18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 pan., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Acoustic Laboratories Bill 1948.
Representation Bill 1948.
Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1948.
Supply and Development Bill 1948.
Superannuation Bill 1948.
Transferred Officers’Allowances Bill 1948.
– In view of the soaring profits of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, when does the
Postmaster-General propose to remove the existing surcharge on the carriage of letters by air mail, thus enabling firstclass mail to be despatched by air at the flat rate of 2½d. for each half ounce?
– I am not prepared at present to admit that thesurcharge on the carriage of letters by air mail should be abolished, first, because of the very heavy increase in the prices of materials and, secondly, because of the enormous arrears of work which the Postmaster-General’s Department is committed to undertake. The department has inherited heavy arrears of work which accumulated not only during the war, but also during the years of the economic and financial depression. In order to overcome these arrears and to provide improved services, the department proposes to expend an amount of £42,000,000 during the next three years, which is very much in excess of the profits which will be derived by it. For these reasons I am not, at present, prepared to recommend to the Government that the surcharge on air mail matter should be abolished.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform the Senate whether, in view of the constitutional power granted to this Parliament by the people, the responsibility for the wellbeing of aged and invalid pensioners now devolves entirely upon the Commonwealth ? If it is so, will he state whether any plans are being prepared for the establishment of suitable hostels for aged people, particularly garden settlements, where aged couples can live together in the eventide of their lives? If the matter is a responsibility of State governments, will the Minister indicate whether the National WelfareFund, from which hospitalization and free medicine grants are provided, couldbe used to provide suitable hostels for pensioners?
– The only constitutional power conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament is the power to provide benefits for the aged and relates solely to the payment of a retiring allowance. No specific power is contained in the Constitution which would enable the Commonwealth to embark upon the provision of housing accommodation for pensioners as a separate class in the community. That primarily, is a matter for the States. Of course, the Government recognizes the urgent need to provide suitable housing accommodation for the aged. Express provision for rent rebates was made in the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement. The lowest rent rebate provided for is approximately 8s. a week. When the Commonwealth inserted that provision in the agreement it had in mind the matter that has just been mentioned by the honorable senator. The position of elderly people who have to obtain housing accommodation is exceedingly serious, and the matter has been discussed with State governments, which havedecided - and I do not say that they were not wise in their decision - that it is more important to provide accommodation for families with a large number of young children than for elderly people who have no family responsibilities. I believe that the honorable senator will agree that where priorities have to be allocated, the need of a family with young children is greater than that of aged persons-.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers: -
– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel been drawn to cabled advice received from London yesterday which indicated that the governments and the general staffs of the western European nations had received reports that Russia had plans to invade France, Italy and Scandinavia? Is it a fact that the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Montgomery, in commenting upon the position, said that it was essential for the Empire to speak with one voice? In view of the distinguished field marshal’s comment, can the Minister give any information to the Senate regarding the likelihood of a meeting of Empire leaders in the near future?
– I am not aware that any communication has been received by the Government in connexion with the matter mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. No such message was dealt with at the meeting of Cabinet this morning, and I should imagine that, had a communication of that character arrived, it would have been brought immediately to the notice of Cabinet. I am not able to say whether any proposals have been made for a meeting of Empire Prime Ministers or other representatives in regard to this matter.
Nationalization : High Court Judgment
– In view of the lengthy period which has elapsed since the conclusion of the litigation before the High Court, concerning the nationalization of banking, can the Minister representing the Attorney-General inform the Senate when the High Court is likely to deliver its judgment?
– The delivery of judgment by the High Court is entirely a matter for the members of that court, In practice, all justices concerned in acase deliver their judgments on the same occasion, so that delay on the part of any individual member of that court, because of his having been engaged in the hearing of other eases or otherwise, necessarily retards the delivery of judgment by the court. I offer no opinion as to what length of time would constitute a reasonable period in which to deliver judgment, because that is entirely a matter for the members of the High Court. I emphasize that the Government has no knowledge whatever of when the judgment will be delivered, and is certainly not in a position to obtain that information.
– The Minister’s answer to my earlier question indicated that some of the High Court justices have an extraordinary volume of Work to carry out and that this causes delay in preparing judgments. I now ask him whether the Attorney-General’s Department can take any action to “ clear the decks “ so that the justices may be enabled to concentrate on delivering their judgment in the banking case, which will be of the utmost importance to the community?
SenatorMckENNA. -I agree that the judgment will be of vast importance and that it is awaited with great interest by persons other than the members of the Government and honorable senators. Senator Large has not suggested what steps might be taken, but I shall certainly refer to the Attorney-General his desire that everything possible be done to expedite delivery of the judgment.
Melbourne-Canberra Service - Standardization of Gauges
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that until a few months ago, the NewSouth Wales Railways Department made provision for rail travel between Goulburn and Canberra by a passenger train which arrived at Canberra at approximately 9 a.m.? Is he also aware that the journey by rail from Melbourne to Canberra now takes about seventeen hours or longer ? If so, will the Minister discuss this matter with representatives of the State Railways department during the parliamentary recess and ascertain whether it still desires to cater for those people who wish to travel by rail between Melbourne and Canberra? If it is interested in serving that section of the community which still wishes to patronize the railways) will the Minister request the department to restore the service which existed until recently ?
– I shall bring to the notice Of the Minister for Transport the matters mentioned by the honorable senator. There is involved, of course, the wider subject of the proposed standardization of railway gauges in Australia. That seventeen hours’ rail travelling is involved between Melbourne and Canberra is additional evidence of the fact that while there are differing rail gauges in the various States, an efficient, up-to-date, modern rail transport system cannot be provided in this country.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a letter which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the8th June, signed “ David Pitt, Alta-street, Canterbury”, relative to the formulary provided under the PharmaceuticalBenefits Act? The letter states that nicotinic acid and thiouracil, which are used in the treatment of chilblains and goitre respectively, are not included in the formulary. The letter also states that benadryl, dicoumarol, and folic acid, which are amongst the latest and best-known drugs, are included in the formulary. If the drugs mentioned, which are claimed to be essential for the preservation of human life, have not been included in the formulary for free medicine available to the public, can the Minister explain the reason for their omission?
– I have not seen the letter mentioned by the honorable senator, but I have been told about it and I am having an investigation made of the statements contained in it. I hope to be in a position to-morrow to supply to the Senate details of the drugs that are said to have been left out of the formulary.
I am prepared to say at this stage that the only items known to have been omitted are those that have fallen into disuse, those that , have no particular worth, and those of doubtful worth. I emphasise that the formulary is by no means static. There is provision for it to be changed and, in fact, a formulary committee has been established for that purpose. The committee will consist of expert pharmacists and medical practitioners so that, if a new drug comes within the realm of scientific knowledge and is proved to be efficacious and to have no deleterious effects, one may safely leave its inclusion in the formulary to the committee. I shall have a full answer to the honorable senator’s question prepared by to-morrow.
– Can the Minister for Health inform the Senate of the annual cost to the New Zealand Government of its pharmaceutical benefits scheme, commonly described as the “ free medicine scheme “, and of its average cost a head of the population of that dominion?
– I have not the information before me at the mement, but I hope to speak on the Australian pharmaceutical benefits scheme in the early part of this evening’s sitting of the Senate when the Appropriation Bill is under consideration. I shall then endeavour to supply the information to the honorable senator.
– On the 28th April, Senator Katz asked whether any steps could be taken to ensure that, when an ex-serviceman moved from one State to another, his tobacco ration could be transferred with him. I now inform him that I have had inquiries made. These disclose that tobacco permits issued to ex-servicemen are not transferable intra-state or interstate. The Tobacco Manufacturers Committee, a central controlling committee set up by the tobacco trade, has, however, made arrangements whereby the original retailer supplying an ex-serviceman under a permit will continue to supply him irrespective of any change in his place of residence. The committee has given consideration in the matter of transferring a tobacco ration for a permit holder from one retailer to another, but has found this to be impracticable. As .the Government has relinquished control over the distribution of tobacco, this is a matter in which it considers it should not interfere.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel inform me whether .a conference was held in Canberra last week-end between Ministers representative of the Governments of Australia and New Zealand? If so, will the Minister ascertain whether the Prime Minister of Australia proposes to issue a statement about the results of the conference ?
– I understand that the conference to which Senator Cooper has referred took place in Canberra last week-end, and I shall ascertain whether the Prime Minister considers it advisable to issue a report.
– On the 5th May, Senator Amour asked me the following question : -
In view of the substantial increase in the number of houses being built by the New South Wales Housing Commission in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government and by other authorities and private individuals and of the great number of telephones required for these homes as well as by other householders and business men who have been on the waiting list for some time, will the PostmasterGeneral advise what action has been taken by his department to acquire land within the Municipality of Bankstown for the building of additional telephone exchanges? Have any plans been prepared for the construction of such exchanges? If so, when will the buildings be erected? Is the equipment necessary to enable applicants for telephones to be provided with this urgent service available?
I now advise the honorable senator that the department is fully informed on the housing projects and telephone requirements for Bankstown and plans to provide service throughout the municipality from existing automatic exchanges at Bankstown, Carramar, Lidcombe, Lakemba and a new automatic exchange at Revesby, which is to replace the present manual exchange at Padstow Park. Increased cable reticulation is planned and the work is proceeding subject to supplies of cable and ducts. Automatic switching equipment has been ordered for the extension of exchanges and the installation will proceed immediately on delivery. The 400 line extension of Bankstown exchange is now 50 per cent. complete and action is proceeding to acquire a selected site for Revesby exchange. Subject to availability of material and labour, the building is to proceed as soon as practicable after the site has been acquired. It is expected that automatic equipment will be available before the building is completed.
1939-45 WAR MEDAL.
– On the 28th April, Senator Cooper asked the following question : -
Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Army seen a report in the daily press that all members of the Home Guard and the Civil Defence Corps in England, who served 28 days or more, not necessarily continuously, would receive the 1939-45 War Medal? Is it a fact that members of the Australian Volunteer Defence Corps whose service in many instances exceeded four years, will not be entitled to receive the 1939-45 War Medal? If not, why not?
The Minister for the Army has now supplied the following information: -
The conditions in regard to eligibility for the award of the 1939-45 War Medal provide that it be granted to personnel of the Armed Forces who have rendered 28 days continuous operational or non-operational service between the 3rd September. 1939, and the 2nd September, 1945. All members of the Volunteer Defence Corps, irrespective of their length of service, who comply with these conditions will therefore be entitled to receive the medal.
Ceremony in Brisbane.
– On the 28th April, Senator Cooper asked the following question, without notice : -
Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army been drawn to an article appearing in the Brisbane Telegraph of 24th April, 1948, in which it is stated that, for the first time in the memory of exservicemen arranging the Anzac Day parade in Brisbane, the Army was not represented in the ceremonial guard at the Shrine of Remembrance? Did the ceremonial guard comprise 24 members of the Navy and Air Force instead of the usual 36? Is it a fact that when the Department of the Army was approached for men for the guard, an Army spokesman said that equipment for the guard could be supplied, but that trained men to carry out this duty were not available in the Brisbane area. In view of reassuring statements issued by the Minister for the Army from time to time regarding enlistments in the Interim Army, can he explain why it was not possible to find twelve soldiers capable of performing this ceremonial guard duty?
The Minister for the Army has now supplied the following information : -
I have made inquiries from the military authorities concerned and am informed that no official approach was made by the Queensland Branch of the League for a guard to be provided for the Anzac Day Memorial Service.
It is the policy of the Army to co-operate with returned soldiers’ organizations in the fitting celebration of Anzac Day.
– On the 6th May, Senator Cooper asked my colleague, the then Minister for Shipping andFuel, what action had been taken by the Government to conduct national surveys of Australian mineral resources since World War II. Senator Ashley promised to make a statement on this subject when the Parliament re-assembled. As this matter now comes under my direction as Minister for Supply and Development, I have pleasure in making the following statement: -
The systematic survey of the mineral resources of the Commonwealth which was commenced during the war years has continued without interruption. This is part of a longrange plan for complete assessment of known information on mineral resources which will be supplemented as required by investigation and exploration by diamond drilling and other means. The Bureau of Mineral Resources in my department, which is responsible for this survey, works in close co-operation with the State Mines Departments andI am happy to say also that a great deal of information is supplied to it by the companies engaged in mineral exploration.
The result of the .bureau’s preliminary assessment of mineral resources is being published in a series known as Summary Reports. Fifty-six reports are proposed in this series, of which 25 have been printed and a further eleven have been compiled ready for printing. This series of reports, when finished. And revised to a Common date, is designed to form a handbook of the mineral industry of the Commonwealth. The Summary Reports will be continually revised and at certain intervals the handbook itself will also be revised and re-issued.
The general survey which is summarized in these re parte reviews existing knowledge on mineral resources. It has also revealed that information available concerning deposits of many minerals is meagre, and this deficiency is being remedied as opportunity offers by geological and geophysical work which will be supplemented where necessary by testing by diamond drilling or other means.
In addition to the general survey, supplemented as indicated, regional investigations are also being carried out by the bureau, usually in association with State Mines Departments. Mention may be made of three examples of the type of regional- investigation carried out by the bureau, namely - (1) A survey of the radio-active mineral resources of the Commonwealth; (2) a survey, in cooperation with the Western Australian Mines Department, of two very large areas in Western Australia, namely, the Kimberley and North-west districts with a view to assessment of their petroleum possibilities; (3) a survey of the Cobar-Nymagee district (copper-gold) which is being carried out in association with the Kew South Wales Mines Department and two large mining companies. Other investigations of this type will be planned as required and carried out as suitably trained personnel becomes available. Consistent with security aspects results of all surveys completed will be published and will be available for general information.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for- Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
In March, 1947, the State secretary of the association referred to by the honorable senator submitted a resolution passed by the Rockhampton sub-branch, similar to that which has now been carried by the State conference of- the association. The reply which was then given to the State secretary answers both parts of the question asked by the honorable senator, and I accordingly quote that reply. “ The Nationality Act provides that the Minister for Immigration shall decide whether any applicant for naturalization is u fit and proper person to become naturalized. It would be neither wise nor proper that the exercise of that prerogative should be limited by a decision given by any body which has not expert knowledge of nationality matters nor of the requirements to be met for the grant of a certificate of naturalization.
It is pointed out that the Minister for Immigration has the advice of his own officers, who have a thorough knowledge of nationality problems and the requirements of nationality law.
Before any alien is granted a certificate of naturalization his case is carefully investigated by local police officials, the Commonwealth Investigation and Security Service and the Department of Immigration, and the Minister must be satisfied - (a) that the applicant has resided in Australia or in some other part of His Majesty’s dominions for at least five years within the last eight years: (fi) that he bears a good character and has an adequate knowledge of the English language; (c) that he intends to continue to reside in Australia; (d) that there is no objection to his naturalization on security grounds; and (e) that the grant of a certificate of naturalization would be conducive to the public good.
It is considered that these precaution? amply ensure that a certificate of naturalization is granted only to an alien who is a fit and proper person to be naturalized.
It is also mentioned that the naturalization regulations provide that every intending applicant for naturalization shall advertise his intention to apply for naturalization in two newspapers circulating in the district in which he resides, and under the act it is competent for any person or body to make representations to the Minister for Immigration in regard to any applicant for naturalization. Any such representations which are made receive full consideration.
In the circumstances, the Minister for Immigration is unable to see his way to adopt the suggestion put forward by your association that applications for naturalization should be investigated and reported on by a local alien examination committee.”
asked the Minister, for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2.-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answers: -
The expenditure for nine months to the 31st March, 1948, of the financial year 1947-48 is as follows: -
Ord River Scheme
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
Has any report been made by the committee appointed by the Government in connexion with the Ord River scheme?
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answer: -
As a result of recommendations made by the Northern Australia Development Committee, the Western Australian and Commonwealth Governments agreed, in the middle of I!) 4 ti, to share the estimated cost of £31,000 on engineering and agricultural investigations in connexion with the Ord River project. The engineering investigations are being carried out by the Western Australian government while the agricultural investigations are being carried out jointly by officers of the State government and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is understood that the engineering and hydrological investigations are progressing satisfactorily, although no official report is to hand. The agricultural investigations are likely to extend over a number of years before it can be shown what crops and varieties can be grown economically and what will be the pattern of agriculture in the proposed irrigation area. For the honorable senator’s information, the Joint Technical Committee dealing with the agricultural side of the investigations met in Perth only last week to discuss this coming season’s experimental work.
Passports for Australians
– On the 5th May, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate asked a question concerning passports for Australians to travel to Palestine. I am now able to inform him that there was no conflict, as suggested by him, between the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration in regard to residents of Australia who applied for facilities to travel to Palestine. The general policy of the Government is to grant passports to British subjects resident in Australia who wish to proceed abroad, provided that they comply with the provisions of the Passports Act and the regulations thereunder. The circumstances of a particular case, or the prevailing conditions in certain countries, however, may be such as to preclude a passport being made valid for travel to those countries. The Prime Minister, in stating that British subjects were not prevented from obtaining passports; was referring to the general policy. He did not say that passports so granted would be made valid for travel to Palestine, and, in fact, he emphasized that persons wanting to go to Palestine at this time would be given no encouragement. As the honorable senator knows, the position in Palestine has been changing from day to day, making it difficult to determine here what conditions had to be taken into consideration. The statement by the Minister for Immigration was to the effect that, except in very special cases, passports, issued or renewed while the present tension lasts, would not be made valid for travel to Palestine, and set out the precautions which would be taken to ensure that residents of Australia did not obtain by subterfuge travel facilities for Palestine.
– by leave - As the Minister controlling the Post Office, I have visited many centres throughout Australia for the purpose of meeting municipal authorities, representative organizations, members of the public and postal staffs, and of seeing for myself the standard of service provided, and the progress which is being made in improving facilities. During my visits, and also in the course of my normal day-to-day duties as PostmasterGeneral, I have heard great praise of the outstanding work which was performed by the Postal Department during the war, and which is still being done in the postal and telecommunication fields.
I have also heard some criticism of the department, particularly in connexion with inadequacies in the present services, and it is advisable to acquaint honorable senators with the position, and to tell them what is being done to solve the great problems with which the Post Office is confronted. The criticisms may be summarized as follows under three broad headings: (1) failure to provide the public with adequate services; (2) high charges with no commensurate increase in service; and (3) lack of proper planning for the ‘future.
In ‘answer to the charge that the department has failed to provide adequate services, let me point out that, during the financial year 1946-47, as ‘Compared with the pre-war financial year 193S-39, the volume of business completed was as follows : -
Postal articles. - 1,240,000,000, as against
Air mails.- 30.000,000 articles handled, compared with barely 5,000,000, and nearly 24,000,000 air mail mileages flown, as against slightly ‘more than 8,000j000 miles pre-vai
Telegrams. - Nearly -34,000.000., as against 171000,000.
Local telephone calls- Nearly 800,000,000, compared with less than 600,000,000.
Trunk-line calls. - More than 58y000,000, as against 41,000,000.
The controlling officers of the department and myself are conscious of the fact that the services rendered by the post office to the community are inadequate in some respects. This position which is not peculiar to Australia, is due to conditions arising from the war, and the problem has been accentuated by the substantial rise -of the volume of business portrayed in the figures which I have just” quoted. Shortages of labour and essential materials are not only retarding the department’s efforts to restore services to a high degree of efficiency but, because of the prevailing conditions, post office services are being used to an everincreasing extent to overcome other disabilities resulting from the impact of war. In addition to providing the technical services for the national broadcasting service and administering the relevant broadcasting acts, the post office performs valuable work for other government departments and the Commonwealth Bank. The more important of the services rendered include the transaction of Commonwealth Savings Bank business, the sale of savings stamps and certificates, the receipt of subscriptions for Commonwealth loans, the payment of war, invalid, age and widows’ pensions and child endowment, the issue of ‘sales tax tickets and beer duty stamps, the distribution of petrol ration tickets and the collection of War Services Homes advances. The tremendous volume of business and services effected with inadequate staff and facilities is revealed in the financial turnover, which for the financial year 1946-47, was £361,000,000, or approximately double -that of 19.38-39. “With regard to .postal services, the provision of an improved distribution in metropolitan and country areas is constantly under review, although the department is confronted with -an increasing amount of business and a shortage of experienced staff. A more liberal policy for the -extension of road mail services and their f requency ‘has :been introduced, and during the financial year 1946-47 £5S,0O0 was spent in this regard. During fire current financial year £79,000 is being expended on new or improved mail services and the expenditure will be higher next year.
House to house letter delivery services in the country are being provided on more generous terms than in the past. New services have been introduced at more than 250 post offices since August, 1946, and the delivery areas have been extended or the frequency of service increased at another 250 places. There still remains a small number of country centres where i’t has not been practicable to provide the desired service because of the lack of man-power, but every effort is being made to overcome the labour shortage. Concerning the hours of closing of post offices, the decision to close offices at 5 p.m. instead of 5.-30 p.m-. was reached by the department as a direct result of the introduction of the 40-hour week and the general shortage of man-power; A careful survey showed that the existing staff could not maintain the former hours of business without working a regular and substantial period of overtime and: unfortunately, it is impracticable to secure additional employees necessary to staff post offices until 5.30 p.m. under the 40-hour week. Consequently, and bearing in mind also the trend in industry generally towards restricted hours of operation, the department was obliged to reduce the hours during which business could be transacted at post offices. The closing hours for money order business at post offices was changed from 4 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. in 1943, when many industrial, and commercial establishments adopted earlier closing hours because of staffing and other difficulties. When the closing hour of 5 p.m. for post offices was introduced at the beginning of 1948 no restrictions were made in the hours for money order business. The type of business transacted in the money order sections is allied to banking, and the facilities provided by all banking institutions are made available at a later morning hour and cease at an earlier hour than money order services at post offices.
For many years past, Australia has :had a very high telegraph density compared with other countries. The number of telegrams originated in Australia during 1946-47 represented 4.5 per capita in comparison with 1.1 in the United Kingdom and 1.5 in the United States of America. Expressed in another way, the 47,000,000 people of the United Kingdom originate 52,000,000 telegrams a year, while fewer than 8,000,000 people in Australia lodge 34,000,000 messages yearly.
Regarding comments which have been made concerning the unsatisfactory telephone trunk-line service, it is a fact that, although more than 500 additional circuits, comprising 80,000 channel miles, have been provided since the war ended, and the trunk circuits between capital cities have been increased from 74 to 165, the present facilities are overloaded during the busier hours of the day. The business is growing at a rapid rate and the department has made provision in the rehabilitation programme, to which 1 shall refer later, for more than 2,000 additional channels. Another factor which has contributed to the congestion on trunk lines in the busier periods is the shortage of skilled telephonists. The wastage of telephone operators is extremely high. For example, in Melbourne the turnover of telephonists reached ,85 per cent, last year. As a body, the “staff is performing excellent work under difficult conditions. The department is hopeful that the operating strength can be gradually increased to its proper proportions, and a vigorous recruitment campaign is being conducted to that end. The most important task which confronts the department is to overtake the arrears of applications for telephone subscribers’ services which have accumulated during and since the war. At present, 109,000 applications are outstanding, of which 88,000 are in the metropolitan areas and 21,000 in the country districts. There is an unprecedented demand for telephone facilities and the department has tackled the problem vigorously. Although progress has been retarded by shortages of materials and skilled labour, 230,000 telephones have been installed since the war ended, and the present rate of development is greatly in excess of the pre-war figures. As the result of the department’s efforts, which have embraced negotiations with manufacturing organizations in Great Britain and the United States of America to set up production lines in Australia, materials will come forward in large quantities in the future and the equipment will be installed as quickly as possible. It is interesting to note that Australia is not alone in this predicament. In the United States of America there is a back-log of 1,800,000 applications, compared with 500,000 in Great Britain and 120,000 in Canada.
Although a postage surcharge of -Jd. an article was introduced in 1941 concurrently with the adoption of higher local and long-distance telephone tariffs, with the object of providing additional funds as a contribution to the national war effort, it must be remembered that abnormal expenditure arising from the war is still unavoidable, particularly in connexion with the rehabilitation of exservice men and women and the carrying out of a huge programme of works for the purpose of overtaking the arrears which accumulated during the war, and the extension and development of postal and telecommunication services to meet the growing needs of the community. Furthermore, costs of materials and labour have increased substantially since 1941, and as a business undertaking the Postal Department cannot disregard these factors when considering the matter of tariffs. The charges for telephone service in Australia compare favorably with those in other parts of the world. For example, the annual rentals in London are £7 2s. for a business service and £5 4s. for a residence service. In New York, the comparable rates are £15 and £10 12s. 6d. respectively. In Sydney and Melbourne, the annual rentals are £6 5s. for a business service and £5 for a residence service and the rates are lower in other centres. The rentals in country districts are based on a very favorable scale the annual tariff in small networks being only £3 5s. The largest telephone administration in the United States of America has found it necessary since the war ended to increase telephone rates by £37,000,000 annually, and further increases amounting to at least £22,000,000 are under consideration. In New Zealand, a business service in “Wellington costs £15 yearly and a private service £8 10s. with unlimited calls, but trunk-line fees are charged for calls beyond a 3-mile radius, whilst in Sydney and Melbourne, trunk-line fees do not apply up to a 15-mile radius from the General Post Office. The question of allowing unlimited calls to subscribers has been considered on many occasions, but the view has always been held that to introduce a flat rate would inevitably lead to a heavy increase in the rates for the smaller users, and that the fairer course is for the person who uses the service extensively to pay for it. The charges for long-distance calls in Australia are amongst the lowest in the world. Here are a few typical examples based on a three-minute conversation during the day hours when the rates generally are higher than those charged after 6 p.m. -
In New Zealand, trunk-line rates are based on the route distance between two points, whereas in Australia they arebased on the lower radial distance. Hence,, the comparison is more in favour of Australia than the figures indicate, since theroute distance is appreciably greater than the radial distance as a general rule.
I shall now show that the claim that the Postal Department is not planningfor the future is wide of the mark. The department has returned substantial surpluses for a number of years to Consolidated Revenue. Those surpluses have been due, to a great degree, to two factors; the very high volume of traffic and revenues during the war period, and the almost complete cessation during World War II. of developmental expenditure on works for the civil population. Those works normally form a substantial percentage of the expenditure on communication services. Moreover, maintenance was reduced in many directions, particularly in relation to buildings and other like services, because of the need for concentrating all available resources in meeting the requirements of the armed services and our American allies. Immediately the war finished, the Government took special steps to see that adequate funds were made available to enable the Postal Department to rehabilitate its services. It established a special subcommittee of Cabinet to supervise the progress made in the rehabilitation plans, arranged for finance for the department on a three-year basis, which had never been done -by any previous government, and approved a programme for the first three years. That programme embraced a total expenditure of £42,000,000, with an estimated net expenditure in the three-year period of £30,000,000. That system of finance for the first time enabled long-range planning to be undertaken on an effective basis, and permitted the ordering of appropriate materials in advance.
The programme of works which the department is at present implementing is comprehensive in nature and extensive in scope. It provides for substantial improvements in every phase of the communication services, and already, in cities, towns and villages, skilled nien are installing equipment in exchanges,- laying cables, providing pole routes and carrying out the hundreds of jobs which must be done to overtake arrears and facilitate development.
The telegraph service is being modernized steadily. The task includes the introduction of direct working between any two points where the volume of traffic justifies such a course, and the modernization of telegraph offices to enable them to provide a speedier service. Some of the chief telegraph offices have already been remodelled, whilst others are in course of ‘being modernized. Recently a new and comprehensive phonogram installation was brought into service in the chief telegraph office, Sydney. The plant, which embodies all the latest developments in phonogram technique, is providing a greatly improved and speedier service to the public. The plans provide for the modernization of the phonogram services in Melbourne and other large centres. The department is converting the more heavily loaded morse telegraph country and suburban circuits to the machine printing system, either teleprinter or teletype. The higher speed of operation obtainable has enabled improvements to be effected in the grade of telegraph service, as well as securing savings in manipulative labour. To date, 96 morse circuits have been converted, while another 70 circuits have been approved for conversion as soon as the necessary machines become available.
The advantages of automatic telephony are being made available to subscribers in the capital cities, and the department’s plans provide for the complete conversion of the metropolitan networks to the dial system. The introduction of the automatic service in additional large country centres was also planned, and the requirements of country districts will be catered for by rural automatic exchanges of a special type designed to meet the conditions in outlying areas. Already 156 rural automatic exchanges have been installed, and equipment for 650 additional units has been ordered.
Since the war ended, the number of telephone trunk-line channels between the various capital cities has been more than doubled. When hostilities ceased, there were eighteen channels between Melbourne and Sydney; there are now 58. Five hundred new trunk-lines have been provided in Australia, and provision has been made in the three-year programme for an additional 2,000 trunk-lines to cover almost every settled area in the Commonwealth. Extensive additions are being made to the main trunk exchanges and to the facilities which are used by the public to book calls. The entire programme is intended to produce a highly efficient service. In the next financial year 22 new trunk-line channels will be provided between Sydney and Melbourne, three between Sydney and Brisbane, nine between Melbourne and Adelaide, one between Melbourne and Perth, eight between Melbourne and Tasmania and eleven between Melbourne and Canberra. Twelve new channels have already been brought into service between Sydney and Canberra.
The department is keeping abreast of modern trends in the telecommunications field, and its research laboratories are engaged continuously in testing new methods and the latest developments overseas in the field of radio-telephony. New electronic devices open up new horizons of electrical communication, and the department is taking advantage of these developments in its forward planning. For example, an electronic tube called the travelling-wave tube gives promise of increasing greatly the number of telephone conversations which can be carried simultaneously over one pair of wires.
Six radio telephone channels have been in operation between Tasmania and the mainland for some time, and orders have been placed for the supply of 24-channel and 31-channel radio- telephone systems for use on the mainland. A trial radiotelephone network, which has been developed to serve outlying communities, will be established in the Broken Hill district within the next few weeks. Tests are also being conducted to ascertain the extent to which radio-telephone facilities can be provided in outback localities where, on account of cost, it would be impracticable to provide ordinary land-line facilities.
Under the Australian Broadcasting Act one of the principal responsibilities of the Postal Department is to provide and operate the technical services associated with the transmission of programmes arranged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The rehabilitation programme provides for the progressive establishment of new national broadcasting stations, and the replacement of, and additions to, existing buildings and equipment. It is hoped that at the end of three years the fundamental plan for serving the Commonwealth as a whole will be completed. In order to provide maximum radio coverage by the national broadcasting service eighteen new regional stations will be erected in country districts - nine in New South Wales, one in Victoria, two in South Australia, three in Queensland, one in Western Australia, one in Tasmania and one in the Northern Territory.
One of the greatest handicaps suffered by the department is the lack of buildings for post offices, telephone exchanges and various engineering activities. However, despite shortages of materials and labour, and the demands on the available resources for housing, encouraging progress has been made. Since the end of the war 36 buildings have been completed in all States, 94 are in the course of construction, and an additional 76 building proposals have been authorized. The remodelling of approximately 200 buildings has also been authorized, and the greater part of this work has either been completed, or is in hand.
Naturally, as the controllers of the largest business undertaking in Australia, responsible officers of the department and I are anxious to effect all possible improvements to the post office services and to make available to the community facilities which will not be lacking in effectiveness or convenience. In addition, there is a keen desire to take advantage of the latest developments and techniques. As I have indicated, the rehabilitation programme is well under way and has been associated with plans to improve and extend the services provided by the post office. Procedures have been streamlined, the organization has been improved, materials have been ordered on a long-range basis, and other measures have been introduced to meet the abnormal conditions with which the department is confronted. The staff, as a body,, is loyal and efficient and I am personally satisfied that the department will continue to apply enthusiasm and vigour *to** the task in hand. Despite the progresswhich is being made, I must emphasizethat, unfortunately, the accumulated arrears cannot be overtaken in a short period and that some years must elapse before the department will be in a position to provide all services of pre-war standard. I have personally assured myself that there is no short cut which is not being explored by the post office administration with the object of giving service, and that all that is humanly possible is being done by the staff which is fully seized of the importance of the postal and communication services to the business and domestic life of the community.
– On the 9th April, Senator Arnold asked whether the Treasurer would consider making available ‘a taxation officer for the specific purpose of assisting members of Parliament to deal with taxation questions raised by their constituents, particularly in Sydney.
The Treasurer has now supplied the following answer : -
I have discussed the matter with the Commissioner of Taxation, who has made the necessary arrangements with his deputy commissioner in Sydney for a senior officer of the department to be made available for the purpose requested.
Senator - ASHLEY. - On the 28th April, Senator Cooper asked the following questions, upon notice: -
March, 1948, a strongly worded motion was overwhelmingly adopted which reaffirmed the opposition of the Labour movement to com- munism ?
The Prime Minister has now supplied the following answers: -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to establish a scheme for improved retirement benefits on a uniform ‘basis for members of the permanent defence forces. In his- secondreading speech in the House of Representatives on the 5th May, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) stated -
The existing provisions for retirement benefits are deficient in a number of ways. In particular, they lack uniformity as between the three services. . . . Moreover, it would be impossible under the existing retirement provision to deal adequately with the peculiarly difficult problem created by the practice, now common to all services, of retirement at comparatively early ages.
An exhaustive investigation of all aspects of the problem was undertaken, and the recommendations, which were subscribed to by representatives of the three service hoards, form the basis of the hill now before the Senate. I propose to outline the main features of the scheme a.nd to refer briefly to certain provisions of the bill. The main purposes of the measure are, first, to provide uniform retirement benefits for application to the three services; secondly, whilst following as far as practicable the provisions of the Superannuation Act applicable to the Commonwealth Public Service, to provide reasonable compensation for the earlier age at which members of the armed services are retired; thirdly, to ensure that all members of the services on long-term engagements shall be covered for death or invalidity during their service, with pensions for widows and dependent children where the member dies during his service or after his retirement.
With regard to the administration of the scheme, the bill provides in clause 5 that there shall be a Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board on which each of the services shall be represented. All members of the permanent forces, except other ranks serving under an initial engagement of less than six years, may become contributors. Officers serving under short service commissions are also eligible.
The rates of contributions to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund will be precisely the same as the contributions of members of the Commonwealth Public Service to the Superannuation Fund. As in the case of pensions payable on retirement, the contributions will be based on the member’s substantive rank. Clause 28 (1) of the bill provides that a member’s contributions shall have relation to his daily pay. Clause 28 (2) provides that the daily rate of pay shall be that prescribed for the member’s rank, and clause 4 provides that “ rank “ wherever appearing in the bill, “ in relation to a member of the Permanent Naval Forces, means confirmed rank and, in relation to a member of the Permanent Military Forces or Permanent Air Force, means substantive rank”. The Commonwealth contribution to the pensions of members of the public service on retirement is 60 per cent., the remaining 40 per cent, being met from the member’s contributions. Due to the early age of retirement of most members of the defence forces, a government contribution of 60 per cent, would fall far short of the amount required to meet the pensions shown in the third and fifth schedules to this bill. Clause 32 has therefore been included to indicate the manner in which the Commonwealth liability in respect of each pension will be assessed. I point out that the high ranking officers who serve on to age 60 are in precisely the same position as members of the Public Service who retire at that age, but the majority of personnel are retired at a very much earlier age, and consequent^ their pensions must be heavily subsidized by the Commonwealth. For example, the contributions during service of a lieutenant-commander in the Navy, retiring at age 45, would purchase a pension of £63 per annum. A Government contribution of 60 per cent., that is, one and a half times the member’s contributions, would be £94 per annum, making a total of £157 per annum. However, the proposed pension for a lieutenant-commander at age 45 is £360 per annum. Thus the Commonwealth must contribute a further £203 per annum, or a total of £297 out of the £360 per annum payable to the officer on retirement. In respect of equivalent ranks in the other services, namely a major in the Army who retires at age 47 and a squadron leader in the Air Force who retires at age 43, the Government contributes £290 per annum out of the £360 payable to the major and £309 per annum out of the £360 payable to the squadron leader. Members below commissioned rank become pensionable after age twenty. Those who continue to serve after becoming pensionable will be granted additional pension for the extra years served under definite engagement prior to attaining the retiring age for their rank, in accordance with the scale shown in the fifth schedule.
Gratuities are provided for personnel whose periods of service exceed certain minima but fall short of the qualifying period of twenty years’ service for pension. For example, a member below commissioned rank who retires on completion of a twelve-years’ engagement will receive a gratuity of £360 - a valuable nest-egg for a man re-entering civil life, having regard to the training, with pay and allowances at least equivalent to rates ruling in civil employment, received during his service. Personnel with wartime service, or those who have entered into full-time service since the war are credited with such service towards the twenty-year period of qualification for pension. Eligibility for the full amount of retirement pension in the case of all ranks, or the maximum rate of gratuity in the case of other ranks who do not qualify for pensions, is dependent on the members agreeing to serve on the reserve if requested by the service board to do so. This condition was embodied in the scheme to assist in the building up of reserve forces by inducing trained men to accept liability for call-up in the event of an emergency and to provide an inducement to other ranks to complete their engagements.
It is important to point out that the pension scale shown in the third schedule relates only to pension on retirement. If a member dies while a member of the forces, the pension payable to his widow is one-half of the pension for which he was contributing at age 60, plus an allowance for each child under sixteen years of age. In order to amplify this statement the case of a flight-lieutenant with over four years’ service in that rank may be quoted. The pension for retirement in that rank is £275 per annum. The widow’s pension would be half that amount, namely £137 10s. But if. that flight-lieutenant was killed, or died during his service, his widow would receive a pension of £243 15s. per annum, plus an allowance for each child under sixteen years of age. Special provision is also made -for members who are retired from the forces due to incapacity. For example, a member whose percentage of total incapacity in relation to civil employment is 60 per cent, or over would receive a pension of £32 10s. per annum in respect of each unit for which he was contributing. In respect of the flightlieutenant mentioned above, this would amount to a pension of £487 10s. per annum. In the event of the death or invalidity of a member of the forces as a result of injuries attributable to service, the pension payable under this scheme will be apart from any special pension or compensation that reay be payable either under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act or under other post-war compensation provisions.
Provision has been made for members, on retirement, to commute, subject to the approval of the board, up to 50 per cent, of their pensions. They cannot, however, alienate any portion of the pension which would be payable to the widow on the death of the ex-member. Thus, if a member retired, on a pension of £360 per annum and was permitted to commute 50 per cent, of it, his widow would still receive a pension at the rate of £180 per annum. Clauses 51 to 54 relate to pensions payable on incapacity. The provisions of these clauses should not be confused with the rates of pension shown in the eighth schedule, which refer only to personnel under the age of eighteen years. Cadets and apprentices in the three services may be enlisted before attaining the age of eighteen years. For example, cadets of the Royal Naval College enter between their thirteenth and fourteenth birthdays. All personnel enlisted under the age of eighteen years on long-term engagements are covered by the provisions of the bill, but are not required to become contributors until attaining their eighteenth birthday. If any such members are invalided out of any of the services before attaining that age, they shall be entitled to a pension in accordance with the scale shown in the eighth schedule.
The bill does not take away from a member any of his existing rights. Naval and air force personnel with deferred pay credits have the right of electing (a) to become contributors for full benefits under this scheme, in which case their deferred pay credits will be taken over and applied towards the purchase of fully paid-up units, thus reducing their liability for future contributions; (6) to become contributors for limited benefits, in which case deferred pay at credit and interest, thereon will be held until retirement, the member being required to contribute for such number of units as his deferred pay would not have purchased if he had become a full contributor; or (c) not to become contributors, in which case deferred pay will continue to be credited as in the past.
Members of the Permanent Military Forces and the Permanent Air Force, who are already contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, will be transferred to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. They will retain all their existing rights under the Superannuation Act, and, at the same time, will be eligible for any additional benefits under the new scheme. In view of the varied conditions of service in the Royal Australian Navy, the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force, many of which are of long standing, and the impracticability of covering in a bill of this kind every class of case which might arise, a general provision has been inserted in clause 87 enabling regulations to be made to deal with isolated and unusual cases and, incidentally, any minor changes or variations which may take place in the course of the adjustment of the service to uniform conditions of service.
The Government regards the scheme embodied in this bill, along with the pay code established last year, as an essential part of its programme for building up effective defence forces for Australia, and I commend it to the Senate for favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Senator COOPER’ adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Courtice) read a first time.
– I more -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to approve the International Wheat Agreement. This instrument ‘has been signed by the representatives of Australia and 35 other countries, but it has to be ratified or formally accepted by the governments concerned by the 1st July. The agreement is the culmination of many years of effort to such an arrangement among the nations on wheat. The purpose of the agreement is to introduce greater stability into the international trade in wheat, in the interests of both consumers and producers.
Previous Australian governments, irrespective of their political views were in favour of concluding an international agreement on wheat. Whilst the principle of such an arrangement has been generally accepted, opinions on particular features of this agreement may differ. [ do not expect that any international agreement on wheat, or on any other subject, would completely satisfy every one. The agreement before the Senate is the result of long negotiations, during which varying viewpoints and interests had to be reconciled. If they could not have been reconciled, there would not ‘have been an agreement. Obviously, the differing views of producers and consumers on prices had to be reconciled. If all the people who have said that they favour an agreement in principle, but have also criticized certain features of this instrument, endeavoured to modify it, they would be forced very quickly to realize that there could ,be no agreement unless they were prepared to reconcile their divergent views on matters of detail.
The Australian Government considers that this agreement is a good one, and that it is the best which can be achieved at the present time. It is a serious attempt to solve a world problem. . The object is to give an assurance of markets to producers, and an assurance of supplies to consumers at fair- and stable prices. In the past, producers and consumers have been at the mercy of widely fluctuating prices. Values fell quickly as world supplies increased, and markets were” glutted, but prices soared rapidly whenever supplies were temporarily less than world requirements.
The agreement involves 36 countries, and the quantity of wheat covered is 500,000,000 bushels. The signatories include three exporters - Australia, Canada and the United States of America - and 33 importers. Argentina and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have not signed the agreement. There is provision, however, for other countries to become parties to it.
– Minister inform me whether the United States of America has ratified the agreement?
– The United States of America has until the 1st July to ratify the agreement, and I understand that no difficulty will arise in that regard.
The agreement will come into force on the 1st August next, and will operate for five years. It may .be extended for a further period. The instrument does not apply to domestic sales, or to export sales in excess of 500,000,000 bushels annually. It provides for guaranteed sales by the exporters and guaranteed purchases by the importers, and prescribes a range of prices within which the 500,000,000 bushels shall be sold.
Australia will sell, under the agreement, 85,000,000 .bushels of wheat each year. Canada will supply 230,000,000 bushels, and the United States 185,000,000 bushels. Eighty-five million bushels is the quantity which we can reasonably undertake to supply annually during the next five years.
The price range comprises a maximum of 2 dollars for the whole period, and a . minimum of 1 dollar 50 cents for the first year, descending by 10 cents a year to 1 dollar 10 cents in the fifth year. The Australian equivalents are about 12s. fto.b; as- the maximum, and: from 9s. down to) about 6s. 4d as the minimum. Theprice could remain at- the maximum for the. whole period;, or, at the other extreme, could, be at the minimum, for each season. Each of these contingencies isunlikely,, and tr.ade is likely to take place, at figures- between, the ceiling and. floor prices;.
The- agreement does not impose on exporting countries any conditions which would interfere with their internal policies in regard to production and’ local prices
The- agreement must be considered) f tom, both, the international and: the purely Australian point of view. The- general concern of; the people ofl the would) can beappreciated: when it is’ realized that 36.- countries; ]] a,ve reached agreement, and tha* the- interests of great- and small nations, both importers, andi ex.por.tens, de? mand a solution of the- wheat, problem’.. That solution can. be based, only, on a concept of fair- price* for the future- audi not on- the wide and disturbing, fluctua-tions- of the past. The people can. get the? food- they need) only if, farmers throughout the world are paid, seasonable, prices for their- produce. The temporary a(Lvan.tage to consumers of, low food prices, endanger future supplies-; and. the temporally advantage to growers of high, prices leads to uneconomic production in. importing countries and therefore deprives the exporting countries of future markets. In these circumstances, the wheat importing countries are willing to commit themselves- to a definite buying programme for the next five years,, and to agree to pay prices which will assure growers of a reasonable floor price, duringthat period. The exporting countries areprepared to commit themselves to providefuture supplies at reasonable prices. They know the risks of the world wheat market: tn- order to obtain security against low prices, they are willing to forgo the chance of world’ prices remaining above the maximum fixed by the agreement: The agreement is: regarded* by overseas wheat-growers as one which, will give’ them, security amd. enable them to producewheat with the knowledge that it will be profitable to them to do so.. So> far asAustralia is concerned, the balance of; argument is definitely in; favour of the agreement.. At present,. Australian wheatgrowers are obtaining very ‘high prices for their exports, but during the past fewmonths there has been a sharp fall in overseas- prices. European wheat production is gradually being restored to its pre-war level, and the same remarks apply to the production of rice. It is reasonable, therefore, to expect that, wheat prices will not remain- indefinitely at their present very high level’. In the absence of an agreement no one can predict theexport price of’ wheat one year hence, and” still l’ess in three or- four years’ time. Df dyrring-“ the- next five years the export price- is- at or-neaT-the maximum^ growers will receive1 the benefit of a> very profitableprice. If the price falls, the agreement will- limit the- ex-tent cf the- fall a-nd ensure that the grower obtains a profitable return. In other word’s,, the Australian, wheat-growers are given- an assurance of export markets for their normal exportable surplus and. know that the agreement will’ protect them from uneconomic prices during- the next five years.
The depression made the. Australian wheatgrowers advocates of stabilization. They want farming, to be divorced, from unnecessary price fluctuations. Thefarmers are faced with enough risks without adding that of; as gamble on prices. A guarantee of a market- for their wheat plus, a reasonable price is the best, assurance that can be given to any wheatgrowers.. A large portion of Australian* wheat is., sold, abroad. Australia alonecannot guard its growers against market risks, but in conjunction with- 35 other nations- it can give them that- security. That,, in brief, ‘ is the reason why the: Government is in favour of an international wheat agreement. I commend1 the bill’ to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper)adjourned.
Bill received, from the House of Representatives.
Standing and. Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on- motion, by Senator. Ashley)’ read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to provide £19,000,000 out of Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions during the forthcoming year. The amount of £18,000,000 which was appropriated last June for this purpose will meet requirements only to the end of -July, 1948. The upward trend in war pension payments is shown in the following table, which reflects the steady increase of the liability in respect of the 1939-45 war:-
Expenditure from the proposed appropriation of £19,000,000 will be divided almost equally between the two wars.
Parliamentary approval is now required to permit this amount of £19,000,000 to be withdrawn from revenue as required, for payment to the War Pensions Trust Account, in order that pension payments may be made as they become due. This bill has no bearing on pension rates and merely appropriates the amount required to effect payment at such rates as are approved by Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Senator COOPER’ -adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 30th April (vide page 1322), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the following paper be printed: -
International Affairs - Statement prepared by the Minister for External Affairs, 11th March, 1948.
– When I was granted leave to continue my remarks, I was dealing with the influence on this country of the Communist ideology. I want to make it quite clear that I do not agree with it. I firmly believe in the British way of life and the attainment of objectives by democratic methods and I am convinced that that ideology is the only one that is acceptable to the Australian people.
Since the debate was adjourned many changes have taken place in the international situation. Events move so rapidly that it is almost impossible for any one, except a keen student of international affairs, to keep pace with them. I suggest that there is a necessity ‘for the setting up of committees composed of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively or a joint committee consisting of members of the both House?, of the Parliament, to receive from time to time progressive reports on international affairs so that recommendations may to made to the responsible Minister. There may be strong arguments to be advanced in opposition to that suggestion, but I point out that in the United States of America the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, I believe, the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, perform a very important task. Those committees have an opportunity to gauge a cross-section of the public mind in relation to the many matters of an international character that develop from time to time. As a result of the evidence they hear, and the information they obtain, they are able to make recommendations to Congress. That system is of very great value and in all probability is of the utmost importance to the people of America. Foi that reason, I again suggest that the Government give consideration to the constitution of some such committee or committees. During the course of this debate at a previous sitting, Senator O’sullivan asserted that Australia had supported the Indians in South Africa against the South African Government. It is only right that I should try to correct that error. In 1946, Australia abstained from voting on a motion directed against South Africa in the United Nations General Assembly, and in 1947 voted against a similar motion. That official information suggests that Senator O’sullivan was on unsound ground when he made his assertion.
Senator O’Sullivan also stated that Australia had supported the Russians against the Americans in South Korea. That assertion also is not correct, because the United Nations General Assembly has requested that elections be held in the whole of Korea, and Australia is opposed only to their being held in South Korea, which is under the sole control of America. Russia controls North Korea only. The Australian attitude has been dictated by the clearly-expressed intention of the United Nations General Assembly. In both assertions, the honorable senator was a little wide of the mark.
In my previous remarks on this matter, L said that I believed that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), when he made a decision in respect of international matters, was influenced by either a Cabinet decision or the principles to which this Parliament is a party and which it supports as a member of the United Nations organization.
It has been found impossible to bring about an agreement between the Indian National Congress and the Moslem League, for the purpose of achieving what may be termed a united India, witu the result that India is to-day divided into three separate entities - India, Pakistan and Kashmir. Sovereign powers have been granted to the provisional governments that have been set up in India and Pakistan but the constitution of those two governments have yet to be drafted and enacted, In that connexion, I quote this statement by the Minister for External Affairs -
Neither India nor Pakistan has yet completed drafting its Constitution, nor has either of them yet taken any final decision regarding membership of the British Commonwealth.
Kashmir has retained its independence, but has offered to accede to India as a result of an invasion which, it claims was successful only because of assistance given to the invaders from Pakistan. India appealed to the Security Council of the
United Nations to call upon Pakistan to desist, and the latter country countered that move by requesting the Security Council to consider other issues in dispute with India. According to the latest information, as I understand it, both governments have agreed in principle that a plebiscite shall be taken under international auspices to decide whether Kashmir shall accede to India or to Pakistan, but to date no agreement has been reached on other details. The Security Council has appointed a commission of three members to proceed to Kashmir and draw up a report and make recommendations. It is noticeable that this commission iscomposed of a representative of India, a representative of Pakistan, and a third representative who is to be selected by the two other representatives. India haeselected Czechoslovakia as its representative on the commission, but a decision by Pakistan as to who its representativeshall be is still awaited. India’s selection of Czechoslovakia is most important,, particularly in view of recent political happenings in that country. We haveread in the press recently of what ha& . occurred in Czechoslovakia. I refer honorable senators to a joint declaration, by the United States of America, theUnited Kingdom and France in February which is to be found in the report of the Minister for External Affairs. That joint declaration stated, inter alia -
Thanks to a crisis artificially and deliberately provoked, certain methods already exploited elsewhere have been used to. bringabout the suspension of free parliamentary institutions and the establishment of a disguised dictatorship of a single party under the cloak of a government of national union.
In view of what has been referred to asthe Russian bloc in Europe, and considering India’s selection of Czechoslovakia as its representative on the commission, that joint statement by the declarant nations may or may not have significance for Australia. In any event, these factscertainly leave one wondering as towhat is likely to happen, without taking into consideration that no decision has been made by India and Pakistan a? to whether they will -remain members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That point calls for our urgent attention.. We must use every effort to influence thosetwo new Dominions to remain within the-
British Commonwealth of Nations. During the war the industrial potential of India was developed to a remarkable degree. That development is clear evidence that given the necessary guidance of technicians and experts and improvement of the general standard of education, coloured peoples are just a3 capable as white people of developing secondary industries to meet the needs of either war or peace. We shall make a grave mistake if we think that coloured peoples are not as efficient as white people in building up a great productive economy. The value of these two countries from a defencepoint of view, is also accentuated by the magnitude of their populations. Therefore, we must do everything in our power to persuade them to remain within the British Commonwealth. I, personally, should not like to contemplate the effect which their withdrawal would have. That is why I refer particularly to the selection of Czechoslovakia by India as its representative on the commission which I have mentioned. Incidentally, we should not “forget that not very long ago a LatinAmerican country tried to “pull the British lion’s tail “. A belief appears to prevail in some quarters that the United Kingdom, having regard to its present straightened economic circumstances, is not the power it once was. Possibly, for that reason other countries may be inclined to take liberties with it. Should any country attempt to do so in future, Australia and each of the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations should rally immediately to Britain’s aid. The Dominions should take the stand that an injury to any member of the British Commonwealth of Nations is an injury to all of them. Only in that way shall we be able to maintain British unity. To-day, that unity is threatened because some sections of the English-speaking peoples appear to believe that things would be greatly improved by a change of heart, economically and politically, on the part of the Dominions towards the Mother Country. We cannot ignore that danger. I again suggest that one way to meet it is for all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations to adopt the attitude that an injury to one of them is an injury to all of them.
It is significant that as soon as Great Britain relinquished its mandate in Palestine that country was riven by internecine war. India and Pakistan suffered a similar experience immediately Great Britain conferred sovereign powers on those Dominions. I believe that Great Britain acted wisely in relinquishing its mandate in Palestine, and I sincerely trust that Arabs and Jews, through the efforts of the United Nations, will compose their differences. I applaud Great Britain’s refusal to impose upon Arabs and Jews by force of arms a settlement which was not acceptable to either party. I congratulate the Minister for External Affairs upon his election as president of the committee established by the General Assembly of the United Nations to deal with the trouble in Palestine, and on the efforts he has made to bring about a settlement.
Australia made history in August and September last year when it convened at Canberra a conference of the British Dominions for the purpose of considering the proposed terms of the Japanese Peace Treaty. That conference which was representative of all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, including India and Pakistan, i* evidence of the important part which Australia is playing to-day in international affairs. [Extension of time granted.’] The proposed terms of the Japanese Peace Treaty were fully considered. Although no formal decisions were taken, it was pleasing to note the wide measure of agreement reached at the conference. Briefly, it reached agreement on the following points: Japanese territory should be limited to the four main islands of Japan and such minor islands as might be included ; Japan must not be permitted to re-arm, or to develop a war potential; Japan should have a workable economy, and positive measures should be taken for the creation of a democratic and peace-loving -J apan ; and an international supervisory committee should be established in Japan to ensure compliance with the terms of the treaty. The United States of America has suggested to the powers represented on the Far Eastern Commission - The United States of America, Canada, China,
France, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Russia and Australia - that a conference on the Japanese Peace Treaty should be held about August of this year at or near Washington or San Francisco. Russia has agreed that such a conference is desirable, but believes that the calling of the conference is a matter for the Council of Foreign Ministers of China, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Russia, and .has proposed an early meeting of that council. A deadlock has been reached. It is pleasing to note in the statement of the Minister for Externa] Affairs that Australia is taking all practical steps to overcome the deadlock, and to bring about a conference of representatives of the countries which contributed directly to the defeat of Japan. That, I believe, is the correct policy to pursue. I do not believe that the matter should be settled in the manner suggested by Russia, namely, at a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. The peace treaty with Japan will affect economically, and in many other ways, the destiny of the many millions of people who were associated in the war in the far east. I trust that Australia’s efforts to bring about an understanding between the powers will be successful,, particularly as Russia’s proposal would exclude France^ the Netherlands, the Philippines, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The Australian Government has set up an advisory committee to consider the problems associated with the Japanese peace treaty. It is representative of all sections of the community, and includes Senator Tangney, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr.. Beazley), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser )f the Acting- Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Harrison),, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), the honorable member for Flinders. (Mr… Ryan), and the honorable member for Cook- (Mr. Sheehan). So/far, the committee has done a good job, and the Minister has. expressed satisfaction with its activities..
’. - It is obvious’ to every intelligent person that the world to-day is dominated by fear. While Senator Nash- was speaking I could not. help thinking of the old principle that to rid a community of an epidemic, one should start by cleaning sewers rather than by tampering with certain elements of our communal life. We must attack the problem at its roots. To-day the fear of to-morrow is besetting the people of all nations. It is making some nations look with covetous eyes at the territories of their neighbours, whilst smaller nations fear for their security in the face of the greed and arrogance of their larger neighbours. It says litle for our twentieth century intelligence that in 25 years we should have had to resort to two world conflicts in an endeavour to clear up international misunderstandings by the arbitrament of the sword rather than by sweet reason. There are two conflicting ideologies, and in the democratic countries much apprehension has been- caused by the fact that so many nations are turning to communism, not because they understand and prefer the Communist ideology or believe that it will be a panacea for all their ills, but because the capitalist way of life has been so negative that they are prepared to try anything on the assumption that things cannot be any worse than they are. The poorer the circumstances of a nation, the greater is its inclination to turn to communism. Long before World War I. there was a school of thought which favored the abolition- of secret diplomacy and one of the promises made by some national leaders during the subsequent war was that this form of diplomacy would end. Unfortunately the motive behind secret diplomacy is economic. The system goes deeper than man’s ordinary inclinations. Between the two world wars all sorts of secret pacts were made. The RussoGerman pact of 1939 shocked’ the world, but later, Russia renounced the pact and joined the allies in the fighting against Germany.. This upset not only the economic balance, but also the balance of arms and made an allied victory more certain., Behind most wars lies the* profit motive. During World Waa; IX. the same people who 25 years previously had promised a brighter future for all nations, were declaring that the profit, motive; which, they claimed wasresponsible for all the world’s ills, must be abandoned. We were told by nearly all the leading statesmen, ambassadors and clerics, that the profit motive would have to go. They may have been sincere, but those who benefit most from the profit system have so arranged matters that it seems to be just as firmly entrenched as ever. To speak of alliances and secret pacts between nations as a cause of war is merely to burke the issue. The real cause of international trouble is man’s acquisitiveness, and I am afraid that we are still a long way from attaining to Robert Burns’s ideal -
That man to man the warld o’er
Shall brothers be for a’ that.
What is it that breeds acquisitiveness? Any one who can suggest a panacea that will ultimately remove international jealousies and eliminate war will have contributed something worthwhile towards the world’s progress. I am convinced that it is the fear of to-morrow, coexistent with the capitalist system, that breeds human acquisitiveness which, in turn, leads to international rivalry. Let me illustrate what I mean. Boys and girls enter industrial life at about fifteen years of age.. Their parents and friends, already beginning to grow old, are still at work, driven by economic necessity. They see about them men of 60, 65 and even 70 years of age, still working. Ninety per cent. of the young people just beginning work develop a fixed determination to improve upon the economic standard attained by their parents. They resolve to save enough money to enable them to sit back and enjoy the evening of their lives. All of us made that resolve when we were young.We resolved to protect ourselves against the hazard of economic insecurity. Some of us became so absorbed in the struggle to obtain money as a means to an end, that the means became the end. We saw that some people, at the age of 60 or 65, had succeeded in accumulating money, but in the process had lost their souls. Others, seeking to put aside a nest-egg for the future, had the misfortune to encounter sickness in the family, and their hard-earned savings went to pay doctors’ bills. Others again, having married, and brought into the world fine, healthy families, found they could do no more with their earnings than feed and clothe their children.
There was nothing left over, so that saving was impossible. They had conferred an inestimable benefit upon the community, but for themselves they could do no more than develop a healthy sense of independence, which made them resolve that they would die rather than become dependent for support upon their children. If we are to eliminate man’s acquisitiveness, and thus’ remove the prime cause of war, we must remove man’s fear of to-morrow. The only way in which we can do that is to convince every youth entering upon his industrial life that if he lives an honest, decent, clean life as a law-abiding citizen, his economic security will be assured. If we are able to do that we shall, I am convinced, prevent the development of some of the least desirable traits of human nature. Thus man, instead of reverting to sharp practices and little meannesses of thought and action - of which he is anything but proud - in order to acquire money and independence, will be able to live as an honest citizen and good neighbour. In this way, we might hope to develop a community with a high morale, one in which industrial trouble would tend to disappear. We can eliminate the fear of communism only by destroying the causes of communism. Nothing so much tends to breed communism or leftism as do hunger, cold and fear. If we improve the living standard of our people, we shall destroy the breeding ground of leftist organizations, and the way to do that is to continue on the road which, I am happy to say, this Government has already begunto travel by developing a comprehensive system of social welfare. When that system is in full operation it will provide economic security for all the people. We shall become as a beacon light to the rest of the world. If our policy of social security is copied by other countries and by that process the fear of to-morrow, the fear of insecurity in old age, is eliminated, this nation will have contributed very considerably to the world’s ideal of peace on earth. I believe that only by this means shall we ever see fulfilled Robert Burns’ vision of a world in which -
Shall brothers be for a’ that.
, -The matter of international relations, which we are debating, is obviously becoming more important, particularly in view of the troubled conditions throughout the world. The statement that we have before us, which was prepared by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), gives a comprehensive survey of the activities of Australia, through its representatives overseas, in the discussions among the nations. When international affairs were debated in this chamber previously, great stress was laid by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), particularly, and his two colleagues .on the desirability of Australia’s foreign policy being entrusted to an all-party body, but the Government, as indicated by Senator Nash earlier, has set up an advisory committee - I stress the word “ advisory “ - to make recommendations on the Japanese peace treaty. As for setting up an all-party body to devise Australia’s foreign policy, we have to be very careful, because we remember that when this country was in peril during the war, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) walked out of the Advisory War Council. Two of his colleagues who did not follow him were chastised and eventually expelled from the party. So we cannot entrust international affairs to an allparty body in Australia. The best that we can do is set up an all-party advisory committee on certain aspects, such as the Japanese peace treaty, as the Government has already done. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the freedom of the press and mentioned the press conference that was then proceeding at Geneva. We know, however, that, for all practical purposes, the expression “ freedom of the press “ is a misnomer and that if there were real freedom of the press in Australia, the Labour party would never be out of office, a state of affairs which would he of great advantage to the people of Australia as a whole. Senator Rankin, in her contribution to the debate, stressed the need for a goodneighbourly policy. She said that we wanted peace with understanding. The Government is imbued with the idea of peace with understanding as is shown by its activities in the international sphere. The honorable senator then went on to say that Australia should not entrust its foreign policy to the waterside workers. That was merely destructive criticism and had no relation to fact. It was purely political propaganda. Senator O’Sullivan said that lip-service was paid to the Minister for External Affairs by some nations. The right honorable gentleman, as the representative of Australia in the councils of the world, has raised the status of Australia to a higher level than it ever previously enjoyed. He has earned the respect and admiration of every other nation with whose representatives he has met in conference. Senator O’Sullivan also referred to the suicide of the Czechoslovakian foreign minister and said, that we must exercise an influence for good in a troubled world. That is what we are trying to do. Illustrating the destructiveness of the criticism of our policy advanced by honorable senators opposite, Senator O’sullivan, in answer to a question as to what the Opposition would do in international affairs, made the amazing statement that no stone would be left unturned. Apparently, we may anticipate members of the Opposition going out on a stone-turning expedition. The honorable senator also referred to what he described as the rule of human law, but he made no solid suggestion as to the policy that would be applied by the Opposition if it regained power. I remind him that the only rule with the observance of which the Opposition was concerned when in power was the rule of gold. It transcended every other rule. Senator O’Sullivan also referred to the fact that Australia’s representatives at overseas conferences voted in accordance with their personal views. Is it not common, sense to say that if we send accredited and competent representatives to international conferences, obviously they must have a little latitude? Does the honorable senator suggest that before Australia’s representatives record their votes on every question that arises they should communicate with the Australian Government? Thai would be just too ridiculous. The very suggestion indicates that all we have received and can expect to receive from the (Opposition is destructive -criticism. The honorable senator criticized Australia’s -support of ,the Indonesian. (Government against :the Butch, but I remind the <S enate that it -.was -because of Australia’s intervention -in the Indonesian -dispute -and its reference of the matter to the United Nations that hostilities ceased The honorable member also -referred -to the Government’s -support of the Indians in .South Africa ,and of Russia against Great Britain. Both criticisms were effectively .answered by Senator Nash. Senator O’Sullivan -discussed “.our interference in international matte is “. If what -w.e have done in the international field is interference, why w.er.e the matters thenisely.es discussed ,by the United Rations 1 Obviously, the .representatives of the various nations assembled must vote one way or the (Other. After having dwelt for some time .on “Tinman lights”, Senator 0’S.ullivan even .criticized the Government for ‘having .sent food and .clothing .to what he described .as “satellite states of ‘Russia”. Apparently, his humane .’ideals .are restricted to a section of the human race. When asked whether he thought the press enlightened the people., “he made no reply at all. I point out that the Australian Labour Government does not deal with ambiguities and insincerities, as the Opposition does. It is imbued with the desire to secure^ as far as possible, the peace of the world. We have only to realize what the state of civilization would be in the event of another world war to “know why it is imbued with that desire. When the League of Nations was established after World War T., certain factors .operated in international relations which do not exist to-day. The United States of America, for instance, .did .not participate in the League. Now it is -one .of the leading members of the United .Nations, the sole objective .of .which is to -ensure world pearce. Australia’s responsibilities in .the (Sphere of international relations and ito the Bin t isla Commonwealth of Nations have greatly increased with .the passage of time «nd we -caust play an even greater part in world .affairs in the future than we have -done in the past. When governments supported by honorable senators opposite were in -office -they had no international policy. (Under *anti-Labour governments Australia .had -to .be content with ^following in the -trail -of Great Britain, sand (consequently we -had .no definite say in world affairs. The present Government realized that Australia must face up to the -very grave responsibilities which .befit our place, not .only ‘ in .the British Commonwealth .of Nations, but also in the .councils of the world. Not having the -courage .to (evolve .an international policy of their town ,and being still virtually in their swaddling olo.tk.es, honorable .-senators opposite look for guidance to some other .country.
Economics play ian important part in the present world unrest. I recall that a,t me Disarmament Conference .’held in London .an 19,31 .the predominating thought among the delegates w.as the (economic -and -financial interests of their respective nations. That .conference w.as virtually wrecked by the .representatives a/ the international .arms ring who saw in it ,a grave .threat .to the continuance .of their nefarious trade. We all remember that on the battlefields .of .Gallipoli Australian soldiers were mown down by guns made by Vickers .Limited, the English armament firm, , ana .that fuses made by the Krupps armament company in Germany were used by the allied nations to .explode .shells .that caused such .havoc among German troops. International financier.s backed both .sides during World War I., and they probably .did <so .again .during World Wau- II. The international financiers and .the .arms ring constitute the greatest hindrance Ito the maintenance of (world peace. In .an .endeavour to .curb their .activities Australia -has taken an increasingly (active interest in world affairs. The Government welcomes constructive .criticism from the Opposition in relation to such ian important .statement as that we are now debating. .The absence of constructive thought in .the criticism levelled .against the statement by hOnor.able senators opposite is a clear indication that .they are pr.epar.ad to use any means for their own political advantage. We cam we’ll imagine what wall happen to western civilization should international relations ,!De permitted to deteriorate to such .a -degree that another world war is inflicted upon us. The perfection of new weapons and the use of improved atomic bombs capable of inflicting even greater havoc than was wrought on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would bring intolerable suffering to the peoples of the world. Anything that this country can do to bring about enduring peace should be applauded by every right-thinking Australian. Have ing regard to its small population no nation has made a greater contribution than has Australia to international amity. Largely as the result of the efforts of the Minister for External Affairs, Australia’s name stands very high in the world to-day. Those who have read the statement prepared by the right honorable gentleman realize what an enormous task confronted him and how successfully he has discharged his responsibilities. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.’
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– I take the opportunity afforded by the scope of the motion to address the Senate on a matter which is the subject of controversy at the moment. I refer to the provision of pharmaceutical benefits. I think that it might be opportune to review the history of the scheme from its inception until the present time. As long ago as 1943 a previous Labour Government decided that it was proper that people who were sick should be relieved of the financial burden imposed by their illness, and that the burden should be borne by the whole community. Although the then government firmly believed that to be a proper community principle it was prevented, because of its limited constitutional powers at that time, from doing more than providing the necessary medicines for the sick. It entered on discussions with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia in the latter part of 1943, and intimated that it was contemplating drafting a formulary of the medicaments and alliances which it was disposed to provide free. Senator Fraser, who was then Minister for Health, invited the Federal Council to attend a conference, and suggested that it should submit a panel of names from which he would make selections for appointment to the committee which was to determine the contents of the formulary. In other words, the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia was given an opportunity to shape, design and fashion the Commonwealth formulary right from the beginning, and it is a matter for real regret that it declined that opportunity. It did not submit a panel of names, and it was not prepared to co-operate with the Government at the very outset in fashioning the scheme. However, in April, 1944, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act was passed. At that time I had not even become a member of the Parliament. Section 22 of that Act provided that under the scheme a doctor should not prescribe for a patient unless he made a personal examination of him, and that if the doctor did so he would be liable to a penalty of £50 or three months’ imprisonment. I record that fact at this stage, because I shall advert to it presently.
In 1945 the act was amended, principally in favour of the friendly societies, which were involved in conflict with the chemists as to their place in the scheme. The next development occurred when the Government sought to implement the scheme late in 1945. The Council of the British Medical Association in Victoria launched ,an a ttack against the two statutes, claiming that under the Constitution they were invalid. It is now a matter of history that its attack was successful, and that, the High Court held that the Parliament had exceeded its powers in seeking to provide pharmaceutical benefits for the people of this country in such a manner. The Government then took the obvious course of putting the position plainly before the people and saying to them, in effect, “ The social services of this country are in jeopardy, and we invite you now to write into the Constitution of Australia powers to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to provide for the people of this country maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits, child endowment, and pharmaceutical benefits “. The result of that referendum conferred on the Parliament power to make laws with respect to the provision of medical and dental services. At the referendum held at that time three questions were submitted, and it is significant that a very great majority of the people answered in the affirmative the questions relating to the extension of social services. They approved not only of writing that power into the Constitution, but they also returned to office the Government which had promised to implement that particular scheme if it were given the opportunity to do so. Therefore, in implementing this scheme the Government is bowing to the will of the people and is honouring a pledge.
About the time the referendum was held I became Minister for Health. I realized that there had been difficulties, and I considered that a completely fresh approach to the problem should be made. My officers and I took the opportunity to survey the operation of similar schemes throughout the world. There are not many similar schemes operating in other countries, but we surveyed such schemes as were in operation and considered their respective merits and demerits. I emphasize that we did not rush the matter. Subsequently I issued an invitation to the council of the British Medical Association in Australia to confer with me in order to discuss the whole position.
A conference took place in Melbourne in the early part of last year - I believe it was in April. The representatives of the British Medical Association mentioned three matters about which they were particularly concerned. They objected to the use of the formulary; they objected to the constitution of the formulary committee which, under the provisions of the act, was to revise the formulary from time to time and to determine its future shape and content; and they objected also to section 22 of the act, which provided a penalty of £50 or three months’ imprisonment for any doctor who prescribed under the scheme without making a personal examination of his patient.
The outcome of the conference was four-fold. Although the Federal Council of the British Medical Association did not acknowledge the principle involved in the scheme, it agreed to consider the formulary, and submit comments on it. For my part I acceded to the wish of the association and agreed to recommend to the Government that the formulary committee should be predominantly medical in character. I also agreed to reconsider the provisions of section 22 of the act. The Federal Council of the association also undertook to outline the circumstances in which it considered that it would be proper for a doctor to prescribe for a patient without making an actual examination of him. At that conference the Federal Council submitted to me two alternative proposals which would be starkly different in their effect. The first was that a doctor should be able to prescribe anything at all on his own prescription form, and that the Government should pay. The second suggestion was that a limited list of what were rightly called “ life-saving and disease preventing” drugs should comprise the formulary. The complete list was contained on one sheet of foolscap, and I find it difficult to understand the reasons which prompted the British Medical Association to make such widely differing proposals. In due course I received the Federal Council’s comments on the formulary. I submitted those comments to the experts who advise the Government on this matter, and I understate the position when I say that I was not impressed by the comments of the association on mamaspects of the formulary. I considered that the matter had reached a stage at which all proposals should be examined by experts. As a layman, I did not feel qualified to express an individual opinion upon it. One function that I, as a lay Minister, can exercise is to weigh on the one hand the advice of my experts and on the other hand the advice tendered by the Federal Council of the
British Medical Association, or other experts in opposition, and then, having conscientiously weighed that advice, steer the right course as I see it. I thought that a conference of experts should take place to deal not only with the Governments proposals hut also with the two alternative proposals that had been submitted by the Federal Council. Accordingly, I wrote to the council on r.he 7th July, 1947. This is the relevant extract from my letter -
As there are numerous other matters arising from a consideration of the list of drugs submitted by your council, I am of the opinion that the most expeditious method of disposing of ‘the matter would be to set up a committee of experts to elaborate and examine all of the proposals. [ emphasize the word “ all “ because, in its context, it plainly includes not only the proposals of the Government but also the two proposals of the Federal Council. My letter continued -
I suggest therefore that your council might nominate three members, preferably including a pharmacologist, to confer with three officers, including the Director-General of Health as Chairman, nominated by my department.
On the 8th September, 1947, about three months later, I received a letter from the Federal Council rejecting that proposal. This is the relevant extract from that letter-
The council lias considered the suggestion in your letter of the 7th July that there should be reference of certain minor details of its proposed benefits to a small committee. It feels, however, that the important matters of principle outstanding should be finally settled before further consideration is given to details. Once principles are established, the council considers, details will readily fall into place. [ direct attention especially to the words “ certain minor details “. The use of those words was a completely weak avoidance of my invitation, and the rejection of my suggestion for a conference was a very firm rejection of a suggestion for co-operation and examination at the expert level.
The next development was that the Government interposed the act of 1947. That act repealed the acts of 1944 and 1945 and included some new provisions. One of the really interesting features of the 1947 act was that it included a provision which indicated that the Government, on my recommendation, had decided to accede to the wish of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association that the Formulary Committee should be predominantly medical. That was arranged. The whole committee was reconstituted, and there are now only two pharmacists on a committee of seven. At the Melbourne conference, I extended to the council an invitation to submit to me a panel of names of doctors from which I could select some for appointment to the suitable positions on that committee. Again, the Government, through me, offered to the council an opportunity to play a part in fashioning the formulary for the future. The act of 1947 also completely eliminated the provisions of section 22 of the act of 1944. In the new act, and in the new regulations, there is no prohibition against a doctor prescribing for a patient without seeing him. That provision has been completely removed. There is a provision in the regulations incorporating a code that the Federal Council of the British Medical Association submitted to me as indicative of what ought to constitute proper prescribing. There is no penalty of any kind, either by fine or by imprisonment, attached to a breach of that regulation. It is included, in the terms suggested by the Federal Council, as a guide to members of the medical profession. The Government considered that it could rely upon doctors, under those conditions, to observe the code that had been laid down by their own Federal Council. No change was made in relation to the use of a formulary, the provision for which was retained for very good reasons, as I shall explain later in some detail.
The next development was the announcement during May that the scheme would take effect as from the succeeding 1st June. On the 15 th May, I -received a further letter from the association, repeating the two proposals that it had made, one for unlimited prescribing and the other for the very limited list of drugs. On this occasion, the Federal Council reaffirmed that it had no desire to deprive the people of Australia of free medicine and medical benefits of the type envisaged under this act.
In addition to writing to me, the Federal Council took another step. It handed copies of its letter to the press, and accordingly lifted the discussions, which up to that date had been proceeding between us in private, into the realm of public controversy. That was the act of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, not of the Government. On the day that it wrote that letter to me, the 15th May, the Federal Council also arranged for the distribution of a circular letter to all doctors in Australia. With the permission of the Senate I shall incorporate the full text of that letter in Hansard. It stated -
The Federal Council, at its special meeting on the 15th May, 1948, after consideration of the latest Government policy and the regulations, rc-affirmed its opposition to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947, which opposition is now embodied in this final request to members not to use the government forms and formulary.
If the council had been sincere in the proposals which it had made to me and had believed that the provision of pharmaceutical benefits should be confined to the drugs that appeared in its limited list, why did it make the request to the doctors of Australia not to cooperate at all in the scheme? If it had been sincere, why did it not intimate to the doctors that at least they might prescribe from the formulary those items of which it had approved? The letter continued -
Enclosed is a copy of the regulations under the act which concern medical practitioners and which you are asked to study carefully.
It had been the intention of the Federal Council, in an effort to secure uniform action throughout Australia to request all members to forward their copies of the government forms and formulary to the branch offices of the association as soon as they arrived. Perusal of section 34 and paragraph 10 of section 11 of the regulations will show that such action would now be illegal; this has been confirmed by counsel’s opinion. The Federal Council, is therefore, unable to issue a request on these lines and unless you refuse to take delivery of the documents when they arrive (a procedure which is quite legal) you will shortly find yourself in possession of the forms and formulary which the Federal Council is asking you not to use.
The documents referred to were the formulary, the prescription forms and certain directions. In short, the Federal
Council said to the doctors, who were members of the Association, “ When the government forms arrive, do nol receive them. Send them back “., Plainly, that was an attempt by the Federal Council to interpose its will in order to prevent the doctors of Australia from even becoming familiar with the contents of the formulary and the details of the Government’s scheme. Moreover, it had the serious aspect that it sought to prevent doctors from forming a judgment of the scheme on its merits. I suggest, too, that it betrayed a great lack of confidence by the Federal Council in the justification for its opposition to the scheme. The letter continued -
It is felt, however, that when members havestudied the enclosed regulations no urging by the Federal Council will be necessary to convince them of the wisdom of exercising their legal right to refrain from participating in the working of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act.
In order to avoid difficulties with patients who may not understand the attitude of the medical profession, copies of a statement for presentation to patients will be available to all members of the association at an early date; members’ are also urged to take every opportunity of explaining to patients that the action being taken by the profession is in the public interest as being calculated ultimately to induce the Government to supply free medicine under conditions which would be satisfactory to all concerned.
If any member is still unconvinced of tinwisdom of the Federal Council’s attitude, it is nevertheless confidently hoped that his sense of loyalty to his fellow members will ensure that the 1st June will find the medical profession throughout Australia united agains! what the Federal Council considers as an utterly unjustifiable attempt to place every doctor in the Commonwealth under government control.
Let us examine that communication for a moment. The Federal Council, which professes to contend so earnestly for the complete individual freedom of the individual doctor, asked in that letter that the individual doctor should subvert his own judgment, which would tell him that the scheme was good and that he should cooperate in it, to the decision and wish of the Federal Council. The letter continued -
Finally, I desire to inform you that -the Federal Council, in the hope, however faint, that the Government might see the wisdom of removing the present restrictions on prescribing under the Pharmaceutical Benefits
Act, has addressed a further communication to the Minister for Health setting out the profession’s views.
G. Hunter, General Secretary.
From the beginning to end of that letter there is no word and no thought of the patient. I replied to that letter on the 26th May, and, with the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall incorporate the reply in Hansard. It reads -
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 15th May, 1948.
A further reading of paragraph d in conjunction with the following paragraph of my letter to you of 15th April will make it clear that I did not claim that your council had over submitted a code of offences or penalties under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act.
The proposals made in your letter under reference do not differ in principle, and vary only slightly in detail, from the proposals of your council which were given the fullest consideration before Cabinet reached the decisions which were conveyed to you in my letter of 15th April last.
Accordingly, there is no ground upon which I would be justified in re-submitting the matter for Cabinet consideration. I gather from the terms of your letter that you recognized this would be the position.
I emphasize the following paragraph: -
I shall be ready to discuss in conference or otherwise any of the regulations under the act to which exception is taken orany aspects of the operation of the scheme.
My letter continued : -
I take the opportunity of making clear the Government’s position in relation to matters relevant to the comments in the third paragraph of your letter.
The Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary.
The only drugs excluded from the formulary are those which have fallen into disuse, those which serve no useful purpose and new drugs whose worth in the treatment of diseasehas yet to be proved.
The contents of the formulary will be under constant scrutiny and revision by the Formulary Committee comprised of experts. The act was amended to meet the wish of your councilthat the personnel of this committee should be predominantly medical. At our conference in Melbourne I undertook to make appointments to available positions on the committee from a panel of names to be submitted by your council.
The response by your council to my request that the council might comment on the formulary did much to convince me that the formulary was soundlybased, despite the maintenance of your council’s objection to the principle of a formulary.
In my letter of 7th July, 1947, I wrote - “As there are numerous other matters arising from a consideration of the list of drugs submitted by your council, I am of the opinion that the most expeditious method of disposing of the matter would be to set up a committee of experts to elaborate and examine all of the proposals. I suggest therefore that your council might nominate three members, preferably including a pharmacologist, to confer with three officers, including the Director-General of Health as Chairman, nominated by my department.”
I was greatly disappointed that your council did not see fit to accept this proposal,
Freedom op the Doctor’s Judgment.
Every doctor is completely free to take part or to refrain from taking part in the scheme. If he does take part he is not under the slightest obligation to confine his prescribing to the formulary. If he considers that the interests of his patient require a prescription outside the formulary he will act accordingly. The Government, and not the doctor, takes responsibility for the fact that such a prescription will not be available without charge to the patient.
In the Federal Council’s “ Common letter to Members of the Association in Australia “ issued to each individual doctor during the last few days, your Federal Council advised all doctors to refuse to take delivery of the Commonwealth formulary and prescription forms when they arrived.
It seems to me that in taking this action your council was actuated by a spirit of petulant resentment rather than by an appreciation of its consequences.
Your action seeks to deny to a doctor any opportunity to exercise his personal medical judgment as to the merits or demerits of the formulary and the Government’s plan.
Its effect will be to deprive large sections of the Australian people of pharmaceutical benefits which the Government proposes they should have and which the Australian people have plainly indicated they desire should be made available.
This attempt to interpose an iron curtain between medical practitioners and full knowledge of the Government’s proposals indicates to me that your council lacks faith in the merits of its objections to the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
In your letter to me of the 15th instant you have stressed that a doctor should have “ the right to use his judgment in perfect freedom “.
In your recent letter to all doctors the following passage occurs : - “ If any member is still unconvinced of the wisdom of the Federal Council’s attitude, it is nevertheless confidently hoped that his sense of loyalty to his fellow members will ensure that the 1st June will find the medical profession throughout Australia united against what the Federal Council considers as an utterly unjustifiable attempt to place every doctor in the Commonwealth under government control.”
I can only construe that passage us an appeal - if not a direction - to a doctor who does not subscribe to the views of the Federal Council, to suppress his medical judgment “ formed in perfect freedom “ to the views of your council. Your council itself thereby in effect seeks to deny to doctors that every freedom of judgment for which it professes to contend.
I am not to be taken as expressing criticism of your council’s appeal to its members for loyalty to the decisions of the Federal Council. The principle of solidarity underlying the appeal is clearly established in industrial and other organizations in Australia and is generally accepted. Your council should, however, recognize that its observance involves abandonment - in the case under consideration - of individual medical judgment.
One of the three alternative proposals which your council made to the Government was that the Government should pay only for items comprised in a very limited list of drugs and remedies. Nearly all these items are included in the Commonwealth formulary.
Whilst noting your statement that the medi- ‘ cai profession “has no desire to deprive the public of free medicine”, I point out that the Federal Council might well have demonstrated its earnestness to give at least some effect to that desire by advising doctors to use the formulary to the extent permitted by the restricted scope of yom council’s limited list, instead of seeking to prevent them from even acquiring knowledge as to the contents of the formulary.
I specially draw the attention of honorable senators to the following paragraph : -
The Government and the Council.
I express the hope that on consideration, the Federal Council will recommend doctors to give ‘ a fair trial to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Every doctor may participate in the scheme at will. I repeat my assurance that the Government will, if so desired, keep your council informed of the working of the scheme and give the most careful consideration to any suggestions your council may make for .improvement or alteration in the light of its practical application.
The remainder of the letter reads as follows : -
The Government has already displayed its willingness to meet the views of your council by reconstituting the Formulary Committee in accordance with your council’s suggestion, by abandoning penalties on medical practitioners for unnecessary prescribing, by agreeing to consult your council as to the form df sanction to be applied in respect of such prescribing if the need therefor should be established, and by its specific assurance as to the use that will be made of section 10 of the act.
In view of the fact that your letter of the 15th instant was handed to the press, you will, I am sure, concede me the right to follow your example with this reply.
That brought us to the stage where the public was in favour of the scheme, and the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia had stated its intention to interpose no difficulty in the way of the Government providing pharmaceutical benefits for the people of this country. The Government then introduced the scheme and is endeavouring to implement it. All the main parties had, at this stage, agreed upon the scheme in principle. The difference can only bfabout the methods to be employed.
We come now to a consideration of the only points to which exception was taken. When the Government gave consideration to the scheme, it found that there were three possible approaches to the provision of pharmaceutical benefits. The first wa.< the suggested method that the Government should pay for whatever a doctor liked to prescribe. Let us examine the implications of that proposal. Under such a system there could be no control of the scheme or of its cost. Drug* could be prescribed unnecessarily, wastefully, and in unlimited quantities. I have had ‘brought to my notice certain happenings in this country in the matter of prescribing. I have seen prescriptions for bottles of medicine containing eight expensive flavouring? and others for 21 drugs. I have seen one containing 23 drugs. Obviously, those were absurd, wasteful, and unnecessary prescriptions. We have before us the example of what happened in New Zealand, where doctor? are free to prescribe whatever they like, and the Government pays the ‘ cost. Following the introduction of the scheme in that Dominion, the cost per capita in 1942-43- Senator O’Sullivan asked me a question on that aspect this morning -was 6s. 10.7d. In 1946-47, the last financial year, it had risen to 16s. lid.nearly three time9 the original amount - and the total amount involved had risen from £1,133,000 in 1945-46 to £1,439,000 in 1946-47. I had the opportunity only yesterday of speaking to the former New Zealand Minister for Health, who was in charge of that scheme when it was introduced, and who saw it launched. I have his word for it - and he assured me that he had said so publicly - that 20 per cent, of the doctor? in New Zealand do 50 per cent, of the prescribing and that, in short, it is a form of advertising by those doctors, to a very large degree. Those facts are illuminating as to what can happen where there is no restriction or control. It is a state of affairs that the Government will not tolerate in Australia.
A vast staff would be required to implement a scheme of that kind. At present approximately 20,000,000 prescriptions are being written each year in this country. One does not need a great deal of imagination to picture the staff that would be required if every ingredient had to be inquired into and costed under such a scheme. An army of officials would be required, scattered from one end of the country to the other.
Let us examine the second approach suggested by the Federal Council. It submitted to the Government a list of items which it considered should be provided free. That comprised the costly sulpha drugs, penicillin, streptomycin, anti-malarial drugs, anti-syphilitic drugs, and items like insulin and liver extract in substitution therapy, and drugs such as adrenalin, digitalis and its preparations, all of which were contained on one sheet of foolscap. The great majority of them are of the type used mainly for serious illnesses in hospitals, though some are also used in private practice. I point out that for quite a long time - in fact since the introduction of the legislation for this scheme - all medicines used in public wards of public hospitals in this country have been supplied free to the patients.
An examination of the list submitted by the British Medical Association shows that if it were adopted only 25 per cent, of the prescribing that is done in Australia would be covered by a free scheme. The other 75 per cent, would be completely and entirely beyond the scheme. In short, if the Government were to accept that list of drugs the result would be that the people would pay for three out of every four prescriptions. The fatal objection to such a scheme is that in effect it differentiates between diseases. I point out that most of the items contained in that list are specifics. Their dosage is defined and they involve the exercise, relatively, of no discretion at all on the part of the prescriber.
Let me indicate the only type of assistance that we could extend if we adopted the very limited formulary of the British Medical Association. I have a list here, and it could be added to. These are the common ailments which would not be touched in any way if we were to adopt the limited list suggested by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association : Coughs, tonsillitis, constipation, conjunctivitis, vomiting, tuberculosis, angina pectoris, threadworm, rheumatism in its various forms, skin diseases such as ring worm, gout, epilepsy, sciatica, anaemias, except pernicious anaemia, bronchitis, influenza, indigestion, bladder affections, gastric and duodenal ulcers, measles, goitre, headaches, migraine, lumbago, sleeplessness, catarrh in its various forms, kidney complaints, burns and scalds, chicken pox, pleurisy, neuralgia, neurosis and neurasthenia, fibrositis and abrasions. Imagine this Government, with the mandate which it received in 1946, attempting to honour a pledge to provide free medicine whilst completely ignoring all those complaints ! Apart from every other consideration, it was politically impossible for the Government even to consider the British Medical Association’s limited list.
The formulary which the Government has issued is a neat little book of some 90 pages, which will slip readily into the pocket of a doctor, and which will be an ornament on his consulting table. It lists all kinds of medical requirements which people need - such as linaments mixtures, sulpha drugs, penicillin, biological products and all necessary items for substitution therapy. For an excellent reason, it does not include streptomycin. That drug has not yet been completely proven. In particular cases and under special conditions, it has certain dangerous toxic properties. Streptomycin has toxic effects which may cause some patients to become permanently deaf, or to suffer permanently from dizziness. The Government will not put into the formulary any drug which is not proven and which may have toxic effects. Although I make that statement, I do not desire honorable senators to think that streptomycin is not of any use. That would not be correct. It is of great use. We import every ounce of streptomycin that we can obtain from abroad, but owing to limited quantities, its use is confined primarily to hospitals and little of it is available for private practice.
When we turn to the heading “ mixtures “ in the formulary, we find that the full title of each mixture is set out. Alongside that is an abbreviated title. Below the titles, all the ingredients are set out. The importance of that arrangement will appear when I say that a doctor, instead of writing five or six ingredients when prescribing, will write the abbreviated title, and thus save himself considerable time. The formulary also includes various appliances such as adhesive plaster, eyedropper, eyebath, insulin syringe, zinc oxide, plaster and plaster of paris bandage. The formulary was prepared not by” the Government or by laymen, but by experts at the highest level. A formulary committee is to be set up to revise it from time to time in the light of practice and experience. The members of the committee will be predominantly medical men, and I have given to the Federal Council of the ‘British Medical Association an opportunity to appoint its own representatives.
The formulary has great flexibility. Items may be deleted from or added to prescriptions, or reduced. The formulary consists of some 600 items. Thousands of prescriptions may be dispensed from it. Provision is made for many prescriptions to be repeated. For instance, mixtures may be repeated up to three times, and patients who are suffering from recurrent, chronic or malignant diseases may secure thirteen weeks’ supply of medicine at one visit to a doctor. Persons who live in the outback areas will be able to obtain larger supplies than the residents of a city may get. We have omitted drugs which have fallen into disuse, drugs which are of no use, and drugs the uses and the safety of which have not yet been proved.
In June, 1947, in an Australia-wide survey, we asked chemists in cities and in country areas to send us fifteen consecutive prescriptions from a day’s list.
When we examined them against the Commonwealth formulary, we found that 90.6 per cent, of the prescriptions would have fitted easily and comfortably within the confines of the formulary, and 93 per cent, could have been dispensed from the amended formulary. In making that survey, we discovered that one bottle of medicine- contained 21 drugs; another bottle of medicine had eight different flavourings; and 25 per cent, of the prescriptions were in relation to proprietary items. The Commonwealth pharmaceutical formulary will cover at least 95 per cent, of the ordinary requirements of the people, if a doctor’s approach is tinged with even a little sympathy towards the scheme.
The reactions of doctors are interesting. I regularly receive letters containing abuse of the scheme, but I also get many letters commending it. I shall read to the Senate a brief extract from a letter which I received from a doctor a few days ago. I shall let it speak for itself. The doctor wrote -
My practice is chiefly lower middle class, without lodge or contract, technically somewhat restricted but fairly extensive in volume, falling somewhere between specialist and general practice.
A summary of facts, as I have observed them is as follows: -
Many patients seem to think that the scheme saddles me, their doctor, with an unfair and unnecessary burden.
The Commonwealth pharmaceutical formulary is remarkably full. In all case examinations I have applied the patient’s needs’ to the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary (never vice versa), and I find it measured up to requirements almost completely.
In only two cases out of 30 have I prescribed outside the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary, one of which was at the request of the patient for a proprietary preparation, which was pharmaceutically useless anyhow.
That doctor, who has an important specialist as well as general practitioner standing, has given ample confirmation from his practice in a very limited time of the scope and aptitude of the formulary. Honorable senators who read the newspapers, and I have no doubt that most, if not all, of them do, will have noticed in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 11th June last, a statement that a doctor who practices on the south coast of New South Wales was writing prescriptions in accordance- with; the- free medicine scheme-.. The newspaper reported1 him- as follows-:^ -
He- sail! yesterday’ that in a week lie had issued 141 prescriptions in’ the- formulary against one- outside it.
The objection of the British Medical’ Association to the scheme was exaggerated, he contended. Pb did’ not lead1 to. extra clerical work for.- doctors; although it did for chemists-.
Under the formulary, ho said’, he: could prescribe more drugs than ordinarily; and there was no worry– about the ability of patients to pay.
Ona- of his> patients- had! received) l’,G00jO.0O units of, penicillin, this week under the. scheme. f believe: that those- extracts are; relevant and substantiate m.y claim that the formulairy willi adequately cover’ at least 9.5 pen cent. of. the requirements of the; people-.. The- only purpose of, the formulary is. to prevent, waste and extravagance and. to ensure proper prescribing, and there is need, to- serve both purposes-.. Judging by the- objections aP the- Federal Council^, one.- would think that a» formulary was; ai new principle which the Government had cen.jiu-r.ed up audi wanted to foist on> doctors. Every public hospital, with the slightest standing; provides a f formulary to which doctors operating, in. it, whether they, be specialist,, honorary ok resident,, are confined’,, with- a high degree of strictness* and there has to be a good reason before they are allowed to prescribe outside the formulary. Of course, the matter is kept under proper, control. Every doctor’s training, is conducted in association with tile formulary, of the hospital in. which lie is trained’.
Let us consider the practice of doctors in, association, with friendly societies. Bight down the’ years, doctors operating lodge practices have been writing- prescriptions according, to a limited’ list of drugs, and every time they write a prescription they determine whether it shall fall within the free list or shall be one for which the- patient shall have to. pay. Under the- scheme, which- the- Government placed before’ the- doctors- of this’ country the position^ of the practitioners: is far better than it was before because- our formulary gives them wider1 scope than Chey ha>ve had under the- limited friendly societies7 list that they have been, using for SO long. If any one; wants; confirmation) of my statement that a. limited formulary is- nott new to* the- doctors of this- country,. I refer- Him to the. Australian War- Pharmacopeia, a* formulary used, throughout the- whole of the fighting forces1 during; the- war period. Doctors- in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force all used it. It was used also by, the majority of the medical’ practitioners of Australia, from 1942 to the end of the war. I want honorable senators to realize that the principle of ‘a formulary is established medical’ practice in. every responsible medical- sphere. Having studied the formulary, I have come to the conclusion that the objection of the Federal’ Council to the use of a formulary merely Because Lt. is a formulary is completely, without merit.
Hie- Federal Council” also objects- to the type of prescription- form, used’. It is a simple- and’ am ingenious arrangement, measuring a. few inches by a few inches, with carbon paper’ so- arranged1 that it fa’lls into< place without the doctor- having t’o touch ifr when- he- writes- the prescription’. Tha* is the- only form which a doctor is- asked to use. It will fit easily into- his pocket or- bag. Hie must write out- the1 prescription1 iai duplicate; That is.- very necessary,, as; I shall explain) in a moment Having; regard to. what I said earlier^, honorable senators must admit that, use of- the> prescription, form will sa,ve! the doctor’s; time., By. using the prescription he is relieved, i£ lie so wishes, of the. need for- setting out all the ingredients ;, he need, merely write the short title: q£ ai particular. prescription. The form; is; im duplicate £o,r two, reasons. It is essential that when a doctor orders repeats, of. a- prescription - amd. he may order up to. three. in. respect of. mixtures: - the patient, shall- not be confined to going- to the. chemist t,o> whom, he. took the original prescription., If the patient is to, be free* to move to another suburb, town: or even. State,, he must be enabled to take with him a cony of the prescription. He may, obtain a repeat of the prescription from, any chemist in- Australia by the. use of the duplicate. The second reason is that, when a- chemist has sent the original) to> the- Government for payment, he would, be without the slightest, evidence: of title to- justify his claim if. he- did not have a duplicate.
The original prescription form, and even a whole month’s prescription forms, might be lost. The existence of duplicates will obviate any injustice- which might be caused by loss of the original forms.
The prescription form is a very simple device. The forms are numbered consecutively so that they may be checked by the Treasury and be subject to audit. The form meets the convenience of the patient, protects the chemist, and suits everybody, even the doctor. The Federal Council’s objection to its use is as baseless as is its objection to the formulary. The Repatriation Commission’s prescription form is used by 2,000 medical officers who are scattered throughout Australia. It measures 8$ inches by 10i inches. There are two large sheets of carbon paper, the surface of which has to be handled by the doctor. That form has been used since the end of the 1914-18 war. Yet the Federal Council professes to object to the use of government forms by the doctors of this country. I repeat without hesitation that there is no merit in the Federal Council’s objections to the form or the formulary.
The British Medical Association has also stated that the pharmaceutical benefits scheme would regiment doctors. I invite honorable senators to ask themselves where regimentation exists when a doctor is completely free either to come into the scheme or to stay outside it. A doctor who comes into it is not bound by the formulary if his conscience and medical judgment dictate the prescription of something that is outside it. In fact, he has complete freedom of action. Of course, if a doctor prescribes outside the formulary’s range of prescriptions, the Government will not pay for the prescription; but it will accept full responsibility for that fact. From the Government’s viewpoint, there is no regimentation of doctors under the scheme. But I am not saying that there is no regimentation of doctors in Australia. The Federal Council’s “ request “ to doctors not to co-operate in this scheme, and if they do approve of it to subvert their own judgment to that of the Federal Council, does not deceive anybody into believing that that request was not intended as a command. When
I say that, I am mindful of the social and professional ostracism that is exercised by some doctors against other doctors from one end of Australia to the other. 3 know where such ostracism is operating to-day, from Western Australia through South Australia to Tasmania, not for reasons involving any act of moral turpitude on the part of the doctor ostracized, but simply because he had acted in a way that did not please the ruling body of the medical profession. That ostracism is one of the most cruel, vicious and unchristian things that is within the law in Australia. I have read the statement - whether it is authoritative I do not know - that no ostracism is being, or will be, practised against a doctor who comes into the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. If that be the case, I suggest that the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia should say so plainly, clearly and unequivocally, and explain to the people of Australia that its request to doctors not to co-operate in the scheme, but to subvert their own medical judgment, and not look at the prescription forms, was a request only, and not a command.
The Federal Council takes great exception to penalties. I have said already that all the penalties to which doctors were liable for prescribing without having made a personal examination of the patient have been eliminated. In the act itself, penalties are provided in two sections only. The first is section 7. Omitting the irrelevant words, that section reads - . . an approved pharmaceutical chemist, approved medical practitioner or approved hospital authority shall not demand or receive a payment (other than a payment from the Commonwealth) or other valuable consideration in respect of the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit.
Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for three months.
That section is not directed against medical practitioners alone, but against everybody in the field. The majority of the doctors of Australia are not approved medical practitioners. The only doctors who are approved are those in outback areas where there is no chemist. They are approved for the purpose of dispensing medicine and being paid for that dispensing. The section applies only to those doctors.It provides merely that they shall not charge patients when they are to be paid by the Commonwealth and that if they do they shall be liable to the penalty prescribed. Is there any reasonable person in the community who would say that it is not proper that, in those circumstances, a doctor should be prohibited from being paid by both the Commonwealth and by the patient, and that if be does accept payment from both a liability to a maximum penalty of a fine of £50 or imprisonment for three months is unjustified ? So much for section 7, with its very limited application to the doctors of this country. The only other section providing for a penalty is section 20. That section reads -
That means any person - shall not -
General or to an officer or person doing duty under this Act a statement or document which is false or misleading in any particular;
That does not apply to a doctor -
That may apply to a doctor -
That does not apply to a doctor -
Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for three months.
Only three of those provisions might apply to doctors. They prohibit the making of false and misleading statements or the presentation of such documents, the obtaining of payment for a pharmaceutical benefit to which the doctor is not entitled, or the obtaining of benefits or payments by means of impersonation or fraudulent devices. Does the Federal Council of the British Medical Association want the Government to redraft that section so that it will exclude members of the medical profession and provide that any person except a medical practitioner who does any of these things shall be liable to these penalties? Is it not right that, if a doctor or any other person acts in defiance of these prohibitions and makes fraudulent statements or performs fraudulent acts he should be liable to the penalties prescribed in this section? There is not the slightest merit in the Federal Council’s case so far as the act is concerned.
I propose now briefly to review the regulations in their application to doctors. Regulation 10 applies only to those few doctors in outback areas who are acting as chemists. Throughout the regulations no penalty of imprisonment is prescribed, although there is provision for fines of £50. It is well known that when a penalty is prescribed by legislation it is the maximum penalty and not the only one which can be imposed. If a penalty of £50 is provided, a court can impose a fine of anything between 5s. and £50. By regulation 10 an approved medical practitioner in an outback area is required to deliver up the forms that he used as an approved medical practioner - I emphasize the word “ approved “ - when a chemist comes into his area. If he does not hand them over, he is liable to a penalty of £50. I point out that the formulary contains dangerous and costly drugs. One prescription alone could cost the Government £12. The Senate can, therefore, appreciate the need for ensuring that the forms, if they are not in the hands of the proper people, or, even if they are in the hands of proper people, if there is no longer any need for them to be used, should be returned to the Government. The prescription forms are glorified cheques and require only the signature, or the forgery of a signature, of a doctor to become effective. The signed forms may be presented in any part of Australia. What chemist inCairns is to know whether the signature purporting to be that of a doctor in Hobart is genuine or a forgery ? Is there not a need to safeguard the forms and to see that they are not left lying about? If they are given away, or allowed to lie about or are not returned when they are no longer required, why should not a penalty be imposed on the persons guilty of such acts? For the same reason, another provision that makes a doctor liable to a fine if, without writing in a prescription on the form, he signs it in blank and sends it to somebody. Surely that is a proper and a necessary provision to make to safeguard the people against the wrongful use of dangerous drugs and to protect government funds. All the penalties that have any application to doctors in that regard are monetary penalties. To show the utter lack of merit in the complaint about provisions that are essential and proper, I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that in the Dangerous Drugs Acts of every State of the Commonwealth extraordinary penalties are provided in connexion with doctors and their prescribing. In New South Wales, the maximum penalty is a fine of £400 with or without imprisonment up to two years, in Victoria it is a fine not exceeding £500 with or without imprisonment up to three years, in Queensland it is a fine not exceeding £100, in South Australia it is a fine not exceeding £250 with or without imprisonment up to two years, and in Western Australia it is a fine not exceeding £250 with or without imprisonment up to twelve months. Has any honorable senator heard an outcry from the British Medical Association, either through the State branches or the Federal Council, against those very proper penalties? There is no merit whatever in the allegation that these penalties are directed at doctors and that they are improper, excessive or unnecessary.
I pass on now to consider a letter circulated by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association to doctors for handing to their patients.With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall incorporate it in Hansard -
WHY I, YOUR DOCTOR, WILL NOT TAKE PART IN THE “ FREE MEDICINE “ PLAN.
Theact limits “Free Medicine” to those preparations contained in a list (“The Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary”) drawn up by the Government, and no set list can meet the prescribing needs in my practice. In other words, I mustbe at liberty to prescribe the mixture I think best for your particular complaint and not the mixture the Government thinks adequate.
The Government refuses to accept a doctor’s prescription written on his own prescription forms as entitling a patient to free medicine, but insists that all prescriptions be written in duplicate on a government form. I refuse to carry out this procedure for these reasons -
It is entirely unnecessary.
It would require me to spend a con siderable part of my valuable time performing clerical work which could be done by others.
It would immediately bring me under government control, and I am not prepared to run the risk of being fined £50 or sent to gaol for three months for some so-called “ offence “ against the act or the regulations under it.
I haveno objection to the Government paying the chemist for dispensing any prescription I might give you - that is, supplying you with “free medicine “.
It will be seen that the second paragraph of the letter says that the Government refuses to accept a doctor’s prescription written on his own prescription forms as entitling the patient to free medicine, but insists that all prescriptions be written in duplicate on a government form, and that the doctor refuses to comply with this procedure because, first, it is entirely unnecessary. In the light of whatI have said about the convenience of patients who want to travel, of the need of chemists to secure payment and of the protection of the Government, which has to pay, that statement is completely uninformed and incorrect. I call attention also to sub-paragraph b which reads -
I have demonstrated clearly that the doctor’s time will be saved. Therefore, that statement is incorrect. Subparagraph c also merits a word. It reads -
I have put plainly to the Senate the circumstances in which a doctor may be imprisoned, and I venture to say that no one will disagree with the need for imprisonment in the very few circumstances in which such provision is made. It is not the individual doctor who is passing this letter on to his patient; it is the
Federal Council of the British Medical Association. The letter does not contain the individual doctor’s words.
I shall now say something about cooperation between the Government and the British Medical Association. There are groups in the community who are urging that the Government and the British Medical Association should get together and iron out their differences. I have given a review of what is going on. In 1944, the British Medical Association refused to join in drafting the formulary. In 1945, it attacked the legislation in the High Court. In 1947, it, refused to appoint three experts to confer with my representatives. As late as the 26th May last, I wrote to the association informing it that I was willing to discuss any aspect of the regulations it was unhapy about. Apart from a formal acknowledgment of that communication, I have not received a reply. On the 18th May, at the very time the Federal Council of the British Medical Association wrote to me, it was asking doctors not to co-operate and not even to look at the government documents, and also requesting that even if they thought the forms were good, still not to use them, All through these long negotiations there lias been complete rigidity on the part of the Federal Council. It has not conceded one point; the Government has conceded many. The Government has given to the British Medical Association predominatnantly medical representation on the formulary committee, and has agreed to make appointments to that committee from a panel of names submitted by the asociation. The Government has agreed to eliminate certain penalties and to confer with the Federal Council before shaping particular provisions. In contrast with the attitude of the medical profession, the chemists have co-operated most fully. They fought hard against and were unhappy about certain aspects of the scheme. On the 2nd June, the day after the scheme was introduced, only 147 out of 3,000 chemists remained outside the scheme, and only seven chemists throughout Australia intimated that they were not willing to participate. The friendly societies, too, have shown a high degree of co-operation with the Government.
Now we see the picture that emerges. We have some 6,000 doctors in Australia, with fewer than that number in private practice, who, for one reason or another, seem to be not willing to accept the will of the people or to co-operate with the Government in providing these benefits for the people who really need them. I say to the doctors of Australia that they get their living - some get their wealth, and a few of them get their very great wealth - from the sick and suffering in the community. This scheme affords to the doctors the opportunity to give some financial relief to the people who provide that living and that wealth. Yet, these are the doctors who will deny financial relief to their patients, and will say to the diabetic who must have insulin or die, “ I may write on this or that ; I will write on this one and you will pay “. The same applies to persons with chronic complaints. The doctors might have some regard for the 300,000 age pensioners of advanced years, who need medicaments. Of those, 65 per cent, have no income whatsoever apart from the pension, whilst 15 per cent, have no income beyond 5s. a week plus the pension. Out of the sum of £1 17s. 6d. they have to provide for rent, clothing, food, fuel, amusements and medicines. The doctors of this country have an opportunity to take the financial burden of providing medicines off that person. They might have some consideration also for the 72,000 invalid pensioners who are 85 per cent, incapacitated and extend the same consideration and relief to the sick and suffering of this country.
I noticed in the Canberra Times yesterday the following statement attributed to Dr. Hunter, the federal secretary of the British Medical Association : -
The general secretary of the British Medical Association (Dr. Hunter) said to-night that if any workers boycotted services to a doctor, British Medical Association members would retaliate by refusing to attend them.
Dr. Hunter was commenting on suggestions by several unions threatening to declare “ black “ doctors who refused to co-operate with the free medicine scheme.
I say that neither I, nor the Government, has directly, or indirectly, sponsored any pressure tactics on the doctors ; but I am shocked at the degree of irresponsibility that Dr. Hunter’s comment discloses.
It has been said that the implementation of this scheme . will require a vast army of staff. What are the facts ? Including the head office staff, there are 134 persons engaged in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, made up of 17 chemists, 23 clerks, 14 typists and SO girl checkers, most of the latter being juniors. If we were to adopt the scheme whereby the doctors may prescribe ad lib we should require five, six, or, perhaps, seven times that number of staff. One can imagine the time and labour that would be involved in checking the price and ingredients of every prescription.
– Is that all the staff that will be required ?
– Yes, that is the maximum staff and it is in full commission at present. We should have to employ many times that number were we to adopt a system of unlimited prescribing.
the present staff be sufficient if all the doctors came in?
– Yes; it can cope with the whole scheme. I regret that I have taken so much time on this matter, but the subject is important .and [ wished to canvass it. I am not dealing with certain matters which can be discussed later. I regret that the differences of opinion between the Federal Council of the British Medical Association and the Government have come to the stage of public controversy. It would have been much better had we been able to get agreement, and iron out differences and reach some understanding by an exchange of viewpoints. I understand the difficulties. I express my sympathy with the position of a doctor in the community to-day. On the one hand it is completely true that the good citizenship of the doctor is impelling him to co-operate with the Government of the day whether he approves its political colour or not. As a matter of ordinary, good citizenship he likes to be in accord with the Government. His concern for his patient will incline him to co-operate with the Government in providing these benefits. On the other hand, he has the “request” of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association pulling him in the other direction. In his case it is a matter of divided loyalties which the Federal Council of the British Medical Association can easily resolve. The Government will not know for some little time how many doctors are co-operating. We shall not know until the accounts begin to come in from the chemists some time next month. In the meantime, I do not propose to make any recommendation to the Government to alter the existing scheme, and I trust that it will not be necessary to make any alteration at any later stage. I suggest that in the meantime both the public and the doctors should be patient. It will take time for the doctors to become fully accustomed to the formulary, to grasp all its implications, and to understand the mind of the Government on this matter. I hasten to reassure the doctors as I have reassured the Federal Council of the British Medical Association on many occasions, viva voce and in correspondence, that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act has nothing whatever to do with the national health organization. There will be separate legislation in regard to that matter. The Commonwealth sought power in relation to medical services in terms that did not permit the. nationalization of the medical profession. The power that the Government asked the people of Australia to confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament was power “ to make laws with respect to the provision of medical and dental services, but not power to authorize any form of civil conscription “. Clearly that means that no doctor could be conscripted into a government service. This Parliament has no power, and this Government has no desire to nationalize the doctors of Australia. We envisage a development which I believe every doctor will be able to approve, but this is not the proper time to embark upon a discussion of that matter. I say, however, that the medical profession of this country should realize that the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is for the people, and has no relation, direct or indirect, to other policies that the Government may have in mind.
– The Senate, and, I am sure, people throughout the Commonwealth, have listened with great interest to what the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) has had to say to-night. I hu ve no intention of entering into a controversy on a matter which is essentially one between the British Medical Association and the Government. The Minister has stated his case. By means of the parliamentary broadcasting system he has been able to speak to the people of Australia, and I am sure that most listeners will agree that he has made a remarkably good case. I’ suggest that the Government might consider the equity of permitting a representative of the British Medical Association to state the case for that organization with the same facilities for reaching the people of the Commonwealth. A medical officer could be invited to speak over the national broadcasting system stating reasons for the reluctance of his profession to participate in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. If this were permitted the chances of ironing out the matters now at issue would be considerably enhanced. Medical men would at least be able to ventilate their objections to the Government’s proposals, and the people of Australia, who are chiefly concerned in this matter, would have an opportunity to hear the other side of the case.
I do not intend to speak at length on this measure, but I take this opportunity to point out that “ free medicine “ is a misnomer because, in fact, the medicine is not free. The people of this country pay n heavy social services contribution for entitlement to the benefits of this scheme. The social services contribution is ls. 6d. in the £1, and to the present the Australian people have received very little in return for that levy. I point out also that to be eligible for the so-called “ free medicine “ it is first necessary for a person to see a doctor and obtain a prescription. This, of course, meens the payment of a fee. There is considerable discontent in the community because of the heavy taxes that are necessitated by the Government’s social services schemes. Although it may be said that many people are not aware of the social services benefits to which they are entitled, there are others - I know quite a number in Queensland- who believe that they are poorly served indeed in return for the taxes that they pay. I refer specifically to the unemployment benefit. In Queensland, prior to the imposition of the Commonwealth social’ services contribution, under the State unemployment relief scheme each employee and employer paid 6d. a week into an unemployment benefit fund. This meant that in return for an annual payment of 26s. a year an employee was entitled to an unemployment allowance. This scheme was of particular value to seasonal workers such as cane-cutters and shearers. These people claim that although they are now called upon to pay a social services contribution of £40 or £60 a year, they receive in the main only the same benefit as that to which they were formerly entitled in return for the payment of 26s. a year. They take the view that the only Commonwealth social service upon which they make any call is the unemployment relief benefit. There is also considerable dissatisfaction on the part of those who for years have contributed to friendly society funds and other similar schemes. They maintain that they are already receiving medical attention, unemployment benefits, and free medicine, and that to some degree these services are duplicated under the Commonwealth’s pharmaceutical benefits plan. They claim that they are paying double for the benefits they are receiving. Many thousands of people will receive very little benefit, except perhaps free hospital accommodation in return foi the taxes that they are paying. I allude to members of the Public Service who are paying into their own superannuation fund, to employees of banks, in- surance companies and other large private firms who are entitled to superannuation and medical benefits schemes, and to those who pay into unemployment insurance funds. There are many thousands of such employees, and they can see little if any prospect of benefit to them under the Government’s social services scheme, although they will be required to pay a heavy social service tax. A great many people, no doubt, will regard their social service tax as a good investment, but the others whom I have mentioned cannot be expected to look on it in the same light. However, I do not propose .at this, stage foi gat into- the merits or,- demerits, of the’ social service tass. ©taring the> recent referendum. 0ampaign I observed that among’ ai burge section, of the’ public there1 was at strong feeling tha* they had been badly served by the Labour Government. The result of. the: referendum showed that there isa. revolt against regimentation) and. high taxation, and indeed against-, the general policy of tha Government. Honorable senators who support the’ Government may say that the issues involved in the campaign) had nothing to, do. with the Government’s general policy, but, I heard the statement repeatedly, even from, those w,ho. are: normally Labour supporters) that they, proposed to vote “‘No “ because, they, “ would give, no more power to Chifley “. Mr.. Chifley is> the leader of. the Government,, and the answer which the. people ga.v.e a.to the referendum was an indication, that the. people as a whole are: opposed to the Government’s policy. Although the referendum vote was overwhelmingly against the Government’s, proposal,, the Government has shown undue haste in seeking to hand” over control of rents, and prices to the States. The Government Has full power to exercise,- these controls until” the end of the year,, and, if necessary,, its authority cant be. renewed for another twelve months. The people did not vote against, the. present exercise, of Commonwealth control, but. against the retention of the power in perpetuity.
Since the beginning of the war, there nas been a most disturbing drif t of population from the country to the cities.. The last census- showed1 that the population of Australia has increased’ by approximately 1,000’,000 during the last twelve years, and it is- alarming to note that of this increase 78 per cent, has settled in the metropolitan areas. At the beginning of the century, only 36 per1 cent of the total population was in the capital cities, 74 per- cent, being; in the country. In 1!9’21!, 43’ per cent, of the population was in the- capital, cities. In, 1’933:, the- percentage had risen to 46, and in 1’97 it was- 61. Australia rs essentially a primary-producing country.. For many years, we- have exported our primary products such as: wool, wheat, meat, &c, which have; been) im great demand overseas;.. The, prosperity of ‘ our secondary and1 tertiary industries is who% dependent upon- the prosperity of the primary industries. Whenever there- ha1? been an- economic depression’ in’ Australia’, prices of primary products- have been low: At the present time; our primary products, particularly wheat and1 wool1, are bringing’ higher’ prices than ever Before- *m the- history of the- country. That is reflected’ in- the prosperity of our secondary and tertiary industries- and’ the general’ prosperity of our people. If we are to stop the drift to the cities’, it will Be very necessary to ensure, as far as it is possible for the Government to. do so, that primary products shall’ be kept at reasonable, prices. It is impossible,, of course, for the Government to stabilize, the prices paid’ for our export’s on the world’ market, but- home-consumption prices can be stabilized^, and’ it is in that direction that the Government can ensure reasonable remuneration to the primary producers. I maintain,, however,, that the Labour party, Because it. is dependent, on support from the large and closely-settled industrial areas,, and’ because its policy is shaped by the big, industrial’ trade unions, cannot truly have at. heart the welfare, of the country people. Amenities, approaching those available- to people in the cities’ are also necessary- if we are to induce people still on the land to remain on it and’ others who have left it to return to. it. People in the cities are able, to exert, such a strong influence on governments, both Federal and’ State, that their amenities and hours of work are very much better than those with which the country people have to be content. Unless conditions, are made better for country people, the drift to,- the cities will be intensified rather than arrested,, and our whole economic structure will break down, because of the consequent, diminution of. our real wealth which is the. product of the land.. Another highly, important step, that must be taken in the campaign to stop the drift is the decentralization of secondary industries and their establishment, where, possible, in.r-ur.al areas. That is necessary from the point of view, of not only our general economy but also, defence.. Large industrial centres where people- are- gathered together in great numbers offer tremendous targets for modem weapons of’ war. S’o It is most important that a young country Tike Australia should start as soon as possible to establish secondary industries in country districts instead1 of the large1 coastal cities; where they are concentrated to-day. Another most important factor in inducing people- to stay ire the country or return, to the country » the provision of-‘ adequate means of transport. That’ implies Hie, provision- of’ good’ roads. Most of our good roads are’ in the coastal districts and the1 large: capital cities and provincial1 cities1. In country areas there in* thousands of miles- of inferior- roads that are merely dirt tracks. Unless1 they aire converted’ into- road’s of a better type, i:t will be useless- to try to keep men on the land1 and induce- others to go on- it. At one time, the proceeds- of the petrol” tax were entirely devoted to the building, of highways in country districts’. That tax is a tax. on transport: It is levied at the rate of lO.-Jd. a gallon, and1, is a very high tax on the users of” motor vehicles: It is a tax that bears more harshly on country people’ than city people.* The- city man is less dependent on- motor’ vehicles! because he: hass- ait his command trains,, trams: and omnibuses, as. well, as; ta,im. It. is estimated that the petrol tax will yield ku 1947-48 about £16,000,000, o£ which £ 6>2.0%Q00 is proposed to. be- expended on the- provision o£ roads,, leaving. £9,800,000 to go into the. consolidated revenue… So- nearly twothirds of the proceeds of a tax on transport is earmarked for the; consolidated revenue when, many thousands of miles of dirt, roads, im the country areas need culverts, bridges and other improvements to make them an adequate means, of communication. Of the £6,200,000 an amount of £4,600;000- has been set aside for State highways, £1,00<D,0”00 has been allocated Ho- Tocal governing bodies for road construction in sparsely populated areas, *£50@>,®Q0> is to be devoted to roads con.trolled by the Commonwealth, and £100,000 has been set aside for road safety devices and’ propaganda. The provision of funds for the promotion of road safety is very laudable. I am unable to understand,, however, why such a small portion of the £16,000,000 derived from the petrol tax should be. sett- aside for the construction) and1 maintenance of State highways. In wet weather many of these roads are impassable an(i .mails- amd other amenities, which the- country people have a right to receive are denied to them. Too- little has been allocated to local governing bodies, foa- the; construction of roads in sparsely populated areas. Many shire councils ian Queensland are1 responsible for1 .the repair, and maintenance of more #h,mn 1^00®’ miles: ©1” road. All o$ them are- mainly dependent om revenue collected from settlers- residing within the areas1 under their control j but the- roads for1 which they are; responsible: are used not only by ratepayers! living within the boundaries of the shires, hutt also by the people generally. Because of steeply rising costs- these local governing bodies ante experiencing, great difficulty in keeping the; roads under their, control in even a minimum state of repair. The. Australian Government should assist them by relieving them, of responsibility for arterial, roads running, from one shire to another which are- of benefit,, not only to the. people, residing, in the areas, concerned, hut alao to the community as a whole. I have, been asked on numerous, occasions h.y members of shire connells to press the Government, fiar a greater allocation of funds, for the repair and maintenance of roads of that. type.. Many of them should no.w. be classified as national highways. The. Australian Government should’ bear the cost of. their upkeep, leaving to- the councils the supervision of the work. It would be of considerable direct benefit to the. Commonwealth to keep these road’s in reasonably good repair. If motor vehicles are forced, to use corrugated or badly worn roads they rapidly deteriorate and involve the owners in heavy repair and replacement costs. In addition, motor vehicles use a good deal more petrol when, they are being driven over bad roads and as, most of the vehicles used in the outback areas, are of American make this added petrol consumption means a heavier drain on the dollar pool.
The financial statements issued by the Treasury reveal the buoyancy of the revenue for the current financial year. It is expected that receipts will exceed’ the Estimates by approximately £46,000,000. A large- portion of the taxes collected from the people are paid by primary producers. For instance, wool, lias increased in .price three or four fold since 1939, and the incomes of wool producers have risen accordingly. The Treasurer has reaped the benefit of these enhanced prices in increased income tax collections. I maintain that some portion of the very substantial revenue contributed .by primary producers should be returned to them in the form of governmental expenditure to provide improved facilities in country areas. If it be correct that £46,000,000 has been received over and above the estimated revenue, it should not be difficult to provide money for the construction of new roads in remote country areas and the improvement of existing roads.
During the election campaign which preceded the return to office of the present Labour government with such substantial majorities in both Houses of the Parliament, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) assured the people of Australia that his party intended to implement an effective reconstruction policy in the difficult period of transition from war to peace. However, when we review the history of the period which has since elapsed, we find that instead of devoting its energies to the reconstruction of industry, the Government has continually pandered to socialists and Communists. Time and again the Government has failed to stand up to its responsibility to maintain industrial peace and promote production. Instead of applying the penal provision of the Crimes Act to those who cause industrial disorder, the Government has sought to appease the extremist elements. Industrial extremists have caused strike after strike, and the position has gone from bad to worse. Production to-day is less than it was when the war ended, and shortages of goods and services are also more evident than they were at the cessation of hostilities. “When we analyse the policy which the Government has pursued during the period since the war ended we find that it has been mainly concerned to nationalize the means of production, distribution, exchange and transport. We have the example of its legislation to nationalize hanking, the taking over of private air- lines, and its participation in the International Wheat Agreement. In contrast with this attitude, the Opposition has consistently advocated increased production as the best means of solving post-war problems. Although every time we have drawn attention to the necessity for increased production, we have been subjected to ridicule by honorable senators who support the Government. I now notice that even the Prime Minister now seems worried at the paucity of production. In the course of an address to the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party during the weekend, he is reported to have said that if production did not increase the consequences would be serious. Yet, we advised the Government three years ago that production must increase: The Government is responsible for the decline of production, because instead of adopting a firm attitude with the extremists it has allowed them to dictate the country’s policy and to demonstrate that they were the real rulers of the country. The production of primary and secondary industries is lower- .
– That is wrong.
– It may be that in a few industries production has increased, but in all the important activities production has declined.
– In what particular industry has production declined?
– To take only one example, the production of metals is lower.
– That is not right; the statistics do not show that.
– Because of the higher price of goods the monetary value of production has increased, but the volume has declined.
– The country has never enjoyed so much prosperity.
– Prosperity is not production. The only way to determine the actual production is to ascertain the units of goods and services produced. Because of prevailing high prices and inflation caused by shortage of goods, the monetary value of production has greatly increased, but the actual production has declined, and I defy any honorable senator to contradict that statement.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition mention one industry in which production has declined?
– Production has declined in the dairying, wheat and wool industries, and the production of metal/1 has also declined. Butter is “ down “. Although honorable senators opposite know that production of every kind is u down “ in the actual number of units produced, they keep on trying to persuade us that everything is all right because prices are high. However, if they care to visit the country areas of Australia, they will discover that primary producers cannot procure sufficient manufactured goods to enable them to continue producing. Farmers are unable to obtain fencing wire, galvanized iron, wire netting or piping, because the Government has been unable to encourage sufficient secondary production. I have asked time after time in this chamber why sufficient sheet iron, fibro cement and other roofing materials are not available ro enable houses to be completed.
– The Leader of the Opposition should blame the manufacturers.
– I am blaming the Government, because it is responsible and must accept the blame. Whenever I have asked questions of Ministers regarding this matter, they have invariably stated that delay in transport due to lack of chipping was the cause of the shortage, or they have made some other excuse. Even if delay in transport due to lack of shipping were the cause, the Government is responsible, because the waterside workers are not pulling their weight. Although the Government has pandered to the waterside workers by appointing conciliation commissioners to hear their complaints, by ordering special attendance money to be paid to them, and by providing all sorts of amenities for them, the waterside workers are only shifting 75 per cent, of the quantity of cargo which they shifted before the war. Indeed, in many ports they are handling only 50 per cent, of the quantity which they handled in 1939.
– That is not true.
– If the honorable senator will take the trouble to look at the statistics he will see that my statement is perfectly true. That is the reason why some of these goods are not being properly distributed. However, the real cause of shortages throughout Australia is that commodities are not being manufactured in sufficient quantities to satisfy the demands of the consumers.
– Is that what is wrong in Great Britain, too?
– Great Britain if able to. export more than it was exporting before World War II.
– It is starving its people in order to do so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - Order! Interjections are too numerous and the Leader of the Opposition must discontinue answering them.
– Shortages of all sorts of commodities are acute not only in Queensland but also in the other States. Let the Minister for .Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) go to Brisbane, Rockhampton or Townsville and try to buy a bath-tub. He would probably find that such articles as bath-tubs and kitchen sinks are unprocurable.
– The Government has no control over those articles.
– Controls are not the trouble. The output is inadequate.
– Failure of private enterprise !
– It is easy to blame private enterprise, but this Government is responsible because it is responsible for conditions of work and trade in Australia. It is so weak-kneed that it permits disastrous strikes to occur and to continue. It. has engaged in a policy of appeasement of the workers and has given in to the communistic extremist elements merely in order to gain their support at the elections. However, it has allowed disruption to become so widespread that it has become frightened at last and is now trying to clean up some of the mess that it has created. .Strikes have occurred continually during the last three years and they have been particularly frequent in the 21 months since the Government was returned to power to carry on with its programme of conversion from a war-time economy to a peace-time economy. It has fallen down lamentably on its job.
Many industries are not producing sufficient goods to supply even local demands, although hundreds of thousands of men and women have been discharged from the armed services during the last few years and trained to go into industry. Even with the help of the extra manpower made available in this way, we have not been able to make any appreciable progress towards satisfying the needs of the consuming public.
The principal reason for this state of affairs is that the available mail-power is not being used to the best advantage. Statistics show that too many men and women are engaged in non-productive employment, and the Commonwealth Government is the worst offender in this field. In 1939, 68,000 persons were on the Commonwealth pay roll. In October, 1.947, the number had increased by 92,000 to 160,000, a rise of 135 per cent. I admit that certain controls had to be exercised by the Commonwealth Government and that extra public servants had to be employed for that purpose. Nevertheless, redundant staffs have not been properly combed out, and the Government has allowed many departments to expand alarmingly. Every honorable senator agrees that one of the greatest causes of trouble and suffering in Australia at present is the shortage of houses. Wherever one goes, whether it be Canberra, Townsville, Perth, or anywhere else, there is an acute shortage of houses.
– That is largely a legacy from anti-Labour governments.
– It does not matter now what caused the shortage. Government supporters make too many excuses for their inactivity. For the past 21 months we have heard nothing from them but excuses, excuses, excuses ! If they would only do something constructive we might have a chance of overtaking the lag. It is all very well for honorable senators who have comfortable houses to talk lightly about the shortage. They do not feel its effects as do the people who have to battle around to find accommodation. I know men and women who have been, striving unsuccessfully for years to get houses.
– Why did not the honorable senator and his friends build houses when they were in power?
– I remind the honorable senator that, despite great increases in other industries, employment in the building trades has risen by only Sper cent, since 1939. There were 151,000 employees in the industry in 1939, and that total had been increased only to 363,000 in October, 1947. This is an. alarming fact in the light of the population increase of 1,000,000 revealed by the latest census. Statistics released in March showed that, during the first quarter of this year, 14,300 additional people had gained employment in the Commonwealth. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) took pride in saying, “ Look at the extra employment we have created in the first few months of this year but an analysis, of the figures revealed that 11,100 of the new employees were being paid by the Commonwealth. Private enterprise had engaged only 3,200. That is the reason for my charge that the Government is not using available man-power to the best advantage. It is attempting to put too many people on the Commonwealth pay-roll. We all know that the object of the Australian Labour party is for the Commonwealth to become the master and employer of all labour in the country. That is the aim of its scheme of socialization. By building up Commonwealth services, at the expense of productive industries, it is gradually approaching its objective, but it is also making many people miserable and dissatisfied. Evidently that is part of its policy, too.
– The people were not happy in 1933 !
– They were even more unhappy in 1931 when the Scullin Government was in power.
– That Government was opposed by a majority in the Senate.
– Unfortunately, the Labour Government has sabotaged the Senate for the next five years. In order to retain a majority in this chamber, it has introduced the system of proportional representation for the elections next year.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order ! The honorable senator is entitled to be heard without interruption. I ask honorable senators to refrain from interjecting.
– Honorable senators supporting the Government seem to be a little thin-skinned. I do not mean to be provocative, but I am trying, to explain–
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The honorable senator will continue hi3 remarks.
– I wish to make my sentiments clear. I say that the Government has sabotaged the Senate by introducing the proportional representation system. Its action will be effective until 1953. The Government evidently realizes quite clearly that it will be defeated in the House of Representatives election campaign and, by means of an underhand trick, it intends to retain a majority in the Senate. However, my colleagues and I - there are only three of us in the Opposition - consider that the people of Australia, from the rank and file workers right up to the executive heads, should have restored to them some incentive to produce more by substantial reductions of taxes being granted. I know that supporters of the Government will immediately cry out “ How can we on the one hand provide better roads and various other services, and, on the other hand, reduce taxes?” It is quite evident that the Australian Labour party looks upon taxation merely as a means of extracting money from members of the community. The Government has no regard to the fact that, when taxation is imposed at extreme rates, sooner or later the wells from which revenue is derived will dry up. Excessive taxation ruins incentive and makes it difficult for business concerns to introduce new methods. The Government is taxing those businesses so heavily that, in many instances, they are almost crippled. It cannot be denied that taxation judiciously applied can be a spur to industry, with profitable results to the Treasurer. I claim that the incentive to produce more would be restored if taxes were reduced. By that means more real wealth would be produced, apparently, but that is a factor that the Government cannot understand. There would be a greater turnover of goods in the community and more wealth would be spread over a bigger group.
By that means the same income from taxes would be derived by the Government, but from a wider taxation field than at present. A great amount of money is held by the Government, which cannot spend it. A reduction of taxation would enable that money to be released and thus remove to some degree the constant fear of inflation which at present exists. There is nothing new about the principle I am propounding. The Opposition has continually requested that a substantial reduction of taxes be effected. The Government has belatedly seen the wisdom of the suggestion, and has reduced taxes, to some extent, but it has certainly been too latecoming into the field, and has not reduced them sufficiently.
I also suggest to the Government, for what it is worth, that if firm method? were adopted in dealing with the instigators of illegal strikes, production would be considerably increased in all spheres of activity.
– What abou! the doctors?
– The doctors have not signed any agreement with the Government.
– Neither have the coal-miners.
– I have no brief for either the doctors or the Government. The controversy between them is entirely a matter to be settled by the British Medical Association and the Australian Government, and I am not going to be drawn into taking sides in the matter.
– Because many doctors support the party to which the honorable senator belongs !
– The honorable senator apparently knows better than 1 do myself what my feelings are. I have endeavoured to reveal, even at this late stage, the faults of the present system of high taxation, and have offered some sound advice to the Government as to what can be done to lift this country out of the depression - and 1 contend that it is in a depression - caused by shortages of goods and materials right throughout the country. In a way that is very nearly as bad as a shortage of money, because eventually, with the shortage of goods, prices are bound to rise. When people have the money, they will pay high prices to secure the goods they require. I reiterate that the solution of our troubles at the present time can be reached only by increased production and a substantial reduction of taxes. We have the paradox that whilst there is plenty -of money circulating in the community, there is a shortage of goods. The Government has fallen down on its job inasmuch as it has not been able, successfully, to effect the changeover from war to peace. In the recent referendum on prices and rents, the people proved in no uncertain manner that they are fed up with the way that the country’s affairs, are being mishandled.
.- The debate this evening has been in relation to the attitude of the British Medical Association towards the proposals of the Government.
– In the debate on Supply, reference can be made to any subject.
– I am perfectly aware of that. I propose to deal with what the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) said to-night when he dealt with the attitude of the British Medical Association. I think the people of Australia are very desirous of hearing the views of both the Government ;ind the British Medical Association. Tonight is the first occasion on which this Senate and the public of “Australia have had an opportunity to hear both sides of the question. I was astonished to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) suggest that a British Medical Association representative should be privileged to come to this chamber and state the views of that association, so that they could be broadcast to the people of Australia. I should be quite prepared for that course to be adopted if the British Medical Association were prepared to abide by the decisions of this Senate as to what the association should do in relation to the proposals of the Government.
– What an unbiased decision they would get!
– After listening tonight to .the Minister’s explanation of the attitude of the Government, and the correspondence which he read to honorable senators, I am convinced that. 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the people of this country will endorse the attitude of the Government, as opposed to that of the British Medical Association. The Leader of the Opposition stated that certain persons who were allegedly members of the working class - he did not say exactly that they were members of theLabour party - ‘had informed him in conversation that they were not in favour of the social,’ services tax. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the Lyons Government, which he supported, sponsored a national health and insurance scheme based on compulsory contributions. The Chifley Government is making history in the sense that for the first time in our lives we shall be provided with free medicine. Having listened attentatively to the speech of the Minister for Health, I am convinced, that the attitude of the British Medical Association is actuated by political motives. The Minister stated that throughout the Commonwealth there are approximately 400,000 persons including invalid pensioners in receipt of pensions. The majority of them require free medicine more urgently than do the younger people of the community, and they will benefit from this legislation. ] shall cite a specific case which came to my notice. A pensioner who was suffering from an affection of the heart consulted a general practitioner. The patient was -a member of a medical benefits society, and the prescription which the doctor would have issued in normal circumstances was not included in its formulary. As the medicine would have cost 27s. 6d., the doctor did not prescribe it because he knew perfectly well that the patient could not afford to pay that price for it. Subsequently, the cost of the medicine was defrayed from another quarter. Many pensioners would benefit greatly from the Government’s free medicine scheme.
The. Leader of the Opposition pointed out ‘ that such persons as the employee? of insurance companies, banks and other institutions already contribute to sickness benefits funds. Under the Government’s free medicine scheme, a person may receive up to £2 a week from a private fund and still be eligible for free medicine under this legislation. In short, a married man with a wife and family, who contributes to a private sickness benefits fund may receive a total of £4 10s. a week. Apparently this social advance which the Government is making annoys members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. However, the Government is determined to make social security, not a dream, but a reality.
The Leader of the Opposition declared, with obvious satisfaction, that the decisive rejection of the Government’s referendum proposals indicated that it would be defeated at the next election. Apparently, the honorable senator is not aware that the result of a referendum is not necessarily a guide to an election. For example, in 1937, the Lyons Government, which the Leader of the Opposition supported, invited the people to vest in the Commonwealth control of intra-state marketing and aviation. Both proposals were defeated. The voting in favour of the aviation proposal was 1,924,000, and against it, 1,609,000: Although a majority of the people were in favour of the pro,posal, a majority of the States rejected it. The voting in favour of the marketing proposal was 1,259,808, and against it 2,214,388. Although a majority of nearly 1,000,000 people rejected the marketing proposal, the government was’ returned at the following election. Therefore, any satisfaction which the “ Leader of the Opposition derives from the result of the recent referendum is based on wishful thinking.
I shall briefly examine the reasons why the people rejected the last referendum proposals. Members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party warned the people that if they voted “ Yes “, they would be voting for Canberra control.
– Chifley control.
– No, the words were distinctly “ Canberra control “. Of course, we know perfectly well that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are doing their utmost to secure Canberra control. What was the fate of the recent referendum?
– It was defeated.
– The electors were told that the States were the only authorities which could effectively control rents and prices. Immediately the referendum was defeated the Liberal Government of Victoria expressed the hope that the Commonwealth would continue to exercise the present controls.
– Why should the Commonwealth abruptly abandon these controls?
– Opponents of the Government’s referendum proposals told the electors that the Commonwealth could not and should not control rents and prices.
– When the people rejected the referendum proposals, the Commonwealth decided to transfer the control of rents and prices to the States with the utmost possible despatch. That was the only reasonable course for the Government to adopt in view of the people’.’ decision.
Whilst opposed to the Government’.free medicine scheme, honorable senator? opposite do not condemn free education. They desire to strip the Commonwealth Government of all its authority. The Leader of the Opposition went so far a.to say that the Commonwealth should be relieved of responsibility for roads, and that such responsibility should be transferred to local governing bodies.
– That is correct.
– The honorable senator adopted a most parochial attitude.
– In addition, the Leader of the Opposition tried to insult the Government and, by implication, every worker in the community. I ask the honorable senator whether it is not a fact that the balance-sheet of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which was issued a fortnight ago, was the best in the history of that company? Of course it was. It made a profit of £1,250,000. and the directors announced that they would declare a dividend of. 9 per cent., but, in fact, they declared a dividend of 18 per cent., because each share holder received two shares for each one he held.
– How does the honorable senator know?
– I read the report of the company, and surely the honorable senator would not say that the company issued a false report. These huge profitare being made by the company, and the honorable senator asks who produce’-! them. Was it not the workers who produced them? The honorable senator says there is a lack of ships to take coal to Melbourne. Private enterprise has not the ships to take the coal from Newcastle to Melbourne, Adelaide or Hobart. A few weeks ago it was necessary to make special arrangements for passengers to travel by aeroplane from Melbourne to Launceston and Hobart because there were no steamers to take them. Yet, 20 or 30 years ago there were three or four steamers running to Hobart. The fact is that private enterprise has fallen down on the job of providing essential sea transport, find the honorable senator knows it as well as I do. The Opposition is trying to blame the Chifley Government because there are no ships running between the mainland and Tasmania.
– The honorable senator cannot deny it. The whole country can see it.
– Yes, the whole country can easily see what has taken place. I believe that the people are interested in securing not only a wage while they are employed, but also something when they happen to be unemployed. The Government not only provides that security but it also makes provision for persons to receive sickness benefit payments under this scheme. I hope that the honorable Leader of the Opposition will see the error of his ways, because I do not believe that he really believes everything he says about this scheme. If he did I think he would surprise the members of this Senate, for none of us believes him jo heartless as to deny sick people the right to medicine. Of course, members of the Opposition have to be loyal to their party. I had not heard the Government’s case for the pharmaceutical benefits scheme until the Minister for Health put it before the Senate to-night, and I am satisfied that no person, whether a senator in this chamber or a person outside listening to the broadcast of proceedings, could find fault with his presentation of it. I am convinced that SO per cent, of the Australian people will agree with the Government and will support the actions of the Minister in relation to the difference of opinion which lias arisen between the Government and the British Medical Association.
– I propose to confine my remarks to what is erroneously but popularly referred to as free medicine. 1 submit that it is not free any more than the State railways are free or, as tho honorable senator said, education is free. Perhaps the last free thing that any of us ever experienced was our school picnic. That was free to us as children only because others, either our parents or the committee or others who provided the good things, paid for it, . and put in a lot of hard work to make it possible. Only because of their sacrifice and energy was the picnic free. It is not fit and proper for the Government to treat the whole of the Australian people as children and tell them fairy tales, pretending to them that it is giving then* something free. Where does the Government get this largess which it distributes in such generous fashion? It- takes it from the people themselves. The Government does not work, though it is certainly very energetic in pursuing revenue. It is not a producer. Where but from the people themselves does it get this money which it hands out free? It is utter nonsense to use the word “ free “ at all in reference to this scheme. We may liken the Government to a small committee running a club, empowered by the members of the club to make any necessary charges, provided that it keeps within the mandate given to it by the members. If the committee at the end of the year told the members it would give them a big refund or that it intended to give them a bounty and buy a ship to sail round the world, and other matters entirely outside the scope of its authority, and in addition told the members that it was giving them these things free, that would simply mean that the committee was taking more in dues and charges from the members than was right and proper. Let the Government take a hint from what happened in the rents and prices referendum, and desist from draining unnecessarily huge amounts of money in taxes from the people of Australia.
Honorable senators will, I am sure, feel deeply indebted to the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) for the clear and concise manner in which he explained the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act to-night.
Not only honorable senators, .’but also the people .who .listened .must feel greatly indebted for .the .clarity with which he expressed the Government’s case. .1 believe that .case requires to be .answered. .1 have no .special .brief for the medical profession .generally, or the British Medical Association in particular, I am interested in .this matter ,only as an Australian citizen. It is rather regrettable, however9 if members of .the medical profession believe that .senators on ‘either side of the chamber fail to appreciate the profession’s high sense of public service. T do not suppose any section of the community has such a high reputation for its .appreciation of its sense of public duty as the medical profession has. Its members must have a very good reason, or one which appears to them to be .good for refusing to co-operate with the Government. I tlo not know what the reason ‘is and 1 cannot say whether it is good, bad or -indifferent, hut, from my knowledge of many members of the medical profession, I am quite satisfied that 1hey must consider it to be a good one. After the speech hy the Minister, to which ive listened to-night, there is an onus on the medical profession to explain to the public precisely -what its reason ls for refusing to co-operate with the Government in this scheme. It may be that they do not trust the Government.
– We heard something about that recently.
– The Government heard about it om the 2&th May Just, and will linear anare. If the reason ibc that the doctors do’ not timet the Govern-111111163114, they shane the view of the overwhelming majority of the .people <of Australia. The woite om the 29th May last had very little to do with the issue that was placed before the people, which was not whether prices control should continue or cease, but whether it should be administered by the Australian Government or by the State Governments. I .submit .that the voice «f tine people that was .so clearly expressed on that occasion represented a vote of censure on the Government for what it had already done and a vote against any further extension of its powers. It is evident that the members of the medical profession, although they are prepared to co-operate in a scheme for the supply of -medicine free of (charge ito the needy and -the , Sack, feel that they cannot trust this Government.
– Have they told the honorable senator that*
– On the 29th May the people .told the world that this Government no longer has their confidence. If, following upon that vote of no confidence In it, the Government takes stock of Its past misdeeds and gives overt evidence of its repentance and an assurance that it will sin no more, although it cannot hope for any extension of its life beyond the next general election it may -at least die -with a reasonable amount ©f grace.
– In his fine exposition of the Government’s case for the free medicine scheme, the Minister .for Health (Senator McKenna) stated the true facts of this controversy in which the members of the British Medical Association refuse to cooperate -with the Government in providing the people with the pharmaceutical benefits to Which they tune entitled and which the Government, by reason of the mandate .Even to it, is under an obligation! to provide. I trust that provision kas 6Bea made for the succour of persons who ane mentally ill and that they -will benefit im the same -way as the 4W),()Q0 persons isa receipt of age and invalid pensions who, being in the hitter stages of their lives, have mom need of the benefits of the scheme than those of us who are fit and well.
The result of the -vote on the recent referendum has been stated by the Leader of the Op’position (Senator Cooper) and Senator O’Sullivan to fee an indication that the Government has lost the confidence of the people. It is said that, in those circumstances, it should not proceed with any legislation, no matter what may be the motive for it or the benefits to the people that may accrue from it. I submit that the referendum result, far from indicating .a lack of confidence in the Government, shows the power of propaganda to mislead the people and to make them, against their better judgment, reject a proposal that is put forward in their own interests. The suggested alteration of the Constitution was designed to enable the Government to continue to exercise the controls it was already exercising and which were necessary in the interests of the people. A public opinion poll taken by the Gallup organization in September, 1947, revealed that a majority of the ^people were in favour of the proposal. The Government was of the opinion that it had the confidence of the people just -as it had at the time of the last general election. As time went on, the Opposition parties organized to attack the proposal. They did so not because they considered it was not in the best interests of the people but purely from political motives. There was an increasing volume of propaganda and misstatement, based on the technique used by Goebbels and Mussolini to mislead the German and Italian peoples. Public opinion polls, taken on dates subsequent to September, 1947, showed that the majority in favour of the proposal when it was first mooted was gradually being whittled down.’ In ^September, 1947, 46 per cent, of the people were in favour of the proposal and 41 per cent, against it. Subsequent polls revealed a big swing against the proposal, the last one taken showing that 37 per cent, of the people favoured it, 61 per cent, -opposed it .and 2 per cent, were undecided. These figures were obtained by questioning groups of 100 persons in the various States. As the blast of the Opposition’s propaganda became more intense, there was a decline in the number of supporters of the proposed alteration of the Constitution. Satellite organizations grew up that had not been heard of before. There were the Political Rights Association, the Peoples Union, the Australian Constitutional League and other organizations. I was amazed to find that in Australia nine different organizations, all supposedly non-political and non-party, were operating. The extraordinary thing was that of the nine, not one supported the Government. On the law of probabilities, at least one of those organizations should have done so. If a person throws a penny into the air nine- times, he is very unlucky if it does not once come down heads. We did not take “ a trick “ because we did not have sufficient funds to enable us to finance an organization as great and as active as that which was placed at the disposal of the opponents of the Government’s proposals. I am under no delusion as to the source of those funds. Honorable senators opposite claim that the people’s rejection of the Government’s proposal at the recent referendum revealed a lack of confidence in the Government and hostility towards its pharmaceutical benefits scheme. They also claim that the people’s verdict was a direction to thiGovernment to whittle down the Public Service. I have in my hand a booklet of cartoons which was typical of thipropaganda disseminated in Tasmania by opponents of the Government’s proposals. It is entitled “ Open the Door Richard “. The objective of those cartoons is that the Commonwealth and State public services shall be whittled down. Even the members of the Staff Corps and students at the Royal Military College at Duntroon are ridiculed in this booklet . Members of the Army, Air Force and Navy and the police forces in each .State are tagged as superfluous public servants. One of these cartoons shows a public servant, drawn to look like an imbecile, labelled “Mr. Nitwit” sitting at a desk smoking a cigarette through a holder about 2 feet long, and its caption reads, “Dress them up pretty and get them into key jobs “. 1 cannot comprehend the outlook of people who deride OU public servants in that fashion. I have met public servants in all departments, and, perhaps, the greatest tribute I can pay to their efficiency as a whole is to point out that private” enterprise generally is only too glad to obtain their services. I mention as an outstanding example Mr. D. McVey, who was formerly Director of Posts and Telegraphs. The great majority of departments and branches of the Public Service are indispensable to efficient administration. - Indeed, such branches as the lighthouse and navigational services must be maintained in order to safeguard life. The more highly organized the nation becomes the greater must become the scope of the Public Service. Only in that way can we maintain efficiency. I admit that many departments which were essential to the prosecution of the war should be disbanded; but it is sheer nonsense for honorable senators opposite to urge that the Public Service as awhole should be reduced merely for the sake of reducing it.
– What about the Government’s policy of full employment?
– At present there are over 300,000 unfilled jobs in industry, and to a great degree the present shortage of man-power has resulted from the progressive policy of the Government. Under the measure we are asked to vote a sum of £40,000,000 in respect of governmental services for a period of some months. That amount is not very great when we remember that during the recent war governmental expenditure was at the rate of about £2,000,000 a day. The nation’s greatest problem at the moment is a shortage of man-power. It is useless to vote sums for ship-building and public works when sufficient manpower is not available.
The Leader of the Opposition deplored what he termed the Government’s policy of appeasement in respect of industrial disputes. Does the honorable senator and his colleagues suggest that the Government should appease the members of the British Medical Association who are opposing the pharmaceutical benefits scheme? The main reason for restricted production in many industries is lack of man-power. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) has explained the needs of the sugar industry in that respect. For the same reason, the present rate of production of coal is not sufficient to meet the needs of the community. When miners were allowed toleave the industry following the cessation of hostilities hundreds immediately transferred to other callings in which conditions of employment were more congenial. The result is that the number of miners now engaged in the. industry is fewer than it was some years ago. A similar story can be told in respect of the waterfront industry. To-day, more ships are calling at our ports than was the case in the immediate pre-war years. I refer particularly to Melbourne. Sufficient man-power is not available to handle the loading and unloading of those vessels as quickly as we should like.
Many of our rural industries and seasonal callings are handicapped because of the lack of adequate man-power. Despite these facts honorable senators opposite contend that production is falling because the workers are not pulling their weight. Where production is not increasing to as great a degree as we should like the reason is lack of sufficient man-power. In Tasmania, for instance, a. hydroelectric scheme which would give employment to 1,500 people could be undertaken immediately but for that reason. Honorable senators opposite also claim that our present economic prosperity is due to prevailing high prices for our primary products. Those prices are. determined on the world’s markets. However, whilst prices of the necessaries of life are soaring in America and Europe, want and unemployment are mounting. I fear that we shallexperience similar conditions in this country when the full effect of the vote at the recent referendum is felt. As supporters of the Government’s proposals pointed out duringthe referendum campaign, there is a danger that prices will get out of hand in Australia also. Whilst honorable senators opposite have offered so much criticism of the Government, they have not advanced one constructive idea. They have merely indulged in their usual tirade of misrepresentation. However, the Government will take their criticism in its stride, and will continue to give effect to the mandate which it received from the people- at the last general elections.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooke) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Declaration - No.168.
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 51.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 -
No. 31 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists’ and Postal Clerks’ Union; Commonwealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers’ Association; and Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists’ Union.
No. 32 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia; Amalgamated Engineering Union; and Australasian Society of Engineers.
No. 33 - Actors and Announcers’ Equity Association of Australia.
Nos. 34 and 35 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - E. H. A. Graham.
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act- Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on applications made by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for further financial assistance in 1947-48 from the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution.
Commonwealth Publice Service Act - Appointments - Department-
Interior - F. A. Daw, E. J. Desmond, G. M. Duncan, J.T. Gray, R. C. Hoath, A. F. Hurren, J. J.McGann, J. W. Nicholas, H. G. Oliphant, S. K. Raw lings, J. W. Roberts, B. D. Robertson, E. G. Rosman, J. A. Sandow, G. B. Todd, V. de P. M. Wilkinson, J. G. Windsor.
Supply and Development - K. A. Summons.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1948, No. 53.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No.59.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (188).
National Security (Prices) Regulations -Orders- Nos. 3305, 3306, 3312-3322.
National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations - War Damage Commission - Report for 1947.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, Nos. 55, 61.
High Commissioner Act - Regulations - Statutory Rales 1948, No. 58.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Banking purposes - Melbourne,Victoria.
Commonwealth office accommodation purposes - Hobart, Tasmania.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research purposes - Trangie, New South Wales.
Defence purposes -
Livingstone, Northern Territory.
Newcastle, New South Wales.
New Farm, Queensland.
Oaklands, New South Wales.
Regents Park, New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Carnarvon, Western Australia.
Mascot, New South Wales.
Department of the Interior purposes - Onslow, Western Australia.
Department of Social Services purposes - Clovelly, New South Wales.
Department of Trade and Customs purposes - Forbes, New South Wales.
Overseas Telecommunications Commission purposes - Broome, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Balaklava, South Australia.
Fremantle, Western Australia.
Parkes, New South Wales.
Repatriation Commission purposes- Turramurra, New South Wales.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No 24 (substitute copy).
Passports Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 52.
Peace Officers Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No.60.
Pharmaceutical Benefits Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1948, No.56.
Post and Telegraph Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1948, No.62.
Re-establishment and Employment ActRegulations - Statutory Rules 1948, Nos 54, 57.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Orders - 1948. Nos. 15, 16.
Senate adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 June 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19480615_senate_18_197/>.