23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Address-in-Reply - Presentation to the Governor-General.
– I desire to inform the Senate that, accompanied by honorable senators, on 3 1st March, I waited on the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency on the occasion of the opening of the second session of the Twenty-third Parliament, agreed to on 18th March, 1960. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply, which you have just presented to me.
It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen at once the Message of Loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
– by leave - Before the business of the Senate begins this afternoon, I should like to refer briefly to the loss suffered by the people of Malaya and Cambodia during the past few days as the result of the deaths of the Paramount Ruler of Malaya and the King of Cambodia.
His Majesty, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, first Paramount Ruler of Malaya, died early on Friday morning at the age of 64 years. He was the first of the paramount rulers provided for in the Constitution of the recently established Malayan Federation. As such, he was elected for a period of five years by the hereditary rulers of the Union of Malayan States which themselves have hereditary rulers. At the time of his election, he was the ruler of the State of
Negri Sembilan. His Majesty was educated in Malaya and England and was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1928. He was a man much loved by his people, and his influence on the development of the stable, prosperous Malayan nation was profound. On this occasion, our sympathy goes out very strongly to the people of Malaya at their loss. As a result of the death of His Majesty, the Deputy Paramount Ruler, the Sultan of Selangor assumes office until arrangements are made for the election of a new Paramount Ruler.
As I mentioned earlier, the death has also occurred of His Majesty Norodom Suramarit, King of Cambodia. He was the Head of State of a very ancient monarchy, a constitutional monarchy in which the king is elected from within the male members of the Royal Family. His Majesty was born in 1896. He entered the Cambodian administration in 1918 and was successively aide-de-camp to King Sisowath, Head of the Royal Chancery and, in 1920, Minister of Marine, Commerce and Agriculture. He was appointed a Privy Counsellor on the accession of his son, Norodom Sihanouk, to the throne in 1941. In March, 1955, after the abdication of his son, he became king.
The late King was a dignified monarch, much venerated by his people. He was the father figure of the nation. I should like to take this opportunity to express our deepest regret to the people of Cambodia. We have maintained an office in PhnomPenh since 1955. It was raised to the status of an embassy in 1959. Cambodia has had an embassy in Canberra since last year.
– by leave - I desire to associate the Opposition with the statement that has just been made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner). It is rather a coincidence that the Paramount Ruler of Malaya and the King of Cambodia died at approximately the same time, at the same age and, relatively speaking, in the same locality.
Knowing the status of our own monarch in the minds and hearts of all of us, we can appreciate the feelings of the people of the Federation of Malaya and the people of Cambodia now. On the persons of their monarchs they centre all their national thoughts, ideals and aspirations. Apart from that, as the Leader of the Government has indicated, they give to their monarchs, as individuals, their respect and affection. On behalf of the Opposition, I express to the people of Malaya and Cambodia our deep sympathy in their grievous loss.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: Will he say whether it is a fact that Ansett-A.N.A. has made representations to Trans-Australia Airlines for an increase in fares?
– I am not aware that such an approach has been made by Ansett-A.N.A. to T.A.A.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. 1 hasten to add that it refers, not to Senator Kennelly’s pet hobby-horse, but to amenities for passengers at airport terminals. Will the Minister inform me whether the kiosk at the Canberra airport is conducted by a contractor for the Department of Civil Aviation, or by one or both of the airlines? If, as I believe to be a fact, this kiosk is closed before the arrival of the last through aircraft at the airport, can action be taken by the Minister to alter the contract so that the kiosk will remain open until the departure of the last passenger aircraft, as appears to be the case at other airports, whether the kiosks are conducted by airline companies or by contractors? Does not the Minister agree that such amenities at the national capital airport - a through port - should at least equal the standard provided at, say, Hobart airport, which is a southern terminal?
– My recollection is that the kiosk at the Canberra airport is conducted on a lease from the department. I do not recall the actual terms of the lease nor the hours which are stipulated as necessary for the kiosk to be kept open, but I appreciate the point made about the convenience of the travelling public, and I will be pleased to have a look at the terms of the lease and see whether they are being complied with.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, or the appropriate Minister, the following questions: - Will the Minister inform the Senate and the people why civilian employees, both temporary and permanent, at the Northern Command workshops at Bulimba in Brisbane are to be drastically retrenched? Is it a fact that 60 per cent, of them are marked for economic slaughter - in other words, are to be sacked? Are similar dismissals to take place in other centres? Is there any chance of a change of Government policy that will permit the retention of these workers, largely tradesmen, some of whom have served the Department of Defence for twenty years or more?
– Mr. President, I know nothing of the circumstances to which Senator Brown refers. If his allegations are correct then, of course, it is a very favorable circumstance that this Government is maintaining a policy of full employment, so that work opportunities are available elsewhere. I am certain that this would not have been the position if the Labour Party was in power. ] do not know whether Senator Brown’s statement is correct - he would have local knowledge that is not available to me - but I very much doubt it. On the face of it, the statement that there is to be a 60 per cent, reduction in the strength of what I assume to be a defence establishment contains some degree of exaggeration. I do not know all the circumstances. You know, I think that a lot of the troubles of life we expect to experience never come to pass. If Senator Brown will put the question on the notice-paper, probably I will be able to allay his fears.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Customs and Excise a question. Has the Minister read an article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ entitled, “ Tiny Force Protects our Fauna from Theft”? Does he know of the work of this small society for the preservation of our fauna? Does he know that extensive trapping is still taking place in Australia? Has he noted, according to the article, that the governments of South Australia and
Western Australia have approached the Commonwealth Government to have the export ban on fauna modified? Has he also noted the reference to attempts by crews of trading vessels to smuggle Australian fauna out of the country?
– Yes, 1 read with interest the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ article mentioned by the honorable senator. It referred to the fact that the staff of the New South Wales fauna protection body was being increased, lt stated rather sarcastically that the staff was being increased by 100 per cent. - from one member to two members. The article commented rather unfavorably on the number of people available for fauna protection work in New South Wales. As to that part of the honorable senator’s question dealing with the extent of trapping taking place in Australia, I think that as the real force of the Commonwealth Government’s export ban on Australian fauna is felt, trapping of fauna in this country will be modified. No doubt some trappers are still actively trapping, but if the local market - which is the only market now available - is oversupplied as a result of their efforts, then in due course their activities will diminish and, I hope, probably cease.
The honorable senator asked whether representations had been made to the Commonwealth Government by the South Australian and Western Australian governments. Some representations were made seeking information as to the regulations covering the export of fauna from zoos in Australia to zoos overseas or for scientific purposes. An explanation was given to those Governments and nothing further has been heard from them.
I saw the reference in the newspaper to the attempt by Chinese crew members of a visiting ship to smuggle birds out of Australia. I noted with great approval that the crew members concerned were fined £20 each and the birds were confiscated and given into the care of the zoological gardens. That is just another example of how the Department of Customs and Excise acts in these matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. Is it a fact that, although Lord Casey resigned as Minister for External Affairs in early January last and ceased to be the member for La Trobe in the House of Representatives as from 10th February, he is still using the same departmental car and driver as when he was a Minister? If so, by whose authority was permission given for Lord Casey’s continued use of Commonwealth transport and for how long is this abuse to be permitted? ls it also a fact that Lord Casey has used this Commonwealth car and this driver when attending Liberal Party meetings in connexion with the La Trobe by-election now proceeding? As an addendum to my question I remind honorable senators that next Saturday the electors of La Trobe will replace Richard with Pritchard.
– I am rather surprised that the honorable senator attempted to spoil his quite objective question by his reference to the La Trobe by-election next week. Up to that point I thought that his question was completely divorced from politics. I do not know what the position is in respect of any car being used by Lord Casey at the moment, but I say to the honorable senator that none but the most churlish mind would take exception to a small courtesy such as the provision of a car for a man who has rendered so much notable service to his country-
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the great interest being taken by dairymen and primary producers generally in the inquiry being conducted into the dairying industry, in which the evidence has been concluded, will the Minister say when he expects the report to be completed and presented to the Minister for Primary Industry?
– My recollection in regard to this matter, as a result of other questions being asked about it, is that it was hoped that the report would be presented by May of this year. Since that is only a recollection I will obtain from the Minister the date on which he expects the report and I will advise the honorable senator by letter.
– In addressing a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I may say that it is prompted by a discussion concerning inflation. I ask the Minister whether he has noted that the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, when introducing the Budget in the United Kingdom Parliament recently, stated that prices had now been stable for nearly two years, a much longer period than for many years, and that the stable cost of living had been - I use his own words - “ of tremendous benefit to us all. It has been an important factor in the success of our exports and its continuance must be one of the features of our policy “. If it is possible for a conservative government in the United Kingdom to stabilize prices, what is the difficulty that confronts a conservative government in Australia and prevents it from doing likewise? Will the Minister suggest to the Prime Minister that, when he is abroad, he discuss with the Chancellor of the Exchequer this matter, which is of great importance to Australia?
– I am sure that we all congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain on the success that has followed the economic policy adopted by the British Government. I think we all agree - at least those of us on this side of the chamber - that only a conservative government could have achieved such success. Senator Sheehan could not have been present in the Senate when I made my contribution to the recent Address-in-Reply debate.
– He was present, but he did not understand it.
– That may be so, but I think that that remark might have been a little kinder if it had come from this side of the chamber. Senator Sheehan could not have followed what I had to say during the Address-in-Reply debate, when I established most conclusively that the increase in the cost of living in Australia had been so much greater during the regime of the Labour Party than it has been during the life of this Government.
– Has the Minister for
National Development noted two recent press statements, to the effect that two companies intend to construct in Australia refineries to produce lubricating oil, one company being a combination of Caltex Oil (Australia). Proprietary Limited, Ampol Petroleum Limited and H. C. Sleigh Limited, and the other, British Petroleum Limited? Can the Minister advise me whether British Petroleum Limited acts as the distributing agent for the Kwinana refinery? If it does, and since the other company intends to construct a refinery in one of the eastern States, will he use his best endeavours to have the B.P. refinery constructed adjacent to the Kwinana refinery? I should also like to know the amounts of foreign exchange which the construction of these two important refineries will save our overseas balances.
– I saw the press report of both developments and read them with a great deal of interest, since they indicated a very important contribution to the all-round development of our industrial economy. The CaltexAmpolSleigh combination makes generous provision for Australian capital in its composition, which is a very good thing for us. The B.P. company, with its Kwinana refinery, is, of course, a very old friend of Australia. These developments are all to the good. If my recollection is correct, the first proposition contemplates providing about 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of the demand for lubricating oil in Australia. I know less about the B.P. proposition. I do not know its size. As Senator Scott always adopts a broad national outlook on matters affecting Western Australia, I will note carefully his suggestion that the lubricating oil refinery should be built alongside the refinery at Kwinana.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, and I preface it by stating that last week, a news item was broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on the marketing of Australian flour overseas. Subsequently, I referred to it in the Senate. As I have not seen any reference to it in the press since then, I ask the Minister: Is it a fact, as reported by the A.B.C. on 30th March, that Japanese exporters are taking advantage of lower milling costs and freight rates to undersell Australian flour in a number of Australia’s traditional markets in South-East
Asia? Is it a fact also that in Thailand, Japanese flour is being sold in calico bags marked with the words “ Milled from finest Australian wheat “, but with no indication where it was milled? If the Minister has been informed by his Trade Commissioners of this, what steps does he propose to take to safeguard Australian millers from such unfair trading practices by a competitor with whom we have a trade agreement?
– I have no knowledge of the particular circumstances to which the honorable senator has referred. I know that there are difficulties facing the flour milling industry in Australia because of the loss of many of our export markets. I have not heard of the Japanese competition to which the honorable senator has referred. Apparently, the honorable senator’s criticism is that the Japanese are buying Australian wheat and milling it in Japan, and are then marketing the product as flour made from Australian wheat. As we have sold very little wheat to Japan until recently, I do not know that we can take any great exception to the Japanese buying our wheat, milling it in their own country and then selling the flour. In fact, we would sooner they did that than see them buy wheat from the Americas. The question is of some importance, and despite the fact that I have tried to answer it in part, I ask the honorable senator to put the question on notice so that it will receive the attention it warrants.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. I preface it by remarking that in my many questions relating to the depredations of the European common market and now the so-called Outer Seven, I have been unable to awaken Government interest in the seriousness of the situation. I now ask the Minister: Will he explain the effects that are likely to arise from the announcement that Britain’s prosperity Budget will include trade concessions to the Outer Seven which are likely to have repercussions so far as Australia is concerned?
– The only reason why Senator Hendrickson has been unable to awaken any Government interest in his questions is that there has been no need for them. This is one of the basic matters affecting our trade relations overseas. With all its ramifications and implications, it has been under constant study by the Australian Government.
– The producers would like to know something about it. They are very concerned.
– I have referred the honorable senator on several occasions to articles in various publications, which, in my opinion, concisely set out the ramifications of this rather intricate matter. I am sorry to say that I did not see a press report of concessions in the United Kingdom Budget to the Outer Seven. Until such time as I do see it, I cannot judge its significance.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry indicate when the second advance on wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board from the 1958-59 harvest is likely to be paid? If it is likely to be long delayed, will the Minister ask his colleague to give consideration to drawing temporarily on the wheat stabilization fund to enable the advance to be made, recouping the stabilization fund from the proceeds when the wheat is sold? I suggest to the Minister that if the advance were made at an early date, it would be of considerable assistance to the farmers who experienced a poor season in South Australia last year.
– I cannot say when it is thought that the advance in question will be paid. I can appreciate that it would be of great assistance if it were paid soon to growers in drought areas such as South Australia. I shall ask the Minister to examine the legal and other implications of the suggestion and, if the question is put on the notice-paper, to provide an answer to it.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence noted reports that a military base, to be manned by United Kingdom troops, is to be established in northern Australia? To the best of my recollection, this was not mentioned in the recent ministerial statement on defence, so 1 am wondering whether the Minister could scotch the rumour if there is no truth in it. If the reports are true, then, as the proposal is of such tremendous importance and represents such a radical change in our defence organization, would the Minister make a statement to the Senate, saying whether there is to be a combined effort in which Australian troops will take part?
– My own reaction to the press report was that as such a proposal was not mentioned in the defence statement, the report might well be taken with a grain of salt. However, as it is not within my province to speak on the matter, having no knowledge of it, I must ask for the question to be put on the notice-paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. We Victorians know of the great development in the tobacco-growing industry in Victoria. Recently the Minister inspected the tobacco-fields of north-eastern Victoria, and the Victorian Collector of Customs also visited tobacco-growing areas a fortnight ago. These visits have been greatly appreciated by the tobacco-growers. Will the Minister briefly give his impression of the prospects for the 1960 crop? That could be of great encouragement to the growers and to the trade generally. Will he also state the effect of this remarkable industry upon Australia’s trade balances and on the coffers of the Australian Treasury?
– I am glad to be informed by the honorable senator that the visits were appreciated by the growers; but I am sure they did not appreciate the visits any more than I appreciated the opportunity to see the tobacco industry in that area. The crop is an excellent one. The quality is good - indeed, I think it is probably as good as any we have seen in Australia - the quantity is great.
The industry there is flourishing. Of course, it has been assisted materially by this Government’s policy which provides that a certain percentage of Australian tobacco must be used before import conces sions will be granted. There have been tremendous developments in that area. I should say that at the present time about one-third of it has been planted so the potential is great. I look forward to further great expansion and increased prosperity in the northern part of Victoria as a result of the development of the industry there.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
The Public Service Board negotiated with Public Service Organizations and a consent determination (No. 76 of 1959) was issued by the Public Service Arbitrator on 21st October, 1959. This determination specifically provided a date of effect which was the first pay period on or after 21st October, 1959. The new provision became operative on and from 22nd October, 1959. Payment is being made under this determination.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Postmaster-General have laid upon the table of the Senate the findings of the departmental inquiry into accusations made by the “ Herald “, Melbourne, that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was to blame for the alleged non-delivery of mail containing entries for that newspaper’s Wealth Words Competition?
– I have conveyed the request of the honorable senator to the Postmaster-General who has personally investigated the circumstances surrounding the allegations of delay in the delivering of entries addressed to “ Wealth Words Competition No. 42 “ and feels that no good purpose would be served in tabling the findings of the departmental inquiry in the Senate.
The Minister has, however, asked me to assure the honorable senator that the inquiry did not reveal any evidence that mail for the competition was delayed in the Post Office. After personal inspection and inquiry, the Postmaster-General is satisfied with the soundness of the special measures taken by the Post Office to ensure the prompt delivery of all mail for competitions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply; -
Dr. Anne Carlsen is in Australia as the guest of the Australian Advisory Council for the Physically Handicapped. Her visit is supported by the Department of Social Services which has paid her air fares to some of the capitals, including Brisbane and Adelaide. She has visited the Commonwealth rehabilitation centres, and in fact has already met representatives of all organizations in Australia interested in the rehabilitation of the physically handicapped.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
The number of broadcasting stations in the Commonwealth is such that the board finds great difficulty in providing additional stations of the power necessary to serve comparatively large areas without at the same time creating serious interference to services in other areas. Consequently a plan for increased power for several of the existing stations is being implemented. This includes proposals to increase the operating power of the Adelaide stations in the near future. The power of 5AN is to be increased from 2,000 to 10,000 watts and the power of 5CL from 5,000 watts to 50,000 watts. When these increases are effected and a more efficient radiating system is provided, which is also intended, an improved service from the stations will be available in the Ceduna area.
My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, deals with the provision of regional radio stations in Western Australia. Has any provision been made or is one under consideration to establish a regional radio station, possibly on Mount Magnet, which would serve the Murchison district? Such a station would also serve northern outlying areas where at present radio reception is exceedingly poor.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
Following recommendations made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board the PostmasterGeneral recently approved plans for the establishment of two new regional stations in Western Australia.
One of these will be a high powered station the precise location of which has not yet been determined. It is expected however that reliable service from the station will extend to Mount Magnet and some distance to the north giving an appreciable improvement of service in the Murchison district. It is also proposed to establish a low powered station at Carnarvon to provide reliable service to that town and immediately surrounding district. Other steps contemplated to improve the broadcasting services in Western Australia are an increase in the power of station 6WF from 10 KW to 50 KW and substantial increases in the power of the high frequency stations VLX and VLW which are designed to serve remote areas. It is expected that the increase of power in 6WF will be made during 1960-61, but the other projects including the new stations are of some magnitude and will take time to complete. However the preliminary work on these, including surveys to determine the best sites, is in hand.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - I have received from Senator Tangney an intimation that she desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The unfortunate effects of the Government’s policies in national health, including the imposition of undue financial burdens on the sick particularly through increased charges for accommodation, treatment and medicines in public hospitals.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 3.30 p.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– Last year, when the Government introduced legislation to make various amendments of the National Health Act, we on this side of the chamber were appreciative of some of the changes proposed, but we were deeply critical of some parts of the proposed legislation. During the last few months, all that we had to say at that time has been borne out by actual experience of the plan in action. I have not moved the adjournment of the Senate to-day in any frivolous spirit. I have done so because the Australian Labour Party believes that the health policy of this Government is inflicting great hardship upon many people in the community, particularly upon those who are least able to bear it.
One needs only to pick up the newspapers from day to day to realize that what I am saying is correct. In one newspaper this afternoon we see a heading, “ Shock for the aged in sickness “, and another afternoon newspaper carries the heading, “A nation of pill addicts “. Other headings were, “ Drug addicts cost you millions “, “ Chemists’ mix-up with free medicine “, “Hospital fees to go up on May 1st”, and “ Hospital fees go up by a guinea a week “. So I could go on. This sudden interest in medical affairs has been aroused in the people of this community because of the additional burdens they have been called upon to bear. It is rather a misnomer to call this health scheme a national health scheme. It is not national in any way, because a real national health scheme should apply itself to curative and preventive medicine, medical education, and all aspects of medical science, including the treatment and care of that very much neglected section of the community, the mentally ill.
The bill that was introduced by the Government last year, and which has been in operation for some time now, contained nothing to improve the condition of those who are mentally ill. Although provision is made under the Constitution for research to be undertaken by the Government in the various branches of medical science, very little has been done in that way to assist the mentally ill, except, of course, the very important work that is being undertaken at the John Curtin School of Medical Research of the National University. No attempt has been made to institute a national scheme in the realm of dental science. I could mention many other aspects of national health that have been neglected, but in the time at my disposal this afternoon I want to deal mainly with the impost that has been placed upon the community by the recent alteration of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
All of us know that some years ago an Australian Labour Party Government introduced into this Parliament a pharmaceutical benefits bill which would have provided free medicine for all those in Australia who needed it. It would not have made the Australian people a nation of pill-takers or drug addicts. It was an attempt to help them in a very important way by enabling sick people to get back into industry as soon as possible, and by easing the financial burdens usually associated with sickness. At that time the pharmaceutical chemists in Australia helped very considerably with that scheme, but the Labour Government found itself up against a brick wall in its dealings with the British Medical Association.
It is rather strange that although the British Medical Association at that time was adamant in its refusal to take any part m a pharmaceutical benefits scheme which had what it called a restricted formulary - although the formulary contained about 90 per cent, of the drugs listed in the British Pharmacopoeia at the time, and power was written into the bill for the formulary to be increased as new drugs came on the scene and were tested - to-day, when a Liberal Government is in power, we find the doctors co-operating in the very thing in which they refused to co-operate in the days of the Labour Government. That is not only my own opinion. Quite recently, a spokesman of the British Medical Association stated in the association’s own journal that the conditions to-day are the same as those against which the doctors fought in 1948. He said also that they had got a poor deal as a result of the last incursion by the Government into the field of national health, because they had not had prior consultations with the Government on the subject.
A great deal has been said over the past few months about the enormous cost of the national health scheme, particularly about the cost of pharmaceutical benefits. The first full year of operation of the Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme was 1951-52. The cost of the scheme in that year was £7,600,000. By 1956-57, the cost had risen to £11,700,000, and by 1958-59, to £21,000,000. It is estimated that for the year 1959-60 the cost will be £25,000,000. and it is said that in the following twelve months the cost could rise to £30,000.000. So far, so good. The Labour Party agrees that that is so. We say that there are entries on the credit side, as well as on the debit side, but those who are loudest in their outcry about the money that is spent on pharmaceutical benefits talk as though the whole of that money had gone down the drain, and that is why the Government is seeking to retrieve, perhaps, £5,000,000 from the people of this country by making them pay 5s. for each prescription. 1 should like to direct attention to the fact that a great deal of the rise in the bill for pharmaceutical benefits is due to two factors. One factor is the high cost of the rare drugs which have come into use in the medical field over the last few years, and the second factor is that a large number of these very expensive drugs have been, in some cases - I am not using my own words, but the words of the Minister himself - prescribed by doctors without any regard to their cost. There is another factor affecting the cost of drugs. It is one of which, I think, we should be aware, because it is becoming an increasing danger in the community. I refer to the terrific racket that is being worked in the drug market.
For instance, in January the South Australian Government was offered a drug known as prednisone. It is used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and is more effective for that purpose than hydrocortisone. The company concerned offered the South Australian Government this drug at 2s. 6d. for 100 tablets, but to buy 100 of those tablets over a chemist’s counter, a member of the public would have to pay a few pence under £14. That represents a profit of about 1,300 per cent. That is an example of the way in which the public is being taken in.
One manufacturing chemist said that if this false price structure could be eliminated, the taxpayer would be saved about one-half of the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. That would mean that there would be no need for the Government to put a tax of 5s. on every prescription dispensed under the free medical scheme or the national health scheme, whatever you like to call it. This manufacturing chemist also said that when a drug was made in accordance with the British Pharmacopoeia, a sum was added to the cost to allow for a 15 per cent, profit, and then the drug was sold under contract to government stores. Some manufacturers, however, made up drugs described in the British Pharmacopoeia, gave them fancy names and spent thousands of pounds on advertising them. About £10,000 was spent on advertising one such product alone. Of course, if you have huge advertising campaigns you must get your money back somehow, and the price of the product has to be raised considerably. I say that the Government, instead of putting this 5s. charge on all those who participate in the free medicine scheme or the national health scheme - whatever you like to call it - should have a look first into the whole of this business of drug production and the exploitation of the sick in the manner I have indicated.
Not so long ago in America, a committee was set up to investigate the whole of the drug racket, so-called. It found that terrific profits were being made - anything up to 1,000 per cent. - on drugs. I should like the Australian Government to institute an inquiry into the cost of drugs that are so necessary to those who are ill and in vital need of them. This is not the end
Df the story in that regard.
Under this new scheme, often one can buy a proprietary line at a chemist’s shop for much less than the amount allowed under the regulations. Aspirin - all kinds of things come under the scheme now set up - has been bought in many cases much more cheaply from the chemist by just going into his shop and asking for it, than if one has a prescription, because he then has to pay 5s. This happens even though the Minister assured us some time ago that where the cost of the drug was less than 5s. the purchaser could get the benefit of the lower price without using the prescription. But, of course, many people think that the doctor has prescribed something else - they do not know what the prescription says and, in any case, prescriptions are not meant to be read by the ordinary person - and so they take the prescriptions to the chemist. In many cases, they do not know that they are just getting a drug that they could have bought at a much lower price without the prescription. That does happen quite often.
At the time of the introduction of this pharmaceutical benefits scheme a problem arose as to what was to happen in public hospitals that had customarily dispensed medicines for patients. The Minister said that that was a matter for the State governments as they control these hospitals. But the problem is much more involved than that. This clearly involves the financial relationship between the States and the Commonwealth. If any State government decided not to pass on the cost of drugs to patients, we can imagine it would have a hard time explaining to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, for instance, its failure to do so. That is why, in the last few weeks, fees have been raised in public hospitals throughout Australia. The people are just beginning to wonder where it is all going to end. In New South Wales, for instance, although the public hospitals are not going to make any charge for patients in public wards, they are imposing an additional guinea a week - a blanket rate - in respect of all patients in private and intermediate wards. In Melbourne, the cost of hospital treatment as from 1st May will rise much more than in the other States. It is not merely the cost of the drugs that will cause that rise. There are other factors behind this terrific rise in the cost of medical services. Ordinary people are being absolutely priced out of the realm of health.
Although drugs and so on are costly to buy, they have done a great service to the nation. Before the war, the average period patients were in hospital for treatment was nine days. Under the present set-up, with the use of modern drugs, the average period is three and a half days. This improvement should be put on the credit side against the cost of drugs to the community and to the Government. Quite apart from the health of the person concerned, the reduction of the period of his treatment in hospital has meant his speedier return to the production force than was the case before these drugs were discovered. Therefore, the expenditure of £30,000,000 on free medicine is not to be regarded as money thrown down the drain. As a matter of fact, I think that that expenditure could be considerably reduced if there were a better deal between the Government and the manufacturers and those who exploit the sick by the prices of their drugs.
I do not think that the Government will gain very much in any way by placing this five shillings levy or tax - or whatever you like to call it - on those who receive the benefits of these prescriptions. We know that the Minister has said that the introduction of this charge will not make any difference to pensioners. That is not true because, under the amendment to the National Health Act in 1955, pensioners who have incomes from other sources of £2 a week do not come within the ambit of the pensioner medical service. Therefore, they must pay the full price of 5s. for these drugs. I notice that the Minister is smiling. What I have said is right, Mr. Minister, because it has been thrashed out for a long time. It is not so much the matter of the amount of 5s. itself that is at stake. Quite a number of people do not pay the charge of 5s. The Government said to the chemist, “ you must make this charge of 5s. If you breach this in any way you could be put out of business.” If that is not economic conscription, I do not know what is. When you come to work out this business of the charge of 5s. per prescription, it is ten to one on - if you are a betting person - that anybody who spends money in this way will get a rebate from his income tax at the end of the year. What is the result? Those people in the taxable income group of £10,000 a year will get a rebate of 3s. 3d. in respect of the 5s. charge. Therefore, their prescription will cost them only ls. 9d. People in the £5,000 a year taxable income group will also get a rebate of 3s. 3d. But the average taxpayer with a taxable income of £500 a year, will get a rebate of income tax of only 6d. for the 5s. he has paid. Therefore, his prescription will cost him 4s. 6d., even after the tax reduction. A pensioner with an income of £2 per week other than his pension will get no tax rebate - he should not have to pay tax at all on that income of £2 a week - and therefore, he has to pay the full amount of 5s. This is a very queer way of giving a benefit to those who need it most. We find, on analysis, that with the taxation deduction, those who are best able to afford to pay the prescription fee of 5s. will get the greatest consideration. You can work that one out if you like.
The same thing applies to hospital benefit funds. The Government says to the average person, “ We are not compelling you to join a hospital benefit fund - we would not dream of doing so - but if you do not join a fund, look out. You will not get the extra benefit that we provide unless you join a fund.” If this is not economic conscription, I do not know what is. Today, the average family pays £8 a year in subscriptions to a benefit fund. What docs that mean? It means that the subscriber pays that amount to the fund and claims it as deduction from his income tax. It means that the man on the higher income - the man on £5,000 a year - gets a deduction of £7 1 2s. Yet he is only paying £8 a year for hospital benefits! The man in the lower income group - the basic wage earner - gets a 16s. deduction because of the lower rate at which he is taxed. Instead of getting a deduction of £8 from his income tax he gets a reduction of only 16s. and so has to pay £7 4s. for the same benefit. He gets back about fi, so he has to pay about £7 for his membership of a hospital benefit fund. But the wealthy man pays only 8s. These are facts that the Minister for Health cannot dispute and in its essence this scheme is unfair.
According to the last report of the Commissioner of Taxation persons in the higher income bracket claimed an average of £93 in their income tax returns as a deduction for medical expenses. The man with a taxable income of about £500 a year - the average man on the basic wage - claimed only £14 as a deduction for medical expenses. You cannot tell me that the man earning the basic wage is so much healthier, comparatively speaking, than the man earning £5,000 or £10,000 a year. Let us look at the effect of those deductions. Take the case of a man earning about £10,000 a year and claiming about £70 as a deduction for medical expenses. As a result of his claim for medical expenses he would receive a tax rebate of about £45, so in effect his medical expenses for the year would cost him only about £25. But the man who claimed £14 as a deduction for medical expenses would receive a tax rebate of only £1 8s., so he would pay out of his own pocket £12 12s. for medical expenses. It may be said that the man earning the higher income is able to go to the best specialists and the best hospitals. The Labour Party contends, however, that the very best medical attention should be available to all persons, not because they are wealthy, but because they need it.
Before this Government came into office first-class medical attention was available to everybody in the community in public hospitals and elsewhere. Prior to the introduction of the new hospital scheme in 1953 free hospital attention was available in public wards. The Commonwealth Government paid the hospitals 6s. a day in respect of each person in receipt of hospital attention, but very much greater demands were made on the State governments. I was a member of a committee that inquired into hospitals at the time and because of the small amounts received by the hospitals in respect of attention to the sick, a scheme was introduced under which the hospitals were not to have any outstanding debts and were to have their charges paid by the Commonwealth Government. We found following the introduction of that scheme that many people sought medical attention much earlier than they otherwise would have done had they been haunted by the fear of hospital bills, which can be very frightening. So, for the first time, the public hospitals were open to other than the indigent sick. What has happened in the past six years? To-day you cannot get attention in a public ward for less than £12 12s. a week except in Queensland. The former Queensland government-
– A Labour government.
– Yes, a Labour government - held out against the imposition by the Commonwealth Government. The present Queensland Government would not be game to charge fees for treatment in public wards. To-day Queensland is the only State in which free hospital attention is available. In the other States people must pay as much as £12 12s. for treatment in a public ward.
That is not the end of the matter. Fees tor intermediate wards and private wards have been increased considerably. Honorable senators opposite may argue that the Government has made large grants to public hospitals and that people may insure themselves against the cost of hospital treatment. But we in the Labour Party ask why the Government should compel people to insure with societies in order to obtain a benefit that is paid for by the taxpayer. We say that the health of the community is so important that cost should not be considered. We cannot afford to have people away from work for long periods due to illness. We want to keep them well. We say the Government has failed because it has not done sufficient in the realm of preventive medicine. It has done very little to maintain the health of the community, which is just as important as are proper educational facilities, decent housing and good food.
I do not want to take any credit from the Government for the job that it has done generally. The Government has done a great deal. It had to do a great deal in social services because the world is moving towards a betterment of social service conditions. But the Government has not done as much as it should have done in the realm of health. It has paid no regard to what has been done in this respect in Great Britain and New Zealand. Compulsory payment for prescriptions was recently condemned by a very important committee set up in the United Kingdom to deal with pre scriptions and dispensing of medicines. That committee, headed by Sir Henry Hinchliffe, found, inter alia -
The average practitioner is unable to judge the validity of the makers’ claims for many new drugs. Doctors should be given up-to-date information about new drugs and preparations and results of clinical tests.
Is that being done in Australia or is it a fact that doctors receive, through the mail and otherwise, numerous samples of new drugs, half of which they know little or nothing about, and that they learn about them by trial and error? The Hinchliffe committee reported that disciplinary measures were required to deal with excessive prescribing. We have heard a lot about money being wasted because of excessive prescribing, but we must remember that the patients are not to blame if too much free medicine is prescribed for them, because they cannot obtain that medicine unless it is prescribed by a doctor. The patients cannot be blamed for something that is out of their control. The Hinchliffe committee also advocated educating the public and enlisting the co-operation of the drug industry and retail pharmacists.
The next finding of the Hinchliffe committee is a gem, which the Minister for Health should have read before introducing the legislation. I admit that the initial charge of ls. a prescription was introduced by Aneurin Bevan under a Labour government in the United Kingdom. He thought it would put a brake on the excessive use of free medicine in Great Britain. The committee reported-r-
The present prescription charge is a tax-
This is a report by Lord Hinchliffe, who was appointed by the Conservative Minister for Health in Great Britain, not by a Labour government - which besides stimulating the wrong incentives has proved disappointing financially and consideration should be given to the desirability of abolishing the prescription charge altogether.
I should like to know whether this Government had any advice on this matter before it introduced the present charge for prescriptions. Many drugs which are of great value to the community, and which are used often, are not included in the free list. I understand that such things as dill water are included, while antibiotics that are necessary for the treatment of various diseases are not included.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I noticed that Senator Tangney spent a great deal of time in the mere repetition of remarks that she made in the debate on the motion for the second reading of the National Health Bill that was before the Senate in October last. She has taken the opportunity to restate the socialist beliefs that she holds, beliefs that are opposed to the Liberal concepts which we have embodied with great success in the national health scheme.
The honorable senator, in her intimation that she wished to raise a matter of urgent public importance, used the words “ particularly to the increased charges for accommodation, treatment and medicines in public hospitals “. I fail to see why there is an urgent necessity for her to repeat now statements that she made during the debate that took place in October last year, and her objections to the national health scheme that this Government has introduced. Of course, the real urgency is concerned with the fact that at the end of this week there is to be a by-election in Victoria. The honorable senator’s action is an attempt to ally the increased hospital charges, which are being imposed in some States, with the national health scheme, and by that means to try to show that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for the increased hospital fees, particularly in Victoria, where the increase has been greatest. Personally, I think that that is a pretty snide way to go about things, as I intend to show during the course of my remarks.
Senator Tangney made certain remarks to which I want to reply. I have no intention, however, of replying to her comments regarding the practices of the medical profession. I think that Senator Dittmer, one of her colleagues, is much better qualified than I am to discuss criticisms of the medical profession. There seems to be a little cleavage in the Opposition camp in that respect. I point out to Senator Tangney that the whole world has moved away from the stupid socialist conception of entirely free medicine and hospital treatment. England and New Zealand have moved away from that concept. When everything of that kind was free, people who were really sick very often had to wait for weeks before they could be admitted to beds in public hospitals. At the same time, beds were being occupied by patients with all sorts ofminor ailments.
– In Queensland, it is still possible to get a bed in a hospital.
– Yes, I know that. I shall refer in a moment to the position in Queensland. I read with interest in this morning’s Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ some comments by a man who, I think, knows far more about the conduct of public hospitals than all the honorable senators opposite, including the honorable senator who introduced this matter of urgency, rolled up together. I refer to Sir Herbert Schlink, the chairman of the board of directors of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown. According to the newspaper article to which I have referred, Sir Herbert Schlink said -
Hospitals should be free from the crushing burden of State-imposed deficits.
The article continued -
Sir Herbert said there were three sources of hospital finance - (1.) State Government subsidies from Consolidated Revenue; (2.) Payments by patients, assisted by self-help insurance and contribution funds–
A great Liberal principle - and (3.) Subscriptions, gifts and endowments from the public– which come so often from the people about whom Senator Tangney has professed such a profound ignorance - those who have a high income. How these socialists hate the successful person with a good income! Half of the honorable senator’s speech was on the lines that the wealthy people, the successful people with large incomes, are those who receive the benefit of certain taxation laws. I remind her that those are the people who make the subscriptions, the gifts and endowments to public hospitals. I thought it was interesting that Sir Herbert Schlink’s remarks came just before an attempt was made, in the Senate to-day, to influence the outcome of a by-election.
Let us spend a moment or two in considering why this matter has suddenly become a celebrated cause. What has happened to the great issue of inflation, to which the Leader of the Opposition in the
House of Representatives, Mr. Calwell, referred recently? The answer, of course, is that it is a damp squib. It simply has not gone off. The Opposition has had to discover something to take its place, because the issue of inflation, as a by-election winner, has been a complete and utter wash-out. It has been rather intriguing to follow the processes of the Opposition’s campaign for the La Trobe by-election.
– What has that to do with the matter under discussion?
– That is the reason that the matter has been raised. It is an attempt to find something to take the place of the earlier damp squib, inflation. When the Labour candidate for the La Trobe seat is asked about the proposals of the Australian Labour Party to deal with inflation, he says, in effect, “ We believe in a referendum to bring about constitutional reform. We are going to take powers away from the States and implant them in the great central government at Canberra. That is what we will do. Then we will be able to control inflation.” But what happens when a small voice from the back asks, “What do you propose to do if the people will not give you those powers? “.
– Go home to bed.
– Yes, that is about all he could do. But the Labour candidate has not even enough common sense to go home to bed. He just sits there and says nothing.
I can understand, therefore, why Opposition senators are trying to make some other horse gallop at this late stage. They hope, because of the increased hospital charges in Victoria, to find a substitute for the issue of inflation. I can understand their desire to find a substitute, but why not say that that is what is being done? Why bring this subject forward to-day as a matter of urgency? Let honorable senators opposite say that that is why it has been brought forward, and then we will know what arrant humbug it is.
– I object to the term “ arrant humbug “ in that connexion, Mr. Deputy President, because I am perfectly serious about this matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I ask the
Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I am astounded that the honorable senator should take exception to the words “ arrant humbug “. They are both perfectly understandable and are parliamentary words. I think they apply to this situation.
– But they are not true.
– I think they are.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– I do not think, Sir, that that is a fair ruling.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I inform the honorable senator that the remark is objectionable and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Which word do you object to - “ arrant “ or “ humbug “?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Both.
– Then I shall say something a little more acceptable to the honorable senator, but with just the same meaning: In my opinion, this has no stability whatever as a matter of urgency other than for the reasons I have given. In deference to the Chair, Sir, that means that I withdraw the words “ arrant humbug “.
– The honorable senator cannot impute improper motives to Senator Tangney.
– I understood that the honorable senator was acting under the instructions of the Labour Party, and I would say that its motives are improper at most times. However, I want to direct the attention of the Senate to the increased cost of the national health scheme. Some figures have been cited by Senator Tangney, but I think we should refer to the secondreading speech of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) himself because he gave sound reasons for this prescription charge of 5s. The Minister said, in introducing the bill -
There have been inevitable concomitant increases in cost. In the early years, the scheme was comparatively stable, but with the discovery and development of new drugs this has ceased to be the case. In the first full year of operation, 1951-52, the cost was approximately £7,600,000 per annum. Although the number of included drugs was still relatively small, for the year ended 30th June, 1955, it had increased to £10,700,000. In the next year, it was £11,800,000, and in the following year it was £11,700,000. It will be seen that it was in a condition of comparative stability. However, it was after this that the list of drugs began to expand rapidly. In the year ended 30th June, 1958, the cost reached £15,000,000, an increase of over £3,000,000 in one year. In the last financial year, it was £21,000,000, and the projected cost for the next financial year is several millions higher still. It is obvious that at this rate, and still for a limited range of drugs, the cost of pharmaceutical benefits could soon exceed £30,000,000 a year, and would dominate the entire national health service, leaving correspondingly less room for manoeuvre for improvements and operations in any other direction. May I emphasize again that every penny of this cost must be borne by the taxpayer, and that responsibility in government demands some attempt at stabilization in such circumstances.
For those reasons, the Government introduced the bill under which a prescription fee of 5s. was imposed and the list of available drugs was expanded considerably. That means that even if prescribed drugs cost £1 or £1 5s., the patient pays 5s. and the Commonwealth Government finds the balance. This is in accordance with the principles of the original scheme. It was always intended that there would be a partnership between the people and the Government in meeting these expenses. The people were asked to contribute some of the cost in this form of self-help health insurance, and it is one of the best schemes that has ever been introduced by any government - there is no mistake about that. This scheme has been of great help to the people in times of sickness.
Last year, the Government announced an important extension of the national health scheme to provide that the maximum allowance towards the cost of a major operation would be increased from £30 to £60 from the beginning of this year. That is a marked extension of this benefit because a major operation is a costly business. Meanwhile, nothing has been done to upset the position of the pensioners under the national health scheme; with the one exception mentioned by the honorable senator, which I accept. The effect of that exception is that not all the benefits are available to a pensioner who has a separate income of £2 a week. The fact is that, except for a few pensioners, the majority of them are receiving exactly the same benefits as they received before.
One matter mentioned by the honorable senator which is worthy of comment is the increase in hospital fees of £1 ls. a week imposed by the New South Wales Govern ment. Ostensibly, according to the New South Wales Government, this increase was imposed to meet the new 5s. prescription fee. Under the agreement made by the Commonwealth Government with all State governments and hospital boards, the Commonwealth Government finds exactly the same proportion of the cost of the drugs in the new expanded list as it did before, but instead of paying only 7i per cent, of the service fee, the Commonwealth Government now pays 20 per cent. Therefore, the hospitals are better off under the new formula than they were previously. The fact is that the New South Wales Government is still charging £1 16s. a day for public ward treatment. It will not face up to its responsibilities and risk a little unpopularity. Indeed, it has run away from its responsibilities and increased the charges in a slippery way. In effect, it has said, “ We will increase the charges by £1 ls. a week to cover medicines. Actually the charge for medicines is 5s., but we will charge a flat additional rate of £1 ls. to save keeping records.” What happens when a patient gets a bill and finds an extra charge of £1 ls. a week has been imposed? The authorities say, by way of explanation, “ That is because of the increased charge under the Commonwealth’s national health scheme “. Actually, it is nothing of the sort. The new prescription fee is 5s., but the New South Wales Government has added 16s. more. It is hiding behind the national health scheme by increasing charges and then blaming the Commonwealth scheme for them.
Senator Dittmer who is interjecting will follow me and then he can talk his head off. I am making the point that I understand the principle that the New South Wales Government has applied to the increase of £1 ls. It might be very sound to say, “ We will not keep records and therefore we will make a small extra charge to meet the costs “, but the increase of £1 ls. is excessive when compared with the actual charge of 5s. There was no need whatever for the hospitals to charge anything. They are not compelled to do so under the national health scheme. They can charge the prescription fee of 5s. but the additional 16s. was imposed for another purpose, according to the New South Wales
Government. The State Government wants to say “ We are standing up to our responsibilities, but this is the fault of the Commonwealth health scheme “. Most of the patients think that is the position. I want to bring this matter into the open so that the people will know the truth. As recently as February of this year there was a meeting of State Ministers for Health. It had nothing to do with the Commonwealth, although at this late stage in the by-election campaigns honorable senators opposite are trying to connect it with the Commonwealth Government. I realize that they are doing that, so I point out that only State Ministers attended that meeting.
– Including Mr. Bolte.
– And including the New South Wales Minister for Health, who is the only remaining Labour Minister for Health. All the rest were booted out long ago. All the socialists have been chucked out.
– What about in your own State?
– My own State was represented. I had forgotten that it still has a Labour Government. The Tasmanian Government has changed its policies so much at times that nobody can tell whether it is Liberal or Labour. That is the trouble. It has been sitting on the fence so much. The fees charged by State public hospitals are a matter for the respective State authorities. Until recently, public ward fees in State public hospitals were 36s. a day, except in Queensland, where public ward treatment is free, and in Tasmania, where the charge was 50s. a day. Following the conference of State Ministers for Health on 15th and 16th February, I960, public ward charges in State public hospitals were increased in some States to 60s. a day. The public ward charge in New South Wales has remained at 36s. a day. The New South Wales Government has failed to get up into the collar, although it is charging £1 ls. a week for drugs. In Victoria the charge, as from 1st May, 1960, will be 60s. a day for uninsured patients and 56s. a day for insured patients. In Queensland no charge is made for public ward patients. In South Australia the rate is 60s. a day, in Western Australia 36s. a day, and in Tasmania 60s. a day. Those rates were agreed to by the State Ministers for Health.
I want to refer to only one other point mentioned by Senator Tangney. She referred to the price of pharmaceutical benefits. The Minister has given me a note on this subject, which is of some interest. The note states that the prices of pharmaceutical benefits are determined by their cost to chemists. I interpose to say that that means the wholesale price. The agreed price which the chemist charges to the Government is this cost, plus a markup of 33i per cent., plus 2s. 9d. paid to him as a dispensing fee. It should be borne in mind that the mark-up is not all profit. From his mark-up allowance the chemist meets such charges as rent, rates, lighting and wages. The prices charged to chemists are under constant review by officers of the Department of Health, whose aim in discussions with wholesalers and manufacturers is to do everything possible to ensure that the prices charged are fair and equitable. The Commonwealth, however, has not power to fix or determine the prices charged by manufacturers or wholesalers. The Minister can, of course, refuse to list a particular brand of drug as a pharmaceutical benefit if the manufacturer’s price is, in the opinion of the Minister’s officers, unreasonably higher than that of a similar drug offered by other manufacturers. However, he must give due regard to the further obligation, which is to see that no useful drug is denied to the public. He is, therefore, compelled to rely primarily on the manufacturers’ integrity and the protection afforded by the healthy element of commercial competition.
It is quite misleading to point to the well-known fact that State Governments can buy drugs for use in hospitals at prices lower than those paid by the public. States and State hospitals buy in huge quantities, much larger than are bought by any chemist. The major factors behind the steady increase in the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme are the increasing use being made of the scheme year by year and the addition to the benefits available, particularly in recent years, of many new and costly drugs, notably the broad spectrum antibiotics used extensively by every doctor.
– We agree with that.
– I thought the honorable senator said that the prices charged to hospitals were too high. The great benefits of this scheme are never taken into account by members of the Opposition when they are discussing pensions. They refer often to the rale of pension paid to-day and compare it with what was paid in the days when a Labour Government was in office. Never do they consider the value of the assistance given to pensioners under the great national health scheme of this Government. Senator Tangney said that the Labour Government had a national health scheme. It had a scheme, but it could not get anybody to work with it in putting the scheme into operation. Labour proposed to use compulsion. If the doctors and chemists would not work with the Labour Government, it said that it was going to force them to do so. lt could not get the co-operation of anybody, and the scheme was a complete and utter flop. In fact, there was no national health scheme in existence when we came into office, so we introduced this scheme, which is and has been of great benefit to pensioners. At no time have I heard that taken into consideration by honorable senators opposite in comparing the value of the pension to-day with its value in days gone by, when no national health scheme existed.
I should like to refer to the position of the large private hospitals. They have always conducted their own dispensaries, dispensed medicines for their patients, and charged virtually the same prices as were charged by chemists. Under this new scheme, the large private hospitals are being treated as-
– As chemists.
– That is correct. The honorable senator is trying to make my speech for me. She did not mention this matter when she was speaking, so I thought I had better do it. They are treated as chemists. They charge 5s. for a prescription and the Federal Government provides the balance of the cost. The small hospitals traditionally have sent out prescriptions to chemists, and no alteration has been made in that regard. They still send out prescriptions to chemists, who charge 5s. when the drugs are on the list. The 5s. charge is put on the patient’s account, and the Commonwealth Government pays the balance of the cost. So there is no alteration in regard to large or small private hospitals, and the public hospitals are better off under this formula than they have ever been. They are better off than they were under the previous formula because we have increased their dispensing allowance from 7i per cent, to 20 per cent. There is a substantial increase of 12i per cent.
I finish as I started. I still think that this move is a petty attempt to play politics on this great issue. I say now, as I always do say, what I believe to be true. It is completely wrong to create the impression that this Government’s national health scheme is responsible for increased hospital charges. That is what the honorable senator has tried to do, but it is not correct.
– They know it is not correct.
– That is true. Honorable senators opposite know that it is not correct, but that is what they are trying to do. The State Governments set the standards of contributions to State hospitals. They say what will be made available from their consolidated revenue for State hospitals. That is their job. The State Ministers for Health set the charges to be paid by patients in State hospitals, as they did at a very recent meeting. Senator Tangney objected to the word “ humbug “. so I say that this is an example of hunting for votes in the La Trobe by-election. I ask the honorable senator this question: If the Government’s national health scheme, which is applied to all States, is responsible for increased hospital charges, why have the Liberal Government of Western Australia and the Liberal-Country Party Government of Queensland not increased their charges?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O’Byrne). - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– There is little doubt about the smugness and complacency of this Government and its supporters in general, and of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) in particular. They claim credit for everything, including good seasons. Why, I think the Almighty himself would start behind scratch in a race with them! At one time I had the highest possible regard for the Minister for Customs and Excise, both as a gentleman and a competent minister, but that regard dropped somewhat this afternoon when he imputed improper motives to Senator Tangney and spent half his time speaking about matters divorced from the question before us.
This is not a matter of urgency that has arisen only this week; it has been a matter of urgency since 1952 when the then Minister for Health, Sir Earle Page, insisted that the State Ministers for Health determine the charges to be imposed upon hospital patients. He went so far as to threaten to withdraw the Government subsidy of 8s. per bed per day from all hospitals if the State governments did not impose the charges he wanted. Those facts are recorded in the correspondence that passed between the various State ministers and Sir Earle Page. The Labour Government of Queensland fought Sir Earle on this matter with the result that for eight weeks the Commonwealth Government withheld payment of subsidy from not only the State Government hospitals in Queensland, but also the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, the Montrose Home for Crippled Children and the Xavier Home for Crippled Children run by the Catholic Sisters. The Commonwealth would have got away with it but Queensland fought and would not capitulate. The other State governments, however, capitulated to the Liberal-Country Party Government in Canberra with the result that suffering and poverty became the lot of the people of Australia because of the abolition of free hospital treatment.
Let us analyse the matter under consideration. First I propose to spend a few minutes in dealing with what Senator Henty said. Unfortunately, in the time available to me, I may have to deal speedily with his remarks in order that I may have time to refer to one or two aspects of the subject itself. As is usual with him, the Minister brands the question as another piece of socialist philosophy. Does he think it is socialist philosophy to provide free educational facilities for our children? Can it be said that the provision of free hospital treatment for those who cannot afford the cost is any more socialistic than the provision of free educational facilities lor children?
The Minister says that Opposition senators are concerned more with introducing this matter as a piece of political propaganda on the eve of the forthcoming byelections than we are with the plight of the sick and suffering in the community. This matter was thrashed out last year. It has been thrashed out very year, but we seem to make no impression upon the Government which has been enjoying political success only because we have had good seasons over the last ten years. Senator Henty quoted the opinion of Sir Herbert Schlink. No one doubts Sir Herbert’s standing as an authority on hospital and medical services in Australia, but I remind the Senate that Sir Herbert does not necessarily say that governments should not finance hospitals. He is concerned only with the efficiency of the service given, and he emphasizes that he does not think that hospitals should be required to struggle along starving for the finance they need in order to give first-class service. I repeat that he does not preclude the thought that governments should finance hospitals. I listened carefully to his views, and I am confident that his main concern is that at all times there shall be sufficient money to enable hospitals to budget efficiently for the payment of their accounts each month. In many of the States the hospitals are in a sorry plight financially, but not so in Queensland where a Labour government introduced an efficient system of budgeting in 1924 and amplified it still further in 1946.
Senator Henty speaks about the financial help given by his Government when major operations are performed, but I remind him that his Government has never at any stage agreed to free hospital treatment for the poor. I am not denying that the present scheme has been of substantial benefit to those who can afford to be in it. I have never denied that. Why, as recently as last November, I said that the scheme had a useful place in the community for those who could afford to be in it, but my point is that when he introduced the scheme the then Minister for Health said that its purpose was to meet 90 per cent, of medical cost whereas the fact is that the assistance given has dropped to as low as 58 per cent, and even 50 per cent. I want to know why the Government should discriminate in favour of those who have joined the hospital and medical benefits scheme. In these days, there can be absolutely no justification whatever for any discrimination by the Government. After all, every person in the community is a taxpayer yet the Government denies this benefit to those who cannot afford to contribute to a medical benefits scheme. Actually, the Government is discriminating between individual citizens. In other words, it divides the community into classes, according to its whim. I doubt whether the Government can justify its action in this direction, irrespective of any constitutional power it may have to make laws dealing with the matter.
The Minister also attempted to make a snide attack on the New South Wales Government. He sought to conceal the fact that New South Wales was not the only State which has a Labour government. I know he comes from Tasmania and he should know that there is a Labour government in that State. He said that there had been a swinging movement there as between political parties. I point out that there was a disagreement in the Liberal Party only the other day when the leader resigned and one of its members jumped overboard from the party and became an independent.
If this Government is so concerned about what it calls the snide tactics of the New South Wales Minister for Health, why does it not conscript the medical men just as it has conscripted the chemists? For instance, this Government has passed a law providing that chemists who refuse to collect the 5s. prescription fee will not be enrolled in the medical benefits scheme. If he thinks the New South Wales Government is attempting to put it over the Commonwealth Government, and over the patients, why does not this Government pass a law compelling the States to collect the 5s.? If that were done, there could be no suggestion that any attempt was being made to put something over the patients. No such action is contemplated because this Government knows that there is no truth in its assertion. All members of the Government know in their own hearts that what they say in this way is only being said by way of political propaganda on the eve of the forthcoming by-elections.
The Minister talks about the increased cost of pharmaceutical benefits and the high cost of modern life-saving drugs. I admit that these drugs are expensive. I admit that there has been an extension of the list.
Frankly, I have not the time to deal fully with the imperfections of the Government’s health administration and the medical care of the people, but I ask the Government whether it has ever attempted to estimate the savings effected by the use of these modern, efficient drugs. Have honorable senators on the Government side ever attempted to put any value on the increased productivity, the increased revenues from income tax flowing into its coffers, or the higher returns from sales tax and customs and excise duties as a result of the efficiency of these new drugs? The Government talks in terms of the cost to the country as though it were throwing something to the plug. Honorable senators on the Government side prate about the Government’s alleged generosity, about the way in which it disperses money when they know as well as we do that this Government is traditionally averse to the distribution of money to the people. They know as well as we do that the present Government much prefers to collect money and that it takes every possible step to guard against the money getting into the pockets of the people. I repeat that the traditional philosophy of this Government is to collect, not to give, and for that reason it is not particularly interested in granting benefits to the suffering. It is not concerned with reducing the incidence of disability and ill health and, with it, reducing the death-rate.
Surely the Government must realize that it cannot help but benefit by adopting our suggestion. I plead with it not to think merely in terms of pounds, shillings and pence although, if this question is considered only from that point of view it will be seen that even in that respect the Government will benefit financially. With the distribution of more money under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme greater revenue will accrue to it as a result of the speedy recovery and return to employment and productivity of those in ill health. There are now only a few minutes available to me. If the Minister had dealt with the matter in a constructive way, I would not have had to spend about ten minutes of my time in dealing with the things to which I have referred.
A definite, constructive approach can be made to this problem. Honorable senators opposite know the unfortunate facts of this matter, but they will not admit them because those facts are not suitable for propaganda purposes. One unfortunate effect of the Government’s national health policy is that it has imposed undue financial burdens on the sick by reason of increased charges for accommodation, treatment and medicine in public hospitals. Government senators should know of the other deficiencies of the scheme, but until recently, no up-to-date information on it was available either to members of Parliament or to the public. Last November. I drew attention to the fact that the latest available report of the Director-General of Health was that for the year ending 30th June, 1956. I find now that in February, 1960, a report was made available for the year ending 30th June, 1958. Surely, having regard to the speed with which information can be collected and correlated, some system could be evolved whereby reports could toe made available much more quickly to members of the Parliament and to members of the public who may be interested in these matters. Incidentally, ministerial expenses for the Department of Health amounted to over £50,000 last year, and I understand it is estimated that they will be £56,000 this year. None of us will know, at 30th June next, on what that money has been spent. The Government is paying out £25,000,000 a year in pharmaceutical benefits, yet it does not know even the diseases for which the drugs are being prescribed. I am not imputing dishonesty to any one, but I do say that when the Government disburses public moneys in such large amounts it should know in greater detail how the money is being spent, and on what it is being spent.
Continuing with the failings of the national health scheme, the National Heart Foundation is seeking £1,000,000, yet the Commonwealth Government has made no contribution. It was left to private individuals to initiate this form of research into the greatest killer of all. The Government has done nothing in the field of rheumatism, which is the greatest crippler. The Government devotes only £210,000 to the National Health and Medical Research Council, yet it is prepared to spend £500,000 in an attempt to eradicate ticks in New South Wales.
– How much did the Chifley Government provide?
– The Chifley Government spent proportionately more than the present Government is spending. In addition to facing up to its responsibility for health, it had to transfer 1,000,000 men and women from war-time occupations to peace-time occupations, and it did so much more efficiently than the present Government would have been likely to do. Honorable senators opposite would not have given due consideration to the needs of the men and women who served us during the war, whether in the Services or in industry. If this Government had been in power, those people would have been treated in just the same way as were the people who were engaged in the First World War. The Chifley Labour Government was prepared to devote money to ensure a smooth transfer to peace-time occupations and, by its policy, limited in some measure the difficulties that arose.
Honorable senators opposite should not forget that in some parts of their national health scheme they are only carrying out ideas that were advanced originally by the Chifley Government. I refer, for instance, to the anti-tuberculosis campaign. They should not content themselves by claiming now, when our economy is expanding, after we have had a run of ten good seasons, and when revenue is practically unlimited, that this Government is spending more on a particular facet of activity in connexion with national health than did the Chifley Labour Government.
– Of course we are spending more.
– -There should be a sense of proportion in these matters. We must have regard to the responsibilities faced by any government and also to its revenues. Surely every one in this chamber is intelligent enough to realise that the actions of any government are determined almost entirely by the circumstances of the time, the revenues available to it, and the demands on it that have to be met.
– The doctors would not work with Labour.
– They were always very happy to do so when I was a senior surgeon at a public hospital.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I am strongly of the opinion that this move by Senator Tangney has a little, if not a lot, to do with the La Trobe byelection. I have heard both the speeches that have been made by Opposition senators this afternoon, and I do not think that either of them contained anything really constructive. They have not brought forward any ideas from the Labour point of view.
– They have not got any.
– You would not expect them to have any. I should have thought that Senator Dittmer would have come forward with one or two ideas of a constructive nature that might have helped the Government. Senator Dittmer is interjecting now. He had his opportunity to speak and he should listen to me now, because I wish to say something constructive. I should have thought that Senator Tangney, who comes from Western Australia, would have brought forward something constructive, but she did not.
I believe that the Government, of which I am proud to be a supporter, is to be congratulated on its national health scheme. The socialists always want to have everything free of charge. If they ever come into power again, there is no doubt that they will socialize doctors and medicine.
– That is not possible under the Constitution.
– They would do it if they could. They made one attempt, and they would try again if they had the opportunity. The proposal to charge 5s. for a prescription was opposed by the Opposition, “but it is necessary for the Government to consider the rapidly rising cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The cost rose from, I think £7,200,000 in 1952 to £21,000,000 last year. The cost this year is estimated at £25,000,000. We have to -consider these costs and the reasons for the increase. One reason is that doctors prescribe drugs that are on the free list, and which cost say, £1 or £1 10s., in preference to other drugs which may cost 6s., 7s. or 8s. The doctor, in the interests of his patient, naturally, prescribes the dearer medicine. We have a responsibility, not only to the person who wants medicine, but also to the taxpayers of this country. I think Senator Tangney cited figures to show that if a person on the basic wage paid £8 to a benefit fund, his tax deduction on that £8 was £1, so that he really paid £7. She said that a person with an income of from £5,000 to £10,000 who paid £8 to a benefit fund would have an income tax deduction of, I think, £4 12s. He would then have paid only £2 8s.
– No, £3 8s.
– That is right. I concede the point. You were talking so quickly that I could not write the amount down accurately. But having conceded you that point, I think you must remember that the total amount that will be received by the Government from this charge of 5s. per prescription will be in the vicinity, I think you said, of £5,000,000.
– I believe that it will be a little more than that. Therefore, the persons on the basic wage receive an advantage to the extent of £5,000,000, but there is a deficiency of £20,000,000 to which the persons on the high incomes have to contribute. Senator Tangney stated that a person who has a taxable income of £10,000 a year pays income tax at the rate of 13s. 4d. in the £1. Incidentally, that figure is incorrect; I think the rate is 12s. 8d. in the £1.
– I did not quote a figure.
– However, that is near enough. I only mention it in passing because this Government is always eager to reduce income tax. In the last Budget, income tax was reduced by 5 per cent., so the maximum rate fell from 13s. 4d. to 12s. 8d. in the £1. Therefore, the person who has a taxable income of £10,000 a year contributes, by paying tax at the rate of 12s. 8d. in the £1, towards the deficiency of £20,000,000. Persons in receipt of the basic wage contribute very little indeed.
– They have very little to contribute.
– I am not complaining about it. I merely say that as there are two sides to the story we have to look at both of them. Senator Tangney referred to one side, and on behalf of the Government 1 have referred to the other side. That is fair enough, I suppose you will say, so we do not want to hear any more about that in the future. What I have said applies equally to persons who have a taxable income of £7,500 a year, but I do not think that we need go any further into that. I believe that the Government has a responsibility to the taxpayers of this country, as well as to look after sick people by means of hospital and pharmaceutical benefits.
– They are taxpayers, too.
– Yes. Mr. President I want to say that I support this scheme, because the Government’s policy has been that a charge should be imposed on people who want to receive hospital and pharmaceutical benefits. I support the Government’s policy because I think that a small charge stops waste in the community. I think honorable senators will agree with my view that when anything is free it tends to be abused. We are making this charge so that the scheme will not be abused. I mentioned before that a doctor, when prescribing, looks after his patient. A doctor may give his patient an expensive prescription, costing 25s., when a cheap prescription, costing 7s. or 8s., would do the same thing. This adds to the cost of the scheme to the community. I believe that the imposition of this small charge will obviate that additional cost.
As we know, the charge for treatment in hospital in some States is being increased from 36s. a day to £3 a day. I understand that this is the charge that is now made in Victoria. South Australia and Tasmania, while in Western Australia the old rate of 36s. a day still applies. In Queensland, of course, hospital treatment is free. Let us assume that the rate will be increased to 60s. a day in all States. A subscriber previously paying the maximum contribution to a hospital fund will have to pay only an extra 6d. a week to be fully covered for both the government contribution and the hospital fund contribution. In fact, in Victoria, where the charge has risen from 36s. to 60s. a day, the State Government has recognized the desirability of encouraging persons to insure against hospital charges by joining a fund. A patient who is uninsured pays 60s. a day, while the insured patient pays 56s. a day and the State pays the remainder. It costs a family man 3 s. a week in subscriptions, and an individual ls. 6d. a week. I doubt whether there is any increase in his commitments to the hospital benefit fund to obtain these benefits.
In the few minutes that remain to me, I should like to compare what we are doing in Australia with what is happening in America. In our country, a person, by contributing 3s. or 4s. a week to a fund, is entitled to receive from the fund and from the Government the total amount of and in some cases more than, the cost of his hospital treatment. In America, hospital treatment costs a patient up to 39 dollars a day, the equivalent of £14 or £15 Australian. In America, the government does not subscribe any money at all towards hospital charges; the whole of the charge is borne by the patient. If he so desires, he may contribute to a voluntary hospital fund. But he subscribes a far greater amount for the necessary cover for hospital expenses than a person in Australia. There is no government contribution at all in America. So perhaps it is just as well that we are living in Australia. For a weekly contribution of 3s. or 4s., a family man in Australia, and his wife and children, are covered against hospital charges, and they may obtain free hospital treatment at public hospitals. An increase from 36s. a day to 60s. a day will cost the family man at the most an increase of 6d. a week in his contributions if he lives outside Victoria and probably nothing if he lives in Victoria. Sixpence a week for 52 weeks amounts to the small sum of 26s.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I join in this discussion on the motion that has been proposed by Senator Tangney as a matter of urgency because I believe that this matter of hospital attention is an urgent one. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has said that before long the Government’s hospital scheme will cost the people of Australia about £30,000,000 a year. We have read in the newspapers recently that hospital fees are to be increased. So this is a matter that should be carefully considered by Parliament and not dealt with in the flippant manner adopted by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who represents the Minister for Health in this chamber.
As far as hospital benefits are concerned, I do not think it matters whether a byelection is to be held in Hunter or La Trobe. The question of hospital benefits is a matter that affects the people and it should be debated quite seriously. If the attitude adopted by the Minister in reply to Senator Tangney swings votes away from the Government candidate in La Trobe, that is all right with me. Senator Dittmer stated that the problem of hospital benefits has been present since about 1952 - since Sir Earle Page, as Minister for Health, destroyed the system that was in operation at that time and endeavoured to compel hospitals in the various States to agree to his new proposition.
Mr. President and honorable senators, the problem of hospital treatment existed long before 1 952. The question of providing for illness and hospital treatment has engaged the attention of the community for many years and many schemes have been devised with a view to protecting the individual in time of illness. Hence the growth of friendly societies. Friendly societies have been a feature of the Australian way of life almost since the first settlement of this country. People have endeavoured to provide means for meeting the cost of illness. The Labour Party believes that people should bear their share of the cost of hospital attention according to their means. That means that hospital attention should be financed out of general revenue and those who can afford to pay should do so, whereas the unfortunate persons who are unable to nav for hospital attention should receive it free.
I am afraid (hat the steady increase in hospital charges will have a bad effect on the vast numbers of people who year in and year out contribute towards the upkeep of hospitals and medical research. Imagine the feelings of those people who answer the various appeals of hospitals for financial assistance when they learn that in Victoria patients in private wards will now pay up to £40 a week. Last year I had to seek medical attention. I know what I had to pay for that attention. It is not just a matter of paying your hospital bill. In addition payments of ten guineas have to be made for this and fifteen guineas for that. How are even members of Parliament, with the high salaries that we are supposed to receive, to afford hospital beds at £40 a week? As for claiming medical expenses as an income tax deduction, I understand that the maximum that may be claimed by a taxpayer in any one year in respect of medical expenses, hospital expenses, chemists’ expenses, dental expenses, and optometrists’ expenses incurred by himself, his wife or his dependent children is £150. This is not a matter to be dealt with lightly with talk of socialization.
I was interested to note that the latest Budget brought down in Great Britain provides £583,000,000 for the national health service under which Britons get almost free medical and hospital treatment. Britain was said to be down and out and povertystricken only a few years ago, but it is able to provide that vast amount of money in order to give its people free hospital attention. Fancy trying to get migrants to come to this country from Britain when conditions here are so different! In Australia charges for hospital beds in public wards are to rise by 24s. a day to 60s. a day as from 1st May. Charges in public wards will rise from twelve guineas to twenty-one guineas a week. Charges for beds in intermediate wards will rise from eighteen guineas to twenty-five guineas a week. At the moment charges in respect of private wards range from twenty-five guineas to forty guineas a week and they are to be increased correspondingly. These facts do not constitute the sort of propaganda with which one could induce people in Great Britain, with guaranteed free medical and hospital attention, to migrate to this country.
Hospitals and hospital costs demand investigation. Why are these charges necessary? What is happening to the £30.000,000 that is being spent on the hospital scheme by this Government, not to mention the millions of pounds spent on hospitals by the State governments and the vast sums contributed by charitable people for this purpose year in and year out? What about the voluntary work done by many people, which saves the hospitals money? Have honorable senators thought of the army of women auxiliaries which attends to the linen requirements and other needs of hospitals?
Have honorable senators opposite thought of the thousands of pounds that are raised annually for the purpose of supplying hospitals with equipment without charge to them? I have played some little part in that connexion. I have served on committees which have endeavoured to raise funds for hospitals. Tn my own town, between £2,000 and £3,000 has been raised to provide amenities for the hospitals. In Victoria, £1,250,000 has been raised for cancer research. That money did not come from the big people who would be entitled to claim a substantial rebate of income tax. I happen to be the chairman of the appeal in my town, and I know of the small amounts that have come from workers who possibly could ill afford to contribute, but who have done so in order that a fund for research might be accumulated. As Senator Dittmer has said, we are appealing to the general community for an additional £1,000,000 in order to promote the investigation of the causes of heart disease. These things are going on around us. Costs are rising day by day to such a degree that it is almost impossible to anticipate them. Yet, we have this imposition of a 5s. fee for each prescription that the doctors supply. Because the quantities of drugs that the doctors may prescribe have been reduced, patients are obliged to visit their doctors more frequently, and in some cases the doctors are able to charge the Government for two or more consultations. Therefore, what the Government is saving on the swings it is losing on the roundabouts.
This important matter has been taken lightly by honorable senators opposite. They have made little quips about socialists and have referred to by-elections, and so on. Surely, the health of the people is a national problem. The supporters of the Government should insist that a matter of this kind be dealt with in a proper manner. We in Victoria thought that when the Tattersalls people transferred their activities to Victoria from Tasmania our hospital problems would be solved. At least, it was suggested that they would be partly solved. Although we derive a fair amount of money from the activities of Tattersalls in Victoria, and we receive other funds from bookmakers and sporting bodies, we are a long way from being on the right side of the ledger. I suggest that if this trend of rising hospital and medical charges continues, those who subscribe to voluntary funds probably will take another look at their position. Already, the Melbourne Lord Mayor’s appeal for charities is below the quota set for this year, which is an indication of what is happening.
In my opinion, this matter needs to be treated very seriously indeed. There should be a full-scale investigation of health matters. If the doctors have been overprescribing and overcharging, does that not indicate how fortunate it was that the Government did not sell the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, particularly in view of the prices that we are required to pay for proprietary line drugs these days? As honorable senators know, old-fashioned dispensing is disappearing. To-day, most drugs are sold as proprietary lines by drug monopolies. Should not the activities of those monopolies be looked at? Since we are paying such a large bill for drugs, why should we not see whether we are being exploited? This is a big question and one that deserves the earnest consideration of all of us.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– This afternoon honorable senators opposite have discussed almost the whole of the ramifications of the health policy of the Commonwealth Government. We have been led back to the days of Sir Earle Page, a former Minister for Health, and we have heard of a lot of the sins of omission and commission of Commonwealth governments of 20 or 30 years ago. Like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), I am particularly interested in the last portion of Senator Tangney’s intimation to us that she wished to raise a matter of public importance. I refer to the words, “ Particularly through increased charges for accommodation, treatment and medicines in public hospitals “. I submit, Mr. President, that nothing has been said during the course of this debate to support the contention that the blame for the increased hospital charges which have been imposed in most States should be laid at the door of the Commonwealth Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
The terms of the matter of public importance we are discussing indicate that this debate has been launched in an attempt to blame the Commonwealth Government for increased hospital charges because it has imposed a 5s. prescription fee. Honorable senators opposite seem to have forgotten that there are now three times as many drugs on the free list as there were when no charge was levied. The position is that, in the main, hospital charges were increased before the States knew exactly what they Would get from the new scheme instituted by the Commonwealth Government during the last Budget session. The Commonwealth Government paid originally 50 per cent, of the drug bill of each State, and it still pays 50 per cent, of that bill under the new scheme. In addition, however, the contribution for dispensing, which was 7£ per cent, under the old scheme, has been increased to 20 per cent. If we take the position by and large, the States are much better off under the new scheme than they were under the old one. It is perfectly obvious, therefore, that the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for increased hospital charges must fall to the ground.
When we remember that admission to the public wards of Queensland hospitals is free, and that in all other States there have been drastic increases in hospital charges, surely we must agree that the States have a free hand in this matter and that many of the speeches we have heard here this afternoon would have been more properly addressed to State Parliaments. As we know, a Premiers’ Conference was held in Canberra last year. At that conference, the whole range of State expenditures was discussed, and the position was reviewed by the Premiers of the States and the representatives of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government brought forward a formula which was accepted unanimously by all the State governments. It was to operate for six years. In my opinion, the States were not wise in accepting it because I believe it will make uniform taxation a permanent feature of the taxation set-up in the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, the States accepted it unanimously and it will operate for six years. Included in it was the liability of the State governments in relation to hospital treatment.
It seems to me that any suggestion that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for the increases in hospital charges has no foundation whatever. When they were increased, the States did not know what they were going to get out of the new scheme or what their position would be under it. The increases were imposed because of the factors that lie right outside the realm of the Commonwealth Parliament. The States have a free hand in this matter. It appears that we will always have uniform taxation with us, and it is regrettable that while the Commonwealth has the responsibility for collecting most of the national revenue and handing it to the States, the Commonwealth Government will always be blamed, for political purposes, for the maladministration of the States and any economic ills that beset the State governments. That has been the experience ever since uniform taxation was introduced although the economic ills for which the Commonwealth is blamed are the result of circumstances over which this Parliament has no control. The attempt to foist the blame in this case on the Commonwealth Government again has been launched for political purposes. Reference has been made in the Senate to-day to the increasing cost of the national health scheme. I believe Senator Tangney put it as high as £30,000,000.
– That was the estimate of the Minister for Health.
– The cost originally was about £7,000,000. Now, it is about £21,000,000, and the Government thought that something should be done to stabilize the position. I believe it is a fact that under the earlier scheme, the list of free drugs was so limited that medical practitioners were tempted to prescribe drugs that were on the free list even though they were the most expensive. To overcome that position, the range of free drugs has been trebled, and a prescription fee of 5s. has been imposed. There is a precedent for this, and it is remarkable that the precedent was adopted by Labour governments in two other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I remember clearly that during the régime of the Labour Government in the United Kingdom, the cost of free medical services got so out of hand that the Labour Government was compelled to impose a fee for an attendance by a doctor.
– The fee was ls.
– Whatever it was, the fee was necessary, and when it was imposed, Mr. Aneurin Bevan resigned from the British Cabinet. I have referred previously to the experience in New Zealand, and it is worth repeating in this context because it is an example of what can happen when a country goes the whole hog with free social services and does not act with discretion. In the last New Zealand Budget. 57 per cent of the total revenue was allocated for expenditure on social services. The position is so dangerous that even the Labour Government in New Zealand is alarmed.
– This is the new age; the age of the common man.
– Then it is an age which will sink New Zealand economically unless something is done about it. It has been said that taxation in New Zealand must be so excessive to meet these demands for free services that any world-wide economic boom must pass New Zealand by. New Zealand is reaching a position of stagnation because of the terrific taxation that is necessary so that 57 per cent, of the total revenue can be lavished on free social services.
– Why did not the National Government in New Zealand do something about it while it was in office?
– One bad feature of these free services is that once the people become accustomed to having them, it becomes almost impossible politically to remove them. I admit that the National Government in New Zealand was not game to abolish this or that service because, with 57 per cent, of the total revenue going into free social services, it had left only 43 per cent, of the revenue upon which it could concentrate if it wanted to reduce taxes. However, the free medicine bill in New Zealand in the current year will be about ?6,441,000, an increase of ?1,329,000 over last year and ?911,000 more than the estimates. The New Zealand Government was so alarmed at the position that it called together the organization which administers the scheme to see what could be done about it. with particular reference to the irresponsible medical practitioners who prescribed expensive drugs because they were free.
The Australian Government anticipated that position. It took stock of the continual increase in the cost of free drugs and realized that something must be done before the situation got out of hand. I give this Government full credit for taking its courage in its hands and imposing the prescription fee. I believe the Government’s proposal is beneficial because there are three times as many drugs on the free list as there were previously, and the attempt that has been made in this chamber to-day to pin the blame for anything that has happened in the States on to the Commonwealth Government in this connexion has no foundation in substance.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Tangney. At the outset, I point out that I plead guilty to the charge of following the socialist philosophy if the advocacy of a medical benefits scheme that removes from either the individual or the family the financial burden of illness is part of the socialist philosophy. If it is socialist philosophy it is certainly also humanitarian philosophy.
If honorable senators opposite are not prepared to go to the extent of completely relieving those who are unfortunate enough to become ill of the financial burden then at least they should be prepared to agree that the charges levied should be the absolute minimum. After all, I believe that is the real crux of Senator Tangney’s case. I do not think any one on this side really believes that the present Government would go so far as to abolish charges for hospital treatment throughout Australia but I submit that the Government should agree that if there is any racketeering anywhere along the line in connexion with charges for either hospital treatment or medicines, a government, irrespective of its political colour, should do everything possible to eradicate it.
Senator Lillico was asked by way of interjection, why the tory Government of New Zealand did not abolish the medical scheme if the cost of the scheme to the New
Zealand people was so heavy. He replied that it would be political suicide for a government to attempt to take from the people the benefit of a free health scheme once it had been granted to them. 1 agree with him. But I do think that Senator Lillico put his finger on the real point. Previous speakers had stated that all legislation introduced by anti-Labour governments was prompted by political expediency. That has been admitted in various ways by many honorable senators on the Government side during debates on other matters. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said on one occasion that this Government had nothing to learn from honorable senators on this side and that honorable senators on the Government side were playing the game of politics for keeps. In other words, he was admitting that this Government would introduce only such amending legislation as was calculated to keep it in office. Certainly the legislation introduced by the present Government with respect to the matters under discussion would seem to be dictated by political expediency. Whatever benefits have been granted have been provided because members of the Liberal and Country Parties realize that in this day and age no government can expect to continue in office if it neglects to make some show of granting the people certain social benefits. By the same token, I should say that it is equally true to suggest that in this day and age it would be impossible, for economic reasons, for any government to neglect to make some attempt at transferring something from the pockets of the wealthy to the pockets of those who have no wealth, or to neglect to endeavour to strike some balance in the wealth of the community by transferring some of it from those who have a lot to those who have little. Honorable senators opposite realize that if they do not attempt to do this, the whole economic structure of capitalism must fail for, if no balance is struck, capitalism would be opposed not by a Labour government but by a totalitarian government, whether it be from the right or the left.
In all the circumstances, I suggest that the only approach the parties opposite can make towards social legislation whether it be with relation to health, medicine, or anything else, is to evolve a scheme that will provide no more than will ensure that it will attract enough votes to keep them in office. I mention this matter because honorable senators opposite have spent about 90 per cent, of their time during this debate in attacking the philosophy of the Labour Party and in suggesting that we are concerned only with obtaining support for the Labour candidate at the forthcoming La Trobe by-election. AH I can say in reply to that charge is that if the Government was not afraid that the people were becoming doubtful about the present health and medical benefits scheme there would be no cause to fear any attempt by the Labour Party now to win votes at the by-election.
Reverting to the matter under consideration, I do not think anybody would object to any improvement in the present scheme if the sole purpose of the improvement was to give the people of Australia value for their money, whether it be the charge of 5s. for each prescription or the amounts they are compelled to pay to approved friendly societies or the amount they pay over and above that which they receive from either the Government or the friendly societies. By and large, I do not know whether it is possible to ascertain just what the overall cost to the Australian people is. It cannot be denied that the money paid by the Government by way of subsidies for hospital benefits comes from the taxpayer just as does the money which the people are compelled to pay to the various benefit societies before they become entitled to the Government subsidy. The position is that the total cost of hospital benefits schemes is met by the people by way of taxation imposed in, two ways. Under the present system, the people are blackmailed into paying the societies before they may receive any return from tax moneys which they paid in the first instance.
After the way in which the word socialism has been bandied this afternoon, I am almost afraid to submit the proposal I have in mind. Nevertheless, I submit that every one must agree that if the same amount of money that is now being extracted from the people of Australia by way of taxes and fees to approved medical benefits societies were extracted from them in the one sum by way of direct taxation the Government would recoup in one fell swoop the total cost of granting free hospital and medical benefits. In other words, the contributions made by a family to hospital and medical benefits funds could be charged against the wage-earner in tax; only one line on the taxation form would be needed for the purpose. Even if the Government decided to herd the people into A, B or C group, opportunity could be given them to state on their taxation returns the group to which they wished to belong. The cost would be included in the tax they paid.
– By how much per cent, would it increase income tax?
– I say that the amount would not increase, because the Government is making the people pay for it now. Contributions to funds are now a tax, except that the people are blackmailed into paying them in a different form to these organizations. I do not know how many employees throughout Australia are engaged in book-keeping for the various organizations, nor the salaries paid to many top administrative officers, but most certainly none of the organizations is operating at an actuarial loss. This means, I submit, that all of the salaries and wages paid to these employees are paid unnecessarily by the people of Australia, and if that money were not paid the impact of hospital charges on patients would be so much lighter.
Senator Tangney mentioned an article in the “ Sunday Telegraph “ of Sunday last headed “Drug rackets cost you millions”, and beginning -
Inflated and rigged pharmaceutical prices are costing the public millions of pounds every year. This week I learned that State hospitals can buy their drugs and pharmaceutical supplies up to 1,300 per cent, cheaper than the public can obtain them.
The article contains other details in support of the headline. Even if the article is exaggerated and only half true, the costs of certain drugs are inflated by about 600 per cent. Later in the article, under the heading “ Rigged system “, the following appears: -
Here’s how the rigged price system works: In the last few weeks a Sydney manufacturing chemist offered to sell the South Australian Government prednisone tablets at 21s. 6d. a hundred.
This drug has proved four times as effective as hydrocortisone for rheumatoid arthritis. But to buy 100 of these tablets over a chemist’s counter the public would have to pay a few pence under £14.
Somebody is racketeering on the health of the people of Australia. Honorable Senators opposite are fearful of the word socialism, but to prefer racketeering to socialism does not make very much political sense. This article was mentioned earlier in the debate. If honorable senators opposite thought it was a figment of the correspondent’s imagination, that was one question they could have attempted to answer without bringing in the La Trobe by-election and charging the Australian Labour Party with trying to promote its socialist doctrine. I believe the article is true not only because it gives details of certain prices but also because a number of questions have been asked in another place about anomalies associated with prices charged by chemists. Many instances have been cited where it cost more to purchase drugs under the present system.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise to oppose the motion. I am rather surprised that Senator Ridley, although complaining that 90 per cent, of the time of the debate had been occupied, particularly by senators on this side of the chamber, in political argument, engaged in a very discursive talk on capitalism and socialism. At the outset, I should like to say that I am very concerned with the care of the sick and I believe that Senator Tangney shares that concern. But this afternoon she was not nearly as objective in her approach to this subject as she usually is. In the first place, she sought to submit an argument that the charge of 5s. imposed under the recent Pharmaceutical Benefits Act would have an effect on State government finances and that it was the cause of the increase in hospital charges in some States. Just before the suspension of the sitting, Senator Lillico dealt very effectively with that argument. He showed that the decision to increase hospital charges had been made after the various State Ministers for Health had entered into an agreement and that it had no relationship whatsoever to the 5s. prescription fee.
Senator Tangney also said that State governments or hospitals would find difficulty in collecting the 5s., but I should like to remind her that those hospitals under the previous scheme had to decide whether they would pass on to the patient that portion of the cost of the drugs that was not met by the Commonwealth Government. As all honorable senators know, under the original scheme the Commonwealth Government paid the full cost of all drugs that were pharmaceutical benefits but only approximately half of the drug bill, plus a dispensing fee of 7i per cent., which left the remainder of the drugs to be paid for by the hospitals. The hospitals in turn had to make a decision on whether they would obtain reimbursement from the patient or absorb the charge themselves. Therefore, in my opinion, Senator Tangney’s second argument does not apply at all. As a matter of fact, as some senators have said, the hospitals will be in a better position in the future than that in which they were in the past, because they will receive not only half of the total cost of the drugs - the same proportion as they received before - but also the benefit of an additional 12£ per cent, dispensing fee. They must be better off.
There was also a suggestion that there should be an investigation of hospitals. If hospitals were investigated, I should say that there would be very strong opposition from the States, because public hospitals are under their control and they believe that anything concerning them is purely a State function. I agree with Senator Lillico that the whole of this discussion might have been in order if it had been in a State Parliament but that it is decidedly out of order in this place. Overall, the recent act confers great benefit on all sick people, because it extends from 240 to over 500 the number of drugs that people may receive as pharmaceutical benefits.
Now I should like to come to the question of health generally, in regard to which, I felt, my very good friend Senator Tangney, with whom I agree on many occasions, became even more confused. I wrote down what she said. Speaking of the record of the Menzies Government, she said, in the first place, that the Menzies Government had failed the country by not doing anything in the field of preventive medicine; secondly, that it had done a great deal; and, thirdly, that it had not done as much as it should have done. I believe that in her second point Senator Tangney was right. The Menzies Government has done a great deal. In fact, it has a magnificent record. It has provided for Australia the best national health scheme in the world.
I am sure that had the Labour Party thought a little, it would never have precipitated this debate in the Senate.
– I said that I gave the Government credit for what it had done.
– The honorable senator criticized the Menzies Government. If she does not mind, I should like to take just a few minutes to tell the Senate what the Labour Government did when it had the opportunity. As we all know, in 1944 the Chifley Government passed a pharmaceutical benefits act that was later declared to be invalid by the High Court. In 1946 the Constitution was amended, and in 1947 the Labour Government introduced another pharmaceutical benefits bill. Senator Henty dealt with that aspect of the matter. He told us that the scheme never worked. It did not work, for the reason that the doctors objected to the restricted formulary. Only about 100 of them participated in the scheme, and it was a failure. If my memory serves me aright, that bill was forced through the Parliament with little debate.
Later on the Chifley Government proceeded to introduce a national health bill. We have heard a lot about discrimination, conscription, compulsion and coercion. 1 wrote those words down while honorable senators opposite were speaking. If ever those principles were enshrined in any act of Parliament, they were enshrined in the 1948 Chifley legislation. Honorable senators will remember that in that act the Government insisted that doctors entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth to confine themselves entirely to practice under the Government’s scheme before their patients could obtain any benefits at all. In other words, the Chifley Government said to the doctors, “ If you do not come in under our scheme, we will not give the patients any benefit at all “. Honorable senators opposite should not talk about compulsion and coercion by this Government when that provision was contained in an act passed by a Labour government. In that act, the government of the day offered to pay half of the doctors’ fees. Under the Menzies health scheme, a sick person is infinitely better off than he would ever have been under the projected Chifley-McKenna scheme. Apparently the Chifley Government did not think that it had employed enough coercion up to that time, because honorable senators will recall that in 1949 it amended the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act so that a doctor had to write his prescription on a government form or else be liable to a penalty of £50. What happened? The doctors appealed to the High Court, with the result that the second Labour act was declared to be invalid. That, briefly, is the history of the health schemes put forward by a Labour government.
– They did not work.
– They did not work. Two acts were declared invalid because they were based on coercion and compulsion as far as the individual was concerned.
– People’s illnesses had to fall within the ambit of the formulary; otherwise they could not get the benefit of the scheme.
– That is so. By contrast, the Menzies Government has provided a scheme which has given very real benefits to all sections of the community. The Menzies Government believed that it was right to concentrate first on providing for the nutrition of children, so it began by providing school children with free milk. The scheme was then extended to give medical benefits, and later hospital benefits were added. In the overall plan the Government encouraged the voluntary support and co-operation of the people, and it has been able to provide the magnificent scheme which we now enjoy.
I should like to deal for one minute with the subject of tuberculosis, to which Senator Dittmer referred. He said that the Chifley Government had introduced the scheme for the eradication of tuberculosis. It is true that the Labour Government did decide that the eradication of tuberculosis was desirable, but at the time the Menzies Government took office not one penny had been paid to any State by the Commonwealth Government for the purpose of eradicating tuberculosis. It was the Menzies Government which, by providing allowances for sufferers from tuberculosis in 1950, commenced the first real attack on tuberculosis. We know that to-day the incidence of this dreadful disease has been reduced by 70 per cent. It is all very well to skate airily over these things and not give the present Government credit for what it has done, but it is on record. Similarly, the present Government has been able to reduce the incidence of the dreadful disease of poliomyelitis through the use of Salk vaccine.
I could go on and on. The pensioner medical scheme is well known to every one. It is something that the Menzies Government, in its wisdom, thought about and brought into being. Did we ever hear about such a scheme in the years from 1 944 to 1949? Of course we did not. The Labour Government never gave it a thought. The Menzies Government also made contributions towards capital expenditure on mental hospitals and the provision of homes for the aged. This latter move has resulted in providing for the treatment and housing of people who previously were responsible for creating great pressures on our hospitals. One could go on all along the line. I could mention many other phases of the health scheme that the present Government has so successfully carried into fruition if my time were not limited.
As I have said before, I believe that the initiation of this debate was a mistake by the Opposition. Undoubtedly honorable senators opposite intended to take this opportunity to influence the electors in the La Trobe by-election, but instead of influencing those electors against the Menzies Government, I am sure that the debate will have the effect of strengthening their belief in a government that has done so much for the people of Australia. Instead of reducing the chances of our candidate on Saturday, I believe that this debate will enhance them.
– I note from the remarks of Senator Ridley and Senator Wedgwood that this debate has taken on a high political tone. The Government is continually inviting the Opposition to co-operate with it on things that are of a non-political character and to make a national approach to them. If ever there was a subject to which we should make a national approach, and in respect of which we should drop politics and go forward together, it is the subject of national health, but as soon as we treat the subject in that way we hear long dissertations from honorable senators opposite about what a Labour government did away back in 1946 and what this Government is doing to-day. Somebody said once that if you quote the Bible, you should at least quote it correctly.
I do not want to chase all the rabbits that have been started this afternoon, but as mention was made of the anti-tuberculosis campaign having been started by this Government, I would remind honorable senators opposite that it was this Government which recommended a knighthood to Sir Harry Wunderly for the magnificent work that he did arranging the organization of the anti-tuberculosis campaign in Australia. Dr. Wunderly, now Sir Harry Wunderly, was appointed by a Labour government.
The national health scheme must be the concept of some government, and surely, if we look at the matter objectively, we see that it was the concept of a Labour government, although it is true that that Labour Government did not get the scheme going in the way in which this Government has got it going. It is said that in those days we were trying to compel the doctors to use a special form for writing prescriptions and that they refused to do so. This Government insists on prescriptions being written by the doctors in duplicate. Although they can write their prescriptions on whatever pieces of paper they please, surely the fact that they are compelled to write the prescriptions in duplicate is a form of compulsion. I should mention that the Government provides prescription books for the doctors.
Doctors follow a tradition of rendering service to the people. When they saw a scheme about to be thrust upon them, they baulked. I am referring to the Labour scheme. When the doctors baulked, they received greater support from the antiLabour parties than any other set of people had ever received in Australia. In 1948 the members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party could not see anything good in anything that the Labour Government did. They went on a baker’s holiday, so to speak, and hit at everything they could. They tore down men greater than themselves. They tore down schemes greater than any that they have had the courage to put up since. They opposed everything.
– They abused the public servants.
– They even abused the Public Service and said that there were too many public servants, but since then many thousands more have been employed. It did not matter what Labour put forward in those days; the members of the antiLabour parties opposed it.
The whole mess-up of this scheme to-day is due to the fact that the former Minister for Health, Sir Earle Page, introduced it under regulations, instead of by act of Parliament. Finally, when the bill came before the Senate it merely embraced all the regulations he had got away with for so long. Nobody knew better than Sir Earle Page - he was not exactly a spring chicken then - what it was for. If that had happened in certain places on a Saturday afternoon the men responsible would have been run off the course for practising a confidence trick. The subject was never put before this Parliament in the way that it should have been. If honorable senators like to look back over the clippings of those days they will find that it was not a government scheme at all. What Sir Earle Page did in his own peculiar way was to make an announcement. The details were leaked out to the press as this procedure is known in Cabinet circles and the moment the doctors and chemists complained about it, he withdrew the scheme. Finally, it was not a Page scheme. The British Medical Association and the pharmaceutical chemists of Australia came together. The Government ran before the wind when the scheme was put before it. I am sorry, Mr. Deputy President, that I have followed the rabbits so far. I would have preferred to look where we were going on this matter and to make suggestions as to what the Government could do.
The weakness of this scheme, as I see It, is that it does not protect the people that the Government should set out to protect. It does not protect sick people who have long illnesses. The Government compels people to join a society before they can get benefits, but it does not protect the people I have mentioned. The scheme does not protect careless people. If a bad husband does not insure his family, the Government does not protect them.
– What about the people who cannot afford to join a society?
– There are those persons, too. I have in mind also people who have been members of a society over a long period of time but who, through misfortunes in the family, reach the stage where they cannot pay their fees any longer. Persons in this category are then left completely unprotected. The Government should aim to protect these people. Neither this Government nor any other government will get anywhere under a scheme whereby one pays a guinea to a doctor, gets a bill for the service, subsequently receives another bill showing the amount against the entry, “ Account rendered “ - I know from my own experience about “ Account rendered “ - and receives 5s. or 6s. ultimately. It costs the community a lot of money to refund a few shillings to a person who has paid an account. I do not think that the Government will get anywhere in this matter until it adopts a simple approach and says to young married men, “ The day you married you knew that sooner or later sickness would cost you something. We are not interested in the first few pounds you pay by way of medical expenses, but we will step in when illness begins to cost a large amount of money, because the Government is interested in protecting a man and his family “. That would be simplicity itself. The .person concerned would bear responsibility for the first £8, £10 or £12 of the cost of an illness. If he wanted to join a friendly society to protect himself, that would be his business. Do, if you wish, as Senator Ridley suggested, and impose another tax on him. He pays the tax when he joins a society. The cost of administering the present scheme has grown to colossal proportions. If the Government were to check with the Treasury officials who, goodness knows, are conservative enough, it would find that the adoption of this suggestion would result in a saving of a high percentage of the cost. But the principal thing is that the family would be protected at the stage when it needed protection. Nobody wants to have to run around and fill in forms to obtain a refund of 15s. out of a guinea paid to a doctor. The whole trouble is that undue emphasis is placed on money. Of course, it is important, from the psychological point of view, to a person who is lying in hospital for a long period of time worrying about the fact that his bill is getting completely away from him.
Senator Wedgwood said that she is concerned about this aspect of the matter. I do not suppose that there is a person in any walk of life in Australia who is not concerned about it. The hop, .Table senator does not seem to be worried about the fact that every twelve months the whole of the attention of this Parliament is directed to seeing that the doctors and the chemists are getting paid. The Government is not doing one thing to help people in the categories I have mentioned. I am not saying that science is not progressing, but the Government itself is not going forward in the field of research, to achieve a quicker turn-round as it were, in hospitals. One shudders when he looks at some of the hospitals in Australia after inspecting some overseas hospitals. Under the present scheme, many people are bewildered; they do not know where they are going with it.
Every now and again there are increases in hospital charges such as the increases that have occurred in the last few weeks. Whether or not that is being done deliberately, at least that is the general approach. Last year, when the Budget was introduced, Mr. Harold Holt - I nearly called him Sir Harold - explained - and everybody in the Parliament and outside it understood him to say this - that a charge of 5s. would be made in respect of every prescription but that doctors would be able to range over the whole British Pharmacopoeia. That is to say they no longer would be restricted as to drugs. That sounded a fair enough proposition. If we were a bit chary about it we were lulled into a false sense of security. After all, in the past when you put a man before a doctor very often the doctor, knowing that the man could not afford very much, did “not prescribe fully in order to save the man’s pocket. We thought you were doing away with that kind of thing, but what have you done? Comparing the new book with the old book the present scheme seems to be nothing more than a confidence trick. In many instances you have raised the cost of drugs that may be prescribed by a doctor to just over 5s. Chemists have told me that people who obtain largerthannecessary supplies of drugs will be running grave risks. For instance, if insulin is not used within a prescribed time it could be dangerous. The drug, if kept for any length of time, could waste away and be useless for the treatment of disease. A perusal of the book will show that many prescriptions are to cost 6s., 6s. Id. or 6s. 2d. That means that the chemist will take 5s. from the customer and then make a claim on the Government for ls., ls. Id. or ls. 2d. The Government seems interested only in chasing around after ls. or 2s. It would1 be interesting to have an economist look into the costs of this scheme, and the effect of time lost not only by the chemists but also by public servants and private business. We would then see the falsity of the scheme.
The only good thing about the scheme is that it has improved the position of pensioners, whose prescriptions will be dispensed free of charge. The scheme was completely bad from the start and quite obviously the expense of running it is worrying the Government, forcing it to find some way of putting a charge on the individual. Earlier in the debate Senator Wedgwood criticized Labour’s scheme, saying that under it people would have had to pay half the cost of medical expenses. That does not fit in with my idea of a good scheme. But fiddling around with 5s. and 6s. is not even paying half the cost of medical expenses. If a doctor charges 17s. 6d. for a consultation the Government contributes 6s. and the only way that a patient may obtain the rest of that cost is, as Senator Ridley has said, by paying a special tax. Criticism has been levelled at the Labour Party for offering to pay only half the doctor’s fees. I admit that that was not a good type of scheme. A worthwhile scheme must protect the individual against that which he fears most - the cost of a long illness. The Government’s scheme does not do that. When a man goes into hospital for longer than 84 days he faces the worry that the Labour Party set out to remove so many years ago.
I am sorry that we could not have had a more objective debate on this matter, facing the problem as it should be faced. I have no doubt that this charge of 5s. represents only the foot in the door. The charge will soon rise above 5s. The Government will be faced with increased expenditure for hospital benefits and it has no guarantee that the doctors will not increase their charges.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I am not sure whether or not Senator Willesee is supporting the motion. He did not indicate that. I do not propose, however, to follow him in his flight of fancy. I do not challenge Senator Tangney’s sincerity, nor do I find it necessary to do so. I would have expected her to withdraw her motion after hearing Senator Lillico before the suspension of the sitting for dinner effectively dispose of the responsibilities in the matter as between the States and the Commonwealth and after hearing Senator Wedgwood since the resumption after dinner so completely wrap up the matter by way of comparison. However, Senator Tangney has not withdrawn her motion and it is necessary tor us, therefore, to advert to what are the facts of the matter. Whatever sins of commission or omission may be laid at the door of the present Government, neglect of the national health is certainly not one of them. In the proposal which Senator Tangney has put before the chamber we are invited to interfere strongly in a matter that is exclusively the province of the States. If Senator Tangney is fair, as she normally is, I think she will concede to me a proposition that when the present Administration came to power at the end of 1949 or early in 1950 it inherited from the Labour Administration a health scheme that was in a state of complete and absolute shambles. During Labour’s regime Senator McKenna was Minister for Health and the High Court on two occasions threw out legislation on this particular point because of its invalidity.
I propose to refer briefly to the most crucial decision - the second decision - which was given in 1949. On this occasion the legislation was thrown out by the court because it involved a principle that is so dear to the central economic planners, so dear to the hearts of the socialists - industrial conscription. I propose to quote a few lines from the headnote of the report of the High Court decision in the case of the British Medical Association versus the Commonwealth, reported in 79 Commonwealth Law Reports at page 201. In this case the full bench of the High Court was considering pharmaceutical benefits under the then Labour Government and the headnote reads -
The Pharmaceutical Benefit Act 1947-49 establishes a scheme under which members of the public are entitled on compliance with certain conditions to obtain free of charge the medicines specified in a formulary and the appliances specified in an addendum. One of the conditions of entitlement is that the medicine or appliance must be prescribed by a medical practitioner on a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth. Section 7a of the Act provides that a medical practitioner shall not write a prescription in respect of medicine in the formulary or appliances in the addendum otherwise than on a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth and imposes a penalty for non-compliance.
A penalty for non-compliance! That is the favorite weapon of the central economic planner against a man with individuality, a man who thinks for himself. Such a man must be belted into line. Let us see what the High Court says about this penalty for non-compliance. I remind honorable senators opposite, who are interjecting, that the plaintiffs in this case were the members of a trade union, a group of skilled workers who carry a reasonable margin. They were the members of the British Medical Association. They were a corporate body of men possessed of certain skill, banded together in an association - a union to which I presume Senator Dittmer belongs.
– - It is a good union.
– Let me get back to what happened to the plaintiffs in this case. The good unionists went to court relying on the powers of the Constitution to protect them from industrial conscription. The headnote from which I have been quoting states -
The plaintiffs alleged in their statement of claim that the formulary and addendum contained a large number of medicines and appliances ordinarily prescribed by medical practitioners who could not carry on the practice of their profession without prescribing such medicine and appliances.
The Chief Justice and the majority of the bench held - . . that s.7a imposed a form of civil conscription within the meaning of s.51 (xxiiiA) of the Constitution and, therefore, was invalid.
That is the kind of nonsense in the way of a health scheme that the Labour Party left to us and which we inherited when we came to power. For the Opposition to attack the Government on the subject of health is sheer folly.
Let me discuss very rapidly the Government’s health measures. The Page scheme worked well from the outset. A large quota of life-saving drugs immediately was included in the formulary. The hospital insurance scheme was evolved, for the benefit of people who do not want to rely on the Government for security from the cradle to the grave; people who believe that they have some responsibilities to themselves and their families; people who do not want to ask the Government for everything, but who want to insure in order that the back might be broken of the hardship which sickness can cause a breadwinner and his family. The scheme has turned out to be tremendously successful. If I might make one criticism of it, it is to say that it has perhaps been too successful. In 1953. the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme was £7,200,000. Last year, it shot up to £20,900,000, and this year the estimate is £25,000,000. I invite the attention of honorable senators opposite to the fact that £25,000,000 represents about 25 per cent, of the pre-war national budget.
An honorable senator opposite made a remark, during the course of this debate, with which I have very little to cavil. He said that certain drug houses have been monopolizing the release and the control of certain drugs. That being so, I expect that honorable senators opposite will be only too eager to support the monopoly control legislation which, we hope, will be before this chamber very shortly, as foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech. Leaving aside for the moment the monetary aspect, I consider that the 5s. deterrent that has been placed on the provision of free medicine in one way tends to the national good and to the benefit not only of the taxpayer but of people who get sick or, as a little extract that I have here indicates, of people who think they get sick. Tn to-day’s “ Daily Mirror “ there is a lon? article, which I shall not read in full, to the effect that Australia is becoming a nation of pill addicts. Tn the course of the article, the following very significant paragraph appears: -
In the consumption of narcotic drugs, both natural and synthetic. Australia ranks fourthamongst the nations of the world.
According to the article, the top four nations are Denmark, Sweden, Finland and then Australia. It continues -
That the free list can encourage the undue use of drugs is surely indicated in the case of pethadin. a pain-killing drug of addiction. Since the removal of pethadin from the list of pharmaceutical benefits early in 1957 the Australian consumption of this drug has fallen from the abnormally high figure of 52,15 kg. per million of population - a world record - to 23.5 kg. per million of population. In 1958 Australia dropped to seventh place in the world consumption of this drug.
I ask honorable senators to consider that point. In 1957 Australians were consuming more pethadin than the people of any other country, but by 1958, after the removal of the drug from the free list, the consumption had dropped by about 50 per cent., indicating that a lot of the illnesses for which it had been used were imaginary. The article goes on to state -
Doctors frequently have to take a strong stand. Their surgeries are crammed with men and women calling for some kind of pill to reduce the strain of modern life.
It seems that the removal of a pill from the free list was sufficient, in the instance to which I have referred, to remove at the same time 50 per cent, of the pains from which the community was suffering.
The Labour health scheme would have breached the confidence between doctor and patient. The doctor would ultimately have become a mere cipher, a mere public servant, and the personal relationship would have gone. As the High Court has pointed out, the form of industrial conscription involved in the Labour scheme would have prejudiced the legendary oath of Hippocrates which doctors are supposed to take. Because that would have been done by the Labour legislation, it may not be irrelevant for us to see where the legendary oath that I have mentioned came from. The study of modern medicine I think originated with the ancient Greeks, and in about the third century B.C. a Hippocratic corpus was formed in Alexandria. That was the first form of medical library and medical school. The books were not all written by Hippocrates, because many of them contradict one another, but at all events it was the first scientific and intelligent preparation for medical training. It did away with witchcraft and put the matter on a scientific basis.
For an insight into the ethical standards which motivated those ancient people, I point out that the oath that they took was along the following lines: -
I swear by Apollo the healer, invoking all the gods and godesses to be my witnesses, that I will fulfil this oath to the best of my ability. I will look upon him who has taught me as one of my own parents. I will share my substance with him and his offspring.
I do not notice honorable senators opposite being too keen to do that -
The regimen I adopt shall be for the benefit of the patients according to my ability and judgment and not for their hurt or for any wrong. I will give no deadly drug to any, though it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such.
Here, we find old Hippocrates striking the first blow at the modern fad of euthanasia -
Especially I will not aid a woman to procure abortion. Whatsoever house I enter there will I go for the benefit of the sick, refraining from all wrong-doing or corruption.
The oath proceeds to mention some rather unpleasant matters which I do not think it is necessary for me to read in detail. It continues -
Whatsoever things I see or hear concerning the life of men, in my attendance on the sick-
Notice the maintenance of the relationship between doctor and patient, the maintenance of privacy, and the personal nature of the contract - or even apart therefrom which ought not to be noised abroad I will keep silence thereon, counting such things to be as sacred secrets. Pure and holy will I keep my life and my art.
That is the Hippocratic oath which the Labour Party, with its legislation, was attempting to abolish.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! the honorable senator’s time has expired.
– in reply - I regret that I have not time to reply to all the arguments that have been advanced by supporters of the Government during the debate. I shall content myself by referring to the abuse that has been directed at the Labour Party’s scheme for a national health service in 1948. I have already said that we could not secure the co-operation of the British Medical Association on that occasion. I wish to refer to extracts from a letter written by Dr. Stuckey, a member of the council of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association, in which he discusses the present health scheme of the Government. The letter states that the scheme involves real restrictions on prescribing rights immediately, and considerable dangers for the future conduct of medical practice. Dr. Stuckey asks whether the medical profession has forgotten that in 1948 it won a battle with a previous government over the right to prescribe freely.
– Order! The time allowed under Standing Order No. 64 for this debate has expired.
– I move -
That the following Order of the Day, General Business, be discharged: -
Exchange of Aircraft - Agreement between the Australian National Airlines Commission (T.A.A.), Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited (A.N .A.) and Ansett Transport Industries Limited, dated 26th February, 1960. Adjourned debate on the motion that the paper be printed.
I submit the motion with the concurrence of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) for the purpose of enabling debate on the matter to proceed in another form in the near future.
– I signify my support of the proposal. If the motion is not removed from the noticepaper, it might be possible for some honorable senator to object to a motion which I understand the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) wishes to present to the Senate to-morrow as a matter of urgency. As the Government, equally with the Opposition, or even more so, welcomes the resultant debate, I concur with the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In introducing the Australian National University Bill 1960, which provides for association between the Canberra University College and the Australian National University, I should like to recall to honorable senators the history of the two institutions and to set out the considerations which, in the view of the Government, have now made association desirable.
The Canberra University College was established by ordinance in December, 1929 and classes began in 1930. The college has been nurtured by the Melbourne University, to which we are greatly indebted for the guidance it has given to the college over the years. Beginning with a limited range of courses in arts and commerce, it has now expanded into the field of science in response to the growing demands of the Canberra community and the regional area in which Canberra is situated. The first professors were appointed in 1948 and the College now has a teaching staff of the highest quality which is well equipped to provide a variety of courses for undergraduates, and also post-graduate training. The college has had to make do with temporary accommodation, but its first permanent buildings are now being erected.
The Australian National University Act which established the Australian National University was passed in 1946. I should like to pay a tribute to the Government of the day which introduced the proposals for an Australian National University, and so brought into being an institution which had been in the minds of many since the earliest days of federation. The Australian National University has developed remarkably as a major research institution covering the fields of medical science, physical sciences, social sciences and Pacific studies. Its staff includes scholars of world-wide repute. It has been more fortunate than the Canberra University College in the sense that the Australian National University now has a number of its permanent buildings.
The Australian National University Act 1946, contained clauses making it possible for the eventual inclusion in the University of the Canberra University College. Section 9 of the act reads as follows: -
The University may provide for the incorporation in the University of the Canberra University College.
This clause was more than a hint that the destinies of the two institutions lay so closely together as to make some eventual association desirable. It seems clearly to have been envisaged by many that they would in time come together, with the college principally as the under-graduate arm, and the Australian National University as the body providing post-graduate training in many fields.
A decision was inevitable as the Melbourne University, with its many pressing commitments, can now no longer continue to provide for the University College. The Government during the past year has, therefore, given the most careful and anxious consideration to the question of future arrangements. It recognizes that in recent years views have developed both in the college and in the Australian National University in favour of continued separation, with the college becoming a full and independent University. The Government accepts the force of many of the arguments for this course. Nevertheless, it has concluded that association must be preferred. If the college were developed as a separate university, it would inevitably extend more and more its activities in the post-graduate field and would, to a considerable extent, duplicate the work of the Australian National University. The Government does not believe that resources can be devoted to the development of two universities in Canberra, especially at a time when great expansion of university activity everywhere in Australia lies ahead and when second universities have become necessary in Melbourne and Sydney. In addition, we believe that there would be benefits to both institutions and to their staff and students in an association. The Government holds that a well arranged association could be achieved without detriment to the work of either institution and, I repeat, to their common advantage.
Before reaching this conclusion, the Government took counsel in many quarters. The Committee on Australian Universities, under the chairmanship of Sir Keith Murray, had looked very carefully into this matter and while not presenting a firm recommendation did make the following comment in its report -
We sympathize with both these points of view.On the other hand, we do not think that the establishment of two quite separate universities in Canberra should be lightly undertaken. It should be possible, in our view, to devise a form of constitution giving to the college all the independence in operation which both the National University and the College desire and yet making it possible for students at the College to receive degrees of the National University and for common services to be organized and maintained without unnecessary duplication. Such a constitution for a university would be a new thing in Austrafia; but there are patterns of various types in universities overseas which might well be studied and we think it should not pass the wit of man to devise constitutional arrangements which might suit the situation in Canberra in a manner which would be acceptable to all concerned.
Sir Keith Murray was later consulted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and strongly upheld the view that the two institutions should be associated. Subsequenly the Australian Universities Commission, which was constituted last year with Sir Leslie Martin as chairman, was consulted and gave as a unanimous opinion that “ some form of association is both desirable and practicable.” The Government, of course, fully consulted the representatives of the Canberra University College and the Australian National University and due weight was given to their views in favour of separation. Nevertheless, after taking fully into account all the arguments on the one side and the other, in December, 1959 the Government informed the Councils of the two bodies that in the opinion of the Government the future of the University College should be with the National University. The Government concerned itself only with general principles and left it to the university and the college to confer and prepare proposals on a suitable form of association. The Government’s only requirements were that they should be associated as one university with one governing body, with common degrees conferred by one authority and, as far as possible, a common administration. The aim was to bring into being the new association during 1960 so that it could be fully operative from the beginning of next year.
Committees representing the two institutions immediately set to work on the many details concerning the future government and the organization of the new university and the form its future academic structure would take. In approximately two months the chairmen of both councils were able to report to the Prime Minister that their institutions were in agreement upon proposals which they believed met the Government’s principles for association. The two institutions had accepted the Government’s decision with the greatest possible goodwill and were able to inform the Government that their negotiations had been conducted in a most friendly spirit. They expressed a determination to develop the new university at all levels as an academic institution of the highest quality and said that the agreement between their two institutions was so close that they hoped that the Government would find it possible to accept their joint recommendations as the basis for legislative action.
This bill seeks the agreement of Parliament to giving effect to the proposals of the Canberra University College and the Austraiian National University. It is contemplated that there will be one council and that there should be created within the university an Institute of Advanced Studies to include the existing research schools of the Australian National University and the School of General Studies to include the existing faculties of the Canberra University College. The council would be advised on all matters relating to the affairs of the institute by a Board of the Institute of Advanced Studies and on all matters relating to the affairs of the School of General Studies by a board of that school. There will be a Professorial Board which can advise the council on any matter relating to education, learning or research, or the academic work of the university.
There are one or two matters relating to the new association which 1 should comment upon. The two institutions had agreed that the primary responsibility for all matters relating to doctoral degrees, and to scholarships at that level, should lie with the board of the Institute of Advanced Studies and the primary responsibility for matters relating to masters’ and bachelors’ degrees, including scholarships at those levels, should lie with the Board of the School. There was some disagreement between the two institutions about whether a provision to this effect should be written into the legislation or covered by university statute. In the result, the Government has decided to write these provisions into the bill so that they will apply for a period of ten years, after which the matter will presumably be dealt with by university statute.
In order to avoid any misconceptions on this question of the division of responsibility, I wish to give the Senate a brief outline of how the Government and the university see it working out in practice. The two institutions agreed that the pursuit of research and the provision of post-graduate training at all levels should be of concern to all members of the academic staff within the university and that research scholarships should be tenable in any part of the university. The definition of responsibilities of the two boards relates principally to standards for degrees, and to scholarships. There will be cross-representation between the two boards in order to provide formally for communication of views, especially in areas of common interest in teaching and research and in the disciplines where there are no matching departments in the institute and the school. In addition, there will be co-operation and consultation between the institute and the school at the departmental level and through informal contacts.
In their recommendations, the two institutions urged that the Australian National University, already of distinctive character and structure, should preserve its emphasis on post-graduate research. They recommended that this original function should be maintained and that in widening its scope and role the university should be enabled to develop general facilities for university education of the highest order and of a truly national kind. The Government accepts this conception of the future role of the new university and is confident that the new structure will be of benefit to both the present institutions and to the Australian nation.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29th March (vide page 307), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following paper -
Defence Review - Ministerial Statement, 29th March, 1960- be printed.
– The Senate has before it the statement made in the House of Representatives on 29th March by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley). The statement was presented simultaneously to this chamber by the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner). 1 point out that the statement is supplementary to the one delivered by the Minister for Defence on the 26th November last year, right at the end of the parliamentary session when there was neither time nor opportunity for debate.
The two statements, taken together, represent Cabinet’s consideration of the new three-year plan for defence. They are in general terms only. There are no accompanying statements from the various Service Ministers - the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme). That procedure is the complete reverse of what is done in the United Kingdom when a review of defence is presented to the Parliament there. Invariably the practice in the United Kingdom is for considered statements supplementing the main overall statement to be submitted by the Service Ministers, and Parliament is in a position to look at them together, with the cards on the table.
On this occasion we have heard nothing from the Minister for the Navy. The Minister for the Army and the Minister for Air. each speaking for a period of twenty minutes, made casual contributions to the debate in another place. I say that such a presentation of a matter so vital as defence is quite improper, and even unfair. How may the Parliament have properly before it the whole view of the matter when no Service Minister has given details? I should say now that we have not adequate information before us even at this stage. However, the statements by the Minister for Defence are sufficient to expose the pathetic performance of the Government in the matter of national defence.
In recent years, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has brushed aside the Minister for Defence when any major statements had to be made on the subject of defence and he himself has presented the Government’s viewpoint to the Parliament. On this occasion, he has had the grace to be ashamed to come back. He made promises in 1957 which he repeated in 1958 and 1959 and which are still unperformed. They were made three years ago, almost to this day. On this occasion, he has assigned the task to the new Minister for Defence. 1 want to spend a moment or two in reviewing some of the highlights of defence under the Menzies Government. We have had many pronouncements on the subject. The first was a series of broadcasts made in September, 1950, under the title. “The Defence Call of the Nation “. On that occasion, the Prime Minister made three consecutive broadcasts on the subject. On 7th March, 1951. he told the nation that we had three years and no more to be ready for war. National service training for all three service* was established in May. 1951. In August, 1956. Sir Frederick Shedden, the then Secretary for Defence, triggered off a nationwide controversy. He informed the Public Accounts Committee that the nation was not ready for mobilization at the end of the three-year period and that it was not ready for mobilization as he spoke. That brought the Prime Minister into the fray, and on 2nd October, in answer to a question, he declared that the defences of Australia had never been in better shape in peace-time. Then, two days later, he announced that the whole of the defences of the country were to be reviewed from top to bottom. That review took place, but the result was not announced until the following April, some six months later. Then we heard from the lips of the Prime Minister himself these things - I am quoting the phrases that were used by him: We had a shortage of ships of an appropriate kind; too much had been spent on maintenance and not enough on equipment. There were disturbing deficiencies on the equipment side. National service training lacked advantages for the Navy and the Air Force and was to be discontinued for those two arms. National service training was to be reduced by twothirds for the Army. We were to have the birthday ballots, with an intake of some 12,000 youths per annum, instead of some 30,000 per annum. The »?rime Minister said, further, that we needed to rearm with modern fighter and transport aircraft.
I say to the Senate that that was the worst kind of condemnation of the Government’s policy on defence, in 1957, after it had been in office for seven years, with seven Service Ministers. That statement of the position, 1 repeat, fell from the lips of the Prime Minister himself after there had been an expenditure of nearly £200,000,000 a year on the defences of the country. I propose to come back to the April, 1957 statement when I deal with the separate services.
The next incident was in September, 1957, when the Prime Minister made another statement to the Parliament, and the next in March, 1958, when he made a statement following on the recommendations of Sir Leslie Morshead’s committee’s report upon the top administration of the Department of Defence at the political and executive levels. Now, to bring the story up to date, we come to the statement of 26th November last of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) and the supplementary one made on 29th March, only last week. Leaving that, I pass now to a consideration of each of the services, and to look, first, at the Air Force, with apologies to the Navy for not taking it first on this occasion.
– The Navy is the senior service.
– I bow to it, and
I have made my apologies to the Minister, I hope, quite gracefully. The Government had been engaged over a period of two years in sending department officers abroad to search for a new fighter. There were several departmental missions, and the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) himself went abroad. The Prime Minister said, in the course of a statement in 1957 -
We are planning to rearm with fighter aircraft of a performance equivalent to the Lockheed F104 which has been accepted by the United States Air Force, and with transport aircraft of the type of the CI 30, which is already in operational service with the United States Air Force.
There is a clear and unequivocal decision, a determination to rearm with a particular fighter, the FI 04 Starfighter of the United States of America.
– On what date was that?
– 4th April, 1957. A few days later, on 9th April, the Minister for Defence Production, Mr. Howard Beale, said -
The Government has decided to build a new fighter aircraft in Australia for the R.A.A.F.
He said that this decision followed upon the Prime Minister’s statement on the previous Thursday that the Government planned to rearm the R.A.A.F. with a fighter aircraft of a performance equivalent to that of the Lockheed FI 04 Starfighter. He went on to say -
In making this decision, the Government is reaffirming ils belief that an Australian aircraft manufacturing industry is necessary to maintain the efficiency of the R.A.A.F. and to enhance Australia’s value as an ally.
So there was no possible doubt about the two decisions, one to re-equip with the FI 04 Starfighter, and the other to manufacture it in this country. There were two clear-cut decisions made after long deliberation. The FI 04 Starfighter had been known since 1951. It was in the aircraft news from that date onwards. It was actually flying in 1954, three years before Mr. Menzies spoke about it. There cannot be the faintest doubt but that the various missions, ministerial and departmental, that went abroad took all the opportunities that were made available to them to assess the performance, the quality and the suitability of that particular aircraft for our own conditions.
Then, in July, 1957, less than three months after that statement was made, Sir Philip McBride headed a mission to the United States to conclude arrangements. He came back soon after, and in September, 1957, Mr. Menzies made another important statement to the Parliament. Dealing with the FI 04 Starfighter, he announced that Sir Philip McBride’s trip to the United States had been of value because Sir Philip had discovered that the Starfighter was completely useless for our purposes, for two reasons, first because it was not an allpurpose fighter, which we needed, and secondly because it demanded all kinds of electronic ground controls that were completely beyond our capacity. Those were the two reasons assigned by the Prime Minister in the statement that he made on 19th September, 1957. The decision rather pleased the Prime Minister, because, he announced, we were relieved of the tremendous burden of finding many millions of scarce dollars for the FI 04. The decision was taken then to continue making Avon Sabre aircraft with some modifications, and orders of a limited nature were placed with our aircraft production industry. 1 invite the Senate to consider the stupidity of deciding to buy a fighter which, on subsequent investigation, despite the investigations of the two prior years, turned out to be quite useless to us. There was a most undignified cancellation of the decision, which was a stupid decision in the circumstances. What alarmed the Opposition at the time - and I said so - was that it displayed a degree of incompetence in the handling of the affair that really frightened the Opposition. Mr. Osborne referred to the matter in a speech made last Thursday, which is reported at page 810 of the current “ Hansard “ record of the House of Representatives. Listen to the delightful way in which Mr. Osborne referred to this 1957 debacle and the horrible mess in relation to the selection of a fighter. He said -
In 1957, the Government was contemplating- “ Contemplating “, mark you -
. the selection of a particular American fighter, the FI 04, but postponed a decision as the aircraft was too specialized for our particular needs.
The comment I make on that is that it is a grave misstatement of what in fact occurred, the particulars of which I have just put before the Senate. In the meantime, the twelve Hercules transports that the Prime Minister promised would be obtained had arrived. They are excellent aircraft, a valuable addition to the Royal Australian Air Force, and will be of great service to the mobility of the Australian forces. But what has happened to the fighter? There were the two fruitless years before 1957, at the end of which came the stupid decision that I have recounted. Three years have gone by since then. Nothing happened in those years. Now we come to the statement by Mr. Townley on the matter. I put the position accurately when I say that at last a decision has been made, but the decision is not to decide. The Government has decided not to decide after three more years. That is the one decision that has been made. At pages 3188 and 3189 of “Hansard” of 26th November, 1959, the Minister for Defence is reported to have said -
The R.A.A.F. and the Government have kept themselves fully informed on various new types of fighter aircraft in service or under development overseas, but the position has not yet been reached at which we feel we can make a final selection with confidence.
That, Mr. Deputy President, was after three more years. Then Mr. Townley said -
Provision has been made, therefore, for a commencement
Please note the word “ commencement “ - in the latter part of the period-
That is the current three-year period just beginning - of the acquisition of new fighter aircraft. The type to be selected will be determined by Cabinet at the time, on the basis of a full submission by our technical military advisers.
The question as to whether any new type of fighter is to be purchased abroad or manufactured in Australia will depend upon many considerations which are not yet clear, though we recognize the importance of maintaining an aircraft construction industry. No decision is being made until we have finally determined what type of aircraft we will adopt.
We look down the two years preceding the statement of April, 1957, we look down the past three years, and we look down the coming three years. We find a period of eight years when no provision at all is made. The gravest charge levelled against this Government is based on its inaction, irresolution and indecision. lt is true that it is not an easy task to make the right selection, but how much notice does this Government want of a war? It has had eight years in which to determine the type of fighter it will use. The Government is faced with the position that once it makes up its mind on the type of aircraft to use - it has still to make its mind up - then, whether the aircraft is manufactured here or abroad, it will be two years before the first plane runs off the assembly line. So one looks down the vista of promises and non-performance and realizes that at least ten years will separate the arrival of the new fighter and the time that the Government first decided that we needed a new fighter in this country. That is the most shocking example of delay and dithering that I have encountered in any sphere in the whole of my parliamentary career.
We have a most competent aircraft production industry in this country. Sir Lawrence Wackett, of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited, lv.:s repeatedly warned the Government in public that unless the Corporation were given a new type of fighter to produce, the aircraft industry would break down. Ho said that in 1956, and he has kept at it year after year, but still no decision has been made. I have selected a statement by him that appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 26th June, 1958. Speaking as the managing director of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, he said -
But ihe Federal Government would have to “ make up its mind “ iwc] act if it wanted to save Australia’s aircraft industry. . . . The corporation’s staff, which was nearly 5,000 at the height of the Avon-Sabre production programme, v.as now below 3,000.
His lament has been that year after year skilled operatives are being lost to the industry because of the uncertainty about its future. They will not easily be wooed back after their experience of this Government’s handling of the aircraft industry.
– What are they engaged on now?
– Thousands of them have moved out into other fields. There are no statistics that T know of to show where they are now, but the certainty is that they have moved out of the aircraft industry. They have no future under this Government. After all is said and done, we have a most competent aircraft industry. lt manufactured the Canberra bomber, the Avon-Sabre, the Malkara and the Jindivik. The industry is completely competent. All it asks is to be told what we want, but the Government has let it go to pieces down the years.
Every time that one looks at the defence situation one is shocked. What I am about to mention is a small thing, but it is a very good pointer to the slip-shod approach that the Government is making to everything connected with defence. In the 1957 statement the Prime Minister announced that the strength of the Regular Air Force was to be built up by June, 1960, to 16,725. The Minister for Defence said in the statement which was made on Thursday last that the target for 30th June is 15,750- 1,000 fewer than were nominated by the Prime Minister himself when he announced the last three-year programme. Let them make up their minds. Why this divergence? If there is a divergence why is there no explanation of it? The only conclusion one can reach is that they do not know what they are doing and what they are aiming at. Small as that matter is, it is disturbing to note that the Prime Minister three years ago announced that the target for the Air Force would be 1,000 more than the Minister for Defence now nominates - small but significant! I refer again to the statement of the Prime Minister in April, 1957, in which he promised the introduction of the first ground-to-air guided weapons unit. Now let us have a look after three years at what Mr. Townley has to say on that subject. When dealing with the Bristol Bloodhound Mark I. surfacetoair guided weapons unit, he said -
The technical details of the equipment have now been determined,
It has taken three years to get that far- and an initial provisioning team has left for the United Kingdom.
After three years, they are going out to buy a surface-to-air guided missile. The Minister for Air himself indicated that delivery is expected - when? - in nearly two years’ time - in October, 1961! In other words, from the time the decision was made in April, 1957, almost five years will elapse before we get a surface-to-air guided missile. Nothing but promises and lack of performance! It really is shocking that even in a matter of that kind - we have had experience at Woomera in the matter of guided missiles, we have observed all the tests carried out on behalf of the United Kingdom, we have made our own contribution, and we have exchanged personnel with the United Kingdom for experience and training - it will take us five years to equip the Air Force with a surface-to-air guided missile.
What has happened to the Air Force in relation to other matters? An order has been placed for twelve P2V7 Neptunes to replace the Lincolns that are used by the maritime reconnaissance squadron. These Neptunes will not add anything, because they are intended to replace the Lincolns that will be outmoded very shortly. The Minister for Air tells us that we will see these about the end of 1961 - after two more years. How barren the past three years have been!
There is a decision to acquire helicopters. I really must look at this one. Mr. Townley said on 29th March -
As regards the purchase of helicopters for joint Army-Air Force use, an evaluation of types is proceeding,
Here again, no type is selected; there is no decision on type - which should be completed about the middle of this year, when an order will be placed.
We of the Opposition hope that it will be placed. No type has even yet been determined. It will not surprise me in the slightest if we are all back here in three years’ time to find me adding just three more years on to that delay. We have re-armed two squadrons of Avon Sabres in Malaya with Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. That is an improvement, but it has not gone through the Air Force. It is in process of being applied to other Avon Sabre aircraft.
The next major decision of the Air Force is that five squadrons of the Citizen Air Force are to cease flying training altogether, and their regular instructors will form one permanent squadron at Williamtown. There is not a word in any of the speeches about what will be the ground functions of the members of the five squadrons of the Citizen Air Force who are grounded, who no longer will get any flying experience. How long does the Government think that men whose ambition soared to flying will remain on the ground and in the C.M.F.? After all, what the Government does in that decision is to destroy the area of potential flyers and take on recruits for the R.A.A.F. itself. They are grounded. I ask whichever Minister replies to this debate to say what they will do. Why does” “not the Minister for Defence indicate what worthwhile functions they are now going to perform that they did not perform before. It is one of the details - it is only a detail - upon which the statement is quite silent. The Government is just unable to make up its mind about the replacement for the Canberra bomber. The Minister for Air spoke about that matter at considerable length in the House of Representatives on 31st March. He said -
There is no doubt in the minds of those responsible for the direction of the Air Force that the most difficult re-equipment problem we face, and probably the most important, is to have a future replacement for the Canberra.
That is, the bomber. He proceeded to specify what is wanted -
What is needed is a light bomber, with supersonic speed and long range, with precise navigation and bomb-aiming equipment and other electronic aids to enable it to operate with accuracy through cloud or at night. Such an aircraft does not at present exist, nor is one in sight for some years to come. The great powers have concentrated on inter-continental bombers. That is not our role, and the aircraft that they have developed are too specialized, too expensive and too demanding in airfield requirements to be within the reach of a small power.
So there, in respect of the most urgent problem that faces the Air Force, the Minister for Air admits that nothing is done! Nothing is contemplated for years. The Government is waiting, Micawber-like, for some small power, with no interest in inter-continental bombers and other aircraft for its purposes, to evolve the type of bomber that we want in this country with our special conditions - an island continent of vast distances and surrounded by vast areas of sea. We are waiting for some other nation to make a plane to suit our specifications. Why cannot we make it ourselves?
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I am making my suggestion now. I say that we have a most efficient aircraft production unit in this country which, if the Government allowed it to develop, could take over and make what is required to our specifications; but we are waiting until some other nation, some small power, develops a type that may suit us. That would be cheaper - I acknowledge that - but here is the Minister for Air saying that the most urgent problem of the Air Force is to replace the Canberra bomber. What does he propose? He decides not to decide - to do nothing. He stated that a suitable replacement for the Canberra is not yet in sight, and it is not likely to be ‘for some years. That is the way he leaves it. What a record!
– What do you suggest?
– I have made a suggestion.
– What type of plane?
– I agree with the Minister. He specified it; I have read what he said. I say: let us make that type of plane in this country.
– Do you think we really could?
– Yes, we have made the Canberra and the Avon Sabre. It is true that specifications came from abroad and that that was a decided help. I have sufficient confidence to know that our aircraft production industry, with its experience, if it had been allowed to retain its skilled personnel, could have put on the drawing board, and the personnel could have put on the assembly line, the very type of special plane that this country wants. I ask: Why did not the Government do this?
– What do you propose?
– I have said three times what I propose. When I look at the subject of non-performance in relation to the Air Force, it seems to me that only two things of real substance have been done during the last three years. Hercules transports have been brought in - I give praise to (he Government for that - and we have succeeded in grounding five squadrons of our Citizen Air Force. It is true that those members of the regular Air Force who are released from training those squadrons will now form an additional operational squadron at Williamtown. They will do that. We lose five squadrons trained for the air and in the course of training for flying, and we gain one operational squadron at Williamtown from the released instructors. That, I submit, although a very rapid summary of what has gone on in the Air Force, is a terrific indictment of incompetence and inaction.
Let me now come to the Navy. We lack the advantage of a statement by the Minister for the Navy, but his department is the best example of all of what I said with less force than I am going to say this - of the decision not to decide - because that is all that has been done in the announcements by the Minister for Defence. I refer to the “ Defence Call to the Nation “ made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 20th-25th September, 1950. On page 6 of that document he referred to the state of affairs when his Government took over. He said, only nine months after he assumed office -
Much has been done. A sound naval programme -
Will honorable senators please note that- was put in hand by the previous Government and my own is pressing on with it and extending it. Naval aviation has been established. We have one light Fleet carrier with two air groups in service. A second carrier will be commissioned in 1952. We already have nine destroyers, with a tenth soon to be handed over by an Australian shipbuilding yard.
Mr. Menzies acknowledged that he got off to a very good start when his Government took over control of the Navy. Now what is to happen? First, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) announced that the Fleet Air Arm is to be abolished in 1963. The aircraft carrier “ Melbourne “ is to be retired, lt is not to be replaced. The Sea Venom fighters and the Gannet antisubmarine aircraft will be outmoded and obsolete. They will be grounded. They go. I do not quarrel with the tendency to get rid of a vessel as large as an aircraft carrier in this modern age. In the days of guided missiles they are too vulnerable. I do not disagree with the decision to abolish the aircraft carrier, and that involves, of course, some diminution, if not abolition, of the Fleet Air Arm. But I ask this question of the Minister for the Navy: What is to replace the Sea Venoms and Gannets? Nothing in the defence statements indicates that there will be any maritime reconnaissance forces to take their place. There are two squadrons of maritime reconnaissance in activity at the present time. They are being improved by the Lincolns dropping out and the new Neptune P2V7s coming in. But what have we to replace the aircraft used by the Fleet Air Arm up to date?
– Land-based planes.
– But where are they? Of course they are land-based planes, but surely that involves the creation of more squadrons with a special type of plane, and there is no indication that that will be done. So on the face of it, and so far as I can see from the defence statements that have been made, we lose air cover in 1963 unless the Government wakes up and realizes that something must replace the Sea Venom fighters and the Gannet anti-submarine aircraft. Of course the aircraft will have to be based on the land in future, but where is the addition to the Air Force for the purpose? I hope that the Minister for the Navy will deal with that.
In his statement on 26th November, 1959, Mr. Townley referred to the size of the fleet. He indicated the main details of the Royal Australian Navy and said -
In addition to the Fleet Air Arm, the operational fleet comprises -
Three Daring class ships . . .
Two Battle class destroyers.
Three fast anti-submarine frigates.
Training and survey ships and miscellaneous small craft.
In other words, eight vessels of some importance. I say at once that is too few. That is an inadequate number to defend a continent of this size and with the vast areas of sea surrounding us in all directions.
– Are you forgetting the aircraft carrier? That is nine vessels.
– I referred to it a moment ago. It does make nine, I agree. It is acknowledged that the aircraft carrier “ Melbourne “ will be obsolete in 1963, so we can anticipate a not very long life for that.
– It is obsolete now.
– That may be true.
– It is hard to know what will be obsolete and what will not.
– The Minister for Defence himself says that the aircraft carrier and its aircraft will be obsolete in 1963. So it is on the way to being obsolete now. I asked the Minister for the Navy in April, 1958, what ships had been commissioned down the years and how many had been de-commissioned. The story is a sad one. Far more ships are being decommissioned than are being commissioned. In 1955, four frigates and a mine-sweeper were de-commissioned and replaced by one vessel. In 1956, one vessel went out and one came in. In 1957, five vessels were decommissioned and. two were commissioned. In 1958, five vessels were de-commissioned and one was commissioned. In truth over that period 17 vessels, including the cruiser “ Hobart “, were de-commissioned and only six were in fact commissioned. So the Navy is getting smaller and smaller and we are promised now that the aircraft carrier will be gone, along with the aircraft associated with it, in another three years. The Navy is inadequate, however efficient it may be with its individual units. It is inadequate both for our local and our overseas purposes.
Let us look at what was said about submarines. According to Russia, submarines are to be the highlight of her navy. Mr. Krushchev on 15th January told the Soviet Parliament, according to our press, that the two great changes were that fighters were to be replaced by rockets and submarines were to be assigned an even greater role in the Russian Navy. Mr. Townley dealt with this subject on 26th November, 1959, and said -
Information placed before Cabinet indicated that the trend in major navies is towards an increased proportion of their fleets being underwater, whether for interdiction or anti-submarine tasks. Oddly enough, the submarine has apparently become a most effective anti-submarine weapon.
Later he said -
The Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) has been directed to make further investigations, with a view to the submission of a detailed report covering type, costs and other relevant data.
At the same time, further inquiries will be made into other possible new requirements, which could include such projects as the surface-to-air guided weapon destroyer, the provision of guided weapons for existing escort vessels, guided mine-sweepers, &c. It can be seen that the final form of the naval programme cannot be determined at this stage.
That, I say, after three years. Later the Minister said -
As for the financial aspects of the programme, I have already indicated that the Navy programme has not been finally determined, pending further investigation into and consideration of possible new projects.
So after three years, after the Navy has declined in numbers of vessels, we are not to have a decision at the moment; there will be no decision on the Navy. I have referred to the new projects that the Navy has in mind. Why was not something done about guided missiles, a new type of destroyer, and the rest? Why has there been no thought or talk about them during the last three years?
Mr. Townley indicated in his speech on 29th March that something had happened in this connexion. He said -
The Chief of the Naval Staff, with an expert team, has just recently completed a searching investigation in the United Kingdom and the United States of America into all relevant aspects. This will form the basis of proposals for a new Navy programme which, when completed and submitted, will be considered by the Government.
– In what year was that statement made?
– This year. Though it was stated in November that no decision would be made, we now find that the Chief of the Naval Staff, with an expert team, has been abroad, and that when his programme is drawn up it will be considered by the Government. Again, I say that it would not surprise me if, in three years’ time, the Government was still considering the naval programme, lt is a sad and a wretched story of inactivity down the last three years. Let me say a word or two about the Army. I fear that time will not permit we to say all that 1 want to say on many topics, apart from the Army. In a Call-to-the-Nation address in September, 1950, the Prime Minister indicated that it had been decided that the objective for the Regular Army should be two brigade groups of three battalions each, or six battalions. To-day, after ten years, we have not even one brigade group for the Regular Army. We have two battalions in Australia and one in Malaya. Mr. Townley admits that the battalions lack proper logistic support. I shall return to this matter in a moment.
The Government has abolished the rump of national service training for the Army. The Minister for Defence has said that such training is without adequate compensatory military advantage. National service training was abandoned for the Navy and the Air Force in 1957, after six years, on the same ground, that there was not much military advantage in it for either of those services. Now, after nine years, the remnants of national service training in the Army also are to be abolished. It has been indicated that that will save £9,000,000 a year. Remembering that during the next three years the Government is committed to provide £30,000,000 for new equipment for the Army, we have only to look back over the last three years to see what could have been done in the way of equipment if this national service training, now declared to be of no military value, had been abolished in 1957, and if the energy and finance that it entailed had been concentrated on equipping the Army. Had that been so, we might to-day have an army with some equipment.
It is interesting to see how the Government speaks with two voices in this matter. The Minister for Defence said that national service training had no military advantages for the Army. It took the Government nine years to find that out, having spent nearly £150,000,000 on national service training over the years. That wasted money could have gone into equipment, or into developmental defence projects. Instead, the country is no better off. The Minister for the Army, in the speech that he made in the House of Representatives last Thursday, said that national service training had been a great success militarily and socially. Let the Government make up its mind. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence have said that national service training has no military advantage, and the Minister for the Army apparently is in disagreement with them.
The abolition of national service training will release 3,000 regulars. Some of those will go into the combat forces, while some 1,700 will go out of the Army altogether. What a waste it has been, even during the last three years, to have had 1,700 regular soldiers tied down to training recruits, when the training was of no military advantage to this country. Those men are now to be retired. The strength of the Regular Army is to be increased from 4,000 to 5,500, making three augmented battalions, plus the one in Malaya. A logistic support element of 3,000 men is to be raised.
I return to the statement of the Minister for Defence in November last. At page 3186 of “Hansard” of 26th November, 1959, the Minister has recounted what we are aiming at. He announced the proposal to increase the Regular Army from 4,000 to 5,500 men, and stated -
A logistic support element of 3,000 men required to support the brigade will be raised instead of being organized as at present largely on a shadow basis in head-quarters and depots.
What a condemnation that is of the activities over the last three years! There was no logistic support for the infantry battalions, except on a shadow basis. That statement fell from the lips of the Minister for Defence. Of course, logistic support refers to such things as artillery, tanks, engineer services, signals, and the rest. One could not find a more severe basis for censure of the Government, in relation to the regular forces, than that admission by the Minister for Defence.
The Citizen Military Forces are to be reduced from 50,000 to 20,000, with a target of 30,000 in the next three years. There were 18,500 men in the C.M.F. in 1949, when the Government took over. According to Mr. Townley, in November last there were 20,000. Somebody else recently stated the number as 21,000, while a very prominent Government supporter, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has put the figure at 17,600. I should like somebody on the Government side to make up his mind and tell us exactly how many men there are in the C.M.F.
If time permits, 1 shall return to the role of the C.M.F. in Australia, but first let me say a word or two about army equipment. The sum of £30,000,000 is to be spent in three years. The Regular Army has only just been equipped with the FN. 30 rifle. We all know the story of that piece of equipment. The decision to adopt the rifle was made in 1954, and six years later, we have equipped with it a force of 4,000 men. The indication is, and the promise is, that the C.M.F. will be substantially equipped with the rifle at the end of the next three years - not fully equipped with it but substantially so, according to the Minister for Defence. We are exporting rifles to New Zealand. What kind of a show is it that settles on the FN. 30 rifle in 1954 but can only equip 4,000 men with it in the next six years, and which wants three more years substantially to equip the C.M.F. with it? What a grave deficiency there is at the moment in respect of a piece of equipment as elementary as a rifle! We cannot even get sufficient rifles, although we have a small arms factory.
I should like to have sufficient time to refer to the other items of equipment that Mr. Townley has dealt with. I should like to deal with the equipment item by item, but time will not permit me to do so. 1 content myself with saying that the position is similar to that in relation to the FN.30 rifle. All the instances that come to mind add up to the fact that there are grave deficiencies in equipment for the Army. Guided weapons were mooted three years a.so but are not yet available. We are still talking about them.
At page 3187 of “Hansard” of 26th November last, the Minister for Defence is reported as having stated -
Constant attention will be given to the possibility of improving the standard of equipment by the introduction of new weapons, including, for example, Army types of guided weapons, as they are developed and proven suitable to Australian requirements.
There have been three years of complete inactivity. We are to have pentropic divisions instead of the usual type of division that we have known throughout the history of our army. It is interesting to know, as I understand, that no country and certainly none of the great powers, has adopted the pentropic type of division except the United States of America which has adopted and applied the system as an experiment to only two divisions of its vast forces. We are to put the whole of our forces - regular and C.M.F. - on a pentropic basis which is still being experimented with in one country only. As I have said, that is the United States of America, which has two divisions on a basis there which is known as pentomic. I question the wisdom of committing this country to such an experiment at a time when the system has not been proven.
– What difference does it make?
– If there were any truth, in the report that United Kingdom brigades are coming to Darwin - and I see that it has been denied - there would be all the difficulties in the world with their separate logistics, support and the rest of it - our divisions with their divisions; our brigades with their brigades.
– They are not coming here; so what?
– Senator Wright asked me what difference this change would bring about. I point out that it would make a lot of difference and leave us in some difficulty with the United States of America if that country abandoned its present experiment with pentomic divisions. We have committed our whole army to the pentropic system.
I want to say something now about the C.M.F. Its traditional r61e was for home defence, the training of leaders, commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers. It was designed for rapid expansion in time of emergency. In the First World War, it produced 60 infantry battalions when we had a population of 4,500,000. In World War II., it produced 105 battalions and five pioneer battalions when we had a population of 8,500,000. To-day, when we have a population of 10,000,000, we are to have a total army of eight C.M.F. battalions and four regular army battalions.
– lt would produce more forces in war-time.
– It cannot on the abbreviated basis that it has now been put on, lt cannot do that.
– You want us to attain full war strength right away.
– I say that there is a grave risk in reducing the basis of the C.M.F. 1 say frankly that we are gambling when we rely so fully upon collective defence with the aid of our allies. They might not have the ability to help us- - and perhaps no desire to do so - when the need arises. We are gambling upon that. Australia might well rue the day that it breaks down and decimates the C.M.F. and destroys the wide base upon which it has been erected. If ever we have a nuclear war waged on Australia we will regret that our forces are not widely dispersed and that we have not our mcn at focal points scattered all over the country as rallying points. What is happening? We are to close training centres. The C.M.F. is to be cut down. It is illequipped. Generally, I think it is tragic that the Government should have gone ahead as it has done without proper consideration.
I should like to have dealt with Sir Leslie Morshead’s report, the promises that the Prime Minister made about it, and the paltry attempt made to rule out the recommendation for common services, but time will not permit. Here we are, after expending on defence £1,844,000,000 in ten years, just as we were when the Prime Minister spoke in April, 1957. We have a shortage of ships of the appropriate type. There has been too much expenditure on maintenance and not enough on equipment. We have a smaller Navy, Army and Air Force and all of them are lacking in major equipment. The Government’s defence record is a record of indecision, incompetence, lack of leadership, and volumes of words promising performance and giving us very little achievement. The Opposition has lost all confidence in the Government in the matter of defence. Obviously, the Go vernment would want ten years’ notice of a war and if it could get that advance notice, it would still not be ready.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like to say at the outset that it seems a little odd for the Government to be so taken to task on defence by the leader of a political party which has made it abundantly clear over the years, in this place and outside, that if ever there were a change of government, the money and effort allocated for the defence of Australia would be very drastically cut and, indeed, defence would be the first thing thrown into the discard. Honorable senators on the Opposition side may protest, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this place (Senator Kennelly) and others have said openly that that is a fact. Therefore, as I have said, it is a little odd to be so taken to task by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I say only that it is odd; I do not object, because, after all, public money is being spent on defence, and I fully concede the right of the Opposition to ensure, if possible, that if money is being spent, even on objectives that the Opposition would not spend it on and objectives with which the Opposition disagrees, at least it should be spent to the best advantage.
However, at the beginning I want to make the point that whatever might be said in criticism of the Government, it is making a definite contribution to collective defence. Obviously, if there were a change of government, such an effort would not be made. That is evident from the voice of the Opposition. The Government is making an effort to provide forces which would not be provided if there were a change of government. Having said that as a preamble, I move on to the interesting point that, although we are discussing a statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), practically none of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber was directed to disagreeing with the Minister’s statement as to what Australia is doing and what it proposes to do. Almost all we have heard to-night from Senator McKenna was past history - something that happened in 1950; something that was said in 1954, or in 1957. If the problems facing Australia have changed in the past ten years - as our defence problems have changed - and if military assessments of what is likely to happen have changed as they have done in the past decade, surely it would be strange if the measures taken to meet those problems had not altered to meet the situation. In 1950 it was thought by many countries in the world that war of a certain type was likely within three years. What an inflexible situation it would be if we had then laid down a programme and rigidly adhered to it, despite the fact that both the type of war that is likely to happen and its locality have changed, according to military appreciation.
Let us consider in detail the criticism made by the Leader of the Opposition, service by service, and see whether, in fact, the efforts that have been made in the past, and are being made now, and the programmes propounded for the future justify the criticism that has been levelled against us. I shall take first the points Senator McKenna made concerning the Navy of this country, although 1 shall not deal with them in the order in which he spoke about them. He has agreed with the decision of this Government - he claims it never makes decisions - that the Fleet Air Arm of the Navy should be abolished in 1963. But he then asks what will take the place of the reconnaissance aircraft flying from the Fleet. Air Arm - what will take the place of the planes which that service was able to put in the air. Let me explain that it is not and never has been a function of the Fleet Air Arm of the kind which we have had to carry out reconnaissance flights over the ocean. Reconnaissance flights are carried out by land based planes of great endurance in the air and those planes, as the statement by the Minister for Defence shows, are being bought in the form of the latest Neptune aircraft which, far from being obsolete, is in use in the United States Navy and which has great endurance, great range and good radar capacity. It is silly to ask what will take the place of reconnaissance planes from the Fleet Air Arm when reconnaissance is not a duty of the Fleet Air Arm.
The duty of a Fleet Air Arm is to provide fighter air cover for ships in convoy with it, and to provide anti-submarine aircraft to attack submarines approaching the convoy. As the statement by the Minister for Defence indicates the place of fighter aircraft operating from a fleet carrier could well be taken by sea-to-air missiles fired against hostile aircraft in the way in which most countries of the world are now thinking. They are now thinking that all raiding aircraft will be attacked by missiles rather than by intercepter fighters, whether on land or at sea. Anti-submarine aircraft could well have their places taken by antisubmarine helicopters based, not in fleet carriers but as they are now in some navies - on small anti-submarine vessels - to be sent out from them to carry out the functions of anti-submarine work.
Those are the ways in which the functions carried out by aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm could be replaced; those are the ways which the Minister for Defence said in his first statement were being investigated; and those are the ways which his latest statemen says have been investigated.
– One of these days we will get a decision on the matter.
– There is no need for a decision at this moment. A decision will be made in time for the programme to be put into effect following completion of the existing programme of naval construction which is being carried on in this country.
We were told by Senator McKenna that we have only eight vessels of importance now. Later, he amended that to nine vessels because he had forgotten the aircraft carrier which had three and a half years more life. We have in commission eight vessels of importance. Three of them are brand new destroyers of the Daring - practically light cruiser - class. We have three other good vessels in reserve. We have two brand new frigates nearing completion which will carry out trials this year and join the fleet at the beginning of next year. We have two other brand new frigates which will join the fleet in the course of the next year.
– What does that make the total?
– That makes a total of twelve anti-submarine vessels, excluding the aircraft carrier.
– Some of them have not joined the fleet yet.
– The honorable senator speaks of the future. Those vessels that will be joining the fleet in the near future, have been building for five years and represent the naval effort being carried out for that time. Those vessels near completion are what we have to show for the efforts that have been carried out.
– You were criticising the number stated.
– I was not criticising the number stated. I was adding to the picture which was drawn by the Leader of the Opposition in misleading if not untrue colours. And it is necessary for that misleading picture to be corrected.
There is another point which I think I should make. In all matters of defence it is misleading and wrong, when referring to naval vessels, or aircraft, merely to add up numbers of ships or numbers of aircraft. The Leader of the Opposition has added the number of River class frigates which had been used in the last war and which he says had been got rid of by the Navy. They have been got rid of by the Navy, but it is ridiculous to try to equate one ship of that kind with one ship of the kind now in commission. A ship has a function to perform, and, the only ship which can perform that function nowadays - and the only ship in which Australian seamen should be sent to sea is one that can properly perform this function - is one fitted with the latest equipment for the detection and destruction of submarines and for air protection. This now involves electronic equipment, gunnery controls and all sorts of modern, intricate arrangements which had never even been thought of when the River class frigates to which the Leader of the Opposition referred were in service. There is as much difference between a modern naval vessel such as the Darings which are in commission in the fleet to-day and the sort of vessel of which the Leader of the Opposition was speaking as there would be between a missile going to the moon and a rocket fired by a child from a bottle on the 5th November to make a spark in the sky. The River class frigate costs between £200,000 and £250,000 while the vessel now in commission costs £6,000,000 or more.
– But they still have something in common!
– They still have something in common in that they float and they need men to run them, but, to be fair to the men, we must give them the sort of ships we have got, and you cannot compare a ship of the kind we have now with a ship of the kind referred to by Senator McKenna and argue that we have only one now whereas previously we had two. Anybody who argues in that way just indicates that he does not know what the proposition is at the moment.
We are told that the Government has been lacking because some equipment of the type of which the Leader of the Opposition spoke is not yet installed in our vessels. He was referring to sea-to-air guided missiles. What we are not told is that these things are so new, although they have been spoken of for years, and although they have been on the designing boards for years, that in the Navy of Great Britain there are now nearing completion only three cruisers with this type of sea-to-air missile equipment and that although it is further advanced than we are in this respect, only a small proportion of the United States Fleet is equipped with missiles of this kind. They will now come off the line and out of the factories more quickly, but to claim that because they are not in existence in the Australian fleet the Government has been lacking is to argue foolishly.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order!In 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, 5 April 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600405_senate_23_s17/>.