21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Consular Fees Bill 1955. Cotton Bounty Bill 1955. Loan (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Bill 1955. Loan (Swiss Francs) Bill 1955. Meteorology Bill 1955. Patents Bill 1955.
Rabbit Skins Export Charges Legislation Repeal Bill 1955.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation state the reason for the unduly long hold-up in completing the arrangements for the provision of an airport at the important centre of Port Augusta, South Australia?
– I shall be pleased to discuss the matter raised by the honorable senator with the Minister for Civil Aviation and let him know the result.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation relates to the British bomber “ G “ for George. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the report that this famous bomber is to be housed in the Australian War Memorial’ at Canberra, where it is to take the place of the plane used by two distinguished South Australian aviators, the late Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith, in their flight from the United Kingdom to Australia about 35 years ago? Is the Minister further aware that in to-day’s press it is stated that such a priceless relic of early Australian aviation is to be stored at Fairbairn aerodrome, Canberra, “ pending a decision on its disposal “ ? Will the Minister take the matter up with the appropriate Minister to see if the plane used by those intrepid men could ultimately be housed in a suitable and honored place in their home State of South Australia?
– I did read the report to which the honorable senator has referred, and I confess that I read it with a certain amount of regret, assuming that it is correct. As South Australian honorable senators will know, the late Sir Ross Smith and his brother, Sir Keith Smith, the latter of whom> fortunately, is still with us and doing a fine job, are very highly regarded by all South Australians. They also know of the very fitting memorial erected in South Australia to honour their great achievement. Many of us still remember with pride the day that those two great men, and their companions arrived in South Australia and gave us such a thrill. I shall have inquiries made as to the points raised by the honorable senator and let him know the result.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform the Senate whether it is a fact that he incurred expenditure of £8,000, which was wholly paid by the Australian people, when he visited London in 1954 to attend his daughter’s wedding? Can we expect that a similar expenditure of public money will be incurred by the Minister should he visit London in December of this year to attend a christening ?
Question not answered.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the Senate whether it is intended to install an automatic system in the new telephone exchange that is being built at Albany, Western Australia? If the Postmaster-General’s Department does not intend to do so, what is the reason for depriving that important centre of the most up-to-date telephone system ?
– I cannot give an immediate reply to the honorable senator, but I shall, bring his question to the notice of the Postmaster-General and obtain a considered reply.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform the
Senate of the progress that is being made with arrangements for the transfer of ex-servicemen, who are in civilian mental hospitals from those institutions into the wards of repatriation general hospitals under the control of the Australian Government, as they are the responsibility of this Government? If the Minister is not in a position to make a statement now, will he give the information I have requested to the Senate before the end of the current sessional period ?
– I shall give consideration to the question that has been asked by the honorable senator.
– In view of the interest that has been aroused in Australia by the visit of aircraft of the United States Air Force, and following the recent announcement of a decision to send Australian forces to Malaya, will the Minister representing the Minister for Air inform the Senate how many aircraft or squadrons of troop-carrying aircraft of United States design at present in Australia, would be required to transport the Australian forces to Malaya and return them to Australia in one air lift?
– I am sure that all honorable senators appreciate the goodwill visit of the intrepid airmen from the United States of America who are now in Australia. We admire also, the record they have established in their flight from Japan to Australia. I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Air, and obtain a reply for the honorable senator.
– I understand that the Minister for Shipping and Transport has an answer to a question that I asked him recently with regard to passenger and cargo shipping services operating between the Pacific Coast of the United States of America and Australia.
– Western Australians, generally, have a lively interest in the shipping trade between Australia and the United States of America. I have had inquiries made through the Department of Shipping and Transport, and have received information from the agents of the Matson Line on the proposal for cargo and passenger shipping services between the Pacific coast of the United States of America and Australia. I have been informed by the Australian representatives of the Matson Line that Lurline, which carries 750 passengers, runs regularly from the Pacific coast of America to Honolulu. I have been informed also that four freighters of 8,000 tons dead weight, each carrying twelve passengers, are trading between Port Pirie and Townsville on the Australian coast, and the Pacific coast of America. I have been further informed that the matter of a new passenger service is still under consideration. The proposition is to consider running two 18,000-ton ships, each carrying 375 passengers.
– On 12th May, Senator Tangney asked me further questions concerning the curtailment of children’s broadcasts in Western Australia. I have now received the following reply from the PostmasterGeneral : -
The honorable senator appears to be under some misapprehension about this matter. The broadcaster who was formerly presenting the “ Kindergarten of the Air “ session in Western Australia on each week-day did ask to be relieved of this work on at least two days of the week, and this has been done. The protests from children in Western Australia mentioned in the question relate, however, to the children’s session, which is an entirely different programme. Part of the children’s session broadcast in Western Australia prior to the 2nd May originated in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’* studios in Perth, but about CO per cent, coinprised material recorded from the session heard in the other States. Since the 2nd May, children in Western Australia have been sharing in the complete national children’s session, which includes the Argonauts Club, and which is broadcast in all other States and in New Guinea. Some protests about this arrangement have been received from children in Perth.
There is no foundation for any suggestion that the national children’s session is less friendly than the part of this session previously produced in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Perth studios. The national session lias many thousands of enthusiastic listeners in all other States of the Commonwealth and even as far away as Fiji. No members of the commission’s staff were dismissed because the full national session is now being broadcast in Western Australia. The only salaried officer concerned has been allotted other work. The services of three artists who were engaged regularly to make one appearance each per week in the ‘session are no longer required in that particular capacity, but they were not dependent for their livelihood on these engagements and they are not prohibited from receiving engagements to appear in other .Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes as opportunities offer. Although the national children’s session is now relayed to “Western Australia, some Perth programmes are relayed to the eastern States. For example, the Australian Broadcasting Commission recently arranged a new session entitled “ Let’s Join In “, a Perth programme for school children, which is relayed to the other States.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. When will the contemplated national broadcasting stations at Penola and Mount Gambier in South Australia be open for duty? Are there any major factors preventing the early opening of these stations? If so, what are they?
– I cannot immediately answer the honorable senator’s question, but I shall bring it to the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and ask him for a considered reply.
– I wish to direct another question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, in view of the reply that he has just given to my question of the 12th May. On that date I also asked the Minister whether any approach had been made to the Kindergarten Union of Western Australia, or to any other speakers or kindergarten teachers in that State, to take over the programmes on the days that had been forfeited by the former broadcaster. That part of my question of the 12th May has not been answered, and I ask the Minister whether he can find out for rae whether any approach was made to the Kindergarten Union to provide speakers on the days of the week when the regular broadcaster was unable to carry on with the work?
– I shall h» pleased to ask the Postmaster-General for the further information which has been requested by the honorable senator.
– I desire to ask a further question of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, following the several questions asked by Senator Tangney regarding children’s broadcasts programmes in Western Australia. I preface my question by emphasizing the fact that it appears that the PostmasterGeneral, in his replies, has not faced up to the real issue involved, which is that an overwhelming number of children who listen to the broadcast hour in Western Australia do not want the change. They desire to revert to the previous programme. I suggest that the PostmasterGeneral has been avoiding the issue. Will the Minister request his colleague to give consideration to re-establishing the old programme, in view of the overwhelming preference by the children in Western Australia for that programme?
– I can only say, as I said in reply to Senator Tangney, that I shall bring the question to the notice of the Postmaster-General, and ask him for a considered reply.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I preface it by explaining that a private hire-car service at Mascot aerodrome has been exploiting people who travel by air. On one occasion I was a victim when I was compelled to pay three times the correct fare for a certain journey. Will the Minister place the matter before the Minister for Civil Aviation in order to ensure that hostesses on at least the TransAustralia Airlines services shall be supplied with a list of charges made by the private hire-car monopoly now operating at Mascot aerodrome, in order to prevent travellers being exploited by that service, for which the air hostesses solicit patronage from passengers? Will the Minister give consideration to the policy of competition bv private enterprise. which has been so often advocated by this Government, and allow taxi-operators to compete with this monopoly in order to protect passengers from exploitation ?
– I feel sure that all honorable senators will be surprised to learn that such a tough gentleman as Senator Ashley was taken for a ride.
– I am not the only one who has been taken for a ride at that aerodrome.
– There is real merit in the question, and I shall be pleased to take the matter up with the appropriate authorities, to see that that wrong which the honorable senator has suggested - if there be a wrong - is quickly rectified.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator : -
The department appreciates the need for improved postal accommodation atRailton, and intends erecting a new post office building there. The project is included in the list of building works which it is hoped can be undertaken during next financial year.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
How many persons have been naturalized in Australia since 1045, and what are the figures for (a) Brisbane, and (6) Queensland?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
Between the 1st January, 1946, and the 31st December, 1954, 26,545 persons were granted naturalization in Australia. Of this number, 2,834 were residing in Queensland at the time of the grantof naturalization. No statistics are maintained of the number of persons naturalized from a particular area in a State and, therefore, it is not possible, without a great deal of research, to indicate how many of the persons naturalized in Queensland were residing in Brisbane when granted naturalization.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
With reference to my inquiry relative to Private Luxton’s claim for compensation for invalidity occasioned during trainee service at Woodside camp, South Australia, and the Minister’s reply, as follows: - “Delegate of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation had decided onus of proof had not been discharged and claim accordingly had been disallowed”
What was the name of this particular delegate who disallowed Private Luxton’s compensation claim?
What were the methods, duties, requirements and standards employed in his interpretation that onus of proof had not been discharged concerning Private Luxton’s compensation claim, and did the claimant have the representation to which he was entitled at procedural investigations ?
What are the qualifications, experience, service employment and official appointment of this delegate?
Will the Minister lay upon the table of the Senate all papers and files relating to Private Luxton’s compensation claim for invalidity occasioned during his trainee service at Woodside camp, South Australia?
– The Minister for the Army has now supplied the following information : -
The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act is administered by my colleague, the Treasurer, to whom the honorable senator’s question has been referred.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
In addition, commitments amount to over £14,000,000 to be fulfilled in future years. 2 and 3. The countries which have benefited from Australian aid under the Colombo plan. and the extent of the aid given or committed to each of these countries, is -
Canada. - About 120,000,000 dollars.
New Zealand. - Agreed to provide £3,000,000 in capital assistance in the first three years of the plan. Total commitments now approach £4,000,000. New Zealand will also spend £400,000 on technical assistance.
United Kingdom. - This contribution takes forms such as sterling balance releases (£42,000,000 annually), arrangements with the International Bank to release funds for loans (£10,000,000), grants and loans to British territories in SouthEast Asia (£78,000,000). The total value of aid being given from these various sources is about £250,000,000.
United States. - This contribution has taken the form of grants for economic development and technical co-operation programmes, special loans and grants for wheat to meet emergency situations credits by the Export-Import Bank, and the exchange of scholars and teachers and special legislation for this purpose. Assistance made available on a grant basis in the period July, 1951, to June, 1954. amounted to about 500,000,000 dollars.
A full account of Colombo plan activities to the end of 1954 is given in the March, 1955, edition of Current Notes on International Affairs, issued by the Department of External Affairs.
Debate resumed from the 24th May (vide page 384), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the following paper be printed: -
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Report, with Map, by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing into Electoral Divisions the State of Queensland.
– There is no objection by the Opposition to the motion that the paper be printed. The ma jor consideration of the electoral redistribution in Queensland will arise on a motion, later to come before the Senate, to provide for the adoption of the report.
In the circumstances, we do not oppose the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 24th May (vide page 394), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure now before the Senate confirms the rehabilitation service relating to disabled persons that has been in operation for a good many years. Not only does it confirm that scheme, but it also proposes to expand the scheme in important respects. I am happy to advise the Senate that the measure has the very cordial support of the Opposition. We think that, perhaps, it might have gone a little further in some particulars which I shall indicate, but that does not in any way detract from our support of the measure so far as it goes. I propose to spend a moment or two in discussing the birth and the history of this service and of the department concerned. The need for the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons was first mooted during the years from 1939 to 1941 by the all-party social security committee. The very first application of the idea was to invalid pensioners. Selected members of the pensions field were offered treatment and training to cure physical defects and to fit them for the pursuit of vocations in quite normal circumstances. That was a pilot service, and it demonstrated a number of vital things, the first being that, from a governmental viewpoint, it was a paying proposition to take people off pensions, to put them back into industry and to have them become independent and earning units in the community. Instead of drawing upon governmental revenues, as had hitherto been the case, they wore converted into contributors to the national income and, indeed, to governmental revenues in more ways than one.
After the war, that type of service was extended to include ex-servicemen who were not entitled to repatriation benefits. Many of them, of course, were motor accident cases and casualties in industry who could not base claims for repatriation benefits in respect of their injuries or disabilities. The Department of Social Services, which readily undertakes new duties and activities, was asked to sponsor this special service for ex-service personnel who could not claim upon the Repatriation Department. That was handled, I suggest, with very conspicuous success by the department. Again it was demonstrated clearly that there was not only a psychological advantage to individuals but also a great benefit to the nation, in that these persons could be rehabilitated and put back as normal working units in the Australian community.
The principle got more substantial legislative recognition in the Social Services Consolidation Act of 1947. That was a rather monumental achievement, in that it picked up some 51 acts that were operative in the social services field, wrapped them into one bundle, and, in the process, eliminated a great many anomalies and irritations that existed in the legislation. Part VIII. of that consolidation dealt with the training and physical rehabilitation of pensioners and beneficiaries. There were only two sections in that part. As I look back on them, they appear to me to have been expressed rather negatively and inhospitably. They provided that, in respect of invalid pensioners and beneficiaries for unemployment benefits and sickness benefits, the Director-General might, having regard to their circumstances, decline to grant a pension or a benefit unless the person undertook certain treatment and training. As I have said, the approach was rather negative, and not beneficial. However, the Labour government of the day had a very high opinion of what might be done with a truly comprehensive rehabilitation service for the Australian community, and, in the following year, it introduced a special amendment of the consolidation act which laid down a broad legislative and administrative base for a truly national rehabilitation service. That was in 1948. The whole concept and approach of the 1947 legislation was discarded, and the legislation was put on a more constructive and favorable base. It was a positive approach to the problem and authorized the Director-General of Social Services himself to provide facilities for the training and treatment of certain classes of disabled persons. It set out the type of factors that he should have in mind in selecting those persons. At that stage, the benefits were limited to pensioners and those receiving unemployment or sickness benefit, or persons who may be claimants for pensions or benefits. Section 135a, which was inserted in 1948, provided - 135a. - (1.) Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, the Director-General shall determine the persons who are eligible to receive treatment and training. (2.) A person shall not be eligible to receive treatment or training unless he is suffering from a physical or mental disability which -
I shall read two brief extracts from the second-reading speeches that accompanied the introduction of legislation in 1947 and 1948. They will show that the scope of the legislation was such as to provide a truly national scheme applicable to the whole community. As reported in Hansard of the 15th May, 1947, at page 2415, in the course of my second-reading speech, I said -
Honorable senators will notice that a new part has been included in the consolidation, namely Part VIII., “Training and Physical Rehabilitation of Pensioners and Beneficiaries “. The provisions contained under that part are not new, but appear in the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act and in the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. These provisions were inserted originally on the recommendation of the Social Security Committee. The training, rehabilitation and reconditioning of those who suffer some incapacity is of considerable consequence both to the individual and to the nation. In spite of the limited facilities available during recent years, some GOO invalid pensioners have been trained and placed in employments since the 1st of July, 1944, while just on 364 are now in course of training. The rehabilitation of the 500 invalid pensioners cost the Commonwealth about £6,000 and resulted in a saving in invalid pensions of approximately £10,000 per annum; or having regard to the expectation of life of the rehabilitated ex-pensioners, a saving of approximately £600,000 in all to the Commonwealth. Perhaps an even more important feature is the fact that a former pensioner is now earning his own living. He is an important unit in the economic structure. He is putting into the Commonwealth revenue, not taking out of it. He has a new psychological approach to life. He is a complete justification of the scheme. In the course of the next few years, the department’s vocational and rehabilitation programmes will assume greater proportions. Already there are many who have every reason to be thankful for the care Mid training that has been afforded them.
That was in 1947, when I indicated that, within a few years, the scheme would be greatly expanded. That expansion came about in the following year. In my second-reading speech on that occasion, which was delivered in the Senate on the 28th October, 1948, I am reported in Hansard, at page 2323, as having said -
The extent to which the civilian rehabilitation scheme can be undertaken at present is determined, not only by the availability of suitable properties for use as rehabilitation centres out-patients’ clinics and psychiatric centres, but also by the availability of suitably trained staff, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, education officers, nursing sisters, physical training instructors, trade instructors and the like. It is the Government’s intention to make increasing use of such specialists in its rehabilitation scheme, but there is considerable difficulty in obtaining them. For the present, therefore, it is proposed to limit the scope of the scheme to invalid pensioners and claimants for invalid pensions and persons receiving1 or claiming sickness benefits who might otherwise become unemployable. It is hoped that, at an early date, it will he possible, as a .result of the establishment of more centres and clinics and the acquirement of more specialist staff, to extend the scope of the scheme to cover all physically handicapped persons in the community, including adolescents, as well as persons suffering from certain industrial diseases. During the three years of the operation of the rehabilitation scheme for ex-servicemen conducted by the Department of Social Services, nearly 10,000 persons received treatment or assistance, and the experience gained in that scheme will be exceedingly valuable in carrying out the civilian scheme.
– What is the Leader of the Opposition reading?
– I am reading from the second-reading speech that I delivered when I introduced the rehabilitation service, on an expanded scale, into the social services programme in 1948. That laid the foundation of the scheme which the Government has been operating up to the present time, and which it now proposes to expand in the manner contemplated when the scheme was originally prepared.
I pause here to comment, without blaming anybody, upon the slowness with which matters move in a democracy. Before “World War II., all parties recognized that a rehabilitation scheme should be established. It has taken some sixteen years to get it to the stage where we even begin to include adolescents. I know that the war intervened and stopped all developments of the kind that were contemplated. I know, also, that there was a post-war period of great difficulty when housing and numerous other problems made their impact upon the economy of the nation, but I cannot refrain from feeling that the pace in connexion with this matter has been a little too slow when all political parties are agreed that a service of this kind should be developed as soon as possible.
Much of the credit for the functioning of the scheme must be given to my predecessors in the office of Minister for Social Services, Mr. E. J. Holloway and Senator Fraser. I was so impressed with the possibilities of this rehabilitation service that I made a point of waiting on my successor, Senator Spooner, in 1949, and urging upon him my opinion that this service was important. I asked him to take a close interest in it, and I know that he took that interest. When he was succeeded by Mr. Townley, I waited on the new Minister with the same request. I did not wait upon his successor, the present Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), because I thought that by that time - and it is clear that I was right - the Government had completely accepted the scheme. I relied upon the enthusiasm of the present Minister to introduce the scheme as rapidly as possible. I was a good judge in leaving it on that basis because the Minister, with great enthusiasm, has brought forward a very distinguished addition to the scheme. I congratulate him upon being in office at a time when a major step towards the expansion of the scheme is being taken. I take this opportunity, also, to express my admiration of the Department of Social Services for the development of this entirely new field. It is an amazing department with a remarkable capacity for absorbing entirely new principles and situations, and addressing itself to its task with energy, enthusiasm, ability and, above all, with humanity. Those are characteristics that have marked the activities of the Department of Social Services throughout the years.
If we look to the basis of this service, we find that it rests really upon a recognition, in this Parliament, of the dignity and importance of the individual human being. A very great step towards that recognition was taken in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in December, 1948, when, for the first time in the history of the world, a relatively complete code of individual human rights was set up, not to be observed as a matter of enforceable law, but as a standard at which all nations should aim. After all is said and done, if there is a sincere and true recognition of the importance and dignity of the individual, we shall establish, in that one point, the difference between democracy on the one side, which upholds that view, and communism on the other side, which negates it. There we draw a distinction, again, between Christianity and atheism. In addressing itself to this particular problem, the Parliament is drawing that line and making that distinction.
It has been well said that while the first right of an individual is to live, his foremost right is to be free to live his life in his own way so that he may have the fullest opportunity, in freedom, to develop his being, know and understandthe universe in which he lives and all its marvels, and his own relation to it. I agree that this is a proper statement of the matter. I believe, also, that it is impossible for an. individual to have that full and free opportunity for the development of his personality and the widening of his experience, if he cannot keep up with his fellows through some physical handicap. In my concept, there is a duty upon governments and, in fact, upon the whole community, to ensure that that individual is brought to the level of his fellows and treated as one of them if possible, not only as an economic unit, but also as a social unit. The community is doing a fundamental good when it widens the opportunities of such a person.
I know, from my experience of the activities of the Department of Social Services, that many dramatic and fascinating stories can be told about the rehabilitation of various individuals under this scheme. I do not propose to relate any of these extraordinary stories, but the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) might feel disposed to cite some examples of the extraordinarily good results that have been achieved in the community by the operation of the rehabilitation service.
The bill does five main things, and I should like to comment on them. First, it expands the scope of the scheme to include those who are receiving allowances under the Tuberculosis Act. That is very good. I notice that those concerned will not participate in any of the financial allowances or benefits under this bill. The reason is obvious, as they already receive a fairly substantial payment by way of tuberculosis allowance, but no training allowance is provided for them under this bill. They are restricted entirely to their normal tuberculosis allowance. I understood the Minister for National Development to state, in his second-reading speech, that the training allowance is regarded as an inducement to a person to forego .some of the training in the public interest, and to enter into the rehabilitation scheme. The training allowance is not a big amount. It was fi 5s. and now it is to be £1 10s. I find that the right of “a tuberculosis trainee to a training allowance is expressly negatived.
The scheme, very properly, is to be expanded to cover children between fourteen and sixteen years who, without that treatment, are likely to become invalid pensioners at the age of sixteen years. My comment regarding that field is that the bill itself expressly negatives, first in the rehabilitation allowance field, the training allowance, and provides no living-away-from-home allowance, but apparently it would leave them eligible to receive fares if they needed to pass from their own homes to rehabilitation and training centres. Another benefit is available to them also if appropriate; that is, a sum of up to £40 for tools, books and equipment, but I invite the Government to consider whether there might not be cases, in the fourteen years to sixteen years age-group, who might well be entitled to something by way of training allowance or living away from home allowance. Frankly, I would expect that the great majority of the children concerned would be drawn from classes who were not in any way in employment, but there would also be certain cases among them who, although crippled or incapacitated in some way, would be earning income.
I have some particular cases in mind. For example, youngsters selling newspapers on fixed stands do not have to run about to make their sales. They earn good money and are able to make substantial contributions to the incomes of their families. A youth in that situation might well be induced to undertake rehabilitation so long as that contribution to his family could, to an extent, continue but I regret that the bill, important as it is, negatives the possibilities of giving a youth in that situation anything in the nature of rehabilitation allowance, a training allowance or a living-away-from-home allowance. It may be that cases of the type for which I am making this plea would not be many, but the fact is that some will arise. I should like to see the Government give some consideration to leaving in the Director-General, discretion to cover a case of this sort by the application of any one or all of the three forms of allowances - rehabilitation, training and living away from home. There might be persons who would readily undertake rehabilitation and who might successfully be rehabilitated, but who are unable to do so because of the economic factor. They cannot afford to vacate their temporary occupations, nor can their families afford to permit them to do so. I commend to the Government the thought that I have’ expressed. Broadly, the Opposition approves completely the extension of the field of possible beneficiaries under the rehabilitation service to cover both those receiving the tuberculosis allowances and adolescents.
The next portion of the bill, which deals with increases of the benefits that are payable under the legislation, is specially important. I wish to point to the contrast in the Government’s actions in relation to the different elements that go to make up the allowances payable to a person undergoing rehabilitation. Five elements involving payment are concerned. First, there is the rehabilitation allowance. So soon as a person undertakes rehabilitation, if he has been in possession of a pension of any kind, that pension is suspended. He then gets, during the continuance of his rehabilitation training or treatment, a rehabilitation allowance in the pension’s stead, equal exactly to the pension that was suspended. The Minister indicated that the purpose of the next element is to induce a person to abandon an occupation and to undertake training and treatment. This element is called a training allowance. The third element is the livingawayfromhome allowance payable at different rates according to whether the person is single, is married with children, or is married without children. The fourth element is the payment of fares of persons travelling between their homes and the centres for rehabilitation or for treatment. The fifth element is the provision of books or tools. I wish to review happenings under these five heads.
The living-away-from-home allowance for a single man, when the scheme began in 1948, was 15s. a week for the first four weeks only. In 1951, the present Government increased that allowance to £1 a week, again for the first four weeks. In 1952, it was increased to £1 5s. a week for the first four weeks, and it is proposed under this bill that the livingawayfromhome allowance for a single person shall be £1 15s. a week, not for the first four weeks, but for the first eight weeks. The point I ask the Senate to note is that, since the scheme was introduced in 1948, the living-away-from-home allowance for a single person has been more thai] doubled. Indeed it has been doubled and has had a further ls. 3d. added to it, and the term for which it applies has been extended from the first four weeks to the first eight weeks. In 1948, the livingawayfromhome allowance for a married person with no children was £1 10s. a week for the first four weeks, and thereafter 15s. a week. This Government, in 1951, increased that allowance to £2 a week for the first four weeks, a.nd thereafter £l a week. In 1952, it was increased to £2 10s. a week for the first four weeks, and thereafter £1 5s. a week. Under this bill, the allowance is increased again to £3 for the first eight weeks, and thereafter £1 10s. a week. Here again the allowance has been doubled since 1948, and the period has been extended.
The living-away-from-home allowance for a married person with a child in 1.948 was £1 10s. a. week over the whole of the training or rehabilitation period. The present Government, in 1951, raised that allowance to £2 a week. In 1952, it was further increased to £2 10s. a week, and now this bill proposes that it should be £3 a week. Again the figure has been doubled since the inception of the scheme in 1948. The same thing has happened in relation to the provision of books and tools for the trainee. In 1948, the sum for this purpose was £20. It was increased by this Government in 1952 to £30, and, under this bill, it is to be £40. It has doubled exactly between 194’8 and 1955. As the payments in those important categories have been doubled by this Government, one wonders why a similar course has not been followed in relation to the training allowance. Let me tell the Senate what the position is there. In 1948, the training allowance was £1 a week. This Government increased it to £1 5s. in 1951. It made no alteration, to the allowance in 1952, and now it is proposed, to increase it to £1 10s. a week. The increase of the training allowance since 1948 has been only 50 per cent, compared with the 100 per cent, increase of the other benefits that I have detailed. The rehabilitation allowance itself, which is the amount equal to, and put forward in substitution for, a pension, was £2 2s. 6d. a week in 194S, and is now, by this bill, to be made £3 10s. a week. This is an increase of only 60 per cent.
The training allowance and the rehabilitation allowance are major items in the financial provisions for rehabilitation trainees, and there is no reason at all why the Government should not have done the same with them as it has done with the living-away-from-home allowances and allowances for books and tools. The increases that have been made under the last two headings merely afford a measure of justice to keep the allowances in line with the cost-of-living increase in the period between 194S and now; but if the Government recognizes that it is doing justice under the headings of livingawayfromhome allowances and allowances for books and tools by doubling them, why does it not make a move at least to double the training allowance and to bring the rehabilitation allowance up to the same level? That is the contrast to which I call attention. I am not arguing about the provision of these benefits. The one question that we on this side ask is why does the Government not bring all benefits uniformly up to the one level? We recognize the need for increases and support those that the Government has made.
The fourth main purpose of the bill is approved by the Opposition. It concerns the provision of loans to persons who, although rehabilitated to a degree, cannot work in normal industry but might be in a position to earn their livelihoods in their own homes. For them, a loan not to exceed £200 is provided, repayable with interest at 4£ per cent. We approve that principle. It may well be that the amount could be increased in particular cases, but the proposal in the bill is a good start, and members of the Opposition view it with sympathy and will watch its development with interest. The fifth main purpose of the bill is to provide that persons who are not eligible for benefits through pensions or social services may, if they are prepared to pay a proper fee, have the advantage of treatment or training in the various rehabilitation centres, if they are in fact in need of such treatment or training. The Labour Government established the principle that if State governments and employers generally, insurance companies and others, are under an obligation to pa.y for the medical treatment of their employees, they should not escape their responsibility if the person for whom they are responsible enters a Commonwealth rehabilitation centre. The principle was recognized that those bodies should pay for their employees. This bill also recognizes that principle, but it goes a step further. It says to a member of the general public, “As long as you pay, although you have no entitlement under the scheme at present, you may receive these benefits “. That does go a step further in extending the scheme. I am not opposing it or objecting to it at all; I am merely offering the comment that members of the Opposition look forward to the day when this very important service may, in the public interest, be provided free to any person who is really in need of the service. That will not only result in a benefit to the individual who is rehabilitated, but, as has been demonstrated by the figures given by the Minister, it will also provide a distinct economic advantage to the nation. I suggest that the sooner that broad view is taken the sooner Will the real merits and benefits of this scheme be reflected in government revenues and national income, and, above all, in the welfare and happiness of individual human beings. When that is understood, I do not think there will be any hesitation by this Parliament in making this service free and in expanding it as rapidly as physical limitations will permit.
The only other aspect to which I wish to refer is that of finding work for the trainees. I know that the Department of Social Services, in conjunction with the Department of Labour and National Service, has considered this matter closely, and I understand that the great bulk of the trainees already have jobs waiting for them when they leave the various centres. That is most desirable, and it is also desirable that industry in general should be encouraged to employ these trainees as soon as they are available, It is important that these people should return to ordinary community life, and associate with their fellows as normal working units. I believe that that is for the greatest good, and industry should be encouraged in every way to seek out these men. The principle is not new. Henry Ford laid it down as a principle decades ago in his works at Detroit that every major industry should employ a cross-section of the general public. As a 7natter of cold, deliberate policy he employed blind men, crippled persons, amputees, and people suffering from every kind of physical disability. He considered’ that his industry had a duty to select as employees people who represented a cross-section of the general com*munity. It is true that in any highly subdivided industry a spot can easily be found for a man suffering a disability. I believe that that is for the greatest good, and I should like to be assured that the department will embark upon a deliberate policy of encouraging employers in industry to think along those lines.
There are also other avenues to he explored. A most interesting suggestion was made to me some time ago by a young Western Australian who was concerned with the problem of finding useful employment for aged people. Such people, although they have become elderly and somewhat slow, can still function with a great deal of efficiency, but employers generally are not prepared to engage them. This young person conceived the idea that philanthropic bodies in each of the main capitals could form companies, non-profit organizations, which would set up establishments where aged people could work. Those bodies would first make a survey to ascertain what manufacturing activities were needed in the community, and in which of those activities aged people could be employed. Those activities could then be carried on in the one centre, and in that centre apprentices might also be trained. Such a centre could be used, to a degree, as a rehabilitation centre. I suggest that the proposal might at least be investigated. I know that two of the Ministers of the Government have given the matter sympathetic consideration, and I cannot argue against their viewpoint that it is better that the rehabilitated and the. aged should be absorbed in industry with other members of the community, rather than have them segregated in a particular place. There is, however, always the residual problem of the aged and disabled who cannot be completely rehabilitated. That category of persons might well be usefully employed under such a. scheme as I have outlined.
I am afraid that I have spoken at somewhat greater length than seems necessary on a bill which is being supported by the Opposition, but I approach this problem with very great interest and with sympathy. I also approach it with a great deal of knowledge of what has been done in. the matter, and with a great deal of admiration for those in the social services department and those who have worked with them in the centres to achieve the magnificent results that the Government can now claim for the scheme. We congratulate the Government upon having taken this step. We regret that it was not taken earlier. We hope that whatever government is in office during the next decade will make far more progress in this very important field than all the governments have made in the past decade.
– I am sure that all honorable senators have listened with great interest to the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). He has shown a great deal of sympathy with those on whose behalf he spoke, and has indicated that he has a great deal of knowledge of social services generally. I am not sure whether Senator McKenna was at one time a Minister for Social Services, but I think that that may be the case, because he has shown an intimate knowledge of the subject. His remarks have not been entirely free from criticism, but at least his criticism has been constructive, and I am sure that such criticism is highly desirable in a debate which, as he has suggested, is non-party. I completely agree with him in that respect.
This matter has particular interest for me, mainly because of a recent visit that I made to the rehabilitation centre in South Australia. This aspect of social services, costing in the vicinity of £500,000, is a very small part of the total social services operating throughout the Commonwealth. For that reason alone it has not been publicized to any great extent. On my recent visit to the rehabilitation centre in South Australia, T accompanied Senator Pearson and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon). We saw something of the splendid work that is being carried out in our own State. The centre has been established at a seaside resort called Victor Harbour, which is to the south of Adelaide. The centre is in delightful surroundings, housed in an old historic home called Mount Breckan. While it is delightful to have such a home in beautiful surroundings, the locality is really unsuitable for carrying out this work, which needs the most modern equipment and up-to-date facilities. Both Senator Pearson and myself were greatly impressed with the work that is being carried out at present in that place. We saw quite a deal of the activities involved in rehabilitating sick or injured people, and that was an education to both of us. I believe that one particular paragraph of the Minister’s second-reading speech set out very clearly the aim of the rehabilitation service that has become part of our social services scheme. That paragraph reads -
It (rehabilitation) may be defined as the restoration of the physically handicapped through treatment and vocational training to the fullest physical, mental and economic usefulness of which they are capable. It seeks to develop the latent ability and special aptitude of the handicapped individual, and to restore his confidence and independence, and it hopes also to enlist the resources of the community to this end.
I must say once again that I believe that that paragraph very aptly and most suitably sets out the whole aim of the rehabilitation service, which was outlined so ably by the Leader of the Opposion (Senator McKenna). I agree with that honorable senator that such schemes seem to work rather slowly in a democracy. I believe that the establishment of the rehabilitation service was originally, investigated in 1941 by a joint parliamentary committee, but only recently have we seen any effective extension of the scheme which, as the Leader of the Opposition has already said, came into being in 1948. I believe that the expansion of the scheme that is now to be made, although somewhat limited, will be very valuable, and will improve the efficiency of the rehabilitation service asthe years pass by. I have no doubt that succeeding governments will gradually extend the service until all those people in the community who can be rehabilitated have been so rehabilitated, so that they can take their place in industry and have a good prospect of happiness for their future.
All that we saw at Mount Breckan led us to the belief that although the work was being carried out there in a most satisfactory way, the service could be greatly improved by the provision of better facilities. I understand that in the near future the institution at Mount Breckan will be transferred to St. Margaret’s, Payneham, one of the eastern suburbs of Adelaide, where more uptodate facilities are available. Because that place is nearer to a metropolitan area, it will be more accessible, its facilities will be more effective, and its activities will be more economical.
I was very much impressed by the devoted work that I saw being done by the staff of our rehabilitation centres. When we were being shown through the premises at Victor Harbour, we came into contact with many members of the staff. We saw the medical officer in charge, who was associated with physio-therapists, nurses, occupational therapists, social workers and training and employment officers. We saw the lay-out of various buildings that surround the main building, and we inspected the workshops and other buildings where the training of handicapped persons was carried out. There were many pathetic cases among the people who were being rehabilitated, and we came to the conclusion that if those people alone could be helped and could be restored to a useful life, the work of the rehabilitation centres would have been well worth while.
Among the patients we saw many people who had been injured in motor accidents, and, because the toll of the roads is increasing, I have no doubt that that class of patient will figure prominently in our rehabilitation schemes of the future. We also saw patients who were suffering from the effects of illnesses such as poliomyelitis, and we inspected ‘he work being done to get such sufferers back to useful employment. Some of the persons we saw were so incapacitated that we wondered whether it would ever be possible to restore them to activity and employment, but after we saw the patience and skill exercised by the officers and staff, we fully agreed with the statements of the authorities that a great number of the patients were gradually and very slowly restored to a useful life and a place in industry. .
In these times of full employment there is a great demand for those who can work, and surely it is desirable to do as much as we -can to ensure that all people who suffer from disabilities are restored to health and made capable of undertaking some form of useful work. However, it is of no use to put square pegs into round holes, and I suggest that it is for the employers, both government and private, to see that such people are put into occupations where they can successfully compete with persons in full possession of their physical faculties.
Honorable senators will be interested to know that the records prove that persons who have been rehabilitated by the rehabilitation service have been able to perform remarkably useful work. It has been found that after such people have been restored to health and employment, their attendance records in industry are very fine indeed. There is practically no absenteeism among them. Their safety records are also much better than those of persons who have never had to undergo rehabilitation. That is probably .because they know from first-hand experience the disabilities that can be caused by accidents and injuries. The records also show that the production rates of rehabilitated persons are quite equal to those of workers who have never suffered from the results of accidents. From the employment angle alone, it is a worthwhile service, and as far as cost is concerned, only something like £500,000 is involved, which is a small proportion of social services expenditure. Furthermore, that cost is practically offset by the amount saved to the Government in pensions and sickness benefits that otherwise would have te he paid to these people. This service pays for itself and it will be good business when this measure is implemented.
I was particularly interested in Senator McKenna’s remarks about the response of the employing sections of the community to an appeal to play their part in getting these people back into employment. I have received a letter from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) in this connexion. He is eager that this social service should operate to its full extent, and in his letter, he asked me to do what I could among employers in South Australia to have as many as possible of these disabled persons rehabilitated in industry. I expect that other senators in South Australia received a similar letter. I wrote to various employer organizations pointLug out the benefits that could accrue if they made it their business to give these people a chance in life. I communicated with organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, and with people such as the welfare officer of the Legacy Club of Adelaide, and personnel officers of some of the larger business concerns in that city. I should like to read the letter I wrote because it contains a general outline of the Minister’s wishes in getting these people back into employment. The letter reads -
I have recently received a letter from the Minister for Social Services (Hon. W. McMahon) drawing my attention to the work being achieved by his Department in connexion with the rehabilitation of physically handicapped people into industry.
At present this work is being carried out at Mount Breckan, Victor Harbour, but, for economy and effectiveness, the centre will shortly be transferred to St. Margaret’s, Payneham, where every facility for treatment and specialized training will be made available.
The one aim of such a centre is to improve physically handicapped persons’ mental and physical condition in order that they may return to suitable employment.
You will agree with me that, with the labour position as it is there are good and compelling reasons for exploring every avenue whereby useful employment can be provided for our citizens.
At the same time it must be recognized that a person suffering from a physical disability must be placed where he is ab’.e to successfully compete with a physically sound workmate.
I am given to understand that statistics show quite favourable records as to attendance, safety and production rates. These factors loom very large in modern industry and it is only by the use of methods such as those in operation at our rehabilitation centres that these unfortunates can be directed back to useful employment.
The cost of these establishments, of course, is substantial, employing as they do medical officers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers and the like, but this is practically offset by the saving of approxi mately £440,000 per annum in invalid and sickness benefits.
What cannot be disregarded is the potential production from the useful employment of these people. This is in the neighbourhood of £.1.250,000, which must be added to the national income.
The Minister has asked me to bring this matter to the notice of your Association and its members. Organizations such as yours are the logical choice for an approach to be made to enable this rehabilitation work to be put into practical use.
I would be only too glad to render any possible assistance and trust that your members will avail themselves of a humanitarian service designed to help people to help themselves.
I consider that that letter covered the situation fairly adequately, and I had an excellent response from various employer organizations and quite a number of the bigger industries around Adelaide. I am sure a similar response would be forthcoming from other parts of Australia.
The bill is a very good one indeed. Little is heard about rehabilitation, whereas a great deal is said about other social services provided under the Social Services Consolidation Act to which Senator McKenna referred. The amount to be devoted each year towards the rehabilitation of these people is comparatively small. It has been confined practically to invalid pensioners and recipients of sickness benefits, and according to the Minister, approximately 7,000 persons have been restored to useful employment. That is a splendid achievement, and as time goes on, the number will increase considerably. There is no need for me to emphasize again the saving to the Government by not having to pay pension and sickness benefits when these people are restored to useful employment. The Minister has told us that the contribution to the national income made by rehabilitated persons is something like. £1,250,000. I do not know how the Minister arrived at that figure, but it is possible that that amount could be exceeded. Consequently, the economy of the country could be greatly assisted by the success of this scheme.
The extension of the plan from the fourteen-year-old to the sixteen-year-old group is a valuable improvement. As a previous speaker pointed out, these young people previously have not been catered for. In this connexion I pay my tribute, which, I am sure, is endorsed by all honorable senators, to the magnificent work that has been carried out by voluntary organizations throughout Australia. I am familiar with the work, in South Australia, of the Crippled Children’s Association, the Spastic Centre, and other unpublicized organizations that do such an enormous amount of voluntary work for the unfortunates in the community. The extension of this scheme is not intended to intrude upon their work, but rather to be complementary to it. They have done a wonderful job over the years in the face of great difficulties. This splendid provision to cater for the younger people will redound to the credit of the Parliament because work among them is to be included in rehabilitation services. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the other proposed extension to include private cases such as he mentioned - persons who do not come within the scope of assistance because of the bar of the means test which has existed until the present - so that they may have the same opportunity to be treated in these up-to-date centres where are concentrated the skilled services so necessary for the implementation of such a scheme, is another splendid provision. I do not wish to comment at length on the extension of other services, such as those in respect of sufferers from tuberculosis. I believe that the work that has been done in connexion with people suffering from tuberculosis has been extremely valuable. As far as those people are concerned, the extension of the services will relate mainly to vocational training. They will be given the incentive to get back into useful employment when their health improves.
The extension of the services to cover home employment is an extremely good idea. We all know that many incapacitated people are debarred from taking outside employment because of the very nature of their disabilities. The provision that they may be granted up co £200 with which to purchase the necessary plant to enable them to undertake useful work in their own homes is highly commendable. I have no doubt that it will be availed of by many people iri the community. Honorable senators will see that all of the allowances have been increased. I should have liked to see the allowances increased even more, because I believe that these services are an important and integral part of our social services scheme. Of course, the services that are being provided at present are good. Now that they are being increased, they will do even more to assist materially the lot of incapacitated persons.
In addition to the training allowance, provision has been made for the payment of a living-away-from-home allowance. When all of these benefits are totalled, I think they must prove of considerable assistance in the restoration of these people to useful occupations, and assist materially in the improvement of their psychological approach to their return to employment. These services will help the people concerned to hold up their heads in the community again, and to live a happier life than would be possible if such facilities were not provided. These rehabilitation services are of a humanitarian nature, and are designed to help people to help themselves. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna)- said, we cannot ignore the dignity of the human being. The provision of these services emphasizes that point.
The benefits provided under this legislation will cost practically nothing, if we take into consideration the purely material factor that the services of these people will be made available to the community. For that reason, if for no other, I record my hearty support of the bill. I also wish to congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who has not held that portfolio for very long, but who has shown himself to be keenly interested in his work and eager to carry out the job of providing the people of Australia with the best possible social services benefits and restoring incapacitated people to useful employment in the community.
.- I believe that every one in Australia approves the legislation which the Senate is discussing at the present time. I am particularly interested in that part of the bill which states -
The Director-General of Social Services may on behalf of the Commonwealth provide or arrange for the provision of treatment and training of persons who have attained the age of 14 years but have not attained the age of 10 years, being persons who, without the treatment and training, would be likely to become qualified to receive pensions on attaining the age of 16 years.
Before I deal with that matter, I wish to make a few general observations. I point out that the Commonwealth Parliament, during the past twenty years, has assumed certain power in the realms of Australian finance. Its financial powers have increased gradually. I do not wish to specify the way in which those powers have grown, but the greatest expansion occurred when uniform taxation came into operation. We have seen the financial power of the Commonwealth grow, and we have noticed also that the responsibilities of the Australian Government have increased correspondingly in the field of social services. No doubt all of us can remember the time when the Commonwealth could afford to disregard altogether the great problem of unemployment in Australia. Now, however, the Commonwealth Parliament concerns itself with that matter and has made provision for the payment of a social services benefit in respect of unemployment. During the years of the depression, we found that the States were quite incapable, notwithstanding their financial powers, of dealing adequately with unemployment. I support the growth of financial power in the Commonwealth sphere, and I also support everything that has been done in this sphere to provide social services for the people of Australia.
We have gone from one form of social service to another. If we look back over the years, we shall see that the States originated some of the social services which are enjoyed at the present time, and that the Commonwealth has taken control of them and played its part in their administration. It is well known that, for a person to qualify for an invalid pension, he must be deemed to be a person who is permanently incapacitated for work, or whose degree of incapacity for work is not less than 85 per cent. There are many invalids in the community whose incapacity for work is only 5 per cent., 10 per cent., or 20 per cent., but at the moment we are dealing with those who fall within the category of persons who are 15 per cent, fit for any form of employment. I find, on occasions, in Brisbane, that it is difficult to reconcile my opinion of various cases of incapacity with the decisions of medical practitioners. Of course, I have to yield to them, because my knowledge of medicine and of physical incapacity does not equal theirs. Nevertheless, I have known of cases which surely must have puzzled the medical profession also. How do medical practitioners assess a person’s incapacity for work? I am sure they must find it very difficult, in certain cases. The act refers specifically to incapacity “ for work “. Medical practitioners may hold the opinion that, because a person can perform light work, he is not 85 per cent, incapacitated for work. Then, of course, the problem arises of .finding suitable employment for a person who is so situated, and who is not admitted to the pensions field. That problem arises fairly frequently in Brisbane, perhaps more so there than in other places.
How do people become invalids? The people who require assistance fall mainly into three groups - those who were born invalids, those who become invalids as the result of accidents, and those who become invalids as a result of sickness, such as poliomyelitis. Very little can be done for those who were born invalids. Perhaps the saddest cases in the community include many of these people. Those in the second group are numerous. A man may have been apprenticed to a trade, and have worked at it for many years, and then as a result of a serious accident become incapable of further work. He has to seek an invalid pension in order to live. Many of these people suffer great hardship, but something can be done for them, and in some instances they may again get back into employment. The third group, too, contains many sad cases. It includes those who have lost the use of both legs, or both arms, or one leg and one arm. I appreciate the great difficulty which confronts the Department of Social Services when it sets out ‘to do something for these invalids. I know the sympathetic approach of members of the staff, and how helpful they ave when dealing with the cases before them. I have no doubt that the department has approached these problems in a scientific way, or at least in a methodical way, and that it has already found out the nature of the problem which bas to be met in training these people for industry. Nor have I any doubt that the aptitudes of the afflicted people are known to the department. One of the greatest problems confronting the officers of the department is that of blending the aptitude of invalids with their capabilities. A person may have a natural bent in a certain direction, but because of his physical condition he may be unable to perform the work that he otherwise could do. But the officers are at the greatest disadvantage when they have to deal with people who have no skills whatever.
In one respect the speech of Senator Hannaford disappointed me. The honorable senator said that he had visited the establishment at Victor Harbour, and had seen the work that was being done there, but he made no mention of the machines that had been installed, the tools with which patients were provided, or anything relating to the class of work carried out in the workshops. I appreciate that patients are given medical treatment, but that is treatment more in the nature of a mental uplift than a training that will make thom capable of accepting employment. It may be that the honorable senator saw these things and was rather disappointed with what he saw, but, if so, he must have realized that those receiving training were not being taught a trade that would fit them for employment in any competitive field. It is all very well for us to think pleasant thoughts about the work being done by the Department of Social Services, but we must realize the great disadvantages associated with that work. It is of little use for us to go to these places and see what is there, and then to leave them, highly satisfied with what we have seen, when we know that more can be done, and must be done for these unfortunate people. Had Senator Hannaford examined the tools of trade provided for patients at Victor Harbour, and the machines installed in the work- shops there, he would have found that they are far removed from the machines and tools used in modern manufacturing industries. In some of these places I have seen men operating fretwork machines. It may be that articles made of fretwork are still to be seen in some back country hotels in New South Wales, but there is no demand for that class of work now. However well trained a man might be as a fretwork specialist, he would find that there was no place for him in the service of his country. Others are taught hand weaving. That is a useful hobby, and it has its place in giving these people a mental uplift. Its psychological effect may be good, but I want every one to feel that he is wanted in the community, that there is a place for him in the community, and that he can find employment and earn a living. That is not being done now.
I am not pointing out these things in a purely negative way, because I shall outline what can be done to put the scheme on a more solid footing. I have seen men in these training establishments engaged in a form of printing that went out a century ago. Printing by these old methods may be a useful hobby, and give the patients a mental uplift, but it will not equip them to take a place in’ industry. These things are not sufficient, and will not solve the problem.
– The same kind of equipment is provided in Brisbane.
– That is so. In some establishments, men are trained to use wood-turning lathes. That training can be put to advantage, because a capable wood-turner can make toys and various articles which can be sold to tourists and others. In that way he may be equipped to engage in useful work, and probably earn a living. I do not stand here as one who has no knowledge of the disadvantages and problems facing the officers of the department. I appreciate their difficulties and the service they render. The Government proposes to do something in this field, but it must go further than deal with its own instrumentalities. Not long ago, I pointed out the deficiencies that existed in the Commonwealth sphere in respect of apprenticeship matters. I said then that the
Commonwealth would have to establish its own apprenticeship schemes, and train apprentices, not only in the industries in which the Government is primarily interested, but also in other industries which are governed by Commonwealth awards, so that, in time, there would be efficient journeymen in all trades.
Let us examine the set-up and see how it is proposed to rehabilitate these unfortunate people. We have the Department of Social Services, with its knowledge of the pensioners and of the children of whom I have spoken. I have no doubt that the department has the right to ascertain the number of children in the community between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years who are so afflicted that they will not be employable after reaching the age of sixteen years. It has that power, and should be able to assess their aptitudes and capabilities. With that knowledge, the officers could then cooperate with State departments and with the Department of Labour and National Service. The latter department has trained officers who travel about and search for employment for ex-servicemen and others. They discover what vacancies exist in industry from time to time, but fill that activity is still not sufficient.
In every State, and particularly in Queensland, a very efficient apprenticeship system is in operation. When all is said and done, the skilled trades in the community do not exceed 31 or 32. Officers of the Queensland Government ascertain what classes of work unfortunate people can perform. Several industries suggest themselves immediately as offering opportunities for employment. Some male invalids are able to sit on a form., a stool or a chair. They can be taught boot repairing and eventually, when they become journeymen in the trade, they can earn a good living. The tailoring trade also offers many opportunities for handicapped persons. The trade is divided into various sections which deal with such garments as trousers, coats and vests. A good deal of machining has to be done, and I have no doubt that handicapped persons could perform nearly all classes of work associated with the tailoring trade. I recall having spoken once to a tailor who was employing four or five invalids. I told him that he must be a good person to give employment to so many persons of that kind. He replied that he was an invalid himself and knew the difficulties he had had to face as a young man. As a result, he had decided to assist as many invalids as possible.
I do not wish to particularize, but there are many other trades that could assist invalids. Machines that are associated with the tailoring trade are also used for the manufacture of tents and tarpaulins and the sewing of heavy canvas. They are all power machines, and it is possible for an invalid to operate them and become a. self-supporting unit in industry. Other trades that come to my mind are watchmaking and repairing, and the manufacture of jewellery. I suggest seriously that the Department of Social Services should co-operate, as much as possible, with the apprenticeship organizations operating in the various States, so that they can find employment readily for young persons between fourteen and sixteen years who are capable of performing industrial work although physically handicapped.
Some honorable senators might wonder, as I do on occasions, why various government departments do not assist in the employment of invalids. As we go around the country, we see where invalids could perform the work of certain Commonwealth public servants and State government public servants, but staffs are engaged according to certain statutes. Those statutes provide for superannuation schemes, and also for a medical examination that must be passed before a public servant can be engaged. So there is actually a legal obstacle to the employment of invalids in the Commonwealth and State Public Services.
Some reference has been made to the work that has been carried out by various associations and societies for invalids. I join with previous speakers in complimenting those organizations upon the work that they do for crippled children and others. I regard the measure that is before the Senate as another step forward. There was a time when invalids did not receive a pension. After they were paid pensions, nothing was done for those who could be rehabilitated to the point of returning to employment in industry. Then came the ‘ time when invalids were trained in order to qualify them to be employed in industry. Every person desires to feel that he or she is wanted in the community. I am sure that every person who receives the invalid pension would like to return to industry and receive wages. They want to become normal citizens. I have submitted my recommendations to the Senate in the hope that they will be considered worth while, and will be studied by the Department of Social Services.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the bill because I believe that this measure is a step forward in social services in which all honorable senators are closely interested. I have listened intently to the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), Senator Benn and Senator Hannaford, and I have noted the sympathy they have shown with the plight of invalid persons and their intense interest in this measure. The bill relates to the problems of persons who are not well equipped to face life because of disabilities, and who therefore do not have the same advantages as other people in the community. It is the earnest desire of all honorable senators to assist those persons to the best of their ability. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated in his secondreading speech on this bill -
The word “ rehabilitation “, in its application to this legislation, may be defined as the restoration of the physically handicapped, through treatment and vocational training, to the fullest physical, mental and economic usefulness of which they are capable. It seeks to develop the latent ability and special aptitude of the handicapped individual, to restore his confidence in his ability to return to work and so enable him to live a life independent of financial assistance from the community.
I believe that the restoration of confidence and independence is the key phrase of that extract from the Minister’s speech. I have visited the rehabilitation centre in Queensland, the State I represent, and I pay a special tribute to the men and women who work in that centre. The confidence and sympathy which is evident between patients and teachers, and those who give medical attention, is very important in the rehabilitation of those who are receiving the benefit of treatment and training in the centre. In that large establishment, remedial treatment is being given to men and women daily. It is directed towards the strengthening of damaged muscles and the restoration of the use of limbs. At the same time, the persons who are undergoing treatment are being taught some kind of work so that later on they will be fitted to take up an occupation outside.
The first impression one receives of that centre is that within its walls there is hope for people who had lost hope and felt that their lives were empty. Many of them were receiving an invalid pension and were suffering from illness. They had lost confidence, but within those walls they are given hope and the incentive to prepare themselves for some useful occupation. It is most important that the work being done in rehabilitation and training centres should be given not only the support of members of this Parliament but also the support of the communities in which the people attending the centres reside. It has already been mentioned that various organizations within the community have been active in finding occupations for those who are able to take it after their period of training.
I pay a tribute to organizations such as Rotary and to various business firms and employer and employee organizations which have done so much to help those who have been in rehabilitation centres to find suitable employment after they have completed some training. Senator Benn seemed to think that much of the training did not have a practical approach to the earning of a Jiving. I shall give the Senate some real case histories to show how training has helped men and women to earn their living in pleasant occupations that suited their tastes. One is the history of a man who was disabled by poliomyelitis of the legs, arm and back. He had an invalid pension as he was unable to return to his former occupation of baker. After he was seen by the rehabilitation medical officer, he was accepted for training in one of the rehabilitation centres. An extensive programme of remedial exercises built up bis weakened muscles, and his days were filled with physio-therapy, occupational therapy, hydro-therapy and swimming. As he progressed under this treatment he expressed a wish to be self-employed. After five months in the centre, he was discharged and an empty shop was found for him. His friends lent him £1,000 and, in the shop, he established a small mixed business. Already this man has repaid half of that loan and nearly half of the sum owing on the purchase of the freehold of his property. His business is a success and he has expressed his great appreciation of the rehabilitation branch’s assistance to obtain stock for ais shop during the early days of his business.
The next case history that I wish to recount to honorable senators concerns a young man who was injured while riding a motor cycle. I recall to the memory of my Queensland colleagues who visited the Brisbane rehabilitation centre with me the number of men who received training after injuries suffered in accidents with this type of vehicle. This case is not a Queensland one, but it shows the importance of the remedial treatment given at rehabilitation centres, and how that treatment will restore a person’s confidence and, indeed, his ability to engage in an active occupation of his own choice. This man lost his left leg in a motor cycle accident, as well as suffering other serious injuries. He was granted sickness benefits, but his. doctor was anxious for him to receive rehabilitation treatment and got in touch with the rehabilitation medical officer. He was admitted to the centre nearest to where he lived. He was given physio-therapy and undertook remedial physical exercises which strengthened the stump of his leg. He was fitted for an artificial limb and trained to use it. Before his accident, this man had been a waterside worker, but had always cherished the desire to be a deep-sea fisherman. He owned a boat and some gear and every honorable senator of this chamber will be pleased to know that he has now undertaken most successfully the occupation of deep-sea fisherman. His case is another example of the achievements that are being mad* in this branch of social services.
I wish to mention also the case of a young woman who became an invalid pensioner on reaching the age of sixteen years. She had the idea that she would never he able to do anything very much and that she would always be an invalid pensioner. She was, of course, depressed by this thought and felt that there was no active future for her. She was trained in a rehabilitation centre, and various remedial exercises built up her general health. She was given occupational therapy and she experienced also at the centre the joy of mixing with other people and the confidence that this gave to her. In time, she was given other special training and, after that was completed, she was placed in employment with the Commonwealth Bank as a stenographer. After a six-months’ probationary period, her appointment to the staff was confirmed. I could cite many other cases of the work done by rehabilitation centre?. Some of them are almost identical with the ones that I have mentioned and others are, perhaps, even more wonderful in the results achieved in overcoming great disabilities. But those that I have related show the tremendous value and success of this work. One who makes frequent visits to a rehabilitation centre as I visit the centre in Brisbane, and sees the regular advances in the work of the men and women there, will find repayment indeed for the money that is being spent in this field.
I remember one young person who, through illness and disability, had reached the stage where conversation with another was scarcely possible. Only recently I was overjoyed to see the confidence with which that person after training in a. rehabilitation centre did a job, enjoying the companionship of others, and without any of that shyness and self-consciousness that I had seen before. Experiences of that kind repay a thousandfold in. human happiness the money that is spent on this scheme. The Minister has informed the House that more than 7,000 persons have been restored to active living and indeed to working in the community through the rehabilitation services. This represents a tremendous saving in invalid pensions : but there is much more to it than a mere saving of money. There is the great human happiness that has come to the people involved. They have been given back the incentive to do something, to mix with their fellow men. and women and to play an active part in the life of the community. Thi3 benefit cannot be measured in pounds, shillings and pence. Those people are able to live again and enjoy life as others do. That is the real benefit of this branch of socia l services.
The proposal in the bill to bring young persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years within the ambit of the social services mentioned in the measure is a progressive one. Those adolescents, as honorable senator? know, are not eligible under the Social Services Act for an invalid pension and they have been excluded from the benefits of treatment or training. Under this bill, they will be assisted with medical treatment and artificial appliances and training. The early treatment that can he given to young people will be of untold benefit. I have been actively interested in the splendid work clone by spastic children’s centres, and others who have seen at close hand the work that is done by crippled children’s societies, realize as I do the tremendous advantage that is gained by assisting young people. This bill will enable them to be given, the treatment provided by the social services legislation and it will be of untold benefit in the years that lie ahead. Honorable senators can never pay a high enough tribute to the work of the voluntary organizations that have served loyally and unselfishly for years past any persons who have needed their help. I believe, as Senator Hannaford said, that government and voluntary organizations, working together, should be able to give the people who need help the best possible at.tenti.on and indeed the attention that they richly deserve. I am pleased to note, also, that the bill provides for assistance to tuberculosis sufferers. This will be of untold value and will promote their recovery and their rehabilitation. Another very important forward step is the arrangement for the admittance to rehabilitation centres of persons not eligible for free treatment, but who are able to pay the cost of treatment, or for whom relatives, friends, insurance companies and the like are prepared to pay. That will allow a much wider coverage of the members of the community who are badly in need of this form of assistance.
This measure is an indication that the Government is aware of what is needed in this as in all other branches of social services. The bill shows that the Government, and particularly the . Minister, have approached this problem with sympathy and understanding, of which we can all be proud. I pay full tribute to the Minister, and I congratulate him.
It would be a very good thing if more and more people in the community were made interested in the work of these rehabilitation centres. I know that many people are interested, but in travelling through the various parts of the Commonwealth I have been astonished to find that there are many people who do not realize the work that is being done by the Government in this field. If more people were aware of what is being done and of the great success of this work, there would be more people ‘ready and willing to help those who leave the centres and are ready to enter employment. All of us have a particular task in making the general public aware of what the Government is doing, and of the way in which they can assist in this humanitarian work of rehabilitating the physically handicapped and of helping them to take a worthwhile place in the community, with a real task to perform.
I congratulate those who, by their own efforts and hard work and attention to their treatment, have been able to take a place in the industrial sphere. I hope they will continue to be happy in the work they have chosen to do. I extend my congratulations and appreciation to all the men and women who have served in these rehabilitation centres. Theirs is a work of real humanitarian value in building up handicapped people to face the difficulties which lie ahead of them, and in assisting them to play their part in our community life. To the Minister and to the department I also pay a sincere tribute. I support this bill.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) commenced his second-reading speech by saying: -
The purpose of this bill is to widen the activities of the rehabilitation service provided by the Commonwealth for physically handicapped persons.
That is a recognition of a principle which we can all accept, but I suggest, and in fact I insist, that the bill does not go as far as it could go. Senator McKenna stressed the extent to which the Government recognized the dignity and the importance of the human being but there is no recognition of the dignity and the importance of the human being in the case of ex-servicemen who are judged to be physically handicapped because they have reached the age of 40 years and are on that account denied employment. That has happened in thousands of cases. A few weeks ago I was privileged to speak, in company with Senator Wedgwood, at a meeting in Melbourne of elderly persons who complained that they were forced into a life of idleness because they had reached ages between 40 and 50 years. That again shows that there is no realization of the dignity and importance of the human being. The only recognition that is shown by those who are privileged to judge is recognition of the -fact that they cannot get the same- amount of profit from people of such ages as they can from younger people. For that reason they condemn those people to a life of idleness. They must exist as best they can on unemployment relief payments, which amount to only £2 10s. a week for a single man or woman. There is no humanitarianism in a system such as that. Men and women have- given the best years of their lives to make our very existence possible, and when they reach middle age they are cast aside, forgotten, ignored. Then we hear honorable senators speaking of the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons. The Government should take action to alleviate the plight of the people to whom I have referred. It is quite within the possibilities of practical politics. Those people could become assets to the community if they were supported by necessary and effective governmental action. Such action is not even contemplated in this bill. It has not been even suggested by any of the previous speakers.
Another class of persons to whom 1 shall refer are the physically handicapped persons in the government service who have reached 65 years of age. While 1 was Postmaster-General I met some splendid men of that age who were willing and able to carry on with their jobs. Those men excelled as technicians, but they were simply passed out. They may be seen practically every day in the week walking the streets of Melbourne and Sydney, wondering how they will spend the rest of their lives. There is no humanitarianism in a system which allows these men to be treated in such a fashion, nor is there any recognition of the dignity and importance of these human beings who have rendered valuable service to their country.
Another observation I shall make is that the increases which have been granted, to which attention has been drawn by various speakers, are not increases in reality. It is simply a matter of restoring the purchasing power which has been reduced, by inflation and increased prices. In fact, if the position were analysed mathematically it might be found that the purchasing power, even after these new amounts become payable, will still not be as great as it originally was. The term “ increase “ is therefore a misnomer. . Those who use the term are simply deceiving the people and deceiving themselves. These new rates shall not be referred to as increases for which the Government is responsible. Any increases that may be granted at the moment will cease to be increases when further inflation and further advances in prices occur. People who receive these payments are at the mercy of private enterprise - those entrepreneurs who are judged to be so necessary for our social existence. It is left to them, in the form of boards of directors and other pricefixing authorities, to reduce any increase in purchasing power. Of course, these remarks do apply not only to aged or retired people; they apply also to the whole of the people involved in the wages system. There has been no real increase in wages and no increase in terms of the value of commodities. It is all so much political humbug or political shadowsparring, designed to create a wrong impression in the minds of the public. Let us consider, for example, retired people who are receiving superannuation payments. They paid into superannuation funds £1 notes which were worth 20s. in gold, but they are now privileged to receive, by way of pension, £1 notes which are at most worth 5s. in terms of gold. Therefore, the whole financial system of the country is a colossal ramp, aud I suggest that it is no exaggeration to say so. The financial policy of this Government, which I have outlined, will continue until the victims themselves realize that they have been fooled and robbed from cradle to grave.
I listened with great interest to the speech of Senator Annabelle Rankin, and while doing so I thought that it was more a tribute to her heart than her head. I am sure that if she understood the position as it really is, her approach to the matter now before the Senate would be quite different from what it is. However, as time passes her attitude must become different, because the effects of the manipulation of the currency, and of the purchasing power of the currency, are becoming more and more widespread. That, I suggest, is one of the main reasons why there is so much industrial unrest in the community, and why there is not what we term euphemistically “ peaceful co - operation “ between employer and employee. The victims of our financial system are hard-pressed by the effects of the Government’s manipulation, without realizing the cause of it.
I make these few observations because I do not desire it to be accepted that this bill has my complete blessing. I support it in principle, but I point out that it does not go anything like as far as it could go to provide relief for physically handicapped persons. That being so, something should be said about the shortcomings of the measure. The lowered purchasing power of the currency will lead to a considerable amount of friction which could be avoided if a common-sense attitude were taken up by the Government in dealing with physically handicapped persons. For example, persons over 40 years of age should be called physically condemned and not physically handicapped; but nothing, as far as I can see, is being done by the Government to help such people.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) mentioned a suggestion that had been made by somebody in Western Australia to the effect that we should form philanthropic societies which were to carry on certain work on a non-profit basis. I suggest to him that such a thing cannot be done while the banking institutions; acting in collaboration with the Treasury, remain responsible for inflation in this country. In using the word “ inflation “, I use it in the’ sense of the issue of paper money greatly in excess of the amount of gold pounds that would be in circulation if there were no paper money and gold were our currency. It is in order to conceal the fraudulent processes going on behind the scenes that this great flood of paper money has been let loose. I repeat that the Government has nothing to congratulate itself about over this bill. Rather it should be condemned, because it has not approached the matter of rehabilitation more intelligently and humanely in the interests of the victims of accident or illness, both actual and potential.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) [5.30 J. - Senator Cameron, in the speech that he has just delivered, dealt with a matter which has been the subject of much thought by all honorable senators, because the increasing age span of the people leads us to the belief that a review of the general retirement age, and of the provision for the age of unemployment is now timely. However, as I listened to the honorable senator, it came to my mind that he demonstrated both the capacity and the incapacity of those of advanced years, because if anybody could detect a logical theme, or any rhyme or reason, in his speech, then he is more perspicacious than I am. However, there did emerge from his remarks a proposition which I hope will be fully considered when a more effective provision of social services becomes essential for the benefit of our aged people.
That proposition was that some premium should be placed upon a person withholding his application for an age pension while he can work. A person who works for some time after he is eligible for the age pension, should be able to peeve some advantage for having done so. In other words, there should be some incentive to persuade people to continue working while they can, after they reach the statutory pensionable age. I suggest that’ that is a progressive idea in any scheme for social security.
This bill is another excellent instance of the way in which a scheme for social security could be made not merely a matter of public benevolence but also a means of restoring the physical capacity of the disabled and maimed, bringing them back by a process of rehabilitation to the field of employment where they can take a worthy place among their fellow workers. The measure, which I have the pleasure of supporting to-day, will extend the rehabilitation service that has been established within the Department of Social Services, to improve the lot of persons who otherwise would be indefinitely or permanently receiving invalid pensions, sickness benefit or unemployment benefit. The bill does not only stress the economic aspect of rehabilitation, but, as Senator Annabelle Rankin has said, it stresses also the human aspect. All honorable senators rejoice, not because of any special reason to claim the credit for this proposal, but because we, as the representatives of the people, are responsible for its passage through the Parliament. The bill envisages, first of all, the extension of the rehabilitation service to the tuberculosis sufferer. Wo doubt the results that have been achieved by the payment of tuberculosis allowances which, in recent years, have been somewhere near adequate, have encouraged the Government to go on and give further assistance to this particularly unfortunate class of persons by bringing them into the ambit of rehabilitation. That is a matter of great satisfaction.
The next class which comes within the scheme consists of adolescents between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. There, the Minister, I believe, can claim real forethought. If these youngsters are rehabilitated and trained so that they can follow occupations at the age of sixteen, obviously the number who will have to depend upon the invalid pension at thai age will be reduced. That will benefit the community in general, and those adolescents in particular. Thirdly, the bill makes small increases in the benefits available. Those increases do not warrant the hallucinatory remarks from which Senator Cameron seems to be incapable of escaping whenever he deals with any measure before the House. They are small increases; nevertheless, taken in combination with the other monetary benefits provided, they are quite acceptable. . Fourthly, the bill empowers the Director-General of Social Services to grant loans to persons to assist them to re-engage in their employment. Despite the smallness of the loan, limited as it is in. each case to £200, it will be an appreciable benefit to particular individuals. I deliberately abstain from occupying much time in emphasizing these factors which, I think, have been appreciatively considered on both sides of th* Senate.
I wish to make a general observation in relation to the social security system as it has been developed in Australia. In this Parliament, we are reminded from time to time that we have simply those functions, powers and authorities which are entrusted to us by the Constitution, and if we reflect upon the dangerous political days of the last decade, when the parties on this side of the chamber had the pleasure, in 1949, of overthrowing the socialists and taking office, it will be recalled that during that time, there was experienced an insufficiency of political power and legislative authority in this Parliament to deal adequately with social security. The whole of the part of the statute of which the present bill is an amendment, dealing with rehabilitation, is based upon an incidental power of social services. When I find that the amendment is extended to the granting of loans to persons, and even makes provision for the rehabilitation of members of the general public for a fee, I think that I may be considered as being of service to the Senate if I recall that our constitutional power is to make laws with regard to invalid and old age pensions, and then, reading so much of placitum (xxiiiA.) of section ‘fifty-one of the Constitution as is relevant, to make laws relating to the provision of unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services and family allowances.
In the new paragraph which was introduced by the Constitution alteration of 1946, no general power was given to legislate with regard to invalid pensions. That was in the original Constitution, but the provision that was introduced in the new paragraph is for family allowances, sickness and hospital benefits and dental services. It seems that we should take time to consider whether our constitutional basis of legislation is sound and unchallengeable and whether it is within the legislative power expressed by the words “ to the provision of pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits and family allowances “, when we contemplate making loans to people, because loans are the very antithesis of allowances and pensions. They probably come within the incidental power, but so much emphasis in recent times has been placed upon our constitutional limitations in this respect, that I deemed it timely to say something with regard to it. “We do not want this part of the act dealing with rehabilitation services to overflow the bucket before that constitutional bucket is made sufficiently large to contain the benefits of this particular provision.
I am confident that the whole Senate will encourage a government that sees the real development of social services in legislation of which this bill is typical. When we observe an attitude of not merely making pensions bigger but also providing for the restoration of the human capacity to work, we must be proud to support such legislation. Whatever honorable senators opposite may say with regard to the dignity of the individual, the greatest satisfaction in life comes from real work, and inasmuch as this bill enables those people who suffer from incapacity to regain, their ability to work, it is a matter in which we can all rejoice.
– I support the bill and congratulate the Minister on having brought it down. In saying that, I do not imply that I agree with everything that has been said this afternoon, because in some respects, the measure could have gone further. However, the fact that a. process which was begun by a previous government has been continued and extended further by this Government should indicate to the Senate that the whole question of social services is one of a continuing process and not something that can be put into watertight compartments according to the policy of the government in power. The problem of social services and social security is far above party politics, and no party should claim kudos for something that it has done in this matter. It is a developing process which has the heartfelt sympathy of members of all political parties. They are aware of those unfortunate people in the community who need the help which the administrative heads of this country can give.
Sitting suspended from 5.4-5 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I had said that social services must be a continuing process, because all political parties were interested in them. I had also said that some continuity of policy should be observed by various governments in respect of social services. In the past, that continuity has been ensured through two media, one of which i3 the Department of Social Services itself. In common with other honorable senators, I wish to pay a. tribute to the officers of that department in all States, particularly those in Western Australia, with whom I come in contact most of all. Those officers are always willing and eager to help whenever they can do so. I have found them, at all times, most sympathetic and willing to make every effort in order to give the persons seeking assistance as much help as possible. I think that the experience of all honorable senators has been the same in this respect. We are very fortunate to have such men and women in the service of the department. The staff of the department, and particularly the Director-General, have played a large part in helping along this continuous plan of social development, despite the comings and goings of governments.
I should like to see once again in this Parliament a body which for some years did a great deal to bring about improvement in social services legislation. I refer to the all-party Social Security Committee. This very measure which we are debating had its origin as far back as 1941 in a report of that committee, on which I had the honour and the privilege to serve for nearly four years. During that time, the committee was able to make recommendations which have since been incorporated in legislation for the betterment of the community. For instance, while I was on the committee, its members visited the rehabilitation centre at Jervis Bay, and were able to see what the Australian Government was doing for physically handicapped ex-servicemen. As a result of that visit, the committee recommended to the Government that that same type of work should be extended to civilians who were unable, because of physical handicaps, to earn their living in the normal way. I am sure that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) must agree that the committee was worth while, and I ask him to consider the appointment of a similar one.
On each side of this chamber there are men and women who have a very deep feeling of responsibility towards the less fortunate members of the community. The ties which unite us as human beings are far stronger than those which divide us as members of political parties. It is in meeting on common ground, as did the members of the all-party Social Security Committee, that we are able, to approach these problems from a non-party angle and bring to our discussions and deliberations the varied points of view which are necessary when legislation that deals with so many aspects of community life is being introduced.
I approach this bill with pride, and I am sure that that pride is shared by those who were in this chamber in the 1940’s, when the original legislation was introduced. It was then on a much less ambitous scale, of course, because at that time we were engaged in war and, shortly after, we had to face the aftermath of war. However, there are some points in relation to this legislation which I think demand consideration. For instance, it has been said that this extension of social services will cost less than £500,000, which is not very much, and will return, according to the Minister’s own figures, at least £1,250,000. According to my arithmetic, that is a return of approximately 125 per cent., which is not bad according to any businessman’s standards. In my opinion, that is the least important aspect of this matter. The important thing is not the monetary return that the Government will receive from this outlay, but the restoration to afflicted persons of their human dignity. “We all stand behind the’ principle that the dignity of man should be upheld, and I think that this legislation represents a means of enabling incapacitated people to rise above the conditions in which misfortune has placed them, and to resume their lives as normal members of the community. I am sure I speak for my colleagues on this side of the chamber when I say that we would not mind if the expense occasioned by this bill were to be increased two or three times, because a worthwhile investment is involved, both in terms of pounds, shillings and pence and, what is more important, in terms of rehabilitating incapacitated people and restoring their self-respect.
I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to what I consider to be an injustice. Whilst I agree that the provision to extend the benefits to the fourteen to sixteen age group is a great step forward, I point out that no payment is to be made to them in the course of their training. I think that that will react adversely on the children concerned, particularly those in country areas. After all, the cities have no monopoly of the physically and mentally handicapped children. I should like to see provision made for the payment of a living-away-from-home allowance while these children are in residential hostels which are attached to rehabilitation centres.
In my own State of Western Australia, I was privileged to be present at the opening of the Melville centre for the rehabilitation of the physically handicapped. It was indeed a great joy to see young men and women, to whom fate had dealt unkind blows in the past, regaining their ability to become working members of the community, in a very happy atmosphere. It was pleasing, too, to see the buses pulling out in the afternoon with the young people singing and as happy as they could be. It was heartening to see the pride which they were taking in the work of their hands, and the fact that they were taking steps towards recovery. I should like to see that kind of service extended still further to this adolescent group, because I feel that no matter how good ‘the legislation is, some of them may be prevented from taking advantage of it ‘ unless financial assistance is given to enable them to attend the hostels or centres of training. After all, there is a precedent for some allowance being made to the fourteen to sixteen year-old group. I do not know whether this is common throughout Australia, but in “Western Australia, when young boys and girls wish to become teachers, after they have gained their junior certificate, which is the equivalent of the intermediate certificate in the eastern States, they are given an allowance of £80 a year while they are still studying at school to go through to the leaving certificate, which gains them entrance to the Teachers’ College. I think it is just as important that young, physically handicapped children should receive some allowance, also, during the period while they are in training.
There is another important aspect oi this matter which has been completely forgotten. I know quite a good deal about it from my personal experience as a teacher among these children, before I became a member of the Senate. Yesterday, in reply to a question which I had asked the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the Minister for Health in this chamber, I was informed that there were 633 children, under the age of fifteen years, in mental homes which had been built, and were staffed, exclusively for adults. That was exclusive of the number of children who were in homes for mentally afflicted children only. In many cases their mental affliction is added to by the fact that they have physical disabilities. I should like to see the day come soon when some assistance of this kind will be given to the mentally afflicted child who, quite often, can do a lot with his hands, if given the opportunity. I have seen what some of these children can do, and have been amazed. Once they find they can do something better than any one else can do it, they gain in self-confidence, and their physical condition often improves. There is nothing in the legislation to cover the mentally handicapped child.
I wish to pay a tribute to the various voluntary societies throughout the country which are rendering magnificent service in this field. I have in mind particularly a number of . women’s organizations which are doing valuable work in the community. Their achievements are staggering. If governments had to pay in hard cash for what is done by various voluntary workers throughout the country, their budgets would be bigger even than they are to-day. But what is more important than the financial aspect, is the spirit of Christian charity which lies behind their work. The work of these societies is unknown to the community, generally. They are content . to work on, even though they be unhonoured, and unsung. In various spastic centres valuable work is being done, not only to rehabilitate children, but in many instances to keep them from the mental hospitals where until recently they were sent. Perhaps the show place in this connexion is the spastic centre at Mosman, Sydney, but the other States also are doing noble work among these afflicted children. I commend the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) for his interest in the work of spastic children in Western Australia. He and those associated with him have brought to fruition a great dream - the establishment of a spastic child welfare centre in Mount Lawley, which is second to none in Australia, and is doing a wonderful work. I believe that six pennyworth of voluntary work is more valuable than one pound’s worth of work that has to be paid for, and so I repeat that these voluntary organizations are rendering invaluable service to the community. ‘ However, it. is not fair that the community should escape its responsibilities merely because there’ are some citizens in our midst who are willing to take the burden from the’ shoulders of the people generally. I hope that this legislation will assist these’ voluntary bodies; The Minister says that it will, and I am glad to have- his assurance. I believe that these organizations will be pleased when this legislation becomeslaw.
The education departments of the States also are doing wonderful work, but their efforts are hampered by financial difficulties. For many years in “Western Australia the portfolio of Minister for Education was regarded as the Cinderella portfolio. It was generally given to a Minister as additional duties when it was thought he was not as hardworked as some of his colleagues were. That attitude towards education has changed, and now the portfolio associated with educa-tion is regarded as one of the most important in any Cabinet. The education departments of the States are worried by the problem of how best to deal with physically and mentally afflicted children. In the last few years a great change has come over the scene in this: country. “When I. was a teacher,, and suggested that I should doi some work with these children, I was given a shed in a sandy waste andtold to do what I liked. I wanted first to make the shed habitable, and’ so I decided that, if possible, I would paint the room. I could not get money or paint for the job, and so I appealed to the children. One child brought me a tin of red paint. To-day I would be afraid touse paint of that colour. However, I painted a- few flower pots, and a border around the blackboard. “When I had done: that, the child came to me and asked if I wanted any more red paint.. I told her that I did not know where I could use it. Then she added, “Dad says if you do want any more, tip me a wink. He works for the council, and they have not missed the other pot yet “. Perhaps they will’ miss it after to-night. So far as I know, that room still has the red paint where I put it. That was the attitude a few years ago to the work of trying to help those who were not brilliant, and’ could’ not pass- examinations and so add lustre- to the’ school’s reputation. However; that attitude, has changed, and I hope that it has passed forever. The problem of the backward child is exercising the minds of our education authorities, and it is a matter of concern to the. Commonwealth Government, because that Government holds the purse strings, and makes allocations to- the States for various- purposes. In my opinion, education should be the first priority, because it is so bound up> with, health, defence, and. every other aspect of our national 1ife. This bill is a further step along the road of progress, but there are still many steps to be taken before we shall ba satisfied..
I make a special appeal on behalf of one section of the community. I know that the Minister, although a bachelor; is- kind hearted> and may be- willing to listen- to some- womanly advice-. I ask him to bear in mind the- plight of some civilianwidows in our midst who have reached’ the age of about 45- years, only to- find that because their dependent children have reached the age- of sixteen years, their pensions- have automatically stopped, and they will not be entitled to a further pension, until they reach the age of 50 years. For those- women the- problem of the intervening, five years1 is a serious one; In some instances, a woman, was in- employment before her marriage* perhaps as a typist, but the years of coping with, family responsibilities, and acting as both father and mother to her children, have taken toll of her ability in that sphere.. I should like, to- see something in this: bill, or in another measure, to extend the scope of rehabilitation to these women before their pension expires, so that they could again take up the threads of business life, and maintain themselves. It would not be costly, because not a great number of women are involved. It is,, however, a real problem.. “When a plea, is made on behalf of these women, we are accustomed to hear people say that there are plenty of jobs that they can doGenerally, it is said that they can do washing or cleaning. I know that those jobs have to be done, but not every woman, in this category is physically fit for that kind of work. In any case, why should these more menial jobs always be regarded as good’ enough for women- who have borne the brunt of bringing up families unaided, and have acted as father and mother to their children? During the lonely years of their widowhood they have done double duty, and have been thrown on their own resources.
I should like to add a word on behalf of spinsters in this age group, generally called women of uncertain age. Many single women have devoted their best years to the care of aged parents. Perhaps, during the life of their parents, the family has managed to exist on the pensions paid to the parents and the allowance made to the younger women for attendance on their parents. Suddenly they find all that has gone, and there is a hiatus in their lives. These are human problems. Some honorable senators may think that they are not important, but there is nothing more important in the national life than the health and happiness of even the humblest of its people. Something should be done for those women who are suddenly thrown on their own resources and have no way of making a living, but could do so if a little trouble were taken to ensure their rehabilitation.
In my opinion, the bill is quite a good one, and I congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) on bringing it before the Parliament. I also congratulate his predecessors, who, step by step, have helped to build up the social services fabric which has become such a marked feature of Australian life. I ask the Minister to place before the Government my suggestion that there is work to be done in the social welfare field by a joint committee of members of both Houses of this Parliament. That is one way in which the Senate could be made more effective and more valuable in the community. Honorable senators, and members of the House of Representatives of all parties, could meet to discuss social welfare problems, as was done in the past with good results. The work of such a joint committee would help to preserve continuity of policy on social services, and that is necessary if we are to promote national welfare, as this bill aims to do in part.
I ask the Minister for Social Services to bear in mind what I have said about the rehabilitation of widows and spinsters who suddenly find themselves without any means of support. Those women could benefit from training in rehabilitation centres. Much has been done for war widows, who are strongly organized through their guild, but the problem of civilian widows and others is different because they are not organized in strength. In Western Australia, they have now formed a civilian widows’ guild which has aroused the interest of many other sections of the community. The Apex Club has undertaken to help this guild, just as Legacy has assisted the war widows. All this is part of the social pattern of the times. No matter how generous a government might be in making financial payments to those in need of help, nothing will replace the kindliness of heart of the citizens, or the goodwill that the people feel towards those in less fortunate circumstances than their own. We should build up a social consciousness in the community towards those who have misfortune thrust upon them. Therefore, I commend the bill.
I ask the Minister to bear in mind my suggestions for subsistence payments for adolescents. I congratulate him on the bill, and I pay tribute to the voluntary organizations throughout Australia which are helping those in need of assistance. I also pay a tribute to the staff of theDepartment of Social Services throughout Australia. I do not know whether the officers of the department are chosen for their humane feelings, but I know that, in administering the legislation of this Government and previous governments, they have always shown kindliness and consideration and every other quality that we find desirable in the Public Service when it is dealing with the people, and particularly with the aged, invalid and physically and mentally handicapped.
– The bill before the Senate is designed to widen the activities of the Commonwealth rehabilitation service for the physically handicapped. I am delighted that the bill has been welcomed by every honorable senator who has spoken, and I am sure that it will be welcomed widely also throughout the Australian community. The objective of. the measure is a worthy one because the Government, through this legislation, is setting out to assist physically handicapped people to regain their confidence and their ability to work. It is of great importance that, as a result of this legislation, many worthy people will be absorbed into useful occupation. As honorable senators visit various parts of Australia, I have no doubt that they observe, as I have done, the fortitude of the physically disabled, and their great desire to conquer the fear in their hearts. We who are fortunate enough to have our physical strength must admire their efforts to overcome their disabilities. This Government is to be congratulated on its humane outlook and its practical sympathy with those in need. Every honorable senator, and, indeed, every person in Australia, knows the Government’s wonderful record in that field.
– Oh, get on with the subject !
– As Senator Ashley knows, if I gave my complete attention to relating everything that this Government has done in the field of social services, the half-hour allotted to me would not be long enough. Under the terms of this bill, children under sixteen years of age in specified cases are to be rehabilitated as a social service. The bill goes even further, because it gives, to those who can afford it, an opportunity to avail themselves of a rehabilitation course. The special merit of this bill is that, for the first time in the history of Australia, the fourteen-year-old children are acknowledged to be, and are accepted as, a responsibility of the whole community in a general way. I believe that this is but the first of many future benefits because, by trial and error in the next twelve months, the Government will be able to give further help to those in the age group I have mentioned.
Irrespective of what any government might desire to do, I believe this Government is wise in co-operating with the wonderful voluntary organizations that have gladly accepted responsibility in caring for boys and girls who need assistance. I express appreciation of the work of those who are employed in the rehabilitation centres for their kindly and helpful services. Turning to the field of education, we find that the States have their own charters, both for the physically fit and those who are physically handicapped, lt is to the latter that we hope to give assistance by this bill.
Whatever monetary aid is given by the Australian Government, that money will, by this Government’s working in close collaboration with voluntary organizations and the education departments in all the States, be wisely administered and well applied. Honorable senators will join with me when I say that the Government is correct in the emphasis that it places upon its belief that a child between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years is better cared for at home. There is no substitute for adequate parental control and guidance. It is stressed that the home influence is most important during the rehabilitation treatment and also, if it is humanly possible to continue it, during the period of training. I said earlier, and I should like to repeat, that voluntary organizations, State education departments and the Australian Government, working as a team, will give a service as complete as the community can supply. That service will be readily available to the physically handicapped. I repeat also that it will take at least twelve months of trial and error to sort out the respective fields for State and Commonwealth governmental activities. I hope that this sorting out of State and Commonwealth functions will be achieved by mutual agreement.
Another valuable feature of this bill is its recognition of the principle that the earlier a disability can be treated the better and more speedy will be the recovery. When a boy or girl reaches the age of sixteen years he or she may receive in addition to free training, an allowance, a pension, or whatever it is chosen to call it, of £3 10s. a week, and as well, a training allowance of £1 10s. a week, making £5 a week in all. In addition to this, the young person has yet further free rehabilitation service. A married man without dependants will receive each week £5 5s., plus £1 10s., a total of £6 15s. a week.
A married man with one child or more will receive each week £5 16s. 6d. plus £1 10s., a total of £7 6s. 6d. a week. In addition, as the Minister has told us, a trainee is allowed £40 for books or tools. He may also be granted a loan of up to £200 for plant and equipment so that he may be self-employed by doing suitable work in his own home. In addition to these payments there is a living-away allowance of £1 15s. a week for a single man, for eight weeks of his training period. That might he described as temporary assistance. A married man without dependants receives £3 a week living-away allowance for the first eight weeks, and he then reverts to £1 10s. a week for the rest of his training period. This living-away allowance is additional to the other payment that I mentioned earlier of £6 15s. a week for a married man without dependants, and £7 6s. 6d. for a married man with one or more children. The married man with a wife and one child or more receives a livingaway allowance of £3 a week for every week of his training period.
One of the many pleasing features of this bill is that every person who receives training is encouraged to continue it for as long as possible. There are two good reasons for this. The first is to avoid a man’s return to work too soon, before he is sufficiently cured. The second is to ensure that a man after training is not placed in unsuitable employment. The placing of men and women who have had rehabilitation treatment and training in suitable employment is the key to the success of any scheme such as this. Together with other senators, I consider it is a remarkable achievement, and one of which every person feels justly proud, that 7,000 men and women have been restored to active participation in the work-force of this community. This is of enormous benefit to the country itself, but it is more especially of enormous benefit to the disabled persons and to their families. Money could not measure the profit that accrues to them through their being able to play a vital part again in the work of the nation.
Have we ever considered the shadow oi sorrow cast over the lives of many worthy parents - men and women who have worked nobly all their lives and given good service to the community - when, perhaps in their declining years, one of their children is disabled? This bill will afford those good people an enormous relief and remove from their minds a great deal of anxiety. Those parents will know that this Government at least, and, I believe, whatever government follows it, will continue the policy that has been laid down in this bill of assuming responsibility for our less fortunate brethren. I shall not deal with many of the other fine points in this bill because other senators have recounted its benefits far better than I could. I endorse all their worthy sentiments, and again pay tribute to those public-spirited men and women who have individually and collectively given so much loving care and attention to these disabled persons. Mr. President, may I trespass on your generosity for a moment, as this is a social services bill, to add a word about civilian widows. I was interested in the remarks of Senator Tangney about these ladies. Every one in this chamber is hoping that, perhaps in the very near future, a kindhearted Treasurer will do much to alleviate some of the great suffering that these worthy women - civilian widows - have to bear. I shall say no more because I should not like to embarrass the Treasurer in the next few months.
The disabled persons to whose needs this bill is directed were born into this world ready for noble deeds. They were prepared to take life in a certain way, but life has taken them, as it will take us all, in an entirely different way. I admire these people who are endeavouring to rehabilitate themselves. I have seen many of them in spastic centres and like places, and these disabled men and women and boys and girls, who are striving to regain their rightful place in a civilized community, are perhaps the true aristocrats of our community. They are of the essence of aristocracy because they have learned to subjugate fear. Fear will never be eliminated, but these people are a shining example of how it is possible to subjugate fear, to control it and then ignore it.
This measure will give to many young people of fourteen to sixteen years of age assistance in bearing their burdens.
Every burden in this world has two handles, one by which it may be carried, and one by which it may not. The prudent man learns to carry his burden by the right handle, and these physically handicapped people, being unable to eliminate fear, have conquered and finally ignored it and learned how to carry their burden by its right handle. They are a challenge to us, by their ability and their courage in working their way back to a useful life.
The Minister and every person who helps to pass this measure will have the satisfaction of knowing that these boys and girls, and men and women, are winning their way back into the field of productive work, and are enjoying the real satisfaction of knowing that they will become worth-while members of our community. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill, and I congratulate the Minister on the humane principles upon which this measure is based.
– I commend the presentation of this legislation and the provisions contained in it. The bill represents not merely an advance in the benefits which are being extended to those people in our community who are in need of physical or psychological rehabilitation, but also an extension of the principles which are applied in considering the condition and the potential of the poor people who are physically afflicted. This measure represents one of the periodic advances which are made in the thinking of the whole community. It is a considerable advance, and we commend the Government and the Minister who is responsible for improving our social legislation to this extent.
Other speakers have commented on various aspects or implications of the legislation. There is little doubt that one of the most important features of the measure is that it springs from sheer humanitarianism, which is directed to the individual himself or herself. Perhaps that aspect should be given the highest consideration, because in the world of to-day, which is likely to become overmechanized, the individuality of the human being is submerged in the modern material and mechanized state. It is comforting to see a step such as this taken, which once again recognizes the destiny and the importance of the individual, his right to self -justifiable pride in himself and his future, and his legitimate desire and destiny to play his part in the community in which he lives, when that desire and destiny have been so rudely interrupted. As I say, that aspect of the legislation is of paramount importance, but it has been dealt with by other speakers in a very capable manner, and the thoughts and feelings, they have expressed will remain in the minds of honorable senators. For that reason I will not stress that further.
I propose to direct my remarks to the economic consequences of this legislation, and of legislation of a similar character. We are living in a world of full employment, in a world which has a growing consciousness of the necessity for the state to intervene in some detail in the lives of individuals, and to protect them when necessary from economic exploitation, from injustice or from the ravages of disease or personal disaster which is not of the individual’s creation. Our health services have been greatly extended, in both the technical and social fields, and while the immediate consequences of that extension are of great value and importance, economic and social problems are created which have some pertinence when we consider this present legislation. First, we have a young country, in the development of which it is necessary to mobilize our labour force to the full capacity of the community. There was a time when that force was not mobilized effectively. Gradually, with an improvement in the sense of social responsibility, emerging particularly from the policy of the Labour party, which may be seen in its political history and the doctrines for which it stands, there has been a recognition of the necessity for full employment for every person in the community. Legislation of this character takes the matter even beyond this point. The Australian Labour party has always declared that the doctrine of full employment must not be applied only to & person who, in the past, has been considered 100 per cent, efficient as an economic unit, if I may use that term without any reflection on the individual.
The Labour party has always considered that every person has a fundamental right to employment.
– And the Liberal party employs them.
– The Liberal party has been given the opportunity of carrying into effect a doctrine which it once resisted, but which the Labour party has always espoused. I do not take away any credit from the Government for this legislation. The Government is applying what has been traditionally Labour policy, and we commend the Government both on its sense of justice and on its common sense. But the fact is that full employment now goes beyond the matter of sheer economic necessity, and touches the fundamental right of every individual, if he can be made an economic unit at all, to be employed in this society.
The second point I want to make on this aspect of the matter is that in our young society, where we are now mobilizing our complete labour force, we are, because of our health and social legislation, extending the lives of many people who, under the conditions that used to prevail, would have passed away at a much earlier age. “We now have, therefore, the increasing economic problem of older people in a welfare state, who are only partly productive, and a declining number of economic producers. That could bring about a state of affairs which society could not economically tolerate, so that ultimately it would be necessary to give less than social justice to those who are in a position of social dependence. That, I suggest, would be the last resort, and something to be avoided. Legislation of this character will do much to avoid it by bringing into production all the people who are now not able to produce but who, when rehabilitated, will increase the productive capacity of the nation and allow the full maintenance of social services to those who definitely, inevitably and irretrievably have gone beyond the stage of economic production, and also to those who after a lifetime of labour are in need of a fair measure of social justice.
I have dealt with one of the economic consequences of legislation of this type.
The success of rehabilitation schemes lies in two fields. One of the fields is that of private enterprise and the other is that of public enterprise. We must concede that private enterprise is operating in a highly competitive field, where it is important that the employment units should produce as highly as possible in order to keep the enterprise on a sound working footing. Therefore, if we are to obtain the co-operation of private enterprise in the implementation of legislation such as the measure now before the Senate, it is unreasonable to appeal only to the sympathy of private employers when asking them to accept partially rehabilitated people, because all units in private employment must be able to give a reasonable return for their wages.
– Private enterprise operates in a very competitive field.
– That is so, as I have already indicated. Therefore, our rehabilitation services must be extremely efficient, and the people whom we rehabilitate and send to private employment must be in such a state of health that, even if they have a small measure of incapacity, the employer can reasonably expect to carry them economically.
Senator Benn, who speaks with expert knowledge and great experience on these social matters, has referred to the absence of adequate training in the rehabilitation service. That matter also should, for the reasons that I have advanced, receive the consideration of the Government. It has pleased me greatly to notice that in Victoria the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and the Victorian Employers Federation are completely agreed about the absorption of rehabilitated workers into our working community.
Now, I suggest that perhaps the Government is able to take legislation of this character a little further for the benefit of the incapacitated. The Minister, in his. second-reading speech, referred to the number of invalid pensioners who have been rehabilitated and restored to the community’s work force. He told us that about 7,000 persons who had been receiving invalid pensions and the sickness benefit had been restored to work, and that the number of invalid pensioners alone who had been re-absorbed was about 2,700. Good as those figures are, it is more important to find out how many people have been through our rehabilitation centres, and what proportion of those have been fully rehabilitated and absorbed in industry. Then we could find out the number who, in spite of rehabilitation and training, have failed to find employment.
After all, the real test of a rehabilitation scheme is the number of people it can rehabilitate, and only a careful study of the kind of figures that I have mentioned will reveal how the scheme is progressing. If we discover, after studying the figures, that the proportion of persons who have passed through the rehabilitation service and have obtained employment is low, we should carefully examine the scheme. Then, if we find that there are numbers of people who, despite the be3t possible training, cannot be absorbed in private industry because of their low economic worth, we should ascertain whether the Government, either on its own account or through the States by some form of subsidy, could make up the difference between a reasonable wage for such persons employed in industry and the actual wage that they are worth to their employer. I do not know whether it is constitutionally practicable for the Australian Government to take action along those lines, and I have not examined whether it would be financially possible. However, in view of the tremendous saving that such a system would effect in the cost of invalid pensions and other social services, it is worthy of consideration. A more important factor would be the economic gain to the community through the work done by these rehabilitated and partially rehabilitated people. The Minister has stated that already we have saved £1,250,000 through the rehabilitation service. A scheme such as the one that I have put forward, if legally practicable, would be financially possible and socially desirable. However, I put that matter - before the Government and hope that as new advances are made in legislation of this type some such provision will find its way into the law. The other avenue through which people may be rehabilitated is that of public employment. Apart from major construction works, perhaps the bulk of public employment is of a clerical nature. Therefore, there is a tremendous, although specialized field available, and the Australian Government and the State governments could co-operate to assist to bring a scheme of governmental employment of rehabilitated persons into operation.
Some time ago, I mentioned to honorable senators the case of a young man which is particularly related to the aspect of the rehabilitation problem with which I am now dealing. I shall not review all the circumstances of that case, but, because a further development has occured which is particularly significant, I desire briefly to refer to it. The young man, whom I named when I previously referred to this matter, was rather brilliant at his studies. He had done well in his public school examinations and just after he had achieved rather amazing results in his intermediate examination he was stricken with poliomyelitis. He was ill for some time. Ultimately, he went to a rehabilitation centre and, as a rehabilitation student, sat for the Queensland Senior Public Examination. Out of five subjects I believe he attained three A and two B passes. He was a boy with obvious mental capacity and application, and well worth assisting. Perhaps, a brilliant career had been gravely interrupted by his illness. He applied to the Australian Government for employment as a rehabilitation student. If my memory serves mo correctly, he applied for employment to the Department of Social Services and was engaged in a temporary capacity. His permanent appointment was subject to his passing a medical examination. At the end of six weeks, because he did not pass the medical examination, he was dismissed.
There was an able young man, a “rehabilitation graduate “, if one may use that term, who was virtually rejected by the father and sponsor of this scheme,’ the Australian Government. In those circumstances, it is too much to expect any private employer to co-operate with the Government in. the rehabilitation and absorption of these people if the Government itself is not prepared to take what is not a major step but simply means doing the reasonable thing. I took this case up with the Minister, and the development which emerged from it is contained in a letter- which I received from the Minister within the last few days. He wrote -
The gentleman in question was appointed to u clerical position in the Accounts Branch of the Department of Social Services on 8th March, 1954. He was medically examined for permanent appointment by the Commonwealth Medical Officer on lath March. On the 2nd April the Public Service inspector informed him that as a result of the medical report he was not eligible for permanent appointment and that his services would have to be terminated. He ceased duty on 9th April, 1954.
In the next development I may have had some small part. The letter continues -
He subsequently obtained employment as a temporary clerk in the State Public Service.
That was of Queensland. He was rejected by the Commonwealth Public Service.
– There is a Labour government in Queensland.
– That is so, and it has a broad sympathy for persons of this kind. But it was an extraordinary situation and I am sure that honorable senators on both sides will agree that “ extraordinary “ is the most pertinent description of it.
– “Was the boy rejected because he failed to pass the medical examination?
– Yes, he was dismissed from the Commonwealth Public Service. However, the story emerges a little more happily, because the Minister’s letter continues -
On 18th March, 1955, it was learned that he was under consideration for permanent appointment to the State Public Service.
That was in Queensland. The authorities there had gone further than the Commonwealth. A medical examination, which is primarily for superannuation purposes, is insisted upon in the Queensland Public Service as it is in the Commonwealth Public Service, but Queensland was prepared to employ him. The Minister wrote -
After passing the required medical examination, he was appointed to a permanent position in the State Statistician’s office on 5th May, 1953.
He is there now, and I understand that he is proceeding with a degree course for the bachelor of commerce in the Queensland University. I invite the attention of honorable senators particularly to the concluding paragraph of the Minister’s letter because it indicates that the Government has been awakened by this case to what is happening. It reads -
As a result of the circumstances disclosed by this case the Department of Social Services is approaching the Public Service Board seeking a review of the present conditions for permanent appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service insofar as rehabilitatees ure concerned,
The Minister ends by thanking me for bringing this matter to his notice. I pay a tribute to the Minister. I discussed this case with him, not only on its individual merits, but also to show the Government the need to re-assess its attitude towards such cases. I am pleased that the Minister has indicated that there is a proposal to do so. It is regrettable that, when the Government has brought forward such an excellent scheme as this, and is relying on private enterprise to make it effective, the Government itself should not measure up to its responsibilities when a case such as I have outlined occurs. Let us hope that the Minister’s letter indicating that a new general principle is to be applied, is a promise of things to come and also demonstrates a change of heart and. attitude on the part of the Government.
The questions involved in this matter are, first, a broad humanitarian issue which must appeal to the hearts and emotions of all honorable senators. The second is an economic consideration which does not appeal, primarily, to our hearts, but it certainly does to our minds and intellects. These questions are interrelated. If consideration is given to the first, and it is properly accented, and consideration is given to the second, it will be possible to make this legislation work effectively and ensure that it is a further step along the long and perhaps arduous road to a new recognition of the right of every individual in the community to take his place as an individual within the social order; his right to produce for the benefit of the community, and to stand not as an individual whose disabilities set him apart from his fellow citizens, but as are who, all times is able, with confidence and pride, to take his legitimate place according to the natural law and order of the society of which he is a part.
– I support the bill, which amends the Social Services Act in relation to rehabilitation and I associate myself with the congratulations that have been expressed in this chamber to the Minister and to the officers of his department. Before I address myself to the bill I should like to answer several statements made here this evening. Senator Benn said that the Commonwealth responsibilities have increased in the field of social services. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber agree completely with that statement. The history of the Menzies Government has proved that it has been more generous than any other government in providing social benefits for the people of Australia. When it came into office the amount expended on social services, excluding repatriation, was £93,600,000, but in the 1954-55 Estimates this Government has provided £200,000,000. Consequently, in saying that senators on this side agree with Senator Benn, the actions of the Menzies Government prove his statement.
Senator Tangney implied that as the Commonwealth holds the purse-strings - those were her exact words, which I wrote down - the States are short of money for the provision of health services. Surely every senator knows that during the term of the Chifley Government the States received from the Commonwealth tax reimbursements under a formula laid down under the uniform tax legislation, but since the Menzies Government has been in office the States have received millions of pounds in excess of that formula.
– The States are building up surpluses.
– Senator McKenna referred to the United Nations production of an international programme of rehabilitation. I should like to quote from the 1953 special issue of the Social
Welfare Information series of the United Nations which states that -
The establishment in any country of a complete service for rehabilitation for all types of physical handicap, whether occurring amongst children or adults, necessarily depends on the existence in that country -
of an enlightened public opinion amongst all sections of the community on the rights and potentialities of handicapped persons, and
on the essential basic medical, educational, vocational and social services.
Honorable senators are all aware that rehabilitation services were used extensively at the conclusion of the last war in the transfer of men and women from the armed services into civilian life. It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) stated, that in 1948 the then Labour Government proceeded with a rehabilitation scheme, but at that time, although I am perfectly sure that the government of the day believed that there should be a complete rehabilitation service, it was able to provide rehabilitation for only a limited class of people. We, to-day, are adding to the categories of persons who come within the provisions of the act.
In February last, 1,118 people were accepting rehabilitation benefits. We were told by the Minister that, from 1948 to the end of February last, 7,067 physically handicapped people had been successfully placed in employment. That, I suggest, has been of very great benefit to the community, both economically and socially. We have heard quite a lot here to-night about the humanitarian aspect of this work, and I am sure we are all very heartened by the decision of the Government to extend further the provisions of the Social Services Act as it relates to rehabilitation. The provision which is concerned with the fourteen to sixteen years of age group is a very wise one. We on this side of the chamber are very proud of the fact that it was this Government which introduced legislation to provide that persons of sixteen years of age shouldbe entitled to receive invalid pensions. When we came to office there was an anomaly, as honorable senators no doubt remember, in that, until an invalid reached the age of 21 years, he or she was not deemed to he eligible for a pension. We removed that anomaly and are now paying invalid pensions to persons of sixteen years of age. The great benefit that will accrue to young invalids under this legislation is indicated by the fact that, of 1,340 cases accepted for rehabilitation benefits for the year ended June, 1954, 541, or approximately 40 per cent, of the total, were in the two younger age groups. Two hundred and fifty-six were in the sixteen to nineteen year group, and 285 were in the 20 to 24 year group. That proves that the inclusion of groups of younger people fourteen and fifteen years old will be of great benefit to the physically handicapped in those groups.
I was very interested in Senator Tangney’s remarks concerning the mentally retarded child. I believe that, all over Australia to-day, there is a great appreciation of the possibility of rehabilitating the mentally afflicted. Last Sunday, I was privileged to attend the Kew Cottages, where the Victorian Mental Hygiene Authority was accepting from the State Government a specially equipped occupational therapy unit. It was a very modern building costing £22,000 which had been provided by means of government grant and voluntary effort. I do not suppose there is a more uptodate unit in Australia. I was most interested to hear the chairman of the Victorian Mental Hygiene Authority, Dr. Cunningham Dax, say that in that unit, where children of all ages, with low mental intelligence, were to spend their time, they were not only to be taught how to earn a living but also how to live. I think it is important that we should apply the principle of teaching how to live to the whole field of rehabilitation. It is not enough to teach people how to become self-supporting; we must also teach them how to become self-respecting.
The bill gives to the director-general discretionary power to enter into an agreement with a Commonwealth or State authority, so that rehabilitation also may be provided for persons who are prepared to pay the cost involved. The Leader of the Opposition made the point that, under this scheme, the service will be made available to persons whose rehabilitation treatment expenses would be paid by private organizations, such as insurance companies concerned with workers’ compensation. I have in mind cases which I had the opportunity of seeing at one of our rehabilitation centres, where the people concerned were amputees, and in some cases double amputees, due to accidents. The extension of the service to those people who, through litigation, have become possessed of money, but who would be unable to obtain the same type of service elsewhere, is a very forward step.
The success of the Government’s drive to eradicate tuberculosis is to be commended, and so, too, is the decision to include the recipients of tuberculosis allowances in the classes of persons eligible for rehabilitation. That is a very good feature of this legislation. The provision for loans of up to £200 to disabled persons who, after treatment and training, are not able to go out and be gainfully employed, means that they will be able to set up in business in their own homes. I believe that that is a very good move, although my colleague, Senator Wright, spent a considerable amount of time earlier to-night in dealing with the constitutional position with regard to such payments.
Senator Annabelle Rankin referred to case histories of persons whose lives had been rebuilt through training at rehabilitation centres, and I am sure that every honorable senator could add to the cases referred to by her. We have been overjoyed by what we have seen. Handicapped people, instead of being complete invalids, have reached the happy position of being able to cope with the normal tasks of everyday living. I agree with Senator Annabelle Rankin that physically incapacitated people are being taught how to live again.
Senator Benn criticized the training that is given at the centres, and I think he was rather unfair in doing so, because at the resident and day centres that I have visited I have always found the service follows three main lines. First there is the treatment. Most centres include a doctor’s consulting room where the incapacitated persons receive medical treatment, and most of them also have physiotherapy departments, gymnasiums and occupational facilities. That carries on the medical treatment which is so necessary for the physical rehabilitation of patients. On the training side, the department appears to have used existing facilities. People who are able to travel to schools or universities are trained in those places, or on the job. I agree that there is a certain amount of occupational training, but that comes more under the heading of occupational therapy. I have seen people in these centres being taught various trades, but, as I have said, many are being trained in schools and universities, and out on the job.
Senator Benn did not find the training scheme in Queensland altogether to his liking, but the figures show that that State has a good record in the successful training of these people. Of the 7,067 cases which have been successfully treated since 1948 to the end of February this year, 1,653 were in Queensland. The figures for the other States showing those who have received training and been successfully employed are - New South Wales l,9i6, Victoria 1,439, South Australia 1,096, Western Australia 566, and Tasmania 397. If Senator Benn thinks that the training is not what it should be, he should at least be interested to know that Queensland has the second highest number of successfully trained people.
I agree with those honorable senators who say that all sections of the Australian community are realizing the benefits that accrue, not only to the individuals who are trained, but also to the community, because of the rehabilitation of the physically handicapped. Senator Byrne said that he was pleased to see that the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the employers’ organizations were coming together. That is so. I do not know the position in other States so well as I know it in Victoria, but in that State numbers of advisory councils have been set up. On those councils there are representatives of various organizations, including employers and employees and voluntary workers. I support all that has been said during this debate regarding the work done by the voluntary organizations in our midst. Year after year, without much encouragement, they have provided the backbone of the social services work that has been performed throughout the world, and not only in Australia. All over the world men and women have given their services freely in the interests of their less fortunate’ brethren. In the field of rehabilitation, Australia has been fortunate in this respect. Members of the organizations that have been mentioned during this debate have spared neither time nor effort to see that those who were born afflicted, or became afflicted through accidents or disease, particularly the children who have suffered, have had an opportunity to live their lives out as happily as their more fortunate brothers and sisters. I pay a tribute to the Minister and his department for what they have done to help the afflicted in the community. About a fortnight ago I went to a little town in Victoria - it was one of the old towns of the goldmining days - to present a cheque to the trustees of a church there who were establishing a home for retired local preachers, and it gave me great pleasure to hear from them of the consideration and sympathetic treatment that had been extended by the Department of Social Services to those who needed assistance. They said publicly that the officers of the department were really interested in the people, and did not help them just because it was their job to do so. They regarded their work as something more than merely earning their bread and butter. So long as we have people in Australia who are prepared to put service for others above their own personal gain, there is not much wrong with Australia. I support the bill.
– I also express my pleasure at the introduction of this bill, which is another step in the development of a social conscience in the community and on the part of the Government. I am pleased that the Government has carried on the basic social services programme for which we on this side were severely castigated, both on the public platform, and in this chamber, and were branded as socialists, and our policy linked with the socialism of certain totalitarian countries. The policy of the Labour party is in distinct contrast to that of totalitarian countries, whose only thought of any person who has no economic value to the State is that he should be removed from society, with- no recognition of his rights as a human being, or of his dignity as an individual.
During the debate we have heard that various people, Ministers particularly, have done this or that, but it really amounts to a recognition of the fact that the nation has reached the point where it realizes that there are such things as human dignity, and the rights of human beings. In a matter of such importance as the rehabilitation of the afflicted in our midst, it is not so much a question of a government, or a Treasurer, allocating funds to help the physically or mentally incapacitated, as of encouraging these people by making them feel that they have a place in the community and that they can serve the community. Legislation such as this enables an afflicted person to realize that he can be a useful unit in the community, and that by his own efforts he may earn a living sufficient to sustain himself and, perhaps, those for whom he has a responsibility. It emphasizes that he is not sub-normal, although he may not be as well fitted as others are to take his place in this highly competitive world of industry and trade. I wish to pay a compliment, not to this Government or to preceding governments, but to the men and women who have promoted social consciousness in the minds of the people, and have shown them the duty of the community to those who are in need. One famous person who comes to my mind is Dr. Earl Carbon, who is a spastic. In the face of much criticism, and with the help of socially minded people, he became a doctor of renown, not only in the United States of America but also in other parts of the world. He surmounted his disabilities with the help of those who had a Christian social outlook, and who said, “ This man can be successful”. Long before a Labour government provided £250,000 to help tuberculosis sufferers, and another £250,000 to help the families of persons suffering from tuberculosis, Dr. Lindley Henzell, of Western Australia, was working for the rehabilitation of tuberculosis sufferers.
Many persons throughout Australia are claiming credit for promoting social consciousness of the physically handicapped, but they do not admit that a prime consideration in the minds of some people is. an economic one. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) indicated in his second-reading speech that the Government would be relieved of the obligation to pay pensions to the physically handicapped who are to be rehabilitated under this scheme. If those people were not rehabilitated, they could claim pensions, so we should not overlook that aspect of the matter. All honorable senators realize the advantages of social services. We believe that we have answered the totalitarian claim that persons who are not economically useful are not useful at all, but the Government should not stop there. If we are sincere in this matter, we as a parliament must go further.
On three occasions, I have urged in this chamber that the facilities for rehabilitation in Western Australia should be extended. I have suggested that efficient equipment should be provided, so that those who undergo the rehabilitation course will not be at a disadvantage when they go into industry to compete with persons who have served private employers and have had the best equipment and facilities for training. I have not sought any personal advantage in making that suggestion to the Senate. I pay a tribute at this point to Mr. Fred Humphreys, who was Deputy Director of Social Services in Western Australia. Apart from his work as a departmental officer, Mr. Humphreys gave much of his own time to the assistance of the physically handicapped. He visited the centre at Point Walter and advised those in charge there of the competition that rehabilitated persons must expect when they entered industries. Those in the centres complained that, because the vote provided for the work had been expended, the equipment was inadequate to provide rehabilitated persons with complete training. I mention the matter, not to lay a charge against the Government, but as something that must be considered in connexion with the rehabilitation scheme. It is of no use spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar. If we propose to support the rehabilitation scheme, we should do so properly. Having established rehabilitation centres, the Government must provide the proper facilities so that the persons who receive rehabilitation training will not merely be lifted out of the pension class, but will become efficient workers in industry.
Dr. Lindley Henzell, to whom I have already referred, rehabilitated tuberculosis sufferers completely. He knew that persons who had been suffering from the disease could not work full time immediately. In the early stages of their recovery, some could work only 25 per cent, of the time. He provided an orchard for those who could work in the open, and crafts for those who could only work inside. As the patients progressed, they were able to work for 75 per cent, of the time, and those who became totally cured could return to their former positions in industry. About 75 per cent, of the rehabilitated persons, however, need some government help until they are properly launched in industry. The Government has anticipated that need to some degree, but not entirely.
In Western Australia, there was a person, whom I shall not name, who started to manufacture artificial jewellery. He employed physically handicapped persons, both civilians and ex-servicemen. He made very good progress until he found himself unable to compete with imported artificial jewellery. He was forced into a position where he could not market his goods profitably unless he changed his attitude to his employees. At that time, the Government disclaimed any responsibility for rehabilitated persons. Unfortunately this man encountered great difficulty in the industry in which he was engaged and the worries that beset him led to his death. This was a very sad affair. There is a grave responsibility on the Government to follow this matter of rehabilitation through to a stage of full effectiveness. This bill amends the Social Services Act 1947-1954 and clause 11 provides for the insertion of a new section 135ba in the principal act. Sub-section (2.) and following sub-sections of the proposed new section read - (2.) The Director-General may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, make a loan or loans of money in accordance with this section to a person in relation to whom this section applies for the purpose of enabling him to purchase, take on hire or otherwise acquire tools of . trade, stock, plant or equipment, or to meet any other expenses, in connexion with his engaging in a vocation at his home. (3.) The amount of a loan made to a person under this section, or the total amount of the loans so made, shall not exceed Two hundred pounds. (4.) Interest at the rate of Four pounds ten shillings per centum per annum is payable, at such intervals as are determined by the Director-General, upon moneys lent under this section. (5.) Subject to this section, the terms and conditions of a loan under this section shall ‘ be as determined by the Director-General.
This matter of loans is in the hands of the Director-General. Many rehabilitated persons who apply to industry for engagement encounter difficulty when they arc m competition with, or even applying at the same time, as persons who are fully capable physically,, and are trained in the trade. It is no use deceiving ourselves about this situation. Industry has to have regard to the economics of com- . petition, and it must select for its workers the persons who are, in its deduction, best suited to its requirements. When labour is short the rehabilitated person is encouraged and is employed, even though he is only 50 per cent, capable, but when . competition becomes severe, the first man to be put out of work is the one who gives the lowest production.
– That would noi necessarily be the rehabilitated person.
– Not necessarily, but it has been found that he is the manwho is put off. It is often the conclusion of the employer that the rehabilitee should go first. Rightly or wrongly, that man is relieved of his position. The assessment of whether he shall go or stasis in the hands of the person who employ? him. I know of only one firm in Western Australia that adhered firmly to a policy of employing physically handicapped rehabilitees, whether civilians or exservicemen, and- its business suffered as a result.
Nevertheless, the employer stuck to his Christian principles and went down with the people who worked for him.
The purpose of the hill is to enable a loan of up to £200 at 4£ per cent, interest for plant, equipment and tools, to be made to a person who can provide proper security, to enable him to work on his own. So long as he works that plant he may provide himself with a frugal income - a basic wage - but do not let the purpose be stultified. A man who is self-employed is not beholden to. any employer for sympathy and that is the acme of social service to these people who have just as great a pride, and probably as great intelligence and human dignity, as any man who sits in this Senate. The Minister might tell me whether it would be possible for the Director-General to write-off the liability to the Social Services Department of a rehabilitatee who finds difficulty in meeting payments for interest and amortization of his loan, but who has done a reasonable job in the industry in which he has engaged. If a man who has undergone rehabilitation training for a trade - and that training is short and not to be compared with an apprenticeship - finds that he will not be accepted by the ordinary competitive industry and decides to start on his own, he should not be treated harshly. If he has borrowed the maximum of £200 to start him off, and then, in the early stages of his enterprise, or perhaps even within the first two years, he finds himself unable to meet his commitments in relation to the interest of 4£ per cent, and the amortization of his £200 loan, the Minister should make it quite clear now that that inability to meet his responsibility to the DirectorGeneral will not be an embarrassment to him. The Director-General could examine such a man’s situation and his attempt to establish himself in the industry for which he has been rehabilitated, and take appropriate action so that the man will not have to submit his case to some parliamentarian and seek consideration in a public fashion, cap in hand, and with loss of dignity. A loan of £200 is not a tremendous sum.
– It would not be possible to get blood out of a stone anyway.
– I could not get blood out of the honorable member’s head. My argument is quite clear. I make two major points. The first is that the Government is relieved of the payment of pensions because of rehabilitation. Several thousand men and women who were formerly receiving pensions have been rehabilitated and have resumed normal occupations in this time of full employment. Their rehabilitation represents a considerable saving in money for the Government, The bill provides that a rehabilitated person who cannot be employed normally in industry can have a government loan of up to £200 at 4) per cent, to begin a home industry. The second major point I make is that such a loan should not be made an embarrassment to those people. Another important consideration is that rehabilitation training centres should not be made ineffective through inadequacy of funds. There are many of these centres and they are giving great service. Socially minded people in the community are contributing to this service with both their time and their money. Expenditure might seem to be reasonable, but the most important thing is whether it is adequate. Centres should be such that persons receiving rehabilitation treatment and training are accommodated under conditions no worse than they would have while living at home and drawing a pension. I regret that the position at some rehabilitation centres,
Particularly those for civilians, hasroken down. I can quote as my authority for this, doctors, including Dr. Anderson, Dr. Henzell, and Dr. Carlson-
– And “ Dr “ Cooke.
– Dr. “ Mick “ Cooke here in Canberra would tell the story, in good Australian language too. Rehabilitation centres have broken down to the point where the doctors and the public-spirited people who work in them have not the equipment that they need to do their job properly. The scheme is being stultified. Do not let the ship be spoiled for a ha’porth of tar. I hope that the Government, with our congratulations and with our thorough cooperation, will carry the provisions of this bill to ultimate effectiveness and see that, in this field, the pinnacle of achievement is attained.
– I was very pleased when I received the call to hear the Minister in charge of the bill say, “ Hear, hear ! “ and I assure him that in the brief time during which I shall inflict my remarks upon this House I will not cause the Minister to need civilian rehabilitation. It is pleasing to me to see that this bill has been so well received. Honorable senators may recall that, in 1951, I was so concerned because of rumours that the rehabilitation scheme would be discontinued that I asked in this Senate what the Government proposed to do. The Minister assured me, with his usual frankness, that no such idea was in the mind of the Government. The scheme has since continued, and we welcome the introduction of this bill, which will further ease the minds of people throughout Australia who have been forced, because of some great misfortune, to avail themselves of the services of rehabilitation centres.
I do not want to be lacking in praise for voluntary workers in other organizations which interest themselves in work of this kind. Previous governments have failed to realize the value of the Christian work that these people have done, and are still doing. The National Government at long last is doing something to ease their burden.
I must candidly confess that I am not greatly impressed by the remarks of honorable senators on both sides of this chamber regarding the economic factors - how many trainees are going to succeed, what the scheme is going to cost, how much we are going to get out of it. 1 think every honorable senator here is a Christian, and believes in Christianity. We all know that we shall one day meet our Maker, and we should keep that in mind before considering what financial advantage is to be gained from the rehabilitation of some poor individual who has been stricken down. There are no politics involved in this matter. The introduction of this legislation is a Christian duty. It is the duty of every government to ease the sufferings of stricken humanity.
I was interested to hear my South Australian colleague, Senator Hannaford, refer to the rehabilitation centre at Mount Breckan, near Victor Harbour. He was hoping, I know, that I would appreciate the great praise that he bestowed on this institution. He associated himself with his colleague, Senator Pearson, in those remarks. The history of Mount Breckan is most interesting. I agree with Senator Hannaford that the building itself is unsuitable. During the war it was an Air Force establishment. Mr. Dedman was Minister in charge of our social services when that establishment was taken over and converted into the present institution. Now that my colleague has spoken of what he has seen at Victor Harbour recently, I think it is well to tell the House of a visit made by myself and other senators, and members from another place, to that institution in 1949. At that time, we saw probably the first group of stricken people to enter the institution. Twelve months later, I organized a party from the South Australian Parliament, composed of members of different political parties, to visit the institution. At that time, the South Australian Government gave us assistance in a local matter which was outside the control of the Commonwealth Government.
Much has been said to-day about the cost of these institutions, and about the unsuitability of the work that is being carried out in the rehabilitation centres. If one considers the matter from a sordid, financial angle, there may be something in those remarks. However, I want to tell the Senate of three people whom I know who were inmates of the institution in 1949. I shall not mention the names of those people, but I shall make them available to any honorable senator who wishes to know them. The results of the treatment given to those three people are a credit to the patience of the staff there, to the directors of social services and other people who were operating the institutions in South Australia on behalf of the Government and, last but not least, to .the medical officers whose duty it was to visit the institution regularly. One case is that of .a man who was crippled in both legs, as a result of an accident in which he was involved at the age of four years. He was aged twentyandahalf years when he entered the institution. I suppose that any person, without .knowing the circumstances, might ask why something had not been done with that man before then, but we can all agree that what quickened the activity of governments, of the public and of social workers in work of this kind was the need to do something for servicemen disabled in World War II. This young man received treatment at the institution, and to-day he is a crane driver and a foreman. He has only a slight limp in both legs.
Another example is that of a young lady who was fourteen or fifteen years of age when she was stricken down with an ailment. She came from a poor family. She entered the institution at Mount Breckan but, in my opinion, no treatment in the world would have rehabilitated her and enabled her to enjoy her present position in society unless she was possessed of what is known in the Australian vernacular as “ guts “. Because of that quality, as the doctors who treated her agreed, she is now a stenographer in one of the hig city emporiums. She spent two and a half years in the institution. I hope you will forgive me, Mr. Deputy President, if I seem to bring politics into my remarks, but I know the manager of the firm which employs that girl, and I do not think for one moment that he would vote for Senator Critchley at the next election. Nevertheless, he is not concerned with the profit motive.
I could give another couple of examples, but I do not think it is necessary. Those two cases which I have outlined are practical illustrations of cases which had been considered by the parents, brothers and sisters of the people concerned to be hopeless, and yet to-day those people are active members of society. Any government, irrespective of its political colour, which continues to put forward legislation of the type now before the Senate in order to help our more unfortunate citizens, will obtain the approval of all sections of the com- munity. I agree with the statements .of Senator Henty about the unsuitability of Victor Harbour as a place for a rehabilitien centre. Of .course it is a beautiful locality, but its distance from a metropolitan area presents difficulty in many aspects of the treatment that should be available to the patients attending the centre. Those difficulties will be overcome when the centre is moved to the metropolitan area at Payneham.
Although I can offer some criticism of the Government for what may be called its meagre increases of social service benefits, this measure is an improvement on anything that has previously been done. The rehabilitation service was commenced in 1948, and has been of tremendous benefit to many persons who were not ex-servicemen or victims of World War II. Those who attend civilian rehabilitation centres .quite often have physical afflictions and infirmities that have lasted for years and years. Ex-servicemen, on the other hand, have not had such long-standing troubles. Therefore, any government that introduces legislation of this type is performing a most praiseworthy service to a section of the community that is badly in need of assistance. I sincerely trust that when this type of legislation next comes before the Senate, perhaps at about this time next year, the Government will further improve the rehabilitation services and will increase the number of institutions that are necessary to carry out the work.
I also hope that finance will be made available to assist those persons, such as masseurs, who so kindly give their time to the rehabilitation of invalids. I also hope that the Government will see its way to provide tuition in our hospitals and other suitable institutions for those who desire to train themselves for rehabilitation work. For myself, I am proud of the work that has been done at Mount Breckan in South Australia. On that matter other senators may speak for themselves, but I know that although there have been persons treated there who had incurable complaints, the fact remains that many others have been rehabilitated. Moreover, during the time that the worst cases have been in these institutions the bright surroundings, the occupation of their minds and bodies and the thought that some one is trying to do something for them, has helped them tremendously.
No matter what happens about those persons who are only 60 per cent, affected, whether they can be placed in industry or not, we should never under any circumstances reduce our services to them through the rehabilitation centres. If we did, we should be taking some of the sunshine from their lives which has been put there by Christian governments and Christian communities. Although this rehabilitation service started off in a small way it has grown, and I hope that in the future neither the present Government nor any other government will attempt to reduce the quality or the quantity of the service available to the civilians of this country who are maimed and sick, or who have suffered from severe disabilities for many years.
– in reply - This bill has had such a favorable reception in the Senate, that perhaps a wise Minister would not attempt to say anything further at this stage for fear that he should say something provocative which would delay the measure in its passage through its committee stages. However, I desire to make a few further comments, because the rehabilitation service is one of the activities of the Commonwealth in which at one time I shared. It is like a return of the old times to speak once again on this subject.
I thank the Senate for the constructive debate that has ensued on this measure. Not one dissentient voice has been raised against the Government’s proposals. Some honorable senators suggested that children of the age of fourteen and fifteen, who are now being admitted to the benefits of rehabilitation, should receive some monetary grant from the Commonwealth similar to the invalid pension. I ask those senators to reconsider that matter for a moment. An important principle of the Social Services Consolidation Act is that social benefits shall not become available to a person until that person attains the age of sixteen years. Rightly or wrongly, the framework of that act presupposes that those who are under sixteen years are under either parental control or the control of the State. Consequently, Commonwealth assistance to those under sixteen years of age is restricted to child endowment. Therefore, we must take a big step if we are to admit a new group of persons into entitlement for the invalid pension. Logically, we should have to extend the invalid pension not only to those under sixteen admitted to rehabilitation centres, but also to all other invalids under sixteen.
– I do not think that that necessarily follows.
– I believe that it follows logically. It would be very hard to pick out a small number of such persons and give them the invalid pension, and refuse to give it to others in the same age groups, some of whom would certainly be in much worse circumstances. Honorable senators will see that that is so, because those who enter rehabilitation centres do so because there is a chance of rehabilitation, but the others who are invalids, are in such a state that they cannot obtain any benefit from rehabilitation training.
Honorable senators who may not know will be interested to hear that a rehabilitation programme could easily involve a surgical operation, a period in hospital, artificial appliances, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and vocational training. It is not uncommon for a case requiring such services to involve a total expenditure of more than £500 before the patient is fit for employment. There are always two sides to a question, and I always echo what is said about the Department of Social Services. The recommendations which come from that department and are finally adopted by the Government are, with few exceptions, soundly based.
The suggestion was made that this scheme might have made greater progress than it has done. When I heard that, statement, I cast my mind back - as probably the Leader of the Opposition did - to the beginnings of the rehabilitation service in air force camps and convalescent hospitals in the post-war years. The buildings were not best suited for the work and, although the convalescent homes in themselves were beautifully appointed, as Senator Cooke or Senator Critchley mentioned, often they were badly situated geographically, and involved too much, travelling for persons suffering from a physical disability.
The organization for a scheme such as this cannot be assembled hastily. It is necessary to have good doctors, nurses, masseurs, physiotherapists and skilled tradesmen to teach the rehabilitees. But, in addition to their high qualifications, these persons must have a flair and a love for this type of work. It requires a tremendous amount of patience and keen discernment so as to use the right type of approach and do the right kind of work to produce the most successful results. Although a substantial proportion of the cases are orthopaedics whose limbs are affected, an appreciable proportion also are sick in mind as a result of depressing experiences over the years.
– They are sensitive also.
– They are very sensitive, indeed. I am somewhat materialistic in outlook, and I can never think about this rehabilitation work without considering the fact that the medical officers engaged in it could attract much larger incomes in private practice than the remuneration they are receiving. However, their reward - which I suppose is the best that any one could have - is the satisfaction of a job well done. It is some time since I held the portfolio of Social Services but I have been pleased to observe the way in which my colleague the present Minister (Mr. McMahon) has administered this department.
This development in rehabilitation needs to be examined with other similar developments in social services. Since Mr. McMahon has been Minister, subsidies have been provided for homes for the aged, rehabilitation services have been extended, and a medical scheme for pensioners has been introduced. It is interesting to reflect that these ancillary services for those who are suffering disadvantages always seem to supplement social services in an extraordinarily good fashion. The value of the ancillary services given cannot be assessed in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. I always feel a greater sense of satisfaction when medical services are extended rather than when an increase of pension is granted, because a substantial proportion of aged people must receive greater comfort from increased medical services than from additional pension. The same consideration applies to more homes for the aged. I thank honorable senators for their assistance in considering this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The merits of the individual proposals of this measure have already been adequately canvassed, and there is no need for me to deal with them again. I rise merely to deal with the question of the constitutional base of the new benefit provided by the measure, that is, loans. Some doubt has been expressed about it. Personally, I should have thought that it rested in the new head of power written into the Constitution in 1948 when, among other things, power was given to make laws with regard to the provision of the unemployment and sickness benefit. The benefit is not merely an allowance which is payable periodically, whether weekly, monthly or otherwise. “Benefit” is an exceedingly wide term, and I suggest that it is wide enough to. embrace a loan. The particular benefit now under discussion relates primarly to employment, or its corollary, unemployment. Its whole purpose is to get disabled persons back into employment. It seems to be a completely direct nexus arising out of the new head of power written in in 1948. Again there is the incidental power in this provision which, if that failed, would pick it up. My main purpose in rising is to advert to another power altogether by which the loan could be justified. That is section 81, the appropriation power of the Commonwealth. In other words, pursuant to that, the Commonwealth is allowed to appropriate money for its purposes. In a pharmaceutical benefits case which was decided, I think in 1945, the High Court of this country held that that section authorized the Commonwealth to apply its moneys to purposes that lay right outside the ambit of the Constitution, and that it could make such laws as would ensure that those moneys achieved the object that the Commonwealth had in mind. There was the qualification that the mere fact that the Commonwealth applied its money to a field which lay outside the Constitution did not enable the Commonwealth to step into that field and seek to regulate it. I suggest to the committee, just to keep the record in order, that there is ample authority under the appropriation power itself, apart from anything that is done under the social services power.
– I also wish to refer to clause 2, but I do not wish to throw any spanners into the legal argument that has taken place. I am concerned that this clause makes provision for a person who lias undergone rehabilitation training to engage in business in his own home. The clause also provides that the Department of Social Services may supply him with tools, and so on. Upon, examination, not only in Australia but also overseas, I find that it is necessary, after people have received training and have commenced work at home, to make arrangements for the sale of the commodities they produce. Unless that is done, we may get back to the bad old days of sweated slavery in industry. There are always ghouls who are prepared to exploit less fortunate people. In South Australia, there are what are known as Bedford industries for people who have received treatment for tuberculosis. The Bedford industries enable them to undertake light occupations, and arrangements are made to sell the commodities they produce, so that their work is not exploited.
I should like the Minister to inform the Senate of the intention of the Government in this matter. I point out that if, for instance, these incapacitated people produced fountain pens, they might find that, suddenly, millions of cheap fountain pens came into this country, so that the trade of the incapacitated people disappeared. Although they set up in business in their own homes, they may find that they cannot make a living from their work. In the ordinary course of events, a person who has undertaken training and who sets up in business will have his confidence in his ability to manufacture certain things re-established, but he may not always have confidence that he will be able to sell the goods that he produces. Is it proposed to set up an organization to sell . the goods that are produced by these people ?
– I do not think it would be possible to give a satisfactory answer to Senator O’Flaherty because we are dealing, in this matter, with exceptional cases. It is not to be contemplated, for instance, that the advance would be made, and that the recipient would work in his home, in circumstances in which he could normally take his place in a trade or industry. In other words, the advances will be made in exceptional circumstances.
– I take it, too, that they will be supervised?
– Let me take the matter a step further before we come to that aspect of it. If the advance is going to be made in exceptional circumstances, it will apply to a wide variety of occupations. One man’s aptitude may be for boot-making and another’s for watchmaking, whilst others may be skilled in millinery, or work with textiles or children’s wear, so that it is not possible to lay down a rule of thumb. Each case will represent an interesting problem for the rehabilitation people, and I cannot conceive of circumstances in which an advance is made without there being a continuing human interest between the department and the person concerned. I think that that human interest will provide the umbrella, as it were, to shield the pensioner from all the things that might happen.
– I wish to add a comment on the very interesting point made by the Minister. There is, in the Department of Social Services, a collection of social workers whose function it is to follow up all of these cases. I should like to supplement the Minister’s statement by saying, first, that no loan would be made until the economic proposition had been investigated, and the conditions under which the work was to be performed were determined. All of that would be done weeks and weeks ahead of the event. The man concerned would be undergoing rehabilitation for a considerable period. It would be a matter of consultation with him and his family, and all the surrounding circumstances would be looked at. I think the committee can rest assured that it would be, par excellence, one of the functions of the local social worker to see that those conditions did not get out of hand. I appreciate the dangers that Senator O’flaherty seeks to avoid, but I am also very conscious that the Department of Social Services is well aware of them,, and equally keen to guard against them. In view of the fact that it is an exceedingly rare type of case that is under consideration, I think that we of the Opposition can feel that control of the matter will be in very wise and safe hands.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise a matter which, although it concerns one individual, is a vital one if we believe in the rights of individuals. It should incur the interest of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) because the Public Service Board has ruled against an individual, and it should also receive the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) because it concerns one of his highly qualified and very loyal employees in Tasmania. I do not desire to mention the name, or the trade, of this man, because I do not think it is right to do so on the floor of the Senate. The matter should interest all ex-servicemen, and all other members of the Commonwealth Parliament, because it brings into focus the importance and fairness of the legislation giving preference to ex-servicemen - a matter of Government policy and indeed of the Parliament, to which I give my full consent.
The individual to whom I refer was employed in the Postmaster-General’s Department as a well-qualified technician. He tried to enlist twice for service in the Army in the war of 1939-45, but was refused enlistment because he was a technician whom the department wanted to retain in its employ in Australia. Later in the war the Postmaster-General’s Department called for applications from the technicians to join the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s field record- ing unit with the Australian Army. This man was approached to enlist, and he applied for a position with the commission. He had four and a half. years’ service with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, two years of which were served overseas. He returned to the department’s employ in Tasmania, and then tried to improve his position by studying and taking examinations. Since then, he. has applied for jobs which, because of his technical knowledge and years of seniority, he is capable of filling, and being appointed to. There are those associated with him who say that he deserves to be so appointed, but he has been told officially that, as he is not a returned serviceman within the meaning of section 7 of the Public Service Act, the board is unable to extend to him the benefits of a decision applicable to exmembers of the forces.
There are many able legal members on both sides of the Senate and I, as a layman, would not venture a legal opinion on this subject, but I have been in consultation with others - not legal men - and I have studied the section of the act referred to. Not being a lawyer, I suppose I may be accused of twisting words, but I believe that that section could be interpreted to give this man the benefits arising from his overseas- service. I point out that while he was employed he was given an army number and officer’s status, and his mother received a next-of-kin badge. If any one of us in this chamber went overseas under similar conditions, I think he would say that he had been accepted, and was at least entitled to the rights and privileges which ex-servicemen were promised and received when they finished their service. That is what this man honestly thought. He has been fighting for such recognition since 1950.
This matter was raised in another place some years before I came into this Parliament, but unfortunately, perhaps because it affects only one individual, no decision has yet been given. Only a few weeks ago, this man applied for a job with a higher status than that which he now enjoys. It was a job in the same service in which technicians are required, but he is still being passed over in favour of others who are given the benefit of section 7 of the Public Service Act in respect of war service. I know that I could take this matter up with the Minister concerned, but I have raised it in the Senate to-night because it is a matter of principle.
If an Australian government - it was not the present Government - accepts a man for service with such a unit, and gives him all the facilities that servicemen enjoy while overseas, it should make laws to provide that such a man, on returning to civil life, will be given the benefits of the service he Tendered during the war. There are lots of people in Australia who were pleased to know that the Australian Broadcasting Commission bad a field -recording unit abroad, so that people in Australia could be given vital information about what was going on over there. Those who served with that unit were in as much danger as were many others who, because of their service, are now beneficiaries under the law which gives preference to ex-servicemen.
All I ask, in raising this matter in this unorthodox way, is that the Minister and the department concerned will look at this man’s case sympathetically, and decide that if he really served overseas and answered his country’s call, both when he remained in Australia because the department wanted him to do so, and when he went overseas, he served his country. I ask the Government either to interpret section 7 of the Public Service Act sympathetically in the interests of this man, or to bring amending legislation before the Parliament to provide for such cases. If the Minister is interested, I have documentary evidence here, and shall be pleased to hand it to him. If the Government believes that this man deserves the benefits provided for those who served overseas, it should bring in amending legislation, and should say, in effect, to this man that, because the legislation now in force had been given a certain interpretation by reason of which he had been punished unjustly for nine years, the Australian Government will now be fair to an individual who has been unfairly treated. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19550525_senate_21_s5/>.