25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the lion. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Minister recollect that when he was Minister for Shipping and Transport, I made a pica to him to have the Seamen’s War Pensions and
Allowances Act amended to enable medical and other benefits to be extended to pensioners with accepted disabilities who are entitled to the full general rate pension - the 100 per cent, pension - or a higher rate? Is he aware that the present Minister has advised that approval has been given to my submission in the following terms - I refer again to your representations-
– Order! The honorable senator is giving far too much information. He should ask his question.
– My question hinges on whether the Government is prepared to make public the information given to me by the Minister.
– You may proceed, but do not give too much information.
– The Minister wrote to mc in the following terms - i refer again to your representations regarding the extension of medical and other benefits to totally and permanently incapacitated mariners under Hie Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
In my letter of 8th June I intimated that I intended to give the matter further careful consideration, and I am pleased to bc able to advise thai the Government has decided that the Act should bc amended to provide for such an extension, in respect of mariner pensioners who are receiving the full general (100%) rate pension or a higher rate, such as the T.P.I. The necessary amendment to file Act will bc made as soon as is practicable.
Will the Minister permit the news of this approval to be made public and thereby relieve ex-mariners of the tension of mind that many have suffered as a result of worry about medical care and attention? Will he permit them to have this information so they may splice the mainbrace while waiting for the necessary amendment of the Act?
– I well recall the representations made by Senator Cooke in this connection. My understanding is that a bill to amend the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act is currently rn the other place and that it will reach here within the next day or two. I do not know whether this amending Bill includes the matters about which Senator Cooke made representations, but in view of the Minister’s letter to him, it can be assumed that if they are not in this Bill, they are certainly to be made. May I say that I am very delighted that Senator Cooke’s representations were successful.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. Has the substantial increase in prices of the necessaries of life since the last decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission caused the Government any concern? Has the matter of having the word “ prices “ included in a certain document been considered so that the Government would have control over the prices of essential commodities?
– The condition of the economy and the fluctuations that occur within it are under the constant surveillance of the Government. 1 did not quite catch the title of the document to which Senator Benn referred.
– He was referring to power over prices, and the Constitution.
– If, as I am reminded, the honorable senator was referring to recommendations for the alteration of the Constitution, which were made some time ago, then the answer which I gave as recently as two or three weeks ago still stands. The honorable senator is assured that any variations which occur within the economy are kept under close watch by the Government. Action will be taken if it is thought necessary although it is very unlikely in respect of price control.
– I direct my question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Has the Commonwealth considered using schools in all States as a medium for spreading education on decimal currency in Australia? If so, what steps have been taken? If no thought has been given to the matter, will the Government consider it?
– What is actually done in schools throughout the States is a matter primarily for the State Education Departments, but the Commonwealth, as the initiator of the decimal currency system, has been concerned that it should be made known to school children well in advance. The Decimal Currency Board has been in touch with State Education Departments and has been providing them with books, tables and information which will enable what the honorable senator has in mind to be carried out by schools throughout the States.
– My question is directed to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. I ask the Minister whether he is aware of proposals submitted to the Western Australian Fisheries Department to build a fish farm on the coast in an attempt to breed and artificially cultivate crayfish in Western Australia. Can he say whether the proposals have been brought to the notice of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Fisheries? What assistance is usually extended to projects of this kind by the Division?
– I cannot answer the Inst part of the question in detail, but assistance extended by the Division of Fisheries covers quite a wide range of fisheries and fishing grounds throughout Australia. The proposal to breed crayfish artificially in Western Australia has been brought to the notice of the C.S.I R.O., which is interested in it. But the project is at far too early a stage for the Organisation to know what sort of research, if any, would be required from it. The C.S.I.R.O. knows about it and is in touch with the people concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that the American commitment under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation Agreement is limited to the prevention of the advance of Communism in the SouthEast Asian area? Is it also a fact that the
A.N.Z.U.S. Pact only applies to the protection of the territories of the parties where those territories border the Pacific Ocean? If the answer to those questions is in the affirmative, is there any treaty or pact which ensures the protection of that part of Australia which borders the Indian and Southern Oceans? If there is no such treaty or pact, will the Government give urgent consideration to the deployment of Australian defence forces in Western Australia to ensure a substantial measure of defence of that area, particularly in view of the present tensions in the area north of Australia, which is closer to Western Australia than it is to eastern Australia?
– The S.E.A.T.O. Agreement does not refer to Communist aggression against the areas delineated in it. The A.N.Z.U.S. Pact, of course, refers to certain powers and to the Pacific area, but it does not divide or in any way discriminate between one area or another area of the signatory powers. In the adjudged unlikely event of the western seaboard of Australia coming in for some sort of an attack, as suggested by Senator Cant, the AN.Z.U.S. Pact would have application.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to statements made by the Secretary-General of S.E.A.T.O., Mr. Konthi, now visiting Australia, in which the need to advance funds for social and economic development in South East Asia is advocated as an urgent contribution to the objectives of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation? As this aspect of S.E.A.T.O. could well be essential in the promotion of peace and reconstruction, and an effective device for consolidating real self-determination among the member nations, I ask the Minister: What consideration is being given to the requests made by Mr. Konthi for additional financial aid and what specific additional methods of aid are contemplated for South East Asian countries?
– Whatever requests are made by S.E.A.T.O. to the Australian Government will receive full and sympathetic consideration. The record of the Australian Government in respect of support for social programmes in S.E.A.T.O. countries is quite outstanding and has been referred to specifically by my colleague Senator Gorton from time to time. It is a record which has been gratefully acknowledged by recipient countries and I have no doubt that the Australian attitude of continued assistance to those countries will continue.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. By way of preface I would like to refer to the Minister current publicity concerning the firm of Schering Pty. Ltd., which was confiscated in the early part of 1940 and which has been operated by the Controller of Enemy Property since that date, to the effect that its profits in 1962-63 amounted to £142,723 and that in 1963-64 they were £161,164 on a paid up capital of f 15,000. The figures revealed a profit of 940 per cent, in 1962-63 and 1,000 per cent, in 1963-64. These were the profits before taxation. I ask the Minister: In view of such enormous profits, has not the Controller of Enemy Property been indulging in restrictive trade practices and profiteering with the pharmaceuticals that are manufactured by this firm and sold to the Health Department and to other people dealing with health problems? Would the Minister give authority to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to purchase rights for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals similar to those being distributed by the Schering company?
– I am not sufficiently well informed on the activities of the Schering company to reply to the question. Someone has interjected that I did not want to be informed. I like to be as well informed as possible but whether I expound on my information is another matter. The information is no load to carry. I repeat that 1 am not sufficiently well informed to make any comment on this matter except to say that although it is said the paid up capital of the company is £15,000, this is a very old company, and I am sure it is not suggested by the honorable senator that its assets are only £15,000. The honorable senator asked whether or not the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories should be permitted to invade this field - if that is the correct word - and take over some of the rights that Scherings will sooner or later be abdicating. I remind the honorable senator that C.S.L. is a statutory body and a commercial undertaking. It is in a position to make its own decisions and recommendations. At this point of time the C.S.L. has not applied to enter this particular field.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Does the Government not recognise that widespread restrictive trade practices are forcing up prices and offsetting the benefit of the recent basic wage increase? When will the Government stop backing and filling and introduce the restrictive trade practices legislation?
– I reject at once any suggestion that the Government has been backing and filling with its restrictive trade practices legislation. It is true that the preparation of this legislation has taken a considerable time. It is also true that this is a most complex piece of legislation touching, as it does, very many aspects of commerce, industry and business generally throughout the nation. My colleague, the Attorney-General, has already made it clear, as recently as a few days ago, that he expects to be able to introduce the legislation into the Parliament during this sessional period.
– I address my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. As it has been announced that plans arc under consideration for a completely new airport terminal at Adelaide, can the Minister say whether a final decision has been made on this matter? If it has, how long will it be before the new terminal is ready for use?
– I visited the Adelaide airport as recently as about six weeks ago. My Department is now examining the question of whether to extend the existing terminal or to build a new one.
– I preface my question to the Leader of the Government by stating that when the 1960 Olympic Games were held in Rome the Government wisely decided to appoint an officer, Mr. Ray
Terado, to act as a liaison between the Australian team and the Olympic organisation. Mr. Terado did great work both for our athletes and for people interested in them during the games.
– Was he appointed by the Government?
– The Government permitted him to act as liaison officer. Will the Government now consider again appointing an officer from one of its departments - perhaps the Department of Immigration or the Department of External Affairs - to carry out liaison work for Australia’s representatives in Tokyo during the Olympic Games and to deal with questions raised by Australian visitors and others interested in Australian athletes and their welfare?
– I do not know whether the Government has given any consideration to the appointment of an officer to do liaison work between the Australian Olympic team and the Japanese authorities. I shall make some inquiries into that matter. I learn with interest that such an arrangement was made in respect of the Rome Games. However, I am very much aware of the fact that Government representation in Tokyo during the forthcoming Games will be geared to cope with the vastly increased number of Australian nationals who will be in Japan during that time.
– My question to the Leader of the Government relates to the Committee of Economic Inquiry which was appointed under the chairmanship of Dr. Vernon. Has the Committee’s report yet been completed? When can the Senate expect to have the report for consideration?
– The report has not yet been submitted, and I have no idea when it will be submitted. I shall inquire and let the honorable senator know whether it is possible to forecast when the report will be ready for submission to the Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. How many years is it since the
Government said it would introduce legislation to revise the hopelessly out of date Bankruptcy Act?
– I have not the number of years in my mind at the moment.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. How many years is it since the Government said it would introduce legislation to revise the hopelessly out of date Copyright Act?
– I shall write a letter to the honorable senator and let him know.
(Question No.1 00.)
Senator COHEN (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Has the Attorney-General seen the recent press reports of the proceedings at the trial in Belgrade of nine Yugoslavs alleged to have been trained in Australia for terrorist activities in Yugoslavia, and the statements reported to have been made to the Belgrade Court by one of these men, named Rade Stojic, who, it was said, last year came from Geelong in Victoria?
Can the Attorney-General say whether there is any truth in this man’s statement and particularly -
Is it a fact that there is an organisation called the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood operating in Sydney and/or elsewhere in Australia?
Is the aim of that organisation to overthrow forcibly the State and social order in Yugoslavia?
Is this organisation recruiting young people to be sent to Europe for that purpose?
Did the nine accused men attend so-called “ disversionary terrorist courses “ in Sydney before going to Yugoslavia?
Did any of the arrested men travel from Australia on Australian passports?
Were the allegations made public in Australia in September 1963?
If the allegations are true, what action has the Government taken, or does it propose to take, to put a stop to this blatant lawlessness?
– The Attorney General has furnished the following answers -
(Question No. 108.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following reply-
Investigations into the general matters covered in the honorable senator’s questions have been made, but it is not the practice to disclose the details of such investigations.
(Question No. 154.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
Movement expelled from its organisation members discovered to belong to the Brotherhood.
(Question No. 163.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration- has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 180.)
Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Was a report made by the Brigadier in charge of ordnance services early in 1963 expressing concern at -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions - 1 to 3. A confidential report was made bythe Director of Ordnance Services on ammunition supplied to, and in production for, the Department of the Army. It contained opinions not shared by the Military Board and I do not propose to make the contents of the report available. I must say, however, that the Military Board is satisfied that’ the Department of Supply factory and inspection processes are in no way responsible for the premature explosions which occurred in the 105 mm. gun ammunition.
Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions - 1 to 3. The Department of the Army and the Department of Supply conducted an intensive research programme into all related factors following a joint scientific technical mission which visited ammunition production centres in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. As a result of these efforts and the modification of specifications, the item in question, i.e. 105 mm. gun ammunition, has been cleared for continued production.
(Question No. 184.)
Minister representing the Minister for Immigration upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 198.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions - 1 and 2. The respective allowances payable to an unmarried private soldier in the localities referred to are: Borneo £105, New Guinea £165, Darwin £140 and Woomera £100 per annum. In addition to the above allowances, as a deduction allowed for taxation purposes, a zone allowance of £270 per annum applies equally in Malaysia, New Guinea and Darwin. In Woomera the zone allowance is £45.
(Question No. 217.)
Senator COHEN (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Has (he Minister’s attention been drawn to an editorial in the June 1964 issue of the “ British Journal of Anaesthesia “, suggesting the adoption of certain safety measures in the presenting and labelling of drugs?
Will the Minister give consideration to the suggestions made, with a view to the reduction of the dangers involved in anaesthesia and other forms of medical therapy, arising from the absence of information as to what drugs have been taken by patients prior to admission to hospital?
If the Minister considers the suggestions worthy of consideration, will he also consider what steps can be taken by the Department of Health as a contribution to the elimination of the dangers?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are. as follows -
It is not a Commonwealth requirement that the contents of prescribed drugs be shown on the label of the container, and a good deal of consideration of the various medical and pharmaceutical issues involved would have to be undertaken before any such requirement could be introduced. I should also make it clear that any Commonwealth requirement could not have comprehensive effect unless supplemented by State legislation. The honorable senator may be interested to know, however, that a medical practitioner is quite free to direct in a prescription, if he considers it appropriate to do so, that the dispensing pharmacist should show on the label the names or nature of the active ingredients.
It may also interest the honorable senator to know that my department is currently taking active measures to ensure that the medical profession is aware of the likely adverse reactions to drug therapy, including the hazards that may be involved in the use of anaesthetic agents. A poisons register is also in the process of being compiled by my department to enable prompt advice to be given to the medical profession for the treatment of ill effects resulting from overdoses of drugs or the consumption of poisons.
(Question No. 221.)
asked theMinister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
In the few cases that have occurred the Division has suggested the appropriate steps the applicants should take, and this advice has enabled applicants to resolve their difficulties. However, as the Division is not a party to the building contract, the matter must remain one between the applicant, his supervisor and the builder.
– On 27th August 1964, Senator Breen asked me the following question without notice -
I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has he read a report that Japan has discovered a commercial process for the desalination of water and, if so, has his Department any knowledge of the process? Further, has research within Australia yet produced any commercial process?
I have now been supplied with a statement on thismatter by my colleague, the Minister for National Development, and the details are as follows -
Throughout the world considerable research is being undertaken into desalination processes. Many commercial plants are operating, mainly based on improvements in the better known processes. America and Britain are foremost amongst the manufacturers of desalting plants for use in places where salt water is available but fresh water is not. Japan has taken an interest in desalination processes for some time. The original concern there was not to obtain fresh water from the sea but to obtain mineral salts, especially common salts - sodium chloride - which is imported. The Japanese thus became interested in a process similar to electrodialysis, which by applying an electric current across membranes separating salt and fresh water produces two streams of water - one containing fresh water and one containing concentrated salt water from which salt can be extracted.
Partly because of their interest inelectrodialysis a Japanese firm - Asaki Chemical Company of Tokyo - became a major contractor for making the membrane stack of a large scale demonstration plant of 250,000 gallons per day capacity which has been erected at Webster, South Dakota, as part of the United States Saline Water Conversion Programme, to remove dissolved salts from the brackish well water of this area. The initial cost of the plant was 433,000 dollars. The dissolved solids of the raw water are reduced from 1,700 to 400 parts per million by the process. Unfortunately the cost of the process, estimated at 1.40 dollars per 1,000 U.S. gallons- 14s. 7d. Australian per 1,000 imperial gallons - is fairly high compared with the costs usually encountered in providing fresh water from surface catchments. High cost is typical of most desalination processes. The big problem is how to make desalination an economic process.
Research into various aspects of desalination has been undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for some time and useful work has been done with small scale plants. For example, an improved design of glasshouse-type solar still is being developed and tested at Highett, Victoria. Tests under field conditions arc being conducted at the Muresk Agricultural College, Northam, Western Australia, and on a grazing property in southwestern New South Wales. These tests will provide further information on output, maintenance and the economics of the process. None of these developments has yet reached the stage of significant commercial production.
In 1963 a small desalting plant was installed atRottnest Island, Western Australia, which is a tourist resort offshore from Fremantle. Capacity of the vapour compression distillation plant imported from the U.S.A. is 350 gallons per hour. Capital cost was about £20,000. A further plant is to be installed at Coober Pedy, in the far north of South Australia. Generally speaking, the opportunities for use of desalination plants at present appear to be somewhat limited in Australia where in most locations water supply can be provided by conventional means.
The Australian Water Resources Council is seeking expert advice on the relevance of desalination methods to Australia with particular attention to costs and has appointed an advisory panel for this purpose. It is expected that a report from this panel will be considered by the Council at its next meeting in January 1965. Recently the United Nations issued a report “Water Desalination of Developing Countries, New York, 1964 “ - containing 325 pages - which is a comprehensive survey of the economic and technical aspects of salt-water conversion. This survey has shown that the known processes as yet yield an expensive product. However, the survey has revealed many interesting possibilities of application even at present costs.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Vincent on the ground of ill health.
Proposed new clause 2a.
Consideration resumed from 15th September (vide page 465), on motion by Senator O’Byrne -
After clause 2, insert the following new clause - “ 2a. After section twenty-one of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted: -
PartIIA. - Joint Committee on Repatriation.
– Mr. Chairman, before the Committee adjourned I had made some remarks about the slowness of Government supporters in entering into this debate in view of the importance of the subject matter and the amendment I had proposed. The basic proposition in the amendment is the setting up of a committee to examine the Repatriation Act and regulations which would report to Parliament any recommended amendments to improve the Act and regulations and to remove existing anomalies. In the absence of any contribution to the debate on this subject from Government supporters it would appear that they are acquiescing in the assumption that the Repatriation Act is perfect. I want to assure them that they are out of touch with the general feeling of the people throughout. Australia who consider that there are anomalies in the Act. Whatever method is pursued to have them rectified, many people will be extremely grateful.
During the Committee stages of the debate, the Opposition will move a series of amendments calculated to close up gaps and to eliminate anomalies. One particular amendment deals with the hotly controversial onus of proof section, Section 47. In moving that a parliamentary committee be set up to clear up this controversial matter, I believe that the spirit of the Act should bc re-stated to the Repatriation Department to make it clear that the onus of proof is fairly and squarely on the Department when dealing with applications by exservicemen for assistance. Year after year, during the second reading speeches, many cases are cited of the long hard struggle of many applicants, assisted by advocates from
Parliament and elsewhere, to achieve their just rights. These cases are evidence of the anomaly that does exist in the enterpretation of the onus of proof section.
– Senator O’Byrne, you know that you have another amendment dealing with that matter and I think it would be better if you dealt with this aspect later.
– Yes; but I cannot stress too strongly the need for setting up this joint parliamentary committee to examine and report on the Repatriation Act and to recommend any amendments necessary to improve it and to remove existing anomalies. I have chosen that very controversial aspect at random.
The importance of the proposed committee is borne out by the 48th annual report of the R.S.L. which refers, among other things, to the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme. The report states -
There were two requests designed to increase benefits under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme. The first was that allowances should be increased to cover essential costs such as books, fares and essential equipment. . . .
This is an important matter that should be considered carefully by a joint parliamentary committee which could recommend certain alterations of the Act and, if necessary, make certain recommendations for the benefit of departmental officers, pointing out the way in which we, the representatives of the people in this Parliament, believe the legislation should bc interpreted. I pointed out yesterday that the essence of democracy lies in the fact that the spokesmen for the people should carry out their full democratic responsibilities not only in framing legislation hut also in watching its effect on the people to ensure that the spirit which guided the Parliament when the legislation was introduced or amended is being carried into practice.
It is 21 years since the Act was last reviewed. We feel strongly that the time is overdue for the appointment of another review committee. For that reason we are. proposing this amendment to provide for the setting up qf a committee which will examine, among other things, the pro;cedures adopted by the present tribunals. Senator Anderson went to great pains last night to tell us how shameful it was that
Senator Sandford should speak of the tribunals in such a way as to create the impression that they were in existence only to see how much money they could save the Government. I do not believe that, but it is a widely held belief. Senator Sandford either believes that or he is expressing the views of many people who consider that when they appear before a tribunal it is a battle of wits to see whether they can get something from the Government or whether the tribunal can stop them getting it. Whether we or Senator Anderson believe that does not matter, but that belief exists in the community. A committee such as we have proposed could look at that aspect to see how that belief can be overcome.
We must examine, too, the attitude of mind of the ex-serviceman. Often, through his own neglect, he did not establish his claim when he was discharged. That is understandable because most of us wanted to get out of the Services, back into civilian life and to forget the war if we could. The ordinary ex-serviceman who applies for a pension continues to learn the procedures that are followed. When he makes his first application he knows nothing about the machinery of the Repatriation Commission or about the way in which the Repatriation Act operates. He soon learns. After his first or second appeal he regards himself as something of a bush lawyer because of the knowledge of the Act that he has gained. After his first experience before a tribunal he often learns how to improve his claim when he appears before the next one. He learns by his experience, but in his first application he is raw and has no knowledge of the procedure.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– At the outset I indicate to the Committee that the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment as circulated. Whilst there has been a considerable amount of debate from the Opposition on this amendment, most of the case has been built round the proposition that we had a standing committee in 1943 and it did a good job and, therefore, the case for a similar committee now is proven. Historically, that committee was established when we were at war. We had just been confronted with a new aspect, war in the Pacific theatre. The committee bad a very specialised function. It had to establish a new set of circumstances relating to eligibility of exservicemen who served in new theatres. It also reviewed other matters. It did the job for which it was created and it then went out of existence. The committee proposed by the Opposition would remain in existence until the Parliament terminated. In other words, it would operate during the life of the Parliament. By inference, it would be re-established on the commencement of a new Parliament. That would be a committee with an entirely different background from the committee of 1943, which was a “oncer” established for a specific purpose. New problems had been created by recruitment and enlistment of men in a new situation, and an act which had been introduced primarily in relation to the 1914-18 war had to be amended quickly to meet that situation.
It is not true to say that the needs of ex-servicemen and the case for exservicemen are static. In fact, everything that has happened, particularly since 1949 when this Government came to power, indicates the contrary. There is a long history of progressive improvements in the Act from year to year. There would not be a year since the Government came to office in which a Repatriation Bill had not to ‘be dealt with during the Budget session, to vary repatriation provisions and to provide improvements in the light of representations made to the Government. The Opposition sells itself cheaply when it suggests otherwise, because it has advocated improvements over all those years. It has been making representations. Yesterday in Committee Senator Cooke indicated that the Australian Labour Party had a special ex-servicemen’s committee, which made recommendations for amendments. If we disregard this amendment entirely and have regard to the other amendments proposed, it is clear that the situation is not completely static. At all levels representations in relation to repatriation are put to the Government.
Let us face it. The Government accepts the responsibility to govern. It has do decide whether to accede to certain requests. The whole burden of the debate yesterday on this amendment was that there was not sufficient opportunity for the case of ex-servicemen to be presented. I remind the Committee that the ex-servicemen’s organisations are in the unique position that every year they come to Canberra and submit to a sub-committee of Cabinet what they consider are the priority needs in repatriation. Nobody would suggest that any Government should automatically say: “ Right, we will incorporate those in legislation “. As a matter of fact, looking at the priority programme nominated by the ex-servicemen’s organisations on this occasion, one sees that in some elements at least the first four priorities are met in this legislation.
The burden of the amendment is that there is need for the Parliament to examine the case for ex-servicemen. I say in reply that ever since 1950, at any rate, the position has been well met. I am quite certain that when the ex-servicemen’s organisations put their case to the Government they make representations also to the Opposition. They do not know any politics. I have no doubt that they meet the Opposition leaders and the Opposition’s ex-servicemen’s committee and put the case to them. Our political party too, has an ex-servicemen’s committee constantly studying the problems of exservicemen. Right throughout the history of this Government, in accordance with the weight of evidence improvements have been made in repatriation provisions. I do not want to go through the whole of the record, which shows variations, adjustments, and improvements of the Repatriation Act. Senator O’Byrne said that the last review had been in 1943. He did not mean that literally. He was referring to the establishment of a committee. This Government has reviewed the whole of the Repatriation Act. The need for the establishment of a new committee has not been proved as yet. The first Repatriation Bill introduced by the Menzies Government in 1950 made dramatic alterations throughout the whole field of benefits. Subsequent to 1950 the Government brought about a uniform commencing date for payment of war pensions irrespective of whether a claim was allowed by a board in the first instance or subsequently on appeal to the Commission or a tribunal. That was a point of grievance and it was corrected. Then there was the question of the war widows’ remarriage gratuity. A case was submitted in the first place by the ex-servicemen’s organizations concerning that matter and the Government had done something about it.
The provisions of the Act were extended to cover service in Korea and Malaya with the Strategic Reserve and other special overseas service. That was done through the parliamentary machinery. Provision has been made for an appropriate representative to continue a claim where the claimant dies before its determination and if necessary to prosecute an appeal in respect of it. A case in that connection was put to the Government. It might have been put by the ex-servicemen’s organisations or by a group of cx-servicemen. It might have been advocated by members of the Opposition. But the fact is that the Government made that provision, and this is just another example of the progressive development of the Act under this Government’s administration. Honorable senators, particularly those who are ex-servicemen, know that provision has been made for medical treatment for member service pensioners. A disabled members and widows training scheme has been established and tranport has been provided for double amputees. All these provisions have been made over the years while this Government has been in office.
The Opposition has not put an adequate case for the appointment of a standing committee to ascertain the needs of exservicemen. Reference has been made to the need to take politics out of social services and the provision of pensions. I cannot think of anything more calculated to put politics back into these matters than a standing committee which would continually “ scrutinise them. I repeat that representatives of ex-servicemen’s organisations come to Canberra once a year on a pilgrimage and make representations not only to the Government but also to the Opposition. The Government accepts responsibility for what it does. There are exservicemen’s groups in both the Government parties and the Opposition party. Since 1950, the Act has been progressively amended and improved. Surely that disposes of the arguments that have been put forward by the Opposition for the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) been moved on behalf of the Opposition by Senator O’Byrne for the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee on repatriation. The amendment proposes that the functions of the committee shall be to - examine the Repatriation Act and regulations and, in a report to the Parliament, recommend amendments necessary to be made in the Act and regulations to remove existing anomalies and improve their provisions.
Senators O’Byrne, Cooke, McClelland, Hendrickson, Sandford and Bishop have put forward an uncontradicted case which establishes that there are anomalies in the Act and regulations. They have said clearly that certain improvements might bc made to those provisions. Honorable senators are faced with one irresistible conclusion on those points. The allegation that anomalies exist is unanswered. So also is the allegation that improvements might be made to the Act and regulations.
The remedy suggested by the Opposition is that a committee of this Parliament should bc set up to investigate those allegations, to ascertain whether they are well founded and, if they are well founded, to make recommendations to the Parliament for the amendment of the legislation. That is the way the Parliament should act. What is wrong with it? What harm could possibly be done by the adoption of the Opposition’s amendment? The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) has spoken for some minutes on this proposal, and I suppose I must pay a tribute to him because he spoke for some time when he had absolutely no basis for his argument. The Minister was prepared to argue against the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee of investigation to inquire into repatriation matters. I believe the Minister knows that there is no real answer to this proposition.
The Minister said that representations were made each year by the Returned Soldiers League to the Government and to a sub-committee of Cabinet and that perhaps representations were also made to members of the Opposition. But it is the Parliament which has the responsibility for legislation and it is the Parliament which is entitled to be informed. The fact is that the Parliament is not informed. We are entitled to know what the facts are. As members of the Parliament, we are entitled to know what the anomalies in the Repatriation Act and regulations arc and what improvements might be made. We should be informed on statistics and on all facts affecting the Repatriation Act and the regulations which may be made under it. We are entitled to make a determination on which way we will vote on the legislation in accordance with information supplied to us in the regular way. There is no substitute for that procedure and no argument against it, and the Minister has not advanced any satisfactory arguments against the proposal before this committee of the Senate.
As to how a committee might be set up and whether it should be a committee of the Senate or of the House of Representatives or a joint committee, these are not matters of substance. The essential is that there should be an investigation of the working of the Repatriation Act. One of the Principal bodies concerned - the R.S.L. - has asked for such an investigation year after year. The Opposition is asking that a committee be set up so that honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives might be given information which is necessary to enable them to fulfil their legislative functions. It is quite wrong of the Government to take the stand that it will not permit such a committee to be set up and will not permit members of the Parliament to be supplied with information for that purpose.
– 1 have already spoken once in the committee stage but I feel that I should lend my voice in support of the points that have been raised by Senator Murphy. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) opposed the Australian Labour Party’s amendment for the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee on repatriation on the basis that representatives of the Returned Soldiers League were in the unique position - and I use the Minister’s own words here - of being able to submit their problems to a Cabinet sub-committee. Indeed, the Minister said that these representatives came to Canberra on a pilgrimage. That might be so, but the Minister overlooked the fact that the R.S.L. in its last annual report stated that war and service pensions have lost value over the past decade. I do not know whether the Minister meant to imply that because representatives of the R.S.L. were in the unique position of being able to approach a Cabinet sub-committee there was no need for a parliamentary committee to be established, or whether the Minister meant to convey that under the MenziesMcEwen Government, a point of perfection had been reached in repatriation so that there was no need for revision. All members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate have given specific individual cases which show clearly that a review of the whole system of repatriation is desirable.
The Minister for Customs and Excise referred to transport for double amputees. Recently I put before the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) the case of a man - a veteran of the Boer War and the First World War - who is 84 years old and who, because of his age and the injuries and wounds he suffered in the course of his war service, is practically immobile. I applied on his behalf for a recreation transport allowance. In his reply, the Minister said -
I wouldlike to explain that such an allowance may be paid to an ex-sericeman who, as a result of war service -
has lost both legs above the knees; or
is totally and permanently incapacitated, his power of locomotion being negligible and not capable of operation for more than short distances with the aid of crutches or walking sticks; or
is handicapped with regard to locomotion to a degree that, in the opinion of the Repatriation Commission, renders the effect of his incapacity similar to that of the classes specified in (1) and (2) above; or
has lost both arms at or above the wrist; or
has lost one leg above the knee and the other leg below the knee; or
has lost both legs below the knees; or
has lost one arm below the elbow and one leg either above or below the knee; or
is incapacitated to an extent that, in the opinion of the Commission, is similar in effect or in severity to the incapacity specified in (4) to (7) above.
Surely in such cases, bearing in mind the age of these ex-servicemen, a review is called for.
A problem arises also in regard to volunteers in the New Guinea Rifles. These men, who were in New Guinea as civilians during the early days of the Japanese invasion of New Guinea, came forward voluntarily and took part in the campaign against the Japanese. Recently one of these men applied for a war service home loan, but I understand that his application was rejected as he was not regarded as coming within the purview of the war service homes legislation. I suggest that all these matters are sufficiently substantial to warrant a complete review of the repatriation legislation. This morning at a meeting of the Australian Labour Party caucus reference was made to the problems of men who served in the merchant navy during the last war and to the fact that the benefits they enjoyed compared unfavorably with those of men who served in other spheres. My colleague Senator Murphy mentioned that the Minister for Customs and Excise had spoken on this matter for some minutes. I congratulate the Minister, as did my colleague, because although he spoke for some minutes he was unable to advance any grounds for rejecting the case submitted by the Opposition. I appeal to the Minister and the Government to accept the amendment in the interests of ex-servicemen generally and of the nation.
– I rise to oppose the setting up of the proposed committee. I shall be brief; I want to deal with only a few reasons.
– You will say what you have been told to say.
– I say whatI want to say in this Parliament. A joint committee is quite unnecessary for various reasons. First, I think it would be an insult to the bodies which are already in existence and which have done a magnificent job on behalf of the ex-service men and women of this country. I shall mention some of those bodies later. I do not suppose there is an honorable senator who over the years has not been approached by these different groups with certain problems. I am sure every honorable senator will acknowledge that when I or he is approached by these organisations their representations get through to the Minister for Repatriation and eventually to the appropriate Cabinet sub-committee. To a great extent, it is as a result of that co-operation that many of the very necessary and desirable reforms that have been enshrined in the Repatriation
Act have been adopted. I do not suppose any other act is more closely watched and reviewed than is the Repatriation Act. I suppose it is a little different from other acts. We all are somewhat emotional - I am - when we speak about people who were prepared to lay down their lives in the service of their country.
The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who represents the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) in this chamber, said that there was a permanent Cabinet sub-committee which reviewed the Act regularly. There is also in existence a Government Members Ex-servicemen’s Committee which is ever vigilant about the needs of ex-servicemen. I hasten to add that I believe the Opposition has a very effective, efficient and active ex-servicemen’s subcommittee. The Minister for Repatriation has said that he would be happy to meet the members of the Opposition sub-committee at any time. Then, of course, the great and powerful R.S.L. exists solely to look after its members. The interests of ex-servicemen are watched also by the Limbless Ex-soldiers Association, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association, the Air Force Association, the Ex-Naval Men’s ‘ Association, the Ex-service Women’s Association, the Australian Legion of Ex-servicemen and Women, and various prisoner of war organisations and associations. None of these bodies hides its light under a bushel. These bodies have approached every member of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to present their case. Invariably they present a very good case.
– Do you not think that a joint committee could help to collate all the relevant information?
– If a committee were appointed, it would take away from the elected Parliament its responsibility to do that. The Repatriation Act is the responsibility of the elected government, whether it be this Government or a Labour government of the distant future.
– But it could always get assistance.
– To my mind, the amendment represents an attempt to bypass the responsibility of the Parliament.
– No fear.
– If accepted, it would do so. The committee would consist of a group of people within the Parliament. I maintain that the determination of repatriation benefits is the responsibility of the elected government of the day. That government must face up to the responsibility. It cannot shelter behind any recommendations that might be brought forward by such a committee as has been suggested. I oppose the amendment, because possibly it would delay necessary reforms. Where the taxpayers’ money is to be spent on social services of any kind, it is the responsibility of the elec,ted government to account to the taxpayers for that money. I oppose the amendment.
– I was surprised to hear the contribution of Senator Branson.
– You asked for contributions.
– I was surprised to hear the honorable senator’s line of argument and his suggestion that the appointment of a joint committee would take away from the Parliament its authority and responsibility in relation to repatriation matters. Let me inform Senator Branson that this morning the Labour caucus considered a letter from his leader, Sir Robert Menzies, in which he called on the Australian Labour Party to nominate members to help to form a committee to consider the building of and the provision of amenities in a new Parliament House.
– You should not leak matters that have been considered by caucus.
– This is not a leak. This is public property. The Prime Minister appealed to us to do that.
– You are drawing a long bow in trying to relate that to social services.
– It is a ticklish problem; and it needs to be resolved.
– The building of a new Parliament House is a very contentious matter. A committee appointed to consider that matter would be a very important one. I cannot understand why supporters of the Government have not spoken about the Opposition’s proposal for a joint parliamentary committee to review the Repatriation Act. I cannot understand why the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who is an exserviceman, is opposed to something that will assist to improve repatriation legislation.
– Would it assist?
– I and many others believe it would. I believe that the committee will be formed because there are sufficient members of the Parliament who will agree to its formation. If it is formed, J hope it will have the power to call before it members of the various Tribunals set up under the Repatriation Act. The members of the Tribunals can be asked to explain how they have arrived at opposite decisions in apparently similar cases presented to them.
– Who would you ever get to serve on a Tribunal under those conditions?
– 1 believe that the members of the Tribunals are quite just men who do the best they can under difficult circumstances. I have been asked to assist in a case which concerns a former member of my unit. He died only a month ago after being a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner for many years. During his incapacity his wife was forced to attend him 24 hours a day, when he was not in a repatriation hospital. She applied for the attendant’s allowance but the Tribunal refused her application because her husband was not suffering at that time from the ailment for which he had received a pension. I shall not go into ail details of the hearing. The man’s death certificate states that he died from the war injuries for which he received his T.P.I, pension. I shall present the death certificate to the Repatriation Department and I feel sure that in the long run his widow will get justice. For all the years of his illness she has been deprived of her just rights but I feel quite sure the injustice will be rectified. I did not intend to mention that specific case, but I believe that when it is properly presented in the near future the application will be granted.
Statements have been made by the Minister and Senator Branson to the effect that the Returned Servicemen’s League has entree to a sub-committee of Cabinet. The honorable senator who formerly represented the Minister for Repatriation in this chamber once said that the League had open sesame to the Cabinet. 1 do not believe that is true. I have always thought it to be a false statement. However, if the League docs have access to a subcommittee of Cabinet its representations have not always been successful.
I am a member of the R.S.L. Each year I am sent the official journal and one of the hardy annuals in its representations to the Government is its request for free hospitalisation for ex-servicemen of the First World War. No honorable senator opposite can deny that that request has been made to the Government by the R.S.L. on numerous occasions. 1 venture to say that there is not a member of a Repatriation Tribunal nor of the Repatriation Department who would not agree that any soldier from the First World War is entitled to free hospitalisation. Senator Marriott has said that he would not provide a bed in a repatriation hospital for an exserviceman of the First World War. He has made that statement two or three times in this chamber. I hope that he is a lone star ranger in that respect and that he does not have many colleagues who think along the same lines.
– How will you achieve this result through your proposal?
– I do not claim that the proposed committee will solve the problem completely, but it will help. Labour senators get as many representations from ex-servicemen as do Government senators. As I said yesterday in this chamber, I advised ex-members of the Forces not to approach me personally. [ might do them an injustice by interrupting or interfering with their appeals to the Repatriation Department. I prefer to refer them to the voluntary organisations set up to deal with these things or to trust to the goodwill of the members of the Repatriation Department.
Returning to the subject of the Returned Servicemen’s League, I mention that on numerous occasions the League has approached the Government with a request that ex-servicemen of the First World War should be given free hospitalisation and free medicine. When I once raised this matter the present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) - I can refer to the occasion in “ Hansard “ - said that I was shedding crocodile tears. Fortunately I do not need to refer to the matter more fully today but I may want to do so in the near future. I was not shedding crocodile tears. I was bringing to the attention of honorable senators something that was brought to my attention by the R.S.L. It was the view of the League that it was not fair and not proper that the Federal Government should not allow free hospitalisation to ex-servicemen of the First World War.
We do not suggest that the proposed committee should take away any of the power of the Government. Nobody wants to do that. However, we do suggest that we pool our ideas. Many committees have been set up in this chamber over the years and the majority of them have been most successful. I believe the proposed committee would be successful. Members of the Tribunals could be called before the committee to explain , why a claim may be approved on the one hand and, on the other hand, a similar claim may be refused. I can cite instances of such cases. I may be wrong, but to the best of my belief, two applicant’s suffering from similar diseases or complaints have received different treatment. One application has been granted and the other has been refused.
– Would you consider the possibility of the failure of one application being the responsibility of the advocate?
– As to that interjection, just imagine a soldier’s welfare being dependent on the ability of a lawyer.
– Not a lawyer.
– It may happen that Senator Morris’s client was not able to get as good an advocate as I could get for my client and for that reason his client’s case may not bc as successful as the case of my client.
– Don’t you believe in the policy of employing advocates?
– No. I do not. We were stopped from speaking on the subject of the onus of proof today. I believe that the onus of proof is not on the soldier or his advocate. It rests on the Government or the Repatriation Department or Tribunal to disprove that the soldier is entitled to what he claims.
– I was not referring to the onus of proof. I was speaking in general.
– I draw Senator Morris’ attention, to the case to which I referred earlier. It is as clear as daylight. The man concerned lay in bed for four or five years, sometimes in Heidelberg Hospital and at other times at home. When he was at home his wife attended him for 24 hours a day. What kind of advocate do you need to prove that case? The case is there and 1 will present it. I told the man’s widow yesterday morning before 1 left Melbourne to prepare all the evidence and I will present it to the Minister, I feel sure that even at this late date we will obtain justice for the woman and she will be paid the back money to which she is entitled. Why should she have to have a special advocate?
I shall refer to another case that went before a Tribunal. In doing so I am not condemning the members of the Tribunal who asked the lady giving evidence whether her husband drank. She said that he was a ‘normal man and he used to go along with the boys; but he did not drink to excess. She said to me: “I felt like a prisoner in the dock “. I do not think such things are right. We should put the members of the Tribunals on the right track. They are not infallible. The committee we propose could alleviate hardships. I do not say the hardships are caused intentionally. I believe that honorable senators opposite are just as sympathetic towards soldiers as are Labour senators. I suggest that the Minister should not take exception to our proposal. It can do no bad but must do some good by helping to solve the problems which confront ex-servicemen of both world wars. The committee could assist that great organisation, the Returned Servicemen’s League, which on numerous occasions has been unsuccessful in its attempts to right the injustices that have troubled soldiers and their dependants over the years. More problems will arise in the future. Unforeseen difficulties have arisen. I do not know what bearing the case presented by Senator Dittmer would have on this matter. He referred to the remuneration or grant that the mother or father of a deceased female would be entitled to. That is a new case that might need to be investigated. I believe also that as medical science progresses we will discover further reasons why we should give more consideration to those who have been injured in war.
I do not think there is anything wrong wilh this amendment. The Opposition is not criticising the Government at all. It submits that the proposed committee could be just as helpful as the committee that the Prime Minister is seeking in connection with the building of a new Parliament House. I hope that the Minister will favorably consider accepting the amendment.
– I should like to comment briefly on what Senator Hendrickson has said. He has certainly informed the Senate of his opinion as to how this committee should function. I gathered from what he said that it would be a straight out police force with an authority greater than that of the various tribunals.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– The honorable senator went to great pains to explain to the Senate - I listened with interest and sympathy - that there have been cases where, in his judgment, the person involved suffered an injustice. Then he went on to say that the proposed committee could call a tribunal before it and say, in effect: “ Why did you do this for A and not do it for B? “ If that is not acting as a police force, I do not know what is.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– That is my interpretation of what you said. I will be interested to hear what you have to say if you wish to add anything more. If what Senator Hendrickson has said is correct, ] submit to honorable senators that we will not get a person to serve on a tribunal. If an applicant has been successful everybody will be happy, but if an applicant has not been successful the members of the tribunal will have to go before a parliamentary committee and be judged on the decision they have given, notwithstanding that they had given it with all the evidence before them. I am not greatly impressed with the honorable senator’s argument. I am impressed with Senator Hendrickson^ sincerity but not with his logic.
– We are discussing an amendment moved by the Opposition to set up a joint parliamentary committee on repatriation. Such a committee has, of course, been sought before by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. The argument that we have used, and which seems to me to be very logical, is that complaints are being made continually about the Repatriation Act and about the various machinery tribunals set up under the Act. The Opposition has no grievance against the Repatriation Department. It believes that the officers of the Department are applying the provisions of the Act sympathetically. They cannot do more than that.
The Returned Servicemen’s League, as well as members of Parliament, have argued over the years that the Repatriation Act has not been amended to meet modern standards. I listened carefully to Senator Branson and to the Minister in his reply to Senator O’Byrne. No case has been made out against the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee. Senator Branson has contended that the Act has been carefully watched during the years, but I point out that no amendment has been made to section 47 since 1 943. Indeed, the need for a revision of the onus of proof clause is the keystone of the Opposition’s case for the appointment of a joint committee on repatriation. Other matters such as acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability are all incidental.
The basis of the Opposition’s argument is that there has been no proper inquiry into repatriation benefits and associated matters since 1943. The inquiry before that was made by a royal commission in 1924, and arising out of that inquiry, legislation was brought down as late as 1929. The Opposition believes that the Act should be modernised. The only way to deal with the repeated grievances, not only of exservicemen themselves, but also of the Returned Servicemen’s League and kindred organisations, is to appoint a proper committee of inquiry consisting of members from both sides of the chamber.
There is nothing wrong with this suggestion. This is 1964, and considering the lapse of time since the inquiries I have mentioned there is logic in the Opposition’s proposal. It is not good enough to say that there has been some evolution and that the Returned Servicemen’s League has quick access to the Government if it wants to make any suggestions. We find in every annual report of the League complaints about the lack of consideration of its demands. Even in the most recent report made in 1963 reference is made to requests to the Government. The report contains criticism of the Government’s pension proposals and of the sort of things which Senator Hendrickson spoke about, such as the need for free medical attention for all ex-servicemen. There have been continuing complaints about section 47 of the Act which as 1 indicated was last modified in 1943. The question of onus of proof has not been cleared up and neither has the question of hospital and medical benefits generally. Complaints about these matters have continued over the years.
In addition to general complaints and grievances by the national organisation of ex-servicemen, reference has been made to a number of individual cases. In this chamber and in another place the complaint has been made repeatedly that the real onus of proof still rests upon a person applying for a pension, notwithstanding that in 1943 the intention of the legislation was to take the onus of proof away from the applicant. That intention has never been carried out. We know, the Government knows, and 1 am quite sure that the tribunals know, that the real essence of proof still rests upon a person making an application for a pension. If that is so, some inquiry should be made into the ramifications of the Act to see whether it needs modification. That is the only way to take repatriation away from politics.
The Minister has charged the Opposition with twisting this debate and making it a political matter. We say that we are not doing that. Appointment of this committee would immediately remove repatriation from the Parliamentary arena and abate dissension amongst ex-servicemen and the organisations.
I have spoken of the length of time between past inquiries. Re-assessment of the repatriation system should be made at frequent intervals because times change. We have reached in 1964 a higher standard of social welfare than we enjoyed following the First World War, or even in 1943. For this reason there ought to be some reappraisal of the Act in the light of changing world standards. The sort of inquiry we arc proposing would meet the situation. It is evident that the organisations responsible for advancing the claims of ex-servicemen arc not satisfied with the present position. In addition to their repeated requests to the Government, and in particular their request for the modification of section 47 of the Act, they have also written to members of the Parliament about the matter.
A record of the result of claims made to the various tribunals appears in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for 1961-62. The pattern disclosed follows that of other years and indicates that there is something wrong. Of the total claims received and determined by repatriation boards and the Commission, 20,451 were accepted and 22,147 were rejected. In the case of appeals to the Repatriation Commission, 2,614 were accepted and 11,300 were rejected. The same pattern applies in regard to appeals to Entitlement Appeal Tribunals relating to all wars. The number of outstanding cases as at 30th June 1961, is shown in the report. Of the number of appeals heard, 1,388 were allowed and 6,864 disallowed. The Opposition contends that too many applications and appeals have been disallowed. It thinks that there is a need to modify section 47 of the Act. We will, of course be discussing this matter further later in the debate.
Taking all these factors into consideration there seems to be a very good reason why a committee of inquiry should be appointed. If it achieves no other purpose it will provide an all-party body to consider what is wrong with repatriation today. It will also provide an opportunity to look back over the years to see whether the legislature’s intention in the onus of proof provision has been successfully carried out. We think it has not been done. We say that there ought to be a joint committee set up, and whatever the Minister might have said or .whatever Senator Branson might have said, does not answer the case we are making.
I wish to refer to page 17 of the 48lh annual report of the R.S.L. where it is stated -
On this score it is interesting to note that recently agreement has been reached between the
K.S.A. and the New Zealand Government under which pension rates will be tied to economic levels under a review that will take place every two years . . .
That is something to which I refer in a sketchy way. In fact, the levels which have been advocated by the R.S.L. have never been accepted by the Government. When we advocate proposals on behalf of the R.S.L. the Government puts us off by saying: “ The R.S.L. has ready access to us. It can come and meet us. “ As Senator McClelland said, the League is in the unique position of being able to meet the Government, but the fact is that its petitions have never been properly considered by the Government. The same logic applies to our proposal for the setting up of a joint committee as applied last year. We hope that the Government will give the proposal serious consideration.
– The whole idea of the setting up of a joint committee, as proposed in the amendment moved by Senator O’Byrne, is in my opinion to enable the Australian Labour Party to play politics with the Returned Servicemen’s League. If we examine the wording of the amendment we find that there is to be a committee of nine members - three from the Senate and six from the House of Representatives. All decisions are to be by majority vote. In parliamentary language, of the nine members of (he committee four would be from the Opposition side and five from the Government side. When a vote was taken it would be resolved on political lines.
Senator Hendrickson made the statement that at today’s caucus meeting the Australian Labour Party had before it a request from the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) that a select committee bc set up to inquire into the need for a new Parliament House. That is a proposition concerning agreement on a certain type of building and the number of rooms it should contain. There would be no political issues involved at all. Senator Bishop said that various organisations had indicated to the Minister and the Government that they were not getting a fair deal. He said that such matters could be considered by a joint committee. I know how the Australian Labour Party operates, and I know that there would be a minority report from such a committee recommending that increases should be granted in certain instances. Of course, the whole thing would become a political issue. As Senator Branson pointed out, there is a Government committee constantly looking into repatriation matters and making recommendations concerning requirements under the Repatriation Act.
– lt is not working very well.
– The honorable senator says it is not working very well.
– Have you ever served on a joint committee?
– No. In answer to Senator Ormonde’s interjection, I point out that repatriation and social service benefits are now costing this Government over £400,000.000 a year, compared with the miserly amount that was provided by the Labour Government when it was in office.
– How long ago was that?
– I do not know. You may be able to remember. It was a considerable time ago, and I think it will be a long time before Labour is returned again. To propose the setting up of a joint committee to inquire into and report on repatriationmatters, and to suggest that there will be no politics involved, is completely beyond my understanding and that of the ordinary members of the Parliament. 1 do not believe that politics could be kept out of such a committee. The R.S.L., the Naval Association of Australia and several other organisations have their own committees which study repatriation matters and from time to time make representations to the Minister and to the Government for various alterations to be made. We have to remember that in 1946 a committee of ex-servicemen was appointed to inquire into repatriation matters, but the Australian Labour Party would not allow its members to serve on the committee. After almost 18 years the Labour Party suggests the setting up of a joint committee so that it can play politics. T do not believe such a committee would be of any benefit at all as far as repatriation is concerned. It would not help the returned servicemen one iota but would be used by the Opposition to serve its ends in a political fashion.
.- I did not intend to have anything further to say on the amendment, but I want to reply lo some of the remarks made by honorable senators opposite who sat dumb until late this afternoon. I was very disappointed in the reply given by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) because during my contribution to the debate last night I appealed to the Minister to state the specific reasons that he, on behalf of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and the Government, could advance for refusing to accept the amendment. As has been said from this side of the chamber, the proposal is to set up a joint committee consisting of representatives from both Houses of Parliament and from both sides, to examine the whole of the ramifications of the Repatriation Act.
– A non-political committee.
– There would be no politics involved. Senator Branson, in his contribution a few minutes ago, said that the committee would act as a police force. Nothing like that is intended. The intention behind the proposal is purely and simply for the committee to examine the whole of the ramifications of the Repatriation Act to sec whether improvements can be made. Surely no honorable senator opposite will stand and say that there are no anomalies in the Repatriation Act at the present time. There are anomalies. As the years have gone by the complexities involved in. repatriation matters have made anomalies inescapable. Anomalies which do not exist today may appear in a few years time. With the advance of the years, many of those dependent on repatriation are becoming more urgently in need of care. The Minister has said, in refusing to accept this amendment, that the Government amends the Repatriation Act every year. We know that the Government does bring in amendments to the Repatriation Act to increase pensions and so forth. But the Government never gets down to the fundamentals of removing anomalies such as those relating to the onus of proof section and the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. This will be dealt with in the amendment we will move later in the committee stage. Those things have never been considered by the Government.
The Minister said that returned servicemen’s organisations can approach the Government and that there is an open door lo the sub-committee of Cabinet. But the Cabinet sub-committee obviously deals with these matters on a Government level. If a committee comprising all parties is formed what harm is it going to do? The Government will get the views of all parties. We on the Opposition side receive representations that obviously do not go near the sub-committee of Cabinet and they come from responsible organisations. I. do not want to discuss the onus of proof section and matters such as that because they will be dealt wilh as further amendments are proposed later in the committee stage.
Only two Government senators have spoken up to date during the committee stage, besides the Minister. They were Senator Branson and Senator Scott. Senator Branson, of course, is on the wrong trail altogether when he suggests that our proposal will mean that the committee will develop into a police force.
– I said that is what Senator Hendrickson implied. I do not doubt your sincerity.
– I am not doubting your sincerity either. I agree that you arc just as sympathetic as we are. The situation is - as I am endeavouring to impress upon you - that it is not our intention that any committee should act as a police force. Senator Branson suggested that it would be a problem to keep this committee in operation because of the difficulty of getting people to serve on the Tribunals, ft is not intended that this committee - if and when it is appointed - should go to these Tribunals and stand over them. The purpose of the committee is to make recommendations to the Government to alter the Act, to simplify it, and to remove, where possible, r.ny anomalies that exist. That is its purpose.
Senator Scott brought politics into the matter. It is tragic when honorable senators rise and quibble about the costs when we are dealing with human lives and the health of men who were promised everything. We arc dealing with the health of men of whom - as I mentioned in my second reading speech - we wrote verse and song as being the heroes of yesteryear. But today we hear people like Senator Scott asking what the cost is going to be.
– 1 did not say that.
– You did say it.
I have noted it here and you will sec it in “ Hansard “. However, we have to consider the lives and health and wellbeing of these men in their declining years. We should not consider cost as an overwhelming factor because these mcn are much more in need of medical and hospital attention than they were previously. To talk in this way reminds me of the lines -
Oh! God! that bread should be so dear, And flesh and blood so cheap!
Apparently that is the way this matter is approached by the Government or, at least by Senator Scott.
I do not want to go into detail regarding matters such as hospitalisation for exservicemen of the First World War because a further foreshadowed amendment deals with that. Nor do I intend to discuss the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability and other matters that will be dealt with by way of amendment. I would like the Minister to stand up, but not to tell us again that every year the Government has introduced improvements to the Repatriation Act. These improvements have, up to date, only been to increase the rates payable in the various fields of pensions. I would like him to tell us of improvements removing anomalies, such as those associated with the onus of proof section about which nothing has been done at all. I appeal to the Minister, in all sincerity, to consider this matter. He should realise that the Government has nothing whatever to lose and very likely has a lot to learn from this proposed committee which would comprise men from both sides of the chamber and from both Houses who could meet and discuss these matters. The committee would have power to take evidence from various organisations. This would be of inestimable value to the Government in ironing out these anomalies. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider the matter. By accepting this amendment he will be doing a little bit towards giving justice to those who urgently need it.
– I would like to correct some remarks made by Senator Branson. I think the honorable senator must have come from a police family. Whilst I am a great believer in the police force, at no time did I ever agree that this proposed committee would act as a police force against officers of any Department. What I did say - and t would like Senator Branson to understand this - is that there are people with the same complaint who have been treated differently. What does Senator Branson think about those people who have been refused benefits while the applications of people with a similar complaint have been accepted? If the personnel comprising the Tribunal were called before the committee and questions were asked of them, they would probably have a reasonable answer which could be accepted and which, in turn, could be communicated to the people who believed that they had been wrongly dealt with.
The honorable senator should not think for one moment that there would be any difficulty in finding men to sit on these tribunals. I can assure him that there is any number of competent men who would take such a position. If this committee were formed - and I hope it is - there would be no resignations from the members of the various tribunals.
– Not immediately.
– There would not be any. Senator Scott said that these things arc done for political reasons. If any honorable senators fear for their political lives then they will exhibit the same fears as expressed by Senator Scott - they will fear that something this Government has failed to do for the returned soldiers of this country will be disclosed to the public. The Australian Labour Party, in 1942-43 appointed a committee-
– During the middle of the war
– Yes. The former Minister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, was on the committee and its decisions were unique. They can be found in the Library. I venture to say that quite a lot of good came to the soldiers who returned from the First World War, and those who returned from the Second World War, because of the work of that committee. I do not think any political propaganda was used on that committee. Senator Scott said that we have suggested that there be nine members on the committee now proposed. We do. But the Government will have a majority and no recommendations could be carried and brought into being by a minority group on the committee.
– l t is a good suggestion, politically, though. You could use the minority angle politically.
– I would like to say to Senator Branson that if he is going to depend on the suffering of returned soldiers for the political life of this Government then I hope he is not in this chamber for very much longer. It is very narrow minded to suggest that certain things should be concealed from those who are entitled to know them in order to save the political life of the Government.
To digress a little, let me say that the Australian Labour Party will get little publicity out of the proposed committee irrespective of the case that we advance. The Labour Party may get some publicity if it advances a bad case, but if it advances a good case it will get not one line in the capitalist Press of Australia. The Labour Parly never does. Not one line was given to the wonderful arguments advanced by members of the Labour Party during the debate in another place last night. I say to Senator Scott that the proposed committee would not be used for political purposes. At least we do not want to use it for political purposes.
– In other words, you are so innocent that you do not play politics.
– I do not play politics with people who are suffering as a result of their war service. I am sure that many people who come to me - my office is always open - vote Liberal, D.L.P., or Country Party. I have never asked them their shade of politics. I have never asked the political views of anyone who has come to me for assistance in repatriation matters.
The Minister could ask for this proposed amendment to be deferred until he has conferred with his colleagues and explained to them the good that came from the 1943 report of the joint parliamentary committee of which the former Minister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, was a valued member. If the Minister does as I have suggested I think the Government will realise that some benefit will accrue to those people who so richly deserve it-r-those who are suffering now because they gave their time, energy and health to defend this country in time of war.
– I do not think that Senator Branson intended to be insulting but he certainly was insulting when we advanced our proposed amendment relating to the establishment of a committee of inquiry to which evidence could be submitted by experts, representatives of ex-servicemen’s organisations, medical practitioners and others who would have a measure of knowledge of the disabilities suffered by ex-servicemen. I do not think that he intended to be insulting when he said that we would make political capital out of the committee - he is too decent for that - but his remarks can be construed as being insulting and, if you accept them at face value, he was insulting. I certainly object to being insulted in that fashion. 1 rise more particularly to support the establishment of the committee. 1 cannot understand why the Government, which has always pleaded that it turns a sympathetic ear to the cause of ex-service men and women, opposes our proposal on this occasion. When the Labour Government saw fit to establish a committee of inquiry in 1943 it did not hesitate to appoint Opposition members to the committee. It did not worry about Opposition members making political capital out of the committee. The Government of the day was seriously and sincerely concerned with the problems associated with the release of men and women from the Services. It was trying to prepare to meet the problems which inevitably would arise and the disabilities which inevitably would be suffered by the men and women who served during the war. Why the Government now is so adamant in its antagonism and so persistent in its obstinacy surpasses my comprehension. I do not know whether the Government has something to hide, whether it has something to be ashamed of or whether it is merely not prepared to mete out economic justice to those who are entitled to it. That is a matter for the Government, but I still do not understand why it is so determined in its antagonism.
It is all very well for the Government to say that it has a sub-committee of Cabinet and a committee of Government members to deal with repatriation matters. We on this side could also plead that we have a repatriation committee, but we are seeking to divorce this matter completely from politics and to have a dispassionate approach to it. Now, 19 years after the cessation of hostilities, disabilities have occurred in ex-service men and women. In many cases there has been a deterioration in their physical and mental capacities, and we want to see the true picture of the degree of deterioration that there has been and learn the way in which they can be given the assistance to which they are entitled for the services they rendered their country. The issue is as simple as that.
We have no wish to make political capital out of it. We are seeking only to mete out economic justice. You cannot measure this in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. You cannot weigh the scales with pounds, shillings and pence on one side, and suffering and disability on the other. But at least you can do something to alleviate the suffering of those who served during the wars in which this country has been involved. That is the approach adopted by my Party to this problem. Why Government members become heated and see something sinister in the proposal, I do not know.
– They feel the cold wind blowing.
– Their troubles are of their own making. They are fighting in Western Australia and in Queensland and have not been able-
– Order! I ask you, Senator Dittmer, to return to the subject before the Chair.
– If you stop the interruptions, Mr. Chairman, I will not digress.
As 1 said yesterday, another matter that the committee could consider, apart from the medical evidence, apart from the evidence of other experts, and apart from the evidence of the R.S.L. and similar organisations, is the appointment of departmental officers to assist applicants or appellants in completing the appropriate forms. The Minister has told us that departmental officers are available and that they are considerate and competent. I pay a tribute to those officers, but the Minister may be under a misapprehension because large numbers of ex-service men and women have come to me with blank forms that they have received in the post for completion. There is no indication on the forms that a departmental officer will assist them. That is one matter that the proposed committee could consider.
I mentioned yesterday that these unfortunate people cither make their reports too verbose or else leave out certain essential features which could establish their justifiable claim. I have raised this aspect now because the Minister is in the chamber. These appellants can go to the R.SL. for assistance, if they are members of that organisation -
– Order! We do not want to go back over the second reading debate.
– I am not doing that. 1 am justifying in my own way the establishment of the proposed committee.
– Please come back to the amendment before the Chair.
– My remarks are directed to the establishment of the committee and, with all due deference to you and to your august position, I am seeking to advance reasons why the committee should be set up. I have said that if it were set up certain submissions could be made to it.
– I am asking you not to traverse ground that was covered during the second reading debate.
– I am not traversing that ground.
– I say that you are. Will you please continue with your remarks.
– I shall in deference to you, but 1 shall persist in mentioning the issues that are before me and before this chamber. I did say, and I repeat, that evidence could be submitted to the committee relating to disabilities suffered by people who - I did not mention this previously - have no assistance. Ex-service men and women should be able to approach the committee and say: “ It would be of tremendous assistance to us in seeking our justifiable economic rights if some measure of expert assistance were provided for us by the Repatriation Department. We wouldappreciate that “. That is breaking new ground. It is one of the submissions that could be made. There is no reason in the world why medical practitioners could not appear before this committee, having assessed over a period the physical deterioration that has occurred in an applicant before its due time, even allowing that 19 years have passed since the cessation of hostilities. Such changes have occurred particularly in those who were prisoners of war. 1 know there has been a sympathetic understanding of their problems. In many cases their physical and mental deterioration has been tremendous and much beyond what could have been expected, even allowing for the deprivations which we knew they suffered. The Government should give serious consideration to acceptance of this amendment. There is no political harm it it. There is nothing wrong in rendering economic justice to those who are entitled to it, irrespective of whether they are ex-service men or women. We should be particularly serious and outstandingly sincere in our realisation of the debt that we owe not only to exservice personnel of World WarII but also to those of World WarI. This Government, because of its callous disregard of human rights and its irresponsible attitude to those who served the nation in a time of stress, must be condemned if it does not accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator O’Byrne’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 2a.
.- I shall not proceed with the amendment that appears next on the document circulated, as it was consequential upon acceptance of the amendment that has just been negatived. I now move -
After clause 2, insert the following new clause - “ 2a. Section thirty-seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘, the words ‘ or cancer ‘; and
by omitting from paragraph (b) of subsection (3.) the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis or cancer
Support for this amendment is gaining ground as the problem that we have tackled over the years becomes more widely understood. To illustrate my point, I refer to a speech made in this chamber by Senator Dittmer, a medical doctor on this side of the chamber, in which he referred to disagreement about the causes of cancer. Much has been said about the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. Tuberculosis has now been put into that category. A learned dissertation on this subject was given in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) who said -
Cancer in adults, which is what we arc concerned with now, is something about which we are learning all the time. We know that there are probably two main causes - chemical causes and infective causes.
Later in his speech, the honorable member for Bowman, said -
For example, if a serviceman’s nervous condition were accepted as being caused by war service and he developed ulcerative colitis and then a cancer of the bowel, that would clearly be a case in which war service was responsible. Similarly, if the privations of war service produced a gastric ulcer from which later a cancer of the stomach developed, that would be a case where, clearly, there was an association between war service and the development of the cancer.
Two doctors - one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate - have told the respective chambers that they are not able to define exactly the causes of cancer. Reference has been made to a survey on the incidence of cancer among exservicemen in relation to the rest of the community. I think that should be done to support the case the Opposition is submitting for the acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability within the provisions of the Repatriation Act. We have been reminded that cancer takes some time to develop. It may be caused by irritation or, as Senator Dittmer has said, it may be caused by a virus. There is no shadow of doubt that those who had war service often were subjected to irritation both externally and internally. This was accepted as a condition of war service. In this connection, we think of diet, for example. Servicemen had to change from the selective diet of civilian life to the routine field rations. The effect of this change of diet itself could be a basic cause of future development of cancer.
The medical profession itself is not prepared to state specifically what the causes of cancer are. The Repatriation Commission and the various tribunals are prepared to say when they consider cancer is not caused by war service and the onus of proof is on the ex-serviceman. This anomaly crops up continually. It has been overcome in the case of tuberculosis. When tuberculosis was accepted as a war-caused disability under the Repatriation Act, the disease was rampant throughout Australia. Its incidence was a national challenge. Through the research of scientists and the good offices of the medical profession the disease has become manageable. This in itself was a great victory, and whether we can achieve a similar objective with cancer is still undetermined. We can only hope that there will be such a development in medical science. But in the meantime, something must be done for the ex-service men and women. We need facts to substantiate the proposition that I am submitting to honorable senators.
The honorable member for Bowman referred to the possible effects of dyes on ex-servicemen. Certain dyes used in uniforms are believed to have led to a condition favorable to cancer. Airmen who were forced to bail out over the sea used rescue gear including a metal container of dye which was released into the sea about them so that they could be seen by searching aircraft. According to the honorable member for Bowman, this dye in contact with the skin could have been the basis for the onset of cancer.
– Did not Dr. Gibbs say that the dye would not cause cancer unless contact was prolonged?
– Yes, he did: but “ prolonged “ is a relative term. Five minutes under an X-ray might be a prolonged period in that sense and long enough to cause damage to the tissues that would not be caused by five years’ exposure to sunlight. A period that might be prolonged in some circumstances might not be considered prolonged in others. A man might wear for five years a uniform dyed with a pigment, and that might be considered a prolonged period. On the other hand, four or five hours exposure to a substance in the sca might be considered prolonged also.
– Not in the terms of the speech made by the honorable member for Bowman.
– We do not know. The honorable member was not specific on that point. No one is specific about cancer. We have not sufficient statistics on the incidence of the disease among exservicemen and the number of claims that are specifically based on the incidence of cancer in individuals. I believe that we should carry out the spirit of the Repatriation Act and that the onus of proof should be placed on the Repatriation Department and its tribunals. If this were done, perhaps we would err on the generous side; but no one is able yet to prove the cause of cancer and in the meantime those who have had war service should be given the benefit of the doubt. I should like to hear the views of supporters of the Government. Do they believe that tuberculosis has a greater claim than cancer for recognition as a war-caused disability? On what grounds do they differentiate between the two maladies? I would be bold enough to say as a layman that conditions which weakened the lungs or the bones of ex-servicemen and so contributed to the onset of tuberculosis could similarly be favorable for the development of cancers which destroy human tissue. I would like to have the views of the medical profession on this matter.
The Opposition sincerely believes that it has the co-operation and backing of the Returned Soldiers League in this matter. Resolutions were carried at the 48th National Congress of the League asking for the automatic acceptance of cancer, heart diseases, mental illnesses, bronchitis and emphysema as war caused disabilities. The report of the Congress states that it was subsequently determined that cancer should be given priority and the remaining items should be held over until progress had been made on this request. Much has been said about the representations of the R.S.L. I /eel certain that supporters of the Government would bc able to substantiate what I have said, because this subject has appeared on the agenda of conferences of the League over the years. Almost annually it has been decided unanimously that the Government should be requested to agree to automatic acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. I have never heard any Minister or anybody else put forward an unequivocal argument against the logic of its acceptance other than on the ground of economics.
– Has it been accepted anywhere?
– Yes. There have been many cases in which there has been incontrovertible evidence that cancer has been caused by war service and in which it has been so accepted. I should say that it should become almost automatic for the Repatriation Commission and the various Tribunals to accept cancer which occurs as a consequence of colitis as being due to war service. I should say that they would not bother to inquire very much about the pros and cons of the case, because it is reasonable to assume that a person with a cancer of the bowel who has had a history of colitis should have his disability accepted as being due to war service.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The Government does not accept the amendment. It will be recalled that at the second reading stage I was rude enough to interrupt Senator O’Byrne to ask what sort of cancer he was referring to. He said: ‘’ We include all types of cancer “. It has become clear in his submission at the Committee stage that the amendment refers to cancer in the broad sense of the term. The honorable senator has invited us to discuss tuberculosis on the one hand and cancer on the other hand. He would be a very courageous layman who would embark on such a discussion. Such a wide field of research is being undertaken and such wide views are held about cancer that it would be quite inappropriate for me. even though 1 lead for the Government in this debate, to embark on a discussion of cancer in all its forms. Generalised descriptions can be very misleading. For that- reason the Government cannot simply say- that it will accept cancer as being a war caused disability. To do so would do great injury to the cause of the ex-servicemen.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– At the suspension of the sitting 1 had indicated that the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition in relation to the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. As I then indicated, I feel that I must decline the invitation to compare the acceptability for . repatriation purposes of tuberculosis and the nonacceptability of cancer. This is a highly technical medical excursion upon which I would not dream of embarking. It is, of course, quite clear that to make a dragnet acceptance of cancer in the broad is to enter into a completely unknown field, lt seems to me that it would be quite misleading to generalise in relation to cancer. The term “ cancer “ covers a wide variety of diseases which can occur-in many parts of the body. That is a statement of fact supplied to me from a medical source.
Whilst the precise cause of cancer is unknown, a lot is known about the factors which do not contribute to the causation of particular cancers. I think that is rather an important factor. A lot is also known about the development of cancer but there is no direct evidence available to suggest an association between war service and cancer in whatever form it strikes. We all know that cancer is a terminal disease. We also know that tremendous research is being conducted across the face of the earth by the medical profession in an attempt to improve methods of diagnosis and treatment of the disease. I repeat that, speaking broadly, I do not think we do justice to the cause of ex-servicemen when we advocate simply that there should be a blanket acceptance of cancer as a war cause disability. Let us face it. After all, exservicemen want only what they feel they are entitled to. Senator O’Byrne, who is leading the Opposition in this debate, would probably agree that ex-servicemen want only justice, lt would be wrong simply to take a broad, blanket decision and say: “ Righto. Regardless of what ever type of cancer you have, it is accepted as being due to war service “.
The. speeches in this debate, both in this chamber and in another place, illustrate that even in the medical field there is a difference of view as to the cause of the dread disease of cancer. We have to accept the situation as it is. In certain circumstances, ex-servicemen get cancer in some form as an accepted disability caused by war service. That is an historical truth and it appears on the records of the Repatriation Department. It may happen that there are certain known factors in a serviceman’s history which, on the weight of evidence, suggest that his cancer is not due to war service. Obviously in such a case the application or the appeal must be disallowed. On the other hand, if this situation does not apply clearly, the provisions of Section 47 of the Repatriation Act can begin to operate.
It seems to me that each case must be treated on its merits and on the weight of medical evidence. The files of the Repatriation Department include cases where cancer has been accepted as a war caused disability. T have in mind a terminal case of cancer in the presentation of. which .1 took part some years ago. The widow of the ex-serviceman concerned was granted a pension because her husband’s cancer was accepted as being due to war service.
The Government does not accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition. Each case must be treated on its merits and the records show that this is the policy followed by the Repatriation Department. Through the normal departmental processes, certain types of cancer have been accepted.
.- I was rather amazed and in some respects amused at the heavy weather through which the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, Senator .Anderson, travelled in an endeavour to justify the non-acceptance of the Opposition’s proposed amendment. The honorable gentleman contradicted himself on two or three occasions during his short speech. First he said that ex-servicemen had contracted cancer through war service.
– In some form.
– In some form or other.
– Not “or other”.
– Wait a minute. He said that ex-servicemen had contracted cancer in some form or other through war service; but is he prepared to say that even the most eminent medical authority has any idea of what causes cancer? Only a few minutes ago the Minister said that exservicemen under certain circumstances get cancer accepted by the Repatriation Department as due to war service. Each case is dealt with on its merits. Let us be realistic about it. When you say that each case of cancer is regarded on its merits, you must assume that there is a known cause of cancer.
– Not at all.
– That is what I am trying to point out to you. If you will only listen, you will learn. During the second reading debate on this measure I referred to a medical man in this chamber - Dr. Turnbull, the Independent senator from Tasmania. He has said here that the medical profession does not know the cause of cancer.
– We all agree on that.
– Yet he said that he would not be prepared to extend repatriation benefits to an ex-serviceman suffering from cancer. He said that eminent men in the medical profession do not know the cause of cancer. If the cause of cancer is unknown, how can any tribunal say, after hearing an application or an appeal, that the cancer was not caused through war service? Honorable senators opposite contradict themselves.
– I do not want to interrupt, but what I said was that in certain cases it can be said that the cancer has no historical background of war service. Certain types of cancer would not be associated with war service.
– How can they say that when they do not know the cause?
– I am not a doctor.
– That is quite obvious. I am not a doctor, either, but apparently 1 have a little more knowledge of the medical profession than you have.
You say in one breath that they do not know the cause of cancer. In the next breath you say that in certain circumstances cancer is accepted for repatriation purposes, and in other circumstances it is not accepted. How do you reconcile the one argument with the other? We do not know the cause of cancer, yet the Minister says that in certain circumstances cancer is accepted as a war caused disability and that in other circumstances it is not. He is contradicting himself.
We get back to the old annual argument that we should recognise cancer as a war caused disability. That is the substance of this amendment, ls any honorable senator on the other side of the chamber prepared to stand up and say that ex-servicemen are not entitled to treatment if they are suffering from cancer? How can anyone, go before any tribunal and say on the authority of any medical man, no matter how eminent, that cancer is not due to war service? No medical man can say that because he does not know the cause of cancer. 1 say what I have said repeatedly in this chamber over the years. The Government has an obligation in this matter. We were told by honorable senators on the other side of the chamber today that we should not play party politics with repatriation matters, ls the “Government not doing just that? The Opposition is putting this amendment to the Government purely and simply from a nonparty point of view. We are saying that these men, who are suffering in the declining years of their lives, are entitled to the best medical attention we can give them. Who will deny them that? Senator Marriott did by way of interjection during my second reading speech. He is not in the chamber at present so I shall deal with the matter later when we come to the amendment dealing with hospitalisation. 1 appeal to the Government to realise that we owe a debt of gratitude to these men. Again I say that if we provide these men suffering from cancer with hospitalisation and medical attention we are serving two purposes. First we are giving them the attention to which they are justly entitled, and secondly we are relieving the ordinary hospital shortages in the various States. The Government has an obligation in this matter. The question of cost invariably comes up; it was mentioned by Senator Scott today. No criticism is raised about the millions of pounds that are extracted from the people of Australia every year by huge monopolies, but’ when it comes to saving lives, and giving ex-servicemen hospitalisation and medical attention in their declining years, we are asked to think of what the cost will be. As 1 said earlier, Senator Scott raised this question. Yet we allow monopolistic concerns to extract millions of pounds from the people of this country without let or hindrance. They do that not only with the approval of the Government, but also with its encouragement. Yet, when it comes to saving lives and looking after the health of people we talk about pounds, shillings and pence.
I repeat - and I will do so so long as 1 am in this Senate - that we owe these people a debt of gratitude which we cannot measure in pounds, shillings and pence. The obligation to repay this debt rests on the Government of the day regardless of its political colour. How in the name of goodness can anybody say that cancer was not caused or aggravated by war service? 1 do not want to go over the whole sordid story of the hell on earth that exservicemen endured during the First and Second World Wars. Everybody knows that they were up to their ankles or knees in dirty, slimy, stinking mud and breathing air polluted with the stench of decomposing human bodies.
We go to commemoration services and do honour to those who did not return. What about those who did return? We are denying them that which they most urgently need in the latter years of their lives. I again appeal to the Government to realise its obligation to make a humane approach to this problem. I am not putting this to the Government on a party level at all. We do not want to make party politics out of this. The Government admits that every year it gets requests from returned soldier organisations for additional repatriation benefits. There is an appeal from the Returned Servicemen’s League at present for the Government to recognise cancer as a war caused disability. We are spending tens of thousands of pounds in cancer research. We have people going around collecting money to enable the medical profession to undertake further research into the cause and possible cure of cancer. The Minister says that in some cases cancer is accepted as a war caused disability and in other cases it is not. Yet he admits that nobody knows the cause of cancer! Could there be a greater contradiction than that?
I know that it has been said often that you can have all the logic in the world but unless you have the numbers the logic is no good to you. The Government has the numbers. Let Government supporters go out and tell returned servicemen’s organisations that this afternoon they voted against the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee - something that the organisations wanted. Let them tell the organisations that they voted against - as they undoubtedly will later tonight - the acceptance of cancer as a war caused or war aggravated disability. Will they do that, or will they shelter behind some subterfuge? They may not admit it openly, but tonight in this chamber they will indicate by their votes that they are against the very things for which the returned soldier organisations are appealing at the present time. One of these, of course, is the acceptance of cancer as a war caused or a war aggravated disability. 1 do not see how in the name of common sense the Government can reject this amendment. I appeal to the Minister again - probably a fruitless and futile appeal - with all the sincerity that 1 can muster to accept this amendment. I have a feeling for these fellows. J, together with other members in this chamber, have frequently come up against such cases. Many of these fellows have given up the game in disgust because they cannot get anywhere. They are broken in health and in spirit, and some are broken mentally because of the service they rendered to this country. Government supporters, by their vote, will be denying them the medical and hospital attention they most urgently need. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to realise that. Cast aside party politics for once. Of course, 1 know that honorable senators opposite have to do what they are told. That is evident from the fact that, until late this afternoon not one Government senator other than the Minister spoke on this bill in committee. Since then we have had only two speakers from the other side apart from the Minister who had to reply. He reminded me of the Minister for the Navy; he was all at sea. Senator Branson did have the intestinal courage to get up and say what he thought. Then, of course, we heard Senator Scott, to whom 1 referred earlier. He could talk only in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. So I ask the Minister, who is an ex-serviceman, not to play party politics with this matter. I ask him to try to help ex-servicemen, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, and to endeavour to get the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and the Government to accept this amendment that has been moved by the Opposition.
.When I spoke during the second reading debate of this Bid I made a plea to ali honorable senators to consider the matter calmly and impartially and not to allow emotionalism to enter into the debate because I think that is most undesirable. 1 find that these is need to repeat the plea. We are discussing a disease that I suppose every honorable senator in this chamber fears more than any other disease. 1 do not think there is an honorable senator on either side of the chamber whose heart would not overflow with sympathy for a man who had been told that he was a sufferer from cancer. This matter should be considered from the point of view of reason and we should try to divorce ourselves from emotionalism.
Senator O’Byrne, the mover of this amendment, referred to the opinions of two doctors and possibly to that of a third. I shall refer to them in a few moments, but before I do so I want to reply to Senator Sandford. He chided Government supporters for not speaking on the amendments which previously had been before the Senate. Only one amendment has been before the Senate prior to this one. This is the second amendment. Our opinion was quite clearly expressed by the honorable senators on this side of the chamber who spoke on that amendment. J am satisfied that if we do not match in number the speakers from the other side of the chamber, we match them in logic and commonsense.
I want to refer to the speeches that have been made by well known and highly regarded doctors in this Parliament. The first one to which I refer is the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs). On 2nd September in another place he referred to a speech that had been made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton). This is what Dr. Gibbs said -
That is Mr. Beaton - . . showed that a number of causes of cancer arc known and that in many cases a cause can be followed through to Its ultimate effect. I believe that what he says only goes to support the Government’s contention that these cases should be decided on their merits.
Then Dr. Gibbs made a few more comments that are not quite relevant to this point, and went on to say -
Cancer in adults, which is what we are concerned with now, is something about which we are learning more all the time. We know that there arc probably two main causes, chemical causes and infective causes. Chronic irritation may be taken as a combination of both chemical causes and infective causes. These causes tend to operate more as people get older, because there is more time for them to operate. Therefore, an elderly person is more prone to cancer than a younger person and, consequently, many more ex-servicemen are now developing cancer.
When Senator O’Byrne was speaking about dyes, I interjected and said that Dr. Gibbs had said something to the effect that only a prolonged association with dyes would produce cancer. I do not think that the honorable senator quite agreed with my interjection. This is what Dr. Gibbs said -
Exposure to dyes, to produce cancer, must be considerable and carried on for some considerable time. Honorable members must not get the idea that exposure to a cancer producing substance for a short time will produce a cancer; usually the exposure must continue for years.
Leaving out some remarks which are not relevant to the point I am trying to make, he went on to say -
I think there are very few occasions when there would bc doubt as to the exact relationship between war service and cancer in an ex-serviceman.
I believe that that is a reasonable statement.
– He forgot to say that an X-ray could give a person a cancer in an hour if he was exposed to it.
– I am talking about dyes because it was on the question of dyes that I interjected. That is why I wanted to clarify this point. It is acknowledged by the Repatriation Department that some exservicemen suffering from cancer could conceivably have experienced certain conditions during war service which could have caused it. For that reason, more than 50 per cent, of World War II ex-servicemen suffering from cancer who appeal to a repatriation tribunal have cancer accepted as a war caused disability. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get the figure for World War I ex-servicemen. What I am referring to now was mentioned by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) in another place only a few days ago, and when I referred to the “ Hansard “ report of a similar debate twelve months ago I found that the Leader of the Government in the Senate had referred to the same point and had given the Senate the same information.
This, in itself, indicates that there is a sympathetic approach to this problem by the officers of the Repatriation Department. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) was quite right when he said a little while ago that doctors cannot tell any of us what is the exact cause of cancer in every case, but they can tell us, with certainty, that many things do not cause cancer. If an ex-serviceman appeals to a tribunal and asks that cancer be recognised as a war caused disability and gives, as his reason, one of the multitudinous things that the doctors know will not cause cancer, is it not obvious that the tribunal must reject the appeal?
– Suppose there is a difference of opinion between doctors in the one case?
– I appreciate that interjection. In “ Hansard “ of last year there is a record of the statement by Senator Turnbull, who has a very fine reputation as a doctor-
– There is no need to crawl; he votes with you.
– I am trying to keep emotionalism and politics out of this but Senator Sandford is doing his best to bring them in. If the honorable senator wants to introduce politics let us look at this matter. Senator Turnbull votes as he wishes. He votes for the Opposition on some occasions and he votes for the Government on others.
– He never votes with us.
– Yes he does - and you know he docs. We have all seen this. Senator Turnbull does not stand to gain any political kudos in this matter. He is a straightforward man in his speech and he is prepared to have his opinion known among those people he serves - the electors - just as Senator Sandford has challenged us to do. I am not at all fearful of the fact that my opinion is being recorded, probably by many people in Queensland who know me. I am not ashamed and 1 do not want to run away from expressing my opinion. In my view this is a matter which should not become political. Referring to the interjection made a little while ago that medical men disagree as to the causes of cancer, 1 say thai of course they do. We have three doctors in this Parliament that I know of - Dr. Gibbs, Senator Dittmer and Senator Turnbull.
– And Dr. Morris.
– No - I make no pretensions to being a doctor although I would like to be. But because I am not a doctor, because I have a great respect for the profession and because I know that there are many extremely capable doctors advising the Repatriation Department, 1 leave the matter to the experts. 1 know I am a layman and I know that most honorable senators arc laymen. Because of those facts and because this question, in its finer essence, comes down to a decision or an opinion, or a group of opinions, by medical men, I am prepared - more than I normally would be - to accept professional advice. The professional advice from the doctors advising the Department is that they can acknowledge cancer as a war-caused illness in certain cases. In such cases they so recommend to the Repatriation Department. They cannot do this in cases where, in their opinion, the illness is not a war-caused disability. I am prepared to accept these opinions because these people are the experts and it is they who guide us. I am satisfied to accept the opinions of these people and I cannot see it within my capacity to vote in favour of this amendment. I do not care who knows my views on this matter.
– How do you get over it when experts disagree on any one case?
– I cannot give the percentages - this is beyond me because I have not been able to take a gallup poll - but doctors agree overwhelmingly on this point - that certain things are known to cause cancer and certain things are known not to be able to cause cancer. That is the point which the Minister in charge of the Bill (Senator Anderson) explained so clearly and for which he was taken to task by Senator Sandford. I agree with the Minister. Honorable senators on the other side may dislike me politically - I do not care whether they do or not - but I venture to say that even those who do would be horrified if they heard that I had contracted this illness and I would be horrified to hear that news about any honorable senator opposite. So on this question let us keep emotionalism out of the debate and try to use reason in our consideration.
– Mr. Chairman, 1 can assist to increase the number of speakers on this side of the House even if I cannot contribute much logic to this debate. I hope to be able to answer some of the illogical statements made by Senator Anderson when he said that it was ridiculous to make the same comments about cancer as about tuberculosis. Because the cause of cancer is unknown, that, to my mind, is the very reason why it should be accepted as a war caused disability. The very fact that its cause is unknown must create a doubt.
We are dealing with a proposed amendment to section 37 of the Act in order to place cancer in the same category as tuberculosis so that cancer sufferers may have the benefit of the doubt provided for under section 47 of the Act. The Minister said that there were many cases of cancer which were accepted as war caused disabilities at the present time because it was obvious that something had happened to the men concerned during their war service which could have caused cancer. Those cases fall into the category in which it has been established that war service could have caused the disease. However, applicants are given the benefit of the doubt only if the doubt exists in the minds of the tribunals, not if it exists only in the minds of doctors who give evidence concerning them. If there was such a doubt it could be said that the applicants were involved in some incident or some happening during their war service which could have caused the cancer. The tribunal takes the view: We do not know so we will give him the benefit of the doubt. Throughout Australia, obviously, there are a number of returned servicemen who are receiving sonic pension because they are suffering from cancer. However, I do not accept the statement that 50 per cent, of returned soldiers who are suffering from this disease arc now receiving a pension. My knowledge of the number of rejections in such cases leads me to believe that that is not so.
– The reference was to 50 per cent, of the applications that had been made.
– 1 seriously question whether 50 per cent, have received a pension. Senator Morris made the statement.
– That has been established.
– I still query it.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) made the statement in the other place too.
- Mr. Swartz is not infallible. I must be handling a lot of cases of men who suffer from cancer among the ex-servicemen for whom I make representations and there seems to have been a rejection on most occasions. lt is peculiar that one member of Parliament should strike so many rejections. But 1 want to get back to the main point and that is the comparison between cancer and tuberculosis. Tuberculosis was obviously taken into consideration in the Act because of the difficulties associated with the disease. lt has become so well known that even the layman knows something about it. It is a germ contracted through contact with someone else suffering from tuberculosis - it is not caused by some incident in one’s life. It is a germ, which can bc dormant for many years, which thrives and flourishes in wet atmospheres and conditions. It was considered reasonable that men who were involved in the trench warfare in World War I suffered conditions which could lead to tuberculosis although they could have contracted the disease which only developed after getting out of the service.
No-one was able to ascertain when the serviceman caught the T.B. germ which could have lain dormant for quite a considerable period. Rather than face the possibility of a tribunal saying, “There is no doubt in our minds that after your discharge from the Services you did hard work and enjoyed a period of health and activity before you became ill, so you cannot attribute this complaint to your life in the Services “, the Government decided to accept tuberculosis as a war caused disability. There is no suspicion about it and no question is raised. It is accepted at all times.
The argument could be advanced today that as we have a system of compulsory X-rays an applicant whose X-ray showed his lungs to be free of infection five years ago could not claim the disease as being due to war service, The tribunal would have a ground on which to reject the application, but as the Act now stands responsibility is accepted without question.
With the possible exception of skin cancer, the cause of cancer is unknown. The medical profession knows that certain things contribute to cancer. The medical profession knows that people who work in a certain environment or who have certain habits are more likely to get cancer in one part of the body than are other people. Today’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ carried an article to the effect that Australian medical authorities believe that cigarette smoking is one of the contributing causes of lung cancer but that smoking of itself docs not cause cancer. The other contributing factors must lie in the environment or habits of the people who are unfortunate enough to contract the disease. However, it is claimed that cigarette smokers are more prone to lung cancer than are non-smokers. There are heavy smokers who, particularly in the later years of life, contract cancer while others show no sign of it.
Why is it that, of two men who smoke the same amount, live in the same environment, and work in the same workshop, one will contract cancer and the other will not? The reason must lie in the physical characteristics, the diet, or the environment of the unfortunate person who contracts cancer. Apparently one man is more susceptible to the disease than is another, but what causes this susceptibility no-one in the medical profession can say. Neither can the medical profession say whether the cancer is the result of something that happened immediately before it was detected, a few years before it was detected or very many years before it was detected.
We know that some cancers lie dormant for many years but their cause remains unknown. It could well be that when we eventually learn the cause of cancer we will find that it lies in environment. This may be the reason why some soldiers contracted the disease during their period of service. If we determine this conclusivelyin future years, we could well have wrongfully rejected many applications for repatriation benefits. Without knowing the cause of cancer, surely it is only reasonable that we should give our returned servicemen the benefit of the doubt. 1 do not base this plea on emotion or on our debt to our returned servicemen. I do not think the Government views this in terms of pounds, shillings and pence because the Minister has said that the returned servicemen want only that to which they believe they are entitled. It would not be fair to say that they want something that they are not entitled to receive. But the point is that noone can prove that cancer in a returned soldier was not contracted during his period of service. In those circumstances, surely he is entitled to repatriation benefits. This was the whole intention of the Act. On many occasions the Returned Servicemen’s League has asked for cancer to be accepted as a war caused disability because the League firmly believes that any returned serviceman suffering from cancer is entitled to repatriation benefits.
This proposed amendment does not seek to give the returned soldier something to which he is not entitled but, in the absence of proof to the contrary, it seeks to give him something that he should receive. If an attempt is made to compare tuberculosis with cancer, the scales will weigh down in favour of cancer as an acceptable war caused disability. The fact that we do not know the origin of cancer and cannot disprove an ex-serviceman’s claim should be sufficient to entitle him to repatriation benefits.
– I rise to support the amendment which has been proposed by Senator O’Byrne. ft seeks to provide for exservicemen who suffer from cancer, and their dependants, the same benefits as are paid toex-servicemen who suffer from tuberculosis. The Minister’s statements reveal a complete misconception of the intention of this amendment. It docs not seek, as he has claimed, to have cancer treated as a war caused disability. It does the opposite. It relates to cancer which is not war caused. It has nothing to do with cancer being allegedly the result of war service.
The amendment seeks to amend section 37 of the Act, the relevant parts of which arc in these terms -
– (3.) Where a member of the Forces -
The section deals with complaints that are not war caused. It deals with cases in which no pension would otherwise be payable. It merely asks that pension be paid for cancer on the same basis as pension is paid for tuberculosis. That is all we seek to achieve because tuberculosis has been covered by the Act for a long time. ft is beside the point to concern ourselves about professional opinions as to the cause of cancer. We seek here to amend the Act so that cancer, even though it is not due to war service and even though it can be demonstrated beyond all doubt not to be due to war service, nevertheless shall be regarded in the same way as is tuberculosis, that is, an ex-serviceman who served in a theatre of war and later suffers from cancer shall receive certain benefits. There is justice in this. First, there is the matter of gratitude. Secondly, there is the matter of the cases in which exservicemen already receive pensions. We know that there are onus of proof provisions, the effect of which is that a person is to receive a pension unless it is proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the disability is not war caused. The result is that at the moment it is certain that many of the persons who receive pensions in respect of cancer are receiving them although the cancer probably was not war caused. The figure of 50 per cent. has been mentioned, and thai is a very large figure. By reason of these onus of proof provisions, which the Parliament has seen fit as a matter of justice to apply to these cases, this is the reality. There is no doubt about that.
– No, they have been accepted as war caused.
– Yes, and because of the onus of proof provisions - if you listen carefully, Mr. Minister, it will be apparent to you - in many of the cases the disability was probably not war caused.
– That escapes the point that they have been accepted as being war caused.
– They have been accepted and they are accepted in every case unless it is shown beyond all reasonable doubt that the disability was not war caused. This means that there are many cases in which, because it was not shown beyond all doubt that the disability was not war caused, the person receives a pension. lt is said by the Opposition - I think rightlysaid - and it is supported by the exservicemen’s organisations, that that is an anomalous position, that surely in a case such as cancer, where there is so much doubt as to the cause of it, the benefit ought to be extended to all persons and there should be no inquiry as to whether it was war caused. The purpose of this amendment is to achieve that result.
It is apparent that many of the persons’ who receive a pension already probably arc fortunate because of the onus of proof provisions, and the only reasonable and equitable thing is to extend the provisions so that every person who serves in a theatre of war and later suffers from cancer should receive the pension. The third reason why we should support the amendment is that here is a case of a break through. Here, it is said, the community as a matter of justice is to extend to persons who suffer from cancer certain benefits if they served in a theatre of war, whether or not the disability results from that service. In other words, we are saying: Here is a group of persons who happen to suffer from cancer, and irrespective of whether it was war caused the community is to undertake certain pension obligations and medical treatment obligations in regard to them. That is a break through. It is in this way that the community moves forward. What is done today for ex-servicemen who served in a theatre of war will be done for other sections of the community in future. We may well reach the situation, as 1 hope we will, where the community will undertake similar obligations in respect of any person who suffers from cancer and needs medical treatment and financial assistance.
– Senator Murphy, in a legal way, has cut through a good deal of the misunderstanding. As we are an inexpert Senate discussing a very technical question, is it any wonder that we are confused? Senator Murphy, in my view has explained fully the Labour attitude to repatriation benefits for ex-servicemen who have cancer. We want pensions for these ex-servicemen, irrespective of whether the doctors think the cancer may have been contracted during the war or at some time since. We of the Labour Party, of course, cannot argue the technical questions. Senator Murphy has put the legal and party position and he has cleared my mind on something on which I wanted it cleared. Our case is largely emotional. We arc seeking for ex-servicemen something which other sections of the community do not get. But that is another matter. The general community has to depend on the judgment of doctors for all sorts of advice without the Government aids available to ex-servicemen. Doctors differ and patients die. That is a well known truism.
– They bury their mistakes.
– Yes. The Government could clear up a fair bit of misunderstanding on these matters if it did not hide behind an unspecified medical opinion that 50 per cent, of the ex-servicemen who apply for benefits as a result of suffering from cancer are acceptable and the other 50 per cent, are not. I cannot see why there should be a great deal of mystery about all this, and why doctors should have so much power without their opinions being specified. Surely to goodness some of the doctors of the Department of Health or doctors associated with the Tribunals can state the reasons why 50 per cent, of these applicants are receiving pensions and the other 50 per cent are not.
This is the principal reason why I rose to speak. J feel quite incapable of doing justice to the question. No doubt many other honorable senators are in the same position. The Minister ought to be able to state representative reasons given by the repatriation doctors for allowing 50 per cent, and disallowing the other 50 per cent. 1 do not think there could be 100 different reasons. Dr. Gibbs, in a quarter hour speech in another place, mentioned three reasons. .1 do not think Senator Cavanagh claims to bc a medical authority. Most of us like to read about health, how to get well and how to remain well. We all arc authorities on matters of health, or we think we arc. Health is good newspaper copy. Senator Cavanagh said quite openly that the matter is a mystery to him. Senator Murphy did not attempt to go into the medical side of the argument. He stripped the Labour case of its emotionalism and said that we were asking for this provision, irrespective of whether or not the cancer was war caused. In a general sense, the Labour Party believes that anybody who suffered the privations of war is entitled to full repatriation benefits from beginning to end, regardless of the complaint from which he is suffering. The Labour Party agrees with the Returned Servicemen’s League and other ex-servicemen’s organisations that once having served a person is entitled to everything that the nation can give by way of repatriation.
Before I sit down I want to ask why is officialdom - if it may be so described - is so concerned about fighting the battlers who seek assistance? I would assume that returned servicemen who are not battlers do not have to put up a fight. They can get the best medical advice and pay for the best treatment, but those who go to the Government for assistance and for their repatriation rights are probably servicemen who have worked for their living all their lives or have been on pensions for one reason or another. But generally touching on repatriation pensions, I know people on £6,000 and £7.000 a year who are getting T.P.I, pensions. They get all sorts of benefits. They are able to buy cars without sales tax. I know mcn sitting in the judiciary - the judiciary, mind you - who as well as picking up their £6,000 or £7,000 a year get a T.P.I, pension at the same time. There is no question about that.
– Are you suggesting a means test on the T.P.I, pensioners?
– I am not suggesting a means test, but I think you are putting on a means test. In fact, you arc applying what is worse than a means test when a serviceman who gets cancer has to prove to the hilt that his cancer is attributable to war causes. But there are people exploiting repatriation who have sufficient of the comforts of life. If they forfeited what service benefits they get, possibly the Government could be more generous to those in need. That is a general observation. I do not want the means test applied, of course, but 1 think 1. am quite right when I say - and I have expressed this view to many people - that the restrictive actions of the Government seem to be directed towards the smaller people of the community. There is a generous distribution to some selected sections of the community. I say this in an attempt to persuade honorable senators on the Government side to broaden their views. They accuse us of being emotional on these questions and of driving a hard bargain on behalf of ex-servicemen who are in need of help.
I know the Government has great difficulties in administering the Repatriation Act, but I cannot see any reason why the experts in repatriation should not. be obliged to say as clearly as doctors can when discussing these matters why 50 per cent, of applicants for a pension on the ground of cancer do not get a pension and 50 per cent. do. Senator Morris has said that 50 per cent, of the applicants who apply to have cancer accepted as a war caused disability are successful. The experts should say why this is so. They are the Government’s servants and should be able to inform the Minister and instruct him so that he can give us the real reasons.
– The Committee has had a good debate on this amendment. Certain references were made to it in the second reading debate and it is true that a little heat may have been engendered in parts of it. That is only natural. We arc pretty strong advocates for a cause. But it seems that we had to wait until Senator Murphy spoke to discover that after all this debate he has destroyed every argument that was put up by members of the Opposition, except Senator Ormonde, in relation to this amendment. What Senator Murphy said was a complete denial of everything that had been said on the Opposition side from Senator O’Byrne, who led the debate, down. In fact, he said the amendment had no regard to war service at all.
– He said: “ If it had any regard “.
– No, he did not. He said this was a gratuitous handout to every ex-serviceman who had cancer. You yourself, Senator Cavanagh, said that no ex-serviceman wanted anything but what he was entitled to. You repeated those words. Senator Murphy, of course, let the cat out of the bag and destroyed every Opposition argument. He said: “This is a handout. We want to be the Party that puts up this proposition as a handout”. Then Senator Ormonde came into the field. He is astute and quick on the draw. He realised the folly of this argument, but he got himself tangled up by saying that we should have a means test applied to the T.P.I, pension.
– No, I did not.
Senator ANDERSON__ Yes you did. I would hate to have Senator Ormonde as Minister for Repatriation if that is his argument. There is no need to chide me about my position in the R.S.L. I have been a member of the League since 1. stepped off the ship. I am not afraid to say whom I represent here. 1 represent the Government and the Government is not prepared to accept this amendment. Senator Ormonde talked about a means test. Try to sell that one in the R.S.L. and see how you go.
– Senator Ormonde did not say that. Be honest.
– Of course, he did, by inference. Until Senator Murphy came into the debate, the Opposition was putting up a case. We on the Goverment side were saying that, in effect, we were not prepared to accept the amendment. Then the legal mind came forward and said: “This is to be on the basis of a handout “.
– No, he did not.
– Of course he did, and I can still see the look of horror on some faces opposite when he said it. 1 say to the Opposition that the Government states that claims in respect of cancer should be treated on their merits. I am certainly not going to enter into the specialist field and discuss the causes of cancer and tuberculosis. Senator Sandford can do that if he likes. Every case for the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability has been treated on its merits and section 47 of the Act has been applied so that in many cases men have, in fact, received pensions.
– In some cases.
– In some cases then. I am not going to quote percentages but there have been and there are cases which have succeeded. Let us face it. The Government has said that it is not in a position to accept the amendment and it is not prepared to accept the amendment as it has been put by the Opposition. The Government has to accept the responsibility and it does accept the responsibility. It is not prepared to accept the amendment, and in view of what has developed in recent moments in the debate I do not think the case will be helped by prolonging the discussion.
– We have heard the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) say that I let the cat out of the bag. The Minister referred to what has arisen in the last few moments and he suggested that in some way I had deviated from what had been said by earlier speakers. Anyone who listened carefully to the debate would realise that Senator O’Byrne and other honorable senators on the Opposition side were explaining exactly the injustices of a setup in which some persons get a pension on the basis that cancer from which they were suffering was war caused whilst others do not get a pension. Perhaps some would creep through. Generally there has been a great deal of difficulty surrounding this matter.
The Minister has suggested that I let the cat out of the bag in the last few moments. If the Minister had been properly advised he would know that this amendment is designed to put cancer on the same basis as tuberculosis in relation to war pensions. The Minister would know that the reasons for the acceptance of this disability would have been advanced and dealt with in the debates on the amendment under which tuberculosis was accepted as pensionable although not caused by war service. Everybody in this chamber knows that. If the Minister had been properly advised and if he were doing his job, he would have read the debates on this subject and would have known that, if the cat had been let out of the bag, it was let out in 1943 - 21 years ago. Obviously the amendment relating to cancer would have the same effect as the original amendment relating to tuberculosis. What nonsense it is to say that I let the cat out of the bag by saying that we are asking that an ex-serviceman who is suffering from cancer should be dealt with on the same basis whether the condition was caused by war service or was not caused by war service. That was exactly what was done in relation to tuberculosis. It was done openly in 1943.
If the Minister has not looked at the relevant passage, I refer him to the following statement by Mr. Frost, who was then Minister for Repatriation, as reported in Volume 173 of “ Hansard “ at page 813-
The Government, however, has given full consideration to the matter, and is of the opinion that it would be inequitable to withhold those benefits from those who serve in the present war. The Government, I should explain, has already given approval to the extension of service pension provisions, and the facilities for free medical treatment to sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis not caused by war.
Similar statements have been made elsewhere in debates. It has been plain for 21 years that that was the purpose of the amendment relating to tuberculosis. It is plain that, when the Opposition now seeks to have cancer put on the same basis as tuberculosis, it does so for the same reasons and with a view to achieving the same effect. When he suddenly advances the argument that this point has not been raised before, the Minister shows that cither he is falling down on his job or is not doing justice to honorable senators.
– I was rather amazed a moment ago to hear the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) accuse Senator Murphy of letting the cat out of the bag and of saying that the Opposition wanted a hand. out. It is quite apparent that the
Minister has not read the Bill or the amendment; otherwise he would have known that there was no cat to let out of the bag. What the Australian Labour Party wants to do is quite clear. Section 37 (3.) of the Repatriation Act as amended would read -
Where a member of the Forces -
at any time after his discharge from tha’ Forces, became or becomes incapacitated, or died or dies, from pulmonary tuberculosis or cancer. . . .
It is quite clear that the Minister is not doing his job when he does not study the amendments. These questions must be answered: Is the Minister doing his job? Or is he just sitting pat and taking no notice of anything that is said on this side of the chamber because the science of numbers is destroying democracy? I believe that Ministers are sitting in their seats knowing full well that they have the numbers and need not take any notice of what goes on.
The Minister for Customs and Excise said that Senator Ormonde had suggested that a means test should be applied. I note that the proceedings are being broadcast. To say such things is good propaganda. But the Minister cannot be allowed to get away with that statement. Senator Ormonde made no such suggestion. What he said was that 50 per cent, of cancer sufferers who applied for a pension were successful but that 50 per cent, were not. He knows, too, that there are people in receipt of a full T.P.I, pension who are earning up to £6,000 and £7,000 a year. Surely if that situation obtains it should also be allowed to obtain in regard to people who are unable to prove the cause of their cancer - something which cannot be proved by doctors. There is no more hope of an exserviceman proving that cancer was war caused than there is of any doctor saying that it is not due to war service.
Section 47 was inserted in the Act to clear up the position where any doubt existed. It provides that if there is any doubt the matter must be resolved in favour of the applicant for a pension. However, when one goes before the Tribunals one finds that it does not operate in that. way. A few weeks ago I took uo a case in relation to which a doctor in Melbourne examined a file and determined that the ex-serviceman concerned was not entitled to a pension. The doctor did not make a clinical examination; he simply sat in his office, read the comments of other doctors and recommended to the relevant Tribunal that no pension should be granted. That is the way in which section 47 is being interpreted.
– Order! We arc dealing with section 37, not section 47.
– I am talking about the onus of proof.
– Order! The amendment is to section 37.
– I am talking about the onus of proof as it applies to this particular disease. I say that the benefit of the doubt should be given to ex-servicemen who are suffering from cancer when they claim it is due to war service. Neither the Government nor the legal profession has any right to say that cancer is not war caused. For that reason, the Australian Labour Party asks not for a handout but for equity and justice for ex-servicemen.
– I want to clear up my attitude to the allegation that Senator Murphy let the cat out of the bag. I agree with the Minister for Customs and Excise to the extent that what Senator Murphy said would appear at first blush to be contrary to the reasons that I advanced in support of the amendment. Senator Murphy’s comments disclosed that many who had debated the subject had not looked at the relevant section but had championed the cause of the ex-servicemen as advanced by the R.S.L. and other exservicemen’s organisations. Pensions are granted to sufferers from cancer who can prove that their disability is due to war service, but we on this side of the chamber -and I in particular - have argued that cancer sufferers who cannot satisfy the tribunals beyond doubt that their disability was war caused should get a pension. Senator Murphy stated the legal position would be that they should get a pension as an extension of benefits. While I agree with that view, I suggest that they should receive a pension for the added reason that we do not know the cause of cancer and that, arising out of the study of this disease, we may find that by not including any such provision in the Act we have deprived a lot of ex-servicemen of pension rights. I think there is a consistency in the argument, although I do agree that Senator Murphy, by relating the amendment to the section in question, showed that its application would be somewhat different from what the Opposition had been arguing up to that point of time. However, the Opposition’s argument up to that point strengthens the contention that cancer should be placed on the same favorable basis as tuberculosis in granting pension benefits.
.- I suggest that the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, Senator Anderson, in his reply to Senator Murphy was guilty of using an inappropriate metaphor. He accused Senator Murphy of having let the cat out of the bag. He should rather have confessed, in the terms of another metaphor, to attempting to pull the wool over the Senate’s eyes by misstating the effect pf Senator Murphy’s argument.
Listening to the discussion on this subject, to my mind the position stated by Senator Murphy was perfectly clear. He wants, as the Opposition wants, through the proposed amendment, to make the position of cancer sufferers the same as the position enjoyed by tuberculosis sufferers. I have not yet understood from the Minister how he justifies tuberculosis occupying, its special position under section 37 of the -Repatriation Act as distinguished from cancer. Under this section, ex-servicemen who have served in a theatre of war and who suffer from the incapacity of pulmonary tuberculosis may be pensioned, notwithstanding their inability to establish their claim apart from section 37. In other words, tuberculosis sufferers are put in a special position. We strongly agree that they ought to be in that position. They should not be required to go to the extent of producing proof that the disability was war caused, as is required under other sections of the Act.
What is the logical distinction between the diseases? I have yet to hear the Minister explain this point. Senator Murphy put it - and this is the purpose of the proposed amendment - ‘that cancer should be treated on the same basis as tuberculosis. What is the basis upon which the Minister can differentiate between the two diseases? The difficulty of proof of origin of the disease, that is, the manner in which the disease was contracted was obviously the basis upon which tuberculosis originally came into the special category that it now occupies. Why are the Minister and the Government so adamant in rejecting the position that cancer can be similarly justified, with all the great difficulty of establishing its origin?
It is common ground in the debate tonight and among medical experts that the cause of cancer is virtually unknown. Why is there this Government resistance, notwithstanding the strongly expressed views of not only the Opposition, but of exservicemen’s organisations? The Government refuses to meet the position squarely. If the Government faces the problem, its answer would be: “ Yes, we will put cancer into precisely the same position as tuberculosis “.
– I think it should be patent to everybody that throughout the debate on the proposed amendment, I have not made any attempt to establish the similarity of cancer and tuberculosis. That has been the whole burden of my remarks in establishing my original point. In other words, I was not prepared to say: “Right. There is a similarity between tuberculosis and cancer. Therefore we will treat them the same.” There is no parallel. I am not going to be drawn into trying to make a comparison between tuberculosis and cancer.
– What is the distinction?
– I will not attempt to make any distinction. What has excited and livened the debate is that Senator Murphy used an argument which had not been used by any of the previous speakers, including Senator O’Byrne who is leading for the Opposition. Senator Murphy broke completely new ground.
– It was a good argument, was it not?
– Yes. But, irrespective of anything else, it was introduced at a late stage of the debate. A new debating line was introduced into the argument. Senator Cavanagh acknowledged that it was a new departure. If that is the argument upon which the Opposition wishes its amendment to be based, that is all right with me. I do not deny it as an interpretation of what the Opposition seeks in its proposed amendment. However, the point I made was that a new line of argument in relation to the proposed amendment was introduced at a late stage of the debate. I stand by that position.
.- The debate has reached an interesting stage where it is quite obvious that the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, Senator Anderson, is so anxious to make political capital out of the Opposition’s approach toward correcting an injustice and anomaly that I do not think he has been properly briefed on the section we seek to amend. Perhaps it would be of advantage to him to be informed at this late stage of the debate of the nature of the proposd amendment. For that purpose I shall repeat it. It states -
After clause 2, page 2, insert the following new clause: - “2b. Section thirty-seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (1.) afterthe words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘,the words ‘ or cancer’; and
. . .
The amendment would mean, as has already been pointed out, that section 37 would read as follows -
The rate of pension payable under this Division to a member of the Forces in respect of incapacity caused by pulmonary tuberculosis or cancer shall be not less than the rate specified in Column 4 of the scale in the First Schedule to this Act in relation to the rank or rating of the member. (2.) Any such pension shall not be terminated or reduced below the rate so specified unless it is shown that the pension was obtained by fraud or impersonation. (3.) Where a member of the Forces -
I do not understand how the Minister can say that Senator Murphy has let the cat out of the bag, or that any other meaning or construction can be placed on the amendment we have put forward. 1 also want to make the point that we are dealing with a subject on which the medical profession is at variance in its opinions as to the cause of the disease. 1 draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the present medical benefits setup in this country is a creature, a monstrosity of this Government which has allowed private enterprise to exploit the sick. Ex-servicemen who have contracted the dread disease of cancer, irrespective of whether it is through war service, arc not eligible for benefits paid by the medical and hospitals benefits funds. They are not eligible for benefits to be paid by the country that promised them so much. The cause of cancer is never thoroughly proved, as has been demonstrated by the medical members of the Parliament. The ex-servicemen are placed in an even worse position if the onus of proof is thrown upon them and if the element of doubt has not been completely clarified.
Senator Murphy has added strength to the case of the Opposition. Just as we want all burnt-out diggers at 60 years of age to get a service pension, the equivalent of the age pension, five years before other members of the community, so we want every digger who served his country to be entitled to a pension if he, as the Act says, “ at any time after his discharge from the Forces became or becomes incapacitated or died or dies “ from cancer. That is all we ask for and that is as clear as we can make it. The Minister has really gone off at a tangent in saying that our case has changed since the introduction of the proposed amendment. We are seeking to amend clause 37 so that it will cover the disease of cancer as well as tuberculosis. Senator Murphy pointed out that in 1943 the then Minister for Repatriation realised the difficulty of differentiating between war caused tuberculosis and tuberculosis due to other causes.
– He would not accept cancer, and he was a Labour Minister.
– ft is only during the last 25 years or so that the fullest attention has been paid to cancer by the medical profession. It is not very long since a person was said to have died of a burst stomach or of some sort of obstruction of the bowel. The medical profession was not able to diagnose some forms of cancer. Doctors did not have the full service of X-rays that is available today. The medical profession concedes that it is learning more about cancer every day.
The point 1 am making is that just as tuberculosis was recognised as a scourge in the community requiring special consideration, so cancer should be given similar consideration. All civilians can obtain treatment in chest hospitals. You do not need to be an ex-serviceman in order to obtain a pension, to obtain special treatment in a chest hospital, or to be given a period of time for convalescence, and to obtain Government assistance for your family during your period of confinement in hospital. Those benefits are given as gestures by a community that believes that a sick person is a responsibility and a well person is an asset. Many people who have had tuberculosis have regained their health and are tremendous assets to society. We hope and pray that the same development will be made in the treatment of cancer. That may or may not be so, but this disease cannot be ignored.
The purpose of the amendment is to enable any ex-serviceman who has cancer to be classified as a sick digger. He should be placed in the same category as an ex-serviceman of 60 years of age who obtains a service pension. His disability should be automatically accepted as is tuberculosis. The element of doubt as to whether or not the disease is war caused should be removed. An ex-serviceman with tuberculosis can obtain a pension and we are asking that an ex-serviceman who has cancer be put in the same category.
Economics, I am sure, is the only barrier that is preventing the Government from granting the demand that is being made right throughout the community. Without doubt the matter has been carefully considered by the various organisations. During the debate on the Opposition’s first amendment, the Minister said that the Government was accepting the advice of the Returned Servicemen’s League in refusing to appoint a committee. However, although the League strongly recommends the second amendment, the Government says that it is not acceptable. The Government is simply drawing a red herring across the trail. However, the Opposition will not be diverted from its purpose. I tell the Minister that sooner or later this amendment will be made to the Act, whether or not the present Government is on the Ministerial bench. Ex-servicemen who served their country well and are now suffering from cancer will get only the justice they deserve when this amendment is ultimately accepted.
It is all very fine for Senator Morris to come to this Federal Parliament and try to convince us that an ex-serviceman is not entitled to repatriation hospital treatment if he is a sufferer from cancer. In his State of Queensland there are people who still recognise the necessity for a complete free hospital scheme. An ex-serviceman in Queensland can enter a hospital and get free treatment, but as a result of the activities of this Government there is no great humanitarian scheme whereby everyone in the community is entitled to free hospital treatment. It is the moral responsibility of any community to care for the sick. People who are unable to insure themselves adequately against chronic diseases are liable to pay criminally high hospital charges. What ordinary working man can be expected to pay £7 or £8 a day for hospital treatment? I am putting up a plea on behalf of only one section of the community. I should like to widen my plea andask that all sections of the community by given the benefit of free hospital treatment if they are sufferers from cancer. They need help, and they should receive it automatically.
Senator Murphy and Senator Cohen have stated the Opposition’s case very clearly. What we want is an alteration to the Repatriation Act to give sufferers from cancer advantages equal to those given to sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis. I assure the Minister that if the Government rejects this amendment the Opposition will persevere in its attempts, and that the day will come when justice will prevail and this provision will be incorporated in the Repatriation Act.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator O’Byrne’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 2a.
.- I move -
After clause 2, insert the following new clause - “2a. Section forty-seven of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section: - ((A.)In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin ofthe disability.’.”.
Section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which we wish to amend, reads as follows - (1.) The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal, an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, in hearing, determining or deciding a claim, application or appeal, shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt -
The onus of proof has been a contentious issue for a considerable period of time. It is the view of the Opposition that an attempt should be made to clarify beyond all reasonable doubt what is meant by the section. We have had a lengthy debate on the two amendments that have been proposed by the Opposition. It appears that all the arguments adduced by honorable senators from both sides of the chamber have surrounded an area of doubt. When one analyses human argument, one finds that the known factors are agreed upon and that the argument concerns unknown factors. That analogy can be applied to the amendment that we now put forward. We say that in all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of a disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability. These amendments were framed before this debate was initiated. The debate itself arose because certain budgetary proposals had to be incorporated in the Repatriation Act. It was necessary to make certain alterations to the pensions payable under the Repatriation Act.
We have had shown to us during the debate that two doctors who are members of this Parliament have given a clear cut explanation of a certain disease. While those two doctors would probably agree on a wide range of medical matters, there was a conflict of opinion between them as to the origin of the particular disability referred to’ in the previous amendment. That, in itself, should be sufficient evidence for honorable senators to realise how important it is that an amendment such as the one now proposed should be incorporated in the Act.
It has often been said that the wording of section. 47 is as near as possible to what was meant and what is meant by the onus of proof provision. On looking through the section there is no doubt, from the point of view of a reader, that the onus of proof does rest with the Repatriation Commission or with one of the Tribunals. But in actual fact and in actual practice, to the great chagrin of many ex-servicemen, the onus of proof still rests on the applicant. One honorable senator cited his own experience when acting as an advocate pressing for acceptance of a disability which had been rejected. He had personally investigated the claim in order to gain sufficient evidence to prove beyond all doubt that the man had sustained war caused disabilities and the application was eventually accepted. As I said earlier, that is the responsibility of an advocate. But the interpretation of this onus of proof section by the various tribunals and the Repatriation Commission still leaves doubt as to whether the onus of proof is on the applicant or on the Commission or Tribunal.
This amendment moved by the Opposition is in the actual wording of a request by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Doubts can be cast as to whether this amendment means anything different from what is already in the Act. But it indicates the need for the line of demarcation to be drawn with as much clarity as is humanly possible in order to determine where the onus of proof does lie. I can well understand the attitude of those people who have carried the burden of finding sufficient evidence to establish proof of war caused disability and then, having made the application, have found that their evidence was not strong enough although knowing quite well in their own hearts that they had a strong and justifiable case. Because of the advantage of knowing that the Act provides that the onus of proof is on the Tribunal or the Commission, applicants enter into the appeal overconfidently, thinking that the case is weighted in their favour.
The interpretation of the spirit of the Act causes dissatisfaction. It is one of the main bones of contention and the cause of criticism of this otherwise very comprehensive Repatriation Act. I ask the Minister, in the same terms I have used previously, to accept this amendment, lt is the very best that can be drawn up in order specifically to interpret the wish of this Parliament and the original framers of the Act. I ask the Minister to let the people of Australia know that this Government means what it says in section 47, which unequivocally places the onus of proof on the Commission itself. I ask the Senate to support the amendment dealing with the determination of claims and appeals which relates to the onus of proof.
– I support the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition by Senator O’Byrne. As Senator O’Byrne said, it is exactly in line with the request made by the 48th National Congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The object of the amendment is to clarify the meaning of the phrases “ onus of proof “ and “ benefit of the doubt “. The amendment is sought so that applicants will be able to obtain the fullest possible advantage under the Act and so that a uniform interpretation of this particular section will be adopted by the various authorities. Senator Anderson, the Minister handling the passage of the Bill through the committee stages referred earlier in the evening to the fact that exservicemen generally are not seeking handouts. I agree with that statement by the Minister. This being so it is rather incongruous to compare the number of applications for repatriation benefits and the number of rejections by Tribunals. If these men are not merely seeking handouts but are seeking something to which they, in all sincerity, feel they are entitled it would appear that the tribunals are acting rather harshly having regard to the number of applications by ex-servicemen of the First World War and the Second World War which have been rejected.
I propose to refer to page 12 of the last annual report of the National Executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League. From a cursory glance at the figures in the report it will be seen that the longer one is away from serving with the forces the more difficult it becomes for one to substantiate an application before a Tribunal. If honorable senators peruse the table dealing with the disposal of appeals lodged with War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunals concerning the 1914-18 war they will find that last year 76,430 applications were received and only 32,781 were accepted. In other words, only 4.0 per cent, of those men who applied last year for repatriation benefits, as a result of something which occurred to them in the 1914-18 war, were successful. Over 50 per cent., 38,448, were rejected. When these figures are compared with, those relating to the 1939-1945 war it will be seen that my submission is correct that the longer one is away from war service the more difficult it is to prove to the tribunals that the injury or incapacity for which the application is made is the result of such war service.
The figures relating to the Second World War show that within the same period 135,386 applications were received, 73,275 were accepted and 49,464 were rejected. Whereas 50 per cent, of applications from returned servicemen of the First World War were rejected, some 33 per cent, of applications from returned servicemen of the Second World War were rejected. This is the reason why we claim that our amendment is in the interests of ex-servicemen. As returned soldiers from the First World War get up in years it becomes more difficult for them to prove to. the satisfaction of the tribunals that the injury or affliction which has prompted their application has been due to war service.
Turning to the table which relates to Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, we see that of the 65,414 applications received from returned servicemen of the First World War, 50,803 were rejected. That is a pretty high number of rejections amounting, on a percentage basis, to 75 per cent. I suggest that if the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals were treating section 47 of the Act as the .Parliament intended it should be treated, the number of rejections would have been considerably fewer. Of the 66,714 applications received from returned servicemen of the Second World War, 48,133 were rejected, again something of the order of 75 per cent.
The amendment sought by the Opposition, and requested by’ the R.S.L., will clarify the meaning of the phrases “ onus of proof “ and “ benefit of the doubt “. Applicants will obtain the fullest advantage possible under this section of the Act and, in addition, there will be greater uniformity of interpretation by the various authorities deciding these applications. For those reasons, and because the effluxion of time between the First World War and the present creates a difficulty in securing concrete, substantial and tangible evidence to substantiate a claim, it is in the interest of ex-servicemen generally that the Government accept the proposed amendment.
With all the weight of my personal convictions I support the amendment on behalf of my party and on behalf of the R.S.L. which has requested an amendment of the Act in the precise terms of the Opposition’s proposal.
– 1 support the amendment proposed by Senator O’Byrne because, like him, I believe that it strengthens the notion that the onus of proof should be upon the repatriation authorities. At present it does not seem to rest there. We accept that the Act has been amended and improved. It was amended in February 1943 to modify the prescription to which Senator O’Byrne has referred. The Minister said then that the onus of proof would be placed upon the tribunals. We seek to improve the position further so that certain persuasions will be written into the Act which, in our view, will strengthen the notion, possibly for ali time, that the onus of proof must be upon the tribunals.
It has been argued by Opposition members and by the R.S.L. that the tribunals are not bearing the onus of proof. The various legal opinions which have been obtained have not cleared up this matter. Section 47 is in these terms -
The Commission . . . shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt -
as to the existence of any fact, matter, cause or circumstance which would be favourable to the claimant, applicant or appellant; or
as to any question whatsoever (including the question whether the incapacity from which the member of the Forces is suffering or from which he has died was contributed to in any material degree, or was aggravated, by the conditions of his war service) . . .
This section can be claimed, as we claimed last year, to be phrased very favourably in the interests of the ex-service applicant, but it has been found in practice that the position has not been improved greatly over the years.
I remind honorable senators that last year the R.S.L. sent to all members of Parliament a letter requesting their support for this particular prescription which, on that occasion, was adopted by the Labour Party and introduced into both Houses of Parliament in the form of a proposed amendment of the Act. We have again introduced it into the Parliament and, although our amendment may be opposed and defeated by the Government, we believe that in the long run some government must adopt the proposal to give justice to ex-servicemen.
From memory, the only argument that was advanced the last time this matter was debated was that the phraseology of the amendment was not appropriate and that it might lead to some misunderstandings. Certain Government members seemed inclined to support the Opposition’s reasoning that it was apparent that the intention of Parliament was to place the onus of proof upon the repatriation tribunals at every stage, and that when there was a real doubt as to a particular complaint, accident or injury, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the ex-serviceman.
Some reference was made to what seemed to me to be conflicting statements by the former Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick, and by Dr. Evatt. The opinions advanced appeared to be merely academic exercises which did not meet the situation in which the R.S.L. and many members of Parliament find themselves when they are required to assist an ex-serviceman to prepare an application to the Commission or to a tribunal. When there is no clear evidence that an injury or disease was the result of war service, the applicant has to look for supporting evidence. We join with the R.S.L. in claiming that in such cases where there is a reasonable doubt the benefit of the doubt should be given to the applicant. He should receive that to which he is entitled. That seems to us to have been the intention when the legislation was last amended in 1943.
In any case, it is clear that the interpretation which we advance is the consolidated view of the R.S.L. which has put forward this notion in recent years. It has asked members of Parliament to consider the suggestion and has particularised the kind of cases which we, as members of Parliament, have had placed before us in our own electorates. This, on its own account, should carry enough weight to induce the Government to consider the submission afresh. As Senator O’Byrne said when he dealt with this matter when it was last before the Parliament, there is no reason why the Government should not accede to the request. It seems to me that we might just as well face up to that at this stage.
The longer the present conditions prevail, the greater the injustices that will bc done to applicants who have been seeking redress for complaints the origin of which they cannot very easily prove. As the years go by it is more difficult than it was in the early post-war years to trace the origin of disabilities that ex-service men and women have. The proposition advanced by the Returned Servicemen’s League and introduced into the Parliament by us may be in language which legal people argue to be inappropriate, but it seems to me that the amendment would strengthen the expression of the intention of the legislature. The records of the Parliament show the intentions of previous governments. There is very good reason for the Government at this stage to look upon this matter with renewed interest in order to try to meet the requirements of the R.S.L. if not the wishes of the Labour Opposition.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition. Down through the years the Opposition has at the appropriate time brought forward an amendment in this general form in an attempt to strengthen the interpretation of section 47. The case put today has not departed very much from the case put in the past. The Government has considered it, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) has declined to accept it, and as his representative in this place I say that we are not prepared to accept it. I want to refer only to a point made by Senator McClelland. Various speakers have said that the amendment is an attempt to strengthen the Act, and I gather that it follows the submission of the Returned Servicemen’s League.
– A genuine attempt.
– I do not dispute that at all. The Government must decide whether or not it will accept an amendment. Senator McClelland referred to rejections by tribunals. It should be made clear - I know that he understands this, although he did not develop it - that before a case gets to a tribunal it has to go through the process of being referred to a Repatriation Board. A certain percentage are accepted at that level and the rest are rejected. Those that are rejected may then go to the Repatriation Commission, to be accepted or rejected. Those that are rejected by the Repatriation Commission may then go to an Appeals Tribunal. In every case the provisions of section 47 apply. At the tribunal level, many cases have already been accepted.
– Those that get to the tribunal level have been rejected prior to that.
Senator ANDERSON__ Yes. The other point I want to make is that rejection by a tribunal is not final. We have all had experience in these cases and we know that if an applicant can produce prima facie fresh evidence he may make a further appeal. If he has a fresh expression of opinion by a doctor he may go again to an Appeals Tribunal. There are many opportunities for presenting a case. I recognise that this amendment is put by the Opposition, as in the past, in good faith and in an attempt as the Opposition secs it, to strengthen the interpretation of this provision.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator O’Byrne’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 3a.
.- I move -
After clause 3, insert the following new clause- “ 3a. After section one hundred and twentythree of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 123a. The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide medical and hospital treatment for a member of the Forces as defined in section twenty-three of this Act and for a person to which section one hundred and twenty of this Act applies.’.”.
Briefly, the Opposition is asking that medical and hospital treatment in repatriation hospitals should be made available to servicemen of the Boer War and the First World War of 1914-18. I think the case is explained most succinctly in the 48th annual report of the National Executive of the R.S.L. which stated -
Through the years the R.S.L. has sought the progressive extension of hospital benefits to additional categories of ex-service men and women. In following this policy it is now felt that a time has arrived when this benefit could be applied generally to all returned service personnel of the First World War and prior wars without the requirement that their ailment be associated with their war service. As the years pass the number who would benefit from this concession is reduced and there is a consistent increase in the rate of this reduction.
Under the same heading, the report states -
Interviewing thousands of applicants for assistance throughout Australia, League officials have found that the greatest distress is now occurring in the group of returned men from the First World War who, on the application of the Means Test, just miss out on the Service Pension. In many ways this is the group most in need of assistance and a very sizeable percentage of the total number covered by this request. Too often these men are left with the imprssion that they served their country in its hour of need and now, when they are in difficulties, there is no help available to them.
I think the case speaks for itself. In the community there are many who, in their own provident way, have saved only enough to exclude themselves from social service benefits or the service pension. They are finding it difficult to meet increasing costs of living and to cope with the ever increasing inflationary pressures which seem likely to become worse. These people are not the type to demonstrate forcibly their disapproval of uncontrolled inflation and rising prices, nor are they in a position to do so. But the fact remains that in the evening of their lives they are in a very bad position economically. As has been said during this debate, they are not able to get the service pension and yet they are badly in need of medical and hospital treatment.
The Opposition believes that these people should be able to look to the future with confidence that should they need hospital treatment they will be entitled to receive it as a right in a repatriation hospital. We believe they should have the same treatment as that given to ex-servicemen who receive medical and hospital treament because they are eligible for pensions under the Repatriation Act. I believe that the provision of this right to this group of ex-service personnel would have therapeutic value. They can be happy in the knowledge that if their health fails, they will be able to go into repatriation hospitals where the standard of treatment is high and they will be among patients of their own age group. In this environment, knowing that they are to be treated by doctors and nurses who know their needs and are sympathetically and efficiently treating similar cases, they will derive a benefit psychologically. It may seem to be a generous gesture to offer medical and hospital treatment in repatriation hospitals to the men of the First World War and the few remaining veterans of the South African War. But the Opposition believes this would be a just reward for the services they have given the nation.
We believe the time has come when the Government should decide to offer this concession to all the remaining veterans of those earlier wars who need hospital attention. They would not want to go to a hospital unless they needed the proper care. The youngest of these veterans is approaching the allotted span of three score years and ten and they are going out in ever increasing numbers. This may seem to be an emotional appeal but we believe it can be made only on that level. We ask the Government to give most earnest consideration to this request for a deserving section of the community. We know that the means test, like most other lines of demarcation, has caused differences of opinion and hardship in some cases. The line must be drawn somewhere and 1 am not asking that special consideration should be given particularly to those who are on the wrong side of the means test. However, many of these people are finding the cost of hospital treatment beyond them in their old age and we ask the Government to give sympathetic consideration to this amendment.
– Senator O’Byrne made passing reference to this amendment during the second reading debate. I think Senator Wright asked for actual figures concerning the number of ex-service personnel who would bc affected by the amendment.
– I gave the figures.
– Then I shall repeat them against the backdrop of this amendment. Before doing so, may I say that it will be appreciated that the repatriation system is intended primarily to provide medical and hospital treatment for disabilities which are war caused. As Senator O’Byrne has indicated, that principle has been extended to provide for treatment for the most seriously incapacitated such as those in receipt of a 100 per cent, general rate pension and higher and those who have had strenuous service and are in need, such as member service pensioners. Both those classes are entitled to treatment for all disabilities whether they are due to war service or not.
It is difficult to estimate the number of survivors of the 1914-18 war. On the best available information, the number could be about 110,500. Allowing for some overlapping - for example, those who would be eligible both as T.P.I, pensioners and service pensioners - the numbers presently eligible in very broad terms would be as follows: Entitled to full treatment, 50,500; entitled to treatment for accepted disabilities only, 15,300. Thus approximately 15,300 could be entitled to additional benefits and a further 44,700 could require eligibility for medical and hospital treatment under the repatriation system if the proposal were adopted. Let me equate those figures to the bed position. The normal bed capacity of all institutions is 4,713, of which 4,208 beds would be occupied. Thus approximately 90 per cent, of all available beds at repatriation general hospitals and institutions generally are currently occupied. Recognised hospital practice requires that approximately 10 per cent, of available beds should be kept vacant to meet day to day emergencies, for. necessary segregation of patients, and the like. In the longer term, demands on hospital accommodation will increase, even with no change in present eligibilities for treatment.
Even with the best will in the world, great difficulty would be experienced in implementing the proposal. It could be argued that the people affected could be accommodated in public hospitals. We all know from, our own experience that because of a shortage of beds it would be difficult to accommodate them there. Moreover, it would be difficult to provide the specialised treatment that is provided in repatriation hospitals. The Opposition’s case has been put quite fairly and quite properly by Senator O’Byrne. The amendment has been considered by the Government, but the Government is not prepared to accept it.
– I do not want to delay honorable senators for very long, but I cannot let this opportunity pass without registering my protest against the Government’s unwillingness to accept the amendment. I know that if I speak at any great length I will only be recapitulating what was said earlier, but I do want to make a fresh appeal to the Government. The Minister has quoted figures which indicate the number of surviving ex-servicemen from World War I. He was endeavouring to create the impression that all those ex-servicemen would require hospital and medical treatment.
– I hope I did not convey that impression.
– That is the impression you were endeavouring to convey. Perhaps I should say that that was the impression you were creating in the minds of people who may have been listening or who may read “ Hansard “. The inference to be drawn from the Minister’s statement was that, because there is a certain number of surviving ex-servicemen from World War I, all those men would immediately want to be admitted to repatriation hospitals. Does the Minister follow what I mean?
– I follow you perfectly.
– The Minister has mentioned the inability of existing repatriation hospitals and institutions to cope with that number of people. Only a comparatively small percentage of them would want immediate hospitalisation. There are very few survivors from the South African war and the number of survivors from World War I is dwindling every year. Does the Government want to deny those people the right to a bed and to medical attention? That is the inference to be drawn from the Minister’s remarks. We must realise that we have an obligation to these people. We must realise that their health in the last years of their life is at stake.
Last night Senator Morris attributed to me some misrepresentation of what Senator Marriott had said. I do not intend to read the honorable senator’s remarks; they are available in “ Hansard “ for anybody to read. Senator Marriott said on two occasions that he was not in favour of gi villi; hospital and medical treatment to ex-servicemen from World War I unless they had accepted repatriation entitlements. When I said that giving such treatment to these men would help them and would also relieve the pressure on State hospitals which were desperately short of accommodation, he said that there were other hospitals to which they could go. There is only one inference to be drawn from that remark. It is that they can pay for their hospitalisation in other hospitals. Because of the acute shortage of accommodation in hospitals in every State, many of those men would not be able to get accommodation even if they could pay for it.
– May I interrupt the honorable senator for a moment to say that I only wanted to convey the idea that, if the amendment were accepted, there would need to be some adjustment of bed availability.
– I am glad to hear the Minister make that correction. His earlier comments would have created the impression in the minds of the listening public and of those who read the “ Hansard “ reports - I know quite a number of people who do, although very many do not - that if there were, say, 10,000 surviving ex-servicemen from World War I they all would immediately want to go to hospital. I now know that the Minister did not mean that.
I submit sincerely and honestly that these men are entitled to hospitalisation and medical treatment if we can give it to them. Let us not say that we cannot give it to them. If they cannot get this treatment at the expense of the Government and the people - they should do sc< - they must seek it elsewhere. Although I know it is futile, because honorable senators opposite have already said that the Government will not accept the amendment, and they have sufficient numbers to reject it, I appeal to them to understand that these ex-servicemen are definitely entitled to free hospital treatment. I ask them to reconsider the matter even at this late hour.
– I rise at this late hour to join my protest to that of Senator Sandford. I shall not delay the Senate for long, but I feel I should place on record the real and proper attitude adopted by the Returned Servicemen’s League. I wish to quote from the 1962 annual report of the R.S.L. In dealing with this subject it states -
The League has stated before that there are many cases particularly associated with service in the 1914-1918 war where, by virtue of the complete absence of evidence, it has been impossible to establish connection of a complaint with a member’s war service. There also seems to be a growing tendency amongst some repatriation medical officers to overlook the extremes of hardship of war service and to require a very specific occurrence before acceptance of the complaint is recommended. The League believes that the general effect of war service is cumulative and must contribute to the premature onset of many complaints.
I suggest that the principle expressed in the statement to which I have just referred was recognised by the Commonwealth Government when it introduced the service pension into the Repatriation Act. The Minister has said that probably administrative difficulties in relation to bed adjustment would be involved if the proposed amendment were accepted. However, I suggest that the advantages, not only to exservicemen but to the community generally, far outweigh the disadvantages from an administrative point of view that would be involved. I suggest that all these exservicemen have rendered outstanding service to this country in time of war and the least we can do, in the evening of their lives, is to offer them free hospitalisation. For those reasons I support the amendment moved by Senator O’Byrne.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator O’Byrne’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 4
Proposed new clause 3a.
– I move -
After clause 3, insert the following new clause- “ 3a. After section one hundred and twentythree of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 123A. The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide for the wife of a person in receipt of the special rate of pension under the Second Schedule to this Act such medical benefits as she would receive if she were the wife of a person eligible for medical benefits under the Pensioner Medical Service.’.”.
We believe that the amount of special rate pension is of such a nature that it docs not provide for the ever growing costs of hospitalisation, and that the wife of a special rate pensioner should have the proposed concession granted to her. We hope that the Government will accept the proposed amendment.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the proposed amendment. As honorable senators know, the subject has been debated in another place where the Government indicated that it was not prepared to accept the proposal. I have no authority to accept the amendment on behalf of the Government. In view of the brevity of the submission made by Senator O’Byrne I believe I should be equally brief in my reply. I do not believe it should be a part of the repatriation system to provide the proposed benefit. For that reason, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to he inserted (Senator O’ Byrne’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Clauses 4 to 8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Reports on Items.
– I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects -
Drawing instruments and protractors.
Internal combustion piston engines.
Pulley blocks and chain hoists.
Road rollers, tractors and tractor engines for use in road rollers.
I also present a report by a special advisory authority on the following subject -
Motion (by SenatorPaitridge) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Frankly, I do not want this to become a serial, but I am prepared to battle on. I am serious about this matter. I stand on my feet more in sorrow than in anger. A distinguished senator from Queensland has seen fit to lock horns with me on certain issues. Let us have a look at those issues. They relate to beef roads and the bauxite industry, particularly the erection of processing and smelting works for the treatment of alumina. A few weeks ago the honorable senator saw fit to accuse me of being a liar and to repeat the charge.
– Who is this?
– You do not have to come into this. You have the skids under you, so you keep quiet. You are only wanting to get on side with your mob; that is your trouble.
– About whom are you talking? Let us be able to take some interest in the debate.
– I am speaking about Senator Morris.I should not have to mention his name as everyone knows to whom 1 am referring.
– Put a little bit of interest into the debate and let us know what you are talking about.
– Are you trying to get some votes from your executive?
– On 25th October 1961 Senator Spooner - now Sir William Spooner - stated that £650,000 would be provided by the Commonwealth Government and £350,000 by the Queensland State Government for the construction of the Normanton-Julia Creek road. The Minister mentioned also that the Commonwealth Government would provide £5 million, in addition to the £350,000 to be provided by the State Government, for the construction of further beef roads, but there was no suggestion of any additional amount being provided for the Normanton-Julia Creek road.
The honorable senator who saw fit to attack me said that the Commonwealth had provided more money. Sir William Spooner did not say that the Commonwealth would provide more money for the NormantonJulia Creek road. What he did say was that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, irrespective of the rights of the State, would determine the standard of the roads, where they were to be located, and the amount of money to be provided. 1 never denied that £5 million was to be provided by the Commonwealth Government. 1 never sought to attack the honorable senator from Queensland notwithstanding his misrepresentation of the position. What I did say at that particular time was that £1 million would not provide adequately for a road of suitable standard between Normanton and Julia Creek.
The honorable senator then tried to confuse the issue - not necessarily in ignorance - by stating that 1 had sought to confuse the Senate. When I speak about northern Australia, perhaps 1 have a greater knowledge than many honorable senators on the Government side.
– You are right.
– Someone has interjected that 1 am right. Of course I am right. J will not confuse the issue. 1 do not deliberately mislead the Senate. 1 would not mislead my opponents on the Government side and I most assuredly would not mislead the members of my own party. When I speak about northern Australia, I am speaking, not only about a subject in which I am interested, but also about a subject’ of which ] know quite a lot although not necessarily more than anyone else. I did speak about roads that I had seen, and more particularly about the Normanton-Julia Creek road about which Senator Sir William Spooner said on 25th October 1961 that £650,000 would be provided by the Commonwealth Government and £350,000 by the Queensland State Government. I said it was not enough. There was no suggestion from Senator Sir William Spooner that they were going to provide more money. All he said was that they would provide £5 million for beef roads, subject to the approval of the Commonwealth Treasurer. There was no consultation with the States. I merely said 1 did not think that was sufficient money to provide roads of a standard that would meet the demands.
I have been accused of misleading the people, of. deliberately misleading the Senate, and of telling an untruth. The honorable senator said that I was not only telling an untruth, but knew I was doing so. I will not be accused of being a liar. Let us forget about beef roads. 1 spoke in terms of the Northern Territory. I could tell the story to the newspapers. The anti-Labour Press took photos and published them, but 1 was not even in them. 1 have never sought publicity in my life. What happened was that the anti-Labour Press printed a photo in which certain people were shown. Incidentally, I do not know how long the distinguished senator from Queensland will bc here, because there will be another brawl in three years time. One Government, senator will have to go. That is certain. 1 said that I stood in a pothole knee deep. I. did not say I was up to my neck in other ones. The anti-Labour Press said that. I think it was the “ Sunday Mail “ which published that statement. That is all I said about beef roads. 1 have never condemned the beef roads scheme. T made that quite evident right from the start. I approve of the beef roads scheme. 1 was one of the people who sponsored it early in the piece because I believed that it was necessary and was desirable. But I believed that it should be part and parcel of an integrated roads plan serving the developmental needs of the areas in which the roads were to be established. Dr. Patterson has since agreed. When addressing the Institute of Management in Rockhampton as recently as a few months ago, he said that we need an integrated roads plan if we are to face the problems of the pastoral industry and the developmental needs of the areas, and if we are to cater for the rights of the people and the mineral rights. I do not have to tell the story. I listen to the experts. They know much more about it than I do.
Let me come to another issue, that of the bauxite deposits at Weipa. All I said was that Queensland is not getting out of this, tremendous natural endowment, which is part and parcel of Queensland, that to which it is entitled. Again I say that 1 do not know how Senator Morris will fare when the pre-selection for the Senate takes place in 1967. It will be a battle royal. Some people are smart at manoeuvring, but I have never been so. It will be interesting to see what happens as between the four people who are going out. There will have to be a Country Party candidate, although there is an attempt to sell it out, as we know. There are three Liberal candidates and only two at the most can be returned. By that time the people of Australia may have awakened to the Government, and only one of them may be returned. Two may be sold out. They are already trying to sell out Senator Wood and Senator Kendall, but they are not game to announce it.
Let me come back to the subject of bauxite. Senator Morris said that the Queensland Government had determined everything. I said that the Labour Government had been considering the position and that it was more particularly interested in the royalty. At the time Senator Morris denied it, but subsequently he said in effect: “ Well, they had it on their plate for twelve months and did nothing about it. Within twelve weeks we settled it.” Why should not they settle it when they sell it for 6d. a ton royalty? We know that the price of bauxite is near enough to £3 a ton. The price of alumina, as published overseas not so long ago, was £30 to £35 a ton. The price of aluminium was £A.251 a ton, or 25 cents per lb. in the United States of America.
I will concede for the purpose of argument, although it is not true, that they would manufacture 20,000 tons of aluminium a year. Do you know what that amounts to in terms of this bauxite deposit? Two tons of bauxite amount to one ton of alumina. You are going to produce 1,200,000 tons of bauxite and perhaps nearly 2,000,000 tons in the near future. Yet it is said that Queensland is to receive 20,000 tons of aluminium. There is no basic justice in that. I have told the story of the companies associated with Queensland Aluminium Ltd. at Gladstone. I shall not repeat it. To that company will go 1,200,000 tons of bauxite, from which will come 600,000 tons of alumina. Some will go to Bell Bay. Senator Morris admitted he was in error when he claimed that it would be smelted in Queensland. He said: “ I am sorry. I was wrong “ - as he always is when his views conflict with mine. Senator Paltridge knows that whenever I am in error I admit it. Is not that right, Sir? You did admit that. It is quite clear. It is not in my imagination. You did say that I waswrong. I said “ in Queensland “. I meant to say “ in Australia Do you remember that? Why do yOU not admit it? I will not be accused of being liar.
What is going to happen is that from 1,200,000 tons of bauxite Queensland is going to receive £30,000. That is what is going to happen. There will be a measure of employment in Gladstone and there will be a measure of development. Why did not the Minister for Mines in Queensland contradict me when we had the verbal brawl? He is the man of authority and is possessed of the real knowledge, lt is no use talking in terms of 1957. The agreement, as it affects Gladstone where the refinery is being established, was signed only a few weeks ago. A maximum of 600 people will be employed and £53 million will bc spent. That is the position. I am determined to tell the story and no-one will deny me that right.
Queensland has, possibly, the best commercial bauxite deposit in the world. It has been proved to be 600 million tons. The deposit has been drilled and is being drilled more closely now in order to prove the tonnage and grade for each month. It could easily happen, because of the laterite beds on which it rests, that the deposit will be 16 hundred million tons of bauxite. Senator Morris should know this better than anyone else because he is in a better position to have confidential information, but he did not disclose it to this chamber. I will pause while Senator Morris writes that down. The State of Queensland - your State, Senator Morris, and my State - is going to be denied its legitimate rights. Honorable senators know the necessity for cheap electrical power. You cannot have smelters with electrical energy costing more than about .4 or .5 pence per unit. I do not think that the anti-Labour Government in Queensland has faced this issue properly. I pay all tribute to the Bolte Government in Victoria.
– Shame on you.
– I am always fair and I do not deliberately mislead, irrespective of the accusations levelled at me by certain irresponsible people. Subsequent to the discovery of bauxite at Weipa, or the recognition of the tremendous deposit there, 400 million tons were discovered in the Darling Range in Western Australia. Now not only has a refinery been established at Kwinana but a smelter has also been established at Port Henry in Victoria. Victoria has not a real fuel of commercial value, but uses brown coal. In Queensland there is black coal which is much better from the British thermal unit point of view.
Queensland has not faced up to this matter. I am not blaming Senator Morris because he is out of the Queensland Government now but he should not mislead these people. I would not accuse him of deliberately misleading them. I would think his statements would result from ignorance or lack of association with the matter for some time. But I will not be accused of deliberately misleading the people. From the 600 million tons of 50 per cent. bauxite which has already been proved can come millions of tons of alumina and, in time, millions of tons of aluminium. In time there could be a fabricating industry. All this will lead to a higher standard of living. I will not allow Senator Morris or his Government to throw the industry away. But he should never accuse me again of deliberately misleading the Senate. Never again should he accuse me of deliberately misleading the people of Queensland. As he knows, a Sunday paper featured an article not so long ago and the Minister for Mines did not see fit to contradict the statement that was made. He would have much greater knowledge than would Senator Morris regarding this particular feature of Queensland’s development. So why does Senator Morris buy into something about which he knows nothing?
– Mr. President,. I have paid the honorable gentleman - using a parliamentary term - the compliment of remaining in the chamber while he spoke for more than 20 minutes. In that 20 minutes he has rambled along and in the process of doing so, obviously without realising it, all he has done has been to confirm the correctness of what I said last night. Tonight I will satisfy myself by accepting his apology.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 September 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640916_senate_25_s26/>.