24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hod. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. J refer to the evidence given by the captain of H.M.A.S. “ Sydney “ at this morning’s hearing of the board of inquiry into the whaler tragedy in which five midshipmen lost their lives. The captain stated that the shortage of crew on this vessel was so serious that the ship could not operate adequately. Is the Minister aware of this shortage on a key vessel in Australia’s fighting fleet? Are any other ships similarly affected? Does this not indicate a grave situation in which Australian fighting ships are so seriously undermanned that their efficiency is impaired?
– I thought I had read all the newspaper reports of the evidence given to the board of inquiry in relation to this sad event. However, the particular part to which Senator Kennelly refers did not come to my attention. Therefore, I am at a disadvantage in answering the question. If the newspaper report was correct, the captain may have been referring to a specific category of ratings.
– This evidence was given at this morning’s hearing.
– So it has not been published?
– No. But the evidence was given.
– It has not come to my attention if it was given at this morning’s hearing and has not appeared in the press. Therefore as I have not had a chance to read it, I do not think I should comment on it. I suggest that, if the Senate sits to-morrow, the honorable senator should raise the matter again.
– Has the Minister for National Development read the varying reports about the investment by Cana dian and United Kingdom firms in the well-known Mount Lyell mining company on the west coast of Tasmania? Is the transaction correctly described as being a take-over? What are the details of the suggested financial arrangements?
– I have seen a number of press reports about this matter, and I have had access to other information. I do not think I should comment upon the transaction, because it concerns primarily, and I should think exclusively, the directors of the companies involved. I note that the chairman of the Mount Lyell company has expressed some views about it already. Therefore, I am very hesitant to comment. Whether the proposal will be acceptable to the Mount Lyell shareholders remains to be seen. The proposal is for the acquisition of an interest in the company and for the introduction of additional capital for the purpose of developing the Mount Lyell field and also the Renison Bell tin deposit.
– Before going on political safari to hunt for the elusive vote, I wish to ask the Minister for Health a few non-political questions. How many copies of the “ Health Journal “ are issued by the Commonwealth Department of Health? Where, and among whom, does this interesting and informative publication circulate? I ask whether the Minister noted, in the latest issue of the journal, the following paragraph under the heading “ Warning on Abuse of Antibiotics”: -
The National Health and Medical Research Council, which met in Brisbane in June, issued a warning against the abuse of antibiotics.
The Council urged medical practitioners to inform. the general public by every means at their disposal of the inherent dangers in indiscriminate antibiotic therapy. The Council also warned the public of the undesirability of seeking from their medical attendants therapy such as “ wonder drugs “ and other popular “remedies” beyond the actual needs of their particular malady.
The Council said medical practitioners should be reminded that uncomplicated viral infections are not influenced by antibiotics, and that their use in these cases -may do more harm than good.
Are other warnings being given, apart from those given by doctors and the “ Health Journal.”, about the abuse of antibiotics? Has the Department of Health made arrangements with the press for publication of information on this most important matter?
Senior WADE. - I am afraid I cannot inform the honorable senator of the number of copies of the “ Health Journal “ that are printed. I shall ascertain the number and advise him of it. I thank him for his reference to the journal as an interesting and informative publication, lt is distributed to doctors, hospitals, departments of education and to people who, in the opinion of the Department of Health, may obtain benefit from its contents. The honorable senator asked a series of questions concerning warnings about the dangers that could arise from the over-use of antibiotics. As I understood his question, he asked particularly whether authorities other than the National Health and Medical Research Council were giving such warnings. I think it is fair to say that warnings given by the National Health and Medical Research Council come from the highest authority on health matters in the Commonwealth of Australia. It is not possible to impose a blanket provision regarding the use of antibiotics. When all is said and done, their use is in the hands of the medical profession. Who is better qualified to prescribe for a patient than his doctor? I think it will be agreed that no two patients may react in the same way to certain antibiotics. The prescribing of antibiotics must be left in the hands of the medical profession.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether he has seen the report released yesterday by the Commonwealth Statistician concerning the present level of home construction. In view of the magnificent achievement to which the report refers, has the Minister any comment to make on it?
-I have very little comment to make on the report, except to say that it is a sound indicator of the prosperity of the community. The figures for the last quarter, in respect of both commencements and homes under construction, were at a record level. Yesterday, an honorable senator attempted to establish that there had been a tali in production; I say to him that home building is the basis of many industries. The figures have been rising strongly throughout the year and to see them reach the present record level in the September quarter gives great satisfaction to the Government parties. I should imagine that they are a source of great uneasiness to the Opposition.
– Has the Minister for National Development any comment to make on the figures published to-day showing mining production for the year 1962?
– ft is a strange coincidence that there was record production in home building and record production in mining. The value of mining production in 1962 was £192,000,000, and the departmental estimate for this year is £260,000,000. This reflects the good results of the Government’s policy over the years. We have steadily set out to encourage mining activities. We have carried out surveys and opened up mining areas. We are now reaping the benefit of this work and I am sure it will be appreciated by the people of Australia.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government. Has tha Minister seen a statement by Sir Ian Potter published on the front page of to-day’s issue of the “ Australian Financial Review “? Does Sir Ian Potter solicit donations on behalf of the Liberal Party? Is he a trustee of the Liberal Party in Victoria? Did Sir Ian Potter, who is both a collector and trustee for the Liberal Party, warn that unless action were taken now a credit squeeze would be necessary in 1964? If he did, would it be reasonable to assume that before making that statement he had the benefit of conversations with members and officials of the Liberal Party and therefore would be conversant with the expectations of the Liberal Party? If so, are the people to expect a credit squeeze in the unlikely event of the return of the Menzies-Holt Government on 30th November?
– This is not nearly so friendly a question as the last one. I know Sir Ian Potter well, and 1 wish I had as good a record as he has.
He started from scratch and has climbed to the top of the tree. He is one of the most respected men in the Australian community. If he gives public service by assisting the Liberal Party then it is really service for the good of the nation. As to the second part of the question, I cannot imagine that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition saw the Prime Minister in his television interview last Sunday. When the Prime Minister was asked the specific question whether there was to be a credit squeeze in 1964 he gave the specific answer, “ No “. That is an answer that can . be accepted by the community, because I think Sir Robert Menzies, in his fourteen years as Prime Minister, has shown the Australian community that he is a man of his word and that what he says bc means.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Government’ any pi u vis, to give very careful consideration to an alteration of section 1 27 of the Constitution, in view of ‘the fact that the Prime Minister’s reply of 24th instant to a question of mine stated that any proposed alteration would need such consideration? Would not such an alteration be in keeping with the Government’s’ stated opposition to discrimination against aboriginal citizens of Australia, a.id in accordance with the wishes of 43,900 petitioners to the Commonwealth Parliament? If the Government has no plans for such consideration, will it immediately look at the position and try to find a solution to the discrimination which section 127 exercises against aboriginal citizens at present?
– I am sorry to say that I am not an expert on this matter. I read the petitions that come forward from time .to time and I see the Prime - Minister’s answers. I have a recollection of Senator Cavanagh’s question which was directed to the Prime Minister and I have a recollection of the Prime Minister’s reply. 1 would not care to trust my recollection to the point of saying exactly what was said about the matter.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform ma whether the land held by the Navy at Point Peron in Western Australia is to be disposed of? If the Navy no longer requires this land, when will it bc handed to the Department of the Interior for disposal? Have the State Government and the local government authorities shown any interest in acquiring this land? If they are not interested, will the land be offered to civic bodies, such as the National Fitness Council?
– An area of land ob both sides of the road running along Cockburn Sound has been held by the Navy for quite a considerable time. I take it that this is the piece of land to which the honorable senator refers: Some time ago the Navy decided that portion of that land was no longer required. That being the case, the disposal of the land becomes a matter for the Department of the Interior. However, my recollection of the event is that the State Government did indicate that it had some interest in this area. I have not followed up what happened since that time because my responsibility really finished when the land was handed over to the Department of the Interior, but I will endeavour to find out for the honorable senator what the position is.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that many pain-relieving drugs are to be removed from the national health scheme’s free list as from 1st November next? Also, is it a fact that it is intended to remove from the list certain drugs required for the treatment of asthma, including the drug amesec? Are these drugs being removed from the free list because of the Government’s concern at the high cost of providing them? How will asthmatics fare when these drugs are removed from the list?
– The decision to remove from the free list certain pain-killing drugs is a commonsense decision, and I shall support that assertion by figures. To get a prescription for aspirin a patient would be obliged to visit a doctor, and a doctor’s fees would be 25s., on the average throughout Australia. Having paid 25s. to the doctor the patient would have to pay another 5s. to a chemist as a prescription fee, which would make .the total price of a packet of aspirin 30s. It is true that generally the patient would not have to foot the whole of that bill, because of the 25s. paid to the doctor 16s. would be met by benefits from the Commonwealth Government and a medical benefits fund, but the patient would have to pay approximately 9s. as his contribution towards the doctor’s fee. It is well known that aspirins can be bought over the counter at less than 5s. per 100. That being sp, I do not . think any one could justify the continuance of a system that involves ari expenditure of 30s. for something that can be bought for 5s. or less.
– That is for a packet of aspirin?
– I am talking about a packet of aspirin.
– What about when a doctor prescribes for an asthmatic patient?
– I have been asked two separate questions on this issue. One was about pain-killing drugs and the other one was in reference to asthma sufferers. I will come to the second question as quickly as I can, but in relation to the first question I wish to add that pain-killing drugs such as aspirin and codeine are still free to pensioners.
In regard to the second question, the preparation amesec, which has been prescribed for the relief of asthma, has been removed from the free list. It is a preparation that comprises three compounds, and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has, in its wisdom, recom7 mended the removal of this proprietary preparation for a very good reason. The committee contends that better prescribing is done when the doctor prescribes the compounds of the preparation, which are still on the free list, in proportions that meet the requirements of individual patients, I repeat that the compounds of amesec are still on the free list; they are still available without cost - save the 5s. prescription fee - to patients in any quantities that a doctor may prescribe. Finally, the question of cost was not involved in the recommendation of the committee. The committee bases its recommendations simply on the therapeutic and clinical value of drugs to the patient.
The significance ot the discovery is that it occurs on the western side of the Surat basin in the same oil sand from which oil was recovered at Moonie and Richmond. The well is on a small structure, superimposed on a much larger structure, with good prospects for further discoveries. The strong flow of water is taken as proof that the sand has good reservoir characteristics. A further test will probably be made under controlled conditions. This may give a better oil test because at present the oil is flowing into the hole against the pressure of the casing full of water.
I may add that we are keeping our fingers crossed.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is there any basis of fact in the news published over the week-end to the effect that deliberate frictional activities have been undertaken by the Indonesians on the border between West Irian and New Guinea?
– I have not heard of any reports confirming’ such frictional activity on that border.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I direct the attention of the Minister to an order issued by him under the customs regulations many months ago. The Minister will recall that I asked that all goods, particularly cameras and optical goods, imported into Australia from East Germany be refused entry unless marked properly with their country of origin which, at the time, I suggested should be “ Soviet Occupied Germany”. The Minister will recall that he issued an order that all such goods must bear the East German marking. Is the Minister aware that throughout Australia, in retail shops and stores - I have seen many of them myself - there are hundreds of East German cameras of the latest models, which have been admitted since this order? These simply bear the word “ Germany “, which suggests that they might have come from West Germany.
Will the Minister take action to check the information that I have put to him and, if it is correct, will he take action to see that this open defiance of his order is discontinued without delay?
– I will take steps straight away. I was not aware of the facts mentioned by the honorable senator. I thank him for bringing them to my attention. 1 shall instruct my department to make inquiries to see just what the position is.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Health a further question with regard to drugs for the treatment of asthma because I feel that great hardship is being inflicted on asthmatics. Did the Department of Health request that the various colleges should set up therapeutic sub-committees to channel complaints and requests to the pharmaceutical committee? What has been the attitude of the therapeutic sub-committee of the College of General Practitioners in view of the fact that 70 per cent., 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of asthmatics are treated by general practitioners? If the therapeutic subcommittee has disregarded amesec on the ground that it is a combination of three drugs, does this mean that the Department of Health accepts the principle that all stock mixtures will also be taken off the list because they have combinations of drugs in them at fixed amounts? As this is a very balanced drug tablet or capsule which very rarely needs to be altered, would it not be better to make it available to those sufferers who need it and make those who need a variation pay the extra cost involved? The Minister has not yet made it clear to the Senate whether an asthma sufferer, in order to get the equivalent of a compound tablet for which he previously paid 5s., must now pay 15s. because he has to get the three ingredients, aminophylline, ephedrine and phenobarbitone or one of the butobarbitones.
– Answering the last part of the question first, I can give the Senate an unequivocal assurance that the prescription required for a mixture of these three ingredients costs only 5s. It is true that the Department of Health has set up various sub-committees in an advisory capacity. It is also true that the Pharmaceutical Benefits
Advisory Committee, which is the sole authority that advises (he Government on additions to, or deletions from, the list of drugs, avails itself of all the expert opinion it can secure. As 1 said yesterday, the Government will be guided by this expert committee, which has been nominated by the medical profession itself,, rather than be pressurized by any parties who may have a financial interest in the commodity that they wish to have retained on the list.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation received a request from any air operator, or operators, to place on the strength of the fleet a DC6B aircraft poi use within Australia? Can the Minister State the date of manufacture of such planes, the hours already flown by them and their probable cost? Is the Minister satisfied that a more modern plane than the DC6B is not readily available?
– I have received requests for permits to purchase a DC6B aircraft from both Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. The honorable senator may recall that in a report issued at the end of the last financial year I referred to the possibility of both operators having to seek, as an interim measure, further equipment for use until their new equipment - the Boeing equipment - would be received next year. Incidentally, the Boeing aircraft will replace the equivalent of sixteen Viscount aircraft. The market was searched for something to serve as an interim aircraft to meet the increasing business until October or November of next year. Both airlines examined the possibility of purchasing an Electra aircraft. These aircraft are not only difficult to get but are also extremely costly. To have used them to tide the airlines over their transient difficulty would not have been anything like a commercial proposition. Much the same could be said about Viscount aircraft. So it was decided - each airline making its own decision - that a DC6B aircraft should be acquired for the intervening period.
I cannot tell the honorable senator the date of manufacture of the aircraft. That will depend on the particular planes that are chosen. As the honorable senator will recall, DC6B aircraft were manufactured over a very long period. They are a well established, reliable aircraft, and they have had a market for a long time. The cost is expected to be £200,000 or less - perhaps as low as £180,000. It is the intention of the airlines to use these aircraft on back-up services pending the receipt of new equipment later in 1964.
– Has the Minister for Health noticed in the press a telegraphic message from London dated 23rd October to the effect that Dr. John Fry of Beckenham, Kent, writing in the magazine “ Parents “, said that only one of every five operations for the removal of tonsils in children was really necessary? I am sure the Minister will agree that nature has endowed us all with tonsils and that nature does not make many mistakes. Will the Minister make some inquiries to ascertain whether the same pattern obtains here as in Britain in respect of such operations? I should be glad to hear from the Minister on this subject, if not now, then after he returns as a member of the new Parliament to sit in the ministerial seat that he now occupies with distinction.
– I share the honorable senator’s confidence in the return of the Government after 30th November. I am not in a position to’ share the opinion that was expressed by Dr. Fry about the removal of tonsils. At best, one could only describe it as a sweeping statement which embodies an opinion. For that reason, one must be very cautious about making any comment on it. However, I shall ask my officers” to look at the report. If they care to express an opinion - I doubt whether they will - I shall invite them to convey it to the honorable senator.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation any comments to make about the recently published balance-sheet of Trans-Australia Airlines? Have the progress and financial stability of T.A.A. justified the expectations of the Commonwealth Government and vindicated its policy of maintaining two major civil airlines in Australia?
– They have improved not because of the Government’s policy but in spite of it. “
– Has the other major civil airline experienced a similarly prosperous year of operation? Because of the interjection, I add this question: What dividend did T.A.A. pay to the Australian taxpayers, and what dividend did Ansett Transport Industries Limited pay to its shareholders?
– I shall answer the last part of the question first. The dividend announced recently by T.A.A. was at the record rate of 7 per cent. For a number of years past the dividend paid by AnsettA.N.A. has been at the rate of 10 per cent. I have noticed in the financial section of the press a report that Mr. Ansett has confidently forecast a similar dividend for the financial year which has just ended. The balance-sheet of Trans-Australia Airlines will indicate to any objective observer a story of very steady growth, indeed quite spectacular expansion, over the years. It shows a very solid reserve position. The organization’s profit has increased from year to year until this year the airline has been able to declare a dividend of 7 per cent, for the first time. It must be conceded that this expansion, viewed from any angle, has been significant indeed.
The airline has a first-class fleet which is shortly to be reinforced by the latest jet equipment. During this Government’s term of office the staff of T.A.A. has increased from 3,400 to more than 4,800 persons. The number of passengers carried has risen from 456,000 to nearly 1,300,000. One could go on in the same strain, but possibly the best indicator of the airline’s expansion is the fact that the value of its assets has increased during this Government’s term of office from just under £5,000,000 to the bulky sum of £25,000,000.
asked whether the Government’s two-airline policy has been justified. I can only point out that it has been the continuing objective of this Government to build not just one airline but an industry comprising a government airline and a privately-owned airline. I think we can say with due modesty that wc have moved from the point where the airline industry was almost breaking down to a point where two well conducted, well equipped and well managed airlines are serving the people of Australia.
– I address this question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Is the Government attempting to explain its failure to introduce its restrictive trade practices legislation before the election by giving the excuse that the subject is too complex? Is this not a crude attempt to deceive the people of Australia? Why is the Government ashamed to let the public know the details of its intended legislation?
– I can only conclude that the honorable senator has given no thought to the whole problem. If he had given any thought to it, he would know that the Attorney-General, far from attempting to conceal any of the facts or any of the difficulties, has had laid on the table of this House and has had made available to organizations throughout Australia certain proposals for the purpose of inviting criticism and suggestions. All I can say is that the question, having proceeded from ignorance, should be left where it is.
(Question No. 147.)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer: -
(Question No. 149.)
asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
(Question No. 155.)
asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
– The following answers are now supplied: -
! HOUR OF MEETING.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 11 a.m.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with the following message: -
The House of Representatives returns to the Senate the bill intituled “A bill for an act to provide for the payment of damages by the Commonwealth and authorities of the Commonwealth in respect of the death of, or personal injury to, certain persons travelling as passengers in aircraft “, and acquaints the Senate that the House of Representatives has agreed to amendments Nos. 2 and 3 made by the Senate, and has agreed to amendment No. 1 with the amendment indicated in the annexed schedule. The House of Representatives desires the concurrence of the Senate to the amendment made to amendment No. 1 of the Senate.
Schedule of the amendment made by the Senate to which the House of Representatives has agreed with an amendment -
No. 1. - In paragraph (b) (ii) of the definition of “ passenger “ after “ Defence Force “ add “, being a class as to whom the Governor-General is satisfied that the terms and conditions of their service include provision for risks arising out of the performance of duties in aircraft “.
Amendment amended as follows: -
By omitting the words “ the Governor-General is satisfied that “.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendment): u- .
– I move -
That the amendment by the House of Representatives to Senate Amendment No. 1 be agreed to.
Honorable senators will recall that when clause 4 of this bill was previously before the Senate the Government put forward an amendment, which was accepted by the Senate, of the definition of the word “ passenger “ as a result of certain objections that had been taken by Senator Wright to the definition in its unamended form. Senator Murphy then moved an amendment to the amendment put forward by the Government, but Senator Murphy’s amendment was not agreed to. The view of the Government was that this amendment would have introduced uncertainty as to the classes of people excluded from the definition of “ passenger “.
When the amendment made by the Senate was considered in another place the Opposition there brought forward the same amendment to the amendment as had been moved by Senator Murphy. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -accept the Opposition’s amendment, the House voted in favour of it, and it is now before the Senate for the concurrence of the Senate. The Government still feels that the amendment to the amendment introduces an element of uncertainty that would not have existed had the Senate amendment remained in its original form. However, the Government had decided in the circumstances not to press opposition to the amendment and I have therefore moved that the Senate agree to it.
– The Opposition, of course, supports this amendment. The matter came before the Senate on 22nd October last when I moved that the words which are now proposed to be left out be left out. On that occasion the matter was put forward by us as one concerning the supremacy of the Parliament. It does so affect the supremacy of the Parliament. It is important that whenever there is a means by which the supremacy of the Parliament may be encroached upon action should be taken to deal with that position and to preserve the. situation whereby, so far as possible, that’: supremacy is maintained. We must see that we do not slip into a situation where there is more and more encroachment by the bureaucracy.
It is pleasing to see that in this instance both parties - and, I expect, all members of this Parliament - will be of the one view, that a phrase such as this should not be included in legislation. A little more than a month ago a similar phrase was deleted from the International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill 1963 on the initiative of this Senate, on a motion by Senator Wright. We regard this as most important. It is not a matter in which there is, or ought to be, any party-political difference. It is one in which the interests of the community at large arc very much at stake because by means of such phrases as this included in legislation liberty is taken away, not in great chunks, but little by little. It is the use of phrases such as this in various pieces of legislation which erodes away the liberties of the people. When we maintain the supremacy of the Parliament we maintain the liberty of the people of Australia.
I commend the Government for taking the attitude it is taking. It is significant that the motion to delete these words was originally moved by myself - a member of the Australian Labour Party. The same motion was moved in the House of Representatives by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) - a member of the Liberal Party - andI expect that it will be supported by every one in this Senate. So it is clearly a matter which is not party-political. We on this side are pleased - andI am sure that honorable senators on the Government side also will be pleased - that we can join in agreeing upon this motion. We trust that the lesson will be clear. The lesson is that this kind of provision, having been rejected twice by the Parliament in little more than a month, ought not to appear in any proposed legislation.
.- 1 wish to say but a few words on the motion moved by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). 1 welcome the motion and am glad to note that it adverts to an occasion when I felt bound to support a motion against the Government in the Senate, even to the point of voting against the Government in a division. But the Government in the House of Representatives has taken a view contrary to that then taken by the Government in the Senate and I now have the pleasure of seeing the whole of the Government in the Senate and its supporters agreeing with the view that I then took. I would not detain the committee if this were not a matter of great significance. The advocacy by me protesting against the use in legislation of this sort of phrase over the past ten or twelve years, has not found a seed bed in the understanding of the Ministry. I indicate the importance of this matter by pointing out that the use of this device was one of the contributory factors by which the Hitler regime succeeded in overturning the perfectly expressed parliamentary government of Germany. The adoption of the phrase that the House of Representatives has now agreed to drop is an’ insidious device whereby rules of law which are properly written into the statutes so that they can be objectively applied to all people can be removed piecemeal from the scrutiny of the courts and put into. an area where an executive decision is conclusive. This device is a claim by the executive to determine facts, and this precludes the authority of the courts to examine facts. That means that, by executive decision, the individual is deprived of the traditional protection of the courts. 1 join with Senator Murphy, whose assistance in this matter is most agreeable to me. in the hope that what is now happening will convince both sides of the Senate that this is not a parly matter, but a fundamental, constitutional matter in respect of which we all should be jealous to maintain the principle of the rule of law. We should be watchful that no draftsman hereafter takes the risk of going counter to the principles of this decision, because the device which we are now removing does, little by little, erode the efficacy of what both parties here should be proud to support - the rule of law.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Deba te resumed from 24th October (vide page 1430), on motion by Senator Paltridge.
That the bill be now read a secondtime.
.- The bill is a very interesting one, relating to what might be termed the local government affairs of the people of Norfolk Island, a Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia lying some 930 miles east of Sydney and some 630 miles from Auckland, New Zealand. According to the last annual report of the Norfolk Island Administration which is available to the Parliament, the population of the island as at 30th June, 1962, was 877. These people live in a very confined space. The island is five miles long and three miles wide, with a coastline of approximately 30 miles. The history of Norfolk Island, very fascinatingly, is linked closely with the early history and early settlement of Australia as a penal colony, and particularly of New South Wales- the State that I have the honour to represent in this Parliament.
Norfolk Island was discovered by Captain Cook on 10th October, 1774, which was about three and one half years after he sailed into Botany Bay. In 1788, the very year in which Captain Phillip brought his party of convicts to Australia, Norfolk Island was colonized as a penal settlement when Lieutenant King, subsequently to become Governor King of New South Wales, went to the island in H.M.S. “Supply” to establish a branch of the Port Jackson penal settlement. That penal settlement was abandoned in 1813. For some thirteen years after that, the island was used only as a whaling station or as a port of call for British naval vessels.
In 1 826 Norfolk Island was again opened up as a penal settlement and it continued as such until about 1855 when the era of convict settlement in Australia ended. In 1856, the descendants of the mutineers of the “ Bounty “, who had established themselves on Pitcairn Island, were transferred to Norfolk Island because they had become too numerous to subsist on Pitcairn. They numbered only 194 - 94 males and 100 females. These people being descendants of the mutineers of the “ Bounty “, the history of Norfolk Island remained very closely linked with the settlement of the Australian mainland. Lieutenant King, who took the first party of convicts to Norfolk Island from Port Jackson, upon seeing the island for the first time described it as the Madeira of the Pacific. So much for the early history of Norfolk Island. Its closeness to Australia is judged not only in terms . of miles or nautical miles from the port of Sydney but also in terms .of names which are familiar to all Australians, especially to the younger generation studying our early history - Captain Bligh of the “ Bounty “, later Governor Bligh, Lieutenant King, later Governor King, and Captain Cook, who first sailed into Botany Bay and some three and one half years later discovered Norfolk Island.
In 1856, shortly after the “Bounty” mutineers had been transferred to Norfolk Island, the island was created a separate and distinct settlement under the jurisdiction of the colony of New South Wales. In 1896 it was made a dependency of that colony. Finally, upon the passage by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1913 of the Norfolk Island Act, the island became a Territory of the Commonwealth, administered by an Administrator on behalf of the Commonwealth. Prior to the passage of the 1957 act, which this bill seeks to amend, the Administrator had the advice of an advisory council consisting of eight elected members of the Norfolk Island population, elected annually. The advisory council could advise - and in fact it did advise - the Administrator on any matters affecting the island, including the making of new ordinances and the repeal or amendment of existing ordinances.
The Norfolk Island Act of 1957 was assented to on 30th May, 1957, but did not come into operation until 1960. It repealed the Norfolk Island Act 1913-1935, an earlier - act of this Parliament, and provided for the replacement of the advisory council with the Norfolk Island Council. The proposal was that this council should exercise - although in fact it did not choose to exercise - functions which correspond broadly to those of local municipal authorities. It had power to make by-laws, to levy rates, to make charges, and to control its own finances. Like the advisory council, it consisted of eight members, to be elected annually. Elections were to take place on the first Wednesday of July. Islanders of 21 years of age or over who had lived on the island for six months preceding the closing of the electoral roll were qualified to vote, and voting was compulsory.
The Supreme Court, of the Territory is the highest judicial authority in the Territory, exercising both criminal and civil jurisdiction. There is a right of appeal to the High Court of Australia from a judgment of a Supreme Court in a civil matter where the amount, or the value, involved is at least £1,500. lt is interesting to observe also, having regard lo the history of the island and to the first discontinuance of its use as a penal settlement and the change-over to its use as a whaling station, that whaling is still carried on from the island. It is interesting too to nose that the island’s imports for the year 1962-63 amounted to £360,000 while exports amounted to only £197,000. Of the imports totalling £360,000 - I am referring to the annual report of the Territory of Norfolk Island for the year ended 30th June, 1963- imports worth £40,240 were radio and’ electrical goods.
– Does the report say how the exports were disposed of?
– That is not disclosed. The 1957 act set up the Norfolk Island Council with powers, as I have said, similar to those of an ordinary local government body on the mainland of Australia. lt was intended that the council would attend to matters normally regarded by the people of the Commonwealth as local government matters, including the levying of rates. As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) said in his secondreading speech, the 1957 act was not proclaimed until April, I960, because obviously the islanders were completely opposed to accepting the responsibility vested in the council in regard to local government affairs. The first council was, in fact, elected in July, I960, after the proclamation of the act in April, I960, but has never really functioned as a council and has never exercised the powers accorded to it under the 1.957 legislation. On 1.8th June last the council carried a resolution which in part reads as follows: -
Council trusts thai Commonwealth Parliament will see til lo approve Council’s recommended amendments lo the Norfolk Island Act I9S7. Council is convinced that the proposals represent the wish of the people of Norfolk Island and will result in an economic smooth-running administration.
As the Minister said, this bill contains the amendments recommended by the council. The principal amendments proposed by the bill are in clauses 7 and 8 which relate lo the functions of the council. Sub-section (5.) of proposed section 11a, in clause 8, provides -
Where the Administrator has received the directions of the Minister with respect to a matter, he shall act in the matter in accordance with the directions.
The fact is that the council wants to bc a body according to the terms of this bill, the functions of which will bc to make a preview of ordinances and regulations made in relation to Norfolk Island and the people living there. The council not only wants the right to make a preview of ordinances and regulations but also a preview of estimates of revenue and expenditure and the right to voice objections, if any, to the Administrator. If objections are voiced to the Administrator, and he disagrees with them, under the bill he shall forward the objections, plus the reasons for disagreeing with them, to the Minister for Territories. The island, of course, is governed by ordinances issued at the instance of the Minister for Territories. Clause 1.0 amends section 17 of the principal act and provides for bringing ordinances before this Parliament, lt has regard to recent amendments that have been made and is in conformity wilh a recent amendment to section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act.
The Opposition does nol oppose the legislation. In supporting the bill on behalf of the Opposition I make the general comment that it is interesting to observe that in these days, when small communities and small nations arc crying out for independence and for the right of selfgovernment, the people of this island - some 877 in number, and only 920 miles from Australia - are saying that they do not want a say in how their island is lo bc administered nor do they want the right to impose taxation, a right that nearly every other community is seeking al the present time. It is pleasing to note that by an ordinance provision will be made for the holding of referenda in the Territory by which the people can be directly consulted in matters affecting their welfare. It is proper that that kind of ordinance - in a small, isolated and concentrated community such as Norfolk Island - should be envisaged.’
Apart from the general purposes of the bill, the matters that have been outlined in the second-reading speech of the Minister and the matters to which I have referred on behalf of the Opposition, there are a number of machinery measures relating to the appointment of a deputy administrator and judges of the Supreme Court. Because this bill seems to set out the wishes of the people of Norfolk Island the Opposition docs not express any opposition to it but, on the contrary, gives it its wholehearted support.
– in reply - On behalf of the Government I express complete satisfaction that the measure should receive the support of both sides of the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like to ask the Minister what is intended in sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 1 1a, which reads -
Any such matter may be brought before the Council by a member of the Council or, with the permission of the Chairman of the Council, by any other person or institution.
Is it intended that any member of the community or any institution shall be able to address the council for the purpose of putting views to that body, or is it proposed that such an approach should be made in writing? Secondly, why is it necessary that such an approach should be made only with the permission of the chairman of the council? After all, the council consists of eight persons, and it may be felt that the majority should express an opinion on whether the views of any person or institution should be heard. It may be thought that this decision should not be left to the chairman. I raise these matters because they may be in the interests of the welfare of the people of Norfolk Island.
– The proposed sub-section provides that any member of the Norfolk Island community may present himself, not necessarily having forewarned the chairman of the council by letter, and, with the permission of the chairman, address the council. The honorable senator asks whether this power should be vested in the chairman of the council. I think this can only be regarded as the normal procedure. The chairman, speaking on behalf of the council, would say, “ Yea “ or “ Nay “. I do not envisage that the chairman would take a view in opposition to that held by the majority of the council. If I may venture a personal opinion, having regard to the people of the island, I should think that this is a particularly appropriate way to look after a matter which is of local importance.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 1435), on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- It is my understanding thatI have already spoken in support of this measure on behalf of the Opposition. The Opposition supports the bill. However, I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) to tell me the reason for the failure of the University of New South Wales to spend the £150,000 provided for the hall of residence. Whatever his reply to that question, the Opposition supports the bill as presented to the Senate.
[4.29]. - in reply - It was my understanding that this bill was passed last night, but when we came to examine the business paper we found that we had not completed the proper formalities. The explanation sought by the honorable senator is that in the 1960 triennium this amount of money was provided because there was then a proposal to build within the University of New South Wales two church colleges, one for the Catholic Church and the other for the Church of England. As the three years went on, with the growth of the University of New South Wales, it was found difficult to find a site within the university for the colleges to be erected. There was then a period of indecision and inquiry during which the two churches endeavoured to get sites outside the university campus.. By this time, however, the end of the three-year period had arrived and a decision was taken to give the money to other universities. Recommendations will be made b’y the Australian Universities Commission, and approved by the Minister, for the money to be used for the same purpose within other universities, leaving the Kensington problem unsolved in the anticipation that the two churches may find a solution to it and proceed with their original plans. Rather than return the £150,000 to the exchequer it was thought desirable to use the money to do this good work at some other universities.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
.– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to replace the Defence (Visiting Forces) Act 1939 with legislation, modelled on the United Kingdom act of 1952, capable of application to such countries as events may require. As a matter of immediate concern, the bill will enable Australia to give effect to the agreement made with the United States of America on 9th May, 1963, known as the Agreement Covering the Status of United States Forces in Australia.
The bill proceeds on the basis that its automatic application will be to the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. All, or any of its provisions, can be applied to other countries. In each case where any provision is applied to any country, there will be opportunity for review by Parliament, because regulations will be necessary declaring the country for the purposes of the act so as to attract the provisions of the act nominated in the regulations. The first such country should be the United States of America, because it has some of its forces in this country in respect of which we are bound to implement the Status of Forces Agreement.
That agreement follows the broad form of the Nato Status of Forces Agreement signed in London in June, 1951. The London agreement has become a pattern for other agreements on the topic of visiting forces. The result is that Australian legislation will meet our likely future needs by following the lines of the United Kingdom act of 1952 which implemented the London agreement. Our own forces in Malaysia enjoy the advantages of a statute based on the United Kingdom act. Accordingly, to the extent that the bill limits the jurisdiction of Australian courts, it does so consistently with modern international practice and to honour our international obligations. These obligations are better understood against the recent history of jurisdiction in relation to visiting forces.
The United States authorities have, in the last decade or so, withdrawn considerably from a position they used to take strongly, namely, that under international law, members of an armed force in a foreign country by permission of that country remain exclusively under the jurisdiction of their own authorities and are not subject to the jurisdiction of the local courts. In the First World War the United States authorities pressed this view, and although no formal agreement had been concluded with Great Britain when the war ended, it seems that, as a matter of fact, no United States serviceman was tried in a British court. During the Second World War the United States authorities again pressed this view, and in Great Britain an act was passed iri 1942 excluding United States servicemen from the criminal jurisdiction of British courts. This act remained in force until 1954, when the 1952 act was brought into operation after the Nato Status of Forces Agreement. There were parallel developments in Australia. In 1942, by national security regulation, United States servicemen were excluded from the criminal jurisdiction of Australian courts. The regulation remained in force until the end of 1946.
The general position, however, as applied by British and Australian law lo forces other than from the United States of America, was that visiting forces were subject to the local courts. Our own 1939 act followed the pattern of the 1933 British act and did no more than permit visiting United Kingdom and dominion forces to exercise their own jurisdiction concurrently with local jurisdiction. In December, 1941, National Security Regulations, here in Australia, followed British legislation of 1940 and extended the concurrent jurisdiction system to allied forces from other than Commonwealth countries. The legislation did not state any rule to indicate who should exercise the jurisdiction in any particular case, that is to say, whether it should be the visiting force tribunals or the local courts. After the national security legislation expired, the position was, and has been right to the present time, that our existing legislation on visiting forces applies only to United Kingdom and dominion forces. In the post-war world this is too restrictive. Further, our legislation gives no guidance for choosing between competing jurisdictions of local courts and visiting force tribunals.
The multilateral Nato Status of Forces Agreement solved this conflict for Nato countries in a way that we will now be following here in Australia. The United States abandoned their long-held claim to exclusive jurisdiction and, along with the other Nato countries, submitted their servicemen to local jurisdiction in all cases except offences committed solely against the security of the sending country, offences committed in the performance of official duty and offences committed against the person or property of another member of the force. The agreement also provides for waiver of jurisdiction by either the local or the visiting force authorities. This compromise was repeated in our recent agreement with the United States, and the bill gives effect to it. The bill does not, of course, relate exclusively, or even expressly, to visiting forces from the United States of America. Its provisions will apply automatically to forces of Commonwealth countries, and bc available to bc applied by regulation to the forces of other countries including, of course, the United States of America. In substance, the bill adopts the provisions of the 1952 act of the United Kingdom which the Government is informed has worked well in practice. At some points we have modified the provisions to provide additional safeguards and to deal with difficulties more to be expected in a large continent like Australia, with six independent systems of State law.
In a rapid outline of the bill, I note firstthat the service tribunals of a visiting force of a country to which the relevant provisions are applied are permitted to exercise full jurisdiction over members of the force and, in addition, over other persons who are subject to the service law of the country concerned. There arc two important exceptions - one the case of the foreign national resident in Australia who has been conscripted into a visiting force; the other the case of the Australian citizen or resident who is a civilian employee of a visiting force. In neither case will the service tribunals have jurisdiction. Apart from this, the service tribunals will be permitted to exercise the jurisdiction their own law gives them, not only over the members of the force, but also over certain civilians. These civilians are the members of a “ civilian component of a visiting force “, and the dependants of members of a visiting force or of a civilian component of such a force. This is not a novel concept, since the existing act already enables jurisdiction to be exercised over civilians employed in connexion with a visiting force, although not over dependants. It is to be emphasized, however, that the bill does not create jurisdiction in service tribunals beyond the provisions of their own law. The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that, in time of peace, United States service tribunals have no jurisdiction to deal, outside the United States, with offences committed by civilians. The result is that the civilian employees and dependants accompanying a United States visiting force in Australia will be subject only to the jurisdiction of our courts.
Our courts will lose jurisdiction in the limited class of case to which I have referred - offences against security of the sending country, offences in the performance’ of duty, offences against ‘ other members of the same force - but that jurisdiction may be restored by waiver of the sending country in any particular case. The Attorney-General may waive Australian jurisdiction in any particular case and the agreement with the United States calls for sympathetic consideration of a request for waiver in cases where the sending country considers waiver to be of particular importance. Clearly, as the criminal jurisdiction is largely State jurisdiction, close liaison between Commonwealth and State will be required. There will be consultation in each case, and there will be no waiver contrary to State views without the individual case being considered by the Attorney-General personally. Mr. Deputy President, some means there must be to resolve any doubt whether a particular alleged offence, if committed, was committed in the course of duty. The United Kingdom act provides that the certificate of the appropriate authority of the sending country shall be prima facie evidence on this point. Our provision is that a certificate of the Attorney-General is required. The Attorney-General will give proper weight to evidence from the visiting force,, but he will not be bound by it because the Government has thought that Australians would want the matter independently considered. i Clause 12 of the bill also diverges from the United Kingdom pattern. In the United Kingdom it is assumed that before a member of a visiting force is charged final decisions will have been taken as to which authority is to exercise jurisdiction. For that purpose it is provided that a person arrested without a warrant may be held in custody for three days, without being brought before a court of summary jurisdiction, while it is being decided who is to deal with him. One can see that there will be difficulty at times in taking the decision and even in establishing the facts on which to base the decision. The difficulties may well be greater in a country as large as Australia, where the States all have their judicial systems and their own law enforcement authorities. There will be cases where it will not be immediately apparent whether an arrested person is a member of a visiting force, whether his victim is a member of the same visiting force or whether the alleged offence was committed in the course of duty.
Some cases may be complicated further by requests for waiver. But the Government does not accept the solution of holding a man without bringing, him before acourt. If he has been arrested for an offence against Australian law, then he should be charged with that offence at once. The court retains its ordinary power of granting bail, and there will be a stay of proceedings for a period decided by the court so that the authorities can look into the question of whether the case is properly one for a service tribunal. If it is, the charge in the court will not proceed. If it is not, the court will proceed on the charge already laid. Whichever is to be the case, the court can see that there is no undue delay, because it controls the length of the temporary stay of its own proceedings.
Coroner’s inquests are dealt wilh in clause 14. An inquest is not to be held where the deceased person was, at the time of the death, a member of a visiting force or of a civilian component, or was a dependant of such a member. Neither is an inquest to be held where a person within the jurisdiction of a visiting force tribunal has been charged before it with the homicide of the deceased person. The prohibition will, in each case, be subject to the discretion of the Attorney-General to decide that the inquest should proceed. This again is a point at which we will establish close Commonwealth-State liaison.
The inquest provisions appear to be necessary consequences of the visiting force tribunals exercising criminal jurisdiction. In nearly every State, the fact that a charge of homicide is pending results in an inquest into the death being adjourned until the charge is disposed of. The bill extends this notion to the present context. Where the deceased person is a person for whom the visiting force is responsible, that is to say, he is a member or a dependant, the Attorney-General can direct the holding of an inquest, if the public interest requires it. The visiting force would conduct its own inquiry in many cases - for example, where a soldier died in camp or on manoeuvres.
Clause 16 of the bill follows the United Kingdom act, and indeed our own existing act, in permitting any provisions of Commonwealth law, so far as they apply, to our defence force, to be applied to a visiting force. No such provisions will apply automatically. A regulation will bc necessary to apply any provisions to a stated visiting force. The intention is to have available a means of putting a visiting force in the same position before Commonwealth law as our own defence force. It may be very convenient, for example, to be able to provide the ordinary protection of our law to witnesses at visiting forces courts-martial; or it may be desirable to isolate an area for safe artillery practice. There is the safeguard that powers under the clause arc not to be exercisable by the visiting force authorities, but by whoever is the Australian authority under the Australian law being applied lo the visiting force. No difficulties appear to have arisen on the similar provision in the existing Commonwealth act or in the United Kingdom act.
Clause 17 of the bill deals with civil claims against members of a visiting force. The members will themselves be personally liable and it will be open, to any citizen to institute proceedings in our courts. Where the Commonwealth has entered into an agreement, as it has done in the Status of Forces Agreement with the United States, it may act on behalf of the member in - settling and paying claims for injuries caused by him in the course of his duty, and it will look (o the other country for reimbursement in the agreed proportions. This is the position as it has obtained in the United Kingdom since the 1952 act came into force there. Our inquiries reveal that the system has worked satisfactorily. In the case of United States forces, for example, unit commanders will co-operate by disclosing on proper occasions the names of drivers of vehicles involved in accidents and by assisting in the matter of service of court documents. If further assistance should be needed, the Attorney-General’s Department will, on request, take the matter up with the appropriate representatives of those forces in this country.
Consideration has been given to providing, as was done during the Second World War, for the Commonwealth itself to be the party to bc sued in respect of the negligence of a member on duty in a visiting force. This has not been provided in the bill. It is not what is contemplated by the Nato Status of Forces Agreement and by our own agreement with the United States, lt does not seem to be necessary. Lastly, it is inconsistent with certain insurance arrangements that have been made pursuant to the agreement. The United States forces will fully cover by third party and comprehensive insurance all vehicles, including military vehicles, used by them, so that in motor accident cases the Commonwealth will bear no proportion of the ultimate liability that otherwise under the agreement it would have to bear.
Part III. of the bill relates to deserters and absentees without leave from the forces of countries within the Commonwealth of Nations and other countries lo which the part may be applied by regulation. They need not be deserters or absentees from a visiting force. The 1939 act was similarly not limited in this respect to visiting forces but it was limited to United Kingdom or dominion forces. Broadly speaking, it is in our interests to return deserters to their own authorities, and this is also the view lo which the United Kingdom act gives effect. Nevertheless, as we may now be asked to arrest and hand over alleged deserters from foreign countries, care has been taken to include in the bill a scries of safeguards. The arrest is to be on warrant issued by a senior officer of our own defence force and addressed to the police and to our defence force. The officer will have no power to issue the warrant unless the country concerned is within the Commonwealth of Nations or has been declared by regulation to be a country to which Part 111. applies. Furthermore, he can act only on the written request of the authorities of the country concerned. Lastly, he has a discretion whether he will issue the warrant at all in any particular case. Even after arrest there will be opportunity for further consideration if an arrested person claims to be entitled to release. While he remains in Australian custody, the Australian authorities will consider his claim and decline to hand him over if they find the claim justified.
Part IV. of the bill brings up to date the provisions about attachment of personae] contained in the 1939 act. That act permitted members of United Kingdom and dominion forces to be attached to our defence force, and made appropriate provisions about command and discipline in such cases. Conversely, members of our defence force could be attached to United Kingdom and dominion forces. The bill extends the provisions to apply to countries outside the Commonwealth of Nations, so that the United States of America, for example, could be declared to be a country to which Part IV. applies, and attachments to and from the United States forces would be covered.
Since before the Second World War it has been regarded as essential that where United Kingdom and Australian forces are serving together. United Kingdom officers should have powers of command appropriate to their rank, and the existing act so provides. It now needs extension. The South-East Asia Treaty Organization includes countries outside the Commonwealth of Nations as well as within it. Seato planning is proceeding on the basis that limited powers of command will be necessary between members of national components. Discipline remains a matter for each national component. This bill therefore permits its provisions as to powers of command when forces are serving together to be extended to other countries to be declared by regulation as circumstances may require.
Part IV. also re-enacts the existing provision that when Australian forces and those of the United Kingdom, Canada or New Zealand are acting in combination, an officer of one of those other forces, if appointed to command the combined force, may exercise not only powers of command but also powers of discipline over members of the Australian forces. This is of practical importance, for example, in the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaysia where the commander of the Commonwealth Brigade Group is alternatively an officer of the Australian, United Kingdom and New Zealand forces, which all have similar disciplinary codes. Further effective control is taken over the operation of these provisions regarding forces serving together or acting in combination by the provision that it is for the GovernorGeneral to declare formally whether forces are so serving or acting in combination.
Mr. President, the central purpose of the bill is to put Australia in the same position in regard to friendly visiting forces as the United Kingdom and to enable us to give to visiting forces the status now customary between the free nations. The matter of immediate importance is that we will be enabled to honour our agreement on the subject with the United States of America. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 1469), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before the Senate provides for the making of unconditional grants, under section 96 of the Constitution, to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania. We are in the happy position to-day where the need to reconcile or to compare the budgets of Western Australia and Tasmania with those of the standard States of New South Wales and Victoria has been greatly reduced. Until recent years, Queensland was included in the standard States, whilst South Australia was one of the claimant States. A measure of this kind comes before us annually. There has been no occasion on which grants of this nature have been rejected. They are based entirely on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, a body which does the most outstanding work in surveying the budgetary records of the various States involved in the procedure and in assessing the economic and other activities of the various State governments. As usual, the commission is proceeding on the basis that the grants are to be made in two parts. The broad grant made two years earlier is being adjusted in the year of review. An assessment has been made which, in turn, will be finally adjusted two years later. The commission, in its very comprehensive, interesting and informative report, gives reasons for the views it has taken. , .
It is of interest to find that the grant to Western Australia this year is exactly the same as the advance payment for last year. The amount of the grant is £5,900,000. That of Tasmania has varied very little. It has increased by only £200,000. The overall difference between the grants in the two years is only £199,000. The balance on favorable and unfavorable adjustments has resulted in an addition to the. upset grant for Western Australia of £172,000, and to that for Tasmania of £278,000. The details, in the matter of social services, are set out at page 86 of the commission’s report. The report indicates that in respect of two items in the scale of social service expenditure, there was an unfavorable adjustment for Western Australia of £481,000, and an unfavorable adjustment for Tasmania of £183,000. Those adjustments reflect the fact that the standard of expenditure on social services in the two claimant States is higher than is the standard in the States of New South Wales and Victoria. The comparison appears at page 79 of the report, where the per capita expenditure from revenue on education is shown. The expenditure in Tasmania is shown as £16 7s. 4d., aud in Western Australia, where the expenditure is the next highest in Australia, as £15 Ils. lOd. The average expenditure for all States is £14 3s. 7d. Tasmania therefore has the distinction of spending most on education per capita, in the field of State activities. In the matters of health,, hospitals and charities, Western Australia again has the highest expenditure, the amount being £11 8s. 3d. per capita. Tasmania comes next with £10 5s. Id. To bring those expenditures to a comparable basis with expenditure in the standard States an adjustment is made, and the budgetary position in those States is equated with that of the standard States. That has been the practice over the years.
Similarly, Western Australia and Tasmania benefit owing to the greater severity of taxation within their borders, Referring again to page 86 of the commission’s report, one finds that Western Australia received a favourable adjustment of £131,000 and Tasmania a much higher one of £271,000, on account of the severity of their taxation in comparison with that of the standard States.
– Which forms of- taxation in particular are ‘instanced?’
– The adjustment would represent all forms of State taxation. It would include licence fees and all charges of that kind.
– I should think that in the case of Tasmania it would have particular expression in death duties and gift duties which, unfortunately, have been copied from the Commonwealth.
– That is a proposition which we might argue in relation to a bill other than the one now before the Senate. In answer to the honorable senator, I say that the commission’s consideration takes account of every form of taxation, including those he has mentioned, lt even includes a lottery tax.
I come to the main theme of my comments and the last topic on which I want to embark. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) directed attention in his second-reading speech to the effect of the special assistance grants that have been made to all States in the last three years. The Senate will recall the debate that took place on this subject when we were dealing with the States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill for the current year. Approximately three years ago there were grants of this nature, totalling £10,000.000. In the following year, 1962-63, there were two amounts totalling £17,500,000, and this year the Commonwealth has passed a bill to provide £20,000,000 by way of special assistance. Honorable senators may remember that in relation to the lastmentioned bill I argued very strenuously that we had now gravitated to the position where grants were no more than additions to the normal income tax reimbursement grants and were becoming a fixed part of Commonwealth-State relations. It was argued for the Government that they were special grants earmarked for particular purposes connected with the relief of unemployment.
The Minister has directed our attention to chapters 4 and 7 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission report. The commission was faced with the problem of deciding how to handle these grants when they are in the hands of the claimant States, having regard to the treatment of the gran’s when they are in the hands of the standard States. , The commission has dealt first with the’ year 1961-62V ‘ At -page 53 of the report, in paragraph 87 particularly, it refers to the steps that should be taken in this regard. Argument was presented to the commission when it was reviewing the audited accounts for 1961-62 for the purpose of adjusting the advance for that year. The commission decided that as the standard States had taken the matter into their budgets and the other States had not, and since it was impracticable in that particular year to follow both the receipt and expenditure of the money by both claimant and non-claimant States, it should forget all about the special grant. Accordingly, the commission made no adjustment in respect of that grant.
At the time at which the report was being prepared, the commission was faced with the need to adjust the grants for the year 1962-63. The accounts for that year will not be finally adjusted until 1964-65, in accordance with the commission’s practice. Nevertheless, there was a great deal of discussion before the commission concerning the procedure that should be followed in the light of the fact that the standard Stales had taken the full amounts of the grants into their budgets and the claimant States had not done so. I wish to take only a moment or two of the committee’s time to refer to page 89 of the report. I shall quote from paragraphs 179, 180 and 181 where the commission reviews the matter. In paragraph 179 the commission states -
Upon one view it can treat these moneys-
Speaking of the special assistance grants - in the case of the standard States, as in reality amounting to additions to the financial assistance payments allocated under the prevailing formula, but in the case of the claimant States as having nothing of the character of these financial assistance payments.
They put that as one approach that might be made. The commission continued -
If it were to adopt this view it would be necessary for the commission to fix its recommendations upon a higher level so as to put the claimant States upon a basis equivalent to that which will be experienced by the standard States with their absorption of the additional grants as increments to their financial assistance payments. The Commission was referred to statements made at Loan Council or Premiers’ Conference meetings as providing ground for interpreting this result as being in accordance with the intention of the Commonwealth Government.
I come now to what I regard as the most important statement of the commission, for my purposes -
The statements in question arc, however, of a vague and general nature. The Commission is of the opinion that it should not make any assumptions as to the intention of the Commonwealth Government without much clearer and more unequivocal evidence.
I draw particular attention to that passage in the light of the strictures I passed upon the vagueness and uncertainty of the Commonwealth’s attitude at the Premiers’ Conference and the weak way in which this grant was linked to unemployment. I indicated that because of the way it was done it was merely a placard without any true base or relation to unemployment, and the grants were in truth no more than financial assistance to help the budgetary position of all States.
– Is that how the Commonwealth Grant’s Commission has treated them?
– It has not yet made a decision, because 1962-63 will not be reviewed until 1964-65, and the position does not crop up in the current year, which again will be reviewed two years later. But . the commission does canvass the whole position. In paragraph 180, the commission stated -
Upon the other view open to it the Commission is free to treat the additional grants as in fact increments to financial assistance payments in the hands of the standard States and as available for similar purposes in the hands of the claimant States. In the result the claimant States will receive smaller special grants upon the recommendation of the Commission, but can avoid burdensome deficits by exercising their choice to use the additional grant moneys as increments to their financial assistance payments and as thus compensating for the smaller special grants recommended by the Commission.
The final paragraph I shall read is paragraph 181.
It is not possible for the Commission to ascertain conclusively whether this second view is in accordance with the intention of the Commonwealth Government. However, this method of treatment was pressed so strongly by the Commonwealth Treasury in considering statements to the Commission as to make it appear unlikely that the proposed course would be in conflict with the intention of the Commonwealth Government. At all events these statements by the appropriate department of the Commonwealth Government go far to preclude a contrary decision by the Commission - on the evidence available to it. In these circumstances the Commission considers if is more in accordance with general principles to adopt the second of the two views presented to it.
I remind the Minister for Civil Aviation of the argument I addressed to the Senate on that very subject. Perhaps I may be pardoned if I say that I found some joy in seeing the argument I then expressed confirmed by the commission and, to my delight, supported and buttressed by the Commonwealth Treasury itself. The commission has stated that this method of treatment was pressed strongly by the Commonwealth Treasury. Quite obviously, although the commissioners made no final decision, they have given much more than a very strong hint as to what side they will come down on.
In the concluding words of the paragraph I have quoted it is clear that unless the commission is very powerfully persuaded to the contrary it will hold that these grants in the hands of both the claimant States and the standard States, are no more than ordinary financial assistance, and are very much in the category of income tax reimbursement grants based on the reimbursement formula. So I find it most interesting to get some kind of confirmation at this level for the argument I put to the chamber on behalf of the Opposition when the special assistance grant was before us.
There is virtue in adopting the approach for which the Treasury contended, but I hope that when we get another bill of this kind it will not be argued that what is provided is a mere unemployment grant. I am speaking not of this bill but of the measure to provide £20,000,000 to the States, to relieve unemployment, which was before the Senate some little time ago. I hope it will not be argued that the next grant )f this kind is to help unemployment in particular areas where pockets of unemployment occur, but that it will be frankly acknowledged by the Treasurer and the Government as one more subvention - and a necessary one - to the State Budgets.
I recall to the Senate that when we were dealing with the supplementary assistance legislation recently the purpose of the grants was left open in the vaguest way. As the commission has pointed out, any State, while keeping the general object of the Government to relieve unemployment in mind, was free to apply any portion of -the grant -to its budget in the ordinary way. I remember pointing out how very vague that was. I asked the Minister whether it meant 1 per cent, or 99 per cent, of the grant, and I do not think I got any specific answer from him. It is not surprising then that the Commonwealth Grants Commission stigmatizes - I think I use the word accurately - the vagueness of the Minister’s announcements on the matter. We in the Opposition found them vague, and imprecise and it is interesting to find that the Commonwealth Grants Commission, with its complete objectivity, reaches the same conclusion.
I will not invite the Minister into the fray now, but I invite him to consider the view he expressed on behalf of the Treasurer and the contrary view of the Commonwealth Treasury expressed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I indicate to the Senate that the Opposition supports the measure and wishes both the claimant States success.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 1487), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is another example of a good Minister and a good department doing the best they can to patch up an impossible measure. Over the years in this Parliament we have discussed the national health scheme. The Opposition has pointed out time after time that it is impossible to build a good scheme on the bad foundation of the original legislation which this bill will amend. The bill proposes amendments to the provisions relating to the special accounts of hospital benefits organizations. It is clear that the original legislation is such that it will have to be patched continually in an effort to make it work. What the Minister has said in his secondreading speech shows clearly just how impossible it is. He pointed out that in 1959 some anomalies were so patent that amendmeuts were necessary. The special accounts system then came into operation. The Minister also pointed out that the normal risks were the only ones, actuarially, against which insurance could provide protection and that where there were abnormal risks, these should be taken outside any scheme which had an actuarial base. In the workings of the scheme there were several hazards for which provision could not be made, and this was causing considerable hardship. The Minister stated -
In the year ended 30lh June, 1958, for example, 8.3 per cent, of hospital fund benefit claims were disallowed by the funds’ pre-existing ailments rule; 1.3 per cent, of claims by the chronic illness rule and 2.6 per cent, of claims because they exceeded the funds’ maximum annual limit. In that year, that is the year ended 30lh June, 1958, hospital fund contributors were disqualified from hospital fund benefits for more than 1,179,000 days by rules of this sort.
Later, he said -
For years members of the Opposition have said that the so-called national health scheme is no real scheme at all. We said (hat it was impossible to introduce an actuarially based scheme which would be fair to the people and provide them with real health insurance. We knew that this and other anomalies would appear. I believe that the Minister is diligent and that he is doing everything he can do to make the scheme work. Unfortunately, when you have a rotten structure there is not much that you can do about it. It will continue to fall around the heads of the Minister and his staff who are trying to make it work.
In 1959 the Government introduced the special accounts system to apply to members of a hospital benefit fund who reached the age of 65. The funds discriminated against people who reached that age, and the special accounts system picked them up and carried them on. lt also picked up people who had chronic or pre-existing illnesses and it provided protection for the period when they were not covered by a fund. It was most unfair that people who had contributed to a scheme in order to receive benefits should, upon reaching 65 years of age, be taken out of the scheme, put in a special category, and become subject to the special account provision.’ That was so obviously an anomaly that the Minister is now trying to correct it. He proposes to apply the funds of the Commonwealth to relieve hospital benefit schemes of tha responsibility of caring for these people.
It is right that in considering this bill we should look where we are going. The Minister has stated that last year the scheme cost £12,000,000. I suppose the bulk of the Australian people now make contributions to private funds, numbering about 190, which are spread throughout the Common.wealth. Each of the funds is individually managed and each expends a lot of money in rendering services. People make contributions and the funds give them partial protection. They are also picked up by the Commonwealth which, as the Minister has stated, paid out about £12,000,000 last year for their protection. Wc have what might be called a mongrel scheme. It is neither one thing nor the other. It is not a scheme which provides complete insurance against all hazards. All that one receives is partial protection. Then the socialist scheme of the Government takes over responsibility. But wc have not a complete socialist scheme giving protection to all the people, nor a complete scheme based on private contributions. I sympathize with the department and the Minister because I believe that under the National Health Act it is impossible to design a scheme that will not produce anomalies and will not require the Minister continually to seek ways and means to give proper protection to people who arc in ill health. I recall that some years ago a committee of this Parliament considered this problem and came to the conclusionthat the only solution was for the Government itself to accept responsibility for those in ill health. The committee considered that the Commonwealth was the only instrumentality that could care properly for citizens who fell by the wayside and had to be helped by some one. It thought that an actuarially based scheme would cure: this type of anomaly and would give proper protection to the people. It suggested to the Parliament that the Commonwealth should accept responsibility and have some regard to the ability of the people to pay. It recommended that a graduated scale of contributions be drawn up whereby all of the people of the Commonwealth could assist the unfortunate few who fell by the wayside.
I think that the Minister is trying to solve the problems that have been created by the anomalies to which I have referred. In 1959 legislation was introduced to provide that when persons reached the age of 65 they be transferred to a special account and receive £12 12s. a week during any period for which they were in hospital, the payments to be made from the special account. The idea was to relieve the normal funds of this extra expenditure and allow them to carry on on a profitable basis. In this bill the Minister has gone a little further. Whereas up to the present a person contributing to a fund at a high rate of contribution would bc entitled to only £12 12s. a week on reaching the age of 65, the Minister has now removed that anomaly. This bill provides that if a person paying into one of these funds is insured for more than he has to pay in hospital fees, he will now be entitled to receive that amount. That will remove one of the principal anomalies in relation to persons of over 65 years of age. They will now enjoy the same privilege as every citizen under 65 enjoys, namely that of insuring for, and receiving, a certain amount. Another anomaly in the scheme was that after a certain length of time in hospital - it was usually something like 90 days - a person was transferred to special account. In this bill the Minister has picked up that anomaly and is giving relief to people in that category.
I do not propose to canvass the whole structure of the national health scheme because, after all, this bill is designed only for the special purpose of curing two or three anomalies that have become so apparent. I think that at this late stage of the Parliament all that should be discussed is whether the particular amendments arc of value. The Opposition thinks that it ought to support the legislation, but I say instantly that it believes that a bill should be brought forward to help the so-called national health scheme to function properly. The Opposition thinks that the Minister has done a sound job in trying to remove these anomalies and it believes that what he has done will be helpful. However, I must stress to the Minister, and to the department, as I said earlier, that although we have great sympathy for the Minister and his officers we think that it is impossible for him and the department to make the scheme work. I admit that they are trying very hard to do so, but it is obvious that the scheme is a crazy one.
I do not know of any country that has attempted to do the sort of thing that this scheme in operation in Australia is attempting to do. I recall that in 1939 a government of the same ilk as the present Government brought in a national insurance scheme in relation to unemployment, but it realized that the scheme was so bad that it decided not to proclaim the act. That scheme died in infancy. I am only sorry that the Government’s national health scheme did not suffer the same fate.
No matter how much the Minister might struggle to make the scheme work, it will not work because it is a bad scheme. It has no merit and it ought to be discontinued as quickly as possible and a real national .health scheme brought in for the people of Australia. I believe it has been demonstrated, particularly in Britain, our mother country, that the only way to care for the unfortunate people in the community who suffer the hazards of ill health is to introduce a proper scheme financed by taxation, run by the Government, and embracing all of the people.
What is our scheme costing us to-day? At the moment two funds in New South Wales are spending hundreds of pounds a day in full-page newspaper advertisements, each trying to show that one organization is a better organization to register with than the other. Somebody has to pay for this. The contributors to the schemes are losing hundreds of pounds every day because of this war.
How efficient are these funds? One could discuss this problem at length, but in fairness to the Minister, and to the Parliament, at this stage I think I should not travel far from the beaten track. I say to the Minister, that the Opposition appreciates this attempt to cure the obvious anomalies in the act. It feels that what the Minister has done is helpful, but at the same time it says to him that he is trying to operate an act that is completely hopeless. He is doing a good job, but the Opposition thinks that it is impossible for him to make the scheme work properly.
– 1 rise to support the bill and to congratulate the Government and the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). We have just listened to a speech which was very much out of character with Senator Arnold. In it he used most intemperate language to describe the national health scheme.
– There is only one way to describe it. It is a racket. He was too moderate.
- His language was intemperate. He said that the scheme was no scheme at all, and he used many other expressions. In fact, he said that it was a mongrel scheme. I should like to remind him that under the Labour administration we had no health scheme at all. If Senator Arnold knows anything about hospitals in those days he will recall that they were nearly all bankrupt.
– What about the availability of hospital beds?
– It was almost impossible to obtain a bed in a hospital then. The scheme introduced by the Government has worked, and at present we have beautiful hospitals all over Australia which would never have been built had it not been for the scheme that was inaugurated and carried on by the present Government. I suggest that possibly the Labour Party is sensitive about this question because if there was one thing in which it failed it was in its attempt to establish a national health scheme. I feel that many people outside this place will be very interested in the admission that Senator Arnold has just made. 1 refer to his remark that there should be a socialized health scheme and that it should be financed through taxation. I do not know what such a scheme would cost, and 1 doubt that any honorable senator would know. The electors will be very interested to know that in this place one Opposition senator is talking about socialized health schemes although, in another place, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is promising that there will be no nationalization if he is returned as the Prime Minister of Australia. Already, so far as the health scheme is concerned, there is a difference of opinion in the Opposition ranks.
Senator Arnold was very critical of what he termed anomalies in the scheme. I suggest that no person would believe it possible to commence, build and perfect a scheme of the magnitude of our health scheme without anomalies creeping in. Only a superoptimist would expect thai. Indeed, no government could achieve such a result. What this Government, the Minister and his officers have done has been to pick up the anomalies and, as soon as they could, to remove them. This bill docs that very thing. 1 shall not deal at length with the special account system. We all know of its operation. I should merely like to say that when the national health scheme was begun by the late Sir Earle Page organizations were loath to accept persons of 65 years and over. The organizations at that time were commencing a new scheme and funds were not in great supply. Therefore, they did nol want to accept people of that age at all. However, the late Sir Earle Page prevailed on them to accept those people, but, for the reasons that the Minister has outlined, there were certain exclusions in the original act. Gradually those exclusions have been removed. With the passing of this bill persons of 65 years or over will receive the same benefit as contributors of any agc.
I agree with Senator Arnold - I think no one would disagree - that it is very hard (o expect people of 65 years or over, who have the disadvantage of a reduced income and who are more likely to require hospitalization than are younger people, to suffer the added disadvantage of reduced benefits under an insurance scheme. 1 believe that the Government has been aware of these disadvantages and that it nas removed them as soon as it was practicable to do so. All Ministers for Health have done a magnificent job in administering the health scheme, but in my opinion we have never had a Minister who has been mAC sympathetic and practical in his approach to the whole question of health than the present Minister has been. He is not a medical man, as we all know, and it must have required untiring and ceaseless energy and effort on his part to cope with the details of a department as technical and specialized as his. He has done a magnificent job in picking up anomalies and in improving the health scheme generally.
In referring to the special account system the Minister was perfectly honest.
He mentioned the number of days1 that contributors had been disqualified before the introduction of the special account system. He then went on to tell the Senate of the benefits that had been paid as a result of the introduction of this system. He said that from 1st January, 1959, until 30th June, 1963, these benefits had amounted to £12,000,000. He went on to say that the special account deficits have been about £2,000,000 annually for four years. I could not for the life of me find, a reason for Senator Arnold to criticize that. If the honorable senator believes that the Commonwealth should foot the whole bill for health insurance, I should have expected him to believe that where the organizations were not in a position to provide the whole fund benefit they should have been assisted by the Commonwealth. 1 believe that these provisions, particularly as they affect the person who is 65 years and over, will receive widespread com- mendation. People experience additional difficulties in their later years, so it is only right and proper that a health scheme should confer upon them the same benefits as it gives to people who are younger and, in many cases, more able to meet the expense.
There is nothing else in the bill that I feel warrants the taking up of further time of the Senate. Again I warmly congratulate the Government, the Minister and the officers of the Department of Health. Despite every criticism by the Labour Party, this scheme is acknowledged by people who are familiar with schemes in other countries as probably the best and most efficient health scheme in the world. Therefore, it is with great satisfaction that I support this bill.
. -I support this bill. It gives me great heart to see the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) accepting one of the propositions that I made to him in October of last year. If the Minister reads “ Hansard “ he will find that I suggested that people 65 years of age and over should be entitled to receive two benefits. I thank the Minister very much indeed for listening to my words of advice. His acceptance of that proposal gives me heart that he might dp something to help- single ..women who -. are having babies and married women who have babies within the first ten months of marriage. I hope that next year he will be able to bring in another bill to help these people.
– Not him.
– I will not get into an argument about that. I hope that some one will bring in a bill to help the unfortunate people I have mentioned. I support the bill.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– in reply - I am grateful to the Senate for the speedy passage it is giving to this bill and also for the measure of support that has been forthcoming for it. I shall not take up the time of the Senate in answering criticisms that have been directed at the national health scheme. Suffice it to say that the contention in respect of this issue represents a clash of ideologies, opposition senators favouring compulsion, regimentation and direction which are not acceptable to Government supporters as our philosophy favours a voluntary scheme.
I think it is quite improper to decry the national health scheme and its effect on hospitalization. As Senator Wedgwood has said, hospitalization in Australia is second to none in the world and it has been based on the existing national health scheme. As an example of our hospitalization I invite honorable senators to visit the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide, the new children’s hospital in Melbourne and other hospitals throughout Australia. Any one who argues that the national health scheme has not contributed to the existing standard of hospitalization is begging the question. As I said in this chamber recently, so impressed are the Canadian authorities with our health scheme that their representatives have travelled the length and breadth of this land, inspecting our hospitals, and the tributes that they have paid to them makes one proud to be associated with our national health scheme. I have never said that our scheme was perfect. If that were the attitude of the Government, the scheme would stagnate. In 1963, such a state of affairs could not be tolerated. The scheme has had its teething troubles and its growing pains. But I think that sufficient evidence has been provided to show that the Government is determined to remove anomalies and to develop the best scheme possible in accordance with the principles it has propounded.
The bill before the Senate is further evidence that the Government is determined to remove anomalies from the scheme. When the special account system was introduced there was justification for placing persons over 65 years of age in the special account fund for the simple reason that the benefit funds could not otherwise carry the financial burden involved. During the last four or five years substantial surpluses have been accruing in the funds. Surpluses wc must have, sufficient to meet emergencies, but it was never intended that surpluses should be piled up for their own sake. The extra payments which the funds will have to make as a result of transferring people over 65 years of age from the special account fund to the ordinary funds will not eat into reserves. The annual surpluses will be sufficient, in the main, to carry this added burden. The Government, in its wisdom, has seen fit at this point of time to underwrite the last 21 days of the maximum period of 84 days hospitalization which is covered by fund benefits, in order to make quite sure that no fund will be unable to carry this added financial burden. It is hoped that in twelve months time the representatives of the Government and of the funds will again come together in conference to remove any further anomalies in respect of the special accounts scheme. Again, I thank the Senate for the way in which it has received this bill. Public acclaim for this measure is ample justification for the contributions that have been made on both sides of the chamber in support of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) for some information about the medical and hospital benefits funds. The Minister said iri his second-reading speech that certain funds had been unable to meet the special payments in respect of people who had preexisting ailments or other ailments which disqualified them from ordinary benefit. Were all the benefit funds unable to make such payments? There are about 180 such funds in Australia. I understand that some of them are very wealthy whilst others are not. I can well imagine that those which are not very wealthy were not able to make the payments. But if we are to believe an advertising campaign which is being carried on to-day, at least one fund has assets and reserves of over £7,000,000. Was that fund unable to make these payments? I should like to know the Government’s formula for deciding whether a particular fund was unable to meet its obligations.
Another matter to which I should like the Minister to direct his attention is the advertising campaign that has been taking place, particularly in Sydney. As J have mentioned previously in the Senate, there does not seem to be anything wrong in other States but in New South Wales a hot war is being waged between various people who are competing for the custom of the sick.
– That is not unusual in New South Wales.
– I am not trying to apportion the blame. I want to know the facts. I think the Government ought to do something to stop this advertising because it simply amounts to competition for thecustom of the ill. That is quite wrong. It is not regarded as ethical for hospitals, dentists, or members of the medical profession to advertise. Chemists advertise very little because they consider it to be unethical. Apparently these people who hr.ve newly entered the health field consider advertising to be quite ethical. If the Government is to allow them to advertise, at least it should demand of them that their advertising be truthful.
– Order! We are in committee, Senator. If you wish to speak on the broad aspects of the health scheme you may do- so at the third reading stage ‘of the bill. ‘- ‘
– I intend to link my remarks with the question before the Chair. As I have said, if the Government is going to allow this advertising it should demand that it be truthful and that it should not have any gimmicks associated with it. The purpose of advertising by the Medical Benefits Fund is to induce people to leave the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales. The former organization prints long lists of reasons why people should join its fund. But people who read these advertisements do not even know where to send their applications if they wish to join a particular fund. There is utter confusion. The main building of one fund is in George-street, Sydney, and a building belonging to another fund is in Liverpoolstreet, Sydney, and there is confusion concerning the building to which people should send their applications. When many people join the Medical Benefits Fund they think they are joining an organization which is backed and owned by the medical profession as such, and at the same time many others regard the Hospitals Contribution Fund as the official hospital organization. These impressions arc not correct. The fact is that the Medical Benefits Fund in Sydney has only two representatives of the medical profession on its directorate. It is really a private organization which is exploiting people who believe that it is backed by the medical profession as such. I should like to hear the Minister’s comment on this situation, because it is causing serious disquiet in Sydney.
– I should like to address a few brief questions to the Minister for Health. Am I correct in my belief that persons over 65 years of age may belong to more than one hospital benefit fund and, in the event of hospitalization, may collect Commonwealth benefit in respect of one fund only, but may collect the full amount of fund benefit from two funds?
– That is so.
– Even though that amount exceeds the total cost of hospitalization?
– That is so.
– Will the Minister indicate how many funds are disposed to accept people over 65 years of age at the time of their first joining? Has he any information on that point? Is it the general practice for a second fund to accept a person 65 years of age or over? If such people are not readily acceptable, it is not of very much use for the Minister to say that they are free to join more than one fund. I do not know what the practice is, and I hope the Minister will be able to inform me.
Although this point is not immediately relevant to the bill, may I ask him whether the position of the two funds would be comparable in relation to medical benefits. I do not want to take the Minister too deeply into that field at the moment, but I should be obliged if he could answer that question. Finally, does he regard as being a defect in the hospital benefits scheme the fact that a limitation of 84 days is applied to the payment of fund benefit at the normal insured rate and that thereafter the patient is confined to a payment of £1 per day from the Commonwealth-
– Thirty-six shillings.
– No. He is confined to £1 from the Commonwealth and 16s. from the fund. I take it that the 36s. does not come from the Commonwealth.
– For the ordinary patient?
– In the special account, yes.
– Will the Minister indicate what happens to a patient who is in hospital for 84 days but is not in the special account? Does he get any Commonwealth benefit?
– Does he get £1 per day and the standard benefit of 16s. from the fund?
– Yes. The Commonwealth underwrites that.
– Is the Minister accurate when he tells me that after the 84 days have run, a special account contributor receives a Commonwealth payment of £1 16s.?
– He receives £1, and 1 6s. from, the fund. On top of that, the
Commonwealth underwrites any loss that is incurred by the fund in relation to special account contributors.
– I realize that. I should like the Minister to check his information on that.
– That is right.
– Does the fund make any contribution at all, or does the Commonwealth pay the £1 16s.?
– I shall answer the query when 1 reply later,
– Does the Minister recognize that the fact that the amount payable by the Commonwealth and the fund falls after a lengthy period in hospital is one of the grave defects of the scheme and that that falling off occurs when the burden to the patient is becoming increasingly heavy? I invite the Minister to say whether the curing of that undesirable situation is being considered. In dealing with that matter, I should like the Minister to direct his mind to the position of special account contributors and ordinary contributors. The problem might bc placed in perspective, and perhaps not a lot of money would be shown to be involved, if the Minister were to state approximately how many persons a year are in hospital for 84 days or more. My impression is that the number would not be very great and therefore that the cost of meeting their need would not be very great. Does the Minister not think, in addressing his mind to the gaps in and defects of the hospital benefits scheme, that this is an aspect to which any Government ought to give very early and favorable consideration?
.- I should like Senator Ormonde to know that the funds that might not have been able to bear the added burden probably could be counted on the fingers of both hands. There are very few such funds. But, because they are part and parcel of the national health scheme, the Commonwealth Government has an obligation to ensure that their financial stability is never in doubt. There are closed funds on some of the coal-fields which offer excellent benefits to their members, and one would not dare to place them in jeopardy. We are cure that, after this amending legislation has been in operation for twelve months or so, an examination of the position will disclose whether any funds are not able to carry the added burden. The funds to which the honorable senator referred arc able to carry this added financial responsibility. 1 repeat that this added burden is not to bc mct from reserves. All the funds, without exception, are showing a fairly substantial annual surplus, and both the Commonwealth and the funds agree that from those surpluses they can take up at least part of the added cost of providing a facility to people who should not be penalized merely because they are 65 years of age. Persons who arc now 65 years of age will enjoy exactly the same benefits that they enjoyed before their sixty-fifth birthday.
Senator Ormonde brought to my notice something that is well known to the department - the advertising that is being undertaken in New South Wales by two funds which are branching out into new fields, in a bid for public support. Our powers in this field are rather limited, because if a fund restricts its managerial expenses to 20 per cent, of its income it is acting within the letter of the law. I should like the honorable senator to know that we arc not insensible of the extent to which contributors* funds are being expended on advertising. Whilst we have no specific powers in the matter, I am sure that the representations we are making will bring this position more into line, with what I believe the people would like - conservative and informative publicity which is not obviously designed to attract people from one fund to the other.
– Would that expenditure not come under the heading of administrative costs?
– Are those costs not limited?
– Yes, they are limited to 20 per cent, of the funds’ income.
– The funds dare not exceed that limit.
– No, they darc not exceed it. Both the funds in question have kept their managerial expenses well within the limit. Both funds are well managed. They are very sound financially and both arc capable of giving a really good service (o the people of New South Wales. I venture to say that, as soon as wc get past Dday, which is 1st November, and the funds are operating as separate entities the problems about which the honorable senator is concerned will level out.
asked whether people over 65 years of age could join two funds and receive one Commonwealth benefit. The answer is, “ Yes “. He also asked whether any restrictions were placed by funds on people over 65 years of age who wish to join more than one fund. The answer is, “ No “. No restrictions whatever are applied. 1 have not heard of one fund having refused to accept a subscription from a person because he was more than 65 years of agc. The honorable senator also sought some information about two funds that are operating in New South Wales. To all intents and purposes, they are the same. By that, I mean that basically they offer the same benefits for the same rate of contributions, although there are some slight variations. One fund may have a rule under which an additional benefit is granted, but basically there is little or no difference in the benefits, and the contributions are almost identical.
The honorable senator asked about the fate of a patient who was hospitalized for more than 84 days. He suggested that in this respect there might be a defect in the scheme. He also suggested that (he number of people in this category might bc small. That may be true. This is a matter which we are considering. I repeat that as time goes by we hope to have all the anomalies removed from our scheme. Contributors over 65 years of agc are now to be placed in exactly the same category as that in which they were before their 65th birthday. If (hey or other contributors for that matter, arc hospitalized for 84 days they arc entitled to the benefits, without limitation, for which they are insured. If they arc in hospital for a longer period than 84 days the Government pays the base rate of £1 a day and the fund benefit of 16s. a day is paid without limitation. At mc end of the financial year the Commonwealth Government makes up any losses that may have accrued to the funds because of the operation of the special accounts.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Leader matter with which I should like the Minister to deal, lt relates to the payment of £1 1.6s. a day at the end of 84 days’ hospitalization. Earlier, 1 asked whether £1 was paid by the. Commonwealth and 16s. by the fund.
– That is so. In addition, the Commonwealth underwrites the losses of the various funds in operating the special accounts.
– I understood that previously the Minister informed me that the Commonwealth paid £1 16s. a day.
– No. lt pays only £1.
– That is the position as I understand it. I take it that the fund pays 1.6s. a day after the 84 days have elapsed.
– Yes, but that does not limit the Commonwealth liability in the matter, because the losses sustained by the funds which operate special accounts are underwritten by the Commonwealth.
– 1 understand. But of course that provision helps only the funds.
– I do nol expect the- Minister to be able to give me an answer to-night to the question 1 am about to ask, but 1 hope that he will give me an informed reply when we conic back as a government after 30th November. My query relates to the matter which Senator Ormonde raised regarding advertising by the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales. 1 agree with the honorable senator’s comments. Literally, thousands of pounds have been spent on advertising because of the war between the two funds. I should like the Minister to inform me whether funds contributed by Tasmanian contributors to the Medical Benefits Fund are going towards the advertising costs that are being incurred because of this internal war in New South Wales. I believe it would be most unfair to Tasmanian contributors to the fund if the amounts they had contributed were being used for the purposes of this stupid war in New South Wales. 1 trust that during the new Parliament the Minister will bring in legislation to prevent such a thing from occurring again if it is in fact happening on this occasion.
– My queries relate to clause 4. I have listened with interest to the explanations given by the Minister of the matters which other honorable senators have raised Concerning this clause. The Minister stated, in the final paragraph of his second-reading speech -
I am pleased to inform the Senate that the amendments proposed in this bill meet with the approval of the hospital benefit insurance organizations. A special committee comprising representatives of the insurance organizations has been consulted in regard to the amendments and it has endorsed them as being constructive steps to remove anomalies from the scheme.
I should like the Minister to say whether the organizations to which he referred comprised all the bodies interested in the matter. My question arises from the fact that I have been informed that some organizations in South Australia are not happy with the provisions of clause 4. They realize that approval was given to the amendments, and they are not contesting the correctness of the statements made by the Minister in his second-reading speech, but they contend that organizations which have not the financial backing or the resources of other organizations will be detrimentally affected by the bill. Will the Minister give an assurance that the fears of the smaller recognized organizations will not be overlooked?
. - The Minister stated* in answer to Senator McKenna, that a person over the age of 65 years will in future be able to insure with more than one organization. I should like the Minister to help me to answer a question which a person asked rae recently and which I was unable to answer. The person concerned said that he wished to join ft second fund. In the application form, be was required to state the illnesses from Which he had suffered over a period, I think, of three or four years. He answered the question truthfully. Apparently, he is permitted to join the fund and to pay his money, but if he suffers another attack of an illness from which he suffered some time ago he will receive no benefit in respect of it. I said that I did not know whether that was the correct position, but that at the first opportunity I would inquire about it. Is it the prerogative of a fund to say that because a person had suffered, let us say, a slight heart attack a couple of years ago, it would not pay him any benefit if he happened to have a second attack which might require hospital treatment?
.- It is true that there is a limitation on benefits in relation to preexisting ailments. The rules of the various funds are almost uniform in this regard. A person who had a pre-existing ailment at the time of joining a fund might or might not be eligible for the amount of benefit for which he was insured, but he would be eligible for payments from the special account. As I have already informed the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), the special account provides benefits at the rate of £1 a day from the Commonwealth and 16s. a day from the fund. So it is not right to say that such a person will get nothing. He will receive the basic rate of £12 12s. a week.
asked for information concerning the personnel of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council. This is the council with which the Government negotiates on these matters. The council is comprised of members of constituent bodies in the various States. The States themselves have their State councils and they appoint representatives to the federal council. The federal council has some additional nominees on it who have been appointed by the Minister for Health representing additional interests which would otherwise not have representation; but predominantly the council represents the organized funds in the various States. On this occasion, as on previous occasions, every State was represented and had its say, through its representatives, in these negotiations.
The honorable senator asked whether some funds which were unable to bear this burden might be in financial difficulties. I have no hesitation in saying that the Commonwealth Government has an obligation that it will not shirk - to keep every fund operating under the National Health Scheme financial and stable. If any fund is in danger of being embarrassed by this legislation it has only to approach the Commonwealth Government and we will look at its problems and endeavour to assist.
I shall put Senator Marriott’s mind at case by telling him that the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd. in New South Wales is a constituent member of an organization which operates both hospital and medical benefits schemes in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania. It is a financially strong organization. I cannot give the honorable senator the specific details he requires, but I can say that there is not the slightest chance that the interests of the contributors in Tasmania will be jeopardized by what is taking place in New South Wales.
– The statement by the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) that the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited is a corporate body with contributors in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania discloses that its wealth is produced from contributions paid in those three States. This organization apparently considers it is justified in devoting money to newspaper advertising in the stupid, parochial New South Wales feud between it and another organization. It considers its funds can beused for this purpose because of an artificial direction as to the overall percentage of expenditure that is permissible to it in relation to its total funds. This expenditure is approved by the Department of Health. In order to stop this stupid advertising that is going on in this feudal, tribal warfare it is necessary for the department to take a more practical look at the actual expenditure, and the items concerned, instead of merely prescribing that 10 per cent, of funds may be spent when total funds are at a certain level and 20 per cent, when the total is higher.
I am sure the Minister for Health understands that it is these overall rules on expenditure in relation to total contributions that are at the base of Senator Marriott’s objections.I invite the Minister to have a look at this matter. The expenditure of a big organization like that can be brought within a general rule that expenditure shall not exceed 20 per cent, of contributions. Expenditure on advertising is essentially a wasteful item of expenditure and needs to be controlled at’ all times, especially in a high income tax economy such as we have engendered in this country. When advertising expenses are deductible for taxation purposes this creates a pressure encouraging wasteful expenditure on advertising. When this is applied within a hospital benefits fund it deserves special attention as an item of expenditure. Special attention should be given to this matter, as expenditure of this sort must erode the return that contributors get from the fund. The prescription that 10 per cent, or 20 per cent, of funds may be allowed as permissible overall expenditure would bear closer examination to ensure that expenditure is not. incurred on such a wasteful item as advertising.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a third time.
-I present the following paper: -
Report from the Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, together with the Minutes of Evidence.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
.- I move
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill which I introduce seeks authority to permit the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) to establish and maintain cable and wireless telecommunication systems for public communications between Australia and Nauru. Provision is also sought for the commission, subject to ministerial approval, to establish and maintain cable and wireless telecommunication systems arranged in a country or place other’ than in Australia, under the Commonwealth Telegraphs Agreement 1948 or any other agreement to which the Australian Government is a party.
The commission maintains overseas telecommunication services between Australia and territories administered solely by the Commonwealth. This involves the operation of terminal stations in the territories concerned. The bill proposes that the commission’s authority be extended to assume responsibility for the establishment of facilities at Nauru, of which Australia is one of the joint administering bodies. The station at Nauru has been conducted on behalf of the Nauru Administration by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, but it has been agreed that responsibility for the services should be transferred to the commission. As it is the view of the Solicitor-General that the act, in its present form, does not provide the appropriate authority for the commission to operate the Nauru station, the amendments in clauses 5 and 8 are now being proposed.
Mr. President, clause 9 of the proposed bill seeks authority for the commission, subject to the consent of the Minister and subject also to the observance of the law of the country or place concerned, to establish facilities for the conduct of international communications in a country or place other than Australia after an appropriate agreement has been reached. Since the inception of the commission, there has been substantial development in long distance communications systems. Australia is a participant in the Commonwealth round-the-world cable scheme, in partnership with various members of the British Commonwealth. We are a partner government in the provision of the Commonwealth Pacific - COMPAC - and South East Asian Commonwealth - SEACOM - cable links. The developments in submarine telephone cables have led to the interconnexion of particular cable systems at common landing points on foreign soil. Such a situation has already arisen for the Commonwealth partners, in the Hawaiian Islands, with respect to the COMPAC cable and the United States of AmericaHawaii cable. The Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation which is the external telecommunication authority for the Canadian Government operates the station established at the interconnexion point of the two cables. A similar interconnexion which would facilitate the handling of traffic with other cable providers in South-East Asia, is foreseen. Thus, Mr. President, it is desired to amend the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-1958 to enable the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia), to establish and operate, in a foreign country, interconnexion facilities arising from any government agreement that may be made with the country concerned.
Clause 13 of the bill proposes the addition, as a fourth schedule to the principal act, the recent supplemental agreement! which has been signed by the various Commonwealth partners to the Commonwealth Telegraphs Agreement, 1948, and which embodies changes and amendments which have been made from time to time. The principal changes cover the recognition and admission of new partners to the agreement, namely, Ceylon, Cyprus, Nigeria, Ghana and Malaya, the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth and the substitution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland as a partner in the place of Southern Rhodesia. It covers, too, the terms of an operational agreement which sets out the relationship between all the partner governments and the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board and which defines the board’s role on behalf of the partners in matters of policy.
Mr. President, I commend the bill for consideration by honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) adjourned.
Report of Select Committee
– You wish to move to rescind that part of the motion?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hun. Sir Alister’ McMullin). - ls leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to extend for a period of five years assistance to the Australian cotton-growing industry.
Under current legislation, the Cotton Bounty Act 1951-1958, growers of cotton in Australia are guaranteed an average price of 14d. per lb. seed cotton until 31st December, 1963. The present bill, which extends assistance to the industry until 31st December, 1968, will make some very important changes in the method by which assistance is provided.
Until fairly recently, Queensland has virtually been the only State in which cotton has been grown on a commercial basis. Over the last few years, however, the growing of cotton has spread to other areas and, in particular to the Namoi area of New South Wales, the Murray Valley area and the Ord River region of Western Australia.
Cotton growing in Queensland has a long history, dating back to the last century when, as a result of the American Civil War, world cotton prices rose steeply. Although a substantial acreage of cotton was grown during this period, it quickly declined when American production was restored. The subsequent history of the industry has been chequered and various methods, chiefly by way of Commonwealth bounty, have been used to encourage it.
The present Government, when it assumed office, decided that further assistance by way of bounty was warranted and, under the Cotton Bounty Act 1951, growers were guaranteed a minimum average price of 91/2d. per lb. seed cotton for a period of five years from 1st January, 1951. The guaranteed price was increased to 14d. per lb. in 1953 and has remained at that level since.
Notwithstanding the price guarantee by the Commonwealth, cotton production has not, until recently, given any indication of developing to the extent expected. Recent developments, mainly outside Queensland, however, give promise of the industry expanding into one which, operating on an efficient basis, will become an important addition to the rural sector of the Australian economy.
With the current five-year period of assistance coming to an end and, having regard to the changing circumstances of the Australian cotton-growing industry, the) Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, on the initiative of the Australian Agricultural Council, recently conducted an examination of the industry, its problems and its scope for expansion in present and potential areas with a view to advising on measures which would contribute to the development of a viable industry. The reports of these organizations are very significant. Basically, they find that the future of cotton as an economic industry will be based on -
The potential irrigation areas which appear to offer the best prospects for the eventual production of cotton at approximately import parity prices are the NamoiGwydir area in northern New South Wales, the Nogoa River and Dawson extension areas in Queensland and the Menindee Lakes area in south-western New South Wales. Other irrigation areas which have a potential for large-scale cotton production arc the Coleambally area in southern New South Wales and the Ord River area in Western Australia. There is potential for the eventual production of far more than Australia’s domestic requirements of raw cotton.
While some of these areas are potential irrigation areas, water is available now at others such as the Namoi-Gwydir area and at the Ord River. Commercial yields in excess of 2,000 lb. of seed cotton per acre have been obtained and these should increase when new varieties are available and early development problems have been overcome. On the other hand, a very substantial part of the old established Queensland industry has been and is producing under severe handicaps of small acreages and lack of irrigation.
The Government in its consideration of the future of this industry has thus had to use the following criteria: -
Moreover, given the criteria I have just mentioned recognition had to be given by the Government to the fact that, particularly in the changing circumstances of the Australian cotton-growing industry, the current method of bounty payment, which has applied for many years, has some features which leave room for improvement. I refer particularly to the fact that -
At a recent conference of all cotton interests, convened by the Department of Primary Industry, there was general agreement by the industry that any future bounty arrangements should be on a raw cotton basis, should provide for payments to be relative to quality of raw cotton produced and should discontinue the current system whereby individual growers’ freights and all ginning costs are chargeable before determination of bounty. The bill before the Senate, I am confident, will meet all the criteria I have outlined. The basic rate of bounty will be16.125d. per lb. for the grade “ middling one inch white raw cotton “, with the rate for other grades above the grade “ strict good ordinary “, being determined at the beginning of each year by my colleague the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) who will administer the legislation. He, undoubtedly, before making this determination will consult with the industry on the current relativity between grade values of raw cotton being used in the commercial sale of such cotton at the time. I point out to honorable senators that the calculating of the new basic rate of bounty is based on recent results and therefore the same -approximate unit level of assistance will apply as has been applying recently under the current method of bounty payment. However, there will be significant changes in the method of distribution of the payments.
It will be apparent that, with bounty being paid on a grade basis, individual growers will receive more or less bounty depending on whether the quality of their cotton is higher or lower. This, in the Government’s view, is necessary if the production of quality cotton, of high staple length, required by Australian spinners is to be encouraged. Again, the bounty being on raw cotton, the grower producing seed cotton with a high raw cotton yield, will usually receive more bounty than at present where the payment is on seed cotton. Finally, as the calculation of the basic rate of bounty automatically implies, an average freight and ginning cost component is included in the bounty payment and, therefore, individual freight and ginning costs will be met by each grower. This will have two desirable effects, namely, to encourage the erection of ginneries in or about areas ot production and encourage the utmost efficiency in the operation of the ginneries themselves. As honorable senators will appreciate, the method of bounty proposed departs from the current method of an average guaranteed return and instead guarantees a basic rate of bounty. Growers’ actual returns will, as a result, depend on a number of factors, including the import parity price of raw cotton which will determine that part of the return from sales to spinners, the quality of raw cotton produced, distance from ginneries and individual ginnery efficiency.
An annual limit of £2,000,000 on bounty payments is proposed in the bill as it is expected that, at the level of overall production which would be reached before the annual bounty ceiling is pierced, the industry will have reached a level of overall efficiency at which it can accommodate itself to operating at a reducing bounty rate. It would not be expected that the annual ceiling would be reached until the latter part of the five-year period covered by the present bill. The Government realizes that, notwithstanding the impetus which the present proposed bounty should give towards the development of a sound cotton-growing industry in Australia, the maximum development can only be attained and secured if adequate research and extension services are available to growers. With this in mind, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has raised this matter with the appropriate State Ministers and proposes to discuss with them at an early date the question of a research and extension services programme commensurate with the rapidly changing circumstances of the industry. lt is intended by the Government that a close watch bc kept on the progress of the industry and that in about the fourth year of the five-year period covered by the present bill, a review of the progress of the industry will be conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Undoubtedly, the future of assistance to the cotton-growing industry after the end of 1968 will be influenced by the result of that review. I am sure honorable senators, are aware that in recent times there has been a new awareness and a change of approach to cotton-growing in Australia. Last year, the only ginneries operating in Australia were in Queensland. This year, new ginneries, commenced opera.’. at’ Wee Waa ‘in New’ South Wales and at the Ord River in Western Australia and it is expected that additional ginneries will be in operation next year in New South Wales. There has been an influx of experienced growers into new areas, growing under irrigation and willing to invest heavily in the future of cotton-growing in Australia. Commercial yields of 2,000 lb. of seed cotton and over have been obtained and expansion is evident.
The Government is convinced that its proposals represent a most reasonable approach and, while inducing a continuation of the expansion of production in the currently more favoured areas, should provide a profitable return for the more efficient Queensland growers and allow the less favoured areas in Queensland sufficient time to adapt to the new conditions in the industry. The opportunity is present for the cotton-growing industry in Australia to develop into a significant part of the rural economy and the Government’s proposals as set out in this bill will permit producers to take advantage of this opportunity. It is my conviction that, in a few years time, a solidly established cotton-growing industry, operating along economic lines, will eventuate. 1 commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 1509), on motion by Senator Henty-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator RIDLEY (South Australia) 19.3]. This bill provides for the payment of a bounty on the production of specified phosphate fertilizers. The idea of such a bounty is not new; in fact this bill is virtually a re-enactment of a principle introduced by the Curtin Government, maintained by the Chifley Government, but abandoned by the present Government in 1950. It is of more than passing interest that the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is also the Leader of the Australian Country Party, introduced the legislation to abolish the superphosphate subsidy which was being paid under Labour’s legislation. The second-reading speech of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) shows full appreciation of the extreme importance of superphosphate in the economic maintenance and development of the Australian primary industry. The Minister said at page 1 of the circulated copy of his speech -
Superphosphate, which represents over 90 per cent, of all artificial fertilizers used in primary production in Australia, has played a major part in the development of our primary industries because Australian soils generally are deficient in phosphorus. Superphosphate has made our great Australian wheat industry possible, while the remarkable expansion in pasture improvement throughout southern Australia in recent years has also been due to this fertilizer.
The bounty of £3 per ton will encourage the most economic use of our agricultural resources and will also act as a stimulus to further expansion in pasture improvement. The cost of superphosphate has a marked effect on the budget of most primary producers and the bounty of £3 per ton, representing, as it does, a reduction of as much as one-third in the ex-works price of bulk superphosphate in some States, will have a very appreciable effect in reducing these costs.
I turn now to the conclusion of the Minister’s speech, where he said -
I suggest to honorable senators that this measure will do much for our national well-being by giving the greatest possible encouragement to, and being a most effective means of boosting productivity and expansion of, our great rural industries.
Of the seven or eight pages of the Minister’s speech, we agree with the first and last parts that I have quoted. For that reason it is not our intention to oppose the bill. A further reason for not opposing the bill is one that has been stated previously and is well known to all honorable senators: A Labour government left in operation a superphosphate bounty act, but the bounty paid under that act was taken away by the present Government. After taking away the bounty in 1950, this Government now seeks to bring it back again. I ask honorable senators opposite, and no doubt the people of Australia will ask the Government, at what stage between 1950 and now was it decided that re-introduction of the bounty was desirable. If the merit attached to the bounty by the Minister in his second-reading speech is seen by honorable senators opposite, they must ask themselves why there is now merit in it, whereas between 1950 and 1963 there was no merit in it.
You will remember the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments paid a subsidy on superphosphate. The Menzies Government abolished this subsidy payment.
A Labour Government will restore subsidy payments at the rate of £3 per ton on superphosphate and at related payments on Nitrogenous, Potassic, Mixed and other type of fertilizers, including Trace Elements. Subsidy would be payable on all purchases on and from 1st January, 1962.
This assistance will- help farm development policy, promote increased production of a wide. range of export produce and provide the building up of farming strength necessary to cope with adverse marketing conditions.
That policy was put to the people by the Labour Party prior to the last general election at which the present Government was returned with the barest majority. After two years, in the dying hours of this Parliament, the Government has introduced this bill to give effect to the policy that was put forward by the Labour Party in 1961. I think that Opposition senators and the people of Australia can be excused for doubting the sincerity of Country Party and Liberal Party senators. I charge the Government with playing at party politics in introducing this bill.
Such an attitude on the part of the supporters of the Liberal Party and the Country Party is not new. During the war there was a classic example of the importance of superphosphate to the production of grain, particularly wheat, in Australia. A committee set up by the Labour Government recommended that the .limited amount of superphosphate available should be used in areas in which superphosphate gave the greatest yield of grain, and that farmers who were not provided with superphosphate and therefore did not produce grain should be compensated. That recommendation came not from a political party or from a Labour Government but from a committee that was set up within the industry. The fact mattered little to the supporters of the Liberal Party and the Country Party who made capital out of the recommendations. In South Australia they claimed that the Labour Government was control-mad and was prepared to pay farmers in Western Australia not to grow wheat in order to assist farmers in more productive districts in Victorian and other States to grow wheat. I repeat, therefore, that the exploitation of an issue concerning superphosphate for party political purposes is not new to the present Government.
Another point I wish to mention is that a large part of the second-reading speech of the Minister for Customs and Excise dealt not with the particular type of superphosphate upon which bounty would be paid but with a type of superphosphate to which the bounty would not apply. It has been brought to my notice that the latter type of superphosphate is produced by two firms in South Australia. This type has been given support by primary producers in that State as a better type of fertilizer for use in their soil. It is claimed that for acid soils this type of fertilizer is preferable to that on which the bounty of £3 a ton is payable. I noticed that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) gave an assurance in another place that the merits of the fertilizer which is produced by the two companies in South Australia would be considered by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization with a view to making the bounty payable in respect of it. If the Minister for Supply gave an assurance in this respect before the bill was passed in another place I think that the Minister for Customs and Excise should have informed the Senate of that fact when making his second-reading speech in this place. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), when closing, the debate in another place, said -
The only other point to which I want to refer relates to the quite reasonable case raised by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) that the soluble phosphorus pentoxide content of a certain product should be recognized for purposes of bounty. I have to confirm what the honorable member himself has said, that the Minister is prepared to arrange for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to make a new evaluation, in the field, of whether the ground phosphate rock products provide an economic and efficient source of phosphate. Should the information gained in this evaluation so warrant, the Government will reconsider the question of whether these products should attract bounty. With that undertaking given in good faith to the honorable member for Sturt I commend the bill.
I suggest that a similar undertaking should have been given to the Senate when the measure was introduced in this place. If it had been given, there would have been no need for this point to be raised. I personally accept the view that, if this type of superphosphate does not measure up to the claims that have been made, it certainly should not attract the bounty. But if, as has been claimed, it is a better fertilizer for use in certain kinds of soil in South Australia and other parts of Australia, and indeed in other parts of the world, it should attract the bounty.
I ask the- Minister for Customs arid Excise whether he is prepared to repeat the assurance that was given by the Minister for Supply in another place. If he is pre-‘ pared to do so, there will be no need to debate the matter further. But if he is not prepared to support his “ colleague, we should be prepared to discuss this point. I can only assume that the Minister will give such an assurance. That being so, the Labour Party does not oppose the bill.
– To say that I have great pleasure in supporting the bill is an under-statement I have listened to Senator Ridley with some interest. J sympathize with him in his effort to gain a crumb of comfort by relating the history of this bounty. He was technically correct when he said that Labour introduced a superphosphate, bounty in the early stages of the last war. I regret that he neglected to acknowledge that the original proposal for a superphosphate bounty was prepared by an outgoing Menzies Government and was implemented by the new government in which Mr. Scully was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– Tell us another bedtime story.
– It will be your bedtime story. It is only fair that I should relate the facts surrounding the introduction of the bounty in 1941. The bounty was introduced because of the steeply rising cost of superphosphate to primary producers when their returns were fixed under war-time controls. It was not a measure designed to increase the use of superphosphate, because at that time superphosphate was rationed. We could not get nearly enough for our needs. So, the reason for the introduction of the bounty originally was different from that governing the present proposal. I repeat that the original bounty was a war-time measure which was introduced to offset increased costs which were imposed on primary producers as a result of enemy action. That position was maintained throughout the war years.
Senator Ridley was correct in stating that the bounty was removed in 1950 by the Menzies Government. Mr. McEwen was then the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The bounty was removed because the conditions that obtained when it was first introduced no longer existed. There was still no need to do anything to increase the use of superphosphate in 1950, because it was still rationed. Another factor was the lifting of price restrictions. The price of wool and wheat had risen. So the farmers were no longer in need of this particular form of assistance. There has not been any very great agitation in the intervening period for its reintroduction.
– You are contradicting your compatriots in another place.
– I was present at a meeting of farmers about eighteen months ago at which a motion seeking the introduction of a superphosphate bounty was defeated.
– The meeting must have been under false leadership.
– No question of leadership was involved. The matter was discussed freely. The natural reluctance of these people to receive subsidies was responsible for the defeat of that motion. I thought that it was an unsound conclusion. I personally thought at the time that a superphosphate bounty would have a desirable effect. Senator Ridley said that the introduction of such a bounty was part of Labour’s election promise some two years ago.
– That would not. have been political expediency, would it?
– In his effort to gain political kudos at this stage, Senator Ridley revealed that Labour’s offer was purely one of political expediency. It was made in an effort to gain votes and without regard to the economic consequences. There is more than a note of insincerity in Senator Ridley’s professed concern for the primary producers.
This Government has adopted the policy of encouraging exports. For example, it has given an incentive in the form of a payroll tax deduction to manufacturing firms which can increase their exports. If we are to continue our present rate of growth there is an urgent need to increase exports at a fast rate. If we are to maintain our rate of population increase and to maintain our manufactures, we must offset the needs of our manufacturing industries for imports - and they are considerable - by exporting wherever we can. In the opinion of the Government is is desirable to stimulate primary industry where possible in order lo increase our export capacity. The Government has rightly judged that this is a time when the payment of a superphosphate bounty could most effectively assist the primary producers to increase exports. This bounty is not a hand-out to the primary producers. The decision to pay the bounty ls a matter of some economic significance. The cost of the bounty will be repaid to the Commonwealth many times over. This is a sound economic procedure. In Great Britain a subsidy is paid, on varying bases, on superphosphate of different kinds. The payment of a superphosphate bounty is nothing new. It is something that affects the very foundations of our agriculture.
It is desirable to consider the significance of superphosphate in the Australian economy. The first item in the annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization concerns the work being done by the organization on the treatment of pastures with superphosphate. I lake it that, in the opinion of the C.S.I.R.O., work in connexion with superphosphate is one of the most important maters on which it has been engaged. The annual report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation also refers to superphosphate. The following statement appears in the report: -
In providing financial aid for rural research, the Development Bank has endeavoured to give emphasis to the need for work on the optimum use of fertilizers and has shown its interest in helping the dissemination of information on this subject.
Those are two indications of the importance that superphosphate assumes in our economy.
Let us consider the extent of the use of superphosphate in the various Stales of the Commonwealth. I say without hesitation that if there were no superphosphate there would be no agricultural industry in Western Australia. We simply could not have a wheat industry without superphosphate. A very great proportion of our pastoral industry would be completely uneconomic and, in fact, impossible to operate, without superphosphate. What is true of Western Australia I think also would be largely true of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, and also true to a less degree of New South Wales and to a still less degree of Queensland. To a great extent, therefore, Australian agriculture depends on superphosphate. The decision to pay a bounty on superphosphate is soundly based and will lead to greater economic strength. It will help the primary industries to carry the burden of protection of the secondary industries. Above all, it will lead to an increase of our primary exports. Because of this increase, the Commonwealth will gain much more from the decision to pay the bounty than the bounty will cost. A load will not be imposed on the taxpayers because of the payment of the bounty. In truth, this is a kind of pump-priming.
I wish to refer briefly to the point made by Senator Ridley with regard to the payment of the bounty on the less soluble forms of phosphate. If there is any weakness in the bill I think that it .lies in this feature. The subsidy will apply only to soluble forms of phosphate. There is a case - and I think a good case - for extending the provisions of the bill to cover rock phosphate and the natural phosphates. They perform the same function as the other forms of phosphate. Indeed, there are places in Australia where the less soluble forms of phosphate are of more value than are the soluble forms. I refer particularly to the deep sands in the vicinity of Gingin, where it has been found that rock phosphate is more effective than ordinary superphosphate in the growing of lupins. The work of the C.S.I.R.O. indicates that in the wetter parts of Australia, where longer growing seasons are experienced and where perennials rather than annuals are grown, the rock phosphates have a distinct value. They are useful as fertilizers in orchards. I am pleased that the Minister has indicated that he will look into this matter with a view to including these phosphates at a later stage.
– When did he indicate that?
– He has already indicated that that will be done. You referred to it yourself.
– I do not think it has been indicated in this place.
– The Minister has given me a personal assurance, as well as the assurance he gave in another place. I am sure that this proposal goes a great way towards meeting the problem. The relatively small area where rock phosphates are used could be covered by the provisions of the bill when other problems involved in the decision to pay the bounty had been solved. There are some technical reasons why it is necessary to have another look at the proposal to pay the bounty- on rock phosphates. The provisions of the bill will go a very long way towards giving new life to large areas of primary production where returns are low at present. Recently, when speaking in support of the Commonwealth Development Bank Bill, I cited figures which showed the low level of profit, particularly in the higher rainfall areas.
– In the wool industry, you mean?
– Yes, in the wool industry particularly. The figures I gave on that occasion provide justification for this bounty in that it will assist individual producers in such areas. The bill will be of assistance in newly developing areas such as certain areas in my own State of which I am particularly aware. In such areas, very large amounts of superphosphate must be used in the initial stages of development It will have a very significant effect in helping the development of new areas. This bill is soundly conceived and well-timed.
– It is certainly welltimed.
– It is well-timed because of its’ economic significance. I know that the Australian Labour Party tried to use this proposal as a political bribe recently, but it docs not understand the real implications of the measure. I congratulate the Government on its decision to introduce the bill. It will pay big dividends in the welfare of Australian primary and secondary industries.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Prowse, and was amazed by the reasons he gave for the proposal to grant a bounty. He referred to the cost factor. Of course there, was no cost factor in the 1950’s when this Government shelved the bounty! In fact, the economy nearly went through the roof in the 1950’s. It has been a. proud boast of the Government in the past two or three years that it has .kept the cost structure more or less stable, but one wonders why the bounty was taken off in 1950 When inflation began. The rural producer cannot pass his increase of costs on, but has to sell most of his products at world market prices. I doubt whether inflation went so high so quickly in any other country of the western world as it did .’n Australia. So we can forget the cost factor as a genuine reason.
Senator Prowse made another remarkable statement when he said that the bounty was lifted in 1950 because the farmers did not need it. I have spoken to many farmers and they are no. more backward than any other section of the community in accepting help. I agree that the manufacturer! in the metropolitan areas clamour for protection but I am amazed that a representative of the farmers should say that the Government took away the superphosphate bounty in 1950 because the farmers did not need it.
One marvels at the reasons given for this legislation. It is true, as Senator Ridley has said, that the Opposition is delighted that another plank of the Australian Labour Party platform has been adopted. That kind of thing happens all over the world. In -all countries the ideas of the radical movement are adopted by conservative parties mainly so that the conservative parties can retain office. Throughout history it has been proved that a party does not have to sit on the right of the Speaker to get what it wants. If we were in office we would put our policies into effect more quickly, but the radical movements in the world see their policies put into effect by others as a normal, practice. Conservative governments are always prepared to adopt certain ideas irrespective of what they might have . said about them when they were first advocated. If it suits them, they forget their criticisms and adopt the policies of the radicals. This bill will benefit not only primary producers but everybody who uses superphosphate irrespective of the purpose for which it is used. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) referred to - the decision of the Government to pay a bounty of £3 a ton on superphosphate manufactured in Australia and sold for use in Australia during the three years which began on 14th August, 1963 . . .
– That is if it is sold for the use of agriculture, and not to make political speeches flower.
– Senator Wright may take some sort of stand later, because he is not bad at that when it suits him. The difference between Senator Wright and me is this: Over the years, if I advanced a certain contention I kept to it right to the end. This bill provides that any person who uses superphosphate, irrespective of what he uses it for, will get the benefit of the bounty. I have no objection to that. I know a certain place that uses a fair amount of superphosphate. Those concerned with that place will obtain this bounty too.
– What other uses are there for it?
– It helps to grow grass.
– In parks and gardens?
– When the bill came down, I naturally thought that this would apply only to agricultural products. I expected it to be intended to help our exports but it will also help those who have playing fields to be kept green.
– You do not object to that?
– If the law states that certain organizations can use superphosphate and get the benefit of the bounty, that is all right with me. I was amazed. I thought that the measure must have been drafted in such a hurry that that aspect was overlooked. I understand that when a bounty was last paid it was paid only on superphosphate used for agricultural products.
– For what else can it be used?
– It is used in fair quantities for other purposes.
– In Albert Park?
– We use a little. I was very, very happy to read this provision. I understand that a superphosphate bounty was introduced in the 1930’s. Then the bounty was either repealed or discontinued.
– It had limited application.
– That is all right. Senator Prowse said that when Mr. Curtin came into office he picked up a bill that had been drafted by Mr. Menzies. That is not in line with the facts. A bounty was introduced by the Curtin Government in the early part of the war at the rate of 25s. a ton. By 1950 it had been increased to 50s. a ton. For the year 1949-50 the bounty . amounted to £3,650,000. It is true, as Senator Prowse said, that iti 1950 the Menzies Government removed the bounty, but I do not think that anyone would agree that the bounty was not wanted. It seems strange for a Country Party senator to say that the farmers did not want a bounty. He must come from a State where the farmers are a little different from those in the State from which I come. Even the mass of the workers in the metropolitan area of my State would not be so magnanimous as to say that they did not want an increase in wages. It is not of much use, on the eve of an election, to put up such an argument. I doubt whether even Senator Prowse would, upon second thoughts, agree that he had been factual.
– There is no record of any protest having been made.
– Unfortunately farmers send certain persons to this Parliament to look .after their interests, but their interests are not looked after. As I have said, in season and out of season, to Country Party representatives, as long as the Liberals are prepared to give them their second preference votes, thus ensuring Country Party representation in this Parliament, they do not worry much whether the Government removes the bounty from superphosphate, thereby affecting the farmers adversely. As late as 1960 Senator Wright was interested in the superphosphate bounty.
– Anil for the lust three or four years.,
– A re we not in 1963?
– 1 said 1960. It docs not help the honorable senator’s case to say “ for the last three or four years “. I do not want to take any credit from him.
– 1 wanted to be sure that we were in agreement.
– 1 shall leave it at that. Senator Wright asked Senator Paltridge a question on this matter.
– On what date was that?
– Unfortunately, the copy which I have does not- show the date. Senator Paltridge said -
Recently Senator Wright raised the question of introducing a subsidy on superphosphate. Having conferred wilh the Treasurer about this matter, 1 am now able to say that one of the many proposals which came up for discussion when the 1961-62 Budget was being framed was the introduction of a subsidy on superphosphate. After careful consideration of all aspects of the proposal it was, however, decided to take no action in the matter. As the current usage of superphosphate in Australia is approximately 2,000,000 tons per annum, the annual cost of a subsidy would be £2,000,000 lor every £1 of subsidy.
One can see that there has been a change df face. I am pleased, but I have my own thoughts as to the motive. Even when the Budget was introduced, people were saying that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was thinking of an election. While one is delighted with the legislation, one has not to swallow what is said about the motive. Although the Government did not see its way clear to provide for the bounty in the 1961-62 Budget, suddenly its introduction has been found possible. I suppose that it is better to do the correct thing later than not to dp it at all.
Superphosphate has played a most important part in the development of our rural areas. It was first used in Australia about 80 years ago. Credit for appreciating its importance must go to South Australia. Land which in 1870 had yielded 21 bushels of wheat an acre, by 1 880 yielded only 5 . bushels. The use of phosphate enabled that land to recover its former rate of production. Nowadays superphosphate is widely used throughout Australia. As both Senators Ridley and Prowse have said, one wonders what would be the production of wheat and wool if superphosphate were not used in the quantities in which it is being used at present. I sincerely hope that the bounty will have the effect pf boosting pro,duction. Australia has been rather fortunate with wheat. I understand that wheat is not one of the items on the list of strategic commodities that cannot be exported to red China. 1 have tried to get a copy of that list in order to find out what products cannot be exported. I know that iron, wool, and, of course, wheat can be exported to that country. As we have had no trouble in finding markets for our wool there is no doubt that the. bounty will help to increase our export income. Rural exports earn about 78 per cent, of Australia’s export income and are therefore extremely vital to the nation.
I hope that there will be no rise in the price of superphosphate as a result of the bounty. At the moment there is no thought of a rise, but one has always to be careful in the matter of prices.
– There was a fall of 1 ls. a ton.
– Nevertheless, I always like to keep my eye on prices. It was announced a little while ago with a great flourish that the 121 per cent, sales tax on a number of items was to be abolished. The Minister said at the lime that the buying public would get all the benefit. They got it all - they got it where the chicken gets the axe. I hope that in this case the price of superphosphate will not rise. F do not doubt the intention of the Government. I believe it wants to increase our exports of primary products. God forbid that I should think that the Government would care about votes at a time like this! 1 admit that the bounty will do some good.
I am concerned, as Senator Prowse is, as to why the Government has not subsidized other fertilizers. 1 recall the use of a certain fertilizer by an- insurance company in a large area of South Australia just over the Victorian border. I think some compound of copper was used.
– Trace elements were used.
– Yes, trace elements were used too.
– That was in the superphosphate.
– I believe the formula was mentioned by the Minister in his second-reading speech. The Minister said -
There has been only one grade of superphosphate produced in Australia up until now; this is known as standard or single superphosphate containing 22 per cent. P.Os of which 20 per cent. P-0. is in the form of water and ammonium citrate soluble phosphorus pentoxide. 1 should like to know why the Government is not prepared to pay a bounty on fertilizers other than superphosphate. If the soil in certain parts of the country can be brought to good condition by the use of fertilizers other than superphosphate 1 think that the people using those fertilizers are entitled to the benefit of a bounty. I hope that some thought will be given to extending the bounty to cover other fertilizer products. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech -
Since the announcement of the bounty, the Government has received representations for the bounty to be extended to other fertilizer products, such as fertilizers made from waste materials which contain some phosphate, the principal one being blood and bene meal.
I doubt whether blood and bone, as it is commonly called, would be used much in rural production. It might be used to a certain extent in the production of vegetables.
– It is used extensively in the production of sugar cane.
– I suppose that the sugar industry is one of the most prosperous at the present time, not merely because it uses blood and bone but because the sugar-growers had sense enough to accept orderly marketing. What is more, they have planned production. Before the Senate rises, a bill dealing with another rural industry, namely the canned fruits industry, will be before us. The canned fruit industry is in a bad way because it does not have planned production. My friend from Queensland says that blood and bone is used extensively in the sugar industry. We often hear from honorable senators on the Government side of the great strides that that industry is making, particularly in the export field.
Even though the Government has brought in this legislation, let us be practicable about it. It will not matter what the Government has brought in, as far as what will happen on 30th November is concerned. The Government’s number is up, and it knows it. During the last two days I have never seen people look so gloomy as those on the other side of the table are looking.
– There are none so blind as those who will not see.
– I do not throw money about, but I will have a talk with you outside, if you like. I will not run away like my friend at the back of the chamber does, although I know you have a lot more money than I have.
Let me get back to the bill, lt will do a tremendous lot of good for Australia. Irrespective of politics - if we can forget them at this time - 1 believe this bounty is something worthwhile. Let us hope that it will do all that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber think it will do.
– I, too, commend the Government upon its decision to implement the bounty on superphosphate. I think I can make a few statements to-night without being accused of electioneering, because Queensland does not use much superphosphate. Queensland uses nitrogen mainly because that State differs from the other States in crop production. Even in the grain areas, Queensland does not require superphosphate. In the Darling Downs straight phosphate is not used, nor is it used in the brigalow country. I do not refer to the brigalow belt being cleared now; my reference is to the 14,000,000 acres which has already been cleared and which produces very high quality wheat without the use of superphosphate as a straight fertilizer.
I understand that the total annual use of superphosphate in Queensland is about 20,000 tons. A further 80,000 tons is used in mixtures of high phosphate content, mainly in the sugar-fields. Of course, the bounty to be paid under this bill will apply to a certain percentage of the available P20.i” used in this fertilizer. The bounty applying to this proportion, added to the sulphate subsidy of £2 a ton will result in a substantial decrease in the price of general fertilizer.
In Queensland my attention is attracted to the necessity for phosphates for pasture improvement. I have spoken before about legumes, which will eventually solve the nutrition problem in the beef cattle industry. In the whole of Australia the areas using phosphates total about 27,000,000 acres. Only 30,000 acres of this total is in Queensland. Therefore, of about £9,000,000 that will be paid annually in this subsidy, only £300,000 will go to Queensland. However, we support the proposal just the same because big changes are taking place in Queensland. 1 refer to only one legume at this stage, that is, Townsville lucerne. No doubt Senator Scott thought I was about to speak of siatro.
It is interesting lo know of one experiment carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization over ten years in the Rodds Bay area just out of Gladstone in Queensland. In that experiment Townsville lucerne was used with superphosphate. That area is speargrass country and normally carries one beast to 9 acres. By oversowing with Townsville lucerne the carrying capacity is raised to one beast to 3 acres. With the application of only I cwt. of superphosphate to each acre the carrying capacity is raised to one beast to 2 acres. This is a quite startling result. The area available for the use of this type of legume, plus superphosphate, north of the Tropic of Capricorn, comprises 69,000,000 acres. This land all lies in the 25-in. rainfall belt. Some honorable senators may doubt whether 25 inches is enough to grow this type of crop as a legume. In fact it is almost too much because the rainfall in Queensland is mainly in the summer months. In the 20-in. to 25-in. rainfall belt a further 14,000,000 acres is available for pasture development by the use of superphosphate.
We have heard much to-night about the use of superphosphate, and we even had a mention of park lands. That was thrown into the debate by Senator Kennelly. The honorable senator is pretty smart and does not miss many tricks. However, the nitrogen production in Queensland is based on the introduction of legumes, fed by superphosphate. In the southern parts of Australia fourteen types of legumes of the clover variety have been available to push nitrogen into the soil, but in Queensland we had none of those legumes. Now, as the result of research during the last ten or fifteen years, sixteen varieties are available. AH these legumes require superphosphate.
Because of the fertilizers used on the available land in Queensland it will not be long before we are deriving considerable benefit from this bounty. I mentioned a while ago Senator Kennelly’s remarks about keeping the parks green. He would do much better if he used sulphate of ammonia because phosphates are applied usually to produce nitrogen through another plant. Clovers arc not usually used for playing fields and lawns; it is more usual to sow a grass. The honorable senator would do much better by using straight sulphate of ammonia or nitrogen. The honorable senator mentioned also the fertilizing of sugar-fields by the use of blood and bone, which does not attract this subsidy. Blood and bone fertilizer is used in the sugar-fields not only for its phosphoric acid content, which is usually about 12 per cent., but also because it contains about 5 per cent, nitrogen, which makes it worthwhile. Also, this fertilizer is comparatively cheap. It is sought after because it is an organic compound which has an action slightly different from the straight chemical fertilizer.
In this debate on the superphosphate boundy, references have been made to what happened as far . back as the I940’s. There was, in fact, a bounty ,of 15s. a ton in 1936 arid 1937, but” that disappeared in 1939. It was reintroduced in 1941. 1 do not know offhand the reasons why these bounties are introduced and then dropped, but possibly it has something to do with marketing. Whereas, production can be increased by the addition of fertilizer, little is gained if a crop cannot be sold. I believe that our desire to increase our export market has something to do with the reintroduction of the subsidy at this time. At least, 1 am prepared to accept that as the reason.
If it is necessary to use phosphate fertilizers for the production of legumes, then in future Queensland will use tremendous quantities. I believe that on the Queensland coast - I am not referring to northern Aus’ralia or any part other than Queensland-about 190,000,000 acres is available for pasture development by using plants known to us already. If only 100,000,000 acres of land is developed and superphosphate is applied at the rate of ] cwt. to the acre - anything less is generally condemned as being an insufficient application - this area will require about 5,000,000 tons of superphosphate. This will make the subsidy very worthwhile indeed to Queensland. As no opposition has been expressed to this bill I do not want to prolong the debate. I wished to speak briefly on it because Queensland supports it. I have not heard of any resistance to it in that State although at present Queenshind uses less fertilizer of this type than does any other State.
.- 1 support the bill. Its introduction at this stage may not bc a party political move on the part of the Government but it certainly appears to be such a move. I listened very attentively to Senator Prowse. Some of his remarks were only too true, particularly those concerning the value of superphosphate to agriculture; but the rest of his speech was petty. Senator Prowse mentioned conditions- in 1941. At that time, 1 happened to be one of the backbenchers who supported a Labour government which re-introduced a bounty ‘on superphosphate. That bounty was increased to 50s. a ton in 1949, the year in which the Labour Government went out of office. In 1950, the Menzies Government decided that there was.no necessity for the bounty and eliminated it. If there was no necessity for the bounty in 1950, then the whole of Senator Prowse’s speech was contrary to Government policy. It is true, as he said, that superphosphate is a great factor in boosting agriculture not only in his own State of Western Australia but also in other States. He was not too sure about the scope of its use in Tasmania, my State. In that State the use of superphosphate increased the carrying capacity of grazing country from one sheep per acre to six sheep and even seven sheep per acre. That occurred, not since the present Commonwealth Government came to office, but over twenty years ago. During the war years, when superphosphate was scarce and its distribution was restricted, some of the pastures that had been brought into high productivity deteriorated. They continued to deteriorate until supplies of superphosphate again became available for use as top dressing.
I agree that a superphosphate bounty is a valuable aid to primary producers, lt is absurd to say that it was not needed during the years in which this Government withheld it. I recall the time when our overseas credits were dwindling to a dangerously low ebb because we were not exporting sufficient. We were depending to a great extent on the exports of primary production. If there was ever a time when we needed to increase primary production it was in those years during which prices slumped. Now that prices are stable, the Government considers it necessary to boost production. Wool prices are now better than they have been for some considerable time. Why did not the Government take this action when wool prices and the prices of other primary commodities were low? Did not the Government realize the necessity for this bounty when the selling prices of some of our agricultural products were far below the cost of production? Apparently, Senator Prowse does not remember that a superphosphate bounty was not paid by the Government during that period. Apparency he remembers only that a superphosphate bounty is necessary when a genera] election is near,
As late as 1960 the Government said that such a bounty was not necessary. I do not think that either prices or production have dwindled since that year. On the contrary, I think that they have increased. So, if the payment of a superphosphate bounty is urgently necessary to-day, how much more necessary must it have been during the last, decade? Superphosphate has been one of the main factors in the stabilization of prices. Without superphosphate it is impossible to forecast the price of some agricultural products or to predict the degree to which primary production will fall. I know that there arc other fertilizers, but this is the principal one. Therefore, what Senator Prowse has been telling us has been stale news for many years.
– Are you complaining about the bounty?
– <No. I am supporting the bill.. But 1 am complaining about the Government’s failure to pay the bounty during the last decade. Now the Government is claiming the credit for introducing the bounty as if it were something new. It has not told the people that it is re-introducing the bounty after having discontinued it. The bounty was paid by the Labour Government for nearly a decade. When the Labour Government commenced to pay a bounty on superphosphate prices of primary products were very low. Butter fat, for example, was sold for ls. per lb. and potatoes for £5 and £6 a ton which was less than the cost of production. The introduction of the bounty on superphosphate was one of the principal measures taken by the Labour Government - not a Liberal government - to assist primary production.
– What government was in office in 1936?
– I remember only too well that it was a government which was politically akin to the present government. It was a United Australia Party government. The predecessors of the present Government parties used to change their names every two or three years. There were between 350,000 and 400,000 unemployed about the time when the low prices that I have mentioned prevailed. At that time the volume of our exports was very low. We borrowed so much money overseas to pay for imports that the United Kingdom would not continue lending to us. I recall the year 1936 only too well. Honorable senators opposite would be wise not to talk about it. No year in the history of this country has been worse for the wheat-growers, the wool-growers and other primary producers.
– Why all the noise? Do you support the payment of the bounty?
– I support the payment of this bounty, but I want to place the matter in perspective. Judging from his remarks. I do not think that Senator Prowse is capable of doing so. He might bc a little wiser after this debate is finished. He said that the bounty had been introduced previously because it was necessary to bring superphosphate from overseas. Of course we had to get it from the islands. We have always got it from there. But it was difficult to get because of the scarcity of ships. The bounty was introduced in an effort to stabilize prices and to assist the farmers. At that time the farmers could not afford to buy superphosphate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - 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 bounty was necessary to encourage greater production and to stabilize prices. But one of the main reasons was to provide assistance to the primary producers, who had been starved of assistance during the previous decade. I point out that a Labour government was not in office during that period. The introduction of the bounty gave a great boost to production. I think Senator Prowse will agree that the bounty is necessary now in order to boost production for export. If it is necessary now to boost production for export, it was necessary for the same purpose during the past five Or six years.
– If you had a market.
– If we had a market for what? Do you mean for the superphosphate or the resultant production?
– For the products, of course.
– Hundreds of millions of people in the world are short of foodstuffs. Yet the honorable senator says “ If you had a market “. For how long did the Labour Party tell the honorable senator and his colleagues that there were markets to the north in Asian countries? One was branded as a Communist if he dared to suggest dealing with China. But now we are selling our wheat to China. We could have sold it to China for years. We must give credit to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). who is the leader of the Australian Country Party, for standing over members of the Liberal Party and for finding markets. He ignored the opposition of those who said, “ You cannot deal with red China “. He pushed those people overboard. The markets are available. It cannot be said that markets are not available for our products while millions of people throughout the world are starving. All that is needed is the intelligence to negotiate the sale of our products. Australia is exporting more to-day than she has exported for many years. We are not short of markets. Senator Sherrington acted like a stupid schoolboy when he said “ If you had the markets “. But I can understand supporters of the Government adopting that point of view. I can understand their saying, “ We must restrict our production according to the markets that are available to us “.
– A minute ago
– I know that Senator Wright is too broad-minded to adopt that point of view.
– Hear, hear! A minute ago the Deputy Leader of the Opposition emphasized the genius of the sugar industry in planning production.
– I know. But thereis no shortage of markets. You can introduce stabilization schemes, if you so desire, to stabilize the market when there is a glut. You can store commodities like wool and wheat for sale when prices rise. There is no such thing as over-production. When people rise and talk about over-production, their heart is not in their country.
Our problem is one of insufficient production. This bounty is needed now to boost production and to stabilize prices. Do honorable senators opposite think that if free fertilizers were available to the primary producers - I do not suggest that fertilizers should be free - prices would continue to rise? Is the Government considering that aspect of the matter? If the bounty is necessary now with wool prices at the current level, how much more necessary was it when the price of wool was not so high?
– How high is the price of wool to-day?
– When the price of wool was £20 a bale less than it is to-day it Was stated that the bounty on superphosphate could not be re-introduced, because of the cost involved. At that time it was stated that the provision of a bounty at the rate of £1 a ton of superphosphate would exceed £2,000,000 per annum.
– Where was that stated?
– That statement is recorded in “ Hansard “.
– On a producton of 2,000,000 tons?
– That would be so. Apparently it has taken the Government two or three years to wake up to the fact that it made a mistake. Or perhaps the Government has decided that payment of the bounty would be good election propaganda. When the leader of the Australian Labour Party said that Labour, if returned to office, would introduce a bounty of £3 per ton for superphosphate, this Government said that the necessary money could not be found. But now, a comparatively short time later, it introduces this bill, which of course we support. 1 really think the Government is more concerned about political propaganda and about adopting any catch cry that may win votes than it is about the stability of this country.
I repeat that if the superphosphate bounty is needed to-day, it was more needed in the past. If the Government is not using the bounty for political purposes, why did it ever remove it? It was not removed because of any consideration of price. Senator Prowse mentioned prices. If my memory serve me correctly, in 1941 the price of superphosphate was £5 or £6 a ton. I think the price is now about £12 a ton. The payment of a bounty was considered to be absolutely essential when superphosphate cost only £5 or £6 a ton. If that is so, surely a bounty is essential to-day. The object of the bounty, of course, is to encourage the farmers to increase production. It also has the effect of stabilizing prices..
To : ay that the superphosphate bounty is a new-born baby of this Government is too ridiculous for words. 1 ask honorable senators to cast their minds back to the plight of the dairy farmers in the 1930’s and to try to recall the prices that dairy farmers were then receiving for their produce. The growers of root crops also were in a parlous position at that time. Having regard to the conditions in those days, can it be wondered that we should contemplate the payment of a subsidy, small though it might have been, to assist the farmers in their dire straits? During the war years, when the prices of primary products were fixed, the cost of superphosphate was taken into consideration. If there had not been a subsidy on superphosphate at that time it certainly would have been necessary to fix the prices of primary products at much higher levels. The superphosphate bounty was used as a price stabilizer as well as a means of boosting production. This Government has not taken those factors into consideration at all. The Government, in introducing this legislation as a political stunt, has demonstrated its insincerity towards the primary producers. If the Government had been sincere it would never have removed the subsidy but would have continued it in order to reduce prices. Instead, it allowed wholesale inflation to occur.
If a superphosphate bounty is necessary now - and we of the Opposition say that it is - surely it was more than necessary during the last decade. Our overseas balances are in a much healthier state now than they were in previous years. If, as Senator Prowse said, the object of the bounty is to boost our exports of primary products, why did not the Government re-introduce the bounty some time ago, when exports were dwindling? That is a question which the Government cannot answer because it is unanswerable. It is plain to everybody that the Government has adopted the policy, enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), that the payment of a superphosphate bounty was essentia] to increase primary production and to help stabilize the price of primary products. The Government has adopted the Labour Party policy in this respect because an election is to be held and it knew that if it did not provide ‘ for a bounty the Labour Party would do so after 30th November next.
.- I rise to support the bill. I am amazed that Senator Aylett should accuse the Government of being insincere. If that is so, surely the Australian Labour Party also must have been insincere when it promised in 1961, in a policy speech, that if it were elected to office it would provide a superphosphate bounty.
– The bounty should never have been removed.
– The superphosphate bounty was discontinued in 1950 because wool was then bringing almost £1 per lb.
– What was butterfat bringing then?
– I do not want to have to give the honorable senator a lecture. He must surely know that the price of butter is based on the cost of production. The cost of superphosphate to the dairy farmer is taken into consideration in assessing the prices that he should receive for his products. 1 do not want to be political in discussing this matter, but 1 have replied to some of Senator Aylett’s comments because I thought they were stupid.
I think it is necessary for the superphosphate bounty to be re-introduced, and I believe that the payment of £3 a ton is reasonable. According to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the wool and wheat producers of Australia are not receiving a large return on their investment. One of the major costs they have to meet is in respect of superphosphate. If the Government is able to relieve them of a proportion of their costs by making available a bounty on superphosphate at the rate of £3 a ton, it is acting in a responsible manner. I understand that approximately 2,000,000 tons of superphosphate a year are used in Australia. It has been estimated that the cost of the bounty to the Government will be approximately £9,000,000 in a full year and £7,000,000 in the current financial year. New types of superphosphate - are being manufactured. _ At Port Kembla, in New South Wales, Australian Fertilizers Limited is spending more than £1,000,000 on the erection of a plant for the manufacture of double and triple superphosphate. These superphosphates will contain 40. per cent. P2Os and 50 per cent. PaO0 respectively, compared with 20 per cent. . Ps03 in the standard superphosphate that is manufactured to-day. The manufacture of double and triple superphosphate will enable a tremendous saving on transport costs to be made by the users of superphosphate. For instance, a farmer who lives 400 miles from the superphosphate works and is obliged to pay £3 or £4 a ton in freight will be able to buy double or triple superphosphate instead of the standard superphosphate. Because he will require less of those types df superphosphate he may have to pay freight on only one ton instead of 2– tons as at present. 1 should like to sec plants established in other areas of Australia for the production df these higher grade superphosphates. This is a matter which the Government might consider. Perhaps money could be lent to superphosphate manufacturers to help them to install the necessary plant. The saving in transport costs could amount to more than the total cost of any such assistance that was ‘ provided. I do not agree that this legislation was introduced as a matter of political expedience. Certain organizations, including the rural committee of the Liberal Party, have been recommending this bounty to annual conferences for three years. Members of the Australian Country Party have recommended it and many back-bench members have advocated it to the Government.
– We” on’ the Opposition side have done so too.
– No doubt you have done that. I am not trying to be political. 1 think the bounty is necessary, and I am glad that the Government has at last acceded to the wishes of the back-bench members.
.- I rise to support the- measure because 1 believe wholeheartedly that, even at this date, a bounty of £3 a ton on superphosphate is in the national interest. I rise to intervene in the debate only because of the trend it has taken. For years, both inside and outside the Parliament, 1 have urged a bounty on superphosphate as a means of redressing the imbalance between farm income and the income artificially injected into secondary industry over the past decade:
There is no sound basis for the claims by Senator Aylett and Senator Kennelly who objected to the bounty’s being discontinued in 1951 or 1952. At that time there had been such an upsurge of farm prices that farmers enjoyed a relative income advantage over other people. In 1949-50 Australian farm income was £485,000,00 compared with £1,193,000,000 for salary and wageearners. In the following year farm income was £809,000,000 compared with £1,497,000,000 for salary and wageearners. This upsurge in farm income was due in a unique degree to the prices ruling for wool and other products. But the trend of the national income took an acute turn after 1953. From 1955 onwards farm income was at a disadvantage compared with the total income of other sections of the community
– The cost of production rose.
– Exactly. The cost of production went up acutely when ibc Australian Labour Party injected the yeast of inflation into the economy. Increases of wages and salaries governed by industrial, tribunals, which the Labour Party sought quite irresponsibly, fomented inflation. The role of wages and salaries as a component of costs increased, and our costs rose . out of proportion to export prices. Thus the incomes of primary producers were adversely affected. That puts the finger on the fallacy perpetuated by Senator Kennelly and Senator Aylett and the Opposition generally. The chief item of cost that created an imbalance in the economy over the past twelve years was that unit of cost for which the Australian Labour Party has been responsible.
I welcome the interjection by Senator Cooke, because it enables me to dwell on the point and bring to the attention of any who will listen that the pseudo-protagonists of the farmers to-day really bedevil the future prosperity of the farmers. It was these pseudo-protagonists of the farmers who advocated the irresponsible trend in the industrial section of the economy through the years and fomented an artificial level of wages and salaries. These costs were unreal in relation to the net incomes of the primary producers.
In confirmation of this statement, let me quote the figures for the past three years. In 1960- 61 farm income was £493,000,000 compared with the income of salary and wage earners totalling £3,679,000,000. In 1961- 62 farm income was £453,000,000 compared with wages and salaries totalling £3,755,000,000. This year the farmers are at least beginning to see a slight upward trend, but without this bounty they had no hope of achieving a position more favorable relative to that of salary and wage earners. In 1962-63 farm income was £555,000,000 compared with £3,965,000,000 for salary and wage earners.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that those figures should be equal?
– If responsible consideration is given to these figures even by Senator Willesee-
– That is not responsible, the way you are putting it.
– I will always listen to an argument to the contrary. I have been putting this argument forward for five or six years in the Senate, and Senator Willesee has never stood in his place and controverted the soundness of the argument. One has to take into account, of course, the increase in the number of factories and in secondary production. In making these allowances you have to take into account the way that mechanization has enabled the farmers to do with less labour on the farms. But you must take into account also the 50 per cent, increase in quantitative production on the farms. Then a sensible judgment, made in a responsible mood, must be that relatively farm income has been dwarfed compared with the artificially inflated incomes of workers in secondary industry that the Australian Labour Party has fomented.
On that basis what the Opposition is putting forward - and I hesitate to use the term - really is deceptive, though perhaps unconsciously. The Labour Party’s attitude is open to dispute because the Labour Party is the mainspring of the cause of artificial inflation that has put the farmer at a disadvantage. This bounty - even though provided some years after it was advocated - represents a recognition of the imbalance between farm income and other income and of the disadvantage at which the farmers1 are operating.
Farmers last year had an income of £555,000,000 compared with £3,965,000,000 for wage and salary earners. In 1949-50 farm income totalled £485,000,000 compared with £1,193,000,000 for wage and salary earners. Taking into account all the discounts on the debit side, it should penetrate even the wagging head of Senator Willesee that the farmer needs this bounty. The fallacy of the argument that has been produced tonight by the Labour Opposition for electioneering purposes is shown by the relativity of incomes. In 1951-52, when the superphosphate bounty was discontinued, ~the farmer was at an advantage. To-day he is sadly at a disadvantage. When the Government recognizes that fact and reintroduces a bounty, surely it calls for the unanimous support of the Senate, without this manoeuvring for political peccadilloes.
– in reply - I do not doubt for one moment that the measure is supported on all sides of the chamber, but I want to answer some of the statements that have been made during the debate. Senator Kennelly said that although this bounty is to apply to superphosphate that is used for every purpose, in 1941 the bounty applied only to superphosphate used for rural production. I have the 1941 bill and I see in it no such limitation. The subsidy was available to everybody, just as’ it will be under this legislation. It could not be otherwise. The legislation could not be administered in any other way. Act No. 65 of 1941 provided for the payment of a bounty on the production of superphosphate, and the bounty was applied to all production. I am sorry to say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not know what he was talking about when he said that the bill contained a provision different from the provision of the 1941 bill.
It is said that this is a political move. However, in fact, this is the third of a series oi measures. If honorable senators take their minds back they will recall that a bounty on sulphate of ammonia equal to £2 a ton was introduced by this Government many months ago. Secondly, we admitted into Australia, free of duty, nitrogenous fertilizer with a 45 per cent, nitrogen content. This is the third measure of the scries. This action has been going on for over twelve months. This is not an isolated move by which the Government sets out to increase production for export. For the Opposition to take this measure in isolation is to overlook completely the other steps that the Government has taken during th. past year. Senator Prowse was quite correct in stating that this bill was introduced as part of our drive for exports. The figures for last month, which we have just received, show that exports increased by 39 per cent, while imports increased by only 3 per cent. This trend is the result of the very sound policies that the Government has been following in developing export markets s J assisting primary production. It is true, a.. Senator Wright said, that this measure will greatly assist a section of the community whose income has been rather static. Farm income was reduced greatly four or five years ago and it is only now starting to pick up. This measure is designed to give assistance to farmers. ‘
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Senator Aylett made much of an answer gr . n by Senator Paltridge, on behalf of the T. asurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to a question asked by Senator Wright. The answer was to the effect that a superphosphate bounty had been considered in the preparation of II. s 1961-62 Budget. But many matters were considered in that context. As honorable senators know, in the preparation of a budget, priorities are placed on the allocation of moneys. It so happened that in that year the Government considered that other matters deserved higher priorities. That was not the case this year. This year this measure was considered as one of the steps that 1 have enumerated - not in isolation but as part of a continuous drive to increase export markets and assist the. primary producer.
Much has been made of the fact that the Labour Party introduced a superphosphate bounty in 1941. We were berated by Senator Aylett for not saying that we were reintroducing, rather than introducing, the bounty. The fact is that Labour merely reintroduced the bounty in 1941, as the Lyons Government had provided a bounty in 1936. But honorable senators opposite did not’ say that Labour had merely reintroduced the bounty. They spoke as if it were the Labour Government’s own idea. They asked why we removed the bounty. Clearly we would not have removed it if we had been interested only in seeking votes. The trouble with the Opposition is that it never rises higher than the seeking of votes in these matters.
– You had better rise higher soon.
– The honorable senator said something about what will happen outside a little later. 1 shall be in it.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The Minister had better return to the bill.
– I want to refer to a matter mentioned by Senator Ridley, namely, the assurance given by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), who represents mc in the other place. That assurance was given with my full authority. I am prepared to ask the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to make an evaluation as to whether ground phosphate rock deposits provide an economic and efficient source of phosphate. Should the information received from such an evaluation so warrant, the Government will immediately reconsider whether those products are to attract a bounty. The Minister for Supply said that with my full authority, and that undertaking stands.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 8. (1.) Bounty in respect of superphosphate, not being superphosphate in respect of which (lie next succeeding sub-section applies, is payable at the rate of Three pounds for each lon of superphosphate. (3.) The Minister may, from time to time, by notice published in the “ Gazette “, determine that bounty shall be payable at the rate of Three pounds in respect of each lon of superphosphate the percentage of the phosphorus pentoxide content by weight of which is less than nineteen and one-half per centum and, where such a determination is in force, the last preceding subsection has effect as if for nineteen and onehalf there were substituted the percentage so determined and in force.
– I move -
In sub-clause (3.) leave put all words after “ nineteen and one-half per centum “, insert “ and is greater than a percentage specified in the determination and, where such a determination is in force, the- last preceding sub-section has effect, as if for the reference to nineteen and one-half per centum in that sub-section there were substituted a reference to the percentage so specified.”.
The intention of the sub-clause is to enable the Minister, in the event of phosphate rock of a lower percentage of P2O5 than is contained in the present supplies having to be procured from other than the traditional source, to determine a percentage less than 19.5 per cent., but greater than the percentage necessary to qualify for the full bounty of £3 a ton. lt is felt that the amendment makes that intention clear.
.- I am at the disadvantage of not having a copy of the amendment. From what the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) said, the amendment seems to eliminate the figure specified in the bill - a figure between 19i per cent, and 20 per cent. - of P2Ob required for the phosphate to be bountiable, and now permits a percentage to be specified in some determination. I rise to obtain particulars as to who is to make the determination. I remind the Senate that a determination need not always take the form of a regulation and that it is only over a regulation that the Senate has control.
I am anxious to see that a most beneficial’ measure of this sort should not be damaged by substituting for a proper statutory percentage of bountiable content some other percentage that might be reduced without the knowledge of the Senate. I do not think that that would be politically possible in the circumstances, but I think it should be known by the Government that, such a procedure does arouse some degree of disapproval in certain sections of the chamber. I, for one, ask that the Minister justify the procedure.
– I am sorry that the honorable senator did not receive a copy of the amendment, which has been circulated. It is purely a drafting amendment that has been submitted by the draftsman. It is to cover the contingency of our present supplies of rock running out when we might have to import rock from some other source the P,>Or> content of which is less than the present minimum of 19.5 per cent. In those circumstances the Minister would be able to make a determination. The bill provides that -
The Minister may, from time to time, by notice published in. the “Gazette”, determine that bounty shall be payable at the rate of Three pounds in respect of each ton of superphosphate . . . .
I understand that rock at Christmas Island contains slightly less P2O5 The amendment covers a contingency that may arise and the draftsman has assured me that it will cover that position.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- I refer to clause 13. I ask the Minister whether any cost is involved in the registration of premises referred to in clause 13.
– No, there is no cost.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported with a request; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 1506) on motion by Senator Wade.
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill has two purposes. One purpose is to alter the position of a member of the board being responsible for the administration of the research and promotion programmes. The second is to provide for the appointment of a deputy chairman. I understand that at present, when the chairman is away, the board members present appoint a chairman from among themselves. I take it, of course, that while the bill takes away from a member of the board responsibility for the administration of the research and promotion programme, the chairman of the board, or the head of the department or of a section of the department will be responsible for this matter. While I agree that there is no need for a particular member of the board to have this responsibility, some one would need to carry it.
The Opposiion supports’ the bill. I notice in passing that under this bill the Minister intends to appoint Mr. J. P. Norton, O.B.E., to the position of deputy chairman of the board. From the second-reading speech of the Minister it would seem that Mr. Roberts, the chairman of the board, is overseas a great deal. I suppose it is far better to have a deputy chairman to take’ his place during his absence than for one member to act as chairman at one meeting and another member to act as chairman, at another meeting, as could happen at present. The Opposition raises no objection to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 1507), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As this bill is complementary to the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill 1963, which has just been passed by the Senate, the Opposition raises no objection to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill, read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– 1 move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is, as announced in the Budget, to increase existing pensions payable under the Superannuation Act, to restore and preserve in the future the entitlements to contribute under the act, and to modify the progressive reduction in the entitlements of those contributors above the base grade and lower middle range salaries.. The bill also includes a number of administrative amendments to the act.
In ‘ recent years existing superannuation pensions have been increased on a number df occasions. In 1961 the Government decided to increase the Consolidated Revenue component of each earlier pension to what it would have been had the pension been determined under the scale of units contained in the Superannuation Act 1954 applied to salaries in force prior to the marginal increases in salaries in 1954. When the position of superannuation pensioners was reviewed by the Government during the 1963-64 Budget discussions, it acknowledged that although the earlier adjustments had relieved the hardship of those who had retired many years ago, it still left them to meet to-day’s living costs on a pension related to the conditions of 1954. The Government therefore decided upon a further increase in these pensions.
This bill provides for the Consolidated Revenue component of each earlier pension to be brought up to the level which would now apply had the pension been determined under the scale of units contained in the Superannuation Act 1959 applied to the salaries in force after the marginal increases in salaries in 1959. Those who did not avail themselves of all the units of pension to which their salaries entitled them will receive the appropriate proportion of this increase.
The other main part of the bill concerns the future pension entitlements of present contributors to the superannuation fund. The entitlement to contribute for units of pension is related to salary and, as salaries increase, officers may contribute for additional units of pension. However, these’ adjustments have been arbitrarily limited by the scale of units of pension contained in the act which has itself been related to the salaries in force at a given point in time.’
A general salary increase therefore necessitates an amendment to the scale of units. For example, in 1954 the Government decided that those on the base grade and lower middle range of salaries should bc entitled to contribute for a pension on retirement equivalent to 70 per cent, of salary. Thereafter, the proportion of pension to salary reduced progressively as salaries increased. Again, in 1959, the scale of units was increased in order to restore the proportion of pension to salary that was the basis of the 1954 legislation.
That fixed scale of units, in the Superannuation Act 1959, no longer provides these pension entitlements to-day, and this bill will, first, restore them; The Government has decided also to incorporate in the bill a formula which will automatically preserve in the future the determined proportions of pension to salary. The salary point at which the maximum pension entitlement of 70 per cent, of salary ceases and thereafter reduces progressively as salaries increase will, on the basis of this formula, be prescribed by regulation on the occasion of any general variation in salaries.
The Government has also reconsidered the equity of the very abrupt reduction in relative pension entitlement for the more senior officers in the Commonwealth’s employ. The scheme has provided, for the great bulk of contributors, an entitlement to a pension equivalent to 70 per cent, of their terminal salary. As the Commonwealth provides five-sevenths of the pension, this means that the Commonwealth, as employer, accepts the full liability of paying all these officers a retirement benefit equivalent to 50 per cent, of their retirement salary. On the other hand, the most senior officers, even with their own contributions added, have been entitled to total retirement benefits which at the present time arc about one-third less than half pay, and the Commonwealth’s own contribution to their retirement benefit amounts to little more than 25 per cent, of salary. This contrast between 50 per cent, of salary and 25 per . cent, of salary is considered by the Government to be an unduly great discrimination against those officers who carry the greatest burden of administrative responsibility.
This progressive reduction in pension -entitlement is also heavily out of line with many other retirement benefit schemes. For example, the Civil Service pension scheme in Britain, which is noncontributory, is designed to provide their officers retiring after long service with 50 per cent, of final salary. The same is true in South Australia. In Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America, the proportion of pension to salary appears to be’ even higher. The Government has concluded that it would be only fair to recognize, as a principle, that the more senior officers should not receive less than a half pay standard on their retirement, bearing in mind that the Commonwealth’s contribution to this would be five-sevenths of 50 per cent., that is, a little more than one-third of retirement salary compared with the 50 per cent, that is already provided by the Commonwealth for the great bulk of contributors.
Special provision is made, as in 1959, for all contributors who are within eight years of retirement, and who would be required to pay contributions amounting to more than 10 per cent, of their salary. They may defer until their retirement payment of portion or all of the additional contributions in excess of 10 per cent, of salary. A further opportunity is also given to any contributor who has . failed to do so in the past to take up his full current pension entitlement, subject to the usual conditions of producing satisfactory medical evidence. This opportunity will in the future arise only on the occasion of an officer’s receiving a higher salary and being entitled to contribute for additional units with the operation of the formula.
The most important administrative amendment clarifies the provisions of the act in relation to the investment of the fund in loans on mortgage and widens the powers of investment of the Superannuation Board to authorize the investment of not more than 25 per cent, of the fund in debentures of companies. This will he supplemented by regulations prescribing the safeguards adopted, in respect of similar investments, in the Trustee Investments Act 1961 of the United Kingdom, with the further safeguard that two expert opinions will be required before any investment in debentures is made by the board. Loans on mortgage are limited by the bill to an amount not exceeding 70 per cent, of the value of the security at the time at which the loan is made and for a term not exceeding 30 years. The diversification of the investments of the fund which will be possible as the result of these changes should improve the earning rate of the fund. The remaining administrative amendments are of a machinery nature which will be explained in the committee stages.
It is unfortunate that circumstances make it necessary to introduce such a technical measure so late in the parliamentary session. However, for reasons which are well known to all honorable senators, the time at our disposal is limited and it was necessary for the Government to choose between fulfilling the promise contained in the Budget speech, when the proposed amendments were announced, by introducing the bill now, or withholding the increased benefits until a later date. I am sure that no honorable senator would wish to delay these benefits. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is a companion measure to the Superannuation Bill. Since its inception in 1948, the principles of the defence forces retirement benefits scheme have been in parallel with those of the Superannuation Act, modified by the special needs of the services, in particular, the earlier retiring ages. Part III. of this bill provides further increases in existing pensions. Servicemen who retired in earlier years will also have the Consolidated Revenue component of their pension brought up to the level which would now apply had the pension been determined on the basis of entitlements contained in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1959, applied to the rates of pay in force after the marginal increases in pay in 1959. Provision corresponding to that contained in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (Pension Increases) Act 1961 is made for a proportional increase in pension for those who contributed for less than their full entitlement or commuted part of their pension to a lump sum on retirement.
The other main part of the bill concerns the future pension entitlements of present contributors to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. These pensions, most of which are payable at the earlier retiring ages of the services, are a proportion, according to age at retirement, of the pension payable at age 60 under the Superannuation Act. This bill restores the proportion between pension payable at age 60 and pay that was the basis of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Acts 1959 and 1962. By the inclusion of an appropriate formula, these proportions of pension to pay will be preserved in the future without the recurrent need for legislation to amend the scale of entitlements.
The Government has also taken this opportunity to reconsider the very abrupt reduction in relative pension entitlement which at present applies to the more senior officers of the services and has decided that it should be modified. For the reasons outlined in my second-reading speech on the Superannuation Bill, the Government has concluded that, at age 60, the more senior officers should not receive less than a halfpay standard on their retirement. For retirement at earlier ages the existing relativities to the age 60 pensions will be preserved.
As the bill is designed automatically to preserve the established proportion of pension to pay in the future it has been necessary to express the rates of contribution for those who became contributors subsequent to the date of commencement of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1959 in a different form. The bill incorporates a formula for determining the appropriate contribution for these contributors. Their rates of contribution are preserved, in accordance with the decision of the Government in 1959, generally at 5 per cent, of pay, which is designed to provide 221/2 per cent, of the cost of each pension. This basis of contribution provided by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1 959 represented a major change and it was recognized at that time that it would call for careful review at the next statutory investigation of the fund, by the Commonwealth Actuary, which is to be made as at 30th June, 1964, in accordance with section 22 of the principal act. In view of the improved benefits contained in this bill, that review becomes even more important; and the increased entitlements now being provided, for which no immediate increase in contributions is required, may call for some adjustment in contributions following that actuarial investigation.
The contributions paid by other members of the forces - that is, those who joined the fund prior to 1959 - are expressed in a different manner in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Acts .1959 and 1962 and in Statutory Rules 1960 No. 43 and 1963 Nos. 36 and 38. .There will be no present change in these rates although they, too, are subject to re-examination following the actuarial report as at 30th June, 1964. The amount of the additional contributions for the increased entitlements, especially for the older members, will bc heavy because of the shorter period in which their share of the total cost of the additional entitlement must be met. As those who are nearing retirement may find it difficult to meet the additional amount of fortnightly contributions, provision is made for those who joined the fund prior to 1959 and who are within eight years of retirement to reject or to defer, until retirement, contributions for portion or all of the additional entitlement becoming available upon the enactment of the bill. This repeats the arrangements made in 1959.
The bill provides also for the making of regulations to establish an advance contributions account so that these contributors may elect to make advance contributions, if they so desire, on a similar basis to that upon which Superannuation Fund contributors may take up reserve units of pension, against the possibility of further increases in entitlements in the future as a result of movements in rates of pay or promotion. Several administrative amendments are also included in the bill, the most important of which will bring the powers of investment of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board into line with the wider powers proposed for the Superannuation Board, lt is hoped that this- diversification of investments will also improve the earning rate of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund; I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1962 to remove certain difficulties which are present in relation to the granting of licences for the establishment and operation of television translator stations to serve small concentrations of population which are. now without a satisfactory television service.
As the Senate is aware, the development of television services in the Commonwealth has proceeded, tip to the present, on the basis of the use of stations of high power in selected locations. Upon completion of the stations now planned approximately 91 per cent, of the population of the Commonwealth will have services available to them.
Notwithstanding the extensive coverage provided by existing stations and to be provided by the additional stations which have been approved, there will still be some 900,000 people without a satisfactory service. In conformity with the Government’s desire to ensure that television services are available to as many people as possible, the means of providing for their requirements has received, and is continuing to receive, a great deal of consideration. ‘There arc, .however, difficult techni- cai. and economic problems involved in providing services to the widely distributed population in the more remote areas. The studies which have been made, however, have revealed that there is a fairly substantial number of people residing in areas which, although not a great distance from existing transmitters, are inadequately served mainly because of certain topographical features. This is not an unexpected situation. In fact, in all overseas countries where television services are in operation, similar difficulties have been experienced.
The two methods most commonly used to provide service to such pockets of population are community television aerial systems and television translators. The former consists basically of an efficient aerial system established on an elevated site from which television programmes are picked up and distributed by wire line to the premises of subscribers, who pay to the operator of the system an annual rental for the service. Section 130a of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1962 provides for the grant of permits covering the establishment and operation of community television aerial systems, and a number of these has been authorized. The disadvantage of such systems is that the cost to the viewer is much higher than for viewers who are in a position to receive television by the normal means. Further, such systems are generally not capable of serving all the potential viewers in the area in which they are established since the facility is, for economic reasons, limited to those situated in reasonably accessible positions. The more remote locations in the area, or those presenting practical installation difficulties, are usually left without service. It follows that the extent to which community television aerial systems may be used effectively is limited. In many of the areas in question, however, it is possible to make use of translator stations. These have the advantage not only of making service available to all those situated within the area covered by its transmissions but permitting the reception of programmes by normal means.
I should explain here to the Seriate that a television translator is, in comparison with a normal television station, essentially a low-powered device, varying in power from a fraction of one watt to about 200 watts.
Consequently, it has a smaller range. A translator, as the name implies, receives transmissions from a parent television station and re-transmits the programmes on a different channel to be received by normal television receivers. No programmes are originated. As I have said, it is possible to overcome some of the deficiencies which exist in respect of small concentrated areas by the use of translators. The position is, however, complicated by the present provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1962.
A television station is defined in the act as a station for the transmission by means of wireless telegraphy of television programmes intended for reception by the general public. Translator stations are covered by this definition and their establishment and operation are consequently subject to the licensing provisions of the act. In other words, a translator station can only be licensed in accordance with the procedures prescribed by the act, including the invitation of applications by the Minister and the granting of licences after the holding of public inquiries by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.- In addition, section 92 of the act provides that a person shall not be in a position to exercise control of more than two licences in respect of commercial television stations. It follows, therefore, that the licensee of any existing station could not be authorized to establish more than one translator station. Of course, in cases where control of more than one station is involved, the operation of even one translator by that licensee would not be possible. Even if the translator station were owned by a person other than a licensee, control of the translator station would still be exercised by that licensee by virtue of the provisions of section 92A(l.)(b) of the act, inasmuch as he would, of necessity, control the provision of the programmes transmitted by the translator station.
The licensees of some commercial television stations have indicated that they are interested in establishing translator stations, where their use is appropriate, for the purpose of providing service to poorly served pockets of population but that they are reluctant to proceed in the matter because of the provisions of the act to which- 1 have referred. Accordingly, the Government now proposes that the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1962 should be amended to remove the present difficulties.
The bill which I have introduced provides that the Minister may, after receipt of a recommendation by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, grant a licence for a television translator station upon such conditions as the Minister determines. The result would be that the existing provisions of the act relating to the licensing of stations, involving the invitation of applications and the holding of public inquiries by the board, would not apply to translator stations. This, as I have said, has been one of the deterrents to the establishment of translators and is, in any case, a procedure which is inappropriate to apply to those small type installations.
Clause 3 of the bill excludes a television translator station from the existing definition of “ television station “ and inserts an appropriate definition of such a station. The effect of this proposed amendment is to exclude translator stations from the provisions of the act relating to the number of licences in respect of commercial television stations which may be controlled by any one person. As I said earlier. it is unlikely that the licensees of any existing commercial television stations, who are the most appropriate persons to do so, will undertake the establishment of a translator station to serve a very limited population if, by so doing, they are deprived of an opportunity in the future of participating in the operation of a station which might prove to be a more attractive business proposition. The course which is now proposed will, it is believed, encourage licensees to establish and operate translator stations and thus enable television services to be provided in areas which would otherwise be inadequately served. I should say that it is not proposed to charge any licence-fee in respect of translators as any additional income which might be derived from the operation of the translator would be reflected in the accounts of the parent station, in respect of which a licence-fee is now paid, even if the licence were held by a person other than the licensee of a commercial television station.
I do not think that at this stage it is necessary for ne to say anything further about the bill other than to direct attention to the fact that it is not proposed to licence trans?lator stations to serve areas in which satisfactory service is already available from a commercial television station. The remaining clauses are designed to apply to translator stations such of the provisions of the act relating to commercial television stations as are appropriate, and the opportunity will be available to examine them in committee. The bill which I have introduced is, I believe, non-contentious and, from the number of questions which have been addressed to me over a long period should be welcomed by, at least, a number of senators. Its purpose is, as I have said, to facilitate the extension of television services to what may prove to be a fairly substantial number of people, a matter in respect of which we all have uniform views. I must, however, emphasize that it is not to be expected that translator stations will satisfactorily meet the requirements of all those areas where services are not now available nor will be available when the conventional stations now planned are established. Their main field of use is to provide service to small populated areas which, because of topographical and other reasons, cannot be satisfactorily served by normal high power stations. In this connexion I should again point out that translator stations do not originate any programmes. Their establishment must, therefore, of necessity be restricted to areas where it is possible, from an efficient site, to receive the programmes from a normal television station for retransmission by the translator. This fact has often been overlooked by those who have contemplated the use of translators as a means of quickly extending television services. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna’ adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I find it necessary to express my regret that the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits
Bill 1963 and the Superannuation Bill 1963 should have been introduced at such a late stage of the session. Because of the inexplicit verbiage of the second-reading speeches on these measures by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who represents the Treasurer in this chamber, I have a request to make. Before the debate on these bills is resumed to-morrow, could we be provided with schedules showing the rate of contributions by officers and by the Government, in respect of salaries from £1 , 000 to £5,000 a year, together with the amendments proposed by the bills? I suggest that schedules such as those would clarify the matter. I ask the Minister whether he will be good enough to provide honorable senators with such assistance to enable them to understand the bills.
.- All I can say at this juncture is that I shall, at the first opportunity, take up the matter with the Treasury officers concerned and see whether information can be provided to meet in whole or in part the request made by Senator Wright.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 October 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19631029_senate_24_s24/>.