25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Is the Minister now in a position to advise whether the Wildlife Research Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is to play a positive role in a five year plan to study the breeding habits, biology and migration of Cape Barren geese, which is one of a number of ventures aimed at conserving our native fauna?
– The answer is: “ No, but 1 shall be tomorrow “.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Can he say whether there is any substance in the report published in “ Muster “ of 15th September, that Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. predicts a large increase in the price of superphosphate because of the increased cost of sulphur in the United States of America? If the reply is in the affirmative, will the Minister also state when such price increase is expected to become operative?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer -
The British Phosphate Commissioners, who act as managing agents to the Australian Sulphur Purchasing Association, advise that contract prices of sulphur being purchased from Canada and the United States of America for sulphuric acid manufacture in Australia have been renegotiated, and with effect from 1st July 1965, the increase in the f.o.b. price is approximately 9 dollars per ton. In addition, non-contract tonnage will be bought on an on the spot basis at world market prices, which arc very much higher. Manufacturers’ costs will obviously increase as from 1st July, but the matter of an increase in superphosphate prices and what additional factors other than sulphur need to be taken into account are for the manufacturers to decide.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that customs officers raided an opium den in Sydney last week? Can the Minister give the Senate any information regarding the reported raid?
– It is true that customs officers made a raid on an opium den on the night of last Thursday, 16th September. I had a look at the den on Friday morning. It was found to be extraordinarily well protected, with barred windows and an elaborate series of heavy doors. Persons wishing to enter the opium den had to go through one door, get a clearance and go on to the next door, and so on. The front door had a peep hole and was opened by an operator who, after looking down from a position high up in the attic, worked a series of pulleys. The customs officers performed a magnificent job in keeping the place in Surry Hills under observation for a long period and making the raid at the appropriate time. There was an escape route at the top. My officers, with all the skill that one reads about in novels, were able to shine strong lights onto the escape route so that the inmates suddenly discovered that they could not get away by the escape route.
When the customs officers gained entry they detained 19 persons who were in the house at the time. Packets of prepared opium, small quantities of heroin and smoking equipment were found. In the course of three hours during which the officers were in the house, seven more people sought entry and were seized by the officers. A number were found to be in possession of heroin and one had a grain of opium. Arising out of the raid - this, I think is the substantive part of the matter - 19 persons were handed over to the police and charged with smoking opium. Each was fined £10. Seven persons were charged under the customs law. One, the proprietor, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. Another, who was in possession of heroin, was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Each of the remaining five was fined £50. All of the 26 persons involved were Chinese.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for National
Development at some time before the end of the year define clearly to the Senate the role of the Commonwealth Government in the framework - if it exists - of a consistent national water policy, including, so far as it is contemplated, co-ordination of Federal and State agencies towards the conservation and development of this resource for the nation as a whole as well as for States and local authorities?
– It is, of course, well known that the Commonwealth has shown a leading interest in water resources in Australia and that the National Water Resources Council was formed at the inspiration and suggestion of the Commonwealth Government. The Council comprises representatives of the States with the Commonwealth representative - the Minister for National Development - occupying the chairmanship of that important body, I perceive from the question asked by the honorable senator that he wants considerably more details of the part played by the Commonwealth in this matter. I shall have pleasure in bringing his question to the notice of my colleague and seeing that the honorable senator is provided with an answer which, ] am sure, will disclose that the Commonwealth’s interest in this matter is extremely real and extremely helpful.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: What is the latest information available to the Government on China’s ultimatum to India, and its results?
– I cannot give the honorable senator any information which is more up to date than that which has already been made known in Australia. It may be that there is some such information in the Department of External Affairs but, if so, it has not, as yet, been passed on to me. I will make some inquiries on this matter and inform the honorable senator at a later stage today.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. Can he say whether, in the event of the referendum on the wool reserve price scheme being carried, the levy imposed on wool growers to help finance the scheme will be allowable as a tax deduction?
– I cannot answer the honorable senator’s question, because 1 do not know the answer. But 1 suggest that he wait and see how the proposed referendum goes. The problem he envisages may never eventuate.
– 1 wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a question. Is he aware of a resolution proposed to be submitted to the present meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations by, I believe, the Government of Costa Rica, for the election of a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose function it would be to assist in furthering the observance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Is this proposal receiving strong support from member nations and from international bodies concerned wtih the protection of human rights? Is the Minister able to say whether the Australian Government will vote in support of the proposal when this matter comes ‘ before the Assembly?
– This is not a matter which has come to my attention. If the honorable senator puts his question on the notice paper the Minister for External Affairs may have some comments to make, falling short of a policy commitment.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation. Has his attention been drawn to a statement issued by the Agricultural Aviation Branch of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, stating that many land owners were showing a complete lack of responsibility towards the state of their air strips and indicating that the current drought may result in severe wear on air strips? Will he cause inquiries to be made into the condition of agricultural air strips generally and issue directions that all strips should be brought up - to the required safety standards?
– The Department of Civil Aviation has this matter under pretty keen observation at the present moment.
I think one of the real achievements of the Department is the great reduction in the number of pilots lost while flying agricultural spraying and crop dusting aircraft. I quite understand that during the drought the condition of some airstrips has deteriorated. The Department is giving this matter its attention and following the honorable senator’s question, I shall again contact its officers in order to obtain the latest information.
(Question No. 505.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 516.)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 526.)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
(Question No. 529.)
asked the Minister in
Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
(Question No. 530.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 531.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 535.)
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 537.)
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for Territories has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
(Question No. 543.)
Senator WILLESEE (through Senator
Wheeldon) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Are Western Australians concerned at the inadequacy of the telephone service between Perth and the eastern States?
Can the Postmaster-General give any information as to any immediate remedial action contemplated?
In view of the rapid development which may be expected in Western Australia, are there any plans to match this development with the provision of telephone services.
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 549.)
asked the 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. 551.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 552.)
Senator WRIGHT (through Senator
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answer - 1 and 2. Information is not available on pro duction costs or landed costs of frozen peas imported from the United States of America and New Zealand. The only information available relates to the f.o.b. value of frozen peas imported. In 1964- 65 the average value of imports from the U.S.A. and New Zealand were1s. l0d. per lb. and1s.11d. per lb. respectively. Against this the Tariff Board said in its report in 1958 that the f.o.b. price from New Zealand was “ in excess of1s.11d. per lb.”.
– On 25th August Senator Webster asked me the following question -
Is a record on film being taken of the part Australia and Australians are playing in the Vietnam war? Which departments are filming the activities of their personnel? If no factual and historical record is being taken on film, will the Government give consideration to this suggestion?
I now supply the following information -
Both the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force provide movie coverage of Australian operations in Vietnam. The Army has a cameraman permanently based in the area and a R.A.A.F. cameraman periodically visits the R.A.A.F. Caribou force. Both still pictures and 16 mm. movie coverage of the Australians in action are taken. Some of this material is issued to television stations and newsreel companies and negative copies are retained by the Services concerned. Neither Service has plans at the moment for the production of a lengthy documentary film on Vietnam, but appropriate material is building up and will be available if and when required.
– On 31st August 1965 Senator Tangney asked me the following question -
Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral aware that one segment of the “ Mavis Bramston Show “ which was televised in Canberra last Saturday was particularly offensive to the majority of Christians in the community by its sacrilegious reference to one of the basic doctrines of Christianity? Will the Minister investigatethis matter and inform the offending programme director that sacrilege is neither satire nor humour and does not accord with the standards laid down for television by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply -
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board had already informed the station concerned that a serious view was taken of the implied reference to communion service in the “ Mavis Bramston Show” televised by station ATN Sydney on 25th August. The Board informed the general manager of the station by letter dated 31st August that the remarks must be regarded as an unseemly and stupid departure from the canons of good taste and that remarks of this type cannot be tolerated; if repeated they might well lead to a prosecution. The Board has asked that these views be conveyed to all concerned in the production and presentation of the programme. The Board will continue to maintain a close scrutiny on the programme.
– I present the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Ordered to be printed.
– I present the following paper-
Economic Inquiry - Report of Committee” (Vols I and II and Index).
I am hot proposing, Mr. President, to move that the paper be printed because, as honorable senators will understand from a glance at the bulk of the report - a bulk that is not at all out of place - a number of minor corrections and alterations of form have come up on revision for incorporation. These, of course, are being dealt with. None of them involve substance. They will not affect the reading of the report by honorable senators. But it does seem to me that when the paper conies to form part of the Parliamentary Paper series it is desirable that it should be in its final corrected form. Therefore, I intend, if the Senate will agree, to present the report later in its final form in substitution for what I present today. On that occasion I will move that the paper be printed. Even then, 1 would value some discussion at that time with the Chairman of the Printing Committee because some arrangements are in hand for publishing this in book form, as he’ will understand. I have arranged for the report in the form in which I have presented it to be circulated to honorable senators. Now I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator PALTRIDGE__ On February 13 th 1963 the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced the appointment of a Committee of Economic Inquiry, consisting of Dr. Vernon, now Sir James Vernon, Professor Sir John Crawford, Professor P. H. Karmel, Mr. D. G. Molesworth and Mr. K. B. Myer. These are all men of distinction in economic and business affairs; they have devoted immense effort and much time to their labours, and have produced a report of great significance. Some suggestions made by the Committee are not acceptable to us, but this does not qualify our deep appreciation of the Committee’s work.
In reading the report, honorable senators will have in mind the terms’ of reference. They are set out on page 1 of the Report, and I therefore do not need to refer to them in extenso. They sought an inquiry into and a report upon many questions of fact and of tendencies “ having in mind that the objectives of the Government’s eco nomic policy are a high rate of economic and population growth with full employment, increasing productivity, rising standards of living, external viability, and stability of costs and prices “.
We were asked by the Chairman, before the terms of reference were finally settled, to add a clause that would enable the Committee to suggest “ steps which appear to be necessary or desirable to conform with and further the objectives of the Government’s economic policy “. This, for reasons which will appear later in this statement, the Government refused to do. But it did add to the terms of reference the final clause -
The Committee will report the conclusions reached by it as to the bearing which all or any of the matters so ascertained have upon the achievement of the economic policy objectives above stated.
I mention these matters at the outset, because it is necessary to have them in mind when considering some aspects of the report. For the truth is that, in addition to an exhaustive and most valuable examination of the facts involved in the terms of reference, the Committee has in fact, in many instances, offered its opinions or suggestions on matters of policy. We have no feeling of resentment about this. Indeed, we should perhaps have realised from the beginning that a group of talented men charged with this task would wish, having made their statistical and other investigations, to examine the bearing of the results upon the general economy and thus to offer opinions or suggestions. But it will at once be seen that the report, because of the facts concerning the terms of reference which I have just related, must be read and evaluated subject to two reservations.
The first is that, in a free and self governing country, policies will be political. Under the party system, opposing political parties will, not infrequently, have opposing policies. In no case is a political policy the product of purely expert opinion on technical matters. It must cover a wide area of localities and circumstances. It must be flexible enough to meet the problems of international and domestic change. It is commonly pursued and applied in the light of much accumulated experience and political judgment.
Secondly, it follows that, when it deals with statistical or technical or objectively economic matters, this report is entitled to and will be studied with profound respect. The Government will derive great value and assistance from it. But where the report makes what will doubtless be regarded as advices on political policies, such advices must be regarded, in the well known legal phrase, as obiter dicta, and not as possessing some binding authority. No government, from whatever side of the House it may come, and indeed no parliament, can abdicate its own authority and responsibility for national policy. It will welcome the assistance of experts, but its tasks will take it far beyond the limits of economic expertise. Political policy in a democratic community does not depend upon purely economic considerations. I will come back to this when I have something to say about the various proposals made by the Committee for the establishment of advisory bodies in various fields. But at this stage it might perhaps be useful to offer a general view. That general view may be illustrated by a particular example in relatively recent Commonwealth history.
In the early 1940’s, proposals were submitted to the Australian Agricultural Council which, as honorable senators know is a ministerial body, for the establishment of an institute of agricultural economics, with wider functions and powers than the present Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and with complete freedom independently to carry out and publish the results of research into a whole range of matters affecting primary industry. These proposals were rejected for reasons which were admirably summed up by the present permanent head of the Department of Primary Industry when he made his presidential address to the annual conference of the Australian Agricultural Economics Society in Sydney in February 1963. T quote his words -
Governments were asked to finance an organisation removed from political control which could report on the matters of policy but let the chips fall where they may. It is not hard to imagine Governments shying away from the concept of a body which was committed to publish all its reports and advice on policy but whose findings could be used in evidence against Governments which did not adopt them. On matters of fact there could be little argument, political or otherwise, against immediate publication; on matters of policy it could quite often happen that the pub lished report of the independent authority presented only half the story. To be realistic, Governments have political convictions which might not always be in line with the philosophy espoused by the Institute. What the protagonists of this scheme were really supporting was a system where policy should be guided only by expert advice when policy is often a compound of a number of factors, only one of which can necessarily be expert advice.
It will, of course, at once appear to honorable senators that, if the only problems in dealing with economic policy in a nation were purely technical, Parliament, which is not technical, and a Cabinet which is not technical might as well hand over to a group of technicians. In such a case democracy would have ceased and a technocracy would have begun. We hope and believe that these observations, which it is necessary to make, will not be misunderstood or resented by the Committee which has served us all so well.
When honorable senators look at the magnitude of the volumes which I place before them, they will at once realise that to invite Parliament to discuss the report too soon would be to ignore the importance and complexity of the report and to ask Parliament to summarise and absorb in a few days matters of such moment as to require prolonged examination. Since the Government received this report, members of the Cabinet have devoted to it weeks of study and Cabinet itself days of discussion, and even now I would say that we are not in a position on many of the matters examined by the Committee to offer definitive views or, in some cases, useful comments.
At one stage we thought we might try to produce a precis or summary of the report in order to help not only honorable senators but the public generally to appreciate the matters involved. We have come to the conclusion that this would not be practicable. Any summary which was brief enough to be read would be open to the criticism that some matters dealt with by the Committee had not been included. Any summary which strove to avoid this criticism would tend to become so long that it would become too long and not adequately readable. What we must, I think, face up to is that this report, the result of most valuable and painstaking and conscientious examination, has a magnitude both in scope and detail never approached by any former inquiry. It would not achieve its purpose if any of us yielded to the temptation to take individual observations out of context. It is therefore, we think, important that, the report having been tabled, Parliament should have a full opportunity of reading it and considering it before any debate on its contents occurs. It would be doing less than justice to the Committee and its report if we were precipitately to engage in arguments which did not arise from a full opportunity for consideration and judgment.
However, in tabling the report after a period of time in which the Government has had a chance of examining and considering it, I will make some observations which may be helpful. I do not, of course, propose on behalf of the Government to make any dogmatic remarks. But I will take two examples which will serve to illustrate the difference which exists between a purely economic approach and the necessarily wider and more complicated approach of the political policy maker. One is migration. On this, the Committee has suggested that the net immigration target should not be raised above 100,000 a year, at least until the late 1960’s.
We, while respecting the reasons submitted by the Committee, are bound to take into account a variety of factors. The contribution made by migrants to the development of Australian resources depends upon more than overall numbers. The higher the percentage of wage-earners - and particularly of the types or skills that we need - the less important will it be to restrict overall numbers. Migrants of the type we want are not equally available from year to year. Circumstances in the “ supplying “ nations will vary from year to year, and so will the emigration attitudes of the Governments of those nations. Add to this that the building up of our population by migration has enormous significance for the growth and security of Australia and for that business confidence which promotes investment and expansion, and it will be clear that the Government cannot accept an artificial ceilling on migration for a term of years. We will therefore continue our present policy of securing as large a flow of migrants as Australia can usefully absorb, and of deciding the target number each year.
My second example has to do with the problem of economic growth. The Prime
Minister had something to say on this in his policy speech before our last election. He said -
We will press on with growth in no timid or fainthearted way. We believe, and confidently expect that over the next five years, given good Government, growth should at least equal a total increase of 25 per cent, in the gross national product in terms of constant prices.
What he stated there was a belief that, given certain fundamental conditions our economy, drawing upon its known resources, energies and capabilities and obeying its ordinary initiatives, was equal to adding a full quarter to the “ real “ national product over a five year period.
The Committee, however, goes a good deal further than this. Its approach in fact is basically different. It appears to set up a certain rate of growth, measured statistically, as something very like a ruling purpose for economic policy - although, to be sure, it recognises that the achievement of this growth rate should not be pursued to the detriment of all other objectives. It suggests that a growth rate of 5 per cent, per year is possible but difficult; a good part of the Report thereafter is devoted to the question of how the difficulties might be overcome. In the process, a thesis appears to be developed that this 5 per cent, growth rate will be achieved only if there is a conscious diversion of resources from some areas of activity to others. Amongst these preferred areas of activity, manufacturing industry is given high place.
But this view of things leads on to some considerations of the very first consequence. By what means is this diversion of resources to be accomplished? Indeed, as a matter of basic policy and interest, are we disposed to engage in a large scale diversion of resources - in defiance, as it were, of the distribution that would occur if the normal demands of the community and the corresponding initiatives of producers were . to be given free play? After all we are a private enterprise economy. In such an economy, the demands set up by the people who are the buyers are the normal stimulant for increased industrial investment and activity. What the Committee appears to have had in mind is that those demands should, where necessary, be re-directed. Now in individual cases we would not care to deny this. We have ourselves, in pursuance of our own economic policies, taken action now and then to reduce the demand for some particular commodities in order to meet some inflationary position; and no doubt any government would continue to do so. But to essay a widespread re-direction of resources within the economy to achieve some pre-ordained statistical result is a very different matter.
It seems to us that the Committee has, particularly in the light of its so-called projections in Appendix N, to which I will later on make some reference, predicated a degree of planning and direction of the economy which in our opinion would not be either appropriate or acceptable in Australia.
I can illustrate this by saying something about its proposals on the use of taxation for the purpose of diverting resources to selected purposes. The Government is a “ protectionist “ government and has a firm belief, well justified in the light of events, in the significance and future of manufacturing industry. I do not need to elaborate that. But when the Committee develops its theories we must sound a note of warning. For example, it proposes that to encourage manufacturing industry, there should be programmes involving various incentives and more generous depreciation allowances. Now all of these no doubt have merits which deserve proper consideration. We have, in fact, had some of them under scrutiny.
But, setting aside the possible long-term benefits, their immediate result would be to diminish our revenues. And particularly now when the burden of defence expenditure is not only large but growing and at a time when employment is not only full but in some occupations overfull, this would confront the Government with a choice between deficit budgeting, at a time when inflationary pressures are high, and increasing other taxes. The Committee, though no doubt it realised these matters, also proposes that the Government should increase its taxation anyhow more than its expenditure in order that by this means, that is, surplus budgeting, saving for public authority expenditure should increase.
Along with this it suggests that there should be various tax concessions for business. This leads to the clear inference that, as there must in its view be increased taxes for a variety of purposes, these should fall largely upon personal incomes or upon consumer goods. It seems to us, however, that if there were to be a series of increases in personal taxation, this could very well reduce savings and thereby reduce investible capital, as well as demand. Quite conceivably, therefore, it could defeat the purpose which the Committee appears to have in mind, which is to increase investment in industrial enterprise.
I emphasise that we are not offering dogmatic views. On the contrary, we will continue to give the deepest consideration to what has been put before us by so powerful a committee. But we do want to take this early opportunity of saying to the Senate that taxation policies are affected by many considerations. Some of them are economic, some of them, particularly at the present time, are international, some of them are domestic.
No Government can, in pursuit of a general theory, abdicate its responsibility for a taxation policy which may well vary from year to year according to circumstances of inflation or stability or recession or, as we now know, from a large and growing diversion of resources to the defence of the country, the preservation of its future, and the giving of appropriate aid to other countries, particularly those which are facing the acute problems of new independence and a search for economic autonomy.
I now turn to the views expressed by the Committee on investment from overseas. The general approach of the Government to such investment was stated by the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Cabinet, in the policy speech of 1963, as follows -
Investment from overseas countries has taken an important place in our economy. Over the last fifteen years it has amounted to over £1,500 million.
This investment has produced great advantages, but under some circumstances produces problems which need to be handled with, care and understanding. As, from a national Australian point of view, we would wish to sec new capital from overseas employed for the great purpose of developing new industries or extending existing ones with all the benefit of overseas skills and experience, we wilt always have a particularly warm welcome for new capital designed to these ends.
We also believe that fears and misunderstandings are least where there is an Australian participation in shareholding and management, and most when there is no more than a mere change of ownership without more. There is, we believe, a growing recognition of ‘this in the minds of intending investors.
The terms of reference to the Committee invited a factual assessment of the significance of overseas investment in the Australian economy. The Committee has gone beyond this. It has offered a view that it would be in the best interests of Australia if, for some years ahead, new capital from overseas could be limited to the level of recent years, for example, about £150 million per annum. It has proposed selective controls on overseas investment and suggests a consultative body to advise the Reserve Bank on the administration of such controls.
We express no opinion on these suggestions at present. We have been making the necessary preparations for a full Cabinet review of the problem, the practical difficulties of which we all recognise. We will, when all Ministers have been able to participate in it, make a considered statement of policy. But, so that no prejudgments one way or the other may arise from the Committee’s report, I should issue a warning note. The Committee itself says that overseas investment has been “ a powerful force assisting the growth of the economy “. It acknowledges that increases in population, productivity, and employment in the postwar period would have been hard to sustain without it. So far, I would think we were all on common ground. But it goes on to raise two major questions, the answers to which are of great importance to all of us, on both sides of the Senate.
The first is: Will the cost of servicing overseas investments become unduly onerous in our balance of payments? The second major question is: Is there a danger of having too great a proportion of the ownership of enterprises in Australia in foreign hands? It is not my purpose, in this statement, to give definitive answers to these questions. The Government will certainly continue to face them, and will seek to arrive at balanced judgments. As to the first question, the Committee says that the costs cannot so far be said to have represented a serious balance of payments problem. But it is apprehensive about the future. It has made a statistical projection, commencing with the year 1959-60, which leads it to the conclusion that, by 1974-75, the servicing of overseas investment will become a severe burden on the balance of payments.
We do not brush this problem aside. It will be considered and dealt with. But in the meantime one comment must be made, so that a proper perspective may be achieved. It can be calculated that had the assumptions used by the Committee, as from 1959-60 been borne out - their assumptions, that is, in respect of earnings on capital invested here and profits retained in Australia - and given the actual capital inflow that has taken place, the amount of income payable abroad in the past five years would have been of the order of £860 million. In fact, we know from statistics already published that the amount of income actually payable has been about £250 million less than this. As honorable senators will see, the point of this comment is, not that we ignore the problem or its possible magnitude, but’ that as the Committee itself said, very wisely, “ attempts to forecast in quantative terms the behaviour of the economy .10 to 15 years ahead are extremely hazardous, can prove positively misleading, and are almost certain to be inaccurate “.
The answer to the second question, that relating to the foreign ownership of Australian enterprises, is also one not t’o be hastily arrived at. As the Prime Minister indicated on behalf of the Government in the policy speech of 1963, we much prefer what might be called developmental investment t’o takeovers of existing enterprises involving a mere change of ownership-. But again, the Committee’s report, based upon its statistical projections, must be read with some reserve. Thus the Committee, starting its calculations with 1959-60, with a figure of 25 per cent, of foreign ownership of Australian companies, calculated that by 1964-65 the percentage would , have risen to 34 per cent. But in fact, because the circumstances do change, an estimate for 1964-65 based on the Committee’s own assumption makes the proportion less than 24 per cent. None of this is, of course, to say that projections ought not to be attempted as aids to thought and exposition. What I have said is by way of warning for the reasons stated by the Committee itself against’ regarding statistical prophecies as having some binding or even highly persuasive authority. The circumstances change from time to time, both internationally and domestically, and it is the task of statesmanship to deal with them as they arise, and, of course, to anticipate them if possible.
Nothing I have said subtracts from the central truth, on which the Committee and the Government are at one, that capital inflow, in the long term, is not to be regarded as the solvent of balance of payments difficulties. As a Government, we pay constant and positive attention to increasing our exports and to the trend and nature of our imports, so that, while we welcome the arrival of that really productive capital which a developing country needs, we should not become so dependent upon it for our overseas balances as to threaten our own national control over our national development and resources. I said earlier that I would make some reference to some of the Committee’s particular recommendations for the appointment of special independent commissions or councils. It will be sufficient for my purpose to mention two of the most significant.
The Committee has suggested the setting up of a Special Projects Commission with the power to investigate proposals for major developmental projects, to advise governments on them, and to publish its findings. True, the Committee perceived that there were, and are, difficulties in arranging for projects involving the agencies of more than one government. This fact has substantially affected our own methods of dealing with such problems over recent years. But the Committee believes that these difficulties - might be largely overcome if an independent Special Projects Commission were created with power to investigate proposals for major development projects. The Commission would need a skilled staff to carry out costbenefits analyses, which we consider a necessary basic step in project planning. The Commission should investigate projects at the request of the Commonwealth or State Governments, or on its own initiative. Finally, and most important, the Commission should be required to report to the Commonwealth Parliament on its activities each year, giving details of investigations requested, those completed, and the stage reached with those uncompleted.
Now I point out. that the Commonwealth Government has available to it some extremely expert advisers already, such as the
Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Snowy Mountains Authority, and other bodies forming part of or serviced by the Department of National Development. The point of distinction is that these agencies, in relation to any special project, advise the Government and enable it to conduct informed discussions with the relevant State or States, which also have experts of great ability and experience.
The Special Projects Commission suggested by the Committee is an entirely different thing. It is to investigate projects at the request of the Commonwealth or State Governments or on its own initiative. It is to report to the Commonwealth Parliament so that its views will be publicly known and may come to achieve a degree of authority. To the extent that this result came about, both Commonwealth and State Governments, whatever their party complexions, would find themselves subject to pressure and even coercion into the adoption of policies or projects which, between them, they might not select at all. Add to this that all projects involve the expenditure of public funds, some of them on the grand scale. I do not believe that any government, responsible for its own budget and conscious of the impact of its own budget upon economic policy generally, would be content to transfer authority in these fields to an independent body acting on its own initiative and with no responsibilities to the government of the day.
I may tell the Senate, if it needs to be informed, that the Government, at an earlier time, gave the closest thought to suggestions that have been made for some kind of development commission and has rejected the idea, substantially for the reasons that I have just mentioned. I find it difficult to imagine that another government drawn from the present Opposition would take any different view.
The Committee has also suggested the formation of an “Advisory Council on Economic Growth “, with a wide charter and powers, which “ would be of material assistance to the Government and to the community in general in the making of economic decisions “. These words clearly contemplate - as indeed does the nature of the suggested Advisory Council - that the views of the Council would be published from time to time, that those views would be designed to advise the Government in relation to the making of what must be, though of course related to economics, high decisions of political policy. We unhesitatingly reject this idea. In the Australian democratic system of government based upon the consent of a free community, no government can hand over to bodies outside the government the choice of objectives and the means of attaining them in important fields of policy, particularly when such bodies would, through the power of publication, come to exercise what I have described, I hope not extravagantly, as a coercive influence upon governments. There is a very great difference between the appointment of a special committee, like the one whose report is now before us, and the giving of publicity to its views, because such an appointment is purely ad hoc; it is set up to give us all the benefit of a close and primarily factual review of the economy as a whole. To have such a body continued in one form or another as a standing body of what would come to be regarded as authoritative advice would have the dangers I have described. Political policies cannot be based upon pure economics and, for the sake of the adequate handling of international problems, of defence, and of social and industrial justice and progress, we hope they never will.
The Committee’s terms, of reference included an inquiry into the availability of credit. Its chapter on this subject concludes with a paragraph proposing a full-scale study of the credit system. I should say a word about this. As honorable senators will understand, inquiries into the monetary and banking system of a country are major matters. They involve investigations of a long and closely detailed kind, not only within the main elements of the banking system and other financial institutions, but also among those interested in, or affected by, money and banking, which means, of course, virtually the whole community. Such inquiries, fascinating though they are to many, should be initiated only when there are very strong reasons for doing so. A glance back at history here and elsewhere would show that they have arisen only in particular situations calling for farreaching investigations. We are not in any such situation now. Indeed, if there is one broad conclusion to be drawn from the review which the Committee has made, it is that on the whole our monetary system has functioned pretty well.
Furthermore, we would have the greatest reluctance in proposing an inquiry which could or might be taken to portend further major changes in the banking structure. For a period of 15 years beginning with the banking legislation of 1945, there was great turmoil and contention and much parliamentary debate in that area. Our 1959 legislation, which separated the Corporation banks from the Reserve Bank, appears to have proved its own merit, not least by achieving a settlement of large issues. We would not wish to raise doubts as to the continuity of the existing legislative arrangements.
The Committee has made various proposals which affect tariff policy. So far as the Tariff Board is concerned, it is clear that certain of the proposals are farreaching and probably contentious, going beyond an evaluation of actual protection and bearing on protection policy. Perhaps I might, with advantage, state again what the Prime Minister said in another place when he announced the Government’s decision to institute the inquiry. He said then -
The Government wishes to make it clear that it has the firmest intention of preserving the full independence of the Tariff Board as an advisory body established by Parliament, its system of open and public inquiry and its high public standing and prestige. These things are of the very essence of the Tariff Board system which has, over many years, served Australia well and has won admiration and respect overseas.
The Tariff Board is, to repeat, an advisory body. It is not a policy-making body - although its recommendations necessarily have a considerable influence on policy - and it is not an executive body. Its principal and best known function is to consider, on reference from the Government, applications for protection by way of tariffs or bounties or, alternatively, proposals for the reduction of such protection. It also has power on its own initiative to review existing duties, to conduct inquiries on certain matters and to report to Parliament.
But tariff policy as such is the’ responsibility of the Government. Only Parliament can enact tariffs; only the Government proposes tariff legislation to Parliament.
The Committee’s observations on protection and the Tariff Board should and will be examined against the principles which I have just stated.
I conclude by expressing the hope that it will not be thought that, because we have found it necessary to single out some important matters for. special comment - and in some cases for Government decision - we are intending to qualify the value of this report as a whole. On the contrary, and to take only a few examples, the report will prove, and is proving, of great value to us in the consideration of such matters as research and development, decentralisation, the application of research to primary production, rural credit, the form of the tariff, and the role and functioning of the Tariff Board. In all of these a great deal of work is being done, and will be all the better done in the light of the Committee’s report. We acknowledge the value of the Committee’s observations on export promotion, in which field we have been and are greatly assisted by the confidential and therefore frank advice given to us for some years by the Export Development Council.
There are many other matters covered by the report. They are all being put in study by the relevant Ministers and, where necessary, by the Cabinet, and can be dealt with as they arise in debate. I will not overload an already long statement by trying to mention them all. The whole report is such that we would not wish honorable senators, or the public generally, to pay attention to special parts of current interest, while neglecting the whole.
I therefore conclude by repeating that although, as it seemed to us to be necessary, I have indicated some queries and perhaps some criticisms, we are convinced that every part of the report will deserve the closest study. It will provide all interested persons, whether technical or not, with a compilation of economic information unequalled in my time in this Parliament. It is a fortunate country which can enlist in its voluntary service men of such experience and distinction as those who constituted this Committee.
I present the following paper -
Economic Inquiry - Report of Committee - Ministerial Statement, 22nd September 1965 - and move -
That the Senate take note of the Papers.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
– by leave - On 15th June the Australian Federation of Air Pilots and certain other organisations covering navigators, flight engineers, flight stewards, licenced aircraft engineers and hostesses filed a log of claims upon Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. covering conditions of service for staff concerned with the operation of civil aircraft in troubled areas. The log of claims is quite comprehensive and seeks substantially increased benefits such as risk pay, a substantial increase in insurance cover over that already provided by the company, indemnification of privately effected life assurance policies which may be voided because of restrictive clauses in the policies and a variety of conditions to be met should a member be interned, posted missing or made a prisoner of war. The claims are most involved and the contentious nature of a number of the issues undoubtedly requires that Qantas undertake a good deal of research into practices by other international operators and conditions applying to other persons serving in troubled areas.
In the Qantas conditions of service for its staff provision is already made to cover the possibility of a member of the staff being posted missing or interned in a foreign country whilst on company service. Generous superannuation cover, accident insurance and loss of licence insurance cover is also provided by the company for its aircrew members. There have been discussions between Qantas and the employee organisations associated with the log of claims and indeed Qantas has indicated to these organisations that it is prepared to indemnify life assurance policies up to an amount of £10,000 and to supplement the existing conditions concerning a member being posted missing.
Following the outbreak of hostilities between India and Pakistan, the matter naturally assumed greater significance and urgency with the Federation of Air Pilots and other organisations concerned. On 8th September I received a delegation from the Federation and the Australasian Airline Flight Navigators Association which raised with me the need for urgent action to protect the personal security of their members operating in areas such as Pakistan, India, Vietnam and Malaysia. The possibility of stoppages by air crews unless this matter was quickly resolved was mentioned to me, and following an inter-departmental conference on Friday last which I asked the Director-General of Civil Aviation to arrange, I advised both Qantas and the Federation that they should without delay enter into further negotiations and for such negotiations to be conducted in accordance with a set of procedures which recently has been drawn up for the handling of industrial relationships between the airline operators and the Australian Federation of Air Pilots. These procedures, although not yet signed by all the parties, have been invoked on other issues and they provide not only for conciliation and mediation but that the Federation’s right to strike or to impose any other limitation upon work is suspended until the rather exhaustive procedures have been carried out.
At a meeting yesterday afternoon between the parties concerned, the Federation took the stand that as it was obviously going to take some time to resolve all the issues in the log of claims, certain interim benefits should be granted before the negotiations under the procedures commenced. The interim conditions sought were that private assurance policies be indemnified up to an amount of £25,000, i.e. an increase in the amount of the existing indemnity from £10,000 to £25,000 and that £40,000 insurance cover, additional to any existing benefit, be provided for members required to operate into troubled areas. Qantas indicated it was prepared to favorably consider raising the amount of the existing indemnity on private assurance policies but was not prepared to agree to the additional insurance cover. The Federation then indicated that until these conditions were met, its members would be instructed not to fly aircraft within 100 miles of the coast of India, Pakistan, and North and South Vietnam.
The restrictions came into effect at 6 p.m. last night and two aircraft were immediately involved- an ordinary commercial service out of Sydney to London and a migrant charter from London to Sydney.
The aircraft were re-routed but this involved a substantial reduction in the pay load because of the extra fuel to be carried. Some other flights between Australia and England on the Kangaroo route will, for the time being, require re-scheduling but by Friday all aircraft on this route will be operating through Colombo in accordance with planned requirements of the company having regard to the India-Pakistan situation. Other difficulties will arise because of the Federation’s restrictions on the route between Hong Kong and Teheran. Again in this case the aircraft will be re-routed but this presents serious problems to the company. The matter is viewed with most grave concern and all possible is being done to resolve speedily this most unfortunate situation which has developed. I am most hopeful that the issues in dispute will come before a mediator by tomorrow at the latest.
– by leave - Madam Acting Deputy President, you will recall that on a number of occasions I have assured honorable senators that the petroleum products prices subsidisation scheme would be in operation by 1st October 1965. Since the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) stated just prior to the last House of Representatives election that he proposed to reduce the price of petrol and certain other petroleum products in country areas, a long and difficult path has been followed to bring this plan to reality. On 30th June 1965, assent was given to the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1965 and honorable senators will remember having before them the scheme which contained the machinery provisions and the schedule of subsidies listing some 5,000 places at which rates of subsidy were established for motor spirit, power kerosene, automotive distillate and aviation gasoline and turbine fuel. Each of these products was selected with the object of reducing transport costs so as to assist people in the more remote localities throughout Australia. Since that date the various State Governments and the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory have passed the’ necessary complementary legislation to give effect to the scheme and oil companies have entered into a formal agreement with the relevant States and the Commonwealth to pass on the benefit of subsidy paid to them. 1 had previously promised the oil industry that it would be given full details of the scheme three months prior to its implementation in order to allow the various companies to make the necessary arrangements within their organisations. This period has now elapsed and it is with pleasure that I announce to honorable senators that the benefits of the subsidy scheme will be available to purchasers as from tomorrow morning. I have deemed the scheme to have commenced as from 16th September 1965 in order that the necessary steps could be taken within this seven day period to ensure that resellers and direct purchase agents would be in a position to have subsidised stocks on hand tomorrow morning. It was suggested to oil companies that this could best be achieved by invoicing all sales during the seven day retrospective period at the new subsidised prices or, where the goods had already been invoiced, by the issue of a credit for the amount of subsidy involved. Special arrangements have also been made for stock .held by direct purchase agents as at 16th September 1965. In this way direct purchase agents and resellers throughout the Commonwealth will be in a position to reduce prices tomorrow morning. However, it is recognised that in very remote localities some retailers may require a few days to adjust stocks before reducing prices. Honorable senators will appreciate that the lines of distribution within the interior of Australia present a formidable problem in a scheme such as this, but I am confident that the arrangements I have outlined will operate smoothly.
Earlier I referred to the great number of places in the schedule. It may well be that some country purchasers are unaware of the rates of subsidy applying to their district. In the last few days I have directed a publicity campaign to country newspapers and radio stations throughout the subsidised areas in Australia and have supplied them -with extracts of the subsidy rates in the schedule as they apply to the more significant places within their area of distribution or reception. Having listed over 1,000 places in this way I am hopeful that most of Australia will have been specifically covered on a local basis. I have only one other matter to which I wish to refer, and that is the effect of freight rises on the subsidy scheme. As I have said before, the rates of subsidy will not be varied to take account of day to day changes in marketing costs or other circumstances. The Government recognises that such things as general freight rises could affect petroleum products, resulting in prices in some locations being more than 4d. above prices in capital cities. Similarly, excess resellers’ margins in some areas could bring about the same result. I conclude by saying that the Government does, however, propose to make a general review of the subsidy rates in three years time, when these points will be taken into consideration.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Mckellar) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make legislative arrangements for a compulsory referendum of wool growers on the question of implementing a reserve price plan for wool. All honorable senators will have heard about the proposed plan, which has attracted a great deal of public comment. Not all such comment has been objective or informed, and it may therefore assist the Senate in considering the present Bill if, before dealing with the Bill itself, I describe the plan and outline its genesis.
Under the Wool Industry Act 1962-64 the Australian Wool Board was empowered to investigate wool marketing and make recommendations to the Australian Wool Industry Conference on this subject. The Wool Board was obliged to establish a Wool Marketing Committee to assist it in carrying out this function. After 12 months of detailed investigation, the Wool Marketing Committee reported its findings to the Wool Board. The Board, after examining the
Committee’s report, recommended in July last year to the Australian Wool Industry Conference that a conservative reserve price scheme be introduced within the present wool auction system. The Wool Board did not put forward a detailed plan for such a scheme because it considered that this was a matter for consultation between the Wool Industry Conference and the Government. However, the Board did outline the fundamental elements of the scheme which it had recommended.
The Australian Wool Industry Conference decided that the Wool Board’s recommendation should be pursued and instructed its Executive to consult with the Government on the matter. It was accepted from the outset that any plan evolved would require the approval and support of the Government, the Wool Industry Conference and wool growers generally. As a first step, the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference drew up specific proposals for a scheme based on the Wool Board’s recommendations and presented these proposals to the Government. After examining the Executive’s proposals, the Government concluded that a thorough study should be made of the financial and other aspects of the scheme, and appointed an inter-departmental committee for this purpose.
After considering the report of the interdepartmental committee, the Government agreed in principle to the introduction of a conservative reserve price scheme within the auction system, provided that wool growers approved such a scheme at a referendum. Following consultations with the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference, the Government reached agreement with the Executive on a mutually acceptable plan. The plan as agreed upon between the Government and the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference was considered by the full Conference on 23rd June 1965. The Conference adopted and supported the plan by a majority of 45 votes to 5 and recommended that wool growers accept it at a referendum.
The principal objective of the reserve price scheme is to reduce extreme downward fluctuations in the price of wool and so protect growers against exceptionally low returns. By setting a limit to price falls, the scheme engenders greater confidence among wool users and assists in creating a more stable and stronger demand for wool. In essence, a reserve price scheme involves fixing a minimum level, also called “ floor “ or “ reserve “, below which prices at auction are not allowed to fall. This is achieved by establishing an authority which purchases any wool for which commercial bids in the auction fail to reach the reserve price. Such wool is held by the authority and re-sold under more favorable conditions.
The plan which has been agreed upon by the Government, and the Wool Industry Conference covers both financial and administrative arrangements for a reserve price scheme. On the financial side, wool growers will have to provide a fund of £30 million as their contribution to the capital required for the buying-in. of wool under the scheme. Growers will be expected to subscribe their capital contribution by way of an annual levy over a period of seven years. However, if the amount of £30 million is not accumulated within seven years, the levy will continue until this amount is achieved.
In addition to their contribution towards the capital of the scheme, growers will pay a small levy to build up a contingency fund. This fund will be used in meeting the operating costs of the scheme to the extent that these costs cannot be met from profits made on the re-sale of bought-in wool and from rental income of wool stores at present under the control of the Wool Board. Under normal circumstances, the rate of levy paid to build up a contingency fund should not be high and the initial lew should not be more than i per cent. The rate would be reviewed annually in the light of actual experience and the stage could be reached where in some years no levy would be required because of the contingency fund being at a sufficient level.
The levies paid by wool growers for the capital of the scheme and for the contingency fund would be collected as part of a combined levy not exceeding 3 per cent, of the gross proceeds of wool sold. This combined levy would cover, not only the growers’ contributions for the capital and the operating costs of the scheme, but also their commitments for promotion and their current contribution for research. The annual levy for the capital of the scheme would be not less than 1 per cent, in any year and all receipts from the levy fixed for capital purposes would be ‘ paid into the capital fund. Except for the first year of the scheme, that is, 1966-67, wool growers will be expected to contribute not less than £4 million annually for the capital of the scheme. This could mean that should the proceeds of the 1 per cent, levy in any year be less than £4 million, the shortfall must be made up from the total proceeds of the overall levy of 3 per cent, by adjustments of the recepits from the other components of the 3 per cent.
As I mentioned, the £4 million minimum would not apply during the first year of the operation of the scheme, that is, 1966-67. In view of the special circumstances of seri’ous drought with its expected effect on the level of wool production, the Government decided not to insist on a minimum contribution of £4 million, by growers in 1966-67. However, the requirement that the capital contribution should be not less than 1 per cent, of the gross proceeds of shorn wool will still apply. This special concession by the Government is not a precedent for future years. I should mention that in any case it will be necessary to review the present arrangements for the financing of wool promotion and research before the end of June 1967. The need for reviewing the financing of wool promotion is due to the fact that the Government’s undertaking to contribute for promotion is for three years ending 30th June 1967.
As far as the financing of wool research is concerned, it will also have to be reviewed before the end of June 1967. At present growers make an annual contribution equivalent to 2s. a bale and the Government contributes 4s. a bale. However, the income from these sources is not sufficient to meet the annual costs of the research programme which is running at about £3.8 million. The deficiency of about £2 million is being made up by drawing on the capital of the Wool Research Trust Fund. At the current rate of expenditure, the Fund will be reduced to about £1.5 million by 30th June 1967. Accordingly, to maintain the research programme after that date at something like the present level, additional income of about £2 million will have to be found from some source. The points which I have just made in regard to the financing of wool promotion and research will mean that the overall levy of 3 per cent, will be subject to review before 30th June 1967. This is understood and accepted by the Wool Industry Conference.
In the interests of building up the growers’ capital fund of £30 million as quickly as possible, it is provided that moneys in this fund would be invested when not used for the buying, in of wool and the interest credited to the fund. Similarly, any net profits made on the resale of wool - that is, the surplus remaining after all costs have been met - would be credited to the growers’ capital fund. After reaching the level of £30 million by accumulated wool grower contributions, interest earnings and net profits, the capital fund would be revolved. However, only the amounts actually contributed by wool growers by way of levy would be repaid to them under the revolting arrangement.
The Government feels that it would be undesirable to delay the introduction of the scheme until a substantial amount of growers’ funds had been accumulated. Consequently, the Government has decided that it will finance the proposed scheme at the outset when no wool grower funds will be available. The interest charges on Government advances for the buying in of wool will be the short term bond rate, which is variable, but with a minimum of 4i per cent, per annum. At present the short term bond rate is about 5 per cent, per annum. Any initial advances made by the Government would be repayable from the levy paid by growers as well as from the proceeds of resold, wool.
The levy to be paid by wool growers for their capital contribution to the proposed scheme, that is, £30 million over seven years, will commence from the start of the scheme. As growers’ funds accumulated, the principle would apply that these funds, as available, would be used first, before recourse were made to Government finance. Apart from the growers’ capital fund of £30 million, the scheme would have ready access to additional financial backing of up to £50 million. Consultations have taken place with trading banks regarding the possibility of these banks providing some or all of this additional backing. However, finality has not yet been reached and further negotiations will take place with trading banks. If it proves impossible to arrive at arrangements acceptable to both the banks. and the Wool Industry Conference, the Government will be prepared to make the additional backing available from its own sources.
The Wool Industry Conference suggested that the scheme should have access to a total financial backing of £80 million. However, the Government considers that the scheme should have available to it unquestionable financial backing and accordingly has guaranteed the provision of finance in excess of £80 million for the buying-in of wool if this should ever be required.
The Government and the Wool Industry Conference are agreed that the average reserve price must be kept within a conservative range. The Government attaches great importance to this point and wishes to ensure that all possible care is exercised in determining reserve price levels.
The Government and the Wool Industry Conference recognize that no special formula can be laid down for determining reserve prices, because no such formula would necessarily suit the many combinations of market conditions which might operate from time to ‘time. However, the Government and the Conference have agreed upon a broad policy as well as certain specific principles and criteria which should be followed in this regard. The general policy can be stated briefly as follows -
In determining the reserve price in each of the three situations outlined above it would be necessary to have regard to certain guiding principles and criteria. The most important principle is that the average reserve price would be set at such a level that except in exceptional circumstances, it would not be likely to lead to heavy buying in of wool. On the other hand, it would not be fixed so low that the reserve price authority would not be required to operate even in periods of depressed prices. Such a reserve price would have no practical value.
It will be appreciated that there are a number of criteria which would have to be taken into account in determining reserve prices, and these have already been agreed upon with the Conference. The principal criteria would be the average price for wool in past seasons; economic conditions throughout the world, particularly in major wool consuming countries; the relationship between wool prices and commodity prices generally and in particular the price of competing fibres; the level of stocks and the anticipated volume of wool production; trends in wool consumption and market prospects in wool consuming countries; and the level of reserve prices fixed by New Zealand and South Africa.
The reserve price level once fixed would not be changed within a season except for compelling reasons not connected with the state of the wool market, such as a change in the exchange rate. However, there would be flexibility to vary the reserve price level up or down from one season to another. Any increase would be kept within a conservative range but on the other hand a reduction would only be contemplated when circumstances indicated that such action was absolutely necessary.
The procedure for determining the annual average reserve price would be that the Australian Wool Board, after taking into account the views of the reserve price authority, would fix a reserve price level which would be subject to the approval of the Government. The power of the Government in regard to the fixing of the average reserve price would be confined to accepting or rejecting the Board’s recommendations. The Government could not fix a price that had not been recommended by the Board.
I have dealt with the financial aspects of the proposed plan and with the reserve price policy. I shall now turn to the proposed administrative arrangements. To administer the proposed reserve price scheme an authority would be set up within the organisational structure of the Australian Wool Board. This authority would be known as the Australian Wool Marketing Authority. The Wool Marketing Authority would consist of seven members, namely, a chairman, two woolgrowers, three members with special qualifications and a representative of the Government. The members with special qualifications could be drawn from the fields of marketing of wool and wool products, wool manufacturing as well as finance and commerce. Not more than two members of the Wool Board, excluding, if necessary, the Government’s representative on the Board, would be on the Authority. Moreover, the Chairman of the Wool Board would not be eligible to be a member of the Authority.
The members of the Marketing Authority would be appointed by the Wool Board for a period of three years. In appointing the Chairman of the Authority the Wool Board would be required to consult the Minister for Primary Industry and the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference. Before appointing the other members of the Authority, excepting the Government’s representative, the Wool Board would be obliged to consult the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference.
The structure which I have outlined has been designed to ensure that woolgrowers have the major voice in the operation of the proposed reserve price scheme. This will be achieved by vesting the main policy making functions in the Wool Board on which wool growers have a majority. The Marketing Authority will thus be primarily an administrative body. The Wool Board would be responsible for recommending the annual average reserve price to the Government but before doing so would take into account the views of . the Marketing Authority. The Board would also be responsible for determining the broad policy in regard to the disposal of bought-in wool. The power to borrow money for the purposes of the scheme would likewise rest with the Board.
Apart from the functions which I have mentioned, the Marketing Authority would have autonomy in the administration of the scheme. The responsibilities involved in this task would include the preparation of a table of reserve prices, based on the average determined by the Wool Board and approved by the Government; the assessment of reserve prices for each lot of wool to be auctioned; the buying-in of wool which does not reach the reserve price at auction and the storing of it; and the selling of bought-in wool in accordance with the policy approved by the Wool Board.
It is envisaged that the Marketing Authority would take over from the Wool Board the control of its wool stores which would, of course, be required for the operation of the reserve price scheme. The Authority would also take over from the Board the administration of the wool statistical service and the registration of wool classers. In regard to the method of disposal of bought-in wool, the Government and the Wool Industry Conference agree that the polity would be to resell such wool through the auction system, except in special circumstances.
If the proposed scheme is approved by wool growers at the referendum which is the subject of this Bill, it is envisaged that it would commence to operate on 1st July 1966. The scheme would be subject to a complete review in the fifth year of its operation. The Executive of the Wool Industry Conference expressed concern about the possibility of private selling adversely affecting the operation of the proposed scheme. If a reserve price scheme is introduced and it is found that exports of privately bought wool are militating against the effectiveness of reserve prices, the Government will take corrective action.
I have dealt with the proposed plan in some detail because I felt that this would be desirable for a full appreciation of the background to the present Bill. I shall now deal with the main provisions of the Bill. The Wool Industry Conference considers that the question of introducing a reserve price scheme is of such importance that it recommended that voting in the referendum on the subject should be compulsory for all wool growers who have a real interest in the industry. There is much to commend this recommendation. If voting were voluntary, many wool growers might fail to record their votes. The Government feels that the issue is too important to risk a decision having to be made on a poll in which many producers failed to express their views. The Government agrees with the recommendation of the Wool Industry Conference, and accordingly the Bill provides that voting in the referendum will be compulsory for all eligible growers. lt’ is clearly desirable that people who cannot claim a real interest in the industry should not vote in the referendum. Accordingly, it is necessary to set some minimum qualification for eligibility to vote. The Wool Industry Conference has recommended that the minimum qualification should be 10 bales of wool, with voting to be on the basis of one man one vote. The Conference made its recommendation “ on the understanding that this decision shall not be regarded as a precedent for any future referendum in the wool industry, since there is a considerable proportion of growers who believe that the volume of production of those voting for and against should be taken into account.”
The Conference also recommended that the alternative to the minimum qualification of 10 bales should be the ownership of 300 sheep. The alternative qualification of sheep ownership is necessary to cater for producers who have entered the industry recently and have the potential to produce 10 bales of wool but have not yet done so. It is obviously desirable to ensure that the minimum qualification set does not disfranchise small producers who nevertheless have a worthwhile interest in the industry. On the other hand, it has been argued that it would be wrong if small producers - who comprise the great majority of wool growers but produce only n small part of the clip - were allowed to have a decisive influence in the referendum. This argument assumes that all small producers would vote in the same manner; however, this is open to question. Moreover, it may be said that some small wool growers are just as dependent on wool production as the large ones. If, nevertheless, large growers were given a greater voting power by way of multiple voting, this could be regarded as contrary to democratic principles.
In the Government’s view the issue turns on determining an appropriate minimum voting qualification. Such a qualification should aim to avoid giving the very small growers an undue voting strength while at’ the same time safeguarding the interests of those growers who depend on wool to an important degree for their livelihood. A minimum of five bales was adopted in 1951 but the Government considers that on today’s costs and values this minimum does not represent a sufficient’ interest in wool growing. On the other hand, the minimum of 10 bales recommended by the Conference should be satisfactory on this score under present-day conditions.
In view of these considerations, the Government has adopted the recommendations of the Wool Industry Conference on the minimum voting qualification and the method of voting. Accordingly, the Bill provides that the minimum qualification for voting will be the production of 10 bales of shorn wool during 1964-65 or the ownership of 300 sheep. The Bill also provides that each eligible producer will be entitled to only one vote regardless of the size of his clip or the number of properties which he owns. However, special provision has been made for a wool grower who is acting as a personal representative or trustee of the estate of a deceased person or on behalf of a company. Such a wool grower will be entitled to vote in these added capacities as well as on his own behalf. To avoid the possibility of children voting in the referendum, only persons who have attained the age of 21 years will be allowed to vote.
It has been necessary to define the voting rights of partnerships, companies, trusts and deceased estates. In the case of partnerships, the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference and the Government are agreed that it would be unjust to disfranchise a man who is engaged in wool growing in partnership with another person merely because he is not the sole owner of a property. Accordingly, it is provided that each member of a partnership will be entitled to vote as long as his interest in the partnership meets the minimum qualification of the production of 10 bales of wool or the ownership of 300 sheep. However, a producer in a partnership who also operates on his own account will be entitled to only one vote.
The question of voting rights for companies, whether private or public, has presented special problems. Because of the complex inter-relationship which exists between various companies and the fact that some individual companies are owned bv a great number of shareholders, it is not practicable to determine the degree of ownership of individual shareholders and so decide on each individual’s voting rights. There are, of course, cases where companies are owned by one family or a small number of individuals. However, to make a distinction between this type of company and those I mentioned earlier would, in effect, mean discriminating between different companies. In view of these problems the Executive of the Conference and the Government agree that the only practicable solution is for each company to be entitled to only one vote and provision has been made for this in the Bill. It will be recalled that the same practice was adopted in the 1951 referendum.
There are instances where producers trade as family companies but are not legally incorporated. In such cases, the provisions relating to partnerships will apply if such companies are genuine partnerships. In regard to -trusts and deceased estates, the Bill provides that personal representatives or trustees of these entities will be entitled to only one vote per trust or deceased estate.
The Bill makes provision for a roll of wool growers to be prepared by the Department of Primary Industry on the basis of information obtained from the wool brokers, wool dealers and other sources concerning growers who sold or delivered wool for sale during 1963-64. As I mentioned earlier, the voting entitlement will be based on wool production or sheep ownership in 1964-65. However, as it will only be practicable to compile a roll based on 1963-64 data, provision is made in the Bill to delete from the roll growers who have died or left the industry since 1963-64. Likewise the Bill enables persons who have entered the industry since 1963-64 to claim enrolment. Safeguards are included in the Bill to prevent from voting growers who appear on the roll as having produced 10 bales of wool or more in 1963-64 but whose production or sheep ownership in 1964-65 is below the minimum required. Arrangements will be made for copies of the roll prepared on the basis of sales of wool in 1963-64 to be made available for inspection in the electoral offices in each country electorate throughout the Commonwealth. However, I do not think that it would be necessary for rolls for the whole of Australia to be in each country electorate, so that the rolls for inspection will be confined to the names of those persons who live in the State in which the electorate lies.
The Bill provides that voting in the referendum will be by post but allows persons to record their votes by other means. The Bill requires a statement setting out full details of the plan to be prepared by the Minister for Primary Industry and approved by the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference. This statement will be sent to all eligible growers with their ballot papers.
The Government also decided to invite the organisations which sponsor the proposed reserve price plan for wool, and those which oppose it, to prepare statements setting out their respective arguments, and the Bill provides for this decision to be implemented. These statements, of not more than 2,000 words in length, will be printed at Government expense and sent to every wool grower voting in the referendum along with his ballot paper. These statements will be separate from the factual description of the plan which will be prepared by the Government and also distributed to voters. The statement of arguments for the plan will be prepared by the Executive of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, with the assistance of the Australian Wool Board. The statement of arguments against the plan will be drawn up by representatives of the following organisations: The Committee for the Retention and Improvement of the Free Wool Market; the Graziers Association of New South Wales; the Graziers Association of Victoria; the Graziers Association of Riverina; the Stockowners Association of South Australia, the Pastoralists Association of West Darling; and the three wool selling brokers who have publicly stated that they oppose the plan, namely the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. Ltd., Pitt Son and Badgery Ltd., and Winchcombe Carson Ltd. The Government realises that there are other organisations and individuals who support or oppose the proposed scheme. However, it would not be practicable for all such organisations and individuals to be consulted in the preparation of the respective statements, and the organisations I have named have been chosen as spokesmen for the two sides.
It will be necessary to prescribe by regulation various detailed arrangements for conducting the referendum, such as the date of the poll, forms to be used, etc. Included in the Bill are penal provisions for failure to enrol and vote, for untrue statements and for other offences in connection with the referendum. The Wool Industry Conference recommended that the result of the poll should be determined by a simple majority of votes cast. The Government has accepted this recommendation and this is noted in the preamble to the Bill.
In conclusion, I should like to mention that if wool growers approve the proposed reserve price plan at the referendum which we are now considering, legislation will have to be introduced to enable the implementation of the plan. In the course of the passage of such legislation, there will, of course, be further opportunity to discuss the plan. Before agreeing to support the introduction of a reserve price scheme, the Government gave the matter long and serious consideration. However, the Government recognises that whether or not a scheme is introduced is a matter which wool growers themselves must first decide, and it will abide by their wishes. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act was amended last session and in so doing section 91 b was amended and restated in a form which altered the numbering of the subsections. That amendment necessitates a consequential amendment to paragraph (b) of sub-section (2) of section 85, which was overlooked at the time. Under the provisions of this Bill, the reference in section 85 (2) (b) to section 9lB(l)(b) is amended to refer to section 91b (a). I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16th September (vide page 499), on motion by Senator Mckellar-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Each year we have the opportunity and privilege to discuss repatriation matters which, of course, cover a very wide field. We find on each occasion that the Government is prepared to hand out a few crumbs here and there without dealing with the basic details and necessities of ex-service pensioners, which change due to the effluxion of . time. No account is taken of the growing anxiety of those concerned. The Government fails to get down to the basic matters which affect repatriation provisions. I make no apology for the fact that it is necessary for me to go over ground that has been covered by the Australian Labour Party for quite a number of years in its endeavour to induce the Government to adopt tangible and concrete proposals so far as repatriation matters are concerned.
We find that even on this occasion the Government, in framing its repatriation legislation, has failed to give any effect whatever to the submissions which have been made to it by the Returned Servicemen’s League. I understand that that organisation submitted proposals, in sufficient time prior to the framing of the Budget, to the Repatriation Sub-Committee of the Cabinet. On this occasion we find that the Government has not granted any increase whatever in pension rates. It has, of course, made provision for what it calls an intermediate pension rate. It has provided the totally and permanently incapacitated rate of pension for ex-servicemen who are at a certain disadvantage. That is only a temporary measure. In “ Mufti “, which is the official organ of the Returned Servicemen’s League, of 4th September 1965, under the headline “Federal Budget Disappointing in War Pensions “ the following article appeared -
The 1965 Federal Budget is an extreme disappointment to those who are aware of the needs of so many of our war and service provisions.
National President of the R.S.L., Mr. A. J. Lee, said this in a comment on the Budget provisions.
In March– which was early enough for consideration by the Government in the preparation of the Budget - the R.S.L. presented a strong case to the Government for a review of pension rates.
Pension values have declined considerably over the past 15 years, and for this reason we had sought a general review, Mr. Lee added. “A classic example of how pension values have declined is provided by the amounts received by the family of a 100 per cent, pensioner. Since 1950 the total pension received by a family group ofa man, wife and two children has declined by some 28 per cent.”.
Having regard to the fact that the Government claims we live in an affluent society and that this country is enjoying the greatest prosperity that it has ever experienced, it is a damning indictment of the Government that it is not prepared to make special and reasonable provision for the men who served this country particularly in the hellish conditions of World War I. Having served in that war, 1 can speak of it with authority. No doubt similar conditions were experienced by the men who served in World War II. We depended on those men. We implored them to enlist in the Services to defend this country. At the present time they are being left with a pension that is gradually decreasing in value.
Admittedly, a few crumbs are thrown out here and there every year, but they do not meet the basic requirements to which we will refer later at the Committee stage of this debate. Honorable senators opposite claim that they are patriotic and are concerned about the welfare of ex-servicemen. We will test their sincerity with amendments that we shall move at the Committee stage. This year, as in past years, the R.S.L. submitted to the Government proposals for increases in benefits, in time for these to be included in the Budget. A letter dated 24th March 1965 from the national headquarters of the League encloses details of the 1965 pension plan, which made the following proposals -
That the general rate pension and dependants’ allowances be increased as follows - 100 per cent, pension from £6 0s.0d. to £7 14s.0d.
Wife pension from £2 0s. 6d. to £3 7s. 6d.
Children pension from 13s. 9d. to £1 4s. 6d.
That the war widows’ pension and domestic and orphans’ allowances be increased as follows -
War widows from £6 0s.0d. to £7 14s.0d.
Domestic allowance from £3 10s.0d. to £4 0s.0d.
Children allowance from £1 19s.0d. and £1 7s. 6d. to £2 7s. 6d.
Double orphans allowance from £311s. 6d. to £4 8s.0d.
That the service pension and dependants’ allowances be increased as follows: -
Service pension from £5 10s.0d. and £6 0s.0d. to £6 5s.0d.
Wife from £3 0s.0d. to £3 10s.0d.
All children from 15s.0d. and 2s. 6d. to £1 0s.0d.
That the special rate (T.P.I.) pension be increased from £14 5s.0d. to £15 8s.0d. with dependants’ increases as for the General Rate.
That all returned servicemen of the First World War and prior wars be granted free repatriation hospital and medical benefits.
The last mentioned proposal is something about which I shall go to town later at the Committee stage, when the Opposition will propose an amendment. This is a matter about which I feel very deeply and sincerely. As a matter of fact, I think that quite a number of Government supporters feel the same way and I hope that they will support me on this occasion. The League also proposed that the funeral grant be increased from £25 to £50.
We know that these matters are only minor in relation to our overall prosperity. The Budget which we have been considering provides for an expenditure of about £2,500 million, yet we cannot afford to give increased benefits to these men who fought for this country and sacrificed their health. They are now frustrated in their endeavour to obtain some form of justice in repatriation benefits. We are failing miserably and lamentably to provide adequately and properly for these ex-service personnel. The relative values of all pensions have been reduced. The 49th annual report of the National Executive of the League shows the position in its true light. In 1920 the special rate, or total and permanent incapacity pension, was 103 per cent, of the basic wage - 9s. in excess of it. The general rate, or 100 per cent., pension, was 56 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1943 the T.P.I, pension was right on the 100 per cent, mark in relation to the basic wage. The general rate pension was 52 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950 the T.P.I, rate was 101 per cent, of the basic wage, and the relationship of the general rate pension to the basic wage, which had been 52 per cent, in 1943, dropped to 51 per cent. By 1965 a sharp decline had occurred. The T.P.I, rate dropped to 92 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage. Its actual value has steadily gone down. The general or 100 per cent, rate has deteriorated in value to 39 per cent, of the basic wage. The relative value of all these pensions has very greatly deteriorated over the years.
The Commonwealth Council of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia has asked that the special rate pension be increased from £14 5s. to £15 8s. which, if my information is correct, is the overall basic wage in Australia at present. The Council asks that the T.P.I, rate be increased to at least the basic wage. Is that asking too much? Let us remember that these men have gone through hell on earth. I do not want to shed tears about these things, but it grieves one, particularly having experienced these conditions, to think that those men spent weeks, sometimes months, in dirty, stinking, slimy trenches. Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who was a colleague of mine, knows of these things; he gave me a hand to win the First World War. I do not discount the heroism or the service of those who served in the Second World War, but conditions then were decidedly different from those in the First World War, when we fought for months at a time in dirty, slimy, stinking conditions, when the air was polluted with the smell of decomposing human bodies. When these men who came back ask for justice, the Government appears to be intent upon keeping them down to the barest minimum. It is not prepared to increase benefits to any great extent. It appears particularly anxious to keep repatriation expenditure as low as it possibly can.
We should not consider these matters in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. Only a few short years ago these men were lauded in song and verse as men who blazed a trail and wrote Australia’s name in letters of gold. How are we treating them today? As evidenced by the experience of applicants for .repatriation benefits, we are subjecting them almost to a third degree interrogation before they can qualify for a miserable pittance of a pension. In fact we are denying these men in the evening of their lives - many thousands of them are approaching the midnight of their lives - even a hospital bed and medical treatment, because they have no repatriation entitlement. Anyone who went through the campaigns of the two world wars knows that many thousands of servicemen, as soon as they were able to be discharged, thought only of getting away from military service altogether. They gave no thought at all to the possibility that in later years disabilities would probably - as they have in many cases - catch up with them. The result is that today, years later, they have no repatriation entitlement. They are not entitled to medical treatment or to a bed in a repatriation hospital. It is a damning indictment of this community and the Government representing it, that we do not ‘extend these facilities to all ex-service personnel. It is true that any ex-serviceman who applies can have his ailment diagnosed in a repatriation hospital, but the point is that if the authorities say that the ailment is not due to war service they do not have to give a reason for their finding. All that they need say is that the disability is not due to war service and, in effect, the ex-serviceman is shown the front door and left to fend for himself. That aspect of the repatriation legislation will be dealt with more fully by the Opposition at the Committee stage, particularly with regard to servicemen from World War I. Although we have raised these matters year after year’ they have not been seriously considered by the Government. As I have pointed out, according to the 49th annual report of the Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the total and permanent incapacity rate pension in 1920 was 9s. above the Commonwealth basic wage, whereas today it is 23s. below the basic wage. At the Committee stage I will move an amendment in this connection. Honorable senators have only a limited time for their second reading speeches and can only skim the surface of these questions.
There are other matters which, to say the least, frustrate and annoy ex-servicemen. An ex-serviceman who seeks a war pension must make application first to a Repatriation Board. These authorities, as I have said, are not compelled to give any reasons for their findings. If a Board holds that a disability or ailment is not due to war service the applicant has the right of appeal to the Repatriation Commission. The same procedure applies there. Do not forget that with every 12 months that passes these men are one year older. I do not know whether the Government is acting on the assumption that if it can parry these applications for long enough there will be no applicants left at all because these men will all be gone. Obviously, with each year that passes, it is more difficult for an ex-serviceman to substantiate a claim. If an appeal is rejected by the Repatriation Commission the applicant has a right of appeal to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal but against its decision there is no appeal whatever. I am not casting any reflection on the personnel of the Repatriation Department or of the tribunals. They are acting under Government policy and are doing what they are supposed to do. I believe they are perfectly honest men, but the procedure is entirely wrong and we will have something to say about that, also, at the Committee stage.
I understand, from the answer given to a question that I asked in this chamber some 12 months ago, that the time that lapses between an application to a Repatriation Board and the decision by the final appeal tribunal, the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, may run into many months. There are many thousands of cases in which applicants become disillusioned and frustrated and allow their appeals to lapse. The 49th annual report of the Returned Servicemen’s League contains a statement showing the activity of Assessment Appeal Tribunals during the period 1st January 1964 to 31st December 1964. From servicemen of the 1914-18 war 2,262 applications were received of which 1,130 were allowed, 1,104 were disallowed, 9 were deferred, 3 were reduced, 234 were withdrawn or lapsed and 601 were pending. I believe that many of the applications withdrawn were withdrawn in disgust. Like many other honorable senators, I have had experience of ex-servicemen coming to me in desperation and asking for assistance to pursue their claims before repatriation tribunals. In many cases apparently the tribunals decide, often in the face of strong medical evidence, that a disability is not due to war service, and no reason is given for that finding. Figures for the 1939-45 war - including Korean-Malayan and Far East Strategic Reserve cases - show that in the same period there was a total of 10,645 applications, of which 5,038 were allowed, 4,807 were disallowed while 930 are shown under the heading: “Withdrawn, Lapsed, Etc.”.
A statement showing the activity of War Pension Entitlement Appeal Tribunals - the final appeal tribunals - shows that in the same 12 months’ period 2,790 applications were received from ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war and that of this number 359 were allowed, 2,319 were disallowed, 67 were deferred, 92 were withdrawn or lapsed, etc., and 929 were pending. I mention those facts to emphasise the position and appeal to the Senate, with all the sincerity I can command, to remedy the position of these men. I realise that the problem has very wide ramifications but I suggest that we should approach these matters and deal with them in a humane way.
We should remember the conditions under which these men served Australia. The Government stands inept against the great efforts of big business - of the combinesto extract millions of pounds each year from the people. It will not grant a miserable increase in service pensions because of the cost involved. The cost aspect was emphasised by the Minister in a reply to the Returned Servicemens League. Exservicemen - particularly from World War I - are not being permitted to enjoy a comfortable bed and receive medical attention while they are approaching the evening of their lives. It is clear that the Government is more concerned with the cost of increasing pensions than it is with the comfort of these men who so gloriously served this country in the past. I refer again to a report in “ Mufti “ of a statement made by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), for whom I have the highest regard. The report states -
The Minister for Repatriation, Senator McKellar, has supplied the following information of the cost of the proposals contained in the 1965 RSL Pensions Plan. He made the details available following a question by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Whitlam. Senator McKellar said: The proposals of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, with in each case the estimated annual cost are as follows:
The League has also asked that “ all returned servicemen of the First World War and prior Wars be granted free repatriation hospital and medical benefits “. In view of the many factors involved-
Obviously this statement came from the Minister - including the need to provide additional accommodation and facilities at Repatriation medical institutions, it is difficult to make precise estimates of costs in this area. On the best available information, the cost of the proposal, including both initial capital and annual recurring expenditure could range up to about £5 million, Senator McKellar said.
What the hell is £5 million to the people of this country today in a Budget involving an expenditure of £2,600 million? Ministers are barnstorming the country telling everybody that we are today in a more affluent position than ever before. The big industrial concerns are extracting millions of pounds a year from the people and their actions are condoned and aided by the present Government.
It would cost a mere £5 million to ensure that our ex-servicemen in their declining years receive a degree of comfort from hospitalisation and medical benefits. 1 challenge any honorable senator opposite to stand up and say, or to indicate by his vote, that he is not prepared to give a hospital bed and medical treatment to men who went through living hell to save this country We were told at the time of the First World War that we were fighting a war to end all wars. I appeal to the Minister, to the Government and to honorable senators opposite to realise that we have a sacred obligation. I remind honorable senators of the words of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) when he was Leader of the Opposition in 1949. He said that repatriation is a great, grave and proud responsibility. Let us live up to that statement and give to our ex-servicemen at least the comforts they deserve. At the Committee stage the Opposition will be moving amendments to the Bill and we shall then see where honorable senators opposite stand. We shall see whether they are ruled by the autocracy of Cabinet or are moved by the needs of justice for those who deserve it.
– As Senator Sandford has rightly said, we are debating legislation to amend the Repat riation Act 1964. In the reign of this Government, discussion of repatriation legislation is an annual occurrence because the Government continues throughout each year to study the Repatriation Act. It listens to representations by people and organisations, particularly by the Returned Servicemen’s League. The Government then decides what action it will take in respect of repatriation in the annual Budget. A Bill is introduced each year to put into effect the Government’s decisions.
Senator Sandford is leading for the Opposition in this debate. He referred to a few crumbs and to a miserable pittance. I say that no man has a right to describe war pensions, widows’ pensions and the various allowances paid under the Repatriation Act as miserable pittances, nor to call the additions made year after year a few crumbs. I am certain that the Returned Servicemen’s League and many of the beneficiaries under the Repatriation Act would object to Senator Sandford’s description. He said also that this Bill is a damning indictment of the Government.
– So it is.
– The honorable senator repeats the charge. Unfortunately for the like of Senator Sandford, the people of Australia have had an opportunity to judge this Government’s record in the fields of repatriation and social service benefits. When the Government goes to the people at election time, it puts to them a national case for the future of Australia. It does not seek to buy votes by making promises to people who require the help of those in the community who are better off. That help must come from taxation levied by the Government upon the people. No-one can say what the vast majority of the people think of this Government’s record in respect of repatriation benefits. However, I move around a great deal. I visit branches of the Returned Servicemen’s League and kindred organisations. I was privileged to be comfortably accommodated in two repatriation hospitals in Australia. I have mixed with the ex-diggers and have never heard a word of condemnation of repatriation hospitals. I have heard plenty of praise and grateful sentiments expressed. I have heard discussions at R.S.L. conferences and I believe that the majority of the people think that this Government is doing a great job. 1 wish to take up Senator Sandford on one other point that he raised. He said that the Opposition will move amendments to the Bill. The Opposition has every right to move amendments, but he also said that these amendments would test the sincerity of senators on the Government side of the Senate. 1 do not think that Senator Sandford has the ability or requirements to test the sincerity of senators on this side of the Senate. Quite a few of us had our sincerity tested some years ago. The honorable senator told us that he was tested in World War I. The test that must be applied is one of national importance. I refer to the test of responsibility. A sense of responsibility is what the people of Australia want to see. They need responsibility in government; they must have it. They have it now, and they realise that they have it. I think they would attach more value to the Opposition if it showed some responsibility. An Opposition senator shows a complete lack of responsibility when he pulls out of the air what he describes as the small sum of £5 million as being the cost of granting a particular benefit and says that it is ridiculous for the Government not to grant that benefit. That is the sort of irresponsibility that this nation cannot afford to have in this Parliament.
While speaking about responsibility, I should like to emphasise that the Government has approached this legislation with the knowledge that defence expenditure has to be increased and that the vast potential of the nation has to be developed. The calls on the government purse, which means, of course, on the people of Australia, are very great. Another factor which must guide the Government in making decisions in relation to repatriation benefits is that it is customary, and rightly so, when increasing such benefits to increase in a very similar manner the benefits that are payable in the vast social service field, which has been greatly enlarged by this Government.
Another aspect of the matter that must be taken into account in government planning is the fact that in Australia we have not yet reached the peak year of our responsibility to ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen of the Second World War, and their dependants. The annual report of the Services Canteens Trust Fund for 1964 stated at page 8 that next year would be the peak year in the giving of assistance for the education of the children of servicemen of the Second World War. Those persons who have worked out these calculations over the years have told us that 1966 would be the peak year in the cost of educating children born to servicemen of the war that ended in 1945. Now, however, they find that there is still a yearly increase in the cost of education and that they can only come down on the side of saying that it is evident that several years will elapse before we reach the peak year. I understand that the Legacy movement, which helps’ to care for the widows and dependent children of exservicemen, believes that the peak year of responsibility will be about 1970.
Just as responsibility in these spheres will increase in the next few years so will the responsibility of the people, through the Government, increase, the difference being that the responsibility of the Government will increase to a far greater extent. Expenditure on pensions, which in this financial year is more than £76 million, will increase. So any government that proposes to make higher benefits available, or to widen the field, must do so with a sense of responsibility and with some knowledge of the calls that will be made upon it in the twelve months or two years that lie ahead. It is with those thoughts in mind that I approach discussion of the Bill now before us.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended I was saying I believed the Government’s approach to repatriation was correct. The Government has shown a sense of responsibility towards repatriation while taking into account all the other demands it must meet. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) and the Repatriation Department have worked steadily along three lines of approach to their responsibilities. These lines of approach are most important and marked benefits have been achieved for ex-servicemen and women and the dependants of deceased ex-servicemen.
The first line of approach is the provision of pensions. Pensions of more than a dozen types are paid to various classes of exservicemen and their dependants. I do not propose to enumerate all of them but I think it should be put on record and we should remind ourselves that the special rate pension for totally and permanently incapacited ex-servicemen - generally known as the T.P.I, pension - is now £14 5s. a week, compared with £5 6s. a week when this Government was first elected to office. The widow’s pension is now £6 a week compared with £2 15s., and the story is the same throughout the various rates of pensions.
The Government’s second line of approach to repatriation is the provision of medical treatment and additional provision is made for this in the Bill before the Senate. I direct attention first to the treatment that is provided in repatriation hospitals. In the last financial year, patients treated in repatriation hospitals and institutions in Australia numbered 57,777. In the same period, 14,419 ex-servicemen and women were treated in other hospitals where provision is made for their treatment because a repatriation hospital is not established in close proximity to their place of residence. In addition, in the past year there were more than 2 million attendances by ex-servicemen and women at local medical offices. The repatriation hospitals treated over 554,000 patients in the same period. This work is distinguished not only by the numbers of patients who are treated; we have to take into account also the manner in which they are treated and the quality of the treatment. I believe the Repatriation Department offers nothing but the best of treatment to those who come within its scope throughout Australia. I mention this not so much to congratulate the Government as to express the appreciation of all those who are entitled to treatment through the repatriation services.
The Government’s third line of approach to repatriation is by way of re-establishment. Provision for this side of repatriation benefits came into being after the Second World War and as the result of research and study, it has been expanded and widened in scope. Many a man is able to take his proper place in community life because of the treatment and help given to him through the reestablishment branch of the Repatriation Department’s activities. The Government has encouraged this important work in the civilian field. As Australia now has servicemen on active service and in training for defence, this repatriation activity will have to be continued, widened and improved as time passes.
As I have said, each year the Government and interested organisations and persons study the repatriation legislation and suggest amendments that are considered appropriate. Some of these amendments are contained in the Bill now before the Senate. It provides for the first time an intermediate rate of pension of £10 2s. 6d. a week. I can describe it no better than by using the words of the Minister for Repatriation himself in a recent public statement -
This intermediate pension, as it is called, is for the special needs of war pensioners who are so seriously disabled as a result of war-caused disability that they are able to work only part time or intermittently but are not so disabled as to qualify for the special TJ.1. rate of pension.
This intermediate pension was suggested years ago by the Returned Servicemens League and a proposal was put before the Government of the day which must have been a Liberal Government. It was not accepted at the time but has been introduced now in the measure before the Senate. I deal with numerous cases of ex-servicemen seeking pensions, many of whom feel that they are entitled to the T.P.I, pension. This provision will be of great help to many men who have suffered serious disability as a result of their war service but were not considered to merit classification for a full special rate pension. I congratulate the Government upon making this provision at this time. I expect that there will be some difficulties in its operation at first and that the Repatriation Department will meet teething troubles in its administration, but officers of the Department are well trained and experienced in overcoming problems of this kind and I have no doubt they will meet the problems of each case successfully as they arise.
I am glad that the Government has decided also to provide a pension up to the age of 21 years for student children of widows of ex-servicemen. More than a dozen other amendments of existing provisions are contained in the Bill and generally they widen the scope and increase the benefits of the service pension. The service pension is paid to ex-servicemen 60 years of age and over and is along the lines of the age pension. Many more ex-servicemen will be brought within the scope of the service pension and these provisions will bring, relief in many worthy cases. I am sure honorable senators will give, these amendments their blessing.
The Bill also provides several adjustments in relation to appeals which are of a minor nature but will be helpful to ex-servicemen. The machinery for appeals has been made as wide as possible so far as one can see, on the surface. I shall not elaborate on this mailer now by giving my personal views because just before I rose tonight the amendments to the Bill which had been foreshadowed by the Opposition were circulated. One of these amendments is related to appeals and so 1 shall not deal with it now. Any opinions I have on this matter will be expressed in the Committee stage.
As I have said. I believe the Minister for Repatriation has done an excellent job in further increasing and widening the scope of the Repatriation Act which he administers. In concluding my remarks on the Repatriation Bill, to which I give my full support, 1 use his words when referring to the amendments in the Bill. He said -
They confer useful benefits on the more needy class of pensioner and dependant as well as making other desirable adjustments.
He commended the Bill to the Senate and I firmly support it.
Senator DRURY (South Australia) [8.10J. - Mr. President, 1 believe that a Bill such as the Repatriation Bill, which is to amend the Repatriation Act, is one of the most important measures that come before the Parliament from time to time. These Bills can be very complex. They deal, not only with the normal increases in pension rates, but also with many other matters affecting the lives of ex-servicemen. When I examine the payments made to exservicemen I feel that in some instances they are not adequate. They could be much better. The payments of pensions to entitled exservicemen or Service personnel represent only a small part of the benefits and functions that flow from the Repatriation Act.
Senator Sandford, who led for the Opposition in this debate, delivered to the Senate an excellent speech with sincerity, speaking from practical experience of conditions obtaining during the First World War. I feel that the Government should take note of the things mentioned by Senator
Sandford because he is a man with practical experience of the First World War. Ho should be listened to when he speaks in this chamber. In the course of his speech, he outlined the loss in value of repatriation pensions and related the decline in their value - both the 100 per cent, pension and the total and permanent incapacity pension - from 1920 to 1965. There is no need for me to reiterate the figures he gave.
Senator Marriott criticised Opposition members for rising and attacking the Bill. He also criticised us for moving amendments. But I feel that the Opposition would not be fulfilling its obligations to the people that it represents if each and every time these Bills are brought before the House it did not do such things. This is our function as an Opposition. We feel that the little extra money that we can squeeze out of the Government for those who are entitled to ex-service pensions means that we are doing a great job for those people. It is not charity that the Government is giving to these people. I would like to quote from the journal of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association of Victoria “ Chin Up “, which is printed in Victoria. The extract I want to quote is part of a speech delivered by the former Minister for Repatriation, Mr. Swartz. He gave the speech in April at the annual conference of the central district of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia, held in Rockhampton, Queensland. The Minister said -
Repatriation is not a charity. These men and women are fully entitled to what they receive and there is a moral obligation on the general public to see that they receive nothing but the best.
I have full faith in the integrity of average Australians. They have never shirked responsibility and I am sure that they will continue to make certain that the veterans of their country’s wars are well looked after.
The Minister also said -
At the same time. League members will realise that the fact that our country is prosperous, that the amenities that most of us now enjoy, could not exist were it not for the fact that older generations were prepared to give their lives to maintain our national identity. . .
I feel that those words cover the subject extremely well, Mr. President. In giving benefits and pensions to these men and women, who gave up many good things in life to enlist in both the First World War arid the Second World War, I feel we cannot do too much for them when they return to Australia if disabled in any way. By doing this, as the Minister stated, we are not being charitable. It is the responsibility of this nation to give to those people who suffered for it something in return. At page 7 of the annual report for 1964-65 of the Repatriation Commission it is stated -
War pensions are designed to provide compensation for ex-servicemen and women who have suffered incapacity as a result of war service, for their eligible dependants, and for the dependants of those who have died as a result of war service.
It is true that this is compensation. Honorable senators might compare it to workers’ compensation. However, in many instances it is much easier for a worker injured in industry to obtain workers’ compensation, not only for himself but for his dependants, than it is for some of the First World War diggers to obtain a pension at the present time.
I feel that something should be done for the very few World War I veterans who are now living. Their ranks are thinning rapidly. If one looks again at the annual report of the Repatriation Commission one will see that the numbers receiving pensions are diminishing in comparison to what they were prior to 1965. This again indicates that First World War diggers should be given greater consideration than they are receiving at the present time. I want to quote again from page 7 of the Commission’s annual report for 1964-65. Dealing with the war of . 1914-18, the number of war pensions being paid, including dependants’ pensions, decreased last year to a total of 660,447. The report dealt with the number of pensions being paid and stated -
The following table sets out the position at the 30th June -
Those figures prove that the number of persons receiving pensions as a result of the First World War are decreasing rapidly each year. The figures for servicemen of the Second’ World War have also decreased but this could be because the dependants are included in these figures and I feel that some of the widows of those men have re-married. That would cause a decrease apart from deaths of those who were injured during the war. The position of the digger of the First World War should be looked at more closely than the present Government is looking at it. I am sure that every member of the Senate and of the other place has interviewed many returned servicemen from the First World War. After hearing the story that they have told and after considering the evidence that they have presented, one feels that their application for a pension should be granted. But what happens? When they go before a Board or the Commission their application is refused and they come back and say: “ What can we do now? “
– They are labouring under a sense of injustice.
– As Senator Toohey has pointed out, they are labouring under a sense of injustice. Not only that; they are overcome by frustration as well. I believe that they are genuine in their desire to obtain something not only for themselves but also for their wives. They want their wives to be protected should they themselves, unfortunately, pass on. These men want a sense of security more than the pension of a few pounds a week. Something should be done to give them the justice that they so richly deserve.
I come now to the onus of proof clause, as it is called. The Opposition has raised this matter on many occasions. As far back as 1961 service organisations throughout Australia were criticising the Government for the onus of proof provision of the Act. I have here a publication by the Victorian Branch of the R.S.L. dated 1st May 1961. Honorable senators on the Government side will remember only too well what happened in 1961. I do not think they will forget in a hurry that 1961 was the year in which the Government very nearly lost office. The publication contains an article written by Charles W. Joyce, State Secretary of the R.S.L. Under the heading: “ Right This Wrong. Election Year Time to Fight Proof Clause Now “, the article states -
If returned men are to force any improvement in the Repatriation Act, the time to act is now - in election year.
If candidates in the Commonwealth election are not goaded into examining the Repatriation Act now. returned men may, for the next five years, find themselves humbly standing by to take whatever crumbs may be thrown from the political table.
That article indicates the thinking of the R.S.L. as long ago as 1961. Each year since then the onus of proof provision of the Repatriation Act has been criticised. From time to time we of the Opposition have moved for its amendment but unfortunately we have not had the numbers to carry our proposals. The Government should take note of the fact that not only the Opposition but also many organisations are not satisfied with the onus of proof provision as it stands.
The Government should not think for one moment that ex-service organisations are happy with the pensions which are being paid to ex-servicemen. I have a magazine which is published in my own State by the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia Incorporated. The August-September 1965 issue carries an editorial under the heading “The Federal Budget”. It is in these terms -
This year the Association’s Federal Council presented to the Federal Government a four point case seeking improved repatriation benefits - inter alia it sought a repatriation pension of £15 8s. for members, and an increase of 19s. 6d. a week for the wives of members, to bring their pension rate into line with that paid to the wives of service pensioners.
A copy of the case was published in the last magazine and a copy was mailed to all Federal members of Parliament. Many of these gentlemen from both parties were also personally contacted in connection with our claims. With the exception of one member, the remainder without evasion or equivocation expressed themselves in accord with our claims.
The editorial goes on -
Federal politicians have informed us that their last pension increase makes provision for a weekly pension of £32 18s. 7d. should they retire or fail to hold their seat after eight years service. Cabinet Ministers and Opposition Leaders are better provided for. They may receive a pension of £43 ranging up to £53 18s. 7d. after 14 years.
– It does not mention does it. how much the members contribute?
– I am coming to that. The editorial does not mention that the ordinary member of Parliament contributes in the vicinity of £8 a week for his pension. The editorial continues -
We are not aware of the casualty rate on the Canberra front, but we fully appreciate that the stress and tension must be terrific in comparison with the carefree life of a front line soldier.
That article also indicates the thinking of ex-service organisations. I do not think they would write in this way if they were not desperate to get some further benefits for their members. They resort to this kind of ridicule to bring the plight of exservicemen before the Parliament and the public.
– It has the reverse effect.
– Perhaps, but on the other hand it could fall on fertile ground and bear fruit. This criticism by the various organisations is valid. They have a case to state against the Government. We of the Opposition realise that the Budget had to provide for increased defence expenditure but the amount involved in providing the additional repatriation benefits mentioned by the Minister is not great. I have read carefully Senator McKellar’s second reading speech but I cannot find any mention of the amount that these increased benefits will cost the Australian taxpayer. When we have a national income of between £2,500 million and £2,600 million we should’ be able to do more for our ex-servicemen.
It is encumbent upon the Opposition to criticise the Government for its very mean and cheeseparing attitude towards repatriation pensions. We reali’se that there is a limit to what can be paid to ex-servicemen, particularly as the number of ex-servicemen will increase as a result of our commitments in Vietnam and Borneo. We must expect a number of casualties, if not as a result of front line service then as a result of sickness. As the years go by, our repatriation obligations will increase. The Government should accept the Opposition’s proposed amendment to the effect that a committee should be set up to inquire into the ramifications of the Repatriation Act. If my memory serves me correctly, such a committee was set up many years ago - I think in about 1917 - to inquire into repatriation and as a result of that committee’s report, the first Repatriation Act was introduced into this Parliament. The Government is to be criticised for its attitude to ex-servicemen as evidenced by the provisions of the Repatriation Act.
As Senator Sandford pointed out, at the Committee stage the Opposition will move certain amendments which could correct some of the anomalies that exist in the Repatriation Act. Certain provisions are to be included in the Act for the first time. They are tabulated at the end of the second reading speech of the Minister. I will not read them because every honorable senator has received a copy of that speech and can peruse them there.
There are many questions that one might reasonably ask the Government. The first and foremost is: Are the rates paid under the Repatriation Act based on the ability of the Government to meet its commitments? I believe that the answer is “ No “. As I pointed out previously, the Minister has not stated how much the new benefits will cost the taxpayers of Australia. I believe that they will not cost a great deal. Having regard to the record gross national income, I believe that the Government has been very mean in its approach to recipients of repatriation benefits on this occasion. Australia’s wealth has increased tremendously in the last decade. We have been continually reminded of this fact by honorable senators opposite. I think that at one period they spoke of a golden decade. They are always speaking about the affluent society that exists in Australia today. I do not think that the additional money which has been appropriated for repatriation benefits this year will place very much pressure on the nation’s purse strings. I am not losing sight of the fact that there are many problems associated with adequate repatriation benefits, but I believe they can be overcome if the Government undertakes the task of tackling them.
Another important question is whether the repatriation benefits that the Government is offering today are as good as they ought to be or could be, having regard to the natural resources of this country. Is the repatriation system as good as it ought to be, taking into account the other commitments of the Government? We pose these questions to the Government and it should answer them. Not everybody is completely satisfied with the treatment of ex-service personnel. Every honorable senator has had placed before him cases in which, in his opinion, the benefit of the doubt should have been extended. There have been cases in which ex-servicemen have had no record of illnesses or injuries they may have suffered during their war service.
Many of these men who were good soldiers believed that it was their duty to help- to keep this country free. Illnesses and injuries which they suffered at the time may have seemed insignificant to them. They did not report the illnesses or injuries at regimental aid posts or casualty clearing stations because they believed that by doing so they might be letting their mates down. Consequently, there are no records of the illnesses or injuries. As Senator Sandford has pointed out, after their discharge they were so anxious to get back into civilian life that they did not bother about claiming benefits or pensions for disabilities that they may have suffered. They were anxious to get back to their families and to resume normal civilian life. But in later years when the disabilities got worse and they applied for a pension, there was no record that they were caused by war service. I believe that the benefit of any doubt that might exist in the mind of the Repatriation Commission or a tribunal should be given to these men. Perhaps at the time the servicemen considered that the illnesses or injuries were of only a minor nature, but the privations they suffered could well have aggravated them. I believe that these men should be given the benefit of the doubt and that they should receive a pension for their disabilities.
Time will not permit me to say anything more in the second reading debate. As the Opposition has many amendments to move at the Committee stage, I believe that is the proper time to speak on many of the anomalies that exist in the Repatriation Act. I hope that, when they are raised, the Government will take note of them and do all it can to rectify them.
– In entering the second reading debate upon the Repatriation Bill, I am reminded by the annual report of the Repatriation Department that this year we have seen the 51st anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the 25th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War and the 50th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. At the expense of repetition, I again refer as I did earlier this year, to one of the precious honours of being in this place. Senator Sandford, who led for the Opposition, is a Gallipoli veteran. The debate is taking place in the presence of Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who also was at Gallipoli. Sir William Spooner, who until recently was a senator in this chamber, was our third Gallipoli representative, and the fourth in the Parliament is Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes. Today is a great day for Australia. We rejoice in recalling that the man who was so singularly honoured here today has, as one of his chief distinctions, the fact that he was at Gallipoli.
We should recall that in the last 12 months Australia has taken the most responsible step of compelling the manhood of this country to participate in active service in its defence at home and abroad. That decision places great responsibility upon this Parliament to do some rethinking on the active service conditions and repatriation of those men, as well as the veterans of the two previous World Wars, and not forgetting ex-servicemen of the Korean War and other incidental campaigns.
The parties in the Senate at the moment are evenly balanced. I belong to a party which regards it as not only the right but the duty of every member of this chamber to vote according to his judgment. If the Senate refuses to allow debates here to become involved with party considerations per se, it can do a great deal to correct the impression that may exist in another place that a section of the other House constitutes the Parliament of the country.
This Senate has a unique opportunity to use its powers in >the present session to great purpose, remembering, of course, that an Upper House has well defined constitutional functions, and that failure to perform them would be a gross mistake.
This is not a bill on second chambers, but 1 am making a transitory reference for the purpose of indicating to this chamber interest in the provisions that should be made for repatriation. It is an entire mistake to say that the Government has been miserable in its approach to repatriation: There are deficiencies, but it is an entire mistake to put forward the view that tha Government adopts a mean and miserable outlook. If one looks at the proposed appropriations that were tabled at the time of the Budget Speech he will see that as against an expenditure on repatriation last year of £120 million in round figures, the proposed appropriation this year involves £133 million. Of the £13 million increment, about £11.5 million is due to administration of past legislation in relation to development of repatriation cases. But about £1.15 million in a full year will be the cost of the new benefits that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has proposed in this Bill. That was the figure that Senator Drury wanted but did not refer to. This indicates, I believe, that the amounts are substantial and have to be considered. But I would never concede that repatriation is low in priority in the provision of proper benefits from public finance. Repatriation benefits are in nothing like the category of pharmaceutical benefits, medical benefits or other social service benefits. Repatriation pensions, so called, are the result of a paramount national obligation to pay compensation for service and sacrifice.. However worthy social service benefits may be, repatriation benefits are not at all of the same character or in the same category in my book.
The Minister has brought before us. a proposal to introduce for the first time an intermediate . war pension to . entitle those whose disabilities permit them to work only part time, or intermittently, to a weekly pension of £10 2s. 6d., compared with the special rate or total and permanent incapacity pension of £14 5s., and. the general, or 100 per cent., pension of £6. I should have liked to have fuller information from the Minister as to the type of case that this will benefit. I accept the proposal with considerable appreciation. I think it will meet the need of the ageing ex-serviceman, whose health precludes him not from any employment or any but negligible employment but from full earning capacity. But in granting the application of such a pension the only criterion we have before us is a man who. according to the language of the Bill - I put it from memory only - is able to do only part time’ or intermittent work. That, T think, will create a lot of difficulties with re«»s”-r’ to1 actual administration, but I wish the
Department well and I think that we all ought to accord real appreciation of the introduction of that benefit.
There are disquieting things about repatriation as it has developed and the one that I feel most is the position oi the T.P.I, pensioner. I pointed out once before in debate in this calendar year that the gap between the basic wage and the T.P.I, pension rate is widening. Speaking generally, whereas they were on a basis almost of parity ten years ago, today the basic wage is £15 8s. a week and the T.P.I pension is £14 5s. a week, so the T.P.I, pension has been losing its comparative relationship with the basic wage over the past few years. Great problems are involved in this T.P.I, pension. It is available to every exserviceman who, because of incapacity as a result of war service, cannot work or has a negligible working capacity. Irrespective of economic prospects at the time of war service, the orchardist, farmer, carpenter, engineer, doctor and dentist all come down from the point of view of national compensation for total and permanent incapacity to the one common denominator of £14 5s. a week. I realise the difficulties of discrimination, but there is a problem if we are to send men compulsorily into the firing line and their incapacity is to be compensated for hereafter.
There is continuing concern in this chamber about what has been called loosely the onus of proof provisions. That concern is not exclusive to the Opposition side of the chamber. This matter has been debated here before and I hope that out of tonight’s debate will come a measure of real judgment and not merely political party stunting. I say that with no reflection on anybody, but I know that it does happen sometimes, both in this place and in other legislative halls.
I turn now to the onus of proof. On previous occasions I have urged the Senate to give full consideration to the opinion given by the former Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick. That opinion, which can be found in “ Hansard “, shows how the present section 47 of the Repatriation Act gives legislative expression to a remarkable benefit that is conferred on applicants for war pensions. I have suggested to the Senate on previous occasions that we should pool our individual experiences in this field and if after an informal discussion, we find a sufficient number of cases in which the onus of proof provision has not been faithfully applied according to the interpretation of the former Attorney-General, we should constitute a committee of the Senate to hear evidence, document it, and then make it the basis of a purposeful amendment of the Act. I have four such cases on my table, but I will not give the details in this debate.’ However, I am convinced that in those four cases no proper application of the provisions of section 47 of the Act has been made.If these four cases, are illustrative of the general position, I am led to the view that there resides in the minds of the tribunals some fundamental misconception of the proper approach to evidence. These cases should be discussed, either in an informal way or in formal committee, and we should then apply ourselves purposefully either to engendering a new outlook in the minds of the tribunals or, if necessary, to introducing legislation to correct the position.
Over the last 12 .months I have heard the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Mackellar) answering questions about cases in which repatriation tribunals had withheld the reasons for their decisions. This practice was referred to during the debate this afternoon. There are in the ranks of the Opposi-tion in this chamber gentlemen of the legal profession who understand the problems of administrative law and its proper application for justice. I would remind them that the Franki report in the United Kingdom in 1957 said that one of the great correctives which keep administrative tribunals faithful to their task is the requirement that their decisions shall be accompanied by written reasons. I remind the Senate that Taxation Boards of Review are required to issue their decisions in writing and to state their reasons. For a repatriation tribunal to have a similar obligation would be far more satisfactory than the present procedure, not only from the point of view of an applicant but also so that a decision could be tested as a proper interpretation of the onus of proof provision.
The last matter to which I wish to refer during this debate is an old item that we have mentioned on previous occasions and which must be brought to finality. I refer to the entitlement of the diminishing ranks of the men of the First World War to repatriation hospital treatment. I am obliged to Senator Wedgwood, who looked at the figures given on page 39 of the Repatriation Department’s annual report with me, for drawing my attention to what is really happening to veterans of the First World War. The report shows that in 1924-25, 1,977 persons were receiving special rate pensions. By 1964-65 the number had grown to 12,480. Then the column dealing with the general rate pensions shows that in 1924-25 there were 70,151 First World War veterans receiving the general rate pension. They have faded away - I think that is the old phrase - until they now number only 29,340. However, as I have said the number of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners has increased substantially since 1924.
I am indebted to the officers assisting the Minister - not only on this occasion, but on every other occasion - for their ready response to requests for information. I am indebted to them for figures that show that the number of actual survivors of the 1914-18 war is estimated at 116,000 of whom 50,000 are entitled to full hospital treatment and 15,000 are entitled to part hospital treatment. Subtracting these 65,000 from the previous figure of 116,000, one is left with 51,000 First World War veterans who are not entitled to any hospital treatment at all. These men are now all over 60 years of age and, despite the demand made on repatriation hospitals, I believe they are entitled to hospital treatment. If the capacity of the repatriation hospitals is overtaxed, we should make arrangements for general hospitals to offer them accommodation. I think that if we are going to evoke from the people of this country a proper spirit of defence it is our duty now to make full provision at least for the First World War veterans before the 51,000 men to whom I have referred fade finally and completely away.
I have indicated sufficiently my very warm approval of the new benefits. I have indicated my understanding of the Government’s advanced vote of appropriation this year from £120 million to £133 million. Nevertheless, deficiencies exist in the Act or in its administration which I think would make it particularly appropriate for this chamber to take them into thoughtful consideration. As is possible in committees of the Senate, consideration could proceed on a basis not of party advantage or party interest, but of national interest and national benefit to servicemen. I make that reference in concluding my speech in the second reading debate because I hope that it will pervade our consideration at the committee stage.
– I consider that the statement just made by Senator Wright is important enough to engage the consideration of the Senate. The honorable senator referred to two matters which I shall now mention because I believe that he very closely approached the point of view of the Opposition. He referred to controversy in this chamber regarding the onus of proof provision of the Repatriation Act. We all remember the discussions that have taken place on whether the propositions advanced .by the Returned Servicemen’s League supplied a legal solution to the problem. I thought that Senator Wright’s approach to the onus of proof provision was very good and came very close to meeting the position we have taken.
Senator Wright also referred to decisions in courts of law. I am familiar with the industrial position where decisions are given by industrial courts. In these times, reasons are written into the decisions of those courts but this element is lacking in decisions given by repatriation tribunals. If reasons were given, it might help to solve the vexed problem of the onus of proof. It is my view that the improvements to be made to the Repatriation Act by the legislation before the Senate - particularly in respect of pensions - are rather meagre and minor as compensation. It has been referred to as a compensation problem for ex-servicemen. I think an opportunity has been lost to improve section 47 of the Act, the deficiencies of which have been discussed in the Senate in recent years. Returned servicemen’s organisations have advocated what seems to be a solution to the problems raised by section 47. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has offered what seemed to me to be an excuse that the Government is faced with great defence commitments. To me he seemed to be saying: “While we admit the importance and justice of the organisations’ request, we feel that we cannot go that far in respect of this matter”.
Although the Government may not have been able to accept the evaluation of the pension rates submitted by the Returned Servicemen’s League and other exservicemen’s organisations, surely it might have acted to improve section 47 and the procedures of repatriation tribunals to remove the dissatisfaction that exists amongst applicants who have brought their cases to the attention of honorable senators. Like Senator Wright, I have had brought to my attention numerous cases where lack of records and lack of evidence have meant that the applicants’ cases could not be taken much further. In my opinion it is a great pity that the Senate does not act in respect of the shortcomings of the Repatriation Act.
The world situation is such today that it brings the problem of repatriation into sharper focus than was the case four or five years ago. I agreed with Senator Wright when he said we should re-think the position. I can see the need to assure not only ex-servicemen of World War I, World War II and the Korean War, but also those servicemen who are serving now, that the repatriation legislation is satisfactory and will do justice to those who serve in the interest of their country. I hoped to see the repatriation legislation influenced by the present climate.
Following World War II, an all-party committee was set up which improved the Repatriation Act. This was possible at a time when people were amenable to improving the provisions of repatriation legislation. I suggest that it was easier in those days for ex-service men and women to obtain just treatment of their applications to repatriation tribunals than it is today. I do not mean to suggest that injustice is done intentionally, but it is obvious that the outside climate influences the decisions of repatriation tribunals. After World War II there was a greater personal sympathy for the needs of ex-servicemen and more popular support for moves to assist people who had served their country under very difficult conditions. I am sure that no honorable senator wishes to see the benefits to be given to ex-servicemen in need cut down for economic reasons.
The Opposition has accepted - as has been mentioned in repatriation debates from time to time- ‘that the R.S.L. usually leads the advocacy for improvements in repatriation benefits and amendments to the Act. It is clear from the annual reports of the Returned Servicemen’s League in 1963, 1964 and 1965 that, in effect, the League has approached the Government and said: “ The Government should adjust the pension rates to the bases which applied in 1920, 1943 and 1950 when proper reviews of pensions were conducted.” These reviews resulted in pension rates closely following the Commonwealth basic wage. The R.S.L. has also supplied figures relating pensions to average weekly earnings.
In the debate tonight, I have not heard any great political bias expressed and the argument that I am submitting is not so based. I am suggesting that, on the cold facts and the history of the Repatriation Act, the Government has not done enough. I agree that the Government has acted to improve repatriation legislation but it has not done enough towards solving the problem of section 47 of the Act. A case has been put forward by the R.S.L., supported in this instance by the Commonwealth Council of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia. Those organisations said that the pension rates had always had a fairly constant relationship to the Commonwealth basic wage. In 1920 the special, or totally and permanently incapacitated, pension was 103 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage; in 1943 it was 100 per cent.; and in 1950 it was 101 per cent. In 1920 the general rate pension was 54 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage; in 1943 it was 52 per cent.; and in 1950 it was 51 per cent.
At present the T.P.I, pension is 92 per cent, of the basic wage of £15 8s. for the six capital cities. The general rate pension has fallen to 39 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage. Those figures formed the basis of the calculations submitted by the organisations which lead the campaign for ex-servicemen. Several other amendments have been proposed. Last year the Returned Servicemen’s League circulated to all members of the Parliament its proposals in regard to the onus of proof. So we have a situation in which the body that acts on behalf of ex-servicemen is able to express a studied policy and to say: “This is what we want”.
I suggest that what the Government has granted is not good enough. 1 understand that the new intermediate rate pension will be an improvement. I hope it is. But, like Senator Wright, I suggest that this new provision will cause a lot of problems for a body that is already in a state of confusion as to the application of principles. I hope that the new intermediate rate pension, which will be £10 2s. 6d. a week, will not mean that total and permanently disabled people will be downgraded or that, when applications are lodged for a T.P.I, pension, somebody will say: “ Here is an easy divisor. Let us take the midway rate “. I am afraid that this approach will become a pattern. Let us hope, as 1 said, that a T.P.I, pensioner will not be downgraded or that a new applicant for a T.P.I, pension will not’ be embarrassed because of the introduction of the intermediate rate pension.
The Minister for Repatriation has pointed out that provisions relating to eligibility for payment of sustenance allowance will be extended. Moreover, a married member service pensioner whose wife receives a wife’s service pension will enjoy an increase of 10s. in his rate of pension, bringing it to £6. Provision is made in the Bill for a guardian’s allowance of £2 a week. Eligibility for the rent allowance is t’o be widened and provision is made for a payment of 20s. a week. However, the benefit will be subject to a means test, which is rather unfortunate. Provision for the payment of a funeral benefit’ of £20 for service pensioners is a good thing. But I suggest that these improvements do not in fact meet the basic movement that the Returned Servicemen’s League and members of the Opposition wanted to achieve. As Senator Wright has pointed out, not only the Opposition has wanted to see these improvements effected. I suggest that the difference between the attitude of the Opposition and that of the Government is that we have been prepared to advance our proposals in this chamber and to vote in favour of them whereas the Government has rejected them.
To suggest that the pension rate should be adjusted in accordance with movements in the basic wage seems to me t’o be a very reasonable proposition. If that proposal were adopted, we would always have a just divisor. We know that the general rate pension would then be £7 4s. a week. Of course, it is not that high now. Another vexed problem is the meaning of the onus of proof provision in the legislation. Does it mean, as members of the Parliament have argued, that the onus is on the Repatriation Commission to prove that an illness or disability is not war caused, or does it mean that when an appeal fails an applicant must obtain fresh evidence? We know that unfortunately the latter is the case. Each of us has had the experience of an applicant saying: “ This is what has happened to me. My commanding officer and my associates in the front line are dead. The doctors concerned are dead.” In such cases there is no record on the applicant’s medical card and it is impossible to get supporting evidence. When an applicant goes to his doctor for supporting evidence the doctor might say: “ Yes, it could have happened in that way “. But the doctor is faced with a situation in which what he says may be put before his professional superiors. The result is that quite often doctors are not willing to furnish the evidence, even though they may be convinced that the illness or disability is a result of war service.
What I am saying is. not merely my own opinion. Similar thoughts have been expressed by others. Honorable senators will recall that we put forward a proposition that was advanced by the Returned Servicemen’s League in 1963.- In its 48th annual report, the League stated -
The 48th National Congress reaffirmed that a request should be made for an amendment of Section 47. The amendment to read - “ by insertion of the following paragraph immediately after clause B sub-section (1): 4 In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability ‘.”
We all know that when we canvassed this proposal many legal arguments were advanced. Those of us who were laymen could not speak with much conviction, even though we had always understood that, the provision in the Act really meant that the onus of proof was not oh the applicant. Senator Drury referred to a report on this matter that was submitted in 1918, and again in 1.942 and 1943. When one reads the debates that have been held in this chamber, one finds that everybody has accepted the proposition that the onus of proof is not on the applicant and that where the tribunal could not prove that the disability was not war caused then the applicant should have the benefit of the doubt.
I suggest that the following passage at page 5 of the August 1964 issue of “ Reveille “, which is published by the New South Wales Branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League, expresses the attitude of the ex-servicemen themselves -
Time after time Ministers of Repatriation have refused to give any information as to how these tribunals operate on the ground that the tribunals arc “ quasi-judicial “, therefore there can’ be no interference by the Minister.
Is the Minister right? He, too, is dead wrong.
Let it be made clear that the overriding con”sideration in a democratic country is the intention of the Parliament which brought down the legislation to set up the entire Repatriation system. A study of Federal Parliamentary “ Hansard “ over the period of thirty five years since the appeals system was set up shows beyond any doubt that members of Parliament of all shades of political belief were as one in . their determination to ensure that the onus of proof that a disability claimed was not due to war service was to rest on the Repatriation Commission.
Then the article mentions a specific case. On 1st September I addressed a question on this subject to the Minister for Repatriation, because just prior to that date I had had a number of cases brought to my attention. I asked -
Has the Minister had occasion to discuss with the Repatriation Department cases concerning applicants for disability pensions whose medical records do not record all illnesses, accidents or injuries suffered during the applicants’ service? In the absence of such details on a medical record and in the absence of supporting witnesses, a situation common to many First World War applicants, what weight is given to the applicants’ testimony? Would the Minister examine this matter with a view to avoiding injustice to an applicant?
The Minister replied -
Some cases do come before the determining authorities from time to time in which evidence is lacking, as mentioned by the honorable senator. 1 would like to inform him that in very many of these cases diaries kept by the applicants have been taken as having some bearing on the case. 1 can assure him that in these instances, as in every other instance in appeals or in applications to the Repatriation Department, these applicants are given the benefit of the doubt. I think that, broadly speaking, that answers his question. The honorable senator asked in addition, I think, whether I would have a look at this matter. I think it is adequately covered by the procedures that have been adopted over the years and are still in use. In every case where benefit of the doubt can be given to the applicant; it is given.
We do not agree. Discussions in the Senate have shown that not only members of the Opposition but also supporters of the Government are not satisfied with the present application of the rule - if it is a rule. I do know, as Senator Drury has said, that there have been modifications which have freed the operations of the Act from legalisms. It is spelt out in common language. But what was the intention of the Parliament? I think clearly it was not the intention of the Parliament to place the onus of proof on the applicant for repatriation benefits; but unfortunately, in practice, the onus of proof is still administratively on the applicant, as every honorable senator knows.
These cases come to the notice of supporters of the Government as well as to honorable senators on the Opposition side. In many cases, the applicant tells us that he has been to a doctor but the doctor is hesitant aboutgiving him a statement as to the cause of his disability. It may be that the doctor who treated him, or the medical officer of his unit, has died. Medical evidence is not available. Reference has been made by Senator Drury and Senator Sandford to the overriding circumstances applying to evidence required by an exserviceman and I have had experience of this: Most servicemen are committed to tasks and they do them as well as they can. The very nature of their duties often precludes them from obtaining medical treatment or from reporting to doctors or first aid posts. Conditions on active service often make such attention impossible and in any case the average Australian bloke does not seek attention unless he is critically in need of it.
– Conditions on active service are not conducive to such attention.
– That is true. A man on active service does not have the opportunity to get proper medical attention and frequently where such services are available, they are not used as they should be.
It is most unusual for an ex-serviceman to put on record all the ailments, injuries and treatments he has had on active service with an eye to his post-war civilian life. When his service is over - and this applies to most of us - he gets back to civilian life as quickly as he can and does not apply for repatriation benefits until it is absolutely necessary. Then often he is unable to prove the cause of his disabilities. As Senator Drury has said, it is almost impossible now to prove the cause of disabilities suffered by men who served in the First World War. I have two cases in hand now and I do not think I have a chance in a thousand of proving them because the. evidence is just not available. All honorable senators have had a similar experience.
Other honorable senators have raised a point which seems sound to me: The Repatriation Act has been administered on a pattern which this Government has never tried to interpret properly despite all that has been said in debates in this Parliament. If we do not give some guidance to those concerned, the same pattern will be maintained. Occasionally we have a freak case when the decision goes in favour of the applicant. We had an unusual decision of this sort last year in Queensland. I will not mention any names but I am glad the applicant won her case. However, as Senator Wright has said, it would be better if we had a situation where decisions could be checked so that an applicant could be completely assured of justice.
The view expressed by Senator Wright is not very far from what the Opposition is seeking to establish. There is no good reason why the Senate should not act as it has done in the past and adopt the procedures open to it to set up a committee to inquire into and review these matters. There has been no such review of repatriation since 1942 and one is overdue. I hope that when the Opposition’s amendment is submitted in the committee stage, those honorable senators on the Government side who have seen the defects in the present arrangement will support the Opposition.
I agree with Senator Wright that we have to revise our thinking on repatriation in view of our current overall defence commitments and the possibility of war in the near future. I have already commented on the associated matter of repatriation benefits for national service trainees. This is something the Government must face. Up to the present, it has not met its obligations in this regard. There are two aspects of this matter which are particularly relevant. If national service trainees go to an operational area, of course they will get the benefits of the Repatriation Act. But if by some chance these lads do not go into an operational area although they are close to it, they will be covered only by workers’ compensation and the ordinary social service benefits of the Commonwealth. Many ex-servicemen who had experience of this sort of thing in the Second World War know that the creation of a line dividing those who can get repatriation benefits from those who cannot get them is very bad. Many of those concerned were situated close to each other but some lost their rights because of a geographical line. I hope that supporters of the Government who have expressed views in sympathy with ours will support the Opposition’s amendment so that our proposal may be put into operation.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [9.28]. - I open my comments on the Bill by informing Senator Bishop that the Government initiated a full review of the Repatriation Act in 1950- So he was in error in suggesting that it had not been reviewed since 1942. Senator Sandford has made extensive references to the special rate of pension known as the T.P.I, pension. It is true that this pension is now £14 5s. a week. In addition, the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner is entitled to a pension of £2 0s. 6d., making the total for a couple £16 5s. 6d. a week. A pension is also payable for any children up to a certain age. Quite 50 per cent, of T.P.I, pensioners are getting £19 a week. I admit that this is subject to a means test but a great number of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners who have married are getting the benefit of £19 a week. In addition, there are a lot of other privileges which they get which have not been mentioned at all.
I would like to put before the Senate some of the benefits received by totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. For instance, they can get a recreation transport allowance which amounts to £10 a month. That is payable to those people who are so incapacitated that they cannot get about very much. It is given to them so that they can get out of their homes. They also get home nursing where it is considered necessary. A gift car is given to one section, the paraplegics, who are paralysed from the waist down. Ownership of the gift car is not held by the Government. It is the pensioner’s car and when it is worn out he can get a new one. I think that is a very great benefit to that type of person.
– That is given only to a small section of special pensioners though, is it not?
– That is admitted; but they are all looked after. In this debate on the Repatriation Bill tonight it has been said that the single totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner receives only £14 5s. a week and a married T.P.I, pensioner, £16 5s. 6d. I would say that all T.P.I, pensioners are getting £19 a week or more. I admit that the word “ more “ is related to the fact that many of them have incomes of their own. If they have more than £19 a week they are subject to the means test. The sum of £19 is quite a good amount, particularly taking into account the benefits that they also receive. They receive £10 a month for running the gift car to which I referred. That sum is for petrol and maintenance. So I think that they are looked after very well.
I want to refer, now, to the 100 per cent, pensioner. On paper, that pensioner gets £6 a week but, subject to a means test, he can obtain up to £9 10s. a week. Many of them are subject to the means test. For a married couple, the 100 per cent, pension is, subject to a means test, £17 0s. 6d. a week. Both the 100 per cent, pensioner and the T.P.I, pensioner receive the benefit of the children’s allowance. They also get the full benefits of the children’s education scheme. This scheme provides for children to be taken right through their education to a university at the expense of the Repatriation Department. A number of people who benefited from this scheme now have good positions - even big positions - in Australia and abroad. From the time their fathers became incapacitated, such children have been taken right through to the university. When we look into repatriation we find that a great deal more has been done than honorable senators have given a thought to. As I said, a married couple can, subject to a means test, receive up to £17 0s. 6d. a week. A war widow, subject to a means test, can receive up to £9 10s., the same as a 100 per cent, pensioner.
– How does a war widow receive £9 10s.?
– She receives a basic pension of £6 and £3 10s. comes from the-
– The domestic allowance?
– I only interrupted because you said that some senators had not given these things a lot of thought. I think that some of us have given a lot of thought to them.
– Yes; but not as much as I have. I would like to say a few words about hospitalisation. At the present time, the Repatriation Department provides hospitalisation to the totally and permanently incapacitated, to widows and their children, to the 100 per cent, pensioners and to service pensioners. That takes in a tremendous number of people whom we might say are genuinely underdogs. They have just the ordinary service pension to live on. For some years past, they have been able to go into any repatriation hospital in Australia and receive exactly the same facilities as the T.P.I, pensioner or the 100 per cent, pensioner. That has made a tremendous difference to them. I was Minister for Repatriation when the relevant provision was brought in. Previously I had been getting up to 30 or 40 letters a week from service pensioners in different parts of Australia saying that they were unable to get into any hospital. After the Government introduced the scheme enabling them to use facilities at repatriation hospitals I did not receive another letter from service pensioners to this effect. Former nurses who served in the 1914-18 war also have the benefit of the use of repatriation hospitals throughout Australia. They were not a very large group but they were a group which the Government thought it was only right should be entitled to repatriation hospital facilities for the work they had done at Gallipoli, France, Egypt and other places.
I think other honorable senators have spoken on the intermediate pension. I have thought for a long time that because of the wide gulf between the service pension of £6 and the T.P.I, pension of £14 5s. the necessity existed for an intermediate pension but when I was Minister for Repatriation I could not find any solution to the problem. I am very pleased that provision has now been made for an intermediate pension of £10 2s. 6d. a week. This will fill a great need. On many occasions I have interviewed ex-servicemen who have not been sufficiently disabled to receive the T.P.I, pension but have not been able to manage on the 100 per cent, pension. They may be comparatively well for a couple of weeks or even a month at a time but then they become ill again. The intermediate pension will make a big difference to them. It will give them a good feeling because they will realise that the Government is doing all that it’ can to look after them.
I notice that after 1st January next the wives and children of ex-servicemen who are receiving a service pension, in addition to the T.P.I, or special, rate pension, will come within the provisions of the pensioner medical service. For some years the wives of T.P.I, pensioners have been asking for the social service benefits which flow from the pensioner medical service. The new provision is a great step forward although it is not all that they have sought. They have asked that the wives of all T.P.I, pensioners be included in the pensioner medical scheme. The Bill provides that only the wives and children of service pensioners who receive the T.P.I. pension will be included: However, this means that those in greatest need are receiving first consideration. I am very pleased that this new benefit will come into operation on 1st January 1966.
The Bill contains quite a number of benefits which we have not been able to give to returned servicemen before now. However, our ex-servicemen are receiving some new benefit each year and I think that it is better to proceed in this way than to increase the financial benefits already in the Repatriation Act. When I was Minister for Repatriation I always tried to ensure that those who were down and out received consideration and assistance. For some years, service pensioners have received all their medical benefits through the repatriation system. This has made a tremendous difference to them because they have very little income apart from the pension.
I am very pleased with the provisions of this Bill, particularly that which brings the wives and children of - service and T.P.I, pensioners within the ambit of the pensioner medical scheme as from 1st January next year.
– I think we are all agreed that the matter of repatriation pensions is above party political considerations. I agree entirely with Senator Wright that repatriation pensions are in a class distinct and separate from any- other form of social service. They are something which the community contributes to those who have been maimed and whose health has been destroyed or impaired as a result of war effort, service and sacrifice in the interests of this’ country and for the preservation of the liberty and freedom which a democracy alone gives. I think we are all agreed also that the best possible should be done in the field of repatriation benefits.
In our desire to obtain the maximum for the beneficiaries under the repatriation system I do not think we can afford to be unappreciative of what this Bill contains. It will effect many commendable additions to and improvements in the legislation. That does not necessarily mean that I am content with all that has been done. Far from it. Although I would prefer to see this Bill do a great deal more than it has done, I am nevertheless appreciative of the steps that have been taken.
The deficiency that stands out clearest is the deterioration in the value of pensions, whether repatriation pensions or social service pensions. That is not good. We are all conscious of the fact that the cost of living and the cost of services are increasing day by day, and those who are charged with the responsibility of administering the Repatriation Act should be aware of the necessity to maintain the value of pensions. I think that is the most prominent deficiency in the legislation with which we are now dealing.
I have come into possession of the 1965 pension plan which has been prepared, I understand, by the Returned Servicemen’s League. I believe it is a modest and well balanced submission. It is not extravagant in its demands or requests. The plan stresses, first, the necessity of maintaining the value of the pension, with which I am wholeheartedly in accord. It also deals with special pensions and shows the deterioration that has taken place in this connection over the years. I urge the Minister to take an early opportunity to rectify the position. At all costs let us maintain the value of the pension that is being paid to this well deserving section of our community. This plan, which has been prepared, I repeat, by the Returned Servicemen’s League is a modest claim and one that I believe could have been implemented by the Minister. I must confess I was rather surprised that the League had not a greater number of demands than those contained in this document.
The question of the onus of proof seems to me to be the most contentious and disturbing facet of our repatriation administration. I think that we who are representatives of the people, who come into contact with ex-service personnel and who have dealings with the Repatriation Department, see cases in which the onus is placed more or less on the individual to prove to the authorities that his condition of health is the result of war service. I refer particularly to cases in the cardiac category, such as when a medical tribunal has said that the cardiac condition of an applicant is not due to war service. I am only a layman, but I venture the opinion, particularly after having discussed this matter with many members of the medical profession, that in the case of an aged ex-serviceman of the First World War it is very difficult for medical men to determine whether or not his cardiac condition is due to war service. I believe that in such cases these people are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. As Senator Wright pointed out, their numbers are rapidly diminishing. Today, 50 years after the landing at Gallipoli, some of these people are unsuccessfully making applications for a war pension. I think that we could with advantage err on the side of generosity and leniency as a token of our appreciation of and gratitude for the service that they rendered to Australia at a time when our history was being written.
Reference has also been made to the admission of First World War diggers to our repatriation hospitals. Surely we are not going to quibble about a service such as that. At least in Queensland they can obtain free hospitalisation, which is not available to diggers in any other State of the Commonwealth. If they are not admitted to a repatriation hospital in Queensland, they can go to the Brisbane (General) Hospital and receive first class service free of charge. That is something of which we are very proud. I am sure that ex-servicemen who find that they are unable to gain admission to a repatriation hospital also are appreciative of that service. I do not think that the Minister and his officers are niggardly in these matters. I give them credit for being just as conscious of the necessity to help these people as am I or any other honorable senator who has spoken in this debate.
In conclusion, I appeal to the Minister and his officers to do something soon to maintain the value of the pension. That seems to be the major consideration and concern of the people who are in receipt of pensions. Their pensions are depreciating in value because of the ever increasing cost of living and of services. It can be said that the same factors also affect social service payments generally, but let us confine ourselves for the time being to the matter of repatriation pensions. We should do what we can to have them restored to their true value.
– The Bill before the Senate relates to amendments to the Repatriation Act. It concerns the welfare of the people who have been, in one way or another, debilitated and disabled by their war service. Most honorable senators who have spoken to this measure have shown concern for the welfare of ex. servicemen. I consider that the improvements or alterations to the Act are most acceptable. We on this side of the chamber agree that, not only are the amendments that have been put forward by the Government acceptable, but also are overdue. We must bear in mind that it is an abiding responsibility of this Parliament to keep abreast of the needs of these people who are our concern. We have made promises to them which must be honoured.
One of the novel sections of the Bill that we have before us - and I use the word “ novel “ in the sense of newness - relates to the category of war pension to be known as the intermediate rate. It will cater for the special needs of war pensioners who, although not so disabled as to qualify for the special rate of pension payable to the totally and permanently incapacitated, are seriously disabled because of war caused incapacity to the extent that they are able only to work part time or intermittently and cannot earn a living. This is new ground. I believe that it is a breakthrough in the thinking of this Government which, after all, has occupied the Treasury bench during the evolutionary process of this’ so-called affluent society.
I am pleased to see that the Government is thinking along the lines that we cannot put percentages on disabilities. After all, if a person is genuinely sick he is a liability in the community until he recuperates and takes his place with all his self-respect and dignity in the community. We have been inclined to leave it to mathematicians to work out percentages and to say whether a man is 75 per cent, well or 25 per cent. sick. I believe that the provision of an intermediate rate will be a great breakthrough and will be the forerunner of improvements in invalid pensions in the general social services field. Invalids whose incapacity is not estimated to be 80 or 85 per cent, have to eke out an existence because they do not qualify for social service benefits. The principle embodied in the proposed intermediate rate repatriation pension should be applied to them. I am very pleased indeed with the proposed provision, and we support it.
An advance in the thinking of the Government is evident in the proposal that provisions relating to eligibility for payment of the sustenance allowance at the equivalent of the special rate of pension will be extended to ex-servicemen who are prevented from following their usual occupations because of the requirements of outpatient treatment. A person who receives outpatient treatment is required to be absent from his place of employment but he has to conduct his normal life at home. It’ is the responsibility of the Repatriation Department, the Government and the Parliament to make provision for the welfare of such exservicemen. The provision relating to medical, treatment for the children of war widows up to the age of 21 and for student children reflects credit on the Government.
We have heard from Government supporters the annual praise of repatriation services and rationalisation of the position of ex-servicemen, but as has been said, particularly by Senator Sandford, who led for the Opposition in this debate, we are not getting down to the fundamentals of our responsibilities to ex-servicemen. A passage from the 49th annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia under the heading: “R.S.L. Concerned at Budget Results” reads -
Concern and disappointment were expressed throughout the R.S.L. at the inadequacy of the increase granted in the Budget to war and service pensioners.
In a press statement issued at the time the National President said that the drift in pension values had been particularly marked in the case of dependants where no increases had been granted since 1952. I’t had been hoped, said Mr. Lee, that an opportunity would have been taken in this Budget to correct this trend, lt was clear, he said, that more determined efforts were necessary by the League generally to secure improvements in a large range of pension rates and allowances.
The Auditor-General’s report for the year ended 30th June 1965 tabulates, at page 95, the annual appropriations for the Repatriation Department. Under “ Administrative “, an amount of £4,503,329 was appropriated in 1963-64 and an amount of £4,815,484 was appropriated in 1964-65. This represented an increase of £312,155. The amount appropriated in respect of repatriation hospitals and other institutions increased by £1,153,281, from £9,643,448 to £10,796,729. However the increase in relation to war and service pensions and allowances was only £131,077. This was over the whole range of pensions and allowances. Throughout the Budget debate we have discussed increases in the cost of living. Government supporters and Opposition senators have repeatedly stressed the increasing cost of living and the need for adjustments to be made. The whole of the trade union movement is behind the move for closer attention by economists to the needs of ordinary wage earners.
The whole fabric of our democratic society is based on the family unit. A few years ago a family was supposed to be able to live in relative comfort on the basic wage, but today unless the wife goes out to work the family lives more or less on the breadline. The Vernon report refers to the need for more married women to go out to work. We are departing from the old basis of the man, in his pride, being the family provider. We are fast reaching an economy in which the man and his wife have to share responsibility for paying the weekly bills. It cannot be contradicted that the pressure is on the wife to go out to work. Unless she does so, the extras that we claim to the world are ours in an affluent society - refrigerator, washing machine, pop-up toaster, motor car, and little things about the house - are being brought into the home by the wife. What is the cost to our society? That is a matter that must be pondered very deeply by us all.
Many of the ex-servicemen whom we are considering tonight have disabilities that prevent them from having any other source of income. Their wives, who have been devoted and beloved companions over the years of their adversity, just cannot leave them to go out to work to obtain these things. A new approach is necessary to the payment of what is justly due to exservicemen so that they may obtain the advantages that a modern community can give them. As I have said, the amount appropriated for war and services pensions and allowances increased in one year by only £131,077 to a total of £89,656,418. Administration cost £312,155 more, repatriation hospitals and other institutions £1,513,280 more, and other repatriation benefits £688,175 more, yet the annual increase in expenditure on war and service pensions and allowances was £131,077. To me, this illustrates the great need for a complete review to be made of the whole repatriation benefits system. It is for that reason that we propose to move an amendment to this legislation, seeking the appointment of a joint select committee on repatriation.
It. seems to take a long time for the Opposition’s views to penetrate the mind of the Government but in this, as in so many other things, if we persevere long enough we will prevail in the end. We have seen many things that we have advocated - and in which we have been violently opposed by the Government - eventually incorporated into legislation. It seems to be the lot of the Australian Labour Party to initiate basic social legislation and see the results of its advocacy put into practice by the Government. But that is part of life, and we have to put up with it. We have to persevere with these things. But we feel that the time is overdue when there should be a complete review of the community’s whole approach to repatriation. It is for that reason that we propose to move an amendment, at the Committee stage, with a view to the setting up of a joint select committee on repatriation.
Another important amendment that we propose to move relates to the admissibility of cancer as a war caused disability. Over the past years I have expressed my views about diagnosing cancer and the conflict of one doctor’s views with those of another, as well as the lack of knowledge of the causes of cancer. The fact is that when men who have served their country are stricken with this scourge they can be left aside by the community and there is great cost involved in their hospitalisation. The admissibility of cancer as a war caused complaint could be of great advantage to exservicemen suffering from the disease. Because of the element of doubt about its cause and the provision in the Repatriation Act stating that the onus of proof shall rest with the Department, I believe the time is long overdue when the Government should accept this proposal, which we have put forward over the years. The Returned Servicemen’s League has dealt with this matter in its annual reports and has passed resolutions to the effect that cancer, mental illness, bronchitis, emphysema and multiple sclerosis should be automatically accepted as war caused complaints. AH these matters, which have been continually pressed by the League have also been advocated by the Australian Labour Party and they are matters which should be the subject of a complete and independent review.
I have before me the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the year 1964-65 which, at page 48, deals with “comparative in-patient treatment of exservicemen at State mental institutions”. It is rather significant that the number of inpatients treated at State mental institutions has remained fairly stable over the years. In 1957, 947 in-patients were treated at State mental institutions. In 1958 the inpatients numbered 980; in 1959, 966; in 1960, 920; 1961, 938 and, this year 870. The picture is the same for both world wars. In 1957 there were 480 in-patients from the 1914-18 war and last year the number was 283. There were 444 in-patients from the 1939-45 war in 1957 and in this current year the number is 573. The total, as I have said, is 870 for 1965. These people are the cast-offs of our repatriation system inasmuch as it does not accept continuing responsibility for their welfare but farms them out to the State mental institutions. This is not good enough because many of these people- as has been said before in this Parliament - are very sick. They may not have an arm or a leg missing and they may hot have lost their sight, but they , have lost one of the most precious things a- human being can have - stability of mind. Because the balance of their minds is upset they have a greater illness than any physical illness.
Under the heading “ Trusts and Other Funds Administered by the Department”, the report of .the Repatriation Commission shows that in 932 cases war pensions were retained by the Commission under section 49 of the Repatriation Act. Incidentally, there were 933 cases receiving in-patient treatment in State mental institutions in 1964. At 30th June 1965, the total of trust funds under section 49 was £5,014,146, comprising £4,839,960 in securities and £174,186 in cash. My point is that the Repatriation Department does not make provision for these people if and when they are discharged from mental institutions although a trust fund of over £5 million is held for them. It would be one of the duties of a joint select committee of this Parliament, if it were appointed, to ascertain how these trust funds could be invested through the Repatriation Department in order to make certain that these mentally ill people- I think the phrase in the Services is “ troppo “ - whose condition is hard to define as periods of mental health may alternate with periods of mental sickness, are properly cared for.
It has been pointed out by other members of this Parliament that such a man may be discharged from a State mental asylum on Monday morning and have nowhere to go. He receives a small amount of money from the Department and seeks some escape from his troubles. The next thing is that he is arrested, put in gaol and then sent back to the mental institution. There are probably only 1.000 of these people in the community. However, someone has to speak up for them and this Parliament should give authority to the Repatriation Department to see what can be done to overcome this very grave social problem.
A number of matters have been raised by other speakers in this debate. The Opposition has pressed continually for amendments to the Repatriation Act. We are hopeful that this year the Government will heed the voice of the Returned Servicemen’s’ League which has stressed its disappointment at . the inadequacy of the increases in benefits.
The provision in the repatriation legislation in respect of cancer needs attention. The Opposition would also like to draw attention to the entitlement of sections of the forces who have served in the front line but for whom no. proper provision exists in the Repatriation Act. I refer to members of the Salvation Army. Those of us who have served in the front line where the war was at its hottest cannot but admit that wherever there was need for comfort - either physical or spiritual - the Salvation Army was there. During the years, through war and peace, the Salvation Army has done a tremendous Job. A great many people who have sustained disabilities because of their service in wartime have not beenprovided for effectively in the Repatriation Act. Provision is made for compensation to be paid in special circumstances to members of such organisations as the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Australian Comforts Fund and canteen employees in the front line. The Salvation Army, too, should be given consideration; The Opposition believes that a complete review should be made of the repatriation services.
The Repatriation Department administers the Act as it comes to it with a great deal of sympathy. Officers of the Department understand the needs of the diggers. I am quite certain that the amendment relating to the intermediate pension will solve a lot. of problems that have faced exservicemen over the years. I pay a tribute to officers of the Repatriation Department for the consideration, sympathy and courtesy they extend to people who have dealings with them. As other speakers have said in debates on repatriation matters, we have a continuing responsibility towards exservicemen. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission may. award increases in the basic wage after considering aspects of the economy. Noted economists express their views and other factors operate to help the community ride the wave of rising costs and inflation. Adjustments are made to wages, but only in this Parliament can the interests of exservicemen be protected and preserved. Everyone who has participated in this debate and everyone who has the interests of exservicemen at heart will remember that it is only here that justice can be meted out to those who so readily deserve compensation from the community. They have given part of their health, strength and loyalty to protect the society which we may enjoy.
– I have no comments to make in respect of pensions for returned servicemen. I believe that the Government is doing all that it can in that field. I quite agree with previous speakers in this debate that the percentage relationship of repatriation pensions to the basic wage should be maintained at the level of the past. However, it seems to me that on medical matters honorable senators speak more emotionally than factually. That is why the Senate is doing a disservice to itself and making itself appear completely ridiculous in the eyes of 95 per cent. - perhaps 98 per cent. - of the medical profession. To keep on saying that servicemen are suffering from cancer due to war .service is so much tommy rot and has no basis whatever in fact.
Senator O’Byrne also referred to multiple sclerosis, mental illness and emphysema. Why not be honest about it and say that the Opposition’s aim is that all exservicemen should get pensions for all illnesses which can occur in civilian life? The medical disabilities referred to do not occur solely because of war service. If honorable senators who support the claim that cancer should be pensionable can show that the percentage of cancers in returned servicemen is greater than the percentage of cancers in the population as a whole, they will have a case. But I am afraid that they cannot show that to be so. They would need statistical evidence that the percentage of cancer differs in the two groups, but there is not that difference. In other words, the disease may be contracted by people irrespective of whether they have war service or not. My friend, Senator O’Byrne, made a rather emotional reference to mental illness. I am afraid that his theory does not hold water. Today, mental illness is a sickness.
– I would like to ask the honorable senator a question before he leaves the subject of cancer. If a returned servicemen said that he had a trauma inflicted upon him during war service and a cancer resulted, would the medical profession accept it as a probable inference-
– This is a typical lay attitude. I am not trying to be superior, but the honorable senator’s question is typical of those directed to the medical profession. It is common knowledge that nearly every woman who suffers from breast cancer will say to her doctor that she has had a trauma - an accident to her breast in the past. A lump has occurred and she believes that the cancer is therefore due to the trauma. That is not so. The trauma brings to the notice of the woman that she has a pain in her breast. She feels it, rubs it, and notices that there is a lump. It has nothing to do with the trauma. Earlier this evening a similar proposition was put to me. The case was put that, during a war, a serviceman was hit in the stomach and 20 years later got cancer. Such a cancer has nothing whatever to do with the hit received during war service. The stomach was not injured at the time.
– Does the honorable senator know what causes cancer?
– No. Does Senator Wright?
– No. But how can the honorable senator say, therefore, that the hit in the stomach did not cause cancer?
– If the cause is not known, every disease which is noninfectious may be included in the category of complaints due to war service.
– The honorable senator is in trouble with the onus of proof provision.
– Not at all, because the answer is in what I have just said. If one could prove that the incidence of cancer in returned soldiers is greater than in the population as a whole, then one would have an answer.
– That is not an argument. .
– It is.
– How does the honorable senator apply this in an individual case?
– If 1 may carry on with my speech, I would like to do so.
– The honorable senator does not know what is the origin of cancer.
– The origin of cancer has nothing whatever to do with the subject before the Senate. If honorable senators want to add cancer to the list of diseases that may be regarded as being war caused, they must add all the other diseases, too. Let honorable senators come out into the open. They should not hide behind the fact that because we do not know the cause of cancer we should whip in cancer. They might as well say: “ Let us whip in multiple sclerosis “, because we do not know the cause of that disease. Nor do we know the cause of emphysema.
– Tuberculosis has been accepted.
– Do not be childish. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease and we know the cause of it.
– How does the honorable senator know of the connection with war service?
– I am not interested in that one. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease, and anything that can be done to stamp out an infectious disease such as that should be done. I do not care whether it is done for the repatriation applicant or the civilian.
– The honorable senator is getting away from the argument.
– I will give the other reason. It is a well known fact that, if one is run down, one is more likely to contract tuberculosis. I think that is the basis upon which provision for this disease has crept into the Act, and I am quite happy for that provision to be contained in the Act. But to say that a man suffered an injury 20 years ago, that he has since developed cancer and that it is due to the trauma is just sheer nonsense. That is all one can say about it
The other matter I want to mention Is mental health. Senator O’Byrne referred to this matter. One is still back in the dark ages if he regards mental illness as being different from physical illness. They are the same; they are both illnesses. I did not quite understand Senator O’Byrne’s argument about the man who left a State institution and was arrested. What was he arrested for? I do not know what he was arrested for. He must have done something. Then he was supposed to have gone back into the mental institution. That sort of thing does not happen nowadays. If we could be told why these people are arrested, we might be able to solve the problem.
– They are troppo drunks. They are arrested because they are troppo, and they go back into the institution.
– No, they are not troppo; they are drunks.
– What about the fellow who is out on leave?
– What does the honorable senator mean by “ on leave “? They get drunk. Does the honorable senator mean to say that it is because they are mentally ill? I bet some members of this House get drunk at times. Are they mentally ill? I think honorable senators are carrying the matter a bit too far. Most people who leave mental hospitals have social workers to look after them. All this business about people going out into the world and not having friends does not hold water. Such people evidently did not have friends before they went in. So the status quo has been maintained. I repeat that when such people leave a mental institution there are social workers to look after them. I do not think that the picture given to us was quite accurate.
I come now to the suggestion that all exservicemen of the South African war and the 1914-18 war should have repatriation medical treatment for any illness. Why not extend this benefit to everybody and not confine it to one group? Obviously we would be altering our whole concept of repatriation if we were to say that all people who have been to a war are entitled to treatment for all diseases. I just wanted to make my position clear in regard to this.
– Under a Labour government they were all entitled to free medical treatment.
– Unfortunately, we in Tasmania still cannot give it to them. Queensland won a point; she stuck out. That State had a better Minister for Health than had any other State. I just wanted to say that I cannot accept the medical reasons that have been advanced for changing the Repatriation Act.
– in reply - I should like to thank the Senate for the manner in which the debate has been conducted. I have been very pleased to note that everybody has accepted the subject of the debate as being above party politics. 1 am very grateful for that. The new provisions have been aired fairly extensively. I intend to reply as briefly as I can to some of the points that have been raised. I suppose I would have been regarded as being a good Minister for Repatriation if I had placed before the Senate a bill that provided for the extensive benefits that were sought in the pensions plan of the Returned Servicemen’s League. I should have been very happy to do that, but, as we all realise, the Government must take account of other considerations when deciding how much money can be made available for this purpose. lt was said a little while ago that pounds, shillings and pence should not enter into a consideration of repatriation matters. There is not very much logic in that statement, because it is quite obvious that it is not a question of what we would like to do but what we can do. What we have done on this occasion has been to give benefits to the people who we thought needed them most I repeat that I should like to have made provision for additional benefits, but it was not possible to do so. This legislation will effect an improvement in repatriation benefits. That is the pattern that has been followed over the years. I hope that that improvement will continue. While I have the honour to administer the repatriation portfolio, one of my tasks will be to see what I can do to effect a continuing improvement of the legislation.
As Senator Sandford was the first speaker, 1 shall deal with some of his comments. He referred to delay in the hearing of appeals. I admit that unfortunately, at the moment, there is delay in the hearing of appeals that are submitted to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. The chairman of the Repatriation Commission and I have had some discussions on this matter and we hope to be able to take action within the next few months that should tend to overcome the delay. The delay is not the fault of the tribunals themselves. They are hearing about 10,000 appeals per annum. Perhaps they could hear a few more, but I am not sure about that. The plain fact is that the tribunals are receiving more appeals than they are physically capable of hearing. However, as 1 have said, we do hope to be able to rectify the position within the next few months.
The honorable senator referred also to a number of lapsed cases. Not all of these cases lapse because people become tired of waiting to have them heard. Senator Sandford and other honorable senators have stated that the tribunals do not give reasons for their decisions. I hope the time will not come when they do. 1 do not think that such a procedure would be in the best interests of the appellant, the tribunal, the Repatriation Department or anybody else. The decision is made after all the evidence has’ been examined. Most honorable senators know the procedure as well as I do. The tribunals have before them a stack of files and are presented with the best medical advice that can be obtained. In most instances an advocate is present, in addition to the appellant himself, to assist him to get what he is applying for. I have spoken to many of these advocates and have noted that their attitude has been different to that of some honorable senators who are present here : tonight. They say that the benefit of the doubt is given to the appellant, and I am firmly convinced that it is.
Honorable senators can bring up the odd case or two in which the appellant is not satisfied, but we do not hear about the satisfied cases. Last year 17,021 claims were accepted. Of the claims that went to the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and the Commission, 10,350 were allowed. Yet honorable senators say they know of two or three cases in which the appellant was not satisfied. It is only to be expected that there will be some cases in which the applicant believes that he has not been given a fair go. But 1 am satisfied in my mind that the benefit of the doubt is given to the appellant. That’ is the way it should be, and I have made it very clear that that is the way I personally want it to be.
Reference has been made to the repatriation hospitals. I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to extend a sincere invitation to all honorable senators to pay a visit to any of our repatriation hospitals. -The administrators of the hospitals will be glad to see any honorable senators and I am sure the visits will be mutually beneficial to patients and visitors.
Senator Marriott praised our repatriation hospitals and rightly so. I have seen all of them twice except those in South Australia which I have visited once. They are well staffed and well conducted. Those in Victoria are not as well staffed as we would wish, as I said in the Senate recently, but I hope that action which is now being taken will overcome the difficulties there. The treatment and the nursing are as good as can be provided. There is a spirit of dedication, not only among the nursing sisters and senior trainees but also among those who are just starting their training.
Senator Marriott said that because of defence commitments the Government had not provided as much as we would like to see in the way of repatriation facilities and benefits. These commitments are paramount. In common with other honorable senators, I had been castigating the Government for some time for not doing enough in the way of defence. Now something more is being done and we have to realise that while we are meeting big defence commitments, we must have less money, manpower and materials for other purposes.
Reference has been made to the intermediate rate of pension. I am very pleased with this important innovation. It came about at this stage not so much because of claims by ex-servicemen’s organisations but as the result of the work of officers of the Repatriation Commission. I for one saw the benefits of it and decided to go all out for it. We have been very fortunate to get this new rate of pension. We might have some trouble with it at first but I do not anticipate any great difficulties as the application of the new rate of pension should be fairly simple. Senator Wright asked for further details of this provision. As he correctly stated, the general rate of pension is £6 a week. The special rate of pension provided for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen is £14 5s. Now we have the intermediate rate of £10 2s. 6d. between the other two rates of pension.
I emphasise that it is not always in the best interests of ex-service men and women to declare them T.P.I, pensioners. Often it has the psychological effect of convincing them that they are not good for anything any more. Consequently, sometimes they are inclined to let things slide. If they can be encouraged to do some work they are benefited mentally and physically. That is one of the reasons why we think the new intermediate rate is justified. A man on the 100 per cent, rate of £6 a week might not be capable of doing sufficient work to enable him to make a decent wage even though he works to the limits of his physical capacity. We envisage that the intermediate rate of £10 2s. 6d. will go to the man who is capable of doing two or three days work a week. He will then have a reasonable income without the dreadful feeling that he is finished, and he will feel that he has a place in the general scheme of things. This is important.
Senator Drury referred to the onus of proof. I believe that I have dealt fully with that question. He also asked what the additional repatriation benefits would cost this year. Senator Wright gave the correct figure of £1.15 million in a full year. As I said earlier, I am not satisfied with the provisions for repatriation in Australia. I do not think any of us are satisfied with them. But this measure is evidence that we are trying to improve the provisions and, even if the Bill does not contain as much as many would like to see, it shows that the Government is constantly trying to improve benefits for ex-service men and women.
Senator Sir Walter Cooper mentioned additional benefits and cited some figures correctly. The new rate of service pension is £6 a week and £3 for the wife. A payment of 15s. will be made for the first child and 2s. 6d. each for the second and subsequent children but there will also be a payment directly to the pensioner of 15s. each in respect of the second and subsequent children. These amounts add up to quite a tidy sum. The full details are given in the summary attached to the second reading speech.
Senator Sir Walter Cooper has been associated with repatriation for a long time and was formerly Minister for Repatriation. He is one of those who are responsible for the Repatriation Act being as good as it is. The Act could not be as good either without the co-operation and assistance of the exservice men’s and women’s associations. I have been very pleased with the cooperation and assistance I have had since I became Minister for Repatriation and I shall work for continued mutual assistance. - Senator O’Byrne pointed to a reduction in the amount paid in repatriation benefits in one year. The explanation is that there was one less pension payment in that year amounting to £4,800,000. The honorable senator also referred to trust funds. These are held for those suffering from mental illness but when they are discharged their money is returned to them with accumulated interest. In one case the amount held in trust is £10,000 and other patients have quite large amounts to their credit.
– Are they in State institutions?
– Some of our people are in State institutions and some are in our own institutions. I know of some people who are fit and well enough to leave these places but they just do not want to go. They have got into a way of life. They feel they are well looked after and apparently they do not want the responsibility of making their own way outside. They prefer to be with those they know and in the conditions to which they have become accustomed. There are many who feel that way and not just a few.
Senator Turnbull and Senator O’Byrne spoke of the amendments that have been foreshadowed. They will be considered in the committee stage and I will not deal with them now. I do not know of anything else I want to cover in closing the second reading debate. No doubt there will be an opportunity to discuss other aspects of repatriation in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 2a.
– I move -
After clause 2, insert the following new clause - “2a. After section twenty-one of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted -
Part IIa. - Joint Committee on Repatriation.
– (1.) As soon as conveniently practicable after the commencement of this Part, a Joint Committee of nine members of the Parliament, to be called the Joint Committee on Repatriation, shall be appointed according to the practice of the Parliament with reference to the appointment of members to serve on Joint Committees of both Houses of the Parliament. (2.) Three of the members of the Committee shall be members of and appointed by the Senate, and six of the members of the Committee shall be members of and appointed by the House of Representatives. 22a. The members of the Committee shall hold office as a Joint Committee until the House of Representatives for the time being expires by dissolution or effluxion of time. 22b. - (1.) Any member of the Committee may resign his seat on the Committee by writing under his hand addressed to the President of the Senate if he be a Senator, or to the Speaker of the House of Representatives if he be a member of the House of Representatives. (2.) The seat of any member of the Committee shall be deemed to have become vacant if he ceases to be a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives (as the case may be). 22c. Where the seat of any member of the Committee becomes vacant, it shall be filled by appointment according to the practice referred to in section twenty-two of this Act within fifteen sitting days after the happening of the vacancy if the House of the Parliament of which he is a member is then sitting, or, if not, then within fifteen sitting days after the next meeting of that House. 22d. There shall be a Chairman and a ViceChairman of the Committee, who shall be elected by the members of the Committee at their first meeting, or as soon thereafter as is practicable. 22b. At any meeting of. the “Committee -
Mr. Chairman, in moving this amendment I realise that it is similar to an amendment which the Opposition moved last year. It is moved by the Opposition for the express purpose of having the whole of the ramifications of the Repatriation Department examined. The Opposition is not complaining. We are not saying what should be done or what should not be done. But surely the Government and all senators on both sides of the chamber must admit, that there are anomalies in the Repatriation Act and, consequently, in the administration of the Act. There is a number of matters I could mention, such as the onus of proof, and these will be mentioned at a later stage to the Committee.
Surely the Government cannot object to the appointment of a joint committee to examine the ramifications of the Repatriation Act. Surely the Government is not going to sit complacently by and say that the Act is perfect; that it cannot be improved; that there are no anomalies and no injustices; that everything is perfect and as it should be. Therefore, the Government must accept this amendment to appoint this joint committee on repatriation. Such a committee cannot do any harm. It could be a great help to the Government. It could point out to the Government where improvements in the Act could be made, even concerning matters that are not touched in these debates. There may be improvements that a joint committee could discover if it were given the opportunity of going into the question of repatriation generally.
A Labour government set up a committee similar to that which is now proposed in, I think, 1942 or 1943. It was of inestimable value to the government of the day. I suggest that if the Government in its wisdom and in its sanity - I hope it still has a little left - approves of this amendment it will have the assistance of members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, sitting on a joint committee, to examine the whole ramifications of the Repatriation Act and to recommend to the Government any improvements that it considers could and should be carried out in repatriation administration generally.
There are many matters to which I could refer now but I will save my remarks on those until the specific amendments come before the Committee. I want to impress upon the Government that the Opposition is moving this amendment in all sincerity. We appeal to the Government to realise that it cannot do any harm. All such a committee could do would be to gain the services of men from both Houses of the Parliament with some idea and some knowledge of the operations of the Repatriation Act and the ramifications of the Repatriation Department. The Government will have nothing to fear because it will have a majority on the committee. I am sure that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) would welcome the appointment of the committee because, as I have said, it could go into the whole of the ramifications of the Act. It could point out anomalies that exist. It could suggest remedies and be of inestimable value to the Government. Such a move would meet with the approval of all ex-service organisations in Australia because, as I said earlier, there are anomalies and defects in the administration of the Repatriation Act. There is the question of the onus of proof, and there are many other matters to which it could give attention.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave tha chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly) -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laught). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I desire to raise the matter of air fare increases by the two major airlines in Australia. I regret that I must raise this matter at this time but I will have no other opportunity to do so in view of what is more or less an undertaking given to the Government that three bills will be passed before the Senate adjourns tomorrow. If I left this matter until then we would probably be here into the early hours of Friday morning and I, for one, would not wish that to happen.
According to reports, both TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. are seeking to increase air fares by 5 per cent. From the information that I have been able to obtain, I believe the reports to be true. Admittedly, before air fares can be raised the sanction of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) must be obtained. Provision is made for this in regulation 106 made under the Air Navigation Act. This brings the matter squarely before the Minister. It is his responsibility to decide the question. I wish to show that there is no need for the two airlines to increase fares. I shall have to base my argument on the figures contained in the 1963-64 report of the Australian National Airlines Commission because, for some reason, the Commission is one of the most tardy of all such bodies in submitting its reports to the Parliament and the report for 1964-65 has not yet been received.
I must say that the Minister has tried to help us. If we cannot obtain a printed copy of the report, let us hope that my information is correct that before the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation are discussed by the Senate we shall have the necessary information in another form. I cannot understand the reason for the Commission’s tardiness. I should think that any body would be able to submit its annual report within three months after the end of the financial year. In the circumstances, the figures which I propose to cite and the arguments which I shall raise in my case against the rapaciousness, may I call it, of both airlines in the matter of fares, are based on the operations of T.A.A. for the year 1963-64.
I submit that there are four reasons why the Minister should not permit the proposed increase. First, according to the 1963-64 report, the traffic rate increased by 16.4 per cent., the highest increase for the past 15 years. The report of the Department of Civil Aviation for the year 1964-65 indicated that that rate of increase was maintained during the year. In those circumstances, each airline would have received in the vicinity of £4 million or £5 million.
Now I turn to the second reason. In the last financial year both airlines operated the Boeing 727 jets. Those who have taken an interest in the airlines know that these aircraft have a greater profit earning capacity than the Electras and the Viscounts which were previously in use on the routes now operated by the 727’s.
The next reason I submit why the increase should not be granted is, I suggest, vitally important. According to the report of the Department of Civil Aviation, the revenue load factor increased during the year from 67.7 per cent, to 68.2 per cent, in the case of T.A.A., and from 65.8 per cent, to 66.1 per cent, in the case of AnsettA.N.A. I mention this because when the Minister last year sanctioned a 6 per cent, increase in fares he based his argument on two grounds. The first was that air fares in Australia were the lowest in the world, but he did not take into account the load revenue factor which, of course, is most important when deciding fares. The airlines benefited greatly from the 6 per cent, increase in fares which the Minister was so kind to permit them in August of last year. At the time it was claimed that the increase was due to increased wages and other costs. How people who have spent a lifetime in an industry and receive such a great amount of superannuation can accept these positions I do not know, but Sir Giles Chippendall stated that the cost to TransAustralia Airlines amounted to £800,000 a year.
– The cost of what?
– When the claim was submitted for a 6 per cent, increase in air fares, one of the reasons for the proposed increase was said to be the increased cost of wages and other costs at that time. Sir Giles Chippindall is reported in the Press to have said that they amounted to £800,000 a year. With the expanding traffic of both airlines at that time, the increased fares meant additional revenue to T.A.A of more than £4 million.
– The 6 per cent.?
– Yes, taking into account the increased traffic that the airlines were carrying. If both airlines cannot operate efficiently on the present air fares, I want to know what is wrong.
I admit that Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. has a capital of more than £10 million, and I know that in past years Ansett has boasted that the company has paid a 10 per cent, dividend. His airline operations are responsible for 64 per cent, of the total revenue. I think that every honorable senator will admit that Ansett cannot expect to pay a 10 per cent, dividend on his television station because at the moment it is only in the developmental stage. I do not mind what he charges and I do not mind what he makes. I am concerned with the government airline and with those people who form the commission which runs it, because I believe that in the matter of increased air fares T.A.A. is nothing more than an echo of Ansett-A.N.A. I am not one who does not want to see T.A.A. pay its way. It should do so. I have never disagreed when the Minister has said that it should pay its share of taxation. He has said that this year the rate is to be Ti per cent., and I have no quarrel with that. But the airline was brought into being to provide a service. It was not brought into being to be as rapacious as a private enterprise that is in the air transport business only to make a profit. I believe that, taking the whole of the circumstances into account and judging it according to the service it should provide, it is not serving the purpose for which it was established.
I sincerely hope that the Minister has not already given his consent to the increased fares. The only reason why I raised this matter was that I thought he might give it before the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation were before this chamber. I regret that I have taken so long. I have tried to rush through these comments as quickly as possible. As I have explained, the matter had to be raised at the present time. I hope the Minister will give an assurance to the Senate that he will not consent to an increase in fares pending the debate on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation, so that honorable senators can discuss this matter at a reasonable time. I hope we will then hear the views not only of one senator, but of a number of senators.
– The honorable senator has raised the question of increased air fares. I can only say to him that I have not had an application for increased fares made to me, and I have not considered one. One cannot consider an application until it is received. I was interested to note that Senator Kennelly built his case on the figures for last year. He said that the only statistics on which he had to rely were those for 1963-64. He built a case around statistics which might not be worth two bob. There was one matter that he did not mention. He referred to the increased revenues of the airlines but he said nothing about increased costs.
– I told the Minister what the costs were.
– The honorable senator could not do so because he does not know what they are, and he will not know what they are until such time as he sees the balance sheet which I hope to present to the Senate in a roneoed form before the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation are discussed in this chamber.
If a printed form of the accounts is not available, I have said that I want at least 60 copies roneoed so that honorable senators will have them when the Department’s estimates are being discussed. Until Senator Kennelly knows the costs for the year, he cannot say what the position is. One thing about the civil aviation industry throughout the world is that when one considers the enormous amount of capital that is involved, it provides very, very lean profits. Another thing is that a profitable airline is a safe airline. That is something which we should always remember. If the airlines have tha profits, they can provide a little extra safety beyond the standards laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, as they do in Australia. Both airlines in Australia go beyond what is required of them by that Organisation. When it comes to the question of safety or profit, I like to think that no matter what amount of extra profit they have up their sleeve, if they spend it on safety that will do me, and I think it will do most people who travel by air.
Having said that, I can only say to the Senate that 1 shall examine an application, if I receive one, in the same way as other applications have been examined since this function has resided with the Minister for Civil Aviation. If a case is presented to the effect that increased costs have interfered with profits and that there is justification for an increase in fares, the audit section of the Department of Civil Aviation will scrutinise it very carefully indeed. If the case is not established, the airlines will not get an increase. Action will be taken in accordance with whatever case is established. That is the only undertaking that I can give.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19650922_senate_25_s29/>.