24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to preface a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by recalling that yesterday, in answer to a question concerning a report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Minister paid a high and justified tribute to the chairman of the corporation, Mr. Warren McDonald. Personally, I agree with the Minister’s remarks concerning Mr. McDonald. I now ask: Does the Minister recall that Mr. McDonald made an equally objective and balanced report to him when he left Trans-Australia Airlines? Does the Minister recall that he promised to table that report in the Senate and that that promise has not been fulfilled? Did the report point out, amongst other things, the disadvantages under which T.A.A. operated because it did not have the right to conduct intra-state operations in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria, and did it contain a request that T.A.A. be granted that right? In view of the high praise which the Minister now showers upon Mr. McDonald, will he have another look at the report and act upon its recommendations?
– Mr. President, I invite Senator Kennelly to look at the reply that I gave to the question that was asked yesterday. As most honorable senators recall, 1 acknowledged the correctness of the views which Mr. McDonald had consistently expressed in connexion with investments in Australia. Also, I invite the honorable senator, while he is examining that reply, to have a closer look than did Senator Whiteside at what Mr. McDonald actually said.
– I am more concerned about the question as it relates to TransAustralia Airlines.
– I am coming to that. It is perfectly true that Mr. McDonald has expressed certain views in respect of intra-state operations for Trans-Australia Airlines, and that the Australian National Airlines Commission has expressed certain views on that matter. The Government, also, as a matter of policy, has views on this subject. As I have said in the Senate on a number of occasions, and will take pleasure in saying every time I am asked about it, the reason why T.A.A. is not permitted, under its act, to operate intra-state services is the common-sense, sound reason that in all the States concerned, with the exception of South Australia, intrastate operations are necessarily subsidized in order to give people who live in isolated areas the benefits of air services. If it is necessary to subsidize these services in order to provide facilities for these people, is it not the end point of stupidity to suggest that another airline be admitted to operate within the same State, thus obliging the Australian taxpayer to subsidize two airlines rather than one airline? As long as this situation exists, the views of the Government will not be altered. The present arrangement is a common-sense arrangement and this Government does not propose, merely to suit the political philosophy of Senator Kennelly or the political philosophy of the Australian Labour Party in relation to the operation of T.A.A., to give the Australian taxpayer a bill for something which is not necessary to achieve the purpose for which intra-state air operation is conducted.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development will begin in Geneva on 23rd March next year and continue until 15th June? As Australia is one of the countries represented on the preparatory committee for this conference, will the Government give consideration to the inclusion of a suitably qualified woman in Australia’s delegation to the conference?
-I am fairly well informed upon the activities of this United Nations agency. A great deal of work has been done by officers of the respective departments in the preparation of the material that will come before it. I was not quite certain of the dates, but I accept Senator Wedgwood’s statement concerning them. I have not yet heard of any discussion about the composition of the Australian delegation to the meeting. I know that we have had officers overseas working on the matters involved on a number of occasions. I should not like to say offhand whether it would be appropriate to include a woman on the delegation, but I shall mention the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Trade, and obtain his views upon the suggestion.
– Some days ago I asked the Minister for National Development a question about the effect of residual oil on the use of coal in the gas industry in Australia. Does the Minister consider that this competition, which I might term unfair, between residual oil and coal is likely to continue? In view of the fact that the Commonwealth has spent a lot of money in trying to foster the use of coal, are the oil companies prepared to help the Commonwealth by disposing of residual oil in some other way?
I said to Senator Arnold when he asked a similar question earlier . this week, this is a very big matter. In general terms, there is enough refining capacity in Australia to produce all the motor spirit that we need. The refining companies have been able to establish quite large export markets for both refined products and fuel oils. If, therefore, more oil refining were done in Australia and the export markets were retained, a great deal of the fuel oil which is now on the Australian market would be absorbed. That is the policy that we should like to see the oil refining companies follow. As I have said previously, the competition is not so much between fuel oil and coal as between the various refining companies to quit the fuel oil which is surplus to their requirements. If the pattern of their trade were altered, production would be reduced and the degree of competition would be reduced correspondingly.
– .Can the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs inform the Senate of. the current position in Indonesia, particularly so far as it affects Australia and Australian nationals resident there? .
– The last report from the Australian ambassador indicated that there were no threatening moves against Australian property or nationals and that he did not expect that any such moves would develop. That message was received before last night’s attack on the British embassy which took place at approximately 5.30 p.m.; but reports from the area since the attack occurred have stated that there has been no deterioration in the position, nor have there been any further incidents. Martial law was declared in Djakarta at 0830 Djakarta time yesterday and troops are patrolling the streets. All the indications are that Australian property and .Australian nationals at this time are as safe as is possible in the circumstances.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia placed before the Government a plan for marketing eggs? As there is opposition by producers to this plan, will the Government investigate the merits of an alternative plan which would combat more effectively the existing trade anomaly which is the primary object of the authority’s plan and. also combat the two more serious anomalies of over-production and costly marketing? As this alternative scheme was largely inspired by extensive discussion’s with delegates from overseas countries during the world poultry congress, will the Government inquire into the scheme before a final decision is made?
– It is true that for quite a long time egg producers have been discussing the possibility of introducing what might be called a stabilization scheme for the poultry industry. As the honorable senator knows, the policy of this Government is to have stabilized marketing under producer control. I am not entirely up to date regarding the stage that the negotiations have reached, but I understand that they are still proceeding. The Government, of course, following its usual policy will be guided by the voice of the industry. The honorable senator has asked whether the Government will hold an inquiry into the poultry industry. I do not think it is in the province of the Commonwealth Government to hold such an inquiry. We have always set our face against interfering in industries. We rely entirely on the wisdom of the leaders of industries to present plans to the Government, and if those plans represent the voice of the industries concerned, the Government’ does its utmost to implement them.
– I spoke of an alternative plan.
– I should think that consideration of an alternative plan would be a matter entirely for the poultry industry. I emphasize that this Government has never promulgated plans. I believe that it should not do so. It is the responsibility and, indeed, the bounden duty of industries to make their own decisions regarding the kind of plan they want, and then to present their submissions to the Government for consideration. I believe that the matter should remain in the hands of the poultry industry, where it is at present.
– The honorable senator was good enough to inform me that he proposed to ask a question on this subject, and I have been able to obtain Although there is no doubt that myxomatosis has continued to work in rabbit populations in Australia since the first major spread of the disease at the end of 1950 it is now less effective in controlling rabbits than it was when first released. There is evidence that this has occurred for two reasons. First, a decline in the virulence of the virus in the field has been observed and, secondly, an increase has taken place in the degree of immunity to the disease among rabbit populations. A precise estimate of trends in rabbit numbers would have to be sought from State rabbit control authorities.
While it is generally true that the rabbit population is still less than it was prior to the initial spread of myxomatosis it is - possible that a large-scale increase in rabbit numbers could occur in many areas if seasonal conditions favouring the breeding of rabbits were experienced over a long period. If this did happen, myxomatosis could not be expected to achieve the degree of control that it has exercised in the past.
Since 1953, the C.S.I.R.O. has fostered the use of the poison 1080 for rabbit control. In particular, the organization has been able to recommend, as a result of experiments and observations on the behaviour of rabbits, techniques for the use of 1080 which ensure that a very high degree of control can be achieved with this poison. The poison 1080 is now being used, with very effective results in many instances, through the agency of State and local rabbit control authorities.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health and base it on the text from the 23rd chapter of Ecclesiasticus - sixth verse -
Let not the greediness of the belly nor lusts of the flesh take hold of me.
Is the Minister aware that one of the main differences between men and monkeys is that monkeys do not take pills? Has the Minister noted, during his extensive medical reading, that the British Medical Association reported that 29 of 100 adults took some form of self-prescribed medicine every month although they were not ill? Is it a fact that in Australia some 800,000,000 aspirins are swallowed every year - in England the number is 4,000,000,000- for arthritis, neuritis, influenza, insomnia, colds, catarrh, headaches, rheumatism, anaemia and bronchitis? Is the Minister aware that Dr. Pennycuick, to whom I am indebted for this startling and interesting information, has written that an Englishman held the world’s record for pill swallowing? In one year, 10,000 passed down his gullet. He is now dead. Would the Minister say that these acts are lusts of the flesh, greediness of the belly,’ or just sheer ignorance and stupidity? Do the Minister and the Department of Health carry out any educational work to preserve the people from their folly, which one could almost call pharmaceutical fanaticism? If not, should not a section of the Department of Health be established in order to educate foolish people to the end that modern medicines will be used in a sane and proper way?
– I face great difficulty in trying to give an intelligent answer to the questions that have been posed by the honorable senator. At least I agree with his assertion that men take ‘pills and monkeys do not. We can draw some comfort from the fact that our intelligence quotient is greater than that of monkeys. We should use it to our own advantage.
– That is the principal distinction in some individual cases.
– I do not want to be personal. I noted with great interest the figures that were quoted by Senator Brown when he mentioned some rather famous people who hold records for the swallowing of pills. I direct the honorable senator’s attention to this year’s report of the Director-General of Health in which are set out in some detail the trends in various countries. Senator Brown asked what wc were doing to educate the people in these fields. Heaven forbid that the Department of Health should ever attempt to usurp the responsibilities and privileges of the doctor. We all have a medical man in whom we have confidence. Human frailties being what they are - they differ greatly from person to person - no government could accept the responsibility of saying that people shall do this or that. The right and the privilege of an individual to confer with the family doctor constitute one of the bulwarks of our democracy. ‘ I offer no apology for saying that the patient has the right to choose his doctor.
The honorable senator asked also what publications were available. He has often asked me similar questions. I have bad a statement prepared to show what journals are being produced. I have already referred to the report of the Director-General of Health. This year the preparation of the report has been expedited. I hope that a copy of the report, which has been enlarged and includes much more detail than previous reports, is in the hands of honorable senators who will be taking part in the estimates debate. Our publications include the “Health Journal “, which is produced quarterly, “ Food and Nutrition Notes and Reviews “, “ National Health Benefits and Services “, “ Tables - Composition of Australian Foods “, “ Simplified Food Composition Tables “ and “ Notes on Special Diets for Use in Hospitals”. Various pamphlets have been published, including the now famous pamphlet “ Eat Belter for Less “i If the honorable senator would like to have any of these publications, 1 shall be pleased to make them available to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. May I say that I was interested to read the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade that Mrs. Freda Beryl Wilson had been given the rank of assistant trade commissioner and that this was the first time that an Australian woman had been given such an appointment. Can the Minister inform me whether the second group of trainees for recruitment to the ranks of the trade commissioners and assistant trade commissioners, which is currently being formed, will be drawn from female as well as male graduates with some business experience?
– I agree with Senator Breen’s statement that this was an interesting appointment. Of course, Mrs. Wilson had had some twelve years’ experience in the Department of Trade and was qualified by reason of other experience and her ability for this promotion. The Department of Trade invites applications for these positions. Applicants arc considered on their merits, having regard to the nature of the position and the qualifications that are needed for it. Women applicants receive consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service and concerns the decision of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress that permits, as I understand it, individual trade unions with the imprimatur of the A.C.T.U., to take strike action against the operation of penal clauses of the various arbitration acts. In view of that fact, and in view of the fact that a decision contrary to the A.C.T.U. executive’s recommendation was successful as a result of the capricious resort to the penal sections by employers, will the Minister consider calling- a conference of all interested parties to see whether a solution to the problem can be found, so as to avert the industrial chaos that must occur as a result of the decision if the employers continue their campaign to seek to cripple unions financially by the use of the penal provisions? As it would appear that a conference similar to that suggested has had some degree of success on the waterfront, will the Minister confer with A.C.T.U. officials with a view to arranging the conference that I suggest as well as the appointment of consultative committees for industry generally?
– I think that the question should be put on the notice-paper so that the Minister can supply an answer. However, I strongly rebut the suggestion by Senator Cavanagh that there is a campaign by employers to cripple the unions financially. That is a completely unjustifiable statement and seems to be based merely on the fact that there is a law in this country, agreed to by this Parliament, which is designed to prevent either side in an industrial dispute, in which an arbitration decision has been given, from taking action against, the community because it docs not like the decision.
– Has the
Minister representing the Minister for Trade seen a report that the Democratic Party leader in the United States Senate has said that imports of frozen beef from Australia and New Zealand are depressing the United States meat market? Has the same United States senator called for United States Senate action to restrict beef imports and imports of feeder cattle from Canada? Further, has the Minister seen a report that the problem of increasing imports from Australia and New Zealand has been taken up with the United States State Department? Does the Minister think there is any connexion between these moves and the recent decision of overseas shipping interests to increase freight rates on Australian meat exports to the United States? What . effects are these matters likely to have on the Australian meat industry, and what action will the Government take to see that this valuable export market for an Australian primary product is protected and preserved?
– The honorable senator has asked a long question. I doubt whether I can deal with it adequately. To some extent I have to express a personal opinion. I should not think that there is a connexion between the increased freight rates and - if this is the right word - the political action that has been taken. . It seems to me rather that this tremendous increase in trade has created circumstances which the shipping companies think justify the increase in freight rates. I am not familiar with the proceedings or discussion in the United States Senate. Like most other Ministers, I am to some degree familiar with the great development in trade and the constant action that is being taken by my colleagues, the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr. Adermann, and the Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen, to make certain, that the lines of communication for this trade are maintained. The arrangements’ that are being made within the meat industry’ from time to time result from consultation between Australian departments and departments in the United States. With such a substantial increase in transactions, this matter is of great consequence, not only to’ the meat industry in Australia but also to Australia as a nation. I hope that we will be able to maintain trade at the volume that now exists.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General. Is it a fact that uniform companies acts became effective as from 1st July, 1962? What was the outcome of a series of conferences held in December last between the Commonwealth Attorney-General and the various State Attorneys-General, which was intended to find a formula for uniform variations of and improvements to these State acts?
– The answer to the first part of the question is, “ Yes “, and to the second part, “ I do not know “. However, I shall obtain this information from the Attorney-General and advise the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to either the Minister representing the Minister for Trade or the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister seen the announcement of the record sales to Russia of 210,000,000 bushels of, Canadian wheat, worth £A.208,000,000? In view of the statement made by the secretary of the Australian Wheat-growers Federation, Mr. T. C. Scott, that Australia would benefit from the record Canadian-Soviet wheat deal, can the Minister give any information as to what benefit or sales Australia can expect from this deal?
– As I understand the question, the honorable senator asks what benefits will accrue to Australia from the sale of Canadian wheat to Russia.
– Yes, in view of the statement made by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation that the deal would benefit Australia.
– It must benefit Australia and every wheat-producing country because any wheat that goes into a new area must reduce world surpluses; This, in turn, must bring great confidence to the industry generally and have the effect of stabilizing and perhaps lifting prices to some extent. I should think that the honorable senator is aware also of a record sale of Australian wheat through an international wheat exchange house which was announced to-day by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. Moroney. That is all that I know about this, but it does indicate that Australia has a new market open to it. With our traditional and new markets I think it is true to say that the future for the Australian wheat industry over the next twelve months is bright because there are indications that wc will not be burdened by surpluses, as so many other countries are.
– Last Tuesday I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he could give the Senate any information about the date of a visit by Dr. Johns from New Zealand. ] now ask him whether he has any additional information to give the Senate on this subject.
– Yes. I followed up Senator McKellar’s question with the Minister for Primary Industry, and I am advised that Dr. Johns will be in this country very early in October to study the effects of bloat. His itinerary has not yet been finalized; it will not be finalized until he arrives in this country.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether the Prime Minister is to close the gates of the Canberra lake dam on Friday, 20th September. Has the Canberra lake dam cost some millions of pounds? Could the Government make available a similar amount of money to help provide water storage in the north, particularly on the Dawson River, the Fitzroy River and the Burdekin River? Is the Minister aware that the Australian Labour Party has proposed that an authority for the development of the north should be established? This is one plan which, I regret to say, the Government has not yet stolen from the Labour Party. Does the Minister agree that the Government’s policy of providing the most elaborate facili-ties for Canberra, while allowing country areas in Queensland to languish and stock to perish for want of water shows a wrong order of priorities? Will he arrange to have more money made available for water conservation in the north?
Canberra lake function is scheduled to take place quite shortly. However, that is not the purport of Senator Whiteside’s question. So far as Queensland is concerned, I remind him that the Commonwealth Government has already made very substantial sums of money available, running into many millions of pounds, for the construction of beef cattle roads, for the clearing of the brigalow country, for the Mount’ Isa railway and for the port at Gladstone. It has helped in the development of mineral resources. It has made its contribution towards what is possibly one of Queensland’s greatest developments - the exploitation of the bauxite deposits on the Gulf of Carpentaria and associated development at Gladstone. It is of great interest to those of us who take a genuine interest in the development of Queensland to note that more than half the total subsidies being provided for the search for oil are being paid to subsidize the search in Queensland. I sympathize with Senator Whiteside in his endeavour to create a feeling of support for the Australian Labour Party in Queensland; he has a very difficult task ahead of him. I think that what the Government has done for Queensland is well regarded in Queensland.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the announcement that freight rates on cargo between Australia and the United States of America are to rise by 10 per cent, but that similar rates will not apply to cargo from New Zealand to the United States, can the Minister advise the Senate why Australia has been singled out for this treatment whilst New Zealand has not? In view of the critical point which is being reached in the volume of beef to be shipped to the United States and the possibility of a breakdown in this trade, will the Minister have a report prepared for the Senate on this subject which is so vital to the beefproducing section of Australian primary industry?
– I am not sure to which Minister the question asked by Senator O’B’yrne should properly be directed. The subject-matter is not within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Primary Industry, and I do not think it is the responsibility of the Minister for Trade. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice-paper I undertake to see that the information is obtained for him from the appropriate Minister.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Health, 1 refer to the important matter that was raised a little earlier by Senator Brown. Is it a fact that the National Health and Medical Research Council, in its report of 25th October, 1962, recorded a resolution, amongst others, that there is evidence of harmful effects from excessive doses of analgesic drugs, including phenacetin, and that consumption of these drugs in Australia is alarmingly high? Did not the council further resolve that, pending a considered evaluation of the effects of these drugs, the public should be encouraged to reduce its consumption of these drugs by means of a publicity campaign? What action has the Minister taken on- that recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council?
– My understanding of the findings of the National Health and Medical Research Council is in accordance with what Senator Murphy has stated. Senator Murphy may not know that the council is not a body of Commonwealth officers; its personnel are drawn from the top professional men in each State. The Commonwealth has never attempted to usurp the authority of the States in this matter. The States themselves are doing this work and the Commonwealth acts simply as a co-ordinating agenc’y to get these people together and obtain their considered opinion. They themselves have a responsibility to declare their findings and make them known to the people whom they represent, and they do that.
– 1 wish to ask the Minister for Health a question about the proposal by doctors in South Australia to increase charges under the national health scheme. Having regard to the overall purpose of the National Health Act under which Commonwealth medical benefits are paid in respect of expenditure incurred by contributors to registered medical benefits organizations, will not any increase in doctors’ charges, as announced in South Australia, impose on the national health scheme problems which the Government will finally have to resolve in consultation with the appropriate authorities if only to maintain a just ratio of benefits to expenses incurred by contributors? Can the Minister, at an early date, promote appropriate discussions by means of the existing machinery under the act?
– -The short answer to both questions is, “ Yes “. Of course, this matter is of vital interest to every subscriber to the Commonwealth health scheme; it affects all of us. I remarked in the Senate the other day that there is a good deal of misconception about an ever-widening gap in the medical benefits field between contributions and benefits. I remind the Senate that when the medical benefits scheme was brought into being in 1953 the contributor paid, I think, 37.8 per cent, of the doctor’s fees, whereas, to-day, he pays 36.1 per cent, of those fees. There is not such a disparity as some people would believe, for the very simple reason that the medical benefits funds have lifted their reimbursements, as their surpluses have mounted, to narrow the gap. The doctors in Western Australia also increased their fees recently, but the medical benefit societies in that State are in a position to increase their benefits in order to narrow the gap further. This matter is exercising our attention. We will be having talks on it in the not too distant future.
– I wish to refer the Minister for Civil Aviation to several questions that I have asked relating to international air services. Recently, I asked who would represent Australia at the International Air Transport Association conference this month. The Minister replied that the Australian Government would not be represented; but he misunderstood my question. I now have had an opportunity to read the Minister’s report to Parliament on civil aviation. That report, at page 23, refers to the Chandler fares dispute. The report says that this case has caused differences of opinion between governments. I repeat the question that I asked last month: What is the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to fare decreases and increases on international air services? Did the governments concerned and not the International Air Transport Association settle the crisis? Can the Minister explain, in brief terms, the result of the compromise solution so far as Australia and Australian passengers are concerned?
– The International Air Transport Association is constituted of operators, not governments, whereas the International Civil Aviation Organization is the international governmental organization. Let me draw that distinction. The operators who constitute I.A.T.A. discuss amongst themselves, in accordance with their own constitution, questions which include fares and such other matters as came out of the Chandler discussions. They were I.A.T.A. discussions. As a result of the fares structure approved at the I.A.T.A. conference, the United States w Government, subsequent to the Chandler meeting, had discussions with its own operators, and concern was expressed - indeed, in respect of some aspects, sentiment stronger than concern - at some aspects of the fares structure. As a result, the American operators - not the Government - reactivated the question in I.A.T.A. The particular matter under discussion was fares’ on the- North Atlantic route. Australia, through Qantas Empire Airways Limited, is interested by virtue of Qantas operations across the Atlantic, although the frequency of the Qantas flights does not compare with the frequency of flights by the American operators or by most of the continental operators. In the total sense, the matter is not of vital concern to Qantas, although it is of importance. Qantas took the matter up at the government level and we suggested certain lines of action that the airline might take in respect of a number of classes of fares. On the North Atlantic run there are not only de luxe first-class accommodation and tourist accommodation but also, on some aircraft, another class which is referred to as economy- class. My understanding is that at the Chandler discussions and since, there - has been a suggestion that yet another class might be considered. - Discussions arising, as I have indicated, from the reactivation of the Chandler decisions by American intervention, have occurred and are continuing. We are not in possession of the final results of the current convention, but as soon as they are available I shall let the honorable senator know of them, particularly insofar as the decisions concern Qantas operations. I think this is what he wants more than anything else.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is not the National Health and Medical Research Council constituted by order of the Governor-General in Council, in other words by the Commonwealth Government? Is not the Minister for Health the responsible Minister concerned with that council and with the act in which the council is mentioned? Has not the Minister repeatedly asserted in this chamber that he always acts on the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council? Has not the Commonwealth Government a specific responsibility for the health of persons in the Territories of Australia, apart from any general responsibility for the health of the people of Australia? Is the Minister taking the view that wherever any matter of health can conceivably come within the authority of the States, the Commonwealth Government will do nothing about it?
– Taking the last question first, the answer is, “ No “. The machinery of the National Health and Medical Research Council is as the honorable senator has set out. I emphasize again that the whole purpose of the council is to bring together interested parties in the Commonwealth to try to get the best possible decisions on matters affecting the health of the people of the various States and of the Commonwealth generally. I suggest that the honorable senator, who prides himself on his great constitutional knowledge, might have–
– I said nothing about the Constitution.
– I am coming to that. I suggest that he have a look at the Constitution. He will find that the States have a responsibility under the Constitution to minister to the health needs of the people of the States. The Commonwealth Government has no intention of intruding into that field. He asks whether I always accept and abide by the recommendations of the council. The answer is, that, generally, I do; but the council does not decide the policy of the Commonwealth Government in any matters. I would have him know that the responsibilities of the council are advisory. It makes its recommendations to me as the representative of the Government and arising from those recommendations it is the Government’s prerogative - and always will be, so far as I am concerned - to make decision? that it thinks are in the best interests of the people.
(Question No. 25.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What are the details of applications made in writing to the Postmaster-General for substantial changes in the beneficial ownership of the shares in companies holding television licences to be approved by him as required by section 92f of the Broadcasting and Television Act and what approvals has he granted?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer: -
Section 92p was inserted in the Broadcasting and Television Act by the Broadcasting and Television Act No. 36 of 1960 and the section came into operation on 8th June, 1960. The following is a statement of applications made in writing to the Postmaster-General for approval of changes in the beneficial ownership of shares in companies holding licences for commercial television stations since that date.
(Question No. 54.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
(Question No. 70.)
asked the Minister repre senting the Prime Minister, upon notice -
The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
– In accordance with section 8 of the Fishing Industry Act 1956, I present the following paper: -
Seventh Annual Report on the operations of the Fishing Industry Act 1956 for the year ended 30th June, 1963.
The Fisheries Development Trust Account was established under the act for the purpose of financing activities designed to foster the development of the fishing industry in Australia. Previous annual reports described the establishment and operation of the trust account and the formation of the inter-departmental advisory committee on fisheries development. They also summarized the developmental projects which had been financed by the trust account during each of the years from 1956-57 to 1961-62. The seventh annual report gives a brief outline of the operations of the trust account during 1962-63.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 18th September (vide page 649).
Proposed new clause 2A.
– Before the consideration of the bill was interrupted last evening-
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. I submit that the amendment placed before the committee by Senator Sandford is not in order. 1 refer to Standing Order No. 332 which states -
An Instruction can be given to a Committee of the Whole on a Bill to amend an existing Act, to consider amendments which are not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, but are relevant to the subject-matter of the Act it is proposed to amend, provided that such motion shall be carried by at least fifteen affirmative votes.
It is also worthwhile to note Standing Order No. 333, which states -
An Instruction to a Committee of the Whole requires notice, and can only be moved before going into Committee on any Question.
No instruction has been given to a committee of the whole by the Senate, and I do not think it can be contended that the amendment which Senator Sandford is sponsoring is in fact relevant to the bill in any sense at all. The motion refers to the establishment of a committee to perform certain functions. There is no provision in the bill which remotely approaches such a suggestion.
– What are you afraid of?
– Since the procedure which has been laid down has not been complied with, I submit that the amendment is out of order. I ask you, Sir, to rule accordingly.
– It is pathetic to see a government trying to avoid debate of a fundamental issue such as this. Obviously, as was indicated by an interjection a few moments ago, the Government wishes to avoid debate. That is not a very pretty spectacle, nor is it an edifying one. Does the Government lack adequate reasons for opposing this particular provision, or has it very suddenly become rule-conscious? I put it to the committee that in public proceedings on 11th and 12th September, 1963, amendments similar to those which have been circulated in this chamber were considered and dealt with by the House of Representatives. If there is any validity in the point of order taken by Senator Paltridge it means that the Senate is to be reduced to a level of activity, in relation to a bill, lower than that enjoyed by the House of Representatives.
I invite the committee to look at section 53 of the Constitution, which deals with the powers of the Senate, on this point. The section deals first of all with proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys. At the end, there appear the following words which are important and relevant to the matter we are considering: -
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
I submit very strongly, first, that it is not desirable that the Senate should be reduced to a level lower than that enjoyed by the House of Representatives in relation to legislation. Secondly, the power of the Senate to function and deal, with legislation should be in no circumstances at a lower level. The other provisions of section 53 of the Constitution do not affect this matter because they deal with money bills, and the Repatriation Bill is not an appropriation bill. It did not originate in another place, under section 56 of the Constitution, on receipt of a message from the Governor-General. In this connexion, we are not concerned with questions of appropriation and matters of that kind. I suggest very strongly to the Minister that there should not be any attempt to avoid debate. It does not become the Government.
I would hope, Mr. Chairman, that you would refer to the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives of 11th September which I file for the purposes of the record. You will find there that a motion in these exact terms was put before the committee of the House of Representatives on 11th September. I» was dealt with and adjudicated on in the House of Representatives, which has even more restrictions than has the Senate in relation to money bills. The House of Representatives has a tighter rein on how it can add to the burden placed on the people by a bill than we have in the Senate.
In the circumstances, I suggest that the point of order should not be upheld. I take the opportunity of saying at this stage that such a point of order was not taken in another place by the Government. Why, then, has the Government become so sensitive about the matter in this place? Why would the Minister be a party to reducing the activity of the Senate in the way he seeks to reduce it? I suggest to him that it would be most unbecoming for the Government to adopt one attitude in one place and an entirely different attitude in another. If there were merit in the argument that the Minister for Civil Aviation has put - and I claim there is none - then 1 would test his sincerity . about the question of a debate by asking leave to give notice forthwith of an instruction to move this particular amendment and to do’ it in relation to other amendments that will come after it. Then we would know where we stood. If that course is denied to me and to the Opposition we will know without doubt that the Minister is not seeking to be an upholder of rules and standards but is merely seeking to avoid debate.
– Would that be the proper course? Would not the proper course be to ask for recommittal so that you could get your instruction before the committee?
– Very full consideration was given to the propriety of what was done on this particular occasion. After very full consideration of the matter we were confident of the propriety of this procedure, because I myself considered the possibility of this matter being raised. The Senate is master of its own destiny and it is possible for the committee to give me leave to go back into the Senate - I cannot do it in committee - to give notice of an instruction. But I point out to the Minister that he gets us to an absurd position and reduces the situation to one where clearly he is merely seeking to avoid debate. If the Government will not face up te the situation, as has been indicated, 1 shall take every opportunity I have to force our views to a division. It staggers me that the Minister should seek to avoid debate on this matter, which has been fully debased in the House of Representatives, and [ hope that the Minister will not persist with his point of order. To persist will not confer any ultimate advantage. J think he is doing some- thing quite seriously adverse to the status of the Senate in taking this point of order in the circumstances.
When one examines the bill one finds it is a bill which is expressed, in the long title at least, as a bill to amend the Repatriation Act - not in any limited way, but to throw open the whole act. I comprehend the rules that the Minister has referred to - Standing Order No. 332 and the rest of them. I am aware of the decisions that have been made in this matter, but we are living in a new set of circumstances as between the House of Representatives and the Senate because of the recent variation of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.
– Has the House of Representatives any standing order corresponding to the Senate standing order under- discussion?
– I am afraid I do not know, so I cannot answer the honorable senator on that point; but at all events, we have seen that the House of Representatives has proceeded to do exactly what we propose to do in this place, and it would be a pity in the circumstances if an order were made that prevented debate proceeding.
– I wish to make one or two brief submissions. First, I join issue with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) quite strongly when he suggests that the Government is seeking to avoid debate. The procedure that is being suggested under this point of order would give the Opposition ample opportunity on the motion for an instruction by the committee, to debate this matter fully. If the Leader of the Opposition has given consideration to that question and has made a wrong decision that is simply one of the fortunes of war. If he wishes to test the matter there is provision for a motion for recommittal, on which full debate would ensue. I suggest that his argument is quite without ground inasmuch as there was a long debate on the second reading of this bill, and ample opportunity was given by the Chair for any honorable senator to debate this clause in. his . second-reading speech. Therefore, the suggestion that there is an attempt improperly to stifle debate is quite illfounded and not quite worthy.
– There is another aspect - the question of avoiding a division.
– I do not see how anybody could avoid a division. There may be a division on any motion put to the Chair, and even on this point of order. The Leader of the Opposition referred to section 53 of the Constitution. I was very sorry to hear him trundle that forward so obscurely, because he knows full well he is suggesting a misleading application of that section. The section provides that the Senate may not amend any proposal so as to increase any charge or burden oh the people, and it may have some relevance to later amendments emanating from the Opposition. I say that it may; I am not advancing that as a proposition. But in no other respect does section 53 touch the point of order before the committee. It is simply a point of order based upon chapter XXIV. of the Standing Orders, which is designed to bring to the Senate in a clear form any issue that we discuss in this chamber.
It is open to the Government to bring in a bill. Unless the Senate, in committing that bill to the committee of the whole, gives an instruction to the committee to deal with matters relevant to the main act, but not relevant to the subject-matter of the bill, then the committee may not deal with such matters. It may do so, however, by passing a motion in the Senate for an instruction to that effect after the secondreading stage, and before the bill goes into committee. That motion would give ample opportunity to discuss these issues and to divide upon them. The procedure will become quite confusing and cumbersome if the Senate just trundles a bill into the committee and then allows not merely the Opposition but any honorable senator to move an amendment which is relevant not to the subject-matter of the bill but to the subject-matter of the act.
I think even my worst enemy would not fail to concede that I am jealous of the rights of individual senators. I remind honorable senators opposite that, if they want to persist in their efforts to have a joint committee appointed, any honorable senator could, on the next day of sitting, move accordingly or could introduce a bill for that purpose. Then the matter could be discussed in a manner worthy of the
Senate and not as an irrelevant encumbrance of the measure now before us. I submit, therefore, that the point of order has been well taken and that if the Opposi-tion wishes to persist with its proposal it could invoke other procedures which would be more appropriate to the status of honorable senators and which would facilitate the clarity of thought that should prevail in this place.
– I was very dismayed and disgusted to learn that the Minister for Civil Aviation, obviously acting under instructions that he had received overnight, had seen fit to raise this point of order to prevent debate on the amendment. If the point of order is valid, I ask the Minister why he did not raise it when I moved the amendment last night. I moved the amendment and spoke to it for ten minutes. Obviously the raising of this point of order is an attempt by the Government to escape from a very unenviable position. All that the amendment is designed to do is to have appointed a parliamentary committee to study the Repatriation Act generally and to make recommendations to the Government. I again ask the Minister: If there is any validity in the point of order, why was it not raised last night when the amendment was moved? It is quite obvious that the Minister has received orders from other quarters since the Senate adjourned last night. It is to be regretted that the Government should descend to such measures to avoid debate on this important subject.
– It was rather interesting to hear Senator Wright speak about his jealousy of the rights of individual senators. A precedent in relation to the right of honorable senators to move an amendment to an act was set last week when Senator Wright himself moved an amendment to the International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill. He was able to persuade other honorable senators to join him. I wonder whether the raising of this point of order is an attempt by the Government to close that loophole, particularly when the Government might be defeated in the middle of a debate at the committee stage. We are not quite certain what the Government’s motives are on this occasion.
I should like to assure the committee that I canvassed the possibility of this situation last night, and the best advice that I could obtain was that the procedure we adopted would be quite in order. Unfortunately, upon review the attitude has changed overnight. As Senator Wright mentioned, we should preserve and be jealous of the rights of honorable senators. But I point out that Senator Wright has changed his views very quickly and, having asked for the privilege to move an amendment to another bill and having persuaded members on this side of the chamber to join him without having to go through the procedure that he now suggests, he says that we have not a right to move an amendment to the principal acf.
– That situation was quite different.
– It was not different. It is quite an important matter for honorable senators, who constitute a house of review, to have to decide whether or not to emasculate their rights. Unless we have the right to appoint select committees we will not have an opportunity to obtain all the information that is relevant to measures that are initiated in another place and are then forwarded to us. We must be very careful in deciding whether we can refer matters to a select committee during the committee stage. If the procedure is to be that notice should be given beforehand and that an instruction should be given to the committee, the position should be made quite clear and should be well understood. Those who seek information should know exactly where they stand. Honorable senators should look at the matter much more closely, because a vital principle is at stake.
– I feel bound to speak to the point of order, because at the second-reading stage I directed the attention of the Senate to the relevance of the proposed amendments. If honorable senators look at the daily “ Hansard “ report at page 615, they will see that I expressed the view that the proposed amendments had no relation to the bill. I directed attention to the fact that they did relate to the principal act and I expressed the view then that from a procedural point of view they would not be in order. As far as I was concerned, the Opposition was then put on notice and there was still ample, opportunity for it to correct a step which obviously was not in accordance with the Standing Orders. The Minister for Civil Aviation, in raising the point of order, referred to Standing Orders No. 332 and 333. To give the complete picture he should have referred to Standing Order No. 328. That standing order sets the pattern clearly and gives meaning to the other two standing orders.
– The Opposition desires that the substance of its amendment be considered. The matter is very important-, it affects many people in the community. It is said that the procedure adopted by the Opposition is objectionable. Surely the proper course for us to take would be to adopt a procedure that would enable this important subject to be debated. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested a means of overcoming the difficulty. Why should we not proceed in tha way he has indicated so that the subject matter of the amendment may not be lost to debate simply because of the view which has been taken by the Minister and which automatically would be supported by numbers on the Government side? I suggest that we should proceed as suggested by Senator McKenna.
– One listens to a discussion on Standing Orders with a great deal of interest. I think it might be said that a fair interpretation of Senator Murphy’s contribution to the debate is that he agrees that the point of order is well taken. Senator Murphy has a standing in his particular field, and he did not argue against the case that has been put by Government supporters.
This discussion does not deal with the political or practical problem, or the rights or wrongs, of appointing a select committee. It has nothing to do with what happened or should have happened in tha House of Representatives. It is not a question of what rights the Senate has under the Constitution. The question is: Is the Senate correct in approaching this matter in this particular way? The Government’s view, as expressed by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) is that it is not. If the Senate continues in this way it will be proceeding irregularly along the track upon which Senator Sandford started it off last night. That is the whole point. An interpretation of Standing Orders should he given not only for the sake of the matter before the Senate this morning but also for our guidance in future debates. We have much latitude in regard to the things we can do under our Standing Orders, but when we are acting in a certain way we should be clear that we are doing what is right.
– The point of order under discussion was taken by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) only at the commencement of the debate on this bill this morning, despite the fact that Senator Sandford moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition at about ten minutes to eleven last night. During the course of the Minister’s remarks on the point or order taken by him I think my colleague, Senator Cavanagh, interjected, “What are you afraid of?” Senator Cavanagh’s interjection was not answered, but having regard to the attitude adopted by the Government on this issue I pose the question, “ What are you afraid of? “
– Order! The honorable senator should confine his remarks to the matter raised in this point of order.
– I suggest that the Government has adopted this attitude deliberately to stifle discussion on this very important matter. In the debate on a similar amendment in another place only one member on the Government side, apart from the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), spoke on the matter. All the other speakers on it were members of the Opposition. . I suggest that the attitude adopted by the Government in this chamber indicates that it is frightened of the debate which will take place on the amendment proposed by Senator Sandford.
I suggest that if the Government is going to persist in its attitude then there are other attitudes and other points of order that the Opposition will be forced to take which will unduly delay the passage of this important legislation. I say also that if the Government persists in its attitude not only I, but also my colleagues, will scrutinize very carefully the estimates of the Repatriation Department when they come before this chamber for discussion.
– I wish to say something about the debate that has ensued on the point of order, particularly in respect of the suggestion that the Government is seeking to avoid debate on this issue. The whole of the circumstances of the last two and a half days negates such a suggestion. How could the Government be wanting to avoid debate when eighteen honorable senators have taken part, without restriction, in a debate which has ranged over the whole of the repatriation activities? Does that suggest that the point of order that has been taken is a tactic of the Government to avoid debate?
– Why was not the point of order taken last night?
– Why did you allow me to speak for ten minutes?
– Can it be said that the Government is trying to avoid a division? As has been pointed out by Senator Wright, that is impossible anyway. If the Senate is to conduct its business in the way it should it must have regard to the set of rules that governs its procedures. If the Standing Orders do not suit the circumstances of the day then the proper thing to do is to amend the Standing Orders, and that can be done.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), in speaking to the point of order, said that he had given consideration to whether or not it was correct to introduce the amendment in the way adopted. Frankly, I think that on this occasion the Leader of the Opposition suffers from some shortage of memory. I would not for one moment accuse him of being insincere. In similar circumstances, when a similar amendment was required by the Labour Opposition - incidentally to a repatriation bill - the opportunity was taken, as recently as 1961, to submit to the Senate a motion that the committee of the whole should be instructed to consider matters irrelevant to the bill before it. Now, two years later,- the Opposition seeks to adopt another course, knowing that the course it took in 1961 was the correct course and one which conformed with the . Standing Orders. In the light of that, I suggest that this puerile criticism about trying to avoid debate is completely ridiculous and should be rejected by everyone who has listened to it.
What I am going to suggest is this: My understanding is that in the normal course it is necessary for the Opposition to give notice to the Senate of its intention to instruct the committee one way or the other. I suggest that we go back into the Senate and that the mover of the amendment ask leave to give notice along those lines. The Government will not resist that. It will avoid any delay by not requiring notice to be given. We will consent to a request for such leave. Then we can get back into committee and debate this question in the proper form in which it should be debated. Naturally, for the purpose of finalizing this matter, a ruling will have to be given on the validity of the point of order that has been taken.
– In speaking to the point of order I remind the committee that the bill is entitled “A Bill for an Act to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1962 “. If ‘it. was the Government’s intention that only certain sections of the act should be discussed I suggest that the title of the bill would more properly have been “ A Bill for an Act to amend certain sections of the Repatriation Act 1920-1962 “. With respect to you, Mr. Chairman, I suggest that the title of this bill is wide enough to allow honorable senators to propose amendments to any part of the act. But according to the very nice homily just given by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), honorable senators have been out of order in discussing the act in general. I suggest that when a bill to amend an act is before the committee it is quite competent for any honorable senator to move for an amendment of that act. I should like to tell the Minister for Civil Aviation that in this debate I want no concessions; I will then not be obliged to give any. I did not like the Minister’s attitude when he berated one of my colleagues and attempted to treat us like a lot of children. But the Minister is prone to do this sort of thing. I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that we should be left to fight our own way on this bill, in which case the Minister will find that we can give him as much trouble as he can give us.
– Because of the possibility of this point being raised I spent quite a little time last night examining the Standing Orders that I thought might be brought into question. I also looked at previous rulings and sought what advice I could. Senator Paltridge was quite correct in mentioning that, on 14th September, 1961, when a repatriation bill was before the Senate, an instruction to the committee was given. I found also that, on 8th September of the previous year, in circumstances very similar to this, amendments to a repatriation bill were moved without an instruction to the committee of the whole being given. I cannot help but feel that the interests of the Senate will be forwarded in the best manner by ruling that the point of order is not upheld. I so rule.
– Before the adjournment last night I had proposed as an amendment the appointment of a nonparty Joint select committee to investigate the whole ramifications of the Repatriation Department. I had mentioned that the Government had nothing to lose and everything to gain by appointing such a committee because, with the authority of Parliament, it would be clothed with sufficient power to investigate and to make recommendations. The committee would be able to secure and collate information which would be of inestimable value to the Government. The only point of opposition to the appointment of the committee that I could discern from the arguments of honorable senators opposite is that the Government and Opposition parties have their own committees on repatriation. But it is perfectly obvious that repatriation committees appointed by the various parties cannot act uniformly or collaborate. There has been no collaboration between them so far. If the committee accepts this amendment the joint committee appointed would be clothed with parliamentary authority to make investigations of the whole ramifications of the Repatriation Department. It can be assumed that the appointment of the proposed committee would not cast any reflection on the department, its. activities or on personnel of the appeal tribunal.
– But the committee proposed would be a continuing one. It would be a standing committee. Have you any precedent for the establishment of such a committee?
– I assume that the honorable Senator is referring to committees of the Government and Opposition parties.
– No. I am referring to the one that you propose by this amendment.
– That is a matter to be decided, of course, but this amendment’ does not give a specific date by which the proposed committee would make its report. In any case, that point is quite irrelevant because the principal desire of the Opposition is to have the select committee appointed and its terms of reference decided. 1 remind the committee that if this amendment is accepted, the Government parties will be in a majority on the committee and1, consequently, the terms of reference of the committee would be decided by the Government.
– But would you let it go on from year to year?
– That is a matter to be decided. Once the committee is appointed its terms of reference and period of operation can be decided1. Our first desire is, as honorable senators opposite will realize -
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- In supporting the amendment proposed by Senator Sandford I should like to remind the committee of many matters that need examination by the repatriation authorities. Over the years we have seen requests from the national executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and1 Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, a reputable body, for certain action to be taken. On each occasion the Minister concerned has given a comprehensive reply and stated why such action could not be taken. As a background I should state that at the annual conferences of the R.S.L. reasons for and against’ a proposal are submitted, and when a majority of delegates decides that a proposal should become part of the league’s policy a recommendation is forwarded to the Government.
I have before mc the last annual report of the R.S.L. and in it I notice that the national executive has recommended a num ber of amendments to section 47 of the Repatriation Act. However, the Government finds itself unable to accept the recommendation. The league has requested that cancer be recognized as a war-caused disability, but the Government has replied that it is unable to agree to this. The league also asked the Government to pay the full temporary total incapacity sustenance rate to an ex-serviceman who is given rest essential by the local medical officer. The league asked that a review be made of provisions relating to the education of the children of ex-servicemen.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was outlining circumstances which indicated the need for the setting up of a joint committee on repatriation and, in support of my case, I was using information provided in the annual report of the national executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. In connexion with the amendments to the bill that have been foreshadowed by the Opposition, we have pointed out that there seems to be a great need for some standard on which variations of the various pensions can be made. Such a standard has never been properly stated. It has never been established whether pensions should bear a relationship to the average male earnings or to the basic wage that prevails in the Commonwealth. The Government, the Opposition anl ex-servicemen’s organizations all believe that war pensioners of all categories, had they been unaffected by their war service, would have earned average or above average wages. We believe that they should not be disadvantaged in any respect because of their war service. That is a matter which could and should quite easily be reviewed in a non-party, way by a joint select committee.
Members of another place and senators when sitting on a select committee have the fortunate capacity to approach these problems on a non-party basis. Over the years, I have found that a community of purpose exists on select committees and joint committees. They take a national view of problems. Higher horizons take precedence over the lesser party political view. Out of the community of purpose of such committees comes recommendations in good faith which are a distinct contribution to good government. A reservoir of goodwill exists among parliamentarians who are given a job to do together. They put their best efforts into assisting government in its broadest sense. As laymen, and as representatives of the people, they examine problems which are matters of contention within the community. As I said before the suspension of the sitting, a number of these matters has been mentioned in a resolution passed by the Returned Servicemen’s League relating to section 47 of the Repatriation Act. I should like to read a section of the league’s annual report which refers to one of the matters that could well be cleared up by impartial consideration and review by a select committee. This part of the report reads -
The 46th National Congress directed the National Executive to recommend an appropriate amendment to Section 47 to the Commonwealth Government. The object of this amendment would be to clarify the meaning of “ onus of proof “ and “ benefit of doubt “ so that applicants would obtain the fullest advantage of this Section of the Act . . .
– What relation has this to the proposals before the committee?
– There are a number of matters that the Returned Servicemen’s League wants to have cleared up. Evidently, the Government in a very polite reply to the league gave reasons why certain action could not be taken. I would think that many of them were financial reasons. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has a big say in these matters. It is my belief that the Government should have the added assistance of an impartial select committee, comprised of members from both sides of both Houses, who would review the whole of the act, which has not been reviewed for twenty years. Other factors could come to light and a new approach could even be made. During the course of the debate yesterday, Senator Turnbull raised an interesting issue.
– Not in committee.
– No. It is true that I should not even refer to the previous debate. But on another occasion some of the old approaches to war disabilities after the First World War were mentioned. Senator Turnbull mentioned disorderly action of the heart, which was a very imperfect description of heart attack, but good enough in view of the knowledge of that time to describe the effect of strenuous campaigns in war-time.
A select committee could have a good look at the impact of pensions on exservicemen. The Returned Servicemen’s League wants also to have a review made of mental illness and its impact and the need for wider and more generous treatment. Further, the league wants a review of optical services and a review of reasons for the rejection of applications. People who have come to my office in order to seek assistance in repatriation matters have often said to me, “ I wonder why my application was rejected? “ The Returned Servicemen’s League has requested that the repatriation tribunals should make known the reasons for the rejection of claims. According to the league’s annual report, this request has been rejected by the Government. I think that this matter could well be followed up by the proposed parliamentary committee.
– Is there now a single committee of this Parliament like the one proposed - a standing committee on an act? It is to continue in operation until the House of Representatives is dissolved, not until it makes a report to the Parliament.
– Perhaps the wording of the proposed amendment requires attention.
– But this affects the whole conception of the committee’s function.
– I feel certain that the committee would be seised of the purpose of its existence. By accepting the proposed amendment, the Government would acknowledge the need for such a committee. Consequently, if the Parliament were dissolved before the committee had completed its investigation it could be reconstituted by the following Parliament. All committees of the Parliament are dissolved at the end of a Parliament and are re-constituted by the following Parliament.
– The amendment which you propose envisages a continuing committee, does it not?
– There is no such thing as a continuing committee. Committees are constituted, only for the life of a Parliament.
– All right - a committee to last for the life of the Parliament and to be reconstituted by the following Parliament. Is that what you want?
– Not necessarily. The purpose of the committee will be to review the act. The last committee of this kind which was established in 1942 and which reported in 1943 was elected for a specific purpose. The activities of the Repatriation Department between the two world wars had been adjusted to peacetime requirements. Suddenly the department was faced with a new set of circumstances, new problems, and new expenditure. A complete alteration was necessary and it was made quickly. Now, thank God, we are enjoying a time of peace and matters have been brought forward which indicate the need for another review, although . perhaps not of such an extreme order. So many criticisms have been made, some constructive and others destructive, that for the purposes of good government the matters to which they relate should be made , the subject of a report to Parliament.
No officer of the Repatriation Department need fear that it will be said that in his work he has been recreant to the responsibility placed upon him. Members of tribunals have been interpreting their responsibilities according to the legislation. In some respects, difficulties arise over matters of emphasis. This is illustrated by the criticism of the onus-of-proof provision. All our legal authorities say that nothing could be clearer than the act. All we need is application of the correct interpretation. A select committee could bring the winds of change into that phraseology and perhaps recommend some form of words that would be specific enough to enable members of tribunals, applicants, and the department, to know exactly where they stood. With the goodwill that could be generated in an all-party joint committee^ borderline decisions could be examined in a way that would be valuable to the government of the day. This would tend to dispel misgivings over some of the most criticized sections of the legislation.
– That would not necessitate a committee without a time limit. The normal thing would be to state a date by which a report must be made to the Parliament.
– That is the normal procedure. I am certain that such a committee would wish to proceed as quickly as possible with its task.
– Order! The honor, able senator’s time has expired.
– The idea of appointing a select committee is quite good. Such a committee would help a great deal to engender a better understanding of repatriation problems. But we are wasting a lot of time and words. As I understand it, in another place, where the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) sits, a move for the appointment of such a committee has already failed to find adequate support. Therefore there does not seem to be any likelihood that if the proposal were accepted by this chamber a joint select committee could be brought into being.
Although I support the proposal, I suggest that instead of wasting so much time we should seek the appointment of a select committee of the Senate for the purpose. Then we would have control of our own business. We operate as the chief chamber in the Parliament. A committee from this chamber could do the same work as a joint committee. It could be given direct instruction, and its findings, which would be just as valuable as those of a joint committee, would be presented to the Senate. That is the only way in which we can achieve something along these lines. I repeat that, although I support the appointment of a committee, the only practicable way is to move that a select committee of the Senate be appointed to look into ali the disabilities and anomalies associated with repatriation.
– When Senator O’Byrne was speaking in the second-reading debate I protested by interjection against the idea of the appointment of a standing committee being made the subject of an amendment of legislation.
It seems to me that there is no precedent in parliamentary procedure for attaching permanently to a Minister in charge of a department a committee of the Parliament. I do not say that in a proper case this should not be tried merely because there is no precedent, but in this instance we have an administration which has evoked the firmest compliments of all sections of both Houses of Parliament, during the whole period of Sir -Walter Cooper’s administration and that of Mr. Swartz.
Another point is that which was well made b’y Senator Cole, namely, that whatever is decided after a long debate here this afternoon, the appointment of a joint committee has no chance of acceptance as an amendment to this bill. By attaching this proposition to budget legislation those who believe that there is real merit in the appointment of a select committee do the proposal great harm. There is immediately available to any member of the Senate, a right to move at any time for the appointment of a select committee, with terms of reference as wide as the ambit of the act itself if he so desires. The proposal would then come up for debate, I should hope, during the current session. This Senate could thus constitute a committee of its own without the need for concurrence from the lower House.
Having regard to the administration of the Repatriation Act, I should think it proper for senators who promote this proposal to consult with a considerable body df senators in order to persuade them that there are factors in the administration which really warrant the appointment of a select committee. I am very keen upon the Senate’s extending its activities by the appointment of select committees of real purpose where the occasion warrants. But We must always bear in mind that if we are to trust tribunals to administer this pension scheme by reference to the circumstances of each individual case - as distinct from allowing a departmental officer, as in the field of social services, to decide a case without, so far as I know, the right . of appeal to any tribunal - and if these tribunals, including appeal tribunals, are already a part of the structure of the act, we must not do anything that will damage their integrity or their efficiency - I emphasize efficiency - in giving true, sympathetic justice to men who have been damaged by war service. We must not do anything that will undermine those tribunals.
If we appointed a select committee genuinely to remove some anomalies in the act, and after examination of twelve or twenty files it found that a tribunal, despite the clear language of the opinions of the Attorney-General and of the SolicitorGeneral in giving guidance on such a difficult matter as onus of proof, was in error in interpreting those opinions, we would be duty bound and quite entitled to bring forward proposals from the select committee for making plainer the language of the act which the tribunals administer. To add to Senator Cole’s thoughtful comments, I for one would want to be persuaded that, upon proper consideration of items inquired into by the committee, there was room for purposeful work to be done in building up the repatriation structure more effectively, so that our tribunals could administer the act in favour of ex-servicemen. If we were so persuaded, I think we would be at liberty and, in fact, obliged, to set up a select committee of the nature suggested by Senator Sandford. With those thoughts in mind, I appeal to the Opposition to realize that persistence with the proposal to appoint a committee in the present circumstances would damage both the administration of the act and the cause of the people who wish to have a select committee appointed to inquire into and report upon matters which are really worthy of inquiry and report.
– It is difficult to understand Senator Wright. On the one hand, he said that he was in favour of the appointment of a select committee, and on the other hand he stated that this chamber was wasting its time in debating the matter. I do not think that any honorable senator on this side of the chamber wishes to interfere with the administration of the Repatriation Act. I do not agree with Senator Cole that we are wasting time. Both Senator Wright and Senator Cole agree that the idea of appointing a committee to investigate matters pertaining to repatriation should be considered: If we in this chamber do not do something about the matter it will never be done.
– Senator Cole’s comment was that you could not do something effective here because you would not have it accepted in the other place.
– That is the point I want to make. If we do not get the assistance of the other chamber we shall never succeed.
– You could have a Senate committee.
– That would be like winking at your girt in the dark, lt would not be effective. We must have a committee that is accepted by both Houses of the Parliament.
– That must be so, if the committee is to be effective. The committee that we have suggested could make recommendations, but if the Federal Treasurer did not accept them they would be useless. The Treasury would have to provide the wherewithal to meet the commitments involved in the recommendations. lt is twenty years since we had a committee which inquired into repatriation affairs.
– We were in the middle of a war then.
– Yes. It was necessary to appoint such a committee because of the particular importance of repatriation at that time.
– A crisis was occurring.
– Exactly. There is a crisis to-day, too, and it is continuing all the time. There are still exservicemen waiting for the act to be interpreted in a different way so that they may get the justice to which they are entitled.
I believe that in most instances the Government is sincere in its approach to repatriation matters. If the amendments that we have suggested were adopted we could call evidence from all sections of the community, including ex-servicemen and officers of the Repatriation Department. I have heard various legal men try to interpret the onus-of-proof provisions in the legislation. Do you not think, Mr. Chairman, that it is necessary to explain what we mean by the onus of proof? It has been stated in this chamber on numerous occasions that there are differences of opinion on the meaning of the onus-of-proof section of the act. As an ordinary member of the Australian Labour Party, and as a member of the party while it was in office, I believed that when the act was amended in those days the onus of proof was on the Government, or on the Repatriation Department. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that, as an ex-soldier, I could go along to the Repatriation Department and say, “ I want a pension because I was a soldier serving at such-and-such a place during the war”, and expect to be given a pension. I thought that the onus of proof meant that it was necessary to obtain medical evidence to support a claim.
Very few ex-servicemen bother about claiming a repatriation pension from the Government unless they are ill. Let us assume that an ex-serviceman was suffering from an ailment and could get medical evidence to prove that he was suffering from it. My idea was that if he went along to the Repatriation Department, submitted his claim and said that he had served ‘ at Pozieres, at Gallipoli, or in Palestine, in circumstances of hardship, and had medical evidence to support his claim that such service was responsible for his condition, the onus of proof was on the department to show that the condition was not due to war service. However, such an interpretation of the onus of proof has been rejected by repatriation tribunals on numerous occasions. Therefore, I say that everybody has a different idea of the way in which the onus-of-proof provisions should be interpreted. There are many other matters which are open to different interpretations, and that is why some one should make a start in having the provisions clarified. Otherwise, it will never be done.
I do not think there is anything wrong in the Government agreeing to the appointment of a committee. We have had committees which have dealt with other matters in a worthwhile way. I think that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) will admit that there is scope for good work to be done by a committee in the field of repatriation. Similarly, I think that the staff of the Repatriation Department would admit that there are anomalies in the administration of the act. For instance, medical evidence on behalf of a returned serviceman may be presented by eminent physicians or other medical men - professional men - but a layman sitting on a tribunal may interpret the onus of proof according to his idea of it, just as I would if I were a member of a tribunal. If the Labour Party were in office, Senator Brown, Senator Cooke or some other honorable senator on this side could be appointed to a repatriation tribunal.
– Yes, he could. If I were appointed to such a tribunal the destiny of an ex-service claimant who came before the tribunal would be left in my hands. If I saw fit to do so, I would approve or reject his claim. The tribunals must be guided by medical evidence. The committee we have suggested could do no harm at all. lt could make recommendations to the Government, and in doing so, I think, many problems would be solved.
Many ex-servicemen believe they are entitled to benefits to which they are not in fact entitled. On the other hand, there are many ex-servicemen who are entitled to something but do not get it. If the officers of the Repatriation Department were able to explain to a committee of this Parliament the nature of the cases that had been presented to them over the years since 1917 or 1918, the members of the committee would appreciate that what I am saying is correct. The anomalous situation that exists can be rectified only by the appointment of a competent body, such as a select committee, to inquire into the administration of the act and to suggest amendment of it to meet the just repatriation needs of ex-servicemen. I wholeheartedly support the amendment.
– Briefly, Mr. Chairman, I oppose the appointment of a joint committee. I believe that we could waste a lot of time in debating this matter. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) stated in another place recently that he believed the legislation had good provisions and should be passed by the Parliament as quickly as possible so that repatriation pensioners might receive the increased benefits. Let me make a constructive suggestion to the Australian Labour Party on this proposed amendment. I suggest that the Opposition withdraw the amendment and place an appropriate motion before the Senate next week so that the whole matter can be debated then. Let us get this legislation through first. The “Opposition could then put a substantive motion to the Senate and, without delaying the passage of this bill, the Senate could consider whether the appointment of a select committee - either a joint committee or a committee of the Senate - is necessary.
In conclusion, I assure the Opposition that my suggestion is a most sincere one. I do not believe in personal attacks on individual senators, and I regret that last night, when the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast, and without any provocation by me, an honorable senator accused me of being insincere in my attitude towards ex-servicemen. That charge was broadcast and it is recorded in “ Hansard “ for all time. I give that statement the direct lie, and many hundreds of Tasmanian exservicemen would support me. The honorable senator’s statement was an insult and a lie.
– I support the amendment and consider that the arguments of the spokesmen for the Government are wrong. They have put up straws to resist support for a general principle. This matter must be studied against the general background of repatriation legislation. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) said there had been an evolution in repatriation legislation, and we agree. Members of the Labour Party now in Opposition took part in an inquiry into repatriation in 1943. Two reports were submitted as a result of that inquiry and measures recommended then have been adopted. In 1924, as a result of grievances that developed following the First World War, a royal commission was appointed to consider these matters.
We agree that there has been an evolution in repatriation legislation, and some improvement in it. There are tribunals now which were not established originally, and the provisions relating to the making of a prima facie case have been removed. However, problems still arise from the interpretations of authorities exercising their powers under the. Repatriation Act. Ex-servicemen’s organizations, members of the Opposition and some supporters of the Government believe that some of these interpretations are not correct. There is continual discontent and dissatisfaction over the observance that should be given to the spirit of the legislation. This legislation should not be looked atin a purely legal way. Those in authority must consider the intention of the legislature to do justice to ex-servicemen, for that is the whole spirit of the repatriation legislation. The Returned Servicemen’s League has made some proper and positive observations about section 47 of the act, for example, and that matter should be examined.
I know there are some persons who say the present repatriation machinery is working satisfactorily and there is no need to interfere with it. Senator Wright said something along those lines. He implied that, justice was being done as far as possible; but what is substantial justice under section 47? The same arguments were advanced in 1928 when it was suggested that provision should be made for tribunals which have since been established. The Minister has said that progress has been made with certain forms of administration to give justice to ex-servicemen, and I agree that there has been some evolution in the system, but it is not good enough. We should have a committee of inquiry because problems are still resulting from the participation of men and women in war service. This is evident not only from the submissions we make but also from representations that are made to us. The weaknesses complained of should be rectified.
We are not thinking up fantasies. Every honorable senator who has spoken in this debate has said that there are problems which should be rectified. We have’ to recognize also that persons who make claims and try to get this so-called substantial justice, and who run up against the onusofproof provision of the act, have no avenue of appeal. A man who has put a case to a tribunal cannot go to a higher authority or a court to test the decision of the tribunal as he could in the United Kingdom. He has to rely on the statutory body to give him justice, and we think too many people do not get justice.
We do not say that the persons who make the decisions are being mean or unfair, or that doctors are not doing what they should do. Senator Turnbull, who is a doctor, has said that he will support the proposal for an inquiry, but after listening to his conclusions on cancer I would not be happy to go to him in his private capacity for a check to ascertain whetherI had war-caused or war-aggravated cancer.
– Of course you would not. You would not want the answer he would give you, but an answer to suit yourself.
– I am not casting any reflection on him. Doctors send patients to specialists who are qualified to know about specific complaints and diseases. Often a tribunal will say to an applicant: “ Go back and get fresh evidence. Go to some other doctor.” If I were in such a. position, I would select a doctor or a specialist. This is all limiting the availability of justice to an applicant.
It is true that one authority can say yes and another one can say no, but if the final answer is no, an ex-serviceman cannot have recourse to the courts of law as can be done under the British legislation. I have always believed in committees, consultations and compromise, and the Opposition’s action in moving the amendment is correct. It should be supported by the Government even if only because it would take away from the Government some of the responsibility of administering this legislation.
Finally, in considering the problems of ex-servicemen we must have regard to the developing scale of social welfare in the community. Obviously, an ex-serviceman can be treated better to-day than he could before or soon after the First World War. That is another reason why the whole purpose of the Repatriation Act and the representations that have been made on behalf of ex-servicemen should be reviewed. We respect the representations that are made by ex-servicemen’s organizations because they have been responsible for various progressive moves. The Opposition says that this inquiry is overdue, that there is enough evidence for us to be able to say without equivocation that the inquiry should be undertaken. It is of no use for Government supporters to advance pettifogging arguments against it and ask, “ How long will it be before it makes a report? “ Obviously it could make a number of reports, lt would be subject to the will of honorable senators. Obviously, if the committee were asked to conduct its inquiry in the same spirit as that in which the debate in this chamber is conducted, it could apply a reasonable interpretation to the legislation. I do not think the act has ever been interpreted in the same spirit as that in which debates upon it have been conducted. We should not try to read into the repatriation legislation, particularly section 47, the same legal reasoning that might be applied to other legislation. I support the amendment.
– I want to say a word about the interjection that was made by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). I was rather astonished to hear Senator Henty interject in the tone in which he did when Senator Bishop said that he would not like to go to Senator Turnbull as a doctor.
– He did not put it quite like that.
– He did. Senator Turnbull might be an excellent medico.
– He is.
– He might be. 1 have not had the opportunity or the good fortune or the misfortune to go to him.
– He is lucky.
– It would not hurt you if you were to go to him. If he were any good, he would do you a lot of good. What I want to say in reply to Senator Henty’s interjection is that there are ex-servicemen who are now receiving pensions in respect of whose complaints doctors have given wrong opinions. What Senator Bishop meant was that it is necessary for an ex-serviceman to go to competent doctors to get fresh evidence about whether service in a certain area during the war could have caused cancer. He did not in any way cast a slur upon Senator Turnbull as a medical man. He did not make the suggestion that Senator Henty attributed to him and which Senator Henty probably would have made if he were in Senator Bishop’s position. To do that would be in keeping with Senator ..Henty’s tactics. I repeat that what Senator Bishop was trying to point out was that it was necessary for an ex-serviceman to go to a doctor who would be prepared to say that in his professional opinion the complaint was warcaused.
Senator Marriott has complained that an honorable senator on this side of the chamber said that he was insincere. Last night Senator Marriott said on a dozen occasions that we were insincere in submitting the proposals we have put forward. We did not say that Senator Marriott as an individual was insincere.
– That is what was said.
– You said the same about us. If you give it, you must, unlike Murphy’s dog, be able to take it. If you are prepared to say that we are insincere, we are prepared to return the compliment. We do not mean that you personally are insincere or that any other Government senator is insincere but that the Government is insincere when it says that Opposition senators are shedding crocodile tears when they put forward complaints on behalf of the people whom they represent in this place. It must be remembered, Mr. Chairman, that the Australian Labour Party, which is submitting these amendments, represents more than half of the voters in Australia. If honorable senators opposite question my statement, let them consult the figures produced by the Commonwealth Statistician. Surely we should be able to put forward our arguments in this place without Government senators saying that we are insincere. I repeat that we do not say that Senator Marriott himself is insincere but that he is supporting a government which is not sincere. Let us have a committee which can call evidence. What is the position in regard to the restrictive trade practices legislation? The Government is consulting people all over the Commonwealth. We ask the Government to agree to a committee to inquire into repatriation matters. If the Government does so, it will be doing a service to the ex-servicemen of Australia.
– I want to take up Senator Bishop on one point. When trying to develop his argument in support of the appointment of a joint committee he said that, when an ex-serviceman had his claim rejected by a tribunal, he was told that he could not come back again unless he had further evidence. He went on to say that he would not go to Senator Turnbull if he wanted any further evidence. Does not our repatriation system, which is one of the best in the world, give an ex-serviceman the opportunity to go to any specialist he wants to? Not only is the ex-serviceman allowed to go to a specialist of his own choice in an effort to get favourable evidence, but the Repatriation Department sends to the specialist not a summary pf what is contained in the file but the whole file itself. What could the proposed committee do that would be of greater benefit than what the department already does?
Senator Hendrickson said that twenty years have elapsed since a committee was appointed to review the repatriation system. The last committee was appointed in the middle of the war at a time when we were preparing for a situation that would arise at the end of the war. From year to year during the eighteen years that have elapsed since the end of the war this Government has granted additional benefits. What then will this committee inquire into? Opposition senators say that it would inquire into all the repatriation benefits. But how could it improve on the benefits as a whole? The Opposition wants to pin the committee down to two matters. To my mind exservicemen now have an opportunity to get expert advice throughout Australia and, should they be able to obtain further material evidence, are able to come back to the appropriate tribunal with it. I oppose the amendment.
.- Mr. Chairman, I do not want to take up much time, because the matter has been well canvassed. Senator Drake-Brockman has asked what good could be achieved by appointing a joint committee. I repeat that no harm could come from it. He also wanted to know what the committee would inquire into. He agrees that there are still r many anomalies in the Repatriation Act.
Those anomalies include the onus-of-proof provision, the acceptance of various complaints as being war-caused, and inordinate delays in the hearing of appeals. Many persons have come to see me who have had to wait months to have their applications finalized. Unfortunately, in some cases, applicants for pensions have died while waiting for their applications to be finalized. As I said at the second-reading stage, I do not suggest that the problem can be solved easily.
I again emphasize that a joint committee could do no harm. The Government would have nothing to lose; it would not lose face. The recommendations submitted by the committee need not be adopted by the Government. Indeed, the Government is used to adopting that attitude. I do not want to get away from the subject matter of this debate, but I could mention matters in relation to which recommendations were made three or four years ago and which the Government is still considering.. The matters we are considering involve the wellbeing, the happiness, the health and security of men who have served their country. We are indebted to Senator McKellar for his reference at the second-reading stage, to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. On both sides of this Parliament we have those who have served their country. I suggest that we are all sincere in our efforts to do the best we can for ex-service personnel.
That brings me to the point that Senator Marriott made a while ago. The Minister sought to put the record straight last night. Let me put the record straight as- far as Senator Marriott is concerned. I assume that he was referring to a statement that I made last night. Is that correct?
– It is completely correct.
– The honorable senator complained that I said he was insincere.
– That is what is recorded in “ Hansard “.
– -I will tell the honorable senator exactly what I did say, as recorded in “ Hansard “. I said -
I appeal to the Government to admit that in the repatriation field there is room for inquiry by a joint committee.
Then 1 went on -
Too often we find that some honorable senators use repatriation for party political purposes.
Then I said - and these are the words about which Senator Marriott is apparently complaining-
He charged members of the Opposition with being insincere.
– I said it was an insincere argument.
– Wait a minute, 1 am reading from “ Hansard “. I went on and said - 1 resent that statement strongly. I claim to be more sincere than Senator Marriott has been or is likely to be in relation to the rights of exservicemen.
Is that saying that the honorable senator is insincere? It is only saying that I am more sincere than he is, which is true. All honorable senators agree with that.
In any case, Mr. Chairman, I think that (his matter has been canvassed fairly well and, if the Government is going to live up to the claim that it is concerned about the welfare of ex-servicemen - and I am not saying that it is not - there is no justification whasoever for it to oppose this amendment. The amendment is in the interests ‘ pf ex-servicemen and in the interests of the Returned Servicemen’s League, which has made numerous requests to the Government. The Government will receive the thanks of the R.S.L., the individual ex-servicemen and the people generally if it accepts the amendment.
– The Government does not accept the amendment submitted by Senator Sandford on behalf of the Opposition. In closing the second-reading stage of this debate yesterday I referred to the particularly unusual characteristics of our repatriation system, and the methods by which repatriation claims were settled and assessed. The Senate will recall that I referred particularly to the establishment and maintenance of a series of independent boards, a commission and tribunals operating outside the Repatriation Department, the administering authority. I suggest that this aspect of our repatriation system is especially interesting when we are considering the sub missions made by the Opposition for the appointment of a select committee.
I was interested to hear Senator Wright this afternoon refer to the very critical fact that our repatriation system is conducted by a series of independent tribunals. He said that in the establishment of any form of inquiry - although he did not use exactly these terms - care would have to be taken to see that no harm was done and that the system itself suffered no diminution of efficiency that might occur as a result of inquiries by any committee into a system which was itself independent of the department. To me that is a very powerful and compelling argument why, without the production of solid facts warranting an inquiry of this nature, the submissions made by the Labour Party should be rejected.
I hasten to say that the submissions of the Labour Party have not been rejected without having received very full consideration by the Minister and, indeed, by the Government, and that element of the Government which comprises the exservicemen’s committee of Cabinet, which is continually, as might be expected, concerned with repatriation matters affecting ex-servicemen generally. This was explained by my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) in another place. The suggestion of the Returned Servicemen’s League was considered fully. In view of all the circumstances - and the Minister pointed out some of them - the submission was rejected. He pointed out that there was an ex-servicemen’s committee of Cabinet, and that that committee had with the R.S.L., Legacy and other exservicemen’s associations, a close and continuing relationship. He said that there was a formal meeting of the ex-servicemen’s committee of Cabinet with the R.S.L. and with omer ex-servicemen’s associations at least every year. In addition to the formal meeting there was a continuing contact throughout the year. Apart from that, there is a Government members’ exservicemen’s committee which itself liaises with the Government on the one hand and with the ex-servicemen’s associations on the other, and makes recommendations to the Government. In recent years the Opposition has had its own ex-servicemen’s committee, which operates in much the same .way.
In view of all these considerations it was decided that this was one department which did not require an investigation by a committee of inquiry of any sort. Let me put to the Senate, not from my point of view as a Minister, but as a senator, the following test: Is it not true that in respect of the representations that we all make to departments in the course of our duties as members of the Parliament, the Repatriation Department is the one with which we would have, over a period, the closest and most intimate relationship? Surely that is the experience of every honorable senator and every member of the House of Representatives. I suggest that the activities of the department, the methods which it adopts and the manner in which it carries out its duties, are better known to us than those of any’ other department. Any deficiencies at the departmental level would be exposed and taken up immediately by the Minister on the production of evidence of such deficiencies.
During the course of the debate I did not hear any real attempt, except on the part of one or two honorable senators - I want to be fair - to establish a function for the proposed committee. Indeed, a senator who spoke late in the debate said that no harm could come from the appointment of a committee. I suggest that a responsible House of Parliament does not appoint committees on the basis that no harm can come from their functions. A committee must have a positive job to do.
– Nobody suggested that at all.
– If you look at “ Hansard “ to-morrow you will see that Senator Sandford said that no harm could come from the appointment of such a committee.
– I said that even if no good came of the proposal at least it could do no harm.
– Is that notprecisely what I am saying? I re-assert that this is not the basis upon which to appoint a select committee. Reference was made to a committee that was established some twenty years ago, but I suggest that the conditions then and now are in no way comparable. It is well known that the purpose of the committee appointed in 1943 was, in the light of new conditions brought about by a war which was still going on, to examine what would be the needs and functions of a repatriation authority after the war. The committee performed that function and reported to the government of the day. I suggest that those conditions do not exist to-day and that there is in fact no justification for the appointment of the proposed committee. For that reason the Government does not accept the amendment submitted by Senator Sandford.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Sandford’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . Nil
Clause 3 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 3A.
.- I move. -
After clause 3 insert the following new clause: - “ 3a. Section . thirty-seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (1.) after the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘, the words ‘or cancer’; and . .
by omitting from paragraph (b) of subsection (3.) the words ‘pulmonary tuberculosis’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘pulmonary tuberculosis or cancer’.”.
I move this amendment because we of the Opposition consider that cancer should be regarded for repatriation purposes as being compensable. I do not intend to speak at great length on this subject because I, like most others, am not qualified to do so. Only a doctor or at least some one with a fairly high degree of medical knowledge could contribute much on this important question. We all know, or have been led to believe, that even the highest medical authorities do not know yet what causes cancer-. I regret that Senator Turnbull is not in the chamber. No doubt he could contribute to this debate as he is reputed to be an eminent medical practitioner. I know nothing about his practice, but he has that reputation. When he was speaking during the second-reading debate last night I was amazed to hear him say -
I have no time for the claim that cancer should be regarded as a war-caused disability.
Later, he contradicted himself by saying -
I presume he included the medical profession in that word - do not know the cause of cancer. Everybody is liable to contract it whether or not they went to the war. To say that war service makes a man more liable to cancer is not logical. It was stated during the debate that a blow can cause cancer. But a blow docs not cause cancer.
In making this statement, Senator Turnbull contradicted himself. Earlier, he said that we do not know the cause of cancer. Then be said that a blow, which is commonly thought to be a cause of cancer, does not cause it. In one breath he said that we do not know the cause and in another breath be said that a certain act such as a blow cannot cause cancer. Whether or not a blow can cause cancer is beside the point. The Opposition is of the opinion that no medical authority can state with the slightest degree of certainty the actual cause of cancer.
So, I come back to the famous or infamous section 47 of the Repatriation Act which concerns the onus of proof. If an applicant for a repatriation pension is suffering from cancer, can any medical authority or repatriation tribunal state with any degree of certainty that the disability from which the applicant is suffering is definitely not war-caused? Opposition senators are fortified by the knowledge that we have the support of the Returned Servicemen’s League in advocating that cancer should be regarded as a war-caused disability. So, in spite of the fact that the Government did not see fit to support the last amendment proposed by the Opposition. I hope that it will support us in the amendment that I have just submitted; I hope the Senate will provide that cancer is recognized as a pensionable complaint for ex-servicemen. Various ailments are catching up with ex-service personnel, particularly those of the 1914-18 war, as the years go by and the incidence of cancer is growing alarmingly. We are spending enormous amounts of money in research, endeavouring to discover the cause of cancer; and when we do so we will try to discover a cure. But we should endeavour now to lighten the burden of the exservicemen who are suffering from this dreadful disease. I appeal to the Government to realize that it can do something to relieve the great suffering among ex-servicemen generally by accepting the amendment that I have moved on behalf of the Opposition.
– I do not support the amendment proposed by the Opposition. I do not imagine that it is necessary for me to rise in defence of what Dr. Turnbull has said. I should imagine that he would be well qualified to look after himself, particularly in a debate on a medical issue. However, I think I should point out that there is a vast difference between knowing what does not cause cancer and knowing what can cause cancer. I am sure it is implicit in what Senator Turnbull said that medical science can establish that certain things do not cause cancer but, at the same time, the precise cause is not known. That is a distinction which’ might he over Senator Sand ford’s head, but it is a very real distinction. I believe that it is the point that Senator Turnbull was making. It is not true to say that cancer is not accepted as due to war service. In certain cases, it is so accepted. I was interested in the application for a repatriation pension of an exserviceman who had cancer.. After he had gone through the due processes his condition was accepted as having been due to war service. The provision of the act. in relation to onus of proof was applied in his case after medical opinion had been given by the most eminent physician in Australia.
– Where did the man serve?
– He had been in the Royal Australian Air Force. Ultimately, his condition was accepted as having been due to war service and he received the repatriation benefit for which he had applied.
– Did not one senator, in the second-reading debate, say that cases of certain types were accepted?
– I would not know whether that is true or not. The point I make is that we cannot lay down a general rule in a matter of this kind. The greatest disservice that could be done to ex-servicemen would be to provide for general acceptance of illnesses as warcaused without each individual claim having to be justified. For that reason, I do not think that the Government will accept this amendment. However, it should not be thought that if it rejects the amendment, the Government is closing the door on cancer cases. Applicants with cancer can still have their cases examined and have the provisions of section 47 of the act applied; and the benefit of the doubt can be given in appropriate cases.
.- It has been generally conceded that cancer is difficult to define. It has been said during the debate that the international classification of diseases lists about 250 kinds of malignant neoplasm. The term cancer is commonly used to include all kinds of malignant tumours. I would take it that a tumour is the same as a neoplasm and that a neoplasm is the same as a cancer. Therefore it is held thai it is very misleading to generalize by the use of such an embracing term as “cancer” to cover all neoplasms and tumours. It would appear from the outset, that the specialists, experts and researchers into this disease have not yet reached any definite conclusions as to its nature or its cause. As a layman, it seems to me that cancer is an attack on the body by a virus, whether it be hereditary or inhaled or absorbed through the skin. This scourge of an organism selects a particular part of the body and develops there. Multiplying its roots and its influence, it grows. It develops gradually, sends out secondary growths, and eventually subdues the normal functions of the body and causes death. Can we decide arbitrarily where to draw a line showing when this long process started? It is admitted that there are long periods between the start of a growth and when it manifests itself. It is suggested that one may carry from early childhood a cancer that does not manifest itself until adolescence, middle life in the case of women, or the senile stages of a man’s life.
During war service, men are often exposed to unusual and even unnatural conditions. After all, it is the nature of a human being to try to find the most comfortable way of life. Over the years he seems to have avoided, as far as possible, great extremes of temperature. Fewest people live in the Antarctic and the Arctic. Most people try to avoid living permanently near the equator. The strongest and fittest people seem to have taken up residence in temperate zones. Human beings normally try to avoid exposure to conditions that cause discomfort. War is a completely different proposition. A new outlook takes charge. Because of nationalism, patriotism, sense of duty and for thousands of other reasons, man participates in war and takes the consequences. We say that in those unusual circumstances his body may be subjected to rigours that can establish conditions in which this dread organism may take root or accelerate its process towards the inevitable destruction of body cells. About 50 per cent, of exservicemen who claimed that cancers were caused by war have had their claims accepted. The medical profession has found without very much difficulty, and tribunals have confirmed, that cancer may be caused by war.
– ls it not rather the other way on application of onus of proof? The department is not in a position to deny that the cause of the cancer was war service?
– Yes, that is the way in which the provision operates. A man may be certified as being in top physical condition upon enlistment. Upon discharge he may have developed some obvious symptoms of cancer. In those circumstances, repatriation tribunals readily accept the disability as having been caused by war, because the symptoms have manifested themselves during service.
– It goes further than that in the case where an injury has been suffered.
– Yes, if a man has suffered an injury that could reasonably have caused the cancer. As I said during the second-reading debate, I was able to obtain new evidence in support of a claim. We found, away out in the bush, with the assistance of a photograph, a man who, having served with the applicant, was receiving a pension as a result of injuries suffered in a gas contaminated area. On presentation of this evidence, the claimant was given the benefit of the doubt. It was concluded that a lesion that had formed in his throat as a result of convulsions and coughing may have contributed to the development of cancer. Unfortunately, this claimant had not long to live. This instance illustrates the tremendous difficulty of drawing a line fairly.
It is difficult to determine how a cancer was caused, how long it was benign, at what stage it became malignant, and at what stage a man may conclude that there is a causal connexion between his condition and war service. There is a tremendous psychological problem. A man may be the last to admit that he has on him the kiss of death. He may suddenly find himself in desperate need of help when he is not in a position to press his claim. There should be no dispute about claims of men who were exposed to severe war conditions, even though there is an element of doubt as to cause. Statistics show that about 50 per cent, of applications for pensions on account of cancer have been granted. These claimants were given the benefit of the doubt. Our intention is to try to extend the benefit of the doubt automatically to all claimants who served in areas of war in which they could possibly have contracted this scourge. Acceptance of the amendment will clear up a problem that in the view of the R.S.L. needs urgent consideration. The Minister explained at length why the Government considered it not practicable to accept this proposition. On the other hand, the element of doubt as to basic causes justifies the amendment. I hope that the Senate will accept it.
– I was interested in Senator Anderson’s comment that the introduction into the legislation of a blanket provision to the effect that a disease such as cancer should be accepted as war-caused would do a disservice to ex-servicemen. The honorable senator stopped at that point and did not go on to explain what he meant. I hope he will take the opportunity that is available to him to rise and explain his comment, for my edification if for that of nobody else. Obviously, the task of an ex-serviceman in proving to a tribunal that his condition was war-caused would be much simpler if there were a blanket provision of the kind that has been mentioned. I think that such a provision would represent a much more generous approach to the matter. I think I am right in saying that Senator Sandford’s amendment indicated that pulmonary tuberculosis was already accepted in such circumstances.
I should like the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to inform me, when he replies to the debate, of the number of applicants who have successfully claimed that their condition of cancer was war-caused, compared with the number who were unsuccessful. One of the very rare cases in which I had dealings with the department concerned a reasonably young man whose health had deteriorated very rapidly because of cancer, and to my gratification, his claim was accepted by the department. I do not want to leave the matter there, nor do 1 want honorable senators to think that I am concerned about the methods adopted by the department. I have found the officers of the Repatriation Department in Perth to be most helpful. In fact, they are among the best civil servants I have met. Within the ambit of the act. they try as hard as they can to assist ex-servicemen. Nevertheless, I think it is true to say that all members of this Parliament are completely frustrated when they try to help ex-servicemen who obviously are in very great distress.
Senator Sandford’s proposed amendment is of intense interest. To me, it poses the whole problem of dealing with this question of war-caused injuries, as against those that are not war-caused. During the debate, we have heard discussion of the question of whether it is possible to declare, so long after the end of the war, that a man who undoubtedly has cancer can attribute his condition to the fact that eighteen years ago he fought in the jungles of New Guinea, or in some other theatre of war. I suggest that this argument applies with equal force to other conditions, such as neurosis and ulcers. Of course, the ex-serviceman who lost a limb during the war would have a good case in submitting that his physical condition had deteriorated some eighteen years later. However, I know of cases in which things did not work out in that way. I know of an ex-serviceman who had a bullet pass through the muscles close to his spine during World War I. Years later, because of the dropping of stomach and back muscles and the slouch which we all develop as we get a little older, he developed spondylitis; but he was not able to have the condition accepted as war-caused. So, there is no certainty that a condition will be accepted as war-caused, even though it might appear obvious that it should be.
Many of the arguments that we have heard from honorable senators opposite would be good arguments if we were taking a completely legalistic view of repatriation and considering circumstances in which one legal advocate was trying to defeat another; but surely that is not in keeping with the spirit of the Repatriation Act, nor do I think it is in keeping with the spirit in which honorable senators are opposing this amendment. In discussing repatriation matters, we are discussing the periodic madness of mankind which leads to injury and unhappiness for so many years afterwards. With the 100 per cent, rate war pensioner we go some of the way towards saying that we shall look after ex-servicemen properly. We provide free hospital treatment for the full-rate pensioner and do not argue about what is wrong with him. One of the best features of the Labour Party’s policy on repatriation is the proposal that ex-servicemen of the First World War should be entitled to hospital treatment. The cost of medical and hospital treatment is very high at present. Treatment in a private hospital costs a considerable amount of money. The taxpayer pays for such treatment not only through direct taxation but also because he must belong to a medical benefits fund if he wishes to cover his costs. We of the Labour Party say that, as a reward for service, ex-servicemen of World War I should be entitled to hospital treatment free of charge, irrespective of their ailments. The idea is to begin with the ex-servicemen of World War I. and to extend the entitlement gradually. We would provide better hospitals for exservicemen and would try to encourage a better attitude in repatriation hospitals. It must be terribly frustrating for the staffs of such hospitals to know that every person who is admitted either is incurable or has a chronic complaint for which the hospital can do nothing. The great thrill of medicine and of working in a hospital is derived from seeing sick people able to leave hospital, some weeks or months later, restored to health. That is a thrill far beyond the prize.
I do not think it is fair, simply because Senator Turnbull happens to be a medical man, that we should try to pin on him responsibility for all the shortcomings of the medical fraternity. After all, he is here primarily as a senator who is trying to legislate for the good of the Australian people. Of course, he cannot divorce himself from his medical associations, nor should he deprive us of the benefit of the knowledge he has gained in his professional experience. The honorable senator stated that cancer cannot be caused by a blow. I am not a medical man, but I have always understood that it was very easy for cancer to be triggered off by a blow. If it can be triggered off by a blow, how are we 10 know how long the condition has existed? We know that cancer destroys blood cells and spreads throughout the body; but the whole medical profession throughout the world still has no idea of the cause of the initial deterioration of the blood cells. So. 1 think that we do not achieve anything by arguing that it is not possible to say that a condition of cancer occurred at a particular time. Senator O’Byrne has referred to his experience in the Royal Australian Air Force. As we know, if we are subjected to stresses and strains, whether because of living conditions, eating habits or nervous exhaustion, all kinds of complaints can be produced, not necessarily in the one form. Some people develop neuroses; others develop ulcers; and still others develop skin complaints from nervous strain.
I do not think it is fair to try to set up a legal situation in considering the claims of ex-servicemen for recognition of physical conditions as war-caused and to make them prove that their disabilities were in fact due to war service under conditions which were not normal. As we know, in some circumstances the department already accepts disabilities as war-caused. Why do honorable senators opposite say that a condition of cancer which occurs twenty years after the end of the war was not due to war service, when other illnesses are accepted as due to war service? We should be doing everything possible for these people who were caught up in the maelstrom of war, either in 1914-1918 or in 1939-1945. Why should we boggle at accepting cancer as due to war service?
We of the Labour Party have tried to have cancer accepted as a war-caused disability because whenever we have moved about throughout Australia the people whom we have met have presented this problem to us. We have moved this amendment because we are completely frustrated. After fourteen years in the Senate I can say that my record of failures with repatriation cases is immeasurably worse than it is with those I take up with any other department. In the case of other departments one is easily satisfied that a request cannot be acceded to because of the policy of the government of the day, or because it would be unwise to accede to it, or else one has a large percentage of one’s requests met, because public servants try to help members of Parliament as much as they can. Many of us agree with the Government that progress has been made with the repatriation provisions, but we also know that we have met with frustration in repatriation cases despite the fact that the authorities as well as members of this Parliament are trying to do everything possible.
Cancer is one of the great killers of to-day and the number of cases is increasing. Sometimes there is a rapid deterioration of the health of a cancer sufferer, and so - I do not want to say this in a harsh way, but it is true - the inclusion of cancer among the accepted diseases for repatriation purposes would not put a great strain on the Repatriation Department. The Opposition asks the Government to consider this matter soon. If it would do as Senator Sandford has suggested and provide for hospitalization for cancer cases among ex-servicemen that would be a big breakthrough. It would show that the Parliament was not using legal arguments against ex-servicemen but was sympathetic to them. It would show that we are prepared to break new ground and include cancer among diseases which are accepted automatically as being caused by war service.
– I spoke on this subject of cancer when a repatriation measure was before the Senate previously. My great problem is this: Why is cancer recognized as caused by war service in some cases and not in others? I should think that men who served in the First World War and were subjected to gas attacks could well be liable to cancer. I took a personal interest in such a case once but did not succeed in my representations. Yet afterwards, a retired colonel who is connected with one of the big hospitals in Melbourne, and is known to me personally, asked me whether the man I was acting for had been in the gas area in the 1914-18 war. The man did see service in that area.
I listened to Senator Turnbull with great interest because he is able to speak on these matters with the benefit of his medical qualifications. Speaking of cancer from a medical point of view he said in effect that medical science could not define the causes of cancer. They cannot be pinned down as can be done with the causes of other diseases. My ‘immediate thought was that, that being the case, there must be a doubt whether or not cancer could be classed as caused by war service.
I have not had to deal with many repatriation cases, because I refer most of them to my colleagues who take a closer interest in them. I think I have had to go to the Repatriation Department only twice since I have been a member of the Senate and I won in one case and lost in the other. But I should think that men who served in areas where they were subjected to mustard gas or other poison gases in the First World War would have a sound claim for recognition if they contracted cancer. I think that an exserviceman who contracts cancer should be in the same position automatically as those who suffer from other diseases. Medical science says that smoking is one of the main causes of cancer. That does not altogether fit in with statements made by Senator Turnbull in this debate, although some time ago he advised everybody here not to smoke. I wish he would advise me how to give up smoking.
I do .not say for one moment that anybody associated with the Repatriation Department wants to say no to an exserviceman who claims that the cancer from which he is suffering was caused by war service. I think the authorities are carrying out their duties as honestly and conscientiously as they can within the provisions of the law, but I cannot understand why one man has his claim accepted and another does not. I would be happier if I could get that question answered.
Men who have been wounded in the lungs and have recovered in early life might very well develop cancer in the lung in later life. I hope that Senator Turnbull will not think I am venturing into the medical field, because I am a layman and I am prepared to do anything a doctor tells me as long as he does not advise me to give up smoking.
It may be difficult for the Minister to supply this information on the spur of the moment, but I was wondering whether any estimate was available of the additional cost of cancer being classified as a disease for which one. would automatically receive a pension. I admit that it would be easier to get an answer to my query if we had something to guide us. In any case, I do not think this Government or any other government has looked at the administration of the Repatriation Department from a purely financial viewpoint. As I said earlier, I am astonished at the fact that although some ex-servicemen who served in theatres of war where gas was used, particularly during the. First World War, receive a pension others do not.
I ask the Minister to reconsider our proposal. It is not a matter of one party winning at the expense of the other. A large number of people outside the Parliament are just as puzzled about the varying decisions of the department in relation to cancer as are the Returned Servicemen’s League and senators who have had a lot to do with the subject. It may be said that I have related my remarks particularly to the First World War, but the amendment is designed to cover all wars. I hope that this administration or future administrations will make the position quite clear. I have had only two cases brought to my notice, so it cannot be said that I have worried the Repatriation Department very much.
– That is amazing.
– It is amazing. Senator Sandford and Senator Hendrickson would know much more about the subject and would be able to go to the appropriate authority more quickly than I would. I could never be satisfied that justice was being done to ex-servicemen who had cancer if the act did not provide automatic entitlement to repatriation benefits. Why will the Government not grant this entitlement? I have no idea of the number of men Who are affected. I do know that a colonel who is connected with one of our major hospitals said to me when I explained the first case that was brought to my notice. “ If his record shows that he was in a gas area you have no need to worry “. But
I had a lot of need to worry. Unfortunately, the soldier passed on before the matter was finalized.
I ask the Minister to give our proposal a lot of thought. I ask him to remove from his mind any thought that because the Opposition has moved the amendment it should be rejected. I recall Senator Turnbull saying earlier that he. would vote for the first amendment but would not vote for the second. I could not understand his logic. He said that medical science had not yet been able to put its finger on the causes of cancer. Therefore, a doubt must exist. I do not think anybody would deny for a moment that some sufferers from cancer have not received a pension. The last war is now a long way off. Let us hope and pray that the next one is a long way off, too. To grant this benefit would not affect the Commonwealth financially to any great extent. If we were to amend the act in the way suggested, we all would be happy about it.
– As my name has been mentioned often this afternoon, I feel that I should speak. I do not think there is anything incongruous about my saying that I would vote for the first amendment but against the second one. The first amendment proposed the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into all aspects of repatriation. I think such an inquiry should be conducted. I said, amongst other things, that the appointment of such a committee might save the Government money, because it may be paying pensions to people who do not deserve them. I say quite dogmatically that I would grant a pension to any former prisoner-of-war and to any ex-serviceman who served in the front line. I would not care what he got it for. I am not as harsh as some people think, because a lot of people have received T.P.I, pensions upon my recommendation. I have had considerable experience with repatriation patients.
I turn now to the problem of gas which was mentioned by Senator Kennelly. This is a puzzling matter. Gas is an irritant to the lung. Anything that is an irritant could cause cancer. I can remember many ex-servicemen of the First World War coming to me and saying: “ My bronchitis is chronic. Because I had a touch of gas can I get a repatriation pension? “ Of course, they forgot that we all get older every day and that bronchitis becomes chronic in old age. They thought their bronchitis was due to the fact that they had been gassed years before.
– Could gas contribute to that condition?
– I should not like to be dogmatic about that. I am dogmatic about cancer of the stomach and other cancers. There is no doubt that an irritant is a possible cause of cancer. Anything that causes chronic irritation could cause cancer, but I doubt very much whether any people who are still alive were gassed sufficiently to have subsequently contracted cancer. Certainly they were gassed, but men who were gassed to the extent suggested died. We are all gassed every day but still live. The diesel fumes that we breathe in every day are just as deleterious as is gas.
– You say that you have not seen ex-servicemen who were gassed to that extent and who are still living?
– Not the bad ones.
– Well, I have seen some.
– I do not know where they are.
– There are still some.
– I can speak only about the 1,200 repatriation patients whom I have treated over a period of eight years.
– Are you saying that all gas-affected persons may be cancerous and therefore are pensionable?
– No. I am saying that obviously in people who have been gassed there has been an irritation of the lung. An irritation of any part of the body carries with it the chance of a cancer being formed, but that does not mean that the person concerned will get a cancer.
– But if those people do contract cancer, does it not mean that they get a pension?
– I do not know. I do not think they do.
– We are guided by medical opinion. I wanted to know what your opinion was. You say that an irritant may cause cancer. How can the department prove that cancer of a lung which was gas-affected was not war-caused?
– It cannot.
– Does that mean that every such case is pensionable?
– I would not grant a pension for it.
-! thought you referred to prolonged irritation.
– It would have to be prolonged irritation. It would have to be, not necessarily an acute irritation, but a chronic irritation. The thing is that we are getting confused by the fact that we do not know the cause of cancer and therefore we say that anything could have caused it. That is not so. We do not know the cause of cancer itself, ecologically, but we are beginning to learn that it is probably caused by a virus that produces a proliferation of cells, and so it goes on. We” can say dogmatically that cancer cf the stomach is not due to war service. What is there in war service that would cause such a cancer?
– What about the irritation o’f bad food?
– What about the bully beef we used to get?
– I do not think that it is caused by bad food. For a thousand returned soldiers who have gastric trouble there must be tens of thousands of Civilians who have it.
– What does that prove?
– It proves that whether they went to war or not they would have got cancer.
– Does it not prove that rubbishy food will cause cancer?
– I do not think that rubbishy food would cause cancer. Senator Bishop said that he would not consult me as a doctor because I would not give him the opinion he needed to get a pension. I quite appreciate his point of view. But then he went on to say that he would go to other doctors who were less scrupulous. I thank him for the compliment. What he was implying was that a person would’ go shopping around until he found some- doctor who was prepared to give him a certificate saying that a certain complaint was due to war service.
– You have a predetermined slant on this.
– I have.
– Would you recommend a First World War soldier for a pension if he had a cancer?
– Not unless he could prove that it was due to war service.
– What if he had been a front-line soldier?
– Hs would still have to show that it was due to war service.
– You would not know.
– No one knows anything.
– Well, would you give him the benefit of the doubt?
– I think the doubt is too great. I am afraid that I just do not believe for one moment that war service causes cancer in the medical sense of the word. I may be completely wrong.
– You are.
– I bow to Dr. Sandford. The point is that we all have our own view, and my view is that very rarely could war service cause cancer.
– Your view would be a professional view.
– My view is a professional view. I have one or two patients, so I have some pride in my professional view. My professional view is that it is very unlikely that cancer could be so caused, if not quite definite that a person cannot get a cancer from his war service by itself;
I forget whether it was Senator Toohey or Senator Bishop who said that making such decisions places an intolerable burden on the medical profession. Somebody has to bear the burden. That is why I do not think we should make it automatic for the administration to bear it. I think that the doctors should face up to their beliefs. If you do not like the beliefs of your doctor, take Senator Bishop’s advice and go shopping around to see if you can find some one who is more sympathetic. Some one has to accept this burden. It is a heavy burden which each doctor has to bear in his own way, but I think that the burden should rest squarely on the doctor and not on any one else.
– Would it be difficult in the case of any complaint at all to say, eighteen years later, what caused it?
– You just cannot say it is due to war service. We come in contact with so many people. Some of them are old patients of mine and I may have been treating them and their families for years. They ask me about a matter such as this and I tell them that they can try and put it over if they like, but not to come to me. I tell them to go to the Returned Servicemen’s League, and I inform them that that organization will put in a claim for them. I try to help them as much as I can within the limits of my diagnosis of what is wrong with them. There are so many returned soldiers who go to a doctor and tell him that a certain complaint is due to war service, but it is not. It is difficult to make a layman believe that it is not. He will reply, “ I did not have it before the war but now, twenty years after the war, I have it”.
– Take the case of a person who was in the gas area and later contracted cancer of the lungs. Would you say that it was possible that that cancer was due to war service?
– You could not say it was impossible.
– Could I adopt the lawyer’s attitude and say, “ Thank you “.
– Nothing is impossible, but unless a person was repeatedly gassed, I do not think his experience would cause even chronic bronchitis - and many soldiers are on a pension for chronic bronchitis. That is a matter for the tribunal that gives them the pension. My own opinion is that the condition has to be chronic, not just acute. You cannot say that because any one who has had an attack of pneumonia gets cancer later, the cancer is due to the pneumonia.
– The question is not whether it is due to the pneumonia but whether you can confidently say that it is not.
– If the Government were to put a clause into the bill to provide that all prisoners of war and frontline soldiers should ‘get a pension, I would be prepared to accept such a provision, but apart from that I cannot accept the amendment that has been moved.
– Senator Willesee asked me for some specific information. I think I had better say something in reply to his question before I forget it. I have no figures in respect of the 1914-18 war, but in respect of the 1939-45 war approximately 50 per cent, of the claims in respect of cancer have been allowed. It is of interest, and pertinent to the discussion we have been having this afternoon, that the 50 per cent, of claims that have been granted fall into two classes. One class comprises claims where the medical evidence has demonstrated that there is a connexion between the war service and the cancerous condition and the other class comprises claims where the pension has been granted because the medical evidence called in rebuttal of the claim has not been considered strong enough. In other words, there has been medical evidence against the claim but it has not been considered to be strong enough. I think that that is important. It indicates that this doubt factor to which we have been directing our minds does operate to that extent in claims for cancer.
– Can you give us the figures relating to cases where there has been a doubt?
– I have just said that I cannot. The claims fall into two classes. The total number of claims that have been allowed represents about 50 per cent, of the claims that have been made. I have not the figures for each class, but I mention the existence of the two classes to indicate that this doubt factor does operate.
– I understood you to sa’y that the statement applied to people of one war only?
– That is correct. I have no figures for the 1914-18 war - only for the 1939-45 war.
– Why is that?
– I do not know. The figures are not available, but I do not know why they are not available. I have just been informed by the departmental officers that there are no statistics in respect of claims for the First World War.
– Figures should be available for the last ten years in which cancer has been a controversial subject.
– The figures that I quoted are available, but they apply to claims by ex-servicemen of the Second World War.
– But men of the First World War have been putting in claims over the last ten years. We will want an explanation of that at some time.
– I am told that the figures for a short period could be collated but that they would not represent a true picture of all claims that have been lodged since either the last war or the First World War. The amendment proposes an automatic acceptance of all claims for cancerous conditions of members who have served in any area of war. The amendment proposes this automatic acceptance, despite the fact that, as Senator Turnbull said, there is no evidence to suggest a connexion between service conditions and cancer. I repeat that that does not mean that claims in respect of cancer are not met. Indeed, the figures I have cited indicate that they are met and, in respect of exservicemen of the Second World War, 50 per cent, have been met. Claims for recognition of cancer as a war-caused disability are allowed whenever there is an element of doubt about the evidence submitted in opposition to a claim.
– It baffles me completely why a distinction is drawn between the two wars on such a subject.
-I regret that at short notice I am unable to give a more complete explanation, but if the honorable senator is interested in this - he obviously is - I will see whether further information can be made available to him.
I draw the attention of the committee to the very general nature of this amendment. Apparently the general nature of the conditions specified is readily acknowledged because reference has been made to the existence of some 200 or more forms of cancer. But there is another aspect of this generality. It will be recognized at once by all ex-servicemen that conditions of service vary greatly from one area to another and from one type of service to another. With no disrespect, I suggest, that some men serving overseas with Australian forces would be described by a front-line soldier as having “ had it pretty easy “. Many soldiers went overseas and were not subjected to the rigours of climate or combat that were the experience of the front-line man. To introduce a benefit which had an automatic general application, without proof, to this type of member would, I suggest, go beyond whatcould reasonably be expected. The experience of repatriation tribunals has revealed that each case should be examined individually on its merits to ascertain whether there is evidence which will support the claim. In each case, of course, the tribunal takes into consideration, in addition to medical evidence, all those other factors that may have a bearing on the claim. Because it must be acknowledged that the. generality of the proposals is too wide, the Government believes that the practice that has been followed by the Repatriation Department in respect of this type of claim should remain unaltered.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Sandford’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 3b.
– I move -
After clause 3 insert the following new clause: - “ 3B. Section forty-seven of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section: - (1A.) In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability.’.”.
In moving this amendment I point out to the Senate that this proposition has also been promoted by the Returned Servicemen’s League. As I mentioned during the second-reading debate, it has been the subject of representations to all members of the Parliament. The submissions of the Returned Servicemen’s League coincide with the representations we have made in connexion with the onus of proof. The main proposition is that the intention in amending section 47 of the act was, in our opinion, to place the onus of proof on the Repatriation Department and to give the benefit of the doubt to the applicant. As most of us know, section 47 was amended before the last world war. As a result of the inquiry that was held in 1942 and 1943 it was further amended.
I suggest that the section has been drafted in an unusual way. Legal people would probably say that it has been drafted in a way which is very favourable to applicants. Its provisions were applied to the various kinds of tribunals that we have discussed. If honorable senators examine the section they will see that it refers to what is termed “ substantial justice “. This is the sort of verbiage of which note should be taken. The section reads as follows: - (1.) The Commission, & Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Tribunal . . . shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt . . .
It also states - (2.) It shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim. . . .
This provision was inserted during the war. In statements by Government spokesmen and in Parliamentary debates on this matter over the years, it has always been accepted that the intention is to give an applicant the benefit of any doubt when it cannot be proved by the Commission that war service did not contribute to the disease or disability. This was the whole intention and spirit of the legislation.
As I said when speaking on another aspect of this bill, it is true that fairly satisfactory methods of prosecuting claims have been progressively provided for under the act. However, there is no provision for appeal to a court of law from a decision of the various repatriation tribunals. So, the Opposition contends that, in interpreting section 47, it is necessary to have regard to the intention of the legislature which has modified it over the years. The benefit of the doubt should be given to the applicant. It has been obvious that it has been accepted by the tribunals that ex-servicemen who were on active service suffered great hardship which had some general ill effect on their health. This applies irrespective of the argument that conditions of service varied according to whether an ex-service man or woman was serving in his or her own country, in the front line or at some overseas base. We also have the reasoning of some people that the man who has been in active campaigns or landings is entitled to everything that he can get. The proposal put forward by the Opposition would provide a much fairer method of accepting a disability as having been war-caused. We say that even in the circumstances mentioned by Senator Turnbull concerning the front-line soldier these side issues should not be taken into account. As we know and as the Repatriation Department knows, in certain circumstances, conditions in Australia were just as bad for the serviceman as they were abroad. So the whole intent of section 47 was to give a benefit to all exservicemen.
We know that, over the years, many people have interested themselves in endeavouring to improve the facilities for ex-servicemen to obtain compensation for war-caused disabilities. However, the fact remains that the Returned Servicemen’s League is accepted by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) as the spokesman for ex-servicemen, and amendments that have been made to the act have been partly due to submissions by the league. The league has on its files records of rejected applications which seem to indicate an increasing tendency to refuse claims in respect of which there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond doubt that the condition upon which they were based was, in fact, due to war service. I cannot check that information with which I have been provided, but I think we can presume that this is happening.
As I said during my speech on the second reading of the bill, there was a climate of public opinion just after World War II. which was more favorable to the acceptance of applications for repatriation pensions than has existed in later years. At that time, when the war was just over, the disabilities of ex-servicemen were fresh in people’s minds. There was a tendency to appreciate the advantages which had accrued to this country as a result of the participation of our young men and women in the war. Now, there is a greater tendency to accept arguments against applicants. The Opposition contends that the intention of the legislature under section 47 of the act was to provide a benefit to all ex-servicemen; but that is not what has happened. In this regard, the Opposition clearly supports the request of the Returned Servicemen’s League.
Some honorable senators might say that if the Opposition’s proposal is accepted there might be some confusion in regard to terminology. That may be true. All I can say in reply to that objection is that there is no appeal to a court of law from the repatriation tribunals, and it is necessary that those tribunals should conduct their proceedings in accordance with the intention of the framers of section 47. Therefore, if the proposed amendment is carried even if some difficulty is presented to the legal mind by the terminology, the intention of the .legislature will have been made known to the various tribunals concerned. Statements that have already been made in this debate make our attitude clear. I should like to refer to the opinion of Mr. Joske Q.C., now Mr. Justice Joske, on onus of proof.
– Have you a full copy of that document?
– No, only that portion of it which was cited and accepted, I think, on both sides.
– But the context in which it is said is so material. I should be obliged if you could let me have a copy.
– I have not a copy of it. I have not read the whole of the R.S.L. documents to which I have referred. They have been dealt with in earlier discussion of the bill and it would be only a waste of time to read them again. I have referred to the statements of organizations which support the point of view which we put forward. Mr. Joske was of the opinion that-
A claim for a pension is to be allowed, even though the claimant calls no evidence.
If the claim is opposed, then evidence must be produced to establish that the claim should fail.
The rinding that the claimant has not satisfied the Tribunal that his claim should succeed is a bad and inadmissible finding.
Unless the Tribunal finds that the evidence establishes that the claim should not be allowed, the Tribunal must allow the claim.
I suggest that the Senate should not interpret the words of the section in a purely legalistic way. It is quite obvious from the drafting of section 47 that it contains the germs of all the benefits for exservicemen, but somehow it has become the basis of discontent and disturbance. The intention of the provision was that the benefit of a doubt was to be given to the applicant. We say, and the R.S.L. says, that this has not been the practice. We submit this amendment in order to clear up the position on this long-standing issue. Those persons who are interested in repatriation matters and who read the debates that have taken place since soon after the First World War find that this matter keeps cropping up. There have been various attempts to remove the so-called anomaly, but so far we have not solved the problem. Perhaps the problem could be overcome if the Government clearly announced to the department that its intention is that the section should be given the force for which we ask. This seems unlikely, because Government spokesmen support the present provision, which we and the R.S.L. say is unsatisfactory.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Bishop. First I should like to refer to section 47.
– It will be most useful to be reminded of it.
– Yes. It reads - (1.) The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, in hearing, determining or deciding a claim, application or appeal, shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt -
The ordinary person, such as myself, would interpret that to mean that the onus of proof rests upon the department. For many years, the Returned Servicemen’s League, of which I am a member, has included on the agenda of its national congress an item relating to amendment of the section, but no government has been agreeable to amending the act to clarify the manner in which this provision should be interpreted. That is why we should like a committee to be established. I do not know where we could find plainer words than those used in the section. Mr. Joske, Q.C., now Mr. Justice Joske, and my former leader, Dr. Evatt, both interpreted the provision in the manner in which we interpret it, but we cannot get any repatriation tribunal to interpret it in the same way. The tribunals say that the onus of proof is on the exserviceman.
– No, that is entirely wrong.
– I am stating facts. The ex-serviceman goes before the tribunal and he is asked to submitfurther evidence. He has the evidence of a doctor. Thank God, it is not Dr. Turnbull; if it were, he would get nothing. If I were an ex-serviceman, I would not go near him.
– Order! The honorable senator must not reflect upon any senator. I ask him to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. In some cases, two or three medical men may say that the claimant’s complaint is due to war service, but the department says, “ No “. He is then asked to get further proof in support of his claim.
– You are quite wrong.
– I do not think I am wrong. Am I to interpret the section as meaning that if an ex-serviceman has an appeal before a tribunal and it is substantiated by medical evidence he is granted a pension? There is no answer from honorable senators opposite.
I inform Senator Sir Walter Cooper that I have in my office particulars of cases in which medical evidence has been supplied. One case concerns a man who had a throat condition which is now believed to be cancer. His claim has not yet been accepted by the Repatriation Department.
– Is it uncontested medical evidence?
– The uncontested medical evidence is that which will be given by the Repatriation Department.
– Then, the evidence the man has produced is not uncontested?
– It is contested by the department, but not by anybody outside the department. In many instances, a doctor is appointed by the Repatriation Department. An exserviceman will come to me and say, “ This should be all right, because Dr. So-and-so is retained by the Repatriation Department”. Despite the fact that the ex-serviceman has gone to Dr. So-and-so, the repatriation authorities have not accepted his claim. An ex-serviceman must prove that he was in a certain place at a certain time and that the conditions of his service were the probable cause of his physical disability. Unless he can prove those things he does not get a pension.
As I mentioned a little while ago when Senator Turnbull was in the chamber, conditions in France, especially, during the First World War were very bad. They were worse than those in Egypt and at Gallipoli, although the hardships were great in all three areas. During the 1916 campaign in France we were out in the open, without any protection, for three months. We did not have a roof over our heads during one of the coldest winters that France had experienced for 40 years. I was young at the time, and I have been fortunate. We went into Bernafay Wood one night. We were lost. We had marched all day in the rain. I took off my clothes and rolled myself in a half-wet blanket and a waterproof sheet. I got up in the morning, put my clothes on and did not take them off again during the next three weeks. Who can tell me that conditions such as those would not have some detrimental effect on a soldier in the years to come?
– Have you applied for a pension?
– No, I have not, and I hope that I will never be obliged to do so. I am fortunate. I am one of the lucky ones. However, if honorable senators opposite cared to attend a re-union of my battalion they would see that the numbers attending have dropped to 60 or 70. They would see, too, how sick some of those ex-servicemen are. In 1918, when they came home and were discharged, you could not get them to apply for the pension. They went back into the bush and worked. To-day, they are reeling the effects of those years of hardship.
It would not cost the Government much to say that ex-servicemen who are suffering to-day should be regarded as the responsibility of the nation. There are not many ex-servicemen of World War I left. For that reason, and for that reason alone, I say that those who serve on the repatriation tribunals should interpret section 47 of the act as I have interpreted it. I think that if I were to go before a tribunal and say that Senator Marriott, for instance, was with me at Fleurbaix, Pozieres, or some other battle area in France during World War I., my statement should be accepted. After all, there are not records available at the barracks for every ex-serviceman, nor are there medical sheets for every exserviceman. Therefore, in many cases there can be no medical evidence. The exserviceman whose case depended on Senator Turnbull would not have a chance of getting a pension.
I am sorry that this part of the amendment has not been put separately, because I believe that the Government would be prepared to appoint a committee for the purpose of trying to make the onus-of-proof provisions clearer than they are and of explaining to the people of Australia that they have a national responsibility towards these elderly ex-servicemen of the First World War. Eventually, the benefits that we seek for ex-servicemen of the First World War will be sought also for exservicemen of the Second World War. In many instances, the conditions of service in France in 1916 were unprecedented and have not been experienced since. I think it would be impossible for human beings who experienced the privations of service in the Australian Imperial Forces in France at that time to escape ill effects completely. I was one of those who served there. I came into the Parliament in 1947, but I was a member of the Labour Party in 1943 when it agreed that the onus of proof should be placed on the Government. That was twenty years ago. I invite the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who is an exserviceman, to come along to the next reunion of my battalion and listen to the comments that are made there. He will hear remarks made, not in a harsh or nasty way, about the fellow diggers who cannot attend the reunion because it costs 25s. for the drop of grog and the food. I am sure the experience would convince him that ex-servicemen of the First World War are suffering to-day and that something should be done for them.
I appeal to the Government to clarify section 47 of the act. As a matter of fact, the act does not need amending in this respect. All that is necessary is for the Government to give an instruction to the repatriation tribunals that if there is evidence that in the opinion of an outside medical practitioner - I say nothing against the repatriation doctors - an ex-serviceman has a disability which is due or partly due to war service, there should be no hesitation in saying, “We will accept it as warcaused and give him a reasonable pension “. Of course, the pension that is granted should not be of such a nature that it is a hindrance to the ex-serviceman concerned or debar him from entitlement to other services, so that he is at a disadvantage. In twenty years’ time, other members of the Senate probably will be appealing in this chamber for similar benefits to be granted to ex-servicemen of the Second World War. A committee should be appointed to investigate the problems with which ex-servicemen are confronted. I am sure that as a result of such a committee’s findings, the Government would see fit to instruct the repatriation tribunals that the claims of ex-servicemen who had medical evidence to support their claims and who could show that they were in particular war areas during 1916, 1917 or 1918, should be favorably considered.
.- I listen carefully to debates on repatriation matters. Often, I find it unnecessary to intervene, but having regard to the elaboration of the debate on this occasion, I believe it is one’s duty to intervene in the hope that one might be able to make a positive contribution. I would be the first to recognize the earnestness of those who feel there is ground for real complaint, concerning the interpretation of section 47, or because they disagree with the interpretation of it that is made in practice. I am not convinced by excerpts from statements made by Dr. Evatt and Mr. Justice Joske, unless the context in which they were made also is indicated. We all know that the context often determines the true meaning of a statement. We know that on occasions statements which are made for the purposes of a political debate lack the exactitude that would be required of legal counsel quietly and precisely expressing a clear opinion on a matter of law. Let us go on from that and make it quite clear that our parliamentary system will prevail with equal justice to all sections of the community only if we make the written word in our law the governing criterion. It is one of the great tenets of our system that we go by the rule of law, independently interpreted with integrity. We must never allow assumptions to govern what is to be read into an act of parliament. We must find the provision there truly expressed. That demands of us in this Parliament a greater attention to matters than I, for one, often can give them.
– Does that opinion allow for the difference between the spirit of an act and the letter of an act?
– The act should always be interpreted with true weight given to the spirit expressed in the act. But do not let us ever think that any particular person’s double entendre, intended but not expressed, will find acceptance in the law. I was grateful to Senator Hendrickson for reading out the whole of section 47, because it should be read here as a reminder to all of us before we enter upon a debate like this. I need not read it out again; but, having regard to what I consider not helpful repetitive citations of excerpts from statements by Mr. Justice Joske and Mr. Justice Evatt, I think we should go a little further.
I want to bring to the attention of the Senate an excerpt from an opinion given by the. present Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) on 10th February, 1960, to Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who was then Minister for Repatriation. The Attorney-General, whose standing in these matters is of the highest, gave a legal opinion to his -colleague on the interpretation of this section as a guidance in the administration of it. Why that was neglected, if it has come to the knowledge of those who have cited opposite opinions, I do not know. I believe that this opinion has had very wide circulation among members of this Parliament and among people on the tribunals and people who administer the Repatriation Act, as well as among responsible members of the Returned Servicemen’s League. After some preliminary statements the Attorney-General stated in his -opinion -
Section 47 rnakes very remarkable inroads upon this usual course of events in .the establishment of a civil claim. I think its first impact is to require any reasonable inference which favours the view of the serviceman to be accepted. This direction to draw all ‘reasonable inferences does not merely apply when the inferences are equal in weight and persuasion and there is no means of deciding between the two. It applies equally if there are other competing influences which are, in the mind of the tribunal, stronger, more reasonable and more acceptable than the inference in favour of the serviceman. This means, therefore, that where there are competing inferences, all reasonable, the tribunal must accept that inference which leads towards success of the .serviceman in his claim and reject all other inferences, including even an inference which the tribunal thinks to be a more probable inference than the inference which favours the serviceman.
That statement could very well be pondered by all those - and I think they are legion - who give their best endeavours to dealing with a situation that affects the benefits to which ex-servicemen are entitled. For my part, I will yield to none in an earnest endeavour to see that these men get benefits commensurate with the quality of their service, which was magnificent. So we have there an opinion that the Attorney-General gave to the Minister for Repatriation in 1960. That opinion relates to the part of section 47 which states that all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant shall prevail. The section states in part - the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal determining or deciding the claim, application or appeal shall be entitled to draw, and shall draw . . . all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant. . . .
Honorable senators can see the extent to which the language there has been supported by the highest legal interpretation in the Government. The Attorney-General continued in his opinion -
The next inroad which the section makes on the usual case is that it places the onus of proof on the Crown rather than as in the ordinary case on the claimant. It is important to realize that the shift of onus of proof does not of itself relieve the serviceman of the need lo give any evidence. It merely means that, if the mind of the tribunal is left in a state of equipoise, the claimant must succeed in contrast to the ordinary case where in a like circumstance he must fail. It the mind is not in a state of equipoise the provision as to the onus of proof has no scope for operation. If the mind is not evenly balanced as between the claimant and the Crown, it must of necessity be satisfied in favour of one or the other, and has no need to resort to the onus of proof as a determining factor.
I have given two quotations from the opinion of Sir Garfield Barwick. If the whole text of the opinion has not been incorporated in “ Hansard “ previously, I suggest that that should be done.
– I understand that it has not been incorporated previously.
– Then, with the concurrence of honorable senators I incorporate the full text of the opinion in “Hansard”.
Section 47 - Repatriation Act.
I have read, and I endorse, the statement made in April, 1953, by my predecessor, Mr. Justice - then Senator - Spicer, as to the meaning and effect of section 47 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1959. However, I would like to add for myself a few observations, mainly of an explanatory kind.
Ordinarily when a claim is made in a Court, the claimant must establish all the elements of his claim to the extent that the Court hearing the claim is satisfied that the claimant is more probably than not right in his assertions. In a civil case there is no need for that degree of certainty which excludes all reasonable doubt. Where, however, a person is accused of a crime it is said that he must be given the benefit of the doubt; that is to say, any fact that tells against him should be established beyond all reasonable doubt.
The Court in a civil claim will reach its conclusion first by deciding for itself what version of. the facts and circumstances it believes to be the correct version; that is to say, in its view, the more probable version in the light of all the material that is put before it. In deciding the question of which version it will believe, the Court may have to decide the personal credit of individual witnesses or the authenticity of documents. It may also have to reason its ultimate conclusion by adopting inferences of fact drawn from the facts which if accepts. To be of any relevance any such inference must be reasonable - an unreasonable inference* cannot be relevant.
Where there are several reasonable inferences, which may be drawn from the accepted facts, one of them may be more probable or thought by the Court to be more probable than the others; and that inference will be the one which the Court will accept.
Ordinarily, throughout the whole of the trial of a claim, the claimant carries the burden; that is to say, he must by his evidence and by the inferences drawn from it, satisfy the Court that his version is more probably than not correct. This means that if he leaves the mind of the Court in a state of equipoise he has failed in his claim.
Section 47 makes very remarkable inroads upon this usual course of events in the establishment of a civil claim. I think its first impact is to require any reasonable inference which favours the view of the serviceman to be accepted. This direction to draw all reasonable inferences does nol merely apply when the inferences are equal in weight and persuasion and there is no means of deciding between the two. It applies equally if there are other competing inferences which are, in the mind of the tribunal, stronger, more reasonable and more acceptable than the inference in favour of the serviceman. This means, therefore, that where there are competing inferences, all reasonable, the tribunal must accept that inference which leads towards success of the serviceman in his claim and reject all other inferences, including even an inference which the tribunal thinks to be a more probable inference, than the inference which favours the serviceman.
The next inroad which the section makes on the usual case is that it places the onus of proof on the Crown rather than as in the ordinary case on the claimant. It is important to realize that the shift of onus of proof does not of itself relieve the serviceman of the need to give any evidence, lt merely means that, if the mind of the tribunal is left in a state of equipoise, the claimant must succeed in contrast to the ordinary case where in a like circumstance he must fail. If the mind is not in a state of equipoise the provision as to the onus of proof has no scope for operation. If the mind is not evenly balanced as between the claimant and the Crown, it must of necessity be satisfied in favour of one or the other, and has no need to resort to the onus of proof as a determining factor.
A further inroad which the section makes on the ordinary case is in relation to giving the serviceman the benefit of every doubt.
Section 47 requires that in a proceeding to which it applies any fact telling against the serviceman’s claim must be proved beyond all reasonable doubt. Of course, irrational doubts are irrelevant.
But this situation must be distinguished from that which arises when questions of credit are involved. I use the expression “credit” here not exclusively in the narrow sense of personal credit, but in the larger sense of belief, of conscious acceptance of a version of the facts, whether the facts are capable of being established objectively or whether they are the result of expert opinion. If witness A says “ Yes “ to a material question of fact, and witness B says “ No “, the mere fact that, there is a conflict does not raise a doubt, nor give any scope for the operation of section 47. The first step for a tribunal to take in that situation is to endeavour to resolve the question of credit. Which of the two assertions does the tribunal accept? Its preference for A’s version and rejection of B’s may turn upon the identity of one or other of the witnesses; or on the view which the tribunal takes of bis integrity or of his capacity for observation or of his technical capacity to speak on the subject at all; or it may be influenced by other facts which the tribunal has accepted as facts for the purpose of considering the claim; or it may be because of the conviction which the assertion of one of them induces in the mind of the tribunal.
If for any one or more of these or, for that matter, for other reasons, the tribunal prefers one version to the other, rejecting that other no question of giving the benefit of the doubt to the serviceman arises; no question of onus of proof arises; nor does any question of drawing a reasonable inference necessarily arise. The matter is resolved by the tribunal accepting one version and not the other.
If in deciding to accept one version, the tribunal needs to draw any inference, then any reasonable inference which is relevant must be accepted and, as I have said before, accepted to the exclusion even of a more probable inference.
Of course, if the tribunal is unable to decide which of the two versions it prefers, then it must accept that version of the facts which favours the serviceman. If, in resolving the conflict, the tribunal is inclined to prefer the view propounded by the Commission, but feels uncertain of itself m so doing and in that sense has some reasonable doubt, it ought not to prefer that point of view. In other words, where the tribunal accepts the Commission’s point of view, it should feel so confident of that acceptance as not to have any reasonable doubt as to the propriety of so accepting it.
There remains one other and, indeed, a most remarkable inroad on the ordinary course of determining a matter raised by the claimant party. That is the provision that the claimant need not furnish any proof to support his claim. In this connexion it is important to identify what is his claim. His claim must be that his current illness or condition is war-caused or, if I could use the expression, war-contributed. To say that he need furnish no proof of his claim just cannot mean that every ex-serviceman could present himself and simply say “ Here I am “, leaving the Commission to establish either (1) that he is in per.’ect health; or (2) that any aberration in his physical or mental condition from the normal is not due to war service. I cannot imagine that that is a tenable point of view. If the Parliament had wished to say such a thing, I should imagine that not only would different language have been used but that the whole structure for hearing and resolving these claims would have been different.
In my opinion the serviceman must efficiently particularize his current condition whatever it is to enable examination and verification and assert that his condition is due to war service of which he gives some account. It is then for the Crown to negative that that condition is war-caused or war-contributed. How the Crown does that is another matter. Let me give an extreme example. Assume a man to be suffering from housemaid’s knee: He makes a claim that this is war-caused or war-contributed. He must, of course, first establish that he has housemaid’s knee. He must assert his war service. If it turned out that he had been a gunner who had never had any fatigue duty of a kind which might have touched or caused this disability of housemaid’s knee, the Crown would, by the very statement of his own claim, establish, to the necessary extent, that the proved injury was not war-caused or warcontributed.
Or without taking so extreme an example, let me suppose that the serviceman establishes a pathological condition of which the cause is generally known and which cause is known to be usually unconnected with war service. Again the Crown may establish by the very nature of the pathological condition that it was not war-caused or war-contributed. But if the serviceman establishes a pathological condition which, of its nature, might conceivably have been war-caused or war-contributed, then, quite clearly, the Crown would need to negative any connexion between the war service of the claimant and the described condition. It then becomes a question of medical opinion as to whether or not this condition was in the particular case war-caused or warcontributed. Here, if the Crown produces a medical witness who says that it is not war-caused or war.contributed and the claimant calls a medical witness who says that it is or may be war-caused, the tribunal must first of all decide which view it will accept. If it accepts the Crown view on its own merits, then no question of doubt, inference or onus of proof arises. The crown has established a case to the necessary extent and the claimant should fail.
The resolution of the claim in cases where the serviceman is found to have some pathological condition, of which medical science is. unable to te the origin., will follow exactly the same lines as in any other case. Equally, with other cases, the tribunal may be able to reach its conclusion without resort to any question of onus, reasonable inference or, for that matter, doubt. It may be convinced by medical opinion of one side or the other as in other cases. If the decision is for the claimant then it suffices that the tribunal bp convinced that the opinion which it accepts is more probably than not the right opinion. If the decision is for the Commission, of course, the tribunal should be convinced that the opinion which they accept is correct beyond any reasonable doubt.
I have set out these views at some length as I apprehend that you may find it appropriate to furnish them to the chairmen of the tribunals.
Whilst these tribunals must act judicially, they are not, of course, courts; and except for the possibility of proceedings by way of mandamus to require them to hear a claim according to law, there are at present no appellate provisions to correct any mistakes of law which they may make.
Consequently, although they have as chairmen trained lawyers, it is not improper in my opinion that through yourself, as Minister, they should be afforded the benefit of the opinion of the Law Officer on the meaning and effect of a section such as section 47, or that they should accept and act on that opinion. Such a course would not only make for certainty in administration but would also remove any lack of uniformity in the practice of the tribunals themselves.
Signed G. E. Barwick.
I do not have the context of the citations from Mr. Justice Evatt’s statements that have been used here, so I turn to a citation from a statement by Mr. Justice Joske, who was formerly the honorable member for Balaclava in the House of Representatives. I would say at this stage that this was taken from a speech that Mr. Justice Joske made in the course of a parliamentary debate on the Repatriation Bill 1956, as reported in “ Hansard “.
– Somebody may quote you some day.
– It will be for them to judge whether they can do so with advantage. I am willing to be judged by honorable senators at this moment. All I ask for is such earnest consideration as each of you feels entitled and bound to give to what I say. Whether you do so does not matter to me, as long as I discuss the matter for the purpose of advancing what I think is the proper cause to be advanced.
Let me quote more fully the statement made by Mr. Justice Joske, from which an excerpt has been taken. Reference had been made to an earlier opinion by Senator Spicer when he was the Attorney-General. It had been stated during the debate that Dr. Evatt approved that statement. This is what Mr. Justice Joske said when debating the matter in the House of Representatives in 1956 -
With great respect, I would agree with both those learned gentlemen that the statement of the former Attorney-General is an extremely clear exposition of the law - to lawyers.
– This is what Dr. Evatt said?
– No. This is what Mr. Joske, Q.C., as he then was, said during a debate in the Parliament. He said that he would agree with both Senator Spicer and Dr. Evatt that the statement of Senator Spicer was an extremely clear exposition of the law - to lawyers. Then he continued -
I doubt very much whether many laymen would really understand the context of the former Attorney-General’s opinion.
If I may be so bold, I would suggest that if the Minister were to give to the laymen who have to administer the repatriation tribunals, and also to the doctors who have to give opinions to the tribunals, a clear statement in simple language, and not a learned legal opinion, the tribunals would understand the position and the probabilities are that they would give juster decisions. . . .
Then he made this statement, which has been retailed throughout this debate -
There is a presumption that the claim is to be allowed even though the claimant calls no evidence. lt is for those opposing the claim to produce evidence sufficient to establish that the claim should fail. Unless this evidence is produced, the claim must succeed.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– 1 support the contention of the mover of the amendment.
.- Before entering upon a refutation of Mr. Joske’s statement in simple language to give the meaning of a very clear legal opinion, I shall quote statements that he made in subsequent debates. During the debate on the Repatriation Bill 1959 he said -
Where there is evidence going each way, it is for the tribunal to make up its mind as to which pan of the evidence before it it believes. . . . I find that in many instances of complaints there has been evidence on both sides and the tribunal has made up its mind to accept one side’s evidence. As a matter of law there can be nothing wrong with that.
– This is not a matter of law. It is a matter of interpreting the spirit of section 47.
– That is a matter of law.
– I said the spirit of it.
– I suggest that you should take advice from all the intellectual colleagues around you. I venture to suggest that none of them would advise you to deny that.
– It is a matter of accepting the spirit of the section.
– Quite so, which is a matter of law.
– No. It is a matter of accepting the spirit of the law.
– The law determines what benefits any applicant is entitled to.
– Why don’t they let legal men interpret it?
– Do not be so silly.
– Would you say that section 47-
– Just let me put forward an ordered explanation of these matters which, after perusal, may prove to be of advantage to our cause. I venture to suggest that my cause is not different from yours. Mr. Joske, continued -
It seems to me that the weakness is rather the way in which the evidence is presented before the tribunals, particularly medical evidence.
It will be seen that Mr. Joske’s subsequent statements cannot be properly reconciled with what has been relied upon by the Opposition.
That part of Mr. Joske’s statement in which he said “ There is a presumption that the claim is to be allowed even though the claimant calls no evidence “ cannot be established by the words of the section. The section provides that it shall not be necessary for the claimant to furnish proof to support his claim, but that does not mean that if he does not furnish any proof the tribunal is to presume that his claim is supportable.
– I said that.
– All right. Then the learned judge, as he now is, said -
It is for those opposing the claim to produce evidence sufficient to establish that the claim should fail. Unless this evidence is produced, the claim must succeed.
Again, in resorting to simple langauge he produces a misinterpretation of the section.
Sir Garfield Barwick said that when it comes to considering the evidence the section provides not only that the tribunal is entitled to draw but that it shall draw all reasonable inferences in favour of the claim. But who is to judge what inferences are reasonable? That is where the area of decision must be left to the tribunal - if we are to uphold a system of tribunals in this field. I think that the establishment of tribunals in this pension field is of enormous advantage to ex-servicemen. It has given them the opportunity, not only when they come originally before a board, but also on appeal, to demand that the individual circumstances of their cases be considered. If we are to have tribunals we have to recognize their integrity. With Sir Garfield Barwick’s opinion before them they now in all cases - even where four inferences are available and they prefer three of them - are required by the section to draw all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant. If there is an inference reasonably open to the tribunal in favour of the claimant it is required to draw that inference. Senator Bishop is attempting to interject, but I am trying to leave a clear record that can be given more mature perusal by him later.
Having said that, I must also say, after hearing Dr. Turnbull this afternoon, and after having re-read last night the lamentable circumstances in which the medical profession left Rabbie, Burns to die - whether of neuritis, rheumatism, a liver complaint, a kidney complaint or as a result of being sent to bathe in the Solway Firth - I am not particularly happy that, by leaving the interpretation of this matter to medical advisers, we are achieving the best results. I certainly will not support the amendment, but I have made the foregoing statement at the end of my speech to indicate that this is a matter which we should have the purpose to pursue in a proper way which is more appropriate to our aim than the course offered by Senator Bishop. Senator Bishop suggests a provision containing the words “ where the origin of a disability cannot be properly determined “. That form of words would be a source of great ambiguity when a matter was being dealt with by a tribunal of integrity or by any court of justice.
– It was not my intention to rise in this debate, but I do so because I think that a proper consideration has not been given to the amendment foreshadowed by the Opposition. The whole discussion has revolved around the question whether there has been a correct interpretation of section 47 of the act. I do not desire to put myself in the same class as the legal men in the Senate, nor do I wish to put myself in the same intellectual class when I say that I agree with Senator Wright that this is essentially a matter of law.
I have had some experience, not as a solicitor, but as a complainant or defendant, in courts of law. I have come in contact with legal matters and have learned that one of the canons of interpretation is that a court must accept the literal meaning of a section unless there is some ambiguity. If there is some ambiguity then the court can consider the intention of the legislature, but otherwise the intention of the document must be read from the document itself and not from what some one said about it in a parliament.
To my mind there is no ambiguity in section 47. Members on this side of the chamber believe that a doubt should arise when two doctors make a different diagnosis or give differing causes of a complaint. As I have said, we can only take account of the intention of the legislature when two meanings can be read into a particular section. Members on this side of the chamber are concerned that the spirit of the act is not being carried out in the way that the government in office in 1943 when this section was inserted intended it to be carried out. As a result, the ex-servicemen are not getting a fair deal, and the Opposition thinks that the onus-of-proof clause should be amended.
The doubt must be created in the mind of the tribunal and not in the mind of doctors who may give evidence. If there is a doubt in the mind of the tribunal then the benefit of that doubt must be given to the applicant. The doubt must first be created in the mind of the tribunal. As Senator Wright indicated when reading out the opinion of Mr. Joske - now Mr. Justice Joske - the doubt may arise from the manner in which the evidence is presented. That may be something that impresses a tribunal, lt may be the period that elapsed before the applicant sought medical assistance that will convince the tribunal as to the cause of the complaint. It would bc easy for a doctor to accept the word of an ex-serviceman that he has suffered some complaint for two years after his discharge from the services. It would be easy for the doctor to give an opinion that the complaint was consistent with something that the patient described to him ‘ as having happened in the Army but which he had not reported. On the other hand, it would be much more difficult for the doctor, after a period of ten years, to give his opinion on something that the patient said had happened ten years previously. The doctor would not be in a position to say that the patient did not suffer from the complaint at that time. Taking all these factors into consideration a tribunal may come to the conclusion, on the balance of probabilities, that in all the circumstances there is no doubt in its mind, and therefore the application has to be dismissed. The tribunal can also, in the case of conflicting medical opinions, accept one medical opinion as superior to another. It might be an incorrect opinion in fac*, but could be sufficient to create a doubt.
The Opposition has not said that the provision has not been interpreted or administered properly, according to the letter of the law, but it has said that it has not been interpreted in the manner in which the Labour Government which inserted it intended it to be interpreted. Obviously the language used has failed to convey the meaning it was intended to convey. It is to rectify that that the Opposition has moved this amendment. The amendment does not shift the onus of proof but it gives it more elasticity. It takes from the tribunal the responsibility of deciding that a doubt has been created if there is conflicting medical evidence. In that case a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined. If the origin of a disability cannot be properly determined the tribunal must do no more than decide, in accordance with the act, that the man should receive the pension. That was the intention of the legislature when the onusofproof provision was inserted, but the language of the section is not being interpreted in the manner that Parliament intended it should. The amendment provides secondly that a doubt shall be deemed to exist “ where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability “. We are not putting some one in the position of having to say that the evidence of Dr. A shall be accepted in preference to that of Dr. B. At present when medical opinions conflict the tribunal must accept one opinion and weigh it against a multitude of factors such as the demeanour of the applicant or appellant, his history and, what is perhaps more important, the tribunal’s general knowledge.
The men who sit on these tribunals do not live in a cloistral atmosphere; they are not locked away to decide each question without regard to other facts. I think it is right that they should be permitted to take into consideration knowledge gained at previous hearings. It could well be that the history of a particular case is similar to that of a case heard and rejected or approved during the previous week. If the amendment is agreed to, on those occasions when medical opinion conflicts the tribunal will not have to consider all those other factors to decide whether there is a doubt. The doubt will be there. All honorable senators accept that the medical profession is honest. Despite Senator Bishop’s claim that he would be reluctant to submit his own case to Dr. Turnbull should the need ever arise, no one can say that Dr. Turnbull is not diagnosing ailments to the best of his professional ability. I suggest that when a conflict of medical opinion exists the tribunal is not competent to say that either doctor is wrong. There is always the danger that it may accept the wrong opinion and so cause hardship to a returned soldier whom the Government promised to protect and to reward.
By this amendment all that we are attempting to do is to clarify the existing provision. We believe that in some respects the act is being misinterpreted and that as time goes on it will become harder for an ex-serviceman to substantiate a claim or at least to show that a doubt exists. That is the situation to which the letter from the R.S.L. drew attention when it stated that it was becoming more difficult to establish a case that did not create doubt, due to the lapse of time since discharge from the military forces. Nevertheless we still provide in the amendment that the tribunal must give to the claimant the benefit of any doubt that it may have. We propose that two circumstances shall create a doubt. The first is where the origin of the disability cannot properly be determined and the second is where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability. In such cases a pension would bc awarded automatically. I do not think any one could say that it is unreasonable to ask for this proposal to be put into operation. It is what every one thought Parliament meant when it enacted the benefit-of-the-doubt provision. It is only when we hear legal opinions expressed on interpretations of the act that we find that the sections apparently do not state what Parliament intended.
The opinions expressed by learned legal counsel do not contribute much to this debate. The very fact that the Opposition has now proposed amendments to the existing provisions indicates that we do not question the interpretation of the act by the various tribunals. If it were considered that a tribunal had not correctly interpreted the act, the ex-serviceman concerned would have the right of appeal to a higher tribunal.
The Opposition’s amendment is an admission that the act is being interpreted in accordance with its wording. Indeed, it must be so interpreted. The spirit of the act cannot be taken into consideration unless some ambiguity exists in the wording. The Opposition believes that the interpretation being given to the section now sought to be amended does not afford sufficient protection to the ex-serviceman, nor does it meet the promise made at the time of his enlistment. In addition, it is not in accordance with Parliament’s intention. Therefore, it is proposed to put the meaning beyond any doubt.
– I, too, feel that we have spent a lot of time in this debate listening to interpretations given by divers legal luminaries. No matter what interpretation they believe is right, we have definite evidence from people who have experienced difficulties with the onus-of-proof provision in presenting claims for pensions that the act is not , operating as honorable (senators. on both.’ sides of the chamber contend, that it should. Undoubtedly the situation has been created in which thousands of exservicemen have had their claims for a pension disallowed. Many of these men feel that they have not been given the benefit of the doubt, and that opinion is shared by their advocates.
At this stage we should not be considering whether a section has been properly interpreted or applied; we should devote our attention to the amendment that is before the committee. This amendment is in the same terms as a submission advanced by the national executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League. It proposes that in all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot properly be determined, or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability. Such a provision would enable an applicant to have a definite knowledge of what he is required to prove and how far he is required to go in his proof.
We all know of the procedure that is followed before repatriation tribunals. Medical opinion is produced to support an ex-serviceman’s claim that his disability was war-caused. This is countered by other medical opinion and the tribunal has to decide which evidence it will accept. However, honorable senators must remember that after the claimant has presented his evidence and that of his medical adviser, who is probably held in high respect in the community and among his associates, he leaves the room while the tribunal hears evidence in rebuttal. To satisfy itself the tribunal can continue to seek further evidence, with the full resources of the Repatriation Department to assist it, until it is convinced beyond doubt. But the applicant has no right to present further evidence; his case is finished until the matter has been determined by the board.
The Returned Servicemen’s League has said that all too often the tribunals are announcing decisions such as: “ Origin considered long post-war “, “ Constitution and post-war “, or “ Degenerative condition associated with the age of the applicant”. These are the only reasons given for the rejection of claims. Not only the Opposition but also the Returned Servicemen’s. League, rightly ask what evidence the determining authority must produce to discharge fully the onus of proof. Can the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) or the department tell us what will satisfy that onus, or what constitutes a doubt? Senator Wright, whom I believe is very sincere in his approach to this problem, said that a doubt is constituted when the tribunal has two opinions and just cannot say which it prefers. Nevertheless, the tribunal considering a case has all the resources of the department at its disposal, and could have prejudices - its members are only human - which might act against a claimant. The person making a claim might have tried on many previous occasions to establish his claim and may now have fresh evidence, but he is obliged to prove conclusively that he has a reasonable case for acceptance.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
- Mr. Chairman, before the suspension of the sitting I had pointed out that it was apparently the considered opinion of honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber, of Opposition senators, and of the Returned Servicemen’s League that the application of section 47 of the Repatriation Act has been unsatisfactory, because the expressed intention of the section has not been achieved. That is a very sound basis on which to start to consider whether the proposal submitted by the league would not better suit the situation. One thing I should like honorable senators to keep in mind is the question asked by the Returned Servicemen’s League as to what constitutes “ doubt “. lt becomes increasingly important that that term should be more clearly defined. In the league’s view, if there is a difference between two bodies of medical opinion a doubt should be deemed to exist. There are on record a number of cases in which authoritative medical opinion has been in conflict as to whether war service could have been a contributing factor to an applicant’s illness, and, consequently, his claim has been rejected. Furthermore, the determining authorities have different conceptions of what constitutes “ doubt “. So, an applicant’s case might well be determined in his favour by one tribunal and determined against him by another. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have pleaded sincerity in this matter. If that is so, all honorable senators will want to have the intention of the act carried out. Applicants for the repatriation benefits that we are discussing want to have a provision inserted in the act such as the Opposition now proposes.
I submit that our proposal will at least have the effect of satisfying those who wish to receive benefits under the act. It will satisfy the requirements of those who act as advocates for returned servicemen before the various repatriation tribunals. I suggest that the committee would be well advised to vote for the amendment which the Opposition has submitted. Appellants and advocates will then know what information they will have to provide to tribunals for the purpose of proving their case or establishing that there is a doubt. At present, neither the appellant nor the advocate knows what will constitute proof or what will enable them to establish that a doubt exists. An applicant may go before a tribunal with what he believes to be a complete case within the requirements of the act, yet his application may not be accepted. He may be asked to seek further evidence. The proposed amendmnet is thoroughly justified. The Opposition and the Returned Servicemen’s League are very sincere about this matter and many senators on the Government side of the chamber have said that they are sincere about it. Why not give the ex-servicemen what they ask for?
– I was rather surprised at the speech made by Senator Wright who quoted opinions given by very eminent legal men including Dr. Evatt, Mr. Justice Joske and Judge Spicer, formerly Senator Spicer. In my opinion, Senator Wright proved to the committee that the opinion of those three eminent gentlemen was in accordance with the opinion of Opposition senators. But Senator Wright did not state his legal opinion on the matter. He finished by saying that it was a legal matter. We do not want to make a legal matter out of this. He said that cases would be decided on reasonable evidence. Just imagine Senator Wright, Senator Cohen, Senator Murphy, Senator McKenna and other eminent legal men having the destiny of a soldier’s pension in their hands and arguing the point on the meaning of the’-‘ word “ reasonable “. Where would such an argument finish? 1 thought that Senator Wright was going to support the Opposition’s motion. The position that Opposition senators want to establish is this: If an ex-serviceman has medical evidence in favour of an application for a pension and if he has supporting evidence, say, from a former member of his own unit - which is not easy to get - there should be no legal argument before the tribunal at all. Probably, the advocate for the exserviceman would have no legal knowledge. Such advocates are usually lay men drawn from the Returned Servicemen’s League.
As I have said, I was surprised that Senator Wright quoted the opinion of three legal gentlemen and then omitted to give his own opinion but said that cases would be decided from a legal point of view before the tribunals. All the Opposition asks is that the ordinary chap - the fellow who enlisted in the Army as a private, and is now a worker, a doctor or a legal man - should receive the benefit that is intended to be provided under the act. The Opposition’s objective is to get this idea over to the tribunals at least in respect of exservicemen of the First World War. I regard myself as an ordinary intelligent chap, and I do not think that any honorable senator can read the Opposition’s proposal and give an interpretation of it different from that which I have given it. We wish to establish a situation in which, the ex-serviceman having presented evidence to a tribunal that his service in a particular area caused the complaint from which he is suffering, with the support of evidence from a doctor and a former member of his unit, his application can be granted. I trust that the Senate will carry the proposed amendment which will be in the interests of the few ex-servicemen who still survive from the First World War.
– Mr. Chairman, may I bring this debate back to the proposition which the Opposition presented when we moved the motion before the Chair7 Over the years, section 47 of the Repatriation Act has been progressively amended in favour of applicants. Its application has been extended to all the tribunals under the act. It seems that it is not a completely legal concept. Section 47 is not what might be termed a “ usual legal prescription “. It is weighted very much in favour of applicants for repatriation benefits. It is designed to give every possible assistance to applicants to the various repatriation tribunals. This would be very clear to anybody who examined the various amendments made to the act. The Opposition contends that the intention of the legislature was to give applicants the benefit of the doubt. Apart from any particular case that might be mentioned, the Opposition is basing its submissions largely on those of the Returned Servicemen’s League which has asked that the act be amended in the way that we have suggested.
Lawyers may argue that the definition, although designed for the purpose we have in view, falls down on certain points. In introducing the amendment, I said that this might be so. My understanding is that if there is a doubt as to the interpretation of a statute recourse is had to the parliamentary debates to find out the intention of the legislature. We say that the intention of this legislation was really to give to an applicant the benefit of any doubt, lt is apparent from this debate, from the debates last year on repatriation, and from the whole history of this piece of social legislation, that the intention is to give the benefit of any doubt to an applicant. The act, which has been gradually evolved and steadily improved, is fairly reasonable, but we and the R.S.L. say that it is still faulty in some respects. Senator Wright suggests that in trying to provide a remedy in respect of one clause we may introduce other difficulties of interpretation. We say that the clear intention of the legislation should be sufficient for effect to be given to the provision in the way that we seek. Having regard to the body which formulated the amendment which we have adopted, we suggest that the committee should agree to this amendment.
– What has been put by Senator Bishop is good sense. He has said: Here is a section which is intended to work in a certain way. Experience over a number of years shows that it has not worked in that way. Apparently it needs some amendment in order to demonstrate the will of this legislature that it should work in the way originally intended. The proposed form of words, which emanated from the Returned Servicemen’s League, is designed to achieve that result. If somebody else has any suggestions, he should put them forward.
Several honorable senators have issued an invitation for some one to indicate what is the practice of the law in regard to looking at the spirit of legislation rather than the letter. I think some have indicated that if the law does not look to the intent of the legislature, then it should. I shall respond to that invitation, in the hope that I may show that the law is not altogether academic. It is very practical and commonsense in many of these things and especially in this matter. It does look to the intent of the legislature but it does not go quite as far in Anglo-Saxon countries as Senator Bishop indicated, in that it does not entitle the courts to look at the debates in Parliament in order to determine the meaning of an enactment. But it does enable the courts in a proper case to determine what was the intent of the legislature and, in fact, that is one of the great canons of construction. I should like to read from a very famous statement by a Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom the policy of the law in respect of looking at the spirit of the legislation as well as at the letter of it. He said -
That quotation shows that what has been said by honorable senators in this chamber is correct. The law does look to the true legislative intent, not only to the letter of the law but also to the spirit of the law. Here, the spirit of the law has been very clear and, really, undeviating for a number of years. Unfortunately, it seems evident from what was put by honorable senators - in fact, it is notorious - that the spirit of the law is sometimes, perhaps many times, lost in its actual application. It does call for some remedial action of the kind proposed by Senator Bishop.
I commend an amendment of this nature to the committee. The precise words of it are not important. They seem to meet the situation. Senator Wright has suggested that there might be some improvement on them. He has not yet indicated what the precise nature of that improvement would be. I support the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 4 to 22 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 22a.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I move -
After clause 22 insert the following new clause: - “22a. After section one hundred and twentythree of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 1 I 23a The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from lime to time determines, provide medical and hospital treatment for a member of the Forces as defined in section twentythree of this Act and for a person to whom section one hundred and twenty of this Act applies.’.”.
The question of free medical attention for cx-servicemen of World War I is becoming a hardy annual. There was a time during the Second World War when it was not possible to make hospital accommodation available to cx-servicemen other than those who had been seriously wounded, but today there is ample accommodation at repatriation hospitals to permit ex-servicemen who are ill to receive treatment. This matter has been included in the agenda of the annual conferences of the Returned Servicemen’s League for many years, and it is on the agenda again this year. However, the Government has done nothing in the matter. I have not yet read a report which indicated that the Government had even considered it.
If it is the intention of the Government to accede to the request of the league, and also of the Opposition, there is no need to pursue the matter further. I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) will agree to the amendment I have moved. There are not many exservicemen of World War I left. A good many of them no doubt would be entitled to age or invalid pensions. I think that only during the last twelve months the Government has made available free hospital treatment to surviving members of the first expeditionary force to leave Australia, which participated in the Boer War. There were only a dozen or so survivors of the expeditionary force when the Government came forward with that gesture. Do not let us wait until there are only a few ex-servicemen of World War I left before we grant them free hospitalization. In Melbourne, wards which have been closed in repatriation hospitals could be used to accommodate ex-servicemen who so richly deserve free medical attention.
Let us imagine the case of a man who returned from the First World War at the age of seventeen or eighteen and has since lived an industrial life in doing his ordinary job. To-day, he has reached an age where it is impossible for him to work any longer.
– What about the man who has lived an agricultural life?
– Exservicemen who were fortunate enough to take up an agricultural life are provided for. I do not say they are amply provided for, but at least they have a home and the wherewithal to make ends meet. As Senator O’Byrne says, they are able to pay their medical expenses. We in this chamber would have found it necessary to-night to consider seriously the position of primary producers if it had not been for the action of a Labour government. 1 recall an exsoldier who was a member of the other House for many years. Under a Liberal administration he was forced to live under starvation conditions in order to develop the land which he settled after the First World War. Had it not been for a Labour government, or perhaps the outbreak of the Second World War, that man might still have been in debt.
– You mean Donny McLeod?
– Yes, the late Donny McLeod, a man who went onto a property under the soldier settlement scheme of 1918. Not 10 per cent, of the men who were settled on the land under that scheme stayed on the land. Those people would to-day bc seeking protection under the Repatriation Act if it had not been for a Labour government. The Curtin and Chifley Governments stabilized the prices of primary products in Australia and thus provided settlers with a decent livelihood. They are therefore not so urgently in need as are the ordinary workers.
– That is why the honorable senator chose to mention the industrial people to the exclusion of the farmers.
– As I have said before, just imagine an ex-serviceman depending on the legal minds of some honorable senators. Senator Wright said I made a remark that I did not make. Who is going to prove that? I- said nothing about primary producers. .. . .
– That is what I am directing to the attention of the committee.
– I mentioned soldiers from the First World War, whether they were primary producers or men who worked in industry. As I said earlier, the reward that ex-servicemen of the First World War received was the right to carry a swag over the roads from 1930 until the outbreak of the Second World War.
– Under the Scullin Government.
– The interjection of the Minister for Customs and Excise is typical of him. The Scullin Government was in office in Canberra in the lower house of this Parliament but it had a hostile majority in the Senate. The Labour Government was returned to office following the maladministration of the Bruce-Page Government which had been in office since the end of the First World War. When Mr. Scullin came to office with a majority in the lower House, he found the Treasury was empty. I have a vivid recollection of attending a conference where Mr. J. A. Lyons, later the Prime Minister, was a delegate. He said that the Government faced a terrible state of affairs. He pulled out his pockets and said they were empty just as the Commonwealth Treasury was, and he added, “ My pockets are not empty because of maladministration but because I am the father of seven young children. The Treasury is empty because of the maladministration of the Bruce-Page Government”. That was in 1930 at an Australian Labour Party conference in the Melbourne Trades Hall.
It was not long before the white ants got at Mr. Lyons, and the next thing I remember of him was when he was handing out £10 notes at a meeting of unemployed in Bendigo. Mr. Scullin found the Treasury empty but he introduced legislation hoping that those who had a majority in the Senate would be human and that the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board would have some human feelings. All he asked for was £18,000,000- £12,000,000 for the primary producers, about whom Senator Wright is worried, and £6,000,000 to put the unemployed to work.
– Order! The honorable senator should direct his remarks to the bill before the committee.
– I was saying that the ex-servicemen were badly treated by an anti-Labour government after the First World War. They went through terrible times during the war and in the depression. What happened to the soldier settlement scheme after the Second World War? Under the Cain Labour Government in Victoria, in conjunction with the Chifley Labour Government, the ex-servicemen were settled successfully on the land. Those who were not successful were either too lazy or too ill to work. That is what happened after the Second World War.
I do not think we will have the trouble with ex-servicemen in the years to come that was experienced after the First World War. I remember ex-servicemen whom I knew personally who went on the road with their swags, leaving their homes and families in Melbourne. Good tradesmen were sent to walk the roads. That was their reward for war service. To-day they are paying for it. They had no chance then of putting something aside to pay for hospital and medical treatment in their old age. Senator Hannaford, who is interjecting, would know nothing about that. He has lived in the lap of luxury all his life as a wealthy wool-growers and wheat producer. He would not know what the soldiers went through.
The Opposition agrees with the R.S.L. and those who made this country safe: I have many letters here asking me to put the case for the ex-serviceman. Government supporters have said that the exservicemen have access to the Cabinet room but if they have it is only when the Cabinet is sitting in Melbourne and they have access to the Cabinet room in Canberra, which is then empty. We on the Opposition side represent as many exservicemen as do Government supporters. We appeal to the Government to accede to this request and write provisions into the Repatriation Act so that ex-servicemen and women who are ill and cannot look after themselves . will be given hospital , and medical treatment.
.- The committee would do well to remind itself that we are dealing with legislation to meet repatriation requirements in 1963-64. However colourful the picture that Senator Hendrickson has painted of certain conditions which he alleged existed 25 to 30 years ago under the Scullin Government, that has nothing to do with the matter we are discussing to-night. It might be well, therefore, to remind ourselves just what medical treatment and hospitalization are provided to-day and to what classes of repatriation pensioner they apply. Very properly, hospital and medical treatment are available to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, those on 1.00 per cent, pension and to service pensioners as well as those suffering from tuberculosis.
The amendment moved by the Opposition is directed to help veterans of the South African war and the First World War. The Repatriation Department has estimated that there are about 100,000 survivors of the 1914-1.8 war and of that J 00,000 ex-servicemen, 18,700 are receiving the 100 per cent, general rate war pension or a higher rate of war pension while 37,850 are in receipt of service pensions, lt is not known - and I emphasize the point - how many of that total of approximately 56,500 are in receipt of both the general rate pension and a service pension. In addition, approximately 28,000 have general rate pensions of less than 100 per cent. There are three groups of people-
– They total 84.500.
– They total approximately S4.000. I make the point that the number would be less than that, because some of those pensioners arc in receipt of a general rate pension and a whole or part service pension. That total of 84,500 extends over those three classes of pension. As I said last night in closing the second-reading debate and when referring to hospitalization, of the balance of these pensioners-
– Arc al! those entitled to hospitalization?
– The service pensioners are.
– The service pensioners are. There are 37,850 of them. Then 18,700 pensioners who receive a 100 per cent, general rate or a T.P.I, pension arc entitled to hospitalization.
– How many are not entitled to hospitalization?
– I understand that the others are entitled to diagnosis and report free of charge. The diagnosis and report procedure is exercised in a very liberal manner. Frequently when the report is issued the person concerned has had the benefit of hospitalization for as long as a week. Approximately 300 Boer War veterans are service pensioners, and they too receive medical benefits. 1 suggest that those figures make interesting reading.
I was about to make the point when I was last interrupted that the balance of the 100,000 survivors of the 1914-18 war who are not in receipt of any class of pension very probably are people who, because of their means and their income, do not require a pension. This matter has been examined quite closely by the Minister for Repatriation who made it quite clear in another place that the department had given close attention to the representation but that for the reasons I have stated, and doubtless others, the Government had decided not to grant the concession.
– I suggest that the figures presented by the Minister for Civil Aviation provide ample justification for the amendment being agreed to. The Minister has told us that the figures available reveal that approximately 100,000 First World War veterans are still alive, that of that number approximately 18,700 receive the 100 per cent, rate pension, some 37,850 receive a service pension, and approximately 28,000 receive a war pension below the 100 per cent. rate. Even if only the first two categories were taken into consideration, the maximum number of cx-servicemen who would be covered by the proposal would be approximately 44,000. If all those mentioned by the Minister were accepted as being eligible for hospitalization under the net, the minimum number would be 16,150. So financially it would be quite within the capacity of the Government to comply with the Opposition’s request.
Approximately 330,000 Australians sailed from this country in troopships to fight on the battlefields of Egypt and France during the First World War. Of that number approximately 313,000, or 95 per cent., became war casualties. I think it is fair to say that not many other armies suffered comparable casualities at that time. I understand that in round figures, 60,000 young Australians gave their lives between 1914 and 1918 in defence of the Australian way of life. In other words, one serviceman in every five was killed in action. As I said earlier, 40 years after the termination of those hostilities, 100,000 survivors are still alive and of that number approximately 84,000 are receiving some benefit. In other words, on the Minister’s own figures 16,000 ex-servicemen are not in receipt of any compensation - to use a loose word - from the Government. I believe, as does the Returned Servicemen’s League, that it is within the financial capacity of the Government to provide for those people. The R.S.L., in its 47th annual report, which was presented in 1962, had this to say -
The League believes that the lime is now opportune Tor a further extension to take place providing general repatriation hospitalization for all ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 and prior wars. lt has not been possible to assess accurately the number of people who could be affected by this provision. However, it is important to note thai a very large number of ex-service mcn and women in this category are already Service Pensioners and a further percentage are in receipt of these benefits as part of their entitlement for accepted disabilities.
Just prior to my rising, the Minister gave the figures that were available to the Repatriation Department. The R.S.L. then said -
The League has stated before that there are many cases particularly associated wilh service in the 1914-18 war where, by virtue of complete absence of evidence, it has been impossible to establish connexion of a complaint with a member’s war service. There also seems to be a growing tendency amongst some repatriation medical officers to overlook the extremes of hardship of war service and to require a very specific occurrence before acceptance of the complaint is recommended. The League believes that the general effect of war service is cumulative and must contribute to the premature onset of many complaints. This principle was recognized by the
Federal Parliament when it introduced the Service Pension into the Repatriation Act.
It is held that all the reasons supporting the introduction of the Service Pension equally support the extension of repatriation hospitalization to personnel of the First World War and prior wars. The number in this category grows less each year. They have all rendered outstanding service to the nation in time of war.
The R.S.L. believes that the extension of this benefit is a richly deserved entitlement and one that Australia can well afford.
Who amongst us can refute what was slated by the R.S.L.? We should do all we possibly can to assist the cream of our young men who left this country between 1914 and 1918. To grant them these benefits would be very small recompense indeed for the service they rendered and the hardship they suffered. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment that was moved by Senator Hendrickson.
– We might be very keen about this proposal, but there are one or two points which must be considered. We must keep it in perspective. I said yesterday that the greatest good which had been afforded to ex-servicemen had been the giving to service pensioners - there are 40,000 of them - of free hospitalization in our repatriation hospitals. Some diggers of the 1914-18 war are excluded because of their financial circumstances and some because of their good health. These people are commonly alluded to by the Opposition as “ silvertails “. The cry from the Opposition has always been, “ Why give to the silvertails? “.
– You are a silverfish.
– Well, 1 would not be found in your clothes if I were. Coming back to the point, I advocated that something should be done along the present lines before any one in the Opposition made such a suggestion. I think Senator Sir Walter Cooper will bear me out when I say that I played some small part in obtaining hospitalization for our service pensioners. The point is that many of the decent diggers say, “We are not hums; we are not bludgers on the country “. Much as they would like this benefit, so that they could bc with their pals when they go to hospital, they are more concerned that the service pensioners, the 100 per cent, pensioners and those who have suffered injury should get a fair deal. They do not want anything that might mean that something would be taken away from those other deserving people.
– Why then does the Returned Servicemen’s League put up this claim?
– Senator Mattner does not know what he is talking about.
– I heard Senator Hendrickson say that he had left the R.S.L. and was not a member of it. He said that because of what the R.S.L. had done he had left it.
– I did, and I do not deny it.
– Yet he stood up to-night and said that he was a member.
– I am a financial member and I have been for many years.
– If there was anything wrong with the R.S.L. and you got out of it - and those were your words - I believe it was your duty to stay within the ranks and correct the faults that you believed were there.
– That is what he is doing now.
– I am delighted to hear Senator Hendrickson say to-night that he is a member of the R.S.L. It was so refreshing after the way he so roundly condemned the league. Now he accuses me of not knowing what I am talking about.
– You do not, either.
– I think that I might.
– Will you contradict the R.S.L.?
– Although this claim may be advocated by the R.S.L. I believe that the great majority of those diggers in the R.S.L. who are fortunate enough to have good health, and to be in a financial position not to depend upon the service pension, are willing to forgo the right to free hospitalization, provided the less fortunate diggers can get a fair deal.
.- Senator Mattner has. probably contradicted himself. He said that many ex-servicemen from the First World War do not have to depend on the charity of the Government for hospital treatment, but the figures given by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) indicate that there are 84,500 First World War men who are eligible for pensions and indirectly eligible for hospital treatment. Some matters involved in this amendment have been overlooked. I believe that Government supporters have completely missed the spirit of the amendment. As usual, they are dominated by the over-powering influence of the Treasury. Many Government supporters would support a measure such as this, but with them the Treasury reigns supreme. However, as a result of the tenacity over the years of honorable senators on this side of the Parliament the Treasury has had to give ground.
The Minister said that the 300 men who served in the Boer War were all covered. We should raise our hats to those 300 who served in the Boer War. The royalistminded Senator Mattner should take his mind over to England where there is an institution at Chelsea for old soldiers. I do not like the name “ Chelsea pensioners “ by which these old soldiers are known.
– They are not ashamed of being called that.
– I think they should be called Chelsea ex-servicemen or, better still, Chelsea veterans. I suppose it does not matter, as they do not mind; they are proud of their position and title. They live together and talk together of the hurlyburly of their lives. These men are proud of having done their job for their country although they have come to the stage of their lives where they are burnt out. It is fortunate when a man in this condition can go to a place where he can be among his mates, where there is dignity, where there is friendship, camaraderie and esprit de corps. He can live back in the old days in conversation with his mates. My good friend Senator Mattner is possibly a few years ahead of me in this, but there comes a stage in a man’s life where the clock has ticked over past midday and he is more inclined to speak of the past than he is to think of the future. When a man comes to the .evening, pf his life he likes to reminisce, about bis great .days pf the past.
I should like to ask the Minister how many vacant beds there are in the repatriation hospitals to-day. The reports of the Repatriation Commission forecast that the critical stage will be reached in 1975 when we will have the greatest demand for hospital beds. Unfortunately, the Treasury acts like another Shylock in dealing with the problems of government to-day. It is a case of quid pro quid, where you have to put in more than you can take out. An illustration of that is the parliamentary retiring allowances fund. If there is not £500,000 in kitty the Treasury cannot see its way clear-
– Order! The question of parliamentary allowances has nothing to do with the clause now before the committee.
– I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman, and I regret very much that I have departed so far from the bill as to make such a shocking comparison. I was saying how few people will be involved in this proposal. Only 15,500 people will come within this provision, and some of them may elect to have treatment among the old diggers that they knew. They may feel that if everything turns against them they will bc amongst their old comrades. After all, these are uncertain times. One insurance company has as its slogan, “ A sure friend in uncertain times “, and honorable senators will appreciate that relations between people are becoming more impersonal in these days of slick salesmanship, of the Reid Murrays, of the Kormans and others. Many of our old people do not know exactly where they are going, and many of our farmers who thought they had security do not know whether their beef is going to be priced out of the market.
– I remind the honorable senator that he is getting right away from the clause.
– I shall return to it, but I should like to make the point that the old digger of the First World War is living in times of uncertainty that did not exist when he was young and able to adapt himself to an ever-changing community. It is the belief of honorable senators on this side of the chamber that veterans of trie Boer War and the First World War ‘‘should be entitled to free hospitalization in the evening of their lives should this become necessary. It has been a tradition of Australian governments down through the years to respect the old people, and this Government has now attempted to do something for the Boer War veterans. But it did not do anything until only a few hundred were left.
Some 15,500 people may benefit by this proposal. As Senator Mattner said, very few of them would demean themselves to take charity, but let us provide for the few who may, through change of circumstances, need to avail themselves of this gesture. Surely this Government, understanding the nature of the amendment, knowing of the declining numbers of ex-servicemen of the First World War and the character of these people will say to them, “ Gentlemen, if you need hospitalization in the evening of your lives we offer it to you “. Our repatriation hospitals will not be filled until 1975, when we will meet the crest of the hospital demand by the men and women of the 1939- 45 war. We have to train nurses, doctors and specialists to meet our peak period, but by 1975, according to my figures, the number of men from the 1914-18 war will have been so reduced that any man who was not under eighteen years of age at time of enlistment would be eligible for hospitalization under the service pension scheme. This means that the majority of those who will benefit will be in the 70 to 75 years age group. It is not so much a matter of finance that is involved here as it is a matter of principle. These people, if they meet with hard times or need a lift, should not have to worry. They are old diggers and the Government should see that they never want. The Government should assure them that our repatriation hospitals will be available to them whenever they say, “1 need hospitalization; I need the company of my old digger friends in what is perhaps my last illness “. That is what is proposed by this amendment, and I believe that the cost of implementing the proposal would not be very great, lt is my belief that the Treasury could provide adequate funds to finance this scheme.
– I do not want to delay the committee any longer than is . absolutely.’ necessary. Senator 6’Byrne has so over-stated his case that’ he has exposed a basic fallacy in the amendment which is now before us. He has spent a lot of time pleading for the old digger who is in need, in want, or homeless, and has explained what is to happen to these men. The truth of the matter is that these old diggers are already provided for by way of pension, hospitalization and medical treatment. In the course of my remarks earlier I referred to two or three cases and indicated that there were an estimated 100,000 survivors of the First World War. I pointed out that some 85,000 pensions were being paid. I indicated that that did not mean that there were only 15,000 exservicemen who were not in receipt of pensions, but that, in fact, the number would be in excess of that. The reason for that is that some men receive both a war pension and the service pension. But for the purpose of my argument let us assume that 25,000 of the 100,000 survivors are not in receipt of a pension. Is it not reasonable to assume that of the 100,000 survivors, 25,000 may well be diggers who have never applied for a pension for the simple reason that they never had a need for it! They may be men of means. It could be that some of them are men who embarked for overseas service, but as happened in the latter part of the First World War, got only as far as Ceylon and then came back again. Some got as far as England and came back. Without any measure of disrespect to them, it is fair to say that in many cases their war experiences comprised a trip on a ship overseas and back again. These men would be among the 25,000 not in receipt of a pension. Possibly they have never applied for a pension nor ever had a need to do so. Yet the Labour Party proposes that we should introduce an amendment to make hospitalization available to them when they are not pensionable and have not ever applied for a pension.
– 1 was surprised at the figures quoted by the Minister. It is quite easy for him to cite figures; I only regret that I was not smart enough to copy them all down. I should like the Minister to tell us how many ex-servicemen from the First World War are entitled to free hospitalization. The Minister has not given that figure to the committee, and I think he is misleading us, by not doing so. He would have us believe that any ex-serviceman in receipt of a pension is entitled to free hospitalization.
– I did not say that.
– Then I misunderstood you
– He said that 55,000 were entitled to free hospitalization, but the other 28,000 were entitled to free diagnosis.
– Diagnosis and report, I said.
– Your statement to the committee was that only 25,000 ex-servicemen of the First World War are not entitled to hospitalization.
– No, that is not my statement at all. I did not make that statement.
– I should like the Minister to tell us how many exservicemen are not entitled to hospitalization. I propose now to cite a case that I have mentioned already in the course of the debate on this bill. I refer to a person in receipt of a 70 per cent, war pension. This man is also an ex-railway man. To provide for his old age he took out fourteen superannuation units, and he draws a pension of £18 a fortnight. He receives a 70 per cent, pension of, I think, £5 6s. and his wife receives an allowance of, say, £1 10s., bringing his total income to about £34 a fortnight, which is just over the permissible income. That chap is not entitled to any social service benefit. Neither he nor his wife is entitled to hospitalization.
– Nor is he a silver-tail.
– No; he is not a silver-tail. For Senator Mattner’s information, he was one of those few who were left after the onslaught at Armentiers in 1916. Senator Mattner would not know anything about Fleurbaix in 1916 when the Sixth Division was mutilated. He would not remember that.
– There never was a Sixth Division.
– I should have said the Fifth Division. I stand corrected. They were wiped out at Fleurbaix. That is where this man served, yet Senator Mattner has the audacity to call him a silver-tail. ‘
– He gets hospitalization if he suffered a war injury.
– Senator Mattner would mislead this chamber. He docs not know the meaning of the proposed amendment. He does not know for whom we are fighting. He is a wealthy squatter from South Australia. The Opposition is speaking on behalf of the poor unfortunates who arc looking for some little benefit from this Government. When Senator Mattner referred to bludgers-
– I did not mention that.
– You did. You called any one who was looking for hospitalization to-day a bludger.
– I rise to order. I did not say that; you are putting the term in its wrong context. I desire Senator Hendrickson to withdraw the statement that 1 called these people bludgers. I did no such thing. On second thoughts, I should not give him the opportunity to withdraw, because he can say what he likes about me. I do not mind, because I am not one of those whom he described in the term he applied to me.
– I did not say anything about Senator Mattner being a bludger. I said that he referred to those people who want hospitalization to-day as being silver-tails and bludgers. I think, Mr. Chairman, that if you look at the “ Hansard “ report you will find that I am correct. I do not make mis-statements. Immediately Senator Mattner used those terms, I made a note of his words on letter which I have before me. It is from Mr. R. A. Peters, honorary secretary of the Eltham sub-branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League. Mr. Peters included in his letter details of the league’s 1963 pension plan, item 5 of which reads as follows: -
That all returned servicemen of the First World War and previous wars be granted free repatriation hospital and medical benefits.
Does not Senator Mattner now believe that the Opposition’s proposal is in accordance with the requests of the Returned Servicemen’s League? It is all very well for a man in his position to get up and make the kind of statement that he made. The gentleman to whom I referred yester day was sitting in this chamber. He is a returned soldier of the First World War. He is paying £1 12s. a quarter for hospitalization. He can afford to pay it, but he said he would like free hospitalization.
Senator Mattner said that I left (he Returned Servicemen’s League. I did so during the depression. Fortunately, T was not out of work as many ex-servicemen were. I attended a meeting at the league’s hall in Bendigo. It was reported that returned soldiers were drinking plonk in the Sydenham Gardens and that they were a disgrace to the Returned Servicemen’s League. Imagine men from the First World War telling you that these poor unfortunates, who were unemployed, were a disgrace to the league. I said, “ They are not a disgrace to the league; but it is a disgrace to the Commonwealth Government that these men have not employment and are not living In decent homes and receiving decent wages “. I left the meeting with a friend who was a police magistrate at Bendigo. That is why I resigned from the Returned Servicemen’s League. However, I have been a member of the league since I moved to Melbourne in 1941, and I am still a financial member.
I want the Minister to tell the committee how many servicemen of the First World War are not entitled to hospitalization. He has given us a lot of figures that I cannot follow. Also, I should like him to tell me how many vacant beds are in the repatriation hospitals throughout Australia and the cost of keeping a bed in one of those hospitals. If he does that, I think honorable senators will agree with me concerning the Opposition’s proposal and the proposal that has been a hardy annual on the agenda of the Returned Servicemen’s League for many years. In 1963, almost 50 years after the outbreak of the First World War, those chaps who returned from the war should be given the right to free hospital and medical treatment.
Sometimes a repatriation pension is a handicap to an ex-serviceman. I understood one senator to say that if an exserviceman did not receive a repatriation pension he could receive the age pension with its associated medical benefits. But the ex-serviceman whom I have in mind receives a 70 per cent, repatriation pension.
He must continue to receive that pension because if he ‘relinquished it he would lose the right to be treated for the complaint for which he receives a pension. As I have said before, no pension that an exserviceman receives should be taken into consideration in connexion with the means test. A repatriation pension is given because an ex-serviceman has made a sacrifice in order that this country might be safe for us to live in. Those who are pressing for an amendment of the Repatriation Act to make hospitals and medical treatment available free to ex-servicemen are decent respectable people and not the kind of people to whom Senator Mattner referred. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
.- I. regret that Senator Hendrickson has allowed himself, in the vigour of debate, to refer in disparaging terms to such a distinguished soldier member of the Senate as Senator Mattner.
– Mr. Chairman, I rise to order. I did not make any disrespectful statement about Senator Mattner. I would not make such a statement, because I know Senator Mattner’s war record.
– Order ! If Senator Hendrickson claims to have been misrepresented he can make a personal explanation later.
– I regret Senator Hendrickson^ imputation that Senator Mattner said that people who would apply in this category for hospitalization were bludgers. Senator Mattner used some such expression, but not with that meaning. I suggest it is a matter of great regret to every member of the Senate to hear any suggestion of that kind with regard to such a distinguished soldier member of the Senate as Senator Mattner.
The next thing I want to say is that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), over-extended the argument used by Senator O’Byrne. Senator O’Byrne certainly treated us to something which came from the heart. He used some expressions which conveyed to us a real appreciation of the old digger of the First World War. It is not a reply to say that these people are not asking for hospitalization, which was, I believe, the trend of tha Minister’s remarks. If this debate proceeds calmly, it can produce for the consideration of the committee facts which will be most valuable to us all and to this cause. I address myself to the Minister and seek clarification of this matter. As I understand it. there are 100,000 surviving First World War veterans, of whom some 55,000, in round figures, are already in receipt of such pensions as carry qualification for unlimited hospital and medical benefits for their injuries. There is another class of 28,000, who are entitled to diagnosis and report. That number, and the number that go to make up 100,000, say, 17,000, are not entitled to complete hospital and medical benefits. Not all of those will be requiring hospital benefits for all of the period from now till the end of their lives. A reasonable assessment of the incidence of illness amongst that number of First World War veterans should be stated for our consideration. We should also have a reasonable assessment of hospital bed-days that those 45,000 veterans would require if they were given hospital benefits.
The next matter that needs a rational assessment is this: How many beds are provided in repatriation hospitals in Australia, and how many of them are vacant, on an average daily basis throughout the year? When we have this information, we can make an assessment of the extra finance that would be required to meet this proposal. Then my own mind would work along the lines of Senator Mattner’s argument and say: Of those First World War veterans, there are some in such circumstances of life that they would not apply for the benefit. But I am credibly informed by some of my colleagues, and I believe from my own knowledge, that some of them are not so much above the border line of pensionability as not to welcome, if not the actual exercise of the right, the availability of it. A man over the age of 65, who has a few bairns, a wife and a home, may be husbanding £5,000 or £10,000 worth of investments in the hope that this will not be reduced by hospital and medical expenses in the next six or seven years of his life. The mere assurance of some degree of immunity from hospital and medical expenditure during that period would be a matter of untold consolation to the mental peace of a man who, as every one will concede, has earned something from the nation by his war service - a service that is not comparable with any other service to the community.
I ask the Minister to put those facts before us so that we may proceed to reason this matter. Up to the present stage, the debate does the Senate great credit. We should proceed on this basis of sober consideration of a worthy cause.
– I did not intend to re-enter the debate. I pass over most of what has been said. I am sure that Senator Hendrickson absolutely misconstrued my remarks in relation to ex-servicemen of the First World War who have not received a pension, whether or not they have applied for it. I stated that the means test would apply to them and that perhaps they were therefore not eligible. I pass over my service in France. I think 1 know Fleurbaix and I think I know the Somme, but I never ran into the Sixth Division there-
– I corrected myself.
– You need correcting.
– It was the Sixtieth Battalion.
– You need correcting on a lot of things. You need to correct the statement that since 1941 you have been a financial member of the Returned Servicemen’s League, because since 1949 in this chamber you have said that you were not a member of the league. I shall look up the reference in “ Hansard “ and read it to you.
Let us come to this question of hospitalization. I have given a fair amount of study to the position of First World War men. When we provided hospitalization to service pensioners, they numbered approximately 35,000. The number has now risen to 46,000. It is rising every day and it will continue to rise on account of the effluxion of time since the Second World War. I am given to understand that not very many hospital beds are available and that the demand for them will increase until the 1970’s. The question is whether it is better to be able to give hospitalization to those persons who qualify for the service pension than to others who are, perhaps, a little more affluent. I know what it would mean to them, but we must not let our hearts run away with some of our sound common sense.
I am a member of the R.S.L. I have a right to my own opinion, and I am expressing it. 1 am more concerned with seeing that those service pensioners who are unable to look after themselves get hospitalization. When that class is fully catered for, if beds are available by all means give them to other returned mcn of the First World War. Until such time as I am satisfied that those beds are available, I come down on the side of the service pensioner.
.- I shall endeavour to answer the specific questions that were put to me by Senator Hendrickson and Senator Wright. In some instances they were either coincidental or overlapping. It should be understood that all pensioners, that is, from the 5 per cent, or 10 per cent, general-rate pensioner, right through the scale to the special or T.P.I, rate pensioner and the rest, are entitled to and receive hospitalization for war-caused injuries or for the results of such injuries. The question at issue is: Which exservicemen are entitled to receive hospitalization for any condition, including conditions which are not war caused or which do not flow from war-caused injuries. They fall into three or four categories. First, there are the totally and permanently incapacitated and the 100 per cent, general rate pensioners. They number 18,700. Then, there are 37,815 service pensioners. The service pensioner is the ex-serviceman who frequently is referred to as the accelerated old age soldier pensioner, or the burnt-out digger. If we add those two numbers together we get a total of 56,550. However, the actual figure is something less than that because, in some instances, members of those two groups receive both a T.P.I, pension and a service pension or part service pension. I do not know the relevant .number, but for the purpose of the exercise we shall take 56,550 as the number of those pensioners. To that number must be added the 28,000 ex-servicemen who are in receipt of general rate war pensions below the 100 per cent. rate. If we add all those numbers together, we get a total of 84,550. That is the number who are entitled to hospitalization for any ailment at all.
– No. The under 100 per cent, rate pensioner is entitled to treatment only for his pensionable ailments.
– For his accepted disabilities.
– Yes, that is correct. There are 28,000 who are not in receipt of the 100 per cent, rate pension but are in receipt of general rate pensions. Their number includes ex-servicemen who are receiving various scales of pension, from those on the 90 per cent, rate down to those on the lowest possible rate. It includes, for instance, the ex-serviceman who goes along because he has something wrong with his leg and must have a needle for it every three months or six months. He is entitled to treatment. He is working and is fit, except for this minor ailment. Those 28,000 ex-servicemen are eligible to receive, and in fact do receive, diagnosis and report facilities at repatriation institutions.
– Do those 28,000 become entitled to hospitalization in respect of their accepted disabilities?
– Yes. Every man who receives a pension is entitled to medical treatment and hospitalization for his warcaused disabilities.
– Would the Minister state the number of ex-servicemen of World War I. who are not entitled to hospitalization?
– They number 15,000. Those are the people who are not in receipt of any pension at all. Many of them have never applied for a pension because they have no war-caused disabilities.
– That makes a total of 43,000 who may receive hospitalization only in respect of their accepted disabilities.
– That is one way of Stating it.
– Yes. As I have said, there are 28,000 pensioners who are entitled to treatment and hospitalization for their war-caused disabilities. The remaining 15,000 do not receive anything because they have never established entitlement. They have never tried to do so.
– By this amendment, we are trying to do that for them.
– I am putting it to the honorable senator that of those 15,000 who have not established entitlement, an unknown number, but possibly a large percentage, would not seek hospitalization for the simple reason that so many of them are men who, for twenty or 30 years, have never had occasion to go to the Repatriation Department. They have developed their own businesses or their own jobs. They have carried on without any association at all with the Repatriation Department. Many of them are in affluent circumstances.
asked particularly for figures showing the average bed-day occupancy. I cannot give him those figures at the moment. It was not expected by the officers who are present in the chamber that inquiries along those lines would be made. I think that the honorable senator’s question was concerned with the availability of beds in the various hospitals.
– The number of beds is likely to increase, is it not?
– That is the whole point. The experience of the Repatriation Department, which is confirmed by that of members of the Returned Servicemen’s League who go to repatriation hospitals to visit members of their former units, or who have jobs in Legacy or other such organizations, is that in 1960 when the war pensioners were admitted there was an immediate and spectacular increase in bed occupancy. Incidentally, I remember my friend Senator Mattner directing the attention of the Senate to the matter by way of a question that he asked and subsequently by a speech that he made on the motion for the adjournment.
The Repatriation Department estimates that peak bed occupancy will be reached by about 1975. I am informed by my officers that because the pattern varies from one State to another, it is not possible to indicate a consistent trend. The availabilityof beds at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in Victoria is greater than it is at the hospitals in the other States. I know that at Hollywood Hospital in Western Australia the bed occupancy does not approximate that of Heidelberg. I have never known any one to be rejected by the hospital, but there are times when the matron has some difficulty in finding beds. The pattern is an irregular one throughout Australia. I cannot tell the honorable senator any more than that, except to say that the bed occupancy increased in 1960. It is continuing consistently to increase everywhere, and it is expected that the peak will be reached in 1975.
– Is that estimate based on the expectation that the group of 37,850 service pensioners who are entitled to hospitalization for their accepted warcaused injuries, will occupy available space increasingly from now until 1975?
– I should think that would have been a very large factor in the assessment. Of course, acceleration of the demand for hospital beds will occur over the whole range of pensioners. As men get older, whether they are service pensioners or 100 per cent, rate pensioners, their requirement for hospitalization increases.
.- The Opposition’s case has been proved more adequately by the speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) than by any speech made in the support of the amendment from this side of the House. The Minister said that about 15,000 exservicemen would not need hospitalization because they were in fortunate circumstances. On his own figures, he could cut that 15,000 by half, so probably less than 7,500 ex-servicemen would need treatment in repatriation hospitals. Some time ago Senator Tangney asked how many beds were vacant in the Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital. At that time not only beds, but wards, were vacant. I do not know what the position is now. I do not blame the Minister, for he could not be expected to have all these figures in his head, but I regret that the officers who advise him do not seem to. have the answers.
One would have thought that the number of beds and wards vacant in repatriation hospitals would be readily available. I think even supporters of the Government would agree that the Minister has made out a strong case for the amendment. On his argument, about 7,500 ex-servicemen might need hospitalization in repatriation hospitals.
– About 5,000 of them will be dead by 1975.
– I know one man, not far from me now, who was in France before he was eighteen years of age and there would be others in the same category. The Minister has shown conclusively that the national finances would not be upset if the amendment were carried. I agree that as the men grow older the number needing hospitalization will increase, but surely we should not stop at 7,500 or 10,000. If we provide hospitalization for those exservicemen it would be a gesture of gratitude to them. What does it matter if a man only reached Ceylon? When he left Australia he did not know what he would be facing. I hope the Minister will consider the amendment in that light.
– I rise because Senator Kennelly does not appear to have understood my assessment of the statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). I was impressed by the Minister’s statement on the expected growth of demand for repatriation hospital beds in the next twelve years. He said about 37,850 service pensioners would need hospitalization. If they are entitled to hospitalization through warcaused disabilities and bed accommodation is available, I think they are entitled to first priority among those First World War veterans who are now being considered by the committee. I asked the Minister for the relevant figures so that the actual demand could be assessed.
Having said that about the impressive part of the Minister’s speech I wish to say that I was disappointed that the Minister was not able to say how many beds are provided now in repatriation hospitals throughout Australia. That should be elementary information readily available from any responsible officer of the Repatriation Commission advising the Minister. I would expect that information to be available readily and if it is not within the recollection of those advising the Minister immediately, it should be available within five minutes by their making a telephone call. I put it that the committee should have that information within the next ten minutes.
The last annual report of the Repatriation Commission sets out some facts about in-patient treatment at repatriation general hospitals, in Table 17. These figures bring the matter of medical care into focus. The table shows the number of patients who received in-patient treatment at repatriation general hospitals each year, and their age groups. The median age of patients admitted in the various States was: Concord, New South Wales, 56.5 years; Heidelberg, Victoria, 58.6; Greenslopes, Queensland, 55.2; Springbank, South Australia, 57.7; Hollywood, Western Australia, 61.2; Hobart, 58: all States average, 57.3 years. As the pensionable class of soldier grows older the demand will increase.
The next figure that is a helpful factor in the context of this debate shows that the average stay for each patient has been worked out on the past year’s experience for all States at 22.3 bed-days. Having before us facts about available accommodation, we then want some medical assessment of how many of the pensionable class can be expected to require a 22-day stay per year.I think the proportion might be 15 per cent, or 20 per cent. Then you would have all the necessary factors upon which to make a proper assessment of the degree to which the available repatriation hospital space would be occupied if this demand were met. Surely that is the way in which we should consider this matter.
As I have indicated, it seems to me that we should take advantage of the earliest opportunity to get these factors straight in our minds. We should make an assessment of the people who will demand accommodation and of how much accommodation is available for them and then ascertain whether this claim could justifiably be accepted or refused.
Question put -
That the words proposed tobeinserted (Senator Hendrickson’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 22b.
.- I move-
After clause 22, insert the following new clause: - “ 22b. After section one hundred and twentythree of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 123b. The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide for the wife of a person in receipt of the Special Rate of pension under the Second Schedule to this Act such medical benefits as she would receive if she were the wife of a person eligible for medical benefits under the Pensioner Medical Service.’.”.
The Opposition believes that this proposal is justifiable and that it should be accepted by the committee. We are not seeking to give to a pensioner or the wife of a pensionersomething, that has not been enjoyed previously. Honorable senators must direct their thoughts to the needs of the dependants of ex-servicemen who have had something taken from them and which has not been replaced. In the arbitration field it is almost a cardinal rule that conditions of employment shall not be worsened without evidence being adduced to support such a step being taken.
When the Government amended the National Health Act in October, 1955, it applied a means test to the granting of medical and hospital entitlement cards to pensioners. Up to that time the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners who received social service pensions enjoyed medical entitlements. The amendment now before us is designed to restore that entitlement. It is true that the wives of T.P.I, pensioners who applied for medical entitlement cards before 1955 were issued with them; but many did not apply for this benefit. They and the wives of exservicemen who have become T.P.I, pensioners since October, 1955, are not now entitled to free medical treatment. In effect the figures show now that there are 20,800 T.P.I, pensioners of whom 16,000 are married, but the wives who have a medical entitlement - because they had that entitlement prior to 1955 - constitute only 16 per cent. Approximately 84 per cent, of the wives do not enjoy this benefit because they were excluded from it by the action of the Government in 1955, not in amending the Repatriation Act but in amending the National Health Act.
I think this is a case where the Government should concede to all wives of T.P.I, pensioners this benefit which only some of them enjoy. After all, look at the sacrifices the wives of such pensioners have made as the result of the war service of their husbands. They have had to look after their husbands whose serious condition is shown by the fact that they have been accepted by the repatriation authorities as totally and permanently incapacitated. If these men’s wives did not look after them in their illnesses the men would have to go into convalescent homes or repatriation hospitals - the Government could not refuse them treatment in these hospitals - and the cost to the Government would be terrific. These T.P.I.’ pensioners whose wives are. excluded from medical entitlement-, are people with not much money. They have the minimum income needed to survive, which comes from their pension. If such a man’s wife became ill both he and she would be in a pretty serious position. It is reasonable to contend, therefore, that all wives of T.P.I, pensioners should have this entitlement.
Because of their condition, T.P.I, pensioners require extra facilities and amenities such as, perhaps, special transport, special equipment in the home and so on, which enables them to lead the kind of existence that we here say they are entitled to. The wife of such a pensioner, as I have said, is sacrificing a great deal to look after her husband, and he in turn has a tremendous responsibility towards her in attempting to support her on their meagre income. We speak here about the sacrifices that were made by the servicemen themselves in war. Nobody who fought in a war made any greater sacrifice than the wife of a man totally and permanently incapacitated is making when she looks after her husband. This fact alone justifies the carrying of the amendment.
I remind the Senate again that without their wives to look after them T.P.I, pensioners would have to go into convalescent homes or repatriation hospitals, perhaps for long periods, and this would occasion much more expense to the Government than would be occasioned by the acceptance of this amendment. I think, therefore, that the acceptance of the amendment is not only a moral obligation oh the Government but also economically desirable.
As T.P.I. pensioners and their wives grow older the wives will need more medical and hospital treatment. This entitlement, as I have said, was withdrawn from 84 per cent, of the wives of T.P.I, pensioners in October, 1955. If any arbitration authority took away a condition or benefit enjoyed by workers or anybody else without evidence of the need to take it away, and without any application for its removal having been made, it would be very harshly criticized. I strongly support the amendment and hope that the Senate will carry it.
– I rise to advise the Senate that the Government does not accept’ the amendment.
A similar amendment was moved in another place and was rejected there for reasons which were stated quite clearly. For the same reasons the Government does not accept the amendment here.
– The reason given there was “ No “.
– That was the answer. The reasons were given and I propose to say a word or two about them now. It is true, as Senator Cooke has said, that the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners at, one time - eight or nine years ago - did receive free medical treatment. The point was that they have never been eligible to receive medical treatment from the Repatriation Department. They were eligible to receive it as part of the pensioner medical service. In 1955 alterations were made to both the social services legislation and the repatriation legislation. There were various amendments that had the effect of excluding some wives from this free benefit to which Senator Cooke has referred. In point of fact, the pensioner medical service was designed for persons in needy circumstances. In 1 95 1 the social services pension was £3 and the permissible income was £1 10s.
– The difference between now and then arises from inflation.
– I should like to put it on record, because I think it is worth going on record whether or not the honorable senator who has interjected thinks so. By 1955, with the easing of the means test, the pension was £4 and the permissible income was £3 10s. In1 955 the pension income of a T.P.I. pensioner and his wife combined was £11 10s. 6d. at a time when the basic wage was £11 16s. I repeat that the combined pension was £11 10s. 6d. compared with a basic wage of £11 16s. Now the combined pensions of a T.P.I. pensioner and his wife are to amount to £1510s. 6d. as against a basic wage of £14 8s. I direct the attention of the Senate to that fact. In doing so I point out that this combined pension income of £15 10s. 6d. applies only to people who have other income which precludes them from receiving any service pension. Actually, the minimum that a T.P.I. pensioner couple will get in pension is £17 10s. as against a basic wage of £141s. 8d. In the circumstances it is considered, particularly as for a very small contribution she can receive benefits under the national health scheme, that it is reasonable enough that the amendment should be rejected.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Cooke’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted. .
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 628), on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Chairman,I move -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading the Senate is of the opinion that - (1)increases should be made in -
child endowment which has remained unchanged for the first child for thirteen years and for subsequent children for fifteen years;
maternity allowances which have remained substantially unchanged for twenty years, and
pensioners’ funeral benefits which have remained unchanged for twenty years;
there should be a standard rate for all pensioners and supplementary assistance for special needs, thus removing the discrimination against married pensioners;
other social service payments and qualifications including permissible income should be adjusted to compensate for changes in the cost of living;
Australia now lags behind most comparable countries in its expenditure on social welfare, and
research and inquiry into social welfare in Australia is inadequate “.
On behalf of the Opposition I have moved this amendment, which I believe represents the feeling of the majority of pensioners and electors throughout length and breadth of the Commonwealth of Australia more adequately than the bill at present before the Senate. I think that will become more apparent as the debate continues. There are several matters to which I propose to refer, and other honorable senators on this side of the chamber will touch on various other matters. I know that they have several important points to bring before the Senate. I trust that for once the Government will concede that the Opposition’s view has considerable merit and that it will accept the amendment.
I should like to make it very clear at the beginning that this amendment is not moved with any thought of taking away from the Government the conduct of the business of the House, nor is our purpose to take out of the hands of the Government the business of government. The purpose of the amendment is merely to correct an anomaly which is causing widespread discontent. I ask the Government to accept the amendment in the spirit in which it has been moved.
First of all, I want to deal with the subject of child endowment which relates to the first part of the amendment. In speaking on child endowment, I propose to go back into history. I do not suppose that there is any better history of it than that which is contained in the handbook entitled “ Commonwealth Social Services “. According to that book, child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1941 at the rate of 5s. a week for each child under the age of sixteen years after the first child. Since then, child endowment has been increased twice by a Labour government. There was an increase of 2s. 6d. on each occasion. It was increased in 1945 by the Curtin Government and in 1948 by the Chifley Government. In 1950 the Menzies Government extended child endowment at the rate of 5s. a week in respect of the first or only child under sixteen years of age.
It has been claimed by a number of Government supporters on various occasions that the Menzies Government has increased the endowment. As I have pointed out before in this chamber, the Government has not increased the endowment since it came to office in 1949. It has merely extended endowment to cover the first child. There is quite a difference between an increase and an extension. On previous occasions, I have pointed out that the Menzies Government cannot take credit for the introduction of child endowment in Australia. Child endowment was first introduced in Australia by a New South Wales Labour government and operated in that State for some considerable time before it became operative under a federal government.
Delving into history we find also that child endowment was paid on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in order to prevent an increase in the basic wage. So, the present Government cannot take all the credit that it claims for the introduction of child endowment. The endowment is a very important factor in the life of the family man. As 1 have said, the arbitration court suggested that child endowment should be introduced by the federal Government in order to prevent an increase in the basic wage which was given to assist the family man to provide clothing, food, shelter and education for his children. That principle was a good principle, and I think it should be followed to a large extent on this occasion.
The Government has seen fit, once again, to refrain from giving assistance which it might have been able to give to the family man under the social services legislation. Such assistance is very necessary for persons who may be earning only the basic wage. There are a number of labourers throughout the Commonwealth who do not receive an additional margin as part of their take-home pay. In instances such as that, child endowment plays a most important part. Perhaps it plays a more important part in the life of a family on the basic wage than it does in the life of other families. Nevertheless, everybody in receipt of the endowment would benefit from an increase in the rate. The fact that the person who has the largest family justly reaps the greatest benefit from child endowment equalizes the situation to a great extent.
The other point I wish to make in relation to the first part of my motion concerns the maternity allowance, which the Government could well have examined. I realize that the Government has given increases in benefits apart from those provided under social service legislation. 1 appreciate the granting of those increases and I am sure that most of the recipients will appreciate the increases that the Government has proposed in social service payments. I do not criticize the bill before the Senate for what is contained in it, but I offer what I hope is constructive criticism with respect to benefits which it does not cover. I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council and Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), who introduced the bill, to keep in mind my words on that point. I suggest that the Government should endeavour to do something for the people who have been passed over in this legisla tion. We find that the maternity allowance was first introduced by the Fisher Government in 1912 at the rate of £5 which was paid free of a means test. When we consider the present allowance in the light of present-day costs compared with that provided in 1912, the Government must agree that the value of the present allowance is far below that of 1912. Not many increases in the maternity allowance have been made. An increase was made by the Lyons Government in 1934. The same government provided for a basic allowance of £4 10s. In 1943, the Curtin Government abolished the means test which had been imposed by a previous government and increased the rate to £15 in cases in which there were no other children under fourteen years of age. In 1947, the Chifley Government amended the legislation. In 1956, the present Government increased that part of the allowance which was payable before birth to £10. Certainly, that was some assistance, but the total amount of the maternity allowance was not increased. In 1959, the present Government extended eligibility for maternity allowance to all aboriginal women except those who were nomadic. So, the Government has not greatly increased the maternity allowance during its period of office since 1949.
The Director-General of Social Services in his last report made the following statement to which the Government should give very serious consideration: -
Reference was made in my report last year to the falling off in the increase in the number of maternity allowances granted . . .
It is rather significant that there has been a falling off. The increase in 1961-62 was the lowest recorded for some years. Claims granted were 5,777 fewer than in the previous year.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin). - 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.
– The figures I have given indicate a considerable falling off in maternity allowance payments. I suggest that there would not be a great financial strain on the resources of this Government if the maternity allowance were increased. The Director-General of Social Services continued -
Attention has been drawn in earlier reports to the steady increase in the proportion of maternity allowances paid to mothers with three or more other chaildren under sixteen years of age. Concurrently, the proportions paid to mothers with no other children and to mothers with one or two other children have declined.
It seems that the number of maternity allowance payments has progressively declined. A table on page 25 of the report shows that 235,064 claims were paid in 1963 and 240,841 in the previous year. The expenditure on this account was over £120,000 less in 1963 than in 1962. If the trend continues - and it appears that it will continue - it is not asking too much to seek further consideration of this benefit.
The funeral benefit has not received adequate consideration by the Government. The amount stands at £10, which was the amount fixed in 1943, when a Labour Government occupied the treasury bench. This Government has provided no additional relief for persons who are responsible for the burial of age pensioners and who qualify for the benefit. The Senate has devoted quite a lot of discussion to this matter from time to time. Labour’s policy is to endeavour to keep pace with costs. At the Perth conference this year we adopted a policy which provides for increasing the funeral benefit to £24. Funeral benefits paid last year amounted to only £401,000, which is a very small proportion of total social services expenditure. If the benefit were increased by 100 per cent., the total payment would be only about £800,000 a year. This is insignificant in a budget the size of the one we recently considered.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) mentioned four outstanding advances in social service benefits. They are: The additional pension for children, which was introduced in 1956; supplementary assistance to qualified pensioners who pay rent, which was introduced in 1958; extension of all social service benefits to aborigines, which was introduced in 1959; and the merged means test, bringing into balance pensioners’ property and income, which was introduced in 1960. I give the Government full credit for those improvements but some of those provisions could have been introduced many years earlier without involving the Government in financial strain.
The Minister mentioned the introduction of a new standard rate for single pensioners. The Opposition differs from the Government. We do not concede that a single pensioner should receive more than his married counterpart. We believe that there should be a standard base pension. We believe that differences in conditions of pensioners should be corrected by the provision of supplementary assistance to those in greatest need. I am sure the Government appreciates now that the standard introduced in this bill is not popular with many people. I have received numerous letters on this issue, which indicate the people’s reactions to the new standard. I shall not give the name of the writer of the letter I am about to read, but if the Minister for National Development wishes to have it I am prepared to give it to him privately. I do not think it is proper for the names of people who write letters to members of Parliament expressing their private views to be recorded in “ Hansard “ or published in the press. One of the letters that I have received reads in part -
How does the Federal Government expect a mother to keep a school age child on 15s. a week, plus 5s. endowment, now given by the social service to wives of age pensioners who have school age children. When the honorable senators knows the price of school shoes and the fast rate young feet grow. Also, warm overcoats are far too highly priced to buy on such a pittance. We want strong men and women for tomorrow, not a lot of underfed weaklings who are for ever going short.
The letter was written by a pensioner who, admittedly, has not received a good education, but at least she is able to express her feelings in writing. Her letter is typical of many that I have received on this matter.
Recently, a pensioners’ association was established in south-eastern Tasmania. Mr. G. F. Young, the president of the association, stated in a letter to the editor of the Hobart “ Mercury “ -
I would like lo comment on the letter of “ Pensioner “ who admits that pensioners have been treated very unfairly by the Federal Government, and then goes on to condemn Mr. Calwell. Surely it would be reasonable to give a man a trial and a chance.
It should be our Government’s aim to create loyalty, not kindle hatred, which has been the Budget result so far as many thousands of pensioners are concerned. Let the Government rectify their error, before they are condemned at the next elections.
That letter represents the opinion of many pensioner organizations.
Some honorable senators no doubt have received a circular letter, dated 17th September, 1963, from the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation, which indicates that in the opinion of pensioners’ organizations the Government has done the wrong thing in introducing the new standard rates of pension which have been referred to by Senator Sir William Spooner. I have received a considerable number of letters in which the writers have condemned the Government’s action in this connexion. In all fairness, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I must say that I also received a letter from one pensioner who praised the Government for what it had done. I appreciate that there are some pensioners who approve the system which apparently is to be adopted in future, but the overwhelming majority of pensioners and electors arc not happy with what the Government is doing. This unhappiness with the Government’s proposals is typified by newspaper comments and editorials. I refer to a sub-editorial in the Sydney “Daily Mirror” newspaper of 11th September, 1963, which slated, under the heading “ Aged Pensions “ -
Nobody will dispute the argument of the Minister for Social Services, Mr. Roberton, that in most instances a pensioner needs more money if single than if married.
But that does not justify the Government’s action in withholding the 10s. Budget pension rise from married pensioners. Surely the wise thing would have been to give them something lo help them cope with rising living costs.
If it persists in its discriminatory policy the Government will only create a new class of aggrieved citizens, lt is not loo late for it to change its mind.
That is the very point we are bringing out in the amendment. If the Government is prepared to accept the amendment which we on this side of the Senate are putting forward, that will indicate a change of heart. It is not a matter of saving face but of saving something for pensioners who are justly entitled to increased payments at a time when prices and costs have risen considerably.
In the second part of the amendment reference is made to the standard rate of pension and to supplementary assistance to meet special needs. I have elaborated sufficiently on those matters, but I should like to take two extreme cases to illustrate how this legislation will operate when it becomes law. Let us consider the extreme case of a single pensioner who is now receiving a pension of £5 5s. a week. When the legislation becomes effective he will receive an additional 10s a week, which will give him a base pension of £5 15s. a week. He may have income from other sources of £3 10s. a week, giving him a weekly income of £9 5s. 1 realize only too well that when pensioners are living by themselves there are certain fixed costs which cannot be avoided. Many such costs would impose no greater hardship on a married couple who were pensioners than they would on a single pensioner. That position again brings out the force of the Labour Party policy that in such circumstances pensioners should receive a supplementary allowance.
Let us turn to the other end of the scale and take the case of a married couple who are receiving a pension of £5 5s. a week each, or £10 10s. altogether. Perhaps they are too old to work or are incapable of working because of infirmity or sickness. Perhaps one of them is bedridden and must be nursed by the other. Although a married couple in such circumstances would receive a combined pension of only £10 10s. a week, a single pensioner who was a little more fortunate in some respects could have an income, including pension, of £9 5s. a week. That is without doubt discrimination between persons. I do not think such a state of affairs speaks very well for the new pensions standard which has been introduced by the Government.
There are other situations, also, which should convince the Government of the necessity to prevent the anomalies that are bound to occur under this legislation. Let us consider the circumstances of a brother and sister who are pensioners, who have no rent to pay and who are living under the same roof. Each will receive a pension of £5 15s. a week, so that they will have a combined pension of £11 10s. a week. It would be possible for those two people to earn £3 10s. a week each, making the total income of the home £18 10s. There again is discrimination. A brother and sister paying rent and living under the same roof but not earning anything would receive a different rate of pension from that given to a brother and sister living in a house and not paying rent. In my opinion the legislation has not received practical consideration by the Government. It has failed to consider many factors and I suggest that these anomalies should be corrected before it is too late.
In his second-reading speech the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir William Spooner) referred to the consumer price index and said that it had remained more or less constant over the last two years. He said that if a married couple on the pension received a pension at the rate they could, or should, receive it in line with the consumer price index, they would be getting £2 4s. 2d. a week less. It is rather convenient for the Leader of the Government and Government supporters to use the consumer price index and relate it to the present rate of pension and say that these people should receive £2 4s. 2d. less. If the proper analogy had been used the Leader of the Government should have had some thoughts on what the rate of pension would be based on the prices index that operated when the Government was first elected to office. That was the C scries index. There is quite a difference between the C series index and the consumer price index, and the Government should not have confined itself to the consumer price index in making a comparison. In making comparisons one can often get one set of circumstances that completely contradicts another, and this is a glaring example.
For some reason the Government seems to be anxious to get this legislation by next Tuesday, lt has been said that the Government wants to make the necessary arrangements to pay the increased rates of pension a fortnight earlier than was expected. lt was noticeable thai the Minister chose the best broadcasting hour when he introduced the Social Services Bill. He tried to make a strong case for the Government by comparing the social service payments in J 962-63 wilh the benefits paid in the year this Government was elected to office. I wonder why the Minister chose that particular hour to make his speech. Why does he want the bill passed by Tuesday? The Opposition will not have an opportunity to use the same broadcasting facilities to inform the Australian electors.
– The honorable senator could talk on the bill next Wednesday.
– The Minister himself said that the Government would like to get the legislation through by Tuesday, and I would think that he would have a belter knowledge of when he wants the legislation passed than the honorable senator has. I have noted that there seems to bc some discrepancy between the figures cited by the Minister and those given by the DirectorGeneral of Social Services in his report for 1962-63. 1. will not go into the figures in detail, because the hour is late, but I think that perhaps the figures have been stretched in the Government’s favour, though possibly unintentionally.
The Leader of the Government said that total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund in 1 962-63 totalled £379,000,000, but a number of factors must be studied. One is the amount of money that was paid out in certain social service benefits. These payments were considerable in 1961-62 and 1962-63, but I do not think they flatter the Government. They were all paid under social services legislation and part of them came from the National Welfare Fund. In 1962-63, unemployment and sickness benefits totalled £14,657,000. When that amount is subtracted from the figures cited by the Leader of the Government there is a substantial difference, particularly when these payments are compared with similar benefits paid in 1949, when the Government was elected to office. Unemployment benefit payments in that year totalled only £1,070,000. So the figures do not flatter the Government when one considers also that wages, in terms of money, are much higher and pension rates have risen. I believe it is fair to say that during the regime of this Government we have passed through a period of staggering inflation. The brakes have been applied to the economy, they have been eased, and then they have been applied again. We have had an up-and-down economy, but because of inflation it has been more up than down. It may not be possible for the Government to do all that we suggest, but perhaps it could have second thoughts about some of our proposals.
There are several other matters that I should like to touch upon. The provision of telephones for blind persons is a matter that has exercised my mind for a considerable time and which doubtless has exercised the minds of other Opposition senators and of supporters of the Government. We of the Opposition feel that blind persons are suffering from a great disability. If telephones were provided for them, free of installation charges and free of rent, they would have a ready means of communication with the outside world. It may not be possible for the Government to go the whole way, but perhaps it could waive the installation fee. I note that the DirectorGeneral of Social Services states in his report that 6,638 blind persons are in receipt of a pension. Two or three blind persons might live under the one roof and consequently not all that number would require telephones. But even if they all did require telephones, the cost to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department of providing them would be only slightly in excess of £66,000. That is not a very large sum of money. If the Government were to accede to this proposal, it could create a lot of goodwill at very little cost.
Just recently I spoke to an “elderly gentleman - he is not blind but is 78 years of age - who wanted to have a telephone installed. He is a pensioner, but he will still be required to pay an installation fee pf £10 and the first half-year’s rent before he can have the phone connected. I asked him why he wanted a ‘phone at this late Stage in life. He replied: “ You never know when I will become ill. If I have a telephone I have a means of communicat- ing with somebody.” He lives in a quite Isolated area and I should say that at his age a telephone is essential.
Another matter which I have raised before is the provision of artificial aids. The bill does not provide for the supply of artificial aids to pensioners. We all know that pensioners have to purchase artificial aids such as teeth, spectacles, limbs, crutches and wheel chairs. Incidentally, wheel chairs are quite expensive. I have proposed to the Government in the past that it should consider establishing sheltered workshops in which disabled persons could produce some of these aids. To do that not only would give many people some interest in life but also would assist pensioners to get some of their necessary artificial aids more cheaply.
Another matter which I raise as a hardy annual is the payment of a pension to the mentally sick. I have very strong thoughts on this matter. It was brought home to me quite recently by a report in the Hobart “ Mercury “ of 12th September which was headed “Patients ‘Tell’ Synod Why Pension Needed “. The report reads -
A group of Lachlan Park Hospital patients yesterday told the Church of England Synod why they needed pensions.
The patients spoke through a tape recorder taken into the hospital by the chaplain (the Rev. M. R. Stanton, of New Norfolk).
The recording was played back to the synod when it met in Hobart. Perhaps I do not appreciate the position of these patients as would women, but one of the facts which was elicited was that the inmates receive underwear only from the hospital; they have not any money with which to purchase it, They do not even get back from the laundry the clothes which they change from. It is a disgrace to the community that people should have to put up with such conditions, even though they may be mentally ill. If the Government were to make a small amount of pension available to the patients of mental hospitals it would assist them materially. I have referred in the past to the recovery rate amongst such people, and I have heard Senator Wedgwood do likewise. It would be a humane gesture on the part of the Government if it were to do as I suggest.
The premises upon which this legislation is based are quite wrong. The legislation raises a barrier between different’ categories of pensioners’; it departs from the principles of Christian teaching. I have always been taught that in the eyes of God all men are equal. This legislation departs from the principles which 1 have been taught and which I imagine thousands of other people have been taught. I appeal to the Government to accept the amendments which have been proposed by the Opposition and to correct a situation which I feel will eventually prove embarrassing to it.
– Social service benefits are rightly allied to repatriation benefits, and each year the Senate debates the social services legislation that the Government introduces following the presentation of the Budget. We have hud a very full and complete debate on repatriation benefits and now we are dealing with the social service benefits. Each year that 1 have been in this chamber 1 think, from memory, that added benefits have been granted by the Government: - which means by the taxpayers - to those entitled to receive social service benefits. Each year more Australian people have been brought within the scope of those who are eligible for these benefits.
As we know, one of the principal items in this legislation is the increase of 10s a week to single pensioners. In his secondreading speech the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) stated that an additional 454,000 Australians will receive social service benefits if we pass this legislation. J commend the Government for its action in presenting this legislation. ] know that the Government receives representations from outside organizations as well as from the Australian Labour Party and the Government members social services committee, and that it gives sincere consideration to those representations.
I am not going to repeat all the details of the bill because they have already been given in the Minister’s second-reading speech, but I feel that the Senate, as a chamber of the National Parliament, should consider one or two very important facts. Many have claimed that the Government should introduce a national welfare scheme under which everybody would be eligible for a pension. If such a scheme had been introduced twenty years ago .Australia might to-day .-be a . better country from .the point of view of the treatment of its aged and invalid people. I have read a lot on this subject and have talked to many people about it, and I say quite sincerely that I do not think it would be advisable at this stage for the Government to legislate for such a scheme.
I understand that in one year a national insurance scheme would cost the Consolidated Revenue Fund about £68,000,000 more than the present social services scheme costs. That money must come from taxation. Much as we want to help aged, invalid and unemployed persons we must still consider the young people of the nation who comprise our strength for to-morrow. Any government, be it Labour or Liberal, that has to raise an extra £68,000,000 by means of taxation from 11,000,000 people, must increase the taxes paid by young people to do so. Much as I desire to see the Government help old people, the National Parliament has a great responsibility to the young people of the nation - those who will get married between the ages of 21 and 25 years and will need to buy a block of land and build a house. Because of the high costs of to-day a large proportion of young wives in Australia have to go out to work. They should not be out working; they should be in their homes, but they have to go out to work.
I repeat that if the Government were to introduce a national insurance scheme it would have to increase taxes. We should look at the present situation in an attempt to find some scheme by which we can reduce the taxes of the young married couples and thus help them to start off in life, not free from financial worry, but with their financial worries greatly reduced. This would not be possible if the Government were to introduce a national insurance scheme.
I do not wish to adopt a party-political attitude in this debate because social services are of national importance and concern so many people of all political faiths, but in our approach to this subject we must realize that we cannot expect a federal government to increase social service benefits and at the same time reduce its revenue. If we wish to accept the responsibility of paying out more money to those in receipt of social service benefits we must be prepared also to accept the proposition that other people must pay for what we will give away.
I come finally to child endowment. I have spoken on this subject before in the Senate, and I say without equivocation that I am completely opposed to child endowment as the scheme operates at present. The Government has been asked to increase child endowment payments. Opposition members and Government supporters should realize that if the Government were to increase child endowment payments by ls. per child per week - and it would be rightly laughed out of office if it did - the cost to the revenue would be £8,000,000 a year. If the Parliament agreed to increase child endowment by 5s. a week - the smallest amount that would be accepted by the public as being a sincere increase - the cost to revenue would be £40,000,000 a year. Too many parents are receiving child endowment who definitely do not need lt. On the other hand there are so many parents who need more than they are getting that the Parliament should give Serious consideration to introducing a means test. The expense of the administration of the current child endowment system is wasteful. Unfortunately the right people are not getting the real help they heed - help which I am certain the nation would be prepared to give. While that goes on, there are many families receiving it which could not care less for the 5s. or 10s. a week. The payment makes no difference to their standard of living or to the welfare of their children but it costs the Commonwealth, in administration, a lot of money. I believe that the Government has Acted very well with respect to the social service benefits contained in the bill. I believe that it has been quite sincere and has done the best it can to help those who Are most in need. Therefore, I support yie bill. I hope that the Government will give very sincere and thorough consideration to the question of child endowment. J would much rather see an increase in the Income tax deductions allowable to parents &an payment of child endowment to every one.
Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia)
J 11.21]. - This bill is one which is consequent upon the Budget and is designed to make alterations to the scheme of social service payments. The increases to be paid by the Government in this financial year are welcomed by the Opposition. Let me say immediately that the Government has decided to have not a go-ahead budget but one in which it makes repairs along the line. That is obvious from this bill. At long last it has come to the aid of the civilian widows, who have been neglected for far too long. That aspect of the Budget is welcomed. We all know that we are going to die and we all know that towards the end of our lives we will probably be sick, but premature sudden death cannot be forecast. It may leave a woman as a widow at the worst financial time of her life. I commend the Government for moving into this field, and I hope that this is not the last word on the subject.
Senator Marriott raised an interesting question when he dealt with child endowment. I hope that the Government will say very clearly what are its views on this matter. Except for the occasion when it honoured a political promise that it had made, the Government has not increased child endowment over the whole of the period that it has been in office. Senator Marriott dealt with the matter in his own way by pointing out the cost of child endowment. He said that a 5s. increase would cost about £40,000,000 a year, but he did not relate that sum to the Budget expenditure, so it was not put into perspective.
Five points of amendment have been put before the Government by the Opposition. I shall not go through them all, nor will I deal with social services as minutely as did Senator Poke. On Tuesday we will have plenty of speakers who will do that. I want to deal with a question which probably will not receive as much attention. I refer to the last paragraph of our amendment, which states -
The Senate is of (he opinion that research and inquiry into social welfare in Australia is inadequate.
This year we have seen the first big breakthrough in social services. The Government has moved away from flat-rate increases in age and invalid pensions and has decided to fix a special rate for single pensioners. I believe that this ‘ has been clumsily done in many ways, but 1 have some sympathy for the method adopted by the Government. There is a rather big jump in relation to widow’s pensions, which leads me to believe that the Government’s gaze has been roving across the spectrum of social services, lt has realized’ that we could not continue with the type of increases that we have had over the years and at the same time bring about alleviation of poverty where it is most needed. I feel that there is an obligation on the Government to say very clearly whether it really believes in child endowment, whether it is limited by considerations of cost if it does believe in it, or whether it takes the view that it has been stuck with child endowment by a previous government and is going to leave it untouched.
There is a need not only for research into social services and a great deal of inquiry, but also for the results to be made public. The history of the Australian social services system goes back to 1911. The system emanated from people who really wanted to relieve the poverty of a section of the community. Nevertheless, it has been surrounded by a political atmosphere for a long time. The only increase in child endowment made by this Government was the result of a promise made in 1949 to endow the first child, lt cannot be said that that was much more than a political move. If honorable senators opposite believed in those days that people with one child should receive some assistance from the Government’s coffers, then surely, if they still believe that, they must agree that in the last fourteen years the payment should have been increased. Certainly they must agree that larger families ought to receive some help.
As far as I can ascertain, some research - not a great deal - is being done on the problem of social services in England. There you have rather more sharply defined social strata. The English research people have been looking at the areas where poverty is striking. Australia’s social services originated as an attempt to alleviate poverty in the sections of the community where it was most serious. In some ways, we have come fairly well along the line. I ask honorable senators to consider this question: If they had to-morrow another few million pounds to spend, where would they use it in the spectrum of social services? Should age pensioners be given another flat rate increase? Should the money be devoted to invalid pensioners or to child endowment? Exactly what should be done with it? Some of us would immediately say, “ Let us help the age pensioners “. Others would say that the money should be used to help large families, and others that it should be directed towards the relief of temporary unemployment. 1 suggest that nobody knows to-day exactly where poverty impinges. In the Department of Social Services there must be a tremendous amount of knowledge which has not yet been collated and brought forward. 1 feel that the Government ought to be setting up a department to gather the information available from medical records, from the records of the Department of Social Services and from other departments.
Our progress has been in stages. First, we have been able to prevent starvation. We have made sure that the people have something to eat. In the next stage we turned our attention to shelter, a problem which has given this Government a lot of trouble over the last few years because of the effect of inflation on housing. We have moved into the realm of wireless and television by assisting pensioners through reduced licence fees. I would like to know what revenue is collected in this field. To my mind it was pretty piddling to charge the pensioners for a radio licence and now for a television licence. Much money and time is spent in collecting the fees, and I wonder whether it is worth while. Is it wise to ask these people to contribute to the Government’s coffers? If pensioners can get to the stage where they can afford a wireless or television set, why should we take money back from them in wireless and television licence fees?
I do not think that any of us to-day know exactly where the problem lies. What I believe is very badly needed in Australia is a collation of all the facts relating to pensioners. I would not boggle at the idea of setting up a special committee of inquiry, whether it be a parliamentary committee or a committee of experts, to hear evidence and to investigate the situation. Then, above all, when such a committee has ascertained the true situation it should then make its findings widely known throughout Australia because the public is rather confused on this question. People do not meet with these problems every day. Periodically they see large families with the father out of work, and they realize that that is a poverty spot. Perhaps the answer is to be found in child endowment. 1 do not know, nor do I think that anybody else knows. It might be useful to increase child endowment over the years, and it might be found as a result of an inquiry that the rate might need to be increased immediately for the family with four or more children.
Senator Marriott seems to be wedded to the idea of a means test in respect of child endowment. I believe an inquiry such as I have suggested would reveal whether a means test is desirable. If such a body considered at what rate of income the means test for child endowment should be applied it might be found to be so high that it would not be worth imposing. One reason for this is that the period in which a family is being raised is the most expensive for a family. Usually breadwinners with young children are not very high up the salary range and often, because of the generation in which they were brought up, they want to give their children things that were not available to them. They will spend liberally to provide their children with sport, music or special training in various fields. I believe there would be no objection to the establishment of a committee to inquire into these aspects of social services. I do not think Senator Marriott’s point is a valid one, but I do think that many of the people he talked about do not need child endowment. Cases in which the endowment is paid into a bank account and is not used immediately for the benefit of the children would be so few that they should cause no worry.
A point I want to make because it has not been canvassed in recent years has been advanced by the Labour Party. I refer to the fact that there is not enough research, inquiry and publicity given to social service activities in order to enable us to meet the needs which are indicated in the Budget. I suppose that the only time the public was made fully aware of what was happening in the field of social services was when national insurance was first introduced. At that time this subject was given wide publicity. I remember as a young boy seeing a film in which Lord Casey appealed to the Australian people to bide with the Government and give it a chance. I recall seeing in that film an aeroplane in the background, which I suppose was characteristic of Lord Casey. I think that was the only time that such publicity was given.
To-day one of the problems is that a political atmosphere is creeping into social services. I suppose this is most marked in respect of endowment of the first child. That subject has a fairly long history in Australia. Discussion on that began as a mere dribble in 1911 until in 1941 there was a big rush to develop social services. In the last few years, other benefits have been tacked on. I think an inquiry of the type I suggest is long overdue. Such an inquiry should deal with not only the subsistence level but also such things as wireless and television licences and the provision of telephones for elderly people. In their later years some people like to have a telephone so that they can be in contact with a son or daughter. We should seriously ask ourselves whether we should continue to charge these people £10 for the connexion of a telephone service. If it were considered that these pensioners should not have to pay television and wireless licence fees, why should they not be provided also with telephones, which can be used in an emergency or as a lifesaving instrument, in addition to being used for pleasure.
I put these few thoughts before the Government because they do not cut across its present line of thought. I ask Government supporters to project their minds forward to next year’s Budget and to the one after that when inflation will have eaten a little more into the resources of these people. By that time we should have had an opportunity to study the results of paying differential rates of pension to single and married people and of paying increased rates to widows- If honorable senators opposite cannot support an inquiry into these matters they should ask themselves whether they are justified in taking such a stolid attitude towards child endowment.
I suggest to the Government that each of the five amendments which the Opposition will propose at the committee stage is of great importance, particularly the fifth proposed amendment with which I have dealt in the belief that other honorable senators would not deal with it. I urge that these amendments be considered in all seriousness because I cannot sec how the Government will be able to specify with any certainty in years to come, particu larly as our budgets and revenue increase, the amount that will be required to provide adequately for social services, or in which section of the spectrum of social services the money should be spent. Mr. President, because of the lateness of the hour I shall say no more, but will leave those thoughts with the Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Breen) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 September 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630919_senate_24_s24/>.