21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (. Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from the widow and family of the late Geoffrey William Brown, M.B.E., M.P., a letter of thanks for the resolution of sympathy passed on the occasion of his death.
– It is reported that a sub-committee of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce is expected to arrive in Sydney to-day. Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether this committee will confer with him, or any of his colleagues, and can lie give any information regarding the subjects to be discussed?
– Unfortunately, I am not in a position to give a detailed answer to the honorable senator’s question as my present knowledge of the projected visit has been gained entirely from newspaper reports. Should any information be supplied to me regarding the visit, I shall be happy to pass it on to the honorable senator.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production say whether the small arms factory at Lithgow has begun production of the Belgian F.N. .300 automatic rifle? Has the Minister received reports of the inefficiency of this rifle under service conditions? Will he make sure that before production is stepped up, or begun, the numerous faults, such as insecure magazine and safety catches, a too fine gas regulator, and easily damaged essential parts, and other defects, are eliminated? Would it not be more economical to retain the .303 rifle, which has proved its worth in two world wars?
– [ assure the honorable senator that before the new rifle was decided upon by the various nations which have agreed to adopt it in place of the .303 rifle, every test imaginable was made. However, I shall place the honorable senator’s question before, the Minister for Defence Production so that he may give a considered reply, which I shall let the honorable senator have when I receive it.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen a statement to the effect that Australia is living beyond its means and endangering its economy, and that a severe economic crisis could arise before the 30th June next’ Has he seen also the statement of Mr. W. F. Crick, the general manager of research and statistics at the Midland Bank, England, in which he deplores “ the lack in Australia of authoritative presentation and interpretation of facts designed to inform the public and provide the basis for objective analysis and criticism “ ? Can the Minister say whether the election date of the 10th December has been chosen with a view to pulling the wool over the eyes of the electors, and to cover up the economic mismanagement of the Australian Government ?
– I have not seen the reports to which the honorable senator has referred, but as to our general statistical position, if he is really interested in that matter I inform him that returns are furnished each week by the Commonwealth Statistician. I can quite understand the feeling of remorse, fear, and dread that the date, the 10th December, has for the honorable senator, because it was on that date that the Liberal and Austraiian Country parties almost wiped socialism off the face of Australia; they will complete the job on the 10th December next.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Senator PALTRIDGE (through Senator O’sullivan). - The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following information : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. The Government has received an application by the Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank Limited, pursuant to section 8 of the Banking Act 1945-1953, for authority to carry on savings bank business in Australia.
– On the 13th October, Senator Anderson asked the following question : -
Hae the attention of tire Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to a statement by the New South Wales Director of Tuberculosis, Dr. Marshall Andrew, in which he said that a dangerous public complacency was developing towards tuberculosis in NewSouth Wales? “Will the Minister pause an examination to be made of the tuberculosis agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, particularly as it affects New South Wales, with a view to ensuring that that State is implementing the agreement effectively, especially in regard to the compulsory X-ray examination of the community which is an implicit condition of the agreement?
The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply : -
The tuberculosis death rate in Australia has been spectacularly reduced from 25 per 100,000 of population in 1949, to 10 per 100,000 in 1954. But tuberculosis is’ still a most serious public health problem because, unlike the death rate, the incidence of tuberculosis infection remains disturbingly high and constant. It is, therefore, necessary to warn the community against complacency and thus to encourage its continual co-operation in the national tuberculosis campaign. Dr. Marshall Andrew, whose remarks were directed to the general public and not to the official agencies, was doing no more than that. Although there might have been deficiencies in the New South Wales tuberculosis service some years ago, generous Commonwealth financial assistance since 1949 has brought about a dramatic change. The whole of Sydney and suburbs and of Newcastle have been covered by compulsory mass chest X-ray surveys. So, too, have many other country towns and areas. Well over a million people have been X-rayed and some l,]<)U previously unknown infectious cases of tuberculosis .brought to light. Sydney and suburbs are now being compulsorily surveyed for the second time and plans are in hand for a comprehensive compulsory survey of country areas throughout the State. Hospitalization, together with the most modern life-saving drugs and medical and surgical care, are available to every sufferer free of charge. To this end, in the vicinity of 500 new tuberculosis beds have already been provided in New South Wales, with a further 500 in course of provision. Commonwealth financial assistance to the State for these purposes has totalled £5,fiG3,000 since 1950. From this it is clear that New South Wales is doing its best to implement the tuberculosis arrangement with the Commonwealth. I shall, however, keep the position constantly under review to ensure 111; t maximum efficiency is reached an maintained.
– I understand that the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) has a reply to the following question I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the 19th October: -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, direct the attention of the Minister to a statement made by the general manager of the Farmers and Graziers Co-operative Society that a spectacular rise in the price of butter overseas in .recent weeks, amounting to about 3d. per lb. Australian currency, and the agreement of the Australian Government to distribute the full amount of the subsidy, had made an immediate rise in interim payments a necessity? Will the Minister ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to make a statement to clarify the position?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has now furnished the following information : -
Although I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable senator it is true that overseas prices of butter and cheese have risn appreciably during the past few weeks. However, this has occurred at a time when only very small quantities of our butter and cheese from this season’s production are available for sale on the United Kingdom market. If present prices are maintained it is almost certain that extra payments will be made to farmers at the end of the year. In that event the industry will receive a higher return this year than last year. Any decision to alter the interim payment to factories is entirely a matter for the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited, a voluntary industry body over which the Commonwealth Government has no control. However, the honorable senator will be pleased to know that the Equalization Committee on Monday last decided to increase the present interim payments to factories by lid. per lh. for butter and Id. per lb. for cheese. These increases will he payable retrospectively to the 1st July, 1955, and actual payment is expected to be made by factories in November. In making this decision the committee took into account export sales, which have already been made from the current season’s production and the possibility that future sales will realize higher prices than earlier anticipated.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Commonwealth Grants Commission - Twenty-second Report, 1955.
The recommendations contained in the report will be adopted by the Government, and the enabling legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives yesterday.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject : -
The proposed erection of Commonwealth Offices at Yurong-street ( .Palladium j, Sydney.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to establish a tobacco industry trust account, the funds from which will be used to finance an expansion in tobacco research and advisory activities. The funds available in the trust account will be obtained from tobacco-growers, tobacco manufacturers and from Commonwealth Government contributions. Tobacco has been grown in Australia on a commercial scale since the early part of last century and, although there have in the past been periods of rapid expansion, the industry has suffered a series of set-backs over the years. These checks to development have, in certain cases, been attributable to pests and diseases, to production on unsuitable soil types, to inferior strains on tobacco, to poor curing techniques and, in others, to marketing difficulties and price instability.
As honorable senators are aware, a most important measure of stability has been introduced into the market in recent years by providing for lower rates of import duty when imported leaf is blended with a specified minimum percentage of Australian leaf, as determined by the Government. At the same time, improved cultural practices and increased “ know-how “ have Tesulted in the production of a higher quality leaf and a more satisfactory production per acre. The industry itself - both growing and manufacturing interests - is of the opinion that the future outlook is more encouraging than at any previous period. Nevertheless it agrees, and is supported by State governments and the Commonwealth Government, that tobacco research and advisory services should be intensified in order to capitalize on the gains made to date.
An expansion of the Australian tobaccogrowing industry is important to the general development of Australia. Particularly is this the case in encouraging the closer settlement of those areas having poor, sandy soils but with climatic conditions suitable to tobacco culture. Furthermore, some of the areas which offer the greatest opportunities for the expansion of tobacco leaf production, for example far north Queensland, are regarded as regions of strategic importance.
Quite apart from the importance of the tobacco industry, and its continued expansion, to the development and diversification of rural production in many areas of northern Australia is the contribution it can make to the conservation of overseas credits. The importation of tobacco leaf and tobacco products made necessary by the present low level of production in Australia is a not insignificant item in the current balance of payments picture. Last year, for example, the purchase of tobacco leaf and tobacco products from overseas cost Australia £17,300,000 in foreign exchange, £10,800.000 of which represented dollar expenditure. The scope for saving foreign exchange can be appreciated when it is realized that in 1954-55 Australia produced 6,500,000 lb of leaf, which represented only. 14 per cent. of the total tobacco leaf used in manufacture in Australia during that year.
In 1952 the Australian Government, and all State governments concerned, decided that an appreciable increase of tobacco production was warranted and was practicable. Tobacco-growers have responded to this objective and the area under production has increased from about 6.000 acres in 1950-51 to 9,380 acres in 1954-55. One of the most important features in this increase of production has been the marked improvement in the quality of the leaf produced. The growth of the industry to date has not been rapid, but this is not surprising in a primary industry which requires such an exacting knowledge of the handling of its products, if quality production is to be achieved.
On the production side, the Australian Government, through its tobacco leaf production grant, has already assisted in the development of the tobacco-growing industry. These funds are being used to encourage expansion in tobacco research and investigation undertaken by State departments of agriculture. The grant of £15,000 per annum is made available to States interested in tobacco production on a £l-for-£l basis. The State departments of agriculture and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are already carrying out a breeding programme to develop a strain of tobacco resistant to blue mould which caused serious losses in Victoria last year, and are investigating the control of this disease in the field. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture is assisting in the development of equipment for the application of control measures, and is importing prototype machinery for experimental purposes. Already there is evidence that a satisfactory control of this major pest may be achieved.
While there have been some significant technical advances in recent years, investigations leading to those advances have indicated little more than the basic principles to be followed. It has now become necessary to expand the investigations further if the full benefits are to be obtained from the progress that has already been made. As honorable senators are a.ware, the Government, as parts of its drive for greater production and a lowering of costs in rural industries, agreed to make available up to £500,000 per annum for the five years ending 1956-57 under the Commonwealth extension services grant. This year the Government has extended the period to 1959-60.
Initially £200,000 of the grant was made available, and it was indicated that further amounts were dependent upon adequate additional contributions being made by the States and or industries concerned. This year, in view of the extent to which the States have expanded their expenditure on advisory activities, the Government has made £300,000 available. By offering to furnish further large grants, particularly if adequate additional contributions are made by industries themselves, the Government is encouraging self-help in an industry’s own problems. The Government has shown itself fully prepared to assist in this way, and has held discussions with representatives of several industries who are desirous of taking advantage of this offer to increase research and investigation. The proposition which has been put to the Government by the tobacco industry represents a concerted approach to the industry’s problems by growers and manufacturers alike.
The proposal for an expanded tobacco investigation and extension programme had its origin in the discussions of the Tobacco Advisory Committee established by the Australian Agricultural Council. At meetings of this committee, on which growers, manufacturers, the States and the Commonwealth are represented, agreement, wa.3 j. cached on a programme of work which should be undertaken. It was estimated that this programme would involve a capital expenditure of £168,000 and an annual maintenance expenditure of £63,000.
Tobacco manufacturers have agreed to provide half the capital costs of the scheme, and the Australian Government to contribute the other £84,000. Insofar as maintenance costs are concerned, tobacco manufacturers have offered to contribute approximately £28,000 per annum, and tobacco-growers £14,000 per annum. The Commonwealth has agreed to provide the remaining £21,000 per annum in addition to the amount of £15,000 at present being provided under the tobacco leaf production grant and the expenditure on the existing work being undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
In order to meet their contributions to the annual costs of the programme, the industry has asked the Commonwealth to introduce legislation imposing a special levy on each pound of leaf sold by growers and on each pound of Australian leaf purchased by manufacturers. The rates of levy, at least in the initial stages,, will be id. per lb. from growers and Id. per lb. from manufacturers. Later in the proceedings, I will ask for leave to introduce the legislation necessary to implement these levies.
The Australian Agricultural Council has recommended a workable administrative procedure, to which the industry has- agreed. The procedure envisages the creation of a Tobacco Industry Trust Account, which is the purpose of this bill. Contributions from the industry and the Commonwealth will be placed in this account. After considering the recommendations of the Tobacco Advisory Committee, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will authorize payments to finance agreed programmes of work by Commonwealth departments, universities and other approved institutions, and to supplement State investigation and extension programmes. Although the actual control of the research programme and advisory activities will be the responsibility of the specific organizations to which finance is made available, the provision of funds for a co-ordinated programme would be under the authority of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
The purpose of this bill is to provide funds to finance programmes designed to increase production, to improve the quality of leaf produced and to raise the yield per acre. I am firmly convinced that the work to be financed from the trust account can have a significant effect in reducing the present overseas expenditure on tobacco. This Government has declared its intention to establish the tobacco-growing industry permanently on a profitable and expanding basis. We have never let up in working to that end, and we can now say that this objective seems to be well in sight.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’SULLIVAN) read a first time.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland-
Minister for Trade and Customs) [3.35].- I move-
That the bill be now read a, second time.
The purpose of this bill, which I foreshadowed in my second-reading speech on the Tobacco Industry Bill 1955, is to provide the administrative: machinery for the collection of levies which growers and manufacturers have asked the Government to introduce. The bill defines the persons liable to pay the charges imposed under the three tobacco charge bills which will be brought down subsequently. It will be noted that responsibility for the payment of growers’ levies will rest with the brokers handling the sale of the product. Tobacco growers’ associations are in agreement with this procedure. In addition, provision is made for the same brokers to collect manufacturers’ levies, subject to special agreement by the manufacturers concerned. In general, manufacturers have indicated that they would prefer this procedure. However, manufacturers may pay their own levies direct to the Government, if they so desire. The funds so collected would be appropriated into the Tobacco Industry Trust Account to assist in financing the research and extension programme to which I referred when introducing the Tobacco Industry Bill. I commend the bill as a necessary supplement to the Tobacco Industry Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan ) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
There are three bills dealing with similar matters, and with the concurrence of the Senate I propose that my second-reading speech on this bill, which is the first of them, shall cover the three measures. The purpose of these bills, which were foreshadowed in my second-reading speeches on the Tobacco Industry Bill and the Tobacco Charges Assessment Bill, is to place a charge on Australian-grown tobacco leaf. Honorable senators will recall that, as I mentioned earlier, the Government has been requested by the industry to impose a charge on Australiangrown tobacco leaf. Tobacco manufacturers and growers have agreed to make these contributions towards the maintenance expenditure associated with the proposed programme for the expansion of tobacco research, investigation and advisory services..
It will be noted that provision has been made in the Tobacco Charge Bill (No. 2) 1955, with the concurrence of manufacturers and growers, to exempt a growers’ co-operative association which purchases nine-tenths of its requirements of Australian leaf from its own members. Both manufacturers and growers have agreed that manufacturers who obtain from their own farms over 90 per cent. of the Australian leaf which they use should not be liable for both taxes. It was suggested that such manufacturers would pay only the “growers’ rate” as in Tobacco Charge Bill (No. 1) 1955. Where they obtain less than 90 per cent. from their own farms, growermanufacturers would be subject to the manufacturers’ rates on all Australian leaf used. Tobacco Charge Bill (No. 3) 1955 provides for these cases.
The close co-operation that has existed between all sections of the industry and Commonwealth and State departments enabled this proposal to be implemented in a relatively short time. The levies collected under these bills will establish a permanent source of revenue for the development of a long-term effective programme of investigation of the problems of the tobacco industry. The Government is confident that this proposal will be successful, and will materially assist in establishing efficient production of tobacco leaf in Australia. I commend these bills for favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In moving the second reading of this bill. I draw attention to my remarks when introducing my second-reading speech on the Tobacco Charge Bill (No. 1) 1955.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
My introductory remarks in connexion with the Tobacco Charge Bill (No. 1) apply also to this measure.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
– I move -
That Standing Order68 be suspended up to and including Friday, the 28th October, 1955, to enable new business to be commenced after half -past ten o’clock at night.
As honorable senators know, a motion of this kind is inevitable towards the closing days of a parliamentary session. I understand that honorable senators opposite, as well as those who sit behind me on this side, are aware that this session is coming to a close. Just as this is a traditional and customary, if not an inevitable, motion to be moved at this time, I am quite sure that Senator McKenna’s opposition to it will be just as traditional, and just as inevitable.
– There was no surprise on the part of the Opposition when the Leader of the Government, in this chamber (Senator O’Sullivan) gave notice of this motion yesterday, nor were we taken by surprise when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a certain announcement in the House of Representatives earlier this afternoon. The notice, of course, and the motion itself presage the usual .and inevitable end-of-session rush. I can say, quite frankly, that with an election in the offing, from a personal viewpoint all honorable senators on this side are eager for the session to terminate, so that they may embark upon the election campaign as soon as possible. I do not attempt to conceal that fact. But this business of rushing measures through the Parliament al, the end of each session is wrong. It is wrong in two ways : it is wrong because there will be the most inadequate consideration given to measures already on the notice paper and to measures that are still to come to us from another place. From a public viewpoint, everybody must acknowledge that that is wrong. It is wrong again because of its effect upon the health of senators. I think it is quite wrong to introduce new measures after 10.30 p.m. and to expect the Senate to continue debating them, perhaps all night, but certainly until the small hours of the morning. I remind honorable senators - although they do not need to be reminded of this - that their day’s work does not commence at the time the Senate assembles on any day. Many honorable senators have to-day attended executive and party meetings, which commenced at 9.30 a.m. After attending such meetings, I fulfilled an obligation with the Leader of the Opposition - I mean, the Leader of the Government. I am getting prophetic now-
– That was a slip of the tongue, although it may be prophetic. As I have said, I kept an appointment with the Minister for lunch, and it is true that party meetings will be held, and other obligations discharged during the dinner suspension this evening.
This is to be the pattern of life over the next few days. I put it to the Government, very seriously, that it is quite wrong for the sake of saving a few days. Despite my ready acknowledgment that we are eager to return to our areas and get on with the election campaign, it is nevertheless quite wrong. Therefore, the Opposition will formally record its protost, under both these heads, by voting against the motion.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 705) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 25th October (vide page 698).
Department of Immigration.
Proposed vote, £1,543,000.
Miscellaneous Services, Department of Immigration.
Proposed vote, £8,963,000.
– Prior to the interruption of consideration of the proposed vote last evening, I addressed some remarks to item 5, “ Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council - Expenses - £2,250 “ under Division 199 - Department of Immigration - H., in relation to assimilation activities. I made some comment in relation to the economic assimilation of immigrants, and stated that that was a mode of assimilation which possibly would be the most powerful factor in the first generation of immigrants, with cultural assimilation to follow with greater effect in the succeeding generations. When asked by certain honorable senators what I meant by economic assimilation, I pointed out that it was the ability to give to a new Australian whatever was needed to enable him to take his place economically in the life of a new country. It is not very difficult to do this during a period of full employment, when there are more jobs available than there is labour to fill them, but factors other than employment and occupation are also involved. It is not possible to find out whether any discrimination is being exercised, or whether, in a time of stringency, there would be discrimination against new citizens. However, in order to give some lead as to the extent to which economic assimilation had taken place, I directed the attention of honorable senators to a survey that was recently conducted in Queensland, in which a pointer was given to the answer to this question by the extent to which real property had come into the ownership of new Australians. Under the law of Queensland, prior to 1952, aliens could hold land only on the promulgation of a particular and specific order in council, and that provision applied only to aliens of friendly nations. However, in ]952 the Queensland Government amended the law, and now, aliens may hold land, under the terms of that legislation, on a certificate from the Attorney-General. Therefore, since 1952 it has been practicable to discover the extent to which real property has gone into the hands of our new citizens.
A survey of that question examined approximately 6,000 cases in which new Australians had come to own real property, either farms or houses, and allowing for certain exceptions, so that the analysis would be more valid and more compelling in the story it might tell, about 3,674 cases ultimately were examined. The difference between the 6,000 cases and the 3,674 cases to which I have just referred is due to the exclusion of certain groups and types which, had they been included, would rather have invalidated and distorted the picture. For example, the analysis was confined primarily to people of these nations which, traditionally, had sent immigrants to Australia, particularly to Queensland, over the years, perhaps going back to the last century, and also to those nations which had been particularly prominent in post-war immigration, even though they had no long tradition of immigration to Queensand There were also certain other exceptions, such as exclusion from the general picture of cases of joint tenancy, joint ownership, or of two members of a family together owning property in some way or other. Due to those exclusions, this figure of 3,674 cases for analysis was arrived at.
The story told by that analysis is a very long and complex one, and I have not the time now, nor would it be particularly appropriate at this stage, to go into details. Suffice to say that, of these 3,674 cases, the main national groups involved were Polish, Italian and Dutch.
– No kanakas ?
– No. We have not employed kanakas in Queensland, as the honorable senator knows, for a century, due to the introduction of one of the great emanicipatory statutes for which the State of Queensland has become famous. Of the 3,674 cases, it is significant that 60 per cent, purchased real property in the first three years after they took up domicile in this country. That, I suggest, is a very high average and may be contributed to by certain factors which are not necessarily of a recurring or constant nature. One factor is, in the case of house property, the relative cheapness of such property in Queensland, compared with its value in other States, and another factor is that, in the immediate post-war period, the availability of bank finance and credit made home ownership easier than it is to-day.
There was, to a degree, a concentration in the city of Brisbane and in the West Moreton statistical district, which would have a radius of approximately 60 miles. Nevertheless, there has been a very wide distribution of new Australians throughout Queensland, the bulk of certain national groups going to north Queensland. More particularly, and perhaps logically, in accordance with tradition, the Italians have gone to north Queensland, but many of them also have gone to Stanthorpe and the TexasInglewood area, and have engaged in tobaccogrowing, which is the subject of bills read for the first time in this chamber to-day. That industry has been of tremendous economic assistance to Queensland and to Australia generally. In another connexion, some time ago I referred to the contribution that the State of Queensland has made, in the primary export field, to the overall economic stability of the Australian export trade. Not one of the least significant contributions in that respect has been the production of tobacco, because that has been one of the main commodities adding to our trade deficit with hard currency areas. Italians have gone to the tobacco-growing areas, and to similar areas in north Queensland.
A further matter to which it is, perhaps, worth -while to direct attention is the period during which these people first took up real property, either farms or houses. Naturally, it is easier to acquire a house than it is to acquire a farm. Therefore, the period after domicile during which a new Australian could select or otherwise acquire a farm necessarily would be longer than the period during which he could obtain a house property. Ten per cent, of the people who were the subject of this analysis came to own real property, in one form or other, in the first year after taking up domicile, a fact which, I think, can be regarded as extremely satisfactory and encouraging. In the second year after domicile, 18 per cent, acquired property in one form or other, or were in the course of acquiring it. It should be understood that I am including in these figures people who might not, perhaps, have had a complete title, but who, by putting down a deposit, had obtained some equity. In the third year after domicile, 32 per cent., or approximately one-third, of all those who took up real property had begun to acquire it in that year. In the fourth year, the figure was 25 per cent., and in the fifth year 12 per cent. It diminished to between 2 per cent, and 6 per cent, in the six years to eight years period. I think it is worth while to place these figures before honorable senators in order to give them an idea of how the economic assimilation of new Australians is succeeding.
In my opinion, the Queensland Government is to be congratulated on the liberal approach which it has adopted to ownership of real property by aliens, and the amendment of State legislation to make it easier for aliens to acquire farms or house property, so that they may have the minimum stake in the country. I think that the Queensland Government is deserving of the greatest credit for that legislative advance which, obviously, is paying dividends, and which is being taken advantage of by immigrants. Ultimately, it will be of tremendous value to the States.
– Are the Italians entering the sugar industry ,as growers, or as labourers?
– The acquiring of sugar land - that is, land which carries a sugar assignment, which is one of the conditions precedent to being able to produce sugar - is an expensive proposition. There always has been, of course, a tradition in the north for Italians coming to this country to work with their compatriots who were already established on sugar farms. Gradually, the newer settlers have acquired farms also, but Italians coming out in the new wave of immigration find it not so easy to-day to acquire farms, so that most of the rural settlement by the current wave of Italian immigrants has been in industries other than the sugar industry. There would be very few in the dairy-farming industry. They would be engaged primarily in the growing of tobacco and small crops in the Stanthorpe area. It is possible that, later on, they may migrate to the sugar industry, which requires greater capital investment, and that capita] would have to be accumulated from other sources in the intervening years.
Finally, I think it is appropriate to congratulate the Federal Labour Government which embarked with courage, determination and vision upon this great immigration programme and which, obviously, is now paying dividends. People have come to this country in hundreds of thousands, and from the figures I have cited, it is obvious that those people are becoming integrated completely into the community. They are showing an interest in the country by buying a part of its soil. That is a thing for which we aspire for old Australians as well, and it is a matter for deep regret that fewer opportunities have been given for Australians to acquire house property and rural property. When these people arrive, and in their small way are able to buy it, they should be encouraged, as well as our own people, to do it. The Labour Government of the day that launched this tremendous immigration programme which has meant so much to the Australian nation, deserves great credit. Those who were primarily responsible for it, particularly the then Minister for Immigration, Mr. Calwell, must derive considerable satisfaction from knowing that their plans and ambitions are being realized because immigrants are integrating quickly and completely into our community. They are getting their roots well into the soil, and are assisting in the development of a splendid, virile nation.
– I wish to relate my remarks to the vote for Miscellaneous Services, which is part of the total vote of £8,963,000 for the Department of Immigration. Some points were made in the speeches of honorable senators opposite to which I should like to refer. Senator Cameron mentioned three specific matters. They related to the situation concerning rural population, housing of immigrants, and the need for decentralization. Senator Kennelly said that the Government was not bringing sufficient skilled workmen among the immigrants. At the last meeting of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, figures were cited to show that, in 1954, skilled workers among the European immigrants totalled 13,783, or 22.9 per cent. There were also 28,892 semi-skilled workers, which was 48.1 per cent., and 71,450 unskilled, or 29 per cent, of the total. Under the United Kingdom nomination scheme, 65 per cent, of all workers were skilled. The percentage of skilled workers in the 1955 arrivals from the United Kingdom will be higher - 73 per cent. In the 1947 census, the total number of skilled craftsmen in the Australian work force represented 16.1 per cent.
The honorable senator made reference also to the fact that at dances Australian girls were not mixing with immigrant men. This is not the fault of the immigrants, nor of the Good Neighbour Councils or New Settlers Leagues. Due to the long isolation of Australia, many Australians, through ignorance, are intolerant of the manners and customs of other nationals. Unwillingness of parents to have their daughters marry Europeans is understandable owing to a fear of temperamental differences; but there is no need to be afraid of the type of offspring resulting from such inter-marriage. If we examine the British stock, of which we are so justly proud, we find a tremendous mixture of blood - Angle, Saxon. Jute, Danish, Italian, Norman, Celt, Huguenot, Spanish and others. It is the duty of the individual Australian citizen to convince parents that they have nothing to fear from the marriage of their children with immigrants. This is the only way of overcoming the problem of lonely young immigrant men, and its related problem of crime.
Senator Kennelly referred also to the incidence of mental illness and tuberculosis among immigrants. ‘ The selection procedure abroad with regard to both mental illness and tuberculosis is most rigid. However, in the absence of any indication of mental instability, it is impossible to detect the small percentage of migrants who may be affected by the stresses and strains of settling in a new country. I wish to quote the following paragraph from a bulletin of the Department of Immigration: -
Following discussion on the impact of immigration on State services at a Premiers’ Conference, the States were asked to furnish statistical data in support of their claims. In submitting its data, the New South Wales Government said - “ These figures indicate that the existence of mental diseases amongst immigrants is appreciably lower than its existence amongst the natural born population.”
As regards tuberculosis, all assisted migrants and all non-British full-fare migrants are required to undergo radiological screening, and most of these categories are screened again on arrival, under State statutory requirements. Senator Kennelly said -
Admittedly some of them could have contracted the disease since coming to this country, but T think the number in that category would he relatively few.
The figures he has cited, and the proportion of immigrants in the population of the various States are as follows: -
New South Wales- (13 (for three months)., equals 1 in 4,1.100 of post-war migrant population.
Victoria - 101 (for 1954-55), equals 1 in 5,000 of post-war migrant population.
Queensland - fi I (for 1954-55), equals 1 in 1,350 of post-war migrant population.
These figures represent a low incidence, and there is no indication that the immigrants did not contract the disease after arrival. In fact, having regard to the thoroughness of medical screening, there is every indication that this is, in fact, the case. Senator Byrne spoke glowingly of our policy, and appears to agree with me that although the Labour Government initiated the immigration policy, the present Government has developed and continued it to a large extent. Personally, I wish to congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) and the Government for the very smooth way in which they are carrying on this work. It is pleasing to note that there is no slackening in the efforts of the Government to implement its immigration policy, in spite of some alarming talk among irresponsible or uninformed people, or those who should know better, to the effect that this policy is inflationary and should be curtailed. That is a very short-sighted view. In a young country such as Australia we cannot afford to have anything but a long-range and broad view.
We must increase our population as quickly as possible in order to develop our national resources, and we must do something for ourselves towards strengthening our defences. If we cut the head off our immigration policy it will mean certain death to the present programme. With full employment in Europe and the United Kingdom, it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract migrants to Australia. The most successful way of doing this is through the already settled, contented immigrant who, by hia correspondence with his friends and relations, will publicize this country and attract others to follow him out here. If we indulge in any policy of panic curtailment it will be the worspossible advertisement for the continuing prosperity of Australia. The impression would be created that we have an unstable economy, which changes from inflation to deflation every two or three years. The effect would be disastrousparrticularly to skilled tradesmen who are having pressure put upon them by the employers in their own country and in some cases by their governments, not to migrate. No publicity that will emphasize the prosperity of Australia can be wasted. Therefore it is pleasing to note, under subdivision E of Division 199, that the vote for migration publicity this year has been raised.
Again I commend the Minister and the department for their long-range view. They realize that every individual alternates between periods of inflation and deflation, but that is evident in the average life cycle. A child is inflationary because he produces nothing, but in most cases he consumes ravenously. When he approaches maturity, and his productive period begins, he becomes deflationary, nut when he reaches old age he becomes inflationary again. The immigrant has similar cycles, but perhaps they are of shorter duration. It is a well-established fact that the immigrant, during the first years of his domicile in Australia, is a splendid saver. His capital requirements for living are deferred. If we were to curtail the flow of immigrants we would deprive ourselves of the immediate stabilizing effect that these people have upon the later deflationary period when the immigrant begins to build his home and purchase domestic equipment. It is unreasonable to assume that immigration is more inflationary than is the natural increase of population. Therefore, curtailment is no solution of our problem. It is thought by some that the capital requirements of immigrants exceed their production and, therefore, cause inflationary demands. This argument assumes that the nation’s capital goods need to be increased in proportion to each addition to population, but it ignores two factors: first, that many public utilities that we already have are not completely utilized ; and, secondly, that there are 60,000 registered job vacancies, proving that factories have equipment far in excess of the requirements of our present work force.
Expenditure on capital equipment is made ahead of the arrival of the immigrants who are to use it. We would not have it otherwise if we wish industry to remain up to date, to replace worn-out equipment and to become more efficient in order to reduce costs. To deny manpower to this country at this stage would be not only undesirable but disastrous. We must have more and more workers to build up a pool of exportable goods in order to balance our overseas payments on essential imports. In order to develop home production we must develop our natural resources. We must conserve water, mine ores and produce steel, which is the basis of building requirements, agricultural equipment, fencing material and so on. To do that we need a greater working force. Every economic problem in Australia to-day can be traced to a lack of man-power.
Immigration has been responsible for a 75 per cent, addition to our post-war work force, and over and above the advantages of numbers are the advantages due to the mobility of the work force. Large-scale projects such as the Snowy Mountains scheme, the Eildon Weir, Rocklands Dam and oil refineries could not have been undertaken without this mobile immigrant work force, and if we are to continue with further projects such as these we must continue the flow. We have recruited types most needed and, by placing them at key points, we have broken down bottle- necks, thus leading to greater production and economies. I should like to quote one outstanding example, namely the growth in the steel industry. This industry, in four years, has saved for Australia sufficient to cover the cost of our immigration programme for the whole of the last ten years. With 73 per cent, immigrant labour in the post-war’ labour force in the steel industry, production has been increased by 67 per cent., or 900,000 tons per annum. With Australian steel costing £44 a ton as compared with £S0 a ton for imported steel, the actual saving to Australia amounts to £32,500,000 per annum. If all of that steel had had to bp imported, as previously, there would have been an adverse effect on our overseas balance of £72,000,000 annually. To this must be added the advantages to the motor car industry and also the building and primary industries through the availability of locally produced steel.
Senator Cameron mentioned housing. Admittedly, it is our biggest problem, just as it is all over the world. However, we have maintained the highest standard of housing of any country. We have an average of four persons to each house, and with 75,000 to 80,000 houses being built each year that means that we are housing at least an additional 300,000 persons annually. We are bringing in approximately half that number of immigrants every year proving conclusively that we are catching up on the backlog in housing. That fact is directly attributable to the immigrant labour force. We are selecting overseas labour suitable for this industry and channelling into this field all available immigrants.
In addition to the advantages and help given to secondary industries we must also consider the assistance that immigrants are contributing both directly and indirectly to rural industries. The direct contribution has been 62,000 immigrant rural workers. Indirectly, immigrants are assisting through their work on irrigation and water conservation, their help in “ pepping up “ the production of fertilizers by 59 per cent, since 1949, and their help in increasing the output of agricultural machines, wire, wire netting and galvanized iron. They have also “ pepped up “ the number of seasonal workers available for harvesting, canecutting and fruit-picking. It would certainly have a tragic effect on our overseas credit balance if we checked any of these sources of development.
It is not necessary to say very much about defence. Pessimists predict that we would not be able to defend Australia against invasion. Admittedly, we could not do so without the assistance of allies; but we cannot expect allies to come to our assistance if we do nothing to help ourselves. Perhaps, in defence, numbers do not count so much as the character, quality and the industry of the defenders; and certainly as a result of our immigration force we are gaining in all of those qualities.
The ‘CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable senator has risen, I shall take my second period. Through recent negotiations with the United Kingdom and European races, we are now more secure than we have ever been before; but those other nations expect us to expand and prosper. The need for immigrants now is no less than it was when we began. It is essential that we should continue the flow unchecked. Our annual defence expenditure is £200,000,000 per annum, but our immigration programme over the last ten years has cost us only half of that annual expenditure.
I should like to mention two items that are listed under miscellaneous services. The first is item B which relates to the allocation to Good Neighbour Councils and New Settlers’ Leagues. A great tribute is due to be paid to those two bodies which are doing so much to assist in the assimilation of immigrants. I have worked in close contact with these bodies in South Australia and I know that the paid staff take no notice of the time factor. Overtime presents no problem to them. They are certainly not paid for overtime, but are only too happy to give their time and energy to the great work they are performing. A great proportion of the work is performed by voluntary helpers who carry out the dual purpose of assisting the immigrants with their assimilation problems and also in educating Australian citizens to their individual responsibility towards our immigration programme by making a friendly approach to the immigrants. I should like to see even more money allocated to these organizations because I think that another job could be performed through social functions being organized with the object of bringing immigrant national communities into closer contact with Australian communities. Such activities cost money which is not at present available to these councils and, therefore, I should like to see a slightly higher vote proposed for this item.
The other matter to which I direct attention relates to Commonwealth hostels. I notice that the proposed vote for that purpose is £350,000 greater than last year. I hope that some of this money will be spent on modifying the furniture in the hostels. I keep up a regular round of visit3 to these hostels and I have noticed that the people are most uncomplaining and very contented in spite of the attempts of unaccredited associations, through newspaper publicity, to cause unrest amongst them. However, I believe that added conveniences in the rather small rooms in hostels in the nature of built-in furniture and drop tables on which children could do their homework would be of tremendous advantage. At the moment, the immigrants in the hostels nave no facilities of this type and it presents considerable hardship. I have great pleasure in supporting these Estimates, and I congratulate the Government on carrying out such a splendid job for so modest an expenditure.
.- As the Senate representative on the Immigration Advisory Council I take this opportunity to compliment the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) and the department. With my knowledge of the work of the department I know that it is meeting with the fullest approval and commendation of all who are associated with it. I wish to pay a tribute to the members of the Department of Immigration with whom I and the other members of the Immigration Advisory Council have been associated. The officers of the department have been particularly well chosen, and the expenditure that we are now discussing is particularly worthy of approval by the Senate. I have no doubt that the Government gets first-class results from the members of the Department of Immigration, and that that department is well worth the expenditure involved.
The scope of the work of the officers is very wide. They are required to administer their overseas representation, to secure immigrants in countries overseas, to arrange their passages to this country, to arrange accommodation for them when they get here and to carry out the many miscellaneous services mentioned in the bill. The good neighbour councils mentioned by Senator Buttfield are also encouraged by the department, and the medical services administered by the department are a strong feature of its activities. Those of us who are members of the Immigration Advisory Council, and who know the work done by the department, recognize its great value to the Government and to the people of Australia. Immigration is an extremely important matter to Australia in view of the possible future dangers that lie ahead of us. Therefore, I believe that a few words of commendation of the officers of the Department of Immigration are not out of place at this stage of the debate.
– I agree with Senator Wood that the administrative activities of the Department of Immigration have been carried out very well. However, one phase of immigration is causing some concern to many people in Australia. That is connected with the selection of immigrants by our overseas representatives, and the arrangements made for their passage to Australia. Many complaints have been made to me about this particular service at Athens. In one case a prospective immigrant applied for permission to come to Australia, and his application was approved. Subsequently, on account of conditions in Athens, he was unable to come here. Later he lodged further applications in respect of himself and his sister, and those applications were approved.
The authorities in Athens have been communicated with officially at least three times, but now I have been asked to write directly to them about the provision of passages for this man and his sister. I suggest that that is a completely wrong procedure, particularly as it has been admitted by the Department of Immigration that it can get no information at all about the matter. The two prospective immigrants would be thoroughly satisfactory new Australians, and I ask the Minister who is in charge of this particular section of the bill to obtain some information from the department as to why these people have not been allowed to come to Australia.
It has been reported in the press that there are persons who co-operate with the Department of Immigration by submitting the names of suitable immigrants, but many persons in the Greek community in Australia have told me that it is necessary to pay considerable sums of money to such people, in order to get their relatives in Greece out to this country. After having paid for that to be done, many of them find that something has gone wrong, and that their relatives have not arrived. Our authorities cannot say why anything should go wrong, and communications with Athens, even by the department, have brought no information. The matter has been taken up by the authorities in Canberra, and I suggest that it should be further investigated. Many of the Greek nationals who wish to come here are welleducated, they are not penniless, and they would be an asset to Australia. Nevertheless, although they are put to much expense, they find that they are not able to get here.
– I compliment Senator Buttfield on her speech. I did not agree with much of what she said, but, having a little gallantry about me, I shall not say anything about that. In the days when Hitler ruled Germany, quite good types of immigrants were coming here, and Australia is to be complimented for throwing its doors open to the victims of the Nazis. Some of those immigrants are friends of mine, and they are highly cultured people. Many of them can speak six, seven, eight, and even nine languages, and they have taught us much about art and literature.
Lately, however, some immigrants have been arriving from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia and Czechoslovakia, who are not fit to live in this country. As I am something of a bohemian, I associate with some of these immigrants, and I have discovered that certain sections of them are trying to build up Nazi-ism again. Mr. Adenauer has done his best to stamp out Nazi-ism in West Germany, but it should be remembered that the West Germans recently voted against losing their domination of the Saar, and against entry into the Western Union. I recently heard a lecture given by a lady who quoted from an Australian newspaper which is published in the Hungarian language. She stated that the newspaper exhorted its readers to keep together, and told them that in World War I. the Germans were defeated by the treachery of the civilians, and in World War II. by the treachery of the soldiers.
As honorable senators who have read the comments of Field Marshal Kesselring well know, there are hundreds of Nazis in West Germany. Indeed, some Germans have never had any education in democracy. Iron crosses are again for sale in West Germany, and people with Nazi sympathies are coming to this country. One consequence of their entry is that there is a great difficulty in getting them into trade unions. I suggest that the Government should organize intense propaganda to try to eradicate Nazi-ism.
A few days ago I spoke to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) about the type of people coming to Australia, and I now inform honorable senators that there is no doubt that as soon as there is the slightest sign of a recession in this country, such immigrants will work under time, over time, above time or any time at all to break down our industrial conditions.
The screening of immigrants does not seem to be efficient, and time and time again my new Australian friends have pointed out immigrants to me whom they have stated to be Nazis. I am quite satisfied that if any honorable senator takes the trouble to talk to some of the people who have come to Australia during the last two years, he will discover that a large proportion of them know nothing at all about the Australian way of life.
As a trade unionist, as a Labour man and as a democrat I am very uneasy about the whole matter, particularly about what will happen when there is a trade recession in this country.
– Senator Cooke has referred to immigration arrangements at Athens. The attention of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) will be directed to the matter.
Proposed votes agreed to. department of LaBOUR and national Service.
Proposed vote, £1,931,000.
Defence Services Other Services, Administration of National Service Act.
Proposed vote, £222,000.
– I direct the attention of the committee to the item, “ Stevedoring Industry Act 1949-1954 - Committee of Inquiry “, under Division 98. The proposed vote for this item is £28,500. Honorable senators will recall that frequent reference has been made to the Stevedoring Industry Commission, and general dissatisfaction has been expressed with its activities. Nobody can view the situation on the wharfs without feeling great misgivings because the general situation there is in a state of chaos. If the men want to go on strike they do so, and if they want to return to work, they go back according to their inclinations. There does not appear to be any authority to enforce an orderly arrangement because the commission does not exercise authority.
I do not blame the waterside workers altogether. I realize fully that the owners can look after their own interests as well as the watersiders look after theirs. I well remember reading in a report of the Stevedoring Industry Commission of conditions that applied in the loading of coal at Newcastle. The coal was put into the ships by mechanical shovels and trimmers had to move it back into the corners with shovels as more coal was brought in. That is a prehistoric method of handling coal. I could show anybody interested an improvement on that method in Western Australia, where we have better methods of loading wheat mechanically. Conditions like those at Newcastle provoke men to strike. It is necessary to clean up those conditions and to improve them.
The Government decided about two years ago to invite Mr. EL Basten to Australia to conduct an inquiry. After a thorough investigation, he submitted his report, but practically nothing happened as a result. A bill was introduced into the Parliament, but the position on the waterfront is unchanged. Last year, the Government decided to have another inquiry. Mr. Tait, Q.C., was appointed chairman of a committee of three to make the investigation. The matter was to be treated as urgent, and a report was to be submitted by March, 1955. A few members of Parliament formed a deputation at that time to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and I was one of their number. When concern was expressed about the report of the committee of inquiry, the Minister assured us that it would be completed by March, 1955. This is October, and no report has yet been submitted. There is no chance of ft report coming to hand for some time.
I do not know whether honorable senators have taken sufficient interest in the matter to visit the annexe to the National Library. If they do, they can see there n pile of transcript which I estimate to be at least 5 feet high containing 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 words. This matter has dragged on to such an extent that the harbour authorities withdrew from the inquiry last June. The Premier of South Australia announced at the Premiers Conference that the harbour authorities had done so because the inquiry was futile, and was bogged down by matters which had no connexion with the terms of reference of the Committee of Inquiry.
Meanwhile, strikes continue on the waterfront and ships are held up. Shipping freights have been increased. I am anxious to see this report and the effect it has on shipping freights and services because shipping is getting into an alarming state. I was discussing this matter recently with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and he said that there were no ships trading now between Australia and South Africa. I do not blame the shipping companies if they do not want to come to Australia. I recall that recently a ship which called at Fremantle took a week to load 500 tons of cargo at a cost of £3,000. The captain told me that from the time he arrived, in Australia, unloaded and then loaded his cargo and got away, six weeks had elapsed but he completed the same programme at Liverpool in nine days. .1 mad a return the other day which stated that from January to May, 54 overseas vessels were delayed 508 days through shortages of labour and 175 days more waiting for berths. Can the shipowner? he blamed for not sending their ships to Australia in those circumstances? lt is up to us to discover the source of the trouble and ascertain what remedies can be adopted. If conditions such as those I have mentioned at Newcastle are general, the harbour authorities should do something to improve them and make them decent for the waterside workers. I have received a letter from the trustees of the wheat pool of Western Australia dated the 19th October last. The letter stated -
I learned to-day that the Australian Wheat Board had chartered the La Sierra to load wheat in the eastern States, presumably to the United Kingdom at a rate of 165s. E. per ton. This is equal to 5s. 7d.A. per bushel.
That is about one-third of the price received for the wheat. How can we expect, to place our products on world markets under such conditions? But when we try to get something done to improve the situation, the matter is shelved.
Last year, the actual expenditure on this committee of inquiry was £27,8S6 and the proposed vote is £28,500. That is a total of £58,3S6, but I doubt if anything useful can be obtained from the mass of evidence at the library annexe. All the information necessary could be obtained from the harbour authorities, the representatives of the shipowners and the Waterside Workers Union. This money is being wasted, and if it were not so late in the parliamentary session, I would be inclined to move for the deletion of this item from the Estimates as a protest against the delay in dealing with this matter. The ship which was delayed at
Fremantle. and to which I have already referred, cost £1,250,000 and it was losing money every day it was not at sea. Large sums of money are lost when a ship of that sort is tied up for weeks, and, eventually, the owners send their ships where conditions are better and they can be turned around more readily.
I beg of the Government to do something about this committee of inquiry. The Government should either abolish the committee or make it bring in a report. It should give the Parliament some indication of what has been discovered by the committee in the course of its inquiries, and what action it proposes to meet the problems so that we can do something to improve conditions on the waterfront for the shippers, the waterside workers, and the shipowners.
.- One of the responsibilities of the Department of Labour and National Service is to engage labour for those industries which find they cannot recruit enough employees. It is well known that some industries are more favoured than others with regard to the supply of labour, and can obtain sufficient for their requirements. There are other industries which are very unfavorably situated. I refer in particular to the sugar industry of Queensland, in which for eight or nine years, or even longer, there has been a definite shortage of labour for harvesting operations each year. So bad and so permanent has the shortage of labour become that last year a committee of sugar-growers visited Italy to recruit labour for cane harvesting operations. They obtained some hundreds of Italian workers who they thought would be suitable for the work to be performed, and had them brought to Queensland. These workers settled in the industry for a brief period, but after a while they found that the climate of Queensland did not suit them. Some of them disappeared from the industry and visited southern cities, and have not since returned to the cane-fields. This kind of thing is likely to become a permanent feature of the industry, in which event there will be a definite shortage of labour every year.
The Government has taken a hand in this matter for a number of years by recruiting labour from factories and else where, and sending the workers to north Queensland, but, unfortunately, many of those workers, having tasted of the hard work associated with the harvesting of sugar cane have thought that the amenities of the southern cities are more attractive. Some consideration has been given to this problem. It is indeed a problem, because sugar-growing is one of the major industries of Queensland. It is so important that it must have a sufficient supply of labour. I may be somewhat out of order in making these remarks, but I point out that some of the officers of the department now under consideration have suggested that if housing accommodation were provided for the immigrants, and work during, the slack season, there would be no shortage of labour for sugar harvesting operations. The harvesting season extends from June until December in each year. In the past, workers who have visited Queensland to engage in cane cutting have earned good money. I recall the time when the industry attracted men from every Australian State. Men went to Queensland to engage in sugar harvesting operations because of the comparatively high wages that they could earn. Now, it appears that because of the soft living conditions in other parts of Australia, the sugar industry has ceased to attract workers. As this is a national industry, the shortage of labour in it is a national problem; it is not a matter affecting Queensland only, and therefore the situation in the industry must be heeded by the Commonwealth Government. Sufficient labour for harvesting operations must be provided. As I have said, officers, of the department have indicated, in the press, that in order to overcome the problem, work must be provided during the slack period which extends from the beginning of January until the end of June.
– Is there not a government in Queensland?
– What can the Government of Queensland do without loan money? The Commonwealth Government has cut down on capital expenditure. Queensland has a large area of virgin country awaiting development as well as mineral resources of great potential value, but the Commonwealth ‘Government holds “the -money Dags, and it tafes good care that Queensland will not get much from them - not even its fair share.
– A sum of £19,000,000 has -been -put away somewhere.
– I .am .dealing with a national problem - the shortage of labour in the sugar-growing industry in the harvesting season. The Minister in Shis chamber who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service -should heed the advice >of the officers .of “the department that a determined effort -should be made to provide employment for cancutters during the slack period of the sugar-growing industry. I believe that the officers of the department are doing a very good job efficiently. The fault Ses -with the Government.
– The Government of Queensland.
– I do not know how much longer the present Commonwealth Government -will be in .-office-
– A long time.
– The people of Australia will ‘decide that matter. T do not want this national problem to be treated lightly by the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National ‘Service. He is .the most evasive Minister in the Cabinet. He is a pastmaster in the art .of evading questions. Officers of the department nave given this matter the careful consideration that they give to -all matters with -which they are connected, and they have advised that if work is provided during the slack period there will be no shortage of labour for sugar-harvesting operations. ‘That seems ito he the answer to this problem. I should like to hear the Minister’s comments.
.- I think that I can answer Senator Benn by stating that this problem was discussed -at the last “meeting of the Immigration Advisory ‘Council. Senator Benn did not say that the canecutters were invited by the department to join -with the Immigration Department officers overseas in selecting men to -work in the cane-fields, in order to reduce the temptation to immigrants ‘to settle in more southern parts of Australia, especially in the big cities, they were taken direct to Queensland ports; the ship did not call at any of the southern cities. In that way, it was hoped that they -would settle in Queensland and remain there.
Honorable .senators may be interested to know that .at the meeting of the Immigration Advisory Council to which I have referred, a representative of the Canadian Immigration Department,, who was .present, remarked .that if le did not know -that he was in Australia, le would think that le was in Canada, because the problem under discussion was the same problem which faced Canada also. He went on to say that the ‘Canadian authorities, in order to solve the problem of seasonal labour, were insisting that sugar workers he guaranteed accommodation -a’md employment in the -off-season of the sugar industry by the growers. A person wl© -employs -a :sugar worker must differ him accommodation and off-season work. It has been found that, in .that -way, men are kept in the industry. Although Italians have been found to be satisfactory cane-cutters because they are prepared to work in rural industries,, at the same time many Queenslander complain that too many Italians are being “brought to Queensland. Tt would seem that there is no way to please some people.
.. - like .Senator Seward, .1 should like some information about the Department of Labour and National ^Service, particularly about the vote of £28.,500 for “ Stevedoring Industry Act 1.9.49-1954 - Committee of Inquiry”. ‘Last y:ear, the .expenditure under this item amounted to :£2.7,886. As the .proposed vote is almost a .similar amount, .does it indicate that the inquiry is to continue, and that we are not likely to receive .the committee’s report for some time? I should dike the Minister to tell us what fees are paid to the chairman and the associate members of the committee, and to the counsel assisting the -committee.
– The inquiry to which Senator Ashley has referred is being conducted in accordance with the provisions of an act of Parliament that was passed last year. It is true that it is taking longer to complete than was expected. However, I point out that a similar inquiry in New Zealand took about two years to complete, and the same sort of inquiry is at present being conducted in Great Britain. Although some honorable senators may think that the inquiry is taking a long time, I remind them that it has been sitting continuously since March, and has taken evidence on many days. I think it would be fair to say that those who are conducting the inquiry are eager to report as soon as possible on certain aspects of the matter that was referred to them.
– The Minister has not mentioned the fees that are being paid.
– Such information is not usually given while an inquiry is proceeding.
– As a representative of the people. I am entitled to the information.
– “Why not ask for it at question time?
-. - I have asked questions about the fees, but the Minister has not answered them. As this is a matter of public importance, and the people are entitled to know the facts, the Minister should supply the information.
– I only want to say a few words about the Stevedoring Industry Inquiry. I recognize that it was set up as a result of an act of Parliament, but it should be conceded that those who advised the Government to undertake it expected the committee of inquiry to conclude its investigation and submit a report in time to enable the Government to introduce legislation last April. I am keenly disappointed that those expectations were not realized. My only other comment in relation to the inquiry is that I am awaiting with great interest the final report.
I think some comment should ‘be made about the cost of the inquiry. An amount of £27,886 was expended on it last year, and the proposed vote this year is £28,500. I regard this expenditure as the product of an administrative blunder. This is an illustration of irresponsibility with regard to the cost of government that is becoming more and more evident in Canberra.
– Hear, hear !
– Nevertheless, that cost is infinitesimal when compared with what the present situation on the waterfront is costing. It is one of the cancers in this country which should have been cured years ago. When the general election is over, if I am still a member of this chamber, this will be a matter for the most keen and important decision.
– Do I understand the position to be that the Minister refuses to tell me what fees are paid to the chairman, his associated members, and counsel assisting the inquiry?
– It is not customary to give such information, at least while the inquiry is pending, and I am not going to give the information to the honorable senator.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland) [4.59 J. : - I am prompted to make some comment in relation to the employment of immigrants on Queensland’s sugar-fields in view of the remarks that have been made by Senator Buttfield and Senator Benn. Apparently, Senator Buttfield considers that it is the responsibility of the industry to maintain immigrants during the off-season in the north so that they will be available for harvesting. Senator Benn implied that it was the responsibility of the Governent to assist the industry to do as Senator Buttfield suggested.
– The Government is assisting the industry by bringing in immigrants.
– That is so, but I should like to correct Senator Buttfield’s impression that the industry is capable of giving employment to those persons during the off-season, in order to retain their services for the busy harvesting period. It is economically impossible for the industry to do so. The position is somewhat analagous to that which obtains in the fruit industry; a fruit-grower might need half a dozen pickers during the season, but only one during offseason. Consequently, the responsibility in relation to labour rests on the industry, which should be assisted by the Commonwealth. The sugar industry has been confronted with difficulties in relation to labour for harvesting for a number of years, particularly since production has been increased. I should not like Senator Buttfield to form a false impression of this matter so early in her parliamentary life. She has some good ideas, and therefore I would like immediately to get her on the side of the sugar industry. In Queensland, which is a large rural State, seasonal employment on the sugarfields presents certain problems. As both sheep shearing and sugar harvesting are seasonal occupations, many workers are continually on the move. The workers in those industries comprise a more or less mobile population. In the sugar season, up to six times as many men are required on the cane-fields as during off-season. Consequently, a social problem exists in connexion with the maintenance and prosperity of the sugar industry, inasmuch as work must be provided for sugar workers during off-seasons. In this connexion, the State governments and local-governing authorities who appreciate the situation endeavour, as far as possible, to undertake certain work during off-seasons, when seasonal workers are available. For that reason, I believe that it is this Government’s responsibility to make money available for such work. Recently, it became necessary for the Brisbane City Council to suspend work on electricity, sewerage and other undertakings because of a shortage of money. From 300 to 400 employees were thrown out of work. The Brisbane City Council asked the Queensland Government for financial assistance, but that Government replied that it was unable to help the council.
– What about the Commonwealth ?
– The Commonwealth was approached. As I have said, the State Government did not have funds available with which to help the Brisbane City Council, as its money is invested in Commonwealth bonds and other investments. As Queensland is such a vast
State, it would not be practicable for the Queensland Government to provide money for all local-government authorities that want to undertake certain work. This problem can be overcome only by the provision of loan moneys. As Queensland depends largely on seasonal industries, it is a government responsibility to solve the labour problem.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £1,362,000.
Miscellaneous Services, Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £1.030,000.
Payments to or for the States.
Proposed vote, £1,750,000.
.- I refer to item 6, “ Tuberculosis Agreement administration - Payments to States - £57,000 “, under Division 81 - Administrative - B. - General Expenses. At question time to-day, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) in this chamber, supplied an answer to a question that I asked on the 13th October about the tuberculosis agreement with the States. I regard the answer given in the name of the Minister for Health as most unsatisfactory and, frankly, I do not believe it is true. In my opinion, the Government of New South Wales is not in fact administering the tuberculosis agreement satisfactorily and in the spirit in which the agreement was drawn originally. I have before me a number of cuttings taken from the Sydney press of the last couple of weeks, one of which, of course, formed the basis of the question I asked on this subject, and to which I shall refer in a moment. I have another press cutting here, also. It is from the SydneySun newspaper and says -
Bungling by authorities. T.B. victims are denied empty beds. Because of administrative delays, some N.S.W. hospitals had empty beds for T.B. patients, whilst others had waiting lists, a doctor said yesterday. He is Dr. N. R. Godby, Medical Superintendent of the Bed Cross Chest Hospital, Boddington.
As honorable senators know, Boddington is a well-known hospital where sufferers from tuberculosis are treated. Dr. God by also said that, whilst New South Wales was abreast of overseas developments in control and treatment of tuberculosis, it had lagged badly in administration.
In the course of the answer given by the Minister for Health to the question asked by me, he said - and this is my main criticism of the New South Wales Government in regard to the agreement -
The whole of Sydney and suburbs and of Newcastle have been covered by compulsory mass chest X-ray surveys. So, too, have many other country towns and areas. Well over a million people have been X-rayed and some 1,100 previously unknown infectious cases of tuberculosis brought to light. Sydney and suburbs are now being compulsorily surveyed for the second time and plans are in hand for a comprehensive compulsory survey of country areas throughout the State.
When this agreement was originally drawn, it was designed to cover specifically compulsory X-rays. Because of constitutional difficulties in the way of the Commonwealth, the agreement was so drafted to enable the States to conduct compulsory X-rays under their wide constitutional powers. I make the point frankly and with great emphasis that I believe the New South Wales Government has failed to honour its obligation under the agreement and, in fact, has not applied the compulsory conditions which are implicit in the agreement. The New South Wales Government will pass legislation dealing with compulsory unionism, but it will not pass legislation concerning compulsory chest X-rays, a matter which affects the health of the community vitally.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable senator is making a second-reading speech during the committee stage of the bill. In addition, he is criticizing the Government of New South Wales,, evidently for propaganda purposes. I submit that he is not in order in doing so.
– In regard to the. point, of order, I point out that the tuberculosis agreement is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States and that, item 6 of Division 81. - Administrative, refers, specifically to payments to the States in respect of administration of the tuberculosis agreement. My point is that the Government of New South Wales has not complied with the agreement, and I am indicating the respects in which I think it has not done so.
– Order! The honorable senator may not reflect upon the parliament of a State. I should like him to confine his remarks to the matter under discussion. I am afraid that the New South Wales Parliament does not come within the range of the discussion.
– It is apparent that Senator Ashley has objected to my comment about compulsory unionism. If that is the aspect of the matter that is hurting him, I shall not pursue that line of argument further.
Compulsion is the essence of the agreement relating to chest X-rays. Obviously, if all the people do not come within the scope of the X-rays, the scheme will fall to the ground.. As we all know, those who have this disease are the very ones who tend not to come forward for X-ray. I suppose that there is a psychological factor involved. In Sydney, and throughout New South Wales, a magnificent job has been done by the AntiTuberculosis Association of New South Wales, in regard to the screening of people for tuberculosis. That job has been carried out in conjunction with the New South Wales Government, but that is. not compulsory X-ray as the term is used in the reply of the Minister for Health which, in my opinion, represents whitewashing of the New South’ Wales Government. In the municipality in which I live we had! what the authorities chose to call a compulsory X-ray survey. The form of that survey was simply that, by agreement with the Anti-Tuberculosis association of New South Wales, mobile X-ray units were sent out.. My wife and 1 and. other citizens went along,, and. we tried to encourage more, people to do the same, but the point is that, there, is no record taken of those, who do not attend. My next-door neighbour,, who did’ not go fe> the X-ray screening,, subsequently died from tuberculosis..
No- attempt is made to ensure that, if there are 45,000 people over the age of sixteen years in the municipality, 45,000 people attend for compulsory X-ray. It cannot be- claimed, therefore, that merely by setting up an X-ray unit and keeping ic operating for a fortnight or a month, all the people, in the area in which it is operating have been X-rayed. To contend that they had been would be sheer nonsense and mere playing with words. The fact is. that, in New South “Wales, all the people lave not been X-rayed. I admit that in some States, such as Tasmania, that has been done. In Tasmania a splendid job has been done, and I understand that everybody has been accounted for. A message is sent to those who do not present themselves for X-ray, and if they fail to turn, up after that, another message is sent. That is not done in NewSouth Wales. To say, as the Minister says in his reply, that a second compulsory screening is being taken in the city of Sydney is arrant nonsense.
We all know that people who are very sick try to keep away from the screenings. By means of liberal pensions and allow.ances, we have tried to get them to come forward and obtain treatment for the disease, hut people, particularly aged people, still shy away from doing so. The basis of this agreement is that everybody should be covered, because this disease is highly contagious. Whilst I admit that good results have been achieved in other States of the Commonwealth, I contend that New South Wales has- failed to implement the agreement properly and that the success which has been attained in that State is not comparable to the success which would have been attained had the job been done thoroughly.
I wish to refer now to item 7, which relates to payments to the States in respect of nutrition of children. I notice that the proposed vote this year is less than was the vote last year,, and I think that that is rather a pity, because some very fine work is. being done in this, field. As I indicated when the Estimates were before the Parliament last year, I am proud to be a member of an organization known as the Food for Babies Fund. That is a voluntary organization which raises funds- and distributes milk to mothers and children, for nutritional purposes, in areas where the people are in somewhat sad circumstances. The committee, would be amazed to know of the amount of nutritious, food that we distribute to mothers and children in certain sad circumstances. On previous occasions in this, chamber I have urged the Government to give a. substantial subsidy to these organizations. We have asked the State Government for a subsidy, but it has not been able to give it,, for financial reasons. There is a strong case for substantial financial assistance in this matter. The need is particularly great in the cases of widows with young families. I know of one family of four or five children some of whom have- tuberculosis. The mother frequently seeks assistance from our organization by way of nutritious foods for the children. I am disappointed to see that the proposed vote has been reduced below the amount provided last year-, but perhaps, the Minister may be able to give some reason for that.
– I have nothing to tell Senator Anderson about tuberculosis treatment in Now South Wales beyond what I mentioned earlier. That is the latest information from the health authorities and from the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). Under the agreement between the Commonwealth and States the following payments are made : - (a.) Reimbursements to the States on account of approved capital expenditure on projects associated with tuberculosis, on. and after 1st July, 1948 - paid from Division No. 2C1 - ; (ft) reimbursements to the States of maintenance expenditure to the extent that it rs in excess- of the State’s maintenance expenditure recorded during the financial’ year 1947-48;
Co) epidemiological surveys associated with tuberculosis carried out by the Commonwealth in Commonwealth territories; and
Those are the main factors of the agreement with the States. I understand that it is the actual duty of the States to test cases of tuberculosis- and the Commonwealth provides financial assistance by way of subsidy and special allowances. I shall bring the remarks of the honorable senator to the notice of the Minister for Health.
With regard to nutrition the amount of this year’s estimate is £8,600. The expenditure last year was £4,895. This item provides for reimbursement to the States to cover 50 per cent, of approved capital and other incidental expenditure incurred in the distribution of milk to school children. The increase over the amount spent last year is due to an expansion of the scheme in the States. Payments for milk supplied by the States are made from the National Welfare Fund. There will be greater distribution this year and the increased expenditure will be more than the £4,895 which was spent last year.
– Perhaps the Minister might discuss with the department the position of persons who make a claim for a refund under the health and medical benefits scheme after having received medical treatment. They go to an approved authority or society to make their claim. I can recall that when a Labour government brought down legislation to provide for this scheme both parties of the then Opposition agreed that any person desiring treatment should be saved the embarrassment of having to discuss the nature of his illness and treatment with any person other than a qualified medical practitioner. I have had my attention directed to many cases of men and women, some of them married, who, having received treatment of an intimate nature, when they have made application to an approved authority for reimbursement have been obliged to discuss intimate details of the disease and treatment with a clerk who was in no way medically qualified. This has caused great embarrassment. I do not suggest that this is a fault of the Health Department but it reveals an inherent weakness in the scheme. The Government would do well to prescribe that if it is necessary for a claimant to provide details of the disease and treatment, they should be supplied only to a qualified medical practitioner. It is wrong that a clerk should ask a woman to state whether her trouble was caused by a displacement as a result of child-bearing or that an opera tion for a repair was clue to a pre-existing condition. I submit to the Minister that an expedient way would be for the approved society to be by-passed in the first instance by some properly qualified person or board. My experience has been that very often a married man with a large family has had to interview a single man who has made quite a joke of the matter. The man I have in mind had children over a period of ten years and his wife had to prove at which stage her trouble had occurred. That is a bad set-up and it should be corrected as quickly as possible. I have another case in hand in which medical opinion differs from the views of the approved society, but the approved society has rejected the claim. It is very bad that such conditions exist; and the department should give consideration to rectifying the position. In many instances a person is so embarrassed that he is prepared to drop his claim or, on the other hand, he argues his case out, loses it, does not know what the position is, and faces more embarrassment in finding out that to which he is legitimately entitled.
Also, something should be done to eliminate argument about pre-existing conditions. The Government says that it introduced the national health scheme in order to assist people who need hospitalization. The person who has some pre-existing complaint which incapacitates him is in much greater need than a person who has no such complaint. The scheme has been in operation long enough for us to realize that no reason exists why any person should have to establish that he did not suffer from a pre-existing condition. If this is to be a health service, then a person who is unfortunate enough to have a continuing and recurring complaint should be protected. He needs attention much more than a person who gets influenza and gets over it. The Government may have something in mind, and I should like to know whether it intends to reassess the position so that everybody who needs medical attention will receive it. The type of people I have mentioned are most in need of it, but because of their financial circumstances are finding it difficult to get the necessary treatment. If nothing is done for them our health service will fail. I should like to know if anything can be done. I am particularly interested in the first case I mentioned where as a result of the very personal or intimate nature of the medical or hospital treatment afforded, embarrassment is caused to a person who has to interview some member of an approved society instead of going direct to a medical authority, which will direct the approved society to accept or reject the claim.
Sitting suspended from 5.80 to 8 p.m.
– Last night, I spoke about certain illnesses from which some persons who caine from overseas and made their homes in this country were found to he suffering. One of the illnesses that I mentioned was mental illness, and I must say that the Commonwealth is doing very little to help the States in their very important work of attempting to rehabilitate persons who suffer from mental troubles and illnesses. I know that quite recently the Government submitted a scheme to the States under which it offered to give £10,000,000 to the States on the basis of £1 for every £2 found by the States, so that the States could repair existing mental . institutions and build new ones, but I suggest that the time will come when the Commonwealth will have to share with the States the cost of maintaining mental patients, lt is not fair that such patients should be wholly maintained by the States, and I fail to see why, if the Commonwealth brings immigrants to this country, and some of them develop mental illnesses, it should not share the cost of curing them.
Some years ago the Commonwealth did provide money in small amounts towards the maintenance of mental patients, and I believe that something should now be done so that these unfortunate people may be helped and given the attention which may lead them back to normal health. Unless the Government is prepared to enter the field of mental illness as it has already entered the field of tuberculosis, the responsible authorities in the various States will soon have no hope of maintaining persons suffering from mental illnesses. Recently, it was found that in three of our main States more than 100 people who had come to this country had to enter mental institutions, and I suggest that it is the responsibility of the nation to find some proportion of the money necessary not only for the building of mental institutions - which are very important - but also for the maintenance of mental patients.
I understand that the Victorian Government has adopted a plan with regard to mental institutions under which that State will have expended on capital works more than £6,000,000 by 1956. That indicates the magnitude of the task ahead of the States, and if the Government allocates no more than £10,000,000 to the States on the basis of £1 from the Commonwealth to £’2 from the States for building mental institutions, much of the work necessary in this field will have to be left undone. However, I do ask that some consideration should be given by the Commonwealth to providing for at least part of the maintenance of mental patients, and I hope that the officers who deal with these matters will place before the Minister who submits our next budget - whoever he may be - some scheme to ameliorate the frightening conditions that exist in mental institutions, particularly in Victoria, the State in which I reside.
– I agree with the remarks that have been made by Senator Kennelly, and I consider that it is time that the Commonwealth accepted some responsibility for the maintenance of patients in mental hospitals. It is true that the grant of money which will be made by the Australian Government towards the capital cost of mental institutions will be a. big help to the States, but the great difficulty is to obtain corrective treatment for people who are in the early stages of mental illness or maladjustment. Therefore, I believe that we must accept a responsibility for some of the cost of maintenance of such people. .
I have spoken in the Senate on a number of occasions about the increasing incidence of mental disease in this country, which, of course, is not confined to immigrants. I do not know whether the increase of mental troubles has been caused by the pressure of modern living, but at present there is a conference of the leading Australian psychiatrists in Canberra, and I know they are of the opinion that if early treatment is given to people who suffer from mental disorders a very large proportion of them will recover and will become completely self-supporting, instead of being maintained by the Government for many years of their lives. Again may I say that I am in complete accord with Senator Kennelly.
– I desire to refer to Division 195 - Department of Health, item 4. “Aerial medical service!* - Subsidy, £35,000”. I should like to ask the Minister who is dealing with this matter how that amount will be expended, or how the £35,000 provided last year was spent. I understand that the Australian flying doctor service receives some subsidy from the Government. In the western and north-western districts of South Australia, there is a Bush Church Aid Society, which also conducts ;a flying doctor service. So far as 1 know, that organization .has not had any financial assistance from the Government. It covers a vast area, and I should like to know whether consideration has been given to the payment of a subsidy to the Bush Church Aid Society for its flying doctor service. Will the Minister inform me how the proposed vote is to be expended in the current year? I should like to know, also what organizations benefited from the expenditure of the vote last year.
– In some ways, the position we face to-day in connexion with health matters is similar to that which existed in the Middle Ages. Physical and mental casualties in the community are increasing every day, and neither the Australian Government nor the State governments have taken any notice of the statements that have been made about the mentally ill by Dr. Alan Stoller or, in Victoria, by Dr. Cunningham Dax. The position of the mentally ill has never been worse than it is to-day, but governments have done nothing about that problem. It appears that those who are so helpless that they cannot help themselves are being ignored.
If honorable senators study the history of medicine, they will realize that thi father of medicine was Hippocrates. In 460 b.c, he pointed out that mental illness was similar to an attack of pneumonia or any other disease. The history of the Middle Ages reveals that the unfortunate people who were mentally afflicted were treated in a manner that does not make us proud of what we call our civilization.
To-day, in our age, Dr. Stoller has reported on the state of the mentally afflicted, and his report was supported “by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). The Minister said it was a brilliant report, and he admitted that 10,000 mentally afflicted persons required beds which could not be supplied. Several months ago Dr. Cunningham Dax pointed out in a newspaper article the shocking conditions under which the mentally ill were being treated in Victoria. Nothing has been done about it, and none of the governments in Australia can claim that it has taken any action to solve this problem. The mentally ill are casualties of the system under which we live.
If I were asked to name the most important science, I would say that it is the science of man, but it is the least understood of all the sciences. If politicians throughout Australia approached this problem as the experts have suggested, we could expect some progress. Obviously, unless something is done, the position will go from bad to worse, because these people are helpless and those who should be concerned about their welfare are silent. Yet we call ourselves a civilized, Christian community. In my opinion, we are only semicivilized. If it were not so, the position of the mentally afflicted would be very different.
The Government should face the position. It should realize that the mentally ill aTe in the same category as those who are physically ill. Many of them can be cured. If the governments of Australia do not support the experts, particularly the two to whom I have referred, they will pay for their neglect. If the Australian Government does not finance treatment to prevent mental illnesses, as well as physical disabilities, it will have to pay for the upkeep of the casualties. It cannot evade its responsibilities in that direction. The Government must pay one way or the other. Dr. Stoller was selected to present a report on the subject. He did so, and referred to the misery to which these unfortunate people were subjected. When the Bolte Government was elected in Victoria, the report of its expert was ignored because he was a public servant, and therefore had no right to speak publicly. If the experts were allowed to speak their minds, we would achieve more in dealing with mental illnesses.
I regret that the British Medical Association has never taken a stand worthy of note in this matter. It sees the mental casualties increasing year by year in this so-called enlightened age, when we could do so much, but do so little. I know that there are notable and honorable exceptions in the medical profession, but the British Medical Association, as an organization, has never taken the stand it should have adopted on behalf of the mentally ill. Hospitals are overcrowded and patients are over-charged.
Can the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the Minister for Health in this chamber, tell me whether the Government has any constructive ideas on this subject, or does it propose merely to spend so much money on this and that without giving specific attention to this grave problem? Does the Minister realize how he and his family would feel if any of them had to undergo the suffering that many of these afflicted persons have to bear? If we all tried to see the problem from the other fellow’s point of view we should all be much better off.
– I rise, first, to pay a tribute to the members of the staff of the Commonwealth serum laboratories for the work that they are doing. They are engaged in work which is not generally as well recognized as it should be. In those laboratories we have men and women of high scientific attainments who are willing to devote their life and talents in the laboratories in the interests of pure medical science, and for the good of their fellows. They are doing good and noble work unostentatiously. Very few in the community appreciate to the full what they are doing. I suggest to the Government that it should extend an invitation to members, of this Parliament to visit the laboratories, to see for themselves what is being done there, and to learn something of the personal sacrifice made by some of those working in the laboratories who, if they thought only of themselves, could do better in other avenues.
I come now to the general subject of mental health, in which I have been deeply interested for many years. In 1944, I presented to this Parliament a report on mental institutions, and I do not think that conditions in those institutions have improved a great deal in the intervening eleven years. I think that the fault lies mainly with the community as a whole. The people must be educated to realize, that mental illness is an illness, not a crime. The attitude of the general public must be changed, and people must be led to a realization of the fact that persons who are mentally afflicted are not to blame for their affliction. Mental illness can be cured if remedial action is taken in time. I am concerned in particular with mental health as it affects children. Until recently, there was very little public discussion of this subject. Children who were mentally afflicted were placed in adult mental hospitals, where they remained until death claimed them. As their expectation of life was longer than that of ordinary children, because they were not exposed to the dangers and risks associated with normal life, many of them remained in those institutions for a long time. More should be done for their rehabilitation and education. The old idea of mental hospitals similar to barracks must go. Many mental barracks of the past were worse places than gaols, and the inmates were often treated worse than criminals. Their treatment arose from the generally accepted idea that persons who were mentally ill were themselves to blame. I repeat that they are not criminals, and should not be treated as such. There is need for that truth to become more generally recognized throughout the community.
At one time I was a member of a committee which investigated the subject of mental illness and the treatment of mentally ill patients under various hospital schemes. The committee found that the amount recoverable from the relatives of patients in mental hospitals was comparatively small, and also that the payment made to the States by the Commonwealth was reimbursement only of that portion of the cost of maintaining the patients which was recoverable from the patients, or from their estates. The low rate was not the fault of the Government because it was all that was recoverable at that time, lt is clear that there is need for the whole problem of mental health to be seen in its proper perspective. For too long has mental health been the Cinderalla of medical services.
That remark applies with equal force to the members of the nursing profession who are engaged in the treatment of mentally ill patients. The time has come when these nurses should receive the same recognition and training as are given to nurses in other hospitals. I should like to see the status of mental hospital nurses raised to the same standard as that of other nurses. That would be a great step forward, towards the solution of the problems associated with mental illness. The same could be said of members of the medical profession who treat the mentally ill. Too often these men and women are referred to as cranks. A step forward has been taken in Western Australia, where the government has appointed a full-time specialist, Dr. Moss, to advise it on matters affecting mentally ill patients. Dr. Moss is a man of high attainments, who has given up a lucrative private” practice as a psychiatrist and specialist to devote his time to this pressing problem. The steps that should be taken in this field are to educate the public to realize that mental illness is a disease, not a crime, to raise the status of nurses and doctors attending mentally ill patients, and generally to investigate the causes underlying mental illness, with a view to preventing the drain which this form of illness makes on the man-power and woman-power of the community.
– I agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Tangney and
Senator Kennelly in regard to the important matter of mental health. This is a subject which transcends party politics, and therefore I believe that the Opposition will agree that the present Government is the first government in Australian history which has been bold enough to face it. I remind the Senate that, until the presentation of the Stoller report, practically nothing was done by any government to solve the problems associated with mental illness. Members of the Opposition will recall that the care of the mentally ill was expressly excluded from the medical benefits scheme introduced by a previous Labour government. I say that in passing, and without intending to reflect on the Labour party. I mention it only to indicate how little importance previous governments attached to this aspect of medical science.
I rose mainly to congratulate Dr. Alan Stoller on a very fine and worthy report. For the first time in history, Australians have been made conscious, solely through that report, of the sad conditions in which mentally ill people are placed, and of the enormous work that lies ahead to improve those conditions. With respect to Senator Tangney and Senator Kennelly, I say that it is not a matter of merely being .slightly irresponsible, and saying that the Commonwealth Government is responsible and should accept that responsibility.
– They, did not say that.
– As to the provision of capital works and services, I point out, through the Australian Loan Council, machinery is provided by which the State governments accept a proportion of the burden associated with this problem. Although I do not think that the provision of £5,000,000 for capital works and services is a complete answer to the problem, the States must accept their share of the responsibility. Mental health is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government alone. Rather is it a matter for Federal and State collaboration. Unless and until the States and the Commonwealth collaborate in a sensible way, this problem will not be dealt with adequately. I point out that much remains to be done apart from the provision of capital works and services.
I refer to the training of specialists for the stalling of these homes and hospitals. A completely different attitude must be adopted towards tj’ j mentally ill, and in many instances, completely new treatment must be provided. We are blundering along with nineteenth century methods of treatment of these unfortunate people. Honorable senators who have read the Stoller report will acknowledge that very little work in the field of remedial treatment is being carried out in respect of mentally afflicted people. Many honorable senators have heard of instances in which mentally afflicted persons have been ‘put in these dreadful places called lunatic asylums, and allowed to remain there uncured.
This big problem must be tackled by both the Commonwealth and State governments. Senator Cameron inquired what the Government was doing about the matter. In reply to his somewhat irresponsible remarks, I point out that this Government has already started work on the problem ; indeed, it is the first government to do so. A very big task lies ahead of the next government, and of the State governments in relation to mentally afflicted persons. The Commonwealth and. the States must share the responsibility in this connexion. Obviously, the Commonwealth cannot supply all of the money needed. Although I am not an expert in medical matters, I suggest that there could be added to the existing health scheme something in the nature of an insurance scheme for the purpose of implementing the suggestions contained in the Stoller report. It is indeed gratifying that such a very fine Australian as Dr. Stoller has had the courage to tell the truth about the position, and that this enlightened Government has already taken practical steps in this field.
– Some aspects of this matter to which I intended to address my remarks have been already dealt with fully by other honorable senators. At the risk of being boresome, I wish to commend the Government for the smart action it took immediately after receiving Dr. Stoller’s very fine report. It is not often that the alert Senator Cameron is behind the times in such matters. That he is behind the times on this occasion is evidenced by his inquiry as to what the
Government is doing in the matter. As soon as the Stoller report was received, the Government took action to advance money to the States for the provision of buildings and the institution of remedial treatment. The only bright spot in the Stoller report was a little compliment to Western Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– That compliment was paid to Dame Florence Cardell-Oliver, who was Minister for Health in the Western Australian Government, to whom an interested citizen handed a cheque for £20,000 to enable her to put in hand work to improve the conditions of children living under hellish conditions in the Claremont asylum. The contribution of that public-spirited citizen was multiplied by the Western Australian Government. We now have in Western Australia two very fine homes for the children who were removed from the Claremont institution. In certain cases, they are undergoing remedial treatment.
I should like also to pay a tribute to the smart action of the Government in calling together representatives of the States and pointing out to them the serious state of affairs that was revealed by the Stoller report, and for making money available to improve the conditions of mentally sick persons. I think every member of this chamber is alive to the necessity for centering our thoughts on the remedial treatment of mental illness. Why, in this wonderful land, where good food is available in abundance, and which is blessed with an agreeable climate, should so many of our citizens be suffering from mental disorders? I know that the Government is tremendously interested in this problem, and I look forward to a considerable improvement of the conditions of the mentally afflicted members of the community. I advise Senator Cameron to read the Stoller report carefully.
– My approach to this subject is influenced by the maxim that prevention is better than cure. However, this attitude is not shared by this Government or by the State governments. As I said earlier this evening, conditions in relation to the mentally afflicted members of the community have gone from bad to worse. As another honorable senator has said, the Government is making a virtue of necessity by doing something about the matter after the damage has been done.
– The Government is doing something about the matter.
– If the Government were sincere, it would -consult experts in the field of mental illness and take positive steps, within the limits of its financial resources, to improve the conditions of mentally afflicted persons. I do not accept the position to ‘be as was described by Senator Robertson and Senator Vincent. The policy of the opponents of Labour is to keep down to the lowest possible level the amounts of money made available for education and the provision of other social services.
– “What nonsense!
– Despite Senator Vincent’s interjection, I say that the hospitals are starved of money, and that the financial provision made for education is inadequate, because this antiLabour Government lives within its meanness, rather than -within its means.
– What did the previous Government do to improve the lot of mentally sick persons?
– The Government has unlimited power to impose taxation in order to provide adequately for the mentally sick members of the community. The Government should take notice of the recommendations that have been made by Dr. Stoller and other specialists who have devoted a lifetime of study to the science of man, and who know more about that subject than do most politicians. Of course, there are exceptions, particularly on this side of the chamber. We all know that innocent children who are brought into the world in slums never have a chance to develop either mentally and physically. Nothing is done for them until they become casualties. Senator Robertson has said that the Government is prepared to spend so much money for this purpose or that purpose. After the damage is done, the Government is prepared to do something.
Senator Kendall interjecting
– To judge by the honorable senator’s interjections, he is fit for one of these asylums we are talking about. Speaking as a person thoroughly unqualified in medicine, I should diagnose his complaint as political paranoia.
-! view the position of the physically and mentally ill in the same way as I regard .casualties in time of war. As I have said in this chamber on many previous occasions, members of the forces are heroes when they are able to do something for vested interests, but when they are infirm and are no longer able to assist vested interests they are regarded as encumbrances and nuisances. The physically and mentally ill are in the same category. If this so-called enlightened community, of which the supporters of the Government boast on the public platforms, had as much .regard for human beings as it has for racehorses and other prize animals, we should be in a very much better position to-day than we are. I do not withdraw or qualify anything that I have said against Federal and State Governments. For all practical purposes, this Government treats its own kind even worse than the savages treated each other in prehistoric times.
– The honorable senator would know!
– I have never heard that the savages of prehistoric times slaughtered their own kind to the degree that it is done to-day, nor have I heard that the savages treated their own species so cruelly and brutally as we of the modem world treat one another. It annoys me to see another political paranoiac, Senator “Vincent, treating this matter as a joke.
– Lt is the honorable senator himself, not the subject, that is the joke.
– If Senator Kendall knew anything at all about elementary psychology, he would know that, by the process of mental projection, he is attributing to me the very traits which he himself possesses, and of which he should be heartily ashamed. When I say that some politicians are naturally mentally equipped for lunatic asylums, I do not think that I exaggerate in his case.
– It is not my intention to make this a “ Kathleen Mavourneen”, but I was somewhat surprised when Senator Vincent, having said at the outset of his remarks, “I have no intention of making this a party political question’’, proceeded to say what this Government had done and what other governments had not done.
– I was merely illustrating what had been done.
– The fact is that this Government is giving £10,000,000, with no time limit, on the basis of £1 for every £2 contributed by the States.
– Which is exactly £10,000,00 more than the previous Labour Government gave.
– The honorable senator, apparently, has forgotten that he said he was not going to introduce party politics into this discussion. Prior to the advent of this Administration, an extremely small grant was made in respect of the maintenance of mental hospitals, [f I remember correctly, Victoria received ls. 2d. a day. I admit that that grant was small, but costs in those days were very much lower than they are today. I cannot understand why it is that, if a person suffering from any other illness than mental illness goes into hospital, the Commonwealth contributes something like 12s. a day.
– If he is insured.
– Yes. If lie is insured, the Commonwealth, contributes 12s. a day towards the cost of his treatment, but if a person suffers from mental illness, even though he may be insured, the Commonwealth gives nothing at all. When age pensioners are sick they get their pensions. I do not say that any previous administration gave pensions to mental patients, but I do say that the Commonwealth holds the purse. It hands out to the States the money that the States may spend, whether it be on health, on “building hospitals, or for other purposes.
– Or on Olympic Games structures.
– The Commonwealth has given 50 per cent, more than Victoria has given for the Olympic Games.
– The State of Victoria cannot look after its mental institutions.
– It is not only Victoria that cannot do so. Neither can the State from which the honorable senator comes, and neither can any other State. The leaders of the States come here to Canberra and say they want a certain sum of money with which to undertake new works, included in which may be the erection of hospitals.
– Hospitals should be included. I agree with the honorable senator there.
– Then, what does the Government which the honorable senator supports do on such an occasion? Tt says, * You can have only suchandsuch a sum “. The result is that the construction of hospitals or roads, or some other important work, has to be postponed. I do not say that the present Australian Government is the only go”vernment that has cut down the allocation to the States. All I say is that if it is in order to spend a considerable sum in respect of tuberculosis - and I admit that a very good job has been done in that field - surely it is also in order to provide something for mental institutions.
– Towards their maintenance.
– Yes, towards their maintenance. I am certain that the States are not asking overmuch for it. I have no wish to make political capital out of this matter, and I have not attempted to do so, but it is rather paltry for Senator Vincent to say that party politics do not enter into this matter and then, in an effort to defend the present Government’s handling of the matter, condemn a previous government because of what it did or did not do. If the honorable senator would use his influence with the Government to obtain for Victoria the equivalent in value of the ls. 2d. that the Australian Government gave to Victoria for every inmate of a mental hospital it would be a great help in carrying out the recommendations of the report to which the honorable senator referred, and also in undertaking the programme which Dr. Cunningham Dax considers is essential for the well-being of these unfortunate people.
.- The debate on the Estimates for the Department of Health has assumed the pattern of a full-scale discussion of the Stoller report, and of the treatment of mental patients throughout the Commonwealth. I considered that the Stoller report and the implications of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States would be a subject for another debate. However, I propose to discuss one aspect of the Stoller report dealing with sub-normal children, and to link it with the Estimates by pointing out that no provision is made by way of subsidy for organizations that are making a most valiant effort to’ provide treatment and welfare for sub-normal children. Dr. Stoller was given a vast field to cover when asked to investigate mental hospitals throughout the Commonwealth. I propose to read some of his comments on sub-normal children, and at page 51 of his report the following appears : -
An active movement in recent years, to deal with the problem of low-grade mental defectives, had resulted in the formation of a voluntary organization, the Sub-normal Children’s Welfare Association.
Until a few weeks ago, I was a director of that association, from which I had to withdraw owing to pressure of parliamentary duties. The report continues -
This had a central head-quarters in the city (Sydney), with six permanent officers, and numerous branches throughout the State. It ran its own centre at Ryde, Crowle Hou?e. All branches were autonomous and worked with unpaid labour and aimed at establishing day training centres, through their own fundraising efforts. Transport was similarly arranged. Already facilities for handling 300 full and part-time children had been established. There was a shortage of trained teachers.
A questionnaire sent to branches showed that centres were operating at Lismore, Goulburn, Wollongong, Chatham, Mosman, Sutherland, Hurstville, Eastern Suburbs, Sydenham, Newcastle, Grafton and one other. One branch said that there were at least 27 children who should have such facilities, but the parents had withdrawn socially, and it was difficult to persuade them to come out with their children.
I direct particular attention to that last observation. The report goes on -
The Chatham centre had estimated there were 200’ low-grade children, in the Manning district, requiring a training service. With this, waiting lists already totalled some 250.
Crowle House catered for 93 school pupils, of whom 70 attended during the day only. Thirteen teachers Vere operating, three coming from the Education Department. Betides permanent staff, which included five “ house mothers “ and two “ bus drivers “, five mothers helped in voluntary domestic and kitchen activities daily.
All children were vetted by the Education Department and all were under I.Q.55. Teaching consisted of recognizing danger signs, doing practical tasks, learning personal hygiene and crafts, and went as far as tapestry and rug-making.
A need existed for a special training course for teachers in this field.
Parents of children were charged £30 per annum, plus a bus fee of 15s. per week anywhere within the metropolitan area. Boarders paid £0 per week and school fee.
The final sentence is important -
It seemed to us impossible for this centre to operate for long without subsidy.
There is a case for children with a low intelligence quotient, probably below 55, and whose future, after their parents have passed on, is inevitably to spend the remainder of their lives in mental hospitals. But it is possible, with proper training and careful nursing and treatment, for them to take a place in our community, even though it may be limited and confined to certain activities. We have a responsibility to them as citizens, but unfortunately unless something is done at government level, no matter how enthusiastic parents and friends may be it is financially impossible to cater for them. Dr. Stoller points out that a subsidy appears to him to be inevitable. I. have obtained documentary information, from overseas, and the incidence of the sub-normal child i3 higher than many people realize. Consequently to provide for them is a task beyond the means of voluntary organizations.
I deplore the fact that no provision is made for a government subsidy in the Estimates. I agree with Senator Kennelly that a subject of this kind is above party politics, and I was pleased to have the co-operation of the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald), in another place in approaching the Government to ask for a subsidy. We were not successful, but we will make another attempt. Some assistance must be given to the organizations that are seeking to care for these children and save them from the tragedy of spending years of their lives in mental hospitals. I look forward to the day when there” will be substantial subsidy provided in the Estimates to help in this noble work.
I pass now to Division 195, item 3, “ Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, £72,500”. I ask the Minister to give me some information on that amount. I arn interested to know what representation, if any, the Government has on the council. T recently read some statistics showing the surprisingly high degree of incidence of unfitness among young men called up for national service. In a country like Australia, which is richly endowed with ideal weather, sunshine and food, I was amazed to find a. high degree of unfitness, particularly in regard- to dental health. I wonder whether the Commonwealth is doing a complete job in relation to national fitness. For that reason I want to know how this amount of £72,500 is to be spent and whether there is government representation on the council.
.- The Minister’s portfolio must be loaded with a number of replies to the various items that have been brought forward by honorable senators. I was hoping that he would have risen some little while ago and replied to what has already been said.
– I tried to do so.
– The Minister always gets precedence. Many important matters have been discussed, but I desire to give the Minister yet one further question to answer. I am not rising just for the sake of speaking; I am deeply interested in the matters that are being discussed. I desire information on item 2. “Child Health Centres (for payment to credit of National Health Campaign Trust Account), £30,000 “. I should like the Minister to tell me how this money is to be spent. I am a member of a municipal council in Victoria which is entrusted with the conduct of infant health centres and thus I happen to be in a position where I am called upon to help to provide finance for child health centres. It is the task of the municipality to provide certain funds for the carrying on of this work, although it is true that the council receives a subsidy from the State Government to help it in this fine work. Every one will agree that as a result of the introduction of these public health centres throughout the State infant mortality has decreased to a. considerable extent. These centres are performing a very important function.
I do not know, however, to what extent the Commonwealth assists. In the light of discussions on the proposed vote this afternoon and this evening it would appear that a lot of the trouble that has arisen has been due to the dual control that exists in the administration of health throughout Australia. The matter to which I have been referring is an important phase of the health of the community, but it is left very largely to municipalities. The enforcement of other health laws is also largely left to municipalities. Requests are persistently made to municipalities to enlarge health and social services by the introduction, for instance, of a home service to help mothers with young children. Such requests are being made to municipalities, and federal governments so far have not realized the important part they should play in advancing these institutions. It is all very well for honorable senators to say that that is a function of the State or of a municipality. The fact remains that in recent years the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States has entirely changed. Prior to World War II. each State was responsible for raising its own taxation. At that time it could he rightly said that these matters were the responsibility of the State; but since the war the Commonwealth has been the sole collector of income tax and the position has changed.
It was rightly pointed out this evening that no specific amount is allocated to the States for any particular activity in which they engage. Possibly, the Commonwealth should reorientate its attitude on the method of distributing money to the States. When the Australian Loan Council meets the State Premiers make requests to be allowed to raise so- much, money,, and each State obtains, authority to raise so many millions’, of. pounds. It all depends upon, the demand in. the- respective States as- to whether the: money is spent on schools,, hospitals, mental: institutions or other activities. It might be better if an1 all-over picture of the requirements of these- various activities were placed, before the- Australian Loan Council and grants were then made te meet therequirements of the States under individual headings. The Commonwealth isslowly but surely interposing itself into a number of activities which in the past have been solely the prerogative of the States-. It is now directly interesting itself in mental institutions, tuberculosis benefits, social services and so on. These activities,, previously, were, the sole- prerogative of the States* The- trouble isthat the Government is> not undertaking, these new responsibilities on- a planned, basis’.. It just throws, in. a thousand pounds here and a thousand, pounds there. That is the reason why there is> so- much conflict.
The whole system should’ be altered so that the Government will allocate amounts for specific purposes. That would get over the difficulty. The matter has to be looked at from a national point of view. The existence of mental illness in any State should be the concern of the nation as a whole. If children are suffering from malnutrition or lacking medical attention, or are not receiving the best attention in one State it is the duty of the national Government to look into the matter. Senator Anderson mentioned’ physical’ fitness. The States are trying to grapple with that problem, but the Commonwealth also comes into it. Dual control in all these things is the reason, for the trouble in which we find ourselves. Having said that, I hope that I havenot overburdened the Minister and that he will be able to give me some information about this important’ matter. I should like to know whether municipal authorities will get some assistance from the Commonwealth in order to expand their very important work of looking after young children.
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Minis part of. the current- debate has- been, om mental, illness. I. should like to point, out that the States care for their own mental patients, in. their own mental, hospitals. In 1948- an. agreement was. made with the- States by the Chifley Labour Government,, under which the Commonwealth, agreed, to pay a. certain, daily-rate sum to the States towards, the main. tenance of. each mental, patient under State care. The rate of payment varied from 3d. a day for each, patient in Western Australia to ls. 2d- a. day for each patient in Victoria. When the present Government assumed office, it continued making payments under that agreement until the agreement expired’ about the end of 1954.
After the old agreement had. ended this Government offered a new agreement to. the States, and from about the beginning of the present financial year some new agreements have been in force.. The average amount paid to the States> during the six years of operation of the previous agreement was about £400,000 a year, but under the new agreement this Government will provide– about £1,000,000 a year to the States- to be expended on mental hospitals’.
Much has been- said by honorable senators opposite about the responsibilities that this Government should shoulder in respect of Australian mental hospitals, but I remind honorable senators that the Australian Government,, as a federal authority, cannot even have a person, certified as insane and have him sent to’ a mental hospital. For example, the Repatriation Department has to obtain, a. certification from the State in which, a man resides before it can allow that patient to enter one of its’ hospitals.
The Stoller report has been widely mentioned to-night. I have read that report very carefully, and I’ have the greatest respect for1 it’s author. At one time Dr. Stoller was in charge of the psychiatric section of the Repatriation. Department, and: now he is a senior psychiatrist in Victoria. He stated specifically in his report that overcrowding in State mental hospitals was the main reason why better treatment could not be given to mental patients’. Some honorable senators have stated that- the Government, instead of making money available to build hospitals, in the States, should make more money available for the maintenance of patients in hospitals. Of course such a policy would not put one more bed in our mental, hospitals. After, carefully considering, the new agreement and what was- most needed, in. this- country to- assist mentally deranged people, the Government decided that bed. accommodation should be increased. Consequently, £10;000,000- will, be made available by this Government to the States, over a period of years.- Of that total, £1,000,000 has been, allocated this year, and it will be given to the States’, in lieu of the money that they previously received, for the maintenance of patients.
Under the Government’s, budget, more than double the amount previously allocated to the States each year will- now be given, to them, for the care of mental, patients. In. view of those facts, it will be seen that the Opposition has made a very bad showing in its attack on the Government for our treatment of mental patients.- Some honorable senators opposite have said that the Government should do- something constructive to help mental patients, and that, we should give a lead to the States in that regard. The Government- has- the responsibility of caring for mentally afflicted exservicemen whose illness is the result of war service or is attributable to such service. We care for those men in hospitals that we have built for that purpose.
– Not all exservicemen
– That is correct; I qualified’ my remark by saying that we care for mentally-ill ex-servicemen whose illness was caused by war service or was attributable to wai- service. Our repatriation mental hospitals were stated by Dr. Stoller, in his report, to contain the best facilities in the world for treating mental illnesses. That being so, those hospitals may serve as a pattern for the States, and honorable senators who have criticized the Government will surely agree that through those hospitals we have given the States a lead in the treatment of the mentally afflicted. If the States followed the lead of the Commonwealth, they would certainly do something to alleviate the distress and overcrowding that exists in many of their hospitaJ.3 at the present time;. Of course,, this Government does not take- full credit, for the excellence- of our repatriationmental hospitals^ because! they have been developed, over the last ten. years.. Nevertheless,, those hospitals furnish an example to the States,, and there ia no reason why the States should- not take a leaf out of the Commonwealth’s book, and try to pattern their mental institutions, on. those* of the Common wealth-
Senator Cooke spoke about the medical benefits scheme and friendly societies, and referred to the recognition of pre-existing ailments by the societies. The medical benefits schemes have not been in operation for a- long time. The organizers’ have- had to feel their way in determining what Benefits could be givenhi the case of pre-existing ailments. Aperiod of years whs- decided upon during which benefits were not provided for preexisting ailments. The original period has been reduced and I am sure that, in time, as the membership of the medical and hospital funds and the friendly societies grows, the qualifying time in relation to pre-existing, ailments will be further reduced.
Under the medical benefits, scheme, the Commonwealth subsidy is payable towards the medical expenses of every person who joins an approved insurance organization. Unless an insured person has been a member of an organization for at least two years, the organization will decline to insure him against ailments which were in evidence at the time he joined. The Commonwealth subsidy is payable through the organization to the insured person from the date he joins even though the organization may be under no obligation to supplement the Commonwealth subsidy from its own funds.
Senator Cooke also referred to the embarrassment that some persons, particularly females, experience in making known the details of their claims. A woman might have difficulty in explaining the details of a feminine ailment to some young man behind the counter in the office of the medical benefits fund. Senator Cooke suggested that, in cases of that sort, representations could be made by the doctor concerned on behalf of the patient. I shall refer that suggestion to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), and ascertain whether anything can be done in that direction. Senator O’Flaherty referred to the proposed vote of £35,000 for the flying doctor service.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I am grateful to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) for the information he has given on the attitude of hospital and medical benefits funds to persons with pre-existing ailments, but his replies have not covered the situation entirely. Many persons are not covered by an approved society subsidized by the Australian Government. The Government is supposed to represent all the people. Is its medical and hospital benefits scheme a national scheme, or are numbers of persons in need of medical treatment to be forced to join medical and hospital benefits funds although they know that they will not be compensated for preexisting complaints for several years? I have referred to the case of a person who belonged to a society for some years and, on making his first claim, was told that because of the nature of his wife’s ailment, it must have been a pre-existing complaint.
Any national medical and hospitals benefits scheme worthy of the name should cover all persons in the community. It would be preferable to increase the charges of approved societies by one penny or some approved sum to enable contributors to obtain, or be eligible for, benefits immediately they join the organization. A person with a pre-existing ailment knows the situation, and many will not join an organization in those circumstances, and neglect their illnesses. A large section of the Australian community will gamble on retaining good health, just as they take a risk on anything else. The Government cannot boast that it has a national health scheme until everybody in the community is covered for medical and hospital benefits. Under the present scheme, many of those who are most in need of medical and hospital treatment are not getting it. The funds required for the Com monwealth subsidy under the national health scheme are drawn from all the people, and everybody should benefit.
– In reply to questions asked by Senator O’Flaherty, the proposed vote for the flying doctor service is £35,000, of which £20,000 will be used for operational expenses and £15,000 for capital projects. Supervision of the service is exercised by officers of the Department of Health to ensure that the grant is used for the approved purposes. Capital projects are examined and submitted to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) for his consideration and, at a later date, supporting vouchers for the expenditure are examined. Financial statements in connexion with operational expenses are examined from time to time to ensure that the grant is used for the service. The Flying Doctor Service of Australia is conducted by a federal council consisting of representatives ofsix divisions - Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and the eastern goldfields of Western Australia. The work of all the councils and the bodies which support and assist the administration is purely voluntary. I am informed that no consideration has been given to a Commonwealth subsidy for the Bush Church Aid Nursing Society. I shall bring that matter to the notice of the Minister.
Senator Anderson referred to national fitness. Recommendations concerning grants emanate from the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, on which there are nine members, the chairman being the Director-General of Health. The main activities associated with national fitness are -
A national fitness officer is attached to the central staff of the Department of Health for the purpose of controlling administration associated with grants, technical advisory and liaison services for State agencies, and the organization of national fitness advisory services in the Australian Capital Territory through the local National Fitness Advisory Committee and its associated Youth Committee. In each State, national fitness activities arc under the control of a State National Fitness Council.
Of the total Commonwealth grant of £72,500, State agencies will receive £66,354, of which State national fitness councils receive £36,954, State education departments £.1.7,000, and universities £12,400. The central office at Canberra will receive £6,146, of which £2,500 is for the salary and expenses of a national fitness officer; £400 for general expenses, including the printing of reports; £2,000 for the development of activities in the Australian Capital Territory; £750 grants to the Canberra Young Men’s Christian Association, and the Young Women’s Christian Association, and other expenses £496. The distribution to State agencies is as follows: -
– What is the position in connexion with child health centres ?
– No specific amount is set down for that purpose, but a grant of £30,000 towards the maintenance of child health centres has been approved by Cabinet. The Commonwealth Government has established a model child health centre in each capital city. These are known as the Lady Gowrie child centres. They were established for the purpose of providing facilities for specialist training in pre-school practice, to be a pattern for the medical supervision of pre-school children, and to be demonstration centres in each State for the establishment of other pre-school centres. These centres are controlled by local committees in each State, with an overall supervision exercised by a committee located in Canberra. Honorable senators who have seen the Lady Gowrie child centre here in Canberra will know that it is an excellent centre. The same can be said of the child health centres in each State.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vote - Australian Atomic Energy Commission, £582,000 - agreed to.
Department of Supply.
Proposed vote, £14,134,000.
.- Last year, the Auditor-General presented an adverse report on the store-keeping methods of the Department of Supply, and therefore I looked at his latest report to see if any improvement had taken place in the meantime. I found that on page 68 of the Auditor-General’s report that officer had reported -
Notwithstanding critical comment in previous reports on the standard of store-keeping and store accounting, only minor improvement was evident during 1954-55.
I should like to hear the Minister’s comments on that report. I remind him that we have passed the immediate post-war period, and that there should now be available to the department skilled officers to do its work properly. The AuditorGeneral’s report continues -
At the date of preparation of this report consolidated accounting instructions bad not been issued for the control of stores and plant, nor had certain sectional stores been brought under ledger control. Very little progress has been made in the survey of large quantities of surplus and unserviceable stores.
Such a state of affairs appears to be inexcusable. The Minister may be able to explain the situation, but we may be pardoned for believing that the accounting methods of the department is in a state similar to that of a farmer’s wood heap. The report continues -
The recording and control of assets (buildings, works, plant and equipment) are not satisfactory.
That is a definite and serious statement. I should like to hear the Minister explain why the records were allowed to get into that condition. I said that I recalled the adverse report of the Auditor-General last year. This year’s report says that there has been very little improvement. The next sentence of the report reads -
The Treasurer has approved the acceptance of stocktakes as a basis for new records.
I deduce from that comment that things were in such a mess - they had deteriorated into such a hopeless condition - that the Treasurer was quite happy to accept anything in the form of a stocktake as a basis for future records. He was glad to accept anything that was offered to him as a starting point. The report goes on -
The costing system at Salisbury is ineffective; it docs not permit tha proper allocation and control of expenditure.
Salisbury, of course, is a suburb of Adelaide. It is not a bush town like Oodnadatta, nor is it situated in an uncivilized area.
– Who said that Adelaide was civilized?
– I understand that it is civilized ; some charming members of this chamber live there. However, to return to the serious vein, I .quote the next sentence of the report -
There is no effective internal audit. The department proposes to introduce a limited programme and to extend its scope as trained staff become available.
The Auditor-General has similarly commented in previous years. Surely it must be the duty of some one to appoint officers to the department to do this work properly, and to see that the interests of the people are safeguarded. As these things are not being done, I think that the Minister should furnish an explanation to the committee. The final sentence of this portion of the report is somewhat naive. It reads -
The department is endeavouring to remedy the above matters.
After criticizing the existing conditions, the Auditor-General says that the department is endeavouring to rectify these matters. Probably he has done so in order to give us some hope for next year. I should like to hear the Minister’s explanation in relation to the six matters that I have raised.
.- I wish to direct my remarks to the Aus tralian Aluminium Production Commission’s project at Bell Bay, which is administered by the Department of Supply. First, I should like to compliment the department on the success of the official opening of the plant, which took place several months ago. About £10,500,000 of the taxpayers’ money is invested in the aluminium industry at Bell Bay which, when the plant is fully productive, will be capable of a maximum output of 13,000 tons of ingot aluminium each year. At the moment, the plant is producing at the rate of about 4,000 tons of aluminium ingots a year. The aluminium project is not yet being supplied with all of the electric power that it requires.
– Why is that?
– The electric power potential of Tasmania has not yet been developed sufficiently to provide for all of Tasmania’s industries as well as the aluminium project’s full requirements of electric power. The value of this industry lies in the fact that it provides means to conserve dollar exchange. At present, Australia requires about 20,000 tons of aluminium ingots each year. I consider that the productive capacity of the aluminium plant should be doubled as soon as possible.
– What about the supply of electric power ?
– I shall deal with that aspect of the matter in a moment. I believe that, if the productive capacity of the plant were doubled, Australia could itself use all of the 26,000 tons of aluminium ingots produced each year. That would result in the saving of a vast amount of dollar exchange. The Tasmanian Government has suggested to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) that rolling mills should be established at Bell Bay. I think that this suggestion is rather premature, because adequate rolling plant already exists in Australia. The demand is for aluminium ingots, which we are now importing. We should set about making Australia self-sufficient in this regard
– Hear, hear !
– We should double the number of furnaces at the Bell Bay plant. At present, although 144 furnace units are installed there, I have been informed that only 27 are actually working. “We should approach this matter from the point of view that we are entitled to an adequate return on the £10,500,000 of public money that is invested ki the aluminium industry, and the realization that this is a defence project, “We should take steps to double the productive capacity of the plant, and bring it into full production as soon as possible. In order to implement this suggestion, it would be necessary for the Commonwealth to say to the Tasmanian Government, in effect ‘” We must .enter .into an agreement with you along the lines of the agreement in relation to the Snowy Mountains project. We must co-operate with you in the development of Tasmania’s electricity potential, so that sufficient electric power for the production of 26,000 tons of aluminium ingots a year can be supplied to the aluminium project1”. I .admit that this savours of the tail wagging the dog, but we must remember that the Hydro-electricity Commission .of Tasmania has already done a wonderful job in developing that State’s power ‘resources. Furthermore, current capital works projects in Tasmania will absorb all available money for the next few years. It is uneconomical to allow the £10,500,000 aluminium plant to remain in its present state and not make provision for the supply to it of sufficient electric power to enable it to produce all «of Australia’s requirements of aluminium ingots.
When the Labour Government decided to establish the aluminium works some years ago, the project was estimated to cost £3,000,000. Since that time, the quantity of ingot aluminium required by Australia each year has doubled. Originally, the plant was designed to produce from 6,000 tons to 7,000 tons .of aluminium ingots a year, and subsequently, the productive capacity of the project was increased to 13,000 tons of aluminium ingots a year. As I have said, Australia now needs about 20,000 tons of aluminium ingots a year, and by the time the plant has been duplicated Australia’s requirements of this commodity will probably have risen to 25,000 tons or 26,000 tons a year. We should strive to save dollar exchange in relation to aluminium. But for this reason we should consider assisting the Tasmanian Government to develop further its electric power potential. That means that we have to go to the Tasmanian “Government and say, “ What project has the Hydro-electric Commission in hand which it cannot tackle properly because of lack of money ? What horse-power will that scheme produce ? “ We must ask the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission to set about this additional scheme at once, if we are to be in a position to produce the quantity of aluminium ingot that has been referred to. I know that the Commonwealth has an inherent dislike of going into a State and interfering with the affairs of that State; but I do not think that such an approach to the Tasmanian Government would be regarded by that Government as interference. I think it would welcome such a move.
The Commonwealth has a vast amount of capital locked up in the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme which, after all, is designed to supply electricity for only two States, Victoria and New South Wales. The Commonwealth cannot afford to have £10,500,000 locked up in the aluminium industry and to continue to purchase overseas, with dollars, aluminium ingot. If we adopt the longterm view, we will go to Tasmania and suggest that we should help in developing further hydro-electric works which, at the present time, are beyond the capacity of the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission. In my opinion, the aluminium project at Bell Bay is a business proposition and a defence proposition at the same time, and for that reason, I think that the earlier this matter is tackled, the better it will be. I am entirely opposed to the suggestion that rolling mills should be established. We have not the necessary output of aluminium ingots to warrant such action.
I point out that the staff employed at the aluminium works consists mostly of males, amongst whom are many new settlers. The wives of those new Australians were used to working, in the countries from which they came, so that there is a great source of female labour available in the area. Many of those women are dissatisfied because they cannot obtain work. If we wish to keep i taff at the aluminium works, I think it is necessary to establish suitable industries in the vicinity of the works, so that employment could be made available for the wives of the employees of the aluminium project. 1 raise these matters because 1 feel that the bringing of this great industry to fruition has been one of the achievements of this Government. We should not now pause and say, Well, we have constructed the works. Let it go at that.” We should go ahead and increase the capacity of the plant, because, for defence reasons, it is essential that we should become self-sufficient in aluminium ingot at the earliest possible moment.
– I have listened with great interest to the remarks of Senator Henty regarding the aluminium industry in Tasmania. I wish to pay a tribute to the Tasmanian Government because of its plans for the development of . the hydro-electric resources of the State, which will make the contemplated output of the aluminium works a reality. In my opinion, the policy of the Australian Government should be to develop further the potential of the Bell Bay works. I invite the attention of Senator Henty to a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he was Leader of the Opposition in April, 1944. At that time, the right honorable gentleman said -
One would have to be a raving optimist not to understand that there would be a fall in world demand for aluminium when the war was over.
This policy of under-estimating Australia’s needs is one which the Government has pursued in almost every field. Only the other day, Senator Armstrong dealt with the position of the steel industry. Australia’s steel requirements have been under-estimated by this Government, as have our requirements of many other commodities. Although private enterprise has the wind in its favour, and although there is a huge demand for the commodities produced by private enterprise, and it has priority in respect of labour, I believe that the major companies are not doing the best they could to help Australia’s development.
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to keep to the Estimates for the Department of Supply.
– Then, I shall refer to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, which is one of the instrumentalities of the Department of Supply. Unfortunately, because of the negative attitude of the present Government, particularly that of the Prime Minister, who did everything possible to discourage the formation of the Australian Alumiuium Production Commission and to hamper its operations, we now find that Australia is starved of aluminium. Australia is the lowest consumer of aluminium of any of the Western democracies. In the United States of America, the consumption of aluminium averages 17 lb. a head of population. The housewives of Australia, the aircraft factories, the automobile industry and many other industries are starved of this modern and very efficient light metal. Not only should we establish industries, such as the aluminium industry, but we should also look to the future. After all, we shuffle off this mortal coil rather rapidly, and to judge by the number of deaths that have occurred in this Parliament during the last two or three years, another generation will be following us very soon. We have to prepare for that generation while we are here. We have to lay the foundations of the future of those people.
This Government has shown very little foresight. It is always ready to say, “ We cannot afford to do that “. I am willing to wager that if a war were to commence to-morrow, the Government would be able to find sufficient money, materiel and men for the purpose of killing and using in the negative ways of war. In time of peace, however, when these things are needed for constructive purposes, there ia always a howl about economy and cutting down. There are limited horizons, narrow vision, and small-minded people. I suggest that it is time we adopted a wider outlook in this rapidly expanding country. During the course of this debate we have heard references to the way in which our population has grown. We have to make provision now to cater for that increased population. I think that Senator Henty should learn to have a. broader outlook in these matters. He should appreciate that if his leader, the Prim,
Minister, could be of the opinion that only a raving optimist would fail to appreciate that there would be a fall in the demand for aluminium after the war, the right honorable gentleman is not infallible, although many honorable senators opposite seem to think that he is.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable senator must keep to the proposed votes for the Department of Supply.
– Then, with those few remarks, I shall reserve my comments for a future occasion.
– Senator Benn referred to the AuditorGeneral’s report dealing with the stocktaking records in the Department of Supply. The function of the AuditorGeneral is to see that public money that is spent is properly accounted for. In every report he makes reference to certain matters which, according to him, he cannot pass.
– Those observations should not be accepted with complacency.
– I agree. It is the Auditor-General’s responsibility to do these things.
– But Parliament should give due effect to his suggestions.
– In reply to the comments in the Auditor-General’s report on the Weapons Research Establishment, the Department of Supply makes the following comments : -
Storekeeping and Store Accounting.
To enable full consideration to be given to the control of stores throughout the department, the appointment of a Superintendent of Stores has been made. The writing of consolidated procedures governing the purchase, receipt, handling, issue and disposal of stores and the method of accounting therefor has been held in abeyance pending this officer taking up duty.
As regards the progress in surveying surplus and unserviceable stores, this matter is receiving the attention of the department.
Recording and control of assets.
The preparation of a standard procedure for the recording and control of assets throughout the department is nearing completion, and it is expected that this procedure will be brought into operation at an early date.
Costing system at Salisbury.
The costing system referred to has been revised, provision being made for the control of expenditure and for completed costs of pro duction in workshops to be allocated to relevant heads of expenditure in parliamentary Estimates. The revised system has been in operation since the 1st July, 1955.
An internal audit programme has been drawn up and is in operation.
The Auditor-General says that the department is endeavouring to remedy these matters. He realizes the difficulties with which the department is confronted, and expects the anomalies to be corrected as early as possible.
Senator Henty referred to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission project at Bell Bay. The honorable senator and his colleagues from Tasmania have naturally taken a keen interest in this work. On previous occasions, Senator Henty has made recommendations and suggestions for increasing the facilities for output, including the building of a rolling mill. No vote is provided in the Estimates for an extension of the plant at Bell Bay, and since I am not the Minister for Supply it is hardly my province to give any explanation for this or to suggest what might take place within the next twelve months. However, I will bring to the notice of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) the honorable senator’s remarks.
Senator O’Byrne accused the Government of being niggardly in finding money for peace-time projects, whereas in wartime, plenty of funds were made available. I remind the honorable senator that out of the £10,295,000 provided for the Bell Bay project the Australian Government found £8,795,000. That is a generous contribution, compared with the £1,500,000 which the Tasmanian Government provided.
– I regard Senator O’Byrne’s remarks as the usual political claptrap that leads nowhere. In reply to his suggestion that the Tasmanian Government was the chief agency behind the advancement of the Ball Bay project, and his disparagement of the Australian Government’s assistance, I merely wish to place on record the fact that it was when the Tasmanian Government defaulted by not advancing its proportion of the necessary capital funds for the establishment of this undertaking that the Australian Government stepped into the breach, abandoned its partnership with the Tasmanian Government, and completed the project.
– With revenue collected from the Tasmanian people through uniform taxation.
-Senator O’Byrne has a misguided passion for party politics, which unfortunately causes him to ignore facts. One derives little satisfaction from the attitude of the Minister concerning the accounts of this undertaking. At page 85 of the Auditor-General’s Beport, this paragraph appears -
In the case of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, the refusal to certify the balance-sheet was notified by the AuditorGeneral to the Parliament in November of three consecutive years, 1952, 1953 and 1954, before drastic action was taken. Another example is contained in paragraph 45 of this Report . . .
The present economic problems facing Australia will be solved only by a more resolute approach to these matters. I am dismayed to find that even in 1955 a casual attitude is adopted towards the Auditor-General’s Beport, which contains an indictment of a department, the accounts of which are not certified. There should be a definite and detailed explanation by the representative of the Government when the Estimates of that department are brought before this committee for approval. An outstanding feature of government responsibility is that public expenditure shall be made for a purpose which is represented in production. The deficiencies in regard to the establishment of this undertaking at Bell Bay make a sad story. Wasteful and unaccounted-for expenditure, which is a loss to the Australian people, was found to have taken place there. I ask that the attitude of this Parliament shall be one of implicit obedience to the Auditor-General’s Report, and that if in future the accounts of a department are not certified in any year, the Minister in charge of that department shall order an inquisitorial examination and seek to give to the Parliament, when the appropriate Estimates are presented for approval, a complete and satisfactory explanation as to why the Auditor-General was not satisfied on his first examination of those accounts. Much water has flowed since the investi gation of the Bell Bay accounts. That matter has been the subject of a report by the Public Accounts ‘Committee, and we have all read that report with regret. In any country other than Australia the consequences of such a report would have been much more drastic. I raise this point now, and if I remain here, my definite insistence will be that we regard the Auditor-General as the watch-dog of public expenditure. I ask that, in future, Ministers should always be responsible, before estimates are passed, to give a complete answer to any comments that are made by the Auditor-General.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Defence Production, £11,253,000- agreed to.
War and Repatriation Services.
Proposed vote, £15,977,000.
– I rise to make one brief reference to a matter which is of concern to residents of Perth, namely, the present state of the repatriation hospital at Hollywood. I ask the Minister (Senator Cooper) what action the Government proposes to take in regard to repairing, renovating and painting that establishment. We should like to see the worthy Minister for Repatriation visit Perth as soon as possible to have a look at this hospital. I am quite certain he would agree with me when I say that some parts of it, including the nurses’ quarters, are in urgent need of painting, renovation and alteration. In passing, I add that a patchwork job was attempted on this hospital prior to the visit of Her Majesty the Queen, for the purpose of endeavouring to make the hospital appear a little brighter. A good effect was produced by that work, but it was of a temporary nature only, and some permanent work is now required. The Minister is most popular and is always welcome in Western Australia. If he visits the Hollywood hospital he will agree with what I have said.
– I direct attention to the manner in which ex-servicemen are being treated by the Repatriation Department. I have before me the case of an ex-serviceman whom I have known for many years. He served in World War I. He is a reputable citizen, and a man who deserves much better treatment than he has received. I suggested to him that he should state his grievance in writing. This is what he has written -
As a returned soldier, 1915-18 war, admitted into Heidelberg with an accepted war disability one finds his position as regards pension payments thus: From the day of entry to the day of discharge the serviceman is paid temporary T.P.I, rates, approximately £19 per fortnight. For the time at home he is paid at the rate of 100 per cent, medical benefit, approximatly £9 a fortnight. Thus one loses approximately £10 per fortnight. While in hospital one-is kept in food, clothing, &c., and is paid the high rate. On coming home to feed, cloth and house oneself, one gets the lower rate. I do not want capital made out of my case, but I feel sure that if brought under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation the matter would be adjusted.
He still has faith in the Minister, which I have not. The letter continues -
I have not taken any dependant’s allowance into consideration. This is my case. I was admitted to hospital on the 29th July, discharged from hospital to go home on the 26th August, received 100 per cent. T.F.I, rates. From 27th August until now receiving 100 per cent, medical benefits.
Since then this man has been readmitted to hospital for another operation, and that suggests to my mind that he was discharged before he was properly cured. He ie now in the repatriation hospital at Heidelberg. His letter continues -
I am not finding fault with the 100 per cent, medical when one is working on receiving pay or sick pay. But it is asking a lot of a service man or woman to adjust himself to the medical allowance and still be under treatment. One would have thought you would get more whilst at lorne. If you do not fully understand the case, please ring me.
The name of the man is given in the letter, if the Minister wants to see it. He was a member of the ‘7th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Forces. It is a genuine case of a very genuine man. I do not want to be placed in the position of criticizing the medical officers of the hospital, but this man was discharged, and after further examination, was readmitted. I have suggested on previous occasions that all ex-servicemen should be entitled to hospital treatment as is the case in America. The only reply the Minister made was to interject, “What did your Government do ? “ I remind him that the Labour Government had a post-war job to do from 1945 until 1949, which included the demobilization and rehabilitation of servicemen. If that Government had remained in office and had not adequately provided for the case I have just mentioned, I should have been the first to criticize it. I suggest to the Minister that he should give special attention to cases like this, and should seriously consider the position of an exserviceman who requires hospital treatment but cannot get it. In general cases, men have been gassed and wounded, but for technical reasons they are not eligible for treatment. Ordinary hospital fees are prohibitive, and ex-servicemen have fought and suffered for the country and therefore they should get treatment at repatriation hospitals. I commend the letter that I have read to the Minister, and I shall hand it to him for attention. I have not mentioned names because, for obvious reasons, I did not want them to be reported in Hansard. I ask the Minister to give earnest consideration to allowing all ex-servicemen, the vast majority of whom are not malingerers, to be given the very best treatment available in this country. Ex-servicemen accepted the Government in good faith when they went away to fight, and the Government should be prepared to accept them in good faith.
– I strongly support Senator Cameron’s remarks on repatriation matters, particularly those which he directed to the need for the facilities of the Repatriation Department to be made available to all ex-servicemen who require them. 1, myself, and no doubt most honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, continually hear of pathetic cases among ex-servicemen, particularly among those of World War I. Many of those men, because they have not bothered the Repatriation Department for many years and consequently have not repatriation entitlements, are denied hospital treatment by the department. I have brought such cases before the Senate before to-night, but I want to re-emphasize that there are many such who need treatment and cannot get it.
It is of no use for the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to ask 1.1s what Labour governments have done about medical treatment for exservicemen, because if Labour governments did not follow the proper course, that is no excuse for this Government to perpetuate the wrong. If anything should be a nonparty matter, it is the care and attention of ex-servicemen. Although I know that honorable senators on the Government side will not like me doing so, I shall again refer to promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) before the 1949 general election.
– Is the honorable senator now speaking along non-party I lines ?
– Yes, because I am bringing to the notice of honorable senators the fact that the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition before the 1949 general election, made certain promises to the people of Australia which he has not yet honoured. I n 1949 he said -
Repatriation renin ins a great and proud responsibility.
And so it should be. He continued -
The Opposition parties (which ho led at that time) contain a majority of members and an overwhelming majority of new candidates who are ex-servicemen. We shall see to it that (here is speedy financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
I cannot emphasize too often or too strongly the fact that ex-servicemen in pathetic circumstances are bringing their cases in increasing numbers and with monotonous regularity to the notice of the members and senators of the Parliament. They are doing that in order to try to obtain some medical treatment, through the facilities of the Repatriation Department, which should be available to them. Some time ago I mentioned in this chamber the case of a man whom I knew very well. He died while I was making desperate efforts to have him admitted to Heidelberg Military Hospital. I asked a. question about that hospital of the Minister for Repatriation quite recently, and he told me that the department is closing down some beds in it.
– I understand that it is mainly because the Government, withdrew a free bus service between Heidelberg and Melbourne. It is of no use for the honorable senator who interjected to sit there interjecting and smirking, because he merely reminds me of the well-known song, “ He’d be far better off in a home “. It is my desire to impress the Minister with the need for a complete overhaul of our repatriation services with a view to giving exservicemen the care and attention that they so desperately need. Ex-servicemen, particularly those who fought in World War I., are now, in increasing numbers, reaching a stage when they are trying to get repatriation treatment but are being rejected by the Repatriation Commission or the tribunals, and are being told to bring fresh evidence before they will be heard again. How can a man who fought, in World War I. get fresh evidence about his physical condition when for years he has not gone near the Repatriation Department ?
It is perfectly obvious that any man who went through World War I., and has an illness in his later years, must be able to attribute that illness to his war service, or at least attribute an aggravation of it to that service. I suggest to the Minister, with all the sincerity at my command, that the whole of our repatriation services should be overhauled with a view to making repatriation facilities available to every ex-serviceman who needs them.
. I have been fascinated to find under War and Repatriation Services in the Appropriation Bill, Division No. 213 - War Service Land Settlement. Although that important matter comes under the administration of the Department of the Interior, for the purpose of the bill it is placed under War and Repatriation Services. One’s experience of the present administration of war service land settlement is most disappointing. The degree of delay and indefiniteness with regard to the definition of the very terms upon which settlers are entitled to their allotments, is almost incredible. There are settlers in Tasmania, .the State which I represent, who have been on their holdings for six years, and yet they do not know the basis on which they hold their land or the price that will be charged to them for their improvements. Moreover, the secret as to the option price at which they shall be entitled to purchase their freehold is closely guarded by Canberra officials, and is denied to them.
The whole administration of this scheme, protracted it seems without purpose, and continued it seems without any degree of direction, should be transferred to the Repatriation Department. Why, in the name of fortune, should it be suggested that war service land settlement is a matter for the Department of the Interior and is divorced from the associated services of the Repatriation Department ?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon.
That thu Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I ask those responsible for its administration why this division has been divorced from the Repatriation Department, which has a special purpose and a special sympathy with ex-servicemen, as has been stated by honorable senators from all States since Senator Cooper took charge of the Repatriation Department. Why should this division be committed to the remote administration of the Department of the Interior, which has dragged on without a purpose and has defined no policy? It has denied the settlers a definition of their terms of settlement for six or seven long years. The time has come when this project should be transferred to a department where soldiers will be heard.
In Tasmania, the settlers are asking for an. opportunity to meet the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to request him to define the terms upon which they are settled. They have been met with the reply from the Minister for the Interior that a court case is pending involving a small section of those settlers. We are now so delicate and technical that the issues between that small section of settlers and the State of Tasmania - not the Commonwealth - being sub judice, the Minister will not give the majority of the settlers a hearing. It is timely that we should take this opportunity to ask that the administration of this matter be committed to a department which will have a real interest in the subject, and will advance its purposes by letting the individual settlers know the terms upon which they are settled.
I ask honorable senators to imagine with what heart they would start working on Monday morning on a farming allotment if they knew that in five years’ time, some representative of the Public Service from Canberra would visit the farm and, impressed by the improvements that had been made to it, would make a retrospective assessment of the value of the farm and assess the rent accordingly; and would, moreover, take those factors into account in fixing the option price of the freehold. The present procedure, which seems to be followed for the amusement of the Department of the Interior, is fantastic, and the settlers of Tasmania at least plead, in the simple fashion of individuals, for what they conceive to be an elementary right to have defined the terms upon which they are asked to repay to the Commonwealth the cost of their holdings. As a first step towards some progress, I ask that the administration of this division be transferred from the Minister for the Interior to the Minister for Repatriation. Repatriation, in its essence, is a re-settlement of soldiers on the land for which they fought.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales) 1 9.34 1 . - I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to some matters that have come to my notice. Representations have been made to the Repatriation Department and appeals have been lodged in the case to which I shall refer, but no tangible results have been achieved. I know that the Minister for Repatriation always impresses honorable senators with his sympathetic attitude, but that is not practical help to ex-servicemen.
I wish to direct his attention to a case similar to one that was mentioned earlier by an honorable senator. A private joined the Australian Military Forces on the 4th September, 1941, and was examined by Dr. Sillas, of Kurri Kurri. Se was classed Al and was sent to a prisoner of war camp. In November, 1941, while he was doing guard duty, he became ill with pneumonia, pleurisy and cramps in the legs. The acting medical officer, who was the Dr. Sillas who had examined him previously, sent the patient to the Cowra Hospital for three weeks. On his return to duty, the soldier was put on transport duty for a time to relieve the cramp in his legs.. Later, he suffered from a Wood complaint and developed a series of boils. He was discharged on the 1st August, 1944, and his discharge papers were marked to the effect that he was suffering from a nerve complaint. Since leaving the Army, the man concerned has suffered severely, and has been in and out of hospital from time to time. His right leg was amputated because of his complaint and, at one period, it was thought possible that other limbs would have to be amputated to keep him alive.
As a result o£ the worry and suffering, the patient has developed a coronary occlusion. The local doctor who treated him considered there was insufficient knowledge of Burgess.’s disease to ascertain the cause, and he recommended that the applicant be given the benefit of the doubt. Dr. Sillas made a statement that lie could not recall the exact details of the case after all the intervening years, and the Army had. lost the patient’s medical history; That is usual in cases of this sort. The Repatriation Department loses the history of the case. A tribunal rejected an application by the ex-serviceman on the grounds that there was no proof that the complaint was the result of war-time duties.
A welfare committee obtained an invalid pension and a housing commission home on level ground for the man. He has been receiving a pension of £3 10s. a week, which has now been increased to £4; but he has to pay £& 12s. 6d. a week for dressings and drugs, which are not on the free list. The local doctor can certify to these, facts, so this is not a case of lack of proof or of facts that cannot be certified. This case is not isolated. Rather, it is typical. The man’s burdens have been increased by his financial worries. This case emphasizes again the need for the appointment of an independent committee to overhaul the provisions of the Repatriation Act. The Minister had experience in Queensland only a few days ago of complaints by the president of the New South Wales branch of the returned servicemen’s league. Although agreement on the matter was not unanimous, and the president of the New South Wales branch did not have the support of the federal president, the New South Wales officer said that he was prepared to stand up to the statements that he had made. The position may be worse in New South Wales than it is in Victoria where the federal president lives. I get cases of this kind frequently.
– It is a pity that the honorable senator does not send them on to me.
– It would be useless to do so, because it would be a case of appealing from Caesar to Caesar. The Minister would merely send the cases on to the department, which has already rejected them, and it is only natural to expect another refusal, because the officers will not condemn themselves. In order to ensure that ex-servicemen are treated justly, I suggest that the act should be amended to provide, beyond all doubt, that where it cannot be proved that the complaint or disease or disability is not the result of war service, the provisions of the amending legislation placed in the act by a Labour government shall be given effect. When that amendment was placed in the act it was intended that the onus of proof should be on the commission. Because of the numerous complaints, some action should be taken, to- ascertain whether there is1 reasonable ground for them, and the only way to decide the question is to appoint a committee consisting of members of all political parties. I agree with those who say that the welfare of returned servicemen should be beyond party political considerations. No honorable senator wishes to use ex-servicemen to gain a party political advantage. I hope that, in order to clear up the position,, the Minister will decide to appoint a committee to examine the situation thoroughly, so that justice will be done to ex-servicemen who deserve it.
– One matter to which I had intended to refer to-night was dealt with so admirably by Senator Wright that I shall not do more than make passing reference to it. All sections of the Senate will agree with me that the case presented by Senator Wright, particularly in relation to soldier land settlement and the overlapping of work by different departments’, is something to which the Minister should give serious consideration. Senator Wright expressed views which ex-servicemen who are on the land would like to be expressed in this chamber, and I hope that the Minister will reply to what he said.
For a number of years I have approached successive governments, both Labour and non-Labour governments, about the practice of putting exservicemen suffering from neurosis in civilian mental hospitals, and year by year we have been given the assurance that some progress in that direction would be made by placing the men affected in repatriation hospitals at Dawes-road or Heidelberg, or elsewhere. I know that the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has given a lot of thought to this matter. From time to time he has promised me that as soon as suitable buildings and wards were erected the Commonwealth Government would see that exservicemen who suffer from neurosis and mental illnesses would no longer - to use a term I have frequently used in this connexion - be incarcerated in civilian hospitals. I appreciate the difficulties which confront the Commonwealth Government in the handling of repatriation cases, including the cases of ex-servicemen suffering from mental disorders, because of the conflict with State lunacy laws, and so on, but it is a Commonwealth responsibility, and it is no credit to the Australian nation, or to any Australian government, that these conditions should continue, especially in the case of men who are off-balance for only short periods.
I know that in the hospitals in which they are placed they are given special treatment, and I know also that there is a shortage of skilled and trained staff, as well as of medical officers to deal with them. At the same time, it is discouraging to realize that, so far, no definite steps appear to have been taken by the Commonwealth to meet the situation. Some of these men are normal most of the time, and from a psychological point of view it is important that they should be treated in military hospitals where the environment would be more conducive to their recovery. I hope that the Minister, when he replies to the debate, will have some information to impart to honorable senators regarding this matter. So far, I have been a voice crying in the wilderness, but many have heard it, because I have received many letters and other messages from the mothers and wives of these men, or from members of their families, in every State of the Commonwealth, wishing me success in my endeavours to have this disgrace removed from Australian repatriation administration.
I should like the Minister to pay particular attention to the matter I now wish to bring forward, because, in reply to a question which I asked him recently about the inmates of repatriation hospitals, he stated that my question was not well founded, and that special consideration was given to the type of case I mentioned. Since I asked that question, I have taken the trouble to check the information in my possession when I asked it, and I have also received more inquiries of the same kind. They affect ex-servicemen who are inmates of military hospitals, some of whom receive a pension whilst the others do not. These are semi-chronic cases, and at the end of a certain period, which I think is either ninety days or thirteen weeks, they are removed from Dawes-road to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. I know as a fact that there are vacant beds in the Dawes-road hospital, and I also know that the majority of the cases with which T am dealing concern men who are in hospital and will die there.
I have in mind one particular case in which, despite my request that the man should be allowed to remain in the repatriation hospital, he was moved, and died within three days. Because he could not travel by ordinary means of transport, he was removed by an ambulance. I claim that I have had at least as many dealings with incapacitated ex-servicemen as has any other member of this chamber. The. practice that I have mentioned is wrong. The proper place of treatment for a man who was injured whilst on active service, and has suffered ever since, is in a repatriation hospital. That is where a grateful Australian people expect him to be treated and looked after. I shall not relate further instances of this unjust treatment of incapacitated ex-servicemen. Doubtless, honorable senators who represent eastern States could cite many similar instances. I urge the Minister to discontinue the practice I have mentioned, and ensure that incapacitated ex-servicemen in the sunset of their lives will receive medical treatment where a. grateful nation considers they should receive it - in the repatriation hospitals. If only for the psychological effect, that is where they should be treated.
– The proposed vote makes provision for the Repatriation Department, the Repatriation Commission, and repatriation boards and tribunals. I shall direct my remarks to the harsh treatment that is accorded to exservicemen who seek adequate pensions in respect of war-caused disabilities. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has repeatedly told us that he is sympathetic towards these ex-servicemen, and that the onus of proof is always accepted by the department. I wish to cite the case of an ex-serviceman who left Australia with the first contingent of the Australian Imperial Force during World War I., and landed at Gallipoli. He served as an engineer captain from August, 1.914, to March, 1920. After seeing service in Gallipoli in 1915, he was evacuated with enteric fever, and received treatment on H.M.S. Franconia, and at No. 17 General Royal Victoria Hospital, Alexandria. He was invalided back to Tasmania in August, 1915, with heart trouble and debility due to enteric fever. After recovering, he returned overseas and served in France until the end of the war. This man was a good soldier, and is well-known to a number of prominent men. He was a fighting colleague of Mr. Frank Green, who retired recently from the position of Clerk of the House of Representatives. He was also closely associated with other prominent men whom the Minister knows well and who, I understand, have spoken well of him both as a soldier and a man.
This ex-serviceman has been fighting to get a pension. He has appeared before numerous repatriation tribunals and has received subsequently, on each occasion, a stock reply, which reads as follows : -
The Repatriation Commission has considered the further evidence submitted in writing by you in relation to your case, but has determined that such evidence has not a substantial bearing upon your claim. Section 64 (7aa. ) of the Repatriation Act provides - Where, in the opinion of the Commission, further evidence submitted by an appellant is not material to, or has not a substantial bearing upon, the appellant’s claim, the Commission shall notify the appellant accordingly, and the appellant may -
submit that evidence in writing to an Appeal Tribunal; and
if the Appeal Tribunal decides that the evidence is material to, and has a substantial bearing upon his claim, appeal to an Appeal Tribunal.
As I have said, replies in this form have been received by the ex-serviceman with monotonous regularity. This is the routine: He lodges an appeal, and goes before the tribunal. Despite the fact that he produces certificates from five medical officers who contend that his claim is justified, this man, who is now getting on in years and is in poor health, is informed that the evidence has not a substantial bearing upon his claim. He was examined in 1937 by Dr. Maxwell, Dr. Eric Gutteridge and Dr. Arthur Wilson. In 1951, he was examined by Dr. A. J. Nathan, and in 1954 by Dr. Paul Schatski, a heart specialist. On the 17th March, 1955, he was examined by Dr. Max Block. In addition, he was examined by an insurance doctor. Dr. Schatski’s examination was very thorough. All these doctors have certified that it is a reasonable assumption that his physical disabilities are attributable to war service.
Briefly, this man’s history is as follows : - When he enlisted in the Army, he was medically Al; subsequently, he was invalided back to Tasmania from active service with a heart condition that originated with enteric fever contracted on Gallipoli in June, 1935. This man made the fatal mistake of not applying for a war pension immediately after his discharge from the Army. As he had a good position as an engineer to return to, he considered that he was able to keep himself, and refrained from applying for a pension because he did not wish to be a charge on the Australian people. In 1937, however, his disabilities caught up with him. It was in that year that he was first examined by a repatriation doctor, who reported the following condition : -
This man’s condition of mycotic dermatitis of the feet originated in the Armentiere Sector, Pleegstreet, Belgium, where he was engaged on front-line drainage work. He attributes many of his other troubles to the effects of mustard gas and focal infection from it. Since returning to Australia in 1920, he has had repeated and very distressing attacks. He first encountered gas at Bonnay, at the junction of the Somme and Ancre rivers. The Germans shelled the place heavily with gas. He was shelled out of a cottage at 3.30 a.m. and lost his gas mask whilst trying to escape through barbed wire entanglements. He did not go to hospital, but lay up in the unit’s horse lines at Franvillers, because he did not want to leave his unit. He again experienced gas at Bois L’Abbe - Villers Brettoneau, this time from fumes rising from the trenches. A report furnished at that time stated -
At first, comparatively few casualties were apprehended, but towards noon men began to pour from Villers Brettoneau and Bois L’Aboe their eyes streaming, their bodies painfully inflamed.
All of the facts that I have related are contained in the official medical history of this ex-serviceman. He is now advanced in years, but is still trying to get his rights. He has adequate proof that the Minister is sympathetic towards his case, and the Minister has stated that he has instructed the board that, in the event of a doubt, the benefit of the doubt must be given to this old soldier. Yet he is still struggling and trying to get a pension. If justice is not done to him soon, he might die before receiving a pension. It should not be necessary for a man to have to obtain a certificate from two highly respected people, but when a man does so, and it is shown that he served during the war in an excellent fashion, and that he has maintained gentlemanly standards throughout his life, surely when he comes before the commission he should be treated as an ordinary citizen and not as somebody who is suspected of trying to put something over the Repatriation Department. The members of the commission should be directed to apply the alleged policy of the Government in relation to the onus of proof, and if that cannot be done, the Minister should admit that the Government is not capable of controlling the commission and forcing it to pursue the policy which the Government has laid down. It is hypocrisy for the Government to claim that the commission applies the policy of the Government in relation to the onus of proof, because it is obvious that, the commission is not prepared to give effect to that policy.
– Order ! If honorable senators propose to cite individual cases, I ask them to summarize those cases in order to avoid repetition and rhetorical appeals. We have to get through these Estimates.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has invited honorable senators to bring forward cases.
– I am not suggesting that cases should not be brought forward. I am merely suggesting that they should be stated a little more succinctly than they have been so far.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– Order ! There is no need for argument on this matter at all. I am not trying to stifle debate. I am merely asking honorable senators to put cases succinctly.
– In order to ensure that the cases I propose to place before the Senate are stated in the proper fashion, I have asked the people concerned to make their representations to me. in writing. The ease to which I now refer is typical of -those with -which I have come in contact. . The letter states -
I am writing direct to you in ‘the hope -that yon will be able -to “help us. My husband, at present in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, has recently .been refused a pension by .the Repatriation Department on the grounds that his service was ‘” neither lengthy enough, nor arduous .enough-“, which refusal is considered a gross injustice. The following details will -set out a .clear picture of the case: -
His regimen tail arum her and name are stated - joined the Australian heavy artillery .-fixed defences in February 1942 and was accepted as A 1 . Most of his service was spent at North Head, Middle Head, &c, and being so close to the water and in an exposed area, he began to suffer with bronchitis. He paraded many times, but was unable to get anything more than one dose of cough mixture. After five months’ service, his condition worsened and the medical officer then relieving, .after giving him a thorough .examination, sent him to be X-rayed. These films apparently revealed a thickening in the base of the lungs, and he -was sent on to Yaralla hospital for more exact tests. It was then discovered that he had bronchiectasis. (But this was not made known to my husband and it was only at his tribunal last May that we were informed of these results.) However, he was sent back to his unit, again to North Head, to the dampness and exposure of this area, and to full-time duty. Shortly after his return to his unit, he was given another medical examination and passed Al for overseas service:
His health further deteriorated and seven months later he had to be discharged, medically unfit. He was told when he inquired regarding the reason for his discharge that he had chronic bronchitis which as you are aware is vastly different to bronchiectasis, which is an infection of the. lung. After his discharge from the army, it was necessary for him to undergo treatment for approximately twelve months by a Macquarie-street specialist at his own expense. During the past eleven years his health has continued to decline, and in April last year he became ill with pleurisy and pneumonia and as his lungs were weak and infected, complications set in, from which, he has not recovered. He has had a tube in his lung constantly draining for the past eighteen months, and in all, he has spent twenty weeks in hospital. He has been told by both Dr. Freidman, of Auburn, and Dr. H. Maynard Rennie, of Macquarie-street, that he will not work again, and I have been told in confidence that he will not live longer than three to five years. He has just undergone further surgery and an incision has been made in his back in the hope of improving his condition.
Although hie application for a pension was supported by Dr. Friedman and Dr. H. Maynard Rennie, an eminent lung specialist who viewed -all ‘his Army -medical records, ‘the department :still refused to accept him. Dr. Maynard Rennie was .astonished at .this refusal and to use his own words - “1 cannot understand the workings of the department, as all your medical evidence links up and there are :men walking about <on a -full pension with far frailer evidence than you have. As far as your service not being lengthy enough, that is ridiculous, as aggravation can ‘be caused in a week, depending on where you served and under -what conditions “..
I am -writing .to you in the hope that you can have my husband’s case reviewed, as ~we have reached the stage, after nearly twelve months, where we realize that hy going through all the official channels -we are getting nowhere, and with your help perhaps this whole case could be reconsidered. We do not feel .that we are asking for anything that we are not entitled to, and this apparently is also the opinion of members of the medical profession outside of the Repatriation Department.
That case is typical of the cases I have had Throught to my attention. In my opinion, the case to which I have referred should be reviewed. The Government should consider the advisability of appointing a committee, to consist of members from both sides of the Parliament, under an independent chairman, for the determination of cases of this kind. I believe that the Minister could exercise his prerogative and give a direction in this matter. It may be said that he is not in a position to do SO, but I point out that that has been done in the past. There are many cases in which action “by the Minister would be well justified.
.- The debate on the repatriation Estimates has developed into a continuation by honorable senators opposite of the secondreading debate on a bill that was passed by both Houses of the Parliament only a few weeks ago. I have no objection to the Opposition’s efforts. In reply to Senator Vincent, I shall be at Perth next Monday and will then visit the Hollywood Hospital. .Senator Cameron outlined the case of an ex-serviceman, and I regret that he did not refer it to me personally some time ago. He says he had a letter about it, but if, instead of keeping it in his pocket as material for his speech this evening he had brought it to me earlier, I might have had something done to help this man by now. He said that the man iii question was over 60 years of age, and was receiving a full pension. If that is the case, under the amending legislation that was passed only a short time ago, he can receive up to £7 10s. a week if he is single, and if he is married, £12 15s. a week, provided that he qualifies under the social services means test. All the cases mentioned this evening are those of men who served in World War I., the majority of whom are more than 60 years of age. The Government has catered well for men in this category.
Senator Sandford and Senator Ashley made quite a song of their appeal for a complete overhaul of the Repatriation Act. Their pleas are only a camouflage, because the Government completely revised the act in 1950 and restored to it provisions for benefits to ex-servicemen which were taken out of it by a previous government. A further revision was made in a bill brought into this chamber only a few weeks ago. By that legislation, returned soldiers had restored to them benefits which a Labour government took away in 1948. This meant an increase of £3 a week to a married, totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman, and also to those who are in receipt of a full or other rate of pension. If the Government had appointed an all-party committee to review the repatriation legislation, some of its members might have been required to recommend the repeal of legislation that they had supported in 1948. The Government preferred a committee of its own to deal with these matters as quickly, sympathetically and generously as possible.
Honorable senators opposite complain that the Prime Minister has not fulfilled his promise made in 1949 -
While repatriation remains our great and proud responsibility we shall see that there is financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of returned soldier problems.
One of the first actions of the Menzies Government when elected in 1949 was to give to ex-servicemen, who were so severely wounded that they were suffering from paraplegia below the waist or double amputation above the knees, Hillman Minx cars to enable them to enjoy outings. In 1948, a delegation of incapacitated ex-servicemen came from Sydney to interview the then Prime Minister and the Minister for Repatriation. Sir Eric Harrison introduced them, and they asked the government of the day for facilities to enable them to travel about the country. They asked for means to rent motor cars, but their request was refused. In the first few months of the Menzies regime these men were given motor cars, and a recreation transport allowance of £120 a year, and since that time more than 100 cars have been issued to them. All exservice pensioners and their dependants have received substantial pension increases since this Government has been in office. Prior to 1949, the rate of totally and permanently incapacitated pension was less than double the general rate pension, but now it is more than double that figure. Now that the ceiling has been removed a married ex-serviceman who passes the social services means test receives at least £15 a week, tax free, as well as medical benefits for disabilities, whether caused by war service or not.
– His wife receives nothing, and if she is chronically ill she cannot be insured.
– He receives £15 a week at least, plus an attendance allowance, a children’s education allowance, children’s pension and child endowment. These benefits could total £18 or £20 a week. Honorable senators opposite tonight have done nothing but “ bellyache “, and it is time that they were reminded of what has been done. I could mention many more benefits that this Government has provided. It restored to widows the privileges that had been taken away by the previous government if they should re-marry. When they re-marry they are given as a dowry a lump sum payment equivalent to twelve months’ full pension rate. Also, if an ex-serviceman now marries he will receive full benefits for his wife and children. A previous government took that benefit away.
Many cases of ex-servicemen’s needs are brought to my notice by various members of Parliament, and they are dealt with courteously by the department and sometimes by the Minister personally The courteous thing is to submit the facts to the Minister and ask him to investigate them.
– I have done that.
– I am dealing with the cases mentioned by Senator Ashley and Senator Cameron. To read out letters in the Senate does not benefit the individuals at all, because while senators keep such letters in their possession I could be dealing with them and having the matters investigated.
– The Minister has had a fair number from me.
– And the honorable senator has always received a reply from me acknowledging his letter, and later received a full reply dealing with the case.
– We do not deny that.
– The matter of onus of proof, which has been brought up, was dealt with a few weeks ago not only in this chamber but also in another place. Senators and honorable members from New South Wales only have worked up this bit of a furore. In the first place, the onus of proof is cast, not upon u medical practitioner, or some other person, but upon the determining authority, whether it be a board, a commission, or a tribunal.
– In theory, but not in practice.
– We shall commence with the theory and then deal with the practice. Also, the benefit of the doubt relates to a doubt that arises in the mind of the determining authority. It has been said by various honorable senators to-night that certain doctors have stated that a particular disability could have been caused by war injury. That is true on many occasions, but, on the other hand, a specialist may say that the disability could not have been caused by war injury. The doubt has to be in the mind not of the doctors, but of the determining authority which has to weigh the evidence of the various doctors who have examined the case. Some of these doctors may be general medical practitioners and others may be specialists of
Australian, or even world-wide, renown. The commission or tribunal, in effect, says, “ On the one hand we have evidence from a specialist who considers that the disability is not caused by a war injury and on the other hand, we have two or three certificates from general practitioners stating that it might have resulted from war service “. The doubt has to be in the mind not of medical practitioners but of the determining authority.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), in his reply, has studiously avoided dealing with the very matters that have been raised in the chamber to-night. He entered into a discourse about what this Government has done. No one on this side of the chamber will deny that this Government has done many things for ex-servicemen; but the matters we are raising are of vital concern to men who are in grave need of hospitalization and medical treatment which at present is denied, to them. The Minister cannot deny that. He says that every letter we write to him receives a prompt and courteous reply. That is so, but. repeatedly, we get a final reply from the Minister indicating that the tribunal has made a decision and that he is powerless to intervene. That is something we desire this Government to correct. If the Minister has not the final say in policy we suggest that it is time the Government had the whole matter investigated with the idea, not merely of trying to dp something that another government did not do, but of doing that which is necessary.
The Minister’s’ summary was as full of bloomers as an old. fashioned draper’s shop, because he did not deal with the relevant matters submitted to him by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. I appeal to him to do something for these men and women,’ particularly those of World War II. He should do something to give them the hospitalization and medicaltreatment to which they are justly entitled. I repeat again-
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator not to repeat again, but to state his case succinctly.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Will the honorable senator be seated. I have stated a rule which nobody has enforced ; and I arn not strictly enforcing it. However, it seems to me that we are having endless repetition. Now, one senator had even gone so far as to say, “ I repeat again “. I ask him not to repeat again, but to state his case succinctly. ‘
– Very well, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but sometimes repetition is effective, particularly when one is addressing the present Minister. However, let me say something that I have not mentioned previously, but to which the Minister referred in his reply, namely the onus of proof. Let me remind the committee that the Minister contradicted himself. He claimed, first, that the onus of proof rested on the department. Then, he said that if two medical- men gave conflicting opinions a doubt would be created in the minds not of the medical men but of the board. By inference it follows that if two differing medical opinions were given in relation to one case, then, because there was a doubt in the mind of the board, the decision would go against the appellant. The Minister is not going to tell me that an operation such as that indicates that the onus of proof is on the Repatriation Department.
He went on to say that a single man in receipt of a 100 per cent, pension would receive £7 10s. a week. These things cannot be measured in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. All we are asking the Government to do is to hold a complete investigation of the workings of the Repatriation Department with the object of making medical treatment and hospitalization available to those men and women so badly in need of them. Many of those who served in “World “War I. are pathetic cases in their declining years. I suggest to the Minister that he take note of what we have told him, and not, as he did to-night, make party political capital by comparing the record of one government with that of another. “We on this side are not concerned with the party political point of view ; all we want is to see that justice is done to the men and women who served their country and who were promised that justice. Many of them are not getting it to-day.
Senate adjourned at 1.1.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 October 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19551026_senate_21_s6/>.