18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read, prayers.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1948. Income Tax Bill 1948. Tuberculosis Bill 1948. Wheat Tax (Repeal and Refund) Bill 1948. Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 1948. Wheat Export Charge Bill 1948. Social Services, Contribution Assessment Bill 1948.
Social Services Contribution Bill 1948. Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Bill 1948.
War Gratuity Appropriation Bill 1948.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1948.
Kemira Tunnel (Arbitration) Bill 1948.
– I have received the following message from His Excellency the Governor-General : - Dear Mr. President,
I desire to inform you that the address dated 84th November, emanating from the
Senate, was forwarded to London for His Majesty’s pleasure. I am now commanded by the King to convey the following message to honorable members from His Majesty: - “ The Queen and I send our sincere thanks for your kind message of sympathy and good wishes which we much appreciate.
Victorian Supplies - Queensland Coal Reference Board
– During the recent industrial trouble in Victoria an embargo was placed on the unloading of coal shipped to that State. The embargo was imposed because of the proclamation of the Essential Services Act by the Liberal-Country party Government of Victoria and during the operation of the embargo certain shipments of coal intended for Victoria were diverted to South Australia. Can the Minister for Shipping and Fuel say whether the large quantity of coal which, according to press reports, was withheld from Victoria, will be made up to that State by additional shipments before Christmas?
– Because of the need to keep the dyke at Newcastle clear certain shipments of coal intended for Victoria were diverted to South Australia.No good purpose would have been served by simply shipping the coal from Newcastle and unloading it somewhere in New South Wales pending shipment to Victoria or South Australia. As Minister for Shipping and Fuel I was responsible for providing coal not only for Victoria, but also for the other States of Australia, and ships carrying coal were diverted to South Australia. However, I can assure the honorable senator that Victoria will not lose because of the diversion. For the information of honorable senators I shall repeat certain information which I supplied to the Prime Minister yesterday regarding the shipment of coal to Victoria. That information was as follows: -
Dumosa, 4,700 tons, sailed Monday, the 29th November.
River Loddon, 7,600 tons, sailing the 1st December.
River Burdekin, 7,600 tons, sailing the 1st December.
William Mac Arthur, 3,000 tons, sailing the 1st December.
Age, 5,000 tons, commenced loading the 1st December, expected to sail on the 3rd December.
Kooralya, 4,700 tons, commenced loading the 1st December, expected to sail on the 2nd December.
Amicus, approximately 8,500 tons, commenced loading the 1st December, expected to sail on the 4th December.
Honorable senators will realize, therefore, that a total of approximately 42,000 tons of coal is being shipped to Melbourne this week.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether Mr. F. E. Walsh, who for twenty years was chairman of the Queensland Coal Reference Board, was called upon a few weeks ago to give a decision in a dispute at No. 10 Burgowan Colliery, at which time three mines were on strike. Did Mr. P. Millar, president of the Queensland Colliery Employees Union, and a member of the Coal Reference Board, state that he could assure the board that Mr. Walsh’s decision would not be accepted, that the three mines would remain idle, and that other action would be taken? Did Mr. Millar subsequently interview the Minister in Sydney. Following that interview, did the Minister, on the 5th of November, write to Mr. Walsh informing him that his term of office as chairman of the board had expired on the 16th October, and that Mr. J. A. Murray, a stipendiary magistrate of the Queensland Department of Justice, had been appointed as his successor? Did Mr. Millar suggest to the Minister that another chairman should be appointed in Mr. Walsh’s place, and did the Minister meekly succumb to the threat of this Communist-dominated union? Is it intended that Mr. Walsh’s twenty years’ service on the Coal Reference Board shall be suitably recognized?
– It is true that Mr. Walsh has been retired from his position as chairman of the Queensland Coal Reference Board. However, no representations were made to me by the secretary of the miners’ federation in Queensland or elsewhere. I am not in a position to know what takes place at union meetings in Queensland, any more than I am in a position to know what takes place at meetings of the board of directors of any commercial organization in the Commonwealth. I do not think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would seriously suggest that I should know what Mr. Millar discussed with his union in Queensland. Mr. Walsh’s services will he recognized as those of other people who have rendered similar services have been recognized in the past. The only fact of which I am sure that might have some bearing on the retirement of Mr. Walsh, is that he was not prepared to travel around Queensland. I understand that the appointment of the new chairman of the board, has the approval of not only the Queensland Government, but also the tribunal that is responsible for recommending such appointments.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware chat Australian manufacturers are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining sufficient metallic lead to complete existing contracts? Has the Minister read the report of the Director of Mines in South Australia, Mr. Dickinson, which stated that three-quarters of Australia’s production of lead and zinc is exported io that overseas shareholders may obtain dividends? In view of the serious shortage of lead and zinc, will the Minister take steps to restrict the export of lead, so that Australian requirements can be fulfilled?
– On several occasions since the end of the war, the Government has taken steps to prevent the export of lead from this country, but invariably representations have been made by honorable senators on both sides of this chamber for a relaxation of export restrictions. I shall have inquiries made to ascertain whether the statement to which the honorable senator has referred is correct. Every endeavour will be made to ensure an adequate supply of lead to Australian manufacturers.
– On the 24th November, Senator Critchley asked whether, as the result of alleged unprecedented activity at the oil berths at Birkenhead, South Australia, it would be possible to increase the petrol ration to motorists for the festive season. The import programme for November for all petroleum products is not unusually large, but is larger than estimated December importations which will be below the average. The present activity at Birkenhead, South Australia, is not significant. Cargoes include motor spirit kerosene, diesel oil and aviation spirit, and are stock replacements for oil companies operating in South Australia. The wheat harvest, fruit season, stock movement owing to drought conditions in Queensland, and other factors will result in additional petrol consumption during December and January, and it will not be possible to increase the petrol allowance to motorists for the forthcoming festive season.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
The number of vehicles, 9,246,- includes those operated by the Postmaster-General’s Department and service departments, which between them consume more than half the gallonage indicated.
Spread of Hyacinth
– On the 14th October, Senator Amour asked me a question without notice concerning the growth of hyacinth on north coast rivers. I asked the Prime Minister to seek the views of the New South “Wales Government on the question of declaring the hyacinth a noxious weed, and I am now informed that the Premier of New South Wales has advised as follows: -
Under section 4 of the Local Government Act 1919, as amended, water hyacinth is included in the definition of “ aquatic pest “ and under section 557 aquatic pests are declared to be noxious plants in all municipalities and shires for the purposes of the act, without the necessity for any proclamation. The act requires that a council, pasture protection board, or owner or occupier of land which is not free from noxious plants shall take reasonable and effective measures to eradicate noxious plants from the said land. Shire and municipal councils are the local authorities responsible for enforcement of the requirements of the Local Government Act relating to noxious weeds and in some cases a number of these councils have grouped together and agreed to delegate their powers in this connexion to a county council.
The Richmond River County Council was established in 1920 to control water hyacinth over a county district embracing four complete shires, parts of four other shires and four municipalities. In 1945, the county district was extended to take in the residue of three of the shires originally included only in part, one additional shire and two more municipalities to cover a total of nine shires and four municipalities, the combined area of which if 4,000 square miles.
I am informed that in the 28 years since its formation the Richmond River Count, Council re-opened to traffic a major stream and has kept it flowing freely. This stream was, prior to the formation of the county council, becoming completely choked and impassable to river traffic and adjoining land* were threatened with inundation. The meant adopted for clearing the weed were purely mechanical and such methods made it almost impossible to completely eradicate it. Consequently, streams continually became reinfested.
However, the recent introduction of the selective hormone type weedicides has completely revolutionized the control of water hyacinth and the Richmond River County Council it now confident that, even if complete eradication is not achieved, the infestation of thi weed will be so reduced that it will be no longer regarded as a major pest and will not interfere with the flow or navigability of streams.
The Hawkesbury River County Council wa» recently constituted to control water hyacinth on the Hawkesbury River watershed and several councils on the Hunter River are takin. combined action against the pest. I am also informed that the question of the formation of a county council to operate on the north coast in areas not already included in the Richmond River County District is at present receiving the consideration of the local govern ing bodies concerned.
– On the 24th November, Senator Cooke asked me a question regarding a statement reported to have been made by Sir Henry Tizard concerning the integrity of Australian scientists. ‘The honorable senator asked whether I would confer with the Prime Minister with a view to introducing legislation or taking some other action to “protect these persons from slanderous attacks being made upon them sometimes under parliamentary privilege “. 1 have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister and now inform the honorable senator that the initiation of any action against persons who have made defamatory statements under parliamentary privilege would have to be undertaken by the Parliament itself. Persons who have been libelled or slandered outside the Parliament are, of course, already covered by law.
– Two weeks ago, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction a question relating to the supply of enamelled copper wire. I should like to know whether there is any prospect of the information being made available to me during this week.
– I referred the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, but a reply has not yet been made available. I shall inquire whether the Minister has yet obtained the information sought by the honorable senator and, if so, I shall make it available to him during this week.
Money ORDERS thom the United States of America.
– On the 24th November, I asked the PostmasterGeneral a question with relation to the delay in ,payment of money orders despatched from the United States of America to Australia. Since doing so, I have been informed by a friend that he was unable to cash a money order despatched from the United States of America on the 11th September until the 24th November. Can the Minister give” any information on the matter?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The matter of forwarding money order advices from the United States of America to Australia by air, in those cases where the portion to the recipient comes by that means of conveyance, is one for decision by the American administration. The unsatisfactory features mentioned by the honorable senator have been previously represented by my department to the postal authorities of the United States. That administration replied to the effect that the matter has been considered from time to time, but a plan for the despatch of advices by air had not been found to be feasible and a solution to the problem could not be offered. The matter will again be taken up with the United States. In the case of money orders issued in Australia, where the remitter desires the order to be forwarded by air, this Administration meets his wishes on payment of a reduced air-mail fee.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives, without amendment : -
Australian Broadcasting Bill 1948.
Social Services Consolidation Bill (No. 2) (1948.1.
Bill received from the House of Representatives
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator MCKENNA’ read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The initial provision of retiring pensions for judges of Commonwealth courts waa made in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1926 in respect of judges of the Arbitration Court. That Was followed by a similar provision in the Judiciary Act of the same year to grant pensions to justices of the High Court. In 1930, a pension on similar terms was provided for the judge of the Bankruptcy Court, and in 1945 for the judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. The most recent legislation to provide such pensions was passed in 1947, and covered judges of the Federal Court of Claims to be appointed under the Banking Act. It is not proposed to disturb the present rights of pension of sitting justices or judges except with their concurrence. Under identical provisions in each of the acts mentioned, Commonwealth judges do not contribute towards retirement pensions. Those pensions are provided entirely by the Commonwealth. No retiring age is imposed. On retirement, after not less than fifteen years’ service, a judge receives a pension at a rate equal to 50 per cent, of his salary. If his retirement is due to permanent ill health or infirmity after not less than five years’ service, the pension paid to him is equal to 20 per cent, of his salary, plus 3 per cent, of salary for each additional year of service in excess of five years, with a maximum of 50 per cent, of his salary. Therefore, a judge on a salary of £4,000 per annum could, after fifteen years’ service, and irrespective of age, retire on a pension of £2,000 per annum. If his retirement had been caused by permanent disability or infirmity, he would receive a pension of £800 per annum after five years’ service, increasing by £120 per annum for each additional year of service up to a maximum of £2,000 per annum.
Preservation of the independence and high status of a judge as a member of one of the courts of the Commonwealth warrants a pension provision which is complete and adequate. No pension scheme contains these essentials unless it provides for widows and children. The present scheme, although non-contributory and sufficient for the care of an ex-judge during his lifetime, not only fails to provide these essentials, hut also makes no provision for a judge whose ill health may enforce retirement during his first five years of service. The absence of provision for dependants, coupled with the lack of a fixed retiring age, may well constitute an incentive to a judge to remain in service as long as physically possible and beyond what might be regarded as a reasonable retiring age. It is proposed, therefore, to extend the pension scheme to provide these benefits. Towards meeting the cost, however, the age pension will be payable only on retirement after attaining the age of 60 years, the pension payable to a judge will be reduced from 50 to 40 per cent, of salary and a proportionate reduction will be made in pensions of judges retired on account of permanent disability or infirmity.
Under the provisions of this bill, the age pension payable at 60 years will be, after ten years’ service, 27 per cent, of salary, increasing by 2£ per cent, for each additional year of service subject to a maximum of 40 per cent, of salary at the date of retirement. For a judge who retires on account of permanent disability or infirmity, and the AttorneyGeneral so certifies, the minimum pensions will be 15 per cent, of salary up to five years’ service, raising by 2$ per cent, for each additional year of service with the same maximum of 40 per cent, of salary. The widow of a judge who dies in service, or after retirement, will receive a pension equal to half that payable to the judge. An allowance of £1 per week will be provided for each child under sixteen years of age. Commonwealth judges are to be given the option either to adopt the provisions of the proposed scheme or to adhere to the pension provisions of existing legislation. The new scheme, however, will be applied to all future appointees.
The pension of any ex-judge will be increased on the basis of the salary now being paid to a holder of the office which the ex-judge held immediately prior tohis retirement. In addition, he will begiven the option of retaining that increased pension or of adopting the proposed scheme to provide for widow and children.
Section 72 of the Constitution providesthat a judge shall be removable only by an address, from both Houses of Parliament for proved misbehaviour or incapacity. If such an event should occur, no pension will be payable unless theGovernorGeneral otherwise decides. In submitting this measure the Government trusts that its implementation will strengthen the independence and status of the justices of Commonwealth courts,, and will contribute towards the maintenance of the efficient discharge of the high and important functions of those courts.
– I support the bill in its general principles. It is essential that the gentlemen who occupy the high and responsibleoffices of justices of the High Court of Australia should be given a position of complete independence, financially and in all other respects. The tradition of British judges ever since the Act of Settlement in 1701, when appointments were first made for life during good behaviour, is a very proud record indeed.. Provision has been made since then for the removal of judges for cause shown.. Fortunately, it is our happy history that cause has never been shown nor, in fact, has any attempt been made to show cause why any of our judges of superior jurisdiction should be removed from office on account of impropriety. It is fitting that judges should have no preferment to hope for and no demotion to fear. In the light of that, they can carry out their duties according to their oath without fear, favour or affection.
I take exception to some of the provisions of the hill, which, though mainly machinery in character, affect the principle as well. I should like to have some further information in respect of them, and I trust that the Minister will supply it in the committee stage. Clause 15 is the one to whichI take the most serious objection. It states -
As the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna) indicated, section 72 of the Constitution provides that a justice maybe removed, upon the motion of both Houses of the Parliament, for proved misbehaviour or incapacity. This clause will put in precisely the same category a judge who may be removed on the motion ofboth Houses of the Parliament for moral turpitude, misbehaviour or dereliction of duty, and the unfortunate man who may be removed because of mental or physical deterioration or incapacity. A peculiar situation may arise under this provision. A judge may qualify for the maximum amount of pension by serving his full term of fifteen years. He may be in a position to retire with his pension properly and completely vested in him in the terms of section 48a of the Judiciary Act. But then he may have a stroke and, although provision is made for a judge to retire on account of sickness or ill health, he may be physically incapable of retiring. By reason of his disability, he may not be able to perform the physical act of writing his name. In such a case, the Government would have him replaced in order that the course of justice might continue to flow, not as an act of censure. It would be a shocking state of affairs if a man afflicted either mentally or physically should be entirely at the whim of the Minister, in respect of his pension, in common with a man who had been removed from his position on account of corruption. That would be an unfortunate situation, and I seriously urge the Minister to consider redrafting the clause so that, whatever punishment may fall upon a man who may be removed for moral turpitude, a man removed on account of a physical or mental ailment will not be dragged down with him.
I also direct attention to clause 12, which relates to the time that may be counted in assessing entitlement to a pension. It states -
Where a Judge has, prior to his appointment, served in any judicial office under a State -
The term “ judicial office “ can cover any situation in which judicial authority is exercised, from a High Court justice down to a justice of the peace. I am sure that it is not contemplated that a stipendary magistrate or a justice of the peace who has carried out judicial functions in a country town should be allowed to have that period of service counted as a qualification for pension if and when he mightbecome a justice of the High Court. That clause should be clarified by means of a definition of “ judicial office “ excluding any position of a lower status than, for instance, that of judge of a Supreme Court of one of the States. 1 refer also to clause 6. According to its provisions, it will be competent for a justice who has qualified for a pension by serving for a period as a Supreme Court judge in a State, and has later been appointed to the High Court, to qualify for a second pension. I do not think that it is the desire of either the judges or the Government that men should be in a position to draw a double pension. I commend my suggestions to the Minister.
– in reply - I appreciate the general support given to the measure by the Opposition. I consider that it is a long overdue reform that some provision should be made not only for a judge but also for his dependants in the persons of his wife and his children under the age of sixteen years. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) has sought information in relation to three clauses. I agree with him that it might be more appropriate to deal with those matters in the committee stage but, as he has raised them in this debate, I may save time by disposing of t.hem immediately. The honorable senator referred first to clause 15, which imposes the liability to disallowance of pension in the event of a judge being removed by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament for proved incapacity or misbehaviour. There is an exception to that which arises from the fact that, if the Governor-General, which means the Governor-General in Council, decides otherwise, the pension may be paid. I think that it is not generally appreciated that section 72 of the Constitution, in which provision is made that judges shall not be removed except by the GovernorGeneral in Council on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session praying for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity, has implicit in it three strong safeguards in favour of any judge. 1 ask honorable senators to observe that a judge can be removed only as the result of a resolution of both Houses of the Parliament praying for the removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. I place all the emphasis upon that word “ proved “. If incapacity or misbehaviour were merely alleged against a judge, it would not be sufficient for both Houses of the Parliament to pass a resolution that he should be removed because of misbehaviour. The Parliament’s power to intervene in such a matter is contingent upon the establishment of proof of incapacity or proof of mismisbehaviour. No precedent has been established in relation to the method of proof of a judge’s misbehaviour or incapacity because, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the Commonwealth has, happily, never had occasion to invoke section seventytwo of the Constitution, and I join with him in the hope that it will never be necessary to have recourse to that section. However, if it ever became necessary to initiate action to remove a judge of a
Commonwealth court, I should imagine that the appropriate procedure would be for the Parliament to appoint a judicial tribunal to inquire whether the judge concerned had been guilty of misbehaviour or was incapable, and the Parliament would then take action on the basis of the tribunal’s finding.
– Is there any provision in the Constitution or in the bill for the establishment of such a tribunal ?
– No. However, I emphasize that the bill deals not with the general position of members of the judiciary, but with their pensions. The security of tenure of judges has been raised by discussion of clause 15 of the measure, which relates to the eligibility for pension of a judge who has been removed from office under section 72 of the Constitution.-
– It would be almost impossible to remove a judge under section 72 of the Constitution.
– I agree that considerable difficulty would be involved, but as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out the need is never likely to arise. Further discussion of the possible implications of clause 15 would therefore appear to be no more than unprofitable speculation. The point that I make is that it is not legally competent for a majority of both Houses of the Parliament to act arbitrarily in removing a judge. Recourse may always be had to the High Court, which is the interpreter of the Constitution and is charged with the function of determining whether any act or law passed by the Parliament is within the competence of the Parliament. Even if the measure called in question is held to be within the competence of the Parliament the High Court must decide whether the Parliament has made a valid and proper exercise of its powers. A judge who had been removed under section 72 of the Constitution could always appeal to the High Court to determine whether his alleged misbehaviour or incapacity had been properly established.
– I point out to the Minister, however, that such a decision of the Parliament would be made, not by act of Parliament, but by resolution.
– But such a resolution must be passed by both Houses of the Parliament and presented to the Governor-General. The passage of any such resolution would be tantamount to an act of the Parliament. The legal competence of the Parliament to remove a judge is qualified by the need to establish proof of misbehaviour or incapacity. I repeat that if a government, which had a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, endeavoured arbitrarily to remove a judge, the procedure adopted could be challenged in the High Court, and the High Court might determine that the action taken by both Houses of the Parliament was invalid and a nullity.
– So that the High Court could defeat the Constitution?
– No, I do not agree with that proposition. The High Court is the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution, and it acts within the Constitution. By no stretch of the imagination can it override the Constitution; on the contrary, its principal function is to maintain the Constitution.
– But the Parliament has power to deal with a judge who is guilty of dereliction of duty, should the occasion arise?
– A judge is not at the mercy of the Parliament; he is amply protected by the Constitution, and by the High Court.
To return to clause 15, the first point that I make is that under the present law there is no provision that pensions shall not be paid to judges who are re-‘ moved from office. Although the clause provides that a pension may not be payable to any judge who is removed from office for incapacity or proved misbehaviour, it invests the Executive with power to determine, according to the circumstances of a particular case, whether a pension should be paid. If the Senate accepted the suggestion advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that only where no moral turpitude was involved in the conduct of a judge would it be competent for the Executive to grant a pension, that would prove far more restrictive than the present proposal. Take, as an extreme example, the case of a judge who has given from 20 to 25 years’ meritorious service. Through some form of physical degeneracy, which might be connected with the exhaustive nature of his judicial labours, he might commit some offence against the law of the country which involved moral turpitude. That offence might justify action by the Parliament to remove him from office. The adoption of the suggestion made by the honorable senator would result in the judge being deprived of any pension whatever, without regard to the circumstances. Even where an element of moral turpitude is involved, the Executive should, have discretionary power, in association with the Governor-General, to take all the circumstances into account, including the period of meritorious service of the judge, his degree of physical infirmity at the time of the offence, and, also, of course, the unpleasant facts of the actual offence. The Government’s proposal, so far from being restrictive, is, therefore, more liberal than the suggestion made by the honorable senator. Although my admiration for the parliamentary draftsmen, who foresee as many possibilities as the mind of man can conjure, and express their views so clearly in print, is almost unbounded, I must say that it is impossible for any one to foresee all the circumstances that may arise. For that reason, the Government considers that the Executive should be clothed with wide discretionary powers. Cases of the kind mentioned by the honorable senator may occur. I know of an executive who was stricken with apoplexy, or a paralytic stroke, who was unable to speak or to write, so that he could not even tender his resignation. Of course, such a case may never arise again. 1 think that we may safely leave the matter to the determination of a responsible government, because, after all, we can trust the electors to return to the Parliament members from whom a responsible government may be formed. To take another extreme hypothetical instance, a judge who was appointed at the age of 40 years might, after having served for ten years, desire to bring about his retirement so that he could enjoy a pension of, say, £2,000 per annum. I emphasize that the illustration is, of course, purely hypothetical. The measure under consideration provides that a judge must have served at least ten years and have attained the age of 60 years before becoming entitled to retire on a pension. In order to defeat that provision, the judge, in this hypothetical instance, might seek to precipitate his removal from office by making some subversive statement in the hope that the Parliament would remove him under the provisions of section 72 of the Constitution. Should such a case occur I am- certain that no honorable senator would contend that the Executive should not be vested with discretion to withhold the whole or a part of the judge’s pension. Honorable senators will appreciate that parliamentary draftsmen who prepare bills provide not only for probabilities but also for possibilities of all kinds. However, I repeat that the mind of man is not sufficiently far-seeing or ingenious to foresee all possible contingencies. Human nature is so complex and of such infinite variety that no draftsman is sufficiently competent to foresee and provide for all the circumstances which may arise. I think that it is wise, therefore, to vest the government of the day with discretionary powers in such matters.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also referred to clause 12, which deals with the prior judicial service in the States of Commonwealth judges. He pointed out that the holder of a judicial office may have been a police or stipendiary magistrate who had been appointed to a vacant place on a Commonwealth court. Whether the judge should be regarded a9 having held judicial office in the State concerned will depend on the terms of the State statute under which he was appointed to his former judicial position in the State. Of course, it is conceivable that a police magistrate of a State who is appointed to a Commonwealth court may, under clause 12, be entitled to credit for service entitling him to a pension. However, I do not think that there can be legitimate objection to bis claim if he has served the requisite period in a State judicial office. I do not, at the moment, recollect the com-‘ ment made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in regard to clause 6 of the bill, hut if the honorable senator will repeat it during the committee stage I shall be glad to deal with it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. ‘
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Pensions of judges).
– This clause provides for the payment of pensions to judges to whom the act applies, and sets out the terms and conditions precedent to entitlement to a pension. In clause 12, provision is made for the crediting of previous service for pension purposes. It might happen that a judge of a Supreme Court of a State had, prior to his appointment to the High Court, became entitled to a pension. The position would then arise in which he would be’ drawing a pension from the State because of his period of service as a judge of the Supreme Court of that State, and, after the prescribed terms of years as a justice of the High Court, he would be drawing a pension as a retired justice of that court. I suggest to the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna) that provision should be made to prevent the payment of a double pension.
– Frankly, the point that has been raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) had not occurred to me. In the circumstances that he poses, it seems that the occupant of a State judicial office who had become entitled to a pension from that State, might be appointed to a Commonwealth court, and thus have at least portion of his service in the State reckoned for the payment of a pension by the Commonwealth. The possibility of one period of service being the basis of entitlement to both a State and Commonwealth pension does appear to set a problem.
– The late Mr. Justice Lukin was in a somewhat similar position.
– As I have said, the point had not occurred to me, and so far as I am aware, there is nothing in the bill that would meet the situation. It occurs to me, however, without having had an opportunity to give the matter much consideration, that to meet the position clause 12 could be amended by the insertion of the word “ immediately “. It would then read -
That alteration, together with certain consequential amendments, might eliminate the possibility of the payment of two pensions in respect of the one period of service.
– Clauses 6 to 11 provide for the payment of pensions to the dependants of deceased judges, but, according to clause 13, the present occupants of the High Court bench may elect to exclude themselves from those provisions. The pension scheme for widows and children of judges is most commendable and I support it, but the present occupants of the High Court Bench are having thrust upon them the responsibility of deciding whether they will continue on the existing pension basis established under the Judiciary Act, or abandon that scheme and accept the slightly lower pension payable under the present proposal. The reduction in the pension of a judge will be from 50 per cent, to 40 per cent, of salary. In addition to that 40 per cent., of course, pensions will be payable to widows and dependent children. If the principle of the payment of pension to the dependants of deceased judges is sound, it should apply uniformly, and should not be determinable according to the date on which a judge has been appointed. It is true that the extension to present judges of the provision for the payment of pensions to dependants might create a slight anomaly in as much as they themselves would be receiving pensions of 50 per cent, of their salary, whereas new appointees will receive only 40 per cent., but I think that it is quite improper to make the judges themselves determine whether their wives and families should receive pensions. As I have said, if the principle is right it should be right all the way through, and should not be hedged in with qualifications or limitations. I seriously urge the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna) to amend the provision which exempts present judges from the application of the new pension system if they so desire.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has admitted that an anomaly would be created if his suggestion were adopted.
– Only in the present period.
– The position would be that a judge who elected to remain on the existing pension basis, would, upon his death, leave a widow who would receive up to 25 per cent, of her husband’s retiring allowance, whereas other widows of judges would be receiving only up to 20 per cent. That would not make for general satisfaction. What influenced the Government in providing that a judge should have the right to determine whether he would retain his present pension entitlement, or come within the scope of the new provisions, was that the present judges accepted appointment expecting to enjoy certain pension rights. The Government is most anxious to ensure that that expectation shall not be unfulfilled. In short, one might claim that present judges have a contract to retain their present pension entitlement if they so desire. The Government has been most particular not to disturb that arrangement. However, if a judge prefers to accept a pension of 40 per cent, for himself, plus provision for his dependants in the event of his death, he is at liberty to participate in a new scheme. Present judges are not being coerced, and the Government is observing the principle that nothing to which present judges are entitled, should be denied them in the future except with their own concurrence.
– But the Government is qualifying the principle of paying pensions to dependants.
– I remind the honorable senator that provision was made in 1926 for the payment of pensions to judges, and that although governments formed by the parties now in
Opposition held office for much of the period between 1926 and 1948, the question of providing for the dependants of deceased judges was never considered.
– We are a more enlightened party.
– I blush to acknowledge that that is true. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition might well cast his mind back over the last 22 years, as well as projecting it into the years that lie ahead. Provision for the payment of pensions to the dependants of deceased judges might well have been made many years ago. Now that such provision is being made, we do not wish to create more anomalies and differences between people occupying similar positions.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Prior judicial service under a State).
– I draw the attention of the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna) to what I said about this clause when an earlier provision was before the committee. I think that it is quite out of proportion that the occupant of a minor judicial office, such as a stipendiary magistrate, should have his service in that capacity taken into account in determining his pension entitlement as a justice of the High Court. I urge that consideration be given to establishing a minimum status of judicial office, service in which shall be reckoned for pension purposes. I suggest that the position should not be lower than that of a judge of the Supreme Court of a State or of a territory.
– This provision refers purely to State judges. The question of judges of a territory is not raised.
– What about the Northern Territory and New Guinea?
– Those territories are covered by Commonwealth courts, and any term of service in such a court would count for pension purposes. We are concerned only with the appoint ment to Commonwealth offices of those holding- judicial offices in the States. Therefore, the question of territories does not arise.
– Why not?- A judge of a territory would not get a pension under this legislation.
– Provision is already made for the payment of pensions to all federal judges.
– But their salaries are lower, and their pension is payable in proportion to their salaries as territory judges and not justices of the High Court.
– That is true, but we are speaking of the basis of pension and not of the quantum of pension. The service of a judge of the Australian Capital Territory who was translated, say, to the High Court of Australia, would be a coterminous period which would be reckoned for pension purposes. The elevation of a police magistrate of a State to a position in a Commonwealth court would be a rare occurrence. The usual procedure is to appoint a State judge, or a member of the Bar, usually » very senior member who is recognized as a man not only of character and impartiality, but also of great legal ability. I do not think, however, that if an officer has served as a police magistrate, and is of the calibre to merit an appointment to the High Court or any other federal court, he should be delimited frthe* enabling provisions of this clause would not be disposed to recommend any alteration of it.
– I thank the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna) for his explanation, but the point is not clear to me. It is true that a judge, or justice, of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory has, in terms of the statute under which he was appointed, the right to a pension, but that pension bears relation to his salary as a judge, or justice, of the territory. Supposing a judge of New Guinea or of the Northern Territory were appointed to the High Court. His term of service in either of those territories would not be taken into account for the purpose of calculating his pension under this measure. That is what the definition of “ Judge “ means - “ A Justice or Judge to whom this Act applies “.
– The honorable senator should read clause 4.
– That clause reads -
Judges of the Northern Territory or New Guinea do not come under that provision. They occupy a much more responsible position than do stipendiary magistrates, yet their service as judges of the court of New Guinea or of that of the Northern Territory would not be taken into account for the purpose of calculating pension under this measure. If the Minister will not accept my suggestion to raise the status of those judges - I believe that here an oversight on the part of the draftsman has occurred - clause 12 should be amended to cover judges of the Northern Territory and New Guinea. I repeat that whereas stipendiary magistrates are covered by that clause, the judges to whom I have referred are not.
– I am informed that the judge of the Northern Territory, who appears to be the one exception, is dealt with under the Superannuation Act and does not come under the special provision for the judiciary. He is entitled to superannuation in the same way as are public servants. That is the reason, I am informed, why there is no particular reference in either clause 4 or clause 12 to the judge of the Northern Territory.
– What about the judges at Rabaul?’
– They would be in a similar position. They are dealtwith quite apart from the special retirement provision for judges.
– But should they be appointed to the High Court their term of service would not count under this measure.
– I am afraid that, as the bill is drafted, that is true; and it seems reasonable when one considers the possibility that a police magistrate, or a junior member of a Supreme Court in a State, may have his period of service reckoned for purposes of pension upon elevation to any of the courts mentioned in clause 4, that a judge of any of the territories should not be in any worse position.
– That is my point.
– It is a reasonable argument, and I undertake to give consideration to it, although, at the moment, I do not know the full implication of the facts. I shall keep the honorable member’s point in mind, and if upon a full examination of all the facts I find reason to make a special provision to extend to judges of New Guinea or the Northern Territory the same pension con?siderations as are provided under clause 12 to judges of a State, I shall not be slow to bring the matter again before the Senate.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Pension, &c, not payable on removal of judge).
– I listened with interest to the reply which the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Senator ‘ McKenna) gave to my earlier remarks, . but I think that he misunderstood me. I am sure that it will not be . necessary to remove any judge from his office, but let us assume that that should happen. I am not concerned about a judge who may be removed on the ground of impropriety, but I cannot comprehend why, for purposes of pension, a judge removed on such ground should be placed in the same category as a judge who may be removed upon the ground of incapacity. One instance would probably involve gross moral turpitude, whilst the other would merely involve an affliction of mind or body. I should like the Minister to explain why judges who may be removed from office on the ground of either mis* behaviour or proved incapacity are placed in the same category for purpose of pension. That is an extraordinary provision. I know of no similar provision in any other legislation. The possibility is that a justice who is well qualified for the pension by virtue of long meritorious service will become afflicted physically or mentally, and should he be removed from office for that reason his vested rights would go into the melting pot and pension would be payable entirely at the whim of the Attorney-General. Such a provision is improper. I could appreciate such a provision in respect of a judge who might be removed from office because his conduct had been reprehensible and had involved moral turpitude, delinquency or dereliction of duty. In such an instance, I do not mind the Attorney-General being given discretion to determine whether in view of all the circumstances that judge should or should not be given a pension. But why in the name of decency do we put in the same category an unfortunate man against whom there is no suggestion whatever of moral delinquency ? Furthermore - I approach this matter with some delicacy and trepidation - it is not news to the Minister or honorable senators that certain members of the Labour party have taken a biased and jaundiced view of certain justices of the High Court. In the House of Representatives and outside the Parliament unbridled statements have been made by members of the ministerial party that if they had the power to do so they would remove certain justices from the High Court. Under this provision duress could be applied to justices of the High Court who have over a long period of years served their country faithfully and well and have by virtue of their service become entitled to a pension. This provision would enable such members of the Labour party to do that - and make no “ bones “ about it, they would do so if they had the power - if they were in a majority in their party. However, we do not know for how long they will be in a minority. Those views have been expressed not by irresponsibles, but by a Minister of the Crown and other responsible members of the ministerial party who have said blatantly that they would deal with certain justices of the High Court if they had the power to do so. This provision gives such power, because under it duress can be applied to justices of the High Court. It enables the Government to say to a justice of the High Court - and this has been said of certain justices by certain ministerial supporters - “ You are feeble ; you are physically incapable of carrying out the duties of your judicial office. We shall remove you “. Upon removal in such circumstances a justice would be deprived of his pension unless the AttorneyGeneral thought otherwise. That is a disgraceful possibility to contemplate. The Minister may have some explanation to offer for it, but I have read the reports of the debate on this bill in the House of Representatives and no satisfactory explanation was given in that chamber. None is apparent to me. However, I shall await an explanation from the Minister which will put our minds at rest upon the subject.
– I was impressed with the argument advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) in his early remarks. I am sure that his argument at that stage won a great deal of sympathy. Possibly, if the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna) had the opportunity to redraft the bill something might be done to meet the honorable senator’s objections. However, I regret very much that at this stage of the discussion he has introduced the aspect of politics in touching upon what might be likely to happen. If his contention is correct, we could visualize that a government with a dominant majority in both Houses of the Parliament might decide to remove a justice of the High Court.
– That is what the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said he would do.
– That may be the view held by one Minister or by other members of the ministerial party who have remained silent on the subject. However, one could also visualize the time when the political complexion of the Parliament would be the reverse of what it is to-day. No doubt the Opposition parties are hopeful that that will be so. The fact is that in the hurly-burly of politics the Opposition parties may again be returned to office. Should that happen certain justices of the High Court might give expression to sentiments not in accordance with the views held by those parties, and those parties having a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, might decide to remove such justices. It may be necessary for the Parliament to present an address to the Governor-General requesting the removal from their office of judges because of old age, or feebleness. It may be in the interest of their widows and children that that should be done. Because of that possibility, some differentiation should be made between judges who may be removed for such reasons and judges who may be removed on the ground of misbehaviour. Therefore, I do not favour the clause as it is drafted. I should like further information upon one thought which the Minister expressed with respect to the protection of justices. He said that the Constitution provides for the removal of justices from their office on certain grounds and upon an address being presented by the Parliament to the Governor-General for that purpose. He then suggested that the High Court would have an opportunity to review the address and to decide whether the Parliament had acted constitutionally in presenting the address. Circumstances might arise in which the Parliament decided that, in the best interests of the country, a justice or justices of the High Court should be removed.
– It would be serious if thi9 Parliament did not have the right so to decide.
– He added that those who at present occupy the position of justices of the High Court would have the right to sit in judgment on the Parliament to determine whether it had acted correctly or otherwise. If Gilbert and Sullivan were writing their comic operas to-day they would write something on this subject that would amuse the people of Australia very much.
– What about the High Court and the Banking Act ?
– The High Court has every right, under the Constitution, to review any act of this Parliament.
– Even if its judges are personally interested?
– I cannot believe that there is any section of the Constitution, which itself provides for the removal of those individuals, that would allow them to review the action of the Parliament in removing them* Such a state of affairs would be incongruous in a democracy and whilst I appreciate that the High Court of Australia is vested, under the Constitution, with very great powers, and may overrule the decisions of the elected representatives of the people, it would surprise me to discover that the Constitution provides that it has the right to sit in judgment in a matter affecting its own members, that is, in this particular instance, in a matter concerning the suitability of justices to remain members of the court. I should like information on where that particular provision is to be found in the Constitution.
– It was surprising to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) refer to the statements of people, in some instances members of this Parliament, who have cast reflections on members of the High Court. I consider that those individuals were most injudicious in saying what they said. At the same time, however, we know that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has no hesitation in casting reflections on an even higher personage than a justice of the High Court. I refer to His Excellency the Governor-General.
– talk rot. Why not say the King and be done with it?
– The GovernorGeneral is the representative of the King, and a very worthy one.
– He does what his Ministers tell him to do, and very promptly, too.
– He holds a position that I acknowledge and honour. When we analyse the clause we find that it deals with the position of a judge who has been removed from office. If a judge so removed from office considered that his rights under the Constitution had been abrogated he would have a means of recourse and it would be competent for him to seek to establish his constitutional rights. No government can take those rights away from him. But should a case arise in which it is necessary to review the position of a judge who has been removed, the Governor-General can apply a sympathetic judgment, taking all factors into consideration. He may reach a decision that would give the judge entitlement to a pension. He could make that decision, or another decision, based on the facts that had led to the judge’s removal. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition might argue about the removal of a judge from office for a highly immoral act. Who is to decide when a judge has committed a highly immoral act? Such an argument could go on ad infinitum and we should get nowhere. A judge has constitutional protection and a means of appeal should he desire to appeal, and the Governor-General, as the representative of the King, has the right to determine the matter.
– On the advice of his Ministers?
Senator critchley (South Australia) [4.40]. - I do not see anything wrong with the clause as it stands. Most people in other walks of life who are covered by pensions acts would be very happy if similar provisions to that laid down in this clause applied to them. I agree up to a point with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) that some account should be taken of the reasons for which a judge would be removed from, the court. The very fact that the clause contains the words -
Senator o’byrne (Tasmania) [4.42]. - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) raised a point regarding the different reasons which might lead to the removal of a judge. He said that one judge might suffer from a physical disability whilst another might have committed a reprehensible act, and that both would be similarly classified under this particular clause. The point he has raised would be difficult to answer. I was surprised by his remarks, which cast suspicion on the motives of the Government in including this clause in the bill, because I believe that politics should be completely excluded from any matter such as this. I am quite certain that the statements of the honorable senator casting suspicion on the motives of the Government were uttered for political purposes and I do not give him much credit for using such a stratagem.
– I do not desire credit for it.
– A line of demarcation must be drawn between mental and physical illness, mental degeneration and reprehensible acts. It is necessary to have some final arbiter to decide that line of demarcation, which could range through the whole field from diseases requiring treatment by psychiatry to disabilities resulting from old age. The responsibility ultimately rests with the Governor-General to decide whether the constitutional right to a pension shall apply in any particular instance.
– A judge must be removed for misbehaviour or incapacity for that to apply.
– The point I wish to stress is that a reprehensible act may be caused by some physical or mental degeneration and it is necessary to have a final arbiter. This clause provides that the Governor-General shall he that arbiter and I consider that it is wide enough to cover any particular instance that may arise in some unknowable future.
– I desire to remove a misapprehension on the part of the honorable senator who has just spoken. It is quite true that there might be a fine line of demarcation to be considered in deciding whether a man’s actions are due to deliberate moral turpitude or to a weakening of the mind because of which the co-operation of the will had no part in the physical act complained of. The honorable senator has suggested that someone must make a decision. That is entirely beside the point. When the proposed section 15 comes into operation that judgment will have to be made only after a man has been dealt with on the grounds of either proven misbehaviour or proven incapacity. For instance, an address from both Houses of Parliament requesting the removal of a judge would not merely say that the judge had been guilty on one of those grounds. The address would say that he was guilty of misbehaviour, and would then give a recital of the acts or act complained of or, if the ground was incapacity, would give facts supporting the allegation. The address of Parliament would be not on both grounds but on one or the other, either proven misbehaviour or proven incapacity. All that procedure would be over before the actual retirement took place. One judge might be removed on the ground of misbehaviour and another on the ground of incapacity and both would suffer to precisely the same degree, the punishment to be determined at the whim of the Attorney-General. Some one should inform Senator Cooke that the GovernorGeneral does not initiate such matters but acts entirely on the advice of a Minister or of Ministers.
– As I explained during my second-reading speech, judges are protected against arbitrary action by governments. I am surprised by the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) about the threats that may or may not have been made by members of the Government party. There need not be the slightest fear that any judge can be dealt with arbitrarily, either by a whole go vernment or by any part of a government, or by any party that supports the government. To have the issue in perspective we should take into consideration the fact that we are discussing possibilities that are in the highest realm of improbability.
– I quite agree.
– In our anxiety to debate this very important measure we are really dealing with fictitious cases. Honorable senators have discussed incapacity hut that heading does not comprise only mental or physical incapacity. A government must consider the possibility that it may have to deal with other kinds of incapacity. A judge may become an addict to drugs or a chronic alcoholic. There is nothing criminal in either drug-taking or alcoholism but I consider that it is reasonable that if a judge became unable to carry out his duties because of addiction to either drugs or alcohol, that addiction should be a ground for the premature termination of his services to his country. If the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were to be accepted, even if a situation such as I have mentioned arose, there would be no discretionary power and the individual would receive a pension. I think any reasonable person will acknowledge that the facts of that situation ought to be examined rather carefully. But physical and mental incapacity are not the only two elements covered by the term “ incapacity “ used in section 72 of the Constitution. It may be that a misguided government - it would not be a Labour government, of course - would appoint somebody who, by experience and qualification, would be utterly unfitted to exercise a judicial office. He might be a man who did not understand evidence, had no balance and should never preside at a trial of either a civil or a criminal action. A succeeding government might be able to demonstrate amply and clearly that the man had no qualifications for judicial office, although he might be mentally fit and physically fit according to the ordinary tests of psychiatrists and medical practitioners. That would be a form of incapacity. Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition contend that we should pick out every grade of incapacity that ia implicit in the term used in the Constitution, specify it in an act of Parliament, and determine what shall happen in each of the multitudinous circumstances? I think the honorable gentleman will agree that it would be unreasonable to expect such meticulous detail in a bill of this kind.
– But once a man has qualified for a pension he should retain it.
– I point out that we are dealing, not with retirement, but with removal on the ground of incapacity. I have pointed out that there might be circumstances that would justify a government in determining that a pension ought not to be paid. I have referred to the possibility of physical or mental incapacity being brought about by the wrongful actions of a judge over a long period, and to the possibility of a political appointment, one that should never have been made in the first place and that operated detrimentally to justice. Some government might tolerate such an appointment for a period of years, but a new government might come into power and do what ought to be done. Is it to be said that a man who is a complete misfit in a judicial office should be entitled to pension? I am mentioning only some of the difficulties that arise when we consider what is involved in the term “ incapacity “. I do not think that anybody could ask for any better provision than is contained in this legislation, which provides that a judge removed under section 72 of the Constitution may get a pension in a proper case. That does not apply to-day. A judge removed from his position before this bill becomes law would not be entitled to any pension. At present, pension rights arise on retirement, and, in my view, “ retirement “ does not include expulsion from office. Thus, this clause confers the possibility of concessions that hitherto have not existed in favour of judges. I consider that this matter will be perfectly safe in the hands of the Governor-General. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, under the Acts Interpretation Act, the Governor-General in this instance means the Governor-General in Council, that is, in collaboration with his Ministers and acting on the advice of his Minis ters. The whole of the Government would exercise a judgment in determining whether a pension should or should not be granted in all of the varied circumstances that we have been discussing. I do not want to burke discussion on this matter, but, frankly, I do not think that the Senate profits very much by canvassing all of these rare improbabilities, enjoyable as the debate has been up to date. I see no reason to recommend to the Government that there should be any variation of the clause as it stands,
I come now to an interesting point raised by Senator Sheehan, who pointed out that the conduct of a justice of the High Court might be in question before this Parliament, and that there might be an appeal to the High Court against the validity of any action taken by the Parliament. The honorable senator fears that a judge whose conduct was in question might be a member of the tribunal that would adjudicate upon such a submission.
– We might be seeking to remove the whole of the High Court Bench.
– That thought is too horrible to contemplate. That is the rarest of rare improbabilities, and, frankly, I am not prepared to pursue it. It is in the realm of the fantastic. However, in the instance suggested by the honorable senator, if the conduct of a judge were in question, it is completely certain that, according to the laws of natural justice, he would not be eligible to take his seat upon the Bench.
– I question the right of the court to deal with the matter at all.
– The honorable senator is now raising a very complicated question which I thought I had dealt with rather extensively in my reply to the second-reading debate, when I pointed out that the power of both Houses of the Parliament to remove a judge is subject to the establishment first of proof of incapacity or misbehaviour. If there were any doubt anywhere in Australia as to whether the Parliament had acted with or without proof of either of those two elements, there must be, in common reason and justice, some body to resolve the argument. There is no such body other than the High Court. I decline to pursue logically into fantastic realms the suggestion made by the honorable senator that both Houses of the Parliament might on some future occasion seek to remove all members of the Commonwealth judiciary. That is a little too fantastic even for my imagination.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to mental institution benefits.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining Stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to authorize the Commonwealth to execute agreements with the States relating to the provision of mental institution benefits and to authorize payments for the purposes of those agreements to be made out of the National Welfare Fund. In accordance with the terms of agreements made with the States under the provisions of the hospital benefits legislation, free hospital treatment has since 1946 been provided to qualified persons occupying beds in public wards in public hospitals. As mental institutions are not public hospitals, they do not come within the scope of the hospital benefits agreements. From time to time, however, representations have been made on behalf of relatives of patients in mental institutions for a benefit scheme which would enable those patients or their relatives to be relieved of the liability for fees for maintenance or treatment.
The Government accepts the view that such a benefit should be provided and has opened negotiations with the States with the object of reaching agreement on terms under which patients in mental institutions could be maintained without charge to their relatives or to their estates. The proposal made to the States was that the Commonwealth would pay to the States the equivalent of the fees received by the States from the estates and relatives of patients in return for the State authorities agreeing to remove all charges in respect of those patients. Most of the States have accepted the proposal in principle, although some points still remain to be settled with them and negotiations are proceeding with the other States. The Commonwealth’s desire is to expedite the introduction of the scheme, so that the benefit can he made available as soon as possible. This has been explained to the States, and the Government is confident that all States will accept the scheme. The hill authorizes the Commonwealth to enter into an agreement with the States which will be substantially in accordance with the heads of agreement in the schedule to the bill.
Before the scheme can he brought into operation in any State, it will be neces- sary for the Parliament of that State to authorize the execution of an agreement with the Commonwealth. Each agreement will be for five years, and may be terminated thereafter after a specified period of notice of not less than one year by either party. The States will be required to ensure that no means test shall he imposed, or fees charged to, or in respect of, qualified persons, and that, except with the concurrence of the Commonwealth, no charge shall be made to or in respect of qualifiedpersons for services or comforts for which it was not customary to make a charge as at the 1st November, 1948. All patients in the mental institutions within the scheme will be eligible for benefit except those whose fees are borne bv the Commonwealth or another State. Thus, the scheme will not apply to repatriation and other cases which are the responsibility of the Commonwealth, or to patients maintained by one State at the expense of another. The mental institutions which will be included in the scheme will consist of all institutions and reception houses conducted by a State, or which receive a grant for maintenance from the State, and are approved by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the agreement.
The Commonwealth will pay to each State for each financial year or part thereof in respect of qualified persons an amount to be determined by multiplying the Commonwealth mental institution benefit rate by the number of “ patient days “ in that financial year or part thereof. The Commonwealth mental institution benefit rate will vary for each State, and will be calculated by dividing the actual payments received by each State from the patients’ estates and relatives during the year ended the 30th June, 1948, by the number of “ patient days “ for that year. Figures relating to these payments have not yet been received from all States, but it is expected that the daily rate will range from 9d. to ls. 3d. The total cost of mental institution benefits is estimated to be £500,000 for a complete year, and will be a charge on the National Welfare Fund.
Private mental hospitals are not provided for in the bill. The type of patient treated in those hospitals differs from that treated in the mental institutions conducted ‘by the States, and the patients can be more appropriately regarded as comparable with those in ordinary private hospitals. The Government has decided that private mental hospitals should be brought under the private hospitals side of the hospital benefits scheme. In order that benefits may be made available in respect of qualified patients in these hospitals, action will be taken to amend the Hospital Benefits (Private Hospitals) Regulations to enable private mental hospitals to become eligible for approval as private hospitals for the purposes of the regulations. The benefits payable in respect of qualified patients in private mental hospitals which are so approved will be at the rate of 8s. per day. I comment the bill to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I commend the Government for having introduced the measure, and suggest that while the Commonwealth is negotiating with State governments on the treatment of mental patients it might take the opportunity to discuss the introduction of uniform legislation to make insanity a ground for divorce.
– In the course of his second-reading speech, the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) stated that it is anticipated that the daily rate of payment in respect of mental patients in State institutions will range from 9d. to ls. 3d., whereas a payment of 8s. a day will be made in respect of patients in private mental hospitals. The financial burden of the upkeep of mental institutions still devolves upon the States, and I should like the Minister to explain why State governments will receive so much less in respect of their patients than will be paid to private institutions.
– In reply to the suggestion made by Senator Large, that opportunity should be taken to discuss the introduction of uniform legislation to make the insanity of a party to a marriage a ground for divorce, I point out that the Commonwealth has not yet entered the field of divorce law.
– Power is provided in the Constitution for it to do so.
– That is so, and I explained to the Senate some time ago that consideration was being given to making divorce law uniform throughout Australia. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) took particular interest in the matter, and an expert committee was appointed to prepare uniform legislation for all Governments in Australia. I regret that I cannot furnish any information at this stage as to the progress of negotiations.
If I understood Senator O’flaherty correctly, he inquired why the Government proposes to pay hospital benefits in respect of patients in private institutions but not in respect of patients in public mental institutions. The honorable senator will realize that the Government’s present proposals are similar to the legislation which it recently introduced concerning payment of hospital benefits in respect of public hospitals other than mental institutions. In other words, the Commonwealth intends to relieve the States of the necessity for maintaining mental patients. Calculations have been made of the cost of maintaining patients in ordinary hospitals, and until recently an amount of 6s. a day was paid to hospitals for the maintenance of patients. That amount has since been increased to 8s. a day. Under this bill we propose to increase the amount payable in respect of patients in private hospitals by amending the Hospital Benefits (Private Hospitals) Regulations to enable private mental hospitals to become eligible for approval as private hospitals for the purposes of the regulations. The difference between the rates proposed to be paid in respect of patients in public institutions and those in private institutions does not really affect the matter, because the Government merely proposes to lift the burden of maintaining insane patients from the shoulders of their relatives. It is not intended under this bill to make a subvention to State budgets. State governments will continue to conduct their mental institutions free of any interference, but the Commonwealth will bear portion of the cost of maintenance instead of the relatives of patients having to do so.
– The Government proposes to pay 8s. a day in respect of patients in private institutions, but only from 9d. to ls. 3d. a day in respect of patients in public institutions.
– That represents the average amount which the States have been able to recover from relatives of patients who contribute to their upkeep in State institutions. As an emissary of one of the less populous States, Senator O’Flaherty is, perhaps, a little too conscious of the financial needs of the States. I repeat that the present measure is not intended to provide a subvention for State budgets. Its purpose is to assist the relatives of mental patients by contributing to the States an amount equivalent to that which they now collect from the relatives of patients.
– I should like the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) to furnish more information on the point raised by Senator O’Flaherty. In addition, I should also like to be informed whether the inmates of mental institutions receive pensions. I know for a fact that the relatives of mental patients in certain institutions, particularly in South Australia, are required to contribute much more than ls. 3d. a day for the support of their afflicted relatives. Can the Minister slate definitely whether the passage of the measure will relieve the relatives of any further financial commitments to State mental institutions? Will the Minister also inform me of the manner in which money paid to the States from the National Welfare Fund for the treatment of mental patients is distributed? Has any allocation been made to improve the treatment of inmates of the institutions, or to improve the accommodation provided by the institutions?
– Can the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) say definitely whether the bill will relieve the wife of a mental patient of the necessity from contributing to the support of her husband? In a great many cases the relatives of those who are mentally afflicted have had te dispose of their homes and other assets in order to maintain their dependants in State institutions.
.- The authority that maintains public mental institutions in Victoria, which is now called the Mental Hygiene Department, will receive only 9d. to ls. 3d. a day in respect of patients treated in those institutions, although the Government proposes to pay 8s. a day in respect of patients lodged in private mental institutions. It would appear that the Government proposes, in effect, to subsidize private institutions at the expense of those maintained by the States. Although
I listened most attentively to the explanation given by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) in reply to Senator O’Flaherty’s question, I cannot under. stand the reason for the discrepancy between the rates of payment proposed to be made. If the private institutions are worth 8s. a day, surely State institutions also are worth 8s. a day.
.- Replying first to Senator Critchley, I point out that Commonwealth, pensions cease entirely upon the entry of a patient to a mental institution. Maintenance of patients in those institutions has always been a responsibility of the States. To those honorable senators who have asked for an assurance that once the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States comes into operation, no further charge will be made to patients, their relatives, or upon the assets or estates of patients or their relatives, I give a complete assurance that that will be so. That is the whole purpose of this benefit. That explains also why the payment to public institutions is at the rate of ls. 3d. a day, whereas to private institutions it is 8s. a day. In respect of each type of institution we go to the State and say, “You have been collecting certain sums from the patients in this institution. We shall pay you what you would otherwise normally collect from the patients or their relatives, and we shall ask you not to make any further charge upon those patients or relatives “. As I said previously, this is a benefit for the patients, not for the States, The States will not be in a worse position, nor will they be in a better position. Patients, and their relatives, and the estates of both patients and relatives, will be completely free of liability for the cost of treatment. I see no anomaly at all in the contributions by the Commonwealth at the rate of 9d. or ls. 3d. a day in respect of patients in State mental institutions, and 8s. a day in respect of patients in private mental institutions. Patients in State institutions will not pay anything at all. Patients in private mental institutions, however, will pay fees vastly in excess of 8s. a day. No accommodation could be found foi- a patient in airy of the few existing private mental institutions for anything like 8s. a day, but that sum will be at least some contribution to the expenses of such patients, just as contributions are made under other legislation in respect of patients who are suffering from physical ailments. I see no difficulty about that.
– Can the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) give any indication of when the scheme will come into operation in South Australia ? Will it be brought into operation in all States simultaneously?
– The scheme can be implemented State by State.
– Has South Australia agreed in principle to the scheme, and if so is it expected that the Parliament of that State will introduce legislation to give effect to it during the current session?
– I am not in a position at the moment to give details of the position in each State, due mainly to the fact that this scheme is being handled mainly by the Treasury, rather than by my department. It is purely a financial provision. I do know, however, that most States have agreed to the scheme in principle. We still have to wait for parliamentary action in the various States but there was unanimity at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in August last on that matter. It is_merely a matter of arranging the details. My hope is that the scheme will be in operation in all States early in the New Year.
– Paragraph 9 of the schedule defines “mental institution” as -
A hospital for the insane, mental hospital, reception house, receiving house or similar institution
There appears to be a very real need in the community for intermediate mental hospitals in which patients suffering temporary mental disorders may be treated. I urge that consideration be given to that matter, and that paragraph 9 of the schedule he widened to cover such institutions. Very often shock and illnesses of various kinds are followed by temporary mental derangement. Such cases could be best treated in institutions of the type that I have described.
– The definition of “ mental institution “ is sufficiently wide to cover intermediate institutions. It includes -
A hospital ‘ for the insane, mental hospital, reception house, receiving house or similar institution .
I stress the words “ receiving house or similar institution “. That definition is sufficiently wide to permit the extension of the mental institution benefit to intermediate institutions such as those described by the honorable senator. In fast, such institutions are in contemplation now. At present, of course, responsibility lies with the State’, but, later to-day, the Senate will have under consideration a measure which, if passed, will confer upon the Commonwealth authority to take action in all fields of health. At the moment the Commonwealth Parliament ha? no statutory authority to embark in those particular fields.
– This measure appears to offer some measure of financial relief to the relatives of people who suffer mental illness. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) referred to various conferences which had taken place with the State authorities, and said that complete agreement had not yet been reached. I appreciate that the agreement set out in the schedule to this measure is subject to ratification by the States, but the Minister has said that most of the States have accepted the proposal in principle although some points remain to be settled. I should like the Minister to indicate to the Senate whether there is any point at issue of which we, as the watchdogs of State rights in this Parliament, should be aware.
– They are purely routine matters.
– If the States are satisfied With the proposal, the measure should have the blessing of the Senate.
The definitions paragraph of the schedule defines “ qualified person “ as -
A patient in a mental institution who was ordinarily resident in Australia at the time of admission to the mental institution but does not include a patient whose fees are borne by the Commonwealth or by another State.
No reference is made to an intermediate or a private institution; yet the Minister, in his second-reading, speech, said -
The benefits payable in respect’ of qualified patients in private mental hospitals which are so approved will be at the rate of 8s. per day.
It is purely a matter of phraseology. According to the schedule, a “ qualified person “ is a person who is in a public mental institution; yet the Minister, in his speech, referred to qualified patients in private institutions. Can the Minister explain that?
– The terms are applied in two different ways. The reference to a “ qualified person “ in a private mental hospital was included in my speech merely for the information of honorable senators. When we draft the regulations, the term may have a connotation different from that contained in this measure. We are providing that “qualified person”, in effect, shall not include a person in respect of whom one State has a responsibility to another State for payment, or for whom the Repatriation Department is responsible. If the Repatriation Department is liable to a State for a payment, we do not want to be in the position of having to contribute an additional amount of ls. 3d. a day in respect of that patient, when we are already paying his costs in full.
– What I am concerned about is that, according to the definitions paragraph of the schedule a patient in a private hospital cannot be a “ qualified person “.
– I do not think that there will be any great difficulty. I may not be appreciating the point that the honorable senator has in mind, but I cannot conceive of any situation in which a patient will seek qualification in a public mental institution, and in a private mental institution simultaneously.
– According to the definitions paragraph, a “ qualified person “ cannot be a person in a private institution. That means that if, for reasons best known to the people concerned, a patient does not enter an institution which comes within the definition of a “mental institution”, but goes to a private hospital, he is not a qualified person for the purposes of the mental institution benefit.
.- The definitions contained in the schedule relate only to the position of the Commonwealth and the States. This measure merely authorizes the execution of an agreement between the Commonwealth, on the one hand, and each of the States on the other, and it relates only to institutions of the kind defined in paragraph 9 of the schedule conducted by the State, or in receipt of a grant for maintenance from the State, and approved by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the agreement. We shall provide a new definition. It may be similar to this one. Workmen’s compensation cases may develop into mental cases as the result of trauma or injury, and an employer or insurance company may be responsible for all the fees. For the purposes of this bill, it does not matter very much what definition we may give to “ qualified person “ in another context.
– That has only been inserted for explanation purposes ?
– I said in my second-reading speech that private mental hospitals are not provided for in this bill, but, for the sake of giving information to the Senate, I went on to give a picture of what would be done.
Bill agreed to, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
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 amend the Whaling Act 1935 in order to meet the requirements of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which was signed at Washington in December, 1946, and to which Australia was a party. That convention consolidated a number of earlier international agreements aimed at regulating whaling activities generally in order to avoid the extinction of whaling as an industry. As a result of unregulated whaling operations the stocks of whales had been seriously depleted before the last world war. The cessation of whaling activities in the war years did not have the effect of making whales plentiful once more as had been hoped. Therefore, international action is necessary to preserve the whaling industry, and it is desirable that Australia should co-operate with other countries in their efforts in that direction.
The bill contains a number of protective provisions which strengthen the requirements of the 1935 act. It provides that grey whales shall be included in the list of protected whales. Provision is also made for the minimum whale lengths for catching purposes to be fixed by regulation and for the accurate measuring of such lengths in lieu of the previous method of estimating them. Under the Washington Convention payment of a bonus to catching crews is not permitted in respect of undersized or lactating whales. The bill also provides, as a safeguard against illegal activities, for continuous inspection while whaling operations are in progress. Other provisions relate to the reporting of whales lost subsequently to their being killed and to the treatment of dead whales and whales used as fenders.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
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 the bill is- to amend the provisions of section 3S of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1947 to - (a) provide for the continuance of insurance of a dwelling-house effected in pursuance of the act’ after the liability of the purchaser or borrower has been repaid, if desired by the ex-serviceman or his widow; and (6) permit the reinsurance of a dwellinghouse where the liability has been repaid and the insurance was terminated in consequence, provided the ex-serviceman or his widow remains the owner and is desirous of again insuring the home under the war service homes insurance scheme.
Provision is also included for the personal representative of a deceased exserviceman or of his widow to continue the insurance until such time as the property, is disposed of in accordance with the laws of administration or probate asthe case may be. In proposing the extension of the provisions of the act along the lines I have mentioned, the Government has taken into consideration requests made by individual ex-servicemen and their associations for the continuance of the insurance or reinsurance of their homes under the act which affords satisfactory cover of a comprehensive nature against . damage or loss. The bill willadd a further benefit to ex-servicemen and their widows, and I am sure that it will meet with the unqualified approval of all honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
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.
In this bill four amendments to the Commonwealth Bank Act are proposed. The limits placed by the present act upon housing loans and loans through the Mortgage Bank Department to primary producers do not fully meet present-day needs and require revision. The two other matters dealt with by the bill relate to the type of security upon which loans may be made .by the Rural Credits Department’ and the definition of efficiency for staff purposes. The existing maximum for Credit’- Foncier loans by the bank for homebuilding is £1,250: When the present acf was passed in 1945 this figure was considered adequate to meet conditions then’ existing, but experience has shown that with recent increases in building costs, the existing limit should be raised. As the’ maximum of £1,250 was preventing the’ Housing Loans Section from fully achieving the objectives for which it was established, approval was given to the bank last June to raise the limit to £1,750 in anticipation of amending legislation. The’ Government considered that the revision would be generally acceptable to Parliament and that intending borrowers should not be deprived of the facilities of the Housing Loans Section while the necessary amending legislation was being* introduced.
Under the present act, Mortgage Bank loans may not exceed £5,000 in any individual case. This limit has prevented the bank from making loans to otherwiseeligible primary producers who havesought advances from the Mortgage Bank Department. Having regard to present- day’ costs of equipping and stocking rural properties’ it is considered that the facilities offered by the Mortgage Bank. should provide for advances of up to £10,000 to be available to primary producers. Provision is made in the hill for the limit to be raised accordingly. The Commonwealth Bank has followed a practice of making rural credit advances to marketing boards and other bodies on the security of a government guaratnee. Whilst the bank has power to make advances upon such security through the General Banking Division, a doubt has arisen as to the powers of the Rural Credits Department to lend on this basis. The provision of finance to marketing boards and similar bodies is the main purpose for which the Rural Credits Department was established. To enable this purpose to be achieved in the most businesslike way it is necessary to remove any uncertainty as to the Rural Credits Department’s authority to secure its advances on a government guarantee. Provision is made for the amendment of the act to grant such authority specifically.
In framing the 1945 act the definition of efficiency for staff purposes was borrowed from the Commonwealth Public Service Act as it stood at that time. An amendment to the definition in the Public Service Act has since been made to enable the test of suitability for duties of a higher office to be applied in considering promotions to certain prescribed executive positions. The bill provides for a similar amendment to the Commonwealth Bank Act.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) 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.
This is an historic occasion in the life of our nation. The hill that I have the honour to present this evening establishes for the first time the principle of Aus tralian citizenship, while maintaining between the components of the British Commonwealth of Nations the common bond of British nationality. The importance of the measure lies in the fact that it marks another step forward in the development of Australian nationhood. This step is a logical one and is the inevitable consequence of decisions of successive Imperial conferences that culminated in the Statute of Westminster which established each dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations and Great Britain itself as equal partners, independent of each other and joined together in a legal sense by one bond only, namely, a common allegiance to His Majesty the King.
The bill is designed not to make an Australian any less a British subject, but to help him express his pride in citizenship of this great country - a pride that is praiseworthy because it is based on a belief that among the British nations Australia has done as much as any to develop, expand and improve the free institutions and systems of organized society that had their origin in the United Kingdom. Our friendly competition to excel, not in conquest or power, but in the development of decent and democratic social structures is not, unfortunately, as well understood as it should be in some parts of the world, but the success achieved to date is a legitimate cause for satisfaction. To say that one is Australian is, of course, to indicate beyond all doubt that one is British. But to claim to he of the British race naturally does not make it clear that one is an Australian. The time has come for not only Australia but also the other dominions to recognize officially and legally their maturity as members of the British Commonwealth by the passage of separate citizenship laws. It therefore gives me great pleasure to introduce the bill that will enable Australia to proclaim its own national citizenship and establish the duties and responsibilities, as well as the rights and privileges, that are inherent in it.
Subject to certain modifications designed to meet conditions peculiar to Australia, the bill puts into effect the principle on which the United Kingdom
Nationality Act 1948 is based. In that act the British Government recognized that the people of each of the selfgoverning countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations have a particular status as citizens of their own country as well as their wider status as British subjects. The bill makes other changes in nationality law and in particular it achieves an end that the Australian people have long sought - the removal of the disabilities imposed on married women and their placement, so far as their national status is concerned, on an equal footing with men and single women.
Nationality legislation is without question a difficult and complicated matter, and it may be worth while to review briefly the historical position in relation to British nationality. Originally British nationality was conferred only under the common law by birth within the ligeance of the Crown. If a person was born in England he became at birth an Englishman, regardless of the nationality of his parents. Having been born an Englishman he would all his life be able to assume the obligations and enjoy the privileges acquired by birth on British soil. With the growth of the King’s Dominions complications arose in regard to the children of Englishmen born outside England, and legislation became necessary to recognize such children as British subjects by virtue of the fact that their fathers or paternal grandfathers were born on British soil. The question was further complicated as the result of the development, within the British Commonwealth, of dominions which were in fact sovereign States with equal power and authority to the United Kingdom. Such countries made their own laws, laying down the conditions under which British nationality was acquired or lost so far as each individual country was concerned. The legislation passed by the various dominions had local effect only, with the result that a person who was recognized in one British country as a British subject was regarded in others as an alien. In 1914, however, the United Kingdom Government introduced a bill for the purpose of consolidating the British law and applying it uniformly throughout the whole of the British Commonwealth. At various stages the parliaments of the Dominions passed legislation along similar lines, thus bringing into effect what is known as the “ common code “ system.
The introduction of the “ common code “ system, whilst marking a definite advance over former British nationality legislation, did not solve all difficulties and a new method which would retain all of the advantages of the “ common code “ system, and avoid its defects, was sought. The only workable plan that could be found was the principle of combining local citizenship of an individual member of the British Commonwealth with the maintenance of the general status of British subject. This method has been decided upon after consultation between the various governments of the Commonwealth.
The question of the relationship between the common status possessed by all subjects of His Majesty and the particular status of membership of any one of the individual communities forming the British Commonwealth of Nations ii by no means a new one. The consideration, of legislation to define who were the nationals or citizens of a particular community did not begin, as some may think, with the enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1946. The subject was dealt with in the report of the Conference on the Operation of Dominion Legislation, 1929, and the Summary of Proceedings of the Imperial Conference, 1930. The 1929 report pointed out that British subjects not only have the common status, but also, generally speaking, have a particular connexion with one or other member of the British Commonwealth. It also pointed out that, in the absence of rules for determining the part of the Commonwealth to which any particular person belongs, practical difficulties arise, or might arise, with regard to such matters as immigration, deportation, diplomatic action, extra-territorial legislation and treaty rights and obligations.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The suggestion was made that these difficulties could be overcome if each of the member States of the Commonwealth were to introduce legislation defining its nationals or citizens, but it was found that some member States were not then disposed to introduce such legislation. The matter was again considered at the Imperial Conference of 1937. In its report, the conference stated -
It was recognized that to a greater or less extent members of the Commonwealth, whether or not they have given legislative definition to such a concept, do distinguish for some practical purposes between British subjects in general and those British subjects they regard as being members of their own respective communities.
The report went on to say that the phrase “ members of the community “ of a particular member of the Commonwealth was intended to have rather a technical meaning, as denoting a person with whom that member of the Commonwealth has, either by legislative definition of its nationals or citizens or otherwise, decided to regard as “ belonging “ to it for the purposes of civil and political rights and duties, immigration, deportation, diplomatic representation, or the exercise of territorial jurisdiction. In the light of these considerations, the conference reached the conclusion that -
It is for each member of the British Commonwealth to decide which persons have with it that definite connexion envisaged in the Report on the Operation of Dominion Legislation, 1029, which would enable it to recognize them as members of its community, lt is desirable, however, to secure, as far as possible, uniformity in principle in the determination by each member of the Commonwealth, of the persons, being British subjects, to be regarded as members of its community.
The difficulties which have arisen under the system of nationality legislation which now operates and which is generally known as the “ common code “ system are set out at some length in the explanatory memorandum which has been supplied to honorable senators. There is, therefore, no need for me to labour this point. It will be sufficient for me to 3ay that these difficulties did cause the Australian Government concern and that it felt impelled to introduce special legislation in regard to the status of married women and residents of the Territory of New Guinea, although this involved a departure from the “ common code “.
In 1945, the Government considered the question of legislation to provide for a legal Australian citizenship, combined with the maintenance of the common status of British subjects in Australia. About the same time, advice was received that the Canadian Government proposed to introduce a Canadian Citizenship Bill in the near future, and it was decided in the circumstances to defer consideration of the question of Australian citizenship legislation for the time being. The passage of the Canadian Act in’ 1946 was followed in February, 1947, by the Conference of Nationality Experts of the various countries of the British Commonwealth, convened at the invitation of the United Kingdom Government, to discuss a draft scheme prepared by the United Kingdom authorities. Their plan combined local citizenship with the wider status of British subject. The conclusions of the conference are embodied in the explanatory memorandum.
The Parliaments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand have passed acts, which will come into operation as from the 1st January, 1949, on lines similar to those contained in this bill, and other Commonwealth countries have indicated that they are willing to do likewise.
It should he clearly understood, and this is a point which I cannot too strongly emphasize, that creation of an Australian citizenship under this bill will in no way lessen the advantages and privileges which British subjects who may not be Australian citizens enjoy in Australia. British subjects, whether they are now in this country or enter it in future, will continue to be free from the disabilities and restrictions that apply to aliens. They will qualify for the franchise and have the right to become members of parliament or to enter the public services. A British subject who is not Australian-born will be able to become an Australian citizen by a simple act of registration, but he will not suffer in any way whatever should he fail to do so. No doubt a great many British people not born in Australia will seek citizenship, but they will not make the move for any practical advantage whatever, but purely as an expression of pride in this country and its achievements, which I have already mentioned as being strong in the breasts of native Australians.
I make it plain that the “common code” system has in effect broken down, and that the only means of maintaining the existing common status of British subject throughout the British Commonwealth is in the concept that citizenship of an individual member of the Commonwealth shall carry with it the common status. This is effected by the key clause of the bill, clause 7 (1), which provides that -
A person who, under this Act, is an Aus-‘ tralian citizen, or by an enactment for the time being in force in a country to which this section applies, is a citizen of that country shall, by virtue of that citizenship, be a British subject.
The clause applies to the United Kingdom and colonies, Canada, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Newfoundland, India, Pakistan, Southern Rhodesia and Ceylon. Before passing to other phases of the bill, I wish to make it clear that this is in no respect a party measure. This point was emphasized when the United Kingdom bill was under discussion and was accepted by all parties, as the following quotations will show. The Earl of Perth said -
It is good to find that under clause 1 df the bill the citizens of nearly all the countries of the Commonwealth will still bear the proud title of “British subject”. > . . It is an overriding status, and I hope that this most valuable factor and’ tie between the various nations of the British Commonwealth will always remain.
Lord Altrincham said - -
In the first place, let me say that the bill as a whole seems good, wise and tidy. I congratulate the Government upon it and upon the understanding with the Dominions upon which it has been founded. The bill is an example of our present constitutional practice in Commonwealth affairs of bringing the legal structure of the Commonwealth into as complete consonance as we can manage with reality - and by “reality” I mean the way in which the King’s lieges think and feel, both as. nationals of their own country and as members of a world-wide community.
Lord Tweedsmuir expressed the view that the real basis of the measure was that it would give clear recognition to the separate identity of particular countries. He believed that the word “ identity “ was an important part of their strength and the encouragement of that “ identity “ would he a source of continuing strength. Such opinions will, I hope, convince any one who may still doubt the fact that this bill is hot; in any particular, opposed to the wishes of the United Kingdom. It is, in fact, a measure of a kind which the United Kingdom Government and the leaders of opinion in all classes in the United Kingdom wish to see enacted in the British Dominions. It is designed to eliminate complications in the matters of nationality and citizenship that were not more irritating to us than they were to the authorities in the United Kingdom itself.
The explanatory memorandum will give honorable senators a comprehensive view of the general provisions contained in the bill and I do not, therefore, propose to deal with all these matters in detail. It is desirable, however, that I should refer to some of the more important matters. The first of these is how Australian citizenship, which will carry with it the wider status of British nationality, will be acquired. It will be achieved in a number of ways: (i) by birth in this country; (ii) by descent if born outside Australia; (iii) by registration in the case of British subjects other than Australian citizens, or Irish citizens ; and (iv) by the grant of naturalization in the case of aliens. These provisions will operate only in. the cases of persons horn after the commencement of the act or those who apply for registration or naturalization after that date. However, provision has also been made in the transitional clauses - clauses 24 to 31 - to cover the cases of persons who are British subjects immediately before the date of commencement of the act, and, by reason of these provisions, they will not only retain their British nationality but will also acquire Australian citizenship automatically, if they have a definite association with this country.
In the provisions in regard to loss of citizenship, two new principles have been incorporated in the bill. The first is that an Australian citizen who is also a national of another country and serves with the enemy forces in any war in which Australia is engaged shall forfeit his Australian citizenship. The second provides for loss of citizenship in the case of a person who became a citizen by registration or naturalization if he continues to reside outside Australia for a continuous period of seven years without registering annually at a consulate, unless he is abroad in the service of the Government. The Senate, I am sure, will agree that those provisions are both justifiable and desirable.
I pass now to the status of married women. It is my belief that our proposals in this connexion will have the full backing not only of every member of the Commonwealth Parliament and every woman in Australia, be she British or alien, but also of every male in our community who has given any thought to this subject. I have always held the view that it was most objectionable that, solely because of the fact that a woman married a man of another nationality, she was obliged to accept his nationality. Because this has been the case, Australian women have from time to time been placed in worrying and even humiliating situations, and it has long been agreed by enlightened people that the citizenship rights of a woman should not be in any way inferior to those of a man. Efforts have been made to improve the position by prescribing that a woman, upon marriage, should not lose her British nationality unless she acquired her husband’s nationality. This did not completely satisfy the Australian ‘Government, which in 1946 passed special legislation to provide that British women who married aliens while resident in Australia should not in this country he deemed to have lost their British nationality. It is our wish, however, that every woman, whether married or single, shall be equally as free as is a man to determine what her nationality shall be. The bill provides for this, and, moreover, restores British nationality to women who by reason of marriage may have become aliens. Such women who are resident in Australia and comply with the transitional provisions of -the bill will also become Australian citizens.
Under the existing law certain children born in foreign territory are under some practical disadvantages. For instance, the child born out of wedlock of a British mother does not acquire British nationality, even if his father is British. In 1946, a committee of women, representative of the main political bodies in Australia, which was presided over by
Senator Tangney, was appointed to consider the problems arising from the possession by mother and father of different nationalities. Following a recommendation of that committee, provision has been made in the bill that a child born in a foreign country, whose mother was an Australian citizen or a British subject ordinarily resident in Australia, shall be an Australian citizen, provided that such a child is eligible for admission to Australia as a permanent resident. Provision has also been made in the bill that children born out of wedlock on foreign soil of British fathers and alien mothers shall become, according to circumstances, Australian citizens or British subjects if their births are made legitimate by the subsequent marriages of the parents. An anomaly in regard to the position of posthumous children is also rectified by the bill. Such children will, in future, become Australian citizens if, at the time of the father’s death, he was an Australian citizen.
The position of Irish citizens under the bill has been clearly defined in the explanatory memorandum, and I feel that there is little I can say by way of further observation. Briefly, this is a question which mainly concerns the United Kingdom and Irish Governments, and by “Irish Government” I refer to the Government of what was formerly known as the Irish Free State, now sometimes known according to its Gaelic title as the “Government of Eire”. The Irish Government has made it clear that, whilst it has objections in principle to an Irish citizen still being regarded as a British subject as a matter of course, it raises no objection to any Irish citizen who has association with a particular Commonwealth country, by way of descent, residence or otherwise, becoming a citizen of that country. Under the provisions of the bill, which are identical with those of the United Kingdom Act, it rests with an Irish citizen to declare that, by reason of his association with this country, he wishes to become an Australian citizen, and, on doing so, he will acquire Australian citizenship. British subjects in Ireland enjoy certain material advantages which are not afforded to aliens, and, as a reciprocal measure, the bill provides that Irish citizens in this country who do not become Australian citizens shall not be treated as aliens.
Clause 41 of the bill calls for special mention. It provides for arrangements to be made for the oath of allegiance to be taken in public before a judicial officer, and to be accompanied by proceedings designed to impress upon applicants the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizens. In a statement on government policy made in the House of Representatives on the 22nd November, 1946, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) said -
It is my belief that the present procedure connected with the taking of the oath of allegiance by applicants for- naturalization leaves much to be desired. At present, the prospective new citizen merely attends his local courthouse and takes the oath before a magistrate or a clerk of courts. It seems to me, however, that such an occasion calls for a dignified induction ceremony that would serve to instil into the minds of applicants a proper appreciation of the value of the new citizenship, which carries with it certain obligations and responsibilities, as well as privileges and benefits. Such a ceremony, based on the American practice, would, I feel sure, produce the same excellent results as have been achieved in the United States.
Provision has been made in the bill to give effect to the views then expressed, ft is proposed that the oath of allegiance shall be taken in open court, when the Australian flag shall be prominently displayed and have pride of place, and that an appropriate address shall be given by the presiding judge or magistrate. He will impress upon applicants the responsibilities as well as the privileges and benefits which will follow from their new status. The old system, under which a man’s naturalization papers came to him through the mail, like his annual licence for his dog or his motor car, was most inappropriate. A man from a foreign country makes one of the greatest decisions of his life when he decides to migrate to Australia. If he finds life here so satisfactory that he decides to become an Australian and to establish his family of new citizens here permanently, then that is another of the great decisions of his life - a great and joyful decision. It should be marked by a solemn ceremony, an impressive occasion which he and his children will remember. He should not simply receive a paper that entitles him to certain new privileges. He should ho made aware in warm, spoken language, of the responsibilities he is assuming, and officially welcomed as a new Australian. We now propose that this shall be done, and that a matter affecting the whole of a man’s life and that of future generations of his family shall no longer be merely a piece of office routine. Another innovation so far as naturalization in Australia is concerned, which has been included in the bill, is the provision that normally an alien wishing to become naturalized shall first make a declaration of intention. The reasons why this requirement has been adopted are set forth in the explanatory memorandum.
No honorable senator will deny that it is most desirable to formulate some, method under which a common nationality will prevail throughout every part of the British Commonwealth, and that we should avoid, if possible, the situation that a person is recognized as a British national by one community and not by another. There are only two ways by which the conception of a common nationality can be achieved. One is by having a common code under which every member of the British Commonwealth must legislate in the same way and practically at the same time. That method has .been tried and found wanting. The second way is the concept under which the government of each Commonwealth community shall decide for itself who are to be its citizens, and that the sum total of the citizens of the various members of the British Commonwealth shall have the common status of British subjects. The principle embodied in the latter conception is expressed in this bill.
This legislation, which is similar to that passed by the United Kingdom and New Zealand Governments and to bills which are likely to be passed by other Commonwealth countries, is a logical development of the Statute of Westminster. That statute created no new status, so far as the members of the British Commonwealth were concerned. It merely gave legal expression to an existing state of affairs, namely that the selfgoverning Dominions were free and independent nations, equal in status to the Mother Country within the boundaries of an agreed Commonwealth of Nations. The statute has in no way weakened any of the ties between the various nations which comprise the British Commonwealth. In a similar fashion this bill, by fully and properly recognizing the individual identity of each Commonwealth community, and, at the same time, preserving the status of a common nationality possessed by all these people, will prove just as binding and unifying between the various communities comprising the British Commonwealth.
Incorporated in the Australian flag is the Union Jack, and similarly in this bill there is complete recognition of our close ties with the United Kingdom and the other countries of the British Commonwealth. Provision is made for us to remain British subjects, while identifying ourselves as Australian citizens, and, having regard to legislation passed, or to be passed, in other British countries, we must adopt this bill or Australia will be the only unidentified country from the point of view of citizenship in the British Commonwealth, and Australians the only members of the British family without a name of their own.
When this bill becomes an act, it will be proclaimed on Australia Day, the 26th of January, 1949, and the occasion will be a memorable one. It will symbolize not only our own pride in Australia but also our willingness to offer a share in our future to the new Australians we are seeking in such, vast numbers. Those people are sure of a warm welcome to our shores. They will no longer need to strive towards an intangible goal. They can aspire to the honour of acquiring Australian citizenship. They will be able to say, just as proudly as any of us, “ I am an Australian “. Perhaps those words will mean even more to those who remember life in less fortunate lands than to us who enjoy the freedom and plenty, the sunshine. and social equality, of this great democracy. My aim, and the aim of the Government, will be to make the word “Australian” mean all that it truly stands for to every member of our community. We will try to teach the children that they are fortunate to be British, and additionally fortunate to be Australian. We want to emphasize the brief but glorious history of such great accomplishment in so little time that belongs to Australia, and to foster and encourage our young but very vigorous traditions of mateship, cooperation, and a fair deal for everybody.
So I commend this legislation to the Senate, deeply conscious that it marks yet another historic advance towards national greatness. This vast and virile Commonwealth which we have the privilege to hold and the responsibility to develop can be made as great and noble a land as we, with our collective brains, muscles, and devotion to a high ideal, wish it to be. We owe that much to our forbears who pioneered this country, with few of life’s amenities but with stout hearts and limitless courage; who opened its fertile plains, explored its rivers, won the bounty of its soil and the mineral treasures below. We owe it, too, to those who will come after us to develop the splendid heritage that is ours. We must hand it on to them untarnished. This bill is more than a cold, legalistic formula. It is a warm, pulsating document that enshrines the love of country of every genuine Australian.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 24th November (vide page 3378), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I propose to refer particularly to two statements made by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), who introduced the measure. He said -
The bill which it is my privilege to introduce stems from the Government’s belief that, apart from spiritual considerations, the health of the people is the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a nation are built.
With that statement I have no complaint. In the concluding portion of his speech, he said -
It is my hope that the degree of cooperation with the Federal Government to be forthcoming from State governments, mem hers of the professions and other bodies will be such that the greater efforts of the nation will be directed to the prevention of disease and the provision of the best medical and dental treatment for the people.
To that sentiment I say, very cordially, “ Amen “. However, it remains for the Government to show, by its bona fides, that it is entitled to receive the cooperation which its seeks, and which is so essential. I agree that nothing can exceed in importance the health of our people. We cannot hope to be a virile, prosperous, happy and contented people unless we are a healthy people. It is also true that matters which concern our health have long passed out of the realm of private relationships. For one thing, we all realize that our public hospitals are too large and too wide in their ramifications to be subjected to control by individuals or to be operated by private enterprise. However, between the conduct of health services by private enterprise and complete socialization there is a middle course. The adoption of such a course would preserve for the community and members of the medical profession the proper standard which must be maintained if satisfactory treatment is to be given to the suffering sick. I trust that the Government will obtain the cooperation of the profession, which is so essential to the successful operation of any scheme to improve the public health. As honorable senators are aware, a measure was passed by the British Parliament some time ago to nationalize the medical profession in that country, but the results which have ensued have not been altogether happy. The failure of the scheme has been due partly to the inability of the government to win the cooperation of the public, and partly to the fear of members of the medical profession that the scheme would make undue inroads on the sacred relationship which must exist between a doctor and patient, and on the professional status of medical practitioners. The position is well explained by an article which appeared in The Tablet of the 10th. April, 1948, which stated -
How far we have drifted in this century into a wholly political mode of conceiving human life emerges in the welcome given to the resolution of the Royal College of Physicians, whose president, Lord Moran, is so busily trying to bridge the gulf between the profession and the Ministry. The resolution only asks that the Government shall pledge itself not to make the medical service into a fulltime State service by means of a regulation, without a special act being passed through the House. This is an undertaking that Mr. Bevan could give easily enough; under Mr. Herbert Morrison’s tutelage a well-disciplined and stream-lined majority has shown itself adept at rushing through legislation, with hardly any debate beyond jeers and cat-calls,, in one day, or two.
Omitting the reference to jeers and catcalls, there is remarkable similarity with the streamlined speed with which legislation can be passed, and has been passed by this Parliament, under the pressure of the Government’s existing handsome majority. The quotation continues -
This resolution does not begin to touch the heart of the doctors’ objection, which is not an objection about wording or legislative arrangements, but is a clash of philosophies. Wars, said Aristotle, are caused by trifles, but they are not about trifles. There is really no great urgency to rush a settlement, whereas it is essential for the future of the nation that the whole idea of a health service shall be seen differently, and that arrangements shall be made by which it is much more independent of political control and much more an extension of the medical profession’s own life and activity.
Those are pregnant words, which I warmly commend to the consideration of the Minister in charge of this measure. When we are considering the medical profession, our thoughts go first to the general practitioner - the family friend. He has access to the intimacies of the home.
– And the family purse.
– That is a cheap sneer. There are doctors who value the trust, affection, and confidence of their patients infinitely more than could possibly be appreciated by the honorable senator who has just interjected. Money does not mean everything to them. Of course, it is essential. Doctors must live. They have family obligations. They have children to educate, and homes to keep; but I have had a wide experience with doctors, particularly general practitioners, and I am intensely proud of the reputation which they enjoy, not only for their skill and ability, but also for their broad human understanding and the great respect and affection which it is their good fortune to enjoy. They appreciate the trust, confidence and affection of their patients much more than they value the fees for their work. There is an interesting reference to general practitioners in the interim report made by the Council of the British Medical Association in Great Britain on health centres. Under the heading “ The Doctor-Patient Relationship “ the report states -
Nearly everybody in this country has one general practitioner whom he regards as his own personal doctor. With certain exceptions, which will be discussed later, it is true to say that whatever kind of medical help is needed in health or in sickness, the first resort is to a general practitioner, and through him the whole health organization is brought into action as needed. This system was used as the basis of National Health Insurance in 1912, and it is an essential feature of the new Health Service.
A strong bond exists in many cases between individuals and their family doctors which at its best rises to the level of great confidence on the one hand, a high sense of responsibility on the other, and a true friendship. All the doctors interviewed in the committee’s investigation stressed the importance of maintaining this personal bond between the patient and an individual doctor in future conditions of practice. . . .
General practitioners have the unique advantage among doctors that they are constantly visiting the homes of their patients. This gives them a knowledge of the patient’s surroundings and a personal contact without which medical advice and treatment are very gravely handicapped. The importance of this factor in considering any re-organization of medical work cannot be over-emphasized.
In deciding to extend medical services in a general way, there are many human elements to be considered. It is not the same as deciding to provide a village or town with water, electricity or gas. It is not just a matter of turning on a tap. There are human elements to be taken into consideration. There must be the fullest co-operation with medical men, and that is something that I desire as much as the Minister does, because without it no general health scheme can be successful. The Government should do everything that lies within its power to remove whatever objections doctors may have to this scheme. I do not know whether the medical profession is in favour of this measure or not, because we have not been given sufficient information about what is in the Minister’s mind to decide whether the scheme will be good, bad or indifferent. This bill is little more than an enabling measure, and with that I shall deal later. 1 contend that the real function of a government is to provide the finance for a medical service to be carried out by the medical men themselves. In the United States of America, there are magnificent illustrations of what can be done under such a system. There is, for instance, the Johns Hopkins hospital. That institution is endowed, but its work is carried out by qualified medical men. They are not dictated to, rubber-stamped, or regimented. That hospital is possibly one of the foremost institutions of its kind in the world. Then there is the Mayo clinic and, I have no doubt, many others. I repeat that it is the function of a government to make funds available, but not itself to conduct the specialist work. In that connexion, I have another quotation to make. In view of the source of these quotations, I commend them to the earnest consideration not only of the Minister but also of the Senate. Again my authority is the interim report of the Council of the British Medical Association on Health Centres, which states -
In the words of the Act the local health authority is to “ provide, equip and maintain “ the health centre. The Council considers that the administration of the centre should be in the hands of a joint committee representing all the professional personnel (doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists) and the Medical Officer of Health or his nominee.
That is a very sound proposition, and I hope that the Minister will give some thought to it. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, stated that those responsible for framing this measure had been guided substantially by reports made from time to time to this Parliament by the Social ‘Security Committee. In support of my contention that the medical profession itself should control any health service, I draw the attention of the Senate to the following passage in the 1943 report of the Social Security Committee : -
The National Health and Medical Research Council has various expert sub-committees for particular advisory purposes; the Commonwealth and State Departments of Health have certain departmental subdivisions and officers with specialized knowledge of particular aspects; there were numerous extradepartmental bodies, private or, occasionally, quasigovernmental, interested in medical care or particular aspects of protective medicine, but neither the Commonwealth nor any State in Australia has at its disposal an adequate body of responsible people competent to advise it on all aspects of protective and corrective medical care. Under these circumstances, it appears inevitable that Governments and Ministers must occasionally suffer from a lack of adequate advice, or from misleading advice on these matters from irresponsible persons.
Those words are, I suggest, a timely warning to the Minister of the importance of leaving medical matters to medical men.
Apart from the dental services upon which I shall touch later, the cost to the public of this scheme is estimated at £6,000,000 in the first year. I suggest that we should take first things first. There are to-day matters of much greater urgency than the creation of a new system to replace the present system of medical services generally. In Queensland, and I assume in the other States, many country centres lack adequate medical services. City dwellers, rushed as their services may be, are infinitely better off. Applying the principle of first things first, this money could be better expended in the provision of improved medical services in outback parts of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator agrees with a national medical service for country areas, but not for the cities?
– I am in favour of the extension of a comprehensive efficient, workable, medical system to all the people of Australia, but I do not want them to be faced with another fiasco like the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I want this plan to work, and it can be made to work. It is not a matter of whether it suits the British Medical Association. The important thing is what suits the people. The people should be the first and only consideration, provided of course that injustices are not inflicted upon any particular section of the community. This scheme cannot work without the whole-hearted co-operation of the medical profession. I have sufficient confidence in the decency, honesty, and dignity of medical men to be sure that, provided the proposition is fair and reasonable, they will support it.
I come now to health centres, and in that connexion there is another interesting reference to which I shall take the liberty of referring. Once again I quote from the report of the Council of the British Medical Association. Dealing with diagnostic facilities, it states -
If one advantage of contact between the general practitioner and hospital work can be singled out above the rest, it is that he is kept alive to the importance of early diagnosis. The council emphasizes the need of easy access by general practitioners to diagnostic facilities especially in the fields of radiology and pathology. As the first line of defence in the health service he has the principal part to play here. Recognition of the earliest signs of disease and immediate application of appropriate treatment will reduce incapacity and mortality far more than reference to hospital after a loss of valuable time. In surgery it hae become obvious that the mortality rate of acute emergencies, and for that matter many other cafes depends much more on early diagnosis and hospitalization than on the capacity of the surgeon who operates.
That is one line of thought which 1 commend to the Minister. However, it is impracticable for me as a layman to suggest what the Government should do, because if I did I am afraid. I should commit the mischief against which I am urging the Government to be on its guard. I again emphasize the necessity for the closest consultation with the medical profession. For example, in Brisbane, which has a population of approximately 450,000, pathological diagnostic facilities are provided at the general hospital in the centre of the city and in a few clinics in the city area, but in the outlying suburbs which extend for a radius of 25 miles there are no such clinics and a great deal of time is wasted in bringing patients from those suburbs to the existing clinics for purposes of diagnosis. It might be possible to establish clinics at each point of the compass in the outlying suburbs in a city of the size of Brisbane. However, I am not qualified to offer any advice of value in that respect. Those most competent to do so are the medical men who arc practising in those localities. Whilst all of us respect the ability of public servants in their own sphere in which they do an excellent job, it is not for them to advise the Government as to what are the medical requirements of a particular district. The only people who are competent to do that are the representatives of the medical doctors who practise in the areas concerned.
As I mentioned earlier, I find it difficult to approach the bill either by way of friendly or adverse criticism, because the measure is wide and open. I have mentioned matters in respect of which the Minister under the regulation-making power may or may not take into consideration. The bill contemplates the setting up by the Commonwealth of clinics here and there. No places are specified. Again, unless the Government is guided by the advice and acts in consultation with medical practitioners in :ii<2 particular districts there is danger of considerable overlapping and confusion. Dealing with this aspect the report of the Council of the British Medical Association, from which I have already quoted, states -
Side by side with the general practitioner service, the public makes direct use pf the various kinds of special clinics which have been established everywhere by the local authorities in recent years, and of the health visitor service.
That is a service which has been established in Great Britain -
These have no organized contact with the general practitioner and their work overlaps with his considerably. It is needless to point out the inefficiencies that arise from a state of affairs in which advice and treatment are given to the same patient by different doctors and nurses at different times or even simultaneously, without any co-operation between them.
Unless the Government secures the cooperation about which I have said so much, that is precisely what will happen under this scheme. I should like the Minister at the committee stage to elaborate certain provisions of the measure. No indication has yet been given as to whether a medical practitioner must be either entirely in or entirely out of the scheme. Is it competent for a doctor in private practice to leave to his respective patients the choice as to whether they will come under the scheme or themselves pay all of the fee owing by them to their doctor? I take it that a doctor who comes under the scheme must effect registration and indicate that he will work under it, but one of the first questions which a doctor will ask himself is whether he must send .into the department an account for half his fee in respect of all his patients or in respect of only those who request him to do so. Some of the express provisions of the measure are highly commendable. I approve clause 7 which pro vides for the establishment of hospitals and provision of assistance in respect of the training of university graduates and the establishment of training courses. However, those matters can best be considered at the committee stage. Clause 11 provides for making of agreements to take over existing hospitals. I suppose that the Government has no thought whatever of compulsorily acquiring any existing hospitals such as those conducted by various denominations and other institutions. Judging by the wording of the clause, I take it that that would not be contemplated. With respect to the nature of the disclosure which must be made by a doctor to the Treasury when he sends in his account, the Minister will admit that that is a very delicate matter. But no indication is given in the bill as to the form which the doctor must fill in when he makes his claim, or of the degree of information he must furnish as to the type of treatment and complaint. I should like the Minister, when he is replying to the debate, to indicate whether that close secrecy which is essential to the proper functioning of the medical profession will be impaired in any way at all. Dealing with this point the report of the Council of the British Medical Association states -
The handling of records must be discreet. There should be nothing but identification details on the outside of a patient’s records. It is probably best that those of each doctor’s patients should be kept in his own consulting room. If they are kept in a central file, on the patient’s arrival at the centre they should be taken to his doctor’s room by the receptionist or other member of the secretarial staff.
The delicacy of such a matter can well be appreciated. It must be treated in a confidential manner, and I am sure that both doctor and patient would be pleased to have a definite assurance from the Minister as to what is contemplated if anything has already been decided upon in that respect. With regard to the forms which the doctor will have to complete for the purpose of qualifying for payment of his accounts, some indication of the details to be supplied on those forms would be helpful. When we have that information we shall be better able to discuss that provision at the committee stage.
The bill covers dental as well as medical services. I understand that the Minister has read the address which was delivered by Mr. W. Stanley Wilkinson to the eleventh Dental Congress in which he dealt exhaustively with the Government’s proposed legislation, and in the course of which he emphasized that the medical profession should not be regarded as the parent of the dental profession. The members of the dental profession believe that they are entitled to a certain degree of local autonomy. They do not regard themselves as being completely represented by medical men on any tribunal, commission or board. They claim that their profession is a specialty, and that their interests and outlook are not necessarily identical with those of the medical profession. They believe that they should be consulted as a separate unit with regard to the arrangements the Government proposes to make directly affecting their profession. I commend that thought to the Minister, and urge that the members of the dental profession are entitled to consideration independently of the medical profession.
It appears that the Government has not sought direct representations from the nursing profession. Where precisely will that profession fit into this scheme? Have its representatives been consulted? If so, what are its views? That is an important point, because the best medical service in the world must collapse unless it makes provision for efficient and trained nursing staff. Unfortunately, at present, we are suffering throughout Australia from a dearth of trained nurses. If this scheme is not such as to commend itself to the nursing profession, that shortage may become more acute. It is important in any scheme of this kind that the goodwill and co-operation of the nursing profession be cultivated and assured. I understand that at present there is a shortage of approximately 1S,000 hospital beds throughout the Commonwealth. That is an authoritative assessment. Would it not be better for the Government, instead of running around and superimposing a service upon another service which, after all, has been efficient, to overcome the shortage of hospital beds where such shortages exist?
By that means the Government would give considerable relief to the sick and suffering in the community.
The only reason which could possibly prevent the complete co-operation between the medical profession and the Government is fear and mistrust. Unfortunately, the profession and the public have reason to view with suspicion and with a certain degree of fear, the encroachment of the Government upon that profession.
– Here she comes!
– The honorable senator apparently shares that fear which arises because the Government has not always honoured its undertakings. It has made promises not to implement certain planks of the Labour party’s platform, hut, nevertheless, has proceeded to do so. It is well understood that in that respect there are two schools of thought within the ministerial party. Whilst some members of the Government are anxious for complete, immediate and drastic nationalization of everything that is capable of being nationalized, other members of the Government prefer to go slowly and proceed with nationalization only on matters in respect of which the Government has received a mandate. The Australian Medical Journal of the 6th July, 1947, refers to this aspect when dealing with the outcome of certain conferences which Senator Fraser, when he was Acting Minister for Health, held with representatives of the medical profession. From this reference, perhaps, we may be able to trace the germ of reasonable fear and suspicion which may be entertained by some members of the medical profession in their approach to this scheme. On page 301 of that journal, after reference is made to conferences that I have mentioned, the following appears: -
These happenings have to be borne in mind as a background to the events that took place in Melbourne between July 1” and 22, 1947. As stated in our report, no account of the conference with the Minister was inside available to this journal. It is admitted that the discussions were informal. This will not affect the reliability of the Minister’s declaration that the ultimate aim of the Government is the complete abolition of private practice with the necessary corollary, the control of themedical profession with direction of its members. Many people, may say that the Minister- let the cat out of the bag; others will probably hold that the general intentions of the Government have never been in doubt. However this may be, the ultimate aim of the Government is clear.
It would simplify matters and allay much suspicion if the Government would alter this scheme so that it would be impracticable, if not impossible, for a government to foist socialization or nationalization on the medical profession.
– “Why should it?’
– It is true that the dentists, after their negotiations with the Government, paid a very fine compliment to the present Minister for Health.
Dr. W. Stanley Wilkinson, the federal president of the Australian Dental Association said in an address to the eleventh annual dental congress -
There are powerful politicians and powerful unions, who may not have the enlightened outlook of the present Minister for Health, and we must remember that Cabinet and the Parliamentary Labour Party are the final arbiters of the Government programme..
I am happy to support the compliment paid to the honorable senator, but he will not always be Minister for Health. It is quite likely that the militant element in the Labour party may find him far too moderate. He is moderate in many things and he will probably fall foul of the militant side of his party to which belong those mentioned in the article I have quoted and who are out to socialize everything that they can socialize. It is essential that whatever fears there may be in the minds of members of the medical profession must be completely eliminated if we are to ensure that the people obtain the service we all want them to enjoy.
– Nobody fears socialism now.
– That interjection indicates how very real is the danger of socialism. The interjections that have come from various parts of the chamber have not been such as ‘are likely to augur a happy implementation of this measure from the point of view of the profession that it so vitally affects. I shall refer now to the effect of comparable legislation in’ England. The Minister, when he introduced the measure, pointed out that under the Constitution it is not possible to introduce any form of civil conscription of the medical profession. That is literally true, but under the measure the Government will have the power to approach a doctor, or a group of doctors and say, “ You have a very nice practice here. How about joining us and working for the Commonwealth ? “ If the doctors reply “ No, thanks very much. We are doing all right, and we like our independence “ the Commonwealth could, under this measure, establish a clinic or an institution in the area served by the doctor or doctors. The Government would use no duress, of course. It would merely starve the doctors out of existence. It is most important that we be given further information about what is in the mind of the Government and about the attitude of the medical profession to the measure. The profession’s attitude may bo reasonable or unreasonable, or it may be such as to permit all difficulties to be ironed out to the satisfaction of all concerned. But it is important that we should know what is in the Government’s mind.
Returning to the subject of the comparable legislation in England, I shall quote from The Tablet, a well-known English international newspaper. In its issue of the 24th of January, 194S,_ it refers to Mr. Aneurin Bevan, the British Minister for Health, in the following terms: -
Mr. Aneurin Bevan is preoccupied with immediate political appearances. One reason why he has so rapidly lost the confidence of the medical profession is that he seems wholly unaware that his health service must be primarily judged by its long-range effects on the standards of medicine. To-day the profession is sought after because the status of the doctor is high; it is a life of independence combined with responsibility, in a local community, in which a man oan hope to make himself financially ‘independent, and to be his own master about when he will retire and about how much or how little he will do. For the minority, who like the security of a salaried service with a pension at the end, there exist a number of such services, mainly under public authority, but also under private corporations. There are, indeed, few callings which to-day present a greater variety of conditions, but the majority of doctors prefer independent practice, supplemented by some official connexions. The gradual acquisition of a tangible asset in a transferable practice has been a medical perquisite which has been greatly to the advantage of the general public, for it has made the preservation and cultivation of their goodwill a matter of abiding and primary importance. The more closely drawn the conditions of a national health service are, the less appeal will the idea of becoming a doctor have when a young man is weighing it in his mind against the alternatives, whereas it should be a prime matter of public policy that this profession shall continue to be attractive to independently minded men. There will be much more loss than gain if the recruitment is narrowed and the standards decline in the course of organizing a free service for everybody. In Mr. Bevan’s very materialist approach, medical services are spoken of as something which can be laid on like water, electricity and gas, not as the interest and skill of living men. A national health service might have been organized in the eighteenth century, and it would not have been worth having because the level of knowledge and skill was then io very indifferent. It has increased out of all knowledge as the status of the profession has risen in the free conditions of the last century.
It would have been perfectly feasible for Mr. Bevan to extend and improve the existing facilities in complete harmony with the medical profession. . . . The whole idea of private practice for fees is fiercely resented as a form of inequality. Even more important is the determination of the Government to see that those who issue medical certificates are Government servants whose first loyalty is to their employers and not to their patients.
All this is concentrating far too much power in the Minister and the permanent officials of the Ministry of Health. The pattern which appeals to Mr. Bevan and his supporters is a bureaucratic pattern, in which the leaders of the medical profession will be administrators, and the path of promotion will carry medical men more and more away from their true metier and into organization.
I have quoted that article so as to impress on the Government that it should consider, while implementing this measure, the causes of irritation and discontent, and the lack of co-operation that have accompanied the application of corresponding legislation in England, so that the same unpleasant results may be avoided here.
– Did not the majority of British medical men enter the British scheme of their own accord?
– The Tablet, in its issue of the 1st May, 1948, stated-
The public is told to choose its doctor; but beyond knowing that every doctor will have an enormous list of public patients, and yet will be allowed to take private patients, very little has been said about the new doctor-patient relationship as the Ministry of Health envisages it. Yet it is quite clear that there will be a real, as well as an apparent, source of friction. There will be cases where a patient will have after a time to be told that he or she is making altogether excessive claims, to the detriment of other patients, and the doctor will be told in answer that as long as he continues to take private patients he has no business to use the argument that time is being taken ‘away from other national patients.
These matters will probably be interesting to the Minister in charge of the measure, although I can quite understand that they may be disconcerting to those who, probably to the embarrassment of the Minister, are anxious to foist a system of nationalization on the medical profession. I have mentioned those matters in the hope that the pitfalls and errors that have characterized the application of the British act may be avoided here, and that the full and complete co-operation of the medical profession may be obtained, and that the public may bc given that measure of medical service that we all wish to see it receive. The Tablet, in its issue dated the 3rd April, 1948, stated, under the heading of “ The New Superman “-
– Why does not the honorable senator tell us something about Australia ?
– Because the Australian legislation is not yet in force. I cannot give the chamber any details about the application of legislation that has not yet been passed, hut any intelligent person would, in my opinion, be interested in knowing how corresponding legislation operated in England, the effect it has had on the British people and the appreciation or lack of appreciation on the part of those affected. Under the heading that I mentioned the Tablet stated -
All through the voluminous text of the 90 pages of the Health Act “ The Minister “ emerges as a being of almost unlimited discretionary power to make and vary his own regulations, so that everything he does has the force of law when he chooses to do it and until he chooses to do something else. “ The Minister “ is a collective fiction for the unknown officials whose little bodies all make up Leviathan, as in the famous frontispiece to Thomas Hobbes’ work. The attitude of the present Minister is to bring the doctors to heel by the threat of impoverishing them. It is a foretaste of what they can expect if they once bow their necks and accept Regulation 00 of the Act, by which the Minister hu* power . . .
The extraordinarily wide powers in the bill, which will empower the Minister to make regulations, really have the effect of making the earlier clauses merely an introduction. All the general enabling provisions of the bill are contained in the proposed sections that will give the Minister power to make regulations, as he thinks wise and fit, for the purpose of implementing the measure. I have often spoken in this chamber on the tendency of the legislature to “ pass the buck “ on to the Executive. That has happened under all previous governments, but more particularly under Labour governments. Et is a tendency that has been present irrespective of what political party has been in power. It is a very bad trait indeed, because in the final result it will completely destroy the Parliament as a -deliberative body. It is our duty as Senators to find out what is going on outside, and the reasons for legislation, to approve or disapprove of such legislation, and to support measures or to speak against them. But where a Minister is to have virtually legislative powers to administer a whole scheme, such as this one, by regulation, I consider that is a very vicious principle that is breeding far too rapidly and I would protest very strongly against it. There is another very important body of people, those who are members of Friendly Societies. I do not know whether the Minister has- consulted the representatives of the Friendly Societies as to what impact, if any, this measure may have upon them, but from figures available it appears that roughly one person in every three of Australia’s population is either directly or indirectly associated with a friendly society.
– More than that.
– Those are the figures for 1945, the latest available, to me. Those societies form a very powerful body in the community. They have an annual income of several millions of pounds and accumulated assets of about £20,000,000. They have done a tremendous amount of social service throughout the years. T.n my younger days, .1 took an active interest in the Australian Natives Association, and, apart from its national aspects, I was most impressed with the efficiency with which the business of the association was conducted, and the great diligence and care that was shown in the collection, expenditure, and investment of money. The association does a magnificent service. What effect will this legislation have upon the friendly societies? Could not their services be used ? Their members are spread throughout the length and breadth of Australia. When I pointed out that one person in every three of the population was directly or indirectly associated with the friendly societies, Senator Large interjected and said that the estimate was low. His comment merely adds point to my contention. Here we have an efficient organization already in existence and operating throughout the land. Could not it be used for the purpose of implementing this measure? Have the friendly societies been consulted? What are their views about this proposal? What assistance or suggestions can they offer? If they have not been consulted, I strongly urge the Minister to communicate with their representatives. They are entitled to be considered, not only by virtue of their splendid record, but also because their opinions would be valuable.
The success of this plan in the final analysis depends upon the cordial cooperation of the medical profession. If the profession can be satisfied that the scheme envisaged by the Government has no hidden traps and is not merely a step in the direction of complete nationalization, but is merely what it appears to be, I am sure that the great majority of doctors will be glad to co-operate. The tradition, status and record of public service of members of the medical profession are proud and worthy. Of course, being mere mortals, doctors’ arc peccable and subject to those frailties to which mankind is heir, and some members of the profession fall by the wayside. This is recognized by the profesion itself. Hence the drastic disciplinary powers vested in and exercised by its governing body when members fall away from that high standard of ethical and professional conduct which is prescribed for them to observe. The British Medical Association was founded in 1832, for the purpose of promoting the medical and allied sciences and maintaining the honour and interests of the medical profession. Through the intervening period of over a century, an overwhelming proportion of doctors have not only maintained that honour but also have added lustre to it. The profession in Australia has drawn its members from the sons and the daughters of every section of the community. The attainment of a medical degree is no longer the close and exclusive privilege of the children of the wealthy. I am sure that that characteristic in no small measure adds to the fact that the Australian-born doctor, particularly the family doctor or general practitioner, is a man of broad sympathy and human understanding. He is not only the family physician and surgeon; he is also the family guide, philosopher and friend. Intimate family matters far removed from ailments and ills are referred to him for his advice. He is a frequent visitor to the home. He sees, appreciates, and sympathetically understands the entire family background and atmosphere. From wide personal experience, I know that most doctors feel that the trust, respect and affection enjoyed by them is much more precious than money and cannot be valued in terms thereof, notwithstanding the sneers of some honorable senators, who probably would not know the significance of such sentiments.
I trust the profession; -the people trust it; the Government should and must trust it. No medical scheme can successfully function without the co-operation of the profession. Accordingly, I ask the Government to consult the profession, trust it and be guided by it. I am confident that, whatever advice the profession gives to the Government, the health, interest and welfare of the people will be the first and determining consideration. . Therefore, I move -
That all words after “That”, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and redrafted and resubmitted to the Senate after the Minister has completed his negotiations with accredited representatives of the medical, dental and nursing professions and registered friendly societies and reported fully to the Senate in respect thereof “.
– I second the amendment.
– I support this bill introduced by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) to provide for the establishment of a national health service and for other purposes. I am sure that this measure will withstand the most penetrating examination by all who are not utter and hopeless .reactionaries- or extreme revolutionaries. The Government has shown great vision in introducing it. As the Minister said, in his secondreading .speech -
It marks the beginning of a period in which the resources of the Commonwealth can and will be directed to the prevention of disease, the promotion of positive health and the treatment and care of disease and disability. It is, in effect, the source of a charter of national health for the future.
There must he something radically wrong with the outlook and sense of social responsibility of anybody who can oppose a measure with objectives such as those. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) raised several objections, including the standard accusation that is made whenever a progressive measure of reform of this nature is introduced, namely, that the Government is trying to introduce complete nationalization. The honorable gentleman said that there was a middle course between complete nationalization and private practice. I submit that this bill represents the middle course, and that the fears expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition regarding the doctor-patient relationship is not in fact well founded. The doctor-patient relationship will not be affected in the slightest by the bill. Doctors will continue to work on the same terms as they enjoy now.
The big difference will be that they will be paid for at least 50 per cent, of the work that they do, and very often will be paid in full. Doctors with whom I am personally acquainted have often told me. that over 50 per cent, of their patients cannot afford to pay their fees. I know that those statements are true. Country doctors particularly spend a great deal of their time treating patients who cannot afford to pay medical fees. If this measure had been introduced twenty years ago, the Minister sponsoring it would have been called a “dreamy-eyed idealist It is very heartening indeed to be associated with a government that has sufficient vision and strength of will to introduce a measure of this kind, and I sincerely hope that, with the cooperation of the medical profession, the plan will become a living reality. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that co-operation is absolutely essential to the success of the plan. I, too, say that unless we have the co-operation of the medical profession, it will be impossible to operate the scheme successfully. But the Minister has already pointed out that, in order to link the professions with the administration of the plan, it is proposed to establish advisory committees in association with each directorate. Members of those committees will be practising members of their professions. The functions of the bodies will be to advise on technical medical and dental aspects of the new service. That will enable the professions to exercise a real influence upon the development of the service, and the Minister and his departmental officers will have readily available to them a source of competent advice on trends and developments in all branches of medical and dental science and practice. I cannot see any reason why the Government should be suspected of not wishing to have the full co-operation of the medical profession. I am certain that the Minister, in his negotiations with representatives of the profession, has stressed the need for co-operation. I sometimes have suspicions that even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not fully aware of the story of the development of co-operation amongst human beings. It is a very short story.
– Like the story of the co-operation between the shark and the small fish ?
– Sometimes a big fish in a small pool creates a lot of eddies. We want the little fish to be able to swim in the pool with the big fish.
If we did not have co-operation in our society, nothing would be more certain than that we should degenerate to the original status of mankind, in which each individual had to protect his own family circle. There was no co-operation and no community life in that stage of our evolution, Measures such as the bill now before the Senate represent further stages in the development of the history of human co-operation. We realize the importance of ensuring that every person in the community shall have some guaranteed minimum level, particularly with regard to health, below which he need not sink. That, of itself, represents a very great advance in the development of human intercourse, relationship and cooperation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke of the need for cooperation, but the Government is already doing everything possible to bring about co-operation, and it is represented by a very able negotiator in the Minister for Health, who may be relied upon to advance the point of view of the Government, while doing everything possible to retain the confidence of the medical profession. The honorable senator also spoke of the necessity for the dental profession to be adequately represented. Proper representation will be provided for dentists on the advisory committee which is to be established. From my knowledge of members of the Government I have no doubt that representatives of all branches of preventive and curative medicine will be fully consulted, and any useful suggestions which they advance will be implemented. As pointed out by the Minister, the Government’s scheme will not involve any interference with the actual practice of medicine or in the relationships between doctor and patient. Patients will continue to visit their doctors in the usual way, and, no doubt, where practitioners consider it advisable, they will send their patients to specialists. Nothing could be more clear or definite than the assurance given by the Minister on that point. The main purpose of the Government in introducing the measure is to provide medical attention for those who, because of poverty, ignorance or some other disability, are at present unable to avail themselves of it.
I consider that the reference made by the Deputy Leader of the Oposition to the position of members of the nursing profession requires careful and sympathetic consideration by the Government, and I trust that the noble women who perform the important task of nursing the sick will be fully consulted. One of the. gravest anomalies of our society is that members of the nursing profession, who have to pass through years of selective training, are paid only approximately £6 a week, whilst nursing orderlies, whom they instruct, train and supervise, receive approximately £9 a week.
– lt is most difficult to get nurses to join a union.
– If members of the profession would only realize the value of unionism it would be possible to correct the present injustice fairly quickly. Very few pieces of legislation introduced to the Parliament concern matters of such fundamental importance as those covered by. the present bill. As the Minister pointed out when he introduced the measure, of health of the people is the foundation of the nation. We could almost call this measure a “ new deal “ in national health, and I am sure that it will be regarded as the first approach to national health and fitness in Australia. I am sure that when it is enacted the measure will receive the co-operation of the doctors, dentists, nurses and other professional people who minister to the sick. An important feature of the measure is the provision which it makes to extend the scope of research on health problems. The bill proposes to sponsor and finance various forms of research directed to improving the national health. Incidentally, it will provide remarkable opportunities for talented young people who desire to make the study of national health their life’s work. University scholarships and other valuable inducements will be provided for that purpose.
The bill is indeed a contribution to the formation of a truly democratic society, lt will bring to our people particularly those in remote country areas who are at present denied proper access to preventive and curative medicines, a chance of health and life. Because of the dependence pf the medical practitioners on the paying capacity of their patients, there has hitherto been a tendency for doctors to concentrate in areas and suburbs of the better class. That tendency ignores the fact that the incidence of disease and the prevalence nf ill-health is greatest in the poorer suburbs and industrial centres. The comparatively high incidence of ill-health is explained by the lack of enlightenment of many unfortunate dwellers in those areas, and by their inability to pay for proper medical services. The bill aims to correct that fundamental injustice by providing proper inducement to medical practitioners to practise in the poorer and more densely settled areas. It also offers special recompense to doctors who are prepared to attend to the medical requirements of people in remote country areas. Every fair-minded person appreciates the noble and charitable work performed by many medical practitioners, often at considerable financial loss to themsleves, on behalf of patients who cannot afford to pay. In the interests even of members of the medical profession the whole burden of providing medical attention for poor people should not fall upon them. For that reason the bill should commend itself not only to practising doctors but also to the British Medical Association.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the operation of an act dealing with medical practitioners in the United Kingdom, and quoted several lengthy extracts from press reports on the function of the scheme. However, I point out that discussion of the effectiveness or otherwise of a scheme in operation in another country will not materially assist us in considering the merits of a scheme which has been designed to fulfil the needs of Australia. I do not propose, therefore, to say anything in reply to those contentions of the honorable senator, because, as I say, I consider that they are beside the point. However, I think that it may be of assistance to honorable senators to consider certain statistics which I have obtained showing the comparative incidence of infantile mortality in different countries and in various paris of Australia. I preface my citation of those statistics by pointing out that because medical services were not available outside the capital to the same degree, 11,000 more babies died in England than would have died if the death rate for the whale of’ England had been the same as it was in London and the home counties. I think that that fact has a special significance for Australia, because it points to the need to remedy the social injustice suffered by people who do not reside in large centres where proper medical facilities are available. The statistics of infantile mortality which I propose to quote are as follews -
Although those statistics indicate that by comparison with other parts of the world our health service is well advanced, the rate of improvement shown in Australia between 1921 and 1939 indicates how much yet remains to be done.
The measure is a significant pointer to the pattern of society which I hope to see evolved in my lifetime, although some honorable senators may not live to witness it. Although differences in the intelligence and economic income of individuals will undoubtedly continue, there is no reason why we should not make every effort to remove the physical inequality associated with such an essential matter as the health of individuals. The Government is making an inlay in the mosaic of social reform, which will take the form of a friendly alliance between the Government and members of the various professions which are concerned with the physical and material welfare of our people. In conclusion I say that great nations justify themselves and are remembered, not only by the opportunity which they bring to their people, or by the security and happiness which they make possible, but also by what they give to create a richness for the world, as well as by their contributions to the spiritual and physical welfare of their citizens. Undoubtedly the present measure is a most valuable contribution to the welfare of the people, and I feel honoured at having been associated with its passage.
.- The object of this bill is te establish national health services. The United Nations
Charter which ‘was proclaimed not long after the war ended, laid down basic principles for humanitarian reforms throughout the world. Acting in accordance with the spirit of that charter, this Labour Government is attempting to-day to erect an edifice of social reforms and to lay the foundation, of healthier future generations. By legislation already on the statute-book, the Government has sought not only to combat disease, but also to get at the very root of many of our social ills. In the second-reading speech the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) said -
With these thoughts in mind the Commonwealth Government, under agreement with the States, has legislated to provide adequate housing for families in the lower ranges of income.
One does not have to be a medical_ man to know the effect of the slum conditions that have existed in our capital cities upon the general health of the community. In Victoria a few years ago a survey of child health was carried out and one of the interesting findings was that in the better-class suburbs children were both heavier and taller than they were in the areas north of the Yarra River. That shows plainly that economic conditions, particularly housing, play an important part not only in general health, but also in stature.
One criticism that has been levelled against this measure by its opponents is that the Government has not co-operated with the British Medical Association. As one who had some experience of conferences and conciliation I venture to say that the Minister for Health has no equal in the Commonwealth in negotiating not only with professional men, but also with any other section cf the community.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) said that the Government should proceed carefully with its health plans, because throughout the Commonwealth there is a shortage of 18,000 hospital beds. If there is such an acute shortage of hospital accommodation, is it not high time that action was taken to remedy the situation? .1 remind the Senate that not only is there a shortage of hospital beds throughout the Commonwealth, but also there is ;i shortage of nursing staff. In moving the second reading of this bill, the Minister stated that the Government intended to provide facilities for the training of nurses. A substantial contribution to the solution of this problem should result also from the fact that whereas not many years ago the average wage paid te nurses was about £3 a week, to-day they are earning £6 or £7 a week in repatriation hospitals and in other like institutions. This improvement has been brought about largely as the result of the fight pm up by the trade union movement, particularly in Victoria. To-day, the wage.of nurses are more in keeping with rates payable in other occupations than the* have ever been.
I cannot understand how any intelligent person can oppose this scheme. The Government has indicated its willingness not only to provide the services necessary to safeguard the health of the people, but also to establish whatever institutions are necessary to ensure that physically, at least, future generations will be worthy of the Commonwealth of Australia. Obviously, many opponents of this measure have not endeavoured to analyse the Government’s proposals. I am. sure that few of them know anything about the development of medical services in recent years. To-day, the medical practitioner does not merely take a patient’s pulse, and ask him to put out his tongue. If a serious ailment is suspected, an X-ray is. ordered, or consultation with a specialist is suggested. In nine cases out of ten, the alleged close relationship between patient and medical man does not exist, because ailments which are beyond the capacity of the general practitioner are referred to specialists, and usually the specialist is a man whom the patient has never seen before. Unfortunately, certain other legislation that has been passed by this Parliament has not yet come into operation because of the opposition of the British Medical Association. I have heard Senator Rankin speak on behalf of the old people of Queensland, and stress the comforts that are . provided _for them by the State authorities. I, too, am concerned with the old people. Last Tuesday week, two old ladies came to the Federal Members’ Rooms in Melbourne. Senator
Sheehan was with me at the time, and he will confirm what I have to say. They were age pensioners. One of them produced receipts for medical expenses and medicines, amounting to £20. Why is it that certain individuals who profess such concern for the less fortunate people in the community consistently oppose measures which are designed to assist those people? My object in supporting this measure to-night is to give to the people of the Commonwealth, particularly pensioners, an opportunity to secure medicines and medical services at reasonable rates.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition claimed that this scheme could not function without the co-operation of the medical profession. We realize that that is true and I remind the Senate that when certain other sections of the community have refused to co-operate with the Government, unflattering names have been applied to them. The Deputy’ Leader of the Opposition quoted from The Tablet. I propose to remind the Senate of the views of a noted medical authority, Sir Lionel Whitby, which were quoted by the Minister in his secondreading speech. The Minister said -
Sir Lionel Whitby, president of the British Medical Association in England, addressing the 110th annual meeting of the British Medical Association at Cambridge this year, said : “ Changes in medicine itself have tended to increase the cost of medical treatment so that most people can no longer afford to be ill “.
I am sure that no one will argue that it is possible for families to live on the basic wage in this country to-day. Therefore, there devolves upon us a duty to ensure that people in the lower income ranges shall not be ‘burdened with heavy medical expenses. The Minister also said -
Referring to expensive modern treatments, Sir Lionel Whitby said : “ In the interests of humanity such treatment cannot be withheld on economic grounds. It would be a travesty of justice were such treatment to be available to only the few rich people.
Those who support the unco-operative attitude of the British Medical Association on this measure should remember that the medical profession in this country has much for which to thank governments.
– Including this Government.
– Yes. The Government, by subsidizing university courses, has made it possible for students in the middle and lower income groups to undertake university courses, including medical studies. This measure should have the wholehearted support of every thoughtful member of the community. Consider present day dental charges. What does a person have to pay for an upper and lower set of artificial teeth ? The. charges are beyond the reach of most people. What hope has a pensioner or a person on the basic wage of meeting those charges? Medical authorities agree that dental hygiene plays an important part in general health. The same applies to eyesight. This measure provides for eyesight tests and the treatment of sight deficiency. That is what the Government is doing. Because it is acting in the interests of the people, I am sure that this legislation will be endorsed by every charitably disposed person and every individual who thinks along the right lines, f urge honorable senators to give every encouragement to the Government in the implementation of this scheme, particularly at present when the medical profession has been at variance with the Minister for Health. Therefore, all of us should do our utmost to ensure that this legislation will be the means of establishing a health service which will be of lasting benefit to the people of Australia as a whole.
– It is with very mixed feelings that I speak on this bill. There is much in the proposal that will help many Australians, but much is omitted and much left undone. I am wondering whether the proposal is not, in fact, much more concerned with providing economic relief than with the general improvement of the health of the people. The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), in his opening remarks in his second-reading speech referred, in passing, to the “prevention of disease “ and the “ promotion of positive health “, and in his closing remarks he also referred to “ prevention of disease “, but from his speech as a whole, and, in fact, from the bill itself, it is apparent that the main proposal is to help sufferers meet their medical bills by subsidizing their medical fees. No doubt that will be to many people a very substantial alleviation of the heavy costs of illness, but I question whether this scheme goes far enough in improving health. Even more so I question whether it will make any substantial contribution to better health for the people as a whole. The incidence of illness will still he with us. This scheme may reduce the cost to the individual and spread some of the cost over the community as a whole, but nowhere does it make provision for better medical services than are at present available, a greater degree of medical skill than is now available at our great hospitals, better hospitalization, or better living. In fact, the Minister’s opening phrases are followed somewhat ironically with an exposition of how the Government is going to help the people to pay their doctors’ bills, and an indication that some day, when we have enough dentists, we shall provide free dental services for children.
Surely that is a narrow and much too limited approach to the problem of health services. This scheme does not make a really great contribution to the health and well-being of the nation. The Government should lift its eyes beyond the level of economic benefits only and give to the people of the nation real health services in preventive medicine and in organizing the healthiest possible way of life that will give us a strong and practically disease-free community. Better health is not limited to curative medical treatment. It is founded on prevention, and continues in the enjoyment of good healthy conditions at work and at home. Of course, we shall always have illness with us, but there is no need for the incidence of illness to be so high, or for the incidence of invalidism to be so terrible that we have no fewer than 70,000 invalid pensioners.
The problem of a national health service should be tackled on a much wider plane, and on a much higher level than just the economic relief promised in this bill. First, there is the. problem of preventive medicine and public health. Not nearly sufficient attention is given to’ public health in this country. Every doctor in the public health services of the Commonwealth, State and municipal authorities should receive special recognition for the wonderful work he is doing. Much of the public recognition for the highest medical skill seems to go to those doctors who cure, whilst little is given to those who prevent illness. Yet the services provided by the latter are equally as great.
Some indication of what can be accomplished by preventive medicine can be gained from the latest report of the Brisbane City Council dealing with public health. Free immunization against diphtheria has been made available in Brisbane since 1931. Last year there were only 4S cases of diphtheria in that city which has a population of 420,000. That council is now providing free immunization against whooping cough.
Why cannot similar services be provided throughout Australia in every community where there is a doctor? Such services should be provided free. I mention immunization only by way of illustration. There are other diseases besides diphtheria and whooping cough which can be eliminated in the community by similar processes. It requires only bold executive planning and courageous implementation of such planning to banish quite a number of diseases from this country.
The problem of nutrition is also important, particularly in the sub-tropical zones. Referring to the need for dental services the Minister stated -
Much dental disease and loss is due to irrational diet and faulty general hygiene.
That applies to not only dental disease; much general disease also is due to irrational diet and faulty general hygiene. But what does this bill propose to do about that problem? It merely provides widespread dental services to cure or alleviate the trouble, and then only when sufficient dentists are available, whilst on the medical side it makes provision merely for the payment of part of the doctor’s bill for curing the trouble. A vast field of nutrition problems remains to be explored. The nation must be educated to better nutrition. However, I cannot find one proposal in the bill -dealing specifically with nutrition.
There is also the problem of malnutrition of children. In some districts diet correction is practised on a moderate scale by providing a milk ration for school children, whilst in some schools a special luncheon is provided to correct diet deficiencies in the home meals. A vast field remains to be explored in that respect. A solution of the problem of what the Minister described as “ irrational diet “ would help to reduce hospitalization and its huge cost to the community and, at the same time, make a magnificent contribution to the health and well-being of future generations of Australians.
Again, there are the problems associated with the provision of proper lighting, air and healthy surroundings in the places where our people work. I should like to see every place where more than one worker is employed inspected every year by a medical officer appointed by the Commonwealth. It is not enough for the Minister to tell us that this is the function of the States. Their standards vary, and in some instances may be far from modern. In fact, if the Minister feels inclined to do this, I suggest that he order a medical inspection of the Federal Members’ Rooms in Brisbane, and ensure that all offices for members and their staff have adequate light and air. Such staffs, particularly females, should be provided with adequate restroom facilities. Whilst it is helpful to sufferers to provide ophthalmic services, particularly for those whose eyesight is strained by inadequate lighting at their work, it is also definitely necessary to see that the lighting is improved. It is helpful to the individual to pay part of the doctor’s bill for a severe cold, but if the conditions under which a man works are such that when one person catches a cold all his or her colleagues contract colds, existing conditions should be altered.
This proposal is too much on the economic aspect of illness. Let us aim higher. Let us make a real attempt to minimize illness, by working steadily towards more healthy living, and healthier working conditions. I could give instance after instance to emphasize the great and urgent need for preventive action; but such action is not provided for in the bill.
Another problem arises from living conditions in the home. Admittedly, our cities “ just grew “. They were unplanned, and they sprawled everywhere. What is the consequence? To-day, we have in many parts of some of our largest cities inadequate drainage, sub-standard refuse collection, and dark, damp overcrowded houses, many of them decaying from old age. I never enter the city of Sydney from Mascot aerodrome by way of Redfern without being appalled at the living conditions visible in that area. What chance have the residents in these decaying homes of enjoying a long, healthy and useful life? The Government may help them by paying portion of their doctors’ bills, but that will not remedy their conditions. I urge the Parliament to lay down minimum conditions for the housing of the people. It should make such conditions applicable throughout Australia and insist that municipalities observe them.
The Minister used the phrase “ promotion of positive health “. With that ideal I completely concur, but we cannot ensure positive health by paying the whole or part of the doctor’s bill to his patients, or by providing free medicine, unless this aid is accompanied by remedial action applied to the cause of the trouble. Positive health means striking at the cause, not the effect only. In this bill there is little or no provision to deal with first causes. The measure merely offers palliatives. We need much more preventive action - better and wider immunization services, greater attack on specific’ diseases, better control of working conditions, much better nutrition, brighter and better homes, and many thousands more of them, and services designed to empty our hospitals. We should not accept disease as inevitable, and, in the expansion of hospital facilities, be content to expend more and more millions. The Minister has had the courage to present a bill involving an expenditure of from £4,000,000 to £6,000,000 per annum. Why does not the Government show a little more courage, a wider view, a higher aim, and an approach to this problem based on prevention rendering a cure unnecessary?
Senator SANDFORD (Victoria) “10.15]. - I am very conscious of the fact that, because of its very title the bill must commend itself to the majority of the people. As usual, to-night we have heard from the Opposition the synthetic arguments in the use of which honorable senators opposite have become so. accustomed when opposing all the Government’s measures. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) could find nothing tangible in the bill to argue against, so he used the old arguments about fear, distrust, and suspicion. He also stated that the Government had not always honoured its promises, although he must have known when he made that statement that there was not truth in it.
– It has not always honoured its promises.
– The people know that it has. They returned Labour to office in 1943 and 1946 and I can tell the honorable senator that they will return us for many years to come. Senator O’Sullivan stated also that there was a fear that there would be inroads on doctors’ relationships with patients, but, in fact, the bill does not in any way affect the relationships between doctors and patients. All that the bill proposes to do is to help those patients who are unable to afford proper medical treatment to obtain such treatment. The honorable senator said also that doctors did not desire to be full-time State servants. Such remarks have been made from the other side of the chamber in respect of almost every measure that the Government has introduced. I am sure that the members of the medical profession have none of the fears that have been expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
The honorable senator said also that doctors have a broad understanding with their patients. We all agree with that, and the bill does not propose to interfere with that by one iota. He said also that such human understandings between doctors and patients are more valued by the doctors than are the patients’ fees. We are not concerned with that either, nor will the medical profession be. As I have stated, what the bill proposes to do is to help those many thousands of people who cannot afford to pay in full for medical attention. In effect, the outcome of the bill will be that instead of the doctor receiving all his fees from patients or none at all he will receive a portion of each fee from the Government. The honorable senator also said that we should leave medical matters to medical men. By saying that, he was trying to draw another “ red herring “ across the trail, because the Government has no intention to interfere in medical matters. All it hopes to get, and will get, is the cooperation of the medical profession to develop the national health of the people of Australia.
– I si hope so.
– He said that the medical and dental professions should be autonomous. The Government does not propose to interfere with their autonomy. I have mentioned those aspects of the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition because there is no substance in them.
The honorable senator also mentioned the friendly societies but I consider that his arguments on that subject really support the bill, because if the friendly societies have had all the success that the honorable senator says they have had - and I believe, too, that they have had that success - that is an indication that co-ordinated medical treatment under the Government’s scheme will have as much success, and possibly more, than had the friendly societies’ scheme
Senator Rankin advanced other synthetic arguments. In the first instance she said that she speaks with feeling on the matter. I have no doubt that she does. I do not doubt her personal sincerity, but she adds nothing to these debates. She simply follows in the footsteps of her leader and quotes nebulous statements. She said that there was much left out of the bill that could have been in it, but she did not tell the chamber what had been left out. By helping the people to meet their doctors’ bills we shall enable thousands of them to obtain the best medical treatment, which they are not now able to obtain because of their financial position. Senator Rankin said that the bill does not provide for improved medical and hospital facilities that are now available. The bill contains pro visions for dental, medical and hospital research with the active assistance of the Commonwealth. Senator Rankin then returned to the old argument that the Government is not going far enough with this measure. That has been stated about every, measure that has come before the chamber during the life of the present Government, and honorable senators on this side of the chamber are becoming so used to it now that it sounds to them like an old worn-out gramophone record being played. She said that we must have a wider plan, and mentioned the desirability of having more lighting in various establishments. I agree with that. T shall give her some good political advice. I advise her that the best way for the political party to which she belongs to get light would be to heed the verse -
Light the fire at their feet
They will see the light when they feel the heat.
That is the only way that her party will see the light politically. This bill is directed to the prevention and the cure of disease throughout the community. That is a matter that we must approach from a national point of view. There is no question that the strength of a nation is reflected by, and is dependent upon, the general health and prosperity of the people who form it. The general prosperity of a people cannot be attained unless there is general health in the comunity. No other government in the political history of this country has approached, even remotely, the present Government in the implementation of social services for the benefit of the people as a whole. Nobody can deny that, ‘ and I am confident that the majority of the people of this country realize and appreciate it to the full. During the last depression people did not have enough money even to feed themselves properly, let alone to provide proper medical and dental care. After a survey of the children of the community during the depression years medical authorities testified that more than 40 per cent, of them were suffering from malnutrition, which is only a polite name’ for starvation. The effects of those conditions are still being felt throughout the community to-day. It is only by the activities of this Government in providing social services for the people that we can hope to develop this country to the national state of health that should exist in any civilized country. Honorable senators opposite have quoted certain statements made by various authorities made in Great Britain. In his second-reading speech, the Minister quoted from the British Medical Journal of the 3rd July, 1948, as follows: -
The cost of ill health is a burden on the community, and a burden on the family, and the startling advances made by medicine in the past 25 years have steeply increased this cost. There is, therefore, a logical case for spreading it over the whole of the community so that those who are fortunate to remain in good health may help those who temporarily fall nut of the ranks.
That is the aim of the Government - to enable . the people of this counrty to avail them selves of the best medical attention and facilities obtainable. We know that the inability of many people to obtain proper medical and dental treatment has, in the past, caused much suffering, particularly where the breadwinners of families have been in ill health and have not been able to afford treatment. Such conditions have caused misery and deprivation to the whole of their families with calamitous results. This Government believes that access to the best dental and medical facilities should not be dependent upon the financial position of a family.
Recently, 1 had a conversation with a prominent Melbourne dentist, who told me that he had recently visited a section of the country in Victoria to inspect school children and found that at least 90 per cent, of the children up to the age of ten years were badly in need of dental treatment. Even a layman knows that many illnesses are caused through lack of dental treatment. This bill embodies everything in the way of medical and dental reqirements that the people in this country need. It will give th.em access to the best medical and dental treatment and will improve the health conditions of the people generally. It would be difficult to comment, in a short speech, on the points raised in the voluminous speech made by the Minister when he introduced the bill, but the chamber will have an opportunity to discuss the measure in detail at the committee stage. We must remember that this Government has at least fulfilled its promises. It made various promises when it was returned to’ office in 1946, and a referendum campaign was held in conjunction with the election. During that campaign, the Government asked the people to give it more constitutional power to cater for social services. This power was given by the people. Every promise it has made has been, or is in the course of being, fulfilled.
A salient feature of this legislation is that it does not interfere with the inherent pride that doctors and dentists have in their professions. The talk of nationalization and socialization indulged in by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has no foundation in fact. The medical and dental professions will appreciate the efforts of this Government:
-. - That might be the trouble.
– I am certain that this bill will be appreciated by the people of Australia, and that, after a period of time has passed, during which the people can avail themselves of its benefits, it will have proved itself to be tangible evidence of the great work that the Government has done to develop this country into a strong, healthy, virile and socially secure community.
.- This bill is neither revolutionary in character nor before its time. In fact, I believe that it is long overdue. Probably the reason why it is overdue is that no other government has had the courage to attack the vast number of problems associated with a medical service. The history of this scheme goes back a long way. Senator Rankin hae said that the Government should place greater emphasis on preventive medical practice. I remind her that the only action to develop preventive medicine in Australia has been taken by government authorities. Thirty years ago, governments in Australia had very little control over the health services of the nation. They controlled only such things as quarantine and infectious diseases. Apart from that, it was the prerogative of the medical profession to care for the people.
Over the years, governments have been compelled by sheer necessity to take over more and more of the preventive aspect of medical work in the interests of the people. The very objective at which the Government aims in this measure is the development of preventive medicine. It has determined, after a complete review of the subject, that the time is overdue for the removal of such work from the hands of the people who have been conducting the health services of the nation in the interests of private enterprise. I make no bones about saying that I would go much farther than the Minister proposes to go with this medical plan.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) has accused the Government of wanting to nationalize the medical profession. I intend later to quote to the Senate certain recommendations made by the former Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social Security, a body which was composed of representatives of all parties in this Parliament. The Opposition was represented on it by three members who could never in one’s wildest dreams be considered to be radicals. They were conservative, but very just men, and they unanimously recommended to the Parliament that, in the interests of better public health, the Government should introduce a salaried medical service for the people of Australia. I shall defend that recommendation later in my speech. At. this stage, I emphasize that the activities of the Labour Government for years have been directed towards the very objective that Senator Rankin desires. Its activities have been increasingly devoted to the provision of preventive serums for the medical profession, to the promotion of national fitness, to the manufacture and distribution of health foods and drugs, to the improvement of sanitation and water-supply systems, and to other work that might be regarded as contributing to the prevention of sickness. “ Senator Large. - But Senator Rankin would not know about that.
– I suppose that the Opposition has much to learn.
– Then we are in the wrong place to learn anything.
– I hope that, when the honorable senator has heard my remarks, he will be much more enlightened than he is at the moment.
In 1936, the chaotic condition of health services in Australia became so evident that the Government of the day, which was composed of men who gave allegiance to the present Opposition parties, one of which then sailed under other colours, determined that there should be better co-operation throughout Australia in relation to public health. Therefore, it established a body known as the National Health and Medical Research Council. That body consisted of representatives of the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians and the Commonwealth and State Departments of Health, and was, in fact, a very capable organization. Great Britain has had a controlled system of national health for many years and, in 1938, the United Australia party Government of the day in Australia brought experienced men from that country to advise it on Australia’s needs. It went to great expense to bring those experts here, an’d they submitted valuable reports. But that Government was so niggardly that, when it eventually introduced a health bill into this Parliament, the scheme which it proposed aroused such resentment amongst the people that, although the bill was passed by the Parliament, public hostility prevented the Government from proclaiming the act. Yet honorable senators opposite have the audacity now to talk about what the Government should do to promote national health ! The parties which they represent had every opportunity that was necessary in peace time, when the resources of the nation could have provided a worth-while health scheme, but their outlook on the subject was so narrow that the scheme which they propounded was rejected by the people and they had not the courage to introduce it.
In 1941, the National Health and Medical Research Council was so impressed by the urgency of the need for a health service in Australia that it decided to give a lead to the medical profession and to the Parliament and the people of Australia. Therefore it prepared a scheme solely for the purpose of discussion, lt was framed for consideration by the medical profession, by potential administrators, by officers of departments of health, and by other interested people. It merely provided a basis for discussion. In the plan, the council provided for a salaried medical service. It spent considerable time upon the preparation of that framework for such a service and it did a very good joh in the process. It even suggested rates of salaries that might be paid to doctors, staffing arrangements for various medical centres, and zones into which the nation could be divided for the purposes of the scheme. That provided a basis upon which intelligent, unbiased individuals could have erected a complete plan. Unfortunately, the scheme became the plaything of the British Medical Association. The doctors were suspicious of the Government’s intentions and obviously were firm in their intention to refuse to co-operate in any scheme. They declared to the people of Australia, “ This is what the Government wants to foist upon us. Here is a plan that will destroy the existing medical service. Here is something that is so obviously wrong that it should be thrown out “. The plan was never used by the medical profession as it was intended to be used. It was never given a fair trial. It was never used as a basis for proper discussion.
The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) has been most tolerant in his discussions with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association: The plan embodied in the bill that is now before the Senate is not the result of only twelve months of work. Negotiations have been in progress for five or six years, and, during that period; successive Ministers for Health have met representatives of the British Medical Association in conference to discuss problems with them and have prepared compromise proposals in order to meet their wishes on every point. But on every occasion, I regret to say, the members of the Federal Council of the association hare been completely hostile to the schemes that Ministers have proposed. I say that with some knowledge of the position. I have had opportunities to talk with hundreds of doctors through out Australia, and I have met the Federal Council of the association and its general secretary and general president at discussions time after time. It was perfectly obvious that they entertained such hostility towards any government scheme that we could never hope to obtain the complete co-operation of the association. I regret that very much. I regret it because I believe that the doctors have a duty to the people just as we in this Parliament have a duty to the people.
– And just as gasworkers or any other group of workers have a duty to the people.
– Yes. It is regarded as a terrible thing when the miners close down the mines, impede industry and interfere with transport for days. Any such occurrence is blazoned in the press throughout Australia. The miners are supposed to be only ignorant workers, but the doctors are cultured, intelligent men, and I believe they enjoy a great goodwill amongst the people.
– They are the cream of the country.
– I should say so. They are intelligent, educated men. Individually, I believe that they are most acceptable types of men. They are excellent citizens. But unfortunately the Government has never been able to secure co-operation’ from them collectively. When they obstruct the Government’s plans, I regard them as being just as guilty as are mine workers or any other men who refuse to co-operate with the rest of the people of Australia. As I have said, the plan drafted by the National Health and Medical Research Council was treated with suspicion and hostility by the British Medical Association.
As I moved through Australia with the Social Security Committee it became perfectly obvious to me that hostility to every scheme suggested by the Government Was based upon that original plan. Obviously it had faults. It was never supposed to be perfect. I know that the salary scales laid down in it for medical men were poor and would never have been accepted. Obviously, the plan would not have been approved by members of the British Medical Association in its original form. Nobody intended the association to accept it in that way, and that fact was made perfectly clear to every doctor whom the committee met and to every branch of the association that it was able to contact either by word of mouth or -by correspondence.
– The plan was only a basis.
– Exactly. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked about records that, under the terms of this bill, doctors will be required to keep. He said that they would be available to public servants to be taken throughout the nation and shown to their neighbours.
– Nothing of the sort. I merely asked what the position would be.
– The honorable senator made his inquiry in such a way as to imply that the records would be used for some purpose for which they would not be intended and for which, in fact, it would be ludicrous to use them. I point out to him that the British Medical Association itself submitted a scheme two or three years ago, including scales of charges for all sorts of medical and surgical work. Rates were fixed for various types of operations. In case any honorable senator contemplates an operation, I can tell him what it would have cost under the association’s plan. Treatment for a fracture ran to 26 guineas. Bone grafts were on a lower scale, at fifteen guineas. Some treatments could be provided for five guineas. There is now in New South Wales the Medical Benefits Fund of New South Wales Limited, which is sponsored by the British Medical Association. Members of the public are invited to contribute to that fund, and in return for their contribution they are entitled to go to a doctor and obtain treatment of all kinds for fees specified by that organization. The doctor who treats them is paid not by the patients but by the fund. There is no difference in principle between that scheme and the scheme proposed by the Government in the present measure. When the British Medical Association introduced its scheme it was never suggested that the confidential nature of the transaction between doctor and patient would not be respected. However, since this bill was introduced the press of Australia has complained at great length that because the doctor who treats a patient under the scheme will have to supply to the Minister for Health particulars of the complaint from which the patient suffered, there is danger that the Minister and his officers will hawk that information around the country. The ludicrousness of that contention is apparent, and it is significant that, although similar criticism could be made of the scheme introduced by the British Medical Association no such outcry was made by the press. The Medical Benefits Fund of New South Wales Limited takes unto itself complete power to increase, reduce, alter, vary or modify its scale of fees. In other words, those who contribute to the scheme are not legally entitled to demand service at the price for which they have contracted to receive it. Of course, no one suggests that the association to which I have referred is seeking to exploit the public by making that proviso, but if it is reasonable for us to trust that body, why should we not trust the Minister for Health?
– The scheme organized by the British Medical Association is an entirely voluntary one and members of the public do not have to enter it.
– Of course it is voluntary, but a similar consideration applies to the Government’s scheme. Surely . people can afford to place some reliance in their Government!
As I pointed out previously, the medical services at present provided in Australia are by no means as good as could be expected. There is no real coordination between the preventive .and curative phases of medicine. The responsibility for preventive treatment is undertaken almost entirely by the Government, whilst the medical practitioners have made of curative medicine a kind of private preserve for themselves. They have resolutely resisted any attempt to improve the services which they provide or to co-ordinate their activities with other branches of public health. Furthermore, as Senator Rankin pointed out, the medical profession is not’ providing proper service for the sparsely-settled areas of Australia. In order to provide some sort of medical service for those areas it has been necessary for the Government to subsidize medical practitioners to induce them to serve the people in those areas. It is clear, therefore, that we cannot rely upon the medical profession to provide, of its own volition, proper services for people in remote areas. Under the present system medical practitioners tend to congregate in the closely-settled areas, and particularly in “ middle class “ localities. The cost of medical services has become so high that even people in middle class circumstances are unable to afford them. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social Security of which I was a member, investigated this matter some years ago, and hoped that as the result of its survey and recommendations an effective scheme to co-ordinate the medical profession of Australia and the national resources would be introduced after the war. We expected that members of tha medical profession would enter wholeheartedly into any scheme to improve the health of the nation. We have a right to expect the co-operation of the members of that profession because they are, after all, a privileged section of the community. They occupy an exalted social status and receive substantial remuneration for their work. For that reason we are entitled to expect their co-operation and assistance in a sphere in which they have been specially trained. Unfortunately, the course of the negotiations between the Government and the medical profession in the last five years has indicated that our expectations were ill-founded. In its attempts to improve the national health the Government has met with nothing but suspicion and ill will from the British Medical Association. The inquiries made by the committee to which 1 have referred showed that there had been little investigation of the medical services of the country and that there was no reliable evidence of the requirements of sick people. The committee persuaded the Government to appoint a special sub-committee composed of persons possessing special technical qualifications to inquire and report on certain aspects of the committee’s task.
That committee laboured for some months, inspecting conditions and taking evidence. It submitted valuable reports some of those reports are embodied in the Sixth Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social Security. Concerning hospitals, the sub-committee found that the deficiency of hospital beds throughout Australia was 16,731. In this connexion the sub-committee reported as follows : -
The quality of hospital accommodation for both patients and staff in the hospitals of Australia leaves much to he desired. The number of hospitals which can be regarded as measuring up to world standard of quality is extremely small.
Location is in many cases bad; there are defects of construction and planning for expansion; equipment generally is of low standard, especially in facilities for the primary need of surgical asepsis; there are menaces due to uncleanliness and to unnecessary exposure to infection, and many hospitals lack adequate staff.
Incidentally, I am amazed at the suggestion of the Opposition that the Government should concentrate rather on the construction of hospitals than on the provision of free medical services. Of course, the Government wants to build hospitals. The Minister has assured us time and again that the Government will build new hospitals and improve the existing structures as soon as materials and man-power become available. No one should realize the shortage of building materials and skilled man-power more than should Opposition senators hecause they are continually complaining of of the lag in the national housing programme. That is simply another example of their inconsistency.
On the subject of the provision of hospital services, it has been said that the very rich and the very poor members of the community are the only ones for whom proper provision is made. That contention is true insofar as wealthy members of the community are concerned because their wealth can command the best medical service possible, but it is grossly untrue of poor people. It is said that the very poor can avail themselves of free treatment in the out-patients departments and in the public wards of the hospitals, but any one who has had personal experience of the treatment meted out to out-patients must agree that they are very poorly treated. The committee to which 1 have previously referred travelled around Australia, and we had an opportunity to see. for ourselves the conditions which existed in the out-patients departments of public hospitals. I was absolutely appalled at the conditions under which poor people had to obtain treatment in many of our public hospitals. lt is absurd to say that the poor are well cared for. It is true, of course, that if they are prepared to wait for hours and hours in public institutions for free treatment they do eventually receive it. Incidentally, our experience of the method of treating patients in out-patients departments contradicts the contention of members of the British Medical Association that the free choice of doctors has an important psychological bearing on the treatment of patients. After waiting for hours in out-patients departments, patients are shunted into a room, where they are examined by a doctor whom they have probably never seen before; but I do not think that any one would suggest that that fact would retard their recovery. I want to make it quite clear, of course, that I am- not criticizing the actual treatment given to patients by doctors in the public hospitals, because they undoubtedly give of their best. However, I do criticize severely the system under which that treatment is provided. I am reminded of an instance of that kind of treatment by an experience which I had while a member of the Social Security Committee in the outpatients department of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. I spoke to a poor old man, who had sustained a fractured arm and was awaiting treatment in the outpatients department. When I spoke to him it was midday, and he had been waiting for attention since early that morning. No amenities of >any kind were provided in the waiting room; there was not even a book or a magazine to take patients’ minds off their sufferings. At about twelve o’clock, in the course of conversation, he told me that he had been there on the previous day as well, but had not been able to receive attention. Yet we are told that the very poor of this country are well cared for in the out-patients departments of hospitals throughout Aus- tralia ! Obviously, any one who makes such a claim, has little knowledge of the conditions that exist. I applaud the Minister’s announcement that the problem of providing proper attention for outpatients will be tackled quickly.
I should have liked an opportunity to Speak at some length on a salaried service, and on the control of this scheme generally. It has been said that control should be exercised by medical men. I should have been very happy, and I am sure that the Minister would have been very happy, had medical men announced their willingness to control this scheme. During six years of negotiations, the British Medical Association has had before it all sorts of schemes and plans. It has been asked to co-operate in this way and in that way. But after the Government’s experience with its pharmaceutical benefits scheme, what hope can it hold out for co-operation?
– The British Medical. Association boycotted the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
– Exactly. I have no doubt that the British Medical Association will follow the example that it has set in the past. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator -.Ashley) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11 a.m.
Civil AVIATION : Loss of Aircraft “ Lutana “ : Report of Air Court of Inquiry.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to the report of Mr. Justice Simpson on circumstances surrounding the loss of the Douglas aircraft Lutana, on the 2nd September. I believe that it is my duty to draw attention to some very glaring anomalies in the report. I consider that Mr. Justice Simpson failed to comply with the terms of reference. Should an opportunity arise at some future date, I propose to move that the matter be again referred to an air court of inquiry, presided over by a more practical man with a closer knowledge of aviation, so that the report may be of some value for reference purposes in the future. Mr. Justice Simpson was obliged, under the terms of reference, to investigate the matters leading up to and connected with the crash of Lutana. We all deplore the loss of life and the other unfortunate circumstances connected with this accident, but we must be certain that, if it is at all possible, the findings of a court of inquiry will be of some benefit to aviation in the future. I deplore the attacks that have been made on the Department of Civil Aviation and I am quite positive, that if the facts were made known, many of the insinuations that have been made about the department would be withdrawn.
The constitution of the court itself and the manner in which the proceedings were conducted prevented a proper public presentation of the highly technical issues involved, and thus precluded any correct or just valuation of the circumstances of the accident. Although, in his findings, Mr. Justice Simpson made recommendations relating to the monitoring of the radio range, the Mascot control tower, the use of modern radar aids, reporting stations, display boards in control rooms, and many other phases of aviation control, he made no reference to section 34 of his report in which he stated that he was satisfied that the pilot of Lutana could not have got on the course, that he did without at least two of the available aids having misled him. I stress the words “ at least two of the available aids having misled him “, because I consider that among other unfortunate circumstances that was the main cause of the accident. Mr. Justice Simpson said -
It appears to me to be a fair assumption that the range receiver was working, because if it were not Captain Drummond would have, I think, reported he was not receiving the radio range transmission and would have asked if the transmitter was out of order. He sent no such message.
Mr. Justice Simpson was expressing a purely personal opinion when he said that he thought that Captain Drummond would have reported that he was not receiving the radio range transmission. According to the terms of reference, Mr. Justice Simpson should first of all have determined facts on which to base any judgment that he intended to make. He did not do that. He should have established the facts leading up to, and connected with, the accident. He did not stress in his report that the radio range receiver in Lutana was not functioning efficiently on the trip from Mackay to Archerfield and that, upon arrival at the latter airport, Captain Drummond had the unit removed from the aircraft. That radio range receiver was later tested on the ground and found to be completely serviceable. Another receiver which had been tested previously and found serviceable was installed in Lutana to replace the one removed. I submit that, although Mr. Justice Simpson has not emphasized this, there was sufficient evidence tendered at the inquiry to prove that the failure of the radio range receiving equipment in Lutana was the first of a chain of coincidental circumstances that led up to and caused the accident. The map submitted in the report by the court shows that the course followed by Captain Drummond from Archerfield to Kyogle was according to the flight plan, but from there on the course deviated by approximately 35 to 40 degrees from that originally planned. I consider that that was the stage at which Captain Drummond would have come into contact with the beam that was being transmitted from Kempsey, and I also submit that there is sufficient evidence to show that he was never in contact with Kempsey. On his trip to Bundella he was following the wrong course, trusting to the accuracy of the magnetic compass. His whole progress towards Bundella, which was approximately 135 miles off his flight plan, coincided with the procedure that he would have followed if he were flying along the coast, even to reducing his height, with permission from Mascot, from 6,000 feet to 4,000 feet. Upon descending to 4,000 feet he broke through the clouds and was able to pinpoint his position. He immediately turned 125 degrees and headed back towards the coast. Had his aircraft been about 50 feet higher, he would have reached the coast somewhere in the region of Wingham, proceeded to Mascot, and this inquiry would never have been necessary. The fact that, near Crawney Pass, a mountain peak only a few feet higher than his altitude lay between him and the coast caused the mishap.
In paragraph 36 of his report, Mr. Justice Simpson said that there was a possibility that Kempsey radio station was sending out false or deceptive signals, and it is on this flimsy possibility that the rest of the report has been based. In paragraph 57, Mr. Justice Simpson said that there was a strong possibility that the radio range at Kempsey was temporarily sending out an “ on-course “ signal which led Captain Drummond to follow the track that he did. This is an entirely erroneous deduction, because there is no evidence to show that Captain Drummond was ever on the right course after passing Kyogle, or that his radio range receiver was functioning. This leads me to believe that ‘both the radio range receiver and the magnetic compass were not working. The two conflicting reports that Captain Drummond gave to Mascot at 7.53 p.m.. and 7.56 p.m. that he was at Williamstown, by radio compass, lead me to believe that he was not quite sure where he was.
I draw attention to the following newspaper report which was published under the heading “ A.N. A. Calls for Implementation of Court Report “ : -
Civil aviation would benefit greatly if recommendations in the Lutana report were adopted, the General Manager of A.N.A. (Mr. Walsh) said to-day.
The statement of the Air Minister (Mr. Drakeford) that installation of navigation aids recommended would bp too expensive seemed remarkable, Mr. Walsh dclared.
Commenting on. the findings of the Lutana court of inquiry, Mr. K. W. Steedman, secretary of the Australian Air Pilots Association, said that the extremely low accident record of Australian airline operators was envied all over the world. It was regrettable that the inquiry had failed to arrive at a clear-cut conclusion on the cause of the accident. In the last analysis, the pilot had to make his own decisions based on flying conditions, and no mechanical or other aids on the ground could alter that state of affairs. He added that safety standards were under constant review by the association, and that recommendations arising out of this most regrettable accident would he made in due course. Pilots who gave evidence at the court of inquiry all made flattering references to the Department of Civil Aviation. Should Mr. Justice Simpson’s report be tabled in this chamber for discussion, I shall move that a further inquiry be held and that, for the benefit of aviation generally in this country, which so far has an enviable record, all the facts be ascertained.
. - in reply - I shall bring Senator O’Byrne’s remarks to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation in this chamber, with , a view to seeing what can be done on the lines suggested by the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (PublicService) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 - No. 83 - Vehicle Builders Employees’ Federation of Australia. No. 84 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Nos. 85 and 86 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
Colonial Light Dues (Rates) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 147.
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 146.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - D. S. Burnet, D. R. Meadley.
Health- J. Entwistle.
Interior - B. Bradshaw. J. E. Fewins,
K. P. Lynch.
Works and Housing - M. A. Nichols.
Control of Naval Waters Act - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1948, No. 148.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property Regulations -
Orders - Inventions and designs (17).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Mannibadar, Victoria.
Science and Industry Endowment ActReport by the Auditor-General on the accounts of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund, for year 1947-48.
Senate adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 December 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19481201_senate_18_200/>.