18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Reconstruction Training Scheme - Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction give the Senate some indication of the numbers of reconstruction training students who are pursuing university and technical training under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme ?
– I understand that approximately 39,000 ex-service men and women have been selected for full and part-time university training, and nearly. 275,000 applications for full and part-time technical and vocational training have been approved. The Government has expended nearly £14,000,000 in living allowances alone, whilst tuition fees and fares have cost approximately £6,000,000. The overall cost of the scheme to date is about £33,000,000.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether theRahaley and Connor estate, in Western Australia, isto be acquired for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land ?
– I am informed that acquisition of the estate to which the honorable senator has referred has been approved by the Government at the invitation of the Government of Western Australia for soldier settlement. I understand that the property comprises 1,800 acres and is to be used for sheepraising and wheat-farming.
-I understand from newspaper reports that Mr. Hartnett, a former general manager of General Mo tors-Holden’s Limited, has been trying to commence production of an Australian motor car. The company with which he is associated proposes to make a cheap motor car available to the Australian people, and has unsuccessfully sought the assistance of the Victorian Government. Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform the Senate whether that company has approached the Australian Government for assistance? What are the prospects of the company?
– Mr. Hartnett approached the Australian Government for many forms of assistance, including financial help, permission to raise capital, and assistance to obtain buildings ex Manus Island. He also asked for first choice of any machine tools or other equipment that would be helpful to thecompany in the production of motor cars. The Secondary Industries Commission, through its Motor Vehicles Sub-Committee, examined the proposition put up by Mr. Hartnett very closely, and certain assistance was offered to him. Financial assistance was not offered, and no promise was made that he would have first choice of machine tools and buildings available ex Manus Island. The Government had to deal with this request on the same basis as it would if. other people interested in the manufacture of motor cars in Australia had advanced similar propositions. In fairness to Mr. Hartnett and to other people who are already making a very large number of motor cars in Australia, or parts of motor vehicles, and are eager to increase their production, the Governmentcould not offer Mr. Hartnett any more than it would be prepared to offer other people in the same industry. However, the Government offered him all the assistance that it believed to be reasonable; and from that point, I think, Mr. Hartnett approached the Victorian Government for financial assistance. I read the result of that request in the press only this week.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development under which Minister the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme will he administered? ‘Has the executive of the organization to control the project yet been appointed?
– The Snowy Mountains, scheme will come directly under the control of the Minister for Works and Housing. The organization which will control the project has not yet been formed.
– Will the Minister for Social Services ascertain the number of civilian widows who are at present in receipt of the widows’ pension, and: also the number of children, under sixteen years of age, in each unit group, indicating the number of children in individual families?
– 1 shall be pleased to obtain the information which the honorable senator has asked for. Approximately, there are from 42,000 to 43,000 widows receiving pensions under the social services consolidation scheme. Offhand, I am not able to indicate the age, or family, groups in respect of the children of such widows. I shall obtain that information also and make it available to the honorable senator as soon as possible. The Social Services Research Bureau, which is attached to the Department o; Social Services, from time to time makes surveys in the field of widows’ pensions as it does in respect of other social services benefits. The purpose of the bureau’s inquiry is to evaluate the pension in a broad social way. Very interesting reports are received through it: from time to time. The bureau is rendering a real service, and is obtaining for the Government information to show whether the pensions being paid are being used to the best advantage. The work of the bureau enables the Government, when necessary, to resh spe its policy in the light of changing trends.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development what profit has been made from the operations of the government dredge at Dorset Plats up to the 31st December, 1948?
– The Government has had direct control of the dredging operations at Dorset Flats for approximately the last four years. The total profit gained during that period1 approximates £74,000. For the year ended the 31st December, 1948, the Dorset Flats mining company made a profit of about £40,500.
– Further to a question that I asked the Minister for Health about a fortnight ago, can the Minister now say whether the Department of Health has communicated with Dr. Robson, the eminent authority on silicosis, who is at present touring Australia, with a view to inviting him to exhibit for the benefit of members of the Parliament the splendid collection of educational films that he has with him?
– When th© honorable senator first (mentioned this matter a fortnight ago, although I knew that Dr. Robson was touring Australia, I was not aware that he had already visited Canberra and had had a lengthy conference with medical officers of the Department of Health. Senator Aylett can rest assured that the visit of Dr. Robson to Australia was awaited with considerable interest and that the department’s medical officers have greatly profited from the conference which they had with him
Emergency Wireless Equipment
– On the 9th June, Senator Amour asked the PostmasterGeneral the following question : -
Some time ago representations were made to the Postmaster-General by a flood prevention and relief committee from the northern rivers of New South Wales to obtain “ walkietalkie “ or two-way wireless sets for use to wain people in flood, emergencies. The Minister stated that these facilities were being provided at certain points and that they would also be installed at other points. Can he now indicate where those facilities have been provided?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
Considerable progress has been made in connexion with the installation of radiotelephone facilities in the northern rivers area of New South Wales for the purpose of providing un emergency telephone and telegraph service for the passing of messages between various outlying centres and Grafton, Sydney, and Brisbane, as required, during periods when the normal telephone and telegraph services are interrupted. The facilities have been provided at Grafton, Copmanhurst, Lismore, Murwillumbah, Kyogle, Lawrence, Brisbane, and Sydney. Work is now proceeding in regard to the installation of radio links at Baryulgil, Dalmorton, Jackadgery, and Tabulam, in the Clarence Ki vor district, Bangalow, Nimbin, and Woodburn, in the Richmond River district, and Kunghur and Tyalgum in the Tweed River district. It is expected that the facilities will be provided ait these places within the next two or three months.
– During the disastrous floods experienced in .the Maitland area, a number of bodies, including memhers of the armed services, police and surf life-saving clubs were responsible for saving thousands of lives by the voluntary assistance which they rendered, and on which I congratulate them. Members of the Army did particularly fine work, and many of them worked almost continuously from Friday to Monday without sleep. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether some reward should not be given to them, for their outstanding services?
– I shall have much pleasure in bringing the honorable senator’s request to the notice of the Minister for the Army, and I feel sure that it will receive sympathetic consideration.
– In view of the fact that the tax of ls. 3d. per lb. which is levied on the sale of rabbit skins to skin dealers in Tasmania is deterring trappers from destroying rabbits in that State. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider removing the tax in order to overcome the rabbit menace?
– I shall convey the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and obtain a reply as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate of the total amount paid in subsidies on rural production in Australia during the last two years? Will he also indicate the estimated payment during the coming financial year?
– I am unable, offhand, to provide the honorable senator with the figures that he seeks, but I can inform the Senate that the amounts involved are considerable. The Government has continued to subsidize fertilizers, butter and other products on a substantial scale. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and ask that a reply be prepared as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers: -
– by leave - ‘Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) asked whether I would make a factual statement on the coal crisis. Accordingly, [ now provide the honorable senator with the following information: - In April last, the combined mining unions, including the miners’ federation, the colliery mechanics, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, the deputies, the deputies’ associations and the Blacksmith’s Society, served a log of claims upon the colliery employers and the Joint Coal Board. The claims constituting the log were for a 35-hour week, a 30s. a week increase in wages, long-service leave and improved pit and town amenities. Conferences on the claims took place under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the Joint Coal Board, Mr. K. A. Cameron, on the 19th, 24th and 30th May. They proved abortive, except in respect of the claim for pit and town amenities, responsibility for which was accepted in full by the Joint Coal Board. The unions then announced their intention to call aggregate meeting on the coal-fields on the 2nd June - a working day. The Coal Industry Tribunal intervened, and the unions postponed the meeting for a fortnight. On the 2nd June, the tribunal summoned into conference the representatives of the unions, the employers and the Joint Coal Board. The conference revealed that there was no possibility of agreement on long-service leave, and it was arranged that the tribunal would proceed to arbitrate upon it on the following Monday, the 6th June. There being some possibility of agreement upon the claims for a 35-hour week and a 30s. a week increase of wages, consideration of these matters was adjourned until Wednesday the 8th June to give to the employers an opportunity to discuss certain proposals amongst themselves. On the 6th June, the hearing of the claim for long-service leave proceeded, and at 4 p.m. was adjourned until Thursday the 9th June. On the 8th June, the adjourned conference on the 35-bour week and the 30s. a week increase of wages claims was resumed but broke down because the parties were completely at issue. On the 9th June, the tribunal continued the hearing of the claim for long-service leave. The hearing was resumed at 4 p.m., when the chairman announced that long-service leave would be granted and that he would publish, on the following Tuesday, a draft award setting out the term3 and conditions. On the same day, the New South Wales Combined Colliery Proprietors Association filed applications for an order restraining the miners’ federation and the craft unions from striking during a period of three months. A conference on the applications so far as they affected the miners’ federation was convened for Friday, the 10th June, and the members of the council of the miners’ federation and representatives of employers attended. It was stated at that conference that the real objective of the employers’ application was the prevention of the postponed aggregate meetings.
Mr. Williams, the general president of the miners’ federation, stated that his council had not reached a final decision to hold aggregate meetings on a working day. The employers agreed that the hearing of the application should be deferred until the following Tuesday at 11 a.m. On Saturday, the 11th June, the council of the miners’ federation made and carried a resolution calling aggregate meetings for Thursday, the 16th June, with a recommendation that, unless a satisfactory settlement of the claims were reached, a general strike take place commencing on the 27th June.
Because of that resolution, the tribunal took the view that it would be improper to publish the draft award relating to long-service leave, and the parties were informed accordingly. On the 14th June, the tribunal proceeded with the hearing of the application of the employers for the order. At the completion of the hearing, the federation was informed that,, upon the facts, a case had been made out so -as to give the unions the opportunity to call off the meetings on their own initiative, and that no order would be issued before 12 noon on the following day. On the resumption of proceedings at noon on the 15th June, Mr. Williamsstated that the aggregate meetings would proceed, and he refused to consult the council sooner, although requested so to do by the tribunal. The order was then issued. The effect of it was to restrain the federation from holding the meetings on the following day. The Central Reference Board then proceeded with the applications directed against the craft unions and made against them an order in similar terms to that issued against the federation, for having indicated their intention to proceed with the meetings. There have been no further proceedings before the tribunal. It was announced on its behalf on Tuesday, however, that it is ready and willing to hear the outstanding claims, provided that an undertaking is given to cancel the decision to hold the general strike decided upon by the rank and file at the aggregate meetings. This is still the position.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Armstrong) read a first time.
, - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to endeavour to provide a greater measure of assistance to ex-servicemen by raising the amount available under the act to a total of £2,000. The existing provision is for assistance under mortgage to a total of £1,500 and under contract of sale to a total of £1,750. The bill provides for a maximum of £2,000 under either a mortgage or a contract of sale. The increase in the amount of assistance will help considerably in the group building scheme which I am pleased to inform the Senate is gaining in impetus.
Provision is also made in the bill to retain the deposit of up to 5 per cent., in contract of sale cases, where the assistance does not exceed £1,750 and to provide a sliding scale of deposit, increasing above the 5 per cent, by 1 per cent, for every increase of assistance of £50, or part thereof, where the amount of assistance under contract of sale exceeds £1,750. The maximum deposit required is 10 per cent. In mortgage cases .the applicant must have a 10 per cent, equity irrespective of the amount of advance.
The bill also makes provision for the director to have discretion in contract of sale cases, where the circumstances so warrant, to accept a smaller deposit than either the 5 per cent, up to £1,750 or the deposit required on the sliding scale where the assistance exceeds £1,750. The discretion in this -respect is provided in the act at present where the assistance does not exceed £1,250, but instances have arisen which show that, unless the discretion is extended to assistance up to the proposed maximum of £2,000, some applicants, who are in a position to pay their instalments regularly but are not able to pay the required deposit, would be’ unable to proceed with their proposals, despite the fact that their circumstances might warrant the most sympathetic consideration.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McKenna agreed to -
That leave bc given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947-1948, and for other purposes.
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 bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to increase the allowances payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner from 20s. to 24s. a week for herself and from 5s. to 9s. a week for one child under sixteen years of age. In order to qualify for a wife’s allowance the wife must be living with her pensioner husband1. The allowance is payable not only to wives of invalid pensioners, but also to wives of age pensioners who are permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind. A child’s allowance is payable for only one child of the pensioner under sixteen years of age; other children beyond the first are provided for by child endowment. This allowance is payable to any invalid pensioner who has the custody, care and control of a child under the age of sixteen years. The rate of a wife’s allowance is affected by income and property in the same way as is the husband’s invalid pension, but a child’s allowance is a flat-rate payment.
Allowances for wives and children were introduced in 1943, the maximum weekly rates being then 15s. for a wife and’ 5s. for one child. The wife’s allowance was increased in 1947 to £1 a week. The new rate of 24s. will bring the wife’s allowance into line with the maximum rate of pension payable to the wife pf a service pensioner under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and with the maximum rate of war pension payable under , that act to the wife of an ex-member receiving war pension at 100 per cent, general rate or at the special rate for total and permanent incapacity. The increase from 5sv to 9s. a week in the rate of a child’s allowance will bring the amount of this allowance into line with the war pensions payable in respect of the children of ex-members receiving war pension at 100 peg cent, general, rate or at the- special rate. The number of wives* allowances at present in force is 12,700 and the num-ber of children’s allowances is’. 7,400’. The co,«t of the increase of 4s. a week in these allowances is £209,000 for a full year, comprising £132,000 m respect of wives’ allowances and £77,000 in respect of childen’s allowances.
The bill: also provides for the. repeal of the Invalid and! Old-age Pensions (Reciprocity with New Zealand) Act 1943 as from the 1st July, 1949’. On that date the new reciprocal agreement between Australia and New Zealand,, which was signed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries on the 15th April’ last will come into operation.. The existing scheme of reciprocity covers only age and invalid pensions. The new agreement covers these benefits and. in addition,, widows’ pensions, child endowment and. unemployment and sickness benefits; Under the existing, scheme the- rate of a reciprocal pension, cannot exceed: the- lower oi the
maximum rates in force in the two countries and entitlement is subject to the more restrictive conditions of the laws of the two countries. Under the new agreement New Zealand citizens who come to Australia for permanent residence will receive Australian social services benefits on the same basis as do Australian citizens, and for this purpose their residence in New Zealand will count as residence in Australia. New Zealand will give the same concession to Australian citizens who take up permanent residence in New Zealand, with, the exception that an Australian man will not be granted an age benefit until he reaches the Australian qualifying age of 65 years. The normal qualifying age for New Zealand citizens is 60 years.
Under the new agreement, persons going from Australia to New Zealand, and vice versa, for temporary residence will continue to receive, during their temporary absence, any Benefits which they were receiving in their own country. The home country will continue to provide these benefits, but actual payments’ will be made, on an agency basis, by the country in which the (person is temporarily resident, and periodical financial adjustments will he made between the two countries.
The increases in the rates of wives’ sud’ children’s allowances provided for in the bill, will be paid on the first fortnightly pension; pay-day after the legislation has been passed and receives the Royal assent. It is hoped that the increased payments will be- made on the 30th June;. I commend the bill to honorable* senators*
,. - This morning the Minister for Health (Senator MeKenna) furnished! me with an advance copy of the bill and also a copy of his second-reading speech. As the result of hia courtesy in that respect,, which. .1 greatly appreciate,, I am prepared’ to proceed with this debate immediately. The purpose ®£ the biTT is to increase the allowance payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner from 20s. to 24s. a week, and the allowance payable- in respect of one child of such a couple from 5sv to 9’s. a week. This, provision’ will place such dependants of an invalid pensioner on the same basis- as those of a war pensioner. This allowance is ako being made payable to wives of age pensioners who are permanently incapacitated, or are permanently blind, provided that in such instances the wife is living with her husband, and subject also to other general qualifications that are provided for under the principal act. The Opposition agrees with the provision of these additional benefits. “We have regard to increases of the cost of living since 1943, when the existing rates were prescribed, and we recognize that people in good health and in possession of all their faculties have an obligation to assist those who are in less fortunate circumstances.- The best means of rendering such assistance is in the form of a .financial benefit.
I take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the Minister two anomalies which, exist under the principal act First, I have had brought to any notice :it various times the position of yoting persons who are suffering from tuberculosis. For example, I cite the case of a young man of seventeen years of age who ie suffering from tuberculosis in an advanced stage. Unfortunately, at present accommodation in hospitals throughout the Commonwealth is overtaxed. I am informed that the shortage of accommodation in such institutions for sufferers from tuberculosis is very acute. In some instances, sufferers from that disease are obliged to wait for periods of up to’ six months before they can gain admission to a hospital. In the case I have in mind, the sufferer during that period will be unable to work and will be obliged to remain at home where he must be looked after by his relatives, but while he remains at home he will not be eligible for any social services benefit. 1 should like the Minister to inform me whether that is correct; and, if so, whether anything can be done to rectify that anomaly. I point out that that youth’s parents are under an additional disability as the result of being deprived of his- earnings from normal employment.
Reference has been made on previous’ occasions in this chamber to the second anomaly which I have in mind. War pension is taken into account as income in deciding eligibility for unemployment benefit. I believe that I am correct when I say that unemployment benefit is the only social services benefit in respect of which war pension is treated as income, and that in all other instances the war pension in regarded, as it was originally meant to be regarded, solely as compensation for injuries due to war service. A limbless ex-serviceman receives a. war pension of £2 15s. a week, plus the schedule allowance of 10s. a week. That amount of income would render a single war pensioner ineligible “to receive unemployment benefit. At the same time, however, a single nian who is not in receipt of a war pension is eligible, should he become unemployed, to receive unemployment benefit at the rate of 25s. a week, and he is allowed to earn an additional income of £1 a week. I believe that the Minister will admit that the facts I have given disclose an anomaly which represents a departure from the general principles observed by all governments when dealing with war pensions. Invariably that pension has been regarded solely as compensation for war injury whether or not the injury reduces the individual’s earning capacity. The war pension has never been regarded as income in the application of any means test. Therefore, 1 submit that it should not be taken into account as income in assessing eligibility for unemployment benefit. In respect of unemployment benefit, war pensioners who become unemployed should be treated on the same basis as are all other applicants for such benefit. I ask the Minister to examine that point in order to see whether something cannot be done to alleviate the position of war pensioners in those circumstances.
The bill also provides for a new reciprocity agreement with respect to social services benefits between New Zealand and Australia to embrace widows’ pension, child endowment, and unemployment and sickness benefits. I believe that the adoption of the scheme will greatly benefit Australians who are residing in New Zealand and New Zealanders who are residing in this country. 1 wholeheartedly approve the principle of the measure, which is designed to remove the hardships experienced by people who leave this country for various reasons to settle in New Zealand and are deprived, in their advanced years, of the benefit of age and invalid pensions. At the same time, I consider that the scheme should be expanded to include people from the United Kingdom who have settled in Australia. During my recent visit to the United Kingdom, I made inquiries of a great number of people concerning the reasons for the inadequate number of English people which have migrated to this country. Young people who had elderly dependants to support explained that if they migrated to Australia and brought their aged dependants with them they would have to bear the entire cost of maintaining those dependants because they knew that no provision existed in Australia for the payment of pensions and allowances for aged people who had not resided in this country for a substantial period. A number of elderly people whom 1 interviewed pointed out that during the greater part of their working lives they had been contributing to the British national insurance fund for the payment of age pensions in their later years, and they knew that if they migrated to Australia they would lose the benefit of those pensions. I understand that a reciprocal arrangement to provide for the payment of age and invalid pensions to each other’s nationals is proposed between the United Kingdom, France and the Benelux countries. If such an agreement can be made amongst nations whose respective peoples have not even the advantage of ties of common blood and language, surely a reciprocal arrangement could be made between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Australian Government. I realize, of course, that the Australian Government would probably be called upon to pay out far more than would the . United Kingdom Government, but even if the difference in the respective payments amounted to some millions of pounds, the money would be well spent because it would encourage the migration of British people to Australia.
I should also like to see some reciprocal scheme devised between Australia and
New Zealand for the payment of service pensions. A number of service pensioner!) have migrated to Australia from New Zealand, and a number of Australian service pensioners have settled in New Zealand. I do not think there would be any considerable disparity in the total sums which our respective Governments would be called upon to provide to pay service pensions to each other’s nationals. As a gesture or recognition of the fine services rendered to the British Commonwealth by ex-servicemen from other dominions, I suggest that the Government should take the initiative in negotiating a reciprocal scheme with New Zealand and, if possible, with other British dominions.
Returning to discussion of the measure before the Senate, it occurred to me when I first examined the hill that Australian age and invalid pensioners who are residing in New Zealand might be placed at a considerable disadvantage because of the operation of the currency exchange rate between the two countries. I feared that Australians might not receive the equivalent monetary value of the pensions that would have been paid to them had they continued to reside in Australia, and that, conversely, the monetary values of the New Zealand pensions in this country would be much higher than they are in New Zealand. I should be very glad if the Minister would clear up that point for me. I share the Minister’s hope that it will be possible to pay the increased amount as from the 1st July next. The Opposition is in full agreement with the objects of the measure, and has no desire to impede its passage.
– I support the bill, and whilst I give credit to the Labour Government for having introduced the principle of making a payment to the wife of an invalid pensioner, I regret that the amount is limited to 24s. a week. I do not know how any one can expect a woman who has an invalid husband to keep herself on only 24s. a week. I am sure that most members of this Parliament find that 24s. a day is needed to live in ordinary circumstances while they are in Canberra; yet we consider that 24s. a week is sufficient for a woman to feed and clothe herself, and help to provide her invalid husband* with the extra delicacies that he ‘needs. Obviously if some one has to go “without, it will not be the invalid, but the wife. Consider the matter from the economic point of view: If the invalid husband were in a hospital, the ‘Commonwealth Government would be paying Ss. a day towards his maintenance. A survey made by the Social Security Committe some years ago revealed that, the cost to most hospitals of maintaining each patient was approximately fi a day. I realize, of ‘course, that that sum would include the provision of drugs and other special requirements, but the fact remains 4hat we are expecting a woman, to perform the magical feat of keeping a home .going on 24s. a week for herself, and 9s. a week for the first child. Incidentally, why has that latter figure been fixed at 9s. instead of 10s. which is .the endowment -payment in respect of the first endowed child I Here, too, is another disparity. Although 9s. is regarded as sufficient to maintain a child in its own home, institutions receive 27s. a week for the maintenance -of each child. I pay a tribute to the wives of invalid pensioners who manage to exist on the small payment that is made to them. I am .sorry that the Government, which introduced this payment and is now increasing it to 24s. a week, is stopping halfway.
I am pleased that we have a reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand covering this and other social services legislation. I have been to New Zealand and I have examined its social services scheme. A notable feature of that scheme is its decentralization. It, is not necessary to refer all matters to the capital cities. Claims for social services are dealt with by district ©Beers and any problems arising can be solved on the .’spot. That would !be a worthwhile innovation in this country. Australia is advancing rapidly on the road that has been pioneered hy New Zealand, and the reciprocal agreement “between the two countries in respect oi social services is most gratifying.
– in reply - I appreciate the support of this measure by the ‘Opposition. I realize that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has had wide experience in the social services field and I remind the Senate -of the great contribution that he made to progressive thought when he was a member ‘of the Social Security Committee. The ‘honora’b’le senator has referred to several matters and T .shall traverse them rapidly. He instanced the case of a youth of, say, seventeen years of age, who, although he had’ tuberculosis in an advanced stage, and could not work, was obliged to wait for six months for hospital accommodation. The honorable senator suggested that such, a person would not be eligible for a benefit. I point out that the invalid pension is available *o all persons over the age of sixteen years. Whether the youth would actually receive that pension would depend en whether he came within the adequate maintenance standard laid down for such cases. It is not generally realized’ just how generous that scale is. In determining whether a person is entitled to a pension, consideration is given to the total family income. I shall put a fair example to the Senate: Let us imagine that the hoy rs the elder of two children, the other being under sixteen years of age. Allowing £3 a week for the father, £3 for the mother, ’30s. for the child under sixteen, and £3 for the tuberculosis sufferer, the family could have a total income of £10 10s. before the invalid would’ be entirely disqualified from receiving some pension. In short, if the family income was, say, £10 a week, the youth would still be entitled to a pension of 10s. Of course, if the family income was only about £8 a week, he would be entitled to a. full pension of £2 2s. 6d. There is definite provision made for the youth. He would also he eligible for the tuberculosis allowance of 10s. a week. I hope that the Tuberculosis Advisory Committee will soon be functioning and- that the payments will then be reviewed. I assure Mie honorable senator that there is ample provision in the legislation to meet the case that he has cited.
The Leader of the Opposition also raised the question of treating war pension as income for the purpose of assessing entitlement to the -unemployment benefit. A war pension is taken into account as income over the whole range of social services benefits. The Government looks upon the unemployment benefit as a payment to tide a person over a period of temporary difficulty due to unemployment. In fact, quite recently, the Government set its face against paying pensions to one individual from two Commonwealth sources. The Senate may recall that in a recent amendment of our consolidated social services legislation, provision was made for ceilings representing the maximum amounts that could be paid to any one person from two Commonwealth sources. From time to time, the Opposition has raised this self-same point, and I think that the Leader of the Opposition will realize that, in threading one’s way through the intricate maze of social services benefits, it is not easy to act in relation to one matter without causing a disturbance in other fields. That is an eternal difficulty that confronts anybody who is dealing with these problems. I think that the honorable senator himself would recognize that, if war pensions were to be disregarded as income for the purpose of unemployment benefit, there would be very heavy pressure upon the Government to exclude war pensions as income from all other fields of social service. Such pressure would be very difficult to resist. At all events, I undertake to give consideration to the honorable senator’s request, which he has made on more than one occasion, when I am reviewing social services for the forthcoming year. I agree with him that it would be desirable to extend reciprocal social services arrangements not only between Australia and tho United Kingdom but also between Australia and other countries of the British Commonwealth. New Zealand pioneered the way with us, and we are now negotiating with the United Kingdom. There is great similarity between the Australian system of social service benefits and the method by which they are financed and those that operate in New Zealand. Accordingly it was relatively easy to integrate a reciprocal scheme in the various fields of benefits now covered. The approach to reciprocity with the United Kingdom is not nearly so easy. There are different types of benefits at greatly varying rates, and, moreover, the basis upon which they are financed in Great Britain is entirely different. That does not mean that the difficulties are insuperable. A conference took place in the United Kingdom in 1947, when certain broad principles were hammered out and, now that the reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand has been concluded, my officers are concentrating their efforts upon building a reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom. I appreciate the point that was raised by the Leader of the Opposition concerning the establishment of reciprocal arrangements with New Zealand in respect of service pensions. That does not fall under my jurisdiction; it is a matter for the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). However, the honorable senator’s proposal commends itself to me, and I shall refer it to the Minister for his favorable consideration.
The Leader of the Opposition also asked how the exchange rate between New Zealand and Australia affects pensions that are paid pursuant to the reciprocal arrangement. In this connexion, a. distinction must be drawn between persons who have gone permanently to New Zealand from Australia and those, who have gone there only temporarily. An Australian who goes permanently to New Zealand will be paid at New Zealand rates in New Zealand currency, and the question of exchange simply will not arise. That, of course, will cover the great majority of cases. Australians who go temporarily to New Zealand and wish to receive their social services benefits there will he paid Australian pensions at the Australian rates by the New Zealand authorities on behalf of Australia. The benefits will he available at the New Zealand equivalent of the Australian money. In other words, the exchange will operate in the case of a person who is temporarily in New Zealand. As the honorable senator will realize, that class of pensioner will constitute a very small minority of the people who will benefit under this legislation. 1 appreciate the desire of the Leader of the Opposition to facilitate the passage of the bill so that it may become law during the current week. If the House of Representatives deals with the measure as speedily as the Senate obviously intends to deal with it, we shall have no difficulty in making the first payments of the increased benefits on the 30th June.
– I presume that a New Zealander who came to Australia temporarily would gain under the reciprocal arrangement.
– Yes, he would gain under the exchange rate.
– And a New Zealander who came to Australia permanently would be paid at the Australian rate in Australian money?
– Yes, the exchange difficulty would not arise. Senator Tangney regretted that the proposed increase of the amount payable to the wife of a pensioner is not more generous. I think that all of us share that regret, but the honorable senator dealt with a really extreme case in which there was no income in the family. A full invalid pensioner will receive £2 2s. 6d. a week, and the allowance payable to his wife will be £1 4s., making a total of £3 6s. 6d. An allowance of 9s. for the first child will bring the total weekly income of the family to £3 15s. 6d-. The amount of permissible income for a man and wife is £3 a week.
– Not for an invalid pensioner ?
– Yes. I concede that an invalid pensioner would not he permitted to earn an amount as high as that by his own efforts. Nevertheless, he might have an income from various sources, or he and his wife between them might have income from sources that did not involve personal exertion. Another consideration occurs to me in this connexion. A suggestion was made to a very prominent man in the Parliament that some special arrangement should be made for wives. The argument addressed to him was that wives would stay at home to look after their invalid husbands. That gentleman assured me that laws could not be made for women because they simply did not take any notice of laws, and that, if they were given £1 4s. a week to stay at home and look after their husbands, no law on earth would stop them from going out to earn a little extra money if they so desired. I am not casting any reflections upon women. I am only repeating something that was said.
– Is the Minister disposed to grant an allowance to the grown-up daughter of a widower who looks after him as a wife would do?
– It is possible that, in an appropriate case, an amount of at least £1 a week would be paid to the daughter.
– Not under this bill?
– No, by way of special benefit. In cases where a grownup daughter is obliged to stay at home to look after a widower, we have paid special benefit at the rate of £1 a week. The limit is £1 as. a week.
– Is each case dealt with on its merits?
– Yos, having regard to the income of the family and all other relevant circumstances. I assure the honorable senator that there are scores, if not hundreds, of cases in which special benefits are paid in circumstances similar to those that he has mentioned. Senator Tangney also asked why the allowance for the first child should be 9s., not 10s. That was a fair question. It is dealt with in my introductory speech, in which I said -
The increase from 5s. to 9s. a week in the rate of a child’s allowance will bring the amount of this allowance into line with the war pensions payable in respect of the children of ex-members receiving war pension at 100 per cent, general rate or at the special rate.
The difficulty is that, if we raised the allowance to 10s. in that field, a complete review would have to be made of the benefits provided in respect of the first child of a family in other fields of social service. Once again, it is the difficulty of depressing the balloon in one place and having it bulge in another place.
– They would not bulge much on 10s. a week.
– lt all depends upon where we are considering the bulge. The honorable senator has raised an important question, and I understand that it was prompted by her sympathy for distressed families. I appreciate the financial difficulties of a family which has only £3 15s. 6d. a week upon which to live, pay rent and meet all the hazards of existence. However, the honorable senator will recollect that payments have been made by the Government in order to protect such citizens in other directions. For instance, they can now be accommodated free of charge in the public wards of public hospitals throughout Australia, and the pension continues while the pensioner is in hospital. Also, there can be no doubt about the sincerity of the Government’s efforts to provide pharmaceutical benefits for the people. Apart from direct cash payments, there are certain other avenues of assistance. Very often State welfare departments come to the aid of families such as those mentioned by the honorable senator, and there are the adjuncts of living that I have already mentioned. I appreciate the support of the Senate in this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator MoKenna) agreed to-
That leave bc given to bring in a bill for an act to make provision for the prevention of irregularities in connexion with elections for odious in organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1048, to vest in the Com mon wealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration additional powers for the prevention of such irregularities, and for those purposes to amend that net.
Bill presented, and read a first time. Motion (by Senator McKenna) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders Ite 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.
This bill is for an act to make provision for the prevention of irregularities in connexion with elections for offices in organizations registered’ under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1948, to vest in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration additional powers for the prevention of such irregularities, and for those purposes to amend that act.
For some considerable time the Government has been investigating the need for statutory provision of this kind. Evidence of malpractices and irregularities in the elections of officials of some registered organizations has accumulated and has been confirmed by responsible industrial bodies and other bodies closely associated with industrial activities. At the eighteenth Commonwealth triennial conference of the Australian Labour party held in September last, the conference appointed a committee to investigate this matter. The relevant portion of the committee’s report, which was accepted by the conference, is as follows : -
The committee feels that it is necessary for action to be taken to prevent any individual member of a trade union being unjustly penalized for his political beliefs. Trade union elections should be conducted on a basis that gives every member the right of election, the right to vote, and to show the real reflex of the wishes of the membership, and not to be subject to gerrymandering for political or personal purposes.
In order that the whole question can bc thoroughly sifted to ensure these principles being given effect to in the election of union officers, employers’ organizations officials and public companies which are important to the economy of Australia, we recommend that the Federal’ Labour Advisory Committee be requested to investigate the matter with a view to appropriate recommendations being submitted to the Federal Executive, the Federal Parliamentary Labour party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions for subsequent discussion with the Federal Government.
The report was considered by the Federal Labour Advisory Committee at its sessions in December, 1948, March and May, 1949. The Federal Labour Advisory Committee comprises two members of the federal executive of the Austalian Labour party, two members of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and two members of the Parliamentary Labour party who are members of the Government. On the 13th May last, the
Federal Labour Advisory Council decided to recommend to its constituent bodies that Commonwealth legislation should be enacted to ensure that proved malpractices or irregularities in connexion with the elections of registered organizations should be capable of correction. The recommendation has been accepted by those bodies.
The Government, in giving effect to that recommendation through this bill, has in mind the need for ensuring that the will of the properly qualified, and so properly interested, members of a registered organization must be allowed to be fully and freely articulate. That will must find full and free expression, particularly in the matter of the choice of committees and officials, through whom it speaks and acts, as the will of the organization itself. Freedom of choice may be defeated by a dishonest or inept committee or officer, by resort to malpractice or deceit or by a misunderstanding of or deliberate or weak non-compliance with essential rules or even by intimidation. Because of this the Government regards it as essential that adequate statutory machinery should be available to protect that freedom of choice, no matter how infrequent the abuse of it may be.
The bill applies to all organizations, whether of employers or employees, registered with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The bill neither contemplates nor authorizes any interference with the conduct of ballots of registered organizations whose elections of office hearers are conducted with fairness and propriety and in accordance with their rules. One of its objects is to keep a registered’ organization free from all wrongful arrogation of power by existing executives and to make all executives effectively answerable to the body of members. This does not in any way restrict the powers of the organization but guarantees it freedom in their exercise.
The bill is aimed at irregularities; its spirit and purpose may be gleaned from the definition of “irregularity” in clause 4 of the bill. The definition is as follows : - “ Irregularity “, in relation to an election for an office, includes a breach of the rules of *x> organization or of a branch of an organi- zation, and any act, omission or other means whereby the ft: II and free recording of votes by all persona entitled to record votes, and by no other persons, or a correct ascertainment or declaration of the- results of the voting is, or is attempted to be, prevented or hindered ; i
I propose to explain briefly the main provisions of the bill, omitting less essential details, although important. A member of an organization claiming that there has been an irregularity in an election may lodge with the Industrial Registrar a written application, setting out the facts on which he relies and verified by a statutory declaration. The Industrial Registrar, if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for an inquiry into an alleged irregularity having an effect upon the result of the election, may refer the matter to the court. After the application has been lodged, a judge of the court may authorize the Industrial Registrar to enter the premises of an organization, inspect ballot papers and documents relevant to the election, require delivery of and take and retain possession of such papers and documents.
The provisions I have mentioned provide a necessary safeguard against the making of unfounded, vexatious or frivolous applications to the registrar of the court and ensure that access to the premises and records of an organization can he obtained only by the authority of a judge. The jurisdiction of the court to conduct an inquiry under the bill will he exercised by a single judge. At any time after an inquiry has been instituted, the judge may make interim orders designed to hold or adjust the position pending completion of the inquiry. Details of the orders which may be made appear in the proposed new section 96k. Parties to the inquiry may be represented by counsel. The Attorney-General is empowered to intervene at any stage of the proceedings.
Proposed new section 96o provides that, if the court finds that any irregularities have occurred, the court may make one or more of the following orders : -
Under paragraph d, the court may, if it thinks fit, require a secret ballot to be taken. Proposed new section 96g (4), however, provides -
The court is empowered to enforce its orders.
Proposed new section 96j is designed to overcome difficulties that may arise where a person found by the court to have been irregularly elected to an office has, prior to that finding, purported to act in that office. The section provides that all acts done by him while so purporting to act and which could validly havebeen done by him if he had been duly elected shall be valid and effectual for all purposes unless the court declares any such act to he void.
The Government, recognizing that the costs incidental to an inquiry may prevent an approach being made to the court in a casewhere it is desirable that an inquiry should be held and that on the other hand an organization and its officials, against whom allegations of irregularity have been made but not established, may be heavily burdened, has met these positions by special provisions in the proposed new section 96k. Put briefly, the section: authorizes the Attorney-General to pay the whole or any part of the costs of -
Sub-section 4 provides that -
Where the Court orders -
a new election to be held;
any step in or in connexion with an election to be taken again; or
any safeguards, not provided for in the rules of the organization or branch, to be taken in or in connexion with any uncompleted steps in an election, the Attorney-General may, if he is satisfied that the nature of the irregularity found by the Court to have occurred is such that it would he unreasonable for the organization to be required to bear, or to bear in full, the expenses involved in compliance with the order of the Court, authorize payment by the Commonwealth of the whole or part of those expenses.
The power of the court to award costs is not limited in any way. A further new provision obliges an organization, and every officer of an organization who is able to do so, to preserve all ballotpapers, envelopes, lists and other documents used in relation to an election for a period of one year after the completion of the election.
An important provision of the hill authorizes an organization, or a branch of an organization, to request the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election in the filling of any office in the organization or branch. Upon receipt of such a request the Industrial Registrar is authorized, if he considers it practicable for him to do so, to conduct the election and, notwithstanding anything contained in the rules of the organization or branch, to take such action and give such determinations as he considers necessary, with a view to ensuring that no irregularities occur in connexion with the election. Such an election will be conducted at Commonwealth expense. It is thought that a number of organizations may care to take advantage of this provision.
Proposed new section 96k prohibits, in connexion with an election for an office, such acts as impersonation, unlawful interference with a nomination paper, ballot-paper or envelope, unauthorized voting, plural voting, forgery of election documents, and interference with a ballotbox. Subjection 2 of the proposed new section provides -
A person shall not, in or in connexion with an election for an office -
threaten, offer or suggest any violence, injury, punishment, damage, loss or disadvantage for or on account of, or to induce -
any candidature or withdrawal of candidature ;
any vote or omission to vote:
any support or opposition to any candidate; or
any promise of any vote, omission, support or opposition ; or
use, cause, inflict or procure any violence, punishment, damage, loss or disadvantage for or on account of any such candidature, withdrawal, vote, omission, support or opposition.
A penalty of £100 or imprisonment for twelve months, or both, is provided for any breach of the provisions of the act. The Government will carefully watch the operation of this legislation and will be ready to consider such changes in it as experience may indicate to be desirable. It is a source of gratification to the Government that the broad principles of this legislation have the support of a body so strongly representative of one class of registered organizations as the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The legislation is designed to ensure fair dealing. The presence of this bill on the statute-book will act as a deterrent to wrongdoers; it will safeguard members of registered organizations against intimidation and malpractice. If, as I hope, it. achieves those objectives, it will make an important contribution to the welfare of our nation.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for mi act to amend the provisions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947, as amended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1949, relating to the writing of prescriptions by medical practitioners.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) 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.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls) . -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.
This bill will amend the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947-1949. In the course of the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1949, I made it clear that there would be no compulsion on patients to receive pharmaceutical benefits under the act if they did not desire to do so. It was explained that the necessary provision would be made by regulations and that the act authorized the making of such regulations. After consideration, it has been decided that it is preferable to incorporate this provision in the act itself.
The bill now before the Senate achieves that purpose. It repeals section 7a included by the 1949 act and re-enacts it to meet the position I have indicated. Sub-section 2 (a) of the new section 7a proposed to be inserted by clause 3 of the bill provides that in any case in which the person in respect of whom or at whose request a prescription is written requests a medical practitioner not to write the prescription on a Commonwealth prescription form, the medical practitioner shall not be obliged to use the Commonwealth form. In any such case the patient will pay the cost of the prescription to the chemist who dispenses it. Sub-clause 3 of clause 3 permits of the making of regulations under the section with effect from the date of proclamation @( the section. The opportunity has been taken in the bill to effect a drafting alteration to the opening words of section 7a.
– As the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) courteously furnished me with an advance copy of the bill and also a copy of his second-reading speech, I am able to proceed immediately with this debate. The bill provides that in any instance in which a person requests a medical practitioner not to write his prescription on a Commonwealth prescription form, the practitioner shall not be obliged to use the Commonwealth form. It will be remembered that during the debate on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill which was passed in March last, the Opposition pointed out that many people would not desire to accept the benefit which is generally referred to as “ free medicine “. However, under that measure, they were compelled to do so. In the course of that debate on the loth March, my colleague, Senator Rankin, drew attention to that aspect. She said -
Has’ the Government given adequate consideration to the feelings of people who may not want to accept the scheme, but may prefer to get their medicine in the usual way instead of having to get a prescription for an issue of free medicine from the chemist?
The honorable senator continued -
The Government has said, in effect, to the doctors of Australia, “ You must issue the official form whether the patient wants it or not “. That is compulsion. It forces the people to accept free medicine whether they want to do so or not.
The honorable senator also pointed out that the Government proposals would place the relationship which should exist between doctors and patients, and particularly, temperamental patients, on a wrong basis, and that patients would be forced to accept something that they did not desire. I am pleased, therefore, that the Minister has realized the fairness of the suggestion made by the honorable senator by inserting a provision in this measure that in instances in which the patients desire their prescriptions to be supplied by their doctors on the doctors’ notepaper, that can be done. In such instances, the patients will simply take their prescriptions to- the pharmacists to be dispensed, and will pay for them as at present. I now ask the Minister whether the concession which he has graciously made may be accepted .by the Parliament as an indication that many of the other differences which at present exist between the Government and the British Medical Association may be overcome ? I trust that the Minister will give equally favorable consideration to the other suggestions that have been made by the Opposition to improve the measure. I remind him that it is now more than two months since the amending legislation was passed by the Senate and that more than two years has elapsed since the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill was passed. I need hardly emphasize that although the taxpayers have contributed for medical benefits during that period they have not so far received those benefits. -Supporters of the Government have boasted that the funds of the National Welfare Fund now amount to more than £80,000,000, and it has been said that those funds will total £100,000,000 at the end of the current financial year. I remind them that the mere existence of such substantial sums will not enable the people to enjoy any of the benefits* for which they have contributed unless and until the Government can implement its scheme.
I understand that agreement has been reached between the Government and the British Medical Association whereby general medical practitioners throughout Australia act as local officers of the Repatriation Department to treat repatriation cases, and that under that arrangement the doctors are free to prescribe whatever they think fit for their patients. They are not required to confine their prescriptions to any formulary or to write them on particular forms. The doctors and pharmacists who treat patients and dispense medicines for them are paid directly by the Repatriation Department. I believe that that scheme has been availed of by many thousands of men and women who are entitled to receive repatriation benefits, and I can assure the Minister that all honorable senators are desirous that the Government should make some similar arrangement with the British Medical -Association in respect of its pharmaceutical benefits scheme for the whole community.
Since the Minister has -been good enough to adopt the suggestion made by Senator Rankin, to which I have already referred, perhaps he may he prevailed upon to go even further and adopt the suggestion which I made in the course of the speech that I delivered on the 15th March last. Because of the sincere desire of the Opposition that the scheme shall be implemented as quickly as possible, I suggested on that occasion that the differences which still exist between the Government and the British Medical Association should be referred to an independent tribunal, whose decisions would be acceptable to both parties. Since I understand that the Minister desires to have the bill passed as soon as possible I shall not delay its passage by speaking at any further length. I commend the bill, and again request the Government to give serious consideration to the suggestions which have been, made by members of the Opposition.
– in reply - I am indebted to the Opposition, and particularly to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) for the reception given to the measure. In the debate which took place when the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act was passed by the Senate earlier this year members of the Opposition raised the matter of the alleged compulsion which would be applied to persons who consult doctors to participate in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I pointed out at that time that section 7a of the act provided that certain classes of persons should be exempt from the operation of the scheme, and that the section provided for the making of regulations for that purpose. The first words of that section are -
Except as prescribed, a medical practitioner shall not write a prescription . . . otherwise than on a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth . . .
I made it very clear to the Senate at that time that no compulsion would be applied to patients to participate in the scheme, and I furnished particulars of the classes of persons which the Government contemplated might not desire to participate in the scheme. Apart altogether from workers’ compensation and accident cases, I pointed out that persons suffering from venereal disease, and those who believed that they might get better treatment from a doctor if they were permitted to pay for treatment, were not compelled to accept the benefits. Persons who, for political reasons, did not desire to participate, were also excluded, and the Government did not, of course, overlook those extraordinary individuals who, for no good reason at all, do not desire to participate in any scheme. From, the outset I acknowledged that exemption would have to be made for those classes of persons. In congratulating me for having included in the measure now before the Senate specific provision for those cases, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) was obviously acting under a misapprehension -because the bill does not introduce any new principle. The principle of the scheme is embodied in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, and as I explained in my second-reading speech, all that the present measure proposes is that certain provisions which were to be made by regulation under the earlier legislation are now to bc incorporated in the act itself.
The Leader of the Opposition inquired whether the inclusion of certain provisions, in this lull should be takes as an indication that the Government hopes: that better relationships will exist in future between the British Medical Association and itself. I am afraid that the answer to that inquiry is in the negative. I do not think that the passage of the measure, which, does not deal with: any point in dispute between the association and the Government, will affect the relationship existing, between us. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that, the outstanding difficulties between the Government and the British Medical Association, should DIe referred to any independent tribunal for determination.. I dealt with that suggestion ut considerable length in the course of the- debate on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act earlier this year,, and I thought, that I had disposed of that, suggestion even to the satisfaction of the Leader of the Opposition. However, the course, of subsequent events indicates that his wish is now likely to ; be gratified. The British Medical Association has. announced that as soon as .this hill is proclaimed it will refer our outstanding differences, to an independent tribunal - the High Court of Australia - - before which it intends to contest the validity of the measure. I am sure that even the honorable senator will De completely satisfied with the independence of that tribunal and its competence to adjudicate fairly upon the differences which exist between the Government and the British Medical Association. However, I accept the assurances of the Leader of the Opposition, and I , believe that he is sincerely desirous that the people of Australia shall enjoy pharmaceutical benefits as soon as possible. In return, I assure him that I am as anxious as is any member of the Opposition that the fullest cooperation shall .be -established between the Government, the British Medical Association and the people of Australia.
Concerning the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition that the Government should devise some scheme similar to that which operates for the treatment of repatriation cases, I assure him’ that the Government has already given the fullest consideration to that proposal. However. I point out that the pro-vision of, pharmaceutical benefits foa: the people of Australia as- a. whole presents, entirely different, problems from those- associated with the. provision of repatriation benefits for the comparatively limited number of people who are entitled to receive those benefits. Approximately 2,300i doctors who are in ordinary private practice, act as agents for the Repatriation Department m providing treatment for approved repatriation patients. The doctors write their prescriptions on government forms, which are. of foolscap size and’ contain a large number of blanks which have to be completed, and the forms themselves have- to he rendered in triplicate. By contrast the prescription forms supplied for use by medical practitioners under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme are quite small, contain only a. few blanks to be completed”, and are required to he rendered only in duplicate. It is obvious, therefore, that there is no real foundation for the objection which the British Medical Association has taken to the use of government forms under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I also point out. that the cost of providing repatriation benefits has increased from £67,000, two years ago-, to approximately £100,000 during the current year. That sum is only a fraction of the sum of £3,000,000 which it is estimated will require to be expended1 on the provision of pharmaceutical (benefits for the whole community. Approximately SO 0.000 prescriptions, are written annually for repatriation patients, I” it is estimated that about 20,00©y000 prescriptions will be written by approximately 6,000 doctors when the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is operating.. The existing system of appointing local doctors as agents for the Repatriation Department is quite suitable to provide for the needs of a comparatively small number of people who are scattered over a wide area, but entirely different considerations arise in providing a national hep lib and medical service. The repatriation medical ‘benefits scheme is cheeked and policed by local committees of chemists throughout Australia, who are paid for their services, but if a similar arrangement were sought to be made in respect of the 20.000.WO prescriptions which it, is expected will be dispensed under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme the full-time services of every pharmacist in Australia would he required to check them. Therefore, it cannotbe assumed that the scheme which operates quite well for the Repatriation Department would be applicable to the entire community.
SenatorCooper. - Has the British Medical Association intimated that it would be prepared to accept that scheme, or has that matter been discussed at all?
– I am in some difficulty about answering the honorable senator’s first question in the affirmative, but I can answer his second question. The matter has been mentioned to the British Medical Association. My delay in answering a series of questions that the honorable senator has asked on this point is due to the fact that I am having the various records of my conferences with the British Medical Association combed to ascertain whether the association’s representatives ever put the matter on a firm basis. However, not much attaches to the point, because it has been discussed on a number of occasions. The repatriation system has been under consideration. I hope to give the honorable senator an answer to his series of questions before long. In fact, I think that to-day I have answered all the points, except the one that he now raises. I am unable at this stage, due mainly to lack of time, to say whether the British Medical Association has put the matter to me on a firm basis. I am checking that at present. I appreciate the support of the Opposition for this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 22nd June (vide page 1291), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That thebill be now read a first time.
SenatorNASH. (Western Australia) [5.4]. - Apparently the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) and his supporters in this chamber are rather perturbed at the suggestion that a majority of the people of the Commonwealth voted “ No “ at the rents and prices referendum mainly because of the attitude adopted to that referendum by members of the Opposition parties in this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the effect on prices of the withdrawal of certain price stabilization subsidies after the defeat of the Government’s referendum proposals. Undoubtedly, had those subsidy payments, which totalled approximately £40,000,000 per annum, been continued, they would have had a substantial influence in maintaining price stability. The premises upon which the Leader of the Opposition has developed his argument are quite wrong. Another honorable senator on this side of the chamber has referred to a speech about subsidies that was delivered in the Parliament by the Prime Minister. I propose to refer to a broadcast that the right honorable gentleman made on the 10th May, 1948, and here I quote from the 135th issue of the Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman said -
On Saturday, May 29th, you will be asked to record a simple vote, either “ Yes “ or “ No “ at a referendum to indicate whether theAustralian Constitution should be amended to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to control rents and prices (including charges).
I quote that passage to show quite clearly that the Prime Minister was speaking some days prior to the holding of the referendum. There can be no doubt, that subsequent references in that speech to subsidies, were made before the referendum was held. I shall also quote some other interesting parts of the speech. For instance the right honorable gentleman said -
Price control was first exercised under the compelling necessity ofwar and the power was, and is still, exercised under the defence powers of the Commonwealth.
Later, he said -
That power is liable, because the war has ended, to be successfully challenged. Should such a successful challenge be made, the whole price-fixing structure would vanish and the people would immediately he at the mercy of those who are prepared to charge any price for goods in short supply. To say that the States could pick up the task of fixing prices is a deliberate attempt to mislead you.
That passage is of particular interest because it shows that, even at that time, it would have been quite possible for anyinterested party to test the validity of the rents and prices regulations in the High Court. I am confident that had a referendum not been held, the Commonwealth’s power to control rents and prices would have been challenged in the High Court. However, a referendum was decided upon so that the opinion of the people could be tested. After all we in this Parliament arc the representatives of the people. Undoubtedly, since the Commonwealth relinquished its control, price increases have been substantial. To the end of 1945, the Labour Government’s efforts to maintain the stability of the Australian economy had been so successful that prices had increased by only 23 per cent, over pre-war levels. Now, I understand the figure i3 30 per cent., due mainly to the passing of control to the States. To-day, the people of Australia are paying the penalty of the majority decision at the referendum - a decision that was influenced largely by Opposition members in this Parliament. In his broadcast on the 10th May, the Prime Minister also said - lt was realized after the cessation of hostilities that the price fixing power which was operated under Commonwealth control could bo in danger.
Consultations were held with the State Premiers- - comprising both Labour and Conservative Premiers. They agreed unanimously that it was necessary to continue price control.
We all remember that information being made available to the Senate when legislation to alter the Constitution Was before this chamber. The Prime Minister’s speech contained the following interesting passage : -
In 1940, the Premiers unanimously agreed - subject to their parliaments’ concurrence - to pass legislation which would enable “price control powers to be exercised by the Commonwealth Government for as long as shortages of commodities persisted. But hostile legislative councils - -bodies not elected by the people - blocked that effort in some of the States.
We all know that to be a statement of fact. We know, too, the fate of the economic stability legislation that was brought before the various State parliaments. That legislation was rejected in some States by the Legislative Councils which represented only about 30 per cent, of the electors.
Thus, those undemocratic bodies were able to nullify the promises given by the various State Premiers at conferences with Commonwealth authorities. The result was that in an attempt to preserve the economy of this country the Australian Government had to place the entire matter before the people for a decision. I come now to the references by the Prime Minister in his broadcast speech to the fate of price stabilization subsidies. The right honorable gentleman said -
There is* another aspect of prices control I place before you - an aspect vital in maintaining a stable economy. Without price control the Commonwealth Government could not continue fully its system of subsidies that is keeping down the price of a wide range of everyday commodities.
There is no ambiguity about that statement. Clearly the decision to withdraw subsidies was not made after the defeat of the referendum. I repeat the Prime Minister’s words -
Without price control the Commonwealth Government could not continue fully its system of subsidies that is keeping down the price of a wide range of everyday commodities’.
Later the right honorable gentleman said -
At present the Commonwealth is spending about £40,000,000 a year on these consumer subsidies. The Government has announced that its object is to remove or reduce many of these subsidies when circumstances permit, hut in a world of great economic difficulty and inflated prices, they arc being retained for the time being to ease the burden of consumers.
People must realize, however, that if the Commonwealth’s power to control prices failed many of these subsidies would have to be terminated.
And this is a passage to which I wish to direct particular attention -
The Commonwealth could “scarcely accept a position in which State authorities had control over the factors which determined the effectiveness or otherwise of Commonwealth subsidies costing more than £40,000,000 a year.
That was clear and definite. It was a plain, statement by the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth could not continue to expend millions of pounds to subsidize the production of commodities unless it had the power to control their prices. The passages that I have quoted effectively refute the assertions of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper). Another statement made at the same time by the Prime Minister is pertinent to this discussion. The right honorable gentleman said -
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is leader of the Liberal party in the Commonwealth Parliament, is pledged to Com mon wealth control of prices. Here is what he said in giving you his policy at the last Commonwealth elections -
We shall unhesitatingly maintain price control as a means of preventing inflation during the period in which production is inadequate to meet the demand for goods which arises from the enormously increased purchasing power of the people.
Mr. Menzies went on tosay ;
Let me, speaking for the government which introduced price control within a week of the outbreak of the war, give the lie to those whisperers who tell you that a Liberal victory will mean an upward leap in prices. We’ stand for control of prices.
Mr. Menzies said that the Opposition parties stood for the control of prices; but evidence since that time indicates that they stand only for the control of prices by the State governments, even though they know now that, under State control, people have to pay considerably more for goods than they had to pay prior to the referendum. Had the people of Australia given a different decision at the referendum, in my opinion, the steep increase of costs that has since occurred would not have taken place.
Senator Tangney said that she was very pleased with the progress that had been made in providing houses for Commonwealth employees working On the Trans-Australia railway line between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. I, too, congratulate the Government, and particularly the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), upon the splendid work that has beendone. I often wish that people who are paying very high prices for homes in other parts of Australia could obtain similar houses at the price for which they have been built for the Commonwealth. The costs are most reasonable considering the remoteness of the locality. All materials and labour have to be transported long distances into the desert country. Another difficulty arises from the fact that the homes cannot be built in large groups. Average costs of construction can be reduced if cottages are built in blocks of twenty or 30 in a small area. However, on the
Trans-Australia railway line it is necessary to spread the homes over a great distance, erecting only small batches of three, four or six at wide intervals. In spite of all those handicaps, good homes have been erected for the workers at reasonable cost. This has had the effect of inducing many employees to remain at work on that line in spite of the disabilities attendant upon their occupation. That is desirable because, not long ago, the staff on that line was 800 men short of the number required. I do not know howmany additional workers have been recruited since then, but I understand that many are still needed.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Northern Territory as a member of the Public Works Committee. Naturally, I was interested to learn about conditions in the territory and the needs of the population. At Darwin I noticed several disabilities that require immediate attention.For instance, I was informed, I believe reliably, that in order to maintain a force of1,200 workers the turnover of labour in a period of fifteen months had totalled 8,000 men. In other words, men have been going to Darwin more or less as tourists. Their fares and travelling expenses are paid. I am given to understand that, owing to the unsatisfactory conditions of living in the town, many of them return to the places from which they come as soon as they can earn sufficient money to pay. for their return fares. Workers are not likely to leave good jobs and travel long distances to Darwin unless the rates of pay available and the conditions of working and living are made sufficiently attractive to make the change worthwhile for them. The chief cause of the present trouble appears to me to be the lack of reasonable accommodation. I was very unfavorably impressed by some of the hutments. One of the establishments in which workers are allowed to live is known locally as “ Belsen camp “, We have heard a great deal about the infamous original Belsen camp, and I do not suggest for a moment that there is any basis for comparison between the two. However, conditions in the Darwin camp are so unsatisfactory that that name has been applied to it and apparently has come into general usage in the town. It consists of a collection of shacks, or small rooms, about twelve feet long by eight feet wide, in which there is no furniture apart from the beds. No comforts are provided for the occupants. Each man simply has a bed to lie on, and must put. Iiia clothes wherever he can conveniently find space for them. Many men use sn it-cases lying on the floor. I saw only one or two huts in which the occupants had gone to the trouble of providing extra furniture so as to improve the surroundings in which they had to live, eat and sleep. There are many other places of the same type at Darwin. Some may be a little better and some may be worse. T was astounded to learn that the cost of what might bc regarded as only a mediocre home at Darwin was not lessthan £3,000. That was due largely to the shortage of building materials. Unfortunately, since control of the distribution of goods and materials has ‘been transferred from the Commonwealth to the States, the States do not make special allocations for the Northern Territory. That is a shocking situation. People in the Northern Territory who want building materials must try to get them from the States, because the Commonwealth has none available for distribution.
The need for a new method of fixing wages and conditions of work in the territory is urgent. The present system is not satisfactory. Special attention must be paid to high local costs instead of costs in such places like Townsville. For ordinary purposes, the system of using index figures based on average costs in a number of towns within a given area may be suitable. But Darwin and Alice Springs are not comparable with any other towns in Australia ‘because of the long distances separating them from the centres of population and the special geographic and climatic conditions that apply to them. In my opinion, it is essential that a new method of fixing wage standards foi- the territory should be adopted. It might be advisable to appoint an independent local body to hear and determine the claims of workers. In addition to unsatisfactory accommodation, the workers suffer from the lack of amenities. As far as I could see, there were very few attractions for workers in their leisure hours. About the only avenue of relaxation available to the average man, who lived either like a hermit, or in a community centre away from his family, was a visit to. the hotel to drink, smoke and talk. Good playing- fields should be provided. There are one or two areas at Darwin where games can be played, but they seem to me to be entirely unsuitable for sporting purposes, especially as no provision has been made for spectators. Swimming baths should be available for the population during the wet season. Southerners do not know much about the wet season in Darwin. At that time of the year, the waters of the harbour are infested with Portuguese men-o’-war, a kind of jelly-fish with long antennae, which inflict painful stings. Swimming is a popular pastime, but nobody seems to be “ game “ to swim in the waters of the harbour at that season. That disability could be overcome by constructing good swimming baths. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) will take cognizance of my remarks in relation to these aspects of life in Darwin.
I draw attention, also, to the lack of co-ordination between the various Commonwealth departments in the Northern Territory. To a degree each department appears to be a law unto itself. Whenever the Administrator of the Northern Territory wishes to take administrative action in departments other than the Department of the Interior his power is restricted. He makes recommendations to other departments, and very often those recommendations are implemented. However, from the point of view of coordination and the exercise of jurisdiction befitting a man occupying the position of administrator he is more or less in “ no man’s land “. As honorable senators are aware, there is now a Northern Territory Legislative Council, which is another reason why the Administrator should be vested with more power.
In view of the proposal to increase meat production in the Northern Territory to supply the United Kingdom market I have given some consideration to the desirability of large holdings being subdivided. From inquiries I made while in the Northern Territory it appears that persons wishing to take up even small holdings require a substantial amount of capital; one estimate was that a minimum of £40,000 is necessary. Whilst many of the large holdings should be subdivided I consider that before taking up the smaller holdings interested people would be well advised’ to ascertain the possible liabilities with which they would be faced. Of course it may be possible for some people to take up the smaller holdings successfully with less capital than the amount that I have mentioned. On a number of occasions I have advanced proposals with relation to closer settlement in the Ord River area of Western Australia. The position there is somewhat different from that in the Northern Territory. Although closer settlement in the Northern Territory is desirable, I think that it is more necessary in the Ord River area.
I understand that the Government is considering the building of roads and railways in the Northern Territory to further the development of the meat production scheme. In view of the nature of the country in the Northern Territory and in the north-western portion of Western Australia, this would involve the expenditure of a large amount of money and a great deal of labour. We are not so much concerned about finance for these national projects, but a very real difficulty exists in securing the necessary labour to carry out the work. It may be that migrants could be utilized for this purpose. I consider that for the purpose of increasing meat production the development of Western Australia would be of more value to the Commonwealth than the development of the Northern Territory. The good cattle country is located in the western half of the Northern Territory and the north-west of Australia. Just prior to my leaving Perth to attend the present sessional period of Parliament, I spoke to a man who has had a lifetime of experience in the meat industry. Because of his many years’’ association with that industry in the Northern Territory, his suggestions are worth relating to the Senate. From what this man said, it seems that an extension of the system of the air transport of beef would be preferable to the building of railways and roads to develop the scheme. He suggested that small abattoirs should be erected at strategic points in the heart of the cattle country, and that the beef should be flown to the meatworks at Wyndham, Broome and other ports. The beef could be killed and chilled at those abattoirs, and frozen for export on arrival at the meatworks. Of course, the economic considerations associated with air-flown beef must be borne in mind. It appears that it is not economical to transport beef by air further than 200 miles. Whether that is so or not remains to be seen. A vast area of country could be developed if the meatworks at Wyndham in Western Australia were used for freezing beef for export. Wyndham is 60 miles in a direct line from the Northern Territory. It has been suggested that abattoirs similar to that now operating at Glenroy should be built at Legune, Bradshaw, Bullita, Auvergne, Victoria River Downs, Waterloo, Ord River, and Rosewood. Such strategic abattoirs would serve large sections of the country. By this means cattle in prime condition, three to four years old could be killed. That is u very important aspect of the matter because at present, in order to stand up to the long distances involved in travelling, cattle must be at least five years old. Even then, droving over long distances involves a considerable amount of wastage. The savings involved, and the prevention of the wastage of the beef would probably offset the cost of air transport. I have been told that by using air transport station owners would be enabled to increase their breeding capacity by 30 per cent., resulting in that much additional beef being made available for export. I point out that on these big stations the cattle may be scattered for miles. If the system of air transport of beef were developed the cattle would have to travel only 75 or 100 miles, compared with 250 miles at present. The best cattle country on the western side of the Northern Territory is within a radius of 250 miles of Wyndham. I submit that before the Government commits itself to a roads and railways building programme, it should give consideration to the establishment of abattoirs at suitable places, and the transportation of the beef in a chilled condition to the meatworks at the exporting ports, lt is estimated that sixteen men would be required to man each of those abattoirs. That is so at Glenroy, to which I have already referred. To treat 45 head of beef a day, it is estimated that there would be required one slaughterman, four knifemen, one labourer, one chiller hand, one truck driver, and a cook who would be employed either by the union or by the men. I remind the Senate that this proposal has been advanced by a man who was associated with the service of the Commonwealth in the Territory for many years, and has a thorough knowledge of the country, and of the meat industry. I repeat that to build costly roads and railways, much earth-moving machinery and labour would be required, and heavy maintenance costs would be involved. Although some road trains are operating in the Northern Territory at present, as far as I know they are not an economic proposition. I understand that they transport goods between Darwin and Alice Springs. I remind the Senate, however, that the north-south road, which was built during the war years, is a very good road and will last for a long time. However, if it were necessary for the road trains to leave the highway and travel over sandy roads, (he cattle in the second or third vehicle may be suffocated by the dust thrown up from the road-wheels of the towing vehicle. In view of the costliness of <. establishing roads and railways, and because road trains are not yet a practical economic proposition, beef is being flown from the country areas in Western Australia to the metropolitan markets. The air services in Western Australia should bc extended as much as possible. The use of specially-constructed aircraft for the transport of beef from inland abattoirs to exporting ports would contribute substantially to the development of the north-western part of Western Australia and of the Northern Territory.
Sitting suspended from 546 to 8 p.m.
– On Wednesday last I directed a question to the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) relating to the payment of pocket money to age and invalid pensioners who are inmates of old men’s homes or institutions for the insane. My object was to ascertain whether any discrimination was made in that respect between inmates of the two classes of institutions. The Minister furnished me with a lengthy reply the effect of which was that the Government did not allow any portion of the pension to be paid as pocket money to inmates of asylums for the insane, whereas this concession is allowed in respect of inmates of old men’s homes. Although the matter primarily concerns the State governments which control institutions for the insane, I believe that a legitimate case can be made out for the payment of portion of the pension as pocket money to inmates of asylums for the insane. For many years, I was a member of the Board of Visitors of the Claremont Mental Hospital, Perth, and I know that approximately 25 per cent, of the patients in that institution cannot be regarded as insane. Although they suffer from delusions they are not really insane. As they are not a danger to the community it is the practice to allow them outside the institution on parole. However, when they leave the institution for any period of time, or are discharged on probation, they receive £1 from the institution to help them on their way. In addition, many of the inmates of such institutions have the freedom of the grounds and are allowed to go outside. Inmates of old men’s homes are allowed 15s. a week out of their pension as pocket money, and I believe that a similar allowance should be made to the class of inmates of asylums for the insane that I have indicated, not only for their convenience but also because such assistance would do much to restore them to mental health. As I have said, that class of patient is not dangerous to the community. Incidentally, I have reason to believe that quite a. number of people who are not inmates of asylums should be in those institutions, because they are a danger to the community. I ask the Minister for Health to make representations to the State governments with a view to arranging for the payment of portion of the age and invalid pension to inmates of asylums for the insane who can be classed as mild cases. I understand that at present the whole of the pension is payable to the institution in which such persons are inmates.
This afternoon the Senate- passed the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill under which the allowance payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner will be increased. A very good case can be made out for increasing the present age and invalid pension as well as. the pensions payable to ex-service personnel. Between the 1st July, 1947, and the 31st December, 1948> the male basic wage in the metropolitan area m Western Australia was increased by 16s. lid. That, amount included an increase of 3s. between the 2nd February and the 26th. April, an increase of ls. 3d., between the 26th April1 and the 26th July, an increase of 4s. 2d. between the 26th July and the 1st November last the increase for the quarter ended the 31st December last being 3s. 2d. Those figures prove the statements made by supporters of the Government that as a result of the defeat of the Government’s referendum proposal to give to the Commonwealth power to continue to control prices on a nation-wide basis the cost of living has risen more rapidly in the interim than it has during any other period. To-day, the basic wage in Western Australia for a male worker is £6 4s. 9d. whilst the basic wage for a female worker is 54 per cent, of the male rate. Recently,, in that State a deputation representing the Australian Pensioners League waited upon members of this Parliament and. submitted the very reasonable request that the age and invalid pension should, be increased to the equivalent of 40 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage. Costs are rising so rapidly that that section of the community is now hardly any better off than it was when the pension was much lower than it is at present. I trust the Government will give consideration to increasing that pension at the earliest possible opportunity.
Senator Tangney referred to the widows’ pension. We know, of course, that a Labour government introduced the widows’ pension. The honorable senator suggested that the pension payable to class “A” widows, that is widows who have the responsibility of caring for one, or more, children under the age of sixteen years, who now receive a maximum pension of £2 7s. 6d., should be increased to the equivalent of 54 per cent, of the male basic wage. On the basis of the present male basic, wage in Western Australia that means an increase of that pension to £3 15s. a. week. That suggestion may appear to be somewhat generous, hue 1 am inclined to support it because: I consider that a widow who has the responsibility of caring for children is in a position almost identical with that of a married’ man who is supporting a family. If the widows’ pension were increased to the equivalent of 54 per cent, of the male basic wage, those pensioners would not he treated more generously than are single females in employment who have not to bear such responsibilities. I commend Senator Tangneys suggestion to the consideration of the Government.
Dealing with war service pensions,, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) said that the Government appears to -have lost sight of the interests of ex-service personnel. He asked, that an all-party committee he appointed to investigate those pensions. I support that suggestion, but he was most unfair when he suggested that the Government has lost sight of the interests of ex-service pensioner®. The previous all-party committee which investigated repatriation benefits was appointed by the late Mr. Curtin, when he was Prime Minister, and the government of the day gave effect to practically all of the recommendations which that ‘body submitted. Lot us examine the increases of those pensions which the Government has effected since it took office in 1941. The contention of the Leader of the Opposition is refuted by the following statement which was made recently -by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) : -
Pensions now, compared with the rates paid at the time Labour took office in 1941, are at a much higher level all round. The general rate pension for 100 per cent, incapacity (not to be confused with the higher “ special “ rate for total incapacity ) now stands at £2 15s. per week; and this represents an approximate improvement of 30 per cent, upon the rate at the highest level paid to ex-servicemen up to the time Labour took over in 1941. The higher pension, i.e., the special rate - for blindness, total and permanent incapacitation, tuberculosis, &c, is now 33 per cent, above the 1941 rate. The pension for exservicemen suffering from tuberculosis (in cases where that complaint has not yet Been accepted as permanent) but capable only of light or intermittent work, is better by 60 per cent. . The rate for a wife of a 100 per cent, incapacity war pensioner or a “ special “ (highest rate) pensioner is about 30 per cent, better; and each child about 20 per cent, higher. A pensioner getting the general (100 per cent.) rate, if ho becomes totally incapacitated, is now entitled to additional pension, while in that condition, to the extent of 51s. per week. The best additional payment which an incapacitated man in this category received from anti-Labour governments was only 40 per cent, of the present added benefit - that is, 21s. compared with the present rate of 51s. a week; and only married men received it, whereas under existing legislation, both married and single men are eligible. Service pensioners got (before the Labour improvement was effected) only about 43 per cent, of the rate now being paid. Medical sustenance is now at a considerably higher level; present payments are higher by approximately 30 per cent.
Those facts completely refute the suggestion (made hy the Leader of the Opposition that the Government appears to have lost sight of the interests of war service pensioners. The Minister for Repatriation continued -
May I now refer briefly to some items of general benefits which have been liberalized, among which is. the higher rate for travelling Allowance for men attending for medical treatment. The amount of allowance paid to these mcn now is move than double the rate paid at the time this Government undertook the first review.
It has also been contended that the Government has not done justice to the war widows; but that claim is refuted hy the facts. Prior to the 1943 act, widows’ pensions were subject to a. means test which, prevented a war widow from receiving, in many cases, [more than £1 3s. 6d. a week, in the general class. The act of 1943 removed the means test entirely and same widows received an increase in pension of from £1 6s. 6d. to the then maximum of £2 10s. a week, also .the right to augment their income according to whatever ability or leisure time they possessed. Ou two occasions the pension has been increased hy 5s. The pension rate is now £3 a week, still without a means test. In addition, in order to .meet the need of widow® with one or two children, the Government has provided a domestic allowance of 7s. 6d. weekly for widows in this category. That means that no limit is. placed on the income which a war widow may earn independently of her pension. In addition, this Government has increased the war widows’ entitlement for the first child from 10s. to 17s. 6d. a. week and for other children from 7s. 6d. to 12s. 6d. a week. Those facts indicate that the Government has not neglected the interests of war widows. At present the war widow’s pension is £3 a week; a widow with two children receives £4 17s. 6d. a week and an additional 10s. a week for every child in excess of two. A widow who has three children receives a pension of £5 2s. 6d. and £1 a week additional for child endowment. A widow with four children receives £5 15s. a week and- £1 10s. a week child endowment. A widow with five children receives £6 10s. a week and £2 a week child endowment. A widow with six children receives £7 a week and an additional £2 10s. a week for child endowment, making a. total of £9 10s. a week. None of those payments are subject to taxation. I have mentioned those figures to rebut the criticism of the Government made by the Leader of the Opposition, who might, at least, have acknowledged the generous treatment accorded to the widows and children of ex-servicemen even if he believed that they should receive still more generous treatment. I support the bill.
.. - in. reply - I propose to reply to some of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper). In the course of the speech which the honorable senator made last night, he contended that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had, in a fit of pique, arbitrarily withdrawn the subsidies paid to consumers and . primary producers when prices control had to be abandoned by the Government. Senator Nash, however, explained the situation very clearly, and demonstrated, by quotations from speeches made by the Prime Minister before the referendum of prices and rents controls was taken, that if the present Government had not withdrawn the payment of commodity subsidies it would have been recreant to its duty.. In any event, I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition would seriously suggest that the payment of subsidies, and the determination of the amount of subsidies, should be left to the States when the Commonwealths Government no longer had control over prices.
– I do so contend.
-In order to demonstrate the falsity of the contention of the Leader of the Opposition that the present Government has not treated primary producers fairly in the matter of subsidies, I shall cite some figures which were prepared by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) only a few days ago. The subsidies paid to primary producers by the last anti-Labour Administration during the financial year 1941-42 totalled £33,220. Similar subsidies paid by the present Labour Government in 1945-46, which was the peak year, amounted to £22,585,033. The Leader of the Opposition complained that the cost of subsidies is, in the main, borne by the consuming public, who, he alleged, have to pay more for commodities, and that primary producers do not obtain any substantial benefit from the subsidies paid by the Government. In reply to that contention I point out that the money expended by the Government in 1945-46 in respect of dairy produce for the United Kingdom amounted to £6,373,511.
– That was a consumers’ subsidy.
– Certainly a substantial part of that expenditure was recouped by the British Government, but the subsidy was paid to the dairy-farmers originally.’ In .1945-46 the apple and pear growers received a subsidy of £84,443, the meat industry was subsidized to the amount of £742,113, and £3,286,443 was paid in subsidy on superphosphates. The provision of assistance for stockfeeders in 1945-46 cost £7,665,469. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition would contend that the consuming, public got the benefit of that assistance, although I realize that during certain anti-Labour administrations the many thousands of hungry people would have been glad to receive even stock-feed. During the same year £2,829,648 was expended on the provision of assistance for potato-growers, and in 1946-47 £3,012,082 was expended for the same purpose. Before the war no subsidy whatever was paid on nitrogenous fertilizers by anti-Labour administrations, but a total amount of £665,197 was expended by Labour between the time it attained office in 1941 and the end of the financial year 1947-48. The total assistance provided by Labour is in striking contrast with the amount provided to assist primary producers by anti-Labour administrations in 1941-42, when only £33,220 was expended. Even of that small amount it will be found that the greater portion was expended by the Curtin Labour Administration after it assumed office in October, 1941. The amount expended in 1945-46 to provide jute products for primary industries ‘totalled £974,738. In y indus £586,964 was expended on wheat acreage restrictions. A subsidy to growers of field peas of £90,195 was paid during the same year. In 1945-46 the tobacco industry received a subsidy totalling £74,618. I remind the Leader of the Opposition, who has criticized the Government on a number of occasions for its alleged niggardliness to primary producers, that it was an anti-Labour administration which reduced the subsidy paid to the Australian sugar industry by id. per lb. in 1932. Labour restored that subsidy. Although the government which he supported was in office for nine years, it made no attempt to restore the subsidy which it had taken from the sugar industry in 1932.
Subsidies paid to Australian primary industries in 1947-48, cost £13,510,966, compared with £10,731,686 in .1946-47. The total amount paid in subsidies to primary industries between 1942-43 and 1947-48, inclusive, was £86,040,608. I suppose the Leader of the Opposition would include that amount in the huge sums which he alleges the Government has squandered! The United Kingdom Government, however, recouped Australia £6,993,169 for subsidy paid to producers on exported dairy products, leaving a total net cost of £79,047,439 for the six years. I remind the Opposition that Labour was in office throughout that period. Direct aid rose from £3,084,817 in 1942-43 to a peak of £22,585,033 in 1945-46. Heaviest expenditure in that year was £7,665,469 for assistance to stock feeders. ‘ As the Leader of the Opposition stated that was a” bad year for primary producers. The expenditure under this heading resulted mainly from compensation payments of 2s. 103/4d. a bushel to the Australian Wheat Board on 51,000,000 bushels of wheat sold at 3s. 6l(d. a bushel to sheep feeders during the 1945-46 drought, and to pig and poultry farmers. The total expenditure on assistance to stock feeders in the six years was £14,348,799, but in 1947-48 due to good seasonal conditions, only £5,458, representing claims outstanding, was placed under that heading.
The dairying subsidy, about which the Leader of the Opposition has been so inquisitive, in 1947-48 was £8,S67,001 but an amount of £1,849,115 was recouped from the United Kingdom. The total expenditure on the dairying subsidy in the six years was £34,149,279 and net expenditure £27,156,110. The subsidy is being continued in the present year at the rate of 30s. a cwt. on butter and 15s. 4d. a cwt. on cheese. Expenditure on subsidies to the potato industry in 1947-48 was £2,702,849 and for the whole period £12,703,517. The potato subsidy was discontinued at the end of October, 1948.
– Another consumers’ subsidy !
– Had it not been for the assistance given to potatogrowers in Tasmania and elsewhere they would have suffered considerably. Both the dairying and the potato subsidies, though designed largely as aids to the consumer, took the form of payments to the producers in lieu of a price increase. The subsidy of £3,491,082 on superphosphate in 1947-48, was the largest amount in any year in the period. Those statistics probably astound the Leader of the Opposition.
– Those statistics do not astound me, because I have repeatedly mentioned them myself.
– It is ridiculous for the Leader of the Opposition to contend that the consuming public was the only section of the community to -benefit from the payment of governm’ent subsidies. Since 1942-43, £13.913,815 has been paid by the Government in subsidies on superphosphate alone ! Nothing at all was expended by anti-Labour governments for that purpose, yet members of the Australian Country party, whose party was in office with the political predecessors of the present Liberal party, and who claim to represent the primary producers, have the audacity to criticize the present Government for its alleged indifference to primary producers. It was left to a Labour government to paythat huge sum of money. The Leader of the Opposition did not complain until certain subsidies were withdrawn. I remind him that before the rents and prices referendum was held, the Prime Minister stated that a “ No “ vote would mean that certain subsidy payments would end. No Australian government, Labour or Liberal, could with due regard to the interests of the people permit the States to determine what should be paid by the Commonwealth in subsidies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bil) Toad a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill he now read a second time.
The bill now before the Senate is intended to provide funds for the necessary normal services, other than capital services, of government during the first four months of the financial year 1949-50. Its purpose is to appropriate £71,558,000 and this provision may be summarized as follows : -
The provision made in the bill covers only the estimated requirements to carry on the essential services on the basis of the amounts in the Appropriation Act 1948-1949. The several amounts provided for ordinary- services represent, with minor exceptions, approximately onethird of the 1948-49 appropriations for such services.
The amount of £32,000,000 provided for “ Defence and Post-war Charges “ covers expenditure on the post-war defence plan and on repatriation and other charges arising out of the last war. The usual provision is made in the hill for “ Advance to the Treasurer “, the amount being £9,000,000 as in the last two years. This amount is required to continue the payment of special grants to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania pending the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure. No provision has been made for any new expenditure and there is no departure from existing policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Proposed vote - Parliament, £106,050 - agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vole, £1,107,530.
.- I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Over the years, I have watched the growth of this organization and the extension of its activities to many new phases of industry. As this measure shows, the council is carrying out investigations into 26 matters ranging from “Animal health and production” and “Plant industry”, to “Wool textile research” and ‘Fuel research”. The organization has done a wonderful job, and the expenditure that it has incurred in its work has been a sound investment.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £333,720.
.- The Department of External Affairs has grown considerably in recent years. ‘ That growth has been necessary because of Australia’s increasing interest in international affairs. I realize that we must have representation in other parts of the world, just as other countries require representation in- this country. I take this opportunity also to pay tribute to the work of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), not only in this country, but in the wider sphere of international politics. The right honorable gentleman holds a high position in the United Nations organization, and his work in world councils has reflected credit upon this country. I believe, however, that the combining of two important departments - the Department of External Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department - under the administration of one man ia hardly fair either to the Minister himself, or to his colleague who administers the Attorney-General’s Department during his absence from this country. In the last two or three years, many difficult legal problems have required the attention of the Attorney-General, and. I am sure that all honorable senators will agree that the holder of that important portfolio should be on the spot all the time.. Obviously, it is impossible for Dr. Evatt, because of his obligations to the United Nations, to remain in Australia and J urge the Government to give consideration to separating the administration of the two departments, to permit him to devote his full attention to world affairs.
In the proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs, provision is made for expenditure in Chile and Brazil. As only £1,000 is being provided for the former country, it would, appear that Australian representation there is to cease. I should ‘be pleased if the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) would advise me on that point. The sum of £5,840 is being allocated for expenditure in Brazil. So far as I am aware. Australia had little in common with Brazil. On the other hand, Argentina, like Australia, is mainly a primary producing country, yet no provision is made far Australian representation there. I should like to know whether it is the intention to appoint an Australian representative to Argentina, and whether there is any likelihood of a representative of that country earning to Australia.
.: - The Australian Legation in Chile was .closed at the end of May. In future, Australian interests in Argentina and Chile will he watched by one representative.
.- I notice that the suan of £21,380 is being provided for the maintenance of the Australian Embassy in China. Will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) indicate what the future of that embassy is likely- to be. Are we still maintaining an embassy in Nanking, or has it bean moved to Shanghai? Where will this money be expended ?
– Australian representation in China is being considered by the Government at present.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £1,449,670.
– I dealt fully with some treasury matters in my firstreading speech on this measure. I should like to point out, however, that in spite of the Government’s claim that taxes are being reduced, the total tax contribution per head made by the Australian people has increased from £40 in 1942-43 to £70 in 194S-49. No doubt the Minister will -claim the increase has been due to higher profits and higher incomes, but the fact remains that there has been an increase of approximately 75 per cent.
– The following table makes an interesting comparison of the percentage of the national production that is taken in taxes in certain countries: -
Australia is the lowest-taxed country in that group. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) will appreciate that higher earnings have increased the total tax yield considerably.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Attorney General’s Department, £202,710 - temporarily postponed.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £501,050.
– I seek information from the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior concerning the accommodation problems that will arise in Parliament House and in the Federal Members’ Rooms in the State capital cities when this Parliament is enlarged. What is being done to provide extra accommodation, in the Federal Members’ Rooms? Honorable senators have referred frequently to the unsatisfactory state of affairs that now exists, especially in the Melbourne offices, and the situation will become worse when the number of members of this Parliament is increased. I understand that the Government proposed to increase the office accommodation in the States, but nothing has yet been done. I should’ also like to know whether the additions to Parliament House will be complete before the enlarged Parliament assembles.
– The subject of office accommodation for members of this Parliament in the capital cities of the States has been discussed in this chamber on several occasions. The answer to the honorable senator’s questions, though it appears to be a stock one, is correct. The problem of providing additional accommodation is affected by the shortage of man-power and materials. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) would not suggest that the housing programme should be interfered with in any way in order to provide greater comfort for the members of this Parliament.
– I shall he satisfied if plans are being ma,de.
– Plans are being made for the improvement of accommodation in Federal Members’ Rooms in all capital cities in response to representations that have been made, not only by members of the Opposition, but also by supporters of the Government. However, the Government does not intend to do anything that would obstruct the building of houses that are sorely needed by Australian citizens.
Senator RANKIN (Queensland) 1 8.48]. - I urge the Government to ensure that suitable accommodation will be provided in all Federal Members’ Rooms for the secretaries of members of Parliament. I speak mainly from my knowledge of conditions in the Federal,- Members’ Rooms at Brisbane, where the staff room is inadequate. Rest rooms for female staffs should be included in all Federal Members’ Rooms, and I urge that special attention be given to this requirement in the preparation of plans for additional accommodation. If a girl falls ill while at work she should have available to her a comfortable room in which to rest and recover. Existing facilities are entirely unsatisfactory, and I urge that this matter be given close attention.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales - Minister for Shipping and Fuel)
– The acquisition of numerous buildings in State capital cities by the Commonwealth Government for the purpose of providing office accommodation for departmental and other staffs has created a serious financial problem for city councils. The Department of the Interior has taken over many buildings on behalf of the Commonwealth, offices have been provided for Trans-Australia Airlines, and, if other services are to be nationalized, I assume that even further accommodation will be required for Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities. This process has a very serious effect upon the revenues of city councils, because the Commonwealth is not required to pay rates in respect of its properties. Will the Government consider reimbursing councils for their loss of income from properties upon which, they levied rates before the buildings weretaken over by the Commonwealth?
– I suggest that this matter is not one for the Government to determine at present. Conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers arc held regularly at Canberra, and matters of this kind can be dealt with more appropriately at such meetings. If the revenues of city councils are being seriously affected, as the honorable senator alleges, I am sure that representations will be madein the proper quarters and that thesubject will be brought to the attention of the Commonwealth at the conferenceof Commonwealth and State Ministersthat will be held in Canberra next August.
Proposed vote agreed to. .
Proposed vote - Department of Worksand Housing, £753,860 - agreed to.
Department of CIVIL Aviation.
Proposed vote, £1,542,510.
– I have nofault to find with the services that are provided by the Department of Civil Aviation or with the courtesy that isextended to the public by officers of thedepartment and of Trans-Australia Airlines. However, the recent spell of bad weather prompts me to seek informationabout certain activities of the department.. Weather conditions have interrupted airservices frequently in the last few months, causing serious inconvenience to the public and disclosing the unreliability of flying services in bad weather. As an instance of the trouble that has been caused, I refer to the itinerary of agentleman who hooked a passage from Melbourne to Canberra last Monday. He left Melbourne at 7.20 a.m., but the aircraft could not land at Canberra and continued to Sydney. He left Sydney for Canberra at 4.30 p.m., but the aircraft again could not land and proceeded to Melbourne. At 9 p.m. he left Melbourne and, although the pilot thought for a while that he would have to continue to Sydney again, the aircraft eventually landed at Canberra at 11.20 p.m,, sixteen hours after the passenger had first left Melbourne. I make no complaint about that, but it illustrates the difficulties that are caused by bad weather. When I was overseas last year, I noticed that aviation authorities at aerodromes in the United Kingdom and on the Continent had various devices to aid pilots to land in foggy weather. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation what is being done by the department to keep abreast of scientific progress with such aids as fog dispersal equipment and radar. Are we up to date in Australia, and is research work being carried out in order to increase the efficiency of our air services? Fortunately, Australia does not experience a great deal of bad flying weather, but we could well take advantage of the appliances that are being developed and brought; into use in other part3 of the world where bad visibility is not uncommon.
– I assure the honorable senator that Australia is a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization and has the most up-to-date appliances for aiding pilots. The ratio of accidents to the distance flown is lower in this country than in most other countries. The honorable gentleman will appreciate that equipment is constantly being improved. Rapid progress is being made in Australia. Various airports are being enlarged, as honorable senators will know if they have visited the main aerodromes of New South Wales and Victoria recently. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that all possible steps have been taken by the Department of Civil Aviation to keep right up to date with aviation developments, particularly those that increase the safety of the travelling public. The benefit of those developments is made available to both government and private Airlines.
– Is radar equipment being used?
– Yes. I have had the misfortune to be overcarried to Melbourne because an aircraft could not land at Canberra. I had to stay in
Melbourne all night on that occasion. That sort of thing is likely to happen at any time. Recently an aircraft in which I travelled from Canberra to Sydney had to fly around above Sydney for half an hour on account of bad weather before it could land at Mascot. One thing that the Government cannot regulate is the weather. However, all possible steps have been taken to provide for the safety of air travellers. The best available advice has been obtained by the department.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Trad, and Customs, £521.900 - agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £163,620.
– I notice a reference to “general expenses “ under the heading of the Department of Health. Do those expenses include the cost of serums for immunization against whooping cough and diphtheria? If so, has any consideration been given to the provision by the department of anti-tetanus serum for children in a similar manner to serums made available for immunization against diptheria and whooping cough?
– Undoubtedly the figure will include portion of the expenditure in connexion with the Commonwealth’s campaign against diphtheria and whooping cough. The Commonwealth makes available to the States under proper conditions prophylactics against diphtheria and whooping cough, where mass immunization campaigns are being conducted. It has never been recommended to me that mass immunization campaigns against tetanus should be attempted. Following the honorable senator’s suggestion I shall examine the matter to see whether there is any need for that to be done. However, I shall be surprised if it is necessary. Unlike diphtheria and whooping cough, tetanus is not epidemic in form. The tetanus germs usually enter the body through a cut in the skin and get into the blood stream in one way or another ; there has to be a fracture of the outer covering of the body before they can enter. It is not passed on from person to person and is not contagious as in the case of diphtheria and whooping cough. As I am not a medical man I shall make inquiries from the proper persons and ascertain whether any action should be taken on those lines.
– I understand that in the event of tetanus in children there is a very high percentage of death if they have not had injections previously. Can the Minister inform me whether measures against tetanus infection have been carried out by the Canadian Government ?
– Although I am not aware of the work undertaken by the Canadian Government, so far as prophylactics and biological products are concerned, a great deal of research is carried out in Victoria at the Royal Park Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. About 700 or SOO persons, including medical practitioners, bio-chemists, physicists, and other specialists are employed there on all kinds of research. The products of those laboratories are constantly kept up to date, and we include on our staff men of world-wide repute in the scientific field, such as Dr. Morgan and Dr. Keogh. I am quite certain that every precaution is taken to ensure that anti-tetanus serum and vaccine is produced there at the highest level of efficiency. The staff take every precaution to keep up to date with the verylatest developments throughout the world in their own sphere. They also have the assistance of Professor Burnett, the very distinguished director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, from time to time. It was in co-operation with him that the influenza virus that was used with very great effect by the Australian troops, and later the vaccine used by the American forces was produced. The honorable senator will appreciate that I would not be informed personally of the latest developments regarding tetanus research, but I am completely confident that the latest information is known to the Serum. Laboratories at Royal Park.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Commerce and Agriculture, £290,8S0 ; Department of Social Services, £289,750 - agreed to.
Department of Supply and Development.
Proposed vote, £573,160.
– Included in the proposed vote is provision for the expenditure of £87,000 on assistance for essential industries and production. Will the Minister inform me to what essential industries this provision applies and how the Government determines whether an industry is essential? I have in mind the mica industry in Western Australia, and the search for uranium, which is a very necessary commodity. Are those industries classified as essential, and will assistance be provided for them under this item?
– The mica industry has not been assisted in the way that the honorable senator has in mind. The Government’s main interest in this matter was to encourage the production of mica, particularly during the war period. After a. lot of travail we managed to get Chinese evacuees from Ocean Island and Nauru Island to dig for mica in the “ centre “. However, that way of life did not suit them and they did not dig very much. This industry has now resumed its normal course, and many of the old Italian families are again digging for mica. The Government acts as an agent for them, guaranteeing them a. price, and allotting the mica to industry or exporting it. That activity does not cost the Government very much. On the other hand the search for basic minerals would be covered by this item. That is so with relation to certain coal deposits in the Ashford district.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department t op Shipping and Fuel
Proposed vote, £725,950.
.. - The Department of Shipping and Fuel now controls the shipping industry of this country. I consider that the manner in which the control not only of Australian coastal shipping but also of other .shipping connected with Australia is administered is deserving -of very severe criticism. As :a result of the slower loading and .unloading of ships over the last few years, the recurring industrial trouble -on the waterfront, .and increased costs of freights and handling charges, the cost.of living in this country lias risen very considerably. Prior to the referendum .om rents .and prices a subsidy was paid to keeP shipping freights at a reasonable level. Since the referendum, however, there have been big increases <Df shipping freights. On the MelbourneSydney run freights have increased from ils. a ton in 1939 to 83s. ;a. ton now., which is mere than .three times the prewar -rate. T,hat increase has been absorbed dm the general cost of goods transported by sea, and is reflected in the rising living costs. Considerably longer time is now occupied foi’ the turn-round of ships than before the war. fu the three-years period 1937 to 1939, hu mediately .prior to the war, the rate of .discharge mas 804 tons a day; in the three-yearly period 1945 to 1-947, however, the rate of discharge was only 355 i ons a day. This, -also, is -reflected in the increased costs of the goods handled. There was recently considerable trouble between the Stevedoring Industry Commission and the leaders -of the waterfront workers’ .unions. I understand that in a measure soon ito -coane before the Senate the general management of the whole -of the waterfront in .this country is Ito be altered. The way in which shipping has been controlled through the Stevedoring Industry Commission has not been a very good advertisement for a Socialistic enterprise. For the three financial years ended the 30th June, 1.9*8, *be taxpayers had to foot the Bill f-or losses aggregating approximately £11,000,000 I om informed that, despite -increased freight charges, it is estimated that the loss for the current financial year will be about £8,000,000. This is & most unsatisfactory result. I remind the Senate again that these losses and extra charges become an increased burden on the community. If the losses are not met by direct taxation they must be met by indirect taxation as reflected by the increased cost of the goods sold to the public. It is indeed significant that such a large loss was incurred after this work was taken over by a government instrumentality, and it is to be hoped that the department “will be able to balance its budget in the next twelve
Months. I trust that the Minister will take adequate steps to obviate such heavy losses being incurred in the future
– Although it is true that freight rates have risen, I do not know of any commodity that has not increased in price. If the honorable senator knows of any I should ‘be glad if he would mention them. His statement with relation to the slow turn-round of ships is not entirely correct. The history of the waterside industry is one of turbulence. Since the Stevedoring Industry Commission was established .there have been fewer strikes on the waterfront than previously. I also point out that his comparison of rates of discharge of cargo now with those in previous years aTe not equitable, because ships then came into port only half loaded and frequently sailed again half loaded. To-day they are fully loaded, with the result that a longer time of turn-round is involved. Only last year the honorable senator complained volubly about sugar not being lifted from Queensland ports, and stated that the sugar industry would be ruined if the stacks of sugar at the wharfs were not soon removed.
– There are stall 0,000 tons of sugar at Lucinda Point.
– However, he has n-ot complained in recent months. At tiroes the honorable senator gets very alarmed and quotes figures that have been used in another p’lace that I have not had an -opportunity to check. If this debate were °ad journed until the next day of sitting I shouldbe able to provide him with a complete answer to his allegation. Although there has been an increase of the average time of turn-round, I point out that the working conditions of the employees have been greatly improved.
– But mechanization has been introduced on many of the wharfs. That should lessen the time of turn-round.
– In many instances the workers have been hindered by the obsolete methods of handling cargo at wharfs. Some of the handling gear in Melbourne and Sydney is from 50 to 70 years old. The only improvement that has been made for the handling of goods on the wharfs has been made by the present Government, which has installed mechanical handling equipment. That improvement has expedited the turnround of ships.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £202,710.
– I presume that provision is made under this heading for the Legal Service Bureau. During the war and for a considerable period afterwards the bureau performed good service in rendering assistance to ex-service personnel and their dependants. However, it was established primarily as a temporary measure in order to assist those who had served in the armed forces to settle down again to normal civilian life.From time to time, advertisements dealing with the work of the bureau have been published in many newspapers. Those advertisements have starred very prominently the name of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) as well as giving details of the services which the bureau performs. I submit that now that there is full employment and that most of the problems of exservice personnel arising from their war service have been settled, no reason exists for the continuance of the bureau. I do not wish it to be inferred from my remarks that I am criticizing the officers of the bureau or the service which it rendered when a need for it existed. However, now that ex-service personnel have settled down to civilian life I can see no reason why the community should be saddled with the cost of maintaining the bureau.
– Provision for the Legal Service Bureau is not included in this proposed vote but is made under the heading of “ Miscellaneous “. However, I do not agree with the view expressed by Senator O’Sullivan that the need for the bureau has vanished. I believe that the honorable senator will find that he is out of touch with the views of associations representative of exservice personnel. The bureau has rendered extraordinary aid to ex-service personnel and their dependants in all kinds of difficult circumstances. Questions of readjustment are still troubling exservicemen and women who are still confronted with problems of every conceivable kind, and the bureau is fully occupied in dealing with such matters. The Government considers that this is an activity that is rendering very excellent post-war service. I accept the tribute which the honorable senator paid to the efficient service rendered by the officers of the bureau. I note that tribute particularly becauseof the fact that the honorable senator is a member of the legal profession. I trust that he is not advocating the abolition of the bureau out of concern for the interests of members of that profession. I am sure that that is not the case. On the contrary, I believe that he and his brother practitioners in Queensland have ample work to occupy them. As I accept his tribute, I ask him to accept my assurance that a great need still exists for the services being rendered by the bureau.
– I should like to know whether any consideration has been given to the establishment of an office of Crown Solicitor in Hobart. Such offices are established in all of the principal cities on the mainland and at such places as Cairns and
Darwin. I can see no reason why a similar office should not he established at Hobart where at present the Government’s legal work is handled by a private legal firm. Is it intended to establish an office of the Crown Solicitor at Hobart?
– Being a member of the legal profession and having formerly possessed a practice in Hobart, I have been very diffident about raising this matter during the period I have been the cuckoo in the Attorney-General’s nest. Personally, I believe that it should bo determined by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and not by me. At present, the Government’s legal work in Hobart is done by the firm of Dobson, Mitchell and Allport, who are the Government’s legal agents in Tasmania. The AttorneyGeneral’s Department has been understaffed in all branches, but in October last the Public Service Board approved a new establishment. Applications have been called to fill various classes of executive positions of various classifications throughout Australia. Those applications have closed, and the reason for the delay in making decisions in respect of them is that the Solicitor-General, upon whose recommendations the Public Service Board will make its determinations, has been abroad for many months on business of great concern to the nation and the Government. It is expected that he will return to Australia within the next few days.
– And victoriously!
– We hope so. I am certain that the matter will be completed soon after his return to this country. As I said earlier I, personally, have refrained from dealing with this matter. I am not able to inform Senator Murray whether it is proposed to establish an office of the Crown Solicitor at Hobart. Apart from the difficulty of obtaining adequate personnel, I doubt whether the difficulty of obtaining accommodation is as acute elsewhere as it is in Hobart, where at present the Government’s departments are housed in as many as 30 different buildings. Steps are now being taken to acquire sites, and plans have already been prepared, for the erection of a fine Commonwealth building in that city. In that building it is hoped to house the federal members’ rooms and other departments, including an office of the Crown Solicitor should it be decided to establish such an office in Hobart. At present, there are offices in Hobart and in other centres in Tasmania under the control of the Attorney-General. I refer to the investigation service. Thus, a start with the establishment of sections of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department in that State has already been made.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Territories.
Proposed vote, £24,130.
– I assume that provision for administration of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea and territories which Australia controls under the United Nations Trusteeship Agreement is included in this proposed vote. Many articles have been published in the Australian press, and I presume that they have been reproduced in the press of other countries, criticizing our administration of those territories. I refer particularly to articles written by Osmar White dealing with Papua-New Guinea. Can the Minister say whether a representative of the Department of External Territories will attend the next meeting of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, and whether such an officer has been fully briefed to combat criticism of the kind to which I have referred? That criticism refers to the operations of the Department of Works and Housing, transactions between the Commonwealth Disposals Commission and private purchasers of surplus war stocks, and our administrative record generally in those territories. It is essential that a representative attend the next meeting of the Trusteeship Council to answer such criticism on behalf of this country.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales - Minister for Supply and Develop
Daily Telegraph and the Melbourne Herald articles of the kind to which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has referred. Whilst those articles were partly true, they also contained exaggerations. However, I would not attempt to tell the Leader of the Opposition that things are completely all right in the territories any more than 1 would suggest that things are completely all right in Australia itself. The difficulties existing in Papua-New Guinea arise from the fact that those areas during the last war were actually battle grounds, and sufficient man-power and materials are not yet available to effect the transition to peace-time conditions as rapidly as we should like. In addition, those territories are obliged to import most of their requirements, although timber of excellent quality is available there in abundance. However, much transportation is involved, the only freighting done in the territories being by air. Thus, the administration is confronted with very difficult problems. However,, when I visited the territories I was impressed with the calibre of. the administration’s officers,, who have had considerable’ experience in the handling of native affairs and are particularly able. I felt that the future of Papua-New Guinea could be safely left in their hands’.
Referring to sales’ by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, the Leader o£ the Opposition implied that the- commission had sold stocks which had been resold by purchasers at large profits. That has actually occurred.. Naturally, people who purchased such stocks did so either for their personal use or with a view to re-selling them. However, unique circumstances: have existed in those territories since the- conclusion of hostilities. Buyers’ had to- be. induced to go to those areas, to attend sales, conducted! by the commission. It must be remembered that in that climate: goods, deteriorate very -rapidly awd’, therefore, must fee dasposed of as quickly as possibles Last evening I arranged for honorable senators to view a film which gave at least, some idea of similar conditions as they exist at Manus1 Island, where the jungle is spreading; so rapidly that it has engulfed, tele- graph poles and has practically dragged the wires to the ground. I should say that many purchasers made large profits from the resale of goods they purchased from the commission. On the other hand, however, because of the lack of transport and deterioration due to climatic conditions many buyers who purchased with a view to reselling suffered substantial losses. They were unable to move the goods they bought, and by the time transport became available the materials had deteriorated substantially. In addition, sufficient shipping waa not available to lift many of those stocks, whilst wharfage facilities in many areas was practically non-existent. However, on balance, most purchasers of goods from the commission made profits on their transactions.
The Leader of the Opposition also asked whether in view of the fact that Australia administers Papua-New Guinea under a trusteeship of the United Nations, it was intended to send a representative to the next meeting of the Trusteeship Council to answer any criticism that might be levelled against us in respect of our administration of those territories. The permanent head of the Department of External Territories, Mr. Halligan, is about to leave Australia to attend the meeting for that purpose. Mr. Halligan appeared before a committee of the United Nations some time ago, and I must admit that he was asked a surprisingly large number of questions concerning Australia’s administration of New Guinea. Of course, the fact that he was asked such a number of questions does not surprise Ministers, in this chamber, who are accustomed to being- interrogated at considerable length. However, the interesting, feature of the extraordinarily large number of questions asked of Mr. Halligan was- that, they nearly all came from the Russian representative. I am pleased to say that reports which I have read, show that Mr. Halligan was able to answer all questions very completely. I have no> doubt thai in future he will be’ able to dispose of questions before the United Nation’s Trusteeship Council with’ equal facility.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Immigration.
Proposed vote, £107,460.
– Although members of the Opposition have had occasion to criticize some aspects of the administration, and public utterances of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), we are convinced that he has done a sound job in administering the Department of Immigration, and I pay tribute to his vigour and ingenuity which have procured for Australia a steady flow of migrants. I approve most heartily of the efforts that have been made to encourage British ex-servicemen and their families to migrate to this country. When I was in the United Kingdom last year representations were made to me to improve the facilities for encouraging British children to migrate to Australia. The British Overseas League, with which the Shaftesbury homes organization in Queensland is associated, was most eager that children should be nominated by its Queensland associate, in order to ensure that the children would be properly received and cared for. I conveyed that information to the Minister for Immigration, together with other useful suggestions which were made to me, and the Minister replied that consideration would be given to them.I should now like to be informed by the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration whether the Government proposes to encourage the migration of British children by bringing them out and then allocating them to private individuals, or whether it proposes to allow public bodies such as the Shaftesbury homes organization to arrange for the transportation, reception and after-care of the children?
– On previous occasions I have emphasized that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is particularly keen to obtain child migrants, who undoubtedly make the best migrants because they are quickly assimilated into the community. It was expected that the number of children that would be sent to Australia during the war would be very considerable because of the bombing of civilian areas in the United Kingdom, but actually the number which came was much smaller than was expected, and many of them were immediately claimed by relatives and friends. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that the largest number of prospective child migrants is to be found amongst the countries in the Continent of Europe-
– The Minister for Immigration has previously stated that large numbers of children would be brought to Australia from England.
– Unfortunately, that has not proved to be the case.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Labour and National Service, £456,720; Department of Transport, £54,510; Department of Information, £119,810; Department of Post-warReconstruction, £242,000 - agreed to.
Defence and Post-war (1939-45) Charges.
Defence and Service Departments.
Proposed vote, £13,339,000.
Supply and Development.
Proposed vote, £2,614,000.
Re-establishment and Repatriation.
Proposed vote, £10,152,000.
International Relief and Reh abilitation .
Proposed vote, £200,000.
Proposed vote, £5,500,000.
Proposed vole, £195,000.
– I propose to make a request concerning the administration of the Repatriation Department, whose proposed vote is included in the item under discussion. I dealt at considerable length with war pensions and allied matters during the speech which I made on the Appropriation Bill, and I now propose to refer to the administration of the Repatriation Department. I recently placed a question on the noticepaper concerning appeals to the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. Although the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) abolished that tribunal some time ago, I understand that he now proposes to re-appoint it.
An extraordinary anomaly is contained in sub-section 2 of section 82 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which provides that the annual reports of assessment tribunals must be embodied in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission, because the act does not also provide that the annual reports of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals shall be embodied in the annual report of the commission.
I stress the fact that the entitlement appeal tribunals discharge the allimportant function of determining whether an applicant’s disability is, or is not, attributable to war service. If a State repatriation board declines to increase an ex-serviceman’s pension he is entitled to appeal directly to an appeal tribunal. However, if the ex-serviceman is seeking to establish his right to a pension, which he does not already enjoy, he is denied the opportunity to appeal to approach an entitlement appeal tribunal. If a State repatriation board rejects his claim, that claim may then be pressed before the Repatriation Commission, but the applicant is not permitted to approach an entitlement appeals tribunal until he has unsuccessfully appealed to the Repatriation Commission. The present provision, which requires an applicant whose claim has been disallowed by a State repatriation board, to appeal to the Repatriation Commission is, in reality, nothing more than an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. It is quite unnecessary and prevents claims from being finally disposed of expeditiously. That provision should be eliminated in order to obviate a repetition of the injustices that occurred some time ago when an assistant commissioner made a number of bad decisions during a period of ill health. Had the applicants enjoyed the right of being able to appeal directly from State repatriation ‘ boards to the entitlement appeal tribunals, those injustices would not have occurred. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether he will suggest to his colleague that the Repatriation Act be repealed in the interests of exservicemen generally?
[9.43 J. - I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that the matter will b” represented to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard).
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vole, £1,550,240.
– The proposed vote includes an amount of £200,000 for “ Establishments “ for the Department of Immigration. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration inform me to what the term “ establishments “ refers ? Does it include provision of more temporary housing accommod’ation for migrants ?
– The proposed vote for “ establishments “ includes provision for the enlargement of existing reception camps for migrants and the construction of a number of camps al places to which migrants will be directed in large numbers in order to increase the production of certain much-needed materials. That accommodation has to be completed hurriedly in order to he available before July, 1950.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - War (1914-18) Services, £378,820; Commonwealth Rail.ways, £637,000- agreed to.
Postmaster-General’s Departmen t.
Proposed vote, £12,678,000
– The Senate had an opportunity to discuss the affairs of the Postmaster-General’s Department fully when the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was before this chamber last week. However, since speaking to that measure, the latest report of the Postal Department in the United Kingdom has come to my notice. The report shows that last year, the department made a profit of £11,50.0,000 on postal charges alone, although the letter rate in that country is only 2d. compared “with 2-£d. in Australia. In spite of heavy war-time damage to lines and equipment, the profit on telephone services waa £10,500,000. A loss of. £2,500,000 was incurred on telegram services, but the department as a whole made a profit of 10 per cent, on gross turnover. “While I was in the United Kingdom, I had many opportunities to use the services of the Postal Department, particularly trunk-line telephones, and I found thom to be most efficient. It may be argued that distances in the United Kingdom are not so great as they are in this country, but that does not alter the position. Delays on trunk-line telephones occur at exchanges, and the exchanges in the United Kingdam are very much the same as they are in this country. I had occasion to make trunk-line calls during the day and at night over long distances such as from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, or even further north, and the delay was never more than four minutes. Apparently, therefore, there is still same roam, for improvement in this country. Generally speaking, the obligations and responsibilities of the Postal Department in Great Britain are the same as those ‘borne by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in this country; yet, whereas our own institution is operating as a loss, the Postal Department in the United Kingdom, has shown a substantial profit.
– The comparison that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) is hardly fair. For instance, mail services are required over much longer distances in this country than in Great Britain. Also, the United Kingdom has the advantage of being able to manufacture most of the machinery and other equipment necessary for the services rendered by the Postal Department. As manufactures of this kind are usually covered by patents, they cannot be produced in Australia. I recall that, after World War I., it was generally believed that Australian war-time factories could he adapted for the manufacture of telephones and other requirements of the department ; but an investigation revealed that this could not be done because the patents for that equipment were held in other countries. The position to-day is the same. Telephone charges in Australia are approximately the same as in Great Britain. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that, over the years, the Postmaster-General’? Department has shown a profit, and, at the same time, has rendered a great service to this country, particularly by maintaining essential- communications in wartime. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition appreciates as I do the wartime work of .the department.
– I give the depart ment all credit for that.
– Again I challenge the honorable senator, as I did last week, to point to any other business undertaking which has increased its charges by only 16 per cent, in the last eight years. I submit that the provision made in this measure for the work of the Postal Department is entirely, justified.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Northern Territory, £398,000; Australian Capital Territory, £305,000; Papua-New Guinea, £1,043,000; Norfolk Island, £1,000; Refunds of Revenue, £4,000,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £9,000,000- agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 3 p.m. ‘
The following paper was presented: -
Landa Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes - West Ryde, New South Wales.
Senate adjourned at 9.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1949/19490623_senate_18_203/>.