25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. ]n a report in the Perth “Sunday Times” of 22nd March did the Minister make an outspoken criticism of the fund-raising methods employed by the Liberal Party finance committee? Was he summoned to appear before that committee to be reprimanded for his remarks? Will he tell the Senate the interesting story that he told to that committer:?
– I am sorry I have to disappoint the honorable senator; I have no interesting story to tell to him or any one else. I was not summoned before the Liberal Party finance committee to be reprimanded, nor did I make any criticism of the fund-raising methods of the Liberal Parly. It appears that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been misled, which is not unusual.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has he seen in this morning’s “ Canberra Times “ in its column “In New South Wales This Week “, under the heading “ Women Issue a Poll Challenge “, an article part of which states -
A strong contingent of women has nominated for Liberal Party pre-selection ballots for next State election . . . Political observers are not optimistic about any of the women’s chances, because the women have to overcome the antipathy which political parties usually show to women candidates-
– Order! The honorable senator is making her question a little lengthy.
– My questions are: Does the Minister agree that antipathy towards women candidates is shown by both political organizations - Liberal and Labour? In view of the fact that there are five women senators in this chamber, does he consider that antipathy is justified? Docs he consider that women have proved that there is a place in Parliament for them and that they can and do contribute towards this form of community service? Does he consider that women are given equal opportunity with men in the party selection committees either to gain selection or to choose candidates to represent them? In other words, do equal numbers of men and women make the selections? As the Minister has a strong influence in the New South Wales Liberal Party organization, will he use his influence to ensure that at least that party gives equal opportunity to women to choose their candidate?
– I think this is a little bit of body-line bowling from one of my own supporters. May I start by paying full tribute to the women senators who sit behind me in the Senate? Nobody on either side would have made any start other than that. As to representation by women in politics in New South Wales, we have from time to time endorsed women candidates for key seats, where they have put up good showings. I do not know of any reservation against their selection. In each campaign in which the selection of candidates is required women candidates in New South Wales get a good run on their merits. Senator Buttfield and others will know that some people of either sex who nominate may not be worthy of success. What I have said about the selection of women candidates is, I think, general throughout the Liberal Party, as evidenced by the representation of women in the Senate at the present time.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. What is the present position in regard to the bird menace at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) airport? Do not the incidents of yesterday, which involved two aircraft, emphasize the need for action by the Government?
– My department regards the problem of birds at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport as a very serious one. We are spending £50,000 through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on a five-year research programme on methods of permanently removing bird concentrations from all Australian airports, and particularly Sydney airport. The problem at Sydney is that thousands of birds - mainly gulls - are attracted to the airport by a nearby garbage tip. Since last year my department has been very actively urging that the tip be closed or, at least, that food waste, which attracts the birds, be not dumped there. The Prime Minister has written to the Premier of New South Wales on this point. The State Government recently informed us that it had no power under existing State legislation to close the tip. However, the New South Wales Minister for Local Government has been having inquiries made to see whether an alternative area can be found for the garbage. The events of yesterday, in which two jet airliners landing at Sydney airport encountered large concentrations of birds, emphasized the need for quick action.
My department is amending the Air Navigation Regulations to prevent the tipping of food waste in the vicinity of an aerodrome. The new regulation will not prevent the disposal of general rubbish, but only the disposal of food waste which may attract birds in such numbers that they become a potential hazard to aircraft. I propose to submit the amended regulation to the Executive Council within a day or so. However, my department proposes to use this regulation only if the appropriate State authorities fail to make some alternative arrangements about the dumping of food waste. We are still hopeful that action by the State Government will solve the problem.
Senator Sir Walter Cooper was good enough to indicate to me that he would ask a question along these lines. Therefore, I was able to get some information from the department. The department is very familiar with the great effort that has been made in Israel to develop its resources of potash and other minerals. Indeed, Dr. Fisher, the chief geologist of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, recently accepted an assignment to Israel to see what progress was being made in developmental programmes for increasing production of economic fertilizers, which is so necessary. The Department of National Development tells me that an exhaustive survey of the desert type of potash and other mineral deposits has not been made in Australia, but that the possibility of deposits of this kind occurring in and around the salt lakes of arid Australia has not been overlooked. At least two companies have carried out exploration programmes in that area but up to the present time the result has not been encouraging. In addition, the possibility of potash and other mineral deposits occurring in the sedimentary basins of Australia has not been overlooked. A close watch is kept on all samples obtained during drilling for oil. The drillings that occur in the area referred to are examined but, so far, nothing of importance has been revealed by the samples that have been obtained.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. President. How many people were served during the evening meal in the staff dining room on Tuesday, 21st April, 1964? How many left because they could not be served? During what hours was service available? How many waitresses were on duty? How large is the staff dining room?
– I have no knowledge of the matters that have been raised by the honorable senator. I shall make inquiries and let him have the information.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in respect of Commonwealth activities in education. Whilst congratulating the Australian National University on the historic appointment of Professor Hanna Neumann to the post of professor and head of the new department of pure mathematics in the Australian National University’s School of General Studies, may I ask whether the salary awarded to that appointment is comparable with the salary that would be awarded in respect of a similar appointment of a male professor and head of a department?
– As the Senate will have gathered, the question refers to the appointment of a woman to the position of professor at the Australian National University. I should like the honorable senator to put the question on notice, but I should imagine that the Australian National University being, as it is, a statutory authority, would have a great deal of latitude in determining the salaries which it pays to professors and the teaching staff which it employs. I should not think that the university would be debarred from paying the same salary to professors whatever sex those professors might be. As I have said, I should like the question to be put on notice in order to confirm that fact. The question was fairly wide in its implications. It asks whether the salary payable to this particular professor was comparable with the salary payable to a male professor. Salaries payable to professors, whether male or female, vary considerably in the various universities throughout Australia, but I take it that the question is whether a comparable male professor in the Australia National University is paid the same salary.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it the policy of the Department of Civil Aviation to establish a petrol service station at each capital city air terminal? If so, has a decision been reached as to which oil company will obtain the franchise at the respective State capital city air terminals? Has Mr. R. M. Ansett any holding in any of the oil companies?
– The procedure followed in respect of the establishment of petrol stations at capital city airports is that when a service station is to be established tenders are called for by public advertisement. They are submitted and examined, and the tender adjudged the best by the Business Board is accepted. I think I am right in saying that in most if not all cases where contracts have been let to date, they have gone to the Caltex Company. I have no knowledge at all of what Mr. Ansett’s personal holdings are in Caltex or in any other company; but if the honorable senator is interested enough to find out, I suggest that he should ask Mr. Ansett - if he has the courage.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer again to the dislocation of civil airline traffic during last week because of fog at Essendon airport. Can the Minister give the Senate an approximate figure of the total extra costs - I say it is about £30,000 - borne by the two civil airline companies as a result of all the factors involved such as aircraft having to stage near Essendon airport before finally landing at Mangalore, the running of special passenger coaches between Melbourne and Mangalore, the provision of extra pilots whose flying time had expired, the provision of administrative staff, the transportation of aircraft fuel from Melbourne to Mangalore, and the dislocation of all civil airline schedules in Australia? What is the total capacity at Mangalore for each type of aircraft fuel required, and whose responsibility is it to ensure that the full capacity is maintained? If my inference regarding the heavy cost borne by both airline companies because of this dislocation of traffic is correct, will the Department of Civil Aviation see whether the Minister can introduce some means to obviate the chaos of last weekend?
– I must begin where I left off yesterday and point out to the honorable senator that, much as I always appreciate his picturesque language, chaos is rather too strong a term to use. Viewed in retrospect, inconvenience was caused to a number of air travellers. I think it would be accounted by most air authorities throughout the world that, in the particular conditions, the aircraft and their schedules were handled as well as could have been done. I cannot tell the honorable senator the actual capacity that is available at Mangalore for the holding of surplus fuels to meet an emergency. As I indicated yesterday, I am in touch with the airlines to ensure that, assuming that there was not the optimum amount of petrol at the airport, this will not occur again. Essentially, it is a matter between the airline companies and the oil companies who supply them. The first part of the honorable senator’s question refers to the cost involved to the airlines because of delays, diversion and re-scheduling. The honorable senator mentions a figure of approximately £30,000 as an estimate. As yet, I have not the final figure, but I would think that the honorable senator’s estimate is not far removed from the actual amount, although it may be rather on the light side.
– Now that the Menzies Government has decided to follow the lead of State governments and encourage gambling, a few pertinent questions to the Minister representing the Attorney-General should be in order. I preface them by saying that the press has informed us that a football pool which is to be established here in Canberra has received the blessing of the Attorney-General. We have been told that half of the profits are to go to charities. These are my questions: What charities are involved? How will the other half of the profits be divided? Who will receive that half? Is it suggested that the Canberra Lions Club will divide the profits equally between the rugby organizations, the Australian Rules organizations and itself? Has the soccer federation been approached to join the pool? Should the soccer clubs here in Canberra apply to share in this gambling venture, and the boodle, what chance will they have of becoming beneficiaries?
– I rather think that some aspects of the question should have been addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, because they relate to activities that will apparently take place in the Australian Capita] Territory. All I can tell the honorable senator is that if the establishment of something of this kind :in the Territory has received, as he picturesquely puts it, the blessing of the Attorney-General, it must follow that there is no law which prevents the activity. That is as far as the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral would go.
I would not care to say anything about how the Lions Club will run this activity and which people will be beneficiaries. From what I know of the various football clubs and associations, particularly the people who play soccer down in Melbourne, there is usually a riot when they play.
– You do not know anything about it.
– I know what I read in the newspapers. When all is said and done, Senator Brown has based his question on a newspaper report. May I suggest that the reaction that has just been brought about by a simple, and what I had hoped to be a placatory, statement indicates that, if the soccer clubs, the Australian Rules clubs and the rugby clubs were to get together to battle out who were to get the proceeds, very few beneficiaries would be left.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that in the south-western agricultural region of New South Wales - that is, in the Murrumbidgee area - wheat farmers cannot get supplies of superphosphate? I realize that the demand for superphosphate has been extraordinarily heavy since the re-introduction of the subsidy. I ask the Minister whether, in view of the urgency of this matter, it would be possible for an appeal to be made for priority in the delivery of superphosphate to be given immediately to wheat farmers so that advantage can be taken of the present state of their crops and the rain, as against other farmers who can benefit from supplies obtained later in the year.
– I am not surprised to learn again to-day, as I did yesterday, that there is an ever-increasing demand in rural areas for superphosphate. It was intended by the Government that that should be so when it provided in the last Budget for a subsidy of £3 per ton. To suggest that the Commonwealth Government might have some jurisdiction in the delivery of superphosphate is really stretching the imagination too far. If this emergency does exist - and I have no doubt that the honorable senator has stated the case correctly - I would expect the New South Wales State Labour Government to handle this matter expeditiously. The honorable senator might prompt the New South Wales Government by directing its attention to the matters which he has referred to me in his question.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development regarding the release recently of the French petroleum mission’s report and the Minister’s press statement about the report. Did the conclusions of the mission advance the programme for the search for oil in Australia? Have the criticisms made by the mission of technical aspects of Australian oil search activity been examined by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Department of National Development? If so, what action or recommendations will flow from such examinations? What was the amount of any subsidy paid to the mission? Does the Minister intend to issue to the Senate any report arising from this survey?
– I think it is necessary to put this matter in the correct perspective. The French mission which made the report to which the honorable senator has referred is a group of technical officers who were brought to Australia to augment or to sit alongside the staff of the Bureau of Mineral Resources to help in proposing new techniques or the improvement of existing techniques. The mission was not searching for oil in the way of oil exploration so it would not become eligible for any subsidy. This was a group of technical officers. One part of their work was to bring up to date a survey they made about three years ago. I think we have had them here for the best part of four years. The cost in expenses - which we think is well justified -is of the order of £220,000 or £230,000. 1 mention that figure to illustrate the regard in which the professional opinion of this group is held.
The report that I released is the mission’s assessment, or an expression of its opinions, as to the possibilities of oil being found in certain parts of Australia and as to drilling techniques. It is a thick, voluminous report. I do not think the circumstances require any further action by the Department of National Development other than to ensure that the views of the French officers become as widely known as possible to those engaged in the search for oil ia Australia. Senator Bishop might have noticed that in my press statement on the report I was careful to say that some of the views of the French people were not accepted by the Department of National Development. This was a clash of minds of the two technical authorities. All new ideas are good in circumstances such as this and all criticism and comment is good. I am arranging for copies of the report mentioned to be put in the Parliamentary Library. It will be available to those who are interested and they ma’y form their own ideas of the comments in the report.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation which is related to a question asked earlier by my colleague. Senator Ormonde. Did the Minister advise me by letter on 31st March that there had been correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales concerning seagulls at Mascot aerodrome and that the Premier of New South Wales had informed the Prime Minister that there was no power under existing State legislation to enforce the closure of two garbage tips near the airport which are now being operated lawfully by local government authorities? Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate now whether any cost estimate has been arrived at by his department and the Department of the Interior regarding the possibility of the Commonwealth authorities restricting the use of or, alternatively, acquiring the St. Peters tip as was mentioned in the Minister’s letter to me?
– No. At a conference of officers held in February certain figures were mentioned, but no finality was reached even as to what could be described as an initial estimate. I point out to the honorable senator - I am sure he will appreciate it - that at this particular time I am not addressing my mind or activities to the question of compensation, which may possibly arise later. I am sure he will appreciate that my concern at this moment is for the maintenance of safety at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Health a question. I refer to a report in to-day’s press regarding an announcement by the sole Australian manufacturer of tetracycline drugs, Cyanamid - D.H.A. Proprietary Limited, that the prices of the drugs are to be cut by an average of 10 per cent. Is this the third reduction in the price of this group of drugs in this financial year? Since each reduction in the price of the drugs represents a direct saving to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, will the Minister inform the Senate what margin of profit still remains to the drug manufacturers on these drugs, and will he state whether it is the Government’s view that there is room for further reductions?
– I cannot say, specifically, whether this is the third cut in the price of these drugs in this financial yer.r. I will have to check the dates to be specific on that and I will do so and advise the honorable senator. He further asks what margin of profit remains to the manufacturer after this third, and substantial, cut in price which, as he states, will bring about considerable reductions in our national health bill. Quite frankly I do not know, and I do not want to know. This is a private enterprise country and we do not probe people as to what margin of profit they are making. In this field we are most anxious to buy our drugs from the manufacturers at prices that will stand comparison on world markets, having regard to factors of distribution, distance and so on, which may affect the price in this country. I repeat that I do not know what profit the manufacturers will make after this cut. We will continue - not specifically in relation to this drug but in relation to all drugs - progressively to secure all the reductions we possibly can, because taxpayers’ money is involved and we are most anxious that they shall get full value for their money. That is our first objective.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In the event of an attack on Australian forces to be sent to Borneo, does the Anzus Treaty ensure that the Government of New Zealand will come to the aid of Australia? Has the Minister for External Affairs criticized the New Zealand Government’s attitude of friendliness to Indonesia? Does the Anzus Treaty make it obligatory for all parties to the treaty to come to the assistance of another party if the troops of such party are attacked while engaged in a conflict between two countries that are not parties to the treaty, even if any such nation is opposed to participation in the conflict or may have sympathies with the country which the participating member of the treaty is opposing?
– I refer the honorable senator to the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs yesterday, which covers nine-tenths of his question. Indeed, I will get the honorable senator a copy of the statement, should he so desire. The part that I do not myself remember being covered in that statement - I speak of a public statement - had to do with New Zealand. I know of no case in which the Minister for External Affairs has criticized the Government of New Zealand for being friendly to Indonesia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the size and diversification of the Russian whaling fleet at present in Australian waters evoked any surprise in the mind of the Minister? Has his attention been attracted by the fleet’s manoeuvrability in Antarctic waters away from its base for many months? Is there any ship on the Australian register capable of operating to Australian Antarctica?
– The answer to the last part of the question is, “ Of my own knowledge, No.” As to the rest of the question, if the honorable senator will be good enough to place it on the noticepaper, I shall get the details for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has a third television licence in Brisbane yet been allocated? If not, when will it be allocated? If the licence has not been allocated already, has a company been selected to which the licence will be granted? Further, is it true that Ansett Transport Industries Limited, having obtained some inside information, has been and is at present busily buying shares to a controlling extent in the company to which the licence has been or is to be granted?
– I think that the honorable senator has more knowledge of this matter than he would lead the Senate to believe from his questions. He has asked whether a company has been selected, whether a licence has been issued, whether somebody has been buying shares, and so on. Of course, the licence will be issued. I think the honorable senator may know, if he keeps abreast of current affairs, that the Postmaster-General has intimated to the company concerned that he will withhold the actual issuing of the licence until he has investigated certain share transactions concerning the company. As to the suggestion that Mr. Ansett, Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones may have been buying shares in the company, at this point of time I have no information on that matter. The Postmaster-General is seeking such information.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can he give the Senate information about the reported strike of natural gas at Port Stephens, 40 miles north of Newcastle? How important is the strike?
– I have no more information than that which appeared in yesterday’s newspapers. The Joint Coal Board, on behalf of the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, was drilling for coal deposits at Port Stephens, it having been suggested that that might be the site of one of the larger power houses in the future. In the course of the drilling, at about 300 feet, the drill struck gas instead of coal. The operators have drilled now to about 600 feet, and gas is Still occurring. But with work of this kind it takes some time for the tests to be made to find out whether gas is present in significant quantities.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the progress that is being made on the reconstruction of the runway at Launceston airport? Does the progress that is being made indicate that the airport will be re-opened to allow Viscount aircraft and other aircraft of that type to use the airport sooner than was originally estimated? Is it not a fact that the private enterprise company doing the work has undertaken a very big task and is carrying it out in an excellent manner?
– All I can say to the honorable senator at this moment is that my department and the supervisory department - the Department of Works - express great satisfaction at the work being done at Launceston and at the speed with which it is being done. I am unable to indicate whether there will be any significant saving of time in the completion of the contract, but I do know that my own department is particularly delighted with the way the work is going forward.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has any approach been made either to the special tariff authority or to the Tariff Board by any of the major oil companies operating in Australia for protection against die importation of low-price petrol from any overseas source? Is collusive tendering considered ethical by the Government, and would this be taken into consideration by the Tariff Board? Will the Government have an investigation made into the extent of collusive tendering for petrol supplies to Commonwealth, State and municipal authorities and other bulk consumers of petrol throughout the Commonwealth, and if collusive tendering is proved to be widespread will the Minister give consideration to applying the provisions of the proposed restrictive trade practices legislation to bulk supplies of petrol to public instrumentalities?
There has been a series of Tariff Board inquiries into the Australian oil refining industry. I think the last inquiry was in 1959, although I am not quite certain of the date. At any rate, the last Tariff Board inquiry removed all protection. There is now no protection for the refining of crude oil in Australia. That, combined with the situation in which there is no restriction on oil imports, makes the motor spirit market in Australia quite competitive. Motor spirit can come from overseas, there being no embargo on imports, and as a result of Tariff Board inquiries there is now no protective duty at all. Collusive tendering is a matter which, I think, would be considered more properly under the heading of restrictive trade practices. It is a matter that is under consideration in the legislation which is. now in contemplation.
– I rise to ask several questions of the Minister for Civil Aviation with some diffidence because I know his extreme touchiness and his tendency to get hot under the collar when one mentions Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. But I hasten to assure you, Mr. President, that I have not the slightest intention of making political capital out of the competitiveness of these two great airlines. As a matter of fact, both airlines may be concerned with the subject-matter of my questions. They both render a good service. Every Tuesday morning I travel by Trans-Australia Airlines to Canberra.
– You are biased.
– I am not. I think it is for the good of the travelling public that I should ask these necessary questions. Several elderly people have complained to me lately - I suppose because they have reached that stage of life when only the pleasures of the palate are left to them - that T.A.A. lacks imagination. It may be that Ansett-A.N.A. does, also. I am sure that the Minister has imagination and that he enjoys to the full the pleasures of the palate. The two questions I ask are not of world-shattering importance. Oan the Minister imagine the disgust and disappointment of a reasonably hungry Tuesday morning air traveller from Brisbane-
– Any morning.
– It may be every morning, but 1 speak from my own experience. Oan the Minister imagine the disappointment of an air traveller, eager for an appetising breakfast, lifting the lid of his plate only to find thereon the same old mutton and bread encased in skin? Secondly, will the Minister be so kind as to use his undoubted powers of persuasion to have the Tuesday morning meal added to so that a traveller can have something more satisfying and more enjoyable than a few skinny sausages?
– Whilst trying to interpret the prelude to the question, I do not think 1 understood the question itself. However, as I understand it, what Senator Brown puts to me is that each Tuesday morning for some time past he has had breakfast served to him on a T.A.A. aircraft and that the breakfast has not satisfied him; so he asks whether I will do something.
– Sausages! The same yesterday, to-day and to-morrow.
– But I understood this was on Tuesday only. I interpret this as a complaint against T.A.A. I am surprised, since the question comes from the quarter it does. I can only assume that the breakfast which the honorable senator finds not” to his taste is found satisfactory by every one else who travels so frequently with T.A.A.
(Question No. 73.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Have any tests been made upon the ability of current television antennae to receive Channel 0 in Melbourne; if so, what were the substance and results of those tests?
– My colleague has provided the following answer: -
Tests have been conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on typical antennae used in Melbourne. Antennae designed especially for channels 2, 7 and 9 of which there are appreciable numbers ore generally more efficient on those channels. In view of the high signal strength in most parts of Melbourne it would be expected that the majority of existing aerials should prove satisfactory for Channel 0 reception. In a few locations however, where reception conditions are difficult it may be found desirable to make some modifications.
(Question No. 78.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied answers as follows: - 1.I understand that the snap freezing and fish packing factory of Norfolk Island Fisheries Limited on Norfolk Island has been completed and has been operating for about five months.
” EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA.”
(Question No. 88.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: -
(Question No. 98.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answers: -
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - I have received from Senator Fitzgerald an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of public importance, namely -
The need for a national inquiry into the problems of mentally retarded children in Australia.
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 11.30 a.m. on Thursday, 23rd April, 1964.
Since federation, many causes have been pleaded in this Parliament, but I can say without hesitation that no more human appeal has ever been made than that which I am making to-day. I know that many honorable senators with greater oratorical powers than I could ever possess might achieve greater success. I ask not only for their assistance but also for the assistance of the rest of this Parliament in this most worthy cause. Let me outline how this matter came before my party and before me personally.
The secretary of the Australian Council for the Mentally Retarded, which embraces nine organizations concerned with the problems of sub-norma! people throughout the Commonwealth, and three associated organizations, wrote to the federal secretary of the Australian Labour Party, pointing out that the national executive of the council had recently conducted a survey into the facilities provided for mentally retarded people, but because of lack of funds this survey was inadequate. I have booklets from various organizations throughout Australia which are concerned with sub-normal and retarded children and from State Governments, which have made some attempts to find out exactly what the situation is at the moment. The inquiries have gone back to the research that has taken place in America and the view is expressed that the percentage of retarded children in Australia is the same as the percentage in America, that is, that 3 per cent, of the children born in Australia suffer from some form of mental retardation.
It is suggested that a committee of inquiry should examine the needs of mentally retarded persons in the field of education, research, institutions, workshops, guidance clinics, and staff training. Other types of handicaps are obvious to the public. The blind, the crippled and the spastic have an appeal that the public can understand and appreciate, and to which public response has been spontaneous and generous, but the child on whose behalf I am appealing is not understood. His brain is crippled, not just his arms or legs. Even if he becomes a man in physical stature he still remains just a child mentally. He remains childish in his comprehension and childish in his dependence.
Against this background, about a fortnight ago I directed a question to the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). Because the subject of retardation had been highlighted so much by the Benn case in Western Australia, I asked the Minister -
The Minister replied - 1 and 2. The problems associated with mentally retarded children, whether they be of an educational or health nature, are the responsibility of the respective State governments. Accordingly, no action will be taken by the Commonwealth to establish a federal committee of inquiry into al) problems of mentally retarded children. All States have departments charged with responsibility to deal wilh the various problems of the mentally retarded, and the Commonwealth should not attempt to direct, dictate or interfere with any State administration.
I was very sad and sorry to read such a reply, and I think the same would be true of the vast majority of honorable senators. I do not suggest that I alone am concerned with this matter. I know that many honorable senators are interested, particularly Senator Anderson, to whom I shall make further reference. With few exceptions, honorable senators have some knowledge of the problems of these unfortunate people. In recent years the Commonwealth Government has initiated or promoted inquiries into, mental hospitals, universities, immigration, and other matters of national importance. I could go on enumerating the many other activities, including the provision of roads and housing, into which the Commonwealth enters.
The question that I have read was put on the notice-paper as the Minister for Health was not in the chamber. Had he been here a more sympathetic reply might have been given. He has shown kindness, understanding, and sympathy in many ways. In the following week I approached him for a reply to the question, and he said that he did not know what the situation was but that he would get in touch with the department. I agree that Ministers must be guided by their departments, but they should not be overruled. I hope that the Minister will not regard this answer as final. I do not blame anyone in relation to the matter, as I feel some guilt myself. I recall that some ten years ago I raised this matter in the House of Representatives. During the intervening period I have had many interviews on the subject. To-day I read that football pools are to operate in the Australian Capital Territory. I pay tribute to the dedicated parents and other people who are helping sub-normal and retarded children in various spheres throughout the Commonwealth.
Their love for these unfortunate people is most commendable. They run raffles, art unions and entertainment nights of all descriptions to raise money which is being expended wisely and well in hundreds of organizations, homes and hospitals that operate at the present time.
I recall a suggestion that football pools be run for the purpose of helping those unfortunate people being brought to my notice by Ray Stehr, a very outstanding footballer in the State of New South Wales. He said to me, “Why cannot the State Government do something along these lines for mentally handicapped childrens’ organizations? “ They were then, and are still, referred to as sub-normal childrens’ organizations in New South Wales. He asked why football pools for this purpose could not be conducted and controlled as they are in England where a huge amount of money is obtained from them. I approached the Chief Secretary and a number of other State Ministers. They were very sympathetic but I regret to say that my approaches did not achieve very much. We were anxious that the State Government control the matter and that organizations such as the Lions Club be used to conduct the activities and work. The idea was that the retarded children should receive the full amount of any money that was forthcoming. Ten years have passed but nothing has been done about the matter.
It might be suggested by Ministers that what I have suggested would amount only to scratching the surface. That is perfectly true, and we must do something more than that. It would help if the Government were to accept the suggestion of the Opposition and institute an inquiry into this matter. We realized the difficulty in 1954. As a matter of fact I arranged a deputation to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) at that time. I know that the Minister for National Development and Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Sir William Spooner), who represents the Prime Minister in this chamber, will be taking part in this debate. Senator Ken Anderson and I went to see the Prime Minister on the occasion to which I have referred. As I mentioned earlier, Senator Anderson hasplayed a very important role in these activities. He has worked very hard and very well. I have with me a cutting from the Sydney “Sun” of 16th
November, 1954, which contains an article headed “Rivals Team Up to Help a Cause “. Senator Anderson and I saw the Prime Minister about a fortnight before this article was published. The article is a long one and I shall only refer to a portion of it. Amongst other things, it is stated -
They wanted merely:
An officer of the Commonwealth Education Department directed to investigate the best overseas methods of conveying some form of instruction to subnormal children.
Research through the Health Department into the causes of subnormal births.
A grant of £1,000 a yearto enable the association to function federally and a Commonwealth subsidy for capital expenditure on a £1 for £1 basis to erect centres and schools for the children to the limit of £10,000 in one year.
If Menzies should grant their request it will be a trifling thing measured against the magnitude of the decisions he has to make and the funds he has to administer on behalf of the taxpayer and the Commonwealth.
It will probably go unnoticed in the welter of Government decisions that are poured out.
But if favorable, it could possibly, by strengthening the association’s capacity to care for subnormal children, bring relief from fear and worry to a handful of families scattered throughout Australia.
We could not have received a more sympathetic reaction from the Prime Minister when we interviewed him at that time. He said that he would do what he could. He said it was necessary to take the matter up with the departments and find out what problems were involved. He told us that he would give us an answer. Unfortunately the answer was not favorable. The year 1954 was not very long after the credit squeeze. To-day, Government supporters speak of the financial stability of this nation. As a matter of fact, during the general election campaign the Leader of the Country Party in another place said that Australia’s progress was even greater than that of the United States of America. Ten years have passed since 1954 and the Government has had ample opportunity to help solve this great national problem.
The national Budget to-day amounts to more than £2,190,000,000 and we know what has taken place over the last few years. The Budget before the last one provided for a deficit of £116,000,000, but as the year rolled on the Government showed a surplus of £18,000,000 instead of a deficit. When bringing down the last Budget the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) suggested that there would a deficit of £50,000,000 to £60,000,000 depending on the amount obtained in loan funds. I understand that the loan market has been so good that there will be a surplus at the end of the financial year. It is no good government supporters saying that funds are not available to assist in this worthy cause.
I know that it will be said that this is a matter for the States. 1 can say on behalf of most of the organizations concerned that they commend what the States are doing but they would like a lot more done to assist these unfortunate children. New South Wales pays a health bill of £40,000,000. For education the State pays £70,000,000 which represents about two-thirds of the total amount it receives from the Commonwealth. Because of other expenditure it has to incur it finds it most difficult to carry on. I can assure you, Mr. Deputy President, that there is no more sympathetic person in New South Wales, or in Australia, than the present Minister for Health in the State Government. If he could do anything to assist organizations caring for these unfortunate children I know that he would do so, but unfortunately the money is not available and therefore he is not able to carry out the work he would like to do.
The organization caring for these children has, of course, had a great fillip in recent years as a result of pleas that were made on behalf of these children by the late President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We know that a member of his own family was vitally affected and the President took a close personal interest in the problem. A sister of the late President was mentally-retarded. President Kennedy adressed an appeal to the United States Congress in 1963. He pointed out the causes and cure of mental illness had been too long neglected. He stressed also that mental illness disables ten times as many people as diabetes. I should like the Senate to take notice of this. Most of the facts and figures I shall quote are based in the main, not on reports from Australia, but on material from America which has communities similar to those which exist in Australia.
The late President stressed that mental illness disables ten times as many people as diabetes, twenty times as many people as tuberculosis, twenty-five times as many as muscular distrophy and six hundred times as many as infantile paralysis. He pointed out that about 400,000 people in the United States are so retarded thai they require constant care and supervision, and more than 200,000 of these were in residential institutions. The late President further submitted that there were between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 mentally-retarded children in the United States, or approximately 3 per cent, of the total population He informed Congress, also, that mental retardation strikes children without regard for class, creed or economic level, and that each year it was estimated that there were 126,000 new cases. He informed Congress that draft rejections for mental deficiency during World War II were fourteen times as heavy in States that had low incomes than in other States. In his message, the President pointed out that there was every reason to believe that we stand on the threshold of major advances in this field. He said that mental knowledge can now identify precise causes of retardation in 15 to 25 per cent, of the cases.
I say to the Minister that, in view of the changes which have taken place and the progress that has occurred in this field, we should follow America’s lead and do something along the lines followed by that country in giving assistance to mentally retarded children. It has been estimated from the reports that I have referred to that there are now 115,000 mentally retarded people in Australia. That means that 115,000 families are affected. The third interim report of the New South Wales Health Advisory Committee, dealing with intellectually handicapped persons, states that there are facilities for 1,440 mildly handicapped children in the six to fifteen years age group in schools while there is a need for facilities for 10,500 such children. There are facilities for 976 moderately handicapped children in the six to fifteen years age group, whilst the need is for facilities for 2,600 such children. There are residential facilities for 817 children, but the need is for residential facilities for 1,650 children. There are virtually no training facilities. The report says that residential needs alone are for at least an additional 500 beds. There are virtually no training facilities for the post-school group. There is a need for facilities to cater for at least 25,000 children in this group. The report states that the rehabilitation service could assist with the care of this group.
I have here a table of the total facilities for the mentally retarded. The National Health and Medical Research Council has estimated the number of mentally retarded educable children that there are in schools in each State. The figure for New South Wales is .44 per 1,000 of the population. In Victoria it is .36 and in Queensland .30. South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory also have similar percentages. 1 believe that something must be done very quickly to assist the unfortunate people who are affected in this way.
In the report of the fifty-fifth session of the National Health and Medical Research Council, held at Brisbane on 30th and 31st May, 1963, it is stated that there are 32 committees operating as sub-committees of the council. They include the Medical Research Advisory Committee and the Public Health Advisory Committee. But although there are, in all, 32 committees, there is not one associated with the problem of mental retardation. I ask - if necessary, 1 beg - the Minister to assess this matter and to go into all the details of it. It may be argued that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power in this field, but in one of the booklets financed and produced by the Australian Council for the Mentally Retarded, “ Australian Children Limited “, the remarks of Geoffrey Sawer, Professor of Law at the Australian National University, Canberra, are quoted on this question. Professor Sawer said -
II is well-known that under s.96 of the Constitution the Commonwealth has power to make grants to the States for any purposes whatsoever; the grants do not have to relate to matters otherwise within Commonwealth power, so that, for example, the grants to State universities for their capital and running costs are made as conditional grants to the State Governments. Any doubts as to the extent of ths power were set at rest by the High Court’s decision in the second Uniform Tax Case in 1957: the Commonwealth can impose whatever conditions it pleases and hence need never be afraid that the money will be applied for purposes it disapproves or administered contrary to ils policy.
Professor Sawer finishes his article by saying -
There arc, therefore, no obstacles of constitutional principle nor of constitutional law to the Commonwealth stepping directly into this field. An inquiry should be held to determine the extent of the need and the best way of meeting it.
I do not think that statement on the constitutional aspects would be challenged by any senator here to-day. Ten years ago the Prime Minister expressed deep sympathy in this matter. I know that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), too, has a sympathetic approach to the problem. 1 believe that the problem of finance which arose in 1954 can be considerably overcome to-day. On this question, the president of the Australian Council for the Mentally Retarded made this statement in a report in the booklet “ Australian Children Limited “-
The questionnaires regarding facilities for the mentally retarded indicate that no State is catering for as much as 1 in 3 of the anticipated need, and in some cases only approximately one mentally handicapped person in six has any facilities available. This calls for a serious drive by each Stats to extend the local service for the mentally handicapped.
There is also a great need to establish most suitable curricula in schools dealing with the varying degrees of mentally handicapped, for no one could suggest that the syllabus in any State is ideal.
Numerically, the greatest need lies in the postschool group, with the emphasis on training and sheltered workshop and hostel accommodation. This sphere of activity has the greatest economic justification within our communities, but the rate of growth of facilities is at present much too slow.
The Minister will no doubt make some effort to shelve responsibility by saying that this is a matter for the States. But the amount of money that is spent by the States to-day on mental hygiene is as much as they can spend. They just cannot spend any more. This is true also of the various organizations that care for sub-normal or mentally retarded children. So their plea, and the plea I am making to-day, is for assistance from the Commonwealth.
In anticipation of arguments that, may be raised by honorable senators opposite, I would refer to the matter of State grants. It has been suggested that Commonwealth moneys allocated to the States under the States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Bill will have to be spent on hospitals that care solely for the mentally afflicted. I have discussed this point with doctors in New
South Wales. The New South Wales Director-General of Health, Dr. Cummings, has said that the money cannot be spent in any other way; capital expenditure on such things as homes for the mentally retarded is not permissible. I am told that at a recent conference of Health Ministers the Queensland Minister for Health asked to be allowed to spend some of the grant on psychiatric wards in mental hospitals. This is the modern trend. It is not modern practice to treat mentally ill patients only in special mental institutions. However, if the State Health Ministers were correct in their interpretation of the legislation, Commonwealth subsidy will apply only to expenditure on such institutions. The States would like to spend the subsidy at their discretion, wherever money is required for mental health capital projects. It is true that New South Wales has not spent all of its allocation from the Commonwealth in the past, but I can assure him that this was because the State was unable to find from its own revenues the £2 for which the Commonwealth Government would make available the £1 subsidy. The Commonwealth Government is blaming the States for a matter that concerns the well-being of the nation. I plead with the Government to give more assistance. Human understanding and not sentimental sympathy is what is required here. Practical help is wanted. The law says, “ Do not let sentiment interfere with your verdict”. But the law is not the parent of a mentally retarded child. I say to the Senate, and I say to the Minister, that here is an opportunity to do something to assist these 115,000 families which are affected by this difficult and trying problem.
To honour a great man and to keep alive a fond memory, would it not be a timely gesture to establish a John F. Kennedy postgraduate scholarship to enable the study of mental retardation in Australia, as has been suggested by the mental retardation associations? John F. Kennedy hospitals or sheltered workshops would be of very great assistance. I ask all honorable senators to help in advancing this cause. I have endeavoured to keep party politics out of my plea. I do not want to make it a party issue, but let me say that if the Australian Labour Party were in office it would have no hesitation whatever in responding to such a plea. We are our brothers’ keepers. It is absolute nonsense to say that this matter does not affect any of our families. Any one of us could be affected in the very near future. There is not one person here who, as he looks at his own child or awaits the arrival of an expected grandchild, does not fear the possibility of mental retardation in that child. I ask the Minister for Works and the Senate generally to support my proposal and to give assistance in the manner I have suggested.
– As I understand it, Senator Fitzgerald’s proposal does not call for any specific assistance to be given. It merely states that there is need for a national inquiry into the problems of mentally retarded children in Australia. It ends there. I suggest that as such it is not a request for any specific assistance. If we are to examine the problem - whether it is of the magnitude that the honorable senator has suggested is a matter for consideration - calmly and factually, that being the manner in which it needs to be examined if it is to be solved, then some of the matters mentioned should be further elucidated.
The field with which the honorable senator has dealt includes people who from our point of view are in a tragic plight. People who have worked with mentally retarded children and whom I have met do not believe, however, that these children are tragically placed. I have been told that these people believe that such children have an extremely happy disposition and can and do enjoy a happy existence. Of course, that does not alter the fact that as far we are concerned and as far as parents who have such children in their charge are concerned, they do constitute a tragedy. Such children are afflicted with an illness. Some things can be done and are being done for them, but there are limitations to what can be done. According to the degree of illness suffered, in some cases, it is possible for children to be trained to do simple work. In other oases it is not possible to train the children to do anything at all and they are completely and utterly dependent upon their parents or other people to take charge of them.
I recall attending here in Canberra not very long ago a conference of people from all over Australia who were devoting their lives to supporting institutions which either take over completely the care of mentally retarded children if the parents allow them out of their control - many parents are reluctant to do so - or provide parttime care during the day to free the mothers to lead a normal life. Some of the institutions represented train the children and in some cases give employment to them. The people attending that conference were members of various political parties. One man whose name I shall not mention was formerly a State Labour politician in Victoria. Others were well known Liberals or members of the Australian Country Party; most of them were members of no party. As far as one could tell, these people were non-political in their outlook. They represented associations that were devoted to the care of mentally retarded children. 1 now come to an aspect of the honorable senator’s submission which puzzles me a little. I do not know why at this point of time, suddenly and without any warning, the care of these children should be said to have reached such a pitch that it has become a matter of national urgency for the Parliament to institute a national inquiry into the problem. Perhaps it has become an urgent national problem, but I was not led to that understanding by the representatives of the organizations which met in national conference here in Canberra. As far as I know, Koomarri House, which is the home devoted to this specific work in Canberra, is not in the parlous state which it is suggested is the common lot of such organizations throughout Australia. Other members of the Parliament may have received such requests, but neither I nor the Government have received from organizations which devote time and energy to the care of mentally retarded children requests in which they have referred to their being in a parlous state and to an urgent need for a national inquiry. Certainly no State government has suggested that the position is so parlous that a national inquiry should be instituted. Certainly no State government has suggested that it is quite unable to discharge its responsibility.
Reference has been made to the assistance, in some cases direct and in others indirect, which can be gained in some parts of the field from the money that is made available to the States for mental institutions not on the basis of £2 from the States and £1 from the Commonwealth, but on the basis of £2 from the Commonwealth for every £1 contributed by the States. At this very moment that grant is in the process of being extended for a further period. That money can be spent, and no doubt it is being spent, on capital requirements for the care of the mentally retarded. The capital facilities which can be so supplied are available to mentally retared children as well as to other mentally retarded persons. It has been suggested by Senator Fitzgerald that money so made available cannot assist the mentally retarded children. Well, it is not available for the building of schools for mentally retarded children. That much is true. But it can be used to provide facilities for mentally retarded children and for their care and treatment.
– Only for buildings.
– For capital equipment of all kinds. I am reminded that this is provided on the basis of £2 from the Commonwealth for every £1 that the State’ provides. Senator Dittmer, who is interjecting, should get that straight because it is correct. I am suggesting that this would be of assistance to the States in relation to one aspect of the responsibility they have to these mentally retarded children. I think I am borne out in that statement by an announcement in the Victorian press yesterday by the State Minister for Health, Mr. Mack. He is reported in the Melbourne “ Herald “ as having said that the Government of Victoria proposes to make a major attack on this tragic problem of mentally retarded children and that it will spend more than £2,800,000 for this purpose in the triennium that is now beginning. Mr. Mack announced that an estimated £1,270,000 would be spent during the three-year programme to provide another 672 beds and to remove some obsolete buildings. He also announced that a further £1,600,000 would be spent on site works, equipment, staff accommodation, essential services and furnishings.
This is a confirmatory indication that Victoria, at any rate, believes it can cope with this problem. It confirms, in effect, that Victoria as a State has never applied to the Commonwealth Government and suggested anything different. Senator Fitzgerald has taken a keen interest in this matter and he can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe 1 am right in saying that no State government has approached the Commonwealth Government and said, “ We cannot cope with this problem. Can you do something to help us? Will you discuss it?” That, coupled with the fact that there has been no organizational approach either, confirms my point.
– The National Council for the Mentally Retarded has done so.
– I accept that statement, but I mean an approach to the Commonwealth Government on an industry-wide basis, if I might put it in that way. There has been no strong feeling brought to the attention of the Commonwealth Government by either the States or the Australian Council for the Mentally Retarded that there is some crisis in this matter, that the States cannot deal with it, and that some action should be taken straight away. With that as the background, I turn to the very important constitutional aspect to which Senator Fitzgerald referred. Under the Constitution, whether rightly or wrongly, the responsibility for providing care for mentally afflicted people of all kinds rests absolutely and completely on the State Governments. They have received and are receiving general assistance from the Commonwealth Government for the purposes of capital expenditure of all kinds. The way in which the money can be spent in the field of mental illness is at their discretion and they are receiving, as I have said, a specific £2 for £1 especially for expenditure in the field of mental retardation.
– Not mental retardation.
– I agree that more correctly it is for the field of mental illness which covers mental retardation.
– The Commonwealth Government takes the pension away from the mentally afflicted also.
– I think that is a different matter, lt has been suggested to me by way of interjection, Mr. President, that the Commonwealth Government takes the pension away from the mentally afflicted. I would take the same point that Senator Kennelly took when I made a certain statement and would say, in reply to the interjection, that to the best of my knowledge, the mentally retarded child does get a pension. It gets from the Commonwealth Government a pension which is not taken away from it. Such a child gets the pension, not as a mentally retarded child, but as an invalid pensioner because it is an invalid.
– Only if the child is 85 per cent, incapacitated.
– It was suggested that the Commonwealth Government took the pension away from mentally afflicted people. But the Commonwealth Government does not take the pension away from mentally retarded people if in other respects, they qualify for an invalid pension. That is the only way in which the Department of Social Services comes into this field except in one other respect: It does provide training for mentally retarded children if it is felt’ that the training will enable them, by the age of sixteen years, to be able to help themselves in some way. Both the invalid pension and the rehabilitation training are available to the mentally retarded children, not as mentally retarded children, but as people in a particular category to which the pension or assistance applies.
– They are ordinary invalid pensioners.
– That is so. The pension is not taken away from them. I was led into that rather interesting discussion by interjections and I think it has thrown some light on the matter as a whole. The States do get these capital grants - the general grants and the specific grants - and the vastly increased revenue grants which increase year by year and which are based on such considerations as increases in the population of a State and similar matters. On the other hand, the State is expected to discharge its normal constitutional requirements. That is one of the normal constitutional responsibilities that a State has. The only time, I suggest, when that should be departed from is when it has been demonstrated clearly that a State cannot carry out a particular constitutional requirement with the money it receives. It is no use simply discarding that constitutional requirement in isolation; but if a State cannot carry out its constitutional requirement and if it and other States can make a special case for a grant under section 96 of the Constitution to meet a special problem, the case is considered.
But in this field, there has been, no representation by any State to the effect that it cannot met its constitutional responsibilities. As 1 have said, there is evidence in Victoria that a massive attack on this problem is in fact being mounted by the State Government. I believe that a great deal of good can be done by the organizations which so selflessly look after the mentally afflicted by bringing their representations with some force to the attention of State governments generally - particularly in New South Wales, South Australia and other places where it is felt that the State itself is not paying proper attention to this specific segment of the population.
This special assistance was given following an expert report on the whole question of the mentally afflicted. A man called Stoller made an investigation into the whole of this matter and, as a result, suggested that assistance throughout this field could best be given by means of specific grants for capital and other purposes. The Commonwealth acted on that suggestion and made grants available, but some of the States did not spend ali the money that was allocated to them.
– The Commonwealth should do the job if the States cannot or will not.
– I will not accept that statement. If money is made available by the Commonwealth to a State to bc spent on care of the mentally afflicted, and that State will not spend the money, it is up to the people concerned to make the State find its one-third contribution so that it will attract the Commonwealth subsidy - that is, unless you wish to overthrow the constitutional concept altogether. That may be arguable, but it has not yet been done, and we are still working under the concept of a federal constitution. 1 think that is all I have to say on the matters raised by Senator Fitzgerald. I do not understand and I do not think he has told us, why suddenly, and without warning, at 11 a.m. to-day it was discovered that the position in this field was so urgent that the Senate should be asked to adjourn to call attention to it. I could have understood a motion of this kind coming before us if, beforehand, the organizations looking after mentally retarded children had voiced their distress. I could understand it if the State Governments had made a case to the Commonwealth and had indicated that they could not fulfil their constitutional responsibilities. But in the absence of either of those things and in the presence of evidence that one State, at any rate, with the assistance of the Commonwealth grant has been able to make a strong attack on this problem, I see no need for the Senate to adjourn to indicate that a national inquiry should be held.
In order to make a real case for a national inquiry, it would be necessary to show that serious shortcomings exist which cannot be overcome by the available means. The people most directly involved in making such a presentation would be the State Governments concerned. I, therefore, do not believe that a case has been made out. proving that the position in this field is so grave that the Senate should at this moment adjourn; nor do I believe that a case has been made out showing that a national inquiry ought to be constituted. I am not at this stage saying that a national inquiry ought never to have been constituted. I am saying that, in the absence of requests from those most directly concerned and in the absence of evidence indicating a real need for a national inquiry at this point of time, an inquiry is not called for. I therefore oppose the motion.
– I rise to speak in this debate as a father of six who, in all humility, is grateful to Divine Providence that none of those six is amongst these unfortunate mentally retarded children in our community. I commend Senator Fitzgerald on the position he has continually taken up in this matter and I think he is entitled to great credit for having brought this subject before the Senate. To me it seems extraordinary that the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) who represents the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in this chamber in matters relating to education and, more particularly, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, should be dealing with this matter on behalf of the Government. The subject we are debating involves medical research, medical treatment and medical care and I cannot understand why the handling of this debate was not entrusted by the Government to the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). This seems to be to indicate complete disregard for the humanitarian rights of these unfortunate people. I think that is borne out by some statements made by the Minister for Works. He said there had been no approach made on what we might call a ministerial basis. We are not approaching this matter on a ministerial basis.
I know that senators from Western Australia will support whatI am saying, because a couple of copies of the “West Australian “ which have reached me show how difficult the problem is in that State. I know that Senator Anderson has for years been interested in the care of mentally retarded children. The Minister for Works said that there had been no approach made by the States to the Commonwealth in this matter, but my party, and,I understand the Government also, received a letter from the Australian Council for the Mentally Retarded, which embraces numerous organizations. The letter did not ask for money. The Minister for Works talked in terms of money, but all this council asked for was a national inquiry.
If I had my way I would make the scope of such an inquiry as wide as possible. The problem of the mentally retarded is a really big one and offers a great deal of scope for action. But so little has been done and so paltry has been the Commonwealth Government’s approach to this problem that it has sheltered behind the responsibilities of the States. The Commonwealth Government collects the revenue and has the authority to buy into any issue that the States seefit to buy into, on such terms as it determines.
It is not just a question of money, although that is the factor which the Minister emphasized and the one which governs the actions of this Government. The people interested in the welfare of these afflicted human beings are not asking for money at present; they are asking for a national inquiry. The solution of this problem may not necessarily be found in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. It may be arrived at on the basis of scientific research and medical care which, in the process, may in some measure involve the expenditure of money. Do not forget that investigations in the United States of America revealed that 3 per cent, of the population were mentally retarded, so there is little doubt that the position here will be the same. It is conceded by experts in this field - this is not my particular speciality, soI give their opinion due credence - that less than 5 per cent, of the mentally afflicted cannot be benefited under present medical and scientific conditions. Has this Government not a responsibility to take the lead in this field, as it should and as it does in some other fields? It is not afraid to assist industry. Is the Minister yawning or listening to the debate, Mr. Deputy President?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– I am listening.
– You appeared to me to be yawning. That was only a snap diagnosis, of course. Let us have a look at some of the opinions that have been expressed on this matter. The Minister said that mentally retarded children can perform only simple tasks. Some of them are not so simple. These children can staple packages, wind pyjama cords, place radiator fins on pipes for hot water services, assemble electrical equipment, assemble refrigerator trays, sort mill-ends of woollen material, prepare circulars for mailing, fit wooden cores in panel doors, sew toolbags with power machines, unravel thread for invisible mending, make moccasins, stitch slippers and do many other intricate tasks. The authority for that list of tasks is not Stoller, as the Minister so derogatively referred to Dr. Stoller, but Dr. Cunningham Dax. The Minister referred to a man named Stoller who carried out an inquiry in 1955.
– Of course I did. Why not? I shall do so at any time that I like, and the reference was not derogatory.
– I apologize. I thought from the way he spoke that it was derogatory. The title of the book I have in front of me is “ Asylum to Community “. But for the grace of God, it might be “ Community to Asylum “.
When we realize the role played by voluntary organizations and by individuals, has not the Commonwealth Government a responsibility to give a national lead? I think of the Helping Hand Association for retarded children in Victoria, the association for slow-learning children in Western Australia, and all the other organizations that have existed for many years. I think, too, of the burden placed on mothers particularly, and also on fathers to a less extent, who are unfortunate enough to have mentally retarded children. Yet the Minister cold-bloodedly stated that this is not a matter of urgency and that action has not been requested by the States. Many unselfish people who, though they are not parents of mentally retarded children, are associated with voluntary organizations and have a sense of responsibility, have asked for a national inquiry. They are not demanding money from the Commonwealth Government. All they want is a national lead. They want to know whether there is any hope for these children, because they believe the children are human beings.
Let me refer to an article that was published in the “ West Australian “ of Tuesday, 21st April, 1964. Dr. G. J. Hamilton, the mental health services officer in charge of mental defectives, is reported to have said, when speaking of mentally retarded children -
Mentally-retarded people should not be regarded as a group apart. They are, first and foremost, human beings. They enjoy most of the entertainments that you and I enjoy. They are people, not things.
One would have thought, from the attitude adopted by the Minister, that they were things, or units in a machine.
The Australian Labour Party and, I feel, the majority of the honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber, regard these mentally retarded children as a human problem. A measure of attention has been focussed on a particularly unfortunate case. The jury decided that it was a deliberate killing, whether through frustration or disappointment, or in a moment of mental disturbance or aberration. If the convicted person had been not a brilliant scholar but a timber-cutter who had used an axe on a mentally retarded child, or a carpenter who had used a saw, or a miner who had used a hammer, I wonder whether there would have been a similar sympathetic outbreak throughout the length and breadth of this continent. The problem is the same for all parents. The parents are disappointed, but the average parent does not regard the right to kill as his prerogative. Parents may be frustrated or disappointed because they have a mentally retarded child, but I have seen parents of a spastic child, a mentally retarded child, or a physically handicapped child who have bestowed on the child loving care somewhat beyond that which they have bestowed on the other children in the family. Yet the Minister says that mentally retarded people have no appeal to industry.
Does the Minister not realize the importance of research? He, of all the Ministers, should do so because of his brilliant academic background. No one can say what the future holds for these children. No one can forecast the return that they can make to the community, provided that we as a Commonwealth Parliament - it is a pity that the Labour Party is not in office - establish a lead. That is necessary, not on humanitarian grounds, but because these mentally retarded children, can make an economic contribution to the community and to their own happiness, and also afford some satisfaction to their parents when they see a measure of progress in the children. No one knows just what the future holds in the field of research.
I was intensely surprised and utterly disappointed by the attitude of die Minister. I thought, having listened to the sincere manner in which Senator Fitzgerald dealt with the matter, that the Minister would have accepted the urgency of it. There was no obligation to expend money. Very little money would have been involved. It was only a request for a national inquiry. When the Minister wakes up he can read my speech.
– I should like to correct some statements that I made when 1 was speaking previously on this matter. I find myself in the unique situation of having to admit that on one occasion Senator Dittmer was right.
– I do not think that is altogether fair. You made a mistake. Why don’t you admit it?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– Senator Dittmer claimed by way of interjection that the State contributed £2 for every £1 that the Commonwealth provided in this field. I said that was incorrect, that the Commonwealth contributed £2 for every £1 that the State provided. I was confusing the position with that of the Aged Persons Homes Act. I was wrong, and on this occasion Senator Dittmer was right. I wish to put the record straight.
– I must confess that I enter this debate with some reserve and concern because I have only known of the motion since lunch-time. It deals with a subject which, of course, is of great importance and magnitude. Along with other senators I should have liked, had the circumstances been different, to have given some consideration to and undertaken some research on this subject. However, Senator Fitzgerald has raised this matter of urgency. I do not criticize him for that; in fact, I thought he presented his case with commendable restraint and dignity. It is true that over the years he and I have taken some real interest in this subject, quite outside the field of party politics.
Senator Dittmer used the phrase, “ There, but for the grace of God, go I “. I would say to any parent who is thinking of the parents of a retarded child that he or she could say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. As yet medical knowledge cannot tell us whether there is any associa-tion between retarded children and types of parents. I have found that retarded children are quite normal in many respects. They are very responsive to love and affection. Their ability to undertake certain tasks is related to their degree of retardation. Senator Dittmer read from a book about some of the work that such children can do. It is generally accepted that the retarded child can be trained and educated to do a certain type of repetitive work. Indeed the practice of various dedicated people throughout Australia associated with the training of retarded children has been to direct them along this path of endeavour. Thus it is that a retarded child can be placed in a semi-rural setting where he. can be encouraged to do repetitive work which he loves and to which he responds. Indeed, this type of work does much for retarded children.
Comments have been made about the various Australian organizations that work for retarded or sub-normal children. They have done magnificent work over the years. Probably one of their most outstanding achievements has been in bringing to the community an awareness of the problem. They have also done for the parents something that it is difficult to describe in words. We all know the tragedy of parents of retarded children. Probably this has been reflected in what happened recently. We are conscious of their feelings of humiliation and shame in having a mentally retarded child; but nobody should ever feel that way. If these organizations have done nothing else - and they have done many other things - they have taken to the parents the message not to be ashamed of the child or to push it behind a wall and keep it. away from other children but to accept it and treat it as naturally as is humanly possible through its life span. As a consequence of this, more and more parents have been encouraged to bring their children to the organizations that have been able to .do such wonderful things for the children.
My wife and I often visit an institution that is concerned with sub-normal children. We have always had an interest in this organization. My interest was first aroused when I was mayor of a municipality. In. this institution the children have organized themselves into a percussion band and do a magnificent job. They have arts and crafts classes for the children. Whilst the children do not do as well as a normal child would do, nevertheless they do a good job. One gets to know them by name and. whilst they may not get to know you by name they know you by sight and will run to you and hold your hand. They are children through and through. We have to realize that there is a place for these children. Organizations have developed on the basis that these children should be brought to their various functions, schools, groups and so forth. This has had the effect of bringing to light the fact that there are so many retarded children. A survey conducted in the United States of America suggested that the proportion might. be as high as 3 per cent. I can well recall moving a motion on this subject in the New South Wales Parliament. I have with me a copy of the relevant “ Hansard “, and I may read the motion later. However, at that time the percentage was not as high as 3 per cent.
Some reference has been made to what this urgency motion means. If it means, as Senator Dittmer suggested, that there should be medical and scientific research into the background of the causes of mental retardation of children, I rather think that as this is a world problem and not peculiar to our own country the most logical avenue for research would be through the agency of the World Health Organization.
– Do you not think that such an organization would be too big?
– I wonder. I know that Senator Tangney has always had a real interest in this subject and that she has given great help to these organizations in her own State. There are medical men in this chamber, but as a layman I should think that there should be a gathering together in the World Health Organization of evidence on all the various aspects of this subject. That organization would offer the best hope for research into the causes of mental retardation of children.
If a discussion of this motion is intended to reflect how the problem is being treated in Australia to-day, then I think we should turn to Dr. Stoller’s report which was brought down in 1955. I have it with me, as probably do other senators, and it is obvious that the commission that was given to Dr. Stoller encompassed the whole of Australia. I should think that he visited every recognized mental institution and mental hospital in Australia. I appreciate the fact that the Constitution gives sovereignty to each of the States, but Dr. Stoller has dealt in turn with almost every organization and he has pointed out its weaknesses and needs. His report is a most valuable document and one that must be of great help to the health departments of the States and the Commonwealth. Stemming from that, of course, we have had Commonwealth legislation which has provided subsidies to the States. Standing Orders of the Senate do not permit me to reflect on legislation from another place which is due to arrive here, but I understand that we shall soon be dealing with a bill relating to certain aspects of the provision of finance in relation to mental health. There was some discussion between Senator Gorton and honorable senators opposite as to the degree to which that finance could be used for mental health institutions.
The Stoller report, which should commend itself to us all, contains a comprehensive survey of mental health facilities and requirements. In relation to New South Wales, it makes reference to hospitals - I use the term with deliberation - at Darlinghurst, Broughton Hall, Callan Park, Gladesville, Parramatta, Rydalmere, Kenmore, Bloomfield, Morisset, Stockton, Tomaree and Newcastle.
– There is very little provision for retarded children.
– The institution of the Order of St. John of God at Morisset does a magnificent job in relation to retarded children. It has been said that research is needed into certain medical aspects of the problem. I do not for one moment disagree with that suggestion, but the problem would be better tackled at the international level. We are told that the expectation of life of sub-normal children is below the average expectation of life of normal persons. Certain tranquillizer drugs can be of assistance to them.
I do not want to engender heat into the debate, which is based on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate. It is quite proper that the debate be held. As many persons as possible should contribute to it, as only good can come from it. But I do not concede that the Commonwealth has not made some contribution to the problem. Equally, I do not concede that the States have not. I recognize that the States have done certain things, as has the Commonwealth. When I proposed a motion on this subject in the State Parliament in 1952 I sought certain things from the State of New South Wales and I had the honour of being followed by the then Premier. We had an excellent debate. Since then, the State has provided departmental teachers, who were not formerly provided, at a school in the area in which I was most interested. This has been of tremendous assistance. The Commonwealth has also provided funds in the form of a subsidy of £1 a day to those parents who have children in the home which is attached to the school.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- In the few moments that the Standing Orders allow a speaker in a debate such as this, let me say first that I regret that the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) directed his attention mainly to pounds, shillings and pence. He emphasized the money angle. However, what is sought is a national inquiry into the problems of mentally retarded children in Australia. This lifts the matter above what the Commonwealth does on a larger scale in relation to mental illness. I am not in any way belittling what the Commonwealth does. The Minister said that the problem was not of the magnitude suggested by Senator Fitzgerald. He said that he had met some of these unfortunate children who had happy dispositions and led happy lives. He said also that there were limitations to what could be done. There may be something in that. He asked why this matter was brought up at this stage, saying that it was not a case of national emergency.
Let us be factual. A recent unfortunate happening in Western Australia focused general attention on this matter, apart from the attention that has been given to it by those who have a humanitarian interest and parents who are unfortunate enough to have a retarded child. Senator Fitzgerald and those who support him seek a national inquiry. It is true that at the moment mental health is a responsibility of the States. No one argues with that proposition. Let us not forget that tuberculosis also was a monopoly of the States until a Common-: wealth government took over the field. I do not in any way depreciate what the States have done, but a national inquiry is needed.
It is most remarkable that the National Health and Medical Research Council, which makes recommendations on the expenditure of research funds, has made no recommendation for expenditure in relation to mentally retarded children since it was formed in 1937. It is also remarkable that the council does not number amongst its members a psychiatrist or psychologist. This not a question for one side of politics or the other. In my own State, Victoria, all governments have played their part. According to the State Health Department there are 1,600 retarded children outside the recognized institutions, and 1,265 within them, 800 in the Children’s Cottages at Kew, 270 at the lanefield colony, 95 at Travancore, and 100 at Pleasant Creek. The Department of Health states that these figures, unfortunately, do not cover the whole position in Victoria. Some people who have these unfortunate children keep the fact to themselves.
When the Ministers for Health in the various States meet - which quite often happens - why cannot they bring this matter up? Why should we have to wait, as Senator Anderson said, until there is an inquiry by the World Health Organization? Why cannot we collate all the evidence we have and, not only from a financial point of view but also from a medical science point of view, find out whether there is some way in which we can solve this problem? How can these children best be handled? What research is required to be done? Money must be made available to carry out this research. We should know to what extent this mental retardation problem affects us in Australia.
Mention has been made in the press recently of the unfortunate situation. We should not just stand by and say that this is a matter for the States. I was amazed when I heard that the percentage of retarded children in the United States is 3.3. I have not the figures with me, but I have been amazed in years gone by - particularly during debates on the Estimates - to learn the number of people in Australia certified to be insane. I am amazed also at the number of new people who come to this country who suffer from mental illnesses. If each honorable senator were to check up with the State health department in his own State, I am sure that he too would be amazed.
– There are a few in this Parliament.
– I leave the honorable senator to speak for himself; he would be the best judge of that. Last night’s press disclosed that the present Victorian Government is playing its part in helping to solve this problem. This is not the first time that the present Government has given assistance. This is not a party matter. All governments in Victoria, whether they have been Country Party, Labour Party or Liberal Party, have played their part. I remember quite well one government providing a subsidy of £4 for £1 to help build private institutions to care for these children. I remember also an occasion when a government paid a subsidy towards providing a teacher in each of these institutions. 1 recall an occasion when a government provided transport facilities. It is not just a matter of this party or that party doing anything. All governments in Victoria have played their part, for which I am most grateful.
Senator Fitzgerald has suggested that an inquiry be instituted. I am certain that if this suggestion were put by the Commonwealth Minister for Health at the next conference of State health ministers, they would not object. I am sure that any one interested in this problem will readily agree that we have not all the knowledge we would like to have. I shall leave my colleague, Senator Tangney, to deal with the Stoller report but I shall mention just one thing in passing. Dr. Stoller did not deal in any detail with retarded children. His main concern was with mental .illness affecting adults and with the treatment facilities available.
The Minister criticized Senator Fitzgerald for wanting to adjourn the Senate. Senator Fitzgerald was within his rights in doing what he did. He took advantage of the Standing Orders, as any other senator can do as long as he can get four senators to stand up and support him. I do not think an honorable senator should be castigated for doing that.
– Do not be silly. He was not castigated.
– All you are concerned about is £ s. d.
– Why get red in the face? Senator Fitzgerald was not castigated.
– You have never liked the words that you have used to be quoted to you.
– I have never liked them to be distorted.
– AH I am saying is that Senator Fitzgerald asked for an inquiry. I think the question is big enough to warrant an inquiry.
– That is a different thing. Do not say that I castigated Senator Fitzgerald. AH I said was, “ Why did he move that the Senate adjourn? ‘’
– I took down what you said. You said, “ Why at this point of time is there such a national urgency to consider this question?” That is what you said.
– That is right. Is that castigating Senator Fitzgerald?
– All I am saying is that he has the same right as any other senator to use the procedures available to him.
– Nobody is denying that.
– You cannot deny it because it is provided in the Standing Orders. I do not think you have a right to get up and say unfair things. Senator Fitzgerald has done what he has a perfect right to do, and I and others support him.
– His right has never been questioned by me.
– The question is big enough, at least, to warrant an inquiry. We should not get behind the old argument that this is a matter for the States. Any common-sense person would agree that the Commonwealth should bring this matter up at the next conference of State Ministers for Health. Surely the Commonwealth authorities must agree that this question does warrant some research. If anything can be done to lighten the burden of these unfortunate people it should be done. I often, in my mind, give great credit to a mother not far from where I live who has looked after one of these unfortunate kiddies for many years. If we can do something to help some of them, why should we not do it? Whether an inquiry will disclose the evidence I or anybody expects is a matter that the future will unfold.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I commend Senator Fitzgerald for his interest in intellectual retardation in children.
I believe that the great improvements that have been made in the care of these children over the past few years has been the direct result of public agitation and public interest. It is only by ventilating a matter such as this that the interest which is so necessary for it can be generated. On the question of a public inquiry, I would have liked to have time, as would Senator Anderson, to go back to my own State, to explore the support that exists there for an inquiry of this kind, and also to obtain a summation of the research that has been done and is being done.
As many honorable senators will know, there are in Victoria two men who are renowned throughout Australia for their work on mental illness and, particularly, intellectual retardation. I refer to Dr. Eric Cunningham Dax and Dr. Alan Stoller. It was claimed by Senator Kennelly that Dr. Stoller had not been specific - he used words to that effect - in his report with regard to retarded children. That may be true. But from 1955 onwards Dr. Stoller has been engaged in research into all aspects of research into child health, particularly mental health. I believe that in Victoria there is a wealth of information on research being conducted into this problem. Therefore, before I would agree that a national inquiry is the thing for which we should ask now, I would like, as I said earlier, to return to Victoria to get the exact details of what has been done and is being done in this field.
We often lose valuable time through a number of people covering the same ground, and often preventing an implementation of the recommendations that are made. We are so busy finding facts that we do not take the further step of doing something about the findings.
– Victoria has a very proud record.
– That is true. As a person who has spoken on this subject on a number of occasions, 1 do not think there is anything that excites compassionate sympathy in people more than the mentally retarded child and, also, the parents of those children. Senator Anderson said, “ There but for the grace of God go I “. I wonder how many senators in this chamber have had the experience of dealing with parents who have realized for the first time that their child is not as other children. Anything that can be done to help the child, and the parents particularly, will have my wholehearted support. Senator Kennelly said that all the States, particularly, Victoria, had played their part. Unfortunately, all States have not done as much as they should have done. It is worth recalling that only two States availed themselves of the full subsidy granted by the Commonwealth as the result of Dr. Stoller’s report in 1955. Senator Fitzgerald said that the States were unable to find the money to match the subsidy; but surely with the recognition of the need for this assistance it should be within the compass of the States to find at least sufficient money to match the Commonwealth grant.
Reference has been made to the statement by the Victorian Minister for Health, the Honorable Ronald Mack, published in last night’s Melbourne “ Herald “, that over the next three years Victoria would spend £2,800,000 on what he called “the major problem of retardation “. Although I know there are homes for these children in other States, I would like to invite people when they come to Victoria to have a look at our children’s cottages at Kew. 1 have seen strong men turn pale on their first visit to these cottages; but I am thankful to say that, as a result of public opinion and the devoted work of many people, a place that was ,a positive nightmare to anybody’s mind has been transformed into one where children can be assured, at least, of comfort and care.
How do we provide for the parents a place where, if necessary, they can send their children? This is the problem. How do we cope with it? I think it was Senator Kennelly who mentioned that many parents prefer to keep their mentally retarded children at home. In the past, some parents, because of the prejudice of the outside world, have kept their children away from institutions, and even from contact with other people. To-day, with a more enlightened community, and with the knowledge that conditions are improving in institutions, parents are being encouraged to place their children in mental hospitals for training, for sanctuary, and for their own protection. Not so long ago, I had the opportunity, at the request of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), to be present at the Kew cottages in Victoria on the occasion of the formation of the first Boy Scout group in a hospital of that kind. I mentioned that because it illustrates the degree of benefit that children obtain either in institutions, or outside them, where special care and training are being provided. In the announcement by the Victorian Minister for Health of the programme that is envisaged by the Victorian State Government, it is anticipated that, over the next three years, another 672 beds will be provided. These beds will be for children of all ages, from toddlers onward. I hope that the work that is being done in Victoria will be followed in every State in the Commonwealth. This should result in a marked improvement in the conditions that have existed in the past.
Another problem facing people who are interested in this work is the increase in the lifetime of these children. Senator Anderson said their lives were short but as a result of special care and attention they are living longer to-day. With further research, their life span will probably be further extended as the years go on. In addition, our population is increasing. I hope the increase in the incidence of mental retardation will not be disproportionate, but we must be prepared to accept the fact that an increasing number of retarded children will need attention. It is quite evident that in terms of simple numbers we must expect to have more of them in the community. 1 should like to compliment all those people in the voluntary organizations who have worked very hard in this field. In the past few years there have been many innovations which would have been unheard of previously. I think I told the Senate about two years ago that I had been with people who had taken a group of children out of the Kew homes for the first time in their lives. Those children had never seen outside the walls of their institution. They had been taken there as tiny children and had had no contact with the outside world. Through the agency of voluntary bodies those little patients were taken to Melbourne at Christmas time to see the lights. Their pleasure was indescribable. Men and women all over Australia are devoting their time to work which has little glamour and which is done only by people who have very humane feelings for those who are less fortunate than themselves. I should like to pay a particular tribute to the doctors and nurses who work for the mentally afflicted. They have sacrificed much, and it is only because of their devotion that the hospitals or institutions are able to give the service that is given.
One of the main features of our programme in Victoria is that through training many children who otherwise would have been regarded as uneducable are being made useful members of society. In Victoria 34 training centres are training 1,500 children. Those children return to their own homes and parents as useful members of their families and take their place alongside the other children. When one looks at the whole problem of mental health one comes to the conclusion that the Menzies Government in particular, by providing capital funds for mental institutions, has accepted a responsibility which had not been accepted by any previous Commonwealth government. Some of those funds have found their way into buildings that are occupied by handicapped children. The latest offer, to which I referred on a previous occasion, extends that help for another three years. I suggest that honorable senators should go back to their own States and urge their Premiers to look at the programme that has been developed in Victoria. Not by any manner of means am I satisfied with what has been done there; I should like to see much more accomplished. However, having matched the first Commonwealth grant and having announced its intention to match the second grant, Victoria at least has shown that it is aware of the problem.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– In addressing myself to the motion that has been moved by Senator Fitzgerald, I congratulate him on having brought this matter to the attention of this House. There are some aspects of this question which have not been dealt with as yet. I am particularly interested in this matter. It is nearly 21 years since I brought the question of the mentally retarded before the Senate. In the report of a committee on social security, I described the mental health services of the time as the Cinderella of all health services. Time has borne out what I had to say on that occasion.
I based what I said in that report - the seventh report of the Joint Committee on
Social Security presented to this Parliament at that time - on my own experiences with mentally retarded persons. When I was teaching, [ taught slower learners as they were called. Those children were able to do a lot for their own morale by meeting children who were at that time in the mental hospital because there was no other place for them to go. Many had been left there by their parents who had more or less forsaken them because they were an encumbrance or because family circumstances would not allow them to be returned to their homes.
Very little was being done in those days to help the mentally retarded child. I am pleased to say that most people who think seriously about this subject have had a great deal to say on it in the intervening years and have done a great deal in the community to assist retarded children.
I do not want to detract in any way from Dr. Stoller’s admirable report on the mentally afflicted and the facilities available for their treatment which was made to the Senate in 1955. Before he went to Melbourne, Dr. Stoller was officer in charge of the mental hospital at Claremont in Western Australia. Because of the work that I was doing at that time in connexion with the mentally afflicted children, I came in contact with him a great deal. In his report, Dr. Stoller dealt mainly with the facilities which were available in general for (he mentally ill. In the report I made to this Parliament in 1943 or 1944. I deplored the use of the term “ insane “ and asked that these people be treated as mentally ill. I said mental illness was an illness and not a crime and yet the mentally ill were being treated worse than the criminals in our gaols. That was the attitude at that time of most of the community towards those unfortunate enough to be afflicted with mental illness. Over the years, the attitude of the public has changed in this respect.
When Dr. Stoller’s report was brought out in 1955. he dealt mainly with the position of mental health patients throughout Australia and the facilities, or lack of them,’ in each State. Unfortunately, there is little in the report pertaining particularly to the mentally ill child who is the subject associated with the motion moved so ably by Senator Fitzgerald. When I was in the United States of America last year, I was able to see some of the work being done in that country for the mentally ill. 1 was able to’ appreciate the great work of the late President Kennedy who had made a very special appeal to Congress to assist in the treatment of mentally retarded children.
I should like to take this matter a step further than it has been taken this afternoon by previous speakers. We want an inquiry into this matter, not because we feel that this or that or the other government has been deficient in its duty towards the mentally ill, but because we feel that such an inquiry could yield results which could help, not only in the treatment of the mentally ill but also - and this is much more important - help in the prevention of a great deal of mental illness in the community, lt is rather startling to note that 3 per cent, of the community is afflicted in this way. In Western Australia, we admit that about 3 per cent, of the population is mentally ill.
Recently a very sad case in Western Australia stirred quite a number of thinking people throughout Australia to reflect on the situation. What happened in Perth was a tragedy for the child concerned and for its parents. At this time when the public conscience is stirred over this case, the Opposition believes we should bring this problem before the public, not to attack the Government because nothing is further from our thoughts, but to try to produce a remedy for the state of affairs that exists.
Those who are mostly concerned with this problem are not the ones to cry out about it. For many such people, it remains their own experience. Therefore, I suggest that the message given by the President of the United States of America to Congress only a few months before his lamented death last year should be studied particularly by the members of the Government and by all honorable senators because in it, President Kennedy dealt specifically with methods which could be applied to the study we have in view of the treatment of mentally retarded children.
President Kennedy said that first of all, the causes of mental retardation had to be understood. We, as lay people, do not know a great deal about it. We say that a survey should be carried out to discover why there is mental retardation among so many people in a country such as Australia. In the United States of America, it was proved that this mental retardation springs from various causes such as mongolism, birth injury or infection or any of a host of conditions that cause faulty or arrested development of intelligence to such an extent that the individuals ability to learn and adapt to the demands of society is impaired. Once the damage is done, life-time incapacity is likely. It is then too late. You have to get to this problem before the damage is done if it is possible to do so. In his statement, President Kennedy said -
The care and treatment of mental retardation and research into the causes and cure in America have been too long neglected.
What was said by the late president in regard to his own country applies no less to Australia. He went on to state various aspects of the problem which have been mentioned already by Senator Fitzgerald. As has been stated, the number of deaths from mental illness is greater than the number who lose their lives through diabetes, tuberculosis and other diseases. That is a point which must cause us to pause. If, by a national inquiry, we could help to arrest this problem, we feel that such an inquiry should be held and who is best able to arrange it but the Commonwealth Government? Something more than just supplying money for buildings is required. That is not the only thing inherent in this problem. An investigation would involve scientists, social workers, doctors, nurses and all those who come into contact with mental illness as well as those in the teaching profession and others who deal with mentally retarded children. They should give their experiences to a committee of inquiry set up by the Commonwealth Government in order, first, to determine the magnitude of the problem and then to determine those remedies which could be effectively applied by the Commonwealth Department of Health.
The Minister said that the Commonwealth has not the constitutional power to do this. That is ridiculous. Senator Fitzgerald said this afternoon that according to constitutional authorities - one of the highest such authorities we have is Professor Sawer, Professor of Law at the Australian National University - this problem could easily be overcome by the making of a grant by the Commonwealth, as the chief moneyraising agent in Australia. Surely to heaven, if we can appropriate money for roads, if we can say that we must have beef roads in the north of Western Australia and that therefore we should give Western Australia a grant for that purpose, we can appropriate money for the solution of this very human problem, which leaves in its wake so much desolation and despair if. it is not properly tackled. This is not an immediate problem but we, as a Parliament, are planning for the future of the Commonwealth. In America this problem was so great that the late President Kennedy decided that a foundation should be established so that all the intricacies of mental retardation, which is one aspect of mental illness, could be discovered and corrected in time. One of the objects of that foundation was the removal of slums, which give birth to mental illness. The number of mentally retarded children is greater in slum areas than it is in other places where the standard of living is not so low.
Although this disability strikes people in all walks of life, whether they have money or not, the fact that mental illness is so widespread in the community cannot be passed over lightly by saying that 3 per cent, of the population is not a large proportion. It may not be a large figure, compared with the total number of people who make up this nation, but for those afflicted and for their loved ones the problem is intense. It is a human problem and we are not approaching it as party politicians, hut as human beings and, as I said at the Belgrade conference, the things which unite us human beings are so much greater than the things that divide us into political parties, races, sects and so on.
This is a very human problem which confronts us as citizens of the Commonwealth. I feel that it is up to the Government of the Commonwealth, with the funds at its disposal and with the personnel it has in its various scientific departments, to bring the problem out into the open so that we can attack it at its source. It may be too late to help many of those who are deeply afflicted and for whom nothing much has yet been done, but it is not too late to get to the root of this great and harrowing problem which is already affecting and blighting the lives of so many people.
Like Senator Wedgwood, I commend those who are doing so much for our handicapped children. I have a book called “ Help the Children out of Their Darkness “, and that is what we are asking Parliament to do - to help a very deserving section of our community out of its darkness into the light and to give these people an opportunity to face life and its problems to the best of the ability which God has given them. I therefore ask the Minister in charge of the debate not to apply the standards of whether we can afford to spend money or whether somebody has asked for help, but to apply the human instincts which I know he has and to ensure that an inquiry of some kind into this problem is held at the national level. Perhaps it could be Australia’s contribution to the memory of a very great man if we entitled such a committee of inquiry “The John F. Kennedy Committee “ or perhaps we could establish a fellowship in one of our universities and name it after this great human President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I feel at a great disadvantage this evening in having to follow in the debate my distinguished friend from Western Australia, Senator Tangney. She is something of an authority on this subject. She has spoken eloquently on a subject on which I feel there has been no major measure of disagreement in this chamber. She speaks, of course, with a great deal of experience in this field of the welfare of mentally retarded children. We all, as human beings, share her great concern for these people. I am very glad that to-night she has emphasized that there is no political content in the move made by the Labour Party in introducing this discussion to the Senate. I do not think it would be right for us, on either side of the chamber, to introduce a contest for political points into a matter which concerns so many human beings. I therefore propose to discuss this motion on its merits and to deal only with the subject which is before us. We all agree that there is very great need for increased efforts to be made to meet the problem of mentally retarded children.
The field of mental illness has many facets and encompasses an infinite number of stages and varieties. To-night we are dealing with one form of mental illness which presents a pathetic and appealing side to us all. It impinges on the lives of parents of afflicted children in a way that only those who have had some direct experience of and contact with cases of mental retardation in its more severe form can really appreciate. Only they can appreciate the devastating effects on the home life of a family charged with the responsibility of bringing up a subnormal child. Senator Tangney referred to recent happenings in Western Australia and if the stark tragedy of the Benn case highlights the need for an awakening of the public conscience in this matter, then the suffering of those people will not have gone for naught. I, for one, hope that will be the effect of this directing of our thinking to this tremendous human problem. As I said, it is a special form of mental illness with which we are dealing. There have been great advances in the treatment of mental illness and in many cases the time taken to effect an improvement has been reduced, so that the average length of stay in a mental institution is being reduced to a figure which was once thought to be impossible.
At one time one could have written over the doors of all mental institutions, “ Abandon hope all ye who enter here “, but to-day there is hope and increasing hope for people suffering from mental illness.
Unfortunately, in the field of mentallyretarded children there is not that same measure of hope. So many forms of mental illness in children are virtually incurable, at least, so far as our present knowledge goes. This problem of mentally-retarded children is becoming greater as time goes on. The need for the expenditure of money on this form of illness is increasing rather than decreasing. Our growing knowledge of the subject is bringing with it an increasing awareness of the incidence of this illness in the community.
When we examine this problem in relation to the overall picture we find that it impinges upon three spheres of predominantly State responsibility. First, the field of mental health, secondly, the field of education and rehabilitation, and thirdly, the field of child welfare. Those fields are primarily State responsibilities as has been recognized for a long time and by a variety of governments. In my own State of Western Australia the public’s consciousness has been aroused in regard to this problem. Only to-day the “ West Australian “ published a leading article headed, strangely enough, “Action Needed Urgently for Retarded Children “. The article states -
Western Australia has been jolted into an appraisemen of facilities for the care of mentallyretarded children. It shows thai the work being done does not go far or fast enough.
In a combination of Government services and voluntary effort, mainly through the Slow Learning Children’s Group, W.A. has established the framework of a first-class system for the treatment, care, education and specialized training of retarded children. It is nevertheless severely overloaded in all categories ranging down from the most serious cases requiring full-time institutional care through the milder defectives to those who are merely slow minded.
The article continues -
There are competing claims for the Government funds available but relief of menial affliction has a priority above material aims such as subsidizing industry.
I do not think that any of us will seriously disagree with those statements.
Mention has been made of a great deal of private charitable work in connexion with mentally retarded children. Other honorable senators have spoken about similar work being done in the other States. The public has been generous in its response to this problem. A colleague of mine referred to large sums of money that have been subscribed. He made the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government could well look at this question of private donations in this field, in the same way as it looks at the provision of subsidies for the aged. If people are prepared voluntarily to subscribe to help overcome this national problem, the Commonwealth Government could consider the possibility of doing the same for these mentally retarded children as it does for aged people. I think there is a great deal of merit in that suggestion.
The proposal before us to-night seeks, as a matter of urgency, a national inquiry into the problem of mentally retarded children. The urgency in the matter is not for an inquiry. I think that sufficient is known of this problem. The “ West Australian “ article I have mentioned has aptly stated where action is needed. I part company with honorable senators on the Opposition side when they direct the attention of the people to the need for an inquiry rather than the need for action. I think that is the wrong approach to the problem.
In the article in the “West Australian” there is an acknowledgement of State responsibility, and there is no suggestion that the initial action should come from the Commonwealth Government. This problem is traditionally a matter for the States. If the State governments feel that, in the light of our present and expanding knowledge and expanding needs in this field, there is a need for assistance from the Commonwealth Government, there is a welldefined method of approach by which they can bring their needs to the attention of the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government has not been found lacking in this matter in the past. The Commonwealth Government, indeed, initiated the inquiry which resulted in the Stoller report, which has been referred to so often. The Commonwealth Government gave a lead to the States by providing capital moneys to build mental institutions in the States. Some of the States have been backward in fully utilizing the money that the Commonwealth Government has provided.
While I agree that there is a need for action, I believe that the need is not for an inquiry but for the States to summarize their requirements, to investigate the resources that they can apply to this problem, and, if those resources are not sufficient, to come to the Commonwealth Government through the avenues that are available to them, such as conferences of Ministers for Health and Premiers Conferences. I strongly urge upon the State governments that if they find they have not sufficient resources to deal with this great problem of human suffering, they have an open avenue of approach to the Commonwealth Government, and I am sure that the Commonwealth Government, as in the past, will not turn a deaf ear to theif needs.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) ^8.30].- The Senate is indebted to Senator Fivgerald for initiating this debate on the need for a national inquiry into the problem of mentally retarded children in Australia. Senator Prowse has spoken with great sympathy for the problem and I am sure he is fully in favour of the terms of the motion, yet he has qualified his remarks by saying that the urgency is not for an inquiry. However, without the co-operation of all the States and the co-ordination of all available information we will not get a blueprint for action. There is no more compelling subject to which senators can direct their minds than the plight of this considerable section of the Australian community - the mentally retarded children. The deeply moving case of the Benn baby in Western Australia has aroused the public conscience and has brought us fairly and squarely face to face not only with the unhappy lot of these children so afflicted throughout Australia but also with the deep and real anguish of the parents of these unfortunate children.
Every social worker, every humanitarian, indeed every person with a spark of human kindness in his breast feels a sense of responsibility in this matter of retarded children and wonders how he or she can help. What should be done? How can it be done? How soon can it be done? How will it be financed and who will finance whatever needs to be done? If I were asked to draw up the blueprint for action and the terms for the national inquiry that Senator Fitzgerald has proposed 1 would seek information to enable me to supply the action Senator Prowse seeks. The Parliament would have to be prepared to vote the funds to secure the necessary information to enable the compilation of the blueprint. The inquiry committee would seek to answer the following questions: What are the causes of mental retardation? What is the best treatment for this malady? What resources are available for the pursuit and application of scientific knowledge in relation to this problem? What is the extent of training of medical, behavioural and other professional specialists to cope with the special problem and to be able to launch a much more massive effort? What additional focus is required to be directed towards research into the complex mysteries of mental retardation? To what exent is university research directed at new techniques, to the subject of child health and the retarded child? What is the extent of co-ordination between local bodies, municipal authorities and State and Federal bodies dealing with all the problems associated with this problem, particularly with maternal prenatal, child health and other services? The inquiry could extend into obtaining knowledge on whether there are shortages of professional manpower and womenpower to meet the problem. What also is known of the technique of the prevention of mental retardation?
A great field that is still to be explored encompasses the question, of to what extent are adverse social and economic conditions, medical care, nutrition, housing and educational opportunities responsible for this unhappy malady. These are problems which to my knowledge, except in the Dr. Stoller report and in the Cunningham Dax report, are incorporated in the whole picture of mental illness, but this is a special section to which we must apply our best brains for the solution. What is the relationship between mental retardation and lack of pre-natal care? We have the statistics to show that the percentage of children who are born retarded from parents who have not had sufficient prenatal care is higher than in other cases. What the the statistics on poverty and insufficient medical care as causes for higher incidence of retarded children? A committee of inquiry could investigate what cultural and educational opportunities are lacking that could help to stimulate the proper development of intelligence in these children. What percentage of children classified as mentally-retarded, but where no organic impairment is present, could be assisted by proper help for their young minds to develop? How could community centres and other organizations be set up to make available ‘ a continuous service covering diagnosis, health, educational training, rehabilitation, employment, welfare and legal protection?
Another important question that requires answering concerns the extent of public understanding and planning to meet the problem and the efforts made to stimulate public awareness. Senator Prowse said that the public conscience has been aroused. That is stating a fact; but the public conscience, and the humanity behind it, needs bringing into focus for action. These and other aspects covered by senators who have already spoken and who understand the problem because of their daily experience with parents who have come seeking assistance for their retarded children and themselves are a challenge to the nation. The letters to the newspapers following the unfortunate Western Australia case filled the “ Letters to the Editor “ sections.
People wrote saying, “ My child has been on the list for so many years, and still I am not able to find a place for him “. It is a vicious circle. The responsibility of looking after such a child is wearing the parent down and having an adverse effect on other members of the same family. Yet there is no light on the hill for these people.
It is ridiculous for any one to suggest that the buck can be passed. The buck should stay with this Parliament and with this Government, which is the taxing authority and the only instrumentality with sufficient funds and ability to be able to tackle the problem on a nation-wide basis. To deal with the problem in a piecemeal fashion is not enough. We must realize that it is an Australian-wide problem with which the States have tried to grapple and that so far the results have been very disappointing. This is a challenge to the nation. We in this Parliament, where the financial cake is cut, can do something to alleviate the problem. We can do it most effectively and efficiently because the key to the problem is payment of the bill. I am quite certain that if the proposition were put before the taxpayers - in the Parliament, on the hustings, through the press - that they should do their duty towards this section of the community which need’s help so badly, the response would be magnificent.
Senator Fitzgerald has handed me an urgent telegram which he has just received, and asked that I read it to the Senate. It is from Mr. Dale, president of the Kew Cottages Parents Association, in Victoria, and if reads -
This association endorses the need for a national inquiry into nil aspects of mental retardation. Strongly contests Gorton’s statement no approaches made to Federal Government.
Throughout the length and breadth of Australia where the broadcast of the proceedings of this Parliament are heard there would be no limit to the people who would like to assist in whatever way possible in the alleviation of this great problem.
To-day, here in the Australian Capital Territory, we have heard of permission being given for the conducting of football pools. Senator Prowse has raised the matter of a public contribution. What better cause could there be for an appeal to the gambling sense in the Australian Capital Territory? Victoria, New South Wales,
Queensland and other States conduct lotteries. If the Lions Club were to say to the Commonwealth Government, “ Provide £5 for £1, and we shall direct all of the profits that we get from the football pool project towards assisting mentally retarded children “, the Australian people would support the Lions Club to the hilt.
– That is not a satisfactory system of finance.
– I am taking up the matter raised by Senator Prowse. We cannot rely on private contributions. Unfortunately, we live in a materialistic world. This is a humanitarian problem and no money is to be made out of it. We seek Christian charity for these people. This cannot be measured in pounds, shillings and. pence. The tax-gathering authority must provide a slice of the economic cake for this purpose.
– Would you not . favour taxation for the purpose rather than a lottery?
– I certainly would favour taxation rather than a lottery, butI am putting this forward as a challengeto the Lions Club to make this its project. I put it up to the Government, which is so cheese-paring as to want to pass the buck to the States and to private persons. This is a way out for the Government.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [8.45]. - To-day and to-night, we have heard many addresses which have proved conclusively that on both sides of the chamber there is very grave concern and’ very real sympathy for mentally retarded children and those dedicated people who work with them day after day. As I look at the statement of the matter of urgency that is before the Senate and read those three words “ mentally retarded children “, I think that it would be hard to find any other three words that together symbolize such sadness and unhappiness in family circles. This is a great family tragedy of which we are very conscious and in which we would all desire to help. But, as has been said by previous speakers, a survey of the nature sought is a State matter, and it has already been made by some States. Later, I should like to talk about some of the things which have been done in my own State but, like every one else, I feel there is a great need for a great deal more to be done.
One of the aspects that face the people who are thinking about this subject is that under modern medical care people are living longer. Mentally retarded persons are living longer and, therefore, whatever planning is done for them must extend over a much greater period than was previously considered. We must endeavour to assist them to live a longer life as happily and usefully as possible. We need to have much more research into the causes of this serious problem of mental retardation. I am interested to read that experts estimate that between 1 per cent, and 3 per cent, of any community are mentally handicapped. These numbers are considerable. The World Health Organization has given this matter very serious consideration and will continue to do so. An interesting point from this organization’s report on the mentally subnormal child is that it stresses that-
It is important that parents “ be given accurate information and should have their questions fully and frankly answered, if they are not to cling to vain hopes of miraculous cures by quacks “.
This is a very important sentence. All who are interested in the problem will agree with it.
Queensland, like all other States, is faced with this problem. I should like to refer those who aTe interested to a very interesting report made by the Faculty of Education of the University of Queensland, entitled “ First and Second Surveys of The Effects of a Subnormal Child on the Family Unit “. This gives a tremendous amount of valuable information as to the aim of the research and the problems of families in which there is a mentally retarded child, the importance of occupation centres for these children, and the assistance provided by the centres to parents. The aim of this research was to make some assessment of the extent to which a subnormal child influences a family unit and to discover in what particular ways family life is most affected. The effect on family life is very real. Those who have worked with this problem know only too well the sadness and sorrow that it brings to a home. This research paper, carried out with such care by those who made this particular survey for the University of Queensland, goes on to refer to occupation centres where parents can meet together. The great assistance of meeting other parents of subnormal children, not only helps the children but also helps in the training of the parents. If there were time to read them, so many of these paragraphs would be invaluable in this discussion to-night, but as you know, Sir, we have only a limited1 period of time.
However, I must refer to two case surveys. The first survey was made in 1954-55 and dealt with just one family. In this case the child needed all the mother’s attention. She had to be constantly on the alert because he wandered. The mother could never take the child on public transport because he was so restless. She always had to travel by taxi which proved expensive. The mother had to give up all outside interests and she felt the restriction considerably. She had to give her whole life in caring for the child alone as nobody was able to help. The father was very worried about the child’s future. He could see no hope for the child. He took the child to many specialists seeking help and was always worried because nothing could be done. There was dissension in the family between the mother and the father. The father used to blame the mother for the child’s condition.
After two years in an occupation centre where the parents could go and stay with these children, could meet other parents and have special fellowship with them, if I may put it in that way, a second survey was made. It told a different story. The mother was now able to relax. She did not have to keep the doors locked and the child did not wander. He could now travel on trams with other children and his behaviour was no longer embarrassing. The mother was happy and expressed delight because she was able to visit friends and entertain at home. She was very grateful for the help that had been given. Improvements in the family situation were beyond the mother’s expectations. The father felt that there was some hope of the child’s reaching a degree of independence and this relieved his burden considerably. He became much more patient with the child. He attended lectures at the centre and now understands the condition much better and. is more ready to share the responsibility of the child with the mother. That family was helped as a result of the assistance of the centre and the excellent care and help that was given. These tremendously important things are being done in my own State of Queensland.
I should like to mention also that the State Government has made subsidies available to the Queensland Subnormal Children’s Welfare Association which has its headquarters at Bowen Hills. The association has established centres in various parts of Oueensland. These centres assist those who can live in the community and who can benefit by special training. This training is tremendously important, not only to the children but also to the parents. In 1962 - just two years ago - the Department of Health opened a treatment centre at Chermside for handicapped children. The centre can accommodate up to 150 young patients. Babies and .young children have their condition diagnosed, assessed and treated. This centre is providing a tremendous service in the State for handicapped children.
A child guidance hospital is to be established at the Brisbane Children’s Hospital. Its functions will be associated with child health and pediatrics generally. It will have facilities for outpatients, day-hospital patients and the schooling of maladjusted children. This latter aspect is very important from the point of view of the future of these children. Those who have worked with children such as we are considering will have a real appreciation of the fact that the proper care of the mentally subnormal child is incomplete unless training proceeds to vocational training and carries on into the adult life of the mentally subnormal patient. Here again special work is being done in that the Queensland Subnormal Children’s Welfare Association has established a sheltered workshop at Bowen Hills. This is the first sheltered workshop for the training of these mentally retarded children. The Queensland Government is making land available to the association which intends to establish rural schools and sheltered workshops for older boys and girls.
I should like to pay a special tribute to Sir Fred Schonell and his late wife, Dr. Eleanor Schonell, who have done a very great deal for mentally-retarded children. A lasting memorial to the late Dr. EleanorSchonell must be the work that is going on in Queensland in the field of training and caring for subnormal children. Her. husband, Sir Fred Schonell is continuing to perform very outstanding service.
I am indebted to Senator Fitzgerald who introduced this matter of urgency to-day. Had he not done so I may not have read so closely this very excellent educational, journal of the University of Queensland entitled “The Slow Learning Child”. I should like to quote from an article in th: journal written by J. A. Richardson, Professor of Education, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales. Those of us who are interested in this subject must feel that the article pays a great tribute to a great man - Professor Schonell - for the great work he has done for Australia. Professor Richardson speaks of the. work that has been done by Professor Schonell and then goes on to say -
Now, twelve years later, Queensland leads Australia in its provisions - thanks to Schonell and the success he achieved in arousing the public conscience -
How important is that! - and the sympathetic understanding ot the Slate Government. Through ten centres, situated in the main towns of the State, about 600 trainable mentally-retarded children in Queensland are being helped by the Subnormal Children’s Welfare Association.
The Professor then goes on -
The major centre and headquarters of the association, Bowen House in Brisbane, has facilities equal to the best I have observed in North America or England. There is based the first Australian university certificate course tor teachers of subnormal children. Since its inauguration in 1956, over 60 students have completed the course, providing a supply of trained teachers of the subnormal not only for Queensland but for the other States of Australia also.
This will be of great benefit in the years that lie ahead. All of us, I am sure, want these’ children to have the best future that they possibly can. We want to assist their parents to help them to a better future. The tiredness, weariness and heartache of parents in giving constant care and attention to these little ones is, of course, part of the service they have rendered to them, but we of the public surely should, and can, help in some way. Let us continue our great interest in the work which’ the associations I have mentioned are doing and let us keep on making the public aware of the needs of these children. They need to be assisted by the training, teaching and care that this great body of dedicated men and women is giving to them. If we help, I believe that we will be assisting in some way to make the lot of the mentally retarded children of Australia very much happier and very much better.
For too long too little interest has been taken in the needs of these children but to-day, we can if we are sincere* - as I believe we are - in whichever State we may reside, help to bring to these kiddies the special attention and care they need. We can assist all these wonderful bodies who are trying to help them. If we do this we will show that the words we speak in this chamber are not just empty words which do not mean anything. We will show that we, too, are sincere and dedicated in our desire to help these children who are not as fully equipped as others to face the problems of life. Their burdens are many. Let us help to share their burdens.
– I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Fitzgerald. It seems to me that the suggestion he has made is one of the most reasonable propositions which this chamber has had to debate, at any rate since I have been a member of it. Senator Fitzgerald has not asked for very much. The motion points out the need for a national inquiry into the problem of mentally retarded children in Australia. We have had a number of contributions to the debate, In the main, Government supporters have said that this is a very great problem and that there are people iri the States who are doing a great work for these abnormal children and their parents. The Commonwealth Government says that it is sympathetic to the propositions advanced by Senator Fitzgerald, but on every occasion the matter is raised it seems that the Commonwealth Government says that it is a State problem. It is not a problem for the States. Obviously this must be a national problem. We in Australia have always prided ourselves upon our welfare standards. Spokesmen for the Government are always saying that the Australian standards of living and of social services are very high. Yet, when the Senate is asked to consider a simple inquiry into this great human tragedy the Government appears to say, “ We do not think it is necessary. We will not initiate it. It is for the States to work out with the voluntary organizations how best to deal with this problem “. This is only a subterfuge. It is certainly no way to deal with a problem such as this. There is no doubt that, ultimately, the Commonwealth Government will have to tackle the whole problem of mental illness. After all, the Commonwealth Government is the Government of Australia and it is the Government which must take upon itself the charge of looking after great matters of social need. Bit by bit, this is being done. Bit by bit the problem of mental health, for instance, has been accepted as a Commonwealth Government obligation. Here is a new problem, lt is true that it is being recognized much more widely now than it was before. It is a problem which should be tackled first in the way suggested by Senator Fitzgerald - that is, by the setting- up of an inquiry.
There are great and acute social problems arising from this matter. I say that because I know something about the incidence of this problem. I say that the trade union movement in South Australia, together with many employers and some community-minded people, are doing more in this field than the Federal Government is doing. On many occasions, the trade union movement has had discussions with public-spirited citizens with a view to having mentally retarded young people usefully employed in weighing and packing groceries and, generally, using the talent that they have in a constructive way. These young people are trained to be socially useful.
I have discussed this matter with people in the community who are dedicated to the welfare of mentally retarded children. Sometimes they are people who have acquired a great sympathy for these children because of personal incidents in their own lives, or because some personal relationship to the problem brings it forcibly to their notice. These people come along to the trade union movement - I can speak with first-hand knowledge of this as I was secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in my State - and say “ Do you mind if we set up a workshop where these children can work and earn some money? “. It is rewarding to see the great interest that is sparked in the children when they receive their first pay packet. There is no question of sweated labour. Officers of government departments come along to our general council meetings and talk about the need to assist these children. They show a human interest in the problem. Although I am not connected with the council now, I know that only last Friday night in South Australia Dr. Dowling came along and explained some matters to the trade unions. In the old days, the trade union movement was concerned about some of these activities in case the children should be exploited in workshops.
Both Opposition and Government senators realize that a great deal is being done by individual people to help solve a problem which is purely national. If the Commonwealth Government can allow officers of the Department of Social Services, in conjunction with the Department of Labour and National Service to canvass the trade union movement and the employers to get physically handicapped workers into industry, it can do the same thing for mentally retarded children. It is no use for the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) to say, as he said only recently, that this is a matter for the States. On national questions such as this the Australian citizen has to accept and fulfil his obligations to the nation. That is so in peace as it is in war. These unfortunate young people cannot be usefully employed unless they are trained by specialists.
As I have said, if under the existing social services administration Commonwealth officers can be sent to discuss with trade union secretaries how best the trade unions can co-operate to put mentally handicapped people into useful employment and so take a load off the shoulders of their unfortunate parents, why does the Commonwealth refuse to tackle the problem on a national basis? The economy of the nation could be assisted by teaching these people useful occupations. They are suffering from disabilities about which we know very little. It could be that some forms of mental retardation are caused by biological strains which go back for many centuries.
It must be realized that this is a problem which cannot be met solely by civicminded people or by public-spirited groups. The Commonwealth Government has to do something more. If it is suggested by the Commonwealth Government that this is a matter for the State organizations to look after in a voluntary way, the problem is being ignored. It is true that the problem of mental retardation is more widely recognized to-day and that a great deal more sympathy is displayed by the community towards sufferers. Only recently we saw a demonstration of this interest in a national television programme. But this is not enough. There is a great deal of public relations work to be done on this question, and somebody has to be charged with the responsibility of carrying it out. I believe that responsibility should be accepted by the Commonwealth Government. I think that the request made by Senator Fitzgerald is a most reasonable one which should be accepted by this chamber. There is nothing more certain - we all recognize this - than the fact that the Commonwealth Government will in the future deal with this problem. Why does it not accept the responsibility now? This problem has a great effect on the economy of the nation and there is no doubt that the families of mentally retarded children bear a great burden.
– Order! The time allotted for this discussion has expired.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
.- I moveThat the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the Government’s announced policy decision that it would continue for a further three years the Commonwealth assistance to the States for capital expenditure in the field of mental health. The bill will repeal the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act 1955 and replace it with legislation which will continue the assistance provided by that act and additionally, with effect from 1st July next, will provide similar assistance to those States which have exhausted, or which may in the next three years exhaust, their share of the original grant. The commencing date, 1st July, 1964, was chosen to ensure that the Slates which had exhausted their entitlement under the 1955 act would have time to prepare a works programme which could derive the greatest benefit from the new scheme. An earlier commencing date could have the effect of curtailing the operative period to the extent of the time needed for preliminary planning.
The States which will first derive additional benefit are Victoria and Tasmania, which have exhausted their quota under the 1955 act. New South Wales also will benefit in the near future, as it has received all but about £240,000 of its quota of £3,830,000 provided under the 1955 act. Queensland and Western Australia- have received about half of their quotas and South Australia more than 80 per cent. The comparative figures of entitlement and assistance received for each of the States are -
Honorable senators will be interested to note that this measure continues the policy of assisting the States in meeting the capital costs of extending facilities for the treatment and care of mentally ill or mentally defective people. It will be recalled that earlier Commonwealth assistance in this field, introduced by the Chifley Government in 1948, took the form of a five-year agreement with each State to subsidize day-to-day running costs. Payments ranged from 8d. to ls. 2d. per patient day and in the aggregate the Commonwealth paid about £2,420,000 to the States under this arrangement.
When the agreements approached conclusion the Government arranged for a survey of mental health facilities and needs of Australia. That survey showed gross overcrowding and a deplorably low standard of accommodation throughout Australia. It influenced the Government to decide that the most effective contribution the Commonwealth could make would be to encourage the States, through substantial financial assistance, to provide much more accommodation of a considerably higher standard than was then available. That the resultant legislation, the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act 1955, provided the desired stimulus is abundantly evident throughout the Commonwealth.
Apart from other capital works at existing centres, Victoria, with Commonwealth assistance, has established new institutions at Plenty, Warrnambool and Traralgon. Of the total cost of Tasmania’s Lachlan Park more than £1,000,000 has qualified for the grant. Several new psychiatric day hospitals have been assisted by the grant, the latest being Broughton Hall in Sydney. It was opened just before Christmas and cost about £400,000 to build.
The bill provides for assistance to the States to the extent of one-third of the total cost expended on providing and equipping mental health institutions, for a period of three years commencing 1st July, 1964. It follows in substance the 1955 legislation but does not provide any limit to the aggregate of amounts payable. Honorable senators will note that the bill recognizes the trend in mental health treatment by referring to the centres as mental health institutions instead of mental institutions, as was formerly the case.
It is estimated that the assistance provided under this legislation for 1964-65 will be £1,483,000. This represents an increase of £563,000 over the estimated expenditure of £920,000 for the current financial year and approximately £1,000,000 more than the amount which would be estimated for 1964-65 if the 1955 legislation were not replaced by this bill. The bill provides for a significant contribution by the Commonwealth towards the improvement in the treatment and care of mentally ill people in Australia and is commended to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 21st April (vide page 793).
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Deputies of members).
.- I direct attention to this clause so that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) may explain to us how it is contemplated that the clause will operate. Sub-clause (1.) provides -
A member other than the Chairman or the member representing the Commonwealth may, with the approval of the Board, appoint a person other than another member to be his deputy, and may revoke any such appointment.
I am not aware of any limitation of the lime for which the deputy might be authorized to act, or of any other condition. lt seems to me that a member of the board may appoint a substitute to act for him for the remainder of his term of office.
We were told by the Minister last night that in formulating the constitution of this board there was a desire to get away from the organizational structure of the existing board, the producer members being appointed by the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation to represent beef producers, mutton producers and Iamb producers. It was implied that the producers in question would come from those organizations. I ask honorable senators to note that the clause does not indicate whether the deputy should be a producer or other than a producer. Nor does it indicate whether the deputy should be a member of the organizations which will be represented on the Australian Meat Board Selection Committee. It seems to me that, once the Meat Board is constituted, any member, with the approval of the majority of the remainder of the members, will have authority to appoint a substitute without in any way being limited to the categories involved in the original selection of members of the board.
I ask the Minister to explain the provisions of clause 16 (1.). It seems to me that this provides that a member, with the approval of the board, has the right to appoint a substitute for himself on the board. So far as I can see, there is no limit as to the period for which such an appointment may be made and there is no indication whether or not the appointee is to be a member of the two constituent organizations of the selection committee or whether he is to be a meat producer. There is nothing to say whether he must have any affiliation with the meat industry at all. Under the previous clause, these considerations seem to be cardinal to the qualifications of members to be appointed originally to the board. I wonder whether there is sufficient safeguard in the requirement that a deputy or a subsitute shall be appointed with the approval of the remainder of the board. Last night, we were told that the bill was an attempt to get away from the organizational structure of the old board on which the producers’ representatives included a beef producer, a mutton producer and a lamb producer. I wonder whether the provision in this sub-clause is not too wide in allowing deputy or substitute members to be appointed.
– I think the point that concerns Senator Wright is whether the deputy to be appointed will represent a fat lamb producer or whether he will be selected from an organization or from some other source. I think that there are no restrictions on the choice of whence a member shall come but I would think that, as a matter of practical politics, it would be logical to expect the chairman to appoint as a deputy a person whose interests were as near as possible to those of the member for whom he deputized. I understand that that is the accepted principle and I would think that a responsible board would follow that principle to ensure continuity of representation for the interests represented on the board.
– Clause 16 (1.) seems to be in contradiction of the whole spirit of the bill.
We have been trying to amend the bill to give the Minister for Primary Industry wider powers and the objective has been to confine the representation to the meat industry itself. The point that has been raised by Senator Wright concerns clause 16(1.) which states -
A member other tiran the Chairman or the member representing the Commonwealth may, with the approval of the Board, appoint a person other than another member to be his deputy, and may revoke any such appointment.
That does not confine the appointment to a person associated with the meat industry. The Opposition has been trying to enlarge the powers of the Minister but would still confine the representation to the meat industry. The Government has rejected amendments, stating that appointments must be confined, in the case of the chairman and producers’ representatives, to people who have been recommended to the Minister. The Government has rejected the suggestion made by the Australian Labour Party that other sections of the industry connected with meat should be excluded. Now the Government proposes that if a member of the board, other than the chairman or the member representing the Commonwealth, at the end of twelve months or so wants to appoint a deputy, the deputy can be selected from 12,000,000 Australians. In fact, he need not even be an Australian. The Government is not even providing that a person to replace a member must come from the meat industry. This seems to be a complete contradiction.
The Government objects to an enlargement of the board with representatives of the meat industry and yet it is providing that with the approval of the board, the original appointee may appoint somebody in his place who may not have anything to do with the industry. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s explanation of this provision.
– Senator Willesee seems to have overlooked the importance of the words “ with the approval of the board “. He is suggesting that a member of the Australian Meat Board would be so stupid - if that is the appropriate word - as to appoint somebody who had no regard whatever for the welfare of the meat industry. I think that Senator Willesee is supposing a case that would not, in fact, arise. If there were a tendency on the part of a member to be so irresponsible as to appoint a deputy with no qualifications, I take it that the rest of the board would have sufficient influence to see that he did not appoint some irresponsible or undesirable person.
.- The main point at issue is clause 16 (2.) which states -
The Minister may appoint a person other than a member to be the deputy of the member representing the Commonwealth and may revoke any such appointment.
– Order! Senator Wright was dealing with clause 16 (1.).
– Senator Prowse also referred to sub-clause (I.) which states -
A member other than the Chairman or the member representing the Commonwealth may, with the approval of the Board, appoint a person other than another member to be his deputy, and may revoke any such appointment.
The point raised by Senator Wright was that that provision gives a member carte blanche. It is true as Senator Willesee has said that this clause does not provide that the Minister, however well meaning he may be, has to appoint a person connected with the industry.
– Up to date the whole discussion has been focused on subclause (I.).
– I am dealing with sub-clause (2.), because I understand the committee is dealing with the whole of clause 16. Even agreeing with Senator Wright, the sub-clause does not say that the person who has the right to appoint a deputy must appoint a person connected with the industry. It gives him an open go to appoint whoever he wants to appoint. It might be quite clear in Senator Prowse’s mind that the logical thing for the member to do would be to appoint as his deputy a person connected with the industry, but once this bill is passed in its present form it will not matter what the intention of this chamber was; it will be the wording of the clause that will count. I therefore ask the Minister to have another look at it. If the Senate passes this bill in its present form it is not the intention of the chamber but the wording of its provisions that will become law. Now is the time for us, as far as is practicable, to put into the measure the wording we require. We believe the member will do this but if a person has the right to appoint a deputy, irrespective of what the honorable senator believes, he can do whatever he wants to do.
.- May I add a few words in another attempt to make my meaning clear? I referred to sub-clause (J.) of clause 16, which gives any member of the board, other than the chairman and the member representing the Commonwealth the right to appoint a deputy, and the only safeguard is that the appointment requires the approval of the board. The only question I raised in that regard was whether, having regard to the conditions and qualifications required for the original appointment, the Minister was satisfied that that safeguard, requiring the approval of the board only to the deputy, was sufficient to ensure that deputies would carry the same qualities and perform the same services as the original appointees. Having said that, I see the relevance of Senator Kennelly’s reference, and I will deal with it in this way: Sub-clause (2.) says that the Commonwealth member is not entitled, with the approval of the board, to appoint a deputy. The Minister comes back into the situation there. The Commonwealth representative on the board is not entrusted with authority to appoint a deputy, but the Minister makes the appointment of the original Commonwealth representative and also makes the appointment of any deputy. That draws a clear distinction. If the Minister cannot trust his own original appointee to appoint a delegate who will fulfil the purposes of the Commonwealth and the original appointee, solely with the approval of the board, have we any better guarantee that the ordinary producer representatives on the board will appoint deputies, with the approval of the board, who will carry out the purpose of the originally appointed members? I ask the committee to refer back to subclause (2.) of clause 8, which states -
Each member shall be appointed by the Minister in accordance with this Fart. . . .
Those are the conditions that I referred to as having been carefully laid down for the original appointment and the only question I asked was whether or not it was sufficient safeguard, in the substitution of deputies for the original members, simply to require the approval of the board.
.- Senator Wright has asked me specifically whether it is considered that the first or only stated safeguard for the appointment of a deputy laid down in the legislation, which is “with the approval of the board “, is adequate to ensure that there is continuity of that particular interest. There is an additional safeguard that might have escaped the honorable senator’s notice and it is related to the practical politics of the situation rather than to the actual wording of the legislation. It must be remembered that when a person appointing a deputy does so he must have in mind the fact that he is responsible not only to the board for the appointment he makes but also to the selection committee which has chosen him for the position. If honorable senators follow the appointment of these people through this legislation they will see that what I say is perfectly true and that the member who appoints a deputy is responsible from time to time for his own re-election to the selection committee and the interests he represents. I suggest to Senator Kennelly that any member of the board who appoints a deputy is mindful of the fact that he has to account not only to the board for his nominee but also to the selection committee, and right back down the line to the people who originally placed him in that position. I have not the slightest doubt that if any one of us were in that position we would be very careful whom we appointed deputy in our stead.
– Is not this clause subject to clause 10?
– I will look at that in a moment. The second point made by Senator Wright refers to sub-clause (2.) of clause 16, which states -
The Minister may appoint a person other than a member to be the deputy of the member representing the Commonwealth and may revoke any such appointment.
The appointment of the deputy by that method is in line with the appointment of the original member to represent the Commonwealth, and I cannot see any good purpose in departing from that system because here, again, we are bringing into being parliamentary responsibility in this matter. The Minister appoints the Commonwealth representative and I do not think for one moment that the Commonwealth should retreat or lightly let go that power over the Minister to hold him to account for his action. I therefore suggest that the legislation as it stands meets the situations which have been described by honorable senators.
– May I refer again to what I believe is a basic problem? Clause 16 provides that a member of the board may appoint a deputy, and I understand that the point Senator Wright raised is that clause 10 provides for the procedure by which the selection committee shall nominate the people representing the meat producers. This is the order of the appointments, and this is recognized in the bill; but clause 16 makes it possible for the member, if, for instance, he represented the meat producers and happened to get off-side with them as an organization, to nominate within the scope of the bill, whoever he thinks fit. Could not the point be covered by saying that this provision should be subject to the clause relating to the procedure of selection? That would probably avoid a later challenge.
– I desire the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) to clarify a point. Can the board, as Senator Prowse and Senator Bishop contend, say “Yea” or “Nay” to any appointment? Clause 16 (1) provides -
A member other than the Chairman or the member representing the Commonwealth may, with the approval of the Board, appoint a person other than another member to be his deputy . . .
The first step he has to take is to get the approval of the board. If I am a member of the board representing the wheat-growers and for some reason I cannot attend a particular meeting, in order that I may have a deputy representing me at that meeting I have to get the approval of the board to appoint a deputy. But where is there provision in the clause for the particular nominee that I intend to appoint to receive the approval of the board? I do not have to submit the name of my nominee to the board to get its approval of that particular individual. I simply have to obtain the approval of the board to appoint a deputy.
Sub-clause (3.) states -
A deputy of a member is, in the event of the absence of that member from a meeting of the Board, entitled to attend that meeting and shall, when so attending, be deemed to be a member.
If I get the approval of the board to appoint a deputy for a meeting that I cannot attend - and the board does not know whether I can attend until the day before the meeting is held - then the deputy merely walks in or out of the meeting as he pleases. I can see no provision in the clause for the board to sanction the appointment of the deputy.
This is against the whole principle of the bill because the appointment of members to the board is the function of the Minister. When making the original and subsequent appointments the Minister does so from a panel of names submitted to him by the selection committee, but this provision seems to defeat the very object of the bill. After the Minister has made an appointment, a member of the board can appoint a deputy from time to time. I do not think that is a desirable procedure, nor do I think it is the intention of the bill. I ask the Minister to give an opinion, or possibly to obtain an opinion from his legal advisers or from other legal advisers in this Chamber, on the question of whether the appointment of a particular individual as a deputy has to be approved by the board.
Turning to sub-clause (2.), which provides that the Minister may appoint a person other than a member to be the deputy of the member representing the Commonwealth, I do not think that in the earlier clause dealing with appointments it was intended that the Commonwealth representative should, of necessity, be connected with the meat industry. In view of all the circumstances and the ambiguity of the clause, I think that it should at least be clarified by stating whether or not it is intended to deprive one section of the primary producers of representation on the board. Do we want only two bodies of primary producers to represent the industry at all times?
– Senator Cavanagh has suggested that I might consult my legal advisers on the points that he raised. I am happy to do that. He has asked for a specific interpretation. He has referred to the appointment of a deputy with the approval of the board. The board must go further than approve the appointment of a deputy. It must approve of the actual person nominated to be the deputy. It is not merely a matter of saying: “ Yes, you may have a deputy. He may be Bill Smith or Joe Blow “. The board will insist on approving of the person who is actually nominated to represent the member of the board.
I do not think there is much I can add to my previous comments, in answer to the points that Senator Bishop has raised. As I understand the position - and I have had it explained to me quite clearly - the actual person nominated must, as I have pointed out to Senator Cavanagh, be approved by the board. If we take the matter to its logical conclusion, which I believe will appeal to the honorable senator who seeks democratic responsibility in this field, the nominee is not so directly responsible to the people whom he represents as is the person who appointed him. The person who appoints the deputy is the man who carries the responsibility because he is the official representative placed there by the selection committee and he is ultimately responsible to the people he represents in the industry.
– The deputy is not appointed in the same way as the member. The member comes on to the board as a result of a recommendation by the selection committee and he is ultimately responsible that the deputy is not appointed in that way.
– I suggest that the fields of responsibility, as far as the deputy is concerned, are so limited that it is not necessary to use the same machinery, which might well be cumbersome, to meet a specific situation that arises unexpectedly. This provision is intended merely to meet a situation that might arise unexpectedly, and rather than deprive the industry, or a particular section of it, of a voice at a board meeting, there is provision for a voice from that section of the industry to be heard. I really think the important point is that the voice representing the section of the industry should be heard at the board meeting.
– The Minister seems adamant on this matter, so I do not suppose there is much point in pursuing it. I leave him with the thought that if a member of the board wishes to appoint a deputy in certain circumstances, with the assistance of the votes of two other members he will be able to do so. Although there are to be nine members on the board, the constitution provides for a quorum of five. Let us assume that there is a bare quorum of members present and that a member wishes to appoint a deputy. He needs only the votes of two of the other members present to achieve a majority. I know, of course, that there will not always be a bare quorum at board meetings. I cannot understand why the Minister did not insist, when the provision was being drafted, that a deputy might come either from the narrow field of the meatproducing industry, or from the broad field from which we suggested board members might come. The term “ practical politics “ has been used here to-night. Everybody in this chamber ought to know that, as a matter of practical politics, when there is a bare quorum it will be possible for a member who wishes to appoint a deputy to have his way.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 (Remuneration and allowances.)
– I do not intend to move an amendment to this clause, but I wish to raise an interesting point in relation to the payment of remuneration and allowances to members of the board. Clause 40 provides that members of Parliament and candidates for election shall’ not be entitled to the remuneration and allowances provided for. 1 know that members of Parliament are pretty fair game. People who stand for Parliament, perhaps for obscure seats in some of the States, will be debarred from receiving remuneration under this provision. Because of the practical politics about which we have heard to-night, those people might not have an earthly hope of election to the Parliament. Their right to decide to stand for election is something that we are prepared to defend with all our might. They may stand under any political banner they choose. They may stand as independents or as members of a new political party. We say to such a person, in effect, “ Listen, old fellow, although we know you have not the slightest chance of being successful, because practical politics tells us so, we will exclude you from receiving the benefits provided for in this section of the act “. That seems to me to be a little hard and somewhat precipitate. It does not take very long for a candidate at an election to learn his fate, whether it be for good or ill. Nevertheless, until he learns that he has been unsuccessful, he is to be debarred from remuneration under this provision. I suggest that he will receive a sufficient number of kicks, whether or not he succeeds in entering politics. Why should we kick him before he even makes the attempt?
– Very briefly, this legislation follows the usual pattern. Of course, it all revolves around the question of a person holding an office of profit under the crown. I think in general terms it might well be written into the legislation to protect the person himself.
– To keep him out of politics?
– No. If he were not required to resign his office he might well be elected and inadvertently still hold his office of profit under the crown, which action would, of course, deprive him of his seat. I think it is generally accepted that this is a provision that is written into this type of legislation to protect the person himself.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 (Vacation of office).
– Perhaps the Minister can explain to me what is meant by clause 21 (2.), which states -
A member who is directly or indirectly interested in a contract made or proposed to be made by the board, otherwise than as a member, and in common with other members, of an incorporated company consisting of not less than twenty-five persons . . .
Will the Minister explain to me what is meant by “ an incorporated company consisting of not less than twenty-five persons “?
– I shall seek advice on that point.
.- I rise because I am reminded that eight to ten years ago the Senate had heated arguments at my instance on clauses such as this. Since then these clauses, as to the qualifications of members, and the vacation of office if a member of a government board has an interest in any transaction that that board proposes to enter into, have taken this form. This provision states that if a member fails to comply with sub-clause (2.) then he does not automatically vacate his seat but the Minister, by notice in the “ Gazette “, removes the member from office. The occasion on which he may be removed from office is when he contravenes the provision concerning his being directly or indirectly interested in a contract that is made or proposed to be made by the Meat Board, otherwise than as a member, and in common with other members of a company. He is not a director of or holding any special office in the company; he is simply a member having an interest in common with other members of a company consisting of not less than 25 persons. He shall as soon as possible after the relevant facts have come to his knowledge disclose the nature of his interest to a meeting of the board. It is left to the integrity of the. board members to record in the minutes the nature of the interest, as required by sub-clause (3.). The member who has an interest is to be disregarded for the purpose of constituting a quorum of the board. I do not know whether he is entitled to take any part in the debate or to use any advocacy among his fellow board members to secure a contract. I am not sure whether the provision forbids it. I think not. I think the provision relies upon the integrity of those assembled. I rose in the hope that I might be able to recall the history of this section and to do something by way of explanation, I hope accurately.
– I am puzzled by the number, 25. Is that in respect of. the number of persons in a company?
Senator Wade__ It is 25 shareholders.
– Making a company. What is the position of normal partnerships? There must be a very good reason for this provision. As Senator Wright ‘has pointed out, this is a fairly common clause. What is the difference between a member of the board being interested in a company and being interested in a partnership of two or more people?
– He would be excluded automatically if he were a member of a partnership, even of 30 persons.
– Why is he automatically excluded under a partnership? This is the interesting point on which I am seeking advice. I should think that the spirit of this provision is that if he has an interest in a contract he should disclose it.
.- If he is in a partnership he would be directly interested, regardless of bow many members there were in the partnership. If he is in a company, he is indirectly interested.
– I see. Where in the act is he forbidden in respect of a direct partnership?
– I do not want to prolong the discussion because I might not be as fully informed as I should be on this. When Senator Willesee asks where is the requirement that if he is a member of a partnership he shall not participate, the words used are “A member who is directly”, and those words cover the field of partnership. The word “indirectly” is related to his interest in a company.
.- I am not happy at the present time because I am not clear in my own mind as to whether this gateway, which the clause establishes, is justified in the circumstances. It is claimed that this board is to be a board of producers. In the primary producing industries, particularly in Queensland in the cattle country, a number of people who are involved as producers are also members of companies. I can think of half a dozen who have large cattle interests in Queensland who may be engaged not only in the production of beef but also in the processing of export meat. As it stands, this clause seems to open the gate for a man to be appointed to this board and to sit on the board whilst he has a dual interest. This may not be known to the Minister or the selection committee. I do not think such a person, could properly represent the producers because of his dual interest, even if he discloses it. He has a dual interest as a processor of meat and as an exporter of meat. I advance this matter and I would like the Minister to comment on it, because I am not happy about it at present.
– I am advised that this type of legislation is common for this type of appointment. It is regarded as adequate. It is claimed that if a member’s interest is one of at least 25 in a company it could not be argued that he had a controlling interest, shall I say, and that he spoke for the company. I do not know that I can give the complete assurance that the honorable senator seeks. Having regard to the other features of the bill concerning an appointment, I think there are sufficient safeguards to ensure that the industry will be properly represented on the board by persons best able to represent it. I believe that the requirement that representatives shall be producers will meet the point the honorable senator is trying to make. I believe that the industry itself, with its experience of boards, will be alive to this, and that the safeguards written into the legislation will ensure that the voice of the producer will not be a two-tongued voice, speaking also for other interests, but will speak only for producers. That is the intent of the legislation. The exporters will have their voice. I feel sure that when selections are made these factors, with the safeguards that are in the legislation, will produce the type of board that the Government wants to see.
– The point that Senator Cormack makes is that a member of the board may be a member of an incorporated company which has more than 25 members. He may be a very large shareholder. He may have associated with him in the incorporated company others who are also very large shareholders. Under this provision he may take part in a decision by the board concerning a contract made or proposed to be made by the board, in which the company with which he is connected is a direct contracting party, and he may do so even though he is under no obligation to disclose his interest in that company or in the contract. Why should that not be cleared up? Why should not a person who has any substantial interest be required to disclose it? Surely it would be simple enough to make a provision that, if he is interested, as soon as the facts come to his knowledge he will disclose the nature of his interest at a meeting of the board. There should not be a gateway.
What is wrong with having a provision that any person who is directly or indirectly interested shall, as soon as the relevant facts come to his knowledge, disclose the nature of his interest at a meeting of the board? At least, that much ought to be done, even if he is thereafter permitted to take part in the decision. At the moment, as Senator Cormack has indicated, there is a gateway in respect of persons who might be members of the board, who are members, in common with others, of an incorporated company consisting of not fewer than 25 persons. Senator Cavanagh interjects to ask whether such a person is not required to disclose his interest. It would appear from what has been put that he does not have to do so at all.
.- In deference to the argument that has taken place, I should like to make one or two comments. The first is in relation to Senator Willesee’s point as to partnerships. I think it is quite clear that unless you are a mere member of an incorporated company that consists of not fewer than 25 persons, if you are interested, either directly or indirectly, in any contract made or proposed to be made by the board, you are bound to disclose your interest. That means that if you are a person who has an interest in the contract, or if you are a member of a partnership or a syndicate unincorporated which has an interest in the contract, you have to disclose your interest. The second point is: What interest? It is the interest in the contract; it is not merely an interest in the industry. Cattle are sold by auction to an exporter, who makes the contract with the board. The vendor to the exporter is not necessarily a person who is indirectly interested in that contract. There would be occasions when he may make the arrangement of sale and sub-sale as an inter-related transaction, when he would be interested in the board’s contract to buy from the exporter. This type of clause has received a good deal of attention from the courts. Corruption is a matter that has engaged the vigilance of the courts for a long time.
Then we come to this question of the exception, a man who has an interest as member of an incorporated company of not fewer than 25 persons. Suppose that the exporter consists of a family company created two generations ago. Even within a family the number in a company may be more than 25. Cases are not unknown’ in which the managing director of a large family company thinks that as a matter of duty he should seek a seat on a board such as this. Before putting himself forward, he resigns the managing directorship and becomes financial adviser to the board of the company. I am not sure that that brings him within the gateway in this instance, but I think that it does. I do not think that, if he were simply retained as financial adviser to the company, he would be considered to have an interest in a contract, otherwise than as a member of the incorporated company. So the gateway is open to some abuse, and the. ambit of the gateway is a matter of judgment.
This is not the first time a clause in this form has been accepted in connexion with such boards as this. The reason is that the old-time automatic disqualification for any interest in a contract made by a public board brought about definite dismemberment of the member concerned, and it was thought that the public interest was put to a disadvantage by not having the services of men of that sort available on these boards. A compromise was evolved which; has proved acceptable. It is a mere matter of judgment as to whether it is in the public interest to insist upon a more restrictive gateway or to permit a gateway with this amplitude. This is a matter in which the committee ought to be quite interested. Only by the formulation of a proper provision of this nature has real’ integrity in the business of a board of this character been ensured.
.- I do not think that there is anything that I can add to what Senator Wright has said. He said that it was a matter of fine judgment whether the industry should be deprived of people with knowledge who might have encumbrances - if I may use the term - within the meaning of the legislation. The principle involved has been adopted on previous occasions. The Government, in producing this legislation after consultation with the organizations concerned, is of opinion that as it stands it will be in the best interests of those whom it is intended to serve.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 22 to 24 agreed to.
Clause 25. (1.) Without limiting the generality of the last: preceding section, the Board may, for the purpose. of increasing the quantity of Australian meat. exported to places to which Australian meat is already exported or of commencing the export of Australian meat to another place -
.- I move-
Leave out sub-clauses (2.) to (7.) inclusive.
This clause has the general heading “ Trading powers “ and the operative part reads -
Without limiting the generality of the last preceding section, the Board may, for the purpose of increasing the quantity of Australian meat exported to places to which Australian meat is already exported or of commencing the export of Australian meat to another place -
export, or sell for export, meat owned by the Board; or
undertake any other action for or in connexion with the exercise of the powers conferred by either of the last two preceding paragraphs that is, in the opinion of the Board, likely to achieve either of those purposes.
Then follow sub-clauses (2.) to (7.) which limit that very general and very desirable power by providing that a committee shall be set up in accordance with sub-clause (4.) which the board must consult before it begins to use the general powers that are set out in clause 25. The committee shall consist of the chairman of the board, four other members of the board and four members of the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council.
I do not intend to speak for long because we dealt with this matter very fully in the second-reading stages. I point out to the committee that this will inhibit the general powers of the board. The Australian Labour Party said at the beginning of this debate that it agreed that the new board should have very wide powers. Our only quarrel with the Government from the outset has been that it has limited the powers of the board. It has put inhibitions and restrictions on the board. The Opposition feels that here is a situation where the whole fate of the industry is in jeopardy. The producer’s fate is tied up with the fact of whether or not the meat can be exported. The expansion of the whole meat industry and the production of meat in Australia is going to rest on the overseas markets that this board can find for producers in the years to come. The condition of Australia’s overseas credits and balances will depend on the efficiency of the board in seeking out new outlets and also in expanding the old ones. It seems to the Opposition, Mr. Chairman, that the Government lacks some faith in the board when, in connexion with the board’s most important function it says that it shall talk to an outside body, or discuss with an outside body, the question of the new methods it is going to adopt.
This board, in its operations, could enter all sorts of avenues. Although it is not probably envisaged, it was mentioned by several speakers on this side during the second-reading stage that you might get a situation where you might move into what is virtually government-to-government trading. You may get a situation where for many reasons - natural disaster or poverty - you may have a surplus of meat. This has happened in the case of other primary products in Australia. Suddenly, it may be desired to send a large quantity of meat to a completely new outlet. It seems strange to the Opposition that having set up this board with all the experience that it has, you say to the board that it must consult with another committee. The board has to consult with a committee representing exporters who already have vested interests in certain areas of the world. If they wanted to, these exporters could deliberately delay the proceedings of the board interminably. I do not mean that this delay would go on for years but it could continue over the operative period. In world affairs to-day you have to move with almost incredible speed compared with times of yore.
The Opposition does not see why this situation should be permitted to arise. Right throughout this debate we have said that the board ought to be given wide powers. We have deplored the fact that the Minister is not more closely associated with the board in meat producing and meat exporting in Australia. First, we are anxious to hear the Minister’s explanation. In the whole set-up of this meat board we are worried that instead of striving for the greatest good for the greatest number instead of being seized with the importance of overseas balances and of racing other competitors into the new markets which are developing in the emergent countries, the board is to be inhibited by certain sections of the industry. The Opposition believes that the board should take cognizance of the whole of the meat industry whether it be the producing, exporting or employee section. It should also have in mind the political situation. By “political situation” I refer to expanding markets, not only for the making of profits for individuals but in order to build up our overseas balances and develop two-way trade with other nations of the world.
The Opposition thinks that the Government is holding the board back by insisting that it consult meat exporters before it moves into new markets. I shall be most interested to hear the remarks of the Minister. I heard the speeches made during the second-reading debate, but nothing was said which has prevented me from moving the amendment I have moved to-night. I believe that the clause would be much better and that the whole bill would be a much stronger one if these restrictions were removed from the operations of the Australian Meat Board.
.- I find myself in disagreement fundamentally with the amendment moved by Senator Willesee. He has moved, in relation to clause 25 to leave out sub-clauses (2.) to (7.) inclusive. It is true, as Senator Willesee has said, that clause 25 in Part III. is probably one of the most crucial clauses of the whole bill. It is also true, as Senator Willesee mentioned, that the whole operation of this bill is designed to meet circumstances that could conceivably arise where it might be necessary to enter into governmenttogovernment contracts. I do not dispute that at all. I think that is something that is likely to arise. I put it this way: The board could find itself in a position where it believed, for example, that a market which has been already profitably occupied by the exporting industry was a market into which it could move and make some profit. In the first place, if it does that, it is inevitably going to pre-empt some of the market which has already been developed by private exporters. In the second place if it enters into the dead meat market in Australia - it can purchase only meat and not animals - it is going to tend to force up the price of meat in Australia. That, it seems to me, will have two results. It could force up the price of meat to such a degree that it would amount to a form of rationing in Australia. In the second instance, it could make it unprofitable to the meat exporter to continue to export to the particular market concerned because the price of meat had been forced up internally.
I think that the Government is correct in this instance in saying that there should be an inhibition placed upon the Australian Meat Board to prevent it from entering into these types of markets. Again I suggest that the Government is right in its drafting of clause 25 when we come to consider markets that might be described as uneconomic or undeveloped, lt is apparent to me that the occasion will arise when the Meat Board will say in effect, “Let us export to Blue Land “, to name an apocryphal country. The board may say, “It is an underdeveloped and uneconomic meat market but rather than go to all the trouble and the great expense of entering into this market as a board we will operate in this underdeveloped and uneconomic market through export services which are already available in Australia”. Therefore, there are on the Australian Meat Board two members of the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council. So, there are adequate safeguards for the meat exporters, but there are also adequate safeguards for the board itself because, in the event of disagreement with the meat exporters, under a subsequent clause of the bill by which, in effect, there is an increase to four, ‘the final decision rests with the Minister. As I see it, clause 25 and all its sub-clauses substantially sets into operation that which is desirable and provides safeguards which will not allow the board to become an unrestricted agent in this field.
Senator Prowse has a great faith in this board. I shall not have such great faith in the board until I know the people who will occupy the executive positions on it. I have spent many days and weeks in examining the operations of boards, and I have found that boards are not usually efficient. They need a spur. If they are not spurred, they tend to become decadent and when they become decadent, they tend to lose a great deal of money. Involved in the vigilance that must be exercised by the Parliament in relation to this board is vigilance over the money that it will spend. I mention in passing that in 1962, the last year for which I have any figures, the New Zealand Meat Board in its operations lost over £A.2,000,000. Of course, it had a substantial corpus amounting to £A.40,000,000 which came from the deficiency payments under an agreement with the British Government in the post-war period and perhaps it could afford to lose £2,000,000 in the underwriting of its markets. But the board we are dealing with is not starting off with a corpus of £A.40,000,000. It is starting off from scratch. Therefore, I think there must be inhibitions on the board. They are set out in clause 25. I do not support the amendment moved by Senator Willesee.
– I am indebted to Senator Cormack for putting the Government’s view ‘before the Senate. I wish only to emphasize one or two points he has made. The provision for the consultative committee has been made as both the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council wished to ensure that the Australian Meat Board does not necessarily exercise its trading powers for marketing development by duplicating the functions of private traders. Senator Cormack has very clearly enunciated the Government’s policy in this matter. This is a safeguard in the legislation that will strengthen that policy. The intention is that the board’s trading powers for marketing development shall be exercised only when there are special marketing problems or marketing circumstances which preclude the effective participation of private traders. The composition of the consultative committee is such that it should be well qualified to consider those matters. For these reasons and the reasons which have been dealt with by Senator Cormack I cannot accept the amendment on behalf of the Government.
– This clause is, I believe, the kernel of new matter that has been introduced into this bill. I certainly oppose the amendment that has been moved by Senator Willesee, representing the Australian Labour Party. It is natural to expect such an amendment because the policy which that party espouses is trading by governments and a board of this character would be a means by which trading organizations could be set up. Indeed, it was the Chifley Government which conferred a very wide trading power on the Australian Meat Board in 1946 or 1947, envisaging that the board would deal in the export of all meat from Australia. I support entirely the purpose that this clause is intended to achieve.
I rise only because I think that this key clause demands a little reference and because I think that the safeguards are completely ineffective. I propose to take a little df the committee’s time to point out how, in my view, those safeguards are completely ineffective. We start with clause 23 which outlines the functions of the board. Paragraph (c) says that one of these functions is - to encourage, assist and promote the export of meat from Australia, and to promote the consumption and sale, both in Australia and overseas, of Australian meat.
So, the board’s function is to promote the sale of Australian meat in Australia as well as overseas. Under clause 24, sub-clause (1.) the board has power to do all things that are necessary or convenient to be done for the purpose of those functions. So, the board has the power to promote the export of meat from Australia and to promote the sale of Australian meat both in Australia and1 overseas. The clause with which we are dealing commences by saying that it does not limit the generality of the last preceding clause - that is, clause 24. Clause 24 must be coupled: with clause 23 which gives unlimited power for the board to promote the sale of Australian meat both in Australia and overseas. So, the first thing about clause 25 is that it does not limit that power. But the second point is that the board may - I- am not using the language of the Minister’s second-reading- speech - exercise the trading powers for the purpose of promoting exports where there are special1 marketing problems or marketing circumstances which preclude the effective participation of private traders. The bill does not say that at all. The bill says that the board may exercise the trading powers for the purpose of increasing the quantity of Australian meat exported to places to which Australian meat is already exported. So, if 50,000 tons of meat is wanted in New York, and there is only 20,000 tons going there, the board may, according to the specific provisions of this legislation, employ its trading powers for the purpose of increasing our exports to New York. There is nothing to say that, in a market to which the board will send increased quantities of Australian meat, there must be special marketing problems or marketing circumstances which preclude the effective participation of private traders. The board may ginger up exports to a market which exporters are already supplying. I find no safeguard in that whatever. I find only an open right for the board to come in on markets which have just been developed and are showing commercial potential. The board could come in for easy money under a different government. By government trading it could capitalize by increasing exports to an already developed market. There is nothing there to say that the board shall use its trading powers only for the purpose of exploiting an uneconomic market.
The next purpose for which the Australian Meat Board may exercise its trading powers is to commence the export of Australian meat to another place. We ought to look at the term “ another place “. If an export trade to five internal suburbs of Tokyo has. been built up and if the board can find a sixth or seventh suburb to which meat may be exported, that other suburb comes within the term “ another place “. In the express language of this sub-clause the board is quite free to use its trading powers.
– Except with the qualification set out in sub-clause (2.).
– I am coming to that. I shall not neglect that consideration. 1 have demonstrated that in the first line any safeguard is written out of sub-clause (1.), because the sub-clause does not limit the generality of the power to promote sales both in Australia and overseas. The board may exercise its trading powers, secondly, for the purpose of increasing the quantity of Australian meat exported1 to places to which Australian meat is already exported and, thirdly, for the purpose of exporting Australian meat to a place other than a place to which Australian meat is already being exported. I have already pointed out that, the term “ another place “ having been used, the board, having already exported to five suburbs of Tokyo, may export to a sixth and say that it is acting within the precise language of the act.
Sub-clause (2.) provides -
The powers, conferred by the last- preceding subsection shall not be exercised except where, in the opinion, of the Board after considering a report by the Committee referred to in sub-section (4.) of this section, a purpose referred to in the last preceding sub-section would not. otherwise be achieved.
The substance of that sub-section is that the powers already referred to. shall not be exercised except where, in the opinion of the board, a purpose referred to in- the preceding sub-section could not be achieved without implementation of those powers.
What is that purpose? It is to increase the quantity of meat being supplied to an existing market or to commence the export of meat to a place to which Australian meat is not being supplied. So there is nothing in that sub-section, because the opinion of the board is the determining factor and the purpose that must be considered is not a safeguard.
Then we have a sub-clause which was inserted in the bill in another place as an attempted safeguard. Sub-clause (3.) provides -
If the Board decides to exercise a power conferred by sub-section (1.) of this section otherwise than in accordance with the report referred to in the last preceding sub-section, the Board shall forward a copy of the report to the Minister, together with a statement of the reasons of the Board for its decision.
To consider whether that provision is a safeguard it is necessary to consider subclause (4.). That sub-clause refers to a committee which shall consist of the chairman of the Australian Meat Board, four other members of the. board andfour members of the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council. So the majority of the members of that committee always will be members of the Meat Board. When, in the name of reason, can a report of that committee be expected to be other than in accordance with the board’s point of view? Sub-clause (3.) should provide that where the board decides to exercise its powers other than in accordance with the submission made by the four members of the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council, the Minister should be informed. As the chairman of the Meat Board and four of the board’s members will always sit on this consultative committee, the opinion of the board will always prevail. There will be no difference between the report of the committee and the opinion of the Meat Board. Therefore, there will be no occasion to bring sub-clause (2.) into action. These things demonstrate the inefficacy of these sub-sections. At any rate, although they may be without legal efficacy, they are. written into the legislation as being in the nature of guide posts to guide the administration of the legislation. Therefore, I oppose their deletion, but I express great dissatisfaction with their retention.
– I support Senator Willesee’s statement that the sub-clauses mentioned by him should be deleted. The Australian Meat Board ought to be able to exercise its power without being circumscribed by the need to get the consent of any other body. If the amendment is rejected, perhaps the only comfort to be derived will come from Senator Wright’s statement, and it seems to me that, for the reasons expounded by him, the sub-clauses amount to so much camouflage and they may in the long run achieve what the Opposition desires to achieve.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Willesee’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 26 to 28 agreed to.
(3.) The Minister, or a person authorized in writing by him, may grant a licence under this section to a person to export meat from Australia. (4.) A licence referred to in the last preceding sub-section may be expressed to be subject to -
.- I move-
After sub-clause (4.) insert the following subclauses: - “ (4a.) The Minister shall cause notice of the granting of every licence under this section to be published in the Gazette within one month after the date on which the licence is granted. “ (4b.) Where an application for a licence under this section -
has been refused; or
has not been determined within one month after the date on which the application was made, the Minister shall, if the applicant requests him in writing so to do, inform the applicant in writing of the reasons for the refusal or for the failure to determine the application.”.
This amendment is designed to provide that an applicant who is refused a licence to export meat by the Australian Meat Board may ventilate his ‘grievances in the National Parliament if he has a case. As the legislation now stands, such an applicant has no right of appeal. This amendment will provide a right of appeal to the highest authority in the land. I have said before and I repeat that the Parliament should be responsible for all its legislation and any citizen should have the right to have his dissaffections ventilated. I believe that this type of amendment will meet the situation better than any other method that could be devised.
If it were suggested - as has already been suggested - that a person who had been refused a licence should have the right of appeal to a police magistrate or a stipendiary magistrate, that would take from the Parliament and the Minister a right or a responsibility that they should be called upon to exercise. I believe that the best interests of the appellants will be served by the provisions of the amendment. If an applicant is refused a licence, the Minister will have to state in writing within 30 days the reason for the refusal. The person who has been refused the licence will then have several courses open to him. The most powerful avenue of appeal that he has at his disposal is in the Parliament of the land.
I believe that the Minister himself must also exercise great care in refusing an application for a licence as he will know full well that he can be called upon to explain to the Parliament the reasons for that refusal. That is the best safeguard we could have for the people who may be refused a licence or who may not be informed of the fate of their application. I commend the amendment to the committee.
.- The amendment moved by the Minister is a great improvement to the bill and should be accepted with appreciation, particularly as a similar amendment in another place was defeated on a division initiated by the Minister in charge of the bill who said an amendment of this substance would be rejected by the Government. I am grateful to the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) for operating the Senate’s power of review. I believe he has made a contribution in deference to the sentiments expressed by Senator Morris, Senator Lillico and one or two others who spoke from the Government side in the debate on the second reading.
In this case, it is proposed to have a licensing system controlling an industry with a considerable investment. That investment must be made to work efficiently in the interests of the export trade. When you have to safeguard the industry with equity to the people who put their capital and their skill into it, it is very satisfactory that provision should be made, when a licence is granted, for other people to peruse the Commonwealth “ Gazette “ so that they can know to whom the licence has been granted. It is very satisfactory also that when an application for a licence has been refused or has not been determined within one month after the date on which the application was made -
The Minister shall, if the applicant requests him in writing so to do, inform the applicant in writing of the reasons for the refusal or for the failure to determine the application.
A statutory requirement that a Minister must state his reasons for the refusal of a licence is a great safeguard to ensure that the Minister will have proper reasons to disclose for that refusal. But having said that, I suggest to the committee that the provision does not go far enough. I point out that clause 29 provides -
– (1.) For the purpose of enabling the Board effectively to control the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of meat, the regulations may prohibit the export from Australia of meat by a person other than the Board unless -
The first point there is that a licence must be granted by the Minister and the second point is that the export must be in accordance with conditions laid down in the regulations. Sub-clause (2.) provides that the regulations prescribing those conditions shall not be made unless the conditions or restrictions have been recommended to the Minister by the board, so we have some safeguard against the Minister receiving bad advice from his department in making the regulations. There is the additional guide that there will be a recommendation from the meat board. Subclause (4.) provides that a licence referred to in the last preceding sub-section may be expressed to be on the conditions, that first, an owner who wishes to have his meat processed shall be entitled to require it to be processed by the licensee and, secondly, that the person who holds the licence shall not export the meat except in accordance with certain directions to be given by the Minister. There is an element of arbitrariness there, because there is no safeguard on those directions, but I am prepared to pass that by. But paragraph (c) of subclause (4.) says that the licence may be expressed to be subject to such other conditions as the Minister may determine, and there is no safeguard or limitation upon any condition that the Minister might determine.
It is obvious that a person who has put a great investment into this industry and who depends on the continuance of his export, has to get a licence from the Minister, and the Minister may put on it a condition that will make that licence completely unprofitable. It may be a condition which states that the exporter shall divert part of his trade to a market where he has no connexions, and so makes the licence completely unprofitable. The Minister’s amendment gives no recourse against the imposition of an adverse condition. I have instanced only one type of adverse condition, because the committee’s time and patience are not unlimited.
The next thing I wish to point out as a glaring deficiency is that the clause makes no reference to an appeal against the cancellation of a licence. Sub-clause (5.) entitles the Minister to cancel a licence after receiving a report from the board. I remind the Minister that when legislation providing that the approval of an organization to continue to operate under the National Health Act should be subject to ministerial decision was under consideration, the late Sir Earle Page readily accepted an amendment granting a right of appeal. I point out, also, that my colleague from Tasmania, Senator Henty, as Minister for Customs and Excise, amended the customs legislation to provide for an appeal against the refusal of a licence to a customs agent, and, speaking from memory, against cancellation of such a licence. I remind the committee also that the Parliament has never thought that the right of the Commissioner of Taxation to assess incomes should be exercised without a right of review on the part of the taxpayer. So, on Wednesday night of last week I circulated to honorable senators and handed to the Minister an amendment to the effect that where a person is aggrieved by the refusal of a licence or by any conditions determined by the Minister under paragraph (c) of subclause (4.), or any cancellation of a licence, that person may appeal either to a police or stipendiary magistrate, or to the Supreme
Court of a State, or to an industrial court which shall hear the appeal and give such decision thereon as is just. Not hearing from the Minister, but receiving his proposed amendment which was circulated yesterday, it occurred to me that the objection to my amendment might be that it invoked judicial courts as the tribunal of review.
To obviate any argument of that sort I have reframed an amendment which, if my first amendment is unsuccessful, I will attempt to have accepted. It would give to the person aggrieved by the refusal of a licence, or by any condition determined by the Minister or by any cancellation of the licence, the right to request the Meat Board to refer such refusal, condition or cancellation to a committee of review. I have no fixed ideas as to the composition of the proposed committee of review. I simply want an authority apart from the Minister, to which a person who applies for the licence may present his case and from which he may get an alternative decision. The committee of review that I propose would consist of a chairman and two other members appointed by the Minister, and of those two members one would be appointed to represent the meat producers and one would be appointed to represent meat exporters. The committee would have power to review the matters referred to it and give such decision thereon as was just.
It was only because I had been given no specific comment on proposed judicial appeal, and to anticipate any possible objection to involving the law courts in this matter, that I turned to the idea of an administrative appeal. This idea comes to me because that is precisely the sort of appeal that the Government accepted after the import licensing regulations came into question years ago. We all know the strictures that were passed on the import licensing regulations because of their arbitrariness and the opportunity they gave for lack of integrity in our import trade. I think that an arbitrary system of export licensing is open to equally grave objections. I propose my amendment only because I want to improve the regulations so as to protect individuals, whoever they may be, who want to enter the trade anew, or who have been in the trade and who, because of cancellation of their licences, feel aggrieved. I want to give them the right of appeal to another tribunal which can hear the matter afresh. It may well be that the appeal tribunal will confirm the refusal to grant a licence, the conditions of a licence or the cancellation of a licence. But it is through the existence of a right to have an administrative decision reviewed that a person gets a sense of justice in a matter which may involve his livelihood.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator McKellar).Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Mr. Chairman, I wish to quote a passage in “ Hansard “ from a speech by the present Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury). On 9th March, 1961. he said -
When we talk about imports control, let us not forget the evils that existed when such control operated. We recall the cosy little parties of people with nice monopolies in certain lines who added about15 or 20 per cent, to their prices simply because they had begun importing earlier and happened to have import licences, whereas othershad not. That sort of thing is implicit in imports control.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I intervene merely to allow Senator Wright to continue.
.- I had finished my submissions. I am speaking now to the Minister’s amendment only because he referred in it to a right of appeal. When, as I hope, his amendment is passed, I shall put my amendment with brevity. I pay tribute to the Minister because, in introducing his amendment, he has reviewed the decision of another place. I am very pleased that the Senate takes part in that operation. Without prejudice to that compliment,I ask the Minister to consider the matters I have put forward. I consider that there should be either a judicial review or an administrative review, and I ask the Minister to consider accepting one or other of those proposals.
.- To further expedite the debate, I should like Senator Wright to know at this stage that my legal advisers have told me that the first proposed amendment cannot be accepted for constitutional reasons.
– I thought that would be so.
– I place that information before the committee. Do I take it that Senator Wright will not proceed with his first amendment?
-I shall content myself with submitting the second amendment.
Senator WADE__ Whenthe amendment I have proposed to the committee has been disposed of I shall seek an opportunity to address to Senator Wright comments that are relevant to the second amendment.
– During the last fortnightI have been unable to impress the Minister with my logic because he has not accepted any of my amendments, but I hope to impress him now with my charity because I intend to support his amendment. As Senator Wright has said, it is undoubtedly an important matter, although the amendment does not go as far as we would like it to go. We feel that an. appeal should lie outside the Ministry. Nevertheless, the amendment will allow the names of the people who are granted a licence to be published in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “. It must be remembered that there are upwards of 300 people earning a living from export licences which are under the control of this board. A person who is refused a licence will have an opportunity to have the reasons for the refusal placed before him, and he may then take certain steps to bring the matter before notice of the public. On the basis of the old maxim that half a loaf is better than none, the Australian Labour Party will support the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
At end of clause add the following sub-clause: - “ (10.) Any person aggrieved by
the refusal of a licence,
any condition determined by the Minister under paragraph (c) of sub-section (4.) of this section, or
any cancellation of a licence under subsection (5.) of this section, may appeal therefrom to -
a police or stipendiary magistrate, or
the Supreme Court of a State, or
the Industrial Court, who shall hear the appeal and give such decision thereon as is just.”
I have advanced the reasons that prompted me to ask for an appeal. The Minister was good enough to say a moment ago that his decision against this appeal was because of advice that he had received that the amendment was not constitutional. I, perhaps, enter the discussion at a disadvantage to myself and maybe the Minister is at some disadvantage, too. I have put forward three tribunals and I do not care which is accepted. I have put them forward as alternatives that have occurred to me. I should think that any constitutional objection would apply to the Industrial Court. If the other two tribunals were vested with federal jurisdiction, as is common in provisions such as this, I cannot perceive any constitutional objection to the proposal.
I do not wish to enter into a full discussion because if the judicial review is not preferred I am content to have an administrative review, to which I have attempted to give expression in the alternative amendment I have circulated. I ask that the amendment be accepted.
– I have nothing to say about the amendment, other than that it is not acceptable to the Government because, on my advice, it is unconstitutional.
– In what regard?
– For the very simple reason that it is proposed to place before a judicial court an administrative matter. I am speaking as a layman. I want the Committee to understand that I am not competent to enter into a debate on constitutional matters, nor do I intend to do so. In these matters I take the advice of my legal advisers. I assure Senator Wright that there was no searching on my part for some avenue of escape. I am advised that this is a matter of procedure and administration which is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, if the appeal were taken to a court of justice where a police magistrate or a stipendiary magistrate were asked to make a decision on an administrative matter, I believe that the appellant’s last state might well be worse than his first. He might well have his appeal upheld, but where does he go from there? The Minister can say that the matter has not to be referred to him. He accepts no responsibility and we, as the Parliament, must ultimately protect the rights of the individual. I put it to the Senate as strongly as I can that the rights of the applicant who has been refused a licence will be better served by this Parliament than by an outside body. For the two reasons I have enunciated the amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
– The Opposition agrees in principle with the notion of an appeal, but this amendment has been put forward by Senator Wright in good faith and, in deference to the Senate, an answer should be given as to why this appeal is not competent. The proposed clause that Senator Wright puts forward intends that the Commonwealth Industrial Court and the other courts mentioned in his amendment should exercise, by way of review or revision, all the powers that are conferred upon the Minister under subclause (5.). The Commonwealth Industrial Court and, so far as Commonwealth legislation is concerned, the State courts can exercise only the judicial power of the Commonwealth. Under section 71 of the Constitution the judicial power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Federal Supreme Court, called the High Court, and in such other federal courts as are created, such as the Commonwealth Industrial Court, and such other courts as are invested with federal jurisdiction. All of this comes back to judicial power, and if it is not judicial power that is conferred then the provision is simply void. There would be nothing conferred at all, and if something were conferred then, of course, it would have to be acted upon.
The Senate would no doubt consider that what the Minister said at the end of his remarks was complete nonsense. If there there were a valid appeal granted, and a court was given the power to make such decision thereon as was just, then any Minister would be bound to carry it out, and he could not say, “ It has not been referred to me and I do not need to take any notice of it.” That is not how our system of government works. If a court gives a decision, based on a valid power of appeal, then the Minister, the same as any other citizen, is bound to carry it out.
The question which would be considered on an appeal would be whether the Minister had made a sound exercise of the discretion to cancel a licence, and that could not be determined completely by judicial standards. It is clear from the provisions of the act, including clause 5 of the bill, that it would be proper for the Minister to take into account matters purely of public policy. The Commonwealth Industrial Court would, therefore, in the proposed proceedings that are called an appeal in Senator Wright’s amendment, have the duty of reviewing an order founded upon a finding of fact and involving a resolution against the person holding a licence on a question of policy.
The court could, consistently with the exercise of judicial power, decide whether the finding of fact was correct. But if it found it was correct it could not, consistently with the exercise of judicial power, decide that there was no ground of policy to be drawn from the act which ought to preclude the person from retaining his licence. If the court confines itself simply to the issue whether the licensee fell within any of the expressed grounds of cancellation enumerated in clause 5 of the bill and determined the appeal on that basis, its method of proceeding might be consistent with an exercise of judicial power. But it would not be consistent with the intention which the sub-clause proposed to be inserted by Senator Wright manifests. That intention is to determine whether the Minister has correctly applied sub-clause (5.). That would, in part, involve the exercise of judicial power, but it would also involve consideration of questions of policy which lie completely outside the realm of judicial power. For these reasons paragraph (c) relating to the cancellation of a licence, if incorporated, would in my opinion be invalid.
So far as the refusal of a licence is concerned - which is paragraph (a) - I think the position would have been even worse, if that were possible, because that is completely an administrative question and not one for a court to decide at all. There might be some possible basis for a court dealing with a cancellation of a licence. It would be an unsatisfactory kind of appeal for the reasons I have put, because the court, if it determined that there had been a contravention of a condition, could not deal with the questions of policy Which a Minister would consider. The Minister, for instance, might say, “Well, true it is these people have broken the condition, but nevertheless they are a big firm doing a lot of exporting and I think they should still go on”. A court, however, cannot take that kind of consideration into account and decide what the public policy ought to be on the export of meat and so on. It is a topic completely outside the scope of the discretion which ought to be exercised by a court in this country.
Paragraph (b) - that is the appeal against a condition determined by the Minister - is a matter which is completely and utterly administrative. By no stretch of the imagination at all could this come within the scope of the activities which could be considered by a court in the exercise of its Judicial power.
For those reasons I consider this appeal power could not be sustained. It is clearly void, but nevertheless the position could be saved in the way that Senator Wright has indicated by having an administrative body which would have the power to review completely the Minister’s decision on all of these matters. The same problem was faced by the Parliament in relation to appeals under the Stevedoring Industry Act. Much of what I have put to the Senate comes from the decision in that matter. Exactly similar considerations applied. An appeal had been made to the Commonwealth Industrial Court against the cancellation of a licence of a waterside worker. It was found in a case concerning a man named Krespi, a member of the Waterside Workers Federation, that when an appeal was invoked a prohibition was granted by the High Court of Australia on the grounds that the appeal was outside the judicial power. Legislation had to be specially introduced, and was introduced I think during the course of the case, to give an appeal to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That is the kind of body which can exercise the administrative powers that are a corollary of the judicial powers which are exercised by the industrial court. I think that Senator Wright’s amendment could be saved if one were to substitute the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for the bodies which he has mentioned. I should think that some administrative body, composed of members of the industry, could hear an appeal, be put in possession of the whole facts, and exercise all the functions which the Minister might exercise. It has been considered by most authorities concerned that matters of licensing, fixing of conditions attached to licences, and refusal of licences, ought to be the subject of appeal. I think that Senator Wright is on firm ground in putting to the Senate that there should be an appeal. If, as seems clear to me, there cannot be a judicial appeal, there certainly ought to be an administrative appeal.
– We are considering the matter of an appeal to a judicial body, which has just been dealt with by Senator Murphy. Senator Wright has indicated that if “his first proposal is defeated he will adopt the procedure which was arrived at many years ago in relation to import licensing, after the Regulations and Ordinances Committee had raised the matter in this chamber and negotiated with the Minister. The procedure that was arrived at worked fairly successfully.
I want it clearly understood that we of the Opposition agree completely with the principle of appeal. We supported the Minister’s amendment because it made the legislation so much better. I do not see that the superimposition of an appeal system would in any way harm what the Minister sought to do. In many ways there would be an advantage, in view of the doubts raised by the Minister and confirmed to some degree from this side of the chamber. We shall content ourselves with supporting the second amendment which will be moved by Senator Wright. I say this somewhat reluctantlybecause the Minister said at one stage that he was anxious to ‘improve the bill and that he would listen to any amendments proposed. His actions have rather beliedthat statement. I hope that by not pressing him in relation to the major amendment we might coax him to accept the second one as an alternative. Although endorsing the principle of as strong an appeal as possible, we do not support the first amendment which Senator Wright has proposed, in view of the doubts that have been raised. We shall certainly support an amendment to provide opportunity of appeal to a body of an administrative type.
– I move -
At end of clause add the following sub-clause: - “ 10. (1.) any person aggrieved by -
the refusal of a licence,
any condition determined by the Minister under paragraph (c) of sub-section (4.) of this section, or
any cancellation of a licence under subsection (5.) of this section, may in writing request the Board to refer such refusal, condition or cancellation to a Committee of Review. (2.) (a) The Committee of Review shall consist of a Chairman and two other members appointed by the Minister;
of the two members mentioned in paragraph (a) of this sub-section one shall be appointed to represent meat producers and one shall be appointed to represent meat exporters; (3.) The Committee shall have power to review the matters aforesaid referred to it and give such decision thereon as is just.”.
Anticipating that there might be some technical objections to a judicial review, it occurred to me only this evening, in the absence of explicit advice to this effect from the Minister or any of his advisers, to fortify myself with an alternative so that the principle of an appeal should not be defeated upon purely technical grounds taken ad hoc during the debate.
The format of this amendment has been taken from language in the income tax legislation. Everybody knows, I think, that the taxpayer who objects to an administrative assessment may require the commissioner to refer the assessment to a board of review appointed by the GovernorGeneral. This board consists of three members. One is usually a practising lawyer, one is usually an experienced taxation accountant, and the third is a man of general experience. I have just made an unconsidered decision as to the composition of the tribunalwhich I suggest, but I have left its composition so largely in the hands of the Minister as to eliminate, I should think, any possible objection upon the ground of the constitution of it.
The Minister will appoint the chairman, completely at his own discretion. I would expect him to appoint probably the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry. I would expect him to appoint anybody that he thought was a man of integrity to represent meat exporters. I would expect him to appoint as the third member of the tribunal to represent meat producers anybody that he thought was a man of integrity. This means that there would be no risk whatever of an inappropriate decision or an irresponsible decision coming from this tribunal. Any suggestion that review of an administrative decision is not necessary in matters involving the refusal of a licence, the cancellation of a licence, or the imposition of adverse conditions, is ill-considered. For any one to say that this Parliament is an adequate tribunal to review these matters is to misconceive completely the nature and functions of the Parliament. The idea that Parliament sat to redress individual grievances went out with the Stuarts. Only by the constitution of courts, completely independent of both Parliament and the executive, were British civil liberties established.
Now that we have come to a stage of government at which administrative decisions become so necessary for the performance of governmental functions that half a century ago were not considered to pertain to the business of government, we often adopt the. principle of an alternative administrative tribunal to give an individual some body to which he can appeal in order to obtain redress. It is needless to state that, just as Senator Murphy has explained that we cannot tack administrative functions upon Commonwealth judicial courts, neither can we subtract from those courts proper judicial functions. If the Minister, or this committee of review, could be proved, before any one of these courts, to have exercised their powers for a completely improper or corrupt reason, the courts would quickly demonstrate their jurisdiction to intervene and protect the subject.
I have made brief reference to this matter because, as I have said before, my endeavours will not end with this debate. I have pursued a very purposeful and a most painstakingly patient endeavour for ten to twelve years to establish this principle, the rejection of which is an affront to Libera] and Australian Country Party policy.
– Mr. Chairman, the suggestion of Senator Wright is an affront to Liberal and Australian Country Party policy. Having made that bald statement I shall proceed to prove it. The operative words in Senator Wright’s proposed amendment are that this committee of review shall consist of. a chairman and two other members appointed by the Minister. To adjudicate on what? Decisions of the Minister. The suggestions that have been made all through this debate are designed to cover circumstances that could arise at the worst. The proper inference behind all these suggestions is that you could have an irresponsible minister making decisions that would not bear the light of day. To meet such a situation Senator Wright expects us to accept a proposition that to me is completely repugnant. He suggests that we should have a tribunal appointed by the Minister to review the decisions of the Minister.
If the Minister’s decisions are suspect and must be reviewed would not such a minister stoop to see that the people on the proposed tribunal were such as would support his decisions? To suggest that what the Government is doing is an affront to Liberal and Country Party principles really gets my hackles up. I shall quote the words of a learned member of the Opposition. Senator Murphy used the expression “ a tribunal to review the decisions of the Minister “. Senator Murphy has said, quite properly according to my advisers, that the first amendment was invalid. I suggest to Senator Wright, in all kindness, that he has not thought this thing through or he would not suggest that the Parliament should be a party to writing into legislation a provision to set up a tribunal appointed by a Minister to review the decisions of the Minister. What would be the Minister’s reaction after the tribunal had made its decision? The decision of the tribunal could be rotten, if
I can use such a word. What, does the Minister do? He hides behind the decision of the tribunal that he has set up to review his decision.
I ask Senator Wright: If you prefer that sort of tribunal to the eye of this Parliament to watch the actions of a Minister, then I know nothing about Liberal and Country Party principles. For these reasons I do not believe that any one on my side of the chamber who has thought this thing through will be a party to putting that sort of legislation into the hands of an irresponsible Minister who could bring great discredit on this Parliament.
– I am most amazed at the outburst of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) and his reference to Liberal and Australian Country Party principles. I do not think that the Parliament is set up to be governed by whatever might be the view of the Minister on what those principles might be. As I see it, this amendment is taken, almost as a lift-out, from legislation that was enacted when we were confronted with a situation which arose in the days of the old import licensing system. At that time a debate occurred in which the Senate played a very prominent part. We reviewed the situation of import licensing.
Nobody is pretending for one moment that we are dealing with an easy situation. I take honorable senators back to the days of import licensing when the very livelihood of business people was being handled in theory by ministerial decision although, in actual practice, by civil servants. It is very easy to drop into a careless situation or to create a situation where you might encourage such, things as graft as a result of the situation to which Senator Wright referred. At the time of which I speak we wanted to set up a far stronger appeal system than we finally accepted from the Minister concerned. The fact was that the Government set. up an industry committee which was complete with goodwill and a knowledge of the industry. It could say, in effect, “ Here is a person who has not been granted a licence “, or “ Here is a person who has been granted a licence to import too much “. The committee had the power to say to the Minister that such things should be rectified.
Surely the Minister was not serious when he said that the amendment proposed setting up a board to review his decisions. After all, the Australian Meat Board will be doing the operative work. It will recommend to the Minister who shall have an export licence for meat of various kinds and offal; who shall not have such a licence; under what conditions a licence shall be granted, for what amounts; and to which countries exports shall be made. In other words the Australian Meat Board will hold in the palm of its hand the complete industrial life of an exporting company. I am not trying to’ say that it will pick people out and try to destroy their livelihood. Time is an important factor which comes into this matter. Tremendous permanent damage can be done. We have seen it done in connexion with the economic controls of imports. The great credit squeeze was imposed only for a limited period, but it destroyed whole businesses and sections of businesses which had been built up. It took effect in a very vital period when people had borrowed large sums of money. The same principle applies here.
I quote from sub-clause (2.) of clause 29 which reads -
Regulations prescribing conditions or restrictions for the purposes of paragraph (b) of the last preceding sub-section shall not be made unless the conditions or restrictions have been recommended to the Minister by the board.
In other words the Minister will be faced with a mass of detail on which he would not be competent to adjudicate on matters affecting the industry. He would only be able to adjudicate from a ministerial point of view and say, in effect, “This appears to be the policy I have laid down; it appears to be the policy the board is following”. Senator Wade referred to the possibility of having incompetent Ministers. We are assuming that the Minister will act with goodwill and that the board will act with goodwill. Surely, if somebody who is conducting a business says that he is not satisfied with a decision of the Minister and he desires to put his case before a body that knows something about the industry and has the time to consider the details connected with his business, the Minister should not take umbrage if that body, after having had a close look at the matter, decides that justice has not been done. How could anybody take great exception to that?
I do not pretend to know a lot about Liberal and Australian Country Party principles because I have been kept occupied in my young life with matters affecting the Labour Party.
– That is an understatement.
– That is not an understatement at all. How the members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party can say that this is an affront to the principles of their parties, I do not know. Their principles must have slipped further than 1 thought they had. I cannot understand Senator Wade’s complaint about this amendment. I come back to his statement that he would do anything he could to make the bill stronger. He said he would be listening to the debate. I am afraid that listening is all he has done.
I support Senator Wright wholeheartedly on this amen dent. It was only with reluctance that I did not support him on the question of a judicial inquiry. I am not completely in agreement with that proposition. I have heard judicial bodies listen to all sorts of matters such as applications by footballers for clearances from one club to another, the disqualification of jockeys and claims by trotting drivers that they have not had a fair go. I imagine judicial bodies would not listen to this kind of matter. Because of the doubts the Minister raised in that connexion, I asked our party not to give support to Senator Wright’s amendment. But I have no reservations on this amendment. This suggestion has already worked. 1 cannot see for one moment how this amendment could upset any Minister. I would think a Minister would be very anxious to have this appeal board. It would1 have the time, the experience and the precedents to be able to examine in Australia this tremendously important question. It is tremendously important because, as I say, there are upwards of 300 people who for years have built up business entirely on meat export. Now, under this bill, there will be power to take away their livelihood. I am not saying that that such action would be taken lightly but in view of the pressures that can be exerted, particularly in the meat export industry, this could be done. The Australian Labour Party has no hesitation at all in supporting. the inclusion of this very minor amendment in order to strengthen a vital clause and to ensure that justice will be done to the meat exporters of Australia.
.- I have looked at the amendment moved by Senator Wright and also the amendment put forward by the Minister. I cannot see that the amendment submitted by the Minister provides for a right of appeal, although he has explained that it does. The amendment moved by Senator Wright certainly does go about constituting a committee of appeal. This is one of the matters with which I am concerned in this bill. I have discussed this matter with meat people who have spoken to me on this bill, and they see no reason why there should not be an appeal board. The Minister has objected to Senator Wright’s amendment on the ground that it would put the Minister in the position of appointing people who could load the appeal board. Would the Minister consider the establishment of this appeal board if the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation’s representative and the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council’s representative were recommended by the organizations? Would it then take on a different complexion in the opinion of the Minister? The import licensing appeal board, which the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate brought into being by its stand on the particular occasion, consisted of one public servant and two representatives of business. If I remember correctly, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures each made a recommendation to the Minister regarding representatives on that appeal board. The Government objected very strongly at the time to that board; but twelve months later the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) established the appeal board, in respect of Customs matters, and the Government poked out its chest at the great success that attended the work of the appeal board for import licensing. As I have said, the board was set up through the actions of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
– Who said that?
– The words were used by you, Mr. Minister. The Government took great credit for the success of the import licensing appeal board which was set up by this Government because our committee had taken a certain stand. That is the true story. The Government had objected to it.
– I will not say what I think of the board.
– The import licensing appeal board?
– As a matter of fact, you stood up and said you were setting up an appeals board for Customs matters based on the very successful import licensing appeal board which the Government set up.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) set that up.
– The amendment moved by Senator Wright goes a lot further than the amendment submitted by the Minister. After discussions with people connected with the meat industry, I would like to ask the Minister whether, he would consider the amendment more favorably if the two members, such as the representative of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the representative for the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council, were recommended by those respective sections of the industry instead of by the Minister himself? It was suggested that if the tribunal was appointed by him it would adjudicate on his decisions. ‘In this case, it would be the organization recommending the persons who would constitute the board.
– I will not be a party to any legislation that sets up a tribunal that can, in effect, whitewash any action of a Minister. I believe very firmly mat the Minister must be responsible to Parliament. I cannot go along with any proposal that will place in the hands of the Minister, a tribunal that will, in effect, whitewash his decisions.
In the amendment which I have placed before the committee, and which has been accepted, there is the requirement that toe Minister shall state in writing within 30 days bis reasons for refusing an application. This would be a public document, which could be debated here to highlight the Minister’s inconsistency or his unjust approach to an application. I believe that this is the greatest deterrent that can be placed upon any Minister to ensure that he does what is right and proper in these matters. To give him authority to set up an outside ‘body consisting of .persons whom he has nominated is something that I believe should be repugnant to the Parliament. It would relieve the Minister of the responsibility that he should face before the electors of the country. For that reason, in its present form, and even in the form as suggested by Senator Wood to make some change with respect to the personnel, the principle is exactly the same. Therefore, it is not acceptable to the Government.
– I am reluctant to rise at this hour, but I fail to see the logic of the Minister’s argument. What are the facts? The board will recommend the refusal of an export licence to a meat exporter. It will make that recommendation to the Minister. No doubt, the Minister will automatically accept the board’s recommendation. The Minister has said that where an export licence has been refused, he will advise the person concerned of the reason for that refusal within 30 days. There is nothing wrong with that, but surely the exporter is entitled, after he receives that notification, and if he feels he has been unjustly treated, to have the right of appeal. How will he obtain redress unless he has some right of appeal? I am not disputing the fact that once the Minister sent the letter some one could bring the matter up in this place and we could debate it;, even so it would not be an appeal by the person concerned. It is plain that when the Minister acts, he will be acting on the recommendations of the board.
We can forget all about the implication that there can be anything wrong with the action of the Minister when he acts in accordance with the board’s advice. Surely what the Minister has done does not give a right of appeal to a person who is refused on export licence. All that Senator Wright wants to ensure is that a person, having received from the Minister within 30 days a letter saying that he cannot get an export licence, should be given a right of appeal. We all believe in giving a right of appeal against decisions in other spheres. Because a matter is taken on appeal from a lower court to a higher court, it should not be inferred that there has been any wrongdoing. No suggestion of wrong-doing on the part of the Minister, or of a weak Minister being involved, enters into the picture.
I ask the Minister for Health to look at the matter again. The Minister for Primary Industry having set up the Australian Meat Board, it would be extraordinary for him to reject its recommendation. Where a man’s livelihood is in jeopardy, he is entitled to a right of appeal.
– Two matters have been raised by the Minister for Health in opposition to Senator Wright’s motion. The first, which deals with the fact that the committee of review shall be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry, may have some point, Senator Wood has suggested a form which would seem to be an improvement. As I understand the situation, Senator Wright was not tied to any particular form.
– Not at all.
– This is a very important matter, and there is no need for it to be brushed off in a few moments. I am sure that Senator Wright would be prepared to agree to a form which would mean that the body in question would not be appointed by the Minister but which would give it the characteristic perhaps of permanence and certainly of independence. That should not preclude honorable senators from inserting in the bill an appeal provision.
The other argument which the Minister put forward - he seemed to think it was the complete answer to the proposal now before, us - was that the Parliament itself is sufficient safeguard. He suggested that these cases could be heard here in the Parliament. Just how ridiculous can one be? The Parliament is not a court of appeal designed to deal with administrative decisions, to sift all sorts of facts and perhaps examine witnesses and multitudes of documents. Periodically during a debate on an adjournment motion a member of the Parliament will detain his. colleagues so that they may consider a matter that has reached the proportions of a public scandal. It is only in extremely exceptional cases that that course can be followed. It is not visualized that appeals against administrative decisions made under this legislation shall be taken only in absolutely exceptional cases. A decision against which it is desired to appeal, though not corruptly made, may have been made because the Minister was mistaken or narrow in his views, or perhaps because he adopted a view that some other independent body would not adopt. The decisions to be reviewed would be decisions made in the ordinary course of events and need not be extraordinary.
It is inconceivable that this Parliament should ever try to act as an appeal body. The Minister says that the Parliament is the place to which appeals should be brought under this legislation and presumably under other legislation such as the wool industry legislation. Are honorable senators supposed to rise at the first-reading stage of some tax bill and say that they have a particular case to bring forward? Is an honorable senator to be expected to say: “ I have two cases under the meat industry legislation and three under the wool industry legislation. It will take me three or four hours to present the cases properly.” To suggest that he should do so would be nonsense. It is not intended that such matters should be brought before the Parliament. The Parliament has always believed that a review, either administrative or judicial, of decisions made under its statutes ought to be conducted by some body which has been either temporarily or permanently appointed for that purpose. Certainly some such body ought to be established under this legislation, because the livelihood of persons or the economic situation of companies might be affected. A refusal to grant a licence or a decision to cancel a licence ought to be open to appeal by a properly constituted body.
– The Immigration Act provides for an appeal to a judicial body against a decision of the Minister for Immigration.
– As I indicated earlier, there is a way in which a judicial body canhear what may be described as an appeal from a decision of an administrative body. But that is only to determine whether the facts or circumstances which are set out as a standard exist or do not exist. When it comes to a policy decision made under this legislation, it is not competent for a body exercising judicial power to undertake any such investigation. We now have before us a sensible proposal, for an administrative review which is founded in justice. Honorable senators on. both sides of the chamber are willing to entertain any modifications to the amendment which might improve the constitution of the body in question. Senator Wright has indicated several times that he is not committed to any particular form.. It does seem a denial of justice to persons who may be affected by these matters that, the Minister simply wipes the proposition, out of hand and is not prepared to consider or advance improvements to the clause.. With Senator Willesee, I believe that there should be some appeal but it might well be that what has been suggested by Senator Wood and acceded to by Senator Wright, should be adopted.
Thursday, 23 April 1964
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Wright’s amendment) be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 12.8 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 April 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640422_senate_25_s25/>.