosis need not be segregated from the members of their families. Instead of the sufferer being sent to a sanatorium, his complete family is transferred to this settlement; and the history of the settlement shows that the disease has not been contracted by any sufferer’s relatives, and not even one of the children horn in the settlement has developed tuberculosis. That achievement represents an important step in the fight against this dreaded disease. I believe that expenditure in Australia to combat tuberculosis would produce immediate results. At present, any person in necessitous circumstances can obtain medicine free of charge as an outdoor patient at a public hospital. Much of the evidence heard by the Social Security Committee from witnesses in all States reveals that the most urgent need of the sick is adequate free hospital treatment. Therefore, I believe that we should direct all our energies and finance to this end. After all, a freebottle of medicine is of small assistance to the sick. Individuals are inclined to forget within a very short time the few shillings saved to them on that account. However, if we could stamp out a disease so serious as tuberculosis, we should make one of the greatest contributions towards the relief of the suffering and the improvement of the health of our people generally. If the amount which it is proposed to expend even in one year under this measure were devoted to that purpose, we would undoubtedly achieve much in relieving suffering humanity. I ask the Minister for Health to give early and careful consideration to the suggestions I have made.
. - When the Government first propounded its national welfare scheme, I believed that much delay would be incurred in respect of some features of the programme because of the necessity to work out the various phases of such a scheme and to frame the necessary legislation in order to provide an adequate social security plan. I am very pleased, therefore, that the Government has been able to supplement the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill with the measure now before us. This bill is an instalment of the complete social security plan envisagedby the Social Security Committee, and I trust that the Government will waste no time in, introducing supplementary measures. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) described this measure as the tail-end of a social security plan. I point out to him that, owing to neglect of this problem on the part of previous governments, this
Government willbe making a worthwhile contribution towards social security even if, as the honorable senator suggests, it starts at the tail-end. Honorable senators opposite cannot deny that this measure constitutes an important reform. The fact that many other reforms still remain to be brought about does not detract from its value. Housing, for instance, is causing grave concern. However, I have no doubt that that problem is receiving the urgent attention of the Government. Senator Cooper has dealt with the problem of combating tuberculosis. That is another problem which remains to be tackled, but I might point out here that it is closely linked with the housing problem. Before the Government can undertake a housing scheme, embracing, perhaps, the construction of a settlement along the lines of the Pap worth Settlement in England, as suggested by Senator Cooper, it will need to build up reserves of man-power and material. The point I emphasize is that, in view of its limited resources, due largely to war conditions, the Government must confine its attention to reforms which it is capable of putting into effect. Like other honorable senators, I should like to see it undertake other reforms such as universal superannuation, the provision of a free hospital service and a free medical service. In the existing circumstances, however, the Government can only proceed gradually in this matter. The Government itself realizes that, under present conditions, it is a physical impossibility to implement immediately many urgent reforms. This measure is an indication of its determination to push on with a full social security plan as quickly as possible. I do not underestimate the value of this legislation to the community. I realize that, when the bread-winner becomes ill, the cost of medicine and medical treatment assumes alarming proportions in relation to the family income.
– Is not medical attention more expensive than medicine ?
– Probably, that is so; but I remind the honorable senator that, had previous governments given the slightest attention to the problem of improving the health of the community, the problems now confronting this Government would not he so difficult. However, a start must be made somewhere, and this measure, I trust, is but an instalment of equally valuable reforms to be undertaken by this Government. The hazards which confront a family when the bread-winner falls ill are most difficult. In addition to the loss of income, thecost of medical attention and medicine places a great burden on the family’s resources. The cost of the drugs is often a serious drain on the income of a sick person, which this bill will at least relieve.
A second important effect of the measure will be to ensure that wholesome drugs are made available to the whole community. It is necessary for a doctor to see each individual case, and to prescribe the type of drug which the patient needs. In the past, it has too frequently happened that poorer people, because of the expense of consulting a doctor, have attempted to cure themselves by obtaining a patent medicine from a chemist, believing that it would do as the wording of the label suggested. In this way many of them, instead of curing themselves, have not only wasted their money but have even made themselves worse.
– With “ pink pills for pale people “.
– Exactly. I hope to touch on that subject shortly. The bill will assist to preserve national health by avoiding the necessity for poor people to depend on “ quacks “ and patent medicines. The Social Security Committee stressed that important point in its last report. We were unable at the time, owing to the state of parliamentary business, to make a lengthy report on the subject, but we pointed out that it was a vital matter. In our sixth report, as presented to Parliament, we made the following remarks on foods, drugs and poisons : -
Commonwealth powers in respect of foods and drugs and poisons relate only to control of import and export under commerce legislation; the international obligations covering narcotic drugs (under theGeneva Opium Convention) are administered by the Department of Trade and Customs. Inspection and sale of food and drugs are dealt with in each State under Health and Pure Food Acts or special statute. Problems arise especially in the control of such an article as milk which is both a product and a food, and so subject to control by agricultural, veterinary and health services. Poisons are controlled in four-States by Pharmacy Boards and in two by Health Departments. Some uniformity has been achieved in standards of food and drugs through Commonwealth and State conferences, and in recent years by the regular sessions of the National Health and Medical Research Council. A proposal was revived during 1941 for a further conference, representative of governmental, professional and trade interests, to formulate greater uniformity in State legislation and administration. The National Health and Medical Research Council considered that in normal times it should be possible to achieve material progress towards a greater uniformity. The committee concurs with this decision and urges it should be put into effect.
– The committee did not recommend free medicine, did it?
– We did not get so far as that. If we had had time to consider the whole of the implications of the subject, I have no doubt that my colleagues would have agreed with me in recommending the provision of free medicines. In earlier days, it was the practice for pharmacists to assist the doctor by dispensing the drugs he prescribed, but a stage was reached at which the patient felt that he could get his prescriptions made up by going to pharmacists and avoiding the doctor. Thereupon drug manufacturers began to market patent medicines made to cure all sorts of ills. The public, ignorant to a great degree in medical matters, was easily gulled by advertisements as to the value of such medicines.
– And also some doctors commenced to order them.
– As the Minister points out, some doctors condoned the evil. In endeavouring to find evidence of the growth of this evil, my attention was directed to what was done in 1907. I find that there has been very little inquiry into the subject since that date. The late Mr. OctaviusC. Beale reported as a royal commissioner to the Commonwealth Parliament in that year. On page 322 of his report appears the following: -
The right claimed (d) to name the nostrums at will of the concocter is also inadmissible, because the names chosen may be, and are, misleading or intentionally deceptive: as “ Bromo-Seltzer “, to hide acetanilide; “Irish Moss”, to hide two narcotic poisons; “Herbal”, to hide mineral poisons; “Sulphur
Bitters contain no Alcohol “, which do contain alcohol in intoxicating quantities, but do not contain sulphur ; the “ BeautyFace Cream, quite harmless”, which contains no cream, but does contain corrosive mercurial salts; the “ Mexican Hair Restorer “, which does not come from Mexico, but contains lead poison; the “ Temperance Drink “,which contains potato spirit stronger than whisky; the “ Cherry Pectoral “, which contains nothing from cherries, but does contain morphine and other poisons in dangerous proportions; the “ Essence of Linseed”, which contains chloroform and morphine; the “ Radium “ cures, which contain no radium.
The report shows that the claims made by the manufacturers of patent medicines, which were freely published in the press, have really no basis. Some of the preparations mentioned might possibly do no harm if they were still allowed to be sold, but when mixtures which are definitely harmful are sold to the public, it is time that we took preventive measures. The following passage onpage 323 of the same report illustrates what I mean: -
The noxious Liquozone, consisting of vitriol and water, highly recommended for children (of whose deaths I supply an account of two sisters), and for adults in nearly all diseases, is very carelessly mixed.
The label on that preparation described it as “harmless to children”, yet it contained sulphuric acid and water, and, as the report set out, a number of deaths had occurred through its use. It is interesting to read about some of the baby syrups that have been put upon the market. One known as Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, which contained a powerful drug, was well known in those days, and is probably still on sale. At page 98 of the report appears the following regarding it:-
Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup is extensively used among the poorer classes as a means of pacifying their babies. These children eventually come into the hands of physicians with a greater or less addiction to the opium habit.
The following story is told on the same page : -
Some years ago I heard a prominent New York lawyer, asked by his office scrub-woman to buy a ticket for some “ association “ ball, say to her : “ How can you go to these affairs, Nora, when you have two young children at home?” “Sure, they’re all right”, she returned blithely, “ just wan teaspoonful of Winslow’s, an’ they lay like the dead till mornin’ “.
Such, preparations might appeal to parents who have no knowledge of the dangers in which they may be placing their children ; but this is an enlightened democracy, and we believe that our duty as legislators is to protect our people. We should not allow such things to happen. There is one more preparation which I shall mention, namely, Steedman’s teething powders, which, the report states, contained full doses of a potent and dangerous drug. That preparation was declared to be “ good for children cutting teeth “. This measure will have the effect of enabling people who, until now, have had to rely upon the accuracy of patent medicine labels, to visit a doctor and have proper medicines or drugs prescribed.
– They will have to pay doctors’ fees.
– The Government is prepared to take care of that matter, too. At least we are doing something towards uplifting the general health of the masses of the people, and for that reason this measure should receive the unanimous support of this chamber. In the United States of America there has been set up an official body known as the Council of Pharmacy, the duty of which is to analyse patent medicines and make recommendations in regard to their contents and their uses.
– The results of the analyses are published from day to day.
– That is so. Something of that kind should be done in this country. I refer the Senate to the following recommendation of the Social Security Committee in regard to patent medicines : -
An exceedingly great sum is spent in Australia annually on proprietary or patent medicines. Some of these medicines are ordinary prescriptions of value, bottled under a trade name; some others are valueless, others again are undesirable. There are three matters which have engaged the attention of the committee -
a doubt as to whether the high cost of proprietary medicines is justified in relation to their actual value for health;
the fact that these are secret remedies; and
the misleading and sometimes false claims often made for some of these medicines.
It is considered that a comprehensive inquiry should be made into these aspects of the subject with the deliberate intention of remedial action if these discrepancies are confirmed.
Whilst I am of the opinion that this measure will go some distance in the direction indicated by the committee, 1 recommend to the Minister for Health the advisability of making some inquiry into the harmful effects of certain proprietary medicines.
Before concluding my remarks, I believe that it is appropriate that I should pay a tribute to the work that has been done in this country by the friendly societies. The consultative council of the friendly societies of Australia has decided that it will not oppose this measure. The council regards the bill as a step forward, and although it may do some harm to the societies, they concede that it is in the interest of social progress and therefore should be supported.
– It is a measure by which friendly societies will benefit.
– Yes, the friendly societies have adopted a generous attitude, for which they are to be commended. These societies have been of great value in past years, not only because of the benefits which they have conferred upon the community, but because they also have formed a most important part of our national life. They have proved a most efficient training ground for many members of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. I am pleased indeed to know that the friendly societies generally are prepared to assist the Government by supporting this measure. They are not afraid of this bill because they feel that they can measure up to it. They believe that they will be able to offset many of the disadvantages which they will suffer under this legislation by making provisions for benefits hitherto not included within their sphere of activities, such as specialist services and a num’ber of other things. At least, the friendly societies have had the courage to say to us, as a government, “ Go ahead with your measure; we will support you”. It is gratifying indeed to know that there is no danger of these worthy organizations going out of existence. Apart from the benefit of the service that has been rendered by these societies to the community in past years, the assistance given by the council to the Government in the preparation of this measure is such as to warrant some recognition when the Government is setting up various bodies to administer this scheme. This measure fits into the general scheme of social services which is being embarked upon by the Government as rapidly as possible. The scheme is extensive, and there have been many difficulties associated with its introduction. However, I am pleased to know that the Government is tackling the problem thoroughly. This bill will make available to sick people useful and necessary medicines and drugs, and should in some measure militate against the practice which is all too prevalent at present of visiting “ quacks “ and taking harmful medicines. Generally, the effect of this bill on the whole community should be most beneficial.
.- If honorable senators were to peruse all the legislation which has been passed by this Parliament since the inception of federation, I am sure that they would experience some difficulty in finding a measure of less value to the community than this one. We have been told that this measure is the beginning of a new social security scheme; in my opinion, if the rest of the scheme is as bad as the commencement, it will be unfortunate for the Commonwealth of Australia. I should be interested, first of all, to learn from the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) whether any responsible body has recommended to the Government that this proposal should be adopted? In the course of this debate we have heard speeches from two members of the Social Security Committee, which for the past two years has been devoting itself to social service problems, and the enunciation of proposals designed to improve the social services of this community. Neither of those members has suggested that the committee has recommended that the Government should introduce a scheme whereby every member of the community should be able to get a bottle of free medicine.
– They apologized for the scheme.
– I rather think that they did ; but, for a strange reason which 1 find it difficult to understand, the Government has introduced this measure without indicating the cost of the proposal. The scheme seems to be about as ill-conceived as one could possibly imagine. I could understand a government that was anxious to do something for the good of the community proceeding to provide services which, in the first instance, were likely to maintain the health of the people. I could understand even the present Government saying, “It is very desirable, in order to maintain the health of the children of this community, that we should provide all school children with free milk “. I could see a reason for the Government saying to the Parliament, “ We desire to make provision whereby we can improve the hospitals of this country”.
– I suppose that the honorable senator would oppose all such proposals ?
– I should not oppose a well-conceived and properly balanced social service scheme, but the Government has no properly organized plan. It is a sort of catch-as-catch-can scheme. The Government wishes to place what it can in its political shop-window, in order to appeal to a large number of voters, but it would not attract many votes by telling the people that it intended to expend so many millions of pounds on hospitals. The man in the street would not enjoy immediate benefits from a scheme such as that unless he became sick. The Government, therefore, looks for a scheme that will suggest to everybody, here and now, that it is giving something for nothing. That is the kind of proposal which is peculiarly attractive to the Labour party, because it is supposed to be the kind of thing which the community wants. As a matter of fact, the Labour- party has a very low opinion of the average member of the community. It believes that if it can appear to put something into a man’s pocket, or give him something for nothing, it will attract votes.
– What about the taxes being raised for social service purposes?
– I shall deal with the matter from that aspect, but at present no taxation is proposed to pay for the benefits contemplated under this bill. The Government has not deigned to tell us how it proposes to finance this scheme.
– It is already financed.
– All that is provided in the bill is that the scheme will be financed out of the National Welfare Fund. In other words, the Government is incurring a new liability, which Senator Cooper has informed us is likely to amount to about £4,000,000 a year. The Government does not intend to raise from the taxpayers another £4,000,000 annually to discharge this new liability, but proposes to meet it out of a fund provided by means of taxes already expended for war purposes. From the financial point of view, Australia is drifting to an amount of over £300,000,000 a year, yet the Government asks, “ What is another £4,000,000 anyway ? “ In a spirit of complete irresponsibility, it proposes to extract from the exchequer, which does not contain the funds, another £4,000,000 a year. That means that the scheme will be paid for by an increase of the overdraft at the Commonwealth Bank.
– That is alie, and the honorable senator knows it.
– I pay little heed to that unparliamentary remark, because I can prove that what I say is correct. If this £4,000,000 be taken from the National Welfare Fund, obviously that sum will not be available for the war effort. Either the money must be taken from the National Welfare Fund or the Commonwealth overdraft must be correspondingly increased. At present the scheme is to be financed by means of an increase of the overdraft. I find it somewhat strange that this Government should irresponsibly incur an extra £4,000,000 of expenditure in this way when at the same time it has refused a request for relief from the pay-roll tax by a hospital organization in Victoria by saying, “ The Government cannot afford it. The finances will not permit of it “. I have before me a copy of a letter from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), dated the 6th January, and addressed to Sir James Barrett, honorary secretary of the Vic torian Bush Nursing Association, which does valuable work in country districts in relieving the ailments of members of this community. That association had pointed out to the Treasurer that it was liable for pay-roll tax, and it was said to be in a different position from that of public hospitals and certain church hospitals, as well as the Bush Nursing Association of New South Wales. When it sought to be relieved of this liability, the Treasurer pointed out that such relief would necessitate a general alteration of the Pay-roll Tax Act, as institutions of a like kind might claim similar relief.
– Is not that correct?
– It probably is. When he is asked to do this for a useful and worthy purpose the Treasurer hides behind the statement that there is not enough money in the exchequer to enable him to comply with the request. He says -
A general exemption of this kind would involve far more revenue than the Commonwealth can afford at a time when its revenue requirements are as urgent as they are now.
It would appear that the revenue requirements of theCommonwealth are so urgent that it cannot even consider a proposal to assist an organization which is doing useful work in maintaining the health of the people and in relieving distress in the community. Yet the Minister brings before this Parliament a proposal involving the expenditure of an unknown amount of money.
– Does the honorable senator object to reading all the letter?
– I have read an extract from it, and the honorable senator is at liberty to read the whole of it. I repeat that, although the Treasurer says that the state of the exchequer will not allow the Government to assist a worthy organization to promote the health of the community, this worthless measure, which I suggest will not contribute in the slightest degree to the health of the community, has been submitted to this Parliament for its approval.
I doubt whether the proposed law is one which this Parliament is competent to pass. I ask the Minister in charge of the bill to show where the Commonwealth
Constitution empowers the Commonwealth Parliament to provide for the community in this way. We are asked to proceed on the assumption that the subjectmatter of health is one which is possessed constitutionally by this Parliament, but that is not so.
– What body has that power ?
– It is vested in the Parliaments of the States, and, in my opinion, they have not done a bad job. I do not believe that a better job would be done by centralizing in Canberra the whole administration of legislation affecting the health of the community. Whatever complaints maybe laid against the States in regard to the administration of health, I am convinced that a better result would not follow a highly centralized Commonwealth organization to deal with this subject.
– Is the honorable senator satisfied with conditions in South Australia and Victoria?
– At the moment, I am concerned, not with the conditions in those States, but with this Parliament’s lack of power to do what is proposed in this measure. That the Government itself recognizes the constitutional limitation of its power is clear from the fact that it proposes to seek by way of a referendum the power over national health in cooperation with the States for a period of five years after the war. Notwithstanding that clear admission by the Government that that power is not vested in the Commonwealth to-day, it has introduced this measure in anticipation of the result of the referendum. As there is no suggestion that the Government has acted in co-operation with the States, I shall be interested to hear whether the Commonwealth Government has been requested by any State government to introduce a measure of this kind. I do not believe that any government, Labour or otherwise, has made such a request. Yet the Minister has introduced a bill which this Parliament has not the power to pass, and which even if the Constitution be altered as the Government proposes, it will not have power to pass. In my opinion, this bill has been introduced in order that the Government may get the advantages arising from a bit of attractive window-dressing.
– Why should the Government indulge in window-dressing so soon after the elections?
– The Labour party indulges in window-dressing every week of every year. Its members are experts in the art of window-dressing and will always surpass us on this side. However, the public will become tired of windowdressing, and will demand something real. The Government cannot continue, week after week, and month after month, to pile up expenditure without the chickens coming home to roost; and when that times comes, the Government’s expertness in window-dressing will be of no avail. In 1931, window-dressing served no useful purpose; the people had reached the stage at which they were convinced that the Labour party, despite all its catchcries, could not solve the real problems of the community.
Having referred to the unconstitutional character of this measure, I shall now emphasize its dangers. The hill before us is a step on the road to the socialization of the industry carried on by chemists in the community.
– That is what I want to see.
– I know that, but it is difficult to understand why, for example, the Attorney-General, who, during the election campaign, was a great supporter of private enterprise, should support such a bill.
– I did not know that that description fits the Attorney-General.
– During the last election campaign, the Attorney-General told the people of New South Wales that if the Labour party were returned to power, there would be more, not less, private enterprise after the war.
– There was nothing wrong with that statement.
– Even the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) agrees on that point. This measure is as close an approach to the socialization of the industry with which it is concerned as anything that I can imagine. It says, in effect, to every chemist : “ You are not to charge for the things which appear in the formulary “. The bill does not limit the things which can he put into the formulary, and the result may be that everything which a chemist has in his shop may be included in it, in which event the chemist will be told that he is not to charge people who bring along a doctor’s prescription for any of the articles in his shop. The necessity to present a doctor’s certificate is only incidental to the bill, and could be left out of the Government’s plan altogether ; provision could be made whereby a chemist would not ‘be allowed to charge for any of the articles that he stocks.’ He has to supply these people upon such terms, and at such prices, as the Government sees fit to fix from time to time.
– By agreement with the chemist.
– Yes, but we know what sort of an agreement would be arrived at between the chemists and a government which has the right to pass a law to make them agree to what it wants. It is an agreement upon the surface; but the reality is that the Government can make the chemists agree to anything. In other words, this can be used for the purpose of bringing the whole activities of chemists under the control of the Government.
– What is wrong with that? (Senator SPICER. - In my view, it would be one of the greatest misfortunes that could befall this country. I understand the views of honorable senators opposite on this subject. I understand that the Labour party desires to regiment every one in the community. It desires to be able to say to the chemist, “You shall not sell this; you shall sell that “. It desires to be able to tell him how much money he can make out of his business, and to be in a position, if it can, to put him out of business. The thing that amazes me is that people whom I believe are sincere socialists should always seek to run away from the implications of their own doctrines; because socialism, whether it applies to the chemist or the grocer, or the community as a whole, necessarily means the regimentation of the community, and it cannot be achieved in any other way. It is because I am opposed to regimentation that I oppose measures which appear to me to be designed to lead . us along the road to socialism.
– ls the honorable senator in favour of the members of the Law Society being brought under control ?
– I should be sorry to see my profession regimented. I believe that no profession has a finer record down through the ages in maintaining the liberties and freedom of the people of the British race than the legal profession; and, because I believe that, I should be very sorry to see that profession regimented by the Government.
The bill contains all sorts of provisions for the creation of new bodies, new committees and new boards; but it contains no provision as to how these bodies are to be created, what their powers are to be, or precisely what they are expected to do. We are told in one clause that there shall be a consultative council consisting of six persons appointed by the Minister. What is the consultative council to do? What are to be its functions? It is usual in a bill which creates a body of this kind, to set out the powers and functions of the body proposed to be created, and also the qualifications of the members of that body. Who will be these six persons who will constitute the consultative council? Are all of them going to be members of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, or are all of them to be taken from the Labour party? Are any of them likely to have any knowledge of the matters on which they are to be consulted?
– That is very unlikely.
– It is very unlikely if the bill remains as it is now drawn. The chances are that the six vacancies will be filled by duly qualified labourers from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. The same observation applies in respect of the proposed Formulary Committee. What is that committee? The bill does not provide what it is to do, or who are the people who are -to constitute it. We are asked to hand over the whole oi this business to the Minister. Having passed the bill, Parliament is to have no more control. Practically everything that matters so far as this bill is concerned is to be done by regulations. All the things one would normally expect to find in a bill, and upon which Parliament should express its opinion, are left to- that method of legislation of which this Government has become very fond.
– That is the system of the new order.
– Yes ; it is the system by which Parliament will, perhaps, meet occasionally - very occasionally - to pass a somewhat unnecessary budget, because, after all, all the money which the Government requires can be got from the national credit; and, having done that, the law and order of the community will be provided for by regulations to be conceived in the Minister’s office, probably drawn up by a, trade union secretary, and having the imprimatur of a somewhat pink university professor. The representatives of the people will have little say as to what the law shall be. This bill is based upon that system. It pays no regard to the ordinary democratic processes. The Minister does not want Parliament to have too much authority under this measure. Therefore, he has presented us with the bare bones; and he proposes in his own time, and according to his own sweet will, to determine all the things which should be provided for in the bill. Senator Arnold, in his very instructive and informative speech, suggested that the bill would abolish evils associated with the sale of patent medicines. At this stage, I am not disposed to disagree with him on the point 1,11 at there are evils associated with the sale of patent medicines; but the honorable senator in some strange way seems to derive some comfort from this bill, believing that it is likely to lessen the evils to which he referred. He asks us to believe, for instance, that Mrs. Jones, instead of going to the chemist’s shop to get a bottle of Sister Susie’s Soothing Syrup for her baby, which she could probably buy for ls., would trudge off to the doctor. She would tell the doctor, first, that she really wanted something to put her baby to sleep while she and her husband went off to the pictures. My point is that this measure will not affect in one iota the situation instanced by Senator Arnold. “What we have to imagine is that this woman who wants to go to the. pictures is prepared first to go to her doctor and ask hun for a prescription which will cost her 10s. 6d.; and, presumably, she will say, “ I want a prescription, doctor, to put baby to sleep so I and my husband can go to the pictures “. Probably the medical man would say, as I should expect him to say, “Madam, you had better run home and look after your baby properly”.
– Then that disposes of that story!
– No, the woman would immediately go to a chemist’s shop, say, “ Give me a bottle of Sister Susie’s Soothing Syrup “, and pay ls. for it as before. It is nonsense to suggest that she would go to a doctor at all. She would go straight to a chemist, as she does to-day. In other words, there is not in this bill any provision which will reduce the evil, if there be such an evil, of people obtaining proprietary medicines at chemists’ shops. They will be able to get them without obtaining a doctor’s prescription, and I think that in most cases they would find that the proprietary article without the doctor’s prescription would cost them less at the chemist’s shop than the prescription would cost. In other words, this provision is merely an illustration of the fact that the Government has not given any real consideration to the recommendations of the Social Security Committee. The committee has put forward, with regard to proprietary medicines, some recommendations which are, at any rate, worthy of consideration.
– The committee did not recommend these proposals.
– It did not, and, so far as I know, no one outside government circles recommended them. I should be very interested to know who did, and whether any qualified medical man in the Commonwealth has done so.
– The honorable senator would not expect this Government to go to a qualified man for advice.
– I thought Ministers might even do that. After all, there are qualified medical men in their own party, and I should be interested to know whether any qualified medical man in the Commonwealth, or any one associated with the pharmaceutical industry, has recommended these things. I believe that it is just one of those thoroughly ridiculous schemes evolved by some one who knows nothing about the business, and who is far more concerned with putting before the public something which will be attractive from the political point of view, because it sounds big. The idea is to be able to say, “ See what the Labour party has done! “Why, we gave you free medicines ! “ It sounds a tremendous lot, but if Ave take Senator Cooper’s figure of a total cost of £4,000,000 a year, it amounts, after all, to about 10s. a head of the population a year. It is not such a great deal in terms of money, but it is a thoroughly useless expenditure, and because it is a useless expenditure at a time when we have not even enough to meet all the real needs of the community, I resist the proposal.
– Where does the honorable senator get his figure of £4,000,000?
– I took it from Senator Cooper’s estimate. I do not know whether it is correct or not. We have had no estimate from the Minister, and Senator Cooper’s figure is the only one that I can work on. His suggestion, as I understood it, was that about 20,000,000 prescriptions were dispensed in the Commonwealth yearly, and it was suggested that they cost on an average 4s. each, which works out at a total of £4,000,000 a year. I do not care whether it is £2,000,000, £4,000,000 or £6,000,000, it is still wasteful expenditure, and the money could he much more usefully employed in promoting the health of the community.
– The honorable senator suggested that the National Welfare Fund had already been used for war purposes.
– That is true. The fund has been used for the purpose of financing the war, and in reality is empty.
– But it is a trust fund.
– It is a trust fund which the Treasurer told us at the time he was going to lend to himself for the purpose of carrying on the war.
– It has the backing of the Commonwealth, as the honorable senator well knows.
– If the backing- of the Commonwealth means the hacking of this Government, it is really not worth very much. I find myself utterly opposed to the measure. It is a thoroughly bad one. Apart from everything else that I have said, I oppose it as I have opposed other proposals, upon the basis that I believe it to be unsound for a government to hand out doles to the community, whether in the form of medicine or of money. I believe that all these things have to be paid for by the members of the community, and the cost cannot be limited, as the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) suggested, to taxes upon profits and rents. That sounds a very attractive programme, but taxes to-day are not limited to those sources. The Government has found it necessary to tax people whose incomes are just over £2 a week, and as I understand it it proposes to perpetuate such a tax indefinitely. It says, “ We are going to take all this out of the National Welfare Fund. We shall expend out of that fund £30,000,000 a year, or onequarter of the income tax which we raise, whichever is the lesser “. If the expenditure out of that fund is to be £30,000,000 a year, the fund can he kept solvent only if income tax remains at its present level, because all that goes into the fund is one-quarter of the income tax. If £30,000,000 a year is required to meet the demands on the fund, taxation from individuals must continue at the rate of £120,000,000 a year at the least.
– A first-class investment!
– I am quite sure that the day is not far distant when many people whom the honorable senator claims as his supporters will clamour for a reduction of taxes.
– The coalminers are doing so to-day.
– They are, because the shoe is beginning to pinch. I believe that people will ultimately resist the taxation which will be necessary if these schemes are to be maintained. If we desire a sound and self-reliant community, such a scheme must be based upon the principle that it is the business of every individual to contribute towards his own welfare.
– That is so under this measure.
– I mean contribute directly.
– On a flat rate?
– I am not concerned whether or not contributions should be on a flat rate ; it is a thoroughly healthy principle that every person in a community should feel that he is making acontribution to the community welfare - even if it be only a “ widow’s mite “ - and that the benefits derived from a scheme such as this do not constitute a charitable dole, but a right to which he or she has contributed. I do not believe that any social service scheme can be financially sound unless it is upon a basis of national insurance, with contributions being made by every member of the community who is to benefit; and if such a scheme were to be embarked upon, I should hope that a start would not be made by the provision of free medicines for everybody. There are things far more urgent than free medicines, if we are to make a worth-while contribution to the health of the community.
– Everybody knows that; there is no need to make a song about it.
– I was a little afraid that the Government did not know it. If the Government is aware of that fact, it is a curious thing that it should come along with a proposal which aims to relieve a sick person of the costs of his or her medicine - probably the smallest expense which will be incurred - whilst all the problems attending the provision of proper nourishment, housing and clothing are to be left to the dim and distant future. No doubt the Government sees in this comparatively simple scheme an opportunity to continue to play Father Christmas, even if it be merely to the degree of putting into everybody’spocket a free packet of pills.
– It is quite true, as Senator Spicer has said, that there are other more urgent things than the provision of free medicine; but nobody knows better than the honorable senator that at the present time, owing to the shortage of labour and material, it is impossible to embark upon a comprehensive scheme of housing, hospital construction and so on. Therefore, in this time of stress and crisis, the Government is endeavouring to do what it can to fulfil the promises which it gave to the people of this country at the last elections, and in previous campaigns.
I do not think that this bill goes far enough, but at least it is a start upon a long-range programme. It is true that the cost of medicine to a sick person is not very great. It is not nearly so much as Senator Spicer would have us believe, and the mere fact that the honorable senator indulged in a little exaggeration is an indication that he did not know very much about the bill which we are now discussing. Presumably, that is why he said very little about it. It is ridiculous to suggest that the Government should pay chemists 4s. for each prescription, when the average cost of such prescriptions is much less than that sum. I admit that, in time of sickness, the greatest expense which a person has to meet is the doctor’s fee, and I draw attention to the fact that, in Tasmania, which probably is ahead of any other State in regard to the health of the community, a free medical service has been provided in twelve selected districts. There is a governmentpaid doctor supervising each district, and his services are given absolutely free of charge. In addition, should a patient be unable to pay for medicine, that also is provided free of cost. That is a big step forward, and it is something which I should like the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) to consider fully before this measure is passed. I should like to see inserted in this measure a provision whereby the Minister for Health could, at some future date, should he or the Government deem such a course to be desirable, appoint medical practitioners to certain localities where their services would be available to the people free of charge. Then, should the scheme worksatisfactorily in those localities, it could be applied generally throughout the community, so that, in the event of illness, people could obtain not only free medicine, but also the free medical attention about which .Senator Spicer appears to be so much concerned. No doubt, the honorable senator will argue that the British Medical Association would strongly oppose such a scheme, just as it has been argued that vested interests would oppose complete control of proprietary medicines by the Government. When the Government of Tasmania introduced its free medical service, it had to fight the British Medical Association, but to-day, members of that organization are only too anxious to secure appointment as government medical officers in the various districts.
– Many of them are now earning three times as much as they earned in private practice.
– Of course, and the Government ensures that their working conditions shall be good. I feel sure that similar benefits would be obtained if the Government were to take, full control of proprietary medicines. After all, the vested interests now controlling these preparations would have to be faced only once. Had the Government intended to socialize medicine, as Senator Spicer has suggested, it had every opportunity to do so. All over the Commonwealth, there are dispensaries conducted by friendly societies and by miners’ organizations, which provide the foundation of the socialization of medicine. Those dispensaries belong to the people and not to private individuals, and no doubt if control of them were assumed by the Government, prescriptions could be dispensed at a much lower cost than will be the case under this scheme. I mention that matter merely to indicate that the Government had every facility to socialize medicine had it so desired. I do not know whether the Minister discussed that aspect of the matter fully with the friendly societies, but I offer it as a suggestion which is worthy of some thought. In regard to alleged regimentation of chemists mentioned by Senator Spicer, I deny that the chemists have been regimented. Before this measure was prepared, conferences with chemists were held. This is not an ill-considered scheme. The Ministers for Health of the various States, together with their expert advisers, have conferred on more than one occasion with the Commonwealth health authorities. It is a good example of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. I should like to see a member of Parliament, preferably a legal practitioner such as Senator Spicer, attempt to challenge this scheme on the grounds of unconstitutionality. How many people would support such a challenge?
This has been termed a free medicine scheme, but actually it is nothing of the kind, because it is being paid for by the people in such a way that individuals who can least afford to contribute to it are asked to pay the least. When the income tax exemption limit was reduced to £104 per annum, the object was to establish a fund to finance schemes of this kind. Any honorable senator who accused the Government- of low conduct for having introduced a scheme of this land on the ground that the necessary funds were not available, would be guilty of a deliberate lie, because, when the National Welfare Fund was established, the income tax exemption was reduced from £156 to £104 a year for the special purpose of providing the extra money which would be needed to finance this and similar schemes. Is there anything low in taxing the people according to their ability to pay, so that a free medicine scheme may be provided for the benefit of the community? If such action be low in principle I am happy to regard myself as a member of the low-minded section of the people. We should be guilty of low conduct if, after money had been set aside for the financing of a health scheme, no such scheme were put into operation, and the money were used for other purposes. To-day, however, the Government is honouring a promise given to the people, and implementing by legislation a scheme for which finance has already been provided. Replying to Senator Spicer’s argument about the proposal in this bill being unconstitutional, I think that it would be difficult to find any Minister for Health, whether in a State or in the Commonwealth sphere, and irrespective of his party political allegiances, who would not fully co-operate in implementing a scheme of this nature. Any person who attempted to challenge the constitutionality of a scheme of this kind would make history for himself in the sense that he would be remembered for all time for his audacity in trying to deprive the people of a health scheme to which they were justly entitled.
If the present proposal provides for a dole, every concession granted by the Government for the benefit of the people must also be a dole. Does Senator Spicer object to the railway pass which he uses in order to travel between Melbourne and Canberra? In a limited sense that could be regarded as a dole, if the bill can be said to provide for a dole. The honorable senator enjoys the comfort of motor transport from the Canberra railway station to Parliament House, but I have never heard him object to doles of that kind. The only fault I have to find with the bill is that it is not sufficiently farreaching, although I regard it as a step in the right direction. Its introduction is long overdue,’ but I commend the Government for having submitted it. I hope that in the near future further measures will be introduced, in order to provide a complete scheme of social security.
– I again express my objection to legislation of this kind, because it does not provide any security at all for the contributors to the fund which will have to be provided to finance the scheme outlined in the bill. I know of no instance in any part of the world where no security whatever with regard to the fund is given to the unfortunate contributor to a scheme of this kind. During the passage of the National “Welfare Fund Bill, I pointed out the weakness of that measure in that the Audit Act enables the Treasurer to use the fund for general purposes. During the last depression, the money raised for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions was used for other purposes. It is of paramount importance that a fund raised for a specific purpose should be piotected, and not used for a purpose for which it was not raised. That argument lias apparently fallen on deaf ears in government circles, but the day will come when perhaps even those who support the Government in its present action will realize that they have been “ sold a pup “. The arguments well advanced by Senator Spicer regarding the constitutional position are unanswerable. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) admits that a service of the kind contemplated by the bill is entirely outside the constitutional powers of this Parliament. That, of course, is clear to demonstration. Apparently, the committee, of which Senator Arnold is a distinguished member, has never considered the steps already taken by this Parliament to deal with sickness and unemployment. He need not have gone very far back to have ascertained that the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, although unfortunately limited in its scope, safeguarded the contributions to the fund. A. trust fund was established which could not be used improperly by the Treasurer of the day. I know that that could only be done when the exigencies of the circumstances appear to justify it, hut, according to the rate of governmental expenditure to-day, such exigencies will assuredly arise in the future. The security of the fund by which the present scheme is to be financed is not assured. When I entered the Senate about eighteen years ago, I was told that honorable senators were not to be concerned whether measures were unconstitutional or not, but were merely expected to accept or reject legislation presented by the Government of the day. I piloted the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill through the Senate in 1938. The measure was passed prior to the 30th June of that year, before the arrival of Senator Arnold, and before the forces which were opposed to that measure entered this chamber in increased strength. That was a considered scheme, which rested for its constitutional validity on the undoubted power of the Commonwealth under section 51 of the Constitution to deal with insurance. Why the Government seeks to link this “ free medicine bill “ - to use the language of the man in the street - with some contribution that is being made under the taxation laws of the Commonwealth, and also with the National Welfare Fund, I do not know. Before proceeding with legislation of this kind, the Government should be certain that the power of this Parliament to pass such a law is undoubted. If, as the Government claims, the bill before us is based on a contributory scheme, there is no answer to Senator Spicer’s contention that the present high rates of taxation will continue indefinitely. That it is dangerous to deprive the people of the incentive to do their best, is shown by the conduct of people in all walks of life. The stoppages and absenteeism, of which we hear so much, are most regrettable, but, after all, these things must be expected with human nature as it is. “When the incentive to work is taken away, men will cease to be enterprising. The National Welfare Fund is being built up on certain provisions of legislation relating to income tax, and therefore I say it will fail unless this country, is in for a long period of prosperity. It may be contended that the fund is backed by the Commonwealth, but I draw attention to what happened some years ago to invalid and old-age pensions, which also had the backing of the Commonwealth. I have always maintained that a scheme of national insurance should be in force, and I greatly regret that previous governments did not implement the legislation passed in 1938. That legislation was sound in principle and had a sound financial basis. Moreover, the friendly societies of this country were to be used largely in administering it. The act passed in 1938 provided for medical, sickness and disablement benefits as well as for pensions for invalids, widows, orphans and the aged. Provision was also made in it for allowances for children. As the friendly societies, which have proved to be the backbone of social security for many persons in the community, were to be utilized in the administration of that legislation, the result would have been much more satisfactory than is possible with the proposal now before us.
Towards the end of the second-reading speech of the Minister in charge of the bill, he said that the mere swallowing of medicine was not the whole of the story in respect of either the preservation of health or the cure of sickness. That statement contained a grain of comfort.
I agree with Senator Spicer that there is room for grave doubt as to the constitutionality of this legislation, but, assuming that a properly constituted fund has been established, I emphasize that the health of the child must be our first consideration. As honorable senators travel throughout this ‘ country they must be impressed by the health of the average Australian child. The picture to-day is in striking contrast to what some of us saw half a century ago. In those days suitable medicine was not available for the treatment of many of the ills to which flesh is heir; yet we survived. Perhaps it is a good thing that only the fittest survive. We see to-day a repetition of what occurred during and after the last war - a generation of healthy children growing up in our midst. That happy state of affairs is in large measure due to the work of Sir Truby King, and those who, following his advice, bring up children under natural conditions. The greater- attention now being given to child nutrition is having its result in the building of strong bodies, so that there is hope that a virile nation will result. We must not overlook the need to care for the mothers, both before and after the birth of their children. If in pre-natal days the mother is properly cared for so that she will not have to carry grievous burdens or engage in hard household drudgery, and if after the birth of her child she is given the help of the excellent child welfare clinics which are doing such magnificent work, both she and her offspring will benefit, and a healthy race of men and women will arise. In my opinion, grave mistakes are frequently made when dealing with matters relating to medicine. Much of the medicine which is swallowed by the people of this country has no curative properties, but if the patient really believes that it will do him good, his cure is hastened because his mind is set towards recovery. A healthy body does not need medicine. Honorable senators know of many persons who have had little or no medicine during their lifetime, and yet are among the most healthy persons in the community. although certain medicines relieve pain and suffering, the administration of drugs, in the majority of cases, is a habit. The Government should deal first with medical attention. On this point it might well seek the advice of medical men, who know the weakness of humanity in all its nakedness. They know that in many cases a man must have a bottle of medicine, or he will go away thinking that he is still very ill, although his trouble exists mostly in his imagination. In such ca:es, a doctor usually gives the patient a sedative. At the same time, of course, there are many cases of real illness, particularly in cases of disease, such as tuberculosis, diabetes and pneumonia. However, in the majority of cases of illness, the safest course would be to provide that the patient before purchasing medicine should consult a medical man. In that respect this measure is defective, and to that degree it can be said that the Government is starting at the wrong end. Of what real value will this assistance be to persons stricken with illness? The cost of medicine is not the most important cost. The principal expenditure is incurred in medical attention. The doctor’s fee may range from £1 ls. to £5 5s., and in serious surgical cases up to 100 guineas. The average person may be able to consult his lodge doctor, but in . many instances the latter may he obliged, to call in an outside consultant. In such cases the cost of medical treatment is very great. Prescription in respect of . complicated diseases is most difficult. Not every medical man would dare to prescribe sulpha drugs, or penicillin, because the effect of those drugs is not fully understood. A degree of relief can be afforded in certain illnesses, but the use of some drugs may cause more serious consequences, due to conditions latent in the individual. This fact is frequently demonstrated not only in humans, but also in animal life. Frequently drugs which are administered to cure a disease in an animal set up a more serious condition. This is notably the case in the treatment of horses.
The Government’s first objective should be to assist in the provision of medical attention. Senator Arnold said that the chemists have not raised any objection to this measure. I should be surprised if they did, because under this scheme the cost of all prescriptions will be paid by the Government, and, therefore, no chemist will incur bad debts in respect of prescriptions. Every chemist will be sure of payment for every prescription. Therefore, he will have no reason to worry on that score. At the committee stage I shall discuss other features of the measure, such as the number of prescriptions available and the number of times a subscriber may have medicine dispensed under the one prescription. I doubt whether this measure will achieve the results which the Minister claims it will. For instance, no provision is made for the prescription of the more expensive and more modern drugs which have already produced remarkable results and, apparently, forecast a revolution in medicine. Care must be taken “to. ensure that the formulary is kept up to date. However, that task will be very great. For instance, the British Pharmacopoeia contains thousands of prescriptions, but these are constantly being added to. During the last two years new drugs have been discovered, and they have produced remarkable results in the treatment of certain diseases. Provision must be made to make the more expensive and more modern drugs available under this scheme. Probably special provision will have to be made in that respect. However, under this measure many of us are to be on the free medicine list. Probably, should we require a drug to relieve a “ hangover “ we shall be able to obtain it. The Minister mentioned that the provision in respect of sickness caused by a person’s own misconduct is unique in legislation of this kind. I remind him that a similar provision was embodied in the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act in 1938. I regarded that measure as a major social reform.- Indeed, a Labour supporter who discussed that measure with me said, “ I have voted Labour .all my life, but I shall never vote Labour again if the Labour party wrecks that measure under which, for a payment of ls. 6d. a week, I shall be eligible, should the necessity arise, for benefits valued at £700 “. But the members of the Labour party who opposed the scheme now desire to come in through the back door. References are continually made to the result of the last elections, but they were fought upon whispers and not upon policy, as is characteristic of modern politics. However,, the Labour party won, and I do not begrudge it its victory, except for the sake of the country. The National Health and Pensions Insurance Act of 1938, which was based on sound lines, contained the provision to which I have referred. That proves that the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) could not have read its provisions with any care.
The bill contains several features which require detailed consideration in committee. My own view is that it is a poor thing; it is a sop; it provides for payment for a poor wretch’s medicine, whereas he has to face the heavy fees of his medical practitioner if he does not belong to a lodge,-and probably even if he is a member of a lodge he still has to pay some medical fees. The friendly societies should have been brought in to administer the scheme. Notwithstanding the eloquent funeral oration in respect of those organizations, uttered by Senator Arnold in his very logical speech, there is nothing clearer than that under the Government’s scheme they will languish and have to be revived when the Government fails to fulfil its obligations. That is why I venture to say that the Government is leaving the door open in order that, when the rainy day comes, it may be able to say, “ We propose to take the National Welfare Fund into general revenue “. All that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has to do is to sign a certificate under the Audit Act and the money can be withdrawn, leaving the trust fund with nothing wherewith to answer the obligations of the Commonwealth under this bill and another one which has already been passed by the Senate.
– I desire to contribute my support to the bill. While I realize that we shall have to bring into operation a Hospital Benefits Bill, this is a fitting time to pass this measure, considering the resources available for the purpose. The method of contribution to the fund, as discussed by previous speakers, /is in my opinion very satisfactory.
This is a scheme whereby every one contributes according to his ability to pay. There is nothing wrong with that principle. The scheme is the same as the New Zealand one in that regard. It is a step in advance of any scheme put forward anywhere else in the world. I believe that that is the only sound basis for any such scheme. The only difference between the New Zealand scheme and this is that in this scheme the purpose of the contribution is definitely stated. Each one of us pays into the National Welfare Fund so much in the £1 according to his ability to contribute. The Government, in its wisdom, has set aside £30,000,000 each year for the fund. The question of whether it should be a separate fund or not is one merely of administration. In view of the present shortage of man-power and womanpower, it would be useless to set up a separate department to collect contributions, seeing that the Taxation Department can do the work without engaging extra employees. It has been said that in this matter the Government is starting at the wrong end. Let us see what the Australian nation has accomplished to bring about general social security. We have old-age pensions, invalid pensions, maternity allowances, war pensions, child endowment, widows’ pensions, invalid pensioners’ wives’ benefits, old-age pensioners’ funeral benefits, the recently passed maternity benefits providing for multiple births, and there is now before the House of Representatives a bill to provide for unemployment and sickness benefits. That is a very good start towards a comprehensive social security scheme. This bill, providing for free medicines, represents only another unit in the whole structure. I hope that the Government will bring in at a suitable opportunity a hospital benefits scheme. Senator A. J. McLachlan very truly said that we should have a strong and virile nation and that it was very necessary that the lads and lasses of this nation should have strong healthy bodies. Let me examine the position as its exists to-day. Everybody in. the community is at work and is earning good wages. It is said that the average wage is about £5 a week. Out of that must be set aside £1 for light, wood, clothes, taxes, amusement and tram fares, leaving £4 a week. Allowing the low figure of £1 5s. a week for rent leaves £2 15s. weekly for food for a man, wife and one child, because the first child does not benefit under the child endowment scheme. That is approximately 8s. a day, or 2s. 8d. a meal, for three people, which means that each meal does not cost much more than 9d. a person. How can we expect a nation to build up strong healthy virile people at 9d. a meal? If anybody can make a better job of working out that sum he is at liberty to do so. The success of any social security scheme is based upon the economic standard of the people. I quote the following from a book by Dr. Janet Campbell and Dr. H. M. Vernon, two of the leading doctors of Great Britain: -
The capacity of parents to obtain good environmental conditions for themselves and their children inevitably depends on their material resources, and they are therefore very largely at the mercy of economic conditions. If they earn low wages, and still more if they suffer from chronic unemployment, they cannot possibly lead a healthy life; so the factor of wages forms, for many of them, the fundamental basis on which the adequacy of their social environment depends. The greatest single agent for the improvement of the nation’s health is therefore the provision of an adequate income for all the social classes.
How can we expect people to have a good standard of health on the presentday wage’ of £5 a week, taking into consideration the cost of the necessaries of life ? As I said before, I believe that this scheme is only a cog in the wheel of a comprehensive social service machine, and I sincerely hope that the Government will be able in the near future to add to it a hospital benefits scheme, because that is the most important of all. I have had twenty years’ experience as a member of the Launceston Hospital Board. If a patient who is admitted is earning £5 a week, he is charged 5s. a day. It costs that hospital Ils. 6d. a day to maintain and treat the patient in hospital, but the hospital authorities consider only his ability to pay, and the Government has to provide the rest. Five shillings a day costs the patient £1 15s. a week. Not only has he to pay that amount, but he is losing £5 a week in wages, and is therefore going back £6 15s. each week that he is in hospital. Persons who can afford to spend only 9d. on each meal are unable to build up a reserve sufficient to cover hospital treatment should they become sick, and I urge the Government to do all it possibly can to make provision in this scheme for hospital benefits. Such a scheme is urgently necessary. I have had personal experience of this problem. Owing to war disabilities, I had to have hospital treatment recently. I went into a Melbourne institution for a week, after which time I thought that I had better find out what my bill was likely to be. I received a bill for £22, so I very soon moved elsewhere. There are many individuals in receipt of low incomes - I have in mind particularly pensioners’ - who would benefit very considerably if a free hospital treatment scheme were introduced. I hope that the Senate in its wisdom will give this measure a speedy, passage.
– I also support the bill, and in doing so, I am in complete agreement with a great deal of what has been said by many honorable senators, who, I believe, are merely echoing the sentiments which actuate all honorable senators who desire to see established in this country a scheme of nationalized hospital services. We realize that this bill is but a minor part of a comprehensive scheme of social services for this nation, but we believe that the time is opportune for this minor part of the machinery to be put into operation. It has been said, quite rightly, that any comprehensive scheme of social services should begin with a nationalized free medical service. I agree with that, but honorable senators must realize how difficult it has been to arrive at any basis of agreement with the British Medical Association on this question. I venture to suggest that if during the last two years during which the Social Security Committee has been working upon this project, it had received the full co-operation of the British Medical Association in this regard something might have been achieved. It was at the request of the medical profession that the introduction of a nationalized health service was shelved temporarily. The view taken was that as so many members of that association are away with the fighting forces at present, it would have been most unfair to them to embark upon a medical scheme in their absence. However, we have now reached a stage when we can hope confidently that the time is not far distant when a complete scheme will be available to this nation. The Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) fully realizes this position, as is indicated in his second-reading speech. Senator A. J. McLachlan read the following extract from that speech: -
The Government recognizes that the mere swallowing of medicine is riot the whole of the story, either of the preservation of health or of the cure of sickness.
Senator A.. J. McLachlan stopped at that point, but I shall read a little farther -
The administration of medicine, for example, cannot be separated from the state of nutrition of the patient, or from many other factors. The Government, hopes, and believes, that the series of measures - of which this is the first - which it proposes to introduce, will, when the system is fully established, be accepted by the people in this country, and perhaps in others, as a definite advance in the care of the health of the people.
That is absolutely essential. “We must not regard, this bill as an isolated unit, but, like the measure which we passed last week, as a small instalment of a comprehensive health scheme to be implemented as soon as conditions are suitable. “We all realize the need for free hospital treatment. I have been a member of the Social Security Committee for only a comparatively short term, hut I have been amazed at the need in this country for improved hospital facilities. However, we must realize that there are other factors besides the goodwill of the Government involved in the building of hospitals at present. For instance, there is an acute shortage of man-power and building materials; and whilst the committee is working upon a broad scheme which will he put into effect some time in the future, there is a need for something to be done now, and that is why I welcome this measure. Senator A. J. McLachlan also suggested that under this scheme people who had imaginary ills would use medicine unnecessarily, but this measure has been specially designed to cover such cases and it will not be possible for any person to be a malingerer, or to secure medicine for psychological or imaginary illnesses. On that score alone, the bill should be welcomed. Senator Spicer dealt with the taxation aspect of the measure, and suggested that the financing of schemes such as this would mean the imposition in perpetuity of existing high taxes. To visualize the continuance of taxation at its present high level the honorable senator must visualize also a continuance of full employment, and I sincerely hope that he is right. After all, £120,000,000 a year- the sum mentioned by the honorable senator as being’ necessary to provide £30,000,000 a year for the National “Welfare Fund - is only one-seventh of the amount which we are spending upon the war this year, quite apart from expenditure necessary to carry on the ordinary activities of government. Senator Spicer also spoke of the “ widow’s mite “. In my view the “ widow’s mite “ may be a varying quantity and I am not sure whether the honorable senator was speaking of the “widow’s mite” of 25s. a week or £1,000 a year. In my opinion, as the taxpayers of. this country are already contributing to the National “Welfare Fund, the purpose of which is to finance schemes such as this, it would be most unethical on the part of this Government to hold that money in reserve. I emphasize that this bill, like another measure passed earlier in the session, represents only a small part of a comprehensive scheme of social services which will be brought into operation as soon as possible, and I trust that this legislation, merely because of its apparently isolated character, will not be rejected, but will be passed by Parliament as a token of the good faith of the Government when it increased taxes on income to establish the National “Welfare Fund. “We are not unmindful of the large sums of money which should be spent upon the treatment of tuberculosis, cancer, and other diseases which afflict our community, nor of the fact that adequate housing and nutrition are vital factors in the prevention of illness, which is just as important as its cure, and, in, fact, is the aim of the whole of our social legislation. Therefore, I ask honorable senators to regard this measure in its proper perspective, not, as one honorable senator described it, as a “ sop “ to the electors, but as part of a well-formulated plan of social services, which will be implemented as soon as the opportunity arises.
– The real tests of a measure of this kind are, first, will it do any good, and, secondly, what will it cost? The Minister for Health (Senator Eraser) failed to explain either of these two matters in his second-reading speech. In fact, that speech consisted mainly of a recital of the great advance that had been made in medicine during the last 20 or 30 years. The opening paragraphs were devoted to sanitation, preventive medicine, hydatids, typhoid fever, infantile mortality and so on. He did not give any explanation as to what the benefits would be or how much cheaper it would be for the individual to get medicine. He did not say anything at all about the cost of the scheme to the community. Senator Nash declared that we must regard the present proposal as only a small part of the complete scheme in the mind of the Government.
– That knocks the honorable senator over.
– No, but it knocks over the National Welfare Fund of £30,000,000 a year. Last week the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill was passed, and the minimum sum that will be required from the fund for the purposes of that measure is likely to be £16,500,000 a year. It is highly probable that the cost will be £23,000,000 or £24,000,000 a year. In addition, the present scheme for pharmaceutical benefits will cost £4,000,000 a year. Widows’ pensions, estimated to cost £2,750,000 a year, may be paid for out of the same fund. The maternity allowance, costing £2,000,000 a year, is also to be provided from this fund. If my figures are approximately correct the total expenditure when the scheme comes into operation will be £32,250,000 a year.
– The Minister has some different figures.
– We have no definite figures at all. We cannot draw indefinitely on a fund amounting to £30,000,000 a year. I have been assured, time after time, that the expenditure proposed under this bill, and under the social security measure passed last week, is but a small proportion of the cost of the complete scheme.
– The money required will accumulate during the post-war years.
– It cannot accumulate while it is being expended.
– It will not be necessary to spend the whole of it.
– The bill could be more correctly described as a measure to provide free political pills for the people.
– That is better than doles for the people.
– If the people are to receive something for nothing, will they get a gift or a. dole? The people are supposed to receive medicine free, but it will not be quite free, because they must first pay for the advice of a doctor. I consider that medical attention should be provided first. At least a complete scheme for hospital treatment seems to be necessary before we supply free medicine. There should be proper understanding of the sickness and proper care of the sick, but the Government is putting the cart before the horse. The dose of formulary medicine makes me laugh. I suppose there is to be a collection of formulas. Not only has the Government regimented the ordinary lives of the people, telling them what they should buy and how much they shall pay for it, what kind of work they shall do, what they shall eat and drink and how little they shall smoke, but it has now decided to regiment the various parts of the human body and provide appropriate medicines for lungs, liver and stomach, according to certain formulas. I can imagine the doctor saying to a patient who complains of a pain, “Take No. 78 in the formulary”. At the end of a week the patient returns to the doctor with a report that the medicine has not done him any good. The doctor might then say, “ Well, I gave you the medicine provided in the formulary”. The patient might well ask, “ Would you have prescribed that? “ The doctor, if he were up to date, would probably reply, “ No, I would not. I should have put something else in it”. This formulary proposal leaves me cold. Every honorable senator opposite has been crying out against patent medicines, but this bill provides for a glorified patent medicine scheme. The formulas are to be drawn up by a committee that nobody knows anything about, except that the Government will appoint it by regulation. Then a long series of formulas will be prepared. This will be the same old scheme as patent medicines in excelsis. In New Zealand and the United States of America, where free medicine is provided, the queues of people waiting for medicines are enormous. The Government says that under its policy it will build up a healthy and prosperous community, but this bill provides a contradiction in terms, because it implies that the people will be so poor that they cannot afford to buy their own medicine. We are told that every one will have work and that there will be general prosperity among the community; yet people will not be able to pay for their own medicine ! Where is the Government’s consistency? Does the Government really believe that it will be able to legislate for a prosperous community, or is it merely beating the wind? It has been said that the provision of free medicine will relieve the drain on the income of the average person in the community in times of illness, but I do not see how that can be, because before a patient can get free medicine he must obtain a doctor’s certificate. That certificate will entitle him to one bottle of medicine, but should he require a second supply he will have to get another doctor’s certificate.
– That is provided for in the bill, and was stated by the Minister in his speech. Another certificate will be necessary before additional medicine can be obtained unless the doctor has said that the medicine may be supplied more than once. Let us take the case of a man who visits a doctor and gets a certificate entitling him to a bottle of medicine. Let us further suppose that that medicine does him some good so that he does not require any more at the time. Later, however, he has a recurrence of his trouble, and thinks that some of the medicine which previously did him good will again relieve him. He will not get that further supply of medicine unless he obtains a fresh doctor’s certificate. It will be seen that all this talk about relieving the drain on the income of the poor is so much ridiculous talk.
– All those things will come in good time.
– The £30,000,000 to be allocated to the National Welfare Fund each year will not prove sufficient. How will the extra money required be provided except by direct taxation or by overdraft? A nation which seeks to maintain the health of its people by relying on overdrafts year after year will soon become bankrupt. The Minister failed to show, first, that the Government’s scheme would benefit the community, and, secondly, what its cost would be. Consequently’ the people arc unable to set the benefits against the cost. My view is that the scheme will not accomplish much good - certainly’ not sufficient good to justify the cost. I believe that honorable senators supporting the Government are letting their enthusiasm run away with them. They propose to draw upon, a fund in order to provide things which do not matter nearly as much as do other things for which provision is not made. While giving attention to small things, the big and important things are being overlooked. The real care of the people is being left to be attended to out of some fund to be established in the future.
– We are waiting until after the 30th June.
– The honorable senator threatens us with what will happen after the 30th June, but I point out that if countless benefits are to be provided, more than £30,000,000 a year will be required to pay for them, and the money will have to be obtained somewhere. So far, no supporter of the bill has shown where the money is to be obtained. Seeing that we already have provision for the granting of medicine free to people who need it. and, indeed, for medical advice and attention of the best kind for all deserving cases, and in view of the Minister’s statement that the health of the people of Australia has improved considerably during the last twenty years, I cannot see the necessity for this legislation.
– I shall support the bill, because I think it is one way in which to meet the disabilities which a family suffers when the breadwinner ceases to earn income because of illness. Members of the Opposition have referred to the tremendous cost involved in the proposal. Have they ever thought what the ill health of the people costs the nation? 1 draw attention to a speech delivered by Lord Teviot in the House of Lords in October last, when he said -
An American authority says that every year among the population of the United States there are about 100,000,000 illnesses, serious or slight, and in the hospitals 700,000 beds are occupied every day in the year.
The care of these patients requires the efforts of 145,000’ doctors, 280,000 nurses or student-nurses, 00,000 dentists, and 150,000 pharmacists. It also necessitates 7,000 hospitals, 8,000 clinics, and 00,000 pharmacies.
The public spend annually £143,000,000 on medicines, and medical care in all its forms cost about £700,000,000 ; per annum. Obviously, disease is a very heavy burden, not only here, but in the rest of the civilized world.
If honorable senators read the report of the health officer of any Australian city they will see that had health generally has its beginning in insanitary homes and poor food, which in turn are the result of the uneconomic conditions which prevail. Practically the whole of the cost of hospitals, gaols and asylums can be traced to one prime cause, namely, the lack of economic security and decent social conditions for the people. Australia expends £60,000,000 a year as interest on borrowed money. I should like to reply to some statements made by Senator Leckie, but, like many other honorable senators’ opposite, he has left the chamber so that his wrong statements may not be shown to him to be wrong. As the result of my experience, I have not much faith in either doctors or medicine. On one occasion a member of my family was ill and a doctor was called in. After examining the patient, he said that an operation seemed necessary. As I believed in knowing beforehand what his charges were likely to be, I made some inquiries on the subject. He said, “ I think it is appendicitis. If it is, the fee will be, say, 15 guineas ; but if it is more serious, and I may have to go deeper, the fee will be 25 guineas “. My reply was that I thought the danger was to the patient, not to the surgeon. However, I think that he must have gone one-sixteenth of an inch or so deeper, because I received a bill for 25 guineas. I know of another man who, in order to meet the medical expenses incurred through the illness of his wife, had to sacrifice the whole of his life’s savings. He had been a hard worker for 30 years. His own health deteriorated, and, later, his wife contracted a serious illness. Being a member of a lodge, his wife was treated by the lodge doctor, but the case became so complicated that she had to consult every doctor in Hobart. Finally, she ended up in hospital and succumbed to her illness. The medical cost incurred by that man for the treatment of his wife was between £300 and £400. In another case a man, on his arrival in Hobart from Dublin, was obliged to seek medical attention. He asked a chemist if he could recommend a doctor, and the chemist mentioned three doctors. In Dublin the customary fee for one consultation was one guinea. When the first doctor this man consulted in Hobart charged only 7s. 6d., he thought he would see a second doctor, and then, having expended only 15s., he consulted a third doctor. Each doctor examined him and gave a different diagnosis. He returned to the chemist with the three prescriptions and asked which would be the easiest to take, and when the chemist said that one of them was mostly liquorice, he had that one made up.
This measure is supplementary to the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill. Therefore, it is well to remind critics of the bill that it is useless to consult a doctor after you have been to the chemist. Much has been said about the cost of operations. Many medical men admit that about 25 per cent, of operations now performed are not really necessary. At the same time, however, we know that when the doctor says it is not necessary to remove a child’s tonsils, some mothers are prone to look for a doctor who will remove the child’s tonsils. As Senator Lamp has said, a State health service is in operation in Tasmania. Under a sound national health scheme, doctors who are determined to earn a fee whether the case is serious or not, will be subsidized by the Government, and will thereby be enabled to earn a good living. Consequently, they will probably be more ready than they are now to act in the real interests of the people who consult them. The principal value of this measure is that it will provide assistance to a family when the breadwinner is in adverse circumstances.Recently, I read a report by Dr. Dale, the City Health Officer of Melbourne, in which he condemned the insanitary conditions existing in the slum areas, and said that they were the primary cause of rickets and malnutrition. He urged the Melbourne City Council to abolish the slums. Subsequently, representatives of the council waited upon the then Chief Secretary, Dr. Argyle, and requested government assistance for this purpose. Dr. Argyle agreed that the existence of slums, and the lack of adequate accommodation in hospitals, were the main causes of bad social conditions, but he asked, “ Where is the money to come from?” Where is the money coming from now? Honorable senators opposite declare that the national credit must not be used in order to improve the health of the community. Honorable senators know my views on this subject. Credit can be provided free of interest through the Commonwealth Bank. It is said that without vision we perish. The conservative mind will not accept a new idea. Honorable senators opposite hold that what was good enough for their fathers is good enough for them. If their fathers had no better idea of finance than their sons now exhibit, it is no wonder that we have experienced dreadful social conditions. However, those conditions can be abolished. Honorable senators opposite have not been able to refute any statement I have made on the subject of finance during the six years I have been a member of this chamber. Only last year the New South Wales branch of the
United Australia party appointed a committee to report upon the use of national credit, and that committee reported that the judicial use of national credit was advisable. Giving evidence before a royal commission on banking, the manager of the Canadian government bank, Mr. Graham Towers, not only said that the government bank could lend money free of interest to the Government, but also that there would be no need for clients to repay the loans because, indirectly, the Government would more than recoup those loans as the result of the prosperity brought about by the expansion of credit in this way. I have spoken previously of what is known as the money cycle in banking. Money which is paid out by the banks this week to pay dividends and salaries is paid into the bank again within seven or eight days. The experience of every man on the basic wage proves that his wage is sufficient only to provide him with food, clothing and shelter. It is impossible for him to save any money to meet medical expenses. All of his wage is returned to the bank very soon after he receives it. Honorable senators opposite should know by now that banks do not lend money at all. All they do is to create credit against their cash reserves. A report published in the press yesterday disclosed that savings banks deposits had increased by £108,000,000 in Australia in the last twelve months, making the total deposits £425,750,000. The people generally are misled by statements of that kind. Usually, they conclude that Australians must be well off when they have that amount in savings. That is not the case.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Fortified by an austerity meal, I feel strong enough to attack the conservatism that is such a’ prominent characteristic of members of the Opposition. Both Senator Leckie and Senator Spicer were afraid that the scheme would have to be financed by means of an overdraft. Anybody who understands the private banking system knows what a potent weapon is an overdraft in the hands of a bank manager when he is dealing with commercial people. An overdraft operates from day to day, and the private banks can wreck any business by calling it up unexpectedly, as they have done before to-day. But when the overdraft is on a government bank, and in a government account, what does it matter? If we pay 3$ per cent, on such an overdraft, the profit simply goes back to the people in the national bank, so why worry about an overdraft when we can use the national credit? If we had to go to Senator Leckie’s friends we should have to pay the 6 per cent, demanded, or they could close down on us by calling up the overdraft. Every business man knows what can happen when the banks call up overdrafts. They are so rich and powerful that in the second year of the war the five biggest banks in Great Britain paid dividends of from 14 per cent, to 18 per cent. I wonder what the “ 2-bob-a-day Tommy “ thought of that, if it was ever brought to his notice. The same thing happened out here. “We are told that the private banks cannot buy war bonds. That matter is in the hands of the Treasurer, who has the right to decide whether the old scheme of selling war bonds to the private banks shall be reverted to or not, but honorable senators may be quite sure that no government loan will fail so long as that alternative exists. The national credit can be, and should be, used for all public works, but it seems impossible to make the members of the Opposition realize it.
– The honorable senator cannot induce his own colleagues to realize it.
– I have done so. The New South “Wales and Tasmanian Parliaments have agreed to resolutions in favour of using the Commonwealth Bank, and even the South Australian Parliament, with a United Australia party government in power, passed a similar resolution by a majority of five or six votes. Of course, nothing came of it, because the wrong government was in power. The party opposite dares not do anything because its members are sent here to serve the interests of the private banks instead of the interests of the people. I said on one occasion that incompetent corrupt governments, calling themselves democratic, brought dictators into existence. I was asked by Senator
Gibson what I meant by “ corrupt “, and I replied, “ Any man who puts his own interests or party interests before the national interest is corrupt “. Yet it is done in every Parliament in the world, as every honorable senator facing me knows. Why do we not use the national credit to give effect to this bill, and for other purposes? I have given one reason. When the late Mr. Lyons was heckled at Deloraine by supporters of the social credit system he said: “Should my Government be returned I shall immediately appoint a royal commission to inquire into the banking system of Australia, with a view to ascertaining whether it can be altered or improved “.
– What has this “ medicine “ to do with the bill ?
– The principal objection to the bill is to its cost. I am showing how the scheme can be financed without any cost to the country, and I defy honorable senators opposite to show that I am wrong. Mr. Lyons appointed a royal commission, but before he did so a prominent banker said at the Millions Club in Sydney -
Regarding the proposed royal commission into the monetary system, the best thing the Government can do is to knock it on the head. The very fact of asking for an inquiry implies that there is something wrong with the existing system, whereas everybody knows that the people are quite satisfied with it.
In 1892, the bank which that man managed, closed its doors on £4,000,000 of depositors’ money. Its business was afterwards reconstructed by a transaction for which, in my opinion, the directors should have been sent to gaol.
This scheme can be carried out successfully, but it does not go half as far as is necessary and will not be even a palliative of the trouble that is ahead of us. Hundreds of books have been written about, and thousands , of people, both lay and clerical, are dealing with, the problems of post-war reconstruction. There are books in the National Library in this city which prove every word that I have said in this chamber to be true. On one occasion I brought 50 books dealing with the monetary question from Sydney, sold some to Opposition members at ls. a piece, and gave others away. They showed how schemes of this kind could be financed, but they were simply thrown into the waste paper basket as soon as I left the room.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable senator ought to be ashamed to admit that when I gave him the truth in a book he threw it into the waste-paper basket. A great deal of ignorance is shown by honorable senators opposite in dealing with finance, but when I rise to put them right they walk out of the chamber. On a previous occasion Senator Spicer held my financial ideas up to ridicule.
– I still do.
– I thought I had quietened the honorable senator for life, but, as members of the legal profession are trained never to admit anything, no matter how obviously my financial ideas are right, he will contradict them. Hi3 solicitude for the friendly societies is worthy of the highest condemnation. I have been a member of one of them since I was eighteen years old, and have never had to apply for assistance by “ going on the lodge “. I have given the Senate instances of the disastrous effects on working people stricken with illness, whose savings disappear. This’ measure will help them. I should like to see many more benefits given by the bill. I regard it as only a start to deal with social evils. So far as post-war reconstruction and the remedying of social evils are concerned, any scheme which refuses to use the national credit, which can be had on application without any cost to the nation, is futile. Before we can have a new order, we must get down to fundamentals. We must find out what is wrong with the present order so that we may know what to avoid in the new one. I have read books and manifestoes issued by various churches, which contend that we must have a better banking system, but if they would only expose the swindle of the present system people would know what they had to get rid of and what to avoid in the new order. When the first loan was announced in the present war, Mr. Casey said that it would be raised in the ordinary way, and it was. The next loan for £20,000,000 was also raised in the ordinary way, that is, it was supplied by the private banks, but no money was made available. All that the private banks did was to credit the Commonwealth Government with £20,000,000 and honour their own cheques. In banking, the money cycle, or the period of time between the money going out of the bank and coming in again, is only from seven to ten days. We have been told that when the depression began, the Scullin Government imposed a sales tax and other burdens on the people, but it had to do so, because, on taking office, it found an empty Treasury, after ten years of extravagant administration by the BrucePage Government. Large sums of money had been borrowed, and the London market was closed to further Australian loans, because a Labour government was in power. The Scullin Government therefore was forced to look round for new avenues of taxation. If it had had the use of the national credit, it would never have had to ask for a loan of £13,000,000. When the last war ended the national debt of Australia had been increased by £380,000,000, and yet there was no more real money in Australia. In the past the only people who could create credit were the private bankers.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of war loans?
– Of course, but not through the private banks. I have proved in every State how the war could be fought without building up huge debts which suck the life blood of the people.
– Prom whom would the honorable senator borrow the money ?
– There is no need to borrow money. Two years ago I asked in this chamber what was the total value of war savings certificates that had been sold over the counters of the private banks to that date, and the answer was £13,000,000. Actually, not one penny of that money ever reached the treasury. It went to swell the cash, reserves of the private banks, and enabled them to buy war bonds to the value of £120,000,000. Eighty per cent, of all loans are taken up by the private banks. I know of a Sydney man, a builder by trade, who was out of work during the depression. His overdraft at the bank was £1,500, hut as security the bank had a block of flats valued at £9,000. One day he was called upon to interview the bank manager, who informed him that he had to reduce his overdraft by £500. The builder pointed out that he had not worked for two years, and could not possibly provide £500 to reduce his overdraft. The manager said, “ That is the instruction of my directors; you had better think it over “. Some time later he received another note from the manager calling upon him to present himself for a further interview. The manager welcomed him very cordially, and offered him a cigar. Somewhat taken aback, the builder said that he could not do anything about reducing the overdraft, and to his surprise the manager said, “ You can forget about that. Don’t you know that there is an £8,000,000 loan on the market?” The builder said that he could not possibly subscribe to the loan, and the bank manager replied, “ There is no need to worry about your overdraft. You apply for £1,000 worth of bonds in that loan. “We shall hold the bonds for you and draw the interest”. Naturally, the builder had no option but to sign on the dotted line. He had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The manager then became confidential and told him that the bank quota for the district was £25,000 and that all holders of overdrafts were being called upon in a similar manner. That is how the banks hold 80 per cent, of the stock in loans. One can readily imagine the possibilities of such a scheme when one realizes that a huge business such as Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited might have an overdraft of over £300,000, and probably could be called upon to take up £100,000 in war bonds. To-day the people of Australia are paying £60,000,000 a year in interest charges alone. That interest burden could have been saved had this country done its business through the Commonwealth Bank. By a full utiliza-tion of national credit, we could provide ample finance for social services of this kind, and there would be no need for Senator Spicer to worry about overdrafts. Apparently, overdrafts were quite right with honorable senators opposite when they were given by the private banks, but as soon as an effort was made to use the national credit to some degree, overdrafts were all wrong. The Opposition is frightened of national credit, but it is the only real wealth of a country. When the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister, I asked him if he were prepared to use the national credit of this country, through the Commonwealth Bank, to finance the war in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems, set up by the Lyons Government, of which the right honorable member for Kooyong was a member. The right honorable member’s answer to my question was, “Yes, up to the point of safety “. I then asked, “ Can you tell us what is the point of safety ? “ but I received no answer. I then pointed out that we could exceed the point of safety only if we went beyond the productive capacity of this nation. Last year we produced £950,000,000 worth of goods. That is. the national wealth upon which this war could be financed.
Some time ago, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, visited Hobart to give an address to the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, of which I am a member. He spoke for an hour and a half and at the end of his address I told him that there was one commodity which the prices authorities had not tackled, and that was bank credit, which was manufactured on the premises, the raw materials being pens, ink and paper. I pointed out that bank credit was an indispensable commodity in business, and that the banks were still permitted to make as much as 100 per cent, upon it. Professor Copland replied, “ I think, Senator Darcey, you will find that we shall get that money at a much lower rate of interest than you imagine “. That answer, of course, had nothing to do with the question I had asked. Incidentally, Professor Copland is not now an orthodox economist; at least, so I am informed by his great friend, Sir Marcus Clark. I think that the professor would be prepared to accept even my revolutionary ideas about finance to keep his job.
– Order! The honorable senator must deal with the bill now before the Senate.
– I have heard the most absurd notions expressed by honorable senators opposite in regard to this measure. I notice that some members of the Opposition, as usual when I speak, are smiling, but I do not see anything to laugh at when I think of what members of our fighting forces are going through. It is our duty to do our very best on their behalf, and I am afraid that if the men return from this war to the same monetary system which was in existence at the end of the last war, once more we shall have the deplorable spectacle of our national heroes walking around in rags. Recently, I visited the Caulfield Military Hospital, where there are many ex-soldiers of the last war, some of whom have never been out of that institution since they returned. The number of such cases will be tenfold greater when this conflict ends, and if the present financial system continues, no matter how hard our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought, or how poor may be their physical condition upon their return, they will be called upon to pay their share of our war debt, just like any other citizen. That can be avoided only if national credit be used. There is no need for the. present heavy taxes. Most of our revenue goes to pay interest to private banks. “Why is such a state of affairs permitted to continue? Why is the fullest use not made of the resources of the Commonwealth Bank? Unfortunately, an amendment made to the constitution of that bank by the BrucePage Government very nearly strangled it. That amendment gave to the private banks what is known as “the right to draw “, which was the biggest swindle ever worked upon any country. When a further amendment, again drastically restricting the activities of the Commonwealth Bank was proposed by a former Treasurer, Mr. R. G. Casey, I travelled the length and breadth of the country opposing it, and the scheme eventually was dropped. A plan for setting up a mortgage department of the Commonwealth Bank was also abandoned after much opposition had been expressed to it. The proposal was to sell £30,000,000 worth of debentures of that bank to the private banking institutions. As, in ordinary company law, the shareholders of a company can control its affairs, so the private banks could have controlled and could have wrecked the proposed mortgage bank department.
The interest bill is the “ killer “ under our present financial system. Many people urge the abolition of State parliaments, but I point out that whereas the cost to the people of New South Wales of the Parliament of that State is only ls. 8d. a head their interest bill is more than £9 a *head a year. As an illustration of my statement that banks do not lend money, and, in fact, do not have money to lend, take the case of the bank operated by the famous Mellon family in the United States of America. The owner of that bank once had to pay income tax’ on $600,000. Mr. Mellon denied that he had earned, that money and sued the United States of America Government for a refund of portion of the tax. In reply to the Attorney-General, Mr. Mellon finally admitted that the $600,000 had come from his bank. Upon being asked what was the paid-up capital of the bank, he said, “My father’s good name is the capital of my bank”. In those days, of course, Mellon was a name to conjure with. His father had built up a huge fortune, and all that he had to do to start himself in the banking business was to put up a sign in gold letters, “Mellon’s Bank”. For every £1,000 which was deposited he was able to give £7,000 or £8,000 worth of credit to his clients. Do honorable senators opposite require any more proof of how bad our banking system is?
– Order ! The honorable senator must connect his remarks with the bill.
– My objection to the bill is in regard to the method of finance which it provides. I hope that what I have said has penetrated the conservative minds of the Opposition and will bear some fruit. The question is asked, “How shall we be able to repay all this money? Although I am not satisfied that the Government has gone as far as it should have gone in this bill, the measure provides for a step in the right direction. I do not approve of many things that the Government has done, but there is a well known axiom that those in control of the Executive must accept responsibility for their proposals and determine what they shall be, and when they shall be submitted to the Parliament. That is an inherent right of every government.
– Senator Spicer has told us that the purpose of the bill is to regiment chemists, but that is a nonsensical statement. Chemists, unlike those who are regimented under the Defence Act, are free to please themselves; they are not conscripts. The honorable senator would conscript men to fight and work for him, hut he is uncompromisingly opposed to the mere suggestion that professional people should be conscripted or regimented. The chemist is free to please himself whether he accepts or rejects the conditions prescribed in the bill.
– Order ! The Minister has already spoken on the motion for the second reading of this bill.
– Senator Spicer contended that the bill was another piece of political window dressing on the part of the Government. Had the Government desired to indulge in that pleasant pastime the most favorable period would have been prior to last August, but, at the last general elections, its political wares pleased the public so much that five honorable senators opposite were defeated at the polls. Senator Spicer said that the cost of the scheme for which the bill provides would be met from a fund which had already been exhausted, but he admitted later that the money was safe because it would be drawn from the National Welfare Fund. I was pleased to hear Senator Darcey administer mental medicine to honorable senators opposite to enable them to understand the meaning of national credit.
– Does the honorable senator believe in war loans?
– Order ! This measure contains no reference to war loans. The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.
– Senator Spicer, in his anxiety to know who would constitute the consultative council to be set up under this bill, displayed a suspicious mind. In view of the verdict of the people at the last general elections, one would have thought that the Opposition would have shown a willingness to co-operate with the Government and assist it in implementing the social security scheme which was endorsed by the people; but, when a measure is brought forward to enable the Government to keep faith with the electors, all that we get from the Opposition is obstruction. When the National Welfare Fund was established it was well understood that £30,000,000 a year to be collected by way of increased taxes was to be used in financing the social security proposals of the Government. Senator Spicer also complained that the Ministry was beginning at the wrong end of its social security programme. ‘ The Government is anxious to let its supporters know that, as far as it is able, it is keeping faith with the electors by carrying out portion of its scheme, fully intending to provide the more tangible advantages, to which Senator Spicer has referred, after the 1st July, when its majority in the Senate will be assured. The Government intends to deal later with benefits such as free medical attention, and does not overlook the fact that for 27 years the parties opposed to Labour were in office in this country and failed to implement such a scheme. The present bill provides for only a small portion of the benefits to be provided in what Senator Spicer has scathingly referred to as the new order. I have not heard any honorable senator opposite state his conception of a new order which would be supported by the Opposition, hut the people have endorsed the Labour party’s plans for a better world. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought in the last war to make the world safe for democracy and a place fit for heroes to live in. That ideal was not realized, but the Labour party has introduced certain social security measures as a guarantee of good faith, and as an instalment of better things to come. We desire to give economic security to all of the people, and we shall not rest content until such a policy has been given effect. Senator Spicer said that the Government would even want to know how much profit a chemist made on the business transacted by him in the course of a week. I see nothing wrong in that. When I was engaged with my tools of trade, the Arbitration Court decided how much I should receive weekly, and I see no reason why a chemist should be placed on a better footing than a person in receipt of wages. I am not scared by the talk of regimentation or the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The people are not frightened by that bogy. At one time to call a man a socialist was to conjure up a picture of a villainous-looking person lurking in a dark lane with a lethal weapon, but to-day a socialist is at least accepted as an intelligent member of society. Some honorable senators opposite appear not to have moved with the times. Judging by Senator Spicer’s past utterances, his condemnation of the bill should be accepted by the Government and its supporters as high commendation. He is so conservative in his ideas that if anything done by the present Government received his blessing it would be time to back pedal and see what was wrong. I have referred to Senator Spicer because I regard him as the official mouthpiece of the Opposition. He certainly is the most able member on the Opposition benches ; other honorable senators only reiterate what he says. Senator A. J. McLachlan said that the social welfare legislation of the present Government would destroy all incentive. Obviously, the honorable senator and those who think with him do not know of any other incentive than the accumulation of wealth. They cannot imagine any person having as an incentive the desire to confer some benefit on the community.
Senator Arnold spoke so well of the bill that there is no need for me to repeat what he said. I like to pay a speaker the compliment of listening to what he says, but at times I find it extremely difficult to do . so. For instance, Senator McBride repeats himself so frequently that I become bored. When honorable senators opposite leave themselves open to criticism, as Senator Spicer has done, I am impelled to rise to speak in an effort to correct their mistakes. I hope that the bill will pass the Senate, and that honorable senators opposite will not oppose it. Last August the people delivered their verdict, and I hope that honorable senators opposite will recognize their obligation to vote for this measure, which is only a small instalment of the social welfare legislation which the Government proposes to introduce. After June next, when the Opposition has “ blown out its brains “, the Government will be in a position to go ahead. I shall be sorry that the eloquence of some honorable senators opposite will not be heard in this chamber after that date, but I am pleased that their capacity for obstruction will then have passed. I hope that the Senate will agree to the bill.
– in reply - I shall not attempt to deal with every aspect of the discussion that has taken place on this bill, but I hope to correct some of the statements that have been made by honorable senators who have opposed it. Although such a revolutionary change as is envisaged in this measure will- not be accepted in its entirety by the Opposition without challenge, I ask honorable senators opposite to give full consideration to the Government’s proposals in fairness to the people of Australia as well as to the Government. As some wild statements have been made during the debate, ! shall go back to 1911, when the Lloyd George Government of Great Britain introduced legislation to provide for a scheme of national insurance. At that time, the legislation brought forward had many opponents, some of whom later saw the light of day and changed their attitude. I shall read to the Senate some extracts from a letter written to the British Medical Journal by Sir James Barr, the then president-elect of the British
Medical Association. In that year, after the passage through the British Parliament of the National Health and Insurance Bill, Sir James Barr said that he thought that the public should have opposed the bill and should now try to upset it for a number of reasons. The reasons mentioned by him were similar to those to which honorable senators opposite gave expression when opposing the measure now before us. The first reason given for opposing the British legislation was -
It is a long step on the downward path towards socialism.
We have heard the word “ socialism “ mentioned during this debate. The fears expressed in the British House of Commons were not realized; indeed, during ‘this debate the scheme in operation in Great Britain has been held up as a model for Australia to follow. The report of Sir James Barr’s speech continues -
It will tend to destroy individual effort and increase that spirit of dependency ‘ which is ever found in degenerate races. This spoonfed race will look more and more to a paternal government to feed and clothe it and not require it to work more than a few hours daily. They will be further encouraged to multiply their breed at the expense of the healthy and intellectual members of the community.
We have heard a great deal in this chamber about the high cost of administering the Government’s scheme. Some of the statements made in that connexion were just as incorrect as were Senator’s Leckie’s remarks regarding the cost of administering another bill which was recently before us. The report continues -
The cost of administration will be enormous and the hardworking men will never get a chance of participating in the bare-faced fraud.
That agrees with the views expressed by Senator Spicer regarding the bill now under discussion.
I have reason to believe that the act is not actuarily sound and’ that consequently it will soon be found that there is not sufficient money to go round.
That is what Senator Spicer has said about this bill. Opposition senators have claimed that the Government’s scheme has not any redeeming feature. They have held up the British National
Health and Insurance Scheme as a model, yet when it was under discussion in the British Parliament its opponents claimed that it had no merit. The speech of Sir James Barr, from which I have already quoted, continues -
The provision of medical and surgical attendance, drugs and appliances is utterly inadequate for an efficient service and is calculated lo undermine rather than improve the health of the nation. This act will perpetuate all the worst features of club practice without having any redeeming feature of its own.
The enormous increase in taxation, the useless and wasteful expenditure which has taken place during the last quarter century, make some of us who hold eugenic ideas wonder when this nation is going to cry halt in its rapid descent towards decadence and decay. Where is all this money to come from which is necessary for the imperative social legislation required for the future advancement of the race? Every source of revenue is being tapped for the benefit of the least worthy citizens. My advice to my medical brethren is to stand from under the act and let it and ite author crack together.
If this act be allowed to remain on the Statute Book it will set hack the hands of the medical clock for at least a quarter century. I quite agree with the statement that it is nothing short of a national calamity that such a man (Lloyd George) should hold any office in any government.
The opinion held by opponents of the British scheme in 1911 has been echoed in this chamber during the debate on this bill. The Government does not claim that this legislation will improve the health of the community.
– Then why has it been introduced?
– It is part of a comprehensive scheme put forward by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Senator Cooper said that the Government had started on the wrong lines when it brought this measure forward, but as a member of the Social Security Committee the honorable senator should know that what I have said is correct. He knows that last week the Senate dealt with a bill to make provision for the needs of a man stricken with sickness or thrown out of work. Surely no one wishes to see repeated the state of affairs which existed in the depression years. Those who suffered most then were not persons with ample incomes, but the women and children of the poorer section of the community.
Senator Cooper wanted to know why the administration of this legislation had been removed from the Department of Social Services, but I accept the responsibility for saying that this measure is a part of the Government’s plan for a national health service, and should be under the administration of the Commonwealth Department of Health. The various matters to which Senator Cooper referred will receive the attention of the Government, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has already promised. One of the greatest difficulties associated with the implementation of this legislation is the fact that about 2,600 members of the medical profession are serving with the armed forces, with the result that the medical practitioners remaining in civil life find it difficult to give proper attention to the needs of the people. Senator Cooper is aware of that difficulty. The introduction of this legislation is not a piece of elaborate political windowdressing as some honorable senators opposite have described it. I remind them that although the Lyons Government went to the country in 1937 with the promise that £20,000,000 would be set aside for a comprehensive housing programme, that promise was not fulfilled.
– That promise was made at previous elections, also.
– That is so, _ but nothing was done. Now Opposition senators say that a scheme of housing is more necessary than the scheme provided for in this bill. I do not wish to deal with the maladministration of previous governments. This measure is but an instalment of the Government’s general social security plan. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) when speaking at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers declared, without qualification, that the Commonwealth recognizes its responsibility in respect of the whole field of public health. The Government’s policy was enunciated during the last general election campaign, and it has since been emphasized on many occasions in Parliament and in the press.
– This scheme was never announced in the press.
– It was propounded as part of the Government’s national health scheme. I assure honorable senators that plans to deal with tuberculosis and hospital services are receiving the urgent attention of the Government. I hope that before very long this Government, in co-operation with the States, will be able to implement all of the health proposals enunciated by the Prime Minister in his policy speech before the last general election. In formulating this scheme, the Government has received full co-operation from the Pharmaceutical Guild and the friendly societies. This measure is based on an agreement with those bodies. It is futile for honorable senators opposite to argue that the Government can repudiate that agreement simply because its terms are not specifically set out in the measure. I agree with Senator A. J. McLachlan that the starting point in a national health service should be the care of our children. However, by ensuring the provision of proper food and nourishment for our children, we shall go a long way towards reducing the number of prescriptions now dispensed annually in this country. Senator Cooper’s estimate of £4,000,000 annually as the cost of the total prescriptions now dispensed in this country is an exaggeration. It is estimated that the cost of this scheme to the Government, based on an annual total of 20,000,000 prescriptions, will not be much more than £1,000,000. Senator Cooper, as a member of the Social Security Committee is aware of the recommendations that have been made by the National Health and Medical Research Council with respect to tuberculosis. Those recommendations include the provision of sanatoriums. However, the Government can hardly be expected to undertake such reforms immediately, particularly at a time when hospitals are in need of beds.
– Special pensions could be provided for tuberculosis sufferers.
-The honorable senator knows that, as the result of the neglect of this problem on the part of previous governments, this Government must first make up considerable leeway. I recognize that the honorable senator admitted that previous governments failed in some degree in their responsibility in this matter. However, we cannot be expected to provide all essential reforms immediately. The National Health and Medical Research Council has not yet presented its report on free hospital treatment, but immediately that report is to hand the Government will give it urgent consideration.
– No report was tabled with respect to the scheme embodied in this bill.
SenatorFRASER. - I repeat that this scheme is part of a general scheme endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council. I have no doubt that if this scheme were contributory along the lines of the New Zealand scheme, honorable senators opposite would give it their complete approval. However, it is based on the report of the Social Security Committee.
– It is not.
SenatorFRASER. - It was made quite clear that all of the Government’s social service proposals would be financed from the National Welfare Fund, and that was in accordance with the recommendation made by the Social Security Committee. I know that Senator Cooper is attempting to split straws on that point. Speaking on the National Welfare Fund Bill, the honorable senator said he agreed with the method by which the Government proposed to finance social services, but when pressure was applied, he failed to stand up to that statement, and declared that on each taxpayer’s assessment the amount of the tax to be allocatedin respect of social services should be set out.
Questionresolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
SenatorSPICER (Victoria) [9.9].- This clause provides that the measure will come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. Can the Minister for Health (Senator Eraser) indicate when the Government proposes to bring this measure into operation? Is it intended to do so this financial year, or before the next elections. Having regard to the provisions of clause 3, this matter is of some importance.
– It is very difficult to name the date on which the bill will come into operation, because a considerable period will be required to set up the necessary administrative machinery.
– Can the Minister give an approximate date?
– I should say the measure will come into operation within a period of six months.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Non-application of act to certain parts of the Commonwealth).
.- This is a very unusual provision to find in a bill. It provides that “ the GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation, declare that this act shall not have effect in any part of the Commonwealth specified in the proclamation . . . “ It is usual for measures to have application throughout the Commonwealth as from some date to be fixed by proclamation. I should like to know the purpose of this clause. As the clause is drawn, it seems to me that any time, even after this measure has come into operation, the GovernorGeneral is entitled to make a proclamation declaring that the measure shall not have effect, say, in the State of Victoria, or Western Australia.
– Or in Canberra.
– Exactly. I do not know whether the Government intends to implement this measure piece-meal; but one could imagine that it could be brought into operation in New South Wales just before the next election campaign in that State, whilst it might not be brought into operation until a later date in, say. Western Australia. This is an unusual provision, and I should like to know the purpose of it. As the Minister has said that the measure is not to come into operation for at least six months, I fail to see why arrangements cannot be made to implement it throughout the Commonwealth when it is proclaimed.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [9.13]. - Owing to war conditions it may not be possible to bring this measure into operation in certain parts of the Commonwealth, such as the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island. This clause is designed to meet such circumstances.
– We should reject this clause in its entirety. It is absolutely foreign to Australian sentiments. If this legislation is to have the effect which the Government claims for it, surely the whole of the people of Australia, and not merely some sections, are entitled to the benefits provided under it. For instance, it could be applied in some of the larger cities, and not at all in some country areas. We shall make ourselves look very stupid as a National Parliament if we agree to the clause as it stands.
– Has the honorable senator read clause 8?
– That has nothing to do with the matter. The clause is part of the bill, and the whole bill is subject to the provision, that the Governor-General may exempt some parts of the Commonwealth from the operation of the act. Its validity is open to grave doubt but, apart from the question of constitutionality, it is unworthy of this Parliament to provide that certain parts of the Commonwealth, shall get benefits, whilst other parts may not. I shall oppose the clause.
– Senator McLachlan could not have heard my reply to Senator .Spicer. I pointed out that the Northern Territory is at the moment under military control and that possibly the same applies to Norfolk Island, so that the whole of the people in those areas are receiving medical attention from Army doctors. If the measure were passed to-day, those are two portions of the Commonwealth to which it could not be applied. Its application to them may have to be deferred until after the war, or until practicable.
– I shall oppose the clause, under which it would be possible for the Government to proclaim that the act shall not apply to any part of Australia except, say, Newcastle, if it desired that its friends, the coal-miners who are on strike, should have medical benefits which nobody else was to get. It would be perfectly competent for the Government under this clause to provide benefits for only one section of the community. As this is a National Parliament, its legislation should be nation-wide, and all persons in Australia should be entitled to the benefit? of the bill. I strongly oppose sectional legislation which would enable the Government to benefit certain parts of the community to the exclusion of others.
.- The explanation offered by the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) is entirely inadequate. He referred to two localities in which it may he difficult to bring the act into operation at the time when it is hoped to apply it in other portions of the Commonwealth. If the Minister so desires he can express his intention clearly by inserting the words : “ This act shall not apply in the Northern Territory and in Norfolk Island until specially declared by proclamation”. That is perfectly simple, and meets the whole of the Minister’s difficulties. In order, however, to safeguard the position in regard to those two territories, he proposes to retain in the bill a clause which appears to have continuous operation. It seems to me that, under the clause, even after the act has been proclaimed the Minister may at any time issue a proclamation that it shall not have effect in some small or large locality. There is no justification for that. If he cares to move an amendment on the lines that I have suggested, it will be a different proposition, but if he persists with the clause as worded I shall oppose it.
. - The reply given by the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) to Senator A. J. McLachlan’s suggestion will compel me to vote against the clause, which I consider is not necessary. There are on the statute-book dozens of acts which apply to the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island, but when the Army took those places over no proclamations were issued declaring that those acts no longer applied to them. No such provision as this appears in the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits
Bill, or in /mother bill which we recently passed. If it is necessary in this bill, it should have been necessary in them also. I shall oppose the clause because I regard it as unnecessary.
– I trust that the Minister will agree to postpone the clause. It is undesirable to pass it in such wide terms. I should be prepared to accept Senator Spicer’s suggestion, although I am not sure that there is any necessity for it, but I point out to the Minister that the act could not possibly operate in localities under military control. I have no objection to providing for a contingency such as a sudden attack on some place by the enemy, but this legislation is Australian wide, as Senator Wilson reminded us, and we are legislating as a National Parliament. The benefits which the Government sees fit to confer on the people of the Commonwealth should be of general and not of partial application. Any exigency such as the Minister has pointed out should not be provided for by the words used in the clause. As Senator J. B. Hayes has reminded the committee, it was not thought necessary to insert them in a bill which we passed last week. It may be difficult in the Northern Territory for a chemist to give pharmaceutical relief under present conditions, but that does not justify the issue of a proclamation depriving one part of Australia of benefits which the Government apparently thought should apply to every part of the continent. The Government might well redraft the clause in a form less offensive to the national sense of the committee. I doubt the constitutionality of the clause, but it is not our province to decide that point. I appeal to the Minister, in the interests of orderly government and the proper appreciation of the functions of the National Parliament, to agree to the postponement of the clause with a view of it.? improvement.
Senator FRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [9.25J. - I accept Senator A. J. McLachlan’s suggestion that the clause be postponed to allow its wording to be reconsidered in the light of the objections which have been voiced. I am always ready to meet reasonable suggestions made by the Opposition.
Clause 4 -
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ pharmaceutical chemist “ means any person registered as a pharmacist or pharmaceutical chemist under any law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth providing for the registration of pharmacists or pharmaceutical chemists, and includes any body of persons (whether corporate or unincorporate) carrying on business as a pharmaceutical chemist in accordance with the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or territory of the Commonwealth ;
– I move -
That, in the definition of “ pharmaceutical chemist “, after the word “ any third occurring, the following words be inserted: - “ friendly society or other “.
The Government has agreed to make this amendment at the request of the friendly societies, who desire it lest any difficulty subsequently arise in the interpretation of corporate or unincorporate bodies.
.- I take it that the object is to class friendly societies as pharmaceutical chemists for the purposes of the act. If a friendly society has a qualified chemist in its employ, well and good, but the amendment may bring in a friendly society which has not a qualified chemist in its employ.
– No one is allowed to dispense medicine unless qualified.
– With all respect to the honorable senator’s very wide knowledge, it is necessary to be careful in widening the definition of a pharmaceutical chemist. I take it, however, that the Minister’s intention is that a friendly society must be qualified by the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or territory to dispense medicine.
– If that is so, I am satisfied..
– The object of the amendment is to make it quite clear that a friendly society which is qualified as a pharmaceutical chemist shall come within the definition.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The Director-General shall, subject to any direction of the Minister, have the general administration of this act.
.- The clause provides that the DirectorGeneral shall have the general administration of the act, but he is made subject to any direction of the Minister.
– The Minister must accept the responsibility.
– I have a strong objection to placing the activities of such an officer directly under political control, but that is what the clause provides. I can understand the Minister having certain general control over the DirectorGeneral, but, in this clause, the DirectorGeneral is subject to “ any direction of the Minister”. In other words, if the Minister sought to make the DirectorGeneral a mere rubber stamp, he could do so. That is not a very healthy provision in a bill of this kind, in which so much is left finally to the decision of the Director-General, because as the DirectorGeneral is subject always to the direction of the Minister, it really means that the entire fabric which is envisaged in this legislation is to be created by the Minister free of parliamentary control.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
The pharmaceutical benefits referred toin this act shall consist of -
materials and appliances (not being uncompounded medicines or medicinal compounds) the names of which are contained in a prescribed addendum to the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary.
SenatorWILSON (South Australia) [9.32].- I move-
That, after the word “Formulary” at the end of paragraph (b), the following words be added : - “and
a cost not exceeding an amount to be prescribed of such other medicines as are prescribed by a medical practitioner.”
This amendment, if carried, would give to the medical practitioner the widest possible discretion in the prescription of medicines. Under the clause as it now stands, should a medical practitioner prescribe a medicine which was strictly in conformity with the Commonwealth pharmaceutical formulary, both in regard to ingredients and dosage, the patient would be entitled to receive that medicine free of charge, but if those ingredients or. their proportion were varied no matter how slightly, no such benefit would be received. For example, a medicine prescribed in the formulary might contain 2 grains of “ A “ and 1 of “ B “, but, in respect of a particular patient, a doctor might prescribe 1 grain of “A” and 2 of “ B “. In that event, the patient would not receive the medicine free of charge. The hands of the medical practitioner are tied, and he must either stick to the formulary or a patient must pay for his medicine.
I draw the attention of the committee to the following statement made by Dr. F. W. Carter, a member of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, after attending a conference with Government representatives in regard to this particular matter: - . . The British Medical Association representatives were of the opinion that it would not materially improve the health of the community and that the large expenditure involved could better be devoted to other measures such as hospital construction and equipment, the care of sufferers from tuberculosis, maternal and child welfare and diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Elasticityof dosage will result in inadequate treatment of the sick person or his disqualification of the benefits of the scheme.
That is not the statement of a layman ; it represents the views of the medical profession of Australia - men who have had life-long training in the care of the sick. The medical profession in this country is recognized as a distinguished and honorable profession which has rendered great service to this community, yet, under this clause, members of that profession are to be restricted, because whatever may be the individual requirements of a patient, a doctor must either prescribe exactly a medicine listed in the formulary, or he must impose upon the patient the burden of paying for the preparation. What is the purpose of this bill? Is it to make available to sick people the medicines which are most likely to cure them, or is it to give to unfortunate sufferers some sort of dope in an endeavour to make them feel better merely because they are taking medicine ? It is essential that experienced medical practitioners should be free to prescribe for the individual requirements of each patient. One would imagine from the wording of this clause that a human being was like an internal combustion engine. Engineers are able to say with some degree of certainty that Shell oil, Vacuum oil, Castrol, or some other lubricant is the best for a particular engine, but human beings cannot be treated in that manner. Every human being is different. It may be that in nine cases out of ten patients will require the stock prescriptions set out in the formulary, but in the tenth case, it may be advisable to vary a preparation slightly, perhaps only by .altering the dosage of the ingredients. As this clause stands at present, should a medical practitioner vary a listed prescription one iota, the patient would be penalized by having to pay for the medicine. Nothing could be worse for the health of the community than to force medical practitioners to prescribe for their patients medicines which are not exactly the ones likely to do the most good. I am confident that the Government will accept this amendment but if not, I oppose theclause.
Dr. Carter went on to say ;
Subject to this recognition of the responsibility devolving on the doctor to prescribe whatever means he considers necessary for the treatment of the patient - both as regards content and dosage - and the right of the patient to receive the treatment thus prescribed under the scheme the medical profession would undertake to make the fullest use of an official formulary compatible with thu welfare of the patient.
In other words, men who have been trained in the cure of diseases say that this measure will be useless if the prescriptions of medical practitioners are to be limited to a particular formulary, whereas if doctors were permitted to prescribe the exact medicines most suitable for ailments which they diagnose, they would do their best to co-operate and make the scheme a success.
Dr. Carter also said ;
In effect, the Federal Council, acting for the medical profession in Australia, hatrejected the Government scheme for free medicine, except on terms that admit the right of the doctor to order whatever remedy he considers proper for the treatment of the patient, and of the patient to receive it without payment in terms of the scheme.
Under the New Zealand legislation the freedom of medical practitioners in the prescription of medicines is even greater than would be the case here if my amendment were carried. In that country a patient is entitled to receive free of charge and up to any amount, whatever medicine is prescribed by a medical practitioner. I realize the Government’s difficulty in regard to this matter, and I appreciate that there must be a financial limit to its responsibilities. We are not in the position to issue a blank cheque, and for that reason I have included in my amendment the words “ a cost not exceeding an amount to be prescribed “. That means that if the amount prescribed for a particular medicine were 4s., the patient would receive medicine of that value, but the balance, if any, would have to be paid by the patient. I repeat that the bill as it stands is completely useless. It will do more harm than good, and the scheme will be used mainly by neurotic women who believe that their imaginary ailments can be cured by innumerable bottles of medicine.
– The Government will not accept the amendment. Senator Wilson is incorrect in saying that medical practitioners are not to be allowed to vary the dosage. The proposed formulary committee will be composed of experts, and I take it that the formulary- will contain all of the approved drugs. The members of the committee- will be either members of the medical profession or pharmaceutical chemists. The plea that the doctor should remain unfettered and be allowed to prescribe according to his predelictions for certain drugs, or in other words, that he should be removed exclusively from any form, of control, shows a lamentable lack of appreciation of the Government’s responsibility as custodian of the public purse. Surely the members of the British Medical Association must realize that the Government is forced to exercise some control over the moneys paid for pharmaceutical benefits. I draw attention to the upward tendency of the cost of the New Zealand scheme, to which Senator “Wilson has referred. Since the prescription is virtually an authorization for the payment of the chemist’s account, without a predetermination of the extent of the benefits the Government would be entirely in the hands of ‘the medical profession. No government with any sense of responsibility could accept such a position.
– The New Zealand Government did.
– I shall not argue that point, but experience has been gained from the New Zealand scheme. Although 1 cannot speak for the Government of that dominion, the day may come when that scheme may require alteration. Even if it were possible to do so, does Senator Wilson know enough about the subject to express an opinion as to whether the patient would be any better off if the doctor wrote his own formula rather than one suggested by therapeutic experts? It has been claimed by members of the British Medical Association Council that the doctor who attends a patient is the only person who knows what should be prescribed for that patient. If only one doctor examined the patient such a statement; would be hard to disprove, but it is equally true to say that if more than one doctor examined the same patient the prescription of each doctor would not be identical, and therefore I believe that no doctor would claim that bis particular formula was the only one that would meet the requirements of the patient. The Government’s plan, therefore, is to ask a committee of experts to compile a list of all well tried and proved formulas, which will be limited only by the number available. I do not pretend to be an expert, but it is on record that 90 per cent, of the medicines dispensed in the hospitals could be provided by means of a formulary.
I attended conferences with members of the British Medical Association at
Melbourne and Canberra, at which certain admissions were obtained from medical men. After prescriptions had been examined by experts it was found in many instances that they had contained no fewer than four different ingredients for flavouring purposes. It is realized that this practice is overdone. I do not know whether the prescriptions had any therapeutic value, but we decided to establish a formulary committee of experts representative of the medical profession and of the pharmaceutical chemists. Senator A. j. McLachlan said that many of the medicines prescribed to-day have no actual medical value, but merely produce a psychological effect on the patient. I have asked the British Medical Association to supply a panel of doctors who would be willing to serve on the proposed expert committee which will advise the Government as to what the formulary should contain.
.- One should not be surprised that a Government that is deeply committed to a policy of regimentation should now propose to regiment the medical prescriptions of the community. The Minister admitted that there might be differences of opinion among individual medical men as to what was the proper prescription for a particular patient. Yet on the other hand he said that the Government will set up a committee of experts to draw up a list of formulas which are supposed to be the only prescriptions which the patient would require. It may be that the prescription appearing’ in the formulary would be that given by a doctor in 99 cases out of 100, but there may be some variety in the relative proportion of the drugs used. A particular patient may be allergic to a drug contained in a medicine, and it may be necessary to alter the proportions, but the formulary would not provide for that. The Minister asks us to accept the proposition that the health of th.e community is more likely to be satisfactorily cared for by a standardized prescriptions of a formulary committee than by a prescription recommended by a doctor to meet an individual case.
Senator JAMES MCLACHLAN (South clearer explanation of the object of the clause than has so far been given. I assume that the formulary will specify the drugs to be used in the prescriptions and that the doctor will be asked to determine the quantity of those drugs to be supplied to the patient. I do not imagine that the formulary committee will make up prescriptions to meet all cases. I desire to know whether the formulary will state the drugs to be used, or whether the committee will prepare 500 or 1000 prescriptions for various complaints. I take it that the committee will merely name the drugs that may be used in the prescriptions, and that the doctor will exercise his own discretion as to quantities.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [9.57]. - The committee of experts will draw up the formulary and the medical practitioner will prescribe for the patient. The formulary will include the most important drugs, and their cost will not exclude their use. If the formulary committee decides to utilize any of the sulpha group of drugs they will be included in the formulary, but the medical practitioner must confine himself to the formulary chosen by the expert committee. The doctors will be able to vary the quantities to be prescribed. Honorable senators cannot expect every detail to be supplied in the bill.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [10.0]. - Earlier to-day Senator Brand asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for the Army the following question, upon notice : -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army make inquiries regarding the reduction in rank of warrant officers and noncommissioned officers of the 8th Division, who, had they been taken prisoner instead of fighting as guerrillas in Timor before escaping to Australia, would have retained their respective ranks with the pay attached thereto?
The Minister for the Army states that if the honorable senator will furnish particulars of any individual cases in which it is alleged that reduction of rank has been improperly effected, he will have them investigated.
Earlier to-day Senator Nash asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army the following questions, upon notice : -
In regard to Army hygiene, relating to both the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces -
What qualifications are necessary tor personnel engaged in the control of hygiene?
Are medical officers responsible for the control of hygiene, and what are the qualifications they hold?
Has the Deputy Director of Medical Supplies, the Deputy Assistant Director of Hygiene, or any hygiene officer, authority to lay charges for neglect of duty, against any rank, where necessary, for failure to maintain hygiene to the required standard?
Is it a fact that the maintenance of hygiene is vested only in commanding officers, and that hygiene personnel have power only to recommend to higher authority any necessary action ?
Is it a fact that in Western Australia the supply of chemicals for the treatment of water, disinfection, and sanitation, did not have first priority; and what is the position in this respect now?
Is it a fact that no qualified chemist, or other qualified personnel, has been available in the office of the Assistant Director of Supply and Transport in Western Australia, and how has the supply of chemicals been affected?
Is it a fact that supplies of various chemicals for hygiene and water requirements were not available to Western Australia in 1943, although obtainable at the time in the other States of Australia?
Is it a fact that deposits of kieselguhr, obtainable in Western Australia, were not utilized, thereby keeping that State in short supply of this commodity, and unnecessarily occupying shipping transport, or other transport, from the other States of Australia?
Is the issue of chemical requirements determined upon the advice of hygiene personnel, and in accordance with the requirements of local State conditions?
In the selection of camp sites, is the advice or assistance sought of medical services ?
Is food inspection and testing of foods conducted by qualified food inspectors attached to the hygiene personnel!;
What transport facilities in Western Australia are available for hygiene personnel?
The Minister for the Army states that in order to enable replies to be given to the honorable senator’s questions it is necessary to obtain certain information from Western Australia. As soon as these particulars are available a further reply will be given to the honorable senator.
– Last week I asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister a question regarding transport facilities between Tasmania and the mainland. I then suggested that as the shipping service had been temporarily discontinued, resulting in a saving to the Government of the amount paid as subsidy to the shipping company concerned, the subsidy should be paid to the company conducting an air service to Tasmania so that persons could travel by air at lower rates. The Minister then promised that inquiries would be made, and I should like to know whether he is yet in a position to supply the information asked for.
. - I direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to a press report of a statement made by Mr. Connelly, the president of the United Licensed Victuallers Association of New South Wales, that, owing to the serious shortage of beer in the metropolitan area of Sydney, some vile alcoholic concoctions were being sold to the public by illicit dealers. During the debate to-day on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill, mention was made of the deleterious effect on the public health of certain patent medicines. I should like the Minister to inform the Senate what steps are being taken to protect the public health by preventing the sale of the vile concoctions to which Mr. Connelly referred. As honorable senators know, there is considerable black-marketing in connexion with alcoholic beverages. They know also that certain standards are being disregarded by illegal retailers, especially in connexion with spirituous liquors. There are numerous reports that methylated spirits have been mixed with certain beverages. The harmful effect of such concoctions can be imagined. Will the Minister state what stepshis department has taken to deal with this problem, and also what is intended to be done to ensure a more equitable distribution of beer throughout the Commonwealth ?
– I draw attention to the need to provide motor tyres and tubes for business vehicles, particularly in country districts where people have to travel long distances. I realize that the Government faces a shortage of rubber, and that the needs of the armed forces have to be met first, but I doubt whether the Government is aware of the awkward position of many owners of motor vehicles in country districts. In many instances it is a question of obtaining not one tyre but four tyres if their vehicles are to be of any use. I have been informed that in various parts of Australia there are motor tyres which have been discarded by the military authorities, but could still be used on other vehicles. I suggest that those tyres should be made available to primary producers. The rubber shortage, and the consequent difficulty of obtaining motor tyres, has led many primary producers to resort to the use of horse-drawn vehicles, but such means of transport are now almost as difficult to obtain as are motor tyres and tubes. I hope that sympathetic consideration will be given to my suggestion.
– in reply - I hope to be able to supply a statement to-morrow on the question raised by Senator Hays. I shall bring the suggestion of Senator Uppill to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and also the Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping with a view to seeing whether something can be done in the direction indicated.
Senator Allan MacDonald has made inquiries regarding the distribution of beer, and has quoted from a newspaper report of certain abuses that have arisen because of that shortage. The position is grave. As honorable senators are aware, the supply of beer is governed by the quantity of barley grown and the man-power available in the malting industry. The supply of beer for civilian use has been fixed at 7,200,000 gallons a month. That quantity was fixed in 1942 in an endeavour to save man-power, and also to prevent the disgraceful drunken orgie3 which at that time were taking place in Australian cities. The result of the restriction has been that as the hot season has approached each year the Government has been inundated with requests for an increased distribution of beer. Every such request has been carefully investigated. I can inform Senator Allan MacDonald that in this matter Western Australia has been treated well because of the hot climate in parts of that State and also because of the presence there of large numbers of servicemen. What is concerning me most is what is being done by unscrupulous persons to meet the demand for liquor. A few instances of what has happened may interest honorable senators. At Wollongong last week a man was fined £15 for having had for sale rum which contained a poison - copper salts and copper oxides. In Western Australia, another man was fined for having sold lemonade which had been adulterated by adding methylated spirits. A special squad of men who have been investigating black marketing charges found a large quantity of wine which was totally unfit for human consumption. Alongside the barrel of wine was another barrel containing grapes which were full of maggots. Those grapes would have been made into wine had the officers not intervened. In many instances whisky has been found to be adulterated with illicit spirit, or something worse. In the majority of cases the adulterant was raw spirit which could have caused severe illness to any one drinking it. Last Saturday it was found that Australian whisky was being transported by car from Melbourne to Sydney, where it was adulterated with illicit spirit, and then rebottled and labelled as Scotch whisky. That deleterious liquor was distributed by street-corner pedlars at from £4 to £5 a bottle. Those who bought the concoction really obtained something which was very akin to raw alcohol, when they believed that they were buying Scotch whisky. In Melbourne yesterday counsel representing the Viticultural Society of Victoria told the royal commission on licensing anomalies that the addition of mythylated spirits, and even hoot polish, to Australian wine was not unknown. Dr. Cooper Booth, the Director of Social Hygiene in New South Wales, was reported yesterday to have said that the next generation would suffer as the consequence of the bad liquor now being distributed on the black market. He stated that young girls were drinking liquor which was fit only to pour down a drain. Incidentally, he claimed that, good beer was beneficial to health. Undoubtedly, large quantities of adulterated liquor, mainly whisky and wine> are being sold to-day. Thousands of gallons of home-made wine were transported from the irrigation areas of New South Wales to Sydney some months ago, and sold there. Some of that wine bore labels indicating that the bottles contained firstgrade Australian wine, although in fact much of it could be classed as “ pinkie “ or “ plonk “. Customs officers have found numbers of illicit stills in which various kinds of spirituous liquors were being distilled. Some weeks ago a gang was discovered at Manly, New South Wales, which was changing dry wine into sweet wine by adding sugar and poison. Since the quantity of beer to be made available for civilian use was fixed at 7,200,000 gallons a month early in 1942, numbers of Australian soldiers who were abroad when the restrictions were imposed have returned to Australia, and, in addition, large numbers of men and women have migrated from country districts to the city. Although some adjustments have been made, hotels in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane remain closed for many days each month because of a shortage of beer. That position cannot be overcome. I am considering the whole subject, because I believe that it is better that men should be able to drink good ale than consume deleterious liquor in these drinking hells which are becoming far too numerous in Australia.
Honorable senators know what happened in another country when an attempt was made to suppress the sale of alcoholic liquors. So long as allied servicemen are in Australia they will be induced to buy illicit liquor because they have the money with which to purchase it. The officers of my department are doing everything possible to cope with this problem. As I have said, -a special squad is at work and it has been supplied with motor cars to enable it to move quickly. That organization is working well, but it must be extended as soon as possible to Victoria and Queensland where the evil is just as bad as it is in New South Wales. The question arises whether, despite criticism by people who have not considered the evils of suppression, it would not he better to allow people to obtain good wholesome ale than continue a state of affairs which leads to the disposal of the vile stuff that is now being sold. I assure honorable senators that this matter is being given careful attention.
On Thursday, the 24th February, Senator Aylett asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice : -
The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
On Thursday, the 24th February, Senator Darcey asked the Minister representing the Treasurer tho following questions, upon notice: -
The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
On the 25th February, Senator Uppill asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice : -
The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Guildford, Western Australia.
Rockingham, Western Australia.
St. Peters, South Australia.
Wembley Park, Western Australia.
Woolloomooloo, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Use. of land (3).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (34).
Science and Industry Research Act - Seventeenth Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for year 1942-43.
Senate adjourned at 10.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440301_senate_17_177/>.