22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - It is with regret that I inform the Senate of the death yesterday of the Honorable Sir Thomas Walter White, a former Commonwealth Minister and member of the House of Representatives.
Sir Thomas had a very full and varied career. His parliamentary career commenced with his election as member for Balaclava in 1929, which electorate he continued to represent until his resignation in 1951. In 1932, he was Temporary Chairman of Committees. He was Minister for Trade and Customs from 1933 to 1938. He led the trade mission to New Zealand in 1937, and he was a member of the ministerial delegation to London in 1938 to discuss particular matters arising out of the Ottawa Agreement. He was Australian delegate to the International Refugee Conference in 1938. He was Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation from 1949 to 1951, and he was the Leader of the Australian .delegation to the Fourth Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1951. He resigned from the Parliament on 21st June, 1951, upon his appointment as Australian High Commissioner in London, from which post he retired in 1956.
In his military career, he served with the Citizen Forces from 1902 to 1910. He embarked with the first contingent of the Australian Flying Corps unit in April, 1915, and was attached to the Royal Flying Corps in Mesopotamia. He was taken prisoner by the Turks in November, 1915, and escaped via Russia in 1918. Honorable senators may remember that he related his experiences in his book “ Guests of the Unspeakable “. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and was twice mentioned in despatches. He returned to Australia in 1920.
From 1926 to 1932 he commanded the 6th Battalion, Royal Melbourne Regiment. In 1940, he was commissioned as a flight lieutenant with the Royal Australian Air Force. He went overseas with the Royal Australian Air Force from 1941 to 1943, and was wing-commander in charge of the Royal Air Force station at Brighton. He attained the rank of group captain in 1943. He retired medically unfit in December, 1944.
His other activities, to mention just a few, were as follows: - He was the founder of the Australian Aero Club in 1914, and president of the Victorian section and federal chairman from 1925 to 1927. He was president of the Melbourne Legacy Club in 1925, chairman of the Empire Council of the British Empire Service League, president of the Royal Life Saving Society from 1934 to 1951, a member of the board of governors of the College of Aeronautics, a member of the governing body of the Imperial College of Service and Technology, a member of the board of governors of the Imperial Institute, founder-president of the Australian Musical Society, and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
From that brief outline, it is evident that Sir Thomas, throughout a full, distinguished and devoted life, made a noble and generous contribution towards the welfare of the country that he served so faithfully and zealously in peace and war. Those who were associated with him during his parliamentary career will affectionately remember him as a loyal and friendly colleague, a doughty debater and a constant, fearless and enthusiastic champion of causes in which he believed.
In the discharge of his many and varied public duties, Sir Thomas was ever encouraged, helped and assisted by his talented and devoted wife, who was a daughter of that great Australian, the late Alfred Deakin. Apart from his widow, Sir Thomas has left four daughters to mourn his loss. I move -
That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of the Honorable Sir Thomas Walter White, K.B.E., D.F.C., V.D., former Commonwealth Minister and former member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Balaclava, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow and the members of his family in their bereavement.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I second the motion that has been submitted by the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan). The career of the late Sir Thomas White was indeed a colourful one. He served Australia not only in peace-time but also in two world wars. His exploits in World War I. are graphically described in the book that he wrote after his return to Australia. It was fitting that one who married the daughter of the late Alfred Deakin should find his way eventually into Australian political life.
As the Leader of the Government has said, Sir Thomas White was a good political opponent who was always prepared to stand firmly by his beliefs no matter how strong the opposition. He was an excellent Australian and his worth was recognized by his appointment to the important position of High Commissioner for Australia in London.
I was in personal contact with Sir Thomas White in his early political life as member of the House of Representatives for Balaclava, as the electoral division I represented in the Legislative Council of Victoria included part of that federal electorate. I found him an excellent companion. On behalf of the Opposition, I extend to Lady White and members of her family our sincere sympathy in their sad bereavement.
– The Australian Country party desires to be associated with the motion before the Senate expressing regret at the sudden death of Sir Thomas White.
Sir Thomas had a very colourful career. He was one of a small band of young Australians who formed the nucleus of the Australian Flying Corps at Point Cook 45 years ago. I think I am right in saying that when war broke out in 1914 he was a flying officer in No. 1 Squadron, which went to Egypt in the early years of World War I. It is a matter of history how he was captured by the Turks and held for some two and a half years as a prisoner of war. However, after several efforts to escape, he finally succeeded in reaching the British lines. As has been said by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan), he wrote a book on his various exploits while he was a prisoner of war. I am sure that book was read by a great number of people not only in Australia but also overseas. In World War II., he served with distinction as a wing commander with the R.A.A.F.
He entered politics in 1929 and retired in 1951 in order to take up the position of Australian High Commissioner in London. Both these positions he filled with distinction to himself and credit to the nation. His cheerful and pleasant demeanour at all times will long be remembered by those who have had the pleasure of being associated with him. We extend our deepest sympathy to his widow, Lady White, and family, in their sad bereavement.
– My party desires to be associated with the motion of condolence to the relatives of the late Honorable Sir Thomas White. To his sorrowing wife and family we offer our sincerest sympathy.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and1 Transport by referring to a Budget statement in which the Treasurer indicated that the Commonwealth had agreed in principle to provide some financial assistance for the actual construction of the conversion of the rail link between Melbourneand Albury to the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge. Haveany conferences already taken place onthis new budget proposal between the Commonwealth and New South Wales and Victoria? Have any firm decisions been madeon the financial basis proposed for this work? Will any agreement be subject toratification by this Parliament? When is it anticipated that this well worth-while work will commence, and how long is it anticipated the work will take to complete?
– I have had a couple of conferences with Sir ArthurWarner, the Victorian Minister for Railways, and Mr. Enticknap, the New South: Wales Minister for Railways, on this matter. The most recent conference was on Friday last. Substantial agreement has already been reached in principle between the threegovernments. A draft agreement is now in course of preparation, and when it is completed copies will be sent to both Ministers for their perusal and comments.
There are matters still outstanding, some financial and a larger number technical. These matters are the subject of continual consultation between the technical officers of the State systems and the Commonwealth Railways. It is proposed that the agreement, when signed, shall be ratified by the Parliament. As yet, I am not in a position to say precisely when the work will start, or how long it will take, but the honorable senator will no doubt have noticed from press statements which I have made that it is the wish of the Commonwealth Government that it be completed as early as possible.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade in a position to inform the Senate whether a delegation from the Republic of China is about to visit Australia to discuss future trade arrangements with Australia?
– The only information I can give is that my colleague, the Minister for Trade, understands that a group of people representing the State trading activities of China contemplate making -application for visas to come to Australia. Should the group make the application for the visas and later visit Australia, the Government’s policy in relation to that visit will be the same as that which has been announced on quite a number of occasions - that trading relations with red China and between red China and Australia will continue, provided always that we limit transactions that cover strategic materials. I think I have given that information previously in the Senate. If this delegation comes to Australia, the Department of Trade will do what it can to assist it, in the same way as the department has assisted delegations that have come here previously from Poland, Rumania and elsewhere.
– Last week the Minister for Customs and Excise was good enough to indicate broadly to my colleagues, Senator Vincent and Senator Pearson, the procedure that he expected would be adopted in paying rebates of the new diesel fuel tax to large users of diesel fuel and to farmers and . other similar users, ls the Minister in a position to state, first, whether application forms for rebates have yet been printed and distributed throughout the Commonwealth? Secondly, if the application forms have been printed and distributed, from what department or at what points may they be obtained? Thirdly, will completed applications be dealt with at the head-quarters of the department in each State or at some central office? Fourthly, on what date will the first rebate cheques be available? Fifthly, are there any other features of the matter on which the Minister would care to comment?
– Rebate claim forms are at present in the hands of the Government Printer and should be printed shortly. As soon as they have been printed they will be made available throughout the Commonwealth by the co-operation of oil companies at their depots, and also at Customs Houses and excise points. The claims in each State will be dealt with at the office of the Department of Customs and Excise in that State. It is expected that the first rebate period will end on 31st December of this year, and cheques will be made available as early as possible after that date. I hope to be able shortly to distribute widely a comprehensive circular which will cover the points that the honorable senator has raised.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On many occasions I have tried to get an authoritative statement from the Government regarding the European free trade area and common market, and its possible repercussions on Australian exports, but so far I have not been successful. The Treasurer, who returned to Australia yesterday, had a lot to say about the matter in a press interview. As I have had many inquiries from interested people and organizations, could a considered statement on the subject now be made to the Senate?
– The matter is not one in respect of which an answer with any mathematical accuracy can be given. By the very nature of the matter, any answers given must be statements of opinion.
– But it is a serious matter.
– It is a very important matter, and the honorable senator has- every reason to be interested in it. I do not know whether the Treasurer has a dogmatic opinion upon the possible effects of the arrangements. Much has been written about the matter. The honorable senator has access to that material in the library. 1 do not know whether the Treasurer feels disposed to express an opinion, but I shall mention the matter to him.
– I preface a question directed to the Minister for National Development by saying that it is provoked by the excellent remarks made by the Prime Minister about an hour ago, when, in King’s Hall, he opened an exhibition of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. My question is: Can the Minister say what use will be made of atomic energy in industry, and whether the Government has any plans for nuclear power in Australia?
– The scope of the honorable senator’s question is pretty wide. I shall answer it by saying that there are two main ways of using atomic energy. The first is through the use of isotopes. Radio activity is capable of being detected in various materials, and as a result wide use is being made of isotopes by industry, and use to some extent is being made by the medical profession. That is already occurring in Australia. When the Lucas Heights establishment is completed, additional isotopes will be available for Australian industry. The generation of power is primarily a matter for the State governments. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission is maintaining a standing committee to provide information for the State generating authorities, to the extent that the State people desire that information. The commission itself is initiating and carrying through a series of experiments and researches directed towards obtaining knowledge and information as to the type of nuclear power houses most suitable for Australian conditions, particularly having regard to the requirements of power by mining centres in outback areas where transport costs are such an important factor in connexion with normal thermal fuel generation.
– Mr. President, 1 desire to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a number of questions but, in deference to your sensible suggestion that questions that cannot be answered immediately should be placed on the noticepaper, I shall adopt that course. However, the Minister may be able to answer the following question or, at least, he can tell me whether he is prepared to get a reply to it for me: - Is it not a fact that thousands of citizens of Australian see no hope of their being entertained by television for many years to come? Has the Minister any information for the Senate and the people of Australia regarding the progress being made with the long-distance despatch of television - that is, apart from the ordinary costly method of relaying television?
– As to the first pari of the honorable senator’s question, I do not think it is true to say that the provision of television entertainment for thousands of our citizens will be delayed for many years to come. The Postmaster-General, in a statement that he made as recently, I think, as last week, indicated pretty well when television stations would be established in the capital cities other than Melbourne and Sydney.
– What about the provision of television stations in country districts?
– There is no doubt that the country districts will be considered as soon as the capital cities have been served, and when there are better facilities than exist at present for sending television programmes over long distances. However. I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and obtain a considered reply for him.
– I direct a series of questions to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister seen a statement that was published in the “ Canberra Times “ yesterday to the effect that, during a total transmission time of ten hours, the three television stations in Sydney televised 65 major crimes and brutalities? Is it a fact that the easing of controls on the importation of television programmes has provided a channel by which undesirable films may gain easy entry to
Australia? Will the Postmaster-General make a searching inquiry into this matter, and take immediate action to impose stricter censorship on imported films? Further, will he review the whole matter of television programmes, and increase the percentage of Australian plays and shows?
– I assure the honorable senator that I will bring her question to the notice of the Postmaster-General, and will ask for an early reply.
– My question, which is on similar lines to that of Senator Robertson, is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. First, is it a fact that the Postmaster-General promised Actors Equity of Australia that he would meet a delegation at 2 o’clock to-day, but was not available when the delegation attended Parliament House? Is the Minister aware that the spirit of the Broadcasting Act is being evaded by television stations in regard to the quality of imported television-film programmes, and the employment of Australian actors, musicians and writers who are unable to compete economically with the imported film programmes? Is the Minister aware that stabbing, strangling, suicide, murder, bashing, maiming, robbery and brawling are the themes of many programmes presented on television during hours when there is the greatest number of child viewers, and that this cannot fail to have a debasing and demoralizing effect? Will the Minister alter his decision not to meet the deputation from Actors Equity, so that justice will be done to these Australian artists, whose very livelihood is threatened by the new entertainment medium of television unless they are guaranteed a fair share of the employment offering in that industry?
– I am afraid that I cannot answer in detail the question put by the honorable senator. I will bring it to the notice of my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral. I am sure that he will let me have an early answer, and I will then pass it to the honorable senator.
– I ask the
Minister for Shipping and Transport whether, at the beginning of the year, the Australian national line had fourteen ships trading overseas - mainly to Japan and
India? Is it not a fact that at present only two are still on these runs, and that the others, because of their inability to compete successfully with overseas shipping lines, have been returned to the Australian coastal trade? If so, will he say what factors operated to prevent them from being competitive, and whether there is any prospect of Australian ships being profitably employed on overseas runs?
– It is true that in the early part of the year a number of. ships - fourteen or thereabouts - of the Australian national line were employed on overseas charter. It is also true that most of them have now returned to the Australian coastal trade, where they are required. The chartering of Australian vessels on overseas runs on this occasion was made possible by a combination of circumstances - a .general shortage of shipping following the Suez crisis, a sharp upturn in charter rates, and a slightly less intense demand for employment on the Australian coast. Generally speaking, it would be true to say that Australian costs are higher than those operating overseas. Therefore, it is more difficult to obtain a charter for an Australian ship in the overseas run, but from time to time circumstances which make it possible do occur.
– My question to the Minister for National Development arises out of that asked by Senator Vincent. Can the Minister inform the Senate when the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights will be put into operation?
– The Government is aiming to have an official opening of the research reactor in March, 1958. We cannot be quite certain of the date, as this is not an ordinary construction task. A good deal of technical and scientific work will have to be done to make certain that all the apparatus is as it should be, but the hope and expectation are for an official opening in March, 1958.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise inform the Senate of the alteration in the customs duty payable on Japanese salmon under the AustralianJapanese trade agreement? What were the imports of Japanese salmon to Australia in the years 1955-56 and 1956-57? What were the imports of all other fresh fish from Japan in the same years?
– The honorable senator was good enough to intimate to me that he had this problem on his mind and I had some investigations made by the department. The drop in duty under the Japanese Trade Agreement is Hd. per lb. on canned salmon and 10 per cent, primage. In fact, it works out in practice at 3d. per i lb. tin. The imports of salmon in 1955-56 were 7,087,129 lb. Last year, 1956-57, the imports dropped to 4,249,229 lb. The imports of other fish from Japan in 1955-56 amounted to 145,552 lb. and in 1956-57 to 979,368 lb. The total imports of all fish from Japan amounted to 7,232,681 lb. in 1955-56 and 5,228,597 lb. in 1956-57. There was a drop of 2,004,084 lb. in 1956-57.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
-The Minister for Trade has furnished me with the following reply: -
Surplus disposal agreements have been negotiated between the United States and India for the supply of wheat to India as follows: -
The agreement of August, 1956, provided that supplies should be made available over the threeyear period ending 30th June, 1959, and that during each of the years 1957, 1958 and 1959, India should import commercially not less than 550,000 metric ‘tons of wheat from all sources oi which not less than 150,000 metric tons should be imported from the United States during each of the three years. 2 and 3. Exports of wheat and flour to India and Ceylon, as recorded by the Commonwealth Statistician, were as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– I have been supplied with the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The following answers have been provided by the Minister for Trade: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice: -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s question: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service upon notice -
What is the number of unemployed at immigration holding centres throughout Australia?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
At 4th October, there were 708 migrants at Immigration Department holding centres and reception and training centres available for and awaiting placement. These included 95 awaiting movement to employment found for them.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon -notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Debate resumed from 10th October (vide page 485), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is two-fold. It seeks to vary the amount of subsidy that is offered by the Commonwealth towards the cost of homes for aged persons from £1 for each £1 spent by the organizations which take advantage of the subsidy to £2 for each £1, and to increase the amount of the grant available for this purpose. Last year £1,500,000 was made available; under this bill, the amount is to be increased to £3,000,000. The Opposition is in agreement with the bill, but during the course of the debate, it will offer some criticisms of the measure. I think, speaking from memory, that the total amount that has been allocated for this work over the last three years was about £4,500,000. The fact that impresses me most is that the budget papers disclose that less than 50 per cent, of this amount has been spent. Needless to say, this cannot be considered due to any fault on the part of the one making the offer, in this instance the Government, but the fact that all the allocation has not been expended does indicate the tightness of money for expenditure on homes for the aged.
It is true that most of the money expended in this direction is expended by charitable institutions, most of which are of a religious character. I have no fault to find with that because these religious organizations have been the main spenders of money on this work over the years. In my own suburb there is quite a number of religious institutions looking after the aged. There is a home for the aged at Royal Park and another at Cheltenham, and if I remember correctly, another at the country centre of Ballarat. One must give great credit to these non-government organizations and even to those who are working under State authorities for the work they have done.
Although I raise no query about what the religious organizations have done, 1 do feel, to be quite candid, that some one ought to have a say in the method by which old people are taken into these homes. Is a priority system adopted, or is preference given to the case of greatest hardship at the time?
This bill also provides that certain bodies not now covered will come under the legislation. 1 shall have something to say about municipalities in my own State in this connexion later. The bill permits groups of well-meaning people to set about raising funds for the establishment of homes for the aged. If such people can raise £5,000 either by donations or in various other ways, they will become authorized societies under this measure and will be entitled to a subsidy of £10,000. My only concern here is the same as that to which 1 referred in connexion with the other organizations. Will the department take any interest or have authority to be interested in the methodby which inmates will be taken into the homes? Is the decision to be left solely to those people who are prepared to raise the money? Again, will preference be given to the person who put his or her name down on the waiting list first, or will it be given to the person who is in greatest need? 1 would be the last to throw any stones at a scheme such as the one proposed, but, when all is said and done, a subsidy of £2 for £1 is fairly generous, and in those circumstances I feel that the department ought to have some check on the method adopted, for taking in inmates. I have read what was said in another place, and although I am not completely au fait with a number of the criticisms, I do feel that some of them are valid. It has to be remembered also that the person who makes a donation to the cause is able to claim the amount as a deduction for income tax purposes. As most of the people who can afford to make a donation of any size at all pay income tax at the rate of from 8s. to 10s. in the £1, this means that the Commonwealth is donating not only a subsidy of £2 for every £1 collected, but also a reduction in taxation to the donor. Although I would be the last to detract from what is being done to these wellmeaning people who raise the money, I do feel that when Commonwealth money is involved to the extent proposed here, the Commonwealth should have some right to: a look-see, if I may use that term, at the method adopted for taking the aged into these homes. Is preference to be given to the most deserving case, or to the person who has put his or her name down first? If preference is not to be given to the most needy case, it is possible that the scheme will be abused to a certain extent. I use the word “ abused “ not in the ordinary sense but in the sense that it could! happen that those who have taken an interest in the raising of the funds might have the greatest say in who shall be admitted and might be inclined, through friendship or for some other reason, to give preference to a person whom they know rather than to the most deserving case.
There are one or two matters which I feel are not as they should be. The first relates to the handing over of the Government’s cheque to the representative of an organization. I am informed that in Victoria, all the cheques except one that have been handed over for this purpose have been handed over by members of the Government parties. I raise no great objection to that, provided the member of the Government party is the representative of the area in which the ceremony is held; but I feel that if political flavour is to be kept entirely out of this work, a cheque should be handed over by the man who represents the area in question, irrespective of his political views.
I agree that it is a great fillip1 to those who take an interest in raising funds to receive these subsidies. I am certain that if, after an organization has raised £5,000, some one comes along and, at a ceremony, says, “Here is another £10,000”, it is a tremendous incentive to the members of the organization to set about raising further money? Where some good is being done for unfortunate, aged, homeless people, the last thing one would desire would be to introduce political controversy. The act provides that assistance shall be given to religious and other organizations. I agree with that principle. From what I can ascertain, I do not think it is very hard for any organization or group of people to get the official imprimatur. Seemingly, a few people can get together and say, “ We should have a number of homes for aged people in this town. We will attempt to raise £X “. They then have to get the approval of the department. 1 should like to know on what grounds such approval is given. Has the department the sole say on who will be given assistance? If it has, I would rather have some formula laid down. If a formula is not laid down, brickbats may be thrown, because people are always more prone to criticize than to praise. Instances of favoritism could easily occur, and I am quite certain that that is the last thing that the department or any honorable senator would want to happen.
Does the act provide that these homes shall be held for this class of occupancy in perpetuity? I doubt it, but I may be wrong. After a time, may these homes tease to be used for the purpose for which they were originally provided? One aspect of the scheme that I like is that old people are not taken away from the environment in which they have lived all their lives. Homes such as these may be built in any town where people are prepared to raise a certain amount of money. I do not think that any one helps elderly people by making them, so to speak, pull up the roots of their lives and transfer them elsewhere. Let us hope that more people in more towns will undertake this work. A worthy commencement was made when the legislation was introduced three years ago. Statistics show, if I remember correctly, that by 1960 more than 10 per cent, of the population of Australia will be over 65 years of age. Therefore, although a commencement has been made, much more remains to be done.
The Port Melbourne Municipal Council built some homes for aged people many years ago. The majority of councils have not much money, but others have, because of certain circumstances. The latter should be allowed to participate in this scheme. This matter of assisting municipal councils to provide aged persons’ homes was raised in another place but the Minister would not have it. I say, with respect, that the Minister was incorrect in the reply that he made. Metropolitan municipalities receive very little money from State governments. I can speak with authority of Victoria. They may receive money for libraries, baby health clinics and pre-school centres, but only on a basis of £1 for £1, or perhaps, in some instances, £2 for £1. The assistance is given for specific purposes and cannot be used for the ordinary running of the municipality. The money for the latter purpose comes from municipal rates, as we call them in Victoria. I cannot see that any harm would be done if municipal councils were allowed to participate in this scheme. Here is a great opportunity to have these homes built over a wider area. I want old people to enjoy the last years of their lives amongst the people with whom they have lived for a long period. I think that the Minister’s statement was not based on fact.
– To what effect was his answer?
– He said that the Government would not permit municipal councils to receive the subsidy of £2 for £1 for aged persons homes. He said that in many cases municipal councils received grants from the State government, which received grants from the Commonwealth, and that if the Commonwealth were to match or subsidize municipal council funds it might be subsidizing its own money. 1 have had some experience of local government administration in Victoria, but I know of no instance where that would occur. It is true that the councils of country shires and country towns receive money from the State government, but it is for a specific purpose - for instance, roads. 1 doubt if many municipalities could afford to participate in this scheme, but one, which I know well, did engage in this class of work long before 1954, and it may be inclined to build more homes. We cannot be happy with the thought that less than 50 per cent, of the money available has been used. I do not believe that the explanation is that charitable and religious organizations know nothing about the scheme. The people who are interested in those organizations keep their ears to the ground and they know where assistance can be obtained. Seemingly, the only explanation is that organizations have not sufficient money to enable them to take advantage of this assistance. If the Government is prepared to spend £3,000,000 this year, as the Budget provides, and all of it is used, a total of £4.500,000 will be spent on homes for aged persons. I think it is true to say that all honorable senators would like the full amount of money provided to be spent. I do not think for a moment that the
Government has increased the amount of money to be provided for this purpose in the hope that all of it will not be spent. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, of the total provision of £1,500,000, in last year’s Budget, only £751,000 was expended. Three years have elapsed since the original legislation was enacted. That is a fair length of time. It is reasonable to believe that the people who are interested in religious and charitable organizations know of the avenues available through which to obtain this assistance, because they do a lot of work on behalf of the aged members of the community and even dip into their own pockets to help the old people. I say to the Government and to these charitable workers: “ £3,000,000 is being provided to assist in the provision of homes for the aged. Let that amount be spent so as to provide as many homes as possible for the aged members of the community “.
Without making a long speech on this subject, I do not think there could be any administrative difficulty in the spending of the money provided, particularly in view of the fact that there are at present insufficient homes for aged people. Having regard to present high prices of houses, I think that the Government is acting wisely in subsidizing the provision of homes for aged people. However, I think the scope of assistance should be widened. As an amount of £3,000,000 is to be set aside for this purpose, I would not be opposed to inviting the State governments to participate in the scheme. Of course, there could be an argument against that course of action, having regard to the conditions on which loan money is allocated to the States for housing generally. Nevertheless, this is a specific subsidy to assist in the provision of housing for a certain section of the community. Therefore, I think every effort should be made to spend the amount for the purpose for which it has been provided. The Opposition supports the bill.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [4.18]. - I rise to support this bill, and to congratulate the Government on increasing the amount of subsidy to provide homes for the aged. I think it is well to remind honorable senators that the original purpose of the aged persons homes legislation was to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged per sons,- in particular homes where aged persons may reside under conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life and, in the case of married people, having regard to the aspect of companionship. It is true to say that these objectives have been kept well in mind by the church and charitable organizations that are engaged in this splendid work and are assisted by this legislation. In common with other honorable senators, I have had the privilege of visiting many of the homes that have been provided for aged people. I have seen new areas opened up and cottages built for aged persons, where they may live in excellent surroundings, as a result of the assistance that has been provided by this Government.
I should like to congratulate the departmental officers concerned for the very real interest they have taken in this matter, and particularly for the assistance that they have rendered to church and charitable organizations in the provision of homes for the aged, and, indeed, to the occupants themselves. The sincere interest of the departmental officers in this work has been most noticeable^ on occasions when cheques have been presented by the Government
Senator Kennelly raised the question of the permanency of homes for the aged. Section 6 (1.) of the original act provides -
Where the Director-General is satisfied that a building or buildings erected or to be erected, or purchased or to be purchased, by an eligible organization is or are intended to be used permanently by or on behalf of the organization as a home or homes for the accommodation of aged persons, he may . . .
That, I think, is one very important feature of the legislation. It ensures permanent accommodation for aged people over the years that lie ahead of them.
I think it is good to remind ourselves of what has actually been done in this direction since the original measure was enacted. One hundred and ninety-two projects have been undertaken, at a cost of £2,214,028. That is a lot of money. As a result of this expenditure, more- accommodation - many more beds - has been provided for aged persons. The assistance provided will enable accommodation to be made available for 3,590 aged people. This is a very great improvement. As we know, the waiting lists for many of these places are very long indeed, and much important work can be done in this direction in order to provide more and more accommodation for our aged people. The additional money that is being provided under this bill will make possible a great extension of the accommodation available for aged people.
– Did I understand the honorable senator to say that there is a requirement that the accommodation shall be provided on a permanent basis?
– Yes, section 6 of the Aged Persons Homes Act 1954 so provides. We do know, of course, that the number of aged people in the community is increasing, and as I said recently, we must look, on a long-range plan, to the provision of very real assistance to the aged. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), in his second: reading speech, stated that 74 of the 192 grants refer to applications from country areas and provincial towns. To me, that is a very important aspect of the matter. I have always thought it sad that aged people have to be taken from the areas in which they live amongst friends to strange areas. It is pleasing to note that the ‘ charitable and church organizations are applying for assistance to enable the old people to stay in friendly familiar surroundings. That is a splendid thing. I am glad that the cottage system has been extended and that in the case of married people proper regard is being paid to the companionship of husband and wife. Over the years, one of the tragedies in connexion with aged married people has been the necessity for them to be separated in the twilight of their lives. Surely, there could be nothing more tragic than that! We see splendid garden settlements being established. I call to mind some that have been completed in Queensland, and no doubt honorable senators can think of such settlements that have been established in other States.
I should also like to comment on another admirable feature of this legislation, that is, the provision of good single-room accommodation, where the privacy and dignity of aged single people can be preserved. These are important matters for aged people. I congratulate the Government on what it has done in the past, and upon bringing down this bill, which effects two amendments of particular significance.
I direct the attention of honorable senators to the second-reading speech of the Minister. He said -
In the present act, the capital cost of an approved home includes, in the case of a home erected by the organization, the cost of erecting the home and the cost of the necessary fixtures. The cost of the land is not included. On the other hand, where buildings are bought for conversion into a home, the cost of the land on which the buildings stand is included. Organizations building on new sites have been less favorably placed than those purchasing premises for conversion. Some have found their resources for building seriously depleted because of .the heavy outlay on land.
The definition of “ capital cost “ is amended by the bill. The capital cost of a home to be erected may in future include such amount in respect of the whole or a part of the land acquired for the purposes of the home as is determined by the Minister, in his discretion. The new provision will apply only where land is acquired on or after the date of commencement of the amending act.
I feel that that is a very important point, and that the bill will greatly assist the organizations doing this work, because this matter has given them some concern in the past.
The other important point is that, under the bill, the Government will contribute £2 for every £1 raised by church or charitable bodies towards the provision of homes for the aged. The existing subsidy has been invaluable, and one can well realize how greatly the magnificent work already being done by church and charitable organizations will be extended when the bill becomes law.
I always feel that the maintenance of these homes offers a real problem to all concerned. I have in mind, especially, those in tropical areas, and wooden buildings which require regular repair and maintenance. I hope that, in time, consideration will be given to that factor also, because it is desirable to maintain the present excellent standard of accommodation, and to realize that the task of maintenance is very often a great worry to the organizations conducting these schemes.
I should also like, once again, to ask the Minister to give some thought to a plan which I have mentioned on a previous occasion. It seeks further assistance for aged persons, and may possibly be given effect by way of an amendment to this bill. Over the years during which I have worked with aged people, I have been gravely concerned at the difficulty confronting persons who live at great distances from hospitals. Perhaps I might cite a case which came to :my notice. An old man was brought from the far outback to the city for treatment in a general hospital. After he had been treated for a considerable time the hospital authorities said, “ You are really well enough to go home now. Your wife can care for you, and you can return for further treatment at regular intervals “. Of course, :he could not do that because his home was so far away. Queensland is a State of .great distances and persons requiring intermittent treatment often have no alternative .to remaining in hospital for that purpose. The wife of such an aged person as I have mentioned could have no greater happiness than that offered by the care of her husband. How wonderful it -would be be if she could ‘be near him while he was receiving intermittent treatment. There is also the ‘problem of cost. Many aged patients cannot bring their wives to stay somewhere close to the hospital while they receive treatment. 1 should like consideration to be given to the provision of cottages or flats where such people could reside during the period following hospital treatment. Of course, these homes would not be intended for permanent residents, which, I realize, is the kind of home envisaged in the original legislation. However, the provision of such cottages as I suggest would meet the difficulty facing those whom I might call the aged ill - who need intermittent treatment, but are not permanently ill. A patient who needed this kind of treatment could reside temporarily with his wife in a cottage handy to the hospital. I do not know whether such a scheme could be brought into being through an amendment to this bill, but I do know that it is greatly needed. Doubtless people who are working with the aged ill could produce a better working plan than I have suggested. Seeing many aged persons, I know that the need does exist. The provision of what I might call temporary cottages or flats would do a great deal to ease their burden.
No doubt, honorable senators will immediately say that the cost of such a scheme would be considerable. Probably the original cost would be high, but I remind honorable senators that such cottages would meet the needs of a great many people. As a patient became well he would go home and some .one else would take his place. Moreover, such a scheme would release many hospital beds. Not so long ago, the matron of a hospital which I visited told me that a number of patients, of varying ages, were occupying beds that could be released for other patients if only there were homes nearby where their wives could care for them while they received treatment and that they would be so happy if they could be with them. I spoke to her about my proposal for a cottage system and she said, “ That would be one of the best possible answers that we could have “.
I also have before me a letter which I received from a well-known Australian doctor who heard me speak on this matter on another occasion. He writes -
We feel that this is one of the most important things you could mention. My committee itself once drew up plans for small cottages where couples .could live -.together .during this period while they were .receiving treatment after their release from hospital. This could do a very great work in assisting our aged people and indeed, in helping the care of the sick after treatment, during a period of rehabilitation.
This is, .of course, a little apart from permanent occupancy of the kind envisaged in the bill, but I mention it because it should receive consideration from both the practical and the human point of view. These aged people have only a limited number of years left to them, and it would be a very fine thing if the wife could be with her husband and could care for him during his rehabilitation.
I should like the Minister to consider both the plan that I have suggested, and also the aspect of maintenance of buildings. This legislation is among the finest ever brought into the Parliament. It has done more than almost anything else to help the aged and those in need. It has shown that this Government realizes keenly the essential, human needs of aged people. It realizes the great fear of loneliness felt by many persons of advanced years. In these cottage settlements or garden communities - whatever we might call them - they can live their remaining years with a feeling of security, with a feeling of being wanted. They cease to feel alone, or be afraid of what the years ahead may hold for them. With their contemporaries, or their loved ones, they can spend their last years -in contentment because this Government has seen their need -and has acted so splendidly in meeting it. Now we have legislation which will increase the payments. We have legislation, which, I believe, will be the means of making more accommodation available. We have legislation which will give to more aged people that happiness and security which we feel is so important. 1 have much pleasure in supporting this bill.
– It is very rarely that an Opposition senator can unreservedly commend legislation of the Government, but this is one occasion when I feel that I can do so, and I think that all members of the Opposition share my view. When this scheme was introduced, it was really revolutionary in character. Such an approach to this problem had not been made before, and honorable senators waited with interest to see whether the scheme would be a success. I believe that it has been an outstanding success.
There was some criticism of the Government at the inception of the scheme for, as it was said, running away from its obligations by providing only one-half of the cost of something in respect of which it had a responsibility to bear the complete cost. However, looking at the matter in a common-sense way, I believe that the Government did make a very good approach to the problem. By providing even one-half of the money, it took a very important step forward in looking after the aged people. As Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin has said, this legislation, over a period of three years, has enabled accommodation to be provided for another 3,500 aged people. The Government is now taking another logical step by providing for a subsidy on the basis of £2 for every £1.
The problem of providing for aged people is becoming more and more difficult, because aged people are becoming poorer and poorer as a result of the impact of inflation.
– They are increasing in number in relation to the whole population.
– I hope that, as I proceed, I shall make that very clear.
– We understood the honorable senator.
– The Minister is one of the more intelligent members of the Government. I am trying to cater for some of those who are not quite so intelligent. As a result of increasing or creeping inflation, as it has been called, more of our people are becoming poorer as they become older. This situation could develop to the stage that the middle-class people will move towards old age, not with an expectation of security, but with fear and trepidation because they have not been able to provide for their old age in the way that at one time they were able to do.
– There will be plenty of Government workhouses.
– It would be sad to think that workhouses were the cure. I would think the cure would be to stifle inflation.
– I hope the honorable senator is not suggesting that I am saying that workhouses are the cure.
– I do not think so, but it was an interesting interjection.
– Previous generations were faced with the workhouse.
– Unfortunately future generations, too, may be faced with the same prospect, but at the least the Government is approaching the problem now in a more civilized manner. It is giving encouragement to people who have been trained and have dedicated their lives to looking after old people. This assistance will enable them to do that much better.
I have before me an interesting article by Sir Oscar Hobson, in which he gives, having taken them from the International Monetary Fund statistics, the average percentage increases in the cost of living of various countries between 1951 and the latest- available date in 1957. The figures show that the largest increase, 36 per cent., has occurred in Australia. The figures for the other countries are: United Kingdom 28 per cent., Belgium 6 per cent., Denmark 15 per cent., France 15 per cent.
– Over what period?
– From 1951 to the latest date in 1957. He is quoting from the International Monetary Fund- statistics. The remaining figures are: Netherlands 16 per cent., Norway 25 per cent., Sweden 22 per cent., Switzerland 7 per cent., United States 1 per cent. 1 mention those figures in passing, just to strengthen my suggestion that, unless something is done to stop this creeping inflation, the problem of providing for the increasing number of old people will become increasingly severe as the years pass by. The Government is prepared to provide £3,000,000 for aged persons homes, but (hat is conditional upon £1,500,000 being raised by voluntary associations. The associations must raise a very large sum of money. As Senator Kennelly said, that money may not be available through the normal avenues of charity. 1 think it is imperative that the Government, having said it will spend £3,000,000, should spend the full amount. As 1 develop my talk, 1 shall show other ways in which some of that money could be spent if £1,500,000 is not raised by the charitable and other organizations which have been, up to this stage, receiving the subsidy.
This is what is happening because of creeping inflation. Dr. Winfield Riefler, an economist with the Federal Reserve Board of the United States of America, has stated - . . even if inflation could be limited to a small annual price rise - and this he denies - it would be by no means as mild as people appear to think. For instance, if prices were rising by 3 per cent, a year, a man who has accumulated sufficient savings to provide a pension of £10 a week at 60, would find that by 70 his pension was £7 9s. If he lived till 83, it would have been cut in half to £5 a week.
This increasing pressure is making people poorer, with the result that the responsibility of governments is becoming greater. One of the most interesting statements I have read on this subject was that made by Lord Beveridge last October. Lord Beveridge is famous as the man who brought social services and the welfare state to the United Kingdom. Full employment and social services were the basic elements of the plan which made him a world figure. Last October he made the remarkable admission -
Most of my working life was spent in university service. When I left that service to become a politician in 1945, I was able to take with me for superannuation enough thousand pounds to feel fairly happy for my future. Now each of the £l’s is worth about 6s. 8d. Like many other healthy people in the seventies I am in danger of living longer than T can afford to live. Our plans for useful old age are all going haywire.
Honorable senators will see that this is a very serious problem. When 1 opened my remarks, I complimented the Government on its approach to this problem, but 1 think that approach needs to be widened. From my own experience, I know that the people who, with the help of the Government, have been providing these homes, could do much more if there were a more generous approach by the Government. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) said that the Government was seeking the cooperation, mutual trust and goodwill of these organizations and had obtained them in full measure from all the organizations with which it had done business.
Let us extend that mutual goodwill and trust. At the present time, the Government subsidizes the cost of buildings and fixtures only. When I use the word “ fixtures “, I mean exactly what I say; the items concerned must be irremovable. The Government will not subsidize the cost of anything that can be moved out of the home. A difficulty often experienced in the erection of modern buildings is the provision of permanent fixtures. Certain old people might like to have a heating device such as a steam heater on wheels; that is not a fixture but can be moved from room to room. No subsidy is payable for such conveniences. I have checked on this matter with the department, and I have learned that it is arguable whether even an electric stove which, after all, is movable, or a gas stove, which is connected to a pipe that enters through a wall and which perhaps could be moved, is a fixture. Why cannot the department go to the limit, be generous, and trust the people who are responsible for the erection of these institutions and who, as the Minister admits, are completely trustworthy?
The department will not subsidize a bed or bedding, which forms an integral part of any home. Why does it not subsidize those items? It does not do so because they are movable. The department, instead of applying the trust about which it talks so much, says to these organizations, in effect, “ You might remove that bed. lt cannot be built in. Therefore, we will not subsidize the cost of it; you must pay the full cost yourselves “. I strongly urge the Minister and the department to go one step further in applying that trust to which I have referred and subsidize everything that is necessary for the successful establishment of these institutions. As I said earlier, the need for homes for aged people becomes greater every yea*. The Government has started to move in the right direction, but it needs to move still further.
Another important matter, which is not of a general nature, has been brought to my notice. Many of these institutions and homes have been established by religious organizations. Associated with those organizations are men and women who have dedicated their lives to the service of God, and to them access to a place of worship is very important. I know of institutions in which a chapel has been established, but the cost of the chapel has not been subsidized by the Government. In many cases, the first question that is asked by aged people who want to rent a flat or a room in such an institution is, “ How close is it to a church? “ The older a person gets, the more thought he has for his religion. Whether it is a case of the fear of God being the beginning of wisdom I do not know, but it is a fact that people become more devoted to their religion in their old age. To aged men and women who enter these homes, too, access to a chapel is very important. I have already said that the Government’s approach towards satisfying the need of aged persons has been good, but it is time that it seriously considered subsidizing the cost of this very necessary adjunct to aged persons’ homes. These organizations do not say, “ We cannot afford a chapel; we will build a home but not a chapel “. They build the chapel, and bear the complete cost of it.
About twelve or eighteen months ago, when this matter first came to my notice, I wrote to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). I told him that I felt it was then too early for the Government to consider the question of subsidizing the cost of chapels, because the legislation had then not been in operation for very long. As with all new things, problems arise which are not apparent to the average man and woman in the street but which must be dealt with by a Minister every day of his career. I felt that, in justice, the scheme of subsidizing aged persons’ homes should be solidly founded before it was developed to any great degree. I said to him, in effect, “ I mention this matter to you not with a view to your taking any action on it; but I feel certain that within a year or so, without outside pressure, you will move towards a decision to subsidize the cost of erecting chapels in aged persons’ homes “. I thought that, when the act was amended, a provision to that effect might be included; but I am sorry to see that it has not been included. Actually, there is no need for the act to be so amended; it is purely a matter of departmental administration.
A sympathetic approach could quite- easily overcome overnight the difficulty of obtaining a subsidy for the installation of fixtures. The department should determine that items that are required in an aged persons’ home shall be subsidized. The Minister has said that the department is dealing with people with whom it has developed complete trust. It can be quite sure that, if it subsidizes the cost of a bed, a heater, or all the other little things that are necessary for a little extra comfort, these people will not take them in the front door, out the back door, and sell them to a secondhand dealer down the road. I plead with the Minister to discuss, too, with the department the question of subsidizing the cost of chapels in these institutions.
I conclude as I began; I unreservedly commend the legislation. The move towards assisting the provision of homes for aged people is something of which we can all be proud, and I only hope that as time goes on the scheme will be extended.
– I support the bill. I have been very interested in many of the remarks that have’ been made this afternoon. As I see it, the bill provides for an increase from £1 for £1 to £2 for £1 of the financial assistance that the Government has been making available for the last three years.
There is quite a problem associated with age. I understand that each year 70,000 people reach the age of 65 years, and that in 1954, when the last census was taken, one in every eight persons in Australia was over 60 years of age. We are now going through a phase when the percentage of elderly people in the population will decrease because of the number of comparatively young immigrants entering Australia. At the same time, the aged present a real problem and we should approach it with realism.
I like the idea that is inherent in this bill because it perpetuates the partnership between the Government and the representatives of the aged persons who have formed charitable organizations, foundations and associations. I like to regard the aged persons as the ‘senior citizens- of the community. We have a duty to conserve for them all the qualities of independence, free enterprise, determination and purposeful living that they had when they were younger. Those qualities stamp them as real pioneers. If We cannot, in our economic system, conserve their savings, let us conserve their ideals for them in the way we treat them. The presence of lonely aged people spread over the continent is not in the best interests of those who are aged, middle-aged or young.
The secret of success in approaching this problem appears to be to provide for the care of elderly people while they are still fit and active. If possible, we should do that when both partners of a marriage are still alive. I. do not think we should wait until they are infirm and fit only for hospitalization. At that stage, they are beyond hope of solving their own problems.
In the course of my consideration of this matter, I have come across a reference to the work that is being done at Carrum Downs, in Victoria, by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. That organization appears to put marked emphasis on preserving the independence of elderly persons, giving them a feeling of security and opportunities for creative and useful activities. This is evident from the booklet that has been circulated by the brotherhood, from which ] have taken the following passage: -
In a village settlement such as Carrum Downs, it is possible to provide independence, security and occupations, but whatever form projects for the aged may take, these three basic needs must be catered for.
Village settlements are one way of helping to cut oft the flow of elderly to benevolent homes and hospitals, and provide a fuller life for the added years which medical science has given us.
For other elderly people, there is a need for services such as sheltered workshops for those who are unhappy because of enforced retirement and idleness; elderly citizens’ clubs where members actively participate in the management and develop their own programmes of activities; home helps; meals on wheels, and other services for those who cannot entirely provide for themselves.
Then the booklet pays another tribute to the scheme that is covered by this measure and it states -
The Commonwealth Government’s provision of a £1 for £1 subsidy for construction of homes for the elderly is encouraging thousands of people throughout Australia to devote their time, energy and money to practical work in providing accommodation.
This measure achieves those objectives. It provides, as it were, not for hospitalization, but for accommodation for the aged. Within the framework of this legislation, it has been possible for such settlements as that at Carrum Downs to flourish. I believe that the elderly people in that settlement live in cottages and are able to follow useful activities and live almost independent lives. That is one reason why I think that this partnership between the Commonwealth and organizations like the Brotherhood of St. Laurence has been working so successfully for the past three years.
I support the remarks of Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin on decentralization of these activities. Several years ago, I was privileged to visit Alice Springs, and I saw there the practical application of the spirit of this legislation. Homes which are known as the Old Timers’ Homes, were established there originally by the late Rev. Dr. Flynn. They are just outside the town of Alice Springs in a glorious setting underneath the shadow of a familiar landmark named Mount Blatherskite, and they accommodate aged men who have lived in the far north. Those elderly persons have lived all their lives in the north, and they are able to live there among their friends and in an atmosphere to which they are accustomed. Each man has the companionship of his own faithful dog.
The homes are furnished with many gifts and donations. For example, some of the racing clubs of central Australia have made available refrigerators for the homes, and all of them are so equipped. From time to time, gifts are sent to the settlement from all parts of Australia. This is basically a form of partnership between the Commonwealth and the Australian Inland Mission, which is responsible for the settlement. Bequests and donations have added to the amenities provided through that partnership.
Possibly chapels to which Senator Armstrong has just referred might be erected through bequests and donations. Once such homes are established, organizations or well-to-do people might realize the religious needs of the aged persons who live in the homes and provide the means to establish chapels for them. Senator Armstrong, indeed, raised a very important point when he spoke of the religious welfare of those who live in homes for the aged. I should like to think that extra attention will be paid to the religious aspect of the aged persons’ lives just as extra provision is made for their physical needs at places like the Old Timers’ Homes at Alice Springs.
Senator Armstrong also said that he would like to see the subsidy cover fixtures in the homes for aged. I believe that the Minister should give more attention to the regulations governing the subsidy. Sometimes it is difficult to know what is the true legal position, because this scheme has grown rapidly. It is understandable that, in the formative years of such a scheme, some conditions might not be set down precisely. Now that sufficient experience has been accumulated by the department, I think it should lay down in black and white whether a mobile heater is a fixture, and therefore eligible for subsidy, or whether it is not. I feel, also, that it should be laid down with fairly great precision what the position is in connexion with beds, bedding, cupboards and so on, although I fully understand why this has not been done in the past.
Another point I wish to raise relates to infirmaries. With advancing years, some people living in these homes become rather weak physically, and the great problem is to decide whether they should remain at the homes or be taken to public or other hospitals. The psychological effect of being taken from one of these homes for the aged to a hospital infirmary in another place is often devastating. I believe that the Government could well consider the provision of some money for the establishment of infirmaries connected with the homes for the aged. It is my opinion that if we read the act strictly, it is possible that infirmaries are not covered by the Government’s grants. There might be an enlarged interpretation which, possibly, does cover them, but it would be a rather wide interpretation, and
I feel that the Government could write into its legislation a definite interpretation which would cover specifically an infirmary attached to a home for the aged. This would improve the legislation, for it would let every organization know exactly where it stood.
Senator Kennelly referred to the authenticity of the groups or bodies that get together to raise money for the establishment of homes for the aged. My experience of dealing with the department in these matters is that it does pay great attention to the articles of association or registered rules of these groups or societies and, in that way, is going into the matter fairly thoroughly now. I still believe, however, that the time may be approaching when a method for the admission of people to these homes may have to be laid down. I hope that it will not be too soon, because I believe that one of the great features about these homes is the fact that the spirit of the founders is perpetuated in the working of them. I hope that this will always be predominant in the running of these homes, although it is possible that, in future, the Minister may have to face up to the formulation of some government rules governing admissions and so on.
I conclude by commending the legislation to the Senate. I think the Government has done splendidly. I am not unduly alarmed at the fact that all the money that has been allocated has not been taken up, because, of necessity, these schemes take some time to get going. It is possible that there are many organizations part way to the achievement of their target of collections now. They may have started two or three years ago to collect the amount necessary to enable them to qualify for the first subsidy. Possibly, there has been sufficient interest generated in Australia to take up all the money that Parliament has already allocated to this purpose. I commend the legislation to the Senate, and congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) upon his splendid second-reading speech in another place.
– I commend this legislation introduced by the Government. The bill fulfils a grave need in the community and gives an added incentive to those people who are interesting themselves in doing charitable work. The incentive was given to them under the Government’s first proposal which provided for a £l-for-£l subsidy. With the increase of the Commonwealth subsidy to £2, I should say the incentive is much greater indeed, for it indicates that the Government appreciates the work being done by these charitable organizations, and that it realizes that without them the work of caring for the aged would be beyond the resources of the Treasury at the moment. The increased subsidy gives this incentive because these charitably minded people are really doing something.
I should like to refer to one matter. I think it was mentioned by Senator Kennelly, and I should like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who is in charge of the bill, to give me some direction on it, if he can. It relates to the conversion of existing hospitals to homes for the aged. For instance, there are two hospitals in Tasmania about which I am concerned. One is Meercroft at Devonport, and the other is at Wynyard. Meercroft hospital is to be converted into a home for the aged when the present patients are transferred to a new hospital. Because of a certain bequest, this hospital is now administered by the municipal council. The new home will care for the aged of Devonport and district and I am wondering whether the Government will treat this institution, which will be under municipal control, in the same way as those conducted by other charitable organizations. The citizens’ committees formed in Devonport are just as much charitable committees as are those which are formed for the establishment of private institutions. These citizens’ committees are formed now and are already raising money in preparation for the change-over and the carrying out of a great deal of renovation work that will be necessary to cater properly for the aged. I hope that in such cases the Government’s generous subsidy of £2 for every £1 raised will be applicable.
– Is this the conversion of an old building?
– Yes. It is now a maternity hospital. It is to be taken over and renovated for use as a home for the aged of Devonport and district. I understand that the same thing is to be done at Latrobe; that is to say, a hospital is to be converted to a home for the aged. The argument may be advanced that because it is a municipal undertaking it is really a government instrumentality, but I claim that in fact it is a charitable institution. The local people have formed an organization for the special purpose of equipping this hospital as a home for the aged, and they should be given every possible help. The building is in a country centre, and we must admit that it is far better to cater for the aged in their own centres than to send them to Launceston or Hobart, great distances from their kith and kin, as is done now.
This legislation is filling a great want in our community. The speeches that have been made here this afternoon indicate that both sides here appreciate what the Government is doing. There have been certain matters brought forward which, I think, would improve this legislation. It is hoped that the Government, in its wisdom, after it has seen what is done in the next twelve months, will introduce various amendments designed to improve the legislation. Once again I commend the Government heartily on introducing this bill.
– On this matter I do not want to delay the Senate more than a few moments, but I do want to congratulate the Government on bringing this measure forward and on the changes in the act that it proposes to effect. Senator Kennelly, during the course of his remarks, referred to the fact that only 50 per cent, of the money made available was spent last year. That is so. but buildings are very expensive and, generally speaking, there are many calls on the public. It is no small matter to collect half the cost of a building such as is necessary to house even a minimum number of aged people. The bill proposes an alteration which has not been mentioned to-day but which, I think, will be very valuable. Up to the present, when a new home was to be built, the cost of the land was not taken into consideration. It was not included in the total amount of which the Government would find half. When buildings were bought, the cost of the land was included. The bill proposes an alteration so that the cost of the land, as well as the cost of the building, will be taken into consideration, and the subsidy of £2 for £1 will apply to the total cost, including the cost of the land. In my opinion, that is an important alteration.
I could not quite understand Senator Armstrong when he lamented the fact that no provision was made for chapels. I do not know whether he was referring to separate buildings for chapels. I have attended the opening of two or three homes. In each of those homes a chapel was provided in the building. After all, not a great number of people are housed in these homes, with the exception of a few very large ones, and consequently the chapels need not be very large. I know that they are provided, as I have seen them in two or three homes that I have visited. If Senator Armstrong wanted a separate building for a chapel, that would be a different matter. If it were provided, it might serve more than the occupants of the home and be used as a general chapel. The bill is not designed to make such a provision.
My particular desire in speaking to-day is to congratulate the Government on something that, strange to say, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) missed referring to in his second-reading speech. It is a most important innovation. Until a week or so ago, if any provision was made in one of these homes for hospital treatment for more than 25 per cent, of the residents, the building did not come under the regulations which entitled the organization conducting it to the subsidy. But an alteration has been made, and a new condidition provides that if not more than 33i per cent, of the accommodation that the home provides is devoted to a hospital bay, the institution will come under the provisions of this legislation. I think that is most important, because as some honorable senators, including, I think, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, have remarked, there is a great necessity for hospital facilities for these aged people. Hospital accommodation is a necessary ancillary to a home, and consequently I congratulate the Government on the fact that provision now exists to enable elderly people, when they suffer the complaints to which they are always subject, to get hospital treatment in the homes without going outside. I thought that the Minister was a little remiss in not referring to that matter in his second-reading speech, because it is a provision that merits great emphasis. I think that one or two of the speakers to-day were not aware of the recent liberalization of conditions to enable hospital benefits to be paid in respect of one-third of the residents. I congratulate the Government particularly on making that alteration, also on the proposed subsidy of £2 for £1 and the other improvements in the bill.
.- A bill such as this, on which there is fairly general concurrence as to its particular terms, nevertheless offers the chamber one of those valuable and salutary opportunities of directing its mind to the emerging social principles which are being translated in terms of money and political administration, as they are in this bill. Many honorable senators who have spoken have directed their minds, obviously, not to the particular terms of the measure, on which there is general approbation, but to more important things of higher philosophic content relating to the care of the aged and the social responsibility for aged people. The Senate, of course, realizes that this is by no means the ultimate in legislation of this kind, but it is generally agreed, otherwise, that it is a considerable step forward.
I ask honorable senators to join with me in making an odd observation or two on the social significance of a bill such as this. Some nights ago, I had the opportunity, in Brisbane, of .listening to a very interesting lecture by Sir John Latham, president of the Australian Society tor Cultural Freedom, which was delivered at the University of Queensland. His subject was the meaning of freedom, and he really dealt with the subject as freedom under the law. In the course of his remarks, he referred to the .position of voluntary organizations. He referred to them in a particular context, but it is a matter to which .at times I have given .considerable personal thought. I do not think that our community, as a community, is ever sufficiently conscious of the tremendous work done by so many associations catering for so many aspects of our social and economic life, without which, I think, our society in fact could hardly proceed, and possibly would not progress. When we look at bodies such as those associated with music, literature, art, horticulture, sport, or matters of -more consequence and importance such as are covered by this legislation, where in particular recognition is .given to the vital contribution which voluntary organizations, based on .goodness and personal charity, make, not only to the welfare of the community, but also in helping governments to discharge their public responsibility to a big section of our people, we get a new concept of how important they are in the social sphere and the social strata. That is one point which I wish to make.
Looking at this legislation and the recognition in the statute of the work of voluntary organizations, which receive a government subsidy according to the success they achieve in making .collections for this specific purpose, I think a matter which should be giving all public men in the Parliament some cause for concern is the growing amount of what I might call fixed commitments in the annual Budget. After all, the Budget to-day is one of the major economic instruments by which the economy is brought or kept under control, and by which it advances or retrogresses. The opportunity which various parties have to use the Budget as a political instrument to further their own political ideas depends on the degree of elasticity at any time in the financial statement. With growing fixed commitments in our national Budget, whether for repatriation services, services of this kind, or loan redemption, we are getting a constricting field of elasticity. I know that this is a matter to which I have referred before, but it is pertinent in this context, because all governments and all parties must ultimately make up their minds on the extent to which they will burden the national Budget in the discharge of responsibilities which are accepted, in a greater or lesser degree, as being of national concern, and, on the other hand, the extent to which they will relieve the Budget of direct financial commitments, by calling on the nation as a whole, in the discharge of its corporate, collective and, perhaps, personal responsibility, to assist governments by organizing to obtain money to finance projects such as those that are mentioned in this legislation. Senator Armstrong said that the depreciating value of the income now available to pensioners is an indication. The point I tried to make, which I think the honorable senator was not able in the course of his remarks exactly to comprehend, was that there has been an extension of the life period of many people and, therefore, a gradual increase of the number of aged persons looking to the State or to other organizations for medical or social assistance. The_ budgetary commitment looks as if it is going to reach such a level that it may be impossible for ultimate justice to be done, and that some other method will have to be found by which the legitimate and equitable demands of that section of the community can be met. Now this is one method. It is, as I say, a government going to the people and asking them on their part to make their effort and their contribution to obtain money. The Government then grants a subsidy and makes a scheme of this nature possible.
Another thought that emerges is this: The care of the aged is not merely a national responsibility, insofar as it is the discharge of a duty to the person concerned. I have always felt that in any community, the very occurrence of aged people has often posed great personal, social and domestic problems to those who, by nature, and in the course of events, have the responsibility for caring for the aged. I imagine that there would be many cases where young wives and young husbands have accepted, as they must by the natural law and in Christian charity, the responsibility of looking after an aged mother or an aged father and have found that that very fact has imposed an almost intolerable domestic burden - one which ultimately has affected the course of their own domestic life and happiness. If that is so, Mr. President, it is a national tragedy. To the extent to which the State steps in and recognizes its responsibility, it is, therefore, not merely discharging a duty to the recipient of this generosity; it is discharging over a wider field the duty of the younger people in the community who otherwise would have no alternative but to accept and discharge that responsibility and burden themselves.
We can at this point, Mr. President, ask ourselves whether the State should step in and .accept responsibilities that normally and historically and perhaps by nature should be those of individuals. After all I do not think that any person in the community can, willy-nilly, off-load his or her responsibility to parents or other members of -the family who, through age or illness or some other unfortunate circumstance, may be imposed on that person to look after and care for them. We should be living in a completely soulless society if the State were to accept that burden completely and the citizens were to be completely absolved from personal and individual discharge of it. Therefore it is necessary, not merely as a matter of economics; it is also essential as a matter of what might be called national conduct and national ethics that the proper balance be found between these two duties and this dual responsibility. This type of organization goes along the way to discharge both. It is the partial acceptance by the State of this responsibility, and it does not completely relieve the individual from the financial responsibility of being interested in the committee or the organization which by its activities raises some money for the project in question. In other words, if a child or an aged parent can no longer be supported by sons or daughters, and if the child or aged parent goes into an institution, the sons or daughters can still play their part and discharge their natural responsibility by being interested in the organization which takes that particular institution under its care. They do not deprive themselves of the warm and glowing opportunity to discharge in that personal and intimate sense the duty which otherwise would devolve on the State and thereby rob society of much of the warmth of that great quality, Christian charity.
As I say, our society is moving along certain paths. Other societies have moved completely along such paths. I may speak of it in another context and on another occasion. We are faced to-day with societies such as the Russian society, which has come before the world with complete technological efficiency - and efficiency always appeals! We must be particularly careful at this stage that we look at our society - its advantages and disadvantages - to ensure that we do not rob ourselves of those things which are fundamental and worth while merely on the offer of national or State efficiency. I think that would be a grave mistake. Just where the balance is to be found is, I think, a question for political thinkers. Only political history in the future will disclose where the solution is found - where the point of acceptance and the point of departure shall be marked. 1 merely raise this note of caution, that in these days the individual citizen should not be deprived of his opportunity to discharge his duties. At no time should this decision be imposed or allowed to be imposed on him by the State beyond his reasonably measured capacity to discharge them. That must be one of the cardinal points and one of the determining factors. At no time - because that was the history-
– Who would be the judge of that?
– As I say, it is not easy. I am raising these as principles - principles to be discussed and thought about. In this type of legislation, obviously some prejudice to this principle emerges. In particular, there are those who say that this contention is not correct, that it is the continued recognition of the obligation of an individual that should ultimately pass completely from him or her and devolve on society as a whole. There are those, on the other hand, who say that the State should not come in and that that duty should devolve completely on the individual. With the second I most certainly do not agree. When individuals make personal sacrifices to care for their aged and sick and young, our society has something which other societies do not possess, although they may possess things that will compensate them for that loss. Therefore. I say that while there is general concurrence in this chamber on the legislation before us, the things to be thought about are the emerging social principles which ultimately will take up very much farther along the social and political path than this bill does at the present time. For that reason, I say this is valuable to honorable senators because it does give us cause to think. It gives us the opportunity to reflect about the direction in which we are going, and to make up our minds that we are going where we really want to go.
– It is very gratifying that a measure of this kind has received the wholehearted support of both sides of the chamber. I have listened very attentively to the speeches of honorable senators in support of this legislation, and should like to say that I think we are especially indebted to Senator Byrne for his thoughtful address, and for his observations on the responsibilities of both the younger folk and the nation to our old people. I, too, hope that the day has not passed when the younger members of this community consider it necessary to discharge their obligation to their parents. One of the first of the commandments is an injunction to honour one’s father and one’s mother, and I think that we shall depreciate as a people if we ever consider ourselves to have passed beyond the scope of that commandment.
Senator Byrne discussed this aspect of the matter in a very intelligent way. We all must recognize that, because of the peculiar circumstances which attend our modern society, it is not always possible for a son or daughter, or for sons and daughters collectively, to discharge the obligation which they recognize that they owe to their parents. For that reason I, too, feel that it is a very good thing that the State - in the sense that it represents the community as a whole - has seen fit to accept its joint responsibility with the sons and daughters of old people to care for them in their declining years. In the light of that acceptance of responsibility, this legislation is splendid in every way. It is splendid that the State recognizes a responsibility to the older folk, and is, therefore, prepared to ask the taxpayers to permit some of their contributions to be spent to that end. The Government has had three years’ experience of the operation of this legislation, and has no doubt at all about the approval of the taxpayers, generally, to the spending of their money in this way. Indeed, the Government now proposes to double its contribution to the success of this very worth-while activity.
From the very beginning of the scheme, the Government envisaged the co-operation of approved societies and bodies. That idea, which is the basis of this legislation, was very commendable. I remind the Senate that church organizations are not alone in taking advantage of this legislation, though, of course, they play a major part, and we are very glad that this is so. I have in mind societies, quite unassociated with any church, which have taken advantage of the scheme. In my own State, I have been closely associated with a group which, as a result of an earnest desire to help the older folk in the locality, has formed itself into a corporate body, has set out its constitution, and has fulfilled all the require ments of the act. By taking advantage of the Government’s £l-for-£l subsidy, a building, worth some £40,000 has now been completed.
I know that my colleagues from South Australia will not mind my quoting the efforts of another organization which operates in the metropolitan area of Adelaide - Cottage Homes Incorporated - in the promotion of which the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has played a prominent part. It has built, and is building, a number of cottages which are a great credit to it. Honorable senators will thus see that all persons of goodwill are able to join in this movement to help the aged.
Senator Kennelly was no doubt speaking with the utmost goodwill, and from a desire to help the aged, when he said that, as the Government might not be called upon to grant the whole of the money to be set aside for this purpose the State governments should be permitted to take advantage of the legislation. I do not wish to criticize his sentiments in any way, but I would suggest, first, that the increased subsidy envisaged under the bill will surely prove an even greater inspiration to the public and that, therefore, more homes than ever will be built. Secondly, I do not think that governments, as such, are best fitted to administer homes of this kind. State governments, whatever their political colour, would doubtless be able to build them admirably, but I believe that staffing and running of such institutions are best left to nongovernmental bodies. I give Senator Kennelly full credit for wanting all the available money to be spent, but I point out that that is likely to happen now in any event, and that churches and similar organizations are best fitted to administer such, schemes.
Reference has been made to participation by local government bodies. I have no doubt that local government bodies would build and staff such institutions in a very commendable way - though not perhaps so well as would church organizations - and that their local knowledge would be of very real value. However, I hope that local governing bodies will not be saddled with an additional responsibility of this kind They have a full-time job already, and I think that the administration of a local scheme such as this would be a little beyond them. I rather think that, because of the added incentive now offered, approved organizations of the kind with which we are already familiar will take full advantage of the scheme.
I remind honorable senators that no small beginning has been made in this matter. The legislation has been on the statute-book for no more than three years, but already 192 projects involving an expenditure of almost £2,250,000, have been assisted. Seventy-four of these institutions have been set up in country districts, and no fewer than 3,590 people in all have been catered for. In short, we have gone a mighty long way in providing homes for the aged, lt is surprising that the legislation has been availed of to the extent that it has. I do not think that there is much doubt that, with the additional incentive now envisaged, the whole of the available funds will be used up in a very short time.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Senator Kennelly suggested that local governing bodies be encouraged to enter this scheme. Before the suspension of the sitting, I suggested that although those bodies might be in a better position to attend to these matters locally, they were overburdened with other responsibilities entrusted to them under the acts which constitute them in the several States and would be unable to undertake this tremendous additional responsibility, even if the way were made clear for them to do so under their acts. T have given further consideration to this matter since the suspension, but I am more strongly of the opinion now that the bodies which are already availing themselves of this assistance are those best equipped in every way to carry out the task, provided the finance is made available to them, as it is under this legislation. I do not believe we need fear that the money envisaged as being available to be spent will not be spent. At this early stage we should not be thinking along those lines. I am firmly of the opinion that, with the added incentive which these approved organizations will have, they will, in the course of a few years, be in a position to utilize all the money made available to them.
– Why should we unload our responsibilities on to churches and charitable organizations?
– That is a fair interjection, but I think the bodies to which I have referred are best equipped to carry out the work. I think they are looking for increased funds to be made available to them. It is a matter, not of unloading our responsibility on to them, but of ensuring that the money available will be spent to the best advantage and that the aged people who will be cared for under the scheme will be cared for by those who are properly equipped to look after them, in the way weall desire.
I have spoken of the added incentive that will be given to these approved organizations to undertake this work. Honorable senators, I am sure, realize that in future, if one such organization as I have mentioned is able to raise the sum of, say, £10,000 from its own resources, that money will go half as far again as under the previous arrangements. In the past, £10,000 would assist in promoting a scheme worth £20,000, but in future the same sum will promote a scheme to the value of £30,000. So there will be this added incentive which will prompt these organizations to avail themselves of the scheme with added zest. I am not suggesting they have not displayed enthusiasm for the scheme so far. I have already said that although the scheme has been in existence for barely three years, on the basis of a subsidy of £1 for £1 no fewer than 192 projects have been financed throughout Australia, providing accommodation for 3,590 aged persons. That is not a small number. It is a large number considering that the scheme has been in operation for only three years. I think I am correct in suggesting that the scheme is gaining momentum all the time, although the full amount available has not been spent.
The approved schemes are not all in metropolitan areas, but are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Australia, 74 of the schemes already undertaken being in country areas. Before we consider a widening of the scope of the scheme, such as that suggested quite sincerely by Senator Kennelly, I feel we should allow it to proceed a little further. I believe that this money will be taken up in the next year or two> and that the organizations will then be looking to the Government to provide, not money on more generous terms - I think we can scarcely expect that - but, on the present terms, a greater sum than £3,000,000,
I wish finally to refer to the subject of infirmaries, which I congratulate the Government for having approved under this legislation. We have all come to realize that it is one thing to house aged persons satisfactorily, under conditions which make them happy and contented, but that it is another thing - I am glad the Government is facing up to it - to provide infirmaries, which, of course, are necessary to the care of these people when they become sick. The Government has now approved of infirmaries being provided in institutions on the basis of accommodating one-third of the total number of inmates of the institutions concerned. I have in mind an institution in South Australia accommodating 78 people. My colleagues from South Australia will no doubt know of the institution to which I am referring. It is conducted by one of the churches in South Australia. This institution had accommodation for a certain number of people in its existing buildings. It decided to erect other premises, and the question arose of the number of beds that could be treated as beds in an infirmary. A ruling was given by the Minister that the institution concerned could add the total number of beds in its existing premises to the number it proposed to provide under the new building scheme, and divide that number by three. That would be the number of beds it could provide for its infirmary. These people will undoubtedly become sick and will need medical attention, which can be given to them only in an infirmary. I cannot think of anything more necessary than this provision.
– Why could not this money be available to institutions that are entirely infirmaries?
– This is a scheme for aged persons’ homes, and I think the first essential is that the institutions concerned should provide homes and accommodation for aged persons. As I see the situation, if they are allowed to provide one-third of the accommodation for the purpose of an infirmary, that meets the case. I compliment the Minister and the Government upon having arrived at that decision in the particular case with which I am familiar. I am aware, of course, that what they are prepared to do in that case would have general application. It is a step in the right direction, and it shows that the Government is alive to the need of providing satisfactory housing for old people in cases of sickness.
I think this bill is a magnificent piece of legislation. It is good to see honorable senators on both sides of the chamber being prepared to acclaim it as such. I sincerely trust that the money that is to be made available by the Government will be utilized by these people to whom I have referred. I am sure that it is not a question of providing something which will not be used. I suggest that the scheme should be allowed to -run for a few years, and I have the utmost confidence that the organizations that are approved will find themselves increasingly in a position to utilize every penny of the provision. I support the bill with the greatest pleasure, and I compliment the Government and the Minister upon having introduced it.
– 1 welcome this bill, because I think it is a great step forward. It is very pleasing indeed for Opposition senators to see Government supporters lean more towards the giving of assistance to persons who are not in a position to assist themselves as the years creep on.
I agree with a great deal of what has been said by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, but I disagree with certain remarks by Senator Byrne and Senator Pearson about where the responsibility of a family ends. However, I shall deal with those remarks a little later.
Although we are pleased with the scheme as it has operated to date, I think it could be extended. Although the Government proposes to provide two-thirds of the money that will be expended in the establishment of homes for the aged, I cannot see any provision in the. bill to assist an aged couple who might have one-third of the money that is necessary to build or purchase a small flat for themselves. I hope that I am wrong in coming to that conclusion. If such provision is not included in the measure, the Government might well consider extending its application to aged pensioners, say, who have a small property which is a burden to them and for which they might be able to obtain £700 or £800 which would be equal to one-third of the present cost of purchasing a smaller home of their own. If the Government is willing to provide two-thirds of the cost of a home to be purchased or erected by a charitable organization, it should be willing to provide two-thirds of the cost of a home to be purchased or built by individuals.
Now I come to what seems to be the theme of Senator Pearson’s speech. I do not know what is being done in South Australia, but I have a very good knowledge of what is happening in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government accepted responsibility for aged people and endeavoured to provide homes for them long before the Federal Government came to light with its scheme. The Tasmanian Government accepted responsibility, not only for providing such homes, but also for administering them. That scheme has been very successful and has been very much appreciated by the aged people. Single persons are able to enter these homes and be treated with the greatest of respect and cared for as they should be cared for in their old age.
The Tasmanian Government has also embarked on a scheme of providing double flats which can be rented for a very small amount, or had without the payment of rental if the people concerned have not the money to pay. But the State has difficulty in finding sufficient money to build enough double flats for aged couples; in fact, it has to provide all the finance necessary. These twin flats, which are not of huge dimensions, are being built in various parts of the State. I should say that a flat that has an area of four squares is sufficiently large for an aged couple, and it does not cost a large sum of money. Such dwellings could be provided at a cost of about £1,500 each. The Tasmanian Government could build many more such homes if it were assisted by the Federal Government. If this Government were to provide two-thirds of the cost, the Tasmanian Government, with its meagre finances, could build three times as many homes for aged persons as it is now building. That is another matter which the Government might consider.
If the Government must have its pound of flesh, and if it thinks that at least onethird of the cost should be met from other sources, why could it not consider a scheme in which that one-third share was recouped over a period of years at the rate of £1 a week? A payment of £1 a week would be much less than age pensioners are obliged to pay for rental of private homes. Some of them have to pay as much as £2 and £3 a week and have only a few shillings a week left with which to buy the necessaries of life. In view of the advances that have been made by this Government during the last two or three years, I believe that improved schemes for the care of aged persons will be implemented in due course. They are two points that I wish to place before the Government. Both suggestions could be implemented if the Government provided the necessary finance. I feel that the sum of £3,000,000 that will be made available will be snapped up as people learn more about the scheme.
I refer now to a matter that was raised by Senator Byrne and Senator Pearson. If I interpreted their remarks correctly, I believed them to claim that the families of aged parents had a big responsibility, and they wondered just where that responsibility ceased. I repeat that I disagree entirely with their comments on this subject. To agree to what they suggest would mean to return to the days of the late J. A. Lyons who claimed that the responsibility of caring for parents rested on the family. He introduced amending legislation to provide for the mortgaging of a home of an aged couple, and pried into the private affairs of the family to ascertain the degree of its responsibility. Do Senator Byrne and Senator Pearson suggest that we should pry into the private affairs of the family of an aged person to ascertain where their responsibility starts and ends?
– We have not suggested anything of the sort.
– I know. You were vague about it. Perhaps there are some persons like Senators Pearson and Byrne who would like to go back to the days of J. A. Lyons. That is not what I am asking. What I want to know is: How many supporters of the Government are in complete accord with this bill? Senators Pearson and Byrne are not in complete accord with it or they would not talk about family responsibility in this matter.
The responsibility of a family is very great at times. It is all very well for a bachelor to talk about these matters when he has no responsibility to anybody else, but let us consider the case of a man who comes of age, marries and rears a family. Has he not enough responsibility with his own family without taking on the responsibility of his parents? Upon whom does the responsibility of aged parents fall when they have a large family? There are many sides to this problem. A man or a woman might have a reasonable break in life and do well. The parents might gamble or drink to excess. Is it the duty of their children to go to their assistance because the children have been thrifty and the parents have been extravagant? I say that it is the responsibility of the Government to care for the parents. Honorable senators who have referred to the responsibility of a family should define what they mean. Some members of a family might not be as fortunate as others. They might be struggling to make ends meet. Is it their responsibility to look after their aged parents? These are matters that were raised by Senator Byrne and were heartily endorsed by Senator Pearson.
– The honorable senator should read what I said.
– 1 listened to the honorable senator. If he meant that there was no responsibility for the parents resting on a family, why did he mention the responsibility of a family at all? I say that the responsibility is not on the family at all but rests with the State. Is there an honorable senator in this chamber who would like to throw himself upon his family in his old age? Is there any one in this chamber who would consider it fair and just to his family to make his children responsible for him?
– Certainly, if they could afford it.
– Would the Minister for Customs and Excise maintain that viewpoint regardless of the life that the parents had led and regardless of what they had?
– Regardless of what they might have. Of course the family has a responsibility.
– A man has a responsibility to look after and rear his own family. His responsibility ends there. If there is a responsibility to look after others as well, that should be done through a national contributory scheme to which those who could best afford to pay would contribute. They would pay whether they were helping their parents or somebody else’s. Such a scheme was thrown overboard by this Government. The Labour government considered that there was a responsibility on the younger generation, if financially able, to carry the burden of those who could not maintain themselves. We introduced a contributory scheme under which those who could afford to pay would help aged persons according to their financial position.
– That is exactly what I suggested, but the honorable senator did not agree with it.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise referred to individual families. One family might produce a living by physical labour and have nothing more to enable them to carry on from day to day, while another family might produce nothing but use money that had been left to them to derive income from -interest. The latter family might be well able to contribute to a scheme to help aged persons. The family would help to maintain another family which was not in a position to assist.
– That is what I said.
– If that is what the Minister said, I agree with him completely, but why did this Government throw such a scheme overboard when it was in operation? A contributory scheme of that sort was operating successfully. If Government supporters want to return to such a scheme, we will welcome it with both hands. Such a fund, could have been used for building homes. The scheme that was in operation had a surplus, and the law could have been amended to permit the expenditure of accumulated funds on homes for the aged or infirm. If the Minister believes in such a scheme, and if Senators Byrne and Pearson would place the responsibility for the aged on such a scheme, I would agree with them, but they did not indicate clearly that that was their viewpoint.
If it is fair to subsidize an individual home, it would be just as fair to subsidize an infirmary where aged people and invalids could receive care. We have such places in Tasmania. They are the institutions which are most in need of assistance. They are in a much better position to administer a scheme such as that inherent in the bill. 1 know an organization that has collected about £3,000. It is the Eventide Homes Appeal in Tasmania. I am glad that that organization was delayed in its plans because it could not reach unanimity. Under the terms of this measure, it will be able to draw £6,000 for its £3,000 now, and that will help it considerably.
Very often, members of that organization had to scrounge around to get a meeting. They had difficulty in keeping the organization together. If the money it holds, and the subsidy, are spent and the organization goes out of existence, who will administer the homes that it builds? If the scheme were under State control, there would be somebody to administer it if things went haywire. That could happen. I know it is not likely to happen when the Masonic Lodge is the administering body, but there are charitable organizations which could fade out of existence. We should take cognizance of these possibilities and guard against them, lt is stupid to say that a State government would not be in a better position to administer a scheme of this nature. Senator Pearson has referred to what is done by the South Australian Government and I ask him to give us credit for being able to speak from experience of the operations of homes under the governments of the States which we know. I do know from experience that the scheme could be administered by the Tasmanian Government very ably and fairly. I know also that the government of that State would welcome with both hands a grant from this Government on the basis of £2 for £1 for the establishment of urgently needed homes for the aged in Tasmania.
– I rise to support the bill and to congratulate the Government on taking another step forward in the provision of homes for the elderly people in the community. At the outset, let me say that I thought Senator Aylett’s remarks most extraordinary. He made a very remarkable speech in which he completely repudiated all filial responsibility. I believe, with all the earnestness at my command, that it will be a very sad day for Australia and indeed for the world when children, irrespective of their financial capacity, turn their backs on their fathers and mothers and refuse to shoulder with pride - I repeat, with pride - the responsibility of caring for their parents when age and illness overtake them.
– I did not say they would turn their backs on their parents. I said it was not the Government’s place to force responsibility on them.
– You said the State should keep them all.
– Be fair! I said it was not the Government’s place to force responsibility on to the children.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order!
– This bill sets out to increase the assistance granted to religious, charitable and certain other organizations to aid them providing homes for aged people. The measure is really made up of two parts. The first part gives to the Minister discretionary power to include the cost of the whole or part of the land in the definition of capital cost for future homes. This is a very valuable improvement on the present provision. I have had some experience with organizations that have been seeking to extend their homes and which have found the present provision a serious handicap to their ability to find the necessary money.
The second part proposes to double the contribution to be made by the Commonwealth. I agree with all other honorable senators who have said that this will effect a tremendous improvement in the position of organizations which are seeking to build or extend their homes.
I should like to refer now to the question of infirmary beds because I do not feel that the position has been properly understood by those who have spoken to-night. Senator Seward said that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who is in charge of the bill, was remiss in not mentioning in his speech that from now on 33i per cent, of the beds in a home could be classified as infirmary beds. The Senate has been given the impression to-night that up to now the Government has not accepted as eligible for a capital grant homes for the aged with any infirmary beds. That is not so. I believe that the Government has been constantly watching the position. Before introducing this bill, the Minister said - I think it was about the 3rd of this month - that in future 33i per cent, would be the permissible proportion of infirmary beds in any home for the aged that would be eligible for a grant. Me also made it clear, as Senator Pearson pointed’ out a few minutes ago, that this 331 per cent, would apply in future to either the whole of the project or an extension, whichever the organization desired. Here again a very valuable contribution has been made to the organizations conducting these homes.
– ls that provided for in the bill?
– Does the honorable senator mean in this new bill?
– I am referring to the proportion of infirmary beds.
– It was in operation before. The 33 i per cent, mentioned by the Minister will mean an addition to or increase in the present permissible 25 per cent. It may well be, of course, that just as it has done on this occasion so the Government will look again at the matter in future, because as we are all only too conscious, in ten years’ time those persons who are now ambulatory in homes will most probably become infirm. For that reason, I should think it will be necessary for the Government to keep an eye on the position continually, especially where people have been resident in homes for the aged for any length of time. The Government must do this if it is to ascertain the percentage of people who will become infirm over the years.
-. - Why should it limit the number of infirmary beds at all?
– I understand the number is limited because the act provides for homes for the aged, not hospitals. If all the beds were taken by infirm people, the institution would become a hospital.
– But why not include hospitals? If they are serving the needs of the aged, hospitals are just as much entitled to get assistance of this nature as any home is.
– The Government makes finance available to the States which provide the capital cost of hospitals.
I believe Senator Byrne made a very thoughtful speech. He traced the increasing trend in the proportion of aged people to the rest of the community. That trend did accelerate greatly until the Government’s immigration programme began to have some effect. It levelled, out for awhile but contemporary belief is that the proportion of aged people in the community will gradually reach a static figure and that in Australia it will be about 11 per cent, of the population.
– What about the increase in longevity?
– As we are all aware, the expectation of life is increasing, with the development of modern science and medicine. I have been assured by one of the leading geriatricians of Victoria that if the medical fraternity could discover a cure for the complaints of the heart, for coronary thrombosis and vascular diseases, it would be a long way towards increasing still further the expectation of life. As a matter of fact, I was rather shocked when one man said the expectation of life could well be 150 years. That sounds fantastic to us.
– That would be only for males.
– No, because females live longer than males. There would be no person in this Senate who has» not had the opportunity of visiting homes that have been established as a direct result of this Commonwealth grant. We would all agree that they are very delightful places. All of them have an atmosphere that is absent from the large institutional homes. But I would not go so far as my colleague, Senator Pearson, in saying that State governments are not equipped to run homes for aged persons. The very size of a governmental institution makes it an impersonal place, but I have very frequently visited some very fine State homes. I think of homes such as that at Mount Royal - which recently established what is, I understand, the first complete geriatric unit in Australia - the Melbourne Homes for the aged at Cheltenham, and the very fine home in Ballarat. They are all most efficient and care very well for aged people.
– Who built those homes?
– The Government. I am not disputing the fact that State governments are able to run homes- for the aged. I visit these homes and I believe that in them the- old people are very efficiently looked after, but there is something impersonal about a large home. There is no lack of care and attention, but there can be sometimes a lack of love. Because the homes are so big, they have an everchanging staff, with people coming on. and going off. There is not that personal link between the elderly persons and those who look after them. I agree with my colleagues who say that the small homes - particularly those which come about as a result of a partnership, if I may put it that way, between Federal and State governments and voluntary organizations dedicated to the service of a certain section of the community - are the homes which provide for our aged people the very best conditions that they can obtain outside their own family circle.
I whole-heartedly agree with the statement of Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin that one great need for elderly people is the provision of accommodation for those who no longer need hospital care, but are not well enough to return to their homes, and for whom it is essential that there be accommodation close to a hospital. I am indebted to Dr. John Lindell, the chairman of the Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission, with whom only ten days ago I had the very great pleasure of opening one of these homes in Camberwell, in the Prime Minister’s electorate. It was the Bethany Eventide Home for Women, which is conducted by the Salvation Army. During the course of the afternoon, I had a discussion with Dr. Lindell on the position of elderly people in the State of Victoria, and he gave me some very interesting figures. I should like to give them to the Senate, in order to place on record what Victoria is doing in connexion with the very problem that Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin outlined. Dr. Lindell gave me this memo -
A very great deal has been done in Victoria in providing cottage flatettes and beds for old people, generally in close association with hospitals. Last year the Hospitals and Charities Commission spent £663,000 capital funds on buildings of this type and £566,904 on their maintenance.
I am glad to say that what is a very real problem has been tackled to some degree in Victoria.
The provision of accommodation of that kind is of value to the community in two ways. Not only does it assist aged persons to make a more complete and perhaps an earlier recovery than they would have made if they had returned to their homes, but also they do not occupy beds which are very urgently needed for acute cases. That is the great problem of either hospitalizing or housing old people. On many occasions an elderly person takes up a bed that is wanted for a breadwinner or a young person. Many a valuable life is lost because an operation cannot be performed at a critical period because no hospital bed is available.
– Fortunately, we do not have that problem in Queensland.
– We have it in the larger States, where bed accommodation is very difficult to get. Only just recently a friend of mine had to wait three weeks for a major operation because there was not a bed available, even in a private hospital. That shows how acute is the shortage of beds.
I was interested in what Senator Kennelly had to say with regard to the fact that of the £1,500,000 that the Government was prepared to grant last year, only £751,000 was taken up. I agree with Senator Kennelly’s statement that it is a tragedy that, whilst the Government is offering to spend £1,500,000, associations and organizations have been able to avail themselves of only half that money. 1 spoke on that subject once before in the Senate, and I shall not reiterate the arguments I used then.
There is another sphere of assistance for aged people that needs the attention of the Government. I refer to greater assistance to those organizations and societies that are engaged in domiciliary nursing. I hope that if it so happens that the £3,000,000 which the Government is now prepared to grant for aged persons’ homes is not taken up, the Government will again review its home nursing scheme. If the Government were to make available even a portion of the unexpended appropriation for the purpose of providing domiciliary nursing, I believe it would do a great service to many thousands of elderly people who do not want to be taken out of their own homes and treated elsewhere, no matter how attractive the surroundings. They want to remain in their own homes amongst friends of a lifetime. I urge the Government to consider this suggestion.
I believe that all honorable senators welcome this bill, although Senator Aylett appeared to entertain some doubts as to the principles behind it. I think that proper housing and the proper care of our elderly people are important for two reasons. The first 1 describe as the humane point of view. The people who have borne the heat and burden of the day should, in their declining years, be happy, contented and well provided for. Secondly, it is vitally important to the community as a whole that this shall be so, because the longer we keep our elderly people well and ambulatory the longer we keep them out of hospitals or infirmaries, and consequently lessen the burden on the community as a whole.
I have very great pleasure in supporting the bill, and I congratulate the Government on placing the 1954 legislation on the statute-book. As time goes on, I trust that, by an extension of this legislation, we shall be able further to improve the conditions of our elderly folk.
– In common with other honorable senators, I feel that no criticism can be levelled against the bill or the system it promotes - the subsidizing of homes for the aged. The Government’s decision to increase the subsidy to £2 for every £1 raised by charitable organizations for the provision of homes for the aged is to be commended. However, I think that the aim should be to provide the maximum accommodation for aged people. It is all very well to provide homes for aged couples - that is right and true - but this alone will not overcome the problem that confronts people who are aged, indigent, and unhoused. 1 agree with the opinion that has been expressed by other speakers that the most desirable type of housing for an elderly couple is a cottage, but the tragedy of old age, in many instances, is that an elderly couple who are unable to look after each other cannot obtain hospital accommodation. I recall a pathetic case in which an aged couple who were ill and could not get hospital accommodation tried to end their lives. In this broad problem of the care of the aged, emphasis should be placed on aged members of the community who are ill. An elderly person, provided he has accommodation and receives an adequate pension, is reasonably well provided for. An aged couple who are sick do not get better unless they are provided with hospital accom modation. This is a necessary part of the housing of the aged members of the community.
Nevertheless, the scheme for which this bill makes provision is an admirable one. Already, it has benefited many aged people. The Minister and his officers would do well so to interpret the provisions of the bill as to enable the maximum accommodation to be provided for elderly people. In this connexion, I agree with what Senator Armstrong has said.
The Government claims that it has established complete trust and understanding with the people who are handling these matters. I believe that the Government has adopted a cheese-paring attitude by deciding that the’ subsidy shall not be payable in relation to furniture and furnishings.
– Particularly when last year’s appropriation was not spent.
– To the extent to which the Government declines to make a grant for furniture and furnishings in institutions for the aged people, it reduces the accommodation that is provided, because charitable organizations that propose to provide homes for the aged must reserve a proportion of their funds for the purchase of furniture and furnishings. Therefore, if £20,000 of a fund totalling £50,000 were reserved for this purpose, the Government subsidy would be based on £30,000. In this way, the Government is defeating its objective. . lt is futile for the Government to increase the amount of money for homes for the aged, unless there is a more generous administration of the relevant legislation.
As I have said, I think this is an excellent scheme. It should be extended to provide for sub-normal children and other social requirements. I am glad that all parties have developed a social conscience in this matter, to which practical expression is given by the bill.
There is another aspect of this matter that I should like to mention. This scheme is getting to the stage at which the Government is providing 66$ per cent, of the capital necessary to build homes for the aged. Honorable senators opposite have said that the money will not be provided to the State governments or local governing authorities, but will be paid direct to the charitable organizations. I believe that it is wrong in principle to deride the State instrumentalities. For instance, the Mount Henry Home for Aged Women in Western Australia, which was established by the State Government, would form a worthy pattern for similar homes elsewhere. Rather than argue about Commonwealth and State relations, we should ensure that the money is directed into channels that can provide the greatest amount of accommodation for the aged people, and checks should be applied to ensure that the greatest possible advantage has been derived from the money expended. Some of these projects run into large figures. We must remember that £200,000 of Commonwealth money will be provided in connexion with a project costing £-300,000. Big money is involved in the building of these institutions, and though the Government apparently does examine plans and see that projects conform with the requirements of the act, it should go further and ensure that contracts are faithfully carried out, and that value is obtained for public money spent. I understand that a certain sum is always set aside for maintenance. The Government should display as great an interest in following this matter through to see that public funds are spent satisfactorily as it would in the case of any home or building in which the Commonwealth was subsequently to retain an equity. Very large sums are involved in the provision of social services - whether through homes, hospitals for the aged, or other amenities - and the Government should ensure ‘that projects are properly supervised, and public money spent wisely. Many of these bodies are grateful to have the institutions built and, though I have no doubt that usually the work is done faithfully and well, the Government has a clear responsibility to ensure that it is done in every case. Perhaps the Minister will assure me that that is already provided for. If it is not, it certainly should be.
If the Government is to meet the housing problem fully, it ought not to balk at providing institutional accommodation for the aged. In the institution one finds persons who are semi-invalid, old and decrepit. However, many such people are languishing in hospitals and are a serious embarrassment to the State. Though they can get around, they cannot look after themselves and would be better off in an institution. Beds are so badly needed that I have heard of such persons :being certified and placed in a kind of semi-mental institution merely to make room for more urgent cases awaiting speedy surgical treatment of the kind for which the general hospital is really intended. I agree with Senator Wedgwood that if the money which the Government provides for the building of homes for the aged is not all taken up, it should immediately be used in some other field of activity for old people, and not be returned to Consolidated Revenue. There .are many other ways :in which such money could be spent for the benefit of the aged, and the finding of these is surely just a matter of administration.
.- J should like to say a word or two about the very important measure which is before us for consideration. I support it, because 1 appreciate that it represents an advance in public thought on the provision of assistance for our elderly citizens. The bill has not, of course, encountered any strong opposition. There have, however, been one or two minor details concerning which honorable senators from both sides of the chamber have suggested improvements. Some discussion has taken place this evening in regard to the responsibility of the younger members of a family to meet the needs of their parents. I may say that I know of some families which have looked after, not only their parents, but also other elderly relatives, during their declining years.
The remarks of Senator Aylett brought forth some criticism, and I fear that they may have been misunderstood. I do not for a moment think that we should imply that young people should be obliged to accept responsibility for the welfare of their parents. As Senator Aylett pointed out, there was a great deal of opposition when that policy was adopted by the Liberal Government of the depression years and afterwards. The intense opposition of earlier years to the giving of assistance to elderly citizens has never completely disappeared. If one reads the debates of those days in both the Federal Parliament and the State Parliaments, one is reminded that the conservative elements then in control of this country believed that the granting of an age pension was a slur upon the recipient, and was an indication that he had dissipated his resources over the years.
There is still a trace of that-wrong attitude. I call it “wrong” because now. even the most conservative senator in this chamber would wish ‘to see social services increased.
The most recent eruption of the old conservative line of thought occurred during the regime of the Lyons Government. Earlier, owing to the financial conditions of the time, the Scullin Government - a Labour government - had reduced the age pension. The Lyons Government went further and almost compelled those who -received an age pension to mortgage their homes. Moreover, the sons and daughters of the applicant had to undergo :an inquisition regarding their means. ‘Unfortunately, unemployment was then rampant, -and many of them were:little better off than their -parents. We certainly ought not -to compel younger people to -help <their parents, but if they are in a position ‘to do so and are worthy of the name of man, or woman, they will not fail in ;that responsibility. Australia - offers great opportunities for young people, and many parents have struggled during their lifetime to give their children a better education ‘than ‘they themselves were able to obtain. Consequently, these younger people, because of the opportunities which now exist, have been able to enter the professions .and other .avenues of employment and earn a . decent livelihood. If they were to ,turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the requirements of their parents, they would be ungrateful indeed.
This legislation deals with another problem. It -makes provision -for homes to be erected by religious, charitable .or other organizations :in which elderly people can live together, if they are married couples, or by themselves, if they are .capable of .so doing. I know of :two or three very fine sets. of ‘homes for elderly people in Victoria. There are the Miller homes. Mr. Miller, a man -who made a competence as a merchant in Victoria, at his .death left a certain amount of money for the purpose of building homes such as these in various parts of the State. They are mostly for elderly females, and are wonderful institutions. The buildings are in nice surroundings and in many instances are situated in the best part of the town. In my own town of Castlemaine, the Miller home is ideally situated in close proximity to the shopping centre and other important public places. It is occupied by elderly women, whose families are able to visit them, and gives them the feeling of virtually having a home of their own.
In the metropolitan area of Melbourne, I know of the -Masonic home named after a famous theatrical identity, George Coppin. Of course ‘it is confined -to members of the craft or their dependants. The occupants are well .provided for. There is another home in ‘Rushall-crescent, but for the moment ‘I have forgotten its name. Senator Wedgwood may be able to tell me.
– The Old Colonists Home.
– That also is an excellent ‘home for elderly people. Married couples can go there, as well as widows and widowers. Tt is -such an excellent place that there ‘have been one or two romances among the inmates. These people have been so happy that they have decided to continue their life in the home together.
– There .is also the Montefiore Jewish home.
– That is another fine institution. I know that a certain amount of this money will be made available to the larger institutions, in which elderly people are looked after, but what appeals to me most is the erection of detached cottages, away from an institution altogether - away from the dormitory system. Because of the lack of such detached cottages, some elderly couples are compelled to sever the ties of many years, the wife being admitted to one institution and the husband to another. I think that is wrong. Even though married couples are in the -same institution, sometimes: they are separated, one partner being in the female division and the other in the male division. If, as a result of the greater use of the funds that are to be made available by the -Government, we can get away from that sort of thing, I feel we shall be doing a good job.
In my own town of Castlemaine there is an institution known as the .Alexander. In the old days it was known as the Castlemaine Benevolent Home. .Previously if a person had to end his days in .that .institution, he looked upon it as the end of. the road. He went to a place where nobody cared for him, other than the attendants of the institution. The inmates were a forgotten people. There is still a feeling that the institution is of that type notwithstanding that within recent years there has been a remarkable change in the atmosphere and in the attention and facilities made available to the elderly people who go there. Some who go there pay for themselves, if they have the wherewithal to do so. They can contribute very largely to their support. Some elderly people have capital, but are unable to look after themselves. This home is available to them. This institution is participating in the scheme sponsored by this legislation and the management plans to erect eight or ten cottages almost immediately.
It has been said that at least 50 per cent, of the amount available for distribution last year was not accepted. I can assure the Minister that with the increase of the subsidy from a £1 to £1 to a £2 for £1 basis, this institution will seek to raise the necessary money. Of course, a fair amount of effort is still required to raise money locally in order to take advantage of the scheme. I know that the committee of this home will be very pleased to receive an increase in the subsidy in order that it may extend its facilities for these aged people.
Another phase of activity on behalf of aged people which needs encouragement was touched upon by Senator Wedgwood when she referred to the need for domestic help. I have come into close contact with this problem during recent weeks. Upon my election as mayor of Castlemaine I found that I had inherited the chairmanship of the elderly citizens’ welfare organization. I knew something of it previously, but now, of course, I am taking part in its administration. It is an organization which is doing wonderful work in bringing together elderly citizens. It provides clubrooms for them in which they can obtain meals. Organizers visit aged people with the object of inducing them to come to the clubrooms so that they can enjoy themselves. It is a great boon to elderly people. During the recess a fortnight ago, I was present at a picnic organized by this body and some of the elderly citizens said that as a result of the activity of this organization they had found mates and had been able to fraternize with men and women of their own ages.
I desire also to suggest another matter to the Minister. The Government might give some thought to providing assistance in another branch of the social welfare of elderly citizens by engaging a nursing sister to visit their homes and render assistance to them there. I know that the Melbourne District Nursing Society sends nurses to the homes, but I am speaking now of country areas where those facilities are not available. If we established an organization that could send out a visitor to the homes perhaps once a week, perhaps more frequently or even less frequently-
– Some of the aged need that assistance every day.
-Yes, some of them need it every day; but there are others who never need it. Those visitors could help to tidy up the homes. Social workers have told me that one almost needs a team of bullocks to drag out of their homes people who have lived in them all their lives. There is no power to take these people forcibly from their homes to a charitable institution. Visitors to the homes could perhaps run a message, post a letter, or do some other little thing that aged persons are not able to do for themselves. If the money that the Government provides is not expended on the erection of homes, the Government might well consider the introduction of this social service to which I have just referred. It would be appreciated by very many organizations that are doing their best to help our elderly citizens in their hour of need.
It is true, it has been stated in this chamber, that people are now living longer than was previously the case. The figures that are presented to us year after year showing the number of recipients of age pensions indicate that as a race we are growing older, and naturally the demand for this kind of social service will grow. I trust that, with the growing eagerness to help our elderly citizens, a service of the kind I have suggested will be provided.
.- Although during this debate some splendid sentiments have been expressed, there are one or two remarks about which, from a Labour viewpoint, or perhaps from a leftist viewpoint - we all seem to be speaking in much the same way - something should be said.
I, together with all other Opposition members, am pleased to support the bill.
But, although I might be the odd man out, I think that there are certain aspects of the scheme which are undesirable. To my mind, in these modern times when, through organized labour and the highest form of economic development, the power to produce is so great, charity is hateful. As I stated by way of interjection when Senator Pearson was speaking, 1 see no reason why any great responsibility should be thrown on to the various religious and charitable organizations to build homes for aged people. 1 do not see anything wrong with the Federal Government, a State government, or possibly local government providing homes for the aged. I think it would be a splendid thing if they were able to do it.
I agree with the suggestion of Senator Wedgwood that our efforts should be directed towards providing individual homes, or a few homes placed together, rather than towards providing institutions. I have visited such institutions on many occasions, and I have been sorry to note that many aged people have had their sturdy independence wrecked and have felt that they were dependent upon charity. Not many months ago, there was shown in the Senate club room, or the Opposition room as it is now, a documentary film on aged people that was produced in Great Britain. The happiness of those aged people as a result of their becoming possessed of a home or a flat of their own was a delight to the hearts of all those who saw the picture. In some instances, a widow shared a home with another widow. One old lady of 80 years expressed keen delight at the fact that she had the keys to the front and back doors. There is nothing more pleasing to old people than to retain their independence free of all charity.
I know that in the hearts of some people charity is a powerful emotion, but that it is most hateful to others. I know that from my experience as a youth in the Old Country. Honorable senators talk about the destruction of people’s independence, but the people of the Old Country that I have in mind were no longer independent. They hated the thought of accepting charity, but they hated even more the thought of going into the workhouse. I have mentioned in this chamber on earlier occasions the fact that in the days of my youth a man and his wife would go into the workhouse, would be separated, and once a month would be allowed to see each other. That the Government is willing to go so far as to assist these organizations to provide homes for the aged is a splendid advance, even though it would be preferable for the aged to have their own homes. But there still attaches to the scheme the stigma of charity.
If we were as socially scientific as we are technologically scientific, we would readily build a few small homes here and a few there for aged people, and would assist State governments and local governments to do the same. What would be wrong with doing that? I understand that the Government’s subsidy of £2 for £1 will not be paid to a State government or to local government. If all the money is not used by religious organizations, why should not the unused position be utilized for the building of flats or, as Senator Sheehan has said, semi-detached homes? To do that would be to do a splendid service for the aged.
Another point comes to my mind. Our approach to this question is determined largely by our mental outlook. I do not wish to be derogatory in any way, but as I see the outlook of Government supporters, is is different from that of the Opposition.
– The honorable senator does not see very clearly.
– Government supporters look at the question of charity in a different way from that in which we look at it.
– I dispute that.
– Excuse me, but I am saying what I think. Possibly I am wrong.
– You certainly are.
– Government supporters say that charity is very noble; but we say that, with the development of modern industry, charity should not be necessary, particularly in the wholesale way in which it is extended to-day. Why should not a local government body or a State government be assisted to build homes for the aged? Why should we have to depend on the assistance of religious organizations?
Senator Byrne is a splendid speaker who expresses himself well and analytically examines the matters placed before him, but in an emotional speech- he said, in effect,, that we would, have an almost godless society if the State cared for aged persons. He said, that if we had no religious or charitable organizations, we would reach a stage where? all sentiment and charity were abandoned’. What is to stop- any religious or charitable organization caring for aged persons in their own homes? If that were done, elderly people would be completely independent; they would not be depending on their children. More than enough misery has been caused throughout this country and others because of the intense struggle for a livelihood and the lack of sufficient money to- purchase the necessaries of a family. Ah arrangement under which the aged parents stay with the children begins very well, but later the family starts to bicker and argue. There is not enough money coming in, and the children begin to wish that the old man and the old woman would go somewhere else. Everybody knows that that is the case in thousands of homes and that many old persons have been driven out in such circumstances.
If homes ace provided for the aged, the people, will be relieved, of this struggle. There is nothing wrong with it. It is a matter of mental outlook. Years ago we decried those who took the age pension. Every honorable senator has had experience of old people who have come to him . to sign, their pension papers. At one time, they would say, “ Please, do. not mention this to anybody “. They were ashamed to take the pension. The viewpoint of the Labour movement is that the age pension is a right. Nowadays, the psychology of the aged people is different. They are not ashamed to take the pension. That is as it should-be.
We have the old mental approach to this problem of homes for the aged. We should be ashamed to expect charities and religious organizations to hold art unions and gambles to- raise money to pay for such homes. We, as- a people-; should provide the means. With.. our modern facilities, we could supply the homes. We should change our mental outlook. We should not’ expect charitable and religious organizations to pay for homes for the aged by conducting art unions and begging from: door to door: If we want to stand against totalitarian regimes, we should show- them that our democracy can provide for the aged without having to rely ongambling and begging.
– Local government, authorities in: Queensland: provide homes for elderly persons.
– Because of the financial setup to-day, local government authorities throughout Australia are short of funds. If we can provide money through this bill for religious organizations, why should not the Commonwealth be able to provide funds for local government authorities to. build small cottages for the aged? Is there anything wrong with that?
I shall not delay the. Senate any longer. I hope that what I have said will convey to honorable senators my views which are shared by many thousands in the Labour movement. We see no shame in governments building houses for the aged, and wesee no shame in the aged accepting thosehomes. We want to see the splendid spirit of independence maintained in the aged. We want to destroy that false conception1 that it is wrong for governments to provide money that will enable aged persons to spend the1 last years of their lives in comfort and independent of charity.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for the way it has received the bill and for the interesting debate to which honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have contributed. The Government has taken note of many of the suggestions that have. been made, and I shall reply to some points of view that have been expressed by honorable senators. 1 wish to direct my attention to the constructive suggestions that have been submitted. On the matter of philosophy, of course, we are quite opposed to honorable senators on the Opposition side. It was rather ironical to hear Senator Brown saythat Government supporters are opposed to the provision of homes for the aged when, in fact we- are debating a- bill which provides an increased subsidy for that purpose.
– I said the Government was opposed, to what?
– The honorable senator said that supporters of the Government were opposed to providing- Government homes for the aged.. We have introduced this bill to provide for. funds- for- that very- purpose.
– The Minister misunderstood me..
– Senator Brown lives in the past. He cannot overcome his class hatred. Senator Kennelly was concerned about the supervision of expenditure of the subsidy. That point is of concern to all of us. 1 assure the honorable senator that the Department of Social Services examines all the plans submitted by organizations which request a subsidy. It also examines closely the background of the organizations concerned because, as has been rightly said, some of them are here to-day and gone to-morrow. We have to take that risk, but we provide against it as much as possible. The Department of Social Services looks closely into the standing and the possible permanency of any organization which applies for the subsidy. Senator Armstrong referred to the need for chapels. We subsidise the erection of recreation rooms which are used for religious services. That fills the bill’ in many cases.
– Not completely.
– No, but is is a good start. In cases where a chapel can be used by any denomination, the Government is prepared to examine the circumstances. At present’ we provide for recreation rooms which can be used by all religious denominations. Reference has been made to the possibility of co-operating with local government authorities. Senator Cole has raised two points. One relates to hospitals in Tasmania, which are to be made available for use as homes for the aged when new hospitals are built. To date, the Government has never been required to give consideration to the question of governmentowned institutions. That is something that will have to be looked at when the position arises. In the last three years, we have had no cases in which government-owned buildings have been used as homes for the aged. If and when that question does arise, we can examine it.
A question has been raised about committees working with local-governing bodies. I1 point out that provided the committees are working in conjunction with the local government bodies in the running of the institution itself, they will be given aid. In fact, I think some assistance has been given already in that direction under the scheme.
Our decision to increase the proportion of beds to be made available in homes for the aged for purposes of an infirmary from 25 per cent, to 33i per cent, is, I think, a good one. It helps somewhat, when such homes as these are established, to have provision for an infirmary. It does much to overcome the problem raised by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who suggests that there should be some place to which the aged who are sick may go for attention. If the inmates of an aged persons’ home become sick, the infirmary beds provide facilities in the home itself for their care; and on increase of the proportion of infirmary beds to 33i per cent, should ensure adequate provision for such cases and should do much to overcome the problem raised by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin.
The suggestion that we should provide small homes for people who come from the country raises very great administrative difficulties. I can envisage one that, perhaps, I should mention to the Senate. If such homes were used only for the care of sick people from outside areas and were vacated when the sick became well, I am sure that great pressure would be exerted upon the organization itself not to allow the home to remain idle. People who wanted to occupy these places permanently would exercise great pressure.
– But they would be occupied by the next lot of patients..
– But if there were no next lot of ‘ patients, the homes would stand idle. It is possible that they could be occupied by others who might adopt the role of squatters.
– You would not have that.
– Unfortunately, such things do- happen in this world. I merely mention that as a difficulty that could arise. By and large, this scheme has a tremendous amount to commend it. I know of the great work that Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin has put into this and other schemes, and I know she has done it with the greatest of goodwill.
I think I have dealt with most of the points . raised by honorable senators. If I have missed one or two, they have been noted by the department and will be brought to the attention of the Government in due course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) one question. Because of the great amount of public money that is involved in this work, I should like to know whether the Government employs a clerk of works or asks the Department of Works to check the quality of the work that is being done. I am not concerned at this stage with the function of providing for the care of old people. I am concerned only with seeing that the money provided is well spent.
– I understand that we rely entirely upon the organizations themselves. Having first examined the quality of the organization before deciding to give it help, and having examined and approved of the plans, we rely on the organization itself to see that it receives good quality work for the money it expends.
– I have forborne from taking part in the second-reading debate, but not because I am disinterested in the principles contained in the measure. I hope they will be put into effect before very long because this bill provides, without doubt, a very great basis for the sharing of responsibility.
The specific question that I should like to ask the Minister, if he will be so good as to give the information to the committee, relates to section 8 (3.) of the original act which applies to the money that is to be made available under this bill. It seems to be entirely in the discretion of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services in any individual cases in which he thinks fit to enter into agreements which include provision for the repayment of the grants. In this act, no provision is made for an annual report to Parliament. I know that the DirectorGeneral of Social Services has included some reference - with all due respect, I think a sketchy reference - to the act in his annual report, but one is interested to know in what percentage of cases, if any, the Director-General himself has required the repayment of grants, either in toto or in part, received under the act.
– I invite the attention of the committee to clause 3 of the bill. I have some difficulty in finding my way through the definition of “ the capital cost “, which reads - the capital cost ‘, in relation to an approved home, means -
in the case of an approved home erected or to be erected by an eligible organization, the sum of -
It will be noticed that in one case the Minister, in his discretion, determines and in the other case the Director-General is to be satisfied. Then, in paragraph (b), there is reference to the Director-General being satisfied. In clause 5, the approval of the Director-General is required. Can the Minister explain to me why in one case it is the mind of the Minister that it is necessary to discover and in the other case it is the mind of the Director-General? Does the Minister consider that it is desirable that there should be these two functionaries exercising a discretion?
– I should like to answer these questions in sequence, if I may. First, I shall deal with the point raised by Senator Wright. I am informed that there have been very few breaches of the agreements during the three years the scheme has been in operation. I can give no specific information on the number of breaches. All I can suggest is that if the honorable senator wants details, I shall get them and hand them to him afterwards.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia) what is meant by paragraph (b) of the definition of “ the capital cost “. The definition reads - “ the capital cost “, in relation to an approved home, means -
This is the point - including the cost of purchasing the land on which the home is erected, less the value of any part of that land that is not required for the purposes of the home;
I understand that a home, when purchased, is usually situated on a certain area of ground, probably up to a quarter of an acre. According to paragraph (b), we are interested only in purchasing the land upon which the home is situated. Will the Minister please advise whether it will be permissible to purchase up to a quarter of an acre, or is the area of land to be purchased together with the home to be specified?
– The provision is designed to ensure that an extraordinary area of land is not purchased for any of these projects, so absorbing too much of the capital cost in proportion to the cost of the home. That is the reason why the provision appears in that form.
.- I desire to raise a matter which I omitted to mention during my speech in the secondreading debate. Will the Minister tell me whether it is possible for an eligible institution to erect a home that would be between a hospital and an ordinary home for the aged, wherein elderly people who had suffered an illness would be able to recuperate or be rehabilitated before going back into ordinary society? Would it be possible to establish a sort of convalescent home, or halfway house between a hospital and a benevolent home?
– Yes, it is possible under the legislation for the establishment of such a halfway house to be supported.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8th October (vide page 425), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1958;
The Budget 1957-58 - Papers presented by the Right Hon. Sir Arthur Fadden in connexion with the Budget of 1957-58; and
National Income and Expenditure 1956-57, be printed.
Upon which Senator Benn had moved by way of amendment -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ the Estimates and Budget Papers 1957-58 tabled in the Senate should be rejected because they are an integral part of the Government’s implementation of policies detrimental in their effects on the defences and development of Australia, on the living standards and employment of the Australian people and wasteful of national revenues “.
– When the debate was interrupted on the evening of 8th October, I was quoting from a publication by Mr. W. S. Kelly, O.B.E, of Tarlee, South Australia, on the wisdom or otherwise of having import restrictions. He asked whether it was dangerous to have those restrictions and to have them permanently. It willbe remembered that I had quoted Mr. Kelly’s discussion of whether import licensing was a crude way of planning. He went on -
The question I want to discuss with you is whether this kind of control of imports is going to continue indefinitely, relaxation being granted when our luck is in, and the application of the screw when our luck is out, or whether we can find some more sensible method of controlling our balance of payment problems. Let us recognize frankly that there is no easy alternative to the present method. Under present-day conditions the balancing of trade is no simple matter. It looks as though imports have been held back by these restrictions by as much as £200,000,000 per year, so that it is plain that some restraint was essential.
Professor Lundberg and Malcolm Hill, after a very careful study of the whole problem, conclude that there is a grave danger that these controls will long remain and that only what they call “ accidental wool bombs “ will ‘permit the extensive easing of these import controls.
Before the public of Australia accept this dismal outlook we must face up to the many serious objections to this kind of control. I set out a few of the disadvantages and dangers.
The control of importations by the issue of licences is a clumsy interference with individual initiative. It provides endless opportunity for discrimination and is liable to serious abuse. When tariff duties are printed in a schedule they apply to all alike, and a trader knows where he stands, but import licences may be granted to one and denied another. It places far too much power in (he hands of a few officials. ]f a demand exists for a commodity previously imported and the supply is cut off by the application ‘ of quotas, it offers an open invitation for some local manufacturer to fill the gap, even though the cost of the product be much higher. . . .
I think this is one of the serious objections -
This cuts right across the careful work of the Tariff Board in trying to guide industry into the most economic channels. Sometimes it results in the importation of both plant and raw materials in order to set up production, thus resulting in more rather than less importation.
His concluding remarks were - lt seems certain that a favorable balance will continue for some time at least and our reserves be strengthened. This will justify, in fact necessitate, further relaxations, for the continuance of these controls will be resented particularly by our good customer countries if restrictions be continued after the need for them no longer exists. . . Surely the sounder method is to adopt measures, when necessary, which will limit demand to what the country can afford.
I think honorable senators will agree with me that those are important reasons why import restrictions should be relaxed very much more than they have been. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in his speech summed up his thinking along the same lines when he said -
Moreover, through the easing of import restrictions, there will be some addition this year to imported supplies of both finished goods and equipment and .materials for industry. On the side of demand, consumption expenditure appears to .be rising at a fair rate and there will also be some increase in public expenditure this year, both on works and on current services. We cannot, of course, foretell precisely what the magnitude of these trends in supply and demand will be. The balance of payments is likely to be particularly influential and, at this stage, prospects seem promising.
We are certain of another large wool clip this year and, if .wool prices hold, our export income will .again be high. This could obviously have an important impact, directly on incomes and monetary conditions and indirectly on attitudes towards investment and consumer spending. On the other hand, it would make possible a further relaxation of ‘import controls although the effect of this, in terms of larger imports, would be felt only after an interval of some months.
I think we may agree completely with the report of the Commonwealth Bank Board in its just-issued survey of the economic situation, in which it stated - 1956-57 was marked .by a dramatic improvement in the health of the Australian economy. The >growth of development characteristic of the postwar period continued, but on a sounder basis and with a considerable easing of inflationary pressures.
If further proof of stability were required, we need only study the latest report of the Tariff Board, which sums up our economic position very fairly and clearly and gives convincing data and figures about our financial commitments and the records that were established during the last financial year. Only this week, the Commonwealth Statistician published figures in connexion with savings. In releasing these figures, he stated that in the five years since 1952 the average savings bank deposit in Australia per head of population had increased from £103 6s. to £130 2s. at the end of last August, and that in the same period savings bank deposits had increased from £6,525,000 to £7;561,000. He went on to say that the average amount deposited had increased from -£136 14s. to £165. The Statistician also pointed out that, at the end of August, £239,369,000 was owing to hire-purchase concerns, which seems to show, I think, that there is every sign of great prosperity in the community.
Our socialist friends of the Opposition both in this chamber and the other place are continually decrying the Government, which has steered Australia successfully through a very severe financial crisis. It has brought about a state of prosperity hitherto unknown in this country. Claims by the Opposition that the standard of living has fallen are really not borne out by the figures that I have mentioned.
It is very interesting to note the observations on this subject that have been made by a .completely unbiased critic who visited Australia in an official capacity during the last month. I refer to the famous economist,. Dr. Gunnar Myrdal, who comes from Sweden, a country that is well versed in social and economic reform. Indeed, in that sphere Sweden practically leads the world. Dr. Myrdal is a highly trained man, who has occupied parliamentary as well as university positions, and he is a social economist of the highest grade. Referring to our standard of living, Dr. Gunnar Myrdal said that Australia has good reason to boast about its standard of living, for it is one of the small number of white countries which has a comparatively high level of real income per head of the population. Our savings bank deposits are proof that Dr.
Myrdal knows what he is talking about. He. is an outstanding example of a successful social scientist in action. His many scientific writings cover such wide fields as pure economic theory and public finance, population, housing, social reform and the problems of under-developed regions. Predominantly an economist, he has also, as politician and administrator, come to grips with the manifold problems of the presentday world. His practical wisdom has done much to unravel them. I think we can easily take his word for the result of his observations when travelling through Australia. 1 believe that honorable senators opposite will have difficulty, in the face of the facts and figures I have quoted, in convincing the Australian public that we are heading for depression and disaster.
The Government’s sane lead has encouraged a great deal of capital investment from other countries, especially America. My only regret is that so little of it has come to Western Australia. 1 commend the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) for the many adjustments he has made and the kindly consideration he has given to special cases that have been brought to his notice. The pensions scheme, generally, however, is not satisfactory; it needs revision. Nevertheless, the total amount of £243,572,000 for social services is a colossal figure, and exceeds anything ever before provided for this purpose. The value of the pension to-day has been discussed by the Opposition.
Although the new pension rate of £4 7s. 6d. a week gives a substantially higher value than in 1949, when Labour was in office, there are still cases of extreme hardship. There is no doubt that many pensioners, especially married couples, are living very comfortably and very well. By thrift in the past, they have been able to buy their own homes. But there are others, including widows, widowers and single persons, who are really having an inhuman struggle to exist. I am sure we all would like the scheme to be changed so that those whose need is greatest would receive extra assistance. There are some, too, who are suffering because of their past thrift. Recently, the case of a widow 80 years of age1, who owns two houses, was brought to my notice. She lives in one, and the other is let at £3 2s. 6d. a week. She is not allowed to receive any pension because her second house is worth more than the amount specified in our pensions scheme. As I said, this lady is 80 years of age, and she cannot go out to work in order to supplement her income. She cannot even be treated as a special case. The department has told her that if she sold her second house and lived on the proceeds until they were exhausted, she would then be able to get the full pension. Therefore, this woman, like a great many people in Australia to-day, is suffering through tha thrift practised by herself and her husband’ ic their early years of marriage. I think that the means test should be albolished in relation to persons who are over 70 years of age. I know that we have eased the means test, and that this had been very helpful in a lot of cases, but I’ think in relation to cases like the one I have just mentioned, of which there are many in Australia, some new scheme might be devised whereby the means test would not apply to persons over 70 years of age.
It is gratifying to know that widows’ pensions have received attention. To this matter many of us have given a great deal of thought. The position of widows, especially those with children, has been a. matter of grave concern. The widow with one child may now have an income of £8 12s. 6d. a week. If there are four children, her income may be £11 2s. 6d. a week. That is a great improvement on the 1949 scale. However, as has been said already to-day, money is not the only form of assistance given to our pensioners. I have in mind such other social services as the provision of homes for the aged, which were dealt with in the bill before us earlier this evening. These homes have been made possible by the Government’s scheme of subsidizing £1 for £1, contributions by non-governmental bodies. In future, their provision will be facilitated even more greatly for the Government’s contribution will be £2 for every £1 raised by private bodies. I am sorry that Senator Cooke described the scheme as creating a kind of class distinction. I think that such comment is very unfortunate for the people concerned. The really delightful thing about . the present scheme is the personal: touch. Senator Cooke suggested that the. Government should set up a home in which’ it could house these old people. Every, honorable senator knows that the moment the Government sets up anything it becomes an institution. It is only when we get the charitable or church worker in these homes that the right kind of comfort is provided for the people whom we are trying to look after. 1 am disappointed that Senator Cooke should have spoken so disparagingly of the work that the Government has done in this field. The Department of Social Services estimates that the Government subsidy of £1 for £1 in the provision of homes for the aged has resulted in more than 4,000 elderly people being introduced to a life of great comfort. As I have already said, they are very grateful for the personal touch that voluntary service brings with, it.
Senator Cooke also cast some doubt on the worth of the “ Meals on Wheels “ scheme. If those who partake of the benefits of the scheme read his remarks they will doubtless feel that they are the recipients of charity. In fact, the scheme has no charitable basis. The “ Meals on Wheels “ are given merely as a convenience, and are paid for by the recipient. Much of the service provided is voluntary, and it is a pity that criticism should be directed at something that has done so much to improve the lot of our aged citizens.
I should like to support the remarks of my colleague, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, about the need for a clinic specializing in geriatric treatment. Her suggestion has already been supported by Senator Wedgwood and other honorable senators, and its adoption would be a very fine thing. There are a great many very lonely old people who give up the struggle early because they are slightly ill or crippled. They have no one to comfort them to keep trying, and they slip gradually into invalidism. That kind of thing is filling our hospitals to-day, and the suggestion for the establishment of a clinic well merits the consideration of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). Its adoption would help to restore to health and usefulness many persons who now languish in our hospitals.
The introduction of some scheme of national insurance, whereby every one will contribute from the time he commences work in return for a competence in his old age, or in the event of ill health, is long overdue.
Under the Budget, repatriation benefits have been increased and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has again proved himself the friend and helper of the returned soldier. There has been some criticism of repatriation tribunals. I have myself criticized them on some occasions - mainly about borderline cases. 1 do think that the proportion of rejections seems particularly high, and that, in the present time of prosperity, it would not matter a great deal to the Government - but would mean a great deal to the applicant - if some leniency were shown in borderline cases. It is very difficult in some instances for any one to say just when ill health began, but we may be quite sure that every man who went through either World War 1. or World War II. suffered injury to his health - whether it became apparent just after he returned, or later in life.
It may well be that the time has come for a complete revision of the Repatriation Act. In the meantime, I think we may rejoice that some increases in war pensions have been made. It is well to realize that increases of this kind have been made regularly ever since 1949. Each year brings added rewards to the people who gave so much for you and for me. The special rate war pension for the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman has been increased by £1 5s. a week, to a total pension of £11 a week. The general rate war pension has been increased by 7s. 6d. a week, with proportionate increases for pensioners in receipt of a partial pension, and the service pension by 7s. 6d. to £4 7s. 6d. a week. Altogether, these proposals - with the increased pension for war widows - will cost the Government £4,000,000 in a full year, and £2,000,000 for this year. It is estimated that the total expenditure on war and repatriation services in 1957-58 will be £129,067,000, or £3,000,000 more than it was in 1956-57. That shows a very great recognition on the part of the Minister for Repatriation, and the Government, of the services that these people have rendered to Australia - services for which no money payment can ever be sufficient.
Turning now to general taxation deductions, we may note that the family man has been specially considered. He may now claim allowances for maintenance of his parents, his parents-in-law and his adopted children. Even his wife has become more valuable I He can now claim for her an allowance of £143, compared with £130 previously. I am glad to see that our value is increasing.
Pay-roll tax has been slightly reduced, the exemption being raised from £6,240 to £10,400. Only those employers who pay wages or salaries in excess of £200 weekly will now be liable. I believe that I am expressing an opinion that is widely held when I say that it is time all these forms of indirect taxation were abolished. The sales tax is especially annoying. One never really knows how much one is paying for the thing one buys in shops. The Australian going abroad is asked what our taxation is per head of population, but, because of the various forms of indirect taxation to which he contributes day after day and year after year, he is obliged to look silly and say that he really does not know. He is forced to do this. Pay roll tax and sales tax are all right in an emergency, but now that we have reached a state of stability in our economy the Treasurer should be willing to get rid of them. I shall quote one item subject to the sales tax about which the Dried Fruits Association of Western Australia has written to the Treasurer asking for an explanation. It wrote some weeks ago, but the Treasurer has not yet been able to give an answer. I have asked two or three people about the matter,- but have been unable to obtain an intelligent reply. There is no sales tax on flour. Dried fruits, such as raisins and sultanas, also attract no sales tax. But when flour and raisins or sultanas are mixed together and made into a loaf, the loaf immediately attracts sales tax. To me there seems to be no possible intelligent explanation of that. It is one of the many anomalies arising from this form of indirect taxation.
In the matter of special loans, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania will be helped greatly by the extra £1,000,000 which the Commonwealth Grants Commission has decided should be divided amongst those three States. Western Australia will be helped also by the grant of about £572,000 which is to be made for its comprehensive water scheme. It has received subsidies for gold and for the air beef scheme. This is all very well, but the amounts are too small. They are not commensurate with the size of Western Australia and we are not satisfied with them.
Big projects in our north-west and in the Kimberleys are a “ must “ if any worth-while development is to take place there. In the Kimberleys, thousands of tons of water run to waste year after year. A scheme in the Kimberleys similar to the Snowy Mountains scheme would give to the north-west of Western Australia amenities such as electric power, electric light and water for irrigation, which would be of benefit, not only to that area, but also, even, to the Northern Territory. We must have big schemes there. The refusal of the Treasurer to grant some taxation relief to the people in that area has occasioned great criticism of the Commonwealth Government in Western Australia. I again ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to have a good look at the north-west of Western Australia. I do not mean that he should look at it from Canberra, but that he should go to the Kimberleys and other places there to see the potentialities and then consider what can be done to divert some of the capital coming into Australia to that very needy region.
I have already asked a question about the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s building in Perth, but I desire to refer to the matter again because of the bitter disappointment of the people of Western Australia. at the failure of the Government to countermand the order postponing the construction of the new A.B.C. building. The building in which the Commonwealth is forcing the commission’s employees in Perth to work is a dilapidated structure which breaks practically every health regulation that we have in Western Australia. When the Public Works Committee of this Parliament investigated the matter recently, it said that conditions for the staff were almost unbelievable. Officials worked in confined spaces under torrid conditions, often in converted storerooms or passages. Toilet and staff facilities were completely inadequate and unhealthy. It further said it was a great tribute to the staff that they had been able to carry on the work of the organization at anything approaching satisfactory standards under such deplorable conditions. Yet in the face of that report, the Government, having promised prior to 1945 to erect a new building for these people, postponed the project. Now, in 1957, we have received information that the project is to be postponed once more.
That postponement will hold up other projects in Western Australia. For 60 years we have been asking for a new town hall in Perth. The Perth City Council really means to build it, but the site on which it desires to build is occupied by the Commonwealth Government, which will not relinquish it. Once again the building of the town hall is held up. It seems a pity that these building projects are not being proceeded with. Unemployment exists in Western Australia, particularly among unskilled labourers, and building schemes such as these would provide employment for some unskilled labour. The standardization of railway gauges is another matter on which I wish to touch. I think the project should have been commenced from the western as well as from the eastern end. That would have helped to absorb the unskilled labourers at present unemployed in Western Australia.
There are many other subjects I should mention now if ‘I had the time, but I shall have to leave them until we come to the debate on the Appropriation Bill. I congratulate the Government upon its continued success in industrial relations, upon the enlargement of social services, upon its successful immigration policy and upon its stabilization of the national economy. I support the motion that the .Estimates and Budget -Papers be printed.
– In addressing myself to the Budget, I desire first to express my appreciation of the speech delivered the other night by Senator Wright. He expressed his belief in liberalism. He belongs to a party which, as it calls itself the Liberal party, we might have expected to try to inject into the administration Of Australia the’ thoughts and ideals of liberalism. But what we have seen over recent years under this Government, has been a trend towards a form of administration that is anathema to liberalism. I know that the shadow of totalitarianism is spreading over the world and that governments are tending to issued executive directions rather than to take advantage of discussions in open parliament. I felt that Senator Wright emphasised this trend when he pointed out how we have drifted, from a liberal type of government to a form of government by the executive.
One of the subjects Senator Wright high.lighted was import controls. This problem, which had to be tackled by a Labour administration, was tackled during the war years on the basis of essentiality. I do not hesitate to say -that if a socialist government were in. power in these days it would still tackle import controls on the basis of essentiality. But the present Government at first abandoned import controls and then re-established them on the basis that importers who were able to establish that they had imported a certain quantity of goods to Australia in a base year would be given a licence to import an equal quantity of whatever goods they required. That has caused grave malpractices throughout Australia. It is a blot on the administration of this Government. It has led to all kinds of corruption over the last few years.
THE PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! Tn conformity with the ‘sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate. ‘I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571015_senate_22_s11/>.