24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions: - Have interviews on behalf of the Commonwealth Statistician taken place since early in 1961 in the capital cities involving such questions as hours of work, reasons for absences from work and unemployment? Was it not intended originally to publish the results of these surveys? If so, why have they not been published? If it is intended to publish them, when will they be published? Is it not a fact that these surveys are accurate and show a much higher percentage of unemployment than do the figures issued by the Department of Labour and National Service?
– I am unable to answer that part of the question which deals with certain work that the honorable senator asserts is being undertaken by the Commonwealth Statistician. However, I shall endeavour to get the information and let him have it. I do. however, notice that in the last part of his question we again find the unending search by the Labour Party to uncover some unemployment. It must come as a great shock to honorable senators opposite to find that as the economy gains strength there is a gradual fall in unemployment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I should like to preface my question by stating that on reading yesterday’s “ Hansard “ I was astounded and amazed to read that Mr. Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, had said that among the companies that had crashed was the reputable firm of Hooker. I was so surprised that I immediately telephoned Mr. L. J. Hooker this morning to find out the truth of the statement. Mr. Hooker informed me that his company was still fully intact and, in fact, had met all its debenture and interest commitments. He’ said that he had secured a loan of 1,000,000 dollars from an American bank, and he referred me to this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ financial columns which revealed that his company had made a half-yearly profit of £133,000. Would the Minister care to comment on this and could he assure me that he will endeavour to obtain from the Leader of the Opposition in another place an assurance that he will not in future make irresponsible attacks on innocent companies that are playing an important part in developing Australia?
– The honorable senator concludes his question by asking me whether I will seek from the Leader of the Opposition in another place an assurance that he will not continue to make irresponsible statements. That would be, as the honorable senator will recognize, love’s labour lost, and I would not presume to do it. The facts which the honorable senator has related to the Senate indicate the degree of reliability that can be placed on the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday that Hooker had crashed. Sir, that statement is grotesquely wrong; it is also wilfully and deliberately malicious. It is indicative of the hatred of the Leader of the Opposition of any one in the community who is reasonably prosperous. Within 24 hours of making his statement yesterday in another place the Leader of the Opposition was challenged to repeat it outside. It will be interesting to see whether he does so. A few hours later Senator Scott unearthed the falseness of the allegations made against the Hooker company. The whole of the statement made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition was a tissue of untruths, half-truths a..d misrepresentation. The proof of what I say will be shown as time goes on, particularly when, if he has the courage to do so, the Leader of the Opposition repeats outside the Parliament what he said inside it yesterday.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation undertake to place before the Government the justifiable claim by the Partially Blinded Soldiers Association of Australia that ex-servicemen who have lost an eye or the sight of an eye due to war service shall be granted an increase of their present rate of pension of 50 per cent, to the rate of 75 per cent, that is now received by ex-servicemen who have lost a limb due to war service, plus the addition provided for in the Fifth Schedule of the act? I point out to the Minister that the cost involved would be negligible as the number of persons who have lost an eye or the sight of an eye due to war service is not great.
– I understand that representations in the matter referred to by the honorable senator are at present before the Minister for Repatriation, who is giving consideration to them.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question relating to housing. Has his attention been directed to the fall in interest rates on savings bank accounts which will operate from 1st May? Does that fall indicate that home seekers will be able to obtain loans from savings banks at a lower rate of interest? Would the Minister care to comment on the possibilities inherent in such a reduction in relation to the overall picture of providing more money for housing through building society organizations and by other means?
– I read the press report to which the honorable senator has referred with a great deal of interest. I forebear to comment on the details of the reduction. It is a matter for each savings bank to implement in its own way. Of course, the reduction in interest rates will be of substantial benefit to those who are buying homes with money provided by the savings banks. The main thing I should like to say is that I hope that this will encourage the savings banks to make more money available for housing directly to home seekers and through building societies. Savings banks are the great traditional source of finance for home-building in Australia, and every increase in their activities towards making home finance available will certainly have my whole-hearted encouragement.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs several questions. I do not expect them to be answered categorically, but I hope that he will endeavour to give me information of the kind I am seeking. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that control of Laos is most important for the defence of the free world against the encroachment of communism. Is it true that there is much confusion in the public mind generally concerning the set-up in Laos? Would the well-informed Minister briefly explain to the Senate and the people the present government control in Laos; that is, how it works? Why is that government called neutralist? Is the leader of the Pathet Lao, Prince Souphannouvong, a half-brother of the Prime Minister, Prince Souvanna Phouma? Are Pathet Lao troops Communists? Does the Prime Minister’s half-brother take part in the government of Laos? Have the Pathet Lao troops taken control of a town with an unpronounceable name near the Plain of Jars, and have they driven the neutralist troops under Captain Kong Le out of the district? Is it a fact that the Government of the United States of America has poured several hundred million dollars into Laos in the past five years? Is it a fact that Laos was receiving more money per head in aid than any other country in the world? Is it a fact that Laotian officials refused to tell American administrators what happened to this money?
– Wait till he gets to question number 24.
– I have one or two more yet. I do not know that there is any rule, regulation or standing order which prevents my asking questions. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the price of maintaining a Laotian soldier is twice as much as that of maintaining a soldier of any other allied nation receiving American military aid. Is it a fact that before American aid flowed into Laos there were only 300 cars in Laos whilst to-day thousands of luxury cars crowd the muddy streets ? I have a lot more questions to ask, but I will refrain from asking them because I think I have asked enough to keep the Minister going for a few moments.
– I am glad the honorable senator prefaced his questions by saying he did not wish for categorical answers to all of them but merely wanted answers which would give him an idea of the sort of information I am able to give. That is what I will seek to do if I can keep in my mind some idea of the questions he has asked. I did endeavour to write them down as he went along. I think the first question he asked was whether control of Laos is of importance to the defence of the free world. I would say that the general belief in this matter is that it is of importance to the free world that Laos should not be in Communist hands; not necessarily that it should be controlled by a western government, but that it should not be in Communist hands because, if it is in Communist hands, that will enable further Communist expansion into Viet Nam or into Thailand, whereas, if it remains in neutral hands, committed neither to the West nor to the East, that does not permit of further Communist expansion.
The second question which I think the honorable senator asked was whether there was much confusion in the public mind concerning the set-up in Laos. I am not qualified to answer that because I do not know what is in the public mind as to the set-up in Laos. The situation there is that there is a tri-partite government which has Pathet Lao components, Kong Le components and components which are more inclined towards the West than towards Communist countries. The present government in Laos is a composite government, which was set up by agreement with a view to keeping Laos a neutral country. That government has in it elements of Communists, elements of neutralists and elements of westerners. The honorable senator asked why the Government of Laos was described as being neutralist. It was the intention of those who formed the government that it should be neutralist, but whether, in view of recent occurrences, it should continue to be so described is something upon which honorable senators must make up their own minds. I understand that the leader of the Pathet Lao is Prince Souphannouvong.
Senator Brown also asked, whether the Pathet Lao troops were Communists. Yes, to a considerable extent they are Communist military formations which have entered the country from North Viet Nam. I do not know whether the Prime Minister’s half-brother takes part in public life. I should not be surprised if he did, but I just do not know. I have been asked whether troops have taken command of a town in Laos in the Plain of Jars. The answer is, “ Yes “. Pathet Lao troops have attacked forces under the command of the neutralist leader Kong Le and I understand have driven them through the town with the unpronounceable name which the honorable senator did not give me and which I cannot remember. The .honorable senator asked whether the United States of America had poured money into Laos. No doubt assistance has been given to Laos by the United States of America, but I do not know to what extent. Then I was asked whether Laos had received more aid per head of the population than any other nation. I do not know, but I doubt whether that is so. I am not even sure what sort of aid is referred to - whether it is economic aid or military aid.
– I meant money.
– Money can be provided for economic aid or military aid. [ do not know the answer to that question. The next question was this: Have the Laotians refused to say what has happened to the money? I do not know the answer to that, because I do not know whether anybody has asked them about it. However, I should imagine that the United States Government knows what has happened to any aid which has been extended to Laos. Then I was asked whether it was a fact that the price of maintaining a Laotian soldier was twice as much as that of maintaining any other soldier. I doubt whether that is so. Lastly, I am not competent to say bow many cars there are in Laos. I hope those answers will give a general indication of the matters about which the honorable senator has questioned me.
– Can the Minister for National Development inform the Senate about the progress the Commonwealth and the States are making towards bringing the Chowilla dam project in South Australia to fruition? In particular, when is it expected that legislation will be introduced into this Parliament and the parliaments of the relevant States? Are satisfactory reports continuing to come in from the experts about technical matters related to the construction of the dam?
– A series of legal documents is to be completed with the States that are party to the arrangement. The drafting of the documents is proceeding. Those documents, which include an alteration of the River Murray Waters Act, will be the foundation for the legislation. The completion of them is taking longer than I thought it would take, but such delay is not uncommon in the completion of legal documents. My information is that in the meantime the preparation of plans and specifications and preliminary investigations are going ahead as though the documents were completed. Indeed, the arrangement about the diversion of water from Lake Menindee is being carried out under the control of the River Murray Commission as though the documents had been completed. I think I can give the general assurance to Senator Laught that all is going well even though a little slowly.
– I address these questions to the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it a fact that no provision is made for the payment of Commonwealth superannuation benefits to bank accounts, if so desired by the recipients, as is the case with child1 endowment and other social service benefits? If that is so, will the Treasurer state the reason for such practice and will he consider making arrangements to bring the payment of this benefit into line with the procedure for the payment of social service benefits?
– I am not aware of the methods adopted by the Superannuation Board for the payment of superannuation benefit, or whether there is provision for money to be paid into bank accounts. I ask the honorable senator to give me time to have a look at the question and I will get the information and let him have it.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Has the New
South Wales Government, at this date, commenced the construction of the Blowering dam?
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER__
That is the most optimistic question I have heard asked in this Senate for a while. The New South Wales Government has not commenced1 construction of the Blowering dam, and I regard that as one of the greatest possible disappointments in Australian development. I really do. The New South Wales Government has a direct contractual obligation to build the Blowering dam. The Commonwealth Government has now spent £220,000,000 on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Water is now being delivered into the Murrumbidgee River at the rate of 100,000,000 acre-feet a year Construction of the dam would permit one of the largest irrigation schemes in Australia to be carried through. Before the Snowy Mountains scheme was commenced in 1949 the New South Wales Government said that it would build the Blowering dam. It did not vary that arrangement until three or four years after the Snowy scheme was commenced. Then the New South Wales Government started to ask the Commonwealth Government to find the money which the New South Wales Government itself had covenanted to find. The New South Wales Government has saved £24,000,000 already by being able to take power from the Snowy. Had it not taken Snowy power it would have had to build its own power houses. That saving will increase to £50,000,000 in the next five or six years when the Ml and M2 power stations come into operation. This is something which I believe every thinking Australian should consider. It is the first time that I know of that an Australian government has defaulted on an obligation. An honorable senator interjects that it is a State government that has defaulted. New South Wales is part of Australia. It is the first time that a government within Australia has defaulted on an arrangement.
– The New South Wales Government did not promise to put value back into the pound.
– If the honorable senator is supporting tha New South Wales Government in this, let him stand up and say so. I have heard a lot from his side of the chamber about who is responsible for the Snowy Mountains scheme. It is the Labour Party that is in power in New South Wales.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry investigate the distress presently suffered by tobacco-growers at Ayr in the Burdekin valley caused by the recent failure of the sale of their tobacco?
– The honorable senator has not given me any information about the growers’ problems. I will he happy to convey the text of the question to the Minister for Primary Industry.
– The sales were abandoned.
– The honorable senator made some reference to the disabilities from which the growers were suffering. I do not know what they are. I take it they are economic disabilities. I will be happy to take the question in its entirety to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, and ask him to contact the honorable senator directly and advise him of the position.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. What precautions are taken to ensure that subsidized oil search operations are properly carried out? What inquiries are made beforehand and what supervision occurs during the progress of drilling or seismic surveys?
This is not an easy question to answer in general terms. I shall try to give a thumbnail sketch of what happens. We have a special section in the Bureau of Mineral Resources that examines applications for subsidy and passes judgment upon them. It examines the technical programmes and decides whether or not they would be effective. When a subsidy is approved, the arrangements are set out in an agreement between the Commonwealth and the oil search company, which contains the .technical programme for the operations. It is not possible for the bureau actually to supervise each operation, nor do
I think that would be desirable. If the operation is approved it is prescribed in the agreement. Then, before the subsidy is finally paid, information is obtained to determine whether the operation was actually carried out in the terms of the technical programme contained in the agreement.
– In view of the proven efficacy, efficiency and cheapness of the Sabin oral vaccine, will the Minister for Health inform the Senate why this vaccine is not in general use?
– In October, 1962, the National Health and Medical Research Council expressed itself in these terms on the merits of the Salk and Sabin vaccines -
In view of the fact that the use of Salk vaccine manufactured by C.S.L. has been so outstandingly effective in reducing the prevalence of poliomyelitis throughout Australia, the committee recommends: (a) That its continued use should be maintained in all States for all age groups, and (b) That poliomyelitis vaccine C.S.L. should remain the basis of immunization programmes. The committee further recommends that 1,000,000 doses of each of the three types of Sabin vaccine be imported by the Commonwealth for use in a possible emergency and that the vaccine be stored at the C.S.L.
That Sabin vaccine has been imported. It is stored at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and it is in readiness for an emergency which I hope will never occur.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that emergency Red Cross supplies which are desperately needed by the tragic sufferers from the Bali volcanic eruption are held up at Walsh Bay? Are they to be carried on the freighter “ Rhexenor “, which has been held up because of the lawless action of the Waterside Workers Federation? As the Royal Australian Air Force is to supply a Hercules aircraft to-morrow to lift one consignment of powdered milk and tinned meat, will the Government consider providing further flights to take the desperately needed ten Holden utilities, 30 tons of powdered milk, 10 tons of tinned meat, and 100 tons of rice, of which these unfortunate people are being deprived because of the federation’s action? If the Government cannot see its way clear to providing an airlift, is it possible to call for volunteers to load these essential supplies?
I confess that I do not know a great deal about this matter. I did see a newspaper report about it. I do not know the details but, of course, I know the general situation in relation to the disorganization on the waterfront, due to what seems to me to be the complete irresponsibility of the Waterside Workers Federation. Where there is irresponsibility, suffering and loss are occasioned to innocent sections of the community. I think that what is needed On the waterfront, on the part of the waterside workers, is a sense of service to the community as a whole. I cannot really answer the honorable senator’s question about an airlift. I heard on the radio that We had already provided one airlift for the purpose of sending, I think, medical supplies to Bali. I would not care to express a view about the possibility of providing an airlift of the proportions mentioned by the honorable senator, nor would I enter into a discussion of the provocative policy of providing voluntary labour to load the ships.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen a press statement attributed to Mr. B. McCauley, a Sydney travel agent and a director of Hove Travel Agency Limited, an international tourist organization, who has just returned to Australia after an absence of three years in England? According to the report, Mr. McCauley stated that there are 40,000 Australian girls in Britain, many of whom find it hard to secure employment and that, as a result, it is common for six girls to live in one room, often under squalid conditions. He added that their parents would be horrified if they knew of this and would pack them home quickly. Will the Minister undertake to communicate with Mr. McCauley with a view to obtaining further information on the subject? If it is shown that many Australian girls are living in conditions of squalor in Eng land, will the Minister consider taking steps to have them brought back to Australia?
– I saw the statement to which the honorable senator has referred, and within the following few days I read that it had been refuted by girls who had recently returned to Australia after visiting the United Kingdom. According to the report, they thought that the statement was exaggerated. I doubt whether this matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Department of Immigration. I do not think the girls would be treated as immigrants. It seems to me that the matter would be one mainly for the Department. of External Affairs. .However, I shall ask the Minister for Immigration to examine the position. If he, or the appropriate Minister, considers there is some truth in the statement, I am sure he will be happy to do what he can.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Can the Minister give any information on a report that the Bureau of Minerology has ordered £1,000,000 worth of equipment from an English firm? I believe that this is radar equipment and that it is to be used to measure long distance weather conditions. Can the Minister say whether that is the purpose of the equipment? Can he indicate when the equipment will be supplied and installed, and where it will be installed?
– Which bureau?
– The Bureau of Minerology, the report stated.
– We have a Bureau of Mineral Resources, which is under my ministerial control. I am slipping if I have approved an order for £1,000,000 for equipment and have forgotten about it. I do not think the matter comes within my administration. Perhaps the equipment is for the meteorological authorities.
– Which department would that be?
– I think the honorable senator had better put the question on notice. We will then cast our bread on the waters and see what returns.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Is it true that a new Australian group called The CoAsian Liberation Movement has been organized in Australia? Is it a fact that this neo-Fascist organization had a rendezvous near Wodonga in January of this year?
– How do you know that it is neo-Fascist?
– It is generally described in most newspapers as being neoFascist, and I am surprised that the Minister does not know that.
– It sounds like McCarthyism to me.
– All right. Was the camp organized on military lines, with armoured cars, and did at least some units of the Australian forces attend these manoeuvres? Will the Minister make the necessary inquiries to determine the truth of these rumours, which have been heavily publicized in the Australian press?
– The question is one of such importance that I am sure the honorable senator should put it on the notice-paper. We will get the information for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. In view of the fact that large quantities of iron ore have been discovered in various parts of Australia, can the Minister advise me whether actual sales have been made and, if not, what progress has been made regarding sales to other countries?
– I can only give the short answer that my recollection is that I have approved of three or four export licences, one for a deposit in Western Australia and one for a deposit in New South Wales. I forget the others. Three or four licences have been approved, but I do not know of any actual transaction having been completed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. Is the Minister in a position to say whether the Weapons Research Establishment has identified the 12-lb. metal sphere which was found on a station property north of Broken Hill? Is there any chance that there is some simple explanation of its origin, keeping in mind the ridiculous publicity that was given to the so-called Tasmanian sea monster?
– I understand that the ball found at Broken Hill will be taken to Salisbury, where it will be examined by scientists and that a report will be given to the Minister for Supply in due course.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister seen and received a recent report that the Government is worried over the drift of senior public servants to private enterprise; that private enterprise is offering key men up to £1,500 a year above their Public Service salaries; that the Commonwealth Public Service has become a most lucrative recruiting ground for big business; and that taxation consultants, accountants, exporters, manufacturers and others are making inroads into the highly qualified senior ranks of the Public Service? If this is so, what steps does the Government propose to take, not only to stop such a drift, but also to attract to the Commonwealth Public Service highly skilled men from outside business interests?
– I have not seen or received a report on the matter, but the subject is one that is constantly in the news. I think is is a nice tribute to the calibre and standard of our Commonwealth public servants that they are sought after by other employers. I do not know that there is particular need to take action. The Commonwealth recruits good men for the Public Service. I think in any community there has to be some ebb and flow of people changing employment. I should hesitate a good deal before I felt that we should do anything that would prevent an officer of capacity changing his employment if he so desired.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Does the Minister recall that, prior to the Senate adjourning almost four months ago, I asked a question relating to doctors - general practitioners - being penalized by this Government’s medical service committee of inquiry in relation to treatment of age and invalid pensioners and their dependants? I now ask the Minister in what year the inquiries by this committee commenced. Is it true that this campaign against doctors commenced in 1960, the year of the Government’s credit restriction policy? In view of the Governments’ claim that stability has returned to the economy, will the Minister advise this committee of inquiry to reconsider the policy pursued over the past three years in relation to the treatment of pensioners?
– This is the latest fantastic suggestion that I have heard about what is commonly known as the credit squeeze that took place in 1960. I am sure that the honorable senator will be interested to know that provision for the setting up of these committees was contained in the original legislation and that these committees have been operating for some years - in fact, since the inception of the legislation which, from memory, was in 1955. It is true that the honorable senator has expressed himself on this matter on previous occasions. I take it that the import of his question to-day is that this committee, which operates in each State, is becoming oppressive on the medical profession. If that is not the correct interpretation I shall withdraw it, but I will have the honorable senator know that this committee is not a government committee in the strict sense of the word; it is a committee that has been nominated by the Australian Medical Association. Its members are drawn from the top men in the medical profession and they work in what actually amounts to an honorary capacity. They question each doctor who has been referred to them for discussion. They talk to him on a medical man to a medical man basis. If the honorable senator has any doubts in his mind as to the fairness of these inquiries or the reason for them I would refer him to a letter which recently appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ over the name of Dr. Tomlinson who is the State president of the Australian Medical Association. In general terms, he said that he and his profession have the utmost confidence in these committees and support their actions.
“PRINCESS OF TASMANIA.”
– In view of the economic importance of the tourist industry to Tasmania, will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport ask his colleague to consider the introduction of reduced passenger fares on the Melbourne to Devonport ferry, the “ Princess of Tasmania “, to operate during winter months? Will the Minister inform his colleague that in the interests of Tasmania, to prolong the Tasmanian tourist season, hotels, motels, shipping lines and other tourist services reduce fares and tariffs during the off-season? This encourages travel during that period. If the Minister is not keen to adopt this suggestion will he in due course inform the Senate of the average number of passengers carried on each trip during the period from 1st May, 1962, to the 31st October, 1962?
– I am sure that the encouragement of tourism is not overlooked by the Minister for Shipping and Transport or the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. However, I shall refer the question to the Minister and ask him to examine it.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he or the Minister for Social Services will make funds available to the research committee of the Australian College of General Practitioners, or any other such body, to carry out a private survey into the nutritional state of the elderly of Australia in view of this grave problem of which very little is known.
– Grants from the Medical Research Endowment Fund are made upon the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council which is a special medical research advisory committee that advises on all matters concerning medical research. In order to have this proposition evaluated, the proper approach would be for the body or persons concerned to make a submission to the National Health and Medical Research Council. Should the council approve of the proposal I, for my part, would be happy to endorse it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As registered dental mechanics in Tasmania are allowed by law to make and sell dentures to the public without being in the employ of qualified dentists, will the Government allow to recipients of such dentures income tax deductions equal to those now allowed to people who obtain dentures from qualified dentists?
– I think I recognize the question as one which has been submitted to the Treasurer on other occasions. This type of request is usually considered at Budget time. I understand that such a proposal has been considered in the past but has not been adopted for various reasons. As the honorable senator anticipates, no doubt, Government consideration of the Budget in two or three months’ time, I shall refer the matter to the Treasurer for his consideration.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation think that the building which provides for people and goods at Townsville airport is little less than a disgrace to his administration and is not at all appropriate for a city like Townsville, which is one of the most rapidly growing cities in Australia? When does the Minister propose to recognize the urgent and justifiable needs of Townsville in respect of its airport?
– I do not agree with the suggestion made by the honorable senator that the airport terminal at Townsville is a disgrace or, as he says, little less than a disgrace. I have had correspondence with the Townsville City Council and the Townsville Chamber of Commerce about this matter. I have indicated to them that le Department of Civil Aviation is prepared, as an interim measure, to spend certain moneys but not to go to the extent to which the council wants it to go at this time. I have indicated that, sympathetic as I feel towards any town which is anxious to have an airport, these things must be done in an order of priority; and I cannot accord to Townsvile the priority that the council thinks it should have. If the honorable senator wants me to do so, I could examine other Queensland proposals and take from one point and give to another, but I am sure that that would give him as little satisfaction as it would give me.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation noticed a report that Elizabeth Taylor has received a settlement out of court in respect of the death of her husband, Michael Todd, in an air crash?
– Order! Surely that is not a matter that relates to Australian affairs.
– Yes, Sir. If you hear the rest of the question I am sure you will agree that it is.
– Todd was flying his own plane.
– I ask the Minister this question because, as I understand the present law, airlines in Australia are in the same position as airlines operating in other countries. I ask whether the case to which I have referred has any bearing on the subject of air crashes in this country and the responsibility of airline companies in cases of negligence, which we have debated so many times in this place. I am wondering whether the Minister knows anything about this matter and whether it has a bearing on Australian legislation.
– Frankly, I am not familiar with the case which involved the death of Elizabeth Taylor’s husband in an air crash. Possibly I can clarify the position to an extent by explaining that the international insurance scheme adopted under the International Civil Aviation Agreement applies to the operation of civil airlines on overseas routes. We, in Australia, have adopted that for civil airlines and applied it to our domestic carriage insofar as we have federal competence. What has been done in the United States of America in respect of domestic airlines I am not sure. I have heard by interjection from, I think, Senator Gorton, that this was a private contract. I have no knowledge of the conditions which operate.
– The point is that we have adopted the scheme within our nation.
– This is quite right, and that is the point I make.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I remind the Minister that under the provisions of the agreement under which the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was constituted the growers of canning fruits are entitled to one representative. I remind the Minister that Mr. Robert Crane, a representative of the berry fruit growers in Tasmania, was that representative for many years. And I remind the Minister that recently - within the last two years - the amount required by the agreement to be made available by the sugar industry to the fruit industry for the benefit of this committee was increased after long years of agitation. I want to know why, in the appointment of Mr. Crane’s successor, the berry fruit growers of Tasmania were deprived of representation in favour of, I understand, a merchant from Sydney.
– I have not sufficient specific knowledge of this matter to be dogmatic, but my guess at this stage, if the honorable senator will accept a guess, is that in the reconstitution of the committee provision was made for representation of the fruit interests. I do not want to arouse the ire of the honorable senator by suggesting that there are other States in Australia which can produce greater quantities of fruit than the isle of Tasmania, but I will be brave enough to say that I have not the slightest doubt that when the committee was reconstituted the growers of the fruit producing areas had a say in recommending to the Minister who should comprise the committee. I will be surprised indeed if the appointment to which the honorable senator refers was not made on the recommendation of the growers, and I should think that the final panel of the committee represents those growers in the various States who produce the greatest quantities of fruit. If my assumption is not correct I shall ask the Minister for Primary Industry to correct me.
– I address a question to the Acting Minister for Trade. Will the Minister for Trade, immediately after his return from overseas, furnish a written statement to the Parliament showing all the trade matters discussed with persons in New Zealand, Canada, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, and at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade conference, together with the decisions reached and containing an expression of opinion as to the probable effect those decisions will have upon Australian industries and Australia’s economy?
– I have no doubt that when he returns to Australia the Minister for Trade will make a full and competent report to the Government and to both houses of the Parliament of the results of his trip overseas.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether it is a fact that a meeting of the newly-formed Australian Water Resources Council was held in Canberra recently. Could the Minister inform the Senate of the programme that the council intends to carry out? Is this programme to be carried out by the State governments themselves, or by the Commonwealth Government, and which government is to bear the cost of this work?
– I can only give a short answer by outlining what has happened up to this stage. First, we had to ascertain whether or not the States were willing to join in such a council. We found that they were willing to do so. The first task undertaken was to get an adequate measurement of Australian water resources. Strange to relate, this had not been attempted previously. There is no assessment of those resources now in existence. Therefore, at the first meeting, it was decided to make an assessment of Australian water resources based on the known information presently available and to give some preliminary thought to what should be done to measure those resources in a proper way. We had our first meeting at which we had before us the preliminary assessment, but the nature of the programme that has to be carried out in all States proved to be so extensive that the professional officers concerned did not feel themselves to be in a position to make recommendations to Ministers as to what should be the procedure, what staff was wanted, what instruments were needed or the order of priority in which the various river basins should be dealt with. So, at the first meeting, we remitted to the officers the task of submitting a programme, together with a statement as to costs and the several other implications involved, to a subsequent meeting. We are hoping to have a second meeting during the course of this calendar year.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation I refer to the litigation initiated in the High Court of Australia in 1961 concerning the re-allocation of Ansett’s Airlines of New South Wales air routes. That litigation is referred to in the report of the Minister for Civil Aviation for the year 1961-62. The Commonwealth and the Director-General of Civil Aviation are two of the defendants in the litigation. I ask the Minister whether the Commonwealth has yet delivered its statement of defence, which, according to the Minister’s report, had not been delivered as at 30th June, 1962. In his report the Minister stated that the action was then unlikely to be heard before November, 1962. When is it likely to be heard? Is it not a fact that Ansett benefits by the delay in bringing the case to hearing, because, under an agreement made on 17th November, 1961, and mentioned in the Minister’s report, no change is to be made in the allocation of the areas until the hearing of the action, or until further order?
– The honorable senator will no doubt be relieved to know that the action has been commenced. It was commenced in either January or February of this year.
– It was commenced in November, 1961.
– I am sorry. I did not intend to mislead the honorable senator. It was resumed in January or February of this year when, as I understand the position, the parties went before a single judge and presented facts. At that hearing - if that is the correct term - the facts were presented by the contesting parties. The parties then took away tha facts as presented by each side for the purpose of studying them. They came back before a single judge in, I think, February of this year, having failed to agree upon the facts. The case is set down for resumption, I believe, later this month. But I make the point that the Commonwealth has fulfilled whatever obligation it has in connexion with filing its defence, if that is the correct term, and the case is now before the court.
– I address a question to you, Mr. President. Yesterday, I asked a question relating to taxation and was requested to place it on the noticepaper. I handed the question to an attendant, but it does not appear on the noticepaper to-day. Can you tell me what has happened to that question?
– I shall make inquiries about the matter.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health another question and preface it by stating that in view of the rapid sales of two glandular preparations throughout Australia I predict that within five years the birth-rate in Australia will decrease by 50 per cent. I now ask the Minister: In view of the grave national problems involved, as distinct from the possible serious scientific complications, is he prepared to set up a committee of inquiry consisting of members of the College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and of the College of General Practitioners, together with members of his own staff, to inquire into the advisability of imposing further restrictions on the availability to the public of so-called contraceptive pills?
– The honorable senator was good enough to give me notice of his intention to ask this question, and I have discussed it with my medical officers. I am not aware that any national health problem exists in regard to the taking of oral contraceptive pills. The pills are obtainable only from registered pharmacies upon presentation of doctors’ prescriptions. They are not on the pharmaceutical benefits list. If the honorable senator can produce some substantive evidence that such a problem exists, I shall be very pleased to discuss it with him.
– My question, which is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is in a lighter vein. I remind the Minister that last year we invited to Canberra Miss Tania Verstak, who was then Miss Australia, but who has recently been succeeded in that role by an Australian-born girl. Miss Verstak was entertained by honorable senators. I thought their action was a very fine gesture towards new Australians and that it constituted good public relations. I ask the Minister whether he will consider inviting to Canberra the present Miss Australia who, as I have said, is an Australian-born girl.
President, the ball is in your court rather than in mine, but I think we should consider Senator Ormonde’s proposal.
– I address the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport: - Is the Government not concerned at the parlous condition of the Australian shipbuilding industry? Does the Minister know that the shipbuilding section of Walkers Limited in Queensland is, for all practical purposes, finished and that the yard of Evans Deakin and Company Proprietary Limited is rapidly completing its last vessel and is employing approximately only onethird of its normal number of employees? Will the Government regard the rehabilitation of the shipbuilding industry as an urgent matter and seriously consider the needs . of the industry in Queensland in particular? In the light of the developing oil industry, will the Government consider building the necessary tankers in Australia?
– This question can best be answered by my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, but there are one or two matters which I can mention at this stage in reply to Senator Dittmer. The honorable senator referred to what he described as the parlous condition of the shipbuilding industry in Australia. Such a description hardly befits the present state of affairs, because altogether twelve vessels are being built in Australian yards. The honorable senator referred particularly to the position at Walkers ‘ Limited in Maryborough. Surely he is aware that this yard has always suffered the disadvantage of being capable of building only quite small ships, because siltage in the Mary River makes it quite impossible for ships of more than 1,800 to 2,000 tons to be built there. With the exception of the war years, at no time in the history of this yard at Maryborough has this difficulty not existed.
I note that one ship is being built at the yard of Evans Deakin and Company Proprietary Limited in Brisbane. Work on this vessel, the “ Jeparit “, will not cut out until late this year. There seems to be a quite significant amount of work in the other yards. Five vessels are being built at Whyalla, one at the Cockatoo Dock, one by the Phoenix Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Tasmania, and three at the State dockyard at Newcastle. That is information which I have at hand. I shall refer the other aspects of the question to my colleague and get him to reply to the honorable senator.
– Did the Minister for Health note recent press reports that the teeth of Australian children are becoming worse? God knows they are bad enough already! Secondly, should not a national campaign be organized to educate the nation about the care of teeth? Thirdly, will the Minister consider preparing a pamphlet similar to the one entitled “ Eat Better for Less “, which was issued some time ago, to set out the causes of the deplorable tooth decay in this nation and thus help to some degree to overcome the trouble?
– I shall reply to the last part of the question first. I am surprised that the honorable senator, who has represented Queensland for a long time in this place, should suggest the publication of such a pamphlet when every one concedes at once that sugar constitutes one of the greatest threats to the teeth of Australian children.
– What did the Minister say? I did not hear it.
– I said I thought we would all agree that sweets constitute the greatest threat to children’s teeth.
– Let us suppose they do; must we remain quiet about it? Surely not.
– Certainly not. The honorable senator asked me whether I had seen certain reports. The answer is, “ Yes “. This matter has been before the people of Australia for a long time. Thus far, the Commonwealth Government has not been able to grant the same benefits in relation to the dental needs of the nation as to its medical and hospital needs, but the States are playing a useful role in relation to children’s teeth. They have mobile clinics and are doing very good work. The honorable senator asked whether I would consider issuing a pamphlet on the subject. I am not prepared, without giving a great deal of thought to the matter, to recommend the issuance of a pamphlet which would probably bring down on my head the senator’s wrath, because an industry in which he is very interested would be affected.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it true that for the recent royal visit to Kununurra the airstrip runway had to be lengthened by 1,000 feet and that technicians and communications, navigation and safety devices, as well as a power plant, had to be flown in, the devices installed, and later dismantled and flown out? What was the cost of all this work? Was a special tower erected and special fire fighting and airconditioning equipment taken there? What was the expense involved in this work? For what period of time was the royal party at Kununurra?
I am certain that Senator Dittmer would not expect me to have the answers to those questions readily available. They concern matters which are entirely the responsibility of the Western Australian Government. I confess that my reaction to the report of the royal visit to Kununurra was quite different from that of the honorable senator. I have a responsibility to raise money and see that developmental works go ahead. I have long since learned that the best way to see developmental works go ahead successfully is to get public sentiment in their favour. I think that the royal visit to the Ord River was a very good move on the part of the Western Australian Government because the Ord River project is one of the big developmental schemes in Western Australia which needs public support. Senator Dittmer is implying that the royal visit to this area was an extravagant business. I do not think for one minute that it was an extravagant business. I think that the honorable senator is trying to create difficulties where no difficulties exist. I am quite certain that if we had the facts - we have not got them because they are the property of a State department and not of a Commonwealth department - we would find that the trip was not .an extravagant one and that the cost was small in comparison with the benefit reaped by Western Australia.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration one or two questions. Possibly the Department of Immigration is doing some of the work which I suggest in these questions. Does the Minister agree that the achievement of Australia’s splendid athletes has been a powerful aid to the cause of immigration? Does the Department of Immigration use television in Europe to show the success of our athletes? Is it not a fact that people of many nations are loath to leave their native countries because of their attachment to local sports? Would the department consider televising prominent football matches, and finals, played in Australia, showing the film in other lands as a inducement to people to migrate to Australia? Without disparaging other codes I would especially press for the display of Football Association matches, or soccer as it is popularly called, because it is a code played in more than 100 countries in Europe. If we showed what was being done here it would be a great inducement to young athletes and splendid men to come to this country.
– I must agree with the honorable senator when he says that our athletes have been a powerful aid in inducing people to come from other countries. I am sure that their feats are publicized on television in many countries by the television stations themselves. There is no need for the Department of Immigration to carry out that work because it is being done by the television stations in news items and sports programmes. As for asking the department to show films of football matches on television and to bring footballers out to Australia, it could only show one code of football. That would be Australian Rules. That is the only code of football peculiar to Australia. If we showed it overseas the people would not understand it, but I do think they would come out to Australia to join in playing a real game of football.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The failure of the Menzies Government to provide finance for hospital maintenance on the basis established by the Chifley Government.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.
– Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– I have moved the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing the matter of urgency which you, Mr. President, have just indicated to the chamber, namely, the failure of the Menzies Government to provide finance for hospital maintenance on the basis established by the Chifley Government. A similar motion was moved in another place yesterday. This motion in the Senate to-day is designed to give the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) an opportunity to join in the discussion.
The statement of the matter of urgency is quite simple in scope. That also was true of the hospital benefits system introduced by the Chifley Government in 1945. It was simple in scope and in its application, and it was non-discriminatory. It took complete care of the hospitalization of pensioners, the indigent and the needy. It provided the same benefit for all other classes in the community and had no element of compulsion. On the other hand, under the Menzies administration of recent years, we now have a hospital benefits system that, first, is inadequate, secondly, is complicated, thirdly, is discriminatory, and fourthly, has a very distinct element of compulsion.
Let me outline briefly the Chifley Government’s scheme. It was based upon the report in 1944 of the Joint Committee on Social Security - that is, the seventh report of that committee. Its members unanimously recommended a subsidy of 6s. 6d. a day, against the then daily bed-cost of 13s. a day, to be paid by the Commonwealth on condition that no charge was made to patients in public wards. I point out that the 6s. 6d., in relation to the then cost a day of a bed in a public ward amounted to a proposed subsidy of 50 per cent, to be made at the expense of the Commonwealth Government. The 6s. 6d. was clearly far more than the hospitals themselves were able to collect from public-ward patients.
Then we come to the Hospital Benefits Act of 1945 in which effect was given to that principle. That act, passed on 11th October, 1945, provided for 6s. a day at a time when the bed-cost was 1 8s. a day in a public ward. The same condition recommended by the committee was attached, namely, that there should be no charge made for patients in public wards. That included not merely pensioners and the indigent, but was a benefit to all of the people of Australia. It applied to no one section, but was open to all. At that stage the subsidy of 6s. a day amounted to a subsidy of 33J per cent, which was being paid by the Commonwealth. To indicate that the Commonwealth was generous, I point out that in the two years preceding 1945 no State had been able to collect that amount a day from patients in public wards, whether they were pensioners or others. In New South Wales, the average collection was 4s. 5d. a day, in Victoria 3s. 3d., in Queensland 4s. 10d., in South Australia 4s. Id., in Tasmania 4s., and in Western Australia 5s. 9d. That meant that the 6s. a day more than covered the amount that the States themselves, or the State hospitals, were able to collect from their patients in public wards. Any profit that the States made out of that subsidy was credited t’o a trust account for capital expenditure purposes.
Alongside that provision affecting public wards in public hospitals was an equivalent benefit of 6s. a day, paid to every patient in the intermediate or private ward of a public hospital, and a similar benefit of 6s. a day to patients in private wards.
– Those sums were paid to the patient?
– Not to the State?
– Not to the State. I shall correct myself. I think that the payments were made not through the States but directly by the Commonwealth to the hospitals concerned. The hospitals made deductions from the patients’ accounts and were reimbursed monthly or periodically by the Commonwealth. So there was a completely simple, clear scheme of universal, uniform application. Under the relevant act, agreements were signed in 1946 that were operative for a period of five years. The basic grant of 6s. was increased to 8s. a day, just two years later, in 1948. An interesting point is that, despite the lapse of fifteen years since then, the basic grant is still the same. Superstructures were erected upon it. to which I shall refer as I go on, but what an extraordinary thing it is to find that a grant fixed as adequate in 1948 is still the basis of the national hospital benefit scheme of this Government!
– Stated in that way it is apt, and calculated, to give a wrong impression.
– There will be no doubt about a perfectly correct impression being given when I come to retail in detail, as I have indicated I shall do, what the Menzies Government has done.
– You said it was the basis.
– Yes; the basic grant. For some 28 per cent, of our population to-day - the uninsured - 8s. a day is the only grant that is available.
Sen::tor Dittmer. - Queenslanders in public hospitals gel only 8s. a day.
– That is true. I hope to deal with each of the categories affected and to say what percentage relationship the Commonwealth contribution bears to the total cost of providing a bed. I cannot do it all in one sentence, but I undertake to get round to it. Coming back to 1948, 8s. a day was paid at a time when bed costs had risen to an average’ of about 28s. a day. Therefore the percentage contribution of a patient’s daily bed cost was 28 per cent. That covers what I want to say on the Chifley scheme at the moment. I repeat that it provided universal cover available to everybody in Australia and was very simple in operation, administratively and otherwise.
– Was there an agreement at that time between the Commonwealth and the States to pay a specific percentage of the cost?
– No, it was an agreement to pay a particular amount. I am translating that amount into a percentage of what it cost to provide a bed service each day. Now let me come to the Menzies Government. Its first act in 1951 was to repeal all the legislation that the Labour Government had enacted upon this matter. The various agreements that Labour had entered into were still current until some time in 1952. In that year the Menzies Government, in making the new arrangements with the States, imposed the condition that there should be a charge to the patient or the 8s. a day would not be paid. That appears in two ways. I have quoted this before and I shall refer to it again. Regulation No. 41 of the Hospital Benefits Regulations promulgated by this Government on 20th August, 1952, provided for an additional benefit, on top of the basic 8s., of 4s. a day if the individual were privately insured, and if the hospital charged not less than 18s. a day. These two elements emerged for the first time - compulsion on the States to make a charge before they attracted any Commonwealth benefit, and compulsion upon the private individual to insure privately at flat rates before he could attract any portion of the additional benefit of 4s.
– Are you saying that there was an element of compulsion in it?
– Of coercion, yes. In other words, unless the States agreed to make a charge of not less than 18s. a day in public wards, they attracted no part of the hospital benefit of 8s. a day. That was supplemented not merely by the 1952 regulations but also by a circular published on 5th September, 1952, by the Department of Health, in which the whole scheme was explained and in which this paragraph appeared -
Basic principles of the scheme are that the Commonwealth benefits will not be payable unless a charge is made for the hospital treatment and that the Commonwealth benefits must not exceed the amount of the hospital charge payable by the patient.
So there is no argument, and no possibility of argument, that no portion of the Commonwealth benefit was payable unless there was a charge by the hospital.
– The 8s. did not carry that qualification and it never has carried it.
– It plainly did carry it. That is related to the 8s. a day, not merely to the additional benefit. Let me refer the Minister to the circular from which I have just quoted, dated 5th September, 1952. Paragraph 3 states -
The minimum weekly benefits payable under the Commonwealth scheme are therefore as follows: -
Commonwealth ordinary benefit, £2 16s.
Commonwealth additional benefit, £1 8s.
Organization benefit, £2 2s.
Basic principles of the scheme are that the Commonwealth benefits will not be payable unless a charge is made for the hospital treatment.
That refers to the three of them, not to one of them. When I spoke on this subject - I think on 6th Decemberlast - I quoted what had been said by every State treasurer. I invite the Minister to turn up the record on what I said and then see whether he would be prepared to deny that that condition attached to the 8s. a day. I recall the statements that were made by the then Minister for Health, Sir Earle Page, to that effect at the time.
We come to 1955. On 31st October of that year the Commonwealth drew a line and divided pensioners into those who were entitled to benefits under the pensioner medical service and those who would not be entitled to them after that date. Persons who were in receipt of a weekly income of £2 or more were debarred from receiving benefits under the pensioner medical service. Then we come to 1957, when the Government increased the additional benefit by 12s. a day and made the total payment to pensioners £1 a day if they were privately insured. If they were not privately insured they came back to the basic grant of 8s. a day which had been made in 1948. Let us come now to December, 1962, when we had in this place the National Health Bill sponsored by the Minister for Health. Until that time, 12s. a day had been paid to the States for those pensioners who were entitled to benefit under the pensioner medical service. Thereafter, whether they were insured or not, there was to be a payment - not to the States as the 12s. a day had been, but to hospitals - of £1 16s. a day in respect of patients, insured or not, who were members of the pensioner medical service. That was a very substantial increase, but there was a condition attached to the payment.
At that late stage, after fourteen years had passed, the Government reverted to the condition that the £1 16s. a day would be payable provided that no charge was made. I say straight away that there is an example of the discrimination I mentioned at the outset of my remarks. The Minister stated on a previous occasion that, including dependants, there are 815,000 people who benefit from the pensioner medical service; but also we are told that there are 92,602 pensioners who do not benefit at all. Accordingly, those 92,602 persons and their dependants receive no part of the £1 16s. a day. There, we have discrimination even in the pensioner field, let alone in respect of other classes in the community. At the time that this grant was made, bed costs throughout Australia amounted to about £6 a day. Therefore, the Commonwealth contributes 30 per cent, on account of some pensioners. Other pensioners, if uninsured, receive 8s. per day, or 63 per cent, of the total bed cost of £6 a day. What a magnificent contribution. If a pensioner is insured, there is a contribution of £1 towards the £6 bed cost, or 161 per cent.
I come to indigent persons, and persons of that character, who are unable to insure. They receive the great contribution of 8s. a day, or 6) per cent, of the bed cost of £6 a day. Then there are the people who do not insure. They receive the basic rate, which recurs the whole time, of 8s. a day. I think I am correct in stating that the Minister himself has supplied information to the effect that about 72 per cent, of the population are covered by private insurance and 28 per cent, are not covered.
– No. Only 10 per cent, remain uninsured, among whom are some very wealthy people.
– Very few. They would be made up mainly of the indigent, the forgetful and the ignorant, of whom we have many in the community. The figures I have given indicate the extent of the Commonwealth contribution towards helping State hospitals. I have shown that, for a great many people, the Commonwealth’s contribution amounts to 6$ per cent, of the cost, and that there is discrimination between classes of pensioners.
On 24th October last, the Minister made a statement concerning the payment of £1 16s. a day for some pensioners. He said -
I repeat that that gesture represents the first attempt in the history of the Commonwealth by any government to make hospital treatment free for pensioners . . .
That statement was inaccurate on two counts. Under Labour, not only every pensioner but also every person in the community had the right to free treatment, free medicine and free accommodation in public wards. To-day, the Commonwealth purports to provide those things for less than one-tenth of the population, or for fewer than 1,000,000 people.
– How many people were accommodated in public wards though?
– I cannot answer that question offhand. There is no doubt that bed accommodation was limited and that wards which formerly had been intermediate and private wards were turned into public wards. Of course, there has been very great development of hospital accommodation in the meantime. I add that the interest charges on the capital moneys used to build the hospitals constitute one of the major elements in hospital costs and in the high bed costs to-day.
Some pensioners receive free hospitalization and free pensioner medical services. Other pensioners receive neither free hospitalization nor free pensioner medical services. For the other nine-tenths of the population, the Commonwealth contributes £1 a day if they are insured, or a meagre 16J per cent, of costs, and if they are not insured, it contributes 8s. a day, or 6) per cent. I think I am right in saying that every State, despite the condition laid down originally by the Commonwealth, has, from its own funds, treated pensioners free in its hospitals. New South Wales has done so from the time when the condition that a charge be made was first imposed by the Commonwealth in 1952. The hospitals of Queensland have been free for the last seventeen years, and that is true of New South Wales hospitals, too. But no thanks are due to the Commonwealth on that account. For the Minister to claim that this is the first gesture in attempting to make hospital accommodation free to pensioners is really preposterous and wholly incorrect.
I wish to deal now with a statement made by Senator Wade at Lismore on 19th March last. It will be recalled that in December last he offered to hospitals throughout Australia £3,200,000 per annum in benefits, a relatively insignificant contribution, as I showed at the time, but certainly better than nothing. The scheme has operated from 1st January this year. I refer to the following report which appeared in the Lismore “ Star “ newspaper of 19th March last: -
Senator Wade said there had been “not a squeak” from Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria or Queensland. All criticism seemed to be confined to one State.
The Minister nods, thereby admitting that that is a correct quotation.
– You might have a look also at the report of the proceedings of the Premiers’ Conference.
– Yesterday, I obtained a transcript of the proceedings of the Premiers’ Conference which had been held only a few weeks before, and at which every Premier was present. Five Premiers spoke, and Mr. Rylah spoke on behalf of Victoria. Let me refresh the Minister’s memory. He was present at the conference, and he also spoke. He has said that there has not been a squeak about his legislation. I remind him that Mr. Rylah announced that the States were going broke under the burden of hospital finance, and that hospital finance was the greatest budgetary problem for every State Treasurer. Every one of them, without exception, pressed the Commonwealth, to contribute 50 per cent, for pensioners, that is £3 a day, instead of £1 16s. for some pensioners, and 33i per cent, for other people, that is, £2 a day, towards the bed cost of £6 a day.
They asked for something to be done to help the States with pensioners in their out-patient departments; they asked for help in the maintenance of mental hospitals; they asked for help in the matter of uninsured indigent patients; and they asked for help for pensioners who were not entitled to the Pensioner Medical Service. Yet the Minister, just a few weeks later, said there had not been a squeak from the other States! There was a roar from them at the Premiers’ Conference. The transcript of that conference runs to some 32 pages, and yet the Minister says there was not a squeak! I do not think he will disagree when I say that the Premiers gave him a pretty hot time while he was speaking. 1 hope that when the Minister replies he will not do what he did last December when he answered what I had to say by comparing the money that Labour provided in its term for health with the money that this Govern ment is providing for health. To do that is to give a completely false picture. For a start, it ignores the great growth in population; it ignores the inflation that this Government has let run during all these years; it ignores the fact that professional people, including nurses, have had very proper but very high salary increases over the period; it overlooks the fact that better but costlier techniques and drugs have been provided in hospitals, that better facilities have been provided, and that there has been high capital expenditure with interest costs going into the maintenance of beds. It also overlooks the fact that, as a result of these better facilities and techniques, patients are leaving hospital earlier, thus saving the Commonwealth expenditure in sickness benefit, and are pouring money into the coffers of the Treasury in income tax by going back into production. If the Minister wants to compare the total figures then and now, let him be fair and take into account at least all those factors, in addition to which there could1 be very many others.
The scheme that the Government has now introduced is complicated, inadequate, and has improper compulsory elements, lt is unfair to the most, needy elements in the Australian community. I should have liked time to refer to the argument that developed between the State of New South Wales and the Minister and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) over the actions of the New South Wales Government. Senator Wade went right out of character, in my view, when he accused that State of blatant, political dishonesty. Those are very strong and very unusual terms.
– The State Government blamed the Commonwealth Government for its hospital problems. Do not take the remarks out of context.
– Those are the terms that the Minister used. He claimed also that the State, instead of relieving itself of the 12s. a day which it was no longer to collect, was relieving itself of the whole 36s. which in future was to be paid direct to the hospitals. The New South Wales Premier and the Minister for Health denied that. The Minister for Health in this place returned to the attack, supported by the Prime Minister, and claimed that he had evidence of that being done in particular hospitals. He was asked to supply the evidence, but he did not do so. The Prime Minister reached a stage, on 11th March, where he declined to participate further in the controversy. It is completely unsatisfactory to leave the situation like that. I ask the Minister to comply with the request and to name the hospitals. I ask him to accept now the invitation, which he and the Prime Minister have declined, to send his officers into New South Wales to investigate the claim that there has been no reduction in subsidy except the very proper reduction of 12s. a day, and to verify the statement made by the State Government that it is providing £1,300,000 more this year than last year, and. that the end of the year will show that it has paid out more this year than ever before. I think it most unfortunate that the matter has been left as it stands at present. I invite the Minister to face up to what he has been asked to do and to justify the stand that he and the Prime Minister have taken.
Finally, I want to compare what the Commonwealth docs in respect of its own hospital in Canberra, where its contribution is 71.6 per cent, of the cost, with what is done in respect of two comparable hospitals in New South Wales. For the Bankstown hospital, the Commonwealth and State subsidies combined provide 53.6 per cent, of the cost, and for the Sutherland hospital the figure is 56.9 per cent. Are the States not justified in claiming that the proper thing has not been done for them? I invite the Minister to look at the revenue those hospitals collect. At the Canberra Hospital 28.4 per cent, of the revenue is collected; at Bankstown the figure is 46.4 per cent., and at Sutherland, 43.1 per cent. I think that alone is sufficient to show the inadequacy of the Commonwealth’s aid to the States. It subsidizes its own hospital to thi extent of 71 per cent., whereas the combined Commonwealth and State subsidy in other places is a little over 50 per cent. Mr. Deputy President, that is not to the credit of the Commonwealth.
– Mr. Deputy President, I welcome very warmly the opportunity to participate in this debate because it gives mc, for the first time in the last three or four months, an opportunity to place the full facts before the people of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) quite properly purports to speak for the people of Australia, but on this occasion I suggest to him quite seriously that he speaks at the direction of the New South Wales executive of the Australian Labour Party, because on Monday, 1st April, we read in the Sydney “ Sun “ the following report: -
Federal Labour M.P.’s have been instructed to launch a full-scale attack on the Menzies Government to secure increased aid for State hospitals.
N.S.W. A.L.P. executive decided on Friday evening to give them this instruction.
The executive has told the M.P.’6 that the instruction is urgent.
– It was not an instruction; it was a request.
– I have no objection to that; I welcome the debate. But the point I want to make is that the leader’s speech is a replica of a speech that has been made from nearly every platform in New South Wales over the last three months by an eminent Minister of State. I suggest that the New South Wales Labour Government has not asked for this debate - fearful, of course, that the full facts would be revealed. If honorable senators need proof of my statement I remind them that only a few days ago the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament sought leave on an urgency motion to discuss hospital finance in that State. But what did the State Government do? It ran for cover; it used the forms of the House to evade that debate. For that reason I am particularly happy to have this opportunity to deal with the matter.
The New South Wales A.L.P. executive has been listening to and devouring the same sort of material that has emanated from the Leader of the Opposition to-day, and they see, they think, some political gain in this debate. So they have forced the Leader of the Opposition into the position where he has given us the opportunity to tell the people of Australia, and of New South Wales in particular, some of the things that we want them to know. Let us look at the actual wording of the matter proposed for discussion. If Opposition senators are condemned on the wording, surely they cannot quarrel about any figures that we may cite on this side of the chamber.
The matter that has been proposed for discussion is -
The failure of the Menzies Government to provide finance for hospital maintenance on the basis established by the Chifley Government.
If that means what it says the operative word is “ basis “. The Leader of the Opposition has repeated the same parrot cry that has emanated from the Government of New South Wales for the last three months - that this Government has a moral obligation to follow the practice of the last Labour Government and pay one-third of hospitalization costs. The Opposition has tried to say that a precedent has been set - that there is an agreement whereby the Commonwealth Government pays one-third of all hospital costs. It is true to say that Opposition senators do not know that that is not right because I feel sure that they would not make that statement if they were fully informed of all the facts.
– It was never onethird.
– No. It was never onethird. In the Senate on 4th October, 1945, the late Senator Ashley when moving the second reading of the Hospital Benefits Bill said - . . the proposed agreement provides for the State to distribute to public hospitals for maintenance an amount to be agreed on between the Commonwealth and the State, based on the average of what was actually received by way of fees from public ward patients in the base years 1942-43 and 1943-44 . .
That was the foundation of the Commonwealth contribution. It was based entirely on the public ward fees estimated to be collected throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. The facts that that sum was 6s. a day and that hospital charges were 18s. a day were merely coincidental. The attempt to represent this amount as one-third is designed, I am sure, to force public opinion to criticize this Government. The honorable senator has referred to things that have been said at Premiers’ Conferences. I admit quite freely that I was at a Premiers’ Conference. I also admit quite freely that the speech from which the honorable senator quoted to-day was made at a Premiers’ Conference by a certain Premier. It is also true that some other Premiers supported that point of view. But when I state publicly that not a squeak has been made, the point I want to make is that the State governments have not on any occasion since the legislation passed through this chamber last December, with the exception of New South Wales, raised a voice of protest to me. Not one! That is my reference to the squeak.
Let us look at what Senator McKenna said at a Premiers’ Conference which was held on 16th and 17th August, 1949. He was then Minister for Health in the Chifley Government. The odd thing about this, having regard to what the honorable senator has just said, is that the New South Wales Labour Premier, Mr. McGirr, was pleading with a Labour Prime Minister and with a Labour Minister for Health for a lift in the Commonwealth subsidy from 8s. to 12s. 5d. a day, claiming, quite properly, that the bed costs in New South Wales in 1949 were 34s. 8d. a day. The Commonwealth contribution was 8s. against 34s. 8d. - not a third. May I take leave to quote the Minister for Health of that day, Senator McKenna? He said -
I do not deny that hospital costs have risen and are rising but in order to get this matter in its right perspective we must consider the basis upon which hospital benefits were introduced. The intention was to give relief to the patient, not to make a contribution to State budgets. The Commonwealth does not claim it has provided free hospital treatment throughout Australia. It is recognized that the major part of hospital costs is borne by the States.
Mark that last statement. ‘ Mr. Chifley was the next speaker at the conference. He said this -
When we first set out on this scheme we asked ourselves, “ How much are the States getting from their public wards? “ Our idea is to recoup the States to that extent. I am convinced that the States cannot to-day obtain more than 8s. a bed from their public ward patients. Therefore, the Commonwealth does not feel justified in going beyond 8s. a day as that amount meets the principle of the Commonwealth making up to the States what the patients would have paid.
I ask the Senate, “ Does not that scotch for all time the story that has been bandied about over the last two or three months, trying to label this Government with a responsibility that no previous government has accepted and which, I believe, no future government will accept? “ For my part, I have a very real live appreciation of the sovereignty of the States. If any State government is going to accept a proportion of hospital costs I venture to say that, sooner or later, it will accept a direction from the Commonwealth. As far as
I am concerned, that is to be shunned like the plague.
For simplicity, let us look at some of the figures which I hope the Leader of the Opposition will agree provide a fair comparison. During the last full year of this scheme under the Labour regime, at the rate of 8s. a day New South Wales received £1,830,000. Will any one in this place stand up and say that that scheme did not bring the public hospitals in Australia almost to the verge of bankruptcy? Of course it did. They were absolutely unable to pay their salaries, their wages and their suppliers. They were facing bankruptcy. Of course, this Government seized the opportunity to make a contribution that was permanent in order to meet their needs. So in 1952 Sir Earle Page brought into this Parliament a scheme which in the very first year of its operation, the year following the Labour scheme, provided £3,901,000 for hospitals in New South Wales. That was an increase of £2,000,000 in one year. Yet Opposition senators have the temerity to compare the merits of what they called a scheme to the one that we have to-day.
Let us bring this matter up to date: In 1963 the New South Wales hospitals received by way of government grants and hospital benefits £13,475,000. If we are going to accept the terms of the Opposition’s proposal and make available to the hospitals a sum equivalent to that paid by the patients as fees, do Opposition senators know what the New South Wales Government would have received last year under such a proposal? It would have received £3,394,000 because that figure represents the excess that comes out of the patients’ pockets direct to hospitals. The Opposition asks for just that. I say with great respect that the Leader of the Opposition surely has not made the study of this situation that he generally makes before he presents a case in this chamber.
Now let us have a very quick look at the Ministers’ conference that has been talked about so much. It is true that the State Ministers for Health met Commonwealth representatives and myself in August, 1962. It is true that they asked for grants totalling 50 per cent, of hospital costs for pensioners and 33) per cent, of hospitals costs for all other patients. This, mind you, was a completely new approach as far as any Commonwealth government was concerned. I was criticized because I could not agree. Of course, I had to consult the Government, because this proposal suggested a new set of principles that no previous government would accept.
During that conference it was pointed out to me very bluntly that there were sections of the community who were suffering under great disabilities and, of course, the pensioners with entitlement cards, and the indigent, were the first people we thought of helping. For the Leader of the Opposition to talk about a means test within a means test is just plain and utter nonsense when referring to the needs of the pensioners. There are 815,000 people who qualify, but because there are 90,000 who do not the Leader of the Opposition is very critical of the means test. He does not tell us - of course he dots not - that these people have an added income of £2 a week and, for the small sum of 9d. a week - or ls. 6d. for a couple - they can insure themselves against their hospitalization needs.
When I put the case to the Government it agreed that we could, and should, give a substantial increase to those who were in the greatest need in the community. What did we do? We trebled the contribution of 12s. a day to 36s. a day for pensioners.
– For some pensioners.
– For nine-tenths of the pensioners, anyhow. If that is only some, then I do not know the correct meaning of the word “ some “. Let us be fair in our discussion of these things. I repeat that the Government trebled its contribution from 12s. a day to 36s. a day, without any insurance requirements, without any waiting period and without any limitation of time factor. That means that a pensioner who has an entitlement card can go into a public ward of a hospital and, even if he is there for ten, fifteen or twenty years, has not one moment’s concern as to whether his contribution will be forthcoming from the Commonwealth.
On top of that, we agreed to pay 20s. a day for those who were in nursing homes. That is a magnificent service to an ageing section of the community. Again we abolished the insurance qualifications; again we eliminated the waiting period in these institutions, which was two months until that time, and again we imposed no time limitation. When we go back to the 1945 era we find that these facilities had never entered the heads of those who now sit opposite.
When I made my announcement to the State Ministers for Health there was some reaction. Of course there was! I think the rub came when we told them that, because we wanted to streamline the scheme, because we wanted to simplify its operation and make it speedy and effective, we would make our payments direct to the patients through the hospitals. Immediately - and I say this with all the respect I can muster for these tactics - the New South Wales Government went into sackcloth and ashes. It embarked upon a campaign of denunciation of this Government for making available what in actual fact amounted to an extra £1,000,000 a year for New South Wales.
– It was not enough.
– My honorable friend says it was not enough. Of course it was not enough, but it would have been of great help had it been made available to the hospitals, and I will tell you why directly. I know it was not made available to all hospitals. To add to the confusion, the State Minister of Health in New South Wales personally set about confusing the minds of the people. I do not say he did it deliberately, but I do say that, if he was correctly reported, that is just the result some of his utterances had. I, too, can quote from a provincial newspaper. I refer to an article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald”, of 17th December, 1962, in which it is reported that, in his outpourings against the Commonwealth Government, the Minister said that for 1960-61 the financial contribution from the Commonwealth amounted to £4,372,000 or 12.2 per cent. In actual fact, the £4,372,000 which he mentioned represented only a small portion of the Commonwealth’s contribution. The total contribution by the Commonwealth to New South Wales in that year represented 38.6 per cent, of hospital costs.
Let me return to the requests made by the State Ministers for Health. I have mentioned that they asked for 33i per cent, of hospital costs for ordinary patients and for 50 per cent, of the hospital costs for pensioners. They also asked that the grants be made available through the State governments. What did they get? In 1961, the last full year for which figures are available, the gross maintenance expenditure in New South Wales was £34,934,000. There are five headings under which the Commonwealth makes contributions towards the hospital costs of the States. I point out also that contributions are received from benefits funds, and I remind the Senate that of the £34,934,000 expenditure in New South Wales in that year £13,475,000, or 38 per cent., came from Commonwealth and fund sources. In Victoria, the gross cost was £19,000,000, of which £7,600,000, or 40 per cent., was paid by the Commonwealth. And so it goes on right down the line. If the Senate would like the figures, I am prepared to give them.
– Have you got the Queensland figures?
– Yes, I have the Queensland figures, and they are most interesting, because in Queensland no charges are made in public wards. In spite of that fact, the Commonwealth’s contribution in that year amounted to 30.1 per cent. If the honorable senator would care to have a look at the figures I shall be only too happy to make them available to him. I point out, too, that the figures which I am giving are taken from statements and balance-sheets submitted over the signatures of State auditors and the Commonwealth Auditor-General, and they are therefore beyond challenge. The people who have been making such outbursts against the Government because it will not accept responsibility for a given percentage, whether it be 50 per cent, or 33i per cent., are in actual fact getting more than they have requested. It is true that they are not getting it through the State Treasuries, but that is only incidental. The fact remains that they are getting it. I do not seek any great credit for the Commonwealth because I think these things are what the people wish, and it is our responsibility to do what we can for those of the community who are in need and who are ill. How has it been possible for the Commonwealth to achieve this? The Leader of the Opposition said that 73 per cent, of the people of Australia were covered by insurance. Let me say, in all fairness to him, that I think he was going on to say that that left 27 per cent, uninsured.
– He said 28 per cent.
– Am I doing the honorable senator an injustice?
– Let me say, with great respect, that the Leader of the Opposition rises in his place and tries to convince the Senate and the people of Australia that he is well informed on these matters. Surely he knows that the remaining 28 per cent, includes pensioners and persons in receipt of repatriation benefits and all sorts of other benefits. In spite of that, he says that 28 per cent, of the people have no protection at all! In actual fact, the proportion pf persons who are uninsured is no greater than 10 per cent.
– But that is 1.000,000 people.
– That number includes some very wealthy people who say they do not need to carry insurance. Who are the indigent persons who are included in that 10 per cent.? Are they not the pensioners and the unemployed who are cared for in any case? I suggest that to tell the story in the terms in which it has been told to-day and on other occasions recently is not to tell it fully.
– The fact remains that 28 per cent, of the people do not contribute to insurance schemes.
– Technically speaking, that is correct; but it is a half truth. It is the sort of thing which if told to the people often enough they will believe. The New South Wales Minister for Health has said on several occasions that the Commonwealth Government has a constitutional responsibility in this matter. On one occasion when I produced records to prove that his statement was wrong he, with his genial good humour, just laughed. The arguments that are being advanced could well constitute a technique which is being employed against this Government for political gain. It is quite wrong to make the suffering of people the play-thing of politics. Have I to remind the Leader of the Opposition that amongst the people included in the proportion of 28 per cent, to which he referred, but which I have reduced to 10 per cent., a single person could by paying 3d. a week get a benefit of 26s. a day, or by paying 3s. a week, get a benefit of 92s. a day? Others could obtain the benefit of intermediate scales. Will any honorable senator opposite tell me that included in that proportion of 10 per cent, are persons who cannot find 3s. a week - the price of half a dozen ice creams or a bottle of beer? I do not wish to see these people deprived of either their beer or their ice creams, but these matters must be brought into any discussion of this Government’s contribution to the welfare of the people of Australia.
I now wish to state what this Government’s contribution will be this year in terms of actual money. I point out to honorable senators opposite that I am not trying to compare the sums I shall mention with those that were made available during the Chifley regime, although in the final analysis the real position will reveal itself. During this financial year Commonwealth contributions for hospital benefits will amount to £24,100,000. To that must be added fund benefits amounting to £15,000,000, making a total of approximately £39,000,000. Nobody can divorce the fund benefits from the Commonwealth benefits because the taxpayers’ money is part and parcel of the scheme and helps to make it so successful. Pharmaceutical benefits will cost £42,000,000, and the free pensioner medical service will cost another £5,200,000. When Labour’s scheme, which has been claimed to be far superior to ours, was placed before us, not a word was mentioned about pharmaceutical benefits or a free pensioner medical service. In addition to the benefits I have already mentioned, this Government will contribute £6,000,000 for the free treatment of tuberculosis and will provide £4,000,000 for free milk for school children. Indeed, we provide so many ancillary services that I cannot enumerate them in the time available to me.
The final point I wish to make is that in the last full year of the operation of Labour’s scheme £7,200,000 was provided for our hospitals. That was the grand total of the Commonwealth’s contribution at that time to the hospitals and the general health of the nation. This year this Government will provide more than £100,000,000 for the health of our people - fourteen times as much as the last annual contribution made by the Chifley Government. Surely this Government’s record speaks for itself.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the attempt of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) to justify what this Government had done to provide health services. My leader warned the Minister early in the piece that it was quite unfair to quote, as the Minister did towards the end of his speech, the sums of money that have been allocated and to try to compare the record of this Government with what Labour did during its term of office. Let me remind the Minister that when the previous Liberal government went out of office almost no social services at all were being provided, but that in the few years in which the Australian Labour Party was in office it did commence a programme of benefits which in time would have provided a real health service for the people.
It is true to say that when hospital benefits were first considered in 1945 the cost of providing a hospital bed was 18s. a day and that the Labour Government provided one-third of that cost. To-day a hospital bed costs approximately £6 a day, and it is true to say that this Government is making a much larger contribution to that cost than did Labour. But I put it to the Minister that, although this Government is making a larger monetary contribution than did the Labour Government, it is still leaving with the States a major part of the problem of providing hospital finance. It is unfair for the Minister to say that the State Ministers for Health have not protested to him about not getting sufficient finance to carry on their health services. He knows very well that the Premier of every State has said here in conference that the States have not been getting sufficient money to maintain their services.
The Minister for Health outlined quite a number of activities which the Commonwealth had undertaken in this field. I congratulate the Government upon its efforts. But the Minister said also that he did not want to interfere too much in hos pital finance because of the danger of assuming control over them. He said he was a great believer in State activity. The Commonwealth provides large sums for hospital benefits, medical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, pensioner medical services, the treatment of tuberculosis, free milk for school children, and mental institutions. But does the Minister still fear that, if the Commonwealth provides almost £4,000,000 for free milk for school children, he will be interfering with the activities of the State Education Departments? Does the provision of finance for mental institutions indicate that he wants to take over control of the mental services? Because the Commonwealth is paying £5,000,000 towards tuberculosis services, does that indicate that the Minister wants to direct the States in the treatment of that disease? I do not believe that the Minister is sincere in putting forward that kind of argument.
Over the last twenty years the Commonwealth has been the chief taxing authority for governments in Australia. Whether or not we like it the Commonwealth will have to accept more and more responsibility for social services. There was a time some years ago when the Beveridge report was published and members of this Parliament were all keen on introducing into Australia the name benefits as the British people were about to enjoy under the Beveridge plan. I well recall that in this chamber we received reports from the Social Security Committee, of which Senator Sir Walter Cooper was an energetic member. I also had the honour of being on the committee which, had three members from each side of the chamber. The committee submitted successive unanimous reports asking the Commonwealth to assume the responsibility of providing the money needed to treat the ills of the people of Australia. The two problems that we said had to be solved by a national authority were unemployment and ill health. Over the years governments have tried to do something about the problem of unemployment. I suggest that the Commonwealth has to accept more and more responsibility in the fight to solve the problem of ill health. The Commonwealth is the only authority that has the money to do this job, and it has a responsibility to carry it through.
Hospitals are only one of the problems. I say this advisedly. Over the last fifteen years costs in Australia have risen enormously. The inflationary spiral has got completely out of hand. Whereas in 1944 the daily cost of a hospital bed was 18s., to-day it has risen to £6. A similar increase has occurred in other costs in Australia. State governments are called upon to meet these extra costs and to try to provide the people of their States with services necessary for their welfare. We hoped that in the field of social services people in all States would enjoy the same benefits. We had hoped that some central authority would see that Victoria, where there were no widows’ pensions, would be placed on the same footing as New South Wales where there were widows’ pensions, and that States that did not provide child endowment would be put on the same basis as those that did. We hoped that a plan might be developed for the care of all the people. The Minister has talked about the national health plan that was instituted by the late Sir Earle Page. Personally, I believe that it was only a means of obtaining in another way the money necessary to treat ill health. Under the scheme propounded, and put into force, by a Labour government every one had to contribute on a graduated scale, based on his or her income, towards the cost of social services. The scheme that Sir Earle Page introduced discarded that principle of contribution and substituted a flat-rate basis. To-day a pensioner couple with an outside income of £2 a week have to pay a flat rate of 3s. towards the cost of medical treatment while a man earning £60 or £70 a week pays the same flat rate. The Labour Party does not think that is fair, and it does not think it is the way to solve the problems that exist.
T do not think it is true to say that the Labour Government of New South Wales is the only government in Australia that wants to protest against the inadequacy of finance for hospitals that is provided by the Commonwealth. I believe that all the States think that they should receive more finance from the Commonwealth. In view of the continuing rising costs I put it to the Minister and to the Government sincerely that it is not possible for the States to cope with the problems facing them. Surely one of the worst of those problems is the cost of maintaining hospitals. The Minister has said that only 10 per cent, of the people are not provided for under the scheme. With hospital accommodation costing £6 a day, and the Commonwealth contributing only 6s. towards that cost, it is obvious that the States will not be able to bear the burden. Unfortunately, at the moment there is a hard core of unemployment in Australia. The Minister has said that about 90,000 persons are unemployed. These people are not capable of contributing for hospital benefits for themselves and their families and do not take out any insurance. The Minister has said that the necessary insurance payment is the equivalent of only the price of one bottle of beer a week. It is all right for him and me. We can afford the 3s. a week, and the bottle of beer does not mean a thing to us, but to a pensioner that 3s. might mean doing without more than half a pound of butter. The fact that pensioners come to Canberra year after year appealing to the Government to give them an extra 5s. a week surely indicates that this amount of money is important to them. They are just not capable of taking out insurance and are unable to pay hospital fees.
I understand that last year in New South Wales uncollected hospital fees amounted to £2,000,000. That was because people did not pay, not because they were not asked by the hospitals to pay. I have had experience of this, and it is sometimes rather embarrassing. You are asked to pay even before you get the attention. Hospital authorities certainly do not let you out of bed before they ask you to cough up. It is very difficult to get away without paying. The hospitals try to collect the money but are physically incapable of doing so. The people have not got it. As I have said, last year uncollected fees in New South Wales amounted to £2,000,000. With inflation still with us, and costs steadily rising, it is not possible for the States to solve their problems.
I believe that the time is ripe for the Minister to have another look at the general problem of national health. Just as his predecessor felt that the Labour Government’s scheme was not the right one for Australia, discarded it and substituted another, so I think that the present scheme has been in existence long enough for the Government to see that it is not satisfactory. The Government should substitute a scheme that will provide for the whole of the people of Australia, the Commonwealth taking the responsibility for providing . the money and the States carrying out the scheme under the direction of the Commonwealth.
– Would the States accept that position? ; Senator ARNOLD.- I think they would. I do not think the Commonwealth ought to find the money for all these things unless the States are prepared to carry out the scheme in a certain way. I think that the States will carry out any reasonable directions that the Commonwealth gives, provided the Commonwealth meets the cost. After all, the State governments are just as intelligent as the Commonwealth Government. They have in their ranks administrators and other people who have the welfare of the Australian people at heart just as much as have Commonwealth servants. The problem will become worse next year. Rising hospital costs have to be met. The States have availed themselves of every opportunity in the taxation fields in which they have rights. After the Commonwealth grabs income tax, not much is left for the States. It is very easy, when you have all the money, to be virtuous and say, “Spend less. We cannot find the money for you.” The problem is to assist the States more, and I ask the Minister to have another look at the whole scheme.
– Having listened to this debate for some time and heard nothing that has not been said ad nauseam both through the press and in a previous debate, I feel constrained to say that this debate is a storm in a teacup. Perhaps it would be better to say that it is a storm in a caucus. The Minister for Health (Senator Wade) mentioned the direction given by the executive of the Australian Labour Party to members of this Parliament to raise this subject as a matter or urgency. This provides one more example of members of the Opposition doing their stuff - admittedly they are not very keen - at the behest and on the instruction of an outside organization.
Need I remind the Senate that we debated the entire substance of. this matter not less than four months ago? I have the “ Hansard “ report of that debate, and I direct the attention of the Senate to the form that it took. The urgency that honorable senators opposite alleged when they stood in support of their leader to-day looks pretty sick upon examination of the contributions made by the Opposition when the very substance of this matter was debated when the National Health Bill was dealt with in this chamber on 5th December last. At the second-reading stage, only one Opposition senator spoke.
– There was a reason for that; it was the last night of the session.
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity to make his explanation if he follows me. The fact is that only one senator, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), spoke at that stage. He proposed an amendment that did not relate to the substance of the issues involved; it related to pensioners. The motion for the second-reading of the bill was passed without a vote. At the committee stage of the bill, which dealt with the very matter that the Opposition now, on instructions from an outside body, raises as a matter of urgency the Opposition had only one speaker.
– What time of the morning was it?
– It was before midnight. The speaker for the Opposition was Senator Tangney, who made the shortest speech she has ever made in this place; it lasted only six minutes. That is the measure of the contribution made by the Opposition on these very issues four months ago. Incidentally, the Leader of the Opposition, on the motion for the second reading of the bill, spoke for only 50 minutes. Normally, he speaks for an hour, and is given an extension if he wants it. I am not criticizing him for that; it was fair enough. After Senator Tangney had spoken in committee for six minutes, the Minister replied, the committee stage of this important measure occupying only ten minutes. No vote was taken. The question was resolved on the voices. That is the measure of . the Opposition’s judgment, until somebody outside says, “ You have to go in and fight, boys “, upon which we find a motion to adjourn the Senate to discuss a matter of urgency. I have mentioned the proceedings of four months ago in order to bring this issue into perspective.
– I hope that you have convinced yourself because you have convinced nobody else.
– The judgment of the community will satisfy me. I want to deal only with some aspects of this matter, because time is limited. The great fighters of the Labour Party have said that they have raised this matter because it is an important issue. In truth, it is being raised - let us be frank - to save the blushes of the New South Wales Minister for Health. It is on record that New South Wales found, long before December last, that its hospital finances were in such a state as to justify an increase in fees. It is an historical fact that the New South Wales Treasurer indicated - no doubt to the Minister - that there would need to be a budget provision for increased hospital fees. It is also an historical fact that the New South Wales Minister for Health indicated that he would not agree and that the Commonwealth should meet the situation. That is the whole basis of this proposal to-day.
Senator McKenna has attempted to compare the Chifley Government’s health scheme with the present scheme. It is just plain humbug to compare a scheme that envisaged payment of 6s. a day originally, rising to 8s. a day, for patients in public wards, on condition that no fees were collected and that the public ward patients received free treatment as a consequence of the Commonwealth’s contribution, with the present scheme whereunder the Commonwealth makes a payment of the order of £1 a day for people in a hospital benefit organization and 36s. a day to pensioners who have an entitlement card. There is no relationship between the two schemes. The present scheme is based upon voluntary hospital contributions. It is to the Government’s credit that it has been able to encourage about 73 per cent, of the community to come into the scheme.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I had made the point that the proposal before the Senate was influenced and inspired by the decision of the New South Wales Government to increase hospital charges. I had dealt with the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition that because the Chifley Government had paid 8s. a day to the States on account of hospitals, the present Government should pay an amount, adjusted to present-day bed costs, on the basis of the formula then operating. It should be stated that that formula had no relation to bed costs at all. In fact, the amount was arrived at after taking into account the amount paid by patients in public wards in public hospitals at the time. The Labour Government’s scheme cannot be compared with the scale of contributions made by the present Commonwealth Government, both to individuals and to the States, ever since it was introduced by the late Sir Earle Page.
There can be no doubt that the scheme which the Chifley Government introduced in 1946 brought the hospitals to their knees and involved State governments in great financial difficulties. At that time, all that the State governments received in respect of patients in public wards was 8s. a day from the Commonwealth. The scheme which operates under this Government is based on a hospital benefits insurance scheme. It is to the everlasting credit of the man who introduced the scheme, and of this Government which implemented it, that 73 per cent, of the people are covered by it. Some play was made this afternoon on the fact that approximately 28 per cent, of the people are not covered by the scheme. I point out that pensioners and repatriation patients would be included in that 28 per cent.
It is to the credit of this Government that, under the National Health Act which was introduced in December last, provision is made for an allowance of 36s. a day to be paid in respect of pensioners when they are in hospital, if they have a pensioner medical service entitlement card. I recognize that if the State governments were to admit all pensioners to hospitals free of charge they would not make the necessary distinction which the Commonwealth makes in relation to the payment of 36s. a day. I mention that because I do not want anything I say to be misunderstood, but the fact is that all but 10 per cent, of the community is covered by the tremendous contributions which the Commonwealth is making to the States and which, indeed, it is making to individuals. Briefly, the act provides that pensioners shall receive 36s. a day while they are in hospital. Persons who are members of a recognized fund receive a Commonwealth supplement of £1 a day. Those who are not members of a fund and who are neither pensioners nor repatriation patients, receive an allowance of 8s. a day.
I have pointed out that 73 per cent, of the population is insured under the Commonwealth hospital benefits scheme, but I think it is important to repeat that that figure does not include pensioners and repatriation patients. Only 10 per cent, of the people have, of their own choice, remained outside the Commonwealth scheme, and those people are entitled to Commonwealth benefit at the rate of 8s. a day. A person may insure in the hospitals contribution fund to cover himself, his wife and his children under the age of sixteen years, for 3s. a week. That will entitle him, in the event of the admission to hospital of himself, his wife or any of his children, to £2 16s. a day. Until last Wednesday, the public ward charge in New South Wales was £2 4s. a day, so that a person who insured as I have indicated would have had 12s. a day over and above the actual hospital charge. Naturally, that amount would have gone towards supplementing the things that were needed while the person concerned was in hospital.
A person may insure under table 4B for approximately 4s. a week to cover himself, his wife and all children under the age of 16 years. That is the family rate. On entering hospital, he, or any member of his family, is entitled to a payment of £3 8s. a day. As from last Monday, the new public ward charge in New South Wales is £3 a day, so that a person who insured under table 4B would have a surplus of 8s. a day while he was in hospital.
Under the National Health Act, which this Parliament passed so quickly in December last, the New South Wales Government will have an additional £1,000,000 in a budget year for its hospitals. That government has now announced increases of hos pital charges which will provide an additional £3,500,000 in a full year, so that the hospitals in New South Wales should receive an additional £4,500,000 in a full budget year. As one who is interested in hospitals, I think that is a very good thing. I am not suggesting that there is no justification for an increase in hospital fees. In terms of budgetary problems there is justification but, at the same time, the very real contribution which the Commonwealth Government has made to the States and to individuals on account of hospital costs should not be overlooked.
In the short time left to me, Mr. President, I point out that in 1949, which was the last year of office of the Chifley Labour Government, the Commonwealth contributed approximately £7,200,000 to the States on account of hospitals. For the year 1963, it is expected that the present Commonwealth Government will provide more than £101,000,000 to the States for hospital and medical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, pensioner medical services, free milk for school children and tuberculosis allowances. I am informed that amount is fourteen times greater than the amount provided in 1949. I know that somebody will rush in to say that there has been an increase in the cost of living. That is true, but I invite honorable senators to compare the rise in the cost of living with the fourteen-fold increase in the contribution made by the Commonwealth to the health care of the people of this vast continent.
– Honorable senators who have listened to the last speaker will realize how complicated this whole health scheme is. The whole matter of health and hospitalization in Australia has become so complicated that nobody can understand it fully. We must face the fact that a person can get a bed in a first-class hotel in Sydney - the Chevron, for example - at £6 a day, which is less than it costs to go into a hospital. In Melbourne it costs less to live in the Southern Cross Hotel than it does to be a patient in the Royal Melbourne Hospital. All this arises from the heavy expenditure that is involved in hospital maintenance, hospitalization generally, and the provision of medical services generally. I think I speak for the public when I say that nobody outside this chamber thinks he is getting a fair go.
To-day we heard Senator McKenna put what I consider to be an unanswerable case on the point that the Commonwealth Government is not meeting the percentage of costs that it contracted to meet ten or twelve years ago. Then, of course, the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), attempted to demolish that case by denying that such an arrangement was ever made or thought of. When the Chifley Government set out to experiment in matters of health and medicine it did not visualize setting up an octopus such as we have to-day; it did not visualize all these complicated schemes, but had in mind free medicine, free medical treatment and free hospitalization. It had in mind a national plan to care for the sick and we do not have such a plan to-day. I do not suggest for one moment that the Government has not done good work. I made a comment recently about one good thing I thought the Government had done about pensions, but it rushed in to disown my praise. It said that the mentally ill would not get pensions. I shall deal with that later and show that I was telling the truth when I said the Government had changed its policy on pensions and that I had not misquoted the Minister.
This question could be argued all night without us knowing who had won the argument, because it is all so complicated. Reference has been made to pensioners, who would represent about 10 per cent, of the population, but the greatest suffering, in my view, is inflicted on people who have families - people who may have more than twice the basic wage as income but who, when they go into hospital, find the hospital charges unbearable. They find that for having an appendix removed the charge is £36, without taking into account the doctor’s bill. By the time the patient leaves hospital the total cost may be £50, I do not suggest that pensioners are not hard hit. They are at one end of the social ladder financially and have to be looked after but in addition to looking after the pensioners the Government should think also of the general public.
I should like to deal with a few inconsistencies in the Government’s policy in relation to hospitalization. I think that members of the Liberal Party are playing politics at the very lowest level in this argument.
– You do not mean that.
– I do mean it. The Health Department in Canberra says to the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales in Sydney, “ You can rectify your finances if you increase the rates payable by patients “. Senator Wade is even on record as having said that.
– He is not; I challenge that.
– Well, you have been reported as having said that.
– That is another matter.
– You said that if the New South Wales Government increased its charges as the other States had done everything would be all right.
– That is not so.
– All right. On the other hand, the Leader of the Country Party in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly moved the adjournment of that House for the purpose of protesting against the Labour Government’s decision to increase hospital fees, and in so doing he put forward the very reverse of the argument that the Liberal Party and Country Party supporters have advanced here. That is the other side of the picture. It is quite wrong for Senator Wade to say that the Labour Party ran away from the debate in the Legislative Assembly. It did nothing of the kind; it merely observed the Standing Orders, as is done in this Parliament. The question was debated for two hours. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Askin, took part in the debate, but his attitude was the reverse of that adopted by his fellow Liberal, Senator Anderson. He attacked the Government for putting up the charges; here Government supporters attacked the State Government for not putting them up.
– That is not so.
– I have only a quarter of an hour in which to speak and I do not want to take up all my time in answering the Minister. I do not want to misquote the Minister, but he has been particularly annoyed with Mr. Sheahan. I realize that Mr. Sheahan is capable of annoying the Minister, but he has brought light and colour to every portfolio he has held. Mr. Sheahan is a good Minister. He has a great interest in hospitalization and has done rauch for New South Wales in this regard. The Commonwealth Minister for Health was reported in Lismore as having said that the State Government could not be trusted with Commonwealth funds. He said in this chamber this afternoon that he was not certain that the State Government would do the right thing with the money.
– That is right, too.
– That is a serious charge to make against a sovereign government, against the Auditor-General of New South Wales, against the New South Wales Hospitals Commission, and all those people involved in the finances of New South Wales hospitals. The Minister was reported at Lismore as having said, “ If I were to give £10,000,000 to the New South Wales Government, I am not certain what they would do with it “.
– That is right, too.
– He admits now that he made the statement, and I am sorry that Senator Wade, with whom I have been on really good terms, would say that about the New South Wales Government, which has done such a wonderful job for public health.
I would like the Minister to listen to what I am about to say about the mentally ill because it is important: The New South Wales Government has met completely the costs of hospitalization of the insane, as have all the other State governments. So far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, a person entering an asylum has always been treated as being dead; such a person is cut out of social service benefits. The New South Wales Government set about reformation of its mental institutions.
– The last of any State.
– “ The last of any State”, he says, but the biggest of any State, too. In New South Wales it was a much more expensive job. Mr. Sheahan had the fences pulled down from the asylums. The Minister wanted to see for himself who was in the asylums and why. He wanted to remove those who should not be there and should never have been there. Then, ancillary psychiatric wards were built in country districts. I have heard the Minister in this chamber praise this modern development in New South Wales. Mr. Sheahan established a cottage hospital area in Cessnock to receive people from Callan Park and other out-moded institutions - those who possibly should have never been in the asylums. They were there because they had nowhere else to go. They were people who had been certified but were not necessarily insane. So the New South Wales Government built these places and transferred patients to them. Now I come to the point where I am supposed to have announced government policy. I do not know whether honorable senators opposite are jealous because I made the announcement or because I got some publicity, but I have a letter here on this subject. I took up the case to which it refers six months ago when these people were refused pensions. I said that these people who are transferred from Callan Park - not discharged - to these homes to live normal lives ought to have pension and full social service rights restored to them. Mr. Sheahan put that up to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and also to this Government. We waited. I received a letter from Mr. Roberton last Saturday morning. I shall not read it all. I hope it will not be thought that I am misquoting the Government’s attitude; I think that any fair-minded person would say that I have correctly interpreted the Minister’s intention. He referred to these people who cannot get pensions. The Opposition does not agree that because one is mentally ill one necessarily should not get a pension. We think that if a government is capable of taking the assets of these people while they are insane it should be capable of paying them pensions. I am not blaming this Government; I am blaming all governments. I am talking about the principle and the system that has developed.
– Governments do not take the assets of such persons.
– They tax them. Among other things, the Minister dealt with this question in his letter. I now come to the key point whereon I hang my story concerning pensions for the people who have been transferred from an asylum. I hope that the Government will not revoke the promise that it made to me on Saturday morning. The relevant part of the Minister’s letter reads as follows: -
It has been decided to regard patients transferred to Allandale-
These are the kind of homes in which Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin is so interested and for which she has done so much - . . as no longer inmates of a mental hospital as from the date of their formal discharge from Callan Park. Subject to the means test and other conditions of eligibility, these patients will therefore become eligible for pensions from that date.
I say emphatically that that represents a definite change of policy by the Government and a worthy one because if this decision had not been made it would have meant that these people would have remained, like the people in Callan Park asylum, without pensions. After they are transferred from the asylum into the New South Wales Government’s ancillary psychiatric homes they qualify for pension. These people should never have been committed to an asylum. They can vote and live normal lives as citizens outside. It is only because the New South Wales Government built these more modern buildings that they are able to get the pension.
I thought that the Minister had shown a change of heart in relation to this matter and had started to support the Labour Government in its humanitarian fight for the mentally ill in New South Wales. I shall be very sorry if, after I have released this information to all the newspapers and radio stations in Australia, the Government makes a statement to the effect that I wrongly interpreted its intention. I do not know whether I was strictly ethical in releasing the letter to which reference has been made. But, having in mind the fact that I had a duty to the public, I released this letter to the newspapers in Sydney and they interpreted it exactly as I did. I have not much longer to speak. I want to finish on this note: Undoubtedly we live in the welfare State. I even give the Government some credit.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– It may be coincidence, but quite a large number of New South Welshmen have participated in this debate. So, perhaps, somebody from some other State should say something to give the debate a little variety. The matter before the Senate, in effect, seeks to censure the Government for its failure to provide, in the words used by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) -
As mentioned by the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) this afternoon, “ basis “ is the operative word. I think it is squarely put that this Government is being taken to task for not financing hospital maintenance on the same basis as that on which the Chifley Government financed it. I want to get the debate back to this question because I feel that Senator Ormonde in his eloquent address strayed a little from the subject before the Chair. I welcome the debate. I should think that anybody on this side of the chamber would welcome an opportunity to defend a policy that has been accepted not only by the great majority of Australians as a good policy, but also throughout the world as something almost unique in terms of public health administration. It has been so accepted by nations which were, perhaps, a little more advanced than we were in relation to such questions but which now tacitly admit that they lag behind Australia in public health matters. We have had nothing but praise, as every one knows, from overseas sources. This has come not only from Britain but also from New Zealand and from European countries which inaugurated public health services before Australia did. No one, I think, would disagree with that statement. But that is by the way.
I want to address myself, first of all, to the legal or constitutional aspect of this question, which I think has been lost sight of in this debate. I can cover this matter briefly. I listened carefully to Senator McKenna, Senator Arnold and Senator Ormonde. I admit that their criticism would be quite valid if the Commonwealth had a legal or constitutional obligation to provide health services for the population of Australia. That is simple enough. I feel that the Opposition has erred considerably in this respect. Whilst the man in the street probably is not aware of the fact, I am certain that every member of the Opposition knows quite well that neither the Government nor the Parliament of the Commonwealth has any constitutional or legal obligation to expend one penny in relation to public health at all. That is where we must start in considering this matter. I am not arguing that the Commonwealth has not some responsibility; but that responsibility is quite different from a legal obligation. I draw this important distinction between a constitutional or legal obligation to provide adequate health services in Australia and some moral obligation to do something about health, which is a different kettle of fish. Let us in this chamber be quite clear in our own minds on this matter even if we may be tempted to confuse people outside.
I suggest that this debate has been sought for one reason only, and that is to confuse the people of Australia and induce them to believe that the Commonwealth is obligated to provide full hospital and medical services for the community. As everybody on both sides of the Senate knows, that just does not happen to be true. So I start there and say it does not reflect any great credit upon the Opposition to base an argument upon that premise at all, because it is a fallacious one. We can argue the moral obligation in a moment, but certainly there is no legal obligation on this Parliament to spend one penny on health. That proposition was well and truly and very ably argued by no less a person than Senator McKenna himself when he was Minister for Health in the Chifley Government!
– We did not have any powers then. The Government has them now.
– You had the same powers as we have now.
– Remember the 1946 referendum.
– That was a reference only. But let us get away from this legal argument. For some obscure reason, nobody likes to argue the legal obligations of the Government, however relevant they might be. Therefore we get back to the argument that is probably more acceptable to both sides of the Senate - on the moral obligation. Has this Parliament some moral obligation to do something in relation to public health? I accept the proposition that we do have a moral obligation. In fact, that has been accepted for many years. It was accepted by the Chifley Government, and it was accepted by every succeeding Menzies-Fadden Administration and Menzies-McEwen Administration. But it is not an absolute obligation. One must not argue from the stand-point that it is, for, if one does, one is not accepting the facts of the matter. Let us argue the question from the point of view of the moral obligation of the Commonwealth to do something for public health.
The argument put up by the Opposition is that this Government has failed to reach the standards of maintenance for hospitalization heretofore instituted by the Chifley Government. I want to argue that proposition. This is a question of public morality, if I can put it that way. Let me first discuss the basis. The Minister quite properly said this afternoon that “ basis “ is the operative word in this argument. Very briefly, the basis for the Chifley policy was the sum of 8s. per day per patient paid to the States with respect to all hospital patients, and a very minor amount for tubercular patients and pharmaceutical charges which did not exceed £1,000,000 in the last year of the Chifley Government’s term of office. The total amount of £7,200,000 was paid by the Chifley Government in its last year of office. If we are talking about bases, that was the basis of the Chifley Administration’s policy towards public health in Australia - 8s. per patient per day plus minor amounts for other amenities. As I have said, the total expenditure on these by the Chifley Government in its last year of office was £7,200,000. We are being attacked because we are not projecting that basis, and I emphasize that that is the only basis of the Chifley Administration’s health policy. We are being attacked for not projecting that in terms of modern currency and modern costs. Let us do that and see where we get.
If we do, we find that the total cost which this Government would be up for would be something like £50,000,000 to-day, and that takes into consideration all the factors that Senator McKenna mentioned this afternoon, which include the depreciation in the value of the Australian £1 and increased costs and charges. The total payment to cover one-third of the cost with respect to non-pensioner patients and onehalf of the cost with regard to pensioner patients, as asked for by the States, would be £47,000,000. Those figures can be checked. I repeat that the figure which is aimed at by the Opposition in its proposal to-night is £47,000,000, assessed upon the basis of the Chifley Administration’s health policy. In actual fact, as was pointed out by the Minister, we are spending more than twice that amount already.
Let us now examine the bases of our policy with relation to public health. Last year we spent £24,000,000 in connexion with hospital benefits. We also spent £11,900,000 on medical benefits, a service that did not exist as one of the bases of the Chifley Administration’s policy. In addition, we paid £41,000,000 for pharmaceutical benefits, a benefit which was almost non-existent as a basis of the Chifley Administration’s health policy. Free medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits for most of the pensioners living in Australia - another service that did not exist heretofore - cost us £5,200,000. Free milk for school children, another item not in the Chifley Administration’s policy, cost us £5,700,000. Then we have our magnificent programme of assistance to tuberculosis patients, assistance for the building of hospitals and sanatoria and free medical treatment, all of which have resulted in reducing the incidence of tuberculosis by half in the last seven years. We take credit for that. All these services go to form the basis of the present Liberal-Country Party policy. Now we are being asked to exchange that basis, which is costing something like £90,000,000 now, and which I am informed by the Minister will cost more than £100,000,000 next year, for the Chifley Administration’s basis of services which would cost us only £50,000,000.
Those are the mathematics of the question. Those are the economics of the argument, and I suggest that when you look at it that way it looks rather silly. I think it is a rather poor argument to attack a service that is so consistently uniform in really trying to do something for every section of the community and to cure a great many complaints. Of course, the speaker following me will say, “ Senator Vincent was not fair. We are talking only about hospital services; we are not talking about medical services “ - which did not exist in Mr. Chifley’s time - “ or pharmaceutical benefits “ - which did not exist in Mr. Chifley’s time - “ or free milk for school children “ - which did not exist in Mr. Chifley’s time - “ or free pensioner services “ - which did not exist in Mr. Chifley’s time - “ or assistance to tubercular patients “ - which did not exist in Mr. Chifley’s time - “ we are talking only about hospital expenses.” I will accept that argument, and I want to have a look at it. [t can be argued that I have been unfair in lumping all those services together as the basis of policy, but let us examine that argument. I suggest that you cannot look at the hospital benefits sector of this economic policy - and it is an economic policy - in isolation. I suggest that you have to look at the lot in their proper perspective, in the proper context of a public health policy, the onus for which, I emphasize, is upon the States primarily. That is the point from which we have to consider this subject, and when we do that we find that it boils down to the simple question, whether or not the Commonwealth has exceeded all other administrations in applying a policy of moral responsibility as opposed to its legal obligations. It reminds me of the criticism one sometimes hears about how well off married women of to-day are compared with the married women of days gone by. One could probably argue that the housewife of to-day is better off than the housewife of the Stone Age was but, of course, one would not think very much of that argument.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Mr. President, may I congratulate the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) upon the case he presented. It was very slick. Actually, he endeavoured to cover up, and successive speakers on the Government side did likewise. In considering this subject we must think of the basic principle of free hospitalization for all members of the community, which was destroyed by the Menzies Government.
– But it was applied to merely a fraction of them.
– I did not interrupt the honorable senator, and I hope he will not interrupt me again unless I make a wrong statement, which would be most unusual. The Minister for Health said that the executive of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour Party had applied pressure to have this discussion brought on. I have not been in touch with the New South Wales executive, and I am certain that that is true of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) also.
– That is right.
– If the New South Wales Executive made such a request to New South Wales senators, responsibility for raising the matter would have fallen upon them. I believe they did have a responsibility to direct attention to the attitude which has been adopted by this Government. The Minister said that the hospitals were facing bankruptcy and that the Government had played a part in assisting them. I can assure him that, because of the attitude adopted by successive Labour governments in Queensland, the hospitals in that State were not facing bankruptcy. The Country-Liberal Party Government which now occupies the treasurybench in Queensland has not dared to destroy the free hospitalization scheme which was in operation during Labour’s term of office.
It is interesting to note that the annual contribution made by the Chifley Government for hospital benefits was £6,000,000. Admittedly, the annual contribution is now £24,000,000. In presenting a case on behalf of the Government, honorable senators opposite lumped together all sorts of benefits. In the figures which he gave to me, the Minister adopted the lump-sum approach. He claimed that 30.1 per cent, of hospital costs was being met by the Government, but when the figures are carefully dissected the proportion is found to be approximately 16 per cent. When the original inquiry into this subject was held in 1945 and the cost of maintaining a hospital bed was 18s. a day, a payment of 6s. 6d. a day was visualized. Subsequently, by arrangement with the State governments, a payment of 6s. a day was granted on the condition that no charge was imposed upon patients in public wards. That was more than the States had been receiving. In 1948, after costs had risen, the Chifley Government increased the contribution to Ss. a day and it has remained at that figure. The Leader of the Opposition made a point of that fact. To-day Queensland still receives a contribution of 8s. a day. Many supporters of the Government and many Opposition senators will recall that the Menzies Government tried to practice economic blackmail and stood over the Queensland Labour Government. It even withheld the payment of 8s. a day for each occupied bed for six weeks in an effort to force Queensland to abolish its free hospitalization system. But Queensland remained firm and to-day it still has that system in operation.
That is the aspect of the matter in which we are particularly interested. We believe that a free hospital service should be provided. When this Government was returned to the treasury-bench on 10th December, 1949, it determined that as soon as possible it would get rid of the free hospitalization system. The paltriness and pettiness of this Government is seen in its attitude to mental hospitals, in relation to which it accepts no obligation. It even takes away the pensions of pensioners who are admitted to such institutions. Moreover, it has withdrawn the contribution of lOd. a day which the Commonwealth had made to the maintenance of these hospitals. For supporters of the Government to say that the New South Wales Labour Government is trying to shelve its responsibility and is throwing the blame for the condition of hospital finances on to the Commonwealth Government is ridiculous. Every State experiences difficulty in the administration of hospital finances.
Senator Vincent said that the Commonwealth had no constitutional or legal responsibility in relation to hospital finance. I am not a lawyer, but I should have thought that the 1946 referendum would have conferred upon a Commonwealth government, irrespective of its political ilk, constitutional authority and an obligation to accept responsibility for hospital finances. Senator Vincent would know as well as I do, or perhaps better than I do, the terms of that referendum and the authority which it conferred upon the Commonwealth. It is of no use’ saying that this Government has no constitutional responsibility. It has a responsibility. The Constitution gives the Commonwealth the authority to assist the States in any direction it deems to be desirable. Surely hospital and medical care falls within that category. When the amount of money which is collected by the Commonwealth Government is considered, it will be seen how desirable it is that the Commonwealth should face up to its responsibility in this direction.
It is all very well for the Minister for Health and succeeding speakers on the Government side to say how much this Government spends upon the eradication of tuberculosis and the provision of pharmaceutical benefits. In its effort to make political capital out of the situation, surely this Government does not suggest that the Chifley Government or any Labour governments which may have succeeded it would not have expanded medical services and social services in general. Which government was responsible for the inauguration of the anti-tuberculosis campaign? It was the Chifley Labour Government. One supporter of the Government said that the Chifley Labour Government never visualized the provision of pharmaceutical benefits. Senator McKenna can recall the real effort that was made to implement such a scheme. But Labour would never have visualized imposing a charge of 5s. for each prescription. This Government has been challenged repeatedly to conduct an investigation to ascertain just what benefit is derived from its pharmaceutical benefits scheme in terms of increased productivity, quite apart from the humanitarian aspect of reduced suffering and disability, or even fewer deaths.
If honorable senators opposite are prepared to bring into the discussion all sorts of details to boost the total cost of the Government’s contributions, I am entitled to place those details in perspective. When we examine the figures which have been prepared by the Minister, we realize just how astutely he covered up the real position. What has this Government done? As I said earlier, it has allowed the contribution to remain at 8s. a day when patients are not charged. It has made a contribution of 12s. in relation to a certain section of the pensioners. But the Government does not seem to be concerned about the 93,000 pensioners who receive no’ real benefits simply because they earn more than £2 a week above their pensions. It does not seem to be concerned either about the balance of the million people who are not members of hospital funds. When we talk of people paying 3s. and 4s. a week we must remember that in addition they have to pay into medical benefit funds. The total is really a substantial amount. All of these things have to be taken into consideration. It is all very well for the Minister to say that it amounts to only the price of a bottle of beer, but what is the use of a person being in a hospital benefits fund if he is not also a member of a medical benefits fund?
As honorable senators know, the Government has forced people to join the various funds. There is no question that there has not been compulsion. The States were content with free hospitalization under the Chifley plan. It was only when coercion was adopted by Sir Earle Page that we saw the abolition of free hospitalization in Australia. The Government readily accepts the idea of free education. Surely the health of the community is as important as education! The Labour Party realizes that it is, and it believes that the Government has its back to the wall on this occasion. The Government not only is not prepared to face up to its responsibility to provide medical care but also it tries to misrepresent the activities of the Labour Party.
It is all very well for Government supporters to talk of what the Government is doing in 1963. We must not forget that the Chifley Labour Government had many responsibilities during the years following the war. It had the responsibility to transfer 1,000,000 men and women from war-time occupations to peace-time callings. In the few years before it was defeated, as a result of the malevolent misrepresentations of the press and anti-Labour representatives, it did a magnificent job. I repeat that at the present time the Government should face up to its responsibilities. Figures on the costs of hospital beds have been quoted ad nauseam. I will be fair and admit that the Government did make a contribution in regard to teaching hospitals. In some of those hospitals costs per patient are higher than in ordinary institutions. Apart from that, however, the
Government has not faced up to its responsibility to help overcome increasing costs.
We should remember, too, that the money that the Government is distributing with some measure of largess is collected from the people of Australia - yet the Government has the hide to discriminate between Australian citizens. It says in effect that it will not pay a benefit unless people do what it tells them. It says to them, “ If you do not join a hospital fund we will pay you only 8s. a day. If you join a fund and pay, for benefits, from 6s. to 16s. we will pay you another 4s. a day. If you do the right thing in our eyes - the thing we are trying to make you do - and join a fund with benefits accruing to the extent of 16s. a day, we will contribute £1.” Further, the Government also discriminates between certain sections of pensioners. As recently as last year it decided to make a payment of 36s. a day in respect of them. Again it forgot about a substantial body of people. When you carefully analyse the situation, Mr. President, you find that that is the Government’s approach to this problem. It is now attempting to cover up. It gives no credit to the Labour Party Government that preceeded it.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– First, I take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) on his excellent speech this evening. If I might use a phrase that I read first many years ago about a battle that was fought on the sea, I might say, in respect of Senator Wade and Senator McKenna, that Senator McKenna was outfought, out-manoeuvred and out-sailed. I question seriously the wisdom of the Opposition in bringing a matter such as this before the Senate at such a time. After all, if there is one thing that stands to the credit of the Government since it has been in office it is its record on medical and health services. We can also contrast the scheme that has been working so smoothly since its introduction by this Government with the unfortunate efforts of the Chifley Government to bring in its medical scheme, which we recall with a good deal of distaste. The Chifley Government scheme was heralded as being a great thing for the people, but the doctors simply refused to co-operate. I do not suppose that any one of us would castigate the doctors for their non-co-operation, because the scheme was simply not workable.
It affords me, of course, considerable pride and pleasure to recall that it was a Country Party Minister, Sir Earle Page, who was responsible for the introduction of the present medical scheme which has won world-wide acclaim and admiration. As most of us know, Sir Earle Page made several trips overseas to explain the scheme in countries that wanted to introduce something similar. Senator Dittmer asked which government was responsible for some of the earlier benefits. I remind him that it was this Government which is responsible for the present hospital scheme. I recall also the tremendous success - particularly in the early stages - of the efforts to stamp out tuberculosis. That early success has inclined to wane, because people have become careless and have not continued to have the X-ray examinations that are necessary to keep this disease under control.
The Minister, during the course of his remarks, mentioned that it would appear that the instruction to the Opposition to bring up this matter in the form of a censure came-
– That is not true.
– I am just repeating what the Minister said. I have had a lot of experience of him and I have yet to hear him make a false statement. Although I have a good deal of respect for the interjector I have found that on occasions his enthusiasm lead’s him astray and his statements are not always correct. I once again emphasize that the Minister stated that the instruction to bring this matter up came from an outside body. I have already said that I think that the Labour Party was very badly advised, but after all that is something that we on this side do not need to worry about.
What is the position to-day? The medical men, as a body, have never been better off. The chemists have never been better off. No one will dispute that. The patients and the general public have never been better off. I think that is the answer to those who ask whether the scheme is a success. We must also consider - it was mentioned by Senator McKenna or by one of the other speakers - that hospitals to-day are more efficient and that drugs are better and more efficient. I admit that they should be. I am quite certain too, that all honorable senators will agree that our nursing profession to-day ranks very high by world standards. So do our hospitals. In New South Wales, the State that I, in common with nine other senators, have the honour to represent, we have just had the spectacle of an increase in hospital fees. To do justice to Mr. Sheahan, the New South Wales Minister for Health, I mention that he has been telling his colleagues for some time that there would need to be an increase in hospital fees. However, he was howled down and he had to make the best of a bad job. He entered into wordy warfare with our Minister for Health - I know that Senator Ormonde appreciates this - and came out of that battle bloodied but not, I think, unbowed. In the early days, New South Wales struck trouble with hospital finances and decided that a panacea for all its ills was the establishment of lotteries to provide funds. To the shame of the New South Wales Government, lotteries were established and, it seems to me, started the gambling fever that has been with us ever since.
Senator Wade has been challenged to name the hospitals to which he referred in his dispute with Mr. Sheahan. Senator Wade stated the facts and he has given them again to-night. They were disputed by Mr. Sheahan and the New South Wales Premier, who invited Senator Wade and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to name the hospitals concerned. How naive can one get? Is it not only logical to think that if the hospitals had been named they would have received a very raw deal in the future? Surely that is obvious. I am not surprised that our Minister did not fall for that little trap that was set for him.
Only yesterday, I think it was, speaking in another place, a Country Party member gave details of a country hospital, the receipts of which from the State had fallen. It had been receiving £425 a month until the new scheme was introduced when, very promptly, its receipts from the New South
Wales Government dropped by £360 a month. This is further evidence of the truth of the statement reiterated to-night by the Minister.
Senator Dittmer mentioned Queensland’s free hospitals. It may be as well for me to remind him that the Queensland Minister for Health admitted going home from the last conference feeling very happy because his State had received an increase of £500,000. After all, this Government’s treatment, of the States cannot be bad. Senator Wade mentioned earlier that expenditure on medical benefits, hospitalization and all the other things provided for sick people to-day has increased fourteen-fold since the Chifley Government went out of office. Honorable senators opposite might cry about the decrease in the value of the £1 and about inflation generally, but surely none would suggest for one moment that inflation had increased prices fourteen-fold.
It is also worth emphasizing that over 823,000 pensioners and their dependants are now insured, and that nine-tenths of all our people are insured. Surely this would not have come about if the people had not been satisfied with the conditions provided by the present Commonwealth Government. After all, we have not so many foolish people as that in Australia. I should think, on the other hand, that the foolish people probably number a percentage of the onetenth who are not insured.
As New South Wales has come so much into the picture, it might be interesting to examine its position in more detail. Mr. Sheahan said that the Commonwealth was not assisting hospital finances adequately. However, the Commonwealth cannot assist New South Wales public hospitals, because for every extra £1 contributed by the Commonwealth the State takes £1 away. Senator Ormonde shakes his head to indicate disagreement. However, I know that figures cannot lie, although liars can figure, and that is the fact. The Commonwealth undertook to pay, as from January of this year, 36s. a day instead of the 12s. that had been paid since 1952, towards the cost of free treatment of pensioners in public wards. It arranged to pay this sum directly to the hospitals concerned instead of to the State Governments, so that each hospital would benefit directly, according to the number of pensioners treated and the length of stay of each pensioner in the hospital. Although this cannot help my argument, it is worth mentioning that to-day the average stay of a patient in hospital is very much shorter than it was seven or eight years ago. I give Opposition senators that little bit of ammunition because they need something to bolster up their case. The increased payment to New South Wales hospitals amounted to more than £1,000,000 a year. In spite of the fact that we deal in hundreds of millions of pounds and that our social services are costing about £1,000,000 a day, an amount of £1,000,000 spread over twelve months is not a very small sum. However, almost immediately the New South Wales Government took steps to reduce hospital subsidies not only by the amount formerly paid by the Commonwealth to the State, but also by the additional 24s. a day to be paid on behalf of pensioners. Honorable senators opposite claim to be the friends of pensioners. Why do they not get up on their hind legs and say something about this? Let them fight the battle that should be fought first and then attack us.
It is apparent that the whole of the increased payment by the Commonwealth will be withdrawn from the hospitals by the reduction in the State’s subsidy and diverted in to the State Treasury, to be used for other purposes. That was the position, although it may be improved somewhat by an increase in hospital fees. The Commonwealth’s expectation is that any increased payment it might make to assist pensioners, which would have the effect of increasing hospital income, will be met by a corresponding reduction in the State Government’s subsidy to hospitals. The same situation could apply in respect of any increased revenue for New South Wales hospitals. The more that hospitals receive from the hospital benefits scheme, the more the State Government could withdraw. The reduction in hospital subsidies in New South Wales from 1st February showed that for every £1 made available to the hospital from Commonwealth sources £1 was taken away.
– That has been denied by the Premier and the State Minister for Health.
– I know that. I have already mentioned the argument that took place and I have given the truth of the matter. After all, I have had a good deal of experience of the New South Wales Government and I am very chary of taking too much of what it says for granted.
– In the relatively short time that I have been in the Senate I have been amazed by the number of occasions on which Ministers of the Crown and honorable senators who sit behind them have risen apparently for the purpose of trying to convince themselves that they are convincing the Australian people that the Government is acting in the best interests of the community. In relation to the matter under discussion this evening, from the debate that has ensued so far and from conversation I have had with a crosssection of the community, I am of the opinion that the Government is convincing only itself.
The Minister for Health (Senator Wade) and other Government supporters have stated that we of the Australian Labour Party are under instruction from the New South Wales Labour Party executive on this issue. I deny that that is so, Mr. Acting Deputy President. For the sake of the record, let me state the facts. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) is one of the two members of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party who are members of the New South Wales executive. The honorable member for Watson recently atended a meeting of the New South Wales executive of the party at which the social services committee of the executive presented a report which pointed out the serious financial position of the hospitals of New South Wales and the paucity of funds made available to hospitals by the Commonwealth Government. Following discussion of this matter at the meeting, the executive, on the motion of the honorable member for Watson, referred the matter to the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party for consideration. When it came before the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party, it was unanimously resolved by members representing all States of the Commonwealth that a motion should be moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
McKenna) in this chamber and by another member of the party in another place.
We have heard many statistics referred to this evening. The Leader of the Opposition put forward statistics which have not yet been refuted by any supporter of the Government who has spoken to-night. The simple fact is that the Leader of the Opposition compared the percentage costs of the Canberra Community Hospital with those of hospitals of a corresponding size in New South Wales, such as the Bankstown District Hospital and the Sutherland District Hospital. It was shown that the proportion of Commonwealth Government subsidy awarded to the Canberra Community Hospital was 71.6 per cent, of the total costs. The subsidy paid to the Bankstown District Hospital, which is of a comparable size, is a mere 53.6 per cent., and to the Sutherland District Hospital, only 56.9 per cent.
– What is the point in that?
– The fact is that the hospital in Canberra is being subsidized to a greater degree than are the hospitals of New South Wales, although the people of New South Wales are Australians, just as are the people of Canberra and the people of Tasmania, the State from which Senator Wright comes.
Senator McKenna traced the history of hospital payments, not only during the debate to-day, but also in the debate on the National Health Bill on 5th December last. That history is recorded at pages 1746 to 1754 of “ Hansard “ of that date. Before I become involved in the political implications of this situation, it might be as well for me briefly to reiterate the history of hospital payments as they have been awarded by the respective governments. In 1946, when the Chifley Labour Government was in office, it was decided to pay 6s. a day, at a time when the basic wage was £5 Ss. a week and hospital bed costs, as Senator McKenna stated this afternoon, were about 13s. a day. The payment then was nearly one-half, not one-third, of the total costs.
On 1st July, 1948, the Chifley Government increased the payments to 8s. a day, at a time when bed costs were approximately £1 8s. a day and the basic wage was £6 2s. a week. It is unbelievable - indeed, it is inconceivable - that between 1948 and December, 1962, a period of some fourteen years, there should have been no increase in the amount of hospital subsidy paid by this Government, although costs rose astronomically under the economic policy pursued by the Government and the basic wage rose from £5 8s. to about £15 a week. As with maternity allowances, child endowment and the funeral benefit, there has been no increase in the base rate paid by the Commonwealth Government despite its promise to put value back into the £1. The average hospital bed costs in New South Wales, the State which I have the honour to represent in this chamber, have increased from £1 8s. a day to nearly £5 10s. a day in the last fifteen years, but the Commonwealth base rate of subsidy has remained static at 8s. a day. For thirteen years under this Government, the balance of payments as between the Commonwealth and the States, so far as hospital subsidies are concerned, has been heavily weighted to the disadvantage of the State governments.
Let me now come to 5th December last, when the Minister for Health introduced the National Health Bill in this chamber. The main provisions of the legislation are stated at pages 1713 and 1714 of “ Hansard “ of that date. The bill provided for a payment at the rate of 36s. a day to be made in respect of the hospital treatment of pensioners and their dependants entitled to a pensioner medical service card. Of course, it was stipulated that that amount would be paid only when public hospitals provided free treatment for such persons. I digress to say that hospital bed costs in public hospitals in New South Wales are approximately £5 10s. a day. The Commonwealth intimated in the National Health Bill which it introduced in December last that it was prepared to pay 36s. of that £5 10s. a day. In other words, the Commonwealth, by legislative enactment, said that it was willing to pay 36s. a day provided that the State governments found twice as much.
Senator Vincent seemed to suggest this evening, as did the Minister, that this matter had been prompted by the Australian Labour Party in New South Wales. Senator Vincent comes from Western Australia. For his edification, let me read a statement contained in the annual report of the Western Australian Department of Health as far back as three years ago. It is as follows: -
Because of the continuing upward trend in the costs of maintaining hospitals, in the absence of increased Commonwealth hospital benefits the department was forced to follow the lead of other States by increasing patients’ fees as from 1st June, 1960. This situation is identical with that in the other States which continue to press the Commonwealth to increase the base rate of 8s. per day payable under the National Health Act. So far, the Commonwealth has not been responsive to the States’ request.
Three years after that statement was made, the base rate is still the same as it was then. The Commonwealth has accepted its obligation under the Constitution to meet the full cost of providing pharmaceutical and medical benefits for pensioners when they are not in hospital, but it reduces the degree of assistance when the pensioners are compelled to enter hospital.
Let me return once again to the legislation. It provided for a Commonwealth benefit of £1 a day to be payable to home nursing patients, as they are described in the second-reading speech, who are convalescent in nursing homes. Whether insured or uninsured, such people receive a benefit from the Commonwealth of £1 per day. According to the Minister’s speech, if such patient is subsequently admitted to a public hospital within eight weeks of discharge from the nursing home, he may enroll in an insurance fund and be eligible for hospital benefit from the date of enrolment, instead of having to wait eight weeks thereafter as in the case of new contributors. But a person who is in dire stress, who is in necessitous circumstances and cannot afford the extra amount for insurance purposes - I can assure the Minister that there are many such citizens of Australia in this state - does not qualify for that increase of 36s. On the one hand, one person is entitled to £1; on the other hand, a person who is uninsured is entitled to £1. Put the two people in a public hospital and the person who can afford to pay immediately becomes entitled to 36s., and the person who cannot afford to pay becomes entitled to a mere 8s. I suggest that the legislation is anomalous and unjust.
The Minister said in the course of his second-reading speech last year that the total cost of proposals incurred by the Commonwealth would amount to some £3,200,000 per anum. Of course, one must appreciate that a large portion of this £3,200,000 will go to these home nursing care hospitals - I use the expression for the sake of brevity. That means, of course, that the total amount of £3,200,000 will not become available to the public hospitals of Australia. The Minister said that there would be an additional expenditure of £3,200,000 incurred by the Commonwealth as a result of this legislation, but in the State of New South Wales alone last year the public hospitals were running at a deficit of some £3,400,000.
Let me quote from the Minister’s secondreading speech a most important part which appeared at page 1714 of “Hansard” of 5th December. The Minister said -
There is one other matter in regard to hospital benefits which I should make clear at this stage - that is . that the present hospital benefit of 8s. a day will continue to be deducted from the hospital accounts of patients who are not insured. It has been advocated in some quarters that there should be an increase in this benefit for uninsured patients.
Of course, what the Minister was saying there was that there should be no increase in the amount of subsidy available to such people.
Senator McKenna suggested this afternoon in this chamber that the number of people in the community affected by such a provision - that is, no increase in the base rate of 8s. - would be 28 per cent, of the community. It has been claimed by the Minister, and by those behind him speaking on behalf of the Government, that this figure of 28 per cent, was a liberal estimate and that the proper figure was about 10 per cent. But the fact remains that even if it be 10 per cent., that means that 1,000,000 people in the community are thereby affected. It is not only the people who are uninsured but also pensioners and all other such people that we, the members of the Labour movement, are concerned about, and although I am perhaps prepared to agree with the Minister that some are able to pay their fees, I suggest to him that the majority are not able to pay.
I happen to have the honour of being a director of a large public hospital in the State of New South Wales and I, of my own personal knowledge, know that hundreds of pounds per month are written off by the board of directors of that hospital because people cannot afford to pay. Summonses have been issued and prosecutions launched, but the fact remains that we have just not been able to collect the amounts owing by these patients.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- It is well to remind ourselves that what we are debating in the Senate to-night is a complaint by the Labour Party that this Government is not providing finance for hospital maintenance on the basis established by the Chifley Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) commenced the debate by saying that in 1948 the Chifley Government had allowed the State public hospitals 8s. per day towards the bed cost prevailing at that time of 28s. per day. He was good enough to remind us, too, that it was the policy of the Government of that day that all hospital costs should be borne by the consolidated revenue funds of the States and the Commonwealth.
The Minister for Health (Senator Wade), replying for the Government, made clear that at that time the Chifley Government in no sense sought to take over direction or control of the State public hospitals. The States have been jealous of their duty and responsibility to provide hospital services. The Minister also quoted statements by Senator McKenna in 1948 to the effect that the aim of the hospitals scheme of the Federal Government was to give relief to the patient and was not to make a contribution to State budgets.
Mr. Chifley stated at a Premiers’ Conference that his Government’s scheme was not designed to recompense the States their costs, but to reimburse the States for that proportion of their maintenance costs that they were then recovering from patients. When this Government came into office we were guided in health matters by the genius of Sir Earle Page - a genius of public experience, medical experience and administrative ability. May I just interpose in passing that since his death I have read with real fervour of the valour of his cousin recorded in “ The Heroes “.
That valour, I believe, was in line with Sir Earle Page’s attitude towards hospital administration.
I want to rid this subject of the whole welter of detail with which it has, deliberately or inadvertently, become confused. I want to say in the first place that the people will be interested only in whether or not, as a matter of public policy, their hospital services can best be provided by the scheme that Sir Earle Page introduced or by the scheme that it superseded. The figures of public hospital maintenance costs reveal some alarming facts. In 1950, that is to say in the first year after the Menzies Government took office, public hospital maintenance cost the States £22,000,000. The Commonwealth’s contribution was £4,700,000 or 21.5 per cent. In 1961, State hospital costs totalled £84,200,000 and the Commonwealth contribution, together with the fund benefit provided under the Earle Page scheme, was £23,000,000 or 27.4 per cent. So on the basis of published figures, the Commonwealth in 1950 was contributing 21.5 per cent of the total maintenance cost of State hospitals. Under our scheme, in 1961, the direct Commonwealth contributions and fund benefits represented 27.4 per cent.
Mr. Deputy President, our scheme involved the principle of providing a proportion of this expenditure by insurance rather than by taxation. The 1962 report of the Director-General of Health disclosed that 73 per cent, of our population has insurance cover in respect of their hospital costs. As the Minister has explained, if to that figure is added the repatriation beneficiaries and age and invalid pensioners, 90 per cent of our population has been provided for in respect of actual individual hospital expenditure compared with 39 per cent of the population that was covered by insurance in 1953 when this scheme came into force.
Having dealt with the public aspects, Mr. Deputy President, I ask: How does this scheme affect the individual? Ten per cent of the population has remained uninsured; and such persons are entitled to receive 8s. per day during their hospital treatment. They have their own decision to make as to whether they will take insurance; and it should not be assumed that it is through indigence or ignorance that mat 10 per cent, has elected to remain uninsured. Secondly, there . are the pensioners. The extraordinarily whimsical nature of Labour thinking is revealed by the fact that the Opposition has brought forward this complaint five months after the Minister announced an increase of the Commonwealth contribution in respect of pensioners from 12s. per day to 36s. per day. Of the pensioner population, ninetenths enjoy that very generous increase. Those beneficiaries receive £12 12s. a week as a contribution from the hospital fund as well as their age pension of £5 Ss. per week which continues during the period of their hospitalization. A second category of individuals to whom I refer are patients in benevolent homes, rest homes and privately conducted homes. In respect of them, five months ago the Government increased the contribution from 12s. per day if they were insured to £1 per day for each individual whether insured or not. It is something of a commentary upon the miserable type of Labour thinking that Senator McClelland even poked a finger of scorn at that situation.
The third category of individuals in respect of whom this scheme operates is the general public. As to them, 73 per cent, are actually insured, and the Government has provided that the contribution of 12s. per day per bed shall be increased to £1 per day per bed. Mr. Deputy President, that fact cannot be taken in isolation, because the scheme of insurance now covers 73 per cent, of the population instead of the 39 per cent, which was covered in 1953. In addition to the direct contribution of £1 per day, we must remember that if the individual is prepared to pay 4s. a week in respect of his family he is covered for an additional £23 6s. a week; and if he is prepared to pay 6s. a week in respect of his family he is covered to the extent of £32 4s. a week.
I put this to the Senate in order to clarify the position as simply as possible: In the public interest we make a contribution to the maintenance costs of State hospitals which represents 27 per cent, to-day as against 21 per cent, provided by the Chifley Government. The individual taxpayer is much better off because of our contribution direct to the hospitals and the fund benefit than he was under a system whereby the whole of the hospital benefits were provided out of Consolidated Revenue. I submit that the motion which the Opposition has introduced for the purpose of criticizing the Government has miserably failed and serves only to reveal the vast advantages that have accrued to the Australian people under the Earle Page scheme.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - Order! The time allocated for this debate has expired.
Rapid Creek Sub-division, Stage Three.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work: -
Provision of engineering services to Rapid Creek sub-division, stage three, Darwin, Northern Territory.
Mr. Deputy President, the Rapid Creek subdivision will provide 334 serviced blocks. Construction of engineering services in respect of these blocks is estimated to cost £395,000.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work: -
Extension of Stokes Hill wharf and provision of additional cargo shed, Darwin, Northern Territory.
Mr. Deputy President, the estimated cost of the work proposed is £430,000. The wharf will be extended to 700 feet in a westerly direction. The report contains eighteen conclusions and recommendations.
– by leave - I lay on the table the following paper: -
Inter-Parliamentary Union - Report of Australian Delegation to the 51st Conference held at Brasilia, October-November, 1962.
Ordered to be printed.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the Senate reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Peanuts, peanut oil and other edible vegetable oils.
Precision ground ball bearings.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) put -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended for this sitting to enable new business to be introduced after 10.30 p.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- There being present an absolute majority of the whole number of senators and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Air Navigation Act 1920-1961.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– 1 move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the Air Navigation Act 1920-1961 to carry into effect an amendment to the Chicago Convention adopted at the Fourteenth Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization which was held in Rome in August and September, 1962.
The Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation which was agreed to in 1944 establishes the International Civil Aviation Organization - I.C.A.O. - to develop the principles and techniques of international civil aviation and to foster the planning and development of international air transport. The organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations and is made up of an assembly, a council and such other bodies as may be necessary.
Article 48 (a) of the convention provides that the assembly meets not less than once in three years and at its meetings all con- tient vote, I declare the question resolved sented. This article also provides that extraordinary meetings of the assembly may be held at any time upon the call of the council or at the requestion of any ten contracting States addressed to the SecretaryGeneral.
When the organization came into existence in April, 1947, ten States comprised a substantial proportion of its total membership of 26. The number of member States has increased steadily over the intervening years and is now 98. As a result it is now possible for ten States, comprising a very small minority of a little over 10 per cent, of the membership, to require the convening of an extraordinary session of the assembly. It was generally felt that this was an undesirable state of affairs and accordingly a proposal was submitted by the United States of America to the Fourteenth Assembly, which convened in Rome on 21st August, 1962, that the number of States specified in article 48 (a) should be increased to onethird of the total number of contracting States.
After considerable debate, the assembly, on 14th September, 1962, approved a protocol to amend the article by increasing to one-fifth of the total number of contracting States the number of contracting States required to address to the Secretary-General a request for an extraordinary meeting of the assembly. The practical result of this amendment, at the present time, is to double the number of States necessary to join in a request for an extraordinary session, that is, from ten to twenty.
The bill amends the Air Navigation Act 1920-1961 by giving approval to ratification by Australia of the protocol to amend Article 48 (a) in the manner just indicated. By section 3a (2.) of that act approval is given to the ratification by Australia of three other protocols amending articles of the Chicago Convention affecting the constitution of I.C.A.O. which were approved by the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1954 and 1961. Clause 2 of the bill amends section 3a (2.) by adding a reference to the protocol amending Article 48 (a) approved by the assembly of the organization on 14th September, 1962.
Section 4 of the act is amended to provide that the text of this protocol is deemed to be the English text which is set out in a Sixth Schedule added to the Air Navigation
Act 1920-1961 by clause 4 of the bill. This follows the pattern of the principal act which sets out in a series of schedules the texts of the Chicago Convention, the Air Transit Agreement and the various protocols amending the Chicago Convention which have been ratified by Australia. The provision in section 5 of the principal act for publication in the “ Gazette “ of notices declaring which countries are parties to the Chicago Convention and the protocols amending it is applicable to the new protocol dealt with by this bill, without any necessity for amendment of that section.
In accordance with the provisions of the Chicago Convention, the amendment effected by the protocol referred to in the bill will come into force, in respect of the States which have ratified that protocol, on the day on which the sixty-sixth instrument of ratification is deposited with the International Civil Aviation Organization. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
.- I moveThat the bill be now read a second time. The current wool tax legislation provides for a levy for wool promotion at the rate of 10s. a bale, with proportionate rates for smaller quantities. That rate originally applied, at the request of the woolgrowing industry, from 28th August, 1961, to 30th June, 1962, and was extended last April to operate until 30th June, 1963, again at the request of the industry. The purpose of this bill, and of the two complementary wool tax bills which follow, is to amend the existing legislation to provide for a further extension of the present rate of wool promotion levy until 30th June, 1964. The Government decided to extend the operation of the rate of levy after the Australian Wool Industry Conference informed the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) that, at its inaugural meeting in
February, it had resolved that the rate of wool promotion levy for the year 1st July, 1963, to 30th June, 1964, should be 10s. a bale. Honorable senators will recall that the conference was formed in October last year and that I dealt with its formation and functions in some detail in my secondreading speech to the Senate on the Wool Industry Bill 1962 on 6th December, 1962.
The industry has found it necessary to determine the rate of promotion levy annually because of the somewhat fluid position that has existed in the industry over the past three years, due first to the investigations of the Wool Marketing Committee of Enquiry and then to consideration of the committee’s report. I expect that in subsequent years, when the conference and the Australian Wool Board will both be fully operative, the conference will be in a position to recommend a maximum rate of levy for wool promotion and research as well as the operative rates each year. The maximum rate would be incorporated in legislation and the operative rate would be fixed by regulation from time to time.
The Wool Tax Assessment Bill simply modifies the requirements for a return submitted by wool selling brokers and dealers for the last quarter of the financial year so that it will apply to the quarter ending 30th June, 1964, instead of 1963 as at present. The extension of the current rates of levy for wool promotion meets the wishes of the industry. The continuation of the rate will enable the Australian Wool Bureau and, of course, the Australian Wool Board later, to carry on uninterrupted vital wool promotion activities both in Australia and, through the International Wool Secretariat, in overseas countries. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
Senator WADE (Victoria - Minister for
Health) [9.51].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill and the Wool Tax
Bill (No. 2) 1963 is to extend from 30th June, 1963, to 30th June, 1964, the operation of the current rate of levy on woolgrowers for wool promotion purposes. The rate is 10s. a bale, with proportionate amounts for smaller parcels.
I point out to honorable senators that the measures are complementary and that the need for two separate bills arises from a constitutional requirement. The Wool Tax Act (No. 1) applies to levies, paid by woolgrowers for promotion and research, on wool received by a wool broker or dealer, while the Wool Tax Act (No. 2) relates to the same levies paid on wool exported which docs not pass through the hands of a broker or dealer. Apart from this difference the two acts are identical, and to suit the convenience of the Senate this speech covers both bills. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
Senator WADE (Victoria - Minister for
Health) [9.54].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments proposed in this bill were explained when I dealt with the Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1963. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9th April (vide page 32), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Before this debate was adjourned last night I had indicated that the Opposition would support the bill, which was designed to increase by £5,000,000 the nonrepayable grant to the States for employment- giving activities. At the same time I indicated that whilst the Opposition supported the measure, it regarded the amount to be allocated as being totally inadequate to stimulate employment to the degree required. The Opposition charges the Government with having failed dismally to honour its election pledge to restore full employment within twelve months. The latest unemployment figure shows that 96,000 persons were unemployed as at 1st March. That was virtually the same as in December, 1961, when the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made his famous election promise.
We charge the Government with having failed to create the necessary confidence in the community. We say that, instead of doing its duty and developing responsible and carefully planned policies for the nation’s good, the Government has resorted to a series of improvised stop-and-go measures which it refers to as its policy but which the Opposition regards as constituting no policy at all. No clear and confident lead has been given by the Government to the people who are anxious about their own future, that of their country and, above all, of their children. It is a sobering thought, Mr. President, that of the 96,000 persons who were registered for employment on 1st March some 36,800 were juniors under 21 years of age. We recall that more than 52,000 school-leavers registered with the Department of Labour and National Service during the four months from October, 1962, to January, 1963. What answer is the Government giving to the parents of those young people who are having difficulty in obtaining employment at the very threshold of their working lives? What prospects of employment are being offered to them? What will happen to the people who will be coming on to the employment market within the next twelve months? I refer to those who will be leaving school at the end of 1963 and members of the great force of migrants who will be coming to this country.
The Opposition wants to know where there is a plan to accelerate the rate of Australia’s economic growth in general and to stimulate employment in particular. I stressed that point last night. Responsible commentators who have no special brief for the Opposition’s point of view are expressing boldy and unequivocally the concern of the general community about the absence of a positive policy on the part of the Government. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures and the Bank of New South Wales have published a survey of industrial trends in Australia in recent times. That survey shows that 60 per cent, of factories covering the whole range of industrial production are still operating at less than their capacity.
– What was the date of the survey?
– It was in February. It shows, too, that 65 per cent, of the companies report that the factor which is limiting their production is the lack of orders. Fifty-one per cent, of the companies have not been able to raise the number of their employees since November last year and 53 per cent, do not expect to employ any more between now and July. The report states that the degree of optimism among employers is even less than it was in November last, when the previous survey was made. The tragedy is that only now are we beginning to get back to the level of activity which existed two years ago. That is the real situation that we face to-day in a country which is obliged to exist and thrive in a very competitive world, which needs to find and to develop new markets in Asia and elsewhere, and which needs vigorous and creative leadership. It is against that sort of background that we must assess whether the Government has a plan to deal with this matter, or whether it is floundering around hoping for the best reversing yesterday’s policy to-day and not knowing whether to-day’s policy will be reversed tomorrow.
We have only to look at other aspects of the Government’s broad approach to these things to see that it either lacks the ability to plan or it has a positive distaste for the kind of long-range planning that is necessary in the interests of the community. I asked a question in November of last year about the Government’s estimate of future population trends in the States, the Northern Territory and the capital cities. The answer prepared by the Treasury was in broad terms, and I ask honorable senators to note how vague it was, and what little comfort it can give to those who are looking to the
Government for some kind of positive national leadership. The answer was -
The Commonwealth Government has not made forecasts of the future population of the Northern Territory or any of the States, or of any of their capital cities. However, among the matters to be covered by the proposed economic inquiry announced by the Prime Minister on 17th October, 1962, are trends in population as a whole and the likely pattern of growth and geographic distribution of industry. While the committee of inquiry may not find at necessary to its task to attempt to make forecasts of the future populations of particular States of cities, its findings on these matters should be of assistance to these who may have reasons for doing so.
Mr. President, I ask: What are we to assume from that piece of Treasury mumbo jumbo? It is certainly clear that the Government has no idea that it has a special responsibility to estimate future population trends. That is only an example. What we can gather from the reply is that if this committee of inquiry happens to drop a pearl or two while it moves across the broad fields of the economy in its inquiry then, if anyone is interested in the matter, he is welcome to pick up the pearls.
– You do not get pearls in fields.
– Well, you are not going to get them by turning aside from real responsibility. It is the Government’s responsibility, if it is anybody’s responsibility, to apply itself to these kinds of problems. Where else but to the Commonwealth Government are the people of Australia to look for some lead as to the future of this country? That lead must include a proper consideration of population trends and it must include some broad economic plan. If there had been such a plan the pitfalls and disasters of the last two or three years would have been avoided. If there had been a sound economic plan we would not have experienced the economic difficulties which have stemmed from haphazard and unplanned allocation resources.
I want to get back to this question of unemployment statistics.
– You have not left it yet.
– It is part of the broad picture. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot speak r.bout expansion, development and progress - which is what I expect we will hear from the Minister in reply to this attack - and at the same time rely upon stimulation of employment as part of that broad picture, when the fact is that sixteen months after the Government’s election pledge unemployment is still running at 96,000 when it was 100,000 at the time of the pledge. Whether it is hopping up and down on the one spot, or moving one step forward and slipping one step back, the position to-day is no better than it was a year or two ago. It is easy, perhaps, from our side, to point to a slight increase in unemployment figures in one particular month, and perhaps it is easy for the Government to point to a slight decrease in the unemployment figures in the next month, but we must view the picture over the sixteen months. While you can point to development in this area or that area the plain fact is that the Government’s policy has failed to solve the problem of unemployment.
I think it is legitimate on an occasion like this, while we support a measure aimed at increasing employment-giving activities by this additional grant, to ask what the Government’s real attitude to unemployment is. It is legitimate, when dealing with this vital subject of employment and unemployment, to say to the Government, “ Look, cease using cliches. Cease using language that conceals meaning. Stop sheltering behind statistics and say exactly what your policy is.” If the Minister’s reply is that the Government believes in full employment - and I imagine it will be along those lines - then he should tell us what the Government means by full employment. Does it mean that there should be no unemployment at all. Does the Government believe that, with 96,000 unemployed, we have reached the hard core? Is there an unspoken assumption of a pool of unemployed? Is there an irreducible minimum? If there is an irreducible minimum, what is it? Is it 80,000? Is it 70,000? Is it 60,000, 50,000, 4C.000, 30,000, or 10,000? We should be told this, and then we will know whether the Government is satisfied with the present position. The Opposition and the people of Australia are certainly not satisfied.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), at Budget time last August - and that is eight months ago - said that the Government regarded the total of unemployed at that time as being too high. The total then was 90,000, or 6,000 less than it is to-day. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), a week or two after the Budget was introduced, said that 2 per cent, of unemployment was definitely too high. What does the Government say about the position to-day, when the figure is higher than 2 per cent? It is now 2.2 per cent. I imagine that the Minister is going to tell us that the Opposition is making too much of this question of unemployment and that we have to look at the whole picture. He will say, in effect: “Why do you not graciously accept the £5,000,000” - which is admittedly for employment-giving activity -“and let it go at that? Why look for deficiencies in Government policy when there is some evidence of growth and progress? “
– Do you think the Minister is going to say that?
– I think that the Minister is goin0 to say that we are making too much of this. If the Minister does not say that, what kind of defence of government policy is he going to make?
– I advise you to make your own speech and not to attempt to make the Minister’s speech.
– It will be interesting to see whether I am wrong. I suggest that the Minister will say that the Oppositon is making too much of the Government’s record on unemployment. If he does not say that he will have no real answer to the charge which the Opposition makes notwithstanding that it supports the bill.
I want to say one last thing. It has to do with the overall approach to the whole question of employment and unemployment. You can take the view that there is not really very much wrong. You can say, “ Well, so far as the position needs a remedy, there is an extra £5,000,000 distributed among the States in the agreed proportions, which will just about solve the problem “. Is anybody on the Government side game to say that this £5,000,000 will solve the problem?
– You are saying that it will not.
– I say that it will not because the dimensions of the problem are too big. I said this last night and I venture to repeat it. One hundred thousand men out of work means 4,000,000 work hours lost in any one week of 40 hours. 1 have had an opportunity to look at the
Statistics of working days lost through industrial disputes from all causes over the past three or four years. I shall not bother to cite the statistics, but they are there and I stand to be corrected if my argument is wrong. The number of working hours lost in any one week through those 100,000 men being unemployed is just about the same as the number of working hours lost in each of the past two years through industrial disputes. It is of no use to talk about 100,000 unemployed being an insignificant problem, because it is not. If it is legitimate for Government supporters to criticize those who take part in industrial stoppages and to accuse them, as they frequently do, of holding back the economy and damaging production and progress, it is legitimate to say to the Government that by leaving 100,000 unemployed it is doing irreparable damage to the economy; it is doing this in any week in which it leaves 100,000 or a substantial portion of that number unemployed. We say that the problem is of such dimensions as not to be solved merely by giving an extra handout to the States, with particular emphasis on employment-giving activities. What is needed is a lead from the Commonwealth in national planning which will dwarf the importance of particular activities of this kind. I can do no better than quote from the editorial in the respected journal the “Canberra Times”, of 19th March this year -
It is now clear that the decision to provide additional funds to the States last month was taken under grave pressure and that much more will require to be done in the coming months. The existence of 3.8 per cent, of unemployment in Queensland and 3.3 per cent, in Tasmania suggests that more should be done than merely voting money to State governments and leaving to them the responsibility of raising employment. Unemployment now deserves much more serious Commonwealth leadership. Commonwealth and State should be joining in every State to promote avenues of employment which will restore at least the position of three years ago. Australia wants more than the juggling of statistics to create a better employment situation.
If the answer be that in order finally to eliminate unemployment one needs an increase in the number of skilled workers, and if it be that there is still a demand for skilled workers, we say that the responsibility is on the Commonwealth Government to create the right conditions by training apprentices and to show a real lead in other ways in the creation of a genuine body of available skilled workers.
That is the position as we see it, Mr. Deputy President. We express the serious concern of the Opposition and of the people of Australia at the continuing failure of the Government to deal with unemployment, but we support this bill because we believe that it goes some little way towards solving the very grave problem that confronts this country.
– The bill authorizes the granting to the States of an additional nonrepayable grant of £5,000,000 for expenditure on employment-giving activities, bringing the non-repayable grants for this financial year for this purpose to £17,500,000. I believe that the Government and the States, in the Loan Council, were of opinion that this amount, together with the other amounts that have been provided and other encouragements given to industry, will largely bring about the condition of full employment in Australia promised by our Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) some months ago. We have just heard a tirade by Senator Cohen on the unemployment position. From the beginning to the end of his speech, which lasted for approximately 25 minutes yesterday and 20 minutes to-night, he did not mention anything about overcoming unemployment. He did not say how the Australian Labour Party would overcome unemployment. We have been in power for twelve years, during which we have never reached the stage of having a little more than 3 per cent, of the work force unemployed at any one time. Let us go back to the last year of the Labour government’s administration, when it had 5.6 per cent, of the work force unemployed.
– What about the coal strike?
– A year earlier, when there were no strikes, 3.5 per cent, of the work force was unemployed. Therefore, before honorable senators opposite criticize a responsible government that has looked after the affairs of this country in a responsible manner for twelve years, they should look at the history of the Labour Party. I refer to the Commonwealth “ Year Book “, No. 39, page 550.
– Which “Year Book”?
– 1953. It states -
The number of persons who were usually engaged in industry, business, trade or service but were out of a job at 30th June, 1947, was 82,774, consisting of 66,009 mates and 16,765 females, or 3.S per cent, of the males and 2.6 per cent, of the females in the wage-earning group, including those not at work. . . .
This was in a year in which there were no strikes in Australia. In 1949, which was the last year of office of the Labour Government and so long ago that it is difficult to remember events that happened then, 5.4 per cent, of the work force was unemployed. Senator Cohen said that no Labour government would tolerate a position in which 2.5 per cent, of the work force was unemployed.
– In present circumstances.
– I remind the honorable senator of a statement made in 1945 by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), to the effect that if a government in Australia could reduce unemployment to 5 per cent, of the work force, to all intents and purposes that government would have attained full employment.
I ask honorable senators opposite what the Labour Party suggests should be done to put people back into jobs.
– What. was the position in 1939?
– In 1931, under a Labour government, 25 per cent, of the work force was unemployed.
– I said 1939.
– You asked for the figures, and I have given them to you. Let me continue my speech. I am sorry that I cannot answer all the interjections by honorable senators opposite. I wish to answer some of Senator Cohen’s accusations, which I believe were made in all good faith. As a supporter of the Government, I have a perfect right to answer him, and I hope
I shall be able to silence him. The honorable senator said that the grants which are being made to the States will not solve the problem unless they are a part of an overall plan to reduce unemployment. I point out that that is the whole purpose of the measures which the Government has taken. No doubt the Labour Party would like to raise the ante, so to speak, but the overall policy of the Government extends as far as ten years ahead. I could state facts and figures to indicate what the Government will do in 1966 and 1967. There are ways of developing a country other than by means of Commonwealth grants.
It has been the policy of this Government, since it was elected in 1949, to encourage people to come to Australia, and also to encourage the investment of capital from overseas, for the purpose of developing the country. That is quite different from Labour policy. The Labour Party has opposed the loans that we have sought overseas. When we went to the International Bank on the first occasion in 1952 and again in 1954, and applied for loans of £50,000,000, the Labour Party not only opposed the proposals in this chamber but also voted against the relevant bills, despite the fact that the loans were to be used to bring to Australia equipment that could not be made in this country. It was to be used in capital works which would create employment. Had we not obtained the money, there would have been more unemployment. Perhaps that would have suited the purpose of the Labour Party on that occasion.
– Labour always opposes progress.
– It has opposed the introduction of capital and capital equipment from overseas. This Government has created in Australia a climate which encourages the investment of capital from overseas for developmental purposes. Because of that, we have been successful in keeping unemployment down to the present level instead of the levels that have been referred to earlier this evening.
Senator Cohen has spoken of a planned programme of development. Let me answer him by referring to events that are happening in Western Australia. When I mention some of the development that is occurring in that State, I am sure honorable senators will agree that similar development is occurring all over Australia. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has agreed to construct in Western Australia an integrated steel mill and blast furnace to cost some £40,000,000. From the time that it is commenced until 1967, when it will be in production, it will provide work for up to 5,000 people. Last week, I read in the Western Australian newspapers that the company was calling tenders for the construction of additions to its steel plant to cost £750,000, as the initial stage of the integrated steel mill and blast furnaces. In conjunction with that development, by agreement between the State Government and the Commonwealth Government, it has been decided to construct a standard-gauge railway from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana, at a cost of about £35,000,000. That is part of a planned development programme initiated by the Commonwealth Government. It is envisaged that expenditure on those two projects will amount to £75,000,000 during the next five years. Think of all the additional jobs that will be available in Western Australia. The projects will involve an increase in the work force of Western Australia of between 4,000 and 5,000 people for the next seven years. That is terrific development.
An alumina plant is now being constructed at Kwinana at a cost of £2,000,000. In addition, there are such projects as the great Ord River scheme, the Derby jetty and the Esperance jetty. Those projects are part of a planned programme on a scale unheard of under Labour. Let me give the Senate a few facts and figures, so that we may be able to avoid the squabble that takes place every time the subject of unemployment is mentioned. If honorable senators opposite do not believe what I am saying, they should get to their feet later and try to prove that my statements are wrong. In 1953, the Liberal-Country Party Government of Western Australia was defeated. At that period Western Australia was taking more migrants in relation to its population than any other State, and had the lowest percentage of unemployed of any State. I invite honorable senators opposite to look at the records and to prove me wrong if they can.
Then there was a change of government. The Labour Party came in and remained in office for six years. From a migrant in take of some 12 or 13 per cent, of the total Australian intake, the Western Australian figure fell in six years to about 2 per cent. In that six years under a Labour government, Western Australia changed from being the State with the best employment figures to the one with the worst employment figures. In other words, when the Liberal-Country Party Government went out of office in 1953, Western Australia had the lowest percentage of unemployed of any State in the Commonwealth, and when the Labour Party went out of office some six years later in 1959, Western Australia had the highest percentage of unemployment.
– That is what would happen in the Commonwealth sphere too.
– That is just, what would happen, I believe, if there were a change in the government of the Commonwealth, and I should like to explain why because these things are terribly interesting to me and to everybody in this chamber who has any sense.
Prior to 1953, under a Liberal-Country Party Government in Western Australia, large developmental projects were initiated. They included the Kwinana undertaking, the total cost of which is between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000. A steel rolling mill was erected by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at a cost of £2,000,000. Also at that time an agreement was signed with the Cockburn cement company under which the company undertook to spend £2,000,000 on a factory to produce cement. I need mention only these three items. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to produce evidence that in the six years of Labour administration in Western Australia, from 1953 to 1959, the Labour Government was able to encourage capital expenditure on one project of even £1,000,000.
– I have answered this before, Senator.
– You have not answered it. You have never been able to point to anything except what the State Government itself did. I am referring to private enterprise, and I challenge you, or any other member of the Labour Party, to name one private investment project costing £1,000,000 that was encouraged by the Labour Government of Western Australia between 1953 and 1959. I issue that challenge in all sincerity. I believe that I am correct, and no doubt you will answer me if you can. All these things are important. I have been watching the attitude taken by the Labour Party in this chamber against developmental programmes or proposals of this Government to encourage capital from overseas.
– And against trade agreements?
– Yes, against trad? agreements, if you like. In the long run this means unemployment because the money does not come in for these projects.
– When do you expect the unemployment figures to begin coming down?
– Senator, do not ask me that question; you know very well that last month they came down by 16,000. I suggest that you should study the unemployment position a little closer. This year there were 80,000 school-leavers seeking positions.
– There are always school leavers.
– There are always school leavers, and there will always be a great number of them. This year there were 5,000 more than last year; the total was almost 82,000.
– There are still 35,000 of them unemployed.
– That is so; there are 35,000 of them unemployed at present. Apparently Senator Cooke, my colleague from Western Australia, agrees with me that almost 50,000 school leavers have been placed in employment since Christmas. When we talk of unemployment we must realize that we have in Australia the best record of any of the free countries of the Western world. I ask the honorable senator to name one country that has a better record. Canada, which has recently had an election, has 9.2 per cent, of its work force unemployed at this moment, compared with 2.2 per cent, in Australia. In England between 5 per cent, and 6 per cent, are unemployed, and in America the figure is 6 per cent.
– All with Conservative governments, Senator.
– All with a lot of wise people living in them and electing governments that can take responsible action when it is needed. Senator Cohen in his speech to-night said that the Government had put on a drastic credit squeeze which had dealt crippling blows to industry.
– That is perfectly correct. You cannot deny that?
– I do not deny it. I am rather proud that the Government had the courage to face the position and to do what it thought to be right at that time.
– To cripple industry?
– Do not let us be silly, Senator. I .could take you to countries where there is inflation of 60 per cent, a year. In Australia in 1960 the increase in costs was over 8 per cent. In 1961 the increase could have been 10 per cent, with a basic wage increase of almost 30s. Australia would soon have been in such a position that the people who were producing our export income would have become bankrupt. To prevent bankruptcy in the great primary producing industries of wool, wheat, meat, and butter, and in the manufacturing industries which are competing overseas, we decided to put on a squeeze and it had the desired effect. At the time we put on the credit squeeze we had overfull employment in certain industries. For instance, in Victoria in November, 1960, there were eight vacancies in the building industry for every person who was unemployed. Employers were bartering for labour and production costs rose because of the increased rates of pay that employers were forced to pay. That is a situation that we must try to avoid.
It is very difficult for a government to decide that we shall not have any unemployment or that we shall not have a situation of over-full employment. If wa have over-full employment we must apply a bit of a squeeze. If unemployment reaches too great a percentage of the work force the government must do what it thinks is right in order to correct the situation.
I ask Senator Cant to remember that about twelve months ago 130,000 persons were registered for employment whereas today 96,000 persons are registered. There has been a reduction of 16,000, I would think, in the last month in the number of persons registered for employment. I am confident that the figure will be reduced by a further 10,000 or 15,000 in the next month. With all the seasonal workers registering for employment we will never have less than 30,000 or 40,000 persons registered for employment. In Victoria during the credit squeeze, when we had the situation of eight job vacancies for every person who was unemployed, there were some 30,000 or 40,000 persons registered for work. Let me take the matter a step further. At present 96,000 persons are registered for work. An article in the “ West Australian “ of 9th April, under the headline “ Fewer Seek Jobs at Geraldton “, reads -
The officer in charge of the Commonwealth Employment Service at Geraldton, Mr. D. W. Veale, has reported a further drop in the number of unemployed applicants.
Those receiving unemployment benefits at the end of March numbered 13, including seven at Carnarvon and one at Dongara.
At end of February 24 men and four women were receiving unemployment benefits.
So in that area the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit has fallen by about 50 per cent, in one month. The article continues -
Mr. Veale said employment levels in the building industry and other construction and maintenance works had continued at most favourable levels.
Additional seasonal demands for labour bad been difficult to meet in some cases.
There had been increased seasonal demands for labour in the fertilizer, farming, pastoral and crayfish processing industries.
The Commonwealth Employment Office at Geraldton in Western Australia would deal with an area north to Carnarvon and south to Moora. The total population of that area is about 35,000 persons but at present only thirteen are in receipt of unemployment benefit and there are many job vacancies in the area.
The Government will accept the challenge thrown out by the Opposition on unemployment. All we need to do is to compare Labour’s record in unemployment with this Government’s record. In Labour’s last year of office 5.6 per cent, of the work force was unemployed. In this Government’s twelve years of office unemployment has never reached that level. I venture to suggest that in the next twelve years under this Government unemployment will never reach the level that it reached under Labour.
.- Senator Scott said that the Government accepted the challenge thrown out by the Opposition on unemployment. What challenge have we thrown out to the Government on unemployment? Does Senator Scott ask the Senate to believe that there is no unemployment in Australia at all?
– I did not say that.
– I ask Senator Scott whether he believes that to be the situation. He stated that he accepted the challenge thrown out by the Labour Party on unemployment. Why is this measure under discussion at all? Why is it necessary to bring down a bill to authorize the making of non-repayable grants to the States to relieve unemployment? Why is it necessary to provide the States with an extra £5,000,000, making a total of £17,000,000 odd this financial year? Is there no unemployment in the Commonwealth? I deduce from Senator Scott’s statements that he was very poorly briefed to-night. He referred to the percentage of unemployment in the Commonwealth in 1949 - a year when there was a coal strike. But he cannot go back to 1948, 1947 or 1946 and say that the level of unemployment then was 5.6 per cent, of the work force.
– I said that in 1947 the level of unemployment was 3.5 per cent, of the work force.
– Those were years when a change was being made from war production to peacetime production. The honorable senator will recollect that civil production in Australia was almost nonexistent from 1940 until 1946. During the changeover period from war production to civil production there was an acute shortage of labour.
I want to deal with some of the matters relating to unemployment. I do not want to deal with these matters on a party political basis because the problems associated with unemployment are far too serious to be made a party political football. I could say that the Government has failed in many directions. I could point to many serious errors of judgment on the part of the Government. I could relate those failures and errors to the unemployment position as it exists to-day. But I will not do that. I am a member of the Australian Labour Party and I believe that every citizen has the basic right to have a job.
Let us see if there is unemployment in the Commonwealth. Let us see if it is necessary to pass this legislation that is now before us. I propose to give some positive evidence about unemployment and I will leave it to honorable senators to make their own deductions as to the extent of unemployment in Australia to-day. I will not refer to percentages of unemployed persons. I will not deal with percentages at all because I know that the information relating to the number of unemployed persons in the Commonwealth at any given time is not accurate. I know that the figures relating to unemployment are understated and I am aware of the circumstances that bring that situation about. For a number of years one of my duties was to furnish information > to a State government showing the number of unemployed persons in the Commonwealth. I know that the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service has. not the facilities for collecting accurate information on a Commonwealth-wide basis to show in a clear manner the number of unemployed persons at any date. I think that is admitted by everybody.
Recently, in the city of Rockhampton a newsagent advertised for a shop assistant. Anyone will understand the nature of the work that would be performed - rolling up newspapers and selling them and selling a few pieces of stationery. That single job was applied for by 106 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years. After the job had been filled some of the girls who had applied for it were interviewed by newspaper representatives and others. It was found that some of the girls had been trying to gain employment in shops and in other places during the last three years. That incident clearly indicates the extent of unemployment in Rockhampton. In Brisbane, quite recently, a small business advertised for a female clerk of about 15 years of age, and 64 girls offered their services for that one position. At the beginning of the year when the Department of Public Instruction in Queensland had filled all positions for trainee teachers it found that it was desirable to absorb another 400 trainees with certain specified qualifications. The department received 1,050 applications from qualified juniors for those positions as trainee teachers. That fact clearly indicates the extent of unemployment, particularly among young people in Queensland. A similar state of affairs exists in all industries.
Let us look at this situation. Where are people employed and how? Of all persons in employment, 30 per cent, are employed in governmental and semi-governmental instrumentalities whilst 70 per cent, are employed in private industry. Governmental and semi-governmental instrumentalities are not short of labour at any time. Those in the service of such instrumentalities are not threatened with unemployment at any time. It is in the private sector of the economy which has to provide employment for 70 per cent, of the work force that unemployment occurs. What is the cause? Do not let us get carried away by citing figures relating to ten, twenty or thirty years ago. It is essential to get down to the causes of unemployment. This Government sold its interests in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the north-west whaling station, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the aluminium undertaking at Bell Bay for the purpose of solidifying the economy of Australia. The Government claimed that such action would increase the employment potential in the private sector of the economy. Now, if the Government’s endeavours in that direction have failed it must be held culpable for having created, to some extent, the unemployment that exists.
Recently, I heard on a television programme that President Kennedy had announced that over 4,500,000 workers were unemployed in the United States of America and that another 1,500,000 people were only partly employed. That means that over 6,000,000 people are unemployed in the United States of America. Quite recently we read that 6,000 men marched on the House of Commons in London in order to exhibit to the members of parliament their condition of unemployment. I am pointing out these facts because we have to deal with the cause of unemployment. President Kennedy gave as the causes of unemployment in the United States of America, new technical knowledge which was being used, automation and taxation. I know that in certain industries new technical facilities are being used every day. We know that an increased proportion of the sugar cane in Queensland will be harvested this year by a mechanical process. I know that fewer cane cutters and fewer manual workers will be engaged in the industry.
We must not blind ourselves to the fact that automation is in Australia. I could take honorable senators to the front of this Parliament House and point to a certain building where a few machines will be operated some time this year or early next year by approximately 200 men who will perform work that was previously carried out by 1,500 men. That is the number of men who are doing the job at the present time. In this case, about 1,300 men will be transferred to other parts of the Public Service. Consequently, this change will not create unemployment. But similar machines are also installed in private industry with the result that fewer hands are employed. Quite recently, I was in a big factory in Brisbane and I saw one man operating five machines which were turning out 500 pairs of boots a day. I could quote other instances in this respect. The use of machines may be sound economically but it creates a social problem. I am blaming the Government for not doing its duty in regard to the problem which results from the introduction of new technical devices and automation. Scientists throughout the world are directing their energies towards making machines which will manufacture the goods of the world more cheaply and more quickly. Now the Government itself is introducing automation. It has paid large sums to install automatic machines. The trend may be seen in the Treasury offices. What is the Government doing about the problem that is being created? It cannot tell me that its paltry, miserable social service payments are the answer to unemployment. No one in this year 1963 would be so fool hardy as to say that that is the answer to. the unemployment problem.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I blame the Government for having fallen down on a basic responsibility. The Government knows that it cannot achieve full employment in Aus-‘ tralia. It knows also that full employment is impossible in any capitalistic country. The Government claims that it had full employment in Australia. There may have been full employment by accident because during the war, industries devoted their energies to the production of goods necessary to conduct the war and even after the war there was a back-lag of seven or eight years in civilian production to be overtaken. Furniture and furnishings had to be manufactured, more houses had to be constructed and one thousand and one articles used in the community had to be produced. Therefore there was a shortage of labour. That is admitted. But the problem now confronting us will become more serious in the future.
One of the unique features of the unemployment which existed in the Commonwealth at the beginning of this year was the number of juniors who could not be absorbed into industry. Girls and boys left school and went searching for employment with hope in their hearts, but they found it impossible to get jobs. What is the solution? Loan funds will not create jobs for them. Grants will not solve the problem. The making of grants is only an expedient, irrespective of whether the grants are nonrepayable or otherwise. The sooner the Government appoints a permanent committee to deal with the social problem caused by unemployment, the better. I could give the Government several ideas as to the composition of the committee. I appeal to Government supporters, as men of the world, not to> allow my remarks to pass unheeded but to take my proposition into the party room and discuss it fully. The committee may be given any name the Government chooses and, as I have said, if asked I shall suggest the personnel of the committee. Its function would be to watch industry to see where unemployment was likely to arise and then to ascertain what the Government proposed to do with the unemployed.
Yesterday, in all sincerity, I asked a question in the Senate relating to 400 waterside workers who will become unemployed at the end of next year following the installation of equipment for the bulk handling of sugar at Cairns. As honorable senators know, Cairns, which is on the north-eastern coast of Australia has no industry near it which can absorb readily 400 men. If the committee, which I have suggested, were set up it would be required to find work to offer to displaced persons instead of the Government being content merely to pay them the present miserable dole. In all sincerity I repeat my request that honorable senators discuss my proposition fully in the party room.
Unemployment is admitted on all sides to be a serious social problem which the Government must face with greater vigour and determination than it has shown in the past. The Government boastfully sold its interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, in the whaling station in the north-western part of Western Australia and did other things to solidify what it calls private enterprise. However, it has left unnoticed and unchecked the germ which could lead to the destruction of the social edifice it hopes to establish. Social and economic security is the aim of all persons and countries, and intelligent individuals whose economic security amounts to nothing more than having a job and receiving wages are denied employment. When the rights which are basic for all citizens are refused them, they seek ways which will destroy the forces frustrating them from living as normal citizens. They will support political ideologies which promise to win them relief quickly. They will develop hatreds of the things they would ordinarily support and love. If the Government has the faintest confidence in itself it must pronounce any unemployment, however small, as serious. Unemployment is serious from the individual and family aspect and from the general social aspect, and it can become a national disaster. I know the subject about which I have been speaking. I had to live with this problem for a number of years because for a number of years it was one of my duties to deal with unemployed persons.
What can be achieved by the money that is being allocated this year to the States for the relief of unemployment? Surely no Government supporter will boast that the Government has made £17,500,000 available this year to the States to relieve unemployment. Nothing could be more condemnatory of the Government’s failure to carry out its principal function which is to govern and to establish a sound economy so that every citizen in the community will have a job. The Government admits failure by the very fact that it has introduced this legislation.
How is the £17,500,000 to be spent? The construction of roads is not a means of relieving unemployment. If you look at the beef roads being constructed now in the Northern Territory you will find that plant operators are being employed - a mere handful of men. I admit that years ago road construction did provide employment but at that time the work was done by men using barrows and horse-drawn scoops. Those days are over. Now plant operators do the work. There are end loaders, bull-dozers, channelling machines and all kinds of devices to suit all purposes. Apparently some portion of this nonrepayable grant was not acceptable in some quarters because it was felt that it would cause confusion. Re-afforestation is one avenue in which the labour content is high and in which men can be employed. They do the digging with hand tools. Most of the other essential work from a national point of view is not done by manual labour.
I support this legislation. Millions of pounds have been allocated and will be spent; but what will happen after the money has been spent? You would have a certain number of improvements in Australia. Of course, they are necessary, but you will still have a percentage of unemployment. 1 point out to the Government that for certain reasons it will have more unemployment in the future. It cannot cope with it and must endure it. It is the duty of the Government now to appoint the committee which I mentioned a while ago, and to see that it functions properly.
– in reply - As the bill is not opposed by the Opposition I do not intend to make anything in the nature of a detailed reply. But I would be loath to leave the impression, because of the emphasis that has been given to unemployment during this debate, that the measure of unemployment in Australia indicates that the economy is in a bad state. I will refer to the image of the economy in rather more revealing terms in a minute, by alluding to certain aspects of it. Before doing that I want to say something about this important question of unemployment. When doing so I do not want to be howled at from across the chamber to the effect that I have no sense of the social importance of this problem either within Australia or in any other country.
Appreciating that unemployment is a social problem, I want to go on record as saying that it would be less than realistic for any one not to recognize that a burgeoning and expanding economy does create - indeed it is a characteristic of expansion - ebbs, flows and fluctuations in the demand for labour and, more particularly, for certain types of labour. Expansion itself creates a distortion not only in the demand for resources - which we see and expect - but also in the demand for labour. When saying this, Mr. President, I am not saying anything that is new or that has not been said before. I am not saying anything that has not been said in the past by Labour leaders. No one here will forget that Mr. Chifley, in examining the problem of postwar expansion, envisaged and referred to the possibility of a need to transfer whole communities in order to meet varying demands for labour in different parts of the Commonwealth as industry expanded.
I do not want to be howled at when I refer to the member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and his oft-quoted reference to a 5 per cent, unemployment rate being, in his view, virtually full employment. I believe he then was - and for all I know is now - a member of the Australian Labour Party to whom attention was paid by members of that party when he said he regarded a 5 per cent, rate of unemployment as being virtually full employment. I am sure that Mr. Haylen - sitting behind a government then and not in Opposition - made that statement after having given deep study to the problem. We have, in more recent times, the example of Mr. Monk, of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, saying 3 per cent, of unemployment was necessary, not to provide for expansion but merely because of the seasonal nature of some employment in Australia. When I cite these opinions of three Labour men I am surely justified in saying - while still not failing to regard this as a social problem - that a 2.2 per cent, rate of unemployment in an expanding Australian economy cannot be regarded as excessive, more particularly when it is compared with unemployment rates in other countries which have been given here to-night. To regard an unemployment rate of 2.2 per cent, as being catastrophic - that is the only conclusion one could draw from the comments made by Senator Cohen - is completely erroneous.
I had occasion recently to look at what had been occurring in this country over the last ten or twelve years. I did not do so for any political purpose but merely because I had to present a survey of what had happened. Some of the things which I discovered revealed, not a sick economy such as we might infer existed after what has been said in this chamber to-night by honorable senators opposite, but a vital economy, continually expanding and continually developing. I will now catalogue just a few of the facts which led me to that conclusion. Over the last twelve years the production of pig-iron and ingot steel has trebled. The output of cement is now two-and-a-half times that of ten years ago. The production of sulphuric acid has doubled and the output of superphosphate has almost doubled over the last ten years.
What is revealed when one looks at some of the new industries that have been established in the last ten years? I refer to the petro-chemical industries, synthetic rubber industries and the production of plastic materials, nylon yarn and tin plate. I mention these merely as examples of the types Of basic industries that have been established. One can refer also to coal and recall what the position in respect of this important commodity was when the Labour Government was in power. Coal production has increased by 64 per cent. since then, the production of lead by 29 per cent. and that of zinc by 77 per cent. The production of copper, another important commodity, has increased from 13,000 tons a year to 96,000 tons a year. One has only time to look briefly at the examples I am giving. Take next the export value for manufactured goods, which has risen over the last decade from £29,000,000 to £134,000,000. Was this achieved by an economy that was going backwards or sideways? Is it not obvious that only an economy which was continuing to go forward could produce this quite remarkable increase?
That increase was produced not because the Government was waiting forsomething to happen but in the face of the most intense competition and as a result of measures adopted by the Government such as provision for investment allowances, tax incentive systems, export insurance and shipping to new markets. I never think of the development of our exports’ without thinking of what has happened to our trade with Japan. Following the signing of the tradetreaty with Japan the value of our exports to that country has increased by not less than £100,000,000 a year. That treaty was opposed tooth and nail by members of the Opposition who now claim that they have an interest in the development of export markets.
Let us look at the rural aspect of our economy. The value of wool production has risen by 61 per cent, of sugar production by 96 per cent., of wheat production by 30 per cent., of beef and veal by 37 per cent, and of mutton and lamb by 83 per cent. I suggest that those figures indicate that confidence in the country is manifested in not only our manufacturing industries but also our great basic primary industries. Would it have been possible for a government which had been remiss in some way to have undertaken the new developmental works which we have seen in recent years? A sum of £16,000,000 has been provided for beef roads in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia to encourage the export of an important primary product. This is the first time that such expenditure has been undertaken by a Commonwealth government I remind honorable senators also of the development of the brigalow country in Queensland at a cost to the Commonwealth of £7,500,000. Is that the result of lack of activity on the part of the Government? Is that the record of a lethargic government which is not endeavouring to uncover, and indeed succeeding in uncovering, new ventures? I refer also to the development of the coal ports in which our distinguished leader has taken a close personal interest the Ord River project,the Chowilla Dam project which has been undertaken with Commonwealth assistance, and water conservation plans of a kind never envisaged by any government before the Menzies Government assumed office.
I remind the Senate that £55,000,000 has been provided for the railway line from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana and the Mount Isa rail project In addition,. £15,000,000 has been expended on the standardization of the rail gauge from Melbourne to Wodonga. Finally, I direct attention to what has been done by the Commonwealth to encourage oil production in Australia. When I think of the sorry story of the Labour Government’s efforts in this field, I have cause to wonder what might have happened had mat government remained in office. I have referred to what I have regarded as being physical evidence of the Government’s efforts. I intend to do no more than mention the immigration programme which has been pursued by this Government and the measures - they are of equal or not much less importance - that the Government has employed to ensure that the inflow of capital to this country has been maintained. All these measures which I have catalogued indicate an advance within the economy which is not to be criticized. They indicate in very strong and emphatic terms the progress which Australia has made within the last decade and which, if this Government remains in office, will continueto be made in the years ahead.
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 86.)
.- The Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1963, the Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1963 and the Wool Tax. Bill (No. 2) 1963 are cognate measures. I think that the Senate would be quite in order in debating them together. In the absence of any dissentient voice, I assume that that course will be acceptable to honorable senators.
It is of great importance that honorable senators should have an opportunity to give some thought to such legislation, the introduction of which is becoming an annual event. This is the third occasion on which the Senate has been asked to agree to legislation which provides for levying wool produced in Australia at the rate of 10s. a bale, with proportionate rates for smaller quantities. Later, I shall move the following amendment: -
After the word “ time “ insert: “ but the Senate is of opinion that moneys available for tho promotion of wool should, to an appropriate extent, be provided through the Commonwealth Parliament by the Australian economy which is so dependent on the wool industry and should not be the responsibility of the wool-growers alone”.
I think an even greater effort must be made to promote the use of wool to meet evergrowing competition from synthetic fibres. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) said -
The industry has found it necessary to determine the rate pf promotion levy annually because of the somewhat fluid position that has existed in the industry over the past three years, due first to the investigations of the Wool Marketing Committee of Enquiry and then to consideration of the committee’s report.
I think that the Minister has treated the matter rather lightly in saying that the somewhat fluid position of the industry is due to these causes. I have before me a report by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census1 and Statistics, dated 25th February, 1963 - a relatively recent publication. It deals with the exports of Australian wool for the seven-month periods ended in January, 1962, and January, 1963. The statistics show that the United Kingdom, our traditional market for many years, imported Australian greasy wool totalling 129,000,000 lb. in the seven months ended in January, 1962, but only 127,000,000 lb. in the seven months ended in January, 1963. There was a decline over that period in imports.
The Minister refers ‘to the somewhat fluid position that exists in the industry,- but it is a fluidity that this country can .ill afford. Our overseas markets are declining, as I will continue- to show, for some reason! which we must endeavour to find. The amount of greasy wool exported to India decreased from 4,900,000 lb. in 1962 to 4,100,000 lb. in 1963. A similar position applies to the Republic of Ireland. Exports to Austria declined from 3,700,000 lb. to 3,200,000 lb. Exports to Belgium and Luxembourg have been reduced from 67,000,000 lb. to 64,000,000 lb., and exports to mainland China from 16,500,000 lb. to 15,100,000 lb. There has been a reduction in our exports fo Czechoslovakia. Our exports to France have declined from 93,000,000 lb. to 89,000,000 lb. Exports to Germany and Hungary have increased. Exports to Japan have been reduced from 235,000,000 lb. to 216,000,000 lb. and to Italy from 79,000,000 lb. to 73,000,000 lb. Exports of greasy wool to the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, and Switzerland have declined. There bae also been a drop in the total revenue we have received -from £195,000,000 to £194,000,000.
This is a very important matter that, perhaps, has escaped the attention of many, people in Australia. The same thing applies to washed and scoured wool. We find that there has been a drop in our income from exports of this product from £14,100,000 to £13,700,000. Exports have been reduced to Canada, Colombia, Denmark and a number of other countries which I will not enumerate. These figures show up in broad relief the very important task that the Australian Wool Bureau - to be superseded by- the Australian Wool Board - and the International Wool Secretariat have in increasing the demand for products made from basic wool fibre.
I have before me a’ report issued by the Australian Wool Bureau in which a very optimistic note is sounded concerning the work of the International Wool Secretariat. Amongst other things, the report states that the board of the International Wool Secretariat ha9 approved of the largest budget ever -for world-wide wool promotion in 1-963 ; The report also states that woolgrowers in New Zealand and South Africa, who are in partnership with Australian wool-growers in promoting their products, have substantially increased their levies in order to meet the increasing costs of world wool promotion. It is mentioned that Australian growers have agreed to an increase in the amount’’ of’ the promotion levy to 10s. lt is my view and, I feel certain, the view of all’ members on this side of the Senate, that the advertising of wool throughout the world - a tremendously costly process - may be ineffective unless sufficient funds are available now and in the foreseeable future for the purpose. It is stated that the levies for last year will bring in £2,500,000 or more for the purposes of promotion, but a glance at the long list of countries which have reduced their imports of wool makes one realize fully the nature of the challenge we have to meet. The Minister has referred to the fluidity of the -wool industry. I believe that the industry must be solidified to a much greater extent than it has been until now. It is notorious that farmers and woolgrowers will not pull together, but they must realize, together with other members of this community of people living in the South-East Asian area-
– This is not the South-East Asian area.
– Of course it is the South-East Asian area, geographically. What else is it? We are a part of the land mass of Asia, with a few small channels separating us from Indonesia and New Guinea. We are a part of the geographical area of South-East Asia.
However, I have moved away from the point I wish to make. Can we afford the luxury of having the members of a section of the community -responsible for 37 per cent, of our export income differing in their views on the methods that should be applied to sustain and increase our export income? Having regard to the nature of the challenge with which the wool industry is faced, should not the Government itself take a more practical interest and give a more definite lead in the form of incentives, with a view to bringing unity to this important
F29J3/63.- S.- 15)
section of the community? It is for that reason that we are seeking to amend the measure before the Senate. It is almost certain that there will be insufficient funds available successfully to pursue a vigorous and effective promotion campaign.
Other primary industries have been the recipients of substantial subsidies from the Federal Government. If I mention the fact that a subsidy of £13,600,000 is paid annually to the dairy industry, that perhaps will suffice for purposes of comparison. The dairy industry, worthy as it is, is not making the same contribution, proportionately, to our export earnings as is the wool industry. Since wool occupies such a strong position in our overall economy, the Commonwealth Government must make up its mind about the form of assistance to be given to the industry to help it meet the challenge posed by the- synthetic fibres Perhaps a subsidy on the basis of £1 for £1, or a levy of 10s. a bale, until an. adequate programme had been launched and its scope assessed, would be suitable. I believe that this generation would never be forgiven by those that followed if it were so shortsighted that it did not augment, on a £1 for £1 basis, the amount contributed by the wool-growers themselves. The Senate should not pass this measure hurriedly: In other years, similar measures have been rubber stamped and pushed through. That seems to have been the process which has been followed each year. The Parliament has not applied itself thoroughly to this most important matter. Unless proper measures are taken, we shall continue to fall behind in the battle against the synthetic fibres.
In the ninth annual report of the Australian Wool Bureau the following statement appears: -
At the end of the three-year period, there is ample evidence that in the market selected for promotional activity, sales increased; trade confidence in wool grew, trade belief in wool promotion technique is assured; there is a new consumer awareness of wool and of wool’s new image
The qualifying words in the statement are “ in the market selected for promotional activity “. Every country must be a market which is selected for promotional activity. Since there is never,-ending competition from the synthetic fibres, we have to arm ourselves for an onslaught on the diminishing markets as quickly as we can. For that reason, the men available to the International Wool Secretariat and our own Wool Bureau should be capable not only of undertaking a vigorous promotional campaign but also of planning for the future.
It is interesting to note that so far, with the funds available, the promotion campaign has met with quite a measure of success in this country. Mr. C. R. Nichols, vice-chairman of the spinners section of Wool Textile Manufacturers of Australia, has stated -
There has been increasing evidence that the textile trade has greater confidence in wool’s future. This has been gained by the promotion work undertaken by .the Australian Wool Bureau. There is no doubt that wool has overcome intense competition by synthetics and has regained its position in the knitwear field.
It is very pleasing to read such comments. Similar statements have been made by spokesmen for the weaving section of the textile manufacturing industry, of the knitwear industry and of the men’s apparel industry. .It is good to know that the campaign is having such an effect in this country, but there is another very important aspect
We debated this subject last April. At that time, I referred to ‘the fact that the wool-growers did not seem able io get together and speak with one voice. I should hope that any discipline imposed by the wool-growers themselves would extend to efforts to unite for the purpose of promoting the sale of wool. Numerous references have been made since last year to the fact that some sections of the wool industry are not measuring up to the standards which are necessary if wool promotion is to be effective. If a product is well prepared and presented, with attractive labels, as is possible if all those associated with the industry concerned assist in promotion, the sale of the product can be undertaken with confidence. But from various sources we have heard of criticism by substantial users of our products overseas, and by our own domestic users.
There has been criticism of the standards of classing of our wool clip here in. Australia. When I last spoke on this subject I dealt, perhaps at great length, with the actual shearing process itself - the harvesting of the wool in the shed. I also spoke of the great importance of the studmasters in making available ever-improving strains of the various types of sheep that contribute to our wool clip. They have a great responsibility. But the synthetic fibre manufacturers can offer a product in which each fibre is similar to the next one. There is complete uniformity. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately because it may be one of the great advantages of wool, not only are no two sheep alike but no two fleeces are identical, and even in one fleece one may find that no two fibres are identical. That places wool, on the one hand, at a disadvantage compared to synthetic fibres, from the point of view of uniformity, but, on the other hand, it may give wool some of its great character and desirability.
I believe, therefore, that much more attention will have to be paid to all aspects of the presentation of our wool clip for sale in the various countries of the world. The haphazard, slipshod methods of classing and presentation will have to be examined with care, and reforms will have to be tackled with great vigour, because our wool promotion campaigns will result in more criticisms of faults where faults exist. These criticisms will be noticed by our people conducting the promotion campaigns, and early measures will have to be taken to remedy the defects.
The practical efforts of science in the growing and presentation of wool are developing. They will result in a more accurate determination of the actual fibres and their qualities. At the present time many of the clips that are presented for sale are classified into perhaps half a dozen lines, or a few more, from each property, and it is left to the buyers to determine the differing staples and vegetable contents of the lines that are offered and to estimate the values of the varying fibres. This practice is much too uncertain for such a highly important product. There has been a move - I hope that it will gain momentum - for the whole problem to be tackled from .the beginning. This will mean that the woolclassers who are to handle the great bulk of ir annual wool clip will be required to have more training in the details of what the market needs. In this field there is room for a good deal of very serious thought. The wool-grower himself, a conscientious, hard-working man, beset by all the problems of wool production, never has the need to study what the actual buyer of his wool, or the manufacturer who processes it, really wants. There does not seem to be any direct hot line, so to speak, on which the wool-grower can be in direct contact with the buyer or the manufacturer who eventually uses his product.
– What do you want us to do, plant a new crop of 64’s instead of 50’s?
– If the honorable senator wants to make a point of that, he can elaborate on it himself. What I want to say is that a classer may have a range of wool from 60’s to 70’s in one bale because it is the same length of staple. With the honorable senator’s experience of wool he will know that in many cases there is a range of that nature. I have seen statistics that show that only about 65 per cent, of the wool that is classed in this country is classed by experts. The remainder is classed by owners or unskilled people.
– Or not classed at all.
– Well, it eventually is classed when it goes to the re-sorters. I want to make a point about that a little later. At the moment I want to stress the point that uniformity in much more detail will need to be achieved if our woolgrowers are to be able to demand the highest prices. Then, when the buyers know that that uniformity is forthcoming, the allowances or tolerances that they make, which are always generously weighted on their side, will be narrowed, and therefore the grower will get greater value for his year’s work.
I referred to the matter of fibre fineness, and Senator Cormack said something about the difference between 50’s and 64’s. But these are old-fashioned qualities now. The grading of wool is much sophisticated, much more delicate. Since the new gradings were developed after the war, the buyers have been using them, but the wool-growers and other people associated with the wool industry have been using the old gradings of 60’s and under, 60’s to 74’s, and 70’s and over. These are too wide in their scope to give the manufacturers the exact requirements that they need. If there is a variation of those counts and a variation of staple length, there are losses because of the extra costs that the manufacturers have to face in re-sorting.
– You think the sorting should be done in the woolsheds at shearing time?
– Well, it is supposed to be done there, but you know very well that the sorters have three bins, and it is simply a matter of what colour the wool is, whether it is long, whether it is short or whether it is dirty. In the hustle and bustle of the shearing shed when the shearers are on piece work and going for their lives, and the contractor has the minimum number of shed hands to cope with the bustle of the shearers, as the wool builds up in the bins the presser often finds himself flat to the boards trying to clear the wool away. That is the harvest time for the woolgrower, but the conditions in which the men work are not good enough. I am sure it has become the custom for people working in the wool industry to accept these conditions. But wool promotion has not been the custom. This is a new approach. Synthetic fibre is new and the wool-growers must adjust themselves to meet its challenge. A most interesting approach is a system of classing which would give the objective measurement of wool. As I said earlier, competition between wool and synthetic fibre makes it imperative for us to be far more accurate than we have been in the way we present varying qualities of wool.
I believe that all people interested in this industry should apply themselves to the subject of promotion. The competition from synthetic fibre will not be lessened during the coming year. As the funds raised by this levy are used throughout the world in the promotion of wool the - manufacturers of synthetic fibre will make an equal effort to promote their product in the same markets. The chairman of the Australian Wool Bureau has said -
Although the world’s artificial fibre industry is a strong rival, the I.W.S. is convinced that if the growers and users of wool can intensify their collaboration and help put future plans into effect, wool will continue to enrich our lives for many years ahead.
I believe that that is true, but those who conduct the wool promotion campaign must have the money with which to pay the bills. Advertising is very expensive. If the Government were to go off half-cocked in this very important programme that is so necessary to the wool industry the enrichment of our lives would not be as effective as it should be and might not even be forthcoming. I formally move -
At the end of motion add the following words: - “ but the Senate is of opinion that moneys available for the promotion of wool should, to an appropriate extent, be provided through the Commonwealth Parliament by the Australian economy which is so dependent on the wool industry and should not be the responsibility of the woolgrowers alone”.
Thursday, 11 April 1963
– At this late hour I do not want to delay the Senate for very long, but I think that something should be said about this vital industry which is so essential to the well-being of our economy. I support the legislation. I am glad to know that the Opposition does not oppose the measure, but I am far from happy about the amendment that has been moved by Senator O’Byrne. He has had a good deal of experience in the Senate and should have a good knowledge of procedure; yet he chooses this way in which to introduce an amendment that he knows is unacceptable to the Government at this stage. He is once again attempting to claim that Labour is the champion of the primary producers.
In moving an amendment that he knows has no chance of being carried he is merely doing a little window dressing. If he thinks that he is fooling the wool-growers he is deluding himself. In addition, he is casting a grave aspersion on the intelligence of the wool-growers. Primary producers well remember the day when a Labour government made a deal with a New Zealand Labour government in which the wheat of the growers in this country was sold to New Zealand purely for political purposes. It was sold at a price far below the price that our wheat-growers were then receiving on the overseas markets. The wool-growers will be careful to ensure that something similar does not happen to them.
This amendment, if accepted, would be to the detriment of the wool industry.
– It would result in twice as much money being available for promotion.
– That is what you think. The wool industry at present is in a fluid condition. One organization is being wound up and a new organization is commencing its operations. For this reason the wool-growers have said to the Government, “For the time being, let us extend the levy for another twelve months and keep it at the same rate”. The wool-growers want to have a thorough look at the new organization. I believe that the leaders of the wool industry will, when the present changes have been effected, recommend to the growers that the rate of levy for wool promotion be increased or recommend that a completely different scheme for the collection of the levy be put to the Government. When these matters have been finally decided by the representatives of the wool-growers and the rate of levy has been determined the leaders of the wool industry may ask the Government to match the growers’ contribution. The wool industry will not have twice the sum that it now has, as the Opposition suggests, but it will have four or five times as much. That is why I say acceptance of the amendment would be to the detriment of the wool industry. I am opposed to the amendment because the leaders of the wool industry, to my knowledge, have not come to the Government at any stage in the past and asked for a matching contribution. They have always said to the Government, “ We want to run our industry as we think fit”. Yet the Labour Party senators say to the wool-growers: “We know better than you chaps. We are going to give you this and you can either like it or lump it.” That is why I oppose this amendment.
This legislation proposes to extend, for a period of another twelve months and at the same rate as previously, the levy for wool promotion. The proceeds of this levy are used for promotion in Australia and promotion and research overseas. I believe that the leaders of the industry have done a very good job in their promotional activities. If I had the time I could go into the ins and outs of the promotional activities. as Senator O’Byrne attempted to do. I do not think it is our place to do that; nor do 1 think the time is right to do so. 1 wish to comment on one to two points made by Senator O’Byrne, particularly the one with reference to the classing of wool in this country. I wrote down one sentence that he spoke. He referred to the haphazard and slip-shod methods of wool classing. Here is an honorable senator recommending that more money be spent on the promotion of wool; yet in five minutes he has done more to degrade the standing of wool in the eyes of the overseas buyers than all the money in the world could do.
– The buyers are criticizing it through the International Wool Secretariat.
– I know they are. They will criticize it in an attempt to knock the price down. Surely you have done a bit of bidding now and again. The greater proportion of the Australian wool clip is classed by experts. Portion of it is re-classed and bulk-classed by the brokers in the wool stores. Another portion is classed by the owners of the properties. They have a thorough knowledge of wool classing. Admittedly, a section of the clip is not classed or is badly classed. The honorable senator makes the reputation of the Australian clip dependent on that latter section.
– The reputation of wool is being pulled down by the clip not being presented properly.
Admittedly, there is room for improvement in classing. The Australian Wool Bureau and the growers’ organizations, together with the trade, have attempted to do something about it. They have made recommendations with the object of improving the clip.
I am very glad to see that once again the growers have decided to contribute to wool promotion. I hope that they will continue to do so. Perhaps they will increase the rate of the levy for this purpose. However, as I have said many times in this chamber, the promotion of the Australian clip on its own will not sell our wool at a price that will give a fair and a reason- able return to the growers. I believe that we must have a marketing system combined with promotional activities. I hope that we can look forward to receiving a report from the new Australian Wool Board at the end of its first year of activity, which will tell us that the marketing committee of that board has endeavoured to ensure that some improvement will be made in the marketing of the Australian clip. I support the bill.
– In supporting this amendment, I wish to make some pertinent comments on what is in the minds of the Government and members of the Australian Country Party in relation to wool promotion. The Opposition believes that there should be a wool promotion scheme. For a considerable time this Government has held the primary producers on a leash, promising them many things that will never eventuate. If we are to have a wool promotion scheme, it will have to ensure that the clip is sold at reasonable prices in relation to the growers’ cost of production. Over the last three years at least, the margin between the price and the cost of production has deteriorated considerably.
Despite what Senator Drake-Brockman has said, the growers are distinctly dissatisfied with the position in the wool industry. They are prepared to contribute towards promotion, but they are dissatisfied because the Government has not fulfilled its promises of a better marketing scheme and a better price. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), in trying to justify the Government’s economic measures, said in this chamber to-night that the value of wool produced has risen by 61 per cent. However, wool exports now provide only 35 per cent, of the national income; they used to provide more than 50 per cent, of it. The brokers and the big firms have not suffered any loss. Of course they have not! The loss is borne by the growers. That is undeniable.
The Government told the growers that if they made these contributions to wool promotion the funds would not be used to promote the sale of wool because we have sold all the wool that we could produce, although at varying prices. The Government said that by means of this promo,tion levy it would stabilize the market and ensure a continued world demand at a satisfactory price in relation to the cost of production. If the Government does not succeed in doing that, it will not have succeeded in doing anything for the Australian wool industry. If the Government cannot keep the cost of production down and promote the sale df wool at a price that will give the growers a fair return, the industry will become uneconomic. Only the middle men, who stand between the growers and the buyers of the wool, will make a profit.
I know it to be an absolute fact that wool-growers whose integrity is unchallengeable have been offered prices for wool at the shed by buyers going around the country, and those prices have been as much as 5d. and 6d. per lb. higher than the prices that the wool has realized on the floor where disorganized selling has met highly organized buying. Is that not the concern of this Government? Some growers has lost as much as £500 or £1,000 on the price realized on the auction floor compared with the price they could have got for their wool in the shed. That is a very serious discrepancy. The wool-grower has pointed out this discrepancy to his organization, but he is loyal and he has stood by the system recommended by his organization and has refrained from selling wool to buyers in the shed. The wool-grower knows that he will get a better price from the buyer at the shed because that individual hopes at some stage to become a real challenge to the auction system, but nevertheless the woolgrower has been fleeced.
Many growers have told me that although they do not object to the promotion levy, up to the present they have not seen any results in their net returns to justify the levy. Many growers are producing highquality wool and contributing a lot of money to the promotion campaign. They have done an admirable job for the industry and for the nation but they have found that over the years their incomes have been shrinking considerably. Many growers are now receiving only 50 per cent, of what they used to receive, despite the fact that their production has increased.
The wool-grower has over the last four years been promised that something would be done to stabilize wool prices and bring them more into line with costs of production, thereby maintaining his margin. The
Government has collected £3,000,000 from the levy of 10s. a bale, but it has neglected to do anything about stabilizing prices. Whenever this matter is referred to in the Senate we are told that it is under investigation and that something will be done about it. In the meantime the grower has contributed £3,000,000 a year to a fund that has done nothing to protect his equity. The promotion levy has been used to promote the sale of wool overseas. We can sell all our wool. There is no embarrassment in that respect, but we can sell it only at prices dictated entirely by the buyers. The grower is embarrassed because his return is less now than when his costs of production were less but he was operating under a better system of marketing. It cannot be claimed that the collection of the levy has led to an increase in the price obtained by the grower to offset the increase in the cost of production.
The Government has stated that our amendment cannot be accepted because it would embarrass the industry. Does not the Government think that the man who has made as much out of the wool as the producer has made - the buyer or middleman who often can buy on the auction floor at 6d. a lb. less than is offered by the merchant at the shed - should contribute something to the development of the gold mine that the wool industry represents to him? Should he not contribute to the cost of wool promotion in the world? In his second-reading speech the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) said -
I anticipate that in, subsequent years when the Conference and the Australian Wool Board will both be fully operative the Conference will be in a position to recommend a maximum rate of levy for wool promotion and research as well as the operative rates each year. The maximum rate would be incorporated in legislation and the operative rate would be fixed by regulation from time to time.
The Government has envisaged many things happening in the wool industry for the last five years. Nothing has happened except that we are selling our wool at a price which leaves the grower with a smaller margin that he formerly received. Nobody has been asked to help the industry except the grower himself, although millions of pounds in profit are made by those who handle the wool in its passage from the grower to the consumer. When the grower first agreed to the promotion levy he was getting a reasonable return from the sale of his wool, but his position has deteriorated in the last four years. The Government would be well advised to accept the Opposition’s amendment and make a contribution towards an industry that is of such economic importance to Australia. Tonight the Minister for Civil Aviation told us that wool production has increased by 61 per cent., but the value of wool in our total exports has declined from more than 50 per cent, to 35 per cent. The producer’s income has shrunk. We can get rid of all the wool that we produce. The demand1 for it is good. Merchants are offering a much better price in the sheds than can be obtained at auction. Auction prices have not increased in proportion to the rise in the cost of production.
The Government has done a good job in introducing myxomatosis to eradicate rabbits but many wool-growers are convinced that it is trying to make bunnies out of them by introducing this legislation. Wool promotion will not help us to sell more wool, because we are now selling all that we produce. Wool promotion should mean the introduction of a scheme to protect the grower and to provide him with a price on world markets sufficient to give him a better net return than he has been obtaining in recent years. It is not a matter of selling our wool; it is a matter of selling it at a price that will take into account the cost of production and give the grower a reasonable return. The Government has promised the wool-grower many things. The Government has religiously stuck to its promotion levy and the grower has contributed to that levy. He may have growled to himself but he has not complained through his organization. The Government has kept only one of the promises made to the woolgrowers, and that is the promise about the levy. The Government has done nothing to stabilize marketing, to improve marketing conditions or to obtain a better price for the grower. We have sold all the wool that has been produced but not at the price the grower should have obtained. The only people who are waxing fat on this industry are the intermediaries who are living off the backs of the wool-growers. The Opposition’s amendment deserves support. The Government should1 contribute something towards wool production from Consolidated Revenue.
– I must inform the Opposition that the proposed amendment is not acceptable to the Government, for reasons that have been stated very clearly before in this type of debate. In order to refresh the minds of honorable senators opposite, I will refer to two or three of those good and valid reasons. Since its inauguration in 1936, the promotion of wool has been financed and controlled by the wool-growing industry. The attitude of the federal wool-grower organizations has been that wool promotion is a matter that woolgrowers wish to manage themselves.
No approach has been made by the federal wool-growers organizations or the recently formed Australian Wool Industry Conference to the Commonwealth Government for a contribution for wool promotion. In view of the past attitude of the industry it would be premature for the Government to consider altering existing arrangements for the financing of wool promotion until it has been requested to do so by the industry through the Wool Industry Conference. A Government subsidy for wool promotion would, of course, involve a measure of Government control ever the spending of taxpayers’ funds. This aspect has undoubtedly influenced the thinking of the wool-growers organizations towards the question of a Government contribution for wool promotion. My friends of the Opposition, in their learned contribution to-night, have said, at least by implication, that they are better qualified than the wool-growers themselves to say how the wool-growing industry should be run. While the industry insists that it shall maintain its independence, I can assure honorable senators opposite that this Government will not interfere with its proposals.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator O’Byrne’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed (vide page 87).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed (vide page 87).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 30th April, at 3 p.m. unless sooner called together by the President by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
. -I wish to direct the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to a broadcast which was made in the session “ Any Questions “ over the Australian Broadcasting Commission national network on 25th March last, just prior to the conclusion of Her Majesty’s recent visit to this country. The programme originated from the Journalists’ Club in Sydney. As I listened I was appalled by what I heard. The speakers made insulting references to Her Majesty and to the high office she was discharging at that time in Australia. The whole thing to me was in appallingly bad taste, so I telephoned the Victorian general manager of the A.B.C. and arranged for the script to be delivered to me in Sydney, to which city I was travelling on the next day.
A mere glance at the copy of the script confirmed the impression which had been given by the broadcast. The whole thing was crude and what might perhaps be called the work of smart alecs. It showed an amazing ignorance of the constitutional procedures by which this country and Great Britain are still governed. I have here a transcript of the broadcast. I do not propose to read the whole of it but I should like to refer to some excerpts in which one of the speakers identifies himself and adopts the argument of a rather offensive satirist who lived at the end of the last century and in the early part of this century. Before I read the excerpt it is only fair to say that the panel was discussing a question relating to the alleged lack of enthusiasm over the recent Royal tour. Listen to this pearl! One of the speakers says -
I think Max Beerbohm anticipated this problem in 1895 or 1896, when he said out of a humanitarian consideration for the wretched puppets at
Buckingham Palace, that we should arrange some system of co-operation with Madame Tussaud to have wax figures animated by clock-work to move through the streets and take the salutes and inspect the guards of honour and I feel that with modern technology that should have been possible. In fact I am not even sure whether it wasn’t done on the last Royal tour. la addition to the offensive matter contained in the session, a particularly jarring note was struck upon many listeners by the ribald way in which one of the performers - I use the word in a circus sense - called for three cheers for the Queen in a mocking imitation of what took place in King’s Hall on the occasion of the welcome here to Her Majesty. Then one of the correspondents went on in a very mocking fashion and said, “ I will love her till I die “, in a most offensive imitation of the reference by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to Purtell’s classic when he was describing the affection in which all people in this country hold the Queen.
I produce the script and, to save wearying the Senate, I shall have it incorporated in “ Hansard “ with the concurrence of honorable senators in case it may be thought that some of my references are an exaggeration.
– Are the performers named?
– Name them.
– The chairman was Mr. Frank Legg and the panel members were Mr. Cyril Pearl, Miss Betty Riddell, Mr. Francis James and Mr. Mungo Maccallum. The script is as follows: -
TRANSCRIPT OF QUESTION No. 4- of “ ANY QUESTIONS” No. 11- Broadcast 25.3.63.
Chairman - FRANK LEGG. Panel Members - MR. CYRIL PEARL, MISS BETTY RIDDELL, MR. FRANCIS JAMES, MR. MUNGO MACCALLUM.
QUESTION 4: The Royal Visit seems to have created less enthusiasm and less interest in AUSTRALIA than the previous visit in 1954. How would the panel explain this?
EUNICE LLOYD: My name is Eunice Lloyd. I’d like to ask - The Royal Visit seems to have created less enthusiasm and less interest in Australia than the previous visit in 1954. How would the panel explain this?
FRANK LEGG: Thank you Miss Lloyd. BETTY RIDDELL- HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS?
BETTY RIDDELL: Oh dear…… Well I suppose television took a lot of the determination of people to go and look at the Queen. Perhaps we’ve grown up a bit since 1954……
CYRIL PEARL: So has the Queen……
BETTY RIDDELL: The Queen’s grown up a bit too……
FRANCIS JAMES: So have my children……
BETTY RIDDELL: Well…… I don’t think we’re quite so fascinated with visits from Royalty. After all, we’ve had a few, and there’s a limit to the enthusiasm one can work up. It was more comfortable to stay at home and look at Her Majesty on television than it was to stand out in the street and look at her. I think that there is a public - there is a Royal Visit public that’s quite solid and it’ll be there for another twenty years until it’s dead.
FRANK LEGG: Or until its got television____
BETTY RIDDELL: That’s just about it.
Madam Tussaud to have wax figures animated by clock-work, to move through the streets and take the salutes and inspect the Guards of Honour. And I feel that with modern technology that should have been possible. In fact I’m not even sure whether it wasn’t done on the last Royal Tour……
I may make a small footnote to this scholarly debate, is that when Princess Alexandra came out here, the word “ radiant “ was used rather frequently, and I understand all the newspapers in Sydney this year, banned the word radiant. Well, without the word * radiant “ you can’t have a Royal Tour…… (laughter).
PANEL MEMBERS: Hear, Hear. Hear, Hear.
FRANK LEGG: Well, on the whole television gets the blame. I can’t help feeling there’s a contributing factor in this - in that this Royal Tour coincided more-or-less with the tour of a certain cricket eleven and possibly our loyalties were a little in question.
FRANK LEGG: That’s not cricket…… thank you Cyril…… another question please - who’ll ask this?
– This was in a programme called “ Any Questions “ in which members of the public are invited to submit questions. The very format of the programme makes it difficult for the A.B.C. to prevent an odd word or even an odd performer
– Why do they have four odd performers?
– That is a good question and one to which the PostmasterGeneral might direct his attention.
The Queen was visiting Australia at the invitation of the Australian Government to take part in our jubilee celebrations. She was in Western Australia when this broadcast took place. I do not think any one challenges the valid right of free speech, but liberty is not licence. I do not believe it to be a proper function of the A.B.C. to pay money to people to insult Her Majesty by propagating views of this nature. These views may have found some acceptance among the sycophants who surrounded Cromwell, but I believe they are repugnant to the vast majority of Australians in the middle of this twentieth century. I have had numerous complaints about the broadcast and I was glad that a number of letters appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “ protesting against it.
Free speech requires as an essential corollary that it be exercised with a sense of responsibility. Responsibility was signally lacking in the broadcast to which I have referred. I know that from the A.B.C.’s point of view the problem is a little difficult because many programmes such as “ Any Questions “ go out live, without any opportunity being afforded of editing a tape or ensuring that the proprieties are observed.
– Could the chairman ot the panel not use his discretion about allowing questions which were indecent or obscene?
– I think the question was fair enough. Unnecessary censorship is abhorrent, but I suggest to the Minister that greater care should be exercised by the A.B.C. in giving access to its microphones to these intellectual giants.
Another aspect of this matter disturbs me. I asked the Victorian general manager for the script about the middle of the week - I think on a Tuesday. I went to Sydney on the Wednesday and the script was delivered to me there. I told no one that I had asked for it When I returned home that week-end after attending a meeting ot the Senate television committee in Sydney I was telephoned by a representative of the “ Daily Mirror “ who said that he understood that I had called for the script of this broadcast and he wanted to know all about it. I said: “ There is no story. I just have the script and I want to consider it.” I do not know how much the “Daily Mirror” knew. The leak did not come from me.
I am further informed, although I did not actually hear the broadcast, that some obscure radio gabbler associated with the “ Daily Mirror “ criticized me for calling for this script. I had said nothing publicly in criticism of any one, and that is the point to which I wish to direct attention. Apparently a member of Parliament shows infernal cheek if he calls for the script of a broadcast with a view possibly to criticizing journalists who make these rather startling statements. It is important in a democracy, where great freedom is given to members of the press and to people who appear on radio and television, that this freedom be exercised with a proper sense of respect and not in licentious fashion. People who criticize must expect to be exposed to criticism. That is the common daily lot of every politician in Australia, and we accept it. I think it is only right and proper that these people, who claim the right to criticize, and who do criticize every one, should themselves accept criticism if it may reasonably be stated that they have overstepped the mark. I will not detain the Senate longer, but I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether he will have inquiries made and, if he believes my complaint to be warranted, have appropriate action taken to ensure that there is no further breach of propriety or decency along the lines I have stated.
– Mr. President, I support Senator Hannan in the plea he has made in the Senate this evening. It should be remembered that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a powerful organization in this community. Paragraph 3 of the annual report for 1961-62 states -
Television, far from retarding the development of radio, has given it a wider lease of life. Audience research figures show that our radio programmes are listened to by a bigger percentage of total audience than ever before and there is therefore greater responsibility on the A.b.C. to provide quality programmes required by those who still listen to radio rather than television for entertainment and interests. There is the additional continuing importance of radio for country areas beyond the range of television and for most areas during the daylight hours.
I ask: Has the Australian Broadcasting Commission run away from its responsibility to provide quality programmes required by those who still listen to radio rather than television for entertainment and interest? When one listens to the details supplied by Senator Hannan, and reads the script in “ Hansard “, one can only come to the conclusion that on this occasion the Australian Broadcasting Com mission did run away from its responsibility. What entertainment or interest value is there in the empty piffle and waffle that one finds in such programmes?
I was pleased and proud that members of the critical audience in Adelaide got in touch with me - the next morning - about this programme and that next day there appeared in the Adelaide “Advertiser” a splendid letter setting out the listeners’ views. Letters regarding this programme have continued to appear in the press. As a member of the Royal Commonwealth Society in South Australia I recently attended that organization’s annual meeting, and it was in uproar, so one can see that there are still people who dissociate themselves from the ideas put forward on the Australian Broadcasting Commission panel on this occasion. The panel consists of people selected by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I do not complain at the question asked by some young lady on that session, but I associate myself with Senator Hannan’s criticism of the way the question was handled by this panel of pseudo-intellectuals. Parliament itself is quite strict in these matters. I refer to Standing Order 417 of the Senate which says -
No senator shall use the name of His Majesty- which, of course, means Her Majesty now - or of His representative in this Commonwealth disrespectfully in debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the Senate in its deliberations.
That is the attitude taken by the Parliament to disrespectful references to Her Majesty. Why is there not the same or even a higher standard in Australian Broadcasting Commission circles? I agree with Senator Hannan that the remarks he referred to were in distinctly bad taste. They were sneering, cynical and, I consider, of stale humour. I ask the Minister to arrange with his colleague in another place to investigate the circumstances of this programme. I ask that the programme be not replayed over any regional station, as I understand such programmes are sometimes treated. In particular, I ask that the programme be not used on short-wave over Radio Australia, because if that were done it would give a distorted image of Australian life and Australian respect for Her
Majesty. It would be a very bad thing if that impression were given over the short-wave radio to people in Asia and elsewhere.
– Mr. President, I wish to bring before the Senate a matter connected with aged persons homes. Western Australian members of the Senate will be aware that in that State there is an organization known as Swan Cottage Homes Incorporated. From time to time this organization has moneys allotted to it under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The appropriation for the ensuing year under that act is £3,000,000. Entry to these homes is gained by making a donation of £800 to Swan Homes for a single unit home and this is matched by £1,600, on a £2 for £1 basis, by the Commonwealth Government. I have here a copy of the agreement entered into by persons entering these homes and will read some of the conditions it contains, as they are appropriate to my further remarks. Condition 1 states -
The Board shall during the lifetime of the said Donor or so long as he/she may desire provide him/her with a flat at the said Homes the said accommodation to be for the sole occupation of the donor.
The words “ so long as he/she may desire “ are important.
– In what document does that appear?
– lt is in an agreement made between Swan Homes and one such donor. Condition 2 is as follows: -
The Donor shall keep the flat allocated to him/her in reasonable condition and shall be responsible for all repairs, damage and breakages other than normal wear and tear. The Donor shall pay all outgoings in respect of Gas and Electricity applicable to the flat occupied by him/her.
Condition 3 states -
The Donor shall abide by the Rules and Regulations made from time to time by the Board as to the occupancy of the said flat.
At no time have any written or printed regulations in respect of the conduct of residents of these homes been issued to any resident. That is important in regard to what I have to say later. The fourth condition is -
In the event of the Donor having abided by the aforesaid Rules and Regulations and of his/her own free will having ceased permanently to reside at the said Homes, the Board shall refund to the Donor the sum’ of Eight Hundred Pounds less an amount equal to the sum of Three Pounds per week for each week which the Donor has been in residence in a flat of the said Association.
To assist, I suppose, to provide some amenities the directors of Swan Homes organized what was described as a monster fete for 23rd March last. On the afternoon of that day Mrs. Cayley found pinned on her door a hand-written note which stated -
Dear Mrs. Caley,
Swan Cottage Homes.
Due to non-co-operation & annoyance to other tennants you are given 7 days’ notice to quit your flat.
It was signed by the secretary of the association, and then appeared the following words: -
By order of the board.
– Who is the secretary of the association?
– A Mr. Walter. Actually, I think he is a colonel. For the information of the Senate, I mention that Mr. Richard Cleaver, M.P., is the president and that all the correspondence I have is over the signature of Mr. Cleaver.
– Now we have got to the nigger in the woodpile.
– The nigger in the woodpile happens to be a lady who is being evicted from her home after having paid £800 for the right to enter and live in it as long as she wanted to. At that stage of the operation nobody knew that a board meeting had been held. The note was issued, so it stated, by order of the board. Subsequent documents that I have received reveal that an emergent meeting of the board was held at 9 a.m. and the notice was put on the door in the afternoon.
The first specific complaint levelled against Mrs. Cayley was that she had a Pekingese dog. She had the dog before she went into the home. She approached Mr. Cleaver to ask whether she would be able to take the dog there, and he approved. The second complaint was that she had turned her television set up too loudly. Mrs. Cayley states that her television set was never any louder than any other set in the home. The first paragraph of Information Circular No. 8 issued by Swan Cottage Homes reads -
All residents are reminded that accommodation has been given at Swan Cottage Homes on the understanding that this is not an institution and that people live independently in their flats.
I suppose that if one were living independently in a flat and it was not an institution, one would be entitled to turn up a television set if one wanted to. However, as I have said, Mrs. Cayley states that her television set was never any louder than that of anybody else.
The third complaint was that she allowed her door to slam. She does not deny that. If anybody examines the premises he will find that they back on to what is known as the Collier pine plantation, that a southerly wind constantly blows across there and if the back door is left open it will slam. One can go around the homes and quite frequently hear other doors slam, not only Mrs. Cayley’s. The fourth complaint against her was that she walked across the lawns. They were the reasons advanced as to why this woman was to be evicted. It is all very well for some honorable senators to laugh, but this is a rather serious matter for an elderly person who has tried to obtain a home for herself until the day she dies and who suddenly is given seven days’ notice to be on her way to find somewhere else to live. Prior to receiving this hand-written note she had not received any complaint about her alleged activities as an occupant of her flat.
Subsequently, Mrs. Cayley was handed a letter which was dated 23rd March, the day on which the hand-written note was pinned to her door. She was handed this letter on 30th March, which was the date of expiry of the seven days’ notice to quit the premises. This letter, which is open for anybody to examine, was signed by Walter. It revealed that an emergent meeting had been held at 9 a.m. on the day of the fete and at that meeting the board had determined that she should be asked to quit the premises. It states -
The position is stated in the note - that you have not co-operated with the board of management in keeping the peace with tenants near you.
That is a rather broad statement. The only specific complaints are those which I have already read to the Senate.
Mrs. Cayley was rather upset when she came home and found this hand-written note pinned to her door, and she had a bit of an emotional outburst with the secretary of the association. In a letter that she wrote to the secretary on 1st April she apologized for her emotional outburst and went on to say -
However, I would like to refute any suggestion that I do not co-operate with the Board of Management, as I can assure you I have endeavoured at all times to adhere to the Rules and Regulations. I believe that there have been complaints submitted to the Board that I slam my front door; my television is too loud; my small dog annoys the neighbours, and various other minor issues.
If necessary, Sir, I can produce witnesses from the Flats in close proximity to mine who will substantiate the fact that any noise emitting from my Flat is no more than those which are heard throughout the Homes generally.
In the circumstances, it would be appreciated if your Board would review their decision as I have formed many friends in the Homes since my arrival and if it is directed that I leave then I have no other place where I could be accommodated.
Once again you have my assurance that I will co-operate with the Board of Management, at all times.
Without having seen that letter, on the Monday afternoon Mr. Cleaver visited Mrs. Cayley and handed her a letter which bears his signature and which reads -
You have received from our Secretary a letter requiring your withdrawal from your flat. To date no reply has been received. As the Board of Management meets this evening I trust that I may have your assurance that you have taken steps to find alternative accommodation and the date by which you will vacate the unit.
In accordance with paragraph 4 of the Agreement we propose that the refund to you should be £593 representing your original donation of £800 less a rent charge of £3 per week for 69 weeks.
This unfortunate move on our part is based upon your non-adherence to our Rules & Regulations-
The lady had never seen them - mentioned in paragraph 3 of the Agreement supported by quite a number of letters of complaint received by us from neighbouring tenants.
As I said, the letter was signed by Richard Cleaver.
– You would not be airing this matter were it not that you are taking advantage of the opportunity to make a personal attack on Cleaver.
– That is not so. I am asking for justice for an Australian citizen. I saw the Minister for Social Services in order to find out whether something could be done in this matter. After all, the Department of Social Services is responsible for allocating the £3,000,000 that this Parliament appropriated for this year’s expenditure under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The Minister told me there was nothing he could do, despite the fact that control of the expenditure of this money comes under the jurisdiction of the Director of Social Services. I dislike the inference that Senator Spooner would like to draw from my action to-night.
– It is not an inference. It is a direct accusation that you are just making a political football out of someone else’s misfortune.
– That is what I would expect from you, because you have been in the eviction game for the past 40 years. Apparently there was a board meeting on the night of 1st April and a letter was delivered to Mrs. Cayley on 2nd April, which reads -
Your letter of 1st April is acknowledged.
The Board of Management at its meeting last evening received your letter and noted my report that you had said you did feel that you would be happier elsewhere-
She does not suggest that at all in her correspondence. The letter continues -
Providing you will give to us an assurance in writing which I would ask our Secretary to call and obtain from you in a few days, that you will keep the peace with your neighbouring tenants and in no way provoke them with unnecessary noise or comment, we are prepared to extend our notice previously given, until the 15th or 16th of this month.
That is the reason why this matter is before the Senate to-night. It is because of the mismanagement of this Government, which is so unable to arrange its business that we are locked out of this Parliament until 30th April. This woman is being evicted on 15tt or 16th April. They are prepared to delay until 15th or 16th April, on the condition that the lady admits the allegations made against her, which she is not prepared to do. The notice to get out of the flat has not been executed. She is still there. Apparently, without an admission of the facts, they are allowing her to stay there until 15th or 16th April.
There is one other question. Perhaps the Minister may have some justification for what he said, in view of the remarks I am about to make now. It is a fact that the Commonwealth Government subsidizes the building of homes for aged persons on the basis of £2 for £1. In the circumstances of Mrs. Cayley being provided with a flat and paying to Swan Cottage Homes Incorporated £800, that organization was able to obtain £1,600 from the Commonwealth Government. Following the eviction of Mrs. Cayley, the flat will become vacant and open to be entered by another tenant, for another donation of £800. Again the Commonwealth Government will subsidize that £800 on the basis of £2 for £1.
– The Government matches at the rate of £2 for £1 the money that the association is able to put up.
– Only for the original construction.
– The new tenant will not get into the flat without another donation of £800.
– That is another matter. That is the revolving fund on which the home is carried on. This is not a matter for the Senate. It is a matter between a private landlord and a tenant. The whole basis of the scheme is that the home becomes the absolute property of the charity.
– The tenants not only pay £800 to enter the flats, but they wholly maintain them. This woman has been charged £3 a week rent for the 69 weeks she was there.
– She would be refunded £593 of the £800?
– Yes. For 69 weeks she was apparently a satisfactory tenant, but suddenly, without any complaint having been made to her before, she is threatened with eviction. If the Commonwealth Government is going to use public funds to provide homes for aged people on the basis of a subsidy of £2 for £1, surely it should have some control over the public money that is being spent in that way. It should not allow people to go into these places and then be evicted at the will of any one who likes to manufacture any type of excuse.
– Evicted at the will of the management?
– Evicted at the will of a board of management
– Which has a duty to maintain peace and quiet for the rest of the occupants.
– I do not know whether it has or not. She is told that she lives independently. The place is not to be treated as an institution, according to the circular she received. She is told she is to treat it as her own home, yet, at the whim of some people, in view of the four complaints I have read out - none of which is substantial anyhow - she is told to look somewhere else for a home. I think that it is a disgrace. It is time that this Government did something about it. It is time this Government had a look at the organizations receiving the £2 for £1 subsidy to build homes for aged persons.
– I want to make only one or two comments with regard to this submission. When it was opened up by Senator Cant it seemed to me to have an element of public interest. I quite agree that the question of the absolute ownership of a home by a charity benefiting from public moneys is a legitimate question for public debate in proper circumstances. However, to raise this matter here without even a suggestion that Senator Cant has submitted it to the domestic management of this charity home, is an impertinence to the Senate. This is a private matter between the management of this home and one of the occupants. If Senator Cant insults our intelligence by expecting us even to consider the matter ex parte and form any opinion, adverse either to the lady or to the management, then the Senate is not likely to give him the patient audience on future occasions that it has given him to-night.
– Mr. President, the Senate is indebted to Senator Hannan and Senator Laught for highlighting the broadcast to which they refer. In this Parliament we will argue until Doomsday on the merits and demerits of censorship, but we speak with one voice on matters appertaining to Her Majesty the Queen. I need say nothing more than that the provisions of the legislation governing the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s requirements provide that a record be kept of any matter which is of public concern or of a controversial nature. I think that the record is kept for a period of six weeks. I am happy to give the honorable senators an assurance that I shall bring their representations before the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) and ask him to examine them very closely.
[1.20 a.m.]. - in reply - As I understood Senator Cant, he asked that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) might conduct an inquiry into the circumstances of the matter that he raised. I speak from memory. I think that the principle and the purpose of the Aged Persons Homes Act is to encourage voluntary effort by private organizations and charitable bodies in building and conducting homes for aged people. The Commonwealth subsidizes reputable bodies on the basis of £2 for each £1 which they provide.
– For the construction of the homes.
– Yes. The whole concept of the legislation is that money shall be made available to people who are prepared to show a sense of public service and citizenship in organizing the raising of the capital that is needed and in conducting the homes on high standards. The purpose behind the legislation is to encourage voluntary effort. Most of the homes are run by churches or charitable organizations. It is not the purpose of the legislation that the Commonwealth should interfere in the management of the organizations, or take any part in it. That is left in the hands of reputable groups of people concerning whom proper inquiries are made before the Commonwealth agrees to the granting of the subsidy.
I listened to the allegations which Senator Cant made. “ Allegations “ is a proper description of his statements. He put only one side of the case. He made no mention of the opposite side of the case. 1 should think, Mr. President, that in a matter such as this, an honorable senator has an obligation to put both sides of the question, if only out of respect for the Senate.
– But how could he?
– If he cannot put the matter impartially before the Senate, then he has no right whatever to put it at all.
– I have my rights in this place and 1 shall exercise them when I want to.
And I have my right ro criticize what I regard as biased and, J suspect, an inaccurate version of the transaction. 1 am just as entitled to make my criticism of what you say as you are to stand up and make statements which, I suspect, do not do justice to the circumstances.
I hope I am not speaking in an unkindly way when I say that I suspect that the matter concerns some one with a rather difficult personality, some one who is not easy to get on with. I do not think that is an infrequent occurrence in places of this kind. That is why, I think, we have to be very careful before we embark on criticism of persons who are willing to undertake the responsibility of looking after such places. It is a thankless task. It is public service on the part of those who are prepared to go on the directorates, to be voluntary workers - they are all voluntary positions - and to assist in running places of this kind. When they run into difficulties, as they must in the nature of things, having regard to the circumstances, I say with great respect that I do not think it is fair for any honorable senator to come forward and present a case from only one point of view. That is my objection to this matter.
– But he has not got the other side.
– If he has no information concerning the other side of the picture, is it not grossly unfair of him to come forward and criticize some one who is working in this field in an entirely voluntary capacity? Is the honorable senator prepared to proceed on the assumption that the motives of some one who is working in a voluntary capacity must be suspect? That is why I interjected when he was speaking. If the matter had not involved a Liberal member of Parliament working in a voluntary capacity in this home, Senator Cant would not have raised it in the Senate.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The statistics available do not enable the amounts of tax to be calculated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1.28 a.m. (Thursday), rill Tuesday, 30th April, at 3 p.m., unless sooner called together by Mr. President by telegram or letter.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 April 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630410_senate_24_s23/>.