25th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the current slackness in the sale of new cars in Australia and of the economic benefit to Australia from the export of cars, is the Government taking any action to obtain shipping space for cars to New Zealand? According to the “ Commonwealth Automotive Review - News and Views of the Australian Motor Industry “ just published, New Zealand would purchase more Australian cars if shipping space were available.
– I saw the bulletin to which the honorable senator refers and I took some steps this morning to ascertain the actual position at the moment. I have been advised that there is no backlag in the shipment of motor vehicles to New Zealand at the present time. From time to time there have been some short term shortages of space, and these have been aggravated by fluctuating orders for fully built up motor vehicles. The shipping line has been in close touch with the automotive exporters with a view to minimising delays. However, the line has not always had sufficient ships available and this has caused a bank up. Some of the surplus has been lifted by vessels from another trade coming over to the New Zealand route. The problem is of continuing concern to exporters. Negotiations are continuing with the shipping line. The delivery of roll-on-roll-off ships for this trade in 1968 should help the position considerably.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the recent report of the Department of Civil Aviation concerning the need to recruit 1,500 pilots to meet the requirements of civil aviation in Australia over the next five years, and recognising the valuable part being played by aero clubs in the field of pilot training, will the Minister take immediate steps to consult with aero clubs with a view to assisting those bodies to the maximum extent possible in their endeavours to foster and promote an interest in a field of flying from which an increasing number of commercial pilots are now being drawn?
– I gather that the honorable senator is referring to the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation, which I shall table in this chamber today. The Department of Civil Aviation already has a very close liaison with the aero clubs. My recollection is that the Government, through the Department of Civil Aviation, makes an annual contribution towards the support of such clubs.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Housing. In the report of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, the amount of business written, at the end of 30th June 1966 was given as approximately $6 million. I ask the Minister: Has there been any substantial increase in the writing of business since the 30th June when the report was prepared? If the answer is in the affirmative, is the Minister of the opinion that this trend will continue?
– Senator Sim inquires about business written by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. In reply to the honorable senator, let me say that he is quite correct in what he says. The report that I tabled recently in this House stated that at 30th June the value of housing loans that the Corporation had insured or had undertaken to insure was $6.3 million. This was in connection with the insurance of 809 housing loans. There has been a considerable increase in business since that time. As I announced on the day that I tabled that report, these figures have risen to an amount of $11 million in respect of 1,413 loans. At the present time, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is insuring housing loans at a rate in excess of $25 million per year. I believe that this upward trend will certainly continue.
– I ask the
Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral: Has his attention been drawn to a statement attributed to the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that the Australian attitude should be reflected on Australian television screens? Will the Minister commend the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for his statement? Will he give him every encouragement to see that Australian artists, writers, producers and technicians are given the fullest opportunity to develop and show their talents in accordance with section 114 of the Broadcasting and Television Act, not only in Australia but on the so far virtually untapped export markets available to Australia in this sphere?
– As far as I am able to reply on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral I would say that the answer to the first question is “ Yes “ and that the answer to the second question is “ Yes “ also.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Deputy President. In view of the fact that Lord Holford in his report “The Growth of Canberra, 1958- 1965 and 1965-1972”, has stated that a decision on the building of a new Parliament House is urgent, could you tell me how often the Joint Select Committee on the New arid Permanent Parliament House has met? Would you ask the Chairman of this Committee whether he would give consideration to issuing periodical progress reports to both Houses of the Parliament as this matter is something that vitally affects all senators and members?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- As a member of the Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, I can tell the honorable senator that the Committee has met during the year. I will refer the rest of the question to the President when he returns from overseas.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer any knowledge of an organisation named “ Pacific Photographic Fair “ which intends conducting in Melbourne in 1967 an exhibition and competition displaying the work of photographers throughout Asian countries? Does the Minister agree that such an exhibition and competition might assist in promoting good relationships with contributing Asian countries? Has the Government been asked for a grant to assist this project? Is the making of such a grant possible?
– I have no knowledge of the organisation to which the honorable senator refers, nor have 1 any knowledge of ‘the exhibition that it proposes to undertake. If the honorable senator puts the question on notice, I will convey it to the Treasurer to see what information I can obtain from him.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement in yesterday’s Adelaide “ Advertiser “ reporting the broadcast remarks of Mr. Dunstan, the Attorney-General of the Labour Government in South Australia, to the effect that the Commonwealth was making attractive offers but placing the State in an impossible position? The South Australian Attorney-General said that the Commonwealth had offered baits to the University of Adelaide and the National Fitness Council. The Attorney-General further said that while the proposals had been laudable in intent, they had been made without consulting the State on its spending priorities. Has the Government received any complaint from the Government of South Australia in relation «to these matters or from any other government in Australia in relation to Commonwealth assistance to any university or National Fitness Council, or any other project which normally comes under State aegis? If it has, what attitude does it propose to take?
– I am not aware of the Government having received any complaint from the South Australian Government. If the honorable senator places his question on the notice paper, I shall see what information I can get.
Senator FITZGERALD__ I address to the Minister for Housing a question which follows upon numerous requests that I have made to her in relation to the deduction from the salaries of Commonwealth public servants of repayments to credit unions. I acknowledge the Minister’s many replies. I again ask: Is the Minister aware that the New South Wales Minister for Housing and Co-operative Societies announced several months ago that the State Premier and Treasurer had approved deductions from salaries of savings and loan repayment commitments of members of credit unions operating in State Government departments? In view of this major change of policy on the part of the State Government, will the Minister again look at this matter, which affects 200,000 people, and seek approval for Federal departments to follow the procedure that has been adopted in New South Wales?
– I direct to the Minister for Customs and Excise a question relating to the very substantial assistance that is to be given by the Government to users of nitrogenous fertilisers following its recent decision to provide bounty payments. Is the Government surveying all possible methods for the economic production of nitrogenous fertiliser so that competition may be encouraged and thus prevent the cost of this fertiliser from rising substantially, as occurred in the case of superphosphate?
– As the honorable senator knows, it is the intention of the Government to provide a bounty of the order of $80 a ton for nitrogenous fertilisers. The payment of this bounty will be subject to legislation passed during this sessional period, which will take effect as from the morning following the day upon which the announcement was made by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech. I would need to refer to the Minister for Trade and Industry the general question asked by the honorable senator. It is obvious that the administration of this new legislation will be a matter for the Department of Customs and Excise, but the general question is one which the Minister for Trade and Industry and his officers may well want to look at. I am quite certain that the sentiments expressed in the question will have the ready acceptance not only of the Minister for Trade and Industry and his Department but also of all honorable senators.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, is prompted by the Minister’s obligingly affirmative answer to the question that was asked by my colleague, Senator McClelland. I refer to Press reports that commercial television stations may ask the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to reconsider its recently announced Australian content programme requirements at peak hour viewing times. I ask the Minister: Will he assure the Senate that, in the best interests of the development of Australian television, the Broadcasting Control Board will stand firm on its announced policy and will be supported by the Government in resisting attempts to water it down?
– Quite clearly, it is within the competence of commercial television stations to make submissions to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. None of us would object to that as a fundamental principle. In fairness to the PostmasterGeneral, I think I should refer to him that part of the question which asks what his attitude will be.
– I address a question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. No doubt he will have had his attention directed to a statement made by Lord Avon, who was formerly Sir Anthony Eden, in Paris some three or four weeks ago to the effect that the danger of a world war arising from the Vietnam conflict was greater than was commonly supposed. Lord Avon advocated as a solution a collective guarantee of the security of South Vietnam by Russia, China, France, Great Britain and the United States of America. Can the Minister give the Senate an assurance that he and the Department of External Affairs have considered that statement? If they have not considered it, will they do so? Realising the delicacy of matters of that kind, will he inform the Senate from time to time of the results of such consideration?
– I have not seen or studied the statement referred to by the honorable senator, but I shall obtain from the Department a report as to how long ago it was made and the circumstances in which it was made, and also any surrounding circumstances which I think might be useful.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who represents the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that legislation has been passed by the South Australian Parliament providing for the compulsory installation of seat belts in all motor cars registered after 1st January 1968? In view of this and the possibility of similar legislation being passed in other States of Australia, will the Treasurer take steps to have sales tax on seat belts removed, so that the additional cost involved for the motorist will be alleviated and also to encourage motorists in States where such a law is not applicable to install safety belts?
– The incidence of sales tax is reviewed each year when the Budget is being prepared. The Government recently has completed such a review. However, the matter which the honorable senator has raised refers to a new situation. I am glad to know that some motor car manufacturers are installing seat belts in new cars. The honorable senator has stated that the South Australian Parliament has passed legislation making the installation of scat belts compulsory in that State. No doubt other States will follow suit. Since the question is concerned with sales tax I shall refer it to the Treasurer.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, by saying that most people are well aware of the excellent encouragement which the Government has given to States and to individuals to grow commercially useful trees. I ask: Is the Minister aware that the present probate duty laws inhibit a widespread acceptance of the need for individuals to plant and improve forestry blocks? Is he also aware that in certain other countries where forestry is of national importance, growing trees are excluded in the assessment of probate duty? Will the Minister seriously consider excluding the value of growing trees in the calculation of assets when probate duty is being assessed?
– The Government is very interested in the timber industry, particularly in view of the possibility of a shortage of timber, not only in Australia but also in other parts of the world. Therefore the Government has encouraged development of the timber industry. The Government has introduced taxation laws to assist the timber industry, including the definition of the growing of trees as primary production. By this means, the five year averaging system for income tax purposes has been applied to tree growing and trees have been included for taxation purposes as rural products. As to the honorable senator’s suggestion about probate duty, 1 was unaware that growing trees were included in an estate for probate purposes. I suppose it would be a little difficult to assess their value. It might be necessary to measure each tree in an attempt to assess its value. However, it is an interesting question which I shall refer to the Treasurer.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to advise the Senate whether it has come to his knowledge that a senior member of the Parliamentary Liberal Party in Tasmania has become so disenchanted with the Liberal Party in Tasmania that he has severed all connections with it. Will the Minister also advise whether he has any knowledge that the new party to be formed by the gentleman concerned, to be known as the Australian Centre Party, indicates an undercover attempt on the part of the Australian Country Party to gain electoral support in Tasmania at the expense of the Liberal Party?
– My knowledge of the matter referred to by the honorable senator has been gleaned from the Press. I understand that a Liberal Party member in
Tasmania has resigned from the Party and has made a suggestion - I am relying on the Press - that he will endeavour to set up an Australian Centre Party. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that he left the Liberal Party of his own accord and was not forced to resign, as was Mr. Benson who was recently forced out of the Labour Party.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. On 3rd August, representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation. Federated Clerks Union, Miscellaneous Workers Union, Australian Foremen Stevedores Association and a representative of the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee inspected the Botany-Bunnerong area of Botany Bay as a logical site for a container terminal in Sydney. Since an invitation was extended to the Department of Trade and Industry to be present but it was not accepted, are honorable senators to infer that that Department is wedded to another site for such a container terminal?
– I would not have thought that the matter referred to by the honorable senator has anything to do with the Commonwealth Government. The provision of such terminals is a matter for the relevant State authority such as a marine board or harbour authority. A decision on the site for a Sydney container terminal, I believe, would lie within the purview of the New South Wales Government.
(Question No. 929.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior -
Is it a fact that several years ago the Department of the Army declared surplus 32 acres of land in the Georges Heights region of Sydney Harbour? If so, what is the cause of the delay that prevents its transfer to the New South Wales Government for conversion to parklands?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
Yes. The terms and conditions, especially the financial basis, on which the lands in question, as well as others elsewhere in the Sydney area, should be transferred to the State are still the subject of negotiations between the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales. Legal questions of considerable complexity have still to be resolved.
(Question No. 935.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply -
(Question No. 966.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 967.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Does the Government have any immediate plans for the creation of a national park in the Petermann Ranges in the Northern Territory?
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answer -
The possibility of a large national park in the Petermann Range area is included in proposals for the creation of national parks in the Northern Territory being considered by the Northern Territory Reserves Board in consultation with government departments and authorities. Pending a final decision on these proposals there is no immediate action planned for the declaration of a Petermann Range park.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work -
Development at Royal Australian Navy Armament Depot, Kingswood, New South Wales.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The recommendations and conclusions of the Committee are -
– by leave - Last week Senator Wright asked me if I could make a statement on the European Launcher Development Organisation and I undertook to have a statement prepared. Ministerial representatives of the seven member States of E.L.D.O. met in Paris in April, June and July 1966, to consider progress on the initial programme and the aim of the Organisation beyond that programme. The initial programme of the Organisation for the development of the Europa I rocket began in 1962 and will end in 1969. One of the principal aims of this programme is to advance knowledge of space launcher technology and to promote the co-ordinated development of advanced technologies in member States. The four successful launchings made so far support the view that this aim is being achieved. In all, the initial programme comprises 1 1 launchings.
Australia’s principal role in E.L.D.O. has been to make available the comprehensive resources at the Woomera Range, together with special support facilities and technical skills. Australia is not required to contribute financially and the availability of the facilities was accepted as the nation’s contribution to the initial programme. In the Convention which established the Organisation, it was provided that technical studies of the programme to follow the initial programme should be carried out. The purpose of additional programmes would be the further development of the Europa I launcher to provide greater payload capability, thus making it suitable for practical applications and for supply to users wishing to launch satellites for peaceful purposes.
The first session of the ministerial conference in April 1966 was convened to consider a significant increase in the expected cost of the initial programme on the estimates accepted by member States in 1962. There was strong speculation that the programme would be terminated or at least curtailed if member States paying for the programme failed to reach agreement on arrangements for cost sharing and cost control. A termination or curtailment of the programme would have caused a restriction in the firings to take place from Woomera and a demoralising unplanned adjustment of range staff. In fact, the advantages which accrue from our membership of the Organisation would have been reduced substantially.
As a result of deliberations at the April and June 1966 conferences, Ministers agreed that the initial programme should continue. Ministers then proceeded to consider a report prepared by the E.L.D.O. secretariat based on its studies of the further developmental work to follow the initial programme. The E.L.D.O. secretariat report recommended improvements =and modifications to Europa I, intended to make it suitable for the launching and orbiting of communication satellites. At the July conference, Ministers unanimously adopted the additional programme. Agreement was also reached on the broad distribution of the extra development work involved in modifying the basic rocket and on a revised scale of national contributions.
The communication satellite system contemplated is of the geo-stationary type, in which the satellite orbits above the equator at the same speed as that of the earth’s rotation. The satellite therefore appears to be stationary. Technically it is necessary to establish a launching base on or near the equator to achieve a geo-stationary orbit. The Government agreed to make available to the Organisation a site near Darwin for the establishment of the new equatorial launching base and further agreed to finance the establishment costs of basic range facilities at the site. I presented this offer to the conference. The offer was most competitive, both technically and financially, with an offer made by France for a site in French Guiana. Quite apart from the financial incentive, the Darwin offer already had other attractions. The existence of a fully-operational deep-water port and an international airport and the relative proximity of the scientific and technical resources of Woomera and Salisbury were distinct advantages. In addition, the Darwin site was close to a well-established city, in a country with a long-accepted history of political stability. The site Australia offered was not in a colonial possession with all the political risks made manifest by experience over the past two decades.
However, the member States, after lengthy consideration, and in spite of the lower cost to E.L.D.O. of the Darwin site, favoured the site in French Guiana. Nevertheless, the conference agreed that Woomera would continue to be the site for research and development firings and, of course, firings of Europa I will continue as planned to 1969. Ministers of all other member States spoke highly of Australia’s performance in the Organisation. As a result of the conference, E.L.D.O. will continue with the development of its multistage rocket and Australia will continue as a member without financial contribution. We shall therefore retain our partnership with Western Europe in the field of space technology. We shall continue to have access to the Organisation’s technological developments, and retain our rights as a member to share in any projects based on these developments.
Debate resumed from 15th September (vide page 419), on motion by Senator McKellar-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a bill to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1965 generally to give effect to the Budget provisions as to increases in pensions, although there is one new provision in connection with the restoration of service pension payments under section 94b of the Act. I think honorable senators ought to have regard for the amounts which are proposed to be spent under these provisions. The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) said that the cost of the increases will total $5.6 million in 1966-67 and $7.5 million in a full year. It ought to be compared, I suggest, with the general defence allocation of $1,000 million, which is $252 million or 34 per cent, more than the actual expenditure in the previous year. In this situation, and in view of Australia’s new commitments, particularly in the Asian area, these provisions of the Repatriation Act stand condemned. They also stand condemned in view of the representations made by ex-service organisations, including the Returned Services League, the Cabinet repatriation committee. We cannot see why the former relationship between the basic wage and repatriation pension levels has not been restored.
The Government has rejected the regular representations which have been made to it regarding free hospitalisation and medical treatment for the First World War and Boer War diggers, lt has also failed to increase the funeral benefit of $50. The R.S.L. has suggested that in the light of modern day costs, the benefit should be increased to $100. The Government has failed to take account, 1 suggest, of the controversy within this chamber over the anomalies in the Repatriation Act and of the general dissatisfaction concerning the operation of sections 47 and 48 of the Act. I suggest that this would have been the occasion for the Minister to indicate that the Government would appoint a select committee or some other body to look into the overall position of repatriation problems and pensions.
In the main 1 support what is being said by the R.S.L. in respect of restoring the former relationship between the basic wage and repatriation pensions. Ex-service organisations have pointed out that originally war pensions were related to the capacity of the pensioner to earn money. War pensions were designed lo meet the difference between what a pensioner could and should earn. At various times the Government has fixed war pensions on that basis. In 1950 there was a review of war -pensions, and later in the same year there was part restoration of war pensions to their former proportion of the basic wage. Later on I shall refer to the submissions which have been made by the R.S.L.
If we look at the position of outside industrial tribunals which adjust levels of wages, we find that the task of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is to maintain a just and reasonable wage. There is no reason why this Government should not accede to the representations that have been placed before it. It should try to restore the former relationship which existed between repatriation pensions and the basic wage. In relating repatriation pensions to social service pensions, the Government fails to recognise the real need of repatriation, particularly against this new and developing background.
I turn now to what ex-service organisations have said about the repatriation provisions of the Budget. The South Australian branch of the Returned Services League wrote to each South Australian senator. In a letter dated 25th August 1966, it said, in part - lt is incredible to believe that the Government would allow such depreciation in pension values without making some genuine move to arrest the situation. For the Government to totally ignore the appeal by surviving World War I veterans for the security of free hospitalisation and the failure to increase the funeral grant is just as unbelievable.
The numbers of ex-servicemen of World War I is rapidly declining. It is estimated that no more than about 40,000 remain. The letter from the South Australian branch of the R.S.L. continues -
The South Australian State Branch solidly backs the appeal by our National Executive in Canberra this week for the Government to introduce a supplementary Budget to correct the injustices at present imposed on the ex-servicemen section of the community.
Stronger statements were made against these repatriation proposals by the National Executive of the Returned Services League. I quote from a report of the Adelaide “Advertiser” of 23rd August 1966. The report reads -
The R.S.L. National executive, meeting in Canberra, sent “ the strongest possible protest “ to the Prime Minister (Mr. Holt) and demanded a supplementary Budget to cover proposed pension rises.
Asked whether the move indicated that the R.S.L.’s patience with the Commonwealth on pensions had been exhausted, Sir Arthur Lee said the League’s patience was “ strained “. “ In 1949 it was used,” he said. “ Promises were made which were honoured in 1950.” “ But from 1950 the value of pensions has slipped gradually back.”
The Opposition, in its contribution to this debate, does not wish to make this subject a matter of politics. But it is fair to say that, on each successive year that we have discussed repatriation, members of the Labour Party have made it obvious that our intention is to provide the sort of payments to ex-servicemen to which we believe they are entitled. Our contributions in respect of the Repatriation Act and similar legislation have resulted in improvements being made with respect to repatriation benefits. Let me quote further what Sir Arthur Lep had to say as reported in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of 23rd August. This indicates the sort of thinking to which we give support. The report says -
Sir Arthur Lee said that the present Government when in Opposition in 1949 had promised to put value back in the pension.
At that date the pension Ibr totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and women was 84 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950 this was increased to 101 per cent. Today it was 93 per cent.
The general rate pension in 1949 was 43 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950 it was boosted to 51 per cent, and today it was 37 per cent.
In 1949 the war widows’ pension was 47 per cent, of the basic wage. It was increased to 55 per cent, in 1950, but now stood at 40 per cent, of the basic wage.
– What was the last percentage?
– At present it is 40 per cent, of the basic wage. 1 will give the honorable senator some further figures in relation to comparisons between the pension rates and the basic wage from 1920 onwards. This is the sort of information that is put before us. But we know that the Returned Services League made representations to a Cabinet sub-committee. Apparently these propositions, based on very good evidence, were advanced to that Cabinet sub-committee, lt was put to that subcommittee that the pension rate ought to be related to the basic wage which is the standard wage in the community. Of course, that relationship ought to be maintained. There is no just reason, particularly when it is considered that we are dealing with ex-servicemen, why this standard should drop. 1 understand that today in another place the honorable member for Kingsford Smith (Mr. Curtin) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) whether a supplementary budget was proposed to give effect to increases in repatriation pensions which might restore the relativity to which I have referred. The Prime Minister in reply said that the provisions of the Act compared more than favorably with any provisions in any similar Act in any part of the world. I suggest that if an injustice is done at the time a budget is presented, that injustice ought to he corrected. If the Government proposes to correct these injustices, the Government ought to give a clear indication that it intends to restore pension rates to the relationship with the basic wage to which I have referred.
Representations were made to the Cabinet sub-committee to which I have referred on 15th March 1966 by a deputation of five members of the Returned Services League. If these representations have not been made public, at least they are available to honorable senators. It is pointed out in these proposals that since the last general review in 1950 - and we must remember that this was before the increase of $2 in the Commonwealth basic wage and before the increases granted in this Budget - a typical family group comprising a 100 per cent, pensioner, his wife and two children has suffered a decline in their relative position. When compared with the Commonwealth basic wage in 1950 and the Commonwealth basic wage today, the position of this pensioner has deteriorated by 27.5 per cent. His pension has fallen from 89.5 per cent, of the basic wage in 1950 to 61 per cent, of the basic wage at the present time.
At page 2 of its submissions, the League drew attention to various levels of the basic wage, the special rate pension and the general rate pension. In February 1920, the average basic wage for the six capital cities was £3 18s., the special rate pension was £4, or 103 per cent, of the basic wage, and the general rate pension, which is the war caused disability pension, was £2 2s., or 54 per cent, of the basic wage. In February 1943 the basic wage was £4 16s., the special rale pension was also £4 16s., and the general rate pension was £2 10s., or 52 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950, the basic wage was £6 18s., the special rate pension was £7, or 101 per cent, of the basic wage, and the general rate pension was £3 10s., or 51 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1966, when the League’s submissions were made, the basic wage was £15 8s., the special rate pension was £14 5s., or 92 per cent, of the basic wage - it will be noted that it was declining - and the general rate pension was £6, or 39 per cent, of the basic wage. As a result of the recent increase the basic wage is now £16 8s. The new special rate pension will be $30.50, or 93 per cent, of the basic wage, and the general rate pension will be $13, or approximately 37 per cent, of the basic wage.
The League has put forward a very strong case. It might be claimed that this is the usual sort of argument that the
Opposition puts up. We have often been accused of bouncing around a political football when we have taken up this matter but as I said in the early part of my speech, if we propose to spend a huge sum on defence and to commit ever increasing numbers of young people to the Services, then we ought to give strong consideration to the repatriation benefits that should be available. It is for this reason that the R.S.L. argues that there ought to be a general review of pension rates.
We shall move certain amendments at the Committee stage. Similar amendments have been moved in the past. The submission of these amendments will afford an opportunity to consider the proposals that the R.S.L. has advanced. It has been proposed that free hospitalisation and medical benefits be provided for ex-servicemen of the First World War and prior wars. I am sure that the community generally would fully support what has been sought by the R.S.L. and the Opposition in this regard. Why should not ex-servicemen of the Boer War and the First World War be provided with hospitalisation? On previous occasions when this proposal has been advanced here and in another place, it has been argued that, even if the Government did accept it, the necessary hospital accommodation would not be available. That is a very bad argument.
The submissions made by the R.S.L. have been related to certain economic trends. The League has advanced a very strong case in criticism of the Government. Except in respect of certain administrative matters and the restoration of the service pension to ex-inmates of mental homes, there is nothing new in what has been proposed. Following the presentation of the 1965 Budget, there was very strong criticism of the Government for its failure to rectify these anomalies. No doubt the Minister will produce the usual arguments and will say that although the submissions are very good, it is necessary to consider the cost of adopting them. If the Government can find $1,000 million for defence but only $5.5 million for repatriation benefits for the people who fight the wars, I think there is something wrong with the Government’s economic thinking.
On 25th August last the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) received from the Minister the answer to a question on notice. He had asked -
What would be the estimated annual cost of each proposal in the Returned Services League Pension Plan for 1966?
The answer was as follows -
The annual cost of the R.S.L. Pension Plan for 1966, based on pensions in force, etc., at 31st March 1966 is as Follows -
The Minister also stated in his reply that the cost of providing free medical benefits for veterans of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War could range up to about $10 million, which was the estimate that we had been given in this chamber last year.
– Does that take into account the vacant wards?
– Is an itemised account of the expenditure given in the answer?
– No. I am not criticising the Minister or the Repatriation Department because I think it is fair to say that if one makes representations one receives a very prompt reply. However, it is obvious to me that estimates of that kind are shots in the dark. We were told last year, during a similar debate, that the cost of providing free medical benefits for veterans of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War would be £5 million, and this year we have been told that it would be $10 million.
Honorable senators may remember that last year an Opposition amendment was carried in the Senate but rejected in another place. In fact, it was rejected after the intrusion into the debate of the Prime Minister, who was then Sir Robert Menzies. He argued constitutional issues. When the amendment came back to this chamber, although the Minister was forced by Government direction to vote against it and the amendment was defeated, the Minister made it clear that in his opinion the Senate was quite entitled to deal with the issue and act as it had acted. We on this side hope that when we are discussing this Bill at the Committee stage honorable senators opposite will act as they did on the previous occasion. I trust that the supporters of the Government who saw fit to analyse the proposals then will do so again with the same good intentions.
I have referred to the general questions that wc have put forward over the years. While we have had very prompt results from our representations to the Minister and to the Department, of course we have not succeeded in many instances. It is common knowledge that sections 47 and 48 of the Repatriation Act are not as effective as we would expect them to be. I think it is fair to say that in 1963 most honorable senators on the Government side thought that we were stretching our interpretation of section 47 too far, even though the Returned Services League had at that time pointed out to senators and members of the House of Representatives the need to provide a new definition of the onus of proof. However, it is clear to us as laymen that the basic intention of the Act has not been observed in this respect. Recently I placed before the Repatriation Commission, in writing, the case of a winner of the Military Medal who had served in the Middle East and New Guinea and who had undergone great hardships during his military service. He had won promotion in the field, and as I have said, he also had won the Military Medal. He now suffers from a heart condition but is not able to have that condition considered for repatriation purposes because, I suggest, of the inhibiting effect of sections 47 and 48 of the Act.
One of the arguments the Labour Party has advanced which has always seemed to me to be very logical and is now receiving more and more recognition is the general proposition that every ex-serviceman - particularly if he has been on active service - suffers from his war time experiences. There are always physical and psychological effects from these experiences which should receive consideration in extending the benefit of a doubt. Insufficient consideration is being given to that factor, irrespective of how much heed is paid to the great opinions of Sir Garfield Barwick and others. I suggest that the fact is that the benefit of the doubt is not being given to applicants. That is the first important point I make. Every ex-serviceman, particularly if he has been on active service, is affected detrimentally because of his service. A strain is placed on his physique.
The second point I wish to make is evident to anybody who has looked up the files. The facilities are available to us, but the processes of gaining satisfaction are not what they ought to be. I want to repeat what honorable senators on this side of the chamber have said about medical records. I have here a copy of the submission made by members of the Returned Services League to the Cabinet subcommittee which received a deputation on this subject. It states that records of the two world wars are often incomplete. Many records have been lost or destroyed by enemy action. In many instances conscientious soldiers did not report sick because of the commitments of a military situation. Now they have no evidence to support the relationship between a disability and wartime service. The Opposition has also argued that the climate for consideration of pensions was best immediately after World War II. At that stage more active consideration was given to applications. More weight was given to applicants’ evidence. If an exserviceman applies now for repatriation benefits, after all this time since World War II ended, if his records are incomplete and if he is the sort of bloke who did not report sick or did not report incidents that happened to him, there is no identification of his present condition with war service. For this reason, such applications are often rejected.
If the climate for consideration of applications for repatriation benefits was best after World War II, then now ought to be the time to be very conscious of these matters. I say that because at present national servicemen are serving overseas. The Government has incurred new liabilities and on behalf of the people of Australia it must face up to the position that I have outlined. At the Committee stage of the debate Opposition senators will speak at greater length on these issues.
I have referred to the number of applications which have been rejected. It might interest honorable senators to hear figures taken from reports of the Repatriation Department from 1961-62 to the current year. I shall cite figures taken from table 10 in each of the reports. In 1961-62 applications to War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals resulted as follows: For action, 12,633; allowed, 1,388; rejected, 6.864; and 13 applications were reduced. In 1962-63, applications to the same tribunals resulted as follows: For action, 12,990; allowed, 1,369; and 7,146 were disallowed. In 1963-64 - and these figures are for all wars - applications resulted as follows: For action. 14,887; allowed, 1,555; rejected, 8,311. In 1965-66 the figures were as follows: For action, 14,636; allowed, 5,968; rejected, 4,799; and 14 applications were reduced.
I suggest that honorable senators should have a very strong regard for these reports and for what has been said by the people concerned. I refer to the Returned Services Leage, and to the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Servicemen’s Association, which has also attempted to persuade the Government, by making comparisons, to do something about pension rights and the provision of benefits for widows, hospitalisation and the old question of the onus of proof. Last year, the Government introduced a new pension called the “ intermediate pension “. That also has been increased. Last year, honorable senators on this side of the chamber were a little concerned at the establishment of an intermediate pension a little below the T.P.I. pension, because we thought that it might allow the gate to be opened for more persons to be classified as “ intermediate “. In another place a question was asked by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), on 15th March 1966. The question is No. 1545. The honorable member asked -
The answers, which were given on 19th April 1966, are as follows -
I would like the Minister to think about this matter and to inform the Senate whether the position is still the same. I believe that the questions and answers I have read point to the need for review. I do not wish to go through the pension scales. They are well known, I should think. The Government has carried into the Repatriation Act the types of increases which seemed possible to the experts who frame the Budget proposals for the Government. I suggest that more weight should have been given to the representations made by the Returned Services League. The Senate debates on repatriation matters over the years show clearly the need for a committee to review the whole question of repatriation benefits. At various times, the Repatriation Act has been amended to clarify doubts or to increase the weight of arguments advanced by applicants.I refer to sections 47 and 48, which relate respectively to the benefit of the doubt and to medical statements. But the Government has never regarded these provisions as we think they should be regarded.
– Every time the Government opens one door it closes another.
– That is right. One door is opened and another door is closed. If an ex-serviceman’s application is rejected, he is left to his own resources. As much as honorable senators opposite like to argue the point, in a practical sense it is the applicant who has to find more evidence. If his application fails he is told to produce more evidence such as a statement of a witness. To do so is almost impossible in the case of a First World War applicant, and very difficult for those who served in the 1939-45 war. We have mentioned before - this is a strong point of our general attitude - that a proper investigation of the Repatriation Act has not been made since 1943. In that year a very good job was done by senators and members of the House of Representatives who were members of a special committee that was set up to inquire into the operation of the Repatriation Act. I have copies of the first and second reports of that committee. As a result of its work, some progress was made, but some issues were left unresolved.
I return to a point that I forgot to make in relation to medical records, which is a very pertinent matter that needs some examination in order to see what ought to be done by the Government. Last year I asked Senator McKellar the following question -
I address my question to the Minister for Repatriation. 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. I 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. I 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 the benefit of the doubt can be given to the applicant, it is given.
I suggest to the Minister that no progress has been made on this matter. That is why members of the Opposition propose the insertion in the Act of a new section to provide for legal processes, including appeals to outside courts. We have received quite a bit of support from Government supporters. This matter needs to be considered. I have concluded my general observations on this Bill. In Committee we will -be moving amendments relating to the various matters of which I have spoken.
– In rising to speak to these amendments to the Repatriation Act, I express my feeling that the Senate has appreciated the calm and clear exposition of the case for the Opposition given by Senator Bishop. It is one of the parliamentary rights and traditions that the Opposition shall look at legislation proposed by the Government and then present its views on how that legislation should be amended. So the Senate today is faced with five reneoed pages of amendments which are to be proposed by the Opposition at the committee stage. I propose, in the main, to put my views on those amendments when we reach the committee stage, if I then desire to speak but some of those views will be covered in the course of the remarks that I now desire to address to you, Mr. Acting Deputy President.
I will not give the Senate an exposition of all the variations of pensions and allowances - in not doing so I am following Senator Bishop’s lead - because they are detailed when the Budget is brought down and, knowing that they are of great interest to many hundreds of thousands of Australians, the various news media give them plenty of publicity. The Repatriation Department itself, and ex-service men and women’s organisations, take quick action to advise all persons who are or may be recipients of repatriation benefits of the details. Since this Government camp to office in 1949, and possibly while other governments were in office in previous years, it has become almost an annual exercise and privilege for the Parliament to consider repatriation benefits with the object of trying to bring about improvements and to make the allowances more generous. I, for my part, have addressed the Senate on this subject at least 10 times in the last 13 years.
Senator Bishop says that the Labour Party wants a thorough investigation of repatriation. I do not believe that that is necessary. Not only are officers of the Repatriation Department giving continuous consideration to all details of repatriation legislation - after all, they are the most practised people in this sphere - but ex-servicemen’s organisations, led by the Returned Services League, are also continually watching all aspects of matters that affect ex-servicemen and their dependants. Also, I am certain that the Opposition has a committee of backbenchers Which looks into this matter from year to year. I know that on the Government side we have a continuing committee making a thorough examination of the requirements of ex-servicemen and their dependants in relation to any possible legislation coming before the Parliament. Therefore, I believe that it is true to say that full and fair consideration is given to the needs of the people for whose benefit the Repatriation Act exists.
I support this Bill; but I would be unwise and provocative to stand up in this chamber and say that every provision of the repatriation legislation is right and that all exservicemen and their dependants are receiving everything which this country can give them and which they should receive from the repatriation legislation. I do not believe that to be factual. What I am saying is that there is a continuing examination of the pensions and allowances of exservicemen and their dependants, and of their rights and requirements in respect of medical and hospital services and reestablishment.
In the early days after the Second World War a tremendous job was done for exservicemen in re-establishing them in professions and jobs that they had left to go to the War. In many cases there was a completely new approach to training for careers. Many hundreds of thousands of ex-servicemen have benefited from the reestablishment provisions of the Repatriation Act, which still operate for the benefit of mcn who are now coming back to Australia in need of this sort of governmental assistance. The education of the children of ex-servicemen is carefully examined. I believe that a tremendous job of work - necessary work - is done on this field of repatriation.
I believe that the Repatriation Act was conceived, shaped and moulded, first of all on the requirements of the people whom it serves and, secondly, in accordance with what the nation can provide for them, physically and financially. Year after year as the nation develops and our prosperity continues, repatriation benefits are increased or their scope is greatly enlarged. This is as it should bc.
From time to time criticism is voiced in ex-servicemen’s organisations of the onus of proof provisions in the Repatriation Act but I believe this Government has expressed the onus of proof provisions fairly and without equivocation as clearly and definitely as they can be made. Those who have followed the work of officers of the
Repatriation Department and the tribunals associated with it and have studied the forms of assistance and the provision for appeals know that as far as possible a fair deal is given to those who come within the scope of the Act because of war service. I know from my own experience that there are borderline cases that miss out, but this is a problem for the appropriate organisations. These are doing wonderful work and they should not be discouraged. It is a trait of the Australian character to help fellow men and women by community effort when the occasion demands.
Senator Bishop said that the Returned Services League had put up definite suggestions and requests to the Government and I think he used the word “ demand “. He said the League had demanded that something should be done. As a member of the League, I realise it has a bounden duty to its members and it gives valuable assistance to ex-service men and women. The League makes submissions to the Cabinet of whatever Government is in power setting forth what it believes to be the requirements of those who are eligible for repatriation benefits. I am sure that this Government and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in particular give every consideration to such submissions. They know that every proposition put forward by the R.S.L. and associated organisations is submitted sincerely in the belief that if all these proposals could be acceded to, great and deserved benefits would result to those who come within the scope of the Repatriation Act. However, I do not believe for one moment that the R.S.L. loses faith in the Government or in the Parliament when all its requests and suggestions are not put into effect.
The submissions of the R.S.L. represent the concensus of opinion of those who know the requirements of ex-service men and women and their dependants. However, those who frame these submissions do not have the responsibility of providing the money that is required when the benefits are put into legislation. The R.S.L. is big enough and experienced enough to know that if a Government knocks back one or more of its requests or puts any of them into operation only partially, it is because the Government, taking into account all its responsibilities in the expenditure of public money, is doing the best it believes it can at the time. This has been done over many years by the present Government. The Government has to decide the ability of the nation to provide repatriation benefits at a time when Australia has heavy responsibilities in the way of national development and defence.
All fair minded people will agree that the provisions of this Bill are acceptable and represent another step forward in providing appropriate benefits taking into account all the circumstances. We hear comparisons made between repatriation benefits, the basic wage and other financial arrangements. It is very easy for the astute, who are quite sincere, to quote figures so that they tell a story. Someone else just as astute and just as sincere can quote different figures in reply to tell a different story. When we cite figures and percentages in connection with repatriation benefits, we should remember that while actual payments are increased and the scope of the payments is broadened to include more persons from year to year, there are also many fringe benefits. I use the term in relation to repatriation for want of a better one. Before repatriation benefits or allowances are criticised because they are not on a scale completely pro rata with payments made in 1930 or 1946 or 1954, the critics should remember that in the intervening years many fringe benefits have been made available to ex-servicemen.
An amendment circulated by the Australian Labour Party proposes the setting up of a committee of the Parliament to study repatriation. I strongly support the setting up of parliamentary committees, and particularly committees of the Senate, to study various matters. Committees of the Senate in the past have done excellent work and have brought forward valuable recommendations. 1 recall in particular the Senate committees which investigated Australian productions for television and road safety. However, I do not favour the appointment of a committee of the Parliament to sit continually investigating repatriation matters because I do not believe such a committee would make recommendations fairly and squarely in line with financial commitments. There would then be an ever increasing gap between the attitude of the Government to the committee and the attitude of the committee to the Government. I believe that the welfare and the rights of exservice men and women and their dependants are fully, sympathetically and efficiently studied. If they are not getting all that they would wish, it is not for want of study or research into their requirements. It is, in my belief, tempered only by the fact that the Government, taking all of its responsibilities into consideration, says: “ We can at this stage go this far and no further if we are to be a responsible, decent Government to the whole of the people of Australia “. Therefore, I support the legislation in its entirety.
.- This Bill has been introduced into the Senate by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) following on the Government’s Budget proposals in relation to ex-servicemen and present servicemen who ultimately will come within the scope of the Repatriation Act. Might I say at the outset that I compliment my colleague, Senator Bishop, on the manner in which he has led on behalf of the Opposition. He has presented the Opposition’s case fairly, sincerely and honestly. Having listened to the figures he has cited, I believe that the case is beyond dispute. This is a very important measure because the provisions to be enacted by the legislation embrace a very great number of Australians. I notice from the annual report of the Repatriation Commission that there are some 106,000 survivors of the 1914-18 war and some 758.000 survivors of the Second World War. There are at present 646,830 war pensions payable to ex-servicemen and their dependants. In view of our existing commitments in Vietnam and in view of the recent statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) that Australia is likely to be involved for some considerable time in military commitments in Asia, it is obvious that this measure affects the lives and welfare of many of this nation’s citizens.
Before I proceed, might I say that there does seem to be some ambiguity in the report of the Commission. Perhaps the Minister might, during the course of his reply, be able to provide an explanation. I notice that, in respect of the First World War, 107,364 war pensions were payable at 30th June 1965, compared with 103,041 at 30th June 1966. In respect of the Second World War, 531,217 war pensions were payable at the end of June this year, compared with 541,474 at the end of June 1965. Despite this, the report states that the number of incapacitated war pensioners of the 1914-18 war decreased by about 2,600, but the number of ex-servicemen of the 1939-45 war and of subsequent campaigns who receive war pensions for incapacity continued to rise. On those figures, certainly the numbers in respect of the 1939-45 war, the Korea and Malaya operations, Far East Strategic Reserve, Special Overseas Service, and the miscellaneous groups, collectively have been on the increase, but the numbers in respect of the 1939-45 war have decreased by some 10,000. Perhaps the Minister has an explanation.
The Bill, in the main, provides for $2 a week increase in the special or T.P.I, rate. An additional amount of $2 a week is to be payable to certain amputees. Increases of $1 a week in the intermediate rate of war pension and the war widows’ pension, and other general increases in other rates, have been provided. As Senator Bishop has said, we of the Opposition do not oppose the increases. Indeed, we welcome them, because after all the amounts involved take up only to a very limited extent the backlag in war pension rates in comparison with the ever increasing cost of living. In our opinion, the increases do not go far enough. Certainly a lot more than is being provided at present can be afforded to be done by the Government on behalf of the Australian people. Not only do we of the Australian Labour Party level criticism at the Government in this connection but the Returned Services League does also. The National President, Sir Arthur Lee, and the National Executive of that body have complained about ‘ the paucity of repatriation provisions in the Budget. As Mr. Osmond, the New South Wales Secretary of the R.S.L. has stated in a letter to me - and I assume that all other senators from New South Wales, including the Minister, have received a similar letter -
Ex-servicemen in New South Wales are most disappointed that the Government has not provided any adequate adjustment to war pension rates.
The Prime Minister, the Minister for Repatriation, and the Cabinet, have been presented with facts indicating the decline in general rate pension values to an even lower level than existed in 1950, when the Chifley Labour Government went out of office. It is rather interesting to compare those rates with the rates in 1966. The special or T.P.I, rate pensioner in 1950 was, according to the State Secretary of the R.S.L. receiving 101 per cent, of the then Commonwealth basic wage. Today his rate is only 93 per cent, of the present basic wage.
– I do not think the honorable senator is quite fair in attributing that 10.1 per cent, to the rate when the Chifley Government went out of office.
– I am talking about the year after the Chifley Government went out of office.
– There was a considerable increase - about 23 per cent. - in that one year.
– Nonetheless, I am comparing these rates as the State Secretary of the R.S.L. has compared them. If you like, 1 will compare the 1949 rate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator will address his remarks to the Chair.
– Through you, Mr. Deputy President, let me say that if the honorable senator wants me to make a comparison with the 1949 rales I shall do so. In 1949 the special or T.P.I, rate was 84 per cent, of the basic wage. Admittedly it is now 93 per cent, of the basic wage, but in 1950 it was 101 per cent, of the basic wage. The general 100 per cent, rate pension in 1949 was 43 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950 it was 51 per cent, and in 1966 it is only 37 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1949, when the Chifley Government was in office, the war widows’ pension rate was 47 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950, the first year of office of the Menzies Government, it was 55 per cent, of the basic wage. Today, it is 40 per cent, of the basic wage. I gathered from the Minister’s second reading speech that the Government claims that it is doing all that it possibly can, having regard to its overall financial commitments, for Australia’s exservicemen. But the figures which have been produced by Mr. Osmond disprove this claim.
One could infer from the Minister’s second reading speech that there have been substantial increases in repatriation expenditure, i certainly gained that impression from a cursory perusal of the speech. He said - . . this year the Government has again provided for greatly enlarged expenditures in She defence area, and has had to meet other substantial commitments over the very wide range of Commonwealth activity. As well, the Government has again reviewed the scope of the repatriation system, and has been able to propose some valuable assistance for repatriation pensioners and their dependants, particularly for the most seriously disabled and needy pensioners.
Honorable senators will notice that the Minister used the phrase “some valuable assistance “. He certainly did not use a phrase such as “ some substantial increase “. The measures provided in the Bill will be of value because any assistance in these economic times is valuable, especially for men who have been maimed or wounded or have suffered illnesses in the defence of their country. But the measures certainly do not provide for substantial increases.
The Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) shows that since 1949, this is the first year in which there has been a downward trend in repatriation expenditure. A graph of the situation between 1951 and 1965 would show that during those 14 years, there has been a general increase in expenditure on repatriation services, but, according to the summary of the Budget results appended to the Treasurer’s Budget speech, it is estimated that some $4 million less will be spent on repatriation services this year than last year. This is at a time when one Australian battalion has returned from Vietnam, when there are at present approximately 4,500 servicemen in Vietnam, and when there is a possibility that more servicemen will be sent to Vietnam this year. Despite the great upsurge in recent months in the cost of living and prices generally, it is estimated that total expenditure on repatriation services will bc some $4 million less than the actual expenditure in the last financial year.
Bearing this in mind, it is any wonder that the State Secretary of the Returned
Services League in New South Wales wrote to all members of Federal Parliament in that State in the following terms -
Whilst the League is conscious of the fact that the men and women who have suffered disability as a result of their war service are rinding it more and more difficult to combat the steady trend of rising prices and falling values, the League is also concerned that members of our Forces at present engaged in active service in Vietnam and other theatres, who may as a result of the present conflict be totally incapacitated, will be asked to spend the rest of their lives on a weekly compensation that is less than the Commonwealth Basic Wage, lt is a matter of gravest concern that these men and their dependants should be called on to accept the responsibility which in all fairness should be borne more equally by the population at large.
This shows the callousness of the Government’s conscription policy. By a lottery system based on birthdates, young men are being taken out of their homes, away from their civilian employment and put into the Army. Some of them are sent to Vietnam and unfortunately some are maimed. When they return to Australia they are granted the total and permanent incapacity pension. They are being asked to accept for the rest of their lives weekly compensation that is less than the Commonwealth basic wage. To me, this seems to be grossly unfair and unreasonable. Is it any wonder that despite the large sums of money that are being spent on recruitment advertising, fewer volunteers are coming forward today than was the case 3, 4 or 5 years ago?
Senator Bishop referred to a number of matters that will be further amplified at the Committee stage. Therefore, I do not intend to take up excessive time in dealing with these matters in the second reading debate. I have studied the pension plan that was submitted to the repatriation sub-committee of Federal Cabinet by senior officials of the Returned Services League. The plan was submitted on 15th March of this year - approximately five months before the presentation of the Budget. Therefore, the Government cannot claim that it did not have sufficient time in which to give detailed and sympathetic consideration to the reasonable requests that were put forward by the League. Surely the Government, by the rejection of what the Opposition considers to be a reasonable request, is saying in effect, that in its opinion the plan is either unwarranted or it cannot be implemented at this stage.
Let us look at the three simple points which were put forward to the Government by Sir Arthur Lee, Sir William Yeo, Brigadier Hall, Mr. Elliman and Mr. Keys on behalf of the R.S.L. They suggested that there should be a general review of pension rates and allowances and that the special rate or T.P.I, pension should be increased to an amount* equal to the existing Commonwealth basic wage. They also suggested that the general rate pension should be increased to an amount equal to 50 per cent, of the existing Commonwealth basic wage, and that other pensions and dependants allowances should be increased proportionately.
They suggested, that free repatriation hospitalisation should be extended to all returned men who served in the Boer War and the First World War, regardless of any relationship of the illness or disability to war service. Further, they suggested that the funeral grant payable under the Repatriation regulations should be increased from £25 to £50. We of the Labour movement, having given these matters close and careful consideration, believe that the requests proposed by the National Executive of the R.S.L. on behalf of all ex-servicemen of the Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean and Malaya Campaigns and the present Vietnam activities, are fair and reasonable. They certainly are not excessive as the Government would seem to imply by its rejection of the proposals.
We certainly agree with the R.S.L. in asserting that in view of the steady decline of pension values ex-servicemen can be excused for thinking that the Government has abandoned the values established in 1920, confirmed by general reviews taking place in 1943 and, by the Menzies Government, in 1950. The Opposition criticises the Government for its reduced expenditure
On repatriation services, as it would appear from the Budget Speech, to the extent of some $4 million. Nonetheless, we welcome the increases in some of the rates that have taken place, niggardly as they are. But we criticise the Government for its failure adequately to provide for the repatriation needs of ex-servicemen generally. As Senator Bishop has indicated, the Opposition will be moving a number of amendments during the Committee stages of this Bill.
We assert that the Government could do much more than it has done up to the present time to meet the reasonable demands and requirements of Australian exservicemen and I hope the amendments we will move will be carried in their interests.
.- Mr. Deputy President, I have listened to the speech delivered by Senator McClelland wilh great interest. So far as he advances the point of view, that the proposals before the Senate do less than justice, I am completely in agreement with him. But so far as some of his submissions go, they evoke from me the greatest regret. It is unfortunate that we should have an honorable senator produce to this Senate as a point in his argument, not merely once but four or five times, the assertion that the proposals that we are considering now in relation to repatriation represent a reduced vote when compared with the appropriation for 1965-66. That is a statement of a half truth and of a glaring untruth. The fact concerning these increases is clearly stated in the Budget papers and in the second reading” speech delivered in relation to this Bill. The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) when introducing the Budget on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) said -
The additional cost of the increase in repatriation benefits and entitlements is expected to be $5,600,000 in 1966-67 and $7,500,000 in a full year.
The fact that the vote this year is $4,200,000 less than the appropriation last year is due to the accident that there is one pay period less in this financial year. There is one less than in the last financial year in the number of fortnights that fall between 1st July 1966 and 30th June 1967. It is unfortunate indeed that, in a matter of this scope which is moving into a situation that, I think, demands a new level of thinking altogether, if we are to discharge the repatriation obligations of this country to the men who are entitled to them, the arguments from the Opposition are smudged with half truths of that description.
I do not join in any congratulation of the Government for giving an increase of $7.5 million in repatriation benefits this year. I join in criticism of it. But I do think that the whole matter wants to be fairly stated upon a proper basis. I, too, cannot forbear from the impression that was given that the value of repatriation pensions in relation to the basic wage has suffered a deterioration under the Menzies Government as compared with those benefits provided by the Chifley Government. In the very document from which Senator McClelland quoted, the plan that was submitted by the deputation from the Returned Services League to the subcommittee of the Federal Cabinet, tribute is expressly paid in respect of this fact: The Menzies Government when it first came into power - and then was expressing much more impressively than the Government of today the full blooded vigour of new Liberalism - immediately lifted the special rate pension by 32 per cent. The Menzies Government in its first year of office brought the special rate pension up from the unfavorable percentage of the basic wage at which it had been left in the Chifley era to the level of 101 per cent, of the basic wage.
Having corrected the Opposition in this respect, 1 point out that I am not here in a repatriation debate to pander to party politics in any shape or form. I regret that the approach to pensions from the Returned Services League level, from the Opposition level and from the Government level proceeds by comparisons with the basic wage. This represents, of course, a tacit recognition from all quarters - and, I fear, from many quarters in the Parliament itself - that the only agent in this country that progressively advances from the point of view of the registration of values in the social scale of activity is the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I have said on a previous occasion when dealing with the Budget that all that it does is to translate, on the imprimatur of Parliament, into the field of social service and repatriation benefits the last basic wage judgment. This is a poverty stricken effort which I deplore. We should not be governed by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is an agency of ours. I think that the Parliament should command a different outlook on the evaluation of social services. But it should command an entirely different outlook on the evaluation of things which, I think, are incomparable with social services. I refer to repatriation compensation.
I deplore that, in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech, we find camouflaged figuring put forward by those who wrote the speech for the Treasurer. If, as the Treasurer said, he wrote quite a bit of the speech, then it may be his own figuring. Taking the total expenditure in the Budget, the Treasurer points out that 17 per cent, will be spent on defence; 16 per cent, on general purpose grants and drought assistance to the States; 28 per cent, on works and developmental services, territories, subsidies, immigration and education; 2 per cent, on external economic aid; and - the item to which I wish to address complaint - 21 per cent, on social services and repatriation. The combination of social services and repatriation without distinction leads to an inadequate appreciation of the true quality of repatriation payments.
If we go back in the Budget Speech we find that the total expenditure provided for repatriation this financial year is $249 million. The figure that the Treasurer wrapped up to obtain his 21 per cent, expenditure on social services and repatriation payments is $1,269 million. A little arithmetic shows that expenditure on repatriation will constitute about one fifth of the combined expenditure on social services and repatriation. The Treasurer ought to have told us clearly that expenditure on repatriation represents between 4 per cent, and 5 per cent, of the combined total. The credit that I give to those who prepared the Budget is not enhanced when I discover that repatriation expenditure represents between 4 per cent, and 5 per cent, of the combined total and that the aggregate expenditure on repatriation and social services constitutes 21 per cent, of the total Budget expenditure.
I am reminded of a statement that I read recently in a book written by Denis Warner and entitled, I think, “The Last Confucian “. He said that, at the time of Confucius, soldiers were regarded as being next to beggars. I am reminded, too, of Wellington’s army, which was supposed to consist of occupants of the gaols and poor houses, not merely of Britain but of Europe. In those days warfare was of the oddest kind, and the outlook was such that we would like to turn that black page forever. I remind the Senate of the tremendous voluntary effort that was made by this country in 1914. Australia’s contribution at that time will be regarded with pride forever, lt was after the First World War that we made our first essay in providing repatriation benefits. In one of the recent reports of the Repatriation Department we were treated to reminiscences. It was pointed out that in former wars soldiers were expected to share in the booty and loot as their emolument. In that report we were told also that the repatriation system that was established in Australia in 1919 represented a great advance. So it was. lt is odd that repatriation benefits should be equated with the basic wage. Is it to be assumed that all the dead whose dependants deserve compensation and all the disabled who have suffered incapacity or impairment of health were in receipt of the basic wage? Of course not. Every economic stratum was represented in those who responded to the call for sacrifice. If we are to take from the industrial sphere, a figure that will be valid for the purposes of comparison, it should be not the basic wage but the average earnings of Australians, which are now almost double the basic wage. We can think of many men who made the supreme sacrifice and others who were impaired who would be accorded no injustice whatever if granted a pension, even though it was equal to 120 per cent, of the basic wage. I am not arguing in favour of discrimination according to economic levels. The establishment of such a principle would require great thought, great discussion and infinite patience. It would not be beyond the capacity of those concerned to establish a tribunal which, taking a basic rate, could make adjustments according to individual entitlement. However, I am not arguing that point. I am simply protesting against the idea - it is so prevalent - that the relevant standard for comparison is the basic wage.
Having said that. I join with Senator McClelland in deploring the widening of the gap between the basic wage and the pension for total and permanent incapacity. I know that other benefits such as a wife’s allowance, hospital benefits and children’s allowances are paid; but the fact remains that the gap between the special rate pension and the basic wage is widening. What I have said with regard to the veterans of the First World War applies with equal force to ex-servicemen of the Second World War, who also were volun teers. Some of us recall very vividly some of the remarks that were passed about the sources from which recruits were forthcoming in 1.939 in the early months of the war. I shall not repeat them. The achievements of the Army in the Second World War were terrific. The achievements of the other Services were just magnificent. For the most part, those men were volunteers. Following that war we adopted a similar system of repatriation.
It may be that because of the great strength that has accrued to them from the value of the achievements of members of the Services, ex-servicemen’s organisations such as the Returned Services League will constitute vested interests that will be averse to a complete rethinking of repatriation services as they affect people now in the Australian Forces. I do not know whether that will be so. Of course, I speak with great respect about the views that are held by the R.S.L. But the view that I put forward in this debate, not for the first time in the Senate, is that when the country, through the Parliament, commits itself to compulsory combat service, it is bound to accept a new obligation in relation to the compensation of dependants of deceased servicemen and of the disabled. If this Parliament imposes upon the men of this country a compulsory obligation to fight, then it has a bounden duty to look at repatriation on a different level from that adopted in the past and to fix an appropriate scale of compensation. The authority vested in the Parliament to compel men to go to the front for the security and defence of the country is the highest and most earnest authority that it can be. called upon to exercise.
From that point I go on in this way to argue the need for a rethinking of repatriation benefits: The ideas that were current in 1920 in relation to compensation for industrial and civilian casualties are now quite outmoded. Only recently I read in the Sydney Press that a young man in actual training service in the Army, had successfully brought a claim for compensation. He had alleged and had proved to the satisfaction of the Judge that negligence had occurred. He was awarded a verdict, for paraplegic injuries, of $81,000. That is sufficient to provide him with a home and its adjuncts costing, say, $20,000. This would leave him $60,000 for investment. If that sum were invested at 7 per cent, interest it would give him approximately $4,000 a year or $80 a week. After purchasing a home he still will have his capital as a reserve for his family in the future. I mention that case merely to show that within the Army itself a scale of compensation is being imposed, per medium of the civil courts, which is far above the concept of the Repatriation Department.
Today, a total and permanent incapacity pension of $30 a week for a man of 25 who had an expectancy of 40 years future working life, would be worth a capital sum of not much more than $26,000 or $30,000. So, I contend that the thinking of the community today, and the verdicts which are enforced by courts of justice in relation to Army trainees, are quite out of step with the prevailing approach to repatriation benefits. In the civilian industrial sphere, if I am an employer of labour building defence barracks I am required by law to sustain a system of compensation for the purpose of compensating an employee if there is some fault on my part or if 1 have submitted him to danger that he did not voluntarily undertake. I am mentioning these terms quite indefinitely to indicate the legal conceptions I have in mind. If an employee of mine suffers an injury which renders him totally and permanently incapacitated I am bound by law to pay compensation of from $60,000 to £80,000.
I believe it is imperative that a country which requires compulsory military service should rethink the very bases of its repatriation benefits. As I stated during a similar debate in this chamber in October last year, we should look to the War Damage Commission that was established during the war for the purpose of compensating persons for property damage. Every property owner was required to pay his contribution for war damage insurance. If similar contributions were used to provide a fund of repatriation benefits on a just and adequate basis, that would be a useful source from which to draw in order to provide funds which the Budget has failed to provide. Once we embark upon a system of compulsory military service there is an imperative obligation on the Parliament to ensure that compensation is comparable, not with the basic wage but with the average wage that is being earned in Australia, if we wish to use a figure from that sphere. But that may be a shortsighted point of view. The important thing is that a person who is rendered totally and permanently incapacitated by his war service should not be left on $30 a week or anything like it.
I have noted from the Budget Speech that the war widows pension has been increased by SI a week, from §12 to $13. When we consider the pure economic loss that has occurred by reason of the fact that a widow’s breadwinner has been killed or has died, it seems that the Government is taking the attitude of a poor uncle who cannot afford to pay more. Let us consider the position of the ordinary civilian engaged in industry whose employee has been killed in an accident. If it can be shown that the employer was at fault, or that the employee was subjected to an element of danger to which he had not voluntarily submitted, he is required, whatever his means, to answer to a much higher level of compensation.
We have seen amendments which are to be moved at the Committee stage. Some of them deserve special discussion. I shall refer to only one of them. It is similar to an amendment in respect of which we had some lively parliamentary experience last year. That amendment related to hospital benefits for First World War diggers. Senator McClelland has told us that those men now number about 106,000, and that figure is supported by the report of the Repatriation Department. About half of that number are entitled to repatriation hospital treatment as an adjunct to the recognition of their disabilities as being war caused, and the other half are excluded. I should like to correct something that Senator McClelland said. According to my recollection, and it is supported by the record, the initial cost of providing that benefit was stated to be £5 million, and an operating cost of £2.5 million a year.
We have been told that that is the operating cost of providing those hospital benefits today. I seriously question that estimate. I think that there has been a failure to give credit for many offsets that would bc made against it such as reduced expenditure for civilian hospitals if these men were treated in repatriation hospitals. In any event, the report shows that, based on last year’s figures and on the normal hospital bed operating capacity, only 90 per cent, is being used at the present time. It is more likely to be 89 per cent., but in round figures we can say that it is about 90 per cent. We must remember that the hospital operating bed capacity has been fixed at not more than 90 per cent, of the actual capacity because of the current notion in all administrative undertakings that it is necessary to keep a reserve for emergency cases and so on. Therefore, there is room for further services in the present hospital accommodation.
The report also states that the average age of the First World War ex-servicemen is now 72 years. As the Returned Services League plan vividly points out, this matter is assuming an added degree of urgency because age is catching up with the First World War veterans. I feel tremendously disappointed that this year the Government has repeated its adamant attitude of last year and has refused this service. Last year I voted with the Opposition on an amendment in this connection and in two previous years 1 had joined in debate for the purpose of urging the Government to accept this proposal as a matter or urgency. Honorable senators will remember the constitutional discussions of last year when we had the great experience of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) stating that, from a constitutional point of view, the Senate was entitled to take the stand that it took. In my humble opinion, the Minister was clearly right.
With an election coming on - only for the House of Representatives - I have given this matter very serious consideration. I do noi withdraw by one iota my opposition to the level of the benefits, but 1 feel that in. the Senate my constitutional function is not such that I should take the parliamentary action of voting against this proposal.
– Ha, ha. I expected that.
– I stand up for my decisions in this chamber and give reasons for them. I will not vote against the amendment proposed by the Opposition and I will not vote for it. There will be a further opportunity for the Government to consider this matter before it comes, from my point of view, to an ultimate issue.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) ability than Senator Wright to show with clarity the injustices inflicted upon a section of the community that has given great service in times past. I think honorable senators were very much impressed by the honorable senator’s comparison of repatriation benefits today with workers’ compensation payments and awards following civil court actions for damages, and by the argument that repatriation pensions should be based upon an average wage, rather than the basic wage. We have heard demonstrated Senator Wright’s knowledge of the injustices of repatriation benefits and of the sacrifices servicemen made in two world wars. He is prepared to use his eloquence to tell us of those injustices. What a great pity it is that he runs out just when he could rectify them. What a great pity it is that the preservation of a government is considered to be of greater importance than doing justice to those men who made greater sacrifices than any member of the Government. Why does a man reach the stage when he is prepared to give lip service to the correction pf injustices, while in his hands is the means of providing justice for the men whose achievements he has praised? Senator Wright showed by his comparison how hardly done by are recipients of repatriation benefits at this time. Surely this is hypocrisy of the greatest degree.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator must not tend to disparage another honorable senator.
– I would have thought that, he disparaged himself by his action. But let us hope that in the calmness of the period before the Senate votes on the amendment he may realise that there is sufficient justification for him to give his support to it. I refer not to lip service, but to support that will give to repatriation pensioners the justice that has been denied to them.
The House of Representatives’ elections are to be held in November. .1 would have thought that the defeat of the Government on this measure and the consequent necessity for an increase in repatriation benefits would have made more secure the Government’s re-election. Honorable senators may also have noted that Senator Wright is coming up for re-election in 1968. I only hope that if that is his consideration, he would not place his own position in front of giving justice to the men whose case he so ably presented. What is the use of offering praise for the efforts of individuals and then running away from an opportunity to give them their just entitlement?
Senator Wright has said that on this occasion he will not vote for or against the Opposition’s proposal. He has said that he will not be here when the vote is taken. 1 hope that my party will not grant him a pair and thus reduce the Opposition’s vote, because every vote on this side of the chamber is important to a section of the community which is deserving of the benefits that the amendment would give to it. 1 say further to Senator Wright that our statements should be studied before he accuses the Opposition of half truths. It is stated in the summary following the Budget speech -
War and Service Pensions and Allowances - the measures announced in the Budget Speech arc estimated to cost $5,525,000 in 1966-67. But for the effect’s of the measures, there would be an estimated decrease in expenditure of $13,062,000 in 1966-67- a decrease of S 15,580,000 attributable to the occurrence in 1966-67 of one less twelve-weekly bank payment and one less fortnightly cheque payment than in 1965-66 being partly offset by expected additional pension costs of S2.5I8.000 which arise from an expected increase in the number of pensioners and from the full year effects of the increased benefits granted during 1965-66. After allowance for the effects of the measures, expenditure in 1966-67 is estimated to decrease by 37,537,000.
After allowance is made for one less fortnightly cheque payment, there is a decrease in expenditure on benefits this year to the extent of $7,537,000. lt seems clear that an additional increase to pensioners could have been granted without an increase in the Budget expenditure over last year’s expenditure on repatriation benefits. Why should not advantage be taken of the reduced number of pay days to make a distribution to pensioners without increasing the Budget expenditure on repatriation benefits over that of last year? Why should the Government benefit and not the pensioners because of the fortunate occurrence of a lesser number of pension pay days in the year?
In effect, the purpose of the Bill is to give to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen an amount equal to that receivable by pensioners generally, and to the basic wage. Senator Wright said that comparison with the basic wage is not fair. But movements in the basic wage have been accepted by returned servicemen’s organisations as some indication of fluctuations in the cost of living. The basic wage is accepted as the minimum living wage. It is reviewed annually. It fluctuates according to increases in prices.
– It is a yardstick.
– Yes, it is. Because there has been an increase in the cost of living over the past 12 months, we are now giving pension increases to repatriation pensioners in order to bring them back to their previous level. Therefore, in effect, there is no increase at all in pensions while there is no method of controlling prices.
The returned servicemen’s organisations may support Senator Wright’s argument. Perhaps we all should support it. Those organisations very generously accept this yardstick. Comparisons are made between the present rates of pensions and the rates paid in 1950 when, as Senator Wright said, the present Government parties came into power with an urge of full blooded Liberalism. If they had that urge and increased pensions by 30 per cent., why are not pensions higher today? Is this full blooded Liberalism no longer in the members of the Liberal Party? Has their Party changed in the meantime? Has their policy changed in the meantime? In effect they have reduced repatriation benefits because those benefits have not the value, in comparison with the basic wage, that they had in 1949 when the Labour Government was in office.
On Wednesday of last week Senator Hendrickson asked the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) a question based on the contents of a letter that he received from the State President of the Victorian Branch of the Returned Services League, Mr. W. H. Hall. That letter stated-
Hie pension values in comparison with the Commonwealth basic wage are now at an all time low, being even less than in 1949 when the Government had carried out a general review and had approved an increase in every pension category.
– Who wrote this letter from which the honorable senator is quoting?
– Mr. W. H. Hall, State President of the Victorian Branch of the R.S.L., of Anzac House, Collins Street, Melbourne. Not only have members of the Government parties lost the full blooded Liberalism that permeated them when they took office and gave them the urge to see that justice was done but they have allowed benefits to decrease in value. Mr. Hall went on to say -
Members and their families and a vast majority of Australians would not expect a young man. totally and permanently incapacited in Vietnam, to exist for the rest of his life on compensation that was less than the Commonwealth basic wage.
That is what such a young man must expect unless the Government gets another urge of full blooded Liberalism or we can change the government. Mr. Hall continued - lt is also a matter of extreme disappointment that the Government has not acceded to the request for repatriation hospitalisation for men of the First World War and Boer Wars. This was a section of the community that had rendered outstanding service to Australia.
The Minister, in reply to Senator Hendrickson’s question, stated that the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) would reply personally to the letter. The Prime Minister obviously received a copy of the kim and we would expect him to reply personally. But when a letter comes into the hands of a senator and he asks a question, not for the purpose of receiving a secret reply to correspondence but for the purpose of public information, he is told that the Prime Minister will reply to the letter and, in effect, that the details cannot be made public. Senator Hendrickson was assured that the matter would be debated today, but none of his requests for some information on these matters was acceded to.
My purpose in rising to speak today was twofold. One of the matters will have to be left, in view of the shortness of the time available to me. The other matter relates to appeal tribunals. Whilst the proposed increases are poor recompense to people who receive pensions, the loss to people who fail to receive pensions at all is much greater than that of pensioners. We are told that in relation to pensions the benefit of the doubt is given to the returned man, the applicant. On 25th August, during the Budget debate, 1 stated that in the case of Assessment Appeal Tribunals that was not so. On 15th September the Minister replied and assured me that it was so. His reply, as reported at page 435 of “ Hansard “, reads -
I think it would be advisable for me to give Senator Cavanagh sonic information that apparently he does not possess at the present time, lie referred to a case which was heard by the Assessment Appeal Tribunal in South Australia. He did not give the name of the appellant in the case.
Pausing there, I point out that the name of the appellant was H. B. Deed. The reason why his name was not given was that 1 was not making the complaint on his behalf. My complaint was that, because of the method of operation of the Tribunals, whoever the appellant is, he does not receive the benefit of the doubt, as provided for in the Repatriation Act. Whilst this man was the one who brought the information to my notice, 1 did not make a request that his problem be solved. My request was that he and all other appellants be given tribunals that will consider their applications on their merits and not on the basis of an individual examination. The Minister went on to say -
I understood him to say that he was the advocate for the appellant. Senator Cavanagh castigated the Tribunal. 1 do not know what the phrase “ castigated the Tribunal “ means. I tried to say that I had the greatest respect for the members of the Tribunal, which consisted of a solicitor from Melbourne, who was very courteous and went out of his way to be of assistance, and two doctors who were specialists in their particular fields. My condemnation was of the setup of the Tribunal and the method of deciding the case. The Minister continued -
He said it appeared that the evidence which was given by one doctor was considered before the evidence that was given by doctors on behalf of the appellant. I want to explain to Senator Cavanagh that this was not the case at all.
The Minister, without knowing the case concerned, says that “ this was not the case at all “. Incidentally, I would not like to convey that it was. I think all the evidence was before the Tribunal, but the deciding factor was an examination by a doctor at the Tribunal hearing. The Minister went on to say -
The Chairman of the Tribunal must be a barrister who has had experience in these matters. He is recommended by anex-servicemen’s organisation. He is assisted by two medical men. These men are not there to decide whether or not a man should have an entitlement. He already has an entitlement. Their job is to assess the pension that the man should receive.
This is an Appeals Tribunal and we have to consider: Is that its job? A man applies for a T.P.I. pension and goes before a lower tribunal. The job of an Appeals Tribunal is to determine whether the decision of the lower tribunal is correct. The Appeals Tribunal has to decide whether the case was decided correctly on the evidence before the lower tribunal or whether there is additional evidence that should be referred back to that tribunal. It is not the job of the Appeals Tribunal to decide the pension an applicant should receive. Its task is to determine whether the lower tribunal acted correctly.
I submit in all sincerity that if the evidence given before the Appeals Tribunal had been presented before any judicial tribunal, the applicant would have been granted a T.P.I. pension because it was clear beyond any doubt that he had an entitlement. It could have been established easily that the other tribunal had acted wrongly. This Tribunal was composed of a solicitor and two doctors. One of the applicant’s accepted war caused disabilities was anxiety neurosis. He also had gastric neurosis which was accepted. But his claim for a pension in this case was for arthritis and a specialist on arthritic complaints made an examination and came to the conclusion that the applicant was not totally and permanently incapacitated. If the evidence which preceded the examination had been argued before a judicial tribunal, the entitlement could have been established. This brings me to two points. The first is that this doctor was a member of the Tribunal and the Tribunal accepted his report and reached a decision. The whole point of this matter is not the examination made by the lower tribunal but the decision. All of us occasionally get twinges of arthritis and we know that reactions differ on different days. It might be a bad day for the appellant when he goes before the Tribunal. No one can say whether his con dition then is consistent with what it is on other days. The Minister for Repatriation in the speech to whichI have referred stated, speaking of the Tribunal -
Their job is to assess the pension that the man should receive. The files are placed before the Tribunal. The evidence of the doctors to whom Senator Cavanagh referred would have been and should have been, before the Tribunal if the advocate had been doing his job.
But they did not listen to the advocate. The Tribunals say they have their own method of conducting inquiries and questioning the person before them. They say, in effect: “ We do not want your arguments. We make our examination and decide.” Where does the onus of proof come into such consideration? The Minister added -
Consideration is given to the reports furnished by the doctors who have examined the appellants up to that point of time. So it is entirely wrong for Senator Cavanagh to suggest that because one doctor expressed an opinion, that decided the case for or against the appellant.
AsI have said, if the question had been referred to a judicial tribunal, it would have found onthe evidence that the lower tribunal was wrong. I challenge the Minister to submit it to any legal tribunal. If it could not be proved beyond doubt thatthe appellant was entitled to the pension, on the onus of proof provisions it would have been shown definitely that he was so entitled. The Minister said that - . . when i took over as Minister for Repatriation,I was told by a man experienced in matters concerning repatriation that the Repatriation Department bends over backwards to give appellants the benefit of the doubt.
That is the whole question. I have never received better treatment than I have received from the Repatriation Department in Adelaide. I do not condemn those who are on the Tribunal; my condemnation is of the methods.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator GORTON (Victoria- Minister for Works and Minister in Charge of
Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research). - by leave - I present the Third Report of the Australian Universities Commission, which describes the progress made by universities during this triennium and which makes recommendations for grants to universities for the 1967-69 triennium. At the same time I present the First Report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education, together with a supplement, which makes recommendations for grants to colleges of advanced education for the 1967-69 triennium. I present these reports simultaneously because each deals with one aspect of the same field - tertiary education - and the reports should be read in conjunction if we desire a complete picture of what advances we hope to make in tertiary education over the next three calendar years. lt will be necessary for me to discuss separately the matters raised in each report, but before doing so I should like to give a broad general indication of the financial implications of the programme which the Government will ask the Parliament to endorse. Over the years 1967-69 the financial cost of the programme we propose for universities will be S5I2 million =-an increase of SI 20 million, or approximately 30 per cent., over the $390 million which is the cost of the programme for this present triennium. Over the years 1967-69 the financial cost of the programme we propose for colleges of advanced education will be $98 million - an increase of approximately $70 million - or approximately 250 per cent. - over the $28 million spent in this field during this present triennium where the Commonwealth, except for some interim capital grants, has not been involved. In total therefore, during the next three calendar years, expenditure on tertiary education is planned to be approximately $610 million as compared with an expenditure of approximately $418 million during the three calendar years of which the present year is the last. Of the total proposed to be spent the Commonwealth will provide approximately $276 million, the rest being provided by State Governments, and by the fees and other income of universities themselves. I now proceed to deal in more detail with each report.
In March 1965 the Government announced its acceptance of the recommendations of the Martin Committee on Tertiary Education which urged the strengthening and widening of tertiary colleges outside the universities. We called this group of colleges by the name of Colleges of Advanced Education and we announced that we were prepared to provide finance, on the matching basis recommended by the Tertiary Education Committee, of up to $48 million over the three years 1967, 1968 and 1969. In order to ensure that the money we provided was spent on proposals which had our approval, and which would assist towards establishing the kind of colleges the tertiary committee had in mind, we appointed an advisory committee, under the Chairmanship of Dr. Wark, to confer with States and the colleges on proposals and to advise us as lo which proposals should be supported, and the degree to which they should be supported, lt is the first report of this Committee which I present.
We have decided to ask the Parliament to accept all recommendations of the Committee which designate projects to be helped, and to provide to each project the amount of finance recommended by the Committee. This will involve expenditure by the Commonwealth, over the 1967-69 triennium of $34.68 million as a contribution to a total joint programme of $97,062 million. We have also decided, as recommended by the Committee, to set aside an additional sum of $500,000 in order to provide unmatched Commonwealth grants to approved colleges for the purchase of library books and library materials. This sum is to be used as an addition to the provision for libraries made in the general joint programme and will be granted subject to the condition that the library acquisition programme to be jointly financed by the Commonwealth and States is in fact achieved. The grant will not be made on a population, or formula basis, but will be distributed on the advice of the Wark Committee as to where the greatest need exists. We would expect the Committee, before offering us such advice, to consult with colleges and with the States.
We wish the new colleges to provide to the community graduates with professional qualifications, with a strong bias towards the application of qualifications to immediately practical ends, and with a tertiary education which has studied liberal arts subjects in equal depth, but not over as wide a field, as universities. But the - precise lines of development which will lead to this desired end are still the subject of academic and public discussion and cannot be asserted with clarity at present. We therefore agree with the recommendation that $250,000 should be’ provided by the Commonwealth as an unmatched grant for the purpose of conducting research into this question. This money will be spent after we have received advice from the Wark Committee but we expect that that Committee will consult with State authorities - one would hope with all the States rather than with individual States - in selecting and co-ordinating programmes of study and lines of research. We do not anticipate that there will emerge from these studies one clearly optimum method of developing the colleges, nor would we regard the results of any research study as in any way binding, but we do think that such study, being published, will help (o guide public discussion, to indicate lines of development which ought to be tried, and to contribute to the ultimate achievement of the goal sought.
We accept the recommendations of the Committee that capital funds may be transferred between projects in any one State if we agree to such transfer; that computers should be regarded as items of equipment eligible for purchase for the new colleges, subject to careful consideration of individual proposals; that halls of residence should be eligible to receive capital and recurrent grants; and that residential colleges be eligible to receive capital grants of $1 from the Commonwealth for every $1 raised from other sources, and that any such colleges which may be established will be eligible for recurrent grants on the same basis as that on which residential colleges are now assisted at universities. On the other hand, we do not accept the recommendation that capital grants should bc able to be transferred as between States, or that the basis of recurrent grants should be altered from $1 Commonwealth to $1.85 from the State to $1 Commonwealth to $1
State, or that the recurrent programme now put forward and accepted for the triennium should be able to be changed during the triennium.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the wide variety of colleges and courses which are,_ in the report, recommended for assistance. A completely new college will be built in Tasmania during the triennium. Included among other colleges are not only the well established tertiary colleges in the capital cities but also such institutions as the Hawkesbury- and Wagga agricultural colleges, Gatton College in Queensland, the agricultural and forestry colleges in Victoria, .the new colleges at Toowoomba and Rockhampton, the School of Mines at Kalgoorlie, and country colleges at Ballarat and Bendigo; while among the courses recommended for assistance are postgraduate nursing in New South Wales and Victoria, other para-medical studies in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia; music in Queensland and Tasmania, and art in South Australia.
Honorable senators will note from the report that the States have estimated that under the programme the total number of students enrolled in colleges of advanced education in all Slates - will increase from 24,342 in 1965 to 49,948 in 1969, and that within these totals the number of fulltime students will increase over the same period from 8,391 to 17,579. I hope the Parliament, and the country, will see this report and the decisions taken on it as representing a significant and new step forward - a first step but nevertheless a significant first step - towards providing for the Australia of the future an alternative system of tertiary education which will grow in status and authority and which will provide us with men and women who not only possess the technological skills we must have, but who have also received a general education designed to help them to be more rounded and fulfilled human beings.
At this point, Mr. Deputy President, and before proceeding to discuss universities, with the concurrence of honorable senators I incorporate in “ Hansard “ a table setting out in broad terms the financial allocations between the various States and the Commonwealth in this field.
I earlier indicated that the financial programme which we offer to support during the next triennium will be $512 million and will represent an increase of approximately $120 million over this present triennium. But large as that programme is, it is approximately $56 million less than the programme recommended by the Universities Commission. The reductions, which are not uniform over all Australia but which vary in incidence from State to State, arose as a request from the Premiers at the June Premiers’ Conference, to the effect that consultations in some detail should take place between the Commonwealth and each State concerning the recommendations of the Universities Commission, for which State Treasurers must provide half the capital and a little more than half the recurrent.
These discussions took place, with each State separately, at both the official and the ministerial level, and each State indicated the upper limit of the programme which it felt it could support. The variations in the programmes proposed for each State flow very largely from these discussions but it is not to be assumed that in the absence of such discussions the Commonwealth would have offered to support, throughout Australia, a programme of the magnitude of that suggested by the Universities Commission.
Indeed we felt, just as the States felt, that in total the suggested programme made too great a demand on the resources available for education, having regard to the competing claims of other tertiary institutions and of primary, secondary and technical education, and that some reduction was necessary. We have adopted, for the major items of university buildings, student residences and general recurrent grants in the State universities, the upper limits proposed by the States, except in - the case of Western Australia and Tasmania where we have adopted the upper limits suggested by the States for capital grants but have made on our own initiative a reduction of approximately 5 per cent, in the recommended recurrent grant.
The Commonwealth first provided university grants for capital expenditure in teaching hospitals during the 1961-63 triennium and continued them on a greatly expanded scale during the J y 64-66 triennium. The value of the building programmes in teaching hospitals provided or being provided in the present triennium equally by the Commonwealth and the States is $6,222 million. During the coming 1967-69 triennium, the Commonwealth, with the agreement of the States, will support a further programme of the value of $9,854 million in teaching hospitals.
I refer honorable Senators to the Universities Commission’s remarks that what has already been done has almost overcome the accumulated deficit of years of neglect of the needs of teaching hospitals and that what is now proposed for the next triennium will make satisfactory facilities available throughout the Commonwealth for the training of undergraduate medical students. Beyond that period, capital grants for teaching hospitals will be required only in the case of new institutions.
In 1965 the first Commonwealth grants were made available to universities as a contribution towards the recurrent costs of their teaching hospitals. As recommended by the Universities Commission, these grants are towards the cost of the clinical school administration, maintenance and service charges and part of the library costs; $369,000 is being provided by the Commonwealth over the 18 months period ending in December 1966 and a further $820,000 will be made available by the Commonwealth during the 1967-69 triennium. The Commonwealth grants during the next triennium will be for the same purposes as for this triennium.
Last year the Government deferred consideration of a further recommendation from the Universities Commission for payment of honoraries for teaching services in the clinical schools. This was done because of the wider implications for the Commonwealth and the States in the health field. There have since been discussions with the States and it has been decided not to add this new element of cost to the clinical teaching hospitals of the universities. At the same time, however, some States asked for a Commonwealth contribution towards a range of existing indirect costs which occur in teaching hospitals, but the Commonwealth has not been prepared to agree to this.
The New South Wales Government has been reviewing the relative needs of the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales for teaching hospital facilities, lt has asked - and the Commonwealth has agreed - for an opportunity to vary the programme of teaching hospital buildings nominated for each of these institutions. There will of course be no increase in the amount of money approved in total for the two groups of hospitals.
Student residences are an accepted and valuable part of the Australian university scene. The Universities Commission points out that in April 1966 there were 8,190 students in residences in 38 affiliated colleges and 30 halls of residence throughout Australia. Fifty-nine per cent, were in affiliated colleges and 41 per cent, in halls of residence. The Universities Commission points out further that 68 per cent of these students come from country areas, 19 per cent, from metropolitan districts and 13 per cent, from overseas. Again, in April 1966, students in residences represented 13.5 per cent, of all full-time students in State universities and 43.9 per cent, at the Australian National University where there are many postgraduate students in residence in the Institute of Advanced Studies. During the 1964-1966 triennium, the Commonwealth accepted the Universities Commission’s recommendation for grants totalling $7,335 million as a 50 per cent, contribution to a programme for building residential accommodation for students, but varied the distribution of the grants to give affiliated colleges equal opportunity with halls of residence to qualify for the Commonwealth grants. In the result, during this present triennium $6.29 million is being spent on affiliated colleges and $8.78 million on student residences.
For the 1967-1969 triennium, the Commonwealth will provide half the cost of student residences in State universities by making grants of $6.51 million to affiliated colleges and $2.44 million to halls of residence. In addition, the Commonwealth will provide $2.64 million as a 75 per cent, contribution to the first three affiliated colleges at the Australian National University and $500,000 as the total cost of a second post-graduate hall there. Taken together, these proposals represent a total Commonwealth contribution of $9.21 million for affiliated colleges and $2.94 million for halls of residence, making $12.1 million in total.
This programme conforms with the University Commission’s recommendations except for the following projects which have not been endorsed by the State governments concerned -
The South Australian Government wishes Flinders University to decide whether or not it will build its first hall during the next triennium in preference to some general university building within the amount of money to be made available for buildings at that university. If the university does decide to do this, the total programme of student residences during the 1967-69 triennium will amount to $22,143 million of which the Commonwealth’s contribution will be $12,792 million.
The Commonwealth will continue with its unmatched annual grants towards administration and teaching costs of student residences. It has accepted the recommendation of the Universities Commission for an increase in the scale of these payments to affiliated colleges and for maintenance of the payments to halls of residence at the present rate. It is estimated that the Commonwealth will provide $1,964 million in these special grants during the 1967-69 triennium compared with $1,404 million in the present triennium.
Lust triennium, the Universities Commission recommended a grant of $.10 million, provided as to half by the Commonwealth and as to half by the various States, for general research in universities. The Commonwealth decided to offer support for a programme to cost $10 million over the triennium but provided such support by making available half of. a total of S6 million for general research at universities plus half of a total of $4 million made available for distribution through the Australian Research Grants Committee. The $4 million distributed by the Australian Research Grants Committee, which selects for support special research projects judged by il to be of particular merit, was almost all spent in State universities. In each case, the Slate Government concerned provided half of the cost of each grant. For the coming triennium the Australian Universities Commission is recommending again a grant to universities for general research totalling $10 million over the triennium.
The Commonwealth, after consultation and agreement with the States, has decided to provide half of a sum to total $6 million for the purpose of general research in universities on condition the States provide the other half. In addition, the Commonwealth is prepared to provide for distribution through the Australian Research Grants Committee half of the sum of $ 1 1 million on condition that the States provide the other half. We are thus prepared to provide half the money required for a research programme totalling $17 million over the triennium but at present we do not know whether all States will provide their half of the required funds for the Australian Research Grants Committee. Our position therefore is although we are prepared to provide half of $17 million for research, we cannot provide, from our own resources, more than $9 million over the triennium and, because of the importance which we attach to the Australian Research Grants Committee we regard that Committee as having first call on our available funds. Therefore to the extent that any State does not support the grant to the Research Grants Committee, to that extent we will be compelled to reduce our contribution to the general research grant. It is, of course, a matter for decision by each State as to what it will do in the matter.
Honorable senators will appreciate that for most universities the money to be made available in the next triennium for new university buildings will not be sufficient to permit construction of all the buildings recommended by the Universities Commission. Therefore the universities and the Commission will need to recommend the projects to be proceeded with during the triennium. When selections have been made, the information will be given to the Senate. In their reappraisal, the Commission and the universities will have to take account of decisions taken by governments about individual projects. At the University of Sydney, the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments have agreed, within the total sum to be provided for university buildings, to support the provision of a new law school in the city of the size and value the University has asked for, that is a sum of $3.4 million. This project has been approved on the understanding that the New South Wales Government will not support any other university in New South Wales in setting up a law faculty or appointing staff for a law school during the current triennium.
New South Wales and the Commonwealth also have agreed not to support any capital development at the Broken Hill College of the University of New South Wales during the triennium. For buildings at the University of Queensland, the Commonwealth has approved a sum of $6.6 million in total for St. Lucia and Mount Gravatt and looks to the University of Queensland and the Universities Commission to recommend how this amount Should be distributed between the two sites. That recommendation will, in fact, reflect a judgment about the timing of the development of new facilities on the Mount Gravatt site. For the two universities in South Australia, the State Government wishes there to be some flexibility within the approved total for the two universities in the amounts to be provided both for recurrent expenditure and for capital expenditure on new buildings, computers and student residences. The Commonwealth is prepared to accept such a recommendation from the State, but for the present has nominated sums for these two universities as set out in the accompanying statement.
Another matter raised in the Universities Commission’s report is a proposal of the Stale of New South Wales to establish a junior university college in the Riverina, limited to the first two years of basic degree courses in arts and science. In considering this proposal we have noted that neither the Committee of Inquiry into the Future of Tertiary Education nor the Universities Commission has supported previous proposals for a university in the Riverina and that the Universities Commission states it feels it cannot support the present proposal. There are also a number of matters still unresolved such as the precise location which the New South Wales Government has in mind for any establishment, the number, type, and duration of courses proposed to be given, and the relationship with the proposed parent university and with other universities in the State. Such matters as these all need to be resolved before all the data is available for a final evaluation of the proposal and we therefore do not feel that we can properly reach a decision at this point of time on this proposal for such a junior university college. We are prepared to hold further discussions with the State Government and the Universities Commission on this proposition.
The recommendation of the Universities Commission for the purchase of computers, which has been accepted, is for expenditure of §1.786 million during the 1967-1969 triennium compared with $1,936 million in the present triennium. This money, which will be provided equally by the Commonwealth and the States, will purchase ancillary equipment for existing computers and provide small computers for new universities. There are two other matters about which the Universities Commission has recommended that special grants be made on a $1 for $1 basis between the Commonwealth and the States. One recommendation is for $2 million to be made available in the 1967-1969 triennium as a special contribution towards the development of material in university libraries for the humanities, social sciences and law. We are not prepared to make this special provision. The other proposal is that $1 million be set aside for the purchase of items of equipment costing up to $40,000 each for use in departments which have not had new buildings. The Government cannot accept this recommendation but it will vary its administrative arrangements to provide greater opportunities for universities to purchase expensive items of equipment.
During the 1964-1966 triennium, the Government made grants to the Australian National University totalling $49,997 million of which $14,069 million was for capital works and equipment and $35,928 million for recurrent expenditure. For the 1967- 1969 triennium, the Commonwealth grants will total $65,859 million, an increase of $15,862 million. The recurrent component will bc $50,059 million and the capital component $15.8 million. In addition the university will receive $1,364 million for a housing programme. Major developments at the Australian National University in the next triennium will be the continuing growth in undergraduate student numbers in the School of General Studies, the inauguration of a sixth research school in the Institute of Advanced Studies - the Research School of Biological Sciences; the further development of the recently established Research School of Chemistry and the construction of the first affiliated residential colleges at the University - St. John’s, St. Ursula’s and the Inter-Church College, together with a second postgraduate hall of residence. The School of General Studies will receive special research grants for postgraduate training purposes under the Commission’s programme to the value of $240,000 and the general research grant for the Institute of Advanced Studies will be $2.76 million. Members of the School of General Studies are also eligible to compete for Australian Research Grants Committee awards.
With the concurrence of the Senate I incorporate in the “Hansard” record the following table which shows in broad terms the programme of expenditure for universities which the Government will support during the next triennium -
The Government believes that the level of expenditure approved for the universities will permit their expansion to meet all reasonable needs for students and essential staff over the three year period. As will be seen from the Commission’s report, the Commission is now expecting student numbers during the years 1967 to 1969 to be higher than was estimated in 1964 by the Committee of Inquiry into the Future of Tertiary Education. At the same time the numbers of students in colleges of advanced education are expected to be less than was estimated in 1964. The Commission has also pointed out that enrolments in some of the larger and older universities will tend to stabilize, with the main increases in student numbers taking place in newer or smaller institutions. It has stressed the necessity to take account of the effects on universities of the growing number of post-graduate students and the need to reduce the disparity among universities in the ratios of undergraduate students to academic staff. We expect that universities will be able to accommodate undergraduate students without restricting their entry to any greater extent than at present, and I would stress that the financial resources available to Australian universities in the next triennium as compared with those available in the 1964-1966 triennium will increase at a greater rate than that at which the enrolments of equivalent full time students arc expected to increase.
The Commission has recommended that the general recurrent grants be reviewed from time to time within the triennium and has pointed out that, had machinery for this existed during the current triennium, the actual enrolments would have required an expenditure of $8 million less than was actually provided for when the recurrent grants for the 1964-1966 triennium were approved. Therefore, the Commission proposes that a survey of the probable teaching load at each university be carried out by it in the early months of each year and that in the event of a substantial deviation between predicted and actual enrolments, the grants for that year might be varied appropriately.
The Commonwealth endorses the desirability of an annual review of undergraduate enrolments which are the basic consideration in the determination of general recur rent grants. However, at this stage it does not wish to go to the length of introducing arrangements which might lead to the adoption of a rise and fall principle for the general recurrent grants. It thinks that this would be contrary to the principle of triennial planning which it wishes, and assumes that universities would wish, to retain. Nevertheless, the Government will invite the Universities Commission to conduct such an annual review and report the results to the university concerned and to the Commonwealth and State Governments. We would hope that this review would help universities in the planning of their development. It will be pointed out to universities that any shortfall in undergraduate numbers is something to be borne in mind in the budget for the ensuing year and something to which the Commission and governments will have particular regard in the next triennium. Similar arrangements will apply for colleges of advanced education.
While on this point, I should like to emphasise two other matters to which the Commission has referred and which have the wholehearted support of the Government. The first is that a university cannot expect our support for the establishment of a new faculty or academic activity within a triennium which had not been endorsed when the triennial programme was approved. Furthermore, in the Australian situation, each university cannot expect to develop in depth the whole range of academic studies and the universities and the Commission should look for opportunities for universities to specialise in fields for which they are most suited.
In its report, the Universities Commission has set down comprehensive statistics of the extent to which Australia is currently providing university training for overseas students primarily, but by no means exclusively, for people from South East Asia. I say providing advisedly, for even the fee paying private university student from overseas is meeting no more than 20 per cent, of the recurrent costs attributable to him and nothing of the capital cost. The Commission points out that in 1966 each full time university student represented a recurrent annual cost of about $1,235 and for the 4,908 overseas students, that is 10 per cent, of the total full time students, the overall cost would amount to $6 million. Furthermore, overseas students occupy far more than 10 per cent, of the places in some faculties in some universities. They occupy 13 per cent, of places in student residences and the capital cost of those places would be about $4.4 million. The Commission does not estimate the cost of general university buildings, but states that the number of overseas students is equivalent to the total student population of the University of Western Australia. 1 have repeated these facts here to emphasise the relatively large share of places in our universities, and indeed in technical colleges also, being occupied by visitors from overseas. Some of these are sponsored students under our own aid programmes, particularly the Colombo Plan, some are sponsored by their home governments, and numbers of the others are diligently engaged in courses which will be of real benefit to them and their people when they return home. Nevertheless, we need to keep under review the extent to which we are providing places in tertiary education for non-Australians and particularly the extent to which overseas students are occupying places in institutions or in faculties or departments which could be filled by reasonably well qualified Australian students.
The Universities Commission has stated that the entrance qualification to a university should be nothing less than matriculation level and that the minimum qualification awarded by a university after completion of a formal course of study, should be a Bachelor degree. Accordingly the Commission recommends that sub-degree standard courses should be transferred from the universities to other more appropriate tertiary institutions by the beginning of the 1970-1972 triennium, but that funds be provided for these purposes during the 1967-1969 triennium. The Commonwealth endorses this approach and hopes that appropriate arrangements for these transfers can be made. In this context the Commission has also recommended that Commonwealth financial support for adult education activities in universities should cease at the end of the 1967-69 triennium and that those activities should from then be carried on either in colleges of advanced education or by a separate State agency. The Government agrees that universities should not set about developing adult education activities which could be done more satisfactorily elsewhere, but .at the same time it recognises that there can be real advantages to the community in being able to use university facilities and the talents of university staff in these informal courses. This is a matter to which we will give further consideration in consulting with State governments, the Universities Commission and the Advisory Committee on Advanced Education.
I should like to explain the Government’s attitude towards variations in cost which may arise during a triennium with either capital or recurrent expenditure. This applies equally to universities as to colleges of advanced education. But first I shall outline the steps we have taken to bring about’ an even flow of capital works from triennium to triennium. The Government has been anxious to avoid unnecessary delay in starting projects in a triennium, a delay which is likely to lead to a number of buildings being uncompleted at the end of the triennium. During this year we have encouraged the universities to make an early start with preliminary planning of some of the highest priority building projects so that these may be put to construction immediately the new triennium commences in January 1967. We invited each university to agree with the Universities Commission on its top priority buildings on the understanding that a university could reasonably expect projects to the value of 30 per cent, of the programme approved for this triennium to be approved in the next triennium. We arranged for the Universities Commission and its architectural advisers, the Commonwealth Department of Works, to process preliminary plans for these high priority projects promptly.
I would emphasise that the sums of money approved by the Commonwealth under both capital and recurrent expenditure are firm for the triennium and arc not subject to escalation because of any cost increases. The Commonwealth’s grants for buildings are for individual projects to be built to approved standards and size. If, for any reason, the cost of a building is likely to exceed the amount provided for it, neither the Commonwealth nor the Universities Commission nor the Wark Committee would wish the size of that building to be revised or the quality of construction impaired. We want the approved building to be built as originally planned, even though the building or some other project may have to be delayed or deferred. If necessary, we would regard a building project as being divided into two parts, the first to be carried out during this triennium, the second to be one of the higher priority projects in the next triennium.
The Commonwealth’s recurrent grants for universities and colleges of advanced education are also limited to the amounts now approved. However, as has been our policy in the past, we would provide supplementary . grants should there be approved increases in academic salaries during the triennium. In that regard, I must say that notwithstanding a request from the University Staff Association, the Commonwealth is not proposing a review at the present time of academic salaries used for grants purposes.
Universities and colleges will be expected to find other cost increases, including increases in non-academic salaries and wages, within the approved limits and there will be no automatic adjustment to meet any such increases. Only in exceptional cases and within the limits announced in the Government’s policy statement on tertiary education on 24th March 1965 will the Commonwealth be prepared to consider recommendations from the Commission or the Wark Committee for supplementary recurrent grants to offset increased costs arising directly from variations in awards affecting wages and salaries of employees other than academic staff. These arrangements apply equally to the Australian National University as to the universities in the States.
Mr. Deputy President, I have surveyed a wide and varied field of tertiary education, and I wish now, on behalf of the Government, to acknowledge the outstanding work done by the members of each of our major advisory bodies in this field. The Australian Universities Commission continues to make a leading contribution to the development of our universities which now number 14 full universities and 3 university colleges, compared with 9 full universities and 2 university colleges when the Commission was established in 1959. In particular, I offer our thanks to the Chairman of the Commission, Sir Leslie Martin, who will retire from that position at the end of this year. He has presided over and guided the revolutionary expansion of our universities in a period during which the number of equivalent full time students has increased from 36,650 to 77,420 and is expected to rise to 96,390 by the end of the next triennium.
The Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education, the Chairman of which is Dr. Ian Wark, has been in existence for little more than a year. It is to be congratulated on what it has already achieved in co-operation with the States in laying the basis for an expansion of advanced education activities. The Australian Research Grants Committee, under the Chairmanship of Professor R. N. Robertson, is, in effect, a miniature national science foundation. Its members, each of whom is distinguished in his field, have carried out their onerous task with distinction and their work will undoubtedly aid the development of scientific research in this country.
Commonwealth payments to the States during the 1967-69 triennium will be authorised by States grants legislation under section 96 of the Constitution and separate bills will be introduced later in this sessional period covering universities and colleges of advanced education. Funds for the Australian National University will be provided through annual appropriation as also will special research grants under the Australian Research Grants Committee programme. The estimates for 1966-1967 include amounts for all these purposes for the first six months of the new triennium.
In conclusion, I summarise the extent of the Commonwealth’s financial contribution in direct support of tertiary education institutions during the 1967-69 triennium. The Commonwealth will provide $175 million for State universities; $67 million for the
Australian National University; and $35 million for Colleges of Advanced Education. The total Commonwealth contribution for these purposes, and including its share of the programme recommended for the Australian Research Grants Committee, will be $282 million compared with $196 million in the present triennium.
I present the following papers -
Third Report of the Australian Universities Commission.
First Report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education - and move -
That the Senate take note of the statement.
That the debate bc now adjourned.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The question is: “ That the motion be agreed to “. I think the “ Ayes “ have it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The
Standing Orders provide that I must take note of Senator Wright’s motion. I therefore put the question: “ That the debate be now adjourned “.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- There being no objection. Senator Wright’s motion is withdrawn and the original motion stands.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 575).
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was analysing the Minister’s reply to my complaint regarding the Assessment Appeal Tribunals. I had indicated that in effect they are not appeal tribunals al all but examination tribunals, their purpose being to decide whether appellants should have greater or smaller benefits. On 15th September the Minister stated, in replying to my protest -
Senator Cavanagh said, regarding section 47 ; There is no need for the applicant or appellant to produce any proof or document of any sort.
I submit that under section 47 of the Act this may be so. The Minister went on to say -
This point was dealt wilh at length by the present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick, when, as Attorney-General, he expressed an opinion about the operation of section 47. This opinion is now widely known and has, in fact, been incorporated in the Senate “ Hansard “. Amongst other things, the then Attorney-General said -
It is important to realise that the shift of onus of proof does not of itself relieve the serviceman of the need to give any evidence.
The Minister said, in effect: “ Senator Cavanagh was not right in saying that there was no need to give evidence. The former Attorney-General has said that such a contention cannot be accepted.” The Minister fails to understand the significance of Sir Garfield Barwick’s statement -
It is important to realise that the shift of onus of proof does not of itself relieve the serviceman of the need to give any evidence.
Later, when dealing with the provision that the claimant need not furnish any proof to support his claim, the Attorney-General said -
In this connection it is important to identify what is his claim. His claim must be that his current illness or condition is war-caused or, if I could use the expression, war contributed. To say that he need furnish no proof of his claim just cannot mean that every ex-serviceman could present himself and simply say “ HereI am “, leaving the Commission to establish either (1) that he is in perfect health; or (2) that any aberration in his physical or mental condition from the normal is not due to war service. I cannot imagine that that is a tenable point of view. If the Parliament had wished to say such a thing,I should imagine that not only would different language have been used, but that the whole structure for hearing and resolving these claims would have been different.
In referring to that passage, it is clear that the Minister did not understand a thing I was talking about. Section 47 of the Repatriation Act uses the words -
The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal-
A man appearing before an Assessment Appeal Tribunal has had his complaint accepted as being war caused. His claim has reached the stage of appeal and therefore it is not necessary for him to say: “ Here I am. You prove that I am not healthy.” He has established that he is in ill health. He is drawing a type of pension and is seeking another type of pension. The Attorney-General said that section 47, in itself, does not relieve an applicant of the need to furnish proof to support his claim. The Attorney-General’s case of a man saying: “ HereI am. You prove I am not perfectly healthy,” relates to a hearing before an Assessment Tribunal. Such a Tribunal has before it information as to all that has gone before. In the light of that situation, we must study how section 47 applies. Section 47 states - (1.) The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, in hearing, determining or deciding a claim, application or appeal, shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt-
That is not the usual phraseology of “ any reasonable doubt “. It refers to “ any doubt “ at all. Section 47 continues -
Where an applicant before an Assessment Appeal Tribunal says: “ Here I am. I am ill and cannot work and the illness is warcaused,” to use the example of the Attorney-General, the Assessment Appeal Tribunal, under the Act, is entitled to draw the inference from the evidence before it that it cannot accept that the man has an illness at all, or that if he has an illness, that it is not war-caused. I give the example of a man who applies to an Assessment Appeal Tribunal which has the evidence that preceded his appearance there - evidence given to a lower Tribunal that he is ill - and his evidence that he is ill and unableto work is disputed. In those circumstances, section 47 provides that the onus of proof lies “ on the person or authority who contends that the claim, application or appeal should not be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed.” The man has been before a Tribunal and has presented evidence. Therefore the application of the onus of proof provision must be extended to him. The onus lies on the Tribunal to prove that his illness is not war-caused.
In hearings before an Assessment Appeal Tribunal there is no question of argument whether the lower Tribunal was rightor wrong on the facts before it. It disregards all that, and the specialist on the Assessment Appeal Tribunal makes an examination. Unless the specialist can decide that the man is incapable of working -his illness being accepted as war-caused - or unless the specialist’s examination creates a doubt in his own mind, then there can be no application of the provision relating to benefit of the doubt. As the AttorneyGeneral said, the doubt must be created in the particular Tribunal’s mind, and not by a witness or the applicant himself.
J ask honorable senators to consider the case of an applicant who is suffering from arthritis. It is impossible to decide by an examination on one day whether he is capable of working on a subsequent day. Consideration of his history long before his appearance before the Tribunal is necessary. It is necessary to consider his whole history, and not to make a decision simply on an examination. Because my time is running out, it will be necessary for me to put further points on this matter when discussing the estimates of the Repatriation Department. The Assessment Appeal Tribunals today are taking away completely the intention of the legislation incorporated in section 47. We must have a judical tribunal before which cases can be argued on the merits of the evidence presented, and not decided on an examination on the day of an appeal. I ask the Government to lake into consideration the points I have made. I ask Senator Wright seriously to examine his conscience and to act according to what his conscience tells him is right.
.- In opening my contribution to this debate, I wish to refer to a “ Hansard “ report of 30th December 1940 and draw a parallel between the Government’s present attitude and the attitude of the Government of that time, which was of the same political colour. At page 1019 of the “ Hansard “ report of 12th December 1940 there is a reference to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill, which had been returned from the Senate to the House of Representatives. The cheese paring attitude of the Government of that time is indicated by the increases then made in what were known as “ service pensions”. Originally, the pensions were introduced in or about 1936 under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The “ Hansard “ report states that the estimated cost of the increases for a full year was £30,000, or $60,000 in today’s currency. I wish to refer also to another paragraph where a Labour member of the other House, when applying pressure to the Government to increase repatriation payments, is reported as saying that he believed the Labour Party was strong enough to make the Government realise that the social ser vice pension of 21s. at that time was insufficient.
I am hopeful that as occurred last year, some honorable senators may approach this legislation on a very humane basis, and that as we saw on that occasion, it may be sent back to the other House for amendment. However, it is unlikely that that will happen this time, because Senator Wright has indicated that, whilst he will not oppose the amendments to be moved on behalf of the Australian Labour Party at a later stage, he will not support them. 1 do not think that is a very satisfactory attitude. Nevertheless, I concede his right to adopt that attitude, if he so desires. On numerous occasions the Labour Party has asked for certain minor amendments - in terms of finance they are minor amendments - to be made to the Repatriation Act. But on each occasion, with the exception of last year when there was a minor palace revolution on the Government benches, no concessions whatsoever have been made apart from those announced in the Budget. .1 suppose that on this occasion the Government again will remain adamant and will not make any concessions whatsoever.
I draw attention to the fact - Senator Cavanagh made this point very well - that the money saved because of decreased expenditure under certain headings would more than cover some of the additional benefits for which we have asked from time to time. I refer particularly to an amendment which we moved last year and which sought medical treatment for surviving members of the forces who served in the 1914-18 war and the South African war. We received no sympathy for that amendment. But on page 4 of the Annual Report of the Repatriation Commission for 1965- 66, under the heading “ Statistical Summary “, reference is made to provisions for hospitalisation in the future. I quote the following from the Report -
Recently a revised projection of hospital bed requirements to 1970 was made, taking into account changes in eligibility and other factors since the original projection was made in 1959, This confirms that the current level of bed demand is likely to be maintained until about 1970. A further study for the period beyond 1970 is being made . . .
The final words under the heading “ Statistical Summary “ are -
It seems to me that that is a “ do it tomorrow “ attitude in planning for hospitalisation in the future. Whilst it is true that there will be a decrease in requirements resulting from the 1914-18 war and earlier wars, there will certainly be an increase in requirements arising from the 1939-45 war because, as the years catch up with ex-servicemen of that war, the health of many of them will deteriorate. So, unless a more solid attitude is adopted to planning for the future, within a matter of three or four years - by 1970, 1971 or perhaps 1972 - we could have insufficient accommodation to treat the increasing numbers of people who will be requiring medical attention in hospital, lt is obvious that the Government, if it remains the Government in the days to come, will continue to adopt this attitude of doing nothing for the diggers of the 1914-18 war. As 1 have pointed out earlier and as the Annual Report also points out, the average age of those men today is 72 years. The youngest they could possibly be - that is, if they joined at the minimum age in the last 12 months of the war - is a little under 70 years.
The pension increases that will be paid are set out in the Budget. I want to refer to thom only briefly now. because I will say something further about them later when it will be more appropriate ‘to do so. Only a certain number of benefits have attracted any increase at all. There will be an increase of $2 a week in the special rate pension. Small concessions are being made to widows and people who are temporarily unable to work. The situation in. regard to the pension scales for youngsters is fairly confused. The youngsters who are in action today and are either losing their lives or being injured are just as entitled to have benefits made available to them as were the people who served in either of the last two major wars, the Korean war or any other involvement in which Australian servicemen have been injured or have lost their lives. Last year there was very little planning for this. This year there are still all sorts of let outs. I quote the following from page 4 of the Annual Report, under the heading “ Legislation “ -
During the year there were several amendments . . including an amendment to the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act 1962.
Our repatriation system was created to meet the circumstances of the 1914-18 war . . . The system was readily adaptable to the circumstances of the 1939-45 war.
In the first 18 months of the Second World War, when a government of the same political colour as the present Government was in power, there was little or no planning to meet the requirements of people who would need repatriation benefits of one type or another. It was not until the advent of the Labour Government that some sort of decent planning was done. Once again action is being postponed, because the Annual Report goes on to state - .
This year the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act was amended to cover forward and return journeys to and from the special areas; also those who may be incapacitated or killed as a result of action by hostile forces anywhere outside Australia, though not allotted for “ special duty “ in a “ special area “.
If we must have all these terms in order to cover somebody who is killed or injured in an arpa of combat, obviously the Government is not adopting the attitude that it should be adopting towards this serious problem. I shall quote now from a letter that I received only today from the Queensland Branch of the Returned Services League. It is dated 19th September and is i.i the following terms -
At a meeting of our State Council of the R.S.L. (Queensland Branch), held on Monday the 12th instant, a discussion arose in regard to the Budget as presented to the Government, and in particular, those figures coming under the repatriation section.
Members expressed their strongest discontentment at the repatriation provisions in the 1966 Budget.
I was directed to convey to you the feelings of the members of this Queensland Branch of the R.S.L., and at the same time to ask you to support any move for an amendment to the provisions of the Repatriation Act, or alternatively, that a Supplementary Budget be introduced as early as possible to correct the position as at present existing in regard to repatriation benefits . . .
Lt is always claimed that the R.S.L. have been reasonable in their requests and, therefore, look forward to receiving your wholehearted support . . .
In the past I have been quite critical of some sections pf the R.S.L. because I have felt that a proper protest has not been made. I am delighted to know that on this occasion the Queensland Branch is putting up a first class battle to ensure that the diggers receive the justice to which they are entitled.
In regard to hospitals, the Government, in line with its general attitude, is not prepared to make concessions, particularly to the older diggers. I refer now to the Report of the Auditor-General, which sets out the expenditures for the last financial year and the year 1964-65 under various headings. Under the heading “General Hospitals” there was a small increase of something less than $2 million. Under the heading “ Auxiliary Hospitals “ the increase was only a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Under the heading “ Outpatient Clinics “ the increase was less than §60,000. The expenditure for artificial limb and appliance centres showed a small decrease from $962,526 to $928,352. There was a slight increase in the provision for hostels and also in unallocated expenditures for stores and incidentals. This bears out what Senator Cavanagh said: The overall expenditure would not bankrupt this Government or any other government.
I refer again to pensions which are set out in the Auditor-General’s Report under war pensions statistics, lt is significant that the number of pensionable persons from the 1914-18 war numbered 107,364 last year and at 30th June 1966 the number had fallen to 103,041. There was also a slight decrease in the number of persons pensionable from the 1939-45 war. There has been a slight increase in war pensions payable from the Korea and Malaya Operations, and a slight increase also in pensions for special overseas service. These are only a handful. The big group needing medical treatment covers those from the First and Second World Wars. In the case of the Second World War, as is pointed out in the report, the decrease is largely brought about by the number of children who have reached 16 years and are no longer covered by the partial pension allocated to the children of eligible servicemen. The decrease in the number of pensioners from the 1914-18 war obviously has been brought about by deaths of those who survived the war. Most of the survivors are now reaching a great age.
I pay full credit to the Repatriation Department itself and to the officers who organise it but I regret to say that they work under a most inefficient Minister. When members of the Opposition in this Parliament are trying to obtain information from him they have great difficulty indeed. Towards the end of 1965 I asked a question about expenditure on Repatriation Hospitals at Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. My question was -
What are the total amounts spent on Repatriation Hospitals at Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne for hospital extensions since 1949? What are the sums expended and the nature of improvements at each hospital?
I received from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) this very uninformative answer -
The information sought could not be obtained without extensive and detailed examination of departmental records extending over the period since 1949.
The average Minister would not accept such an answer or hand it out to a member of the Opposition. I said at the time by way of an interjection that I hoped the information eventually would be made available to me but I have heard nothing more. The information is not available because the Minister is not interested enough to get it for me or for any member of the Australian public.
– The Minister is listening carefully now.
– I do not think he will supply the information because 1 do not think he is capable of doing so. The Government is continually bewailing the fact that it cannot get sufficient volunteers for the armed Services. The average young person who wants to build up a career for himself, obviously will look at the Services as the last area in which he will try to make a career. First of all, if anything happens to him, he has no guarantee that his wife and family or other dependants will be adequately provided for. If he is injured on duty he cannot expect to receive other than ordinary rates of Commonwealth workers’ compensation. If our forces are to be built up to a degree commensurate with the requirements of national defence, we must make the Services attractive. If the Minister for Repatriation is the first to fall down on this job how can we expect other departments to recruit the number of people they require?
We do not have the same problem when it comes to sending people out of the country. We do not even have to be committed to any particular treaty. So long as the Government is friendly with somebody, it will send forces out to fight in. somebody else’s private war in some other country. The Minister for Repatriation has been completely inefficient. He has not looked after his Department as he should have done. He is treating those who are covered by repatriation provisions as numbers and statistics; he is not treating them as human beings. The Minister is not prepared to adopt a humane outlook. Where any doubt exists about pensions, only the Government can win and not the individual who is suffering because he has given a large slice of his life in the service of his country. I hope that the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition will receive support and will be carried.
.- I rise to speak in this debate for more than one reason. First, 1 believe the Bill should have gone further than it does. I am amazed that, as has been pointed out by Senator Wright, we cannot give a totally and permanently incapacitated man even the basic wage. It is true that his wife will get $4.05 and each child under 16 will get the equivalent of $1.38 but when one realises how many married women are engaged in industry today and understands the reason why they go out to work, it is surprising that this Government does not give some credence to the sufferings of men who served in the First and Second World Wars. This Government in particular should be aware of its responsibilities because it is forcing young people to go out of Australia to fight. They are fighting in a conflict which is not actually a war because the Government will not declare war.
As I said in a previous debate, only the young people are expected to give their lives or their blood in Vietnam. No other person in Australia is asked to pay even an extra penny towards the cost. Is it any wonder we cannot get enough men to join the armed Services. For the first time in our history, we are sending young people out of Australia to fight when we are not at war. It is just too difficult to understand. I always believed that a soldier, like any other man, was worthy of his hire. If he lays down his life, his dependants should be fully compensated. If he becomes totally and permanently incapacitated at least he should get the ruling basic wage.
One would go a very long way in this country today to find any person at work in any industry who was receiving only the base rate of wages. Everyone has some margin for skill. Seeing that the Government is in this position in regard to men being injured and killed, it could have at least have said that a soldier also is worthy of his hire. One is amazed that the Government is so niggardly in its treatment of servicemen who return to this country in a condition that puts them in the category of permanently and totally incapacitated. One looks through the Minister’s second reading speech and sees that the intermediate rate pension is to be increased by $J. This seems to be the standard set in the majority of cases. The pension known as the Class B rate is to be increased by $1. The Bill provides also for an amendment to the First Schedule of the Repatriation Act to give effect to an increase of $1 per week in the rate of pension for a war widow, which will bring her rate to $13 a week. War widows with children, and war widows who qualify because of age or ill health, receive an allowance that will bring their total payment to $20 a week. How does the Minister or anybody else expect them to exist on that amount of money? The Government must understand that it cannot have war or the effects of war on the cheap. Seemingly, the. Government wants war, or whatever it is outside this country today, and the worst of it is that the Government also wants it on the cheap, particularly in respect of those who are unfortunate enough to suffer the aftermath of war.
It is interesting to read the 1966 pensions plan submitted by ex-servicemen’s organisations. In 1920, two years after the First World War, the Government of the day was prepared to pay a special rate pension of £4. This was 103 per cent, of the basic wage, which was then £3 18s. In 1943 the pension was 100 per cent, and in 1950 it was 101 per cent, of the base rate, but since then the Government has fallen from grace. Earlier in 1966 the pension was only 92 per cent, of the base rate. In August 1966, after the increase of $2 in the. base rate, the percentage increased to 93 per cent. Let us consider the general rate pension. In 1920 it was 54 per cent, of the basic wage; in 1943 it was 52 per cent.; in 1950 it was 51 per cent. Now the
Government has brought it down to 39 per cent. To my mind this bears out what J say, that is, that the Government wants these exercises on the cheap. Then it wonders why the young people of this country are fighting shy of the armed forces.
One of the main things needed by the men who served in the First World War, and what is desired by their organisations and others who have their interests at heart is free hospitalisation. In replies to questions that we have asked in the Senate we find that wards are vacant in the Repatriation General Hospital at Heidelberg in my own State, but for some reason or other the Government will not give to those people who served in World War I or in the war between 1899 and 1901 - if my history is correct - the satisfaction of knowing that they can get free hospitalisation if they need it. According to the figures that I have, only 40,000 of the men who served in World War I would be affected. Surely one would have thought that a Government such as we have today, which seems to be extra keen on getting people killed - I do not know what to call the conflict; I am frightened to call it anything - would provide free hospitalisation for these men. Honorable senators opposite interject. It is true that the Government is sending young men over there and they are the only ones who have to suffer.
Opposition speakers have put up a case for increased pensions. I ask honorable senators opposite who are so incensed at what I have said: Why should a T.P.I, pensioner today receive only 93 per cent, of the basic wage? This proves the contention that the Government wants war on the cheap. There is no doubt that when trouble comes all of us are only too pleased to see these people go forth and save thenkith and kin in this nation of ours. I have no fear that if this country were ever in danger there would be any lack of young men to do this. They would be as good today as their grandfathers and fathers were in the First World War and the Second World War. The reason the Government does not get them today is that a lot of people want to know just what it is for. A lot of them are not satisfied with the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) saying: “All the way with L.B.J.” Then we have the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) today, according to latest reports, putting the same thing to music.
– They are in harmony.
– Are they? I do not think that this portrays people who, for the time being, have the responsibility of governing this country, in very good light to the rest of the world. The Bill does not provide for any increase in the funeral allowance. According to the Returned Services League, it is now 14 years since the funeral benefit was increased from £20 to £25. At least, the Government is prepared to pay nearly twice as much to bury exservicemen as it is to bury the old age pensioners in this country. If I am correct, the Government pays only a £10 funeral benefit in respect of age pensioners. So, although it is 14 years since there has been an increase in the ex-servicemen’s funeral allowance, those who are left to pay the bill for the funeral of an ex-serviceman are much better off than those who are left to pay the bill for the funeral of an age pensioner. Surely some reasonable assessment ought to be made of the cost of this last gesture to one who was prepared to give his life in the defence of his country. If the government believes that an ex-serviceman can receive a decent burial for £25, it is not facing present economic facts. The Returned Services League has estimated that it would cost less than $200,000 a year to place the repatriation funeral benefit on a proper economic footing. When one considers the total expenditure on repatriation benefits, $200,000 is a very small sum.
I do not think that the Minister can be pleased with the Bill. I understand that he has seen military service himself. Our economy is supposed to be economically sound; we are supposed to be better off now than we ever have been. The Minister cannot feel satisfied in bringing along this Bill which, although purporting to help those who have unfortunately fallen by the wayside in the service of their country, provides only meagre increases in repatriation benefits. The Opposition wants a committee appointed to inquire into the whole of the ramifications of the Repatriation Act. I have in my hand the report of the last committee which carried out such an investigation. That committee was appointed in 1943, or 25 years after the end of World War I.
Now that 21 years have elapsed since the end of World War II, what is wrong with appointing a committee to investigate once more all aspects of the Repatriation Act? 1 suppose it is true that one of the most vexed repatriation problems in the onus of proof provision, which was mentioned by my colleague from South Australia. The Act says that the onus of proof shall be on the Department, but in numerous cases about which one hears, and in some cases which one handles - to be quite candid, I do not handle many in my own State because as a rule they go to Senator Sandford - the onus of proof is not placed on the Department. I believe that the onus is placed on the individual; he has to satisfy those who are inquiring into his case that he is entitled to a pension. I do not say for one moment that the tribunals go out of their way to reject cases, but no one is infallible, and no tribunal is either. As the last inquiry into the whole of the ramifications of the Repatriation Act was in 1943, I see no good reason why the Government should oppose the Opposition’s suggestion that a committee be appointed now. There is a very strong duty on us to go out of our way to see that we do the right thing for those who were prepared to offer their services and if necessary their lives when this nation was in danger. It ill becomes the Government of this nation to be as niggardly in its approach to repatriation matters as, in my opinion, this Bill is.
I have listened with great interest to the debate. One is not surprised at some of the speeches one hears because the history of this Parliament, as set out in “ Hansard “, shows how different the actions of some people can be from their words. I do not know whether what Senator Wright said this afternoon does him justice; he can judge that for himself. Senator Wright said that he condemned the Government because of its laxity particularly in regard to two matters. The first was ils niggardly payments in connection with totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Secondly, he roundly condemned the action of the Government in not including in this Bill a clause that would provide free hospitalisation to those who served in the Boer War and the First World War.
Then the honorable senator did a most remarkable thing. He said that he did not intend to follow his voice with his vote. Of course, being used to the actions of Senator Wright as I am, I can say that he has made some remarkable statements and his actions have been most remarkable following those statements. Might I remind Senator Wright of what he said on 22nd September 1965 when the Senate was debating the Repatriation Bill 1965. At page 534 of “ Hansard “, the honorable senator said -
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.
– That is what Senator Wright is doing.
– Is this what he is doing? I want to ask my friend: Does his judgment coincide with his words? This is not the first time that this situation has arisen. I think that this position makes a mockery of the whole question of parliamentary government as we understand it. I believe that a member’s duty in this Parliament is to follow his voice with his vote. Honorable senators will recall what happened with regard to the Repatriation Bill 1965 on 30th September 1965. Honorable senators will remember that Senator Wright joined the Opposition with others who were not members of the Australian Labour Party and voted against the Government in connection with an amendment moved by the Opposition. The Government was defeated. The Bill was then returned to the House of Representatives. That House, as is its right, sent the Bill back to the Senate for further consideration. Then we found that exactly the same thing happened as we have become used to from Senator Wright. I record his words only so that what happened will be known. Senator Wright said - . . 1 propose to withdraw my vote to let the Government prevail, because at this stage I believe that that is the best way of achieving the purpose that I have stated.
Senator Wright’s idea of obtaining what he wanted is a most remarkable one. He has been in this House quite long enough to know that irrespective of what one says it docs not count unless one is prepared to follow one’s voice with one’s vote. I have mentioned these matters because it riles me to think that, in this age, a senator can act as apparently the honorable senator in question will act. I have attempted lo be as kind as I could hope to be in this respect, I hope that I have used words that were not offensive.
– Hear, hear.
– I have said what I said because I believe it. Action of this type brings Parliament into disgrace. If senators on either side speak one way and vote another way, is it any wonder that people are apt to decry the method of government that we have in this country? I leave Senator Wright-
– But, senator-
– I ask Senator Webster to look after himself. 1 will not be as gentle with him as I am being at the moment if such a situation involves him in the future.
– I thought that the honorable senator was going to explain to us why the Australian Labour Party did not support the Democratic Labour Party after it had expressed satisfaction with the amendments proposed with regard to social service benefits. I thought the honorable senator was going to tell us about that.
– If the honorable senator wishes to get up and explain that matter and thereby keep friendly with certain people because of whose actions the honorable senator is sitting on that side of the House, I leave it to him. I am dealing only with the position as I see it today.
– I rise to support the measure before the Senate, The Repatriation Bill 1966 which has been submitted to the Senate by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) contains many improvements to the rates of pensions that at present are being paid to recipients of repatriation pensions. For those improvements the Government is to be commended. Whilst we of the Democratic Labour Party are not happy with the contents of the Bill on the whole, we are fair enough to acknowledge that the Government has been responsible for many additional concessions and increases in pensions and fringe concessions that have to be acknowledged also. I believe that ex-servicemen and recipients of war pensions and payments from the Repatria tion Department are prepared to acknowledge that fact. In my long political career, I have learned that the best way to destroy your case is to overstate it and to deny to your opponents the credit lo which they are justly entitled. I am prepared, and the Democratic Labour Party which I represent in this Senate is prepared, to say that this Government has improved the payments under the heading of repatriation in many respects. For that the Government must be given some credit.
My fellow senator from Queensland, Senator Keeffe, destroyed whatever case he made out for the improvement of rates of repatriation pensions by his unfair and extravagant description of the present occupant of the position of Minister for Repatriation. Senator Keeffe, like myself, has had very little experience with the administration of the Repatriation Department. But I have had sufficient experience to recognise and acknowledge the sincere attempts of a Minister to do a good job and to administer a department fairly and in the interests of the people covered by his Department. This can be truly said of Senator McKellar. 1 believe that the present Minister for Repatriation, who is an ex-serviceman, has a complete and sympathetic regard for the needs of the ex-serviceman, his wife or widow, as the case may be, and his dependent children. For Senator Keeffe to attack the Minister in the way he did tonight was unbecoming. His attack was unfounded and most, unfair, and I. believe that it destroyed the Opposition’s case. lt is not my intention at this stage to deal with the proposed amendments. It is more appropriate to deal with amendments when a Bill is at the Committee stage. I am accustomed to that procedure. 1 believe that the second reading stage is designed to enable us to deal with the measure before the House. It is my purpose to confine myself to the Bill at the moment. We will deal with the amendments as they are moved at the Committee stage. First, I ask: What is wrong with Government senators tonight? Do they support the criticism of the Opposition? Are they dissatisfied with the Bill that the Minister has submitted to the Parliament? Are they unhappy about it? If they are not unhappy or dissatisfied, why are they so silent? Why are they so loath to support the Minister? I have followed this debate today and have noted that only two Government senators have spoken. One spoke in full support of the measure, but the other was more critical in some respects than the Opposition has been. We have heard five Opposition speakers all of whom, of course, have been vigorous in their opposition to the measure, lt is only fair to imagine that the public, having listened to the debate or having read reports of the proceedings, will wonder and will ask for the cause of the silence of Government senators. They will ask why Government senators have not taken their turn and have not defended the measure for which the Government and the Minister have been responsible. in the course of his remarks, Senator Wright very strenuously deplored the action of the Opposition in relating the pension to the basic wage, implying that those of us who relate the pension to the basic wage think that the basic wage is as much as ex-servicemen should be paid. That is not so. The practice of comparing the pension with the basic wage is adopted to determine the value of the pension. When we do that in the case of repatriation pensions, we find that there has been a great decline in their value over the years. That is the major complaint of the Returned Services League. One of my complaints about the Bill is that it fails to bring the value of the pensions up to date. If Senator Wright believes that because we compare pensions with the basic wage we believe that ex-servicemen are not entitled to a greater percentage of the basic wage than was paid 10, 15 or 20 years ago, he is wrong. We share his view. We believe that we should be generous in the treatment of ex-servicemen.
There is indisputable evidence of a very rapid decline in the value of repatriation pensions. The time has arrived when the request of the Returned Services League should be given serious consideration and a general review of all repatriation payments should be made. When we have regard to the relevant figures - they have been quoted several times here today by members of the Opposition - we find that there has been a considerable decline in the value of pensions even since 1949. This is not something new in regard to pensions, irrespective of whether they are repatriation pensions or social service pensions. This decline has continued for many years - indeed, for years before the election of the present Government. An analysis of the figures will confirm what I have said.
Let me digress for a moment to show you, Mr. Deputy President, and the Senate that the decline in the value of pensions unfortunately is general and is not confined to repatriation pensions. Let us take child endowment. In 1949 the payment in respect of a family with three children represented 19.4 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1966 the payment for a family with three children represents 9.7 per cent, of the basic wage. At page 582 of the report of the Vernon Commitee this statement appears -
Expressed in real terms, that is adjusted for the rise in the consumer price index, the endowment receivable by a family with three children has declined by about 30 per cent, since 1948-49.
The maternity allowance payable in respect of a baby born to parents who have no other child is $30. Where there are one or two children it is $32, and where there are three or more children it is $35. These rales were established in 1943 and have not been altered since.
Let us consider the age pension. I shall not breach the Standing Orders for very much longer, but I mention this matter merely to show that the decline in pension values is not confined or limited to repatriation payments. In 1949 the basic wage for the six capital cities was $12.90 and the age pension was $4.25, or 33 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1953 it was 29.6 per cent, of the basic wage; in June 1956, it was 35.5 per cent.; in June 1959 it was 34.4 per cent.; and in June 1964 it was 39 per cent. In 1950 the special rate repatriation pension was 101 per cent, and the general rate pension 51 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1966 the special rate pension is 92 per cent, and the general rate pension 39 per cent, of the basic wage.
Those percentages show that the time is overdue for the Government to make a general review of the rates paid by the Repatriation Department. If it was proper at one time to pay by way of pensions a certain proportion of the basic wage, whether they be age, invalid or repatriation pensions, there should be a corresponding increase in pensions when the basic wage rises because the basic wage is determined to a great extent by the increased cost of living.
Pensioners in all categories must meet that increased cost of living in the same way as other people in the community. I am at a loss to understand why the Government has failed to recognise the need to adjust pensions in this way.
I support the Returned Services League in its claim for a general review of the pensions paid by the Repatriation Department. The League has submitted indisputable and undeniable evidence in support of its claim and I trust that the Government will take an early opportunity to remedy the position in respect of repatriation pensions and social services payments generally. For the same reason that Senator Wright has expressed, I am ready to put repatriation payments and pensions in a different category altogether. I believe that we have good reason to be as generous as we can be in making payments to those who fought in defence of this country, to the widows of the men who made the supreme sacrifice and to those whose general health has been impaired, including ex-servicemen who are unable to follow any form of occupation because of their poor state of health.
In my opinion the Returned Services League is quite reasonable in its submissions. It is not asking for very much, but it has asked for a general review of the pensions that are payable, and it has provided good and sufficient evidence in support of its claim. The League is concerned about the funeral grant which is payable under the repatriation regulations. It is approximately 15 years since the funeral grant was last increased from £20 to £25. It has remained at £25 ever since. It is a static payment. We all know that in common with most other services there have been big increases in the cost of burial. If a grant of £25 was considered proper in 1943, there is plenty of reason for an increase now. The only other matter which the League has listed in its claim is the need for repatriation hospital benefits to be extended to all returned men of the Boer War and the First World War regardless of the relationship of their disabilities to war service. I content myself by saying that my colleague and I support that claim. The matter will be dealt with more fully when we are discussing the Bill at the Committee stage.
I feel that sometimes in the administration of the Repatriation Department some appli cants are subjected to a great deal more scrutiny and examination than are others who probably are less entitled to pensions. This is something that is very difficult for me to understand, and it causes a great deal of dissatisfaction among ex-servicemen. I do not know whether this occurs because the two sets of ex-servicemen face different doctors or deal with different officers. Some may meet with a more sympathetic reception than do others, but there appears to be a lack of consistency in the determinations and decisions of the Department from time to time.
In this debate references have been made to the onus of proof provision. I am prepared to concede that it is very difficult for medical men to determine whether a person’s bad heart or general health condition is due to war service. I believe that at least, in respect of repatriation pensions, the Department and its doctors have a responsibility to determine whether an illness is war caused, and that all the responsibility of proof should not be placed on an applicant. Recently a workers’ compensation case came under my notice. A man suffering from cancer claimed that his condition was due to an accident. The workers’ compensation authority said that his condition had no relation to the accident. The man appealed and the hearing was conducted before a Supreme Court judge. Evidence was adduced, doctors were required to give evidence in support of the decision of the workers’ compensation authority, and the same doctors were required to submit to cross-examination by counsel for the appellant. The judge was not satisfied with the evidence of the medical men and gave a decision in favour of the appellant.
I believe that repatriation doctors might also be required to submit to cross examination and to justify the decisions that they have reached. It appears today that all the responsibility of proof rests with the unfortunate ex-serviceman. I have had a lot of experience in dealing with the public. I have heard of innumerable cases of exservicemen who are unhappy about the treatment they have received from the Repatriation Department. The Department stands behind the decisions of the medical men. That is understandable. The laymen whose responsibility it is to administer the
Department are not in a position as laymen to do anything more than that, but I feel that the system could be improved.
I am in favour of a system of referee doctors, or the examination of doctors in detail. They should be required to support their decisions. They may be sincere and conscientious doctors. I do not want honorable senators to think for one moment that 1 am reflecting on the integrity and sincerity of repatriation doctors. I am satisfied that in discharging their duties personalities do not enter into the decisions which are reached on conscientious grounds. However, it does not necessarily follow that they are always right, because too frequently they have been proved to be wrong. 1 would like to see an improvement in this connection. I earnestly appeal to the Minister to tidy up that phase of repatriation, because 1 am sure that from his experience in administering the Repatriation Department he also feels at times that there is room for improvement. Otherwise, I am sure the Repatriation Department gives a very good service, and generally provides a good measure of satisfaction to those persons who have cause to solicit its assistance.
I will content myself with those few remarks. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to improvement of the rates of pensions being paid to ex-servicemen by the Repatriation Department. I believe I am supported by most honorable senators when I say that the Repatriation Department is in good hands in the care of Senator McKellar and that he is sympathetically disposed to ex-service men and women. I believe we can look with a measure of confidence to improvements in the matters to which I have referred.
– in reply - I would like to thank honorable senators for the speedy passage the Bill has received during the second reading stage. I would also like to say how much I appreciated the moderate summing up of Senator Bishop, who led for the Opposition in this debate. 1 wish to comment briefly on some of the matters raised by honorable senators. Senator Bishop compared the amount to be spent on defence with the amount to be spent on repatriation. I think everyone agrees that the amount of $1,000 million should be spent on defence this year. To some degree, at any rate, it is because the Government is spending $1,000 million on defence that more cannot be spent on repatriation measures.
In reply to Senator Gair, I would like to say that I will be very happy when the day comes - and I hope it will not be long - when I am able to obtain an increase in pension rates and repatriation benefits. It has been the aim of repatriation legislation ever since it was introduced to provide for a continual improvement in the services rendered by the Repatriation Department. In keeping with that policy, that has also been my aim. With that aim in view, last year we had screened a film called “ From Tobruk to Tarakan “. It was produced mainly for the purpose of educating the younger doctors who had no experience of what our chaps went through in the Second Warld War. Since then we have made another film, which I think is even better than the first. This one deals with the landing at Gallipoli and the battles in France in World War I. The first film has been shown fairly extensively among ex-servicemen’s organisations. The second one has started its round. We are hoping that it will receive a wider showing, perhaps on Armistice Day this year. They are only two of the measures that we are taking to try to educate the younger doctors who have not had experience of these matters and who, I think, quite frankly, have no idea of what the men went through during the wars that I have mentioned.
I think it was Senator Bishop who mentioned the intermediate rate pension. In spite of what some honorable senators may think about its introduction, it has proved successful. It has done what we hoped it would do, namely, enabled some men who were not eligible for a total and permanent incapacity pension to receive the intermediate rate pension. On that score it has been quite successful. I believe that it is also worthwhile reminding honorable senators that, when applicants’ cases come up for further consideration on the basis of pensions that they are already receiving, as they grow older their condition almost invariably deteriorates. These pensioners are then able to go before the Assessment Appeal Tribunal, or the body to which they are appealing, on the ground that their condition has deteriorated. That is something that should be kept in mind.
While I think of it, I should like to emphasise - I hope honorable senators will emphasise this to the young chaps who are going away today, because they could not be given better advice on repatriation - that servicemen, before they are discharged from the Service in which they are serving, should make sure that they have a really good medical check-up. One of the troubles over the years has been that loo many men have been anxious to get out of the Service - this is only natural - and have said: “There is nothing wrong with me; I am all right.” They omitted to mention things which at that stage were perhaps only minor complaints, but which later came against them. Had they mentioned their complaints before they were discharged, they would have been examined and probably would have saved themselves a lot of trouble and been given an entitlement that they may not have been able to obtain later. I emphasise that that is good advice for any of us to give when we have the opportunity to do so.
– That emphasises the importance the Department places on records.
– I agree with Senator Wright that records are most important. It has been difficult to give some men the entitlement they hoped to receive, in view of the absence of records. I have mentioned before - 1 think this was mentioned earlier tonight - that, if a diary has been kept, that is taken into consideration. I want to say now - I will be saying this again before I finish my speech - that there is no doubt at all in my mind that the benefit of the doubt is given to the applicant. That is the way it ought to be and that is the way it will be.
During this debate we have heard the suggestion - I understand that this forms part of one of the proposed amendments - that we should have another look at the matter of repatriation; that we should set up a committee to have a good look at it. I think I made this point last year: We are having a continuing look at repatriation throughout the year. As matters come up from time to time, if we think something should be improved, it is considered. The Chairmen of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals hold an annual meeting. They have an agenda. Many of the items on it are quite technical, but they are all designed to achieve a better working of the Repatriation Act. The Chairmen of the Assessment Appeal Tribunals adopt a similar procedure. The Deputy Commissioners hold an annual conference.
As things crop up from time to time, the members of the Repatriation Commission look at them. They keep their eyes on things with the object of picking up things that ought to be done to improve the working of the Act. In addition, for what it is worth - obviously some honorable senators would not consider it worth while - I keep an eye on things. Also, there are about 30 organisations representing ex-service men and women throughout Australia, and honorable senators can take it from me that they are pretty good watchdogs. From time to time they write asking for improvements in the service that the Repatriation Department is giving. When these things are brought to the notice of the Commission and to my notice, naturally notice is taken of them. They are examined to see what is worth while in them.
I wish to mention now one particular aspect of repatriation facilities, namely, the artificial limb factories. We have one factory in each State. They are outstanding. Some of the men that we have in them have excited quite a lot of worldwide admiration for the work that they are doing. From time to time we send our men to overseas countries in which we think they might be able to gain a little extra knowledge or be able to see new methods that they can bring back and try out in our own artificial limb factories. Strange as it may seem to some honorable senators, scarcely a day goes by without my having on my desk letters of appreciation from all over Australia. There is no need for these letters to be written; but people write expressing their gratitude and appreciation for what the Repatriation Department has been able to do for them - not for what I have done for them, but for what my officers and the medical men in the hospitals have done for them. I think I have covered some of the points that Senator McClelland raised. He suggested an exploration of the need for improving repatriation facilities.
I did not quite catch something that Senator Cavanagh said, but I gathered that he was referring to the sacrifices made or the disabilities suffered by some of the men who are receiving repatriation benefits and comparing those men with members of Parliament. 1 remind him that in this very chamber we have a few men who have made great sacrifices in the service of their country. One is Senator Sir Walter Cooper who. unfortunately, at the moment is ill - not seriously ill - in a repatriation hospital. He is u World War I man. Another one sits behind me. I see that he is in his place at the moment. I am referring to Senator Mattner. 1 would not have liked to experience the privations and all the other things that some other honorable senators had to put up with in prisoner of war camps. I refer to Senator Anderson and Senator Branson.
– We have some on this side of the chamber.
– There is another one on the other side of the chamber. Unlike some honorable senators opposite, I have no wish !o make political capital out of this. I pay respect to these men. Do not let us think for one moment that all of the men in this chamber are strangers to the pain and suffering that have come to men in the course of their service of their country.
I do not propose to go into a long explanation in respect of Assessment Appeal Tribunals and Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. lt is quite obvious that Senator Cavanagh will not be convinced on that score. All I say to him again is that the benefit of the doubt is given to the people who appear before the Tribunals. It simply is not true to say that the deciding evidence is given by one doctor. Let me also say that in our repatriation system we have more than 5,000 doctors on the panels throughout Australia. If a man comes before an Assessment Appeal Tribunal on the basis that he has a particular ailment, the best doctor that we can get from the panel is brought along lo examine that man and then to give his opinion.
– Why should he be on an Appeals Tribunal?
– 1 understood the honorable senator had had his say.
– But the Minister does not understand.
– Senator Cavanagh does not understand. That is the whole trouble. If he will give me half an hour one of these days I will have pleasure in trying to make him understand how the system works. At present he has not a clue. I do not say that in any derogatory sense at all. Now I come to Senator Keeffe. I agree with him on only one point and that is when he said that we had good officers in the Repatriation Department. As to his opinion of me, it is reciprocated in equal degree.
Senator Kennelly talked about repatriation without any heat or venom and I appreciate his remarks but I remind him and the Senate that our repatriation system is second to none in the world. The United Kingdom pays approximately the same amount as we do in pensions and has approximately the same number of pensioners. There is no onus of proof provision there. Those who want benefits have to prove their case. I repeat that we have one of the best repatriation systems in the world but I do not suggest that it should not be better. We are striving to improve it all the time. I have one qualification about Senator Kennelly. He said that this Government was only concerned with having these men killed. That was unworthy and I do not think he meant it.
I express appreciation of Senator Gair’s remarks. I only hope I can deserve them but I can tell him that it will be a happy day for me when we can give extra repatriation benefits. I point out that in addition to an increase in pensions totalling $7.5 million this year, we have allocated $1.6 million for new works. That has not been mentioned in this debate. In addition, more than $2 million has been provided for maintenance and repairs on repatriation structures. For some time we have had a five year plan. The idea was that we would gradually build up and improve our repatriation institutions over a period of five years. The only thing wrong about this is that we have to get the money. We have not been to get all we wanted but the fact that we have been knocked back in the past does not mean that we will not keep on trying.
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 21 of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted -
Part IIa - Joint Committee on Repatriation.
– (1.) As soon as practicable, after the commencement of this Part, and as soon as practicable after the commencement of the First session of each Parliament, 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 shall be appointed by the Senate, and six of the members of the Committee shall be members of, and shall be 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. 22e. At any meeting of the Committee -
five members shall form a quorum;
the Chairman or, in his absence, the Vice-
Chairman or, in the absence of both the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman, a member elected by the members present, shall preside;
all questions shall be decided by a majority of the votes of the members present; and
the Chairman or other member presiding shall have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of votes, shall also have a casting vote. 22f. The Committee may sit and transact business during any adjournment or recess as well as during the session, and may sit at such times (including times while either House of the Parliament is actually sitting) and in such places, and conduct their proceedings in such manner, as they deem proper. 22g. The Committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records. 22h. The powers, privileges and immunities of the Committee and of its members shall be those of each of the Houses of the Parliament and of its members and its committees. 22j. The Committee shall examine the Repatriation Act and regulations and, in a Report to the Parliament, recommend amendments necessary to be made in the Act and regulations to remove existing anomalies and improve their provisions.’.”.
The Opposition has moved this amendment, or a similar one, on two or three occasions because it considers there are sufficient anomalies in the Reparation Act and complaints from ex-servicemen, especially about generally established procedures which are unsatisfactory, to warrant a committee of inquiry. I think it is fair to say that the discussions in this chamber have produced clear evidence that members of the Opposition and some supporters of the Government are dissatisfied obviously about the interpretation and use of section 47 of the Act which deals with the onus of proof and section 48 which provides for medical recommendations. This view is taken by others apart from members of the Opposition. In 1963, as honorable senators will recall, the Opposition proceeded with an amendment recommended by the Returned Services League on these matters. i mention this only to illustrate the sort of anomalies which still obtain. In a letter to me setting out its complaints and written on 15th August 1963 the R.S.L. in South Australia stated -
It is desired to direct your attention to the views of the League on the question of section 47 of the Repatriation Act which we hold to be anomalous because although it seeks to protect the interests of ex-service personnel, it cannot fulfil this purpose to its intended extent because it lacks in its own construction a clear cut definition of a doubt and this makes arbitrary what we contend should be mandatory.
It is true that this matter has been canvassed and will probably be canvassed again during the debate in committee, but this is a recurring problem. For this reason the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) pointed out that the last full review of these matters was held by a Committee set up by the Australian Labour Party in 1943. At that time attempts were made to illuminate what was then section 45 and is now section 47 of the Act. But great dissatisfaction has arisen from that section over the years. I take up the point that Senator Wright made earlier in relation to the statement by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). 1 echo the Minister’s advice to ex-servicemen. There is no question that the best advice to exservicemen is that they should attend before a doctor, at a first aid post or a medical sector with any complaint. If the exserviceman concerned leaves the Army or any other branch of the Services without anything on his record, it will be difficult to prove that he sufferend disabilities as a result of war service. 1 have personally told people this. The Minister has made something like the same point. Senator Wright has made reference to it. All of this indicates the importance of putting something on record. This in itself shows that there is need for some improvement, not only in respect of pensions. We suggest that the committee should examine the Repatriation Act and regulations, and in a report to the Parliament recommend amendments necessary to remove existing anomalies and improve the legislation.
I think that this is very necessary. There is a basis in the fact that over the years representatives of ex-servicemen’s organisations have appeared before meetings of committees of Government members - whichever Government was in office - and put forward what should be done in relation to pensions, hospitalisation, and the Act itself. It is argued that the provision in relation to benefit of doubt is clear and that the onus of proof rests on the Repatriation Department. In my opinion, this argument is still wrong. The facts are that the person concerned has to find new evidence. These procedures are set and unless we can find a remedy by consultation through a committee it seems that we are no further advanced. Another important reason is that which was mentioned by Senator Kennelly. We set up an inquiry in 1943 during World War II, when there was a great ferment about ex-service conditions and war service problems. Today we are facing a situation wherein, by the Government’s action, young people are being committed to service overseas. Many of them will die overseas. For these reasons a committee should be commissioned to carry out some inquiries.
There are also the associated questions of re-establishment and re-training at which the committee should look. The Repatriation Department exercises control over those aspects. On the last occasion when we advanced this proposal, the argument advanced from the other side, apart from the blank opposition of the Minister, was that such a committee would be supervisory of the Minister and that to some extent it could embarrass him, and reduce his importance in the Parliamentary system and in some ways inhibit him. The Opposition has thought about this. Normally, if there were no such proposal before the chamber, we would support the appointment of a select committee. We think that the arguments being used against the appointment of a standing committee are wrong. A standing committee could deal with issues that were raised in controversy. I leave the representations on that basis. There seems to me to be a clear justification for this proposition to be supported by other than Opposition senators.
– The Democratic Labour Party opposed a similar amendment last year and we shall oppose this amendment for much the same reason. I am rather surprised that the Australian Labour Party is moving for a committee on a matter related to pensions because only last week, in discussions on the Budget, the Democratic Labour Party was not supported when it moved that there should be a committee of experts to determine pensions.
– Not parliamentarians.
– I presume that there are in the community experts on pensions who would be just as expert as parliamentarians. They might be a little better. Let us be honest enough to admit that. When we suggested that there should be such a committee, the Leader of the A.L.P. in the Senate, Senator Willesee, very eloquently said that his Party was opposed to the idea because it felt that the determination of these matters must be for the Government and the Treasurer. 1 do not see how the Opposition can say that, whether the committee consists of parliamentarians or people outside the Parliament, and then urge the appointment of a committee in regard to these matters. Admittedly, there is a difference. Senator O’Byrne might ask why, if we were in favour of a committee then, even if the A.L.P. were not, we would not vote for a committee now. The reason is that all that the proposed committee is to be empowered to do is to make recommendations. In my humble opinion, any committee or tribunal dealing with wages or pensions which can only make recommendations is worthless. I remember that 20 years ago, when I was a teacher, we were offered by the Liberal Government of Victoria a tribunal which could make recommendations to the Government, and a section of our union was prepared to accept it. I played some part in fighting the Government on the issue. Eventually the Government was defeated and we got a tribunal that could make decisions. In my view, a committee such as this which can only make recommendations that the Treasurer and the Government, if they want to do so, can reject, will be only a delusion and a snare. If the A.L.P. moved for the appointment of a committee that could make determinations that the Government had to accept in the same way as it accepts the decisions of arbitrators, I would adopt a different view in regard to the proposal. What would be the good of a wages board, the decisions of which were subject to veto by the Government? What would be the good of an arbitration system, the decisions of which were subject to veto by the Government? I think that in this matter the A.L.P. representatives went a certain distance and then got cold feet.
The only proposal that ought to be put forward is for the appointment of a tribunal that can make determinations that the Government must accept. Otherwise the whole proposal for a committee ought to be dropped, because it would be meaningless and worthless. I feel that this committee would have the prospect of degenerating into a party organisation. It is suggested that there be six members from the House of Representatives - everybody here knows that the House of Representatives will not accept the proposal, but we are still entitled to put it forward if we want to - and three members from the
Senate, making a total of nine. The numbers being as they are, the Government obviously would have a majority.
– It could have all of them. There is no provision in the amendment for the Opposition to be represented.
– It could, but I presume that the Government would make some concession on that matter to the Opposition. The amendment does not state that there should be representation for the other side. I am surprised that that is not stated definitely, in the light of Senator Willesee’s attack upon us in regard to one of the clauses of our amendment in relation to the Budget. He said very definitely that these things had to be pinpointed in black and white. I am a little surprised that it has not been done in this case. The chairman of the committee would obviously be a Government representative. The Government would have a majority on the committee. I have been long enough in political life to know that when a government feels that a committee ought to arrive at a certain decision it is very rare that the committee does not do so.
– Has the honorable senator not known of governments to be influenced by an opposition case?
– I have known governments to be influenced by an opposition case, but I also know that when a government goes out after a certain result and it has the numbers, it generally manages to achieve that result. For all of these reasons, I think that this proposal for a committee is a pious aspiration. If the A.L.P. wanted a committee with teeth, it should have moved for one the decisions of which the Government would have to accept. Finally, there have been suggestions that this would not mean setting up a watch dog committee for one department. What else can it mean? The committee would be in existence for the lifetime of every Parliament. What is the necessity for it? The Returned Services League and about six other service organisations have committees which are always meeting, examining situations and making recommendations to the Minister. Would this committee of parliamentarians be more expert in repatriation matters than would men who are returned soldiers themselves and who belong to organisations that are continually dealing with these problems? Under these circumstances, it seems to me that you would be only adding a new committee to the existing ex-service organisations. The Government Parties already have a repatriation committee which makes recommendations to the Government. I understand that the Australian Labour Party has a committee which makes recommendations on repatriation matters. There are nine or ten committees already, but the Labour Party proposes to introduce a new one which would merely have the power to recommend.
The last thing that J want to say is that 1 am sorry that certain honorable senators, in the course of this debate, have made personal attacks upon the Minister. There have been suggestions that he is personally responsible for what certain honorable senators describe as miserly concessions. There have been suggestions that he is personally responsible because the Government has not done all sorts of things. Surely honorable senators know that what the Minister places before the Senate are decisions of Cabinet, not his personal views. If honorable senators on this side of the chamber had an ear at Cabinet meetings and could say that the Minister himself had said that this should be done or that that should be done, then they would be entitled to blame him personally. But nobody in this chamber knows what views the Minister expresses in Cabinet. For all we know, he may have advocated a lot of the things that the Opposition wants; on the other hand, he may not have done so. But nobody here knows that. What he is putting before us is the decision, not of himself, but of his colleagues. From my own knowledge of the Minister, T would say that he displays a kindly and most philanthropic attitude towards ex-servicemen. I feel that it was entirely wrong that he should be personally attacked for decisions which are decisions of the Government to which he belongs.
– I am tempted, having been the target of some criticism during the evening’s debate, to reply now to my critics when I have the same opportunity to be heard throughout the country as was available to them. But I refrain from taking that course advisedly; I shall take it tomorrow. I turn my attention to the subject matter before the Committee, which is the proposal of Senator Bishop, representing the Australian Labour Party Opposition, that there should be introduced into the repatriation legislation provision for a perpetual standing committee on repatriation constituted by members from both Houses of the Parliament. At the outset I dissociate myself from the argument that Senator McManus has put forward based upon the distinction between a recommendation and a determination. The Government will not hand over, 1 hope, in our time, the determination of such a large vote of public money to any outside body. That would be entirely unlike the proper function of industrial tribunals which determine wages.
– What about the fixing of Public Service salaries? The Government hands over that function to the Public Service Arbitrator.
– I would think, from looking at the Public Service Act, that the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator is simply advisory and that it does not take determinative effect until regulations are made under the Public Service Act. I speak subject to correction, but having scrutinised some regulations in my capacity as a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, I take leave to suggest that the Public Service Arbitrator has no authority in his own right to determine that the Government shall pay a certain sum.
– The Government accepts decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It hands over the determination of substantial public expenditure to outside tribunals in that way.
– In my view, when the Arbitration Commission was given power to arbitrate as between Government instrumentalities and wage earners, that power was very jealously guarded. It was done only for the purpose of obtaining uniformity in an industrial field - a field where uniformity must be maintained in order to create a spirit of industrial equity. I am interested in the argument, and I simply put forward my view by way of preface.
The other matter to which I wish to refer relates to an interjection which was made by Senator Webster. I want to repudiate the argument at once. Even though the amendment does not specify that there would be representation of both Government members and Opposition members, to set up a committee not constituted proportionately from all sections of opinion represented in the Parliament would be an encroachment on parliamentary tradition. I hear reference made, by way of interjection, to the Foreign Affairs Committee. 1 .know that some of our Standing Orders expressly state that members are to be nominated by the Party Leaders in the Parliament. That is a corrosion of parliamentary tradition.
– What about the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House?
Senior WRIGHT. - Senator Gair reminds me of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. 1 expressed my disapprobation when the actual nomination of the members of the Committee by the Leaders of the Parties had the effect of excluding the members of the Australian Democratic Labour Party from all participation on the Committee. 1 said to my colleague, Senator Wedgwood, who is now in the chair and who cannot rebuke me except when J am out of order, that I take comfort from the verse -
That even the weariest river Winds somewhere safe to sea.
However, I am not disposed to be really troubled about these matters tonight. They are by way of preface. Senator Bishop, with that art of advocacy that we all admire in him, has moved for the appointment of a standing committee to inquire into all aspects of repatriation. The argument that 1 advanced last year was that such a standing committee, going on indefinitely, would be in effect, an agency peering over the shoulders of the Minister at any aspect of his administration. I said that it would mean the erosion of the Minister’s sense of responsibility. That would hardly be conductive to independence of administration. ] do not think that any Minister should be asked to accept a standing committee to supervise his administration.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put (he question -
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– 1 was putting the point of view that a standing committee really detracts from that position in which one expects a Minister to derive independence of outlook in the administration of his Department. It is quite unlike what might be usefully set up - a general committee where matters of complaint of some sort of described nature could be advanced. I feel that an indefinitely continuing political committee of this sort would come to be an agency that would make repatriation more of a political football than it is today. I would think that there would be ever less argument for a political committee continually supervising repatriation matters than such a committee supervising social service matters in the age and invalid pension fields or in the Department of Health field where if the committee were confined to the administration of the National Health Act it would not be generally supervising the administration of the Minister. I put forward this view in objection to this proposal last year. I rise only because T am still unpersuaded that that objection is not sound.
– I rise to support the proposition that has been put by Senator Bishop. In the short comments that I wish to make on this Bill, I do not intend to be side tracked by any of the theoretical or hypothetical propositions that have been advanced by Senator McManus in his negative attitude towards the amendment that has been proposed. When all is said and done, a committee of the nature proposed by the Opposition is certainly a committee that cannot do any harm. Indeed, it must do a great deal of good. When a similar proposition was before the Parliament two years ago the present Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who was then the Minister in charge of the Bill in this chamber, in answering the proposition that a committee had been established in 1943, relied on the fact that the 1943 committee had been established at that time because we were in the course of a war. He said that this war was different from the 1914-18 war. The conditions of service were completely different to those that applied to servicemen in the First World War. A new set of circumstances relating to eligibility for repatriation benefits applied to ex-servicemen because they were serving in different situations, in different theatres, and under different circumstances. If that was the argument two years ago - that the 1943 committee was established in a time of war - surely today the argument then advanced by the Government applies. Since that proposition was last before this Parliament in 1964, Australian conscripts along with regular soldiers have gone into action on foreign soil. Surely they are engaged in warlike operations that are completely different to the circumstances that existed in the Second World War and in the 1914-18 conflict. On that basis alone, there is every justification, considering the argument put forward by Senator Anderson in 1964, to warrant the setting up of a committee of this nature today. After all is said and done, automation is expanding in this country. Recently the Chairman of the British Coal Board said that in the next generation men could be expected to have to change their jobs three times during their working lives. Today, according to the Repatriation Board, we find that servicemen from the First World War are now of an average age of 72 years. The average age of ex-servicemen from the Second World War is now some 49 years. Coupling those circumstances with the type of service being given by young Australians, regulars and conscripts, who are serving today in Vietnam, I believe that there is every justification for a parliamentary committee of the type suggested by the Opposition to inquire into all circumstances relating to the Repatriation Act and the regulations made thereunder. Such a committee, functioning in the manner suggested by the Opposition, could lead to a great deal of good and certainly no harm. Therefore, for the very practical reasons put forward by Senator Bishop and supported by me, I support the amendment put forward by the Opposition.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Bishop. The nub of the amendment is found in those words which set out the functions of the committee. These are - 22j. The Committee shall examine the Repatriation Act and regulations and, in a Report to the
Parliament, recommend amendments necessary to . . remove existing anomalies and improve their provisions.
Senator McClelland has just made the point very ably that in 1943 a committee similar to the one proposed in this amendment was set up. That committee brought forward quite a considerable number of suggestions for amendments which ironed out anomalies that existed in the then Repatriation Act.
– Can the honorable senator inform me why, if this committee was a continuing standing committee, its first and last report was furnished in 1943?
– I am not familar with the exact nature of that committee. It is my understanding that a joint parliamentary committee has to be a committee of this nature. If it were a Senate committee it could be a select committee for the specific purpose of examining the reference, reporting on it and then automatically disbanding. 1 understand that the only way that a joint committee could be set up for this purpose would be in the form outlined in this amendment.
– I would think that we could have a joint select committee.
– The technicalities of the committee are of such a nature that I would prefer to come to the purpose of the committee rather than the details surrounding its establishment. Senator McManus said that he would not support this measure because the Opposition had not supported another measure at some other time. The height of cynicism is reached in this respect because Senator McManus has made contributions to debates here criticising some of the terms and provisions of the Repatriation Act. Over the years, Senator Gair has made similar criticisms.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) spoke of the various tribunals and advisory bodies that had a background of knowledge of repatriation. These tribunals and advisory bodies were able to report to the Minister and the Cabinet on how to make improvements. Our memories do not have to be very long to recall a previous amendment to the Repatriation Act relating to benefits and so on for ex-servicemen engaged in hostilities in Vietnam. The anomalies and injustices arising from that amendment were of such a nature that quite a number of honorable senators on the Government side showed their disagreement with it. In their own way, they took the amendment back to their own Party in disgust and insisted that alterations be made, despite the recommendations that had come from the advisers to the Minister. The resulting provision was a very big improvement on the amendment that had been brought up.
Anomalies can creep into legislation, and a wider and more objective view of them can often be obtained by people who are not personally and deeply involved in the activities of a department. Senators and members have parliamentary experience that is of value. We are in contact with many people who have been unsuccessful in appeals. They can tell their story in their own way in our offices, but the records in the Repatriation Department are riot sufficiently clear or strong to enable them to prove their case. With this experience, members of the Parliament can take an objective view of anomalies. Our amendment suggests that a committee be set up to examine the anomalies and to recommend amendments that are necessary to remove the anomalies. On every occasion amendments to the Repatriation Act are debated, anomalies are brought to light. We have almost an annual repetition of these anomalies. Yet the advisers to the Government do nol see fit to recommend that improvements bc made to the legislation. The anomalies could be ironed out when we had before us amendments to the rates of pension and so on.
We have foreshadowed a number of other amendments. These are intended to correct anomalies in the legislation. Year after year we try to make some impression on the Government by moving these amendments. As my Deputy Leader has mentioned, we have the logic on our side, but the Government has the numbers, and the amendments are not accepted. I believe that this in itself is a strong argument in favour of the course we now suggest. Senator McManus asked that politics be kept out of a consideration of repatriation matters. This would happen if we had a joint committee comprised of members from both sides of both Houses. In my experience, such committees can be objective. They seem to be able to make an approach that is in the best interests of the Parliament and to do justice to the subject that is referred to them. I believe that a no more objective approach to a complete examination of the Repatriation Act could be made, particularly in view of the fact that we are now involved in new hostilities. Twenty-three years have elapsed since such a committee examined the Act. The time is now ripe for another examination to be made. Therefore, I support the amendment that has been moved by Senator Bishop.
.- I, too, rise to support the amendment. I believe that a committee of the kind suggested could do a tremendous amount of research in the repatriation field, which al the present time seems to many of us, and certainly to the community at large, to require a much deeper examination and much wider thought than are being given to it. In a moment I shall refer to a number of instances in which I believe such a committee could be of advantage. I remind honorable senators, first, of a report which was attributed to a spokesman of the Returned Services League, which appeared in the Australian Press on 23rd August last, and in which the League attacked the Federal Government in relation to the repatriation proposals contained in this year’s Budget. The report detailed a number of areas in which the R.S.L. thought that the Government had fallen short of its responsibility in this important field.
During the debate it has been stated that this is a subject which could become a political football. I do not know exactly what is meant by such a statement, unless it indicates that members of the Parliament may rise and address themselves to this extremely important issue. If such action on the part of members of the Parliament means that the issue is being made a political football, then I do not see how it can be regarded as being other than a political football. I suggest that an examination of the whole repatriation field by a joint committee would go a long way towards removing the need for the issue to become a political football. The committee could delve into many aspects of repatriation in relation to which we believe there are shortcomings. The committee would have parliamentary standing. The Minister could be guided and helped in many ways in the administration of his Department by the decisions of the committee put to him in the form of recommendations.
Senator O’Byrne referred to an occasion last year when the Government introduced a Repatriation Bill and when members of the Opposition thought that provision ought to be made to cover servicemen who went to theatres of war in Vietnam. The Bill did not contain any such provision. The Opposition insisted that young men who were going overseas to play their part, as the Government said, in effectively defending this country ought to be given the advantages of the Repatriation Act. Ultimately, as the result of a rebellion on the Government side, a sufficient number of senators joined with the Opposition to enable it, after the Bill had been withdrawn, for about a fortnight to win the day. Those servicemen are now eligible for repatriation benefits.
– Does the honorable senator concede that to be proper parliamentary action?
– I most certainly do, yes.
– That did not make a farce of Parliament, did it?
– Indeed, it did not. In fact, it established more firmly, perhaps, than was formerly the case the value of Parliament in a field of this kind. I completely agree that in that particular context those honorable senators from the Government side who joined with the Opposition to ensure that these young servicemen received the value of repatriation benefits did the right thing.
– According to their judgment.
– Their judgment and their consciences, as was pointed out on that occasion. I want now to refer to another field in which a committee of this kind could be of advantage to the Parliament and the Minister. I refer to those exservicemen who are in receipt of war pensions of up to the 100 per cent, rate who are suffering from a physical or mental disability but who are not sufficiently incapaci tated to prevent their being employed in some useful capacity. Because of their physical or mental difficulty they find it extremely hard to get employment. We see any number of cases in this category, people who are willing to work and are able to do work of a limited kind. But because of their disability or incapacity there seems to be within the community an inability to absorb them into some useful type of employment. The result is that instead of their conditions improving, as is the case of the neurosis sufferers who can be engaged in some useful work, the health of these people deteriorates because they are not able to obtain the type of employment which suits them. Because of this they are in and out of repatriation hospitals month by month. I feel that the community owes a responsibility to these people.
Repatriation is one question which, 1 suppose, affects every home in Australia. It will be recalled that on both occasions when this country was threatened, or our sovereignty or integrity was under threat, there was no lack of volunteers. The young people of Australia have shown a complete sense of responsibility towards the defence of their country on any occasion when Australia has been under threat. I believe that the reason why we are in such difficulties at the present time and have had to resort to the conscription method to get servicemen is that the Government has not been fair dinkum about this matter. It has not been able to produce to the community of Australia sufficient proof of our difficulties to encourage the young people to join the Services as they have done on former occasions. This is the problem that we face at the present time. I believe that in this place we must show a sense of responsibility and a sense of the need to provide adequate medical care for servicemen when they return to Australia.
Another aspect of the matter which arose in the course of the summing up by the Minister, and one on which I hope he will correct me if I have misinterpreted his remarks, is his statement that the Government would like to provide greater repatriation benefits, but, because of the extent of defence commitments, is not able to do so. I submit to honorable senators in nil seriousness that the provision of adequate repatriation benefits is an essential part of the defence of Australia, lt is an essential part of the defence of any country. If we say that we are so committed with our defence expenditure that we are not able to meet what we consider to be a proper level of repatriation benefits, then there is something wrong wilh this country and it is no wonder that we cannot attract young people into the Services. Until we adopt an adult attitude to this question and say that repatriation is an integral and central feature of the defence system of the country we shall fail all along the line to attract to the Services the people who are required for the defence of Australia. I hope I am wrong in the interpretation which I have placed on the Minister’s remarks, but they convey to me the suggestion that any increased defence expenditure which we may incur in the future-
– I rise to order, Madam Temporary Chairman. I suggest that Senator Devitt is making a second reading speech and that his remarks have nothing to do with the amendment before the Committee.
Order! I suggest that Senator Devitt should relate his remarks to the amendment.
– I am endeavouring to do that. I am pointing out that if we had a committee of the kind we have suggested, repatriation matters would cease to be a political football. Instead, they would be considered by a committee consisting of members from both sides of the Parliament, in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The committee would make recommendations to the Minister. It could consider all the matters to which I am referring a’ the moment.
If a committee of this kind were set up a great deal of good would be done. Greater benefits could be provided under the Repatriation Act and a proper examination could be made of the whole financial position of repatriation benefits. As I have said, repatriation is a question which affects practically every home in Australia. Such a committee could give to repatriation matters the consideration which they deserve, instead of the kind of consideration they receive year by year when they are discussed in the way that we are discussing them now. We should recognise the relative importance of repatriation. We have other parliamentary committees, such as the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Works Committee and the Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. Their purpose is to examine features of government expenditure in particular fields and to make recommendations as a result of their examination. What is wrong with setting up a . committee to examine repatriation matters which many people throughout Australia regard as some of the most important matters with which this Parliament deals? I strongly urge that the amendment moved by Senator Bishop on behalf of the Opposition be adopted.
– I wish to say, first of all, that the Government does not accept the amendment. A similar amendment was presented last year and the Government rejected it, mainly for the reasons that it rejects this amendment. Reference has been made to the 1943 committee. I remind honorable senators that that committee was convened in circumstances which do not now exist. It was concerned primarily with adapting the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, as the legislation was then known, to meet the needs and conditions of World War II service. It was a once and for all inquiry to meet the needs and circumstances of the time. I wish to correct a statement which has been made by some Opposition senators. I remind them that there was in fact a review by the Government of repatriation affairs generally in 1950, almost as soon as the Government came to office.
Senator O’Byrne stated that the Government’s advisers were responsible for the position that arose last year, when benefits relating to overseas service were being considered. I wish to enlighten the honorable senator in that respect. The advisers had nothing at all to do with that situation. It was a matter of Government policy. The advisers did not suggest to the Government the action which the Government took on that occasion, so please do not blame the advisers for it.
I am being quite honest when I say that I do not think a committee of the kind suggested would achieve anything worthwhile. I gave my reasons last year and I do not propose to take up the time of the Committee by stating them again tonight. I think that Senator McManus put hisfinger on most of them. With regard to reestablishment and training, the Government has had those matters under review for months and we expect that the system decided on will be announced in the next few weeks.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Wedgwood.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senate adjourned at 11.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 September 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19660921_senate_25_s32/>.