23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hoa. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
DEATH OF EX-SENATOR J. fi. DOOLEY.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I have rereived a letter of thanks from Mrs. Dooley and family for the resolution of sympathy passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of her husband, ex-Senator the Honorable J. B. Dooley.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister taken any action to relieve the distress amongst tobacco-growers in Victoria? What has been done to give financial relief to those persons who have not been able to sell their tobacco crop and are now finding difficulty in maintaining themselves and their families, because the storekeepers have stopped their credit, in some cases summonses have been issued, and in a couple of cases the Commissioner of Taxation is demanding payment of moneys due? Is the Minister aware that a meeting of tobacco-growers held in Wangaratta on Sunday last demanded that the Commonwealth Government find ways and means ot providing immediately financial relief for those in need; that long-term finance in adequate amounts at low interest rates be made available to allow complete rehabilitation of people engaged in the tobaccogrowing industry; that the Treasury authorize the Commonwealth Bank to make these payments; and that the Commonwealth Government request the Victorian Government to impose a moratorium pending the completion of arrangements for the financial assistance suggested?
– I preface my answer by throwing a ray of hope to persons engaged in this industry. I am sure that the honorable senator will be pleased to learn that there was a marked improvement in the tobacco sales at Brisbane yesterday. Some 120 tons were offered, of which 77 were sold, leaving an unsold balance of 35 per cent., as against an unsold balance of 58 per cent, .at the previous sale.
– How much was sold in Victoria?
– 1 have not the Victorian figures. Answering the question more precisely, I do not think that there is any need for me to repeat that the Government is very conscious of the problems facing the industry. I think the same can be said of the Victorian Government. I understand that it has made available an officer of its rural bank, who has been spending a good deal of time in the Wangaratta-Myrtleford area trying to ascertain the degree of hardship that exists in that area. The Commonwealth Government, supported by the Australian Tobacco Growers Council, has taken the attitude that the best interests of the industry can be served by that council making an investigation of the needs of the growers and reporting without delay. A committee appointed by the council is operating at the present time. Yesterday. I informed the Senate that the Commonwealth Government has made available to that growers’ committee technical officers, financial experts and some funds to meet its dayioday needs. That committee is seised of the urgency of the situation. Until it presents its report to both the State and Commonwealth Governments, which are collaborating on this matter, there is nothing I can add in giving a specific answer to the honorable senator’s question. All I can say is that both governments realize the urgency of the situation and the needs of these people. As soon as the report by the growers’ committee has been presented, T have no doubt that sympathetic consideration will be given to their requirements.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government, since its election, has been anxious to promote the tobacco leaf growing industry in Australia? If that is a fact, can the Minister advise me what action the Government takes, by way of imposing import duty on imported leaf, to help Australian “rowers produce leaf?
– The import duties imposed after a Tariff Board report range from about 8s. 6d. per lb. down to about 7s. per lb. They are in the nature of protective duties to protect Australian industry. If I understand the honorable senator’s question correctly, he is asking what differential there is to encourage manufacturers to use Australian tobacco and what percentage of Australian tobacco is used. Is that so?
– At the present time manufacturers of cigarettes are required to use Australian tobacco to the extent of 35 per cent. in their blendings in order to qualify for duty rebate. Next year that percentage will be raised to 43 per cent. A rebate of duty of1s. 5d. per lb. - I think that figure is correct - is made to manufacturers on the imported tobacco content if they use the prescribed percentage of Australian tobacco in the manufacture of cigarettes.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, refers to press reports of police investigations into a possible series of frauds involving £100,000 worth of equipment used, the reports say, in the Snowy Mountains scheme. I realize that it would not be proper for me to make any inquiry into the substance of the allegations, but I ask the Minister whether these investigations affect only private contractors employed under the scheme or whether the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is involved in any way.
– I read the newspaper reports. Naturally, I read them with very great interest. I have not received any advice or communication from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority on the matter. Knowing the authority asI do, I draw from that the inference that these investigations do not relate to Snowy Mountains Authority assets. That may be a wrong inference; if it is wrong, I shall tell the honorable senator next week, or when we next meet. I would have thought that if this is a matter affecting government property the Snowy Mountains Authority would have told me about it before this.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Now that the Prime Minister has made it clear to the Premier of South Australia that the offer of financial assistance to the extent of £1,325,000 for the purchase of diesel locomotives and rolling stock for the Port Pirie to Broken Hill railway line will be without prejudice either to the standard gauge agreement of 1949 or the pending action in the High Court of Australia instituted by the South Australian Government against the Commonwealth in regard to certain aspects of that agreement, has the Minister anything to report to the Senate as to whether the South Australian Government intends to reverse its previous decision not to accept the offer?
– As the honorable senator is aware, these negotiations have been carried on for some time on a Prime Minister to Premier level. I myself am not aware of the last development or whether there has been any development not yet reported to the Senate. Realizing as I do how much importance honorable senators, particularly South Australian senators, attach to this matter, I shall make inquiries to-day and let Senator Hannaford know whether there is any further information that has not yet been reported to the Senate.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration say whether it is a fact that a considerable number of migrants are returning to their original homelands? If they are, will the Minister inform the Senate of the number of migrants who have returned to their homelands, and the countries to which they returned? Is it a fact that many migrants are leaving Australia because of a lack of employment in the Commonwealth? Can the Minister say whether or not the migrants who are returning to their own countries are skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled persons?
– I am not aware of the number of migrants who are returning to their home countries. I should say that in an immigration scheme as large as the one that Australia has been undertaking, it is inevitable that some migrants who come to Australia notice a difference between the conditions here and those in their homelands, find the conditions here incompatible and return to their homelands. Some of them wish afterwards that they had not returned and express a desire to come to Australia again. I am not aware of the number of migrants who have returned to their home countries or whether they are skilled or unskilled workers. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall ask the Minister for Immigration to supply him with that information.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that, of 238 resolutions of the recent Australian Council of Trade Unions conference, 193 were put forward by Communist or Communist-controlled unions or unions following the Communist line? In view of Mr. Calwell’s statement that the Australian Labour Party is simply the mouth-piece of the trade union movement, does the Minister believe that this explains why Labour Party policy on so many things is so closely alined with the Communists, and does it explain why Labour’s foreign policy in particular is daubed in whitewash on bridges, walls and culverts throughout the country? Does the Minister believe that this explains why the Australian Labour Party is powerless to take action against its members standing on unity tickets unless the unity happens to be with the Australian Democratic Labour Parry?
– Mr. Deputy President, I cannot either confirm or deny the accuracy of the figures as to the resolutions at the Australian Council of Trade Unions conference quoted by Senator Hannan. However, it seems clear that, as the result of driving out of the conference a number of right-wing unions, the left wing did have a majority at that conference and consequently I should imagine that it was quite likely that a number of resolutions - probably the majority of them - which were submitted were sponsored by either Communist or left-wing unions. As to the question of Labour Party policy being closely allied to Communist policy, I can say only that it is extremely difficult to understand - and, indeed, to find out - what the Labour Party policy is - if, indeed, there is one. This is largely because of the difficulty the party is facing which has led it to adopt the policy, “ Never let your right wing know what your left wing’s doing “. Certainly the whitewashed slogans on foreign policy which one sees scattered about this country have been painted by Communists, but a number of the actions urged by those slogans are also urged by, at any rate, some people in the Labour Party. On the question of the Labour Party being powerless to deal with unity tickets, I do not think that the Labour Party is powerless to deal with unity tickets. The fact is that it does not want to deal with unity tickets and will not use the power it has.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Will he confer with Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan, a former Minister for Customs and Excise, with a view to removing the censorship ban on the songs of Miss Ruth Wallis, as it has now been discovered that the songs are not sung for children? If Miss Ruth Wallis comes to Canberra, will the Minister hear her sing her songs so that he may gain first-hand knowledge of them and subsequently remove the stupid ban now applying to them?
– I was interested to hear this question. I read in the press this morning that the Chief Secretary in New South Wales is considering whether the Sydney Town Hall should be made available to Miss Wallis as a place in which to sing her songs, so again, apparently, the right wing of the Labour Party does not know what the left wing is doing. Miss Wallis landed at Mascot aerodrome with 21 records in her possession, but only three songs were recorded on them. There were seventeen records of one song, two of another and two of another. Records of the latter songs have been prohibited imports for some years, and the four records of those songs have been seized. The song recorded on the other seventeen records in Miss Wallis’s possession is a new one. The records are being examined by the publications branch of the department, and a decision on them will be made later. From comments made by Miss Wallis, I understand that she feels that the standard adopted by the Australian Department of Customs and Excise in these matters is rather high.
I would rather be accused of maintaining too high a standard than too low a standard. I understand that Miss Wallis has made an offer to come to Canberra and sing her songs here. I am sorry to disappoint honorable senators, particularly young Senator O’Flaherty, but I have been unable, on behalf of the Senate, to accept her kind offer. If she wishes to take the prohibited records away with her, I shall give instructions for them to be handed to her as she leaves the shores of Australia.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport to recent news items, published throughout the Australian press, criticizing the shortage of train services on the Transcontinental Railway, and stating that there are long waiting lists for future bookings. Will the Minister ask his colleague to make sure that adequate services will be available to cater for the heavy traffic which will result from the Empire Games to be held in Perth in November of next year, remembering that the traffic on this line is always heavy, even at normal times, during the month of November?
– With respect, I think the honorable senator somewhat overstates the case when he says that comment has appeared throughout the Australian press. In recent days I have seen a brief editorial reference to this matter in a Western Australian newspaper. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied to that particular criticism. If any other criticism has been offered, I do not know of it.
In his reply, Mr. Opperman pointed out that progressively the Commonwealth Railways have increased the frequency of their services. It was as a result of my colleague’s suggestion, indeed as a result of his insistence, that services during June and July were increased from four to five a week. Since then, Mr. Opperman has proposed a regular service of six trains a week during August, September and October, and in February of next year. However, to date he has not received a reply to that suggestion. He acknowledges that at peak periods, as in any other railway system, the number of trains available sometimes is inadequate to handle a particular crowd. Mr. Opperman has said that rolling stock requirements are constantly under review, particularly the requirements of air-conditioned coaches. He has also stated that provision has been made for the acquisition during the current year of five additional diesel electric locomotives, four coach cars, one dining car and two lounge cars. I believe that any objective examination of the interstate system which hooks up the eastern States with Western Australia will show on balance that since the last war the trans-continental line has never lagged behind the State systems has said that rolling stock requirements in catering for traffic to and from Western Australia.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report to the effect that the Prime Minister has said, with reference to the lay-off of 8,400 men by General Motors-Holden’s Limited, that he would welcome the constitutional power to compel that company to reveal its profits? If that is the opinion of the Prime Minister and the Government, does the Government propose to take any steps to seek greater constitutional power over this and other matters as recommended by the Constitutional Review Committee?
– I know that the Prime Minister has indicated that he would like to see the profits of General MotorsHolden’s Limited made public, but I am doubtful whether he said he would welcome having the constitutional power to compel the company to publish them. I have seen further reports to the effect that the Premier of Victoria has expressed a similar point of view. I think all honorable senators are aware that, as a result of deliberations between the Commonwealth Attorney-General and the State Attorneys-General, agreement has almost if not entirely been reached upon uniform company legislation. I believe the stage has almost been reached at which that legislation will come before the various State parliaments.. If the proposed legislation does not contain a provision such as that referred to by the honorable senator - I am. not sure whether it does - the appropriate time to take up the matter would be when the legislation is being considered by members of the State parliaments.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, relates to a recent Western Australian press announcement concerning the Marriage Guidance Council in Perth. It has been reported that some of the members of the council are quarrelling one with the other. In view of the necessity for such an important body to give an example of harmonious relationships, will the Minister consider the appointment of a guidance council for the guidance of the Marriage Guidance Council? If that suggestion does not appeal to him, will he consider taking steps to replace those members of the council who are causing disharmony, so that a more harmonious atmosphere might prevail?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred. If it is a correct report of events in Perth, it is regrettable that the members of the council are quarrelling. Something similar to the suggestion that a guidance council should be set up to overcome differences between members of a guidance council might have been in the mind of the man who wrote, many years ago, the words “ Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? “ It is a problem which has never yet been overcome.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Is it the policy of the Government to allow private enterprise to instal telephone equipment, the installation of which normally is done by the staff of the Postal Department?
– This matter has been engaging my attention for some time. Recently, I asked the Postmaster-General whether he would let me have advice on it, and I think it might be of interest to honorable senators if I quote, for the sake of clarity, the Postmaster-General’s reply to my request, It is not a direct reply to the honorable senator’s question, but it covers the field generally. The PostmasterGeneral has stated -
It is several years now since the department adopted the practice of allowing the installation of P.A.B.X. equipment to be made by private contractors, always with the condition that this equipment had to be built to departmental specifications and that the department supervised its installation and carried out all necessary maintenance work required on it. That practice has proved to be very successful. As a result of its adoption, great inroads have been made on the growing number of applications. Even with these contracts the rate of applications is still such as to ensure that all post office staff needed for supervision and maintenance work in this particular field will be fully occupied for a long time ahead. There is no possibility of there being any retrenchments in that technical staff as a result of this phase of the department’s activities.
I would point out, too, that applications for telephones continue to increase, and, therefore, there is a continuing demand for the services of technical staff. Because of this continuing demand, we find it necessary to keep on augmenting that staff from time to time by appointing apprentices. That practice will continue.
– I wish to ask a question concerning the laying-off by General Motors-Holden’s Limited of thousands of workers for short periods. Is this not a similar system to that adopted in America by the big industrialists? In that country, are not certain compensatory payments made to the workers when they are so treated? I understand, from the reply given by Senator Spooner to Senator Sandford’s question earlier this morning, that the Government looks with disfavour on this example of the American industrial way of life being introduced here, and that there is some talk of altering the Constitution. Apart from alteration of the Constitution to deal with this matter, has the Government any suggestion to offer for the countering of this disturbing factor that is now being introduced? Would it not be a good thing for General Motors-Holden’s Limited to institute, for instance, shorter working hours? Would it not be a good thing to give longer annual leave? Would not this be a means of keeping the workers in that industry in continual employment? I point out that all of us in this Parliament are anxious to avert communism and to destroy the effect of the propaganda of communism. Would not the maintenance of full employment be a splendid foil to the machinations of communism in Australia?
– I assume that the honorable senator wants me to answer the question, although he did not say whether he was addressing it to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service or to the Leader of the Government.
– I do not mind so long as it is answered intelligently.
– In that case, I suggest that I answer it. If it became a practice for General Motors-Holden’s Limited or any other great firms to lay their men off for a week, a fortnight or more as a regular thing, as is done in the United States of America, that would be the equivalent of the American practice. General Motors-Holden’s Limited has stated that it sees no necessity to do this in the future, but the future will bring out the truth of the matter. It would not be correct to say, on the evidence of this one instance, that a practice - I think it is a wrong practice - which is in use in the United States of America has in fact been introduced into Australia. As I told the Senate yesterday in reply to a question, the Minister for Labour and National Service has been, and continues to be, in touch with General Motors-Holden’s Limited on this matter. I do not feel competent to comment on the question of how the company should run its business except to say that, in my view, instead of laying men off - if that is in the mind of the company for the future - it would be better to establish a programme of production to enable the company to employ its work-force for the whole of the year.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. I was interested to hear him make a reference last night, as I understood it, to Soviet threats to access to Berlin. Would the Minister give the Senate some specific information as to the substance of those threats?
– On 23rd August last, Soviet notes were delivered to the Western powers. Those notes contained allegations that subversive elements were coming into West Berlin and raised objections to the use of air transport between
West Germany and West Berlin for what the Russians claimed to be wrong practices. On 26th August, the Western powers replied to the notes, refuting the allegations made by the Soviet Union and warning both Russians and East Germans against interference with air access from West Germany to Berlin. I think those two notes were in the papers which I tabled in the Senate some time ago.
On 2nd September, further notes were delivered to the Western powers by the Soviet Union. These notes went further than the notes of 23rd August. In fact, the notes in substance claimed that persons engaged in activities which the Soviet Union did not like were being transported from the Federal German Republic to West Berlin through air corridors intended to be of a temporary nature for the supply of Western military garrisons in Berlin. The notes went on to assert that no agreement existed on uncontrolled commercial air transport, air corridors or transportation over them of any German personnel or persons not in the service of the occupation authorities, thereby indicating a clear denial of the rights of the West in the matter.
On 8th September last, these notes were replied to by the Western powers. They refuted the Soviet contention that the air corridors to West Berlin were temporary. They refuted the allegation that these corridors were designed exclusively for the supply of allied garrisons. They emphasized that there was at present free and peaceful movement of persons and goods by air between West Germany and West Berlin, and that interference with such established rights by either the Soviet Government or the East German regime would constitute aggression. As far as I know, that is where the matter now stands.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question which relates to the European Common Market; and it is a very easy one. Has the Minister’” attention been directed to the statement made a week ago to farmers in the electorate of the Leader of the Country Party by the
Victorian Director of Agriculture, to the effect that primary producers need not descend to the depths of pessimism because the United Kingdom is trying to join the Common Market? He said -
After all, only 26 per cent, of our primary produce is exported to Britain and if we do lose the market the challenge will only be similar to others that we have met and overcome in the past.
Is it correct that Mr. Bolte, the Liberal Premier of Victoria, said on the eve of the Australian Steeplechase that the Common Market was a winner? I was wondering whether the Premier thought that that was the name of a racehorse in the event. Will the Minister send to the gentleman who made these perplexing statements copies of the profound speeches made by Government senators, who have only now belatedly heeded my warnings and have made death-bed repentances? Furthermore, is it correct that the Prime Minister has brought from London a £7,000 per annum public servant, who has not had any trade experience, to advise him on the question, and has sent, only this week, a battalion of public servants to London to sweep the Augean stable?
– I do not presume in this chamber to reply to statements made by State governments or State officials. I suggest that the honorable senator should not ask me to do so. I am impressed by the suggestion that there may be in the country some contrary views to those expressed by this Government as to the seriousness of the threat of the United Kingdom’s entry to the European Common Market. That possibility is so serious as to provide of necessity for a wide divergence of opinion, some of which, I have no doubt, is very firmly held and on logical grounds. The inescapable fact is that for very many years now the United Kingdom has taken from this country a very substantial proportion of our primary products. These have always been paid for on the due dat, This has been a trading association that will be very, very hard to replace. I am not suggesting that the people whose remark: the honorable senator quoted have not some justification for saying that all is not lost. I can assure him that the Government is assiduously following every avenue to meet that eventuality, and I am confident that it will be successful in its undertaking.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs been directed to a press release from the Soviet Embassy in Canberra in relation to the Russian resumption of testing of atomic weapons? A paragraph, in which disarmament is discussed, reads -
The Soviet Government has stated openly that it is ready to accept in advance any proposals of the Western powers on international control. Only one thing was expected of the Western powers and that was that they should accept our proposals on general disarmament and submit their own proposals on general control.
Can the Minister give the Senate any information as to what suggestions the Soviet Government has put forward for disarmament? Were they in any way acceptable to the Western powers and have the Western powers made any proposals for control which the Soviet has not, as it promised, accepted in advance?
– I have not seen the press release to which the honorable senator refers. The subject which she opens up is one which could well be debated at great length.. The question does not lend itself to a quick answer but it does lend itself to this answer: There have been for years attempts by the Western powers, at Geneva, at the United Nations, and elsewhere, to get the Soviet Union to agree to a proper system of international control and inspection of atomic weapons. By a proper system I mean a system which would allow free access by the Soviet to all parts of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries which are atomic powers, and to allow full access in Soviet Russia to representatives of foreign powers. That has never been accepted by Soviet Russia, though it has been put forward by the Western powers. The Russians use language in a completely different way from that in which rational human beings use it. When they say that they have been prepared to accept a system of control, what they mean, I think - if they mean anything - is that they have been prepared to accept a system of control subject to their veto at any time.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service in a position to give to the
Senate any information as to the causes of the disruption of production schedules in the motor industry?
– I should like the honorable senator to put that question on the notice-paper. But if he studies the records of motor vehicles registered over the last few years, equates the population with the rate at which motor vehicles were coming out of the various plants in this country and off the ships coming to this country, and then ascertains the number of motor vehicles per family already in this country, I believe it will be clear that the motor industry in general had reached a point near saturation of the market, and that production and imports would have had to taper off.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the answer of the Minister for Customs and Excise in. relation to rates of duty on tobacco, can the Minister advise whether Australian manufacturers of tobacco are purchasing sufficient Australian tobacco leaf to enable them to qualify for the rebate of import duty on purchases of overseas tobacco leaf? If they are not, what reasons are given by them for not taking advantage of these concessions on imports? If their reason is that the Australian tobacco leaf is too inferior, what sources of information and advice are available to those engaged in the industry who are anxious to improve the quality of the leaf that they produce and to obtain higher prices?
– There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the tobacco manufacturers are increasing their importations of overseas-grown leaf to meet their needs. It is true that they have restricted their buying this year. Apparently they have refused to buy at least some types of leaf that were acceptable to them last year. That has prompted the Commonwealth Government to set up a committee of review to investigate and examine the unsold leaf. I repeat that the Government has declared quite bluntly that it will not stand idly by and see usable leaf unsold.
The third point raised by Senator Scott prompts me to say that in the future manufacturers may well demand a superior type of leaf and a leaf of a different quality. In that connexion the growers’ committee, which has been set up by the Australian Tobacco Growers Council and supported by both Federal and State governments, can provide a very useful service to the industry. I understand that one of its tasks will be to confer with the manufacturers and try to hammer out a schedule of the types of leaf that will be suitable to the manufacturers, always bearing in mind that the soil in which the plant is grown has a very marked bearing on the quality of the leaf produced. Of course, that is under the jurisdiction of the State Governments. All in all, I can say that both Federal and State governments realize these problems and, after conferring with the Australian Tobacco Growers Council, will consider a plan designed to solve these complex problems.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the great national interest in the present football finals in Victoria, which will attract attendances totalling nearly 400,000, will the Postmaster-General ask the Australian Broadcasting Commission to appeal to the Victorian Football League to permit the televising of part of the grand final on Saturday week, which will attract a fullybooked capacity crowd exceeding 100,000 and which is the major sporting event of the year, so that thousands of other people will be able to enjoy the thrills of this great Australian pastime? If the Victorian Football League is agreeable, will the PostmasterGeneral ask the A.B.C. to arrange for copies of the film to be despatched overseas in order to let the people of the world see this great attraction?
– I can assure the honorable senator that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not the final arbiter in this problem which has been raised in the Senate on a previous occasion. The Victorian Football League has the sole rights for broadcasting and televising its features. I am quite sure that the A.B.C. would welcome the opportunity of providing this service to the many people who will not be able to get to this match. If proof of the sincerity of the A.B.C. is required, I remind the honorable senator that there is an alternative channel through which football may be watched, namely the semi-finals and finals of the Victorian Football Association.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health.
– You are getting greedy.
– I am doing my duty to my electors. Is the Minister aware that age pensioners requiring oxygen treatment are supplied with the commodity free of charge while they are receiving treatment in a hospital? When they are able to leave hospital and oxygen is necessary to enable the treatment to be continued, is it a fact that the pensioners are charged for the oxygen? I might mention that representations have been made to me on behalf of a pensioner who was called upon to pay £12, which was subscribed by some of his friends and paid for oxygen supplied, but he now has received an account for £60 for oxygen supplied under doctors’ orders. In view of those facts, will the Minister give favorable consideration to having oxygen supplied free of charge to pensioners requiring oxygen treatment which has been ordered by a doctor after they have left hospital?
– All these matters are handled by the Minister for Health in consultation with the authorities. I suggest that the honorable senator, instead of quoting isolated cases to the Senate, should take them up directly with the Minister for Health.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
– On 5th September, Senator Branson asked me the following question: -
In replying to a question asked by Senator Laught on Thursday last, the Minister representing the Postmaster-General stated that a detailed investigation was being made in connexion with the further extension of television to country areas in South Australia and that he expected a report from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in the next few weeks. Can the Minister inform me whether a similar survey has been made in Western Australia? If a survey has been made, does he also expect a report from the board in the next few weeks regarding the extension of television to country areas of that State?
On that occasion I promised him that I would confer with the Postmaster-General and see whether I could obtain any additional information. I have consulted the Postmaster-General who has informed me that the general question of the extension of television in the various States will be considered by the Government in connexion with the report which it has received from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the subject.
The Government will consider the board’s report as soon as practicable.
– In accordance with the provisions of section 18 of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960,I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper: -
Tariff Board Act - Annual Report of the Tariff Board, for year 1960-61, together with a summary of recommendations.
The report is accompanied by an annexure, which summarizes the recommendations made by the board and indicates the action taken in respect of each recommendation. It is not proposed to print the annexure.
– I move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Cameron be granted leave of absence for one month for the purpose of medical treatment.
– by leave - I wish to inform the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced on Tuesday evening that the Government had decided to recommend to His Excellency the Governor-General that the House of Representatives be dissolved on 2nd November next and that the general election be held on 9th December. Other relevant dates as seen at present are as follows: - Issue of writs, 3rd November; closing of nominations, 14th November; return to writs, on or before 1st February, 1962.
– by leave- This morning Senator Hannaford asked me a question, without notice, concerning the Commonwealth Government’s offer to provide financial assistance to South Australia for the purpose of obtaining diesel locomotives. The question was as follows: -
Now that the Prime Minister has made it clear to the Premier of South Australia that the offer of financial assistance to the extent of £1,325,000 for the purchase of diesel locomotives and rolling stock for the Port Pirie to Broken Hill railway line will be without prejudice either to the standard gauge agreement of 1949 or the pending action in the High Court of Australia instituted by the South Australian Government against the Commonwealth in regard to certain aspects of that agreement, has the Minister anything to report to the Senate as to whether the South Australian Government intends to reverse its previous decision not to accept the offer?
I should like to make it clear that on our part there has never been any confusion or room for confusion about the terms of the offer that was made. It has always been clear beyond misunderstanding that the offer stood entirely apart from either the South Australian railway agreement or the High Court litigation instituted by South Australia. Those were the terms of the offer as made by the Commonwealth and on that understanding the Premier of South Australia, I am happy to say, has now agreed to accept the offer made by the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister has recently indicated to the Premier of South Australia that he is prepared to put Commonwealth officers in touch with officers of the State to examine details of this matter and to conclude the formalities as soon as possible.
– by leave - In another place the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has made three, four or five statements, by leave, in reply to a certain accusation that I had made in this chamber. I sincerely believed that the accusation as I made it was true, and after the spate of denials, I am now more convinced than ever–
– Do not make it worse.
-I will make it a lot worse in a moment. Let me deal with the events that led up to the remark I made. One of them was that the reported statement made by this gentleman in another place. He stated categorically that the leaders of the Australian Democratic Labour Party - and there are not very many of us - had meetings with the Liberal Party concerning preferences. That statement got under my skin a little.
– I do not know how it got through your skin.
– My skin is pretty hard, as you will find before I finish. He said that I was not very happy about the situation. But he wants the publicity and he may still get it. In addition, this very kindly gentleman has said some very nasty things about us. We have not worried about them at. all but when I said that I believed that he was a former member of the Communist Party he became very annoyed. There are a lot of good men who were formerly members of the Communist Party.
– This is a change.
– It is not a change at all. The gentleman in another place took great exception to my remark and I believe that he really thinks he is getting quite a lot of publicity out of it.
– Did you intend it as praise?
– I did not intend it as praise. I just stated it as a fact. Let me now tell the Senate what this kindly gentleman said about us, according to a report in the newspaper published in Devonport. He has said that he believes in Christian principles. Let me read to the Senate a few words from the report of his remarks about the Democratic Labour Party contained in a political statement.
– Give the remarks in their context.
– If the honorable senator wishes, I can easily get the report for him because it was published in a newspaper. Mr. Duthie said this about us -
This negative, hate-ridden, spite-ridden fanatical group cannot survive for long.
– Is that factual?
– Yes. We did not object to those remarks at all. We AWnot even mention them. We did not reply to them.
– Is it factual that we cannot survive for long? I should like to take a bet on that.
– Yet as soon as I said a few words about him - perhaps a little spitefully - he issued a spate of denials to the effect that he was never a Communist. When I mentioned the matter I said I thought he was formerly a Communist in Victoria. An hour later, he rose in another place and in his reply mentioned a place called Foster in Victoria. I had not even mentioned Foster in Victoria. Later, in a statement, he referred to the Eureka Youth League. I never mentioned the Eureka Youth League.
– Is it still going?
– You chaps should know. The honorable member for Wilmot, in his latest statement, has said that he will resign from the Parliament if I can prove that he was a member of the Communist Party or a member of the Eureka Youth League. I did say a member of the Communist Party. I should have said “ a former Communist “. But as you know it is very difficult to try to prove that a man is a member of the Communist Party.
– Why try?
– It is no use trying; I could not prove that even Elliott or any of the others were members of the Communist Party.
Reference has been made to the Eureka Youth League. I shall trace a little of the history of what happened around Devonport. In 1945, in Devonport, an association of youth organizations was formed, namely with the object of building up youth in the district. One of those associated bodies was called the Cobbers Club and was in fact a beginning of the Eureka Youth League in that area. It was a means by which Communists hoped to infiltrate into this body of youth organizations in Devonport. So much was this the case that they sent for Williams and a man called Weston who represented the Eureka Youth League. Both these men were Communists. That, of course, caused quite a stir in the dovecote at Devonport, with the result that the meeting split up. It really split, because on the organization was a Mr. Murray White, who was at that time the manager of the “ Advocate “ in Devonport, and he discovered the identity of these people. As I have said, there was a split, but a Eureka Youth League was formed in this area. Its first secretary was a man named Harvey, who was a Communist. The president for the first twelve months was Mr. Duthie.
To substantiate my statements, I have taken out extracts from letters written to the “ Advocate “ newspaper in Devonport dealing with these happenings. A lot of controversy took place, and on 4th June Mr. Duthie wrote a letter to the “ Advocate “, supporting the new organization, the Eureka Youth League. His letter reads as follows: -
To draw the “ Red “ herring across every move for progress, especially with regard to the formation of a united youth committee in Devonport, is conservatism at its worst, and is discouragement of all youth workers at its best. Out of, say eight organizations which would form the A.Y.C. in Devonport one is connected with the Eureka League of Youth which Mr. L. R. Davies-Graham insults by saying “… when one youth movement is disguising its real purpose by using a good Australian name for its club, when the real purpose may not be the development of the best in Growing Australians.” This is also the “ sinister hand “ that Mr. A. White referred to at the meeting.
On 7th June, Mr. White replied-
– You are just rocking the Senate with these revelations.
– You should understand all this because you have been so closely connected with it. Mr. White replied as follows: -
Mr. H. C. Williams who addressed the Devonport meeting is 25 years of age. He is a member of the Transport Workers Union and Senior VicePresident of the Eureka Youth League - formerly the Young Communists.
Finally, on 18th June, Mr. White wrote again as follows: -
To anyone interested who may be in doubt as to the position, I will willingly submit for perusal documentary evidence in support of my statement. May I make the following brief concluding observations. The two members of the International Youth Committee whom the Rev. G. W. A. Duthie and others support are Communists. Their postal address is Communist Head-quarters, Sydney. Those two members (Messrs. Williams and Weston) were elected allegedly to represent Australian youth in London by the committee.
– Was Mr. Duthie a minister of religion then?
– Yes, he was. It appears from all this, I should say, Mr. Deputy President, that Mr. Duthie was very closely connected with the Eureka Youth League in that part of the world.
I noticed that in Mr. Duthie’s remarks the other day he claimed that he was sure that Democratic Labour Party supporters were ringing him up and intimidating him. He received one phone call, telling him to pull his head in. I wish that that was the only type of intimidation that we were subjected to - to be told to pull our heads in. I am sure that none of our supporters would be so silly as to ring up a man and tell him to pull his head in. Our supporters are much too intelligent to do that.
Mr. Deputy President, as I have said, I cannot prove that Mr. Duthie was a member of the Communist Party, but I believe that he was very closely associated officially with the Eureka Youth League.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
Senator Cole, you were given leave to make a statement. I have allowed you a lot of latitude so far, but I think that, under all the circumstances, you are going further than merely replying to misrepresentations that you claim have been made. I will not allow you to pursue the matter any further. I have been quite lenient and you have had a very good deal.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy President.
– I ask for leave to make a statement relating to Berlin. (Leave granted.)
The statement is one which was made by the Prime Minister in another place on 7th September, 1961. I do not think that in the circumstances there is need for me to read the statement, and with the concurrence of honorable senators I shall incorporate it in “ Hansard “. It is as follows: -
I have already laid on the table of the House a chronology of events since the end of the war and a collection of documents relating to the period from May, 1959, to the present time. Copies of a comprehensive collation of papers prepared for the United States Senate and covering the period before May, 1959, have been available to honorable members in the Library. The two collections are not confined simply to Berlin but relate to the larger question of a post-war settlement in Germany, of which the problem of Berlin forms part.
How did the Berlin situation come about? It is a product of the unconditional surrender of Germany and of the arrangements made in the closing stages of the Second World War for the future occupation of Germany by the four principal victorious belligerent powers. These arrangements were intended to be temporary, and to govern the administration of Germany pending the negotiation of a German peace treaty.
Perhaps we might begin by looking at the situation in early 1945, when the Allied armies were advancing into Germany. At that time, for military reasons which need not detain us now, the Western strategy was not to race for Berlin, but rather to concentrate on objectives which were judged to be of more importance for the early destruction of the German armies. Sir Winston Churchill, in his war memoirs, tells how he questioned this strategy, because of the political importance of Berlin. But it was adopted; and in consequence, the Western armies were halted along the general line of the Elbe, West of Berlin, and it was there that the meeting with Soviet forces advancing from the East took place. In some cases, Western troops were in fact withdrawn to this general line.
In the agreements worked out in the European Control Commission which gave each of the chief belligerents a zone of occupation in Germany, the zonal boundaries were so drawn as to leave Berlin as a special area within the Soviet zone of occupation, by which it was surrounded. For Berlin itself, arrangements were made for a special regime of joint four-power control. For administrative purposes, the area of Greater Berlin was divided into four sectors, each allotted to one of the four occupying powers; but Berlin itself was to be administered as a unit by a Four-Power Kommandatura of the United Kingdom, United States, French and Soviet Military Commands.
These early agreements were made in the period from before the surrender of Germany until a time immediately after it. As I have said, they were intended to lay down the general lines of the arrangements that would obtain pending the conclusion of a peace settlement.
In addition to the rights of the Four Major Powers, these agreements also defined certain rights of the other belligerents against Germany. As one of these belligerents Australia was enabled to establish a military mission in Berlin, which it still maintains.
The rights of the victors include the right to maintain garrisons in Berlin and the right to free access to the city for this purpose. Such a right is essential to the Western position in Berlin. Without it Western forces cannot be maintained there, and without these forces there would be little physical obstacle to the extension of Communist control over West Berlin.
The manner in which the Western powers and the Soviet Union exercise their rights (notably for the Western powers this right of access) forms the subject of the various agreements among the four powers. But it is important to stress that the rights themselves, being originally derived from the unconditional surrender of Germany, do not depend for their validity upon the continued acquiescence of any one of the four. Accordingly, the rights of the Western powers in Berlin cannot be lawfully cancelled or reduced by the Soviet Union.
The divisions which after the War opened up between the war-time allies have prevented the effective negotiation of a German peace treaty. However, having consolidated its physical hold on the zone of occupation in Eastern Germany which fell to it on the surrender of Germany, and having installed Communist officials in key positions, the Soviet Government set up in 1949 a Communist regime there, the so-called German Democratic -Republic.
Since then it has worked to place its special -sector of occupation in Berlin formally under the control of that regime. These developments were accompanied by measures to restrict freedom of movement from East to West Germany. These measures were and are in breach of various four.; power agreements, and most strikingly of the Paris
Agreement of 1949, which ended the blockade of 1948-49. It is understandable that in these circumstances the existence of a free West Berlin, enjoying the protection of the Western powers, and with living standards so superior to those of East Berlin, has been an increasing embarrassment to the Russians. They showed early signs of wishing to put an end to this state of affairs, in the imposition of the Berlin blockade in 1948. This attempt was defeated by Allied resolution and the airlift and for some years there was little trouble.
But towards the end of 19S8 Mr. Khrushchev faced the Western powers with an ultimatum calling for the conclusion of a separate peace treaty with East Germany (which would formally legitimate the Communist regime there and perpetuate the division of Germany) and for the establishment of West Berlin as a so-called “free city “.
There followed a Foreign Ministers’ conference held in Geneva in the European summer of 1959. At this conference, the Western powers made constructive proposals designed to ensure free elections for the whole of Germany and at the same time to safeguard both Western and Soviet security. Mr. Khrushchev refused to agree, and though he temporarily withdrew his ultimatum there were indications that he would again raise the subject when he judged the time was ripe.
The present crisis was set in train by a Soviet memorandum delivered to United States officials in Vienna at the time of President Kennedy’s meeting there with Mr. Khrushchev on 3rd and 4th June, 1961. The text of this memorandum is set out in the paper I have tabled; I shall describe its contents in a moment. Essentially, the Soviet Union wishes to perpetuate the division of Germany because it knows that a freely elected all German Government would certainly not choose the Communist social, economic and political institutions which the Soviet Union has imposed on the people of East Germany. The aim of its policy is to strengthen and stabilize the Communist regime in East Germany, to obtain international recognition of it, to dim the beacon light which West Berlin shines into the darkness of East Germany, and to close off the escape route which it offers to the oppressed population of the Eastern zones.
Each year since the war some 200,000 refugees from Communist rule have fled by way of West Berlin. The flight of these refugees has naturally disturbed the rulers of Eastern Germany, because of the consequences both for the economy oi the Eastern Zone and also for the prestige of the Communist regime which the Soviet Union supports there. According to official figures, some 2,700,000 people have fled from the Eastern zone of Germany since 1949. Some estimates place the total number who have fled since 1946 at nearer 4,000,000. Out of a total population of 17,000,000, either of these is a formidable figure. It shows, more dramatically than anything else could, the misery and oppression which rule in the Eastern zone, in striking contrast to the freedom and prosperity of West Berlin and of Western Germany. It is small wonder that the Communists regard West Berlin as a “ cancer “ in Mr. Khrushchev’s term, and that they wish to seal off the means of escape which it offers.
The theme of the Soviet memorandum of June this year and of subsequent speeches by Mr. Khrushchev is that there is an urgent need for a Peace Treaty to be signed with “ both German states “ (that is the Federal Republic of Germany and the Communist regime in East Germany) by all the powers at war with Germany; that, if the Western powers refuse to sign, the Communist powers will conclude by the end of this year a separate peace treaty with East Germany; and that this treaty will terminate the present basis of Western rights in East Germany and in Berlin and will define the status of West Berlin as a “ free city “. The Western powers would then be obliged to work out with the East German regime new arrangements for their right of access to Berlin. Mr. Khrushchev has started that any attempt to maintain Western rights by force would be met by force. But he has also suggested that, after the signature of the peace treaty Western rights of access to Berlin would not necessarily suffer interference. The Warsaw Pact powers have issued a declaration stating that a demilitarized “ free city “ of West Berlin would itself enjoy free communications. But nothing was promised in this declaration about access for Western troops and clearly, if the Soviet view were accepted this would be a matter for the East German Government to determine.
The Russians have not suggested negotiations except on their own terms. Any conciliatory signs from them have been balanced by statements of their willingness to resort to force if necessary to defend the so-called sovereignty of the German Democratic Republic.
The Western attitude towards the Berlin problem has always been that it is, essentially, part of the wider problem of a German settlement - and indeed of a European postwar settlement. They have long considered, as the Soviet Union claims to believe, that a peace settlement in Germany which would make it possible to end the occupation regime in Berlin is overdue. In a series of unsuccessful negotiations with the Soviet Union extending over many years, they have endeavoured to reach agreement on arrangements which, while meeting legitimate Soviet fears about its own security, fears which, in the light of modern history can be understood, would ensure a stable and peaceful Germany in future.
Together with the Soviet Union the Western powers are committed, by signature of the United Nations Charter, as well as by agreements specifically relating to Germany, to respect the principle of self-determination.
The Western attitude has also been based on the conviction that a divided Germany would prove a source of constant tension in Europe and that the only really permanent solution lies in the re-unification of the country by means of free all-German elections followed by the conclusion of a peace treaty with a single German government. Such a treaty could be combined with various measures constituting a European security system to guard against any revival of German militarism. For the same reason, the Western powers have been opposed to the recognition of a separate puppet state in the Eastern zone of Germany, which would imply acceptance of the permanent division of Germany. They have withheld formal recognition of the OderNeisse line as the eastern frontier of a future Germany on the ground that the determination of Germany’s frontiers is properly a matter for an all-German peace, treaty.
The Western powers have, however, made it clear in the past that they are prepared to enter into negotiations and they have on various occasions in the past made constructive proposals. At the Foreign Ministers’ Conference at Geneva in 1959 they proposed an advance in three phases towards the conclusion of a peace settlement with an All-German Government: first, free elections throughout Berlin to establish a united city there; second, a mixed German committee (from Western and Eastern Germany) to draft an electoral law and submit it to plebiscite; third, elections for an all-German assembly and the formation of an all-German Government to conclude a peace treaty. They proposed that, concurrently with stages two and three, there should be certain reductions in military strength in central Europe. These proposals were not accepted by the Soviet Union.
The Western powers will no doubt be prepared to enter into further negotiations. In such negotiations, they would undoubtedly continue to defend and secure the freedom of the inhabitants of West Berlin, the rights of the Western forces to be there, and the rights of access of these forces.
In the years since the unconditional surrender of Germany a democratic state has been established in Western Germany with a Government deriving from the freely exercised vote of the population. Under the able leadership of Chancellor Adenauer the Federal Republic of Germany, though not a member of the United Nations, has developed into a loyal member of the free world, to the strength of which its economic vitality contributes. Similarly, the zone of Western occupation in Berlin, West Berlin, has prospered as the result of its inhabitants’ efforts and under the protection of the rights that the Western powers enjoy there.
Two and a quarter million people now live in West Berlin. They have steadfastly resisted Communist pressure and the Western powers have a responsibility for their future, to see that they are not abandoned to Communist oppression. They cannot be allowed to share the fate of the other German millions in the Eastern zone, the nature of which is so eloquently attested by the refugee figures I quoted just now.
The existence of free Berlin is of importance not only to Germans, but to all the peoples of Eastern Europe - and indeed, to people everywhere in the world. To hand the Berliners over to communism would not only be wrong in itself and a denial of every principle of justice; it would also be a fatal blow to the hopes and confidence of people everywhere in the determination of the Western powers to defend their freedom. What happens in Berlin will affect the balance of power and reputation between the Communists and the West in areas geographically much closer to us than Berlin itself.
What may we expect to see in the next few weeks and months? It is likely that there will be a series of measures and counter-measures over Berlin by the Communists and the allied powers. The sealing off of West Berlin by the East German authorities on 13th August, and their subsequent action to draw the ring round Berlin tighter is an example of the action open to the Communists; as is their apparent threat to air communications with Berlin in their latest note to the Western powers. This note, it may be observed, has been speedily and firmly rebuffed. Against this background of tension there may well be a new series of negotiations. I will not venture any prediction about their exact timing, location or outcome.
It is possible that at some stage there will be a recourse to the United Nations. Article 107 of the Charter envisages that action in relation to former enemies may be taken “ by the Governments having responsibility for such action “. It will be recalled however that the problem of Berlin was placed before the United Nations at the time of the Soviet Blockade of Berlin in 1948. A Security Council resolution was vetoed by the Soviet Union, and an appeal by the President of the General Assembly and Secretary-General produced no perceptible result. The lifting of the blockade was the result primarily of the steadfastness of the Western powers and of their patient negotiations with the Soviet Union. But the United Nations interest may have helped to bring to bear on the U.S.S.R. the force of world opinion, and it was the Soviet United Nations representative through whom the U.S.S.R. announced its willingness to lift restrictions as soon as a date had been set for a meeting of Foreign Ministers. The possibility of the United Nations playing a useful role in the present crisis can therefore not be excluded.
The Berlin situation is both difficult and dangerous and much patience, firmness and good sense will be needed to avoid its manifast dangers. These dangers will be recognized by both sides. In particular, I believe that the Communists would do well to realize that, though the Western nations will never be the aggressors, they will if necessary defend their rights.
As to Australia, we shall of course continue to support the Western position in Berlin and the right of Berliners to freedom which we have maintained in the past. I might recall our contribution in 1948 to the Western airlift, in which R.A.A.F. aircrew helped to man the aircraft which beat the blockade. We are in close touch with other Governments and with our own missions - including those in Bonn and in Berlin itself - about the developing situaution; andI shall inform the House from time to time of events as they occur.
Indeed, since this statement was first drafted, a new move has been made by the Soviet Union. It has in substance abandoned the negotiations for a cessation of nuclear weapons tests, first by the dramatic statement that the Soviet would test another bomb; and then, within a matter of hours, the actual carrying out of that and further tests.
In order that this entirely cynical and dangerous action may be fully understood, I should remind the House that on August 28th, 1959, the Soviet Government made the following announcement - “ The Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union have decided not to resume nuclear explosions in the Soviet Union if the Western powers do not resume the testing of atomic and hydrogen weapons. Only in the event of the resumption by them of the testing of nuclear weapons will the Soviet Union be freed from this self-imposed undertaking.”
The Soviet Union has professed to believe, as the Western world certainly does, and as the Commonwealth Prime Ministers publicly declared earlier this year, that the cessation of further nuclear testing would be a step in the direction of disarmament, would serve to reduce tension, and would offer to the people of the world some hope of a reduction in international tension.
Honorable members will be well aware that the Soviet Union has by every instrument of propaganda, including statements made by Mr. Khrushchev to me in New York at the end of last year, professed a desire for complete disarmament to be arrived at by organized stages. The first stage clearly would be to hold up the development of new and even more terrible weapons of destruction. The Soviet Union has now, by its action, exhibited its contempt for such an idea. We will no doubt be told that the decision to explode these further bombs is due to the tension resulting from the Berlin crisis. But, as I have pointed out earlier in this statement, this is a crisis manufactured by the Soviet itself.
The immediate effect of this last action by the Soviet Union might well have been to produce an immediate resumption of testing by the Western powers and an abandonment of hope that so sensible a measure could ever be achieved. It is therefore of significance that on Sunday last, President Kennedy and Mr. Macmillan made the following statement: - “The President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom propose to Chairman Khrushchev that their three Governments agree, effective immediately, not to conduct nuclear tests which take place in the atmosphere and produce radio-active fallout. Their aim in this proposal is to protect mankind from the increasing hazards from atmospheric pollution and to contribute to the reduction of international tensions.
They urge Chairman Khrushchev to cable his immediate acceptance of this offer and his cessation of further atmospheric tests.
They further urge that their representatives at Geneva meet not later than September 9th to record this agreement and report it to the United Nations. They sincerely hope that the Soviet Union will accept this offer, which remains open for the period indicated.
They point out that, with regard to atmospheric testing, the United States and the United Kingdom are prepared to rely upon existing means of detection, which they believe to be adequate, and are not suggesting additional controls. But they reaffirm their serious desire to conclude a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, applicable to other forms of testing as well, and regret that the Soviet Government has blocked such an agreement.”
The reply which will presumably be made to this statement will be a complete test of the good faith and pacific intentions of the Communists.
On Tuesday, 5th September, on the day that the third Soviet nuclear explosion was announced, President Kennedy, after careful thought and a thorough review of all the factors involved, issued a statement ordering “the resumption of nuclear tests in the laboratory and underground, with no fall-out “. It must be emphasized that this announcement did not qualify in any way the Western offer to make an agreement. Nevertheless, in the circumstances, which clearly show that the Soviet has embarked on a series of tests which, it must be presumed, will materially increase Soviet nuclear weapons capability, the steps taken by President Kennedy are, in his own words, those “which prudent men find essential”.
I will reserve further comments on this subject till next week when a further statement to the House may be appropriate.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Berlin - Statement by the Prime Minister, dated 7th September, 1961 - and move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I ask for leave to make a statement relating to nuclear tests. (Leave granted.)
The statement is one which was made by the Prime Minister in another place on 13th September, 1961. I do not think that in the circumstances there is need for me to read the statement and with the concurrence of honorable senators I shall incorporate it in “ Hansard “. It is as follows: -
On 7th September I made some observations on the resumption by the Soviet Union of nuclear bomb testing, and said that I might make a further statement this week. I should like now to trace in more detail the course of negotiation on this most important question, and to examine some of its implications for us.
It was in July, 1957, that the Western powers on the sub-committee of the United Nations Disarmament Commission first proposed that a group of experts meet to devise an inspection system to control the suspension of nuclear tests. The Soviet Union did not respond.
The following month the Western powers proposed the suspension of nuclear tests for two years, during which time a system of international inspection could be worked out to ensure that all future production of fissionable material would be used solely for peaceful purposes. In making these proposals, the Western powers again called on the Soviet Union to join in expert studies. The Soviet Union refused.
In November, 1957, these proposals were endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, but the Soviet Union still refused to discuss them.
Not until March, 1958, after Russia had concluded a series of tests, and just before the start of a United States series, did the Soviet Union announce that it would suspend tests unilaterally for six months. The West pointed out that unilateral declarations, without a system of inspection and control to ensure that the declarations were being honoured, were valueless; and called again on the Soviet Union to take part in technical discussion on the feasibility of devising an effective system and the form it might take. This time the Soviet Union agreed.
So, in July and August, 1958, the first conference of experts met in Geneva. The experts, including the Russian experts, concluded that it was possible to devise a practicable system for detecting violations of an agreement to suspend nuclear weapons tests. The United Kingdom and the United States thereupon announced that they were prepared to suspend tests for one year from 31st October, 1958, on certain conditions. One was that negotiations should begin on that date for the conclusion of a treaty on the suspension of tests, under effective international control. Another was that Russia should not resume testing.
The conference opened at Geneva on 31st October, 1958. On 1st November - the very next day - the Soviet Union exploded an atomic device. Two days later it exploded another. Despite this flagrant breach of faith, the United States declared that it would adhere to its undertaking, provided the Soviet Union refrained from further testing.
From that time, nearly three years ago, the negotiations have continued, with occasional adjournments, and they are still technically continuing: despite the Soviet resumption of testing they have still not formally been broken off. Progress has been slow. From the beginning it was apparent that Western and Soviet views on what constituted an adequate, reliable and acceptable treaty were very far apart. But by painstaking persistence, with the United Kingdom and the United States making every effort of compromise to break deadlocks, the areas of fundamental disagreement were perceptibly narrowed.
When the conference adjourned in December, 1960, in the last days of the Eisenhower administration, there had been adopted a preamble and seventeen articles of a draft treaty, and two annexes.
Important differences on issues of principle still remained unresolved, but the progress which had already been made encouraged the hope that with perseverance agreement could yet be reached on the outstanding points. “With perseverance”, I have said: perhaps I should have added “ and with goodwill and sincere endeavour.” For there were already by the end of last year disquieting signs. Honorable members may recall that, as I stated to the press afterwards, when I talked with Mr. Khrushchev in New York on 12th October, 1960, he expressed the view that the suspension of nuclear tests was of diminishing importance. Nevertheless the Western Powers, for their part, continued their unremitting efforts to seek agreement
President Kennedy, on assuming office, ordered an intensive review of the issues involved, and when the conference resumed on 21st March, 1961, a new set of proposals was submitted by the United States and the United Kingdom. These proposals, which incorporate important concessions to Russian positions, were -
Then on 18th April, building on the agreements already reached and incorporating these new proposals, the United States and the United Kingdom tabled a complete draft treaty for the suspension of nuclear weapons tests. The Soviet reaction was ominous and disheartening. Not only did the Soviet delegate, Mr. Tsarapkin, return to the conference table without constructive proposals, making it clear that the Soviet Union had not used the three months’ adjournment to seek ways of resolving points of difference, but he even went back on an agreement which the Soviet Union had made over a year previously. He insisted that, instead of having, as had been agreed, a single neutral administrator as chief executive officer of the control organization, there should be established a triumvirate of administrators, one from the Soviet group, one from the Western powers and one from the “ neutralists “, who would be required to reach their decisions unanimously. Each member would therefore have a veto.
This is the so-called “ Troika “ principle which the Soviet Union put forward at the last General Assembly of the United Nations to replace the office of Secretary-General. It would give the Soviet Union the power to prevent any inspection by the control organization of suspected breaches of the treaty by the Soviet Union.
This uncompromising, retrograde attitude was continued by Mr. Khrushchev when he met President Kennedy in Vienna. The Russian “ Aidememoire “ or memorandum of 4th June reiterates this new Soviet contention that “ there do not and cannot exist neutral men “. I call it “ new “ advisedly, because in January of last year, Mr. Tsarapkin, the Soviet negotiator, said at the conference: “Out of the three thousand million human beings on earth we shall always be able to find someone on whom you and we can agree “. And the following month he said: “ In neutral countries it will always be possible to find a person, a really neutral person, who can be used for the job of carrying out the duties of administrator”. And in June, 1960, he said: “ It will always be possible to discover in the world a person acceptable to both sides for nomination for the post as administrator “.
The Vienna memorandum also proposed that the negotiations on the suspension of nuclear tests should be merged with discussion of general complete disarmament. That is to say, the Russians proposed that the measure of agreement which had been so painfully won through nearly three years of patient negotiation should be tossed back into the melting pot. They proposed that agreement on the suspension of nuclear weapons tests, which is, despite its complexities, a relatively simple operation, should be made dependent upon achieving agreement on the much vaster and the infinitely more complicated question of general and complete disarmament. This memorandum also disclosed the hollowness of the much vaunted offer to accept unconditionally any proposals of the Western powers on control if they would accept the Russian proposal on general and complete disarmament. This memorandum makes it plain that the Russians will accept control and inspection only after disarmament has been completed because “ as long as states maintain their armed forces, no control can be free from intelligence. When armed forces are abolished and armaments destroyed, then only control will not be connected with intelligence.”
The memorandum further suggests that the policing of a disarmed world would be through national contingents - in other words there would be no standing international force - which “could be used through the Security Council “ - that is to say, they would be subject to the Russian veto. In addition, “ all the main groups of States should, of course, be equally represented on the command of such international forces” - (that is to say they would be under a “ troika “ command which would give the Soviet Union the power of veto over the day-to-day operations of the forces).
The United States replied to this memorandum in a note of 17th June. This note patiently rehearsed the substantial concessions which the West had offered since the talks resumed, pointed out the objections to the Russian proposals, and drew attention to the wider consequences for which the Soviet Union would be responsible. The Russian reply was a long note dated5th July which made no concessions but maintained the new Russian position uncompromisingly. The exchange ended with a United States note of 15th July which returned to the central issue and sought to determine whether the Soviet Union was willing to reach an agreement which would halt nuclear weapons tests under effective international control.
The conference at Geneva continued, despite all discouragement, with the West still trying to meet the Russian objections. On 28th and 30th August the United Kingdom and United States representatives made three new and important concessions -
The Soviet reply, made on the same day as the last two of these concessions, was to announce its intention to resume testing.
On 1st September the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear device. Even this did not exhaust the patience or the hope of the Western leaders. On 3rd Septmber, as I mentioned last week, President Kennedy and Mr. Macmillan made a joint offer to Mr. Krushchev that their three governments agree, with immediate effect, not to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere such as would produce radio active fall-out. They proposed that their representatives meet at Geneva on 9th September to record this agreement. They further emphasized that this proposal was not in any way conditional upon the establishment of new or additional controls and that they were prepared to rely on existing long-range methods of detection which would not involve entry into or overflight of Russian territory.
The Russian reply, as we all know, was the explosion of a second nuclear device, and a third and then a fourth. The explosion of four atomic devices within a span of six days points to a high degree of planning and advance preparation over a long period. It means that Soviet participation at the Geneva talks has for some time been a sham. It means that while they have allegedly been negotiating for the suspension of nuclear weapons tests they have ben preparing an extensive series of tests which, it must be assumed, will add materially to Russian nuclear weapons capability. In this context I would again recall that on 28th August, 1959, the Soviet Government announced its decision “ not to resume nuclear explosions “ if the Western powers did not resume. In the face of the Soviet Union’s patent indifference to the Western proposals or world opinion, President Kennedy found himself obliged to make the following announcement on 5th September, after the third in the present series of Russian tests: - “ In view of the continued testing by the Soviet Government, I have to-day ordered the resumption of nuclear tests in the laboratory and underground with no fall-out. “ In our efforts to achieve an end to nuclear testing, we have taken every step that reasonable men could justify. “ In view of the acts of the Soviet Government, we must now take those steps which prudent men find essential. We have no other choice in fulfilment of the responsibilities of the United States Government to its own citizens and to the security of other free nations. “ Our offer to make an agreement to end all fall-out tests remains open until September 9.”
The Soviet Union has now rejected the joint United Kingdom-United States offer and gone on to conduct three further atmospheric tests of nuclear devices, two with a force of several megatons, that is to say, equivalent in explosive power to several million tons of TNT. Mr. Krushchev, in rejecting the Western offer, contended that a nuclear tests suspension agreement must be considered in the wider context of general and complete disarmament. This Soviet reaction, as I suggested last Thursday, provided “ a complete test of the good faith and pacific intentions of the Communists “. They have failed that test. In contradiction to Mr. Krushchev’s repeated statements on the need to protect the world from the dangers of radio-active fall-out, they have brushed aside the offer of an agreement which would have done just this.
The Soviet claim that it is not prepared to conclude partial disarmament or suspension agreements, but wishes to consider all these problems in the context of general and complete disarmament, is a transparent propaganda device. The problem of general and complete disarmament is vast and complex and a solution cannot be achieved by “ short-cuts “. The West has always believed that a major step towards general disarmament would be the conclusion of a nuclear tests ban treaty. In fact, some progress had been made towards the establishment of such a treaty. Yet the Soviet Union by its present actions seems prepared to nullify the progress already made. In the light of this Soviet intransigence it was no surprise when the Geneva conference adjourned indefinitely on 9th September.
On 10th September, immediately after adjournment of the conference, the Soviet Union announced that it would begin testing multi-stage rockets to be fired into the Pacific Ocean in an area south-west of Hawaii. The rockets to be tested are said to be more powerful and improved versions of multi-stage carrier rockets already used in space experiments.
The record makes it clear that the Soviet Union has, from the outset, treated the whole issue of nuclear tests bans with complete cynicism, recklessly pursuing what it conceives as its national interest vet at the same time playing on the hopes and fears of the millions of peaceloving people throughout the world. The first Russian “suspension” in March, 1958, followed completion of one series of tests. The next series, in November, 1958, was pressed through with a total disregard of international opinion. In August, 1959, presumably when the immediate requirements of the Russian military machine had been met, a solemn promise was given that the U.S.S.R. would not be the first to conduct any further nuclear tests. The events of these last days show how much faith can be placed in assurances of this kind. It is also clear that while professing to negotiate seriously at Geneva, the Russians were making detailed preparations for the current series of tests. No doubt as soon as the series has been completed there will be yet another Soviet proposal for an unconditional suspension on both sides, with the Communist propaganda machine fully mobilized to denounce the United States if it continues the tests it has now been forced to undertake.
The Australian Government commends the patience and restraint - contrasting sharply with the Soviet approach to this issue - which the Western leaders have shown throughout the long and (as now proved) fruitless negotiations at Geneva. Still more commendable have been their persistent and imaginative efforts to seek out every possibility of agreement and, in recent days, to salvage something from the wreck. Given the total lack of response from the Soviet Union, it is inconceivable that the United States should continue its self-imposed ban on nuclear testing in the present grave situation. My Government whole-heartedly supports President Kennedy’s decision to resume underground tests, a decision which the Soviet actions have now made essential to the security of the free nations. For, let us make no mistake, our own security is directly involved. So long as the Soviet Union refuses to conclude an effective agreement for the prohibition and control of nuclear tests, we will be left in the grim position that the only assurance that its leaders will not resort to the ultimate weapon is the knowledge that its use would mean their own annihilation.
At the same time it is noteworthy that even now the United States, at a substantial sacrifice in time, convenience and money, still refrains from carrying out the atmospheric tests which generate fall-out. There is a clear and important difference between the atmospheric tests conducted by the Russians and the underground testing now being undertaken by the United States.
Although the recent Soviet actions have not come as a complete surprise, their suddenness and brutality - and the threat which they pose to world peace - are nonetheless shocking and deeply depressing. It appears that the fifth, sixth and seventh Soviet tests were in the Arctic regions. Only two months ago ten nations met in Canberra in this very Chamber to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, a modest agreement designed to remove causes of friction and dispute and to facilitate work together for the common good in exploration and development. The Soviet Union was among the signatories to this agreement, under which nuclear explosions are forbidden in the Antarctic. I should still like to hope that in the larger interests of mankind the Soviet leaders could recover something of the spirit of moderation and co-operation which marked the Antarctic Conference and that the ban on nuclear tests, with proper control and safeguards, will become universal. Until it does, the free nations can place no reliance on Soviet professions of concern for mankind. Nor can they accept as genuine the Soviet claim to be the champion of general and complete disarmament.
I lay on the table the following paper -
Nuclear tests - Statement by the Prime Minister dated 13th September, 1961, together with a chronology of the Geneva Conference on the discontinuance of Nuclear Weapon Tests– and move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this day.
Debate resumed from 7th September (vide page 479), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the following papers -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1962;
The Budget 1961-62- Papers presented by the Right Honorable Harold Holt in connexion wilh the Budget of 1961-62;
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States - be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved, by way of amendment -
At end of the motion add the following words - “but that the Senate is of opinion that they fail to make adequate provision for Social Service Benefits, especially Child Endowment, and Repatriation Benefits; that they fail to relieve the plight of taxpayers, the family unit, the farming community and other sections of the Australian people and that they make no effective contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy including unemployment, rising living costs, failure of the public loan market, adverse balance of international payments on current account, high interest rates and inadequate housing”.
– When the debate was adjourned on Thursday last I was referring to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in relation to the fall in farm income. He said that over a period farm income had fallen by £32,000,000. I was pointing out that in the main the primary producers of Australia sell most of their products on overseas markets and receive for those products not the cost of production plus a profit but the price which the people overseas offer. Because of the prices that are ruling at the present time and our continually increasing costs, the primary producer is finding it very difficult indeed to make a profit. It is of no use for members of the Australian Labour Party to come into this chamber and shed crocodile tears on behalf of the primary producers just before a general election.
– We do it all the time. We do not shed crocodile tears; we cry for them.
– That is all right, senator. Let us consider some of the costs that have been increased by the Labour Party or some of its supporters. Some years ago Sir Arthur Fadden, when he was Commonwealth Treasurer, abolished the federal land tax. But immediately the New South Wales Government imposed a land tax. The New South Wales Government is now collecting from the primary producers of that State more land tax than did the Commonwealth Government throughout the whole of Australia. Moreover, the New South Wales Government has decided to increase annual leave. Of what use is annual leave to the primary producer? Any such increase will raise his costs still further.
Let me refer also to certain action that was taken by the waterside workers in Western Australia. We had the shipment of our produce held up for fifteen days while the waterside workers in that State went on strike, not to get better wages or conditions, but purely and simply because they had a disagreement with another union. Ships sailed out of Fremantle and left on the wharfs hundreds and hundreds of tons of produce that was to be forwarded to the world’s markets. Although I have given to the Senate before the information I now propose to mention, it is well worth while giving it again. Over the years, Western Australia had built up a very good flour trade, but because of competition from other countries and various trade agreements entered into by certain countries we gradually lost that trade. Instead of sending overseas each year from Western Australia 40,000 tons of flour, that being 20 per cent, of Australia’s total flour exports, we find that in 1959 our exports of flour had fallen to only 2,500 tons.
– Do you suggest that the whole of that difference was attributable to that strike?
– No. I am trying to tie it up in this way: When that strike did occur, one ship sailed out of Fremantle leaving behind 100 tons of flour. A second ship did likewise. Many of the ships which left Fremantle at that time left behind hundreds of tons of flour. We had also built up a very good trade in fruit with the islands to the north of Australia. That is a commodity which has to be shipped as soon as possible after picking and got to the market as quickly as possible. Yet we found that because of this strike our fruit was being left to rot on the wharfs at Fremantle. There were delays in the shipment of onions and wool, also. I point out that under the terms of our shipping agreements if wool is left on the wharf and not sent away the freight still has to be paid in the end by the growers. All these factors lead to an increase of the primary producers’ costs. Therefore,I point out to Senator McKenna that the fall in farm income is not altogether the fault of the Government; as stated other factors enter into the picture.
Last week I referred also to the Commonwealth Development Bank and congratulated the Government upon its decision to increase the bank’s capital by £5,000,000. Although I am very pleased with the Government’s action,I think the increase should have been much greater. It should have been £10,000,000 or even £15,000,000. Western Australia is a primaryproducing State, but there is still a great deal of land to be opened up and developed. Many young men in that State who have farming experience obtain a block of land and machinery and then find that they cannot proceed any further. They can claim some assistance from the Development Bank but they cannot get sufficient to get them over what I may describe as the hump.
– Why cannot they get some accommodation from the private banks?
– They have got to the stage where they are committed to the private banks and cannot obtain any more assistance from them. That is where the Development Bank comes into the picture. They go to that bank and ask for money to develop their properties, and they are given a certain amount. In some cases, however, the bank cannot give them money to develop their property because it considers that they are already up to the limit and that any further lending would be an embarrassment to them.
– Have you any information about the term for which the Commonwealth Development Bank advances money? Is it repayable on demand?
– I have not that information. I shall deal further with this matter when the relevant banking legislation comes before the Senate. I conclude my remarks by saying that I support the original motion but oppose the amendment moved by Senator McKenna. I move -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be so added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The question now is, “ That the papers be printed “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13th September (vide page 504), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sirring suspended from 12.35 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
For the twelfth successive year, the Liberal-Country Party Government has introduced legislation to advance the social welfare programme of the Australian people. The purpose of this bill is, briefly, to increase the maximum general rate of age, invalid and widows’ pensions, and to increase the allowances received by the wives of invalid pensioners, the allowances paid for the first children of invalid pensioners, the additional pensions for children payable to widows, the rates of un employment and sickness benefits payable to adult persons and married minors together with the additional benefits paid on account of their wives and children. The increases will, of course, also be payable to those qualified persons who came within the scope of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service.
The bill provides for an increase of 5s. a week in the maximum general rate of age. invalid and widows’ pensions. The new maximum general rate for the aged and for invalids will be £5 5s. a week, as compared with £2 2s. 6d. twelve years ago. For a married couple, both pensioners, the new rate will be £10 10s. as compared with £4 5s. in 1949. Where a couple without children have property, the value of which does not exceed £419, entitlement to receive some pension will remain until their income reaches £17 10s. a week. Where they have no income, other than income from property or child endowment - both of which are exempt - entitlement to some pension will remain until the value of their property reaches £9,500. These figures do not include the value of the home, the furniture, personal effects’ including a motor vehicle not used for commercial purposes, and certain other exempt items.
Supplementary assistance of 10s. a week will, of course, continue to be paid to qualified age and invalid pensioners in addition to the new rate of pension. This additional 10s. a week is paid, over and above the maximum general rate pension, to single pensioners and to married pensioners where only one of the couple is in receipt of a pension or an allowance, who pay rent for their accommodation, and who are deemed to be entirely dependent on their pensions. The total receipts by way of pension and supplementary assistance of such pensioners will be increased from £5 10s. to £5 15s. a week.
The bill will increase the maximum rate of the allowance paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner, or of a permanently incapacitated age pensioner, by 12s. 6d. a week to bring it from £1 15s. a week to £2 7s. 6d. a week. This is the largest increase which has been made in the rate of wife’s allowance since it was first introduced in 1943. Also, the allowance which the wife of an invalid pensioner, or a permanently incapacitated age pensioner, receives for the first child under sixteen years will be increased from lis. 6d. to 1 5s. a week.
Thus, as a result of the general increase in age and invalid pensions and of the increases in the allowances paid to wives and children, an invalid pensioner and his wife together will receive a total increase of 17s. 6d. a week if they have no children, and 21s. a week if they have one child or more than one child. Where they have more than one child, they will continue to receive the additional pension of 10s. a week for each child after the first
To give an example: a pensioner, his wife and three children may at present receive by way of pension, additional pension for children, wife’s allowance, child’s allowance and child endowment a total amount of £9 lis. 6d. Under this bill, that amount will be increased to £10 12s. 6d. a week.
An invalid pensioner with a wife and three children whose property does not exceed £419 - to give another example - will be able to receive £22 5s. a week, inclusive of child endowment, before his entitlement to receive some pension is exhausted.
In the case of widows’ pensions, the new maximum general rate of pension payable to a class A widow - that is a widow with a dependent family - will be increased from £5 5s. to £5 1 0s. a week. This rate applies to a widow with only one child.
This Government was the first to apply the principle of providing assistance, by way of an additional payment, to class A widows and invalid pensioners who have the custody, care and control of more than one child, and of increasing the amount of that assistance in direct proportion to the number of children in their custody, care and control.
The bill now before the Senate introduces further measures designed to improve the position of the class A widow, and the invalid pensioner who has a wife and family to support. It raises the amount of the additional pension received by the class A widow in respect of children other than the first child, and substantially increases, as I have already indicated, both the wife’s allowance and the child’s allowance payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner or a permanently incapacitated age pensioner.
A class A widow with two or more children, in addition to receiving an increase of 5s. a week in the maximum general rate of her pension, will also receive an increase of 5s. a week for each child after the first. The additional pension for each child after the first will be raised from 10s. to 15s. a week. Thus, the total pension increase for a widow with two children will be 10s. a week; for a widow with three children, 15s. a week, and so on, the total increase becoming greater by 5s. a week for each subsequent child.
The total weekly amount which may be received at the current rates by a class A widow in terms of pension, additional pension for children and child endowment is, if she has two children, £6 10s.; if she has three children, £7 10s.; if she has four children, £8 10s., and so on. It will be seen that the amount increases by £1 for each additional child. But under this amending legislation a widow with two children will receive £7 a week, increasing by £1 5s. for each additional child.
A widow with four children the value of whose property does not exceed £2,250 may, in addition to income from that property which is exempt, have other income up to £15 a week inclusive of endowment before her entitlement to some pension is extinguished. Given a reasonable return on the investment of £2,250, this means an income approximating £17 a week. She can, of course, in addition own her own home, furniture, personal effects and other property that is normally disregarded.
For a class B widow, that is, a widow of 50 years of age who has no children under sixteen years of age, the maximum rate payable will be increased from £4 7s. 6d. to £4 12s. 6d. a week. A similar increase will be given to the class C widow, that is, a widow who does not possess the basic qualifications for the class A or class B pension but who is in necessitous circumstances immediately following the death of her husband. Widow pensioners who are qualified to receive supplementary assistance will, as in the case of age and invalid pensioners in similar circumstances, continue to receive that payment of 10s. a week in addition to the increased rate of pension.
Honorable senators will recall that, last year, the Government abolished the class D widow’s pension. A former class D widow, that is, a woman whose husband has been imprisoned for at least six months, was entitled to receive a pension at the same rate as a class B widow with no additional payment for any children after the first child. To-day she receives either a class A or class B widow’s pension, whichever is appropriate to her circumstances. Under this amending legislation such widows will receive the increased rate common to both categories and, in addition, those who receive payment at the class A rate will benefit from the special consideration given to widows with dependent children this year.
The present Government has already increased the rate of unemployment and sickness benefits on two occasions, in 1952 and 1957. This bill provides for a further increase in the rates of these benefits. Since special benefits, payable to migrants and other people in similar circumstances, are normally paid at unemployment and sickness benefit rates, these benefits will be increased accordingly.
For an adult or a married minor, the rate will be increased by 10s. a week, or from £3 5s. to £3 15s. a week. For a dependent spouse, the additional benefit will be raised to £2 12s. 6d. a week, an increase of 5s. a week, and the additional benefit for a dependent child will be raised to 12s. 6d. a week, an increase of 2s. 6d. a week. For a man, wife and child, the total increase is thus 17s. 6d. a week, increasing the total rate of benefit payable from £6 2s. 6d. to £7 a week. A beneficiary may in addition receive £2 a week income without affecting the rate of benefit and, in the case of a sickness beneficiary, any additional amount from an approved friendly society. The bill contains some consequential amendments arising out of these amendments.
In 1949, when the Government was elected to office, unemployment and sick ness benefits were payable to an adult or a married minor at the rate of 25s. a week. With the additional 10s. a week provided for in this bill, the rate will have been increased threefold. The rate payable for a man, his wife and child will have been increased during the same period from 50s. a week to £7 a week. The amount of income which may now be received without affecting the rate of benefit was doubled by the Government in 1957.
It is proposed, Mr. Deputy President, that the increases in pensions, allowances and benefits provided by the bill will be paid on the appropriate pay-days following the Royal Assent. The effect of the bill, in financial terms, is to add some £8,000,000 to the 1960-61 cost of pensions and allowances alone or £10,500,000 for a full year. Expenditure in 1961- 62 on all items under the Social Services Act is expected to exceed £274,000,000. In addition, £2,000,000 has been provided for expenditure under the Aged Persons Homes Act. In 1960-61 total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund was £330,600,000. For 1961-62 it is estimated to be £358,200,000.
The estimated increase in social services expenditure is, of course, partly attributable to the operation for a full year of the merged means test which became effective on 1st March, 1961. Honorable senators will be interested to learn that the merged means test benefited more than 100,000 existing pensioners and has already brought into the pension field an additional 6,000 persons who had previously been excluded. This most important structural change in the pensions system since Commonwealth pensions were first paid in 1909 has been effected smoothly though there have been the inevitable administrative and other problems. The Government, through the Department of Social Services, makes payments of various kinds that benefit some 4,500,000 women and children. Payments fall little short of £800,000 a day. This great endeavour to bring security and help to so many reflects the earnest desire of the Government to act equitably to all sections of the community.
I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooke) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 546).
.- A bill to amend the Repatriation Act is part of the legislative programme of the Budget session almost every year. There have been many amendments of the act, each in its own way giving to eligible exservicemen benefits to which they are entitled in accordance with both the letter and the spirit of the legislation. The portion of the second-reading speech of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) that refers to the former Minister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, expresses well-earned praise of a man who has served his country well in war and peace, and who has shown compassion as well as the other qualities necessary in the holder of that portfolio. He is also graced by a wisdom which is demonstrated in his decision to free himself, at his present age, of the onerous responsibility of ministerial office and to hand over to a younger man. That does him credit. It takes a certain amount of courage to decide when is the right time to act. In doing that, Senator Sir Walter Cooper has shown a still greater width of mind and depth of character. They have been fairly apparent, but they have been confirmed by his actions. We on this side of the Senate wish him many long years of good health. We hope to have his company in this chamber for many years to come. We hope that he and his good lady will be able to have more time together in his partial retirement.
His successor, the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), is taking on the responsibilities of an office that has been held very well. I hope that he, in his youth, will aspire to the very high standard that has been set by his predecessor. The main qualities that should be developed in a Minister for Repatriation are the humane qualities of kindness, understanding, tolerence, tact and, above all, mercy. In dealing with the wrecks of past wars we have a continuing national responsibility. Although they may not be obvious on the surface, many deep scars are carried by men as a result of their war service. As has been shown by the records of the department, many of them are loath to apply for any form of repatriation or social service benefits.
But the time comes when they need help, and if the interpretation of the spirit of the act is in the hands of a man with the basic Christian qualities I have mentioned, particularly mercy, the people of Australia will feel that the meaning of the legislation is being put into effect in the interests of such men.
The history of the Repatriation Act has been outlined briefly by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). He has pointed out that the act has been amended many times since its introduction. I understand that the act was consolidated as long ago as 1920, and many amendments have been made since then. The Minister claimed that not many fundamental changes have been made. In his second-reading speech he said, in effect, that the main purpose of the act was to establish the clear basic principle that the main benefits under the act arise on death or disability due to war service, and there have not been many departures from that basic principle. I believe that the Senate should be reminded that there was a basic departure in 1943 in the incorporation in the act of the provision for all ex-servicemen suffering from tuberculosis to be eligible for benefits under the act. That was a very important step forward in the history of the legislation because of the difficulty in being able to prove the circumstances and environment in which tuberculosis was contracted. The servicemen in the Frst World War lived in unnatural conditions for such an extended period of time, with variations in climate, out in the open and in such an environment that it would be impossible for any medical man, any tribunal, or any appeal board to be able to say that a man did or did not contract a lung weakness during his war service. In the light of the inability of the medical profession to supply a basic formula to the department, the Government of the day saw fit to make that great step forward.
No legislation is absolutely final. I understand that 35 different sets of amendments to this act have been necessary over a period of years. That fact shows that improvements are being made continually as a result of advice, pressure or influence. The act as it stands has been claimed to be equal to, if not better than, the repatriation act of any other country. That may be quite true. That is a very proud claim.
But there is no such thing as perfection in human affairs, and that defect certainly applies to the act that we are discussing at present. It is rather a pity that any suggestion that comes from the Opposition is more or less looked upon as a matter to be rejected. Over the years we have seen repatriation matters treated as a political football.
When I was referring to the new Minister for Repatriation, I should have mentioned that members of another place who were appointed to the portfolio of repatriation, to which this young man has recently been appointed, lost their seats at subsequent elections. Having known the two men who occupied the office immediately before Senator Sir Walter Cooper occupied it, I am convinced that their defeat resulted from pressure built up against them by certain sections of the community. I remember the terrific campaign in 1949 when many new organizations sprung up for the purpose of disseminating literature. One of the many of them that irked me was the one that said: “ Get rid of the Minister for Repatriation. His motto is ‘ Nothing is too good for the ex-servicemen’, with accent on the nothing.” I believe that that is one of the meanest things that could be said about any minister for repatriation because Australian ex-servicemen have had the good fortune of having a long line of very kindly gentlemen occupying that portfolio. So, I say that although such pressures have an influence in the eventual framing of the act and amendments to the act, they should not be taken into the hurly-burly of politics. Repatriation is one of the subjects that has a political flavour, as it were, but I think that all concerned have a common interest in the beneficiaries or recipients of repatriation benefits.
During his second-reading speech the Minister referred to the policy speech of the Prime Minister in 1949 when he undertook to ensure that there would be “ speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems “. The Minister said that that understanding has been manifest over the last eleven years and that this bill is an indication that the Government is continuing to manifest such understanding. I think it is my duty to remind the Senate that one of the organizations which have made a great contribution over the years to the development of the Repatriation Act has been the Returned Servicemen’s League. Just recently there came into my hands the 1961 R.S.L. National Pension Plan in which are set out nine items that constitute the plan for 1961. None of those items is over-ambitious. The document was printed before this legislation was introduced, and, as a matter of fact, some of the suggested amounts fall short of the figures contained in this amending legislation.
In relation to the claim that the 1949 promise of speed, financial and human justice and understanding has been honoured, I should like to quote the figures that have been drawn up by the league. In each case the figures have been related to the basic wage. I shall deal first with the 100 per cent, war pension. In 1950 - the first Budget brought down after the election of 1949 - the pension was £3 10s. a week or 30.84 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1960 it was £5 10s. a week, or 23.16 per cent, of the basic wage. The league has every right, as have honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and as also have members of the Government Members Repatriation Committee, to point out continually to Ministers and in particular the Treasurer that the decrease that has taken place during the last ten years is not in accordance with the wishes of the people of Australia.
– What were the figures you quoted?
– In 1950, the 100 per cent, war pension was £3 10s. a week, or 30.84 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1960, it was £5 10s. a week, or 23.16 per cent, of the basic wage. In its plan the league asked for a pension of £6 10s. a week, which is 29.99 per cent, of the basic wage. A pension of £6 10s. would be the equivalent of the 1949 pension.
– Those figures would give you a basic wage of £22 a week.
– The present basic wage is £14 8s. and those figures are based upon that wage.
– You said that a pension of £5 10s. a week was 23 per c:nt. of the basic wage. That would give you a basic wage of £22 a week. There is something wrong there.
– According to these figures a pension of £5 10s. a week was 23 per cent, of the basic wage.
– 1 think the honorable senator means 23 per cent, of the average male earnings, and nol 23 per cent, of the basic wage.
– I am sorry that I did not read the figures, correctly. The figure I quoted is the percentage of the average male earnings, which is rather an indefinite figure.
– Have you the percentages corresponding to the basic wage for the two years you mentioned? I would be interested in them.
– That could be worked out if you wish.
– Could you give us the figures during the committee stage?
– I shall try to obtain them by the time the committee stage is reached.
The case made out by the R.S.L. is a fair one. It seeks to bring the pension rate up to the 1950 standard, without even taking into consideration the effect of the inflationary pressure. If the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners and 100 per cent, war pensioners had not suffered war disabilities, they would, I am sure, be occupying a more than average position in the community, bearing in mind their experience, travel and the widening of their outlook as the result of their war service. They would have been in positions with remunerations above the basic wage. The great proportion of them, had they their full health, strength and vigour, would be earning above-the-average wages or salaries, but having been deprived of the capacity to earn they have to depend on what the Government decides to give them. We as a parliament admit that they have been deprived of their capacity to ear a, and we admit it is our responsibility to pay them. It is then our duty to work out the amount they should receive.
Claims are made by workers to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and to State industrial courts for a share in the prosperity of the nation. The Government claims that, during the period to which the figures I have quoted relate, there has been unprecedented pros perity, and that Australia has progressed from the conditions during the years 1914 to 1930 to what is now referred to as Australia Unlimited. I submit, therefore, that the recipients of repatriation benefits are justified in expecting to share in that prosperity. The case that has been made out by the Returned Servicemen’s League shows that in some instances the standard has not been maintained, let alone improved.
Let me continue to quote figures for other categories. In 1950 the widow’s pension was £3 10s. a week, with a domestic allowance of 10s., representing 34.3 per cent, of the average earning rate. In 1960 the widow’s pension was £5 10s., with a £3 domestic allowance, representing 35.38 per cent, of the average earning rate - an increase of a little more than 1 per cent, in ten years. That is a very inconsiderable amount. In 1950 the service pension was £2 10s., or 21.75 per cent, of the average male earning rate. In 1960 it was £5 per week or 21.05 per cent. - a decrease of 7 per cent, in the pension. I have every reason to believe that these figures were prepared by the research people of the league.
I turn now to the total and permanent incapacity pension. Provision is made in the bill to increase the T.P.I, pension to £13 5s. a week. The statistics I have before me show that in 1950 the T.P.I, pension was £7 a week, that rate being 60.9 per cent, of the average male earning. Last year the pension was £12 15s., or 53.68 per cent, of the average male earning - a reduction of 7 per cent. I quote these figures to stress the need for all honorable senators to pay heed to what is said by various people who, in all goodwill, try to alleviate a lot of those who through war service are suffering from disabilities which deprive them and their dependants of the ability to maintain themselves, as members of a community which claims to have a rising standard of living, in the dignity and degree of comfort to which they are entitled.
I have already mentioned, Mr. Acting Deputy President, the step forward that was taken in 1943 when provision was incorporated in the Repatriation Act for tuberculosis sufferers. Those people were automatically accepted for repatriation benefits and treatment. Over the years we on this side of the chamber have applied as much pressure as possible to have the act further amended and, as a political party, we have pledged ourselves to do so when we again take over the reins of government. As a matter of fact, we shall even try later to-day to have the act amended to include provision for cancer to be regarded as a war-caused disability and for ex-servicemen who are suffering from cancer to be provided with treatment and benefits similar to those which are provided for tuberculosis sufferers. I have already outlined the facts in regard to tuberculosis. It is very difficult indeed to be specific about the manner in which a person contracts that dread disease. I must say, however, that those who have undertaken research into this problem have done a magnificent job, so much so that tuberculosis is no longer one of the worst killers in this country, particularly in my State of Tasmania. That result reflects great credit on our medical profession and all those people who have been associated with the control of contagious diseases.
I believe that what I said earlier about tuberculosis can be applied equally as well to the dread disease of cancer. New methods of transport, whether they be tanks, aircraft or naval vessels, with attendant knocks and bruises, and exposure to the fumes of T.N.T., other explosives and new scientific devices and gadgets, are all part of modern warfare. There is no definite proof that man has not created the environment in which cancer may put down its roots. For that very compelling reason, we of the Opposition believe that the Repatriation Department, with all its knowhow, organization, institutions and competent staff, could very well help the community to handle this problem. I am firmly of the opinion that the Social Services Bill, which was introduced a little earlier, should provide for free hospitalization and treatment for overy one in the community who is suffering from cancer. The forcing of States to do away with their free hospital schemes was a retrograde step. Before this Government assumed office, we in Tasmania provided free hospital treatment for every member of the community. We adopted the view that a sick person was a liability to the community, that a well person was an asset, and that the sooner a sick person was brought back to health by every modern means at the disposal of the medical and nursing professions the better it would be for all concerned.
We in Australia are still behind scratch in our effort to achieve anything like a true democracy which can be held up as an alternative to the products of the rival ideologies that are present in the world today. That will be so until we take it for granted that free medical treatment is not a privilege but a right. That step backwards to which I referred a moment ago may have been the result of economic pressure; it may have been the result of self-interest. I believe that it has largely been the result of self-interest. I think the doctors have been responsible to a degree, because they saw an opportunity to make more money in private practice than they would by working in hospitals. I think, too, that some private hospitals saw an opportunity to make more money. Whatever has been the reason, 1 repeat that it was a retrograde step.
I hope the day is not far distant when reason will again prevail and when the Government will act as any sensible comunity would act in removing rats that are likely to spread a plague, or any other undesirable cause of ill health. Just as, in the example I have quoted, a community adopts adequate hygiene facilities, we believe that any one who is unhealthy or is suffering from a particular disease should automatically go to the right hospital to get the right treatment in the shortest possible time. We could well repeat, in relation to cancer, the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he said -
We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
It is still not too late for special legislation to be introduced. I assure the Senate, on behalf of the Opposition, that at the first opportunity we shall review the legislation along the lines I have stated.
As has been said on numerous occasions, we believe that the Repatriation Act should be flexible. Its provisions are not final, nor are they perfect. We should always aspire to establish new standards. For that reason, we say that the man who has lost the capacity to earn what he had before he enlisted ought to be paid at least as much as the basic wage. Adult workers in all branches of industry, regardless of the conditions under which they work, are entitled to the basic wage. Therefore, the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman should have the basic wage as a base rate. So, too, should the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. The provisions relating to their pensions should be reviewed, although I admit that it is proposed to grant an increase this year.
We on this side of the chamber have attempted in the past to amend the onusofproof provisions of the Repatriation Act. That has been a very vexed question over the years. So much depends on the person who has the final say in deciding whether or not an ex-serviceman’s disability was war-caused. When I was a little boy we used to sing, “What was the cause of the black crow’s caws? We all would like to know.” Those lines are perhaps applicable to the onus-of-proof provisions. If a man sustained shrapnel or bullet wounds on war service there is no need for the onus of proof to be applied. It is obvious that his wounds were war-caused. His records will show that he is entitled to repatriation benefits. But year after year, we note from the reports of the Repatriation Commission and the various appeal tribunals that many ex-servicemen have had their claims disallowed. I should say that all the claims would have been made in good faith and that the overwhelming majority of them, would have been disallowed because not sufficient proof was presented to justify1 the payment of repatriation benefits.
In the case of cancer, heart disease, fibrositis and many other complaints that are common to all people, not only exservicemen, it is very difficult to prove their cause. The members of the tribunals have time limits, home responsibilites and programmes to work out for themselves Many ex-servicemen appear before them. I think that perhaps in the minds of members of tribunals there is a pattern by which they may judge fairly quickly whether or not an ex-serviceman’s case is a genuine one. Ex-servicemen are obliged to appear before the various tribunals, in the belief that their disabilities were warcaused, and each record is passed on from one tribunal to the next. An applicant may not be able to produce new evidence. Possibly his recollection of the circumstances in which he sustained his injury is dim. He may be unable to produce a specific reason which would cause the people sitting on the tribunal to change their minds. We of the Opposition think that the onus of proof should rest on the Repatriation Department up to the stage where the final decision is reached that an ex-serviceman is ineligible for repatriation benefits. We are of the opinion that there should be a court, outside the atmosphere of the Repatriation Department and not steeped in the day-to-day routine of appeals, which could apply a purely medico-legal interpretation of the onusofproof provisions.
– You do not want any more interpretations, surely?
– Many old diggers have battled on until at last they have obtained benefits, and I am sure that the honorable senator would have supported them in doing so. The act has been amended many times since 1918. Many ex-servicemen were deprived of their just entitlement because amendments of the act were not made until after their claims had been considered.
No doubt there will be further amendments in the future, affecting matters on which claims are being disallowed at the present time. As a result of the amendments that are being made, I have no doubt that many ex-servicemen will again approach the tribunals, and perhaps the amendments will cover their cases. All amendments of the act have the effect of making its provisions available to exservicemen who previously were not entitled to benefits. There would be no pressure for amendment of the act if that were not so. The Australian Labour Party is strongly of the opinion that provision should be made for an appeal to the High Court or to the Supreme Court of a State, as a final appeal, thus giving ex-servicemen the benefit of a decision by a body outside the influence of the Repatriation Department.
I do not think that the right of appeal to such a body would be availed of in every case. As we know, there have been cases in which ex-servicemen have had their cases re-opened, after they had been considered by the various tribunals. As a result, they have won entitlement to benefits. Perhaps an opinion by another medical man has been obtained. Doctors become accustomed to dealing with old diggers. Some doctors are very busy men. They may have large panels of patients. As we know, the medical profession has some wonderful men within its ranks. I have heard people say about a doctor: “ Oh, he is a great fellow. He is very sympathetic to the diggers,” whereas others will say: “ No, he is too busy. He pushes people through like sausages through a machine.” That is true of many doctors, not only of those who deal with ex-servicemen. In the opinion of the Opposition, it is important that the provision for appeals to which I have referred be incorporated in the act, and later I shall submit a motion proposing that the committee be instructed to consider the insertion of an appropriate new section.
Another matter that we on this side regard as important is that hospital and medical treatment in repatriation hospitals should be available to all ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war. We have attempted on previous occasions to have the act amended to provide for that. The men who served in the 1914-18 war are becoming fewer and fewer. They are dying off. In fact, the 1914-18 digger is, so to speak, a member of a vanishing race. We believe that there should be available to these people hospital and medical facilities of the kind that are available in some circumstances to age pensioners and, in Queensland, to every one.
It can be argued that the repatriation hospitals are being denuded of patients and, consequently, of staff. At present these hospitals are finding it very difficult to get staff, and that may be d(Ue to the fact that fewer patients are being admitted. I believe that it is necessary for the Repatriation Commission to consider the problem of keeping the repatriation hospitals up to a standard that will attract nursing trainees and highly qualified nursing and medical staff. If the facilities of the repatriation hospitals were available to all ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war, that would cause the hospitals to fill with patients. That in turn, would provide wider opportunities for training and for attracting staff.
From my experience of repatriation hospitals, I know that at present it is very difficult for them to recruit staff. Many members of the present staffs are being overworked and rostering has become quite a problem. Twice this year I have been an inmate of the Repatriation General Hospital at Heidelberg, undergoing surgical treatment. I noticed that the nursing sisters were being worked very hard and that the roster system did not give them very much latitude. I noticed, too, that fewer young girls were coming in as trainee nurses. I have been in repatriation hospitals for surgical treatment seven or eight times, I suppose, since the end of the war, and on each occasion it seemed to me that there were fewer trainee nurses. At present the repatriation hospitals have to rely upon attracting nursing sisters trained in other hospitals. As I have said, possibly the difficulty in this field would be overcome if there were more patients, and a wider variety of patients, in the hospitals. In pushing the claim that treatment in repatriation hospitals should be available to all ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war - a claim that we believe to be justified on its merits - I stress again that if the Governmen accepted the claim it would have the effect of causing more patients to enter the repatriation hospitals and thus make it easier for those hospitals to recruit staff.
The Opposition also suggests that hospital and medical treatment in repatriation hospitals be available for all veterans of the South African war. There are so few of these veterans now that the concession could be granted almost automatically. There is an obligation on any community to ensure that people in the twilight of their lives, such as these few veterans of whom we should be so proud, have open to them all the best in the community’s life.
Finally, we suggest that the act be amended to make provision for medical benefits for the wives of special rate pensioners. We shall move that the following new section be inserted: -
The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide for the wife of a person in receipt of the Special Rate of pension under the second Schedule to this Act such medical benefits as she would receive if she were the wife of a person eligible for medical benefits under the Pensioner Medical Service.
I have outlined our case for what we believe would be timely and justifiable improvements of the Repatriation Act. We support anything which improves the lot of ex-servicemen, and we hope that we shall succeed in having the amendments to which I have referred incorporated in the act. I have explained already that it is my intention to move at a later stage a motion - of which I have given notice - that an instruction be given to the committee to consider amendments of the principal act. We hope that the bill will have a speedy passage and that the increased benefits for which it provides will be paid to the exservicemen at the earliest possible date.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [3.23]. - First of all, I should like to thank Senator O’Byrne for the very kind remarks that he made about what I did during the time I was Minister for Repatriation. I assure him that I appreciated those remarks very much. I quite enjoyed my period of office, but, as the honorable senator said, the time comes when a Minister must make up his mind whether he will go on or get out. I had been able to persuade the Cabinet to agree that service pensioners should be entitled to hospital and medical treatment in repatriation hospitals and, having done that, I thought that the time had come for me to retire.
I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission, Brigadier Chilton, and to all the members of the staff of the Repatriation Department generally for their valuable work and for their loyalty to me. Without their assistance, a Minister for Repatriation would get nowhere. I found that all the members of the staff of the department, wherever they were situated, were always ready to do all that they could to make my job as easy as possible and to do all that they could for ex-service men and women who were seeking to have disabilities accepted as being due to war service or who were in hospitals and clinics to receive treatment for disabilities. During my eleven years as Minister, the staff of the department did a great job.
I congratulate the present Minister for Repatriation, the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), on the way in which he has undertaken his task. His heart and soul are in the work of the Repatriation Department. He has a keen desire to see that his former comrades and also the men and women who served in the First World War get a fair deal, and that they know of the assistance and the benefits that are available to them through the Repatriation Department.
When I first became the Minister for Repatriation, I found that a great many ex-servicemen did not know of the benefits to which they were entitled. In my experience, the more we explained these things to them, the better it was for all of us. The ex-servicemen themselves appreciated the information that was passed on to them through which they learned of their just entitlements. The Repatriation Department does not wait for ex-servicemen to make the first approach. Officers of the department go into the country. They visit subbranches of the ex-servicemen’s organizations and they inform ex-service men and women of the benefits to which they are entitled. This activity has greatly improved the liaison between ex-service men and women and the Repatriation Department. I am sure that those who have served in the forces look upon the officers of the Repatriation Department as friends and comrades. These officers advise them and show them how they can go about getting their disabilities accepted as due to war service.
The bill before the Senate is designed to improve certain benefits available to exservice men and women. The original act came into operation in 1917. It is rather a coincidence that the Returned Servicemen’s League was formed about a year earlier in 1916. Over the years, the Repatriation Department and the R.S.L. have worked together very closely, and have moved forward together to the great benefit of the department and of the ex-servicemen themselves.
I joined the R.S.L. in 1920. At that time, we did not foresee the day when it would become the strongest ex-servicemen’s organization in Australia. Since then, its activities have become virtually world-wide. The R.S.L. has been responsible for much of the repatriation legislation that is on the statute-book now. One of its greatest achievements was the establishment of the tribunals in 1929. At that time, the exservicemen were dissatisfied with the Repatriation Act. Appeals on pensions and allowances could be made only to the Minister for Repatriation. The Minister for Repatriation at that time was Sir Neville Howse and he asked the ex-servicemen to put their proposals into writing. That was done, and after the proposal had been considered by the draftsmen and legal officers, the tribunals came into being. We can say definitely that they were the result of ^pressure brought by the R.S.L. at the time. There were not a great many members of the league to exert pressure, but every member was an enthusiast and worked to the best of his ability to get these tribunals established so that appeals would be taken out of the hands of the department and of the Parliament.
With a few amendments, the principal act has worked very well until the present day. The R.S.L. has been a great help. It has done valuable work for ex-servicemen and for the improvement of the relevant legislation. Many other soldiers’ organizations have come into being over the years and they also have done very good work for their members.
I think it should be understood that before the Budget is brought down each year, the Minister for Repatriation meets executive members of the various exservicemen’s organizations. I know that was my practice and it has been continued since I resigned the portfolio. The representatives of the ex-servicemen put before the Minister any requests they have for increases in benefits or other provisions, and the Minister takes careful note of them. Finally, the proposals are brought before the Cabinet. The Returned Servicemen’s League is the oldest and strongest organization of its kind in Australia. It is non-political and non-sectarian. It puts its case before a sub-committee of Cabinet Ministers, all of whom are ex-servicemen. Each year the league discusses its case with members of the committee. Finally, the resolutions sorted out by the committee and the Minister go before Cabinet for decision as to what increases in benefits can be provided in the coming Iudget. The Minister is wel informed long before Cabinet looks at budget figures. This information comes from every source, including the organizations representing blinded and partially blinded ex-servicemen, totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, exservicemen suffering from tuberculosis, the Australian Legion of ex-Servicemen and Women and others. In that way we get a full and clear picture of what is desired by those organizations. They do not always get what they seek. No government could carry on if it gave all that was requested. We have to go into the factor of costs, whether this requirement overrides some other requirement, and whether the proposition is workable. Finally, the Budget is introduced. We are now discussing resolutions that have been put up during the past six months.
In May last year I was fortunate enough to make a trip overseas to examine what was being done for ex-servicemen in various countries, including Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and continental countries including Germany. There are official veterans’ organizations in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom, and in the United Kingdom the national insurance scheme covers hospital treatment and medicines for ex-servicemen. I had a good opportunity of seeing what was being done and I came back to Australia firmly convinced that in regard to benefits, hospital treatment, and artificial limbs, our provisions are at least equal to any that I saw overseas. If I were not so modest, I would say that ours were better.
– Could you make any comment upon the American system of lump sum payments?
– I could not very well. I dealt more with what was received by way of pension. Lump sum payments are made, or were formerly made. We had them at one time and found that the system was unsound, because the lump sum payments were spent quickly.
– They would be unsatisfactory, if that were the whole provision. I refer to a basic lump sum provision, followed by a recurring pension.
– I could not say just what is the position in that regard. I understand that for a United States ex-serviceman who has suffered’ a disability, such as the loss of a leg, a car is provided, but only one car. When it is worn out, it is not replaced, lt is in the nature of a bonus or gift. Authorities overseas hardly believed me when I told them that we had tribunals, which had nothing to do with the government and did not come under government control, to assess pensions, and that these tribunals were the final authority in regard to entitlement. The overseas authorities said that they would not make such a provision, because the effect would be that the treasury would have no control over the money being provided. I had to show them the provision in our act before they believed that this decision was away from government control.
– Are there no tribunals in either America or the United Kingdom?
– They do have tribunals. The appeal in the United States is to the veterans’ court, which is a part of the department. There is no free outside body, separate from the jurisdiction of the government. I was very pleased to learn that we were well up to date with our provisions and, in regard to pensions and allowances a little more generous, I think, than other countries.
I should like to run through the increased benefits to be provided under the Budget. The special rate pension is to rise from £12 15s. to £13 5s., and the general rate from £5 10s. to £5 15s. The widow’s pension is to rise from £5 10s. to £5 15s., and the domestic allowance from £3 to £3 2s. 6d. The allowance for the first child of a deceased ex-serviceman is to rise from £1 lis. 6d. to £1 19s. and the allowance for each other child from £1 2s. 6d. to £1 7s. 6d. Double orphans, that is, children both of whose parents are dead, are to have their allowance increased from £3 3s. to £3 lis. 6d. There is to be a 5s. increase in the allowance for widowed mothers or widowed fathers who are in indigent circumstances. The service pension is to rise from £5 to £5 5s. I am very pleased to see an increase of 12s. 6d., from £1 15s. to £2 7s. 6d., in the pension payable to the wife of a permanently unemployable service pensioner. The allow ance for the first child of a service pensioner is to rise from lis. 6d. to 15s., and for the second child from £1 15s. to £1 17s. These provisions were outstanding for some time and I was very pleased to see them come into operation. Medical sustenance is to rise from £12 15s. to £13 5s., and the general rate sustenance from £5 10s. to £5 15s. The rates I have been quoting are the bare rates of pension. I quoted them all together so that one would not be mixed up with another. I call them the “ bare rates “ because now other benefits go with the various classifications of pensions. Since last year service pensioners have been eligible for free medical, hospital, out-patient, dental and optical treatment. That has made a wonderful difference to those pensioners.
The special rate pension paid to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen who are single will be £13 5s., increased from £12 15s. The 100 per cent. general pension rate is £5 15s. That amount can be increased by the. pensioner receiving a certain amount of social service benefit. A totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman and his wife could receive from social service and repatriation pensions a maximum of £17 10s. a week. But that amount may be increased considerably because he may receive an attendant’s allowance of £3 5s. a week. There are 1,200 people drawing that allowance. That would take his total pension up to £20 15s. It could go still higher if he was in receipt of a recreation and transport allowance of £10 a month. This allowance is provided to enable a man to go out in a car or move about as he likes. He may spend the whole of the allowance in one week, or he may spend it over two, three or four weeks. That allowance represents an addition to his pension of £2 10s. a week. If he received the attendant’s allowance as well as the transport allowance, as he probably would, because such a man would be pretty sick, he would then receive £23 5s. a week. That amount is free from income tax, So he would receive the whole amount without deduction. A married member in receipt of the T.P.I. pension and the attendant’s allowance who had two children- rone twelve years of age and one under twelve years of age - would receive a pension of £22 6s. 6d. If he received all the allowances he would receive a total of £28 ls. 6d. a week.
A pensioner who has lost both legs above the knee or is paraplegic from the waist down is entitled to receive a free gift of a motor car. That provision came into operation in 1950. Some of these people now have their third car. The Government makes this free gift, and as one car wears out the pensioner receives another one. Of course, the Government sees that the cars are not knocked about too much. At the present time. 155 people have these gift cars. They also receive £2 10s. a week, or £120 a year, for running expenses. I have not included child endowment in any of these figures. I have given only the amounts paid by the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services. A single man on the 100 per cent, rate can receive £5 15s. from the Repatriation Department and £3 a week service pension from the Department of Social Services if he can conform with the social services means test. So, he can receive up to £8 15s. On a 50 per cent, rate of pension he can receive up to £8 2s. 6d. The general rate pensioner, whose wife is not eligible for an age or invalid pension in her own right, can receive £7 10s. 6d. He would receive £5 15s. for himself and £1 15s. 6d. for his wife. The couple could also receive a part-service pension of £4 19s. 9d. If the wife were eligible for the age or invalid pension they would receive £17 10s. If she were not eligible for the age or invalid pension they would receive £14 17s. 9d. So, there is quite, a difference between the money actually received by pensioners and what I have described as the “ bare rates of pension “. The basic rate pension can be increased by payments from the Department of Social Services, especially since the introduction of the merged means test. This amelioration of the conditions has made quite a considerable difference, to many people who were on the borderline. Before the introduction of the merged means test they were not receiving anything, but now many of them are eligible for the full rate of pension. A member on a 100 per cent, pension, with a wife and two children aged fourteen years and twelve years, may receive up to £17 12s. 9d. a week. A number of these 100 per cent, pensioners are permanently unemployable. They will receive as much as £17 12s. 9d., tax free, as well as other benefits such as full hospital treatment, medicine, and doctor and specialist treatment. In effect, the value of what they receive is much more than the £17 12s. 9d. pension.
War widows are in a different category. When this legislation is passed war widows will receive £5 15s. a week plus a domestic allowance of £3 2s. 6d., giving them in all an amount of £8 17s. 6d. There is no means test, applicable to war widows, and no income tax is payable. The children of war widows receive the same hospital treatment as is enjoyed by T.P.I, ex-servicemen. The benefit was altered a few years ago. Whereas previously they received hospitalization only if a bed was available, the benefit was altered to make it mandatory that a bed be provided for them. If a bed is not available in a repatriation hospital they are given a bed in an intermediate ward of a public hospital, the department meeting the expense.
– Is that given to the widow only or to the widow and her children?
– The widow and her children. If they live in the country they can travel to the repatriation hospital in the capital city, or if they prefer they can have an intermediate bed in a hospital in their own district. Suppose a person living in Cairns or Townsville does not wish to travel to Brisbane. She can have a bed in the hospital in the town in which she lives. In the case of a small family of two children, one fourteen years of age and another twelve years of age, the total amount to be paid as a result of the additional allowance and the increased child’s allowance will be £14 5s. 6d. Again, no means test is applied, and the department looks after the education of the children right up to and through the university, if necessary. If a child shows any evidence of brilliance and desires to go on to a university the department will pay for the university training. In effect, the department is the father of these children.
Another benefit introduced in this legislation is what is known as the “ rest essential “ provision. When an exserviceman enters a repatriation hospital he receives a special sustenance rate which at the present time amounts to £13 5s., which is equal to the T.P.I, rate. He remains on that rate all the time he is in hospital. However, after being in hospital for, say, one month or two months, he may feel that he would like to go home to his family. The doctor may be perfectly willing to allow him to return home provided he rests at home for a further period. When he leaves hospital his special sustenance rate of £13 5s. is immediately cut down to the 100 per cent, rate which at present is only £5 15s. Out of that he has to provide for his food and other requirements and, of course, he is much worse off than he would be had he remained in hospital. Many patients, especially nerve cases, worry because they cannot meet their commitments, and that certainly does not do them any good. It was thought it would be a good idea if the doctor could send a man home for a couple of months under what we decided to call a “ rest essential “ provision. During the period he was at home he would receive the same sustenance allowance as he had been receiving during his stay in hospital. I am glad that the suggestion we had in mind has been accepted by the Government and is included in the present legislation. It will come into operation when this bill is passed. I consider the “ rest essential “ provision to be a very sound one. It will reduce the time of a man’s stay in hospital and the cost of his food will not have to be borne by the hospital. While he is at home he will be able to attend the hospital at regular periods to be examined if necessary.
Another anomaly has been corrected in this legislation. When an employee has had to attend an out-patients clinic, a doctor in the hospital, or the Repatriation Department itself, he has been paid a minimum rate of 5s. an hour for the time away from work, with a minimum amount of 7s. 6d. if he was absent from work less than an hour, a maximum daily rate of 40s. and a maximum weekly rate of 80s. Up to date, a man who has been self-employed, perhaps as a small storekeeper, has not been entitled to any allowance for his loss of time while attending for a medical examination. It may be necessary for such a person to close his business and be absent for three or four, or even more, hours. One of the reasons why these persons have not received any thing is that the payment of allowances in such cases is difficult to administer. The department now feels that it can overcome that difficulty, and the self-employed man is to be paid on the same basis as is a salary or wage earner who is away from his work for a short period.
– For what purpose? Is it to obtain treatment?
– The department may call him up for medical treatment, or pension examination, or he may have to go to a clinic. Senator O’Byrne said that the number of exservicemen attending hospitals for treatment was becoming smaller. Really, the position is quite the reverse; the number is increasing each year. The number of pensioners’ allowances granted has increased by approximately 12,000 a year. As at June last, 662,079 ex-servicemen were drawing pensions and allowances, at an approximate annual cost of £74,000,000. During the period of my administration of the Repatriation Department the number rose every month, and the department expects that the peak will not be reached until after 1970. That is a long time to look ahead, even if there is not another war.
It is interesting to note that following the introduction of free medical and hospital benefits for service pensioners the gross intake for the past twelve months was 7,336. In other words, that was the gross number of ex-servicemen who became entitled to the service pension. Deaths and other factors reduced that number by more than 2,000 to approximately 5,000. The bulk of these new pensioners either transferred from the ordinary age pension group or became entitled to a pension following the introduction of the new merged means test. Previously, the department could not ascertain how many people were entitled to a service pension. If they wish, persons who are entitled to a service pension may transfer from the ordinary age pension group.
The increase in the number of service pensioners has meant quite a rearrangement on the. part of the hospitals to provide accommodation. Some of the repatriation hospitals were reasonably full before the service pensioner became entitled to free treatment. In fact, extra wards probably will have to be built at the Greenslopes hospital in Queensland. But the introduction of the service pensioner hospitalization scheme has solved the problems that were experienced by such institutions as the Lady Davidson Home in Sydney, which for quite a long time was a tuberculosis hospital. It is a beautiful place situated in beautiful surroundings. That institution is now being used for the service pensioner who is not really critically ill but who nevertheless needs some care. The Edward Millen Home in Perth is another institution that was being used for tuberculosis patients, but now it can be used for service pensioners and others. The extra room can be utilized, and it will mean that the hospital will not have to be handed over to the State.
Senator O’Byrne mentioned the difficulty experienced in obtaining nurses. There is a world-wide shortage of nurses; but I believe that repatriation hospitals get their share - if not a little more - of the nurses who are available. The Repatriation Department has quite a number of trainee nurses at the Concord hospital in Sydney. Those trainees have done remarkably well. A trainee nurse system is also in operation at Heidelberg hospital in Victoria and at Greenslopes hospital in Queensland. I do not think the hospitals could do without these trainee nurses, especially the Sydney hospital. As a matter of fact, in Sydney there is a waiting list for trainee nurses, the bulk of the applicants being daughters of ex-servicemen of the Second World War.
Reference was made by Senator O’Byrne also to the South African war veterans. The Repatriation Department and the Government have had this matter under consideration for quite a long time. I thought that last year, with the introduction of the service pensioner hospitalization scheme, we would have taken care of at least the indigent South African veteran. Probably the veteran who was better off financially would not have been brought within the scope of the scheme, but certainly the indigent veteran should have been taken care of. I am sure that those who really needed care and attention but who did not have the wherewithal to pay for it have been taken care of. Following the introduction of the servce pensioner hospitalization scheme I did not receive the correspondence I used to get from many South African veterans, so I should say that they feel they are being well looked after.
Quite a lot has been said in both Houses of the Parliament, and also throughout the community, about the onus-of-proof provisions and the tribunals system. In this respect, I have taken out some figures which are rather illuminating. Discussion of the onus-of-proof section of the act has been taking place for years now. From my personal experience of the Repatriation Department, I know that the board, the commission and the tribunals consider closely the way in which the section should be applied and ensure that the benefit of the doubt is given wherever possible. I think it is true to say that most of the dissatisfaction is expressed by ex-servicemen whose claims have been rejected. It is understandable that a man should feel dissatisfied when his claim that a disability is due to war service is not accepted by the repatriation authorities. However, since the removal of the ceiling which previously prevented a war pensioner from receiving a social service pension as well, many exservicemen are now entitled to hospital treatment in repatriation hospitals. They are now as well off as they would have been if they had had their disabilities accepted as due to war service. In fact, they are better off than the ex-servicemen whose disability has been accepted as, say, 20 per cent, due to war service, because such a man is entitled to hospital treatment only for the accepted disability. The service pensioner, on the other hand, is entitled to hospital treatment for every disability from which he may suffer.
As honorable senators know, an exserviceman who wishes to claim for a repatriation pension on the ground that his disability is due to war service, is required to fill in a form which is handed to the department. The information that he supplies is processed, and he is told when to come in for medical examination. He is thoroughly examined. His file also is examined. He goes before a board, and if the board rejects his claim he may appeal to the commission. The number of exservicemen who appeal has increased considerably over the years. That is partly due to a change in procedure which I caused to be made during the early part of my term as Minister for Repatriation.
I thought it was only fair that it should be made as easy as possible for a man who had gone before a board to appeal. Previously, ex-servicemen had been informed that if they wrote to the department the relevant forms would be sent to them. I asked, “ Well, why not send the form with the notice that you send stating that the disability has not been accepted as due to war service? “ Thereafter, with every such letter that was sent out the ex-serviceman concerned was informed that if he signed the form and returned it to the department, that would be taken as notice of appeal. The same thing was done by the commission in connexion with appeals to the tribunal. A letter was sent out with a form of appeal enclosed, and all that the ex-serviceman had to do was to sign the form and send it back. That change in procedure had the effect of increasing considerably the number of appeals.
In 1950, there were two entitlement appeal tribunals. Now, we have four. There were then three assessment appeal tribunals, and now we have six. Because the work of the tribunals had almost doubled, it was necessary to increase their number. The members of the boards and tribunals all are ex-servicemen. The boards consist of three members, and so do the commission and the entitlement appeal tribunals. On the assessment appeal tribunals a chairman who is a lawyer is appointed and there are two doctors who are conversant with the particular disability in respect of which the applicant is claiming re-assessment of his pension. One member of the boards and of the commission is selected from a panel of names supplied by ex-servicemen’s organizations. A notice is inserted in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “ inviting exservicemen’s organizations with Commonwealth affiliation to submit the names of three persons. As a result, on the boards, the commission and the tribunals there is a representative of ex-service organizations. To the best of my knowledge the ex-service representative on the commission has always been the federal secretary of the R.S.L.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to traverse in any detail the figures relating to pension rates, because they have been adequately covered by Senator O’Byrne and Senator Sir Walter Cooper. A measure of generosity, inconsistent with the usual practice of successive Menzies Governments, has been displayed in repatriation matters simply because of the extraordinarily sympathetic attitude adopted by Senator Sir Walter Cooper, the previous Minister for Repatriation. Because of his determination and sincere interest in the rights of returned men, he was able to gouge something out of the Government for the benefit of ex-servicemen. I pay a sincere tribute to him, as do all returned servicemen.
In the legislation before the Senate we have an example of something that certainly would not have occurred if Senator Sir Walter Cooper had continued as Minister for Repatriation. I do not know why he decided to resign or retire from that position, but I think that 100 per cent, of exservicemen were disappointed when he did so.
– Twelve years is a long time.
– He was doing an excellent job, having regard to the difficulties he must have experienced with his associates. He was well, he was sincerely interested in the job and he made a humanitarian approach to the problems of exservicemen. I know that twelve years is a long time and I know that you can demand too much of a public man. The honorable senator, I will admit, had earned his retirement, and I am now pleading the case of the ex-servicemen, knowing the difficulties that they are likely to encounter under the regime of the new Minister.
This can be termed a “ five bob “ bill. All the increases seem to be increases of 5s., with the exception of a few of 2s. 6d. and 7s. 6d. I think the reason that any increases have been granted is that this is a pre-election period, but the increases are not adequate. The Returned Servicemen’s League submitted to the Government this year a national pensions plan, but the Government has not seen fit to go very close to the league’s recommendations. I think every member of the Parliament has had a copy of that proposed pension plan. It seems to me that the Government has said, “ We will have to give the ex-servicemen something, but we will give them as little as possible “. That is the approach to it. I know that the R.S.L. went to a great deal of trouble and did a vast amount of work in preparing the plan, which took into account the fall in the value of money during the last twelve years. Substantial increases were asked for, but the Government has offered miserable increases of 2s. 6d., 5s. and 7s. 6d. However, I have already said that I do not propose to traverse the field of figures. On that basis, the Government stands condemned. What it is offering is not acceptable to the ex-servicemen. It is a tragedy that Senator Sir Walter Cooper is not still the Minister for Repatriation because, despite the obstinacy of his Cabinet associates, he would have been able to gouge a little more out of the Government and the ex-servicemen would have been duly grateful.
I want to deal principally with the onusofproof provisions. I hope to approach the subject in a constructive manner, as I usually do. As honorable senators know, my idea is always to try to assist the Government.
– Are you trying to kid yourself or us?
– It is not a question of kidding myself or of kidding you. I am concerned now, as always, with truth and facts, as everyone with any intelligence recognizes. My personal experience is that the departmental officials are anxious to interpret the onus-of-proof provisions sympathetically. However much I despise this Government for its lack of a sense of national responsibility, I should hate to think that it would attempt to direct departmental officials to depart from the basis of the onus-of-proof provisions. I do not think the Government would do that. I believe sincerely that the departmental officials try to observe those provisions, but I feel that the Government could make a real contribution to a solution of some of the problems that arise in this field.
I have had some extraordinary successes in making submissions, even outside the field of my specialty, simply because I went to the trouble of going into some detail to substantiate claims made on behalf of exservicemen. I do not think that I have had other than 100 per cent, success in cases involving my specialty and in cases which I have taken up because of a particular personal association. I suggest that the Minister emphasize to his departmental officials, and that they, in turn, emphasize to ex-servicemen and medical men, that cases should be carefully prepared. Exservicemen should be made to realize that, in submitting a case for a pension, no detail, however small, is not worthy of being placed on record. The doctors - I do not want this to be interpreted as an attack on medical practitioners-
– You would not dare!
– I would dare anything, and Senator Marriott knows that I would. I am not frightened of anyone, including the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Government will not gag me now, as it did this morning for the third successive time. Interruptions by honorable senators opposite will not lead me from the path that I have elected to tread. I believe that in many instances ex-servicemen have been deprived of their repatriation rights, not because of any intention to deprive them of those rights, but simply because their claims have not been prepared adequately. That is something that the Minister and the departmental officials should emphasize to claimants and to medical practitioners. As I have said, in my personal experience I have found that the onus-of-proof provisions have been interpreted sympathetically. I know that others say that that is not their experience, but I want to pay a tribute to the department for its approach to the cases that I have submitted.
– You have been lucky. Other people have not.
– I am meticulously careful in the preparation of cases and extraordinarily skilful, as honorable senators realize, in the submissions that I make.
– Are you implying that Senator Hendrickson, as we all think, is not?
– Senator Marriott knows that Senator Hendrickson would not prepare cases. He would merely make submissions and representations on behalf of electors, thousands of whom come to him for help, compared with the few who go to Senator Marriott in Tasmania. Senator Hendrickson is kept very busy by the ex-servicemen, being himself a digger of the First World War.
– You speak as a doctor, not as a politician, when you say that you have been 100 per cent, successful?
– I am 100 per cent, successful as a politician, but I am speaking now as a medical practitioner. I believe that many claims are rejected because of omissions in the submissions. I think there should be a drive to emphasize what the onus of proof really means. Claimants have, by law, certain basic rights. As I have said, I believe that the departmental officials are determined that ex-servicemen shall receive the benefits to which they are entitled, but they have a responsibility to see that public funds are not disbursed unless they are satisfied that the claimants are entitled to disbursements.
Let me make it clear again that I am not making an attack on the departmental officers and that I am satisfied that, if cases are prepared properly, the law will see to it that claimants receive their desserts. I am, however, appealing to the Minister to emphasize to ex-servicemen that claims must be prepared properly and fully. That is the least that he can do, having neglected the basic financial rights of the returned servicemen and having rejected almost entirely the national pensions plan asked for by the R.S.L. That is admitted, however, and there would be no point in my going into detail about it. The returned servicemen1 have said of the Government’s treatment of them, “ It is a three-penny bit throw-out”. I suggest that the Minister consider consulting with his departmental officers in order to devise a plan to emphasize to ex-servicemen claiming repatriation benefits that their claims should be set out fully and to emphasize to medical men that their submissions in support of the claims should be set out in an orderly fashion. That would go some way towards ensuring that ex-servicemen will get the benefit from the onus-of-proof provisions that were intended by the Chifley Government.
– We have had a short interlude, or what I might describe as an interception, from Senator Dittmer. There are only two points that I wish to make about his speech.
He said that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has put its submissions to the Government and that it was dissatisfied with the Government’s reactions to them. Senator Dittmer stated that the league had said that this provision is a threepenny bit handout. I defy Senator Dittmer to name any reliable spokesman of the league who would refer to this Government’s policy in respect of repatriation as a threepenny bit handout. The R.S.L. is non-political and non-party. It is working only for the ex-servicemen and their dependants. Senator Dittmer should not try to bring down to the depths of his political party an organization such as the R.S.L. which stands far above Senator Dittmer in character and sincerity.
Senator Dittmer, who continues to interject during my speech, has said that two people cannot make a speech at the same time. The next thing this Mr. Echo said was that he had been 100 per cent, successful in his attempts to look after the ex-servicemen who were challenged when they sought to comply with the onusofproof provisions. While the honorable senator was speaking, he sounded like the great I-am of the Commonwealth Parliament. According to him, he is 100 per cent, successful in his claims on behalf of the ex-servicemen. He wants the readers of “ Hansard “ to understand that he is the great I-am of the Parliament. According to the honorable senator, he is 100 per cent, successful in his efforts; but only by way of interjection was I able to draw from Senator Dittmer an admission that it was as a doctor that he was 100 per cent, successful. He went on talking about what the Repatriation Department should do. Does Dr. Dittmer accept the responsibility of the Repatriation Department-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! When speaking of another honorable senator, a member of this chamber must refer to him as senator. Senator Marriott may speak of Senator Dittmer in his dual capacity as Senator Doctor Dittmer.
– I put this question quietly and clearly to Senator Dittmer: Does the honorable senator think that the Repatriation Department or the Repatriation Commission should instruct doctors how to carry out their work? If he thinks that the doctors of Australia are inefficient and are not putting up a case that will be 100 ,per .cent, successful - as this great I-am does - is that mot a matter for the British Medical Association? Should not the British Medical Association tell the doctors what they should do? That is how the honorable senator should stand up for the ex-servicemen. He is a doctor by profession. Let the .great senator instruct his own union.
This is supposed to he a debate, but it was only a few minutes ago that Senator Dittmer indicated his readiness to speak. It was a small and belated on-rush into the debate. It appeared that the Labour Party intended to move some amendments to the bill. It was fighting the Government. lt considered we were not doing the right things for the ex-servicemen. Such being the case, one would have thought that every member of the Opposition would have been rushing in to condemn the Government; but the Opposition had to dig into the depths to find a speaker to make a small submission so that the “ Hansard “ record would show that the Senate was addressed by a Government speaker, then by a Labour speaker, and so on in the same pattern. I do not know whether an honorable senator on the Labour side will follow me.
However, I think it is my duty to be fair, and I pay a tribute to my tenacious and sincere colleague from Tasmania, Senator O’Byrne. In the nine years that I have been a member of the Senate, I have never known him to fail to lead for the Opposition sincerely, putting the claims for ex-servicemen in debates on bills to amend the Repatriation Act. I felt sorry for Senator O’Byrne, for he looked around the chamber wondering where were those who would follow him to support the Labour Party’s proposals?
– Where are your supporters?
– We have plenty to speak later.
– You are not entitled to say that.
– I am entitled to say what I think, and you will not stop me. Having disposed of the interjection by
Senator .Dittmer, I want to make my own speech on this ‘bill. We are, .in fact, dealing with a hill ito amend .the Repatriation Act, which covers the ex-servicemen, and the Seamens War Pensions Act. They are co-related. If you amend one act, you must .bring in co-related amendments to the other. In considering its policy on war pensions and seamen’s pensions, the Government has in the foreground of its thoughts social service legislation covering sickness and unemployment benefits, and invalid, age and widows’ pensions; so when one approaches a bill like this, one must keep in mind that so many sectors of the community must he helped. If you help one, you must help another; if you punish one, you must punish another. I hope and believe that the Government approaches the problem in the first place in the knowledge that the requirements of the individual have to he considered.
The Government must he aware of its responsibilities. I think this Government can claim that it has that awareness. It has always proved that it is aware of its responsibilities to Australia. It does not go out and try to woo the electors. It has said: “ This is what we believe is right for Australia; this is what we will do. If the people do not like it, they may bring in some one else; but if the people like it, we give a pledge that we will continue with this policy.” That has kept this Government in office from 1949 to 1961.
But the requirements of the individual must be equated with the ability of the nation to pay. We all know that we cannot spend more than we earn. That applies to all of us in our home life; it applies to those who have a business, a farm, property or investments. The Government must adopt the same attitude. Of course, the Opposition tries to make it appear to the public that the money in the hands of the Government comes from’ some beautiful apple tree, possibly grown in the Huon valley of Tasmania where the best apples in Australia are grown; but the people realize that what the Government pays out, it must first collect from the people. Expenditure must be lined up with revenue. Payments must come from revenue, and revenue comes from the taxes that are paid by the people. When we introduce taxation measures, the cry of the Opposition is, “ You are taxing the people too much “. A senator like Senator O’Flaherty, who is smiling at me in his benign and cheerful way, would say, “You are taxing the workers too much. Tax the tall poppies. Tax the profit makers! “ My answer to that is that if we have over-high taxation in Australia we shall stultify development, and if there is anything in the whole sphere of politics for which we are crying out in Australia, it is a continuance of the great development that has taken place in the past ten years. So my approach to repatriation assessments, pensions and all social service benefits is: What we pay out must balance with what we can afford to pay, because we have to contend with the development of the country and we have enormous responsibilities of government in relation to expenditure in other spheres. The Parliament is, quite rightly, the guardian of the people’s rights. There is no argument against that. It is fit and proper that this Parliament should hear opinions on such important legislation as this from all sections of the community. Let every voice be heard and every sensible suggestion noted and considered. If any opposition or group of senators can come forward with a proposition that is worthy and practicable, taking all the other things into consideration, let us adopt it.
– Who will be the judge?
– We are the judges, because we vote here. Australia is very thankful that we and not the Opposition are the judges. In regard to repatriation legislation, the Parliament is the guardian of the people, but the ex-service men and women of Australia and their dependants are rightly grateful for the fact that they have such wonderful organizations as the Returned Servicemen’s League, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Ex-servicemen’s Association, popularly known as the T.P.I. Association, the Australian Legion of Exservicemen and Women, and the various associations of services, arms and units, that study their problems, trials and handicaps. Gradually there is channelled through to the R.S.L. what is believed to be the best that the government of the day can do in the current year for ex-service men and women. As a member of the R.S.L. and secretary of a unit association, I believe quite sincerely that the league, which is non-party-political, does, in its fairness and enthusiasm for right, feel pretty satisfied with the deal that this Government has given to beneficiaries under repatriation legislation.
I have often heard it said - and if Labour senators would confess their souls, they would admit that they have heard it said - that if there is one brand of person despised by those who work for the R.S.L. throughout Australia, it is the person, particularly the politician or member of a party organization, who uses repatriation to try to swing a few votes his way. That is anathema to those people. They despise persons who will use the disabilities and problems of ex-servicemen to try to get votes that will elect them to power. I cannot understand why the Labour Party does not re-consider some of its views in respect of repatriation over the past few years. Members of the Labour Party would do their political future a benefit if only they would put their ears to the ground and learn how the R.S.L. and its organizational members despise those who try to get votes by talking on R.S.L. matters. If any proof is needed, I remind the Senate that when a Labour Government was in office years ago, in two successive elections it lost its Minister for Repatriation. Then came what I am proud to call the Cooper era. Senator Sir Walter Cooper is the only Minister for Repatriation in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament who was able, by virtue of his sincere interest in ex-servicemen, twice to attend the annual congress of the R.S.L. in each State of the Commonwealth. Yet the Labour Party, at two successive elections after the close of the Second World War, lost its Minister for Repatriation.
– That proves nothing.
– Honorable senators opposite are not so dim-witted or thick-skulled that they cannot get a lesson out of that. This Government has the credentials to look after the rights of exservicemen and their dependants sincerely. It has an ex-servicemen’s committee and a Cabinet sub-committee which deal with the matter. It has had eleven years’ experience. For the good of Australia, it wants to go on living as a government. It can obviously be said that the Government has in this legislation done the best that it feels it can do for those to whom the legislation relates.
In addition, we have a very experienced Repatriation Department. I have yet to hear of any honorable senator who has anything but praise not only for the work but also for the attitude of the officials, clerks, secretaries, deputy directors, and pensions officers to the inquiring exserviceman who has a doubt. Many more exservicemen are led into getting pensions by the helpful advice and co-operation of officers of the department than are turned away unrewarded, because most of those officers who deal with inquiries are themselves ex-servicemen. Experience in the services brings a comradeship that will live while life doth last. We in Australia should be proud of the work of all ranks in the Repatriation Department throughout Australia.
I shall not repeat the rates that will operate when this legislation becomes effective. They have been adequately dealt with by Senator Sir Walter Cooper. Nor shall [ repeat the history of the various increases and the. additional allowances and assistance given to ex-servicemen and their dependants by this Government since 1949. I shall not weary the Senate with that information, which is all recorded in the debates of former years, but the Government is justifiably proud of its record. Since this Government came into office we have had twelve amending bills, and each year, thanks to the tenacity of the former Minister, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, and the Repatriation Department, the act has been tidied up. I wish that the example could be followed in other departments. Many complicated acts need tidying up for the assistance and benefit of the taxpayers. They are the people whom we in this Senate should be most keen to help. The whole field of benefits available is constantly under review. There is no doubt that the department is not only reviewing the benefits that are available but also saying: “ What else can we do for those people who come within the ambit of this legislation? What extra can we give them that is fair, just and in keeping with the rights of other people? “
When we are asked to extend the benefits provided under this legislation, we must realize that we, as a nation, will not reach the peak of our commitments, as a result of the Second World War and the other little skirmishes that have occurred since then, until a few years hence. Therefore, regardless of any increases for which this Parliament may legislate, the nation’s commitments will grow year by year. Have we not some responsibility to consider that point of view? We have so many great commitments in various other spheres that we have to judge each one in its proper relationship to the other responsibilities of government. The members of this Senate, on both the Opposition and the Government sides, have as much responsibility in that respect as any member of the Cabinet has.
Thanks to the character of the Australian individual, quite rightly, ex-servicemen have other people to help them. I believe that we, as members of the Parliament, should foster and encourage the belief that it is not only the responsibility of the Commonwealth to look after those who have been maimed, disabled, made ill, or bereft of their fathers because of war, but it is also the responsibility of the community. If we wipe out the community’s responsibility we will lower the character of Australians. We will not improve it; we will help to spoil it. I believe that we, as the Commonwealth Parliament, should do everything we can to foster the continuance of the attitude of unselfishness and giving help. We did not bring on that attitude; the Australian character brought it on. Not every responsibility, the exercise of which can bring great help to people disabled or widowed because of war, can be handled by the Commonwealth Government. So, it is good to know that in Australia we have organizations which are increasing their effectiveness in helping those in need of help.
I want to refer briefly to what I have described in my notes as “ the Tasmanian point of view “. I have dealt with the wide national outlook. We in Tasmania are very happy that great progress is being made in the provision of modern additions to the repatriation hospital in Hobart. Until a couple of years ago, when Senator Sir Walter Cooper, the then Minister for Repatriation, got his way, ex-servicemen were hospitalized in huts that were built in 1917. Now a block of bed-rooms and facilities which will greatly assist Tasmanian ex-servicemen is nearing completion.
I wish to pay a tribute to the limb factory in Hobart which works in conjunction with the repatriation hospital. I am very pleased that in assisting a little girl I came in continuous contact, over a period of months, with the officers and artisans of that limb factory. Their work for that little girl, who had an arm amputated, has been a very great asset. At the time the little girl was terribly upset emotionally and any harsh treatment or imposts could have done irreparable harm; but she was treated as a princess by the officers of the limb factory of the Repatriation Department in Hobart. Now she is a happy young girl and she is able to engaged in most of the activities in which girls of her age engage.
I have been critical of Senator Dittmer and of certain aspects of the Labour Party’s approach to this matter; but I want it to be recorded that I realize that the Opposition has not only the right but also the duty to criticize. However, on a question of national and emotional importance, I believe that the Opposition has a responsibility to put forward calmly constructive ideas that, honestly and without equivocation, it would put into operation if it came into power. In the amendments that have been foreshadowed we do not see that attitude. I presume that that is because the Opposition, so forlorn and hopeless, is trying to repeat, through ill advice or ill thought, what it has done in previous election campaigns. It has made rash promises that the people will have nothing of. It is asking us to accept amendments although, in its heart of hearts, it knows that it would not have a bar of them, if it were in power, because they are not right for the time and economic state in which we live in this great developing country of which we are pleased to be citizens. So, in view of the factual story of the Government’s record and its known attitude to these problems, in comparison with the debit balance of the Labour Party’s insincerity and historically proved ineptitude while in office, I support the bill and with confidence I leave it to the electors to say on 9th December that we on this side of the chamber are right in our approach to these major measures.
– T support the bill. I should like to commend Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who relinquished the portfolio of Minister for Repatriation a few months ago, on the excellent speech he made on the bill which is now before the Senate. He gave very sound, valid and well-supported reasons why this bill should be passed. Senator O’Byrne, who we all know is vitally interested in all matters pertaining to the successful repatriation of exservice men and women, also contributed in no small measure to this debate. We know that for many years Senator Sir Walter Cooper has devoted his untiring energy to giving Australian ex-service men and women the best repatriation benefits that this country can afford. 1 believe he would be the first man to pay a tribute to the officials of the Repatriation Department, as would we in this chamber, for their devotion to the just cause of carrying out the wishes of this Parliament. After all, as the Repatriation Department has to carry out our wishes, if there is anything wrong with the repatriation system we should seek, and search ourselves, for the cause.
In addition, the Minister for Repatriation has had the benefit of the advice and knowledge presented to him by the returned servicemen’s associations. I think we can say with a good deal of emphasis that Senator Sir Walter Cooper brought sound common sense to his administration. He cut red tape to a minimum and endeavoured to make known to all ex-service personnel the benefits that are available to them. I am sure that a large number of ex-service men and women have no knowledge of the benefits available to them under the Repatriation Act. Senator Sir Walter Cooper’s successor, the honorable Fred Osborne, is continuing the good work. The people of Australia, who are vitality interested in repatriation, will thank any one who endeavours to do the right thing for returned service men and women.
In 1920, the War Pensions Act of 1914 and the Repatriation Act of 1917 were consolidated. Since that time many amendments have been made to the act. Some of these amendments have provided new benefits whilst others have made merely administrative changes. Many benefits have been conferred by regulation. The system of repatriation may appear rather complex, but it does confer many benefits, not only to ex-service men and women but also to their dependants.
The basic principle of the act is that benefits are granted for death or disability caused by war service. However, in 1943 an exception was introduced. Pensions were granted to ex-servicemen suffering from tuberculosis. It is interesting to consider why that was done. It is the only exception of which I am aware to the principle on which benefits have been granted. I know that recently endeavours have been made to have cancer acknowledged as being due to war service. I am delighted that in many cases applications for war service pensions have been granted on the ground of cancer. Both inside and outside the Parliament moves have been made to have cancer accepted as being due to war service. These applications have been made mainly on three grounds. The first is that of sympathy and humanitarianism. The second is that cancer should be accepted automatically in the same way as tuberculosis is accepted when an ex-serviceman has served in a theatre of war. Thirdly, it is contended that because the cause of cancer is not known, the onus of proof and the benefit of the doubt provisions of section 47 of the Repatriation Act should apply.
I am not going to repeat the reasons why tuberculosis was accepted as a ground for repatriation benefits, but the fact is that tuberculosis is not on all fours with cancer. We know that in the light of medical knowledge it seems unlikely that either an automatic acceptance of pulmonary tuberculosis, or the payment of a pension permanently to a person who has suffered from it - as provided in section 37 - could be justified if the question had arisen at this stage. Whilst generally it may be said that the ultimate cause of cancer is not known, there is sufficient knowledge about the causes of some cancers, and factors which have no relation to the cause or development of cancer, to enable a determining authority to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, in some particular cases, that the cancer is not attributable to war service. Where there is any doubt, that doubt is resolved in favour of the claimant
First, all we have to get over the medical opinion. We have heard a good deal about that this afternoon. After all, a medical opinion is a very difficult thing to refute.
I hope I will be pardoned if I refer to aletter I received in order to show that the. granting of a benefit to a person suffering from cancer has been appreciated. A small extract from this letter reads -
I have now been assessed for a war pension, which has’ turned out to be a magnificent one, the maximum available, the T.P.I. This is going to make such a tremendous difference to my future peace of mind that words fail me to express my gratitude and thanks.
The rest of the letter was personal. The granting of benefits to people who are suffering is appreciated.
The figures recorded up to 31st March, 1961, for the 1939-45 war, disclose that of 4,135 applications toy living members, 2,030 have been accepted as being due to war service, and that of 1,577 applications made after the servicemen had passed on, 386 were granted. A great deal is not known of the incidence of cancer in World War I. because details of the First World War were not available prior to 1959. Since that time, however, out of 685 applications by living members, 116 have been accepted, and out of 2,311 cases of persons who have died, 380 have been accepted. We are grateful that these cases have been accepted.
– They are cases of cancer accepted as due to war service?
– Yes. Pensions have not been granted in all cases, but in cases where there is no shadow of doubt that the disability may have been caused by war service they have been granted.
Last year we passed legislation which gave to service pensioners the benefit of treatment in our repatriation hospitals. That benefit has been greatly appreciated. Following the introduction of the merged means test and of free hospital treatment for service pensioners, an additional 7,000 ex-servicemen have become eligible for war service pensions and for free hospitalization. When we examine the whole of our repatriation legislation and all that has been done, I believe we can say with justifiable pride that during the last 45 years the people of Australia, through their Parliament, have produced a repatriation scheme which is better than any other in the world.
I desire to refer to one or two benefits which have been granted recently. Senator Sir Walter Cooper has already told us about many of which he has a knowledge. One of the benefits conferred during the last ten years was the right for war widows to retain their gratuity upon re-marriage. Prior to that, if a widow re-married she Jost her gratuity. Also, provision has been made for gift cars for certain amputees and seriously paralysed ex-servicemen. In 1952, a scheme for the rehabilitation and training of physically handicapped ex-service men and women was introduced. Travel benefits for next-of-kin and war widows to facilitate their going to and from hospital, and clothing allowances for amputees and certain other pensioners have been introduced. The measure now before us provides for an increased payment to all disabled ex-servicemen, war widows and their children, and service pensioners. In the case of the T.P.I, and war-blinded pensioners the increase is 10s. a week, bringing the pension for a single man up to £13 5s. a week. I think all fair-minded people will agree that Australia is doing the right thing for these worthy people.
Senator Marriott referred to the provision in Hobart of a special ward or block for the nervously ill. We in South Australia are delighted that that accommodation has been completed, because we are hoping that very soon the department will proceed with the erection of a similar block at the Springbank hospital for our nervously ill ex-service personnel. We were promised that if we waited patiently so that Hobart could be provided with its block, we would be the next on the list. I shall eagerly scan the list of public works for the coming year to ascertain just where we stand in this respect. I think South Australians could look to Senator Sir Walter Cooper for assistance, if it were needed, in having such a block started.
Much has been said about the onusofproof provision and about the number of appeals that are heard. In 1960-61 a total of 33,869 claims for war pensions were heard by the repatriation boards. It is interesting to note that in 1956-57 the number heard was 41,930; in 1957-58, 40,142; in 1958-59, 38,112; and in 1959-60, 37,602. Of the 33,869 claims which were heard in 1960-61, 16,495 were granted. That means that 17,374 were rejected. But people whose claims are rejected by the repatriation boards have the right of appeal. Of those 17,374 claimants 11,000 exercised their right of appeal. Such appeals are heard by the Repatriation Commission. Of those 11,000 appeals a total of 10,573 were heard. Of that number 1,869 or 17.7 per cent., were granted. Of the appeals heard by the Repatriation Commission in 1956-57, 13.1 per cent, were allowed. In 1957-58, 15 per cent, were allowed; in 1958-59, 15.1 per cent; in 1959-60, 17.7 per cent.; and in 1960-61, as I have already indicated, 17.7 per cent.
Claimants whose claims are rejected by the Repatriation Commission have an opportunity to appeal further to the entitlement appeal tribunals. In 1960-61, 6,560 such appeals were heard. Of those, 1,085 were granted, which means that 5,475 were rejected. It will be noted that, although initially approximately 17,000 claims were rejected, a number of those were later granted. So, even though a claim fails, it has been well and truly investigated.
Several problems are associated with the claims lodged by ex-servicemen of World War I. I propose to refer to one of those problems. Recently I submitted to a repatriation board the claim of a man who was discharged medically unfit in 1917. That man made no attempt to obtain a pension until late in 1960. The point I want to make is that the medical evidence has to be overcome, as it were. A young medical officer has not the background provided by service in World War I., and he has perhaps very little background of World War II. A man who is discharged in 1917 but who does not make a claim until 1961 has waited 44 years without having taken advantage of the benefits that are available to him. What would be the natural reaction of the medical officer who examined that ex-serviceman? A medical officer has to justify his decision. It would be very difficult for him to prove, after that lapse of time, that the disability was due to war service. I mention these matters to show why it is that ex-servicemen have not previously availed themselves of the benefits that are provided.
My experience of the Repatriation Department is that cases which are fairly and honestly presented receive a good hearing. I am delighted to say that, in the case of which I have spoken, the man concerned was granted a 20 per cent, pension.
More than that, because he had another disability, he was advised to make a further claim. That is typical of the desire of the Repatriation Department to help exservicemen. I again pay a tribute to the Minister for Repatriation and all the members of his staff. They endeavour to carry out our wishes in the best possible way. As an Australian, I am quite satisfied with what the Australian people have done, and are continuing to do, for ex-service men and women. I know that figures relating to payments cannot fully show what has been done, but in addition to the monetary benefits that are provided, much good work is being done by other organizations in this field. The returned service men and women have presented their views to the government of the day, and it is my opinion that that Government, whatever its political complexion, has done the best that it possibly could, without any thought of party politics. I like to think that in this question party politics has no place, on one side of the Parliament or the other.
With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate in “ Hansard *’ figures relating to the amounts of war pensions and service pensions paid during the years 1949 to 1961, and an estimated figure for 1962. They are as follows: -
As honorable senators will see, in the year 1961-62 it is estimated that the people of Australia, who pay for these benefits, will provide £66,708,000 for war pensions and £9,176,000 for service pensions, or a total of nearly £76,000,000. I support the bill and oppose the amendment suggested by the Opposition.
– In rising to support the bill, I take the opportunity to congratulate Senator Sir Walter Cooper on his performance during his term as Minister for Repatriation over a period of ten years. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is perhaps the only other member of the Parliament who can claim to have held the one ministerial position for ten consecutive years in any government since Federation. Senator Sir Walter Cooper brought to the administration of that portfolio the qualities of his personality, which is both kindly and sympathetic. Those qualities permeated the whole department. I would also like to pay a tribute to the officers of the Repatriation Department for their kindly approach to repatriation matters. The attitude which Senator Sir Walter Cooper epitomized was reflected right throughout the department.
In my own State, Western Australia, I have always received the most sympathetic consideration from departmental officers when I have advanced claims on behalf of ex-servicemen. At the same time, I want to say that I have the utmost confidence in the very gallant gentleman who has taken over the portfolio from Senator Sir Walter Cooper. I remind the Senate that Mr. Osborne, the present Minister for Repatriation, was twice decorated for great gallantry during the last war. Senator Sir Walter Cooper was first a member of the Army and then a member of the Royal Flying Corps, so that the Army and the Air Force have been represented in the administration of this portfolio. Now, we have Mr. Osborne, who had a most distinguished record in the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. Although I deplore the fact that the portfolio has moved from the Senate and from such an able person as Senator Sir Walter Cooper, it is gratifying to know that it has gone to a man who will administer it with the same degree of sympathy that Senator Sir Walter Cooper displayed.
T am surprised to find that in this debate concerning a subject which is of importance to at least 712,000 people in Australia, we have heard only two speakers from the Opposition. First, Senator O’Byrne spoke, and then Senator Dittmer darted into the Senate, spoke for about two minutes on the bill and devoted about eight minutes to showing what an egotistical and wonderful person he was. 1 happened to look at the way in which the members of the House of Representatives had approached this matter, and I found that some ten and a half hours had been devoted to the second-reading debate and the committee stage. The House spent two hours thirty minutes in committee on the bill and eight hours on the secondreading debate. Seven or eight members of the Opposition participated. Yet, in this place the Opposition put forward only two champions of the ex-servicemen, one of whom led for the Opposition and the other merely darted in for a few minutes.
– What is your point?
– I am saying that although this is a very important matter for the 712,000 people who receive benefits under the legislation, we have had only two speeches from the Opposition side.
– Do you want the debate to go on?
– Yes. We arcquite happy for it to go on, since it concerns such an important subject.
As Australians, we have every reason to be proud of our treatment of exservicemen, lt is interesting to compare the position in this country with that in Great Britain. Approximately 1,000,000 people were discharged from the Services in Australia at the end of the last war. That was a very high proportion of our population. I do not know the number of people who served in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the auxiliary services in Great Britain during the war, but I imagine that it would have been far in excess of 1,000,000. Yet, last year in Great Britain the total pension bill for ex-service personnel was only £A90,000,000. This year, we propose to spend in that way £94,000,000, or £4,000,000 more than Great Britain spent last year. Of course, the casualties in the United Kingdom forces would have been far higher than ours. I am sorry that I cannot state the actual number of enlistments in the United Kingdom, but I have statistics relating to the number of people receiving repatriation benefits, and they may be of interest to the Senate.
In Australia, there are 712,381 people receiving benefits under the Repatriation Act. In Great Britain, only 724,000 people are receiving benefits. I do not think we have anything to be ashamed of, therefore, in our treatment of our fellow exservicemen. It was in 1950 that this Government first introduced a gratuity, equal to the amount of one year’s pension, for the widow of an ex-serviceman who remarried. Also in 1950, the Government introduced a scheme for free motor cars for exservicemen who were double amputees, and a later extension of the scheme allowed station wagons to be supplied as an alternative. The gift cars are now being replaced in appropriate cases. I will not go in detail through the list of the concessions given by this Government, but I remind the Senate of travelling expenses for war widows; of air travel for relatives to visit ex-servicemen who are on the dangerously ill list or, in the event of death, to attend a funeral; the disabled members’ and widows’ training section; the supplementary assistance of 10s. a week to service pensioners who are unmarried or whose spouse is not in receipt of a service pension; the attendant’s allowance payable to war blinded and seriously disabled ex-servicemen; the recreation transport allowance payable to ex-servicemen so seriously disabled as to have negligible powers of locomotion; travelling expenses and attendant’s allowance; and the clothing allowance for amputees whose clothing is damaged by the aids that they have to use. I also remind honorable senators that the funeral grant was increased from £20 to £25 and that driving and signalling devices were made available to additional classes of disabled ex-servicemen.
Before I deal with the additional benefits which the Government has granted this year, let me refer to a very important concession which was introduced last year - free medical, dental and optical treatment for service pensioners whether or not their disabilities are due to war service. The service pensioners now, I think I am right in saying, would all be over the age of 60 years. On three occasions during the last twelve months I have been approached by service pensioners who required glasses. They were supplied free of charge under the scheme, which was of great assistance. The concession giving service pensioners the right to treatment in repatriation general hospitals, introduced last year also, has been of great value, and since then, as the Senate knows, the introduction of the merged means test has considerably increased the number of people eligible for service pensions.
A wide range of benefits has been increased in this year’s Budget, and those increases have been dealt with by other speakers. Additional payments will be made to all war disabled ex-servicemen, to war widows and their dependent children, and to service pensioners. In all, over 212,000 disabled ex-servicemen and 42,700 dependants of ex-servicemen whose deaths have been accepted as being due to war service will benefit from the increases.
Perhaps the most important of the changes made by this bill is the change in the conditions for the payment of a sustenance allowance during essential convalescence after discharge from hospital. The sustenance allowance to a special rate war pensioner - which will now be £13 5s. a week - has been paid only while the exserviceman is an in-patient of a repatriation hospital, but now the allowance will be paid while the patient is undergoing convalescence, not necessarily in a hospital, which has been approved by a departmental medical officer. I will not canvass that subject further except to say that perhaps the ex-serviceman’s own doctor would be in a better position than a departmental doctor to know whether he required a period of convalescence. However, I am prepared to accept the Government’s proposal because I have found in all cases that the department is sympathetic to ex-servicemen, and I think that in most cases they will receive the sustenance allowance while they are convalescing.
Under the existing law, an allowance has been paid to employees who suffer a loss of salary or wages when required to attend a repatriation hospital for examination or treatment. The allowance has been paid only to salary and wage-earners and there has been a lot of agitation in the past for it to be paid to self-employed persons - small businessmen or salesmen, for example. I am glad to see that the allowance will be paid to such people in the future. The Government has stated that this will give rise to some problems, but it will try to solve them.
This year brings the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme almost to its conclusion. The scheme is just about finishing the job that it was established to do. It was established in 1943 by a Labour government and since then a remarkable job has been done. Some 88,000 exservice men and women have been helped to re-establish themselves in civil life. Of these, 15,000 received university training, 40,000 received technical school training and 1,600 received rural training. In addition, the skilled work force of the country was strengthened by the addition of some 31,000 men who were trained in various trades, particularly in the building trades.
On a number of occasions the Opposition has urged that the special rate pension should be equivalent to the basic wage, which to-day is £14 8s. The basic wage is considered to_be an amount sufficient for a man with a wife and two children, so let us take the case of an ex-serviceman with a wife and two children. The Second World War has been over for about sixteen years now, and I will assume that the children are aged eight and fourteen years. The man on the basic wage would get £14 8s. a week. The ex-serviceman would get £13 5s. a week as a pension payment and he would be entitled to a service pension of £1 14s. 9d. a week, making £14 19s. 9d. a week. I am taking an extreme case to show what can happen. To that must be added an allowance paid under the act in respect of his wife, which would be £1 15s. 6d. a week, and a service pension for his wife of £1 4s. 9d. a week, making a total payment of £3 0s. 3d. for the wife. In respect of the first child, whom I am assuming is fourteen years of age, there would be a war pension of 13s. 9d. a week, a service pension of 15s. a week and an education allowance, of £1 5s. a week, making a total for that child of £2 13s. 9d. a week. The child of eight years would receive a war pension of 13s. 9d. a week, a service pension of 2s. 6d. a week and an education allowance of 16s. 6d. a week, making a total of £1 12s. 9d. The income of this family group would be £22 6s. 6d. a week, which is well in excess of the basic wage of £14 8s.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was. suspended,. I had pointed out that the married special, rate pensioner with a family was receiving-, much in excess of the basic wage of £1.4 18s. I also showed that a married pensioner with a wife1 and two children aged between six and fourteen years was receiving up to a total of £22 6s. 6d. a week. In addition, it must be remembered, that a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner is also entitled to all medical- benefits and hospital treatment available through the Repatriation Department,, so that he receives much more than the basic wage of £14 18s.
There has been some criticism of the fact that ex-servicemen suffer under the system of pension appeals. Under the Australian system, there are three phases. First, the ex-serviceman goes before a board, and if he is not satisfied with the decision, he can appeal against it to the Repatriation Commission. Again, if he is not satisfied he can appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. It is interesting to note that under the repatriation laws of the United Kingdom, a man who served in the First World War has no right of appeal; yet in Australia, those servicemen can approach the Repatriation Department in three phases.
Before I sit down, I should like to make a request to the. Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) and I hope that he will pass it on to his deputy commissioners in each State. A number of my friends were prisoners-of-war with me in Singapore, Siam and Burma. Many were on the construction of the death railway line that finished in* Burma. Those men were away for almost four years and many of them had completely given up hope of returning to their country and their loved ones. It is understandable that when they returned to Australia, their first desire was to get out of uniform and out of the service. Consequently,, many of them did not avail themselves of the privilege of going before a medical board before discharge, as they were entitled to do. I had been warned beforehand to do so, and I did exactly that.
The purpose of the examination was to establish on paper before three doctors the fact that the ex-serviceman had suffered from certain disabilities. Many of those men, were eager to- finish with war and> they wanted to- be home with- their loved ones,, andi so they were discharged without a medical board. Some sixteen years- later, quite a number of them are beginning to* feel, the effects of their war service: and. the inhuman conditions under’ which, they, worked, on the railway line. It is very difficult for them to prove, that their disabilities, were caused by wai” service:
I ask the Minister and his- deputy- commissioners in each State to view those cases; leniently, and’ to examine the applications, thoroughly before rejecting them on theground that the disability was not warcaused. It is terribly difficult after sixteen’ years to: prove that the privations they suffered during their harrowing experienceunder the Japanese, caused their disabilities. I have pleasure in. supporting the bill..
– I support the bill and take this opportunity of expressing my intention te oppose the amendments that have been foreshadowed by the Opposition. At the outset, I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) on the excellent report for 1960-61 that was recently issued by the Repatriation Department. Most of us have received a copy in the past fewdays. It is rather strange for most of us to see that Senator Sir Walter Cooper, whowas Minister for Repatriation for so long, is no longer filling that role. I suppose that no other Minister for Repatriation whorelinquished the post left behind1 him as much respect; genuine admiration and’ liking of all those with whom- he came in contact as did the honorable senator. We hope that when the time comes for the new Minister for Repatriation to relinquish hispost, he too will leave it with the same respect of his associates and ex-servicemen, and that he will carry with him the admiration of those who have dealings with theRepatriation Department.
I support the remarks made by Senator Mattner this afternoon when he said that governments of all political colours may be expected to do their best for the exservicemen and those who require someassistance from the Repatriation Department. There is no reservation in our mindsthat our one desire is to give those unfortunate people the best deal that we can possibly give them. We also know that it is very easy, as has been said already, to allow our emotions to carry us away so that we say the demands of these people should be met irrespective of the cost. We can provide only a certain amount and we have to place a check on our feelings. We have to remember that there are others who have suffered great disabilities through no fault of their own. Possibly they have suffered difficulties or injuries while performing duties to their country also, and they need all the assistance we can give them. I hope that those returned servicemen who feel that the Government is not giving them all they ask for will view the matter in that light.
During the past two years, I have had the privilege of attending several meetings of returned soldiers. I went with a desire to do what I could to assist them, to hear their cases at first hand and subsequently to assist the causes that were worthy of assistance in this Parliament. I am afraid that my experience at those two meetings has not made my task any easier. I attended the first meeting with three or four members of the Opposition in another place. We were received very cordially. A case was put to us, and I thought it was done very well. After the ex-servicemen had stated their case, they called on us to make a few remarks on our thoughts on the case they had put to us. 1 complimented them and said that I thought it would possibly help their case when the time came for them to present it if they would tabulate the cost so that the Minister for Repatriation would not have to work out the figures. That suggestion was made in good faith with a desire to assist the ex-servicemen.
Some six weeks later, 1 was out of the city where the meeting was held, and I saw a report in one of the metropolitan newspapers of a gathering of returned soldiers. The report contained a statement that had been made by one of the men who was at the meeting I had attended. He referred to the fact that one Government Senator - I was the only senator present - asked questions about costs and he deplored the adoption of such an attitude.
A few weeks ago, again in company with some members of the Opposition in another place and an Opposition senator. I attended another meeting of sub-branches in the suburbs of Sydney. Once again, we were very cordially received. The various cases were put forward, again very well. The aims of the sub-branches were explained to us, and once again every one of us was called on to say a few words. I was asked to speak first. I took the opportunity to recount what had happened to me some twelve months earlier and I said that I did not appreciate it. I said that I did not like being misinterpreted and 1 appealed for a fair go. That went over all right. The Opposition representatives then spoke and a gentleman moved a vote of thanks to us. I strongly believe that he is the man who had made the remarks about me some twelve months earlier.
In the course of moving the vote of thanks to us, he promptly set about castigating the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). Then he deplored the expenditure by politicians on travelling here and there. He alleged that the pension plan that had been submitted by the league council had been sabotaged here. He alleged that Cabinet had sabotaged the plan. All this, during the course of moving a vote of thanks! I did not reply and I do not suppose that my Opposition friends had any desire to reply. I dare say that they were feeling as I would probably have fell in similar circumstances, a little pleased about it. I took a very dim view, having taken the trouble to go along to these meetings with a desire to help and being treated in that fashion. I mention this now because I feel that gentlemen who indulge in that sort of thing are not helping the cause that they represent. In common with most other Australians, I like a fair deal. It was always my aim during m> service in the Army to give those under me a fair deal, and I like one in return. It has always been my aim to do the same thing with any employees. It is one of our Australian characteristics that we like a fair deal. We appreciate it and we endeavour to give the other fellow one, too
During this Government’s term of office, year after year we have seen a steady raising of the level of repatriation benefits. A little later I shall allude to them in greater detail. I can relate the experience of a friend of mine from my own district, who was overseas in World War II., contracted tuberculosis, and became a very sick man. He cannot speak too highly of the treatment that has been meted out to him by the Repatriation Department. After all, as there have been about 45 years of endeavour to give ex-servicemen and their dependants fair treatment, it is not to be wondered at that at this stage we have what is probably the best repatriation system in the world. Some of those who are not quite satisfied with the lack of some of the things for which they are aiming may not agree with that statement, but by and large I think that it will stand up to investigation.
Earlier, Senator Branson briefly compared the repatriation position in the United Kingdom and in Australia. I took the opportunity to have a quick look at the British Annual Report of War Pensions for 1960. I found that in that year, as Senator Branson stated, there were in the United Kingdom 724,000 pensioners, to whom approximately £90,000,000 was paid. Of that number, 287,000 were pensioners of World War I., and 437,000 pensioners of World War II. They included approximately 522,000 disabled persons, 142,000 widows, and 60,000 parents, orphans and other dependants. In the United Kingdom a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner with two children receives £16 15s. 3d. a week, whereas a pensioner in similar circumstances here receives £22 6s. 6d. a week. The funeral grant in both countries is £25. The 100 per cent, pension for a single person in the United Kingdom is £11 0s. 6d., rising by 5s. to £11 5s. 6d. at age 65. There is a difference in that respect. When an Australian exserviceman reaches 60 years of age, he becomes eligible for the age pension instead of having to wait until 65 years of age. Our people have an advantage in that respect. In Australia there are 712,381 repatriation beneficiaries, services for whom cost £94,280,000. This year repatriation services will cost more than £100,000,000. As a result of this bill, 348,000 persons will benefit, 57,000 being wives, widows or children. We can therefore see that the passing of this bill will provide a very great benefit indeed for many people.
I mentioned earlier that I would quickly run through progressive improvements over the years. I shall not go back too far. In 1950 there were substantial increases in war pensions and other benefits, and some new benefits were provided. The Cabinet sub-committee continues to operate to assist the Minister in his review of repatriation benefits. The result of the policy that the Government has pursued is that eligibility for benefits has been widened, new benefits have been provided, and existing benefits have been increased.
The restriction imposed by the Financial Emergency Act 1931, which debarred the wife married or the child born after 30th June, 1938, to an ex-serviceman of the 1914-18 war from receiving a war pension in respect of his incapacity, or a service pension, was removed. The. time limits affecting eligibility of step children and adopted children of all ex-servicemen were also removed. The provisions of the Repatriation Act in 1950, and of the Reestablishment and Employment Act in 1951, with some minor modifications, were extended to ex-servicemen and exservicewomen who served in Korea and Malaya.
In 1956 special legislation was introduced in the form of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act to make provision for male and female members of the services serving in Malaya. The Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act 1957 has enabled special provision to be made for suitable benefits for aboriginal natives of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and of the islands of the Torres Strait and the Pacific Ocean who served in World War II. In 1950, a gratuity equal to the amount of one year’s pension was provided for the widow of an ex-serviceman on her remarriage. In the same year it was decided to provide small cars for ex-servicemen whose disability consisted of either double amputation of the legs above the knees or complete paraplegia, and an allowance of £120 per annum for registration, insurance and general running costs. It will be remembered also that subsequently provision was made for an alternative choice of a Hillman “ Husky “ station wagon. Gift cars are now being replaced in appropriate cases. The provision of travelling expenses for war widows was mentioned. In 1952 air travel was provided for relatives of exservicemen in hospital. The disabled members and widows training scheme has been mentioned. An allowance of 10s. a week by way of supplementary assistance has also been provided. In 1955 amendments to the Social Services Act enabled a large number of war pensioners to receive additional amounts by way of a service, age or invalid pension. A married totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner and his wife became, eligible to receive between them up to £17 10s. a week by way of the dual pensions. Pensions and allowances payable to or in respect of their children became payable in addition to that amount.
The rates of service pension’ have been increased and the means test, in relation to both the income and property provisions, has been liberalized. I point out that service pensioners receive the benefit of the merged means test which has operated from 1st March, 1961. The attendants’ allowance is another of the benefits that have been conferred on these unfortunate people only recently. Recreation transport allowance and medical sustenance are other such benefits. There has been quite a deal of difference in the rates of medical sustenance. Two rates are payable; one a rate equivalent to the T.P.I, rate of war pension - that is the special rate - while an ex-serviceman is undergoing hospital treatment for a war-caused disability; and the other a rate equivalent to the 100 per cent, pension while an ex-serviceman is undergoing treatment other than hospital treatment for a war-caused disability. As honorable senators know, the latter exserviceman will now receive medical sustenance at the special rate while he is convalescing. I think the clothing allowance was also mentioned. It has been brought in only recently. The Government has also provided education allowances, allowances under reconstruction training schemes, medical benefits for disabilities not due to war service and medical benefits for war widows and their children. As has been stated, the funeral grant was increased from £20 to £25 in 1952. I do not want to weary honorable senators. Those are merely some of the improved benefits that have been introduced over the past ten or twelve years- Although many of us, perhaps, are not satisfied that all that could have been done has been done, in the light of what has been done I believe that the Government has done a job that merits considerable approbation by the great majority of our people.
Over the years there has been a lot of talk - I suppose there always will be - about the onus-of-proof section. Speaking as one who has had the good fortune not to have had to make application for any of these benefits, it seems to me that since many of the old war-time doctors are no longer with us some of the younger doctors who have not experienced war service may not be as sympathetic as some of the older doctors were. That may - 1 do not say it does - give rise to some of the complaints regarding the onus of proof. The matter has been thrashed out time and again in the Senate. Just as in any other walk of life, people come along and endeavour to make good their claims for compensation when they are not really entitled to it. It is only fair to ensure that public moneys are not expended on people who are not entitled to them. Although other honorable senators may quote cases that have been brought to their notice in which the onus-of-proof provision has reacted somewhat harshly, I believe that the great majority of applications involving the onus of proof have been adjusted as fairly as was possible in the circumstances that have prevailed. No matter what system we have, anomalies will creep in: but I believe that on the whole the section, of which so much criticism has been voiced, has worked out fairly well.
I believe, as do many other people, that there is one type of returned soldier to whom greater benefits in the way of hospital and medical treatment could be given. I refer to the men who are commonly referred to as the burnt out diggers of World War 1. There is no doubt at all that many healthy-looking men have disabilities as a result of war service. We have an instance here in the Senate in Senator Branson, who endured the privations of those horrible Japanese prison camps. Now he looks fit enough to live until he is 120 years of age; but, unfortunately, as the years go by the people who suffered those privations often develop disabilities which would not have come upon them but for the privations and hardships that they had to endure in the service of their country. An instance comes to my mind of a neighbour of mine. We were told that he was carried out as dead, but when he was being taken out to be buried somebody saw some movement in what they thought, to be a corpse. To-day he is at home working on his property. I suppose that that is. only one of a number of such instances. He was down to a mere skeleton and he has picked up. To those who do not know him he may look healthy enough, but I do not think that he will live the allotted span that he would have lived had he not suffered those privations.
I am all for such people receiving all the concessions that we can reasonably give them. I am quite sure that that is the attitude of every honorable senator. I want to make myself quite clear on this aspect of the matter. Having said that, I say that we have a responsibility and a job to do in the government of this country. Our task is to try to reconcile what is fair to those people who have suffered so much with the responsibility that we owe to the rest of the people in Australia. I support the bill.
.- I do not want to speak at any great length on this measure. Each year, when a measure such as this comes up for discussion we are given an opportunity to discuss certain aspects of repatriation generally. I believe that it is a matter that should be raised above party politics because no one party can claim that it has the exclusive right to look after the exservicemen of the community. A great deal has been said about the amounts that are being paid. It has been said that with the small increases provided in the Budget the amounts being received by exservicemen to-day are greater than ever before. Although the amount of cash received is very important, many other aspects of repatriation are much more important; particularly, as was mentioned by the previous speaker, Senator McKellar, the treatment of ex-servicemen from World War I. Many things are vitally important at the present time. I refer particularly to medical and hospital treatment for those ex-servicemen. I was glad to hear Senator McKellar say that we owe those exservicemen everything we can possibly give them. I suggest that first and foremost there is the means of maintaining their health. That means the provision of the best medical and hospital treatment that this country can -possibly give those ex-servicemen.
Senator McKellar mentioned that he was one of the fortunate, people who have npt had reason to make any claim on the Repatriation Department. . Fortunately, neither have I. As Senator Branson has said, the first thought of many thousands of men on returning home from active, service was to get out of the services altogether. First World War ex-servicemen in particular have found that with the advancing years certain disabilities have caught up with them, but because they have no repatriation entitlement they are not even entitled to hospital treatment. I should like to add my words of praise of the exMinister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper. He was always sympathetic and kindly. Like most of the diggers, he was a hell of a good fellow. It has been mentioned on previous occasions that exservicemen can secure admission to a repatriation hospital to have their complaints diagnosed, but if the. diagnosis suggests that their disability was not caused, or aggravated, by war service, then they are virtually turned,. out into the street.
Numerous repatriation cases have been brought to my notice. I have had many cases of men in a desperate position from the stand-point of health, but because they did not have a repatriation entitlement they could not get even a bed in a repatriation hospital. That is a damning indictment on our community, irrespective of party politics. Those who served in the forces know the hell on earth that men have to go through at times. We know also the encouragement they received when they were called on to enlist. They were told that nothing would be too good , for then when they returned! Unfortunately, in many cases that is just what they gotnothing. These men are entitled to. the best we can give them. Sixteen years after the end of the Second World War it is becoming increasingly evident that “many of the men who served in that struggle cannot establish a repatriation entitlement. They make application to the Repatriation Commission for consideration, and,. their case is dealt with. If .it. is rejected .they have a right of appeal first to an appeal tribunal and finally to a war pensions entitlement appeal tribunal.
The latest figures I have relate to the year 1958. As a matter of fact I have a question on the notice-paper at the present time in an endeavour to obtain the latest information. I had hoped to get a reply before this debate came on. In that question I ask -
The final question deals with one of the most important aspects of this whole matter. I do not wish to cast any reflection on the Repatriation Commission, nor on the personnel of the tribunals, but it is imperative that procedures should be streamlined. I received an answer about the time lag in the question I asked in regard to the year 1958. I suggest to the Senate that the time lag is possibly greater to-day than it was then. It is interesting to note the figures with which I was supplied. The question I asked was similar to the one I have on the notice-paper at the present time. I received the information on that occasion that during the twelve months ended 31st December, 1958, the number of applications for pensions and medical treatment was 39,724. During the same period 37,413 applications were determined, and of those 20,910 were rejected. In other words, out of a total of 37,000 applications considered by the Repatriation Commission almost 21,000 were rejected. It is perfectly obvious that ex-servicemen who apply to the Repatriation Commission must have some ground for making their application.
The reply I received went on to say that during the twelve months ended 31st December, 1958, the number of appeals lodged with the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals was 5,410, and during the same period, 4,990 were decided. Of the appeals decided - I ask honorable senators to listen to this - -no less than 4,442 were rejected. I suggest, Mr. Deputy President, that that pinpoints what we have continually said on this side of the chamber.
I mentioned earlier that I do not want to delay the Senate at any great length. However, before dealing with the onusofproof question I should like to say something about the time lag. In reply to my question I was informed that no statistics are available of the average time lag between lodgment and finalization of applications made during the year 1958. The reply went on to say -
However, a survey carried out showed that in cases decided during February, 1959, the average time between the date of lodgment of a claim and the date of determination was 76 days.
There you have an average time lag of no less than 76 days! I suggest that the latest figures would probably show a longer time lag than that.
Every year when a bill similar to the present one has been discussed I have stressed the importance of the onus-of-proof clause. It is perfectly obvious to any rightthinking person that a man who has seen active service will find disabilities catching up with him, particularly in the evening of his life. In the name of great goodness, surely no one can say with any degree of certainty that the disability from which he is suffering was not caused, or at least aggravated, by his war service! Of course, the answer we are given is that these men go before medical men. How many medical men disagree on some very important matters?
Again, where appeals are rejected, one would naturally think that the reason for the rejection of the appeal should be given to the applicant. It was pointed out on many occasions by Senator Sir Walter Cooper, when he was Minister for Repatriation, that the reasons for the disallowance or rejection of appeals could be obtained by the applicant. I have said before, and I repeat, that the reasons for the rejection of an appeal cannot, in fact, be obtained from the appeal tribunals. To fortify what I say I shall refer to a letter I received in reply to a speech I made in this chamber on a previous occasion. It was written by a man in South Australia. He wrote -
Last evening, 7th September, I listened with interest to your comments on the bill before the Senate on repatriation, in .particular the points made regarding the onus-of-proof clause and the obtaining by an appellant of evidence that may ;assist him in an appeal to a tribunal.
Without going right through the letter ;
– Read it all.
– No, but 1 will show it to you if you wish. This applicant applied to the commission for the reasons for the rejection of his appeal. He said in his letter to me that he was not handed a transcript of the evidence to be placed before the appeal tribunal until twenty minutes before the actual hearing began. He added that he was asked to hand it back before he entered the appeal room. He said further -
Just how one is supposed to digest the details which run into six foolscap pages (in my case) in twenty minutes I do not know and I was most interested to hear the Minister say last night that if an appellant is not satisfied with the summary of the evidence to be placed before the Appeal Tribunal then he may have access to his personal files. How can this be done if the transcript of evidence is not handed to an appellant until just before the hearing as in my case despite my letters (enclosed) to the commission.
He also pointed out that the commission had refused to tell him the reasons for the rejection of his appeal.
– Will you disclose the writer’s name?
– I do not feel disposed to do so. I do not think the person concerned would have any objection, but without his specific permission I would not do it. In all the cases I have mentioned in this place I have refrained from mentioning the names of the persons concerned. If the honorable senator is sufficiently interested, I can let him know the name and address of the person concerned in this case.
T emphasize that I am not blaming the Repatriation Commission or the personnel ot the appeal tribunals, but this is an anomaly which must be corrected. When a person appeals to a repatriation board and then goes through the various channels o£ appeal, there is an inevitable time lag. When, some time ago, I asked the Minister :or details of the time lag, the reply I received indicated the average time lapse between the lodging of an application and the finalization of the case was thirteen weeks. A hell of a lot could happen to an «!x-serviceman in thirteen weeks, particularly if he is in the state in which some of them come to me. Thirteen weeks is a very long time to have to wait for the result of an application for repatriation assistance.
When an appeal is rejected, the applicant receives a stereotyped reply which does not give any reason for the rejection and in which there is no trace of sympathy. It is along these lines -
That is important - is material to and has a substantial bearing upon the particular claim.
In all fairness, these people are entitled to all the assistance that can possibly be given.
Where appeals are rejected, the applicant should have a right of appeal, not from Caesar to Caesar, but, as we have suggested on previous occasions and as is the case in Great Britain, to the highest authority in the land. I suggest that in actual practice in 99.9 cases out of 100 the onus of proof rests fairly and squarely on the applicant. I repeat that applicants for repatriation benefits should have a right of appeal to the highest authority in the land. Provision to that effect will be embodied in an amendment which the Opposition proposes to move. That would mean, of course, an appeal to the High Court of Australia or to a supreme court in any State. Would not that be just? Is there anything wrong with that suggestion? When a person meets with an accident in the ordinary course of life, he is entitled to appeal to various courts if his initial claim for damages is rejected. Why should not an ex-serviceman have the same right of appeal under the repatriation legislation?
There are many matters in relation to which an ex-serviceman should be given the benefit of the doubt. Many disabilities which are not at present accepted as being war-caused could be so accepted. I mention particularly the disease of cancer. The time has passed when we should hesitate to accept the existence of cancer in many ex-servicemen as being due to or aggravated by war service. There is no unanimity amongst even medical men about the actual cause of cancer. It is generally recognized that this disease can be caused by any one of quite a number of factors. Because of the unusual circumstances in which exservicemen have served, cancer should be accepted as being a war-caused disability for repatriation purposes.
I wish to re-emphasize the need to remove the anomaly which exists in the discharge of the onus of proof. This is an important matter, and it is becoming increasingly important as the years go by. As time passes, people cannot possibly obtain the additional information that is demanded of them by the Repatriation Commission and the various appeal tribunals to substantiate their claims. There comes to my mind a case which I mentioned in this place some time ago and which could be multiplied a thousand times. In this case, a woman who had married an ex-serviceman who began his service in World War I. at the age of eighteen years, applied upon the death of her husband 40 years later for a war widow’s pension. She was told by the commission that her application was rejected. She got the same old stereotyped reply to the effect that, unless she could supply fresh evidence in regard to her husband’s war service which could be accepted by the commission as proving that his condition was caused or was aggravated by war service, she had no further right of appeal. How in the name of goodness can a woman, 40 years after the service of her husband, find fresh evidence that would satisfy the commission? It is an absolute impossibility.
– Had the husband applied for a pension during those 40 years?
– His application had been rejected?
– As far as 1 am able to recall the details, yes. I cannot recollect the full details of the case. Anyway, that is immaterial. The fact is that this woman was informed that unless she could produce further material evidence which would satisfy the commission or the appeal board she had no further right of appeal. The point I am stressing is this: Irrespective of whether or not her husband was in receipt of a pension, irrespective of whether or not his application had been rejected, his widow was informed that she had no further right of appeal. That is an important feature of the onus-of-proof provision. I suggest again that these people should have a right of appeal to the highest court in the land. There is nothing wrong with that suggestion. What argument caD be advanced in opposition to it?
In 1943, section 47, relating to the onus of proof, which has always been a bone of contention, was amended with a view to clarifying the position. Sub-section (2.) of the section states - lt shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application or appeal but the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal determining or deciding the claim, application or appeal shall be entitled to draw, and shall draw, from all the circumstances of the case, from the evidence furnished and from medical opinions, all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant, applicant or appellant, and in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority who contends that the claim, application or appeal should noi be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed.
There is no room for equivocation there. The intention of the act is that the onus of proof should in fact rest with the authority determining the appeal. At present, that is not so in practice.
I have heard Senator Sir Walter Cooper say in this chamber that officials of exservice organizations were quite happy with the working of the onus-of-proof provisions. I have disputed that statement before, and I dispute it again. I have quite a lot of dealings with ex-service organizations and I know very well that they are very dissatisfied with the operation of the provisions. This should not be a party political matter. As, I think, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated in his 1949 policy speech, the care and protection of ex-service men and women is a sacred obligation. I do not say that the present Government has not done quite a lot for ex-servicemen through the Repatriation Act. I suggest, however, that certain aspects of the repatriation law could and should be amended with advantage. Why deny ex-service men and women the best that we can give them in the evening of their lives? I think it was Senator Marriott who said that we can give them only what the country can afford. That is the old story. Material damage during wartime is repaired without hesitation and with no thought of the cost. Yet, the thousands of human wrecks who are walking about the country at the present time cannot get the treatment to which they are entitled and which we should be prepared to give them.
One of the amendments suggested by the Opposition relates to the medical treatment of members of the forces who served during the South African war and the 1914-18 war. That would be a start. I suggest that medical treatment should be available to all ex-service personnel, but at least as a start let us give such treatment to ex-servicemen of the South African war and the 1914-18 war, without obliging them to establish their entitlement to repatriation benefits. There are not many of them left now. They are dying off. We owe that service to them. We are under a sacred obligation to see that they are given the best that we can possibly give them in that regard.
The Opposition has also foreshadowed that it will seek the granting of medical benefits for the wives of cx-servicemen and for special-rate pensioners. We might bracket with that the case of wives of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. They undergo terrific strain. They work for seven days a week, every week of the year, looking after totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen who are unable to look after themselves. We think that the allowance that is paid at the moment is not sufficient. In addition to increasing the allowance to those brave women, we say that they should also receive proper medical care under the Repatriation Act. If we can do that for ex-service personnel generally, and also for the wives of the ex-servicemen to whom I have referred, we shall serve a twofold purpose.
Everybody knows that a very acute position exists in the States in regard to hospital treatment. The ordinary person cannot afford to be ill because of the charges that are levied for hospital accommodation under the various medical schemes. Even where assistance is available, the cost is still very high indeed. In Victoria it costs £3 a day, or £21 a week, for hospital treatment alone, without including the cost of medical treatment.
– Is that for treatment in a public hospital?
– For treatment in public wards of public hospitals.
– What has created that cost?
– It is due to the unbridled inflation that this Government has never attempted to curb. It has allowed inflation to run riot ever since it took office in 1949. But that is another argument and I do not want to pursue it at the moment.
– Did you hear Senator Branson’s speech?
– I did, and I have commended him on it.
– I thought it rather disposed of a lot of the arguments you are presenting.
– Did it? Of course, the honorable senator is capable of thinking anything. I have heard him give expression to some outrageous thoughts. However, I have not mentioned communism or red China yet, so he is right out of it. He cannot come in until communism or red China is mentioned. Then he will come in, hook, line and sinker.
– He will come in on union matters, too.
– Yes. He is a member of a “ Comm “ union, and he is unfinancial.
– Only temporarily.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order!
– I thought Senator Sandford was not going to delay the Senate for long.
– I always obey the ladies. I do not want to dwell at greater length on the subject of this debate. In conclusion, I stress the matters that I have already mentioned, particularly the necessity for medical and hospital treatment for ex-service men and women, and consideration of the onus-of-proof provisions. I shall support the amendments to be moved on behalf of the Opposition. Even at this late hour, I commend to the Government’s consideration the suggestions that we have made.
– in reply - I wish to reply to one or two of the matters that have been raised during this very interesting debate. As Senator Sandford has said, it is a case of the old, old story. I think that every government has improved repatriation benefits each year, with the assistance of ex-service organizations. Over the last 44 years, little by little, each year as the country could afford it, the benefits have been improved.I do not think that anything is gained by saying, “Itis the old, old story that the country cannot afford it “. No government has ever been able to grant all that was requested. A government has only a certain amount of revenue at its disposal and when it prepares a budget it devotes as much as it can to each section of the community.
It has been said that in Great Britain an ex-serviceman whose application for a pension has been rejected can appeal to a court against that decision. The fact is that he can appeal to a court only on a point of law. An ex-serviceman in Great Britain cannot appeal to a court if his claim for a war pension is rejected on the ground that his disability did not arise from his war service. As I have said, he can appeal only on a point of law, and then only if the court gives him permission to do so. Last year there were ten such appeals in Great Britain, five of which the court dismissed and five of which were remitted to tribunals for a further hearing. None of them was allowed. So if we adopted that system in Australia we should soon be back to where we started, except that ex-servicemen would have been involved in the additional expense of appealing to a court.
The Opposition suggests that any exserviceman whose claim has been rejected by a board, the commission or a tribunal should have the right to appeal to a court. As some 15,000 cases might be involved, the courts of this country could be devoting themselves almost entirely to these matters if such a right of appeal were allowed. The experience in Great Britain suggests that the boards and the tribunals do a very good job.
Senator McKellar I think raised the point that as the older repatriation doctors go out and the younger doctors come in the ex-servicemen feel that they are not being treated so sympathetically. The figures do not support that view at all. In 1956, 45 per cent. of the appeals heard were allowed; in 1957, 47 per cent.; in 1958, 50 per cent.; in 1959, 55 per cent.; and in 1960, 57 per cent. As the years have gone by, the ex- servicemen have received better treatment in this field, not worse treatment.
I think I have dealt with all the points raised in the debate with which I wanted to deal. In conclusion, let me repeat that any government has only a certain amount of revenue at its disposal and that in preparing its budget it must decide how much it can afford to devote to each of the various sections of the community for which it has a duty to care. This Government’s record in repatriation matters during the twelve years it has been in office is excellent. Each year it has made improvements to the Repatriation Act. This year, following its usual course, it has provided all the additional repatriation benefits that the country can afford.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Pursuant to notice, I move -
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole on the bill to consider -
the amendment of section 37 of the Principal Act; and
the insertion of new sections 47a, 123a and 123b in the Principal Act.
With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “ the proposed new clauses.
Proposed new clauses. “4a. Section thirty-seven of the Principal Act is amended -
The proposed amendments have been already discussed fairly widely. The Opposition has presented argument in favour of its proposal that any case of cancer in an ex-serviceman be accepted as a war-caused disability. I was interested to learn that, replying to an honorable member in another place, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) said that about 2,000 applications for repatriation benefits had been made by ex-servicemen suffering from cancer and that over 1,000 of those applications had been accepted. That information is very important and very interesting.
– I take a point of order. I submit for your consideration, Sir, that the motion before the Chair is a motion to instruct the committee subsequently to consider the amendments which Senator O’Byrne is now canvassing. I submit that the honorable senator can speak only to the motion and that at this stage he is not in order in addressing himself to the amendments.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The point of order is well taken. I was about to call Senator O’Byrne’s attention to the fact that he cannot discuss the proposed amendments at this stage. They can be discussed only in committee.
– I should like to make the comment, Mr. Deputy President, that it is rather a pity that, in relation to a matter which is not political and which is presented in the interests of exservicemen, the forms of the Senate do not allow-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! Before you proceed, will you tell me whether you are challenging the ruling I have given? If you are not challenging it, you cannot proceed on those lines. If you are challenging it, you must put your objection in writing and state the reasons.
– I bow to your ruling, Sir. I have had the amendments incorporated in “ Hansard “, and that seems to be all that I can do now.
– The Government is unable to accept the motion. The amendments that the honorable senator has circulated, and which will be discussed if the motion is carried, relate to matters which were considered by the Government in the preparation of the Budget. The Government has decided that what is suggested in them cannot be done this year. If the proposed new sections were inserted they would involve expenditure in addition to that proposed in the Budget. I repeat that the Government is unable to accept the motion.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 582) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Section eighty-five of the Principal Act is amended -
Section proposed to be amended -
– (1.) Subject to this Act, the Commission or a Board may grant a service pension to a person of any of the classes specified in the first column of the following table at a rate not exceeding the rate specified in the second column of that table in respect of that class: -
Amendment (by Senator O’Byrne) proposed -
In clause 7, paragraph (a), leave out “One hundred and twenty-three pounds ten shillings per annum “, insert “ Two hundred and forty pounds ten shillings per annum”.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out be left out.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. A. C. Wood.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 10 -
The Second Schedule to the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words - “ Rate for Special Pensions - Twentyfive Pounds Ten Shillings per Fortnight.” and inserting in their stead the words - “Rate for Special Pensions - Twenty six Pounds Ten Shillings per Fortnight.”;
Schedule proposed to be amended -
Rate for Special Pensions - Twenty-five Pounds
Ten Shillings per Fortnight.
.- I move -
In clause 10, paragraph (a), leave out the words - “ ‘ Rate for Special Pensions - Twenty-six Pounds Ten Shillings per Fortnight ‘ “, insert - “ ‘ Rate for Special Pensions - Twentyeight Pounds Sixteen Shillings per Fortnight ‘
This matter has been very widely canvassed. It involves the payment of a special rate pension equal to the basic wage. The committee must be convinced that these days the cost of living is such that the basic wage is the minimum, not the maximum, amount required to sustain a man in any reasonable state of comfort. We on this side of the committee believe that the basic wage should be the unit for special pensions. The whole relationship of pensions to the basic wage has been canvassed during the second-reading debate. The necessity for this increase needs no further stressing.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment, which would lead to additional expenditure this year of £1,300,000.
– It should be pointed out to the committee that ex-servicemen’s associations generally right throughout Australia have stated that they do not want pensions related to the basic wage in any way whatsoever. This action would be contrary to the wishes and desires of those associations.
– They do not want a further increase?
– I did not say that
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator O’Byme’s amendment) be left out
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. A. C. Wood.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the Senate reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Canned pigmeats, Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921-1957, and meat and preparations of meat in airtight containers.
Cellulose acetate flake.
Styli for sound playback equipment.
Synergists for pyrethrum-based insecticides.
Textile labels, badges and the like.
Vinyl monomers, &c.
I also lay on the table of the Senate a report by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board on the question whether temporary duties should be imposed on fine paper.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 26th September next, at 3 p.m.
Debate resumed from 13th September (vide page 505), on motion by Senator Henry-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which is complementary to the Repatriation Bill 1961, covers merchant seamen who are eligible for the equivalent of repatriation benefits. The whole matter was thoroughly canvassed during the debate on the Repatriation Bill. We on this side of the Senate have nothing to add to what was said in relation to repatriation benefits. As soon as this bill is passed through the various stages and comes into effect, the increased payments under this bill will be made to the seamen who are eligible to receive them.
– This bill, which will increase seamen’s war pensions and allowances, is a very small bill. It is complementary to the Repatriation Bill which the Senate has just passed. A bill such as this comes up every year. During the past four years I have not mentioned this matter, but I believe that from time to time we in this Parliament should remind ourselves of the men who draw these pensions and of the work of the merchant service as a whole throughout both the 1914-18 war and the more recent war from 1939 to 1945. In reminding ourselves of these men and their work, I should like to place a few figures on the record. In the First World War we lost 9,000,000 tons of shipping, representing about 4,000 ships. The vast majority of the crews of those ships were lost. About 48,000 men of the merchant service and fishing fleets of Great Britain lost their lives in the First World War.
In the Second World War the Commonwealth countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, lost 12,500,000 tons of shipping. About 3,400 ships were lost. That figure does not include any naval vessels at all. It covers only the number of merchant ships lost in the course of their normal vocation of carrying cargo. Although each ship was fitted with a gun on the aft end, it was still classed as being on its civilian work. During the Second World War, 44,000 merchant seamen gave their lives. I think it is well for us to remember these facts. It is very interesting to note that a similar number of ships was lost in the Second World War, but a far greater tonnage was lost. That shows the large increase in the size of the vessels that were built between the two world wars. 1 believe that in Australia we have only 130 to 135 seamen drawing war pensions. Of course, one of the reasons for that is that merchant seamen either came back whole or did not come back at all. On the run that was known as the “ Kola “ run - from Iceland around the north of Scotland and North Cape into Murmansk - ships took the necessaries of war to our then allies, the Russians. It makes one think, when one remembers the ships that were lost and the men who were lost there. Once a ship went down in, those icy waters, 30 seconds to a minute was all the time for which any human being could live in that extreme cold. Many of our ships were lost on that run. On one P.Q. 17 - that is navalese for the number of the convoy - only three out of 28 ships arrived, the others, being lost on the way round. When one considers the thanks that we got from our allies of that time, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, it makes one think.
I rose merely to remind the Senate of those facts once more. Probably I will not say anything about them again for another two or three years. I believe that it is worthwhile to remember them. It is also worthwhile to remember the change in the position of merchant seamen. At the beginning of the First World War - I can tell the Senate this from personal experience - as soon as your ship was sunk by a German submarine - in those days there were no bombers - your pay stopped immediately. You might be in a boat for a week; you might be over in Ireland; it might be weeks before you got back to London or your home port. However, your pay stopped immediately the ship was sunk on the ground that the ship’s articles had expired. Of course they had expired; they had gone down with the ship! It is interesting to compare the treatment that merchant seamen received from shipowners in those days with what they receive in these enlightened days when merchant seamen not only have very good conditions indeed but also are entitled to pensions, just as men in the active services are. It is worthwhile to keep that in mind. That is all I wish to say, Mr. Deputy President. I wish the bill a speedy passage through the Senate. I am very pleased to have spoken on it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 548).
– In resuming the debate on this bill, I move an amendment in the following terms: -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ the Senate condemns the Government for having failed to increase rates of payment of various social services to correspond with increased prices, and particularly condemns the Government for again refusing to make any increase in child endowment, thus leaving child endowment unaltered since 1950, during which time its purchasing value has halved”.
The Opposition feels quite justified in moving this amendment. We believe that we will put before the Government sufficient evidence, to show that it should accept the amendment. If the Government will not accept it and it is not carried by the Senate, the Opposition will support the motion for the second reading of the bill, because it is the desire of the Opposition that the increased rates of pension provided for in the bill should operate from the earliest possible date. We have received cooperation from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) in order to make that possible. We are continuing this debate to-night at very short notice so that the greatest possible despatch will be. given to the bill and the pensioners who have waited for a long while to receive justice will receive these increases as early as possible.
When we analyse the economic position, it cannot be denied that social service payments have lost their value. We believe that social services have been neglected by this Government. There has been very severe inflation over the last decade and the Government has been very slow in making adjustments to bring social service payments to parity with inflated costs and prices. I submit the case for the Opposition in good conscience. I do so, of course, with the idea of being a reformer. I think Confucius said that a “reformer is one that wants your actions to follow his con science”. If the Government understands the meaning of, and wishes to give real social justice, it should accept many of the suggestions that we make.
Inflation which has galloped on merrily and viciously has robbed social service benefits of their value. However, one section of the Australian administration has not been embarrassed by shortages of money. I refer to the Taxation Branch of the Commonwealth Treasury. The record tax collections by the Government justify the Opposition’s claim for an adjustment in social service payments to allow a more equitable distribution of the national revenue for the benefit of the poorer people in the community - the family man and the people who have to depend upon the payments they receive from the Government.
We are living to-day in a different age from that in which people lived years ago. The state levies taxes and claims to be a welfare state. The present Government taxes the people at a rate that permits it to make social service payments. It must be remembered that social service payments and benefits can no longer be regarded as a charity. They have been paid for by those who will receive them.
I desire now to make a comparison between the basic wage and the amount of taxation that is levied by the Government. The figure I give for the basic wage is the weighted average for the six capital cities, and over eleven years it has risen from £7 2s. a week to £14 8s. a week. Taxation has increased from £60 7s. 1 Id. per head of population in 1949 to £139 19s. lid. per head at the present time. Using the method of indirect taxation, the Government extracts money from every person in the community from the poorest to the wealthiest. I have pointed out already that the recipients of social services pay for their benefits by way of taxation. Indirect taxation has increased from £21 3s. 8d. to £48 7s. per head of population while direct taxation has increased from £39 4s. 3d. to £89 12s. lid. per head.
The Government has stepped up indirect taxation in a very vicious manner. I repeat that it is a tax that is paid by everybody, including the pensioner. During the period I have mentioned indirect taxation has increased by not less than £348,398,509 and direct taxation has increased by £646,556,990. In the year covered by the present Budget the Government will collect in direct and indirect taxation £995,024,400 more than was collected in 1948-49.
The Opposition considers, therefore, that social services benefits should be increased so that their purchasing power will be equivalent to that of the benefits that were being paid in 1949 when taxation was much lower, and government receipts were much less. I have shown that the percentage of indirect taxation was far lower than it is to-day. When it is considered that the Government is levying indirect taxes at the rate of £48 7s. per head of the whole population I think that in good conscience it should treat more fairly the recipients of social service benefits.
I have here a statement compiled from the Consolidated Revenue Funds of successive Budgets from the year 1948-49 to 1961-62. They bear out the figures I have quoted, and with the concurrence of the Senate I incorporate them in “ Hansard “. They are as follows: -
The Government has decided to increase some social service benefits. It proposes to increase age and invalid pensions. After a long, tedious battle with the Opposition the Government has increased age and invalid pensions to a figure where their purchasing power does compare with the purchasing power of the pensions paid in 1949-50. It is interesting to trace briefly what has happened since 1948. In that year the pension rate was £2 2s. 6d. a week and the basic wage was £5 5s. a week, the pension being 36 per cent, of the basic wage. That was the position when the Labour Government went out of office.
In 1949 the pension was £2 2s. 6d. and the basic wage was £6 9s., the pension being 32.9 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950 the pension was £2 10s., the basic wage was £7 2s., the pension being 35.2 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1951 the pension was £3 and the basic wage was £10, the pension being 30 per cent, of the basic wage. At that stage there was a lot of propaganda in the press designed to show that pensioners were suffering real hardship and were unable to exist on the frugal amount they were receiving. They had lived frugally even on the pensions we paid. The wives of many invalid pensioners had to support themselves on a small allowance, and were suffering real hardship. In 1952 the pension was £3 7s. 6d. a week and the basic wage £11 lis. The pension had dropped to 29.2 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1953 the pension was £3 10s. and the basic wage was £11 6s., the pension being 29.7 per cent, of the basic wage. It had increased a little. The basic wage was frozen for a period, but the frozen basic wage did not stop inflation. That is proved by the increase in the cost structure, by figures supplied to industrial tribunals and by the manner in which the Government has taxed the people. The Government has not ceased to impose high taxation, with hundreds of millions of pounds being taken from the people every year. In 1954, the pension remained at £3 10s. and the basic wage was £11 16s. The pension was then equal to 29.7 per cent, of the basic wage. In J 955, the pension was £4 and the basic wage was £11 16s., the relevant percentage being 33.9. In 1956, the pension was £4 but the basic wage had risen to £12 6s. The pension was then equal to 32.5 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1957, the percentage was 34.2; in 1958, it was 33.5; and in 1959, it was 34.5. In 1960, coming to an election, the pension was increased to £5, but the basic wage was still £13 16s., the relevant percentage being 36.2. Under the present Budget the pension will be 36.5 per cent, of the basic wage.
The Government realizes that there has been a long, hard and tedious battle to obtain some recognition of the fact that people have a right to a rate of pension which is reasonable when compared with our inflated cost structure. Because their conscience has smitten them, or perhaps because pressure has been brought to bear upon them, members of the Government realize that the proposed age pension is the least that should be granted to this class of pensioner. It certainly is not too much.
Having conceded the need for a rise in the age pension, the Government should concede the need to increase child endowment, which has become just as essential as the basic wage. For a considerable period, the Government prevented the basic wage from being increased, but it did nothing to adjust the rate of child endowment following the rise in prices. I should say that if anybody is entitled to be considered by the Government in its distribution of revenue, that person is the man who rears a family and whose wife works and slaves for a low wage. The Australian mother is the most marvellous woman in the world. I do not think anybody makes a greater sacrifice or is a greater asset to the nation than is the Australian mother. The Government is prepared to buy migrants overseas at the cost of thousands of pounds annually. That being so, it should be prepared to consider an increase of the child endowment. The Government has been dishonest and mean towards the mothers of this land. During the 1949 election campaign and subsequent campaigns it told the mothers of this nation that it would do something for them, but it has done nothing.
The Opposition believes that child endowment should be paid on the following basis: - For the first child, 10s. a week instead of 5s.; for the second child, 17s. 6d. a week instead of 10s.; and for each additional child, 20s. a week instead of 10s. Beyond that, the payment should be adjusted in accordance with the costofliving index figures. If the Government does not deny that it has a responsibility in this sphere, it has shown very clearly by its actions over the last eleven years that it has allowed child endowment to become a dead letter. Child endowment is essential; it should be given attention by any government which claims to have the welfare of the people at heart. The Labour Party will continue to press for the adjustment of child endowment. I hope the Government can see that it has cheated the fathers and mothers of this country of their just rights - rights which are theirs because of the amount of money they pay in taxes.
Child endowment had been paid in New South Wales for some time before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration said that it could not increase the basic wage to a point where it would maintain a family in which there was more than one child, and before it suggested to the Government that it should make some provision for the family man. The court said that if it increased the basic wage it would place an additional load on industry and thus inflate costs. The Government acceded to the court’s suggestion and accepted child endowment as being the right of the family man. But since then this Government has been responsible for causing child endowment to lose 50 per cent, of its value. The payment should be at least doubled. The sums I have suggested would do no more than invest child endowment with a purchasing power that was in keeping with inflated costs and increased taxation.
The allowance for the dependent wife of an invalid pensioner should be increased beyond the present payment of 35s. a week. Of course, the Government is now adjusting the allowance; but it should be at least equal to the payment made to a class B widow. The failure of the Government to adjust the allowance earlier has revealed a glaring weakness in its approach to social services. To suggest that an invalid or age pensioner and his wife who is not capable of working should be able to exist merely on a pension plus the small dependant’s allowance that is allowed by this Government is unjust. The Government should further increase the allowance as a matter of urgency. Real hardship is being suffered because of the Government’s failure to do so.
I turn now to the supplementary rent allowance. The Government has always propounded the standard of living of a pensioner as being that which is enjoyed by a married couple who have their own home, who are in receipt of a certain amount of additional income, and who enjoy certain other benefits; but it has neglected the single person who is in receipt of the pension and no other income, who has no home of his own and who has to pay rent. After a very intensive press campaign, the Government made provision for a small payment to pensioners who occupied, perhaps, a room, who had to pay rent for it, and who were suffering hardship. 1 believe that the rent allowance should be raised to at least 35s. a week. Provision should be made for special payments in specific cases of hardship. While it is admitted that the man who has to live on a pension and who has no other income, must live in a very frugal manner, I think that consideration should be given to the plight of aged people who are obliged to pay interest and other charges on a home and who may incur great expense in maintaining the home. They, too, are suffering real hardship, and allowance should be made, in special cases, to meet their needs.
We believe that child endowment should be paid for all children attending school up to the age of eighteen years. As we know, there has been no adjustment of the income means test. An adjustment has been made in the property means test, but the income means test has remained unaltered. That is a matter of great importance to the pensioner who may be in receipt of the minimum amount of income and be living in the worst possible circumstances. He may not own property or receive superannuation. The Government should consider the need to do something for pensioners of that kind. The permissible amount of income still remains at £3 10s. a week and has not been altered since 1954, although the basic wage has risen by about £4 a week in that time. If the Labour Party has the opportunity, it will review the position and ameliorate the means test provisions.
Of course, the story of the property means test is a simple one. The Labour Party has a social services committee which is constantly studying and analysing statistics relating to this matter. A year or so ago, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), who is the secretary of our committee, wrote to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Department of Social Services asking for an assessment of the cost of modifying the property means test in a certain way. His letter was not answered. The cost which had been suggested was never substantiated. Nevertheless, we had the satisfaction of knowing that the Government thought that the plan was a well-based one.
Subsequently, a better deal was introduced for those recipients of pensions who were more fortunately placed. We of the Labour Party are proud that the Government, as a matter of conscience, made that adjustment, but I suggest that the amelioration of the income means test calls for even more urgent consideration. If its provisions were improved, it would be easier for the man who has no property and who must scrounge and do a little work, such as gardening, to make up the difference between penury and bare subsistence. He still would not have much money with which to buy clothes or food, or to have a little amusement, but he would be able to survive. The Government could not lose by doing that, and I suggest that it should accept the amendment.
I come to a matter which we think has been neglected for a long time and to which some attention should be given. I refer to the length of time that a migrant must reside in this country before he becomes entitled to social service benefits. As the Minister knows, that period is twenty years. At this stage, I ask for leave to give notice that at the next day of sitting I propose to move an amendment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move -
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole on the Social Services Bill 1961 to consider the following amendment to section 21 of the Principal Act:- “2a. Section 21 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) the words ‘twenty years’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ten years ‘ “.
We think that it is necessary to amend the act in that way. We in this country are pleased to accept migrants and to call them new Australians. We wish them to become citizens of this country. Twenty years is a long time. Many of the migrants who come here are aged persons who have contributed to the cost of social services in the countries from which they have come. I sincerely hope that the Senate will consider that amendment to be a just and reasonable one, and that we shall be successful in having it written into the act.
There is also another very important aspect of social services which the Government has neglected. It, too, has been on the Government’s blind side when it has been considering the decencies in social service matters. I refer to the maternity allowance, which is paid to the mothers, the women who care for the families of Australia. The amount of the allowance was fixed in 1943. As I have said, at great expense we bring new citizens to this country. The Government says that we must populate or perish. It has all the jargon and catch-cries at its command. Yet, its consideration of Australian mothers in the matter of the maternity allowance has been very poor. If the Government is prepared to adopt the Opposition’s suggestion and incorporate it in the act. as it did with the property means test, the
Opposition will be both pleased and proud. We say that the amount of the maternity allowance should be £30 for the first child, and should rise to £35 for the fourth and subsequent children. I hope that the Government sees the fairness of that suggestion. If it does not, then Labour will ensure that, the proposal is put into effect when it has. the opportunity to do so.
I turn to yet another matter that hasbeen neglected for very many years. I refer to the funeral benefit, the amount of which has remained unchanged since 1943. It may be asked, in relation to both the matters that I have just mentioned, “ What, did your government do about them? “ I point out, that this Government is collecting. £1,000,000,000 more a year by way of taxation revenue than did the Labour Government. The amount of the funeral benefit, which has remained at £10 since 1943, should be increased to £30. As far as possible, care should be taken to ensure that the relatives of the deceased pensionerreceive the payment and that it is not thesubject of a contract between a funeral director and the Government, whereby abuse could arise. We believe that our suggestion in this respect is a reasonable one and should be favorably considered.
I turn to sickness and unemployment benefits, both of which are very low. The Labour Party, of course, believes that the best way to reduce the charge that unemployment benefit makes against government revenue is to have full employment. The first consideration, of course, is employment for the 113,500 Australians who are waiting for work and who are willing to work. Had the Government found employment for those people, the matter of the unemployment benefit would not be of such serious concern. I believe that this benefit; should be increased. It has been increased;, to some degree by the Government, but. I believe that it should be increased further,, as also should the allowances for dependent children of the people concerned. In my opinion, the unemployment benefit should always bear a certain relation to the cost of living and the, basic wage so that, as wages rise due to inflation, an unemployed man will always be in receipt of a weekly income that will allow him to exist, even if in very frugal circumstances. The rateof the benefit should be higher than is- proposed in the bill. If the Government increased the rate further, it could offset the extra cost involved by reversing its employment policy and ensuring that unemployment was kept at the lowest possible level.
I suggest that, as the unemployment benefit is financed by tax revenue, the Government should look at what its friends in this country are doing. They are reducing the earnings of trained Australian workers by standing them down for short periods - periods that will not permit the workers to draw the unemployment benefit. The qualifying period for the benefit must be adjusted because at present it is being abused by the Government’s friends - by companies such as General MotorsHolden’s Limited. It is not right that a trained man who is willing and able to work, a man who enabled an industry to make large profits, should be put out of employment for a week or a fortnight and be ineligible for the unemployment benefit during that time. The position must be adjusted in one way or another. We must alter our arbitration laws to ensure, that skilled tradesmen will have a guaranteed working week and will not be exploited as they are being exploited now, or the Government must step in, when a firm uses the stand-down system to reduce the earnings of its workers, and give the men affected some small relief payments until the industrial position has been straightened out.
I think that widows’ pensions and allowances are also due for review. In the view of the Labour Party, a class A widow who is solely occupied with the care of her children and is unable to take employment outside her home should receive a domestic allowance at least equal to that paid to a war widow. Let me make it clear that we believe that a war widow should receive only the best treatment. This is not a case of trying to drag somebody down and build somebody else up. We think that an Australian mother who has been widowed and has devoted the whole of her time to caring for her family should be paid an allowance equal to that paid to a war widow. I suggest that the Government consider this matter and, if possible, make an appropriate amendment to the legislation. If the Government does not do it, I give the assurance that a Labour government will do it at the first available opportunity. I understand that the war widow’s domestic allowance at present is £3 a week. We consider that a domestic allowance should be paid to class A widows to make them ineligible for the supplementary rent allowance. If they got a domestic allowance, it could be marked off against the supplementary rent allowance or whatever it is that such widows receive as a temporary payment for the relief of hardship. I do not think that they should have to struggle for such a payment. I think it would be fair and just that they should get what I am pleading for the Government to give to them.
I have already referred to the proposed amendment relating to the residential qualifications for the age pension and I do not think I should canvass that matter to any extent at this stage. I content myself with saying that the Government would be wise to accept the amendment as a matter of justice to many new Australians and other people in this country.
In my view, the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act is one of the best moves that has been made to deal with the national problem of housing old people. The scheme was supported by all parties in the Parliament. It provided originally for a subsidy on a £1 for £1 basis to charitable and religious organizations for the building of aged persons homes, and subsequently the subsidy was raised to £2 for every £1 collected by such organizations. We say that the scheme should be extended to include local governing bodies. We have pressed for this on previous occasions. One of the great needs at present is to provide accommodation for our aged people. It is an unhappy fact that at present many of them, suffering from nothing but debility due to their age, are in mental institutions. There is nowhere else for them to go. In Kalgoorlie there were a number of age pensioners who were suffering from no disease or malady except debility on account of their age. At first they were put into hospitals, there being nowhere else for them to go then. However, this embarrassed the hospital authorities and they tried to put the old people out. Consequently, a real problem arose. We think that the problem could be eased if the aged persons homes scheme were extended to include local governing bodies which wish to build homes of this kind. The entry of local authorities into the scheme would be of great benefit to aged people and would do much to relieve a rather distressing position. 1 hope that the Government will give consideration to this matter and will accede to our request. 1 again give an assurance that, if the Government does not do so, Labour will move along those lines at the first possible opportunity.
Our proposal for an appeals tribunal is, 1 think, something new. I want to make it clear that the proposal does not arise from any suggestions of unsympathetic treatment of pensioners by those who administer social services in Australia In my dealings with the staff of the Department of Social Services I have received nothing but courtesy and the greatest of consideration. However, there are occasions when some people feel that they have not been treated justly. In cases involving applications for invalid pensions, for instance, doctors may disagree and the applicant may feel that an injustice has been done. Therefore, we believe that there should be a tribunal to which an applicant for an invalid pension may appeal if he wishes to contest medical evidence, or to which an aged pensioner may appeal against the valuation placed upon his property or something of that nature. Quite a few cases of this kind could arise. I am sure that the officers of the Department of Social Services would not object to such an appeal tribunal being established, because, they must sometimes wonder joist how far they should go in certain cases. I feel that attention should be given to this matter.
I have given what I believe to be a reasonable summary of the deficiencies that the Opposition considers the Government has allowed to creep into the social service structure over a period of years. Although inflation has become worse, the Government has taken pension rates back to a ratio of 36.5 per cent, of the basic wage. The whole social services structure has been neglected by the Government. From time to time we hear criticism of the rate of progress of the Western powers. There is room for criticism of this Government because government taxes have risen to 28.5 per cent, of the whole of our national revenue for the establishment of a welfare state.
Every section of the community has been embarrassed by inflation except the Government. The Government has taken money from the people in generous quantities, and has spent it in many areas; but the Government is the trustee of the people. It has taken this money from the people in an age of social conscience. The people who pay taxes expect something in return. The Opposition believes that what we have suggested in the way of social services is the minimum of social justice. The Labour Party’s proposals are not extravagant. So long as the Government continues to leave the matters to which we have referred out of adjustment, it is thieving from the poorest section of the community. These people have been deprived of social justice.
The Government has given consideration to every other section of the community. Some sections have enjoyed prosperity. Dividends have been high and returns have been profitable. Costs are now catching up with some of those people; but it is vital for us to keep alive a social conscience. In a country that is taxing the people at a heavy rate to promote the welfare state, the Government cannot be dishonest and cheat the people of the benefits for which they are paying taxes. As I have said, I am a reformer. I think my conscience is good and clear, as is the conscience of the Labour Party, and I ask the Senate to follow our lead.
– Mr. Deputy President and honorable senators, I rise to support the bill on social services that is before the Senate and I reject the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition. In direct contrast to Senator Cooke who has just resumed his seat, I offer my congratulations to this coalition Government on the wonderful work it has done in connexion with social services and in its endeavours to assist all sections of the community. Senator Cooke spoke about child endowment and various other matters, and his words conjured in my mind a statement that was made by the Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party who said that if the Australian electors would only put the Labour Party into office as the government at the next general election, it would not mind having a deficit of £100,000,000.
That is one side of the picture. Senator Cooke told us what should be done with child endowment and other forms of social services and I can easily see how the Labour Party could get a deficit of £100,000,000. it is the other side of the picture that I cannot see. Where would a Labour government get £100,000,000 with which to do these generous things? During the debate on the Repatriation Bill this afternoon, Senator Marriott made a definite point about the amount of taxation that is necessary to keep the country going. He pointed out that the Government has to cut its cloth according to its length. We must remember that although we have more than 10,000,000 people in this country, we have only about 3,500,000 taxpayers. As I shall show in some figures I propose to quote later, this Government is touching about 4,500,000 people - men, women and children - with its social service provisions. That seems to me to be very laudable. The Government, which can operate only on the taxes paid by 3,500,000 people, is able to make life more pleasant for 4,500,000 men, women and children.
Senator Cooke made special reference to child endowment. I do not suppose that he forgets that it was this Government which introduced child endowment for the first child. The Australian Labour Party had taken no notice of the first child to begin with. I do not think that any government - Liberal or Labour - ever intended that child endowment should cover completely the cost of bringing up a child. It was meant only as a form of assistance. I am able to judge the effect of child endowment payments because I was associated with a very large primary school in Perth when child endowment was introduced, and I can say that the mothers of Australia have made tremendously good use of Che child endowment that has been given to them to help them bring up their children. In the earlier days of my acquaintance with this large school, it was not remarkable to see the children dressed in hand-me-downs and cut-downs and second-hand clothing; but since child endowment has become the right of every child in Australia, one cannot help noticing the difference in the dress of the children and the improvement in their general well-being. I think the Government has done a very good job in all sections of social services, and I hope that the figures I quote will show that the first part of Senator Cooke’s amendment presents far from the true picture. It is to this effect -
The Senate condemns the Government for having failed to increase rates of payment of various social services to correspond with increased prices . . .
The honorable senator’s amendment then goes on to refer to child endowment. I am sure that all fair-minded people will agree that the figures I shall quote show that the Government has done a very good job in spreading the money it has at its disposal over large sections of the community. Senator Cooke has given notice that he will move another amendment designed to reduce the period of twenty years that is now stipulated before immigrants qualify for social service benefits. I think that proposal has some merit in it, but I shall leave that until it comes before the Senate.
The helpfulness of this Government has been particularly evident in the field of social services. For twelve years, the present Liberal-Country Party Government has introduced improvements to its social services legislation to promote the welfare of all sections of the community. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) said in his second-reading speech -
The Government, through the Department of Social Services, makes payments of various kinds that benefit some 4,500,000 men, women and children in Australia to-day, and these payments fall only slightly short of £800,000 per day. This great endeavour to bring security and help to so many reflects the earnest desire of this Government to act equitably to all sections of the community.
The Government was responsible foi extending child endowment payments. It was also the first government to provide additional assistance to A class widows and invalid pensioners who have the custody, care and control of more than one child.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - 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, 14 September 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610914_senate_23_s20/>.