25th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. 1 preface it by stating that in another place on 13th September, in answer to a question, the Minister for National Development, Mr. Fairbairn, said that the Government had prohibited exports of certain cargoes of iron ore pellets because the price was considered to be too low. Will the Minister inform the Senate of the actual price at which the companies concerned propose to sell the cargoes, and the names of the companies involved?
– lt has been the policy o; the Government to control export prices of iron ore and to withhold permits for export if the prices were considered to be too low. I do not have at my fingertips the prices requested by the honorable senator. If they are not confidential to the companies concerned. I shall endeavour to obtain the information he seeks.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, refers to the report of the Australian Universities Commission for the next triennium, and to the large measure of financial acceptance the Commonwealth Government has given to it. As a South Australian senator, I was rather distressed to find that the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments supported the granting of only 76 per cent, of the amount recommended by the Commission for capital and recurrent grants for use in South Australia - in terms of money, $41 million instead of the S54 million recommended. In the other States, the approximate percentages were: New South Wales 84 per cent.; Victoria 90 per cent.; Queensland 88 per cent.; Western Australia 90 per cent.; and Tasmania 94 per cent.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! Will the honorable senator now ask his question?
– Can the Minister give the reasons why the South Australian percentage is by far the lowest in the Commonwealth?
– I do not think that 1 should comment on the allocation of money for the purposes referred to by the honorable senator between the various States. Each State has its own problems and its own judgments to make, and the complete right to allocate resources it has amongst the responsibilities it has. Australia wide, the recommendations presented to the Senate last night in respect of tertiary education are a joint Commonwealth and State responsibility and acceptance, and I do not think that 1 should answer such a question as this in relation to any particular State.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that during the days of compulsory military service the health of all trainees was increased to almost 100 per cent? In view of the large numbers of men called up today for military service who have been found to be unfit, has the Minister ever considered the drafting of these men for a three months period to see whether their health could be improved sufficiently, if not for the benefit of the Services, at least for the benefit of themselves and the nation?
– I will bring the suggestion made by the honorable senator to the notice of both the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for the Army. However, it occurs to me that some problems might arise from the adoption of the suggestion. For example, we would have to draft people who were unhealthy, as it were, into formations by themselves. We could not integrate them in a team being trained because they might have to leave half way through the training course. If we were to create formations of this kind, we would have to provide them with instructors and section leaders from the regular forces. That in turn would reduce the capacity of those forces, again with no sure end result. These are problems that immediately occur to me. But I will bring the suggestion to the notice of the Ministers concerned.
– It is really a health problem.
– It is really a matter for consideration by the National Fitness Council.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, refers to the rather disappointing experience in apple and pear export marketing last season. I ask the Minister whether any co-operative arrangements are in force between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia for the purpose of regulating supplies of apples and pears to the United Kingdom and European markets in the export season. If there are no such co-operative arrangements, are any conversations taking place to that end?
– As far as I am aware - I think I am right in saying this - there is no organisation among the three countries that the honorable senator mentioned which is designed to regulate shipments of apples and pears from those countries to the United Kingdom and Europe. But there is an organisation called S.A.N.Z.A., formed in 1961, which represents the three countries. It meets annually; it met last in May. It deals with common problems of the fruit industry, developments in packaging and production and those types of things. Conversations in this organisation are the only conversations on the fruit industry that are taking place at the present time between the three countries that the honorable senator mentioned. There is no regulatory procedure as far as S.A.N.Z.A. is concerned.
– I ask the
Minister for Housing whether she has seen a letter dated 6th July 1966 and sent by the then Acting Prime Minister. John McEwen, to the General Secretary, Postal Telegraph and Telephone International, Brussels, Belgium, which said -
Your letter suggests that the Government of Australia is out of step with overseas practices and international conventions in regard to equal pay for the sexes. The facts do not bear this out.
The Government supports the proposition of equal pay for equal work.
What is the practice in the Minister’s own Department? Does she believe in the principle? If she does, does she think that the then Acting Prime Minister was telling the truth-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– . . . when he wrote the letter from which I have quoted? I know from experience that the principle stated by him is not practised in the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– I am at a loss to understand this question, which I understand is addressed to me as the Minister for Housing. It seems to me to concern a variety of Ministers. Therefore, I do not think it is competent for me to answer it.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen a Press report from Hong Kong of an article which was published in the journal “ Far Eastern Economic Review “ and in which the author, Mr. Peter Grey, called for a re-examination of Australia’s immigration policy? As Mr. Grey is described as Director of Research of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, I ask whether such a re-examination is contemplated. Does the Minister agree with the author’s assertion that the present policy is “ a running sore in Australia’s relations with Asia “?
– I personally have not seen this article, but this matter has been discussed previously by the Minister of Immigration. I think the honorable senator would be aware that Mr. Opperman, in March last, announced the results of a review by the Government of the rules relating to the immigration of nonEuropeans. The decisions announced have been very well received, I understand, and no immediate change is contemplated. But when the Minister made this announcement in the Parliament he clearly stated that rules and procedures cannot remain static and must be constantly reviewed. As to our relations with other countries, they recognise our right to decide on the composition of our population, and our immigration policy has not interfered with good relations.
– I direct a question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Will the financial provisions announced by the Minister last night for the next university triennium enable the elimination of quotas which have resulted in many qualified students being denied admission to the university faculties of their choice?
– I would doubt that quotas can be eliminated from particular faculties in particular universities. Of course, 1 cannot say, because 1 have not a crystal ball, but 1 would doubt whether in the future this will be a part of the pattern of Australian life. I imagine - but this again is looking to the future and not a Government view - that what must be sought is to see that no quota keeps out from a faculty somebody who has reached a standard which indicates that he has a good chance of achieving the end of the course on which he wishes to embark.
– ls the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that the names of the telephone subscribers in the town of Nelson, which is close to the South Australian border and at the mouth of the Glenelg River, are listed in a South Australian directory? ls the Minister aware that tourist, fishing and business people who are connected with Nelson would wish that their transactions be closely associated with the town of Portland? Also, is the Minister aware that Portland people and Nelson residents request that their names as telephone subscribers be listed in a Victorian telephone directory?
– I am aware of the position to which the honorable senator refers. I am quite certain that I cannot buy into local requirements on this issue, but 1 shall certainly refer the matter to the PostmasterGeneral for comment in relation to the honorable senator’s question.
– Can the Acting Minister for External Affairs advise whether the Indonesian Government will provide for representatives of foreign embassies, includ ing the Australian Embassy, to be present at the trial involving treason charges against the former Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Dr. Subandrio?
– I cannot answer the honorable senator, and, of course, this is not a matter on which any responsibility can rest upon the administration of external affairs.
– In view of the fact that the Government has not issued any denial of reported statements that additional troops are to be committed to the Vietnam conflict, will the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Parliament of the total number of additional troops to be so committed and how many of them will be conscripts? Will he also inform the Parliament whether it is the intention of the Government to extend immediately the call up of 20 year olds in order to obtain sufficient troops to meet the added Australian commitment?
– The Prime Minister made a very clear statement only yesterday in another place on this matter. The right honorable gentleman said there was no intention at the moment of making any increase in the Australian force in Vietnam. Naturally, that statement stands. I have not the figure to which the honorable senator has referred but if he wants more information than was contained in the very clear statement made by the Prime Minister in the Parliament yesterday he should put the question on notice and I shall see what information I can get for him.
– My question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs is prompted by the significant news that the Parliament of Indonesia has asked for an explanation by the President as to the events of 30th September last. I realise that it is not an occasion for us to be inquisitive as to the internal government of Indonesia, but I should like the Minister to let us know in due course, if he will, the form of the inquiry that the Parliament is instigating in Indonesia. I ask for this information for Australian senators in recognition of our interest in the development of parliamentary government in Indonesia.
– I believe there should be no difficulty in the Department of External Affairs ascertaining the facts which are all that the honorable senator seeks, and I will ask the Department to get that information. Probably the facts are not known yet, but I shall endeavour to get the information when they are known.
– I direct a question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Does the answer given by the Minister to Senator Cohen mean that the Government intends to provide finance on so restricted a basis that it is to be a permanent feature of our educational system that some students who have achieved matriculation standard will not be able to attend any university?
– The first comment I would make is that the very large programme for assistance to universities announced in the Senate last night is, as I said to Senator Laught, a general CommonwealthStates programme based on the States’ judgment of the allocation of resources. My second point is that I do not believe Senator Murphy can read into what I said a suggestion that quotas in the future may be restricted primarily on financial grounds. I endeavoured, in looking to the future, to put forward, not a government view, but a view which seems to be fairly prevalent in university circles that quotas, not for financial reasons but for reasons connected with achieving the degree stage in the shortest possible time, may, in future, operate in universities in Australia as they do in universities in practically every other country in the world.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Is there an atomic weapons test safety committee in Australia under the Minister’s jurisdiction and is this committee making regular tests of radio active pollution of the air? Has there been any significant increase in pollution since the French tests? Are daily tests of milk conducted for radiation fallout? Has there been any significant discovery of radio active iodine or strontium 90 in milk yields since the French tests?
– This is an important question and if the honorable senator will put it on the notice paper I shall see what information I can get for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of repeated statements that are made about the conscription of 20 year olds to go to Vietnam, is it a fact that a 20 year old or a 19 year old man who objects to being called up has an alternative offered him in that he may enlist voluntarily in the Citizen Military Forces for home training and will not be called up if he does so?
Senator GORTON__ I should like the honorable senator to put the question on notice. My belief is that he is correct but I should like the question to be put on notice so that a precise answer may be given covering, not only the point raised by the honorable senator, but particulars of the provision for appeals to a magistrate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Does the Minister recall that the former Minister for Housing-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! I remind the Senate that there have been complaints that some honorable senators cannot hear questions when they are being asked. I think the reason for this is that too much conversation is going on in the chamber. I ask honorable senators to cease conversation forthwith.
– 1 refer to the statement by the former Minister for Housing that it would be unwise to allow our output of dwelling units to fall below 110,000 per annum. What is the present annual rate of commencements and completions of dwelling units? How many years does the Minister expect will pass before the housing shortage in Australia is overtaken?
– I think the statement I made recently in the Senate answers the questions which have been asked by Senator Murphy. I would suggest that he go through the statement again. It refers to the present upward trend in home building, to the concern of the Government at any downward trend and to the concern of both myself and my Department to ensure that the Australian people have the best possible housing. The statement also refers to the work that is being clone in the housing field within the States and to what is being done through the Department of Social Services in providing housing for aged people under the Aged Persons Homes Act. I suggest to the honorable senator that he reread the statement. I can assure him that at all times the Government is concerned about housing. I believe, as I said in the statement, that the climate is set fair for a continuing upturn in housing.
– I desire to ask a ques tion of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. It arises from a question asked of him by Senator McManus. Is it a fact that young men due for call-up who prefer to join the Citizen Military Forces are compelled to volunteer for overseas service in the case of a declaration of national emergency?
– My understanding is that in the case of a declaration of national emergency, anybody in the Services or out of them can be called upon to perform the services that Australia would need in that emergency.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is supplementary to the question asked by Senator Keeffe. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports that the United States Government will be substantially increasing its troop commitments to Vietnam after the November election takes place in that country? Did the Australian Prime Minister on 8th March last, when announcing the decision to send a task force of some 4,500 Australians to Vietnam, state that this decision had been taken in the light of our other commitments in Asia? Now that confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia has come to an end and Australians are no longer engaged in military operations in Sarawak, are the Australian people to as sume that the Government considers it now has available to it more Australian troops for involvement in Vietnam? The Prime Minister has stated that no decision has been made at this stage on the commitment of additional troops. Will the Government be prepared to make a specific announcement on this matter prior to the next Federal election?
– As I said in answer to the question asked by Senator Keeffe, the Prime Minister has made the present position perfectly clear. I advise the honorable senator to read the statement made by the Prime Minister as reported in yesterday’s House of Representatives “ Hansard “. I can say to the honorable senator that I understand that the Commonwealth Government is withdrawing its troops from Sarawak as confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia has now finished. Malaysia has said that it is capable of looking after its interests in that area. Our troops are now being withdrawn. That is the only informationI have on the matter further to the answer that I gave previously.
(Question No. 875.)
asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s question are as follows -
Mr. Paley has continued to use his own road transport.
(Question No. 937.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer - 1.Yes.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has furnished the following reply -
(Question No. 994,)
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Will the Minister assure the Senate that the proposed revised version of the Lord’s Prayer will not replace the traditional form now in use in the Senate until senators have an opportunity to discuss the proposal?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
Senate Standing Order No. 53 sets out the form of prayer to be used at the commencement of each sitting day. Any alteration of the Standing Order would require the approval of the Senate.
(Question No. 1005.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact, as slated by the financial editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in the issue of 20th September 1966, that in the month of August 1966 the number of persons registered foremployment rose by 3,400 on a seasonally corrected basis, and that the gap between the number of persons seeking jobs and the number of registered vacancies increased by 4,700 in that month?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers - 1 and 2. At the end of July 1966 the gap between the number of persons registered for employment and vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service was 22,252. At the end of August the gap was 16,847. Hence, during August the actual gap narrowed by 5,405.
The figures quoted in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” article were derived from resort to one method of making seasonal adjustments. It is by no means the only conceivable method. My Department has itself devoted much research in an attempt to devise a method of making really meaningful seasonal adjustments to the figures of persons and vacancies registered but has concluded that this is impossible.
It is of more than passing interest that the average of the number of persons registered at the end of August over the past ten years has been 60,516. This August the number of persons registered was 54,279. For vacancies registered the average over the ten years has been 29,200. This August the number was 37,432.
Motion (by SenatorHenty) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Consideration resumed from 21st September (vide page 613).
Proposed new clause 2a.
.- I move-
After clause 2, insert the following new clause: - “ 2a. Section 37 of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘, the words ‘ or cancer ‘; and
by omitting from paragraph (b) of subsection (3.) the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis or cancer’.’’
The purpose of this amendment which, of course, has been moved on a former occasion, is to place cancer on the same basis as tuberculosis in relation to claims for repatriation benefits, and also to support representations that have been made by exservicemen’s organisations in this connection. It is contended that there is the same degree of difficulty in obtaining unanimous medical opinion regarding the causes of cancer as there is with tuberculosis. The Opposition adopts the view that if, in the wisdom of the Government, it was proper to place in the Act the prescription concerning tuberculosis it should also be proper to do so in regard to cancer.
During discussion of the amendment no doubt some expert medical opinion will be expressed. Perhaps I should not say “ expert medical opinion “ because I disagree with the position which Senator Turnbull, who is a medical practitioner, takes up on this question. No doubt he will attempt to explain the situation in the light of what he regards as proper medical considerations. The Opposition believes that amendment of the Act in this way is necessary. We are aware that in previous debates on this subject the reasons given to rebut the suggestion that the Act should be amended to include tuberculosis within its provisions were not particularly soundly based medically. For instance, at page 578 of the Senate “Hansard” of 23rd September 1965 the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) is reported to have said -
The answer I am given is that when the provision was brought in, tuberculosis was what one might call a scourge which was attacking a number of comparatively young people.
I have every reason for supporting the extension of the provisions of the Act in the way suggested in the amendment. Because the Act was amended in regard to tuberculosis sufferers, ex-servicemen who had undergone hardships and experienced hazards received the benefit of the new prescription. If the Act is amended to include cancer in its provisions, the same position will apply as now applies in the case of tuberculosis.
No doubt during the discussion many reasons will be given concerning the origins of cancer and the effect that certain occupations or injuries have upon the incidence of cancer, but 1 think it is fair to say that arguments of much the same kind could be put in respect of the incidence of tuberculosis. In order to point out some o; the paradoxes which have arisen on this issue 1 propose to refer to statements that were made by a Minister in another place in 1963. On 30th April 1963 Mr. Swartz, who was then Minister for Repatriation, said -
The argument for the automatic acceptance of cancer is nol supported by any statistical evidence tha! iiic incidence nf cancer in the ex-service Population is any higher than in similar age groups in the community generally. Among exservicemen themselves there is no evidence available that service of a particular kind or in a particular area has resulted in a higher incidence of cancer in one group of ex-servicemen than in another. In those types of cancer where a good deal is known of the course of development of the cancer, there is no evidence that the life history of the cancer is any different in the case of ex-servicemen than in the case of civilians.
In the debate on this measure last year u very broad concept was supported by the present Minister for Repatriation. At page 577 of ‘“Hansard” of 23rd September 1965 the Minister is reported to have said -
Whilst the precise cause of cancer Ls unknown, a lot i? known about factors that do not contribute to particular cancers and a lot is known about their development. I make ti c point, too, that then- is no evidence which suggests a general connection between service conditions and cancer. Iti any case, to generalise about service conditions can he a« misleading as to generalise about a particular disease.
I think I have presented the argument of the Opposition fairly. The Government refuses to accept the point of view of the Returned Services League that for reasons of history within the Services, cancer ought to he treated for repatriation purposes in the syme way us tuberculosis. As T have pointed out, the Opposition is entitled to ask why the Government included provision for tuberculosis in the Repatriation Act in the first place, lt is known that repatriation tribunals have granted some applications to have cancer treated as a war caused disability. The figures given by the Minister for the period from 1st October 1964 to 31st August 1965 show thai of 2,004 claims made, 517 were accepted. From January 1959 to 31st August 1965, 3,328 claims to have cancer accepted as a war caused disability were successful.
I do not wish to pursue this matter any further. I think it has been fairly well covered at the second reading stage of this debate and in other debates in the Senate and elsewhere. The grounds I have mentioned are the grounds upon which the Opposition bases its proposed amendment. We can see no good reason why the amendment should not be accepted, regardless of the standards of medical opinion which I do not suggest are not given conscientiously. Honorable senators and people outside the chamber will take up their own positions in respect of the relationship between cancer and war service. I believe that the reasons I have given are sufficient to warrant inclusion in the Act of the provisions suggested in the Opposition’s amendment. I believe that it is worthy of very serious consideration by the Senate.
– I appreciate the brevity of the case put forward by Senator Bishop on behalf of the Opposition. 1 would like to say that I do not think his case has been harmed by that brevity. The Government cannot accept the proposed amendment. As I understand it, about 100 different types of cancer are listed. Almost weekly, claims to have cancer accepted as a war caused disability come before me. 1 want to stress that here again in those claims the benefit of the doubt is given. Each case has to be looked at on ils merits.
I shall give the Senate some new figures which will be of interest. During the course of any war service that, an applicant may have had, if he has sustained, for instance, a lung injury and cancer subsequently develops, the lung injury may be accepted as the cause of the cancer. From 1st January 1959 to 31st December 1965 claims in respect of 3.401 ex-servicemen were accepted and claims in respect of 7,579 ex-servicemen were rejected. The total number of claims was 10,980, so the acceptance rate was 31 per cent. I believe that that illustrates the advantage of considering each case on its merits.
– Do those figures relate to cancer alone?
– Yes, Senator. I believe that those figures illustrate that in this field there should not be a blanket cover. I think that is common sense. The opinion that I hold has been borne out by the best expert medical opinions that we can obtain and by the way in which the repatriation system has worked over the years.
– I do not think this amendment should be voted on after only the mover of it and the Minister have spoken to it. lt is very important. It vitally concerns ex-servicemen and their organisations. 1 take up the interjection that Senator Turnbull made while the Minister was speaking. Senator Turnbull asked whether the figures given by the Minister referred to cancer cases only. Those figures would suggest that there is a higher incidence of cancer in returned servicemen than in the civilian population. I think it has been agreed from time to time when this proposal has been discussed that, if it were possible to accept it, it would be accepted. It is linked with the question of cost. It seems to me that the Minister should give us the estimated cost to the Department of implementing this proposal.
The important point, as the Minister has said, is that men who are suffering from cancer and can show that it is war-caused, with the application of the benefit of the doubt provision if there is any doubt, are covered without the application of the proposed provision. There would not be such a great number of other men who would be entitled to benefits except for the fact that they cannot prove that their cancer is war-caused, even with the benefit of the doubt provision. In order to obtain benefits under section 37, a person must have served in a theatre of war - so this proposed provision for cancer would not apply to all returned servicemen - and at some time after his discharge from the forces he must become incapacitated.
The question of the incidence of this disease brings up another question, namely, the average life of a victim of the disease from the time he becomes incapacitated for employment until he dies. Generally, a person with this disease does not suffer from it for many years. This is generally recognised as a short illness from the time of its detection until the death of the person concerned. Possibly benefits in respect of this disease would not be as costly as those in respect of tuberculosis. The whole point of the existing section 37 is that if certain things can be established there is an entitlement. The view is that, because of the seriousness of tuberculosis and the sacrifices that certain men have made, we will not worry about proof. I see that this provision was added in 1943. at a time when tuberculosis was much more widespread than it is today. We have now almost conquered this disease, and this provision may have assisted in that.
There is an increased incidence of cancer within the community. It is occurring also amongst those who were members of the forces. In view of the increased incidence of cancer and the suffering of patients with that disease it is thought that ex-service personnel should, particularly in their later years of life, get some extra consideration for the sacrifices they made in their comparative youth. We should not differentiate between the man who has established proof and the man who has no proof of the cause of the disease, the origin of which is not known to the medical profession at the present time. There just may be a possibility that the disease had its origin many years earlier. It may be that the cause, now unknown to the medical profession, was in the conditions to which ex-servicemen were subjected during their service.
Ex-servicemen’s organisations devote a considerable amount of time to bad cases of cancer, whom the Repatriation Department cannot assist because the sufferers cannot establish that the disease was war caused. We heard yesterday of the Minister’s sympathetic consideration in the administration of repatriation. I do not think his opposition to the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability is based on the protection of government finances. I suggest to him that at some time in the future an effort should be made to assess the actual cost of granting this concession. I am of the belief that the Government could, by looking into the question, find some way to meet the requirements of these members of the community who have made great sacrifices for the country and .are now in great distress.
– I want to say three things with regard to this amendment. First, 1 think it would be regrettable if we arbitrarily selected any one disease and made it compensable under the Repatriation Act, when all other diseases except tuberculosis were compensable only if a causal relationship between war service and the disease were established. We would introduce in favour of a section of the community that must excite our utmost sympathy - the victims of cancer - an unjustifiable right in the context, as victims of all other illnesses, incapacities and diseases - except tuberculosis - would have to prove that they were war caused.
The second thing that I want to say is that the very figures that the Minister has given us show that, in the six years period 1959-65, 31 per cent, of those who claimed compensation on the basis that their illness of cancer was war caused had succeeded. That proves, in my view, that there are cases of cancer which are related to particular circumstances and, perhaps with the aid of the onus ot proof provision or perhaps not, a tribunal has accepted the view that cancer has been war caused. In what I understand to be an absence of medical knowledge as to the real causes of cancer, it seems to me that the acceptance of 31 per cent., but more particularly the rejection of 69 per cent., places a very great responsibility in relation to the application of the onus of proof provision and the exactness with which it should be applied. That will be dealt with at great length in the next amendment.
The third thing 1 want to say on this matter arises out of a communication I have received from an ex-serviceman in New South Wales who transmitted to me a copy of a speech made by Mr. V. R. Thatcher, the delegate from the Clovelly sub-branch of the Returned Services League on 16th August 1966. I suppose most other honorable senators and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) would have received this document also. I mention it because the personnel concerned are entirely unknown to me but facts are stated which show that there is great disquiet on the part of exservicemen on this matter. The speech has received considerable circulation because of the interest taken by ex-servicemen in it. In his speech. Mr. Thatcher quoted from an answer given by the Minister for Repatriation on 12th August 1959. This shows that the Minister was unwilling to undertake a statistical comparison between veterans of the two world wars who were suffering from cancer and the civilian population for the purpose of building up statistics to show whether they would indicate any trend adverse to servicemen. The Minister for Repatriation stated in 1959 -
In reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question, for the reasons given above, and as the total number of ex-servicemen is not known, it would not be possible to compile a table and comparisons as requested. Furthermore . . any valid comparison between the deaths from cancer of ex-servicemen and the civilian population would require to take into account a number of variable factors such as age grouping and the duration and nature of war service etc.
The Minister had been asked to compile a comparative table showing the cancer deaths per cent, of ex-servicemen and another table showing the deaths per cent, of civilians from the same cause. I hope the attitude of that Minister for Repatriation has been corrected and that the Minister now in office recognises that there is an incompleteness in the records, especially in relation to men of the First. World War but also, I think, in relation to men of the Second World War. It must be possible through the Department of Health and its sampling of statistics to ascertain the trend of cancer occurrence in various age groups and occupations. It must be possible to use the Department of Health to obtain, either in relation to age groups or as an entirety, a comparison between the incidence of cancer among servicemen and other sections of the population.
– No records are kept by the Department as to the incidence of cancer among servicemen and women and the civilian population.
– I thank Senator Dittmer for his observation but it prompts me to wonder whether he was in the chamber when I began my speech. I took three or four minutes immediately before the honorable senator interjected to make that point. I referred to a question and an answer recorded in “ Hansard “ which were quoted in a communication T have received. The plea I was putting forward was that the Repatriation Department itself, or through another appropriate department or body interested in this matter, should take sampling statistics which would perhaps afford some guide as to whether or not war veterans were particularly susceptible to cancer. That in itself is one piece of evidence that would help towards a solution of this problem. For the reasons I have given, I oppose the amendment.
– I suggested something along the lines mentioned by Senator Wright to the Government some years ago but it would not do anything.
– I am very obliged and if the honorable senator will take time to reinforce the idea, his action will be welcomed by me.
.- When we come to a discussion of cancer, its causes and so on, we all can appreciate the tremendous difficulties of the Repatriation Department in this field. Over the years, there has been a great deal of high level medical evidence in support of the contention that, in the case of lung cancer, smoking has a strong contributory influence. On the other hand, other areas of medical opinion, at an equally high level, put forward the contention that it has not been established conclusively that smoking is a contributory factor to or has a great deal of bearing on lung cancer. We, as laymen, are trying to discuss a particularly difficult problem.
I think it is significant to note that last year when we were debating this matter the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) was good enough to supply us with figures which showed that 517 of 2,004 applications had been accepted on the basis of cancer being war caused. As I have said, being a layman, it is very difficult for me to understand the basis upon which it was ultimately agreed that conditions of cancer in ex-servicemen arose as a result of something which happened during their war service. On that occasion, 25 per cent, of the applications were accepted. I think there is further significance in the fact that the figures with which the Minister has supplied us now show that the number of cancer cases which have been accepted as being war caused, as a proportion of the total applications between
January 1959 and December 1965, has risen to 31 per cent. In other words, almost one in every three applications has been accepted.
Certainly I am not speaking from a knowledge of the various manifestations of this disease. I thought that there were 27 or 28 different manifestations of cancer, but the Minister has now informed us that there are over 100. In view of the lack of sufficient definite medical evidence, I believe it is very difficult for anyone to say whether or not this dreadful disease is war caused. We all realise that the exigencies of war service present hazards to the human physique and the human body that perhaps could give rise, in certain areas of the body, to the onset of cancer. Even in the Senate we have seen evidence of the fact - at least this is my conclusion - that people who have committed themselves deeply to their duties have impaired their health. It is a great pity indeed that people who worked so hard were stricken with this dreadful disease of cancer.
I am not sure whether I understood Senator Wright correctly, but I believe that he was trying to establish some sort of basis for determining the acceptance of cancer, in line with the acceptance of various other disabilities which are regarded as being war caused. I think that perhaps we are dealing with a subject entirely different from others when we are dealing with diseases of the body and mind as being war caused. I believe medical science has reached such a stage of sophistication that, with a reasonable degree of certainty, it can be determined that something which happened in the course of war service gave rise to a condition in an ex-serviceman today. Bearing in mind the onus of proof provision - that is. that the benefit of a doubt comes down on the side of the ex-serviceman - it can be established with reasonable certainty whether or not a condition is war caused.
– But reasonable certainty should not be required. All that is required is that a reasonable inference be open.
– That is right. The benefit comes down on the side of the exserviceman. What I was going on to say was that the uncertainty surrounding the causes and manifestations of cancer puts this disease in an entirely different category from normal medical conditions resulting from wounds or something else that happened during war service. Now we have reached the stage that approximately one in every three applications in a period of seven years, I think it was, for cancer to be treated as war caused has been accepted. I am at a loss to understand how one can say with reasonable certainty - at least with sufficient certainty to accept the applications - that the condition was war caused in 31 per cent, of the cases but was not war caused in 69 per cent.
– I should say that there is a very compassionate element there
– I think the honorable senator has something when he says that. 1 think that much depends on the human factor as well as on the strength of the case that is presented. Consideration of mailers of this kind by the tribunals and the various other organisations associated with the Repatriation Department must depend, to a very large degree, on the human element. I am grateful to the Repatriation Department. I am sure that the people of Australia are grateful that 31 per cent, of applications to have cancer treated as being war caused - in other words, approximately one in every three - have been, accepted. But I think we cannot be sure that we are doing the right thing when so much uncertainty surrounds the diagnosis of this condition, and decisions as to whether or not it is due to war service. I know that this is a particularly difficult matter for the Minister, and I do not envy him or his Department in the position in which they find themselves.
I think that we must come down solidly on the side of the ex-servicemen, for the reasons that 1 put to the Senate last night. I sincerely hope that honorable senators will give very deep consideration to the proposition which we have put, and which has already been accepted as far as tuberculosis is concerned. The time has now been reached when the other two out of every three applicants should be given the benefit of the doubt and be accepted under the Repatriation Act.
– I want to make a few remarks in relation to the acceptance of cancer as being due to war service. We all realise that tuberculosis is automatically accepted as being due to war service, but here we are dealing with a different category of disease. The cause of tuberculosis is known, lt has been established that there is a predisposition to tuberculosis because of the environmental conditions of war service. But when we come to the field of cancer, from personal experience 1 know-
– 1 rise to a point of order. J am having difficulty in hearing the honorable senator because too much conversation is going on on the other side of the chamber.
– Order! Honorable senators will not carry on conversations while an honorable senator has the floor.
– I am sorry that I cannot be as interesting to my friends as I am to the Minister. But I will do my best to make my remarks appeal to them and get them to listen to me. The Repatriation Department does accept certain types of cancer, particularly where the cause has been established from past history as being duc to war service. For example, cancer is accepted if the ex-serviceman has been exposed to the tropical sun or has been in the desert. Many types of cancer are automatically accepted as being war caused. But when we come to the broad field of cancer, the difficulty is that, by and large, we do not know the basic cause of various types of cancer. So it is impossible to decide whether a cancerous condition is war caused or whether it would have occurred in the ordinary train of events, as it is occurring in many people who have not had any war service.
As Senator Wright pointed out, we are moving along the road. We know that the Returned Services League has appealed to the Government to recognise cancer as being automatically a repatriation liability. We know that the Australian Labour Party has put up a case for the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability.
But the matter is not so easy. Actually, the Government is doing nothing to assist returned servicemen and servicewomen because it will not compile statistics separating the incidence of cancer in the civilian population as distinct from the occurrence of cancer in relation to ex-service personnel. If it did this, the Government would have some measure to adopt as a yardstick as to the possible association of cancer with the conditions of war service. But the Government will do nothing to endeavour to prove whether there is a higher incidence of cancer in ex-service personnel than there is in the ordinary civilian population.
This is one step that the Government could take. The compilation of such statistics would be comparatively easy. As 1 have said, the statistics could be used in some small measure as a yardstick. The Government could see whether, over a number of years, the highest incidence of cancer was found in ex-service personnel, whether the incidence of cancer in the ex-service personnel ran parallel with ordinary civilian population - those people who have not been engaged in war service - or whether the incidence of cancer in ex-service personnel was lower than the occurrence of cancer in the ordinary civilian population. Until this compilation is done and until we know the actual cause of a particular type of cancer or of the whole phenomenon as it occurs in life today, we will not get very far. 1 think that the Government should show a measure of responsibility in this regard. If the Government is prepared to go along year after year categorically denying the right of ex-service personnel to have cancer accepted as a warcaused disability, then I think it is incumbent upon the Government, controlling the treasury bench as it does, to take steps to justify its action.
I am not saying that the incidence of cancer in ex-service personnel is higher than in the civilian personnel who have not seen war service. But it is open to the Government to study the matter. It has taken no steps in this direction at all. Some years ago, I suggested that the Bureau of Census and Statistics could take out figures from year to year regarding this matter. This is one thing that the Bureau could do. Supplementary evidence in relation to cancer has been produced by statistics both here and overseas. Statistics have shown the relationship between lung cancer and smoking along with many other factors that have been definitely determined, lt was statistics that brought forward the view that the smoking of cigarettes was associated with and bore relation to lung cancer. If this had not been determined by statistics, we might not have discovered the relationship. If I might digress for a moment, I should like to say that the Government has remained unmoved by this evidence. I know that the Government does not control advertising in newspapers, but it certainly has control over advertising on radio and television. The Government permits all sorts of advertising on radio and television that encourages young people to smoke. These advertisements give the impression that attractive young women and athletic young men who smoke cigarettes engage in various sports. 1 know that the Government will endeavour to reject this amendment. In some measure, I. sympathise with the Government in its approach to the matter. But I cannot condone the callous disregard by the Government of its responsibility to try to determine once and for all whether the incidence of cancer is higher in ex-service personnel than it is in people who have not had war service.
– The debate on this proposed amendment has a similar pattern to the debate that occurred when an amendment in this form was presented to the Committee last year. I commend those honorable senators who have contributed already to the debate from this side of the chamber in persevering with this amendment because the Opposition believes that the onus of proof section in the Act, which is involved in the subject of our discussion, is most important. 1 wish to put on record certain information contained in a speech delivered to the New South Wales Annual State Congress of the Returned Services League by Mr. V. R. Thatcher, who was the delegate from the Clovelly Sub-branch of the R.S.L. on Tuesday, 16th August 1966. Mr. Thatcher spoke, among other things, of the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. Mr. Thatcher spoke of the need for research in this field and said that if the information available to the R.S.L. was collated the damaging statements made about this matter could be answered by the body. He went on to say -
I give an instance now of a very damaging statement which has been mad? in respect of the League’s desire to have all claims for cancer automatically accepted. This statement has been made in Federal Parliament and repeated many times since. But research and investigation show that the statement is so false that it could best be described as a downright lie. It was made in the House of Representatives by the then Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) on April 30th, 1963, and I quote from “ Hansard “ of that date: “The argument for the automatic acceptance of cancer is not supported by any statistical evidence that the incidence of cancer in ex-service population is any higher than in similar age groups in the community generally. Among ex-servicemen themselves there is no evidence available that service of a particular kind, or in a particular area, has resulted in a higher incidence of cancer in one group of ex-servicemen than in another. In those types of cancer where a good deal is known of the course of development of the cancer, there is no evidence that the life history of the cancer is any different in the case of ex-servicemen than in the case of civilians.”
Here we have a clear picture of scientists searching for any evidence that will enable them to assist the ex-servicemen’s case. But alas, they have been unable to find such evidence, lt is unfortunate, too, that the R.S.L. has taken this, and other similar statements at face value.
Mr. Thatcher went on to say
I ask, what research into this matter has ever been carried out? When and by whom? Where were the results published? What statistics have ever been compiled? When and by whom? And were they ever published?
The answer is that no research into this question has ever been carried out, and, therefore there are no statistics. For here is the truth, again from “ Hansard “. Let me quote the answer lo a question asked in Parliament on this matter. It appears in “Hansard” of the 29th April 1959. The question refers to these matters, and the answer is revealing. 1 quote:
Statistics are not maintained nor is any information available as to the number of ex-servicemen whose deaths may be due to some form of cancer “.
Now we know for certain that there can never be a comparison between ex-service deaths and civilian deaths from cancer. And simply because there arc no figures. Not anywhere. Adequate research would have enabled the R.S.L. to show the falsity of the Ministerial statements at the time, but unfortunately the R.S.L. in all innocence has accepted these statements as factual. Nobody accuses the Minister of untruthfulness, but the fact remains that the lie was manufactured somewhere, and it is still being repeated.
The case that has been put already from this side of the Committee is substantiated by the contribution that Mr. Thatcher made at this conference. He added -
So now we see, on an official level, why no research has been carried out; why no statistics are available. The Minister for Repatriation himself says: “ It would not be possible “. He would nol even try. We see also that particular reference is made to the World War 1 Digger. He is not even to bc considered, in this way as well as in others. His widow is in an even worse position, for although we are complaining that only about fifty per cent, of cancer cases which are claimed for, are eventually accepted, in the case of exservicemen, their widows are successful in less than twenty-five per cent, of cases. This is a shocking state of affairs and the R.S.L. which claims to be the custodian of the welfare of the widows of our dead mates, must do something about it.
I believe that those remarks personify the case that we are putting up. lt is widely desired and widely believed that the onus of proof in this regard rests fairly and squarely on the Repatriation Department. This is so for a number of reasons. The cause of cancer is unknown. It is occurring frequently amongst ex-servicemen. But no statistics are available to prove that it occurs more or less frequently among exservicemen than among those without war service in the community. No research has been carried out to show whether the incidence of cancer in ex-servicemen is greater or less than the average incidence of cancer in the community. We will persevere with this amendment until eventually those people who are being unjustly deprived of something to which they may be entitled without any substantial proof to the contrary are given the consideration they deserve. I support the amendment, lt could quite easily be incorporated in the Act and so provide justice for many people who cannot rebut the Department’s case.
– I join issue with Senator O’Byrne when he says that many sufferers from cancer have been unjustly deprived of a pension. He has no authority at all for making that statement. There might be some people who really are entitled to a pension and who do not get one, but to make the broad statement that many people have been unjustly deprived of a pension is not fair. 1 took note of what Senator Cavanagh said. I remind him that, as we all know, cancer is no respecter of persons or of age. Cost does not enter into the picture. I believe that Senator Wright gave the answer to many of the queries that were raised by Senator Cavanagh when he said that we just cannot pick out one disease or complaint and give it consideration in preference to others.
– The Government has already done that in relation to tuberculosis.
– That is an entirely different matter. I should have thought that even Senator Cohen would realise that. With regard to the tuberculosis provision that was incorporated in the Act, I say again, as I said last year, that at the time a scourge existed. I am convinced in my own mind that, if the situation relating to tuberculosis was the same then as it is today, that provision would not have been included. I do not begrudge its inclusion in the legislation; I think it was a very good thing that it was incorporated. But the circumstances surrounding tuberculosis and those surrounding cancer are not analogous. We have not been able to get any evidence that war service has been responsible for a greater incidence of cancer than have the vocations that people follow in their daily life.
– Has the Department tried to collect any evidence?
– Attempts have been made in the past by the Repatriation Department to get figures. It has asked the anti-cancer organisations whether figures are available. During this morning’s debate the Government has been criticised for not having set up a statistical bureau to obtain this information. I am prepared to see whether we can get more information than we have at the moment about the cause of cancer. I am prepared also to have discussions with other Departments and other Ministers to see whether we cannot obtain information on these lines. I do not say that we can get it. The ramifications of the problem are so wide that, as a layman. I think it would be difficult to obtain the information. Nevertheless, the matter is of such importance that any attempt will be worthwhile.
– Does the Minister personally support it?
– Do I personally support what?
– Does the Minister support the claim that cancer should be regarded as being a war caused disability?
– I do not support that claim. What I am saying is that the more information we can get about cancer, the better. I am prepared to do all I can to see whether we can get more information about it. Every day we are learning more about such diseases. Honorable senators know as well as I do the amount of money and energy that are being expended in trying to trace the cause of cancer and to obtain a means of curing it. The Repatriation Department is prepared to pull its weight. I have covered very briefly most of the points that have been raised; I do not intend to attempt to reply to them all in detail. I suggest that we might now proceed to vote on the amendment.
– The Minister does not understand the purport of the amendment. He may get all the information he likes about the cause of cancer; that is irrelevant to the amendment. If his researches showed that cancer could be caused by war service, then persons afflicted with the disease would be eligible for a pension under the Act as it stands. If his researches showed that it was not a war caused disability, then those persons would not get a pension. Our amendment seeks to provide benefits for persons even though the incapacity brought about by cancer was not war caused.
– I understand perfectly.
– That is as plain as it can be. The Minister has conceded that the provision relating to tuberculosis was properly included in the legislation. It is quite clear that the legislation has departed from the principle that benefits should be made available to ex-servicemen only when the incapacity is war caused. If we look at the benefits that are made available to exservicemen here and elsewhere in the world, we note that ex-servicemen are given many benefits - rightly so - even though the disability from which they suffer might not have been war caused. Let us leave personal injury aside for the moment. In our society eligibility for benefits such as housing is not based on the fact that ex-servicemen have needed those benefits because of some disability caused by war service. We do not look at individual cases and say: “If you can establish that you are not able to provide a house for yourself because of your war service, we will give you assistance.”
– What logical consequence flows from that argument?
– It is this: If we go back to the Roman times or even before, we find that throughout the ages societies have decided that certain benefits shall be made available to ex-servicemen. When we considered the scourge of tuberculosis, it was decided that a man who had served in a theatre of war and later suffered incapacity through tuberculosis should be given certain benefits by the Commonwealth, even though clearly the disease might not have had anything to do with his war service. That was regarded as being a benefit which society should give to a man on account of his service in a theatre of war. That is the critical factor. The criterion is not that the incapacity was caused by war but that the ex-serviceman served in a theatre of war. Once that principle is established - it has been established in section 37 of the Act in relation to tuberculosis - there is no need to restrict it. If the Commonwealth has benefited from the fact that the scourge of tuberculosis has receded, that it is no longer a great problem, and that the Commonwealth is no longer involved in the financial outlay that it previously had to accept, why not turn to cancer, another great scourge, and say that the criterion for entitlement to a pension shall be the fact that a man served in a theatre of war? Why not say: “ Here is another dread disease which causes tremendous suffering to the persons involved and their families. Let these men have the benefits on the basis that they served in a theatre of war “? That is a simple and proper principle to adopt. The Government should be prepared to act upon it.
.- I know that the Minister desires to despatch the debate, and so do I. However, I cannot allow the last speech to pass without comment. I must get such satisfaction as I can from contributing to a debate on a subject like the one now before us. The last speech to which we listened was a farrago of irrelevancies and fallacies. It commenced with the statement that the proposition which Senator Dittmer had advocated and which I also advocate, that the Department should interest itself in building up a statistical record, was irrelevant to consideration of the amendment. We have it on the authority of Senator Dittmer that the statistical data indicated the trend in lung cancer. Medical scientists who conducted research in that field could use statistics of that kind as they thought fit, perhaps as an aid to suggesting that it was reasonable to infer from the nature of a man’s war service whether cancer could have been caused by it. Once that reasonable inference is raised, section 47 requires that compensation shall be paid for the injury or disease so caused.
– Surely the honorable senator knows that that relates to the present operation of the Act and has nothing to do with the amendment.
– Of course. I should have liked Senator Murphy to present the matter clearly. It was quite fallacious to argue from the major premise of tuberculosis to a conclusion that, therefore, the Department should accept another disease as the key to the whole basis of compensation under the Act. The fact is that tuberculosis was considered as an exceptional case.
– For the reasons which the Minister stated earlier today and which he also stated last year. Tuberculosis was considered as an exceptional scourge with civilian implications which were recognised in the provision of an inordinate pension. I say “ inordinate “ to impress on honorable senators the amount of the pension. It is a pension with which I agree and in the State Parliament of Tasmania had some pleasure in advocating when it was put forward by Senator Turnbull as a member of that House. So, I am not unsympathetic to it, nor do I deprecate it. I am simply insisting that the inclusion of tuberculosis in the repatriation field was exceptional and does not provide any basis on which to argue logically that cancer should similarly be accepted.
It is true that entitlement to war service homes finance is granted on the basis o* service in a theatre of war. My long memory was stimulated by the reference to Roman times. I accept Senator Murphy’s statement that perhaps the warriors of those days were compensated simply for service whether they suffered disabilities or not, but that is not the substantial principle upon which the whole Repatriation Act of Australia has been built. Section 24, which may be the key section, provides - (1.) Upon the death or incapacity -
of the definition of “ Member of the Forces “ applies, whose death or incapacity -
The causal connection between war service and death or incapacity is there stipulated as an essential prerequisite. It may not be appropriate to retain the provision, but if we move from that situation we want to do so deliberately. It has occurred to me that in the past the proliferation of unjustifiable pensions has created a great load of difficulty for those who advocate better pensions for the more deserving. If we were to avalanche the entirety of ex-servicemen, whether or not they had suffered incapacity by reason of their war service, into the position of recipients of repatriation benefits, the pension system would be degraded in the sense that we would depreciate its value for those whose suffering was greatest. I therefore cannot accept in a committee debate of this description Senator Murphy’s assumption that by reason of the exception made in regard to tuberculosis, we should move immediately to accept a non-causal relation based upon the contention that compensation for injuries should automatically be paid whether or not they were war caused.
I have risen because I believe that the Senate performs its duty by debating repat riation measures deliberately, particularly in the present national circumstances, but the Senate as a whole will be much better served if the debate proceeds on a logical basis instead of on the basis of an illogical and irrelevant string of suggestions such as those which Senator Murphy permitted himself to deliver.
.- With all respect to Senator Wright, I suggest that his energetic forensics have not added to the clarity of the discussion. He made some attempt to debunk what Senator Murphy had said about section 37 of the Repatriation Act and about our proposed amendment to it, but he seemed to rely upon considerations that arose from other sections of the Act. He pointed to section 24 as illustrating the requirement of a causal connection between war service and the incapacity that an ex-serviceman suffers. As I understood him, he said this was basic to the whole structure of the Repatriation Act and that where there was an element of doubt, of course section 47 applied. He did not seem to have clear in his mind the actual provisions of section 37, because the one thing that is not required under section 37 in relation to tuberculosis is a causal connection between war service and the serviceman’s incapacity.
– I admitted that.
– The honorable senator admitted it, but all that he said subsequently seemed to me to illustrate the proposition that he had not got it clearly fixed in his mind when he was addressing himself to the section. The section covers all tuberculosis cases, even where it can be proved affirmatively that a particular case of tuberculosis has not been acquired through circumstances relating to war service. Even if it could be shown that the tuberculosis had nothing whatever to do with war service, the complete answer would be, “ So what? I am entitled under section 37 because I have an incapacity which is caused, not by war service, but by pulmonary tuberculosis.”
– I thought that we all clearly accepted that and understood it.
– In reply to Senator Wright, I am trying to extract the basis of the principle on which tuberculosis is made an exception, because the Minister did not appear to be clear about it. He did not really explain whether, if he had his time over again, he would still include pulmonary tuberculosis as an exception.
– In the circumstances that existed, obviously it would have been included.
– The Minister is saying: “There was a scourge and we put it in, but there is much less tuberculosis today and I doubt very much whether in similar circumstances we would include it. But we won’t take it out.” Presumably, from the Government’s point of view, it would not be a matter of great principle to remove it, but the Government would find it politically impossible to take out a provision of that type. We are asking the Government to address its mind courageously to the question of principle that is involved. If the Government says that tuberculosis is the type of disease for which proof of causal connection should not be required, how much more so is that true, if I may say so, of cancer? If tuberculosis is the type of disease about which there is so much debate and doubt as to a causal connection in a particular situation, how much more is cancer the type of disease that calls for some kind of automatic qualification by a man who serves his country? That is all Senator Murphy was saying. I am quite sure that is what he intended to say and what he did put to the Committee. He said that we are not looking, in the case of tuberculosis, for a causal connection and we are not looking to show that it arises from war service. We are content to say: “Here is a man who has served his country. The Government will give him all sorts of benefits which will not be related to whether he has an incapacity resulting from war service.” That is true whether it is a physical incapacity or whether, as Senator Murphy illustrated in the case of housing, it is a financial incapacity as a result of his spending some years away.
The community should look at the problem and say: “Here is a man who served his country. What is the fair thing, given this type of disease? “ If the Government can isolate a principle upon which to make tuberculosis pensionable without proof of a causal connection, or even in the face of proof that that there was no causal connection, why should it not face up to the realities in the case of cancer and apply the principle to that disease, too?
– I rise simply to correct some of the torrent of Ulogie that came from Senator Wright. He said several things I wish to correct. One was that in some way I am opposed to the collection of statistics by the Minister. I said no such thing. The collection of statistics in relation to any disease may be useful. Certainly if the Act remains in its present form, the collection of statistics and research into the causes of cancer would be most useful. I repeat that that is so while the Act stands as it does at present. But such research is irrelevant to the amendment proposed by the Opposition. That is what I said. I am not in the slightest degree opposed to research into cancer. In fact, on many occasions in this chamber I have suggested that the Commonwealth should spend more on research into the causes of cancer than the extremely meagre sum it has spent for that purpose.
Leaving aside some of the other statements Senator Wright made which will not bear analysis, I think he ought to reflect, and perhaps the chamber might reflect, on what he said in relation to the extension of benefits. He said that we would degrade the repatriation system if we were to extend the benefits to those persons who were not suffering as much as others who would be within the present categories of benefits. Where men are suffering from cancer in exactly the same way as others are suffering from tuberculosis - another dread disease - the amount of suffering is the same, irrespective of whether it is war caused. There is no suggestion that we should extend benefits to people who are not deserving because they are not suffering. We are seeking to break the link between cancer and its cause. We say that if a man is suffering from such a dread disease, it is a reasonable thing - especially in 1966 when the Commonwealth presumably is not involved in such a tremendous financial outlay in respect of tuberculosis - to extend the principle in question to cancer.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Wedgwood.)
Majority . . Nil
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2.15 p.m.
Proposed new clause 2a.
– I move -
After clause 2 insert the following new clause: - “ 2a. After section 47 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 47a. - (1.) Where a claimant, applicant or appellant under this Act considers -
In respect of this amendment, I want to do as I did in respect of the others; that is, reduce it to what seem to me to be its main elements. First, I should say that we have moved this amendment before and that Senator Wright has moved another amendment on this subject on other occasions. We consider that this provision is required because there is general controversy about the existing provisions and intentions of the Act. I remind honorable senators that Section 47 - the benefit of the doubt provision, as we call it - says that the claimant, applicant or appellant shall be given the benefit of any doubt -
In Section 48 there are certain requirements as to what a medical practitioner should do. It is fair to say that most members of the
Government parties have completely and consistently opposed our proposition and any arguments that the Returned Services League has advanced as to the operation of Section 47. We have said that in practice the benefits of this prescription and whatever weighting there is in it, in fact, are not given to the claimant, applicant or appellant.
In order to illustrate that view and to indicate that it is not simply our view but is shared by the R.S.L., I refer again to a document which was sent out by the South Australian Branch of the League on 15th August 1963 and which puts the proposition clearly and on the basis on which we have argued. On page 2 it states -
The League has on its files records of rejected applications which seem to indicate an increasing tendency to refuse claims where there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond doubt that the condition upon which they were based was in fact due to war service.
This attitude, we submit, is the complete antithesis of the intention of the relevant clause, which insists that it is not the function of the applicant to prove the affirmative, but that of the determining authority to be completely satisfied as to the negative. In our view, unless this latter approach is fully implemented the “ onus of proof “ is improperly transferred from the determining authority to the applicant, whose case must fail on the grounds that he has failed to prove what the determining authority cannot disprove, and the weight of the doubt thus created is applied against him instead of for him.
I will not quote the next paragraph because it is not pertinent to this issue. But the following paragraph states -
We submit that where medical opinions differ a doubt is created, and in such circumstances the determining authority must be guided by the spirit and intention of the Act to find in favour of the applicant, because it is not empowered to bring down a judicial finding on the correctness of one set of medical opinion to the exclusion of the other.
This matter has been discussed in this chamber before. Irrespective of what the Minister cays, it is clear to the Opposition and also to some members of the Government parties that the intention of the Act is not being carried out. Senator Wright has said in recent debates on this matter that, in fact, there is a general misconception of this provision of the Act. I think those were his words. He may explain his position.
We are familiar with the practical situation. In my speech in the second reading debate I referred to the great number of cases in which, in our view, the onus of proof or benefit of the doubt provision is not interpreted correctly. For this reason, we believe that the proposition contained in our amendment - access to the courts - should be applied. It may be argued that provisions for the compassionate treatment of ex-servicemen already exist in sections 47 and 48. In fact, that is what the Minister has said. He said that, whilst some men may not receive just treatment, he believes that generally the purposes and intentions of the legislation are carried out. We are satisfied that the opposite is true. As honorable senators will see from the document from which I have quoted, the Returned Services League likewise believes that the opposite is true.
I wish to refer briefly to the main provisions in the amendment. Proposed new section 47a (1.) reads -
Where a claimant, applicant or appellant under this Act considers -
That, in hearing, determining or deciding his claim, application or appeal, the Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal or an Assessment Appeal Tribunal did not give to him the benefit of any doubt in respect of a matter or question referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) of sub-section (1.) of the last preceding section -
I quoted those two paragraphs a few minutes ago - or
The claimant, applicant or appellant may appeal
If we, in this chamber and in another place, continue to argue about the proper application of section 47 and continue to submit cases in which we believe that the benefits of that prescription have not been given to claimants, applicants and appellants, there will be no settlement of this controversy. If we leave the matter to the legal minds, despite the fact that recently there has been some support from members of the Government parties for our general position in respect of sections 47 and 48, we will not resolve it.
The method that we suggest is not uncommon. It exists in much the same way in respect of action taken under the workers’ compensation legislation of the Commonwealth and the various States. In those proceedings, often representations are made and negotiations are entered into. When these fail, the issues are tested in the courts. We say that the amendment would allow a proper test to be made. If the courts get such applications, the processes will be in accordance with the processes of the respective stages of hearings by tribunals or authorities. I suggest that if we get such procedures the various authorities will be required to give findings. They will have to give reasons why they do not grant to the applicant or appellant the benefits of the Act. These reasons are not now available. They are not required to be given. This in itself would be of great value to exservicemen.
The second point is that following the testing of cases in the courts certain principles will be established. In these circumstances, it seems to me that our approach to this very vexed question is a practical way of facing up to the difficulties imposed by the present Act. I wind up by saying that, however much people argue against this general proposition, it is in accordance with the intention of the various amendments to the Act. It certainly was the intention of the 1943 committee, whose recommendations led to the amendment of the old section 45, now section 47. It was the intention to give applicants and appellants such benefits. We say these benefits are not being given and consequently the amendment is proposed.
– I desire to take some part in the discussion on the onus of proof clause. Some people claim that the provision works satisfactorily, but there is general discontent among those whose applications have been rejected. They believe that they have not had a fair go. Senator Bishop showed today, by reference to a letter from the Returned Services League, that this feeling is widespread. It is not confined to one or two malcontents but is general amongst those whose applications are rejected and is the feeling of the organisation which is looking after the welfare of that section. I should like to refer to an extract from the “ Australian Law Journal “ of September 1953, in which Mr. A. W. Riordan, commenting on the Repatriation Act, states -
The cases here reviewed are only a fraction of the appeals decided under the Pensions Appeal Tribunal Act 1943, and many other principles can be found. The multiplicity of reported decisions relating to war pensions in the United Kingdom contrasts strongly with the almost complete absence of similar decisions by Australian courts. Only two attempts have been made by Australian exservicemen to invoke the assistance of Courts of Law when they believe that their claim for a war pension has been wrongly rejected; both attempts failed. The explanation lies in the fact, already mentioned, that there is no right of appeal to a court under the Australian soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
That is the reason: There is no right of appeal to a court. He refers to Bott’s case which I do not mention further now, because it relates to an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal and not an Assessment Appeal Tribunal. The other case to which he refers is that of “ Tanner v. Repatriation Commission “. and he goes on to say that this case - . . shows how harshly that Act can be administered, and it is more than probable that many Australian ex-servicemen would have benefited materially had they enjoyed a right of appeal similar to that granted ten years ago to their British comrades in arms. It is surprising that, as yet, there has been no demand for such a right, but the silent acquiescence of Australians in a policy which is clearly unjust may be evidence of nothing more than ignorance of the precedent set so long ago in Britain.
– From whose remarks is that quotation?
- Mr. A. W.
Riordan. The extract is from “The Australian Law Journal “, volume 27, September 1953. Those remarks show clearly that in his opinion if we had had provision in our Act to allow an appeal to a judicial body, as is the position in Great Britain, at least some of these applicants, whose cases are now rejected by our tribunals, would have received a pension entitlement. In one country, after appellants have been rejected by the Appeals Tribunal, they can succeed by going to a judicial tribunal. We cannot say that the onus of proof provision is applied properly to ex-servicemen in Australia in every case, if there is no right of appeal to a judicial tribunal. Justice must not only be done; it must appear to be done. While this doubt exists, at least we should give appellants an opportunity to have their cases heard in court toy those who are trained in the presentation and examination of evidence and we should give them every benefit of the doubt under section 47.
My main complaint is that when I attempt to bring up what appears to be a legitimate case in which the onus of proof has not been properly applied - and it cannot be properly applied because of the method of conducting the Tribunal - the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) replies: “ Senator Cavanagh will not accept any alternative view, and he has not a clue.” It is possible for other Ministers, with tolerance and perseverance, to explain matters to me. I think that the Minister for Repatriation has some responsibility, and he has a greater responsibility, if I am more dumb than the average, to spend some extra time in trying to answer these questions and make his replies clearer. He should not simply ignore the points that I bring forward. lt is entirely wrong to quote the reference by the Attorney-General, then Sir Garfield Barwick, to an Entitlement Tribunal as a reference to an Assessment Tribunal. In order to get a reply from the Minister, I asked him in quite plain language whether he contended that there should be a medical examination by a member of an Appeal Tribunal at the time of hearing an appeal. Surely if an appeal means anything it is an appeal from the decision of a lower tribunal. An advocate has a duty to show that the lower tribunal acted wrongly. Let me refer to some other authorities. A former Minister for Repatriation, Mr. Osborne, is quoted at page 191 of the House of Representatives “ Hansard “ of 15th August 1961 as saying -
But every judicial authority has constantly to decide between conflicting bodies of evidence. They hear the evidence in support of one view and they hear the evidence in support of the other. Then they weigh the one against the other and make up their mind which is right. In most cases, they can do so quite clearly and are left with no doubt. Under the Repatriation Act, when they are in doubt, they must decide in favour of the applicant. But the important thing is this: The doubt referred to by section 47 is a doubt in the mind of the tribunal, not a doubt in the mind of the applicant or of one or more of his witnesses.
Surely that is a logical approach to the matter. It is for the Appeal Tribunal to hear evidence but it is not for the Tribunal to manufacture evidence. A medical examination at the time is only designed to enable a member of the Tribunal to form an opinion so that he may decide the issue there and then. If a medical examination creates a doubt in the mind of a member of the Appeal Tribunal, he has a perfect right to reject the appeal. But I say that the medical history of the appellant which is available cannot be ignored. In the case to which I have referred a doubt based on medical history could have been established if the appeal had been before any judicial tribunal. I believe that in 1960, the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) represented the Minister for Repatriation in the House of Representatives. Speaking in that chamber on 18th August 1960, he said -
It is not the function of the Tribunal to give evidence.
What is the purpose of a medical examination but to provide evidence? Giving evidence is not the function of the Tribunal. A Tribunal should listen to evidence. That is what Dr. Cameron said in the House of Representatives. His words were -
The tribunal listens to evidence. The tribunal not only listens to evidence, but, in fact, if the applicant, having been rejected, can produce further material evidence, the tribunal will listen to him again. But if the tribunal decides to reject the claim, then, quite obviously, the tribunal has no further doubt. The tribunal has no doubt in those circumstances, so it is really of no value to say the tribunal ought to be making submissions. That is not the function of the tribunal. The function of the tribunal is to make an assessment and, if it has any doubt, to decide in favour of the applicant.
The point I want to put to the Senate and which requires some explanation from the Minister is this: How can you give the benefit of the doubt when you discard all the evidence that may be available in previous medical reports? In the case to which I have referred, the member of an Appeal Tribunal made a medical examination. The appellant claimed he had arthritis. The condition of arthritic complaints changes from day to day. The sufferer might have two good days and then get a recurrence of the symptoms. The case could be decided on that day and not on his history. I hope the amendment is carried. I hope the Minister will give an explanation and show some tolerance in trying to explain the methods of the Appeal Tribunal.
– I have listened to Senator Bishop’s presentation of the amendment and I listened attentively to Senator Cavanagh. I assume that some carefully studied aid has been given in drafting the amendment and that constitutional precedents so far as Federal jurisdiction are concerned have been examined. For my part, I do not wish to aspire to faulting the amendment on any of those grounds. I simply mention that it is in a realm of complexity that I do not think it appropriate ito consider because the principle of the amendment is the matter to which the Committee should address itself in substance. I have circulated an amendment substituting certain words for the initial paragraph of Senator Bishop’s amendment because, as I have explained on a previous occasion, I do not like the language referring to any person who considers that in the hearing of the claim the benefit of the doubt has not been given. I prefer a form of language which is more generally adopted to give a person who is aggrieved by a lower tribunal decision a right of appeal.
We call it a right of appeal but it is really a right of direct access to a court in its primary jurisdiction. The substance of the matter is the thing that I consider. As I see this matter, it is entirely different from a matter involving finance. That is to say, it does not involve a substantial question of finance where the predominant responsibility is with the House of Representatives. That does not mean that our right to deal with bills involving finance will be conceded. That was debated on another Bill on a previous occasion. When another amendment comes up I shall have more to say on that point. But where it is a question of a legal amendment and the only effect is to provide a legal procedure for a person aggrieved by a lower tribunal decision, surely that is the perfect function of the Senate to decide such a matter.
I cannot absolve myself from the obligation of rendering what viewpoint I have as to the appropriateness of providing a legal procedure for aggrieved persons in this instance. It will be a sad day when the jurisdiction of our judicial system is eroded to the extent that administrative tribunals are the final determinant of people’s rights in any respect. In fact, ever since the judicial system was established as an independent system, it has maintained a supervisory juridiction over these administrative tribunals hy reason of writs which are inalienable from the very idea of judicial independence. But the administrative writs are outdated and unable to do substantial justice. Bott’s case shows that.
The next thing I want to say is that the Conservative Government in England was so concerned about the absence of an appeal to the judicial system from decisions of administrative tribunals that it set up a commission of inquiry under, I think, Sir Oliver Franks upon whose report the Government legislated for appeals from all administrative tribunals to the judiciary on questions of law. Anybody who knows the concern that the legal profession and the judiciary itself feel about subversion of the judicial system by the proliferation of administrative tribunals will know that it is essential in the proper balance of justice to maintain for people who are aggrieved by decisions of administrative tribunals access to the judicial system. If the whole ambit of this proposition were involved in this debate, I would hesitate to deal with it without consideration before a committee. I indicated last year that if there were an assurance of a select committee on this, I would defer my acceptance of the proposition. I want, not a general appeal from repatriation or administrative tribunals, but an appeal to the judicial system solely from a decision involving the interpretation of section 47 of the Repatriation Act. That section is a running sore with the R.S.L. and other organisations concerned with this matter. It is undermining the confidence of the people in administrative tribunals.
This is not to say that any body other than a court will have the right to reverse a decision which has been made on the onus of proof provision. To whom do we appeal for clarification of the onus of proof provision? We appeal to the AttorneyGeneral of the day. I do not want to expound again the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral that I put on record years ago in the “Hansard” of this Parliament. I expounded my view of its essential nature the last time this matter was discussed. But the very fact that we sought clarification from the Attorney-General shows that it is from the legal and judicial spheres that a final decision must come if the decision is to command the confidence of all concerned.
We have disputations here on this matter. Honorable senators have their own views, but only the courts application of section 47 to specific facts and cases will enable a doctrine of precedent to be built up that will guide the repatriation tribunals in the correct application of the section. Therefore I move -
Leave out sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 47a., insert - “ (1.) Any claimant, applicant or appellant under this Act aggrieved by any determination or decision involving the operation or interpreta-tion of the provisions of section forty-seven of this Act may appeal to the High Court, or to the Supreme Court of the State or Territory of the Commonwealth in which he resides, against the determination or decision of the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal, as the case may be.”.
This will do no more than provide a legal procedure. It will do no more than provide access to a court of law for a person who has been aggrieved by a tribunal’s application of section 47 to his case.
I regret that in the many debates on this subject the Government did not explain the inappropriateness of this proposed provision or give definite reasons why a legal procedure to give an aggrieved person the right to invoke a decision of a court should be denied. In the absence of such explanation, I feel that my argument is unanswerable. The principle should be established. It may be that the Attorney-General will think that the terms of my amendment require improvement at the hands of his drafting staff. But if the Committee approves of my amendment, as I urge it to do, it will be the means of introducing confidence into a very disputable field of the repatriation legislation.
Senator McMANUS (Victoria) (2.49]. - The Democratic Labour Party will vote in favour of the principle of a right of appeal. We are inclined to favour the amendment which has been moved by Senator Wright because it appears to us to be, if I may put it this way, somewhat tidier than the other amendment. We have in our Party a committee of ex-servicemen which advises us on these matters. We have consulted with the committee. It feels that we should support this right of appeal. The Committee also indicates other amendments which it believes we should support.
From my other experience, I believe there is a great deal to be said for a right of appeal. In common with other honorable senators, I am frequently interviewed by ex-servicemen who are aggrieved at the rejection of their claims. In my view, quite a few of them are by no means malingerers. They feel that they have been wrongly denied justice. Some of them seem to have the idea that political influence may help them, so they ask us to take up their cases with the Minister. But, of course, the Minister has no discretion in these matters. The only answer that he can give is one in accordance with the legislation. When the men are told: “ You can go back to the tribunal if you think you can improve your case “, they feel that all that is open to them is an appeal from Caesar to Caesar.
In those circumstances, a good deal can be said for this right of appeal. Honorable senators have probably asked themselves: “ Will this mean that the Supreme Courts and the High Courts will be cluttered up with a tremendous variety of claims in these matters?” Thinking it over, I do not believe that this will be the case. If the amendment were carried, I would imagine that in the early stages there would be one or two test cases. In all probability, the money for the appeals would be provided by interested ex-servicemen’s organisations. If the organisations found that the appeals were ineffective, I would think that there would not be any risk of cluttering up the courts thereafter, and that future appeals would be confined to what were regarded as very extraordinary cases. Because I feel that many deserving ex-servicemen are aggrieved and that there ought to be some other quarter to which they can appeal, together with my colleague, Senator Gair, I will support the principle of a right of appeal. As I said before, we feel that probably Senator Wright’s amendment is the more acceptable.
– There are two amendments before the Committee. We felt that the amendment moved by Senator Bishop on behalf of the Australian Labour Party was preferable to that moved by Senator Wright. Senator Bishop’s amendment confines the right of appeal to decisions involving the onus of proof provision. As both Senator Bishop and Senator Cavanagh have pointed out, this has been a controversial matter for a long time. We felt that it would be a great achievement if the Government were to accept an amendment which provided for a right of appeal to a judicial body in decisions involving the onus of proof provision. However, the forms of our procedure demand that Senator Wright’s amendment shall be put to a vote first. Under those circumstances, we will support his amendment, lt establishes the same principle, although it goes further than what is proposed in Senator Bishop’s amendment.
Senator Wright’s argument was full of interest and I think he made out a valid case. He said that the final appeal should rest with a judicial body. We have not included that point in our amendment, and we are not necessarily accepting it now. I merely say that Senator Wright’s argument is full of interest and is a valid one. We would prefer the Committee to accept our amendment because we believe that it would be of greater assistance to the Repatriation Department in the practical application of the onus of proof provision. However, as I have said, because of the forms of our procedure, we have to deal with Senator Wright’s amendment first. If his amendment was defeated and then our amendment was defeated we would accomplish nothing. We want to establish the principle of a right of appeal. Therefore, because of that and because of the forms of procedure, the Australian Labour Party will support Senator Wright’s amendment.
– As a layman, I oppose both proposed amendments. I was interested in the brief precis of the reasons why Senator McManus and his colleague are prepared to accept the amendment proposed by Senator Wright in preference to the one moved by the Australian Labour Party. The honorable senator raised two points that immediately came to my lay mind, but he has not clarified them. The honorable senator said that if the provisions of this amendment became law the courts would be cluttered up with appeals. Then, if I interpreted his words correctly, he said that after one, two or a number of decisions had been given, other would-be appellants would not be encouraged to go on with their appeals. As time progressed, there would be fewer and fewer appeals. The honorable senator’s remarks rather tend to the view that it is quite obvious that the courts to which appeals would be made would be knocking them back and saying in other words that the machinery provided already - and which, in my view, has proved very satisfactory over the years - is sufficient for the purposes of the cases that could come before those courts.
The honorable senator also raised a question of costs. No-one has gone into that matter thoroughly at all. As a layman, I am on weak ground, but I am wondering what serviceman appealing for a pension - and normally appealing for a pension because he needs it in order to enable him to lead a comfortable life - would have the money to pay for the first lawyer that he interviewed, let alone go to the courts and take the matter through to those courts that are enumerated in the amendment proposed by the Australian Labour Party. I do not believe there would be many appeals because I do not think exservicemen would have the money to pay for this lawyers bonanza.
I would say with respect to this matter that if the proposed amendment were passed and became law an ex-serviceman would know that when his appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal was rejected, he would have the right to appeal to the High Court of Australia. 1 believe that these thoughts would be in the mind of the digger and also in the minds of the members of the Appeal Tribunal: “Well, the onus of proof and the benefit of the doubt to the digger will not be so readily available from the Appeal Tribunal because the matter can be taken further to a higher court.” At any rate, this is what I would think. This court has greater power than the tribunals that we have trusted over the years. The members of the Appeal Tribunal might think: “There is the right of appeal to a higher tribunal so why should we risk criticism by saying: *Yes, you are right in this case’. We will let someone else do so.”
I do not want to say that if the Returned Services League did or did not back this proposition its attitude would rule my voice. But I do not believe that the R.S.L. has pressed for an appeal court above that which is provided now.
– Would the honorable senator support the amendment if the R.S.L. had pressed for this provision?
– I have said that I would not be ruled by the R.S.L. But I would be inclined to give the matter even more thought than I have over the last two years because the R.S.L. does not put up a proposition in which it does not believe sincerely. I am happy to have a copy of the annual report of the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. At page 2 of that document-
– The more the honorable senator says, the more he convinces me that I should vote with the Opposition.
– The honorable senator naturally will please himself. I wish to quote from this document. The arguments of anyone who is trying to cast aspersions on the make-up, the character or the ability of the Appeal Tribunal can be answered at another time. But I think that, because of the legalisms that are being spoken and the insinuations that are being made, what is definitely available to people who are appealing for their rights should be included in the record. At page 2 of this report, we find this statement -
It follows that, before a claim is finally refused - as the result of the disallowing of an appeal by an Appeal Tribunal - at least two statutory bodies, an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal and the Repatriation Commission, and often a third statutory body, a Repatriation Board, have come to the same conclusion after separate and independent considerations of the same evidence. It also follows that, with two such qualified deciding authorities as the Repatriation Commission and an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, equally bound by the provisions of section forty-seven of the Act, coming to the conclusions on fact and on law from an examination of the same evidence, there should generally be no great scope for conflict between the conclusions of those two authorities.
I believe that the test of time has proved this statement. Therefore, I consider that we would not be adding to the rights and benefits of ex-servicemen if either of the proposed amendments became part of the Bill and appeals to courts of law were permitted.
– In dealing with some of the remarks made by Senator Cavanagh, I must say that I would regret it very much if I have given any indication at all to anybody in the Committee that I think the honorable senator is dumb. I can say very sincerely that not one senator would think that he is dumb. On the contrary, we all have a very high regard for his debating ability. I say to Senator Cavanagh that I thought I made the position clear the other day. I must say that I cannot take the time that would be necessary to go through all the points that he has raised in connection with the benefit of the doubt provision.
– So, I do not get an answer?
– I know that it would be fairly hard to shift the honorable senator on this point. I recognise this. That is not the reason why I will not be able to answer all of the points he raised. I would certainly like to be able to take the time - perhaps on some other occasion I may be able to do so - to convince the honorable senator that when I say that these fellows get the benefit of the doubt, it is my sincere belief and the belief of thousands of those who come before the appeal tribunals.
I wish to say to Senator Cavanagh very briefly that the system of repatriation that we have in Australia is long established practice now. There has been no reason at all up to this point in time to say that we should set about altering it. For the life of me, I really cannot understand the attitude that is being adopted by some honorable senators. We have the best repatriation system in the world. Apparently some honorable senators are showing dissatisfaction with it and saying it is not good enough. One would think that honorable senators would be entirely justified in adopting this attitude if we had a system that did not provide in the main very worthwhile satisfaction. I claim, without fear of contradiction, that the great majority of the thousands of people who come before the tribunals are satisfied with the deal that they receive.
Let us not forget the background of the men before whom these people appear. First there is a returned soldier who must be trained as a barrister. Then there is a representative of an ex-servicemen’s organisation. The third member of the tribunal invariably has seen service. So, to begin with, a person appearing before a tribunal has the sympathy of the members of that tribunal. Honorable senators are saying that this is not good enough. They are saying that a person should be able to appeal to a higher court from a decision by the tribunal. I will deal with that matter later. Quite frankly, I do not understand the Opposition’s attitude. Senator Cavanagh asked whether I was in favour of a man, when appearing before an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, having a medical examination on the day of the hearing.
– By a member of the Tribunal.
– The honorable senator should not forget that the Assessment Appeal Tribunals are constituted differently from the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. They include medical men. The medical member is the man to examine the appellant. The honorable senator referred to arthritis. For the life of me, I could not imagine that a man who went before an Appeal Tribunal would not have been examined for arthritis before and would be examined for that disability only on the day of the appeal. It is unthinkable that that should be so. Undoubtedly, that man would have had medical advice before he appealed. He would have had an opportunity, if he had so wished, of going to one of the Repatriation Boards or to the headquarters of the Commission in his State and of asking for medical treatment. The point is that this man would not have just one examination and would not have his case determined in the light of that examination only.
Senator McManus said that an appeal from one tribunal to another is like appealing from Caesar to Caesar. I think Senator Marriott answered that point. If Senator McManus thinks he did not get an adequate answer from Senator Marriott, then he will get an answer in the report of the Repatriation Commission, which sets out the number of appeals that are allowed by the Commission and the Tribunals. Only just recently, we set up the No. 5 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal to overcome the lag in the hearing of appeals. Thank goodness, the appointment of this tribunal has resulted in a reduction of the number of appeals. I considered an applicant for appointmet to the Tribunal, but I did not appoint him. A little later we had a temporary vacancy on another Tribunal as a result of sickness, and I appointed this man to fill the vacancy. He was there for two or three months. He was a representative of an ex-servicemen’s organisation. Although he is not a New South Welshman, he was in my office on Monday last with a colleague from the same organisation. He told me that it was an eye opener to him to have this experience. He said that there was no doubt at all in his mind that exservicemen do get the benefit of the doubt. I just cannot go along with all this talk about men not getting the benefit of the doubt.
I shall come to the main amendment in a moment. First, I wish to refer to a matter that is exercising my mind. If the right were given to an applicant to appeal to the High Court, what would be the position of the Commission or of the Government? Would they go along too and present evidence? Would they be expected to rebut the evidence of the applicant? I do not know whether I heard correctly when reference was made to the attitude of the exservicemen’s organisations. The ex-servicemen’s organisations are thoroughly opposed to the proposal that has been put forward in the amendment. They will not have a bar of it. I had confirmation of that no more than two hours ago.
Now let me deal with the amendment. The proposal advanced by the Opposition goes further than to provide for a right of appeal from an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal to a Court. If granted, the right would go to every claimant before a Board, every appellant to the Commission, every appellant to an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, and every appellant to an Assessment Appeal Tribunal. Every such person would have an unrestricted right of appeal to the High Court or to a Supreme Court of a State or Territory if he believed that he had not been given the benefit of the doubt or that his claim should have been allowed. This would give direct access to the courts from any decision by any of the determining authorities, not only in relation to entitlement to war pensions but also in relation to assessment of the rate of pension, without the appellant having to go through the appeal procedure that has been established under the Act. In other words, the existing procedure would go out of the window. If that is what the Opposition wants, that is O.K. But I do not think that is what is sought. The number of appeals could be tremendous. It has been said that there would be only a few, but I say that the number could be tremendous and that the courts might well have difficulty in coping with them.
The proposal is a departure from the practice that has operated since the Act was first passed. The view taken has been that proceedings for determining claims should be free of legal forms and technicalities. That is what the ex-servicemen want. That is why the system has worked as well as it has, with due deference to our legal friends in the chamber. The proposal cuts right across the established system of appeals, which provides for successive rights of appeal from a Repatriation Board to the Commission, then to an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal on the subject of entitlement, or to an Assessment Appeal Tribunal on the subject of assessment. The present appeals tribunal system was introduced at the request of ex-servicemen and their organisations. They asked for informality in the proceedings. How often have honorable senators received from me letters in which the phrase “ according to substantial justice “ has been used? That phrase has been used deliberately. It means that the decisions given, often in the ex-servicemen’s favour, may not have been in accordance with strict legal justice but nevertheless have been in accordance with substantial justice. In other words, we give the ex-servicemen the benefit of the doubt. That is why the present system is used. I repeat that I am firmly convinced that the ex-servicemen’s organisations do not want the system that is proposed in the amendment.
The proposal provides that no order for costs is to be made in relation to the Court hearing. I heard it said a little while ago that the ex-servicemen’s organisations would pay the costs. That might be all right if there were only a few hearings. But what organisation is in a position to pay the costs of several appeals to the High Court? This is another reason why I think the proposed procedure would not work. If an ex-servicemen’s organisation could not pay the costs, the appellant himself would have to bear them, irrespective of the outcome of the appeal. He might lose his appeal, and then he would be a lot worse off. What does an appellant pay now if he comes before an Appeal Tribunal? The Department pays his fare to the place where his appeal is heard. That is the sort of thing that the present system has done, and is doing, to try to give these fellows an opportunity to present their appeals. If an appellant is not present on the day that the appeal is set down for hearing, the matter is deferred. Of course, that adds to the backlog of appeals. Already procedures are available for an approach to a higher court. These procedures are sometimes used. Included in these procedures is the issue of a writ of mandamus. I understand that under this procedure one case has gone to the High Court
– That was enough.
– I do not know what the honorable senator said. The position is as I have just outlined it. There is already some recourse to a higher tribunal. In my view, the Opposition’s proposal not only is impracticable but is contrary to long established practices which have given to this country the best repatriation system in the world and which has met with general acceptance by ex-servicemen. For those reasons, the Government does not accept the amendment.
– I shall be very brief, but I cannot allow to pass unanswered the implication in the Minister’s comments that I did not make out a clear case. In the case in which I was concerned there were reports of at least six doctors who, over a period of five years, had examined an applicant for a total and permanent incapacity pension. The lower tribunal decided that he had no claim. It was then contended that, on the basis of the reports of the six medical practitioners who had examined the man, the tribunal had reached a wrong conclusion in finding that he had no claim, and that an examination of his medical history would show that he had a claim beyond doubt. It was further contended that if there was a failure to establish a claim beyond doubt, at least there was some doubt and that the applicant was entitled to the benefit of that doubt.
When we came to the Assessment Appeal Tribunal and presented the relevant documents we were told by the Chairman: “ But that is not our method of procedure before this Tribunal. We have experts here and we make our examination and decide the issue.” The whole medical history of the man, represented by the reports of the six doctors who had examined him previously, was not taken into account or, if it was taken into account, that was done only in considering the results of the examination made there on the spot, and in conjunction with that examination.
– We are not here to decide individual cases. The amendment is concerned with the principle of whether such a case should be decided by a court.
– As I stated yesterday, I did not want to put forward this individual case, but I did so because it seems that the method of operation of the Tribunal at the present time will not permit the benefit of section 47 to be extended to an applicant before the Tribunal unless the one individual medical examination on the occasion on which he appears before the Tribunal indicates a doubt. 1 have put forward that case because, if it is true that the benefit of the doubt in accordance with section 47 is not being given, that is all the more reason for supporting the amendment. If the amendment were adopted an applicant would then have the right to appeal to a judicial tribunal. I hope I have made it clear that there was ample evidence in the case to which I have referred for a decision to have been made on the basis of that evidence instead of on the basis of an examination by a member of the Tribunal.
Question put -
That the words proposed to beleft out (Senator
Wright’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. E. Wedgwood.)
Majority . . . . Nil
Question so resolved in the negative.
, Senator Wright’s amendment having been negatived, I now formally resubmit the amendment which I moved earlier on behalf of the Opposition.
– I wish to make a few comments in reply to the remarks of my colleague Senator Marriott regarding the substance of the amendment. The honorable senator said that those who expected that the procedure I proposed would mean that only three or four cases would be heard, implied that there would be so many cases knocked back by the court that the procedure would be rendered sterile. That is not the way in which the judicial system works. Two or three favorable decisions would completely change the attitude of tribunals and establish the principle that the tribunals, acting at all times, as they do now, in a bona fide manner and according to their understanding of the law, would then follow faithfully the guidance of a superior court. We have not seen any other attitude being displayed publicly by tribunals, whether judicial or administrative, in Australia. There are departures from time to time by reason of thefallibility of human judgment, but there is no flouting of a superior court’s interpretation of the law.
Then it was stated that the costs would create a lawyer’s bonanza. I am sorry that my colleague should have made use of that expression because I, as a sort of lawyer, may be involved in the implication which the people place upon his remarks.
– That was not the intention.
– No. I am sure that neither Senator Marriott nor Senator Henry would allow such an implication to be accepted. All that I want to say with regard to legal costs in this matter is that the amendment itself states that the court adjudicating upon an appeal shall not make an order as to costs. That still leaves an appellant to provide the means of getting access to a court. The legal profession, as do other professions, usually charges fees for services. Individual members of the profession have always been willing to give their services without a fee in the interests of a public question. Most judicial systems today provide a procedure for a litigant without adequate means to pay for legal costs on the ordinary scale, to take advantage of suitors’ procedures by which costs are considerably modified. As to the question of whether an applicant should undertake the responsibility of providing costs to invoke this procedure is his own responsibility.
I advocate an amendment that gives an appellant an opportunity, if he wishes to undertake the responsibility of providing costs, to go to a court for a decision. That is all we are providing for. The suggestion has been made that the mere institution of the right of appeal to the judicial system would influence adversely the attitude of repatriation tribunals so that they would decline to give to claims the same ample acceptance that they give today. To me, the suggestion is unfortunate if it implies that the tribunals would adopt any course other than a bona fide and fearless discharge of their judgment, always in the judicial system appreciating that a higher tribunal may hear an appeal, and if the justice of the case according to the law requires it, correct the previous judgment. To me it is an unfortunate suggestion. The independent attitude prevailing, first, in training in the legal profession and ennobled when sitting upon the bench, carries me to the conviction, when my experience is applied to what understanding I have of the law, that aggrieved suitors should be given a much better procedure than ever Bott’s case employed. I took occasion a moment ago to say that that procedure was quite inadequate and anomalous. The procedure required is one which will enable an aggrieved suitor to obtain a decision in a court of law.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. E Wedgwood.)
Majority . . Nil
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave - A short time ago the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Swartz) in the other place made the following statement -
I regret to inform the House that a Vickers Viscount airlier VHRM1 owned and operated by Ansett-A.N.A. crashed this afternoon in the Winton area of Queensland. The aircraft was on a passenger flight from Mr Isa to Longreach and had 19 passengers and a crew of 4 on board. There is yet no final information regarding any survivors. During the flight the pilot reported that the aircraft had an engine fire and that he was diverting to Winton. The aircraft crashed about 12 miles west of Winton and local police are now at the site of the crash. The Department of Civil Aviation area safety inspector in Queensland has already left Brisbane for the scene. An investigation team from the Department’s head office in Melbourne will also fly to the scene this afternoon. A full investigation will be made and I will make a statement regarding further action as soon as I am in a position to do so.
– by leave - I heard unofficially only a few moments ago of the aircraft crash. Unfortunately, the Minister has confirmed that information. I want to say on behalf of the Opposition how shocked we are. In this country, as aviation has become more efficient, the memories of past crashes have moved into the background. A complacent feeling has developed towards these things and we have thought that they would never happen again. I want merely to say that it is a tremendous shock to every member of the Opposition. On behalf of my colleagues on this side of the chamber - and I suppose on behalf of everybody - I extend our very deepest concern and sympathy to the unfortunate relatives of those people who, we presume, are killed or injured in this great tragedy.
Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Customs and Excise). - by leave - I did not express condolences because the information that I have been given is not conclusive. However, I am sure that everybody echoes the sentiments that Senator Willesee expressed in relation to this tragic happening today.
– by leave - On behalf of my colleague and myself, I join with Senator Anderson and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) in expressing our profound sympathy to the relatives and friends of the unfortunate people who have been killed in the disastrous plane crash at Winton.
– There is no information yet that anybody has been killed.
– I understood from what was said that there was no record of any survivors. I naturally concluded that the crew and passengers had met their end in this crash. We in Queensland, and in
Australia generally, have been free of serious aircraft accidents for some years now. This accident today is a great tragedy. I join with previous speakers in expressing sympathy to all involved in it.
Clauses 3 to 8 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 8a.
– I move -
After clause 8, insert the following new clause: - “8a. Section 100 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (b) of the definition of ‘ member of the forces ‘ the following paragraph: -
a representative of the Salvation Army,’.”.
This matter has been canvassed before. I think the reasons for the amendment are well known. This group of ex-servicemen, who established such a fine record in the Services, as did the representatives of other religious and. charitable organisations, is entitled to the same facilities and procedures under the Repatriation Act as padres of other religious denominations are entitled to at the present time. These people are entitled to receive war pensions, etc., but they have not access to the tribunals. There is no reason why this group of very reputable ex-servicemen should be denied the usual rights of ex-servicemen. The replies that we have received from the Minister on the previous occasions on which this question has been raised have been along the lines of his reply last year, in which he said, as reported at page 591 of “Hansard” of 23rd September 1965 -
We have been looking at this matter for some time to see whether something can be done. If they do not have access to these Tribunals, perhaps we could appoint a body to decide matters that are in dispute. While the members of the Salvation Army do not have this right at the present time, there are no bars against their approaching the Repatriation Commission. . . .
In our opinion, there is no reason why this adjustment should not be made.
– The position outlined in my comments, as quoted by Senator Bishop, is correct. However, I want to bring two or three points before the Committee. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that representatives of the Salvation Army did a magnificent job in
World War I and World War II. But, in my view, they are not entitled to the same benefits as the men who fought in those wars. In spite of the work that these people did, they were able to pull out of an area when given permission to do so by their organisation. They were not fighting for their lives as the soldiers were. In the broad, they were not subjected to the main dangers, disabilities and hardships to which our soldiers were subjected.
As honorable senators know, the repatriation benefits that these people receive now are given to them by act of grace. Last year I said that the question of whether they could have access to an Appeal Tribunal was being considered. Finality on that point has not been reached. That is not the fault of the Repatriation Department. We have not the right to say “Yea” or “Nay”. I put it to the Committee that if we did this for these people the door would be opened for other people who receive benefits by act of grace and who are in the same category as the people whom we are considering. War correspondents come to mind immediately. There are other people in the same category. That is one of the reasons why we believe that, in spite of the work that thesepeople did, we would be taking something from our exservicemen if we said that these people were just as much entitled to certain things because of what they did as our exservicemen are because of what they did. For this and other reasons we cannot accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. E. Wedgwood.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new cause 8a.
– I move - ‘
After clause 8, insert the following new clause - “8a. After section 123 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted - 123a. The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide for the wife of a person in receipt of the Special Rate of pension under the Second Schedule to this Act such medical benefits as she would receive if she were the wife of a person eligible for medical benefits under the Pensioner Medical Service.’.”.
The reason for the amendment is to give to the wives of special rate pensioners medical benefits which they do not have at the present time. As a result, they are in a position that is inferior to that of the wives of service pensioners, who themselves get a service pension, and because of this they lose important concessions in respect of transport within the States. We consider that the amendment should be supported. It is supported by the T.P.I, association.
– We feel that the principle to be maintained is that repatriation benefits are provided, first, to ex-servicemen themselves for war caused disabilities; secondly to service pensioners, those people who have been involved in strenuous service in a theatre of war under certain conditions; and thirdly to war widows and their children, direct dependants of deceased ex-servicemen. It has never been part of the repatriation system as such to provide this benefit and, within the above principles, it should not be. There have been progressive liberalisations in the means test which have enabled T.P.I, pensioners and their wives to receive some means test pension.
As honorable senators will recall, yesterday we were discussing a proposal to provide an extra $2 a week, thus increasing overall pension income and the capacity of T.P.I, pensioners to provide medical cover for their wives under community health schemes which are heavily subsidised by the Government. The pensioner medical service arrangements, which took effect in 1966, enable wives of T.P.I, pensioners, who are in receipt of service pensions, to qualify for pensioner medical service benefits along with other members of the community, so we have not neglected them. They do get this extra money, which we all recognise is very valuable to them.
I come into contact with quite a number of T.P.I, men, as honorable senators may imagine, and the almost invariable reaction that I get from them is: “ We are fairly well catered for”. I know that individuals come up and say: “ I cannot live on this “. Indeed, I saw a letter this morning to this effect. But on the whole the general reaction is as I have stated. For the reasons that I have just related, the Government feels that it cannot accept the suggested amendment.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. [The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. E. Wedgwood.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 8a.
– I move -
After clause 8, insert the following new clause: - “ 8a. After section 123 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 123a. The Commiss on may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide medical and hospital treatment for a member of the Forces as defined in section twentythree of this Act and for a person to whom section one hundred and twenty of this Act applies.’.”.
The reasons for this amendment have been stated during the second reading debate and most honorable senators are familiar with them. This amendment has the support of the Returned Services League.
– I rise to support the amendment and to say on behalf of the Democratic Labour Party that we will vote for the amendment as we did previously in the Senate because we believe that to close the doors of repatriation hospitals to any exserviceman who has served in thearmed forces of Australia is scarcely in character with Australia’s attitude to these men. Members of the Opposition are genuinely interested in this amendment and I am somewhat surprised that the Opposition in framing the amendment was not more direct in its effort to achieve its goal. The amendment states -
The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide medical and hospital treatment for a member of the Forces as defined in section twenty-three of this Act and for a person to which section one hundred and twenty of this Act applies.
There is no direction to the Government to do what the Opposition wants it to do. If the amendment is carried, it will still be in the hands of the Government to determine whether it will give effect to the amendment or not. I find fault with the amendment on that count but for what it is worth I will support it. On the other hand, in view of the velvet touch in this amendment, I cannot understand the Government’s opposition to it. On a previous occasion, the
Government opposed it and I anticipate that supporters of the Government will oppose it again. I cannot understand this attitude because if the amendment is carried it will still be in the hands of the Government to determine whether it will admit exservicemen of the South African War and the First World War to repatriation hospitals, and the conditions of admission.
.- Honorable senators will recall that an amendment similar to the one before the Committee caused some concern last year. Under the terms of the amendment, parliamentary provision is to be made for veterans of the South African War and the First World War to have hospital benefits irrespective of whether they can establish that the injury or illness for which they are hospitalised was war caused. I do not intend to recapitulate the facts. We have been reminded in the debate that there are about 106,000 such ex-servicemen and their average age is 72 years. Those who receive pensions and, as a consequence, have the right to hospital benefits number about half the total. Probably between 50,000 and 60,000 are denied this benefit. It is in this respect that the onus of proof is of more than proper importance because every reference made by the Repatriation Department, departmental officers and the Minister for Repatriation reveals the unusual importance attached to recorded evidence and the unusual insignificance that is attached to oral evidence in this field. Oral evidence, unless it is completely unacceptable, coupled with the onus of proof provisions should provide many of these 50,000 men with the right to a pension and consequently with the right to hospital treatment.
Last year, the Government trespassed against the vote of the Senate on the basis that the Senate vote would involve the Government in expenditure of £2.5 million as an annual operating cost. It will be remembered that when the vote of this chamber was carried to another place, no less a person than the then Prime Minister took issue with this chamber for infringing the constitutional rights of the House of Representatives as the arm of the legislature that should have the exclusive right to deal with bills involving expenditure. That opinion was not generally supported in the House of Representatives. It certainly received little support in the country. It was refuted by the Minister for Repatriation in the Senate and I myself was presumptuous enough to offer an analysis that satisfies me still that such a claim cannot be supported.
In my view, this Senate has established its right to amend this Bill and that is illustrated by the fact that proposals have been made for an amendment of the onus of proof provisions. Nobody could have questioned the constitutionality of those amendments had they been carried. But as I indicated previously, an amendment providing for legal procedure is an amendment of an entirely different nature from an amendment involving the Government in additional expenditure of $5 million annually by way of operating costs. I contest the factual basis of that figure and say that if the proper offsets were set against it in relation to civilian hospitalisation of the people concerned, that figure would be reduced considerably. I also believe that this amendment does no more than justice to diggers of the First World War because the only reason why each one of them would now get a pension carrying hospital benefits would be that the means test as it applies to an age pension excludes them.
In my opinion, every person here has the inalienable duty of voting according to his judgment. This duty often gives me no pleasure, and certainly it is one which I discharge with no degree of irresponsibility in my mind. I purposely abstain from invoking any sanctity of my own conscience or from casting any reflection on anyone else’s conscience. I doubt whether I have one sometimes, and I am sceptical enough to wonder whether others are more fortunate in that respect than I am. I use the term “ judgment “.
Although I am not a sportsman, I believe that when batting in a game of cricket you have to consider the state of the light, whether the time is immediately before lunch or dinner and whether you are playing in order that you may continue the next morning. On this occasion I certainly will not vote against the amendment, but I do not feel inclined to provoke a disagreement between the Houses. I am making the assumption that, as was the case on the last occasion, my vote will be the vital one. It may not be; I do not know how other honorable senators will vote. But I offer these remarks on the assumption that my vote is the vital one. As I say, on this occasion I do not feel inclined to provoke a disagreement with the House of Representatives. If that House offered the same resistance as it did last year, I feel that it would have no other course available than to reject our amendment. If we pressed the amendment, that would carry with it the consequence that we would create a premature election on a Bill which was primarily poised upon a money vote. That might not be a great misfortune, but the Bill provides for a vote of money to give increased benefits to a great majority of the ex-servicemen. Even if we were justified otherwise by the Senate’s responsibilities, we would be completely unjustified in delaying this Bill until an election could be held. If the amendment relating to the onus of proof provision had been passed in this chamber, I would have expected the Government to see reason and accept the amendment. If the Government had rejected the amendment and had sent the Bill back to us to accept that rejection, and if we had then pressed our view, there would have been a dissolution, but the Senate could have been much more justified in asserting its right to the implementation of legal procedures than it would have been in increasing an appropriation.
I am sorry to detain the Committee, but these matters all add to parliamentary tradition. Senator Kennelly last night took the liberty to say that my point of view was a disgrace to the Parliament. I remind him that early in my career I was one of the whole of the 10 senators from Tasmania who voted against the Government on land tax legislation. On the second division. I withdrew my vote. In the following year the land tax legislation was completely repealed. In 1959 or 1960 I voted against an increase in the sales tax. I withdrew my vote on the second occasion, and within four months the legislation to increase the tax was abandoned. I do not say that these things follow any parallel, but I say to those who always wish me to bat for a six that perhaps one performs better after a meal or the next morning. There will be a parliamentary recess soon. Those who are responsible for these matters ought to be able to see that possibly there will be a different composition of this chamber after the forthcoming election, and that the
Senate will have a graver responsibility in the year of its own election. These matters that we are discussing now have been raised so persistently that I hope the Government will give heed to the justice of the claims. There are other matters in which we have taken the responsibility of voting for finality. I will mention four of them which occurred in the last six months of last year. There was the vote on the Ipec-Air Pty. Ltd. case, the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill, the two vital clauses of the Trade Practices Bill and the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill.
I am not here to take resentment at the opprobrium offered to me. On this occasion I led with my chin so as to give everybody the opportunity to criticise me early in the debate. I want honorable senators opposite to know that I am conscious of the fact that they have a mechanism for disparaging me all over the country that is not available to me. When I visited Westminster three years ago I had the inestimable privilege of seeing 29 Conservative members of the House of Commons, not of the House of Lords, abstain from voting. I have read reports that, on the Wilson squeeze, a similar number of Labour members refused to follow the Government through the division lobbies.
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– No. I am contending only for the rightness of one Wright. I refer to these things to show the proper parliamentary attitude. I belong to a party which imposes on each individual the duty to discharge his own judgment in every vote. I appreciate that there are others who belong to another party and whose philosophy is that their vote is determined by a majority of their colleagues, or in some cases, by an unelected outside body.
– What happens when you do this? Ask Senator Wood what happened to him.
– That incident has been magnified. So far as I am concerned, nobody in my party has offered me the slightest reproach.
– Now, now.
– Never. Nobody has ever questioned my judgment, and I would not permit it to be questioned. I would not stay to listen. In a situation where one’s vote is vital, one should pay considerable deference, I think, to the viewpoint of others, expecially when the majority is so great and when the matter, after all, is not a great national issue.
– I remind the Senate that when I was speaking during the second reading debate I said that 1 would reserve my right to speak on any amendments. I have spoken on one amendment. I will speak on this one now, and give my reasons, clearcut and plain, as to why I will oppose it. This is a matter that is of wide concern in Australia. The Australian Labour Party - and I do not blame it - has decided to use its political advantage to try to embarrass not only the Government but also members of the Government Parties. I say quite frankly that I have no feeling of embarrassment. I am not distressed in getting up in the Committee, making known and having recorded that I am opposing this amendment and the reasons why I will vote against it. If this amendment is put into effect, it will greatly affect the budgetary position of this country. I am not one who says on behalf of the taxpayers that several million dollars this way or that way do not matter. I will not get up and say to the Committee that I could not care less where the Government obtains the money or what it does with it as long as it does obtain it. That is irresponsibility of the lowest form and I will not have a bar of it.
No-one can argue against this stated fact: If this amendment is carried and put into effect, some millions of dollars of extra money will be needed for expenditure to give effect to the provisions of the amendment. In the last few weeks, we have had full time to consider the details of the Budget presented by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon). Not once have I heard that any particular item of expenditure could be rejected so as to provide money for one of these other things that the Opposition is trying to foist upon the Government. We have heard what the rights of the Senate are constitutionally in theory and in practice. T believe that the Committee has the right to amend this Bill as far as our constitutional powers are concerned. But I wonder whether all honorable senators who will vote for this amendment will be able to say, if they dare to examine their consciences, that they have voted rightly by the people - that is, the taxpayers - whom they represent. What these honorable senators are saying to the Government is: “ You have presented your financial statements for this year. We believe in all your proposals for expenditure. We believe in your plans for raising revenue. We know that you have a deficit of approximately $270 million. But we are now using our power in the Senate to say that you must now spend several million dollars more to carry out what we desire to be given effect.” I do not believe that, as responsible members of this national Parliament, we should do this.
Senator Gair raised a point ; this is the only doubt that has been raised in my mind - in relation to the possible ineffectiveness of this amendment. I remember raising this point last year. But I was told that, according to the Acts Interpretation Act, custom or usage, if this amendment becomes law, in effect the Senate will be saying to the Government: “ You will provide hospital and medical benefits for those people of these 106,000 who desire to receive these benefits in the coming year.” I do not believe that any lack of certainty exists about that fact. Therefore, I will vote against this amendment in the belief that I will be helping to save the Government from being put into this position at a time when it has made up its programme for the current financial year. I might add that I approve of the Government’s financial programme for the year.
I believe that the ideas and the approach of the Government to this matter not only should be recorded but also should be understood and given fair examination and consideration by the Committee. The number of ex-servicemen of the First World War who would take advantage of the hospital and medical treatment provided by the Repatriation Department if this amendment became law is not known. But many thousands of individuals would do so. The Government surely knows better than its own supporters, and members of the Opposition, whether repatriation hospitals have the beds, staff, nurses and medical officers to cope with the inrush of patients that there would be if this amendment became law. 1 have been a patient in two repatriation hospitals only. But I have visited repatriation hospitals. I have read that, particularly in the winter months, overcrowding occurs in repatriation hospitals. We must remember this fact also: If this amendment becomes law, many people who are now able to obtain their hospital and medical services from private and public hospitals will rush to repatriation hospitals. By our actions, we will be placing in jeopardy the chances of men who are entitled now to repatriation medical and hospital treatment to reserve that treatment when it is required. This would happen if, as 1 believe to be a fact, the inrush of those thousands of ex-servicemen of the First World War caused the overcrowding of our repatriation hospitals.
The Government understands the situation. After all, it is not new in the art of governing or the job of politics. It is conscious of the fact that it will be facing the electors in several weeks. The Government is not opposing this amendment. The Government has not left the provision sought in the amendment out of its legislation just to be mischievous or churlish. This provision has been left out of the Bill - and the Government Parties have agreed to pass the legislation - because the Government and its members sincerely believe - this is my interpretation of it - that the provisions of the amendment could not be carried out effectively taking into consideration all the other responsibilities of the Government at the present time.
The Repatriation Bill 1966 has been initiated in the Senate solely because the Minister for Repatriation (Sena’01 McKellar) is a member of the Senate. Normally the legislation would come from another place. We are not reviewing the legislation. We are initiating it. If we accept this amendment, we will be initiating a change in the fiscal policy of the Government. I do not believe that we have the right to do this. I do not believe further that if politics were left out of the question there would be a majority vo’e in the Committee for the amendment. I do not believe that this amendment would be carried in the Committee this afternoon if each honorable senator had a free vote, if the facts were realised and if responsibilities were fully accepted. I know that there are building plans, recruitment plans and other plans to make available facilities to meet our ever increasing repatriation requirements. There is a demand for as many facilities as the Government can provide.
I wish to say one other thing to those who intend to support this amendment. I ask those honorable senators whether they realise that if they pass this amendment at this stage they will be asking the Government next year to increase the ambit of repatriation legislation regarding hospital and medical benefits. There will be an ever growing demand on the Government by people who in the heat of party politics - I am not saying that they are irresponsible - have not stopped to think of what is good for the people for whom they believe they are working.
.- In the course of his remarks, Senator Marriott made a very moving plea for anybody who proposed to vote in favour of the amendment to examine his conscience first. I propose to vote in favour of the amendment. In accordance with Senator Marriott’s request, I have given my conscience a thorough once over and I can assure him that I have never found it to be in better condition. The whole of his remarks, delivered so forthrightly, apparently were based on the contention that the amendment, if agreed to, would be a direction to the Government to do certain things. The amendment states -
The Commission may . . provide medical and hospital treatment . . .
If it had stated that the Commission must or shall do so, then what Senator Marriott said might have some justification. I do not know whether, in the mind of the Draftsman, the word “ may “ has the meaning of “ must “ or “ shall “. I would be very surprised if it did. Let us assume that is has. The amendment continues -
The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines . . .
I understand that at the present time it is the means test that prevents certain exservicemen from getting hospital treatment. Under the terms of this amendment, if the Minister and the Commission did not think that it was possible to accommodate these men, they could still apply the means test.
In effect, this amendment, about which Senator Marriott is so concerned, is nothing more than a polite request to the Government to accommodate these men, if at any time it minks it can do so.
I am amazed at the suggestion that this amendment, if accepted, would cause a constitutional crisis. How could there be a crisis as a result of our imposing certain financial obligations on the Government when it is entirely a matter for the Commission to say whether it will do this or that? Apparently certain honorable senators are under the impression that by passing this amendment we would involve the Government in the expenditure of millions of dollars. If any such expenditure was involved, we would not be responsible. It would be the Government that would be responsible, because in the terms of the amendment what the Commission did would be entirely a matter for its own discretion.
I am open to correction. Perhaps I do not understand the words that are contained in the amendment. It seems to me that all that the amendment does is to say to the Government: “ If you can accommodate these men, we would like you to do so. But we leave the matter entirely in your hands.” That being so, I cannot see that we would cause a constitutional crisis or that we would ruin the finances of the country. I cannot see anything wrong with the proposal. As I said before, my conscience is functioning on all six cylinders at the present moment.
– I have listened to this debate for two days. I am pleased, even astounded, at the respect and adoration that have been displayed in respect of ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war. It has been enlightening. I wonder whether in relation to certain other issues some honorable senators will be as vociferous in applauding ex-servicemen as they have been on this particular issue. We have been considering the needs of people who have been unfortunate enough to have suffered some injury or disability and who have had to seek help from the Government or, to put the matter the other way round, to whom the Government has granted assistance. I have in mind particularly ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war. Because of the means test, many have not been able to get a service pension. I take a great deal of pride in the service pension.
It has been stated that because of the means test certain ex-servicemen cannot get hospital treatment. Honorable senators opposite, in defending the amendment, have said that we should abolish the means test When it has been suggested in the past that the means test applicable to civilian pensioners should be abolished, no support has been forthcoming from the Opposition. Honorable senators opposite have said: “We are not here to give benefits to the silver tails. We are not here to lower the rate of pension for the needy to give a benefit to the rich.” Two years ago 1 advanced in this chamber a proposal that I thought might be accepted, but the Labour Party did not support it. I am still fighting for the benefit that I then sought, and 1 will continue to do so. It might be said that what I have just said is a contradiction. It is not a contradiction.
Senator McManus emphasised that the amendment contained the word “ may “. I would like something a little more direct than that. I repeat that the majority of the people whom the Opposition is seeking to help are excluded from entitlement to hospital treatment by the means test.
– I understand they all are.
– Yes. The means test has been liberalised considerably. We can assume that generally speaking these people are playing their part in the community. The great majority of them are comfortably off. I am not dealing with the borderline cases. I happen to be one of them; I am not very comfortably off. I have a duty to my country. I was fortunate to return from a couple of wars without having been too badly knocked about. My duty is the same as that of every other citizen. It is to provide for myself and my family.
We provide for our families by taking out hospital and medical insurance. I think it is the duty of every ex-serviceman who is excluded by the means test to do that, too. Do honorable senators opposite agree with that, or do they not? I believe it is sound business practice for ex-servicemen to do as I have suggested. Let me take the matter a step further. The representatives of our returned servicemen come to Canberra to state their case. They have opportunities which are available to no other people in
Australia in that they may go before a Cabinet sub-committee and state their case. They have done that and they have been unsuccessful. By all means let them try again. The Government accepts the responsibility of saying “No” to the exservicemen, and that is fair enough.
I repeat that the majority of the First World War veterans would have a medical benefits entitlement. I wish to put forward a scheme which I suggest would be better and more workable than the scheme which would operate if we were to carry the amendment before the Committee. We are told that there are approximately 5,000 medical men in Australia who are engaged in the various spheres of the medical profession. In referring to World War I veterans I do not mean to exclude other exservicemen. I merely refer to World War I ex-servicemen by way of example. I suggest that if a veteran of the 1914-18 war needs hospital treatment he should receive it in his local hospital. The difference between the hospital charge and the amount for which he is covered by his hospital benefits scheme should be met by the Repatriation Department.
In that way the problem of hospitalisation would be solved. There would then be no thought of having to build additional wards or to provide additional accommodation. The scheme would have many advantages. It would result in revenue being brought into both country and city hospitals. It would remove a load from our repatriation hospitals. The ex-serviceman would be able to have his own doctor treating him. He would be among his friends. I earnestly put forward that scheme to the Government as being a tangible method of providing much better and much more effective hospitalisation for diggers who are at present excluded by the means test than would the system envisaged in the amendment.
– The subject of the amendment before the Committee at the moment is one that we have debated on previous occasions. I agree that it has been the subject of representations by many ex-servicemen’s organisations for a considerable time. I propose to detail the facts of the situation briefly, but before I do so I wish to refer to an aspect of the matter which has not yet been touched on. I point out that if we give these concessions or benefits, whatever we care to call them, to the body of exservicemen to whom the amendment refers, ex-servicemen of World War II will need to be looked after in a similar fashion when their turn comes, and that will not be very far away. That would be in order, provided that we were satisfied and were prepared to do it. I think we need to look at the ways and means of doing these things. That is an aspect to which comparatively little attention has been paid during the discussion this afternoon.
It is unquestionable, I think, that there is a very sympathetic attitude towards those who have served their country well in war time. However, this matter has to be decided on principle. The repatriation medical system is intended primarily to provide medical and hospital treatment for persons suffering from disabilities which are related to war service. That is the very foundation on which the Australian repatriation system has been built. The system has gone beyond this principle in the case of ex-servicemen who have had strenuous war service and those whose means are limited. It provides for treatment of other than war caused disabilitites for all who have served in a theatre of war and whose need is demonstrated by reason of their having qualified for a service pension to which a means test applies. That pension will be $20 a week for a single man when the new rates begin to operate, and $30.50 for a married man. That is not a pittance.
The proposal contained in the amendment is to provide for all Boer War and First World War veterans free medical benefits including hospital treatment for disabilities not due to war service and which at this point of time would be substantially the illnesses associated with advancing years and common to the rest of the community. It is proposed to provide these benefits for the members of a particular group who cannot be regarded as being in need. Having regard to their means, the members of this group could reasonably be expected to make provision for their treatment by contributing to medical and hospital benefits schemes, as was mentioned by Senator Mattner, which operate under the community supported
National Health Scheme. Approximately 200 Boer War veterans who are not service pensioners and are therefore not in financial need, would be affected. Of approximately 106,000 survivors of the First World War, about 47,000 are already entitled to the full range of repatriation medical treatment for disabilities not due to war service. I ask honorable senators not to pin me down to those figures because it is very difficult to obtain accurate estimates of the numbers. However, we believe those to be reasonable accurate. Another 27,000 approximately are entitled to treatment for accepted war caused disabilities under a system which contains generous provisions for the acceptance of disabilities as being due to war service. If the proposal embodied in the amendment were to be adopted, a necessary consequence would be the extension of a like benefit to ex-servicemen of World War II and, indeed, of later operations.
There is a clear principle that treatment in repatriation hospitals is intended primarily for disabilities associated with war service, but it has not been unreasonable to extend the general range of treatment to cover other disabilities of needy exservicemen who have served in various theatres of war. I emphasise the words “ needy ex-servicemen “. On the other hand, it would be difficult to justify in principle the provision of a full range of medical treatment for a particular group of exservicemen for disabilities which are not associated with their war service and which are the disabilities common to people of advanced years, and where those exservicemen have resources of their own which enable them to provide for themselves within the existing community health schemes.
Let us have a look at the 1914-18 war ex-servicemen who are covered already. Pensions are payable at the age of 60 years, or five years earlier than is the case with the ordinary social service pension, to all exservicemen who served in a theatre of war in the 1914-18 war and who qualify after a means test. They are given medical treatment for practically all ailments. Those who suffered war caused disabilities are given entitlement irrespective of age. The only group who are not given entitlement are those who are outside the means test pro visions. In addition, those people who are suffering from war caused disabilities on the intermediate, totally and permanently incapacitated or 100 per cent, rate, receive treatment not only for war caused disabilities but for all ailments.
In short, the benefits provided by the Repatriation Department go to those people who need them the most. I think this is a very sound principle. It would have been very nice indeed if the Government could have included in this year’s Budget provision for all the benefits sought by the Opposition. I shall deal with that aspect a little later. Senator Wright mentioned in the course of his remarks the question of hospitalisation. On any day over 4,000 people are in beds in our repatriation hospitals. If we are to add substantially to the numbers needing beds it will be no easy task to. provide the additional beds required.
– Why cannot they go to civilian hospitals?
– It is suggested that they be sent to the State hospitals. It appears that in most States, from the investigations I have made, the hospitals in the metropolitan areas have very long waiting lists. The position in country areas is not very much better. Substantial additions would be necessary to provide the hospital facilities for the people who would be in need of them.
I would like to remind honorable senators that the general public accepts and appreciates what is provided in the form of repatriation benefits. Admittedly, some people outside this chamber do not have as much at stake as those people who are trying to gain the extra benefits. But the general consensus outside is that exservicemen are being fairly well looked after as it is. There are conflicting opinions as to where the elderly returned soldiers of the 1914-18 war would be hospitalised if the amendment were accepted. Would they be taken into repatriation hospitals, or in the case of men in the country, into their own country hospitals? Opinion is divided. Many people have said to me - including nurses who care for ex-servicemen - that these men like to be with their former comrades, even though they are not personal friends. They speak the same language because of the service they have given. It is the opinion of many people, and of many of these men, that they should be together.
This position has ‘been given a lot of thought. A lot of research has been conducted by me and by the officers of the Repatriation Commission. We have worked on it for months because I knew how close to the hearts of many honorable senators is the subject of repatriation. I realised that inevitably these points would be raised in debates on the Repatriation Bill. That is the reason why so much investigation and research was conducted. I was able to place all the facts before Cabinet to enable a decision to be made. A complete analysis of the situation as I saw it was presented to Cabinet before it made its decision. Having had the benefit of all the available information, Cabinet made the decision we are faced with today.
I could not help but admire the approach of Senator McManus. He displayed what I might call adroitness or honeyed diplomacy. I was full of admiration for the way he expressed himself. He did not say: “ You have to do this.” He said: “ You may do this.” I thought it was very good. If the amendment were accepted Senator McManus might be among those people who would say: “ I am entitled to hospitalisation.” If he did not get it, I think the honey might turn to vinegar.
Senator Mattner referred to medical benefits. I think he said it was the duty of all those people who are outside medical and hospital benefit schemes to join them. I go along with that opinion. I think that is so. Let us not forget the position we are faced with today. I have said this before. We are becoming a spoon fed nation. We want help from the time we are born until the time we die, and even until we are buried. This is not the spirit that made Australia. I suppose it is only natural that we all like to get assistance ‘ and that we look for it if it is not there. I say in all seriousness that we are becoming a spoon fed nation, and it is not a good thing in many ways, because it does not develop the moral fibre and the backbone necessary to build up a country such as we have the very good fortune to live in today. Let us look at the position if the amendment is carried.
– It will be too dark to look at anything in a minute.
– None so blind as those who will not see. What would be the position if the amendment were carried? We were faced with a similar position last year. Honorable senators opposite had better face up to reality. The Bill would be returned to the other House, and, in my view, as sure as I am standing here the amendment would be rejected. What would happen then? The Bill would come back here and we would go through the same process that we went through last year.
– According to Senator Wright, there would be a premature election.
– That might be a good thing. We are ready for it, if the Opposition is not. We are ready and would welcome it. But the result of a premature election would be that we would have less room on this side of the chamber and there would be more room on the opposite side. That would also apply in the other place, naturally. I say to my colleague Senator Wright that I would like to see him reconsider his suggestion that he was not going to vote. The Government has given to those people who are most in need of help, repatriation benefits commensurate with the amount of money available for the purpose. I am quite prepared to talk to exservicemen or anybody else and to defend the Government’s repatriation measures. I did not obtain in the Budget all that I wanted or asked for. That is natural enough. Nor did any other Minister, but that will not stop me from trying again next year.
– The Minister has worked hard to keep returned soldiers out of this one.
– I am prepared to face up to returned servicemen with the honorable senator who interjects. If I do not get a better reception than he gets, I will never stand up before them again. I again appeal to Senator Wright to reconsider his position and vote with the Government and prevent the shilly-shallying that will eventuate if the amendment is carried.
– I have not yet spoken in this debate on the Repatriation Bill. I feel that I should do so, but I find myself in a terribly awkward position. Every honorable senator is examining his conscience and I, of course, do not have one. This makes it extremely difficult, but I feel that it is better to be without a conscience than to have a pragmatic conscience. I have heard honorable senators today speaking of their consciences and of how they will vote according to their consciences. But, my good heavens, pragmatism has been carried to its furthest point this afternoon when we have heard honorable senators say that their consciences will not allow them to do one thing, and that they support something else. I have become a little confused with all this talk. I have examined what I will call my judgment. I have to have something. In leading my own little party into this foray, I say that some of the remarks that were made were quite wrong. The Minister said that the acceptance of this amendment would swamp the repatriation hospitals. That is the most ludicrous statement that I have ever heard.
– Of course, the honorable senator would know more about it than I, wouldn’t he?
– Yes, I would. Let me suggest that if the Department had an efficiency expert - a doctor like me - to go around its hospitals, it could empty half of its beds.
– I would not let the honorable senator look after our patients.
– I have not been & repatriation medical officer for many years, but I know what goes on in repatriation hospitals. Parkinson’s law overrides any other law in them.
– How would the honorable senator empty the beds? His treatment might empty them.
– That is so. I will give one example that has nothing to do with treatment. If a person has to have a barium meal - that is for an X-ray - In a repatriation hospital, he is sent for two days ahead. I know a man who is now a brigadier-general and who bitterly opposed this. Every six months he had to have a checkup, and every six months he had to go into hospital 48 hours ahead of time to have a barium meal. He said: “ I could have had it in Launceston “. He could have, but the Department said: “No”. It is Parkinson’s law that fills up the hospital beds.
I might as well tell honorable senators about another funny thing. Although this man walked around Launceston doing his business, when he entered hospital he had to take a taxi from the hospital to the radiologist’s rooms, because that is the law. When he tried to find out why that is the law, and said: “I have been walking around for the last week. Why can I not walk down to the radiologist’s rooms? It is only 400 yards”, the answer he was given was: “No, the regulations say that you will go in a taxi, so you will go in a taxi. The reason why you will do that is that on previous occasions some fellows did not go in a taxi and they got drunk and did not see the radiologist.” That is a true statement. I mention these matters only to show that anyone could go around the repatriation hospitals and empty half of the beds.
The second point - a more serious one - is that the Minister says that these people will fill all the beds. If they are sick and have to go into hospital, they will go into hospital. The Minister says that there is no room for them in repatriation hospitals and that they are not entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals. But they will go into general hospitals. It does not matter to me whether it is a repatriation hospital or not. If there is no room in repatriation hospitals for these urgent cases, the Department should pay for treatment in general hospitals, as it often does. There is no problem whatever in that regard. I can see that the Minister is in a bit of a jam.
I do not agree with the statement made by my friend, Senator Marriott, who is never in the chamber - or rather, who is not in the chamber at present - hut who, so warmly, threatened us by saying that we would throw the finances of the country into chaos by allowing about 40,000 returned soldiers to receive treatment. As I said the other day, it literally makes me squirm when I hear members of the Government parties saying that we cannot do something because of lack of finance.
I believe that Senator Gorton has done a magnificent job in respect of education. Suddenly, and quite rightly, we have found millions of dollars for education. We can find money when we want it.
– That has never been a problem for the honorable senator, has it?
– When I was Treasurer of Tasmania I was faced with budget deficits; but I am not the Treasurer of Tasmania now. Here we have a chance to help these people. Yet we are told that chaos will occur if we give this help to these returned soldiers. My final reason for supporting the amendment is, as I have said before, that I believe that there should be a national superannuation scheme and that the means test should be abolished. Here is an opportunity to make a start, even if it is only a little start. We will now, if we have the numbers - I do not know whether we have - eliminate the means test in respect of these 40,000 returned soldiers. That will be a beginning. Perhaps next year we will eliminate the means test in respect of members of Parliament. Gradually we will abolish it in respect of the whole population. But this is a start. Therefore, I must support the amendment.
– Not having spoken previously in this debate, I should like to refer to one or two matters. I wish to traverse the history of repatriation in relation to the Budget. What we are dealing with now is a Bill which, financially, is within the Government’s Budget. The Budget was prepared after very close consideration of all of the problems. It is very easy for Senator Turnbull to say that we have found £66 million for education and that there is no limit to the money that can be found. Because we have to have an order of priorities and make available £66 million for education, so many million pounds for repatriation, so many million pounds for social services and so many million pounds for all the other expenditures of the Government, it is not fair or proper to try to isolate one section and to do what some honorable senators propose to do at the moment, namely, add about £2i million to departmental expenditure, apart from the capital expenditure, which the Minister assures us will be about £5 million. It is quite irresponsible to say that we can always find money. Of course we can, if we burden the taxpayers to the extent that is necessary to implement proposals. Let us remember that the money comes from the people of Australia.
An excellent case was prepared by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), seeking the additional sums of money that he wanted spent on repatriation. All of us had to take cuts in what we wanted for our departments; but we still have a Budget that is $270 million in the red.
– In the red?
– Yes, in the red. In my opinion, it is quite irresponsible to say that an additional sum can be appropriated, without having all the facts, without making studies of this matter and without knowing what is entailed.
This amendment, as 1 understand it, will provide hospital benefits for men who, at the present time, because of their means or their wealth, are excluded from receiving such benefits because they cannot receive service pensions. If they did not have private means, they would be receiving service pensions and would qualify for hospital benefits. As far as I am concerned, if any more money is available it will go to the totally and permanently incapacitated diggers who have no income other than their pensions. At any time when I am a member of the Government and there is a possibility of finding more money - the Government is being asked to find another £2i million for recurrent expenditure and another £5 million for capital expenditure - my vote will be cast in favour of the digger who has no means other than his pension. I will vote for an increase in the pension that he has to live on. I would have thought that the Labour Party would have stood for that, too, instead of trying to obtain some miserable electoral advantage, as it is trying to do today. All that members of the Opposition are doing today is voting in favour of the man who has private means and, consequently, is excluded from receiving free hospital treatment. If such a man were asked about this he would say: “I can go into hospital and pay for myself. I would sooner see my mate, who cannot pay for hospital treatment, receive a little more in his pension.” That is what the digger would say, as Senator Keeffe would know if he had any knowledge of these matters. He talks about facing up to the returned soldiers. I will face up to them on this matter any time he likes. Make no mistake about that.
– Why is the Returned Services League asking for this?
– It has been prompted to ask for it. It will ask for anything that it may get for the diggers.
– It is irresponsible, is it?
– No, it is not irresponsible. It exists to get everything it can for the diggers, bless their hearts.
– Does it?
– Of course it does. It is not unreasonable for the League to do this. This is i.s job, in the same way as Senator Keeffe would try to get anything he could for the waterside workers when he was among them. That is all right. We understand these things. 1 do not consider that this section of people, who are excluded because they have private means, should be entitled to free hospitalisation if they happen to cross the road and have an accident, as could happen to any of us whether or not we were in a war - and I was not. This is what members of the Australian Labour Party are asking. The money that is available :o be spent should be spent where it is most needed. The same principle applies to any amount of repatriation money. It should be given to those Diggers who need it. not those who are excluded from benefits by the means test.
– I do not think that the Minister is getting much support from his own back bench.
Sena:or HENTY. - I do not think I am getting much support from the Opposition, either, but that does not s’op me from putting the point of view that I shall put.
– Why does the Minister not sit down?
– I have sat in this chamber and listened to the honorable senator for hours, and I say with great respect that it has not been any pleasure. I have not agreed with what he said but I sat in silence and listened to him. I am sure that he will do the same while I am speaking. I was interested in the point of view that Senator McManus put. He says that the Government does not have to do this if it does not want to do it. He can have his own point of view on this ma. tel but I think that if the Committee of the Senate passes this amendment it will be a direction from the Senate to the Government. Oherwise it is sheer humbug. Either we mean to convey a message to the Government that this is what it should do, or else the amendment is complete and utter humbug.
– The Government is trusted to do the right thing, lt is a vote of confidence in the Ministry.
– I accept the honorable senator’s point of view. That is as he sees it, but it is not as I see it. Any Government that was prepared to accept that amendment, when faced with it, would look upon it in no other way than as a direction from the Senate as to what was to be done. I want to say one or two other things. I must pay a tribute to the Minister, because he has battled hard for every penny that he can get for the repatriation budget in order to give to the Diggers the benefits that he would wish to give. That is his job. He has done a good job.
– He is a good bloke.
– And he is a good bloke, too. He has done everything that he can do, but he has accepted the position. Goodness me, if the Opposition ever ge s into government - and it will be a long time before it ever will - honorable senators opposite will have to face up to responsibility. It is easy to be irresponsible in opposition. It will have to observe some system of priorities when it has a total amount of money to expend in a budget. It will have to face up to, and it will face up to, its responsibilities - not that I will ever see it in my lifetime, because I do not think honorable senators opposite will be in office within that period to do this. I want to pay this tribute to the Minister. Those who think know that our repatriation system compares with anything in the world. Ex-servicemen from all over the place who have come here have said to me: “ In other countries we get nothing like what is given to us in Australia “. Australia has the best repatriation system and we will keep on making it a little better every year, as we grow, as our population increases, as our income swells, and as our production swells. This is the way in which it can be done. We have examined this position. We have a total Budget that is £270 million in the red and the next one could be of an equal amount. We have to be sensible and responsible citizens.
– What time does the plane go?
Order! The Minister is entitled to be heard in silence.
– 1 am saying what I have to say and it is about time somebody did this. The purpose of repatriation legislation is to help those who are in need. This amendment is not to help those who are in need, lt is to help those who are excluded from a certain hospital benefit because of a means test, because they have private means; in other words, because they can look after themselves. 1 close by repeating that if a certain amount of money is available at any time in the repatriation vote or in any vote, 1 have no doubt where my vote will go. My vote will go to giving the money to those fellows who are not excluded by the means test, those who need the money. Those are the boys who will get additional help, if possible.
.-1 had no intention whatever of speaking to this amendment until I sat here patiently listening to all that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) said about the amendment. To understand the amendment quite clearly one must delve into the history of it. This is not an amendment that has been plucked out of the air in a fanciful kind of way. In all seriousness we place it before the Committee of the Senate. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have been interviewed by men who have been in the wars and now require certain attention. We have listened to these men state their case and from that point we have consulted the Repatriation Department in our respective States. May I say here that it is easy to discuss any matter with the Repatriation Department. Honorable senators on this side have found that the Repatriation Department is prevented from, or that there is a serious impediment in respect of, granting what this amendment aims to establish. So the common sense thing to do was to prepare an amendment which would provide this missing link in repatriation benefits and have the position established for all time. We are entitled to bring an amendment here and have it seriously considered. I propose to vote for it and I will not have to apologise to anybody for voting for it. I think that the amendment will improve the Repatriation Act. We all feel at times, after dealing with repatriation cases, that the Act requires improvements in many ways. If this amendment provided for only a slight improvement, it would still mean giving mens and women a better deal. If that is our aim in dealing with deserving cases that come under our notice, we shall be doing a service to our society.
The Minister for Supply does not favour the amendment and spoke about being in the red. He did not say whether he was in the red with China or Russia but evidently he meant that the Government financially was in the red. We know that it has to go on to the loan market this year to raise funds to tide it over the financial year but Australia is capable of making the whole of the required sum available to the Government. There are millions and millions of dollars in Australia awaiting investment. So the Government will get all the money it requires on the loan market. Because this amendment aims to assist those who require help, I propose to vote for it.
– We have heard a great deal on matters about which I do not pretend to know as much as the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) or the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty). We have heard of difficulties in accommodation and the provision of finance and other things of that sort. What I have not heard put forward in a convincing way is a logical basis for this proposal. As far as I understand this matter - and I am subject to correction - hospitalisation is available to a man who has had war service if, in the first place, the hospitalisation is required as a result of anything occurring from such war service. It would be provided if a man had been wounded or contracted some disease which was attributable to his war service. He would then get the benefit of repatriation hospitalisation and of course he should do so. There is also provision that if somebody who has been to a war or enlisted for a war and has reached a certain age suffers some accident or contracts some sickness which has nothing to do with his war service at all and, at the same time, has very limited means, he can obtain the benefits of treatment in a repatriation hospital.
But this proposition goes further than that. It suggests that if a man has reached a certain age, for argument’s sake, and at some period in the past has had war service, he should be hospitalised in a repatriation hospital even though the disability for which he is seeking treatment has had nothing to do with his war service and even though he has sufficient means of his own not to require that hospitalisation as an economic necessity.
– That would not last a long time at present hospital rates.
– That may be so, but this is the proposition. I generally listen to Senator Wright without interjecting and diverting him from his argument. Perhaps the honorable senator will allow me the same courtesy.
– But the Minister is only filling in time.
– No, I am not. What reason has the honorable senator’ for casting such an aspersion? I never cast aspersions against him. He was complaining about the Minister being nasty to him because he had not treated him in the way he thought he should be treated and the Minister apologised. Why should the honorable senator cast aspersions of this sort against me? I think, Madam Temporary Chairman, that I should have the protection of the Chair. I shall not repeat my argument. The proposition is that a man who has been to a war should have the right to treatment in a repatriation hospital even though the ailment for which he is seeking treatment had nothing to do with his war service and even though he has money which precludes him from assistance under a means test. What is the logical basis for this ? I have as much right as anybody in this chamber to ask that question. Because a man has rendered some service to his country in war time or in the Army at some time in the past, and for that reason alone, it is proposed that he should be entitled to receive hospitalisation free of the means test when he reaches a certain age.
What is the logic for picking out that man from al) the other men of the same age in the country who may have a motor car accident which is nothing to do with war service and giving him hospital treatment merely because he has been to a war? If this benefit is to be applied, it means the introduction of a new repatriation benefit but it will be miscalled a repatriation benefit because it will not be a benefit granted because the person concerned had war service and had been discommoded by it. It will be granted merely because he enlisted or had been to a war. Honorable senators should remember that such benefits would apply to those who had had overseas service. If I remember rightly, service on Rottnest Island off Western Australia was classified as overseas service in the Second World War.
– There were only half a dozen there.
– But that is an indication of the effect of this amendment. If a person was on a ship which went over the three mile limit he would be classified as having had overseas service.
– Is that correct?
– Yes. Clearly, the argument cannot stop at the point it has been put in this chamber. What grounds would there be for saying that somebody who left for a war many years ago should have this benefit now he was subject to the ordinary perils of civilian life? It is suggested that because such a person went aboard a ship many years ago and left the wharf he should receive repatriation benefits in hospital that an ordinary civilian of the same age could not have because he did not go beyond the three mile limit. I do not believe that that should be accepted.
I can see the logic of a suggestion that all Australians of a certain age, irrespective of their means, should receive free hospitalisation. I do not advocate such a provision for one moment, but at least I can see some consistency in it. But I cannot see the consistency or the logic in saying: “ We do not agree that all should receive this benefit irrespective of the means test, but we do agree that some people should get the benefit because they enlisted or went to a war.” If that is the case, it is not a matter of appropriating money to pay for this particular section who may be affected and those from the Second World War who will soon reach the age when they could claim the same repatriation benefits, lt would be a matter of appropriating money for all civilians whether or not they are exservicemen who have reached a particular age. Of course, this would lead to a major act of policy. I do not believe there is anybody in this chamber who can rightly claim that he has done much more than I have, and I do not claim to have done more than he has, in trying to assist ex-servicemen who are suffering as a result of their war service. But this amendment does not seem to me to fall into that category. I do not believe that it could logically be supported, and I certainly will not support it.
– I rise to say that I cannot support the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition. Over the years I have given a good deal of consideration to this matter. In the debate this afternoon I have listened with great interest to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). To my way of thinking, he has shown clearly that physical hospital resources are not available in Australia at the moment, and that they could not be created in the foreseeable future, to cope with this new range of persons that the amendment contemplates. The Minister is supported by statistics which have been prepared by officers in his Department. 1 have in my hand the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for 1965-66. It sets out clearly the numbers of beds in the repatriation general hospitals in each State. In my opinion, the Minister has produced evidence which shows that the Department could not cope with an increased number of ex-servicemen and at the same time give proper treatment to those who are already entitled to it.
From time to time honorable senators on the Government side have indicated that the Government’s first interest should be in those who are unable to fend for themselves, as far as hospitalisation is concerned. Medical treatment is provided for all disabilities which have been accepted as being due to war service. Anybody who has served in the Boer War or the 1914-18 war and whose disabilities are due to war service is entitled to full treatment at a repatriation hospital. In addition, and subject to certain conditions, treatment is provided in respect of disabilities not due to war service for ex-service men and women who are totally and permanently incapacitated due to war service or who receive war pensions at the maximum general or 100 per cent, rate or the intermediate rate; for ex-service men and women who have contracted pulmonary tuberculosis; for nurses who served in the 1914-18 war - for a number of years, an exception has been made in the case of nurses - for widows and certain dependants of ex-servicemen whose deaths have been accepted as due to war service as well as for widows and dependants of deceased T.P.I, pensioners; and for service pensioners, including service pensioners of the Boer War.
These classes may be provided with the full range of the Department’s facilities, with certain exceptions. One relates to conditions caused by alcoholism or drug addiction. Another exception relates to chronic or incurable diseases requiring in-patient treatment for a prolonged period, although in-patient treatment for an acute or subacute phase of a chronic or incurable disease may be provided under certain conditions. So it can be seen that exservicemen of the Boer War and the 1914-18 war are provided for. The exemptions relate to those who have troubles or diseases not due to war service and who, by virtue of the means test, are excluded. As has been pointed out before, in the main these people are able to look after themselves as far as hospitalisation is concerned. Some of them have money invested and some may still be working. If these people were admitted to repatriation hospitals, there would be less money available for others who are more deserving of support from the Repatriation Department.
As Senator Gorton has pointed out, we would be creating a new policy if we were to admit to repatriation hospitals persons who had enlisted in the 1914-18 war, regardless of their having suffered disabilities due to war service. In view of the deficit in the Budget, I do not think we would be justified in passing the amendment which has been submitted by the Opposition. Of course, the Returned Services League mentioned this matter when it made representations to the Government, but I consider that the League does not regard it as being high in the list of its priorities. 1 would like the Minister to tell me in what order of priority the League placed this matter. As I have said, I do not think that the League places it high in the list of priorities. It is more interested in pressing for adequate hospitalisation for those whose disabilities are due to war service. As the people to whom the amendment refers have the means to provide for their own hospitalisation. 1. suggest that the Government is quite right in resisting the amendment.
.- I am prompted to rise to take part in this debate, which has been going on for the last two clays, mainly in order to come to the defence of some of my colleagues. Some rather unusual comments have been made by honorable senators opposite and they have thrown some cheap jibes. Nothing degrades a case more than the making of cheap jibes. Senator Keeffe made some quite unworthy comments about the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) who is an outstanding man. We on the Government side are particularly proud not only of the way in which the Minister for Repatriation has handled this Bill but also of the way in which he has adequately’ answered the questions and comments of members of the Opposition. 1 believe that many Opposition senators will understand me when 1 say that I was dismayed at the comments made by Senator Keeffe regarding the Minister for Repatriation. Indeed, the case that has been put forward by the Opposition has suffered because of the very low tone of that argument. But the comments did not stop there. An attempt was made by honorable senators opposite to pull to pieces with persistent interjections the arguments put forward by the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty). When the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) spoke, Senator Cavanagh attacked him with interjections until the Chair intervened. But I think there has been no worse feature of this ‘debate than the remarks that were made against Senator Wright both yesterday and today. Such an attitude is unworthy of the Opposition. It should not carry on in this manner.
– Is the honorable senator speaking to the amendment?
– I am speaking against the amendment.
– Is the honorable senator speaking about it?
– I am dealing with the case that the Opposition has put up in support of this amendment. 1 am saying that the merit of the Opposition’s case has been lowered very much because of the arguments its supporters have used.
– I rise to order. My point of order is this: Is it proper for an honorable senator to reflect upon the Chair? Senator Webster is reflecting upon the Chair by saying that certain things were said in this chamber that were not in keeping with the decorum of a Senate debate. If that is so, I take it that the statement is a reflection on yourself, Madam. As a fellow Victorian, I raise my point of order because I strongly object to another fellow senator reflecting on the Chair.
Order! The point of order is not upheld. There has been no contravention of the Standing Orders.
– 1 thank you, Madam, for your ruling, lt is surprising that Senator Kennelly should rise at this stage after the comments that have been made by the Opposition during this debate. Opposition senators have indulged in personal attacks during the debate both yesterday and today.
– They cannot take it.
– That is so. They have been endeavouring to interrupt my speech with interjections and Senator Kennelly has appealed to the Chair.
Order! I suggest to Senator Webster that he address his remarks to the amendment under consideration.
– The amendment which has been moved by Senator Bishop on behalf of the Opposition certainly is acknowledged as having some political significance. While Senator Kennelly was taking his point of order and attempting without success to point out to the Chair the faults in the comments that I was making. I was endeavouring to find in “ Hansard “ the words that the honorable senator used yesterday about Senator Wright. I will defer that matter, Madam, because as you have said, the amendment before the Committee is the subject that 1 should be discussing.
There is no senator in this place who in the last two days has not supported the Bill. The provisions contained in the 1966-67 Budget have illustrated the ability of the Government to decide the appropriate areas - for instance, repatriation and social services - that should benefit in this financial year. The wise selection of these areas reflects great credit to the Government. I am one who in general supports the principle that a completely new outlook is required by the community in relation to repatriation benefits. However, I think that the singular attempts that have been made by the Opposition in suggesting the establishment of a joint select committee and, by this amendment, the provision of medical treatment purely for those returned soldiers of the 1914-18 War and the South African War also-
– This is the case put by the Returned Services League.
– I think that the honorable senator is giving more weight to this case than the Returned Services League has given to the matter.
– It is in the report.
– I do not doubt that- Indeed, I congratulate the Returned Services League on the way in which it has conducted its affairs in relation to seeking additional benefits for returned servicemen. I would think that, in some circumstances, the R.S.L. has not gone far enough with its requests. I believe that, today, when men are being required to serve overseas on our behalf, an enormous obligation in regard to social services and repatriation falls on those who enjoy the comforts of Australia.
– Then the honorable senator agrees with us?
– I agree with the view that a fresh outlook is required in the community concerning the benefits that are made available by the Government in the field of repatriation. I am informed that the level of these benefits is far above the level of the benefits provided by other countries.
– Hear, hear!
– 1 think that this is a point that has been overlooked to a great extent by those honorable senators who support this amendment.
– That should not stop the Government from going further.
– There are two matters to which I wish to refer. Perhaps Senator Cavanagh will agree with me on the first point. This Government since it came to office, and particularly in recent years, has provided benefits to returned servicemen that have been far greater than those ever envisaged by previous governments.
– No, I do not agree.
– lt needed a revolt in the Government’s own ranks last year to get anywhere near that state of affairs.
– No. This has been going on for 15 years. The honorable senator is just a baby in this game. He has only just come here. He does not know what the Government has been doing.
– I have been here all afternoon. I have listened to the debate.
– I am not talking about the debate this afternoon. The honorable senator has been here only a few years. I am talking about what has happened over the last 15 years.
Order! The Committee will come to order. I call Senator Webster.
– The interruptions to my speech, Madam, only add weight to my argument. Senator Cohen said that a revolt was needed in the ranks of the Government to get anywhere near the present position in regard to repatriation. This immediately brings to my mind the fact that a revolt was not possible within the Australian Labour Party while it had control of repatriation matters when it was the government.
– We appointed an allparty committee.
– Why does not the honorable senator make a start in this direction by supporting us in our amendment?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Senator Webster is addressing the Chair.
– Thank you tor your protection, Madam. I need it in the circumstances. I was pointing out to honorable senators that during the last 15 years the Government Parties have done more than previous governments with regard to repatriation benefits. The Government has done more in this field than members of the Opposition with a similar policy did in prior years. Indeed, the points that are being made by honorable senators opposite in regard to this amendment prove that this is purely a political stunt on their part.
But there is more than that to my argument. The Minister will agree with me, as he did a moment ago, that the benefits that are provided by the Government to our people are more than comparable with benefits paid in any other country in the world. We should gain great pleasure and great confidence from this fact. I am not saying that the benefits provided are sufficient. They are insufficient. But in view of the situation in which we find ourselves in relation to the Budget for this financial year, can the Government do more than it is doing with regard to repatriation at this time? I do not doubt that honorable senators opposite will take many items of expenditure that will be put forward in the next few days when we are discussing the Estimates and say that the Government should be spending more on each of them. But this argument will not be valid.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Wedgwood.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 20th September (vide page 546).
Department of Customs and Excise
Proposed expenditure, $17,991,000.
Proposed provision, $73,000.
– I refer to Division No. 155 - Administrative, the proposed expenditure for which this year is approximately $2,200,000 greater than the appropriation last year. I wish to refer in particular to the administration of the Department of Customs and Excise. On 15th September I asked the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) a question about the rights of solicitors who have been briefed by organisations or individuals to contest the banning of a publication. The difficulty is that a solicitor so briefed is unable to advise an organisation properly, because he does not know what is in the publication and whether the ban is justified. The Minister stated in reply that there is a Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board and that there is a right of appeal against its decisions. I said - 1 referred to a person who might intend to go to court.
The Minister replied -
If that is so, the answer is clearly: “No”. The position regarding legal proceedings is quite clear. If a case in relation to prohibition proceedings is before the court, counsel will ha«e the prohibited document in their possession, lt would be a nice exercise indeed if everyone said: “ 1 think 1 will go to court; therefore 1 should like to read certain prohibited material.” 1 agree that if a matter is before a court and the document is available to counsel, the person concerned is able to proceed with his case. Let us consider a case in which an organisation or an individual briefs counsel to advise on the matter. The Council for Civil Liberties is an organisation which is concerned particularly with circumstances in which there has been an unjustifiable ban. The Council has reported i hat Mr. Benjamin, one of its members, arrived in Australia and had to surrender the file of a monthly magazine called “Playboy” running from November 1965 to June 1966. The information that 1 have states that besides photographic news, which may be used as an excuse for censorship, the publication “ Playboy “ has contained serious articles attacking censorship which were of some value to Mr. Benjamin. He briefed counsel for the purpose of seeking advice as to whether he should contest the Department’s decision to hold the publication and to ban it. A lawyer who was over the age of 50 years, a married man with a family, was engaged. I do not think that photographic news would corrupt a lawyer overmuch. The idea was to have him examine the publication for the purpose of advising the Council whether it should contest the matter in court. Of course, the solicitor was not given the right to see the publication and was therefore unable to advise the Council whether to contest the case.
My earlier request to the Minister was not that anyone who wanted to see a prohibited publication should be able to do so merely because he said: “ 1 want to contest the ban.” However, when a person briefs a lawyer he has representing him a man who belongs to a respectable and responsible profession. But in the circumstances 1. have mentioned, the lawyer was unable to advise his client because he was unable to see the banned publication and knew nothing about it. The Minister, in private conversation, said that he would look into the matter and that if the ban had been imposed by the Literature Censorship Board he thought that there would be a right of appeal. But “ Playboy “ would have been banned under Item 22 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. Under that item the Minister has the right to ban a publication and there is no right of appeal.
– What are the terms of that provision?
– I have not looked at it, but whatever they are, a publication can be prohibited on the authorisation of the Minister, and there is no right of appeal. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us on this point.
Although the Minister has the right to prohibit publications he must not act capriciously or out of spite. He must exercise his functions in a proper manner. If we try to obtain from counsel advice as to whether we may be successful in proceeding against the action of the Minister, it does not matter how talented the counsel we engage may be; he is unable to advise us in this respect because he does not know the nature of the publication. He has not the necessary information on which to advise us.
I understand that prohibited publications may be made available to members of the Parliament in the Parliamentary Library. However, if a person briefs a responsible solicitor for the purpose of obtaining advice on a prohibition, surely that member of the legal profession should be able to see the publication for the purpose of advising his client. I ask the Minister for information on this matter. I hope that we can get over the problem involved in the inability of solicitors, who are engaged to advise clients, to obtain the prohibited publications.
– lt is true that Senator Cavanagh recently asked me a question in this connection and that I gave him an answer, lt is also true that we spoke outside the chamber and that I then offered some views to him. The honorable senator has linked this broad question with the Council for Civil Liberties and the publication “ Playboy “. I point out that “ Playboy “ is dealt with under Item 22 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations, as distinct from Regulation 4a. Under Item 22, the prohibition depends on the opinion of the Minister, whereas under Regulation 4a the matter is subject to reference to the Literature Censorship Board and the Appeal Censorship Board. There is a right to go to court if the person concerned still is not happy.
I wish to give Senator Cavanagh an assurance. A publication may be prohibited on the opinion of the Minister, but the Minister has an obligation to act responsibly. He must act in good faith all the time. I say to the honorable senator without any inhibitions at all that if legal counsel communicated with the Minister and said: “ There is a book or magazine which has not been published because, in the opinion of the Minister, it should not have been published, and I am acting for a person in connection with this matter “, obviously I would have to consider releasing the publication to him. But there is a legal implication. It is very difficult for legal authorities to succeed in a case where a prohibition has been imposed on the opinion of the Minis er
– What would be the basis of the Minister’s opinion? Would it be that the publication was indecent?
– Speaking off the cuff, the significant factor is undue emphasis on sex, horror, violence or crime. Suppose that the Council for Civil Liberties communicated with me and suggested that 1 should release a publication to it so that it could be the judge of the publication, not the Minister for Customs and Excise or the Literature Censorship Board. If the Council of Civil Liberties proposed to set itself up as the guardian angel of my responsibilities, quite frankly I could not live with such a situation.
Let us consider a case in which a book had literary merit. Obviously, if representations were made to the Minister and he was satisfied that a genuine procedure was likely to be followed he would use the regulations to make the book available. Obligations would be placed on the recipient of it to treat it in the manner in which medical men, sociologists and university people are obliged to treat such books when they are released to them. The books are released for a two year term, must be kept in their custody and must be used for bona fide purposes. However, 1 could not countenance a proposition that we should release publications to some self-appointed authority. Incidentally, I read an interesting article about the Council for Civil Liberties in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ recently, under the signature of K. Buckley, arguing against the ban on marihuana. Obviously, this is an organisation which believes in great freedom. I do not intend to pass my responsibilities to it or to anybody else. I have a responsibility to the Parliament to administer an Act and I could never agree to a situation in which a self-appointed organisation says: “ Let us look at the books and we will judge whether you should prohibit them.” I think honorable senators will recognise the worth of that proposition.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 155, which relates to administrative expenditure of the Department, and particularly to the provision for office requisites and equipment, stationery and printing. I presume that in that item provision is included for the cost of printing of the annual report of the Department. I would like to compliment the Minister and his Department on the report for 1 965-66. I have read it with great interest and I consider it is possibly one of the best departmental publications that has come into my hands. I would like to refer to several matters it contains which relate to departmental activities.
I wish to ask the Minister some questions concerning tariff preferences to less developed countries. Honorable senators will recall that last year a Bill handled by the Minister was passed by which benefits were extended to less developed countries through the lowering of tariffs. The legislation contained provision for duty free admission without quota limitation of specified products of the cottage industries of the countries concerned. I would like to ask the Minister whether the legislation has been successful in achieving the Government’s objectives. In other words, have the less developed countries created markets within Australia because of the remission of tariffs in favour of those countries? I thought it was an excellent idea. I remember that Senator Cohen was loud in his support of the measure at the time. It showed Australia to be an adult nation that was prepared to allow .into this country the products of the less developed countries at a lower rate of duty. I would like the Minister to inform me how the idea has developed.
At page 47 of the annual report of the Department reference is made to the illegal importation of cattle semen. A photograph appears of ampules of cattle semen and the vacuum flask in which they were illegally imported. 1 do not suppose that I need to remind honorable senators that last year a Queensland farmer on his return by air to Australia from a visit to the United States and Canada illegally imported into Sydney a quantity of cattle semen in ampules packed in dry ice in a vacuum flask. The farmer committed a deliberate crime. As a consequence, cattle valued at $60,000 had to be destroyed and the owners, with the exception of the offender, received compensation. I am concerned that the farmer was proceeded against in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 1st March of this year for a breach of the Customs Act. He was convicted and fined a mere $500 plus costs.
I ask the Minister whether a penalty of imprisonment could have been imposed for the deliberate act of using a vacuum flask to import cattle semen, the consequence of which could have been to infect the stock of this country with the dread disease of blue tongue. Hundreds of millions of sheep and cattle could have been infected. I would also like to ask the Minister whether prosecutions for such offences could not be conducted in a specially constituted court, because 1 suggest that the offence is of such gravity and magnitude that a fine of a mere $500 is inadequate for this type of smart Alec Queensland farmer.
– He also lost his herd.
– Yes. He certainly lost his herd. But I submit that in such cases, if the legislation at present does not provide for imprisonment, it should be amended. I understand that a special Customs Court is commonly used in Sydney for the prosecution of customs offenders. This is a case where such a court should have been used. 1 cannot think of a more serious crime against the welfare of this country than the action of the Queensland farmer.
I compliment the Minister for setting out in the annual report some of the activities of his Department. I ask the Minister whether the illegal making of spirits from grapes in the vine growing areas has been detected by officers of his Department. This practice is contrary to the customs and excise law. I believe it has been rather notable of late and I would like the Minister to tell the Senate whether his officers are catching up with such offenders.
All in all, I think the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise are to be congratulated. I also commend the Minister for his interest in containerisation. It can be seen from the report that already departmental officers are abroad studying this matter. As I see it, the Department of Customs and Excise will have a very important part to play in the smooth working of lh£ containerised system for the transport of goods. It could well be that articles for the Mount Isa mines could be bought in the middle west of the United States of America and packed in containers there which would not be opened until they reached Mount Isa, in the centre of Queensland. What plans has the Minister for the inspection and assessment of duty in appropriate cases where a container is opened many hundreds of miles away from the normal ports of entry? No doubt the Minister could sketch for us some of the plans his Department has for the handling of containerised goods. No doubt there will be co-operation with the Department of Health and other departments with which the Department of Customs and Excise normally works.
I compliment the Minister and his Department on the work that is being done and. in particular on his great success in dealing with the illegal importation of cattle semen.
Senator McMANUS (Victoria) [8.301. - I believe that in Australia there is a good deal of inspired exaggeration on this question of censorship. It should be pointed out that an immense volume of books and films is handled by the Department of Customs and Excise in the section of censorship that it administers and the number of cases in which protests arise is infinitesimal in comparison with the volume that is handled. I make no apology for saying that in my belief, the officers of the Department who deal with these matters are doing an excellent job. 1 hope that they will not be intimidated or stampeded by people who attack them for motives which, in my opinion, are far from being above suspicion.
I believe that in Australia today there is definitely an inspired move by people who allege that this country is at one extreme in regard to censorship in having too much of it. but whose real object is to drive us to the other extreme, where there will be too little of it or none at all. I suggest that these people, with the possible exception oi’ a few of them, are not actuated by the noble motives that they profess. I do not believe that all of the people who attack the customs administration on this matter of censorship are actuated by a noble desire to preserve or to increase our personal freedoms.
In my belief, behind most of them is the desire to make money by pandering to a certain type of person in the community. Whilst some of them talk a great deal about literary freedom and literary appeal, in my view they are actuated more by cash register appeal. Some of these people find they cannot make a living in legitimate ways, but they think they may be able to make a living in illegitimate ways, such as by the sale of books which in a normal healthy community will not be tolerated. My opinion of some of these people is that they should be placed in the same category as the person who sidles up to tourists in Port Said and offers them dirty postcards. I believe that the sole object of a great many of the people who are making such a song and dance about censorship and are attacking the Department of Customs and Excise is to make money by selling the sort of thing that many of us would not touch with a 40 ft. pole.
– If something is banned it is given a premium.
– 1 know that the people who talk about bans are very happy if they can get their productions banned and then get some academics to raise a song and dance about it. They hope that it will be possible for a particular book to be banned and to get some academics to raise a hue and cry. Their idea is that if only they can do that they will make a lot of money. I believe that the much maligned and much attacked customs officials have been pretty shrewd about this matter. They have not acted unless it was absolutely necessary to act. Often they have defeated the plans of these people. I think there are a lot of ignoble motives behind this.
I know, for example, that a couple of years ago newsagents in Victoria approached me and pointed out that some of the stuff that they were being called upon to stock in their shops was of such a character that they, as a body, had objected to it. Many of them felt that, with their children living in their homes, they did not want this stuff on their counters. What was the position? A wholesale firm, which claims to be one of the most reputable firms in this field in Australia and New Zealand, informed the newsagents that unless they stocked this kind of stuff - which in the opinion of the newsagents was unfit to be on their counters, let alone sold - they would not receive the ordinary publications on which they depended for their living.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, I do not believe in unnecessary censorship. I know that it is not practised in Australia. You and 1 know that the attitude that has been adopted on this matter has been a pretty commonsense one. But there are always people who are out to make money and who will try to use this kind of stuff for that purpose. I approve of the very strong statement made by the Minister to the effect that he does not allow himself to be intimidated in carrying out his duties, and I express the hope that he will tell the officers of his Department who are administering this matter that, in the opinion of many of us, they are doing a good job and that we hope they will continue to do a good job in preserving in this community certain standards that ought to be observed.
The other day I was reading that one of the best known universities in the United States is now in a state of chaos. A considerable section of the staff has resigned on the ground that the place is completely uncontrollable. The university is in the hands of completely irresponsible people who have formed, for example, an obscenity organisation.
– Is this university in California?
– Yes. I hope that we in Australia will resist the efforts of people like those who have permitted that state of affairs to arise so as to destroy all loyalties to accepted standards, including loyalty to the family, for motives that can only be guessed at. I. conclude by repeating my hope that the Minister will convey to the officers who are administering this matter on behalf of the Department of Customs and Excise the opinion of many of us that they are doing an excellent job. I hope they will continue to stand up to the inspired intimidation that is being used against them.
.- I would like some information on certain items in these estimates. I refer to Division No. 155, subdivision 1, item 02 - temporary and casual employees. The vote for this item this year represents a fairly substantial decrease on the vote last year. I hope that that does not mean that in any way there will be a relaxation of the usual high standards of the Department of Customs and Excise because of a reduction in staff. I commend the actions of the Department and the good work that it does in conjunction with the Department of Health, in protecting Australia against the importation of overseas diseases. I also refer to Division No. 155, subdivision 2, item 09 - uniforms and protective clothing. The vote for this item this year represents a fairly substantial increase - about 35 per cent. - on the vote last year. I wonder how such a big increase is made up. Finally, I refer to Division No. 155, subdivision 3, item 01 - duty, remission under special circumstances - and item 03 - sale of pet roleum products (Northern Territory) - financial assistance. Does the latter item relate to the standardisation of petrol prices or is it something special in relation to the Northern Territory?
– 1 want to raise two points. One is that 1 cannot agree with Senator McManus who, in his opening remarks, referred to exaggeration in regard to censorship. I think he represents the other extreme in regard to it. I believe that there is a middle of the road course. I gain nothing by demanding the abolition of censorship. No motive of pecuniary gain can be attributed to me. I direct attention to the stupidity of this whole business, which affects most citizens of Australia. I am not interested in pornography. Worse than pornography are those crime stories that one sees. It seems to me that pictures or drawings of naked women do not do much to a child whereas the blood and thunder comics for children seem far worse than the pornography that we complain about. What gets me is the fact that the mantle of the Minister for Customs and Excise falls on a man who is suddenly the arbiter of our censorship and morals. This is an authority that has to be exercised, as the Minister said quite rightly, with great diligence. I have been chairman of an art society for many years. I dislike abstract art. Some forms of it, I think, are equally as childish as some of the things we see in literature. But that does not mean to say that as chairman of a society for art I condemn this sort of art. There are people who really think that abstract art is the truest form of painting.
– The honorable senator is not suggesting that it should be banned, is he?
– No. Once we start banning it we encourage it. That brings me to my next point. How can officials of the Department really believe that by banning a book they will stop people from reading it? The “ Bulletin “ just the other day pointed out in regard to the pamphlet on atrocities in Vietnam that only 15 copies had been sold till the police moved in. From that day thousands have been sold. No-one was interested in it originally, but the moment someone says a thing is to be banned it becomes in demand at once. I remember that Senator Henty, when Minister for Customs and Excise, told us a story - 1 do not know whether it was in this chamber or privately - o? a man who had just produced a book - whether he wrote it or published it, 1 cannot remember - and who wrote to Senator Henty as Minister for Customs and Excise, asking: “Would you please ban this book? “ He knew that the ban was a way of gaining rapid sales. What the Minister has never explained to us is the ground on which an officer in his Department had to appeal to him in regard to the Charlton film on Vietnam, lt is so ludicrous - everyone who has seen it has said so - that there should be any question of censorship in regard to that film. Yet an officer of his Department thought it had something against the Act. Why did he think so?
– Because it was in the Act.
– It was not against the Act. Even the Minister agreed that it was not against the Act. Not one person who has seen it has said that it had anything against the Act. In other words, some political interference must have crept in and the officer, thought: “ Better not release it, because the Government may not like it “. This is the danger. If we start censorship we will have political interference. The Minister may nol tolerate it, but it comes about whether he likes it or not.
I do not want to keep on censorship. I think that the Minister has had enough about it. I want to come to Division No. 155, subdivision 2, item 02. I want to save the Minister some money. I think he can save money and thereby help to pay for the repatriation bill. We could save at least $1,000 in relation to the peculiar form issued by the Australian customs authorities. This is a form that makes us the laughing stock of the world. A weak Minister accepts the advice of his department, whether he believes in it or not, and a strong Minister will stop his bureaucrats from inflicting an item such as this on the public.
– What is it?
– Everyone who comes into Australia has to fill in this customs declaration. It is all very well for senators; we get special treatment. But there is not one person who has come into Australia who has not complained. With Mexico and New Zealand, Australia has the lowest rating in regard to customs entrance forms. In most countries you do not have to bother; you just say you have or you have not. Take the form that you have to fill in. You have to give your wife’s name. Why do you have to give your wife’s name? How does that affect the customs?
– To show that she is your wife.
– That is censorship, of course, checking up whether it is your wife.
– lt is because a man makes one declaration if he is accompanied by his wife. That would be elementary.
– It states that if a person is accompanied by his wife he must give his wife’s name. How does that affect customs duties?
– You have one declaration for two people.
– You do not. The form reads: “ Are you or any of the persons for whom you are making the declaration . . .” If a man says: “ Yes. T have a wife “. why does he have to give her name.
– If she is not your wife, you do not have to pay.
– If she is only a secretary, you do not have to pay?
– If she is not your wife, she makes a separate declaration.
– The first things that come in are goods that are intended for gifts. The Department is making a criminal of every person who comes into Australia, because I doubt whether there is one person returning from overseas who does not bring some gifts for someone. Of course, the traveller will say “ No “ to such a question. It is just nonsensical. Can the Minister tell us how other countries get away with it and this country cannot? That is a test. I remember that the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), when Treasurer, said for two or three years that .we could not abolish taxation clearance certificates, that everyone leaving Australia had to have one, because otherwise we would lose money. Finally, pressure was put on him and he had to give way. He abolished it. Has there been any chaos? There would not be one bit of chaos if this form were removed and the questions were made oral. No, bureaucracy must rule. A weak Minister lets it rule, invariably. I shall come to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who is a strong Minister and, as I saw just lately, has overruled his .Department.
Then the form goes on to all the things you want to bring in and you have to mention them. Instead of saying that you are entitled to bring in one radiogram, etcetera, the form asks everything. It asks about film projectors and then the priceless one: “ Have you got a knuckle duster? “ This is good. I think this is important, because everyone coming into Australia, especially a tourist and particularly, of course, if he is going to Sydney, would just have to have a knuckle duster. A person is going to say “ Yes “, he has a knuckle duster and he has a cosh. This is so educational. It just shows what educated people we are and how we are protecting the rest of the citizens of Australia by preventing anyone from bringing in a cosh and knuckle duster. Look, honestly, Mr. Temporary Chairman, can you ask the Minister whether he really believes that if a man is bringing in a knuckle duster or a cosh he will declare it? How stupid can we get?
Then, the declaration asks you whether you have narcotic drugs. If you are a doctor and have morphia on you, you are a fool if you say that you have, because then the whole alarm gets going: “ Morphia! You have got morphia on you.” And the officials take you away into a little room and ask: “ How did you get this morphia? “ It does not matter that you are a doctor and licensed to have morphia. This is a criminal thing. If you are a heroin addict - and I brought all my heroin in in my pockets, of course - you are not going to mention it, are you? So why put it on the form? This form is just plain stupid. There is no other word for it. And Australia has to have it, and so do Mexico and New. Zealand. No other countries have it. We must have it, so help me. We have to protect the citizens of Australia from knuckle dusters and sword sticks. I think the last named are walking sticks with swords in them. These are wonderful things.
– James Bond has them.
– If James Bond has them, I can understand that one should have them. There are far more lethal things brought into this country than sword slicks. 1 like that one about narcotics. This is a thing that makes so much revenue for the Department. We all declare our heroin and morphia and opium, and this lets the customs know that we are bringing it in. No-one who was really an addict would mention it so this makes him a liar. I like the other bit: “ Have you quarantinable goods? “ This is very good: “ Have you any of the following goods in your baggage? “
– Be careful.
– I am not talking about a secretary or a wife. 1 think that means luggage, not the baggage that the honorable senator is thinking of. People go overseas. Most go on business or as tourists, and they come back with eggs. They all have eggs in their pockets! You have to mention whether you have eggs or milk. I do not know what happens to a nursing mother. She could be banned because she would have to say yes and go into quarantine. This is really difficult. You can see everyone coming into Australia wilh eggs in their pockets ready to cast germs all round.
Then we have a really serious question. You are asked whether you have any germ cultures, viruses, vaccines or any other biological material. This raises a very interesting question. If you have influenza, would you be allowed in? Because you would have to declare that you were bringing in a virus. I am not quite sure if that, is so because it is not stated on the form; but you have to declare whether you have a virus and if you have influenza, you have a virus. This shows the ridiculousness and the stupidity of this statement but the Minister for Customs and Excise says: “ We have to have these because my Department says we have to have it “. Otherwise, it is the Department of Health that wants it. This is a bureaucracy, or whatever you might call it, at its worst.
A person entering the country is also asked to state whether he has any animals, reptiles, fish, or birds - alive, stuffed or mounted. Of course, everyone comes in with a little mounted bird. This is good. It clears the atmosphere. This makes everybody sure he can live in Australia in an atmosphere of health. You have to declare also whether you have any parts of animals including skin, feathers, wool, hair or horns.
– A very wise provision.
– Yes, very wise- expecially when a troop of dancers arrives with drums and the drums are quarantined.
– Quite right.
– This is just the same as the quarantine against brucellosis from imported cheese. I doubt if there has ever been one case. This is bureaucracy again. Then you have to mention whether you have egg cartons. That is feasible. I suppose if you have eggs you have to have egg cartons. You are also required to say whether you have any plants, living or dead or parts of plants. If you bring in anything of straw - and I have yet to see somebody come in from Fiji without a straw bag - it must be declared.
– lt must be fumigated also.
– Is this done? No persons whom 1 saw come off the aircraft were stopped with their bags. They ail walked through. So what is the point in putting this in? 1 suppose it is to give the Department work to do. Some of the quarantine aspects are ridiculous. It is said these things will cause disease. It is sheer utter nonsense. This is the final straw: Another part of the declaration puts the following question -
In the past three months did you, or any of your family accompanying you, reside on or visit any farm, come into contact with farm animals, or visit any abattoir or meat packing establishment?
This is so important. Did you forget to clean your boots somewhere along the line? You are bringing mud into Australia which will contaminate it and we will have tetanus and foot and mouth disease pouring in. Another question shows bureaucracy at its best. This is really a prime example. You have to state the total number of trunks, suitcases, parcels, boxes and bundles you bring in or have shipped earlier to await your arrival, or which will arrive in Australia later. Might I cite a case of my own? As we had excess luggage, I asked a friend in Hong Kong to bring a suitcase with her while we went abroad. She was not coming back to Australia for several months and I arrived home before her. I gave her the key of the suitcase and a list of the contents and said: “If you have any trouble, here is the key. Open it”. She was a stranger to me but a friend of a friend and of my wife. She brought the suitcase into Australia and thought she would have no trouble. Did she have any trouble? She was asked: “ So this belongs to Senator Turnbull. Where is he?” She said I was in Australia, and so she was asked for a certain form which has to be filled in if you are bringing a suitcase for somebody else.
– The honorable senator was suspect.
– Whether I was suspect or not, the point is she did not have this form. This was a heinous crime. It was virtually a criminal offence; so the officer would not look at the suitcase. My friend said: “Here are the keys. You can have a look.” He replied: “ No. I must have the form “. Then she said: “ There is a list of the contents and there are the keys. What does it matter if you have not the form? You can see if there is anything chargeable in the case and we will pay for it.” He would not even look at the case because the form was not there. This is the absurdity of bureaucracy. You must have a form. I telephoned the officer and said: “ Why does she have to have a form?” He said that the regulations said so. 1 said: “ I have lost it. So what?” He said: “ Will you sign a declaration before a Justice of the Peace to say you have lost it?” I said: “ How does that help it to go through Customs?” He replied: “ It protects you because if you’ had a radio in the bag and you did not bring in a radio yourself, you would not have to pay for the radio in the bag.”
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– After that tirade of nonsense which would be a disgrace to anybody, let alone a member of the medical profession, I think 1 should make some comment. Here we have an honorable senator, a member of the medical profession, trying to lampoon and ridicule restrictions we have in Australia to protect Australian industry, especially primary industry and the health of the people. A previous speaker drew attention to the dreadful consequences that could have ensued from the illegal or inadvertent entry into Australia of semen which could have ruined the whole cattle industry of Australia. Yet we have a member of the medical profession posing and trying to ridicule some’.hing which is designed to protect the Australian people and their lives. We are trying to make sure that there is full and gainful employment for our people. All these things are inherent in the procedure to which the honorable senator has referred but he has not the brains to see it. He does not understand how elementary it is. The purpose of asking a series of questions on a form is to make sure that if people are found to have brought something in illegally, there will be a declaration that they have signed.
I would have thought that the honorable senator would be the last person to come into this chamber and raise matters about customs entry. When he came into Australia the last time, he made a Press statement which let everybody know he was back in Australia and on the job. In the Press statement he said there were all sorts of questions about odd animals and things but nothing about narcotics. Yet the form itself which he did not read - if he can read - refers to articles which must be declared including narcotic drugs. His statement was in the Press. Next week I will bring information concerning it into the Senate. If the honorable senator will ask me a question, I will read from the file about the entry of Senator Turnbull and I will table his declaration but he must ask me to do it. Frankly, I am amazed at his conduct.
– The Minister can table my entry. There is nothing illegal about it.
– The honorable senator made a statement that there was no reference to narcotic drugs but there is such a reference. I gather, now, that he has suddenly discovered it. The fact is that all the questions on this declaration are asked to protect Australia. They are there to protect the people and preserve the security of Australia.
– How do other countries get protection?
– The honorable senator talked in terms of not having a declaration at all. He referred to Mexico and England. The time taken for entry into Australia compares with that in any other country in the world. In other countries where there is not a declaration, the moment a doubt arises they take you away and put you through a declaration procedure which is far in excess of ours. I do not mind the honorable senator having a bit of fun about these papers but 1 do object to his suggesting that good, honest, intelligent officers of the Crown have not put their minds to this over a lifetime of study. The honorable member thinks he is extraordinary. He got into this place and now he tries to make a joke of everything. This is serious business. If we did not have measures for the proper protection of our primary industries and also for the health of our people through quarantine regulations, where would we be? The honorable senator knows that as well as anybody. I shall not deal further now with the matters which he has raised. If he wants to carry on with the issue, I invite him to do so. He can initiate a debate on another occasion. If he does so, I will be ready to give him all the information concerning these matters.
There was one question that I think I failed to answer when replying to Senator Cavanagh. There is no prohibition of the magazine “ Playboy “ as such. It is dealt with on a month to month basis, as each issue comes out. Speaking from memory, I think it is some considerable time since an issue was cleared.
– August 1965.
– Yes. Senator Laught asked questions concerning a number of matters. He referred, first, to tariff preferences to the less developed countries. As we all know, provision is now made for preferences to be given to the products of the less developed countries, on the basis of cottage industries. The Committee would be surprised to know how many countries qualify for these preferences. One thinks he knows all the countries of the world until he sees a list which runs to something like 120 countries. There is considerable interest in the scheme. There is provision for bona fide traders !o make applications to import certain categories of goods from the less developed countries. The scheme has not been going for long enough commercially for me to make a judgment as to its success. Recently 1 was speaking to a person who had returned from overseas. A copy of the relevant regulations had been sent to him because he wanted to make a feature of them in European countries. He told me that the impact of this decision of Australia to help the less developed countries by concessional tariff entry had received favorable comment and was regarded as an outstanding example of help by a country which, although developed to a certain extent, is not completely developed.
asked a question concerning illicit spirits. Reference to illicit spirits is made in the annual report of the Department of Customs and Excise for 1965-66, which states -
For many years the most prevalent types of illicit activity against Excise legislation have been illicit distillation, possession or’ illicit spirits and unlawful manufacture of liqueurs.
Offences of this type are largely confined to migrants of Southern and Central European origin. Many countries in those regions permit private distillation and the manufacture of liqueurs in the home. Spirits of the type and flavour resulting from this traditional activity are not available in Australia and this has led in. many instances to the institution of “ back-yard “ distilleries. However, sustained vigilance and publicity associated with successful prosecution of offenders may be expected to result in eventual diminution of offences of this type. In this respect it is interesting to note the comparative rarity of second offenders.
In June 1966, a series of raids in the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area of New South Wales resulted in one of the largest seizures of illicit stills and spirits ever made in Australia. In all, 8 stills, 500 bottles and numerous demi-johns and other vessels of raw alcohol were seized.
I believe that in the light of that seizure, people who were illicitly distilling spirits have desisted from doing so.
– Were they operating on a commercial basis?
– That is very difficult to say. Probably people within a certain community group were operating in that way. I would not think there were any operations on a broad commercial basis.
Senator Laught referred to a penalty which was imposed for the illegal introduction of cattle semen into Australia. I referred to this matter a few moments ago. A penally of £500 was inflicted, which was the maximum penalty in accordance with the customs law. This is not an indictable offence. The action was taken in Queensland.
We cannot overstress the seriousness of this situation. With the great movement of tourists and businessmen in and out of Australia, and with the huge immigration programme, under which approximately 145,000 people come to Australia each year, the task of the Department of Customs and Excise is a tremendous one. It is hard , to assess the burden of responsibility that the Department carries. We feel that the Department is doing a magnificent job, although it has its disappointments and failures. Customs control here is not as easy as in a very small country. The sheer size of Australia makes this control very difficult. We exercise customs control at Port Hedland in the west, Thursday Island in the north, down in the south and so on. The very fact of this being a continent creates great difficulties. Our well developed civil aviation programme, with so many people arriving from overseas by air, adds to the problems that we encounter. I think that in all the circumstances the Department does a very good job.
Referring back to the question of penalties, it is true that a penalty which was imposed in the instance to which Senator Laught referred appeared to be light, but it is also true to say that the Department of Customs and Excise, through the Attorney-General’s Department, is currently examining the whole question of penalties for customs offences.
– In what sense was that proved to be a deliberate offence?
– I do not want to canvass the merits of the case.
– If we are going to discuss an individual penalty, we want to know the facts.
– I am speaking generally now. The whole question of penalties for custom offences is being currently examined.
Senator Lawrie rattled off a series of numbers of divisions. I hope that I have a note of them all. He referred to Division No. 155, subdivision 1, item 02, temporary and casual employees. Although a provision of $22,300 has been included to meet the cost of the recent basic wage decision, the overall decline in the number of temporary employees will reduce the expenditure under this item as compared with the 1965-66 expenditure. The Department is embarking on a substantial staff programme and there may be a significant movement away from temporary and casual employees. The reduction in the expenditure on this item is not because our work force is diminishing. It is because of a movement within the classifications of employees. Senator Lawrie referred to Division No. 155, subdivision 2, uniforms and protective clothing. Here again, this is consistent with the expansion of the preventive staff, These officers must know every nook and comer of, and climb all over, a ship. Consistent with the build up in the number of our preventive staff, there would be a similar build up with respect to uniforms and protective clothing.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) 1.9.10]. - I desire to speak for a fewmoments on the estimates of the Department of Customs and Excise and, in so doing, 1 refer to Division No. 155, Administrative. I come back to the question of censorship not only of books and publications but also of films. Might I say at the outset that 1 understand that the Minister for Customs and Excise has agreed with the responsible State Ministers to meet in conference in the first week of next month for the purpose of trying to reach unanimity of opinion on the general overall question of censorship. I believe that a mere meeting of responsible State Ministers with representatives of the Commonwealth Government and/or the Minister for Customs and Excise is not sufficient having regard to the overlap that is taking place concerning censorship. I consider that, in a conference of the nature envisaged, representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should be invited to take part. With the control of these mass media virtually being in the hands of a privileged few and those people who control commercial broadcasting and television licences owing their right to continue their operations to licences issued by this Government, I suggest that it is up to the members of this Parliament to see that the most liberal laws exist regarding censorship.
Already, some honorable senators have referred in this regard to the film on Vietnam produced by Michael Charlton for the British Broadcasting Corporation, and shown on the television stations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The fact that this film was produced and shown by the British Broadcasting Corporation and was sold to American stations for showing on the American television networks seemed to have no effect on the attitude of the Chief Censor of the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board who apparently has the authority either to accept or to reject films that in his opinion are likely to be offensive to the people of a friendly nation or deal with any topic which in his own opinion is undesirable in the public interest.
Frankly, this authority in the hands of some oligarchy or some bureaucrat would appear to me to border on the edge of political censorship. I believe that the present Minister for Customs and Excise is quite a liberal Liberal. But I am sure that anyone can see that, with some person with extreme tendencies occupying this position, a dangerous situation might exist concerning censorship in this nation.
In theory, the Chief Censor, on the basis on which he could perform his functions, would have the right to ban practically any film imported into Australia. On this occasion, he referred the film on Vietnam to the Minister for Customs and Excise. But assuming that the Minister had acted in a way contrary to the way in which he did act, what avenue would have been open to the people of Australia to gain the right to see this film? The Australian people would have been unable to see this film, which was shown in the United Kingdom and America, if the Minister had decided to act in a certain way.
The information conveyed to me on this matter - if I am wrong, I ask the Minister to correct me - is that, in the first instance, the Chief Censor agreed to the showing of the film produced by Michael Charlton. The film went to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The A. B.C. felt that this film was likely to be offensive to the people of a friendly nation and it referred the film back to the Chief Censor for an opinion. As a result of this, the Chief Censor referred the matter to the Minister for Customs and Excise for consideration. Honorable senators can see how dangerous this weapon of censorship could be if, for instance, articles written by a journalist of the nature of Walter Lippmann and published in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ could be subject to censorship by any Minister who had control over such material, such as the Minister for Customs and Excise or the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). I put the question frankly to the Minister: Why should imported films alone be forced to run the gauntlet of this type of censorship?
In this instance Michael Charlton was employed by the British Broadcasting Corporation to produce a film on Vietnam in that country. That film was subsequently brought to this country. Suppose the Australian Broadcasting Commission had sent Michael Charlton to Vietnam to produce this film. Would the Chief Censor have had the authority to censor such a film? That is why I say that all of this evidence-
– I am sorry. I missed the point that the honorable senator made.
– Michael Charlton produced this film on behalf of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Because the film came to Australia from the B.B.C., it was subject to censorship by the Chief Censor. Let us assume that Charlton had not been working for the B.B.C. but that he had been sent to Vietnam by the
This is why I suggest to the Minister that it is important that not only the responsible State Ministers and officers from the Department of Customs and Excise should sit around the table and iron out this general question of censorship, if it is possible to iron it out. I refer not only to literature censorship but also to censorship generally. For the important reasons that I have pointed out. it is essential that invitations be extended to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to attend such a conference also.
– If Charlton had gone out of Australia, produced the film and brought it back into Australia, it would be subject to control.
– Nonetheless, the matter 1 have raised is important. Honorable senators can see the difficulties that might arise. What would happen if a film was made in New Guinea by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and someone else came into New Guinea and made another film on that Territory? Would that second film be subject to censorship before it was shown in Australia? These are the great problems that exist regarding censorship. Because of the importance of television particularly in regard to its effect on the minds of Australians today, I believe that film censorship is much more dangerous as far as democratic thought is concerned than any censorship of literary thought and publications.
For once in my life 1 agree with Senator McManus and that is when he says, or at least implies, that censorship merely places a premium on the booklet, article or film that is censored. Just recently a film entitled I think, “ Temptation Island “ was telecast on Channel 10 in Sydney. As I remember the circumstances, the film had been approved by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board for adult viewing in Australia. After Channel 10 had shown some cuts of the film by way of advertisements, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board decided that the film ought to be reviewed in the public interest. Notwithstanding the fact that originally the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board had passed the film for screening in Australia, the Broadcasting Control Board ordered certain cuts to be made in the film. One authority seems to be cutting across another in the field of censorship.
A book entitled “ Another Country “, which was written by one James Baldwin, a famous American negro, was on the banned list in this country for year after year.I do not know whether it was a coincidence, but very soon after the present Minister for Customs and Excise commenced to administer that portfolio this book, which could be read in every country except Australia, was removed from the banned list here. In the first week after the book was removed from the banned list, one could go to any bookshop in Australia, certainly in Sydney, but could not acquire a copy of it. Now, 12 or 18 months afterwards, one can go into any bookshop and buy any number of copies off the shelf. I suggest that a very liberal and tolerant attitude must be adopted, not only by the Minister but also by the officers of his Department and other departments which exercise authority in relation to censorship. In view of the importance of this matter, and in the democratic interests of the people of Australia,I ask the Minister to consider seriously agreeing to have the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission invited to take part in the discussions that will be held in relation to censorship.
I refer now to the kind of goods that are being imported for the use of children. During the last Estimates debate, I referred to a kind of stiletto or knife that was being imported from Oriental countries. I have before me an article that appeared in the Sydney “ Sun “ of 3rd June last in relation to a kind of hypodermic needle that is being imported for the use of children as a toy. I have seen the stiletto to which I referred, but I have not seen the needle to which I am now referring. It would seem from the Press article which is before me, and which was written by a journalist named Carmel Friedlander, that this hypodermic needle could have a very deleterious effect on any child into whose possession it came. As we know, children do play nurses and doctors with one another. A child could try to copy a doctor by inserting this instrument into the body of another. A doctor who is unnamed in the article has said -
The trouble with pushing this type of needle into the flesh would be that sepsis might occur. 1 understand that these toys are coming from Wales, Germany and Hong Kong. In view of the serious injury that could occur to kiddies, quite apart from sepsis, this is a matter for consideration by the Minister.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Because of great public agitation about, and great public interest in, the subject of censorship, I would like the Minister to explain to me what the reformers want to do. Do the States want to hand all their censorship powers or duties to the Commonwealth so that the Commonwealth can have full responsibility? I can understand Mr. Askin not wanting to depend on the New South Wales vice squad. The same would apply to Victoria. If the Government’s intention is as I have mentioned, does not the Minister think that that would be a retrograde step? Speaking personally, I could not entertain a more frightening idea than that we should have a big central censorship system operated from Canberra. This is not a responsibility that one Minister ought to take on. Under the present system there is the possibility that some State or group of censors in one part of the country would take a more liberal view than another group, with the result that we would get fairer censorship and different views about moral standards.
I come to my secondary query. I exclude all thought of pornography. Today people get pornography mixed up with the censorship of literature, pictures and various aspects of entertainment.
– It would be interesting to ask the artists who find literary value in these things to say where that literary value is, mixed up with the pornography.
– That is right. I would not like the job of cleaning it up. If anybody is crying out for stronger action, he could not get stronger action than that which I am about to mention. I would like the Minister to express his opinion on the fact that in the last 12 months the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board has banned 91 television films. That is not a bad average.
– Quote the footage.
– There were 91 units. The footage was astronomical. Recently, something like 100 books have been placed on the banned list.
I agree with Senator McClelland when he says that the present Minister for Customs and Excise gives the impression of being liberal with a small “ I “. I say nothing about Liberals with a capital ‘’ L “. He is a liberal minded man, I believe, although I think he has made a few mistakes.
– I certainly have.
– 1 suppose that he must make mistakes when he has such a difficult portfolio to administer. I ask the Minister whether the censorship authorities would have taken notice of an appeal such as that made recently by the Catholic Bishops. I ask that question because all the churches have done this kind of thing. .1 have here a cutting which states that the Australian Catholic Bishops declared their support for “ a watchful and reasonable censorship of books, magazines and films “.
Can the Minister say whether that is a principle which his censors would follow? Do they exercise a watchful and careful censorship? I hope they do. 1 should like the Minister to discuss this matter. Do the censors take into consideration the selfcensoring propensities of the public? The do-gooders who want to censor everything we read or write or see on television seem tq forget that there is a great deal of good in the public. If honorable senators look at a recent survey of television films and their ratings in Sydney I think they will be obliged to pay a compliment to the Sydney public for knowing what is good for it. Probably it has a better idea of what is good for it than have the censors.
– We have only to look at recent “ Four Corners “ programmes to see how good they are and how bad they are.
– I am not saying that there is not a bad egg in the dozen now and then. A recent review of ratings and standards set by the general public in Sydney shows that the top ten shows at the moment include the “ Dick Van Dyke Show “. which is a clean family show; the “ Lucy “ show; “ Pick-a-Box “; the “ Mavis Bramston Show “, which is a little way down the list; “ My Name’s McGooley- rWhat’s Yours?”; “The Rag Trade”; and “Homicide”. The top show of all is “ Sound of Music “. Honorable senators may know that they could not find anything more refined than “ Sound of Music “. Those are the programmes that the people of Sydney have chosen themselves.
The surest rule that can be followed in this connection is the value that is placed on advertising. If a television programme is not good it will not get the ratings, and if it does not get the ratings the people will not continue to watch it. That is proved by the list of the 10 top shows that 1 have mentioned. It is quite clear that, the people of Sydney - and Sydney is supposed to be the sinful city of Australia - like shows of that kind on television. There is no great need to worry about what the people are watching on television in Sydney, because they are watching 10 very clean and verygood shows.
As I have said, it is revenue which keeps television stations going. If a television, programme is not good it will not bring in revenue. It will not sell advertising and it will go out. We should not lose faith in the public. Also, there is a compensating factor in the Sydney newspapers which, clamp down very quickly on anything that is salacious. I read in a newspaper the other day a reference to the smutty side of “ King Lear “. The newspapers are picking on an Australian produced show. We have in this chamber many honorable senators who .are interested in encouraging the production of Australian programmes for television. Tn reference to an Australian production, the “ Barry Crocker Show “. television writer Elizabeth Riddell has told Barry Crocker, a leading theatrical man in Sydney: “ Keep it clean, Barry, or you won’t last long.” A person does not need to be religious or narrow minded to know what is decent. The people employed by the -television stations and the newspapers do their share to create a little morality in the entertainment world. I am interested to know whether the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board fakes note of these trends and is aware of the kind of treatment which salacious programmes receive from the public. Does the Board, in setting its standards of morality in relation to films and radio and television programmes, have in mind that the people are quite capable of knowing what they want and of turning off a programme if it is not good?
There is another matter on which I should like information from the Minister. After all, the conferences on censorship have been proceeding for 12 months now. f know that the Minister is having his difficulties but I ask him to say whether he agrees that there should be a dispersed censorship organisation throughout Australia, still with uniform standards and with the same ideas but operating in different climates and atmospheres; or does he think there should be one central organisation dominating the reading, the writing and also the listening of the Australian public?
My next comment may seem inconsistent to the Minister. I raise the matter only because he is Minister for Customs and Excise and one day he may have to make a decision in this connection. Recently, the infamous or famous, according to one’s point of view. Dr. Bialoguski who was involved in the Petrov Royal Commission, visited England. He has had produced in England a film known as “The Petrov Affair “ and it is showing to big audiences in London and throughout England. I assume that this film will be brought to Australia. I believe that the censors are not necessarily looking for libellous material when they are looking at a film: they also are looking for salacious material or low moral standards. However, we could have films such as “ The Petrov Affair “ imported into Australia. If this film has been made in accordance with the attitude of Dr. Bialoguski, who operated before and during the Petrov Royal Commission and also in the postwar period as a security man, many decent Australians will have their characters besmirched. I know lots of innocent men in this country whose character and good name Dr. Bialoguski helped to take away, and many of them have not yet got back their good name. I see a danger in this film coming to Australia and I am asking for it to be censored.
– There you are.
– I know that that may sound inconsistent, and I said so earlier, but I think I am justified in saying that.
– Yes - the righteousness of self interest.
– No. not self interest. I am speaking on behalf of many decent citizens in the Australian community whose characters were ruined during the currency of the Petrov Royal Commission. This man is in England and he has provided the copy to make the film I have mentioned. I am assuming - and I think I am entitled to do so - that many of his principal characters are going to be Labour men who were branded and smeared.
– His own life was pretty unsavoury, too.
– That is right. If this picture comes to Australia will the Minister see that nothing is allowed to be shown here that would continue or add to the smearing of these men that has already taken place? After all, the courts of the country have had a look at this case and have made their decision. They have criticised certain people but have exhonerated most of them. I would not like it to be said that 1 had stood here in the Senate and had not voiced a warning about this picture coming here. Something like 300 witnesses were involved in the Petrov Royal Commission. Some of them were condemned by association and by whisperers. lt was a very sad period of Australian history. I hope that the Minister will give me a promise to ask his officers to look at this picture for character assassination when it arrives in Australia.
– I hope I am keeping fairly well up to date with the points of view expressed. I would like to speak in general terms for a moment. Last Friday night ( attended a meeting where about 40 people were present. I said to them: “ If you divide yourselves into groups of six and all move into different parts of the hall, I will bet a reasonable amount of money that in each group of six you will not get a unanimous point of view on censorship.” I think this is one of the facts of life.
– That is why we insist on freedom of speech.
– That is right. It is very difficult to get a unanimous point of view on censorship. Senator Ormonde’s speech tonight is a classic example. In the first part of his speech he advocated an almost completely uninhibited approach to film censorship. Nearing the end of his speech he advocated censorship in relation to the possibility of a film coming to Australia. He said that we should be looking at it in advance. But we do not even know what is in it.
– In relation to political censorship.
– He referred to character assassination.
– Yes. This is inherent in political circles.
– The Government has become immune to character assassination.
– I am simply pointing out the difficulties. In answering Senator McClelland, I say that the test is the customs law. If a book or film enters Australia it is examined by the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board, officers of the Department, or the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board to determine whether it should be allowed entry. Even though a group of people may claim that a book or a film should be allowed to enter Australia, it must answer the test of the customs law. The regulations are written. I and my officers do not act on an ad hoc basis. We act within the regulations which govern the entry of films, literature and magazines. The regulation relevant to the importation of films is No. 13 of the Customs (Cinematographic Films) Regulations. It states -
A film shall not be registered and advertising matter shall not be passed, under this Part if, in the opinion of the Board, or, on appeal, in the opinion of the Appeal Censor -
I remind honorable senators that the regulation states “ if, in the opinion of the Board “. The Board has to form an opinion. In the case of the film referred to by Senator McClelland, the Chief Censor had to form an opinion. He asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, who is the relevant Minister, for his view, because the Chief Censor was in the process of forming his opinion.I discussed this matter last evening when the estimates of the Department were being debated. I remind honorable senators that when Mr. Hasluck looked at the film, he expressed an opinion to the Board. The Board formed a judgment and released the film. Had the Board prohibited the film, it would still have been competent for the exhibitors of the film to go to the Appeal Censorship Board. Then the Appeal Censorship Board would have had to form an opinion.
– Was action taken by the Minister under regulation 40 whereby he is entitled to require a film to be submitted?
– No, it was not, in this case. It was an instance where the Chief Censor, in forming an opinion, asked for the view of the Minister. Senator McClelland may argue about matter which is offensive to the people of a friendly nation or a film which is undesirable in the public interest, but from the points of view of myself and my officers we have an Act and regulations to administer. We must act within that framework. Senator McClelland, is arguing that the regulation is not a good regulation. That is another matter.
– No. I am arguing that it is a dangerous regulation.
– That is a point of view the honorable senator is expressing. Senator Ormonde is asking me to have regard to the regulation I have quoted in a case in the future. In that regard, I can say that none of us could be expected to make a judgment on a film we have not even seen. If the film referred to by Senator Ormonde comes to Australia it will be looked at in the normal way by the Board, and the Board will make a decision. It will operate in the normal way. I think we all accept that situation.
asked a very interesting question about dangerous toys. This is also a very difficult administrative area. Senator McClelland and I have discussed this matter at times, informally and at question time. Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade we cannot place any greater restrictions on imports than exist on local products. The question of toy pistols has been raised. The States must be induced to act in collaboration with the Commonwealth in relation to such restrictions. For instance, the Commonwealth cannot prohibit the importation of an article just for the sake of prohibiting it, when the same type of article with all the essential ingredients to it, is being produced locally. Such a prohibition is inconsistent with our trade arrangements and with policy. We go to the States and say: “ Look here.”
– It is futile, is it not?
– We enter into trade agreements and arrangements which are our life blood. We cannot write carte blanche because some little scheme is not acceptable to us. As a trading nation, we have an understanding that we will no.t use our import regulations to prohibit the importation of goods simply because they are regarded as dangerous when, at the same time, we are producing them in Australia.
– Let us assume that the goods are not produced in Australia.
– Making that assumption, a judgment has to be made. Some items are referred to the Commonwealth Department of Health. Fire arms are referred to police authorities. We get a judgment from them. Then, having sought that opinion, my officers have to gain information. As far as is humanly possible, we gather important information. A judgment has to be made. If any honorable senator believes a particular item should be looked at, I hope he will come and tell us and discuss it. We are trying to do only what is right. A judgment has to be made. As I said jokingly to Senator Ormonde, across the table earlier, we can make mistakes. We are human. We are trying to get as much information as is possible from people who should know about these things before we make judgment.
Senator Ormonde raised one other matter. Here again, I thought 1 had resolved this issue. 1 cannot prejudice the negotiations with the States in relation to uniformity that are going on at the present time; but I give honorable senators an assurance that, when we achieve a degree of uniformity in terms of a broad approach, it will have to stand the test in this place, in another place and in the six States. So the situation will not be that we will agree on a degree of uniformity, and that will be that. Honorable senators will have an opportunity to express their views. But I cannot prejudice the negotiations, which have been going on for far too long now, while some aspects have yet to be resolved. I am committed to announcing at the appropriate time the substance of the agreement on a joint State and Commonwealth basis.
.- I rise to make a few comments because I thought that the manner in which the Michael Charlton film was dealt with was very detrimental to the public interest of this country. I believe that Australians are so independent in their outlook that they react much better to prejudicial news than to palatable news. Having looked at the film, I could not understand how the idea that it should be considered, even for five minutes, to be a subject for censorship ever occurred to anyone. It was a portrayal of events. It could not be said to be slanted or distorted as a pictorial representation of events, even if there was an emphasis on acts of cruelty and on activities that were horrible for us to contemplate. But not one of us in Australia thinks that such things are not part of the terrible campaign in Vietnam. Australians want the truth as a basic factor in making their judgment.
I submit very quietly that it is not good enough for the Minister to say that he is merely administering these Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations, because they are the product of the Minister.
– They are the product of the Senate.
– They are not the product of the present Minister. I never indulge in personalities. 1 hope that when I say these things no personal merits are given or demerits pronounced. They are said on the basis of the office or the institution.
– The Regulations are the product of the Parliament.
– No, they are the product of the Minister of the day.
– No. The Parliament has passed them. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has passed them.
– The Parliament does not pass regulations.
– It did not disallow these Regulations.
– The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has a limited function. I regret to see that the date of these Regulations precedes my participation in the work of the Committee. If that were not so, they would have received the same treatment, insofar as I could give it, as I gave to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations.
– This is a disgraceful set of regulations.
– Just let me say my own little piece quietly, although it may go unheeded. I merely ask very earnestly that the framework of these Regulations be considered. 1 venture to assert that, wherever we devise a just and efficient system, we eliminate all the abuse and resentment that come from matters of this sort, except in exceptional circumstances. I do not accept Senator Murphy’s interjection gladly. I want to say that the first thing that these Regulations do is to set up a Censorship Board and then an Appeal Censor to hear appeals against decisions of the Board. That takes the matter outside the immediate political arena and puts it in the hands of a Board constituted of five members. Where there is a multiplicity of men of good faith nobody will doubt that in the ordinary case there is a contribution to judgment.
– Men and women.
– Men and women, yes. But it is the amplitude of their jurisdiction that is objectionable. If, in their opinion, a film is likely to be offensive to the people of a friendly nation or to the people of a part of the Queen’s dominions, or if a film or advertising matter depicts any matter the exhibition of which is undesirable in the public interest, it shall not be passed. The amplitude of that provision enables them to put forward their viewpoint on any matter of public affairs.
– Does the honorable senator agree that that is a dangerous regulation?
– Yes.I am saying that the only virtue in the Regulations is that there is a Board and then there is an appeal from the Board. That is good. But the amplitude of the jurisdiction is so wide as to create a real danger. That is the position in respect of the importation of films. The Regulations prescribe almost the same criteria in respect of the export of films. They state -
A permit to export from Australia a film produced in Australia shall not be granted if. in the opinion of the Board, or, on appeal, in the opinion of the Appeal Censor-
the film depicts a matter the exhibition of which is undesirable in the public interest; or
the film is likelyto prove detrimental or prejudicial to the Commonwealth.
But then there is an overriding power in Regulation 40, which says - (1.) The Minister may direct that a matter arising under these Regulations be submitted to him for determination. (2.) Upon the submission of a matter to the Minister, the Minister may give such directions as he thinks fit and the Chief Censor shall take such action as is necessary to give effect to the directions of the Minister.
So, a Board and an Appeal Censor having been set up, and having been given those dangerously wide charters, the Minister has the overriding power to intervene in any case and demand that any matter arising under the Regulations be submitted to him for determination.
We do not discuss matters from the point of view of imputing want of judgment, integrity or bona fides to any person occupying a ministerial position. But the very appeal that Senator Ormonde made illustrates that, as the Minister says, each censor has a different point of view, and the more earnestly he holds that point of view the more dangerous is power in his hands. It was the Christians of about 300 years ago who were the chief tyrants of those times. Censorship was then imposed for the purposes of sectarianism.
We should have a law setting out objectively the matters which should not be imported unless they go through the judgment of a tribunal and also the matters which should not be exported unless they conform to an objective rule of law. I make this plea not in any spirit of legalism. I have heard some legalisms that I despise. In this place it is the substantial principle of law which, being adhered to, will solve all these problems from the point of view of political administration. If we had an impartial system such as I have suggested, instead of doing anything that created prejudice, as I think the action in respect of the Michael Charlton film did, to a real understanding of the Vietnam issue, we would avoid attracting that prejudice.
.- The Department of Customs and Excise is required to administer more than 30 Acts. Some of them relate to the payment of bounties in respect of certain commodities or materials. I think it is generally recognised that’ the subsidies are paid in respect of essential commodities which cannot be produced economically in Australia. I refer to some of the bounties that are paid and 1 have a question or two to submit to the Minister in respect of them. Last financial year the Government paid §227,695 as a bounty on cellulose acetate flake, and only $1,434 as a bounty on copper. The raw cotton bounty amounted to $3,686,325 in 1965-66. In the same year, the pyrites bounty amounted to $854,041; sulphate of ammonia, $426,580; and sulphuric acid, $1,905,926. Phosphate fertilisers - 1 think I heard those two words mentioned in this chamber during the week -attracted a bounty of $24,983,351. The tractor bounty amounted to $1,901,940, and the vinyl resin bounty amounted to $1,937,525. Whereas the copper bounty last year amounted to $1,434, in the previous financial year it was $299,194. The annual report of the Department sets out quite plainly that because of the high price paid for copper in Australia payment of the bounty ended in 1964. I can well understand that in the calculations under the method that has been adopted, there could be a carry over in that period. All the copper may not have been accounted for or brought forward. A quantity might be brought in from some store, mine, slag heap or somewhere else, and a bounty be paid.
In addition, there was a special appropriation in respect of diesel fuel taxation. Let us consider what bounties really mean. People pay their taxes and the money rolls into the coffers of the Treasury. It goes into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. When bounties have to be paid, money is taken from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and paid to the producers of the materials or commodities. The Department of Customs and Excise is required to protect the interests of the public. I do not think it would desire to pay bounties unless they were duly earned, that is, unless persons were strictly entitled to a bounty under the provisions of the relevant Act.
I am fully conscious of the staff that the Department employs. It has directors, assistant directors, an appraiser, deputy appraisers, assistant appraisers, an administrative officer and deputy chief censor, a chief inspector, a supervisor, and other officers. I do not question the calibre of the staff at all. I think this staff would be necessary in a general way, if not for the duty and customs section and the general work of the Department, then for other purposes. I should like to know from the Minister, in particular, how the Department keeps materials and bounties under observation within a financial year to satisfy itself that the payment of bounty is warranted. Things can change considerably over a period of twelve months. When these Acts are introduced, they are made operative for a certain period, sometimes two or three years. I know it is never intended that a bounty be payable in regard to the manufacture or mining of commodities which can be profitably produced. The Minister may inform me on that. I put the question in the interests of the public. I am sure that some members of the public will want to know.
We remember the enactment of the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act of 1965. When the Minister brought in the Bill for that Act, I had grave doubts of its success. I was sceptical because it was to operate all over the Commonwealth including, I think, the Northern Territory. The objective was to bring the price of petrol in nearly all townships and centres in the Commonwealth to a common level. The difference between the price of petrol in Oodnadatta, Camooweal, and such places and the price in Sydney, Melbourne and other capital cities was to be no more than fourpence. The Minister may be so good as to tell me how that Act is operating. Is he receiving complaints from vendors of petrol in outlying regions? Has the Department encountered any hardships in its administration?
Senator Laught spoke about a farmer at Mount Crosby in Queensland, who brought a quantity of bull semen into Queensland, for use on his grazing property at Mount Crosby. Senator Laught commented on the fine that was in dieted upon that gentleman for the offence that he committed. If there is anything to be said in favour of that man and iti favour of his not being more severely punished, perhaps it should be said. 1 have a recollection that the gentleman who was responsible for this offence commited it quite innocently. After he arrived back in Queensland he took the semen to the Department of Primary Industries in Brisbane to see whether the semen was fertile. This proved he was not trying to hide his action.
– Did he declare it when he brought it into the country?
– The honorable senator heard Senator Turnbull read from a document when he was in the chair. That document sets out the information that the Department of Customs and Excise requires from all persons entering Australia. I am strictly in favour of the contents of the documents. They are not nonsensical at all. If the Department of Customs and Excise had functioned years before Federation we would not be plagued with rabbits and sparrows in Australia. They would have been prevented from coming into the continent. 1 mentioned that the man who imported the semen did so innocently. I do not blame the individual because some well meaning farmers could be pardoned for doing a similar thing. It is not something that conies under their notice every day. Because that man committed the offence, many people now know about it and they know it is illegal.
The Minister for Customs and Excise might tell me what the staff is doing in
London, New York and Tokyo. Is lt essential for the Department of Customs and Excise to have officers stationed there? There are quite a few in London, New York and Tokyo and 1 should like to know what are their duties. I can understand Australia safeguarding its commercial interests by having these officers in the Commonwealth, but I am not clear why they should be officiating overseas.
I am sure the Minister will be able to give me some information on another matter. He will remember the Brussels agreement between the signatories to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade regarding the use of uniform terms in respect of commodities. The Minister issued a leaflet some lime ago entitled “ Introduction to the New Australian Tariff 1965 “. lt refers to the Brussels conference and to the decisions reached there on the Brussels nomenclature, the regions and structure, chapters and so forth. There was a long conference dealing with this subject and by now. probably, those terms are used universally by the countries which had representatives at the Brussels conference. Time has gone on and those terms now have a technical significance. I want to know whether the Department can do its general work more expeditiously under this new system than under the old one. From my examination of the operations of G.A.T.T. this is about the only good thing that it has ever devised. I leave it at that because if I go any further T shall he dealing with matters which could be classed as foreign affairs.
– No doubt honorable senators will consider that we have had a very thorough discussion on censorship which comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of Customs and Excise but I think we have devoted the time to the subject because it reflects the concern that is being exhibited in the community at large about censorship. It is a matter of debate in Australia because authority is divided between the Commonwealth and the States. We have found it possible to enter into the field of censorship as a Commonwealth only through the authority of the Department of Customs and Excise and that is creating great problems. One of the problems it creates was manifested tonight by a speech made by Senator McClelland following an interjection he made to the effect that a ban creates a premium upon the thing that is banned.
Surely this is a contradiction in terms. How can the thing that is banned be given wider circulation? This can be done only by virtue of the fact that the ban is not a ban. We will never have an efficient censorship - if we agree that censorship is desirable - unless we can surmount this problem of divided authority in the field of censorship. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) has my great sympathy because he has on his hands the problem of trying to bring some order out of chaos in the present situation. It is most deplorable that when we hear arguments about censorship, the invariable king hit is: “ You cannot have censorship because it only creates a greater demand for the thing that is censored “. Surely, if we are intelligent human beings, we cannot allow the situation to rest at this point. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind after listening to the debate tonight that we, as a people, believe in censorhip. That belief is expressed in various ways and in varying degrees. Even Senator Ormonde who posed for a while as a stout champion of freedom to allow the public to sort out the sheep from the goats, wanted to have his little say as to what should be censored. He came into the most doubtful field of censorship which is political censorship.
There is no doubt in the minds of the public at large that we need censorship in the field of morals for surely we must have some standards by which we want to live as a community. The behaviour of the Senate is heavily censored. Nobody in the Senate can criticise censorship when we submit to the Standing Orders. The Standing Orders say I must not abuse any fellow senator. I am restricted in the choice of words, not only by my own limited capability, but also by the Standing Orders. We have a worthy Chairman to see that I do not exceed these limits. So in this chamber we have a very strict censorship of what we say and do in the Parliament. I am sure this form of censorship cannot be applied to the public at large.
I listened with interest to Senator Turnbull. He said that he was not opposed to censorship but that he objected to certain crime comics that children read. He wants complete freedom to read what he likes, but he would not wish children to be contaminated. I think that we agree with him on that latter point. I am sure that Senator McClelland, with his enthusiasm for freedom of thought, would not go so far as to say that there should be no censorship. He referred to the importation of hypodermic needles which could be used as toys by children and to the septic conditions that might be caused. Surely there is danger in septic conditions of the mind. Surely it is just as dangerous to contaminate young people’s minds as it is their bodies.
Senator Ormonde said that the public at large could sort out these things, and he rightly referred to the great public demand for entertaining programmes such as “ Sound of Music “. This is very true. But let us apply the argument to the field of our pure food laws. On the honorable senator’s argument, the public would decide what was the best food, but if we had no legislation regulating standards of food we could do great harm to the people while we were finding out what was the best food. Earlier, Senator Wright, by way of interjection, referred to work of literary value that is mixed with pornography. Surely it is more dangerous to have literature that is pornographic than material which is purely pornographic and with no claim to being literature. Repeatedly we see books which have literary merit but which are loaded with pornographic material, included simply to sell the books. This is the fashionable trend. It is just as logical to argue that a book that is pornographic should be admitted because it has literary merit as it is to claim that a picture that is pornographic should be admitted because it has artistic merit. I do not think that there is any difference between a picture in words and a picture in oils. To my mind, the case for censorship is unanswerable.
I know that many intellectuals, many people who band together in so called organisations for civic liberties, have rejected completely the idea that we have a responsibility to our fellow men. They say that nothing matters except ourselves - that because something will not damage them it should not be permitted, and the devil take the hindmost. This sort of philosophy is a negation of Christianity. I range myself fairly strongly alongside the view that was put forward by Senator McManus tonight. I admit that there are grave dangers in the administration of any form of censorship, whether on the basis of morals or of politics. But I think that there is a far greater danger, if, in our political thinking and in our attitude to this question of censorship, we argue that we should have no censorship. We have to either steer a course among the dangers of censorship or choose to have no censorship. I think we would be heading for far greater dangers if we were to abandon the idea of censorship. We have to tackle the problem. We have to face the dangers on the administrative side.
Earlier, when we were debating the question of customs regulations, I said that I felt this problem should be left in the hands of the Minister. The Minister has been exposed to this debate tonight. The public mind must surely be reflected in the Parliament of this country, if the Parliament has any meaning. I stand strongly on the idea that we must accept political responsibility and leave the matter to the administration of the Minister.
– As the first speaker in this debate tonight, I raised the question of viewing prohibited books. Since the Minister replied to nu- I have wanted to make further comments, but there has been too much competition for me to get an opportunity to speak.
– The honorable senator is not complaining of that as a form of censorship, is he?
– If I were applying the censorship, perhaps I would see to it that others did not have such licence. I want to know whether I understood the Minister correctly. I agree that he should not delegate his responsibility to some outside person or body. He has the responsibility, and it is his duty to carry it. The Minister said that if there were a challenge to a decision made under item 22 of the Regulations, there would be very little hope of success because the Minister has the right to ban. However, if a person engages counsel to test the Minister’s decision the fact that there is very little hope of success is no reason why the publication concerned should not be made available to the person or organisation wanting to challenge the decision.
To make the matter clear, the information I received was that in August 1965 Mr. G. J. Benjamin, a member of the Council for Civil Liberties, on returning to Australia, had to surrender a file of the monthly magazine “ Playboy “. The file contained issues covering a period of some eight months. In October 1965 the Council for Civil Liberties, With Mr. Benjamin’s authorisation, asked the Department of Customs and Excise to permit a lawyer aged over 50 years to examine the publications in question to enable the Council to reach an opinion as to whether or not the seizure was justified, and therefore as to whether or not legal action should be taken for recovery. After a long silence, the Department replied in December saying simply that the request could not be granted. No reasons were given for the refusal. That is my information on the question.
The Minister claims that at some time the Council for Civil Liberties wanted him to release a book for its perusal.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Permission was sought for the book to be released for perusal by the Council. The information that I received was-
– That could not be right. The Minister for Customs and Excise would never make a decision like that.
– The Minister told me that when the application was made to the Department for the book to be sent to the Council for Civil Liberties for perusal and expression of opinion as to whether the prohibition was justified, the Department refused the request. I accept the statement by the Minister as meaning that, on a proper approach by legal counsel to view a prohibited item, serious consideration will be given to granting permission. I believe that is the attitude of the Minister. If this is so, I take the matter no further at this stage. There is no desire on my part to obtain unfair publication of journals of this type if, in the Minister’s view, they should be prohibited. The only point is that the Minister’s decision must be subject to challenge. Surely it is the right of any counsel briefed in- the matter to give an opinion regarding the prohibition.
Another matter 1 wish to mention relates to censorship. I. am not one who is opposed to censorship. 1 think that we have the right to safeguard the morals of our people. Accordingly, 1 believe that there must be some type of censorship to some degree. Material which may be pornographic, obscene, or indecent must receive serious consideration, and attention must be paid to literary merit. I have read books that have been passed by the Department, but had 1 been the censor, they would not have been accepted. As to the question that Senator Ormonde raised, I do not altogether agree that consideration should be given to banning the film concerning the Petrov story if it comes to this country. The question of political freedom is an important one. While there has been some criticism by Senator Laught, no-one can support that view if permission, when it is given for the entry of films, is not one-sided.
The Committee has discussed also the television documentary film produced by Michael Charlton on Vietnam. On one occasion the Minister said in this place that the screening in Australia of a film on atrocities in Vietnam was prohibited because, as he described it, it was a propaganda film from North Vietnam or Peking. Most films are propaganda of some sort or another. This particular film was propaganda for one side, and, therefore, its showing was not permitted in Australia. If we have regulations that permit censorship to run to that extreme, surely it is reasonable to say that the film on Petrov should suffer the same fate. However, 1 do not think that I can agree with both views. If we have freedom on political questions, no question arises as to the protection of people’s minds or any other type of protection. We should have that freedom for the purpose of enabling the public to decide a question for itself.
I am most anxious to clear up the question of the right of counsel to inspect prohibited publications. I hope that I have correctly interpreted the Minister’s reply.
– I find it difficult to believe that the matter is as simple as Senator Cavanagh has put forward, lt seems difficult to believe that a responsible Minister would be so obtuse as to refuse counsel, who is by his very office of good fame and character, the right to inspect a film, book or other document which someone legitimately seeks to have admitted contrary to the decision of the Department of Customs and Excise. If some book, document or film is being imported and a question arises as to whether it conforms to the regulations or not, people are permitted to look at it. First of all, the officers of the Department have a look at it because that is part of their function. In the same way because of the system of law and order that we have in this community, a person has rights and is able to exercise those rights. Legal tribunals are available. Responsible people act on behalf of aggrieved persons. Surely those responsible persons also would be entitled to look at the documents concerned to see whether there was a proper case to set the law in motion whether it was by way of appeal, either administrative or judicial, or some other method of testing the matter.
I cannot conceive that the Minister would so abuse the powers that are vested in him as to prevent access to that material by responsible persons in order to see that the rights of citizens were preserved. Surely there must be some explanation of this matter. It could not be as Senator Cavanagh is putting forward that these people would be simply debarred from inspecting the material which in substance is defeating the right of the citizen to have a proper ascertainment. of his right.
– :I think that I should give the Committee an explanation as to why the sitting has extended beyond 10.30 o’clock. I hope that, after I have replied, we will conclude the debate on the estimates for the Department of Customs and Excise. If we do not, I will not feel aggrieved.
asked a number of questions. First, he referred to bounties. He asked how we administer bounties in view of the technical requirements in relation to them. 1 think that I should say shortly that the Department of Customs and Excise, like other Commonwealth Departments, has quite an impressive staff of accountants and other officers who are trained in accountancy methods. There are special officers who deal with bounties. They examine books, accounts and claims for bounty in the normal way. Anything that they do is subject to normal Government procedures including examination by the Auditor-General’s officers. It is true to say that some of the bounties have a profit limitation while others do not. Generally speaking, bounties are dealt with in accountancy language. 1 think that the honorable senator can be satisfied that all work in this connection is done strictly in accordance with the relevant Act.
Senator Benn also asked, a question in relation to the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1965 whereby my Department subsidises petroleum sales throughout the Commonwealth. This scheme is working very satisfactorily indeed. Of course, it has brought its own problems. I have always invited honorable senators and members of another place to tell the officers of my Department or myself of any cases that they think should be examined if they believe that a subsidy is not being paid. We have investigated the cases referred to us. Broadly, I would say, the scheme is working quite well.
asked why we have officers in Tokyo. We have an office in Tokyo, one in New York and another in London. We need to have. officers overseas to help in the administration of our dumping legislation and to deal with all manner of inquiries about the cost of imports and so forth. These officers are working at tremendous pressure. The Brussels Tariff has worked satisfactorily. It was introduced on 1st July 1965. We have had intensive training for our officers and for shipping agents. This is a continuing process. I verily believe that there is a sound understanding of the Tariff and that tremendous advantages are to be derived by Australia. Senator Cavanagh again adverted to a matter that he raised earlier, and Senator Murphy came into the argument. I do not know whether Senator Murphy was present when 1 made an explanation earlier.
– Yes, I was here.
Senator ANDERSON__ I said earlier that
Item 22 related to “ the opinion of the Minister “. Therefore, any appeal at law can be made only on the basis of capriciousness on the part of the Minister. I said that an organisation such as the Council of Civil Liberties could not expect to set itself up as a judge of censorship. I still do not concede that it can do so. I said earlier that if a legal representative communicated in the normal way with the Department of Customs and Excise and said that he was acting for a particular party and proposed to appear in court, and that he wanted a certain book, I would have a discretion as to whether that book could be released to him. Generally there would not be any argument about the matter. The point is that the contact has to be established with a legal representative, not with an organisation that is fighting censorship battles every day in the week and which publishes in the Press arguments against, say, the prohibition of drugs. If the matter is raised by a legal representative, then I think no issues would be involved. The Minister has to exercise a discretion in such a case. I do not see any problems in it. If at the conclusion of this debate Senator Cavanagh wants to take the matter up with me, I will certainly have a look at any proposition that he may have in relation to a legal representative but not in relation to an organisation which sets itself up in business to fight censorship issues. By doing that, the organisation puts itself in the position of being a judge.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
– by leave - I wish to make a statement which follows upon a statement made earlier today by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Swartz) in regard to a tragic air fatality in Queensland. A similar statement has just been made in the House of Representatives by my colleague. Wherever the pronoun “ I “ appears, it refers to the Minister for Civil Aviation. 1 feel it is my duty to inform the House further on today’s disastrous air crash near Winton in Queensland. Honorable senators will recall that I reported earlier that an Ansett-A.N.A. Viscount 800, registration VH-RMI, with 19 passengers and 4 crew, travelling from Mount lsa to Brisbane, reported before 1 p.m. that it had an engine on fire and that the Captain had diverted to Winton for emergency landing. Subsequently it was discovered that the plane had crashed about 12 miles from Winton, and that all lives had been lost, lt was regrettably established later that the death roll was 24, comprising 20 passengers and four crew, not 23 as I stated earlier. The reason for the discrepancy was that a baby had not been listed on the manifest. Later in the afternoon I made an announcement expressing sincere sympathy to all relatives. Although Australia’s record up until today of four years without loss of life on commercial airlines is a wonderful one, 1 appreciate only too well that this cannot diminish the grief of the families of those who have been lost. All I can say, in addition, is that my Department will make the fullest investigation possible into all the circumstances surrounding the tragedy in an endeavour to avoid, if possible, such tragedies in the future.
I would now like to state that a departmental team of 10, including engine, airframe, electrical and aviation medicine experts, will reach Winton about 1 a.m. in support of a senior air accident investigator who left Brisbane immediately news of the crash was received. 1 will leave, with the Acting Director-General of Civil Aviation, for Winton early tomorrow and will decide on the spot regarding further action to be taken to establish the causes of this tragedy for scrutiny and lesson. I should also like to express my gratitude to the President of United Kingdom Board of Trade, the Right Honorable Douglas Jay, who is now in Australia, for a telegram that stated -
I was shocked to hear of the tragedy in Western Queensland today. Please convey my sympathy on behalf of the Civil Aviation authorities in Great Britain to the relatives of all who have lost their lives.
A message of sympathy was also received from the British High Commissioner in Canberra. I am sure that all honorable members and all the people of Australia will join with the Government in an expression of national sorrow.
I know that all honorable senators will want to join in this expression of sympathy to those whose loved ones unfortunately were involved in this fata] accident.
Senate adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 September 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19660922_senate_25_s32/>.